Monday, September 23, 2013

Buddhism, Parenting and Body Acceptance

Guest Post by Glendaliz Camacho

21 Divisiones and Buddhism have helped me be a slightly better mom, have a better relationship with my body, cope with grief and date men who look like this disgruntled baby (which I swear, is actually a good thing, but is another story for another day).

Glendaliz here, nice to meet you. Don’t mind me, I’m just going to unpack right here.

The abbreviated explanation of 21 Divisiones: it’s a religious practice that syncretizes Catholicism and African religions, widely practiced in the Dominican community. I grew up with it in the periphery of my adolescence – my father’s best friend is a medium within the tradition. I usually check in once or twice a year when I’m dealing with some calamity. I’m better about seeing her than getting a physical. I usually emerge from a reading with her with a mixture of amusement, wonder and clarity.

“How the fuuuuuck did she know that?”

“I don’t know what she’s talking about, so I’m just gonna side-eye that." (Many times weeks later, it bitch slaps me.)

“I know what to do now.”

I saw her in the beginning of August, a little over a month after my boyfriend died. If there is ever a right time to look into the state of your spirit, it is when you’ve loved and been loved by someone and in a moment it is gone, replaced by the smoke of spirit. All you held and touched reduced to ash like some reversed Midas. Perhaps because the realm of 21 Divisiones is the felt but unseen, the heard but not audible, it made the most sense to turn to.

I wanted someone to tell me what to do next. A sense of duty, of loyalty, of love, of pity, of mercy will get you through tasks that sound impossible even to your own ears that are attached to the body that is indeed doing these things. The tasks, the arrangements, the endless to-do’s one creates keeps the person alive in some sense. Only after that reading, was I able to see that he already pertained to another world. I pertained to this one and what I needed to do was stand on my side of the riverbank, wave to him on the other side and say goodbye.

On a more frustrating, but earthly note: She also told me in my reading that I would find out something my daughter did and be extremely pissed about it. Now, yes, with a 17 year old, that shit is just Tuesday morning, but my daughter is kind of chill. She doesn’t really get wrapped up in the sex, drugs, and violence that’s become par for the course with a teenager in NYC. Listen, she’s still messy as fuck, swears like a sailor, and paints the dog’s toenails for kicks, but all in all, I got no complaints.

In true Dominican fashion, I got home with this information and warned her.

“Whatever you’re thinking of doing, don’t fucking do it. I’m telling you now.”

“What thing? I don’t know what it could be…”

“That thing you just thought of right now and wondered if I meant that thing. That thing.”

“Mom, you’re a little nuts.”

A text two weeks later: Sooo last nite coming from L’s house after watching the VMA’s…I got fined.

The kid caught a $100 fine for fare-jumping. Usually, this would be a time to go ballistic but I did not, ladies and gents. I did not. I just knew this was the thing, knowing that was a factor that helped me say I was disappointed in her poor decision-making and that this is exactly why we must always do the right thing, even if we think we can get away with doing wrong. For real, I totally made it a Danny Tanner moment. Well, I added that I was extremely pissed and that I wasn’t paying for that shit. (I don’t think Danny woulda said that. And I did curse that cop out in my head. Also not Danny-like.)

Another force that helped me not body-slam her like a professional wrestler was mindfulness meditation. Since about December, I’ve been practicing Buddhism in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist. It focuses a lot on stopping and being aware of your breath. Your breath being what connects your body to your mind and brings you to be present in the moment you’re in. Listen, for parenting anything that stops you from climbing onto the refrigerator and leaping off of it to pin your child to the kitchen floor is a good thing.

It also helped just to think about a lot of the questions Buddhism deals with that were brought to the forefront for me by my boyfriend’s death. Things like the nature of all life being impermanent and what to do with one’s suffering.

I think I was practicing mindfulness even before I began practicing with a sangha in December though. It began with a New Year’s resolution January 2012 to be more mindful of what I was ingesting, make better choices. It was learning to stop, breathe and ask myself do I really want the double fried ice cream covered in caramel or am I really just trying to feel better after a shitty day? And am I helping my body perform all its miraculous functions by giving it this? Will this bring me true happiness or will I end up suffering? I remember sitting naked in my tub halfway through the year and thanking my body – smiling to it, Thich Nhat Hahn would say – for responding to my efforts to treat it better after having abused it for a long time. It could’ve been a real bitch, you know. It’s the New Year’s resolution that I haven’t stopped sticking to.

And fine, since I know you want the numbers here they go: in January of 2012 I weighed 256. By December I was 186. And no, I’m not telling you what I weigh now, I’ll just tell you it’s less than that. You take it easy, dammit. And at the risk of sounding cliché, I’m going to tell you it’s not about the number or standards of beauty. What I really enjoy is feeling a muscle emerge and easily going up the same set of stairs that I used to get winded on. My goals don’t include getting to a particular size or attracting a man, they’re more along the lines of doing 100 consecutive push-ups, making sure I’m not harming myself or the earth with what I consume, and showing my gratitude for this body, for whatever amount of time I’m allowed to love and learn in it.

*   *   *

Glendaliz Camacho is a writer, former teenage mom, rebel daughter, occasional wit and all around cool chick. Her writing has appeared in Southern Pacific Review, Infective Ink, and The Acentos Review among others. Glendaliz is currently at work on a short-story collection. She resides in the Washington Heights neighborhood of NYC. 

Follow her on Twitter at: @glendaliz

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