the liberation of standing naked in a women’s locker room

I had written this post before, about a year ago, and I let it sit for a few days and realized I didn’t really share the experience and my feelings as well as I should – so I deleted it.  I have a tendency to dabble with humor in my writing, and sometimes heavily add it to avoid exposing myself in a vulnerable way.  So – fuck that noise – here’s the good stuff:

When I was researching all the amazing places Iceland had to offer and the best way to guide myself through Route 1/Ring Road, my notebook was overwhelmed with nearly every city and landmark and waterfall and geothermal spa and ice cave and volcano and book store and church and field and the sheep and the horses and the shores and the black sand and the legends and the stuff and the things….

Breathe.

You can’t see it all.  Not in the ten days or so I was there.

I chose seven items that I MUST see.  It was difficult, but it gave some control over the experience.  It gave each day purpose to complete a task, but also quite importantly, left a healthy balance of free time to fall into saying “yes” to damn near anything I discovered.

Of these MUST see seven things was the Blue lagoon.  It’s a heavy trafficked tourist spot to be sure, but, as I read, one hell of an experience for the soul.

(A quick informational note:  the Blue Lagoon has several packages that compliment basic to luxurious vacation styles, massages, bars, a restaurant and they also have some skin care products.  They even have a specific page on their site dedicated to people with psoriasis.)

A couple of the places I wanted to see were incredibly close to each other/part of the same beach – and through some luck knocked out a few items on the list in one day.  However, I didn’t go out of my way to the Blue Lagoon.  I kept procrastinating to go.

Frankly, I was fucking terrified.

I really wanted to go and enjoy myself.  But, as a highly insecure chubby woman with stretch marks traveling alone, it seemed like something that would absolutely suck.

I bought the ticket for my very last night there for the very last hour the Blue Lagoon was open.  This way, if for this one hour, my experience in Iceland was as shitty as could possibly be it didn’t matter because I already had an amazing time up to this point, one hour is something I didn’t have to tell anyone about.

I arrived in layers and a thick coat and stood in line with everyone else dressed similarly to me.  My mind instantly fell upon focusing on all the women around me.  They were all beautiful and skinny and with other people enjoying themselves, and that heightened sense of self-awareness that you’re THE fattest person in a room of a 100 people about to strip down to swim together was bringing on some serious anxiety that was making my heart race.

They split up men and women to their own locker rooms to shower and change.

As I was putting my stuff in my locker, a women next to me starts to change and had some beautiful tattoos.  At this point, I was standing in my jeans and a tank top, and we started to talk about the bodacious piece on my arm I got from an amazing artist in Reykjavik a few days before, and the pieces she had.

I love connecting with people over tattoos.

And as we talk, a weirdness starts to envelope us.  I don’t know why, I don’t know what it is, but the conversation starts to feel uncomfortable, as if maybe I’ve offended her in some way?  Now that ease I was feeling before falls right off the crazy cliff and I’m in my head again, yelling at myself for the years of not taking on elective surgeries to fix this body I’m living in when the woman just says it:

“You going to change?”  And she looks around me, and so I look around, too.

I’m the only asshole still in clothes.  I’m surrounded by naked women.  All the women I was just standing in line with are either ready to go or are undressed and getting ready to hop in the required-before-enjoying-the-lagoon shower.

“Oh, yeah, right…”  I take off my tank top, and there’s the tankini revealed.  It’s not so bad, but it seems too short and my stomach sticks out and my thighs are huge, and I’ve now made my presence known by being so insecure and not changing, I’m the weird woman in my clothes staring at all the naked women staring at me anddddd….

Fuck.

Fuck.

Here it is.  Going to vomit.  Sweating.  Freaking out.

I am my own insecurity.  I am vicious cycle feeding myself into hyperventilating.

WHY can’t I just let myself enjoy the moment?!

Wait.  Let’s say this again.

Why can’t I let myself….? If I just breathe and take a second here – I can let myself enjoy this moment.  I am allowed to enjoy swimming and being here even though I do not have a perfect body.  I am not undeserving of enjoying this special place because I have stretch marks.

And, what’s more important, no woman here really gives a shit about my body (except for me).  I’m awkwardly standing in one spot, maybe in someone’s way, and being a locker room creep.

I found my way to a bathroom stall and collapsed on the toilet.

I was dragging this hour out into hundreds of miserable years.  All of the bullshit I’ve heard about my body and societal acceptance crap thrown on top of that, and how I carry myself and what I think of myself have all conclusively blown up into one moment at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.   I was sitting on a toilet freaking the hell out when I could be outside purifying my fucking soul.

I left the stall and went back into the locker room – I was by myself at this point.  Everyone had made their way outside to go and live and be merry.  I hopped in the shower then made my way to the lagoon.

It was absolutely freezing out, and fantastically refreshing.  I made my way into the creamy blue colored waters and sighed.  It was brilliant.  The longer I swam around, the more it all began to melt away.  Whatever “it” was.

When it was time to go, I changed next to the woman I spoke to before as we discussed tattoos and how refreshed we felt.  I got down to my bare ass and all as I changed into dry clothes, and we wished each other safe travels, and I’m rather certain no one tells the story about the chubby American from the locker room who has stretch marks.

I will always be upset with my body.  I compare myself a lot to my sisters who I think are gorgeous and I don’t understand why I don’t look like them.  There are things that will always cross my mind and knock me down a peg or two for a minute, and there will always be some asshole out there to tell me I’m fat.

But, at the Blue Lagoon, I promised I would never let my insecurities lock me up with fear and prevent me from experiencing the amazing things this world has to offer.  I also promised to be more mindful about the way I talk about other women.  This progression starts with me and my outlook and how I treat myself and how I treat everyone else.

Fun fact shot taken with iPhone at Blue Lagoon Iceland 2016.

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