I have been putting this post off for over a month. I’m a little ridiculous, guys. Like, a whole lot ridiculous. 5 weeks ago, I was all set to publish a post called, “30 Days of Wellness.” In it, I detailed the detox plan I was going to be following for 30 days, the plans I had for exercise and movement, the mental mediation to which I would be committing.
Instead, I crashed and burned. So I avoided posting and avoided talking to y’all about this. Because honestly, it’s a little embarrassing. Or at least it was, when I thought it was a lack of willpower. I’ll talk more about the crash and burn later. Not today, though. Today is a response.
Yesterday, the beautiful and incomparable Sizzle wrote about something very personal, very honest, and very upsetting. I wanted to comment on it so many times but, each time I began typing, my comment would get longer and longer. So instead, I’ve decided to respond here, on my own blog.
First, you should read her words: Sizzle on Disjointed Self-Perception.
The first time I attempted to comment, I was so excited to tell Sizz that I felt like I’d overcome my self-perception issues. I wanted to tell her how I’d really begun to embrace my shape and how all the running and workout classes I’ve been doing have been motivated by a desire to see what my body is capable of and not by disgust in myself or my body.
But it didn’t seem helpful; it seemed braggy. So I stepped away from the computer and went about my day, feeling good about myself and considering the words I would share with Sizz.
Then, a few hours later, I was playing around online and got a notification from Facebook that I had been tagged in a photo. It was a group picture of all of us from Bunnarchy this weekend, the pub crawl plus bunny ears that made me think I could drink more whiskey than I really can.
Oh, you guys. How I wish I could tell you I saw myself and admired my curves. How I wish I could tell you I congratulated myself for my thinner face and the tone I am beginning to see in my legs. I wish I could say I focused on the loveful faces of the friends next to me, laughing about the fun we had and how much we drank and danced.
But I can’t. If I want to be honest with all of us, I’ll have to tell you how I immediately zoned in on my upper arms, face reddening as I felt my heart fill with shame over the way I looked in my black slip dress. I couldn’t believe I’d gone outside like that, where people can see me. I couldn’t believe I would leave my house, ever. I immediately wanted to cancel my plans for the week, the date I set up, the costume party on Saturday, everything, and hide in my room, starving myself until I felt presentable.
I didn’t, of course. Instead, I went to the gym. Please don’t congratulate me on this. Yes, it was better to drown my sorrow on the elliptical rather than in a tub of ice cream. But it was also awful.
You see, I’ve been going to the gym for the last month. And running outside. And taking Nia and Zumba classes. I’ve been moving, quietly, on my own, for nobody but myself. I’ve been moving every day simply because I can. I am able. My body is capable of amazing things but I’ve never pushed it, never really allowed myself to reach my full physical potential. I’ve spent the last 6 months watching cancer sap my roommate’s energy, suck away her life force. She used to ride her bike everywhere; now she can barely get up the stairs without losing her breath. For me to be able-bodied but living inertly seemed the ultimate insult.
I am helpless against her cancer. I cannot stop it. I cannot make her tumors shrink. And it makes me angry. It makes me want to scream and punch strangers. I want to tell her cancer to fuck off. So I am, the only way I can think how. I am moving. I am using my body. I am pushing my own limits and stretching myself and daring myself to go further, run faster, fight.
But last night, on the elliptical, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was picturing my arms. My stomach. I was calling myself fat. Lazy. I was berating myself for wasting the last 15 years. It was not a positive experience. It was hell.
So Sizzle, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know how we change our self-perception. Maybe it happens a little at a time. Maybe the bad moments grow to be fewer and farther between. All I know is that I have the best motivation I’ve ever had for moving my body and I’m still not immune.
I also know this: when you and I are in Zumba or Nia, sweating and pushing each other to keep moving, to do one more cha cha step, to avoid holding back, I am only thinking about the next motion, the next moment of movement. And, when I glimpse myself in the damn mirror surrounding us, I try to tell myself my body is strong.
And when I look at you, working so hard, I wish for an ounce of your determination, a bit of your strong will. I am inspired by you.