“I’m wasting away,” I murmured some years ago, grieving as I did the loss of … something I couldn’t then name.
Luckily for me, the loved one who heard my lament about too-rapid weight loss understood.
“Don’t worry, Deb,” he assured me.
“You’re substantial. No matter your physical size, you’ll always be substantial.”
A couple of months ago, I became clear that I needed to change my diet again. My sustained health requires it.
I hated the thought of it. Just hated it. I don’t mind the food itself at all; rather, even the thought of losing so much weight again made me feel exposed.
As I considered my resistance, I had an “aha!” moment:
For reasons captured in Nadine Burke Harris’s book The Deepest Well,
I have long used weight as a form of armor.
Understanding weight as a form of armor, I was able to see other things I’ve been using as armor. Two pieces in particular stood out as ones especially long essential to me.
One such piece, I saw, I’d already begun the slow process of dismantling. Another, I’d chipped at with a few tiny but mostly inconsequential dents.
About a week ago, I tried to address one thing then troubling me. I felt an amazing but bemusing sense of freedom afterward, which sense had nothing whatsoever to do with the “one troubling thing” I thought I’d identified.
It took a couple of hours for my LOLwhat moment to strike:
What I’d actually managed to do was completely set down that third “essential” piece of armor.
When I’ve read Brené Brown’s words on the costs of armor, I’ve kinda gotten what she was saying. Armor keeps everything out, not just the unwanted stuff.
And yet: When I imagined life with little to no armor, it felt unbearable. I envisioned it as relentless, unprotected exposure to the cacophony of The Outside.
I was thus initially surprised to find the exact opposite:
Having dropped the armor, I’d found … quiet.
What?! How could that be?
Writing out a gratitude list a couple days later, I got it. All that noise that I’d mistaken as fundamentally me wasn’t me at all.
Rather, it was what I described in-list as the “armor’s constant clamor,” which clamor “I ceased to notice until it was gone.”
On an inspiration board I put together some months back, I included a quote that made perfect sense to me at the time.
Reduce the noise, find the signal. Check.
Now: In light of all I’ve since learned, I see this quote and chuckle, a hearty “LOLwhat?!” just on the tip of my tongue.
For me, getting (unarmored and) quiet has been–in a lifetime filled with some truly terrible work–the hardest work I’ve ever done. I have chafed at its every step as absolutely as I’ve understood the work as necessary.
For me, in this moment where I continue to feel so unrecognizably free I suspect I might float away, no matter the dimensions of my substance, I find:
What lies ahead is not “the hard work,”
but the adventure.