#JoniDoesBabecamp Post Script: Finding A Place To Feel Safe

As our lovely Editor-In-Chief jets off to a body positive retreat at #BabecampJamaica, we're following her along for a week of ocean air, radical acceptance, and all-around babeliness. You can find previous entries here.

On the last day of Babecamp, we listened to the final three women tell their stories. As I heard their stories, and cried, I felt a deep gratitude for the safety of this space. There aren’t many of these spaces in the world. Spaces where you can be fat. Spaces where you can be flawed and not worried about being attacked. Spaces where the people around you are your people.

I came to Babecamp afraid.

The Monday before I hopped a plane to paradise, I published my weekly column, Beyond Before & After. This was the last piece I’d write before I started my #JoniDoesBabecamp diary, and it was a scary one, a vulnerable one. Why I chose to publish it at a time that would only increase my vulnerability, I’m not sure.

The article from the week prior, wherein I shared my progress, including a weight loss, caused such distress that I deleted the Facebook thread entirely. I had expected confusion. I had expected backlash. I had even expected anger. I did not expect vitriol. I did not expect to be told I had harmed the movement irreparably. I did not expect to trigger an entire community of women. I certainly never expected to be told I wasn’t body positive.

It never occurred to me that caring for my body, and having that care result in a loss of weight that I then shared, would cause so much condemnation. I thought I had found a nice middle ground. In the middle ground I thought I had found, I was told I was a fraud.

So when I left for Babecamp on Tuesday, I was scared.

I was scared that the women I was about to meet would have read that article and the attacks that ensued. I was afraid they wouldn’t feel safe with me after seeing that my weight had changed, after my admitting that I was glad it had, that the change had helped to resolve my ankle injury. That my mobility had returned. That I would have done anything for that.

I was afraid that Virgie would see what I had done as “dieting,” and tell me I had no place there, no place among these women.

I was afraid I’d have no place there.

I didn’t mention any of this to the women as we met. One by one as I was introduced, and one by one I feared they’d know that I write. They’d know what I wrote. They’d hesitate to share their lives with me. No one mentioned it to me.

Each day we grew closer, talked more, shared stories and lives. And each day I felt safer. I felt that they felt safer. One evening over drinks and giggles, I decided to mention the article. If people had read it, I didn’t want them to feel I was avoiding the discussion.

I spoke with Dot about it first. I approached her with feigned nonchalance. When she told me that the folks who were angry were just processing their own problems, I cried. I felt such a deep gratitude for the understanding and love I was being offered. I felt a profound sense of belonging.

One by one, each of the women shared their thoughts with me. One by one I saw that there was no judgment.

As we entered the last day, I knew these women were my people. I hoped they felt I was theirs.

An emotionally healthy body image, especially a positive one, is hard enough to nourish without judgment — with judgment? Near impossible. These women came together in this sacred space to offer both themselves and each other grace. Grace to be imperfect. Grace to be confused. Grace to be frustrated. Grace in search of a place where their body is not their enemy, but their friend.

I learned a lot about myself in Jamaica, but the most valuable thing I learned is that sometimes the real power lies in learning about others.  

To each of you Badass Babecamp Bitches: Virgie, Miranda, Dani, Sara, Emily, Dot, Randi, Jen, Latoya, Stephanie, thank you. Thank you for sharing your truths with me. Thank you for listening to mine. Thank you for holding my heart safely. Thank you for allowing me to hold yours.

What I learned this week, I learned through you.

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