The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the tag “body”

Inside Out

So, probably at least partially due to the sacral chakra sledgehammering, I have been taking a long, hard look at some self/body image issues.  Yes, I’ve had them.  Most of us probably have, to some extent.  But as “sledgehammering” implies, I haven’t been dealing with a sigh-in-the-mirror type of reaction – I’ve been calling it “there was a f**k-up in the soul-depositing factory on the day I was made.”  So… pretty hardcore discrepancies between what I feel like on the inside and what I look like on the outside.  And I knew these feelings were resurfacing and running me through the mud for a reason.  Cue the major insight music!

You see, despite these major discrepancies, I have not gone the route of body modification.  Of any kind.  There have been no surgeries.  I have no tattoos.  The only piercings I have are one in each earlobe.  I’ve never even dyed my hair… and except for hunting-and-pecking for split ends, it hasn’t been cut since I was nine years old.  The extent of my makeup inventory is a stick of eyeliner… that I don’t even wear most days.  I neither lie in a tanning bed nor paint myself a chemical shade of orange (I’m so pale I practically glow in the dark).  Basically… I am au naturel.  What you see is the way I was made.  It’s not what is on the inside, but it is the way I was made.

It is weird, despite the disparity between my “inside” and my “outside,” that I never tried to make the outside match more.  Certainly many, if not most folks do, to some extent or another.  But it has always seemed – and this was part of the insight tonight, why it bothered me so much when I thought about doing it – to me, at least, a violation of self.

Now let me clarify.  I take no issue with other people engaging in body modification.  I’ve seen plenty of piercings and ink that I thought looked great on the person who had them, and many folks who got a boost of happiness and/or self-confidence with their newly-dyed tresses.  If it makes you happy, go for it.  More power to you.  I am not at all saying that it bothers me to see *others* change their outside to better match their inside.  And certainly for the more serious changes – transitioning surgery for transgendered folks kind of serious – if that gives you peace with yourself for the first time in your life, by all means – be happy.  Please do.  But when I considered various changes that would better reflect my inside on my outside, on a personal basis, I always had this rather viseral reaction of revulsion.  Like, made-me-shudder-to-think-about-it disgust.  And I never knew why that was.  I have spent many nights in abject misery, wallowing in the it’s-not-fair bog of self-loathing, and yet I just couldn’t do it.  I just have always felt that somehow, the modification would bother me more than the original misalignment.

It finally came to me that that wretched feeling was a feeling of violation.  The violation of self.  I couldn’t modify my outside because I felt that would be violating it – violating me, somehow.  That seemed like a rather arbitrary assessment, in the that’s-not-very-rational sense, until the latter part of the insight came: because seeking inner peace by aligning my outside to my inside was going about it wrong.  Happiness, inner peace, and calm don’t come from external forces – at least not if you want them to stick.  You may get a shopping high when you buy some new gadget or gizmo, but that high doesn’t last forever.  You can’t force happiness by shoving it through your pores with acquired goods.  Would finally owning my own home (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know I’m a little obsessed with that idea) make me happy?  Absolutely.  Would it solve all my problems in the world so that I had no more reasons to be sad?  Decidedly not.  A new house wouldn’t be a replacement for a new friend, or fulfilling my higher calling, or any number of not-stuff things that rank much higher on the happiness scale.  My body matching my mind (if that was even possible) might make me smile when I looked in the mirror or give me more confidence when dealing with others, but I would never be truly free of the limitations of the physical self if I aimed to modify it instead of my inner self.  It would be like chasing my own tail (no, I do not have a tail – but you dog people and cat people know what I’m talking about).  Why waste energy chasing after something that is already a part of me?

I am what I am.  My inside is what it is.  My soul and my mind will be what they are no matter what my body looks like.  Maybe people won’t relate to me the way I would like, because they are going on my outward appearance rather than my inward reality… but that happens anyway, and frankly, those aren’t the relationships we should be worrying about.  I don’t want shallow relationships with people who look only at my cover and not the inner chapters of self.  The person who takes the time to read those chapters is going to know me, whether my cover reflects that or not.  My inner self is incorruptible.  Fixating on the exterior is tilting at windmills.

