June 7, 2015

48 Weeks

I'm still in Connecticut through the end of this week. It's been good: mostly what I anticipated, but there's also been a good deal of unexpected struggling. I've made more than my share of terrible decisions, and I have no good excuses to offer. In Connecticut, the following things happen:
  1. My water intake drops dramatically. From nearly 100 oz a day to almost nothing.
  2. I snack between meals, and the snacks are absolutely off-plan. My family doesn't have the food issues I have - they're not thin, but they're not binge eaters either. They can keep foods in their homes that I have a lot of difficulty controlling myself with.
  3. My meals are not consistent with what I eat at home - noodles are made of flour instead of various squashes, mashed potatoes are made out of potatoes instead of cauliflower, hamburgers are eaten on rolls instead of plain/on lettuce, fries are actually fries and not sweet potatoes I've cut into sticks and roasted.
  4. I don't exercise regularly, not even close to what I do at home.
  5. I don't sleep well, and I don't sleep enough. I stay up late to maximize my time with my family, then get up with my early bird son. I try to spend time with everyone, and I don't stop and rest when I ought to.
This part of my journey to health - this is my struggle, forever. I've visited home and lost weight before - but it took a lot of mental work to get to that point. Because as much as I am triggered by having "off-plan" foods around, what I struggle with most at home is mental and emotional.
  1. I struggle with guilt, because both my parents need assistance, and both my sisters bear the weight of these challenges full-time.
  2. I struggle with reconciling my need for interactions/conversations with adults and my need for independence. I miss my family so much when I am away, but when I am visiting, I get very easily overwhelmed.
  3. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, especially comparing myself to people from my past that simply do not merit my anxiety. (They never did, but now, so far removed from high school, they do so even less.) I grew up in a small town and going home is like walking around on Facebook - everyone's lovely and perfect successes are right in your face. I have to remember: what we see is everyone's best-of, everyone's highlight reel. Okay, so I didn't get a gorgeous marriage proposal (I didn't get one at all). I didn't have a Pinterest-perfect wedding (I barely had one of those, even). I don't own a house. Right now, I'm a single mom, going through a divorce, working where I'm needed, doing the best I can with what I have. Everyone struggles. Their struggles are probably just different from mine, and comparing myself to them doesn't help me, it just robs me of my sanity. 
I take all that anxiety, all that worry, and I bury it in snacks.

And this time, there was another emotional trigger - an unexpected one.

In visiting my family, I was so concerned about the drive up. I've done the trip a dozen times, but never as the driver, and especially not the only driver alone with my toddler. Of course, it ended up fine, and we arrived safely last Sunday.

What I hadn't planned on? The tears.

It was far more of an emotional struggle driving up here than I could have even imagined. For the last four years, when I visited my family, I had my ex-husband with me. We did that drive together, and this time around, it was a lot more painful than I expected, all the little reminders of our past trips. The landmarks we'd point out to each other, jokes we had made. The places we had stopped for lunches or walking breaks. The town where we invariably refueled because it had the first 7-11 on northbound I-95, and since leaving Chicago, he had missed Slurpees. Just silly little things that pulled at my heart. I saw him everywhere, and I was absolutely not prepared for how that would make me feel.

In collecting wisdom from others, some of the wisest words I've heard about marriage: relationships are built in the trenches, not on vacation. And that's definitely part why I got so emotional on the ride up: because the memories associated with that long drive were positive ones. When we were on vacation, things were good, and we were happy, and all the problems got left at home.

Weren't they? Weren't we? Didn't they?

Well, no, they really didn't. And when I started to realize that, I got teary again. Because I remembered how frustrating the drive was with him, and the not-so-little things that really bothered me - like texting and driving, especially with a baby in the backseat. Or how we would fill portions of the drive with conversations about our relationship and our different views on growing our family - and when you're in a car and have nowhere to hide your tears, you wait until the next rest stop and then bury the feelings with something from a vending machine or convenience store. Those stretches of the trip just broke my heart - and that was just in-transit. Without fail, the visits themselves would be frustrating - his selfishness, his sneakiness, and the constant urging from my family to reevaluate my relationship.

Again, being home - the state where I grew up, I mean, home with my family - this will forever be my struggle. But: a two week visit twice a year leaves 48 weeks for me to do things right. Someday - maybe even the next time I visit - things will be different. Maybe I'll be stronger in my resolve and my willpower. Maybe I'll have more guards in place for when I head towards the edge of my nerves and my sanity. Maybe I'll do what I always do and deplete the candy bowl, raid the fridge, and dig through the pantry. But even if that's the case - even if being here never loses its challenges - it's up to me to make the rest of my time count.