Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wonder Woman

I've been on crutches for less than a week and I'm feeling increasingly and decidedly un-wonder-woman-ish.

I'm currently reading The Body Project. Fascinating stuff, especially for someone who is a living history hobbist. The book observes the progression of woman's "body projects" from Victorian times to the late 1990s. The premise is that as women have become more "liberated," they have become increasingly more obsessed with their bodies.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Growing up, I was encouraged (by the media, mainly) to dream big. Women could have careers and families! Hurray! Go women! WooHoo!

Right?

Wrong.

And let me tell you why.

There are still only 24 hours in each day. And only 7 of those days each week. And only 52 weeks in each year.

So, where the women in the 1950s (and before) were able to have one full-time job - being parent/spouse/housekeeper, the women today are expected to be parent/spouse/housekeeper AND hold down a 40+ hours a week position.
And not only that - said position should be a "career." Meaning that women should be devoting numerous hours above and beyond, so that they can become respected/reknown/worshipped in their chosen field.

Sorry, am I the only one who's missed where this is freeing?

Now, some women (of which I am one) are lucky enough to have a partner who wants to share the load of being parent/spouse/housekeeper. And that is wonderful and I absolutely love him for it.

However, ingrained in my brain is this notion that I can do it all. Not only can I do it all, I should do it all. And not only should I do it all, I should do so with a smile. Oh, and by the way, I should also be thin and beautiful, too. "Bring home the bacon; serve it up in a pan" baby.

I tried living this (misguided) ideal. Gave it my all for many years.

Until the stress triggered my eating disorder.

So I had to choose. If I continued to "do it all," I would eventually kill myself from malnutrition. There isn't enough time in the day to do everything AND take care of myself and since I was so obviously failing at doing everything, I didn't feel worthy of being taking care of (by myself, let alone by anyone else.)

SuperWoman and almost certain death at a young age or SimpleWoman and possible long life?

Hmmm... Tough choice.

After three long years, I have become very comfortable with my decision to become SimpleWoman. And the simpler the better.

I've said it before - life isn't about numbers. Well, a corollary to that is:
life isn't about how much we can accomplish before we die. For what good are these accomplishments if we don't take some time and bask in the glow?

All accomplishments count. I'm proud of myself for giving birth to my son after 15 hours of labor (a major event in my life, to be sure.) But I'm also proud of myself on days like today, when I've desperately wanted to write down everything that I have eaten and will eat (so that I can reassure myself that I haven't overeaten and/or restrict)and I don't (I'm writing instead.) Subconsciously, I recognized that I was stressed (lots to do at work before a long weekend) and instead of coping with the stress by obsessing about food, I used a different mechanism. I'm writing this post.

For me, being able to take the time to assess my mental state, choose a healthy way to adjust it, and acknowledge (and celebrate) the accomplishment of it all is absolute freedom. Liberation to the nth degree.

This is life at its best. And I am basking in the glow of every minute.

How many SuperWomen can say that?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Embarrassment and humility

I remember a few of my girlfriends in fifth and sixth grade spraining their ankles. I was fascinated by their experiences, especially with their use of crutches. I wished I needed crutches, too.

Sick and twisted?

Perhaps.

I envied these girls because everyone saw what was wrong with them and rallied to help them. They were able to have their books carried, their lunches delivered, their needs met with a kind smile and no questions asked. The girls that were afflicted with sprained ankles were popular and beautiful, graceful - deserving of the attention and care. This solidified in my mind my unworthiness. In my mind, I was neither beautiful nor graceful and thus, it made sense to me that my needs were not met unconditionally.

So I learned to rely on myself. "I can do it," was (is) my motto. "Yes, I can." Because if I was undeserving of care, then I better be able to care for others (and myself, when everyone else's needs are met.)

So how ironic is it, now that I've accepted that my childhood was less than ideal and it's one of the reasons that I've become the fiercely independent woman before you, that I find myself with a sprained ankle and subsequently, on crutches?

As the strong, fiercely independent woman that I am, I am incredibly humiliated. Not only of how I sprained my ankle (I was jogging across the street, pushing my son in his stroller, when my foot landed on the back wheel of the stroller which grabbed and yanked, hard,) but also with the sheer mechanics of mobility on crutches. (Thud, thud, thud...)

But you know what I find even more embarrassing than asking my five-year-old son to carry a glass of milk to the table for me?

Having my husband help me do the things that up until Saturday night, I did without thinking - like carry food from the kitchen to the table, or take our dog outside to pee.

I can explain away my son's help by saying that I am empowering him to be self-reliant.

I have no such recourse to use with adults.

My husband has been amazing the past few days - offering help left and right. The more I said "no, thank you, I can do it," the more he offered, until he realized just how hard this situation is for me.

I am the consummate caregiver, ready to shower a person with his/her every need, and within reason, his/her every wish, and suddenly I'm not able to fulfill this role. Flounder - it's what's for dinner.

But through my recovery, I have learned that it is more than okay for me to ask for what I need. So, I do ask for help - when I absolutely can think of no other way to work the situation so I can do it myself. But I do ask even though I feel like the embarrassment will slay me. I ask even though the little girl inside cringes in fear of being denied her request, ridiculed for her audacity for asking, and/or harrumphed with the annoyance of her (petty) needs.

Spraining my ankle is a true lesson in humility for me.

Humility is defined as "the state of being humble" where a humble person is then defined as "someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others." (Definition from wikipedia)

For many people, this means that they need to come off their self-built pedastals and mingle with the great "unwashed."

For me though, this experience is bringin hom the fact that I am just as important as others - I am deserving of help when I need it.

And true, it is embarrassing to not be full-bodied and able, but most people have these moments. It doesn't make me unworthy; it just makes me human.

So I will rise up to take my place among the other mortals and hobble my way around on crutches, until I can stand up on my own.