Whose Body Is This?
It was the summer of 2012, I had just turned 46 and had been legally divorced for 7 months, though emotionally so for several years at that point. I was flying high with new-found freedom and a sense of self that I had lost a very long time ago. Having spent most of that summer in yoga pants, as a yoga instructor walking and taking the train all over the city to teach my classes, I’ll never forget the day I put on my favorite work pants to transition back to my “professional” life. I couldn’t even finish pulling the pants over my thighs, not to mention my glutes. For me, seemingly there was no transition between “do these pants make my butt look big?” and “whose ass is that?” I had just worn them on my last day of work not two months earlier and would have never guessed after a swampy summer in Washington DC, that I would have grown out of my work wardrobe. I had been so caught up rediscovering me apart from my ex after 22 years of marriage, that I hadn’t even noticed that I was officially peri-menopausal. My period had stopped, hot flashes had started, and I continued to eat with the same voracious appetite that I always had. Only suddenly, I had put on 15 pounds.
That moment, looking at myself in the mirror with those cute pinstripe pants half on, became not just one of shame from the weight gain, but one of surrender and loss to who I was trying to become. I was so fragile in that moment, newly divorced, thinking I was figuring it out on my own, that when I couldn’t zip my pants up, it was as if the Universe was laughing at me for thinking I thought I knew who I was. “Look at you,” it seemed to say, “you can’t even fit into your pants”. I continued to live out what seemed to be my destiny as an unfulfilled, inauthentic, lesser version of who God had intended me to be for nearly three more years. Giving into all of my old limiting beliefs, another toxic relationship, putting on even more weight, and being comforted with deeply rooted views from generations of women who made similar small choices in their lives because they had inherited this idea that menopause is the end. Not the beginning for sure, not a time for creation, not a time for a re-creation of self, nor certainly a time for weight loss. Rather, what we are more commonly led to believe is, “you’ll never lose the belly fat now” or “who is going to hire someone who is pushing 50?” or “you missed your chance.”
There was a time in my life, only just a few years earlier, when I was who I wanted to be – a full-time yoga instructor, leading retreats, studying the chakras, and giving the rest of me to my daughter, my dogs, and my garden. But this version of me came without risk, and it came shielded under the lie of what my marriage had become. But because I had tasted it, I knew it was possible. Just as I believe we all know our authentic selves, born with this birth-right, but just as quickly lost with our earliest wounding and traumas. We then spend the rest of our lives trying to find our way back. For some, the way home is more easily traveled than for others, but regardless of how long the journey is, I believe we are always exactly where we are supposed to be, and we come home only when it’s time.
Learning to Howl Again
A few years after I had grown out of my pants, I was reading, “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Something she wrote was like a rallying cry for me, it seemed to hail from all of my guardian angels and gratefully stirred the Wild Woman Archetype in me again. Dr. Pinkola Estés writes, “If you don’t learn how to howl you will never find your pack”. God was holding up a big reflective mirror to confront me with this current version of myself that I really didn’t like very much. I had stopped howling, I had stopped even looking at the moon, that day with my pants pulled up only half-way stripped me of a superficial sense of self. I tossed any desire to get her back ~ out with those pants. Now it was finally time, I wanted to howl at the moon, take back my birthright, and finally come home.
Reclaiming Your Sense of Self
I began to envision this image of me that was a blend of what I had once known as myself and who I wanted to be in the future. The blend was equal parts me at birth, that knowing that we all can feel in the the liminal space between waking and right before the rational mind takes hold for the day; a version of me at seven years old ~ whether it’s made from photographs, memories, or feelings it’s all valid and a much older me when I was in my early 40s, being true to myself regardless of the price I had to pay to be her, and finally future me. Future me embodied everything I wanted, valued, believed, loved, and had been; only this version of me didn’t come at the price of compromise or losing parts of myself to be her. Can you see her? What does your blend look like, feel like, and sound like? We know for certain, she can howl.
The path forward started with yoga, good food, and meditation. I started small, and step by step. On the first day, I couldn’t even do one pushup ~ even though years before my signature class was defined by them. Now I do 65, 5 mornings a week. Through a whole foods diet, plenty of water, yoga, contemplation, healthier boundaries, and music I have learned how to be me again. I have dropped 20 pounds, finally quit my safe, steady paycheck life, am in a selfless, healthy partnership for the first time ever, and am living my dream as a Holistic Wellness Coach.
– Holistic Wellness Coach in Training with the International Association of Wellness Professionals
– Yoga Instructor and Reiki Practitioner
– Survivor of divorce, eczema, and motherhood : )
– Fellow Traveler