Yesterday I was shopping with my eleven-year old daughter. The weather this past weekend had been beautiful and she realized she didn’t have any shorts that fit . So, off we went last evening to the local Forever 21. I love shopping for her and her stepsister. As a girl, I never enjoyed shopping or clothes. I kinda still don’t for myself. Back then I convinced myself that I didn’t look good in anything, and as an adult, I just don’t have much faith in my sense of style- almost like it was a muscle I never worked. But the girls love it, so I love doing it with them.
Walking through the store, I saw countless things that I thought they’d love. So many cute things for Spring and then….
I walked past a mirror.
“Who is that wearing my sweater?” I thought to myself.
It was me.
I stopped cold. My legs looked thick. My body looked wide. Instantly, a lump of unworthiness grew up from my belly and spread like a disease up through my entire being. It landed in my throat causing a discomfort so raw and so familiar I thought I would cry right then and there.
“Mom, look at this tank top! I have to try this on!”
I shot a smile her way. “You absolutely do!”
And then the shameful thoughts came on like wildfire: How long have I looked like this? When did it start? Who has noticed? What am I going to do? I have to go to New York in two months! And then: Why am I so hard on myself? Why do I put still put so much emphasis on my looks? These aren’t very ‘spiritual’ (whatever the fuck that means) thoughts! When are you just going to to love yourself?
I hid my mood from my daughter and saved it for my boyfriend. When I got home, I became a stonewall of silence sitting across from him as I scrolled through “Body Positivity” posts on Instagram, he on one couch and me on the other. All the pent-up hurt and pain sat in my chest, but like hell would I let myself cry in front of him.
Oh these old, tired patterns….
I could feel him observing me and I silently begged him not to say anything. He knew what was bothering me, but I didn’t want to hear any niceties right then.
“I don’t know what to say, babe. But I’m here if you want to talk or cuddle,” he said gently.
My mind still racing, I put my phone down and laid my head in his lap. I prayed to let this hurt go. Some part of me saw this bullshit for what it was: an old ego trick cropping up. My body was the ego’s playground for me for nearly two decades. It was enemy #1 and I knew it was relentless. So I let the thoughts come.
I cried softly as my boyfriend rubbed my shoulder and I entertained the littleness for a while: You should eat less. You should exercise more. Get back into recovery. Christ, Danielle, you’re wasting the last years of your thirties! Maybe if we cut out bread again… Maybe if we…
And before bed, I reached out to a friend who’s been in recovery before. I knew that, properly guided, a meeting would probably be a good idea. I prayed again and the most gentle presence I have ever felt came upon me reminding me: you’re coming back to you.
I had spent the past three months moving very little and eating whatever the fuck I wanted. Now, to many of you that will mean something very different than what it means to me. I ate whatever the fuck I wanted. Without binging. Without purging. Without judging. I had not done this for any length of time since I was probably eight years old. This had been, without a doubt, a gentle act of love for myself. Huge progress.
In my writing I bend to the emotional and melancholy, but I’m actually a pretty happy person. I am happier, less anxious and more myself these past few years than I have been since I was a child. It feels to me this is a direct result of learning to trust Spirit more, to trust the Wisdom that is always within me. The more of my life I give to Spirit, the less I hold onto and the freer I feel. I have a long way to go and that’s OK.
I awoke this morning with a gentle wish to go for a hike and to attend a phone meeting for Overeaters. This body is a vehicle to use, to bring me back to me- back to God. Today I trust myself to get it right by choosing Love, to lean into joy rather than pain. Spirit walks beside me. So not only can I not get it wrong, but I never go alone.
Breathe that in for a moment: We do not walk alone.