November 26, 2011

Love and clean water

One of my favorite French expressions is vivre d'amour et d'eau fraîche - I first discovered it through a vocabulary-based mailing list that described it as such:
Have you ever been truly, madly, deeply in love? Then the French expression vivre d'amour et d'eau fraîche or se nourrir d'amour et d'eau fraîche might describe how you felt, as if you didn't need food, friends, family, or anything else but your love and maybe a bit of water to survive.
Literally meaning "to live on love and clean water," it's most commonly translated as "to live a carefree existence, with no worries or responsibilities." You hear it sometimes used with a negative connotation, but that wasn't the one I had on my mind these past few days.

I canceled all my classes on Wednesday - attendance is usually so poor the day before Thanksgiving that it simply isn't worth it to hold class - but Justin still had to work all day, so around 5 that evening, we headed north for Shasta Lake, a small man-made waterway about five hours or so away.

I spent all day Wednesday making CDs of music and audiobooks for us to listen to en route, but he failed to tell me that burned CDs very rarely work in his car's CD player. So we talked. And talked. And talked. And luckily, he had a few audiobooks in his car - a couple collections of Sherlock Holmes stories - so we'd listen to one, then talk some more.

We got to the cabin quite late - it was a long drive, and luckily we didn't hit any Thanksgiving traffic, but with a couple of pit stops (gas for the car, dinner for him - I anticipated road food and ate a big healthy lunch a few hours before we left), we ended up at our cabin around 11 p.m., and we fell asleep right away. (In separate beds, don't worry.)

We slept in a little, and then I made breakfast - we brought eggs, bacon, and whole wheat bread - I don't eat bacon, but he does. I made The Pioneer Woman's egg-in-a-hole for both of us while he set to figure out how to roast the turkey breast we brought. (Since it was just the two of us, and we both prefer leftover sandwiches to the full holiday spread, it was perfect for us.) Having forgotten a roasting pan, and with only saucepans and frying pans in the cabin, we had to get a little inventive, but it worked. While it roasted, we played a little Scrabble, and I showed him no mercy.

When the meat was done cooking, we suited up and headed down to the lake. A few weeks ago, Justin bought a tandem sit-on-top kayak, and we brought it along with us. He wore a wetsuit; I wore his waders and fishing shoes over my thermal shirt and sweatpants.

It was an unbelievable experience, on several levels. First, because I was on a kayak at all - the weight limit is 400 pounds, and a year or so ago, this wouldn't have been physically possible. Second, even if the weight limit were higher, I wouldn't have done it, I would have been too afraid. (In fact, I probably wouldn't have come to the cabin at all, for fear of the embarrassment of being too big to do anything.) Third, Justin is a fit and healthy guy, and I was wearing his waders and his fleece jacket. Wearing anyone else's clothes is astonishing to me. I didn't think they would fit before I put them on, and he assured me they would - sure enough, they went on with no problem ... and room to spare.

As Justin is an avid fly fisher, and this lake is supposedly one of the best for fishing in California, we brought fishing poles and flies to troll for fish while we paddled around. The weather was overcast, which he said fish like (too much sun has them hiding, as they feel exposed to predators), but we still didn't catch anything. I was hoping to accomplish #92 from my 101-in-1001 list ("Catch a fish.") but we'll go out again soon, he promised.

I fished and he paddled, then we pulled over to the side of the lake and switched places in the kayak. After almost two hours of paddling around, he declared he was hungry and ready for some turkey sandwiches, so we quickly rowed back to shore. I took a quick shower while he prepared the sandwiches, and let me tell you, it was the most delicious turkey sandwich I'd ever eaten. I may have just been starving from the workout of all that paddling, but regardless, it was absolutely perfect.

Earlier that morning, Justin had asked what my family did on Thanksgiving, and I told him that we ate our meal, took a family nap, and then watched "It's a Wonderful Life," one of my dad's favorite movies. So after our sandwiches, we napped (again, separately), then he suggested we go to the nearest city (about 20 minutes away) to see a movie. We ventured out and saw "Hugo," which I was unsure about (the previews seemed interesting but not anything I felt overly compelled to see), but I'm so glad we saw it. It was absolutely marvelous. I loved it.

