The Truth of Who I Am

"Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free." -Eckhart Tolle

Summer Heat = Pool Truth

on June 23, 2013

Summertime and a great pool in our neighborhood means that there is no choice but to take the kids to the pool. However, for me, getting into a bathing suit for the public is no simple event. I’m guessing this is true for many of us women. I mean – when did we women decide that going out in underwear made from a different kind of fabric was now alright with all of us because there was some body of water around? And for those of you who get super excited because it’s time to show off your beautiful curves – yay for you! No grudges or hard feelings – just the hope that you don’t judge me when I am trying to disguise my curves that seem to be more than I think I should have on one body.

Talk about the truth of who I am! Deciding and then actually going to a public pool in a bathing suit is daring greatly for me. This has been true for me for as far back as I can remember to when I was a little kid in Tanzania going to the beach with the family on weekends. There was nowhere close to the selection of bathing suits there that exists here now. In fact, for the early part of my life, I went in the water in my modest underwear. Hey – we were a Goan family in Tanzania and that’s what we did. I remember becoming extremely self-conscious right about the age of 4 and wondering why my mother didn’t think to cover up my chest – even if it looked exactly the same as my three brothers. I was a girl and somehow I was aware that THAT part of my body was private. My sister, who was a couple of years older, at least had a hand-me-down two piece. I remember it well – gray, brown, black and white stripes. I often wished she would hurry up and outgrow it so I could have it. Side note – most of my clothes were either hand-me-downs or sewn by my talented mother. Apparently, bathing suits were not on her list of patterns she could create.

Back to the pool in this day and age. Well before heading to the pool, I go through the same process each year of pulling out the collection of bathing suits in various styles and sizes that tell the stories of my body’s journeys. As I try on each one, I stress and strain and look behind and around and stare at myself from every angle in the hopes that the longer I stare the slimmer parts of me will become. I lift up my shoulders and suck in my belly – well most of it – then examine the kudzu tattoos left behind by my babies and sigh as I realize that’s the least of my belly problems. Nothing changes no matter how long I stand in front of the mirror, but I eventually remind myself that this great act of courage, of putting on a bathing suit and getting into a pool is for my children and for them, I would do just about anything. And getting into a bathing suit is up there near the top of the list from hardest to easiest things I would do for my kids. I’m not even kidding about this.

What I wish I could do is hang signs that float and point at different parts of my body with important messages that tell the truth of who I am, i.e.

Arms – “Pick up kids almost daily to hug or comfort or reach for the faucet in public restrooms.”

Belly – “Grew two big babies (10lbs 14oz and 9lbs 12oz). Gimme a break.”

Thighs – “Born this way and been working with and denying this part of me my entire life.”

Back – “Hurts every morning from awkward sleeping positions after 1-2 kids crawled into and sprawled across the bed.”

Butt – “Born this way, too, and have varying levels of appreciation for it.”

Ankles – “Kinda like this part of my body. Stare here.”

Face – “Don’t let this nonchalant face fool you – I’m feeling very vulnerable right now and daring greatly every single moment I’m out here without a cover-up on.”

Yup. This is what I wish for. Floating signs that point and follow me around everywhere. They would really just be a way to tell the truth about me. Which is really all I want known – the truth about me. Because when you strip away everything else – not literally, but figuratively – what’s left, I’m willing to bet, looks exactly like what would be left of anyone else. We’re all the same. We’re all part of the same. While this does not happen in real life when we’re at the pool or the beach and strip off our clothes and look different physically, it’s what I believe to be true about us on the inside.

I decided to venture out and share my inner anxiety with my husband while we were at the pool and he proceeded to tell me about the The Bert show on Q-100 doing a thing where women of all shapes and sizes were posting pictures of themselves in their bathing suits in some kind of empowering movement to offer a wide range of body types to downplay the unrealistic image we have been told we should look like. So he offered to take a photo for me to post.

Mind you – he didn’t pause to assure me (whether with lies or not) that I was the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on and he couldn’t image why I might be self-conscious – or at the very least, just remind me that he sees those floating signs. But I digress and I delay because I’m still not sure I can do what I had in mind to do in this post. But this is about telling the truth of who I am…and am not. Supermodel I am not.

One week later:

Deleted picture of me in a bathing suit HERE.

So I decided not to post the photo Brian took of me in my bathing suit to post on The Bert Show as a way to stand up with my sisters in solidarity. A minute before posting, I had visions of my undergraduate students coming across my blog and seeing the photo and not being able to get the image out of their heads while sitting in my classroom and immediately I knew that for the sake of a good education, I must not post a picture of myself in my bathing suit for the public. But you’re welcome to join me at the pool or a beach any day.

In the meantime, I watched my four year-old daughter in delight and pride as she joyfully took off her cover up and ran into the pool in great excitement, proud of her new Hello Kitty bathing suit and thrilled to be able to play in the water. That’s what it’s all about. The bathing suit did not need to have any power over me. It is simply a piece of clothing that make it a little easier to be in the water to play and enjoy the water and the loved ones around me. Chances are, everyone else is too busy either worrying about what others think of them or having a great time to notice and/or judge me in my bathing suit. I’m really the only person that needs to be able to see the floating signs around me.

A picture of one year-old Kaya with the same joy she has today in the water in a bathing suit.

So I said a little earnest prayer that my daughter would never lose her free spirit and joy in the pursuit of fun and I got in the pool and enjoyed my precious time with my family. Happy summer to you!

Truthfully yours,



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