By Michele Zehr
I suppose for my first blog post, I need to introduce myself so you’ll actually know with whom you are about to share this journey of transformation. My name is Michele Zehr. I’m 41 years old and I’m the founder of We2, LLC—Women’s Experiential Empowerment out of Charlottesville, Virginia. I’ve had an amazing life that has been full of rich experience, deep wounding, and intense self-exploration; and I am one of those humans who was born with some type of genetic coding that instructed me to go against the cultural norm in just about everything I’ve done in my life. For example, I’ve worked both as a certified automotive technician and a professor of automotive technology education (I was the first and only woman to do both of these in the state I lived in at the time), and I’m a former U.S. Marine (only about 50% of women who go to Marine boot camp actually graduate). I’ve also backpacked the entire Appalachian Trail almost entirely by myself despite having never before backpacked. That was a 2, 175 mile life-changing hike from Georgia to Maine you can read about here: Certain's AT Journal
So you might be wondering what someone who has succeeded at and survived so many challenging and grand adventures is doing writing a blog about her journey of reclaiming her physical self again, by signing up for personal training with Mahogany co-owner of Club Mo. You see, not only have I been privileged enough to enjoy amazing experiences in my life, but I have also had the privilege of surviving great hardship, which makes me just like you and everyone else who calls themselves “human.” And just like everyone else, there are some things in my life that I have not been able to work through on my own, and keeping my physical body healthy is one of them, so this is why I’m here.
There really is no way to live a full human life without experiencing trauma or hardship, so I do not see myself as a victim of anyone or anything, as I’ve come to understand that all of these experiences were necessary to bring me to this exact point today. I say I had the ‘privilege’ of surviving great hardship because I have finally reached a point in my life where I embrace (as best I can) the painful stuff as much as I do the joyful stuff. I am grateful for all of it.
In this moment, what I am being called to do is live fully inside of my own physical body, which is something I’ve not done for most of my life, due in part to the trauma I experienced growing up. This isn’t all that uncommon actually, as I believe the majority of people do not live “in” their bodies. I now know that obesity has nothing to do with the lack of willpower or laziness, although our culture has done an amazing job of convincing us otherwise. Obesity (and every other mass-cultural “problem”) is a spiritual problem. Now before you click off this page because I used the word ‘spiritual,’ give me chance to explain what I mean.
We are born whole and live completely in the moment as babies. As we grow up, we are taught what it means to be a girl or a boy or a black person or an immigrant or a Christian or a Buddhist or an Atheist by virtue of our schools, families, friends, enemies, media, churches, government, etc. We are taught to look for our self-worth from the outside world. For example, how many of you secretly feel shame because you don’t make a large salary (you define large)? How many of you feel shame because you can’t afford a nicer home or car or wardrobe or your nose is too big or you have acne or your teeth aren’t white enough or you are balding (don’t even get me started on body shaming)?
See, we are a culture of comparison, one in which we are constantly measuring ourselves against some phantom external standard or even worse….each other. The problem with this whole scene is that we are taught not to trust ourselves, our intuition, our body wisdom. We become completely disconnected from our own insides, and I am no exception. We can’t access that “knowing” part of ourselves if we don’t live in our bodies. So when I say the word ‘spiritual,’ I’m not talking about any specific religion or something even related to religion necessarily (but if that works for you, then that’s fine as this will resonate with you too). I’m talking about the journey of connecting to something bigger than ourselves, and this something resides within each of us along with all of our wounded parts. It’s not ‘out there’ somewhere. Self-worth, knowing you are worthy of being loved even in your worst moments, treating yourself with compassion when you make a mistake, and looking at yourself every day in the mirror—saying, “I love you” to yourself and actually meaning it—seeking all of these will eventually take you deeply inward where you will discover just how beautiful and whole you’ve always been….you just forgot as did I.
I’ve been traveling intensely inward for the better part of my life, and now I am traveling back outward to honor my body, the amazing ecosystem that keeps me alive. I’ll write a new blog post each week, sharing what this experience is like. I’ve never worked with a personal trainer before, and Mo told me the first time I met him, “I’m going to be hard on you. I don’t like excuses.” Frankly, I’m genuinely scared. In fact, after I signed up for this, I cried all the way home. This was an unexpected reaction and one that I never had in the past when I thought I’d found “the way” to keep my body healthy.
So this is an invitation to join me as I step into that terrifying place of vulnerability, and share the intimate inner journey of a woman who is ready to walk through this fire and reclaim her physical self from the inside out.