crying over pea soup

Every now and then I forget that I had weight loss surgery. I mean, I obviously don’t forget, but its been almost eight years now so it isn’t something that I talk about or even think about on a daily basis. What I have never forgotten is the support that I got from the few people who knew I was taking that leap. In fact, I vividly remember it.

Standing in the dusty elevator of my new primary doctors office, detailing the outcome of my first visit to my cousin via texts. Wearing my uniform of snug jeans, flats and a black blouse. Sharing with her, before anyone, that he had referred me to the Weight & Wellness program for a surgery consult. She followed up with kind words and heart emojis.

I remember driving home overwhelmed; Steve waiting at home to hear how things had gone since it was a new doctor and I went with a laundry list of things on top of struggling to lose weight. I remember feeling embarrassed that this seemingly shameful thing I might be embarking on also felt like such a relief. I can practically picture his face, from across the room, looking at me like an idiot about to squander an opportunity. In fact, part of his reaction after a chronological list of weight loss attempts and restrictions and diets that he had witnessed in the time we’d been together was “….you’d be stupid not to do it”

I have a memory of calling my parents and them maybe not fully being on board at first – but I can’t remember the details because before the end of the day, I was walking into the grocery store and my mom called back. We talked about all the ways our weights, or the perceptions we had or thought others had about our weights impacted so many small things in our lives and how exciting things might be on the other end. I remember driving in my dented and rusting car, home from work and talking about it with my dad. I will never not remember him saying “What? Why? You don’t need that, we just saw you, you look good” and me replying about how I felt and him saying “If that’s what you want to do” …. and then booking a flight for my mom to be there with me when it was scheduled. And then when it was postponed a few weeks before over some insurance timelines, he rebooked her flight and he came, too. He slept on an air mattress in our living room, the needles of the Christmas tree inches from his face. He treated me to my last “food funeral” – a meal of poutine and wings at the back corner table of Stones. He even came in the grocery store with me afterward to peruse the selection of Pepperidge Farm cakes in the freezer – and helped me eat one with nothing but forks back in the crowded living room. In the days following, when I could only have liquids, he offered to forgo some local eateries he and mom wanted to try – so I didn’t feel bad, or left out, or… hungry. He bought me an overpriced bowl of pea soup that I sipped.

I scrolled by this picture in my phone tonight. It was in the scads of photos I saved and took screen shots of the week he died. It’s always been a favorite photo of mine – his smile, knowing how happy he was to be there. It’s from the pea soup day, so maybe this memory and this support was part of why I’ve always loved this photo. And if it wasn’t, it certainly is now.

(sub)conscious effort

sometimes it feels like my dad died a few days ago, and other times it feels like it has been too long ago to count the days. neither are true, but both feelings will likely remain until, well, I die I guess.

in the days before he died, when we thought he would wake up, I cried a lot. I drank tequila out of the bottle in my underwear on the couch. I ate my weight in sour patch kids, like a starving savage, shoving my face into the bag to get every last tangy granule of sugar and not being able to taste anything for a week. I talked about who I would “trade” to have my dad back, who was more “deserving” of his fate. I easily worked the stages of grief in and out and back again and then after a trip to Wisconsin, another week of spontaneous crying, extra bed time anxiety meds and two extra sessions with my therapist I went back to work and life, sort of.

It was cry, work, cry, eat, cry, sleep, repeat. Then cry, eat, work, cry at work, eat, sleep, repeat. I cycled through that for a minute but continued to wake, breathe and live. That was my focus, keep my head above water. I had a birthday, made a thanksgiving feast, put up a Christmas tree, had my dads favorite dinner on his birthday, studied for and passed the licensing exam, applied to a PhD program, got promoted and made a lot of really inappropriate “dead dad” comments. I replied with “hanging in there” or “putting one foot in front of the other” whenever anyone asked how I was.

