Earning my spot
Back when I thought I was both thin and happy (one out of two isn't bad, I guess), when I was new to my local running community, I was introduced to a couple of women who participated in a twice weekly neighborhood run; they invited me to join them.
The women in the group were all faster than me but so delighted to have been invited, to have been considered worthy of their company, was I that I forced myself to keep up with them and never complain; I set PRs in all my race distances the following year and I also dealt with my first running injury/setback as a result of my ignorance.
Every once in awhile, one particular woman would join us; she only made it to the meet up about once or twice a month due to the necessary schedule-juggling of parents with opposing work schedules. When she joined us, I was no longer the "heaviest" runner in the group; when she was around I felt better about myself, better about my worthiness to be included with "the fast girls."
And then, one day, everything changed. She lost weight; quite a bit of it, actually, and I became very nervous and anxious when she was around. All of the other women, much smaller than either of us, would praise her and ask, "what have you been doing?" in a manner that would suggest they were scouting tips for their own weight loss efforts.
She would shy away from their inquisition, mumble something about less sweets and fewer beers, or something along those lines; a routine that I knew well from my own experiences in dramatic weight loss. I felt equal parts empathetic, sad and jealous; each time I felt frightened and threatened I told myself, "don't worry; it'll come back, and then some."
Months later, after a considerable hiatus from the group, she returned; it was glaringly obvious that her had weight returned, as well, just as I'd predicted it would. She was visibly withdrawn and did not speak much; she just showed up and ran. This provided me with a sense of overwhelming relief and comfort; my worthiness within the group secure again, my success with restriction ensuring my rightful place among the lithe princesses.
Hot tears stream down my face as I reflect on these memories; if I could somehow stand beside this incarnation of my soul, during this time, I would give her a hug. I'd like to provide her with some comfort, but she wouldn't accept it. She never recognized this as her own fear, her own way of protecting herself; if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that it is much tougher for others to cause me harm if I'm punishing myself sufficiently.
I've spent much of my life trying to earn my spot, just like I thought I'd earned my spot within that group; however, I'm finally beginning to realize that the spot is already mine, if I want it. Hell, I don't even want that spot anymore. I don't have to earn anything from anyone, because I am already worthy of my spot...if only I can remember.