Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Nov 20

Working things out with paint

Last week I went into my studio with certain things on my mind.  Usually when I pull out my paintbrushes I’m able to push those things aside and just be in the moment.  I thought I was accomplishing this quite well when I completed my last painting.  Until, that is, I realized I had just painted a self portrait – in the form of a tree:




At first it hadn’t occurred to me that that’s what I’d done.  In fact, I had no particular vision of what the end result would even look like.  I just knew as I progressed that this subject had faced turmoil. The end result shows a mature and weathered tree as opposed to one with lovely leaves and/or flowers to look at.  There is no new life springing forth from its branches, either – not that its beyond repair, but rather awaiting a sign from Mother Nature.

This tree is waiting for its new life to begin.   And so am I.


I’ve discussed my surgery enough on this blog.  You get the idea of how much I’ve struggled in my recovery; how difficult its been to see the forest through the trees (no pun intended).  What I’ve been too embarrassed to share until now is that even though I’m noticing small amounts of progress, I’m feeling less and less attractive.  Grateful for the colder months, I am taking comfort in knowing that I can hide my body; the swelling and bloating at my incision site is something I simply cannot stand to look at anymore.  I’ve started wearing scarves or turtlenecks all of the time as well.  Hiding my neck, of course, because of the cystic acne that’s become a problem since surgery.  If I keep this up, I’m going to be wrapped up like a mummy by Christmas.



Sometimes a girl just needs to to think positively about herself even though she doesn’t necessarily believe what she’s selling.  The quote I chose as a finishing touch to my painting depicts what I am trying to embrace about myself.   I can certainly use a bit of positive reinforcement right now.  And who knows; maybe when Springtime comes around and I’m forced to peel off all these layers I’ll paint this tree a second time, with tiny leaves and flower buds – just to make it pretty again.

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  1. lisa says:

    I love this! Its beautiful and the words and too!

  2. Roxie says:

    The painting is beautiful and so are you. If you aren’t feeling that way right this second, then “act as if” until that state of mind (yes, beauty is a state of mind) returns.

    I’m in a shlumpy slump myself right now, so I feel ya.

  3. I love this painting so much, and the story behind it. To me, the tree is beautiful just as it is. Without its leafy camouflage, I can see the strength and dignity and wisdom it holds. I know that it has endured much in its lifespan, but it’s still standing strong and tall.

    The tree will be pretty in springtime, too, but it’s just as lovely in its current state. 😉

  4. Jan says:

    What a beautiful painting and quote. You amaze me!

  5. Munchberry says:

    I could not have said it better than Cammy.

    That, and just like there being a purpose of Fall and the tree dropping its leaves – it is part of renewal, hope and… it prevents a fire hazard.

    Huh. Sorta val like in that last paragraph. Botanical Val no nonsense.

    Now go to the damn doctor and get some antibiotics for the acne and only reach for the scarves when you are chilled or having a flash of elan.

  6. Val says:

    Botanical Val??? is she the doc who peddles herbs n’ spices?

    Ah, Ellen, I wish I were there to give you a hug +/- shake some sense into ya! (but I know how you feel, truly I do)

  7. teresa says:

    I love this painting. I’d be proud if that was a portrait of me.
    I liked the quote at first, but it sits funny with me. I don’t believe that beauty leaves the face. I’ve seen incredible beauty in the faces of older women and I really have loved really old, wrinkly, beauty many times. Don’t buy into that idea that it has to all move to the heart. Screw that! I’m staying beautiful. Even if I have to re-define beauty. I’ll do it too.
    I like Munch’s advice about the scarves too. It’s probably better for the acne not to be wrapped up either! A trip to a sunny place is what you need! Where is the sun this time of year? New Zealand? Blow off your family for Christmas and you guys go get some healing rays.

    • Munchberry says:

      I am with you on the face remaining beautiful. The most beautiful faces are the ones that wear their lives proudly, not simply pruned away in shame. I struggle with the bags under my eyes (damn genetics), but I cannot surrender my love for my laugh lines under them or the furrow between my eyes that seems to scare old men into begging me to smile it away.

      That said, I wish I had worn sunscreen on my neck and chest. Leathery as a tree trunk after many years baking in the sun. Ah… good memories. That is what you should see when you see “imperfections” brought on by age my lovely E. Many laughs, many puckerings for loving kisses… time spent in the water watching turtles breeze by, hard times that made you wise. Sorta like your grandma’s hands.

      • Ellen says:

        and I need to be reminded of this every once in a while. I’m grateful to have you who will do this. Actually, Val should hold me while you shake some sense into me. Then you can switch (and I’m sure that Teresa would like to get in on that as well) lol

    • Ellen says:

      Tree, I know you’re beating around the bush here. You need to be honest with your feelings and tell me how you really feel about this topic.
      I’m thankful that I can always count on you to express aspects that I haven’t even considered. And although I really do love this quote, I now think the tree would be fine without it, too. That’s a step in the right direction, no?

