Learning to listen

Ben approves of the new sofa!
Ben approves of the new sofa…it is very soft and cozy

A couple of days ago, Jack and I attended the opening of the Saratoga Arts Fesitval. They were showcasing several artists, and he was one of them. I had a bit of a hard time deciding what to wear; nothing really seemed to fit me all that well. I finally made my decision, but in the process of choosing clothing lately, I’ve been aware (more than usual) that the shape of my body is changing. It slowly but surely seems to be losing its grip on firmness. Parts of me giggle and bulge that just yesterday, appeared to be fairly securely held in place.

It is as if the entire army of little cells, that make up my skin (and the fat underneath it) have decided to take a well-deserved rest and by god, they are just going to sit down right where they are and relax. I imagine them as faithful old servants saying, “Enough is enough. We’re not holding this up any longer. Where are the chaise lounges?”

Every day, I discover new ones, draped and folded over each other, looking up at me with languid eyes, watching me as I decide whether or not to do 100 sit ups a day (at least until my son’s wedding). They see me considering this, and I swear I can hear them whisper to the each other, “She’ll never do it.” and the others reply, “We know.” and they  smile, close their little eyes, and go back to sleep.

I’ve been seriously pondering this situation lately, and am trying to make the decision to let them have their way; What if I on-purpose opt for softness?” What if I decide to let go of “body image” and begin to listen to “body wisdom”?

So back to the arts festival where I ran into a good friend who just happened to be talking about, you guessed it, what outfit to wear to the wedding. As I heard her, I kept thinking, “You look great. There is nothing for you to be concerned about.” and I finally said this …and was met with my own mind coming back at me saying, “Yeah but….” but I didn’t pick up on this and felt I needed to make my point more emphatically. After about 10 minutes (of me trying to convince her that she looked good) I got something in my eye. It got worse and worse. She pulled out a mirror, hoping that I could find whatever it was, but I couldn’t see anything. We finally left, drove directly to the drug store, and I sat in the car, while Jack ran in and bought me an eye-flush kit. By this point, my eye felt so irritated that I didn’t want to open it.

As I sat in the car, asking what it was all about, a scripture came to mind, “Take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to pick the splinter out of your neighbor’s.” I started to laugh. You would’ve thought that my friend handing me a mirror might have been a clue for me to look at myself…but I was too busy trying to “fix’ her. I wanted her to see herself differently. By the time Jack came to the car with the eye kit, the irritation was almost gone.

Have you ever been about to say something unkind or gossipy  and found yourself unable to speak because of  a sudden tickle in your throat, or you begin to sneeze, cough or forget what you were about to say? I love these little nudges…what wonderful gifts our bodies are; forever cooperating with the higher part of ourselves, sending us messages to take a more loving path.

I am ready to let my body have its way…or should I say, show me a new way. I am ready to listen, really listen to its wisdom. I am ready to believe that soft, rolling flesh and wrinkles and gray hair are trying to teach me something important. I am ready to become more transparent.

“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive…to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


35 thoughts on “Learning to listen”

  1. Dear Mary, I love today’s message(s). Your words brought laughter and were ‘right on’ with my body, my thoughts. “Enough is enough. We’re not holding this up any longer. Where are the chaise lounges?”, this has to be one of the all time great visuals of our bodies talking as we age 🙂
    Have a wonderful and blessed Memorial Day weekend….and BTW, you are beautiful, just the way you are !

  2. Dear Mary,
    I could hardly get past the first paragraph, I was laughing so hard: You wrote “…parts of me are giggling…” So that’s what I’m going to do next time I SEE this in the mirror!! And then I’ll giggle too. 🙂

    1. Oh, I love that! I meant to say jiggle..and I believe that I just got confirmation that my cells really do think this is all quite funny!

