thankslosing

The only time in my life I have spent a holiday entirely alone was a Thanksgiving six years ago. It was the best and worst day. It wasn’t some sad story of being alone, but choosing to be by myself, for what could only be reflected on now as, the greater good.

Steve and I didn’t always have the chance to leave town for Thanks giving since one of us usually had to work Black Friday (please note this capitalized itself) Anyway, on this particular thanksgiving weekend, we were off and planning to head to his family for the weekend. A last hurrah of sorts since that Monday was my then top-secret weight loss surgery and my parents were coming into town for that. Emotional as I was about trying to see everyone and do everything and keep things normal, since I had no idea what was on the other side of Monday; we went through all the options. We batted around taking two cars, so I could come back early – or maybe my parents flying into a NY airport so we could all come back to Massachusetts together. We toyed with all the ideas until the nurse called a few days before to go over what to expect when I checked in. In that call she asked a very specific question about a cough, or cold or congestion and that if these symptoms were to arise they may have to postpone my surgery. Well, that sealed it, Steve was going, and I was not. It seemed too risky to subject myself to the coughs and sneezes or half sucked cookies from the mouths of children.

I’m fine staying home I say at least forty times; before finally believing it after fifty or so. We had a tearful goodbye (pretty sure the tears were all mine) with easily seven hugs on the way out where I insisted to help carry his stuff to the car. I was on the cusp of potentially changing my life (spoiler alert: totally did) and maybe a little resentful I had to sacrifice these last few days to do it. Which sent me into a resent spiral about all the choices I made or didn’t make and the influences I had (or didn’t have). After a brief pout/sob combo on the couch, I pulled up my (really) big girl panties and set out to get some groceries for one.

I wanted a normal thanksgiving dinner but scaled down to just me. I poked every fresh and frozen turkey in the store before settling on a turkey breast. I got a couple potatoes, some stuffing and of course, I got the food of the gods  – canned cranberry sauce complete with the lines. I got some wine. I watched bad tv and set the coffee table for my food funeral; my last gluttonous meal before I started liquids over the weekend.

The anticipation was thick and my mouth near watering…

The turkey was rubbery, the potatoes were weird and gluey as if I had never made them before – at least the stuffing was stove top, so you know it was great. I cried. Over food. By myself on the couch, at 278 pounds, I sobbed over the disappointment of this last supper. I cried while I scraped it into the trash. Tears flowed while I washed the dishes. Pretty sure I wiped my nose on my sleeve, drank more wine, and then plopped back on the couch and ate the innards of the pumpkin pie I made – because you’re not not going to make yourself a pumpkin pie on your last thanksgiving.

So dramatic. Last Thanksgiving.

I had no idea. I had no idea that the following year I would be able to eat the same delicious things I had always eaten on Thanksgiving, just less. I didn’t know that for all the years to follow there would be real turkey, brined by me and fluffy bowls of mashed potatoes and delicious stuffing (full disclosure: still stove top sometimes!) and wobbly canned cranberry. I didn’t know I would still be able to eat pie, and turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce sandwiches on rye bread for days to follow. I wish I had known, to save myself the grief – I dubbed it Thankslosing: a small little pity party for all the things I thought I had to leave behind. Turns out everything I had to leave behind belonged there and helped me get closer to the life I have always wanted; self-awareness, a healthier body, which I don’t hate to look at; an improved relationship with food, a career path, a level of self-esteem I did not know I was missing and, of course, a heft of gratitude on days like this. Guess it was more like Thanksgaining.

(not) nice knowing ya.

In a recent conversation with someone new to my life I shared that I had a blog. I didn’t elaborate much just that it was about random life stories and weight loss journey and growth and well ya know, all that jazz. A week or so later she mentioned that she found my blog and read it, and commented on the lack of entries the last few months. I blamed graduating, my new job, the pandemic, but really that wasn’t it. I paused, one of those heavy sort of lingering pauses and then told her about the phone call.

Sometime in December of last year, I missed a call from a number that was not in my phone, but something about it was familiar. I listened to the voicemail and was instantly sick to my stomach. I knew the voice. I knew the name. Ugh. I hadn’t spoken to the caller in easily 8 or 9 years. I hated the way he said my name.

