What I Would Tell My 10 Year Old Self

I was 10 years old. I sat outside my dance studio on a much needed break from the four hours of classes I had back to back. I remember the sun beaming on my face. I sat with a friend on the curb. We started talking about our bodies and how I wished I was thinner (Reminder: I was 10). I was already inundated with a sense of body consciousness due, in part, to the fact that I basically lived in a leotard and tights approximately twenty-five hours a week. My friend, who was a few years older than me, looked at me and said, “You are perfect just the way that you are. God gave you the body that you have and you’re capable of anything. Be super grateful for that. Gratefulness for what you have is key to being content with who you are. There is no one else like you and there is no need to compare yourself to anyone. We don’t need to strive to be thin…. we really just need to be healthy and think well of ourselves….Treat ourselves like we matter. We all get to be different. And that is a good thing. Healthy comes from the inside out and this world would be a really boring place if we all looked the same….”

That’s actually not what she said at all. That’s what I wish she had said and that is what, today, I tell my children as often as I can. Instead, born out of her own struggle, she volunteered the information: “You can look as thin as you want as long as you puke everything you eat. It’s easy. You should try it.” And so the seed was planted… at 10 years old.

Thus my lifelong battle with bulimia began. This often morphed into a bouncing game between bulimia and restriction. Whatever the mood called for. All I remember thinking was, “this is how to get thin.” Thin was the goal. Thin made me fit in and thin meant I may not be the girl with the largest costume after all come performance time…. as if that mattered. I was obsessed with my body image at such a young age. I had a misplaced sense of self-worth. Clearly stating the obvious right there. I wish someone had stepped in to show me that I was perfect just the way that I was, that I was beautiful in the skin that I was in. I wish someone had drawn my attention to how much stamina I had athletically speaking. I could dance for hours on end and dance well. I was good at it. I loved it, but I hated my body compared to the girl next to me.

I’d give anything to go back to that 10-year-old girl sitting on the curb. I would put my arm around her, tell her that I understand what it’s like to compare herself to others. I would tell her how beautiful she was…. just as she was. I would tell her that life would be challenging along the way, but that the entire me is what the world needed…. not just a thin girl. I would remind her that her value was truly from the inside out and not at all simply what she looked like. I would tell her that being healthy was in no way simply a reflection of the outside image she presented the world. I would remind her that healthy is a mindset as much as a body disposition. I would tell her she’s gonna be amazing and that the she lit up the room with her humor and would affect change in the world in big and small ways. I would tell her that someday she’d be a badass mom that worked hard to provide and love well. I would tell her not to be afraid of failure or not being the best at all the things. I would tell her that kind humans trumped thin ones any day of the week. So, strive to be unendingly kind. I would comfort her that she would be the best at some things, but absolutely not at others and that it would all be okay as long as she showed up with who she was at her core. I would tell her she was creative and strong and friendly. I would tell her that those attributes were the seeds worth watering. I would tell her that people remember people who show up for others and care and give and share and empathize and laugh and hold hands with the hurting…. far more than they remember how thin they were. I would tell her that someday she would raise some great kids that would need to know all of the above as well. I would button up this pep talk by reminding her of what her mom always said, “Beauty comes from the inside out”.

I believe in us, you guys. I believe in our ability to value who we truly are at our core, not just what we look like on the outside to others. I believe in our ability to be kind, to care, to give, and to take notice of others…. because that’s what people remember most about us. Not the size of our jeans.

Take Your Time

I find it amazing that the older I get the less I seem to completely understand, but the more I am content with that. I remember when I was in my twenties and thought I knew enough to run a freakin country. Ignorance was bliss… or was it (for the people around me)? As a parent of four children now the days are so busy that I feel like I am managing a small country, but I’m no expert. My children can assure you of that. I am routinely reminded by my darlings that I just “don’t get it” as I petition for an explanation on any number of grievances. Turns out that the fact that I trump them in age and experiences by a mile seems to hold little weight with them because, you know: you just don’t get it Mom (insert massive eyeroll from child here and say “mom” with extra emphasis).

