Anatomy of the Lady I’d Like to Be

This is rapidly becoming my favorite time of week again. For months I didn’t want to write at all — not easy, not fun, why try so hard to do this — but lately I’ve been looking forward to Sunday morning with the kind of anticipation I’d assume most reserve for Friday night. (ATTT LAAAST. My love has come along. My lonely days are over, and life is like a song.)

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It’s not like I’m writing about particularly buoyant times; I know. And I think we can agree these aren’t exactly happy, go-lucky topics I’ve been dancing around. But if you were to ask me to identify the single most important thing I’m doing these days, it’d be this. Writing. Writing and crying. (What, you aren’t in the habit of sprouting fresh tears every sixth sentence? Weird.)

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The woman I’d like to be would say I’m doing a damned good job of learning my way around the word “cathartic.” Insert dancing girl emoji, insert bulging bicep, insert “pow” fist.

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It’s funny. Sometimes it does feel so sparkly and inspirational. But other times it’s shaky at best, and I can only conjure up that feeling for 5 or 10 minutes. And before I know it, it’s back to the silent sobs in my comically large bed, until my throbbing head drops off to sleep against a damp pillow.

Sometimes, more often these days than not, it’s waking up with eyes so puffy that I can barely pry them open in the morning. It’s splashing cold water over my face and hoping nobody examines me too closely at work. It’s a single day at a time (in pants already starting to pinch). It’s stupid little mantras (that actually work). What got me here won’t get me there.

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There is also something I like about the idea of outlasting your old self in order to get to your new self. That being said, if you have any tips on how to make the in-between more bearable, BY ALL MEANS, please let me know. It’s amazingly difficult for me to remember that we aren’t robots, that we are in control of so little, and that there is a cyclical nature to things. Nothing stays the same forever.

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Other dispatches from my little green book:

-You will not always feel too big and too small and too much and not enough and too frightened to change and too sad to stay the same. You will not.

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-It is okay to have tried and failed. (Twice in 4 years, now.) You don’t undo everything you’ve learned each time. This is an entirely different conversation than the one you had when you were 22, 23, 24. Even when it feels awful (maybe even especially then), you’re making progress.

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-You have unbelievable willpower. You’ve run a sub 3:30 marathon — you clearly have the capability to override the occasional impulse to quit.

-You need to think about dieting (versus eating) as the equivalent of giving up and giving in. Doing what you have always done is not the brave thing. It is the easier thing.

-Somewhere along the way, you got accustomed to living your life on a diet. What you do (and don’t do) extends well beyond food. You’ve done your best to flatten every single one of your wants and needs. WHY? Whywhywhy.

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-Remember how glorious that glimpse of unconditional love you gave yourself was, and remember how nice it was to discover just how much love you have to give? (Refresher: So much. So incredibly much.)

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10 questions I haven’t answered yet:

-What happens if you don’t launch yourself out of bed in the morning with the determination of an Olympic pole-vaulter?

-When things are going well in your life, what are you doing? (Are you writing? Spending time outside? Looking forward to a trip? Thinking about other people? Cooking?)

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-What anchors you? What saddens you? What exhausts you? What makes the whirring world stand still?

-What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? What are you doing to work on it?

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-What’s one lesson that keeps coming up for you? (What’s one thing you seem to need to relearn over and over again?)

-What would horrify you to realize 10 years from now?

-When a routine becomes a rut, how do you get yourself out of it?

-Who is someone you can be your softest self with? Can you think of 3 more?

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-What are you most excited about?

-What are 2 tiny things you can do this week to make yourself good/proud/infinitely capable?

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“I would not encourage you to go through the sweat, blood, and tears of the recovery process only to reach some kind of mediocre state where you were just ‘managing’ the illness. It is possible to live without an eating disorder.” -Jenni Schaefer

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“‘Ordered’ eating is the practice of eating when you are hungry and ceasing to eat when your brain sends the signal that your stomach is full. All people who live their lives on a diet are suffering. If you can accept your natural body weight and not force it to beneath your body’s natural, healthy weight, then you can live your life free of dieting, of restriction, of feeling guilty every time you eat a slice of your kid’s birthday cake.” -Portia de Rossi

“What was wrong with me? Why could I not just flip the switch and see all the brightness ahead if only I chose the correct path? Or rather, why could I see the correct path but not choose to tread upon it?” -Hanne Arts

