Birthdays are a very big deal to me. And every year, I am so amazed and humbled at the beautiful friends in my life who show up for me and make my day special. In the years since my Dad's death, I feel like I've desired very interesting once-ina-lifetime birthday activities, that truly capture where I am in my life. Not that my 25th birthday at a drag queen show was a literal reflection of my life at the time, but I wanted to wear a red tu-tu and a boa so the venue seemed appropriate. (Ya havta honor your desires, folks!) This year I decided to welcome 27 with the ultimate metaphorical adventure; the flying trapeze. Normally, I'm not eager to be fitted with a rib-cutting harness on a Saturday morning, but when the circus calls, I show up. It's the polite thing to do. Plus, I totally Groupon-ed the whole thing, so, like, duh!
And boy, was that harness unforgiving. And suffocating. And confronting. As someone who has been
struggling suffering dying of Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the age of 10, even my LuluLemon pants, my psychedelic cat socks and warm affirmations from friends couldn't draw away the nauseating attention I paid to my lumpy, fat, pudgy, balloon-like body, that exists only in my head, or so I'm told. After all, they were wearing a harness, too. We were all in the same constricting boat.
I've always been "thick". I've always been able to pack on muscle when I've wanted. And I do love that. I understand I'll never have the long, lean, muscular limbs of an Oak tree in winter. But I do have the thick and strong hold to the earth, as a, I dunno, Bonsai tree. On a really good day; hair's done, little bit a makeup, cute outfit, I'm most certainly a Kwanzan Flowering Cherry tree; electric pink sizzling across the branches.
But I digress...
After 4 attempts and failures to swing my legs over the bar, in order to prepare for a "catch", I began to feel defeated in my own skin. Why can't you just get your freaking legs over the bar? The hopeful rise in my instructor's voice and the fall in my inability to just do this basic skill reverberates in my ears. I felt Shame. I knew you wouldn't be able to do it. And Jealousy. See? She can do it. She's better than you. And Fat. I told you you're too big for this. I told you you're too big for this.
The birthday girl is now in a bad mood and wants to go home.
Ironically though, despite how undesirable I felt my body looked, my physical strength was consistent each attempt. I was just as eager, focused and muscularly composed each time around. I figured my more rational, self-loving side was on to something. I was far from giving up, so I decided to try a different mental and emotional approach.
In the moments climbing up the ladder to the platform for my final turn, I somehow landed in gratitude. Thank you, body, for allowing me to climb this ladder. I lean out, hips pushed toward to beautiful cliffs of Malibu. Thank you, core and thoracic back muscles, you're always there to hold my chest proud and head up high. I held out my hand to reach the bar. I swing out. Thank you, shoulders. I hear the instructor shout out, "You're on the bar! You're on the bar! You did it!" Thank you, ears. I let go of the bar. I reach with all my might to that "catch" position. Fingers pointing to the beautiful California sky, pointing to the day my body will no longer be a source of sadness. And disappointment. I can see it. I'm so close!
I get HUGE hugs from my dearest, most supportive, unconditionally loving, smiling friends. This has been a metaphor for shifting perspective. For trusting myself. For trusting others.
And in the end, I found comfort flying through the air no matter what I look like, because I have a great safety net.