31. Zen and the Art of Body Maintenance

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Zen and the Art of Body Maintenance

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.

~Amit Ray

It’s Monday morning and I should probably be at my desk making phone calls by now, but I’m not. I’m lingering in bed, naked and alone, tucked into my linen sheets and basking in the sun from the window.

My To-Do List can wait; this moment and all moments like it are too precious to miss or waste. And I’m in no rush.

There was a time, ten years earlier, when I would have been racing around already, pumped up and frenetic, like a hamster on an endless, spinning wheel — which is how most hard-working women live their lives.

But I don’t do that anymore. Cancer was a great teacher to me — perhaps my best teacher so far. It was my wake-up call to slow down, change my pace, and appreciate and love my body more than ever.

I was always tall and strong, an athlete who excelled at hiking, biking, rowing, and snowshoeing. I was curvy and fleshy, too, which was not looked upon kindly by my stepfather. When I was thirteen, he made me stand in front of him in my underwear and, with a black magic marker, he drew on my body — giant, dark circles around areas where, he said, I had too much fat and it had to go.

It took time to heal from that memory and learn to accept and love my natural shape, and then even more time to be confident enough to walk the New York runways as a plus-size fashion model.

But the time, perhaps, when I was most proud of my natural physique that my stepfather hated so much was during chemo treatments. I was beyond thankful for my sturdy, strong body and what it was able to fight and how it was able to heal.

At my weekly chemo sessions, I’d bound into the chemo room bustling with energy and pink-cheeked from the healthy, raw green drinks I was downing by the quart. The doctors and nurses couldn’t believe — or understand — how healthy I looked and acted when all their other patients in the room were sleepy and ashen-faced as the chemo chemicals were pumped into their bodies.

Cancer was a great teacher to me—perhaps my best teacher so far.

“Whatever you’re doing,” they’d say, “keep doing it.”

Had I been much thinner, weaker and more fragile, I was told, I would not have withstood the chemo as I did or rebounded as quickly as I did after each session.

During chemo is when I began the practice of meditation.

My “fast forward” button was broken and “pause” was my new speed. I needed to slow myself down to conserve energy for healing, and it felt so good I never stopped.

Before I go onto the red carpet (or, “walking the plank” as some call it) at an event, I do a little meditation-visualization exercise: I visualize light all around me and bathing me, so that when I walk down the carpet and into the event, I can radiate love and peace.

Today, I meditate every morning for twenty minutes as soon as I get out of bed — and for one hour on weekends. It’s when I get all my creative ideas for clothes I want to design or books I want to write. It pauses me and keeps me in the present moment.

Which today, is lounging in bed. I take the time to appreciate my curves and pay them honor because they help me climb mountains, they got me a college scholarship, they gave me a career, and they saved my life. Thank you sturdy hips, fleshy stomach, wide shoulders and strong legs; all the areas that were marked black and bad by my stepfather have now been powerfully reclaimed as my most beautiful assets.

After fifty-three years of being on this earth, I can take this little me-appreciation-break without feeling any guilt or pressure to hurry up and get somewhere or do something for someone else.

My phone calls can wait. But this lovely moment cannot.

~Emme

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