In Which I Experience Not Only Post-Christmas but Pre-New Year’s Blues Before Reminding Myself of Something Really Important

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt started even before I tossed the Christmas cards or took the old wreath off the front door.

A sense of sadness, a premonition of unease. Usually by December 28 I’m ready to make a clean sweep. Christmas is over, and I’m in the mood to, at least figuratively, put the past behind me and open the front door to usher in the new year. I say “figuratively” because I’m not that good at letting go, no matter how I tell myself it’s as necessary as it is advisable. And a new year always holds at least some promise, some mystery. Some new discovery.

This season, I found myself having a harder time than ever with letting go. The mere thought had me welling up uncontrollably. Was it an aftereffect of all those Christmas sweet treats? Hormones? The first Christmas in almost two decades without my beloved, nutty Siamese? A clear-eyed sense of the grim realities facing the world right now? Or all of the above?

Then again, haven’t there always been “grim realities” facing the world? Of course. And not only has the world managed to keep on turning, but I expect it will continue to do so for a while. So many are facing so much worse—the breakup of a relationship, unexpected death of a child, loss of a job and home, a flight from those who live to destroy and the search for a place merely to exist without fear.

I reminded myself that I currently have all that I need and more. That the new year would be largely what I made of it, though I am not naive enough to think we are ever completely in control (or even that we have much control at all, frankly). In spite of this, when I should have been working on an article due in less than a week, I found myself instead looking somewhat forlornly out my bedroom window at the Christmas tree bright with white lights in the family room of the house next door, then at the neighbor’s front yard across the street, waiting for their lights to come on again. Just one more time.

Thinking, Don’t go, Christmas. Not just yet.

* * *

The star attraction at my personal blues festival this year was not just the normal letdown after too much food and irregular sleep following a mad rush to complete shopping and wrapping and mailing while working 9-5 and taking care of/decorating a house as well. Anyone out of their teens can recount that story. No, the star billing went to someone who didn’t really deserve to have the guest of honor seat, but who shows up at my house far too often. Perhaps he makes a regular appearance at yours as well.

His name is Fear.

This year, Fear looked at the attractively wrapped packages under our little fiber optic Christmas tree only to remind me that there might well be fewer of them next year, as aging relatives with chronic health issues began to pass away.

Fear glanced at the well-stocked pantry and freely running faucets only to remind me of the warnings, even likelihood, that a terrorist attack could disrupt the national power grid.

Fear responded to the unexpected gift of a temporary job that would pay a few large bills with a note reminding me my source of income is currently uncertain and my health insurance scanty.

Fear observed the gift of four new article assignments for a new market with the whisper that I was so busy with holiday preparations on top of work that I might be hard-pressed indeed to make my present deadlines—not to mention the fact that the pay for those upcoming assignments would scarcely cover even a month’s rent.

In fact, Fear did so much talking that I wondered when he ever had time to sleep.

But as I sat at my desk wiping my nose for the umpteenth time with an increasingly soggy tissue, I heard another reminder, this one more welcome and one I decided to share with Fear, because he sure needed it.

Fear isn’t psychic.

I’ll say that again, just to be sure you both heard it.

Fear isn’t psychic.

Fear doesn’t know how much longer I’ll have family to shop for at Christmas, or where and how I’ll spend that holiday in the years to come. Fear doesn’t know what new clients or more traditional jobs await me in 2016. Fear doesn’t know what I’m really capable of, because even I haven’t discovered that yet.

But to start finding out, I had to get to work. First I had to write this post while it was banging at the walls of my heart. Next I had to start that article. Then it would soon be time to prepare for the remaining hours of that temporary job, to tie it up neatly with the rest of the outgoing year as the door to a new one slowly edged open. A door to new opportunities and acquaintances, new lessons and challenges, and, yes, new fears.

Some of which might be justified. Some of which might even be necessary.

But not one of which would ever be psychic.

Happy 2016, Readers.

 

 

 

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The Toy That Didn’t Exist

I don’t know what made me think of this story recently, unless it’s that the holiday season—the season of miracles—is upon us, even if it is only October. And maybe it wasn’t such an extraordinary miracle, as miracles go. After all, there was undoubtedly a rational explanation for it.

