Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I'm going to say something here that might be a little controversial, but I know I'm right, so I'm going to say it anyway:
I am not 100% responsible for my obesity.
Yes, I am the one who snuck cookies into my room as a child, and I am the one who ate two dinners some nights in university because no one was watching, and I am the one who swore from here to Sunday that I would NEVER enjoy exercise because it just wasn't my thing.
But there are MANY other people who have contributed to my weight problems, self-image issues, and food addiction throughout my life - and so I'm taking a stand right here and now to say that THIS IS NOT ALL MY FAULT!
So many of us have heard so many negative comments about us - whether it be the mean-spirited kids on the playground, or the teenage kids at the mall, or even the comment that you weren't meant to overhear from a colleague at work. But the most painful comments are the ones that come from the people we love. The comments that are made "for your own good" or "because we love you". The comments that make you feel guilty for being angry about them because maybe, just maybe they're right. Or maybe they're not. Maybe things are said, actions happen, or the people that you love behave the way they do because they too are hurting and acting out their hurt on us is the only way to make themselves feel better. I've had a lot of that in my life - being the scapegoat at the bottom of the totem pole. But the buck stops here. And here's where I start pointing fingers.
I will preface all of this by saying that I have a wonderful family. My parents are still together after 39 years of marriage. They have loved me endlessly and wholly for each and every one of my 29 years. My living grandparents are still together and have been so supportive of me growing up. My brothers are awesome individuals. I am envious of their awesomeness on a regular basis. My aunts and uncles and cousins are all very close and loving and I miss them so much being a long way away. But my decision to move away was for me. And it's a decision I had to make because living at home (or close to it) was making me very, very sick. I am an incredibly lucky person to have all the love that I have in my life. But until I started making changes for myself, I could not love me - and all of the love in the world from other people will not make up that missing piece.
So here we go: I blame my mother, in part, for my obesity.
I had a very tough phone call with mom last week. When I called I was expecting to talk to my father, so when she picked up the phone I was surprised and unguarded (as I normally have to be to have a conversation with her since she has subtle but powerful ways of getting to me if I'm unprepared). The conversation got into a territory that I am uncomfortable with - she was asking me a lot of personal questions, making vast assumptions about my life in Chicago, and threatening an uninvited and unexpected visit. I was rendered speechless - which doesn't often happen with me. Then the topic of conversation switched, very suddenly, to my upbringing and how well I have managed to do for myself and how amazed she is with me and how well I turned out. She went on to say that I have continuously overcome obstacles and that the majority of those obstacles were from her, since she has opposed most of my bigger decisions in life - my choice of school, my choice of career, my choice of men, and my decision to move to Chicago - she was absolutely, steadfast and firmly against all of them, and voiced her opinions about all of them on a number of occasions throughout my youth. Odd - maybe, but I know at this point that she was fishing for a compliment - wanting me to thank her for my good, solid upbringing - to tell her that all those years of tough love must have paid off. But at this point in the phone call I was, quite frankly, pissed off. So instead of giving her the one thing that she truly desired at that point, I turned the tables back on her and asked if this was her giving me an apology. Now it was her turn to be speechless. She changed the conversation and we finally ended the phone call.
The next day I received an email from her. I only got through the first 2 lines of it before I realized the tone of it and deleted it before it could hurt me any deeper. I should have known better. I knew her reaction to my request for an apology would not go unmentioned again. Of the 2 lines that I did read, she criticized me openly for my audacity to ask her for anything and questioned why her love for 30 years of my life wasn't enough. I never responded. I didn't feel that an email of that tone warranted a response from me. I didn't get the answer from her that I wanted/needed, but in hindsight, I got the one that I expected.
Now without knowing the full context of the relationship between me and my mother, it might be hard for anyone reading this blog to fully understand what the problem is. But ultimately, the point of this blog is not to help anyone understand our relationship. The point of this blog is to understand that I share the blame for being fat. My mother's inability to see me as a complete and separate, individual and whole person from herself has lead me to literally become larger than life just to feel like I exist. She cannot give me an apology for things that have happened in our past because she honestly believes that she has done nothing wrong. But were I a complete and separate, individual and whole being - were I a person that existed outside of her sphere, she would never have done the things to that person that were done to me. She never would have said the things that she has said. And had she done or said those things to that complete and separate, individual and whole person - she would most certainly apologize. My mother is a loving and giving and gracious person. If she knew that she hurt a person the way she has hurt me, she WOULD apologize. But right now, she can not apologize to me, because I am not done becoming a complete and separate, individual and whole person - without her.
That's why I am here. That's why I am working every single day to love and understand and accept myself. That's why I am learning as much as I can and laughing, and crying, and feeling - MY feelings, MY emotions - NOT my mother's. For so many years I have lived FOR her. And I can't do it anymore.
For all the mothers who will read this - PLEASE KNOW - we (your children) love you so hard. We love you enough to sacrifice ourselves when we see that you are unhappy. We love you so much that we will refuse our own natural tendencies if it's something we think you want. We will thrive for you, achieve for you, and flounder with you if you let us. But at some point the child HAS to leave. It is human nature. And it is your job to let us go - as hard as that might be. It doesn't mean we don't love you. It doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt us just as much to sever the ties as it hurts you (though we'll pretend it doesn't). But we need to become our own people, and we desperately need your support to do that. Otherwise, we start to deteriorate. We shrivel up inside and expand outside to make up the difference. We become lonely and timid and start to believe that the only person in the world who loves us and understands us is you - because that is the way you made us.
Though she will likely never read this, I am hoping that some day I will have the courage to have this conversation with my mother. I know that I will not be able to complete my transformation until it happens and that terrifies me. But at the same time, I'm ready. I want her to know how much I love her - even though I already make a point of telling her all the time. I want her to know how bad I feel for her that her own life is so small that she needed to have mine too to feel full. I want her to know how hard it has been for me to systematically pull myself away from her to make myself whole. I want her to know my pain, though I have a feeling she already does and that is why she does the things and says the things she does sometimes. But most of all I want her to know that it's NEVER too late to have what she wants for herself. I wouldn't be who I am today had I not learned from an incredibly talented, beautiful, caring and loving individual like her. I just wish she didn't need me to know that about herself.
I'm done blaming people for today. I'm ready to accept my own responsibility again. After all - my mother never tied me to the dinner table and forced me to eat - I did that all on my own. But she shares in this weight. And knowing that this isn't ALL my fault, makes me feel just that much lighter. It's ok to be angry. We have to get angry sometimes to heal. It's all part of the process. I might blame someone else tomorrow (stay tuned, because I probably will) - but my own tears just from having written this today have cleansed the hurt I was feeling. She's too far away to hug in person - but right now I'm hugging my mother in spirit. And that makes it all better.