I can’t escape my thoughts. I try to run. The road does not end. Markers of distance fell a long time ago. I would’ve never have known that I moved. That I breathed. That time shifted. I gasp noiseless when I can’t remember any part of my drive home.
I am not faster than my head. I’ve never been able to run, or fast, and that has not changed now that my weight has. It seems that with each turn there is a moment, and it ignites a visceral memory that I collapse on. My body unknowingly twitches. My mouth seals forcefully. I’m lost, as my mind has taken me somewhere, that I flailed no to. There are many times that I cannot recognize the place I have gone. I trip on a door knob as all direction has vanished. Color has vanished, tone has vanished, lines and walls have vanished. I fall further forward. I tumble. I scrape my face like sandpaper. The asphalt grates me. Are these the thoughts that chase you too?
On Monday, I saw a blog post from Brooke Shaden, author and artist, on self-portraiture. Brooke is a being that has shown me kindness from the beginning, and that is something that has never wavered. I found Brooke’s work on flickr in 2011 or maybe 2012. It was at a time when I was desperate to find a community of artists that loved photo like I did/do. I wanted to share my excitement, and I wanted to take portraits of others that would take risks and push themselves for their imagery.
I saw this community happening on Flickr, but I couldn’t figure out how to be a part of it. I was sad and under the impression others treated me differently because of my fatness. They definitely didn’t want me to model for their concepts, ever. This is also likely a product of my own making and shame. Mind you, this was in 2012, and through 2014, I was well over 450 pounds… I’ve never said that out loud. I’ve have dodged most questions about my weight. I am afraid of an extreme weight-loss narrative. I feel a great deal of shame about having had bariatric surgery. I was pushed into telling the little family that I did, and I am embarrassed that others think that I took the easy way out… For that same second though, I wish they knew what it was like to die each day.
I don’t want my weight-loss to be what’s important. Losing this much weight has been depleting and devastating in ways I’m unable to tell you. It doesn’t feel like you would get it unless I showed you. It’s interesting and unsettling to see someone’s face contort when they realize I’ve lost a person that is twice of what they weigh….
Now what? I guess I’ve said it. I may regret this, but for the moment, my feet are sore, and I’m tired of running. Good thing I currently feel this way. I know I’m likely to regret it at some point on the path later on.
*Just don’t delete it, Sam.*
Brooke made a blog post and video on self-portraiture. I mostly take self-portraits and it is nice to hear others speak about the commentary they receive when taking photos of themselves. I often experience that others assume I breathe air of self-obsession… I’ll continue to look into that, but I’m not sure. Do you live in a mirrorless house? How do you look at yourself?
Brooke talks about controlling the narrative, to the furthest extent possible, of your work. I believe our words range beyond the image, but people will always see what they want to see. It is their world, and it would not be fair for me mansplain my version to them. I don’t like the verbiage of control, but that sounds like that’s an insecurity I hold about the controlling aspects of myself. I wasn’t aware of this until I lost my weight. It is also 1000x more vulnerable for me to have someone else take my picture.
The control I do have is what I say and or what I don’t. It’s the remote I leave in the photo or toss out. It’s my hand I grabbed instead of balling my fist. My quiet speaks too. During Brooke’s video, I got lost in the music. I grabbed my pen and began to write. It felt necessary and like vomit. I couldn’t control it. I started to read what I wrote. I read it again, and then again, and then again. It was a whisper and soft. I was afraid of being heard, but needed the waves of my breath, whispering ears.
Recently, I’ve been listening to an audiobook in the car. Not that Bad – a collection of essays edited by Roxane Gay. It is about rape culture and written by all walks of life. They are stories that keep me more present in the car. It takes a lot to jar me into submission and away from my hauntings, that crumbling weight. It’s helped in ways that my shame would rather keep me bound by. It gave me the idea to record my voice.
I think my voice is humiliating. Nails on a chalkboard is more tolerable to me. I would rather scream myself to screeching mute then speak into a microphone. I always felt like I could hear the fat in my throat. I could hear myself choke, and I could hear my cheeks chaff. I could hear the air leaving. It was gone in a swoosh, and I can hear everything I hate about myself in those moments. I decided to speak this time. I spoke, weathering the rain of my horrors. It doesn’t feel any better, like I did something or worked through it. I continue to be disgusted by it.
I have spent the majority of my life, ripping my seams open for others to hear what I see. It terrifies me to be misunderstood, as I’ve always believed that that meant I was alone. Am I alone? Does that mean I’m dead? Being misunderstood is akin to not having said anything at all. I’m the tree that was silent when it dropped. I’m afraid of that dark.
This time, I didn’t feel like I wanted anyone to read my words. I don’t want you to see my writing, my thoughts, my mind. You are here, but I am frightened. There is something different about you hearing me then you reading me. Hearing me instead of reading me. This is my voice. A cry, a call, a sound. A sensation, a vibration, an impression, an expression… free from injury. I've recorded my voice, it’ll never go away, or until I do. The energy was already there, I just hadn’t told you.