      • teresa says:

        I do like it with no quote. Or sometime how about just the word, “Beauty” in that same font?!
        I guess I take this whole topic much to heart because when you’re as late a bloomer as I am, you can’t afford anything that cuts the time for being bloomy shorter. I’m blooming as I’m having hot flashes starting. That’s gotta be some kind of record.

  8. NewMe says:

    It’s hard to get old in a world that values youth and beauty above all.

    You’ve written many times about how wonderful Craig is. I’m sure it’s true and I’m sure that he finds you incredibly beautiful and will continue to do so for as long as you both shall live!

    Losing a part of your body is a huge trauma, even if it’s all for the best. Losing a part that is so important in defining who you are as a woman must be even more traumatic. It really takes a while to come to terms with what is happening to you, but you will come out on the other side with even more wisdom and beauty.

    I admire you for your strength and your ability to express your fears: that is great strength in itself.

    Many hugs to you!!

    • Ellen says:

      You are just beyond kind and always know what to say. Craig is indeed steadfast in his admiration – I personally think he’s brainwashed (lol).
      Seriously though, I do believe this is more than physical at this point. I think I’ve been focusing on the physical – paying extreme attention to it, and ignoring every other aspect that is too painful to deal with. Can’t run from these things forever…
      many, many hugs back – and thank you. xo

  9. Caron says:

    Love this post. I have no eloquent words to share, but your words and thoughts and painting are beautiful. Thank you.

  10. debby says:

    A couple things came to mind.

    When you mentioned the scarves, it made me think of how I want to hide my neck sometimes. So maybe this is good practice for you for when the inevitable aging process starts and you will have to deal with that.

    And secondly, it reminded me of the grieving process. That is a big part of what you are dealing with, I think. And grief can be so complex, and drawn out. And then be gone (you think) and come back upon you suddenly and unexpectedly. So just allow yourself to grieve, and be patient and kind with yourself.

    I love your bare tree too. So strong.

    • Ellen says:

      Debby, I’m slowly finding out that what you are suggesting is completely and utterly true. I’ve been focusing on the physical aspect of healing and pushing away the emotional need to heal (because I’d have to deal with THAT, too). But it is clear that I need to allow myself to just feel these things instead of fight them.
      I really appreciate your comment here. Thank you.

  11. Lynn Bonelli says:

    Surgery is often as mentally invasive as it is physically…especially when it involves a part of a woman’s body which often times defines more than our sex. After losing my second tube to a second ectopic pregnancy I felt less feminine…and less whole for a long time. I also have the “c-section” scar as an every day reminder (and the ‘pooch’). I would bet your hormones might be a bit out of whack as well.

    As Debby and the others have stated, give yourself some time…the mental scars take more time to heal than the physical ones.

    • Ellen says:

      Lynn, I can barely believe you have the ‘pooch’, but if you say it’s so, – well then I think I have a lot to learn about the permanent changes certain surgeries do to our bodies.
      Doc says according to recent bloodwork that I am in ‘full-blown’ menopause so I’m sure there’s a LOT of things going on that I’m too slow to figure out at the moment. Thank you for your kind comment. xo

  12. didi says:

    Geez, I got a little teary when I was reading this. I think the tree is beautiful and has a lot of character, and the quote is fabulous. I really love your paintings, Ellen. Seriously, you have come through a lot a lot a lot in the last year, right? And in spite of all the emotional turbulence you started your own business. Many people would have curled up and just stayed sad and unproductive for a long time. You didn’t. You started a business, and decided to chase rainbows and old dreams. Not everybody lives that way. I think most people are too afraid to really go after what they want. My guess is that come springtime that tree is going to be exploding in blossoms and surrounded by bluebells and crocus.

    • Ellen says:

      Oh, sweet Didi. I appreciate your words.
      When someone lays out my last year in front of me to look at as you did here, it jars my memory. I guess I need to be more forgiving of my ‘slow to bloom’ tree. I hope you’re right about springtime. I’m so ready to shed this skin.

  13. Hanlie says:

    That tree may not be pretty, but it is beautiful! I first saw this painting on Facebook and responded to it on an emotional level. I so relate. I’m 9 days post surgery and still very swollen, but because of my size you don’t really see it. I know it’s there though.

    I love all the comment to this post!

  14. goodnuff says:

    Blurgh for schlumpy moods.
    We are all a little more mature and weathered each new day. Some days the sun shines on us just right to show our beauty and others, gray, heavy clouds shroud it. It’s there none-the-less. I see it in you with each post. And in each response to my comments you help me see my “beauty”.

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