But at the time I think it must have seemed like one . . .

* * *

I don’t have to be a parent to know that diagnosis of a serious illness in a young child is one of the most terrifying experiences a parent can ever face.

My cousin Matt’s son, Shepard, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL, shortly before his third birthday.

Long-term chemotherapy was on the horizon. Three years, in fact. And as Matt said, he might not be able to control his son’s pain or the toll cancer would exact on his little body, but he could get him a toy to help him through it. So he asked Shepard what toy he most desired.

Much to Dad’s chagrin, Shephard replied: “I want Randall.”

“Randall” was Randall Boggs—lizard-like chief scoundrel of Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.,” and Shephard’s all-time favorite movie character. While Matt couldn’t fathom what toy company would actually manufacture “a slimy villain” like Randall, he was going to find Randall Boggs and put a smile on his son’s face, if only for a moment.

There was just one problem. No retailer Matt contacted had ever heard of a Randall Boggs toy, much less had one in stock. He finally gave up, concluding it didn’t exist.

Not long afterward, as he told his Facebook friends, he was in the throes of “a little bit of a pity party” when his wife, Brady, suggested that he take Shephard’s big brother Sanders out for some fun. The pair ended up at a local Barnes & Noble bookstore, where they played with a train set for nearly half an hour. And on their way out, a toy caught Matt’s eye. A plastic figurine of “Sulley,” Randall’s arch-nemesis.

A closer look revealed that Sulley was one of a series, and yes, Randall Boggs completed it. But while the second figure was quickly located, there was no sign of Randall. Undaunted, Matt tore through a display of nearly 100 boxes until he finally saw, in the last spot on the very last row, a single package.

Guess who?

Overjoyed, he made a beeline for the cashier. Although he left the store $30 lighter in the pocket (having been convinced that a similar toy was in order for Shephard’s twin and older brother), he couldn’t drive home fast enough. For the look on his little boy’s face when he opened the box, he would have gladly paid three times that amount.

“God can use the smallest thing in the world to reveal Himself to you and renew your joy,” Matt said.

Even a toy that supposedly doesn’t exist.

Shep today

Shep today…future Auburn alumnus and…budding chef?

 

Sometimes It’s Just a Very Bad Day

catpawIn the end there seemed to be little more to say than that it was a very bad day, though it was actually a lot of other things as well.

It was, for example, dialing the number of my vet’s office and giving my name to the receptionist, scarcely able to choke out what I must afterwards. Hoping she would know.

“It’s okay,” she said.

She knew.

It was setting the time for an hour before closing, when fewer clients would be around. Watching the hours go by, slowly and not slowly, each one carrying me to that place. It was the moment of panic when I wanted to run out my bedroom door, begging some family member to do this for me, because I could not, I could not.

It was refusing the offers of help, even so.

It was leaving my hand on the back of her neck all the way to the vet, talking to her though she had been completely deaf for who knows how long, telling her the sun was shining, even though my sun roof and windows were open for her to feel it.

It was leaving my sunglasses on in the waiting room and turning my back to the receptionist, hoping she would see on her computer the reason I was there and wouldn’t need to say it out loud.

It was following a staff member to a room where we could be alone for a time, still keeping my sunglasses on and thinking, Please don’t let it be too long. I don’t know how long I can stand this.

I don’t want to cry in front of you.

It was being grateful there was no metal table. I didn’t want her to lie on a metal table, and I had brought a fleece coverlet that she’d napped on many times. But there was no table at all in this room, and I wondered if we would go to another.

It was minutes ticking by but I hadn’t worn a watch; being almost afraid, after a certain amount of time, that they had forgotten me. I took off my sunglasses at last when a staff member came in to discuss “aftercare” and payment.

No, I remember thinking, I don’t want to discuss that! I will not be able to discuss that. Please, just get it over with quickly and let me go.

It was signing paperwork. Swiping my credit card and feeling rather surreal that I actually had to do this now, because 19 years ago they simply sent me a bill, a month after the deed was done, after they sent me a sympathy card with a copy of “The Rainbow Bridge.”

It was waiting, yet again, until the staff member and a vet came in, a vet I couldn’t remember although he remarked that he “hadn’t seen her for a while,” and looked into her carrier to pet her. And while I had achieved a measure of calm at this point, as soon as he very gently inquired as to “what’s going on,” I started to break up again, and the old fear was back, that I would not be able to contain it.

