more than just coats.

My winter coat is too big but I keep wearing it anyway.

It’s nothing so special … your average knee-length, quilted pattern, insulated jacket. Columbia, packable, light, warm, black, size XL.

I bought it in 2015, and it’s probably been too big since the end of the following winter, if I’m honest. I bought it one cold afternoon when the threat of snow reminded me that I had thrown my last coat in a donation box earlier that year because it had gotten too big.

I spent years wearing heavy sweatshirts fleece jackets and scarves to avoid the winter coat situation. No coat was flattering, at all, and I hated feeling constricted, bulkier and just overall uncomfortable – I always felt ridiculous – think Randy a la Christmas Story! I broke down and got a not-too-puffy puffy coat at Burlington Coat Factory at some point before moving to Massachusetts and I wore it to death, out of necessity mostly and believed that it looked good – for what it was.

Fast forward to the winter of 2013, Steve decided he wanted to get a new winter coat and I thought that I could probably stand to replace mine as well. We went to REI where they were having a huge sale, and Steve said if I found a coat I liked he’d buy it for me. We split up and went to our respective departments where I tried on easily half a dozen winter jackets and coats. Every style I liked I tried – the largest sizes in some only went up to XL and they wouldn’t even zipper halfway. He walked over with about 4 jackets for himself that he was trying to eliminate and I must have looked like someone ran over my dog, because he started asking what was wrong, what happened.

Embarrassing to admit nothing fit.

In an entire department of winter coats and jackets not a single one fit.

He didn’t believe me, or pretended not to for my benefit, and picked out a few more for me to try on. I tried them on to the tune of nope, no way and get the fuck outta here girl this will never fit you.

Maybe the men’s department has something? Who cares where you get it if you like it and it fits?

I oblige the suggestion and roughly twenty more minutes of taking jackets and coats on and off, sweating, being frustrated, probably being hungry, because why wouldn’t that be the way when I couldn’t jam myself into any clothing I was trying on? Men’s jackets were either too tight or too big, and the too big was sort of a nice feeling until you acknowledge that the tag is a 2x.

Not being large enough to fill out a men’s 2x was not the silver lining I needed.

I gave up.

I got mad.

I got shitty and we checked out and left. Steve with two new jackets he would try out and get down to one and me with nothing but a reignited hatred toward winter coats.

I guess I still wear it because is kind of special in the sense that after hating all things winter jackets and coats I walked into a store, picked it out, tried it on and it fit. No asking if they carried it in a large size, or had anything in the elusive “back room”, I didn’t have to choose another style because this one wasn’t flattering. I didn’t have to take a gigantic breath to try and zip it, it just fit, just like that. I didn’t need a men’s jacket, or a  special order from a catalog or specialty store. I just made a decision and walked out happier than I had ever been in the winter coat arena.

I think we reminisced about it once since then, maybe when I hit the fifty pound weight loss mark or got my new coat; at a point when it was less sad, and just factual. In the end though, this jacket is too big and it will be the last winter I wear it. On the upside, I’ll be able to go into a store and pick a new one right off the rack, and that’s a pretty sweet trade off.

I asked him earlier today if he remembered that night, and he thought for a minute or two and said “Vaguely … I know I couldn’t decide and bought myself two coats and then had to return one … I offered to buy you one but you couldn’t decide” – bless his heart.

 

 

 

 

recover(y)(ing)

I’m four weeks post-op from my brachioplasty today and it sort of feels like I just got home from the hospital, but also like it was last year.

The day itself is blurry, I remember us leaving around 5 am to get into the city without too much traffic, which is kind of impossible no matter when you leave, and then having to wait for three months until they took me back.

I remember being hungry – “staaaaarving!” – anxious and freezing.

Despite it being my fourth surgery in the last five or so years, I questioned the anesthesiologist about the likelihood of my waking up during the procedure, I made jokes that a tired nurse laughed at, and someone put my nose ring in a biohazard bag. Three different people promised to go out and get Steve for me, but didn’t.

I remember feeling more anxious but simultaneously relieved when my doctor came in, by the time he finished measuring and drawing on me with a sharpie, his pocket tape measure unraveled and he laughed and he tossed it on the table in a way I remember being so funny – a la Andy Samberg throwing a piece of cake on the ground, but underhanded and not so aggressive – I’m a little high. He told me about his favorite nurses and his excellent intern that would be with him, we talked for a few more minutes since we’re old friends now, and he got Steve and we basically all said goodbye.

Rubbery plastic Bane-esque mask over my mouth and nose that smelled like a beach ball, “You can talk to us, it’s fine, just take a deep breath” …. “This things smells kind of like a bea….”