  3. Well, the first thing that came to mind, Mary, when I read your title was….harking back to ‘walking in another’s shoes’ with my response being somewhat contradictive…and then, when I opened your message, I chuckled because, always trim and fit myself, in my seventies, I’ve now taken to wearing loose tunics so that I don’t have to keep my tummy in, I’ve thrown out my last pair of high heels, haven’t had pantyhose on in years and I look for elastized backs to pants, drawstring waisted skirts, I’m beginning to feel a bit Elizabeth Taylorish in my clothing styles these days. I stopped putting a rinse on my hair years ago when a man said: do you know you have purple hair? Time to ditch the rinse on what was black hair before. For years I negated my curls, brushing them out faithfully everytime I washed my hair. Now I’m a mop of grey curls. Trips to the gym now mean I can kneel down and take something out of a low-lying shelf and get myself back up off the floor. It’s a great post, Mary, thanks for the many smiles it’s brought with it this morning.
    SandyP in Canada (where we’ve had whiffs of snow already this morning and it’s the 24th of May, yet !!)

  4. I agree totally with Jude, and I want to curl up on the sofa with Ben! My body nudged me the other week when I started having pain in my knee. Walking was uncomfortable – and I walk a lot — and I couldn’t remember injuring it. Gradually it dawned me that my dismissal of a friend’s knee surgery to have spurs removed as not exactly worthy of the prayers she had asked for or sympathy (this is compared to other things going on with other friends) could be related to my knee pain. I was willing to accept the ‘nudge’ and in a day or so my knee pain was gone and I had reached out to my friend. You expressed it beautifully — as usual, Mary — abbout our bodies ‘cooperating with the higher part of ourselves, sending us messages to take a more loving path.’

  5. A couple of things jumped out at me with my initial reading of this post (which was cursory at best) but I wanted to add these two comments now – might add an additional post later.

    First of all I got a bit of a good chuckle when I saw the words “Parts of me giggle and bulge that just yesterday” – I was not sure if Mary wanted to say giggle or jiggle. Using either word brought such a smile to my face – visualizing parts of Mary either giggling or jiggling really got my day off to a smiley start.

    Next I wanted to share one of my absolute favorite songs that I listen to Louise Hay (might have even posted it before). It really fits for this post. Seeing all these ladies with their smiling faces and singing this song — more smiles to my face for sure!

    Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday (with lots of smiles and maybe even some laughter).

  6. Dear Mary, your post comes at a most poignant time for me as I am recovering from a knee injury (old injury flared up) and am forced to listen to my body wisdom. OH! So many lessons in self acceptance and love. Thank you as always for your insightful musings and teachings. And the song is great!

  7. As the friend who handed Mary the mirror, I am laughing so hard I am heading for a Depends! Love you! Love this post! What a lesson we had together! XOXO

  8. Mary, Mary, Mary…..do you have a direct line to my brain? 🙂 I’ve been thinking about the exact same thing lately. I’m 60, in very good health and physical condition but I am so aware of how my body looks different (more like my mother’s). Learning to love me (all of me) in this new phase….that’s what I want. To find the balance between taking care of myself and trying to return to what will not be again….and the wisdom to know the difference. 🙂 Love you so much for the woman you are and sharing that so eloquently with us all. Love, love, love 🙂

  9. Ok, I’ve got it…awareness, acceptance and action……love your story, and love the quote!!!

  10. Loved your post, Mary! I have always had a good body and been considered pretty. Lately, I have noticed that my body has developed a mind of it’s own. It’s been doing exactly as you described for the last couple of years. I look in the mirror and see my mom. I am now 65 and have finally decided to enjoy this soft and widening body. I continue to take walks, garden and ride my bike but with a sense of enjoyment and not as some kind of competition to improve myself.
    I finally gave away 6 garbage bags of clothes that I have been saving for being “thinner and younger looking.” I love my closet filled with a small amount of comfortable things I wear often. I also stopped trying to glue my hair into a style that is considered more glamorous and threw away all of the hair products that I am tired of slathering on to make my hair do what it no longer cares to do and probably never wanted to do anyway. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful journey! I appreciate all of the wonderful wisdom that you share!

  11. This is a delightful post Mary, and all the comments – I especially laughed imagining our cells having an interior discussion – where are those chaise lounges? Time to relax, girl! Talk about cell-ph-transformation – I was sitting with my friend at lunch the other day and at a nearby booth were four high school girls – oh, the skin so smooth, wrinkle free, firm bouncy bodies! But we both talked about how we are totally ok with being now in our sixties – we all had our time to be 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and on and on, – to be HERE celebrating a new day is a gift, and to be uplifted by Mary every day beats any supportive undergarment around! Happy Memorial Day everyone – now, go and find yourself a chaise lounge! hugs to all!

