Attending the Body Love Conference in Tucson this past weekend was an event that I’ve been planning for since late last year. I learned about the event by following the awesomeness that is Jes Baker (the Militant Baker) online. (My even more awesome friend Hedda introduced me to her blog a few years ago.)
I’ve been talking about this conference for months with everyone in my life. I’ve been excited about the opportunity to get together with like-minded body positivity champions to discuss the challenges we face in a world constantly telling us that our bodies are flawed. I researched in advance, reading blogs and books related to the body positivity movement, Health at Every Size and similar topics. I thought about experiences I would share, insight I would offer, and questions that I would ask. I talked to friends about my impending trip, and brought the weight of their expectations and excitement with me to Tucson and BLC2015. I was excited to come away from the experience with tools that I could use to promote body love and self-confidence in others. I was ready to be a Body Love Champion!
The funny thing about coming into an experience like The Body Love Conference with so many expectations is that it’s going to shatter every single one of them.
My experience was amazing, inspiring, frustrating, confusing, terrifying and liberating. And those are just the emotions that I’ve been able to process since Saturday.
Oddly, one of the most significant experiences occurred on the plane on the way to Tucson. I picked up 10% Happier in the airport before I left, because the book I brought with me was too academic for my excited brain. What I would refer to as a “skeptic’s guide to meditation” (which is the name of a different book, by the way), Dan Harris’ bestseller totally won me over. It was exactly the book that I needed to read at this specific moment in my life, and so appropriate for me to read at the start of this literal journey for the weekend.
Due to flight delays, I arrived too late to participate in the social event on Friday night. Ultimately, that may have significantly changed the way that I experienced the weekend, as it was far less social and far more introspective than I expected. I came into the experience planning to talk, ask, meet and connect—and I left with my head full of questions, analysis, and a feeling of disconnection.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have a chance to meet some amazing people, have inspiring conversations and make connections. I was inspired by a writing seminar hosted by Kristen Nelson, a lunchtime conversation with Alex (of Alex V Yogi), and a performance and seminar by Angie River on speaking your truth. I had a really lovely conversation with a retired university administrator whose name I never got about finding purpose in life.
After telling Kristen Nelson that I was skeptical of the entire premise behind divination, I pulled a tarot card from her deck that seemed to scream a message to me that I’ve been fighting for awhile. A conversation ostensibly about yoga with Alex led me to hear her story of leaving a high-pressure career for something that spoke to her soul and her purpose. And Angie focused on the need to tell your story and share the things that cause you to feel shame, because those are the stories that erase the shame (for you and for others going through similar experiences).
(TMI warning for my friends and colleagues reading this.) I also got my period for the first time in 8 months in the middle of the morning on Saturday. In the very next session (a room full of women), a woman spoke up as the session was winding down to ask if anyone had a tampon, because she just gotten her period for the first time in “ages”. I think I actually gasped and I was tempted to say “Me too!”, but decided it was too weird and too much for my brain to process. Maybe it’s not meaningful at all, but it was weird and it freaked me out a little.
(Speaking of weird “coincidences”, the license plate on my rental car was BLC ####.)
I went into the conference feeling as though I had body love all figured out—and every experience I had told me that I have a long way to go. I went into the conference expecting to come away feeling connected to this community of people just like me—and I realized that I have a unique story to tell and I still have some of my own shame to work through in the telling of it. I went into the conference expecting to learn how I could be an advocate for body love in others—and I learned that the best way to do that is to continue talking about the journey to love myself, with all of its successes and failures.