That's your gig

by MB


In all fairness - that's your thing. The whole "self deprecating," I'm a fuckup thing. That's your line. You play into that.

I hate that she's right.

(Conversations with JS - 4.13.17)


Untangling

by MB


Dear body, 

It has taken me the better part of 28 years,  but I'm finally beginning to untangle the web of lies you told me.  

I've learned, recently, that just because my body was once a frequently topic of conversation - the length of my legs or the size of my chest were seemingly central to my very existence - does not mean now, as an adult, that it is on the forefront of peoples' minds today. I am no longer disproportionately tall or top heavy. I do not draw stares when I wear bathing suits at appropriate social gatherings, nor does the revelation of my age provoke looks of confusion from innocent inquiries. 

Today, at age 28, 5'4" (+ a half), a size 4, and a 32DDD, I'm actually fairly normal, maybe even statistically average. 

In a room full of women of childbearing age, the very fact that I have my period is not something about which I should be ashamed. No one has ever once asked me how old I was when I began to menstruate, nor asked me to chronicle how the day unfolded.

I've invested so much energy in believing that you were my defining characteristic. That you spoke for me, without me, over me - that your language was louder than the words from my tongue. I profoundly believed that the very there-ness of my flesh overpowered anything I might think or feel to the contrary. Because my body, unlike my words, has never lied.

So I hid my words behind this vessel - this body - convinced she could do the talking for me. I lost my ability to feel along the way.

What are you feeling? my therapist would gently ask?

Nervous. Sweaty, Shaky.

But those weren't feelings, she reminded me. They were my body's reactions. My feelings, she explained softly, could not be described using the same vocabulary.

Say you're anxious. What does that feel like?

Sweaty palms. Rapid heartbeat. Flushed cheeks and fidgeting.

See, she says. That is your body's physical response to the emotion. You are not feeling sweaty, nervous, fidgety. You are feeling anxious.

And slowly, the untangling began. 


Processing

by MB


I think you're processing. You've been (quietly?) (slowly?) processing everything for the past few weeks. I think this lack of productivity is just you processing.

Slow down, Lynette reminded me yesterday. It's o.k. A lot has changed. Everything has changed. You're just processing. 

This has challenged your identity - everything you've ever thought about yourself. And you, especially, are someone who takes awhile to process. It's normal.


Letters to my body

by MB


Dear body,

I hate the way you speak for me without uttering a word, the things you say from the very fact that you take up space in the world.  I hate you for becoming a woman when you should have still been a girl. Most days I still hate you for being a woman; your very existence provokes constant resentment. I hate how much I cringe when I look at pictures of us back then - how ashamed I am of my inability to control you.

I hate you for the way people looked at us when we were younger, breast buds advancing through tanner stages before most girls even knew those defining characteristics.  I hated the purple speedos we wore in Mexico - the way the elastic dug into the skin on your back - and how we had to pretend no one else could see us.

I hate you for the curiosity you instilled in me about my own body - how I hoarded books on development and adolescence. I am not sure I can forgive you for all of the time I spent trying to prove to myself that I was normal -  that there was nothing wrong with me -  and I hate you for robbing me of that time.

Speaking of time - can you imagine what I might have done with all of the time I  would have had had I not ruminated over the imperfectjons of your flesh, counting the ways in which you were broken?

It's been almost 20 years, yet my heart still sinks when I see a young girl in the stages of early development - paralyzed by my own empathy.

I think it's your fault that I've never been normal about dating or men, fearful of my own desire for sex and love. I hate the way your stomach looks when you're in bed with G, wishing your hipbones took up more space in your body. I hate the part of you that convinced me to fuck a married man because I feared intimacy was too dangerous.  I hated how much I enjoyed fucking him - in his car, on his desk, on my bed at 2pm when we should have been at work. I hate how you let him rub his hands over your ribs as he told me he liked his women "skinny and a little naughty." I will never forgive you for being so selfish, and for perpetuating my fear that sex is wrong and men cannot be trusted. 

I hate you for silencing me when I most needed my voice - for knowing what I needed to say but denying me the courage to speak. 

Body, I hate you for the time you robbed me of. For the days and months and years I spent as an alien in my own skin, convinced the problem with you was my fault.  I hate that you're so good at keeping secrets.

I hate the way you've made me fear words like:

  • puberty
  • development
  • hormones
  • period
  • "becoming a woman"

I hate how needy you are and how you refuse to go away. 


2.23.17

by MB


How quickly it happened has no bearing on how long it will last.


E Pluribus unum

by MB


Earlier this evening I sat reticent on the couch. My head perched on the soft skin of my boyfriend's right arm, the tears from  my face pooling neatly into the soft cartilage where his forearm and bicep meet.

Between sobs of happiness and chokes of fear, my chest heaved for the simplicity of rivalry, for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who reminded us that purity and passion have the power to bind our world beyond rackets and crowds and cheering and the perfect slice. 

I cry - I wallow - residual tears from the fight my boyfriend and I had earlier today. Our first real fight. The one where we said things we meant but never intended to say to each other, as if the permanence and not the words were what truly offended us. My chest heaves for the moment we found ourselves caught in - the space where our boundless capacity for selfishness and selflessness collided. 

