8 Reasons I Loved The Body Love Conference

This first weekend of April I was in Tucson, presenting at the first ever annual Body Love Conference, conceived by Jes Baker of The Militant Baker, and executed by dozens of dedicated volunteers and enthusiastic speakers. For those of you who don’t know about this epic event, it was a one-day conference featuring some of the biggest names in body positive movement. I am still reeling from the ridiculous amount of positivity, strength and sisterhood that took place in such a short time span.



There are 8 reasons why I loved the Body Love Conference:

1.  It reinforced what I already knew — that I have a gift for connecting with people through my unique humor and honesty. My talk was entitled “Expanding Definitions of Beauty: Redefining the Thin White Ideal.” While I was giving my presentation I felt the audience’s energy, their spirits enthusiastic and thirsty for inspiration. Having women come up to me after my presentation and throughout the day, telling me that I impacted them deeply with my talk, was the best gift I could have asked for. When we are in alignment with the Universe and do what we are called to do, it isn’t work, it’s magic! You can view my rousing presentation here.

My presentation with some wonderful women present

2.  It was the biggest display of mutual respect, uplifting messages and sense of connection with women that I have ever felt. Four hundred people (mostly women and a few men) came from as far as Vienna, Austria to participate in what was an epic event.The loads of volunteers that worked to make this event happen were an integral part of what made the conference such a positive environment. They seriously kicked ass!


 With my new pal Michelle 
  
              With the awesome volunteers
3.  I got to meet fellow body loving activists in person who I only previously knew through social media. I can’t tell you how surreal it is to embrace women I only ever communicated with on Instagram and Facebook. Finally we were face to face, and we didn’t need emoticons to express ourselves. Our smiles were real, and the powerful high-fives echoed in the halls.
Blogger Jamie West and I
4.  I got to meet and hug the incomparable Jes Baker. This was one of those moments I will never forget.  In my head, Jes had a sweet, not quite high-pitched voice. So when she embraced me enthusiastically and kissed me on the cheek, and said “Yes. This is so gooood,” in the sexiest Kathleen Turner voice ever, I kinda lost it. I could feel strength come through her words, and was willing to do whatever she asked of me.  It was that powerful. Seriously. I wish you’d been there.

Jes and I. Aren’t we cute?

5.  I witnessed the powerful story of Tess Munster during her very moving keynote address. The plus size model raised the roof as she recounted her volatile upbringing in Mississippi with vulnerability and humor.  She paid homage to her mother — her biggest role model — who Skyped in to to hear her daughter speak.  She made us all cry and cheer and believe that anything is possible! I was already a big fan of Tess, but to hear her story of survival and overcoming great odds really made me fall in love with her. She is a true asset to the body positive movement.
Tess doin’ her thing 

6.  There was a nice representation of women of color presenters, speaking on various topics. The conversation around body image has largely been led by White cisgender women.  So it was a very pleasant surprise to be in good company with Sonya Renee Taylor and Kymberly Nichole among others. I was able to attend both their sessions and was psyched at the turnout for each.  They were able to bring their unique activism to the changing landscape of the body positivity movement. I hope next year’s conference will include more women of color, including Latinas and Asians.

From left to right: Sonya Renee, Kymberly Nichole, Me

7.  I was introduced to Tucson, a city that surprised me with it’s cultural diversity, community oriented population and delicious food. Everywhere I went, folks were friendly and laid back.  I even got to enjoy drinks and super yummy pork tacos at the famous Hotel Congress, with its rustic interior and old-timey charm.  I hope to get back there again before too long.

The bar at the Hotel Congress

8. I was so lucky to have met the other amazing women who presented at the conference. We shared our stories with one another, without judgment or fear. There was an instant bond among us despite the fact that we’d only spent two days together. But it was real. We exchanged ideas and hugs in equal measure, so happy to be a part of the grassroots movement we’ve all helped to cultivate.

Photographer Liora K. introducing me to Photographer Jade Beall


I am forever grateful to Jes Baker for bringing together women of different ages, races, abilities, genders, occupations and walks of life, who shared a common goal: to love and accept themselves fully. The bonding that took place last weekend was easy and fluid. The genuine smiles on the faces of the attendees were an invitation to chat and connect. Every single person I met had a unique story, a perspective to share or advice to offer. Be sure to check out the full list of speakers and their contact info here.

My biggest take away can best be summed up in the photo below.

YES WE ARE.

In solidarity,
Pia



11 Non-Resolutions for 2014

As a teenager I was notorious for my overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions.  By the end of 1991 I was sure I would be a beloved published author of teen mystery novels, living in an East London flat with my high school crush, Greg Weisenberg. Forget that I was only 15 years old. It was going to happen. Wasn’t it?


