Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Monthly Archives: August 2019

No Reasons Given

I’ve had my body judged my whole life.

“You’re so short.”

“You’re too thin.”

“Isn’t it time you lost the baby weight?”

“You’ve really put on a lot of weight.”

“I see you’ve been enjoying your groceries.”

“If you gain any more weight is that ring still going to fit?”

“Fat bitch.”

“Skinny bitch.”

Every time I’d hear a negative comment about my body, the same thing would happen: my face would flush with shame that I didn’t measure up to whoever was making the comment’s yard stick of how I should look, my shoulders would slump, I’d avoid eye contact, my heart would hurt, I’d be fighting tears, and I’d apologize or explain why my body was. On the rare occasion I was feeling brave, I’d cut the other person down with my words.

Three years ago, I had apologized to a new friend about how my body looked, even though they had actually just complimented me on how great my legs looked. They looked me up and down, tilted my chin up so I would meet their eyes and they said something to me that hit me very hard: “There is nothing wrong with your body and how you look. You’re a beautiful woman, inside and out. But there is something very wrong with how you see yourself.”

It says something about how my life was that those kind words were the exception, not the rule.

Flash to now, at a time in my life where I am at my healthiest spiritually, emotionally and physically. I’ve shed a lot of weight, not just physical, but I’ve walked away from toxic friendships and toxic situations, choosing to immerse myself in a world in which it is okay to just be who you are and how you are, with no explanations needed or given. You just simply be yourself and you are accepted and loved unconditionally.

The past three years have been a journey in self discovery, self love, and most importantly, healing.

Last week, during a photo shoot, someone made comments about my body yet again, in the whole ball-busting style of passive aggression I loathe and have an almost physically ill to my stomach response to when I see or hear happen. This person has not seen me for a good year and a half, and I could see the surprise on their face when they saw me in person and saw how very  much I’ve changed since the last time we saw one another in person.

“Don’t exhale near Amber, she’ll fall over she’s so tiny now.”

“You don’t need to get Amber lunch, clearly she no longer eats.”

“Don’t drink that water, you might get fat again.”

I made it through three comments. Three comments and I hit my limit. I stepped out of the shot, walked directly over to the person who made the comments, my head held high, my shoulders back. If my face flushed, it was in anger, not shame. I looked that person in the eyes, and forty two years of being teased and made fun of bubbled up to the surface.

I didn’t apologize for my body, I did not make a hateful comment in response.

What I did was look them directly in their eyes and said, “There is no reason or call for you to make comments on my body. Stop it now.”

“Don’t be so sensitive,” they responded, barely meeting my eyes.

“You’re lucky I’m so sensitive; if I weren’t, I can promise you would be ugly crying with what I’d say to you.”

The photo shoot went on with zero comments from the peanut gallery regarding how my body looks.

I cried on the drive home, cried my way through my shower, cried on the way to the studio to take practice before teaching, cried while I was talking with a friend via text while waiting for my class to start, and cried on the shoulder of a friend I ran into when I dropped into a restaurant for dinner after I taught.

I don’t care if the person who made those comments reads this and knows they hurt me. I’m past the point in my life where I put up a front, hiding behind a brave face, not being honest about how I feel or how I’m doing.

And I am done apologizing or explaining away who I am, how I look, the people I choose to spend time with, how I spend my free time.

I’ve been on both sides of different issues or ideals or philosophies. The whole stay at home mom versus working mom debate. The whole breastfeeding versus bottle feeding debate. Being painfully underweight because my first husband would not accept a fat wife and I starved myself to please him. Being overweight because life and my health and bad choices led me there. Being fit because I made life changes.

People tend to get defensive or offended if we have a different mindset or philosophy. If we choose a different path than they themselves are on. It almost seems as if our choices make them feel judged.

Is it any wonder I’m happiest in a yoga studio, where the only rules seem to be “just show up and breathe”, “take care of yourself,” and “you be you and I’ll be me, and we’ll love one another for the beauty of our differences and the beauty of our similarities”?

I’ve been called both “fat bitch” and “skinny bitch”. Both hurt equally as bad, for the simple reason that hearing either of those phrases from the lips of another person, it gives the impression that that is all they are seeing of you: the wrapping. It discredits and makes expendable all the other parts of who I am as a person when a I’m described by what’s on the outside.

