ARTWORK BY RENEE CALWAY
All people experience objectification at some point in their lives, not just female-bodies or female-identifying people. It is important to recognize and be true to ourselves for our own unique brilliance, and to honor all others. Attempt to keep someone close to you because they are different, not because they are the same as you. Our differences come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but we don’t just wear them on the outside. Our difference decorate our insides, too.
I am not just a strong, attractive body that can outperform most. I have emotions, too. I feel pressured by society to hide them and many of my experiences only reaffirm this. When I shut down I can be very cold, but when my emotions are nurtured by positive reenforcement, I feel comfortable to open up and be my true self.
I am often looked to for stability and grounding, even when those qualities are vacant in my own life. I find reservoirs of energy I didn’t know were there. Traditional school did not work for me, however I have brilliant mind. I am a complex thinker and infinite library of information. It is important to be both selfless and selfish. It is important to live for yourself and work for yourself. If you take care of your needs, it is easier to take care of others.
We all have the ability to give power to whatever we respect, pay attention to and talk about. If we can respect our bodies, minds, hearts and souls, we are literally giving ourselves power.
I never really understood what people meant when they said “be kind to your body” but seeing myself from this perspective has been like taking off lenses of judgment. I think we all observe ourselves more harshly than we do others, and the body more so than our mind and emotions. It’s easy to overlook and take for granted the strength and beauty of our physical form- especially for women, and especially in a time where women’s bodies are treated as if they belong to the world and not to the incredible person that lives within. This form is a vessel to a human being. One who tries so hard to be genuine with those around her, one who often worries too much about what people think, one who is ambitious and feisty, and who struggles daily with anxiety and depression. This body has danced and climbed mountains, and needs to sing like she needs to drink water. This body has housed heartbreak and pain and has felt like bursting with happiness in the arms of love. All of this and so much more my body has carried with her and she has fluctuated, and grown, and morphed over time to reflect the different seasons of my life. I have not always been gentle with her, and I have not always put her first, but she has persisted just waiting for the day I will see her through a lense of grace and kindness. Looking at her now feels like the page has turned on a new chapter- the one where I will honor my body and the beautiful woman it is home to.
I am not simply a creation of lines and curves to please someone’s view.. Though I am grateful for my body, which has carried me through life’s trials and tribulations, I am not just an empty shell. I am not just a side boob and silhouette, I am not just an object to admire, and I am not just a professional.
I am a leader with innovative ideas. I guide others through major life choices and decisions. I lead organizations to success through communication and development. I have a great mind for navigating difficult oceans. I have an expansive and beautiful mind.
I am very fragile like a flower and fragile like a bomb. My heart is so big I feel like I could solve all problems with love and understanding. I love and have faith in God. I love dogs, flowers and documentaries. I have a hard time understanding why people do not operate with love, give each other grace, or treat each other with human decency. I do not understand societal polarization.
I am intense, sharp but soft like a feather. continuously searching for the next accomplishment to no final goal. I recognize that my intuition has a continuous drum beating in my soul - keeping my foundational rhythm to move through life.
For most of my life, my identity was wrapped around what my body could do. “I’m a swimmer. I’m a runner. I climb mountains.” In the past 5 years, my body has begun to fail each of those identities. Specifically my feet and my knees have taken part of that identity away. I no longer can run. Climbing mountains proved to be dangerous to other parts of my body (fractured shoulder). What has that left me? My hands.
All along, I have made art and am fortunate enough to still be able to express my soul through the work of my hands. “I’m an artist.”
My MIND is intrigued by puzzles. How to take a simple household object and render it into a beautiful, thought-provoking object for others to ponder. My HEART is full of love and concern for this world of ours. It seeks to promote healing, understanding and love among others. To affect the trajectory of humanity is a positive way, one person at a time. My SOUL is a seeker. It is connected to the thread of all who came before and all who will come after; we are all one.
What's on your mind? If you had the actual time to listen, I would share but since you've taken a snap shot of my exterior and formulated a narrative that probably has nothing to do with the heart of who I am. I will simply say, "oh nothing much, just thinking about the weather..."
What's on your heart? I used to ask this question all the time to people I entrust, and found that my heart was being exchanged to those whom I entrust as kindreds. My heart is overflowing with good things, again I say my heart is overflowing with good things. Connection with people, the sweet song on the radio that stirs nostalgia, the timeless sunsets, my heart is overflowing with good things.
