Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Year Ago

Friday, December 4, 2009

I’m pregnant.

I can’t quite get the words through my head.

I’ve been feeling nauseous and dizzy. Getting weird headaches. I’ve been really, really hungry…and really, really tired. I’ve been PMSing for the last two weeks, just waiting for my monthly visitor to appear at any moment.

But I’m late. And what’s a sure-fire way to have a period? Take a pregnancy test.

The Hubster bought me those silly, digital pregnancy tests. I guess he thinks I’m too blonde to read the lines correctly. So, this morning, I took it. (Yes, that means I peed on it.) A tiny hour glass started flashing in the results window. I rolled my eyes and set it on the bathroom counter while it “worked.” I washed my hands, weighed myself, peeking from time at the stick on the counter, which was still flashing. No pink lines to catch my eye, I stared at the test until the result popped up.


I picked it up and looked closer, thinking maybe it was possible to read it incorrectly. Pregnant? Me? No. Way. I compared it to the picture on the box. (Just in case I was reading it wrong. I suppose there’s a chance that could happen.) Pregnant.

Alone in the bathroom, I started laughing. I snapped a picture of the result with my phone and sent it to the Hubster. He called me seconds later.

“Hey, did you just send me a picture message?”


“What is it?”

“You can’t tell?” Damn.

“No, it’s kind of dark.” (And his phone sucks.)

“It’s a pregnancy test.”

Silence. Then… “What does it say?”

“Do you think I’d send you a picture of it if it said no?”


Yes, really. I’m pregnant. And excited. And terrified.

Reading these words a year later still brings tears to my eyes. I remember exactly how I felt that day…laughing all alone in my bathroom at six in the morning—completely dumbstruck and absolutely ecstatic. For years, I agonized over pregnancy test after pregnancy test, praying for two pink lines, a plus sign, a positive. Month after month, I was disappointed, devastated, and depressed. Medication didn’t work. Trying didn’t work. Time didn’t work. Nothing worked. Nothing.

I gave up.

The miracle that broke my streak of negative pregnancy tests turns four months old today. One day, I’ll write my recollection of the morning he was born. I remember laughing alone in my bathroom. Horror I felt when I started bleeding around six weeks. Relief when the ultrasound tech showed us the tiny heartbeat. Excitement when she pointed out his boy parts a few weeks later. The thrill of that first kick and of sharing his movements with my family. The exhilaration I felt when I realized I was in labor for real following several hundred contractions that meant nothing. Laughing and crying all at once when they laid him on my chest.

Today, he smiles when he sees me. He laughs when I talk to him and make silly faces. He rolls over and beams at me in pride for his accomplishments. He continues to amaze me with every breath.

A year ago today, my life changed forever. In some ways, I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. But I also can’t remember life without him.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Since he was born, I love watching Little Brother, wondering what he’s thinking. He’s such a little miracle and I often marvel at the tiny fingers, pink lips, and perfect dimples that grew inside of me for nine months or so. He is amazing and his big, blue eyes are so full of wonder that I can’t imagine what’s going on inside his sweet, bald head.

Tonight, I watched him while he nursed before bedtime, and it struck me what he might be thinking tomorrow. Because, tomorrow, I’m going back to work. And he’s still at the age where he thinks I’ve actually disappeared when I hide behind a blanket, so tomorrow, what will he think? That I’ve abandoned him completely? Where is my mommy and who is this lady holding me and why do I have to drink out of a bottle all day?

I KNOW it’s ridiculous. I know that he will be fine and we will both survive and I am being completely irrational. But I can’t help it. Familiar panic and anxiety well up inside of me and I can’t breathe and the tears burst from eyes before I can stop them. I get angry. I hate my husband and the fact that he doesn’t make enough money so that I don’t have to work. I hate my friends who are able to stay home with their children. I hate the women who work because they want something to do other than being a wife and a mother. I hate myself for starting my maternity leave two days before giving birth, stealing time away from the precious baby boy I’ve spent nearly every second with for the last 88 days. I hate my life.

