This past week I traveled home to the Midwest. I was a little nervous about seeing my family after a full year of not seeing them. I’ve changed both physically and emotionally in the last year. But family is always family……..right?
I had a lot of first moments on this trip. My whole life I’ve looked up to my sister. Stephanie is two years older than me and is a stay-at-home mom. She is raising three beautiful and well-behaved children who are already turning into outstanding little humans. Through our childhood I was constantly jealous of my sister. She was always taller, skinnier and prettier. My parents did a good job of loving us the same way and giving us the same opportunities. I was never jealous that she was the older sibling and I was the younger, but it definitely effects your development.
As a younger sibling, a lot of times I felt like I was in her shadow. She was the first to do everything: walk, talk, date, break curfew, sneak out of the house…… It bothered me for a long time through adolescence that everything I did had already been done. Then in high school I started to create my own path that lead me to who I am today. I think it just takes a while for siblings of the same sex to be individuals. Even after I had grown to be an adult, I still felt a lot of the same things from childhood. Steph was still skinnier, healthier and prettier. Even my mother was skinnier and healthier than I was. I thought my place in the family was the ‘fat one’. I thought I had my mom’s physique and always envied my sister for having my father’s. My family would gently express their concern for my weight but I felt like I didn’t ‘fit’ in my family for a long time and getting skinny wouldn’t change that. Well for this trip, I finally felt like I physically fit in my own family. I do have my father’s physique; I just could never see it.
Being able to fit in physically allowed me to have a lot more fun. We went hiking, which I never would have done before. We went to the public pool where I was seen in a bathing suit! I even went off of the diving board, letting everyone see me in all my glory. Other than a few times already this summer, I hadn’t been to a public pool in years. I had not gone off a diving board since I was dating my husband or went to summer camp. I was fit enough to feel confident doing flips and fun dives. I would have missed out on this bonding time and fun with my family if I hadn’t changed my life. On a two-mile hike, I was able to talk and run with my niece, whom I don’t get to see very often. My niece Phoebe is my twin. She is the middle sibling in her family and reminds me so much of myself. She’s quirky, caring, funny, helpful and a little awkward. We were able to talk and laugh with each other in a way we hadn’t before. Another important bonding experience I would have been on the sidelines for.
Being physically fit and being happy with my body made me feel like I fit in my family for the first time. They never excluded me from these events before but I would find a way to exclude myself because I wasn’t comfortable. I was holding myself back from knowing and loving my family in the way I wanted to, with my weight. Having that weight gone left so much more room to bond with them.
I have a much, much different life than my immediate and most of my extended family. Almost everyone in my family is conservative, religious and lives in a rural area. I’m very liberal and love living in what my mother calls “The Big City”. My family and I don’t agree on a lot of political topics or major societal issues; so sometimes I feel like I don’t quite fit in mentally either. This is not a result from them. They are always interested in my opinions and don’t try to pressure me to come their side of the issue. On rare occasion we can agree on things, like Donald Trump’s hair.
While I do not expect these parts of our relationship to change anytime soon, I found that with my confidence up, so were my opinions. I’ve never been one to hold back my thoughts or change my beliefs for the crowd I’m in. But, in the past it’s been hard not to back down or just leave my opinion out. This time, I felt like I not only had confidence in my body, but since I’ve done a lot of emotional work, my beliefs are stronger. I felt like I could say what I meant more clearly. While I still have A LOT to figure out, I felt more confident emotionally as well. This made me feel closer to my family, like I was letting them see who I really am. It made me feel like I fit in, even though we are so different.
Another big change in my trip this time was my ability to stay calm. I know for sure this is a result of exercise and specifically boxing. I usually get nervous to fly but not for the actual flight. I hate the process at the airport and always worry I’ll lose luggage or something will come up that makes me miss my flight. I felt a lot more calm and confident about flying and getting through the airport. I even had a connecting flight, which I’d never done before. The whole time I felt a lot less anxious than ever before.
Usually on a trip, I like to know what we are eating the next day, where are we going, how long will it take to get there, when will we come back……… This time it was a lot easier to just roll with the punches. I felt like I was able to give up control and just enjoy my time, most of the time. I knew there was nothing they’d ask me to do that was uncomfortable or I couldn’t do physically. This made me less anxious the entire trip. I even slept better and didn’t get ‘travel belly’.
The whole trip was awesome and I loved t almost every minute. (Being eaten to death by mosquitoes in 98% humidity can just never be fun for me) If I hadn’t lost the weight and worked on my mentality, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this trip as much. I would have missed out on essential bonding with my nieces and nephews. I would have worried the whole time. AND I didn’t even realize how much I was missing before. I would have never even known. I wouldn’t have this beautiful picture of me and my sister.