onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “writing”

Life is fast and I am slow

I feel like I need to write about the fact that I am still not writing, aside from my weekly blog post here. But I am definitely not writing fiction. I feel like I have to mention it because it is exactly the kind of thing that easily fades away from my own mind if I don’t keep talking about it, if I don’t keep it fresh. It has happened before and I have let my writing fall through the cracks. My world has changed significantly in the past month, and I am getting my bearings and finding my footing.

It’s interesting to me how I forget all the time that this is the way life works. Yes, I have a particularly mutable lifestyle. I am very happy with it. But change is the only constant in life for everyone. It has always been this way. I just didn’t recognize it until I got my eating under control.

And I probably didn’t recognize it because I was holding on to things too long and too tightly. Sometimes long after they ceased to be.

I sometimes think about the ways my physical self and my emotional self mirror one another. I literally have a hard time remembering to physically put things down. I will hold on to objects, even when they are getting in my way. For example, sometimes at the grocery store, I will have my wallet in my hand while I am trying to load an entire cart full of groceries onto the conveyor belt. Obviously this is a task that would be better done two-handed. All I would have to do is put my wallet in my pocket or my purse. But it does not occur to me. The wallet is already in my hand.

This is also how I find myself acting in life. A few months ago, I already had a routine. And instead of rearranging my life, I have been trying to fit 40 hours of work into the routine I already had. Needless to say, it’s not working out as well as I had expected. (No, I have no idea why I would expect that to go well.)

I have a quick mind and wit, but emotionally, I am slow. Slow to recognize. Slow to get comfortable. Slow to decide. Slow to change.

When I got my eating under control, I started to understand what it meant to “go with the flow.” I learned about “life on Life’s terms.” I learned to accept things the way that they were, and most importantly, that when I accepted them fully, exactly as they were in the moment, it was only then that I had a chance to change them.

I read something the other day about sayings that people hate. (I read a lot of random stuff on the internet.) And one person hates the phrase, “it is what it is.” I, personally, love that phrase. It may be obvious, particularly linguistically, but to a past version of me, it was frustrating if the way it was didn’t match the way I thought it should be.

Right now, I am not writing fiction. And that is what it is. But I want to. And I am slow to change. So I am going to keep talking about it, and writing about it, and meditating about it. And I don’t doubt that something will shift. That I will notice that I am trying to load a cart of groceries with my wallet in my hand and finally manage to put it down. Because life is full of changes anyway. And did I mention I’m slow?

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They won’t all be handed to me.

There is an experience I have had throughout my life. Whenever I have been interested in accomplishing something, the first step has always been easy. Not just easy, kind of a joke. In my first attempts at almost anything, I have generally been handed a win. When I was in college, I took a playwriting class. I wrote the first act of a play and got rave reviews from both my teacher and my fellow students. I ended up getting a D in that class, my only D ever in my entire school career, because after that first act, I never wrote another line for that play. Or for that class at all, as a matter of fact.

Then, when I was 20 years old, I had dropped out of college and wanted to be a professional stage actor. I was working at a restaurant, and a man walked in, approached me, and asked me to audition for a long-running, famous stage show. I showed up and got the part.

This is not normal or common. If you or someone you love is an actor, you probably know that the process of getting a professional acting job is not generally that quick or easy. A professional actor puts in a lot of work just to get an audition, let alone a part. Being an actor is not all developing a character, having a genuine moment with a fellow actor, or transforming into someone else to the joy and awe of an audience. There are head shots, cattle calls, cold reads, agents (if you are lucky enough to get one) and just generally lots of fruitless pavement-pounding. The whole thing is full of work that is not glamorous or exciting. I never auditioned for another professional acting job again. (Though I did dance with a company a few years later, but I never auditioned. And though I was paid, and took it quite seriously – I really love to perform – it was not a job, and I never thought of it as one.

Last week, I submitted my first article to an online publication. Within days I got a response saying that my piece was accepted for publication. (You can read it here.)

It was a first attempt at something, and it was, once again, handed to me.