I know that everything will be okay. Little Brother will be at a home daycare with a woman I know and I trust and I love. The Hubster and I will both be only a few miles away if we’re needed. I know that millions of women before me have endured and overcome this same obstacle. But tonight, I am still sad.

I am sad and angry and anxious, and I rocked Little Brother long after he had fallen asleep, dreading the moment I’d have to kiss him goodnight. I am avoiding my bedroom, avoiding sleep. Agonizing over waking up tomorrow morning and deserting my son, if only a few hours. Tonight is impossible.

(I’m sorry. I don’t really hate anyone—I am just feeling very, very sorry for myself tonight. I am SO grateful for the time I have been able to spend with him, and I know that many women aren’t able to do the same—I have been there, too. With Little Sister, I was on bed rest for 2 months, and I went back to work when she was 4 weeks and 6 days old. When that day rolled around this time, I sent up prayers and thanks that I got nearly two more months with Little Brother. I know I am lucky, but this is still so, so hard.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


[in-spuh-rey-shuh n]
a thing or person that inspires

[moh-tuh-vey-shuh n]
something that motivates; inducement; incentive

a person who teaches or instructs, esp. as a profession; instructor

a person or thing that leads

a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard

Turbo Jennie called me out tonight. (It was not the first time. It will not be the last. And I. Love. It.) The music was loud (it usually is) and there was something wrong with the microphone (also very normal) and I heard her say my name a couple of times…and at one point, she came over and pointed her finger in my face a la Jillian. I knew I must be doing something wrong, but couldn’t figure out what it was.

After class, I asked her what she was saying. Turns out, it was because I was going low impact. I had excuses…I usually do. My boobs are too big. My foot hurts. I’ll pee on the studio floor. But she just shook her head. “Those days are over!” she told me.

I thought about what she’d said for the rest of the evening. And damn it, if she isn’t right, AGAIN. I’ve gotten comfortable. I don’t jump too high. I don’t get too low. And why the hell not? It’s not that I CAN’T because I CAN. I’m doing what I’m used to. Doing what’s safe. But how can I grow? (Well, shrink?) How can I get better if I don’t try something new? If I don’t challenge myself?

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do—challenge myself. Jump higher. Get Lower. Work harder. Do MORE.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The "I've Only"s

I’ve got them. Not the Mondays. The “I’ve Only”s. And it gets worse…it seems I have passed them along to my kids.

Little Sister’s school has a fitness challenge going on where the kids run during recess and someone tallies their laps. Once they reach five miles, they get a little keychain charm in the shape of a foot. She was talking to Leader Pam about it today, and I overheard her telling her, “I’ve only run 2 miles.”

Big Sister is getting great grades in high school, which is a relief, because she struggled in middle school. At the beginning of the year, it because she’d “only” had a few assignments, but she’s keeping up with it and we are so proud of her. She’s a great artist, too, but “only” because she had a picture to guide her.

And me. Since giving birth ten and a half weeks ago, I’ve only lost 25 pounds. Since joining Weight Watchers again 9 weeks ago, I’ve only lost 8.6 pounds. I went back to the gym recently, but I’ve only been 6 times in the last three weeks.

Why? Why do we qualify our successes with that word? Why do we make them seem less important, less impressive than they should be? Leader Pam asked the question at my Weight Watchers meeting this morning—why can’t we celebrate our own successes?

For me, it’s because I’m not done yet. I have a hard time seeing the place I came from because I’m looking at how far I have to go. It’s hard to celebrate fitting into regular, not maternity clothes because I’ve still got boxes of clothes I can’t fit into. It’s hard to celebrate losing five or ten pounds because I’m nowhere near where I want to be.

It breaks my heart that my children have picked up on this and started qualifying their own achievements.

