April 9, 2018

Wildflowers

I've been really doing terrific at Weight Watchers - slow and steady, for sure, but losing. I'm down 32.8 pounds since we started in September, making very good progress towards my goal of losing 52 pounds this year. I had a lousy doctor appointment in late February - the doctor herself was lousy, not the appointment per se. Just one of those hmm-you're-fat-so-you-obviously-must-X-Y-Z types that presumes a lot and doesn't stop to listen for a few minutes while you explain yourself. I don't proport to know more than a medical doctor, but I also know that I've been in this body for 31 years and I know a thing or two about how it works, and I don't need my appointment notes to say "try eating fruits and vegetables." I cried and cried and cried - but I didn't let it defeat me. My test results vindicated me, in a sense: no issues with cholesterol, no diabetes (not even pre-diabetes!), no high blood pressure, no nothing. It also felt really, really, really good to get awarded my 25-pounds-down charm at Weight Watchers a few days later.

It's not the 150 pounds in one year that I experienced when I first started the blog, but it feels good to have a much more complex life and still manage to work my way back to my healthiest self. I'm not racing to a goal or setting date-specific deadlines, but I sure am looking forward to my next WW charm: the 50-pounds-down one.

Every milestone is as exciting and unbelievable as it was the first time I lost it, and I am so glad to have Noah and Daniel and their love and support. Noah tells me all the time how proud he is of me, how happy he is that I'm working hard to be healthy, and "Mama, you're beautiful" - which means so much coming from him because it's genuine, sincere, and more than just physical. Daniel is also incredibly kind and supportive, of course, but it's just so sweet coming from my Noah.

(Who is about to be 5 years old and I am in complete disbelief of how fast that happened.)

My ex-husband came to visit a few weeks ago, at a time convenient for no one, but I was still grateful for a few days to rest and enjoy some relative quiet. Daniel was out of town too, so I decided to be bold and have an adventure. I met up with Marisol, a friend I've known for ages now (first through blogging! We did Bay to Breakers together in 2012), and we did one of those paint nights, followed by dinner and great conversation. It was perfect self-care - not just the creativity and the delicious meal, but the company. It's so wonderful to spend time with someone who just gets it, you know?

It's why I started this blog, to tell the truth. All my friends wanted to lose weight, but it was the usual 5, 10, 20 college pounds. I had significantly more than that to lose, and I wanted to share my experience and hopefully find some other folks on similar journeys with advice, empathy, and suggestions to share. It's always worth it, but it's rarely easy - so it's nice to have shoulders to cry on and folks to cheer with.

The next day, I went on a solo hike at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA. It was perfect - cool but sunny, a nice breeze, and the views ...


Oh my goodness, completely life-giving. Rejuvenating. Restorative. Just perfect. It was absolutely heavenly.

I know it isn't like this everywhere, but we're having some truly gorgeous weather here in central California. A bit of rain this weekend, but overall quite sunny and warm - warmer, even, than South Carolina had been. It does such good for our spirits, and the positivity ripples through every area of our lives.


I've been very surprised lately that there are so many wildflowers in our part of the state. Driving down the highway, there are huge waves of yellow, orange, and purple all through the grassy fields. It's simple but warm and gorgeous. I wonder if there weren't as many wildflowers last time, or if I just hadn't noticed them. This time of year the last time around, I was deeply depressed and just tunnel-vision-focused on getting out of California. This time, I'm taking the time to look around and notice just how lovely it all really is. I say it a lot, but it's true: this place isn't for everyone, but it's perfect for us. We're blooming here, completely. Noah's doing well at school, I'm loving my job, we're in such a good place in every aspect of our lives.

February 14, 2018

Home is wherever I'm with you

While my medical treatment for the issue is fairly recent, I have had anxiety issues for as long as I can remember. It tends to come in waves with depression, and when I get them both at their peak, I find myself falling into patterns of feelings that are hard to navigate, let alone overcome.

