Sunday, January 28, 2007

Weigh-In Edition: Week 4

No weigh-in today, just for the record.

I've been sick during this weekend, a kind of sickness that started with discomfort on Friday afternoon and ended up in bargaining-with-God types of pain and nausea from a sinus infection that took up residence in my body back in September and hasn't bothered to move out yet. Highlights of my weekend included crying in the corner of the Walgreen's walk-in clinic because the wait time was 90 minutes and for at least 80% of that time the world would not stop spinning, puking in the Wal-Mart parking lot after I hit my head getting into my car, and running through a brand new box of Kleenex in three days as I blew out gallons of fluorescent green snot in my sick bed. I get to go on 30 days of antibiotics and if that doesn't work my doctor has decided she must wash her hands of me and send me on to an allergist or ENT. I can only hope those possible visits result in costly and intrusive surgeries that my insurance won't cover and will make me look like the Elephant Man for most of next summer.

The weekend hasn't been all bad, though, because once I ran out of exhaustion during my bed rest I got to indulge in a lot of thinking, phone talking, emailing, and feeding my Sex and the City addiction with episodes I hadn't seen in awhile. I spun nonsense with my little brother, read letters from old friends and mentors, and thought about my life in comparison to theirs.

My little brother is a Local Boy Makes Good...a freshman at Yale, an accomplished musician, and generally the most ambitious and driven person I have ever encountered in my life. My mother describes him as a "walking miracle", an accidental pregnancy from a trip my parents took to get over the death of another brother who was born with an umbilical cord around his neck and died a day later. It's an odd situation, the elder sibling living in the shadow of a younger one, but it's our dynamic and until recently I've been comfortable with it. We shared bits of our lives...his involving planned trips to China and Yemen and Mauritania to do some political science work with his classmates, and mine focusing mainly around what reality television I had been watching and the new toaster oven I splurged on last week. My brother and I are phenomenally close, but the more his horizons expand the greater the divide between us comes.

Emails from friends are full of those same types of accomplishments--a new boyfriend in Switzerland, music gigs that involve summer tours of Tuscany and Provence, competitions with cash prizes and opportunities to perform on the great stages of the world. I read each of them, rejoicing to myself in the hopefulness of their tones, the bright futures they will have. But when I close the windows and move on to consider my quiet house with my quiet cats in my quiet, quiet life, I always end up wondering "what happened to me?"

I feel weird saying that at one point in my life I used to be accomplished, too. It just sounds conceited. But I guess I was, or at least that's what people told me. An Ivy League future...most likely to succeed...something along those lines. They really thought I was going to end up someplace important, doing something meaningful, and maybe being remembered for who I was.

But the difference between me and them is that I never thought that to be true. For every award I won, I obsessed over what elseI could've done to be better, as test scores came back and colleges started taking notice of me I convinced myself that I had had a lucky day, and if I ever actually went to those schools I'd fail miserably. I started deferring decisions about my life to my parents, and later in college to my future husband. I didn't pursue great schools because I didn't want my parents to be stressed out about funding my college degrees. I stayed at the same university for grad school because I didn't want my boyfriend to have to be alone while I was gone in another state. I stopped practicing--didn't want to be a musician anymore--because it wasn't a viable living and I would just be a burden on anyone else. Besides, the world didn't need another mediocre starving artist, you know?

I let door after door after door slam behind me until I found myself in a horrible marriage, working in a career I have no real passion for, and less than an hour away from the town I wanted so desperately to leave behind. And now, a year later and alone and ridiculous as I sniffle through piles of Kleenex, I've realized I used my family and marriage as an excuse not to move on, because I was terrified I wouldn't be good enough. That I couldn't do it, or worse...if I DID do it, I'd be absolutely unremarkable. I went from being a fearless, perfectionist girl to an absolutely crippled woman by my own self-doubt and left so far behind compared to the respective paths of my friends and brother that we almost don't have anything in common anymore. I have no idea when or why it happened, but it did and realizing this is shocking right now.

I know two things about my current life: 1) I can change it for the better whenever I'm ready, and 2) I'm not ready yet. Not ready to move towns, change houses, date, find a new career, go back to school...whatever, because every single day I'm awake I face the fact that just getting out of bed and doing the things I have to do to be functional is overwhelming and exhausting. My exuberance over getting a few loads of laundry done on a Sunday afternoon is tantamount to someone else's pride over completing medical school, because I know that just a few months ago I was too depressed to do it.

