When I was a teenager, my mom and I used to go hiking in a large county park. The trail I liked best had a pretty well hidden head, at the very end of the camping area, tucked back in the corner. It lead down for a long time, then through some very thick under brush. When you finally came out of the curtain of green, you found yourself on the top of a bare hill, looking out at the calm lake, patches of forest, tall waving grasses, and dozens of trail branches leading off into the trees and down around the water's edge. The thought of all those possibilities was so thrilling to me. I would want to stay all day long, exploring every possibility, finding out where each branch would lead me.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation in life, only in an intellectual way? You start down one path of study, some new thought that interests you, and before you know it, you've traveled down a dozen different branches and are nowhere near where you began.
Well, that's what I've been doing for the last month or so. I started innocently enough by going to the library to pick up some gardening books, to help me figure out how best to grow my apples organically. I went up the stairs to go to the garden section, which I've been to dozens of times before, but somehow managed to walk right past it. I ended up going to the dieting section, and saw right away the book Women Afraid To Eat. I was kind of intrigued, so I picked it up, then turned around and picked up some backyard orchard books that I'd come for.
As I've said in previous posts, Women Afraid To Eat really opened my eyes to the whole weight issue, and how obesity and overweight aren't really that bad for your health, and that fat prejudice is really strong in this country. I then immediately bought Body Of Truth, a new book about the science of obesity and the health issues around it. I felt so shocked that I had been pushed by society to hate my own body because of the way it looked and the way I was built. I was also shocked to see that I had real problems with eating. I wanted to keep reading and learning more, and I wanted to heal myself. I stopped watching what I ate so much, and really tried to listen to my body. I also tried to ignore the voice in my head screaming at me that I was going to gain weight by eating more!
I started reading all of the old Kimkins controversy again, delving deep into the sad stories of women starving themselves for the promise of a beautiful body. How sad, I thought, reading their blogs. I saw in them images of myself and the thoughts that have crossed my own mind from time to time. Twisted as it is, as I read these terrible tales of starvation, I even started to envy them and their big weight losses, despite all the stories of losing hair and menstrual cycles.
I became fascinated with how this related to anorexia, and I remembered that I wanted to read Portia de Rossi's autobiography, Unbearable Lightness. I knew that was at the library, because I looked it up once, but then never went to check it out. So Chad and I went one night so I could get it, and while I was there I also picked up the book Fat?So!, which is about how it's ok to be comfortable in your own body, even if it's fat. Well, as I was walking back to the stairs to go downstairs, Chad hands me this book called Women Without Children and said, "I dunno, I just thought it looked interesting,". Since we're infertile and decided not to pursue treatment, I decided it might be a good book to read.
I started with Portia's book. It was impossible to put down. I was so amazed at what that poor woman went through, trying to be good enough, to live up to her public image. It made me horrified that I was envious of the people who had done Kimkins. I'd never wish that kind of life on anyone ever, let alone poor confused women trying to find some self esteem. Although I truly liked Portia's book, I don't feel like I really got much personally from it, other than a strengthened conviction never to abuse my body just to meet society's impossible standards.
Next, I read Fat?So!, which was absolutely hilarious and wonderful. It's dated, being written in 1998, but I still love it and I'm even contemplating getting my own version sometime. I decided I need more body positive information in my life, and went out looking for it. That's when I encountered all the hate people have for fat people, and wrote that really sad post. Fortunately for me, I did find some great body positive sites and resources out there, and when I'm more focused, I plan on posting some links.
Reading all that body positive stuff, and seeing pictures of beautiful big women, made me start looking at myself differently. I realized that, you know what, I really am beautiful! It's just that normally, I'm focusing on my flaws, my thighs that seem too big, my big belly, my wrinkles, my lumps and sags. When I stop looking at my parts and look at me as a whole, I see something that I have never seen before, not really. I see... a curvy beauty with smooth ivory skin and rosy red cheeks, a wonderful smile and a lovely figure. At first I was really shocked by that. I was pretty convinced that I was ugly by this point. Then I started getting kind of mad about it. Why have I felt so ugly and unworthy all these years? Why aren't I allowed to feel beautiful in my own skin? So back to the library I went!
