Monday, July 21, 2008

the skin i'm in

I stepped on the scale this morning.

I weigh under 200 pounds for the first time in, like, forever.Seriously. I think I was probably over 200 for most of high school, certainly since having my first child almost 19 years ago.

I've lost 100 pounds in 9 1/2 months.

Okay, breathe.

It's exciting and euphoric and scary as hell. I look good. The problem is that most of the time when I look in the mirror, I don't recognize the person looking back. Who is she, this woman who actually has shape, who has decided that she's not going to hide anymore?

Well, she used to look like this:

And now she looks like this:

When I thought, a year ago, about what I might look like, I figured I'd look like me, only smaller. With wrinkly, old skin because your skin, they tell you, might be loose when you lose the weight. That didn't happen, probably because I've been working with weights. I have curve, and definition. My hair got curly instead of falling out. My skin is clear. You can see my eyes. I've lost two cup sizes and have gone from a 24/26 to a 14/16.

Like I said, sometimes I don't recognize myself.

I thought I knew what I signed up for when I had the surgery - I thought I was prepared for the emotional changes that weight loss would bring.

I wasn't.

More than a year ago, the sisters in my coven and I went on a weekend away, to a cottage on Georgian Bay, to hang out, eat, do ritual, bond a little more. At least that was the idea. It mostly worked. Except that I have a very thin skin when it comes to a few things, and I took exception to what one of my lovely sisters was telling me, in her effort to be honest, to draw me out.

"You're a hider", she told me. "When I read your words, I think "wordsmith." When I talk to you, it's like your someone else entirely, that you've hidden yourself so well that you might never come out. And what I'd really like is for the person who's inside to come out and play for a little while."

Naturally, I took great umbrage over what she had to say. Why can't I have a different writing voice? Of course I'm not as interesting in person as I am through my words. Who is?

The thing is, she was right.

I've never been comfortable in my own skin, not since I was an abused child, not since I was confused, very early on, about my own identity. I didn't want the skin, didn't want the shape, didn't want to be noticed. I hid behind my weight, behind my books, behind a curtain of overpowering shyness that was close to some kind of social aphasia. Over the years, I learned social skills, small talk, how to dial a phone and talk to someone, how to meet new people without experiencing overwhelming anxiety. But I hid the most important parts of me away from just about everyone. I told myself pretty lies about how I was comfortable with who I was. It took extreme physical discomfort to realize that if I wanted to live, I had to actually live. Take the risk of losing the pounds that protected me and isolated me.

And food numbed me out. When you don't want to feel, when you're afraid of experiencing the full range of human emotions because you just might feel pain, food is a great way to go. It numbs you and it helps you hide. it makes you invisible. It physically satisfies you. Now when I have eaten too much, I don't like the numb sensation that goes along with it. I eat less in order to avoid it. But a year ago, I couldn't stop, even though I could barely make it around the block and my knees wouldn't support my body weight anymore.

I wasn't making a conscious decision to change all of this when I had the surgery last October. But subconsciously, I think I knew.

And coming out (or starting to) was definitely a conscious decision. I don't know where it will lead. I'm willing to take the risks, in order to experience the things I have been missing all along. I have a feeling that another year from now I will have experienced even greater, more powerful changes. Maybe I'll fall in love.

Maybe I'll be able to tell people that my first real love was a girl I met when I was a camp counselor in high school.

Maybe I will be even more open to touch than I am now.

Maybe I will finally be comfortable in the skin I'm in.

I'm willing to move from my safe, comfortable and emotionally dry hiding spot, and take the risks that will lead me to new, strange, wonderful places.

At last.

1 comment:

Maria said...

What a brave, wonderful person you are.