Inhaling Wonder, Exhaling Gratitude

I stepped on the scale this morning and I had lost 19 pounds.

I KNOW--that's what *I* said!  What? yeah.  Really. Nineteen pounds.

Actually, I don't think it's that noticeable.  I probably have another 20 to lose so this first twenty isn't so noticeable, maybe.  I barely noticed it myself-- when I stepped on the scale, I was shocked.  I had to weigh myself another six times to make sure there wasn't something defective about the scale or something.

It's weird, because it turns out to not be that important in the grand scheme of things.  I wouldn't even mention it now except that so many people I know and correspond with seem to be struggling with weight loss and I thought maybe someone could benefit from my story.

Except, see... well...


I'm not exactly sure what the story is.

There wasn't a struggle or a big moment where I heard the magic click and started devoting myself to losing weight.  It wasn't New Year's and resolutions and deprivation or any of the other tactics I have tried (and failed) over the past five years or so. I didn't have to call deep on my discipline or beat myself up over eating a cookie.

Actually, I think what happened is that I started losing weight totally as a by-product of developing my passion for yoga, which reconnected me in the most glorious way to myself and my body.

You know, the thing about having been through this really devastating experience of chronic pain and immobility is that there's a disconnect that happened and I didn't notice.  I was so angry and felt so betrayed by my body that I just stopped taking care of it.  Stopped exercising. Stopped caring about how I looked. Stopped being mindful of what I put into my body and how, exactly, I was using food and alcohol to numb that anger. I just went about my life, mindlessly --except for this fairly substantial part of myself devoted to self-loathing.  I didn't question whether or not I was happy or living the life I wanted or even if there was a better way to live. I just kind of...existed, waiting for something to rescue me.

And here's the really big thing: I forgot to love myself.  I forgot to celebrate the things I CAN do, the things about me that make me worthy of love and connection that have nothing to do with what I look like, how much I weigh, or whether or not I can run a sub nine-minute mile. It's taken me almost 46 years to realize this, but you know what?  I'm inherently lovable.  So are you.  We all are.  Regardless of what you DO or the dragons you are slaying or whatever your "Growth Opportunities."  You are worthy of love--just the way you are now.

Stop rolling your eyes.  I see you. It's true --you are inherently worthy of love, just exactly as you are right now at this moment. Without doing a dang thing.  So am I.  It's pretty cool.

Let me tell you something, though: when you're over in the corner sneering at yourself?  It's contagious. We've lived in New York for almost three years and I spent the first two-and-a-half of those so busy telling myself all the reasons why I'm not worthy of friendship and belonging that I hardly put any roots down. Odd thing, that: If you don't think you're worthy of love and connection, you don't find love and connection.

So, then I found this incredible yoga class.  It totally reconnected me to...well...ME. Yoga makes me feel beautiful and strong and has given me an entirely different approach to living my life, which is breathing through things.  Not numbing.  Breathing and waiting. Leaning into the uncertainty and impermanence of life with serenity. I'm probably only successful doing that about 20% of the time and still, it has fundamentally changed me.

It's also changed how the world responds to me.  Suddenly, I'm making friends and connecting with people.  I'm definitely sending out a different sort of vibe because I even got hit on by some stranger at the gym the other day.  That NEVER happens to me.  (And, it made me so nervous I had to go hide in the women's locker room for a few minutes to gather myself.)  I guess, you know, the fact that I was even AT my gym is another indication of things changing.  I've belonged to this gym for about a year and until December, I had only been to it twice.  Now I go on my days off from yoga --I find that lifting weights makes me stronger in my yoga practice.

(Lest you think I've been body snatched, I will tell you that I am still struggling with certain numbing mechanisms.  I'm taking this on-line course with Brené Brown and there was a suggestion that we examine whether we use FACEBOOK as a means to escape from being still with ourselves and our thoughts. I recognize that I am addicted to Facebook.  I also recognize that I am unwilling to give it up.  And I acknowledge that the suggestion that I curtail my Facebook activity elicited a mental raspberry from me, not to mention an unprintable dismissive phrase. I'll feel bad about that some other time.) (I'm making progress.  I didn't say I was THERE.)

