I laid naked on the hot springs rock bed. One forearm submerged in the 104 degree pool, one arm sprawled out in the dirt, my chest, torso and legs bare to the sun and sky above. I had nearly a foot of black and blue prints down my thighs from the guasha, a wooden tool used in traditional Chinese medicine to “scrape away fever,” or in my case, to free up the lactic acid built up in my quads and hamstrings. I had a thought of being self-conscious about the markings, before I realized that if I didn’t care, no one else would. Being the only one in a party of eight who took the “option” to bare all that day, it was unlikely anyone was comfortable enough to observe my bruises.
I let the clean December Ojai air cool my body as I marinated in silence, taking it in as medicine for my spirit. When did I become so at ease with my body? Wasn’t nakedness something reserved for the bedroom or maybe Burning Man? Where was the judgement I'd always laid upon my imperfections?
From the time I was eight years old, my sister and I were latchkey kids. My mom would usually be the first one home around 5:30 or 6pm, which gave my sister and I about three hours in the house to ourselves. I don’t remember spending much time with my sister those days, we had different interests. She would keep to her room mostly and I'd have the kitchen. I would fly through homework assignments and spend the rest of my time watching cartoons or Sally Jesse Raphael while eating Cracker Barrel cheese snacks and other addicting salty, fatty combinations that stocked the pantry.
I remember the first time I became aware that my chubbiness was looked down upon. I was walking down the hallway in elementary school with my friend Melissa who was also a little bit rounder than the thin, popular girls we admired. Matt and Dave popped out from behind a set of lockers and started hitting us with rolled up notebook paper as they moo’ed, insinuating we were fat as cows.
One day after school when I was eleven years old, many months into what would be a decade of disordered eating, I found myself alone and upset in the kitchen. Crying that I’d eaten too many pretzels after starving myself all day, I took a sharp kitchen knife out of the drawer and held it to my belly. I wondered if I could slice the belly fat off my body for good. I pushed the knife in, watching the area of my belly turn white as I did it. I stopped, without piercing the skin. I didn’t want to deal with my parents wrath if I had to go to the hospital.
My favorite swimsuits were always boy shorts. Better yet, I’d wear a skirt over my bottoms and take it off only seconds before entering a pool. God forbid someone see how round my backside really was! My secret would be out - I have curvy, child-bearing hips! On top of that, my skin was pale and somehow I'd learned that pale isn't pleasant to the eye.
When I moved to Los Angeles at 28, I began working out with Daniel Laga, a Czech maniac of a Personal Trainer. The workouts never got easier, but I became quite fit over the two years that we worked together. I remember loving my body then, possibly for the first time, but still I kept my body covered even when encountering a clothing “optional” facility.
So What Changed?
Today I’m not as muscular or as thin as I was when Daniel would taunt me with a 50 pound kettle bell or my personal favorite, the one-legged dead lift, curl and shoulder press balance. “Jordana!” He’d shout with certain annoyance in his thick Arnold-like accent if I’d spent too long at the water fountain. He did really want what was best for me, or my big Jewish booty anyway.
At the Ojai hot springs laying consciously exposed among a group of clothed friends and strangers, I am blissed out. My nakedness doesn’t matter, my bruises don’t matter and the chatter in my mind has quieted.
Every year I say I’m excited to get another year older because “each year has been the best year yet.” Living by that mantra, I feel its truth for me. This year was one of epic change for me: I stepped into the biggest 180 of my life. And I lay vulnerable and exposed.
This year I have felt lost and I have felt whole. I have been tormented and I have been at peace. Leaving the perceived certainty and security of a job and career I’d worked so hard for, a windowed office, incredible team and sizable paycheck for a free-flowing “Let’s go!” lifestyle, away from the nagging of “What if,” has shaken me like Vega in a Blender Bottle for breakfast.
I 180'd the "what I am doing" to align with the experiences I wanted to have. And wanting it to last while I explore has meant making different choices for myself, like leasing my home and swapping the luxury of my car for the practicality of a bike, the train and Uber. Putting this pause on the "security" and material kingdom I've been building for myself, has provided me the liberty to explore another way of living. I've been able to have enriching experiences like attending yoga festivals, Burning Man, Summit at Sea and road trip to Arizona and Utah. This December I lived in Joshua Tree and used my yoga and leadership training to facilitate two transformational retreats there.
Taking myself out of my comfort space has put me on a path of rapid growth and forward momentum. There's something amazing that's up next, but more than ever I'm enjoying right now.
I still judge myself, often harshly, but I'm learning to quiet those murmurs. My own judgement is the biggest hurdle to my flow and expression. Going up against this critic takes a whole lot of self-love (I work on this through a gratitude practice) and a whole lot of trust (which comes from self-love)...
I'm learning to balance the flow with structure. At this stage of 180, I'm allowing myself more flow in order to grow where I haven't before. Flow supports expression, which leads me to more of what I want and opens the gates for me to be in love with my life.
In a time of major change, particularly one in which you are redesigning your life or pushing for enrichment, I've found that a no-apologies-loving amount of self-expression is crucial.
This means dancing. Often. Singing. Even if off key. Making silly noises for the sake of silly noises. Talking out loud to myself. Drawing. Writing. Writing. Writing. And loving all of it. Loving myself. Loving myself when I spend all day in pajamas. Loving myself when I go too hard at the gym or overdo it with social or work activities. Loving myself when I’m not making any money. And loving myself when I’m baring it all.
This 2016 of opening up to expression has stripped me down. The layers that defined me before: job, house, car, don't exist in the same paradigm. I've had to let go of what doesn't work, most crucially my own judgements.
So I’m not afraid to be naked anymore. I don’t shame my body anymore. Because that doesn't work for me or my expression. Today I know what I want more than I ever have. I am allowing myself to dream and to live those dreams.
I am sure that I'll change up my balance again in the future, that I'll create more recognizable structures and drop anchors. I enjoy that and part of me craves it, but in this moment, I'm in the flow that says enrich your soul. I know I've got to answer to her right now.
I stand humbly at the foot of 2017. I am here to learn, to share, dive deep and fly high... To where? Stay tuned...