Mirror mirror on the wall…

It never ceases to amaze me how the layers are peeled away, how the pain and unthinkable cruelty of the past surfaces when I am ready to disarm it and rarely before. I have talked about much of the hard stuff when I was over 600lbs, the experiences that seem unbearable now and the pain that became a way of life for me. I have a very hard time with mirrors as I never believe them to be a realistic representation of me. My relationship with the mirror is slowly changing as I often catch glimpses of myself in the mirror at the gym looking at myself in the mirror to make sure my back is flat or knees bent just right if I am doing a certain exercise. Several times I have looked at Lindsey and ask her in a joking way if I really look like that, or if it’s a trick optical illusion as I am starting to let myself see through the protective shield of the girth I have know my whole life.

I few months ago I began to seek out solid ground for something that lay in a dark corner of my mind and as I write this my hands shake and the tears are not far away. I know that taking away the power of secrecy is just what is needed to kick the boarded up door open where these silenced words live. Even when I don’t realize it I am testing the waters when I find someone I trust, someone who I think can hold the space for me and have a safe spot to just say the words. I have done that, and I decided to write about something that was said to me long ago that would burn scars of shame all over my body for years.

I was in my 20’s, over 600lbs and barely able to walk. One afternoon I was walking the one block from my parents house to my grandmothers house. I would walk through the alley, less people to run into and a cute dog that I liked to pet along the way. There were a group of  young men who I had not seen before in the neighborhood, they erupted into laughter the second they saw me waddle toward them. I almost turned back, but I kept going because in my mind there was nothing they could say to me that had not already been said, nothing I had not heard… I was wrong.

As I crossed in front of them, one spit on me.  I can still see his face,  his crooked smile and bad teeth, the chewing tobacco that was too much a temptation for him to not show me my place by hitting  the side of my face as the thick dark liquid mixed with his saliva and ran down my cheek. As I turned to force them to look me in the face one of the others in a ball cap stopped me with a crushing blow of words “damn bitch, you are gross and too fat to even want to rape” I was defenseless in a sea of laughter that would echo over and over in my mind so many times through my life. I was young, and I should not have given them the power of letting me convince myself they were right, but I was already broken and those words seeped in my fragile cracks and for years I used those words as a punishment for myself. I knew a woman at our church who had been raped, I knew what she looked like the first time she came back sitting in the wooden pew with the thick cushion under her, barley able to move. Bruises still healing that looked like swirled colors of rainbow sherbert, she was hurt very badly. I would think of what they did to her, how much pain she must have been in, what kind of monster would do that to someone. Yet, it would be a benchmark of my worth for years to come. I would often scream the words at myself “you are not even worth being raped” in the mirror when I could not take it anymore and had nowhere else to put the fury that raged inside me. The mirror was a symbol of that experience and the pain that has lingered with it for all these years. I never before put the two together.

Saturday I went shopping with my mom for my a belated birthday shopping spree. I stood in the dressing room, trying to convince myself that I really looked like the reflection staring back at me. For the first time I was able to look at myself in the mirror and smile, I am just beginning to see myself for who I really am, and I like what I am able to see.  Just in case I was wrong, I took a picture and showed it to Lindsey over the weekend asking her if I really looked like that?… “Yes, you really look like that”… and the next thing I knew we were running. Free.

There is no place in my future for the pain of my past. I forgive myself and I forgive those boys, hate is not worth the price you pay in the end for carrying it with you. The weight of hatred is more of a burden than the pounds I am working hard to shed.  I don’t need either of them anymore.

 

8 Comments

  1. Linda Troy says:

    Hi Lori,
    Catching up on a few of your blogs. I can empathize with your pain because I had my own pivotal memory I carried for years. My issue is I was born with a cleft palate and lip. Surgery as an infant and as a child enabled me to function normally, but my upper lip is “different.” One day on the playground in kindergarten or first grade, a boy made a face at me, screwing his mouth all around and saying “this is what you look like.” I was so ashamed. In elementary school, boys in the neighborhood would say I looked like I was hit by a Mack truck. I didn’t know what a Mack truck was, but again I was ashamed. I carried this silent pain through many years, well past college, post-college, marriage, raising 3 daughters, and finally into seminary. One day as part of my ministry formation experience, we were to write about a time we were “broken,” just as Jesus was broken for us. I wrote about my experience on the playground as a young girl. We shared our writings aloud in a small group of 6 or so people. As I shamefully read my experience, a young man in my group exclaimed “I was that boy!” Startled, I looked at him. I have at least 10 years on him–no way was he that boy on the playground with me. Yet, he shared that he was so ashamed to admit that as a young boy, he had joined in teasing a girl who looked different, and now he wished he could find her and ask forgiveness. By naming my shame (which is really nothing to be ashamed of–I have no control over my birth “defect”), and by the exchange with this young man, I was finally able to let go of the shame and let the final healing come. I have since used this story as a sermon illustration–sharing my “shame” for the congregation to hear, releasing it’s hold on me.

    In retrospect, I can realize I had nothing to be ashamed of, and what those boys said to me was not correct and not true. I did not need to believe them. They are the ones whose souls were twisted.

    I support you and encourage you to also let go of your demons and believe in your heart that those hateful, hurtful, damaging words were the product of young men who were/are twisted and damaged themselves. Why would any man even want to rape a woman? Only men filled with hate and damaged would want to inflict that kind of damage on another human being.

    You are a beautiful child of God–always have been and always will be. Claim your identity from the One who made you–not from the damaged people unfortunate enough to be injured from their own life circumstances and taking their pain out on others.

    What you are doing is amazing and the effort of a strong, courageous, and beautiful woman–who has been and is worthy of being loved and cherished.

    Linda

  2. Moody says:

    Hey Lori, how’s it going???
    I finally got my butt back to the pool today and I had to think of you.
    There was this lady who came in shortly after me, with her young daughter. She made me think of you and your courage to go to the pool and “show yourself” to perfect strangers. She came there to enjoy a good swim, just like everybody else and she didn’t seem to give a damn about anything anyone might think.
    So here I am, still a little wet from my one-hour workout (it had been months, so an hour was enough) and I came straight to your blog.
    Oh and I enquired about the aquagym classes. Tonight was the last class of the year (or season or whatever), there are “single” classes during summer (you can just take one class whenever), and they start up again in september with the “regular” classes for which you have to pay a yearly fee. I’ll have to see what my finances look like at the end of the summer, but it’s not overly expensive if I can go every week (there are 5 separate time slots, so plenty of choices) because there are 30 classes in all.

    Tonight’s group seemed like a bunch of really lovely ladies, of all ages and all body types and two of them (the ones closest by who could hear the conversation with the teacher) offered their help at once, giving me all the information I needed so I think I would fit right in.

    I’ll let you know how that goes when I get there, but I might try out an occasional class this summer, though the times are different and I have to get there after work (not always easy if you have to rely on public transport).
    Anyhow, I’m gonna go eat something before I pass out.

    Hope you’re having a good day!!

    Hugs,
    Moody.

  3. Moody says:

    Another demon beats the dust.
    Another dark corner falls under the light.
    Another weight lifted off your shoulders.

    Hold your head high, walk with pride and smile away the hurtful remarks people may make. You are taking on a humongeous challenge, not only with your “food addiction” and your excess weight, but also with the reasons behind it all and you deserve all the happiness and joy you have now found.
    Keep up the good work!!
    Proud of you!!!!

    Love,
    Moody.

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