Chapter Two of Workbook
And so, I begin by asking a perplexing question. Where were you before your birth? Any ideas? You were an egg inside your mother's ovary. Females are born with two ovaries stuffed full of eggs. Before your mother was born she was an egg inside of your grandmother's ovary. You were one sperm of millions inside your father's testes. But perhaps you weren't really "you" until the egg and sperm united. For nine months you floated in a watery uterus and grew into "you." Is that how you became "you?" Some believe humans were a spirit first--put into a physical body later only to return to a spiritual existence upon physical death. Visit or revisit your belief system.
Human beings grow and change over the lifetime and theorists, educators, sociologists, psychologists, counselors, helping professionals and so forth, label the process life-span development. From the moment of conception, change arrives. Picture yourself as a fetus in your mother's uterus. Ponder upon the miracle of procreation and infant development. It's breathtaking! Silently express thankfulness to your biological birth mother for delivering you (no matter what the circumstances) because you exist and your uniqueness shines with your one-of-a-kind fingerprints and personality. Express gratitude to your mother, stepmother, or adoptive mother, or guardian for her love, encouragement, and support.
In the same vein, express gratitude for your biological father's sperm. Individuals are a combination of genetic materials from both female and male. Whatever painful situations you experienced in childhood, you are "you" hereditarily due to your biological hosts. The next step is to express gratefulness to the parents or guardians who raised you. Latter chapters discuss holding our childhood perpetrators accountable and the healing balm of forgiveness for our own emotional and mental wellness.
Consider the physician, nurse, or midwife who delivered you. Were you born in a hospital, at home, or in a taxicab? Share this story with your children. I was born in a hospital on New Year's Day. As the second birth of the New Year, I did not receive the fame and prizes from the hospital. It's interesting--many people ask about this when they learn I am a New Year's baby.
I suggest that you explore the past with an attitude of curiosity and not to find fault or blame. However, sometimes our past contains painful events that needs to be processed with a professional counselor or helping professional.
Growth and development is natural. Learn how to accept and honor milestones. Being aware of how change produces degrees of stress and distress is a first step. Accept the fact that change is salient and ongoing. Make a peace treaty with the notion of change. Burying your head in the sand like an ostrich will not stop change. Change is in us, outside of us, and around us.
Head and Body
Our bodies develop and change throughout the lifespan. Learning some facts about human anatomy, biology, physiology, and neurology helps us to better understand the human shell we live in. The brain is a fascinating and mysterious panacea! Think about the neurons and synaptic pathways in your brain. How do you learn? Where are memories created and stored? How is your personality formed? What makes you "you"?
The library, Internet, educational TV programs, and conversations with others increases knowledge and advances self-understanding and self-insight. Our head is connected to our body and each influences the other. Be nice to your head and body!
Unfortunately, disease and illness is a part of the human condition. Learning about your immune system and what you can do to improve it provides a feeling of personal empowerment. Some things are within our control and some things are not. Making lifestyle changes is often necessary for wellness and for healing modalities. What physical lifestyle changes do you need to make for a healthier living?
Heart disease, cancer, and myriad illnesses affect human beings. Explore your resiliency factor; spotlight the overcoming of obstacles; and list your personal strengths. I'm not suggesting a Polly Anna mentality where feelings are stuffed and you pretend when situations evoke fear, grief, sadness, anger, and frustration. Emotions need to be honored, examined, and processed. Timelines for grief are individual. Explore self-help options and/or professional counseling. Examine your reaction to physical pain and suffering. Does it make you bitter or better? Do you sink or swim? Do you need to make changes in your attitude? Sometimes we need to rest and allow others to be strong with us or for us. Accepting encouragement, support, kindness, and compassion is strength not a weakness. However, expecting others to do things for you that you can do for yourself is disempowering and a cope-out. Call upon wisdom when making decisions and solving problems. Look for solutions in the mist of chaos.
Begin by making small changes in your eating habits. Try turkey burgers or soy burgers. Skip a few deep-fried snacks. Substitute a glass of real fruit juice for a can of soda. Be kind to your stomach and intestines. Stretch out your body limbs in the morning and evening for a few minutes each day. After a physical exam with a physician, begin to take small walks and make slow but steady changes in exercise habits. Park your car far from the grocery store entrance and enjoy the walk. Quiet the hustle and bustle that shouts, "Hurry, hurry!" Instead be kind to your heart and walk the distance. As you lounge in your favorite chair to watch nightly TV, move your arms and legs in the air. Stand up during commercials and do some body movements. Play some hip-hop music and dance as you clean the toilet. Get out the old hula-hoop and swivel. Boogie to the achy-breaky heart song in the privacy of your home.
