Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky...

I believe that we are all essentially the product of our experiences, and that as our lives progress the memories of where we’ve been and what we’ve learned combine to form the core of who we are and help to steer where we’ll go next. In my nearly 40 years on this earth, experience has let me to believe in a few fundamental truths:

Number 1: If there is someone or something in your life that your family doesn’t like (assuming that your family is functional and good for you), then you can be assured that in nearly every case, they are usually 100% right.

Number 2: If you’re going to accidentally wear your shirt home inside out after a night involving activities of a questionable nature, it’s best to make sure that it isn’t one with shoulder pads sewn into it.

Number 3: There’s something wrong with me.

I was talking to my therapist the other day (which is good, since that’s what I pay her for and all. I suppose I could sit in her office and silently crochet for an hour, but that seems like a waste of $120 and since I only know how to crochet one thing I don’t know what I’d do with all the resulting pot holders), and she was grilling me about my childhood. And by “grilling” I mean she was asking me pointed questions in a polite tone. And by “pointed” I mean normal questions a therapist might ask when presented with a patient who says she had a good childhood but still manages to be moderately bat-shit crazy in spite of that fact. And by “moderately bat-shit crazy” I mean that despite all evidence to the contrary, it turns out she doesn’t think very much of herself. Where, she wants to know, does this stem from?

The truth is that I did have a normal childhood. I had two parents who loved and supported me, very little in the way of chaos (unless you count that ten pound bundle of joy they brought home from the hospital when I was six and have always liked better than me), and certainly no abuse or trauma in my past that might have been the sparks that lit the fire of self-doubt. There are a lot of reasons people grow up with an impaired sense of self-esteem, but none of them seem to apply to me. I was not berated tirelessly for my faults, my family situation didn’t force me to assume responsibilities far beyond my age, and I didn’t suffer indignities at the hands of those who were supposed to love me and protect me. I got good grades, I won recognition for my talents, and I managed to eventually grow into a responsible adult in charge of raising another human being who happens to be a pretty great kid. There just isn’t any reason for me to doubt my value as a person. Except one.

It always comes back to the fat, doesn’t it?

I’ve spent about 35 of the last 39 years struggling with my weight. I’ve written before about some of my experiences as an overweight kid and all the ways that my parents tried to help me shed the pounds. I am adamant in my insistence that there was no malice in their efforts, and that every attempt to help me slim down was made out of a desire to make my life better. But it turns out that even my sincere belief in the purity of their intentions doesn’t change the fact that, from a very early age, I knew that there was something wrong with me. Something that needed fixing. Something that was so bad that they’d do nearly anything to change it. Something that I could fix if I just wanted it badly enough and worked hard enough that I could give it to them…and I never could.

Somewhere along the line, the knowledge that no matter what else I was or how much I achieved, the fact that I did it in a body larger than anyone else I knew became the mitigating factor to every achievement (or failure) I racked up. The fat became the cornerstone of my self worth, the broad and wobbly foundation upon which all the other things I am have been laid. My weight has been a defining force in my life, a barometer of my greater success over the years. It’s how I’ve judged who I am, and what I deserve…and I didn’t even realize it until recently.

Do not mistake this revelation as an indictment of my parents in any way. They are wonderful people who continue lovingly support me as they have my whole life. There are millions of people with legitimate parental grievances to air and I won’t pretend that I am among them. The truth is that my feelings about my weight and how it’s defined my life are much less about them than they are about ME. I am a muller, a thinker, a dweller of thoughts. Plant a seed in my brain and I’ll nurture and fertilize it until it grows in to a sturdy plant with deep roots and an impressive canopy of branches…but I just might look up and realize that I’ve been fostering a weed. I’ve been mulching and pruning and watering this sucker for decades, it seems. What a colossal waste of time.

Its time tend to the rest of the garden, to see what else might be hiding under that big fat weed’s leaves just waiting for a chance in the sun. I think I’m ready to find out.

1 comment:

  1. My life for more than 20 years was defined by being the big guy. The fattest person I have ever personally known...was me. And despite all of my accomplishments in life it was my central failure. So boy oh boy...I get it.

    It may not have been a waste of your time, but it's time perhaps to make your own future. Your past may have been defined. But what comes next is yours. For me...it includes what will I do now that I have lost so much weight. And what kind of person will I be.

    It's our own story to write at this point.