Nothing felt better, or made me feel better, but in an odd way, nothing made me feel worse. I became less reactive and more grounded. I’ve felt slivers of guilt for not being “sad enough” some days, and then for not calling my father the night before his procedure or for not laying down and letting the grief swallow me whole. It didn’t just happen though, as I came to realize when talking with my therapist tonight, these things I did, or didn’t do served a purpose. I thought aloud, what was the function of these behaviors …? To escape, to avoid the possibility of being consumed by grief. I spoke about how doing anything other than living my life in the way I had been, in the way I was working toward, seemed, for lack of a better word, disrespectful to my father. This person who did everything in his power to make sure that I had every thing I needed and wanted in life, who would give his last anything for anyone, this man who deserved so much more than he ever got – I’d honor that by laying in bed? By halting my budding career? Sabotaging my health with food or booze? Wallowing in the sadness of what could have or should have been? Absolutely not.

The thing that I had grown up imagining as one of the worst things that could ever happen to me, happened, and I survived it. I referred to myself over those weeks as a “garbage person with a broken brain” … but I was consciously (or subconsciously) making an effort. An effort to live, to continue, to treat my grief as a gift. A suit of teflon against the world; allowing anything after this – future painful outcomes or disappointments to slide off my shoulders.

whirring.

My dad died.

Unexpectedly. Almost three weeks ago. Not even three weeks ago.

There’s been crying, cursing and yelling. There’s been tequila in my underwear on the couch and comments about people I would trade for my dad. I have been fine; I am good in a crisis, I am a professional. But maybe not for myself. There is a constant underlying swirl of feelings, so many mixed, odd feelings. They are not on the surface, but they are there. Buzzing in my chest .. fluttering in my belly.

I’m waiting for the explosion. I’m waiting to lose my shit on some unsuspecting person, to cry so hard for so long that I don’t think I will be able to recover from it, to fall to my knees in a Target when my distracted brain zaps me with the memory that my dad is dead and not just 1000 miles away at his place. I don’t want it to happen, but also, why hasn’t it happened? Why am I not limp and one with my bed; how am I waking up and putting clothes on (barely showering, sure), I made a pot of soup, I bought paper towels and went to the post office. It’s just a deep churning feeling, like anxiety in high gear, but no release. Just the low whirring of emotions within me.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I took a class on grief and loss, what do I remember, what can I recall … maybe I am doing grieving wrong…

Or maybe my grief is a sound machine like I keep in my office. A low hum that protects me. A quiet flutter that keeps the world from distracting me from my memories with my dad, blocks out their voices so I can remember his, keeps me calm in my sadness. Maybe it’s the soft noise that protects me from the sadness when I have to function, when I need to put one foot in front of the other and carry on. Maybe there is no explosion coming, maybe it’s just me and a soothing vibration that keeps me even – let’s me be sad if I need to, but reminds me to live.

My dad died and my grief is a sound machine.

EMDRUSERIOUS?!

Earlier this year my therapist … Yes, I have a therapist and I have been seeing her since the start of this year. For a myriad of reasons, but mostly the culmination of stressors in life resulting in me losing my ever loving shit over a pork loin (I mean, it wasn’t over the pork loin) and screaming like a wild animal and then sobbing off and on for several hours before slapping myself in the face twice (one on each side, DBT emotion regulation, hush) and beginning a low dose med.

So anyway, my therapist asked me if I would like to try EMDR. I remember thinking that it was just a trendy intervention and my coworker at the time referred to it as “snake oil”. I hesitated but also was curious about the process from a professional standpoint as well as personal. Would it help me to reprocess things that were impacting my life or way of thinking years later? Would I want to offer this as a service to clients in my professional practice? I decided to go for it.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy method that is used to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain – basically allowing the brain to use it’s natural healing capabilities rather than to change the emotions, thoughts or behaviors that are the result of the distressing events.

I’m a little skeptical because it eventually involves a light bar and this whole thing is virtual because we are still in a covid-esque world. Is this gonna work? Is there anything that even needs reprocessing? Is it snake oil?

Fuck it, I’m in.

