I have a confession. I did not pop out of Zeus’s head fully grown 7 years ago…
So oh wow, oh boy, and here we go. This week’s post is about my past, and my body, and the fat girl I was growing up. Who is me. And from whom I have spent the past 7 years distancing myself.
It seems that my fortress, my youth and adolescence, and my body, then and now and a year ago, are all tangled up together. And that I won’t be ready for love until I come to terms with the fact that I am the same person that I have always been. Which I have been dying to forget.
Here’s a little of the ugly truth. The girl I was didn’t believe she was worthy of being loved. And I have never believed she was worthy of being loved either. And for the past 7 years, I have considered her the obstacle I overcame. I have always considered her a burden to others. I assumed she never made an impact. I considered her not worth knowing, or remembering. I considered her not worth caring about. And I am just starting to realize now that when I end up back in touch with people from my past (Thanks Facebook!) I assume that they had no love or interest in the girl I was then. But that they would probably like this new, improved Kate. This beautiful, intelligent, sexy woman. Who did this really impressive thing. She lost the weight of an entire person! Who wouldn’t want to know me? I’m awesome. Now, anyway…
Sure, a few old friends have told me they missed me. Liked me so much then. Were happy to be back in touch with their friend Kate. But I never had to let it sink in. They’re women. They’re kind. I could love them and be touched without ever having to look very hard at that part of my life.
And then recently something happened that changed everything. I got a letter.
It was from a man from my adolescence. Well, now he’s a man. He was an adolescent back then too. And he was important to me. He was my friend.
When we got back in touch via Facebook, I figured he didn’t really remember me. 20 years. Why would he? I was just some girl. Plus I was “the fat girl.” What was there to remember? Who was she to care about? But I was very happy to introduce this new me to him.
But the letter he sent me was to say that he did remember me. Then. As I was. Yes, fat. Yes, weird and insecure. But his friend. And the point was that he remembered saying something hurtful to me. Not maliciously. But hurtful none the less. And he was apologizing. He was asking my forgiveness.
There are two things about this that have had a significant effect on me. And made me look at that relationship I have to my younger self.
Of course, I forgave my old friend. His apology was sincere and touching. It was vulnerable and unselfish. There was no reason to hold a grudge. But it took me a long time before it even occurred to me to think about that teenage girl. You know, me. I was worried about him not feeling bad. I was very much interested in him knowing that he was forgiven. But I didn’t give a thought to her. I never bothered to worry about her heart.
But Eventually, I did think about her. And when I did, I was overwhelmed with her pain.
Good Lord, I lived in constant pain growing up. And my life was colored by the underlying belief that I was a burden. That my love had no value. So yes, I had loved him so much. He had been so special to me. But it had seemed inevitable that eventually he would realize that I was unworthy of his care. I already walked around knowing that I was unworthy. I was just waiting for the sign that the other guy knew it too.
But maybe even more significant for me was that he was not apologizing to 35-year-old Kate. He was not apologizing to the beautiful, sexy, eloquent, confident (for the most part) woman in a thin body. He was apologizing to the fat, unhappy, self-loathing 14-year-old girl who had been his friend. Because she had been his friend.
I can’t remember a time, before I got my eating under control, that I didn’t hate myself. Really. I hated myself all the time all my life. And a huge part of that was about being fat. And being aware of the fact that I was fat. Growing up, it was constantly taking up a corner of my mind. I spent every moment of my life aware of it. It was the definition of me. Anything else that you could have said about me, that I was smart, and funny, and generous, and a good singer, and had really long hair, came after being fat. First I was fat. Everything else was incidental.
It’s hard to think of myself then as somebody’s friend. It’s hard to imagine meaning anything to anyone. It’s also hard to think of myself then as me. And I think maybe this friend understands, better than me, that that girl and myself are the same person. I think maybe it’s so much clearer to everybody who has known me than it is to me.
A friend told me that I have been feeling stuck because I am smart. And I have been letting my brain try to run away from my body. And she’s right. I can see it in how I have been dealing with this weight gain. I keep saying “You’re not my real body. Go away. Are you gone yet? No? Go away. You’re ugly and gross. You’re not mine. Are you gone yet?” In other words, if my body is not what I think it should be, I disown it. It’s not mine, it’s not me. It’s not good enough. I deserve better. Are you gone yet?
When I changed, I changed so comprehensively, and so quickly, that I was able to pretend that I am not the same as that fat girl I was growing up. And I probably needed to do that. At first, anyway. I had to get my feet planted firmly in my new way of living. In many ways I had to walk away from her in order to change.
And I do not regret changing. I do not regret getting a handle on my eating disorders. I do not regret stopping a lot of dishonest and unhealthy behaviors that were part of my addictive and disordered eating. I do not regret the confidence and peace that I have now, that I never had then.
But I can’t pretend she is not me anymore. I don’t understand the how or the why, I’m not clear on the logistics, but I know in my heart that somehow, loving her is the key to finding love. I don’t have to be her, but I have to stop denying that she is me. And I have to consider the idea that she was loved. Maybe she didn’t love herself. And maybe I didn’t love her. But somebody did. Maybe lots of people. Maybe more people than either of us ever knew.
If you ask me today, right now, what am I afraid of, the answer is “everything”. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of being in a relationship. I’m afraid of never being loved by a man. I’m afraid of finding out that I am incapable of being loved by a man. I’m afraid of being loved by a man. I’m afraid of being rejected. I’m afraid of having my heart-broken. I’m afraid of existing my whole life without taking a risk. I’m afraid of getting the end of my life and never having lived. But maybe right now, for the first time ever in my whole life, I am not afraid of being mistaken for that girl. And I’m not afraid of acknowledging that it wouldn’t be a mistake.