How could she possibly think she’s fat?

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For most of my adult life, excepting the nine months I was pregnant and the eight weeks or so that followed when I starved myself to fit into a bridesmaid dress for a friend’s wedding, I have wavered between a size 0 and a size 8.

That is a fairly wide but mostly healthy range, accounting for a roughly 30-pound variance across a relatively narrow, 5’6″ frame. There have been times when I have felt too soft, other times when I have felt too sharp, and other times when I have felt just right.

The problem is that the “just right” times are elusive. I almost don’t appreciate them until they’re gone, because when they’re here, I’m often so worried they’ll slip away that I’ll overdo an exercise routine or I’ll skip every meal but breakfast. Next thing I know, my daughter doesn’t want to cuddle with me because I’m “too pointy”. Then I’ll think, “She is right. I am too thin,” and I’ll inch back up another dress size. It’s when my size creeps up again that I start to panic – and yes, I mean panic – that I’m losing my figure.

It’s more accurate, of course, to say I am losing my perspective.

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Good Friday: An Optimist’s Approach

Easter Sunday, First Presbyterian Church in Dadeville, Ala. My notes scribbled on the back of the bulletin from my grandmother’s church:

“Good Friday wasn’t the worst of mankind. In fact, it was the best man had to offer at the time: a confluence of Jewish piety and Roman law. It wasn’t man’s worst day. It’s just that Easter was God’s best day.”

I meant to write about this before now, but a health scare got in the way. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled the Monday after Easter to follow up on a couple of ovarian cysts I knew from a previous ultrasound were large and complex. My doctor wanted to see if they had grown or changed in makeup. They had. She scheduled surgery to remove and biopsy them. Then, that night, one ruptured and sent me into a tailspin of serious pain.

For some stupid reason I went to work, made it a few hours, then went home and passed out. I called my doctor first thing in the morning. She phoned in a painkiller and rescheduled my surgery to the next available operating time, some 36 hours later. It has now been a week, and I am exhausted but feel better than I did before the rupture of the cyst. The cyst turned out to be a symptom of endometriosis, which she was able to remove during the surgery.

I cannot believe how wonderful my family, friends and coworkers have been throughout this ordeal. They’ve kept me fed, kept me company, kept me comfortable, and kept my daughter. When I was freaking out before having a diagnosis, they offered perspective and reason. I have felt warm, loved, deeply blessed.

What does this have to do with the Easter sermon at my grandmother’s church?

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Endometriosis: Five Things I’ve Learned From A Minor Health Scare

I am writing this post from bed, on my phone, under the influence of painkillers, so there’s a fair chance it’s rather sloppy. I’m not concerned. I think it’s important to share what I’ve learned from a recent health situation that, to be honest, freaked me out more than a little.

So – five things I’ve learned from dealing with endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and a hastily scheduled surgery to deal with all that:

1. Try not to assume the worst before you have all the facts. I had to wait six weeks between the first ultrasound that confirmed I had ovarian cysts and the second that confirmed they had gotten bigger, then undergo surgery before I knew whether the cysts were endometriosis and benign or something else and not. It was hard to keep my mind from going straight to cancer, even though I don’t fit the profile and my doctor said the likelihood was slim. The worst part of this is that when you’re scared, that fear influences your behavior about many things beyond the topic at hand.

I learned that if you recognize this, you can fend it off a little. It also occurred to me that my daughter tends to “awfulize” like this, too, a habit I think we will work on together.

2. Talk to the women in your life, especially your family members. You will be surprised how many people have had similar experiences, and grateful for the perspective and advice they provide.

If nothing else, they will take you for coffee (then cocktails) in the middle of the day. Also, if a first-degree relative (mother, sister) has suffered endometriosis, you are more likely to as well.

3. I am tremendously grateful to have such loving friends and family. They have been there for me and for each other in all crises, great and small. This little health scare and surgery was no exception.

Reach out to your people when you are scared, hurting, or overwhelmed and you’ll see: They will do for you exactly as you would of course do for them.

Side note: A helpful little service I will definitely use the next time I have a friend in need of meal help: takethemameal.com. I didn’t know about this site until my friends Courtenay and Emmely used it to coordinate several other dear hearts who wanted to help Lily and me. When my mom and I got home from the hospital, there was a lovely dinner and sweet note waiting for us from my friends Jase and Chuck.

4. Listen to your body and find a doctor who will listen to you. I have known for years that something was not right with me, but I either dismissed it or was dismissed. In short: Ladies, your period should not knock you out of commission. You should be able to run, bike, do whatever you do to enjoy life without pain. Men, especially if you are doctor types, please take us seriously if we feel something may not be right “down there”. Our bodies are magic and complicated, and I suspect that even if you have an MD after your name, we know them better than you do. I have a doctor now who totally gets this.

5. We all need our mamas. Whether it’s a surgery on our lady parts, childbirth, a broken heart, career advice, or any other number of fast pitches from the universe, there is no better lady to help us knock the jacket off.

What happens to cliff divers

Ok – listen – there are times to jump and times to be pushed.

You’ve gotta figure out which one is calling to you.

You’ve gotta know that regardless of how you’re falling from that cliff – because you were pushed or because you jumped – falling is what you’re doing, and it is scary and awesome. Both.