So, this week, I’m challenging myself to celebrate the small things and stop demeaning my success. I DID go back to Weight Watchers. I DID go back to the gym. I WILL continue to lose. And I will set a better example for my children while I’m working on it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Written in the Stars

A few months ago, I signed up at some website to have my horoscope texted to me every day. (Thank goodness for unlimited texting, or Big Sister would text us out of house and home—she’d racked up over 300 texts before she’d even owned the phone for 24 hours!)

Most of the time, “my” horoscope is way off and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. (“We know you like to bottle up your feelings, Gemini…” What?!?) Every once in a while, though, it hits the nail on its head and tells me exactly what I need to hear. The week I went back to Turbo, my horoscope said that Venus was in retrograde in the fitness sector and it would turn my routine around. (Something like that.)

Yesterday, I received this message: “There’s nothing wrong with your goals of getting healthier and finally fitting into your skinny jeans. But the way you go about it can make all the difference in the world—be careful not to get too obsessed, Gemini. All good things take time, so check the scale weekly, not hourly.” Considering I read the text at 11:30 in the morning and I’d already been on the scale 4 times, I think it was definitely advice I needed. (Advice I’ve heard before. Advice I never listen to.)

This morning, I got this one: “You’ve counted calories all weekend. Tonight, ditch that Weight Watchers scale and head out for a feast with your friends. You won’t undo all the good work you’ve done if you remember that tonight is about friendship, not stuffing your face.” Turns out, I actually did have a social afternoon planned with friends. Weird, right? Since I weighed in this morning, I did over-indulge indulge OVER-indulge in some artichoke-spinach dip, but I also spent a lot of time visiting. I’m absolutely loving spending all my time with Little Brother, but it’s nice to talk to grown-ups, too.

This week’s challenge: Not checking the scale! I rely on that thing WEIGH (ha-ha!) too much and I’ll admit that I let it affect food decisions that I make. This week, I’m going to eat smart, track my points, and keep up with my activities. I am NOT going to step on the scale until my meeting next Sunday morning. (In fact, I stashed it in my bathroom cupboard, just in case I feel the need.) I hate weighing “blind,” but the scale is definitely something I need to conquer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Step at a Time

Where to begin?

I’ve been back at Weight Watchers for about a month now. Going back was easier than I thought it would be. Maybe too easy. I made the decision early on to give myself a day “off” on Sunday, the day of my meeting. I decided I would track the food I ate that day, but not the points. It was also my “cheat” day, where I would have a little something that I wouldn’t normally have during the week…bacon, ice cream, a soft pretzel…something like that.

So guess what happened? Sunday turned into Sunday and Monday. And then Tuesday. And by Wednesday or Thursday, I’d wasted half the week and I was terrified to step on the scale. Why? I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. No excuses.

Last week was a tough one. My sweet tooth was acting up and I’ve no experience being home alone with food. When I’m at work, I bring the food I can eat. I eat the food I bring, and I’m okay. When I’m at home, though…all the food is here. I can have anything I want. And when the baby’s crying, it’s easier to grab a pop-tart than make something healthy for breakfast. It’s easier to run to a drive-thru when I’m out than to worry about getting home and being able to make something for lunch before he wakes up. It’s easier. Not better.

I haven’t been working out, yet, either. I’ve taken a few walks and attempted a post-natal yoga video I found on instant Netflix, but nothing like the workouts I did before or even during my pregnancy. At my post partum visit last week, my doctor made it a point to tell me I was healing, not healed, and I should continue to take it easy. He said I could try maybe 2 or 3 classes a week when I’m ready, but warned me not to dive back into the schedule I had before.

But I’m not ready. Some of it is physical—the aches and pains of childbirth that I’m still dealing with, but a lot of it is mental. It’s been 5 months since I did Turbo. (I hadn’t realized it had been that long until just now. 5 months?!) I’m afraid to go back. I’m the Fat Lady again, staring into a studio full of strangers. Worried I won’t be able to keep up. Worried I’ll make a fool of myself. Worried I can’t do it.