Weight & Change
Body weight somehow evolved into a national and global obsession; perhaps one of the disadvantages of television. Fashion Bug Plus, Elaine Bryant, and the Dove Women heighten societal awareness in the mist of eating disorders, fat jokes, and rejection of self-image. Diet books come and go and fat remains. Oh, fat may leave for a vacation but it soon returns in lieu of a permanent lifestyle change and by ignoring genetics. Body weight is composed of complex factors because the human body is a multifaceted and intricate enigma.
What are my experiences with weight issues? I've ran from fat far too long; looking over my shoulder to see if it's catching up. Although, I was a skinny kid, a gangly flat-chested adolescent, a petite adult, and a slender female, I still fear the fat monster. I've experienced a lifetime of sporadic exercising from jogging, jazzercise, kickboxing, to body sculpting via weightlifting, power walking, to stair aerobics and beyond. I've danced away calories with Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda. I've spent money on running shoes, spandex, home gym equipment. I've counted fat grams, food calories, and tried an assortment of protein powders, vitamins, and supplements. I've eliminated red meat, pork, potato chips, fried foods, soda pop, and lots of other foodstuff in order to be healthier but also to avoid the dreaded fat. In the former years, I binged on miniature Snickers candy-bars and ran off the calories like a demon was chasing me. I've eaten too much lettuce! In the same vein, I've carried on a love-hate affair with processed sugar. I gave up diet soda years ago because the artificial sweetener gave me a dizzy headachy feeling. For too long, I've harbored guilt over eating gooey goodies.
When I was pregnant, I looked like a pencil with a belly. Until I turned forty-five years old, I could eat almost any foodstuff and not gain weight due to my blessed metabolism. However, I sported an extra twenty pounds during two years of graduate school and just recently lost it. I felt bloated and self-conscious in my tightening wardrobe. Slacks and jean seams traveled up my posterior with the result being high water pants. The more I tired to cut back on caloriesthe more I craved sugary treats.
Of course, eating healthy food is essential for optimal functioning as well as following a balanced exercise routine. Limiting saturated fat is good for the heart and limiting processed sugar is good for the pancreas. Impairment occurs with obsessing over fat and sugar calories and sensational diets (that don't work). Albeit, trying to feel more internal control by controlling the amount and type of food that goes into your mouth is an issue. Controlnow there's another topic for discussion.
The Skin I'm In
The aging process happens whether we acknowledge it or not. My hair is graying and thinning and I am wrinkling. My eyelids, lips, and butt are drooping. I am kind to my skin with daily sunscreen and lotion. Long ago, I stopped comparing my appearance to celebrities and the rich and famous. No more glamour magazines on my coffee table or soap operas on my TV. However, society sends me and you a different message.
Skinny glamour girls, supermodels, and celebrities influence unhealthy images of both females and males. Women desire large firm breasts, small rounded buttocks, and smaller waists. Gals want tiny feet and petite noses but big lustrous lips and sizeable bedroom eyes. Male models tout muscular builds, hairless chests, and boyish grins. Men desire sleek bodies to match their cars. Both genders want silky hair, labeled clothing, and flat stomachs. I'm reminded of immortalized wax figures of celebrities in museums. Body's age and people die; skin decays in caskets. Appearance mania has reached epidemic proportions. It's not just the young but the middle-aged, and the senior citizens who crave dazzling beauty and youthfulness. Affording the scalpel is a symbol of envy. And Reality TV feeds into the fads and frenzy. However, each individual is responsible and accountable for eating the gluttonous "me" feast of superficiality.
How do we, as women (and men), learn to love the skin we live in? How do we become comfortable in the skin we're born in? Ironically, moles are only attractive if they decorate the faces of supermodels. Therefore, I had my outsized chin mole removed as a young adult.
I dare not criticize the extreme makeover individuals because I once looked into their mirror. Plastic surgery shortened my nose as a young adult. I would like to declare that ageing has brought such wisdom, insight, and self-actualization, that I regret my nose job, but that would be misleading. It changed my external body image. Nonetheless, self and agape love is not found in a bottle or a syringe. Does it take aging to realize the wrapper is only the covering for the tasty candy bar? We throw the glittering multicolored wrapper (advertised and hyped on TV, radio, billboards, magazines, Internet) in the trash. Now, I spend time improving my inside.