I told her about the person; someone I had a shared financial obligation with in the past and that was why he was calling. Honestly, that’s not the part that made me feel queasy. The obligation had morphed and changed and it wasn’t a big deal to me – I have done a lot of work around my previous financial shortcomings and don’t live there anymore. I don’t even want to visit. I ignored the call. I don’t know why I didn’t send a text acknowledging the message or confirming he had the right number. His message let me know that he wasn’t sure if it was still my number. I told my best friend and Steve about the call and went on with my day. I can’t remember if he called a second and third time, or just a second one; but a week later I got an email. It was a “new contact” email through this website. He ‘googled’ me. He couldn’t get me on the phone so he searched for me on the internet.

I went on to tell her how a few years ago I joked about wishing we could send updates to people from our past so they could see we were thriving or more successful, prettier, thinner, happier. Not this guy. I was happy to let him think I was a fat, sad waitress who needed his financial assistance at some point. I didn’t care what he thought about me as long as he stayed out of my life.

Let me be clear that this was someone I’d spent years in and out of the chase with. You’re probably thinking who cares about someone from your past showing up, this is your moment to shine – so shine. Well, I care. I told her what a shit he was. That he was abusive. Not in a push me around, physical way. Not even in a way I may have noticed in the moment. Lying, cheating, gaslighting. Offering morsels and expecting pounds. It was the voice, honestly. Hearing that voice. The same voice that once called to say he had an STD and confessed he had cheated on me. The voice that commented on my weight. The voice that judged my job, my education. The voice that lied. The voice that shouted when he punched the sunroof of my car in a fit of anger.

I told her that I think I stopped posting much because I didn’t want him to know anything about my now life. He could see this blog now, he could read years of stories he knew nothing about. My improvements, my growth. I thought that somehow him knowing the “new” me took something away from that. I didn’t want him to have any access to any pieces of me, he doesn’t deserve them. I laughed at the thought spiral, the weird trip down memory lane and realized he never deserved them.

The financial thing in question was a student loan for the final class of my first masters program. He helped me secure it because he “couldn’t marry someone who slings chicken wings.” Nice.

Anyway, saying it all out loud made me realize how lame that whole thing was. I stopped writing here as much maybe because of the pandemic, and maybe graduating and starting a new job, but it was the voice that made me stop before that. I’m so big and loud about who I am now, and how I got here and helping others get places and I am gonna be silenced by that voice? That google search? Nope.

I told her I wanted to write a post about it and get past it but that I felt bad, I didn’t want to make anyone look bad or make a thing of it and ya know what she said? “The stories you share belong to you, they are what happened to you and what you experienced and if anyone doesn’t like the way they are portrayed in them, they should have behaved better. ”

And you should have.

hi, it’s me again

Earlier this year I picked up a spiral bound hardcover notebook at Target because it was a pinky-blue brushstroke design with gold accents and a ‘there is always something to be grateful for’ etched on the cover. To be clear I did not need this notebook. I rarely need a notebook because whenever I see one I like, I buy it. I liked the sentiment though and decided I would start something like journaling again.

Three weeks later, my best pen in hand, I go hard and scribble out three to four pages about things. The next day I do it again and the next day for about a week. I start to forget, I come back here and there and when I pick it up again it’s the week after I had to cancel my flight to visit my family in Wisconsin. It’s a day after I panic bought canned food and Cinnamon Toast Crunch because they were talking about food shortages and government lockdowns. I never buy food out of a panic in a storm or a crisis, but the panic of others makes me think I am too calm so I follow suit. I once called Steve from the grocery store the night before a snowfall … “Everyone is buying bottled water!! Do we need bottled water?!” I don’t think I have ever purchased a case of bottled water in my life!

Anyway, I’m in my comfiest clothes, on my couch and I grab the journal and write a bit and then, you guessed it …. put it back on the shelf and now it’s practically August. I picked it up today, once again determined to get back in to and the last two pages I wrote on go like this:

3.24.20

Well. Never made it to WI like was planned. A virus – I feel like I’m writing about a movie – started spreading rapidly. 

4.7.20

I couldn’t even write any more last time because the whole thing seemed so surreal. It’s still going on. The virus. 

