Healthier and Happier: Living In My Body

Several months ago, I wrote a piece called Public Bodies for Blogger Body Calendar.

If you haven’t read it, go do that now. We’ll be here when you get back!

Done? Awesome. Let’s move on.

When that piece went up, I got lots of wonderful support and a few predictable notes of “concern.”

“You forgot to mention that being fat will kill you!”

“Maybe you should try going on a diet.”

“Have you tried [insert any one of half-a-dozen diets here]?”

“Don’t think you’d feel better if you lost some weight?”

Oh, the thousands of assumptions embedded in those statements! Chief among them is this: people who have a “healthy” weight have willpower; people who are fat do not.

It amazes me that people don’t realize how ridiculous that is.

Even more amazing? I don’t realize how ridiculous it is. Or I do realize it, but I forget, and I forget often.

I certainly know the effects that my weight is having on my body. There’s the bulging disc in my lower back that causes constant pain. There are the metformin pills I take to combat insulin resistance. There’s the fact that so many of the ordinary activities of life leave me breathless, my heart hammering in my chest.

How could I be unaware of the many ways I would feel better if I lost weight? I would have more energy and I could sit on the floor without wondering how I’m going to manage to get back up. I could go to any theaters and restaurants I chose without considering whether or not I will be comfortable in the seats. My arms wouldn’t go numb when I sleep on my side and I would be able to cross my legs.

After Jacob was born I lost 90 pounds in 6 months.

And the diets. Oh, the diets. I was a very successful dieter with a lifetime weight loss in the neighborhood of 1,500 pounds. I’m good at dieting. Damn good.

I’m not going on another diet, ever. I can’t think of any other thing I could do that is more self-destructive than to go on a diet (And if you call a diet a lifestyle change? It’s still a diet.).

Nope. A diet is only good for punishing myself, and I’ve done enough of that.

If I could change myself through punishment, self-hate, and general unkindness, I’d be a perfect person by now.

Of course, the other way I punish myself is with food. I eat things that are not nourishing and make myself feel sick, fatigued, and depressed. I eat too much food, which is how I’ve become fat, and being fat is a pretty big punishment.

When I lose weight, I’m always thrilled to be thin, but I don’t like myself any better than I ever did. I feel like being thin is the least I can do for a world that is disgusted by my fat body; that delicious food is for other people and diet food is for unworthy and unattractive me. A diet feels like penance and a thin body like something I did to earn my right to live in the world instead of a gift I’ve given to myself.

So I start to eat again – cupcakes and pizza, cookies and chips. More punishment, more self-hatred, the weight comes back (and more), and around and around I go.

Five years ago, a man at church was giving me a blessing and he told me, “When you know down here [he touched my stomach] that you are a daughter of the creator and you don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love, everything will change for you.” I’m stepping out in faith that love can do for me what self-condemnation has never accomplished.

I don’t know where taking care of myself is going to take me. I don’t expect to become thin, but I hope that my body will become a healthier, more comfortable one. Most of all, I hope I will learn that I am worthy of the air that I breathe and the space that I occupy.

The World Is Burning

On September 13, 2001, I was home alone. I don’t remember why; there should have been kids in the house. Perhaps I wasn’t alone, and the kids were napping? In any case, I was at my desk, doing daycare paperwork, when the phone rang.

The phone had been ringing a great deal. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to talk, to connect. The world was burning.

A very officious-sounding woman was on the phone, “Hello, this is Deputy Smith from the Bernalillo County sheriff’s department. Is this Adrienne Jones, child care provider for the infant Kyle Marks who died yesterday?”

“Excuse me,” I squeaked. I set the phone down and vomited in the wastebasket. The world went black around the edges as I rinsed my mouth and tried to regain enough composure to speak.

On the phone again, Deputy Smith was apologetic. “Ms. Jones, I thought you knew. I’m so sorry; I would have been gentler. I thought the family would have called you.”

“No, I haven’t seen them since Tuesday. They got scared. No, they were upset. Everyone was upset and they came to get him right before the second tower went down. What time was that? When did Kyle die? Oh, my God. Was it the same thing? Did he die the same way as his brother?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I don’t know. The coroner has to make that determination. Kyle died early yesterday morning. The parents woke up and he had passed away. I’m so sorry; I need to ask you a few questions. I’ll try to be brief, OK? Can you answer a few questions?”

“Yes, of course. I’m sorry.”

The deputy asked me a dozen questions – standard stuff, and since I’d never noticed a thing about Kyle or his parents that concerned me, we were done before too long.

When I had answered all of her questions and finally hung up the phone, I lost my mind with grief. For Kyle, yes; for the loss of a little boy who had only lived four months, but even more, I wept for Kyle’s parents. Their first baby, Noah, had died just 10 months earlier.

Twice, in one year, they buried a child.

Twice.

A few days later, Brian and I went to Kyle’s funeral at a tiny church in the North Valley, then followed the funeral procession to the cemetery. I rode head-down the whole way, crying into a giant ball of tissues. When he stopped the car and I finally looked up, I realized we were just up the hill from Gabrielle’s grave.

I dissolved into a puddle of overwhelming grief – for Kyle and his brother, for Gabrielle and Rachel, for parents and siblings and spouses and lovers and friends and children. The weight of a nation – the world – one family. The grief.

So much pain.

The number dead in the September 11, 2001 attacks is staggering – 2,996 – but it is, in some sense, meaningless.

Her spouse; his niece. Their daughter. His sister. Her best friend. His lover. Their youngest child. His mom.

Individuals.

Wives wept in the shower; pastors, imams, rabbis, and priests comforted their people; fathers held their children. People suffered. People. Individual people, bound together by the threads of pain.

Do you remember in the days after the towers came down, and the people on the ground were covered in ashes so that they all looked the same? People showed up to help – thousands of people – and those of us far away from the site of the tragedies said prayers and helped in other ways. We held our breath and hoped for survivors; we wept together when there were only a few. We cried with gratitude for the many heroes – first-responders and ordinary people who risked everything, or gave everything.

There was so much heat in that connection.

I hugged Kyle’s dad after  the funeral and said, “I miss your little boy. I loved him.”

He wept into my hair, crying, “I can’t stand it. It hurts too much. I can’t stand it!” We cried like that for a long time, together.

Together.

It’s better that way.

Not easier; not less painful. Just…better.

Multiply compassion and love in the world this weekend, my friends. Multiply hope.