Re-view

brocFor more than six months I’ve been ingesting and digesting thoughts from many disparate sources, regarding shame, body image, addiction and fat stigma.  Chewing and pondering these various bits of information and insight, sometimes semi-publicly on the blog and also in private writing, has helped me move toward shame reduction. At moments when I feel most ‘out of body’ (which is a hysterical turn of phrase when talking about body size), I feel ‘shame-less’ or shame free.

That is, without shame, in a positive way.bana

This reminds me of my desire to re-frame the words self-ish and self-less, which desperately need to have their connotations expanded. To be self-less is actually not always positive.  It can mean not acknowledging or valuing the self. In fact, it can indicate blatantly negating the existence and value of self, as if others – people & things – are of greater importance, to the point where there is no room for self. Oh yes, there are positive meanings of self-less, but for women, I dare to say that being without self, as part of serving others, is far too common and self-destructive. Of course, destroying the self  implies having a self and, to speak for my self, the insubstantial and mightily distorted sense of self with which I came of age didn’t require much effort to destruct. Addiction is a speedy tool of destruction.

clemmySelfish, of course, has virtually nothing but a negative connotation. Greedy, not caring for others… It is thus a perfect word to use when accusing a woman of not taking sufficient care of others. In fact, any lapse in care taking, of spouse, children, parents, friends, colleagues, who-ever, is a spot-lit, glaring event. Over the course of centuries, patriarchy has inscribed the edict quite deeply, (like the Harry Potter character writing, scarring his own skin, as punishment), that females exist to service males.

This invisible writing, the tattoos of the established female role, has been diluted bit by bit, over the last century or so. And there were always exceptional women, (the exceptions) who were not, for whatever reason – and I would love to understand the hows and whys – fully oppressed by the code, the cultural norms. But for a woman to elevate self-care, even to the level of other-care is still a radical notion.

Mothers, particularly, speak of needing ‘me time’. It is a commodity, marketed now, of grapishcourse. (I think of those intensely sexual television ads for chocolate, where a woman swoons while nibbling a small square of chocolate while in the background a man stirs & pours sensuous vats of molten chocolate…)  ‘Me time’ for a woman is promoted as if it is something apart from ‘normal’ life.  On the other hand, with the exception of ads showing men driving cars or drinking alcohol and watching sports (since cigarette ads have been banned for many years), one rarely sees males yearning for ‘me time’.  They freely ‘indulge’ in these pastimes as a matter of course, every day.

It is the ‘norm’.

Okay, I went off on a bit of a tangent.  I drifted into this diatribe on self-less and self-ish rhub(behavior) due to their similarity to the expression shame-less. Another generally negative expression, with the implication that some wrong is being done and one ought to ‘be ashamed’ of the behavior. In fact, this connotation is not inaccurate for some situations. When I think of particularly obscene avarice or bigoted behavior, I wonder:

‘Do they have no shame?”

But this is a far cry from the shame of which I have been writing: the inlaid shame which hobbled me for so many years.  I feel tremendous gratitude that I walk comparatively unencumbered today.

 

“Should.” “Don’ Wanna.”

Everything seems to be taking a little longer today.  I am out-of-sorts and easily irritated. “Should, Don’ Wanna” is my theme song.

Is there a pressing should?  Well, I could do X, Y or Z. Yeah. I could.  I try to remember to say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’.  It’s definitely a less violent word than should, but still triggers an apathetic “but I don’ wanna”.

Where am I going with this?  Into a dark, self-defeating hole.  Think I’ll stop now.  I’ll come back to this negative chant – which can be viewed from a more positive angle in terms of choice – some other day.

I do have a piece of (potentially exciting) news to share. Here is some information about a new movie called FED UP, that’s coming out in May. It’s clearly promotional hype, but there is one sentence, which I have highlighted below, lest you miss it (grin) that speaks directly to so much I have been trying to say in this blog. I am so, so eager to find out the veracity and the source of this statistic.

Thirty years ago the U.S. Government issued its first ever dietary guidelines and with it one of the greatest health epidemics of our time ensued. In her documentary feature debut, executive producer and narrator Katie Couric joins Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), Regina Scully (The Invisible War) and Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped) to explore why, despite media attention and government policies to combat childhood obesity, generations of kids will now live shorter lives than their parents.