I have always hated crying in front of people.

But somehow I did, just enough to explain that the previous night she’d had a seizure, and . . . all the rest we’d noticed in the past few months.

And he explained what they would do, and that I could stay for part of the process, or all of it, or none of it.

It was worrying that when they took her away, even though she had been confused for the past few months, even though she was securely wrapped in the fleece coverlet on which she had napped many times, that she would be afraid in this strange place. I did not want her to be afraid.

It was the staff member looking in at one point to tell me that her veins were “so tiny” that they were having trouble finding one.

It was looking at a copy of People magazine, though I have no idea now what I read. It was the door opening at last as they brought her in, wrapped in her fleece blanket, and putting the magazine down because this was it.

“She’s so sleepy,”

said the assistant, laying her down between the two of us, so gently.

“That was quick,” I said, petting Chloe’s head.

It was the vet asking if I wanted a little more time with her, me shaking my own head because I could not bear any more waiting.

It was gazing steadily at the closed door in order not to witness the last, stroking her head and neck as the assistant stroked her back. Neither of us stopped stroking until the vet took up his stethescope, until she was gone.

It was the shaky breath, the valiant attempt to steady myself so that I could at least say, “I think I’d better go now too.” The assistant picking her up, so carefully, as if she were only asleep and might wake, handing me the carrier on which I was complimented nearly every time I came to their office, the one I bought at a cat show.

It was finding my car wet from the rain which had been falling through my open windows and sun roof because the sun was shining when I came in and I didn’t think I would be there that long, even though it was the rainy season in Florida.

It was, at last, a semblance of relief, then later, the odd sense of bewilderment that follows a loss. The automatic turning of the head towards the room where her litter box was, the corner of the bathroom where her water mug sat, remembering that I would no longer need to empty the one or refill the other.

It was the tears at unexpected as well as expected times, wondering whether to wash the blanket she died on even though it was clean, driving by the vet on my way somewhere else and wondering if I’d ever look at the building the same way again.

It was searching the Internet for what leaders in my faith said about animals in heaven.

It was reminding myself, and being reminded, that she had a good, long life, that “to everything there is a season,” including death, without it making a bit of difference. Realizing that sometimes there is no epiphany, no rainbow, no mile marker of maturity that says I faced this, I did it, all by myself.

That sometimes it’s not much more than just a very bad day.

And that’s okay.

Meet the Poets: Anne Peterson

Anne Peterson

Anne Peterson

In honor of National Poetry Month, Part III of “Meet the Poets” again brings us the work of Anne Peterson. Anne is  a wife, mother of two and grandmother of four, poet, speaker, and the author of over forty-two Bible studies as well as the books Real Love: Guaranteed to Last, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, Emma’s Wish, Lulu’s Lunch, and The Crooked House.

Today Anne honors the short life of her sister on what would have been her sixty-first birthday. Peggy Gollias Dianovsky disappeared in September 1982—according to her husband, she left their home of her own accord after an argument (during which he admitted to having beaten her). But she never returned, or made any contact with her family, including her three sons. Twenty years later, her missing person case was reopened as a probable homicide and went to a bench trial, but although the judge believed that Peggy had died as the result of a crime, he did not feel he had enough evidence to rule that her now-remarried husband had been responsible, and handed down a “Not guilty” verdict to Robert Dianovsky.

From 2010:

“We miss Peggy so much. She was supposed to be here sharing our lives with us. Instead, we see her kids growing up without knowing her and now we see her beautiful grandchildren who have only heard about her.     

“After the trial we had a memorial for Peggy. It felt too little and too late. Each of us got up and shared what she meant to us. So many years had passed since her disappearance, consequently the room was not packed with people. At the cemetery we stood by her empty grave looking at a picture of her when she was a little girl.   

“We will never forget her, we will never stop loving her, we will never stop hoping to one day know where her body is. And all of us can testify that time does not heal all wounds.”

Please welcome Anne to Postcards From My Head.

* * *

NO MORE TALKING

“Divorce,” the letter read; “violence,” it went on.
A long-distance call made: “I can’t talk now!
He’s harassing me again.”

