I have no doubt my parents did what they thought was right for me. They tried to raise me in a loving and nourishing family. Let’s face it children don’t come with a hand book that tells you exactly what to do to get the perfect adult. All in all, I believe most people try to do what is right. There are just a chosen few who make it seem otherwise. Was I a happy child? I would say for the most part I was happy. I didn’t grow up into a happy healthy adult like I should have though. For me it would take decades to understand why and to come to terms with it and be happy and healthy emotionally. First and foremost, I love my parents with all my heart and I would never wish to hurt them, but a roll in my emotional non-wellness had to be laid on their shoulders. I am an avid believer from how I grew up that parents should never fight in front of their children. I’m over a half century old and I can still hear some of their arguments in my head. The blaming game is what I used to call it. Words can hurt your children even when they are not directly meant to. I remember mostly in my mind my dad telling my mom during arguments that if she didn’t have the kids he’d leave her ass. I know now he didn’t mean it. They were just words said in anger, but to a child they meant he didn’t love her. As I know now this was a form of mental abuse for my mother and for myself. I remember one time him packing up my brother and I in his white pickup truck and hauling us up to his mom’s house. I remember him telling mom he was leaving her. My grandmother wasn’t going to have any of that though. When she heard why he’d ran off she sent him with his tail between his legs back to my mother. I was two years old at the time. Yes, you heard that correctly. People think that a child that young can’t remember, well they can if the image is burnt into their mind deep enough. I remember a lot about that year we lived in Kentucky. Only two but I remember family walks, the store we had and the little creek that ran behind the house. For the most part the year there was a carefree and adventurous time. I was still a non molded clay to be direction-ally lead, but in that year a lot happened. I remember a lot of it. Strange that one year would be so in my mind, but it is and it’s probably where the start of my issues began.
What is the definition of beauty? The Webster dictionary defines beauty as the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. Sounds simple enough; however, growing up every advertisement, every magazine and every show I ever watched basically stated that beauty is being a certain size and shape. In my mind if you didn’t measure up then you were basically ugly. That is how I felt most of my life. Ugly. I was either too fat or too thin. I either didn’t have enough hips or too much. My feet were too big for a girl. I was too tall for a girl. Boobs, didn’t have them for a while then have them big time. Every aspect of what our society socializes to be beauty I felt I failed at. Growing up most of the time I was a little chubby. Baby fat is what my grandmother would call it. I remember my dad talking about me being fat with her right in front of me and God love her she’d tell him it was baby fat and I’d grow out of it to leave me alone. Maybe if he’d listened I would have. Who knows. His mother was very loving and kind in my memory and she was always on my side. The children in school were no better than my dad though when it came to this. Kids can be cruel. I took my share of being bullied or teased. Over the years though it shaped me into a person who wouldn’t stand for anyone to be treated that way. It made me strong whether by design or not, so I suppose in that respect it had a good result of sorts. Everywhere it seemed and everyone it would have seemed people saw me as fat. Looking back, I wasn’t that fat, but I felt huge. Every girl goes through a stage from around eleven to sixteen where their body will store extra fat as they have a coming of age. If treated right they will even back out, but if treated wrong it can cause weight issues in either direction. I didn’t learn that lesson until way too late in life. I remember two times very clear in my mind that would set me up for emotional failure later in life. Both occurred around eleven or twelve years old. One was a neighbor asking me if I planned to lose weight because men don’t like fat girls and yes one was my own dad who told me men don’t like women who are fat and that I’d never find a husband if I didn’t lose weight. Again, I know my dad loved me and in his mind, he was doing what was best for me. I remember the humiliation of him paying me to lose weight. I remember way too many things from being young that had to do with my being overweight. It is what sticks out my mind the most about my childhood, which in one very huge way is a sad thing. What would occur next in my life would set me up for a few years of depression and a feeling of being lost.
