Last week, I stepped on the scale to find I had gained 3 lbs.
You see, my entire life has been a struggle with weight – up and down (mostly up) and always a battle. It’s caused all sorts of insecurities, held me back in a variety of ways. I wore t-shirts into the pool and ocean (I understand some wear clothing to protect skin from the sun, very smart, but that wasn’t why I did. I did it to try to hide, because obviously, when you wear a shirt at the beach, you become invisible, right?), but that was only when I couldn’t get out of going in the first place. I missed nearly all of the pool parties, beach trips, to which I was invited, stayed away from locker rooms, and excused myself, faking stomach aches, from gym classes, especially ones where teams were differentiated by ‘shirts and skins.’
(Seriously, shirts and skins?!!!? That IS a real thing, and not just a mythical legend from the pits of hell! What are these sadistic gym teachers thinking?! As if adolescence wasn’t difficult enough…)
So. I would lose a little, gain a lot, staying round-ish and weak, unthreatening. But it was always a thought, concern, embarrassment, an energy drain, stealing so much, like a weight around my neck and a nail in my brain.
Here’s the thing, though, that I’m finding. Maybe it was never about weight, maybe it was about a tendency towards perfection. I always wanted everyone to like me, to think I was funny and cool, smart, that I was awesome. And no matter what I did, there was always this voice in my head, lying to me, persuading me that none of those things were true. This voice screaming at me that I was alone and stupid (that hurts, even now, to write, and it should hurt to read and it’s why we don’t say it in my house), and the H for Husky on my jeans and the way my clothes fit (or didn’t) were just very visible representations, symptoms that I confused for the illness. I could never figure it out, though, couldn’t connect the dots. So, I stayed super sad and self-conscious, terrified of a number on a scale. Of being less than ideal. Scared to death of never being good enough.
Ok, now. The second thing I do, every single morning, is climb onto this black square of horror, and last Thursday, I gained 3 lbs.
(Of course, I know you can’t gain 3 lbs in a day, but logic and truth are hardly substitutes for 40 years of self-abuse and lies, right? So, this is where the downward spiral usually begins, where the tapes start playing, reminding me that I am these terrible things and any growth or movement were impossible dreams and 3 lbs will soon be 50 and how could I ever think it could be different and blah blah blah.)
The point I thought I was making with this post was about taking a long view of our own development, that we’ll have 2 or 11 or 30 steps forward and 1 or 2 or 29 back, that those steps back don’t mean all is lost, that the steps back are actually an integral part of the process.
But then these words came out and the water got very deep and now what do I do with that? I can delete this whole page easy enough, keep these things inside, private. Or I could leave them right here.
We like to tell stories of our struggle once they’re in the rear view, framing them with ‘How I Overcame (Whatever).’ We begin with “I used to..” or “I was…” We do not like to tell stories that start with ‘I am fighting with (whatever) RIGHT NOW.’ Our vulnerability is past-tense, and I’m not sure that’s an authentic vulnerability at all. Perhaps, it’s just another monument to our independence and strength and pride. The truth is, the voices still come for me, and I still sometimes listen. I still cringe when I see a +3. I still am pretty scared of not being good enough.
That’s the biggest change in me, since I fell in love with Jesus. I’ve found the old voices don’t have an off button (yet), but now they have competing New Voices (the lovely voice of my Jesus as well as the voices of the others I allow to see me as I am) that show/tell me I am loved, here, now, +3 or -3, steps forward or back, pass or fail, up or down, days I am awesome or days I am not.
The brilliant Anne Lamott writes, “my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”
She’s right, it breaks my heart how much I missed. And I’m not letting it happen anymore. I’m writing a book, I go swimming often, my life is getting more juicy every gorgeous day.
I’m more and more convinced that all spiritual journeys require this ‘waking’ to the life we have been given, and jumping into the invitation to actually live it.