Two Piece Bathing Suit

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has enough time.” – Rabindranath Tabore

I am 19 years old. The pounding never stops, so I never stop trying to outrun it. I want to be gone. Mantra : Once I am ______, this will all be over, and I’ll never have to feel like this again.

We miss out on the fact that everything is okay waiting for everything to be okay. So there is this part of your brain that develops in adolescence responsible for telling you who you are in relation to the rest of the world. The medial PFC develops in middle childhood “when the brain encodes new constellations of social knowledge” according to Marc Lewis. Something might happen in this super sensitive learning curve, and if it does, it stays dismantled until we remember what we are and go in to fix it. Once this happens we are unstoppable. We feel a roar in our bellies that shows us how to claim our space without question. We do not have any issues with knowing that we are worthy and worth standing up for anymore. Once we stop drinking and hating ourselves for what we are not, the magic starts to surface. The thing that scares you can also make you an unstoppable force, so quit hiding from it, and let that thing that terrifies you drive your goodness, your mission. Say the words that you think you cannot. Do the things that bring your shoulders to your ears, so you can calmly exhale them down to business. This is not ego if you say it with the strength and authenticity of love. We are not victims, so stand up, stand tall and listen.

I am 20 years old. My best friend Audrey and I are walking/running in Mulberry park after leaving Steve’s house. We pass a girl running in a sports bra. I look at Audrey and tell her that no one could pay me to go running in a sports bra, in public. She says that she would do it for $50, in the park. I tell her I would rather break my own arm than show my stomach to ANYONE. Her face drips into something like disbelief, and this dripping falls into confusion, and then the brief pool of what does that even mean? To fully capture the first 27 years of my life, I think half of the perspective would be a camera facing down checking on the distance between my toes and the roundness or flatness of my exposed midriff. Any variation of this perspective was my internal panic button; In the cafeteria, in my car, at a bachelorette party, always in the studio, and by myself in the three floor length mirrors of my childhood bedroom. Everything pointed to UNACCEPTABLE in the in-between: the space I could never keep hidden through my top and my bottom. My middle was wrong and something that I knew should stay out of sight, always. Maybe it was Company auditions where we all lined up with numbers safety pinned to our leotards. We wanted so badly to look perfect. We waited in line to be measured, weighed and observed. Maybe it started when I was 13 years old when I was told to lose 10 lbs for dance, when I was put on WEIGHT PROBATION. This was something I became uncomfortably familiar with again and again because again at 14 years old  I was told to lose 15-20 lbs for dance. I was put on WEIGHT PROBATION. Then I learned how to become so light that the problem was gone until it wasn’t. I was now safety pinning my leotards just to keep them on my body. I never wanted to be on weight probation again, but I couldn’t seem to outrun it. Company auditions again, now I am 17, and I receive a letter that says I am on WEIGHT PROBATION, but this time it comes with rehab recommendations, and the request to GAIN 20-30 lbs for DANCE.

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I am 14 years old. This girl in my high school tells everyone that I might look thin, but she wants them all to know that this is not the truth. She says she witnessed my stomach in the locker room. She tells them that she saw me without my shirt on, and I am actually really fat. I hear about this from waves of students wanting to tell me in a how dare she kind of way. “Jacqui has a really fat stomach. She looks thin, but she is actually really fat.” Everyone tells me about it because this is how friends behave. This marks another little pathway, or confirmation of the unacceptable, like being put on weight probation at 13 years old: another push, push, a push towards a particular shape of constellation aligning within my medial PFC.

I am 5 years old. I wait in line. I am last in line with my  kindergarten class in Houston. We are waiting to try this science experiment with eggs. Our teacher wants to show us the strength of a chicken egg by allowing every child a chance to stand on top of a massive crate of exposed fresh eggs. Every student in front of me takes their turn standing on the crate without a problem. Their faces light up at the astonishing fact that something so fragile is capable of supporting their whole body weight. I am the last to go. I step up like everyone else and crush all of the eggs. My teacher mistakenly says that I am TOO HEAVY because she is so frustrated that her experiment is ruined. She is very angry and grabs my hand. I am in trouble and covered in egg. This is the kindergarten version of being tarred and feathered. I stand in my shame with egg yolk all over my legs and shoes knowing that I am too heavy.

