Friday, November 30, 2007

Thank you.

I'm sure I've made it pretty flamingly obvious by now that being earnest and sincere are not among my principal traits, so understand that I'm barfing a little bit in my mouth right now as I write this, but I never knew that I had such wonderful friends until this week. To everyone who sent their thoughts and good wishes, and to the ones I know who sent flowers, and ate tostada mountains, and offered to come with me, thank you very much for being my friends. I am very grateful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How I Will Lose 230 lbs.on Thursday

I was going to save this post for Thursday, but the events of today all seem to be pointing to "Write Me!", so here we are:

On Thursday I go to court for my divorce hearing. 9:35 am at the 17th Circuit Courthouse if anyone wants to come and, like, root for me with foam fingers or something. I am to bring a copy of the final divorce decree which I must purchase off the Internet and print off tomorrow afternoon. I've been told that this isn't like divorce court on TV; it's a law day proceeding and I'm scheduled in amongst burglary cases and probation violations. Maybe one of them will give me a tattoo while I wait. There are two women at my work who have recently gotten divorced, and they both have counseled me to bring someone along, that no matter how emotionally detached I've become from my husband in the past two years, actually watching your marriage dissected and then dissolved by a stranger in a robe is one of the most demoralizing things you can go through. "Be grateful you don't have children," they say. "Yeah," I say in return.

I have been looking forward to this court date since September when I filed it, but over the last few weeks I've been developing a really intense feeling of dread about it. When people ask when I finalize, and I tell them November 29th there's kind of a "So, woot?" reaction and I just shrug in assent. Because yeah, in some ways it IS woot...I'm really, truly free and not in relationship purgatory where I get in trouble for checking divorced on legal forms because I'm still technically married, and where my taxes get better (I think) and I'm legally my own person again. But on the other hand, I will have to go there to the court room on my own and see my husband again after nearly a year and a half of not seeing him, and he emailed to say he's bringing his mother and I think seeing them together will make the disappointment and the failure so palpable and awful.

My father offered to come with me to the hearing, but I turned him down. I probably should've said yes, but I can't imagine why him losing a day of work would do any good. My father and I have a relationship built around saying as few words as possible, and somehow the idea of getting divorced and then sitting and munching a Blooming Onion while talking about hardly anything at all just doesn't seem very desirable. I took the entire day off for the hearing, because even though I have a scheduled docket time, my coworkers said that was really more of a hopeful estimation than a firm slot. Plus, they said, there will be a lot of crying and no one wants to come back and teach a gaggle of children after something like that. It looks like Thursday afternoon I'll have a date with my bed and my cats and maybe a weepy chick movie (okay, and some ice cream. I'm only human) and a good long whiny day of thinking about Being Alone.

I have, for all practical purposes, basically been divorced since July of 2006. That's the month my husband packed up about a third of his stuff and moved out as a "birthday present". I had taken an extended summer break from work to visit my family during this time, and when I came back to the house we had shared during the first, awful months of our separation, I returned home to a house he had left full of trash, and cat feces, and rotting food and all sorts of other awful things that make me feel like I can never get the house clean enough again, no matter how much scrubbing or bleach I use. The day after my birthday, when I moved back in, marked the very first time in my life I had been completely on my own...I was broke, terrified, living in a stinking pit of Hell, and completely clueless about what to do next.

I'd like to say the weeks and months following that summer were an inspiring journey of personal growth, complete with my very own Authentic Joan Cusack-style Best Friend who arrived with a bucket of margaritas and a sympathetic smile, but that didn't happen. I spent most of 2006 either drunk on Missouri wine (the shame!), or asleep, or dating really inappropriate men all because I couldn't handle the fact that I felt so completely lonely and unable to help myself. When 2007 rolled around, I knew I had to make a change or else I'd be so fat and slovenly I'd get fired from teaching and I'd have to start operating a phone sex business from my couch where I'd moan and coo in between bites of BBQ Pringles except I'd never make any money because I'm pretty sure no one calls 1-900 numbers anymore and then I couldn't pay my rent and I'd get evicted, and, and, and...

