Fat

I was born to a mother who spent the 27 years of her life that preceded mine being shamed for her body and oppressed by diet culture. My father was fit and active until suddenly, he wasn’t. He gained 100 lbs in the first year of his marriage to my mom, who would gain and lose hundreds of pounds at a time, several times, as their marriage continued.

This story is not meant to be their story; it is meant to be mine.

I usually begin this story here: when I was four years old, my doctor was out of town, and I was diagnosed with asthma. A faulty prescription for Prednisone ensued, and my fatness began. I remember being SO HUNGRY. ALL THE TIME. We ate dinner at the table, as a family, every night, and afterward, I would clean off the table, trying to clean every scrap off of every plate, without anyone seeing. My mom would tell me I’d had enough and to stop eating. She was probably right, and I would probably do the same thing. The tricky thing is that the steroids affected my growth hormones in such a way that I never felt like I wasn’t hungry. Never. Ever. I remember noticing the stretch marks on my thighs when I was pretty little (maybe 5 or 6), and I had this really casual conversation with a junior high girl about them. I think it probably began something like, “look at these cool lines on my legs!”

I think it was the older kids that were mean about my fatness. I was also pretty weird, so who’s to say how much of my being rejected was because of my body, and how much of it was because of who I was. I decided at some point, though, that it was definitely because of my body. Of course I did. Who wants to acknowledge that they were genuinely unloved and unwanted by others because of who they are, rather than because of something external and changing like a body?

(I am now resisting the urge to encourage you that it’s funny or okay somehow, but it’s not, is it? And I think, just this once, I want to let it be okay that it’s not okay. Okay?)

So, I was a fat kid, and the other kids didn’t like me. This a tale of woe familiar to many. I am not alone. But, you know, my mom would always tell me to wear flattering clothes, but she never, to my memory, tried to put me on diets, or made me feel like there was anything wrong with my body. I think I really started internalizing the rejection and the body shaming when I was older – maybe like 19, actually. I don’t think “internalizing” accurately described what I did, though… Maybe I internalized it up until that point, and then all of a sudden, it all started manifesting itself. Doctors blamed things on my being fat, and my mom would get outraged – I think she protected me from that nonsense when I was a kid.

When I was 18, I lost a bunch of weight. I didn’t try to; it just happened. I got a lot of positive attention from everyone you can think of. People would demand that I told them my secret, and I would say, “I don’t know, I drink a lot of milk, I guess.” Then, there was a boy, and I thought I would definitely earn his love if I lost weight! I started working out a lot and restricting what I was eating. I decided to sign up for ballet because I’d always wanted to, and I was taking way too many units in school. I lost more weight, I was working 2-3 jobs, being a RIDICULOUS and unbalanced, yet still receiving lots of compliments and positive attention. Guess what – boy didn’t fall in love with me. He broke my heart. I stopped eating. I literally can’t remember what else. I was still working a lot and trying to finish school, I guess. (Still got positive attention for losing weight)

From that point on, every significant/life-altering event/tragedy was accompanied by a significant weight change. Either I got depressed and stopped eating and became obsessive about exercise (applause from the audience), or I got depressed, rested, and ate (boos from the audience). Depression has been a major theme of my life since I was about 13.

At some point, I started writing in my journal about losing weight, and it became my lifelong goal. I would hear people talk about losing weight and interpret it as a hint for me to do the same. I swore to myself that I would be skinny by the time I was 16, no 18, no 21, no 25, no 30… I fantasized about wearing a bikini, having a boyfriend… things “normal” girls could do. (“COULD” do. ugh.) I went to a vocational school in Utah when I was 21, and of course, once again, I decided I would lose weight. I did lose weight, and I was pretty hungry.

When I went home, my brother and sister in law were “going Primal” (like Paleo – a grain-free, high fat, high protein diet), and I “went Primal” too. I didn’t lose any more weight just from going Primal. I did start working out again, though – like 3 hours at a time, several days a week. It wore me out. I didn’t have energy for anything else on workout days. I was obsessed. Men stared at me everywhere I went, I could finally shop in the “regular clothes” section, and I had never been so unhappy with my body. The more weight I lost, the more I felt like I needed to lose more weight.

