Boo Monkey just found my keys at the bottom of the dog’s toy bin.
I’m pretty sure I put them there, though I don’t remember how or why. At first, I didn’t recognize them as mine — because, really, how would my keys end up in the dog’s bin?
It’s astounding, sometimes, how I shed pieces of my life, my self, my sanity. And still remain standing, able to put the keys back on the ring, ready to walk the dog. Again.
There are some things I’d actually like to lose. Fifteen pounds, for starters. Since Boo Monkey is five, I don’t think I can call it “baby weight” any longer, though there is some injustice in that. While other women seem to get their bodies back completely — flat abs and all — for me, the process of carrying and birthing two lovely girls turned my body into something that I hardly recognize as mine.
What I’ve lost, here, it seems, is the self I was, maybe even the self I imagined I would become. Instead, I have what Rainbow Girl calls a “little pillow belly.” For her, this is a good thing. She says it is comfortable to lie on. I am hardly consoled. I have learned to suck it in, though I usually forget.
My belly is a strange reminder of other items lost and gained. It is a seismic shift, tectonic grating, plates against the soul.
At sixteen, I taught myself to vomit. I learned voluntary starvation. An over-achieving perfectionist, I wasn’t content to chose between anorexia or bulimia, so I opted for them both. That meant that an apple in the afternoon, half a cookie, let to purging. No small thing. No easy loss.
It took ten years and a great deal of therapy to renounce that particular addiction, that grasping at a false control. And still, long after, I tugged along the fringes, exercising madly. “Watching” what I ate.
There are many ways to lose yourself. I have tested several. Each one leaves its share of scars, its burden of resonant echoes.
And each one bears, too, its gift. Its brass-ring remembrance, pulled down from the edge of a twirling carousel.
For me, today, a “little pillow belly” is really not so bad. It is, after all, the perfect place of comfort for small daughter heads. Daughters who will love their bodies, in all their many incarnations — childhood, adolescent, adult, middle-aged, and ancient. Having lost myself, I know the signs, the ways to keep my girls from falling. My arms are strong enough to catch them. My heart, split and healed a thousand times, has space for them to tumble.
Together, the three of us walk the dog each morning. I often lose my keys. Sometimes I leave the poop bags behind. And those 15 pounds are stubborn. That’s okay. Boo Monkey is great at finding what is lost. Rainbow Girl can always see the silver lining. Together, they restore me to myself, each day, so that I can, in turn, keep them from losing everything that matters most.
I am farther away from perfect than I have ever been before. And happier as well. There are some pieces of myself that I will never shed, having gained them at a wretched cost. Sometimes “losing it” — the keys, the grip, the hold on triviality — is, paradoxically, the only way to find a home, a self, a day of grace within a wild, imperfect world.
After all, there are only so many places I can misplace my book, the milk carton, a toothbrush. Today, I’d rather hold what matters.
Though, if the dog ever actually eats the keys — and I wouldn’t put it past him — I might revise my view.
Do you ever feel as though “losing it” is not so bad? What lessons do you hope your kids will never have to learn?