So anyway, 2007 was sort of my faltering attempt to move from being lonely to simply being alone, and I think there's a big huge difference between those two words. Because when I say I'm alone, I mean I know I'm ALONE...with my family an hour away, and no reliable, close friends within driving distance, if my car breaks down I'm screwed, and if I try to wax my own eyebrows, there's no one there to slap me back to my senses before half my forehead is burned off. But even if I'm alone, I can deal with the situation; when I was lonely all the time, the idea that my Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha never arrived along with my two dozen pairs of designer shoes after I filed the divorce papers really pissed me off, and I just couldn't handle it. But being alone made me start taking better care of my money and my house. It made me realize that I couldn't go out and try to date if I had no idea who I was and who I could potentially like. It made me learn to ask for help if I needed it, which was hard. It made me start a blog, and keep going on the blog even when I just wanted to stop writing and drift off into self-pity land. I've learned to diagnose all the worrying sounds in my car, and fix a few of them. I've repaired a garage door, and scraped a foot of ice off my driveway. I am more assertive, and willing to confront people to get things done. Being alone does good things.

I still get lonely now and then, too, though. This week--I guess because of the hearing and maybe a little bit of the Happy Couple Holiday Syndrome-- has been especially hard. On Sunday my dishwasher exploded, and as the cats perched on the kitchen table, I scrambled to the laundry room to grab every towel I could find to dam up the gallons of water leaking from its bottom. Today I stood at the top of my stairway, a pair of scissors in a shaking deathgrip, convinced by some odd sounds that a burglar was in my living room. Later that evening, my car wouldn't start. Twice. After a come to Jesus moment where I mentally went through my bank account to determine if I had enough money to pay for a wrecker and a rental car and determined I absolutely did not, I started it and it was fine. Everything that happened this week has ended up just fine, but there are just those moments where you wish you had SOMEONE...even an ex-husband so you could turn to them and say, "Maybe we should get a watchdog." Or something. You get the idea.

So, on Thursday I am going to try my best to go to that courtroom and just deal with the situation with as little guilt and regret as I can muster. It's probably going to suck a lot, and I am not looking forward to seeing J or J's mom one little bit, but it's going to be over soon and then I get to finally get to cut that one last tie to a past I'm not very proud of. I think I'm going to go do it alone, because after all that's happened in the past two years to change me, I think it seems fitting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gobble, Gobble

I just returned from an extremely relaxing, enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend during which the following things occured:

  • Mizzou won!
  • My mother drove my brother and I 8 miles towards the Kansas state line, parked the car on the shoulder, and refused to turn around until we sang "O Holy Night" for her without interpreting in the style of a Robert Goulet and Liza Minelli duet as we are sometimes wont to do.
  • My aunt got tipsy during her birthday fiesta at our local Mexican restaurant and gave us each "gifts" from her travel bag. My brother's was a is still unclear why.
  • I saw a bunch of my very old friends from high school and was relieved to find out they're all fine, upstanding, young adults and no longer play Magic: the Gathering (at least not openly)
  • Watched my mother cook, for the first time in her life, an entire meal from start to finish without any help. While she did forget to put sugar in the pies (and quietly freaked out as I stuck the front half of my body in the oven to stir in the sugar) and she caught the turkey just a tiny bit on fire, everything turned out nicely and we had a great dinner.
And of course...
  • I'm fairly certain I ate my body weight in leftovers. And also my body weight in foods found in restaurants. And Wal-Marts. Basically I started pigging out on Wednesday and haven't stopped since. And of course, the pigging out started not an hour after I gave myself the very firm talking to about NOT letting Thanksgiving be an excuse to go crazy...oh well.
Two steps forward and one step back, no? Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fair warning, people. This post is lengthy. I wrote it for selfish reason, but of course you're welcome to read it. Please know it's long and rambling and I absolutely will not resent you for stopping in the middle because you got bored. Just putting that out there before we start.

