Only by a year & 1/2 but I've reached that summit.
40 sounds so old as small children, when you have no idea what age AARP kicks in. When you reach 30, eons away from childhood, you begin to hear all the magical tales of the way life finally makes sense in ways that shame the clarity brought on by 35. The stories, told casually by people securely in the reality of their 4th decade or better, make 40 sound like you've finally been invited to the V.I.P. lounge of your dreams & membership will never expire.
Now that I'm here, I can say that the stories were mostly right. 40 IS magical but it's also an indicator for a lot things. All those things won't be run down now, with the exception of those most prominent for ME right now. Health. Happiness.
By 40, as a woman, there's been time for the effects of food, sex, stress, school, etc to shape & mold your body like Play Doh. It's not babies that have made me a shape shifter as much as food consumed under stress, & much of that stress has been most concentrated while in grad school. I emerged from that whole experience in what felt like a whole other body, 1 I didn't recognize or feel comfortable in. 1 that startles me in mirrors when shopping & catches me WAY off guard in pictures. A body whose extra pounds made me tired & sluggish & taunted me for not being able to jump right back into physical activity. I tried not to see myself as much as possible but the disgust felt when it was unavoidable led me to a little bit of an overzealous approach to exercise. I set goals for the YEAR 2016 & attempted to reach them in 2 months. Enter injury.
Leave it to injury to humble dat ass & make you saddown, even when sitting was painful.
Prior to injuring myself, I had finally connected with yoga, after years of attempting to understand it with little luck. I was flexible enough to get into the asanas (poses) but it was nothing more than an empty physical competition with myself. Over the years I kept attempting to "get it" with the encouragement of a mama I love & respect. On those occasions I was hyper sensitive the uber white bodies & their accompanying entitled attitudes occupying most, if not all, of the spaces in this physical expression of spiritual practices that are indigenous to brown people. It was incongruent & felt...dangerous. I quit again.
Nearing 40 & feeling my mind slip in grad school, I bought a Groupon for hot yoga. See, so much reading I'd done talked about how not only our waistlines but our flexibility levels are indicators of health. Other things I'd read & conversations had were about where you are at 40 helps to determine how the next 40 years will play out. This may or may not be true but it was inspiration enough to get reflective. At the end of the assessment, I knew that I was not where I wanted to be. I was gon' try this yoga thing out again because increased flexibility was my renewed goal.
I tried out hot yoga--remarkable & remarkably jarring--& employed YouTube videos to avoid all that white entitlement. Then I began searching for yogis who looked like me: brown & curvy. A lot of the yoga imagery didn't seem to make room for my ample hips & this wagon behind me. I didn't see many iterations with women whose 6 pack abs were taking a break behind softer, fuller padding about the belly. I didn't see too many who didn't seem to have relationships with athletics wear companies & serve as living advertisements. Who else was doing yoga in their cramped living room & not in their zen room? Who else had to choose the self-care of yoga in the moment over cleaning up to ensure perfect shots. As a writer, the standard is to tell the stories you want to read/see. So I found yoga challenges & employed The Beau as my photographer & got to shooting my journey to track progress & to be--even on my private IG account--a version of what I was looking for: yoga accessibility.
Do you know how frightening it is to expose yourself in this way? I'm not a yoga instructor & not trying to build followers based on my "work". I started out hashtagging to include myself in the larger narrative but felt exposed. I wasn't doing this to compete with anyone but it felt like a competition. It was thru the hashtags that I found other 'accessible' Black & Brown yogis but I ceased using them because of my own levels of discomfort. I didn't want or need stranger gaze on me. I wanted the journey to remain mine & only visible to those who care about me. The vulnerability required for this is further accentuated every time there's a bend or fold that shines a spotlight on the parts of me I'm struggling with. At times I see wildlife in human form, when my hips & thighs are exposed. & they don't have to be, I know this, but I force it to force the language I use with myself. When my belly is bunched & rippling I wonder whose eyes will be kind & remember I'm 40. Then I laugh as I realize that the eyes that need to be kindest when looking at me belong to...me.
The last 3 years have taken a major toll on my emotions & my body. The last several months have been about my personal healing process, recovering from that harm, rejuvenating, & renewal. Last night, after coming home from seeing 1 of my favorite singers sang for his salvation & ours (no...I wasn't at a church revival) I came home & asked The Beau if it was possible to capture my ability to recover some of my flexibility in almost the purest form without capturing any full on exposure. It was a cleaner shot than the 1 shared the day before which frightened me in all of it's WTF'ness seeing how much of me was raising toward the ceiling. I almost filtered the shot to make it darker, to fade me out, to hide. I laughed at myself, as I have often thru this pilgrimage, & said 'fuck it, just post the damn pic.' That's what I did. What I learned in a very short period of time is that it may have been easier to hashtag that flick under stranger gaze than to be looked at by friends & family who immediately came for me about posting a thirst trap.
All in my feelings right now about that response coming from people who should by now know that I choose to be a grip before I choose to be a lead. So to all the familiar gaze on vulnerable moment:
But all of you came to drink.