That season wasn’t a bad season. I learned a lot about myself that I would have never known otherwise. For instance, my body feels really happy when I don’t eat processed foods, and even though I’m not a proponent of restriction, my body did really feel a lot more comfortable without the grains to which I became accustomed (I am now trying to grope my way through how to find some kind of balance there). I also found out that cycling is really fun, and I can and like to hike and camp… ALONE! (Gasp! exclaim! puke!) I developed an appetite for adventure, and I still crave it. I want to rock climb and go backpacking! I even know (somewhere in my brain) that I like to lift weights.

This part of the story, I usually quickly brush over by saying, “and then my life fell apart and I gained a bunch of weight, and I still haven’t stopped.”

I lost a lot. I made room for a lot of new growth, but loss is painful.

While I was losing my life, my parents got bariatric surgery and lost all their weight. Before that, my mom worked out all the time and started talking a lot about the dangers of gluttony and food addiction. Now she still talks about the woes of food addiction and fatness. My dad feels sorry for all fat people being trapped inside their bodies and says all the time, “all you have to do to lose weight is eat no more than 1/3 cup of food at each meal.”

I’m in a recovery season. I’m trying to get a handle on depression and Fibromyalgia, and I’m really kind of kicking ass. I just started learning about Fat Activism, Body Positivity, Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, Body Shaming, and Diet Culture. I always thought there was genuinely something wrong with me – that fat was bad/less than/defective/shameful. That is, I believed the lies! Now, though, it’s like I finally have permission to love, enjoy, and appreciate myself. I never realized I needed permission, or that I didn’t have it for that matter, but suddenly, I live by different rules in a different world. It’s a beautiful thing.

I believe that as I go on, eating intuitively, loving my body, and treating my body like I love it, things will click. I don’t even know what things I want to click yet. I just know that I can feel the kink in my proverbial neck.

Now, friend, if you’re still with me, I want to tell you a secret. I’m afraid they’re right – my parents and the body shamers. I’m afraid because I really don’t want to feel the way I feel all the time. I don’t want to be so tired, I don’t want my clothes to fit wrong and uncomfortably. I don’t want to prepare myself for the criticism I will face because of the shape of my body. And! It’s impossible to tell right now if I feel the way I do, physically, because of the fibromyalgia or because of the fatness. I want to move my body. I want to feel my muscles. But all I can seem to do most of the time is sleep. I can force myself to do things, but I want to FEEL strong enough. I really think this is an area in which I genuinely do need to fake it til I make it, but friend, it is so hard. I’m so tired.

So this is where I am. This is the story about from where I’ve come.

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Depression and Cliff Anatomy

Depression is sort of like spending all day, every day, climbing a cliffside… If you get a cramp or reach for the wrong spot, you slide down the wall of the cliff, and if you’re lucky, your rope catches you and you dangle. You just keep dangling, blind from fear, while your mind and body recover from the panic of the fall. Eventually, little by little, you feel strong enough to pull yourself upright, then to put your hands and feet back on the wall, until finally, slowly, you start climbing again. Now, of course, if you’re not so lucky, your rope doesn’t catch you, and you’re smashed at the bottom of the cliff. I guess you need to have a good rope.
 
For me, the idea of reaching the top of our cliff is not, and cannot (really) be a goal. If I got to the top, I could fall off again, and I can’t bear the energy it takes to even imagine that climb – not after finally having caught a glimpse of the view from the top. See, I have too much despair to aim for things that can cause despair. That’s probably just good sense. So, for me, there are two goals – to keep track of my rope, and to climb.
 
Rock climbing is supposed to be one of those activities that makes people happy. There’s “flow” with rock climbing. It’s something people do for the sake of doing it, and it’s hard, but people do it because they can. Maybe I’ve found hope that I will find “flow” as I climb, and that the higher I get, the stronger I’ll get, and the more I’ll hope to get to the top. Even if I never get to the top, I want the hope that I will.
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Photograph by Shelby Kelley

Coins in the Fountain

​I’ve always listened to stories about God’s provision for people with skepticism and jealousy. “Sure, God wants YOU to get a check in the mail, but what do I get?” I’m a real brat, I tell you. “Sure, he heals that, and gives you this, but He never does what I want him to do.”

