This afternoon when I woke up, I was looking for something I'd misplaced when I was out of town last week. I pulled a box out from under my bed where I keep things I don't need often, thinking I'd inadvertently put what I was looking for in there when I put away my bathing suit.
This box is full of race shirts. Back in 2003, during a fervent but short lived (because it was, frankly, unsustainable) effort to be healthier, I competed in about 17 5k races, bike ride challenges, etc. I did all of these at a weight that earned me a lot of encouragement from other competitors that was well meaning, if a bit patronizing. Invariably I'd bring home an XL shirt that didn't really fit and it would go in the pile with the others. I saved them all, though, because they were hard earned, and that's what I do.
I pulled them all out. Then I opened my drawers. I made a pile of 2X and 3X t-shirts that I've been wearing, just sort of flapping around with extra material hanging and short sleeved shirts that are anything but. These went in a bag for Goodwill. All my race shirts went in the drawer. I repeated the process with my closet. 3x, 4x, Size 30 pants, they all went in the bag. The bags went by the front door. Then I had to sit down.
This process was panic-inducing. How strange is that? The fantasy that is sold is that weight loss is fabulous, liberating, empowering. It is those things, to a degree. I feel good, I can move better than I could before, I can do things I couldn't do before. My health has measurably improved. And all those things are good. What I didn't expect is this curious backwash of emotions, uncertainty, fear. You change and you notice being treated differently . Magical powers of invisibility disappear. You both enjoy and resent this. (And that is a weird mix, let me tell you.) Every article of clothing shoved in a bag felt like I was peeling away another layer of protection.
From what? This weird feeling of disconnection steals over me from time to time. Who am I now? Who am I becoming? Am I evolving at the fundamental center of my being because my outward appearance is changing? I'm not even certain what my own expectations are. I'm going to my 25th high school reunion nearly 100 pounds lighter than I was a year ago. That sounds like the sort of "I'll show them" revenge fantasy I would have entertained back in the days when my sense of self worth was abysmal and I was feeling particularly invisible. At age 43 I suspect very strongly that in all likelihood nobody really cares. And that is entirely legitimate. I am beginning to think that what really matters is the mind renewal, the spirit renewal, the transformation that is bringing peace, gratitude, and energy to my life, and that the physical renewal is kind of a nice bonus. But not, ultimately, the point. Or the thing my identity should be tied up in.
For too long I've let how I feel about myself determine whether or not to engage. Maybe the panic will subside when I let go of letting the body I walk around in dictate (hinder?) the way I relate to the world. Some days I have this locked. Other days I'm not so sure. But I do know this....
Its all a lot more complicated than wearing a different shirt.