My grandmother Lula was a strong woman. She had to be to raise a family all on her own. Her husband, my grandfather, died when my dad was only six years old. That left her with a family to raise all on her own, including a six-week-old new born baby, my dad, his two older brothers and his sister. She had a farm with crops, stabled horses and kept chickens and pigs. She couldn’t afford to be weak or sit and wallow in her sorrows. She took charge and made the best out of the situation. She knew how to manage money and I recall her making quilts and rag dolls. I’m sure she did her best to fill the role of both dad and mom, but there are some things that she couldn’t teach them by example, such as how a man treats a woman. My dad expected every woman to be as tough as his mom and I suppose the way I was raised I ended up being quite tough. I never wanted to be though. I wanted to have someone there to allow me to break down and cry or just be weak in a moment of need. That wasn’t where my dad’s train of thought came from though and it never seemed to happen. My grandmother always had my back though and you could see the love in her eyes when she looked at you. My grandmother was a short stout woman herself and I’m sure she didn’t really appreciate my dad’s views on weight. Come to think of it he was always a little over weight himself. Either way she wasn’t going to have him telling me stuff like that in front of her. Problem was she lived in Kentucky and my dad and his family lived in Indiana so she was only there to jump to my defense when we were there. I loved her a lot and I was always happy at her home. I have so many fond memories of playing on her porch and out in her yard. I do miss her so. I remember all my childhood dreams of growing up and having a daughter I could name after her and having her come to my wedding and her seeing me graduate. Not one of those things would come to be though. I was in some respects her favorite. I was born on her birthday. We were exactly fifty-nine years apart in age to the very minute. Perhaps that made her and I kindred souls. I don’t know, but I do know that in November of 1983 my world changed forever. My rock of support was no longer there and my first loss of someone I truly loved brought me face to face with a sadness I was not prepared for.
Driving to Kentucky for my grandmother’s funeral was the first time I ever remember seeing my dad cry, as a matter of fact it’s the only time I’ve ever seen him cry. I’ve seen him sad, but until that day he was an extreme pillar of unwavering strength. He was an orphan. True he was a grown man with a family but the only parent he truly knew well and the one who had always been there for him was gone. I was sixteen years old. I remember walking into the funeral home when we got there. I remember people laughing and talking. I remember touching her hand and how cold it was. She didn’t look like herself. She had been ill for some time and in the hospital. She was no longer stout, but rather stick thin. Her eyes were closed and her hands were crossed on her chest. To this day I have no idea what anyone said to me that night at the funeral home. I just remembering feeling numb. I remember them moving her to the old church house that she attended. I remember food and talking with people who were walking inside and out. I remember the night service the day before her funeral. I remember someone talking about who was staying. In the south they used to, not sure they still do, but they used to sit up all night with the dead and be with the body. I for the life of me can’t remember it being cold at all during that time. It would have had to have been in the end of November, wouldn’t it? I remember the day of her funeral. I looked around at people giving comfort to their spouses, their friends and family. I sat alone with no one doing that for me. I had to be strong again. It wasn’t my turn to be weak. Just keep your head up and listen. I don’t remember what was said in the service. I just remember wishing we were going to the grave yard, but we didn’t. Dad had to get back home so we wouldn’t be seeing my grandmother off to the family graveyard. The ride back was very quiet. My mood was blank and empty.
