jae 2.0

I knew this guy once who was a total dick. I mean, he was our friend and we all loved him but he was a dick. Super fun, always up for a good time and totally loyal, but also mouthy, condescending, always joking and button pushing, drinking one too many, miserable half the time; dick.

A few years went by and he started dating someone, came out to his friends and family and wasn’t a dick anymore. Just like that. It was like a huge weight that just made him a miserable prick half the time was lifted and now he was getting to be himself, just loving life.

I get it.

If you asked anyone from high school, or in my slew of waitress jobs over the years to describe me, at least one of their chosen adjectives would be “loud” followed by “crazy” or “goofy” and let’s be frank, “bitchy”.

Really anyone in my life longer than the last five years could tell you about my mood swings, my on and off shitty attitude, my general dislike, of, well, anything.

I spent my twenties and a good portion of my thirties hating things.

Most people, most places, most jobs, most situations.

Everyone was stupid, everything was a chore or a waste of time.

Why the fuck does this woman need extra tomatoes on her burger?!

stomp stomp stomp

Why is the phone ringing?!

slam slam slam

God forbid someone asked me to do anything, WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!

long exasperated sigh

On (more than) one occasion I remember taking my arm and wiping it across my entire desk, or bathroom counter knocking everything to the floor out of aggravation. I once even did it to my brother’s desk.

I had a conversation with a manager at a job one time who told me, and I quote “You have a cancerous tone; you make your coworkers feel small and stupid” and all I could do was agree, and confirm that they were.

I yelled at my now sister-in-law for sitting in “my seat” at the dinner table once.

I have thrown more coffees, fast food burgers and other random food items out of my car window than I can even count; not because I liked to litter, but because I hated everything and god forbid the food or drink I ordered didn’t meet my expectations it enraged me.

I wish I was exaggerating.

I was subconsciously miserable, but brash.

I would get angry over the dumbest shit.

So dumb in fact, when something I had a tantrum over in recent years comes up, Steve and I debate the legitimacy of the tantrum … sometimes the stomping, crying and shouting was justified, but for the most part it usually ends with a “well, you were/I was fat, so that makes sense”

I picture angry obese me as a hunched over hag with silly or annoying things landing on my humpback and literally depressing me.

I’m not saying that I lost a bunch of weight and all of a sudden nobody annoys me or I’m so at peace that everything rolls of my back.

It doesn’t. There are still people and behaviors that bother me, and things that piss me off, but they don’t crush me. They aren’t extra weight now, they’re just fleeting things.

I’m still me, but standing up straight and lighter in so many ways.

I’ve gotta say it’s a much better way to live.

 

 

 

CTS

I can’t remember the occasion but at some point there was a conversation with my mom where I was telling her that I was too excited to sleep, in anticipation for something the next day. She told me that a similar thing happened to her sometimes and that she vividly remembered it happening when she was growing up, specifically the night before a class trip. She was anxious that she would fall asleep and not wake up in time, and miss the trip. After that, we explicitly refer to the inability to fall asleep for fear of oversleeping and missing something as ‘Class Trip Syndrome’ or CTS for short.

The last time I remember having a bout of CTS was a year ago yesterday.

I was trying to relax in preparation for my panniculectomy the next morning. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything past midnight, so naturally I was starving with a mouth as dry as the desert at 12:01. I had to check in at the hospital at 6am – I set my alarm for 4:45, so I could shower since I wasn’t sure how many of the following days I wouldn’t be able to. When I finally was able to settle down and decided on the couch for sleep, it was going to be more like a nap and I think it was after 1 am.

I slept though.

Right through my alarm.

I woke up at 5:20, the time that we were supposed to be getting in the car!!

I freaked out, I froze. I ran into the bedroom like a maniac startling Steve awake.

“We have to go! I didn’t shower! They’re going to cancel my surgery!”

Fastest and least relaxing shower of my life. I cut myself shaving, because you obviously have to shave your legs at 5:30 in the morning when you’re already running late.

Groggily putting deodorant on while I’m conditioning my hair Steve says “Why are we rushing if they’re cancelling your surgery? Why are they cancelling it?”

As if he has asked a thousand questions in the eleven minutes he’s been awake I shout “I have to be there in half an hour, they will cancel if I’m not checked in on time! My insurance approval is only good for today!”

I slip and slide my way into the bedroom where I put on a pair of lacy granny panties from Target for what I dream will be the last time, followed by a baggy tank top and loose shorts that I live in over the next eight weeks, alternating with the same top in white and the same shorts in pink.

I’m so excited and nervous that I can’t leave the house until I make sure I’m not going to crap my pants.

We are barely on the road and see brake lights. I’m almost in tears.

