Shedding and Emerging

Photo: Julia Folsom on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: Julia Folsom on Flickr via Creative Commons

I don’t like doing things at which I don’t excel. In fact, I kind of hate it. It takes a lot of effort to maintain that level of hubris, particularly when you find you only excel at a very specific, sometimes nuanced, number of things. I connect well with people. I am a strong communicator, both in writing and when speaking. I can create beautiful spaces, rocking theme parties, amazing dinners that make people feel welcome and comfortable and engaged. I’m a smart girl. Because I (like most other humans) crave the affirmation of the people around me, I learned at an early age to focus my time and energy on those few things that could be summed up as relational or academic. In those areas I could thrive.

Know in what I most definitely don’t thrive? Throwing or hitting things – my aim is roughly three hundred sixty degrees of my target. Also catching things – I mostly catch with my face. Also moving from one place to another with any semblance of speed or grace. I spent most of my life reading, writing, and living in my head. I didn’t go camping or hiking or take a pet for walks or play the sportsing. My friends through grade school and junior high were hiding in basements getting high and sleeping together; not a lot of athletes in the crew. My muscular friends Freshman year got that way during their stints in juvie. While I never got into that scene per se, these were my people. Once I found my high school tribe – made up of actors and writers and academics like me – we spent our time with Monty Python and Balderdash, not gym shoes or balls of any kind.

So, no aptitude. Moving on to the inner attitude toward having a body (no shock and awe intended), sexual abuse at an early age led to a very mistrusting relationship with my body. I was in perpetual fear of it, and what others could so easily do to it. At eight years old, I distinctly remember walking home from my friend Haley’s house and having a car of guys pass by honking and catcalling. I was eight. The feelings of exposure, fear, self-preservation were lingering and far too developed for a kid that age, and I remember spending nights desperately trying to figure out how to protect myself from unwanted male attention. Eventually I began to notice that in shows and movies and magazines and in listening to the older guys I was around one thing that seemed to virtually guarantee that men would be disinterested in a woman was if she was overweight. Suddenly I had my answer. As crazy as it sounds, at eight years old, I made the conscious decision to gain weight. Parental oversight was nil at that time, so there was no intervention or investigation into what was happening as I grew in size. By junior high I was fully “plus size” but never experienced the ridicule or rejection that might have motivated a reversal of that decision.

As I grew in age and self-awareness, my being overweight actually reflected my self-loathing and shame pretty accurately. Half-assed attempts to learn to exercise (because it is a skill that needs to be learned) were easily deterred by bouts of depression. As an adult, similarly half-assed attempts to lose weight were quickly overruled by busyness, bad habits, and a generally self-punishing view of food used as a weapon against myself.

Now, at thirty-five years old, the dysthymia is in check. Counseling and rewiring of the brain are helping me make strides in removing the shackles of shame and self-hatred. I’ve learned not to fear the people around me, and am currently learning to stop fearing love. I’ve started to gain those working out skills. The issue is the habits, the busyness, the time. I’m starting to understand why people agree to be humiliated on national television in exchange for a time and place devoted to making these changes.

So while I’m not going to go join them at The Biggest Loser Ranch, I have set three months aside with only one priority. I’ve found a lifting program that seems like it could actually be a good next step for me. I’ve cobbled it together with a running plan and daily core work prescribed by my personal angel/hero/physical therapy friend. I’ve started back to (mostly) Paleo eating. And it all takes so much time. The changing clothes and the showering and the sweating and the shopping and the cooking and the chopping and the dishes…all new habits that have to replace old. Which means time, trial and error, saying no to other things so that I can say yes to shedding this outward remnant of so much broken thinking that marked my identity as a young person.

So for the next three months, this is the plan. No plans. Just a lot of weights and treadmills and protein (no seriously, I have jugs of powdered protein the size of a toddler in my kitchen). I don’t know what it is to start something like this and finish it. I still don’t imagine being a person in a body is something at which I will excel. I wonder why these shells of flesh were God’s choice to house His image; beings of pure light or energy or something seem way cooler. But He did decide to do it this way. And I want to figure out why, why He calls it good. I hope to emerge with a new understanding, a new shape, and a new glimpse into what it means to be called an image-bearer.

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1 Comment

  1. May 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    […] attention to my physical health and all those aspects of self that are connected to it. I was…dubious about my own abilities. On the other hand, I actually added several elements to the program. I […]


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