In my formative years, my teachers would assign essays, poetry, book reports and when I was really lucky, short stories. This was all in an effort to master our grammar, explore our imagination, enhance our vocabulary and provide reading material our teacher could enjoy while
sipping tea sitting on the toilet. (Just a guess)
In the 6th grade, upon being assigned to write an autobiography, I thought, this is my chance. I'm gonna do it right this time. I started brainstorming ideas and picturing the perfect writing environment, which consisted of sitting in my quiet room, writing furiously and with ease. The ideas pouring out of me like a wild Capri Sun when you forget to put your mouth on it. Life would be a movie montage of me writing, thinking, my Mother coming in and begging me to come to the table and eat with the family. Then I'd be done. I'd dot my I's, curl my As and cross my Ts, take a deep breath and sleep the deepest sleep. I'd wake up bright and early and proudly place this carefully constructed masterpiece in my teacher's hand. She'd read it that afternoon. Her eyes would light up and she'd race down to the office and demand the whole faculty read my story. The next day, she'd insist I read it aloud to the class and upon the roar of applause, Hailey, Emily, Kelli, Cassidy, Lindsey, and Jessica, the popular girls, would ask me to be in their group for every single upcoming project. And Dylan, Shawn, Stephen, Jimmy and David would vie for my attention, each of them "asking me out" and I'd have to make the impossible decision of whom I'd name my boyfriend. Oh, yea and I'd be thin! And pretty! My long hair would cascade down my back and my skin would be sun-kissed. My parents would be so proud of me. This would be my autobiography. This would be my life.
Here's how it really was; I got the assignment and walked home to my empty house. I opened the fridge only to find sliced turkey, cottage cheese and mustard. I ate it all. I even munched on raw pasta. I was anxious and I was very hungry. I watched Lifetime for a few hours until I felt the rumble of the garage door beneath my feet. Mom's home. I scurried around the house, tidying things up in a panic and sprinted to my room, pulled out said assignment and pretend to write. I heard the sticky, peeling paint on the front door crunch as my Mom walked in. Tension mounted as I heard her footsteps in the kitchen. The refrigerator opens and I hear, "ERICA!!!!" I knew I shouldn't have eaten all the food.
I stayed up all night, writing this stupid assignment. The next day in school, I shamefully walked to the basket to turn in half a page of nothingness and shoved it under the pile of neatly printed autobiographies, hoping, praying it would get lost forever. A couple days later, everyone got their papers back, with big red A's on the front and lots of positive exclamation points. Mine housed a big red D and a note to my Mom would be stapled to it; Erica is a good writer, but lacks focus, imagination and detail. She is lackadaisical and is failing in Language Arts. Please make sure she gets all her assignments done and writes to the best of her ability.
How the eff was I supposed to find details in a life that seemed so sad to me? Where are these fabulous details my teacher expected?
My teacher was right; I did lack detail. I did lack imagination. But she also left out some very important words of wisdom on that stupid note with a picture of a smiling apple on it. She should have told me that the details exist in the reality of things, not the fantasy. She should have told me the more I acknowledge the truth and steer clear of what might 'sound good', the freer I am to use my imagination and the more accessible the details become.
In my fantasy of being the most active, spirited, talented and noticed writer, I lost the reality of how incredibly lonely I often felt. In the fantasy of having a boyfriend and popular friends, I lost the reality of never feeling worthy. And in the fantasy of my Mother calling me to eat at the table filled with homemade food, I lost the reality that my Mother couldn't trust herself, or me, with a lot of food in the house. The more I imagined things looking perfect, ironically my writing suffered. I suffered.
When I got older and became a binge-eating chronic dieter, my life existed almost always in fantasy and convincing myself, this is my chance. I'm gonna do it right this time. How with every new diet, every new pill, powder, potion and restriction regimen, I could picture myself turning down "bad" foods with ease, be able to see my abs, run miles and miles without stopping, be able to feel my hip bones, actually see my triceps and back muscles. I decided that forcing my body look a certain way was going to outweigh the reality that my body didn't want to or couldn't do what I begged it to do. I still don't know why I don't have a flat stomach or why I can't run miles and miles without stopping, no matter how much cardio I do. I still don't know why I can't see my triceps no matter how clean I eat. Perhaps the reality is, it's none of my business nor is it my responsibility to know the answer to these questions.
If I keep looking for ways to be thin or pretty or noticed, then my body is merely just a paper looking to be graded and I lose the reality that my body is a wildly complex, interesting, literally life-saving vessel that laughs when something is funny and unabashedly bawls when something is sad. It gives really great, squishy hugs and lets me tell people I love them. My body is an excellent driver that magically knows exactly when to honk at someone. My body helps me remember my Dad, the sound of his voice, the way he smelled and how he snorted when he laughed, just like me. My body looks my Mom in her eyes and forgives her for not being the mother I thought I should have had and thanks her for the woman she is to me, today. My body can really do anything and is a constant source of comfort. Most importantly, my body is understanding and patient in the moments when I forget everything I've just said about it. That's what I love the most about my body.
Did I miss any details?