We all like to look beautiful. Beauty comes with a shadow. The shadow includes jealousy, lust, objectification …. You can probably add a few of your own. It’s a long list of uninvited things. Have you ever wondered why they are there?
I’ve sat on the razor’s edge of beauty. It took me places I didn’t expect. Being slender lead me to flaunt with anorexia in my youth. As a young woman, I dimmed my light and hid. I got angry at the injustice of it all. I lost myself among the definitions of who I should be as a woman. Outside definitions came into my inner space and ran amok. Messy.
I’ve lived with the shadow of anorexia for 45 years and have spent a lot of that time trying to understand why this happened to me. It took me nine years to physically recover: weight within a normal range, regular periods and less sensitivity to the cold. But in my inner world the duality continued. As I understood myself more, it lessened.
Ageing is confronting in a world where beauty is valued and financially rewarded. Although the body ages slowly, the changes are possibly more apparent to someone living with an eating disorder. Many women my age, 55 plus, have either not been diagnosed nor have they ever been treated for their eating disorders.
Making sense of the struggle has unearthed many questions. The cycle of body image, perfection, calorie counting… had to lead some where. Beauty. The well-worn path meandered, looping carelessly back to the past and stretching outdated values into the future.
Beauty, what is it? What happens in the mind of a person with anorexia? Is their perception of beauty different? Can the insidious web of the disease keep the sufferer trapped, centred on a fixed idea? How did the idea of beauty arise? What did that mean to me?
This morning I sat down with one of those bitty lists, the kind that grow out of being away. I arrived back home, here down south to Narnia yesterday afternoon. It was cold.
I’d left my warm second home, my daughter, her partner and my grand-pup. The dog knew something was going on when I lugged the case onto the bed and unpacked to repack it. His big brown eyes nearly made me cry. Pets can really give you a guilt trip.