I had a major epiphany last night.
The kind of major awareness that caught my breath as tears rolled down my face.
A moment where all else froze and I literally felt a huge shift within me, gears rotating into place, thoughts lining up, the unneeded quickly ushered out of my heart’s door, the wisdom of my body zapped with a resonating alignment.
Definitely a “Hell, yes!” moment.
Yet quiet as I was by myself and the resonance moved me to focus directly and intently on myself and how I perceive and accept myself.
I fell asleep with the wetness on my cheeks, cuddled up warm in my flannel duvet cover (dark red, of course!), finding warm comfort in the new alignment of self perception.
This morning as I awoke, the words of the previous evening were first in my thoughts and I stayed for a few moments in my snuggled space, reviewing the new awareness, auditioning relevancy and benefit.
Shower. Dress. Breakfast.
Halfway through, I realized I had begun to diminish my epiphany and I had to stop and ask myself, “Why? Why do I do this to myself? Have an amazing awareness and then at some point, push aside its awesomeness?”
The epiphany, I want to share.
But, first, I want to share the secondary epiphany to give you the context and the answer I have come to about why I tried to push the first epiphany aside.
The Second Epiphany First
There is much that I expect of myself.
My expectations cover various perspectives of myself as friend, mother, spiritual guide, and human being.
I see myself as someone who is intelligent, perceptive, and vulnerable. I also think sometimes that because of what I do in the world – this would be the spiritual guide part – that I need to be more intelligent and perceptive than the average human being (which really doesn’t exist but that’s a topic for another day).
The point is that part of my self-expectation holds me to a higher standard so that I can feel that what I offer is of value to anyone who interacts with me.
This is an expectation that I have dealt with on many occasions and from multiple perspectives. It is also an expectation which doesn’t have the hold over me like it once did. But like all awesome lessons in life, it shows up from time to time to challenge me to see myself from a new and more supportive point of view as well as support me in a process of letting go of what no longer serves.
Along with a couple of other life lesson topics (like trust, worthiness, and truth), I have come to accept their appearance not as indications that I haven’t done my work, but as opportunities to go deeper, let go, and see myself moving towards a new horizon.
When I asked myself why I was diminishing yesterday’s epiphany, I had several thoughts go through my head:
- Duh, Cheryl! This is obvious. How come you are so late to the party?
- This is not as important as you first thought.
- People will laugh at you because you are just now getting this.
- Suck it up, and move on, more stuff to accomplish.
As I munched on breakfast, here’s what I got about these lines of thought:
- My critical voice is trying to push me to diminish myself.
- Same critical voice is trying to convince me that my truth is not valid or too insignificant to pay attention to.
- I am pulling out that old expectation to be perfect in all ways and thus any epiphany must be kept quiet because it is proof that I am less than perfect.
Still munching on breakfast, I said to myself, “WTF! What are you doing to yourself?”
I put my almond butter covered slice of jicama down on my plate and stared out the window, letting all of this noise play through my head just to make sure of how I felt and what I wanted to claim as truth. Here’s what I concluded:
- I am not slow or late if for no other reason then it’s my own personal party which by definition I can’t be late to because this party is my life and is always in session.
- If I am lying in bed, tears running down my cheek, feeling the weight of burden and denigration physically lifting from my body, knowing that this is a big deal – then it is a big deal. I’ve worked deeply to be aware of my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs, however they choose to reveal themselves in the moment. The state of denial is a place I consciously moved from years ago and still, occasionally, need to remind myself I no longer inhabit.
- I do not control others and their reactions, choices, or awareness. I choose for me and me only. If someone’s going to laugh at me … well then … that’s them and not me.
- Yep, if I’m going to diminish myself and my amazing awareness then perhaps moving on might be a good idea so that I can miss the pain I’ve now caused myself by ignoring what I must honestly claim as BFD.
Picking up the jicama to take a bite, I felt the gears shift into alignment again (barely 12 hours after the last shift).
At the same time, I saw images representing ALL of my awarenesses in my life: images of various truth claimed in various big deal life moments, images of false beliefs previously claimed as truth, images of deep dives and wisdom pearls which at one time were soul truth but because of new awareness and understanding I no longer claim.
