onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “fortress of fat”

In Defense of Giving A S*** (Please note, I use the “s” word freely in this post)

A friend of mine recently posted pictures from her trip to Burning Man this year. In one, she has a button that says “Give A Shit.”

I used to have a skill that I cultivated. It was the ability to not flinch. It was part of my “cool” persona. I was very good at it. When people did things to try to get a start out of me, I would barely react.

Not just friends playing pranks. Even when I was mugged and punched in the face when I was about 24 years old, I can still remember the look in the eyes of the guy who punched me. It clearly freaked him out that I didn’t scream or cry, or even cower. In fact, I remember looking at him with a disgusted look. I made him flinch. (Of course, I would later realize that I was a bloody mess because he punched my teeth right through my lip. I suppose that would be scary if you punched a seemingly weak girl in the face and all she did was look angry at you…)

From the time I was a very small child, I was very good at building fortresses. My fat body was a kind of fortress against intimacy. So was smoking. So was that unflinching bitch attitude. And being high on sugar.

Sugar may, in fact, have been the most useful tool I had against giving a shit. Because it made everything foggy. And surreal. And it made life-moments incidental. My real life lay in food and eating and getting high. Everything else was simply something to be endured until I could get my next fix.

But then I got my eating under control and I quit sugar all together. And then slowly, (very, very slowly…one at a time, after years of being sober from food) I dismantled my fortresses.

Because you can’t have love without pain. Because you don’t get to pick and choose what you let in. A fortress doesn’t keep the bad things out. It keeps EVERYTHING out. All of it. Not just the sadness of rejection and the pain of being wounded, but also the love and the joy and the trust and the intimacy.

I made a choice when I decided that I wanted to let myself fall in love and be loved. I made the choice to give a shit. I knew that it meant getting hurt. I was a grown woman in my 30’s. I didn’t have fairytale delusions about how love made everything easy. I was quite clear that the life I had chosen until then, behind my very secure, safe walls, was the easy way. Not giving a shit is, by far, the easier way. Love is not safe. Intimacy is not easy. It is complicated and messy.

Admitting you are wrong is scary. Making amends is scary. Restoring a broken relationship is scary. Being vulnerable is just plain terrifying.

I could make all of it go away by just not giving a shit. Still can.

But that would make the love go away too. And the joy that comes from loving. And the warmth that comes from being loved. Because ultimately, love is giving a shit.

I choose love, so I choose to give a shit. And I wish the same for you.

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Vulnerable, unpredictable, and intense – just as it should be

When I was in New York last weekend, I was with a group of people who make it their lives’ work to be present and honest. And it’s intense.

Now, it is also my life’s work to be present and honest, so quite frankly, I loved being there. But it was still really intense.

When I strip away the pretense of day-to-day living – like wanting to be liked, wanting to look cool, wanting to be acknowledged for being “good” or “right,” or any of the things that I do out of fear so that I don’t have to acknowledge my truth or be present for my life – what I am left with is unguarded love. To love and to be loved in return.

Here’s a secret. Love is scary. It’s vulnerable and unpredictable. It’s intense. Sometimes it can feel like it’s too intense.

I wouldn’t understand until years after I got my eating under control and got sober from sugar, but food was my main defense against being present and honest. And it was my first fortress against love. It did not matter how much love was sent my way. I had a wall up, and that wall allowed me to filter how much of it got in. I could take my love in easy-to-swallow, palatable doses. A lot of the love meant for me went to waste.

Being with this group of people was also interesting because I met them before I got sober from food. One of them was the one who sent me to get sober. Because of having known them for so long, I have memories, in my body, of how uncomfortable I was when I was eating compulsively. I could feel very clearly how free and peaceful I have become in the last 9+ years. I remembered how much I thought I had to hide then. I could feel so clearly, in contrast, how open I am now.

Another dear friend of mine talks about how getting sober from sugar and compulsive eating lets her discover who she really is, as opposed to who she was trying to be. And how she really likes the person she is discovering. That is my experience too. That in being who I am, I really like and love me. That I am happier being my flawed self than I was trying to be a perfect someone else.

So I am posing a question to you. (Yes, you. Who else?) Who would you be if you were totally yourself? What would it look like if you could let that true self be loved without filtering how much of the love you let in?

