Monday, March 18, 2013

On Pictures and Memory and Bodies

BYU graduation, with niece.
I've been looking through old pictures, trying to find something in particular for another post (which I can't find; grrr), and I keep finding these pictures that I remember feeling terrible about when they were taken, but now, looking at them years later, I wish I could step into them and tell that younger self to chill out, to relax, and furthermore, that she is lovely.

Tennyson Downs, 2003.

This happens to you, right? That you get a picture developed (remember developing pictures?!) and you don't look at the lovely place you were, or think about the people you were with, because you're focused 100% on your thighs or your hair or your eyebrows or your [insert-insecurity-here]. And when the picture resurfaces years later, you stare and stare at it, remembering feeling bad, but not being able to re-conjure why on earth you felt that way. I can't tell you how many rolls of film I've looked through, my eyes zeroing in on every complaint I have about me, as if I took the film for evidence, to confirm or deny my worth, rather than for memory's sake. My sisters and I used to say that every bad picture destroyed two weeks of self esteem. We'd flip through a stack of pictures, tallying them up, saying, "Two weeks, four weeks, six weeks." We'd estimate we might begin to recover from looking at that stack sometime in June.


Chicago

But to say that I wanted to step in these pictures and tell my younger self to relax is an understatement. Lately I'm so tired of body image issues that I wish I could shake that younger self and scream at her to stop thinking about her thighs. Because here's the thing I've realized recently: thinking about my thighs is so profoundly boring.  I wrote another post about this, and then decided to turn it into an essay, but I still want to say this. I want to shout it. The problem with obsessing over our bodies and hating them, hating them in the mirror and in pictures, thinking about them in the past and fretting over them in the present, and letting our sadness about them make us shy and frightened and live quieter than we mean to, the problem is that it's the most boring thing in the world. I mean, look at me in these pictures. I'm not saying I'm a supermodel. I am chubby and a little awkward and I have been my entire life, frankly. But I was in some of the most beautiful places in the world, in my world: the Provo River, graduating, Chicago, Tennyson Downs. And in every single one of them, I was either on a diet, or flagellating myself into trying my next one. When I looked at these pictures, I was devastated that I wasn't smaller and prettier. Now this breaks my heart.

The Lake District


And I don't want to do it anymore. I'm angry I've spent so much of my time thinking about this, about the imperfections of my body, and I don't want to spend another second thinking about them. I feel like plastering these pictures all over my house. Not in vanity, not so I can gaze at my mug all day. But so I can remember. I want to remember. I want to tell myself, you were lovely, lovely, lovely. You must still be. Not just in retrospect, not just after more years have made my fresh face seem fresher. But now, now now now, in the middle of new beautiful places, I'm already lovely.

Provo River




18 comments:

eden said...

love it dej. and i totally know the feeling. thanks for being such a good pick me up on a monday! (:

eden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Team Jensen said...

100% true on every point. I'm a recovering "focus on the negative parts of my body" person.

AM said...

Coincidentally, I was thinking a similar thing the other day while I was looking through old pictures. I remember thinking "eek, not my best shot" at the time, and now I look at at it and I'm like dang, I looked pretty good! I think a postpartum body at once complicates and clarifies the issue--you have to get used to a different, stretched out, not-the-same-as-before body, but in some ways, it's easier to be a bit kinder to myself. Maybe this has something to do with being okay with showering every other day and often foregoing make-up? Maybe realizing that a body is more about happy use, activity, and life-giving than just beauty and appearance? Or maybe I'm just grateful that all my hair didn't fall out right after Jack and the parts that did are actually growing back... things could be much worse! :)

Anyway, wonderful, spot-on post. You are as lovely as ever.

Deja said...

Glad it picked you up, Eddie!

And Lisa, recovering is a good road.

AM, I do think having a baby totally helped. Pregnancy itself is such a dramatic shift, and knowing it was supposed to be shifting somehow made me feel lovely and powerful (most of the time ...), rather than critical. And yes, the body becomes such a USEFUL thing, that it makes less sense to hate on it. My little efforts, my daily scattered ablutions seem like plenty, most of the time, and that's a relief after caring (probably) too much for most of my life. Love to you.

Jennie Larsen said...

Well said as always!!! Thanks Deja!!!

belann said...

So true, my Deja, you were and are lovely. Good reminder for all of us.

Elise said...

Love you. And it strikes me as funny that in some of those lovely places that I got to be with you in--I was having the same issues. I was growing a giant tummy (or that's what I thought) and somehow starving all the time too. And I liked that I got to be with you in some of those beautiful places. That was fun. Wow. I used to live in a beautiful place once.

And you are beautiful. The end.

Janae @ Bring-Joy said...

Just want to say, lovely. Bravo, to all you said.

Deja said...

Thanks Elise and Janae. And gosh, the more I hear of who struggles with this, the more I think none of us are spared. You're both lovely, for the record.

Sheri said...

"She began to measure herself in contentment and laughter rather than in inches and pounds." Anonymous. I love your blog. You often put words to my feelings...thank you.

Deja said...

Thanks, Sheri! I love that quote, and I think it's a worthy endeavor. So glad you commented.

Annie said...

This is so true. AM is right--pregnancy made it easier and harder to like my body. I'm working on letting go of negativity, because when I was walking around Salzburg all I could think about was how my belly was popping out over my pants. That is the definition of idiotic! Letting go of body worries has also WAY improved my intimacy with my husband. Like, WAY. Too much info? ;)

Deja said...

Not too much info, Annie! I'm sure many of us can attest it makes a HUGE difference in that area.

mamaunabridged.com said...

Beautiful, and so encouraging. And I agree with others that pregnancy and giving birth -- especially giving birth! -- have changed the dynamics for me as well. There's this shift toward the amazing things one's body can do, rather than just a body's ornamental value. And if only we could visit our former self, make her a cup of tea, and just say: it's okay, it will be okay. Just soak up who you are, where you are, right now. (Wish a future self would come tell me that right now!!!)

Elizabeth Hegwood said...

Oh my gosh, yes. I remember hating the way I looked in all my pictures. Even scrutinizing my wedding pictures! And I still get upset if someone posts a picture of me online that I've never seen. I realize it's silly, but the grip of whatever it is (layers of things, probably) is something fierce. This post helps me see how much more serious I've got to be about inner peace if I ever expect to have any.

Amara said...

Yes you are and yes you were! Gosh it's a struggle to stay sane in this society. I go from 0-60 and back to zero in a span of seconds.

Amara said...

Yes you are and yes you were! Gosh it's a struggle to stay sane in this society. I go from 0-60 and back to zero in a span of seconds.