10.08.2008

Surrender

My body is changing.

I know, I know -- it is always changing, mostly in mundane ways: hair falls off; skin follicles shed; my hands gain calluses and my legs, bruises; wrinkles form in unusual places; I age. I know this. I know that these changes are part of the human contract: we agree to them in living these fallible lives. We cannot be perfect.

But, I want to say in response to my wiser self, My body is different. See? It hasn't changed a wink in over two years, and now this! These new pounds, right there! What is going on? It feels disorienting to face a new body in the morning, even if there's nothing objectively to dislike about that body. There was comfort in having things stay the same these last few years, especially as my eating learned to take care of itself; the last thing I needed was a body that went willy-nilly. For a while, I had even learned to trust my body, and to trust that it would tell me what it needed. This recent spurt of weight gain has called into question some of my trust.

Nevertheless, although I am uncomfortable with some of the changes that I feel in my body, there is nothing that I want to do to change them (unlike in the past). I don't want to eat less -- I know where that road leads down, and I don't like it one bit -- and I don't have the energy or the inclination to exercise myself into oblivion.

In fact, I am quite resigned to not doing anything, in particular, to fight or mold my body. These attempts are mostly futile, anyway. Both scientific research and my own experience shows that restriction sets one up for binges, or worse, and that most weight lost on diets is quickly gained back. So there goes one more myth, one more attempt to be someone or some body I am not. It is sad, in a way, to see that myth go: to recognize that I can't touch it again, or it might kill me.

And yet -- with what can that myth be replaced? For it needs a replacement, or it won't die easily.

Where do I learn to be a woman who loves her body no matter its shape? Where do I learn to surrender to the changes that occur, those monthly and yearly fluctuations that may or may not mean anything larger?

Right now, I am trying to look for meaning in the rest of my life, to reassure myself that there are better things worth worrying about than whether or not my pants are tight. It is interesting how life, right now, has presented me with so many more worthwhile endeavors than body sculpting. I hardly have time to be fretting about my waistline, and so it has turned into a series of conscious choices:
  • I can envy that other woman on the train for her pencil-thin legs, or I can dedicate myself to memorizing neuroanatomy while traveling uptown.
  • I can question my lunchtime decisions, or I can pay attention to my professor's lecture in my afternoon class.
  • I can worry about whether I am dressed attractively, or I can listen to a patient's concerns.
  • I can spend my evenings exercising, or I can eat dinner with my husband.
  • I can hate my body, or I can love and appreciate it.
Bit by bit, these are the things that are replacing the myth of the perfect body. It doesn't take an idiot to see that they are far more worthwhile endeavors than resurrecting an eating disorder. But that is not to say that it isn't difficult, now, to trust that this is what I need to do, and to surrender myself to larger cycles and larger concerns.

I would love to know: what is your replacement for the myth of the perfect body?

How do you stay sane in the midst of constant change?

10 comments:

Lisa said...

My "replacement" is to deconstruct the perfection associated with thinness. If I see someone with an enviable body, I remind myself that just because she's thin doesn't mean her life is skittles and unicorns. Then I remind myself of all the skittles-and-unicorns aspects of my own life - my boyfriend, my family, my friends, my learning - and it gets me through.

As to the "staying sane," well, that's still being worked on.

Ai Lu said...

Thanks, Lisa. That's very helpful. You're right, there's so much that we can't tell about a person just by looking at her. And I also have to remind myself that when I was at my thinnest, I certainly wasn't happy -- it was as if thinness were a consolation for being really, really miserable. And I don't want to be there again.
So here's to skittles and unicorns!
Ai Lu

Carrie Arnold said...

I'm working on developing passions that can equal the time and commitment and energy that I devoted to my eating disorder all of these years. I am left with this sense of emptiness, this sense of grief and hollowness, without the eating disorder.

I don't know if I can ever fully accept my body. I'm not saying I won't try, but I would much rather fill my life with things that demand my energies and passions so that even if I don't like my body- oh well. I have better things to deal with.

Ai Lu said...

Wow, Carrie -- that's somewhat of how I am feeling right now: as if I am in the midst of recognizing that I have too many important things to be worried about to devote much more energy to worrying about my body.

I also like your acceptance of the fact that you might not every really accept your body -- but that there are "better things to deal with."

~Ai Lu

Emily Jolie said...

Dear Ai Lu,

I have only a brief moment, as I am leaving for work, but I wanted to leave a footprint and let you know how much I appreciate you and how you share your thoughts. Also how much this resonates with me and what a similar place I have found myself in lately.

with gratitude,

~ej

Emily Jolie said...

When I start to fall prey to the thoughts of wanting to resurrect the thinness, I like to think of those women in my life who I consider beautiful - who aren't particularly thin. Women who embody passion and joy and exude self-confidence. Women who inspire me - not for how they look, but for who they are.

I also think of the people whose lives I get to touch, and I ask myself whether they would appreciate me more if I was thinner. Or whether I would have more to offer them if I was thinner. The answer is an emphatic no, especially to the second question! When I was thinner, more involved in my eating disorder, the ED took up a tremendous amount of my time and energy. Giving up the need for thinness at all cost and agreeing to nourish my body when it asks for nourishment has freed up a tremendous amount of energy that can be channeled into other things!

Thanks for sharing, my friend, and for asking thought-provoking questions. I also really appreciate the picture you posted of the curvy witches and love the idea to hang it in your bathroom to remind yourself that curves are beautiful when you step out of the shower!

I'm glad to read your life is so full of fulfilling activities!

with love,

~ej

Emily Jolie said...

It's me again! ;) I just remembered another part of your post I had wanted to comment on (or was it in a different post?). It was the at least I was thin thought. That very much resonated with me. When my life felt like more than I could bear, being thin gave me the reassurance that at least I had that. At least I was thin. It was almost as if everything else didn't matter so much - as long as I was thin! But then I also didn't have the energy to devote to other things, because the majority of my energy went into making sure I remained thin.

Giving up the need to remain/be thin has been a tremendous liberation! Even though I do, every once in a while, reminisce about that thin time with a sense of longing, I know, in my heart, that it would not be worth trading thinness for true happiness. And I am much closer to true happiness these days than I was in the thin days!

with warmth,

~ej

Ai Lu said...

Hey, Emily!

I have so much to say in response to what you wrote here.

First, thank you for reminding me that my ability to touch others' lives is not contingent upon how thin I am -- in fact, the more focused I am on being thin, the less able I am to connect with others. And, at this point, connection with others is a lot more important to me than worrying about my weight, so I should put my money where my mouth is and remind myself of my priorities! I loved your recent entry where you affirmed how much you love and care for yourself. What a great message to give to yourself every day.

I think I will continue my musings in a future post...

Until then,
Ai Lu

Emily Jolie said...

:)

I hope you had a wonderful evening of connecting with others tonight and were able to enjoy the company equally much as - if not more than - your dinner!

I look forward to reading your musings in another post!

~ej

Gaining Back My Life said...

This is the post I needed to read today, especially as my body is 'changing' (getting healthy).

Sucks. But life shoudn't, and I thank you for reminding me of that simple fact.