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.