The next few months I would start exercising to try and lose weight. It was one thing I could control in my life. Somehow, I just felt like things were changing too quickly and I couldn’t control any of it. Exercising took my mind off that. It helped me focus on the motions of doing and not living. My weight became my new obsession and I slowly learned how to hide and get rid of food without my mother realizing I wasn’t eating it. Over the next couple of years, I would focus on my body. By the time I was eighteen I was eating once every three days. Sometimes I wouldn’t even eat then. I would do contests with myself to see how long I could go without food. Seven days was the longest I did. I drank plenty of water so I wasn’t dehydrating but my body was growing weaker. When I did eat I didn’t eat much and sometimes I felt guilty and would go run to the bathroom and throw it up. I realized it wasn’t healthy and I also realized I no longer had control of the one thing I thought I did. I also no longer cared what people thought of my body. The only one that mattered was me. I wanted to be thinner and thinner. By eighteen I was 5 feet eight and a half inches tall and weighed around a hundred and thirty pounds. To put this in perspective for my body height and frame doctors told me to stay between one fifty and one seventy-five. The easy solution to the doctors not knowing I wasn’t doing this was simply to not go to them. This again was a vicious cycle. I was once ashamed to go to doctors because I was overweight and now I was ashamed to go because I was too thin. You see in my opinion the doctors had a part in my emotional issues as well. Especially this one. Instead of approaching it in a positive way they would negatively remark on my weight and tell me to lose weight. Weight loss was met with praise. I didn’t see anyone praising me for health or even talking about if I should be healthy or not. Just make sure you’re thin. Again, body issues and images were brought to the front of my mind. I remember getting extremely sick. I had the flu, but my body was reacting like I was dying. My mother would cater to my needs and when I went to the bathroom I could barely walk there. I remember being at work. I remember passing out. My body had put up with all it wanted to and I was starting to see that. Unlike some girls though common sense popped into my head at this point. If something didn’t change I would die. I played with that thought in my mind. Part of me felt comfort at the idea, but another part knew my life was worth living, so I reach out to the company psychiatrist and started trying to get my emotions out. This would be my first time to see someone in this occupation. I wasn’t sure how the game was played and I wasn’t completely sure I trusted him. I told him a lot of the things in my mind but I left out much more than I told him. He knew I was troubled, but I never told him of my eating disorder. I wasn’t ready for that. Over the months of seeing him once a week I came to do better. I slowly took to eating every other day and eventually got to eating once a day. I knew I was getting better in that respect, but I also knew there was still something very wrong inside of me.
Over the next few years I would learn a lot about life. My parents had sheltered me. There was lot I didn’t know about the world. I worked at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo starting at sixteen. I spent five years in total there and I learned people can be cruel. There was a woman there named Carol. She was the first person to ever out and out tell me she didn’t like me. She was mean to me almost all the time and if she was assigning the jobs of the day you could guarantee I was getting an ugly job assignment. I remember her showing pictures of herself to guys that worked there. I couldn’t help but see her as vulgar, but I was young. Perhaps my youth is why she didn’t like me. At the time it bothered me a lot. The me that is here today wouldn’t have wasted a moment on caring. There were good people there too. I remember a guy named William that watched out for me. I don’t know what happened to him but I wonder sometimes if he knows how much I appreciated and still do appreciate that. In this time, I would start learning that freedom comes with a price and adulthood perhaps wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. There were so many things I didn’t understand. Life wasn’t like the movies or the television shows. The world wasn’t as wholesome as I had always thought and there were so many things I was about to discover on this journey. So many things I wish I still didn’t know. My innocence of the world would no longer be in place after that summer. There were ugly things out there. Things my parents had sheltered me from and things I would have to learn to understand and once again handle on my own.
I graduated high school in the summer of 1986. I was a few weeks away from 19 years old and I was working a job for Lincoln National Corporation. I had won a college scholarship, but I really didn’t want to go to college. This wasn’t a choice I felt I had though. People were pushing me to study computers and I followed that direction. I was tall and paper thin. I had a better grasp on my eating, but I once again was making sure I ate as little as I could and still feel strong enough to handle my day. Food had never been far out of my thoughts. I still had an unnaturally unhealthy obsession with counting calories and making sure I didn’t eat more than a meal a day. I had it in my mind at this time and would for many years that my self-worth was based on whether men found me attractive or not. Somehow in my mind Sex and love were synonymous with each other. No, I didn’t go out and sleep around but I wanted a man to want me, yet at the same time, the thought terrified me. I did date some at this age, but I never gave into lust. I was considering the option of waiting for marriage. I at least had that modicum of self-respect. I remember my graduation day. My mother, my brother and a neighbor of ours came. My dad unfortunately had to work. I know he had to, but I was so disappointed that he didn’t skip work and come. To me it was as if he was saying it wasn’t important. I always wanted my dad’s approval. That really sounds like a cliché to say that, but it is the truth. I think every little girl wants their daddy to approve of their life. I spent years trying. Heck I even learned to love basketball after my brother got married just to get to spend some quality time with him. I never have even to this day felt as though I was the daughter he wanted or the one he was proud of. Again, I know he loves me, but there is a difference in love and respect.