I really really wanted to go to bed early tonight and get a decent amount of sleep so I could be industrious and show up early for work so I could actually DO some work, but the fire alarm at the very top of my vaulted ceiling in my bedroom has a low battery and is CHIRPING once every minute as I am slowlyCHIRPtorturouslyCHIRPcompleCHIRP driven out of my mind. When I read the ad for my house in the paper, the idea of having vaulted ceilings was simply too posh to imagine. I've since come to the conclusion that the only thing a vaulted ceiling contributes to your life is the omnipresent dread at the thought of someday having to either buy or borrow a 12-foot ladder to change the battery on the smoke alarm that the moron mounted 10 feet above my head and which WILL NOT STOP CHIRPING. At least being jolted awake every 59 seconds gives me plenty of opportunity to write.

Remember tango? Remember how last week tango was this incredibly therapeutic, life changing event? Also, remember how last year at a tango thing my world was crushed by a moron in dance sneakers and I turned into a hermit for a month before I finally decided it was wasn't the greatest idea to avoid sun and human contact for the rest of my life? (I would link, but I'm typing this on Google docs and I can't, so if you want to read the detailed post about it, search for "tango" in my blogsearch bar)

Yeah, well.

I wish Yosemite Sam or someone Wild West affiliated would've drawn helpful warning signs on pieces of driftwood that said DANGER, TURN BACK NOW or EMOTIONAL BITCHSLAP AHEAD and posted them in regular intervals throughout the last three weeks so I would've at least thought about the possibility that dancing with strange men wasn't always going to be puppies and unicorns. Or I wish the high school me who diligently wrote down every profound quotation she encountered (So I could whip it out to impress a date? I seriously have no idea why) with a purple glitter pen in a spiral bound journal with a picture of a cat on it would've made a copy of the "Those who do not learned from the past are doomed to repeat it" page and stapled it to one of my hands so that every single time I put my hand on a man's shoulder to dance, or I gesticulated in my efforts to explain my addiction to tango and how just WONDERFUL it is and how FREEING and la la la...that the stapled paper would've reminded me not to put myself into the same position as I did last year, and to proceed with caution.

I guess I need to preface the rest of this post with this thought: if you have lived your life as a woman who, shall we say, is more prized for her cerebral qualities than her aesthetic ones, you also live your life through a series of little disappointments that change you in very small but profound ways as you grow up. At least that's how it happens for me. I mentioned in another post that I really believe there are three categories of women: beautiful women, tragic women
(not in the La Traviata sense, but in the pageboy haircut/inexplicable interest in raising guinea pigs and playing ragtime piano sense), and invisible women--those who aren't attractive, but they aren't unattractive either. I place myself in the third category because I've been invisible dozens and dozens of times in my dances, at parties, as I walk into a restaurant with a gaggle of gorgeous girlfriends...and the knowledge and experiences of never quite being pretty enough to be worth notice kind of slowly chips away at you until the you that you could be in those situations is completely obscured because you're just the DUFF ( if you don't know what that means).

And yeah, yeah...I will inevitably get an email from a Bona Fide Pretty Girl who will remind me that supermodels have problems too. In fact, it seems my friend Doctor Andy and I were writing at the exact same time about similar issues, and he published his own thoughts from a different perspective last night. I get that beautiful women have to deal with being objectified for their appearance, and always questioning whether opportunities or attention is coming because of her intelligence and accomplishments or the way her ass looks in a pair of Levis. I know that pretty girls suffer from the pressure of always maintaining their beauty, and that it's really hard and it can make them every bit as insecure as invisible women. But here's the thing, I'm pretty certain that 100% of women would rather be objectified for being attractive than unattractive. Even if the attention is negative, it comes from a positive place; beautiful women get stared at because their beauty is pleasant to behold. Invisible women get ignored because no one really knows what to do with them. Biologically, we are useless...thank God for brains and senses of humor or Darwin would've weeded us out in favor of Victoria's Secret models a century ago.