I can, though. I know I can. I know I can get back to the place where I was. I know I can succeed.

So I’m going to take it one step at a time. I bought some little jawbreakers at the store the other day. I can have 3 of them for 1 point, and they will last a long time, so I won’t be snacking all day on sweets. That’s my food step this week. I’m also going to meet my fruit and vegetable recommendation every day. As a nursing mom, I should be getting 8 servings a day. Yesterday, I had 10 and today, I had 9. It sounds like two steps, doesn’t it? They’re important ones.

For my exercise step, I’m going to shoot first for some activity 4 times a week. Yesterday, I walked with Leader Pam. (Love her!) Today was harder. I planned a walk with Little Brother, but he fell asleep while I was changing clothes. I decided to do the yoga video, but put a load of laundry in first and he woke up before I got my yoga mat rolled out. He's been into cat naps, lately, although he did finally sleep for 3 hours. He was a little fussy for a while, though…walking around, carrying 13 pounds of baby counts as some activity, right? Because I do that all the time. Next week, I will think about returning to the gym. But for now…one step at a time.

We’ve been talking weight loss mantras in our meetings the last couple of weeks. I didn’t really have one in mind…the old stand-bys: ELMO—eat less more often, or “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” But they weren’t really mine. A friend of a friend posted on Facebook: “Eat clean and workout dirty.” I kind of fell in love with that one and I’m going to use it, but I kind of just realized I’ve got one of my own.

One step at a time. It’s the way to go. Changing everything all at once is a recipe for disaster and failure. But I can change one thing. Can you?

Good luck to my friend, M, who starts her Weight Watchers journey as a path to get back in shape before adding to her family again. And good luck to Leader Pam, who is walking 50 miles this weekend (starting on Friday, the day she turns 50!) to raise money in support of The National MS Society. Remember, ladies…One step at a time.You both can do it. We all can.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Us Versus Them

At my Weight Watchers meeting this week, we discussed ways to incorporate activity into our daily lives. A topic that always comes up is gym alternatives.

Whether it’s an excuse people use to shy away or an honest fear, the gym can be an intimidating place. There are daunting machines, unclear etiquette, and the scariest pressure of all: Hot Bods. The Skinnies in Spandex stretching in front of the mirror and the Muscle Heads working it on the weight floor. THEY can be menacing and unapproachable to US, the average people, just looking to burn more calories than we take in.

A woman in my Sunday meeting told us how she stayed away from the gym because she was concerned about how she looked compared to THEM. The sub-Leader (Leader Pam was out pounding 5k of pavement!) asked her how she thought THEY got to look that way. The woman muttered, almost under her breath, “They were probably BORN that way.”

“But maybe they weren’t.” I hadn’t planned on saying anything. I didn’t know the woman and I was nursing Little Brother and I didn’t really want to draw attention to myself, but suddenly, everyone was looking at me. The sub-Leader asked me what I meant. I pointed out that you can’t know what someone has always looked like based on what they look like now. It’s not fair to assume that THEY don’t have to work just as hard as everyone else to look the way THEY do.

It’s an assumption many people make though. We see someone who’s slim and fit and we assume it’s always been easy for them. We figure they can eat whatever they want. We think they don’t need to exercise because…they were probably born that way.

Deep down, I know it’s not true. Last year, Turbo Jennie launched a “Before and After” campaign and challenged her followers (yes, it really is like a cult) to share pictures of the changes they’ve made with exercising and healthy living. She asked me to combine the photos for quick comparison, so I got first look at lots of them. She handed me photos at class one night and asked me to work my magic on them. I looked at them for a few minutes and then asked her who they were. When she told me, I was shocked. I had only known the girls in the picture for a few months, and to me, they were thin and strong and beautiful—and as far as I knew, they always had been. There was no way the round faces starting back from the photograph belonged to the women I knew. But they did.

