Life is better with you

We interrupt this blog for the sole purpose of wishing my beloved a very happy 20th anniversary.

I have only this to say:

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Bear feet and pregnant

Bear feet and pregnant.

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Small

Girls night.

The thing is, she DID look great. I said as much. Blame me for starting it all. Her number one tax break was still several months shy of his first birthday, but in she walked wearing this snug tank top and..jeans? Shorts? I can’t remember, but she looked fit and over the top adorable in that not even trying way. And small. Just… small. Small without being sick. I hate that.

In spite of the fresh bloom in her cheeks, that very warmth belying self harm, I felt compelled to ask. I always do. Over the past few years especially, my hypersensitivity to the warning signs of incipient eating disorders has led me to assume this seldom appreciated role. Sort of a hall monitor for body acceptance. I admit however that my motivation is not purely altruistic. With each query, I’m emotionally reaching for a hand that is more stable than my own. I’m extending a silent plea for someone, anyone to remember that although I may look the same as they do these days, I’m not. Not just yet.

It gets lonely being the only one in a room who is so keenly aware of this fact.

Tank top and jeans (or shorts) assured me that she was just fine, that she hadn’t lost the baby weight doing things “the easy way.” Easy meaning what? I wondered about that. Starving? Vomiting? Laxatives? Yep. Lemon squeezy.

“That’s not the easy way.” I said it lightly, but I didn’t mean it lightly. Chatter bounced off the kitchen walls. Laughter. Pungency skimmed just atop the invisible carpet of calories from food both cooked and cooling, worrying  my stomach into lazy somersaults.

I said it again. Louder.

“That’s not the easy way..”

My voice, perhaps projected only in my head, was suffocated in the din. It didn’t really matter. I’m not even sure who I’d intended the comment for. Maybe reaching for that hand again. It’s disheartening that the once blazing flames of  pride that surrounded my all-consuming eating disorderlinger still. Now as mere embers, true, but after years in recovery they continue to smolder. To burn. And they burn me.

Said group consisted of a few friends, a few could be friends, and an acquaintance or two. Not a blatantly unsafe environment but not quite a warm and fuzzy blanket of a place either. Among the laughers and chatterers, a precious few of those who know, get it. Insofar as it can be “got” by an outsider. The pervasive societal belief seems to be that an eating disorder is something that just works its way out of your system, like a stomach bug.  And why shouldn’t it be? Who wants to imagine that years post treatment, the specter of anorexia still haunts? Still torments. Every. Day. I wouldn’t. I don’t. But I’m living with it.

That’s what it’s about though, right? Living with it.

The alternative?

Does that mean that there aren’t days when I consider going back? When I soberly weigh the pros and cons? When the haunting of Ed becomes full on possession and I am reduced to a head spinning, pea soup spewing, mirror smashing, stomach cutting Disease? Disorder? Albatross around the neck? I wish I could say no.

Those days don’t come as frequently as they once did. When they do though, I suffer in silence through the worst of it lest the truth be revealed. Or rather, Ed’s truth. Through his distortion I am unwell and unbalanced. Out of my shell, underbelly exposed, I am unlovable.

Shut up Ed. But look in the mirror…Shut up Ed..If you’d just lose..Shut..

This is an eating disorder. Stabilized.

There would be no food for me that night. Not in front of people anyway. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I’m not pointing my finger at the discussion of butt firming exercises or low-fat recipes found on Pinterest. It’s not what someone did or didn’t wear, said or didn’t say…a smile, a glare, a hug, an eye roll. It was me. It was the ever-present whisper of a decades long nemesis. I bummed a banana for the car ride home and at the first stoplight I purged it into a Wal-Mart bag, still sticky from the Diet Pepsi I’d had for breakfast.

Slips. Slips are to be expected. Should be expected. A step or two backward every so often. Sometimes those steps are bigger than others but always there’s this movement.There has to be. The saying about time standing still is a lie. So forward I must go. There really is no other option.

The alternative

I did a lot of thinking that night. A lot of praying.

Here’s the skinny. (Cute, right?) Truth is, there will always be a penny on the track waiting to derail your recovery. Sometimes it’s as blatant as the doctor  “Really? Well, you don’t LOOK like you were anorexic!” (they always say that), and sometimes it will be an innocuous young mommy who doesn’t do a thing but smile and share the oxygen in your space. Kids will talk back and checks won’t clear and the origin of that foul stench in the refrigerator might remain a mystery for months. But..

..but you have to keep that damn banana down.

Metaphorically speaking.

The next morning, I started anew. It won’t be the last time.

But I moved forward.

Like I said, no other option. Not for me.

Not for you.

I’m wearing a stupid tank top today. There’s a question mark, whether or not I have the courage to leave the confines of my house, hovering in a cartoon bubble above my head. But I did eventually leave my bedroom. You know what that is?

That’s forward motion.

The alternative is no alternative. None at all.

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POW! ZAM!