Well, today, I went grocery shopping, and after almost 2 hours of careful shopping for the whole month, I was very glad and proud to be nearly $40 under budget. Then I swiped my card and was informed I did not receive the money I was expecting to have received for groceries. Of course I was afraid this might happen – I’m afraid of most things that could ever happen. I left my groceries, drove away wondering what I would eat for the next week at least, and my friend “Panic” wasn’t where I expected him. I couldn’t find him. I found “Disappointment,” but I felt the solidarity of the Food4Less target population. I said to myself, “what I have just experienced has been experienced by a far larger population than would be willing to own up to it. I am not alone. This is not new. God will take care of me. 

Now, I said the words, “God will take care of me,” somewhat absentmindedly, as I do when I state a fact that I’ve just remembered when I didn’t intend to recall it. You know what I mean – when you want to remember something, you try and try and can’t, and then days later, at Target or something, you just sort of mutter the answer to yourself… it was interesting. I found my present-self pushing back with doubt dripping in sass. But I still couldn’t locate an ounce of panic that I would go hungry – maybe just because I don’t know what that’s like.

I’m still learning to differentiate between shame and embarrassment. My recent word has been “inadequate.” I think that’s still associated with the shame that says I AM bad – I am inadequate. There’s something shameful for me about asking for basic needs like food, bus money, or khaki pants, that isn’t there when I ask for things that aren’t vital to my survival. It could be another matter of lack of familiarity. I’ve spent my life asking for things I thought would improve my life that I didn’t really, truly need. My needs (food, transportation, clothing, etc) have always been met with relative ease. 

Therefore, as I was on the phone with my dad, stalling from the conversation which is, to me, about my own inadequacy, I decided to open the mail I’d been avoiding. Do you know what I found? I received a check in the mail a month ago, and it’s the exact amount I need to get by. I can even buy toilet paper and do laundry.

My life is really hard for me right now – I’m not going to lie. However, I have no regrets, and I wouldn’t wave my magic wand if I had one. I’m getting so strong. I am Marcel anymore

Church, Malls, Costco, and Other Phobias

I’ve decided to go to church. I’m terrified. I smoke cigarettes because I am often terrified. My father does not approve. Currently, I’m out of cigarettes. I’m also out of money… so I’m just terrified.

It began last Sunday evening, I think – my sudden decision to go to church. Some of you reading this may be under the false impression that I didn’t stop identifying myself as a Christian or that I could remember the last time I went to church. Allow me to clear things up for you: prior to this last week, I could not, in fact, recall the last church service I visited; and the idea of anything related to church, “Christians,” etc. made me nauseous and pissed off. If this information is surprising, please make a note of how well I control my temper and how VERY hard I tried at whatever you’re thinking of.

As I was saying – and please don’t interrupt me again – it began last Sunday evening, I think. My brother and sister-in-law had led worship at their church, and they were sharing about it. It was devastating to listen to. I hid and wept – as is my way – until I could bury the devastation altogether again. It didn’t stay buried.

Monday, I thought my sacral chakra was just blocked when I started feeling the shame and panic.

Tuesday, I tried to unblock my sacral chakra in meditation, and the panic got worse. I hid in my room all day. I was supposed to vote for Hillary and the legalization of marijuana, and get a pap… well, and go to work… but I could only watch The Santa Clause and smoke.

Wednesday, I woke up, curled up in a ball, and stared at the outlets on the wall for an hour before climbing into the closet. My roommate is an extraordinary human being. She insisted that I get out of bed and then sat and talked with me until I could get out of the closet. We went to church that night for worship, and I was LIVID by the end of that worship service. Abraham Hicks says this thing about how anger is a hell of a lot better than depression, but when you move to anger from depression, your friends don’t like you as much (http://www.discoveringpeace.com/the-abraham-hicks-emotional-guidance-scale.html). When we left church and I was furious, we were both like – well, that’s an improvement; I jumped up 5 places on the emotional scale.