“I can’t believe I slept through my alarm, I barely even slept. Stupid Class Trip Syndrome”

He assures me that they’re not going to cancel my surgery “If anything,” he says “You’ll just have to wait until later in the day”

Comforting, yet not. “I can’t wait, I haven’t eaten since yesterday and I am soooooo thirsty”

When we finally pull into the hospital parking garage it’s about 6:20; I am relieved but still anxious, now because someone is about to draw on me, knock me out and make an incision in my body that practically cuts me in half. While I am cut open? Another doctor is going to root around in there and repair a hernia. You see why I might be crapping my pants, right?

We get to surgical check-in and wait in line, they’re backed up! HA! When it’s my turn to fill out paperwork, it’s actually the time my surgery was scheduled for. “Don’t worry,” the woman says, “we’ve been behind since before 6.”

Sigh of relief.

Followed by another wave of anxiety.

Healthcare proxy form, check.

Emergency contact info, check.

We walk down three hundred hallways and into a large room full of beds where I will be prepped.

Multiple people come and introduce themselves to me, check my vitals, prick my fingers, inject heparin, ask me a ton of questions and stroke my ego by telling me how funny I am and how they never would have guessed I had weight loss surgery, that my face shape recovered well from the loss.

I’m calm.

I’m the star of the damn show.

Holy crap, here’s my doctor.

Six months prior I would have said the most humbling moment in my life had been when I had to stand in front of this attractive, and probably younger than me man I had just met in my bra and underwear discussing my floppy belly and letting him photograph it. On this day I would have said it was this; this moment in which I had to stand, NAKED in front of my boyfriend and this man who was still basically a stranger and let him push and pull and lift and adjust my skin and fat, all while drawing on it in that purple marker.

“Can I have a picture of what you cut off?”

He stared at me. “Uh, I guess, if you want one”

“Yea, I do! I never got a picture of my removed stomach, or my gallstones ….” I trail off the way that you do as those drugs kick in.

I swear he rolled his eyes as he said “Sure, you can have a picture” but weeks later when he gives me the picture he says he didn’t. He’s probably right.

My last words in the operating room before they put me out are to a nurse “Please make sure he gets me that picture, you can text it to me” She agrees, probably to keep things moving, and I began slowly reciting my phone number.

Next thing I know I am being wheeled through the doors of the recovery floor saying hello to everyone. I’m happy. I’m alert. I’m starving.

I order food and Steve and I talk on and off, I pick at my food – I am in great shape.

My doctor stops by to check on me, to show us a picture of the removed fat and skin, which weighed just about SEVEN pounds. He says I did great.

Everyone who checks on me is impressed with my energy, I get to see a little of my incision, the nurse tells Steve to take a picture with my phone so I can see and I cry a little and then tell everyone I meet for the rest of the day that I saw my vagina.

I have a brief dizzy spell on my way back from a loosely escorted trip to the bathroom and pass out before Steve even got back home. My binder is opened three to four more times, nurses check on me, doctors check on me, students study me.

I recover. I eat eighty seven ice pops, watch some Friends and go home at noon the next day.

So glad I didn’t sleep later and miss the whole trip!

 

hospitalrelease

 

 

knock knock

Earlier today, a corpulent woman in a too-tight tank top (that was causing her body to seep out of the arm and neck holes) sat down next to me.

When she sat, she sighed in an all too familiar way.

It set off that thing I do, a thing that I am not exactly proud of.

I judge fat people.

Well no, that’s not a fair word; I don’t look at overweight people and talk shit about them, or laugh or make jokes, or point out their flaws.

I empathize.

I identify.

I see myself in other overweight people sometimes and I want to spill my guts to them, I want to tell them what I learned, about the help I got, how I changed.

Hear me out before you think I’m just some average sized person who forgot where I came from. I was tipping 300lbs and I ain’t forgetting.

I struggled with my weight on and off for, if we’re being honest, something like two dozen years.

Diets, aches, threat of diabetes, snoring, general discomfort, calorie counting, carb cutting, juicing, diet pills, fat burners, dairy free, ill fitting clothes, exhaustion, frustration.

Then something happened.

I met my doctor who introduced me to other people and through a series of small decisions, information sessions, more doctor’s appointments and big choices, I don’t struggle anymore.

I want that for other people.

Even people I don’t know.

I saw a carbon copy of myself at the park; eighty plus degrees, long sleeves, sweating, visibly uncomfortable in her skin. She sneezed and I shouted “bless you!” from a few benches over in the hopes of starting up a convo that would lead to my gut spilling.

I’m half joking.

When I’m boarding a plane and see someone relaxing in their seat every time someone passes them and doesn’t take the empty one next to them – I wanna take it and sit there and talk about how I used to hate the middle seat, too.

People who lurch across parking lots or crosswalks to avoid the oncoming cars and not be a burden to their path. I did that.

