In an image obsessed, filter-obscured and airbrushed world that prizes the ‘perfect’ form, the self-esteem of many is invested in its myth; deposits are made in the self-esteem bank with every unflattering snap of a celeb’s bingo wings, while withdrawals accompany the comparison to toned torsos that most of us will never attain or reclaim.
I’m carrying some extra poundage myself but at 42 and with various competing priorities in my life I’m not losing too much sleep about it. Indeed, I’m accepting of the fact that the closest I’ll ever get to the distant glory days of being an eight and a half stone runner is in my dreams.
But there’s another weight that I’m carrying, and its weight that I’m determined – and working very hard – to lose. This weight that I carry isn’t visible, or at least not in the sense of a physical weight. But maybe it’s been more visible on my face than I’ve imagined it to be, and maybe the sense of its presence has been felt more keenly by others than I have realised.
As is so often the case the weight has accrued steadily over the years, the consequence of poor nourishment. And just as too many poor food choices will eventually result in burdening the joints with more weight than they can comfortably carry, so too can a steady diet of unhealthy thoughts and beliefs come to burden the mind, the heart and the soul with a weight that becomes wearisome to carry.
Sometimes we find ourselves looking in the mirror and wondering who it is that is looking back.
It has been said that our relationships are mirrors to our souls, reflecting both our brightest lights and our darkest shadows. Thus, our partners can be amongst our greatest teachers and can afford us the opportunity to discover new truths about ourselves. But even with the very best of teachers we are only able to benefit from their wisdom if we are open to receiving it.
When our relationships end and the mirror is removed we are left only with ourselves. These periods offer the opportunity to explore the truths that the relationship revealed to us, to gain a deeper understanding of who we are both within and outside of our relationships, and to incorporate this knowledge into our future decision making.
As such these challenging times can be the making or the re-making of us; times that we can look back on with gratitude for the deeply buried gold that they enabled us to mine.
There’s a problem though: it’s hard. Like, really fucking hard.
It can be far easier to search for a short-term fix than to focus on the long-term and to patiently and diligently work through the pain, sitting with it and allowing it to re-shape and strengthen us. It can be far easier to fall for the quick fix, to try to shed the weight of our loss quickly and present an apparently healthier version of oneself to the world, only to find months later that we are trapped in a cycle of yo-yoing having failed to do the emotional detox that was needed.
When we face a significant loss in life we need to fully grieve it to fully move on from it, to assimilate its lessons and make peace with it. They say that time is a great healer but time alone is not enough. By failing to fully allow ourselves to process and acknowledge our grief, by running from the pain that it brings, we merely push it beneath the surface to hibernate until our next loss makes an unwelcome visit and draws it out from its hiding place. And don’t be surprised if it has grown during its hibernation. Unresolved grief can be a very heavy and stubborn weight to shift.
A failure to grieve isn’t necessarily a wilful avoidance, sometimes we just don’t know how to. Of course, nobody wants to hurt and it is natural to seek respite from what ails us. For these reasons counselling can be very beneficial in helping us to understand exactly what it is that we are grieving and to reveal the deeper truths that our reactions to our losses point towards. It helps us to learn how to grieve, to recognise and understand grief’s stages and realise that what we are feeling is normal and will dissipate with time, work and self-care (no matter how much of a mess we might feel at times!).
I’ve done my best to process and move through the challenges of the last few years following the breakdown of my marriage and writing has played a big part in that. However, recent events have made me see that I risk becoming stuck, burdened with a weight that I no longer wish to carry. With the help of a wonderful counsellor I am working through this and shedding the weight so that I can truly feel light and carefree. To be honest, it’s a long time since I have felt that way for any prolonged period.
But I know that I can feel that way, and that I owe it to myself and my children to be that way. So I’m letting go of my excess baggage and placing no expectations on life. Instead I’m focusing on becoming the best version of me and on making the most of the amazing future opportunities that are sure to come as a result.