All of these images appearing like puzzle pieces locking together in one moment one way and, in another moment, flipping into another pattern. A continual motion to re-imagine my life and all the knowing, and understanding, and awareness, and truth, and trust, and Holy Shit! Ahas.
The puzzle a metaphor for my life.
The puzzle offering a new picture of alignment in that moment, in another moment, and now in this moment.
In this moment, I saw how the epiphany of the night before was created out of previous puzzle pieces along with the new puzzle piece which entered my awareness and took its place in the truth of me in the moment.
My critical voice was dead wrong.
For the epiphany wasn’t meant to be a proof of my perfection.
The epiphany wasn’t proof of my less than.
The epiphany was for me to hear and claim my truth in the moment, allowing the puzzle who is me to align within balance in the moment.
If I want to claim the epiphany as a big deal, then that’s for me to honor – that, like all moments in my life, is my choice.
To shy from this truth in any way is playing small.
Very simply, I will choose me and my truth with honor and respect for me.
It’s my party and my puzzle.
I love me and I am worthy of my love.
Here’s my epiphany:
My body is the beauty of experience.
The Background of My Body
For most of my life, my body and I have had an antagonistic relationship primarily because it’s not always shaped to my expectations or the expectations of family or society.
One of the many judgments I have levied against myself as a result is that I am not beautiful.
The battle of my body began on the day I was born. One of six babies in the hospital nursery, all of whom were infected by dirty hands with staph infection. Day two, only three of the babies lived including me. I had a bandage on my chest, protecting the wound where a boil of yuckiness had been excised caused by the staph. In the next seven years, I dealt with asthma, bronchial pneumonia, the beginnings of childhood-long hay fever, sexual assault, and correction for feet which toed in. None of which contributed to a firm foundation for self-trust and definitely reinforced a learned hypervigilance.
Nowadays, I look at pictures of myself from childhood and I see a beautiful girl who I know did not feel aligned or confident.
In my twenties, I became more conscious of my inner battle and I took various steps to counter the disappointment.
One of the main efforts was to stop the yoyo dieting which had begun when I was nine years old and shifted into high gear by the time I was eleven. I was not hugely overweight but was considered a candidate for reduction so I would be more in line size-wise with my peers.
This concentration on dieting combined with the early childhood experiences distanced myself from me and reinforced a story of brokenness and less-than which invaded every thought and experience I had. Every bite of food was a debate, part of the ongoing hyper awareness that I was not right, not perfect, and certainly not beautiful.
It was pregnancy which tipped the scales. Two within fifteen months. The first one ended in the still birth at 20 weeks and the second was 40 weeks of worry and condemnation which gifted me with a beautiful and amazing daughter. Four months after her birth, we were both in a serious auto wreck in which nothing was broken, but much was torn and tossed.
This is when Big Cheryl came forward because I carried the weight of all that and more, both metaphorically and physically, from this series of events for 19 years.
Then the unexpected happened in two ways: my then husband demanded divorce. And what started as the worst day of my life become the day I was reborn and left not only Big Cheryl behind but was also the day False Cheryl was jettisoned.
I have written about this transformation here.
In this moment, I will phrase the new journey as True Cheryl which was and has been my effort to find, trust, and balance myself as worthy, as loveable, and as beautiful. My search for a body which can rock a sexy red dress has been both the beacon and the reward.
For it asks me to let go of all those old stories which I had already been dropping for several years. This journey asks me to claim my worth and my beauty with peace and joy.
Part of what I’ve come to is that my beauty is intrinsic.
I am beautiful.
Yes, I have nice physical features. However, I see them more as symptoms rather than foundation because my beauty is what I feel and experience and express.
The rest is icing.
Now as fluid as I may write about this right now, my road has been bumpy and filled with moments of doubt and disappointment. Losing lots of weight has made the arguments against much harder to maintain.
But it was what I asked of my body in the last eight years that has made the most significant difference. For the first time in my life I have become athletic. I do weight training and cardio. I hike a lot and usually go at least 8 miles minimum. I can balance, lift, throw, bounce, jump, and jog in a way that ten years ago I didn’t even know possible.
