It’s like the proverbial pebble in the shoe. It starts off as a small rattle. You are aware of something that you were previously unaware of. Where you once felt comfortable, suddenly you are feeling an irritation.
Time passes, you continue to go about your business and the pebble starts to feel more like a rock. You take steps and it digs into your foot. You try to navigate around it. You shake your foot. You favor the other foot. Finally it is so disruptive, painful and intrusive you have no choice but to stop what you are doing, sit down and just take off the damn shoe. As you shake out the shoe, you are shaking your head in unison…why didn’t you just do this sooner?
You put your shoe back on and as you start to walk again you are expecting to be pain free, rock free…but it takes a while because there is bruising where the stone had been pushing into the sole of your foot for so long. And there is this strange “sense memory” of the rock that lingers even though you removed the actual cause of the problem. But eventually you realize that’s it’s been a while since you were thinking about your foot and the rock and the shoe as the memory gets dimmer and you are JUST LIVING YOUR LIFE.
I had no idea I was a fat kid until I was given the message from the people around me that I was a fat kid. I actually spent numerous hours, days, and years just living my life in concert with my body, mind and spirit. I was happy and woke up in the mornings thinking about normal kid stuff like Rocky and Bullwinkle, buying new sneakers and fighting with my sister. I did not wake up thinking about my body.
Once I was labeled as fat, cautioned that I couldn’t get any fatter, and warned that I would ruin my entire life if I didn’t lose weight, everything changed. I started waking up in the morning and my first thoughts were that my body was wrong and how would I make it through the day with that body? My body became a separate entity. There was me and there was THAT BODY. I lived with a longing to be thin and the pain of not being thin. The discontent hardened and became a constant unwelcomed rock in my shoe…a “sole-mate” (pun-groan) not of my choosing. As years passed I lived my life while constantly accommodating for the rock. No matter what my accomplishments were, they were eclipsed by my failure to attain the “look” of a successful woman. I always assumed that somehow the rock had the right to be where it was and I had to work around it.
It never occurred to me to just take off the damn shoe.
It sounds so simple now. It wasn’t. I won’t lie. It took me years of therapy and self-exploration. There was no “magic transformation.” I still had to deal with the bruising and habits formed from years of living with what sometimes felt like a whole quarry of rocks in my shoe. Writing and performing in Leftovers, a show about eating disorders and fat acceptance made a difference. Eight shows a week, three of us took the stage, barefoot and sang about how beauty and success comes in all shapes and sizes. Joining like-minded communities and participating when I can in educating others continues to reinforce and validate the choice I made.
And it has been worth it. Today my body is no longer a separate entity and honestly, I cannot remember the last time I opened my eyes and greeted the day with thoughts of hating my body. The memory of that pain has dimmed and I am relieved to be walking forward, unencumbered and… JUST LIVING MY LIFE.