I had a massage a few days ago from a dear friend who knows my knotty back and neck well. She noted that even though so many of my back woes have been resolved because of my recent breast reduction (if you want to read more about getting my boobs miniaturized, click HERE and HERE), I’m still dealing with tight shoulders.
In the course of our dialogue, we happened upon the epiphany that I continue to compensate for my big boobs–even though they are non-existent now–as I exercise, sit, and just generally live. Like the mysterious Phantom Limb Pain, that sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached, I keep holding my shoulders high, counterbalancing the constant weight of the big boobs that once burdened them.
What, exactly, am I to do about my aching, haunted back? It doesn’t match my present reality at all, yet its twinges affect everything.
And I got to wondering: Just how much of our unconscious life is spent living as though the past was still present? And does living with the Undead enhance or harm today’s reality?
Since last year I’ve had my breasts reduced from an L to a C cup (which is a BIG difference in boob-land) and lost 70 pounds during the process. To put that in perspective, my breasts have gone from the size of a modest watermelon to a swank tangerine. Body-wise, I am one-third less the person I was a year ago.
That’s a lot of Ghost Boobs and Phantom Fat.
I remember the first time I walked by my full-length mirror in the middle of the night and shrieked because I didn’t recognize my own image–I thought we had a prowler in the house. Clothes shopping, especially at the beginning, was a practice in futility because I immediately went to the XL section and started choosing items, only to get to the dressing room and find everything looked ridiculous. All the clothes styles I had learned to love during my decades with my big boobs now looked awful on me, but the idea of wearing layers or bodycon felt absurd. I constantly wanted to cover my arms, even though there’s nothing to hide anymore. I moved chairs or asked people to scootch over a bit to squeeze my no-longer-sizeable ass through small gaps or into cramped areas for absolutely no reason. And I was cold. All. The. Time.
But these are just the silly, superficial things. Anecdotes I laugh about with acquaintances who want to acknowledge the elephantine weight loss in the room, lightly, and move on to what we have in common. (Which is most everyone.)
The horrific hauntings by Ghost Boobs and Phantom Fat are far more insidious and unseen by everyone, most especially by me:
- The belief that it’s wrong for me to take up space, to impose myself in any way on the space claimed by others, and so I must make myself as small and quiet and unobtrusive as possible to apologize for the inconvenience of the space I must occupy simply to exist.
- The idea that my size and curves are offensive, in-your-face inconsiderate, ugly and a sign of my own flawed character and lazy tendencies; that they solely exist for the distasteful purpose of calling attention to myself, compelling others–despite their “pure” intentions–to think lascivious and cruel thoughts and so get angry at me for occupying the unwelcome space in their self-concept or self-crotch. Objectified for being a woman, objectified for being a fat person, objectified for being either attractive or un-attractive. Really, I’m just one big excessive OBJECT, not a self-willed strong SUBJECT, capable of any independent action apart from others and their viewpoints/judgments/needs/desires.
- The feeling that my own successes are harmful to others, that I must work endlessly to normalize and equalize the gaps in outcome between us, sacrificing my time and energy and resources–heck, my self–to help them feel better about their own dissatisfaction with their current reality, as well as bolster their self-esteem and love them unconditionally whilst their own love becomes more and more conditional upon my reparations.
- The inkling that my basic value as a human being is in no way intrinsic, but entirely provisional: if I do not make money, if I do not please others, if I do not look appealing, if I do not enhance the lives of others in some verifiable way, then I and my life by extension are without worth.
And that’s when I hit upon it in my own life–another undead part of me that I thought long gone.
The Ghost of my Failures.
My failed first marriage. My failure to satisfy conventions. My failure to make a six-figure income. My failure to be skinny. My failure to be everything that everyone around me needed me to be. My failure to be enough. My failure to be perfect. My failure to…
You get the picture.
Parts of me and my life and those I love are gone, and there’s a constellation of voids left in my life where once they were.
Even when the ghostly losses and failures have been confronted, processed, and released–even when I’ve since succeeded in achieving the goal I once failed so many times to achieve–the Void lingers, haunting me today, muttering and groaning constant reminders of my lack.
For Ghosts arise out of perceived Lack or Loss. We miss someone who’s passed over, and so they haunt us. A hole is left in our lives as we pine for an unattained ideal. There is a Void in our minds or our hearts or our spirits, or at least we think there is, and so many decisions and actions in our lives are spent proving the Void wrong.
And we shall go to our graves, probably to haunt the living ourselves, every present action a reaction to whispered admonishments of whatever our own version of Ghost Boobs is–constantly compensating in our present life for the past that we can neither atone for nor erase.
What does a life lived with ghosts look like, exactly? The signs of their presence are ubiquitous:
- Are you still trying to prove to your family that you’re not the person you were in your youth? You’re living with a ghost.
- Are you buying stuff rather than living life? I suspect a ghost.
- Do you find yourself silent rather than speaking your truth? Ghost.
- Do you feel as though life can never be what you wish it to be? Or that you can never live up to your own (or others’) expectations? Or most subtle of all, does your longing for what’s been lost to you prevent your enjoyment of what is?
Ghost. Ghost. Ghost.
You may not be haunted by Ghost Boobs, but you’re just as haunted as my constantly compensating shoulders. You’re living to not be things, to not do things, to not have things. Bearing the burden of things long gone or lost in the never was.
Living with the haunted whispers of what will never be.
But is it really all that harmful to live with our Ghosts? Make them a permanent part of our lives?
For a short time, no. In small doses that grief and loss help define us, create the edges and complexities and make each of us unique. Without loss and lack itself, what we have would be meaningless to us. We fragile human beings seem to only treasure what we have because we have not.
But long term? Ghosts don’t serve us. Hauntings damage our here and now. Ghosts are meant to depart as a natural part of the process of life and living.
Frankly, it’s bad for our bodies, bad for those we love, and bad for our world.
If we are to live and love our present and our future, we must exorcize these Ghost Voids.
The only answer I’ve ever found is a simple word. A profound word. A healing word. A terrible word–
Forgiveness, plain and simple. Stop a-Voiding things. Creating a-Void is never the answer, and only creates more ghostly problems.
We cannot undo what we’ve done, but we can learn from it and never do it again. Jesus said quite simply, “Go and sin no more.” We cannot bring back what we’ve lost, but we can live from a place of acceptance and love. We cannot create an ideal world, but we can reach towards order out of the chaos within and around us.
We can be directionally correct, but that means we must aim from a strong foundation of what is today’s truth.