i don't know that i've ever felt so beautiful as i did this past summer.
something shifted and i felt myself living in my body, breathing as a relatively normal person, and thinking, alright, here goes...
and then came september. and october. and november.
and all i could think was oh, shit.
i felt so low. so deep and blue and bruised.
even after all this time i often lack the courage to use the right words. and so i use other words. sadness. i'm feeling blue,i say. to make it palatable, understandable, manageable.
one of my dearest friends, over a cup of coffee, looked right at me and said, we all get blue, meg. that's life. we all have those moments.
and i knew what she meant and i love her dearly and think her wiser than almost anyone i know, so i closed my mouth, sipped my coffee, and directed the conversation to... something else, anything else. men, probably.
but what i should have said is this: i can handle the blue. i can handle the sad. i don't live in it, i let it pass through. it's this damn eating disorder. it's something all-together, entirely different and it's suffocating. do you understand that? that i'm slowly panicking over here in this corner, and that i'm only ever (at best) two paces from losing it?
it slipped back in this fall. slinked and seeped right through the fissures and fault lines that living a courageous and open life invites. the thing is, to live courageously, to thrash about in the unknown, to stand on the brink, to look down and breathe deeply, these are the things that make one well. in the long run, these are the things that make one well, i know this.
but on the road to well is not-so-well and really-really-really-not-well and a lot of pit stops in between. and it’s exhausting.
it was back in november that i took down the link from the sidebar.
it was back in november that i went home for a week. last minute. unexpected.
why did you take the link down from the side of your blog? my mother asked in one of those talks we had in the car, paused in a parking lot, me crying, her helpless—as any good parent in that situation is. she sat and she listened and cried with me and then asked me that.
because i don’t want that story to define me. i’m done with everyone knowing.
i don’t remember what her response was, but i remember about a month later climbing the hill from my apartment here in new york and having the though: it only defines me if i say it defines me. only with my consent. it is as big or as small as i allow it to be.
and when i’m doing well, as i am most of the time, it’s just as big as i need it to be, which is to say, not at all.
but back in november, the shadow it cast was large and unforgiving. and for a moment there i lost my footing.
everyone i loved told me to let it go. stop thinking about it so much. but i was determined to really know the thing this go round. if i was gonna be stuck in the middle of it I was gonna study it from the inside out and i'd be damned if i didn't emerge just a little bit wiser about the whole thing.
back in college we studied the alexander technique. it is a method of learning about and freeing the body. it has to do with posture and energy and blockages and is tremendously helpful for actors. one of the things you do is trace your body. meaning you, or a partner, feels along the ridges of the collarbone or the shoulder blade or some such--it's meant to help you know the anatomy of the body--to feel the whole size and breadth of each part.
one of the hallmarks of an eating disorder is something called body checking. we most of us do it without even realizing--little things like checking our reflection in the store window or taking note that our pants are a little bit tighter today. but back when i was was really unwell i checked by body often and in strange ways. like feeling for my collarbone--checking to make sure it was there--judging my weight, my worth by that bone alone. or using my middle finger and thumb to see if they could wrap around my wrist. comparison was the hallmark of the body checking. is this easier to do today? can i feel the bone more easily today? i'd ask myself. when i returned to my second year of school having lost nearly twenty pounds from my frame (two months on weight watchers) i remember thinking, it'll be so much easier to trace my body in alexander this year.
oh boy. big red flag.
when i did weight watchers i lost three pounds the first week. and two pounds the week after that. and two just about each week following. and each week i defined myself not by my weight, but by my loss. by the space between. i’m seven pounds less this week, i’d think. seven less than when i began. i’d study my body in the mirror carefully take stock of the changes. my face looked leaner. my collarbone protruded a bit more. this dress fit better than the last time i tried it on. it was never just this dress looks good, it was better than. comparison to a past moment. the difference, the subtraction.
comparison. always, always comparison. comparison isn't just the thief of joy, it is the thief of the present moment and the slippery slope to what feels awfully akin to insanity.
the body is a constantly changing thing so if you keep trying to look for the changes and is it different and maybe it’s not—you loose your footing quickly and you stop seeing it at all. everything’s refracted, distorted, and you lose the sense of which way’s up, which down. it’s a tremendously confusing and terrible way to live your life.
now there is a chance that someone, somewhere is reading this thinking: she lost twenty pounds on weight watchers? okay, that's what i'll do then. and off that person'll trudge to a meeting and they'll count points and follow the plan and they'll lose weight too.
so let me be very clear in how i say this: i did weight watchers for two months. i lost twenty pounds. and i spent the next six years paying the price.
two months. six years. do the math.
and i followed the plan. i ate the twenty points each day. twenty points was roughly 1,000 calories. 1,000 calories each day is starvation. period.
weight watchers was recommended to me by my pediatrician.
i think i've lost track of why i began writing this post. something to do with comparison. how coming out of of this last bout of blue had much to do with waking each morning and making the active choice to not study myself in the mirror or lift my shirt to check the flatness of my stomach.
and to put the sidebar (FED) back up.