Friday, December 14, 2007

Let your light shine out!

Today I attended a memorial for a friend's wife, Mary, who passed away on Thanksgiving. The service was lovely and the party afterward was full of laughter, sweet stories and great food and drinks. As my best friend and I walked out of the restaurant I asked "Is it wrong that I had a really good time?" and then I thought about it and realized how absolutely right that was. How much this woman would have enjoyed this party herself and how I'd want people to celebrate my life in the same way. And so by this post I mean to in no way diminish the saddness of losing her and the pain that her friends and families are in but I found some real food for thought in the words of the priest at the service today.

This woman was only 57 years old and she was not fat. As far as I know, she'd never been fat. Everyone in her family is naturally slim. And yet, amazingly enough, she died. Way too young, way too soon for anyone around her and from cancer...a disease that if I only got my information from watching the local news I'm pretty sure I'd think was caused by being fat. It's certainly a factor that seems to be brought up frequently as a consequence in the "obesity epidemic" discourse.

KateHarding over at Shapely Prose recently addressed this very point when she talked about the kooky CRON people and now I have a specific example right here in my own life.
Hey, here’s a scientific fact: We are all going to die. And in the meantime, we all make decisions about the kinds of lives we want to live. Some people eat as little as possible in the explicit hope of outliving this silly, primitive limitation known as mortality. Other people eat less than they want to in hopes of living a little longer than people who “indulge themselves.” And other people eat what they fucking feel like eating, because to them, chronic restrained eating would — unlike obesity — indeed be a “huge risk factor for… a life of misery.”

And in those last two categories, at least? There are people of all sizes. People who are unequivocally fat despite consistently eating less than they want to, and thin people who seem to have the proverbial hollow leg. There are even, horror of horrors, fat people who eat whatever they want. Because they’re grown-ups, and they’re allowed. What a concept.

Yup that's right folks, we're all going to die. And so often the fear of fat and the fear of fat people seems to be linked to a great big huge fear of death. Mary lived an active life dedicated to serving her community and raising her children. She was also a joy to be around. Full of life and laughter even in the last few years as she fought through four years of cancer ups and downs. She was still acting president of a large service organization and the last time I saw her she was swing dancing to a live band at a local bar.

The priest at the service asked us to observe her shining example and ask ourselves how we were living. This question has haunted me all day. There are so many things I wish I was doing but am not. I've been wanting to do some volunteer work for the last few years and have done some little bits but I am craving something regular, a weekly dose of using my talents to serve the world instead of just serving myself. I've said I'm going to take a Spanish class for the last 3 years and have yet to do it and I'm stalling on moving forward on my darn PhD. Overall I've been feeling like I've been blocking my light. Self-sabotaging myself so as not to shine too brightly and it really sucks!

How often as fat women do we do this? I feel like so many of the women I know let their lives be dominated by thinking about diets, weight, fat, and all the shoulds. We should be thinner, taller, dress better, eat better, be better mothers, daughters, wives, lovers, and friends. How much time do I sit around thinking about all the things I should do instead of just doing them? Just imagine if all the energy (not to mention the money) that goes into dieting, exercising to lose weight and beating ourselves up for all the shoulds that we just can't seem to match up to went into giving back to our community or into our work. What if we all opened the blinds we've installed and actually let the light shine out? Just imagine what a world this could be.

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