Upending the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it, FED UP unearths the dirty little secret the food industry doesn’t want you to know — far more of us are sick from what we are eating than anyone has ever realized.

The truth is, only 30% of people suffering from diet-related diseases are actually obese; while 70% of us — even those of us who look thin and trim on the outside — are facing the same consequences, fighting the same medical battles as the obese among us.

Following a group of children for more than two years, director Stephanie Soechtig achieves a profound intimacy with them as they document their uphill battles to follow the conventional wisdom, ‘diet and exercise’, in order to live healthier, fuller lives. They are undertaking a mission impossible. In riveting interviews with the country’s leading experts, FED UP lays bare a decades-long misinformation campaign orchestrated by Big Food and aided and abetted by the U.S. Government.

Here is a link to the trailer, which doesn’t address the 30% and 70% statistic, but it’s worth a look.  Sugars

 

 

Shrinking patriarchs

I want to express profound gratitude to two individuals whose writing and insights have given me enormous comfort and courage as I proceed with the examination of my life story.  They are not alone in the pantheon of the wise and kind, but they are stellar.   Star Fruit 1 Thank you, Brené Brown and Eckhart Tolle.

I will begin with this quote from Brené Brown:

“Our stories of worthiness – of being enough – begin in our first families.  The narrative certainly doesn’t end there, but what we learn about ourselves and how we learn to engage with the world as children sets a course that [may] require us to spend a significant part of our life fighting to reclaim our self-worth…   (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, p 216-217)

Here’s one of the first memories that comes to mind.  I’m a preteen, visiting my paternal grandparents.  We spend an evening at the home of their long time friends, people who have known my siblings and I since we were born. After supper we play a game of Scrabble.  I’m enjoying the experience; not exactly a ‘grownup evening’, but special nonetheless.   When there is a debate about the Scrabble acceptability of a word, I am sent to the next room to fetch the dictionary.

The moment I am out of sight (but not ear shot), Mr. G pronounces “It’s a shame Cathy takes after her mother; she could be a very attractive girl.”  My grandfather concurs, deriding my mother’s body size and agreeing that I am not likely to marry well. At the time, I didn’t even notice that their wives did not speak up; I shut down completely and didn’t hear another word all evening.

How or why has this ‘minor’ incident continued to be so charged?  Well, I’ve answered this question before:  I have given it power for years.  I enhanced its strength because I never spoke about it.  I never even imagined telling my parents what I overheard.  Never.  Why?  Did I believe that they agreed?  Was I already so convinced that I was unworthy and therefore had no reason to complain, since they were just speaking the truth?  Was I scared of what my parents might say?

                                                          * * *

Owning my story does not mean making it my life story – creating my reality by perpetuating the story line.  So, I’ve made a museum.  Actually I think I made it long ago, enshrining the incidents and people who caused me to feel pain and shame; those who shamed me.  The central gallery has contained larger-than-life-size images of my father and his father.  That has been the core, the heart of the collection:  Childhood.  There is also an Adolescent wing.

For many years I’ve wandered these halls, having locked myself in; I was trapped inside.  While there, I regularly re-lived these events and the figures of these men grew with each replay, like characters in a tale by the Brothers Grimm.  In silent action clips, I fed their looming shadows, swelling their images for decades.

As I’ve begun sharing these stories, owning them and sharing them, owning them by sharing them, I realize I’m no longer alone in the halls of my museum.  As I stand in and walk through these halls of shame with others, I see the images I’d created of these men are beginning to shrink into insignificance.  They no longer dominate my life story.  Powerful shame-loss.

The tightly sealed doors, now open from the outside, have allowed others to enter and join me in the museum.  As the enshrined figures shrink, the storybook power that had sustained them is broken, triggering the release of the interior locks.  I am able to leave, to exit these galleries built of my stories.  I own them and now I can leave them.  With the shattering of the spell, I awaken, seeing where I have been trapped and discover that I can walk away!  As I take each step, with each bit of distance, my vision clears.  The museum shrinks and I begin to see so many other elements of my life: things that are also and now my life.

