nipples, though at the time, I didn’t know it. I don’t have flat nipples anymore, thanks to my two children.At the time, the fact that I had flat nipples was devastating. I was trying to nurse my first born. It wasn’t working, because I was told, I had flat nipples. I remember looking down at my chest and wondering: is that what flat nipples look like? I hadn’t seen many other women’s nipples and when I had, definitely didn’t pay attention. So these nipples were not working. I was malfunctioning. Malformed.
We got Chinese take-out the other night and after everyone finished eating—or picking at their food—it was time for fortune cookies. My boys, now 7 and 10 years old, were so excited they jumped up and ran to the counter, grabbed all the cookies, and started ripping them open. Wait! Everyone gets their own cookie. They dole them out. Now: we can open. The youngest opens his first because he just wants to eat the cookie, which I tell him is pretty gross. My opinion, of course, but I felt like it was necessary info. His fortune is something about having happiness and being whole and I forget… My other son eats his and I don’t think even read his fortune. My husband doesn’t eat his cookie and I have no idea what his fortune was because I was probably too busy reading mine.
I threw them all away, but mine was actually thought provoking. It read something like: “The loss of that which you didn’t know you possessed is no loss at all.” Whoa. It’s funny; before I found out I had flat nipples, I never felt like I was missing anything. Or that I wasn’t going to be an OKAY mom. In fact, I felt downright prepared.
We lose a lot of things we didn’t know we possessed, usually finding out only once its too late. I was running with a friend a few years ago, who’s quite a few years younger than me, and complained to her about how slow I was, how out of shape I felt. I told her, “I used to be able to run a 5k no problem under a 10 minute mile!” She had long legs and long brown hair. She was tall and lithe. She looked at me, told me, “But that was your younger self. You don’t need to compete with her.”
She was also a social worker. Go figure.
The Loss You Didn’t Lose
What I’m trying to say is that I spend a lot of time ruminating on all the things I could and should be doing and being. I compete with myself. I try to recapture the moments before I knew my nipples were malformed; in those moments, ever so briefly, I felt whole. Perfect. And not perfect as in “ideal” or “best,” but simply resting in myself, oblivious to flat nipples or the time when I hit 35 that I’d only be able to slog along at a light jog.
I spent a lot of time worrying. Before I knew I was not pointy-nippled enough for my baby birds to latch onto with their tiny lips, I never gave those nipples a second thought. Just like I don’t give it a second thought that my eyes can see, my nose can smell, and I can feel the soft fur of my cat’s coat with not one, but two fully-functioning hands.
Oh shit. I DO possess those eyes and nose and hands. And I don’t give them a second thought. What I’m trying to say is that that stupid fortune cookie fortune was actually good fucking advice. Finally, a reason for those God-forsaken cookies.
You can’t lose—or worry about the loss of—something you didn’t know you had. For example, I kvetch and turn myself into knots worrying about what other people think of me, and whether I’m achieving enough. Doing enough. Whether it “looks” like I’m earning my keep on this planet, in this family. But if I step back, and read that damn fortune cookie again, it becomes clear. I don’t actually “have” the mystical level of supernatural respect and admiration from the masses of which my mind likes to convince me that I do. Nor do those people out there think about me and what I’m doing every moment of every day.
I have nothing to lose.
But my mind tells me otherwise.
This is one facet of living with anxiety. I want to bring it out that I may talk about how I’m trying to do this or that, or trying to get my spiritual house in order, but the main goal here—the main aim of all this shit—it acceptance and clarity. Acceptance of what is happening now. Clarity on what is happening now. I don’t know what I’m trying to say about the flat nipples and the fortune cookie. I really don’t. They just came into my consciousness and I wanted to say, Hey! You with the flat nipples! It’s gonna be okay! The other thing is that somehow everyone is trying to tell us where we’re deficient. Everyone being the voices outside us—media, friends, family. They’re not trying to be mean. Usually it’s masked as advice. And usually it’s rooted in their story, their perceived losses. Like not being good at sports in high school, needing reading help, being lazy, disorganized. What have you. It’s not about you; it’s about them.
So when I’m trying to calm down my breathing, my heart pounding, my solar plexus crunched up into a knot, my stomach roiling—I don’t want to hear about your problems. I’m afraid to even let you know I’m having a problem, because that’s vulnerable. That’s scary.
My yoga teacher said this on one day of our week-long immersion, and it stuck to me. She said, everyone comes into class with limitations. And that can be scary. So, honor your limitations and those of your students.
I don’t usually do that. I don’t think I’m alone. We’re talking physical maybe here, but oh there are mental limitations too. I listen and hear women all around me talking about their physical pain like a weight to bear. I hate mine too. Or used to. I hate it a little less now. But the mental pain we don’t talk about so much. How do I approach my friend and confide in her that I’m isolating myself because I’ve gotten so anxious about leaving the house, or not getting my work done, or how I’ll never stop feeling depressed/angry/worthless?
Where is the space to discuss our mental pain, openly?
It can’t just be inside a therapist’s office (though God bless them). And I wonder, what favors do I do by not talking openly about my challenges? Who am I helping, hurting?
I don’t know what I wanted to say here. I think I wanted to write something that someone else would like and I wanted to help in some small way. In some small way, I wanted to help. To be of service. Instead, I wrote shit. Does that ever happen to you?