People who have to sit in the wide chairs in the waiting room.

People who think bread is their enemy.

People who suffer.

People who try to change what they see in the mirror and can’t.

I’m those people, too.

It’s not meant as judgement and it’s not a pity thing; I hope nobody ever pitied me.  I am sure that most are hyper aware of the way they look and feel, I know I was.

Until I had the information and resources I didn’t think bariatric surgery was for me (it isn’t for everyone, but that’s another post).

I didn’t think I qualified and I probably thought it was extreme; it is, but it’s at the very least, worth the exploration.

I am certain I wouldn’t have taken kindly to someone making the suggestion to me, even in the throes of my stuggle and especially not in the midst of some grueling diet.

Who would have said something though?

My friends or family who were either thin or had the same struggle as me?

Surely if someone had the information to share I would have aimed my ear right at them.

I don’t do it though, not without provocation.

Mostly because it’s rude, and because other people’s bodies aren’t my business, but also because as a girlfriend pointed out that even though I may have been where someone else is, I’m not now; and they would only know this me and think I was bitchy or condescending.

It’s just that I’ve seen both sides of two hundred.

I know how it feels to be both uncomfortable and comfortable in my skin.

You know how there are people who are so filled with passion and love about their God that they want to knock on doors and spread it around?

That’s me; I’m the Jehovah’s Witness of weight loss surgery.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

“Hi, do you have a moment to talk about my savior the vertical sleeve gastrectomy?”

 

happy august

I always thought I hated summer because I was fat.

Countless July’s feeling like my arms were too fat for short sleeves or tank tops, thighs too flabby for shorts, and up until last summer I can’t even tell you when I last had a swimsuit.

Wearing lightweight zip ups with the sleeves pushed up was basically my thing. Sweating doing basically anything outside of the house, not even thinking about getting in the car without the air conditioning on; summer sucked.

Last summer was tolerable, I spent a week at the Cape with my parents, wore rompers like all the cool kids and drank my weight in iced coffee in an array of parks or on coffee shop patios.

But that’s it. That’s summer.

Most places or activities you might want to do in summer are flooded with a thousand other people with the same idea.

I mean, it’s no secret that I equate a lot of the positive feelings and happenings in my life now, to my weight loss – I’m not so sure I can pin that on summer after all.

Naturally I always thought Fall was my favorite season because it gets cooler and ends that awkward long sleeved phase in eighty plus degrees that people comment on constantly.

There’s so much more to love!

Even if you take out the fact that my birthday is in October, I mean, Halloween is awesome and pumpkin carving (Hello!), optimal weather for hiking, sleeping, taking long walks and even longer drives. Not sold? Apple cider donuts, horror movies, leaves changing colors, hoodies (appropriately!), cozy socks, guilty pleasure television comes back, flannel shirts and pj bottoms, crunchy leaf piles, I could probably go on… plus, none of that shit exists in summer!

People ask what your plans are for summer and everyone barfs out the same kind of sunny, beach, poolside answers. Nobody ever asks what you’re doing for the fall, which is crazy to me because the possibilities are endless.

So I guess I was wrong; I didn’t hate summer because I was fat, I hated it because it’s an inferior season.

My apologies to all of you waking up to the start of August and mourning it as the sign of the end of your beloved summer.

For me, August is the waiting room for Fall and I’ve got a good book and an iced latte while I sit and check my watch, impatiently waiting my turn.

 

 

nsv (non scale victory or no more secrets, victoria)

I have never cared about underwear.

I don’t know if I liked it or hated it or anything, I just viewed it as utilitarian. You have to wear it, and sometimes it has cute colors or patterns.

I mean, at almost three hundred pounds they’re not that cute and really served no purpose (for me) other than having a barrier between clothes and skin.

They were just something you bought, like socks or toothpaste.

I bought multi packs of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom or whatever was there, size large or extra large, I don’t know, I really didn’t care.

My hippest underwear shopping finds were these lace trimmed satin-ish ones from Target that were about $5 a pair. Every time we did laundry, Steve would tease me about my “weird granny panties that are trying to be sexy” and then I’d ball them up in a drawer because, whatever.

Immediately after my vertical sleeve surgery, I lived in yoga pants (still kinda do!), long sleeve t-shirts/zip ups and sports bras. When the promise of losing something like seventy percent of your excess weight is there, you’re not dropping a lot of coin on clothes; mostly because you’re going to go through them faster.

I bought inexpensive things, wore things until they were comically big, and of course had my eye on some stores I’d never shopped in.

I’m about a year post op when I decide that my Champion sports bras are over. This can’t be a thing that goes on forever, but I have no idea where to shop for anything (still sort of true!) so I take to a post op group I am part of on Facebook and ask where any of them are getting their bras.

