Radical Self-Acceptance - Part II

WARNING: Nudity and Explicit Material.

Photographer Jen Trombly

Photographer Jen Trombly

Summer 2014

Peace, like all things, is impermanent. No matter how big the battle, nor how stunning the victory, it doesn't last.

From the moment I made peace with myself (see blog post Radical Self-Accpetance - Part I) it took years, but eventually discontent crept in, which drove me to take my hard-won self-acceptance, and sense of deep inner-peace, to a whole new level.

Discontent can serve you, but only if you're willing to turn and walk toward it.

The Past Informs Our Future

Joseph Campbell said, "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." So, I went spelunking!

It would be nice if I could blame every bad decision I'd ever made on the media, but there comes a time when one must take responsibility for oneself.

I was never fat as a child. The reasons I got fat a young woman are complex and deeply traumatic. I won't go into gory details, but suffice to say twice in my life, once when I was 17 and once when I was 18, older men attempted to rape me, and, after I successfully fought them off, they both became enraged and tried to murder me. In more ways than one, the last one succeeded.

  • Before, I was bold and audacious, cocky and sure of myself, and comfortable with my sensuality/sexuality.
  • After, I was still sure of myself, but was left with a need to hide. To fly under the radar. To be invisible.

Years ago, I was a runner. I ran from life, ran from myself, and ran from responsibility, but that all ended when I reached my breaking point. The reason the media held such sway over my choices in life is because I lived unconsciously. Aimlessly.

Once I found peace within myself, over the intervening years, I turned and faced my demons head on. I didn't just face them, I embraced them. I'll go into embracing fear in a future blog post, but it is crucial to this piece that you know how I learned to deal with my issues.

Instead of telling you, I'll show you...

Dating In Mid-Life

Photographer Jen Trombly

Photographer Jen Trombly

When did the rules of dating change? I married at 18, and divorced at 42, so 23 years had passed since I'd been on a date. Well, it was more like 25 years, because for the first couple of years after my divorce, I deliberately didn't date anyone. Once I did start dating again, I was horrified at peoples behavior.

Respect for women? Gone!

Patience to allow emotions to develop, ripen and mature? Gone!

And, for God's sake, when did it become kosher to send a women you've never met a picture of your dick???

For an over 40 fat woman, people can be cruel, and dating can be horrific. People are hungry to love and be loved, which leaves them prey to all manner of dishonorable players.

I don't mean to make it sound like there were no interested parties, because there were, or that all middle-aged men in the dating market are despicable, because they're not. I've met some wonderful men I'll call friend for the rest of my life, but just because someone is interested in me doesn't mean I feel attracted to him.

Photographer Jen Trombly

Photographer Jen Trombly

There seems to be this prevailing sense that if you are middle-aged and single you'd better grab on to the first man who shows an interest in you because he might be the last one who ever does, and God forbid you end up alone!

After leaving my marriage, I swore I'd rather spend the rest of my life alone then spend one night laying next to a man who isn't fully in to me.

Still, taking your clothes off with a new man, no matter how much you both like and care for each other, will bring all your insecurities screaming to the surface. I could feel them clawing at me, choking me, smothering me in their need for validation. In that situation, you have two choices, you can either suppress them again, which leads to anger, bitterness and resentment, or embrace them so you can deal with them, which leads to ultimate freedom.

For the most part, I embraced them, which allowed me to keep my peace no matter how turbulent the fear and insecurities which clamored inside me. But it always seemed to invite a deeper-level of pain to surface.

In a weird way, I was consumed by sexual fantasies, but could get no real satisfaction from relationships much less from sex. Sex? OMG, that was an effort in frustration!

I could blame men, fatness, or the media for my dissatisfaction and inability to form healthy relationships with men, but it was not because I'm fat, but because I had trauma that I hadn't looked at, dealt with, or healed in DECADES, and thus could not embrace my own beauty!!

Embrace The Pain

Photographer Jen Trombly

Photographer Jen Trombly

You cannot deal with something if you don't know it's there. By the same token, deliberately avoiding something traumatic, when you know damned good and well it's there, is pathologically detrimental and can lead to a whole host of mental illnesses.

I'd been in therapy off and on dealing with issues as they arose, and I'd reached the point where I was not afraid to look at myself, or dig deeper to rout out the source of my pain. My therapist encouraged me to "conquer" that which caused me pain, but I had a different idea...

I didn't run from it. I didn't hide from it. I didn't fight against it. I embraced that shit!

I found this radical approach worked every single time I applied it to my life, and I wanted to use it to deal with this cloying need to hide once and for all. So I began to look for opportunities to embrace my pain rather than fight it.

Public speaking? Once my greatest fear, is now my chosen profession and I feel so empowered because as I embrace the panic and fright, it yields the most magnificent energy, which I can use.

