It’s uncomfortable, sticking that picture of myself in this post.
But there’s a reason.
The other night Chris decided that he would take our camera, which we never use (hello, smartphones) to work. He needed to use it to take pictures of new employees at the hospital for their security badges. As he checked and cleared the SD cards, he came across this random photo.
The image of this woman upsets me. She hasn’t yet started to feel crappy all the time. She hasn’t yet been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Her skin is smoother. Her smile brighter. Her eyebrows need some work. She hasn’t yet succumbed to anxiety so bad it sends her into a pit of depression and despair.
There is so much ahead of her.
I study myself in the mirror today. I see the perpetual dark circles under my eyes. I see the roundness in my face. Skin forever itchy and marked. My hand absently strokes the lumpy, bumpy swathe of abdomen, wrecked forever by surgery and scar tissue. Stupid liver. Stupid chronic fatigue.
I wish I looked like the woman in that picture. (I wish I could fit into her size 8 jeans).
It’s sad and strange.
No amount of caloric restriction will flatten my belly. No amount of make-up can fully cover the dark circles. Nor can sleep, even double-digit hours at a time. No matter how hard I try, I can’t will myself into more energy. I can’t stop the aching in my joints. I can’t predict the days when I’ll spend my time throwing up.
I long for a time machine.
To go back and be that woman again.
The longing has stayed with me for a week now, ever since I first saw that picture. Some part of my brain, the part that has bought into the lies that thinness and a frantic pace equal happiness, keeps trying to work out the equation for time-travel. Or at least a miracle drug to make my sad liver happy again. (No, organic kale is not the fix. Sorry). I keep straying back to, “If I could look like that again…” “If I could do it over…” “It would be better if…”
Another part of my brain, the part that has learned to listen for the arresting voice of the Holy Spirit, knows better.
Most of the time, I don’t actually care that I’m a size 12. (There, you know). I have a better relationship with food now. I never exercised back then. These days I get out and take walks and have even done a little weight lifting here at home recently. I can’t change the fact that my health problems have caused me to gain weight. I see and hear women who are obsessed with being “skinny” (though they often couch it in terms of “being healthy”). All they talk about is food – what they do eat, what they don’t eat, how they eat it. They feel superior to heavier women and then judge themselves if the scale moves up an ounce. They make me roll my eyes because it’s not worth it. There’s no point in attaching a sense of value or self to the numbers on a scale or the number on a label in a item of clothing.
I’d rather have a lumpy, blobby stomach than a tumor. That big ol’ scar is a badge of honor. A mark of battle..
I don’t want to go back to straightening my hair every day. It takes too much time and it never, ever lasts longer than an hour. I’d rather sleep.
Same goes for eye make-up. I used to wear it all the time. Now…who cares if I do or don’t put on mascara? Big whoop. I have other things to focus on.
I was going through a rough patch, friendship-wise, back then. Now, at 31 (in a week), I’m learning that friends come and go. Closeness waxes and wanes. Things change. People change. It can be painful, but ultimately it’s okay.
This woman held a lot of resentment toward her husband. Chris and I don’t have a perfect or easy marriage today, but it’s far, far better than it was.
I remain neurotic, but back then I was far less comfortable with myself. Back in that day, which was probably a Tuesday, I was usually far too afraid to share my opinions. I let people manipulate and steamroll me. This blog was a whole lot blander. Though I try to be wise in what I say and how I say it, I’m now much freer in sharing what I think. I’m also better at spotting the manipulating and the steamrolling.
In 2009 I barely had an inkling of what it meant to be close to the Lord. Hardship has brought me near to Him. It has pushed me to climb up into His lap, onto His shoulders. I thirst for His word. I ache to know Him more. My ear is tuned to the sound of His heartbeat. I want to love Him more, obey Him closely, sit and bask in His glory. This, I would not trade for anything.
In a surprising plot twist, I realize that the woman from 2009 longed to be the woman I am today.
Isn’t that odd? So often we look back on the past with the proverbial rose-colored glasses. Or we look off into the future. We forget to appreciate now. Today.
Perhaps, like me, you also entertain the “what if?” kind of thoughts. Perhaps you have longed to “go back.” Or judged yourself today because you aren’t as thin, as young, as busy, as influential, as wealthy, as whatever as you were then. Perhaps you shut your eyes tight and hope to plow through and into a brighter tomorrow, ignoring these 24 hours. Dear one, you are missing the blessing of right now. You are missing the good things that God is doing. You are blind to the joy and the peace and the love and the happiness that shower you as His beloved child, even in the middle of horrendous storms.
Step away from the then and back off from tomorrow. Don’t miss this moment.
This beautiful, wonderful moment.
I’m abandoning my work in the time-travel field. I’ll stay the “plus sized,” Medusa-haired, tired-eyed person I am. It’s better.
Because God is good. He loved me as I was – and loved me too much to let me stay there.