There is a feeling you get when you have reached a point of not being able to handle all of the everything that life has thrown at you.
It is a wide, open feeling; one that makes you gasp for air, feel for the security of the comfortable walls around you that are no longer there.
A wide open feeling. As if you could just drift into nothing if you were not oh so careful.
It is a feeling full of terror.
But what if we decided that feeling wasn’t a bad thing?
What if we decided that feeling was the signal to create, to build?
I am feeling the clutches of that old foe of my again.
Body shame… spiraling into downright body hatred.
A back injury that took me down hard a couple of years ago is flaring again and I’m scared.
I’m at my highest weight ever and despite continuing to believe that I need to focus on healthy behaviours independent of weight, I am angry and ashamed.
I rub my hands over my belly and have to resist the urge to curse at it. I look in the mirror and I want to shrink away.
Why can’t I be smaller? Why does my body keep breaking? (And yes, the knowledge that the weight on my frame isn’t helping any of the injuries that keep cropping up isn’t lost on me, nor is the knowledge that injuries make it that much harder to maintain any weight ).
This morning I am stepping off the hamster wheel of shame and trying for a reframe.
I read this morning about the millions of years that it took to carve out the grand canyon. I read about the impact of pressure exerted over a long time on the earth. I thought about the beauty that has been wrought out of that pressure. I thought of all the magnificent shapes that exist in the natural world–canyons and mountains. Valleys smoothed out by glaciers, sea caves filled with light from eons of waves crashing in just the right way.
And I think about the pressure that has been exerted over time on my own life. 4 deployments. Illness. Injury. The joys and sorrows of loving little people who are standing up under their own pressures. Depression. Anxiety. Grief.
All of these forces that are exerting pressure on my body. In fact I think I can pinpoint body changes that came with each and every one of those pressures.
It has not escaped my attention that the last two significant jumps in my weight occurred during times of great stress. The first happened as I recovered after the back injury that I mentioned. Steroids and metabolism shifting medicines played their part, but I know that stress and cortisol and probably a little comfort food also contributed. The second came at the tail end of my husband’s last deployment. It’d held steady at one weight on the scale for 18 months and suddenly at the end of that deployment my scale jumped 8 pounds. Those pounds continue to stubbornly stick.
I think about the changes that happened to my body when I had my babies. My belly that will never be the same. The stretch marks that shine at me silvery in some places and still reds and purple and pinks in others.
I think about the change in my gait that has remained with me after the back injury, the numbness that won’t go away, the ways that that continues to hold me back from being able to exercise full throttle in ways that I want to.
And I wonder at the shape of me.
What if I saw my current shape not just in terms of numbers that I wish could be smaller, and not only in terms of what I’d like to see changed. But what if I saw instead the physical manifestation of pressure exerted over a long period of time? What if I saw myself and my body with the same wonder that I look at fjords sparkling in the sunlight after glaciers carved out deep trenches to be filled by the glorious blues and greens of the sea?
I’m trying to see that today. I’m trying to use wonder to move me into kindness. I’m trying to have that vision and use that as a reason to propel me forward into health rather than desperate wishes for instant weight loss. If I see myself as a monument forged by the journey of my life, then I can honor my body–which has walked through all of these pressures the best it can–by caring for it. I can honor it by moving it in ways that feel good, and that support the recovery of this flare up. I can honor it by choosing to eat food that nourishes me. And I can stop beating myself for the numbers that won’t change and the clothing size that feels so shameful.
Maybe I am as wondrous as the grand canyon. Maybe the story that is told in the work of art that is my body is worth honoring and marveling at just as we marvel at the work of a river carving out a thing of majesty. Maybe instead of a hot mess I’m a marvelous wonder.
Maybe you are too.