Unapologetic

I’ve always apologized too much; that is I have reflexively said “I’m sorry” several thousand times when it was inappropriate.  My mother said those words frequently and it is only in retrospect that I understand how bitterly and sarcastically she often said them.  Thanks to a dear friend, who is similarly afflicted with the ‘sorry-reflex disease’, I’ve become more conscious of my habitual use of the phrase.  This has helped me to curb its compulsive appearance in my dialog with the world.

The word ‘dis-ease’, which I used above, reminds me that these unnecessary apologies burst from my lips primarily when I am ill at ease or uneasy.  Case in point:  recently, while struggling awkwardly to remove a difficult sock, I said ‘I’m sorry’ to my spousal witness.  When asked, logically, ‘What for?’ the only response I could muster was… ‘For being alive?’

A quick check of online definitions yields two items:  first, a definition:                     regretful acknowledgment of offense or failure.

My goodness, that sounds an awful lot like shame, doesn’t it?   I also learn about  National Sorry Day, an annual event held in Australia since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the continent’s indigenous population.  Now that’s an appropriate use of the word.

What brought this up?  An article in the newspaper, heralding the upcoming appearance of Barbie in this year’s Sports Illustrated 50th anniversary Swimsuit issue.  It is unclear whether she will be on the cover or not, however having Barbie flaunt her body in this iconic [sic] setting is part of Mattel’s “unapologetic” campaign to promote sales.  I’m not going to bother responding to the whole Barbie appearance issue; been there, done that, when my daughter was young.Barbie

What really struck me was the up-front and proud use of ‘unapologetic’.  A Mattel executive is quoted as saying “… unapologetic is a word that we use internally, [but this is the first time we are] engaging in a conversation publicly.”  I believe she means that they take pride in thumbing their collective nose at those critics who see the Barbie cult as potentially damaging for the self-image of young girls.  And more broadly, I believe the Mattel Corporation is expressing a widely held and unapologetic corporate view that profit is the driver of all decisions.

Another article, ironically placed at the top of the same page (deep in the Business section) carries forward the same theme.  It details a shift in the way the sweetener section of the Processed Food Industrial Complex is promoting its products.  Headlined: ‘The Sweetener War’, the piece describes how the combatants, team Sugar and team Corn Syrup have changed their game plans.  Less money is now going toward paying lobbyists to press their agendas with government policy makers.  In a clever (or shady?) shift, these PFIC behemoths have funded non-profit groups, billed as consumer organizations, to carry out research and ‘soft lobbying’ campaigns to influence public opinion.  Lobbyists have to be publicly registered, but non-profits are not required to reveal their donors.  Is this another Citizens United ploy?  Money talks.  Hidden money buys tremendous clout.  Manipulating or deceiving the consumer is just how the game is played.  Unapologetic.

Other recent articles have exposed the shrinking package size, but steady or rising price of packaged foods.  Unapologetic deception.  A piece about pizza consumption describes the USDA ‘dairy checkoff program’ which ‘levies a small fee on milk’, which is then used ‘to promote products like milk and cheese’.  A corporation named Dairy Management Inc., which is funded by these fees, spent ‘$35 million in a partnership with Domino’s to Chzpizzapromote pizza sales’.  Other funds from the checkoff program helped McDonalds launch new burgers with two slices of cheese.  And on and on.  This program and similar programs supporting the meat industry have been renewed in the most recent farm bill.  That’s the bill that cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)

Unapologetic.  ‘Let them eat pizza.’

Here’s the thing… I only read this one newspaper and I know these articles represent only a small percentage of the muck that is out there to be raked up.  It makes me very tired, because there is such relentless hoopla about the ‘obesity epidemic’, which unapologetically (perhaps unintentionally) reinforces fat stigma and here ‘we’ are subsidizing the PFIC that is contributing to unhealthy eating habits.  Where’s the money, real money, to promote eating fruits and vegetables?  Where’s the money to sponsor unbiased research and publication of results that actually serve the consumer, rather than the corporation?