Hours later a phone rings, and two sisters talk.
One tells of a hurting heart and ten years of pain;
the other sobs in silence.
“Calling the police was easy,
I wish I would have done it sooner.”

Days later, another caller, “She’s gone.
No one knows where. She never showed up at work.
Her husband says she just walked out.”

Disbelief fills a sister’s heart,
Too many questions invade her mind:
Why would she leave her kids?

Why didn’t she take her car?
Why not wait for the money that would be hers the next day?

Some questions in life get answered, and some take time.
It has been thirty-two years since two sisters talked,
And one still hurts.

Peggy Dianovsky

Peggy Dianovsky

* * *

Connect with Anne and find more of her poetry at http://annepeterson.com/. You can read Peggy’s full story in Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival. And if you or someone you know needs help with a domestic violence situation, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

“God Used My Losses”

This week I’m delighted to feature guest poster Anne Peterson. Anne is a poet, speaker, and the author of Real Love: Guaranteed to Last, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, and most recently, her first children’s book, Emma’s Wish. Her poetry is sold throughout the U.S. and in 23 countries. I’ve been privileged to share her words in the capacity of proofreader and reviewer, and to witness her extraordinary commitment to encouraging our fellow Tribe Writers. No stranger to suffering, her story is one of perseverance and hope, and it has both astonished and inspired me. Please welcome her to Postcards From My Head.

* * *

Everyone is going through something. We don’t know the trials other people face, unless they divulge them to us. You never know what another person is dealing with.

Even when God heals our hurts, mends our broken places, we have scars. Some of them go pretty deep.

Gods Tools

Anne Peterson

Anne Peterson

For me, one of the tools God uses in my life is loss. I have lost a lot of loved ones. Consequently it’s difficult for me to trust. When I was five years old, my friend Billy ran out into the street after a ball. He never came back.

When I was twelve, my cousin Julie was killed, and when my parents went to tell Grandma, her heart couldn’t take it and she died the next day.

Years ago, there were no counselors to help children process their grief. We never learned how to deal with the losses that kept coming. We just became well acquainted with death.

Not knowing the need to work through our pain, we tried numbing it. Food was one way.

Death Kept Visiting

At sixteen I lost my mother. At twenty-four we buried Dad. Six years later we would deal with losing Peggy, but this one was complicated.

It was 1982 when my sister Peggy disappeared. She never showed up at work, nor did she show up for a dentist appointment.

Her husband told us she walked out. There was even a segment done on television, but we never believed she left.

Not surprisingly, I struggled with abandonment issues. In my mind, it was only a matter of time before everyone would leave.

Emotional Pain Hurts Deeply

My emotional pain was overwhelming. And when I hurt the worst, poems would come to me.

God provided counseling for me and with it many tools from the counselors.

I learned the value of acknowledging my pain rather than stuffing it down or denying it existed. Then I learned how to embrace my pain. I believe that was a turning point.

In his book, Making Peace with Your Past, Tim Sledge deals with those painful parts of our lives we wish were gone.

As I wrote my book Broken, it was to be a story about my sister. That is, until God told me to add my story as well.

For years I’ve spoken to hundreds of people, sharing my sister’s story. I know it by heart, my broken heart.

But adding my story was life-changing. I felt a purpose for the pain I experienced. I felt gratitude for those who tried to reach out to me.

Resistance

As I wrote the book, I felt strong resistance. And yet, I pushed through—I had to.

Why? Because my intent in writing Broken was to offer something to those who were hurting. This book was not only for those who were or are being abused, but it was also for those who perhaps wanted to better understand it, so they could help someone they may know.

An interesting thing happened as I finished my book. As expected, I was totally spent. There were days I felt exhaustion. But after I rested, an interesting thing happened.

I became more aware of others and their hurts.

I still felt I needed to write, but instead of an urgency, it was more of a deliberate decision.

And another thing changed. All of a sudden, children’s books were bubbling out of me.

Day after day, I wrote children’s stories. Stories like the ones I had made up for my grandchildren.

Working Through Issues

Working through issues is so beneficial, not only for you, but for those you care about as well. I just never expected the joy I’m experiencing.