Anxiety is a tricky puzzle, because there are so many components to it. It is worrying, intensified. There are all the usual parenting concerns, but also deep fears I've carried since long before my son was even born. There are moments of regret over dumb things I've said and done recently, but also nights when I am kept up from sleep beating myself up over things from middle school or even younger. There are family concerns, money concerns, work concerns, health concerns ... but amplified, incessant, and absolutely unable to be soothed.

The silly thing is that even though in the moment, these things feel so critical, my logical brain knows they are not worth worrying about. Yet my brain cannot be persuaded to relax.

One of my biggest sources of recent anxiety is my relationship with Daniel. He is incredibly loving, attentive, caring, affectionate, considerate, a terrific listener, a doting friend to not only me but my son as well. Everything looks, seems, feels so perfect.

But then, the anxiety creeps in.

If it's so perfect, then why are you worried?

In my sober, non-anxious moments, I'm trying desperately to live for each moment. To cherish each experience and recognize with gratitude everything I have now that I had once longed for with such tearful fervor.

I am beyond happy, incredibly so. It's everything I've hoped for.

And yet, it's not. Because deep down, that fear in the pit of my stomach - that anxious voice whispers it's fleeting. And it sets into motion a snowball effect of anxiety, where doubt builds upon doubt until it becomes an uncontrollable and dangerous mass.

Daniel is a PhD student at the school where I teach. His first semester, coincidentally, was the one right after I left last time, so he's already been here a while, and he'll be finishing his research and graduating at some point this year.

His post-graduate plans involve leaving this area indefinitely. He loves me, but doesn't love Central California. The Midwest is home to him, and while he understands the limitations of a job search in his field, he also is searching with the goal of getting back home. Meanwhile, I returned here last summer with the intention of staying until retirement. I've lived all over the country, and this is absolutely where I want to settle down. I spent the last five years crying and praying that my marriage and all the baggage that came with it was simply a bad dream and that I'd wake up back in California with my opportunities and uncomplicated life.

When I heard from my boss about a year ago letting me know the position was open again, it was an answered prayer. I can't go back in time and avoid the pain of my marriage, but I can take this moment and choose to do better, for myself and for my beautiful son. And this isn't a perfect place by any means, but for us, it is full of possibility and free of so many sources of stress we've experienced elsewhere. Central California isn't for everyone, but it absolutely is for us.

I loved Chicago when I lived there in grad school, but now, with every detail of my life different, I am deeply uninterested in living there again. From financial reasons to weather ones to career opportunities, it just doesn't give me or Noah our best possible life.

And here's where the anxiety starts to creep in: but if you loved him, if you really loved him, wouldn't you go anywhere?

And I don't have an answer for that at all.

In the past, of course, love would win over logic every time - don't think long-term, just follow your heart. But something Daniel and I have both brought up in this discussion is the fact that this is exactly why I left California the first time, and I'm deeply hesitant to relocate again for anyone but myself and Noah.

But if you were sure he was The One, wouldn't you go? You have doubts.

And it spirals from there.

Look at your friends. Look how happily married they are, look at those babies. This was your dream. But it's not your reality. Nothing turned out the way you wanted. Nothing looks like you had planned. He's going to graduate, he's going to leave, and that's it for you. You don't get a love that lasts. That space in your heart, the place you wanted to fill with children - the field lies fallow, and will never be satisfied. Noah will grow up and resent these tears. This is what you will pass down to your son: a devastating feeling of brokenness and insufficiency. The legacy you will pass down to him is the dark nightly tradition of crying because you've never felt like you were enough.

Again, it feels like drowning.

With medication, the worries are still there, but they're quieter. The voice of logic finds its strength and raises up to overpower the threats and accusations of anxiety.

I think something that has made this harder, besides going off my medicine, is Daniel's and my mutual anxiety over broaching the subject. I have absolutely loved our openness and candor to discuss so many deeply personal things. In only eight or nine months, I've shared more with him then I did in years of dating and marriage to Matthew. But the impending consequence of the post-graduation discussion has us both shaken, though we put on happy faces and claim we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

It's February already. We're getting closer. And anytime we are even within miles of the discussion, we find a way to change our direction entirely.

