Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WEIGHTY MATTERS

I’ve lost some weight.  A lot of it, as a matter of fact. I finally took the proverbial bull by the horns and with the help of modern medicine I’ve released a sizeable chunk of my former self to the universe.  I’ve always said that this old earth needs to remain balanced and I was trying to counter balance my brothers and sisters in drought devastated Ethiopia.  That comment was not meant to make light of the heart breaking hunger in a place I’ve never even seen. It was meant to make light of…well, to make light of something… heavy: me. I have historically joked about my excessive weight.  I think I wanted people to know that I am perfectly aware of my obvious flaws.  For decades now I’ve analyzed my reasons for carrying so much extra protection. I have thought of my overweightness, strangely, as a passive aggressive friend. The kind who is always there, often friendly and comfortable, but down deep hates you and wants to poke her bony little finger into your fleshy back till it breaks the skin and drips blood down your spine, smiling while she does it. It’s a love/hate relationship.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the beautiful things in my life that seem to be a consequence of fleshy abundance.  For one; I have not been tempted to flirt.  Dave, true and faithful man that he is, has never once made comments about my size and has always been loving.  Since it’s him I love, and never want to be tempted elsewhere, my fatness was a nice shield.

I had to, in an effort to make myself feel worth healthy human attention, develop talents and personality traits that made people take notice in spite of a less than appealing package.

I also wanted to show my community, filled with svelte and beautifully coiffed women, that we do not all have to be the same.  I’ve said for years, that I wanted to be a missionary for diversity; to prove, especially to young women, that you could be friendly and outgoing and approachable, intelligent and respected… and be fat.

I’ve had things to say, and songs to sing, that needed a hefty vehicle to deliver it.  I sang my song Ice Cream the other day, and it was very strange.  People didn’t laugh. I can’t really say why.  But they usually laugh, in that “oh, she sees herself and is willing to laugh about it, so let’s laugh with her” sort of way.  It kind of confuses me now and I’ll have to think on it a bit before I sing it again. 

Heavy people are naturally prone to be viewed as jolly, unless they are grumps, and I like that.  I like to think of giving big squishy hugs.  Watermelon hugs, as my friend Jed calls them.  Big soft embracing hugs. The melons, and the patch, are shrinking.

The boys at lunch at the Yale Club. 
(A dignified bachelor's party)
The other night I was talking with Dave about our New York trip.  What a grand time we had.  It was so fun to reconnect with Dave’s friends from his college years.  We had gathered for Peter’s wedding. We had not seen some of them for nearly four decades.  They travelled from Canada and Texas and other places to celebrate, eleven of fourteen men who had shared a brotherhood in a senior society at Yale.  They had brought wives and girlfriends, many of them, and we spent two wonderful days together. In the past I have always…always…been conscious of my size.  I was gifted with a mother who had taught me through word and deed that there was so much more of value in all people than the way their body looks. So I generally have not hid in quiet corners hoping no one would notice me.  I talked, and laughed, and sometimes sang, and felt generally accepted.  But I always felt self conscious about my body.
 
It was interesting as Dave and I talked the other night, that these words came spilling out of my mouth:
“For the first time”, I said, in a rather sad and wistful way, “ I did not feel shame. I didn’t feel pride, either.  I considered that my body was neither attractive nor offensive.  Rather benign, I guess. But, for the first time in a long, long time, I did not feel shame.”

Dave’s response: “You are beautiful to me.  You have always been beautiful to me.”

The realization that shame was not in my physical self-definition any more was a sad awakening.  I’m  not a fan of shame as a tool.  It rarely works in any useful way.  I cringe when protestors hold up signs that begin with the words “SHAME ON….”  As if we had the right to lift a bucket of guilt and sprinkle it on anyone…including ourselves.   It’s a tool of the devil and I am so sad, so very sad, that I notice now that it has been traveling with me all these years.

I think of Jesus bending over in the dusty street, drawing with his finger in the dirt.  I think of him speaking to me, to all of us, “Where are thine accusers?” and following with “Neither do I condemn thee.”

A wise bishop once told me to reserve guilt for sin.  And when the sin is gone, let go of the guilt as well. Fat is not a sin.  It’s a weakness I suppose, as are so many other things that don’t show the way fat does.  It makes me so sad to think of the shame and guilt we all carry for misplaced reasons.  Ah, me.

I’m grateful that there is currently less weight I have to carry around.  I can cross my legs, and tuck my arms around my waist, and last week I fit in the seat belt on the plane and had to tighten it.  Do you have any idea how liberating it is to pull that dark gray strap through the seat belt buckle and feel it cinch across your hips?  You probably don’t even know how lucky you are if you’ve done that all your life. I’m grateful for all of this, and understand that it might be gone tomorrow and I’ll wake up from the dream. 
 
I've lost a lot that I'm glad is lost. But I am conscious of the good energy that was squelched and smothered and also lost under the oppressive invisible weight of shame. Be gone, evil one.  I throw out my arms and refuse to hold you any more.

3 comments:

  1. I am so glad that Annie put your blog up on Facebook so I could start reading and reconnecting to you. Congratulations on the sacrifice you have made. Thank you for your thoughts on shame. It's given me a lot to think about.

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    1. Jentry, beautiful girl! How are you?

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  2. Brought to tears when I read Dad's response: "You are beautiful to me. You have always been beautiful to me." Growing up with that loving example was such a gift. Having my own husband now who emulates Dad's example is twice the gift.
    I'm sad that shame is a part of our view of our bodies when they are less-than-ideal. I'm certain that's not what God intended. Thanks for sharing your struggle so openly. I love you. I love that you've taught me to be a missionary for diversity! You have always been beautiful to me, too.

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