Laura: I’ve never actually met one of the people that has been a consistently positive influence in my life. Before the advent of blogging, I think that would have been almost impossible to say, but from my very first blog (many many years ago) Ellen has been my constant supporter, cheerleader, and friend. We bonded first over a shared feeling of “I lost all this weight, now what?” but have stayed in touch as each of us has gone through career and life changes. Her leap to pursue her dream of becoming an artist full-time gave me the push I needed to pursue mine, and at every step of the way, Ellen has been there. It turns out that the need for bonding over a Sex and the City-esque brunch among friends in New York City is so 1990 (but that doesn’t mean we both wouldn’t leap at the chance for one)!
Laura and I have been friends for as long as I’ve been blogging, which has been since 2010. She has watched my blog go through multiple personality changes over the years. She never wavered when my topics began veering from weight loss to life in general, which included a major surgery and subsequent leap of faith as I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time artist. So, when Laura asked if I would write a guest post for her I was honored to do so and hope that you find some interest in my new, always unpredictable, sometimes challenging life.
I started my blog Fat Girl Wearing Thin in 2010 as a weight loss maintenance and support blog. I’d lost over 100 pounds and at that time had been maintaining that loss for nearly 5 years. I wrote regularly and consistently about topics ranging from the mundane (which included my 3 month quest for a perfect peanut butter substitute) to things I felt extremely passionate about (my Hate-Loss Challenges) all while trying to maintain my weight in a world where most people regain what they’ve lost and then some. With an exciting 7.5 minutes of fame in the form of an article that Woman’s Day Magazine wrote about my weight loss, my life remained pretty calm and predictable and I liked it that way.
Then, in 2012 I found myself in need of a major surgery – something I’d been putting off for years: a complete abdominal hysterectomy. Having found coverage at work (I cared for an elderly woman with whom I was extremely close to), and thanks to my anxiety disorder (read: need for control) I began planning what I would be doing during my 6-8 week recovery period. Little did I know that my world was about to be knocked off its axis. Recovery was long and terribly difficult. Not only did it take nearly 7 months for me to feel remotely ‘normal’ again, but my beloved employer passed away three weeks before my surgery. Always an active person since beginning my healthy lifestyle I suddenly found myself in mourning, depressed, largely immobile. Not only was I also unemployed, but completely unemployable.
I’ve always been an emotional eater, and when I’m depressed or anxious I tend to reach for large amounts of sugar and carbs. I knew that I needed to do something productive that would not only occupy my mind but also encourage me to heal both emotionally and physically, so I pulled out my art supplies from college and began painting. Furiously.
Because I was unable to work a traditional job I decided to open a shop on Etsy. When I finally felt recovered enough from surgery to begin looking for work I found myself at a crossroads. I desperately missed a steady paycheck but I was 42 years old and all I knew was that I wanted to paint – full time. It was now or never. I presented my idea to my husband and together we created a budget along with a two year plan and I’ve been painting ever since.
The last two years have been the busiest, most stressful yet intensely satisfying period of my life. Many of the problems I sought answers to about how to love my body for what it does instead of how it looks have resolved themselves by listening to my wise paintbrush as it speaks through my work and back to me; most recently I posed for a photographer that would allow me to bring one of my paintings to life. For the first time in my life I willingly (forced) myself in front of a camera ‘for the sake of art’ but left feeling better about my body than I had in over 20 years.
You know that saying, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover?’ Well, the exact opposite is true when viewing my artwork. While my blog gives readers an insight to how I’m feeling/dealing/living, my artwork does the same in the form of visual exposure. I can still be found posting on my blog, but these days I write about my art as much as I do about my healthy lifestyle and I find myself frequently thanking my readers for sticking with me as long as they have while I continue this new journey of becoming a new me – one that no longer needs to define herself as the fat girl wearing thin.
Ellen would never ask you this – but I will. As you may know, Facebook has changed their regulations regarding small businesses and now requires them to pay a fee to publish their posts to more than a small percentage of those who like their page. If you only do one thing after this post, please head over to Ellen’s Facebook page, “like” it and “share” your favorite piece of art. It’s free, will only take a second, and is critical to the success of her business. We may choose to all go “all-in” by ourselves, but it takes the support of a community like ours to sustain it. You can buy any of the prints in those post and more at Ellen’s Etsy store.