Oh, Younger Self Pia , how right you were to aim high and dream fantastically of futures nary to come.  I mean honestly, how likely was it that anyone was going to read the teen angst version of Murder on the Orient Express and take it seriously?  Hell, how likely was it that I could write even one chapter in a year, much less live abroad at age 15 with my almost tall Jewish boyfriend? But I do appreciate the audacity of the dream.  I basically wanted to be on top without really committing to it, which I’ve come to find out is a bit of a Virgo thing.  (I’ll explain more later).  And it took me a long time to understand that it was nearly impossible to accomplish.

I’ve loved writing since childhood. I think my mother’s insistence on my siblings and I visiting the library every weekend and getting me my first library card at age 6 may have lit my passion for reading and writing. But I didn’t really share my writing with anyone.  Sure, I would write silly poems for my parents birthdays and Valentine’s day, but that was it.  The other stuff was squirreled away in my diary.  I didn’t think my stories were good enough to share with anyone.  And my Virgo perfectionism certainly didn’t help.   

As a teenager and well into my twenties, I was often in limbo about what I should be doing with my life. I would flutter from hobby to interest with enthusiastic fervor, claiming it as my life’s work.  But much like my 15 year old self, I wanted to be at the top without having to commit to it fully, in case I changed my mind and thought I’d excel at goat herding instead. But now I have figured out that it wasn’t so much that I had so many varied interests, it’s that if I thought I couldn’t do it perfectly, then I didn’t want to take a chance to really pursue it.  Hence I’d try my hand at painting, but give up because I couldn’t create a museum-worthy piece after a month of practicing.   I know it sounds silly, but in my defense it is a part of my Virgo personality trait, so I can’t entirely help myself.


But I’ve actually been writing the last several years, and my commitment hasn’t wavered.  Yes, I’ve gone through periods of taking breaks from it, but I always come back because it feels so good.  And yes, I still have dreams of publishing books that people other than my mother might actually want to read, and for the first time in my life, I feel like it’s actually possible.

The last few years I’ve been averse to resolutions because they mostly had to do with losing weight and getting in shape. But for 2014 I’m not worried about the fact that I can inhale a packet of Rolos in under 7 minutes. This year I commit to writing a body of work, or at least get started writing it. 

I was talking to my husband about it whilst sipping robust Mai Tai’s on the balcony of our small, but well appointed Catalina Island hotel last weekend.  It was the first time I’d fully shared my book-writing dream with him and he was unfailingly enthusiastic about it.  He suggested I calendar time on the weekends (3-4 hours) that are unchangeable appointments with myself.  It’s a good idea, but I’m so scared that based on my past lack of commitment, I’ll fall on my ass and disappoint myself and my husband.  And even though The Universe has given me more signs than an irate New York City cab driver, I sometimes doubt both my skills and level of commitment to the undertaking.

Then I remember how much I’ve grown from that 15 year old kid in 1991, into a woman of 38, who knows what it takes to accomplish goals.  And I recall that 2013 has been pregnant with writing opportunities, and that I’ve actually done a lot this year, whether I resolved to or not.  I recommitted to my blog and built a bit of a following.  I write for a fantastic magazine called VolUp2;  I scored a job with a wonderful organization where I get to practice my craft everyday as a grant writer and communications associate; and  I was asked to lead a workshop at the Body Love Conference in Tuscon in April of next year.  Not bad for one year!

Life is really good! There is no reason why 2014 should be anything short of marvelous.  But i think it’s useful to set some intentions.  And since I still don’t love the word “resolution,” these are my…

11 NON-RESOLUTIONS:

  1. Work on my own writing at least 3 hours a week;
  2. Blog more (as in at least 4 times per month.  OK, 3 times a month);
  3. Buy less;
  4. Be a better friend and neighbor;
  5. Send hand-written letters to friends far away — it’s so much nicer than email;
  6. Do more with less (see #3);
  7. Have a huge yard sale where I let go of the shit that’s weighing me down;
  8. Go on a belated honeymoon with my darling husband;
  9. See my family back east more;
  10. Accept that life is these unpredictable phases and cycles that I cannot control, and therefore; should ride them out with as much humor and grace as is possible for a Virgo;
  11. Claim myself as a writer!


I encourage you to give more time and effort to the things that move you and make you feel good in 2014. Don’t judge yourself, just do it.  Baby steps are fine.  

What are you non-resolutions for 2014?  This Virgo is ever so curious!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Ciao for niao,
Pia
xoxo