“We may be floating on Tao, but there is nothing wrong with steering. If Tao is like a river, it is certainly good to know where the rocks are.” Deng Ming-Dao
This question may sound a little strange. Of course there are facts and medical standards. My doctor says that my weight 65 -68 kg, measuring 171cm, at the age of 40 – 50 is ok. According to calculations taken from my childhood (my height minus 100 minus 10kg) my ideal weight should be 60kg.
Feeding my data into a table at a popular website I learned that:
My body-weight index is 23.3
What does that mean?
Congratulations! My weight is within the norm and close to the ideal!
Medical science considers I have no risk for my health if my weight is within the limits: from 55.9 kg up to 75.4 kg.
Ideal weight according to overseas standards:
Metropolitan Standards for Ideal Weight tables in adult men and women were created in 1959. According to them, my ideal weight should be 63.5 kg.
That formula of the ideal weight fits women better whose height is from 140cm to 169 cm.
In network based mass media they give different calculations of the ideal weight.
Usually in Russia, they use the formula from the 1970’s.
According to it, my ideal weight is 62.3 kg.
However, a more exact formula was produced later by Doctor Robinson. It fits women better. According to him, my ideal weight should be 60.8 kg.
But my health was never a concern yet.
And how do I know that I weigh too much? Whatever gave me that idea?
- The feedback was especially from men. It was the very first signal at my young age. I noticed: men LOOK at me with big interest when my weight is about 60- 63 kg. If my weight becomes more, men get neutral, uninterested.
- From the looking at the mirror. I like my appearance at 60-63kg regardless of clothes, hairdo and cosmetics. If the weight increases, I see myself as not pretty or unattractive, no matter what I wear.
- When my weight gets over 66kg , my body proprioception feels unpleasant, too heavy and lumpy, as if I am a mountain. My movements become less graceful, a bit clumsy.
But how did this question of weight become so painful to me??? Why has it become the reason of my daily sufferings, depressions, dislike of my own self? The issue of being overweight bugs me seriously! What’s wrong with me?!
SUBTOTAL!!! I have hypotheses for two main directions of my inner work research:
- The most ‘problematic’ thing I’ve got is the “visual image”. The second concern is the feeling of weight, heaviness and size. It’s interesting. As a psychologist I think I have to expect some break-through in the area of visual experience and something about heaviness – lightness in life, experiencing myself as a big or small.
- I noticed already in my reports that I am constantly looking at myself “from the outside perspective”. Who actually is looking? I need to explore my social culture, how social stereotypes influence me. I need to explore my relationship with men especially. I will need to pay more attention to How I look at this WORLD and How the WORLD looks at me.
- And I’ll also take time for classical coaching, weight control and food control methods. According to medical indexes, I have no anorexia. And from medical studies I know that metabolic processes naturally get degraded with age. So I will have to pay attention to my food, watch my habits and possibly to change my physical activity behavior…
I asked my son, Sasha, today about things that are going to happen at school next year. Straight faced he quoted me a phrase from the Madagascar cartoon «Nobody knows where we go, even ourselves» :))))))))
Starting approximately from the age of 18 until the age of 42, I have been constantly fighting my body. Well, you know, diets, the sense of being proud fluctuating with the sense of abomination of myself. I can compare this to Russian men in the 90’s when their rank in the jet-set was directly related to the value of their wrist watch and car. Also, my high-society female friends’ ranking starting from the ages of 23 up to 33 in my opinion, was closely related to the slenderness of their body. How interesting! Neither education nor business success and not even our talents were our boasting and competing points.
…Social Rank. That’s an important thing – social rank. But it’s really strange to realize that your worth is based on your physical looks and weight. It seemed to me that if my body looked like a models then I’d be more successful, and have more control of things and more control of the freedom in my hands. But my body didn’t want to stay squeezed in the ideal image of a model. And that’s when it turned into a real inner war. Sure, that was a certain stage in the development of society and that social environment where I happened to be living in, Russia, Moscow in the 90’s. This was the period right after the collapse of the Soviet Union and of the whole previous social order and values. I remember experiencing how Western values (material prosperity, freedom) flooded into Russia. I remember that exhilarating feeling of intoxicating quick fortune. The country and I were taken by the hurricane of change.