…four hours later …

My head is heavy, my arms are tight, like really tight and the cutest older nurse is trying to get me out of the bed into a chair. Steve’s back and my doctor and his intern are in jackets in front of me – I remember saying “Are you guys wearing jackets?” and them saying they went to lunch or something – and then my doctor said a bunch of things I misremembered for the following week.

I could barely stay awake on the drive home, and kept nodding off and then waking up asking very specifically for a “Java Chip Frappuccino” from Starbucks. Of course he got it for me, dropped my prescriptions off, took me home, went back for my prescriptions and some Gatorade and stool softener. (Maybe that’s TMI for you, but if you’re ever going to have surgery and be on pain medication you’ll be happy to have it!) I fell asleep sitting up on the couch and eventually moved to the bed where I still slept sitting up.

One drain in each arm, ace bandages tight around the tops and a compression bra/garment over that. Two days later I got to peel it all off (except the drains) and shower. The whole process took over an hour, drains pinned to a lanyard around my neck, and required a nap almost immediately after. But by the next day I’m taking Tylenol, instead of prescription pain pills.

I could wash my own hair, didn’t need any help in the bathroom and had free reign over the kitchen since I had no restriction on range of motion, so cooking (and eating!) was slower, but doable. I just couldn’t lift anything heavier than my coffee pot.

The drains remain the worst part. Hanging from above each elbow from what are basically puncture wounds and keeping me from being able to move as freely as I felt I could. At my two week follow up, my doctor greeted me with a goofy smile and “How are those drains?” To which I replied “I hate you.”

He took them out, examined his work and said everything was healing nicely.  What I didn’t expect, was for him and excellent intern to each start ace wrapping one of my arms starting at the hand and going all the way up to my armpit. Wouldn’t have been half as bad if I wasn’t told to leave them on constantly until the following week when I was to come back.

With the intention of transparency, that day was the only time I experienced any pain, and it was when me got home and I could feel the wrap rubbing against the incision and I cried a little.

Surprisingly, I have yet to ask how much skin and fat he removed, how many stitches might have been used or to see a photo.

And to be super transparent – my mood was totally dampened by the now constant wrapping and the itchy, tight feeling it gave me almost non-stop. I started getting crabby more frequently and “turding out” as we coined it. (This is basically acting like a turd). I would turd out occasionally after my panniculectomy too; when I couldn’t do something, or had to do something that was impeded even slightly by the wrap or binder or inability to flail around fluidly. At one point last week I violently shimmied my body against the doorway while shouting “I’m just so fucking itchy!” and until a few days ago, these swollen, scabbing, wrapped up arms didn’t look any different to me.

I knew they were but I couldn’t fully see it.

One hot shower and photo shoot later I got my brain together and am obsessed with them.

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I’m still tired and wrapped from hand to pit, but I can sleep laying down, on my side even! I can do everything I need to except comfortably wear a normal shirt over my garment – I’m glad that the pile of tank tops I never wore and had in a goodwill pile never made it there. Partly because I’ve been living in them and partly because I might actually wear them now.

My bank account and my mental health need a little time to regroup, so the thighplasty I have scheduled for April is getting pushed until the summer. I need time to mentally prepare for potentially swollen calves and toes and who only knows what type of compression garment!

Plus, recovery from surgery, no matter how elective or exciting is exhausting and can be depressing. I need some time to be back in a routine and move my body before putting it on the bench for another few weeks. Please remember that if you are considering any procedure, weight loss wise or plastic surgery.

I’ve only been back to work for three days and I’m exhausted, but my skin is looking less like that of a shut in, I put makeup on and wore shoes that aren’t my slippers, and I have a follow up next week (I should probably bring him a treat for saying I hated him – because I so don’t) that should alter my current wrap situation, so my mood is up.

Swollen arms and hands, misshapen and uncomfortable forearms, temporary limited movement and drains aside; I almost can’t think of a better decision I’ve made in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

the hippie.

If you have ever talked to me outside of this blog, or Instagram, you know that I am not the biggest fan of my neighborhood. We have a goofy nickname for most of the people in it, and a funny story about a few of them as well.

“Jimmy the Prick” who is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s character in Grand Torino; retired cop, always in loafers or old man sneakers and whenever I see him I swear he is surveying his front lawn. I’ve heard him utter more than one slur in my years on this block. His wife doesn’t have a nickname but she hit and dented my Volkswagen backing out of their driveway a few years back and never said a word; when confronted, commented on my out of state license plates and the rules about changing them. There’s the cackler, silver fox, drunky smurf, the mystic and maybe a few others.

Up until a few years ago, the whole time I had lived in this building there were a few empty apartments and then the same handful of people living in the rest of them.

