Diane Renz, LPC, Licensed Psychotherapist: A Personal Story

Diane Renz, LPC, Licensed Psychotherapist, founder of Your Gateway to Healing™ and Healing Beyond Anxiety™ workshops. Her personal journey with cancer and loss continues to inform her life and her work, teaching how to turn pain into possibility. http://www.yourgatewaytohealing.com/

This Body! At 50 it offers a map of scars, age spots, varicose veins, wrinkled sun toughened skin, calloused feet, wider vagina and sagging breasts. This Body wants to tell a story, and if you follow the markers, you will discover the origins of each, all adding up to the sum of a life lived. It is a vast terrain of imperfection and beauty, connected to the past and paving a future.

The present experience of aging, of actually seeing the changes taking place at a more rapid speed, challenges how I feel about myself.

I pluck, exfoliate, try to put good things on my skin now, (even though I come from the ‘sunbathe in baby oil generation’). I massage my vagina with olive oil to offset the drying of less estrogen, and do my kegels! I highlight my hair, (although getting more complicated with additional graying), I wear makeup sometimes, try to eat well and actually enjoy exercise.

I care about how I look. I have friends who get skin laser regularly, have had facelifts, do Botox, skin injections, always have their pedicures/manicures, have someone remove most of their body hair, keep all gray hair cut and colored, have teeth whitened or veneers, and on it goes. This upkeep is continuous and expensive. I also sense their anxiety and loss of spontaneity. (It is hard to play fully when worried about how you look all the time). The judgment I receive for letting my “marks” show is extraordinary. I get advice to take estrogen, cover my gray, dye my eyebrows, get “age defying” facials…..as if they are looking into a mirror when looking at me, unable to see their own aging they must deny my own. It reminds me of grieving around people who have not learned how to feel their own heart’s pain, quickly they will wipe up the tears and clean up the mess to “make you feel better”, because they can’t bear the natural expression of pain.

The tide of the culture keeps pulling at me. I work hard to keep my head above water and raise some consciousness so I can have a choice about which direction I go. It is important for me to know what intention has fueled any action I take about changing this body. Is the action in praise of, and in reverence for, this amazing resilient physical being, or is it a direct rejection and assault against.

There are few things that keep me focused on my strengths versus getting lost in my insecurities. Ok, so let’s name the insecurities first: single at 50 will any man be able to love the imperfections? There are so many images of unreality out there; will I be accepted as I am? Areas of concern include my skin from sun damage, my aging vagina/labia, my well used breasts stretched like taffy during breast-feeding and no longer “perky”……wow, that is nice to just lay it out there…to name things as they are.  Yes my skin is aging at an accelerated rate due to unprotected time in the sun, makes sense, not a character flaw. Yes, I can do some things to help it now, but I will continue to play in the sun (protected), because playing is essential to my joy and life’s energy. Great! That helps refocus priorities and attitude about myself. As for my vagina? It has been a passageway for my amazing daughter, and since then, is responding to natural hormonal changes of being 50. I will care for it as best I can in full appreciation of its individuality and see if I can strengthen it along the way (and use it before I lose it!). And then, there are my dear breasts, which I am very glad I actually used for their intended purpose. No, I will never have cleavage, and they won’t be the allure, but they are mine and still sensitive and alive.

I think I am looking my best when I feel full of energy. My focus tends to go there; how can I enhance my energy. Especially after surviving both colon and uterine cancer, I have to tell you, I care much more about how I feel in my body v. how I look. I know what it is like to be on my knees unable to move. I know the immediacy of living right here and now as if there is no tomorrow. This can all begin to sound very preachy, and in no way do I want to diminish the suffering of just not feeling good about how you look. It impacts our ability to do what we are meant to in this world, and shrinks our capacity to really connect with others if we are feeling restricted in our feelings about body and Self.

I think I have had two great teachers to help me refocus my attention from the microscopic narrowing on every flaw, to the whole picture of vitality and joy, and they are: nature and my cancer. Nature realigns me to truth. In nature there is resilience, movement, rhythm, and of course, death and rebirth–The naturalness of life. We are that. In having cancer I had to accelerate my exploration about what is the meaning of life. I have discovered that the only thing that is true is Love. The big L love, the one that includes all aspects of Self, of others, of life. It doesn’t reject. So when I find myself rejecting, I get curious about the pain that is leading me there. Most often, I just want to be loved and accepted. I guess the best place to start with that is by learning bit by bit how to love and accept me, each and every mark of this body. I have been “marked”, my journey stamped upon me, I know where I have been, the history reveals itself in every nook and cranny of this individual body, like no other, not meant to be like any other, my body, my story. What is yours?

 Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Read Diane’s contribution to Body and Self Image Website | Your Gateway to Healing
  2. Loan Hernander
    Jul 18, 2011 @ 01:50:33

    Thanks for this great information!


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