When you are overweight, you can't see or feel the difference when you lose a few pounds. The opposite is also true: you can't see or feel the difference when you gain a few. So--in my experience anyway-- you go back and forth, up and down a few pounds all the time. Down because you try, then back up because you can't really feel your effort so why bother? Going the distance? Too daunting a task.
So you go up and down five pounds, then ten, maybe fifteen. Over time you go up more than you go down. And suddenly you find yourself at a weight you promised yourself you would never ever see on the scale. So you pretend to yourself that you're okay where you are, because trying and failing would feel worse than learning how to love and accept your new, heavier self. If you have a healthy self-esteem and value things about yourself other than body image, you figure it out. Your pretty face, sense of style, sense of humor, intelligence, compassion, creativity, and strength are worth a lot. Your family and friends love and accept you. And you do the same.
But then one day something shifts. You decide you can go the distance because if you don't the future is bleak. That something may be one certain thing. Or it may be a confluence of things.
Deciding to change careers.
Getting ready to spend a summer away in a city that's fun to walk around, where you will not be getting in a car to move yourself from every point A to point B.
Seeing an old picture of yourself and thinking, Oh my god, how happy I looked! Not necessarily How great I looked, but how happy I seemed to be. I didn't avoid the camera then.
So you say Enough! Get it together, girl! You have way too much to offer to hide behind that wall of... what?... insecurity?...fear? Whatever it is, you decide it just doesn't suit you anymore.
No more looking back. No more beating yourself up. What's done is done. You shift your energy. You set a realistic goal, seek support from a few people close to you who will encourage you, and you start to get it done.
I think we are out of the woods, no snow flakes in sight. Finally. Mid-April. We didn't even get the tease week in March this year. Again. Obviously I'm a little frustrated and afraid to say the word that starts with sp and rhymes with ring, because here in New England we know Mother Nature is a special kind of Beotch. I mean lovely, wonderful, powerful. Perpetually PMS, super awesome beotch woman in charge.
All the parking spots are back in my school's parking lot, so competing at seven a.m. with sixteen year-olds--who could take the bus--for a spot where I work is a little easier (though no less insulting). I can see around corners. I don't have salt stains on my car. My heat is off. And I'm not having hot flashes yet!
I can't help but step out into the sun and think that I need to roll down the windows and crank up the tunes. It is time to watch the tan slowly and ever so slightly develop on my hands, face, and eventually forearms as I move from long sleeves to three-quarter. My ankles and feet will remain pasty white as I move into capris and sandals until I hit the pool, but it is underway.
Thanks, Mother Nature. You made your point. But now I plan to enjoy every moment you are not being ornery.
In this day and age it is important to protect your identity whenever possible. Especially since a certain medical insurance company had a colossal breach, I might be slightly paranoid about it. Unfortunately, because my shredder jammed and I have yet to give in and buy a new one, I now have a copy paper box full of garbage to be shredded. It really is garbage, isn't it? Junk mail, credit card and car insurance offers, catalogs with credit offers, prescription disclaimers that come attached to the bag. Because now we have to worry about medical identity theft (unrelated to said breach, so that people can't go in and pretend to be me when they need a mammogram--and that's another post) in addition to tax fraud and social security fraud, prescription bottles are another issue entirely.
Have you ever tried to get a label off a prescription bottle? Do you have a few a month to keep up with? Or do you just save them for pins and paper clips and fun girls' night ice cubes and Popsicle shapes or other things ala Pinterest? I [heart] Pinterest but that's not me. I have enough things to hold my things in other things, and I'm trying really hard to de-clutter so I don't save them and reuse them. "Upcycle" I think is the trendy term. I try to get rid of them.
And it's infuriating. Because what do you do when you get the label off? If you can get it off in fewer than three pieces? Tear that into tiny bits and and scatter the pieces between the kitchen garbage, bathroom track and living room in case someone goes through your trash? Or do you the stick the pieces to the garbage in your box of sh*t to shred?
Do you understand my frustration? I do not love you, oh-so-secure prescription bottle labels. You drive me mad.
