I've been a runner since spring of 2005. In my memory I started running to offset the boredom of walking with the baby in the jogging stroller. But, it was probably more to combat the extra weight I was carrying from having been pregnant. (baby weight on top of the extra weight I was already carrying from a lot of late night binge drinking)
Another fighting my body.
I have always wanted to be effortlessly beautiful.
When I was in my early 20's, I moved home a year or two after dropping out of college. I got a DUI the night before my mom was driving three and a half hours up the mountain to Boone, NC to pick me up and bring me home. I called her as soon as I got out of jail just before dawn that morning, lying, saying I had to work just one more day, could she please come get me tomorrow?
Back at home, I got a job waiting tables at Chili's and I'd go hike up Crowder's Mountain whenever I had free time. I lost weight- down to a size 2, which to me felt like a weird miracle, and yet I still often felt excruciatingly big and uncomfortable in my own skin. I was probably a size 8 or a 10 to start. None of that feels important now, and yet it does- these decades old numbers and the images that go along with them tattooed on my brain. Anything past about size 6 started to mean you were an out of control body failure. I have spent years of my life resenting the body I have- wishing someone else would find me substantially beautiful enough enough times so I could start to believe it myself.
You know how you get so tired of something, exhausted from carrying the idea you were taught that wasn't even yours to begin with? And yet, resigned you sigh, heave it up, ratty and worn, heavy old burden that's super glue fused to your thoughts, the boomerang that can't be tossed far away enough to not come back? God, damn my fixation about my body. I'm so sick of it.
I start to feel uncomfortable. I start to try to control it, but then following my pattern, I alternately want to starve myself or stuff myself. I stress. My body is the first place I turn against when I'm stressed. I immediately start finding things wrong- my stomach isn't flat, my legs are dimply. The solution seems to become "look different and all problems resolve themselves". I feel ugly. I start to change clothes 7 times when I get dressed, my anxiety making it harder and harder. But also looking too pretty is a problem, so I have to find the right balance of I look great and I didn't try at all.
If I only could look right then everything will be okay.
What does "look right" even mean?
It's interesting to be 50 years old and still feel like this. To tangibly want to give up giving a shit about this, and to be so attached to it as a coping mechanism that losing it feels like losing myself, in a way. What do I have if I don't have this consistent criticism of my appearance in my thoughts to comfort me?
The empty space is harder than the familiar. It is hard to quiet the voice and wait. It feels inauthentic to cheer myself on, the other option feels like waiting for what else I have to say but that is so...empty. I resort to comforting myself by trying to say the truth (I look like me, I 'm supposed to look like me) but I can only approve of myself in an echo chamber for so long before my own voice coming back to me feels insulting.
It seems like it's about control. I think about myself on the beach in a bathing suit and the people who see me are thinking: look at her body, she has no self control.
Ha! I am overflowing with self control! I have a grand surplus of it! It squeezes out of everywhere, bursting forward, leaking all over everything.
To let go of control. Or approval? Or both?
Circling back to the beginning and me being a runner..now I physically can't run much more than a mile. I can walk about 4 or 5 miles, only after some ibuprofen and it isn't great. I have to stop some, and the last mile or two I'm often wishing I were finished already. So I don't go as often, even though running in the woods is my redemption, my saving grace.
It happened suddenly, not being able to run. Around Christmas I was continuing a long practice of running 6 miles four or five times a week, sometimes further. I was signed up for an 8 mile trail run in February. But I had to email the race director mid January and let them know I wasn't going to be there. I physically could not do it.
My body reflects this change in my running practice. It feels like a slap in the face. I have been devoted, careful, dedicated to running in a way that felt wise and good. Losing it means I lost my comfort in my own skin. I feel like I'm in a stranger's body. Like I inflated a little and can't exhale. It's not much, no one would notice. Like a rock in my shoe, you probably don't see it, but I feel it. It's painful, and annoying, and also feels petty and vain.
The picture above is one I took of myself before my consult with the surgeon who is going to replace my hip on June 13th. Finally, after years of pain and lack of mobility I will get a new hip. He will replace the one that's worn out, the one that is bone on bone, with bone spurs that act like locked doors and that for the past couple years has only let me do one kind of movement: run. In turn, running let me feel okay. It gave me control of my body, and my own approval.
Now, it's gone.
And it's not okay.
For now, I'd like to acknowledge that. To not rush myself past what I'm experiencing now, but to feel it, suffering vanity, the lack of approval, the discomfort I have in my own skin.
Not rush towards the solution, to the but, but, but!
"But no one can tell!"
"But it's not forever!"
"But you know you are (insert positive descriptor here)!"
I am here now to say: I want the time to feel uncomfortable.
I want to see what it feels like, to get to know it, so maybe I learn something about myself by not being okay.
To be patient enough to hear the silence of me not knowing what to say.