A resounding mention of “Victoria’s Secret” and I laugh out loud, in my living room at the responses.

Also a store called Soma, so I force myself to drive around the mall parking lot for about half an hour before I find a parking spot, resist buying an Auntie Anne’s pretzel (which I can only eat half of anyway) and make my way to the store.

Fluorescent lighting, me in leggings and a bra with a stranger.

I didn’t like it, the bras that is.

The sizing was off, the bras felt weird and I was getting hot and uncomfortable taking things on and off.

She brought me so many things to try and after about a dozen I was like fuck this, I hate all of these.

I felt like I looked like an old lady. I still felt fat. I felt awkward. And I felt like if I was gonna give a shit about the bras or underwear I was wearing, I should really like them. Otherwise why bother breaking away from the basic stuff.

I thanked her and left.

A little hot, a little tired, and if we’re honest, a little defeated.

On my way back to the parking lot I passed Auntie Anne’s again, debated the pretzel and then saw the pink glow of Victoria’s Secret.

Maybe I’ll go in.

Nobody has to know.

Hmm.

I walked by twice before finally walking in, and not thirty seconds into the half dozen dressers spilling out eighty different types of underwear, a woman approached me.

Oh, fuck.

She’s gonna ask me to leave.

She’s gonna know I don’t belong here.

I should just go.

Turn around, just leave.

Eye contact.

Shit.

Turns out she just wanted to help.

Oh, in that case, hey Linda, let me tell you my life story!

She listens. She nods.

Next thing you know, we’re in the dressing room which is so pink and black and fancy I’m feeling a bit like a dirt bag in my leggings and combat style boots, but I’m open.

She has a measuring tape and an armful of bras. She asks what style I prefer.

Uhhhh, the ones that keep my boobs from flopping all over?

I later find out my preference is actually the Body by Victoria Demi – as I am checking out with two of them, and a half dozen pair of underwear. (I can’t call them panties, I’m almost 40)

The cashier does the normal “Are you paying with your Angel card today?” thing and I beam inside, like, she thinks I shop here, she doesn’t sense that I’m some awkward, less fat person who has never been in this glittery floored haven before except to buy perfume for my sister-in law for Christmas.

Naturally I say no and she asks me if I’d like to apply for one. I’ll save something or other today, and while the idea of a discount always tickles my fancy, I’m sure I’m not a candidate.

(The only other thing I’ve struggled with as much as my weight is my credit, to be honest)

She’ll get points or something, blah blah, sure, I’ll go for it.

“You’ve been approved, Angel”

“You must have typed something wrong, I’m not Angel”

She laughs, “You’re an Angel if you’re a cardholder; you’ll get a booklet of coupons in a few weeks and an explanation of our rewards program, which has three teirs, up to ‘Forever Angel’

“Great, thanks” I say, not sure I’ll be dropping sixty bucks a bra for the rest of my life, and with no real intention of using the card much.

I walk back past the spilling displays, through the mall toward the parking garage; head high, pink and black bag full of crinkly tissue paper in various shades of and pink and actually cute underwear, and I get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

I head home and try on both bras and all the underwear again. I have my own bathroom half-mirror fashion show and am sold. I never liked underwear – on or off. Bras, with a bow that don’t look like their for eleven year olds?

I look good. I feel good.

A month later I have another half dozen pair of undies, a different style and I have the website bookmarked.

I’m a regular VS shopper now, an Angel even.

Around the two year “anniversary” of my surgery I order more underwear, a few new sleep shirts and a bathrobe. Size Medium.

As if the universe knew; when I returned home from an afternoon of follow up appointments there was a package waiting for me. Home alone I tried everything on, and it fit. I had a moment on my living room floor, eyes tearing up, laughing … it all fit. I called my mom and told her. She laughed and celebrated with me when I said “I live in a world where I can wear a size medium from Victoria’s Secret!”

I have thirty-four pair of underwear now. (Not including ones that were tossed because they were stretched out pre-panniculectomy, or faded from washing or met some other fate)

I also have half a dozen bras, regular and sport, half  a drawer full of their leggings, long and short sleeve sleep shirts and a free tote bag or two…

Who would have thought ….

I’m a fucking ‘Forever Angel’

 

 

hashtag two accounts.

When I was starting the process of bariatric surgery I didn’t really know anyone who had had it, and was quietly scouting the internet for information, and support.

I found myself on a website called Obesity Help and responded on a few posts, which actually lead me to becoming friendly with a girl who was in my orientation group at Tufts, and making friends with another girl, who three years later is one of my closest friends.

I found myself on Instagram, looking through before and after photos, scrolling through dozens of photos under hashtags with the abbreviations “vsg” and “wls” included in them.

