Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Groundhog Day

I have followed a pattern my entire adult life. 

The world tells me that I should be unhappy with the way I look. It's hard not to listen. But every now and then I break through it and decide: screw that action.  I'm big. So what. I can be the best looking big girl it's possible for me to be. This shift in attitude usually leads to a shopping spree. Out with the outfits designed to most effectively hide my bulk -- and me -- from the world and in with the outfits designed to fit and flatter and make me feel great. This shopping spree inevitably leads me to the makeup counter where I decide that an updated wardrobe deserves an updated overall look. New clothes and new makeup lead to renewed confidence and I start to feel good about who I am. When I feel good I am more active. I am able to completely accept and indulge -- almost celebrate -- who I (temporarily) unapologetically am.

This is a very good place.

I ALWAYS end up at the gym from this place. 

This is also, of course, good.

Because I love lifting.  I really, really do. But it is hard to drag oneself to the gym -- even for something one loves -- when one feels frumpy and lumpy and worthless. But when I feel good, it's one of the first things I want to do.

Then I lose a little weight. My proud new wardrobe becomes loose and I start to replace key items in a smaller size. This is exhilarating! This is the point in the pattern where I stop being content with myself. I don't want to lose a little weight, I want to lose a lot of weight. I want to lose ALL the weight! Maybe if I change my eating habits... 

I am no longer unapologetic or accepting at this point, but I am motivated and encouraged. I can do this! I start projecting. If I lost THIS much weight and THIS many sizes in THIS amount of time, then by THIS date I should reach my goal.


Let's backtrack for a moment.

Shouldn't the goal be to be happy? Didn't I reach that goal earlier in the pattern? The part where I was -- um -- happy with myself and with my life? Isn't that ALWAYS the goal? But by the time I get to this stage I am no longer happy with myself as I am. I am, however, pretty sure that I can get myself to a place that will make me happy if I just work hard enough. I'm not happy NOW, but I can BE happy. I'll DESERVE to be happy when I'm in a smaller dress size. Oh, boy -- I sure will be happy then!

So my workouts become less fun and more -- well -- work. Meals are obsessed over. They are still delicious -- I'm not a TOTAL martyr -- but food becomes almost all I think about. I am eating one meal while thinking about the next. There is no spontaneity at this point, and if there is it is horrifying rather than delightful.

The scale moves a little, but not much.

And then it stops.

We're not talking about a plateau for a week or a month or a couple weeks or a couple months. It stops. I up the exercise. The scale won't move. I cut out more food. The scale won't move. Nothing works. 

I become desperate.

Then sad.

Then desperately sad.

I don't want to lift -- why bother?

I want all the carbs -- who the hell cares?

Quickly quickly quickly I regain all the weight I've lost plus a little for good measure.

Eventually, I start to accept myself.

And the cycle begins again.

This cycle has repeated itself more times than I care to tell you.

This time, though -- this time it is a little different.

Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I learn little lessons each time the same events repeat themselves. 

This time, I never completely stopped lifting. I backed off. I didn't hit it with the intensity with which I hit it when all is well, but I never quit. I gained back a third of what I'd lost then stopped. I stopped before I gained it all. I stopped well before I gained it all and then some. 


Lately I've been buying clothes like it's my job. And I've noticed that I linger in the beauty aisle -- I've brought home new eyeshadow, lipstick and nail polish in the past couple weeks. Could I be getting back on at the top of the cycle before I completely bottom out? It would appear that I am. This has never happened before. The cycle is changing.

Woo and might I add a hearty Hoo.


The trick will be to stay here -- to stay here at the top -- exercising and eating well and dressing in a way that makes me happy and generally feeling good without falling into the formerly inevitable traps that await me.

Can I do it?

I hope so.

If not this time, maybe the next.

Like Mr. Murray, I am damned tired of repeating the same cycle over and over. It's stupid and it's futile and life is too short.

It's time to learn my lessons and get it right.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

All the World's Indeed a Stage

When things get particularly out of control with my life, one of the coping mechanisms I turn to is to picture the events as they are unfolding as if they were a movie. Maybe that's crazy, maybe that's egotistical maybe it's a form of disassociation but it has often helped me to gain perspective. Would I be rooting for my character? Would I like her? Quite often the answer is no.

While that bothers me immensely, it doesn't always result in a change in my behavior. Real life isn't the movies. Traits that come across as plucky, quirky and delightful in the movies are often just plain weird in real life. And NO ONE wants to watch a movie about a mature adult making rational decisions. It's boring. When that character exists, it is presented as a stern and oppressive foil to the free spirits that surround it. The spirits that we root for. We root for the characters who live on the edge. We want them to be enough like us to be recognizable but they need to take chances we can't, won't or shouldn't take.

Lately I am certain that if my life was a movie and you were watching it, you would be rooting for everyone but me. I'm surrounded by people who are living -- or at least pursuing -- the lives they want. They are plucky, quirky and delightful. You would love them. They take risks; I advise caution. They pursue their interests;. I gripe about practical concerns. I resent being cast as the straight-laced repressed middle-aged resentful fat woman. Is it bad form to use two versions of the same word in one sentence? Technically, yes. But it's a word that would be used multiple times in describing my character. I resentfully resent being resented.

So I think -- if I were writing the story, how could I give my character a redemption arc? How could I -- as the playwright -- manipulate things so that this character was able to have her needs met without squelching the enthusiasm of those around her? 

I'm just not that talented as a playwright. Clearly this character needs to be less of a bitch if she is to gain public approval. (Or more, if we're going for the anti-hero angle.) But she can't just roll over and play dead -- she can't be given a supporting part in her own story. Nobody likes that character. I certainly don't.

I don't have the answers yet. The rest of this story is unwritten at this point. But isn't that exciting? It could go anywhere! I've cast the role in my head, though. The actress has the convictions of Susan Sarandon with eyes that are determined and maybe more than a little bit crazy. She will defend her children like a mother bear and dance with her friends with wild abandon. She is non-traditional yet classic and not too hard on the eyes. She'll also have a little Sandra Bullock in her -- she's in over her head and frazzled and the worse the situation becomes the more adorable she appears. Obviously there's a little Melissa McCarthy in the mix as well. She's sassy and brassy and cusses fluently, but more importantly she's the current fat girl. And whoever played me would have to be a fat girl. It shouldn't matter, but it does. It puts a different spin on every situation. These are not necessarily my favorite actresses, but I think they would combine well to play the part. Now I just have to feed this gorgeous hybrid some saucy lines and turn things around for her. 

Wish me luck.