If this blog is to be honest I have to deal with the issue of body image, which at different times, depending on how I'm 'travelling', dominates my life.
When I take a step back from my body image 'issues', what I find fascinating is how the horror I sometimes feel at some aspect of my body is mobile, choosing different elements to focus on -- suggesting of course that the feeling has less to do with the realities of my body and more to do with my psyche. You would think an awareness of this would help to avoid the sometimes obsessive focus on what's 'wrong' but unfortunately it doesn't work like that.
Ageing is the enemy of those with body image problems. This is because with age the body continues to change and there are always new, heart-sinking discoveries to make as the skin continues to thin, sag, collect 'liver spots' and grow ugly new growths with obscure Latin names and no discernible raison d'etre.
So one week it will be my pointy nose, growing ever-longer as I age, that is ruining my life and I'll be convinced that the only solution is to submit eventually to rhinoplasty. Then for about a day my nose will seem suddenly quite manageable. But a short while later I'll discover with a sickening lurch that the veins on my legs seem to be becoming more visible by the day. And then as I inspect myself it will become horrifyingly clear that the veins are now crisscrossing my entire body, their paths and connections there for the world to see, their blu-ish tinge destroying my fantasy of ever having a body I could happily display to the most casual lover.
The veins are an interesting example because they have become more prominent since I started exercising. This is ironic as I began my exercise regime partly to help manage my body image problems! But when you take part in regular exercise the veins become healthier and larger and if you happen to have increasingly thin skin, as I do, they are even more visible. From the forums I visited on the internet it seems that veins also become more prominent in pregnancy, particularly over the breasts.
The celebrity mags love to focus on the ugly hand veins of middle-aged, mostly female celebrities and in the course of coming to terms with mine I found on the internet numerous close-ups of the tortured, stringy networks on the hands of Madonna, Angelina and Sarah Jessica Parker. If they could put up with veins like that in the interests of good health and nice biceps, perhaps I could put up with my less prominent versions?
In fact, discovering these glaring imperfections on the bodies of those whose career it is to maintain bodily perfection was incredibly therapeutic. I figured that these women could not have helped noticing their veins, perhaps hated them, but were obviously not going to give up exercising.
And there is no way of hiding veins like this -- you can cover them with fake tan but the outlines are still apparent (there is a plastic surgeon in New York who apparently removes hand veins, but what horrific consequences to the venous system might this extreme course of action lead to?) So the likes of Angelina were choosing to live with a conventionally ugly physical attribute fully on display for the merciless cameras of the papparazzi.
And conventionally may be the operative word here. The Elizabethans apparently considered skin with visible blue veins a sign of refinement. I am both literally and figuratively thin-skinned and it's tempting to think there is a link between them, but this seems absurd. Regardless, I'm stuck with having an outlet for my neurotic feelings always handy should I look down at any visible body part.
The trick is to distract oneself as one would a child: 'look over there!' Self-obsession and rumination lead nowhere. The world and its objects can provide a safe landing place for the attention.
Mindfulness helps too, developing an awareness of thought processes without judging them, but without mistaking them for the truth. Mind noting is one useful mindfulness technique, ie saying something like 'thinking about veins' when obsession strikes.
Another technique -- which I dislike because it relies on others' misfortune -- is to compare my body image problems with those who have serious skin problems or disfigurements.
I can't pretend that my prominent veins are a positive thing or that I would not be without them because they have made me humble. I still dream of a thick, firm skin that covers up the constant flow of blood through my body and leaves me less exposed. But for this day only, for this hour, for this minute, I can put up with my veins.