Maybe it is that there has been this gathering of loss in my life these past months. It left me in a sort of dazed disbelief at first, followed by a grief that decided to go against everything I thought I knew about how this is supposed to go. Or maybe I am just tired and fed up. Unwilling, any longer, to play by rules I never made and never liked. Or maybe it is as simple as this; that I woke up one morning and you had come to find me, and I remembered and relearned that this is what I belong to.
And this is what I know now, or am learning.
This is me saying yes, and no.
This is what I choose.
That I would refuse the needless starvation and deprivation.
That I would be filled.
I can trace things backwards in time; find where the starving starts and the shrinking to stay safe was discovered. The constant accommodating was learned. This is its own story, one in which I have my own part to tell and yet also connects me to a much larger narrative that goes back before me, and stretches far beyond me. I am not alone. I did not invent this. And though it has never been about food for me, about the intentional shrinking of my physical size, there are many ways to starve. I just do it all inside.
And then there is you, fulfillment, filling and feeding, teaching me a different way.
You speak in direct defiance to most of what I am told and taught by others, and by the world I live in. The deal, as given to me, is this; I can be looked at and I can be wanted, the object of another person’s desire. I can perhaps even want to be wanted. But, I should never actually want anything myself, for myself.
Look at advertising geared toward women. Unless it is a clean floor or countertop, the overwhelming majority of what is being sold is how a product will fulfill me, only because I will become desirable to another. To have desire, all on its own, unattached to meeting the needs of others? How indecent and offensive. Because who knows, if I let myself begin to want things, I might then decide to accept them, say yes to them, be filled. And then the whole thing falls apart. The house of lies, all serving to keep me in my place. A place decided for me. A place I did not design, and do not choose.
All of this takes place in the world I live in. It is real and it affects the kind of person I became. It makes much of my learning in life begin with un-learning. And then there is the deeply personal, the way my own psyche learned to try to keep me safe, to adapt to chaos, to survive, so I could get through to the other side.
This was done with the sophisticated mathematics of bargaining, sacrificing one thing to try to save the other, measuring size and space and the ability to breathe, all of it rooted in some kind of desperate grasping for control. So many scary things can happen, did happen. And I couldn’t stop them. Couldn’t make them go away or get better. So, I needed something I could control. And shrinking things, inside me, minimizing feelings and learning to contort my form to fit another, this kept the hunger at bay.
Because the hunger could devour me.
I cannot stop things from leaving or being taken from me. I cannot stop my own body from being human; skin that wants and bleeds. And so life then turns into working to make things manageable. Small. Contained. Controlled. For some, this happens at the gym or at the dinner table. For me, it happens in all the small and large ways I censor myself to try to survive. Words not said. Feelings not felt. Hungers not fed. Cutting off parts of myself. A careful dissection; slicing off another pound of flesh to please the gods. It is all shrinking, diminishing. Neat and tidy. Be a lady and take proper sized portions. Bite size. Fun size, like the candy bars. But this is a lie. There is nothing fun about it.
It is subtle how it can happen, to me and to others. Nothing obvious or overt. But there it is. Sleeping rigid and contained in the narrow bed, never letting yourself have what you really want. Having a feeling of anger or upset in response to something, and the words that are quick to come from the mouth, “Oh, no. Don’t worry, that is fine.”
Except, it’s not fine at all. Realizing that my eyes are always the first to look away. The small portions of salad, hold the dressing. Being careful not to disturb. Deferring to others. Starting sentences with the words “I’m sorry”, apologizing for being here, existing. Walking down the street and someone coming in the other direction, the passageway tight, and without even thinking, the accommodating, the moving my body out of the way so he can pass first. And he doesn’t even look up, doesn’t see that I was there at all, as he charges through.
This is where I come from. And then there is you, fulfillment. The way you have shown up in my life over the years and asked different kinds of questions, and the answers I heard coming out in response meant I would change my whole life.
The way you showed up again and how I knew then.
I have lost things I loved. And I will lose again, and nothing can protect me from this.
But I am done with dying on purpose.
This is what I choose. To be hungry for hunger.
To choose this, you. To be filled and fulfilled.
Filled. Not the kind that denies loss and losing, the stripping away that happens, and in this the revealing of what was underneath, while changing us, inside out. Not the kind that has no place or space for the destruction that wants to happen sometimes, letting a thing go so that something else can be built, and made new. But the kind that says, “though loss is inevitable, suffering is often optional, and your value is not determined by how much of yourself you were willing to sacrifice.”
Filled. Which does not always mean what we think it will. Learning your ways. How it is possible for emptiness to be filling. For the not getting what I wanted to be the thing that satisfies my hunger. For unanswered questions and unknowns to be a feast of richness. That I would be filled. Fulfilled. Well fed.
Fulfillment of voice. Of speaking for myself, saying what is true for me, without apology. Voice as creation. Voice as protest. Voice as invitation and affection. Voice as celebration. Voice as want and as questions. Voice as the thing that names my hungers, and in the very process of this, feeds a deep hunger.
Fulfillment of receiving, ingesting and taking a think into myself. The radical act of feeding myself and giving myself what I need, choice by choice. Of letting the body feel what it feels, want what it wants and need what it needs. Of taking in the world, somehow new every time. Seeing and not looking away, looking down, eyes averted, so as to create invisibility. Opening. Looking inside and looking up, out, around. Seeing. Drinking it in; like the water that won’t drown you but be the very thing that saves you.
Fulfillment of stretching out and occupying the space I am in, however clumsy it may be. Not willing or interested in proving my worth. Comfort settling inside me. Realizing that somehow my ribcage has expanded and there is now more space. I have relaxed and can breathe again, filling and emptying, again and again and again.
Fulfillment. It is this taking in, being fed and filled. A spreading out, expansion and taking up space. Both have to do with a sense of size or capacity with how much it is permitted for a person to be here, all the way. Maybe I’m just done with asking for permission.
Dear fulfillment, I choose you. Which is another way of saying,
“I choose me. I am here. I choose life.”
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Assistant Editor: Ffion Jones/Editor: Bryonie Wise