The 358 bus bound for downtown was crowded and I vacated my prize seat when an elder needed it. As I inched my way back, down the center aisle, cramming tighter and tighter against the other Sunday passengers, I became acutely aware, as usual, of people’s reactions to my unshaved armpits. Yesterday was my first tank top day of the season and my awareness level is turned up to high. Standing in the circular hinge of the bus, the mid-section that swivels with each corner turned, I heard someone say “Now that’s what I call a bush!” With derision and laughter. I heard this over my earphones, over my happy summertime Michael Franti–and it froze me. I had been feeling so slinky and proud, sexyfree and easy. And her offhand comment, that she probably gave no thought to, no premeditation to, slid like a buttered blade into my pink bubble of self-confidence.
But I gave no outward sign of it. I stood erect with a broad and spacious chest, my legs planted far apart in my feminist I’m-taking-up-space stance, my legs planted in a solid and flexible V, and allowed myself to slip in between the bars of the music. The music my outer ears were lovingly and graciously pulling in and funneling up to my brain. I rode the notes and rode the rising and falling of the bus, my arms outstretched, my blessed body surfing Aurora. The rhythms spread like liquid, like food coloring diffusing itself through my sytem. I allowed my knee to bounce and my shoulders to roll as I bus-danced and resisted waves of nausea and shame.
These waves were only intermittent, though. This time I was not engulfed. Spiked, but not engulfed. Here was my back-and-forth: I was strong, solid, brazen. And then watery-kneed, stung, wounded. But then loose and open and expansive, especially as I remembered Eckhart Tolle’s admonition to sink into those moments when your ego is attacked–to see what flows underneath the sharp reaction of the identity, the objectified self–to find the constant river of Being below.
With that came Freedom.
And the truth is, my armpit hair is not a fine, downy coat of angelfuzz. It really is a bush. I’ve even called it a bush. And the 18-year-old version of me who sat pressed into the window of a Greyhound bus from Chicago (where I’d been squatting) to Kansas City, trying desperately to become compact and unobtrusive, that 18-year-old who hadn’t showered in over a week while sleeping in heat-stroke Chicago streets, that 18-year-old who smelled so bad her original seatmate paid someone 20 bucks to trade places–that 18-year-old was calmed by the refuge of Being. Now is not then. Now is Now.
There is no need for Shame. No shame in me. No shame in me. The 358 incident was a rocking, but not a tipping. Not a capsizing. Not this time.
I AM LIFE
I AM LOVE
I AM A PIECE OF GOD’S SELF