Before we begin, I wanted to offer a content warning that I’ll be discussing issues related to chronic illness, weight, fatphobia, alcohol, etc. and if those topics are upsetting for you in anyway, please feel free to skip this or sit this one out, okay? Please take care of you. - S.
As the content warning above has indicated, today’s Field Notes is a bit of a departure for me. Full truth? I have no idea how to talk about this. I’ll probably get some things wrong. I ask for your grace, as I try to share honestly while also maintaining boundaries and my sense of care for all of us.
For a year or so now, I’ve been studiously ignoring some questions from mostly well-meaning folks (as well as some wild commentary from strangers on the Internet). My avoidance of those questions wasn’t really on purpose at first; I just didn’t quite know how to answer them well - I still don’t! - and it felt kind of weird and uncomfortable to me.
So I just kept letting these go by in every Ask-Me-Anything we have done here at Field Notes, ignored them in my email inboxes and direct message inboxes, and in every social media comment section. I’ve even hidden or deleted the more pointed public comments on social media, so other people couldn’t see them and maybe feel triggered, too. But the questions/comments kept coming and it’s been getting obvious that my avoidance strategy here has run out of road. To loop you in, over the past while, people have been asking some variation of, “Hey, what’s the deal with your body right now?”
Part of why I ignored these questions is because, well, folks commenting on my body has been the one constant of my entire public life. People have used my body over the years as an example or a cautionary tale or a talking point, usually in an attempt at proving one point or another. Most of the time it’s been negative, name-calling, dismissive, and cruel stuff from people who think that being fat should disqualify people, especially women. That doesn’t bother me (much) anymore. Sometimes the commentary has been intended as kind, I think - like, look at how amazing it is that this lady is actually writing and doing ministry work and having a good marriage, imagine THAT! good for her! like I’m an inspiration, which isn’t quite the compliment people seem to think it is. Folks need to get out more, I guess.
And then others have shared with great tenderness how much it means to them that I am who I am/have been in public, in this body, with my limits, capacity, and size etc. because they also have painful experience in environments where weight gain or being fat or sick was weaponized particularly against women as a tool of control, disqualification, and silencing. I have 100% felt the same way. I have needed to see representation in those areas myself in order to find freedom.
By now, I’ve mostly made peace with the fact that people will just always comment on other people’s bodies - usually because of our complex relationships with our own bodies - so I’ve always tried to not to let it affect me or become part of my own narrative, let alone the focus of anything I try to put out into the world.
But while this entire thing has been present in my public life from the start, there has been a whole new level the past year or so as my appearance seemed to change and folks can see that on social media. Some of this was pure curiosity, which is just human nature, I guess, and not really worth indulging.
But then people who once felt like they saw themselves in my body have felt betrayed and even suspicious now; was I becoming one of those weird influencers who try to sell you diet teas, anti-aging hacks, and lip fillers? (Spoilers: um, no.) Was I developing some big pathological issue? The questions and comments shifted into wondering if I’ve got some major secret I’m keeping.
And more tenderly, some of you have felt triggered, upset, or even quite worried about me. I’m sorry for that, that wasn’t my intention by my silence.
So today, let’s try to answer those questions because this is not a big secret or a scary deal, it’s just been my own pretty humble story of the slow healing in my relationship with my body, my soul, my trauma, and my mind, as well as learning to manage chronic illness in a way that makes sense for me.
Fair warning: this is a long one so grab a cuppa.