I think if you're a woman who's spent a lifetime of always being invisible, of always being the girl about whom guys would say, "God, Erin would be the world's most perfect girlfriend if she just didn't look like...Erin." If you've spent your life as the sidekick or the Gal Friday or the girl who matchmakes your guy friends with your girl friends because you know there's no chance the guys will actually want to date YOU, then you also know that over time, the chipping away sort of stops because there's nothing left of your self-image to destroy. That's when the insecurity starts to become very comforting. You know you don't have to shave your legs when you go out to dinner with a male friend, because there's absolutely no chance that your male friend asked you out on a date because he doesn't think of you that way. You don't have to worry about staying late at a bar and having perfect makeup or saying the perfect thing or pretending to be flirtatious when you'd rather be at home watching a Will and Grace marathon on Oxygen because you know you're not going to go home with anyone that night. After awhile, you realize you have a pretty good thing going; you can relax and be yourself and as long as you don't suddenly develop an interest in rodent farming or maybe learning Bulgarian folk dances or something, then you're going to be pretty comfortable as an invisible woman.

I'm sure the three of you who've kept reading to this point will say, "But Erin...what about inner beauty and finding your true worth through who you are and not what you look like?"

Hold on, I'm getting there.

The peculiar thing that tends to happen when someone like me finally gives up trying to be aesthetically beautiful and just starts tinkering around with life is that those women usually find someTHING to give them confidence and beauty rather finding someONE to validate them that way. And we've all seen enough Tyra (Don't lie; you've at least been subjected to secondhand Tyra and you KNOW that you've been wanting to YouTube her "All About the Vagina" show for a week now) to know that gaining strength through an internal rather than external transformation is going to be a substantially more gratifying experience. Every single Jennifer Weiner book, every single Bridget Jones or inspirational strong woman movie with a Whitney Houston soundtrack and starring Angela Bassett is about this, and they've become fixtures in our canon of social tropes because that process happens in real life. People who are damaged, especially women, find something inside themselves that is stronger, more capable, more talented, and more beautiful than they ever knew, and the confidence that knowledge instills in them also makes them ultimately more attractive than the pretty girls they're friends with.

And I guess that's what was happening to me over the last month; the first two weeks of tango lessons was about me getting over my fear of touching men again, and of my fear of being rejected for my size and my looks. When my worries about resting my body weight against K, my teacher, finally faded by my third lesson, and my mind stopped shrieking in horror everytime I looked at my profile in the practice mirror he had installed in his living room, I started focusing on actually dancing and connecting and moving my body to the music. The third and fourth lessons were absolutely lovely...we walked and turned and swayed on the dance floor and at the end of our last dance of our last lesson, K stepped away and broadly grinned at me. He was very pleased with the way I was dancing, he told me; I was on cloud nine. My third lesson butted up against a little tango practice party he was holding at his house, so I stuck around and sipped wine and nibbled on apple slices while the dancers arrived. I wasn't intending to really dance, because everyone else there was pretty advanced or at least experienced and I didn't want to make a fool of myself in front of people I'd have to see at milongas or other workshops later. But K asked me to dance, and then later Rich, a honest to goodness Conventionally Attractive Male, asked me too. Rich, I found out, was 27 and a swing dance teacher who had recently developed a similar tango addiction. We danced, and it felt really nice...he was encouraging when I did well, and he was patient when I didn't know what to do next. He helped me breathe and relax, and we had a very musical, lovely dance together. When we were done he asked me how long I'd been dancing, and he was impressed when I said just three weeks.

I wish I could've written about those exchanges in more eloquent terms, but for now I'll just say that I hope everyone who's reading this knows what it's like to feel beautiful for something you extraordinary it can be to trust yourself enough to let go and make art, even if it only lasts for the length of a three-minute tango song. For an entire week I walked around like Helen of Troy; my posture changed, I smiled at more people, I was vibrant and energetic and charming, and I was SO excited for the next time I got to dance, because I had a feeling it was going to be every bit as incredible as the past two weeks had been. I think, maybe, the way I was acting and the way I perceived life after feeling so good about something made me beautiful. I still have the world's greatest expanse of thigh, and my wrist and collarbones are not so much prominent as faint suggestions, but for the first time in a long time, I managed to step outside my physical appearance long enough to be actually beautiful.