AND I still debate with myself about my worth and my beauty. Last February, I got sick and gain 25 pounds –WTF! Since then my inner battle has picked up, stoking the fire I thought I had extinguished.
Add to this I just had a milestone birthday which my mother had and then passed four months later. So I’ve been working myself through multiple levels of death, inheritance, and legacy – all of which reflects my expectation that if I don’t have my weight managed to acceptable levels (whatever the heck that might be) then I am wrong, perhaps still broken, and definitely not beautiful.
However, even in the midst of this debate, I look in the mirror these days and I see beauty and self-acceptance that I know has not been part of me most of my life.
All of which is compounded by the deep desire I have for a partner. And, of course, the story is that I must be accepted as beautiful in order for anyone to want me. The teeter-totter between acceptable and not acceptable still holds sway.
Thus, I find myself still bouncing back and forth in search of balance, alignment, and acceptance.
Now you have the background for the epiphany I had last night.
Recently, a friend recommended I take in the work of Jordan Gray, sex and relationship coach, who has some very interesting perspectives about the intersection of spirituality and sexuality – a topic close to my heart (sacredhot.com).
Last night I was reading a new article of Jordan’s which provided responses to ten questions from women who had responded to his request of “Women, what do you want to know about men?” A great article which really rang a bunch of bells for me.
When I got toward the end, there was a question about what men really think about all those worries of women such as love handles, cellulite, wrinkles and more. Jordan’s response to this question was multilayered in a way which didn’t reduce complexity to simplistic or trite euphemisms (which I will say is true of everything I’ve read of his).
Men, Jordan began, have their preferences and not every man is the same. Yes, there are those who are not interested in a woman with any of the named concerns. He adds, however, he is of a different opinion or preference and states:
Ultimately, a man who has done any amount of deep inner work recognizes that he is not in a relationship with a body. He is in relationship with a heart… a soul… an essence. So he fully expects that the body will fluctuate and change with time, because all anything ever does is change.
So, speaking personally for a moment, not only do wrinkles, cellulite, love handles, stretch marks, etc. not turn me off, I actually prefer them because they speak to a body that has lived and experienced life. I would rather a body that shows depth and experience than a smooth, new body that hasn’t yet lived a fuller spectrum of experiences. Similar to how I feel a deeper sense of trust and comfort in conversation with people who have experienced great loss or grief… as opposed to someone who has yet to be put through the paces of those parts of life. [bold mine]
This is when my epiphany hit me.
In between my eyes.
In my heart.
And in all the places of my own worry.
The way for me to reconcile my concerns about my body with the awareness of my beauty is that I have a body filled with experience and this experience greatly enhances my sense of inner beauty rather than distracts.
My body is the beauty of experience.
I am beautiful and my experience adds a patina which heightens my shine and extends my sense of myself beyond unreasonable expectations and societal norms.
All of me is beautiful.
All of me, no exceptions.
Including the scar still on my chest from that boil from my first day of life. The scar on my arm where I was bitten by a spider in Africa. The fullness of my belly is from the depth of my experience and my willingness to continually engage with life.
Experience is me and is my body.
By claiming all of me and feeling the multiple edges of how I dance and embody my beauty from the inside out – well, it’s hard to describe.
Like I’ve come home after a long time away and feel me unburdened.
I know I’ve been here before and maybe my life journey will lead me away for a bit again.
But by focusing the beauty of me through my experience, I feel at peace.
Like the battle vanished.
A lightness of being such that I don’t need to debate and criticize or diminish.
That’s why when I caught myself trying to walk this off as not such a big deal, I stopped and I said no. Absolutely not.
This habit of diminishing me must stop now.
Life’s journey follows a spiral path which returns sometimes to a place seen before – but it’s not the same because I am different.
This means when the epiphany comes all the puzzle pieces will shuffle and realign themselves in a different way than before yielding new understanding and clarified awareness.
In the shuffle, I let go of everything in the moment which no longer serves the best of who I am always being and becoming.
In seeing the beauty of experience within me, I can see the beauty of you and know that all of you, just as all of me, brings us both to the truth of being:
All body is the beauty of experience.