SWF Afterthoughts: I fell, and then I flew

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who went to bed and had the same dream every single night. In it, she sat on a swing in the sky. She had no idea what held the swing aloft, nor what lay beneath her feet and the layers of fluffy white cloud that stood between her and the great unknown. With each swing, she felt an increasing urge to let go of the ropes and take the plunge to find out. But each time her fingers loosened their grip, fear would seize her. What if the world under the clouds was a terrible place, and she could never return to the sky? She’d be ‘safe’ as long as she held on, she reckoned, albeit forever wondering.

One day as she sat swinging and wondering about the world beneath the clouds, she heard a creaking sound. The seat of her swing was giving way and its rope handles were unraveling. Before she knew it, she was diving headfirst into the clouds, and about to find out, once and for all, about that place she’d longed to but never dared visit. The fall was terrifying, and she feared the extreme pain she’d feel from a hard—possibly deadly—landing. All the way down, she kept her eyes tightly shut.

However, she had a sudden thought. Since she was about to die, she might as well catch her first (and last) glimpse of this mysterious new world she’d been so curious about. Better that her final moments be filled with awe and wonder than terror and dread.

But as she began to open her eyes, the girl would be jolted awake from her dream.

___________

During yesterday’s session at Singapore Writers Festival, I finally found out how that dream ends.

The girl didn’t die. In fact, she’d been flying all along—with wings she never knew she had. No longer did she need rope handles to grasp on to, nor whatever it was that kept the swing suspended, and her safe.

As for the world beneath the clouds? It was more beautiful than she could imagine. She’d landed safely, and with her feet planted firmly on the ground, she realized how much prettier the clouds looked from where she stood.

So there she decided to remain. On earth.

___________

Thank you to everyone who came for my storytelling and/or sharing, and those who supported me in your own unique way.

With all my love and gratitude,

Rachel

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This was taken after yesterday’s sharing. I’m here with author and friend, Melanie Lee, and the session moderator Pamela Ho. Both beautiful souls. This is a day I’ll never forget.

Everything Takes Forever: A Story of Waiting (Part 13)

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

[Continued from Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7,Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12]

I don’t know her name, but for all intents and purposes, let’s call her Jennifer.

A fleeting glimpse of Jennifer is enough. We exchange a glance for about two seconds before I break away. As if I could ever forget.

Everything about Jennifer—and girls like her—triggers me. I have memorized her gaunt face, protruding cheekbones, hollowed eye sockets, and pronounced collarbones. I see how she piles on the makeup to soften hard angles and mask the perpetual fatigue. I feel the effects of her sleep deprivation: migraines, brain fog, and lightheadedness. I hear the drag in her step and feel sympathy for those bony legs—subject to acute cramps that jolt her awake in the dead of night.

When was the last time she’d had a decent meal and good night’s sleep? Jennifer hasn’t the faintest idea, nor does she care. Hunched over in hunger, her skeletal shoulders flinch defensively everytime someone touches her. Most of all, she harbors an abject hatred for mirrors, unable to recognize or face the monster she’s created. What is happening? Why do I no longer look like me? Can I ever go back?

I may no longer look like Jennifer, but there’s no fooling her. For neither my fleshiness nor her litheness can disguise the fact that we’re two peas in a pod. Branded by our common experience and sporting the same battle scars, we belong to a category of people hardwired to live in our heads and never feel comfortable in our own skin. Right now she’s hiding behind excessive makeup, and me extra layers of fat, but the second our eyes meet, the jig is up.

ED recovery is hard enough without triggers like Jennifer. The way ahead has been paved with frequent indigestion, perpetual abdominal bloat, uneven distribution of regained weight, the vengeance of two years’ worth of PMS, and constant confusion that comes with still thinking I’m a thin person but no longer inhabiting the body of one (and the redundancy of almost two-thirds of my wardrobe). It’s well and good to talk about rebuilding a loving relationship with food and your body, but know this, ED recovery is no walk in the park.

I long to make Jennifer, and all other triggers that threaten to derail my ED recovery, disappear with the wave of a magic wand.  So I do that—in my head. I mentally compose a “Trigger Box,” into which go Jennifer and the rest of my “trigger list,” including (but is not limited to): thinspo blogs, celebrity magazines, weighing scales, food labels, calorie-counting apps, cooking, baking, my running shoes and weights, the gym and treadmill, and all “petite”-sized clothes I once starved myself into. The Trigger Box is sealed (and reinforced) with duct tape, and I scribble with a red marker “DO NOT OPEN” before hurling it down the basement, i.e. the deepest recesses of my subconscious.

As Jennifer’s gaze bores into my back, I can feel her desire to reach out and connect, but I refuse to engage. She’s silent but the cacophony of her thoughts is deafening. You busted your ass to be thin, only to throw it all away? How could you? What will you do now?

“Excuse me! Wait!” she calls out, her low, gravely voice stopping me in my tracks.

I have no choice but to turn and look her squarely in the eyes, which are wide with a strange mix of curiosity and fear. “Were you talking to me? How can I help you?”

Jennifer bites her lower lip nervously, before launching into spurts of short sentences. “Yes, you. Thanks for stopping. I’m sorry if this is abrupt. I’ll make this quick. I just wanted to know … what’s recovery like? I mean, what’s it look like?”

“You’re referring to … ?” I mouth the words ‘eating disorder.’

She nods, her eyes fixed intently on mine.

“I don’t know,” I reply, “but I hope that if and when I get there, I can tell you.”

“I don’t wanna do this anymore,” she mutters in a low breath, “but I’m afraid.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“Being fat. I could never let myself recover unless someone could assure me a hundred percent I wouldn’t get all plus-sized. D’you know what I mean?”

“I do. But I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything. I don’t even know where this is heading.”

“So you just jumped in? With your eyes closed?” Jennifer asks, incredulous and taken aback. “You’re so brave!”

Am I? Until she mentions it, I hadn’t really thought about how I’d cope if I settled into a post-ED size of anything that fell outside my comfort zone of a US 6/UK 10. Suddenly aware how swiftly I’m edging toward a US 8/UK 12, I feel seized with a newfound fear of the unknown. Gee, thanks, Jennifer.

“I have to go. Can I give you my number? You’ll call me when you get there?” she asks.

We part with awkward smiles, her cell phone number programmed in my mobile as a personal reminder to get better, even if not on Jennifer’s terms.

Does a huge part of me hope my ED recovered size falls within a range that isn’t too hard to accept? Of course. But being called brave is something new. Maybe there’s something to be said about having “jumped in with my eyes closed”  and representing a fragment of hope for someone else who’s still contemplating.

And just like that, Jennifer escapes from my Trigger Box.

[to be continued]

Singapore Writers Festival 2016

A quick plug about my upcoming events at the Singapore Writers Festival. I’ll be speaking at two sessions, and both are free.

On Saturday, I’ll be reading for the kids—a different chapter of Tea in Pajamas from my previous readings. Joseph Tey, the book’s illustrator, will be conducting a live drawing demo in the second half, and we’ve scheduled in more time for that so more children can join in the fun. Kids, come dressed in your PJs, and you might walk away with some exclusive merchandise and freebies!

At Sunday’s event, I’ll be reading an excerpt from my ongoing series, Everything Takes Forever, and sharing how writing helped me through a difficult time. This is for an older crowd (teens and up) as it tackles weightier (no pun intended) issues like body image and self-confidence.

Click on the images for more details

SATURDAY 12 NOVEMBER, 4.00–5.00pm

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SUNDAY 13 NOVEMBER, 3.30–4.30pm

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