Gosh, I’ve been talking about you a lot lately. It suddenly seems a little rude to me that I haven’t actually spoken TO you about my concerns, my fears, my hard feelings or even my love and appreciation for you.
Like so many relationships, ours is complicated. Sometimes I’m proud to be seen with you. I can walk down the street or dance in a circle with you just hanging out there, all obvious. Sometimes times I feel your creative furnace burning — your escaping steam moving my hips in figure eights, your wood-fired oven baking my gingerbread brainchildren to readiness.
Other times I wish I could hide you, belly — I work hard at picking clothes that de-emphasize you — or I persuade myself that they do, only to see myself tagged in someone else’s picture of me and realize I was kidding myself. You’re impossible to hide. You’re like Sir Mix-a-Lot’s girls’ butts: “It’s just so round, it’s like, out there, I mean — gross.”
What can I do? I don’t talk to you when I’m feeling this way because it’s not like I can just tell you to leave, I’m tired of you. You are part of me. So I turn those feelings inward to my heart instead of my belly, and I myself become what’s wrong. I berate myself for being so embarrassing. But as I take all that anger and rejection into my heart, guess where it ends up going? Down into you, my belly.
Yes, I’ve certainly been feeding you a crappy emotional diet all these years. When I was young and didn’t know how to relate to other people, when I didn’t know how to live in a way that would make me happy, when I didn’t know how to process sorrow and hurt and anger and loneliness and fear — I did know that certain foods made me feel better for a little while. I didn’t realize it that those stolen and hidden binges were kind of like the pill-pocket treats I use to give my cat her medicine: Whatever sugary or greasy thing I ate was actually wrapped around a bitter chunk of feelings that I had to put somewhere. Turns out, though, I wasn’t actually getting rid of those feelings — I was just saving them for later.
So now when I look at you and I want to cry, I realize that indeed — you are the stored sadness of three and a half decades, the rage covered in batter and stuffed down tightly under a layer of comfort food; you are all the heartbreaks that my undeveloped heart couldn’t bear.
I want to release you now. I’m much stronger now. I can hold the space for these emotions now — I want to tell you, tell every cell that makes you up, tell each cell to release whatever it’s holding. Let it come out a speck at a time or in a torrent. I want it now. I can use it now. I can turn that shit into fertilizer for the garden of my spirit.
And then I look at you from another angle and suddenly all those cells look like little safe deposit boxes, each one holding a single gold coin. There’s a reason why fat is called rich. It’s like money, it’s like power: it is simply energy, no more and no less. It’s raw fuel that has no inherent positive or negative charge. Like a lump of coal can be a disappointing Christmas present or heat for a winter night, what use we make of it is everything.
Looking at you, I recognize that you are both a physical and an emotional entity, my belly. I honestly have not yet found the keys to open your trillions of tiny drawers, to let each itty-bitty ghost fly out and dissolve into the atmosphere. But I’m looking now, and I promise you I will find the keys.
We will find them together.