Directly above us was a Jesus-loving hoarder who was definitely sweet, but couldn’t figure out why it was rude that she parked at the base of an empty driveway or stomped around her apartment at all hours. She once begged us, through tears to take an airbrushed piece of art down from our individual apartment door because it included a skull and she reportedly began sobbing every time she saw it. Like I said though, she was sweet; she invited herself into our open door while I was bringing in groceries one night and asked if she could pray for my gallbladder troubles, I agreed and found myself sitting next to her with her hands on my abdomen speaking in what I can only refer to as ‘tongues’. She eventually moved into an assisted living sort of place, not without mistakenly taking two UPS packages of ours off the porch when she packed her car up, leaving behind no way to contact her but a grapevine.

A grapevine that knew her from church and thrived on shouting any and every exchange from or into an open window, chasing squirrels through the yard reminding them they “don’t belong here!”, making comments that are inappropriate across multiple spectrums. He lingers too long in his parked car doing who knows what, shouting in to his live-in girlfriend (or not depending on his mood) in a tone that sounds like he swallowed a megaphone and opening every single drawer in his apartment on the other side of my wall at 5 am and I can’t decide if I have too many nicknames for him, or not enough. His girlfriend person is an older, mildly crazy woman who has hit multiple cars backing straight out of the driveway, vilifies everyone who she doesn’t know every detail about and approaches every conversation with you as if the world is on fire and she needs to borrow water.

On this info alone, you can probably see why I was relieved when the only other apartment on the bottom level was rented by a woman who looked like she had her head on straight.

I remember taking the trash out and a man with her introducing himself as her brother and within days I made it my mission to fill her in on the weirdness of our mutual neighbor, at least. With longer gray hair and a ‘Free Tibet’ sticker on her environmentally friendly car I am going to have to admit that I might have nicknamed her (affectionately) the “hippie” when discussing her existence with my boyfriend, as in; “the hippie seems nice”, “I told the hippie what a psycho Megaphone man is”, “they’re letting the hippie have a dog.”

I was happy to finally have a sane person to offer some cookies I baked too many of, or soup from a large batch. I loved that Steve would shovel out her steps while out there doing his car, or that she took me up on the offer to pick something up at the store for her when she needed it.

Said hippie is probably one of the best neighbors you could have, as it turns out. Friendly, interesting, insightful and funny but not interested in small talking for the sake of small talk.

In the last three years I have had many conversations with her; some silly, some serious, some sad and others just forthright. In all my secret-keeping about the process leading up to and including my weight loss surgery, I told her with no real qualms when getting of my car in front of her apartment one day.  She was totally encouraging, did that thing where she pretended I wasn’t fat enough for it, and referred to me as a “skinny bitch” in the first few months when the weight was falling off.

She’s the kind of neighbor who brought me a BAG filled with Gatorade, ice pops, goldfish crackers and puzzle books when I came down with a cold and asked if she had any Nyquil.

When I had my first skin removal she delivered a hoard of magazines to my doorstep, not to mention she bought some chocolate covered pretzels from me and then  insisted on lending me the money I was trying to make to cushion my post-op out of work time.

She brought me an amazingly detailed fairy-tale adult coloring book after I’d made her a giant batch of my fried rice.

One night she texted me to come out side and see my new bike, Yea, SHE BOUGHT ME A FUCKING BIKE because I’d told her how I hadn’t ridden one in years because of my weight and the last time I had some kids shouted “Woo Hoo! Go Fatty!”

When our shared neighbor, Mayor McLoudmouth was ranting and raving about his suspicions of Steve shooting art nudes with models, she came outside to the basement door in nothing but her bathrobe and announced she was ready for her close up.

When I told her I was applying to the counseling program she cheered me on, she asked about my assignments, she listened to me recount silly things about my life when working on papers, she celebrated with me.

There are probably a dozen other instances I’m forgetting in which her generosity and kindness surpassed that of some people I’ve known my whole life.

She got sick and while it’s been going on for a while and not a secret per se, it isn’t my place to talk about that. The other night though, our doorbell rang and from the couch I could hear Steve talking to someone directing them to her entrance; she was being moved to a place where she’ll be more comfortable and get a little more peace and quiet.

My heart sank, I was only a few days post op and we briefly texted about me swinging by; there was like a foot of snow on ice out there and he didn’t feel comfortable letting me wobble outside not being able to safely catch myself or break my fall with my arms. He was right, I know, but I can’t help feeling bummed that it worked out that way.

Turns out the hippie isn’t just one of the best neighbors you could have, but one of the best friends.

 

armed.