Thursday, I was a lot better until I got shit-faced and made a fool of myself.

Friday, I had still moved up further on the scale, but I was still at the “Worry/Blame” spots for a long time. I drifted up to “Contentment/Hopefulness” by the end of the day (thank you, rich tax payers for my food stamps – something about grocery shopping is the perfect tension between fear of lack and empowerment of prosperity).

Saturday, at “Positive Expectation/Belief,” I took inventory, balanced my chakras in yoga and meditation, and I had a vision of rough, jagged bark being stripped from me, having an ointment finished into the hard, smooth wood beneath the bark, and being filled again with freshly charged chakras.


Allow me to pause for a word about chakras: “Chakra” is a word that refers to a person’s potential for input/output of energy, sort of. I don’t want to explain what they are. I only want to say that it’s not evil. It totally makes sense that God (yes, the Christian one) would make humans with chakras. There are a lot of ways that I could (eventually) translate the concepts of meditation, metaphysics, yoga, chakras, etc. into Christianese. However, I am not going to, because I do not wish to expend energy in that direction (I would be filled with little other than hate as a result of doing such a thing). 


I had my spiritual GPS re-route me in a different direction, and I set out toward Real Allyson again. It’s only a little bit surprising that I didn’t travel for very long (downstream) before making a couple of really neat discoveries.

There is a boy that I work with that I’ve been sort of making friends with/that I wnat to be friends with. Anyway, the point is, he lives super far away and goes to church RIGHT by my apartment. I accidentally was drawn to, like, the one Christian. We had, what was for me, a great conversation that left me feeling a lot less isolated and offended. I said things that reminded me of parts of Real Allyson that I’d forgotten.

Once I was in my car, my Papa gently asked me if it was at all possible that church wasn’t some big evil that stole my identity, shattered my heart, estranged me from my family, and banished me from God’s presence?  (Is the “church alternate reality” just “The Upside Down” from Stranger Things?) He reminded me that I’ve had those things/feelings happen to me more than once as a result of my lack of identity (or whatever you’d call it when you give a person every part of you to make it into whatever they want from you). He reasoned that Hanford hospitals have taken away from me people that I love because of misdiagnoses, but I went to a hospital a couple of weeks ago because I couldn’t breathe and received great care.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going back to church. I’m saying this:

While I have learned a LOT (everything there is to learn) (just kidding) about myself, about God, and about fellow seekers and humans; and while I like this Allyson, I miss my Papa and my Jesus, and I just miss church. I don’t really think the way America does church makes any sense or is right or healthy, but for the first time in my life, I don’t want to go because I want to be anything. I’m not looking for anyone to tell me who or how to be. I just want a seat at the table. I have food, and the water is there. I just want a seat at the table.

Now of course it’s after 3am, and I’ve spent WAY too much time telling you the story of what would possess me to ever go to church again (Costco is still another story)… It would be foolish to choose to sleep only 4 hours so that I can be extra busy tomorrow. The point is the momentum. The point is the direction and the movement.

Also, I’ve wanted to develop a habit of blogging.

Home is Where I Am

I was surprised to discover, upon having started this blog last year, that I didn’t actually want people to have that much information about me. I was on such a complicated grid. 

I’m not going to say too terribly much right now, I think, but I realized the other night that I am gridless. I’m off of every grid I’ve ever been on, as far as I can tell. I’m boldly treading on unexplored Allysonia ground, on a path to self-discovery, spiritual enlightenment, self-actualization, etc. At least, I think that’s where I’m going.

Right now, I only want to say this: Tonight, I sat on a beach in Santa Monica, and as I watched the waves appearing and disappearing out of the darkness and back into it, I grieved for all the lives I have lived and lost. I especially grieved for the east coast, which I have just returned from. I went there because I was homesick, and I came back because I was homesick. 

