March 30, 2013


Matt and I moved into a new apartment in mid-February, and while it's a much nicer/much safer space in a better neighborhood with a much better landlord, something our new apartment lacks in comparison to the previous one is storage space. There are fewer closets, and the ones we have are smaller, so we've been making every effort we can to cut down on non-necessities.

It's been tough, and I've cried a lot over it. It seems like "just stuff," but it's still hard to let go of. It's material, and I feel guilty sometimes for holding so close to earthly possessions. But I hope it's at least a little understandable, even if it isn't justifiable.

When I left Chicago for California, many of my belongings were hastily given away in order to fit my entire life into the back of my father's pickup truck. It wasn't just a couch we gave to my uncle, it was the couch I had budgeted and saved up for, the centerpiece of my very first grown-up apartment.

When I left California to return to Chicago, the cut-backs were even deeper - my move was mainly through the Postal Service, and when you're paying per-pound, the decision to keep or donate gets easier.

Now, in Chicago but just moving across town, it was still difficult to let go of a few things. With my savings from working in California finally depleted a month ago, I'm desperately clinging to all I can claim in the world. I don't have a nice bank account, but I have books, so please don't make me cut back on my books.

The things I have cut down on are mostly old papers, little knick-knacks I'd held on to for no reason in particular. Anything deeply sentimental, I kept. Anything I knew with certainty that I'd regret tossing, stayed.

In the "keep" pile were all my boxes and bags for specific people: collections of pictures, letters, odds-and-ends, and various memorabilia from significant people and times in my past. There's the weight loss box, with my biggest pants and all my race bibs in it. A bag for Peter, a boy I loved in high school who went to France for three weeks and sent me a postcard every single day. A box for my first trip to Paris, with m├ętro passes and ticket stubs, postcards and receipts. A bag for Richard, including a glass Coke bottle from the night of my 20th birthday when we watched "Casablanca" projected onto a sheet in the basement of our dorm. 

The only conflicting bag was one full of dozens of handwritten letters - my bag for Jill.

Jill was my best friend in college, though we grew apart after I left Chicago (ending contact officially within days of my moving to California). I've never cried over the loss, because it didn't feel like a negative one. It was simply time for the relationship to dissolve, the best decision for both of us. Still, I'm grateful for a few things. She was one of the catalysts for my weight loss - her constant picture taking filled me with so much anxiety and depression over how badly I'd let myself go, I returned to Chicago after a trip to Connecticut determined to lose weight. That was summer 2010, and the next time I saw Jill, I'd lost 135 pounds.

The letters in the bag were from summer 2007 - a summer we'd spent on opposite sides of the state after having spent the previous one in the same dorm building, working for Residence Life as summer staff. We shared so much in those letters - fears, concerns, hopes, and goals. Of course, I only have her responses to my letters, but I recall so much of the content even without them right in front of me. Both of us were depressed, unhappy with our weight and wishing there was something we could do about it; neither of us committed to make any changes, or even take a few steps in the right direction, however. We wondered what life would be like once we'd lost weight - we'd be confident enough that someone would want to be in a relationship with us, we'd be smaller so of course we'd love ourselves at long last. It wasn't until I actually took the steps to get healthier that I realized these weren't things that would come from weight loss. My body never affected my relationship status, my lack of confidence did.

There were a few things that caused us to finally sever our relationship, but my weight loss was certainly a major factor. While I think "jealous" isn't necessarily the right word to use, there was certainly some resentment when I, the considerably bigger friend, suddenly fit in smaller clothes than she did. And it wasn't just the sizes that set us apart. Though I still had miles to go, I was considerably happier and more self-confident than I had been at 345 pounds. I'd taken the time and made the effort to invest in myself, while Jill continued to accept her situation as impossible to fix, as too much work. She became a bit of a size activist, in a negative sense - while I certainly support the idea of loving oneself no matter what your size may be, I don't believe in using the movement as an excuse to not try and improve your physical health.

Rereading her letters was heartbreaking, because I remembered that summer, and so many others, and constantly feeling so hopeless. Reading her letters, and writing my own, and being so certain that we were destined to be unhappy and unhealthy forever. And it was remarkable, then, the feeling that came over me as I sat on the living room floor. One of reassurance, I suppose, and of certainty.

I've gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, and I will have to fight like hell to get back down to my lowest weight and then on to my goal. But there's absolutely no doubt that I have it in me to make it happen. I get sad, I get depressed, I feel uncomfortable in my body. But at the same time, I know this is all temporary - the big difference between me now and me when we'd written those letters. The hopelessness in my voice is gone, replaced by a solid and strong tone of confidence. I have days when I doubt, when I am sad, when I am down. But, bigger picture, I know what I am capable of, and I know how the efforts are absolutely worth it.

Losing weight this time won't be the same as last time. There will be so many new challenges I'll have to face and work with. But the determination and the goal are the same. I want to be healthy, I want to look and feel my best - for myself, and not for anyone else. And although I never want to forget the big, sad girl I once was, I don't want to be weighed down by her hangups, either.

So, after I read the letters one last time, I took a deep breath, and then threw them away.

As tough as it can be to let go of material possessions, there's a bit of a relief in it, too. A feeling of lightness, of being unburdened. There's a discovery there, finding what truly matters and what it is that you value the most, and holding on to it, while letting go of excess. It's not entirely unlike the weight loss process has been - let go of habits, of unhealthy urges and desires, and feel lighter in the process, and not only physically.


Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

I remember the purging you had to do when you moved from CA to Chicago, and it must be really hard to let go of even more, but, this is a new chapter in your life, and you don't need those things that remind you of hard times. You still have the memories of feeling that way, you don't need a physical representation of it too to drag you back. Keep moving forward. We're all here to keep you going!

Anna said...

Purging is so hard! We just moved from CA to Ga, we left a1800 sq ft house with a garage and now have a 1400 sq ft with a carport and 6 people. We downsized before moving here, but we lost so much cabinet space I'm now purging more. I look at coffee cups and they bring back memories then I see we have no space. It totally stinks!

Poison said...

I am such a hoarder of little trinkets and memories... ahhh.. reading this makes me feel like I should go declutter right now and get rid of non essentials. lol. Its tough to let go, but I think once you do you feel better and cleaner and clearer in not just the physical sense, but emotionally and in your mind... just all around.

DJ said...

I'm new to your blog and am loving reading about your journey.

I know how hard moving can be and hope it is all going smoothly as possible!