GUYS! I had a breakthrough last month. Break. Through. I’m so excited I can finally share something positive, here.
Last month my brother Dan was in town for this big old two-day family event. THE biggest annual gathering on my father’s side. A family tradition from backwoods Virginia over a hundred years old, I think. Cousins, aunts and uncles, lifelong friends, random friends, and the offspring come to eat, talk, and take turns stirring an 18 gallon copper kettle full of applebutter that has to boil constantly for eight hours over an open open flame. It’s intense. We call it Applebutter Day because our ancestors are creative.
|The canning of the applebutter after it’s been boiling all day. The kettle is at the far end, and my sister, Jen, is stirring, just for reference.|
The thing is, in order to fill a giant kettle with applebutter, you have to have gallons and gallons of applesauce, which is made the day before on Applesauce Day. That day is a much calmer, more intimate gathering of my parents, my siblings and all of our children, cutting up apples, listening to Guster, and making the sauce.
|Two of my brothers, Jimmy and Dan on Applesauce Day|
This year my parents weren’t there. And we ran out of apples. I swear these two facts are unrelated. Anyway, Dan and I had to high-tail it to the farmer’s market before they closed.
|Uncle Dan and my son|
We got talking about my relapse, and how things were really going. I explained about the constant battle in my mind over my looks and my worth. Then he told me a very powerful story. When we were young, he remembers my mom saying that she was going to start a new diet. In his precious 3 year old mind, he pictured my mom waltzing into church or somewhere, all skinny and different, and him not being able to recognize her. He was terrified. He said, “I was so worried that she’d look like someone else, not Mom. And that really worried me, because her size was completely irrelevant to who she was to me.”
I saw it. I saw it all through preschool-Dan’s eyes. His mother, my mother, how we adored her. How she was our entire lives. Our foundation, our safety, our stability. Her size was 100% irrelevant. I see my kids, how they adore me. How I am their entire lives. How they need me to be someone to build on, shelter under, and discover things with. My size is 100% irrelevant to them. To all my relationships, actually. Except the one with myself. But, here’s where the magic happened. I latched on to that one word: Irrelevant.
It’s such a powerful word, don’t you think? Plus it’s fun to say. And if I think something is irrelevant, I immediately dismiss it. I give the word that much power. And if my size really is irrelevant to my children, and to my friends, maybe I could teach myself to think of it that way. For the whole last month, every time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, or my reflection in a window, and the negative emotions and thoughts rushed in, I said, out loud, “my size is irrelevant.” All day. Every day. For weeks. And when I looked at other women and analyzed their looks, or wondered if I was bigger or smaller, I stopped myself and said, “her size is irrelevant to who she is.”
|This is me and my nephew on Applebutter Day. My size is irrelevant him. He loves me because I’m aunt Rach|
I can’t do affirmations quite yet. I can’t look at myself in the mirror and say things like, “you’re strong,” or “you’re beautiful.” I just can’t take myself seriously doing that. But this one feels totally authentic. No nonsense. Just taking an immature and dangerous train of thought and turning that thing right around. It’s working. I’m not perfect. I’m not completely happy with myself all the time, but recognizing what is relevant about me and what is not, and labeling it, has been a very successful beginning to stripping off the bindings of this disorder.
I don’t have to wallow in the thoughts. I can dismiss them. They’re irrelevant.