Welcome to Sing with Your Feet, the podcast in which we actively invest in our Ideal Lives fifteen little minutes and four little questions at a time.
The Podcast in which it is not against the rules to say nice things about ourselves, because we are the only ones who know exactly what we need to hear…making us the best-equipped people to say them.
The podcast in which we give our active, enthusiastic approval to our bodies as they are now, even when they might not be exactly how we have always dreamed they would be.
My name is Lily Fields, and I am going to be your Fairy Godmother for the next half hour or so.
And before I let you start objecting to anything I just said, I want to tell you of something very special that your favorite fairy godmother and wicked stepsister are going to be doing next week. LiElla, your wicked stepsister, is, as you May remember, a Death Doula, which means she helps people navigate end-of-life issues.
Oh? You’d never heard of this before? Well, rest assured, I hadn’t either until LiElla showed up in my life either.
But it is a real thing, and it is something LiElla is uniquely gifted for. To that end, she has organized something called Death Café. She’ll tell you more about it later, but I want you to just go write down on your calendar: April 9.
Obviously, when LiElla invited me to her Death Cafe, my very first question was, “what does one wear to a Death Café?” to which she replied, “your usual magic should be fine.”
So. In case you were wondering, you can come dressed as you are. The details will be in the show notes, and keep an eye on our social media for links and all the good stuff.
Also…one other very fun thing: if this week’s episode looks a little long to you today, that’s because there is a special surprise after I sign off.. Now, don’t go forwarding through the episode and ruin the surprise. Just listen like you normally would. You won’t get why it’s there if you don’t listen. But thanks to my musical co-conspirator Matt Kugler, whose dreamy voice you hear throughout this podcast, I am going to get a chance to sing for you today, too.
Now, now, now Lily Fields! Ah! That’s you. You sound like a southern belle and I think you are perfectly charming that way. You aren’t going to be talking about bodies today, are you? Because frankly, darling, I don’t give a…
Wouldn’t it be delightful if you had a warm, friendly, caring relationship with your body, instead of one of frustration, dissatisfaction, and, in some very extreme cases, abject hate?
I didn’t start loving my body until after I had babies, which is an admittedly strange time to start loving it. I mean, it didn’t look anything like it had before, a little fact my clothes decided to remind me of every single day.. But…we’ll get into that later.
All right, all right, all right. I will listen but do not expect me to say anything nice, or to start talking to my body. That’s ridiculous.
I hear you. I couldn’t make you talk to your body, even if I tried. But I want to tell you a story about my Gigi, and how she unintentionally gave me an inheritance of shame about my appearance because of how she talked about her own.
While I can’t make you talk nicely to your body, I do want to make you aware that how you talk about your body has the power to impact those around you.
But Lily…there are so many things about myself that I wish I could change.
I know there are. I believe you. But you need to let go of those things for a little bit, because nothing will ever change until you can accept and love yourself exactly as you are now. You see, until you can do that, you aren’t living in the present. You will have expectations and hopes that are not based in reality.
Being serious about reality…and getting serious about the very basic building blocks of health: Sleep, hydration, proper nutrition, fresh air, getting our bodies moving, tracking our monthly cycles…if we are so busy projecting ourselves onto the way we want to look we will overlook these all-important elements, often even rejecting them as immaterial, when they are the very foundation on which our bodies rely to be healthy.
The Ideal LIfe Exercise
This week, we are going to be taking a look at our first Ideal Life Theme. We are going to be looking at a great other number of themes over the next few weeks.
The idea with this first go-around is to get you thinking about where you are starting in this category, or this theme and it’s done with four easy questions: What is working? What isn’t working? What do I need to think about and What can I do today to make a small difference in this area of my life?
The first time around can be challenging.
It’s challenging, for one, because so many of our Ideal LIfe themes overlap, so it’s hard to identify what is at the heart of the category. If it seems hard, then my rule of thumb is to just take what is top of mind…but to always answer each question, even if the answer is only, “Everything is going swimmingly in this category right now,” or, the not so sunny version…”Absolutely nothing is working in this area of my life.
