Maitri, can you help me love again when love has been lost?
The answer I was told is, yes, through unconditional love.
You may be thinking that I am speaking of a romantic kind of love relationship—not this time. This one is much more personal and long-lived.
It’s my legs, yes—my legs. It may sound superficial and somewhat crazy, and I might very well agree. In this time of the world gone mad, who cares about legs. It’s my crazy, however, and I needed to explore it with the help of maitri.
For an awfully long time, I have had this love/hate relationship with my legs. Probably more hate than love—mostly hate, if I am to be totally honest with myself.
I can remember when it all started—with one simple little comment from someone I knew when I was young. I was around 10 years old. I was running around, blissfully happy in my childhood bubble. Not a care in the world as I can recall.
It was a warm summer’s day, so I was dressed appropriately in a T-shirt and shorts. Those damn shorts left me exposed to what came next.
“Look at the chubby legs on you,” a man said to me. What? Wait—stop! What was that? My legs? Chubby?
Before that moment, that sunny carefree day, I never ever considered the idea that my legs were flawed. I loved my legs; they were strong and sturdy. I was a fast runner, wining gold medals at school for short distance races. I took dance classes and watched myself in the mirror for hours at a time, never once thinking—look at my fat, chubby legs.
On that innocent summer day with the sun shining down and my heavy panting from running with my amazing legs, everything changed. My unconditional friendliness with my legs came to a screaming halt. It was subtle at first, taking time to really grab hold, and over the remainder of my life, it took hold like a dog grabs a bone—and wouldn’t let go.
I saw my legs differently. No longer something strong and beautiful but as something to be ashamed of and hidden from view as much as possible. Maturity and age allowed me to mostly drown out the gnawing voice in my head that made me self-conscious when wearing shorts or a skirt. That voice of adults, who had commented on my legs, playing like background music when my outfit showed too much skin.
It got worse when I began to compare, compare, compare. Long, short, fat, skinny—it didn’t matter. All legs had to be measured against mine to see if I could somehow make mine okay. If they were long, lean, and beautiful, shame came flooding in without any warning. If they were fat or stubby or short, I would get a bit of relief and feel better about mine. I was on constant high alert for any incoming legs, armed and ready to attack myself or breathe a sigh of relief.
Becoming friends with my legs again has been an ongoing struggle, I have to admit with unabashed truth. Not proud to face, nor embarrassed to admit. Just eager to let go of the hold those seven simple words have had on me for far too many years.
Unconditional friendliness toward others has been a walk in the park compared to this deeply rooted error in perspective.
Maitri has given me hope that I can and will be able to unconditionally love my legs once again, not just in my head because my mind tells me I’m crazy, but in my heart because it knows the truth. My legs are amazing and deserve my unconditional love once more.
As I stood in the shower shaving my legs, I began the practice of maitri toward my legs. Allowing myself to see them with new eyes, my eyes once again, and not that grown-up man’s.
Words are powerful and you never know the impact they will have on someone’s life, especially a child. Choose them wisely.
This lesson I learned from my legs of all things.