Returning to the personal element… I am tired of feeling apologetic for taking up space, for how I look, for ‘being alive’.  I regret all the years of reflexive apologizing.  Why do these heavy hitters, these honchos get to flaunt their unapologetic stance?  It’s all about the raging range of social inequities that confront and offend me everyday.  Well, it’s my turn.  If I have earned nothing else in my 60+ years, I’ve earned the right to healthy entitlement.  It’s my turn to be unapologetic.

on Beauty

Some thoughts on beauty.  Last Friday evening I saw a local production of the play, Hairspray.  I remember seeing the earlier movie version, with cross-dresser Divine as Edna Turnblad, but I didn’t really love it or get it at the time.  The more recent film with John Travolta in that role is a favorite.  The music is fabulous, the teenage take on the 1950’s becoming the 1960’s is fun – and somewhat accurate – and the treatment of the civil rights issues of prejudice and integration are moving.

And then there is ‘the fat stuff’.  From the first time I watched the movie, there were a few lines that just exploded for me; that’s not the best description, but as close as I can get right now.  When the teenage heart-throb sings to the fat girl, “Tracy, I’m in love with you, no matter what you weigh…”, there’s a little pop in my heart and brain.  Just to hear those words spoken.  And I’ve got to admit, the zing is still strong, even after hearing the line multiple times.  I wait for those words.  I do, I wait for them.  It feels rather sad and pathetic to admit it, but I do.

Earlier in the play/film, during the fat girl’s fantasy about winning the heart of the heart-throb, triumphing over the pretty girl, Tracy sings to her ‘rival’, “Amber, much to your surprise, this heavy weight champion takes the prize…”; fat girl triumphant, with a tinge of revenge?  Stirs me up a little.  When the fat mother of fat girl sings about not being seen by neighbors since she was a size 10 (?) and not having left the house in years, I feel a little sick and scared.  I guess I relate to that wish not to be seen.  The daughter’s response “Welcome to the 60’s…things are changing out there…” leaves me wishing that had really been true in the 1960’s, my years of adolescent suffering.  Things were changing in many ways, but fat acceptance was not one of them.  It was the era of Twiggy.

In the rousing, closing musical number, the fat mother shakes ‘it’ on the dance floor, singing: “… if you don’t like the way I look, well I just don’t give a damn!” and my heart rises up at the cheer leading positive declaration.  I wanna feel that way.  But I feel acutely aware that this is fiction.  An internal battle between Yes! and nope, is activated.  Generally I push it aside and enjoy the upbeat passion that wraps up the show.  Those see sawing emotions are too familiar and the battle is never resolved for more than a split second, so why bother?

An earlier scene, which is powerfully delivered by Queen Latifah in the Travolta film, carries the refrain “Big, blond and beautiful”, which led me to begin writing this reflection on beauty.  It’s a rallying cry, of sorts, toward self-acceptance and owning one’s right to take up space, to define beauty for oneself.  I don’t find this number as moving as the integration/civil rights anthem that comes later.  As I ask myself why that is, I wonder if it’s because racial integration and civil rights for people of color are so widely agreed upon.  The wrongs of slavery, segregation and racial profiling are so profound and the path toward righting those wrongs is (and will be) the work of generations.  We are clearly not a ‘post-racial’ society, but many/most of us are cognizant of the issues.

The right to feel beautiful, to believe you are beautiful, even when you are fat, seems trivial and self-absorbed in comparison.  Clearly the writer of Hairspray, John Waters, was drawing some parallels.  To what end, I wonder?  A last note about the stage production, as opposed to the more recent film… the script contains considerably more fat-bashing dialog.  There I was, 60 years old, sitting in the audience and not personally receiving the abuse, but the sneering and mocking was stinging. It wasn’t sufficiently mitigated by the positive messages embedded in the play.  Again, hard to admit, sad and dis-empowering, but I guess echoes of traumatic moments, even second (third, fifth?) hand, carry barbs.

So, it turns out what I have to share right now are these thoughts about the play, Hairspray.  My thoughts on beauty will come another time.

Tunes and TV

In June of 1964, I graduated from sixth grade and that fall I started junior high school.       That same June, Frank Sinatra recorded the song “Wives and Lovers’, which has unfortunately been playing in my head since I woke up this morning.  Why, I do not know.  Perhaps something from my dreams triggered the association.  But I do know that the recording was played a lot during the 1960’s and the lyrics have laid claim to some of my brain cells ever since.  Along with other distorting messages of that era.

curlstart“Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up, soon he will open the door,
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger, you needn’t try any more.
For wives should always be lovers too,
Run to his arms the moment that he comes home to you.   I’m warning you.
Day after day, there are girls at the office and the men will always be men, Don’t stand him up, with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again…

Still deconstructing how the shame-loading occurred.  The personal experiences in my family of origin, which I have been trying to disarm by exposing them to the light, are only part of the story.  They did not, indeed, could not have existed and ‘packed the wallop’ that they did, without the persistent support of the dominant culture of the times.

