Saturday, January 14, 2012

Folds and Bumps

Jeremy and I got engaged on a Saturday afternoon as the sun was setting behind the Rocky Mountains. We got in the car, drove to my house, celebrated with my family, and spent the evening together. Mom had made her special Christmas mint cookies. It was the first morsel of food I reached for that evening and as soon as I did, I knew Helga was back.

Not that she ever left, but in that moment she was just louder than she's been in awhile. More pronounced. More evil. Helga is what I call something that everyone has, but may not have a name for. Helga is that voice in my head that has nothing but nasty things to say about me. She criticizes my choices, what I say, how I act, who I am, but she also seems to hone in most strongly on my appearance: what's wrong with my body, my skin, my weight, my hair, the food I eat, how much I exercise, and the clothes I wear.

Quite honestly, Helga's the Devil. Helga doesn't care about things like wholeness or authenticity or peace or acceptance. Helga's all about perfection and she's impossible to please. Helga came out to play most obviously when I was battling anorexia and bulimia a few years ago, as she pretty much dominated my thinking at that time, but I can't remember a time in my life when she hasn't had an opinion about just about everything I do. And to her, everything I do sucks.

I reached for that mint cookie and it might as well have been an electric zap that ran through my body: "Don't do it. You're getting married in a few months. You can't eat things like that anymore." Ahh yes, I anticipated immediately that the wedding-preparation version of Helga would be quite a handful.

I don't think I'm like every girl, but I'm like many. When we're little and we attend weddings, many of us start thinking, "Ooo, someday when I'm married, I want..." Maybe some little boys do this. I wasn't crazy over it. I didn't have everything planned down to calligraphy on formal invitations and napkin colors, but I've always known one thing about my future wedding: I wanted to look beautiful.

And "beautiful" is a word that only 2% of the world's population of women uses to describe their appearance and I am no different. "Beautiful" has been kidnapped, co-opted, taken over to mean something very different than it did a hundred years ago or even thirty years ago (thank you, Photoshop).
Beautiful means thinner than I am.
Beautiful means lighter, longer hair than I have.
Beautiful means less blemishes than I have.
Beautiful means a flatter stomach, thinner thighs, and toned shoulders. None of which I have.
Beautiful means a lot of things I am not. And Helga has been preaching it non-stop.

I'm not looking forward to engagement pictures.
I wish we didn't need a photographer for the day of the wedding.
I can't afford a make-up artist and hair dresser.
I can't afford a personal trainer.
I think one of my biggest fears associated with the day of the wedding is, yes, how I actually look, but more about how nasty Helga will be when she looks in the mirror or sees the pictures.

I'm sane enough to recognize that the body I've been given doesn't change much. It's my perception of it that does the most fluctuating and the most damage. I do sometimes feel attractive, but not for very long before Helga busts in with, "Yeah, but...but...what about your wrinkles?" And Helga has been louder than ever since we got engaged. What I had dreamed/wished/wanted to look on my wedding day as a little girl is not going to happen. Accepting that will be important. Crucial. Valuable.

The other day, I swam laps at the pool during a senior water aerobics class. Afterwards, the locker room was packed with naked women: mothers, wives, grandmothers, most of them over sixty. They were many different sizes and shapes of body: voluptuous, short, tall, bigger, smaller. Their breasts were different sizes, their skin had folds and bumps. This is not a runway show. This is not Hollywood. This is real-life. This is what happens to our bodies whether we like it or not.

I took off my swim suit, showered, and walked toward a locker. As I did, I caught sight of my naked body's reflection in a mirror shared with one of the women. Compared to her shorter, rounder, fleshy body in the mirror, mine looked like Jennifer Aniston: thin, lithe, toned. Ironically, the only person in that locker room of naked women who seemed discontent and insecure with her body...was me.

I've still got some healing to do.
And it might take the rest of my life.
But it's worth it.

Worthiness is here within me.
And like every other person on planet earth, I'm just working on seeing and believing it.



Katie said...

"What I had dreamed/wished/wanted to look on my wedding day as a little girl is not going to happen."


Every woman is beautiful on her wedding day. To hell with make-up and hair artists, I'm talking about that moment when she looks at her groom and marches toward him like she knows who she loves and she's going to keep him, thank you very much. That's what people come to weddings to see - not the expensive flowers, not the designer dress, but that resolve, that love. True beauty.

And when that happens, you will be the most beautiful woman in the world, because love becomes visible at that moment.