I eventually made a “secret” account because, I was ashamed in a way I suppose, and wasn’t going to be shouting my plans from the rooftops. I “met” hundreds of people just like me. Well, just like me in some ways.

I started posting more, commenting on people’s posts and interacting with people all over the country (world, really!) who were on their own  weight loss journey.

I became comfortable as my fat self, as my thinning self, as my whole self. I shared photos of my floppy fat, I posted screen shots of my weight tracking app, I shared products that I tried and liked, tried and didn’t like.

I shared everything.

But I didn’t share it everywhere.

I created this dichotomy where I was essentially showing two different selves to the internet world. I mean who gives a shit, it’s the internet, but still.

One day, after losing about eighty pounds, after a few months of recovering from my panniculectomy, I took a photo in my bathroom in my bra and underwear.

For me.

I oppened my photo collage app and put it next to a similar photo taken the night before my weight loss surgery.

Holy shit.

That was me.

They were both me and they looked totally different.

If I’m going to be true to myself, I can’t be two different people.

I posted it on my non weight loss account, shared to Facebook with a blurb about changes I made.

I went from being almost three hundred pounds and not letting even my boyfriend see much of my bare skin, to a person who shares pictures of themselves in their underwear on the internet.

If that’s not a damn transformation, I don’t know what is.

I’m totally different and exactly the same.

Unfortunately there’s no way to merge the two accounts now that I’m this weight loss surgery mentor – shout it from the rooftops – before and after photo posting gal. Maybe that’s a good thing, who can say.

Sometimes one account gets more attention than the other, sometimes I post the same thing on both of them and the photos are liked by both accounts of people like me, people with two sides to their story.

There will always be before and after pictures, there will always be before and after me [with regard to things beyond my weight, too].

We are all constantly comparing some aspect of our life and our experiences to another time.

That’s human nature.

We also all do it differently, so if being true to yourself is counting days and months until something or since something, do it.

If being true to you is not talking about your journey [whatever that journey is!], do it.

If being true to you is telling every person you meet your life story, do it.

Being true to you, is living YOUR best life and nobody else can tell you how to do that.

I’m almost three years out from weight loss surgery and I’m not obsessed with every piece of food I put in my mouth, I don’t feel guilt or shame for eating things, I don’t worry about fitting into some mold, or outfit. I celebrate non-scale victories,  scale victories, make correlations between my weight and previous experiences.

I don’t live in the past, but I don’t ignore it either.

Without those before photos, those “pre-op” snapshots, today wouldn’t be as sweet. I wouldn’t be as content, as happy to be in the moment and live my life without the frustrations of my body. I really believe that, because I know me better than anyone.

I’m happy to leave fad diets behind, let insecurities and preconceived notions about anything and everything fall by the wayside and just be.

But, I’m also happy to always throw it back on Thursdays, show my transformation on a Tuesday and reminisce about how I got here in the first place.

I’m always gonna be a work in progress.

 

 

 

going for it.

I have been obsessed with writing for as long as I can remember.

Brutally truthful things, pieces of fiction, poems that rhymed perfectly (more that didn’t), a collection of sarcastic thank you notes to people who did me wrong or hurt me that I was building into a book.

I mean, anything and everything.

When I was in elementary school and stayed home sick, I would take a stack of loose leaf paper and “work on my book”.  Scrawled in purple pen (that may have smelled like grapes!) I would get about a chapter in throughout the day. Always the same story about a girl who falls in love with her best friends brother and the details of them all hanging out after school.

Sort of a ‘Saved by the Bell’ meets ‘90210’ before either had been a thing.

[Sidenote: I’ve never had a friend whose brother I was interested in.]

[Uh, actually, now that I wrote that I remember it’s not true. Hi, Nicole!]

Anyway, my love affair with writing and chronicling things has gone on since I could properly hold a pen. So, it’s not surprising that in 1996 when I went to college I chose Journalism as my major.

I was going to write books. I was going to publish things. I was going to have my own line of greeting cards. Online diaries and blogs weren’t a thing at that point, but I’d come to have them, too.

So, here I am in the writing studio of my [first] college in New York and I just wasn’t into it. I didn’t want to write what I was told to, or how I was told to, I just wanted to do it. I was only a semester into it and I knew it was my hobby and I shouldn’t make it a career, I should keep it “my thing” and let it evolve organically.

I was also only seventeen and probably didn’t know shit about shit, but I was mostly right about this.

I had some friends and surveyed what they were doing and decided to take a psychology course the following semester as an elective.

Three chapters and a half a dozen assignments later I was hooked. Dr. Heath, who, in my memory looked like Ned Flanders and wore argyle sweaters, was the best. For me, his class was sort of like the feeling you get when you eat for the first time after being hungry all day. He served up the tastiest look at the world around me.

People are ridiculous. People are wonderful. People are assholes. People are selfless. People are fascinating!

