The Relationship

Mel 7

Mel 9

Mel 21

31

35

I’ve been overweight for the past 13 years. Of course my weight did the obligatory yo-yoing, but I haven’t been within a healthy weight range since the Clinton administration.  Literally.  I never had a real weight struggle, and I thought that with time, the weight would just melt off.  It didn’t. Gaining weight didn’t really have an impact on my family, social or dating life, so losing weight didn’t seem like an imperative to me.  I’m not diabetic.  My blood pressure is slightly below normal.  My knees are a little worse for wear, but that was going to happen at 35 anyway, right?

Except, this New Year’s Eve, I spent twice as long in the mall than I should have, and spent twice as much as a thinner woman might have.  And if that weren’t enough, my relationship with food is not normal.  I’m from the South, arguably from a food Mecca, so a good meal borders on artistic expression.  It’s how we show love and give comfort.  That’s not new to me.  I always enjoyed pastries and good meals.  Just now, it seems to be more of a compulsion.

I want to go back. My relationship with food has to change.  I’d like my relationship with food to NOT be dramatically referred to as “my relationship with food.”  I think the way we gain weight is a disorder, but the obsession that this country has with losing weight is equally dysfunctional.  Because it has so little to do with the actual losing of weight, and EVERYTHING to do with how the people surrounding you perceive you and how you perceive yourself.

If you look at daytime television, particularly channels geared toward women, it’s commercial after commercial for diets, “lifestyle changes,” diet products and anything else you can think of, and it’s slightly overkill.  How do we find a happy medium, where food does not have to be the difference between victory or defeat?  Have we gone so far, that we can’t just see how normal it is to enjoy a good meal, then stop after we have enjoyed a normal sized portion?

Year after year, I’ve come up with a plan of attack on my weight, and year after year, I’ve watched myself get larger and larger.  I talk myself right into failure sometimes.  “Well, I want to be smaller, but not AS small as I was.”  It leads to me not pushing myself, and falling deeper into this dysfunctional relationship I have with my dinner plate.

So I’m trying a new strategy, where I begin to incorporate meals as normal parts of my day, rather than the parts of my day that I live for, then regret 20 minutes later.  I’m also exploring what activities I should take up that I can enjoy without relying on the gym. When I was younger, though I did spend time at the gym, I also had a lot of activities that didn’t involve going to the gym at all.  Simply put, I want my life back. And I’m gonna get it too.

Closer to Fine

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sail my ship of safety til I sank it
I’m crawling on your shores.

And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

– “Closer to Fine” The Indigo Girls

There are less than 33 hours left 2011.  A year that frankly, has been full of surprises.  I’m published.  That’s really a BFD to me.  I also decided to walk out of my house and make the DMV my home.  What makes this amazing is that I’ve managed to make new friends from here to Cali (despite the foibles I mentioned in my previous post).  Life has been so kind to me this year, and I can’t begin to express my gratitude.  I feel compelled to work harder for it.  Earn some of the goodness that has come my way.

This summer, I wrote this.  It was a reflection on the fearless girl I used to be.  I mourned embracing the spirit that makes me hesitate; the spirit that stops me from jumping into shallow water and forces my eyes open when I roll down hill.  Prudence isn’t an awful trait, but we can overdo it.  I’ve got kids, so I can’t always go balls to the wall, but I made a conscious effort to let go the tiniest bit.

If reading my own past words wasn’t enough (it’s not – one of my largest goals this year is to really analyze other people’s thoughts) one of my favorite people shared this awesome piece on Twitter.  Number 7 stuck with me the most:

7 :: If my parents / my grandma / God / whoever holds my sense of personal propriety in check was GONE (poof!) and there was no one to offend, upset, or disappoint… who would I become?

What unspeakably dark (or exquisitely light) truth would I tell? What would I (finally!) allow myself to write, publish, announce or create? What kind of closet would I come out of? What would I completely, at last, and fully… forgive?

One of the largest things I’ve tried to overcome is the accepting the woman I am, and not the one I’m expected to be.  In no way are the people who shaped me wrong.  I just can’t continue to beat myself up over finding my own way.  I pray that I still employ the wisdom they’ve given me.

Life is so funny.  Sometimes it punches you in the gut so that you can take stock of everything; other times, it gently wraps its arms around your waist, whispering sweet nothings, while making your heart feel light. Recently, life affably plopped down next to me on a bench, threw its arm across my shoulder and said, “Yo, let’s look at this sunrise and give today everything you’ve got.”  I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating:  Sometimes we can be so fearful of our own success and happiness, that we cripple ourselves with the lie that we’re waiting to be unafraid.  We will ALWAYS be afraid. There’s a fear in the unknown.*

I don’t know that every decision I will make will be the perfect one.  In fact, I can guarantee you that I will fuck up.  I’m flawed.  So are you. I plan on respecting the consequences of my flawed nature and being wise.  But I don’t plan on being afraid.  Not of failure, success, joy or pain.  The truth is, there’s no one way to get to ANY of those things.  We’re taught to believe that if you do this, and ONLY this, that will happen.  This holds true for certain things in life, but not all.

