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Archive for February 26th, 2008

It amazes me sometimes how vast a gulf there is between what the intellect knows and what the heart believes. I feel about myself in ways that if I heard anyone else say that, my heart would break that they could believe such things. Logically I know it. My mind understands that the things I believe about myself are untrue. But my heart remains unconvinced.

I love the colour purple. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t my favourite colour. I remember one of my friends in junior high school had her bedroom painted purple, and I loved spending time over there in a lovely purple haze. I’ve always pictured my soul’s inner core as a brilliant purple star of light. Sometimes the star is huge and pulsating, but more often it’s tiny and shriveled by the burdens I carry and place on top of it.

I was telling this to my therapist yesterday, and said that when I get some weight off I want to put purple streaks in my hair. She thought it was a great idea, but wanted to know why I was waiting. And Jehara said the same thing this morning. They tell me that I’m beautiful and that I can have purple hair. And yet I feel like “the fat chick” all the time, and being “the fat chick” is difficult enough without being “the fat chick with purple hair.’

I have to face the fact that I’m ashamed of being fat. It’s not who I am. My husband often tells me that he knows what my truest self looks like, and I believe him. I sort of know her by sight as well, and trust me when I tell you that she’s not fat. She’s curvy, and healthy, and has purple streaks in her hair. She’s offbeat and funky. And she doesn’t wallow in shame. She allows herself to just be, and not judge herself for who or what she is.

But she’s buried beneath layers of scar tissue and insulation. I used to think the insulation was to keep her protected from the world. I don’t think that now. It occurs to me now that the insulation is insulation my shame has erected to hide her from me. Maybe if I coax her out despite the shame, she will be able to get rid of the insulation and sear the scar tissue away.¬† Maybe getting those purple streaks in my hair would help her start forcing her way out.

I don’t think anything good comes from shame. Shame is a powerfully destructive feeling. Shame doesn’t help you make changes; it makes you cover things up and hide them because to lay them bare would be to reveal that shame. And how often does the shame truly have basis in fact? I will tell you after I talked to my therapist last night and saw the love, compassion, horror, and tenderness in her face, I began rethinking my feelings about those events and thoughts and beliefs.

Since I was a child I’ve believed that I was a bad person. Except for an incredibly rebellious stage during my teen years, I swung to the other extreme, trying so hard to be what I and my peers perceived as a good person that I completely sublimated myself in that. For a few years now the pendulum has been swinging back toward the center. I quit trying to fit into the molds that my religious culture followed. I didn’t quit trying because I wanted to; I quit trying because I realized that there was no way I could possibly fit into those molds and be true to myself at the same time. I lost friends over that, and it hurts a little to this day that people didn’t really care about me when they found out I wasn’t good. And logically I know that means they didn’t really know me, and honestly, did I really give them a chance? Some I did, some I didn’t. But again, my heart doesn’t really believe that. My heart believes that when I quit trying to be good according to that pattern, I must really be as bad as I’ve always believed.

And it’s this complex mish-mash of emotions and beliefs. I think that I’m a decent person. I have a good heart. I love people. I always want to help people. A bad person wouldn’t do that. But then I also believe that a good person wouldn’t do the things I’ve done in my life. And then I realize that there were so many factors impacting my actions that I can’t just pick out as a cause the fact that I’m bad.

See what I mean? Scar tissue. Blankets. Walls. That’s what my fat is. Because to try to think about all this and sort it out and make it into any kind of sense is agonizing. But growth is agonizing, and I’m so very tired of all of this. I’m tired of lying down at night desperately afraid that I’m going to die and knowing that I haven’t lived yet. I’m tired of being afraid that as soon as someone knows what I’m really like, I won’t be perceived as lovable anymore.

So yesterday I took an enormous step. I told someone. I told someone who’s never met me before, and I told her what I did and what was done to me. I told her how I felt about myself. And I saw it in her eyes. Not the revulsion I’d expected on some deep level (I thought that obviously she’s a therapist, she won’t let her revulsion show, but I knew it would inevitably¬†be there somewhere), but pity and love and compassion. And she gave me an assignment to do then and there: draw my childhood self and what she was feeling. The picture is frightening. And then I had some sentence stems to complete around the picture of that little girl, and what she had to say is heartbreaking. She made me a little wire doll, and I made purple hair for her, and a brilliantly coloured dress. And I have a box I get to decorate that will be that little doll’s home. And over the next little while, I’m going to get to know that doll, and she’s going to help me understand that I’m not a bad person.

And maybe, just maybe, I won’t worry about waiting until I’m slimmer to get those purple streaks. Maybe that’s the wrong approach. Maybe instead of waiting until my truest self emerges, maybe taking that brave, bold step will help her emerge.

Bear with me, friends. This is going to be a painful journey for me. You’ll probably hear a lot about it as I keep going forward.

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