Jul 302014
 
Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 6

A guest post by Katrina Anne Willis

ScaleMy relationship with food and with my body is complicated, slippery, broken. My ability to deal with it from a place of reason and intellect waxes and wanes. No matter how it may or may not manifest itself, I will always have an eating disorder.

Just as rape is not about sex, eating disorders are not necessarily about food. For me, it is a hole that needs to be filled; an endless, confusing journey toward self-acceptance and the ability to say without second-guessing: I am worthy, I am whole, I am enough. It is about control, or lack thereof. It is about shame.

* * *

I can’t be trusted around food. I don’t trust myself to prepare it. I don’t trust myself to eat it. When other people cook, it feels safe. And I know what they choose for me is better than what I might choose for myself.

I am constantly at battle with my body and my mind. Never, ever comfortable in my own skin. Even when I lost 60 pounds, I felt like a fraud. People said to me, “You look fabulous! Keep up the good work!” And I thought… So, did all those years of being overweight mean I was bad? I couldn’t hear their compliments because I twisted and gnawed on them until the bitter was all I could taste.

The minute I started to gain the weight back, the silence of my friends and family was deafening. No one said, “You look great! Keep it up!” And I heard what they were truly saying through the void. I heard their disappointment and their disapproval, even if they didn’t hear it themselves. That silence fed my deepest fears — that I was only worthy of approval when the numbers were decreasing.

* * *

I remember one of the very first dates Chris and I shared. I was a thin and athletic 18-year-old, addicted to laxatives and diet pills, existing in a dangerous cycle of bingeing and purging. He took me to a quaint French bistro, and he watched as I ate a basket of baguettes, then another. He confessed to me later, “I watched you eat all that bread. You were so beautiful and so funny and I knew you were going to go home and throw every last bit of it up. And I knew there was nothing I could do to stop you or to change your mind. So I just loved you through it.”

It is heartbreaking to hear what my food choices have done to others. I wanted it to be a private, secret place. But it never is. There is a desperate selfishness in those who cannot make peace with their own bodies. My mom had to lie awake at night worrying. Chris, too.

I understand that now because I see my own daughter pulling her shirt down over her bottom, looking at herself in the mirror and asking, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” And my answer is always — always — inadequate. Ultimately, I say too much, gushing about how beautiful and perfect she is. I know that to her young ears, it probably sounds hollow and insincere. She hears so many different messages in this world. Most of them say to her, “You will be perfect when you are this size. You will fit in when you can wear this.” I don’t want her to ingest those words, but she will. We all do.

* * *

My high school basketball coach — when I was 16, fit and strong and healthy — said to me offhandedly, “You’d be so much faster if you lost 20 pounds.” It became my life’s mantra. It was my fill-in-the-blank script.

You’d be so much ______ if you lost 20 pounds. Prettier, faster, healthier, more attractive, smarter, more worthy. If you lost 20 pounds, you’d be enough.

I have spent my life trying to be what someone else thought I should be. I have wasted much time equating my worth with my weight. I have lamented the amount of space I take up on this earth. Too much, too much… the voice in my head whispers.

* * *

The voids in our lives manifest themselves in many ways. Some drink to fill them. Some exercise. Some work themselves into an early grave. Some hoard money and things. For me, it’s all about food. It’s about stuffing myself until I’m sick. It used to be about throwing it all back up, watching it flush away. Now, I just sit with it. It spreads out from my stomach and my hips, this ugliness and insecurity. It is always with me.

I know in my heart and my head what I should eat. I know how much, ideally, I should weigh. I know how to get there. I know when I sit down with a bowl of ice cream that – more often than not – I shouldn’t. And it’s an internal struggle… every time. But I also know that ice cream is just a substitute for something else, something that needs to be filled. Something that only I can grant myself. Acceptance? Grace? Forgiveness?

* * *

Even today, in conversations about being overweight, my well-meaning friends say, “Don’t you worry about what kind of example you’re setting for your daughter?” And my answer is this: Yes. YES. I worry every second of every day about how my dysfunctional relationship with food affects me, my daughter, my sons, my family. Every. Single. Second.

* * *

Bulimia has rendered me a different person physically, even though my most prominent battles with it ended over twenty years ago. The damage that’s been done to my body becomes more evident as I age. After years of being addicted to laxatives, my digestive system doesn’t work correctly. My teeth are cracked and breaking, the enamel long ago destroyed. My metabolism has been altered, and I fight anxiety and depression on the daily. This is not a disease I would wish on anyone. It is a silent, private shame. It is a selfish, singular state of being. I hate being fat, and I am uncomfortable being thin. My skin — with its stretch marks and sag — feels foreign. I try not to look at it.

* * *

My teenage friends and I discussed Ex-Lax and Dexatrim in locker rooms, in dorm rooms, in sorority suites. We need to make sure there are other discussions happening as well. I have spoken with my 14-year-old daughter about eating disorders, about food, about healthy choices. I want her to know there is a soft place to land when her friends begin the discussions… or continue them. I want her to know that I’ve been there, that she doesn’t have to go.

Such pressure exists for our young people to achieve a level of perceived perfection. Get good grades, participate in extra-curriculars, achieve a societal standard of physical acceptance, run yourself ragged trying.

This is what I’d like for our kids to hear instead: Do your best, work hard, be kind, give back, help those less fortunate, make healthy choices, embrace what makes you different and unique, focus out.

