Sometimes I’ve been suspicious of happiness. For awhile now I’ve felt like I was finally at ease with my body, but part of me wouldn’t trust that it was real. Anxiety was my default state for so long that it was hard to believe I wasn’t deluding myself.
The Mothership and I had one of those honest, difficult conversations on the weekend that start with tears and honking into tissues, but end with hanging up all light and peaceful. We talked about The Past which is something I’ve been avoiding. When I moved away from Australia I just convinced myself I was moving away from all sorts of things.
She asked about my earliest memories and I told her about one time when I was five years old and starting a new school. She held my hand as we walked up the front path that was flanked by bottlebrush shrubs. My stomach was in knots and my only thought was, "Everybody is going to hate me because I’m fat."
And that’s how I’ve always thought. It didn’t stop until two years ago when I did that cracking 5K race, when I finally realised I respected my body for what it could do, instead of being consumed by what it looked like. Since then I’ve been moving the ol’ bod around with ever-shrinking amounts of self-consciousness, without feeling like there were neon signs floating above my head screaming, HEY EVERYBODY, LOOK AT THIS LARD ARSE.
But like I said, sometimes I was suspicious. I wondered if I was only happy in certain contexts. Like the safety of a marriage. Or the security of an oft-shitty Scottish climate, where I can hide my wobbly bits.
So I’ve been running through a list of places and situations that used to petrify me, and testing my resolve. How would I feel if I faced them again? Here’s a few –
- THE BEACH – Swimsuits, ghostly skin, etc etc. I’m cool. I will never don a bikini but as long as I’ve got a big hat and SPF 457 I’d be happy. I don’t feel the urge to compare myself to more slender chicks anymore. That could be inner peace or just surrendering to old age 😛
- BAKERIES – I’d now feel free to buy whatever the hell I wanted and not fret that folk in the queue were thinking, "She doesn’t need that scone". If I wanted ten donuts I’d buy ten donuts, instead of buying four here and three at the place down the street and another three in the next town to disguise my gluttony.
- PUBLIC SPEAKING – If I had to yap in front of a group of people, I would be shitscared about saying something stupid, as opposed to worrying that my gesticulations were making my belly wobble. I think doing that Sky News thing last year sort of kicked the last of that self-consciousness out of me.
- POSH SHOPS – Actually I have tested this one. There are still about 10 kazillion boutiques with clothes I couldn’t fit a toe into, but I no longer skulk past their windows feeling inferior. I go inside and poke through the racks, just to see what it feels like. I’m also lost my irrational fear of department stores. Sometimes I swan about in Harvey Nicks in Edinburgh. I usually end up in the food hall, buying a can of tuna or something.
- SPONTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHY – the lovely Mary posted a photo on Health Nuts of her doing some indoor rockclimbing. She looks totally foxy and dead sporty. I thought, "How would I feel if someone took a snap of me climbing up a wall?". I’d no doubt be red-faced and sweaty and my flab would be dangling at some unflattering angle. But when I see shit pictures of myself these days I groan or LAUGH, instead of destroying the camera with a sledgehammer. I think I look alright. Sometimes the camera catches that, sometimes it suggests the opposite; and that’s okay.
- AUSTRALIA – If we moved back, how would I handle scorching summers, barbeques, swimming pools? Now that my thighs don’t bleed if I wear a skirt, I think I’d quite enjoy it. I’d be a helluva lot more worried about getting sunburned than the state of my flab, to be honest 🙂
I’m in a reflective mood lately so sorry if this entry is rather random and incoherent. But I am happy to conclude that I am genuinely happy with my body. I would pass all my tests. I spent about 22 years in a constant state of paranoia and anxiety which made all those little everyday scenarios so exhausting. Now I think I could put myself in any situation and I’d still be comfortable being me. Even if I was thundering down a catwalk with size zero supermodels. That’s their look, and I’ve got mine. I just wish I could go back to that five-year-old me and say, "Chin up, ginger! 24 years from now you’ll think you’re great!"