And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

*  Much of the reason I quote myself is to hold myself accountable in my affirmations.  I don’t want to say the things that motivate me, then forget them.  Remembering that I have far to go is imperative.

Felt Like Forever Pt. 2

Even relaxed, I had fab hair

If you would have told the girl in that picture, “Next year, this life will be a memory,” she wouldn’t have believed you.  If you would have told her, “There are people here now you’ve hugged as a neighbor for the last time,” she’d have been equally dubious.  But that’s what happened.  I went away.  But this isn’t a story of “before.”

This is a story of everything-ever-after.  My first day of work in DC, when I crossed F Street, I wish I had a hat to throw in the air, just to see if it would freeze.  I would sing the theme from Alice in the shower. “THERE’S A NEW GIRL IN TOWWWWWWWN, AND SHE’S FEELIN GOOD!”  (I did it very Broadway, except I’m not a singer, so it sounded…yeah.)  When you leave behind everything, and you have everything ahead of you, you’re emboldened.  That carried me for about six months.  I had an awesome crib, I was dating an awesome dude, I cut my hair, beginning the path to the awesome fro.  It was amazing.   My mother described homesickness as “feeling so out of sorts, you just want to sit in a corner with your knees over your shoulders and rock.”  It crept up overnight.  I was so at odds with everything.

I powered out of that shit.  It was hard, and I had to become used to being a woman with two kids AND a need for a social life, but I managed.  I fell in love. HARD.  I fell halfway out, back in, then out again.  There have been days where I felt like I was on top of everything, and days I thought I’d never stop falling.  But I’m still here.

And that’s due in part to picking amazing friends; old and new.   There is so much love in my life, at times, I can hardly process it.  I can’t even begin to tell you how it feels to be overwhelmed by love; some of it from people I didn’t know six months ago.  Not everything goes the way I would like, but my life, is charmed as hell.  I am blessed, lucky and light.

I’m not saying this because anything earth shattering is going on.  I just need the people I’ve embraced into my circle to know that I don’t take them lightly.  They are infinitely appreciated.  Some of you, my day doesn’t go right if I don’t speak to you.  That’s love man.  I’m glad I love you.  This unfortunately means you’re stuck with me.

Don’t worry though. I pay in gum.

Hurt People

I’ve spoken on this blog, and with one of my closest friends, about how we never know a person’s back story.  This holds especially true on the internet.  We only get glimpses of people.  I believe I approach my blog and Twitter with a great deal of candor, yet there are still chunks of my life that are private due in part to people’s ability to be cruel.  One thing holds true, especially in the social media age – great anger stems from great pain.

It had me thinking of my own circumstances.  My mother basically spent my senior year of high school dying before my very eyes.  My friends were at football games, prom and the mall.  My life was about home health nurses and hospital visits.  Once I was older, I went through a rather tumultuous divorce.  A few years after that, I lost everything I’d ever known.  Knowing that type of hurt and pain still did not give me carte blanche to punish others.

I’ll call a spade a spade here: many people go to the internet, and specifically look for a site or persona that gets their goat and wait for the opportunity to pounce on something.  Have you ever seen the comments on Youtube?  Their are people that will take time out of their day to watch the video of an artist that they hate, only to rip him or her to shreds.  Because Justin Bieber is an easier target than, say addressing their mother’s harsh criticism of their life choices, a bad relationship or just generalized loneliness.

I’m not exempt.  There are times where I am more critical or acerbic than is warranted, and I have to check myself and address the real issue.  I’m a human being that hurts like anyone else, and I don’t always deal with it properly.  Thankfully, even when I don’t have the ability to see when the ugliness is escaping, my friends and family will check me.  I have two Shauns in my life (one is a blood sister, the other, as good as one) and both of them have this hilarious way of saying, “WHAT is your problem?”  It makes me get myself together, or at least share with them and lighten my burden.

I’m not saying that when you are going through pain, you should “smile, though your heart is breaking.”  Feel what you feel.  Share those feelings in a safe space.  However, we don’t have the right to use our own personal misery as a projectile weapon.  Hard times don’t give you the right to be rancid.  If I consider you friend, my door, arms, ears, email, phone and IM window are as good as yours.  If you feel you can’t talk it out, back off from people briefly.  Not in isolation, but take a few quiet moments with your own thoughts to better help you articulate your pain.  Read a book.  Take a walk.  Don’t be one of “those” people.  It’s ugly, and it looks ugly on you.  “Hurt people, hurt people.”  G’on and get you some healing.

I Love You

“Oh she may be weary
And young girls they do get weary
Wearing that same old shaggy dress
But when she gets weary
Try a little tenderness.
– “Try a Little Tenderness” Otis Redding

“We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of black women for each other.  But we can practice being gentle with each other by being gentle with that piece of ourselves that is hardest to hold, by giving more to the brave bruised girlchild within each of us, by expecting a little less from her gargantuan efforts to succeed.”
– “Eye to Eye:  Black Women, Hatred, and Anger” Audre Lorde

How many times have you walked into a public service office, allowed your eyes to scan the room, and almost immediately decided you didn’t want “that black bitch” to assist you?  It could be something as simple as the way she chews gum – the fact that she chews gum at all – that makes you decide that any interaction you have with this woman will be difficult and combative.  Her skill set is irrelevant.  You don’t have time to deal with this black bitch and her attitude.  So you approach her, visibly annoyed, a black bitch with an attitude in your own right.

