embracing myself

by rebecca on April 22, 2011

Post image for embracing myself

          A bottle of sesame seed oil, a space heater and an old towel. Doesn’t sound like much of a recipe for embracing oneself, but this has been a mat upon which I’ve inhaled who I am. Today this trio is my altared space.

          About a year ago I took a class from  ayurveda teacher Cate Stillman who recommended oiling up before getting in the shower. Seemed an odd thing to do, but because I live in the desert I have reptile skin. Couldn’t hurt.

          I also remembered giving my babies oil massages. Here’s my precious girl’s toes I’d say as I encircled each of those pinhead dots. Buddha belly on my baby boy. I rubbed and rubbed that bulge that assured me my son was well fed. I touched their body parts and named them over and over until they knew themselves and felt their skin hugging them.

          I didn’t start out hugging. I laid out the old towel (a must because I didn’t want a big oil stain on my rug), turned on the space heater and unscrewed the cap on the sesame oil. I poured a dollop into my palm and began to rub my foot.

          The smell of the sesame oil found my nose and I mistook myself for a salad. Why am I doing this? I asked. No idea. It seemed so foreign, so off-the-deep-end of that yoga/granola world.

          Honestly, I think the only thing that kept me coming back initially is that I worship space heaters and, because of my environmental guilt, I don’t let myself use them except in rare circumstances like this one where I’m oily and naked and the chill is too much to tolerate.

          Slowly I began to make friends with my body. This body that has been so invisible to me for so long. The body I tried to climb out of my senior year of high school by eating carrots and drinking Tab Cola.

          The invisibility bug bit again the year my brother got married. I dropped very low and I remember in one of the crowded car rides I slipped into the back of a car where the luggage is carried and overheard someone talking about me, “She looks so weirdly skinny,” and thinking it was a compliment.

          The most recent time I tangled with that beast I overheard a dear friend refer to me as ghostly and that’s when I began to realize I really am flirting with disappearance. Invisibility is not just a hide and seek game for me, it’s my earthly occupation.

          I decided to seek.

          I poured the oil and slathered it on my naked self, finding corners of elbows and round belly flesh I’d rather overlook. But instead I saw it and touched it and gave it a drink of oil.

          Then I showered.

          I did this over and over and over. I took off my clothes, basked in the luxury of heat, and then slowly began to anoint every inch of my skin with a handful of oil.

          I did not look away.

          Most days nothing much would happen. I needed to get somewhere. I was oiling up to get in the shower to brush my teeth to get on the road. And this was good.

          This touching myself with no fanfare and not much time to attend allowed something deep to happen. I was becoming visible to myself. On those rare days when I had time to stretch out the routine I found a bump just out from my collarbone. I’ve seen it on hundreds of pictures of skeletons, but I’d never felt it on me.

          I noted the way my waist actually does curve in a bit from the wideness across my shoulder blades and my hips. There is an eddy of rest between the bays of swell on my body and I found some quiet there.

          The next time I inhaled I smelled…me. I didn’t smell like a salad. I smelled that scent my dog finds and knows it’s her favorite person and her ears drop and her tail wags and everything is soft and easy and all hellos and I’m so glad you’re home.

          A tear slid down my face and I looked at the spot where it landed. I balled up, knees to chest, arms encircling. I hadn’t disappeared. I was not a ghost. I was collar bone bumps and tummy bulge and a waistline of rest.  

          All from a silly, crazy romp with a bottle of sesame seed oil. Who knew? Who knew embracing myself would be so slippery and fragrant and warm? I touched toes and tummy so I could become visible. It’s not just a massage for babies, it works at any age.

 

          Do you ever feel invisible? What makes your life all hellos? Have you ever touched your toes for something more than stretching your hamstrings?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret Reyes Dempsey April 22, 2011 at 7:33 am

You’ve brought back wonderful memories of baby massage with almond oil on my Wee One when he was very wee. 🙂

I think this is a great practice. I do much the same every day with the mindful application of body lotion. For me, it helps to remember I have a body. I live in my head so much, I sometimes forget. I’m the kind of person who can slam into a piece of furniture and end up with a huge bruise but never remember the pain of the original impact because I’m off somewhere else.