The foreman at the soul-depositing factory is off the hook.

Advertisements

The Best of All Possible Worlds

For those of you familiar with The Law of Attraction, you know what I’m talking about when I say sometimes it feels “forced.”  I feel a little Candide in me, repeating over and over again that I Live In The Best Of All Possible Worlds, until I truly believe it.  Kind of like when you’re in a foul mood, and if you force yourself to smile, even if you don’t feel it at first, the physical act triggers the emotional feelings that normally accompany a smile (science!).  Some days, when it’s feeling forced, I can get over myself and just keep at it, confident that it does indeed work (it does).  Other days, I’ve got my grump on and I feel like I’m allowed to be grumpy today, godd***it!

When I’m having one of those “Get off my lawn!” days, once I have reveled in my pissed-offedness like a rebellious teenager and can see the path I’m headed down, I try to step outside of myself and look.  First, examine the little things that are teeing me off.  If I was in a good mood, would that really piss me off or be laughed off?  If the latter is the answer, then I have to look for the real reason for the grump.  I try to think of the possible logical reasons why I’m grumpy.  Is my blood sugar low?  Am I sleep deprived?  After so many years of dealing with those issues, I darn well know they can tank a mood faster than you can blink.  Sometimes the solution is as simple as eating a balanced meal.

But sometimes, it’s more deep-seated than that – especially for those of us who very purposefully are examining ourselves, our presumptions, our sense of self, our beliefs, etc., on a mission, as it were, to grow and better ourselves and by extension, the world around us; releasing thought patterns and learned behaviors that no longer serve us (and shedding physical manifestations of that baggage, to boot).  Sometimes, we unearth an old wound that we weren’t even aware of before – not consciously, anyway – and much like any wound, it festers unnoticed until pain elicits us to examine it.

Sometimes, that stubborn insistence of our right to be angry is the pain radiating from that wound we didn’t know was there.

It’s amazing how often I’ve discovered one of those old wounds, and upon examining it, gotten some message from the Universe relating to that very topic, seemingly out of the blue.  In my last post (linked above), I wrote about what I was feeling in the moment before I had had the “aha!” insight.  Shortly thereafter, while in tears to be perfectly honest, I got a message relating to that very thing that was so clear and blatant it couldn’t have been any more obvious if God had whacked me over the head with a baseball bat.  So there I was, having a low point, and I still got the positive response.  However, I was at the low point because I was “detoxing,” as it were.  For any of you who have done or have looked into doing a cleanse or otherwise detoxing, you’ve heard that as your body releases the old, stored toxins, sometimes it can cause what is known as a “health crisis” – that is, you feel sick from the icky things working their way through your system, but will be better off in the end as they will no longer be inside you to harm you in the future.  It’s kind of like that, which is why I figure the law of attraction didn’t attract negative things from my low mood.  I wasn’t letting the old pattern repeat itself – I was cleansing it from my system altogether.

Today I got another such message, from a friend’s Facebook post of all things, that wasn’t even directed at me, but it spoke to something I have been sparring with in my head for a while.  It was just such a perfectly relevant message, and put in just such a way that though I had “known” it before, it hadn’t truly “registered” – it pretty much floored me for a moment.  Sometimes you can “know” something, but not truly “comprehend” or “take it in.”  That was what this message was for me.  I can already feel the ripples making their way through my psyche, as the initial concept is accepted, and a domino effect of altering thought patterns occurs.

So though there are times when it may feel “forced,” keep at the positive thoughts.  When you hit a low, examine why, and be open to whatever reason may come.  If you’re spiritually detoxing, let the negativity be released.  You may have a health crisis of the spirit, but you will feel so much lighter and brighter in the end.

And don’t discount any source of insight as being “too trivial” – sometimes a Facebook post, a text message, or a tweet may be just the thing that gets the gears turning.