Our dog’s name is Batman. This makes me smile. And as we are a culture enamored with our pets, I’m asked my dog’s name often. We’re popular on the walking trails. In my experience, introducing a big, black shaggy mutt as the Caped Crusader will  often bring a smile to another, too. And if that other has a small person in their life in any significant way, I can pretty much count on a chuckle. Batman gets an affectionate schcruzz on the head, and we all leave feeling  a little warmer than we did. Lighter. Because a beast named Batman clearly hails from a home with a sense of humor. A home where people don’t take themselves too seriously. A home with children.

We got Batman about two years ago after a trial with a long promised puppy proved a terrific non-success. Let’s just say when a 200lb man fears a 10lb creature of any species, something has got to give. Despite the majority rule of the family at the time, I felt an old school “for better or worse” obligation to keep my husband and lose the mutt. I wasn’t a fan of the idea in the first place. Still, I assured the kids that once daddy’s lacerations healed and the home flooring replaced, we had a decent shot at convincing him to buy a ticket for the canine carousel one more time. This was, at best, incredibly optimistic and at worst, a bald-faced lie. I kept my fingers crossed that, kids being kids, they would lose interest. Get sidetracked. After all, these are trying times for the youth of America. They face the agonizing “Team Edward” versus “Team Jacob” dilemma, whether they should beg for an Xbox or a Wii, and whose idea was it to air “Caillou”* and “The Wonder Pets” at the same time anyway? I liked my odds.

Remind me never to gamble.

It should be noted that one would not exactly call our family “pet-friendly”. From Mia the hamster (may she rest in peace) who was forgotten and left outside in her plastic exercise ball  …in January, to Frank the fouler than Limburger cheese ferret who met his maker at the tender young age of who-can-remember-if-we-even-knew-in-the-first-place, when he slipped, all weaselly and ferret-like, out the front door where my husband accidentally (he claimed) backed over him with our Ford Explorer.

Oh, and Ernie. The ball python. A birthday gift for my husband who had always wanted a snake. Fine. What did I care? I didn’t mind him much. But as Ernie grew, so did his, er,..nourishment needs. This was something I had not anticipated. I could stomach him being  fed those tiny, frozen baby mice but soon Ernie required more. Ernie required rats. Uh-uh. As it happened, my daughter and I found Ernie’s meals considerably more appealing than Ernie himself ( not a tremendous compliment), and we launched a two woman crusade to save each one that came through our doors. It wasn’t long before Ernie was wasting away and we were in imminent danger of becoming  rodent hoarders. In the end, Ernie was bartered to our teenage babysitter and, though our relationship with his parents was slightly strained for a while, it remains to this day, the best deal we’ve ever made. As for the rats (bred exclusively for the purpose of being swallowed whole by legless reptiles) we self-righteously set them free only to watch them violently snatched up by our local hawk population. Bones picked clean and scattered across our yard. Our good intentions mocked. The circle of life is not a pretty one, friends.

My least favorite animal experience though, has to be the bird. Moses. A yellow something-or-other. Canary, maybe? It was little. It had wings. Whatever. He was a gift from a deaf friend who told me that he just couldn’t keep him anymore. He said his hearing wife (noteworthy detail) told him the bird needed to go. In retrospect, we should have questioned that, but we were assured old Mo was a terrific pet. Extremely friendly. How you judge that of something that sits on a stick all day is still a mystery to me but the kids loved the idea and so, because we never learn, the bird was christened and taken home. Here was the deal with the freaking bird. It never shut up. NEVER. SHUT. UP. “Are you putting a sheet over his cage? You need to put a sheet over his cage.” We heard it a million times. Thanks, ornithologists. That much we knew. The only one in the whole equation who didn’t seem to know this effective silencing technique was Moses himself who squawked and shrieked and chirruped ALL day and ALL night. I told my friend (a term I now use loosely) this.”Hey, thanks ever so much for terrorist Tweety. Our nearest neighbor is a mile away and he’s been complaining of Hitchcockian nightmares.” I saw understanding dawn on him and he laughed. A little too hard. Shrugged. Pointed to his ears in jest. “How was I supposed to know?” Terrific. Everyone’s a comedian.

I know. Reading this you can’t help but think that my family living fur-free is a big “duh”. You’re wondering now how we’d ever think about thinking about taking on an animal again. You know memories though. How they become fuzzy around the edges and kind of crinkly and dull? Over time our beastly  misadventures became treasured family narratives that got more side-splitting (and wildly exaggerated) year after year until one day..

We knew. Our family was incomplete. Most of us were on board. As for my husband..you know the saying “Better to ask forgiveness than permission?” He’s very forgiving. And we needed a dog.