In the midst of a seven thousand step Zumba class last year I took my zip up off to avoid certain death, but the slapping of my arms and the fear that everyone could see it and hear it was enough to take the fun out of it and get me back into my sweat soaked jacket.

I can count, maybe on both hands the people who have seen me in something intentionally sleeveless or short sleeved in my lifetime. That list basically includes my mother, my boyfriend, any doctor I’ve seen and the occasionally friend or family member. Oh – and a nice older lady measuring me in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room.

I barely own anything with short sleeves, and what I do has a coordinating layer. I haven’t owned a bathing suit in at least ten years (save for last summer when I crashed my parents beach vacation) and aside from a handful of unfortunate bridesmaids dresses, business casual tops for funerals and interviews (again covered) my wardrobe is all long in the sleeve.

I used to harass my mother about an outfit that wasn’t long sleeved repeatedly from the time I put it on until I would walk out the door, sometimes even going back in to ensure that she “wasn’t lying” about how I looked, or worse, that she “wasn’t lying about lying”.

I wore the long sleeved shirt or the optional uniform sweater practically every day of my high school career. I’ve had to wear promotional or uniform t-shirts for restaurant jobs that would make me so uncomfortable that I would consider calling out sick, or saying I forgot it knowing they might not have another one on hand in my size. I would sweat my way through bbq’s, push up the sleeves of things to make them more weather appropriate and ‘throw something over’ almost anything I wore.

I may have single-highhandedly kept Old Navy in business with my cardigan purchases over the years.

I have fantasized about upper arms toned enough for tattoos and tank tops or dresses. I have had more people that I can remember offer to take my jacket or ask if I was hot, or comment on my layers.

I’ve gotten better over the last few years, mostly since my smaller body makes me feel less bad about my not smaller arms. I’ve worn things outside of my comfort zone to avoid extreme discomfort or sweating to death. But I still cloak their soft, flabby hanging skin in jean jackets, zip ups and long sleeves. Winter, summer, spring and fall. Not (always) in the privacy of my own home, but for the most part, all day every day.

You would think (I know I did) that losing nearly ninety pounds, having your protruding folds of abdominal skin and fat removed and being able to grab things off the rack in size medium and large I’d be living the good life. And I am, but have also been unable to buy things that otherwise fit because they constricted my upper arms to the point that the sleeve would roll up and practically cut off my circulation, or expose so much of my arm flab that it would double on itself and look, for lack of a better word, gross.

I assumed, even as recently as last year that I would spend the rest of my life in a long sleeved prison, unable to muster the confidence it would take to expose my arms or to find clothes that fit me as well in the body as the arm  – uncomfortable with the skin pinching itself or slapping when I move too quickly.

I’ve been mostly okay with it given everything else I have gained as a result of my weight loss journey. Turns out, I don’t have to be. I am being freed this week.

So soon, in fact, that forty-eight hours from now I will likely be out of surgery and on my way to being discharged to the comfort of my couch.

I’m in a state of excitement mixed with anxiety; I’m not afraid of anesthesia or hospitals, I’m a surgery junky by this point. I am however unable to imagine a body that has ‘normal’ arms – nondescript, average sized arms – since for dozens of years I have pulled, poked and flapped them in frustration. I probably won’t be able to picture it, no matter how many times I pinch it or pull it back in the mirror, until I see it with my own eyes.

armedI’m not one for New years resolutions; not on my fattest day or in my saddest year, but I am armed with complete confidence when I say that I will be leaving my arm flab and related anxiety in 2017 and braving some short sleeved tops in 2018.

 

seasoned.

We’re getting ready to leave town for longer than a weekend, so I am cleaning out the fridge and cabinets of things that might go bad or get stale before we’re back. We usually have tacos on Sunday night, and have leftovers for a few days; not being here would be a waste of delicious leftovers, so we were trying to decide what was quick and easy, and also wouldn’t have to get tossed when we packed up the car.

“Oh you know what sounds good? Maybe some dumplings and your fried rice, we haven’t had that in awhile!”

“Sure, then you can eat the rice for dinner tomorrow, too.”

My favorite part about the exchange is the reference to the fried rice recipe as “mine”. I mean, it is, I kind of made it up a few years back and I tweak it or change things every now and then but it’s one of his favorites, and even friends who have had it rave about it.

Steve takes every opportunity to tell people what a great cook I am, and compliments almost everything I ever make. People rave about and request my mashed potatoes on holidays, or weekend winter visits. My mac and cheese recipe can’t be duplicated, even if I decided to share it because I eyeball the roux every single time. I make a meat sauce that he has commented wouldn’t disappoint his Italian Nana, and people have been impressed by a broccoli dish that I swear to you I once threw together as a hungry fat girl to add to pasta. I’ve made loaves of bread, googled recipes that I’ve tweaked and made my own, perfected a chili recipe so much that Steve notices if I use a different brand of tomatoes and have made pot roast that floods my senses with memories of my entire life.

