When the full moon happens, you turn into a person who’s the opposite of who you normally are. Describe this new you.
Here it is, the full moon again. I both love and loathe this celestial ritual. I love that I transform into the slim, svelte, sleek, and gorgeous woman who the lunar cycle unleashes. I love that she is powerful and confident and has no trouble demanding, and getting, exactly what she wants. I love that she is strong, healthy, and fit. I love that she listens to her inner voice and makes her decisions based on her innermost desires. But there is a downside, too.
Although she has always been a part of me, this woman is still a stranger to me. We are opposites in every way imaginable. That’s why I despise her every bit as much as I admire her. She shuns my family and leaves on her own, following her whims without regard for anyone’s feelings. She is unreliable, but her confidence and overall competence generally make people forget her slights. Frankly, she doesn’t care if they do or not. She is so self-absorbed that it makes no difference what anyone thinks of her.
Still, she takes time and care with her appearance, and it pays off. People notice her, and she enjoys every minute of their attention. She thrives in the spotlight and hates to share it with anyone. She over-extends her credit cards to buy the newest shoes and clothes. Paying the bills isn’t her job, so why should she worry about it? She is a trend-setter, a crowd-pleaser, and a woman-about-town. She is exhausting, and I’m glad she doesn’t stay long, but in the end I cannot deny her, after all, she is me.
When I was a young student teacher part of my training required me to videotape and critique one of my lessons. Apart from the complex logistics of borrowing the appropriate equipment (no cell phones in those days), I regard this exercise as one of the most irritating, yet ultimately helpful experiences in my training. Still, I hated it.
You see, I was fat. I’ve been fat to greater or lesser degrees since roughly puberty. In seventh grade home economics class the teacher measured each of us so that we would use the correct size pattern for garment construction. It was all very sensible, and not done to make anyone feel embarrassed or awkward, but c’mon, we were in seventh grade!
My waist measurement was a full three inches greater than most of the other girls. Well, two and a half, but it felt like three. It was, gasp, twenty-nine and a half inches. Most of the girls were in the twenty-five to twenty-seven inch range. In retrospect most of them hadn’t hit puberty yet, either, but my twelve-year-old brain didn’t take that into consideration. It also didn’t take the fact that I was taller than most of them into account either. I just felt big and fat. I wish the me today could have talked to the twelve-year-old me.
The me now might not have as many weight issues if that were the case. I could comfort that little girl and explain to her that everyone develops at their own pace, and try to convince her that she was just fine. Maybe I could ease her worries just a bit. Then I would encourage her to keep riding her bike and swimming and playing basketball and volleyball and soccer, even if she wasn’t the best. Maybe she would have developed the confidence to stay active instead of shrinking toward the sidelines.
Unfortunately, my mother was of no help at all. I’m adopted and by the time I was twelve I was way bigger than my mom ever would be. I towered over her, and outweighed her by a considerable margin. She’s barely over 5 feet tall and was under 100 pounds when she married. She didn’t have a clue what it was like to feel big and awkward. In fact she didn’t have much of a clue about puberty at all. I had to ask for a training bra at age 10. Talk about humiliating. I tried hinting, but it didn’t work. Unlike other little girls of 10, I really needed one.
Going through junior high and high school I was always on the bigger side, but not so big that I couldn’t shop in the regular stores. That would come later. I always loved to eat, and as I got older much of my social life involved going out for food. I grew up in the cold Northeast, and that’s what people do for 9 months of the year or so. Then the weather gets better and we have picnics and barbeques all summer. Oh, and we drink. Hey, it’s cold outside!
Sure enough the freshman 15 found me, along with a little extra. Then I graduated, got a job, moved in with my boyfriend, and really got comfortable. Stretchy pants became my friends, and the extra pounds didn’t seem to matter so much. Big sweaters were in style and life was good.
Then came graduate school and student teaching. I needed clothes. Real clothes. Suits. Nothing fit. I had to move up to the plus size department. It was humiliating, especially since my tiny mother was the one taking me shopping for my professional wardrobe. She’s never been easy to shop with. It was awful, but I did come away with some really lovely pieces. Thank you Liz Claiborne and Jones of New York for making beautiful clothing for plus size women, even way back then when everyone else was putting all the fat women in pastel polyester.
