Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mama Bean knows it will always be this way

During one of Papa Bean's pastoral counseling classes, they talked about how people change in long-term relationships. The specific 'stat' was that, in five years, you're not married to the same person as your wedding day. And again five years later. Etcetera until death, you know, do y'all part.

I sang this song as my wedding vows. I kept it a surprise, did a rushed mic check before the rehearsal, got the pastor to let me do my vows second (is it normally the other way around, I'm not sure, I don't think either of us would have cared), scared PB when I started walking away to start my vows, instead of starting to, like, talk and stuff. I sang it with a dry throat, it didn't sound at all like I wanted.

Five years later, I'm a better singer, for one thing. I'd have put a damn glass of water on that piano, if I'd known then yada yada yada.

I sang it trying not to cry, and trying to see if it was making him cry; I sang it trying not to laugh, because he smiled and laughed through most of it. It's all the promise I could muster, and it's all the promise I needed to make.

There are only two promises in the lyrics, actually. That I will always try to get it right, and that I'll stand right by his side. The rest is just reflection - I'm still learning what love is. Guess I'll always be doing that. Just figuring it out. When I lived in Iowa and we were flying back and forth to see each other every eight weeks (not longer than eight weeks, ten weeks apart nearly did us in, and I'm not exaggerating, it was untenable) I heard a Rosie Thomas song on Grey's Anatomy, and I put her album on my mp3 player for a trip, and I heard this song's lyrics for the first time, really heard them. I started crying on the plane. It was embarassing.

This is the verse that does me in: I'm still learning what love is/Every time you look at me that way/I'm still trying to figure out just how/You can still look at me the same

We're almost six years out, though I feel like we've been married in spirit for ten, and most definitely, we are completely different people. But he still looks at me the same. I mean, we're parents now, I love him for the father he is to my children, and he helped me bring those children into the world. The sparkle in his eyes then, oh they made sense. But as we bring those children up in this world, as he watches me fail and fail again, as he watches me fall and struggle and stand and fall again with depression, and he still looks at me like that? As he listens to my hurt, my anger - Lord, my unending anger at anyone and everyone - and he still looks at me like that?

Even though I may not get it right/All the time/I will always try/And I will always/Stand. right. by. your. side...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

To this day, Mama Bean balances between pain and beauty

In the first six months of 2012, I lost 30 pounds. I changed my eating habits, following the old Weight Watchers program; it helped that Papa Bean did it, too. It helped to have online support from a group of close friends. I increased my activity, started the Couch to 5K program, got to week 7 of that program, got to the point where I could run 20 minutes in a row.

I lost 30 pounds. Enough for people to notice. Friends, patients.

Today, I have gained almost every single pound back.


In the summer, I got depressed. Hard. I said I didn't really have a reason, but that wasn't really true, and with eight months of hard-fought self insight, let's talk reasons. 

For one thing, a guy harassed me while I was running, and I couldn't see past my fear of him to do anything but run away, and that made me feel weak - makes me feel weak to this day. I keep rehearsing the should have and could haves - and as I perform this mental dress rehearsal, I am enraged by my own helplessness; I only rehearse because I am so sure this will happen again. This could always happen again. Or, even worse, it will happen to my daughter. And I don't know how to fix that. And so I feel weak.

But the bigger thing is this; my parents came to visit, and dismissed my weight loss in the same breath they celebrated my husband's. Worse than just ignored it or didn't notice - it was nice that I'd finally lost something. But it wasn't anything worth noting. It wasn't something to celebrate. It certainly wasn't enough.

When I came in from a satisfying, amazing, personal best jog of 25 fucking minutes straight, my dad said, with the loveliest shade of derision, "Back already? Just a short run then, eh?" And to tell you my inner self crumpled with hopelessness and unlovedness and despair does little to describe what truly happened in my core.

I was never bullied by people at school, despite being socially awkward, a bit of a nerdy pariah. But in my own home, in the place where I should have been safest, from the person whose words spoke my identity to me from the time I was born, I have always been told that I am fat. 

I have always been told that I need to eat less and exercise more, I need to provide a healthy body for my great mind, I need to take up less space and look nicer. None of these messages on their face seem all that bad, they don't sound wrong. But to the mind of a young girl, bombarded by cultural messages that nothing about her matters but her beauty, bombarded by conflicting messages that her brain could take her anywhere (but only in the right body), to the mind of that little girl, they hurt. Anyone with an ounce of fucking sense would know they hurt. 

Yet when I had the courage to tearfully and desperately express my pain, I was told they were messages of love. Messages of caring. Messages of wanting what was best for me. Never mind that what was fucking best for me, what is best for everyone is knowing they are Loved without question, Accepted without caveat, completely Worthy and Enough, no ifs/ands/buts. What is best for everyone is knowing they are loved without being told to lose a few (or more.)

To this day, I cannot parse the reasons why I both refuse to lose weight yet desperately want to. I cannot explain why I both love my life but hate my self. To this day, I want to prove They Were Wrong by staying just as I am. Because to change, to get skinny, to be more of what I "should" be and less of what I already am, would be like an admission of guilt. An admission that I am not good enough, and that they were right. An affirmation that what really matters about me, what really holds the most value, is a fucking number on a stupid, meaningless, scale. A measure of gravity.

As if my life amounts to nothing more.

Yet every day, I wake up to two gorgeous little faces who prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that my life amounts to so. much. more.

I am not the only person with a story like this. That video up there has been viewed millions of times. Dozens of friends shared it on my facebook. I'm not holding this up to win some Pain Olympics, like I deserve a Gold Medal. There is no Pain Olympics, people! Everyone's pain is valid, and it is not your place or mine to place it into perspective for them. So don't tell me what I should be grateful for. Don't tell me I don't get a voice on this. 

Listen, my story will not end in weakness. My father recently apologized for some of his comments over the summer, and though it's tough to look at that through the lens of a lifetime of pain without a touch of cynicism, it was a step in the right direction, and certainly quite healing. Though I cannot parse it, I will change my life however the hell I want, for the best reasons I can muster, while ignoring anyone else's reasons as best as I can muster, also. I'm on the path to strength, of many kinds, because I have to be. I have to be a better Me to Myself. I have to be a better parent for my kids. And I have to make a better world for them and me to live in. 

"we are graduating members from the class of
fuck off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

of course
they did

but our lives will only ever always
continue to be
a balancing act
that has less to do with pain
and more to do with beauty." 

-Shane Koyczan