During adolescence, I suntanned my skin with oil and baked until I became a human casserole. A change in skin color for the brief summer months; what a waste of time and energy. On the same note, I continuously conditioned my hair with concoctions of mayo and egg whites, and like many females, I searched for 'big hair' during the 70's and 80's while using megatons of hairspray and fluffing. The purpose of hair is to keep the head warm and protected, yet, we buy into the Hollywood madness of tantalizing trends and bad fads. I've spent far too much time agonizing over my hair. I think I'll shave my head (not really).
I wonder how we would see ourselves if mirrors were not invented. If no television, would we not compare ourselves (Am I blaming TV)? Historically, women from a myriad of cultures have chased after beauty like bees hunting for nectar. Women will always find ways to worship their skin. Let me clarify; looking attractive in appearance shows self-confidence, attention to societal norms, and is necessary in American society. But, how do we find balance and forsake obsession? How do we untie our self-esteem and self-acceptance from our skin? Or, is it so connected that it cannot be separated? Can I stop fixating over my fat thighs?
How do we learn to love (or just like) the skin we live in? Would you like to stop judging and comparing yourself to others? Would you like to stop lusting after and envying the supposedly idea body form and shape? I cannot change society's perceptions and values, but I can change mine. We often change ourselves from the "outside in" instead of from the "inside out" then our inside self doesn't match the outside self. Accepting and loving your authentic self on the inside is like searching for and then discovering buried treasure. When inside self-image matches the outside body image it's a festival of happy feelings, however feelings come and go, so learning emotional regulation and management is crucial to sustaining genuine self-love in the beginning of your journey. Girl meets selfGirl loves self. Girl loves self--Girl loves others. Girl breathes and enjoys life.
When I count my blessings, I am thankful what I have; health, freedom, family, sight, hearing, a functioning brain, shelter, food, medical treatment, employment, and so much more. Albeit, I have journeyed to my inner core and eventually I did find self-acceptance, self-understanding, and self-love. I am a valuable and worthy human being with talents and flaws and I accept both. I will never be perfect because perfectionism is a myth. I am. I am a small but significant part of a larger picture. I've found purpose and meaning in the living of life beyond the physical body that will ultimately fade away. But I am older now and I did not think this way in the days of youth. Unfortunately, our teen culture has swallowed the Hollywood fantasy of magical body beauty as their measuring stick for significance. Walk the halls of elementary and high schools and observe the cruel comments and rejection of human beings who do not fit celebrity attractiveness and own overprized clothing labels that sell status and fleeting self-images. I gave in and bought expensive clothes and advertised items for my daughter during her youth, so I'll point the finger at myself. Well, I don't have all the answers and neither do Dr. Phil and Oprah; the Pope and the Dali Lama; poets and musicians; philosophers and preachers; or college professors and politicians.
I admire actress Jamie Lee Curtis for her untouched and realistic photo on the cover of a popular magazine and I adore the Golden Girls. Alas, I still want to stop the ageing process. Maybe that's just part of the finite human condition. I am a work in progress and so are you. We are. We change. We change more.
Draw a timeline and label the milestones in your life from birth until now. Identify major and minor physical changes of your body. Stretch your limbs and talk to each one about functioning.
Discuss the history of your sexuality. Describe your current sexuality. Are you content with your sex life? Explain. What changes do you want to make?
Create a scrapbook of your life in photographs starting with baby pictures. Return to your roots and take pictures of your grade school, middle school, high school, and college. List the places where you've resided. Make a videotape and discuss your life's adventures. Write your genealogical history in your scrapbook. Honor your days on this planet.
Take a walk just to walk. Inhale and exhale as you stroll. Listen to your breathing.
Stay in the here-and-now moment and focus on your feet and body movement. Talk to your feet about what they mean to you and how they've helped you.
Honor your body with a healthier eating lifestyle. Make a few small changes. Drink more water or eat more fresh fruit or dried fruit. Eat smaller portions of red meat.
What do you want to change about your body and appearance? What do you like about your body and appearance? Are you friends or enemies with your body? Explain. Write a gratitude letter to your body.
Keep a journal for three months about relaxation and stress reduction.
Read the book, Love, Medicine, & Miracles by Bernie Siegel.
Read the book, Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins.
Take a family vacation yearly if only for a few days or a weekend. You are making memories for your children. Single people are making memories with extended family and friends. Women, dare to wear a two-piece bathing suit at the beach with a big smile.
Watch the movie, Shallow Hal.
Read the book, What You Can and Cannot Change by M. Seligman. Individuals with obesity issues need to read the chapter on fat, genetics, and acceptance.
A usual project would be to visit a casket shop and lay down in a coffin to gain a new perspective on daily living. I recommend you give thought to this activity; do this with a friend; and process the experience together. This activity may produce intense reactions and caution is recommended.
Ponder on the role of water inside your body.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.
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