Being as specific as we can, though, is where we are going to be able to start affecting real, albeit minute change. Being specific about what isn’t working is going to help us question what we are doing that isn’t helping the situation, and help us start asking the questions about how we can make things more smooth.
The question “What do I need to think about?” is the one that invites us to start singing with our feet for this category of our life. The question invites us to reflect on what we might have read in a random bit of article, or heard on the radio, or a conversation we might have had with someone. Oftentimes, we hear or read something that intrigues us, but because we are so busy, we never take the time to pursue it. This question opens up the floor to become curious.
Sometimes, this question might require more than just the five minutes you take in the morning. If you have a few seconds here or there throughout the day, well, instead of checking Instagram, you can try to find that NPR report you heard. Or try looking up that author your friend mentioned.
With this question, we are opening ourselves up to the possibility of positive change.
With the last question, we are simply setting ourselves one small goal. One tiny thing that we can do today to get us closer to our Ideal Life for this category. One tiny thing may not seem like a ton of progress, but any progress, as far as I’m concerned, is good progress, and is something to be celebrated.
There is no judgment in these questions. It is very fact-based. There are things that are working and things that aren’t working. We aren’t complaining, we are stating facts.
If we take this daily chipping away at our Ideal Life seriously, each day, one little five-to-fifteen minute investment for three weeks, then, at the end of the three weeks we start over. Only the second time we go through the themes, we can check our progress. We can look back and see what was working the last time we asked the questions for this theme. What wasn’t working? We can see where we stagnated or how we made progress.
Now, that said, feelings are not completely erased from the process. But taking this bird’s eye view helps to relativize some of the more overwhelming considerations.
Let me reassure you: no one is reading your answers but you. You are free to be as emotional as you want to be. Tears are sometimes necessary when we are feeling like nothing is working. I would argue not only that this is okay, I would argue that this is great…because once the tears have dissipated, you might just have an epiphany. You can perhaps find that one little thing you can do today to make progress. The tears will have served their purpose and you can start moving forward again.
So. For the next nineteen episodes, I am going to take you one by one through the different categories that I consider as part of my Ideal Life.
These are by now means the only categories.
These categories are also idiosyncratic to me and my life, and they were born of my In my Ideal Life I am a person who…statements. However, I strongly suspect that we will have a few themes that overlap. If you like the process or the questions, but don’t like my themes, then please, create your own themes!
I’ve said it before: any progress is good progress. Any time you can dedicate to this is going to be time well spent.
So let’s just recap here:
One theme per day. Four questions about that theme: What is working, what isn’t working, What do I need to think about and what can I do today?
You’ll see as we move forward through the examples how this works.
So let’s tackle the first category of our Ideal Life today: Body Positivity and Health
Learn now or learn the hard way
Have you ever watched someone you love learn a lesson the hard way? It’s painful. You can say what you want, you cannot prevent it. None of your well-worded, benevolent warnings hit home until that person hits bottom, by which point those points are moot.
I learned to love my body the hard way. Even though it was an awful, uncomfortable, often painful and psychologically tortuous process, I have learned to view my body as my ally. Maybe I needed to learn the hard way…I am stubborn enough that this is a real possibility. But in retrospect, there were a number of turning points that could have pre-empted the trouble.
Learning to reframe our thoughts and challenge our negative self-talk is so important. Don’t wait. Do. Not. Wait.
After that little preamble…Take out your list of In My Ideal Life I am a person who…statements, and start perusing them for statements that are related to your body and your health Here is a smattering of mine as they pertain to this category. Perhaps they might ring a bell for you.
In my Ideal Life I am a person who:
- trusts my body
- loves my body, no matter what size it is
- takes care of my body by feeding it what it needs, not what it thinks it wants
- never stops moving
- listens to my aches and pains and respects them
- is at peace with every. single. part. of my body
- knows how my body works and never stops learning new things about human biology
- Stays hydrated
- Has excellent sleep hygiene.