I had intended to get The Beauty Myth, a feminist book about society's ideal beauty and the way it's keeping women from really reaching their potentials. However, the library didn't have it, so I decided to check out some other feminist books while I was there. I got a classic, The Feminine Mystique, and a book called Never Too thin.
I started reading Women Without Children and The Feminine Mystique at the same time. Both are very good. I have to admit that The Feminine Mystique is a really heavy book. It took a lot of effort to read that one, because it's meant for someone perhaps a little more educated than I am, but at the same time, it was too interesting to put down. I realize that America isn't the same way it was in 1960, and women don't feel the need to stay home and be housewives, but I think some of the thinking still applies to women today. I especially could relate to the housewives of 1960, because I dropped out of high school, never went to college, and married young. I feel like maybe I did some of those things because I, just like the young women fifty years ago, am afraid to really grow up and make hard decisions for myself. (I'm not sorry I got married, of course. I think that was a life saver for me. Chad's a great guy.) The book really got me to thinking about the life dreams that I'd put aside to pursue my image of perfect housewife.
At the same time, Women Without Children really got me to thinking about my life without kids. Many stories of women who, for whatever reason, didn't have kids and were happy with their lives made me wonder if I could have that too. It talked about how infertile women ended up happier if they had something in their lives to make it fulfilling. It also made me think about my reasons for wanting to have children, and then showed me that my expectations about kids weren't really reasonable. It helped me to dig deep, past the hurt, to see the truth that was hiding behind the infertility. The truth is, I never really wanted kids. I hated kids growing up, and knew when I got married that I was never going to have them. But at a certain age, I started to think about my life as I started to age. I love having close family, and I want to continue to have close family once our parents are gone. I thought I could get that with kids. That's not a good reason to have children, though, because you can't know for sure what the kids are going to be like or what their wants and needs are going to be. Maybe they'll want to live across the world and I'll never see them. Maybe they'll be sick and I'll have to take care of them until I die. I don't need my own kids to have family. I have younger family that I could get close to, and I could make new friends to be my extended family.
Then I started to think more about those life dreams that I'd set aside, and how if I had kids, I probably would never pick them up again. I care too much about those dreams to let that happen to them, even though I've been ignoring them for several years now. So Chad and I had a long talk about life, kids, dreams, and what our future holds. I found out his reasoning for wanting kids was because he always thought he would someday, and also, he wanted to be a better parent than my sister (who is a very bad mom), which he admitted were bad reasons for wanting to be a parent. He also agreed that I need to start working on picking up the dusty old dreams and breathing life into them again.
Later that week, I ordered some female condoms to try. I realize that we're infertile, but we've decided we really truly don't want children. Leaving the door open like that will only cause heartache in one way or another. I'll either start to feel my loss of not being a parent again, or I'll get really comfortable with being childfree and find myself pregnant. I refuse to use hormonal birth control, Chad refuses to go back to male condoms, and both of us refuse to alter our bodies permanently. So we're going to do a combination of fertility charting (something I'm pretty good at by now) and female condoms.
When we knew for sure I wasn't pregnant, Chad took the money we'd been saving for a baby and spent it on a new computer for me. He also bought a new Wacom tablet, Corel Painter and Paint Shop Pro. My dusty old dreams, laid aside so thoughtlessly, are to be an artist. I am an artist, a really good artist, but for some reason, it seemed like I couldn't be an artist and a housewife at the same time. An artist is messy, and a housewife is neat. An artist is chaotic and unpredictable, and a housewife has dinner on the table when you get home. And a mom, in my mind, couldn't really be an artist. Art is free and unbound, but kids hold you down on earth. That's not to say that there aren't great mom artists out there, just that I personally could never do them both. And I want to be an artist. It's my deepest calling, and I'm ashamed that I've been ignoring it's pull for so long.
The trail that I find myself on now is bright and beautiful. I'm not entirely sure how I got here, but I have a feeling that the hand of God has been guiding me. I'm so grateful that I found everything I needed to find my way, and that my husband has been so supportive. I don't know what lies ahead, just that I'm ready to meet it.