Autumn Book Series 2013
  • The Still Point of the Turning World
    The Still Point of the Turning World
    by Emily Rapp

    October

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    Lift
    by Kelly Corrigan

    November

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Entries in M. Broderick (19)

Wednesday
Feb222012

my body...a love story (repost)

I remember the first time I fell in love with my body. It happened in the girl’s dressing room of a TSS department store. I was 12 years old and the love affair was ignited by a grey, acid washed, strapless, fitted, knee-length denim dress…

We were Back to School shopping, my mom and I. And as mom picked out the various A-line styled shirt dresses she typically choose  for me in the girls' dresses section, I curiously eyed this little grey denim number on the Junior racks and brought it into the dressing room with the rest of the potentials for a look/see. It’s important to note that my monthly menstrual cycle had begun by this time (a full year prior) and I had blossomed at a rate that put my body closer to looking fifteen or sixteen rather than my actual twelve years; a fact I had not yet internalized but was encountering when interacting with my elders (both male and female). So after trying-on and rejecting the first set of dresses and while my mother stepped away to obtain alternate potentials “in a larger size” or “a different color” I slipped into the grey wonder…

I will state now that as a result of what happened on that day (and contrasting experiences that followed on subsequent days of my life) I’m convinced that as women, the insidious process of learning to hate our bodies goes against everything that nature instinctively intended. I know this because of what I saw that day in the creature staring back at me from the mirror and how she made me feel.

There in the mirror before me was not the girl I was so used to seeing. It was someone else– someone I didn’t know at first. Who was she? The dress hugged my hour glass shape perfectly. It fit like a glove. And it made me look like something I had never seen myself look like before. I was the picture of… of what? Did I have the words at that age? I was at the dawn of my womanhood and despite my limited ability to describe it, I knew that I liked who I saw staring back at me because I couldn’t take my eyes away. It was like my personal version of the Venus de Milo, the ancient Greek statue. Here was this picture of sensuality that my image projected back at me and I was instantly in love, and not in a conceited way. And it wasn’t because my image mimicked a picture in a magazine or was reminiscent of my mother’s form or was a version of a Barbie doll. All of those may have influenced my feelings as a reference point but I wasn’t comparing myself to anything when I looked at myself. I was seeing me, the first glimpse of me as a woman, and the raw sensual power she potentially possessed. I instinctively sensed my sensuality and its allure. Not sex. And not the thought of men (or women) per se; but a general appealing sensuality.

Needless to say that dress stayed in the store that day despite my desperate longing for it to come home with me. And I learned that what I saw that day is every parent’s worst nightmare, given my mother’s reaction upon her return to the dressing room. She did not ‘overreact’, not really, and even acknowledged verbally that the dress fit me well and accented my developing shape, but her refusal to purchase the form fitting dress without a truly clear explanation spoke volumes. I went home that day with a loose fitting A-line shirt dress. And thus ended the first of many not so subtle messages from my parents and society that the power and beauty in my newly developed female form was dangerous if flaunted in my youth. And so I learned to cover my body, my female form, my Venus, in less conspicuous ways. But when covering was not enough to escape the attention and allure my new womanly form engendered in others, I soon learned to add layers of excess weight in attempts to diminish its appeal.

I would not become reacquainted with that pure raw sensual feeling of love for my body for 14 years. Instead what crept in over time were reoccurring feelings of self-doubt that highlighted my imperfections and thoughts of false comparisons that degraded my previously celebrated assets. But love is never lost forever. It returned to me at age 26. A long wait, I know. But then sensuality and sexuality mesh more appropriately in our society when you’re in your twenties. It was no longer forbidden or feared but instead was expected, and dare I say even mandatory. So having gradually shed the excess weight and broken free of the habit of wearing concealing clothing, there again came a day in front of the mirror. This time it occurred in my bedroom of the apartment I shared while attending medical school.  I found myself standing in my bra and panties getting dressed to go to class and caught a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror. And there she was, unbeknownst to me, my Venus had returned. The body I had fallen in love with more than a decade earlier. Only now the fall of the breast and the curve of the hip were fuller and more mature. And acknowledging its potential power over me and others was less awkward. Before dressing and running off to class I remember mentally celebrating for a brief moment “her” return, simultaneously mourning the wasted years we spent apart and vowing we would stay together for the rest of my days. Ah, but how the best laid plans and the sincerest of promises fall short…

Eventually I would once again punish the body I so dearly loved.  Slowly over time I covered her again with extra layers of weight and returned to the old camouflaging clothes style in a repeat attempt to return to my formerly hidden status.  Why? What could make me abandon a love I had waited so long to return to? Well as often happens in great love stories, I foolishly thought “she” my Venus body had betrayed me and deserved to be abandoned. She betrayed me in her failure to guarantee me success at romantic love. If I could not have the man I wanted using the body I had worked so hard to return to, well than what was the point in doing the work to keep her around? How naïve I was…