It’s crazy, isn’t it? The designer dog fad? You can mix and match your favorite breeds. Clone a favorite pooch who has passed. Dye poor Fido’s fur to match your new drapes. But us? Given our track record,we didn’t know what to look for. But here’s what we found. A dog who, upon a gleeful toddler attempt to saddle and ride him up the stairs, scoots along,  head on paws, sighs deeply, and waits patiently for adult intervention.We found a dog who will allow himself to be painted and braided and dressed and dragged and tickled and chased and hugged and kissed and, on one occasion bit, and continues to grin a doggy grin and wag his doggy tail. Who spins himself in stupid barking circles of delight when someone walks in the door even if that someone has been gone merely minutes. One who knows enough to look remorseful  when caught munching Matchbox cars or rain boots. We found a dog who pads from room to room while the children of the house sleep, sharing his snuggles, so that by morning each can rightfully boast “Batman slept with ME last night!”

Or maybe he found us. Either way, he’s here to stay.

My mom always called me heartless when it came to anything related to the wild kingdom. Said something is wrong inside of me. Maybe. I admit , I’m not one who coos at the babies in the pet store. I didn’t have puppies and kitties splashed across my notebooks as a kid. I’ve never felt led to give to the ASPCA or rescue the innocents jailed at the pound. I loathe the zoo. No one would ever call me an animal lover. Not then. Not now. It’s completely unrealistic to expect one common pet to change a lifetime of indifference.


It’s just..I know this one superhero..

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And she pondered

Ponder- to think about carefully; to weigh in the mind with thoroughness;to reflect or consider deeply

 

“..but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her  heart.”*

 

 

Righteous and young, pure of heart, free of touch/ A messenger from God to believe/“Rejoice” was the word, highly favored young girl/ By His spirit the Child you’ll conceive

Troubled and anxious she’s told not to fear/The Almighty has chosen her one/To carry and bear the great Prince of Peace/The Counselor, Messiah, the Son                                                                                                                                              Stirred by a dream showing prophecy fulfilled/The affianced with honor did wed/A journey, a sojourn, convergence amassed thus/No rooms in The House of Bread

The shepherds behold heavens hosts as they  praise/Good tidings of great joy they sing/A stable, a manger, a virgin’s embrace/Bow to the true King of Kings

Righteous and young, pure of heart, free of touch/Through His mercy salvation below/She who had borne was now quiet in heart/Oh Mary, blessed Mary did you know..?..

 

“..but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”*

 

*Luke 2:19

 

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For unto us..the child.



It was not a silent night/ There was blood on the ground/You could hear a woman cry/In the alleyways that night/On the streets on David’s town

And the stable was not clean/And the cobblestones were cold/And little Mary full of grace/With the tears upon her face/ Had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labor of pain/It was a cold sky above/But for the girl on the ground in the dark/With every beat of her beautiful heart /It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side/Callused hands and weary eyes/There were no midwives to be found/On the streets of David’s town/In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed/Shafts of moonlight on his face/For the baby in her womb/He was the maker of the moon/He was the author of the faith         

                                                                                                                       That could make the mountains move

 

It was a labor of  pain/It was a cold sky above/But for the girl on the ground in the dark/With every beat of her beautiful heart/It was a labor of love

For little Mary full of grace/With the tears upon her face/It was a labor of love

It was not a silent night                                                                         

On the streets of David’s town..


Songwriters: Cunningham Grant Evan, Davis Christopher

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The way you do the things you do

“People love in their own way..”   

It was a quiet rebuke. Seemingly defensive. Unmistakably disapproving. But quiet nonetheless. And being spoken to in such a manner has a powerful shock-to-the-system effect on me that must be very similar to what those who are in the throes of hysteria must feel when they are abruptly slapped across the face. It’s confounding.

Having been raised in a family of screamers, it’s quiet that speaks the loudest. Quiet that I don’t trust. Just as I was getting ready to croon the “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” chorus, a personal favorite, she continued.                                                                                                                             “Maybe it’s not be the way you want or the way you expect, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. We can’t expect everyone to do things the way we would do them. Sometimes people just don’t know what to say. There aren’t words. And this“, she gestured at my battered profile, “this is really hard to look at. I mean, it’s frightening.”                                                                                                                                                     Whoomp, there it was. The truth. Too bad I’d probably be completely healed by Halloween. I would clean UP.

It had only been a week since my potentially life threatening car wreck. A personal roller coaster ride complete with spinning and somersaulting, violent shaking, and a dramatic finish that left my world wrong side up and me, dangling from my harness, steadily pendulating as if trying to keep in time with the pounding of my heart. Though I was airborne for a second or two, I don’t think I had much fun.

Never been a huge fan of coasters. More a Pirates of the Caribbean than Space Mountain kind of girl.

It wasn’t long before it became clear to me that although I was sprained, fractured, bruised and concussed, it was my face, curiously causing the least amount of pain, that was going to look the angriest. Frightening. An apt description.

My blackened, blood clotted, puckered grimace was a distraction from my daily “to weigh or not to weigh” tug of war with my conscience, but was it relief? Really?