Logic tells me this: first, that if Daniel and I are meant to be together long term, we will find a way to make it work. Just because something happened one way with Matthew does not mean things will unfold in the same way with Daniel. There has not been a single aspect of overlap in terms of how either of them approached a relationship with me, and I find it hard to believe the similarities would start now.

And second, my relationship with Daniel does not have to lead to marriage and children and a "together forever" sort of happily ever after in order to be a successful relationship. If we part ways, I don't see it as time wasted or no lesson learned. I'm so grateful for this relationship and for this experience to feel like a cherished equal in a partnership. My ex-husband constantly made me feel terrible about myself for a lot of reasons, many of which were entirely outside my control. I've never felt anything but loved and supported by Daniel. We communicate. We work together. It's been an incredible learning opportunity and a critical part of my post-divorce healing and recovery. Whether or not this particular relationship ends in marriage, I have at least felt genuinely loved for the first time.

There's a saying I love, that I am trying so hard to live by especially now in the throes of anxiety: that worrying doesn't take away tomorrow's problems, it takes away today's joy. I'm trying to find the balance between concern about our next steps and also enjoying the path we're on now. I don't know what's going to happen with me and Daniel, but I know that, medication or not, it's a conversation we need to have soon. It's a tough one, and I can't guarantee it won't hurt and be tearful. But having the conversation, difficult or not, is a strong and powerful step towards quieting the anxiety.

I am very much looking forward to meeting with my doctor in just a few more days and hopefully getting back into a routine with my medicine soon. In the meantime, I'm trying my best to keep my head above the water of my worries. I'm trying to let logic be louder.

February 11, 2018

Ritual

Anxiety, to me, feels like drowning. It's exactly like a very vivid memory I have from being a child, swimming in a pool at a friend's house. We were going back and forth to see who could get as close as possible the bottom of the deep end - I touched it, but felt myself unable to hold my breath for much longer with still several feet to go before surfacing. It was a split second that felt like ages, where I looked up through my goggles and saw the distance still to go, and felt certain that I would not reach the top again. I did, gasping, and never, ever forgot that very distinct feeling of being so close yet not having the strength or power to pull through.

Last week, I went into my Weight Watchers meeting and started crying as soon as the leader, Cassie, asked how my week had been. It was more than the scale - it was my anxiety, long-boiling and now spilling out in sobs.

I told her I'd run out of my anxiety medicine a few weeks earlier and I was deeply struggling. I told her I had finally found a local doctor who was taking new patients and scheduled an appointment, but it wasn't for another few weeks, and in the meantime, my ex-husband had just visited and my dad was back in the hospital and the new semester had just started and just all the usual stuff was overwhelming me.

I calmed down and regained my composure enough to get on the scale, and while filling out my member booklet, Cassie asked if there was anything else I was open to trying while I waited for my appointment to come - any herbal remedies or anything like that, like teas.

I was ready to try almost anything.

After the meeting, I went to the store and found something claiming to "promote tranquility" - knowing full well not to expect miracles, but rather, just hoping to carve out a few moments every day for myself with something warm and soothing. I know with entire certainty that being back on medicine is the best plan of action for me, I'm doing the best I can to create a bit of peace in the meantime.

So far, it's been nice - I don't know if it's the tea itself, or just the ritual of winding down with something comforting. I'm very much someone who soothes with food, and this feels like making peace with that. It's indulging my craving to consume, while still keeping in line with my goals.

My appointment is a week from Wednesday, and I am trying to find a peaceful place between the hopefulness of a calmer mind with the reintroduction of medicine, and the lingering anxiety of the side effects I'd experienced in the first few weeks after first beginning the medication. The worst of the side effects was profound apathy - to go from obsessing about everything to caring about nearly nothing was a huge challenge. After a couple of weeks, I balanced out, and found a good groove of where to sort my attention and how to properly distribute my worries. But getting back to that point is nerve wrecking.

