I know a lot of strong women. In fact I know a lot of women, and cannot think of one that I would consider “weak”. The strengths may lie in various places with all of these women, but I take lessons and inspiration away from them all. Knowing them makes me a better person and my life so much richer.
This is a story of a weekend I was able to celebrate with some of these women I know.
My friend Tanya Olson is an amazing woman. She absolutely blows my mind some days. Her journey can be found on her blog; https://tanyaolsenblog.wordpress.com/
So there are many times my mouth opens and words spill out before my brain even processes what I have said. This has it’s negative and positive side effects. Usually once I process what has happened, I am ok with what I have just committed myself to. I’ll try just about anything once anyway! At least it does not let my inhibitions and fear stop me as easily! So it is not surprising that when Tanya talked about her recovery tattoo and climbing topless at the gym I instantly volunteered to do so with her and we could get a photo to commemorate the occurrence. After all I had a large japanese crane on my back, so it may compliment her torso tree. I felt somewhat nervous about it, but I could manage it. Nothing compared to the time she has gone through and it would be a great celebration with a friend!
Over time the ideas of the promise changed. In time, Tanya realised what memories she wanted to capture on film to celebrate kicking cancer’s ass and leaping the obstacles life was throwing at her. She did a spectacular job of it along the way too. Covering her scars in her way, on her terms. I find myself thinking of her in times of stress and remembering that anything is possible and doing it with grace and your chin up just seems to give you more strength.
So I drove up on a Friday to meet Tanya and her partner in crime David and the wonderful photographer Chantal Denne (http://www.chantaldennephotography.com/chantaldennephotography). Chantal’s work with nudes and body shapes spoke to us right away and we knew she was the person to help us. We hiked to the falls and found our spot.
So the idea of my shirt off in the gym was a bit less intimidating than my top off at a public waterfall. It was a Friday, but later in the day so some people were about. We did attract a crowd of sorts for a bit. There may be some photos of my breasts on some teenage boys phones. I have chosen to take that as a complement that teenagers would want a shot of my 40 year old chest! They moved on when we altered our position for a time. Climbing up a small space, even though we originally had no intention of climbing anything. Climbers tend to do that.
It was a freeing experience, but in ways I had not expected. I have overcome most of my self esteem issues over the years, but this was different. A private moment that had to be shared with those who were not invited. Tanya had already had practice being topless at the gym prior to this shoot, so this was less new for her. We chatted about her discoveries and mental journey as she has undergone her surgery and ink and has come to a spot she looked to for so long. I started trying to cover my chest with my top without distracting from the photos. It was awkward, so that did not last long. By the end of the shoot I told her we had to go into the falls and get some shots and I was going to take off my shorts. I had worked up the nerve to face the rock nude and I had also worked out the angle . . . . No one was really around (one couple setting up a camera for shots of the falls) and from the right angle they could not see us through the rushing water.
That moment will stay with me forever. The child like giggling as I whipped off my shorts and stood facing the rock face with the cool mist of the falls like a wonderfully refreshing outdoor shower. Tanya, looking at me, then my shorts on the ground, then me again and saying “you are a bad influence” and joining me in my giggles and the birthday suit bliss! With a wonderful and peaceful glee in our laughter we stood naked under the falls as Chantal shot photos of our back sides and we held hands in the air to celebrate women, friendship, strength and freedom. It felt like a relief, and the most powerful bit of fun I have ever had.
Coinciding with this timing, a group of friends from Grand River Rocks climbing gym in Kitchener had all decided a team for the mudderella run would be a fun time. It worked out well to combine these events as I could be back in Canada for a few days to fit it all in!
Most of my dearest girls in all the world were participating, so I was happy to see so many of them together. Sad I did not have time to see the others, but that always happens. I never get to see everybody. I was super excited to have fun, get muddy and chat with people I have not seen in a while.
I made a new friend as I did not know Corinna prior to the race. The rest of the girls are just always fun to spend time with. We had a blast, got a little muddy, and finished arm in arm. It did not test the limits of our strength as much as the tough mudder some of us did a couple years ago, but it was still a work out and fun time with good friends. For women who do these things less often it was just the right level of challenge. My memories live in the faces and muddy mess of our fun that day. The tug of war and acro yoga and other antics after the race were also a bundle of fun. Plus it was totally worth the free beer, and other free beers we were given by women who did not want theirs. Was totally worth the drive. Oh and though I kept my top on, there went Tanya, topless again!