It was only a week ago that I was sitting in a grocery store parking lot, zestfully shoving cookie after cookie into my voracious, salivating mouth. The shoving, crunching and compulsion were familiar, yet the cookies came from a hand I didn’t recognize. I saw my hand, my body, my physicality in the third person. This isn’t my hand. This isn’t what I do. This isn’t me. THIS ISN’T ME. This is what OTHER people do. I’m stronger than this. Yet the unfamiliar, indifferent hand persisted. With each eager shove; with each sweet, firm, plump chocolate chip crushed between my honed teeth, I silently repeated… “Fuck you, Hollye. Fuck you, Hollye. Fuck you, Hollye…”
And then at once the cookies were gone. There was a moment of relief: it was over. A desolate cellophane wrapper sat shotgun, hazed with oil and exhaustion. Cookie crumbs graced my lap, like seeds of a viscous aftermath soon to sprout. There was silence. And then came the loathing.
In the past several months, I’ve developed what I now identify as compulsive overeating, or binge eating disorder. It’s been hard. I’ve gained weight. I’ve talked a lot of shit to myself. I’ve felt terrible about my body, my gastro-indulgences, my perceived lack of willpower, my imperfections. And I’ve had moments of relief, love, and pure acceptance. But mostly: loathing; self hate; body shaming; fear of “what other people will think”; a frustratingly persistent obsession with my body; a disconnect from my feelings and emotions; exhaustion from the broken-record cycle of binge, loathe, body shame, sadness… binge, loathe, body shame, sadness….
And so, this morning I went to a yoga class. I take classes often. I teach classes often. Sometimes things click physically. Sometimes things click mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Sometimes a nugget of insight or wisdom from a teacher has an impact. This morning was one of those days. There was an excerpt read from the following post by Glennon Doyle Melton:
Your body is not your masterpiece — your life is.
It is suggested to us a million times a day that our BODIES are PROJECTS. They aren’t. Our lives are. Our spirituality is. Our relationships are. Our work is.
Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life — where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it.
Your body is not your offering. It’s just a really amazing instrument which you can use to create your offering each day. Don’t curse your paintbrush. Don’t sit in a corner wishing you had a different paintbrush. You’re wasting time. You’ve got the one you got. Be grateful, because without it you’d have nothing with which to paint your life’s work. Your life’s work is the love you give and receive — and your body is the instrument you use to accept and offer love on your soul’s behalf. It’s a system.
We are encouraged to obsess over our instrument’s SHAPE — but our body’s shape has no effect on it’s ability to accept and offer love for us. Just none. Maybe we continue to obsess because as long we keep wringing our hands about our paintbrush shape, we don’t have to get to work painting our lives. Stop fretting. The truth is that all paintbrush shapes work just fine -and anybody who tells you different is trying to sell you something. Don’t buy. Just paint.
No, wait. First, stop what you are doing and say THANK YOU to your body. Right now. Say THANK YOU to your eyes for taking in the beauty of sunsets and storms and children blowing out birthday candles and say THANK YOU to your hands for writing love letters and opening doors and stirring soup and waving to strangers and say THANK YOU to your legs for walking you from danger to safety and climbing so many mountains for you.
Then pick up your instrument and start painting this day beautiful and bold and wild and free and YOU.
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I’ve thanked my body in the past. I’ve asked my students to thank their bodies. But today, it was different. I thought about my body, sitting in the car, shoveling cookies and repeating the words “Fuck you, Hollye.” I thought about my body, lying on my yoga mat. I wiggled my fingers. I felt my hands. MY hands. What a gift, these hands. What a gift, these arms. What a gift, this whole body and it’s health, vitality and wellness. And with all of my heart, with compassion and gratitude, I said thank you. “Thank you, Hollye. Thank you, Hollye. Thank you, Hollye…”
Every day is a gift. I am not healed, but I am healing. The fuck you will return. The thank you will return. And I am grateful for both.
From fuck you to thank you, I am blessed to have this life, this body, this paintbrush, this humanity, this Hollye.
Love Loudly. You Are Beautiful.