Saturday, March 8, 2014

That Revealing Photo

In my last blog, I wrote a fairly personal essay about how I have come to love my body after years of hiding my true self underneath my skin. The main photo I posted was one of me naked from the waist up.
It's not all of me from the waist up but it's enough and it's a whole lot more than I've ever shown of myself in a public forum, or ever thought I could show anyone again. It still makes me a little uncomfortable -- it's a kind of expression that doesn't come easy for me. I hide a lot behind the force of my personality.
I'm a gregarious, talkative girl but I am also somewhat of a loner. I revel in time I spend with myself. Even when I was married, I routinely traveled, dined, hiked, worked out alone. Part of my newfound addiction to cycling was forged on solo rides along wonderfully peaceful and mostly empty country roads. It would be just me and my overly active brain, maybe some quiet music in my earpiece and the sound of my breath and the rhythm of the turn of my pedals. I have had some pretty intense meditative moments out on those rides with my road bike, some that have brought me to sloppy grins or tears or, more than once, a really loud whoop.
I'm one of those people who will give you a lot of information without revealing certain truths I keep hidden. These last few blog posts are more revealing than I like and, indeed, there is more I could say but I don't.  Part of it is because I'm old-fashioned and privacy is important to me and also, I feel protective, of me and others, and part of it is that I think I am much like most people in that I have a place where I put my inner thoughts, where I keep them safe. I do share them but only with those few people in my life that I know will guard them as fiercely as I do.
I have not so much guarded my body as I've hidden it away.  I love a nice deep V-neck t-shirt but I steer clear from clothes that reveal too much. I don't really wear dresses and when I do, they're below the knee. I get pedicures but I mostly wear sneakers.
Until a few months ago, I slept in oversized pajama bottoms from Old Navy, the ones that used to be tight on me but now are so big, I could fit two of me in them. Maybe the sexiest thing I wear these days is my cycling tights and really, they're kind of ridiculous. I love them, don't get me wrong and I think I kinda wear them well actually. But seriously, unless you're a pro cyclist (and I do love me some pro cyclist) lycra can be touch to pull off well.

I've spent years though covering myself up. This whole learning to love myself deal is a process. Baby steps.

I mean up until I posted The Photo.

That right there, that was a giant step. And it turns out, I kinda like it.

And the response has been pretty damn cool. I received a couple of emails that were, well, weird and a little creepy.  And I think someone on my friends list may have flagged it to the Facebook police. Hey, whatever. What can you do? I know they're out there and if images like that fuel their imaginations or offend you, there's nothing anybody can do about it.

The rest is just, well, as my friend Susie says, an opportunity to learn and grow. I'm trying to be open to that now. I'm trying like crazy.

Speaking of Susie, who writes a pretty great little blog over here, and is about the wisest person I know who isn't a senior citizen, I got an email from her today. In it were the links to two TED talks by Brene Brown, a woman that until today I had never heard of.
Full disclosure: I'm not the biggest fan of TED talks. I find them as a whole a bit pretentious and, dare I say it,  privileged. They can be moving and important I know, but I wonder sometimes how much of it is just talk. The kind of talk that doesn't always resonate outside of a room filled with people who undoubtedly mean well, but who need to get out more.

Susie and I have been friends for going on 20 years now. It is a relationship that is among the longest of my life, longer than my recently imploded marriage and longer still than all but a very few other friends. Along with my mom, she is one of the few once- or twice-weekly calls that I make. She has helped me through more trouble than I care to admit and she is my absolutely solid 100 percent go-to person for telling me like it is.

She has, in fact, proved to be the most reliable bullshit meter I have ever had in my life and for that -- and her love and devotion to me and our friendship -- I am eternally grateful.

And her email today was one of those things she does that makes my life richer. Those talks by Brown wowed me.

I won't sum them up for you -- I think they're best experienced directly. So here they are. Do watch them. They are transcendent.

What I like about them is Brown's take on being vulnerable, which I am not very good at. When I was a kid, someone in my life said I should learn to accept criticism and compliment with equal grace. The toughest part for me has always been the compliments. In my new body and the new look, I get them a lot. All the time, especially from people who I haven't seen in years. I admit that I like it, that it's validating and it makes me feel good. Where have I been all these years where I didn't know this?

I am good at wearing my heart on my sleeve and I am good at telling people exactly how I feel and I am way too good at giving up my heart, but where I score points in effort, I lose in style. I am the sloppy drunk of vulnerability. I put myself out on the ledge and pretend I don't care if -- or more often than not -- when I fall. If I trust you, I am apt to overshare in ways that make me uncomfortable.

I take my clothes off and then run into my room, lock the door and apologize profusely for having put you in a difficult position.

I know it's fucked up. I know it's okay to feel alone and scared, to worry. I know it's okay and yet, I have spent most of my life being the strong one. As much as I share, I hide big things deeply, afraid what they might say about me, afraid of rejection. I love my friends deeply but I wonder daily what they see in me. In me. Confident, independent, kick-ass me. If I can feel those things, I imagine what other people must go through.

So I'm trying real hard to be better at this stuff. I know I'm a good friend and I know I'm worthy of the great people in my life. I know, too, that I deserve to be loved and cherished because that is what everybody deserves.

As Brown says, the secret of the whole deal is being connected to people. Long road trips to the Mendocino Coast, dinners in the city on my own, those solo bike rides are okay, but some days I know I need to find someone to share them with. And I will try.

As for The Photo, I'm starting to think the only answer is to put up another one.

Yeah, fuck baby steps.


Rebecca Palm* Gallimaufry Photography* said...

I struggle with vulnerability too. I use humor to deflect and I really would love to be true to my feelings. I think you are fantastic and inspiring.

S.O.L. said...

Thanks Rebecca. It's hard on all of us, especially IMHO us women. Rock on, girl.