August 25, 2016

The garden

I got multiple compliments on my dress that I wore to work yesterday. It's an old one, from a few semesters ago. It's faded and stretched from multiple washes and multiple different periods of weight loss and weight gain. But it's comfortable, and I love it, and as one girl said, "you're rocking it." It's funny, in a strange way, for me to have anyone interrupt my day to offer something nice to say, especially from a stranger. But to have more than one person say something ... it really kind of floored me.

My default response when complemented is self-deprecation. I tell them that it is from ModCloth, but immediately follow that up with "they make normal sizes too." And I never look at their faces to notice the reaction to my turning something so positive into an awkward overshare of my personal issues.

It reminds me a lot of a few years ago, before I lost the weight, when I would always have something to say about being slow, or being sweaty, or being out of breath at the top of a flight of stairs. "I don't run unless I'm being chased," said half jokingly but with a feigned air of confidence, as if to make it seem that I was perfectly okay with my struggle.

I wasn't, and I'm still not. Although it's much harder now to make progress, I refuse to quit entirely.

Without question, the hardest part about the weight regain is not the weight itself, but everything else that came back with the weight. The depression. The loss of self-confidence. The return of that feeling of never quite being comfortable in my own skin, even on my very best days.

It's not my husband's fault, at least not entirely. There were so, so many things in the last few years that got me back up nearly all of the weight I'd once lost - not just the pregnancy, not just the failed marriage. But I get so upset sometimes, thinking about how he didn't understand how hard I'd worked to get healthy and how difficult it was for me to turn it back around. He didn't understand the current problem because he had no idea what the problems used to look or feel like. Even still, he has no idea how deeply depressed I was before, or how much I struggle now, and how hard I'd had to work to get as high of a level of self-confidence as I had when I met him. And even that was a work in progress.

Once I started caring about myself, it was easier to care for myself. It was an incredible challenge for me then, and it's a harder one now, with my attention pulled in infinitely more directions than it was six years ago when I was single and living alone. Sometimes I feel comfortable and confident, but never fully and always fleeting. I string together a dozen or so good days in a row, then get blindsided by events, news, or feelings that throw me off and leave me cursing at myself: how were you ever strong enough to do this?

That strength came from being surrounded by people who held me up when I started to fall, and who believed in me twice as hard in the moments when I struggled to believe in myself. Some of them were local, and many were online, found through blogging. Both sources were people who understood where I'd come from - I'm constantly amazed at the number of emails I get from people who say they found my blog, went back to the beginning, and read the whole thing over a few days (if it were a book, it'd be over a thousand pages, easily).

When he found out I had a blog, I begged him not to read it. And he searched around until he found it anyway. And what made me so upset about the whole thing was not just that he read it, but that he only read it from that day on. It was deeply representative of so many of our relationship's problems. He didn't want to know the history, just the present. The struggle never concerned him, because he hadn't been there to experience it first-hand, so it didn't matter.

It took a long time for me to take root, to push through the soil, to grow, and then to blossom. All he did was show up, look over the garden, and notice how lovely the flowers were - no concern or care about how it came to be that way. And when the plants started to weather and brown, when the petals fell to the earth and the stems became frail, and he didn't understand how to nourish them back to health, because he had never been a gardener in the first place, just a visitor. He didn't care about the process, just the result.

Strangers care so much about my story. The man I married didn't. And I know - I need to let go of this anger, because he didn't care then and he doesn't care now, and it only makes me bitter and sad and deeper in the depressed rut. But - as has become my default mantra for getting through this weird bouts of manic emotional thought - it's hard. It's hard to not think about something at the center of my world right now - especially because this reflection, painful as it is, helps me process and make sense of the bigger picture of everything.


Jessica said...

You are a beautiful garden and I am so glad I have been around since you first planted the seeds! Gardens have tough seasons, but if you put in the work they will always bloom again! I can already see tiny blooms!

Bond said...

I have to imagine that going through a divorce is like anything else traumatic, you've got to really feel all the feelings before they can let you go. Feeling your anger and acknowledging it can only be a good thing. You are doing a great job!

Amanda said...

It is hard for others to understand unless they've been through it, but having days where you're totally ok and others where the bitterness and hurt consume you is perfectly normal. I remember being just fine one minute, and then finding myself crying in the shower the next (because let's face it, with a little one around that's about the only alone time you get when you aren't exhausted in bed). You are so amazing and wonderful, and as someone who did go back and read the novel, there's so much your ex missed out on by not learning more about you. That says a million things about him, not you. Much love, dear Mary! <3