A few weeks back, I had pretty profound moment of connection that lasted just a few moments, but it was a powerful experience that has continued to reverberate in my heart.
After taking a long, hot shower, I went about my regular post-shower rituals, but since I haven’t had a haircut in almost a year, my new ritual is to fashion my long, wet, and unruly locks into two loose braids on either side of my face. After getting my hair twisted and in place, I looked in the mirror, but didn’t see myself looking back at me, and yet, it was me. I saw something that I’ve never seen so clear as I did in that moment.
I saw women. My women. Grandmothers, and great grandmothers, aunts and cousins from two different origins, staring back at me.
First, I saw the Indigenous lines of my face, the intensity of my Indian eyes, my muscular shoulders and the sturdy stance of my body. I then distinctly heard my grandmother’s voice whisper to me in Cherokee, “O’siyo do hi tsu, my boog, you are descended from powerful Appalachian war women, strong in body and spirit.”
Then I saw my face morph into the face of my great grandmother, Mary Bell. I saw her give birth over and over again – nine times to be exact, in a wooden home in Oklahoma’s Cherokee territory. Her hips wide, back strong, and her legs large and steady.
The scene morphed once again and I was standing in front of my Norwegian Great Grandmother, Stephine, as she navigated a ship to her island home of Ona, Norway. Then Stephine faded and a glimpse of a Viking warrior appeared. A shieldmaiden who also fought alongside men, just like my Indigenous mothers, covered in fur pelts and deep scars leading others to safety. I was Lagertha and Freyja, fighting for love and family. I towered over most others, my large frame serving the most noble of purposes.
And then I was back in front of the mirror. Just me and a face full of tears.
My body, like the other women in my family, has been a crucial part of my own survival and existence. Carrying me from place to place, providing me with strength, warmth, and protection. My large frame suddenly felt natural, capable, and built for battles I no longer had to wage.
I felt a wash of gratitude. This body was a sacred reminder that these warriors remained in my very blood! They didn’t braid their hair for fashion, but for utility. They didn’t starve themselves to appear waif-like and to conform to someone else’s definition of healthy.
Spending years absorbing hurtful comments and allowing shame and hatred for my body – not just from myself but from others, seep into my being causing years of trauma, felt like a slap in the face of these brave, spectacular women.
Their legacy, through genetics and story, now live in me. I owed it to them, and to myself, to heal.
Not that it matters, but I haven’t stepped on a scale in 2 years. All my clothes still fit, and I don’t have to live in shame for everything that touches my lips, or because I didn’t wake up at 4 am to get on an exercise machine.
Since I stopped dieting, and started listening intuitively to my body, many changes have taken place:
- I no longer have chronic anemia
- I no longer have chronic constipation (TMI, but true!)
- My menstrual cycle normalized
- I no longer lose handfuls of hair every day
- My hair and nails grow super fast
- I sleep better
- I no longer spend hours upon hours a day obsessing about what to eat, how much, and when. It has freed my mind to focus on things that bring my life and body, true joy.
I am the happiest, and healthiest, in mind, body, and spirit I’ve ever been – AND I’m fat.
I’m here (and so are my warrior grandmothers) to tell you, there is a different path. One that lays down the body shame and guilt, and picks up the weapons of your ancestors – confidence, courage, and the force of a thousand women who fight along side you.
Be well, friends. xo