The Transformation of the Fat Girl


transformation

“If you’ve been fat, you will always feel and see the world as a fat person; you know how difficult it is… It’s the same coming from a working-class background… it never leaves you.”
― Caitlin Moran, Moranthology

Living my life as a fat person has been the hardest of all the challenges I have encountered. Overcoming emotional abuse and the dysfunctions of my childhood pale in comparison to my struggles of self-acceptance and finding a place of self-love that transcends what I look like. My existence has been marked by a shame spiral that circulates between my humiliation over my weight and the weight of the shame that holds me back from tackling my problem. My strategy has been to overcompensate for my largesse by trying to distract people from really seeing me. Humor and intelligence, accomplishments and pleasing are some of the sharpest tools in my bag of tricks. Yet, every day I have looked in the mirror and focused in on my fears about what people would see and how what they see might influence how they perceive me. My goal was always to find a plan to shield them from what I internalized as ugliness. What looks back in the mirror at me is viewed, by me, as an abnormality – a misfit who is unacceptable and, surely, unworthy of love. When I reflect on all the struggles throughout my life and the darkness that has lurked so deep within me, I know the truth is that my weight helps to keep perpetuating the pain and reinforcing the message that I have been running to escape – no one will love me.

This is not a new story for me but, like everything else in my life, it has shifted as my life has evolved. As we work through our challenges and commit to improvements, we have to keep diving deeper to study the roots of our emotional baggage. There are layers of experiences and pain that have resulted in our current selves and, sometimes, what looks to be the source matter is, in fact, just a projection, distracting us from the more painful reality that is out of our reach. My relationship with myself and my journey of self-acceptance has finally led me to here and now I have the space to explore this deep and secluded area of myself. All the work I have done to move past the traumas and deep scarring pain has led me to this place. I know, with certainty, that this is the final frontier and truly the last piece of the puzzle for me. Around the corner, I can see peace and love and acceptance but first I need to confront the darkest core of my soul and unlock the safe where I keep all the shame that plagues me.

Despite all of the unpleasantries that have marked my difficult life, my weight has, hands down, caused me the most pain and has most held me back from being the person I always believed I could be. That simple acknowledgement causes me even more shame and discomfort because it feels like failure. Hiding behind my weight feels like I’m using a lame excuse to cloak and protect myself from the heavy lifting required to live an authentic life. So, when I decided to write this blog, I had to be metaphorically ready to stand in the middle of Times Square, fully naked, with the words “I am fat” tattooed across my stomach. And I had to be comfortable with everything that came along with that. Alright then. Here I stand. And, for the record, I am really not comfortable at all. Give me what you’ve got. I can take it as it is all part of the process.

To be clear, I have travelled a long road to where I am today and I’m confident that I’m close to reaching a destination that feels awfully good but, in order to get through the final leg of this journey and ensure my admittance to the Emerald City, I need to confront the truths of how I got to where I was. I have had to burrow down a bit further to understand the roots of my weight issues. And, most importantly, I have to step out into the light and acknowledge who I have been and who I am becoming today.

I had a deeply traumatic childhood, riddled with emotional abuse and abandonment. Food served as an emotional pacifier for me, providing a salve for my wounds and serving as a stand-in for the love that was so painfully withheld. I can intellectually lay that out on the table and I grieve for that young girl who was so tortured as she sneakily comforted herself with cake and cookies. The most distant element of my battle – the part I struggle to wrap my brain around – is the emotional understanding that would afford me a level of self-acceptance. For me, while the truths behind my addiction to food are abundantly clear, there has been no absorption of this deep in my psyche and I have continued to abuse myself by reinforcing the disappointment and shame. Over the years, I have read stories about people who have lost large amounts of weight, only to swiftly gain the weight back because they never addressed the underlying pain that resulted in them gaining or maintaining their excessive weight. They were incapable of making the mental adjustments necessary to see themselves as anything but the overweight person they were. For me, being fat is what I know. It is, quite frankly, synonymous with me. I cannot imagine a world where I am not a fat person. Yet, for the first time in my 48 years of life, that might be the case.

I have had a private and dysfunctional relationship with food. Food has been my best friend and worst enemy. I am not one of those people who loves to eat but, instead, I eat to soothe. For me, eating has always been a private affair. I would eat late at night or when no one was looking. Even after I was married, I would quietly slip downstairs after my husband was asleep and pour myself a bowl of cereal or fill a large bowl with ice cream and tiptoe back upstairs, eating the food quietly, hoping my husband would not wake up and find me.  Or, I would wrap a sleeve of cookies into a napkin and pour a glass of milk, feeling my anxiety and sadness slip away as the sugar made its way into my bloodstream. This was my heroin. I could numb myself standing in the darkness of my nighttime kitchen, flooded by the light of the open refrigerator, shoving leftovers into my mouth, silently hating myself with each bite. I would lay in bed at night thinking only of the food that called out to me from downstairs.  I needed to fill the bullet holes left behind from the massive assault I experienced throughout my childhood and young adult years. Food was a bandage that stopped the bleeding but, of course, couldn’t ward off the infection that was inevitable for I never dealt with the underlying disease. What has been hard for me to accept and absorb is that, as I grew older, I was creating more holes by repeating this cycle. No one was hurting me anymore except for me.  Food became my drug of choice and my weight became my weapon of choice.