When you hit the bottom – if you hit the bottom – you might have some broken bones. You might be bleeding. You might have a piece here that oughta be there. You might not make it at all. You might get caught on a hereto unnoticed ledge between this place and that one. Or you might land in a sea of chocolate pudding. The best chocolate pudding on the planet. It could also be that you lose yourself and float off into the ether – drift forever – never hit the ground.

Doesn’t matter, not ultimately. What matters is that you were in that moment, enduring the fear of having no idea where you’d land, and feeling the rush – God, it’s a rush, isn’t it?? – of not knowing.

A total rush.

You’re not the only one falling / jumping off that cliff. People have been falling and jumping off cliffs since the dawn of cliffs. There were always cliffs. Cliffs were carved by the elements and by God. They are here for us to fall from.

Look around and you’ll see the others. Some of them look freaked out and panicked, don’t they? Grab ahold of them if you’re feeling up to it, if you are one of those who looks exhilerated and confident. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. A bubble might burst, a patch of turbulence will make you sick. You’ll look around and find someone else to grip, someone who has a grip already.

Somewhere, sometime – eventually – you will get to where you’re going.

You will tell the story of your fall like it was the best thing that ever happened to you. The first story worth telling. Maybe it’ll become the only one you ever tell.

People will listen to you.

Some will be impulsive and jump too soon. Some will tell you you’re a fool and will need a push. You won’t care.

You, like all the rest of us, will have been both those people, and you know they’ll both be you.

Reworking the Idea of Perfection

Perfection is a considered workaround to a problem, less so the solution.

It is instinct, but edited for style and adapted for the circumstances at hand.

Some examples:

Sangria from crap wine, peach fuzz, cherry pits – drunk from red plastic, fraternity party-style cups – while bobbing on pool noodles in the lake…

We’re talking about the guy she dated between the first and second divorce, who was 20 years older than her, whose shorts were obnoxiously revealing. We’re laughing, and her mother (my grandmother) is in the house recovering from gallbladder surgery. We’ve been trying to coordinate home healthcare, and to plan meals, and to fix up the bathroom so she’s not afraid she’ll slip and fall. It’s hot as hell.

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The air of solitude and the weight of loneliness

Walking trail near my house

What is the difference between loneliness and solitude?

I’ve been acquainted with both lately.

Loneliness has weight and texture. It is heavy on your shoulders and piercing between your eyes.

It is itchy and impatient.

Loneliness is achingly silent, a restless quiet that inspires screaming. Crying. Assuming, judging, complaining, overreacting.

Loneliness is agitation with coworkers. Impatience with children. Cereal for dinner. Loneliness is both restless and inactive. It is forgetting who and what can help you. Loneliness is internalizing external circumstances in a way that makes it very difficult to be productive or passionate.

Solitude, on the other hand… Continue reading

At what age are we really adults?

Dad and me, ca. 1978

I wonder if I’ll one day reach an age when I no longer have “oh my gosh, I’m an adult” moments. I’ll be 34 on Saturday. As I type it, it feels mature. But I still have sharp flashes of that feeling from time to time, like I can’t believe I’ve gotten here by myself, without being instructed by an actual grown-up.

Checking into a hotel alone.

Writing notes to my daughter’s teacher.

Speaking at a conference.

Repairing something with tools.

The list used to be longer, though. Continue reading

Gift of time

This morning I woke up an hour earlier than usual and gave myself time to:

  • Watch the sun rise. The sky is dark, then it’s gray, then it’s yellow, then it’s blue. Warm under a blanket, from my porch.
  • Start dinner. Split peas are soaking and ready for soup when I’m home from work.
  • Drink my own coffee. Not Starbucks. Not my coworker’s.
  • Walk around my garden. Take pictures of the blooms that weren’t there last night, but have magically appeared this morning.
  • Listen to music. Slow, soft. Sam Cooke, romantic Elvis. No need for anything drilling to get me going.
  • Write. In my journal. This post.

I can rarely buy time for myself in the mornings, but it’s such a gift when I do. How about you? What would you do with 60 minutes of extra solitude?

Smile and the world smiles with you

What’s he thinking? Will he major in Engineering or Business? (He will DEFINITELY go to Auburn.) Did his parents make him wear that bow tie or did he dress himself that day?

I’m guessing my dad is about 6 in this photo, which would date it around 1955. Where did families go for portraits in Birmingham in those days? Now we snap them anywhere – photos, video; with any device – phones, cameras, our desktop computers; and post them all over the place. We can even stream them in real time if we want.

What hasn’t changed: You shouldn’t just smile (curl your lip, arch an eyebrow) for the camera. You should smile for all the times you think no one notices. Continue reading

Last update: How to make housekeeping fun-ish

[I've updated this. For those who've read it already, jump to the bottom.]

This week was full of late work nights, childcare scrambles and a battle with a sinus infection. I tried hard to maintain a “life in full” strategy despite this, but there was only so much my sister-in-law’s neti pot was going to accomplish for me. I ate very little and slept even less. No running. No gardening. No cooking. No writing. Bah. And because we were out of town last weekend, we are way behind on laundry, housekeeping, mowing the grass and grocery shopping. Double bah.

What I need from this weekend might be impossible: Catch up on all my domestic chores in a way that feels relaxing and enjoyable. And do it quickly enough so that there’s still time for something that actually is relaxing and enjoyable. Basically: I want to make vacuuming and whatnot fun and fast. What follows is my strategy, which is full of holes I hope you’ll help me fill.

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