I put my real weight on my driver’s license.

The other day I realized that my driver’s license needed to be renewed and updated with my new address, so I spent some quality time at the DMV.

I don’t look at my driver’s license very often (obviously, since it had been expired for three weeks, and the address was two years old). I use my passport for most identification purposes, and my license stays in my purse.

Thing is, my address wasn’t the only thing that was out of date. My weight was listed at 180.

That is a laughable number in its inaccuracy. I haven’t weighed 180 since I was in high school.

I distinctly remember the last time I had to renew my license in 2012, being nervous about that part. When the question about my weight came up — Is your weight still correct? — I probably mumbled something like, “Uh, yeah, sure,” and left feeling relieved that I hadn’t been called out.

In hindsight, what self-respecting person was going to question me? It’s not like they put me on a scale, everyone carries weight differently, and (possibly most important) no one really cares because using weight for identification purposes is ridiculous.

The reason I remember that fleeting interaction is because of the immense shame attached to my then-weight (which, ironically, was a lot less than I weigh now). That shame controlled so many aspects of my life — how I ate, what I wore, how I exercised, my mood, how I interacted with people — that it put a stranglehold on my happiness.

Unsurprisingly, feeding that guilt did the opposite of what I wanted. I didn’t shrink — I grew. I didn’t feel happy when I lost weight — I felt sad. Food was both my best friend and my worst enemy, and it wasn’t until I started therapy and started untangling the roots of my unhappiness did I realize I’d sabotaged all my best efforts out of fear and shame.

The thing is, my real weight starts with a 3 these days. A three. It’s not an insignificant number.

So yesterday, when the dreaded question came up — Weight’s still 180, right? — I said, “No, actually, it’s 300.”

No shame. No more hiding in fear from a number. Owning it.

I’m not saying I’m healthy now — health is a relative concept, anyway, and one that we as a society too often confuse with worthiness. I’m not saying I’ll never diet again, or that I don’t doubt myself from time to time.

What I’m saying is: I have to love and respect who I am right now, in this moment, no matter what my body looks like, no matter what number shows on the scale. That is the only way forward.

I took this photo in October. I don’t know why I was moved to photograph myself in a bathing suit, of all things, at a time when I was traveling; swollen, bruised, fatigued. It is quite possibly the worst photo I’ve ever taken of myself, but it’s interesting that I still chose to take it, and keep it, and looking at it doesn’t fill me with disgust.

This is me at my heaviest, including pregnancies.

This is me, controlling my anxiety and depression with therapy and medication, rather than food.

This is me, unashamed of my body for the first time in my life, and feeling great about it.

And while self-love is a great accomplishment, it doesn’t fit in the three-digit space on my driver’s license, so I’m doing the next best thing: Owning my weight, whatever that may be.

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Happy birthday, Ellie!

This day seven years ago brought a world of change to our family, in the form of 7 lbs 13 oz of baby girl, who now looks like this:

Little sister included for scale

Little sister included for scale.

Ellie and I got off to a rocky start. A long labor and rough birth coupled with breastfeeding struggles meant lots of changes to my meticulous, best-laid plans. Her first week outside the womb was humbling and exhausting in ways I’ve yet to experience in any other part of my life, including the birth of our second daughter.

Any motherly instinct I might have had was quashed by well-meaning and sometimes conflicting advice from my friends, family, pediatrician, midwife, and doula. I wanted desperately to do everything right which, of course, is impossible, but never underestimate the power of postpartum hormones to convince you of impossible things.

It took about six weeks before I felt like Ellie wasn’t someone else’s kid on temporary loan. I loved her, adored her, but the role of “Mom” was a tight fit. For a while, I felt more like a failed dairy cow than a Mom-with-a-capital-M. She took my orderly world, tipped it on its side and shook it like a snow globe.

…but snow globes are beautiful when shaken, and things got better. I learned to relax a little, and she learned to sleep a little, and we came to a mutual understanding — that we’d both do the best we could, and we’d probably come out all right.

What is this “cookie” you speak of, and where can I obtain more of it?