- Knows the ups and downs of my monthly cycle and can prepare for it.
Our bodies have things to tell us. Our bodies don’t generally lie to us. When we are tired, we feel it. When we have been wearing shoes that don’t fit, we feel it.
When we are hungry, we feel it. Thirsty, we feel it. If we helped someone move or played in the garden, our bodies let us know that we overdid it with aches in muscles we didn’t even know we had.
When our hormones are shifting, we may not feel it like a muscle ache or thirst or a blister on our heel, but there are consequences on our mood. We need to pay attention to those things, too.
Paying attention is the simplest way to start showing our body love. Taking seriously the little changes that we notice by, at the very least, writing them down when we noticed them. Having a little journal just for our body is a solid investment in loving ourselves. Learning to see the relationship between being thirsty and feeling tired, or eating like crap and feeling like crap is huge and can help us make little changes to love our body more.
I’m not an advice-giver, you know that. But this is important: become friends with your body. Start by paying attention to it.
Point 1: Loving what we see
For a week or so, I have had a song in my head, and I honestly couldn’t figure out why. I mean, for a really old song, it slaps, and I do try to have a dance party to it with my youngest son pretty often. It lends itself to that. But this was not for that.
I would be walking to the car, humming: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot… I’d be doing the dishes. Same. Pink hotel, boutique and a swinging hotspot. Taking the trash down…They took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museum…
Here’s why. I was remembering something that happened a couple years ago.
Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You are going through a box of paperwork that’s been shoved in a corner forever, and when you open it, you find an envelope full of photos.
You know, from back in the day when we used to take our film to Kmart or Walgreens to get it developed, and we used to have to wait a week to get real pictures back.
You open up the envelope. It’s from more than twenty years ago. Closer to thirty years.
In my little example, the photos were a smattering of high school photos.
One photo falls out and you stare at it for a long time.
It’s a picture of you. You aren’t more than sixteen. In this example, you were in your backyard, sunning yourself, as we did back in the nineties. We used to call it “laying out”. Ah yes, it was a much more innocent time!
In this photo you are wearing an absolutely adorable blue gingham two piece swimsuit, one that even had a little bit of that requisite lace on it.
You look amazing. Your skin is tanned and dewy, with that unmistakeable fullness of youth. Your belly looks…well, honestly, it looks hot. You’ve got these pretty thighs and oh! Those hips! Honestly–you are debating – if a genie came to you and said, “you can have those hips back if you give me your firstborn child…” that the trade might be a fair one.
“I never looked like that!” you think. “You silly, silly girl!” you say to the lithe, pretty young thing in the photo. An urge overtakes you. You want to reach into the photo, grab that girl by her pretty round cheeks. “Look at you! Why do you not love your body?”
Because you know exactly what that girl thought of her body. She found fault with every single part of herself. Those cute little thighs, that pretty tummy. She hated them for some very specific reason that escapes you now.
Don’t it always seem to go…
Why weren’t we more appreciative of how young we were, how pretty or how in-shape we were in the moment?
I can tell you why I wasn’t more appreciative: I was comparing myself to what I saw in the teen magazines I read with abandon. I was comparing myself to people who didn’t look anything like me, who had body types that were nothing like mine, not to mention that were probably airbrushed and tinkered with. I was always trying to compare myself to something more perfect.
And you know how I feel about the word PERFECT.
So no matter how young or in-shape or pretty we might have been, what we see in the mirror never pleased us.
This category feels urgent to me, not because of where I am in my journey, but because of where you, that one listener who needs to hear this, where are in your life. You know I don’t like to give advice. I really try not to get preachy. I only have my experience to speak from. But this feels like a moral imperative.
Listen to me very very carefully: You need to start loving your body. Immediately. You need to undertake to fall in love with what you see in the mirror. You need to undertake to trust your body, to know how it works and to love it, no matter what you think it looks like. You need to stop comparing what you see in the mirror with what you see on social media.
Here is why: Your body is going to be with you until your final breath.
