Naked and Absolutely F*cking Terrified

Last week I turned 36. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much, except for the fact that I was planning a fabulous brunch with my Portland community. (FYI, I cannot imagine a world where I will ever tire of celebrating my birthday.) Then my friend Maggie texted me with this question: So, you’re turning 36. How does it feel?
The sound of thirty-six, in theory, seems like a war cry announcing the foray into my late 30s. And yet I don’t feel like my late 30s are anything negative. I joke about being like a fine wine—better with age—but truly, growing and learning more each year makes my journey all the more fascinating.
That said, it doesn’t come without bumps and bruises of any typical adventure. There are times I feel like a 14-year old, staring at my locker at my new high school, completely unsure of who to talk to, where to look, and how to get to my next class. I push my glasses further up my nose and lift my head up so I can see where I’m going, but it doesn’t necessarily help me get there any easier.
One of these times was last Monday. It was Labor Day. My boyfriend decided to take me to Rooster Rock, part of which is sectioned off as a nude beach…which was the part he wanted to visit. For me it was the last place I would elect to lay on a beach. I don’t mind nudity, not one bit. I don’t care if you’re flopping down on your towel, swimming the river, or playing naked beach volleyball. I just personally don’t have an attraction to being the one in the nude.
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So here’s what happened. We arrived, put our picnic basket down, and stripped. Well,he did. I put on my bravest face and took everything off except my underwear. I just couldn’t go all the way. We spent the better part of three hours there, making food, dipping in the water (Okay, he did. I was too much of a sissy.), playing games, and lazing in the sun. It wasn’t busy that day, which surprised me, but there were groups on both sides of us and across the river. In the last 20 minutes or so, Nathan decided to get in the water for the final time. I stood up and was looking out at him as he swam in the river when I heard a voice.
“Looking good!!” A man in his fifties was suddenly in front of me with what looked like a benign smile…? Now, I don’t know a lot about nude beaches, but I assume that one does not comment on the physical appearance of another nude(ish) beach-goer. And you certainly don’t stare! Right?
He was so intent on looking at me, in fact, that he tripped on a scrubby bush, and sheepishly said, “I guess I better keep on walking.” I nodded with what I assumed was a shocked look on my face, unsure whether I should give him a lecture or just be relieved that he had kept on going.
Nathan saw all of this go down from the water and was at my side before the man was out of sight. I stood there, naked(ish) and self-conscious, and told him what had happened. He agreed that it was quite rude to say something of that nature on a nude beach.
Completely outside of our conversation, but deep inside my head, I felt a swirl of emotions. I was ashamed to admit to myself what had actually been my first thought: Are you talking to me? Looking good, naked? Really!? This instinctual chant played over and over. It made me feel incredibly sad, and I felt my face flush with red with embarrassment—and a little bit of anger—for thinking this way. Was I still the 14–year-old, affected by society and still unaware that people come in all shapes and sizes? That everyone deserves love and is worthy? That I should love myself most, unconditionally, and abundantly? Why should my knee-jerk reaction be that he misspoke somehow, or, worse yet, was mocking me?
Yes, as an adolescent I had more than my fair share of middle-school torture about my shape, but I’ve done a lot of self-work since then. I also know that unfortunately, it’s an ongoing battle, and that overcoming feelings of shame and imperfection is something I will always need to be aware of. I know I’m not alone. I know each and every one of us has something they are self-conscious about. I find it so comforting to have my friends and family to talk to, and a community of support that is just a click away. I love that as an adult we can own up to our weaknesses, and, though we might still feel them, have the opportunity to seek out ways to understand the human spirit, and in turn, understand ourselves.
Maybe someday I’ll believe it when a stranger tells me I’m looking good…naked.
Or maybe someday I’ll have finally learned that I don’t need to clog my mind with those little judgments I hold within me.

Today

I will honor the silence.
I will do what feels good.
I will not be self critical.
I will love myself.
I will respect my choices.
I will have an attitude of gratitude.
I will be creative.
I will listen to the messages when they come in.
I will learn that I can do these things every day, one day at a time.
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Trade-offs

I was reading the always-entertaining, usually-funny-but-sometimes-serious blog, Shut Up and Run, on my lunch break today.  Normally, this blog is about the funnier side of running. For example, on her FAQ page, number 3 states:

Q: You seem fixated on bodily functions, why? Isn’t that gross and inappropriate?
A: Let’s get real. Everyone poops, farts, vomits, pees, sharts. The shart is my favorite because it’s such a surprise. Sometimes we do these things in the most inopportune of moments. But, we all do it. I like to tell my own stories to let people know they’re not alone. I do it for the greater good.

I love this blog because not only does it make me giggle, it also makes me think about and truly appreciate being someone who runs…a runner. It means a lot for me to be able to say that with a straight face. It’s also not just about signing up for a 5k and being able to physically move my legs. It’s a lot more than that. I have found qualities in myself that I never knew existed—the good ones, but also my limitations.
The post entitled More of This, Less of That in 2013 caught my eye and stayed with me. The list really got me thinking about what “resolutions” I could be working on in the new year and now that would improve my life. I will make a list of my own here, but you should really click on the link to read the original. It’s truly inspiring! Here are some of my own:
More ME time, less time feeling pressured to go out (partying in moderation obviously welcomed!)
More sleeping, less night-time Facebooking
More eye contact, less sheepish self-consciousness for no reason
Even MORE faith in the journey, less control freakishness over the little things
More writing, less complaining about how little I write
More loving, less pining
More body respect, less ignoring “gut” instincts
Speaking of gut instincts…that is a popular saying for a reason, people. Over the holiday break, I woke up one morning with a pain in my gut so intense that I ended up going to the emergency room on Christmas Eve. Have you ever experienced a ruptured ovarian cyst? Let me just tell you that it feels like someone is ripping out your insides with a pair of rusty pliers. I knew the pain was something foreign, but before I allowed myself the indulgence of recognizing that something was truly wrong, I asked about 15 people their opinion. Some people said to wait it out, that it would go away. Some people advised me to go straight to the ER. I got a heating pad and lots of tea, and tried to wait it out. That was dumb. Always LISTEN to your body. If it is telling you that the stabby feeling is bad, don’t feel like it’s not worth your time to get it checked out. It’s worth it.
In running as in life, there is always some philosophical feel-good hooey that ends up coming out of a crappy experience. (Oh, you sharted during an important race? That’s okay, you ended up writing a hilarious story about it and becoming an internet sensation!)
I may have been on bed rest for the last week, but I got so many things accomplished (like taking some real time to sleep!), and, most of all, I am glad I listened to my body. It’s a simple concept, but slowing down and checking in with yourself is a valuable lesson. And hey, it may take a little while to read the signs. I went from having a UTI last week to a ruptured cyst on Christmas Eve to falling and almost breaking my nose in the shower this morning (TMI?). Some of us are a little thick headed!! Cut yourself a break, but be sure and say thank you to your body and forgive your limitations. Recognize that some trade-offs might need to be made, and make your list.
See you in the new year!