There is a story about how Michaelangelo created his iconic sculpture of David. According to the story he chipped away all of the stone that was not David until David appeared.
Search Google using the “ inside every fat woman” and you will see thousands of instances of that phrase. The diet industry and much of healthcare fervently believe and promote the belief that everyone is meant to be slender, that fat is concealing who we truly are. Consider this image* widely used to promote and encourage weight loss
It makes me cringe seeing her chipping away at her own body in this way. The image on the sculptor’s website is even clearer --
We wish that it were so but there is no sculptor who can come and magically chip away all the excess flesh so that out of the raw material of what is left of our bodies will emerge the real us, the thin version, the one who has been inside trying to get out all along. She just isn't there. Despite what many believe, the woman inside is ME, not some thinner other me. To believe in that other thinner me, to believe she is the REAL me is to believe I cannot be me and be fat. It is to believe that this me, this fat me is false, is not really a person. And is that not in an unconscious way exactly what fat phobia and our culture’s fat complex would have us believe — that a fat person is not really a person because fat makes that impossible?
As you can see if you have been following me I am paying with different looks here, looking for that just right design that is not too cluttered, not too spare. So as I work my way through this Goldilocks phase, please bear with me. And feel free to give me your opinion in the comments.
Everywhere I look I have been seeing links to and comments about April the giraffe and the live cam feed on her. April is pregnant and the birth of her calf is imminent. Or so it has seemed for days. Today the zoo says "“All in due time and without a rush. She continues to be in great physical and mental condition.”
April and I have something in common. No, I am not about to have a baby, but my long-awaited book is now truly on the way. It is at the printer now and my publisher tells me they expect to receive the first copies around March 24.
I started work on this book waaaay back in 2010. I went through 12 complete versions and revisions before deciding last spring that it was as good as I could make it, time to stop filleting with a word here and a paragraph there and submit it to a publisher.
Then came to process of trying to guess where it had the best chance of finding welcome. In April of 2016, I signed a contract with Karnac Books. More small revisions, selection of a cover design, soliciting reviews. Now it feels like a real book to me.
Back when New Age ideas began to float about there also appeared a book by Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death. How are these two things connected, you might ask? From the start it appeared to me that a lot of New Age ideas were at their core an effort to deny death. As if eating the right foods, meditating the right way, thinking the right thoughts, going to enough workshops would enable a person to avoid life’s inevitable end - death. And this project has continued with vigor in the years since.
It is February. Check out the covers for magazines aimed at women — Family Circle, Women’s Day, Redbook. Most years the February issue will feature rich chocolate desserts for Valentine’s Day — as lovingly photographed as fashions in Vogue. And in the same issue will be one or more articles about the best diet or some health issue requiring vigilance. It’s like food porn and exhortations to abstinence in the same issue. And women are always put in this position.
In a terrific book, Against Health, Metzl and Kirkland bring together essays from a variety of disciplines to explore how health has become a moral issue. They quote Ivan Ilyich:
“You meet your destiny on the road you take to avoid it.” ― Carl Gustav Jung
This is mid-coast Maine this morning
Fit for neither man nor beast.
FaceBook, in its infinite wisdom, reminded me yesterday that it was the 10th anniversary of the beginning of this blog. I must admit I am a bit impressed.
Looking back this morning, I found the very first post and it seems quite appropriate to the times we are navigating today.
From February 6, 2007:
"I recently ran across this powerful quote from Jung on therapy:
"The principle aim of psychotherapy is not to transport one to an impossible state of happiness, but to help (the client) acquire steadfastness and patience in the face of suffering. " -C.G. Jung
Jung understood that suffering is a part of life, that it has meaning and that to live fully is to know that suffering will be a factor in one's life throughout life. If I look back on my own life, I know that I have learned most from those times which were difficult and often painful, not because I wanted to experience them but because of the choices and consequences I faced at those times. The good times, the times of great happiness are wonderful and I have celebrated and cherished them and look forward to more. But it has been in those dark times when I have had to face myself and look deeply into my life and my actions that I have grown most.
I have other things I want to write about tomorrow and next week — looking at the story of Lady Ragnall and Sir Gawain, trauma, at the impact of fat shaming, but today there is this. I have been sitting here for several hours already, glued to watching coverage of the Women’s Marches. I just read that there are 20,000 marching on Congress St. in Portland, Maine. And 10,000 demonstrating in Augusta, Maine. That 6 buses went to Washington just from the mid-coast of Maine, an area of small towns. So many in our small state are showing up in our cities and in our towns to express resistance and support for women and discriminated groups.
Seeing this and reading these things makes me hopeful, more hopeful than I have been since Nov. 8.
This morning I awoke to the news that Ringling Brothers is shutting down the circus. When I was a child in the 50’s I used to watch Super Circus. I loved the handsome ringmaster and Mary Hartline — I even had a Mary Hartline doll.. And one of the first movies I remember seeing was The Greatest Show on Earth, a movie set in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus. I saw small circuses performing in tents when we lived in Germany. And one year when my children were very young, we took them to see the Ringling Brothers Circus, which proved to be too big, to busy and with too much to look at for them or for me to tolerate. And there was the Big Apple Circus which came to Portland and performed its delightfully lo-tech one ring tent circus in one of the parks. When my kids were in school, every year during spring vacation, the Shrine Circus came to town. So the circus was a part of growing up for them and for me.
These days with the rise in consciousness about animal rights, any of us likely has become at least ambivalent about circuses, relying as so many do on animal acts and thus the dubious issue of performing animals.
“I thought I found an answer when I was older, meditation, yoga, channeling. A way of making use of a talent, a gift. And now it's back worse than ever. No, not worse than ever, but it feels like that because I've been OK so long. It's like unfinished business has come back to haunt me.”
“The gate that opens and closes can't close.”
“Two years ago I began medication and it helped, not completely, but relief. Then the sleeplessness started and my doctor suggested I speak with you.”
“Are you ready for a therapy journey?”
Michael Eigen, Under the Totem: In Search of a Path.
So writes Eigen of his beginning work with a patient he calls Rose.
Are you ready for a therapy journey? I want to remember this question, hold it in mind for the next time I begin with someone new. Describing therapy as a journey isn’t unique to Eigen, but I don’t think we say it out loud all that often and not at the beginning.
People come to therapy looking for answers, for solutions to problems in their lives. In an era of “evidence based” medicine, they expect there to be some formula, some evidence based set of things they can do to make themselves feel better. They want assignments, suggestions, techniques — mindfulness, journal writing, drawing all of which are useful tools but do not carry magic.
It is hard not to respond to this desire for a solution, a fix. Hard not to make suggestions, not to offer something to soothe the longing expressed for relief, for a partner, for happiness. We become therapists at least in part out of a desire to help.
But that kind of therapy is not what Eigen means when he asks his question. The therapy journey is a journey inward, with no predefined end point and often goes into unexpected territory. And on this journey, the therapist is more likely to ask questions than provide answers.