I’ve struggled for three days to find the words. It was like holding my breath for seventy-two hours under water. I was confused and couldn’t make sense of things. No way to tell up from down and no way to understand what was happening to me or why. In my three silent days I’ve been plunged light years from who I was before. This post is the story of that journey.
“Are you going to let the shame of imperfection keep you quiet or in your shoes?”
How do you get to be 334 lbs? That’s how much I weighed at my heaviest in 2008. I hated everything. Literally. And everyday I woke up still trapped in that body, in that life, I hated it more. I had to do everything twice as much just to feel it. Drank more, ate more, even took death just to cry. I was somewhere living under layers of disappointment and stretch-mark covered skin.
The reason I’d buried myself alive, albeit in a tomb of flesh, was because I didn’t know how to make sense of myself. I’d always felt special yet here I was feeling physically unattractive, “dumped” by P2AD and my dad months before, in a dead end job with no reprieve in sight. Looking back I can aptly articulate that in the time of my greatest despair and turmoil, I never felt so ordinary.
I get asked a lot how or why I’m so honest on my blog. I give a varied version of the same response everytime. But I think that it boils down to presence, engagement, and awareness. I am not solely defined by my past nor my potential. I am who I am (right now) and that’s all that I am. In having a clear idea of self, I’ve grown to better appreciate others. Of course, right? But I could no longer look at a 300 lb woman and not want to silently pray for her to put down whatever she’s carrying and to shrug off her excess and allow herself to be seen. Easier said..but I found compassion. Patience. Empathy, all through my own engagement with life. Lastly, awarenesses. What do you want? Why? When did you first start wanting it? I make it a priority to check in with myself. To pay attention.
So when it comes to sharing, I do it because it scares me a little. What will people say? Or do? Or think…will people comment? Will they think I’m __________? I consider it all. And then I remember fear. The all too familiar feeling of nothing special. The sinking weight of mediocrity. And I publish. Because fear of average got my to 334lbs. Shame that I did not measure up to my own impossibly high standards I set for myself. I was never going to. I had to accept myself. I was never going to be perfect. But I did have the awesome pleasure of being myself.
It took a great deal of remembering…that I am more than a number on a scale, or in the waistband of jeans. I am not my paycheck. My degrees, not even my family. I am bigger than all of if, and life is bigger than me. I figure when I strip down to my secrets…someone needs it. I am playing my part. I am fulfilling my purpose.
So…how do you get to 334lbs? Silence. Not saying you need help for fear of judgment, ridicule, confusion. Shame. Of being too much of all the wrong things and not enough of all the right ones. Vanilla. Passing up opportunities because you’ve convinced yourself that only the thin/beautiful/intelligent/wealthy deserve good things.
Speaking up saved my life. It gave me life. And in sifting through the 334lbs of lies and secrecy I came across truth. And love. And divinity. And while I work to transform a body built by quiet mediocrity, my true self shines extraordinary. Sure of my strength, mostly. Willing and happy to be flawed and myself. But utterly convinced I am anything but average.
I have mini panic attacks that my advisor is going to me angry with me. I keep finding elements that have to be a part of my dissertation. Right now it feels like I’ve got all these extremities of work and yet I sorely need them to be a body. So far I have:
- Decision Making
While that does not seem like a lot…it’s a lot. What is even more frustrating is that I have become increasingly more patient through uncertainty, despite myself really. I have developed the ability to sit and wait for things to unfold rather than force them or manipulate them in any way. So, I’m waiting, and in the meantime I think my advisor is going to kill me.
Very few writers, researchers, “storytellers”, have influenced me in the way that Brene Brown has; mind you this is an extremely recent thing, too. The way that she talks about her work, the way that she conducts her research it does not seem like work! It looks joyous, and fulfilling, and there is so much passion in that work–she’s inspirational on different levels. And while I realize that she has been researching for many years, it appealed to me, and I cannot do it any other way. Again, my advisor…
When I think of what I want to do, the outcome of my own work, I want to understand the role that spirituality plays in the decision making process. In that, I believe I will find themes of guilt, grief, creativity, and self-care practices along with many others–I am open to being surprised. I also assume that as people are more developmentally mature, they will experience and describe spirituality in very different ways. I definitely find that where we are in life greatly shapes the perspective we have on it.