Off I went to my student teaching gig, doing quite a good job of it, thank you very much. Then came the videotape assignment. Ugh. I did NOT want to do it. Of course I had seen myself in the mirror, millions of times. But pictures somehow were different, they made me look bigger than I thought I was. They still do. And video? Well that’s a hundred times worse. Now not only will I see all sides of me, but I’ll have to listen to the silly things I say, and watch the awkward way I move. No thanks. I wasn’t looking at it from the standpoint of how it could help me assess my teaching practice at all. I was too wrapped up in my own self concept of my physical attributes to move into the realm of what the assignment could do for me. I was fixated on what it would do TO me. Stupid girl.
Still, it was required, so I sucked it up and did it. I soon forgot the camera and just taught the lesson. Afterwards I avoided watching the video for a couple of days, but I had to watch it to critique it, and the assignment was coming due. I couldn’t put it off forever. I put the tape in, prepared for the worst. The first minute I spent cringing as I went through a mental checklist. Hair? Not bad. I like those earrings. My voice is loud enough, but not too loud. That jacket really does look nice with that skirt, but ugh, I walk like a linebacker.
Soon I ran out of things to fixate on, so I began to actually pay attention to the teaching. Hey, that was a good point I made. Uh oh, I rushed through that part of the directions, no wonder the students got confused when they got to that part of the assignment. Oh no, I never saw her raised hand as I was teaching. Hey, those two have been passing notes! I didn’t see that during the lesson. Great job having all the materials in place before hand, distributing everything went very quickly and smoothly. And so on. Once I stopped worrying about the silly stuff like my hair and my weight, I could focus on the important stuff, like how to best reach my students and where to hone my skills. It was an eye opening experience, one that my professor included for a very good reason.
I still don’t love seeing myself on video, but I no longer cringe at the thought. I am valuable. I have a place in this world. Ok, maybe I take up a little more space than most people, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be in the picture. I contribute to my family, to my workplace, and to my students lives. I have a voice and I use it. If it occasionally ends up in video, so be it. Maybe I will reach someone who needs to hear my message, or even just see me being happy with who I am. After all, isn’t that our ultimate goal? To live in a way that makes us happy and satisfied with who we are and what we have to offer the world? I think it is.
I don’t know about the term favorite, exactly, but I have made more than my share of mistakes. I try to learn from them, at least now I do. When I was younger I just tried to forget them. Sweeping them under the rug of my dusty conscience seemed like the easiest and most effective course of action at the time, so that’s what I did. No harm, no foul, right? Not really, but if nobody knows then nobody can tell.
I make it sound like that was decades ago, and most of it was, but old habits die hard, and hardwired patterns of behavior aren’t easy to change. I’m constantly struggling to evolve, but I find myself fighting my old destructive ways at nearly every turn. I sometimes feel so chained to my former failures that future successes seem out of reach. But that’s baloney and I know it. When I’m feeling that way, my intellect tells me to shrug it off and keep moving forward, but my reptile brain wants to curl up on the couch and let the world go by without me. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often. Mistakes and all, I’m a pretty happy girl.
Now on to my “favorite” mistake. Or maybe the quotes should go around “mistake” instead. I guess the biggest thing that I did that maybe I shouldn’t have is push for marriage to a guy who really just didn’t want to marry me. Maybe he just didn’t want to marry anyone, I’m not sure. We were together for a long time, six years, and I was ready to move on to the next phase of our lives. I was ready for marriage, honeymoon, house in the suburbs, kids, dog, the works. He was not. I had a bachelor’s and master’s degree and was moving forward in my career. He was an enlisted guy in the military, with a couple of years of college to his name, but no credits to speak of. Too much partying.
We were different in a lot of ways, but we really liked each other. We loved each other. We could do it. We should do it. We did do it. We got married and he went back to school and we bought the house in the suburbs and we had the kid (one, just one, he said) but we never did get the dog. Things were fine. Really. Fine. And then they weren’t. We weren’t communicating and he told me I was crazy, except that it turned out that I wasn’t. He moved out, three weeks later we got the dog. She’s very loyal.
Would I do it all again? That’s an impossible question. Would it be right to do it again? Probably not, knowing what I know now, but I can’t imagine my life without my son, and without his father, well, you figure it out. So yes, that chapter of my life, and it was a decades long chapter, would qualify as my favorite mistake. Parts of it were really great, and parts of it were really awful. To this day there is still fallout from the whole thing, but overall we’re grown ups and we’ve moved past our hurts. Our son is what binds us and we keep that knowledge in the forefront of our current relationship always. All in all, I’m really happy with the dog.