Multiple Universes

It’s funny what we focus on from day-to-day.  The things that take up residence in our conscious and label themselves as “important” or even just “noteworthy,” let alone “urgent” – are they really so large?

A year from now, are you going to remember that time you were late paying a bill?  Ten years from now, are you going to remember how much you wanted that shiny new electronic toy, or how excited you were about a new movie?  Are you even going to remember the movie?  Will you still own the toy, presuming you bought it in the first place?

Are you going to remember the argument you had with your significant other over something insignificant – dirty laundry or forgotten errands or God knows what?

Why is it that we let these petty things take up so much residence in our minds?  Why do we give them so much energy?

I would much rather be contemplating the meaning of life than finances.  The Otherworld than politics.  The potential of multiple universes than carpet cleaner.  But I find myself, like anyone else, pondering pet stain products and banging my head over some pol’s latest foot-in-mouth disease, wondering how THAT guy or gal could possibly represent anybody.  Really, where do they find these people?

It’s when I have these moments of clarity, when I can see that I’ve been hunched over the desk of Little Thoughts for too long, and I sit up and take a long stretch and rub the fog from my eyes, that I can see the vast expanse of possibility.  The potential of Multiple Universes.  The potential of Me.  I take a deep breath, and I am breathing in Everything.  I want to weep at the trillions of stars that the city lights of my encapsulated mind blind me to most days.  I want to have this view all the time.

And then something calls me back, I get distracted, and before I know it, I’m hunched over the desk again, plugging away at one tiny cog in a massive machine that is Life.

But every once in a while… when you get up from your desk, climb up to the rooftop, and just admire the view… those are the moments that are worth it.

Those are the moments when I look around, and I want to grab everyone else at their desk and turn off all the lights so they can see the stars, too.

Those are the moments when part of me is overjoyed at the whole works, the whole system, this wondrous, unimaginable thing we couldn’t describe in words if we tried – and part of me wonders if I’m not all alone in it, floating in a tiny rowboat amid the stars, the only one who will ever see it from this vantage point.  Or perhaps others may, but we’ll never be in the same harbor at the same time and be able to discuss the rapture of the multiverse.

They say that no two beings are ever in the same time and space together.  You and I could be standing two feet apart, and we won’t be in the same time and space.  Time and space are divisible into such tiny slivers, that even our own bodies are not in the same place at the same time.  My fingers that are typing this and my brain that is sending the signals to do so are in two different places, at two different times.  My pinky finger is in a different space and time than my ring finger.  Every fiber of my being, though connected, is literally in a different moment of time than the fiber next to it.  And I wonder if we will ever feel whole.

Or if we will ever fully understand what overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful creatures we are.  Whether you think we make or are made, or both – we are.  And each one of us is a conglomeration of multiple times in space all working together to create a larger being that is us.  And we consciously direct that symphony of time that is our bodies to work together for a unified purpose.

We manipulate space and time, all the time.  And we don’t even know we can do it.  We just do it, instinctively.

Magnificent beings, aren’t we?

Your Body Is A Temple

Part of my spiritual upbringing included a whole lot of “Physical realm bad.  Spiritual realm good.  Must punish physical body in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment.  Physical body doesn’t count.” type messages (and yes, I imagine that being said like a stereotypical caveman grunt.  Though I suppose cavemen might have had wondrously complex languages, you get the point).  So for a very long time, even as I thought I was maturing and growing, I still treated my body like a trash heap, and thought of it that way, too.

You’ll recall my previously stating how I came precariously close to becoming a full-fledged hoarder until I moved into my current apartment, which caused me to look the problem square in the face and deal with it.  I still am, four and a half years later.  It is a long and sometimes difficult process, but so worthwhile.  I never fully realized until I started watching the show Hoarders what this said about how I thought about myself.  In more than one episode, it has been made abundantly clear that some of the people surrounded themselves with trash because they thought of themselves as trash.  They perceived themselves as not worthy.  They thought they were disposable.

That was me.  I thought I was unlovable.  Easily discarded.  Worthless.  Trash.

Having that revelation brought front and center planted the seed of thought that I needed to re-evaluate my relationship with self.