Personal observation: I’m rereading the paragraph and notice an interesting peculiarity in the way I describe things. “I happened to be”, ”society” “western spirit”. As if it was SOMETHING, not me, creating my world. What was that SOMETHING in terms of my energy? My dreaming? I have to come back to this…
Sometime after age of 35, another unpleasant thing happened. Males’ attention stopped being a strong motivation for getting slimmer. But “the wish to look good” was not replaced with anything more significant. I gained about 8 kilos and started to feel “maternal looking”, looking like a peasant’s wife. In this heaviness, there was a loss of female power for me. If I describe my inner body experience – I got big and heavy. Visually – I looked old to myself. My legs, my belly, my back and my whole body became old looking. Unfortunately, it meant the loss of power and that delightful feeling of control over the world which I had had earlier. I’d lost my youthfulness without finding anything relatively good in return. The freedom to travel, money and social position were still there. But all that wasn’t mine. The credit was thanks to my husband. I lost the feeling of self-respect, and self-worth.
Personal observation: HUSBAND, SOCIETY…Curiously enough the way I construct sentences. As if I don’t decide a thing. While at the same time “Not Me” is a very strong power in my life. It reminds me of something…A story of a sleeping princess… No. It’s more like a Puppet Theater with obedient puppets and an autocratic powerful puppeteer, also spectators.
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“So what do you want? Does what happens inside show on the outside? There is such a great fire in one’s soul, and yet nobody ever comes to warm themselves there, and passersby see nothing but a little smoke coming from the top of the chimney, and go on their way.” Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh
Yesterday, I had a dream: I am at a seminar, giving myself advice – to share more of my personal stories, facts of my biography, share the ‘meat’ of my life.
“Well, who needs my biography?” The usual critical voice spoke out in my head. “And what on earth can be interesting about it? Personal history, a set of facts… and everyone will think I am boasting”.
“It’s ok!” Answered another one. “Do boast! Xenia! And that’s going to be great material to understand your own self! Do write, just do…Do enjoy, please, don’t analyze and don’t gloss it over…Do boast…Get envious…..do criticize. Don’t make any corrections for now.”
I surfed on internet, looking for signs and the first quotation that caught my eye was:
Dance as if no one sees you,
Sing as if nobody hears,
Ok, I’ll will talk about myself. In case you get bored, dear reader, just scroll down this paragraph.
I was born in 1970 in the Soviet Union into a family of a mathematician and a psychologist. My grandpa was a famous poet in his time, and throughout my childhood I thought of myself as a very privileged kid. My childhood and youth officially happened in the Soviet Union, but literally, I spent my days, every school year in the very creative experimental Moscow school №91 on the former Vorovsky Street. I spent my summers I in Belorussia, the land of forests, lakes and farmers. Our country house faced the lake and the other side looked into the woods. I usually had total freedom to spend my time as I wished in the village. I would go into the woods to my favorite meadow, I would talk to the pine trees, gather blueberries and wild strawberries, mushrooms, climb trees and all in all I had the lifestyle of a naughty boy. In my formative years, it seemed to me I was only a girl from the outside, and actually inside — a boy. Seriously — I felt like a boy inside.
Up to 16, I don’t remember being interested in my weight, nor the quantity of food I consumed. My body was somehow regulating it all by itself. I was evaluating my appearance only by boys’ reaction to it. Some were saying I was good-looking, some — not quite. My hobby in senior school years was opera singing. To be honest, I didn’t sing very well. I just really liked our vocal teacher from Gnesins’s School. She had brought together an experimental group of school kids who were able to be more or less in tune. Her name was Vera, she was a beautiful woman and I fell in love with her. I never missed a rehearsal; I remember that I was happy. It’s an amazing feeling when you do something you love! It may not be perfect but it’s a joy just to do it. And it’s so wonderful when this “craft” is interesting for someone else. And not just for someone else, but for a respected, grown-up, fantastic woman. That was a blast!
