dear hilary: what lives on

Dear Hilary,

Have you ever been unkind to your body, or yourself?


Dear judgmental,

I never thought I’d write anything about this story on this blog. To be honest, I never wanted to tell anyone. For a while in college, not all that long ago, I waged a silent, prim, polite war against my body.

I stood at a cabinet looking at a jar of peanut butter and half a loaf of bread and dared myself to walk away, to be braver and better than food, to not need the comfort that comes with being full, feeling full.

I dared myself to go for days like that, to run every morning (that was the permission to eat, you know, if I had run). I dared myself, sly and quiet, to master desire.

I think all this was around the time that I realized I wasn’t ready to go to graduate school, and that I didn’t know what to do with my life after, right around the night I wore a brown sweater dress and scrawled an inscription in a book of poetry I gave him for his birthday, scrawled something about how Edward Hirsch writes beauty into the world, and so should he, but I wrote it while we drove back from a conversation that changed us forever, with the light on in the car along the back roads, an ending kind of conversation.

I think all this had begun a long time before that, too.

I’m scared to write it here, to admit out loud that there are these days when there is still a voice in my head that tells me I would better thinner. I’m scared to tell you that the girl you look at, with her smile widening at the sight of you, with all the good she has been given, she still has a bit of glass edging its way out of her heart, too.

I’m hopelessly tangled in my own story, which has wild love and this silent war so knit together they’re both mine. They’re both me.

But I titled this what lives on. Because something always does.

What lives on in me is the hope, that the patient repetition of the words, “I am beautiful,” in the mirror, in the driveway, in the desperate too-long runs in the woods, they were healing words. I had to speak my way into believing them. I still have to do that. But I have hope.

What lives on in me, almost two years later, is the time I sat in the parking lot with my mother who is wiser than all the rest, and let her love me back, back from this polite war against fullness, back from the rage at the lack of control we have over our days, back over my fight with my present. What lives on in me is the radical notion that there is something good alive in me, something I have made, or am making, of this time when I was unkind to my body, my self.

Because what lives on is what we breathe into being, what we keep, what we cherish.

So dear heart, because you will breathe life into something, let it be hopeful. Let it be beautiful, let it not be bittered by all that it was in its ache but let it be beautified by what it became, as your story always holds more than you imagine it does.

I whisper to you that the things most beautiful are often first, and somehow, continuing, most broken. Wild love and a polite war. Talent and jealousy, wisdom and pride, a thousand peacekeeping and another thousand battling moments, all inside us.

To me, what lives on is how wondrous we are, to contain such things – and how much more wondrous, that we can make beauty from it.



8 thoughts on “dear hilary: what lives on

  1. I just re-read this post and can’t stop myself from commenting a second time:

    Embedded in your words, is a powerful story of this whole idea being beautiful & the quiet, still practice of healing, of the process of believing truth that you know but still needs to touch your heart. This post leaves me with no more words to say except than just breathtaking…just beautiful.

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