The girl who threw up all the time came to it naturally. Rejecting what rejected her, she started as a baby. As per the fashion of the time, her parents left her alone in her crib to cry it out, but she never got to the end of the crying. If she held onto the bars of the crib and cried until she threw up, they had to come hold her, at least lift her up to clean the crib and change her pajamas.
She threw up in the car her whole childhood as she was driven through city tunnels grimy and endless, or on eight-lane highways past miles of refineries. She tried not to throw up while pressing her small face against the cold car door window while her parents fought and the baby beside her slept.
Not liking most foods she was given, she was labeled a “fussy eater,” and fed only what she would eat: a diet of bread, Jello, bananas and sour cream, Hawaiian Punch (“How ’bout a nice Hawaiian punch?” Bam!), pizza, and many hot dogs. Her people didn’t know vegetables unless they were cooked with brisket into oblivion. Fruit came from cans. Whatever she ate, if she needed to get in a car afterwards, came back up and into a plastic bag her parents carried a stack of in the backseat.
She lived on a diet that didn’t give her what she needed. Foods pressured, guilted, hidden and weighted with various people’s self-hatred pouring back generations. Mothers and grandmothers counting calories and hiding candy. As a teen, she threw up when not in motion too out of active self-hatred, locked and loaded into her image of herself. She became good at it, and was surprised how it was almost pleasant to throw up ice cream.
“Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself,” she told herself while hitting herself.
As a young woman, she threw up more. If she could just get rid of the bad part of herself—the hungry ghost baby craving something sweet—she could be worthy of being loved. She could sculpt herself into value from the inside out. She was famous to bathroom for her throwing up, and to herself for her shame about having to throw up.
Until she wasn’t.
She fell in love, and he fell in love back. When she told him she threw up, he told her to stop. And she did. Just. Like. That.
She found her land, her people, her way, and to some extent, her food: what wouldn’t make her sick or bloated. Love tamed most of her self-hatred. Community and art too. Work and children. She switched to whole grains, cooked up pots of vegetable soup, learned to make elaborate salads with roasted almonds, discover asparagus that didn’t live grey-green in cans, and even fell in love with Brussels sprouts.
Never having fallen out of love with long walks, she started talking longer ones. She found dance, breath, yoga, stillness, even if she lost them again on occasion. The motion of being a body brought her greater peace than agitation. The wind and sun, rain and lightning, fed her as they had always fed her, but now, she took notice.
Over the decades, she threw up less and less, sometimes going months without bowing over the toilet. Still, occasionally, she made herself sick, and then did what she could to relieve it. Then beat herself with words and shame until she fell asleep. “Can she let herself stop hurting herself” she wonders, as if it’s a question. Does she deserve to be healed? Does giving up the power to throw up mean giving up power?
She dives down in a forward bend and slowly rises back up, a great blue heron of a woman. She stretches and breathes, returning to where she never left with each inhalation. She lies in corpse pose in a room full of dusk, then rises with ease, walks to her car in the damp air of a sudden thaw. The moon rises in the east, the stars in the west.
This night, the next, and the next, she lets herself be held and released. The golden light of the mother envelops her. Cradles her. Yes, the woman body she is tells her: you can stop. You deserve this. Your story is always intact, even if you never throw up again.
Keeping what she takes in means treating herself with trust, acceptance, love. Trusting herself to feed herself what nourishes, food and all else. Accepting the beauty of imperfection. Loving what is.
The girl who couldn’t stop throwing up becomes the woman who doesn’t need to twist and contort herself from the inside out. She’s a woman, like all other women, of golden light, cradling herself.