There are seasons of your life where your body will be your only ally, your only hint that something isn’t right. Your insomnia, your heart palpitations….those are not simple inconveniences. They are your body, signaling to you that something is going on deep under the surface. You need to trust that your body knows things that you don’t.
Your body is going to change as you grow older. Even if you never have children, there will be changes. After the upheaval that is children, there is the upheaval that is middle age. Then there is the upheaval that is menopause. If you don’t love and trust your body now, then these changes are going to compound the misery.
This is urgent not because of what anyone else: spouse or stranger alike, might think of you. This is for you.
If our self worth is measured according to standards set by others, then we will never measure up.
Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone…
For all the ways that I like to say ‘you need to take care of future you…” by doing things like mise en place, or doing the little things that only take one minute and can feel like you have finally taken a rock out of your shoe…For all those, there is one thing that future you can do for you right now. Let’s time travel a bit. It’s thirty years in the future.
There is this woman who is in her mid seventies. She has white hair, papery thin-skin. Her posture is probably a bit stooped…as a matter of fact, she has probably lost an inch in height in the last thirty years. Getting into shapewear has long been forgotten about. Forget about wearing heels! They are sensible orthopedic shoes for her. Her sunspotted hands might be arthritic, and stylish sunglasses have given way to those wrap around driving sunglasses.
One of her children brings a tablet to the house one day, and together, they look up the woman’s old social media accounts from thirty years ago. Just for fun.
And the woman studies a photo of herself. And she shakes her head, (or maybe it’s just the Parkinsons…it can be hard to tell…) And she whispers to the woman in the photo on that ancient social media account, “Why did you not love your body?”
Future you is looking back through time at you. She is telling you that there is no day like today to fall in love with what you see in the mirror.
Body image starts in our thoughts.
You’ve lived enough life by now to know that Tempus Fugit– time flies. The ways that we talk negatively to ourselves will never get better on their own. We need to actively make steps towards changing our internal monologue. We need to reject the unwelcome, harmful thoughts that find us comparing ourselves to others.
Point 2: Changing our internal monologue
Fair enough, Lily Fields. I want to change my thoughts about this. But how?
Oh, I have tons of ideas. But on this particular topic, I have one easy to accomplish idea and one much more difficult idea.
I have had a certain number of ups and downs with my body size throughout my life. I know how it feels to despise what I see in the mirror because this was my go-to opinion on the matter until I had babies. What I have hated the most though, through all these changes is when I have a closet full of clothes that I can’t wear because they don’t fit and haven’t for years.
We keep things around for so, so many reasons, and we’ll talk about that next season when we start talking more in depth about how our wardrobes a are mirror for our what’s going on in our hearts.
But may I only offer this small suggestion, as one small investment in loving your body? Do not keep around clothing in ‘aspirational’ sizes. If something does not fit, do not keep it around. These subtle reminders create comparisons in our minds, in regards to our former selves that are not useful. If something no longer fits, remove it from your sight. Rehome it. Donate it. Put it in a bin in the basement. Get it out of your sight so you don’t find yourself subconsciously comparing yourself negatively to former you every single time you go to get dressed.
There is a second suggestion I can make, and naturally, it is inspired by my Gigi.
I’ve told you about Gigi, my smoking hot grandma? Well…Gigi was a redhead. And I mean, a flaming hot redhead. Gigi had the freckled skin to go with her red hair.
It’s too bad that in the amazing collection of photographs that I have seen of her, there is only one that shows her natural hair color. She was stunning.
Although Gigi had liked being a redhead, she transitioned, once her hair started to go gray at some point, and started dyeing her hair platinum blond. Then, later, she went natural, to an absolutely amazing snow white.
One thing that Gigi hated, however, were her freckles.
I heard about all kinds of methods Gigi tried to get rid of her freckles, none of which worked, of course. For all this rabid dislike of her freckles, Gigi managed to create in me an insecurity about my looks. While I wasn’t a natural redhead like she was, it only takes about three minutes in the springtime sunshine for huge freckles to appear on my forehead and around my eyes.