  12. Oh dear. I have been enjoying your posts immensely, and now I feel the urge to say something that goes against the grain.

    When I look at little kids with their energy and physical abilities, then notice my own generation with all their multiple infirmities, I don’t like this picture. Is it really a natural part of life for us to turn into painful puddles of fat as we get older?

    When I was in my early 50’s, the pounds and bulges started to accumulate and my hip bones began to get rusty. My Heart began to behave like a sputtering engine, too. Oh well, I thought, that’s just age. In our culture we are supposed to go downhill, get fat, and turn our bodies over to the gods of medicine.

    But someone I respected was always talking about diet and nutrition, especially gluten. I ignored it at first – after all, everyone knows that it just takes lots of self discipline to get in shape that most of us don’t have.

    Finally, just to check it out, I decided to take it easy on the wheat for a while. It wasn’t so hard, so I stuck with it for a few weeks. My pants got loose. My rusty joints felt a little better.

    I began to study and learn about human health, and had an awakening that the body is a most amazing and magical machine that we are all given at birth. It has its own wisdom that we mostly ignore, filling it daily with with the most appalling substances. We don’t seem to realize that it is continually performing day and night so that we may have the privilege of living and experiencing this world.

    That was five years ago. Since then, I have changed my way of eating completely. I don’t subscribe to any of the Diets out there, but I do take Jack Lalanne’s advice that “If Man made it, don’t eat it”, and I avoid sugar and grains completely. The 25 pounds that I lost in the first couple of months never came back, my joints loosened up, my heart calmed down, my blood sugar stopped crashing. I stopped being hungry all the time.

    Yes, it is good to accept ourselves as we are. But we could also be grateful to our bodies for endlessly struggling to deal with things that we eat, and also that we put on our skin.

    I’m 57 now and for the first time in my life I’m comfortable in my body. I like the way I feel, I like the way I look, but mostly, I like that I’m treating my body like the fabulous creation that it is. And yes I had to give away a pile of clothes that didn’t fit any more.

    My apologies for this rant, and for taking an approach that many may find offensive. But, as Mary talked about with her pets, if we can take the time to feed them their natural diets, we can at least do the same thing for ourselves.


    1. listening to our bodies, means paying attention to the pain, listening to what it says and directs…i”m certainly not advocating that we all just sit on our couches and eat candy…but inner listening wouldn’t line up with those choices. Be kind. Listen. Accept. Take direction. Love. …none of this goes against “the grain”…unless you are allergic to grains( smile) and then, again, listen, observe, pay attention….and you will be led to the right path. When we are led by our “hearts” we make higher level choices (not unconscious ones)

    2. Dear Susan, I don’t feel like you were ranting at all, but sharing very sincerely the message again of the importance of listening to our bodies and honoring what they are telling us. So happy you are feeling so well and celebrating the fabulous creation, as you put it, that you are!

    3. Susan, your response was NOT a rant! It was a thoughtful and informative post shedding some light on what one may accomplish by choosing a path that was felt in her soul. Your words have a validity that will inspire some others to tread that same path, to their benefit. Good for you, and thanks for sharing this.

    4. Susan, no rant, just a very sensible posting of proven facts. We are what we eat. I worked at a health food store some twenty years ago and it changed the way I ate and my interest in nutrition completely. Our bodies look after us for many years. I figure that in older age, we look after our bodies. A fair exchange. We fool ourselves into believing our bodies will always be what they were when we were in our 20’s, 30’s & 40’s. Not so.
      SandyP in Canada

  13. I love your ability to use symbolic sight and to share it here. My impending Grandmotherhood is giving me another lens with which to examine my vanity as well as my body. I am strong and healthy, active and eat mostly good food. There is still a challenge for me to feel one way and to look another way. I am surprised by the mirror. While there isn’t much in the way of the seductive in my body, there is absolutely a deep well of comfort to be given. I love my white hair, it binds me to the elders who have gone before me. I could do better with the kindness toward myself and will be more mindful of that. If I am going to be a fabulous, fun , magical Grandma, I need to be nicer to myself. The baby is going to think this is how I’m supposed to look!