Or is it true that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t? Because no matter how often I scrutinized myself in the mirror, I could not recognize the woman staring back at me.

I spiraled into a dark place in the days after the accident. Initially, my family and I felt astonishment, then relief that naturally gave way to joy. That I walked (crutched) away from the remains of a sardine can, more or less unscathed,was no less than a genuine water-into-wine miracle.

Paramedics, doctors, nurses, they all made a point of telling me that I was “very, very lucky.” I made a point of telling themIt wasn’t luck. It was God.” Unfortunately, I was on a steady morphine drip at the time and my exaltation sounded a lot like, “Ih wush uhh. Ih wuh guuu.” The closest I’ll probably ever get to speaking in tongues. I think they understood.

Sadly, by the time I was discharged, my initial adrenaline (and subsequent pain medication) buzz had all but vanished. At home, I lay on my bed in a perfume cloud of “Get Well” bouquets, and skimmed my Facebook messages that offered X’s and O’s and homemade meals. I felt anxious. Unsettled. I should have been resting in the blessings. I should have been sleeping in stillness and serenity. But something wasn’t right. Greatly not right. But I didn’t know what it was. I wouldn’t for a while.                                                                                                                                                                             A traumatic brain injury arrives as an unexpected and highly unwelcome house-guest. It arrives on your doorstep and settles in for a stay of indeterminate length. Before you’ve had a chance to remove your puke-green hospital slipper socks, your entire home-sweet-home with all its creature comforts has been wickedly upended.

The family is challenged with an unknown personality. A Tasmanian devil who ferociously and mercilessly tornadoes through your life leaving about just as much damage in its wake. The transformation is shocking to all, catching even the devil by surprise. The onset is abrupt. The onset is severe. All involved are ill-equipped.  

                                                                                                                  I am beyond blessed to have a devoted circle of intimates who were ready to put an arm around my shoulder and tirelessly guide me through the blackest of my nights. Always with a smile, currents of grace still coursing through me long after they’d left. I’d needed it badly but would never have asked. The riotous shouting in my head came from unknown characters I couldn’t begin to tackle on my own.

It began a day or two following the fun of my brain knocking forcibly against my skull ( see, they’re really not meant to do that). Somewhere in my mind tiptoed the macabre hiss “You were supposed to die. You’re were SUPPOSED to die.” Understand, my head was already considerably muddled.

I lost entire conversations. I had difficulty accounting for large blocks of time. Speech became difficult. I couldn’t remember simple words. Couldn’t articulate them when I did. I’d always thought that the worst way to live was to be altogether lucid while living in a decrepit body. But now I had to consider the torment of being physically whole while recognizing that you’re gradually losing your mind.

I was terrified.  

I slept during the day…or maybe I didn’t? At night I slept..or I didn’t.. I might have emailed friends..or I did it in my head and figured the end result would be the same. The narcotics helped arrest the herd of tap dancing elephants between my ears but not all effects were so discernibly beneficial. The drugs also inspired behaviors such as crying over imagined jeers from nonexistent visitors or writing terrible and detectably suicidal poetry at three in the morning.

The LED numbers stare at me unblinking                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Mocking me Challenging                                                                                                              Nothing to be done
                                                                                                                                       Not tonight                                                                                                   I accept defeat                                              
                                                                                                                                   The thickness of my head muffles the sound of metal dancing too closely with metal
                                                                                                                      
But my eyelids, so delicate, don’t hide the image of glass..crystalline..like a snow globe..turned into countless little ice cubes that veer too close
Too close

The reminders that can’t be escaped have me ever shifting. Always twisting. The elevated foot that pulses uncomfortably, the face where one cheek and only that one cheek must remain firmly affixed to my pillow. The knee, the elbow, the ribs, easily forgotten in the dark shadows cast from the head.

Where lies everything that makes me who and what I am. Trouble has come. I am unsure and wrong-footed and thoughts are dark. Painful. Laborious.

Death as release. For those I love. For me. New thoughts. But persistent. The tack of fresh blood soothed only briefly. Now it is one more hurt. One more pain to keep me staring at the ceiling.

But the ceiling, with it’s clean canvas, shows me no ice crystals of glass. It’s coldness makes no grinding metallic crunch. I can lie here in safety, but not at all safe, and no one will tell me to get over it.  

I’ll be fine. 

No big deal.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Because I don’t know that I will. 

And it may not be.                                                                                                                                                                                                             And it is. It really is.

If I could disappear, I would. Make myself so tiny that I could flatten myself against the wall, or curl into a petite little package and never be noticed.

A delicious prospect.

To bruise   to bleed      to swell       to break     to fear   

To be confused in reading in writing in prayer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh to  fly,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           To fly to escape,                                                                                                                                                                                                              Or just to go home

People can thwart the will of God, can they not?                                                                                                                     What if                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     What if I was meant to die?

And there it is                                                                                            

Echoing and 

echoing     

echoing  

echo.”


