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Mirror, Mirror

September 18, 2010

I always knew I was vain. I was always thin and believed it was just my natural build. I was still aware of what I ate. I ate small portions most of the time. I held back most of the time and splurged when it mattered. I always had an enormous sweet tooth, with creamy milk chocolate my favorite. Sometimes I just had to have lots of it. I balanced that urge though, by not using sweets and chocolate as a hefty dessert, but as the meal itself. If I wanted lots of miniature Reese’s, I had a bag for dinner, not after dinner.

I also was very active. I had periods in my life when I worked out ferociously and other times when I didn’t work out at all. I was always busy, however. I walked fast. I was always in a hurry. I didn’t do anything slowly. I was even a speed reader and could easily read a good novel in a day. I typically had four or five non fiction books going at a time and read during commercials while watching TV. I’m very short and maybe I always had to walk a bit faster to keep up, my stride always shorter than others. I remember having to run when holding my mother’s hand as she walked down sidewalks. I grew up but kept running.

I suppose most of us judge ourselves harshly and are seldom happy with our appearance. Whether or not my own vanity was above average, I have no idea. I do know that I was always aware of how I looked, always wanted to look better. It always mattered. I was always thin. It still matters and I am not so thin now.

My weight is a constant obsession with me. I look longingly at clothing, wishing I could again wear certain styles. I judge my own appearance more harshly than ever. I am shocked every time I see my reflection or a picture of myself post bypass. I’ve gained over twenty pounds and grown several sizes. Nothing, not one article of clothing from before now fits. I realize however, that this vanity is not just about my appearance. It is also about my physical ability. No longer can I run, or jump, or dance. I cannot sit cross-legged on the floor or lift myself easily onto a tall stool. I cannot climb mountains or hills or more than a few steps.

I’ve heard that if you do a split every day your entire life, you’ll always be able to do a split. Yes, I’ve joked that I could never do a split. I could do so many other things though and it seems that indeed, skipping a day or two allows the ability to do those things to slip away. It is not just the stamina that is gone, but flexibility and balance. It is not just strength and endurance, but grace and confidence that has vanished. All these things were part of my vanity. They were all apart of the reflection in my mirror that I trusted to always be there. They were all part of my identity I took for granted and put far more of my self-worth into than was probably healthy.

I’m not asking for a solution or a fix. I am just aware of how vain I have always been and how much of my own identity I attributed to different aspects of my physical being. My level of activity I considered part of who I was as a person. If that is true, then I am an entirely different person now. I still feel a bit foreign to myself, even as I feel more at ease and at peace. Perhaps we are never at peace with who we try to create ourselves to be. I believe I am more at peace than I’ve ever been. Happier, too. I still long to see that thin and active me in the mirror again. After all this, I’m still vain, very vain.

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