As far as the issues in your own life, have you worked through them? If not, are you ready for the hard work ahead? Will it be worth it?Real Love Cover

Yes, yes, and yes!

You won’t go through them alone. God will be with you as you process your pain.

God uses the losses in our lives. He can bring good out of our most difficult times.

God knows what you’re going through. He’s seen and even felt your pain.

Isn’t it time to see what He really has in store for you?

Trust me, it will be worth it.

 * * *

Disappointment 

God, Im so discouraged,
the plans I had fell through,
I sit with disappointment
and dont know what to do.
I had my life all figured out,
most everything was planned,
But nothing went the way I thought
and I dont understand.
He answers with compassion,
I know you are in pain,
Just trust in me completely.
Your loss will turn to gain.

* * *

 To learn more about Anne, please visit her at http://www.annepeterson.com or https://www.facebook.com/annepetersonwrites. You can also read my reviews of Broken and Emma’s Wish at Amazon.com.

 

Emma's Wish

 

 

 

 

 

Unplanned Obsolescence

“In industrial design, a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time.

I first heard the term “planned obsolescence” in my high school psychology class and in my innocence was shocked and disgusted at the idea.  Nearly four decades later, the concept doesn’t surprise me, but these days, I’ve been thinking off and on about a different kind of obsolescence.

It’s not just middle age that’s responsible, although the older I get and the more icons from my childhood and teenage years pass away, the more technology advances too fast for me to feel like I can keep up, the more I understand what made my elders look back fondly at “the good old days” and the more I understand the fabled “generation gap.”  I don’t have a smart phone because I don’t need one.  I’ve Phonesnever used some of the tools my author acquaintances rave about because until fairly recently, I did very little writing for years.  Software applications I taught myself over a decade ago are periodically updated, but it hardly matters when I haven’t even used them in as long…and how long will it be before the next update (not to mention the next new gadget) appears?  If only I had grandkids to instruct me.

“Sometimes I think it’s better for people like me to die and get out of the way,” my mother said a couple of years ago as she was ruminating on the same general subject.  I disagreed, but in a way I understood.  And now that I’m facing unemployment yet again, even as I know I’m ready for a change, I also know that comments like one from Maria Shriver in the December 2013 issue of AARP magazine will occasionally echo in my mind.  Asked by an interviewer if it was “hard to get back into that [television journalism] work,” she admitted, “When you leave your career, it’s hard to find your way back.  People move on.  Things change.  The technology’s different.”

Frankly, before I found the job where I’ve spent nearly six and a half years, by the time I’d submitted over 500 resumes I felt rather as if, like Hester Prynne, I should be wearing a letter on my clothing, only mine would be a “U” for “Unwanted” or “Unemployable”!

Can I get a witness?

But speaking of people moving on…

* * * * *

“Am I too boring to be a friend?” I asked myself sometime in the middle of last year, in one of those moments where nothing in particular is going on and your mind has time to wander and you remember that it’s been, oh, how many years now since you heard from so and so, and how come they never call or email or even try to friend you on Facebook?  You know the ones I mean – the friends who just quietly drop out of your life with no warning.  It happens to all of us at some point.  And every once in a while we surface from our busyness long enough to wonder about them.  Especially if they were once close enough to email us almost every day.

Now I’ll admit that I’m as much to blame as the next person when it comes to being lazy about keeping in touch.  Friendships are a two-way street.  It’s also normal, according to the experts quoted in newspaper and magazine articles on the subject, for some of them to just die a natural death as personalities, needs and circumstances change.  But fast on the heels of that aforementioned moment came the memory of one friend telling me years ago, “You always have something new to tell me.”  I was more active then, so I had something to talk about.  Nowadays I can’t say that nearly as much…and then find myself wondering if people have disappeared from my life simply because I’ve gotten boring.

There’s a scene in Conrad Richter’s wonderful novel, The Trees, in which protagonist Sayward Luckett invites a woman newly arrived to the wilderness in which her family has settled to a thing called “tea,” a ceremony something Sayward has little familiarity with, but upon which she improvises with the resourcefulness that characterizes her even as a young teen.  Yet the two women leave pauses in their quiet talk over the shared meal, says Richter, for it wouldn’t do to tell everything about themselves on the first meeting – what would they have to talk about the next time?

