When I was younger I lived for the bar scene. From 19 – 25 I lived in Fredericton, Cape Breton, and Halifax and was an incredibly social person. Like a lot of people that age I would put my weekend money aside before I paid bills or bought groceries. I drank way too much, partied way too hard, and made a bunch of choices I probably wouldn’t have if I had been older or sober but it was a lot of fun.
It was tough in a lot of ways though – especially when I started to recognize there were parts of my party life that just weren’t true. The biggest lie was that I was happy in my ever-growing body. Another was that I was this larger-than life funny guy that people loved to party with.
Mostly to make my friend Joe proud, and to test whether he ever actually reads this blog, I think this wikipedia entry about a Seinfeld episode puts it best: “During the seventh season (“The Pool Guy“), George reveals he has two distinct personas, Relationship George and Independent George. Relationship George, he explains, is the conscientious personality he feels forced to adopt in the presence of his fiancée, Susan. Independent George, on the other hand, is the “real” George. Independent George is composed of a subset of personalities, such as Movie George, Coffee Shop George, Liar George, and Bawdy George. Independent George is the George that Jerry knows and grew up with. George worries that if Susan starts socializing with the group, his two worlds will irrevocably collide, resulting in Relationship George “killing” Independent George. Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, he declares, “A George divided against itself cannot stand!”
Over the last two years I’ve picked away a little bit every day at the wall I put up between who I am and who I’ve shown the world. There’s no doubt I was a different Jay to different groups of people, and I would panic when those groups overlapped. But I’ve worked at little steps, everyday, to just get comfortable in my own skin and feel at ease just being me. It’s been an incredible journey filled with a lot of reflection and doubt and with a great number of little victories.
Those “wins” you tally up along the way are really small but very important. I remember the first time I took a compliment and just said “Thank you” and meant it. I remember the first time I was comfortable enough to try fitting in to a theatre seat, and then an arena seat. How great it felt the first time I sat in the back of a friends car. I remember the first time I walked to the store, tied my shoes with the laces on top and not the side, and the first time I agreed to go for a walk with my friend Jenn, confident I wouldn’t slow her down too much. These tiny little victories were worth a million bucks on the days they happened.
The further I get in to this journey sometimes it’s harder for me to spot those. It wasn’t until Monday that I realized there was a pretty big one over the weekend.
I did something I haven’t done since I hit my 30’s – and that’s a doubleheader. I went out for “after-work” drinks with my co-hosts on Friday, and then early St. Paddy’s Day drinks with work friends, my brother (who I also work with) and his wife.
George had it all wrong. Life is so much easier when you just get to be yourself no matter who is around. I sat in a chair (with arms!), ordered drink after drink, having a blast, moving through the crowd easily with a confidence I certainly haven’t had in years. My friends shared stories and I told mine – without having to worry about which version of “Jay” was going to be killed. My whole life was wide open, and I’ve discovered that’s why people enjoy going out with friends! It’s actually relaxing if you’re not trying to juggle 50 stories and 100 lies.
I didn’t realize until Monday how big one of my little victories actually was – but having my new friends who have only ever known me as the guy I am today, an old friend who first met me at my heaviest, and some of my family – all at one table and not feeling like I had to manage the conversation in any way was a huge success for me. That’s the payoff. I think it’s a sign that I’m actually healing. I’ve got a long way to go as I regain my health and continue to lose weight but emotionally – to have so many of people who matter to me most sit at one table and know they all know me, my struggles and my truths, and choose to be there anyway, was an eye opener.
That’s what I was hiding with 460 pounds. I was hiding my belief that if people actually knew me, they wouldn’t like me. That’s the difference between being insecure because your obesity, and being obese because of your insecurity.
I’ve got a lot to learn about friendships and relationships – because I have spent a very long time being very bad at them – but I’ll tell ya this. I couldn’t have found a better group of people to show me how it works.