Prior to my pregnancy, I was exercising 8 or more hours a week. It happened unexpectedly…I never considered myself a gym rat, but one class a week turned into three, and then six. I looked forward to each and every class, excited to see my friends, excited to sweat, excited to work out. I cried the day Turbo Jennie called me an athlete. That wasn’t me—I was the quiet one. The bookworm. The fat girl.

I am still one of US, but one day, I’ll be one of THEM. One day, someone I just met won’t believe how heavy I used to be and when I pull out a picture, they’ll be shocked and tell me they always just assumed I had it easy.

But I’ll know the truth.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Coming Home

Last Sunday, I stepped back into the world of Weight Watchers. It might seem a little early to jump back on the bandwagon—I have NOT made it back to the gym yet; I’ve still got some healing to do—it was a goal I’d set during my pregnancy. I was so sure Little Brother would be joining us sooner, rather than later, and darn it if the little stinker didn’t wait right up until his due date to make his debut. (We are both doing well and my family and I are completely in love with him.)

My son was 17 days old when I attended my first meeting since quitting in December. I packed on 40 pounds during my pregnancy, and it took me almost the entire time to cope with my weight gain, but I survived. I did NOT have a 40 pound baby, and the weight I lost by the time I left the hospital was only a fraction of the total I’d gained. I am breastfeeding and I know I need to continue to nourish my baby, but I have been anxious to shed the excess weight I’ve been carrying. (Because baby car seat/carriers are HEAVY! I don’t need even more pounds to lug around!) Weight Watchers offers an option for nursing mothers that allows me to lose weight safely without affecting my baby or my supply.

I was nervous about renewing the program I know so well. The last few weeks have been filled with hurried meals, eating out, and numerous trips to our local Culver’s. My first meeting topic was about not denying yourself foods you love, but rather, finding ways to incorporate them by choosing lighter versions, decreasing the frequency of indulgences, and making up for the extra calories with activity. It was a terrific meeting to attend because it reminded me that foods aren’t taboo or off limits, which is why this works for me.

My week went well. I had difficulty following all the “Good Health Guidelines,” but I made it a point to write down and calculate points for everything I ate—including one trip to Culver’s on Thursday, treats at Movie Night on Friday, and a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese on Saturday. I was stressed at times—especially when the baby was hungry at the same time I was—but I learned to ask for help when I needed it (which was often) and that it was okay to let him cry while I finish making my lunch so I could eat at the same time he did.

And I lost 4 pounds. It’s not a record—I think last time I joined WW, I lost 6 pounds the first week. Once, I lost 11 pounds!—but it’s okay with me. I’m not worried about losing the weight quickly…I just want to lose it. From time to time, I lament over the goal I set years ago…to be at a healthy weight by the time I turn 30. I was on track to be there ahead of schedule, but Little Brother set me back a little bit. (Worth EVERY. Single. Pound.) I’ve got 8 months to get there and about 80 pounds to lose. I could still make it, but I’m not going to let the stress get to me. I’m going to stay on plan, exercise as soon as I am up to it, and enjoy my family. I’m going to live my life.

But it feels so good to be back.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Although quite familiar with the word, it’s not one I’m particularly fond of. Especially when it’s followed by the word exercise.

I’ve been more than a bit remiss in updating here…at first it was because I hadn’t yet shared the news of my pregnancy with everyone and I had a hard time blogging without working it into my story somehow. Instead of essentially lying with every word, I chose not to write. (Okay, that’s not true. I was writing, just not anything interesting enough to share.)

I’m now 25 weeks pregnant with a very naughty little boy. I had some bleeding right around 6 weeks, which turned out to be nothing. An ultrasound at 12 weeks took almost an hour because he wouldn’t get in the right position for measurements. (It literally took jumping jacks in the hallway to get him to move.) At 19 weeks, the ultrasound tech had a hard time getting a peek between his legs. He also frequently rolls away from the Doppler during my appointments, along with giving me heartburn and drop-kicking my bladder every time I get into bed.