No big deal, right? I mean I have been baking for what seems like ever.

Except that was it. Aside from what seems like a life time of eating grilled chicken in eighty different ways at a half dozen different restaurants where I worked, I was always counting calories or carbs or points and so any cooking I did for myself was also, grilled chicken. I was a recovering vegetarian who didn’t eat much meat beyond chicken and turkey and I either ate them with veggies, solo or with salad. Plus I was living in my parents house and my mom is a wonder in the kitchen, so I didn’t even have to cook myself half of what I did.

So here I am, shortly after moving in with Steve and I decided that I was going to make him dinner. Obviously we had been eating but I think it was in the frozen pizza, take out or cereal department. So I decide I’m going to make his favorite thing; tacos! I went to the unfamiliar grocery store and excitedly picked up everything I could imagine needing; ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, a box of crunchy shells.

I’m thrilled to have it ready when he gets in from work and of course I make a grand deal about it, bringing the toppings over and a tray of warm crispy shells stuffed with ground beef.

Like a child who made him a drawing I stare wide-eyed anticipating his reaction, a compliment, and he just nods while chewing.

I take a bite of one of my tacos and it’s not disappointing, but, lackluster for sure, something is missing.

He takes another bite and puts it down. Clearing his throat he says, “What kind of seasoning did you use on the meat?”

Staring at him.

He stares back.

“Oh my God …”

“What?”

“I didn’t … I didn’t even think about it …”

“So, this is just browned ground beef?”

We stare at each other.

I offer to dump all the meat back in a pan and season it up with something, he declines, TO BE NICE I’m sure, and continues to choke them down.

It seems preposterous that a person with the love for food I have always had, fatter or less fat wouldn’t think or remember to season meat. I almost can’t believe it myself.

I don’t know if it’s because I can’t take a compliment, or because I am just impressed with my increased cooking ability, but I tell that story to almost anyone who ever gushes about something I make them to eat.

Every now and then if he says something I make is too salty, or too spicy I remind him what kind of bland browned ground beef meals I could be making, and we laugh about it.

Like I said, we have tacos almost every Sunday.

I wish I could tell you how I season the meat, but it’s eyeballs all the way now that I’m seasoned.

super fat.

I have been fat my whole life.

It’s not an exaggeration; I was an almost eleven pound baby, and according to a recently consulted baby book I was eighty-four pounds when I was six years old.

I come from a family of celebrators; someones birthday or a holiday, expect a gathering, with more than enough food, invitations extended beyond the family and of course a dessert or four.

In the happy and loving upbringing I have had, the main negative is just that I was fat. Not counting that pesky obesity gene I was predisposed to, there wasn’t any one thing or person that made me that way either. It was just who I was and I (mostly) accepted it.

I accepted it in that way that you know something can change, but you’re not sure how to do it or what the outcome will be but you try until it’s too much. Like when you string all the lights up on your Christmas tree and two strings don’t blink, or light up at all. You want a beautifully lit tree, and you have the equipment for it, but it’s out of sorts so you unscrew a bulb here, or there … then you unplug the strings and re plug them into other ones … you google it, you make three trips to two different stores for new strings, you dismantle the whole thing and start over and finally, eventually it works and you have your lit tree. Or maybe you say “Fuck it, it’s my tree, this is how it is” and accept it dead bulbs and all.

I lived in a hazy sort of middle ground between the two.

I was obsessively counting calories, taking fat burners or prescription diet pills, cutting out entire food groups, worrying about how I looked, counting points, weighing myself twice a day, overthinking how I looked, how I felt or feeling bad about something I ate or sorrowful over something I didn’t …. or none of that at all.

When I reminisce about fat me, or refer to my former self as fat, or obese people scoff. When I share a comparison photo of an obviously morbidly obese me next to a normal sized me, people say things about how pretty I always was, or how hard I am being on myself. Comments like “You were heavy, but you were tall” or that laughable “…but you have big bones” or just brushing it off as though I only carried around an extra twenty pounds.

I assume it’s because people don’t want to hurt my feelings, or come off sounding rude, but let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. I’m not woe as me, I don’t think I was ugly, or useless, and I’m not looking for compliments, I’m just telling it like it is.

When people look back and say “I was ten years old” or “When I lived in California” or “That was in high school”, it’s the same thing to me. I was large.

Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m crazy. Like I am the one who is inaccurately remembering myself.