I am 8 years old. I  give myself 3 tally marks a day in the same detective notebook inside of my little  purse. One tally mark per food item.

We move through Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Michigan, another school year in Florida, and finally Atlanta, GA.

I am 11 years old when we move to Georgia. The south was something we did not understand or believe was cool at all. We did not know what “fixin’ to” or “ya’ll” meant or why it was cool to say. We did not know why a lot of things happened when we first moved to Georgia. I didn’t know why boys in my class wore camouflage jackets and drew nooses from hang man games on their binders. I did not know what racism was until I moved to Georgia. We were not brought up to think that anyone was more or less than anyone else, but most of the people we went to school with believed that there was something in the Bible about “mixing races” being sinful. I know some of you reading this will actually have a hard time believing what I am about to say, but there are people that I went to school with who also believed that whites had evolved to hold more brain power than other races based on evolution. People who claimed that it was the size and shape of the skull that separated some from others because “it’s just science”. This was the shock and awe of moving to a small town outside of Atlanta. This next example is just as alarming, so before you start to think that I’m being overly descriptive, just hold on. This one is the cherry on top of the shock and awe sundae. One of my biology professors explained some of the theories of origin to us by writing them all out in big block letters with chalk ( yes they still had chalk boards). He stood next to each one as he explained it. I do miss the sound of chalk and the attitude of some certain professors: whip, flick pound, grind, dig, drag, scrape as he wrote the words SPONTANEITY, Big Bang, CREATION, and EVOLUTION across the board. After writing each one he took his chalk and drew a big circle around CREATION saying, ” I don’t know about you, but I know we didn’t come from a bunch of monkeys. This is the only real theory that matters here today.” This was BIOLOGY in real life you guys. I made an A, so I did not complain to anyone who would care. I think everyone made A’s in his class, so no one complained. Anyways, THAT was what we moved to from whatever you can imagine the opposite of THAT to be. Back to the swaying shape of bodies.

I am 12 years old. All of the girls in my 7th grade class sign up for the middle school pageant. I only know about pageants from my American girl books that describe them like a show. Pageants, in my mind, are a 4th of July deal with stars and stripes forever blasting through an old time speaker and a parade afterwards with sparkler head bands. This pageant thing is a big deal, so my mom lets me sign up. We have professional photos taken from my friend Lauren’s babysitter. Two outfits: one with a sweater for headshots and the other in a two piece bathing suit. This is the first time I’ve ever had professional photos taken, so I show them to my neighborhood group of girl friends. These girls are very outspoken, so I ask them if I look fat in the pictures. One girl grabs the photo from me and points directly at my stomach in my two piece bathing suit. “THIS” she says circling my stomach with her finger pressing hard on the freshly printed photo, “THIS IS FAT”. Her finger leaves a greasy printed circle around my belly. She tells me that she is doing me a favor and that these photos should not be seen by anyone. She says to definitely not use the two piece bathing suit photos for the pageant because yes I look so very fat.

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I am 29 years old. I am 29. I am standing in my own body. I stand on my own yoga mat in my own body. Sobriety changes shape for me. Yoga changes shape for me, and the empty window directly in my front view at Yoga Pearl, is no longer see through or reflective : in fact, I sort of disappear behind the fogged and well deserved cloud of sweat. This is proof of transcendence. Proof that we do not simply live for existing. I understand that I am all the studios I’ve ever known if I choose to be. I am in every window that has ever captured my reflection walking along store fronts, side by side with my wavy shape. I am every reflection from every giant studio mirror if I want to be, but I do not want them anymore. I am traveling light in another way. The mirror continues to fog. We all roll around in the wet, humid air of a class well done while I remember my naval center, my new middle, my acceptable in between and Kundalini breathing. Navel center. Breath in. Navel center. Breath Out. This is the journey. ❤

 

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