That said, I love the little bugger and can’t wait to meet him this summer.

This past Friday, I started having contractions just before I left work. I hadn’t really been feeling well and, having gone through preterm labor twice with Little Sister, I knew what the cramps in my lower back and pelvic area meant. I’d had a contraction or two earlier in this pregnancy, usually during or after exercising, but they weren’t really painful or consistent enough to cause my any worry. Friday was different.

I got home and sat down for a little while, then took Little Sister shopping. A friend of mine pulled into the parking lot as I was getting out of my car and we shopped together in the store. I got home around seven laid down for a little bit. I called my doctor’s office and explained what was going on. With my history of preterm labor, they wanted me at the hospital right away.

The Hubster was out on a bike ride, so I called him about fifty-bajillion times. When he got home, we left for the hospital. Once there, they hooked me up to some monitors, did a check “down under,” and ran a bunch of tests looking for infection and a protein that indicates labor. They monitored my sporadic contractions for a little while and came back to do another cervical check. There was no change and all the tests came back negative, so they sent me home with instructions to follow up with my doctor early this week. She told me to take it easy over the weekend and joked, “Don’t take a jog around the block.”

“What about kickboxing?” I asked.

She laughed before she realized I was serious. “No!” she told me. “No exercise.”

I rested for the whole most of the weekend, and had contractions here and there, but nothing lasting as long as I dealt with on Friday. I called this morning and got an appointment with my doctor this afternoon.

The doctor checked me out and found no changes from what the doctor I saw at the hospital had documented. He reassured me that everything is fine with both me and the baby. He asked about my work schedule and told me if my contractions get worse or more painful, I may need to cut back on my hours. Getting up, he asked me if I had any more questions.

Knowing and dreading the answer, I asked my question. “What about exercise?”







“No. You’re done. No exercise.” He told me I’m doing too much…my body is stressed out and the contractions are its way of coping.

He patted my arm and laughed a little, telling me that he usually really has to sell exercise to pregnant women. It’s normal for him to have to beg them to get out and take a walk…not so normal to have one in his office, begging to be allowed to kick-box. “Take a break,” he said. “It will be okay.”

I nodded, the tears already stinging my eyes, my nose already turning red, and my face burning. I got dressed when he left the room and opened the door to leave. He stopped me in the hallway and reminded me to take it easy.

I will try.

I’m having a hard time with it, though. I tried to go back to last summer when the orthopaedic surgeon told me I couldn’t exercise with my sprained foot. Back then, though, I had options. I could swim, ride a bike, and lift weights as long as I was sitting down. Exercising with limitations seems welcome, now that I’m facing no exercise at all.

Of course, I want a happy, healthy baby born close to term. I want to be happy and healthy, too, though. I’ll listen to my doctor because I know it’s for the best, however, my anxiety is already through the roof. On the plus side, my social calendar just opened up, so if anyone is up for coffee or dinner, most of my evenings are available. On the other hand, though, I’ve made a lot of friends at the Y and I’m going to miss the time spent sweating there together. I’m already feeling a little shunned since announcing my pregnancy and hanging out at home, alone, while the Hubster takes the girls to the Y for the next three months or so…I’m already lonely.

So tonight....when I should be in Hip Hop, perfecting my krump, I’m making enchiladas for the family. Later, when I should be in PiYo, bending and stretching myself into positions no woman who is six months pregnant should even look at, let alone attempt, I’ll be hanging with my girlfriend, The Sex Toy Lady bemoaning yet another activity I’m not allowed to enjoy for a few more months.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Angry Fat Girls

I’m reviewing this book for Turbo Jennie, who was sweet enough to let me borrow it before she even got a chance to read it herself. (Shoot, I think I’m not supposed to tell people she’s sweet. I meant to say she’s one tough cookie.)

