When I discovered the wild, raging, wistful wonder that is Alanis Morissette, I was seventeen—a small-town homeschool girl torn between worlds—with big dreams and big tears, deep love and confusing faith. The songs of Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie felt dangerous. Like they crawled out of the ripped screen door of my heart and landed in powerful lines where anyone could read them and see right through me.
Terrified, I begged silently to anyone who would listen: Don’t see through me. Don’t see through me.
The songs found me in the summer, when everything was melty and tender; when the south rippled with the haze of golden heat and I rolled my window down when I drove because that's how I felt alive—wind whipping salt and hair and the warm-honey breath of sun-ripened hayfields into my mouth, with me singing at the top of my lungs, What’s the matter Mary Jane, had a hard day? And Isn't it Ironic, Don't You Think? Then later, the ballad which made me sob quietly in the dark ...
That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
—Alanis Morissette, That I Would Be Good
I sang and cried over that song for a year, rewinding the cassette tape again and again while driving my old white Buick on backroads between farm fields and jobs and broken hearts. I saved up two thousand dollars for that car—tamping espresso, frothing milk, and serving sandwiches at a local cafe where I once handed a woman her coffee, and she looked me in the eyes and gave me an impromptu word from the Lord: “Someday, you're gonna be thin. Not skinny you know, but thin.”
Because everyone, even the Lord, knows that all chubby girls want to be thin. So I nodded quietly, believing. I believed and believed. Numbers on the scale crept higher…twenty, fifty, one hundred pounds more. And when I lost fifty of them in a Bible-based weight-loss program at my church, I kept believing because obviously something was going right … I’d found the way, and my body confirmed it by rewarding me—not with thinness yet, but I was close. Close enough to look average. To blend in. To no longer be described as “she’s kinda heavy”—with broad hand gestures illustrating the width of my hips, lest there be any doubt—in conversations. Later, when the weight came back, I believed it was due to my failure to be a good woman. I must not have loved enough, been disciplined and faithful enough. Or I must not have been good, like the other girls who didn’t ask scary questions about religion or who never caused their parents’ hearts to pound or who married good enough men and had lots of beautiful babies, thin, sugar-free bodies and contented faith.
That I would be good, even if I did nothing.
Some of us don’t know how to get by without doing. It’s true, right? The idea of stepping back, letting go, saying no, saying yes, knowing how and when, hoisting up and trekking into the unknown wilds of stillness can be terrifying. It’s easier to follow little dangling carrots of love. They keep us just-good-enough. They keep us in place. Following. Quiet. Even if on the inside we’re dying to ask the question our souls have carried since we were wide-eyed six-year-olds quaking beneath the pending wrath of God: would you still love me if? And until we discover the treasure of our own enoughness we ask the questions still. Would you still love me if I told a lie? Would you still love me if I were gay? If I married someone you didn’t like? If I went to prison? If I never got thin? If I believed differently than you? If I dropped out of school?
Would you still love me if I did nothing…nothing to prove my lovability?
It’s time to stop being afraid of the answer.
These days, I’m neither skinny nor thin. I still believe, but I’ve learned how to lean into the gentle and mysterious ways of love—Divine, self, other. I’ve ceased striving. In this rest, a new kind of strength emerges from the depths. Here I sense the tender whispers of Spirit guiding me into the way of wholeness and shining truth. I still tear up when Alanis sings, but somehow I think that small town girl of seventeen? She sees through me, and she’s beaming.
Hillary Rain is the creator of Hey, Curvy Girl and Dear Artist—revolutionary programs to help you learn to love your body right now as-is and design a fulfilling, meaningful creative life and own who you are as an artist. She is a writer + gentle guide who works with women to create the lives they long for. Learn how you can have a life you love by connecting with Hillary one-on-one through the Soul Doula Sessions—spiritual + holistic mentorship—and download her free guide, Into the Wild—A Field Guide to Life in Unexpected Places.