Age 16-25. During Perestroika, I was lucky be accepted into the Soviet-American Peace Child Program. This was a theatrical play about the relationships between our two countries, and we travelled throughout Russia and later in different American cities as members of the theater troupe, agents of public diplomacy. It was an unforgettable experience for the teenager I was. I was 16, participating in this grown-up project. This was my first time abroad experiencing the unknown fascinating Western World. After the trip, I got into disagreements with the Russian leaders of the troupe as to who would continue to lead the project. Two warring parties were trying to persuade each child to join its own side. But I stood strong, not taking any side. I am proud of the fact that I did not side against the leader of our musical group and didn’t sign the petition in KGB. After that battle, I found a lifelong friend – Stas. A strong, 33 years old, powerfully creative and unbelievably kind man with a vehement temperament. Now, as a psychologist, I understand that metaphorically speaking, I met my “Inner Male” (Jung names that as Animus). That man inside me, the one that had grown from the naughty boy climbing trees, felt very connected to Stas. We both had strong tempers, I tried to hide mine. Stas and I were like two brothers, though Stas could openly be a man, but I had to hide myself in the body of a nice soul-stirring girl.
Now, some details about my family. I grew up a willful girl. My parents, in every way, supported me to express my ideas. They gave me a lot of freedom in the way I studied and the way I spent my free time. But to talk of feelings, especially romantic ones was considered vulgar. I grew up as a “Tom-boy”. Only at the adolescent stage did the softness, sexuality and female power arrive. That same power that my father had started to struggle against and I had started to struggle back. So…at the age of 17, I promised myself to let no man ever tell me what to do.
It wasn’t long before my cold boyish mannerisms integrated with my foxy felinity – which created a magical mixture, the “ideal personality” to manipulate men. I wanted to prove to my dad that this female part of me he considered to be my weakness actually was my power. That he was mistaken! I wanted to use all my efforts, advantages and disadvantages to get freedom, freedom to make my own decisions, to travel, to study people and the world. Countries and cultures, traditions and social classes were beckoning me. Therefore, I thought “I have to get out of my parent’s control and I need to have money.” I felt that money and female power were the key to my freedom.
I entered the Moscow Medical Institute after High School. It was an interesting time in Russia. The country was opening up to the world, old communistic ideas were disappearing like dreams and old rules were getting destroyed as I mentioned before. Studying at medical school was terrible. At first, I didn’t like the learning itself and all those bones and cells seemed very boring. Secondly, I didn’t like the process where there was no place for feelings, and teachers had no personal relationships with students. I felt like just another student with a number – one of the crowd. More importantly, internally, I absolutely disagreed with the biological-mechanical approach to patients. Everything seemed to be so impersonal. It was not only difficult for me to study academically but also emotionally. During this time, I participated in different public diplomacy programs which really saved me. I had a side job as an interpreter and guide for very interesting foreigners who came to Russia. That work was a real escape because those people had something amazingly different about them. They were progressive, something you wanted to be in touch with, be around. That’s how I met Henry Deikin (big benefactor from USA), Djuny Calau (the fighter for independence from the Philippines), Ben and Jerry (B&J ice cream), Ozzy Osbourne, I was also interpreting for native American midwives (from Washington, USA) during their work in the birth houses.
In my third year, I sailed a whole semester around the world on a college ship called SS Universe (international program). I was living as if I was in two parallel worlds. One, my institute, too traditional on my opinion, where I felt like a” looser” and that always made me cower inside. The other was the world of my side jobs – the new one, wide open, filled with wonderful open, sparkling, creative people. But in neither part of these worlds did I feel in charge or being a creator of my life. All that was happening to me, “IT” was happening. I was like a boat without a captain, floating on the wild waves of the life around me, one day being happy with the speed, the other day being choked with the water surrounding me — reality getting into my nose.
