The Woman from 2009

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Gentle Reader,

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.

From 2009.

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.

I’m better.

Because God is good. He loved me as I was – and loved me too much to let me stay there.

My journey to faith. (15)

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10 thoughts on “The Woman from 2009

  1. This post almost moved me to tears (out of a desire to avoid a headache, I forced myself not to cry). This is so beautifully written, and encapsulates many of the thoughts I’ve had recently, especially in terms of my illnesses. Wishing I didn’t have IBS, wishing I didn’t have depression (that probably resulted from two years of misery). Wishing I didn’t have a sleep disorder (THAT one has been a wish for over a decade). Wishing I didn’t have tired eyes (always had them). Wishing I didn’t have a “baby tummy” (though I adore my girls, even if they’re little stinkers sometimes) that can’t fit into most clothing (because apparently people must have tiny waists even after having kids). Wishing I hadn’t gained 50 lbs with my eldest (though the IBS made me lose about thirty, then the anti-depressants made me gain about 12 lbs back, give or take). As odd as it sounds, wishing my bust wasn’t so large (hurts my neck and shoulders and it’s hard to find a bra that fits properly). Wishing I had the energy to do what all I long to do.

    As you put it so eloquently, I either look back, or I look forward. I have a tough time being “in the moment”. The curse of a planner I guess 😉 But through this all, God has been good. My poor husband is worn out from his role as caregiver, both to myself when I feel ill and my girls (who are growing and cranky as I’ll get out lately) as well as doing school and working 2.5 hours of overtime every week, but he has still stepped up as best he can when I can’t, and I’m SO grateful for God giving me the wonderful man I married. I know without a doubt that a lesser man would have given up and succumbed to the stress by now!

    So rather than focus on the past, or the future (in hopes that someday the IBS will go away, as it does for some), I am going to focus on what I’m thankful for now:

    1. A Godly man who has stepped up as best he can, and even if it bothers him, tries to help in any way he can to make my life easier with my illness, and refuses to give up even if he feels like the world is crashing down on him.

    2. As cranky as they’ve been lately, my girls who still find ways to show me that they love me- from my eldest trying to help with chores or banning me to my bed after passing out at the store and scaring her half to death as an ambulance carted me to the ER with heat exhaustion and bringing me what I need, to both girls coloring me beautiful pictures that say I love you, to cuddling with me and serenading me with an “I love you” song, or praying whenever they hear a siren for those who need help because they love God and are compassionate little girls.

    3. For our needs being met, even if our wants aren’t always present.

    4. For a doctor who not only understands my plight (she has Celiac’s herself), but is willing to go to bat for me, even arguing with an imaging center and admitting if she doesn’t know something and researching it for me so she can help as best she can.

    5. For God providing enough that I can stay home with my kids, rather than trying to slough through a job with my illness.

    6. For cars that run, have air conditioning and a heater that works, and are owned outright, even if a bumper and windshield has cracks in it and a door handle on one side broke off (and the interior is encased in crumbs and sticky stuff that I’d rather not guess the source). And that we have a decent house big enough for my family in a safe neighborhood.

    7. That my illnesses aren’t life threatening, even if they are life altering.

    8. That we are able to bless others with things we no longer need, and are blessed by others’ generosity in return and have many things we need ourselves but could never afford on our own.

    9. That we have Godly, extended family and friends willing to step in and help, to lend an ear if needed, to watch our kiddos for free so we could go on a rare date (or to the ER, or appointments, etc) even if it ends up being a last minute emergency, and to understand if I need to rant my frustrations.

    10. And last but best, a God who understands, walks beside me every day, holds me up when I’m down, cries with me when I am in pain, laughs with me when I am filled with joy, gives me strength when I have none, and accepts me and loves me despite all the crap I’ve done and how undeserving I am of His grace.

    I am truly blessed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You really said this well, Marie. I can relate.

    I have what is perhaps an advantage; I’m Asian, and I believe that a kind of fatalism is genetic. Yesterday’s rice has been eaten, and tomorrows has yet to arrive. It is the choices one makes in the Now that are important. I have done my best with the information I had; the best has not always ensued, but that was not my doing.

    Also, to wish away the bad things in my life now would also nullify and reject the good. If I had not gotten sick, Labby the Labrador (ok, having so many dogs, one runs out of creative names) would not have been on the road when my wife was passing by…because she would have been working somewhere else, under a different schedule. Is my pain worth his life? Yes.

    And my wife would not have the job she has today, as a valued member of a company that does aftermarket insurance for car dealerships. She brought both skill and insight when they needed it, and it allowed her to grow in ways of which she dared not dream.

    Is that worth the prospect of an early death? Yes.

    We are all linked as in a chain across the abyss, the chain that leads from the door to hell to the gates of Heaven…the link we are is needed as it is and where it is, to pull the lower part of the chain up…and to provide a place for those who are coming to believe to grasp hold.

    I’m sorry that you had to suffer, Marie. But you have a beauty now that will never fade.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. whoa…didn’t see that coming…’The woman from 2009 longed to be the woman that I am today’ Whoa. that totally changes things.
    I understand the looking back and the what if…and I’m empowered by your reflection to look back and see those days for what they really were good and bad. its been a slow lesson for me to learn that though there have been moments that I have loved, no matter how much I attempt to return to them you can’t ever recreate that moment again in its entirety…people change, places change, your manner of viewing life changes.
    I am so thankful for the you I know today. Love you friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marie,
    You are a wise woman! I throughly agree that we look back through rose-colored glasses. Your having become the woman you wished to be in 2009 is evidence of all the wonderful growth you must have experienced in the midst of trial. I have also wished myself back only to realize that the loss of spiritual and emotional growth would be too great a loss. I suspect that those who walk with God and reflect upon their experiences while trying to grow will become better all the time. My theory, based upon some seriously wonderful seniors, is that no matter what our physical health, we will be at our absolute best the day before we meet the Lord in person. People keep telling me about how hard it is growing older. I think they must be missing the point. It is clearly hard work growing wiser and better. Great books, art, furniture and even wine are supposed to improve with age. I think people are made with the same attributes. Here’s to growing better!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marie, I hadn’t realized that you are as young as you are, because you are so wise and articulate! God has clearly used all that you have been through to mold you into someone stronger and deeper, a vessel better able to hold his presence. He is blessing you for allowing him to shape you, for working with him in your journey through life. May he continue to give you strength and empower you through his Holy Spirit.

    Like

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