**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Lisa Whalen’s book, Stable Weight: A Memoir of Hunger, Horses, and Hope, will be available from Hopewell Publications on March 2, 2021. Her writing has also appeared in An Introvert in an Extrovert World; The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield; Introvert, Dear; and Adanna, among other publications. Whalen has a Ph.D. in postsecondary and adult education and an M.A. in creative and critical writing. She teaches composition, creative writing, literature, and journalism at North Hennepin Community College, where she was selected Minnesota College Faculty Association Educator of the Year in 2019. In her spare time, she is an equestrian and volunteer for the Animal Humane Society. Learn more at her website and follow her on social media @LisaIrishWhalen.
Years ago, a graduate school professor showed my class a documentary on restoring famous paintings and frescoes, like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Guardians had managed to protect the fragile masterpieces from vandals, fires, and rain, but they couldn’t prevent centuries of dust, pollen, soot, candlewax, cigarette smoke, and the other pollutants of daily life from accumulating on the surface. The grime dulled paint colors so rich, vibrant, and complex that modern technology hasn’t been able to reproduce them.
Experts used Q-Tips to clean a single, square-inch section at a time. The work was taxing, tedious, and seemed like it never progressed, until one day, restorers stepped back and saw what looked like a miracle. Cleaned sections of the painting leapt from the surface. Their colors sang. Their backgrounds deepened. Their foregrounds glowed with light.