Thursday, June 23, 2016

Being Here…Unedited and Alive

Having the ability to crop pictures to edit out my thick midsection and learning the art of holding the camera at just the right angle to avoid my double chin has allowed me to stay in denial about my escalating weight. But then a picture is snapped and the unedited version smacks me in the face; I am losing the war against my body's apparent desire to go up yet another size.

In 7th grade drama class, a boy asked me if my real butt was in fact my real butt. Apparently he thought I had stuffed a pillow down my pants for effect. Either that or he was just reinforcing his reputation of being a complete asshole. But either way, I became very aware that my body wasn't necessarily going to cooperate with my desire to blend in with my thin friends. Even at that young age, I started sipping weight loss shakes for lunch while my classmates filled their cafeteria trays with nuggets and fries. Please don't misunderstand me; I am aware that I have never been obese. I am thick. Nobody has ever been shocked to find out that I played softball, if you know what I mean. I have so often felt the unfairness of how my skinny friends could seemingly without consequence be able to eat brownies, go for that 3rd or 4th slice of pizza or enjoy a consistent flow of Coca Cola.

In 2009, I rather easily lost nearly 35 lbs. My days were filled with exercise as I trained for my first Sprint Triathlon. I had a best friend full of encouragement and she participated in the journey toward health with me. It really felt somewhat magical. I felt like I had found "the secret" and I felt such joy. In the 7 years since, I have been through a divorce, struggled my way out of the closet, lost friendships, spiritually unraveled and rebuilt, survived a 65mph collision with a parked car, bought a home, made several job changes, stood by my mom's side as she struggled with and lost her life to complications of dementia, had 2 knee surgeries, lost 2 pets that I loved dearly and travelled the rocky road of a second marriage. These are not excuses for why I find myself 40 lbs north of my 2009 weight. I am where I am because I have eaten too much of the wrong things and beer has been my companion on a pretty regular basis as I have faced the reality of this journey called life.

If I were to be completely honest, I would admit that I have been pretty depressed off and on since the death of my mom in October. My day to day emotion isn't necessarily a sadness but more an empty space that nothing seems to fit into. The pull of the empty void feels constant and sometime food and drink allow me to temporarily forget that I ache.

Please allow me to interrupt right here to say what this blog isn't - it isn't a plea for people to tell me that I look great the way that I am nor is it a vanity blog about how I need to lose weight so I can love myself again. This is my story about how something shifted in me. For months, I have been struggling with a feeling of restlessness. I have felt like I was searching for something that just wasn't there. It was like chasing a shadow but not being able to determine the shape. Historically, reading a good book, writing in my journal, listening to podcasts, playing tennis and spending time with friends would be just what I needed to refocus and find joy. But lately, it all has just fallen flat leaving me to wonder why happiness is playing "hard to get".

Fast forward to this past weekend. I won't be able to explain what really happened to me but something lifted in the six hours shared with 200-300 people with a common purpose of deep love, understanding and acceptance at the How To Be Here Experience with Rob Bell. One lady stood and shared about her ache from the loss of her husband and how badly she wants to bypass grief and find her next purpose. One young man shared that he was recently diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma and he struggled with the weight that his wife carries being both his caregiver and the mother to their young children. And another woman stood to share about her struggle to know how to support her son who finally found the courage to admit that he is gay only to have his father (her husband) disown him. The journey of life is so complex and I think the greatest hinderance to my healing was the feeling of being alone. Hearing these vulnerable stories and feeling the deep love and concern shared among strangers did something to me. A healing happened.

The edited snapshot with Rob Bell
And then as the meeting wrapped, an unexpected picture was snapped. I hadn't had a chance to try to suck in my gut or turn just the right way. There I was in all my glory - pudgy belly, full cheeks, more than one chin...a wave of embarrassment followed by shame came over me as I stared at the picture. How could THAT be how I look? I quickly zoomed in to "fix" it - cropping out my stomach and adjusting the photo so that it didn't include my whole arm in the frame. And then the peace came. I zoomed back out and looked at my belly and cheeks and chins. That's me. I'm a bit of a mess. I've had a hard few years. I have eaten too much and exercised too little. I've been hurting and it shows. I have done the best I could and now I give myself permission to let go and change how I engage with the world and how I take care of myself.

I think I am ready.

So, this is a new chapter in my story. My goal is to be fully alive. It will be a day to day decision to work my way out of my habits to numb the intermittent emptiness that I feel. Some days will be easier than others and that's ok with me. I want to sweat more and reengage with people that challenge me to be my best. I want to eat more good things and less bad. I want to sip and enjoy the taste of a beer instead of rushing through to grab another. Ultimately, I want to get to a place where I don't feel the need to crop and hide. I hope that will come from losing some inches but maybe instead I can learn to be OK with whatever the camera reveals. Time will tell.

No matter how all of this unfolds, I am thankful for this journey. I am beyond thankful for feeling alive again. I have told Jenn for years that she will always know when I'm in a healthy place when I write in my journal or blog and when I have a stack of library books on my nightstand that aren't covered in dust. I bet you can't guess what sits waiting for me on my nightstand as I write these words…dust free books ready to engage and entertain me and I can't wait!

Until next time….
Anne Lamott

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