Inspired by an article in Tricycle this morning (Evaluate Your Meditation), I’m spending some time today reflecting on my practice of meditation, such as it is, and my various mental states in recent days. Right now, I need to sort through my intentions for my practice, and in doing so, sort through my feelings about who I am and the person that I want to manifest to the world.
Last week was a particularly crazy week. We had family that I haven’t seen in years come out to visit, and my S.O. and I eloped, sort of, with a small ceremony that included only close family members who happened to be in the area. It turned out very, very well, even though we both have some regrets about our other family members missing out because of distance.
But the week before, I was in mental hell for a good portion of the time.
Why? I was expected to dress the part of the beautiful bride, and nothing I tried on was even close to fitting the mental image that I had of a worthy, beautiful bride for my husband.
I cried, privately, pretty much every day. My stomach was in knots. My mind was walled in by anguish. I was going to be judged. I was especially going to be judged against his former wife, who is so beautiful, even now, with more than a decade on my age. Who is so thin and athletic and clear skinned, with that amazing combination of dark hair and blue eyes. Physically, she is everything I am not, never really was, and could never hope to become. And given her athletic body type, she has her choice of any dress on the rack. All the prettiest clothes look amazing on her.
Me? Can’t fit into shit. I’m about a size 12 on the bottom, and a 14-16 on the top, sort of, but just because of my boob size. But my shoulders are narrow and sloped, and my breasts aren’t full as much as just long and floppy. And finding a bra that supports them and looks nice? Yeah, not so much. I’ve literally tried on a dozen or so bras in the past couple of weeks, all different kinds of sizes and designs. The only one that didn’t make my boobs look like old, awful sacks of floppy flesh shoehorned into a breast-shaped mold was the plain, kind of stretchy cotton one. So, no sexy bra for me for my wedding day.
And dresses? yeah. no. I am short, and have no waistline because my torso is very short. Plus, I have a big floppy sack of stomach skin from when I was pregnant that will never go away unless a surgeon cuts it off. So I look lumpy and misshapen in dresses.
After trying on clothes for days, I finally found a dress and jacket combo that didn’t look like complete and utter shit, mainly because the jacket was long and covered the whole dress, which was basically a sheath.
But the mental damage from all those dressing failures was immense. And all I could think of was the fact that no one in my fiancé’s family had ever had this problem. Not his former wife, not their daughters, not his sisters. No one. I so wanted to look like I could be a worthy partner to him, and a worthy family member, but I know that I just can’t look the part. I will never be able to fit into any version of social ideas regarding beauty. And mostly I just don’t care, because mostly I’m not on display.
Looking back on it now, I think if I had had more time and control over the situation, I would have dressed down. But I felt pressured to get something “nice” because we had gone all the way to the mall so I could get a dress. The fucking mall, 2 weeks before Christmas. With three boys (fiancé included) waiting on me to finish and just get something already so we could leave. (Have I mentioned how much I completely hate shopping?) Well, at least the stupid dress was 40% off.
So here I am, reflecting on how my meditation practice is going, and how maybe I could have suffered less.
My practice needs to be more regular. That’s really an important thing. I need to pick a time to sit for 10-15 minutes every single day. Make it a habit like flossing and showering. I do enjoy a nice hot shower! And while I don’t really enjoy the process of flossing, I do enjoy the results of having clean teeth and gums and non-stinky breath.
My practice recently has been mostly naked meditations. And these are joyful! In doing so, I’ve been incubating some good self lovingkindness. Yes, it is very sensory oriented, though. But after years and years of feeling my body as a burden, as a horrible, shameful, ugly, misshapen cage of flesh, the practice of feeling the exact opposite, that my body is joyful and full of light and color and passion and wonder, is a good practice. It is helping me, moving me towards the kind of person I want to be, that I enjoy being.
My intentions for my practice, my overarching goals, need some clarification. I want for my practice to help me find peace and contentment and joy – you know, the stuff everybody wants from meditation. But I want to uncover some inner stability that can lead to greater self confidence so I can be in the world more, so I can make real contributions to my family and the community. I want to be able to take care of my feelings of unworthiness so they don’t intrude into my life as much. I want to enjoy life more. I want to be a good friend, wife, and mother. I want to be a respected and helpful community member. I want to act with grace, dignity, and humor. I want to be able to fail with humor, grace, and dignity. I want to get better at simply doing the things that need to be done (laundry, dishes, invoices, accounting reports, budgeting, organizing) instead of procrastinating or letting depression jerk-braining take over.
As I’m writing this, I think that that last goal – simply doing instead of overthinking and procrastinating – is the most important one, and the one that having a simple daily meditation practice will help the most. Simply doing. As the proverb says, before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. And that sits well with research in cognitive therapy: the motivation can come after the action (Captain Awkward Guest Post: Breaking the Low Mood Cycle).