CANNONBALL READ 2011
BOOK #8: Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
It was a strange and ironic jump to go from the laughable, calorie-counting escapades of Bridget Jones to the dark and cautionary memoir of Portia de Rossi's decades-long battle with eating disorders. Unbearable Lightness is, at times, both horrifying and inspiring--and if you've ever known anyone with an eating disorder, all too familiar.
While I flew through the book (de Rossi is a wonderful writer and storyteller), I couldn't help but be filled with a sense of frustration. Though having an eating disorder is no mark of one's intelligence, I kept thinking, "How stupid are you?! What moron behaves in this way??" The time and attention to detail that de Rossi spent on portioning her food and counting calories, and the ridiculous acts of extreme exercise and self-punishment are so unbelievable, you can't help but think that there is a lack of brains going on there. However (and this is extremely important to remember), anorexia and bulimia are diseases--it's not about not being smart enough, it's something you have to treat and cure.
de Rossi flashes back and forth (though it reads seamlessly) between her growing up in Australia-- attempting to be teenage model--and her career in L.A.--beginning with her landing the part of Nelle Porter on "Ally McBeal." I wasn't a big follower of the show (lawyer-talk bored me), but I do remember all the controversy surrounding the skeletal thinness of Calista Flockhart; I never seemed to hear anything about her costars. It seems, however, that de Rossi was going through an extraordinarily hard part of her life.
The book isn't completely sad, though: the epilogue is a reminder (both to the reader and de Rossi) that we can have happy endings. Hers took a lot of work on her part, but it also helped that she was able to come to terms with her sexuality (part of the reason behind her disorder and self-image) and find love.
That's the only tie I can really give you for posting this on Valentine's Day (happy heart day!), but regardless: it's an important book to read, whether you have or have not known someone with an eating disorder. It has a lot to say about how we treat ourselves and what we let happen to our bodies--we are worth so much more than we realize! We can treat ourselves better.
So, I urge you on this day of love, to remember to have love for yourself! If there's nothing else, it's all we've got.