I went on to write a bit more in that last entry detailed our work and internship situations and things that were going on, but then it tapered off again. I think maybe for the same reasons things did for me with this blog. What was there to say? I was trying to finish my graduate program, find a full-time position, plan and then stop planning a graduation party, and trying to reschedule that flight to my family. Then more shitty things just kept happening in the world.

I was bummed out on a lot of levels about a lot of things. I think I just needed a break to get my brain together and take the temperature of the whole thing … and this morning, months after that first scribble,  I filled some of those pages again and plan to be back filling these. I guess the notebook was right, there is always something to be grateful for.

memory

Shouting over the espresso machine while making us lattes this morning I say “I think I’m going to stop telling people I used to be fat.”

He looks at me without responding because he knows there is more. “I don’t know, it’s weird, I’m not trying to pretend I wasn’t but why do people need to know that me when she’s not now me? People don’t tell you they dyed their hair once in high school or that they have a hidden horrible tattoo. Well, maybe they do. I don’t know I just think it’s weird, it usually comes up organically but is it possible I just don’t keep going with it?”

I hand him his latte, he takes a sip, “Well, I guess that depends on …” I don’t hear what he says because I am still in my thought spiral about how “talking about it keeps it relevant, and brings it into the now and with some people that can be helpful but really who gives a shit? and it was almost six years ago I mean, well I guess it was all thirty five years before that too … what was the point of losing all the weight if i was just going to carry it around with me forever anyway? The ghost of fat past … ”

I laugh. He waits. I shrug.

“Do you even need me for this conversation?” I stare at him “Yea, I need guidance, do you think this part of me should be included in every new person’s knowledge of me?”

He stares.

“I mean, think about it, people I knew growing up don’t know the me in this kitchen, they  just know chubby, kinda bitchy, not doing anything so great me, ya know?”

“Kinda bitchy?” We laugh.

This line of thinking is something I get lost in pretty often. Which you is in a story that someone tells? Is it the actual you? A version of you that you’ve outgrown? People have ideas and opinions about us all the time that may not be accurate, or are based on a bias, a first impression or something someone they kind of know said to someone who knows their mother’s cousins aunts uncle. What about when the opinion is based on something you no longer are? What’s the story someone is telling themselves about you?

Sometime in 2006  I was out for the night with a group of friends. There were about ten of us having dinner, and then drinks before a hockey game. We found ourselves in the path of a couple of drunk guys who spouted off and started trouble, only to be taken down, so to speak by a few of the guys in our group. I have told the story of that night; the banging of a guys head on the door, the dropping of keys in the river, the yelling and chaos of the six or eight minutes it lasted, at least a dozen times since it happened. I always wonder if those guys, or the girls they were with tell the story. If so, I wonder what it sounds like.

I wonder how people tell the stories that we are part of.

Its unlikely they tell them the same since their perception is their reality, as is ours. I wonder how I am represented by the stories I am part of, I wonder if I am left out of some.

I found myself wondering if that guy, whose name I still remember recalls making some snarky comment about me in the elementary school yearbook before someone caught it, or if he even remembers going to that school.

I wondered if the guys who invited me to dunkin donuts for coffee in college and squished me into the backseat of a car and took me for a ride two towns away propositioning me for all sorts of lewd things remember that night; I wonder if they talked about it at when they met up for one of their weddings.

I wondered if my neighbor who shouted at my parents about my faulty car alarm going off in the middle of the night still remembers that happening, or that we even lived there.

I wonder if the guy who I had a whirlwind relationship with and talked about marrying remembers that we talked about that, or that we talked about anything.

I wonder if the friend who couldn’t support the idea of weight loss surgery, so I stopped calling and interacting tells the story of me as a bad friend, a person who hurt her, not the way I saw it.

Then I wondered if they even tell these stories at all.

Maybe they don’t.

Actually, they probably don’t, not the us part anyway.

So many times we probably exist in a memory that is vague, or that we are left out of. A memory that isn’t ours. Nobody remembers what we said, what we wore, or that we were even there. Those memories, are none of our business.

Moreover, those memories are the reason we shouldn’t put too much stock in what others think now. We get one life, so we gotta live it the best we can and hope we are remembered well because eventually, everything becomes a memory.