Angry Fat Girls started with a blog. (See, Charlotte? It’s just that easy. What’s the hold up? Kidding!) Frances Kuffel lost 188 pounds, gained more than half of it back, and blogged her way through the trials of trying to lose it again. Through her blog, she met other women in similar situations (including one woman who had gained over 200 pounds in just three years) and several of her readers became friends. Angry Fat Girls is about Frances and four of these women—Wendy, Mimi, Lindsey, and Katie—and follows a year of their journeys to lose weight and change their lives.

The stories of these women really hit home for me. Their relationships with their mothers made me take a look at how I grew up with my mother. I remember nights of eating baked chicken breast and getting “the look” if I reached for seconds of something…the steamed vegetables and the “do you really need that” conversations we had. When I looked for someone to blame for my weight, I blamed her because I felt deprived of things so when I actually got the chance to eat forbidden foods, I went at them with abandon, resulting in uncontrollable binges that grew more and more frequent as I gained independence. As much as my mother tried to help, she was nowhere near as controlling as the mothers of the Angry Fat Girls. One mother was so distressed at her daughter’s weight that she refused to let her go on a trip unless she lost ten pounds. The poor girl nearly starved herself trying to meet her mother’s expectations.

So many of the AFGs suffered from one eating disorder or another and their combined list of failed weight loss plans was extensive and daunting…especially since my own list is fairly comparable. Reviewing the statistics of their yo-yoing numbers on the scale was a familiar experience, as was the negative self-image each of the AFGs felt.

Angry Fat Girls revealed a formula of which I was not previously aware. For every 25 pounds a woman loses, it takes her brain a year to adjust. Twelve months for her brain to catch up and actually see the thinner woman she’s becoming. It makes sense. It’s why I still browse sale racks that contain clothing four sizes too big for me. Why it never occurs to me to try on a smaller size and I end up buying pants that hang down to my crotch because they’re too big. It’s why I just can’t fathom a man smiling at me when there are so many other women to choose from. In my head, I’m still the Fat Lady I was when my journey began. And, while I’m starting to gain confidence and actually see the changes between who I was and who I am, it’s a difficult passage.

Perhaps the most startling breakthrough I had while reading this book came late last night as I struggled to keep my eyes open, knowing I was just pages away from finishing the book. Frances and three of the AFGs were planning a get-together and trying to decide where to go and who wanted to see what. Inevitably, the answer was, “Whatever we do is fine.”

Whatever we do is fine. I hate those words. It’s a fat thing: I need people I’m traveling with or entertaining to have a good time so that they’ll a)forget what I look like, b)forget the weakness and slothfulness that I am, and c)be in debt to me, a fat person’s approximation of love. To make it all worse, I, a fat woman, was in charge of three fat women. The Fat Code would be in complete effect. No one would voice an opinion, a desire, a dislike, an objection. We’d look like a collection of bobble-head dolls, always deferring, always listening for the subtle code of disagreement: “If that’s what you want to do…” “Whatever you say…” “I’m just along for the ride…”

It’s a fat thing. I knew that there were perils of being a Fat Lady, but I didn’t realize how deeply it had affected me. The Fat Code completely applies to me. I don’t like to be the decision-maker. I don’t want to decide where to eat for dinner, what movie we should see, or what book our book club should read next. I don’t want to pick something that someone won’t like…don’t want anyone to remember that I’m the one who made a bad choice. Will knowing this change the way I feel about making decisions? Probably not, but I will certainly be more aware…and I will attempt an effort to voice my opinions more often.

Angry Fat Girls was a great read and I certainly recommend it. In being a voyeur of these five women, it really made me look at how I see myself and how others see me. Whether you’ve been an Angry Fat Girl, you are one, or you know one, it will definitely give some insight into the minds and hopes of Fat Ladies everywhere.