And what do I want to become when I grow older? What will I do then, who will I become? The questions did not find answers at that time, the same as now. I couldn’t find any talent in myself. I liked to be around strong and inner-beautiful people. I was inspired and happy with someone’s talents, and I was pleased to help people shine with their beautiful ideas from within. THEY were great and strong and played a big role in the world.
And who was I? No-one.
Age 26 to 31. I tried all kinds of odd things and jobs. Business, election campaigns, the way to a deputy position, a job at the State Duma, newscaster’s course at TV and Radio Broadcasting School, Psychology courses and a second diploma (Psychological department of Moscow State University), numerous attempts to an active professional life. But nothing felt fulfilling. I just did not fit in.
Also, there were numerous attempts to become pregnant, shamans, hypnotizers, more attempts still to have a baby, and in the end I decided, seeing no baby coming, to work with students at the medical academy. I was thinking, well, if I can’t do anything else, I’d better help students, support them in tasks that were then also difficult for me, and through them fulfill my desire to nurture, to mother. Several wonderful years of work! It was cool, warm, joyful, sexy and caring.
When my pregnancy came at the age of 32, I thought WOW!!! That’s it! I know “Who” I am! I am a woman No A WOMAN, a vessel for new life … mystery of life that is impossible to explain, but one could only feel. Time had stopped, as if life and death were just dreams. Happiness….
Age 33. Skin cancer. They have cut it out. I was lucky. But the doctor forbade tanning rooms. Yes, I’ve forgotten to say! In order for my body to look slimmer I was tanning in tanning rooms…for years…
Age 38. Who am I? I have definitely grown out of my maternal Identity. Kids have gotten bigger and I’ve started to wonder about my purpose again, struggling with my body and feelings of being “a small person” on a daily basis. These struggles brought me back to psychology. I started to study psychology again, hoping it would help. I don’t know who I am. But it’s interesting to find that out…
Age 39- 42. Learning…Who am I?…Learning…Who am I?…
Who am I? I don’t know… Who do I want to become? Sexuality, attraction…that’s great! Yes, honestly, I’m not kidding. To be a wife, a mother, it’s so good, it’s worthy and proper… but still there is something fundamental missing — I’m searching for my own self, my core values and qualities. My path, purpose and direction. I am feeling frustrated and empty inside. The only answer I have for now is that I am a finder, seeker, and student — a leaf in the wind.
Personal observation: Re-reading and studying this autobiography, I see that my primary discomfort and suffering is associated to the fact that I cannot identify with the ‘transpersonal power’ or anything that navigates life. Being slim appears to be the only possible attempt to be in charge, to take control, to take the reins in my hands. That’s why the ambitious, easy-going, progressive men who know their calling attract me so much. I pushed away the heavy controlling traditionalists. But in striving for freedom, I sought stability, being afraid of the uncertainty of my path. Two polarities — the lightness and heaviness are not hormones inside and outside of me. There comes again an image of feather and stone. These two alternative states of my life are at war inside; they do not know how to get along.
“If I am what I have and if what I have is lost, who then am I? Nobody but a defeated, deflated, pathetic testimony to a wrong way of living.” Erich Fromm
The door I was afraid to open all these years, the door with a disgusting sign “fat cow” has now become intriguing. What if I peep in there and finally go inside? What if I start travelling there? What if my overweight and oversize — this disgusting part of my soul — are trying to tell me something important, so emphatic for such a long time?
While I was thinking about this fairytale thought, illustrations of ancient heroes were passing in front of my eyes, mixed with pictures from Alice in Wonderland — small ingenuous and curious girl, the very busy white rabbit and the black hole in the middle of a nice green meadow. Wishing to go for it!
But instead of moving ahead and working on my weight issue, I heard someone’s sarcastic, patronizing and even scoffing voice in my head: “Whatever!…In case you’ve got no other important things to do in life, meaning that…this task was so shallow and small. You’re a “Looser”.