I was thinking along these lines when I met a fellow writer from an online group last year at Starbucks in person for the first time, after we’d discovered that, out of hundreds of members, we lived in adjacent towns.  Specifically, I was thinking about it when we had our own quiet spots during conversation and I was scrambling around in my head for something else to say.

Perhaps I’m just being paranoid.  Hell, maybe I just need to check out some tutorials and join a Meetup group or two.  Or volunteer.

But then there are those who take on a form of obsolescence at least partly by their own choice…

* * * * *

“Tragic tale emerges a year after remains of mom, daughter found,” blared the headline in my local newspaper.  Two women aged 62 and 87, the latter suffering from dementia, unseen by anyone for at least six months.  Withdrawn from relatives, with no friends – thought by neighbors to be in Maryland, where they went for several months each year.  Relatives sent flowers and registered letters, hoping for some kind of response when the silence became a real concern, but the women “guarded their privacy”…until their skeletal remains were found in their house by the police a year ago.  Both are believed to have died of heart disease.  The fate of their dog is unknown, since only his pet carrier was found, with a note saying that his owner was no longer able to care for him due to poor health.

From what has been pieced together of this incredibly sad story, it’s clear that the daughter was overwhelmed by caregiving and her own medical issues.  And at some point, privacy turned into self-imprisonment.

It’s impossible to help wondering what was in the mind of that caregiving daughter found in the master bedroom.  Had she simply given up?  What tangled thoughts or fears were in the mind of her mother, found unclothed and dead in a hallway?  Was she searching for help, alone, hungry, confused?

IsolationTheir story is, said the article’s author, “one of isolation – the kind that can accompany advancing age, especially in Florida where so many older people relocate and leave behind close relationships.”  It’s a type of isolation I witnessed too frequently in the nursing homes my grandmother temporarily inhabited before spending her final decade with my mother…the “obsolescence” of the aged, who once held babies and jobs, who lived and loved and related, who were now dependent for the most intimate of care on paid staff.

In the back of my mind, I fear becoming one of them.

* * * * *

Devices made to wear out by a certain date so they’ll have to be replaced.  Jobs disposed of at the scratch of a pen.  Relationships fading into silence for reasons unknown…if we never bother to ask why.

How does one keep from becoming obsolete?

“Keep learning new things.”  “Challenge your brain with puzzles.”  “Get out and volunteer.”

Yet it’s so easy to isolate ourselves behind a computer screen, a Facebook group, a text or a tweet…because we don’t feel isolated, do we?  After all, we’re communicating!

Until one day we’re not.

Next month another job will end.  And while I’m ready for a change, ready to embark on a new chapter of my life, I’m also more aware than ever of the ticking clock.  Remembering how comfortable I got sitting at home among my familiar surroundings and habits following other career breaks, even before I had the world at my fingertips on a home computer.  I know I’ll have to step up my game to keep the virtual world from replacing the real one, because we need human contact to take us out of ourselves, to sharpen us, to remind us that the world is still a very big place even as our “connectedness” makes it feel so very small.

To keep from becoming “obsolete.”

* * * * *

How about you?  Have you ever felt left behind by the rapid pace of technology or a job loss?  Seen a formerly close relationship fade inexplicably into the sunset?  Worried about “outliving your usefulness,” as a friend once described her state after physical disability forced her to leave the workforce for good?  If so, how did you deal with it?  I’d love to hear from you.

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Why I’m Still Fat

You immediately got a picture in your head, didn’t you, even if it’s not a very clear one because you may not know me personally?

I feel a little like the people in 12-step program meetings who introduce themselves with their name and their addiction, such as, “Hello, my name is Jim, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Years ago I went for a while to such a group, Overeaters Anonymous.  And I would announce before each comment I made, “My name is Lucie, and I’m a food addict.”  And everyone would say, “Hello, Lucie.”

I didn’t completely identify with the term “food addict” (how can you be addicted to something necessary for your survival?), but I didn’t know how else to classify myself for the purpose of those meetings.

But aside from whether or not it was correct, I didn’t like it – not just because it felt dumb (“You already know my name and why I’m here, people!”), but because I didn’t like identifying myself by a single aspect of my personality.