I was having a fabulous day Sunday; I woke up late, puttered around the house a little, and later met Doctor Andy for dinner after watching an opera in which he played in the pit orchestra. After dinner I headed over to the old Presbyterian church that hosts the Sunday milongas (enter my mother's voice in your head saying "Social DANCING? On a SUNDAY? In a CHURCH? I guess it's none of my business what you people do up there.") and I was secretly pleased to find out that no one else assembled in the class had taken tango before. There was just NO WAY this could be disappointing, right?

(Notice what I did right there with the foreshadowing. Pulitzer Prize, here I come.)

So, remember when you started reading this at the beginning of this post and before the ten minutes of your life you wasted reading the rest of it and will subsequently never, ever get back...minutes you could've spent inspecting your belly button lint or texting inappropriate limericks about your boss to your cubicle partner? Okay, so back then at the beginning I mentioned last year I took some tango classes at the suggestion of a friend and ended up having kind of a major depression because one of the teachers there told me my body was too fat to tango properly. And of course, the moment I looked up from changing into my tango shoes, there he was again next to a woman who appeared to be in her early thirties, and who also appeared to be wearing a homemade Holly Hobby dress and pigtails and plastic flower barrettes. I'm sorry if I step on anyone's toes, but if I meet you and you are above the age of 11 and you are wearing any combination of the above outfit and you have not just come from a Britney Spears lookalike contest or your bedroom where you were busy playing Naughty Schoolgirl and Stern Headmaster with your lover, then I will judge you. No excuses.

Apparently, the girl was a coworker of the man who hates my body and she had taken a few classes with him in September and so they spent 40 minutes of our hour-long class demonstrating how to walk, how to embrace, how to do all the things I desperately wanted to do. And while the girl was not bad, per se, she was distracting, because she bounced and tittered and fell over a lot and I just wanted to scream because all I wanted to do was actually dance like I danced with Korey and not hold onto the arms of a diminutive Welsh woman who decided to try tango because she loved the guy who played J. Peterman when he won the Dancing with the Stars challenge during the first season. As the practica ended and the milonga began, the instructor who does not like me actually asked me to dance, which seemed to be a hopeful sign. We danced one song, inexplicably going round and round the room in a weird box step that no one has ever actually done in tango that I know of, and then he stepped back and said, "I can tell you're nervous. Thank you for the dance." And that was that. I guess nervous is better than fat.

To the man's credit, he was very congenial to me when we weren't dancing, but he also didn't ask me for another dance despite the lack of female partners there. Other men trickled in, and one by one we were eached asked to dance a set. I would inevitably start the dance with "I'm a beginner, so be gentle" and they would respond with, "I'm sure it's not as bad as you think" and then we'd dance and it WAS as bad as I thought and so we'd suffer through the eight minutes together and then we'd be done. No second dance. No more conversation.

And this is where the insecurity started seeping back in, because with Korey there was never any question of was I good enough or was I doing the right things...we just danced and he taught and I listened and it got better and better and better. But while I was dancing with these new men the prevailing thought in my head was that it was kind of like having really, really awful rebound sex after breaking up with a longterm partner. It felt disconnected and stressful and just kind of disappointing and I just wanted to go hide every time it was over because there was no connection, and the reason there was no connection was because I lost my confidence more and more as the night went on. I left early, because after a small group of Turkish ballerinas (not even kidding) wandered off the campus of the nearby university and into our milonga, I knew there was no chance of me getting dances with the men anymore. None of them had danced tango before, but they just looked so gorgeous at being bad that every single man in the room gravitated toward them. In contrast, I was sweaty, dishevelled, huge, and awkward trying to hide my bulk in one of the folding chairs in the corner of the room. I wasn't beautiful anymore.

