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.