And to be completely honest, as I was lying in bed and feeling lonely because I was too sick to sit up and check my blog and all of yours', I realized that my attitude towards getting healthy was no different. Every time I weighed in over the last month I told myself I wouldn't believe I was really making progress until I dipped below 210, no matter how much thinner I felt than the week before. 210-230 is my up and down zone, and I've gained and lost those pounds countless times in the last four years. And the truth is, I don't really believe I can lose the pounds, and even if I did shape up no one would notice or find it remarkable. So over this past week I let some calories slide back in, some fat, a lot of salt. A couple of unplanned Cheat Days to comfort me for feeling so puny. And now on weigh day I sort of have to pay the price, because the scales didn't move in the right direction.

Beyond the aesthetic and physical benefits of being healthier, more than anything I want to believe in my ability to do something...anything at all. I want to know that I finished. That I conquered my terror and self-loathing to do something real. I can't go back to school right now, and I can't revive a long dormant music career without a lot of money and time I don't have just yet. Pretty much, considering what my life is right now, weight loss is it unless I want to train my cats to perform stupid pet tricks for money or something. I need to be able to believe in myself. I just don't know how quite yet.

Maybe it's the same things as tackling the laundry, or getting out of the house to go for a walk, or even just being able to smile at a co-worker in the hall...the small accomplishments will have to bring me joy for now. Non-scale victories and personals bests and all that. I never really believed in any of it, but being left spiritually and emotionally bankrupt is making me more open to ideas I would've blown off a year ago. Hopefully this week I'll be able to get back to business and I'll have a more cheerful weigh in post for you next Sunday. Until then, thank you as always for listening. I feel lighter already for having confessed that.


lisa jane said...


I'm sorry that you are in a shitty head space right now.Sometimes the world looks dull and cloudy but dring these times I usually just hold on tight and wait for it to pass.It always does.

But sex and the city is friggin good therapy I say.So is hopping for me,but with you feeling so crappy that might be a no go zone.

Have you tried chocolate?,for theraputic purposes only of course ;) Or am I being a bad influence? i feel like I should be giving you more constructive advice but sometimes its just best to ride it out.

For the record the ocean always soothes me,thats if you live anywhere near an ocean,if not then I'm probably sounding like a big pain in the ass right now.

Lori said...

Expectations can be a burdensome thing. It doesn't have to be even from someone else, it's the ones from within that are the real killers.

I also think though that if someone has a killer ambition to do something, they would do it. I went to college and majored in journalism but I let my BF sort of rule my world. Graduating during a recession wasn't the best of luck either. But if I had/want to do something in that field, I could have tried and found something. Do I feel bad about it? Sometimes but I also know deep down that it wasn't right for me.

Most of us feel like a fraud. Some really are frauds (I'm thinking of an Idiot Man) but most of us just have a lot of self doubts. You're not alone.

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and I'm 47. One thing I'm concluding is that I want to be more athletic. (Oh, god, how my 16 year old self would have laughed herself silly and peed her pants with that thought.)

But Erin, small steps and careful thinking along the way may help point you in the direction you're supposed to be in. Frankly, Grumpy Chair and I are always saying "Erin's a great writer!" and things like that. You gave me an idea about blogher that I passed along to someone else and we're considering going. So you influence people with your writing and comments and you shouldn't feel bad about where you are in life.

If you think about it and be honest and not humble about it either, you'd admit to changing or being a big part of other people's lives. Your little brother at Yale, if you asked him, he could point out ways you have helped him or shaped him. And to be honest, I bet you being in touch with him is a big asset. Everyone has a bit of trouble leaving home and you're one of his touchstones.

Remember you've had a rough year with a lot of life changes so be kind to that insecure person inside of you. We all do the best with what we have at that momenet for the most part, I believe.

So get well, enjoy your SITC stuff, and ask him if he's seen Rory Gilmore....

Tigerlilly said...

I have to say that you just described alot of what I have been feeling... but in a strange way you also just inspired me to get my ass up and workout. I too am in my 'safe-zone' ... somewhere between 200-213... (205 right now).. but they are the pounds that I have tried and succeeded then failed to lose the last 3 years... this week is my test... I am determined to get that '1' in front of my weight.. because then the fear will be gone... the fear that I will actually succeed at something!

Great blog... I will be back!!
Stay Strong.. and enjoy every day, and every small victory!!

Galen said...

Hey Erin,
After reading the two comments here, I really can't say much more that wouldn't be overkill. They offer great advice and encouragement to you. I would like to offer all the encouragement to you as well.

I really hope you're feeling better, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts as you write them down. You have become my first stop on my way to blogsville as far as what I read daily.

Anyway, have a greatone and I look forward to talking to you.