Maybe that works for alcoholics or gamblers.  I don’t know, having never struggled with those issues.

I didn’t stay with OA that long, partly for the above reason.

* * * * *

“You were never a fat child,” my mother has said on at least a couple of occasions.  Pictures indicate this is true.  I was average-sized.  But even in middle school, I had a stomach, if you get my drift.

“Pot belly,” a boy in my science class said, pointing to me, a couple of times.

My mother has also said that, even from childhood, I was always asking what was on the menu for the next meal.  I liked food.  Heck, my whole family did.  I loved starches in particular.  And sweets.

Still do.

And I took after one of my maternal great-grandmothers, or so my mom tells me.  Great-grandmother Mattie died of complications of diabetes when she was about my current age.  She was heavy, real heavy.  She loved to eat.  And her son was heavy, later in life, and loved to eat.  And was “borderline” diabetic.

You could say I came by it naturally.  Sometimes I’ve said that.  It’s easy to at least partially blame genetics.

Genetics.  That’s what’s behind my pot belly.  Look at great-grandmother Mattie, and Granddad…

Of course, this is something of a two-edged sword.  If genetics are against you and you’ve had that stomach since childhood, are all those Ab Rollers and other stupid devices you’ve wasted your money on really going to give you a belly like Denise Austin?

Believe me, you want to think so.  Oh, how you want to think so!  That’s why the companies who make them are in business.

Short of liposuction, I’ve pretty much given up on ever having a flat stomach.  And I’m pretty sure liposuction is quite expensive.

I’m still fat.

* * * * *

I’m remembering the first time my GP used the word “obesity” when describing me in his files.  Actually, I can’t recall exactly where I saw the word, but I was shocked.  “Obese?”  That’s for people who weigh 400 pounds!  Or 300 pounds.  Not…

Me.  I wasn’t even 200, but someone had just called me obese.

It stung.

Years later, I wrote a poem called “Fat.”  And felt an inner peace afterwards.  I shared it with my writer’s group, and they liked it.  No one judged me.  I shared it with a friend who shared it with a friend, who was moved by it.  That made me feel good.

But I’m rambling.  The title of this post, after all, is “Why I’m Still Fat.”

I like Chantel Hobbs‘ answer to this question.  Chantel is one of my weight-loss heroes.  She lost 200 pounds in two years and freely admits that she had no secret reasons for gaining all that weight – not sexual abuse, or bad genetics, or depression, or whatever you can name.  She just liked food.

You go, Chantel.  It must have taken some courage to admit that.  After all, if you have reasons like the above, people tend to regard you with more understanding.

I like food.  I love starches.  I love carbs.  I love sugar.  I’ve eaten from boredom and from depression.  I’ve eaten when I’m happy, to reward myself, to soothe myself, to wake up when I needed energy to get through the day.

I just haven’t always eaten wisely. 

I haven’t taken the threat of diabetes very seriously, either.  That was reserved for a future date,  after all.  I still had time to turn my eating habits around before then – you know, like in middle age.  Yeah, I would worry about it then.

Guess what.

A little past 40, that word came back with the annual lab work, only I still didn’t quite understand, and still didn’t quite take it seriously.  Was I in denial?  Perhaps.  I’m not really sure why it’s never been that real to me.  In fact, upon diagnosis I mostly felt a sense of relief, not the dire church bells I’d expected, the end forever to all my old (pleasurable) eating habits.  The enemy was real, and thus I could fight him.  Yet for the longest time I wasn’t sure if I was pre-diabetic or actually diabetic.  The American Diabetes Association said one thing, the American College of Endocrinologists another.  The ADA’s scale gave me a tad more leeway, but I paid more attention to the ACE’s, figuring they must know better.

I was good for a while.  Took Metformin for a while, even though it’s not protocol for someone with my stats.  I took comfort in and was somewhat proud of the fact that my A1C level never went up any further in almost nine years.  “Very well controlled,” said one person.  “Very good,” said another (a physician).  My current GP didn’t seem too concerned with that number.

All of which helped me not to be overly concerned – for a while.

* * * * *

Let me tell you what doesn’t work.  Diets?  You’ve already heard that.  Then again, maybe they do for you.  One did for me, a little over a decade ago.  I lost about 25 pounds.  A coworker actually said I was becoming “svelte.”  Now I damn sure wasn’t svelte, but my butt was smaller and I could button my jeans the normal way (i.e., not lying on my back and sucking in my breath).

