I hope you are enjoying the beginning of summer. I am literally moving very slowly into summer since I had a procedure a few weeks ago that has curtailed my normal activity.
Several years ago, I had a pain in the area of my lower abdomen which was so acute that at times I could not sit up straight. After seeing several doctors, they determined I had a growth on my ovaries. At the time, they treated it with antibiotics and made the decision to monitor it regularly. Since the mass continued to grow, this past February my gynecologist suggested I consult with a specialist. Not thinking anything of it, I scheduled the appointment in between my workout and work day. I figured the most the doctor would tell me was that I needed to have the growth removed, which, in my mind, would be a quick outpatient procedure.
Determined not to miss a beat in my day, I arrived at the specialist’s office juggling my iPhone and iPad. Now, I must admit that I was a bit taken aback when I found out that the doctor I was seeing was a gynecologic oncologist, located in the new “Cancer Institute” building of the hospital. However, I shook it off and kept my eye on the prize which was trying to get in and out in under two hours.
My true shift in focus happened about an hour into my journey. Upon examining me and looking at my records, the doctor informed me that not only had the growth reached a size that it needed to be removed but he also suggested taking out my ovaries and tubes. He then said my recovery time would be a few weeks. Flabbergasted, I could hardly wrap my head around what he was saying. I went home speechless. Now, let’s be real. It was not that I needed my reproductive organs. At my age, that ship had sailed years ago. But on some level, I felt that without them I would somehow be less of a woman. I literally cried that night in the shower, feeling the loss of a part of my identity.
A month ago, I actually had the surgery. Although it took a few days for the anesthesia to wear off and to get past the initial discomfort, again I was surprised by where my focus went. Although I felt blessed that my daughters came home to take care of their mama and I was relieved when the pathology reports came back fine, my attention was drawn to the four inch-long incisions that were made around and below my belly button and the hard bulge that was now protruding from my stomach. Although, I have always had my share of body image issues, my stomach had never been a major focus.
All of a sudden, I had what I now describe as my “ova – reaction!” My feelings of desirability and attractiveness felt contingent upon and diminished by my bulging and scarred belly. I was uncomfortable letting my person (aka my boyfriend) see my stomach because I projected upon him the feelings of dis-ease that I now had with this part of my body. If I couldn’t love that part of myself, how could he?
If I wasn’t feeling a bit sensitive, it would have actually been comical. No matter how much I know about how the monkey mind plays tricks on us, it was fascinating to see how easy it was to get swept up in negative thoughts, over-identifying with this one part of myself instead of looking at the totality of who I am.
Of course, I see this all the time with the people I work with. They fixate on one part of their body or appearance, thinking that they are: their double-chin, the number on the weight scale, the guy with the big nose, the cellulite on their thighs, the muffin-top that rolls over their jeans, or the size and shape of their breasts, whether too small, large, or saggy. Their identity gets so enmeshed with one trait or aspect of themselves that they are blinded to the fact that when you label yourself, you limit yourself. They lose sight of the knowing that they are so much more than that myopic sense of self. They also cannot fathom that if that one thing - the job, wealth, youthful beauty - was suddenly taken away, they would still flourish.
Luckily for me, my ova-reaction quickly turned into ovary-action. To support me in bringing love to my cellulite, stomach, and scars, and navigate my stinking-thinking, I started doing and concentrating on the following three things:
For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept of wholeness, we are all born whole and complete. As a result of life’s experiences and the judgments of ourselves and others, we disown the parts of ourselves we don’t like and deny that certain parts of ourselves exist within because we can’t imagine that the traits we admire in others could possibly reside within us. We wrap our identities around a few core qualities and overcompensate for that which we believe we lack. We try to fix, change, starve, and perfect ourselves, never realizing that we are whole and complete just as we are.
The gift of owning our wholeness is that it reminds us to stand in the totality of who we are instead of obsessing about what we are not. It reminds us not to over-identify with any one part of ourselves and fuels us with the knowing that in us is every part that we see in the world. Wholeness is our birthright. And as I write in “The Integrity Advantage,” the great news is:
“When you can own that you are everything on the inside, then you have the power to manifest anything on the outside.”
So this week I invite you to unwrap the gift of wholeness and to focus not on that which you are not but on all that you are. And if you need a reminder, then join me in the chorus as I sing along with India Arie:
“I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am the soul that lives within”
Transformational Action Steps