But it can be really important. If I finally can get slim, I will write an article about all this and people will read it and it can inspire them to work on themselves — I prattled in response to that voice. Later, in a more confident manner: “Hey! I do not know what else to do. Too bad it seems so small to you”. This inner arguing continued for quite a long time. I felt defenseless and trivial, despicably small, pressed down. I understood that I wouldn’t win the battle. I got stuck in some self-deceit of self-condemnation. So I decided to try, become, and identify with the voice. I was hoping that if I could step into it, I would understand why it was pushing me down like that.
I gave myself plenty of unstructured time to work on my awareness. That voice inside felt important and worth exploring. There had to be a good reason it appeared then and there, just when I decided to work on my weight issues.
I closed my eyes and tried to become IT. I spontaneously started walking around the room looking for the right place for this inner figure of mine; I noticed a change in my body, it felt very big, my back straightened, I felt power, pride and rightness. My ears caught the sounds of the ocean and I became aware of its power, its eternity — my being resonated with the ocean’s power. Strange words came to me “Your own experiences are the most important, the biggest and the only thing you’ve got. It’s not what you do but what you are that’s important. You need to understand that.” These words were long, weighty and thick. I came back in to my original identity; I consciously stepped out my ‘sub-conscious’.These words sounded strange and not very clear but it felt like the truth. So I decided to open up to their advice and wisdom. I opened my eyes and faced the ocean simply trying to experience MYSELF in that moment.
The day was dawning. I suddenly realized how sick and void my soul felt at that moment. It was almost unbearable just to sit like that and look at the ocean. Sit, just sit, feeling meaninglessness and emptiness. A part of me wanted to start the day, to start doing things, to run away from that state, to eat something, to drink coffee. But another part was curious. It felt unpleasant, like some dragging and stinging inevitability and eternity in the soul…But, at least, I’d faced and recognized these terrible feelings. This experience is unclear, unpleasant but Real. Shall I try to spend time with it, get to know it? Become the void itself?
Yes! But how? How do I become the Emptiness itself? I do not believe I can at this point.
“Mom! Your sausage is ready. Will you eat it with ketchup?” My son called me
“No Sasha, without, thank you.”
That morning stayed with me and didn’t leave my mind. It’s so difficult just to be yourself at the present moment — so many unpleasant things come up. It’s so difficult just to feel your ‘Me’. The very first feeling that came was that disgusting void. Not the void which is your potential, described so beautifully by spiritual teachers. But this void that is the absence of something very important, the absence of inspiration, the absence of meaning. Sad…Very sad.
- My body tries to get bigger, heavier and more substantive and my soul is void.
- I am a successful person from the outside, but “I am nothing and I’m just lucky” from the inside.
- I understand that compulsive thoughts about becoming slim are possibly connected to having nothing essentially important to fill my void, to be the food for my soul.
- I am not identifying with the emptiness yet. I am suffering from it. But I could identify with the critical voice inside of me that appeared to be very strong and wise.
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes to you from focusing on what excites you. Passion comes when you do things you love. When you lust for something — you can work all night long. Passion is power; it’s the fuel necessary for your success. Find your passion and devote your life to bringing it to life, no matter how long it takes you.» Oprah Winfrey
Have you seen the movie “Forest Gump”? The main character’s life really reminds me of my own. In case you haven’t seen the film, I will explain. Forest Gump wasn’t smart, but he was very open and everything good and bad happened to him. I mean, he was not doing things on purpose, things just happened to him. Just like a feather in the wind. That’s how I am. I have an odd talent to be in the right place at the right time with the right people. I do nothing special, but it comes together by itself. Sometimes, I think the less I do, the better it comes. I noticed a long time ago, that if I exert and push myself, I spoil the deal and do not get the results I want. As soon as I relax, my intuition kicks in, magic happens.
So I asked myself today, out of curiosity — How does it happen exactly, Xenia? I “fall in love”. Yes. Attracted and IN LOVE with the idea, people, deals and just surrender myself to it totally. That’s the way IT happens. But even though I have all this magic and wonder, I’ve never had the feeling that I created something myself. This is not my creativity. Sure, they can say it’s a wonderful skill to be able to ride the wave of change, to trust the flash of unreasonable infatuation, attraction, to be able to stand up to it and to get the prizes. But this is what I say to myself:”Xenia travelled everywhere but created nothing of her own.” I’ve already mentioned my existential crises. That’s exactly how it sounds to me. ”Fate has given me everything and I haven’t created anything by myself.”
