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Accepting the Belly


When I made the ticket to come to Brazil late last year, I was excited to go and see my brother, who has been coming to this country on and off for the past 20 years. My excitement doubled in 2015 as last year we had to cancel our plane tickets after our visas didn’t come through in time.

Knowing and loving my brother made coming here an easy decision. Though the travel door-to-door was a full 28 hours we knew the trip would be well worth it. Clay is a great tour guide, speaks Portuguese well, bakes bread and used to be a professional chef. And he loves to teach people how to play. What’s not to like?

Ah, but going in the water means being in a bathing suit! With my white skin and my middle-aged belly, I felt intimidated and anxious as I imagined being on the beach. I approached the hunt for swimsuits gently by ordering several online and trying them on in the privacy of my own home. Luckily, the stylish surfer “rash guards” (like a shirt made out of bathing suit material) and tankinis cover my belly. And I found some swim shorts and skirts that look fun, even retro. All of my mix and match tops and bottoms are in bright colors, which I love.

My brother, Fellow Gringo, also wears a sun hat that buckles under his chin in addition to his surf shorts and rash guard. I now do the same. We are quite a pair as we make our way into the waves! Though there are light skinned Brazilians, I doubt anyone would mistake us for anything other than Gringos. And what is wrong with that? I can claim it all now, whereas before I felt awkward and apologetic. 
I am also claiming my middle-aged belly. There are all types of bodies here and the style is to wear as little as possible. You can imagine the full range of bulges and brawn. Such variety! Such a natural way to be. For this I have renamed the beach here “A Praia de Aceitaçāo,” The Beach of Acceptance.

What if I lived in my body as though it was perfect exactly as it is? What if I don’t have to change it to feel accepted and whole? This idea frees me up to enjoy moving my body more and allows me to re-set my perspective. I’d gotten out of balance, working all the time and not embracing the encouragement I give my clients that “ANY movement is good movement!”

If this were another era I might have even said “shame on me” for not doing what I know I should in terms of exercise. Instead I am saying “Yay for me!” I am accepting where my body is right now. I feel gratitude to be able to move my body out of love instead of shame or fear or even hatred. Instead I can be curious about what I can still do as a soon-to-be 55-year-old. 

I feel more open as I ask myself each day: “What would my life be like if I could move my body out of wonder for all that I/it can do?” 

I can feel myself slowly cultivating a new sense of wonder. Earlier today I went kayaking on the ocean for the first time in my life. As the ocean gently rose and fell beneath me, I felt calmed by the natural rhythms of life. I also felt the salt water go up my nose as I got pummelled in the surf! I am alive and awake and this body houses my spirit. 

When vacation is over and I come back to my normal life in Oregon, I want to sustain this feeling of “ahhhhhh” as I continue to relax into life, into this body, into this moment.

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