Homesickness has followed and haunted me since I was very young. I don’t fully understand what, why, or how; but I have a hunch that I’m homesick for myself. My heart has been in the habit of setting up camp in other people, but I think I’m learning how to set up camp on myself. I hope I am. I’m trying to. 

“Shame for Being Human”

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A couple of days ago, I saw a video on facebook of a mom forcefully shaving the head of an ashamed, sobbing girl, as punishment for making fun of someone with cancer, and it made me so sad. I felt sick, and I couldn’t think of words to communicate my feelings (no news there) about why,  even to myself.

Humans don’t usually have a context with which to process their impulses, feelings, thoughts, or behavior, but we hope for the best. Then, we shame those who have the courage to grapple with what it means to be human. I mean grapple with questions like the following: Am I a MALE human or a FEMALE human? What do those things mean? Am I willing to mute [this desire] and abandon [this piece] of myself in order to appease a population that is attempting to dictate my morals and relationships? Am I willing to make the mistakes, accept the consequences in my insistence to move forward in my pursuit of being fully, vulnerably, authentically human?

Whether we’re talking about Trump, Clinton, bully mom and shamed daughter, transgenders and their bathrooms, gay marriage, pre/extra-marital sex, drugs, alcohol, (insert thing that makes you inescapably human) or obesity, the human condition can only be reconciled in the light. Like a child, the broken piece needs to be brought out of the room in the home of your soul, and it needs to be rehabilitated. It needs to be loved, embraced, and validated.

Sure, the conclusions people come to in these processes may be sometimes false. However, honor is due for the bravery to grapple with the big questions of humanity.

Mt. Everest or Mt. Doom

I remember this feeling of love and romance that couldn’t be explained by anything except for the monumental work that God was doing in my heart. I remember He was healing things in me and helping me process things, counseling me, delivering me, and in the quiet before and after those glorious but gut wrenching storms, I had this giddy, butterflies in my stomach feeling simply because of being loved and cared for.

I can’t remember when exactly that was or what happened to turn that feeling into debilitating anxiety. At some point, though, the switch got flipped, and I shut down. My memory about the switch flipping and the things that followed is all hazy and blotchy like Professor Slughorn’s modified memory.

That giddy feeling is stirring in me again. I’m believing, maybe for the first time that I am loved and valuable. I understand, for the first time that I am powerful in the things of which my life consists.

I just want you to know. The idea of all these things and of God being who He is and working the way He does even when I insist on being an incorrigible shit head is outlandish. I’m becoming free and whole,  I think. I mean, I’m starting to recognize it, even though the concept has always been as much of a simultaneous fantasy and nightmare as the idea of reaching the peak of Mt. Everest. “Sure, I probably could if I was dedicated enough, in technical terms, at least. I’ve heard of it happening before. They made a movie about it… But as glorious as it sounds, it also sounds terrifying and lonely and painful. I don’t know if I want to do it, even if I do have what it takes.” That’s what I thought about the journey of wholeness  (not TO wholeness, because it’s about the process of integrating oneself rather than becoming whole… or BECOMING anything for that matter… it’s about BEING and the inherent worth of that endeavor). I’m not at the top or anything, but it’s far less frightening from up here than it looked a little bit ago.

Who knows, maybe all of what I’ve just said is a euphoric illusion that I’ll retract tomorrow, when I’ve not spent most of my day reading and coloring. If that’s the case, then my prayer will still be that in the mean time, and in the midst of the pain, panic, and shame, that God will, in His remedial goodness (as Clive [CS Lewis] says), make it count. He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it, because He is able to do more than all that I can ask or think.

What Does the Whale Say?

Last weekend, my friend took me to see the movie Inside Out. Being in the process that I am of struggling to recognize and respond to my feelings, this movie was very educational and encouraging for me. There was a scene of the movie in which a character felt sad. The character, Joy tried to distract him from his sadness and “cheer him up,” but the character, Sad(ness) sat down next to him, and she empathized, validating his feelings and sharing in them. Sadness has often seemed to me a big scary monster hiding beneath the water in my heart… I often picture heart and identity matters in landscape scenes.

