I sometimes wonder if I am a fool—and, indeed, in some ways I am, and a fool is not such a bad thing to be, in the world of archetypes, it is the fool who embarks on great adventures,—but I mean, fool, as in dumb, incapable or unwilling to see the truth about a given situation. I say this because I am determined to find value in things that others may just think are shitty.
Being fat, for one. Is that something anyone would wish for?
I’ve been overweight ever since I hit puberty. Even writing that is a an irritant—I hate the word overweight, it makes me think of excess baggage you have to check at the airport, for which they make you pay extra.
I’ve written a lot about the whole idea of fat, what it has meant to me, how it has impacted my life—and also how it has protected me, given me an armor made of excess flesh.
I was messaging with a friend the other night, she had said it’s a nervy time, then asked how Bobby and I were doing. I wrote back, “Yeah, it is a nervy time. We're ok. daily life is much the same on the surface but there's an undercurrent of sadness and a persistent heaviness. Still lucky, fortunate, all those things--but it's heavy.”
Heavy comes from the Old English, of great weight, it came to mean, hard to carry, and is related to the word heft, also, to heave…this makes me think of the word, burden. One of the great words of our language. Burden. A heavy load.
The word grief--from old French--means to burden.
Several years ago I was having a difficult time, I was overwhelmed and exhausted. I reached out to someone who works with highly sensitive people. I asked if I could speak with her.
During our talk she said something profound--You know the handful of things you’ve heard or read that stay with you for years sometimes for life? This was one of those.
She said, “You’ve been carrying a burden, and the thing about a burden is, you think if you keep carrying it will get lighter but of course, that’s not the case.”
As she spoke, I saw so clearly that image of a human—myself, carrying a huge load on his back, wandering through a wilderness, in the darkness, perhaps it’s a rocky terrain, storms lash at the poor human but still they push on, their back bending lower with each mile. “I’ve got to keep going.”
And, hey, tenacity--wonderful--dedication, consistency—all of those qualities that allow us to complete our tasks, are great.
There was a moment in the evolution of The Secret City when I started wearing colorful, ridiculous, outfits. Soon I started wearing fewer clothes, the outfits became revealing—so many years I spent performing, finding the right thing to wear, the slimming jacket, the pants that wouldn’t split, the shirt that was long enough to keep my belly covered, the concealing suit. But suddenly, I started to let my gut hang out, totally uncovered, I even danced foolishly and made it jiggle. And I understood that the weight, my large belly, my big arms and legs, that’s not what was the burden—it was all of the baggage around it. The fear of being seen. The elaborate games I played to make it seem that I wasn’t the size I was. These games didn’t work but they allowed me to believe I was hiding it, or at least, I was complying with the unwritten rules that we should hide what is unacceptable about ourselves.
It is a heavy time. The moments are pendulous. I’m reminded of when my father died several years ago. He had been sick for awhile, so it wasn’t a surprise. But still, when he died, they came, waves—that’s what it felt like. When you’re standing in the ocean, not very deep, maybe up to your knees and then, a swell appears and hits you, full force, right in the torso, throwing you off and under.
The days and weeks and months, really, following his death, I don’t remember being sad, not really, but a drug-like fatigue would come, unannounced, another wave and I would go under, I’d have to lie down. I realized grief was physical, perhaps even more than emotional. The person who’s occupied a foundational position in your life is suddenly gone and the body is thrown off balance.
This time is like that I find—I’m not overly emotional, or not most of the time—but the things that hold us up are gone and the waves keep coming. The sea is stormy and we are small swimmers.
A burden doesn’t become lighter the longer you carry it; the reward you seek may lie in putting it down.