    1. I love this entire comment Maud but your last sentence, “The baby is going to think this is how I’m supposed to look!” gave me goose bumps…so pure and sweet.

  14. I have, indeed, had the ‘tickle in the throat’ when I was about to launch into some miscreantic behaviour. It’s fascinating how our bodies – even down to the cellular level – are connected to higher controls. I loved your post.

  15. We owe it to ourselves to take care of our bodies even as these bodies of our do age, because the very quality of our lives will, in a large part, depend upon the care we give our bodies.

    I use to look like I went to the gym when I never ever set foot in a gym. I will be 55 in September and, yes, things are softening up. I now have to go to the gym to look as though I go to the gym! But I do go, because I do expect to occupy this body for another 30 years or so, and I want that occupation to be of as high a quality as it can be.

    So, I agree we must accept the inevitable aging process, but we really must do our best to stay healthy for one’s own sake.

  16. “Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … WOW! What a ride!” (Unknown)

    The synchronicity continues; as I, too, have been noticing the subtle (and not so subtle!) body changes recently, it sent me searching for the quote above. I’ve decided to accept my jiggles and giggles with the same loving attitude I extend to those around me. Shoes and clothes are only for comfort now, never for style. It’s truly liberating!!

    1. I went on an adventure with my brother yesterday afternoon (I’ll write about this later!) and was reading comments to him from my iphone…your quote Cheryl, was so perfect that he reminded me several times to sent it to him when I returned home….Love it!

  17. Mary, Mary, Mary…..how did you manage to step into my life, describe it perfectly and then make me laugh out loud, to boot?! So glad you made the decision you did, to giggle (jiggle) and bulge. There will be so many of us kindred spirits out there, accepting ourselves and moving on with grace.

    You made me laugh today. Good job. And…….I love your new couch!

  18. Oh Mary, Me too! We could write on forever about our bodies and their images to us! I lost 35lbs. over the last year and a half. Now everyone says “You need to eat more…how about a potato? etc.” I am fit and healthy now. My heart is good and where there once was fat there’s folding skin! (upper arms and knees) I chose not to obsess about this. The law of gravity prevails and I can lift some weights if the spirit moves me. My happiness lies in living my life and having my dreams come true!(just like in Disneyland) Well, I found a perfect match (quite by accident. I know it was a God thing) I will have my first horsemanship lesson next Wed.!!!! My dream!!! So, to hell with gravity,I’ll be with my beloved horses before I know it!
    I love your messages. You have helped me more than you could ever know.
    Love, Cindy

    1. I love your story of hope, life, acceptance (and new adventures!) Cindy…and wonderful about your upcoming time with horses. Just lovely.

  19. Loving the image of the army of cells with their languid eyes….made me laugh! And I am resonating!! Thanks, Mary, for the chuckle and re-framing what is real. 🙂

  20. Thank you again and again Mary for letting/allowing us to be kind to ourselves. Now that I am 70, goodness I haven’t had an opportunity to write that number yet. I need to relax with the thought that I am still limber, at a good weight and able to be flexible without much pain, I am very grateful. I just have to get used to the idea that men aren’t holding the doors open for me now because I’m “hot”, but because I am “wiser”. Mary S., I love the video “I Love Just The Way I Am”. I will go to sleep tonight with that tune in my head and it’s lovely.
    Have a good Memorial Day all!

  21. I love this post Mary! My cells have been having quite the little ( or big) giggle fest themselves! I fluctuate between acceptance and self loathing, but more towards self love lately. And my husband sweetly says ” your just perfect”, gotta love that ! Love and blessings to all.

  22. A Roman Catholic Priest wrote a book aptly entitled, “Happiness is an Inside Thing.” I try to remember this “as my days increase” and as “my get up and go has got up and went.” Taking care of the attitude, no matter what is going on outside to the body is what really counts in my judgment. Beauty really is only skin deep.

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