I am two or three glasses into a bottle of wine, half eaten tortilla chip in one hand while my other hand is knuckle deep into some goat cheese with a cracker. I am siting across from one of my favorite people telling her a story about I don’t even remember what, but I say “I mean I was a super fat miserable bitch back then, so…” and she cuts me off.

“No way, you weren’t a miserable bitch…” I lick cheese off of my hand as she continues “…super fat, definitely, but…”

We erupt in laughter. She goes on … “What? You were … (she motions with her hands)…super fat. But also, super cool, super funny and I instantly loved you.”

She popped the rest of a cracker in her mouth and took a swig of her wine. She shrugged as if to say “just the facts, ma’am” and we peppered it in to conversation for the rest of the night.

I kept bringing it up and feigning hurt feelings. Honestly though, of all the conversations I have had with people about my weight, of all the the times I have referred to my former fat self and been reprimanded for using so called “bad” words to describe myself, this time was the most refreshing. It was the first time anyone was like, ‘Yea you were, but you were also X, Y and Z’. She didn’t try to talk me out of it, or pretend it wasn’t that way – she just reminded me that it was just a part of who I was.

Maybe I leave that out sometimes, maybe I come across as though I forget who I was, or maybe it seems like I think I was just a fat person with nothing to offer or that I let that define me.

I don’t. I know that I have been many things to many people.

I know who I am; I know I have always been smart, and funny and well loved.

I’ve been kind and nurturing and crass and creative.

I’ve been happy and supportive and a dozen other adjectives, and if we’re all being honest; one of those was super fat.

 

catalyst.

I am two hundred and seventy-nine pounds. I am wearing one of two identical pair of belly button pinching jeans I own, and a sheer black blouse with black dots stitched into it over a black tank top. For some reason I can’t tell you what the shoes I am wearing are, even though I was looking at my feet for a lot of the time.

I’m sitting in a chair that gives me enough room, mostly because it designed for morbidly obese people who cannot fit, comfortably or otherwise in your standard waiting room chair. I am a little sweaty having walked two or three times as much as I need to arrive here, since I was slightly embarrassed to stop and ask anyone for directions through my labored breathing. Even my hand is glistening and smears the words on the form. I take a sip from the water bottle I carried along, so everyone knows I’m trying.

I’m not even entirely sure what I’m here for.

Everyone is smiling and friendly though, as if they know we are fragile.

All the talking that takes place is very low volume; not in a hush hush shameful way, more out of respect for sensitive information. The first thing that happens after I complete a ream of paperwork is getting on the scale. It’s a scale large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, though not intended to.

Two-eight-two. I don’t cry, but I want to. I imagine that my already upsetting weight of two seventy-nine is still accurate if you subtract the sweat, the bracelets and watch I’m wearing to look more put together, and the forgotten shoes they won’t let you take off.

I’m okay.

This will be okay.

I ended up having two appointments that visit; one with nutrition, and one with behavioral.

The behavioral appointment is where they crack you open, figure out what your hang  ups are, what is your goal for your weight, your health, your life. What your reasons are for being there, what you hope will happen as a result of this … what steps have you taken? what have you already tried? What aren’t you doing, or allowing to happen because of your weight?

Nothing. I’m cool and fun and cute and being fat isn’t keeping me from anything except being not fat.

Well …..

This appointment, this forty-three minutes is where I realize I was wrong.

“Are you married?”

“Nah, long term relationship, but, pfft, I’m not spending hundreds of dollars to put a fancy dress on this body and roll it down an aisle.”

“Any children?”

“Nope … could you imagine adding a baby to this gut?”

“What do you do for a living?”

“Went to college for psychology, to eventually be a therapist, then changed my mind and got my masters to potentially go to law school but now I’m just helping this lady run her life.”

I answered a few other questions and my answers surprised me.

And then all I could do was question myself.

Why was I still driving a dented car? Why didn’t I actively pursue different job opportunities? Why did I talk about getting a bike or going kayaking but never do it? Why did I stay in one-sided shitty friendships or relationships? Why did I abandon my end goal of being a therapist? Why did I ask my mom / dad / brother / boyfriend eighty-five times how I looked before leaving the house, then accused them of lying? Why did I get mad when I tied my sneakers for the gym and one was tighter than the other so I had a tantrum and just stayed home? I couldn’t ever say before, that’s just the way things were.

I’m always saying that the things that are different for me now, and my improved attitude and outlook are because I lost weight. You can argue that; you can say it’s because I got older or because I realized different things about myself, and that’s true, too.  Either way, I’ll never stop believing that this appointment, this weight loss surgery, and the entire experience was a catalyst for all of it.

not your people.