 …..I know. Poetry hasn’t ever really been my thing but seriously? I forgive myself the obvious “woe is me” sentiment woven throughout because the words were born out of legitimate pain, but I’m still puzzled at the insinuation that my trauma was dismissed. Completely untrue. If anyone was discounting a brewing storm it was me and me alone. I adopted my usual droll banter and resolute attitude. Hastily stitched fig leaves meant to disguise my reprehensible humanity. The trouble with that?…

I was hurting. I was sad. And while most of the time the confidence I carried knowing that I was unquestionably loved was enough? This wasn’t most of the time. And the question now facing me was: Do I expect everyone to do things the way I would do them? Did I believe  that the act of caring had to follow my personal outline in order to be heartfelt? Maybe.

Gradually, painfully, I acknowledged that I’d set pretty definitive criteria as to the “right” way one should show friendship during times of crisis and hardship. That being, naturally, what I would do. Oh. Also, ouch.

The realizations chug chugged to life and came quicker as they gathered steam. At the same time, I started thinking that the notion of everyone doing their own thing, going and loving their own way, couldn’t possibly be a panacea for those suffering.

There had to be way to weave together the best of these ideas but the “how” of it all left me stuck. Gnawed at me. Maybe neither she (previously mentioned), nor I were completely right nor completely wrong but I couldn’t articulate why. I wanted, as I always want but so seldom get, a very clear solution. A no shades of gray, let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, tale as old as time; song as old as rhyme, “That’s it! Miss Scarlet with the lead pipe in the Conservatory!” answer. So far, no luck on that front. I still hope though.

And then

just one month later..

a devastating tragedy.

A dear friend I had known from inpatient treatment committed suicide. None of us saw it coming. I guess nobody ever does, do they?  

 And it came.

Clarity.

It may not be the way you want or the way you expect.”                                                                                                                                     

I can accept that. I love big. I love with all I am and all I have. Often, it would seem, to my detriment. I can’t and don’t expect that in kind. And yet. Yet. We shouldn’t use our individual habits as excuses to rationalize disregard. Or apathy. I mean, I’ve done it. Plenty. You’ve probably done it.

He/she knows I love them, I’m just so busy/tired/important. I’ll make it up to them later.” And we wait..and we wait.. for later to arrive. Sometimes later arrives too late.

I keep imagining what it must have been like for my friend Emily on the night she died. Bottles of pills standing at attention on her desk. Just..staring at her. Did she pause for a moment? Regard them? Did she take any time to reflect?

Did she wonder, Why am I doing this? So many people love me? They’re showing it in their own way. Maybe with their thoughts? Could be in their prayers. Positive vibes? I’m sure they meant to call. To write. To stop by. I can’t expect people to care for me the way I care for them.

No.

Losing Emily (I’m writing about this now for a later post) showed me that sometimes loving our own way isn’t enough. Sometimes loving our own way isn’t necessarily God’s way. We might need to venture into what’s unfamiliar to soothe and strengthen, to knit the tears of the heart and reach for the hand of all who’ve lost the faith to walk upon the waves. Who tumble overboard and then panic. Flail. Sink.

In Mark 8:34, Jesus, speaking to a crowd, said, ” Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Though brief, it’s no easy directive. Servitude while thirsting for autonomy. Great personal sacrifice. Everyday. Even when it’s untimely. Even when it’s unpleasant. I don’t mean to suggest that an outward deluge of affection would have changed the road Emily had determined to go down. I’m thinking more of future Emilys. We can’t know who or where they are. How seldom does a person’s outside mirror what’s actually happening inside? That doesn’t mean an impact can’t be made. Ultimately it’s not about loving the way I would love or the way you would love. It’s all about how He loves.

“LOVE your neighbor as yourself.”*

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, that you have LOVE for one another.”

“These things I command you, that you LOVE one another.” 

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly LOVE, in honor giving preference to one another..”           

“Let all that you do be done with LOVE.”

“And walk in LOVE, as Christ also has LOVED us and given himself for us..”

Be kind to one another. Honor one another. Be devoted to one another. Love one another. LOVE. Love. Love.

Like I said, I was just on the receiving end of some pretty amazing love like that. I was reminded daily that God was near. Was looking out for me still. That I was precious to Him and precious to people on earth. I eventually did sleep in the stillness and serenity. Rest in the blessings. And as I drifted off, I was filled with warmth. Sent up a silent prayer of gratitude. I was very, very lucky. Funny. Now I was reminding myself:  Ih wush uhh. Ih wuh guuu.

Ain’t it the truth..

*Leviticus 19:18, **John 13:35, ***John 15:17, ****Romans 12:10 *****1Corinthians 16:14, ******Ephesians 5:2

Posted in agape, Christian, Christianity, faith, friends, friendship, God, grace, life, love, me, musings, other, people, Personal, Personal, reflections, relationships, thoughts, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

In light of a great white

We had a recent incident at our home. One might go so far as to call it a debacle. What my husband called it at the time is not suitable for print, but suffice it to say the story will go down in my mental annals to one day be shared with the children of the offenders around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Now however, the all too familiar antics of my four children seem far less amusing to me than the casual observer.

