Given my appearance, I've found myself using my cubicle as a shield at work - a cover up for the body sitting, no slumping, just behind the wall. And given the sedentary nature of my job, it's been easy to keep my expanding state of being contained to a smaller group.
However, on Friday, my barricade was brought down as my team collided with others in the close quarters of a conference room for our first department meeting of the year. Six hours; no walls; here I am, world.
The meeting was focused on diversity in the workplace - an excellent session that hit on some of the tougher issues inside and outside of the office. It got the whole group out of their comfort zone and into a place that produced some incredible bonds.
About midway through the meeting, all forty or so of us were called upon to answer five questions and read our reflections aloud to the group. They were:
- What is the name on your birth certificate?
- What comes first in your life?
- Name a defining moment in your life.
- What is your guiding principle?
- When was the first time you recognized that you were different; or that others were different from you?
The baton was passed to me and it was my turn. I felt like a had a million different answers for each of these questions, and a million different ways I could go in my storytelling. But since I was talking and most likely emoting for two, I played it safe. I hesitantly stood up, pulling at my dress and subtly hiking up my tights.
My faith and my family come first. (Check.)
Defining moment. That would be what I'm going through now. (I looked down at my stomach. They got it. Check.)
My guiding principal. Well, my grandma and Mom used to always tell me that an idle hand is the devil's workshop. And I've taken that to heart. (Check.)
I answered the last question with a cop-out story about a second grade sleepover when I told Mrs. Magyar that I wasn't allowed to watch Dirty Dancing with the rest of the group - my parents wouldn't want me to. So I excused myself from the television room and went upstairs to play alone. I realized then that I was a dork. Probably always would be. And wasn't afraid to be that way. (Lame. But check.)
As we were leaving Piece last night, Caylan wanted to take a photo of the girls.
Please. Come on.
I jumped in on the end closest to the camera - worst position to be in. Snap. Review. Oh my GOD!
I think Caylan thought it was one for the blog. She had commented that I hadn't posted a picture of myself in months. No one had seen the baby bump.
Yeah, there's a reason for that. Don't put that picture on Facebook!
You should post it.
On the way home, I started thinking about the words I shared on Friday, and the place where I was too nervous to go.
There wasn't just one moment when I realized I was different; there were many.
There was the time I went to try on First Communion dresses and my Mom told the saleslady that I had a little tummy.
The time when I noticed that all the other girls in my class didn't have Xs on their size 6 uniforms.
The time that I realized that not all little girls could fit two Big Macs in their stomachs. And honestly still have room for more.
There were the photos - from birthday parties, class trips, dance recitals, and softball games where I always looked like the biggest person in the group.
There were the Dr. Levin appointments; the longer talks with my Mom or Dad about doing a little more exercise and eating a little less dessert. (Seriously, do you know how my Grandma bakes?)
And perhaps the final straw. In sixth grade, I heard the boys snickering and whispering a chant to each other, 'boom ba ba boom, ba ba boom' as I walked down the stairs of the auditorium to my clarinet lesson. I pretended that I didn't hear. But I had. And it hurt. So much.
For the record, I was never obese. I was chubby. But in a classroom, on a stage or in a cabin where you are the chubbiest one, it makes an impression.
By the summer of sixth grade, I was on a self-imposed diet. By eighth grade I knew the calorie composition of everything that went into my mouth, strove for 1-2 grams of fat per day, and was approaching a size 0. I haven't looked back since, and there were years when the obsession took heavy tolls.
That is, until now. Well, more like July. My defining nine-month 'moment.' A steady, healthy weight gain that has challenged what I've been doing to myself for the past eighteen years. Things that I've neglected: a real lunch, a day off from running, the other side of my scary weight, tucking away my mental calorie counter have become non-negotiable. Standing up in a room of 40 people, humbled by my appearance, has shaken my confidence. But over the course of this waiting period, I've realized that despite the changes to my body, I'm still me. Same sense of humor, same goofy girl, same work ethic, same love for all the people in my life. I've just let a little bit of the chubby girl back in. And she's not so bad at all.
In one more act of bold sharing, I'm posting a photo of me. Circa right ... now.
I'm nearly 36 weeks along. I've gained a little more than 30 pounds and I'm anticipating that I'll add another five or so to that in the next couple weeks.
As a closing remark, what I went through with my department on Friday was insightful, inspiring and invigorating. And I have a personal plea to parents out there: Please teach your children that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They have different credos, convictions, and co-pilots on life's journey. They are old and young; male and female; rich and poor. But each person has a tremendous value. A worth that can't be seen by an exterior perception. Don't let yourself or your children try to take that value away from anyone.