I cry because I am lonely but not alone. Because I am thousands of kilometers and frequent flier points away from my family. From my country whose passport I carry proudly, but for which I weep behind closed doors of follow non-American aliens abroad. 

I cry for the platform I have been granted but  fear I do not deserve. For the time I've spent wallowing in bed, preoccupied with love and sex and eating disorders and recovery and what it means to be a woman in the world, but for the paltry action I've taken to strengthen the roots which bore these identities. 

I cry because I feel helpless and hopeless and disconnected. Because I love my boyfriend and my life with him and the person I have created from the ashes of my former self. For Lady Lazarus and the battles she waged, and for the apathy burdening my soul.

I cry for the fear of what tomorrow brings and for the selfishness with which such fear burdens me, as though the future were a vessel unto itself, uncontaminated from the realities which give it sustenece. 

I cry because my life is as perfect as it might ever be. Because I am loved and safe and comfortable in my body - things which I once took for granted and often forget to be grateful for and proud of. 

I cry for my friends in Washington and New York and Alaska and Cleveland, for my fellow expats who have no one to cry for and for whom crying is a sign of weakness. I cry because I have the best friends and allies and advocates, and I shudder at the realisation that I cannot be with them in spirit and in body.

I cry because I shoulder the guilt of having a story that I am too afraid to tell - my selfishness denying others the feeling that change my own life - acceptance. 


Choosing happiness

by MB


"Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore."

- Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things


Progress - A Letter to Julie - 9.29.16

by MB


"I'm so happy for you. I mean, I'm not happy that you're sad, but I'm happy you're able to connect with your sadness, to identify it, and to sit with it. I'm proud that you're able to tell me about it. That's huge progress."

***

"What would I say to you?"

"That's normal. It's completely understandable and there's nothing wrong with it. It's so normal, it wouldn't be normal if you weren't feeling like this."

"Yep. Exactly. You took the words out of my mouth. I'm so proud of you."

***

I'm full of judgments.

"Oh, I bet you are. I'm sure they're everywhere."

***

Today has been a day marked by progress. An inventory of all the work I've done and an acknowledgment of all the places I haven't begun to explore. A celebration and recognition. A reflection on the end of an era of huge, life-changing progress - the kind where you wake up each morning and put your hands on your shoulders, run them down your chest and your stomach, wondering if the person inside that flesh is really you. 

Signs of progress:

  • Acknowledging my progress
  • Acknowledging my judgement 
  • Acknowledging it's normal to feel this way
  • Crying. Crying more. Crying every day. Living through it.
  • Not using behaviors
  • Eating normally
  • Exercising normally
  • Not weighing myself
  • Being kind to myself. Letting myself rest when I need rest
  • Acknowledging when I'm being hard on myself
  • Identifying where my thoughts are coming from. Myself? My Mother? My eating disorder?
  • Admitting I'm lonely
  • Being honest
  • Being proud of myself
  • Being present
  • Accepting the moment for what it is

I have trouble identifying with the girl who did all of that, who made those choices and said those things that culminated with her being here. I'm proud of her yet deeply ashamed of her existence. I yearn for her and yet I know I don't want her back. I mourn for her even though she's not gone.

This part hurts. It's confusing. It's riddled with pain and judgment and longing. It's unpredictable and real.

I'm not ready to let her go. 

I don't want her story to be over. I haven't figured her out yet. If I liken my journey with my body to a romantic relationship (the most intimate and fraught relationship I'll ever be in) we'd only have recently entered the phase of novel exclusivity. That time when being committed to each other is still fresh and exciting, when you think you know someone and then find yourself surprised by her tics and flaws - the way she pours milk in her coffee each morning, or the way she touches the left side of her ear just before she's about to sneeze. The moment you look at her and realize you love her and decide, even though it's scary, not to run away.

We've reached the point where honesty has become the default. Tired of trying on different identities (could we really still be the relaxed, laid-back people we've always dreamed of becoming?) we've settled into being ourselves instead. 

But we're only at the beginning. 

I'm not ready to let her go because I don't understand her. Her transparency is still new to me. I know her history of behaviors and patterns - I've watched her and heard her cry and moan and snort and purge - but she hasn't yet told me why she did those things. Maybe she knows. Maybe she's still figuring it out for herself. Maybe there are still memories she's buried inside of herself, dark and raw and deformed, that she hasn't yet come to terms with. 

I'm scared to be there when she uncovers those demons, when she's able to bring to light the shame that's haunted her. I'm afraid I'll find them as grotesque a she fears I will. My instinct has always been to run away. Yet I know on some level that my commitment to her brings with it a willingness to face those ugly parts with her. To hold her hands and rub her shoulders, to watch her cry and recuse herself from the moment. 

In many ways you've been my relationship coach. Our most enthusiastic supporter and unwavering fan. You've been the person I go to when I need to complain or gossip, when I need to tell you about our bickering and our fights and how she stormed out last night, unable to look at me, too angry to speak a word.

In the moments where I want to quit, I've heard your voice and imagined what you would say. I didn't want to disappoint you. I wanted to prove to you I could do it. I'm sad to  lose that. I can't imagine myself without it.

I am grateful for these moments that made me and fearful that they've long-since departed - a life unburdened by the healing power of the present.