One of the reasons I love old photos so much is that they help me see me from outside of myself. Looking from the outside in instead of the inside out creates a natural distance between me and the insane voice in my head. For this same reason, I often ask my students to to try writing about themselves in the third person as a break from me, myself and I.
"When she was two years old she ate a cigarette and put a peanut in the place she saw her mother put a tampon. " This is the first sentence I wrote about myself in this way. My voice broke as I read my piece out loud to the class. I could see tiny baby me trying to be a grown ass woman, trying to rush right on through those toddler years to become someone cooler, older, hotter and more sophisticated. Someone who wasn't so goddamn needy, vulnerable, helpless. Someone who wasn't two.
In the photo above I'm visiting New York City. I go to college in Bronxville, 30 minutes north by commuter train. I'm wearing a white floor length ball gown and my guess is some really impractical shoes. I am in the process of transitioning from a too cool for school know everything wild ass high school senior into a desperately heartbroken ghost of a girl who believes she's ugly, fat and provincial. But my god. Look at that photo! With a mere 24 years and an arms width distance I can see the beauty and the stories and the necessary turmoil and the wild process of life unfolding perfectly within me. Looking from the outside in, I am able to see my worth.
This morning I woke up at 3:30 am. I lit candles and wrote. I stretched. I meditated. I prayed and planned and felt the giant expanse of life unfolding before me. And as soon as I had the secret to life and the universe figured out perfectly at last, I stumbled and fell into the ancient old vacuous pit of feeling fat. Shame crumpled my body as I folded onto the bed. Please, please God, I said. Not this again. Please help me see myself from the outside in. Please help me love the two year old, the 19 year old, the 43 year old me growing, changing, expanding to fill the larger than life form of worth. Help me remember that this is, was, and always will be, mine.