For my next trick, I am going to *not* juggle…

So it happened. I gained more weight. 3 more lbs. I weigh 160.4 now. Over 160. I’m kind of devastated. It makes me wonder if it’s ever going to stop, let alone reverse. It also makes me feel crazy. Because my clothes are getting looser.

And I wanted to not write about it. I wanted to not mention it this week. I have never been happy to tell you my weight in numbers since I quit smoking and started gaining. But 160. Holy shit! It feels epic. It feels shameful. I imagine you sitting at home thinking Wow (or ewww) (or so pathetic) 160 is really fat. So I wanted to skip talking about how I gained weight this month. Not because I have better things to write about (though I do have better things to write about…) but because I wanted to keep it a secret.

I can’t keep secrets. It’s not that I’m not capable. I am much too good at it for my own good. But secrets eat away at me. And feed my ugly thoughts. And skew my view of the world and reality.

I have made a point to tell you my weight through this whole experience. Not just that I gained weight. But how much. And the number. This may not make any sense to you, but if I kept the number a secret, it would make me question if I was actually keeping my food boundaries.

Secrets live in me like a form of lying. And they trigger that same lack of clarity, muddled thinking, and hatred, or at least distrust, of others that lying perpetuated. That I can tell you the number, no matter how embarrassing, is a reminder to myself that I am not lying cheating or hiding my food. That my integrity is intact. That even if I am ashamed of the number, I don’t have to be ashamed of myself. And it’s a reminder that I’m ashamed of the number because I’m sick in the head around my body image. Because I don’t know what I look like. Not because the number or my body are shameful.

And it’s the same as it has been while I have been gaining weight. Not only am I not fat, I’m gorgeous. I’m sexy. Men dig it. Why do I have to feel so ugly? And crazy? Why can’t I just be with it? Why can’t I just trust that like every other person who has ever quit smoking, my body will readjust?

A friend told me to forgive myself for being unhappy. And scared. Irrationally afraid. Because these issues are at the core of my personality. To give myself a break. That I am doing a great job. Keeping my food boundaries. Being in touch with my feelings. Being present. And then she said, “Get on your knees and pray.”

Now let me tell ya, I pray. A lot. But I don’t get on my knees for much.

But I got down on my knees.

At first I just did a lot of whiny-baby-poor-me complaining. And a little how-could-you-do-this-to-me accusing. But finally I asked God, what’s the solution?

And God said “Sweetie, you are going to have to drop your fortress.”

I know that quitting smoking really did slow my metabolism. And I know that there are things about food and weight that are basic math. Calories in, calories out. But I also believe that thoughts, ideas and beliefs can affect me physically. And when I heard this, on my knees, asking for a solution, I understood.

I collect fortresses. So I can juggle them. A fortress of fat. A fortress of bitch. A fortress of indifference. I spent my life building them with food and cigarettes and drugs and drama and taking my toys and going home. When I would drop one, another would go up in its place. Something had to keep men out of my heart. Or there was going to be love. And love inevitably leads to getting hurt. Even when it’s beautiful. And reciprocated. And lasts.

But who am I kidding. I built them because I “knew” the beautiful, reciprocal and lasting weren’t meant for me.

The truth is, I really do have better things to write about this week than gaining 3 lbs. I have had some really intense epiphanies about love. And a personal paradigm shift. I have to reevaluate the impact I had as a girl growing up, even though I was fat. And the assumptions I made about myself. Then and now. And how I painted the girl I was into a corner. And how she painted herself into a corner. And how I projected my beliefs about my own insignificance on others. And possibly (probably) provoked it, fed it, created it.

But if I did that work, if I got down to the business of healing, I would have to dismantle my fortress(es). And that would leave me unprotected.

See, I think that maybe I don’t want to lose this weight. Because this weight let’s me feel bad about myself. Irrationally. Ridiculously. It let’s me say that no one will ever love me so fat (while men go bug-eyed when they check me out on the street…) And it gives me something to make a big dramatic stink about. And I even wonder if I manifested it so that I could have a nice upset to distract myself. Because my clothes are getting loose. And clothes don’t lie. But a “significant” weight gain when I thought my metabolism had started up again sure did give me a break from all of my progress toward love and intimacy and partnership. Because it was starting to look like a possibility. And a reality. And close. Like it could be just around the corner. And I could be ready for it when it showed up.

Good thing I had a weight/body image crisis! Phew! Dodged that bullet.