After reading the book The Secret, which was filled with a revolutionary concept for me at the time, I decided that instead of beating myself down with negative self-talk, I would beat the negativity down and squash it like a bug.  And so the process began.

At the beginning, I felt a little Stuart Smalley-like, as though I should have been staring in a mirror and telling myself, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!”  In other words, I felt more cheesy than the entire state of Wisconsin.  But I stuck with it, and after a while it became less forced.  I began to actually believe I was good enough, and smart enough, etc.  I felt less corny and more like I was having a deep psychological breakthrough.

Now, I had tried counseling a couple of times in my life, and other than it occasionally being nice to have someone to vent to, didn’t feel like it was helping me much.  This utter willpower maneuver of mandated positivity did more to repair my psyche than any outside person telling me that my thoughts were unhealthy ever did.  And I began to believe that I deserved love; I deserved happiness; I deserved respect.  Don’t all people?

But just recently this awareness took a new turn.  Even though I had been accepting that I deserved to be happy for a while now, I still wasn’t looking at my physical form with a whole lot of self-love.

Several months ago, I finally caved to months of pressure from my doctor to try easing up on my strict vegetarianism.  After over nine years of strident near-vegan “purity,” I agreed to try “a little fish” and see how I felt.  The doc felt I wasn’t getting enough protein or omega-3s.  She wanted to see if the omega-3s would help my mood, and the protein help balance my blood sugar (I was so hypoglycemic, I was crashing on a near-daily basis.  Sometimes more than once a day).

Holy mother of nutrition, did I feel almost immediately better.

The sugar crashing all but stopped.  I can now count on my fingers the number of times I’ve sugar crashed in the months since, instead of it being a given that it would happen regularly.  I had more energy, too.  Oh, and… the perpetual always-coldness began to let up, at least somewhat.  I’m still “the cold one” in a group, but there are times where I actually feel warm now.  That was nearly unheard of.

I quickly dubbed myself a pescatarian (someone who eats fish, but no other meat), and figured that was that.  But I had opened up the floodgates.  My body started having cravings I had thought were long dead.  It wanted more.

I fought it.  I already felt guilty; I thought of myself as a “failed vegetarian” or “weak” for giving in to what my body obviously needed.  I wondered why others seemed to do so well on a veggie diet and I didn’t.  You know how people are supposed to lose weight when they go veg?  I actually gained weight.  About 30 pounds.  I did not understand how that happened.  It brought up even more body-hate in my mind, because I used to be a stick.  Suddenly I felt ginormous.  I fasted as much as I could without putting myself in a diabetic coma, and my weight didn’t budge.  I restricted what was “acceptable” fare more and more.  I ate low-fat this and diet that.  Still fat.

So I caved.  All or nothing, right?  If I had already failed as a vegetarian, then I had failed.  Might as well go out with a chicken pot pie in hand and enjoy myself.

And I felt even better.  This was counter to every nutrition book I had read for the past decade (all aimed at vegetarians, mind you).  What really caused me to make the pescatarian-omnivore leap was reading a Jillian Michaels book on diet and nutrition.  She had recommended twice the amount of protein that one of my cherished veggie books had done.  Twice.  That wasn’t exactly splitting hairs.  That was a completely different take on nutrition.  So I started searching for more information online.

In addition to a mountain of blogs and websites I still find myself getting lost in for hours, I found an interview with Lierre Keith, a former vegan for twenty years and author of the book The Vegetarian Myth.  It got me interested enough that I bought the audiobook (I have found that I love listening to a good non-fiction audiobook, in addition to reading them normally).  I’m still listening to it, but so far it is proving to be one of the most profound books I’ve ever read in my life (and as previously noted, I’m a bibliophile of epic proportions).  This isn’t some machismo rancher looking condescendingly down upon the wussy vegetarians and telling us how silly we are; this is someone who had many of the same motivations I did (save the animals!  save the earth!), and struggled with many of the same moral issues, who recognized her own willful blindness to the truth about everything, and slowly – and not without a fight – came around.  I can’t even begin to do it justice by attempting to summarize it here; but truly, if you really want to know about saving the animals, saving the earth, our health, the industrial food system, and how things really work, I can’t recommend this book enough.  So many of the things we think we know are wrong.