Please don’t misunderstand; I know that I am a quality writer. I know that I have a gift for expressing complicated ideas, and for illustrating how things work in relation to other things, both mechanical and interpersonal. But there is a way of things with that kind of writing, very much like the way of things with acting. There are query letters, and résumés where you explain why you are qualified to write on a topic. There are rules about simultaneous submissions of the same piece to multiple publications, and protocol to follow if you need to “unsubmit” a piece from various publications because that piece has been accepted at one particular publication.

And then there is self-promotion. I can’t even tell you how I hate self-promotion.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with my Good Girl, who just wants to be liked. Or maybe it’s my Fat Girl, who is afraid of drawing attention, and thereby ridicule.

And there is something else. It’s a thing I sometimes forget. I am easily overwhelmed. If I step back, and look at the whole picture, it is always too much to take in. And yet, it is my default setting. 

I am a huge fan of the grandiose. Maybe that’s why it seems right to me to take three giant steps back and take in the whole wide world at a glance. But I need to remember that after that first sense of wonder, what seeps in is paralysis. 

By getting my eating under control, I learned two really important lessons about achievement.

1) all I have to do is take the next right action. And the next right action is usually small. Sometimes, it is literally eating my lunch. 

And 2) Sometimes the next right action is unclear, and all there is to do is wait for the moment when I know what the next right action is. One of my favorite sayings is, “when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” 

This second one, especially, is not particularly popular in our hyper-active, results-based culture of “winning.” But I find that the answer always does come, eventually. And for me, even if I fail, I feel that an action born from following my heart is always worth my time. An action born of the fear of not taking action generally leads to a lot of messes I have to clean up before I can move forward again.

I don’t know what to expect from choosing to write professionally. (But hopefully it includes lots of money and renown.) At this particular moment, the whole thing seems fraught with pitfalls and traps. Every set of submission guidelines occurs to me like it was written by a frosty, snooty schoolmarm with a too-tight bun who would like to know just who in blazes I think I am. 

But I have to remember another thing I learned when I got my eating under control. Any time I tackle something new, there is always a learning curve. Even if that first experience was easy peasy, there will always be a set of necessary skills that I lack. And it will always take time to acquire those skills. If I choose to do the work at all. 

The little girl in me who is terrified of failure would choose a chocolate cake over any work every time. But I don’t let her make decisions anymore. So I will figure out what the next right action is eventually. And in the meantime, I will keep doing the fun part. I will write, and read, and deconstruct the genius of what is already out there. I will do my part to acquire the skills that I lack. And I will take all of the next right actions, one at a time. And I will particularly look forward to the moments when the next right action is lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast.

It’s all just experiences

As I have mentioned, I live with a steady stream of low-level anxiety. It buzzes in my background like a radio station on the edge of a signal. (Does that even mean anything to anybody younger than 20? Anyway…) You know that thing where they say before you get upset you should ask yourself “Will this matter in 5 years?” Well, for me, even a minor struggle can be played out to me being homeless on the street in 5 years. I know it’s irrational. Knowing that it’s irrational doesn’t make the worry any less real. Since I gave up sugar, this kind of irrational anxiety is easier to keep in check, but it takes work on my part.

I have a similar anxiety about being stuck. About some difficult situation or another never, ever changing. I know this is irrational too. Same rules apply.

Since I have been working, I have not been writing fiction. I was doing a lot of writing before I had this job, but now I’m tired. If not all the time, close to it. And it makes me worry that I won’t write again.

There is a part of me that says I should start a new regimen of waking up at 4 every morning to start my day writing for 2 hours before anything else. But the tired part of me tells the writer part of me to shut the hell up, thank you.

What I have to remember is that everything changes. This part of my life where I am tired from my job and I don’t have time to write will change. Somehow. I am not saying that I will definitely start writing again any time soon. What I am saying is that when I look back on the past 10 years, I have lead so many different lives. I have encountered countless situations that I feared would never change, and they changed. Not to mention countless I wished would never change. They changed as well.

When I was younger, I used to believe I was supposed to make my mark on the world. I thought I was supposed to create a legacy that was big and bright and undeniable. I thought that was where meaning lay. I thought that was why I had been given such a big presence and prominent personality.

In getting sober from sugar, I came to realize that I am making a mark on the world. And it is bright, and undeniable. Right now it’s not big. It may never get any bigger than it is now. I am positively great with that. It doesn’t make it any less important.

