Monday, March 17, 2014

I Like This

Each week I read the New York Times Modern Love column essays religiously. I love them. Like if I had to choose between beaches (and I LOVE beaches) and the Modern Love column, I would be seriously torn. (And seriously confused about a world where I had to choose between them...). 

Anyway, I like this quote from Sunday's essay, A Second Embrace, With Hearts and Eyes Open:

"Neither of us sees the world in guarantees anymore. We recognize them as the comforting fictions they are. We accept that you can't always keep the promises you made when you were barely above drinking age. You can't know how you will change, or what life will throw at you ... But he and I have learned, because we have had to, the difference between the illusion of security and the liberating joy of the present, between obligation and choice. And choice, terrifying as it can be, is so much better."

I'll raise my glass to that!

(Also, I think the Modern Love column wins. Sorry, beaches.)


Several years ago, I read Elna Baker's The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance (how's that for a long title?). I laughed. I cried. But that's not the point.

In the book, Elna (I feel like we're on first-name terms even though we've never met) talks about being quite overweight.  Like many, she's tried dieting in the past but it's never stuck. So she's resigned herself to being overweight. Until one day.

While at a carnival, Elna enters a fun house with different types of mirrors that alter reality. Standing before one of those mirrors in particular takes her breath away. The reflection staring back at her is that of a thin girl who is ... beautiful. For the first time she catches a glimpse of her beauty. And she can't stop staring.

Soon after, she signs up for a weight loss program and, thanks to doctor-prescribed Phen-phen, crash dieting and extreme exercising, she drops 80 pounds in about four-and-a-half months. (And yes, she's kept it off.)

I'm not really interested in discussing the methods Elna used for her weight loss or even her weight loss at all. I'm interested in that moment when she catches a glimpse of an altered reality and sees who she could become and it completely changes her perception of herself and empowers her to change. Yes, she still had to do the hard work. Yes, it didn't happen overnight. But what made the difference between all of the times she'd tried before and this time?

We hear it all the time: just believe in yourself. Simple. But rather trite, in my opinion. Because it's ignoring the fact that sometimes believing requires first catching a glimpse of what can be before we can really internalize it and allow it to alter our perceptions. It's often those small glimpses of what might be that motivate us, finally, to begin making changes and sticking through it when it gets hard.

And it's ironic that it's a distorted mirror that helps her realize who she is; an unreal reflection that somehow reflects a reality that speaks to her. How often are we unwilling to go after the things we want because we insist on seeing through ordinary mirrors? Sometimes catching those glimpses that help us cross that difficult realm from dreaming to reality requires us to get creative; we have to let our imaginations change the curve of the mirror or bend the light in a different way.

I am currently experiencing many changes. Although most are welcome, they are still intensely anxiety-provoking at times. But in the past few months, I've had many glimpses of who I am, who I can become and how my life can be -- it's still a distorted reality, a fantasy right now. But there is something real in the fantasy. And those glimpses are giving me the ability to push through the fear and self-doubt and see doors and windows where I could only see walls before.

It's beautiful.