Anyway… let’s get this Amtrak train of thought back on its rail.  Honoring my body.

So, okay, I’ve been now exploring the world of traditional foods, homesteading (if ever there was a thing that I get passionately obsessed with, it’s homesteading), and the like, and learning about the nutritional needs of my body from a non-vegetarian perspective.  I feel like a new student in a completely foreign field of study, with so much to learn, and so little time.  But this metric ton of knowledge was all pointing to the same personal revelation: I had willfully been ignoring the very basic, very human, very physical needs of my body, relegating them to “weaknesses” and “unimportant” in the name of some “pure” ideal that was impossible to attain (yes, vegans, even you are not eating without death.  Just because there is no meat on your plate, doesn’t mean animals weren’t killed as pests on the farm, or by a harvesting machine, or for fertilizer, or when farmland was deforested or prairie turned into farmland, etc.  Read The Vegetarian Myth.  I promise, it’s not condescending.  It’s someone who wanted the same things you want).

So why were my very natural needs being given the short shrift?  Because I still felt my body was not “worth it”.  Not worth what?  Surviving?  Thriving?  Did I truly believe I was put on this Earth to suffer?

I took a look at how I was treating my body otherwise.  I either was punishing it with exercise, or none at all.  Eating junk, or not enough.  I didn’t respect the food I was using to nourish myself: the perpetual load of dirty dishes, my hadn’t-been-cleaned-in-ages refrigerator, the splatter-covered microwave and toaster oven.  The kitchen wasn’t the place to create sacred nourishment, it was the place to throw together something convenient and get the heck outta there.  No attention was paid – ironically, as I thought of myself as “food conscious” – to the act of nourishing my body, even as I obsessively counted calories or ounces of water.  Allergy season caused me to look at my bed – covered in pet hair, sheets rarely changed, the mattress producing a renegade spring that had stabbed my hand and drawn blood once already.  A litter box right next to it, which was placed there to try and prevent one of the kitties from peeing under it (it worked, but she has shifted territory again, so it’s rather moot at this point).  In addition to the spring escapee, all my bedsheets are old and threadbare, hand me downs, stained, torn, and otherwise just as problematic.  Even my bed frame is almost as old as I am, and a hand me down that used to be half of a bunkbed.  I’ve never in all my 33 years had a bed that wasn’t a bunkbed, or part of one, let alone something larger than a twin size.  I had to throw out the egg crate cushion I had on it to try and make things more comfortable because a kitty peed on it.  I had a dream where I was told this was like sleeping in my own filth.  And you know, it’s true.  There is a literal litter box right at the foot of my bed.  How was that respecting myself and the place where I was supposed to get rest?

Being that I’ve been living off of savings and grace since I lost the day job last year, now is not exactly the best financial time to go to a furniture store and buy a nice new full-size bed with a comfy mattress and new thick sheets.  I accept that I deserve these things now, but to buy them would lead to a case of… aaaaaand how am I going to pay the rent?  So.  I did the best I could with what I have.  Washed the blankets.  Changed the sheets.  Vacuumed the mattress, the box spring, all the nooks and crannies, the heat registers around the side of the bed.  The litter box is getting moved this weekend (it will take some furniture re-arranging to find it a new home).  I’ll shampoo the carpet then, too.

I also went a little cleaning-frenzy in the kitchen and did the dishes, cleaned the fridge, and the microwave.  Checked for expired beyond use foods and tossed them.  Cleaned the floor.  Now when I open the refrigerator door, it feels so white and clean… and pure.  Because I’m honoring what I put into my body.  I’m honoring where my body gets rest.  My body isn’t the means to an end, or a sub-par vessel that doesn’t count.  It isn’t “a bag of water” as one of my friends terms it.  It’s a temple.  One that I am the proud caretaker of.

Post Navigation