Something you, Dear Reader, must understand about the articles you’ve read thus far is that they were written over a 2-and-a-half-year time frame. These are the stories and essays I’ve written along my journey. They are not what is happening to me right now, in real time. So in the interests of catching up, we pause now for another commercial break in the past to present fairly real-time experiences. The episodes you will read from now on will be in real time.
Today is January 1, 2002. It’s also the second anniversary of my weight loss journey. I weigh 240 pounds, which is 140 pounds fewer than how many I had two years ago today. I had planned that on December 31, I was going to write a list of the things I am grateful for, and on January 1, I was going to write a letter to my old hurts and burn it. And then, I had planned that the final step to this ritual of leaving my old hurts behind, and marking the occasion of my catharsis, was to get a tattoo. A string of Chinese characters up my spine that say, “Warrior,” “Poet,” and “Goddess.” I only wrote one letter. I burned nothing.
This is because, you see, the list of things I should be grateful for is also the letter to my old hurts. Somehow, and I’m not sure how because, this is not my nature, the two merged and became one. My old hurts are gone not because I vented and burned my words, but because in writing my gratitude list, I was able to extract value from the old hurts, and to apply them to my future.
I learned the lessons. I “fixed” my sour notes by accepting what they had to teach me. On the surface, I’m a different woman than I was two years ago when I began this journey. I feel as though I have cast off the shackles of the surface, the urgent need for the unimportant things that society values – money, looks, professions, possessions. I paid lip service to striving for the things I value, without realizing that I had already internalized them.
One of the very few things I had to hold onto through this hellish autumn of despair and darkness (besides my absolute conviction of a Divine Father who loves me) was my own character, those core values of honor and courage I hold dear to my heart – values I wanted, but didn’t know I already had.
These values, the important things – honor, courage, generosity – have come into sharp focus for me now. I am a different woman than I was two years ago only because much of the sludge that covered me up has been washed through, sifted, and panned away, leaving only the useful and valuable things behind.
This is not to say that I have become what I envision. Oh, no. The woman I envision will take a lifetime to achieve, but now I know about the tools I always had. And the vision has sharpened to a fine point so that I can be more precise in sculpting my spirit.
I am not trying to sculpt my life. My life will do what it will, and I need only be concerned with keeping a roof over my head and food in my belly. I am sculpting my character and my honor and my dignity and . . . my body – for why should I have a substandard package in which to house a soul I cherish?
I did not burn my letter. I fired my soul and permanently marked my back. And, like the phoenix rises from the ashes of its own destruction, so do I feel as if I have risen to a higher plane. My feathers are brighter and thicker, my eyes clearer, my head is held higher.
My soul will feel the licks of fire again and again throughout my life, and I will burn. My only prayer is that in the future, I will learn the lesson when it is offered and not carry it around like some useless bit of junk that should have gone to Goodwill years before.
To paraphrase John Denver: I was born in the winter of my 34th year.