It's been a while.
This has happened before, where I've been quiet for a while—for far longer than I'd like or intended. This time, though, I haven't been quiet so much as I've just been biting my tongue.
It's been almost six months since I sat down to write for me. Oh, I've been writing, just not for myself. I've written for school—I'm now a senior pursuing a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I've written for work—I'm now a full-fledged, employed paralegal for a prestigious state agency. I've written various speeches for speaking engagements around the state—I have three more months to go as GOAL winner.
All of those have kept me very, very busy and feeling very rewarded. I work myself into a tizzy sometimes from the stress. I am striving to be the best possible student and employee and ambassador and mother and partner. It's naturally a lot of pressure, and absolutely no one is harder on me than I am on myself.
I tend to work at a frenetic pace that is exhausting. I am exacting and demanding of myself, sometimes pushing myself to a breaking point. One tiny slip-up, one slight mistake, and it feels like everything comes crashing down around me. For the last few months, Rango has found me more than once in a sobbing, fetal pile in the middle of the bed.
I've often thought out loud that I needed to take the time to come and write. Almost every day, I draft some blog post in my head but never quite get around to getting it onto the screen. There's always something to get in the way—school, work, errands, chores, kids, life.
In reality, it is me that has been getting in my own way.
With so much happening, with so very many demands on my time and energy, I've let some things slide. I finally had to recognize that the house won't be as clean as I would like. Sometimes popcorn and apples make a perfectly acceptable dinner.
There has also been less time to work out. There's been less energy to devote to working out. In taking care of the boys and the house and our world, there's been less effort to take care of me.
With that has come weight.
By no means have I regained all of the lost weight, but it has been slowly creeping up. Queen Frostine has told me for months that I needed to cut myself some slack.
"Look at everything you have going on," she admonished. "Don't be so hard on yourself."
"You're beautiful," Rango tells me every day. "You're not fat."
Before the divorce, before I went back to college and work, I had time to devote to it. I could walk for an hour or two every day before I hit the gym. I could carefully plan and prep meals for a week at a time. And I knew damn well that the weight wouldn't stay gone just because I wished it; I knew I would have to work at it for the rest of my life.
But I didn't, did I?
Tonight, I was trying on ill-fitting clothes, lamenting my spreading thighs. Rango found me crying in the bedroom, again. He told me, again, that I'm beautiful and not fat. He reminded me that I am so much more than my physicality.
In my head, I know he's right. In my head, I know that my worth—whether to other people or to myself—should not come from the size of my ass. But it is hard to make my heart believe that when I'm struggling with clothes that are ill-fitting because I haven't been doing what I should.
And there is shame. There is self-loathing and self-recrimination. Not so much because I'm not a size 8 but because I let this happen, again. Because I built so much of my story and my identity around the self-transformation that came about because of and during the weight loss, and now it feels hypocritical to let that have ever been a part of my story.
Looking for hangers in the closet, I saw a dress hanging and thought, "That's from when I was pretty."
And it doesn't seem fair that I have to choose between being pretty and being smart. It doesn't seem right that anyone, including myself, would put such pressure on me to be a great student and be a great paralegal and be a great ambassador and be a great mom and be a (sometimes) great partner and be as physically perfect as I can muster, given my inherent limitations.
I get it. No one but me is putting that pressure on me.
But that is how I validate my own existence. I strive to exceed expectations, even when it means exceeding every possible and anticipated expectation before I have any clue what they are. Because if I am not perfect, then I am a failure.
Yes, of course, I know how utterly ridiculous this self-imposed craziness is. In so many ways, I am my own albatross.
And so, I have avoided writing for months, sidestepping my fears and evading myself.
But there is catharsis in writing for me. This is the space in which I am most likely to be truly, sometimes brutally, honest with myself. This is how I have worked my head out when my life has felt like it was unraveling. This is where I have found the stones to lay my own path.
So I'm writing again. I'm crying again. But I'm writing.
This is not a passive-aggressive request for encouragement. This is not my wanting someone else to tell me how special I am.
This is Stephanie edging her way back to where she needs to be. This is me finding my voice again, because it is mine and it is valuable.
So I will try to do better, to be more consistent and to be more open, to make the time to take care of myself in the ways that are healthiest and most vital for me.
I've never been fearless. I've been headstrong and dogged but absolutely never fearless in my determination. But they are my fears, and I am determined to face them again.
It's time to reclaim my muchness.