My new driver’s license came in the mail yesterday. The picture is terrible. I can’t stand to even show you the full measure of it, can only bear to post this modified version. I expected it to be bad, but was shocked by just how bad. I wasn’t smiling because I was afraid I’d do that weird blank stare I sometimes do when I smile for a picture, or that I’d do that thing where I squint one eye so much smaller than the other, or that other thing where I tuck in my chin so that it completely disappears. In trying to avoid all those things I just look annoyed. It looks more like a mugshot. They tell you to look down because the light of the camera is so bright they don’t want you looking directly into it, and move your hair away from your face because they are using “facial recognition software” (um, wait, where did I agree to that?!), which made made me do the thing where my chin disappears anyway. One side of my collar is also flipped weird. The capture makes me look heavy and sloppy and mean.
Change, if it is to be long lasting, must occur on the unseen levels first. With understanding, inquiry, openness. ~Geneen Roth
You try to feel good about your body, okay about who you are, accepting and gentle and kind, and then your new driver’s license comes in the mail and the picture they took of you is so bad, and you have to live with it for the next five years, no Retake Day like for school pictures. But I’m not worried. My prediction is that in five years when I get a new license and a new picture, I’ll finally be in my authentic body. I’m not saying that I will necessarily look any different, but rather that my true self will be embodied in a way it just isn’t right now. This body is so tired, swollen with the expectations and judgments and criticisms it’s carried, puffed up by things that don’t belong to it, burdened by all the ways it’s been hurt, holding the weight of all the stuff I haven’t been able to release. This body is not free … yet. And still, I am free to love it, utterly and completely.
I made a list a while back of the 25 reasons I carry extra weight. At some point, I’ll dig it out and share it with you. What I can say for now is a lot of it has to do with protecting myself, having a physical barrier between myself and the world. So some of it is a choice, but some of it isn’t — cultural expectations, social norms, the way my metabolism has been ruined by years of starving myself to meet them, genetics, hormones, an autoimmune disorder, other mysterious imbalances, the food I eat, how I move, my environment, injury. My body and the way it works is a puzzle, a mystery. I’m only now giving myself permission to figure it out for myself, to know and understand what it needs, enjoys, and how to heal it, keep it healthy and happy and strong. It’s been interfered with, bullied, abused for so long. I’m not going to let that happen anymore.