That phrase popped into my head the other day after Tam and I had just watched this video:
We started talking, and at one point she apologized in case something she had ever said made me feel bad. I assured her that throughout our long years of friendship, we’d both said things that hurt, but those things happen when people are talking.
Later, I got to thinking about the video and our conversation and I realized that a turning point isn’t necessarily a single shining moment; it’s the culmination of many illuminating circumstances that finally lead us to the point where we’re ready and able to make a change, whether it’s for the better or worse.
A childhood of people telling me I’d be so pretty if I “just lost some weight” built turning points of low self esteem. It wasn’t any one moment, although there are several that have burned themselves into my memory and the pain is nearly as intense as when it first happened. But I don’t count them as turning points, just points of illumination, road markers that are gradually leading me into the land of self loathing.
When I did finally lose “all that weight,” I felt better, pretty, even attractive, but always in danger of losing my grip on that place. I became involved in a very toxic relationship and when I gained a LOT of weight during pregnancy, he took much pleasure in reminding me of my failures as a wife, a woman, a human being.
“Turning point” makes it sound like there was a defining moment that suddenly altered the course of this juggernaut. But it was a collection of moments that were brought into focus by a single action that stayed my hand from a regretful mistake. The turning began after that, and it was still gradual.
Later, I found another toxic male to shape my life, and while he accepted me as I was (he insisted body image wasn’t as important as what was inside) he took out his frustrations in other ways, leaving bruises on both my psyche and my body.
There was no turning point there. I was finally lucky enough to make him so angry he “punished” me by leaving and refusing to speak to me for two weeks. During that time, I was able to come to grips and move on, although I hadn’t yet realized how bad he was for me and I ached to have him back in my life. Why? Because he said it didn’t matter if I was fat, he loved ME, and even with the violence, that idea of acceptance made him hard to give up.
Other relationships, other instances, other shining moments, they all illuminated a path that I couldn’t see until I allowed myself the luxury of stepping back to see just where these moments were guiding me.
The path is dotted with sparks marking my way through joy and pain. It forms a long, slow arc that continues across the horizon and out of sight. But I know, in the end, it will lead me back; full circle, but one level up, back to that girl who thought she was worthy, despite not fitting into “regular” jeans.
Only this time? This time I’m old enough to tell those assholes who tell me I’d be pretty if I lost the weight, to get fucked. My children love me, my friends love me, my family loves me, and most important, Tam loves me the way I am.
That’s not a turning point, folks, it’s a safe landing zone.