I don’t want to be hard on myself. I know that I am doing the best I can. And that it’s pretty fantastic. Especially for a girl who spent the first 30 years of her life expecting to be eternally alone. I am just telling on myself. Because I would like to move on from here. Soon. I want to get back to the task at hand. To take down my fortress. And not put up another in its place. To be available to be loved. In whatever body I happen to be in at any given moment.

Unburdened

I happen to be the product of a wildly unsuccessful marriage. Sometimes I look at each of my parents and wonder who the hell thought that union was a good idea. Of course, I didn’t know them through their youth and courtship. (They had known each other in highschool, and married in their early twenties.) But in my lifetime they have been as different as can be. My father is a Harvard Ph.D. and atheist who wears bow ties and thinks intellectual discourse and art are fun. My mom is a Catholic with a dirty sense of humor who thinks Disney World and midnight showings of blockbuster movies are fun. They were divorced, oh…about 15 minutes after I was born.

When I was 27, I had a conversation with each of them (separately) about why their marriage didn’t work out. My mother’s explanation was that my father didn’t want a family. (This is not an insight into my father, by the way. He has always been in my life. Always as a father.) This is an illustration of the context of my childhood. My father didn’t want a family meant my father didn’t want me. Of course, my mother never said this to me growing up. I certainly don’t think she ever considered his leaving my fault. Both of my parents are good people who love me. But my mother believed that he left because he didn’t want a family, and technically, I was that family. A context like that is insidious. It does not have to be distinguished to be lived. It does not have to be named and expressed to be understood. That my father didn’t want me is the water I have been swimming in my whole life. To the child in me, I chased the man away with my very existence.

34-year-old, intelligent, rational Kate knows that her parents’ marriage is between them. That their choices to communicate or stay silent, fight or make peace, stay or leave, had nothing to do with her. But baby Kate got the burden of being a burden. And she’s been carrying it dutifully her whole life.

I have never been available for love. I shut my heart down early. But the thing about a heart is that it will love if you let it. So I didn’t let it. I anesthetized it with food. I ate every feeling constantly for the majority of my life. I built myself a fortress of fat and I lived inside it.

So fast forward. I got control of the food. I got hot. I got some integrity. But I kept the fortress around my heart. And then I started dating. I mean a *lot*. I internet dated. I went out with my cab driver. With my waiter. Bankers, lawyers, architects, construction workers. Even a chef. I met men on the subway. In airports. On the street. In the park. Starbucks. (Starbucks, single ladies! You just have to go there and smile.) But it didn’t matter how many men I met or how many dates I went on. I was all surface. I was all face and body. I never let anyone into my fortress to get a glimpse of my heart.

What I am starting to see now is that cowardice begets cowardice. That grace is a muscle. I let mine atrophy for 28 years. Perhaps if I had faced my fear and shame, I would have found that it was a paper tiger. But there is no perhaps. My story is that I fed my shame with cake and I hid away from life.

About two years ago, I was seeing this guy. (Starbucks. I’m telling you!) And wow, did I like him. I had had my food under control for a few years by then. I looked great and I was at a place in my life where I genuinely respected myself. So I got up all the courage I could muster, I found a little chink in the wall of my fortress and I told him that I liked him. (Like. Not love. I have never been in love.) He didn’t feel the same.

Now most girls can figure out how to deal with this kind of rejection by the time they are 14. But I was in my fortress at 14, cowering in the corner and stuffing my face. I did not know how to deal with it. I didn’t have that muscle. So I went back into my fortress and lamented my lot as the unwanted one. This guy is not a jerk. He was not cruel to me. He and I are still in touch occasionally. We exist somewhere between friends and acquaintances. He thinks I’m “really special”. (Ugh! I hate “really special”!) He says I’m his biggest cheerleader. He loves my honesty and seeks my opinion. And of course, he would still sleep with me if I were available for that. (Which I am not.) But what I have just come to realize, is that for the past two years, I have been feeling sorry for him. Sorry for having burdened him. Sorry for wanting what I don’t deserve. Sorry for making him look at my heart.

But now it’s been a couple of years. The food is still under control. And the longer it is, the more alert my heart gets. It wants out of the fortress. It woke up, looked around, and wanted to know who left the fat girl in charge!?!? It wants me to stop locking it up every time the fat girl and the baby and the burden in me get scared. It wants to get to work on building my grace muscle.

I hope that the next time I tell a man I like him, I will remember that whenever a person shows their heart to another person, it’s a gift. Even if that person is me.

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