Now she’s a bright, growing kid with a mind that blows me away. She’s a voracious learner, a sponge for academics; math and reading and science are all fair game. She loves to be the center of attention, the boss. “Mama, look at this!” is a frequent refrain. She reminds me of myself as a kid, but bolder, more outgoing, more outspoken.

You are getting verrrrry sleeeeeeepy…

In turn, she’s made me braver, more empathetic, and more patient. She’s given me a perspective on life that’s entirely unique to our relationship, as I think first-borns are prone to do.

Thanks to Ellie, I’ve watched my husband and partner of 15 years become a loving, doting father. And three years down the road, I got to witness her transformation from only child to big sister, a role it seems she was born to play.

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From a tiny, squalling baby to a dancing, laughing big girl — I’m so lucky to be able to learn from her. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

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So I got a tattoo…

Cathedral Tattoo, Salt Lake City, UT

Cathedral Tattoo, Salt Lake City, UT

(I gave a modified version of this post as a 4-minute flash talk at the Automattic Grand Meetup.)

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of tattoos, but I’m also a…cautious person. Read: I overthink everything.

I asked myself things like, “Won’t it hurt? Am I the kind of person who can pull this look off? Do I really want to permanently scar my body for the rest of my life? How do I decide on one thing when it’s so irreversible?”

And the big one: “What if I don’t like it?”

So I scared myself out of doing anything (it’s one of my super powers), and put the thought aside.

Dad

And then my dad passed away.

It got me thinking. Our bodies are marked in irreversible ways all the time, through scars and age. No one is immune to change. Suddenly, the thought of a tattoo didn’t seem so overwhelming when viewed as a mark of growth.

I decided I wanted to honor my dad and acknowledge the ways I’ve changed and grown this year.

Tattoo design

I chose the script “Amor fati”, which is a Latin phrase that translates roughly to “love of fate.” It’s about taking the good with the bad, and accepting that suffering and loss are equally as important to one’s existence as joy. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche:

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

My dad was left-handed, so the tattoo is on my left wrist, facing inward as a message to myself. I worked a star into the design, because Dad loved astronomy and astrology.

Yes, it hurt, but not that bad. Thanks to Tammie for the photo!

Yes, it hurt, but not that bad. Thanks to Tammie for the photo!

“Amor Fati” also happens to be the name of an X-Files episode, making it a subtle nod to one of my favorite things. It’s serendipitous that this particular episode includes a quote that fits my situation almost perfectly.

“There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant…my touchstone.” — Fox Mulder

This mark is a new constant; a reminder to live and cherish life’s ups and downs; to accept what comes my way with grace and courage, even when they are difficult or challenging.

The final product

The final product.

So thank you, Dad, for inspiring this gift to myself, and for the painful-yet-necessary reminder that life is too short to waste on what-ifs.

Dad and me

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A letter for Dad

Dear Dad,

It’s been three months since you passed away, and I’m missing you harder than usual lately. Part of me can’t believe you’re really gone, though enough has changed in your absence that there’s no other explanation.

We had a “happy hour” in your honor at the summer party; you showed up right on time, in the form of a short-lived thunderstorm that drove us all into clusters under the tents. We sang Three Little Birds and Wild Thing. I could picture you playing the guitar alongside our friends and family, but I missed your voice singing along.

The other night, I dreamt I saw your ghost. You walked past the front window and vanished at the porch. It was more comforting to think of you that way, as a spirit; the dreams where you appear alive are harder to process the next morning. So close, and yet not close at all. Sometimes you’re still sick in the dreams, sometimes you’re not. I wake up greedy, wishing I could have more time with you.

Every time I look at the stars, I think of you. Venus and Jupiter appeared next to each other in the sky last month, and I thought you would have loved to see that. It’s the kind of thing that would have brought you outside into the night to look up, held in rapt attention. You were always fascinated by the sky.

I know this sounds morose, but we’re doing OK. You left behind a strong family. We’re not wallowing. Thanks to you, I’ve realized how little time we have, and it’s inspired me to keep going, to do all the things I want to do before it’s too late.

It catches up to me at night, though, and that’s when I write these letters to you in my head. This time, I thought I’d write one for real.

Love you,
Caroline

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