In April, I wrote about my body.
After I wrote this post, my father called me.
“You sound sad,” he said. In my family there is a tendency of waving things away, a tendency of saying everything is fine.
“I am,” I said. In fact, I had been saying it for months. I didn’t have money. I didn’t have friends. My things were in boxes in my boyfriend’s basement.
What I had was my boyfriend, our little zoo of a family, two master’s degrees, and a job that gave me feedback like, “You take things too personally.”
I also had forty pounds extra pounds that I had put on, slowly at first and then all at once after a stressful semester of teaching a class of mostly boys at seven o’clock at night (I do not recommend) and six months at a job where the only the feedback I received was consistently negative and persistently personal.
I don’t like before and after pictures. As I’ve recommitted myself to taking care of my body, I see them all the time. On the Instagram feeds I follow and tucked into the bottom corners of the Weight Watchers emails I receive weekly. I don’t like before and after pictures because they always seem to say, whether directly or indirectly, “Look at how worthy of hate I was then. And look at how worthy of love I am now. And look at how all of that changed when I changed what I put in my mouth, when I changed how much I moved my body.”
I don’t like before and after pictures because they are a lie.
I am eating differently. Yes. I am twenty minutes from the nearest Taco Bell at any given time and that definitely. I am moving more? True. But all of this is because of the other things that happened first.
Like moving to a quiet neighborhood where the only sound I hear on most days is my cat unsticking his mouth in a yawn and as chorus of barking dogs as they’re let out for the first time at five o’clock. Like finding a job where I am writing—writing!—for a living, where I don’t go a single day without feeling awe that I am getting paid to work with wonderful people and do this thing that I love. Like going to therapy again. Like working hard to heal the relationships in my life that have been laced with resentment and anger, and like looking very at the role that I played in that. Like writing every day. Like making my daily writing ritual, an act of love, not panic or fear or obligation.
Before and after pictures make people believe that change can come from doing one thing differently, as if changing what you put in your mouth or not put in your mouth can change your life. But real change takes time. It takes effort. It takes self-awareness and determination, and not to not eat cake or walk 10,000 steps every day, but to let yourself love what you love.
*The title of this post is a line from "Wild Geese," a poem by Mary Oliver