They disappear as quickly as they come out, at least early in the season. But they were always so humiliating to me. I saw them with Gigi’s eyes, because well, Gigi was really the only person I had ever heard talk about freckles.
The way we talk about our bodies, you see, isn’t just harmful to us. It is harmful to the little people who hear us talk about our bodies.
While I choose to believe we would never intentionally impart our insecurities on the young people in our entourage, we can do it unintentionally. And you don’t want to do that, do you?
My mother always said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Well, may I humbly suggest that this is doubly true when we are talking about our bodies. It is better to say nothing than to say something that might be a millstone around someone else’s neck.
Body talk is a sensitive thing. Please, for your sake and the sake of those around you, be watchful of what you say.
Point 3: Falling in love our bodies
So those first two ideas: that we need to fall in love with and stop speaking harshly about our bodies, are that first part of this category–the Body Positivity, or Body Acceptance aspect of our category.
There is another aspect to this, too. It is simply the subject of our health.
Our health is such a mishmosh of factors: Things we cannot control, like genetics, environment, communicable diseases, our monthly cycles.
But there are a certain number of things we can control, things that go back to Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. We need to breathe. We need sleep. We need to eat. We need hydration. We need movement.
I would argue that our ability to manage these needs is something that we should take very, very seriously. With so much being out of our control, we really should at least be serious about those basic needs.
What’s great about those things is that they are relatively easy to keep track of. Even…our monthly cycles are easy to keep track of. As a matter of fact, a while back on the blog I wrote a few articles that I’ll link to in the show notes about the building blocks of women’s health, and tracking our periods is one of the biggies.
Keeping track means that we can set goals to improve in the ways where we are lacking. And this can help us make better decisions for ourselves.
When it comes to our bodies, each one of us is painfully aware of the decisions that we make that are not good for it.
Your Wicked Stepsister, LiElla, is here. She has a few things to say about our health and our bodies.
LiElla, the floor is yours.
The Wicked Stepsister: Sleeping with the enemy
Thank you, Lily, for that introduction. I am going to continue the theme of bodies but first I need to explain just a tiny bit how excited I have been about the topic of curiosity. I feel like curiosity and asking questions is such a powerful tool that we just don’t utilize enough. And I have been so excited about it that I even have a new mascot for my love of curiosity. We will be talking about him in a future episode. For now, I’ll tell you that his name is Harecule Peroit and he is a mustachioed rabbit. But that is for another day. Bodies are our topic for today and originally this slant on the topic came into my consciousness during a webinar I was in about sexuality and dying. I am not going there but…close.
If we have control over just one thing, shouldn’t it be ourselves, our own bodies? We all desire to feel safe in our own bodies. But what if that isn’t the case? What if your body has become the enemy? What if your body is no longer a safe place?
In his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk writes:
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves…Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.”
So back to that idea of not feeling safe in our own bodies. Here’s a hypothetical of what I’m talking about. Imagine if you will, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. She is treated aggressively. Her hair falls out. Her body is scarred by mastectomy. She’s been poked, prodded, tested, scanned. She grows numb to the seemingly endless medical procedures as if it’s not even her body anymore. She looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognize the figure in the reflection. She finds it difficult to reconcile the person she is, or used to be, with the body that she’s currently living in. It becomes easy to separate emotionally from that battered body.
Terminal illness, injury, abuse, trauma, even the aging process…all of these things may lead to us separating ourselves emotionally from our bodies. We could become scared of our own bodies. Fear doesn’t encourage curiosity. Fear dampens curiosity. When we are scared, we fight, we run or we freeze. No time for curiosity.