Another thing that has helped tremendously is Headspace, a meditation app. My friend Marisol recommended it and I absolutely love it. The first few days I struggled a bit - without fail, a few minutes into the meditation, I'd fall asleep. But talking to folks helped me come around to it. If falling asleep is the calm peaceful quiet my mind needs right now, then it's working, even if this isn't necessarily the ideal meditation goal.

Again, I don't know if it's the tea, the meditation, or what, but I think everything together as an evening ritual has helped quiet my worries, at least at bedtime, and I'm deeply grateful for that.

February 7, 2018

Why

I completely love going to Weight Watchers meetings. I know WW isn't for everyone, and even meetings aren't for everyone - but this is something I am enjoying, something that I am finding works great for me. It gives me the social component of the journey, a good group to share the ups and downs with. It's a place to check in weekly - I like the regularity of the meeting schedule, and for the first time in ages, I feel like I have a comfortable relationship with scales. I don't weigh myself daily at home anymore - in fact, I don't weigh myself at home at all. I step on the scale at the meeting, and even then, I ask the receptionist not to tell me the number - I wait until later during or after the meeting to look.

Seven plus years into this, I'm finally making peace with the numbers and recognizing it's about behaviors and results beyond the scale.

It's incredibly hard to separate the feeling of success from numbers and divert it instead to feelings. I've preached it for ages - as long as you're doing the best things for your body, the numbers will eventually catch up. But it's still tough to actually put into practice. It's hard to see the forest for the trees.

Daniel is such an amazing boyfriend. I am so incredibly lucky that after all I've been through the last few years, particularly my failed marriage, that now, I have something so remarkable. It's not perfect by any means, but it's incredibly real, and I am so grateful for that. He is so loving and supportive, and absolutely everything I have always hoped for in a partner. He cheers me on when I do well and holds me close when I feel like I'm falling apart. And the past few weeks especially, he has been just incredible - I have been having a hard time finding a doctor around here, and in the meantime, my anxiety medicine ran out. I've been a sloppy roller coaster of emotions, and he has been nothing but patient and gentle with me, more than I have even to myself.

I've been maintaining at best the last few weeks - down small fractions of pounds, then up the same numbers. Just dancing back and forth, making no real forward progress, and just wallowing in self-loathing during the process. One week, I lost 0.2, and was on the verge of tears.

That's not progress, I said. That's just me wearing a different outfit.

It is progress, though.

But at that rate, I'd lose, what? 10 pounds a year?! It would take me 20 years to get to my goal.

But - you'd get there. Even if it takes years and years, if you're still working on it, you're doing a good job.

I am forever incredibly grateful for having him on my team - everywhere and always, but especially on this journey. Being able to support each other is critical to our long-term success.

It takes a lot of effort to not compare my current journey to the one I undertook in 2010. Everything about my life is different - a lot of things about my body are different too - but the biggest thing I keep missing is: yes, in 2010, I lost a lot of weight, and I lost it fast. But ... I put it all back on. I treated a symptom but didn't take care of the bigger picture, which was my anxiety/depression and related issues with food. So it's silly to lust over the speed of last time's results, because they were a false positive, of sorts. It looked like success, but it wasn't.

Now, a few years later, I am less impressed by weight loss and more interested in stories of long-term weight maintenance. It's not easy to lose weight the right way, but it's worth it for the opportunity to learn behaviors that will lead to lifelong success.

It's another thing I love about Weight Watchers - the focus not just on now but on forever. On eating the way I plan to eat and moving the way I plan to move for the rest of my life. Being a gym addict last time wasn't sustainable, but going for 30-50 minutes four times a week and staying active out of the gym on weekends sure is. Avoiding entire food groups wasn't sustainable, but finding balance and making peace with them is. And focusing on the weight without reflecting on the why wasn't sustainable either.

Every week in our meeting, we share how the past week has gone before heading into our topic of the day. A few weeks ago, it was "What is your Why?" And my leader, Cassie - I adore her - was talking about how you need to sit yourself down every so often and refocus yourself, because your Why is very likely to change over the course of your loss and into maintenance. For her, she said, her weight loss Why was being able to tie both her shoes without needing to catch her breath in between - but now, in maintenance, her Why is being able to keep up with her grandchildren.