Over the decades I dated a bunch of men who were not right for me in any manner of speaking. I usually dated those that I felt I could best keep at bay. This isn’t what I thought I wanted, but it was the best way I knew to get that attention I craved. I suppose you could say I really didn’t think that one out well. I dated a couple of guys that turned out to be gay. A guy that has been in and out of prison multiple times since we stopped dating. (Guess I dodged a bullet on that one). I’ve dated drunks. I’ve dated guys that were so good looking even they couldn’t stop looking at themselves in the mirror. I’ve bar hopped and partied. I’ve tried drugs I probably shouldn’t have and I am thankful to God to this day he never let me get addicted. I’ve dated guys that treated me poorly to say the least. I once dated a guy for six months who told me what to eat, when to eat and who I could talk to. Uh, nope I didn’t take it for long, but I was surprised I took it at all. This is just another level of needing to feed the abuse pattern I would suppose. My big wakeup call was the last guy I dated for a long period of time. Five years to be exact. He was a user big time. I was infatuated with him. I so craved to find love. He would tell you he was wonderful to me, but he really wasn’t. Looking back on the way he treated me I sigh with relief that the good Lord got me out of that one. I spent more time crying than I did my entire life in that relationship. He didn’t mind telling me my flaws. Something snapped over time in my mind that said this isn’t love on any level. I jumped in and started searching the dating sites. Let me tell you if you want to get depressed go out there and start dating. There are more losers and users than one would like to imagine possible. I dated a guy who thought that telling me at the end of our first date he’s getting us a motel room so we can have sex and he will see if he wants a second date would get me to have sex with him. He was a fireman and I love my comeback. So glad I thought of it. I said: “Baby you are really good at your job. You just put out my fire. I’m not interested in a second date.” One of those times when divine intervention must have been there. I poor my heart into relationships. I always have hope they will work out but after him and after several dates of the gene pool out there I was ready to give up.
By November of 2015 I had about decided I was going to try to be happy by myself. I had found every loser possible in the surrounding counties I was certain of it. I did date one or two really nice guys, but unfortunately, they were still hung up on other people. Dating them did help build my confidence though. Another thing that helped build my confidence was seeing a counselor. She’s wonderful. I think everyone should have someone they can talk to that fits their personality, will listen and you have no fears of what you tell them. She helped me to see some of the things I still questioned in the back of my mind were true. She helped me with understanding I do deserve to be loved and that I can be. Along this time my future husband asked me out to a date to Applebee’s. I almost didn’t go. Not because I didn’t like the emails we had exchanged but because it always seemed out the men on these sites never turned out like they were in their emails. I thought ok last one. I’ll go get it over with and move on. The thing is he was exactly who he portrayed himself to be. He was caring and considerate and was upfront with so many points of information. My thought immediately was that he’d been on some of the same type of dates. I found myself at ease with him, yet I still didn’t trust it. I had given up. I was forty-eight years old and I just figured at this point I was meant to be alone. At the end of our dinner he told me he didn’t want the date to end. I felt the same, but I was still being cautious. I informed him I needed to go to the Meijer’s on the other side of the parking lot and he was welcome to come with me and he did. We walked even though it was a bit brisk outside. Inside the Meijer I found myself being me. We played with toys, laughed and I eventually did get the few groceries I needed. Over the next few weeks we went out more and more. He treated me and still treats me two and a half years later like a princess. He’s always telling me I’m beautiful. I love this man so much. I almost missed out on him, but God made sure I didn’t. He’s helped me feel good about me. Yes, I’d like to lose the weight I’ve gained back while being sick, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He brings me flowers, rubs my feet and lets me just lay my head on his shoulder if that is what I need. Through him and my hard work of learning and understanding I have come to redefine beauty in my mind’s eye. I wish I had known what I know now all my life. What a difference it might have made, yet at the same time I might have missed out on him if I had. He’s beautiful to me inside and out and he always makes me feel the same. I’ve redefined my definition of beauty. I wish the world could redefine it too. Too many ads and people trying to make it about things it isn’t. The greatest beauty is God’s Love. The greatest beauty is sharing your heart with another. It’s being who you are and being comfortable to be that person with the person you share your life with. Yes I’ve redefined beauty and I’m happy I finally did.