Body Image

We women have bodies in every size and shape. The range of hair color is amazing. Eye color, too. So why are we never satisfied with what we have, with the way our bodies look? We are short and tall, thin and not-so-thin, have hair that is blonde, brunette, black, red; that’s wavy, curly, or straight. Our eyes are brown, blue, hazel, green, violet, black. Whatever we have we want something different. If we’re short, we wish we were tall; if we have straight hair, we wish it was curly; if we have curly hair, we wish it was straight. Some of these things we can change; colored contact lenses, perms, straighteners, hair dyes. But our bodies are something different. We can’t be what we are not, even though there are those out there who tell us we can.

And I’m not totally blameless here, either. I’m short and wished I were taller. I’ve never, ever, had a perfectly flat belly. I’ve fought my weight since puberty. Then somewhere around the age of 50, I began to truly understand that I would never have the body I thought I wanted. My body is determined to stay the shape it is and nothing I can do will change that.

I came of age in the 60s, when Twiggy was the latest thing in fashion. Her boyish body made all of us feel fat, even if we weren’t. Fashion model figures are unobtainable for almost all of us, so why do we still try? The few top fashion models are fortunate that they have the body shape and bone structure to look the way they do. And they have to work hard at maintaining that famined look. I was happy to see there is an 80 something fashion model who is still working; that there are more models out there with curves instead of sharp angles; and there are now plus-sized models who are well-known.

Change comes slowly to society, and it has to be demanded by the majority, and it has to be sold as absolutely necessary. I often ponder some of the things we women are expected to do and be. Who decided that hair on women’s legs and underarms was a bad thing and should be removed? Who decided that women wearing dresses or skirts had to wear stockings or pantyhose, or tights? And who decided that women’s breasts had to be confined and constrained in corsets and bras? Who came up with the idea that women had to wear makeup to look good? Many of us have bought into these ideas and now can’t imagine not doing some of these things. We were raised to think these were good; not doing them was bad. I admire the women with enough courage to break the mold. They are the women we should appreciate as good role models.

I have learned to love my body. It is the only one I will have in this life and still works wonderfully well considering how old it is. It isn’t perfect by society’s standards, but it’s perfect for me, and that’s what’s important. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have a model’s body; that I will never be tall; that clothes never fit quite right. But I can also alter clothes so they do fit well; I can carry myself with good posture and grace; I can continue to eat healthy foods and exercise with the goal of being fit. I have this one body, this one life, and feel blessed to have it.

Balance

Balance permeates our lives: we have darkness so we can appreciate light; we have bad so we can appreciate good. But balance is also how we live. And it is sometimes very difficult to attain balance in what we choose.

We are not just a physical presence in this world. We are mind, body, and spirit. It’s important to keep all three in balance. If we focus on strengthening only the body, our minds and spirits will suffer. Focusing only on one or two of these will make the other(s) wither.

There are many ways to keep our bodies and minds active, and it seems we all manage to keep those two going. But what about spirit? What is it and how do we keep it strong?

I am no expert; I can only say what I have learned in my years on this earth. To me, spirit is the very essence of who we are. It is what makes us human. When we neglect our spirit, our body and mind can go downhill quickly.  Spirit is a tricky thing, and easy to ignore. We can eat healthy food, stay hydrated, keep our minds active, and yet neglect the spirit.

Where to begin? I try to take time each day to reflect on what I want to accomplish, on what I will do to reach my goal(s) for the day. Some days, one goal is all I can handle! It’s important to have time to yourself, even if it’s only a few minutes. Each of us must decide for ourselves what we need to do to recharge. For me, it’s being in Nature.

I find being outside peaceful and healing. It’s a few minutes without distractions; a few minutes to observe how the ants follow a certain trail; how a hawk flaps its wings to stay in the thermals to soar and conserve energy; or how the ground squirrel pokes her head out of her hole to see if all is clear; to stay still and watch the geckos chirp and chase the bugs that gather around the light on the back porch. It is in these quiet moments that I discovered that geckos have voices, that ground squirrels have a vocabulary of calls, that hummingbirds are really quite noisy!

Some days, I hear my mind going constantly; it’s hard to turn it off. Being in Nature helps me to focus on what’s important to me. There is a beauty in Nature if we take the time to see it.

Death

Recently, several people I know have had someone close to them die. It is never easy to deal with the death of a loved one. I don’t believe that those who die are ever really gone as long as there is someone who remembers them.

I don’t see death as an ending but a beginning. Not in the sense of an ‘afterlife’ perhaps, but in the sense that the soul lives on. I agree with certain Native American cultures that believe the soul has many lives, and the soul chooses the life it will live, knowing full well what will happen to it in that life. However, at the moment of birth, that foreknowledge disappears. We may have glimpses of what we were told, intuition, deja vu, call it what you will. When someone close to me dies, after the grief has spent its first storm, I start to wonder what that person’s next life will be like; will I meet that person again and will I know who he or she is? Have you ever met someone who ‘clicks with you right away? Who makes you feel you have known each other for ever? Maybe you have.
Death is all around us. Anyone who enjoys Nature knows that. Everything dies eventually, even mountains. But when plants die, they leave behind something of themselves, seeds, to live again. When a tree dies, it has left behind children that are probably already growing somewhere from seeds scattered by birds, the wind, other animals. When a mountain dies, it is washed to the sea and reborn as sand on some foreign shore perhaps. It is a never-ending cycle.

The soul is only in this earthly body for a short time. And when we die, our soul doesn’t die, just the body, the shell, that is no longer inhabited by the soul. So do animals have souls? I believe they do. Can you look into the eyes of a dog and tell me there is no soul there? If the Creator made everything before she made human beings, who is to say that plants and animals aren’t imbued with some sort of soul. It may not be a soul like we have; it may be something different; but nevertheless, it is still like the soul in that it is a living essence, an indescribable something.

We can die at any time; we won’t know where or when or how. We can lose someone we love at any time and not know where, when, or how.  Life is short, for all of us. Eulogies are beautiful things; but how about letting the people we love know that we love them now; after they’re dead is too late. And we can take comfort in the fact that the soul never dies.


Death is at once
The end of the body’s
Old journey
And the beginning of the soul‘s
New journey.
~~~~
Death is not the end.
Death can never be the end.
Death is the road.
Life is the traveller.
The soul is the guide.