I wonder if this is why I am so drawn to whales in this season. They’re massive creatures, they keep to themselves, they do their whale thing, but they’re powerful. They’re alone but not lonely. They’re not subject to the water, the water is subject to them. I guess I have been afraid that the sadness sea monster would get angry and chew me up and spit me out just before I died. This, actually, is how sadness has often felt: unmanageable and overwhelming. Perhaps this has so often been the case, however, because the “sea monster,” which was really just a whale, was inviting me in to the water for some company, and maybe, when I rejected that invitation, the whale began to stir up the waters. Maybe it was the crashing waves that ended up bashing me, while the whale kept me from drowning.

For those of you who don’t think in pictures or automatically follow symbolism, I want to try to explain what I am seeing in my mind’s eye. I have begun to think of my feelings as characters representing versions of myself. Sadness is a character, represented to me, by a whale. Imagine a whale that has an entire, empathetic, wise, compassionate personality. The water in which the whale lives is, in my mind, the manifestation of sadness; it is the crying, the puking, the shaking, the restless nights, and the still inability to not stare off into space. If I don’t run away from sadness, I give her the opportunity to sit down with me and say, “Wow, I’m really sorry that happened to you.”

This is where the compassion of Jesus begins to become a concept that I can actually grasp. By learning to get into the water with Sadness (my beautiful whale), I am also learning to value myself with the grace that flows from the compassion of Jesus. I have never before learned to value myself. I have only learned to ascertain the degree to which I was valued by others. I have only learned to tread through the terror and ambiguity of others’ perceptions of me, and whether or not I measured up by those standards. I have recently learned and am still trying to uncover and discover the fullness of this truth about and within myself. Please don’t think that I am making this proclamation with pride. I’m saying this as if I’m reading a newly received telegram containing startling news. I do not invite you to respond by telling me how valuable I am. That would be counterproductive. I’m learning to value myself, and I’m learning to accept the value my Creator has for me in that process. I’ve always felt guilty for not understanding how to let God’s value for me be enough, but I’m finding out (very slowly) that my value for myself acts as a translator for God’s value for me.

 Photo by Wayne LevinPhoto by Wayne LevinPhoto by Wayne LevinPhoto by Wayne Levin

Perfectionism and Liza Hamilton

For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from a compulsion to do things at an unnecessary pace. When I was in elementary school, I tried to finish my entire English book one day while the teacher was teaching the class one lesson. In middle school, well, I skipped 7th grade. I graduated from high school when I was 16 years old. In community college, there was one semester in which I took 21 units and worked three jobs. I cannot fathom what it is that compels me to hurtle myself toward these imaginary deadlines, but I am trying to overcome this destructive habit.

It’s nice for people to have high standards for themselves, to set goals, etc. However, this is not exactly what is happening for me when I throw myself at self-imposed deadlines. I have found that I often not only do not finish well, but I destroy myself in the process of trying to finish things as fast as possible for no apparent reason whatsoever.

This is the working of the lie of perfectionism. It is as if there is an invisible tightrope between two cliffs overseeing a raging river called Healing. In the water, suspended beneath the tightrope is a raft called Acceptance. The perfectionist stands on one cliff, surveys the scene, and logically presumes that the safest method of travel is the tightrope, especially considering that leaping from the cliff, attempting to land in the raft without bashing one’s skull would be impossible. The logical perfectionist, having chosen the tightrope, takes a step, looks at the other side, and quickly finds him or herself halfway across. Upon reaching the other side, however, the perfectionist discovers an unexpected glitch. The perfectionist has been rewound, as it were, and he or she must walk across again! It doesn’t take long for the tightrope walker to question reality and his or her own sanity. This tightrope is a time loop.

The time loop tightrope is not real, friend. It is a projection of the perfectionist imagination, constructed by isolated faith in personal logic. Logic is good, but it can be a traitor left to its own devices. It’s like the moon rocks that turn out to be ferocious killer crabs (Apollo 18). The most frightening thing about the perfectionism tightrope or about logic is the idea that in order to heal, the perfectionist must understand everything about his or her pain and healing. There is no water, there is no raft, there is no acceptance, there is only striving and vanity and striving for vanity.