For a long time, and even now, I struggled with letting people go. I will go through my friend list on Facebook sometimes and consider cleaning up the scads of people from different phases of my life, and I never really get rid of anyone because “I’ve known them forever” or they’re family, or a friend of family, or the girl I met through someone else who I have about four things in common, never interact with but keep them because their presence is innocuous. I keep her because she likes cooking too, or this girl also had weight loss surgery and we’re sort of friendly … Oh this person knows my mom, or dad or aunt’s cousin’s brother …

I had the same group of girlfriends for most of my life; we didn’t all hang out together, or make plans to grow old together like the Golden Girls, but for many years and boyfriends, moves, celebrations, changes, happy days, crazy neighbors, bad ideas, annoying parents and questionable choices; these were my people.

One of them, also for years, made me feel inferior to her. She made my feel like most of my ideas were shit, my decisions were wrong and like my existence was basically this puzzle that if it weren’t for her, would never be pieced together. She had an opinion about everything that you couldn’t question, and while she wasn’t some awful human being, it turns out, she wasn’t one of my people. She was for a time, and her purpose had sort of run out. It wasn’t until I made the decision to change my life and my health that I fully realized it. I also got older; not everyone you know at nineteen is someone you should still know at thirty-nine.

I always thought of myself as a people person with a big group of acquaintances and full social calendar that diminished only when I moved hundreds of miles away from everyone I knew. I’ve been more introspective (who knew that was possible) in the last few years and have clearer ideas about who and what I want in my life. I felt guilty and sort of selfish about it at first, but I gradually made peace with it, and you can, too.

If you want to.

I was talking to someone recently who was frustrated with their place in their friend group; she felt she had to force herself on others to be included, she felt left out sometimes and as if she didn’t really play a role in her group the way she thought.

I empathized but “then they’re not your people” flew out of my mouth immediately after. “Yea but we always used to hang out….” and “We’ve been friends since we were kids ….”

“Okay, so they used to be, I get it, but for today, for now, for where you are, they’re not for you…”

“I know but I just really want things to be how they were, and …. seriously, we’ve been friends since like first grade…”

So what?

If I have known someone since kindergarten or am related to someone by blood or marriage and they don’t make me feel valued, or like I am “worthy” of their attention, I should let that relationship continue? On the basis of knowing them so long? Illogical.

My grandmother used to say that if someone wants to be in your life, they will find a way. I totally believe this; sure things happen and maybe someone can’t text you back when you want them to, or come to something you invite them to, but when you mean something to someone, when they are grateful for whatever role you play in their life, you will know. And if you don’t, ya gotta go. For you.

I have a love // hate relationship with social media because it gives us a connection to people that maybe we don’t need to be connected to. It makes us think things are a certain way and maybe they aren’t. While people share real things, and are mostly their true selves, it’s definitely convoluted. Being friends with someone on Facebook doesn’t necessarily make them your friend in practical everyday life. Being related to someone doesn’t always mean they have your best intentions at heart, and knowing someone since your childhood doesn’t give them free reign to neglect your feelings. People will treat us the way we let them, and if we stay in relationships with people like this, knowing how they make us feel, and don’t do anything to change it, we can’t complain.

Our perception is our reality, so when I am in my head about who is a keeper, and who is a floater, I ask myself two questions. The first; if I met this person today rather than at birth, or in fourth grade or college, would I still want to be friends with them? And do I like a person or keep them in my life because of their role (lifelong friend / family member) or because of a genuine interest in knowing them? I have always said of my parents, that if they weren’t my parents, and just two people, I’d still like to know them, because outside of their role as my parents, they are genuinely awesome people. As are the people I choose to interact with on a regular basis.

I don’t know where I got the idea that I have to be friends with everyone I ever knew, or that I should hold on to relationships that no longer serves me (and in turn makes me a person who no longer serves their life’s purpose either) but I don’t do it anymore.

I’m not saying that you should grab the hedge clippers and go all Edward Scissorhands on your friends list, or social circle. I’m just saying it’s okay to take inventory. It’s okay to make sure that the people you interact with are invested the same way. Maybe you used to talk to someone every day, and now you just text; or you used to have coffee every weekend but now your schedules only allow for once a month. Totally cool. It’s the quality of the interactions, not the quantity. The quality of the relationship, and how it makes you feel, how it allows (or inhibits!) you to be your true messy and real self that determines, to me, if they are in fact one of my people.

Some people just aren’t.

 

thirty-nine.

Slept in.

Breakfast: Warmed chocolate croissant, mid-sized iced mocha latte from a cute place in town.

Went for a walk in nearby park.

Lunch: One small, and one large craft pumpkin beers, shared a jerk chicken pizza at our favorite local brewery.