Way back, around the year 400, Augustine of Hippo made this observation, “People go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
Augustine pointed out our default mechanism. Avoidance. Avoid pain at all costs. Focus on anything else, anyone else. Detach yourself. Numb yourself. Stop being curious. Yes, those are options when we face painful circumstances, but in all my death doula-ness, I’m going to suggest another way. Remember the ideal life exercises and my alternative ideal death exercise? The purpose of those exercises is to encourage curiosity, to encourage engagement with your life, whatever your life is handing you at this moment. Get curious about yourself. Take time to observe what you’re feeling physically and emotionally. What is happening in the person sized world you live in? What makes you feel safe? What makes you feel unsafe? How do those feelings impact your actions? How does what you’re feeling influence how you interact with others? What’s working? What isn’t working? Which things are fixed and unchangeable? Which things can you adjust?
But a word of warning, don’t confuse curiosity with intrusion. Intrusion is unwelcome and prying, more like an interrogation. Whereas, curiosity is explorative, gentle. If you are living in a body that sometimes feels like the enemy, show yourself the simple kindness of listening to what your body is telling you. Be gentle with yourself. Show yourself compassion and stay curious.
Thank you, LiElla. You’ll find links to more of LiElla’s work in the show notes!
So, now, to wrap up this of our first topic in our Ideal Life Exercise, I want you to consider those four questions;
First, What is working? What, in terms of your health or your body image, is going well right now? It can be something simple, like “I slept three nights without waking up!” Celebrate that little success!
Second, what isn’t working? This often doesn’t take much thought. When things aren’t going well, they tend to be irritations that are right near the surface. Just make note of it.
Third, what do I need to think about? Maybe a conversation about a period tracking app got you wondering if you should try it out. Maybe you read something about how much water you should be drinking. Maybe you need to find ways to improve your sleep hygiene because you are tired all the time.
And lastly, what can I do today to improve this area of my life? Do you know what one thing I did the last time I covered this category? I downloaded a baby sleep tracker app, the kind I used to use when my children were babies. Only…this go round, I am using it to track my own sleep. You see, only with hard data about my actual sleep habits can I figure out how to improve my sleep hygiene.
By committing to doing one teeny tiny little thing, we are making progress towards our Ideal Life. And remember, we want progres, not perfection.
So I promised you a little surprise at the end of this episode. The next time you are having negative thoughts about your body, I want you to imagine your fairy godmother in Wonderland, bopping it out to this song. Stick around. It’ll play at the end.
I would love to hear from you, hear how you are doing on your Ideal Life Exercises. You can reach out to me by email, email@example.com, or on social media, @lilyfieldschallenge on Instagram. You can also follow the show on Instagram or Facebook, @singwithyourfeet.
I want to give a great big thank you to Seven Production in Mulhouse France for the use of the song, “La Joie” as the intro and outro to the show, and another special thank you to Matt Kugler for his vocal stylings.
Well, this is your fairy godmother signing off. I just want you to remember, it is never too late to start singing with your feet.
Episode 15 Talking Points: The Ideal Life Exercise–those precious fifteen minutes and four questions that will help you make progress; Lily takes you on a ride in a time machine; If you can’t say something nice…; Curiosity as the antithesis to fear.
LiElla will be hosting an online Death Café on April 30, 2022. This is a safe space for those who are curious about End-of-Life issues or have down-to-brass-tacks questions. You can ask LiElla anything death related, and she will, without judgment, give you an answer if there is one to be had! Lily will be attending, too. We’ll get you the Zoom meeting link as soon as it becomes available.
LiElla’s Death Doula work can be found here: https://leavingwellmt.com/
To read more from Lily about the importance of tracking our periods and some ideas for keeping on top of the trackable, measurable aspects of our health, try here.
More from Bessel Van Der Kolk, the neuroscience research LiElla quoted can be found here.
A great big merci to the marvelous Matt Kugler for his stylings on the ukelele version of Big Yellow Taxi, and for making us sound so nice. That was fun. Let’s do it again sometime!
That little one-minute version of Big Yellow Taxi can be found here, as a special bonus for podcast listeners: https://youtu.be/dwEH4cGiAC0 Listen to it when you are feeling down about your bodies. Remember to dance.
As always, I want to give a great big thank you to Seven Production in Mulhouse France for the use of the song, “La Joie” as the intro and outro to the show.