About a month ago, I read the book Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Melton Doyle. I’ve been reading Glennon’s blog, Momastery, for a few years now, and she’s one of my role models. She is the very definition of an open book, a woman who talks frankly about her long battles with addiction and bulimia, her utterly human reactions to parenting (you may have seen her blog post “Don’t Carpe Diem“, which went viral a few years ago), and her desire to help others.
She coined the word “brutiful,” for this brutal, beautiful life we’re all living, a life where she’s determined to be open about the struggles she’s led so that other people can do the same. Because beautiful can emerge from the brutal, like a caterpillar bursting forth and becoming a butterfly.
She speaks to crowds of women about her journey and about theirs. They cry and share and love and emerge from the cocoons they’ve huddled in for so long.
I want to do the same thing. I don’t want to be Glennon, but I do want to be Jen. The Jen who is ready to share her story. The story of a gloriously abnormal woman with a long and twisty road to recovery.
Here’s the main thing I’ve realized after a decade on the hamster wheel, running after those other “normal” people, who were all so much more perfect, so much more confident, so much more composed than I was.
Here’s what I realized after years of pretending desperately to be “normal”: there is no normal.
None of us are normal. None of us are sane. Especially the ones who seem like it on the surface.
I never hid being sick. It was obvious to anyone who looked at me. Even long pants and sweaters can’t hide a transformation like that. But after I left my last treatment center, after I had proclaimed myself “recovered” and washed my hands of that whole mess to the whole world (or what seemed like the whole world, because after all, wasn’t every eye out there on me?), I kept proclaiming that I was recovered.
I’d gained some weight and that was that. I’d gone to therapy for a while and then I was done. Recovered. Queen of the world!
Bing bang boom. Easy peasy.
That’s when the hiding started. That’s when I shoved my last remaining eating disordered thoughts into the darkest corner of my brain and tried to forget about them.
I pretended to be normal for so long that I almost convinced myself.
Okay, not really. I never really convinced myself. I knew all along that I had more work to do. It was just too hard to do it.
Life is hard.
Life makes you cry and bleed and stretch and ache and collapse.
Life also makes you feel ashamed to feel that way. To be that way.
I hid that last little bit of sickness because I wanted to finally be normal. And now that I’ve finally confronted it, brought it out into the open and pushed it away, I realize that I’m not really any more “normal” now.
I’m still not perfect. I never will be.
We’re all normal. The sick ones and the healthy ones. The neurotic ones and the sane ones (although I’m not so sure any of us are really 100% sane). The anxious ones and the depressed ones and the manic ones. The ones with postpartum depression and the ones juggling eight kids. The ones who always have a smile on their faces and the ones with resting bitch face.
We’re perfectly imperfect. Abnormally normal.
I’ve gotten a bunch of messages over the past two weeks, since I started this blog. In the comments and in private notes, all of them saying how much they relate to what I’ve been writing about.
“Are you in my head?”
“This is me.”
“Thank you for putting words to what I feel.”
These responses astounded me. Because I thought I was alone, too. Because I thought all of those people had it together.
They don’t. I don’t. No one does.
Life is brutiful and we’re all in a constant state of messed-up perfection.
I’m so glad you’re in it with me and I’m so glad you’re telling me that you’re here.
This is what I want to do. I want to talk to people about my struggles and my fears. I want to open up my heart so they can open up theirs.
A few people have told me that I’m “brave” for starting this blog. This made me pause, then think. Because I don’t necessarily feel brave.
I feel “me.”
It sounds like a silly statement, but it’s true. I’ve been hiding for the past ten years. I’ve been hiding my body and hiding my self. I feel free now. Yeah, it’s a bit weird to know that all of you people know about things I’ve been struggling with by myself for so long.
But it also feels right. Before all this, I felt like a puzzle piece that was teetering just out of place, hanging onto the edge of its rightful slot.
Then I placed my hands on the keyboard. I wrote. I poured out my heart. I was honest, completely honest. No more secrets stored in dark corners of my brain.
And the whole picture emerged.
“Hey, look. That’s who I am.”
None of us struggle alone. None of us should have to hide, whether it’s behind a body shape we’re forcing on ourselves, behind a label we feel we have to live up to, or while denying the truth that our life is a struggle sometimes.
That’s why I’m writing this blog. That’s why I want to speak out about what it’s like to live in this world. Because we’re all the same. We’re all together.
Here’s what I envision: speaking opportunities at eating disorder recovery centers, at colleges, at women’s group. Me sharing my story and you sharing yours.
People bringing their old clothes, the ones where they might not like the number on the label, the ones they probably shouldn’t be actively trying to fit into anymore, and cutting that label right out. Making art out of those labels and tags.
Writing down the labels we feel compelled to aspire to and throwing them into a fire. Or floating them off into the wind.
Discussions and honesty and sharing our humanity.
I spent decades trying to perfect. I spent another decade knowing I wasn’t but still trying to convince the world that I was.
I’m done all that.
But I’m ready to start something else.
I’m not sure how exactly to do this (if you have any suggestions, please let me know!), but I think this might be a step.