Please note: strong language ahead.
When the skinny girl becomes a heavier woman, people notice. Eyes immediately fall to my stomach and I brace myself for the question…“Are you pregnant…again?!” Being the outwardly easygoing humorist*, I quip, “Nope, just fat!”
By pure happenstance, my aunt and grandmother came to the coffee shop while I was filming a Facebook live video for an upcoming speaking engagement. Seeing I was busy, they didn’t approach. Afterward, I walked over to say hello. My grandmother looks at my stomach and pokes it. Before she can say anything I say, “I know, I’m working on it. I just started a 30-day workout thing. It sucks.” She says something about being pregnant again. I remind her (and the whole coffee shop) that I have an IUD.
We’ve had this exchange before. More than once. I’ve had exchanges like this with other women in my family and even people I’m not very close to, in which the weight of their own assumptions, insecurities and shortcomings are placed squarely on my shoulders and for the rest of the day (or in some cases weeks or more) I have to carry their shit around.
Let me back up a bit and be clear. I am 36–closer to 40 than 30. I’ve carried and birthed 3 babies. I’ve never been tone, though for most of my life I’ve been thin. Until now, and I’m probably still considered thin. For most of my life I’ve carried a lot of weight, figuratively. Lately, I’m carrying more weight literally. Aside from my body issues, I am happy and secure in my life. I have a good job. I have a supportive spouse and a healthy relationship, my kids are happy and healthy, I am thriving in my creative work, but I like to #treatmyself. I like snacks. I like cakes and donuts. I like rich indian food. I like spicy thai food. I like greasy tacos. I like wine. I also like beer. Good beer, not that light shit.
I go to the gym occasionally and when I go it feels good, I feel accomplished. Sometimes, I feel accomplished sitting on the couch after binge-watching a show. True story: as I write this, I’m eating a bigass piece of chocolate cake, and loving every bite.
There’s a dark side too. I’ve stopped looking at myself naked as much as possible. I feel literally disgusted by the sight of my body. On the bus this afternoon, I could feel parts of me jiggling (even with Spanx!). I hated every second of it. When I see myself, I don’t think I see what everyone else does. Something doesn’t jibe with the things people say vs. the things I see. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even allow my honey to see me naked. When we are intimate, my shirt stays on and whenever possible the lights are off.
He loves me. He loves my body. He thinks I’m F-I-N-E. How do I know? He looks at me like maybe I am magic. He loves me as I am, no matter what or how I am. That is love right there.
So what the fuck is this other shit and why do I care?! My grandma is a nice person. Really! She’s been incredibly supportive of me my whole life and is, in large part, why I turned out mostly okay. However she and so many others feel the need to discuss how I (or others) look.
Over the past 3 years I have significantly limited my contact with my extended family, for reasons I’ve not been forthcoming about. The nicest, most direct way to put it is: they drain me. When I’m home with my own family, my cup runneth over. That is where I like to be. Where I feel loved, supported and heard, where I can be my truest self. Isn’t that where we’d all like to be? I don’t want to be talked over, poked at, judged or compared to one of my cousins. I just want to be. Can I just Be?
The world is rough and life is difficult, I want to be with those who help lighten the load not pile more on top. Sometimes your true family, isn’t your family at all, it’s the people you meet along the way. Life is short, go to the places and the people who fill you up. If you feel like you are carrying a weight that does not belong to you, put it down. You don’t necessarily need to walk away like I have, but at least put it down. The only broken you can fix, is your own. Start there.
*I am actually an anxiety ridden introvert.