Friday, as I was getting ready to go grocery shopping amidst the Pandemic, I decided to weigh myself. I weighed in at 168.2lbs – that’s the heaviest I have ever been in my life. Of course, seeing that number is difficult. I’d be lying if I said it made me happy, or even that it didn’t bother me at all. However, what I can say is that the number on the scale doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it once did. More and more, I am changing my belief that my worth is in anyway related to my weight. In fact, sometimes I am even able to laugh at the thought that anyone’s worth has anything to do with their gravitational pull. But for the most part, it is a constant struggle to quiet my Ego, and to remind myself that losing weight is NOT the answer to my “problems”. Despite what society has always told me, deep down, I know that the weight of my body is not what will make me desirable, and it’s certainly not what will make me “happy”.
Also, I haven’t shaved or waxed in probably … ouff two months now. For various reasons. One – I just don’t want to. I don’t know if you’ve ever waxed your own legs, axillae, upper lip and genitals … but it’s not particularly pleasant, and it takes time! Two – I am single and don’t have anyone to impress. Three – we are in the middle of a pandemic … so I doubt anyone would notice my hairiness when I am mostly at home and otherwise staying six feet away from fellow humans.
More than all of these things though, I’ve honestly been doing this as a sort of experiment. I am exploring how being in my natural state makes me feel. Again, I am trying to move towards a place where I believe that my worth is not dependent on my appearance. I’m am trying to break down this modern ideal of what femininity and beauty “look” like. I have to admit … I’m not there yet.
Yet, I am the most at peace that I have ever been. And I would say the happiest too. It’s funny how my conceptualization of “happiness” has evolved over the last year. Like a LOT. I used to have this idea that happiness was a constant state of flowing energy, positivity and smiles. I had this very visual representation of what happiness was. When I pictured what “happy Michele” looked like, she was fit, she was smaller, she was beautiful – her hair was long and wavy, she had beautiful toenails (if you know me well, you know why I say that), she didn’t have acne, she was dressed in style, she had a boyfriend that loved her, money was flowing, and she was popular, she was out and about doing all these activities. I was so attached to that visual … and frankly as I write this, I am aware that I am still attached to it.
Funny thing is – I’ve been there before. I’ve been super fit and skinny. I’ve been beautiful and without acne. I’ve been stylish, had a boyfriend who loved me, been successful and had great cash flow. And I wasn’t any happier than I am now. In fact, I was quite unhappy.
In a 1987 lecture by Ram Dass, he talks about how we are taught – by our parents, our teachers and society – to become “somebody”. We are socialized to develop strong Egos. We come to wear these “suits” – essentially our constructs of who we are. Ram Dass talks about trying to squeeze into this suit he thought he should be wearing. He had to contract and disfigure himself to fit into this suit to the point where he was in pain. Yet people would come up to him and say things like “lovely suit”, and “wow, you’re really somebody!”, and “you must be so happy!”. I’ve been there … I’ve been in that tight, uncomfortable suit.
Yet I wasn’t happy. Ram Dass wasn’t happy either. We were in pain. Still, everyone around us told us we looked good, we had made it, we must be so happy! So it seems as though we both concluded that we were sick. If everyone thought we should be so happy and we weren’t, something was wrong with us – must be wrong with us.
This past year and a bit has been a journey. A journey inward, of re-discovering myself, of taking off that suit and figuring out who I am when I am just me, when I am naked, stripped of all the constructs I have built to please society.
It isn’t an easy journey, and it isn’t a straight-forward journey either. Despite how aware I am of the suit I’ve worn for many years, and how much I know it won’t lead to happiness … I find myself putting it on again and again, still at times attached to the idea that it will bring me happiness.
For example, a few days ago, I was feeling a little “blah” at the end of my work day. As I was noticing that my mood/energy was more “blah”, the little voice in my head was SO quick to narrate these stories to explain my mood. “Huh. See. You are depressed – you need that antidepressant. You shouldn’t have dropped your dose. You are wrong. What were you thinking? Of course you need this medication, Michele. How could you be so stupid? You’re a healthcare provider, why would you do that? Follow your friend’s advice. You’re dependent on these meds. This is dangerous.”
So I kinda caught myself. I became aware of the story I had created in my head, noted it, and let it go.
As fast as I caught myself, the voice in my head was quick to take me down another storyline… Now like many others out there, I struggle a lot with emotional eating. And in this middle of this pandemic, I have to admit that I am reaching for food to self-soothe probably more often than usual. It’s something that I am working with. I’d love to overcome it one day, but I really do believe that it’s always going to be a pattern of coping/numbing that I will always revert to. And so, I will always have to stay present and aware of my emotional state and whether I am reaching for food because I am physically hungry vs because I am self-soothing.
So that other day, when I was feeling shitty – that Ego took this opportunity to take over. “Yeah, Michele. This is your fault. You had canned ravioli for dinner, and rice and beef for lunch. That’s unhealthy. It’s not vegan (I carry a lot of shame surrounding dieting because of various influences/people in my life). You’ve been eating so shitty”.
In response to that, and because I tend to be a bit of an A-type overachiever, I start telling myself “Yeah! I’ll just eat better. And exercise more. And tomorrow is a new day! And if I just lose weight … “.
It’s a vicious circle, you see. I’ve been stuck on this hamster-wheel for years. Perpetually thinking that if I do this or do that, I’ll be happy. And beating myself up when I don’t follow through with doing this or that.
At the end of his talk, Ram Dass says that despite a lifetime of spiritual inquiry, of psychedelics trips and meditation, he still has neuroses. He still, like the rest of us, has an Ego and attachment to ideals. But those things that used to be huge mountains, that used to take over his psyche, the things he used to obsess about … they became like “little shmoos”. He was able to notice his impulses and obsessions, acknowledge them and let them go.
I think this is why I feel the most calm, at peace and happy I have ever been. I think it’s because I am starting to let go of the attachment to those stories. I am starting to radically accept (shout out to Tara Brach) who I am, and all my imperfections, instead of hating myself for it. I am choosing to radically accept myself as I am, instead of believing the story that happiness will be given to me once I finally conquer all my imperfections.
The big mountains are now turning into little shmoos.
And so, despite being the fattest and hairiest I have been – because of my ability to lessen my identification with my physical body, because of my ability to see those big mountains as little shmoos … I am also the happiest I have ever been!