In 2010, the first of the kids I knew from high school were getting married, and I'd never had a real boyfriend before. I was tired all the time, and I spent every possible second on my couch. I had friends, but I avoided them because I was so self-conscious, and my relationships suffered. Back then, my Why was wanting to feel like a young person for once.

Now, nearly a decade later, I've got different goals. I don't just want to look good for dating, I want to feel good for every day. I am amazingly lucky to have a boyfriend who loves me as I am and encourages me to be my healthiest self, not my skinniest self. While Daniel and I have discussed marriage, we have a very critical couple of months coming up for ourselves (more for another post soon, I suppose), and as much as "having an actual wedding" and "having more kids" are great goals, they just aren't my Why right now. Right now, I want to be in my best possible health for myself, for my son, and for all of our future together - whatever that may be.

This is a dynamic process.

January 18, 2018

Magic

My ex-mother-in-law turned 60 in December, as did most of her girlfriends this past year. Each one, in turn, did a "bucket list" trip somewhere, either with their spouse, their families, or with the group of friends. When it came time for Barb to choose, she wanted something for her whole family - a trip to Disney World in Florida. She told us the idea, and six weeks later, there we were.

I'd been hoping to take Noah to Disney World for his birthday in May, figuring he'd be turning 5 and it would be the last birthday when we could go on a big trip for a few days, since he'll be starting kindergarten in the fall, so in the future, his birthday will be within the school year.

(I know, I don't know where the last four and a half years went, either. I blinked and my baby turned into a big kid.)

I'd also been hoping I'd have five or six more months to keep working on myself. We're 16 weeks into Weight Watchers and I'm down just over 20 pounds - another 16 or 20 weeks wouldn't put me at my goal, but I'd be at least a little trimmer, a little more confident. The last time I'd gone to Disney ... about 2007 or so ... I was about the same size as I am now, maybe a bit smaller even, and I was absolutely exhausted, aching and looking for every possible place to sit and rest.

I worried about the trip even more than I worried about heading to Connecticut for Christmas. The worst I could envision en route to Connecticut was needing a seatbelt extender on the plane (I did). But Florida ... but Disney ...

Not fitting on rides was not my main concern. What I worried about most was what I always worry about: my son.

I worried that he would be slowed down because of me.

I worried that he would be held back because of me.

I worried that he would miss out because of me.

I have always wanted to be a mom. But I never wanted to be a big mom. I never wanted my son to suffer or go without or experience any negativity because of my personal struggles.


I love that little boy so much. He's my entire world. His father visits fewer than three weeks a year and I still miss him so much when we're apart for those few days. He's why I do everything - he's why I do anything. He's why I want to be healthy - so I can spend even more time with him.

As it turned out, Disney was ... kind of amazing, actually. I'm not at my goal weight, but I've been going to the gym regularly for 16 weeks, and I was able to walk 20K+ steps a day with no problem. I was able to fit on every ride - and surprisingly easily, I might add. I didn't even need a seatbelt extender on the flights either (although that's not much, those are like jeans - every store and every airline fit differently).

Noah went on rides - with me, even. And I was able to keep up with him for the few days we were there.

It's not where I want to end up, but I know I am on the right path. The numeric loss is small and slow, but it's healthy progress nonetheless.

January 8, 2018

Forever after

Back in September, Daniel and I joined Weight Watchers. We don't work Fridays, so while Noah's at school, that's our Date Day. We go to a WW meeting together, then make lunch or go out to eat, and then we have some sort of adventure - crossword puzzling, thrift store hunting, craft projects, that sort of thing. It's really nice - some time just to ourselves, about us.

Daniel's done WW before, and his mom was a Lifetime member. He doesn't have as much weight to lose as I do, but he's amazingly supportive, and it's an incredibly good feeling to walk into the meeting with him every week. To have him by my side, and to be by his ... I love our team.