Fear of extreme heights? Not only can I sit on the rim of the Grand Canyon and meditate, but the terror I initially feel sweeps my Ego aside and fuels my meditation to the point that I can actually feel the presence of the Divine swirling in, through, and around me.

When you engage authentic emotion, accept and embrace it, it yields to you. Surrenders itself, and becomes raw power you can harness and use to take your life into the stratosphere. It's spiritual rocket fuel!

But how do you embrace things buried in your subconscious mind? Pain and rage and hatred that have been buried so deep that you're not even consciously aware they exist?

The solution presented itself...

The Offer

Photographer Jen Trombly

Photographer Jen Trombly

I belong to a drum circle called the Good Vibe Tribe. Over the years members have come and gone, but we manage to keep in touch. When one whose moved away comes back to visit, we have a grand celebration: beats and eats and dancing with fire! It's a magical occasion.

My best friend Kim came home for a visit in June of 2014, so, of course, drum circle was a full-on festival.

While we were visiting, one of our friends, Jen Trombly, who happens to be an extremely talented photographer, asked me if I'd be interested in doing a boudoir session with her.

I was...STUNNED! I truly love myself, but the thought of someone seeing me naked, judging me for being fat, sent a wave of panic through me that threw me for a loop!

Panic? I was not expecting that at all!

Fear? I was terrified! And excited...and horrified...but mostly terrified!

Someone might see me naked??? There are no word to express the desperate need to hide that consumes me, threatens to choke me, at the very thought.

It was also the perfect opportunity to drive the demons lurking in my subconscious mind to the surface to be loved and accepted and embraced, so, of course, I said YES!

The Challenge

I did a video journal as I moved through the various stages of this journey to Radical Self-Acceptance. Here is the first installment...

Breathless Boudoir video journal, July 15, 2014.

Did all my repressed insecurities come screaming to the top? Yes, they did! While the written word is a power tool for helping dig beneath the layers of garbage, there is nothing like seeing it happen in real time to truly understand. If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth millions, if not billions...

Boudoir Photo Session August 31, 2014

Photographer Jen Trombly

Photographer Jen Trombly

It took everything I had to walk through the door of the Breathless Boudoir studio. I wanted to run, but didn't. Instead, I let the feelings rise, whatever they were. I never told myself I "shouldn't" feel this, or that. I never repressed my feelings at all.

When panic set in, I felt it fully. Allowed panic to simply be panic, but did not allow it to alter, or control my behavior. I didn't just accept panic, I welcomed it. Allowed it to stand in the light with loving respect and embraced it. I breathed deeply into the experience of panic, and do you know what happened? It dissipated of its own accord.

When insecurity set in, I felt it fully. I welcomed it. Embraced it. And it dissipated too.

And rage, and regret, and terror, and this gawd-awful need to hide that has plagued me for decades...

Before you protest, let me say there is a big difference between feeling an emotion fully, and feeding a "story" while engaging in melodrama. You can feel something powerfully, yet not allow it to dictate, alter, or control your behavior.

As the artists at the studio went to work on my hair and make-up, Jen and I chatted. When they finally allowed me to look in the mirror I was so pleased. They did it light and natural, not thick and heavy.

Jen Trombly is such a pro! As the photo session began, my nerves slid into oblivion, and I felt playful, and pretty, and...yeah, I felt super sexy too! All the photos in this piece are taken from that photo session.

So, did I get nakey? Did I go commando? Well, yes, yes, I did. There wasn't a moment of decision. It was seamless, and organic, and Jen was such a pro she captured my moment of liberation!

As of this writing, two years have lapsed since my boudoir photography session, and changes within me have been lasting and profound. I found a whole new level of self-respect, self-awareness, and self-acceptance, that have had a lasting impact on my self-esteem.

Beautiful, precious memories I will forever treasure, a deeper aspect of my evolution, and the opportunity to allow negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions which had been buried and repressed in my subconscious mind to rise to the surface and stand in the light with loving acceptance.

My Dream

That Summer I had a dream that I was swimming naked in a pool of warm, clear water. I felt relaxed, at peace. As I swam I noticed black, oily specks in the water that looked like tar. I wondered where they came from, and looked around for the source.

It was coming from me.

Sticky, oily tar oozing from my pores, from my heart, from my solar plexus chakra. As it left my body, the pool of warm, refreshing water carried it away.

When I woke the next morning I felt all the rage, anger, and betrayal I had fought so hard to keep hidden had left me.

2016 and Beyond...

Do I love myself? Absolutely!

Do I accept myself as brave and bold and beautiful? I would say yes, but I in reality, the better answer is...for the moment. At least until the discontent sets in, and I need to go deeper.

Change is the only constant in life because, however great the triumph, there is always a higher level to reach for. Always a deeper layer to uncover.