As tired as I was, I couldn't sleep last night. Part of the problem was I *needed* to finish this book I started over the weekend -- "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb. It's really good, if you haven't read it -- I read it years ago, but something made me hunt it down recently. Sure enough, when I started it again I couldn't stop til it was done. It's weird how I'm at such a different point in my life than the first time I read it, so I read it a lot differently. It's an epic story following the life of a complex female character, and the weird part is the book is written by a male -- and it's really eerie because he NAILS her thoughts and feelings. How did he do that?? How did he get inside a female's head? Anyway, it follows her until she's in her late 30s, and I guess I identify with that because I'm on my way. This post isn't meant to be a book review, so I'll just say that it was inspiring to me how the main character overcame all this shit in her life and ended up happy despite herself. It kind of made me hopeful. The key seems to be accepting yourself for who you are, not who you could be or who you want to be. Blahblahblah, the message of the century. Easier said than done, eh? But for some reason, this message resonated within me more than before.
So I've been thinking deep thoughts about overcoming my mortal fear of ... what? what is it I'm fearful of? I think I'm fearful of what people might think of me. I have all these specifics, but I think it really boils down to that. I'm obsessed with wanting to look and be a certain way, and be at a certain point at my age, because I "should" be or because I'm expected to be. I've come a long way in the past year or two as far as accepting that I may be single and independent for the rest of my life, which isn't that bad -- I have family and friends and I wouldn't be lonely. I also have surrogate kids -- my nephews. And most of my best friends all have babies too now, so anytime I need a baby fix I can get one. So the main thing I worry and get sad about is how I look. But I've realized it's not how I look to me, because when I'm at home I am not self conscious at all. It's how I must look to other people that plagues me. I live in mortal fear of running into my exes and having them think "wow, she's fat now." I hate going to parties where I don't know people for that reason, too -- why would anyone want to talk to me, I'm fat. Never mind that I might also be funny, smart, etc, I'm fat, therefore I'm worthless. Gosh, it's a wonder I'm not dating, eh??? (surprise surprise, weight is a big issue with the character in this book, too).
Wow, this is going deeper than I expected , but I gusss I'll go ahead and roll with it. So why is it that so much of my feeling of self worth is tied up in aesthetics? Why do I assume it doesn't matter how smart I am or how interesting, but surely no one would want to be with me because of how I look. And incidentally, I doubt I'm really as grossly overweight as I see myself in my head. But that's not really the point -- WHY does how I LOOK matter so much?? Is it because I've always been considered pretty? Why do I assume i'm ugly if I'm not thin? Because I look in the mirror and I don't think "pretty" anymore. I feel like I can put makeup on and wear nice clothes, but i'm still fat and there you go -- worthless. (I am exaggerating slightly to make my point, I'm really not so vain -- i'm taking it to the extreme for the sake of discussion). In fact, it doesn't matter how great other aspects of me might be, all I can focus on is my weight. And because that is so all-important in my head, because it seems to represent the "key" to my ability to be happy and enjoy life -- I am thus paralyzed to do anything about it. It has become a vicious cycle of self loathing and food addiction, interspersed with sadness and occasional spurts of weird confidence.
As I never had any weight issues at all until I was married, basically, I have to tie it to that. In fact, I paid a lot of money to figure that out. I was hiding from my ex, I wanted to be invisible to him, I wanted to repel him -- all subconsciously, of course. I knew he was disgusted by fat, because he said horrible things about his mother and sister who were overweight. So when I started shutting down to him, as some primal form of self preservation, I built up my "armor", my protection, my wall of fat, keeping him out. And it generally worked. And voila, as soon as we separated I lost 40 pounds in about 3 months without trying. It just melted off. I had new friends and a new boyfriend and my life finally looked promising, and I was so so so happy at that time. The world seemed just filled with possibilities, things I'd never even thought about until I was free of him. (I didn't intend to write this as a chronicle of my weight issues, but it's too late now...). So when things started going south with us after a couple of years, OMG, the weight started coming on again. There was medication involved with nasty side effects, but a lot of it was me -- the more I felt hopeless and scared, the more I ate. The more weight I gained, the more I felt distanced from my boyfriend. And eventually, of course, we broke up. Not because of my weight -- that was just a way I handled the death of the most important relationship I've ever had. Since then it's been many years, but I've been unable to be thin again.
Is it any mystery why I associate "thin" with "happy" and "attractive"? Is it any wonder I don't feel much like dating? That I don't think there's any way I could possibly attract anyone worthwhile as long as I'm fat??
Ok. So there's that. A mouthful, no pun intended. The funny thing is that I'm rarely hungry. I do not eat because I'm hungry. I eat when I'm sad or bored. But just because I've identified that doesn't mean I can just stop it. Just like someone who knows intellectually that smoking will kill them, that doesn't mean they can just stop smoking, just like that. Like someone with heart disease, it's not easy to just stop eating foods that are bad for you, to just switch to veggies, voila. I do think food is an addiction for some people. I think if it wasn't food, it might be alcohol in my case, I don't know. Maybe that's why I don't drink very often. I know it's why I've never ever even wanted to try drugs, because I fear I could become addicted. I seem to have a tendency to do that. Addicted to food, addicted to love, addicted to acceptance.
I'm not positive where I'm going with all this. I guess I just want to pose the questions that plague me, just for the record. Maybe by voicing them and getting them outside my body I can better see them and figure things out. I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. For me it is my weight, if only I could be thin again I could finally be happy. For some, it's if only they could get their nose fixed, or if only they could get a better job, or if only they could get married... there's always something, isn't there? Always excuses for not being quite happy enough. I perceive that this is a collective issue that is in fact a disease in itself. So what's the solution? Why do we let outside forces so affect our insides? Why should I care if I'm as thin as the person next to me? Does that make me a good or a bad person? Do I think all skinny people are deliriously happy? Do I think heavier people are not worthy of love? Of course not.
I do not have the answer. Today I am just asking the question.