I’ve been reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and there is a woman in the story, Liza Hamilton. She is fierce, strong, and resilient. She stood out to me because I am not like her. She accepts things. She reads the Bible and accepts it, she buries a child and accepts it, and so on. No matter what circumstances surround her, she accepts them and moves forward. I don’t suggest she is an unfeeling, griefless robot, but she doesn’t try to change or control things. She is adamant and integrated; she takes things as they come. I think life is easier for people like Liza. I think life is easier when we don’t try to be the centers of our universes.

I don’t want to accept things, let them go, and move forward. I want to know everything, I want to understand everything, decipher everything, and sometimes, I want to be able to control everything. Please understand that I don’t mean these are desires of my heart. These are coping mechanisms developed by natural inclinations of my worrisome and overly introspective personality. Even so, I’m learning from Liza Hamilton in this season of my life, and I am learning float on Acceptance throughout the journey of Healing.

It’s a Plane… Just a Plane

As I sat on an airplane to a new home and a new life, I was aware of mild sadness and fear, moderate excitement and hopefulness, and there was, like an unwelcome companion, the weight of the dread of the past. How can a person dread the past? How can a young, tenacious and seemingly brave woman dread things that have already happened, especially considering that she has obviously survived the past with enough courage, at the very least, to move herself across the country for the simple sake of choosing to live fully.

Part of moving forward for me, must include the mission of traveling through the past, to all the worlds I’ve lived, and gathering all the people I’ve been. Everyone changes constantly throughout their lives. Suffering does that to people, and life without suffering is shallow. Without suffering, there can be no depth of capacity for joy, compassion, trust, or empathy.  This list of capacities is by no means exhaustive, but these are the primary components of the me with which I at least am currently familiar, that allow me to thank suffering.

Let me pause to point out that in saying that there are components of the me with which I am currently familiar, I do intend to suggest that there are also components of my identity with which I am entirely unfamiliar. Let’s pretend that every event presented to us in our lives with which we may associate suffering is presented by sword. Your classmates are mean to you in first grade, and the suffering comes like a sword and slices off a piece of who you were. You, then, have a choice. You can embrace the amputated slice of you, and through the pain, re-adhere the slice. There may be a scar, but if you allow your cells to do their jobs, even though it hurts, you can be whole again. Or you can banish the slice. You can take it away to another place, build it a home, and make it stay there. Mind you, in banishment, the slice will grow a body to belong to, and you will “grow” a holographic version of the banishes slice.

Are you following me? Just imagine it. So now, there are two you’s. One is in 1st grade in are far away world constructed of whatever “1st grader you” would find comforting in response to being made fun of. The other one is partially holographic and here, pretending to be a whole person, trying to function normally. The catch to the hologram part of you is this: when someone puts their hand “on” a hologram, the picture distorts and blanks out for a second. Okay?

I have been selective about which sufferings I was willing to believe I could bear. There have been a lot of slices that have been re-adhered with depth and compassion, resilience and bravery. There have also been a lot of banished slices. A major part of this adventure will be journeying to the banishment quarters, embracing the reproductions of Allyson from those seasons, destroying their prisons, and feeling the pain that must be felt. I must find the courage to believe I can bear the suffering, knowing it will be worth it to heal.

Five days ago, as I sat on an airplane to a new home and a new life, I am glad to know that I will soon meet my whole self. I will soon find out if I have the courage to grow up and become who I really am, as E.E. Cummings said. However, it is terribly frightening to imagine and prepare for the foreign lands and planets (because I do expect these places to be different distances and require various modes of travel). It is terribly frightening to think that I may find 1st grade Allyson, and I may fail in setting her free or in loving her enough to feel the love, the pain, or the obliteration of long-constructed fortresses. I suspect, though, that my fear is only a result of the frailty of holograms, and when I find the Allyson(s) that is (or are) projecting that fear, I’ll try to let you know.