A dear friend recently sent me a copy of Appetites by Caroline Knapp.  It is a rich and painful book to read.  Here is one insight that really caught my attention:  “… the visual image [began] to supplant text as culture’s primary mode of communication.”  She goes on to note that images “are immediate, they hit you at levels way beneath intellect…”   So true, I thought.  She then highlights some wild stats:

In 1950’s, TV screen images changed every 12-15 seconds; by the 80’s, the speed increased to seven seconds.  “Today, [which was 2003 when her book was published] the image on the average TV commercial can change as quickly as once every 1.5 seconds, an assaulting speed, one that’s impossible to thoroughly process or integrate… they get wedged inside… insidious… come to feel like truth.

She goes on:  “This is the subliminal ooze of culture and misogyny, the source of its grip.  Images of beauty and directives about the body make women feel inadequate…” Tears sprang to my eyes and chills on my spine when she brought it home to my life today.  “Visuals operate like ‘heat-seeking-missiles’… honing in on a prior pang of insecurity or judgment…”   The images that bombard me/us daily reawaken hurtful memories of adolescence, the time when I came to understand about the “physical haves and have nots’…”

So, where does this excerpt take me?  Are these ideas a part of de-constructing shame?  Well, yes, anything that validates the misogyny and appearance-only-valuing of American culture in my lifetime can be liberating.  The sources of our shame are many and unmasking them is one of my goals here.  The poison has been a slow, intravenous drip for my entire life, for the lifetime of every girl & woman in this country (and elsewhere also.)

I can’t speak for men.  I know that there are stultifying, damaging messages about male appearance and behavior that must be damaging.  And, as I think most contemporary feminists would agree, the messages about what and how females should look and behave have been subcutaneously injected into boys and men also.  These inoculations inevitably limit male understanding of girls and women and undermine the possibility of developing healthy, balanced relationships, intimate or not.

So, yes, these insights are part of understanding and rejecting shame.  They give me a clearer understanding of the inadequacy that I felt.  There was no time to process or understand, much less critique this propaganda; the images just burrowed into my budding identity.  And then there was the audio component, worming its way into my emerging self with catchy tunes and rhyming lyrics.  Although, I guess I was doing some questioning of the Bacharach & David tune quoted above… curlend I never could understand why a woman would have her hair in curlers at the end of the day…

Defining shame

from Shame, by Gershen Kaufman.

“To feel shame is to feel seen in a painfully diminished sense.  The self feels exposed… to anyone… present.  It is this sudden, unexpected feeling of exposure and accompanying self-consciousness that characterizes the essential nature of the affect of shame.  Contained in the experience of shame is the piercing awareness of ourselves as fundamentally deficient in some vital way, as a human being.”     

In this country, we are inundated daily by weight-loss diet suggestions, from every media source and of course, ‘well-meaning’ friends, family and strangers.  Sometimes I can tune them out angrily and sometimes I am lured by the promises.  Why?  I know the answer and it’s the reason why the diet biz is so profitable.  We want to look and feel the way that we are told we should be.  Vicious cycle.

The above quote includes a word that keeps appearing as I study shame:  deficient.  As in, not efficient?  A guess.  Even if that were the word’s root, that’s not how the word is heard and used, not the familiar connotation.  I think ‘deficient’ is pretty clear:  less than.    Worth less.  Oh… worth less, two words and the combination word:   worthless.  Eww.

Deficient: not having enough of a specified quality, insufficient or inadequate; lacking, limited; defective, faulty, flawed, imperfect, inferior, substandard, second-rate)

So, is it primarily about appearance?  Well, its certainly about judgement, the belief that one thing, in this case, one person is of greater value than another.  Is this not the foundation of racism, as well as sexism/patriarchy, class-ism or any form of bigotry?  One person or type of person is considered to be worth more, is more valuable than another.  Without going into particulars, I will simply state that the messages I took in as a young woman led me to believe that I was deficient.  I will note that I do not generally feel this way anymore, b u t… the shreds are still there, tenacious.

