I have been hiding.
I haven't been giving anyone have the opportunity to see me--not my entire self. Not my body. I live in a rural town. I only leave the house when it's absolutely necessary. I blame it on not wanting to leave my dog alone, but that isn't the whole truth. I was using empathy as a guise for fear. I knew that it was a quarter of the truth, maybe less.
I purposefully took the summer off from teaching in-person classes. I said I needed a break, and I did, but I used self-care as a disguise for questioning my self-worth. Another fragmented, fractured piece of the truth. Another way to hide from the world and myself.
I have cancelled plans with friends more often than I would care to admit. I have denied myself any connection. I have denied my friends any substantive explanation.
I only post pictures of my face on Instagram. This has been a consistent trend for me since I reignited my love for the creativity makeup provides, but if you scroll back to last year's pictures, you'll see my entire body. I was relatively more comfortable offering up an image of my body to an audience I had curated. I was more comfortable because I weighed less than I do now. I weighed less because I wanted to, and felt like I had to.
Scroll back another year and you will see my entire body doing incredible things that I never thought it could. You will see me lift and carry and smile. You will see a body that made new homes in gyms and in the people who populated them. You will read my remarks at how much I love these people and the solace they provide.
You will not see what I don't want you to see.
You will not read my confession that I found solace in others because I was running from my self, that I was begging for permission and validation in every encounter.
You will not see the relief I felt to finally inhabit a body that did not feel and look like too much. You will not see my face fall as I drive home from the gym, as the reality of my return to a broken marriage drains every trace of belonging and joy.
You will not see my terror in moments of isolation.
You will not see my fear of becoming an ex-someone, nobody's nobody, untethered and disconnected and unwanted.
The first time I altered my body five years ago, I do so with the intention of curiosity; I had never paid much attention to how certain foods made my body or mind feel, but I was in a safe place in my relationship with myself and my partner which allowed me to explore with nothing at stake. No one would leave me or love me less. There was no consequence or condition. I could see a nutritionist out of sheer curiosity, not the need or desire to alter my appearance.
The next time I began altering my body, I did so with a similar intention; I wondered what this body, this one that weighed 120 pounds less than its prior iteration, could do. How could it move? What could it move? How and what could it perform? I asked it to do things, and it obliged, but I was still terrified; I was in actual gyms with actual people who knew how to load plates and what stretches opened your hips. I had a body that looked like it fit in these spaces, but I felt like a fraud. I had a brand new body with the same fears.
Over the past year, I have altered my body in a way that I would have never expected: I let it grow. I grew. I now occupy a body with a weight that is much more familiar to me than those numbers that I saw when I was lifting regularly and being mindful of the nutrients I consumed. Food then was fuel for output and performance; I ate to positively affect my abilities.
I keep telling myself I should be more comfortable with this body. It has similar weight to the one I’ve inhabited before, so this isn’t new territory. But it is.
It is new.
I have lived so much life since the last time I saw that number on the scale. I have seen and done and become so much.
Even if I hadn’t—why does it matter?
Why do I keep looking for ways to validate my body and the space it occupies?
Why do I keep worshipping at the altar of my vanity with all of my makeup?
Why do I feel like I have to compensate and apologize for my body, like I have to be attractive, beautiful, witty, smart in an effort to make my body more palatable?
Why do I keep telling myself that I am fully present in the world when I am hiding in my house and in the pictures I post?
I am not ready to come all the way out—not out of hiding, not out as a fat woman—and I’m also tired of the limitations I set and reinforce for myself and who I can be. I don’t want to sit here alone, and I am terrified of asking you to sit next to me. I don’t feel fully formed or strong enough to withstand what can and has been leveled at me and my body, and I am also a hypocrite if I tell the world to be honest with me while I attempt to pass off half-truths as the gospel.
I am not ready, and I am prepared for the sacred right to be who I am.