I’ll save you all the details, but we work on a timeline of things in life that were distressing. I’ve had a pretty good life so I was a little surprised at correlations I made between places I have lived, people I have known and all the food and body stuff. I remember when she suggested it, I said “Isn’t the for people with unresolved trauma?” and she said “Well your experience with obesity, and dieting and eating disorders has to have left a mark”

Damn… but, you’re right.

We explore different periods of life, highs and lows. We talk about diets (so many diets!), we talk about family culture and experiences and I call my mother at least 3x asking about different things I remember and making her feel bad or question instances herself. I jot down things that come up, I make connections between why I eat what / where / when and why I have done or not done certain things. Health clubs with my mom and grandmother as a kid, slim fasts and supplements and weight watchers in grammar school. A weird memory about a spotted pear on the front porch with my childhood best friend, rude comments people made, things I tried or did to alleviate the distress and emotional toll of living in a body I didn’t feel comfortable in. Some real deep dives on things that always seemed like surface level whatever, now felt like revelations. The more I talked, the more I heard what I was saying. The more sense things started making, even things like my lack of returning to places where I previously lived. Honestly, it’s wild.

Then comes the light bar and the reprocessing and installation.

One week she says, “okay, next on your timeline is the dinner dance dress”

I stare at her through the screen “What about it?”

She says “I don’t know, that’s all you said” and try as I might, I got nothing. I said “uhhhh I cannot remember what was distressing about that. If I had to guess it was being an almost 200 pound girl who couldn’t fit in the dinner dance dresses other girls my age were getting, but I don’t have any feelings about that”

aaaaaaaaand I was stunned.

I remember EVERYTHING, I can transport myself right back to almost any emotional experience in my life and I couldn’t do it. There was nothing. Logical explanation but nothing emotional. Nothing shameful. Nothing that felt like some distressing life altering experience.

“This is weird” I say.

She explains that when the brain reprocesses events, sometimes what happens is that later events are no longer distressing, because what was causing them to be that way has been reprocessed. Even as I am typing that I’m thinking how amazing the whole thing is. Then what usually happens when I take a drastic step or big leap, I wish I had done it sooner.

“I could have been unburdened years ago, EMDRuserious!?”

We laugh and she says, “so do you still think it’s bullshit?”

And I don’t, not even a little.

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.

fart party

This is never going to be a professional blog (see: title) or solid resource for mental health information; but as a person with mental health, who works in mental health, you can expect some overlap. There has been a lot of talk about physical space and social distancing lately, which has got me thinking about emotional space and the idea of privacy.

I was talking to someone today and we were talking about how someone in her family asked about her kids and some decision she made. She admitted to being sort of taken aback by it, and responded to avoid conflict but something about it irked her. Was she the topic of conversation? We talked about how her family always held what I called ‘fart parties’. Someone in the family would do something, anything – as insignificant as fart and immediately the news spread. Quickly the family would decide on a meet up spot, who would bring what food and drink and desserts and then they would sit and discuss the fart, and of course, the farter (farter need not be present). These people were so enmeshed in each others lives and business that the idea of privacy or omission was foreign. If the farter didn’t want to disclose what they ate prior to the incident, the group would be incredulous. How could you not tell us? We need to know every detail about the fart, we’re family! If the details weren’t disclosed, the family might talk about the fart for weeks separately and then reference it for months or years to come. She acknowledged my point and countered it that all families are like this. I was hesitant to agree, but couldn’t fully disagree because I vividly remember a game of telephone my mother played with her mom and sisters (both blood and in-law) when I confessed that I had gotten my period in the school bathroom in sixth or seventh grade. Not a fart party, but an overshare for sure.

I have always been an open book, but have joked that you need to come to the library. I am willing to share almost anything about my life from crapping my pants while simultaneously barfing on the church altar in 5th grade to the experience of weight loss surgery, moving 1000 miles away from your family and (finally) deciding on a career path at the tail end of your thirties. The information is available but the way it is dispersed is in my control. Usually. That’s not to say there haven’t been times when something is repeated or shared by someone other than me, but I’ve learned to be more selective with my sharing, considering the potential spread. I’m not ashamed of any of my choices or behaviors, though I know who may use them as ammo, or throw a fart party – it’s important to be clear about what in your life is open for discussion, and what isn’t.

