No, I don’t mean what you think. Get your mind out of the gutter, y’all. Trigger warning, though — this is another entry that’s not a warm fuzzy anecdote which you can take to bed like your favorite blankie. It’s stuff, messy and unpleasant, but part of my #journeytojoy. If you’re on this path with me, or vicariously living it through me , keep reading.
Here’s the thing:
I started this mission because I felt REALLY BAD about myself, and I wanted to feel REALLY GOOD about myself. I listened to the eulogy for my mother-in-law (the part that wasn’t a reading of my blog entry) in which the priest said that Joanna had never complained. I wanted to emulate her, and I felt that I mostly complained because i felt so bad about myself that it leaked out as wrath at other people.
It’s taken me four and a half years to say that flat-outloud. Hear it again:
I felt bad about myself. I blamed other people. I complained in a sideways articulation of inner rage at the terribleness which I directed to myself and which I thought arose from others.
Here’s the thing, step two: A lot of why I felt bad involved conduct of other people which I did not control. Either it happened in my childhood, or it happened over my adult years but during times when I had so little self-awareness that I invited the conduct or certainly felt powerless to resist it. When I did protest, my protests invoked cries from the perpetrator that I lived in a delusional state. They denied their behavior, or said I caused it, as though they were mere puppets. This was usually classic gaslighting, though I did not recognize it.
As I’ve gained awareness through introspection, I recognize destructive patterns. I’m still trying to fit into my own skin, though. As I’ve recently stated elsewhere, were I the “therapy type”, I might have gotten to this point a few decades ago with professional help. Might have.
So — back to the ‘size matters’ thing.
For most of my first forty years, I hovered at around 100 pounds. Oh, I gained some in college when I suffered a serious spider bite and got put on prednizone, but otherwise I stayed small and thin. During my second marriage, and all the difficulties which that entailed, I climbed from a size 2 to a size 14. At 5’3-1/2″, I nearly doubled my body weight — from 98 to 185 at my highest. This took place between 2004 and 2008.
On 01 March 2008, I began my eat-less, move-more diet. I got down to 110 in twenty-four months. By spring of 2011, I weighed 103. That’s under-weight for my height, but as a disabled person, I need to be light because my legs can’t handle any extra weight.
Now, for the “matters”. When I was fat, women almost universally told me that I wasn’t “that bad”, while men articulated complete disgust, including my then-husband. When I got very thin, women told me that I looked horrible and men expressed delight that I was “taking care of myself”. The back of my neck grows tighter just writing those words.
After my last separation, I lost weight for a while and then the stress-eating, hate-myself noshing began. By this winter, I had reached 125. My legs started wobbling even more than usual. A self-fulfilling cycle took hold. I didn’t like the way I looked so I felt bad about myself. The worse I felt about myself, the more I ate. The more I ate, the more weight I gained. And. . . again. But I recognized the cycle this time, and stopped myself. I’m eating sensibly again. I don’t have a scale and have no idea what I weigh, though. I just know that getting back to healthy eating did not take as long or as much effort this time around.
Yesterday, I went into a second-hand store looking for a cushion. I don’t buy new clothing often; and I haven’t bought any clothing lately, not since I downsized. But it’s summer and I live in the country. I have very few truly casual clothes. On the way to housewares, I spied a pair of cotton capris of a notably expensive brand hanging on a display. I checked the label: Size S. I never try on clothing; it’s too much of a struggle to dress and undress due to my physical challenges. This item cost four bucks. If it fit, great. If it didn’t, well, I could toss it in the grab bag for donating back to the store.
I had no idea if I could wear a size S pair of cotton capris, even in a good brand. I feel fat. I admit this. I don’t like the way I look. I have no full-length mirror anymore. I have neither partner nor roommate, so I get no input about my body. My image of myself wildly diverges. When I’m thin, I feel puffy. When I’m overweight, I consider myself grotesque. This is the paradigm of body image in America, people. I am not alone in this. Size matters — at least, if you are female in America.
I brought the capris home. This morning, I decided that they would be perfect for today’s allotment of errand-running. If they didn’t fit, c’est le vie. Well, they fit. Perfectly. So I’m a size small. I happen to know this particular brand runs “true to size”. They are comfortable and work well for exactly what I wanted — casual, knock-around clothing for leisurely days such as today. And they fit. This tells me that maybe, just maybe, my body has gotten to a good point. Eureka!!!
And this, too, resulted from the experience of buying this four-dollar, second-hand pair of pedal-pushers: I went through this entire analysis, and reached the point where I could share a simple truth with you.
Let go of the crazy demands that you put on yourself to be a certain way. People who love you, will do so whether you can bench-press a hundred pounds or not, whether you wear high-heels or flats, whether your hair has grey roots or expensive highlights. And whether you weigh 100 or 200. (That said, certain health conditions definitely require you to be a reasonable weight for your height, gender, and age — such as my disability, diabetes, MS, heart conditions, and high blood pressure.) Take the pressure off of yourself to conform to societal images of beauty, coolness, or indeed, virtue by any label. Refuse to let size or any other socially defined judgment of physical state determine your self-appreciation. Love yourself. You’re beautiful.
As my friend Jeanne Foster would say, use kinder, gentler, self-talk. And go out and buy yourself a pair of cotton capris. It’s summer-time, and the living is easy.
It’s the third day of the fifty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.