My work is on the individual, but it is about a collective. Are “we” recognizing that “we” are connected to one another? Do I consider this connectedness when I made decisions? Do others? My guess here would be that if there is an external consideration that it is likely family, or if its a professional decision, the system or organization. However, how many people are thinking globally? Jung describes the presence of a collective unconscious and I wonder how many people not just know about it, but live in constant awareness of it?
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.”
― Brené Brown,The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
When I heard Brene speak about her work, specifically her experience with her research topics, I felt like I was given permission to be present in my own work. Honestly, how could you not be? There is something in us all that draws us to our passions, our vocations. I loved that her cognitive aptitude did not excuse her from the very human experience of shame that she was studying. I love that she admitted that.
If I sit back and think about what got me to this topic it was literally a moment sitting in Terri’s office crying thinking, “How did I get to this place? How did I arrive here?” My answer, that came later, was that a series of very spiritually governed decisions led me here. And an idea was born. Brene says to “dance with the one who brung you.” And for me it is going to be those two things: spirit and choice.
Perhaps it’ll be as “simple” as this: Understanding the role of Spirituality in Decision-Making: A Comparative study between Student Affairs Professionals, and Tenure-Track University Faculty. And perhaps it won’t.
One last thought, Brene mentioned that shame will often try to make us question ourselves by asking, “Who do you think you are?” I experienced that earlier this week, and earlier this month. Those moments where I call out my audacity, and side-eye myself. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE. My mind answered in a small tiny quiet faux-humble voice and began, “I am just…” and my heart said with great certainty, NO. You are ANYTHING but “just”. And I liked that answer. I told it to shame and I haven’t heard anything since.
Sincerely, Jess, “Anything but Just” J.
I was sifting through my twitter account looking at how much junk ends up on my feed. So, I started to delete some people and follow others. I started with Wayne Dyer, poaching his followers then Marianne Williamson, then Louise Hay…and as I read the bios of the handful of people they follow it started to get repetitive. New York Times Bestselling Author! Spiritual Healer! Psychic! Etc. I found it a bit obnoxious then asked myself, why shouldn’t they be proud of their accomplishments? It was then that I realized I’d gotten past the “You’re not ____________ enough” part of shame and was now in the “who do you think you are?!” loop. Yuck!
So I thought back to a desire I have sometimes, to be one of these great spiritual leaders. I was literally considering that perhaps there is a new generation of healers, gurus, mystics, that are blossoming right now, and maybe I am one of them. Then I thought, but I want to know the now generation! Then it dawned on me that (omg) I met the Dalai Lama!
I shook hands, was blessed by, have a picture with THE Dalai Lama! Of course, if any of you recall that actual day I met him, I felt so numb to it because I was worried about all the wrong things. Now, however, I look back and am like wait…this happened for a reason. This picture was captured for a reason. The only photo that was taken of him with the 6 students in the entire university and I was the sole graduate student…it has a purpose. I allowed myself to consider it as foreshadowing and total joy washed over me.
Taking also into account my meeting with Jack Canfield (the New York Times Bestselling Author of the Chicken soup series) I laughed as I wrote that. But I met him at age 8 or 9 and he said to me, See you famous! I have to believe that its no coincidence I’ve met these great influences in positivity and well-being. Oprah is coming.
I feel, sometimes, that my Self is the most patient being on earth as she often has to wait for me to “get it”. I worked for 3 years diligently on knowing that I am enough. I plan to get the “who do you think you are” much more quickly. I’ll borrow the words from Marianne as I often do,” We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ”
Now that is something.