Long walks have always been one of my greatest pleasures in life. Growing up, I used to roam around town for hours, for miles — always alone, and normally without a dime, not that there was much of anywhere to spend money. I loved walking every street, making up stories about alternative lives I could be living in that house, or near those fields.
There really wasn’t any place in Derry where I didn’t like to walk, but some favorites were: the lake; the cemetery; the railroad tracks; the path under the bridge that connected my street with “downtown” (in Colorado we’d call it “old town,” which would be much more accurate, but we called it Downtown Derry when I lived there); any alley; a blind curve near my house called Ash Street (I think) that led to some cool sheep farms.
I also did not hesitate to “off road” it. I was deeply in love with a semi-cleared swath of land that followed the power lines up a hill. Large belly notwithstanding, I had no qualms about climbing chain link fences if they stood between me and where I wanted to go. Once, thinking I could surely get to the tracks by cutting through a fenced-off tract that seemed to contain only some overgrown frog ponds, I ended up climbing straight down into a steep ravine, through a bunch of thorn bushes, and up the other side — very scraped up but extremely self-satisfied.
When there was nothing else to do, I walked. And most of the time there was nothing else to do.
I don’t mean that my town or my life were boring. I almost never felt truly bored. I’m someone who is easily entertained by a book or a notepad or a leaf floating down a stream. I mean that I didn’t know what to do with, how to handle, my inner life.
In those days I wore out many a mix tape in my Walkman. At one point, when I was in college, I realized that I often couldn’t stand to be alone with my own thoughts. I mean I could think — but without some buffer, I was in danger of plummeting down a very dark hole. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what thoughts I had that were so intolerable in the years before I got real help for depression. All I can recall are the feelings of hopelessness and despair, the conviction that I had already (as a teenager/twentysomething) failed at life, the belief that I didn’t really deserve to live or to be happy or to be loved. I did not honestly think I had what it takes to create a satisfying life. These fears rose up all around me, submerged my spirit, and led me to take reckless chances with my existence.
Luckily, and thanks to the protection of some hard core guardian angels, I survived that period of life. And although it took a while for me to trust that I really could spend time in silence with myself, as I got older and my life became more and more filled with activity, I’ve come to crave those chances to mull things over, to integrate my experiences, and to cleanse my cells with fresh air.
Back on the streets of Derry, I feared my shadow — not because I thought it was someone or something else’s, but because I was terrified of being so wide. I hated seeing my broad body with what looked to me like a disproportionately tiny head silhouetted on the ground (especially if there were other, skinnier shadows nearby). Like everyone at that age, I wanted to look cool. But whatever “cool” meant in my mind (basically some blend of urban and hippie style), I knew I could never be that with this body. The conflict between what I wanted to look like (on some level, the image I had of what my “true self” should look like) and what I believed I DID look like (a warped perspective, as should be clear, from depression and a bunch of damn lies provided by my environment) made it hard for me to be okay with existing. The disconnect was too vast to process. Mentally, my self image could do nothing but collapse into panic. It was truly unbearable.
Well, and how am I now? All cured? I’ve gradually given up more and more of my arsenal of self-destructive habits as I have started to feel more and more like I deserve to live and thrive. Now I’m down to the nitty-gritty: the deeply ingrained beliefs about my body as failure. But recovery has momentum, and the more I heal, the more committed I am to healing. I’ve become downright fierce in my drive to uproot the habits of self-hate. Insecurity, sure, we all feel that from time to time, and it’s ok: like weather, all moods pass. What I’m talking about is the inner campaign of self-sabotage.
So, ok, that was a long story, but the gist is this: pictures like these are hard for me to look at, and I NEED to look at them. Adolescent me wanted to lean against cool paintings found on garage walls — but didn’t want to have this body, and in the gap between “want” and “is”, nearly broke down.
Adult me is learning to accept that what is, is all it needs to be. I mean I am MAKING myself learn this, like a class I don’t want to take because I secretly think it’s too hard and I’ll never pass — but I need it to graduate.
I guess I’m about tired of holding myself down.
I guess I’m ready to take the freaking class already and get it over with.
I’m ready for a larger life.
I’m ready to be and own and embrace what I am: large in body.
Large in heart.
Large in vision.
Spacious. Full. Abundant. Powerful. Big.
And — in my own way, according to my own values — finally, cool as shit.