What shall hereafter be entitled “The Great White War of 2011”, most likely began as harmlessly as a food fight does in a middle school cafeteria. A tossed tater tot. A sporkful of ketchup…and pandemonium ensues. Alas, on this stifling summer afternoon our garage was regrettably condiment free. What we could provide our high-spirited progeny for entertainment was paint. White paint. Acrylic. Glossy. By the time the first perp sloshed his way upstairs to tattle on his older sister, leaving quick drying footprints in his wake, the trial that would befall us had..well.. befallen.The trial of the tint. The affliction of the artwork. The disaster of the driveway. I think I’ve made my point.

AND in what shall hereafter be entitled “The Great Inquisition of 2011”, the first question my long-suffering mate was able to articulate coherently was posed to our teenage daughter. “WHAT made you THINKthat would POSSIBLY be OKAY??!!”

And then she said it. The response heard ’round the world’.

You never told me not to.”

 While I restrained her father from strangling her on the spot, I reflected on the                         statement. She wasn’t wrong. We hadn’t told her not to have a paint fight in the front yard with her brothers that would result in hundreds of dollars to clean the driveway and the street as well as hours of scrubbing to remove every last trace of stray pigment that had flown in streaks and splatters, Jackson Pollock style, onto both of our cars. I had been remiss as a parent. Emphasizing far too heavily the “Do’s” rather than the “Dont’s”. Oh, the mishaps that could have been avoided.

 So, in light of my daughter’s brilliant and insightful statement, I jotted down a woefully incomplete list of 25 things I should have told the fruit of my womb NOT to do. Well. I’m telling them now:

1. It is not appropriate to eat off the floor. No, not even if you brush the hair off first.

 2. Underwear should not be worn as outerwear.

 3. Any sentence that begins with “I triple dog dare you..”, usually leads to trouble.

4. The dryer is not a ride.

5. Legos should not enter any bodily orifice.

6. Live creatures do not belong in the microwave..

7. ..nor the freezer.

8. Floating off the roof with an umbrella only works in the movies.

9. It is unwise to remove your own or each other’s braces, casts, or surgical staples.

10. Keep in mind that many people will not be as amused as you are by “Yo Mama..” jokes. Including Yo Mama.

11. You’ll shoot your eye out.

12. Coins do not digest.

13. Eating a box of crayons will not make you poop a rainbow. Please stop trying.

14. A dog will eat almost anything if it is wrapped in cheese or coated in peanut butter. This does not make it a good idea.

15. A young sibling will eat almost anything if it is wrapped in cheese or coated in peanut butter. This should also be filed away in your mental “It SEEMED like a good idea but Mom said…” folder.

16. The world is not your toilet.

17. Vertical blinds do not grow and therefore do NOT require a “trim”.

18. Neighbors frown upon dancing naked in the front yard. Accept what you consider oppression as quickly as you can. The time will come when you’ll need more than my apology and a smile to avoid trouble.

19. Because I said so.

20. Licking yourself “just like a cat does” does not equal taking a bath.

21. Suspenders will not support you hanging from household light fixtures.

22. It doesn’t particularly bother me if you taste test a bug, eat a mud pie, or sip lumpy milk. However, if projectile vomit results from from any of the aforementioned actions, you know where the Lysol is.

23. Cereal cannot be eaten for every meal. Unless it’s Count Chocula. Because that’s delicious.

24. Biting people does not win you friends…..

and last but not least my precious angel dumplings…

25. Having a paint fight in your parent’s driveway will get you grounded for a

long,

long

time.

   

 
  Sigh.  And never forget..Mommy will always love you.

Posted in children, family, humor, kids, life, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, Personal, raising kids, random, teenagers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

1095 days

Celebrations really are a mixed bag. While there’s no 12 step group to offer judgment free support, there are some whose compulsions to break out the flimsy crepe paper and cloying confections the moment they catch the faintest whisper of a marriage proposal or spot a subtle baby bump, border on the need for immediate intervention. The more workaday observer might fire up the barbecue upon a long holiday weekend under the pretense of honoring some long dead president’s birthday, or grudgingly pony up a few dollars towards that notoriously specious gold-plated timepiece in recognition of a job promotion/firing/rehiring/retiring.

As a country, we’ve become so accustomed to multiple motives for occasion of some sort, I’m sorry to say, I harbor a cynical suspicion that our worshipful celebrations now outnumber the actual amount of religions that are actively practiced. The lengths we’ll go to for a good dessert…

As a society, we’ve grown inured to the scads of contradistinctive observances and expect everything from mailers offering discounted oil changes to “THIS WEEKEND ONLY!” white sales. But then there are the other days. Days that might not matter to many people at all. Days that might matter only to one. Cupcake-less days. Still, these are every bit as important as the commemorations that take place on a national scale. This past Monday? A big one of mine. It marked three years to the day since I gave up the fight. Wait, no. That isn’t right.

