Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A punch in the gut

Two mornings ago I punched myself in the stomach. Repeatedly.

(oh my god, she is certifiable, I thought she seemed a bit too extreme...) Well, read on, if only for morbid curiosity.

I was in the bathroom, so I saw the viscous attack in the mirror. I had lifted my shirt, as I do most mornings, to gaze mournfully and hopefully at my train wreck midsection and wonder, is it discernibly smaller? Is this leftover layer going to go away? Ever? So I recognized that's not a helpful line of thought, and tried to be okay with slow progress. But then I looked more closely at the latticework of betrayal my skin inflicted as retaliation for asking it to stretch so far, and again so quickly. Not helpful.

Two mornings ago I tried, like I do every morning, to reframe it, to congratulate myself on progress, to see my strong muscles, my clear eyes. It felt like pushing my fear and shame down to crowd in with the fat layer. Suffocating my organs.

And I was so angry with that glaring, useless lump of mush STILL lining my real body like body armour, heavy and cumbersome. I hated it mightily. The next thing I knew, I was punching it. Hard. The dull, splooshy thud felt good. "Go away!" I growled under my breath.

Then I saw my face in the mirror. I looked like my vulnerable child-self playing dress-up in an old face. Disbelief, betrayal, broken heart, pain. My lips quivered. My eyes and cheeks crumpled.

"You hit me," I wailed to myself, hugging my arms in protection around my abdomen. I rocked myself for comfort.

Oh my god, what the fuck is wrong with me? I hit myself. I fucking hit myself?! I was supposed to be brushing my teeth!

So clearly I am not okay with slow progress. Clearly I am pretty angry.

Tonight I stood in front of the mirror in my exercise clothes, like I do most nights, trying to tell myself that it makes a difference when often I'm sure it doesn't. I tried to stand straight, which is a challenge with tight muscles and tendons, a skeleton trained to bending at preschool height, 20 extra pounds distributed from ribcage to knees, and maybe a little bit of pain starting in the joints? I started to massage my back, and I felt the excess fat in the way. I grabbed it in my hands about a third of the way up my ribcage, at the place where side becomes back. I held the weight of that excess in my hands, away from the rest of me. Immediately my hips fell into place. I felt bones and joints shifting, and I rattled them around a little, wiggling and twisting. Lifting that little bit of weight let me stand straighter, taller.

I started to work the fat forward, picking up more excess along the way, moving it all front and centre. I squeezed it like toothpaste, gathering and kneading, until it almost spilled out of my hands right at my centre, above my belly button and in front of my ribcage. It was the size of a very large grapefruit or a small children's ball, too big for me to put my hands around. It was mottled, lumpy and it disgusted me. It didn't belong to me. Without it, the rest of me settled onto my muscular frame nicely, and I could see the shape my body would hold behind it. It looked familiar because it's the body I had. Before.

I held the full weight of the fat ball, probably 10 pounds or more, as firmly as I could in my hands to isolate it. I let my body feel itself without this unnecessary baggage. I felt good. Light, ready, strong, solid, balanced. I thought, this lump of extra weight doesn't belong to me. It's just what I have to carry around.

I've blamed my body for it. My poor poor body, who has done everything I ever asked of her, all the way along. I still haven't forgiven her for letting my first baby go, which was totally not her fault. I can't stand that she needs so much maintenance when I want to use my time in other ways. I'm irritated as she gets older and becomes more demanding. I disparage and disrespect her for not being as capable or beautiful as I want. I'm like a parent who really, truly feels like her child is a disappointment while knowing full well they shouldn't. It's so unfair. I can talk myself out of it, I can cheer myself on, but I'm disappointed in my body, and I'm disappointed in myself for not being better in a lot of different ways. There's no logicizing my way out.

Now I know. Again. Let the decoding continue.

