It’s a funny thing to be able to feel intense love and gratitude for something, while also feeling a measure of disappointment, sadness and even a little disgust. I’ve only recently stepped into this quagmire of emotion, and I’m finding it rather difficult terrain to navigate.
Over the past few years (well, a lot longer, actually, but let’s just focus on recent history)… over the past few years I have been steadily plodding along on my journey, day after day. A reader who is very dear to me refers to it as my Hero’s Journey, a la Joseph Campbell. I would have to agree. Because on many days, it has taken a hero’s strength to wake up and keep going, especially of late.
You see, I am at what feels like a landmark in my life. It’s one of those markers on the side of the road denoting an event in history. Only time will tell if it’s a giant bronze statue or a simple plaque. From where I stand today, it feels more like the 10-foot metal kind.
If you read my last blog about triggers being gifts, you will know that I have recently been triggered into addressing some unseen, unacknowledged places within me that I have yet to adequately deal with. In some ways I thought I had, but the truth is, I was only ready to read about them on the menu, not dive in with fork in hand and really consume them. But it seems I must be ready now, because… Voilà! Here they are!
I’m talking about my body.
If you haven’t met me in person, you might not be aware that I am overweight. Actually, I hate that phrase, because I’m not “over” anything. I’m simply in a state where my outsides don’t match my insides. But I get it. I get that we have standards and statistics that we use as information to help us adjust our sails and change direction. So, my body is bigger than the standardized version of someone my height. I actually prefer to say that I am fat. Or, rather, that I have more fat than I would like to have. I think that’s the most accurate statement for me: I have more fat than I would like to have.
But it’s more complicated than that.
I was never a thin child. I always carried a little extra “baby fat” on my body and was always a very curvy girl. I was athletic, too, but curvy. I had a classic “figure 8” body – and I still do, actually. My body was voluptuous, strong, flexible, and round in all the right places. In retrospect, my body was something to be proud of. Of course, I didn’t know that at 16, but time does a wonderful thing for us: it allows us to know and see truth.
Anyhow, sometimes I look back at that younger version of me with wistful longing and wish for that body again. Not because it was smaller, but because it was stronger (though the smaller did make life easier). Instead, I look in the mirror and see a body that is less strong, less flexible, and larger than it used to be. And that’s where the quagmire begins… because I love my body, but it’s not a body that I actually recognize.
My body had changed, and I never noticed it.
Over the course of my marriage, I steadily gained in excess of 60-70 pounds. I actually stopped using the scale so I’m not even sure what I topped out at, but I know it was at least 60. It could have been 70, or even 75. I’m writing about all of this now for an upcoming book, so I won’t go into all of the details. The bottom line is that I was married to an addict, I became a quintessential codependent, and our relationship was stressful and strained for the vast majority of our time together. As a result, I lost myself. I lost who I was, and in many ways stopped living. That’s not to say that it didn’t have some happy and good times. It is to say that it took a toll on my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health.
I left that relationship six years ago. Since then, I have worked diligently on restoring and repairing the damage that was done – the damage that I unconsciously allowed and contributed to. I have come out stronger, happier, more aligned and authentic than I could have ever imagined. I have become the woman that I am, that I always was, that I had lost sight of. I have reclaimed myself in every way… but one. And (even though I have already lost about 10-15 pounds) I have the physical evidence to remind me daily.
This is what’s truly fascinating to me, why I wrote that I think “it’s a funny thing to be able to feel intense love and gratitude for something, while also feeling a measure of disappointment, sadness and even a little disgust.” It’s the duality of emotion that I feel for my body that has me wandering through the foggy bogs.
I can honestly say that I love myself. My body is strong, resilient, and cherished. Why? Because it survived. A couple of years ago I spontaneously referred to my extra fat as “emotional scar tissue” from my marriage. I couldn’t have been more accurate. My fat is proof that I survived. It’s proof that I am resilient and strong, and I cherish my body because of that.
At the same time, my body is not as strong as it once was. The extra fat has put a strain on my joints and made it more difficult to exercise. My stamina is not what it once was. Everything is just a little bit harder. It doesn’t help that I injured my foot, too, which makes even walking a challenge. But I keep trying. I keep fighting, and I will continue to fight until my outsides match my insides in a way that I recognize. (And, thankfully, I have a heck of a good team of wellness professionals helping me along the way.)
I’m writing about all this now, because I’ve been triggered from conversations with a friend. I’ve been triggered to explore how I truly feel about my body. As a result, what I realized this past weekend was that I hadn’t yet grieved. I hadn’t fully grieved for the loss of health that I experienced during my marriage, nor have I grieved for my self. Because… I did this. I did this to myself. I couldn’t tell you how, as I was not eating excessively or even poorly during that time, but I can tell you that I did it. Some of my doctors have blamed cortisol from the chronic stress I experienced for over a decade. It’s possible. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I can stand in front of a mirror and know in my heart that I am a total rock star who is strong and capable, while also looking at myself with sadness and hurt. I know that I am sexy, vibrant, and beautiful, while also knowing that I am unhappy with and would like to change what I see. I can hold space for both to be true. Until the day in which the grief has transitioned into greater love, the grief is part of my daily experience. The sadness and hurt – the disappointment – is part of my daily experience, just as the celebration, love and acceptance is. The process by which things change is only known after they have, and so I can only do my best to show up each day and allow for whatever comes… knowing that it’s okay to love my body, while also working to change it.