August 30th, 2017
I get the ideas for these posts in some strange and wonderful places. This week’s post came to me as I was in mid-air!
“How was it?” he asked.
“Incredible!” I said, panting; flushed. I couldn’t wipe the goofy grin off my face and I wanted to dance around with joy, but the cushioned floor would have had me on my butt in an instant if I’d tried.
I had just successfully climbed to the top of an indoor rock climbing wall, on my own steam, with my own body. I trusted myself enough to listen and be present and my hands and toes naturally found the crevices and strategically reached for footholds. Time slowed down and I understood intimately why climbing (or any sport, or life challenge, really) is a head game.
I was so excited to try it and to challenge myself that my excitement erased all fear and the positive mindset allowed for my successful scaling of things it might otherwise have deemed impossible.
While my climbing partner provided ample validation, I was just so proud of my damn self it was superfluous. I beamed. I said: “heck yes!” when he asked if I wanted to try a harder climb. I even said “heck yes!” when one of those climbs included an overhang. In this moment I had one of those experiences where one barely recognizes oneself while simultaneously truly recognizing oneself.
Post climb, my body stiff and achy in places I didn’t even know aches could exist, I can’t seem to get this experience out of my mind or even adequately explain its effect on me on a personal, soul level. I felt high – a combination of adrenaline rush plus challenge successfully met.
I felt grounded despite being high above ground – I was in my own body fully and it felt fantastic to partner with it to accomplish a goal, especially one that a well-worn past version of me would have balked at.
You see, I think many of us have habitual parts of our persona, often fabricated out of necessity in childhood, that still linger well into our adult years. As a young girl, I ate my feelings instead of communicating them, so my weight showed up as a literal block between me and almost every activity in gym class or recess play. I remember loathing obstacle course day. When all the other kids crawled and climbed and jumped like agile monkeys, I felt like my limbs were made of lead and that my protruding tummy full of undigested shame, guilt, anger and fear would never fit through the crawl tunnel.
The worst was the rope. It hung from the top of the gym rafters and my classmates lined up to nimbly scale its intermittent knots to cheers and whoops from the audience below. I never had an audience below, because: lead limbs. I huffed and heaved and felt my face tighten and my taut skin turn red with exertion and embarrassment. It was humiliating to not even be able to lift myself to the first knot.
As an expert in making up other people’s thoughts about me, I thought my belly was transparent – that everyone could see the extra helpings I’d taken to compensate for my imagined inherent unworthiness as both a person and a climber and that even my teachers were laughing to themselves thinking: “what a lazy, fat girl.”
The inaccessibility to love in those moments is what blocked me – not the unhealthy relationship to food I had established, or the compensatory ‘niceness’ I expertly developed so I wouldn’t be teased or picked last for gym team role call.
The problem was I had no idea what loving this part of me looked like: how was I to bring love to something so full of shame and low self esteem? Much easier to cover that with tender and flaky pastry than real and raw tenderness.
But here’s what I’ve come to learn about the process of bringing love to these darker or more painful places: it’s about getting creative with the process, which inherently provides the self esteem needed for the real and raw tenderness to show up as an option within.
I made huge strides in my relationship with food not by restricting myself but by learning about it, experimenting with it, discovering its origins, its capabilities – and my own – within creative relationship to it. Food, like physical activity, is such a fundamental part of one’s well-being and the two are inextricably linked. I learned (p.s. am still learning!) to love my body through play and am learning to fuel it and nurture it by playing with food. It’s about one’s relationship to the activity, not the activity itself. This creative relationship to activity, in a nutshell, is the philosophy behind Nurture, and the opportunity to bring love that lies within each of us, should we be faced with an old version of ourselves that is no longer serving us.
I’ve spent the last few years getting right with my body and changing the automatic dialogue of shame that begins when faced with a physical challenge – I hiked the Camino de Santiago, I walked a full marathon, I took soulful movement classes and adult ballet, all of which brought a ‘guest’ along for the ride. That guest? Me. Red-faced, panting, tubby and ten.
Each physical exploration brought with it an opportunity for dialogue with this outdated version of myself and ignited what I believe to be both a chemical and alchemical process to lessen her grip on my psyche and stop her outdated thoughts from seeming like reality.
Creativity and curiosity took the place of shame and doubt and this made all the difference in the world when scaling the Pyrenees or attempting a pirouette in my 30s.
What couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after last week’s climb was that at the top of one of the more arduous ones, I took a breath and realized: I was panting, I was red-faced, I was a bit tubby thanks to something I’ll call Long Toronto Winter and Butter is Delicious, but I was NOT ten. I was NOT ashamed or hiding or carrying her any longer. I was at the top of something I had scaled both physically and metaphorically. She was down on the cushiony floor, whooping and hollering and making me feel the feeling that all of us hunger for: feeling 100%, in-the-moment, no holds barred ALIVE.
At Nurture, I am passionate about creating a safe space for entrepreneurs and creatives to step outside of the comfort zone of their usual creative practice and try on new forms of expression in community as a way to dialogue with the blocks and old patterns that inevitably show up.
In this spirit and on the heels of our latest spring retreat (gallery coming soon!), we’ve got lots of offerings coming up over the next few months. These include 1 day Nurture workshops here in the city and monthly Harvest Table Pop-Up Dinners co-hosted with local artisans, creatives and locations. Got a space or an idea for a pop-up collab? Contact me HERE. Want to be the first to hear when tickets go on sale? Sign up for our Nurture Newsletter!
Looking forward to connecting with you at one of these events or anytime via our inboxes. 🙂