I planned on getting more housecleaning done this April vacation--de-cluttering and catching up on overdue projects. I realize though, as I get ready to go out in the glorious sunshine and enjoy my first al fresco lunch of the season, I'm okay not giving my apartment that attention. I am giving myself that attention. I am an overdue project. I have de-cluttering to do. I have come a long way this last year, but I have a way to go.
The last five years have been some of the saddest, and most stressful, of my life.
Yet on the heels of terrible loss in my family, I have celebrated happy occasions with those of us who remain: three weddings, three babies on the way. A baby boom in the next generation of my family. Three new souls to replace the lives we have lost. I hope those cousins are as close as I am to mine. Still. So much good ahead lies ahead. I am grateful and I am loved.
Despite the stress, I have also had some really happy times. I am grateful that I have always been able to laugh and to make people laugh--sometimes just because my crazy laugh is contagious. I know sometimes people are laughing at my reaction, and not the joke, but that is still fun. I have great friends and have had relaxing vacations. Laughter has never left me. It is one of life's sweetest gifts, and best medicines for the soul, and I am grateful to laugh a lot.
In a conversation with a friend the other day, I made this analogy. I feel like despite good times and laughter, I was still in a fairly dark place. I was somewhere dark but always able to peek my head out and let the sun kiss my cheeks. I took part in momentary pleasure before retreating to that comfortable, albeit dark, place. But lately I've done doing some of that personal maintenance, if you will. Just catching up on me.
I am no longer trapped by the thought of being stuck teaching until I retire; I have made a plan to change careers. I have unearthed and let go of some hurt. I have opened my heart and therefore myself up to romantic possibility, and although my first attempt was an epic fail, I'm okay. I am moving forward. I am not just laughing but experiencing joy. I really am joyful. I understand that I can feel hurt and angry (even in the same day, as I have recently) but I am spending more time in the figurative sun.
How glorious today to acknowledge that as I get ready to step out into the real deal, 70 degree sunshine. Okay, only 65 degrees. Even still. It has been a long, dark winter.
In interviews I have seen Oprah ask famous people--not exactly in these words, but something akin: what would you tell your younger self? Recently my friend Deanna asked me if I could give my younger self two words of wisdom, what would they be?
I don't know if I can be interview-eloquent, nor do I feel I can limit myself to one, single two-word phrase. But I am going to try to come somewhere in between in this post.
I have always been confident in my intelligence. I was my parents' daughter, after all. I was smart and curious and a good student. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw my second grade teacher at the wake of a friend who passed tragically and unexpectedly. I had an opportunity to tell one of the most influential people in my life that she was just that, that she had a profound effect on me, as a young girl, a student, a writer, a human being. All these years later, she had changed, but I recognized her; her spirit was still so familiar to me. Just as I moved forward in the line she hugged me, and said she remembered me. "Of course I remember you! You were a genius!" she said. "How could I forget those eyes?" I told her that she was a great teacher, so kind to me when I was a student. She took the time after school to teach me capitalization and punctuation when we hadn't learned it yet because I showed her stories I was writing at home. She could have shut me down, told me "wait till next year," but she didn't. She encouraged me all those years ago. And I embraced her, as I did the opportunity to thank her. That moment was a gift. Second grade with Miss D was a gift.
I have also always, always felt unconditional love from my immediate and extended family. Sundays spent with them at my grandparents' connected me to cousins who as a result are more like siblings. It made me feel strong. And loved.
Along the way I have developed friendships that I have taken as seriously as family. If you are "good people" and truly my friend, then you are family to me. Perhaps because I have always been single, maybe just because I truly appreciate human connection, I don't know where I would be without that collective family.
Yet somehow, despite having all the right foundations, being strong and feeling smart, and knowing that I was unconditionally loved, this crazy, f*cked up, superficial world has made me feel at times that I was "less than," not deserving of romantic love. So I have made bad choices in relationships. I settled for less than I needed. I haven't demanded what I deserved
I'm fast approaching the sixth decade of my life and still I have not.
I'm not preparing for an interview with Oprah (half of this would be edited out anyway), but I will follow through with two words. Not a single two, but pairs of words I stand by, many of which I wish had been told, but appreciate that I needed to learn on my own.
