"…I am sorry that I tried to make you into something that wasn't mine."
It starts with this article. (If you read it, this post will make a bit more sense.)
I've read articles like this before. Articles that are designed to help women see themselves differently. Articles designed to enable women to see their bodies as the amazing vehicles for all earthly experiences (which, of course, they are.) And I usually let them touch me for a good five minutes, commit wholeheartedly to changing my body image attitude and then forget all about them and go back to my status quo.
What is my status quo? It's that salvation will always lie 30 pounds less from today. That a thinner me is automatically a better me. That I will be more attractive. That I will feel better. That I will have it all together. That I won't have to be ashamed.
Every day it's all about what I shouldn't put into this space—this body that ties me into being remarkably human. Shouldn't-a eaten that. Shouldn't-a eaten this. Aaaaand repeat.
No matter how I've tried to truly embrace the whole body love movement it seems like I'm much more for showin' than for blowin'. (And yes, I am quoting Laverne DeFazio.)
Move More, Eat Less—whoops, I mean Eat WELL! I'm full of catch phrases and positive spins. I love alliteration when it comes to all things diet and exercise. I mean, if it's catchy, it's gotta at least be worth 10 pounds in the right direction. Right?
But something happened when I read this article. This idea of being sorry for trying to make my body into something that isn't mine. The pervasive idea that all of us, with some elbow grease and hard work can achieve this crazy ideal of body perfection. If I just smoked enough cigarettes. If I just nailed those 22 points a day. If I just got off that sugar. That gluten. Those carbs. That animal protein. That Cross Fit workout. That Pilates class. That [insert the next life-changing health and fitness idea here].
If I just do everything right, I can have that body. Size 12. Size 10. Size 8. WHO KNOWS? Maybe even a size 6!
I am guilty of buying into this every single time because of that one time in 2002 when I smoked incessantly instead of eating and got down to a "magical" weight [read: ridiculous weight] for all of 15 minutes.
I know I can do this! I did it before!
But the fact is, until I get right with this ridiculous cycle, it will never be enough. Ever.
I am 48 years old and look at the legacy I'm carefully, neurotically laying out. The thought that I'll hit 50, then 60, then 70 (if I'm even that lucky) and with each successive decade there I'll be, still muddling through and trying to accept the body that I have with grace and failing miserably.
And writing about it. Over and over and over again.
Of course, that's what writers do. We write. We write to figure shit out. And we keep doing it until we think we know something. Or at least until that something changes, and then we have to figure it out again.
I know I present to the world as a middle aged scrapbooker mom, but I'm going to let you in on a secret: I'm a writer first, even if I'm the only one who knows it.
I read the aforementioned article aloud to Dan. I only got as far as "Dearest," before the tears came hot and fast.
Dearest. Oh my God. I never think of myself in that tender way.
I'm not saying this is some kind of Come to Diet Jesus turning point for me, but it is time to issue this body of mine an apology.
I'm sorry for all the hating. The disappointment. The endless cycles of dieting and exercise. The extremes. The pity parties. The things I didn't do because there was nothing that fit. The throwing my hands up in the air and not caring. The disconnection from doing what is actually needed.
But mostly, I'm sorry for not being tender.
My therapist says I don't see myself accurately (and no, she's not talking about being chubby, because believe me, she'd be the first to point that out). But that I don't see my strengths and weaknesses accurately.
I see my attitude in this category as a weakness. The attitude that is always focused on those 30 pounds. And sure, I can frame it in more positive language ("stronger!" "more fit!" or the best one, "healthier!") but for me those are just words for the same idea: thinner.
I need to work on this. I need to change this. It ain't happening overnight. Just like any developmental shift, it's going to take time.
But hopefully not too much time. I've wasted an awful lot of it to date.
Apologies are meaningless without action to back them up.
I've got some serious making up to do.
Over the weekend, we were up at our family cabin and I didn't hesitate to throw on my new swimsuit, go for a boat ride and swim in the lake. And I'm taking that as a very small sign that changing this attitude is, in fact, possible.