Take a deep breath. Place both feet on the ground. You are here. And you are not your darkness or your fears. You have never been what consumes you late at night, although I’m not sure you realize that. Fear likes to wrap its arms around you so tightly and for so long that you can’t remember what is reality. But fear has never been who you are.
At first it is hard to spot the difference. It’s hard to feel the difference. Even when you are being the authentic you. You’ve been taking orders for far too long that obedience to anxiety has started to feel like freedom. As long as you smile, you aren’t a slave to the fear.
What if I told you there is more? It is important to recognize progress. But just as important as that is reminding yourself that this is not as good as it gets. This is not “all there is.”
To be completely honest, that scares me. Sometimes I feel like I am stuck in a rut. I feel like I have come to a plateau with progress and instead of embracing the lull as a time to pause and recharge, I mark it on a map in my head as the best I’ll ever get.
Maybe that’s why I never like when people say, “It is something you’ll battle for the rest of your life.” Professionals tell me coping skills and Dialectical Behavior Therapy is what I need. It will manage my anxiety. It will keep me afloat. And I won’t drown in fear and sadness.
I don’t know about you, but being taught how not to drown rather than how to swim has never sparked hope in me. Maybe I need a reality check. Maybe I need to practice acceptance. Maybe I need a more of a realistic type of hope.
Or maybe I’ll be living proof that beyond management is a life of redemption.
I’d be lying if I said I have completely overcome it all. But if I would have stopped fighting for more when I was told this was my life and it always would be, I wouldn’t be writing this now.
The moment we accept that we will only ever tread water is the same moment we cease to dream about being able to swim across the lake.
I’ve always loved an underdog story.
It’s no secret that I’ve been an underdog for most of my life. Always the easy target. The one who apologizes when it isn’t their fault. The doormat. Everyone knew they could count on me to do their work for them, but that is all they expected from me.
I may be an underdog. But this is my story. Which means, the way it started doesn’t have to be the way it ends.
I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet. There is no algorithm to get me from point A to point B. And my path will look different from the paths of others. But I will not live in management any longer. I believe management has been a necessary step full of value. But as long as there is air in my lungs and a beat in my heart, I will continue to step. Or should I say doggy-paddle?
I love to swim.
Much like I love to live.
So I will put on my bikini. I will show off the stretch marks on the inside of my thighs. Stretch marks that appeared because my beautiful body was able to grow. And it was only able to grow because I decided that nourishment was not optional if I wanted to live. I used to hate those marks. They’re still not my favorite beauty mark, but they are most certainly marks of beauty and strength. And I will not let societal beauty standards warp their meaning.
As I walk to the edge of the water to get in, I am aware of the way my body curves. The way my swimsuit actually fits rather than falls off. For a moment, my brain remembers a time when I was skin and bones because I was engaged in an ongoing type of slow suicide. As the water hits my toes I look down and smile. I see my pudgy little feet. The ones that in junior high people made fun of. I smile because these little feet have taken me so many beautiful places and allowed me to do so many beautiful things. And come on, those chubby little toes are adorable.
The world regained color when I decided that the perfect body is the one that allows me to live.
My muscles give me strength to swim. My fat gives me the buoyancy to float. And letting those two coexist alongside my bones allows my soul to come out of the dark hole it was hiding in.
The world has color. The sun has warmth.
And I have hope.
Because come on, who doesn’t love an underdog?