Like the shreds of a plastic bag that cling to the twigs of the maple tree outside my window.  It has been at least two or three years since a white plastic grocery bag first caught in the upper branches.  That shredded bag, or now, just shreds of a bag, is symbolic.  Scouring winds and weather have reduced the size and presumably the strength of the plastic bag, but it remains.  In fact, I would not be surprised if some tree bark has grown over a bit of the bag.  Trees do that.  If something is there long enough, it’s claimed.  It becomes part of the plant/tree.

So, following this metaphor, these crappy, shredded, negative beliefs about my self have grown into my body, in ways both literal and figurative.  They cannot be willed away, wished away or even with the strongest intention – hurricane force winds – eradicated.    The image has its limits.  For now, I am engaged in remembering, seeing, naming and source-seeking.  Without these steps, I don’t think I can lose the shame.  It must be seen, named and sourced.

DeConSha

DeConstructingShame is the name of the game.  Name of the blog, name of the job.  And you know what?  It’s hard work.  Picture a hard-hatted woman (yes, there is a hard head under the hard-hat), wearing overalls and work gloves.  Digging into a moldy, smelly, rotting foundation; taking it apart brick-by-brick. Bricks

The de-‘construction site’ metaphor may not be a perfect description, but I’m going with it for now.  Because shame has to have sources, doesn’t it?  The supplies come from lumber yards, cement mixers, plumbing, electrical and hardware supply warehouses.  The shame messages were passed along, almost slyly, unobtrusively, ubiquitously, by my grandparent’s and parent’s generations, and updated, (essentially unchanged) by Seventeen Magazine and it’s media cohort.

In my daily writing on DeConSha, I’ve been exploring the impossible task of achieving adolescence in the late 1960’s, where fitting in & looking good (the requirements haven’t changed much for the teens of today) inevitably led to sexual harassment and shame.  Gotcha comin’ and goin’, I say.  But nobody said that to me, to us, then.  We were displayed in our mini-skirts and it was open season for boys and men to evaluate us.  To follow the hunting metaphor, they took pot-shots at us.  My grandfather, my father, my Geometry teacher and every boy or man seemed to feel confidently superior in their maleness and comfortably entitled to rate, berate, mock or praise us.

Without a language to understand this phenomenon, without a sense of worthiness and pride, other than attractiveness to males, where could/did I go in my confusion?  If I failed to please, or if I received ‘unwanted attention’, either way, it was my fault, I was to blame and the shame of it all settled into my being.  Having been thoroughly primed, as a child, to accept responsibility for any short-comings, the searing moments of embarrassment that clustered in those years still sting.

So, I’m digging them out.  Threw away the work gloves.  Bare hands are the only way I know to do this.  Scraped raw knuckles, dry, cracking cuticles, fingernails that never were a proper feminine accoutrement… Every day I get up and I dig in the slime of the shame and although it seems endless, I choose, I must choose, to believe that it is not.

Two other notes:
Someone showed me the recently released Special K (Kellogg’s) youtube video called ‘Shhhhut Down Fat Talk’.  Don’t know what I think about it… special-k-Fat-Talk-1

As a large woman I truly detest fat talk and it is everywhere.  But I have some uneasy feelings about a member of the PPFIC (Packaged & Processed Food Industrial Complex) trotting out this campaign.  Of course, they have the money to do the research, set up a fake store and make the video.  Would love to hear what you think…

My second note is in the “Come on, who wrote that title?” category.  In the March 2014 issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology there will be an article entitled “The Ironic Effects of Weight Stigma”, based on studies done at UC Santa Barbara.  Of course I haven’t read the article, so I could be over-reacting (who me?)  Somehow ironic is not the word that seems most appropriate when talking about the effects of weight stigma.  Suppose I could be glad that research is happening at all.  Same with the Kellogg’s video.