It was three years ago that I began the fight. My greatest to date in fact. A full on, knockdown, drag out, make it or break it, battle for my survival. Because I had known  people throughout the years. An astounding sector of our society who nonchalantly dwelt among the rest of us. Those of us who went about our daily activities trying to hide our indisputable damage.

These were the people who were somehow able to live without the afflictive abetting of an eating disorder. I don’t mean merely exist, no, not this bunch. Truly live. Such characters always struck me as the real super heroes. I had seen them for myself and yet.. the very possibility that I might one day join their ranks? That had never seemed like much of a possibility at all.

I believed in living without an ED about as much as I believed in unicorns and mermaids, but exceedingly weary from dying by degrees, the slightest prayer that I might..just might ride one of those unicorns to a disordered-less world? It began to haunt me. I hadn’t (no pun intended…maybe intended a bit) much left to lose.

If it was attainable for some, could it be for anybody? For the chance, however unlikely, to live free, I owed it to…well, I owed it to someone anyway, to let myself dream. And if I could dream it, then maybe I could try it. And put in at least as much effort as I had put into learning to shuffle convincingly with the dual shackles of restriction and purging. Okay. Marginally convincingly. Okay, okay. Temporarily marginally convincingly.

For the great strides made in recent decades with educating the masses about ED’s, we’re still barely emerging from the metaphorical dark ages as far as sensitivity and true understanding are concerned. For example, you know, don’t you, that eating disorders are about vanity. Oh yes. And control.  And sometimes about wanting to regress back to childhood. Freeze the female form into a prepubescent and somewhat asexual shape.

Oh! And they’re funny! Have you seen the T-shirts that are sold in sizes XXL (and larger) that proudly bear the words “I BEAT ANOREXIA”. Let the hilarity ensue. Give me a moment to collect myself. Self starvation by a tormented soul? That’s just good comedy right there. Heaven help me if I ever see someone wearing one of those. I will walk right up and clock them….and then probably get my bum handed to me in numerous fragments. (I will have made my point though.)

One of the hardest misconceptions to get past is the notion that treatment or hospitalization (or even intensive therapy), is a cure. It’s disheartening as well as damaging, the plentitude of loved ones who expect that money can buy a miracle. The richer the resources remunerated, the quicker we can all be fixed and just move on with this foolishness already. Sigh. If only.

Shortly before I left for treatment, I was presented with a check from my father-in-law. The down payment necessary for my extended stay. Mostly anonymous donations from concerned members of my church family who had silently watched my ephemeral withering and set aside precise funds, praying for the day I would seek help.     “I’ll never be able to pay this back..,” I was astonished. Moved.  Awkward. How could I ever say ‘thank you’ to people who didn’t want me to know who they were?  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               “Just go. Take care of this…get it taken care of.”  

Message received. His words weren’t of cruel intent. There was no harsh tone. He simply said what made sense to him. You go to the hospital with a broken bone and they put a cast on it. It mends. Antibiotics are administered to clear up infection. Something about me was broken. I was being sent away to be fixed. Curiously enough, I think I believed this too for a time. Or I just really wanted to.

Somehow I imagined that when I came home, I would be all patched up. Cured. As it would happen, one of the first things explained in group therapy was that this precise view was a widespread error. That recovery is often an uphill battle. Lifelong. I surreptitiously stole glances around the room at the other patients. Was anyone else caught off guard with this news? Disheartened? Why else was I here if not for a magical panacea? What a gyp.

So what could  treatment offer? Self nurturance for one thing. A foreign concept for many of us. We were taught a way of facing the world that didn’t involve self-destruction but rather self consideration. That is, if the decision to actually treasure oneself, (body, soul, or spirit) was too cumbersome a load to be carried. If it seemed just too extraordinary. Too vain.

I didn’t,.. well,… if I’m being completely honest, I don’t always choose the path of being kind or easy on myself, but I can’t say now that I don’t know it exists. I met staff members that summer who were long over, and I mean done with their anorexia. Their bulimia. Such diversity was there in contour and construct among their frames, that it was surprising to me how simple it was to find the beauty in each one. Perhaps it was their quiet strength that so drew me. Their lack of self-contempt. Something I had never seen in a woman before. As time passed, I was able to recognize that beyond what I had already seen, something even deeper prevailed. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. What was it? Could it be?

Yes.. peace.

1095 days later, I find myself in a position that brings about a great deal of introspection. Some unflinching honesty. How far I’ve come. How much further I really want to go. Much has changed.  I’m unrecognizable from the woman I once was and some days that’s all the motivation I need to get back on that proverbial horse and put my slips behind me.

