Human beings have a remarkable ability to overcome traumatic events.
My wife is a fantastic exemplar of this power.
The birth of our son was not an easy one. Her labor was most of a day and due to various fumbling and bumbling, she didn’t get an epidural in time.
Yep. My wife spent the better part of twelve hours going through a difficult birth without pain killers.
She also doesn’t remember what happened.
Oh, she knows the general shape of things. The powerful joy of holding our son hasn’t left her, nor will it until her dying day. But the specifics, the exact remembrance of the pain and the agony and the exhaustion? Those have slipped through the cracks of her memory, and good riddance to them.
There is power in the recollection of life in our darkest hours.
My life has been marked by my struggles with weight. From my early years to the end of my K-12 education, I was simply enormous. I lost all of it rather rapidly in my late teens and early twenties, then over the course of the last decade and a half I’ve been putting it back on.
I’ve swung down a time or two, but at the end of 2018 I was exactly where I had started: 300 lbs of flub on a 5' 7'’ frame not designed for it.
Each time I lost the weight, I allowed myself to get complacent because by the time the scale was showing me appropriate numbers, I had forgotten the daily horrors of being overweight.
The constant aches and pains, the difficulties with everyday activities, the shame that I felt as I met friends who have seen me at my best and are now seeing me at my worst. The constant, overwhelming NEED to eat every moment of every day.
This year, I started my last chance at losing weight because I’m old now. My body is running out of patience. Before too much longer, my weight will be whatever it is no matter what I try.
I’ve focused on the correct things this year and that has led to sixty pounds of weight loss. Yet, lurking within my mind and heart are the shades of my past, whispering dark reminders that I have been here before and lost sight of the finish line.
This time it’s different, because I have finally managed to find my way to the Tower of Wisdom. I had to swim across an ocean of regret and loss to get there but got there I did.
So now I have a belt.
Correction, now I have THE belt.
The belt that I used to wear when I was at my heaviest. The belt that strained and stretched to contain my girth. The belt whose burdens have slowly been eased, until it is now facing issues in the opposite direction. A torn, faded, peeling belt whose facade tells the story of all my terrors and triumphs.
I wear that belt everywhere and for every occasion.
I’ve had to cut four new holes in it. Before much longer I’ll have to cut a fifth. It’s dogged and worn from the looping and the tucking required to keep it out of the way.
I’m never taking that belt off. I’m never swapping it out for another. Every outfit, every situation, every audience, that belt is going with me.
Oh, I have to attend a tuxedo affair in high society? Allow me to introduce you to the tattered faux-leather strap of my people.
You see, what I have learned through all the ups and downs is that our ability to forget the traumas of our past can doom us to repeat them. In my wife’s case, it’s a blessing she cannot remember all the pain and suffering she endured to bring our son into the world.
For me, failing to remember has had dire consequences, ruining a significant portion of it with a carpet-bombing of health concerns.
If I could fully recall all the aches and sorrows of my slovenly peak every day, you would have to pry me off the salad bar with the Jaws of Life.
I have my belt however, and so long as I’m willing to carry it with me and wear its scars with pride, I need not fear the past.
My belt, you see, tells one heck of a story. Even to me.
The Unsheathed Quill