My soul, my soul is steady...okay not consistently steady, those that know me well know that at times my exterior is stable but my core, my soul is shaken. My soul is shaken when ideals are cemented as truth, my soul is shaken when hatred seems to be the consistent noise coming from mega phones. But today my soul is steady, because I'm not fixed on the imperfections of humanity, but the hope that there's better.
My exterior is just a portion of what I bring to the table, my heart is ready to love, my mind is ready to engage and my soul is full of peace.
I am many things- a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, athlete and educated. But of all the amazing things I am, confident is not one of them. My mind plays tricks, I see the marks, errors, bumps and in the mirror. This view of my physical body comes from years as a young woman who struggled to maintain the weight of my postpartum body, post High School athlete body. Counting calories, sweating for hours, going hungry all while raising two little boys and I was never thin enough, never pretty enough, never lean enough, never enough. I valued my worth on the number on the scale, the size of my pants- not the achievements I made in my personal, education and professional life.
Participating a body cast model scared me, made me sick and nervous. How could I expose the scars, the cellulite, the imperfections to a near stranger, and worse to my co-workers. But seeing my body through the eyes of an artist, the curves and shapes it made, the lines I realized that my body was more than the imperfections. My body carried my 70.3 miles to complete a triathlon, birthed two children, and has supported my family as we move across states and oceans following Nav orders. I am more than the stretch marks from boring children, the scars from adventures. I am strong, I am smart and I am loved not because of what I look like but because of who I am.
I am more than just a great pair of legs. I am more than the art that covers my body. My legs are strong, long, and beautiful. They support me. They are a reflection of only part of me though.
My mind is a very interesting place, usually very fun and loving. Sometimes it can be harsh, over analytical, and overwhelmed with emotion. It is curious, open, and creative. My mind has overcome so much and is much stronger than I give it credit.
My heart is so big I feel like it could hold multiple galaxies and still have room. I love love and all the ways love is expressed. I am so grateful for all the love in my life. I am so grateful to have that love for myself and others and how I see the world. Finding love for myself for me has been the most powerful experience. Love for yourself grows the love in your universe exponentially.
My soul is of the divine. Being named after a goddess I have had perhaps an easier time than others tapping into my inner light. Though I have had to learn not to give all my light away so I can remember I am the light. I have a wandering soul, wanting to experience all that it can. I have always known I'm a magical being, tapping into that when I align with my truest self. Hungry for knowledge and experiences this life has so much beauty.
My legs are where I am most heavily tattooed. I wear my tattoos as both armor and an invitation. Sometimes to remind me of all that I've overcome, both my mental and physical strength. Other times to share the gift that I am, things that bring me joy, a way to connect and ground.
When I first agreed to be body casted by Renée Calway I was unaware of the art exhibit she was creating or the meaning behind it. As we discussed her exhibit and the movement behind it, the more inquiries and curiosities I developed. I listened to Sibel Galindez’s podcast referring to “It Happened One Night” as well as the “200 year narrative” and it sparked a lot of questions.
I was asked to answer a simple question along with my mold. “What do you want people to know about your mind, heart, soul, and body?” but the question suddenly didn’t seem so simple to answer. I realized I’ve never been asked such a questioned and to even answer seemed foreign to me.
As the deadline approached for my response, I reached out to my mother. The conversation that sparked between us was not only educational but more powerful that I ever imagined.
My grandmother was born in 1934. She was a single mother of two girls, independent, educated, and accomplished. Her accomplishments were significant and notable; but not just because she was a women but for the impact and change that she created in her lifetime. My grandmother was ahead of her time and planted that seed of independence and passion into her daughters. My mother who was born in 1958 accomplishing more than her peers or counterparts in education, art, and career. My mother continued this particular narrative by passing these attributes along to her own four children.
I realized the reference Sibel Galindez made about the “200 year narrative” was evident in my own life. Although I was born in 1984, the person that I am today started with the narrative that my grandmother passed down who was born 50 years before me.
In conclusion to finally answer that “simple” question:
My mind, heart, and soul are all intertwined as one. Who I am is endless and adaptive. My deepest desire is to leave an impact on the lives of every individual that I intersect. We are all important and leave a lasting impression on those around us. We can create more than we destroy.
My mind is seeking and searching, all the time… For ways to simplify what is complex… To break things down into their simpler components… To analyze, understand and fix. My mind seeks to understand and searches for how to make it better. What are the basic parts? How can they be changed to make it better? While working to try and simplify, most days my mind is a tangled, complicated web of its own. I must work to keep it clear of self-doubt. I must work to keep it focused on one thing at a time. I must work at making it work. And yet, I am confident in it, my mind. I am grateful for it and the way it functions. My mind is strong and I am proud of where it has brought me so far in this life.
