09/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Hide Your Body, Hide Yourself

My mother was an expert in hiding. She taught me how to hide my body. I learned never to show off my good traits but to mask my unattractive ones. I began to wonder what effect a life of hiding has on a person.

If you're always looking for ways to not be seen, how do you speak out? How do you move through the world if you have an invisible cloak that has no magical powers other than to keep you in your own shadow? How can one be exuberant and thrilled about living if this exuberance is housed in a body that is a constant shame.

These are the questions I've lived with. These are the questions I'm answering for myself now at age 52 with a body that is seen, with ideas that are being heard, with a life being lived fully in the body, because of it, not in spite of it.

Until age 50 I didn't want to have a body. I could have blamed it on Catholicism, but it's much more complicated than that: family history, a love-hate relationship with food, illness, accidents, sex and the ultimate enemy, the mirror, the self.

Ever since I can remember I've had nightmares. That was probably the first rebellion of what I'd later call "The body." I've never called it "My body", that would be too close. To me, my physical self has always been "The Body" something outside myself and usually very far away. Like James Joyce's description "Mr. Dufy lived a short distance from his body," I lived a long distance away from mine.

Early on in Catholic mass I learned to transcend this earthly ball and chain. During the long Latin ramblings by overweight and overindulgent priests, I'd stare into the tall blue flame candles on the altar and let myself travel far far away. Churches and temples were created with high round high ceilings so the spirit could soar unencumbered, and mine did. It was the only time I felt free. Later I learned different types of meditation that would bring temporary relief from the pain of living in uncooperative flesh.

I had this secret escape valve that gave me some relief from my overactive mind and the critical thoughts that dominated my being. Author Mary Karr said something like, "My mind is a bad neighborhood. Don't walk down the alleys or streets." Mine too.

At one point after working intensely with Israeli homoeopathist Vega Rozenberg, things came to a tipping point. My heart was beating hard and fast for hours at time, racing from 50 to 150, I thought it would burst from my chest. Nothing I did could stop it. Not meditation, not exercise, not a soothing warm drink. It beat and beat, using up my quota, for we all have only so many beats that make up a life.

After days of this I called Vega in a bit of a panic.

"Are you in or out?" He asked.


"Are you in or out."

I told him I didn't know the answer to that. He said I damn well better know. Before this I had never thought that accepting life was a decision that I had to make.

Susan Harrow is the author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul. She runs a Media Consultancy where she helps everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to celebrity chefs, entrepreneurs to authors grow their business through media coaching and the power of PR. For more information please contact Susan.