In a nostalgic mood, I wasted a whole evening browsing through old facebook photos. The majority of which took place when I weighed between 240 and 260. Back when I imagined that weighing in the 180s, as I do now, would be skinny for me. Back when I preached big as beautiful. I hardly recognize that me. I’ve spent days trying to capture my emotions. Trying to explain why I’ve plateaued here, still 30 or so pounds from healthy.
Tonight, in my favorite master’s class, I was reminded that sometimes we have to stop thinking and start singing to find the truth. The greatest part of ourselves is not our ego, but that self which is always changing and allusive whom we can meet best in art.
Since this is my art, I’m going to sing for you.
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There is a moment in the film “Frida” when she asks her father to remind her what she wanted then. Who she was then. “Then” when she was young. Before the accident that shattered her body and left her permanently aching. Before the marriage to Diego Rivera whose constant infidelity pained her as much. The scene quickly transitions but for me the movie paused at that point.
That question is where I’ve been dwelling: Who was I before this?
Who was I in those pictures I don’t see myself in anymore? Wasn’t I more confident then? Didn’t I have more faith that a man could love me then? Wasn’t I less self-conscious then?
But those questions generate different questions: Should I have stayed twice the size my body is meant to be? Should I have gone all my life without hitting puberty? Wasn’t that self-assurance just my conscious naiveté?
Being heavy was like living in Neverland. In it I escaped growing up. Now that I’m playing Wendy I’ve faced a mirror for the first time with the nagging question of every pubescent girl: Am I pretty? This time I have not meant “Am I lovable?” But “Am I beautiful?” “Am I desirable?”
While my body has transformed, I’ve discovered both my beauty and my scars. The thick stretch marks on my shoulders, that women have mistaken for scratches for years, I’ve found running down my sides. The lighter marks that lace my upper arms, I’ve discovered across my abdomen.
Facing them I’ve felt like Anne Dillard at the beginning of Pilgrim At Tinker Creek pondering the significance of the bloody paw prints on her body. Are they emblems of my purity or the signs of self-abuse? Some days I don’t know if I’m saving myself or ruining myself but, unlike Dillard, I cannot wash off these stains. They linger.
These stagnant months I’ve been stuck in that other me’s gaze. Afraid to lose weight to discover that I’m not attractive and afraid to lose weight to discover that I am. Mostly, afraid to lose me. Who is this woman staring back at me? She isn’t the girl I was.
Frida never reclaimed the old her but by the next scene it didn’t matter. She was always Frida. The woman she became was the woman she was always becoming. The peace and love for myself I’m searching for in tears is that, like her, who I am becoming is me.