My heart, my emotional self, is up down and all around all the time. It is so full of love, so full of pride, so full of joy, so boundlessly filled-up by family... My family, and the Human family. My heart fights with my mind. The love, pride, joy and all other feelings get tied-up and twisted with my mind’s tendency to try and fix things… to sometimes over-simplify. My heart is sometimes stuffed down and greyed-out by my thoughts… The over-time work of my mind. My heart is beautifully bound by matriarchs of the past, motherhood, wifehood, partnership, friendship and citizenship.
My soul is not something I really understand yet. How is it separate from my mind and my heart? - I don’t really know. Together, they are my soul. They are Me... Carried through this life within my body. I’m not sure I can really know or understand my soul, until the time comes for it to stand-alone and separate from my body. For now, they are intertwined and bound together. And so, I must care for and love my body- the vessel for this heart, mind and soul.
When I think about different “trends” pertaining to women’s bodies, there is always one thing that has stayed consistent. The perfect body type always has a skinny waist, and a flat stomach. This has always been a big insecurity for me, and many others I know. But the truth is it’s not always healthy to fulfill those “perfect” bodies. Everyone needs to learn how to feel strong and empowered in their own bodies and a place like the belly really represents the need to be perfect.
My body is not something anyone can dissemble and objectify. It is something I was born with and would never want to change. It is unique and carries my mind. Which is full of many deep thoughts and creative ideas. It has gotten me through school with straight A’s and an associates degree. It also holds my passions which motivate me to succeed no matter what the circumstance. I am not afraid to speak my thoughts and refused to be shushed by anyone.
My heart is full of love for the people around me. I always wish the best for anyone I meet and although I can be blunt and my love seems tough, it is given out with care and concern for my loved ones well being.
I am one to have many questions for many subjects. I am always searching for the truth and constantly want to learn new things. I am who I am and my soul shows that I am a complex human being with many thoughts and feelings in which some are exclusive to me. And even when I pass, my soul, and who I am in essence will be remembered by the ones I love.
My mind is curious. It wonders and is adventurous. It wants to play and be creative.
My heart is soft and strong. It is giving and loves to love. It drives me and makes me brave.
My soul is free. It connects me to the world and the people around me and is fed by the love and passion that surrounds me
Mind? I love to learn new things and love that feeling of a light bulb going off when that knowledge clicks. I am strong willed and powerful. I watched my mother as a child become very codependent and I promised myself I would never allow that to happen, so anything and everything I knew I had to do I made sure it happened. If I had to work three jobs, then by all means, I did. It really didn't matter if I was tired, sick, sad, or mad I knew I had to work and have a household. I had my daughter at a young age and never really had any help except from a few people I knew as friends at the time in my life and I was grateful for that. There were a lot of nights I thought I couldn't do it on my own because friends can only help at certain times, but thinking about my kiddo and her love kept me going. I knew I had to stay, to show her how to be as strong myself. I see that in her and her independence as an adult now.
Heart? My heart beats because of my daughter, She is the reason I am alive. I feel like she came in to my life when she did to save me from so much and I am grateful for that. The passion I put into my paintings comes from my heart; whether its pain, joy, happiness or sadness. You can see the emotion in the colors I use and the designs I have completed. I love to see that I helped create someone’s smile or memorable moments through music, which is my heart’s passion, makes me smile the most and fills my heart almost full. My heart is completely full when I get to share time with my phamily. They are the ones I have elected as family.
Soul? My soul will carry on for eternity. It has dance in it with colorful wings that spread and soar high. It leads me on a path only I can follow and become. Music is in my soul and keeps it moving and dancing through this crazy time in my journey. I can only trust that it knows whats best.
Though I am grateful for my body, which has brought three beautiful children into this world, I am not just a womb and a birth canal. I am not just a booty and legs. I am not just an object to behold and I am not just a mother.
I am an artist with creative solutions. I graduated with a 4.0 when I earned my BA. I have a great mind for teaching all ages and a wide variety of subjects. I have an unusual and analytical mind.
I am a very complex and emotional lover. My heart is so big I feel like I could fit a billion Earth’s inside of it. I love and believe in people. I love animals and nature. I have a hard time understanding why more people can not feel the potential for love to heal the problems on our planet. I do not understand societal norms of dating or marriage.
I am a wandering wind, constantly asking questions to which I accept no definite answer. I recognize that my spirit has a relationship with eternity. My intuition knows that my soul is connected to everything, material and ethereal. I can not be limited by this physical experience.
