Sometimes we are so caught up in creating these instagram-filtered, beautiful faces to our postgraduate lives that we forget that everyone has all these things bubbling away underneath it all, instagram-filtered out. (X-Pro II, covering stuff since 2k11).
I was reminded of it when I was watching The Deathly Hallows the other day (I know, I go back to Harry Potter quite regularly). In this scene, Ron is tasked with destroying a locket that contains a piece of Lord Voldemort's soul. Ron's worn this locket round his neck for a while, and it has somehow absorbed his feelings and thoughts. When Harry opens the locket for Ron to destroy it, it speaks to him, and taunts him with the things it has found:
"...Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter...least loved now by the girl who prefers your friend...second best, eternally overshadowed..." (-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pg 306)
I mean, come on, way to find a weak spot and hit it where it hurts! But that was the point (cheers, Voldy): the locket was latching onto the thing Ron had, of not being wanted and always being overshadowed, to try to make him feel so small and worthless that he wouldn't be able to complete this massive task.
I don't even have to think for a moment about what my thing is, that comes round again and again, whether I am happy or stressed, well or ill, calm or busy: it is an utter contempt for this fleshly vehicle that carries the wit and charm that *actually* makes up who I consider myself to be. Sometimes it's worse than others, but I can't remember a time I've ever been comfortable in my skin. I can even remember being only seven or eight and realising with desperation that I had little red bumps on my upper arms that I couldn't scrub off. 'Mummy, how do I get rid of them?!?!' I wailed as I sloshed around in the bath. 'I don't think you can,' replied my Mum, 'look, I've got them too'.
Every so often, the overwhelming dislike for my shape, size and skin reaches such a magnitude that I'm left almost winded, and biting back tears out of nowhere. It's like I have no control over it, I'm suddenly burdened with such shame that I could even think it appropriate for me to be out in public, looking as I do. And for that reason (among others) I despise heatwaves because I have no choice but to have more skin on show - shamefully out on parade among all the other, acceptable, bodies. I'm pretty sure that if that locket opened for me, it would say, 'who are you, that anyone would even look at you? Do you really think that you are acceptable? Always too big, oddly proportioned, chronically disgusting skin: no-one will love you or value you when you look like that.'
The only time I feel OK about my body, pretty much, is when I've been able to do regular exercise. It makes a lot of sense, exercise makes your body look better: but it's not actually about that, somehow. It almost doesn't matter what I look like; it's the knowledge that I've done something proactive that's got my heart racing, blood pumping, and muscles working that makes me feel better. For that reason I LOVE going to the gym, and I LOVE cycling. It's like my body is good for something, it's been looked after, it must be on the way to being OK. The effort has been put in to maintaining it, so who can judge it then?
But, as I mentioned a few posts ago, this year has NOT been easy for that! I've gone from work-related stress to cold to post-viral fatigue to breast tumour to operation to post-operative convalesence to a summer of being away for weeks at a time. Do you know how much going to the gym and cycling I've been able to do in among that? Put it this way...a certain gym chain has got a lot of money out of me in the last few months for not having to provide me with any kind of service. Maybe I should set up a gym, that could solve some student debt...
I'm just starting to get back to health now, but it really does feel like I'm fighting at being fit right now, rather than fighting-fit. I go to the gym and have an awesome work-out, then actually feel like death for the next two days because my body just isn't ready for it...yet my mind needs me to be doing it...and I need to be doing SOMETHING or I'll never get back to health and fitness...and, and, and...can you see the vicious cycles being ill has wreaked on my thing?
But do you know what?
I KNOW THAT IT'S ALL LIES.
I know that while I'm not a skinny-minnie, I do not make people vomit when I walk into a room (I can attest to that. And thank God for it daily, for I am severely phobic of vomit, so this would be a hideous situation). I feel the same way whether I'm a size 10 or a size 14 (and I've been both!) But I know those thoughts, and the whispers that would come out of that locket, are entirely untrue.
As are most of the things that are our things.
Ron's thing was completely unfounded. My fighting with fitness is completely unfounded. I'm sure whatever your thing is, it's completely unfounded too. I didn't write all of that schmuck up there because I want sympathy or kind words or any of that: I want to highlight that we're all filtering out and pretending we don't have all this stuff that we're fighting with that stop us from actually enjoying our lives, enjoying who we are, and what we're doing. We cover it up, show the world our best face, and pretend like these lies don't eat away at us.
Sometimes you need to say it out loud to someone to acknowledge that it's all a pile of utter rubbish.
Think of how ridiculous it sounds. Think about those lies that you believe about yourself, for absolutely no reason, every single day. Honestly, I mean consider the billions of cells that make you, you; all genetically identical, differentiating off to make all the different bits of you, pretty much all working exactly as they should, keeping you going, blood pumping, muscles working. All of that squishy goo inside your skull that means you can read this, and think, and create, and process - let alone all the stuff you're not thinking about, like breathing, and digesting, and fighting off viruses. The fact that you are utterly genetically unique, yet every bit of you ties together perfectly is absolutely phenomenal. You're a bloody marvel.
Whatever thing you're trying to filter out, I hope you remember that.
In a work-y turn of events this week I found myself driving to Bolton and back ('argh, another day not cycling!' was my genuine thought regarding this. This was exacerbated by my getting a flat tyre later in the week. What a saga.) Driving a long distance both gave me time to mull, and to let me get reacquainted with the Radio 1 playlist again (I'm still young and cool, honest.)
This song made me laugh, and made my heart sing as I sped down the M6. (Appropriately fast, obvs).
Anyway, until next time, keep fighting those things, and don't be listening to Voldy's whispers. 'Cos every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top...'