So, this was Sunday, and I went through a 24-hour period of extreme self-pity and blubbering in my car and rewatching Bridget Jones for the 312th time while eating Indian takeout from my go-to restaurant for all things comfort food, and finally tonight I managed to get some perspective on the situation. Of course, I'm going to have to go back and not let this man discourage me from doing something that made me so happy. Of course I'm going to have to deal with my size and my looks on my own terms, because permanent, sustainable change is never going to happen unless I do it for myself. Of course I'm going to have to keep reading other tango blogs that say you're just going to have to act like a goddess because tango isn't about physical beauty so much as attitude and to talk to friends who all will reassure me that tango is a horrible struggle to overcome insecurities and learn about yourself and that's why it's so addictive and because it's a lot more than just's figuring out how to live your life, too. I know all these things, and yet right now I'm really cringing from having to face them.

The saying "beauty is pain" keeps popping into my head as I write this entry, because I think it means something different based on the type of woman you are. The conventional interpretation of it is funny; we all have to go through waxings and haircuts and shaving and plucking and exercising in order to conform to the generally agreed upon definition of beauty. Maybe for the truly beautiful woman, like Doctor Andy wrote about, the saying means that your pulchritude will never give you the privacy you need or friendships that aren't also confused by attraction. What it means for me, is that if you don't have the luxury of looking like a woman every man wants to have, then you're going to have to fight for your beauty, even if you lose it over and over and over. It maybe means that you're going to have to accept your child bearing hips or your too-thin mouth or your mousy brown hair and find something else that makes you magnificent. Maybe it means that you're going to do something to change those things, but that you also have to realize that those things aren't the most important part of who you are. It means that other people, like Asshole Tango Man for me, may be able to squash your confidence in a single sentence, but it's your obligation to yourself to do the work to build it back up.

God, that's a scary, wonderful thought.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Existentialism on a Grand Scale

My work's Biggest Loser challenge will have officially ground its tedious, soul-sucking self to an end this coming Monday with our final weigh-in and awarding of prizes. At some point in the last eight weeks one of the organizers made a giant bulletin board in our faculty lounge with a progress bar for each of the teams and little car cutouts with our names and our team nicknames on it. They're supposed to look like they're racing...little Beetle Bugs frozen against the corrugated paper like a finish line snapshot from the world's most annoying NASCAR weekend. The funny thing about the little car board is that they've been stuck in the same position for the past five weeks...Team 1 is just barely inching out Team 3, and Teams 2,4, and 5 are lagging somewhere closer to the starting line. I presume our challenge organizers simply haven't had time to update the board, but it's also kind of poetic it was left that way, because I think that week three was right about when everyone started realizing that maybe this whole Biggest Loser thing was a really bad idea.

My friend Stacie, whom I've mentioned in previous posts has been starving herself to win the challenge and looks dangerously gaunt and weak as a result, plunked herself down at one of our lounge tables the other day and started shoveling the contents of a very heavily loaded taco salad into her mouth. Pausing between snarfs, she looked up at the rest of us, sighed, and said, "I'm really freaking sick of dieting, you know?"

We knew.

For me personally, the Biggest Loser challenge thing has served as little more than a huge roadblock in my own getting healthy plan. I started out the challenge weighing in at 219.5, but only because I stood on the scale with two layers of clothing, my tennis shoes, a full stomach, and pockets full of keys, my cell phone, and about three dollars in change. I went in there weighing about 6 fake pounds more than I normally would've, and I'm guessing that at our final weigh-in, even if I stripped down, starved myself the entire Sunday before, and exercised like crazy, I'm still going to end up at about 212 lbs. So basically, over eight weeks, I've managed to lose all of 1.5 pounds of actual weight. And for what? I'm going to get a 40 dollar Wal-Mart gift card if my team wins...there's no chance I'll win the individual challenge because some of our, um, more substantial teachers have shed 20-30 pounds in the last eight weeks just because they've never dieted before. So now I'm pissed because I've basically done nothing for the past two months, and not because I wasn't dieting hard enough, but because I was dieting in the first place.

