I actually believed it.

I’ve been working away as hard as I can, my folks. I work part time, I go to school full time, I also do my clinical internship in an emergency department. And that’s been such a whirlwind adventure for me that 3 days a week I survive on coffee and fruit flavored water and a granola bar. It’s a wild time, but it’s also the first time I’ve actually felt steady.

Which kinda brings us to this super cool thing that happened.

I was working on a patient case and they’d made a comment about someone they know being able to wear a corset and look like a pin-up model. They then looked at me and said something along the lines of “not to make you jealous, life isn’t fair sometimes”. And I immediately responded with “hey, no judgments here”.

And from the outside, it might have looked like I brushed it off, that I wasn’t going to let it bother me and that I was otherwise not going near that subject of conversation.

I’m a big person. My tummy is a fluffy thing that I grew myself. And from the outside looking in, I take up space. It’s not like I’m unaware of this.

But as I drove in to school this morning (and it’s an hour drive-I have a long time to think), I processed what it was that I’d been feeling in that moment. I replayed it in my mind a few times, thought about how I was feeling this morning and realized that I wasn’t offended. I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t any shame or guilt based emotion.

I was relieved.

I’ve spent the better part of 20 years trying to convince myself that I don’t have to look like a movie star to be valid. That skinny and pretty (by society’s standards) are not the price I pay to exist. And for so long, it was going through the motions. Saying things I didn’t believe, laughing things off and then immediately running home to work out or skip dinner or eat nothing but salad for the next three days.

And this time?

This time is different. I’m healthy. I sure do eat salads. And I drink less than a soda a month. I drink over half a gallon of water every day. I’m more active now than I’ve ever been. And I’m still a big person.

But the thing that changed, was me. For the first time in my whole life, I love who I am. I’m not ashamed that I take up more space than other people-because that is not the ruler to measure my self-worth. I am kind, I am hard-working. I am sincere. I love coffee. Those are the things that make me up-not other people’s perceptions.

I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t think I’d ever reach this part. I always assumed that I would lose a bunch of weight and then spend the rest of life keeping it off-like some disease I had to constantly worry about.

But being fat (there, I said it) isn’t the worst life I could lead. I love who I am, as I am. Right now. No qualifiers, no conditions. I’m doing an awesome job, just being me.

And for the very first time, I actually believe that.

A Little Perspective

This week has been hell, folks.

I’m talking the worst, most stressful week of my life. Every day was a new shit show, with another round of “What in the world is going on?”

But in times of great stress and trials, I’ve discovered my corrective nature.

Each day I woke up wondering what other shoe would drop, each night I went to bed defeated.

Until.

I woke up and made fresh coffee, some espresso with creamer and instead of drinking the whole thing down, I poured some into the cup I use for ancestor offerings. I begged for safety and happiness and success.

The next day, I did the same with drip-pot coffee, black. Then hot tea.

I remembered what Brene Brown said in her Netflix special: If you’re in the arena, you’re going to get your ass kicked.

I thought about all the things I learned as an MSW student. All the things I learned about how to deal with crises. About life. And I started putting those to use. Breathing techniques, meditations, anxiety work. I worked the program, my friends. I learned to trust and accept and validate my emotions, without letting them beat me down. I let myself cry, and worked through it. I gave myself room to be.

I went to supervision and reframed my situation. How lucky am I that I have options to stress over. To have the knowledge about what to do. To only experience one week of crisis-as opposed to one lifetime.

And I stopped waiting for the shoes to fall. I stopped expecting the world to crumble around me.

Instead, I gave myself permission to be human. I asked for help, I apologized for slacking in a spiritual way. I hoped for better things. I focused on finding the balance between the negative and positive, the dark and the light. And while I tried to allow myself to thrive, I found I wasn’t as preoccupied with the stressful terrors that plagued my days.

Slowly-and we’re talking snail pace-I reframed my experience to create a more objective picture. I let my reactions be reactions-not reality. I let go. I learned how to exist in the stress, to fight in the arena.

And yes, I got my ass kicked. But sometimes the lesson you need to learn has to come when you have been stripped of all your reservations.

I can’t neglect parts of myself just because I think I know better. Putting coffee out for the ancestors and the spirits in the good times is great, but brushing them off in the bad times is arrogant. Make space and time for your spirituality, your mental well-being. Make space for your emotions. Make space for yourself. You deserve to live your life. And that life may be hard at times. But you can make it through. You have to step back and believe. Then get back in the arena and keep fighting.