Tonight I was mowing the lawn at my house. I actually enjoy this chore, if the kids are asleep or gone. I pop in some earbuds and sing along to whatever is playing in my ears, and push the mower around the yard until it looks pristine (ok, maybe just shorter). Since I'm not someone who "creates" or "builds" things for a living, I don't often get to see the results of any labor I might undertake. Seeing a freshly cut lawn afterwards is a great reward to me. I feel like I've actually accomplished something.
As I was mowing tonight I became increasingly aware of how much weight I have gained in the past year. This is distressing to me. I spent the better part of 2007 and 2008 shedding some 140 lbs. Slowly in 2009 and 2010, about 55lbs have crept back onto my belly, thighs, face. And the more physical activity I do, the more I realize how much weight I have gained. My huffing and puffing around the yard is inescapable. And I'm frustrated.
Since I was about 13 I have battled my weight/my physical self. Oddly enough if you had asked me some years ago when it started, I would've told you birth. My mother, who is obsessed with weight (both mine and her own), had me fairly convinced that I was likely to be mistaken for Shamu when I was 8 or 9. It wasn't until years later that I realized I was a pretty normal-sized kid until 13. At 13 and 14, I poured on weight. Again at 18 and 19, I gained. I lost 85 lbs or so my last year of college working out and eating better, only to regain much of that weight in my first year of law school at age 22 and 23. I gained even more weight prior to my first pregnancy, until I was well over 300 lbs. Oddly enough I lost weight with both of my pregnancies, and then in 2007 and 2008 I dropped off a substantial amount of weight to get to the smallest I had been since age 14 most likely. And I felt awesome. I was in great physical shape and had energy to keep up with my kids. Then in 2009, I began to slide backwards, and to land where I am now - about 55-60 lbs heavier and pissed off.
Of course it is no mystery why I have gained weight. I have made bad choices, I have spent time stress eating. I have chosen not to exercise for months on end. The question that comes to my mind is why? Why for nearly 2 years did I do everything right only to halt that course of action and go back to the way I had been living before? Part of me says it was the stress of my divorce. Or it was the stress of not knowing where the hell I'm going to land. But those really aren't very good excuses. In the middle of the worst marital stress I had, I did the right things. When my son was sick and often hospitalized, I managed to stay the course. When I was opening my own practice, and terrified of what would happen to my stream of income, I held on to the new, healthy habits. So, back to the question, why now?
Before I began to gain, I became somewhat obsessed with my weight. I was on a scale everyday, I couldn't figure out how I had gotten to the point of having lost a person, and I couldn't figure out how to stay there. Part of me felt the disconnect, but I couldn't identify why I felt that way. I just felt a sense of brooding.
I think perhaps the answer for me is my own discomfort with disclosure - with telling secrets- with revealing who I am. Each of the times I gained massive amounts of weight, I have been at a vulnerable moment in my life. I've felt alienated and lost from who I was. I have felt exposed in some way. My reaction to vulnerability appears to be to drop any and all good habits with regard to my physical self and to gain weight rapidly, as if a layer of insulation around me could protect me from the risk...the potential for rejection. This latest round of gaining started about 14 months ago, about the time I decided that life was going to change with or without my cooperation. I, as much as I could, embraced the process, and tried to be patient and gentle with myself. Some days I have been successful, and other moments I haven't been. But I started writing, reading and talking after spending years being fairly disingenuous with myself. I asked hard questions, and struggled with the answers. I let myself grapple with the unknowns. I refused to blink. As I struggled internally I no longer spent anytime on the external me. So, now what?
Well, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not much good at balance, and that I have to start to figure that part of my life out. Living in the not knowing has become normative for me, and I cannot afford to physically wait this phase of my life out. I have to begin again. Begin anew. I have to learn some balance between the search for God, for myself and the physical journey to renew my body. There is room for both.
The bigger issue is that I have to discover how to risk without running, how to be honest without seeking to hide behind extra layers of myself. This is the key that has eluded me each time I have lost weight. Each time I have failed to figure out the internal struggle associated with my weight. At some point I have gotten scared, frightened of who I was without the excess weight. And that fear drove me back down the physical road to destruction. Oddly enough even with my discomfort at having gained weight, I have again returned to a place where I am affectionate with people. I am being more honest, both physically by reaching out to people I love and emotionally by expressing who I am without apologizing for who I am.
The time for renewal has come again. And the time to run has passed yet again.