Friday, June 7, 2013

Thoughts from inside the barbed wire wall

For a long, long time I was a very bitter, hateful person. There were reasons for it, reasons that I consider to be valid in terms of understanding why my reactions to the world became what they were. I never really grasped the concept that I could be anything else because every time I had tried I ended up getting hurt. When you get hurt enough you create ways to deal with it and to prevent it from happening again. Those ways become habit, and those habits become ingrained so deeply that changing them...changing who we are and the face that we present to the world is a long, arduous process that will be filled with setbacks and reversions to "safe" behaviours under stress.

Over the past several years I have made a decided effort to change who I am and the face that I present to the world. I have tried very hard to alter the path that my thoughts automatically take when things happen, and to create different outcomes to situations that are triggering.

I have not always been successful.

I do, however, believe that I have made progress on this goal. I believe that I have become more willing to actually believe that people can be true friends, and that not everyone is out to use me until it suits them to forget about me or to actively throw me aside. I still have times when I doubt even my closest friends, but those times are getting shorter and less severe. I believe that this is good and that it means that in time I actually will wholeheartedly believe that there are people who love me without reservation. The barbed wire battlements are slowly being taken down.

Someone recently said to me that they were tired of walking on eggshells around me all of the time, and that I am just too negative a person. I have to admit that my first reaction was anger and hurt. My second reaction was also hurt, but of a different kind. I went from "How dare you say that to me??" to "Is that really the face that I'm still presenting to the world?" and it has led to another round of self-examination.

Yes, I am still quick to assume that someone is doing something to hurt me on purpose. While I would like for that thought process to finally go away forever, there is still work to be done to shake off the lessons that were taught to me by my peers as I grew up. (You would think that at 46 years old I would be free of what happened to me in my school years, wouldn't you?) But as I re-assess where I am and how I got here, I find that I think I've become a much more positive person in the past few years. It has taken a lot of hard work, and has involved the suppression of a lot of knee-jerk responses (again, not ALWAYS successfully, but better!).

I also admit that there are a select few who see more of the negativity than most, because they are (or in this case, were) people that I feel safe about venting to in order to get the feelings out of my system rather than letting them remain in place where they can poison future thoughts / emotions. That can't be easy for those folks, and I appreciate those who understand and support my need to have safe places to vent my spleen, so to speak, without holding it against me.

In the end, if that is still the face that I actually present to the world, then I have a lot more work to do. But if it isn't, and if it is just that others are still seeing the "old me" out of habit reinforced by my weak moments of relapse, then there is little that I can do to change their perceptions. I can only continue trying to become a better me and hope that someday perception and reality join in letting the world see the positive me that has hidden inside these barbed wire walls for so long.

I don't really know. All that I know is that right now I think I'm a better me than I used to be and that there is still work to be done.

I'm a better me, but still not the best me. Always a work in progress I guess.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hidden Strength

I was reading today's Dances With Fat blog, and she said something that really resonated with me.

"I think that fat people, whether or not they consider themselves fat activists, are truly underestimated.  In the face of a tremendous amount of bullying and stigma, in the face of the government recruiting our friends, families, and employers to fight a war against us, in spite of the intense oppression that tries its best to crush us, that we keep living our lives is a testament to our incredible strength."

That says a lot, and it hit home for me.  You see, Dear Readers, I have finally started to realize just how strong I am.  I have been taught all of my life that my weight is a sign of weakness.  The world has told me repeatedly that I am weak-willed because I allow myself to eat food.  Never mind that I would starve to death if I didn't, that doesn't matter.  What matters is that it is visibly obvious that I not only eat too much but I make "bad" food choices.  If that weren't the case, the thinking goes, then I wouldn't be fat.  (I actually love fruits and vegetables to the point where The Husbeast complains about how many I make at mealtimes, but even if I didn't that doesn't give anyone the right to judge me or my eating habits.)

The world has told me for all of my life that I should be ashamed of myself, ashamed of my body, ashamed of the "mental failings" that allowed me to become this way.  I'm told on a regular basis that I should have enough willpower to force my body into the mold that the world would prefer to see, even if that forcing causes me physical, mental and emotional damage.

The world has said, "We don't want to see your weakness.  We want you to hide it, like we all hide ours."

But I'm not weak.  I'm incredibly strong when you think about it.  Every day... every day...I have hundreds of messages thrown at me about how I am sub-human, not worthy of sharing space with the "normal" people of the world.  Every day I am told that I am less of a human being because my body takes up more space.  EVERY DAY.

Yet despite that repeated bludgeoning, I live my life.  I go to the store, I hang out with my friends, I dare to be seen.  I have even had the temerity to perform at Renaissance Faires and in theatrical productions!  I interact with people as though I have the right to exist! *gasp*

In the face of constantly being told that it would be best for the world in general if I were either to disappear, hide in my house until I lose weight, or just go away altogether, I dare to exist and to enjoy my existence!  What a travesty!

The real travesty is that it has taken me 46 years to learn that the fact that I do these things, the fact that I not only exist but allow myself to experience all that life offers to the best of my ability DESPITE being fat, that fact is NOT weakness.  That is strength.

I am strong.

Every fat person who goes about their lives in the manner that they prefer is strong.

Every fat person who gets out of bed in the morning and doesn't allow the constant deluge of negative messages to force them to cease to be is strong.

Like Pat Benetar says, "We are strong." and for us, it isn't love, but life that is the battlefield, folks, and it is about time that we realize that and use that strength to tell the world exactly where it can go.  It is time that we yoke that strength and live the lives that we make for ourselves, no matter what other people think about it.  In the end, we can win this battle and this war and win the right to exist without the constant judgment.

We're not weak, we are strong, our strength is just hidden.  It is time for it to come out of hiding.