Try hard. No fear. No regrets. Abandon doubts. Health first. Worry less. Drink less. Don't smoke. Ever ever. Have fun. Be yourself. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Happiness follows. Accept love. Feel joy. Reject mediocrity. Be yourself. Honor yourself. You rock.
There is a moment in my life I can recall more clearly than most others. Moreover, I remember how I felt, though I couldn’t really explain it well. It was an overwhelming feeling—not a premonition really, but one of knowing. It remains difficult to qualify.
I was living in Boston, and on the T, on the green C line train between Coolidge Corner and Washington Square. I was riding alone. It was a Saturday. In winter. I was wearing a black and white hound’s tooth swing coat with a black Peter Pan collar (I loved that coat). (I even remember my pants and shoes, though I don’t miss them as much as I do the coat.) I was having a great day. As we were pulling away from the Summit Avenue stop, all of the sudden I had a really strong feeling that I was supposed to be there at that very moment. Just then I happened to look over at an elderly couple seated across from me, and saw the older gentleman reach behind his wife to tuck in the tag of her jacket. That’s what old married couples do, I thought. They keep each other company and tuck in each other’s tags. I hope to have that one day. I felt like I was witnessing something very lovely and sweet and yet so intimate that I had to look away. When I did, I still had that knowing feeling.
When I reminisce about Boston I often think of that moment, that Saturday on the T when I felt I was living in the right place at the right time, I had the life I should. The couple was always a detail to me, like the hound’s tooth coat, the C line, the winter day. Until the other night.
I was out with a friend I’ve known casually for a few years. We met when I was l with someone else so we have kept it friendly, although there has always been chemistry between us. Lately I've been allowing myself to feel the stronger spark. We were talking and laughing—and flirting I suppose—when he reached over and pulled a dangling blonde hair off the shoulder of my sweater.
“Hold on. There you go," he said, as he dropped it to the ground.
I go in and out of writing phases. Years and years ago (decades in fact--yikes!) my friend Tamara and I, both prolific journal keepers who became close during graduate school but ended up on separate coasts afterward, would share and exchange journals. At first we kept one journal that one of us would write in and hold on to for a couple of weeks or months, and then we would set a date and make the pass. I can't remember whose brilliant idea it was, but it was brilliant, wasn't it? A bound collection of letters, long after the age of pen pals--and lower phone bills as a bonus? (As I mentioned, it was decades ago, before cell phones and long distance calls plans.) Eventually we decided to have two so that we could each be in possession of one; we'd write for a while and then we'd pick a date to mail and switch. Within our journal-writing years there were also times we decided we needed to live a little more, to get out of our heads and not write so much about it. Tam would put down her blue Waterman, I my black Mont Blanc, and we'd step away from our journals.
I mention this because lately I've been trying to figure out why I haven't been writing.
It's not that I don't enjoy writing anymore. When I am on the busy end of a sentence--be it a fictional one I am crafting, or intended to be a funny one in an email to a colleague or friend, or one of Amy's that she asked me to take a second look at--I am happy. I am in my element. And it's not that I'm so busy living I haven't spent any time unwinding and relaxing (Zynga is the Devil). But I am definitely distracted. And in transition. I'm getting ready to change the "about me" information at the bottom of my blog from "forty-something" to "fifty." I'm also getting ready to change careers, which I feel I need to be somewhat secretive about until I do. Sad, but true, I don't trust my administration. I don't trust that people who should be supportive of me and my personal growth would f**k me over instead, and force an earlier exit. And I know for sure I don't want this to be a place where all I do is complain about my (mostly) sh*tty job.
So while I'm in transition, I may only randomly and occasionally post. Meanwhile I just may have to get those old journals out of storage and take them with me out to the Pacific Northwest on my summer adventure so Tam and I can hang out on her deck and read them. Maybe Jen will join us.
Despite braving the crowds on Sunday morning to have respectable Superbowl snacks on hand (for a party of one), I could not keep myself away from the game long enough to make myself nachos last night. But boy, did I have a nice snow day lunch/dinner today. Go, Patriots!