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“Let me explain. Say you have an eating disorder like anorexia — you have probably been hiding it for a long time. After months or years, maybe with therapy, maybe without, you face your demons and admit you’re ill and eventually decide you want to recover. But this is only half the battle. Every mouthful takes a colossal effort. It isn’t sufficient to surrender once, or for a week, or for a month. You will need to let go a million and one times. In your rigid anorexic mindset, not being underweight equates to being overweight. Not being hungry equates to greed. It is almost impossible to imagine that the process will ever be OK.” -Emma Woolf

“People are doing the best that they can from their own level of consciousness.” -Deepak Chopra

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“Real hope combined with real actions has always pulled me through difficult times. Real hope combined with doing nothing has never pulled me through.” -Jenni Schaefer

“Intense pain pushed me to make changes. The pain of the eating disorder pushed me into recovering from eating-disordered behaviors. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional turmoil I would experience without those behaviors. I didn’t know how to stop trying to be perfect. I didn’t know how to cope with my feelings. I didn’t know how to live life in general. I realized this with no small amount of alarm.” -Jenni Schaefer

“There’s more than one way to be a person. Actually, there are more than two or three ways. You’d think that was obvious, but I find that often it is not. The world is essentially a collection of teams. Deciding which ones we’re going to join is a confusing process.” -Meghan Daum

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“What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry: like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast. It feels shameful and alarming, and over time these feelings radiate outwards, making the lonely person increasingly isolated, increasingly estranged. It hurts, in the way that feelings do, and it also has physical consequences that take place invisibly, inside the closed compartments of the body. It advances, is what I’m trying to say, cold as ice and clear as glass, enclosing and engulfing.” -Olivia Laing

“You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavor to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people.” -Olivia Laing

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“You don’t have a right to the cards you think you should have been dealt. You do have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.” -Cheryl Strayed

“Loneliness feels like such a shameful experience, so counter to the lives we are supposed to lead, that it becomes increasingly inadmissible, a taboo state whose confession seems destined to cause others to turn and flee.” -Olivia Laing

“I don’t believe the cure for loneliness is meeting someone, not necessarily. I think it’s about two things: learning how to befriend yourself and understanding that many of the things that seem to afflict us as individuals are in fact a result of larger forces of stigma and exclusion, which can and should be resisted.” -Olivia Laing

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“So much of the pain of loneliness has to do with concealment, with feeling compelled to hide vulnerability, to tuck ugliness away, to cover up scars as if they are literally repulsive. But why hide? What’s so shameful about wanting, about desire, about having failed to achieve satisfaction, about experiencing unhappiness? Why this need to constantly inhabit peak states, or to be comfortably sealed inside a unit of two, turned inward from the world at large?” -Olivia Laing

“Change now. Love now. Live now.” -Kris Carr

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“Food is something I am going to have to face at least three times a day for the rest of my life. And I am not perfect. But one really bad day does not mean that I am hopeless and back at square one. Olympic ice skaters fall in their quest for the gold. Heisman Trophy winners throw interceptions. Professional singers forget the words. And people with eating disorders sometimes slip back into an old pattern. But all of these individuals just pick themselves back up and do the next right thing. The ice skater makes the next jump. The football player throws the next pass. The singer finishes the song. And I am going to eat breakfast.” -Jenni Schaefer

“You will survive your terror and come out grand, simply grand.” -Anne Sexton

“I know about your rough edges and I have seen your perfect curves and I will fit into any space that you let me.” -Sarah Kay

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{Mt. Hood w/ moon via @joshua.j.ortiz, waterfall via @fursty, St. John’s Bridge via @crippeakasizzler1, heart lake via @bradleyfriesen, Mt. Adams via @nicholaspeterwilson, Astoria bridge via @jitabebe, woods via @fursty, ombre mountains via @theplaidshirt, downtown Portland via @marshallsteeves, Natural Bridges Trail via @brrooklynne — all on Instagram.}

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2 thoughts on “Anatomy of the Lady I’d Like to Be

  1. Ahhh your energy is infectious. I wrote a similar last New Years (https://dreamexplosively.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/new-years-day/). Some days I’m not sure if I’ll ever discover the answers to my big questions, but I find with more experiences that give me joy (cooking/adventuring/hollering to loud music in my car/sunrises) I get a better foothold to keep rising. It seems like you unravel a little bit of your questions every time you write, kudos! 🙂 Do you revisit the small daily joys in your life? I find the courage I need to weather the in-between past and future easier when I can reflect on all of the happiness/growth I’ve made. You should be hella proud of yours.

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