Saturday, June 28, 2003
Lost and Found
posted by Julie |
Sorry to be so out of touch lately, folks. I'm bound to be under water for the next couple of weeks as I finish up a large project at work.
Still, writing the SDP is a calming exercise for me every day, and I know I should not let it slide. A little mental health never hurt any project.
Two photos have surfaced in the last two weeks.
Not long ago, a friend and former coworker sent along a picture of me from a company Christmas party. It's the only photo I know of from the time I was at my very heaviest, most stressed.
I feel as if the body I have now is my real body. And the body in that picture was a woman removed from herself. I don't recognize myself in that photo. I was removed not by the fat. The fat was a symptom. And it was kind of a protective cover, cushioning and comforting in an odd way.
I had become separated from myself by doing work that, while interesting, didn't suit me. My lifestyle didn't make sense for me. I had no creative outlet, no time with my family, no quiet time with my own thoughts. I gave too much time to too many people. Perfectly nice people, of course, but I didn't reserve time for the people who matter to me the most. And none for myself.
You know, like most women you know.
I needed to pull way back on the throttle. Actually, my husband insisted. My doctors had already scared me. And scared him. So there was a moment of tough love from my dear husband. If you knew the guy, you would know there is no less likely candidate to stage an "intervention" of any kind. But he did. And so I made a tectonic shift. I changed first my work situation, getting back to a creative team, where I do the kind of work I'm suited to do. I pulled back on social commitments, keeping a few pro bono projects going, but keeping the number limited.
And then I learned to say no. I learned that the world did not need me to lead another committee, write another fund-raising letter, organize another event.
I lost weight. I got fit.
When my old body showed up, I didn't recognize my face in the mirror. I had to stare and stare.
I'm just starting to get used to my long, angular face again. And then this photo appears. I don't recognize that round-faced girl either, I have to say. It feels so strange to look in the mirror at one face, in the photo at another, and to feel I don't really know either of these women WELL.
This morning, I went out for coffee with my sister. My skinny sister, Carrie. The girl who gave me my knick-name: JuJu.
Quite a few years ago, a couple of years before that fat photo had been taken, I handed a photo over to Carrie. It was a picture of me from my early 20s, at a very healthy weight. Okay, it was a sexy photo. I had been known to destroy photos of myself that I didn't like over the years. Fat photos, like the one at the Christmas party.
I liked this skinny photo, but it made me sad. I had given up on losing weight, and I just didn't want to look at it anymore, because I was sure I would never look that way again. I asked my sister to keep it, and not let me see it any more. It made me too sad.
Well, today she handed it back to me, in a beautiful frame. It's June, and I started my weight loss journey two years ago. I've kept all my weight off for a year and a half. She's right. It's time to take the photo back.
So, now I have three pictures of myself. Each one a little alien. Young sexy JuJu. Mid-career miserable JuJu. Experienced healthy JuJu. It makes me think of Blake's dialectic or a plotline in a novel. There's the age of innocence, the age of experience, the age of "organized innocence," a time when you just know the answers, know yourself, know better. I can feel myself standing at the door of this third phase of life. A wiser time. I hope. I really hope.
I believe we each take control of our own health and well-being at some tipping point. Many, many of us don't get around to it until we are in our 40s and face a health crisis. Many are motivated by the death or illness of people close to them. Many are given ultimatums by loved ones. Sometimes these revelations come in waves. Other times a tsunami hits, and you have no choice but to react.
I just rode the tide. There was very little intention or focus about my early and mid life. I did not take the time to know myself well. I did not make choices that made sense for who I am. I went with the flow rather more than I should have.
And of course, finally, it's writing that gave me a rudder (although sadly not the inclination to stop beating a metaphor to death). By writing things out, I find I do things both with greater awareness and more deliberation. I am clear headed about my choices and my day on the days when I write.
I recognize myself in these pages.
So. This weekend, if you've gotten away from things as I have, I encourage you to return to your journal. Or maybe it's time to start one.
Try meditating on the plot of your own story. What sort of character were you then, and are you now? What has changed about your character over the years?
If you've lost a lot of weight, or gained a lot, try spending some time in front of a mirror and with old photo albums. Write about your face. Really have a good look. Record what's the same, and what has changed, and how you feel about it all. Be kind to your face, and note that it's changing even as you write. Find what's good about it today. Consider the ways it suits the stage you're in in your life right now.
I see wrinkles and lines and spots and I know these are well earned. I see my father's eyes, my mother's skin, the angles and lines of a motley lineage who fled or were kicked out of various countries across the Atlantic. There's much that surprises me, much that seems foreign, and much that is very, very familiar.
The Human Face
Internet Lost and Found
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