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rebecca April 22, 2011 at 7:45 am

Margaret,

Oh those baby massages!

It amazes me how disconnected I can become. I’m gardening for the first time in years. I really am no good and just finding my way, but the physical act is so educational. The body tells the mind and I like this so much more than the mind telling the body.

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Lindsey April 22, 2011 at 8:03 am

Oh, wow … this brings tears to my eyes. The tiptoeing into appreciation – LOVE – of one’s own body … amazing. Really, really inspirational. Thank you for sharing this. xxo

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TheKitchenWitch April 22, 2011 at 8:04 am

I can relate to this in so many ways. Beautifully done.

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rebecca April 22, 2011 at 8:10 am

Lindsey,

Thanks for tiptoeing as you read. That helps.

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rebecca April 22, 2011 at 8:15 am

TKW,

Yep, yep, yep.

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Demi Garner April 22, 2011 at 8:49 am

Beautiful! Oil massage is so healing and so beneficial for body, mind and spirit and you have illustrated it in such a profound way. I think you should share this with Cate. You are such an amazing writer, Rebecca!

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SuziCate April 22, 2011 at 9:56 am

Years ago I went through a period of invisibility…losing much weight and hiding beneath baggy clothes…trying to not be noticed. I deeply feel this post. I love how you have become aware and are embracing yourself emotionally and phsyically. You are one beautiful soul that I am thankful to know.

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rachel April 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm

there are days, rebecca, when your blog is my altared space, when it is a place i stop and am amazed to find my reflection glimmering back. today the reflection is the prospect of a different me, of a future peace. you have found something i some days dare to dream about and planted posts along the way that i might build my own path, that i might mark my footsteps in the company of others and walk in light. thank you, rebecca. thank you for a map through the thicket. thank you, thank you.

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rebecca April 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm

SuziCate,

I think invisibility is simply one of those things that almost every human being wrestles with at one time or another.

I’m so lucky to see and be seen by you.

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rebecca April 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Rachel,

Isn’t it amazing how you look forward and I look back and we both are erasing time. A sort of time between our stages of life … to connect. I find this so lovely. Actually holy. Thank you. You are just plain dear.

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Houkje April 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Rebecca,
Just beautiful. And so inspiring. A good reminder to my own essential self. I am so familiar with invisibility… but have to constantly work towards being visible.
Much love,
Houkje

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6512 and growing April 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Making friends with your body seems like the antidote to wishing it would disappear. Beautiful work you’re doing, Rebecca.

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Allison April 22, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Oh, Rebecca, I love this! I love the image of you massaging your babies with love and delight, and then discovering you could love and delight in yourself ny performing the same grounding rite.

You’ve inspired me to tell my own story of how embracing myself healed me from infertility.

Thank you so much for sharing, soul sister!

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rebecca April 23, 2011 at 8:26 am

Houkje,

I’m beginning to understand how much we all need to practice seeing ourselves.

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rebecca April 23, 2011 at 8:28 am

Allison,

Be sure to send me the link when you’ve got that written up! That’s such a healing story.

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Lorraine April 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

You are so beautiful Rebecca. Sharing your deepening love and appreciation for yourself has helped me to feel more love and appreciate myself. Thank you.

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rebecca April 23, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Lorraine!

How kind of you to come visit and find me in the vulnerable place of oil and space heaters. Your growing self-love shows in your voice and the empowering messages you are offering the world through your own blog. I love how the baby chicks chased away fear and brought the gift of joy in your most recent piece.

