First, there’s a story to this post. (There’s always a story) Yesterday, my daughter and I were having one of our endless discussions. If you don’t know, she is autistic, so an endless discussion is one in which I try to explain to her how so-called neuro-typical people think, and she endlessly argues how stupid our approach to life and the world is until I want to bash my head into a wall. You can tell it is an endless discussion when you hear her say, multiple times, “That doesn’t make sense….”
So I was trying to explain how her penchant for jumping into relationships (romantic or otherwise) can often scare people away, to which she responded, “I’m just a Speedy Gonzalez. It’s just who I am.” And I knew we were about to start another endless discussion.
Since she likes analogies, I tried to come up with one that would help her make sense of this. Here is what I came up with:
“I am fat. That’s what I am. I can work at changing the shape of my body, through diet and exercise, but if I stop working at it, even for a while, my body will automatically revert to fat. Because that is what I am.”
There was a lot of follow-up discussion to this revelation. We found that, regardless if you were talking about weight, social awkwardness, or even left-handedness, the big issues were the same. Here are some highlights:
- You can’t just decide to change, make that decision, and then it is over. When you are changing something fundamental about yourself, you have to constantly work on it and pay it attention. Over time you might develop some new habits, that help you, and some coping strategies, but if you stop paying attention and stop working, you will eventually revert to your primary state.
- You have to decide if it is worth it. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. If the psychic and physical energy expended to overcome your natural state is more effort than the rewards, then don’t bother changing. Just stay how you are.
- You can make different decisions about how much energy you are willing to expend on changing yourself at different times in your life. When life is good, you have a job, people that love you, a strong support system, and good mental health, you have more energy to work on change. When your world is collapsing around you, you have less energy. It doesn’t mean you can’t change. It just means you need to be aware that there is more effort required.
- One of the most important elements to personal change is having people to support you. People to cheer you when you do well and commiserate when you struggle; people who understand why you are doing what you are doing and how hard it is for you; people who can give advice when you need it, but don’t try to boss or bully you into changing.
There was more, but these are the things I took from the conversation. I felt that, as New Year’s Day (with its requisite resolution-making) approaches, the discussion was well-timed. I’m resolved this year to keep working on my personal change. I’m eating healthy, and toying with the idea of adding some exercise this year. It will take me at least a year to get to my personal goal, which isn’t a skinny-skinny, but livable goal.
But there was one more thing I’m taking away from this conversation.
I am fat. That’s what I am.
No matter what shape my body is, I am a fat person. The last time I lost a lot of weight (over 100 lbs) I thought that this had changed me somehow. That I transformed from being a fat person to a thin person, but now I don’t think so. Now I think that it is something I am inside. I might change the shape of my body from time to time, sometimes even resembling a thin (or at least normal) person, but it doesn’t change me, who I am inside, and it doesn’t change my life. I still have to live with me.
Putting on a diamond tiara doesn’t make you a princess anymore than going into a garage makes you a car. You are who you are. You can change what you do, you can change what you say, and you can even change what you look like, but you can’t change who you are. Does this sound depressing? I don’t mean it to be depressing, but rather I hope this understanding helps me deal with the long-term component of my journey. An alcoholic who hasn’t had a drop of liquor in 30 years, still identifies herself as an “alcoholic;” it is who she is.
I am fat. I hope I never forget or pretend to deny that. If I do, please remind me to read this post. Thank you.