My boobs are not just for someone to hold or grab. Behind them is a heart that gets overlooked, unseen, and invalidated. Although I love my body, I am not always kind to her. My mind has many curves to it like my skin. I'm multifaceted and see the world from a thousand perspectives. Seeing the world through many eyes may make me more openminded but I have the downfall of being empathic towards my abusers because of it. Regardless that it can come to my demise, I believe it to be one of my most beautiful attributes. Being empathic towards others has let me create deeper connections and interactions with other people. I think my gift is finding beauty in pain and being able to see that beauty in others even in a hurt place. However, I have gotten to a place in my life now that I realize my life is about me, not about being a rehabilitation center for someone else. I will always have an open heart, but now I have found the strength to set boundaries to protect the chest that holds it.
I wish the world saw me as I see myself: a human being in woman form, capable of sustaining life within me and outside of me, to be cherished, nourished and honored for that miracle like the queen bee rather than used and abused like the milk cow.
I wish the mall security guard who ordered me to feed my baby in the bathroom...
and the older man who leered at me while I fed my baby with my exposed breast...
and my mother who encouraged me to cover up in front of the leering man...
and the other women with babies of the same age who shared that they hid themselves while breastfeeding...
saw me as a fellow human being, hurting & scared, vulnerable & sleep deprived, overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of caring for another human being, desiring only to be supported in that moment. I wish they had offered me a seat, a glass of water, and a kind word— You are doing a great job and have nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t isolate and hide yourself. Feeding your baby from your breast is a miracle to be treasured and respected by all humanity for the awesome power it is.
Nothing is more painful than having your biggest insecurity thrown directly in your face.
The following is a TRUE STORY:
After a particularly trying day at work, I decided to have a weeknight drink at a local dive bar. I got my Vodka Sprite (two limes) and looked around to find a place to perch. A stranger patted the seat beside him; I smiled and walked over to engage in some polite small talk.
He thought he should share that he could tell my age by the sagging chin and thinning hairline.
OUCH. DIRECT HIT. YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP.
My profile. I hate it. I have a pretty face, but when you see my profile, ugh. A saggy chin bulge that no matter how thin I get, this family trait will always be there. Every female on my maternal side has been cursed with this profile destroying sag. What would you do if a stranger hit you with your biggest insecurity?
Be honest with yourself.
So what did I do?
N O T H I N G. I took the hit and kept going. That’s how I cope.
This shallow stranger managed to find my achilles heel in a matter of seconds. But really the biggest cruelty was done to himself.
He missed out on getting to know the intelligent, insanely creative, funny AF, kind- hearted, generous-minded, loving soul that sat next to him. Despite enduring many years of trauma and hurt, and jerks hurling insults at me, I somehow manage to keep my heart soft. How, you ask? I don’t know. That’s just how God made me. A weeble-wobble reinforced with rebar. You CAN’T knock me down.
Does that mean that I don’t get hurt by others' words? F*#K NO. Everyword stings like a lil’ lemon-pepper sauce right in the eye.
Here’s what takes the sting out for me. There is something broken in them that makes them act that way. It’s actually NOT about me. They need sympathy, because really, they are the ones who are suffering the most.
ADVICE FROM A WEEBLE - WOBBLE
- Never judge a person until you have walked in their shoes, to their house and eaten dinner with their parents.
- Be kind. Every person you meet has a struggle inside you can’t see.
- Your smile could be the only thing that gets a stranger through the day. Wear it often.
I am a whole being-- body, mind, heart and soul intricately and delicately woven together. I am elements of the universe-- oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphor-- forming threads of cells stitched together with the breath of life, the source of all eternal oneness. I am you and you are me. One part of my being cannot be differentiated from the other, nor eternity.
I am intensely curious and have the ability to see how global changes affect me and my neighbor-- human, animal and plant. I love to think and debate, and collectively think some more. I believe if you can imagine it, you can create it.
Loving comes naturally to me as I am lucky to have been loved tenderly and respectfully from the day I was born. I lead with an open heart and mind so the sting of rejection, hate and anger strikes me hard. At times I am judgemental because I believe in what I call True North. Yet I strive to forgive just as I have been forgiven by those who I love and respect.
I am both a leader and a good teammate, and try always to be a good friend to myself and others.
I am an artist and an activist and have lived my life in chapters to include academia, single life & career, married life, motherhood and caregiver of & advocate for my aging parents. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the varying facets of my life and feel that one dimension is sacrificed for another. I am always that child singing and dancing amongst the trees and flowers, looking up at the sky with love and wonder, hoping my song reaches someone in the universe.