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Dawn April 24, 2011 at 8:59 am

I remember these invisible days my dear, and marvel at where you have come to with this oil bottle and shower. For me, as you know, it’s my fat thighs. I find it ironic that one of the diets out there (that works) is called HCG but you cannot touch (& I mean touch!) more or less eat any oil because you are starving your body of oil so that it burns your own fat. Oil soaks into the body and (I think the soul as well!). I can feel how our society encourages me to either starve my body of these oils/fats/(ie. love) or over eat them and hurt myself in the process. Finding the balance with them so that they can feed me and love me is really the balancing trick. I go through this ritual when I get a massage…. But never by myself…yeah! I will let you know!!

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rebecca April 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Dawn,

really astute to point out how our society craves the fast food oils and then turns around and totally deprives with the latest diet craze. Craz-y. I like this little abundance of oil applied liberally, heated and enjoyed.

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rebecca April 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Demi!

Your comment disappeared, so it this shows up twice please forgive. I did let Cate know. Thank you for appreciating the story that grew out of this ritual you helped to cultivate.

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denise April 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Oh, such beauty in your words. A gift to me, for sure. I used to feel shrouded in ugliness, always assuming that others could smell it on me. That’s how my monsters manifested. I took much solace here today. Thank you. xo

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rebecca April 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Denise,

That’s powerful stuff: that aroma of ugliness. Strong image. I trust you’ve found breezes to blow those monsters away and freshen the air around you these days.

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joely May 10, 2011 at 12:00 am

God how I have missed your words. I have so much to tell you.
This post is beautiful. I have felt invisible for some time now. My oldest daughter has been out of school since after christmas. She has spent 8 weeks in the hospital amd we are in one now. She is finally getting better and we will go home monday. I am alone with her in ohio because the hospital in pittsburgh could not help her. As we have gone through all of this I have felt extremely alone and invisible. We do that for our kids, we pause our life to make theirs better.it is late and I am up alone in the ronald mcdonald house with lots of other lonely people. What amazes me is the lengths that strangers go to in order to make us lonely parents know we are not alone.
I am sorry I have not read your words more, you make me feel the dame way these volunteers do, loved and not alone in our crazy worlds.
My altered space is Ronald Mcdonald! Who would have thought that, so believe me I get the sesame oil space you found.

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rebecca May 10, 2011 at 6:59 am

Joely,

You may have felt invisible, my dear, dear friend but I have thought about you so many times. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to see your name here today!

So sorry to hear your news. I don’t know what has put you into the hospital, but I know the loneliness you feel. In that way we are together.

Years ago, more than a decade ago now, we got a phone call and, within hours, we were on planes. My husband’s brother was in a coma and things didn’t look good. We stayed in a home much like the one you describe, though it wasn’t sponsored by Ronald McDonald. My husband was trying to get into graduate school, I had two little babies and working to keep our groceries on the table. Life felt very bleak.

My brother-in-law is doing very well these days. He’s written a book about the experience and gone to graduate school himself, even though he was already a physics professor. Life does begin again after such darkness. It feels so lonely in that spot, so, so dark. I want to extend that sliver of hope that dawn breaks.

Please tell me what has happened to your family. You are not invisible. I very much want to know, and see.

Much love to you.

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Sarah Hutchinson June 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Rebecca this is so well crafted! We are all reptilian until we are elevated by choosing to create a perspective that serves us. The self healing of oil massage is sneaky and profound! I love the sneaky practices, because they are just that…they grow on us and we are shifted, or, I should say, altared! Love shows up in so many ways, when we learn to recognize it, love everywhere!

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debra June 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Dear Rebecca,
Lovely! your story is poignant and provocative. Made me think of my own quest, attempt, foray into invisibility and the healing I’ve experienced. Years ago, I experienced rape and spent many years hiding. Your story made me realize I don’t think of myself as a victim anymore, and I don’t hide either! My emergence has been quickened by my study with Cate and Aryuveda’s insistence that we embrace our true nature.

love toyou!
debra

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rebecca June 16, 2011 at 11:31 am

Debra,
What major healing you’ve had to do!

I’m sooooo glad you don’t hide because I LOVE seeing you!

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