Right before we joined, I had a dream. Richard Simmons was holding my hand and crying, saying he wanted to help me. I woke up so upset that I'd disappointed him, and told Daniel I needed to make some changes.

I'd done WW late last year, as an online only member, and with moderate success - I lost about 30 pounds or so very quickly, but mostly due to a technological error that gave me only about two-thirds of the daily points I was supposed to be eating.

A few months later, I started taking a terrific medicine for my anxiety. I am intensely grateful for the peace it has brought me, but one side effect has been weight gain. It works brilliantly to calm my brain from obsessing, but initially at least, it made me incredibly apathetic. I wasn't burdened by worrying too much about everything ... but I also wasn't caring enough to worry about things like meal planning. That combined with a hectic end of a semester, preparing for a job interview, and then figuring out how to move myself and my four-year-old across the country ... the weight crept back on.

Seven or so years after I actively began my weight loss journey, I've noticed a shift in my attention. I am less impressed by weight loss as I am by long-term weight maintenance. I am someone who once lost 157 pounds, and when I rejoined WW a few months ago, I had regained all of it.

Every. Single. Pound.

Plus two more.

It's hard to not be devastated by that fact. I know how much work went into losing the weight, and it's frustrating to know I'm facing the mountain again, and now with an incredibly different life and additional personal challenges.

But I also know that I haven't spent the last few years regaining weight for the fun of it. Busy is an understatement. Chaotic is an understatement.

The simple fact is, I overate and stopped being regularly active. The eating was never about fun or pleasure, and neither was the inactivity. It was a manifestation of my depression and anxiety, and I was trying my best to soothe the aches and stresses and hurts of a failed marriage, single parenting, loneliness, money woes, and more.

When I lost the weight the first time, I took care of a symptom, not the disease itself.

It makes perfect sense that the weight would creep back on, because I didn't thoroughly treat what had caused me to weigh as much as I did in the first place.

I'm so relieved to be on anxiety medicine now, and to be attending WW meetings with Daniel. The weight loss isn't the miraculous huge numbers I saw the last time - in just shy of four months, I'm down just over 20 pounds. But it's progress, and I'm optimistic that this is the time that it sticks, because I am not simply focusing on food and exercise, but emotional and mental wellness too.

I always knew it had to be done, but I avoided it. I didn't want to talk about my issues. I didn't want to deal with them. And I've paid the price so dearly - back, entirely, at Square One. This time, I am valuing the process more. I'm not racing to lose the weight, because I need every moment of this journey to prepare myself for the Forever After of maintenance.

...

I'm really happy to have reclaimed this space. I've got a lot to work through, and as tremendously wonderful as it is to be able to talk to Daniel about everything (the communication between us is absolutely incredible), I love being able to write out my feelings and thoughts and ideas here, too. I've missed the release of being able to process my thoughts here.

January 1, 2018

Coming home

There's an observed phenomenon: when asked to draw a picture of a house, most people draw their childhood home. Where we grew up - physically, mentally, emotionally - is deeply ingrained in us, and we hold it in our hearts long after leaving the buildings themselves.

I laughed with recognition the first time I heard this anecdote. I always draw the little ranch-style house in Connecticut that we moved to when I was a child, just after my youngest sister was born. Door just off-center, three windows in the front, and a little brick chimney to the far left. I lived there for a little over a decade before I moved away for college, then further for grad school, and then all the way to the West Coast for work.

While I was working in California, my dad sold the house - his health had him in a position where he could no longer live independently, so that was that. The decision was made quickly and with little fanfare, and I didn't have an opportunity to return home between his announcement and the sale. Anything of mine in the house was discarded - again, because of his physical limitations, he'd just hired a team with a dumpster to empty the place as best as they could.

I hadn't lived at home for years at that point, but the things in the top of the closet of the bedroom I'd shared with my two sisters were meaningful to me. It was my senior prom dress, a gorgeous and heavy black ballgown. It was letters from my middle school best friend who'd moved out of state. It was pictures of my friends, my family, places and things that were important to me. It was yearbooks. It was birthday cards. When I was a little kid ... those boxes were everything.