More sandwiches and Scrabble at home before retiring for the night. The next morning, more of the same. He slept in later than I did, so I walked down to the lake to explore and take some pictures. The skies were clearing up and the sun was coming out, which was really nice.

More talking, more eggs, more Scrabble, and then we packed up and headed out. Before making the trek back to our little town, though, we made a side journey to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The rain we had seen at Shasta Lake was snow there, so we couldn't go too far into the park. But we drove in as far as we could, then hiked around for an hour or so around Manzanita Lake.

We could see trout swimming in the lake, and immediately regretted leaving the fishing poles in the car. I did, however, still get to accomplish something on my 101-in-1001 list: #91, go hiking. It was so nice, being out in the woods and breathing the clean air. At one point, we found ourselves stuck with a stream between us and the continuation of our path, and we had to shimmy across this pipe - about six feet in the air. Justin did it without a problem, of course.

But I was shaking with nervousness. I can't do this. Come back. Let's turn around. I made my way across, balancing so delicately. I was convinced I would fall, but I kept my cool, took it slow, and I made it!

I told Justin after crossing about the issues with balance that I used to have when I first started losing weight - physical balance, where I would fall out of bed because I wasn't yet used to the reduced effort it now took to throw my body out of the bed. He laughed in a warm way - not in mockery, but more of surprise. There was a sense of understanding even though he couldn't relate with an experience of his own. He said what I have done is remarkable, not only because I am healthy now, but because I've had the chance to live two entirely different lives in my one short lifetime.

He's right, and I don't often think about it that way - I've made the connection, of course, but I try not to dwell on it. I've only seen the negative side of the comparison, that I have a new body and a new life that I've never known before, and this new way is scary and confusing. There are countless positives, though - good things to focus on, so much of the world that I can now see and experience that I wouldn't have been able to before (or that I would have denied myself because I didn't see my life as being one of value, one that ought to be filled with as many wonderful things as possible).

November 23, 2011

Game plan

One of the many contributing factors to my plateau has been my attempts to widen my social circle. It started when I was dating Matt - a skipped workout here and there, and then making excuses with my eating. This was the case with friends this summer, too - it was easy to meet up for lunch or frozen yogurt and hang out talking for hours. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. For someone who spent years upon years sitting on her couch, lying and making ridiculous excuses to friends about why I couldn't meet them here or there, this was a long overdue venture into some semblance of a social life.

Something I've honestly believed since starting to get healthier is that my living alone has been a major factor in my weight loss success. Whatever food is in the house is here because I have bought it; I can stick to a daily workout schedule there's no one around to convince me otherwise. This idea seems to have been especially true at holidays. The off-plan eating temptations don't worry me ... because there aren't any - no need for a huge holiday spread when there's no one else around.

Last year for Thanksgiving, I made a piece of chicken with salsa, broccoli, and reheated some leftover spaghetti squash with cheese - after walking an 8k race that morning, it was perfect.

This year, I am not racing (and I'm a little heartbroken). And - I will not be alone. Justin and I will be celebrating the holiday together - leaving tonight for a bit of a road trip. I'm not worried, though. We will be eating well and staying active, and we will still enjoy the holiday.

As for the details (the where and what of adventure), I'll reveal more when we return (late Friday, so an update Saturday, perhaps). I'm certainly excited to get away for a while, to not worry about all the things on my emotional plate right now (my dad was admitted to the hospital yesterday for something fairly serious).

Hope all the folks celebrating Thanksgiving enjoy it - and for everyone else, happy regular Thursday!

November 20, 2011

Quarter life crisis

Today, I am 25 years old.

Last night, as the clock approached 12:00 a.m., I found myself staring at it, counting down the final minutes of 24. In the last few seconds, I took an incredibly deep breath, and held it. The hours and minutes reset as the date changed from the 19th to 20th, and I exhaled. It felt heavy. Like I was letting go not just of the number 24, but of everything I've experienced this past year.

I'm about 75 pounds less than I was on my birthday last year - about half of my total loss so far - and accompanying every physical ounce of that has been pounds and pounds of emotional weight. It's interesting: the beginning of my year was very strong for both the numbers on the scale and the feeling of overall peace and emotional lightness. But both seem to have plateaued in the past couple of months. I'm finding balance lately, and even though I'm still at a relative stand-still with my weight loss, I'm feeling a bit more like my cheerful old self. But believe me when I say this peace has been hard earned.

