Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
When I say that it feels like something I know.
It’s also something that I can forget to put into practice.
When I realize that I’ve forgotten this and that I’m not practicing this lesson it’s often unpleasant. The reminders can be unpleasant to me.
This post was inspired by me standing in my closet looking at a bikini. I loved the bikini. I didn’t wear the bikini. Why? Mostly because I thought my body wasn’t good enough. This is the story of me realizing I might never wear the bikini unless I just decided to wear the damn bikini.
That’s not the whole story.
How did I get there?
How did I get to a point where I was standing in a closet pondering deep thoughts about life and bikinis?
I got there because a woman I knew had a tragic bike accident.
This is one of the saddest stories I know and it’s not really all the way mine to tell. I’ll sharing enough that you can understand the impact of what happened.
To understand this story it’s helpful to know that I have a hobby of triathlon which includes riding a bicycle on the roads. I have many friends who share this hobby.
The short version of this story is that one day she went out for a bike ride and she experienced a brain injury that she never recovered from.
Here’s the longer version of this story.
This person is an acquaintance. She’s not a close friend and I say that here because the people who were her close friends deserve that respect. What happened had a profound impact on me and surely even more on those who were even closer to her.
I had known her within my friend circle for about 8-10 years. She’s a little older than me and we had the same hobby of long-course triathlon called Ironman.
We swam together pretty regularly on Fridays before lunch and we would chat about families and her goal to complete a few more races and get to “Kona.”
Her kids were grown and life was good. She had a wonderful life and with her adult kids she was looking forward to doing many of the things she had postponed while raising her family.
Then her husband got sick. Very sick with multiple cancers and sadly the prognosis wasn’t good. In fact, after several treatment attempts the prognosis was most likely terminal.
Training became her personal refuge from the rigor of his treatments. She still enjoyed it but our conversation shifted some and we would talk about her maybe just taking a family trip to Hawaii to enjoy the time without all the pressure or delay of training and racing.
She struggled with how to feel about this time she spent on her passion but overall she was still working toward her future goals. Many things in her family were being scheduled early because of her husbands disease prognosis. She was busy planning a wedding and helping a daughter move after a graduation.
She was the healthy one and he was the sick one.
Then one day on a training ride with one friend. Something happened that she never recovered from. The exact details are still a little bit unclear. She either experienced a medical incident that caused her to fall or she fell which causes a brain injury and went into a coma and never fully recovered.
While she was in the hospital recovering her husband died.
Once her husband died her insurance was cancelled and she was pulled from the hospital and sent home.
She attended her husband’s funeral with an aid and her kids in a wheelchair. Many friends of the family attended too. I was there. I was not sure if she was aware of what was happening or understood the loss of her husband. Honestly I’m not sure if it would be better to understand or a blessing to be unaware.
After about a year I lost touch but as far as I know she never regained her ability to speak or awareness of what was happening around her.
This was a series of events that unfolded before me.
None of this happened to me.
It was at the time crystal clear (as it sometimes is), that tomorrow is not guaranteed.
Then one day after visiting my friend in the hospital I was in my closet and looking at the bikini and I just realized that if I wanted to wear the bikini — I just need to wear the damn bikini.
Why wasn’t I wearing the bikini?
Why did I buy it if I wasn’t going to wear it?
What was I worried about?
At least one of my friends experienced something similar — a friend messaged me that she was using her “nice” bag that she had been saving for some unnamed special event in the closet.
Another friend booked the trip that she and her husband had been waiting to do. They just up and went instead of waiting.
Why is this so tough to do?
What gets in the way of allowing us to enjoy the here and now?
So what’s in your life that you are putting off ?
Once you discover these things what do you actually do to move forward?
For me it was a process of learning to observe my thoughts and figure out which were mine and which were interlopers from society or just other people’s opinions.
Then allowing myself to question these thoughts instead of just believing them because they were … you know … there.
And practicing doing things that were for pleasure … for me.
So why wasn’t wearing the bikini?
So why didn’t I just wear the bikini?
I’ll share with you the thoughts that were in my mind at the time. Thoughts that had been there since puberty pretty much.
The thought was that there was a certain body type that belonged in a bikini and all others did not. That my body had been bikini ready before I had my kids but that my mom-bod was not okay in a bikini.
Because other people would see me and see that I didn’t have a flat belly. I have a belly that grew humans inside it. I have loose skin and stretch marks.
In other words I’m human. I’m imperfect.
Yup. I wasn’t wearing a bikini because of what I thought other people would think about my body.
And that … frankly … is bullshit.
I wore the bikini to swim practice.
Nobody said anything.
We were there to swim.
If anybody had thoughts about my belly they kept them to themselves.
It took me a few years to get all the way from keeping the bikini unworn in my drawer to embracing the thought that other peoples thoughts about my body were bullshit that didn’t belong in my mind.
I’m not saying that you should wear a bikini unless you want to.
It’s not actually about the bikini.
It is a real story – about my bikini but for you the bikini could represent something totally different.
It’s about self-compassion, self-love, confidence, independence and all that fun stuff.
It seems like a simple thing. Buy the bikini and wear the bikini.
But here’s a question. Why do you buy the clothes you buy?
Do you like them?
Do you hope that other people like them?
I bet you do.
Do you look closely to see how your shape will appear to others in the clothes?
I bet you do.
Because most of us do this.
What’s the option?
Well there is an option to accept that the human body comes in all shapes and sizes.
To accept that the size and shape of our body is not a reflection of our internal character or morality. That clothes are functional items to protect us from the elements around us. That other people don’t get to decide what we wear.
That the only opinions that matter about our appearance are ours alone.
How does that feel?
A little weird?
From the very first time somebody says … oh that looks nice on you we train ourselves to think that what we wear and how we look is for other people to decide. We train ourselves to judge ourselves based on what other people will think of us based on our shape and our clothes.
And sometimes this goes to the point where we say … oh I can’t wear that bikini because my body is the wrong shape.
And that stinks.
Because we deny ourselves our own joy and comfort on the basis of another person’s judgement of us.
When this happens we allow the idea of somebody else’s thoughts to make us feel smaller. We shut ourselves down even just the tiniest bit. We don’t allow ourselves to experience a part of life because we think our very human shape is wrong based on another person’s thoughts.
I want you to take a second and think about the things you don’t do because you feel you shouldn’t because your body is the wrong shape?
Wear a bikini in public.
Go to the beach at all.
Go to a public place.
Be in photos with your children.
Be on camera for your business.
Try something you don’t know how to do?
This also shows up in other places. What about your body do you try to change or alter because you think you need to. Do you squeeze yourself into spanks to cover up your natural shape? Do you wear a push up bra to hold up your boobs? Do you color your hair to cover up greys. Do you inject botox or fillers to hide wrinkles?
You may hear yourself saying something like – but I like the way I look when I color my hair.
Just one word of caution. The process of getting other people’s thoughts out of your head isn’t instantaneous.
Is it really your thought … or are you doing this because you have somebody else’s thought bouncing around in your brain causing you to judge yourself based on an idea of a version of yourself that you think they prefer?
So, back to the bikini in my drawer.
I wore it that day to my swim practice.
I felt very self conscious and nervous. Here’s the big thing …nobody else said a damn thing to me.
I got in the water. I swam my workout. Nobody else gave a flying fig. It was all in my head. The only person ever stopping me from wearing the bikini was me.
All of the events that I talk in this post actually happened several years ago. I have had a draft of this in my docs for a long time and I waited to hit publish. For all the same kind of reasons that I resisted wearing the bikini.
I’m not perfect. I am always trying to improve.
If you want help with this. Here’s where you can get information about working with me.