Monday, February 08, 2010

I Can't Fight this Feeling

Traffic this morning was not fun. Lately, it’s been my “alone” time. Stolen moments to myself when I can crank up the radio and sing as loud as I want or talk to a friend on my Bluetooth without little ears to overhear and big mouths to interrupt. Today, the sign above the highway indicated my normal nine-minute-drive would take twenty-five. In reality, it took more than forty-five minutes, hindered by snow, poorly plowed roads, and busses moving on and off the shoulder.

The bridge over the river is an obstacle I endure daily. Since the 35W bridge collapse in 2007, I approach it wearily on most days, but I’m more apprehensive if traffic is backed up and I can see brake lights. My anxiety is worse yet if there is snow on the road. In my mind, the extra weight of the snow, combined with hundreds of vehicles idling while waiting to cross the bridge is the recipe for a disastrous repeat. On days I feel the trepidation rising, I try to distract myself with a phone call to my mom, a blast from the radio, a loud, off-key show tune…anything to get my mind off the stretch of bridge ahead of me. Other days, the uneasiness I feel turns into a full-blown panic attack.

Today was not a good day.

I was concentrating on the snowfall and keeping my windshield clear. The car behind me was intermittently flashing his brights at people who dared to come between us as he attempted to keep five or six car lengths between himself and the car in front of him. A bus on the shoulder was impeding traffic trying to merge onto the highway. I was listening to songs from Glee, wondering how in the world I’m going to make it until the show comes back on the air in April. My subconscious, though, knew the bridge was looming ahead.

My hands gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white and I suddenly found myself unable to breathe. My chest tightened as I forced air in and out of my lungs, cursing when I discovered I had already passed the last exit before the bridge. I have a friend that lives nearby and I knew she would understand and let me hang out for a little while if I showed up on her doorstep, too afraid to cross the bridge.

The tears came then, stinging my eyes and choking me as my breath came in short bursts, accompanied by frantic sobs that sounded foreign to my ears. I wanted to turn up the radio to drown out my hysteria, but that would mean letting go of the steering wheel, which I held in a vice grip. In the center lane, I concentrated on the car in front of me. A cement truck pulled up along side my small sedan. Too heavy! That truck is too heavy! Get off the bridge! My mind screamed. I squeezed my eyes closed for a second, forcing myself to open them again and focus on the road directly ahead.

Images and thoughts filled my head and I wondered, for the millionth time, why I hadn’t invested in one of those tools that can slash though a seatbelt and break the car window in the event of an emergency. I had a plan, though. I’ve had it in the back of my mind for the last two and a half years. If the bridge started to crumble, I would throw on my emergency brake and open my power windows before the car started to fall so I could climb out before I hit the water below. I ignored the voice in my head telling me it was too cold…the river was mostly ice…there’s no way I would make it.

I stared out my windshield at the sea of brake lights creeping over the pavement, silently willing the cars blocking my escape to move out of the way. Okay, my pleas were not so silent. In reality, I screamed at them, my sobs making the appeals almost unrecognizable. GO!

After several minutes a few hours an eternity, I finally made it to the other side of the bridge. I contemplated taking the first exit to sit in the parking lot of a deserted gas station and cry for a while, but I was already flirting with being late to work. Instead, I loosened my grip on the steering wheel, and rolled my shoulders a couple of times. My entire body ached with tension. The crying continued sporadically until I reached my office building. In the parking lot, a woman I didn’t know grinned and greeted me with a comment about our everlasting winter. I offered her a weak smile, but couldn’t come up with a response. Shaking legs carried me into the building, where I stared at my reflection in the mirrored wall of the elevator. I looked tired. A little pale, but the image starting back at me certainly didn’t echo the anguish I’d endured this morning.

Crossing the bridge brings me a panic attack a couple of times a month. I never know when they’ll strike. While they’re more likely to happen when the weather (and therefore traffic) is bad, they can hit on a clear day when traffic is moving quickly, too. In May, I’m starting a new position at one of our locations less than four miles from my house. No highway. No river. No bridge.

Only seventy days left. And one hundred and forty more chances for absolute, uncontrollable panic.