I don’t get why recovery takes a painstakingly long time. I mean, if we are lucky enough to have the desire to change in any given area shouldn’t that desire alone catapult us into the motherland of wholeness? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. As it turns out the desire to change  is just the light of the match. The candle burning sloooooooowly is the process of change.

I’ve battled an eating disorder for twenty plus years. Tears well up in my eyes as I write that fact. That’s a long time. A lot of disorder. A ton of missed moments. A long stent of turmoil. I’m not completely sure why, but recently and by the unending grace of God the match of desire was lit in me to change…. to find freedom. But, the slow pace of recovery leaves me dumbfounded and frustrated at times.

I am a product of the Gen X generation. I saw mixed tapes turn to CD’s and “boom boxes” become an iPod. I saw the internet come to be of wide use and I was here before email was a thing. I feel a little bit lucky like that. I’ve seen a massive evolution in technology and a shift so sweeping in our culture that it’s actually downright fascinating how much brilliance is out there. We’ve seen so much technological advancement so rapidly that I think we often place the same level of pressure on ourselves. If you want to be something “Just Do It”…. If you want a hot meal just microwave it. However, when it comes to change in any given area, please, cut yourself some slack. There is no such thing as Javascript or an iOS update that you can “click” on to enact the change you’re wanting to see. Just sit back for a second and be grateful that you have the desire present. Then walk slowly forward. One step at a time. With unending grace for yourself. You’ll get there. We’ll change. It just takes time. It just takes time. It just. takes. time.

I light my favorite candle almost every morning. I let it burn all day long then snuffing it out at night because it’s time to rest and I don’t want to burn the house down. But, I light her up again the next morning and let her fragrance fill my home and it brings me comfort. Now, if that’s not an analogy for life and change I don’t know what is.

I believe in us and the power to slow down, cut ourselves some slack and hope expectantly in the change that will come with time.

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It’s In The Waiting

The waiting phase. All of life’s experiences are accompanied by some element of waiting. All of them. Waiting for a cake to bake. Waiting for the baby to come. Waiting for your car while you get an oil change. Waiting in line at Starbucks. Waiting for your turn in the doctor’s office. Waiting for a check in the mail. Waiting for your kids to come to the carpool line at after school pick up (because they’re inside raiding the vending machine or something super important like that). Waiting for your loved ones to arrive from out of town. Waiting for the job interview. Waiting for 8pm when the kids go to bed. Waiting for the diagnosis. Waiting for the healing. Waiting for the breakthrough. Waiting for the miracle…. and on and on and on.

The waiting phase can be filled with so many deep emotions both of elation and pure agony. We get so eager for the “thing” to arrive that we often miss the beauty of the waiting period. We often look right over what that phase is actually producing in us.

Waiting defined: the action of staying where one is until a particular time.

Simple definition, I know. But, I remember years ago asking God to come and literally take my eating disorder away from me. The mental turmoil was and often is more than I could bear. I would ask him to just scoop it right out of my life like a hot spoon to a bowl of ice cream. Just take it away. Make it disappear. I have been waiting for years for God to push some sort of release valve in me or to stir whatever it was I was missing in order for me to make a better choice for my health. I was waiting for the strength and resolve to change to literally visit me in some miraculous fashion. I needed a miracle because this mental disorder had literally overtaken my entire mind like an unwelcome vine in a garden that chokes out all the fruit in its path. I needed God to come and show up and help me get to work. I was often extremely frustrated because I believe in a God that can speak and move mountains. Why not move this mountain of mine I so often wondered? Why not just say the word and we can get on our way? I was waiting. Waiting for freedom. Waiting for healing. Waiting for breakthrough. Waiting for the miracle.

