How Everything Went Black

I’m fat.

I don’t type those words as some declaration of self-empowerment like “I’m fat, dammit, and get used to it because I love me, faults and all!”

I type those words with quite a lot of sadness.

Those two words are two of the hardest words to come to terms with when dealing with oneself, at least for me, and it is an issue I like to dance around, hoping that a verbal slight of hand will distract from that fact that I am, indeed, an overweight gal.

When I was younger, I didn’t have these struggles with my weight. In fact, I was quite athletic and pretty fit. (My 20-year-old self doesn’t know this, however, and I would really like to travel back in time and kick her insecure ass.) I look at photos from that time and I don’t notice the appearance, but I notice the smile.

Very few photos of me from this time in my life exist, the most notable being the ones from Emily Gras, documented forever on the internet. In the photos that do exist, I see an inflated version of me, like suddenly I woke up one morning and was living my life walking around in a Sumo suit. The smiles? They aren’t the same, if they are there at all.

What happened to that girl? That one that was so full of life? The one that went to gigs, rocked out to bands, and hammed it up for the camera? The girl that would run every morning, would go out with her friends in the evenings for a couple of cocktails, and knew that she could take on the damn world? What happened to the girl that was secure with the person she was and had no fear?

What happened? The weight gain happened, creating a bubble of unhappiness that I lived in: unhappy with myself, unhappy about the way I physically felt, unhappy about everything I was missing out on, unhappy about the way I looked, unhappy that life seemed to be going on without me, and unhappy with the person I had become.

My weight gain came after a series of events – the life altering kind that often lead to things like depression – happened rapid fire, one right after another, in a very short time, leaving me to concentrate on taking care of everyone else and forgetting about myself or in a lot of physical pain where doing anything besides getting up, getting dressed, and homeschooling my daughter was pretty much out of the question.

Medication for health problems helped accelerate the weight gain, causing a small flame to become a raging inferno. Before I knew it, 180 pounds turned into 212 pounds, 212 pounds turned into 230 pounds, and 230 pounds turned into 265 pounds.

After I reached 265 pounds, I stopped weighing myself at all.

How in the hell did this happen?

I could try to excuse it by saying that fault belonged to the medication I was on, the health issues I was facing, or blame life in general. And, while those are things that may have contributed to certain aspects, using them as some sort of form of justification is no different than an alcoholic using a bad day at work to justify drinking a case of beer at home.  The answer is really much simpler than that. I let it. It was the way I chose to deal with life.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those moment when you realize you can sink or swim. Me, I had been sinking for a while. I was tired of drowning. It was time to learn the breaststroke.

We left New Orleans for the Northshore four years ago as an extra measure of protection in a custody battle where there were whispers that the violent streets, bad schools, and instability of New Orleans would be used as grounds to file for a change in child custody and placement of my daughter. Whether or not it would have happened, I don’t know. The dust from an emotional and painful custody battle had just settled and I wasn’t willing to take any chances.

I hated leaving New Orleans and saying good-bye to the things here that brought me happiness: walking to Blue Cypress Books and chatting with Miss Elizabeth, spending the day riding the streetcar, getting snoballs at Miss Norma’s, having Mister Mike ask me how my mister and daughter were when I went in for a soda or bag of ice, and seeing my neighbors have a second line for their young baby boy’s baptism. Since the day I left New Orleans, I resented it, and that resentment followed me out to the isolated rural wasteland we were now supposed to call home.

While our time there was a healing time for us, individually and as a family, it was also a death sentence, squeezing out the last bit of fighting chance left in me after life had already run me over several times and drove away.

In January, the skies parted, the stars danced, and the gods began to sing. Opportunity presented itself at the right moment, at the right time, in the right place. We were going home, finally going back to New Orleans.

Our return to New Orleans resuscitated me. Instead of escaping into a book, I walked about our new neighborhood.  I didn’t always stay at home on Friday night with Netflix, but hit up Rock N Bowl to see some live music. My mister and I even had a couple of date nights. I began laughing more and smiling often. My friends have said that even talking to me was different, like there was some weird shift in my life. And while I felt like I was being brought back to life, I also felt that there was still something missing, something preventing me from enjoying this city for all of the amazing off-the-beaten-path misadventure it has to offer.

And I realized that thing that was missing was me.

Some people can look at themselves and no matter where they are at in their lives, they are happy with themselves. They are able to accept themselves just as they are and they are able to enjoy everyone and everything around them without worry or care.

I’m not one of those people. Quite frankly, I wish I could be, but to be truly happy, I need to be at my best. Right now, I am not at my best. Not physically and because I’m not physically at my best, I’m not emotionally at my best either.

I’m not speaking vanity, I’m speaking about balance and health.

Instead of allowing myself to feel bad about it, I decided that this time, I was going to take back the control that I needed and that outside static wasn’t going to throw me off course, but would become background noise to further motivate me. I did some research and found a personal trainer. Tonight is my fitness assessment where my weight and measurements will be taken, a functional movement test will be done, and I will set my goals. I’m nervous – I picture me, the fat girl, walking into the gym and people turning their back and smirking. I’m excited – knowing that I am finally calling foul with my family and saying it is time for me to be selfish and focus a little bit more time on myself. I’m full of hope – knowing that this first step is the hardest step to take.

PSA for NOLA Women: Free Wellness Program

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“This Tuesday’s Women’s Wellness Program session is our monthly cooking class, held down the street at Algiers United Methodist Church on Opelousas. All women are welcome! This month we’re focusing on healthy snacks.” ~Via Common Ground’s FaceBook Page

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I woke up today feeling very vulnerable and sad. I really can’t pin down the reason for being blue. I guess it has a lot to do with what’s going on in my life right now. All the thoughts and repressed emotions have bubbled up and today was the day that they reached the surface of my consciousness.