Ms. Lorde, in her essay addressed the disdain black women show towards one another, as well as how we are inoculated with this hatred virtually from birth.  Strength is massaged into our scalps with rough brush strokes and sharp words, as though we’re penalized for the very act of having hair.  Our rites of passage are quite often mixtures of gruff love.  The compulsion to break the spirits of our girls, as ours were at one time or another broken, only to continue to ensure they remain such as women, troubles me greatly.  No one wins here.

I experienced my first wordless gaze war in middle school.  Neither myself, nor my enemy combatant knew why one was “gritting” on the other; yet neither of us could stop, for fear of losing.  Your guess is as good as mine when it comes down to what we were actually afraid of losing.  Our pride?  Some patch of earth where the powerless refuse to be moved?  It was painfully confusing.

As burgeoning black women, so many of us have hated each other so long, we never came face to face with what actually angered us.  Ourselves.  We were so angry with the tenderness that wasn’t bestowed upon us, or with the the fact that we didn’t demand it, we refuse to grant it to anyone else.  This holds especially true for those who look like us.  When I saw other black girls, I saw thinner, fatter, taller and shorter versions of the knocked (and occasionally ashy) kneed girl that I was.  Loud for no reason other than the idea that being mute was almost as bad as dying.  These silent wars were more about the ache of being pushed so far for so long by anyone who deemed themselves my superior, than any actual dislike for the strange feminine eyes insolently gazing back at me.

Of course, it’s 2011, and rather than bus seats and mall stare downs, we have social networking and rude comments.  Regardless of how it’s dressed, it’s the same pack of wounded girls, not completely sure of the source of their anger.  We exchange hateful words with people, and especially women we may never even physically meet face to face.  I can’t reconcile that in my spirit.

So I quit girl war.  I forgive myself my shortcomings, and I pray that I can be forgiven.  I use every day as an attempt to be better.  In so doing, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to meet and befriend women who are brilliant, amazing, beautiful, strong, and wounded.  Hell, I’m wounded.  But you’d be surprised what happens when you throw down your armor, and just interact with sisters on a human level.  My dear friend Feminista Jones said that you really don’t know what a person’s story.  People who stop their day to be rude, angry or hurtful and direct that toward me already have enough with which to contend.  They don’t need me to be part of the problem.

Originally I viewed this stance as weak.  I need to let people know that I’m not to be played with, right?  I need to prove my strength.  Except, I don’t.  I know that I am strong.  I know that I am powerful.  Making you feel small does not make these assertions any more factual.  It’s not even about being the bigger person.  It’s about knowing that this life kicks us in the ass enough, so kicking one another is self-defeatist.

So, sisters, I love you.  Not in the abstract way.  In the way that makes me do everything I can to smile if I meet your annoyed stare, and strike up friendly conversations just because we always need friendly conversations.  I have yet to be charged a fee for trying to be positive and nice.  I’m a sassy ass firecracker, so I don’t always succeed at this, but I so want to be part of the solution.  I don’t want to fight you.  I’ll do everything in my power to avoid it. You’re already fighting so much.  I know this because I see the same weariness in your eyes that I feel in my bones after a day full of being over-worked and under-valued.  I would much prefer to fight with you.  I’ve installed my own alternator and fed a family of three on $37 for a week and a half – I’m probably the type of chick you want on your team.  Could you imagine a whole team of us gang banging on white privilege and patriarchy rather than each other?

I’d love to see that.

The Weather…and getting from under it

About a month ago, I admitted that I was in over my head.  Not only to myself or a family member. Someone I’d never met, who simply wanted to help.  And she got me on the path to finding a counselor/therapist.  So I started calling offices to get an appointment.  And I left messages.  Then I called.  And left more messages.

I was surprised at how difficult it is just to get help for mental health issues.  I’ve been told that I basically have to brow-beat someone into seeing me, which makes me a little sad.  There’s no shortage of people willing to give me a pill that will cause nausea, blood clots, heart palpitations and death.  But, to actually get help?  No dice cousin.

The ebb and flow of my moods have always been a source of anxiety for me and I’ve always classified myself as “moody.”  It wasn’t debilitating, so I just waited until I felt better.  Then about two months ago, I could barely get out of bed.  I would go home, lay down, and get up when it was time to go back to work the next morning.  One day, I gave thought to the last time I’d actually been up all day and enjoyed myself.  I also thought about the last time I hadn’t spent every spare moment shoving food in my face.  When I couldn’t remember, I decided that it was time to get help.

So now, I’m in the process of begging.  If you hear about a woman kicking in the door of a therapist’s office, just know that it’s me.  My intentions, however, are pure.