Month: September 2014

Fat

Today I stripped down in front of a Target dressing room mirror and declared my body good enough.

I was trying on a simple grey t-shirt dress. It required the removal of everything external, and I was surrounded by mirrors. A dreadful prospect, no matter what the circumstances.

For someone who grew up in a household where her beautiful mother was repeatedly debased and accused of being “too fat”, this was A Big Deal.

Who can say the impact that the words we hear over and over again will carry? My mother is a beauty queen–Miss Texarkana 1962 and runner up to Miss Arkansas in the Miss America pageant–and never was she anything remotely close to “too fat” for anyone but my father’s overblown and untouchable perception of what female beauty was.

It was okay to be large, but not TOO large, in some places, but not others. It was allowable to have some excess above the waist as long as it was carefully positioned and never overflowed the boundaries of social grace. To be lacking in that arena, however, was shameful.

I discovered, at some point when pre-tween nosiness was rampant, beneath their bed a strange apparatus made of plastic. My mother informed me plainly that it was a device intended to induce the growth of the bosom.

My father had bought it for her.

He (my father) is a study in inconsistencies and contrast. His view of perfection is irreconcilably narrow. Excess in any form is abhorred, yet, in some areas, excess is embraced, at least privately. Unless you are his own flesh and blood, in which case it becomes embarrassing.

Contradict much?

When I hit puberty and fat began to deposit itself willy-nilly over the contours of my body, he recoiled in horror. Wondered if my mother might be able to find some sort of foundation garments that would reign me in somehow. I was offered money to lose weight.

These things make an impact upon the psyche.

What the hell?

I mean, really? What the hell? What the hell is okay? What the hell is allowable? What the hell is abhorrent? What the hell do you want from me?

These questions have never been adequately answered. So I (and countless others like me) are left to answer these questions on our own. Perfection is overrated. Or perhaps it is within our grasp, if only we can stop the insanity that perfection itself engenders.

Today, when I looked at the dimples, the jiggles, the contours of imperfection and reality that made their mark upon my body, I had a choice to make.

Would I choose peace, or war?

I’m not talking health. I’m not saying the choice was to be healthy or not healthy. I am a pretty healthy person any way you slice it. Low weight. Small BMI. The choice was to be content or not content. The choice was to be at war with myself for ever ad nauseum, or to choose contentment with the body I have been given.

This is a big deal. When one has been handed a genetic profile that includes numerous tendencies including body dysmorphia, then being able to look at oneself, flaws and all, and declare it all good, is something akin to God Himself gazing upon His creation and saying “Yes. Yes, this is what I like. This is fantastic!”

I look fantastic.

I have overcome.

At least for today.

In Which I Speak of Myself in Third Person

She had not planned to be depressed. As a child, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, ‘morbidly despondent’ never factored into her answer. Yet here she was, standing apart and marveling that her friends could dance to the discordant music of the universe with such abandon.

When had the darkness moved in? She couldn’t say. It was a slowly creeping cancer, stealing the light ever so stealthily from the room and engulfing her before she noticed. People looked at her sideways when she mentioned she was on antidepressants; they became suddenly wary, as though she was an elephant carcass and they the poachers, approaching carefully lest she rise up suddenly and rend them with her tusks.

She was also diagnosed as bipolar, which was terribly trendy but not nearly as exciting as Hollywood made it seem. Bipolar meant that sometimes the darkness took her to new levels of emptiness that she had previously not thought possible. Or, contrariwise, to levels of hysteria that propelled her to dangerous and damaging pursuits.

It would be great to write The Great American Novel in a weekend, she thought. Or a symphony. Or a masterpiece in oils. Like those other bipolar folks. The ones who do it right. The Poes and Hemingways and Mozarts and Van Goghs and Munchs. Nevermind that they came to violent ends. That was part and parcel with the disease; the uneasy bedfellow to genius was madness, it would seem.

Even at being crazy, she felt like a failure. Not quite mad enough to be brilliant, but too unbalanced to focus on living life successfully. The small white pill she took every night seemed only to confirm her suspicions that she would never vault to the heights required for immortality, and it mocked her with its soothing promises of peace. How would she ever know where the mania could take her if she didn’t give it a chance? The encroaching darkness threatened ominously enough to keep her swallowing them, however; into the pit was not a place she wanted to venture again, and so she felt like a coward as well as a failure, and walked through the days cloaked in a veil of multiplying sorrows.

 

 

 

Wounds

The injury is dull and crusty, peeling up at the edges, blood dried hard by the passage of time. The recollection of it is sharp and vivid, bright with pain and horror.

When the damage occurred the plasma flowed freely and unbound for but an instant before coagulation began, collagen sending out the distress signal, fibrin threads catching platelets in a web of criss-crossing proteins, cells springing into action without any thought or due process required on the part of brain or nervous system.

The response was immediate and unqualified, the action of preservation. Whatever the distress on the part of the larger being, the internal machinations were no less measured and precise. Damage control was the aim, and such was attained, the scab now evidence of nature’s precision.

It is a magnificent scab, too–hard and impenetrable, keeping out pathogens and other debris, allowing the new skin to grow beneath its protective shelter. Cells knit together and form a tender covering over the damaged dermis, slowly growing and thickening to replace what was lost. Time is all that is needed for healing to come. If nothing disturbs the clot, all will be well enough.

But how can such a thing be resisted? Pluck the edges ever so slightly and it lifts, pulling at the epidermis, nerve endings twanging ever so slightly in alarm. Let it be the brain urges, ineffectively.

Maybe this time it will be different. Maybe this time it will not bleed again. Maybe this time it’s ready to come off in one piece, revealing only the beauty of the healing process behind. Maybe it won’t hurt. Maybe it’s ready.

It’s not ready.

Once more the cells spring into action: collagen, fibrin, platelets, etc. Once more they do their work and the bleeding is staunched.

Again the scab grows.

 

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