Don’t take this wrong, I’m not writing a “woe is me” post, just airing out these things to try to put them in perspective.

One of the oldest issues I’ve been carrying around is my impending loss of employment. It’s not the losing the job that bothers me as much as losing touch with people I’ve literally grown up with:

We will soon scatter to different parts of the country, perhaps never to meet again. Social media will help some of us keep connected, which makes it a little easier.

Actually I’m excited about my future. I have absolutley no idea what I’ll end up doing and that doesn’t really bother me. I’ve done the corporate things for more than half my life and I am over it!

My beautiful, sweet 23 year old daughter left for her last semester of school today. That makes me melancholy . While I truly enjoy my alone time, I cherish the time that she and I get to spend together. She has grown up smart and strong and I am extremely proud of her.

She will be graduating in December at a Chef/Nutritionist. She and I spend so much time talking about food, exploring grocery stores, creating recipes and eating. I miss her presence.

My husband’s 86 year old mother passed away last week and the services were on July 30th. I believe the catalyst for my sadness was the memorial services. While she led a fruitful and long life, I was saddened to see her family suffering emotionally, especially her 90+ year old sisters.

Life is full of changes and we get through them any way we can. We become stronger by surviving the not so good changes. Experience is a fantastic teacher. The good changes in life also mold our character as we go through life. We experienced a good change a few weeks ago when we adopted a puppy. A huge, excitable puppy.

His name is Deuce and he is five months old. 55 pounds. He’s part Lab, part Chesepeake Bay Retriever. He drove me to frustrated tears today. See, Deuce had a little sore on his leg so he had to have a the E-cone put over his head. The cone is falling apart because Deuce is such a goofball so he runs into things. I was trying to tape the cone together this morning and it was impossible to do by myself and I lost it. I am not a dog person. While Deuce is extremely smart, he’s still just a puppy and I don’t know where to start in calming him down. He’s fine right now while I’m sitting on the sofa typing. But the minute I get up he starts wagging his tail and wants to jump. Someone tell me WHAT is a way to get a puppy’s attention? It’s driving me mad! He will sit on command (for a second), but his puppyness makes him have a very, very short attention span.

So yeah, life is full of changes and I’m happy to embrace them. I guess we just have to take some days off and process all the changes and regroup our emotions so we can get through life. That’s what I’m doing today and that’s why I posted this, it helped! Thanks.

Advice Columns Vs. Self Help Books

This morning this headline on The Awl grabbed my attention as I was trolling my list of zines for a good read: A Q&A with the Advice Columnist Called ‘Sugar’.  I suspected “Sugar” was Sugar the anon advice columnist from the lit magazine “The Rumpus” which I read now and then and I was right. I’d seen Sugar’s column featured prominently on “The Rumpus” but had never actually read it since I’m not a fan of advice columns and I figured it was all about sex anyway (not that that’s a bad thing!); however, I was curious as to what Sugar had to say in this interview so I clicked through. I skimmed through the first half when I realized it was all about how the interviewer knew Sugar in real life but didn’t know she was the anon Sugar of “The Rumpus”…. yadda, yadda, yadda and then I zeroed in on the following question and Ms Sugar’s answer (boldface is mine):

“Tell me what that message is.”

“Well it’s so many things that I feel like, what you could do, if you read all of my columns they do boil down to some pretty essential truths. You hit on one of them when you said ‘the hard choice is often the best one,’ that life is both more simple and more complex than most of us would like to believe, that there is something about the essential, that we all have an essential truth within us which if we really listen to that, which is totally different than that bumper sticker ‘follow your bliss,’ which is bullshit. You know? And that’s, I have never read a self help book in my life. I think self help is pretty much bullshit. I don’t pay attention to this…what’s that Oprah book, like The Secret, or some sort of crap like that? ‘If you only believe, then it will be true,’ I think that’s a really aggressively entitled bullshit sort of approach to life’s complicated questions. And at the same time there’s a piece of that in Sugar that says ultimately we’re all responsible for our lives, we’re all going to fail, we all have something inside to offer, and our work here is to find out and express it in whatever channels are appropriate. So it’s not Sugar’s message, but it’s really just my life, everything I think about how to live, which is in opposition to that self help crap.

I find it ironic that Sugar thinks self help books are bullshit , apparently not recognizing that she engages in the same “bullshit” on a different level. I’ve read a self help book  or two in my day, in a quest for finding workable solutions for life issues, by people educated and published in their area of interest.  It’s easy to find experts on a given subject by simply researching a subject and assessing the qualifications and education of those who have written about it or soliciting recommendations from friends and colleagues. The same cannot [always] be said of advice columnists, many of whom are people who are hired by infotainment newspapers and magazines to give their opinions on any and every subject under the sun without any discernible expertise. In the answer above Sugar even states herself that “…but it’s really just my life, everything I think about how to live “.  Um, o.k. But don’t read those self help books by psychologists, physicians and educators because that’s, ya know, bullshit. Interestingly, in this interview, Sugar describes her column thusly:

“It’s self-help and it’s also anti-self help.”

It seems to me Ms Sugar is as dazed and confused as the rest of us poor slobs trying to make sense of this thing called life.

While I’m not a regular reader of advice columnists, I’ll admit to occasionally rubbernecking a particularly sensational advice column headline in the newspaper or a magazine. In my opinion, though, most advice columns are really just voyeuristic exploitation of people’s confusion and hopelessness for the ratings game and/or public recognition and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But everyone is entitled to their opinion and is free to seek help from whatever forum they please. Maybe an anonymous advice columnist of unknown qualifications has more validity for some because of her life experience than the author of a self help book. And that’s….o.k. I’ll just take my chances with a well researched book, thank you.