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Monday, November 17, 2008

She Reviews Her Own Post

Somewhere in fairly recent history, I decided that I would like to be a voice of a different sort when it comes to women and their relationships to their bodies and food. And quite frankly, I have hardly written anything on that topic for some time because it makes me so darned vulnerable. It was easier to write without fear of judgement when I had no idea who was here reading it. Some of that has changed now.... but I want to press on with authenticity and if I am to be any voice at all, it will have to be somewhat audible. It will require taking some chances, both with myself and with people around me.

Being a voice of a different sort means choosing not to reinforce the familiar female culture of berating oneself for not being thin, fit, well proportioned, primped, lean, blah, blah, blahdy-blah. So, one might wonder why a post like Constant Craving?

It is an attempt to describe the frustration of living with certain neural pathways. Certain ways of thinking that have been a part of me since the tender age of eleven. I don't begin to suggest that striving for thinness is an admirable or worthy cause; or that anyone might find happiness or an end to their neediness through that achievement.

Weight preoccupation is a side effect of a much deeper issue. It has to do with identity, anxiety, fear, security, insecurity, wants, needs, and control. The word "control" tends to get a bad wrap, but I'd like to try and explain a different perspective here. We all need to have a certain amount of control in our personal lives. One needs to feel empowered on some level to have influence on the direction of one's life, or you simply feel like you are being pulled along on some current that is going too strong or in entirely the wrong direction. Anyone who has gotten on the wrong ride at the fair will have some notion of what I'm trying to describe.

Now imagine events occuring in one's personal life that are outside of the person's arena of influence. A death. A virtual death- perhaps of a dream, a goal, or the way you always imagined and assumed that you might function in a family or marriage. Imagine your child, or children becoming ill. And not in the "flu" sense of the word, but with diagnoses that tend to sound lifelong and complex. Frightening even. Imagine illness in your wider family- the type that alters states of mind, and changes personality- redefines normality. Imagine interpersonal conflict and stress in one's core relationships.

The needs seem overwhelming.
I need to be someone's wife. And a darned good one, at that.
I need to be a mom. And think of ways to solve problems, big and small. Empower the children without pushing them out of the nest too soon.
I need from my husband.
I need from my children.
The laundry needs.
the floor.
the wallsshoesclosetspetsgaragebillsinsurancesidewalkdeckfridgecarpetbureauvanbicyclebarbeque...
I need relationships
that need to be maintained, honoured, reciprocated.
I need to make dinner that will not be disgusting.
I need to teach my children to be grateful. To not complain. But to speak their mind. Appropriately.
I need to clean this dump
the sheetspillowcasescouchcushionsfloorsidingcarseatsundiesjacketsdogstairs...

I need to be a daughter. Available, calm, attentive, non-intrusive, respectful, wise.
An in-law; an outlaw.

need.....peace, quiet, and a chance to get loud. ridiculous. serene. introspective. outwardly directed. connected to my children. community minded. individual. affirmation. self-awareness. confidence.

I see my thighs spread, even as I see the needs spread around me and crush in. And sometimes.... I give in. I relax into its familiar discomfort. The familiar battle where the dangling carrot is inscribed: just be thin. Be thin and need not. Surely I can accomplish that one thing? Surely it would make a difference?*
Surely that is what is really behind this angst?

It couldn't be the unresolves losses, and tears, and fears, and arrow-tipped words. The deaths, the dying, the hurts that are yet to come? It couldn't be the fatherless, the absentee fathers, the arguing, nit-picking fathers, the fathers my children will become?

The craving for thin occurs as predictably as the fear of being thin. The thoughts and fantasies wave wildly red as flags. Tempting. Attractive. Frightening. Distracting.

The mind of the recovered still holds its trails and highways and biways of the disordered mind and body. When semi-trailers and dump trucks and large deer push one far, far off the highway and off course, the body and mind seem to navigate back to the older, more familiar trailways. Even when one "knows better". It is still an attempt to look after oneself, to soothe and reassure, and makes sense of the insensible.

One's body feels symbolic of the state of one's mind. If aspects of my life feel out of control AND I'm not thin, then it seems to me that the wild activity and frantic nature of my hidden mind has become physical and evident to any and all around me. if I were thin; then it would still be true that life was imperfect; but at least my clothes would be loose and comfortable and that would provide me some level of reduced stress.

There are many misperceptions of women's preoccupation with their bodies. What I am hoping to describe, even a little, is that it is more complex than what meets the eye. Patronizing a woman for crying about her belly or thighs will only deepen her sense of inadequacy and drive her deeper into the shame she feels about herself.

Perhaps if we learned more about what possible deep questions lie beneath the apparently superficial ones, we can begin to hear one anothers' hearts? Reach out and kiss the boo-boos that no one sees? Apply a balm to the scrapes instead of slapping one another for our wants? our needs? Its a scarey place to go, and one without a million plans like the weightloss campaigns. Could we start a lose fear support group? A get real campaign?

Could we hear one another?


Karla said...

Please sign me up... but make room for my anxieties, fear, insecurities and preoccupations. They are craving a place to be unpacked in the presence of another. The dusty, dark bag I carry them around in is feeling a little cramped. So make room for all of us... When do we start?

jb said...

i've always longed to belong to a group of women where we can let our hair down, so to speak, and just lay it all out there on the table. what healing that would bring.

because you're right, it's not really just about our bodies... it's much much deeper, and that's what i wish us women could speak more openly about...

good post joyce. :)

coffeeloves said...

I completely resonate with "one's body feels symbolic of the state of one's mind". So true, so true.
There's always (for me) the tiny/BIG craving to be thin in order to convince the outside world that my life is FAR more together then it really is...
I sometimes feel that I walking around in someone else's body, just not comfortable here...sad but true.

perrygirl1 said...

i hear you Joyce. i think you have hit on a great idea here. we are a large community whether we want to admit it or not. more likely not. there are so many of us thinking and feeling the same things and too afraid to speak up. what will they think of me? can i live with what i think they are thinking about me?

i'm ready to start when you are.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the "get real" campaign. I'll jump on that wagon. In my short life of 50 years, I'm beginning to understand what that means -- love the freedom that comes with it!
Schwester Mary

Roo said...

one thing i loved about living in the north end of our neighboring city (just before i got married) was that the brokenness and pain was so in your face. it was impossible to hide and i found that refreshing.

lettuce said...

this is such a good post joyce, and important

i can't pretend to understand how it feels, but you really give me insight

Jennie C. said...

I hear you.