July 16, 2016


I don't watch a whole lot of television these days, but when I do, it's usually something on HGTV. As someone who is starting to think about the process of buying a house, I have been carefully watching a few different shows, seeing what to notice and what to watch out for.

There are quite a few shows where people purchase less-than-ideal houses and either repair them themselves to resell or hire a team to completely redo the homes. Fixer-uppers, they're called. Purchased for a bargain, remade with a lot of hard work, and then they are not only beautiful but much more valuable.

I've been going to the gym with a coworker, a girl I was not terribly close with while she worked at the university, but she is relocating up north later this summer and we've gotten closer in the last few months. She has been encouraging and a good listener as I move through the divorce process and try to get back to my healthiest all-around self. She, like a few other colleagues, has been trying to get me to get back out dating, telling me to not spend my whole life sitting at home with my son, to go out and socialize and take a little bit of personal time once in a while.

It's hard to hear, for a few different reasons. First, because I shouldn't be dating until the divorce is final. Even though the marriage was over before it even began and we've been separated for well over a year, it's not officially ended yet, and I don't want to give my husband's lawyers any fuel. And second, because it's not that simple for me. Regardless of what the lawyers want to call it, I have full custody of my son, I've had him about 360 nights out of the last year. With no family around to help, and all my babysitters dispersed around the country for summer break, it's not as easy to get out and socialize. With no financial help since we've been on our own, it's hard for me to justify buying a drink at a bar when that money could be put toward groceries or bills.

And ... I'm fat again.

I was within 10 or 15 pounds of my goal weight when I met my husband. I was looking good, but more importantly, I was feeling good. I had invested an entire year into myself, and even though there were still hard days, I was infinitely happier than I had been a year earlier, struggling with mobility and feeling like a slave to food, a prisoner trapped in a gigantic body.

When the weight came back, so did the self-esteem issues. And there were more, as the new weight came with new reasons. The first time, it was my parents' divorce - this time, it was mine, and a hundred other stressful things compounding from the last few years. There is significant overlap in certain feelings, situations from my childhood that repeated themselves as I moved through the process as an adult. And there are new feelings, new hurts. Just like I had before I lost the weight, I hated myself again, and now with additional reasons.

I didn't realize how traumatized I was by my marriage until I started explaining to my colleague/workout buddy. There's panic, anxiety, deep concern. There are things that he said, things that he did, things I'm not sure how to process still or how to recover from. Deeply painful things, making me incredibly cautious and very, very slow to trust. There's this saying I've seen bouncing around Pinterest, that the way parents speak to children becomes their inner voice. I don't think that's exclusive to the parent/child relationship, because when the negative self-talk starts in my head around dating/relationships, it sounds an awful lot like words and expressions I heard straight from the mouth of the man I married.

She asked if I would just give it a try, just look around, see what's out there. See if there's any interest, because I have so much to offer. And I dismissed her almost immediately, saying "I'm such a mess right now, no one wants to take on this fixer-upper."

I guess that's not necessarily new. I've always sort of advertised myself that way. When I was big the first time, I would always try to have my size forgiven or overlooked by arguing that I was an honor student, that I was a hard worker, that I had any of a number of achievements. Even at my smallest size, I described myself as a work in progress, hoping I could find someone willing to turn a blind eye to the sagging loose skin I was burdened with as a result of years and years of self-abuse and neglect.

"Right now I'm not great, but I can be! Believe in me, put in a little work. Invest in me and I promise returns!"

I'm not a banged up can of vegetables on the scratch 'n' dent shelf in the back corner of the grocery store. I'm not a rundown, neglected shack that can be sold cheap to someone with eyes on a prize further down the road. I'm not a project for someone to flip. I'm a person. I'm a person who is worthy of love, who is deserving of it, who has been run through the mill (as my dad likes to say) and who has come out stronger on the other side.

One of the greatest lessons I've taken from my marriage and divorce is understanding my worth, and not settling for less than I deserve. It's hard, especially when you feel so profoundly and terminally alone. It's not hard to find company, even at my current size. I've been pursued many times by men who are curious about bigger girls, men with fetishes, men who are just seeking a body and don't care about my name, let alone my life. I keep repeating to myself, keep reminding myself: if I wanted to sleep with someone who didn't care about me at all, I could have just stayed in my marriage. Could've saved a lot of time, could've saved a lot of money.

Even if it sounds fun in the short-term, it's not what I want in the greater picture of my life. The approach to relationships needs to be like the approach to eating better and living my healthiest life: is it what you want now, or what you want most? And what I want most is my body at its healthiest weight, my confidence at its highest, and my relationships to be satisfying and wholly nourishing.

There's someone out there who loves me, and I don't know if I know this person yet. But there's got to be someone out there for me, someone who sees me not as a fixer-upper but as a person with value - and who can remind me of that fact in the moments when I start to forget.


Rusti said...

Mary this is an amazing and enlightening post. I'm also guilty of presenting myself as a fixer upper. Your words have made me think. Thank you!

Losing The Rolls said...

Mary, I hope you can truly believe your last paragraph. It is the truth, I promise you. You have value, so much value. I believe in you and wish you the best. Hope you have a great week.


Kailani said...

What an amazing post! And I so totally can relate. You can do this! :)

Unknown said...

You have no idea how badly I needed to read this post today. Thank you