“God made the integers, all the rest is the work of man.” -Leopold Kronecker

I wonder if

the obsession 

with those fine hard metrics

is because there is nothing else to cling to,

run amok. 

 

I tried to explain this to my friend today, but the way she looked at me, I knew she thought I was ridiculous. Her misunderstanding was comforting. Perhaps there are some of us who exist always outside these walls. 

In 6th grade I over heard these two girls talking. One says to the other, “If I ever weigh over 100lbs, I just don’t know what I’d do.” After recently becoming self-aware that I had a body and that its shapes and composition and 105lbs of materials meant something to someone, this drop off the eaves really stung as I digested its implication. Never mind any of the insanity of such an idea, the situation was irreparable.

In 10th grade I was doing laps around the school with one of the girls I routinely would not eat lunch with. She would steal her brothers ADD medication cause they made her lose her appetite, and go running around her neighborhood at 3, 4, 5am cause it was peaceful then. She would lay on her bathroom floor almost unconscious from pills and puking. She made me feel like I had a nice tight grip on my eating disorder. She fueled my myth of autonomy. The rest of the conversation doesn’t matter. I said to her as we rounded a corner, “If I was ever big, like wore a size 12 or something, I just don’t know what I’d do.” And around that corner was another classmate. She was tall and well-developed in a way that was vicious to the boys, but most certainly wore a size 12. The situation was irreparable. 

One of my friends in college lived in a house that I could have not. My recovery would have not persisted in that environment of extraordinarily over-involved well-meaning polite passive-aggressiveness, nor one where everyone had their own brand of disordered eating. One of her roommates lamented to my friend how her thighs had gotten so large, that her legs were getting to big. Although they were similar heights with similar body composition, my friend had a good 15-20lbs on her roommate and a naturally bigger build. Then another roommate, the tall, lanky dancer one filed similar complaints. I hope that these roommates are clueless to the painful exercise my friend endured, reasoning her way around these comments and then redirecting their violent potential energy away from her psyche. 

Each time this exercise is completed, the muscle is not strengthened. It does not get easier. The absurd walls instead grow taller, more difficult to scale, and more angled inward as if to better foster claustrophobia. 

I was invited to compete in a power lifting competition by one of the girls at my gym. She also invited our other friend, who wants to compete but feels she may be too overwhelmed by the her weight being written next to her name so publicly. I hope the situation is not irreparable.

Why do we cling so hard to numbers? Why do we feel so defined by a set of symbols? Perhaps because they are symbols we are free to make their meanings so much more than what they are. Or perhaps we forget that they are symbols and see them as concrete and stable through chaos and uncertainty of life. Are numbers and logic some terrible last resort shield against the ontological hell of epistemology, our first and last response to that first person singular lens we cannot escape? Does it matter if we used them so illogically, to define the whole of our beings?

I think the pragmatic answer is to fight the misconception. Here I am. Here is my mass and what it can be. 

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” -Walt Whitman

I have a friend. She intelligent, witty, creative, vibrant, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of her is this unstoppable, unquenchable passion for life. We joke sometimes that when we hang out it is a meeting of our mutual admiration society because while one of us recalls her latest adventure, the other listens in awe. Just thinking about this friend makes me feel empowered because I feel her belief in me and her love, and I feel those things back for her and suddenly become aware that anything and everything is possible.

A common experience of the anorexic is the sensation that one cannot justify the space that one occupies. And thus the desire to be lithe, as weightless and transient as a snowflake, is fueled. And in weird twist of self-inflation, the space one occupies seem enormous, and every action, every spoken word becomes an apology for being so relentlessly huge. I am sorry, I am so sorry that I am here and that I am useless. And as one tries to erase oneself and slip deeper into shadow, this enormity is only magnified until   the one is both completely insignificant but also so big and so everywhere and omnipresent.

So when I spoke of this and how far away from it I feel now, particularly as I develop my physical strength, my beautiful, wonderful friend replied, “You know, the very first thing you learn in Women’s Studies in that we are taught above all to not take up space.” And I instantly saw it and all the detriment of this idea, particularly powerful being explained by this friend.

I felt unjustified in existing because I clung to this fantasy of insufficiency, that I was somehow a leech and had nothing to do but suck the lifestuff from others by my mere presence until I was thin enough when SUDDENLY my volume would equal my worth (due  perhaps not just do a decreased volume but also because those of less volume were worth so so much more, the differential equation describing this behavior is complicated but can be found in appendix B) and at this time the rest of my problems would also be solved, cause that’s how my dreamworld worked.

But it was in diminishing myself that I was being overly selfish. If prevented myself from effecting external, except to spread negativity. I could not explore my passions or invent or create or improve or enjoy, and above all I could not help others do the same.

If one does not exist, one cannot offer anything to the universe. So we must be, afraid of neither who nor what we are, and be as large and enormous and ridiculous and contradictory as we need to. And this, I think, is why I admire my friend so much. She shares her talents and passions and does so both bravely and consciously. I’d like to to be just like that when I grew up, but she will tell me I’m already there.