But the best of loves are always calling out to you. My having returned to a state of dislike and ridicule directed at my body, while common place, has never really felt natural. I longed to remember the feeling of what it was to celebrate the unique vessel that is my body and embrace it in all its glory. And so now, in my fourth decade of life, I’m seeking out that body I fell in love with once more. And as I slowly shed pounds again for health reasons, it seems my cycle has come through another 14 years. But this time I have grown to admire and respect the “less perfect” forms of my body. After all, while my 12 and 26 year old bodies may have captured my heart visually, I know that true love is found in the many bodies that have sustained me throughout all my visual manifestations in the intervening years. They have all been versions of my Venus that I continue to sculpt and re-sculpt as I live each day. But when I see “her” again (in a mirror of an as yet unknown location), the one whose visual sensuality made me fall in love with her so long ago; well it is my hope that this time we can stay together permanently, proudly sharing my outer and inner beauty with those that I love throughout the coming changes that await me in the future.

{originally posted on June 22, 2011 as part of our summer book series.}

Wednesday
Nov092011

Postcards from a Global Trekker: Cape Town, South Africa

I had a belated birthday celebration this year, given that my 40th birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, 2010. While my family did a wonderful job incorporating a mini-celebration for me amongst the usual Turkey Day festivities, I never really did acknowledge the day with very much fanfare. Then six months into my 40th year I found myself presented with the rare opportunity of mixing business with pleasure and a second chance at marking a milestone year with a monumental event. At the coaxing of a colleague and friend, I said yes to taking a trip to a place that (20 years in the making) has been on my dream list of places to see in the world. This October I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa for the 2011 World Congress of the World Federation for Mental Health and below are just a few snapshots of the wonderful experience I had both professionally and personally.

Eleven days in total, half for the congress and half for exploring, the trip was both nothing and everything I could have imagined and more.  The conference renewed in me my passion for medicine and reminded me of the importance and complications involved in addressing mental health issues on the larger world public health scale.

  

And my time spent exploring the city of Cape Town and meeting its people was absolutely thrilling. Cape Town is blessed with the most stunning natural geologic beauty but its greatest treasures, in my humble opinion, are found amongst its people, especially its artists. I hope you enjoy below a small glimpse of my attempts at capturing the many beautiful experiences I was lucky enough have during my unforgettable adventure in South Africa.

 

 

Friday
Nov042011

Dance Theatre: Zambezi Express

Almost 25 years ago I had the pleasure of seeing on Broadway, the South African musical, Sarafina!  The show was a combination of traditional and modern African music and dance, with a political theme. It was more than just an evening’s entertainment and its impact on my teenage psyche demonstrated the power of dance to tell a story, express great emotion and to stir political consciousness. Two decades later it’s refreshing to know that African dance continues to be used in musical theatre venues internationally, to tell the sociopolitical stories of modern day Africa. Zambezi Express, a musical that toured in the UK in 2009, was a show “set to pounding African beats, with thirty high-energy performers re-telling the action-packed tale of one boy’s pursuit of the ultimate footballing dream, from the backstreets of a Zimbabwe township to triumph in South Africa”.  Enjoy.

Friday
Oct142011

Dance Theatre: Flamenco - Celina Zambon

Some of my favorite dance performances are those in which the choreographer takes their inspiration from the elements of nature and interprets this through dance. Argentinean-born Celina Zambon is a master Flamenco dancer, choreographer, teacher and founder of the Celina Zambon Flamenco Dance Company based in Southern California. In this Solea por Buleria, Ms. Zambon does a beautiful job in capturing the all consuming power, beauty and fierceness of fire. Enjoy...

Wednesday
Oct122011

A work in progress...

I’ve been contemplating this picture for the past few weeks now. It’s a photo I took in early September, while driving out on the east end of Long Island, NY.  A classically beautiful sky it was -- before photography it was the type of sky that, were I a painter, I’d have tried to capture it’s likeness on canvas. So striking was this sunset sky, I was compelled to make an attempt at capturing a piece of it for myself to remember, using the only thing I had available, my iphone camera. I’ve seen similar skies in photographs before, but when you see the real thing the feeling of awe at such a vision can’t help but bring you pause – to record, remember, reflect on what you’ve seen, felt, experienced... But isn’t that what we do through story and art? Whether in words and or pictures, we use the varied moments of our lives that spark in us an impulse to create, as a vehicle to retell that story to ourselves. Told in such a way that we hope we evoke the feelings we wish to recapture long after the moment of life has been experienced...