I came to the sobering realization this week, as I was drinking coffee and reading about Marie Osmond instead of actually writing lesson plans, that I lack some sort of basic integrity--a central core to my character--that I really ought to have as an adult. I think I'm flakier than I was five years ago; I promise people I'll do things so everyone will think I'm helpful, I'm an overachiever, a real go-getter, and then it takes me way too long to actually deliver on the promises. I let my opinions get swayed too easily by other, louder people because I don't like the confrontation inherent in standing up for things I believe in. I do about 50% of the work I ought to be doing because I know that's really all will get noticed, and relaxing is so much easier than pushing and pushing to do extra things. I prefer to do the things that are easier and that get me by than the things that are really good for me in the long run. And having realized all this in one big caffeine-inspired epiphany really made me kind of disappointed in myself.

And the weight loss stuff, at least in the last few months, is one of the few areas in which I can say I've been acting with a consistent pattern of insight, responsibility, and care for a long-term solution instead of a quick fix, so it's a particular letdown that I've allowed myself to backslide into all the bad habits I worked so hard to extinguish this fall. I wasn't interested in exercising yet, so in order to post a loss each week I didn't eat hardly anything for the 24 hours before the weigh-in, and then I joined all the teachers in the post weigh-in binging that started with lunch in the faculty lounge and usually didn't stop until late Friday night after lots of Mexican food and margaritas. And as things tend to go, since it was so easy to eat like shit on Friday, the binge days turned into binge weekends and then I spent the better part of the week alternating between asceticism for the sake of the weigh-in and total apathy for the whole thing. (Invariably, total apathy was more satisfying if it also involved a chocolate milk shake)

It seems the only person who isn't totally over the challenge is my teammate, and infamous Atkins dieter of posts past, Gen. She's been trucking along, losing 1-2 pounds each week and doing really well, and I'm genuinely proud of her. For Gen, it's all about willpower, and I know she battles each weekend when she's with her husband and her friends. She comes back each Monday talking about how "bad" she was, and how she's going to have to be really good before Friday so it doesn't show up on the scale. I know, to her, that "bad" means she had a slice of bread or maybe some alcohol or chocolate on a girls' night out, and whenever she says stuff like that I bite my tongue hard, because to me it's just absolutely insanity to wreck a good time by worrying about one tiny slice of bread. But that's how she rolls...I think she likes the way deprivation feels and she really grooves on seeing how long she can stick to her plan, even if weekends are always just one big excuse for her to be "bad".

So in this case, I wonder whether integrity also means willpower, or whether willpower is just a crutch for not having any sort of personal rudder for how to improve your health in the long run. Does not dieting require more character than dieting, or is it the other way around? This is making my head hurt. I think I need an apathy shake.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Slowing down.

I decided to go home to see my parents this weekend, partly because I hadn't visited them in a handful of months and there were promises of homemade pie and getting some Christmas shopping done and out of the way, and also because a weekend in my hometown means I get at least 24 hours to not have to focus on bills and housework and needy cats with digestive issues, so stuff tends to get sorted out in my mind.

I drove home on Saturday afternoon after two weeks of feeling pretty nasty, healthwise. My general mental/emotional well-being has been steadily improving and stabilizing for the past several months, and I've been feeling so good that Therapist John pronounced me cured and sent me on to embrace my new, shrink-free lifestyle last week. I'm pretty proud of that, because he's told me several times that only a very small number of people actually do the work it takes to get emotionally okay, and it's something I had to really struggle with for awhile before it kind of "took", but obviously it was totally worth it.

For some reason, though, while my brain is perky and ready to embrace life, my body's kind of rebelling against anything that doesn't involve curling up on the couch and reciting every single line of Center Stage as Oxygen reruns it for their 134th time this year. I'm worn out whether I sleep for five hours or ten, and I've caught myself mentally chronicling every single headache, bout of dizziness, or muscle pain I've had in a running monologue like I'm holding court in the shuffleboard shelter at the Boca Raton Golden Years Retirement Ranch or something. You know that feeling when your body is kind of screaming out for you to exercise it...stretch it, run it, build muscle...something? I have that feeling all the time, but when I actually go out to do something about it I return in even worse shape than before. I'm going to make an appointment with a family doctor to get a check-up soon, because it's ridiculous to be this young and to be constantly feeling this old all the time. At this rate I'll be riding a Rascal through the grocery store and taking out my teeth for an afternoon nap before Bingo by the time I'm 32.