My favorite thing to talk about with clients, and in leading groups, is boundaries. It has become a favorite thing to talk about with friends, too. Boundaries are, simply put: the rules that you make for yourself in terms of how you will let other treat you, what access you will allow them to have to you and your life and how you will respond if these rules aren’t followed. Boundaries can be hard to put in place.  A lot of the time it’s because what we have to say or do to set a boundary, is counter to what we have been doing, or been taught to do. Boundaries limit our obligations, in the sense that they keep us from doing and allowing things because “that’s the way it’s always been” or “that’s how we do it”. That we can be a partner, parents, extended family, siblings, friend, neighbor …. anyone who has an attachment to a situation.

It isn’t always family that we need boundaries with, but that seems to be a big one. There may be familial traditions or expectations that, when you distance yourself, make you an outsider or cause a vague bullying. This is typically true when your behavior is counter to the behavior of the group. When people change something, those around them may want to deflect the attention from their own needs, or self examination. A lot of people don’t like the idea, or don’t want the responsibility of self-exploration. The pushback on boundaries is often from people who don’t want to self-examine or don’t like change. That’s not hard and fast; there are plenty of reasons people might push back, but they are not your reasons.

The most important way (I think) to set a boundary is to be direct. As a recovering people-pleaser, I know that this is as harder than it sounds. We want to say yes to people who need something for us, we want to make others happy, we want to avoid conflict, we want to keep things status quo. That’s admirable, but not if it makes you want to die inside. (dramatic) I spent many years saying yes to things out loud and then regretting it and feigning illness, other plans, or following through while being angry about it because I didn’t feel like it was okay to say no. I felt like that might rock the boat or break tradition or disappoint someone else. Know what? It might have … and so what? Why is our sense of obligation often tied to others responses and reactions and not our own? That’s a question for another time, honestly. A few other key ways to approach boundaries are knowing your limits, prioritizing self-care, considering the audience, exploring your feelings and giving yourself permission to alter the boundaries you set when it seems reasonable.

Boundaries can be set for all sorts of life areas; personal space, time and energy,  sexuality, belongings, cultural or ethical beliefs. Boundaries are super personal and cannot be decided for us, they are rules that we make up about our own lives and our own needs. There’s no checklist for setting boundaries – only to not be too rigid, or too loose with them. The more rigid your boundaries are you may miss out on experiences or relationships that are beneficial. the more loose your boundaries are you may not feel capable or able of making decisions for your self, or you may feel pressure to give and do for others without hesitation.

The bottom line is we get one life and we have to live it in the way that works best for us – EVEN if it’s different than what your family wants or what your friends expect. You know how when you are on an airplane and they talk about putting your oxygen mask on first, before helping others? We need to get our head out of the clouds and think this way on the ground, too.

destination addiction?

I recently saw a quote about “destination addiction”. The term was used to describe the idea that happiness is a place that we can find and get to somewhere else than where we are now. I was curious so I dug a little deeper and another article I saw referred to it as people who believe success is a destination. The most relatable, was what I saw in a Psychology Today article when I read a little further and it said that destination addiction was “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner.” The article went on to say that until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

Man, that’s familiar.

I don’t consider myself as ever having been an unhappy person. I was always pretty contented in most areas of life, and the company I kept. A little bitchy, over opinionated, easily irritated maybe, but not unhappy. I would have been more comfortable in a smaller body and with a better job or a career path, sure, but mostly I was good. I was good right up until I wasn’t.

