Thursday, May 20, 2010
EmBody Talk: The Healing of Heather Plett
I have been blessed to meet Heather Plett in person (in pale purple in the above photo, attending a workshop I helped to facilitate), and let me tell you, that voice that she writes in so honestly and bravely over at Fumbling for Words is the real deal. Now, to help her celebrate her birthday, she has agreed to answer my questions about embodiment, my theme of the year.
As usual for her, Heather bares her soul and her pain and her joy here, so read on and open your own heart to her wisdom.
What is the first story that comes to mind when you are asked how you feel about your body?
I wouldn’t say that I detest my body, but I have certainly had an uneasy relationship with it for as long as I can remember. I don’t obsess daily about body image (I’m not one of those yo-yo dieters, for example), but instead I just try to avoid thinking about it or looking at it. I don’t like being naked and I avoid mirrors as much as I can.
Not long ago, I read a book called “Writing Begins with the Breath” by Laraine Herring. In it she mentioned how she had, at some point in her life, separated herself from her body and let her mind become her guide and the way she framed herself in the world. When I read that, I realized “That’s ME! I’ve done the same thing!”
Mostly I think I’ve treated my body as a neglected vehicle whose sole purpose is to get my mind to the places it needs to go. I don’t value it or honour it in the way that I should. I also don’t really trust it.
Do you weigh yourself? Why or why not?
Our scale broke a couple of years ago and we haven’t replaced it. Except for the odd time when I get a little anxious about my weight, I don’t pay any attention to scales. That being said, though, there’s a scale at my work place and when I’m hopeful that I’ve lost weight (like recently), I find myself stepping on it at least once a week because I still equate “progress” with “pounds”. I’m trying to tell myself the pounds don’t matter and I’m gradually getting better at believing it.
How do you like shopping for bathing suits and/or jeans (or any article of clothing)? How do you feel during the experience and after? What do you typically do about the feelings that are brought up?
Bathing suits? Blech! Jeans are not quite as horrible (because not much will be revealed when I wear them), but bathing suits make me sick to my stomach. I am naturally a very large breasted woman (double H), and I absolutely hate seeing my big sagging breasts in a bathing suit (they just don’t make decent suits with support).
A couple of months ago, I had breast reduction surgery, and since then, I’ve been kind of excited about shopping for a bathing suit. I haven’t had the need for one yet, but with summer coming, it won’t be long.
I’m pretty predictable after shopping for things that make me feel icky – I try to bury the feelings in food. Cheesecake, cinnamon buns, French fries – whatever the mall food court will offer!
What unattainable/unrealistic Rules do you have for your body? (For example, some women believe that only a certain size is acceptable or that certain foods are “bad.”)
I can’t really think of a lot of rules, partly because I’ve divorced myself from my body and so it’s just not something I think about a lot. Establishing rules would be like saying I have rules for my car – I don’t because it’s just a functional tool that does what it’s supposed to do.
When have you felt best about your body? or When do you currently feel best about your body?
I have a photo of myself taken toward the end of the summer I turned 22 that I just love. I’d spent the whole summer biking so I was muscular and tanned and really healthy. I’d been training to be part of a triathlon team where I would do the biking and my teammates would swim and run. It was probably the most athletic moment in my life.
Unfortunately, that was probably also the summer that I began to leave my body. Two days before the triathlon, a man broke into my apartment in the middle of the night and raped me. I was determined to still do the ride, and I drove out to the town where it was being held the next day, but he’d injured my neck (trying to choke me), so I just couldn’t do it.
If I’m honest with myself, I think that some of my issues today, 22 years later, are still related to that summer. The last few months, though, I’ve found some new healing for those old injuries. It started with the breast reduction surgery which, in a strange way, felt like a pivotal moment where I was giving myself permission to finally want something different for my body.
Since then I’ve read Geneen Roth’s book Women, Food, and God and it had a pretty profound impact on me. After I read it, I became more determined to start honouring my beautiful body and so I’ve started a little morning and pre-meal practice where I say to my body “what can I do for you today? What foods do you need? What activity do you need?” It’s been a wonderful awakening for me.
What kind of movement does your body crave or do you not notice this craving?
I’m getting better at noticing this craving, especially since I started talking to my body and asking her what she needs. After the breast reduction surgery, I realized I’d had a long craving to start running but was limiting myself because of all the extra weight I carried in my breasts. I bought new shoes and ran a couple of times this past weekend and it was wonderful. One of my oldest body-loves, though, is cycling. I absolutely love the feeling of my legs pumping as the wheels spin and the breeze cools my face. I feel powerful and at peace when I’m on a bicycle.
What story would your body like to tell if you were able to listen?
Yesterday, after I’d started writing my responses to these questions, I went for a walk by the river. I was still mulling the questions over in my mind as I stopped to lean on a stone wall overlooking the river. Feeling the cold stone beneath my hand, a flash of a thought came to me that I’m sure came directly from my body. “Of all of my five senses, I trust the sense of touch the least.” Wow! What a powerful realization of the way I’ve limited myself! After that thought came, I closed my eyes and started running my hand over the rough, cold stone and it was quite a magical moment.
I still have to more deeply explore that thought and what I need to do to change it. I think my body is starting to feel alive again and is so glad to be welcomed back into my life, she wants to give me all the blessings she has to offer. Experiencing touch in a new way is one of those blessings.