When I was in college, I got sick. I don’t remember if it was the time I had pneumonia or some other time. It makes sense that it would have been when I had pneumonia, but it also could have been the year I spent drunk. Anyway, I was very sick, like I hadn’t been since I was a kid.
And I spent all night in the dark feeling like deathly shit until it got light. And then, I looked down at my body and scared the shit out of myself. I was way, way too big. I looked like a mountain range.
Yep, just for a second, I was imagining myself at six again, and the sight of my grown-up body disconcerted me to the point I almost screamed.
Not that my everyday relationship with my body is much better.
Look here. Brittney has this fabulous picture of herself. You will never see a picture of me like that, ever. I will never be that at ease around one, that trusting that what it shows is worth looking at.
Or look here at Plimco, having her naked superhero contest.
Is that brave? I don’t think either of them would say that it is and yet…
From the outside, it looks like fun. That’s why it bothers me that I can’t do it.
I keep thinking, what if it wasn’t me? If these bits and pieces belonged to someone else, say a friend of mine, would I accept this bullshit behavior from her–never looking at herself and enjoying what she sees?
I would not. I’d be furious.
Fuck it. I would rather do anything than write this post.
I want to see myself as beautiful and worth loving and believe it to be true. When does that happen?
Does it come when you finally make peace with the ordinary or do you begin to see yourself in some new way?
Here’s how it worked with me. It came to a point when I got too involved in other things and people to give it a thought…a combination of motherhood and job I liked and a writing project that absorbed me and a life that needed me to dance very fast to keep from falling down. I dropped my self-conciousness sometime in there without even realizing it. Then, when the intense engagement let up a little and I finally had a bit of breathing room again, I tried to return to the old pattern of self-nihilation only to find that it took up too much energy. Whatever scab-picking purpose it served wasn’t necessary to me any more and so I stepped away from the big pile of chains completely free. It’s not so much that I fought my appearance to a draw or that I gave up caring or that I somehow triumphed over my own self-conciousness. A lot of the self-acceptance we prize in older people, I’m discovering, comes to them sort of by accident. Life just moves on. That’s probably not a very helpful insight to you, except insofar as it suggests that if you begin to step toward a life that makes you happier, you’ll get progressively more satisfied about this too.
No, I think there’s something really wise in there. I’m still stressed about the work situation and I think that, in order to keep functioning, I move my anxiety from something I can’t do anything about at the moment to something I still can’t really do anything about.Ha, I’m such a secret meritocrat. I want more than anything to just go ahead and believe that my life is how it is because this is what I deserve, so maybe if I didn’t suck so much, everything would be gravy.
I have also had enough friends and relations drop dead and have worked with the records of enough dead people that I finally really really have come to believe that I too will die. (As opposed to intellectually pigeonholing that whole concept as something that I just don’t want to think about, which was the long phase after bulletproof stupid.) With that, I stopped saving up my life like so much string, something to be used later. There’s a lot of people in my experience that unexpectedly don’t get a later to use. So here was my question to myself: When did I plan to feel ok about opening myself fully to life? Would I be good with myself and to myself, say what was on my mind and use my talents to do what I thought important four years from now? Ten years? Twenty? Or should I take the moment I have and begin learning how to do it now? Now I try not to defer the pleasure of living. As my now-dead father says "hey, when you’re dead, you’re dead a long time." And he should know.
I sometimes still feel like I’m 12 years old. But that feeling is rare and I think four events and/or experiences made me more comfortable with myself: 1) Childbirth. 2) Attended a concert, stood in a long line to go to the bathroom, didn’t properly latch the door when it was my turn, looked up and saw the long line of people staring at me. I was mortified, but figured I’d never see any of them again anyway, so what the fuck. 3) I’ve lived with being overweight for such a long part of my life and am used to being judged. Finally 4) Used to have shitty bosses. I decided that if I dwelled on it, I couldn’t have a life of joy and I chose to be joyful rather than to live a life in anger and regret. I think when you consciously make that decision, the tide turns. Sorry this is so disjointed, but my brain is tired tonight and my eyes hurt.
I have a different perspective from Bridgett’s in that it never has come upon me by accident. It is a daily struggle of consciously telling myself to stop being so judgmental of myself. Every picture I see of me, I cringe. I see every imperfection. When I sing, even if I get a standing ovation, I dwell on one note where maybe my throat tightened up and the sound that came out isn’t what I wanted. We are our own worst critic–and that is destructive in the long run. So for me, everyday when I feel myself concentrating on my imperfections, I consciously stop and make myself look at my beautiful qualities. Because of the things I had told to me growing up that I have never been able to deprogram, I truly believe the struggle will never end for me until the day I die. Or…then again, I could choose to not allow that.
I’m like Ginger. No matter how good something is, I have a propensity for focusing on the flaw. The past two years have been a huge period of growth. I’m learning to control my thoughts and try to stop myself from being so self-destructive.I still have a very hard time after any social event. I nit pick every word that came out of my mouth, wondering how I could allow myself to sound like such a moron. I’m trying hard to stop, but old habits die hard.Unlike Bridgett and Kathy, having kids has not made me feel like an adult. I still feel like there are times where someone in charge is going to yell at me and send me home.
Ginger, I don’t know. I’m trying to have a little more mercy on myself and so I think saying, "Well, I could just choose to believe differently" isn’t really that helpful. After all, if I could, I would. I’m not a masochist.But I do think that I tend to take outward stresses, especially ones I just have to suck up and put up with, and turn them inward. That’s something I haven’t really realized, but I do think I turn my rage inward, and that’s just no good.So, while I don’t think I can just snap my fingers and choose to react differently, I do think I can at least start to realize when I’m upset at something and go ahead and just be upset at that and not turn it inward.On the other hand, it does make me laugh that we’re now at the point where no one is even phased by more boob freckle pictures.
Accomplishing something you have wanted to do — I don’t mean so much the finishing a piece of work kind of thing as I do the changing something about the way you live kind of thing — can give you a comfort area that makes accepting yourself a lot easier in general. For me, oddly and unexpectedly, it was buying a house. I feel like "hah, I did this, and it’s still a work in progress but it’s very satisfying, so I guess I must be pretty OK." And it has had something of the effect that Bridgett mentions, of making me aware that I am living my life now, not preparing for my life to start later on. And as lives go, it’s not so bad, so I must not be so bad either.
I wish I could snap my finger, too..and just "choose" to be more positive when it comes to self-esteem…but it is definitely a process…a process that I will definitely be in for years to come, if not the rest of my life. Oh, by the way, B…I have a boob freckle, too! (I don’t have enough nerve to post it on my blog, though.)
I don’t know if it’s nerve or stupidity. I want to be brave and daring. I don’t know how else to do that except to be and hope my chickenshit self keeps up.Plus, showing y’all my spots makes me feel close to you in a way I find scary but pleasant.
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