Trip to the bakery around the corner for a “personal” sized carrot cake.

Dinner: Chips & salsa, one Cantarito and crispy fish tacos at a new Mexican restaurant nearby.

Wandered around World Market, purchasing only beer and candy. Mobile ordered an iced chai with soy on the way home. Comfy clothes by 10:00, on the couch with the carrot cake, and a cookie butter filled candy bar.

I spent the whole day happy and laughing and sharing delicious food and drinks with my best friend; but most importantly, not feeling one single ounce of guilt or shame about my food choices. If that’s not a non scale victory and a cause for celebrating myself, I don’t know what is.

jae birthday

 

 

Zumba!

Right before the start of 2016, down about fifty pounds, I tried my first group exercise class after my weight loss surgery. I had only been to a few others before and they were extremely stressful situations that caused my anxiety to skyrocket on the drive over, my stomach to flip flop on the walk into the room and then again when faced with the large mirror that would leave me on display no matter where in the room I stood. Exercise in general gave me the sweats because I was sure anyone who saw me doing it would think it was laughable, I had also felt like my body was unresponsive no matter what I was putting into it or making it do, so exercise was a chore, with no real reward. Even when I felt a little better afterward, I was still fat, and still miserable.

So the first class I go to is Zumba.

Ballsy, right?

I had seen commercials for years about the kits you could get to try it yourself at home, I had seen thin, attractive women shaking their overpriced legging clad butts to tropical sounding tunes and I had never had the courage to try, but I was intrigued, and for once I let that overpower the fear of the group class.

Man. It was something. Huge room at the gym, brightly lit with mirrored walls on two sides. Of course I took a place in the back of the class but there were only about ten people in it. It was a weekday before 9am, and the room was a melting pot. I wasn’t the oldest, or youngest, not the fattest or thinnest. I was just a person surrounded by other people who just wanted to dance and sweat something out – calories, stress, bad luck – whatever it was, we all just wanted to leave lighter.

It was loud and fast and fun. It was like all the shit I was doing in my own house when nobody was looking, but to better music. This was exercise? No exercise I ever knew was enjoyable. “Peace out treadmill” I thought as I shook and shimmied all over the place. Checking myself out in the mirror, not caring (too much) about my arm fat flapping as I danced my heart out.

It was the best morning I had had in a long time.

Even though I almost died. (dramatic)

In fifty minutes, my Fit Bit reported over 7,000 steps, I had sweat pooling in my eyebrows and I had drained my water bottle. Somewhat labored breathing but I staggered out to my car, and when I got home, announced that I was going to Zumba the next day, too.

For a few months, I had the time in my schedule to go to multiple classes a week, sometimes I went five times. I was dancing in grocery stores, looking up Zumba videos on You Tube to dance along to at night. I went to the same instructor’s class, and so I was getting all her moves and routines down, I was friendly with people in the class who also went a few times a week. I couldn’t believe I was exercising, for fun, before my coffee even!

I felt light, and happy and totally energized.

I bought fancy sports bras and new pants to hold in my gut, I didn’t care that I had to peel my clothes off after every class, or sometimes had to sit down slowly when suffering from what I called ‘zumba thighs’. I befriended the instructor, and when she was no longer teaching there, I became friendly with her replacement; talking about becoming a Zumba instructor myself, I was borderline obsessed and she offered to take me under her wing and show me the ropes and gave me info on where to sign up for different things.

I was totally on board.

Before that went anywhere, my schedule changed and I could really only make it to classes in the evening or on Saturdays, and those weren’t ideal.

Time passed and summer was almost over and I had my panniculectomy and spent eight weeks basically living on my couch. Every few days I would daydream about going back to Zumba, how much different it might feel now that this extra belly fat was gone, how I could finally get moving in the direction of becoming an instructor myself and sharing this exercise I actually enjoyed with other people. When the time came that I was cleared to exercise, it was also when I was cleared to go back to work, so again, not really ideal. I went to a few evening classes but it wasn’t the same as starting my day off with that jolt, there were no familiar faces, so again, it faded.

I don’t even know if I like it anymore. I’m sure I do but, I mean, if I truly did wouldn’t I have made the time for it? I don’t know if I used timing as an excuse or if it actually was a real constraint, but at the moment, it’s neither.

I have the freedom right now, and for possibly the next few weeks to get to some morning Zumba classes, so I”m gonna go. No pressure on myself to love it like I did, no idea that I am going to go and know all the moves ( I most certainly will not!), no concern about having the flabbiest arms flailing around or anyone paying attention to me.

I’m gonna take my free mornings, grab my water bottle and my little towel and I’m gonna go dance my ass off in that back row.

Maybe as soon as tomorrow.