Big personality celebrities and self-help gurus will tell you that you need to go after your dreams. That the only one stopping you is you. And I believe that. They say “don’t regret the things you never did.” But I’d like to take it a step further. Even if I don’t do them, I don’t have to regret the things I never did. I don’t have to have regrets of any kind. Life is not a race. It’s not a test. I don’t need to do anything to justify myself. I don’t need to “earn my spot.” I already have a spot. I already have a purpose. To exist as myself.

A friend of mine once shared an epiphany with me. She said “It’s all just experiences.”

I love that. I was freed by it. That is the meaning of life for me. To experience it. In the body I was given, and the circumstances I was born into, and the choices that I make every day. The meaning of life to be Kate. And that includes everything I missed out on because I was too afraid, and everything I ruined by being an addict, and everything I marred by being a liar and a manipulator. It includes all of it, because it’s all just experiences.

I want to write fiction because I love it. Because I’m good at it. Because I have characters and ideas in my head that entrance me, and I would love to share them with others. And because I make myself laugh and cry and think. And because I love to slip into another world and another life. Because I want more experiences than just the ones I am given. I want to feel all the feelings. I want to know all the corners of what it means to be human.

But if I never finish writing the stories in my head, there would still be nothing to regret. They provided me with hours of my own personal amusement. They were all experiences in their own right.

I don’t know why being sober from food made me content, but it did. Slowly but surely I stopped needing to prove myself in ways other than existing day to day. I keep my boundaries around food and I do my best. And suddenly that’s enough. And that takes a lot of pressure off of the anxiety-ridden girl who thinks that homeless on the street in five years is a perfectly reasonable possibility for the future. A day at a time, life seems pretty rosy. I’m madly in love. I have a job. I have a home. And I don’t have to do anything monumental to have any of it. I don’t need to prove myself in any way to occupy the space I’m in. It’s my space. In my lifetime, it has always been mine. It will be mine until I die.

Free to be funny another day

I was reading a blog the other day. It was a parenting blog. I am not a parent. It was about DIY cleaning products. Which I will almost certainly never make or use. I was reading it because it caught my attention and I clicked on it.

It was funny. It was one of those sarcastic-mom blogs. The kind of thing Erma Bombeck was writing before blogs. Even before the internet being readily available was a thing. I liked what I read. It was fun.

And it got me thinking about the fact that this blog is not particularly funny.

I am funny. In my life, I make people laugh. A lot. And I will be blunt. Eating disorders, while serious, and worthy of an authentic conversation, can still be pretty hilarious.

Anything that is not killing you at any particular moment can be funny. Even something that is killing you can be funny.

So I thought about how to make this a funnier blog.

I thought about the things that make my friends with eating disorders laugh. Like how my boyfriend will eat one snack cake in a package of two. He will just leave the other sitting there. He’s not even controlling himself and saving it like a good, obsessive eater would. Really? You can’t just mindlessly eat the other one because it’s there? What, you’re too good for that? Or when a friend talks about how her grandmother used to tell her that if something had fruit in it, it wouldn’t make you fat. So she would eat big, rich desserts that had some element of fruit and didn’t expect them to make her gain weight. How could I have gained weight? All I ate for dessert was fruit!

But then I wondered if it would land for people who didn’t have eating disorders. Or if it would just be salt in the wound for people who did, and who were not having an easy time of it.

And then I remembered one of the things I love about having my eating disorders under control. I have time and space. For whatever. I don’t have to do everything now. There’s another meal coming. There’s another day coming. There’s another week coming with another blog post to write. If I want to be funny, I can think about being funny. I can try it out some time. No rush. And it will be OK if it doesn’t turn out for the best. I don’t write for an audience. I write for myself and sincerely hope that people get something out of it. But if they don’t, that’s not actually my responsibility.

A while ago I thought about writing some fiction. And I am writing some fiction in my spare time now. I thought about starting an eating disorder blog long before I actually made Onceafatgirl. I thought about quitting smoking before I quit smoking. I didn’t jump into any of those decisions. And in the end, I ended up doing them. In my own time. At my own pace.

It’s so freeing to remember that I really am free.

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