May 12, 2014

Train

This morning, my mother asked me if I was planning on coming home to Connecticut to visit my sister and my brother-in-law and their new baby who will be born any day now. As much as I would like to, I don't know how feasible it is since we are moving again at the end of this month - my fifth move in three years, though at least this one is just to a bigger place across town and not cross country. 

"Just get on the train and come visit for a month or so," she begged.

And immediately my stomach tensed up.

In July 2010, I found myself on the train in the middle of nowhere, wondering what my next move was. At that point I was thinking more mentally and emotionally rather than physically - I had a job lined up in Chicago for the fall and was able to afford my apartment for at least another year. At the same time, though, I had big moves on my mind. I was on a train heading back to Chicago from Connecticut, a nearly 24 hour trek that I chose because the train seats were much more accommodating to my large size than the alternative (airplane seats). As it turned out, taking the train was just as humiliating as I had pictured the plane ride would have been - only this time instead of some stranger making comments under his or her breath, the negative talk was entirely internal.

The trip to Connecticut had been just as difficult. I made it back east only once or twice a year, yet I found myself making excuses and avoiding my friends because I was so ashamed of what I had let happen to myself. I stayed home, I overate, and I denied to myself the severity of my situation.

I always prided myself on being functionally fit - I couldn't run 10 seconds, let alone a mile, but I was able to accomplish my everyday tasks without any difficulty. As long as I could get up the stairs to my apartment, walk to the bus stop, and carry home my groceries, I must not be *that* bad.

When I lost the weight the first time, and even as I think about it now, this devastated me. That I didn't think I had a problem because I could still walk. There were so many issues that I ignored, so many red flags that should have been rock-bottom moments. But because I could get up and down the stairs to my apartment and I could walk myself from the bedroom to the kitchen to the bathroom, I saw myself as fine.

When the train got to Chicago's Union Station, I resolved that that would be the last time that I took a train ride instead of a flight because of my body size. I took what I saw as my only asset - the fact that I could walk - and went with it. A year later, I was amazed at what I was able to accomplish taking one step at a time.

My mother wasn't implying anything by my size when she told me to take the train to Connecticut - the train simply cost less than a flight. But the mention of the word "train" fills me with anxiety, and I can't help but notice how close I am in size to where I had been four years ago on my last cross country train ride.

My son turned one year old last week, and my morning weigh-in showed exactly what I feared: I weighed almost exactly what I did the morning I had gone in to the hospital to deliver him. Then I realize that technically I weigh more this year, since the prehospital weight included nearly 8 pounds of just baby.

I made a few false starts this year. I felt strong, I swore that this was it, I promised myself and everyone that I was getting my act together. Eventually I stopped telling people that I was making changes - it was easier to never announce a start than to sheepishly admit the latest failure. The people who cheered me on when I was thinner have become quiet. I am still down 65 pounds from my highest weight, but no one seems to care when the number was once much lower. 

I guess in the last year Blogger changed the way that it registers domain names and I missed the memo. My annual renewal date came and went, and a few days later my website went dark. I got a few Facebook messages, emails, and tweets, and only then did I realize the site was even down.

I thought about killing it permanently. When I first started losing weight, I needed this place. It was my own private corner of the Internet, somewhere where I could honestly relate what my experience was. I never wanted my family or friends to read it - I wanted it to be a safe space. But a few different things have happened over the years, and now it's not nearly as anonymous as it once was. My husband says "you should blog today, you haven't logged in a while," and I get angry. This wasn't anything I ever wanted to feel obligated to do.

I've struggled a lot this past year, and not just with my weight. Becoming a mom is hard. Becoming a wife is hard. Moving to another state is hard. Starting a new job is hard. I've wanted so badly to talk about my experiences, but knowing that this person or that person can read what I say, I choose to stay quiet instead.

Staying quiet about my life and my problems was what got me to 345 pounds. Bottling things up. Eating my feelings instead of writing them down.

This past year I didn't write, I ate.

The other day, my husband broke the can opener, so I went to Target quickly to grab a new one. I always volunteer to run in and grab what we need - since I can't drive myself, this is my main opportunity to stock up, getting what we need but also secretly buying junk food to hide in my closet for later. As I headed towards the kitchen gadgets aisle, my mind flooded with possibility - what would I get today? At the front of the store there was a large display of Oreos newest flavor: watermelon. And I immediately had a flashback to my last semester of graduate school, when I bought two containers of cookies that I thought were just decorated like watermelons but actually tasted like them also - a nauseating artificial flavor - and I ate them anyway, because it didn't matter what I was eating, just that I ate and in excess.

The watermelon cookies were maybe four months before the train ride. History may not be repeating itself, but it's rhyming.

Today is my first official day of summer break, and never have I felt like I fully deserved time off as badly as I do this year. Incidentally, it's also day two of my second attempt at a Whole 30. I know I have a job lined up for the fall, and I know that the courses I will be teaching are ones for which I already have materials prepared. Everything seems right for success - not perfect, but getting there.

Between our upcoming move and, to be honest, a genuine feeling of anxiety I get whenever I think about blogging, I don't know how much I will be writing here, this summer or ever again. Not writing here, though, doesn't mean not writing. When my website was down I felt so relieved, like I could walk away from this failure and try again somewhere else, somewhere as private as it had been the first time. I could finally write openly and talk about how hard motherhood and marriage and everything has been this year, why exactly I have been unsuccessful with my weight loss. For some reason, I keep coming back here. I suppose it's a recurring theme for the last four years - I'm afraid of letting go of the things with which I am comfortable.