Thursday, July 03, 2008

Freedom - Liza Palmer

I work out every morning in a gym right next to the Metro Line here in Los Angeles. I do my little thing on the treadmill as I watch the people get on and off the train. I see the same faces, the same couples every day. I began to notice very quickly that an unnerving percentage of these morning commuters gazed through the window of the gym only to contort their faces in disdain by what they saw.

In the beginning it was more awkward than anything else. Making eye contact with strangers – me: sweaty and running to nowhere, them: off to work and looking at the work-outaholic in the gym every morning.

Why was there such contempt in their eyes? Why did they hate me so much? Could they know that I was listening to Britney Spears’, Toxic?

One day, after one of the most derisive glances shot my way, I couldn’t take it anymore. I hopped off the treadmill, ran up to the Metro Stop and looked into the window – trying to see what it was that was making these people so disgusted.

I approached the window to the gym, the morning commuters rushing around me – my shirt stained with sweat, my iPod blaring in my ears. I stood in front of the window.

It was a reflection. It was one of those mirrored windows. You couldn’t see into the gym at all. All that looked back at me…was me.

Every one of those morning commuters had been looking at their own reflection with such revulsion. They’d been glowering at themselves all those months. It had nothing to do with me. As is always the sad discovery of the mature.

It got me thinking though – about Independence. About freedom.

I was talking with my friend the other day as we walked from the gym to our morning coffee place (the reward of coffee being the only reason I get to the gym most days, to be honest). I was particularly haunted that morning by the thought that I would never be rid of the idea that I had to lose some weight - no matter what I looked like. As we stood out in front of the coffeehouse, I said, “Why do we hate ourselves so much? When will I be able to look in the mirror and just say, ‘I love you?” For so long, this journey has been about numbers on the scale and sizes in the backs of jeans and yet, in that moment, it hit me how simple this whole thing is.

I want to be free. I want to love myself.

Being in LA, I’ve watched so many women waste away in front of me. Equating tiny sizes with beauty and loving every inch lost. And I wonder – how did it get to be this way? Master cleanses and cayenne pepper with lemons and can’t eat that and won’t eat this and penance instead of balance and calorie counting and point counting and twenty minute orders with confused waiters, starving yourself only to binge later, ordering off of the tiniest portion of the “smart menu”, deprivation and bargaining, isolating yourself from everyone, becoming addicted to the control of an eating disorder …it goes on and on. It’s as if you’ve traded one warden for another. You’ve become more enslaved. You’ve gone so far as to lose yourself completely.

Remember when we were kids and we just ate what was put in front of us so we could go outside and play? Remember when our parents had to break the news that the weather outside wasn’t going to clear up and we had to stay cooped up inside? Remember how great it felt to run at full speed – and not on a treadmill and not to run off last night’s dinner? You ran because you wanted to feel the wind on your face.

Remember what it was like to feel free.

This Independence Day why don’t we all take a step towards freedom by loving ourselves…just the way we are.

---Thanks for having me on the blog and have a great Fourth.

Liza Palmer
Seeing Me Naked


Margaret McDonagh said...

A thought-provoking blog, Liza, thank you. And not only about freedom but about the values and judgements of society and accepting people for who the are in all their wonderful variety and uniqueness.

Mags xx

Estella said...

Interesting post. Makes a person think about what is important to them.

Maureen said...

What an interesting post. One of my favorite shows is on TLC called What Not To Wear and it's amazing how many women don't feel like they deserve nice clothes. They tell each woman to dress themselves as the size they are now and it's amazing the transformations that occur when a woman puts on stylish clothes, no matter what size she is.

Pat Cochran said...

We need to better understand ourselves, to better accept and love
ourselves. Then we can show the
world a clearer picture of who we
really are.

Pat Cochran

Sherri said...

How did we, as a species, come to this? Did it start as children when we were ridiculed or bullied in school because we didn't fit in with someone else's idea of acceptable or normal? Do the taunts and pranks of childhood stay with us the rest of our lives buried deep where nobody else sees them? It seems so and seems even more true when we look into the mirror and see ourselves not as we should but as how others saw us with their skewed and warped perception. Perhaps by accepting and loving ourselves, we can learn to accept and love others, regardless of their differences.