But here’s what didn’t work.

  1. Offering me a dollar for each pound I lose.
  2. Telling me that I’m bigger than I’ve ever been.
  3. Telling me that no man wants a woman who outweighs him or that I looked like I was six months pregnant.  (Even a cursory glance at society reveals that the former isn’t true, and as for the latter, I did not.)
  4. Telling me that my stomach is “almost the first thing people notice about you” because it’s so big.
  5. Telling me that a mutual acquaintance told you they almost didn’t recognize me, [because] “you’d gained so much weight.”  (For the record, this almost certainly had to be untrue as well.)
  6. Telling me relatives are “shocked” at my appearance.
  7. Telling me I need to ask my doctor about an appetite suppressant.
  8. Perhaps best of all, telling me that I “don’t want to go on a job interview looking like a whale.”

Anyone who’s ever been overweight will have their own vocabulary.

Let me tell you what else doesn’t work.  Hating yourself.

Some of you have done that, haven’t you?  Around two decades ago I questioned in my journal whether “even more virulent self-hatred” was the key to permanent weight loss.

It wasn’t. 

Listen.  I’m not overweight just because I love sugar and starchy carbs, or because I have no willpower, or because I’m the victim of heredity.

The only thing I’ve been a “victim” of is my own mind.

The mind that says, No matter how hard you work, you’ll always have that belly, or You’re over 50, you’ll soon be in menopause, and menopausal women gain weight.  That says, Even if you get slimmer, no man’s going to want you, because [insert raison du jour].  You’re not too fat to get a new job; people bigger than you get employed.  Why give up the one real pleasure in your life?

Why, why, why try again?  Who really cares?

* * * * *

I do.  Still.  In spite of the fact that I live in the fattest country on earth, which puts me in good company.  In spite of the fact that a coworker told me not that long ago, “You’re not fat.”  In spite of the fact that it’s freakin’ hard work to lose weight and keep it off, especially once you pass 40 – everybody who ever told you that was RIGHT.

But this body is heavy.  It’s stiff and sometimes feels so awkward.  It’s just plain unattractive.  It’s a pain to carry around.

One reason I love the water so much is that when I’m in it, I don’t feel my heaviness.  I feel instead a weightlessness similar to that I felt on my one skydive nearly a decade ago.

In the water and in the air, I leave my body behind.

I don’t like not recognizing myself in the mirror sometimes, thinking, That’s not me.

It is me.

Well, in a sense…  Fact is, the girl who lives in the deepest recesses of my being isn’t fat or stiff.  And I want to see her face in the mirror.

I remember what’s ahead.  Temptation when I’m so freaking bored with watching what I eat.  Frustration with a scale that doesn’t move as fast as I want.  Fear that maybe my body won’t do what I’m asking it to, that it’s too late, I’m too old, that I can’t get down to that number on the scale I want because my body isn’t meant to be that weight.  Anger when somebody says I probably can’t, or even shouldn’t.  Annoyance when people praise me for getting smaller because a part of me I don’t show in public sometimes hisses, Gee, wasn’t I of any value already?  Don’t you know I’m a PERSON, not just a ********* number?  

Another reason why I’m still fat.

* * * * *

Statistically, I’ve heard, blog posts this size are less likely to be read.  I suppose it has to do with our alleged short attention spans.  If you’re still reading (and I hope you are), there’s one more thing I want to say.  I had to let go of some things.  Forgive some things.  Kick that old girl goodbye with the old year as the new one passed her at the front door.  There’s a job search ahead (sooner than I’d necessarily anticipated).  A reward trip ahead (hopefully!).  I have no idea what life will throw at me this year, but I’m planning to face it from a healthier perspective, mentally as well as physically.

Some of you may have been, even subconsciously, waiting for the Big Reveal: how much does she weigh, anyway?  Is she going to post a “Before” picture?

Nope.  I’m not going to give a number or a picture.  I wrote this post because I needed to as part of my own process of getting better, for accountability, and especially for anyone who may read this and nod, thinking, I know, girl.  I know.

How about you?

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