I'm turning 25 in onederland, the first birthday here since I was a preteen. But this isn't the only new location I've discovered this year. I'm 2167 miles away from where I imagined I'd be celebrating this birthday. In several aspects, I can say that I'm in a place I never imagined I'd end up.

In the ten minutes leading up to midnight, I was chatting a bit back and forth with Matt about perception of age. It's certainly different for males and females; for me, at 25, I feel old. It's a little silly, I know. Age, I think, is kind of like clothing size. I can be anywhere from a medium to an extra large still depending on the store, so that really isn't a measure of progress for me anymore; a person can feel old at 25 and young at 90, depending on the quality of the life he or she is living. Don't pay too much attention to the numbers, just focus on how you look and feel.

My feeling of malaise isn't necessarily founded upon a feeling of dissatisfaction with the way things are right now, but more a nervousness based on what I thought I would be doing at this age and what I'd like to do in the next five years or so. My current heavy thought is on my personal relationships - romantic, but not only. I always assumed I'd marry young. My mother did - by the time she was my age, she was married and pregnant with her second child. I've gotten to know a few guys this year - all interesting, but mostly the wrong ones, for one reason or another, with the exception of one that I believe to be someone who'll become increasingly present and important to my life story in the next few weeks, months, and hopefully years. But I'm still quite far from being even close to considering marriage right now.

I'm also at an interesting crossroads with my friend and family relationships. With the exception of a few nasty e-mails and blog comments, I haven't spoken to my mother in over half a year. I terminated my six year friendship with my best friend from college with absolutely no regrets - it had run its course - but just like with most very close relationships, our separation brought the tough realization that in losing her, the relationship dynamic with most of my other friends from college is also forced to shift. I found a group of healthy, active people in Chicago, but that was met with the challenge of physical distance within a month and a half. We keep in touch, and I know I'll run with them again someday, but it was still so hard to feel like I finally met some people with similar goals, only to lose them just as soon as they had been found.

I've even grown distant from the blogging community I used to feel so much love and support from, due in part to bad experiences but also, my plateau and feelings of failure. To lose 150 pounds in a year and then nothing at all for months and months has been very painful for me. Claire put it exceptionally well when she told me that
With so much success so quickly, your standards are high.
I agree, and in the back of my mind, I know it's silly to stress out so much over gaining and losing the same few pounds. Given my past with binge eating disorder and my tendency to cope with stressful situations via compulsive eating and inactivity, I ought to be at least content, if not happy; all things considered, I'm just thrilled that my highest weight during all this has been 8 pounds higher than my lowest recorded Chicago weight, and that for the most part, I'm maintaining at 4-6 pounds higher.

When I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, I got to hang out with my cousin Sarah and her boyfriend Marty. All along this journey, they've been my strongest supporters, without a doubt. I felt very conflicted before seeing them, because as much as I love them, I was also feeling very ashamed that I've made no progress in the months since moving to California. Per usual, though, they made me feel incredibly better about everything. First, they explained, no progress in terms of pounds lost doesn't translate into no progress, period. And second, it's okay to take a little time to maintain and figure out what my goals are for this new chapter of my life, and what I need to do in order to reach them.

Marty reminded me that it took me twenty-three years, two of which were in Chicago, to get to a point where I was ready to make the changes I needed in my life. Everything aligned - the timing was right, with a perfect work situation and familiarity with my location that allowed me to transition my habits and routines into healthier ones. Right now, I'm still figuring California out. I didn't gain the weight overnight. I didn't lose 150 pounds overnight. And I can't expect myself to be completely, perfectly, peacefully transitioned after a few weeks or months. This semester, I need to focus on discovery: of my town, of my job, and of myself. Continue to eat well, keep moving. But don't call maintenance failure when it's exactly what's appropriate for the situation.

And so, today, I am 25 years old. Not where I thought I'd be, but nonetheless happy to be here. And happy to be healthy. And a runner. And a big sister. And a friend, both long- and short-distance. And employed full-time. I'm happy to be enjoying and celebrating as many these things as I can - not just today, but every day.