Monday, August 24, 2009

Yes, Virginia, It'll Happen To You

Forty-one arrived earlier this month like a meal with too many beans. At first it was yummy and fabulous, and then later ...

I don't physically feel older, but let's just say I'm noticing some things that have probably been there for awhile. Case and point: the sagging breast.

Gents, feel free to stop reading.

Ladies? Here's my truth. I've never been one who was really jazzed about having a large chest. I'm always amazed women pay for such an inconvenience (shirts don't close, back pain, shoulder pain, chest pain, bras that have more steel in them than the Brooklyn bridge). I appreciate mine because without them I'd look like a pear, but since I never wanted children, their biological purpose never mattered to me. I wanted to check a box on the way into this world -- NO. Won't be needing breasts this time around. Thanks anyway. Want to be able to wear strapless things. Want to once, just once, go out in public without a bra without looking like I should have a can of Pabst in my hand and chewing tobacco between my lips.

But Something. Has. Happened.

My bras hurt. I can't wait to get out of them. I am burned by the straps, pricked by the closure. I thought I must have changed sizes, though I haven't had any weight fluctuations. A few weeks ago, I reached the point of almost taking my bra off in the middle of Cost Plus because it was driving me so insane. It had been a little over a year since my last bra fitting, so I thought I should give it another shot.

"These trying economic times" have taken away my Lane Bryant store from the mall. The only store in town where a woman with a chest larger than a 36C can enter and know she'll be among sisters. But it closed last year, and those of us who require bras be functional not decorative, are left proverbially flapping in the breeze. If I lived in a larger town, there'd be more options, but in Prescott, well, I'm left with the perpetual youth and size 2 that is Victoria's Secret.

The Victoria's Secret in Prescott is nothing like the Victoria's Secret in an urban area. Here, the mannequins are in cute PINK pajamas holding tiny stuffed dogs. Down in Phoenix, the mannequins are splayed open in the display window, red and black push up bra and thong advertising what they're selling. But even here, in a store about sleep not sex, a woman knows whether or not she belongs in Victoria's Secret. I do not. But I was at a crossroads. I'd have to venture into the girly-girl pink store and find a bra fitter.

Flashback to fifth grade. I'm the only girl who has to wear a bra. Not because I want to. Because I have to. I learn to cross my arms over my chest. I learn to slouch. I learn to wear shirts with necks up to my chin. I learn to be embarrassed of my own body.

Girly-girl pink. Fifth grade. And, lo and behold, a bra fitter who's in the fifth grade. Really, I'm sure she's at least eighteen. Well, seventeen. I'm sure she's at least an A cup. 34" around? Maybe. After she's had a cheeseburger at least. Or three.

"Ma'am?" ugh. "Do you need help?"

She's adorable. She's eager. The yellow measuring tape is longer than she is. She has the body type I've always wanted. She has no idea I want to squash her.

"Yes. My bras are driving me crazy. I wanted to get a bra fitting."

She whips into Bra Fitting Professional and whisks me off to the back of the store.

Ladies, I've got to tell you -- I want a bra fitting from a woman who has to actually wear a bra. I want a bra fitting from a woman ten times my size who knows how they pinch and hurt and squeeze and don't fit right and can tell me honestly which style is really going to work and which one is going to feel good for a week and then begin its slow torture. Which ones won't make the dreaded uniboob, and which ones won't create that boingy-boingy bounce that makes you feel like you should stuff dollar bills down your chest.

But this was not to be. The only other person working in the store was also very young. Very petite. If I ever own a bra store, I'm staffing it with women who wear 50F cup sizes. No one will be intimidated to walk in my bra store. But I digress.

When I was about ten, my grandmother and I went shopping. My grandmother is the only family member to also have a large chest. We were in the fitting room and I accidentally saw her without her shirt on. I will never forget. Never. I remember clutching my hands over my new breasts and begging them not to ever do that.

Age and gravity are the great equalizers.

The very young very small girl is efficient and sweet. "38DD." She smiles like she just gave me a cookie.

"Are you sure? That's the size I'm wearing and nothing fits."

"Ma'am." ugh. "You know that over, um, time, they move."

Yep. Just like all those beans I had for dinner.

You little girls best be gettin' out of my way.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And One Day There Was Nothing Left

the center of the backyard patio

The clearing out began in my twenties with money. Credit card debt. A job that really didn't pay much at all. A shrieking loneliness that seemed to be filled only by the transactions in the stores, the exchanges with the clerks. It wasn't the objects I purchased that I craved. It was the conversations. Phoenix was so terribly lonely.

The clearing moved on in my thirties with grief work. Jungian analysis. Movement work. Yoga. Writing. Healing. Returning to stuffed pain and yanking it free, sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughter. Learning to be in relationships again -- my friend Carol Anne, my friend Gus. Letting people into my house again after swearing that following the abusive relationship I had in college, I would never ever ever (not never, not no how, not never) let anyone into my space again. My space would be safe.

Before I moved to Prescott, Gus helped me clean out my dark hidden room. He had to kick the door down to get into it. I'm never terribly subtle in my work. We moved out boxes and boxes and boxes. I recarpeted the house. Tiled the kitchen floor. And then moved.

Then, the body called. Excessive weight. Imbalanced food. Sticky painful shoulder that made me feel sixty five, not thirty five. High blood pressure. Bleeding gums. Yoga moved in then, and over years, stretched me. Made space. Breath moved in. Friends in Prescott: Carolina, Cain, Revital, Grace -- helped me feel part of a community. Helped me find openings where I thought were only fences. Keith came then, and from the first conversation we had in his old truck in the parking lot of Outback, I knew he was my partner.

Then, the joints called, which sent me back into the body, learning qi gong, joint opening, abdominal massage, kettle bell training, and shaking. The more I shook, the more the fire stoked in my belly. The more the fire stoked, the more the earth, which is my dosha, my constitution, began to crumble and move. The more the earth moved ... well, you know that song.

Clearing out the body made room for the writing. There were books. There were teaching opportunities at amazing places in the country. There was a window to a world I didn't think I could touch.

The body called again, and this time the spiritual journey was cleaning the house. And finally, the outdoor landscaping was finished yesterday on my 41st birthday. I've never cultivated an outdoor space. I've been sitting in the patio with my tea and watching the birds and yellow jackets and butterflies come to the plants. I look through the trimmed alligator juniper to see not just the moon, but the birds making a nest in the branches. I talked to the flowers. Touched the velvet leaves. Bought a hose attachment that would let me water lightly, not in my usual forceful way. Wrote down the names of the plants -- the ones that would come back next year and the ones that wouldn't. Cain chiseled a hole in the fence so the water would drain and not stagnate in the patio. We dug a hole and put in river rock along the wall and out into the common area so the water had a place to flow. The whole house began to move.

I am tired. And even though I just got back from New York and could attribute the fatigue to the trip, I know that's not what it is. I am tired from carrying everything and holding everything for so long. I am tired in that great way you are when you finish a workout. The good exhaustion that says, yes, you worked hard and now, my sweet, it is time to rest. The good exhaustion that leaves you loose and flexible, not tense and rigid.

I'm a little unsteady without all the weight, but that's OK. My house can hold me. My earth can hold me. My friends can hold me. My writing can hold me. And without the heaviness, I will find ever higher places to fly as my heart remains rooted with those I love, my center grounded, my unsteadiness as perfect as wind.

back patio before the work

view of the backyard patio now

front yard before the work

front yard now

rock formation for rain drainage

Each day, let something go.