The other thing that's been really bothering me is this Biggest Loser thing at my school, because a lot of my bad habits have started creeping back in in my efforts to make sure my weight is at its lowest on weigh-in day. I skip meals 24 hours before it's time to weigh in, and then I spend the next two days pigging out on total shit because I'm so famished from starving myself to stay ahead of the other teams. I know the other women are feeling it too, but we're all so terrified of disappointing one another that we keep pushing ourselves. It's only 40 dollars...big deal...but we're all acting like this is life and death, and we really need to stop it. I heard from one of the organizers that they're going to resume the contest in January after giving us time to "be bad during the holidays", and I just got disgusted with the whole thing. What's the point of doing any of this if it's just for the money or for the bragging rights, and everything is totally contingent upon whether or not it's convenient for us to lose weight at that time? Even my one ally at school in this whole "Stop dieting, people!" campaign has become a traitor, approaching me sheepishly after a few unsatisfactory weigh-ins to ask me if I'd buy some Hoodia capsules for her so her husband wouldn't find out she was taking them. I've decided to just quit the contest after this last weigh-in, because I feel like I need to stick to my principles on this, even if no one else cares.

It's really nice to hear when people have noticed I've lost some weight, and I'm even starting to see it myself...I had to have my picture taken for an interview someone did with me for a thing on weight loss bloggers, and I've posted it here because it shows me about a quarter of the way through with the actual weight loss part of this. This picture was the first time I've noticed any change in my body, so it was good to finally be able to acknowledge to myself what people have been saying at work and at home. I don't want to get comfortable here, though, and fall into that cycle of slacking off and then over-trying to make up for it and failing because it's too hard. And that's where I am right now...I'm too focused on short-term results and not so focused on actually eating well and moving around as a part of my life. I need to get my head back in the game somehow, because I don't want to be reading this entry a year from now and realizing I've been in the same holding pattern of assing around/feeling guilty that I can fall into so easily if I'm not thinking about what's important.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's The Most Wonderful 16% of the Year

How did the candy consumption go for you last night? I bought my Halloween candy on Monday and filched seven snack-size Kit Kats between then and Halloween. I think that's pretty good, considering the other forty-six pieces actually made it into someone else's mouth.

Since retailers and advertisers have pushed the official start date for the holiday season up to BEFORE Halloween, (Incidentally, I sort of stopped dead in my tracks and tripped over a rug today as I walked into one of the schools in our district and saw several children, some of whom were still wearing Halloween t-shirts, gawking at a giant, inflatable snow globe with Santa's village inside it. One of the teachers said a group got together at about 7:00 am to get it set up in time for "the Christmas season". Gross.) it seems now is as good a time as any to start working on a game plan for hunkering down and enjoying the holidays without spending New Year's Day prostrate on the couch and lamenting the tens of thousands of calories you ingested during the last two months. I know the season is a magical time, full of cocoa and cookies and eggnog and those marvelous bacon-wrapped Lil' Smokies that kind of skeeve you out even as you're licking the mystery sauce on your fingers and diving for more...

I know all that, and yet I hope this year I can whittle down some of my gastronomical excess of Christmases past. Last year at my work, we had a finger food buffet for an entire work week, and so for those five days my lunchtime meal was nacho cheese. Sometimes nacho cheese with hamburger, sometimes with Ro-Tel tomatoes...but always nacho cheese on chips and for some reason even though I think my body basically went on strike and refused to function until I STOPPED INGESTING CHEESE, I thought it was my social obligation to eat that junk every single day.

So, obviously, the next 61 days are going to be tough for anyone attempting to either lose weight or be consistently healthy. So I thought I'd share this website I use a lot for motivation and focus right now, so maybe it'll do some good later when we're all slumped over in a tryptophan coma and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with the sound off so we can mock the entries. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, the people who've lost weight on that site are amazing, and I'm assuming they got that way because they didn't eat five bowls of nacho cheese in five days. Here's hoping their mojo works for me this time around, too.