Fat, skinny, curvy, fit: how ever my body has been, whatever my size and shape, I am still Amber, a woman who is a mother, friend, aunt, author, yoga instructor, artist, and so many other things. No matter what my body looks like, I’ll still be the person who will offer a hug to someone who’s hurting, or just because hugs are amazing. I’ll still be the person who is going to run full on for a damn good Italian meal, who does a happy dance when she gets good news, who will never say no to a Malbec wine. I’ll still be the person who says “I love you” for no reason other than I love you, who screams like a maniac while watching baseball, who’s prone to do somersaults just because, who throws her phone to friends so they can take a photo of her popping up into a handstand.

A friend I told about the photo shoot asked what they could do to cheer me up. “Never use “fat/skinny bitch” again, please,” was my response, not that they ever have or ever would use a phrase that cruel. Another friend suggested a comeback that would hit below the belt; and while I might have at one time in my life used an acid tongue to make my point, I no longer have it within me. To respond with unkindness in no way would undo the unkindness that was directed at me.

At age forty-two, I no longer measure my worth, my value on the number I see on the scale, on the size tags on my clothing. I measure it in how I move through my day, how I treat people I have no reason to be nice to, how I react to other people’s actions, how much peace I feel when I’m on my mat, either as a student or a teacher. It’s been quite some time since what I eat and how often I exercise is related to self care and self love versus looking good in a bikini.

I only wish my friend last week could hold my true weight and worth in the same way. Because I no longer hold space for those who are unkind, even if they think it’s all in good fun and a joke. Because it’s neither a good fun or a joke when it hurts a person’s heart.

Love each other and yourselves,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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Ishvara Pranidhana

It’s a Saturday night, and I’m not out with friends. I’m at home, mixing paint with water, a flow medium, and acrylic oil. Once the colors have all been mixed, I’ll layer them in a beginningcup, then upend the cup I’ve poured the different colors in. A few minutes to allow it to settle against the canvas, then I’ll pull the cup, and spend several minutes tilting the canvas back and forth.

People who have known me for more than two years were shocked when I told them I had been taught pour painting by a friend and that I was absolutely smitten with the process.

middle 1There’s no real control in pour painting, past the point in the process when you layer the paint in a cup. You can create striations in the paint by shifting the canvas back and forth in a certain way, but the process takes a certain amount of letting go and letting what will be, be.

For myself, learning  the process of pour painting was an exercise in the yogic practices of the yamas and niyamas. There was the lesson of Ahimsa, non-harming, on the afternoon I crouched in a squat for ten minutes, slowly adding paint to a canvas through a strainer while a friend of mine spun the canvas beneath it, and realizing the next day I had over extended my hip flexors to the point I had to take a few days off from my yoga practice. Satya, truthfulness, in learning to be honest that sometimes my work was amazing; other times, it was “meh.”  Santosha, contentment, in accepting my paintings as they were. Svadhyaya, self-study, in how I always cleaned between pours at the beginning of a pouring session, and would tend to worry about the clean up later on in the process. Ishvara Pranidhana, surrender, more so than any other yama or niyama, because ultimately, my paintings would turn out how they would turn out.

I never intended to become an artist. Raised by a CPA and a hard-core, old-school, traditional Catholic, I was told from a young age that my goal in life needed to be motherhood. College was for the purpose of finding a husband to support me and become the father of my children.

I walked away from a scholarship at St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee, Oklahoma at age eighteen, one month before I would have begun my freshman year of college, the thought in my head that if I continued following the path my parents had planned for me, I’d be lost. My first marriage happened at age nineteen, my second at twenty-seven, motherhood for the first time one month shy of my twenty-eighth birthday.

I’d set out with various plans in place, ideas and ideals about how my life would be, yet things never would pan out as they had on paper. There is a belief held quite strongly by people that if you stray from the path you’re intended to be on, the Universe will shift you back onto that path; sometimes gently, sometimes with great force.

Looking back, so much of my life was spent in the pursuit of fulfilling other people’s ideas of who I should be, how I should look, how I should behave. Yet there would be moments where I’d get a realization of not being my true self, and would feel a tightening around my chest of fear of losing who I was.

