I have had several opportunities in the past few weeks to rant about the things people say… After much thought and my co-workers advise “We feel a blog coming on” I am going to attempt to get my say!!
Let me preface this by explaining that it rarely surprises me when I hear the way people talk about others, especially in the realm of the size issue. I might also add that I am often the recipient of ( be kind Suzanne) mindless comments. One more thing, I have a firm grasp of who I am and what I really look like. I have no delusions…That being said this is what started my week of the rant.
I was working with a customer for quite a while and in the course of our conversation she said to me about another person, “she is certainly as big as you are”. It really ticked me off and I was not fast on my feet for a comment. It stayed on my mind all day and I was not sure what annoyed me the most. I worked it out that if she had said “she is your size” that would not have bothered me even though I work hard at not using comparisons. The real issue is that it seemed filled with judgment and that was a problem for me. My customer was a woman of size so I wanted her to know better. Looking back I now see she was struggling with her self image even though she was a smaller size.
Right on the heels of this a mother of a woman of size came in and said as loud as she could “my daughter is huge!!” She needs clothes because she is so depressed. She is really big, I finally said how big ( for sizing purposes) and the answer was “half as big as you”. I actually laughed because I knew right then I had something to learn. I also said to the mother that it was little wonder her daughter was depressed if she talked to her like she did to me. She was not impressed with me and left.
In the same week I had lunch with Kate Partridge who is the founder of Large As Life. She is now a psychologist living in London Ontario. I was asking her about her practice and one of the things she does is a workshop on “mindfulness”. Well, seems it all starts fitting together.
I know about how important it is to me to be mindful of so many things. It is something one has to first acknowledge and then start being aware. No small feat. With the kind of week I had it was yet another reminder that what you say and the words you use can have great impact, both good and bad. It amazes me that even though I know these things I am constantly reminded to practice it.
Kate was saying it can be useful about what you eat and how you eat it. She gave an example of one woman in one of her classes that decided she would pick her lunch meal and be mindful when she ate it. Seems she ate the same thing nearly everyday. When she paid attention to every bite and the flavours and her enjoyment level she decided she really did not like it at all. Interesting. I know it is the reason eating in front of the tv is not in our best interest, we tend to finish and then are not aware of how long it took to eat or how it tasted. Really enjoying every mouthful and appreciating the meal seems good to me.
Well, I do believe when all is said and done that I needed to be reminded about my words and thoughts. I have experienced some really remarkable changes in myself by correcting the chatter in my mind to reflect what I want. It is just so easy to connect with the “I am so tired”,” I hate doing such and such”, “what a drag” “ this world is falling apart”. These are the kind of things we tend to also verbalize. There are some that believe that we can create what we want with our words and thoughts. I don’t know for sure if it is true but I do know that I prefer to be around people who are positive, I also feel better about almost everything when I work at being aware of my thoughts. I have these chats with myself like oops cancel that thought I really mean……..
I love the expression that if all else fails be nice. I try hard but given my age and my hot flash levels I cannot promise I will be so kind if I am confronted with judgment, especially about the size issue. In fact it is on my agenda this year to combat judgment of any kind. It is a never ending road of paying attention and catching oneself.
This is the best quote I found on the subject. “Our judgments judge us, and nothing reveals us, exposes our weakness more ingeniously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows.” Paul Valery
There are times in one’s encounters when you meet someone who you think will be significant in your life.
That was not the case with Ingrid. She scared me. I first met her at a Large as Life meeting, which for those of you who may not know was the very beginning of the plus size acceptance movement in Vancouver if not all of Canada.
It was one of those times for me when it took all of my courage to go to this event. Me in the company of other women of size?? We never traveled in packs those days. Little did I know that it would forever change the course of my life. An aside, we should do things that are a challenge or a bit scary.
Back to Ingrid, as fate would have it we were soon thrown together on a project ( yes, she got me right away). That was the beginning of a 30 year friendship. Ingrid was indeed one of those people who come into your life to teach you things you need to know. She taught me so much. What I liked about her and what scared me about her at the same time was she held her own council. She stood firmly in her own truth and was never a victim.
Ingrid became the editor of the Bolster, a newsletter for Large as Life that by the way is now in the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives in Ottawa. In those days we did not have the luxury of computers and faxes were rare. Everything was cut and paste and hours of work. I still smile at all the work Ingrid did to make small figures look “chubby”. I was a contributing writer on the subject of fitness. I can still hear Ingrid saying to me “Magnolia, you will have to change paragraph one and add more information to the next sentence” and so on. I re-wrote, fixed and fixed again the things I submitted, muttering under my breath all the while. Yes my nickname is Magnolia. I know she saw in me the potential to do better and eventually I did.
Ingrid was also one of those women who supported all my efforts to speak about living life in the fat lane and always encouraged me to do tougher projects. Ingrid spent some time as head of women’s studies at Langara College. I knew I had made it in her eyes when she asked me to speak to her students. I must add that I had to submit to her a C.V. which she made me work on a few times and also I had to submit my outline, something I had never been asked to do before. I think it got re-worked at least three times.
In the beginning I believe I knew at some core level that as a mentor she would be there for me. I was also so lucky to meet her family, to spend time with her and her husband George in Summerland and to have had many a fine feast with her and friends.
There is just so much more to Ingrid Laue, she obtained her PhD in Germanic studies at UBC and taught German language, literature and Women’s studies at Langara. She is published in journals and newspapers and also wrote articles in Canadian Living. She was an amazing cook, a good singer, she traveled for years and so much more. She really did live life to the fullest.
Ingrid battled Diabetes for many years and in the end it won. She died on April 14th, 2010.
How fortunate was I to have been one of the many people she influenced. I am so grateful I did tell her several years ago how much she did for me. She smiled and in Ingrid style said ” Magnolia, you did it”. I know for sure that she heard me loud and clear.
I attended Ingrid’s Celebration Of Life on May 16. I wanted to pass on an update, Jenny Ellison, a senior student at York University working on her Masters in Women’s Studies wrote her dissertation partially based on hours of interviews with many of us from Large as Life and also the writings in the “Bolster”, the Large As Life newsletter of which Ingrid was the editor. Jenny is worthy of more musings but for now, she contacted us many years ago after she found the Bolster in the Archives in Ottawa. She is from Toronto and has been to see us several times and she keeps it touch. Kate Partridge, founder of Large As Life was in Toronto a few days before the Celebration to hear Jenny present her dissertation. According to Kate she was amazing, her dissertation, LARGE AS LIFE, SELF-ACCEPTANCE AND THE FAT BODY IN CANADA was received by her Professors with great enthusiasm.( I do hope that is still the title of the dissertation, if not I will clarify when I can find out how we can all read it if we choose to do so.)
Kate spoke at Ingrid’s Celebration and read a letter from Jenny. For women of size, the work Ingrid did in those days will continue to live on and now be carried much further by the younger women like Jenny who have used our history to further our understanding of these issues.