Several months ago, while surfing the ‘Flix, I came across a documentary of adults reading their childhood journals in front of a crowd. Mortified Nation was recordings of moments of live shows that go on around the country in which people get up and bare their humiliating young selves with the world and it is, in a word, BRILLIANT. Soon I found out that there was a tv series prior to the documentary that features celebrities going through the shoe boxes of notes and pictures of their past. I hadn’t thought about it very much over the last few months, but last night I got the opportunity to take a quick road trip with a dear friend and it came up in conversation. In telling her about it, I remembered how much I loved it and we looked to see if there is a podcast. People, THERE IS A PODCAST! Currently there are only 4 episodes, but the last was posted 4 days ago, so more are coming.
We listened to all 4 episodes and paused after each one to talk about what each story brought up for us. First kisses, first lovers, cat fights with friends, wondering if it’s possible to shave your legs without needing stitches (yes,) and if boys will ever make sense (no.) Why are parents such buzzkills? Why exactly is it important to put the laundry away when you are just going to get it back out tomorrow? My friend and I laughed until we lost our breath and then got quiet thinking about our own journals and youth and mortifying moments. We both have teenage sons, a couple of them the same age as some of the presenters were when they wrote their entries. Do our sons have these same kinds of thoughts and worries and experiences? Probably. It’s probably that everyone has had similar experiences. And that is the lesson: in telling our stories that we are sure makes us total freaks, we realize e we might be freaks, but we are all freaks! People see themselves in other people’s stories and suddenly we’re not alone.
I have heard that people read their stories in my words. I get emails and FB messages from readers I have never met who tell me bits of their stories and thank me for sharing mine. It helps me so much to hear their stories, too. We’re in this together, good bad and ugly, and there are always stories to tell. Regardless of how old we are, they can still be mortifying and must be shared. I mentioned in an earlier post that I am no longer teaching in a yoga studio, but I didn’t say why. I’m not going to get into detail here because I find it very personal and private, but it’s time I take the stage and talk about it.
About a year ago, I started feeling ill. I mean, REALLY ill. Body pain, problems with digestive tract, fatigue, weakness. At first, I wasn’t terribly concerned because I chalked it up to complications from a progressive condition I’ve had since I was 20. As time rolled on and the conditions worsened, I knew that something else was going on, something was wrong. Sure enough, I was right. I’m not going to discuss what is going on because I’m private. Besides, that’s not what this story is about anyway.
This issue has caused many changes in my life. I am unable to teach on a regular basis. I am on a laundry list of medications. I have chronic pain. I am in an embroiled battle over adequate health care. Because of what is going on inside my body and some of the medications I take to treat what is going on, my body doesn’t metabolize things normally, I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time. It’s not my fault that I have gained the weight (especially since keeping food down is often a challenge,) but as someone who has body dysmorphic disorder and has struggled with eating disorders off and on my entire life, the weight gain freaks me out so much more than what is actually going on with my organs. I know how petty that sounds. I know how vain and shallow that sounds. I know and I wish I could change it, but it’s the truth and it’s how my brain works by default, so I have to actively take steps to remind myself that it is faulty thinking. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not so much, but recently I have come to terms with it. I don’t like the situation, but it isn’t forever and I didn’t cause it so there is no point in feeling guilt or shame about it.
Once I got to that point, things got really interesting. I started watching people as I interacted with them. It’s quite obvious that I have gained weight, but NOBODY mentions it. NO ONE. I catch them sneaking a quick glance at my body and then racing to meet my eyes. If they know that I’m dealing with a couple of health issues, they’ll keep saying, “You look SO GOOD” and other variations of that theme. I am not uncomfortable about it – well, that’s not true. I should say that I have learned to ignore my discomfort – but my friends and even my family are in utter agony trying to dodge the issue.
We are all mortified.
I want to say, “It’s OKAY! You can ask me about it,” but the few times I have actually done that, the person I am talking to tries like hell to pretend that they don’t know what I’m talking about (as they nervously shred their paper napkins to bits,) It’s not like I’ve ballooned to dangerous proportions (depending on the piece of clothing, I’m up one or two sizes,) but as a very short formerly very active yoga teacher, even one size is incredibly noticeable. I had started to think that this society is in some sick morphed game of “Hide and NEVER go seek” until I had the most extraordinary experience. I visited a friend I haven’t seen in almost a year. My friend and I are close and able to talk about everything with each other, even things that are challenging. That said, it’s not always easy and I had extreme anxiety about what response I would be met with. After the initial Hellos, good to see yous, let me take your coat period was over, out of the blue I felt a hand on my belly and heard, “Did you gain some weight?” Just like that. Within the first 30 minutes. Without shame or guilt or judgement, just BOOM. And in that moment I felt free because no one was mortified. I said that yes, I had gained weight and explained why and I was met with a huge hug and, “It doesn’t bother me at all, I just noticed and thought I’d say something. Have you heard this new album?” It was never mentioned again, but that short interaction made a difference.
I think one of the greatest human needs is being seen and heard. We desperately need to be acknowledged and be ANYTHING but invisible, even if we often wish we could disappear. To hear some form of Yes, I see you. You exist. You are here. You are seen. You are heard. Interestingly enough, I had found the right combination of foods and activities and medications and the correct times to administer all of those things for my body to work properly a couple of weeks before the visit and was already losing the weight. I was feeling better than I had in a long time, but I still had (and have) a long road ahead of me. I can dig it because I’ve faced the mortification and was greeted with acceptance and love. It made me really think about how I interact with others and vow to let people know that I see them and I hear them and I’m right there with them.
But I’m not letting anyone read my adolescent journals.