Yet I had no idea who that woman was. I had no idea how to figure it out. I had other people’s versions of me they had been describing to me, yet I didn’t have my own idea of who I was.

At age thirty-nine, I had a wake up call. Laying in my bed at 6 a.m., watching diamond shapes of stained glass cast by the light coming through my bedroom window slowly shift across my bedspread I realized that the crisis I had been struggling through the last few years was my fault and my fault alone; certainly other people had taken part in it. Yet I owned the responsibility as the one who allowed it to take place.

I stopped listening to other people’s stories of me. I stopped listening to what they thought I should do, who they thought I was, and only listened to that interior voice, letting it be my guide. I began taking part in things I had told myself I had no interest in, just to see how they fit. I stopped thinking of what could go wrong, stopped being concerned what my friends thought of what I was doing, and put myself first for the first time in my life.

Painting was just that: I had been told for years I had no talent for art. And maybe I did not have a talent for it. But that belief came from people telling me I couldn’t, similar to someone telling a ten year old they can’t drive. They have no experience with it, of course they can’t do it. They haven’t been taught how to do it.

I hadn’t been taught how to paint. I had no background in it. Yet I still signed up for a local paint nite class. My first painting wasn’t perfect, but even now I can still look at it hanging on the wall by my desk in my home office and be proud of the effort and the end result.

One class led to many, and a friendship with the instructor. A part of me I did not know existed came to life.

Two years later, post yoga instructor certification, my friendship with my instructor Jessi yielded an invitation to come to her house and try pour painting. It was like heroin: I tried it once and became addicted. I’d ask friends for color combinations, pour out a painting, and when it dried, hand it over to the friend who had made the suggestions. Or I’d put together different combinations, wanting to continue that rush of seeing what happened when I pulled the cup from the canvas. Handing an orange pour painting to my friend Iris inspired Iris and her husband to hire me to do a larger canvas for their home. Relaying the story to my boss at the gym I work for, he and his wife commissioned me to do a large canvas.

Yet, despite how far I came from that morning in 2016 watching those diamond shapes of colors float across my bedspread, I still couldn’t completely let go. Letting go has never been my strong suit, with good reason: I’ve had to fight for my mental and physical health for years, for motherhood, for jobs, to be remembered by so called friends who always seemed to forget my birthday or that they were supposed to meet me for dinner.

Every time I’ve layered paint in a cup, it’s been an exercise in Ishvara Pranidhana, in letting go, in surrendering to the idea that what will be, will be. Even the commissions middle 2.jpgI’m hired to do, I warn my clients to not get too attached to the outcome of the test pour, because the final pour will be much different. No two pours are the same, even those that are done with the same set of paints, the same amount of each color, the same order of paint colors. I pull that cup, and chaos reigns.

And in doing so, I began to truly learn to surrender, to have faith, to let go. That even if it wasn’t what I had planned, even if it is not what I imagined things would turn out as, it is in no way less beautiful, no way less needed, no way less important.

In retrospect, those times in my life in which I did let go and not worry about the end result, no longer trying to control the outcome, the Universe gave me the most beautiful and striking experiences of my life.

I’ve named every painting I’ve poured, whether poured for my own experience, my own wall decoration, or a client’s painting. I may have asked for suggestions on names, especially with those pieces commissioned by a client, but each piece stands out, each has been a piece of moving forward, a lesson learned, a gift of healing.

EndSaturday night, I mixed paint with water, flow medium, acrylic oil. I layered it in a cup, flipped the cup over on top of a canvas, tapped on the top of the cup to help it settle, then pulled the cup from the canvas. I tilted the canvas back and forth, not concerned with the end result, yet attached to the end, wanting to see how exactly this particular painting would turn out. I watched off and on for a few hours after I placed it back on the cups I was using to prop the painting up to dry, seeing the cells of acrylic oil shift and move.

About twelve hours after the pour, the canvas begins to dry, the cells of oil stop shifting, things begin to lock into place. And the end is there. There’s nothing left to let go of, there is only the opportunity to be grateful to have the chance to let go, and surrender to faith that the universe will give us what we need when we’re ready to receive it.

 

Love yourself and love each other,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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