I've given myself two years of forgiveness and encouragement, but under it, all the time, is impatience. It's not kind, this impatience. Yet I hold it. I think it serves me in other ways and I don't want to let it go. I don't want to smooth myself out. I want to find a way to get the drive for continuous improvement that impatience fosters, without hating the imperfection of "what is," which of course underlies impatience. Call it a life work.

I stumble between my dichotomies but I think I'm stumbling forward. It's better than when I was just sitting there, even if I'm going nowhere in the end.

This is my weight, about the size of a large grapefruit physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. I must find a way to wear it away from the inside, because I cannot simply take a knife and excise it (even though it does kind of look like I could). I can't shrink it with a magic pill or by telling it to go away. Or by punching it. I need to melt it away over time, by putting good things in, working through pain, stretching and challenging, doing the work in the cracks and crevices of a busy life devoted to love. Slowly. Over years. Getting better at walking forward, better at settling in place. Better at being okay with that.

I must not be discouraged.

(this is my 100th post)


  1. i haven't hit myself yet, but only cause my fist can't reach that far around me. i'm kidding, but i'm not kidding. i've held my excess in my hands, and like you, enjoyed the balanced way it felt so right. now i'm working towards enjoying a feeling of possible. have started a walking plan, but fell off the plan a mere 3 days into it because of so much to do. so many lives to tend, so little time. but now, here, with you, i resolve to start again tomorrow. my plan is a good one, it just needs me to bring it to life. i want to there to be less of me.

    congratulations on your 100th!

    i love you.

  2. Oh Darlin.. that's for you. Oh Darlin... that's for me. When I'm having a rotten day with a body that simply will NOT behave like it used to will not look pretty, will not hang on to the things I pick up I yell at me. Yell at body yell at its (my) failures. One day I yelled at it so bad I slapped myself really HARD across the face. Talk about fuckin NUTS - I didn't even see it coming. Bodygirl, beautiful, faithful, many times wounded, many times cut open, so many casts and braces...bodygirl struck back. And I shut the fuck up. I have not yelled at her again. I try to love the changed me, but I got used to being so lovely and graceful ( it is called spoiled, actually) that now when I'm not lovely and graceful I feel like a total failure. So now I look at the bit that is misbehaving - hand, foot, knee, wrinkly face and I pat it and say Oh Darlin...... sometimes that's all you can do.

  3. Jeanne - thanks. we will do what's possible together.

    Plush - Oh Darlin - you make me want to be better and try so hard to show me how.

  4. Always in awe and so grateful of your honesty. I can't even begin to tell you about my relationship with my body right now. Baby steps, baby steps, loving kindness, loving kindness I whisper to myself, I hardly ever listen. Here you are, sharing, forcing me to feel your words. Thank you.

  5. Okay, I understand where you're coming from. At 58 and with several physical "obstacles", I am nowhere near the weight I was into my 40's. And now with the vertigo I can't walk, or stretch, or exercise even sitting or lying down because movement makes me feel like I'm going to fall. Fortunately, the nausea helped me eat less until they gave me a pill for it. ;-P

    I know you will be happier when you lose that extra weight. But, honestly, any excess weight you have is offset by your gorgeous breasts! Your husband should get down on his knees and thank you every single day! I bet he doesn't care about that extra weight around your middle nearly as much as you do.

    I owe you an email. Will try to do today or tomorrow. *Hugs full of envy for your boobies*

  6. Sorry, forgot to say congratulations on your 100th post!!!

  7. You're beautiful.

    Body image is a huge issue for me, especially right now given that I've lost a lot of weight and the skin isn't exactly snapping back into place.

    Oh... and by the way...
    you're beautiful.

  8. I don't know how I've lived all this time not knowing you existed...but I am so happy I found your through Michael Jones. Your writing is extraordinary and inspiring and makes me feel like I am not alone with it all.
    Thank you.

  9. I'm so glad we found each other, Jennifer. Thank you for telling me you're here. I hope you get a chance to tell me what you think of any earlier posts you check out. You can follow me on Twitter @MrsWhich


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