I ended up transferring to a community college back at home where I piled on the Psychology electives. I was enthralled; I was diagnosing people in my head, in conversations with others and of course my usual introspection was in overdrive.

When my family moved to Wisconsin and I started school there, I declared Psychology as my major. I had an awesome advisor (Hi CB!) and he guided me to the right path for finishing my degree in a reasonable amount of time (I was ready to “get it over with” it’d been a several years long process at this point) and resources to pursue Psychology after I graduated, with the goal of becoming a therapist.

I love therapy.

I love talking, I love dissecting, I love analyzing.

I love ah-ha moments.

I love self care.

I love the process of unraveling our thoughts and feelings and putting them back together in a neater, but sometimes temporary way.

I love change, I love personal growth for me, for you, for whoever wants it.

I was going to be a therapist.

Oh, wait.

I was someone who wears the same black blouse every day with jeans because it’s the only outfit that feels comfortable and “looks good”.

Who was going to listen to me?

Seriously, if you went to a hairdresser with a bad ‘do, are you letting them near your hair?

Dentist with snaggly teeth? Tattoo artist with shaky hands?

I decided it wasn’t going to be a good fit after all, and decided to embrace a previous path I had considered; law school. I batted it around, took the grueling admissions test and wasn’t accepted into the programs I’d hoped.

More consulting with my advisor. Went for graduate work in Criminal Justice, to boost my applications; to show my stuff, to prove myself. I was going to reapply to law school after that.

It’s 2008, I’m reviewing application requirements. I’m over it. I’m tired, I’m waitressing, I’m fatter. I’m not going to stand up in a court room and be in the spotlight like this, I have minimal confidence (though I don’t show it much).

I don’t know what I’m going to do, who I’m going to be.

I’m just gonna live my life.

I’m a waitress. I’m a nanny. I’m a girlfriend. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I’m a friend. I am many things to many people.

I’m nothing.

Not all ‘woe is me, I’m nothing” but I’m not contributing to the world in a specific way. I keep saying to people that I want to be something.

I’m up and down for years soul searching, trying to figure out who and what I really am.

As I lost weight, I gained perspective.

When I’m just a few months post op from my weight loss surgery, I attend a support group. I am the most upbeat person there, I share everything, I offer insight to others, I am fully me.

I walk to my car ten feet tall, I feel better about me, I helped people feel better about them.

The group leader asks me to keep coming because my “energy is good for others”, so I do.

Then I am asked to partake in a heath expo at the hospital and speak as part of a panel, I jump at the chance.

I’m invited to join the mentor program; I am contacted via email and text by pre and post op patients picking my brain, asking for tips and guidance.

I’m encouraged by my medical team to be as involved in the process which others as I can. At my two year visit my surgeon asks “What next?”

I think for a second, “Dream job? Hang out at the hospital and talk to people about their lives, surgery or not. I mean, that’s not a job, but that’s the dream”

Turns out, it kind of is a job.

And I’m going to make it mine.

In a little over a month I’m starting my first round of classes toward my degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m finally doing the damn thing.

 

 

silver fox

Nobody tells the truth like kids and old people.

A few years ago I was taking care of a devil kid and put him in time out, when I turned my back to walk away he said “You look like a big blueberry” which would have meant nothing if I wasn’t dancing around the high 200’s and wearing a blue shirt.

He was calling me fat.

He was 4, but he knew what he was doing.

Steve took me out to breakfast last weekend and as we were unlocking the door to our building someone pulled up in front of the house.

I know about nine other people in the whole state, so I didn’t even turn around.

“Hey!”

Steve turns around “Oh hey! How ya doin’?”

I turn to see who he’s talking to and don’t recognize the car, or the person.

“Hey, where’d all your weight go?”

Uhhhh.

I look at Steve and the guy in the car says “It’s okay if you don’t recognize me, I only recognize you because you’re with him!”

Steve laughs and I’m still not sure who this is.

“Really? It’s Silver Fox”

Silver Fox is an old(er) guy who used to live across the street from us and his name is actually Mike. He used to talk to almost everyone and know all the neighborhood happenings, he also dressed in shorts and polos; I always joked about him being a ladies man.

Anyway, we walk over to his car and he tells us where he’s living and what he’s been up to, asks about us. He keeps circling back to me, ‘you look different’ and ‘my brother said you dropped a ton of weight’.

Finally he says  “So really, come on how’d you lose SO much weight? I mean you had to have lost a lot”

“What are you trying to say man?” I say, laughing.

“Well…” He looks around “Uh…Yea, you were big”

Steve and I laugh.

“You’re not wrong” I say.

“Really, I mean …” arms stretching out a bit “You were, heh, you were fuckin’ big”

 

 

skin(ny) jeans

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been on some kind of diet for like, eighty percent of my life.