Most of the time my weight is stable. And most of the time my head is not. Continually swirling with thoughts of calories and fear foods and ‘should I or shouldn’t I buy that magazine that shows me how to exercise away my “trouble spots”?’ But I have moments of stillness now. Of calm. Moments of ‘Shut the hell up, Ed. I have more important things to do than deal with you right now. Like, everything.’

And it even works for a while. Maybe one day it will work forever. Maybe not. But I celebrate the day. I feel like it’s so much bigger than just me.

In my mind’s eye, it’s all of us.

Living and gone.

Walking tall or drowning, it’s all of us.

So I’ll keep doing it.

Because it matters.

We matter. 

If we know each other, if we don’t.

At least one day a year I make a conscious decision to nod to you. Keep going. We’ll get there. I make the day an occasion for all of us. A holiday. No offense to George Washington, but we’re the ones who are owed two-for-one movie tickets. And on one of these anniversaries? We’re all going to eat cupcakes.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”   Psalm 147:3

 

 

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Journal entry: May 23, 2008

This plane is freezing. Really freezing. When did planes get so cold?? It physically hurts me. I’ve been cold like this for months. Cold to the bone. I’m wearing Jeff’s coat over 2 sweatshirts over my T-shirt. I have a blanket wrapped around my legs and socks on my hands. I must look quite the fashion plate.

It doesn’t help much anyway. My skin is blue. I hope no one thinks I’m really this size. Can they tell I’m thin under all this?? What a stupid worry to have right now. I make myself crazy with thoughts like that. They flood every waking moment.

Arizona. The word pulses through me and with every heartbeat it’s a promise. Arizona. Arizona. It hasn’t even been 48 hours since I whispered my tentative concession to treatment and here I sit. How did you get here you stupid, careless woman? It’s gotten out of hand before but never like this.

Still..this morning? Daily mirror scrutiny reflected a body that still clung stubbornly to fat. I know it’s there even if no one else will admit to seeing it. I can pull flesh away from my wrist and my hips..this makes poor Jeff nearly apoplectic. It’s skin! You can’t get rid of skin! So says he. I bet I could. Guess now I’ll never know. I can’t decide if this is freeing or stifling.

I weighed _lbs this morning. I failed. My most recent goal was 75. At the rate I’m losing, all I needed was a few more weeks. A month at the absolute most. I’m in size 00 jeans as it is. Who knew such a size existed? Well. Parents of..maybe 10 year old’s. Nothing makes sense any more. Up is down and black is white and the moon is made of green cheese.

The face in the mirror is ghoulish and slightly yellow and virtually unrecognizable and the people who aren’t coming up to me and saying “You’ve lost weight, you look great’, are making Darfur and Karen Carpenter references. Seriously people? At the very least can we update our anoretics to this century?

And the compliments? Clearly I was practically of Biggest Loser proportions before ( thanks for the heads up). And while the props should validate at least some of the hell I’m going through, I’m going through HELL. What I want to say is, “Thanks for noticing. I ate nothing but sugar-free jello and apples for most of the week, exercised until I fainted, and then threw up the piece of bread I ‘treated’ myself to because I couldn’t handle the guilt. I have a hard time breathing, I’m so hungry that if I had any tears inside me I’d cry myself to sleep at night, and everyone I love is furious at me. Oh, but you like that I’m losing weight and soon I’ll weigh less than my 5th grader. THANK you! THANK YOU for the encouragement!!” Right. No food has also made me testy.

I’ve got this other notebook with me that I know I’ll have to pitch before we land. But it’s the book that became my bible as of late. Numbers. The game. Beat the scale. How far can I push my body before it pushes back..and I’m looking at these numbers. The list of my weights over the past few months. The goals I’ve hit that haven’t satisfied this…. this what? Self imposed penance through torture? It’s alarming only in the fact that I don’t find it alarming at all. I hope that I can reread this in 6 months, a year, and weep for the woman who wrote this. That I won’t be her anymore. That I’ll be able to weep period. That I might feel again.

Something.

Heartache, anger, fear, joy,…without needing the bite of a razor to know whether or not I’m even still alive.

I’m so, so tired. Breathing is an effort. I know I’m in for the fight of my life. I don’t feel at all up to the task. God, please. I need Your grace. Your mercy, yet again. Will You carry me? There’s simply no hope for me otherwise. Those doctors said I would probably die. I didn’t care then, but I do now. Well. How about that? I do now. I didn’t even realize.

I need today to be the day. May…whatever it is. 23rd? The day I decided to NOT freaking quit. To NOT be a statistic. To NOT roll over and play dead . Anorexia will not be what takes me down.

My family may have gotten short-changed being stuck with me but they love me and I have an obligation to be here for them. Whole. So I will. I will remember. How bad this is. How much it hurts. How much it steals from you. I will remember.

It’ll only be a good story if I live.

I’m the only one who can write the ending.


~Jennifer                                                                                                                                                                                       5/23/08

 

 

 

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