In Boticelli’s iconic painting, a nude woman stands in the middle of the sea, elegantly poised on an upturned seashell. Her long red hair flows behind and around her and you can almost taste the saltwater on the breeze. The length of her mane provides function as well as splendor as she attempts some model of decorum.
This is the Renaissance painter’s interpretation of the goddess Venus, she of love, beauty, and sex. Given that Boticelli was Italian, he naturally went with her Roman name, although in the Greek tradition she is known as Aphrodite. According to one interpretation of the myth, Venus emerged from the sea in the form of a fully grown woman.
That is sort of what it feels like these days.
I have become unrecognizable. Or at least that’s what friends said when I posted this on Facebook. I hear it from co-workers, too: the picture on the left is what I looked like when I started my job two years ago, but if shown this picture they all tell me they don’t ever remember me looking like that. Students will see my very outdated staff picture in the hallway and ask if that really is me.
Truthfully, even I feel a complete disconnect to the picture on the left and the way I used to be. I have to force myself to remember that, yes, I used to weigh a hell of a lot more and used to be really, really fucking lazy and binge eat and was, let’s face it, slowly killing myself.
Lately I find myself reading a lot of Agatha Christie and every so often, as most murder mystery authors do, she’ll introduce a character, be it suspect or victim, who seems to have just sort of appeared one day. No history, no past. No ties or connections, it’s like moving through life as a phantom. When I first went away to college or moved to Kentucky, I thought Nobody knows me here. I can be whoever I want to be.
That. It’s like that. Although these days, when I meet someone new, it’s more of a I can be the runner and yogi and healthy eater and nobody has to know how lazy and sedentary I was or how poor my eating habits were or the fact that I used to weigh over 300 pounds.
Of course, people do know me. Friends and family (and readers!) who have supported me through this nearly two-year journey, but even they have a hard time remembering what I used to look like, used to be like. The transformation was slow. It took time and work. It took sacrifice. And even now I still sometimes slip up.
But with it comes surprise and gratitude and a new appreciation for my body, both where it has been and how far it has come. The other day I was thinking about how I’m very quickly coming up on my one year yogaversary. On the one hand, it feels like yesterday I walked into my first Ashtanga class at The Studio and met Jessica. On the other hand, yoga has had such a profound effect on both my life and body that I can’t remember a time when I didn’t practice.
I think C.S. Lewis said it best: Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.
As it happens, the whole springing forth full form thing is common in mythology. Athena (in the Greek, Minerva in the Roman) was said to have, well, popped out of Zeus’ head. True story. (Or, well, mythological story, but you know what I mean.)
The Goddess of Beauty and the Goddess of War. That sounds about right.
Anyone else familiar with this experience? Where all of a sudden it’s like you’re a completely new person one day and can’t really remember the old you?
Love from the ashes,