Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Who Am I Not to Be?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”   
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love:  Reflections On the Principles of a Course in Miracles.
The first time I saw this quote was in the movie Akeelah and The Bee.  I watched it with my sister and daughter a few years ago.  It's a wonderful movie and I highly recommend it!  The one error of the movie that I feel obligated to highlight is that this quote is mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela.  Maybe Mr. Mandela said it, but he was quoting Marianne Williamson.  

I've drifted, I know.  As the main  character, Akeelah, reads these words out loud, I don't remember thinking anything specific.  But I do remember feeling something.  Recognition perhaps?  A glimmer of hope?  

You see, the first time I heard this quote, I was not the person I am today.

That may be slightly misleading.  Deep down, I was the person I am today, and yet I wasn't.  "Deep down" is the key to understanding the point I'm bumbling toward.  Deep down, the Amy that I know better now was there.  Somewhere.  But she was dying.  I realize that sounds melodramatic and a bit over the top.  But I can't state it more clearly.  That Amy was dying.  I was dying.  Spiritually.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  Physically.  Dying.

There are lots of nice ways to put what I need to say.  I let myself go.  I had gotten heavy.  I put on quite a few pounds.  But the truth is, I was fat.  My BMI (body mass index) read in the obese category.  I was fat.

It still hurts to write that.  Although that truth was obvious to anyone who looked at me, I couldn't face it.  I knew it -- once again deep down -- but I couldn't face it.  I could barely stand to face myself.  Looking in the mirror was an enterprise in pain and self loathing, and something I avoided at all costs.  I didn't recognize me.  I didn't like me.  I didn't want to be me.

A little over a year ago, I received an e-mail from a good friend that was a lifeline I didn't even know I needed.  And from that e-mail, I started a medically based diet program and lost 75 pounds.
I'm not writing this because I want to toot my own weight loss horn.  Nor am I writing it because I think of myself in ugly duckling into beautiful swan terms.  I don't see this as a girl gets thin, girl changes life, all things are wonderful kind of story.  I also don't want anyone to think that we should be judged solely on a number on a scale or a clothing size.  This isn't meant to be a celebration of thinness.

I'm writing this because losing weight forced me to examine the reasons why I gained weight.  A few years ago, I wouldn't discuss my weight with even the closest of close friends, much less write about it.  I certainly wouldn't share that writing for any and all to see.  There are lots of reasons why I was fat.  I've always struggled with weight.  It's in my genetic make up.  I wasn't alone.  Our country is experiencing an obesity epidemic.  But the ultimate cause, the most basic underlying reason was despair.  

I despaired of myself.  I gave up on myself.  I loved my family.  I had good friends and colleagues.  But I despaired of  me.  And the paradox of my life was that the larger my body became, the more invisible Amy became.  I hid behind my weight.  I believed I had nothing to offer, no glory to let shine. I despaired of me.

That is tragic.  I don't say that only because it's me I'm talking about.  It is tragic for anyone.  Despair kills hope.  Despair robs us of seeing the amazing people we were created to be.  It threatens the spark of the divine that's in all of us.  Despair makes us believe that nothing and no one matters.  Despair drives some people to drink, some people to drugs.  It drove me to food.  I may not have been proactively seeking to kill myself, but I was on the road of slow death just the same.  

By now you're probably saying to yourself, "Too much information, Amy!  TMI!"  But maybe you aren't.  I don't think I was alone in my despair, in giving up, in pushing my true, fun, fabulous self down because I was too afraid to shine.  Maybe one of you has felt the same way.  Maybe seeing a glimpse of the path I've been on will make your own a little easier to navigate.  

I'm learning, day by day, that allowing myself to shine, to be the person God created me to be, does not mean that others will be eclipsed in my wake.  Giving up on myself will not make it better for someone else.  It seems to me that the power of the human spirit is that we have the ability to hope, to believe in something better, and to act in a way that brings that hope to fruition.  Despair can't stand up to that!

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Who am I not to be?


  1. Oh, Amy, this is such a wonderful reflection and such a great reminder to us of the importance of finding our inner beauty. There's a movie I love (Corrina, Corrina) that has that song "This Little Light of Mine" that I started to hear in my head as I read your beautiful words. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, "It's never too late to be who you might have been." Or, who you were all along, perhaps!

  2. It was wonderful watching you take that journey. I'm still on it and need to get to that question of WHY in order to move on - I'm sure that's why I'm paused (though thankfully not regressing). Keep it up, and know that I love and miss brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous Amy B!!

  3. Thanks for this post. I've been struggling with weight for years. I try not to focus on the number, but instead my fitness. My blog, The Fat Pastor, is about God, theology, media, politics, sports, and my "struggle to live well and do good in the world." Again, thanks for such a vulnerable post. It's good to hear about success stories.

  4. beeeeeeeeeutiful post - as you yourself are and have ALWAYS been, inside and out! xo a

  5. The tears are rolling, as I read and feel the passion in your words. I am so thankful that you rediscovered yourself and overcame the despair that lingered inside of you. The transformation is amazing! The strength you have now is everpresent in your eyes, the way you carry yourself, and in your words. You are an inspiration to so many, and I am so proud of you Amy. You have so much to give....love and hugs my friend...