Meaninglessness, uselessness, guilt…I’m writing this now and the image of a dry cow comes to me — disgusting. It’s a cow and moreover it’s a dry one.
Who is the one who creates my life the way it is? Who blows the wind of change? Who is he or she, this wave I ride my life on, who feeds the cow, but who has forgotten to milk it? God? Fate? I don’t know. It’s a riddle… and when I try to connect to its power, it doesn’t happen. On the contrary…I end up in a powerless state.
The only times I feel “at the helm of my life” is when I try to control my weight.
Personal observation: I note my self-depreciation and try to investigate my writing from a more neutral position. So, I don’t understand this power that rules my life right now. But the image of the cow that came could definitely be easier to comprehend. Probably I give milk, but do not know about it? Maybe my ‘milk’ is just different. Oh! That’s a fun thought!
What is the most natural thing that I do in life?
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?»
«That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.»
«I don’t much care where –»
«Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
If I look at everything I wrote, it seems as if I’m trying to establish with and tune my relationships to a bigger force that some call God, Fate, Karma Law…with something bigger than me, that knows and will show me the way to discovering my next step. The problem is that I feel in a weak, dependent state right now. I’m stamping my feet in helplessness and saying “I don’t want to play in your performance, bad puppeteer!!!!”. In that case, the BIG one doesn’t talk to me, or maybe I don’t understand IT.
Can my “weight problem” be anything important in this dialog? I hope so. What if IT is saying something to me in this particular way? I try trading places, I go to the other side of the room imagining myself as the Power that controls my life, as the Puppeteer…it doesn’t work…no matter how much I try, it doesn’t work, no way.
…Then I look at the place where I was standing before. It’s like looking at myself from the outside. I look at the “small me”…Aha! That’s easier. It’s easier to see myself small, than to feel big. While looking at my small self, I start noticing a shift in self-confidence. I feel firm inside. My body posture relaxes as if I take up more space. Yes, my body feels firmer and bigger. It feels good. I keep looking, enjoying these feelings…letting myself take even more space in the room, allowing my expressions to come out… After a while, words come, and I naturally engage in dialogue:
Big me: “You look a bit lost. What’s happening?”
Small me: “Why am I here? What’s the meaning of my life? I want to understand… This whole struggle with how I look bothers me so much and is eating me from inside! But I feel ashamed to even start dealing with it because it seems so shallow, so insignificant and very immature.”
Big me: “Xenia, for now, solve the problems I give you, in your day-to-day activity. That’s your growth and your task for the moment.”
Small me: “But I want to understand my mission, my meaning, to understand where I’m headed. I don’t want to be busy with solving the meaningless and empty task of becoming slim. It’s not serious! I’m grown-up and strong! I have to have my own, personal pursuit. I can help people. I want to be useful!”
I change my position in the room again. I notice how my posture becomes more gathered again, my back straightens, my facial muscles relax and I notice a new confidence and clarity coming from inside.
Big me or Fate: “Your task for now is to find joy in your everyday simple routine, mastering your weight is one of them, and to gracefully fulfill meekly the tasks I give you. Meekness and discipline! Do not get caught up in trying to understand the overall meaning of your life at this point.”
Small me: “Actually what you are saying is very helpful. Unexpected, but it makes sense. There are quite a lot of daily issues that I push aside. It could be really fun to practice my inner work skills on them, study myself, meet myself. Thanks for the tip!”
Personal observation: Yeah…Wow! My Fate is very strict ☺). Can’t understand a thing… It won’t tell me the meaning of my life. But at least it’s clear — the weight problem — that’s exactly what I have to solve first, regardless if it looks small and shallow. Without avoidance, without switching onto other things, without equivocation, completing the task and hoping, trusting that on the way something will be revealed about the full meaning. Good job!
Me and my problems, history and hope.