Three in the morning and my eyes screech open, my heart, tired of being accused of not existing, does its best Charlie Watts in my chest.
No, it’s not one of the usual predawn car alarms or impromptu dog fights, it is —joy of immeasurable joys— an anxiety dream.
They’ve been coming around with less-than-endearing frequency recently.
That’s no big surprise.
I’m about to move out of the current Villa Plumcake, which is entirely too big, plus it’s being held together by nothing but duct tape and prayer, into a sweet little cottage in a new village a hundred miles away.
Moving is stressful so naturally daytime stress equals nighttime book reports in my underwear.
Except they’re not book reports in my underwear: they’re vivid replays and variations of my mother’s name-calling and overall cruelty about my size when I was a child.
It’s weird because I’ve been at peace, or so I thought, with Mommie Dearest for a decade.
I harbor her no ill will, I understand why she is the way she is and even though the phrase “all the warmth and parenting skills of a particularly unself-aware komodo dragon with the worst taste in men this side of Eva Braun” MIGHT be bandied about with what some people COULD describe as pinpoint accuracy, I’ve got no beef –not even a lean four ounce portion, “about the size of a deck of cards”– with the old lady.
So what’s with the nightmares?
I don’t know.
I have them, then I spend the next few minutes in a flush of relief because that’s not my life anymore, the blood stops banging hot in my ears and I’m fine. I go back to sleep to dream about talking to Wayne Rooney about how we’re going to comfort Cesc Fabregas now that his lifetime hero Pep Guardiola has relinquished the reins at Barcelona. You know, like a normal person.
I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this other than to remind my readers –many of whom suffered more than I did– that even when you’ve moved past your childhood, even though you’ve done the inner work and shelled out squadrillion dollars for a therapist and you can look at yourself naked in that hateful dressing room fluorescent lighting and still love what you see, still believe you are worthy of love, sometimes you can stumble or heck, your dreams can stumble for you, and –to steal a phrase from Stuart Smalley— that’s okay.
It’s so easy, I’m especially guilty of it, to gloss over the pure trauma sometimes involved with being a big young person in a world that equates big with bad.
Maybe that’s because in my travel across the fatosphere I’ve run into a lot of mawkish pity parties written by women in the permanent victim mode, those unfortunate souls unable or unwilling do the work required to move on from their teenage angst and so every human interaction is an affirmation of their deeply engrained flawed belief that they are not worthy of love, that everyone hates them or looks down on them because they’re fat and that their mother/father/seventh-grade boyfriend was right all along.
I have empathy for those girls, but at the same time I secretly want to shake them and say “Maybe you don’t have friends because you’re a total downer. No one likes a sadsack, regardless of the size of said sack. Get thee to a therapist and work that sh*t out. Then let’s have gin and tonics.”
Still, it’s okay to have a mini relapse, a relapsette, if you will.
It’s okay to revisit and remember those dark times and the people who led you there.
Just don’t get stuck.
Your childhood, no matter how magical or traumatic, is over.
One of the great luxuries of being an adult is the ability to reframe our own past.
We can’t change it –Lord knows I wish I could, I totally would’ve gone back and cut that snotty Ruth Wallach-Eisenberg’s stupid crimped hair when I had the chance since I got punished for it anyway– but we can change how we look at it, how we let it inform who we are as adults, even if we stumble.
After all, you’re good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn-it, people like you.