I remember sitting with the counselor at the hospital for the weight loss program I was entering, during the psychological evaluation she asked if I was married “not rolling down the aisle in an expensive dress in this body” I responded, or when she said are you planning to get pregnant (this is a no-no for roughly 18 months post op) and I laughed, I don’t think think I can add the weight of a baby to this body. These are just two examples of things that I wasn’t doing because I thought they would be better and make me happier if I wasn’t fat. (Turns out that’s not why I wasn’t doing them but that’s another post) 

I know, and know of many people who think that their happiness is still out there, that there’s just one more thing they need to do to complete the riddle and BAM- HAPPY! Well, prepare to have your dreams dashed, kids, ain’t gonna happen. I can tell you for certain that losing weight, whether it’s 10 pounds, 80 pounds or 180 pounds is not going to instantly change your life and give you all the things you think you want / need / deserve. I can also tell you that getting married or having a baby isn’t going to fix your relationship, a new job may help your bank account and even your self esteem, but it won’t make you happy if the other puzzle pieces are still strewn across the table of your life.

I just thought of something someone said to me awhile ago that was laughable, honestly … they said “You don’t understand, you always get everything you want.” I am pretty sure I gasped aloud. Me? Everything I want? I feel like it took me until I was midway through thirty to even consider what I really wanted, and by the time it was in action I was practically forty.

That wasn’t the part though, it was that I GET everything I want that slayed me. I asked for a clarification, I said ” What’s this everything I get?” They did not miss a beat. “You didn’t want to be fat anymore, you’re not. You wanted to go back to school, you are. You wanted a newer car that wasn’t rusty and dented, you got one. I mean ….”

Ain’t having it.

“You mean what? I didn’t just get those things” “Okay fine, but you got them easier than I get shit.” This turned into a conversation about the hoops I jumped through to “not be fat anymore”, the doctors appointments, the embarrassment, the waiting room practically public weigh-ins, the re-learning how to eat, the surgery, while minimally invasive, was still surgical. I went on a tirade about sure I am back in school but not without applying to several programs, tracking down transcripts from a college I went to twenty years ago for less than a year that tried to say I still owed them money, letters of recommendation and applying for even more student loans. The car? Gimme a break, I traded in my car for pennies, and put the rest of the down payment on a credit card. (former poor credit use also for another post!)

I think that this person and maybe a lot of people don’t want, or can’t put the effort into certain things because what if they fail? What if the desired outcome isn’t achieved (BUT WHAT IF IT IS?!)? I didn’t tell most of my family I was having weight loss surgery, because what if it didn’t work? Even the people I did tell had opinions (both positive & negative), how about when I decided to go back to school, the opinions or the pressure to “get it right” this time. That shit sucks, but really, not as much as being in your own way, relying on some other person or event to give you this euphoria.

People preach self-love and self-care and these are important, but you gotta like yourself first, and decide what’s important, what life you are going to create for yourself, and do it. There’s your success, your happiness.

Anyway, what I gathered from the destination addiction bit is that we always think there’s something missing, and that something will miraculously “fix” or improve life. I half buy into it, because my life has drastically improved since weight loss (my personal destination) but not as a direct result of weight loss. My doctor wasn’t like, “Okay, that’s eighty pounds, here’s a graduate program, a career path and healthy boundaries, go forth with the happiness.” I had to do that.

I think there’s an expectation for these things to present themselves and when they don’t, we become discouraged and/or depressed, so we assume there is another next thing that will do it. It’s a cycle that just leads to disappointment, comparison and feelings of low self-esteem and even failure. Why wait on something or someone to make you feel that way, when it’s the opposite of what you want?

If I had to define myself as happy or unhappy, I would say happy; but it’s more than that. I am comfortable, in my skin, my life, my career path, my relationship. I feel validated and accepted by the people and places I assign value. I don’t subscribe to a societal checklist that measures my success or happiness by the things I do (or don’t do). I have also known people who have the big house, the marriage, the kids, the fancy job, all the material possessions and invites to everything social and they aren’t happy either.

Happiness isn’t a destination or posession, it’s comfort in knowing that you are living your best life in the moment it’s happening. Sure there are improvements you can plan to make, but they should enhance those feelings, not be responsible for creating them. So I say make yourself comfortable; not complacent and lazy, running through your Netflix queue hoping happiness will knock on your door. Truly comfortable with yourself; in your body, in your relationships, in your career, your family, your hobbies … get comfortable with who you are and what you want and see where that takes you.