Sometime in 2003 I’m thinking, it was another repeat Induction phase of the Atkins diet. Baggies of pepperoni slices and cheese cubes in my bag for summer classes, flavored seltzer in addition to my water and all the bunless bacon cheeseburgers and sides of broccoli I wanted before and after my shifts at Chili’s.

Chili’s, where I worked more hours than I wanted to but had some good times for sure. I also met some great people, some of whom I’m still in touch with. Chili’s is also where I met my friend Lindsay. Petite, blonde, super smart, runner’s body Lindsay.

We spent countless Friday nights going on dates to the movies and Panera and talking about everything from philosophy to celebrity news. She didn’t have my same boyfriend troubles, or diet woes but she always followed along and offered her advice.

On this particular summer day I am down about thirteen pounds and wearing bright colored plaid capri pants, sitting at a back table at work eating a burger before my shift.

Lindsay walks in, also early with an armful of jeans.

“Hey, I brought you some of my old jeans to try”

I stare at her, replaying the sentence in my head, because she couldn’t have said that.

“Come on, lets go try them on”

“Hah, uhhhh they’re not gonna fit me dude, but I’ll take them home and try them if that will please you” (followed by an eye roll and a laugh)

“No, were both here early, you have to change anyway, let’s just try them now”

I finish my lunch, and bring my plate and cup into the kitchen, Lindsay in tow.

Before I know it were in the bathroom. Me in the stall, Lindsay outside of it, handing me a pair of jeans over the top of the door.

Thirteen pounds down or not, that stall was not conducive to me using it as a dressing room; toilet paper dispenser jutting out of the wall, dark paint, low light, the whole thing is so dramatic feeling.

First pair.

“Dude these are like a size 4, are you crazy?”

“Just try them, they’re stretchy”

“Stretchy enough to fit a size 16?! I don’t think so”

I get the one leg on, up to maybe, my kneecap.

“Nope”

“You’re not even tryyyyyyying

She was right, I mean, I wasn’t. I couldn’t try to stuff two hundred some odd pounds into a pair of jeans that had spent their life being worn by someone seven sizes smaller than me.

It doesn’t work that way.

I fling the jeans over the door “Are you satisfied? They’re not gonna fit”

No reply.

Rustling.

The jeans disappear from the top of the door.

“Linds….?”

Another pair of jeans is flung over the door.

“These are definitely stretchier, try them!”

I don’t grab the pants, they slide a little further over the door, I know she pushed them, so resisting is futile.

This pair, okay, I got them up. To, ya know, the bottom of my thighs.

I shimy.

I shake.

I’m practically Ross in that friends episode with the leather pants.

Sweat is pooling on my forehead.

On my shoulders.

The pits of my knees are hot, moist.

They’re stuck.

This fucking pair of jeans that I have no business trying on are stuck.

My poor ham hock calves are having the life squeezed out of them by “stretchy” denim.

They’re like skin.

Melded to my actual skin.

I don’t know where they end and I begin.

“Oh man”

“Yea, they fit?”

“Noooooooooooooo. Good God no”

She laughs.

“But I think I’ll keep them”

“Oh yea?”

“YEA BECAUSE THEY ARE FUCKING STUCK AND I’LL HAVE TO CUT THEM OFF TO EVER BREATHE AGAIN SO I’D RATHER THEM BELONG TO ME WHEN I DESTROY THEM”

Laughter.

So.

Much.

Laughter.

My sweaty hand tries to grip the wall, while I use my other hand, and foot to peel the now damp denim down my body.

Scratching my skin all the way, it peels down, rolling over on itself.

Slowly.

Soooooo slowly.

One leg down.

I’m so hot.

I mean, I’m getting a workout here in this 2×2 box.

My legs are pink. No, red, and puffy.

I change into my work shirt and my actually fitting size 16 jeans that I brought along from the safety of my own home. I wet my face, blot every part of me dry and still laughing, we go out to clock in.

A group of our coworkers are standing near the computers.

“Oh I thought I saw you earlier, I wondered where you went” one of them says to me.

“Yea, I came after class and had lunch, and then Lindsay wanted me to try on a few pairs of her old jeans”

Silence.

Slow eye movement spread through the group.

Each trying to determine if her jeans would in fact fit me, knowing in their hearts there was no damn way.

“Come onnnnnnnn” I say “Seriously?!”

A final eye roll from me and we’re all laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

$5

Apparently everyone is spending $5 a day on coffee, every day.

I mean, I’m not. But that seems to be the assumption of some businesses and multi-level marketing companies.

I see people on my Facebook or Instagram feed almost daily, touting some health or diet based product or routine. The story is always the same; “Yes, it’s whatever dollar amount, but if you skip your daily coffee, you can easily afford it”

Well, no. I buy my coffee whole bean, by the pound, so my daily coffee, even if I have 2? Is like 34 cents. So. Not me.