If doubt arises

So, here is what has been happening…

I have been working daily, writing out some of the ugly stories of abuse regarding body size, weight and appearance from my youth.   These are incidents that have clung to me, stuck with me all these years and which played a significant role in my belief that I was unworthy.  After writing the blog daily for a month, it became obvious that I had to unearth and expose – not publicly, but for myself – these toxic experiences.  So that’s what I set out to do.

I’ve been trying to write them out with the same commitment that I’ve used with my Eating Art Work drawings:  no judgment.  Yes, I hear voices – particularly of my family members – who disagree with my reconstruction of events.  I’m okay with that.  Because it’s clear we all experience events differently, even in the present moment.  Therefore, it’s to be expected that our memories of events are different.  What I am writing is what I remember experiencing, as in feeling, not just a recitation of facts.

At first, there was a sense of almost giddy relief/release in getting these words on the page/screen.  I am purposely NOT rereading as I go along; using a technique I encourage student & client writers to use, blacking out the screen.  That way everything is fresh, not predigested, with all the life worried/edited out of it.  There is so much to say, I’m not at risk of running dry anytime soon, now that I’ve set myself to the task.

Ah, but there is a price.  As with any committed writing task, you begin to live with your characters or your topic, all day and all night, away from the keyboard.  So there is this yucky sensation, kind of a slimy, greasy film that settles over me or has settled into me.  I guess it’s the toxicity.  But it has bloomed into self-doubt.

Toxic bloom… the expression rang a bell.  It’s used to describe the algae that grow in fresh water lakes and tidal areas of the ocean.  Runoff from human waste and pesticides are considered major causal factors.  I was struck by this language:   “One thing [we] know for sure is that [toxic] blooms can cause dead zones. In Lake Erie’s central basin, the algae can die and sink to the bottom. Bacteria eat up that dead algae and rob the water of oxygen at the bottom of the lake.”  (Taken from: Warmer Waters Fuel Toxic Algal Blooms In The Great Lakes: Wisconsin Public Radio News-Nov 26, 2013)

Okay, so what I’m doing here may seem like a stretch, but I’m trying to express how the toxicity of these long ago experiences robbed me of oxygen, inhibited my growth and caused dead zones in my psychological development.  The self-doubt I am experiencing today is not a questioning of my memory; it is a recurrence of doubting my self-worth.   The “WHO cares? WHY write this stuff? WHAT is the point?” questions are flying around in my head, shouting.  It’s not that I’m actually listening to these voices, it’s just that they are so loud.

Fortunately, the cross-fertilization thing is happening again. This quote from the yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar came my way.  “If doubt arises, … let it come. You do your work, and let doubt go about its work. Let’s see which one gives up first.”

So, that’s my plan.  Tomorrow, I will invite doubt to come in and hang out while I get on with my writing.  Sounds a little goofy, but if I can exorcize the long nurtured and toxic self-doubt of my youth by writing out these ugly tales, then I’m thinking that today’s self-doubt will lose much of its energy.  I’ll let you know.

Why?

Why have I been writing about the personal, political and cultural aspects of body size & weight?  Why am I doing this de-construction of shame?

fat bashingWhy does a cartoon like this get published? Why does anyone see this as funny?
Why?

I admit that I often read a book (or scan, because I am considering reading it) and wonder how such uninspired writing manages to be published.  I wonder how some of the writing makes it past any editor’s eyes and into print.

For the most part, I don’t understand a fascination with sports or porn or the stock market or violent video games.  But I subscribe to the ‘live and let live’ and ‘it takes all kinds’ theories.  And I figure there are plenty of folks who – if they bothered to think about it – cannot fathom my interest in cooking media or sudoku or biographies or sea turtles.  So, we’re even and it’s okay.

But this crap?  Come on.  Who pays Wulff & Morgenthaler to produce such tasteless and offensive garbage?  I would prefer seeing the colorful doodles of a two-year-old!  A quick Google tells me that they are a pair of Danish men, ‘brilliant writer/artists.’  So, Americans are not the only bigoted idiots when it comes to fat jokes.  Do I feel better or worse?

I suppose I hoped to finish out the NABloPoMo with a superb, thoughtful, exquisite piece of writing.  Early on, I suppose that I imagined there would be a wrap-up after 30 days, a meaningful conclusion.  Well, life isn’t like that, is it?  No neat packaging, except of processed foods.

The month is over.  The work continues.