My responses to the Leading Questions, posed my Sandy Ross at http://bodyblisscentral.com/leading-questions/.
1. What are you most proud of in your life?
I am most proud to be a mother and I am most proud to be getting older (66 and counting). According to my aunt, getting old is not for sissies. She never mentioned her opinion of motherhood, but I am betting she would have said it wasn’t for sissies either.
Motherhood has meant a zillion opportunities for me to work on useless habits and witless beliefs, with an occasional opportunity to celebrate a few strengths. There is good news about getting old too--lots of time to practice whatever self-awareness I can lay claim to and to have fun with my son Alex, that stellar being who is so good at mirroring to me my stuff. Actually, greater self-awareness makes everything more fun.
2. What is the most outrageously huge thing you still want to do?
Some years back, the first exercises in a conversational French class I was taking were to: 1) create an alternative French personality for myself; 2) show up for the second class with a French passport (of my own construction) and a brief introduction (in French) of my alt-self to my classmates. Our teacher had figured out that students who are going wild imagining some French version of themselves will also go wild learning the language. Boy, was she right--it was a blast! For awhile, I lived for those weekly French classes, to get caught up on the latest exploits of the Princess of Versailles (art librarian at a local university); or the concert cellist (pediatrician, married, mother of three) who traveled the world and had a lover in every center of civilization with a concert hall.
My French self was a poetess. Her name was Sidonie, and she lived in Provence with her children and a filmmaker husband. Her days were surrounded by mellow stucco walls and filled with sunflowers. What I loved most about my alternate life was the deep sense of peace and enjoyment and expansion that it engendered. It had a sweet center. I created it and it was good! The ‘real’ life I was creating for myself was good too, but I spent a lot of time not asking the right questions and distracted by the messiness.
Now leapfrog over a decade or two to a few years ago, the moment when I stood looking at a painting I had just finished called Sunshine on the Water and suddenly said to myself, “Oh, I know who I am.” That moment had a sweet center too. And I feel like, this time, I asked the right question--“How do I create a life that truly sustains me as a writer and artist?” Six days later (six days!), things really fell apart, on every level, but the center held. It was hard to see sometimes, in all the chaos, but I was getting what I asked for: the realignment necessary to create a life to sustain who I was.
So the most outrageously huge thing that I want to do is live the rest of my life from that centered place, that sweetness, no matter what.
3. Do you ever feel that you have or have not gotten a job based on your appearance?
I lived in London in my twenties and moped my way through a stretch of time when I couldn’t find a job, any job, much less one that I really wanted and that interested me. As a favor, a friend of a friend finally hired me as a sales girl in an inexpensive dress shop because I looked good in short shorts. It was a terrible job, because I was terrible at it—unenthusiastic and reticent about selling, demoralized by having a job whose only requirement was to look good in shorts. I went to work every morning terrified by how vulnerable and outside myself I felt.
I wonder how it would go to look for a job now that I am in my sixties. The good news is the short shorts are no longer a option, but in a recent conversation with the Stellar Being, he was horrified by some negative self-comments I made about assumed cultural bias towards people my age joining the work force. Bless him, he continues to function as an excellent mirror. Left to my own devices, Deepak Chopra’s suggestion to just say “Next!” when those sorts of thoughts float through works pretty well.
4. How have your feelings about your body affected what you do in life?
My learning style is usually experience first, knowledge second. Maybe that is why most of the most satisfying work I have done in my life has required a lot of physical stamina. Studio artist, professional conservation picture framer, gallery owner, amateur fiddle player—it has all required stamina. Even writing is physical for me, because I have to walk a lot between writing sessions to be in the process. And of course there has been motherhood, and now there is the aging process.
Since my thirties, my main body issue has been having enough energy to do what I want to do, do it well, and live the good life of being and feeling healthy. My energy needs are not exotic—enough for a regular workday, moderate exercise and socializing with friends and family—but ongoing fatigue has often been a problem. It can be limiting. I catch myself getting mad at my own body and calling it names, like ‘slouch’ and ‘malingerer.’ Wow, I should be glad my body shows up at all, given the rude treatment it sometimes endures!
Anyway, the upside of this energy shortage dilemma is that a while back, I made a deal with myself: I would do whatever I had to do to have the energy to be happy and present to my own life. It’s been a process, but more and more, I don’t mess with the quality of what I eat, and I don’t mess with the concept of some sort of regular exercise. Meditation and regular contact with my spiritual family are crucial parts of my life support system too. The results are good, and getting better.
5. Can you really love yourself if you are not thin? How do you go about doing that?
I want to get out of bed every morning with lots of energy and enthusiasm for life, and I have been fatter or thinner in the pursuit of that. I don’t own a scale anymore and pay less attention to my weight than others sometimes do. My measuring stick consists of two questions: “Do I feel good?” and “Do I have enough ‘oompf’ to live this day to its highest possibility?”
Feeling good for me means REALLY healthy eating habits and regular exercise, mentioned above, so I figure me at whatever weight is healthy me. Yes, I can love myself if I am not thin. Can I love me when I can’t say yes to my two measuring-stick questions? Having just now revealed my own self-criticism for all to read, I predict I will be much kinder to myself, plus grateful for having a body at all, especially one with pretty good working parts.
6. How do you manage to have balance in your life—take care of yourself, your family, your home, work, friends?
It was a brilliant and clarifying moment when I learned a) to see myself as normal for an introvert and b) what that means in terms of self care. I need a lot of alone time and we live in a socially oriented world these days. Once I gave myself permission to take as much time as I need to regenerate, all the other important parts of my life became much more manageable.
7. What’s the thing you say most often to yourself about yourself?
“You are doing the best you can in the moment. Give yourself some space.”