On the luggage rack laid an empty suitcase. A messy pile of sweaters, blouses, dresses and pants covered the king-sized bed in our hotel room in Barcelona.
Vince, my fiancé, watched me try on outfit after outfit, and turn each down with greater disgust than the last.
“These pants are too tight. I look like a sausage.”
“This dress is too short. You can see my cellulite.”
“That blouse is all wrong, because I’m all wrong.”
“I don’t have anything to wear,’ I shouted with a mix of desperation and frustration.
“Honey, you look great in everything,” said Vince in a soothing tone.
“No, I don’t. My hips are too big. My arms are too fat. My clothes don’t fit right. Nothing looks good.” I spewed, as the anxiety inside of me rose.
We were supposed to leave twenty minutes earlier, now we were late because of this body loathing attack. That’s what it was. A full on, complete loss of control, body shame downward spiral. I was no longer present. I was replaced by my inner critic who was having a field day on my account.
We had to leave, so I grabbed the closest outfit, hastily put it on, did not look in the mirror and stomped out of the room. (Clearly, it was going to be a good day!)
Thankfully, we spent the afternoon touring Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, where I immersed myself in his creative treasures and got out of my tortured mind.
The next day, I slowed down and considered the self-loathing event from the day before. Panicked moments like those were my everyday reality in the past. But I hadn’t had an episode as volatile as that one in years. What was going on?
I got out my journal and started writing. I quickly discovered the answer: wedding dress shopping. I was a week away from my first appointment to look for a wedding dress—and I was dreading it. In fact, my girlfriends knew how much I was dragging my feet, so they set this appointment for me.
Just the thought of trying on dresses was too much for me to entertain. The act of picking a dress symbolized the moment of saying “I do” to my body. It represented a coming together in celebration—a way of saying, “I choose you.”
And I wasn’t there yet. I was a big, fat, “I don’t.”
I didn’t push myself, or make myself wrong. On that day in Barcelona, I let myself be. I cried tears of sadness, guilt, and grief. I cried for the years of wishing away this body for a “better” one.
It was a full-on water works display. And it was good.
When the tears stopped, I wrote this letter to my body:
Dear Sweet Body,
I’m so sorry I’ve denied you and ignored you. For so long I forced you to diet and exercise out of yearning for perfection. I know dropping that motivation was good and healthy; however, I dropped you in the process. And for that I apologize. I am here for you—even though it may not seem like it. I am committed to you. I want you to feel good. And I appreciate you speaking so clearly how you don’t feel good right now—the headaches, indigestion, allergies and flu. I’m listening. This is the first step in demonstrating my loving. I know I was very unkind yesterday. I said such terrible, vile things about your shape, size and look. I’m so sorry. I’m in a big process right now—and I’m asking for your patience. I know you’re loving me no matter what, and even that’s difficult to bear sometimes. And I’m grateful. Thank you for slowing me down and letting me know it’s time to come back to you. That is my intention. I intend to see you, celebrate you, and cherish you.
Sometimes all our body needs is for us to come back, and take time with it. I find this letter writing process incredibly valuable. It’s a well-used tool in my tool box. If you haven’t written a letter to (and from) your body in a long time, or never, I highly encourage you to do so. Tenderness and compassion are often on the other side.
I’d like to say that this experience was all I needed to feel good about picking a dress…but that’s not the full truth. This experience, though, did bring me that much further in the process of stepping into my loving marriage with my body.
More to come in the next Four Marriages: Body post.
Until then, thank you for reading.
With Fierce Loving,