My 5 Step Action Plan to Uncomfortable Courage
"I'm not fat, I'm poofy!" It's the argument of all mammoths since the dawn of time, and Manny of Ice Age fame just can't shake the attention his breadth gets. "Aha, that's what I say!" I laugh with my little Leo, who is laid back under a blanket, wonky-eyed and still slightly bedazzled by his cold, enjoying the movie with us. "Except you are..." he says, trailing off at the end as he sees where his retort was going. I maintain my expression best I can. Probably going in a somewhat maniacal grimace, but altogether, trying not to give away the minor gut wrench in my own 'poofy' stomach
Darren blinks and after a moment just reaches over to him and says "Mummy is so beautiful, isn't she?" and I really appreciate that, but when Leo stuttered after that, clearly trying to untangle his thoughts to translate to us what he meant, I clicked. He was Explaining The Joke because, he IS fat, not poofy, and explaining jokes for confirmation always seems to add a bonus jolt of hilarity for Leo. But I had gotten in there too quickly for him to do so before adding myself into that perilously awkward pit, and I'm reflected in the same joke.
I reassured them both, and reminded him
"yeah, I'm bigger than some other people, I have a fat body, it's a fair description, but I'm alright with that. I don't feel badly about it, and it's OK to have different body shapes. I'm happy!" He hadn't called me fat. I had called me fat. He wasn't calling me out, I just got stuck in the joke. Why did I do that? Is that modelling body positivity for my kid to mimic jokes of that nature? Probably not, but equally, at least I had the opportunity to show him I wasn't ashamed, and it wasn't a bad thing. He actually knows it isn't a bad thing, but it's healthy to reconfirm it once in a while.
The same kid snuggles me and says his favourite part of me is my belly, because it's so soft and a good pillow. Can't fault that! So... Why am I suddenly dwelling on it a little? I don't usually. Not to any extent really. I used to sicken myself with the prospect of not being considered at least reasonable looking where ever i went, because I had a disastrous relationship with my body and mind.
These days, I don't really pay much heed to what others might think. Some days I dress like a toddler (give me ice cream prints and glitter or give me heck) other days I go full drag queen (yes I'm the one with bright pink hair and lips in a gold lame dress at a wedding!) and I've well and truly conquered that battle. I consider myself a survivor there, given the enormity of the transition. I even wear a bikini now, and i didn't feel comfortable in a bikini when I was at my slimmest as a teen!
Why am i feeling this way? I tried to cycle back my thoughts while loading the dishwasher a little later. Is there something underlying still that is dominating my fears? Oh yes. That's why. My husbands work 'do'. It's looming. See day by day, I will groove to my own tune. But there's nothing quite like turning up in a room full of people who know your husband, in formal attire, to behave formally, and for them to wonder who he's married to and get that first impression. I do not make good first impressions. And the truth is, maybe they'll form opinions. But that's not my problem. It's not. I tell myself this.
So why am I rattled? It's the environment MATCHED with the image consciousness. How can I use my own defense of my personality when I'm in a 'well behaved' space? I'm a proud member of the Loud Inappropriate Laugh club, and if I can tuck into laughing, I can hand over an impression to people that isn't based on my appearance. But, if the environment dictates other expectations, well then... Anxious Sarah takes the wheel and it all goes downhill.
And then it's just weird for everyone (in my head) because you get this pitchy, erratic, rigid, motormouthed woman who doesn't have anything to talk about other than her child in regular conversation, and suddenly I look like a chunky mum trying too hard and getting uncomfortable, rather than a confident happy woman dressed as she feels good and presenting her authentic self. You guys, we haven't done a formal in YEARS, we haven't done a works formal at all in all this time together.
So, what now, because I need to equip myself, so confident Sarah can take the lead in ANY situation that this formal turns into, and now's a really good time to shake off the fact that I've just been reminded that I'm chunkier person and how that could be perceived. So here's my ACTION PLAN *epic montage music* 1. Self courage meditation. It's a thing, and it is so releasing and calming. I'm going to do it daily and adjust my perspective of myself into a better place, and thank God for my positive mental recovery so far.
2. Go buy a cute new outfit, which I haven't done in so long. Because new clothes ALWAYS make you feel a million bucks, so it's a necessary motion, and I call it. It's a done deal. No take-backsies.
3. Try to be mindful of other people in conversation between then and now, so I can focus on a pattern of conversation where I can be a listener and try not to monopolize a discussion. I'm a hyper-verbal Autistic, so I don't do much thinking before I speak, and it means I can speak over people and be a little greedy with air space, and have no awareness of it until later (when I pull a full Hagrid.) I might not be able to fully adjust in the time, but if I create a habitual pattern of at least trying to swallow what's bursting to come out of me, I might balance the ratio of speaker/listener.
4. Discuss a 'happy compromise' stim action to help control my anxiety and focus while there. Stimming can help literally anyone in stressful environments, but the more I learn about autism as an adult, the more I realise I can help myself through toughies by looking ahead to regulate those moments rather than try to simply not react, which just screws you over. Flapping, tapping and twisting my Tangle Bangle probably won't do me any favours for first impressions that won't press me, so I'll get gems to go on my nails so I can visual stim AND press my fingertips over them them discreetly.
Plus I'll look adorable and ultra cool because obviously.
5. Dance in a mirror until I feel gloriously idiotic before I go. If I like me, and I think I look awesome then that's the most important person's opinion sorted. Darren can also honour me with starry eyed adoration if he pleases.
It's not a flawless plan, but it's intentional, and that's a step. I've crashed and burned at too many events in the past to not apply some of my firey cool wierd logic to a plan.
And I like plans.
It's a shame I cant spreadsheet this.
That would have been extra satisfying.