“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” ~ Joan Didion
Yesterday morning, I took a soul-searching look at myself in the mirror. With deeply furrowed brows, I squinted and I frowned, and then I peered closer. For the record, don’t do this. It’s decidedly not a good look on a 50 year old face.
“Oh, you again,” they lamented, recognizing me instantly. They studied me up and down.
The ones staring out at me were not being friendly. They were disappointed.
“Didn’t we finally tell our story and heal?” the teary little girl in the sundress whimpered, swinging her doll.
“I thought I could finally look up to you,” the funny, chubby teenager with the feathered back hair scoffed, crossing her arms.
“Misery sure loves company,” the heavy, depressed wife and mother sighed. “Why don’t you just go make some buttered noodles? Who cares about your stupid body anyway?”
“Um, what the f*ck happened, sister? Haven’t we been over this?!” the strong woman in the back, the one who just last year towered above the rest, glared at me and shook her head. She was annoyed. Annoyed at my relapsing weakness.
They were asking me questions and I didn’t have answers. They were complaining about me. I thought I had it all figured out. The weight. The reasons for the weight. How to avoid the weight. I thought I had put that sh*t behind me. But here I am struggling again. Will I ever stop struggling?
As they talked about me, I stayed quiet, and scrutinized my body the way I always have. Wasn’t I a runner? Didn’t I write all that stuff about overcoming the things that keep us stuck, the things that block our happiness? Didn’t I arrogantly think I had all the answers to my burning, mid-life questions (and all of yours too, for that matter)?
There I stood, grim-lipped in front of a mirror, humbled once again.
The one thing I’ve learned in this never-ending quest to love myself enough to take care of myself, is that hiding from the truth has never worked for me. Every part of my being knows this.
But even so, even knowing this to my core, I gave those disgruntled faces in the mirror two strongly executed middle fingers and decisively walked away. “F*ck you guys,” I sighed. I don’t want to care anymore, I thought. I just want those damn noodles.
So off I went to make my excuses (and the noodles).
Who could I blame? I could definitely blame Donald Trump. Why not throw one more accusation on top of his heaping pile? Blaming him was easy, and a good place to start. His presidential victory and subsequent division stoking actions (along with his alleged but probable shadiness) sent me into a tailspin of despair this past year. My weight gain (as a result of my depression over the state of the union) is undoubtedly his fault.
And what could I blame? Boredom, for sure. Fatigue, melancholy, menopause. My impending milestone birthday. The feeling that my particular uphill battle to good health “just isn’t fair.” Why must this subject consume my life? No one seems to have to work as hard as I do.
Checking off all the bullsh*t boxes above shoved me right off track.
While the blame game helps me work through some of my emotions, it ultimately solves nothing. I know this. This, I know. I also know that good filters, the right light, and manipulated angles hide double chins. And it’s this smoke and mirrors show that hides the truth. My happy pictures tell the story of what I want, and what I used to have, instead of my current experience.
The real truth is, I’m not fine. I’m lying again. I’m justifying. I’m ticking off excuses. I’m eating more and exercising less. It’s really that simple, and now everything is tight.
“You again?” they asked, just yesterday. They say this every time I see them.
My relationship with food will always be the center of my world. It’s what I seek and use. It’s how I process life. And while I know that my eating disorder is certainly not who I am deep down, it is indeed what I am. At the end of each day, I am reduced to an adjective that describes a noun. I am a recovering bulimic, and it may as well be tattooed on my forehead. Like the marks of a hard pressed #2 pencil, I can erase the pain of my 28 year battle, but the imprint of what I did to myself will always be there.
Today, I returned to the mirror and took another long, hard look. Instead of turning away in disgust, instead of hiding from myself, I held my own gaze. I made a conscious decision to mother myself. To look with unconditional love instead of disappointment. To be accepting, instead of accusing. With hope, instead of despair. It was an honest moment, a moment of truth. And I know from what I went through before that when I sew honesty and authentic self-love together, when I weave in forgiveness, I begin the cycle of recovery anew.
This time, I answered them.
“We’re still healing, love,” I told the assaulted child.
“We are human,” I told the eye-rolling, secret-keeping teenager.
“Food is easy, but it’s not the answer,” I told the tired, resentful wife and mother.
And to the strong, still-rising woman looking back at me expectantly, I simply nodded.
That’s when that bad-ass warrior, that survivor, raised her voice and said, “it’s okay, darling, I know you’ve got this.”