Tools of the Trade is a two-part feature in which a spiritual practice is introduced and explained. Paul then performs the practice for one month, and writes about his experience. Part two is available next here.
Hello. This is the fuzzy, abstract part of me that lives somewhere inside of you. I realized recently that you and I haven’t really touched base lately… Or, well, ever I suppose. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re about to turn thirty in a few months, or maybe it’s because that damn wife of ours knows exactly how to get into our head. Hell, I bet she planned this whole thing; she’s sneaky like that. Do me a solid and keep our eyes on her.
I suppose I’m writing because I feel like it’s time we finally talk about the elephant in the room: I haven’t been very kind to you. It was never my intention to mistreat or demean you– honestly, it just never occurred to me to treat you any differently. I know that you’ve been with me from the beginning, and have seen everything I have, but I still feel compelled to explain myself.
It started when we were young. Kids aren’t known for their tact and grace in social situations, which might explain why on multiple occasions the first words we heard upon introducing ourselves were, “You’re fat.” Those words crept their way into our brain and made a permanent home there. Our entire existence had been summarized in two words, and the subtext was clear: We were strange. We were different. We were on the outside. I took that information and ran with it, generating an identity that fit the terms they had given me. From then on, I saw myself as an outsider; an observer of those on the inside.
At that point, being considered fat was a splinter in our psyche. It wasn’t an open wound, but it was still there and it stung if someone touched it. We were still largely oblivious of the world around us, and our mother certainly seemed to think we were pretty great. Maybe it was an isolated incident?
Then there was the day at the pool.
We must have been about seven or so; young enough that the idea of a billion quasi-incontinent children shoved into a tank of stale water didn’t seem inherently gross. We were sitting shirtless on the pool’s edge, when an older boy waded by with his friends in tow. He looked at me, nudged his buddies and yelled, “Oh my God! Look at that kid’s titties!”
I’m not sure which happened first, me processing his words, or your heart stopping, but both of those things happened. I had to come up with a response, fast. Somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered hearing an adult tell me that the next time someone teased me, to try to turn the whole thing into a joke. So that’s what I did. I launched into my very first improv comedy routine. The problem was, to win these kids over I had to turn you into the punchline. And it worked.
They were in stitches, and for the first time, I felt like maybe I didn’t have to be an outsider. I had effectively broken the ice, and now these kids wanted to play with me. But it wasn’t until just this very week, more than two decades later, that I realized the significance of that moment. That was when I abandoned you. When they had us backed against the wall, I joined their side and left you to fend for yourself.
As we grew older, I increasingly saw you as an anchor that I had to make up for. If I were smart enough, if I were funny enough, if I were good enough, maybe no one would notice that we were fat. Or, barring that, if I took ownership of your flaws and pointed out the ways in which I believed you to be sub-par, I could beat them to the punch.
That’s how I came to think of you as being incidental. You were nothing more than the vessel I was tethered to. The fact that you’re the only body in the entire history of the world that looks and behaves the way you do never crossed my mind. Perhaps that’s why over the past thirty years I’ve been so content to stuff you full of chemically altered food and guzzle down sugar-acid almost constantly. I’ve never given you the proper respect or attention you deserve, and for that, I am truly sorry.
I want to take steps toward making things right. I want to get to know you better. I know I can’t undo the damage I’ve done to you overnight, but I’d like to start trying. For the next thirty days, I’m going to do my best to treat you properly. I’m going to eat food that’s better for me, drink more water, and be more physically active. I’m not trying to change you, by the way. This has nothing to do with trying to be skinny. I mean it when I say this: Body, you’re perfect exactly like you are. I know that’s the opposite of everything I’ve said, done, and believed for the past thirty years, but it’s true. We’ll talk more about that next month. In the mean time, I should probably wrap this up. I’m going to need to make a trip to EarthFare…
All the Love in the World,
Abstract Fuzzy Paul