Here’s what we need to say to our children, to our friends, to our family members, to our fellow human beings: I love you. You’re powerful. You make me smile. You make a difference.

You are worthy.

You are worthy.

You are worthy.

 *********************************************

Katrina Anne Willis, a Hoosier currently living in Ohio, is happily married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of four fabulous teens/tweens. An author and essayist, Katrina is the author of “Table for Six: The Extraordinary Tales of an Ordinary Family” and is featured in both A Band of Women’s 2014 “Nothing but the Truth” anthology as well as the upcoming HerStories Project anthology, “My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends.” When she’s not reading (everything), running (slowly), or pouring a glass of Cabernet, you can find her on her website and on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Jul 282014
 
Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 6

A guest post by Rachel Haas

mirrorI cleaned the mirror last week. It had been a while.

Frankly, I was okay with the smudges and the fingerprints at toddler-height level and the lip-prints at momma-height level. Her fingers like to poke at her round belly in the glass. Her lips like to give the baby in the mirror a kiss every morning as we come down to start the day.

She sees differently than I do.

Because honestly? Me? I might never clean that mirror.

:: ::

I bought new jeans today. It had been a while.

I was pushed to the brink by the ripping sound right in the most unfortunate location, that mostly hidden spot where the seam glides up the leg. And I only have one other pair. It would not do to be without pants entirely. It’s nearly skirt weather in my corner of the United States, but not quite.

Under complete mental protest, I went shopping. My fingers flipped through the piles of stitching and denim that carelessness had allowed to muddle together, size 6s and 2s and 16s and 22s all playing together. They didn’t care, those perfectly folded pairs of pants. Only the people buying them cared.

Only the people who had to wear them cared.

And so I found myself standing in front of another mirror. This mirror was clean, no fingerprints and no baby-made smudges. But there was another kind of dirt clinging to the edges and seeping over the glass.

I could see a thousand little girls reflected in that glass. I could hear the words, see the downturned lips, feel the poking fingers.

Does this make me look fat?

Screen shot 2014-07-27 at 10.10.57 PM
:: ::

I held my daughter in my arms this morning, her hair shimmering golden-red in the sunlight. She curled against my chest as she nursed, her fingers idly straying down to the hem of my shirt. She pulled the fabric away and sat up with a grin.

Momma.
Oh, may those words from her little lips never cease to turn my soul to water.

She leaned forward and planted a smacking kiss on my belly. Right there on the dappled purple stretch marks that she left behind. Right above the scar that cuts a jagged line across my stomach that shows how they pulled her from my body like Moses drawn from the water. It’s a life-mark, that scar.

:: ::

I stood in front of the mirror just a minute ago, the same one that I cleaned last week. I have my new jeans on, a perfect fit. The number on the back, nestled in the teens, is irrelevant. What matters is the way I see myself.

What matters is the way I refuse to let the Darkness convince me that my worth and that number are somehow connected.

Shame might have lived in that mirror. But I ran a Windex rag over the glass. I’m speaking Light and Life over that piece of glass. I’m revoking the lies in the name of the One who saw me before the dawning of time and whispered to the assembled angels,

oh, she. 

she is made in the Image.
I am God, and I call her good. 

 

***********************************************************

 Rachel Haas is a Story-writing, caffeine-consuming, paint-flinging, wild-at-heart sojourner. She is four years married to Jonathon, momma to Marian, and wrangler of an oversized Great Dane and two cats who are relatively bonkers. She dwells in between Midwestern cornfields where she pours her heart out in lowercase abandon. Find her on her blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Jul 252014
 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”  – Fred Rogers

I have no idea what the future of immigration should look like.

I do know that if we are Americans, we should probably be mindful of the original plan:

Statue of Liberty

And that we if we are Christians, we should probably also be mindful that the Bible speaks frequently about caring for sojourners and strangers in our midst. And that Jesus himself was an immigrant when he was a child.

Matthew 25

And I know that this is happening right now:

CWS is receiving troubling reports that, in some instances, DHS is dealing with the developing crisis by dropping off women and children after initial screening in potentially vulnerable spaces, such as parking lots and bus stops. As one recent example, there have been reports of more than 50 children and women being dropped off at shopping center parking lots in Yuma, Ariz.

“Women and children are being dropped off with a notice to appear in court, and nothing else; no food, no water, no diapers, no money and without Identification or a phone to call their relatives. We have a responsibility to respond, if we don’t stand up for justice and peace, who will?” said Rev. Alberta Wallace of Yuma United Church of Christ.



Funds are urgently required to meet immediate needs including food, water, clothing, diapers, medical care, housing and bus tickets. The interfaith effort has been volunteer-based and although it has received wide community support, the effort needs additional resources to further organize this relief effort, which should include case management and volunteer coordination.



In several cases, CWS member communions are actively organizing responses to similar situations by coordinating hospitality, shelter, donations and mobilizing local congregations to advocate for policies that defend humanitarian protections.

–Excerpted from our partner CWS’s initial appeal in response to the Unaccompanied Children Crisis

It’s awful- but Instead of Looking Away, We Can Look For the Helpers. There are folks who are not just TALKING about immigration and right and wrong and who’s in and who’s out. They are on the ground, rolling up their sleeves and HELPING these children and families.

Thank you for helping instead of just talking, CWS. Thank you for rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Thank you for being such incredible helpers.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest