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?