But anyway, I digress.  (Shocking.)

I'm kind of struggling with how to write about this because I feel a little narcissistic putting it down on paper --this idea that you have to love yourself in order to fully love others.  All of yourself, even the parts that you think are flawed.  My yoga instructor, who is not given to blanket statements (he's the kind of guy that, when an entire class is on their left feet and I'm on my right and I say, "Am I on the wrong foot?" he says, "Not wrong.  Just different.") says, unequivocally, "You have to love your body." I've fought against that for a lot of years now because I was just so freaking angry at my body for torpedoing my LIFE.  It turns out that the path to getting my life BACK, though, came through my body.  I think I can say this now and mean it: I love my body with all of its flaws and imperfections.

I'm not saying that you have to be IN love with yourself --that would be all about ego. (The people I have known who seem to be IN love with themselves are usually the people who are the most insecure and broken under that surface.)  I'm saying to love yourself--with kindness and compassion and without any qualifiers.  I know we're socialized with the idea that loving ourselves is selfish.  I don't think it is, though.  I think that being insecure is far more selfish because it fills us up with these feelings of unworthiness and that leaves so little room for loving others.  I think I get that now.

I'm so, so grateful. Seriously, when I stop to think about it, I feel like I am inhaling wonder and exhaling gratitude. I feel so blessed-- it takes my breath away.  Nothing in my life has changed substantially --there are still struggles and there is uncertainty and frustration and some areas of deep sadness. There are times when I want to numb it all away --but I have learned that if I just breathe through it and I find the stillness inside of me, I can also find the wonder and gratitude and strength.

And apparently, lose a little weight. Go figure.


Lynn said…
I hear you. And it isn't just your yoga teacher; there is the One before him Who said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Not instead of thyself. In the Book of Ms. Ravelled, 1:1 it reads, "Love thy neighbor *and* thyself." Verse 2 adds: "You can't dip water from an empty well." I'm 12 (almost 13) years longer on the road than you (not necessarily further down it). And my least favorite road sign is still the one that says "yield".
Sarah said…
Barb, I really needed to hear this today. I need to realize that it's not a question of whether or not I'm ok, I *am* okay. And that ok is very very different from being perfect.
I could use some love messages from me to me.
Great post, Barb. It made me stop and reflect, something I'd usually rather put off. I've had reason to be angry at my body in the last few years but can't figure why I never felt angry or betrayed, just sad and pointlessly envious of others without my troubles. Anyway, congrats on the weight loss and finding yoga. Truly, everything's easier if you're not carrying the equivalent of a 20lb back-pack.
Kathy Ireland said…
SO proud of you and I can't say anything else (other than I just registered for a local yoga class myself) for fear of mucking up this beautiful post.
Shaatzie said…
Some of us use weight as a defense against the world. Perhaps you are lowering your defenses and that is what is allowing people to reconnect with you. I know I've been there.
Love your yoga teacher's "just different." Different we can live with.
I'm going to post that in my kitchen.

Different can be good. Einstein was.
Keep it going. We're all behind you, that is, beside you
trash said…
I am a HUGE believer in being 'self-ish'. This is a world away from 'selfish'

Taking time for self is important, looking after self is important, being aware of self is important. Being 'self-ish' benefits the other people in your life too.

More power to your 'selfishness' :-)
Bullwinkle said…
I love my yoga instructor. I love this post. I love that you get to write this post and make sense and I get to read it. (And I've reread it a few times.)

uhm, but really, all that weighing of pets and you didn't get on the scale??
Rena said…
Amen. If we can't accept the fact that we are basically worthy and lovable, we can't be open to God's grace. It's that simple. And difficult.

Also? The best thing I heard from a yoga teacher ever? Was from Rodney Yee, when he said, "Start where you are."