Friday, February 20, 2015

Evolving Self

As I have broadcast over the past months, this has been a year of physical transformation . In a week I have an appointment with my psychiatrist and there will be questions about how I am feeling. Shall I give her the Cole's notes version, or really get in to it? Because there's lots of feelings, and an evolving sense of self. As my body downsizes, there's a mismatch between what I think I look like (can't keep up), there's the different reactions from people around me (face it, our self image is often defined by the reflections from others), and my innermost self.

There's a great article by Kerry Colpitts, who describes the social changes associated with significant weight loss.


I don't intend to repeat those thoughts here. I'd rather talk more about my innermost self and the effect of the physical changes on my mood.

I wonder how much others really are interested in my innermost, but that's what is most significant for me. As a well-socialized introvert, I still prefer my own scintillating internal dialogue. Translating for the external audience, well, is exhausting. But here I go. If I write it down, I might save having to repeat myself. When I was my largest, there already was a mismatch between my inner image and my external self. Inside I'm slim, I'm dynamic. Denial and avoidance are very handy tools, and they worked pretty well as long as flitted past my reflection real fast. Now I gaze in the mirror longer. I measure, I compare. There are new bones to discover and I lay in bed at night feeling my rib cage, my collarbone, my shoulders. I massage the loosening rolls of fat in my back.

Frankly, I'd be happy to stay where I am. At the top of my ribcage I am my smallest, a size ten. The excess fat and skin at my belly and my breasts means I am size 12/14 for slacks, but I need a Kim Kardashian sized bra. I am a pear with breasts.

If I stay tucked in with firm support gear, I get around without too much flopping. Besides the change in appearance, my lighter self can now move. And that is what I am most excited about. I run. I Zumba. My improved mobility and energy is so transforming, I'll fight to keep it.

But back to that inner self. I began checking with my ID back in January, confirming that the conscious choices I had made weren't going to be sabotaged through the back door. Was my inner girl satisfied with these changes? I was blessed with two powerful images of my inner self, which I carry around in my mental wallet. The first was of the dancing Hippo from Fantasia.
I translate this to mean that even as a large woman, I wanted to dance, to be graceful, and to live artfully. There's some pathos in the hippo's dance along with the laughter. We are all in on the joke that she isn't as lovely as she imagines. And yet she continues her dance. I've been gentle and respectful to that inner hippo as I've gone along. I ignored the unwelcoming glances from a few ignorant Zumba participants, and danced anyways. I'm still there dancing and the offended found somewhere else to go. I imagined myself as lovely as the instructor, as I performed my low-impact modified moves. As long as I zipped past the mirror real quick, the illusion remained. And I danced. These days I check the mirror more often to make sure I am dancing to form, a little amazed at my new look. And I throw an encouraging glance once in a while to the larger women. 

The other image is older and more important. I came across the related photo when I was sorting out mom's estate. It's a picture of me when I was six and had started gymnastics. I vividly remember the feeling of accomplishment as I performed a move that I could not do before. 

My six year old self felt for the first time that the sky was the limit and with determination and training, there is nothing I couldn't do. I reveled in the joy of my body. How that got squashed is a story for another day, but now as a fifty-something grandma, I've got that feeling back. 

I think I'll end there. Have you captured the sense of art, excitement, and joy that I've found? 

There will continue to be unease as my inner self and outer body adjust to each other. I am resigned to an evolving shape that will likely end up even lighter than it is today. I don't experience the dissatisfaction of many bariatric patients who discover that they don't snap back to pa re-college ideal. It has never been the shape, the desire for a smooth belly and trim breasts that drove me to change. This is a mature body with its own joys and challenges. As long as I move, I am very, very happy. 

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