Or “You don’t want to invest $5 a day in yourself but you’ll give it to Starbucks/Dunkin’ Donuts, isn’t your health worth more?”

Ya know what? Maybe some people’s health depends on that coffee – that break, that stop, that self-care savoring moment. Mental health is equally important. So let’s not diminish that.

Most of the people I have encountered or know, who sell these products are good people, nice people who have seen the results first hand and I appreciate that you believe in a product and use it yourself and want to share it with others. Hell, I used to sell Jamberry and I was probably so annoying about it. Everyone deserves to make a living or some extra cash however they see fit.

Everyone also gets one life to live, however they see fit.

Whats bothersome is the pressure it presents. And the subtle shame. Like, Oh just stop drinking coffee and you’ll lose weight, or get healthy, or be fit like me. People who have $5 a day to spend daily on coffee likely don’t need to “budget” for your products. And they either want them, or they don’t.

It’s a bit condescending.

Maybe it’s true – some people who really want to try something but claim they don’t have the funds could cut something out; but if they really wanted to, don’t you think they’d find a way themselves? Don’t you think they’d already be like hey, if I stop spending money on blank, I can have/get/do/go to blank.

I mean, that’s how I think about things.

Maybe when they say they can’t afford it they really can’t and are already scraping by, maybe they don’t want to afford it and are just trying to be nice and still supportive of your venture.

What’s a priority for you, is not a priority for everyone else.

And honestly, while the cost of these things usually does add up to something like $3-$5 a day, that’s not how you pay for them. You know? It’s a lump sum.

And what if they hate it? What if they just need time to think it over?

A few years ago I joined a new gym nearby. Brand new, bright, tons of equipment and a nice looking pool. Early sign up rates on enrollment and monthly fees.

I joined and being about 65 pounds down at that point, I was psyched. Couldn’t wait to take classes, couldn’t wait to maybe have the nerve to try lifting weights, and honestly, couldn’t wait for my “free personal training assessment”.

I got up bright and early on Saturday in December; workout clothes, water bottle and a positive attitude.

The “assessment” was about twenty minutes of an extremely fit, condescending woman bossing me around on things I had never done before. I tried to ask some questions along the way, she talked over me; she wasn’t so much “assessing” or “training” me as she was playing drill sergeant.

I might have still been interested, I was there to get information, to see if this was in fact something I could do. We walked to her cubicle and now we were going to talk about the cost. Obviously nothing is free, and I expected something like $50/session like I had seen at another gym a few weeks before.

I can’t tell you the exact cost but it was in the hundreds per month, upper threes at that. You also couldn’t just pick a few, it was however many times a week, and the cost was pretty similar regardless of the amount.

I listened and spoke honestly.

“I’m job hunting, next week is my last week at my current job and that’s just not in my budget right now”

“Well what if I can reduce the blah blah blah fee”

“I think it’s still too high for me, I’ll think about it though, thanks!”

“Well the offer for that is only good today, so go out to your car and think about it and come back in and we’ll sign you up”

“Haha, thanks, I’ll think it over”

“Christmas is coming, why not ask your boyfriend to pay for it for you as a Christmas present?”

I politely declined and thanked her for her time.

I didn’t think it was worth it regardless of who was paying it. There was another fee just to enroll in the training on top of the monthly fee which was on top of the already paid enrollment to the gym itself and why can’t anyone ever take no for an answer?

“It’s a shame, really” she said, “People always find money for the things they want”

I know that to be true, so I nodded.

She continued “It’s a shame you’d probably rather buy coffee and sweaters than take care of yourself”

I could feel my face getting hot, like I might cry, not hurt, not sad, but irritated.

“Nope, not planning to buy any of that either” awkward laugh “Thanks again” and I start to walk away.

“It’s okay, I get it, you just don’t want to invest in yourself”

I held my gaze straight ahead and kept walking, out of the building, out to my car and cried. A little pms-induced, maybe, but crying just the same.

I cried all the way home.

I got over it, because that woman, in 20 minutes or thirty minutes or even an hour we had been interacting … didn’t know shit about me.

Her comment stung, and it was meant to. It was some warped last-ditch effort to close the sale and it did the opposite. I left.

I considered cancelling my membership as soon as I could talk to someone that Monday.I was mad, I was sad, I was wondering how many people let themselves be shamed into a negative bank account, or feeling badly about themselves in a situation like this.

I didn’t cancel my membership because if I was throwing a couple of bucks a day to invest in anything, it was absolutely myself.

I was incredulous that a person would be in the “business” of helping others and try and guilt or shame them to go along.

But, I mean, the key word is business.