Today’s blog is about perception/perspective- whatever you want to call it.
Here is a photo of me from my days as a dancer. I took dance classes very seriously as a child. Dance classes and singing in church were my gateway drugs into theatre. I would probably still be a dancer had the sole company in Corcoran not left town when I was in middle school. But they did, so I started begrudgingly playing sports instead. I sort of blame my half-assed rhythm on the fact I never had the opportunity to fully hone my skills as a ballerina. While we’re at it, let’s blame my body on that, too. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
Back to the photo. This image of me was taken during my first delve into the dance world; I was one of the bunnies in our town’s production of Sleeping Beauty. I loved my teacher and classmates, I loved the music and the pretty clothing. I loved everything about dance class, except for the fact that our bunny costumes had tails, smack dab on our fannies.
For whatever reason, I found this very uncivilized. I suppose I don’t need to mention that I was a sensitive child, but the horror of a cotton ball poof attached to my bum was literally the worst thing that had ever happened to me up until that point in my life. I was horrified. Somewhere in the world, a video exists of me dancing with my other bunny cohorts. The few times we are required to shake our bunny booties to the audience, you see the other dancers obliging, “And shake, two, three, four…” while I flash my back side towards the audience with a speed my physique has never been capable of before or since, then grimace as I count out the remaining beats of the music shaking my bum towards the back of the stage. You see, it didn’t matter if the bunnies in the row behind me saw my horrific tail. They were worse than me; bunny tails AND second row placement? Ugh. Losers.
I remember the day the photo was taken. I, always having the sensibility of someone much older than myself, was mortified to learn there were a pair of junior high boys in the room. Whether these boys were babysitting their younger sisters or related to the photographer I can’t remember. But because they were older (and therefore cooler- a correlation I’ve only recently come to understand does not always equate), I would not, could not, dare not show my damn tail. It was bad enough I was wearing bunny ears. Like a child! And pink, for christsakes. I spent the entire time trying to make sure that, at any given point, my cotton-tailed butt was facing away from the hip young men. I mean, I was in second grade! What sort of mature, classy, sophisticated second grader dresses up like an animal, replete with a tail? How barbaric! I could feel a panic attack coming on (I had no idea what one was then, but I’m nearly certain I had one. Or it’s possible I may be exaggerating a little here for storytelling purposes). In any case, I do remember asking if I could just postpone the picture. “My tummy hurts,” I whined, half telling the truth by that point. But I was informed this was the only day to take the picture, ever, in the history of the world and since I was the sort of kid who tried not to ever disappoint anyone, I stepped out under the lights and tried my best to dictate how the photos were shot. I’ve never before or since been so loose behind a camera. My reasoning was, “I will do anything as long as I do not have to show this tail to those boys.” So I posed and contorted my little body in a million possible ways that made me look like a bunny, but did not show that stupid tail. I put my hands out like little paws in front of me. See? I’m posing like a bunny. I jumped and hopped in the air. Just like a cartoon bunny! I sat on the floor and brought my knees up to my chin. Exactly like a real bunny!
It didn’t work, though. The photographer, my mother, my aunt, and my cousin who had just finished taking her shots (the little traitor), all encouraged me to do the same humiliating pose as the rest of my classmates. I tried, unsuccessfully, to protest.
“But everyone is doing it this way,” reasoned the photographer.
“And your little rump is so damn cute!” gushed my aunt.
“Other people are waiting, Haley,” added my mom, with a tone implying it was her final warning.
My face flushed. “FML,” I thought to myself (or would have, had I known what that meant at that age). I let the photographer take the gdamned picture and then raced to the nearest bathroom to remove my “accessories”.
I HATED the resulting photo for years to come. If you look closely, you can actually see the worry and discomfort in my eyes, the crimson of my embarrassed cheeks, the strain in my tight, forced smile.
Of course, I look back now and think, “I am the cutest fucking thing since an actual baby bunny.” Especially knowing the story behind it.
This past weekend, I joined some of my friends (31 adults, 2 children in strollers and 3 dogs, to be precise) in a 5K for pancreatic cancer research. Our group was the 2nd highest fund-raising team out of the whole race, following only behind the founder’s team. I got to spend an entire day with some of my favorite people and relish in another visit with Jarvis. At this point, every one is sacred because we don’t know how much longer we will have with him.
Upon coming home, I saw some of the pictures taken from the event and immediately my old cantankerous voices came forward to remind me how the whole day was a joke because I am so very very ugly and very very fat. They even got some new zingers in, courtesy of my new haircut. I mourned for a while- not only that these stupid, antagonizing murmurs still exist within me, but that I was giving them the freedom to take away such a special, perfect day.
And then, when I got home from trip, I randomly saw this bunny picture and remembered the parable hidden within it. I thought of my voices, “Oh, just shut the hell up.”
Part of this journey is coming to accept the fact that nothing is gonna change by me snapping my fingers or climbing up a hill and then descending into a easy, even, moderately paced solving of my issues. This has been, and always will be, more like a roller coaster ride. I had a bad moment this weekend; I’ve had a few bad moments lately. But they are at much less frequent intervals than before. And I am able to come of out of them so much quicker than I could do a year ago- to a much higher and better state of ‘neutral’. For that, I am thankful.
I said something in my last therapy appointment about feeling like I am really “in recovery” now. Then, completely involuntarily, I began weeping. “What’s going on?” my therapist asked.
It was the realization that I fully do see myself “in recovery” at this point. I am no longer in the throws of an eating disorder and body dysmorphia and self-hatred and all those other things. I am truly at a place where I believe I am in recovery from it. There are moments that remind me not to get too cocky, but I do see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is brighter and closer than I ever dreamed possible. All this, from only taking half a year to face it, head on. Imagine what all of us could do if we faced all our demons head on?
So you see, my dear friends? Perspective. Perception. If you don’t like the way you’re seein’ something, change your point of view. There are no facts, only interpretations.