© Suzanne Lorenz 2012
I was born in a female human body. I was born with the DNA genetics that came from my European Irish/Germanic ancestors which included my eye, hair and skin color, my artistic and imaginative brain, and a healthy body.
I was raised within the constructs of a small conservative Lutheran community in the 1950s. What was I taught about this body? It belonged to my parents and God. My parents taught me to take a bath and wash my hair once a week and to eat everything on my plate and never to waste food. I was taught to obey adults. Since my parents and the parochial school I went to believed in corporal punishment, I was taught to experience and be afraid of physical violence. I was taught to keep my body still and quiet and not to make too much noise, be loud or rambunctious. On the other hand, my siblings and I had the freedom to roam around the neighborhood with almost no restrictions. As a teenager, the clear message was that I was to be a virgin upon marriage and modest with my body before that time.
My parents did the best they knew to give me food, clothing and shelter and a religious education. My religious orientation was to follow the 10 commandments and the golden rule, to pray and believe in a God who watched over me and would punish me if I sinned. My spiritual experience was learning to have a relationship with something within and outside of myself, and to understand how to be generous with others.
I learned later in life that I had certain things that I was predisposed to; heart disease, anxiety and addiction. Part of my genetics also includes that women in my family tend to put on weight during and after menopause.
For my grandmother, Vada, this was true and yet she was unapologetic about it. It was my mother and her generation who began to have shame attached to this genetic trait. My whole childhood was a witness to my mother’s attempts at keeping her body within a certain weight and to her esteem she linked to its size. I remember her trying every diet imaginable, exercising to Jack LaLane, using “the little white” diet pill and many, many more attempts at control. Since I had two older sisters, this was frequently the topic of conversation and bonding that we all had. I understand now that we had perfectly normal female bodies and that we were taught early that our bodies were flawed.
Being on a diet was the norm in our household for the females. The confusing contradiction was the message that we were to eat everything on our plates, yet have a restricted diet, to be passive as females, yet always exercise. The cultural messages were also influential. My mom’s generation was the first generation to receive radio, film and print advertising messages about the need to be thin. Those messages began to show a biased view of what the female body was suppose to look like, and how we were to act, always in relationship to getting and keeping a man or selling a product. My generation is the first to be exposed to those messages from birth.
What about this herstory? I certainly internalized the insanity of what I learned, yet I also have lived through the feminist movement of “our bodies ourselves” and rejecting the objectification of women’s bodies as products. I have been married to a man for almost 3 decades who respects and loves my body in all ways through the undulations of a 70 pound weight range. What I don’t know is will I ever be free of the wild spectrum of love and hate I have about my body. Will I ever have peace and serenity and acceptance of my body in the same way he does?
My experience in my yoga practice may be an example of what my intention for my body might be. I have had a commitment and a love for yoga for many years. I have sat in rooms with many people of all shapes and sizes and my judging mind can become extremely active when I see women with “wonderful” slim bodies. So I have developed a practice that when I first sit down on my mat in class, I quiet my mind and body and claim my space on my mat. I then claim my body space, and then my mind space. At the moment of that consciousness, I suddenly am free and open to the universal energy that begins to come through me and ready to begin my practice. I am in my body but it is not a body. I feel I am an embodiment of freedom . My body only becomes an issue when I don’t perceive my whole being and its place in the
© Suzanne Lorenz 2015
What is unknown is how can I have this awareness and peace when I’m not in my yoga class? Or when I’m not in nature or listening to music, playing with my grandchildren, getting a massage or making love which are all the other places I’m aware of that I find I am at peace with my body? How can I surrender the obsessive thoughts that trigger emotional eating? Will I let go of the process of comparing and judging my body and allow myself to feel the tranquility of my place in the universe that is a part of me? Will I choose to go towards the light of changing from the inside out?