The whole house was just over a thousand square feet, with three bedrooms and one bathroom. When we first moved in, it was my parents in the biggest room, my sister Lisa and me in one room, and our baby sister Katie in the third. When my parents started their own business making and selling crafts, Katie moved in with Lisa and me and the third room became a craft storage room. After my parents' divorce, everything shifted - and with the birth of my brother, more changes. But even with all the shifts and moves, it still felt stable. It was still home.

The house was sold in 2012, which feels like a million lifetimes ago for me, and with good reason: it's been an absolute roller coaster of transitions since then, all of which have left me with a feeling of not belonging anywhere. I've had places to live, and in relative comfort, but none of them have felt like home. When I left California and returned to Chicago, the experience was so different that it no longer felt like the city I loved and had abundantly thrived in. My son was born, and we moved to South Carolina - again, changes. We stayed in South Carolina for just shy of four years, not because I loved the job (I didn't) and not because it was good for my marriage (it wasn't), but because I craved even the tiniest bit of stability. I didn't want to lay down permanent roots in South Carolina, but I was happy to have somewhere to stay put for a little while.

Earlier this year, I was deeply depressed. It was the culmination of a lot of things - deep discomfort with my job, anxiety about finances as I recovered from my divorce, feelings of inadequacy and frustration as I struggled to find a way out of what felt like an endless darkness. I opened up to my doctor, who prescribed me an anti-anxiety medicine that has worked brilliantly and relaxed the rapid stream of thoughts I felt I was drowning in.

In a miraculous series of events, within a month or so of beginning the medication, many of my life's situations began to improve. Most notably, I got an email from my former boss in California; her French professor was retiring, and she invited me to re-interview for my old position. I agreed without hesitation, and had both an interview and an offer in-hand within another month.

It felt like coming home, in a way that had me both thrilled and terrified. Back to somewhere I had been before, but returning in ways that I'd not yet existed there. A mom. A divorcée. An obese person. I was nervous - I'd left Chicago and then returned, and it had lost so much of its wonder. But then again, I had loved Chicago intensely the first time, and the experience of second time had been deeply influenced by much more than geography.

Even with the new challenges to introduce into a previously familiar place, I was ready to return to California. My time there had been conflicted. It had such potential to be a great place for me, but I was not yet ready for a life there. It was right after my weight loss, and I was overwhelmed with novelty. There was a tremendous immaturity in my entire life - there had been a lot of life experiences and endless feelings I had entirely no experience with after having hid for so long behind the protective shield of my large body.

I've grown since I left California, and that's a complicated and layered statement. But I'm exceptionally thrilled to be back here. It wasn't that California wasn't the place for me - it was just that I arrived a few years too early. Now the timing is perfect, and we're amazingly happy here. Noah has adjusted incredibly well - he loves his school and his friends, and we're both quite happy with the climate. We miss the state parks from South Carolina, but we're finally settled in enough to do a little exploring and make new adventures around here. We have a lovely little townhouse apartment that is decorated in my own style, which I missed immensely after spending the last few years renting someone else's condo and being surrounded by their art and their furniture. I met an incredibly kind, compassionate, loving man who I've been dating for about six months, and I'm in absolute awe of what real, sincere love looks and feels like.

Noah and I went to Connecticut for the holidays, and it went about as well as it usually does. At the end of our visit, it felt relieving to be returning to our life and our space and our routines. It wasn't heading to Connecticut, but rather, returning to California that felt like coming home. With every visit back east, I feel less and less connected to the place - maybe it's because there's no physical home for me to return to, or perhaps because I've created spaces and relationships elsewhere that give me that warm, familiar feeling of comfort. It's my sweet, amazing, caring, creative son. It's the job I love, with hardworking students and incredibly supportive colleagues. It's the house I've furnished with care and attention. It's the places in which I exist and the people with whom I surround myself. And that includes here - my quiet little corner of the internet where I've grown beyond measure.

Home is where the heart is, yes - and here, now, I'm living and loving and absolutely thriving beyond what I could have imagined even a year ago.