In the waiting phase I attended therapy in copious amounts. Read books left and right. I attended self-care classes with the hope that the scales would tip and I’d start living out of my worth instead of my disease. I remember the ache- the literal ache in my heart for change to come. I would weep with desperation for God to rescue me, and my mind, and my body and to make me whole again. As I look back down the corridors of this waiting period, I realize I have learned more lessons than I could ever count. He used my own desperation to cause me to learn a thing or two. I was gaining insight every opportunity I could get. In the waiting phase He SO softened my heart. Now, when I see weakness in others my knee jerk reaction no longer is to judge their position in life, but rather to wonder deeply what their life has contained that led them to the place they are in. I wonder with empathy and compassion and tears and desire for their breakthrough. God didn’t so much scoop out my eating disorder as He did my ability to judge others. And for that, I am eternally grateful. God did not wave a wand and make this disease just disappear, but He opened my eyes so wide to my worth and to the power He gave me to choose to live out of that. He didn’t simply eliminate my toxic, choking vine of a disorder, but He did carve out a space in me that has more room for myself and others than I have words to describe.

The waiting phase. What it produces in us is something miraculous. Maybe the miracle is cultivated inside of the waiting. Maybe the healing is produced inside of the waiting. Maybe the breakthrough is coming little by little inside of the waiting. I’m now convinced that it’s in the waiting that we find our freedom. Do not overlook the value of this phase and the day of small beginnings.

I believe in us and the power to stay right where we are until a particular time.

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I Am A Scale

I am a Scale.

I am blind as a bat, but I manage well to tell you how good you look and therefore how good you should feel about yourself. I am cunning like that.

I am ignorant. But, I’m good at pretending I’m wise and all-knowing. I know nothing of your strength or potential or stamina. I have no clue what you are capable of. I don’t know if you can run a marathon or leap hurdles or lift heavy things. I don’t actually care about those things. I’m ignorant to your stature, yet I flash you with my LED screen and can sum you up in three numbers. This is one of my favorite tricks.

I am a servant. I serve you best with a sense of defeat or that you’re missing the mark. That is my greatest ploy that, in turn, causes you to question what you should enjoy.

I am rude. I constantly compare you to others. If I can get you to do the same then I will keep you coming back to me until you measure up. You see, I’m all about creating an on-going relationship with you.

I am cold-hearted. I truly do not care what sustains you. I don’t care what you need. I don’t actually know what healthy is. I don’t care if you just worked out or ate a salad or gorged on donuts. My job is to convince you that your efforts are in vain and you need to do more to be more.

I lack awareness. I have absolutely no clue what schedule you keep or the demands of your day. But, I convince you to forego food and insert exercise because my three numbers are the key to your contentment.

I am a buzzkill. I have a dispiriting effect. I convince you to skip participating fully in birthday celebrations, parties and gatherings of any kind. You don’t take me with you, but I burn my three numbers in the corridors of your mind and convince you to skip the cake and stay out of the pool.

I am a dictator. I call your closet into question. Nevermind your style or personality… you can’t get away with wearing that and don’t go getting mad at me I’m saving you from embarrassing yourself. By the way, black is my favorite color and pretty much your best look across the board.

I am lonely. I don’t have many friends. I have co-workers though and their names are shame, insecurity and dissatisfaction. You will meet them. They are my caseworkers and when we are apart they are in the field doing my bidding.

I get around. I have permeated your culture. I show up in hotels, your friend’s bathrooms and gym class in 5th grade. I wouldn’t want you to forget that I exist. I’m everywhere you want to be. I know that if I can introduce myself to you when you’re young we just might have a partnership for life.

I am smart. I’ve joined forces with the diet industry and together we are a force to be reckoned with. We are worth 66 billion dollars to date. We have trends and franchises and even life long members across the globe. That said, dare I suggest that we’ve created community and togetherness and…. you’re welcome.

I am arrogant. I hold power OVER you though I am positioned UNDER your feet. I am dependent on you though somehow I’ve convinced you that you’re dependent on me for information about yourself.  I’m pretty magical like that.

I am a scale. I may be a blind, ignorant, unaware, cold-hearted, lonely, rude, dictating, arrogant thing, but I measure and weigh and I can make your day or break it… and don’t you forget it.