Alarmingly, my food addiction and associated weight issues became a comfortable place and I used them as a way to distance myself from the rest of the world. Despite my desire to have intimacy and close relationships, I spent my life living life on the fringe, withholding myself from others.  I could more easily tolerate my disruptive upbringing by letting my weight be what distanced me from the rest of the world. Being fat meant that I lived outside of the mainstream and I didn’t have to address the loneliness left from the abandonment and loss of family. When I struggled with dating when I was younger, I would always blame it on my size. All I could see was an ugly girl who grew into an even uglier woman. I believed what my mother and sister told me for years (as an encouragement to lose weight) that no man would ever date me if I was fat. Instead of looking at my emotional dysfunction, I would focus my disappointment on my weight and neatly distance myself from the realities of having to engage in an emotionally mature relationship. While I can never deny that living outside of the lines of conventional beauty is challenging, I never had the emotional maturity to understand that I had the ability to emanate beauty from a different place and could attract love just as easily as my more traditionally attractive friends. Instead, even when I met my husband, I quickly attempted to pawn him off on my more attractive friends because I never believed he could sustain an attraction or love towards me because I didn’t fit the part. I was really fucked up. Focusing on the fat meant I never needed to zero in on the truths that I was too scared to face which was that I wasn’t sure if I could emotionally endure an intimate relationship with anyone.

“Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of fucking yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren’t indulging in the “luxury” of their addiction making them useless, chaotic, or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that’s why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice. All the quietly eating mums. All the KitKats in office drawers. All the unhappy moments, late at night, caught only in the fridge light.”
― Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

I have often believed that it was some type of miracle that afforded me the opportunity to secure myself a husband and, rather than using that as evidence of my worthiness, my self loathing deepened even more over the years. As a result, I found myself moving further away from a sense of normalcy and deeper into a dark cave of loneliness and depression, padded with humiliation. Over the past 25 years I have gained and lost weight, never achieving any significant results and, like most yo-yo dieters, adding more weight in the end.  I would secretly attend Weight Watchers meetings or try fad diets, never admitting to anyone what I was doing. There was some twisted part of me that believed if I never told anyone that I was on a diet, they wouldn’t notice that I needed to be. While all I saw was fat and all I believed that anyone else ever saw was fat, I worked tirelessly to hide it.  My life was a costume party with me donning disguises to mask the truth. I think I was the only one I was fooling.

I endured myriad struggles. I could never really shop with my friends.  I’d go to stores and pretend that nothing was of interest to me and then secretly shop on my own. I could never admit that I was relegated to the plus size departments. Shame. No one could ever know my size. Shame. Perhaps the most humiliating experience came when I should have felt most beautiful. After I was engaged, my girlfriends wanted to shop with me for my wedding dress and all I could think was how dreadful that seemed. I couldn’t bear them knowing the truth about my size. I was dying on the inside as the seamstress took my measurements and announced to the group that I would need a size 18 dress. There was no place for me to hide and I averted their eyes in fear that they would judge me. It has taken me a long time to understand that my real fear was that they would stop loving me because I secretly believed that my weight was to blame for my family’s lack of acceptance of who I was. So much bigness wrapped up in that small little word. FAT.

When I was pregnant, I struggled to find maternity clothes in my size. I found plus size shops and purchased whatever I could find to fit my rapidly growing body. I was disappointed to not have the cute outfits I saw my friends wearing and tried to create looks that would emulate theirs. During my pregnancies I couldn’t wait until my stomach got so large that there was no question as to whether or not I was just that fat or, in fact, I had a baby in my belly. I never experienced that exuberance of “popping” like so many of my girlfriends did.  Well, I knew that I had popped but it was months before anyone could see the protrusion of my uterus beyond my otherwise thick belly.

“We fatties have a bond, dude. It’s like a secret society. We got all kinds of shit you don’t know about. Handshakes, special fat people dances-we got these secret fugging lairs in the center of the earth and we go down there in the middle of the night when all the skinny kids are sleeping and eat cake and friend chicken and shit. Why d’you think Hollis is still sleeping, kafir? Because we were up all night in the secret lair injecting butter frosting into our veins. …A fatty trusts another fatty.
― John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

To further cover myself, I often avoided hanging around other fat people, choosing instead to surround myself with the most attractive people I could find. I had this twisted perception that I would stand out less as the one fat person in the group because I would be overshadowed by all the beautiful people. It felt like I could become invisible in this group. This served to be an even more painful version of torture because it was a constant reminder of how much I was not like those around me. All I focused on was what people looked like and I berated myself for not being able to look “normal.” I moved so far away from the core of who I am and neglected the parts of me that most needed my love. The recording in my mind was repeating hatred and disgust, pushing me further and further down. And, even worse, my existence became even more solitary because I never had anyone with whom to share my struggle. When I was finally ready to confront my truth, I realized that no one around me really understood my challenges or could relate to what I was going through. I had distanced myself from anyone who looked like me and stood alone. No one I knew understood what it meant to have this branding from early in their life. No one shared my identity that was marked by only one characteristic – FAT. When I was finally ready to broach the subject, I didn’t know how to openly discuss my feelings about my size. So, the first time I publicly confronted these emotions was about two years ago in my blog. To an anonymous audience, I revealed the secret truth about how I looked at myself and, for the first time, acknowledged how much my weight influenced how I traveled in the world.

In the beginning of 2011, I hit bottom. I am not sure how much I weighed at the time but I know I had ballooned past 280 lbs. (When I weighed myself for the first time after I started working out, that became my starting point. Yet, I’m fairly certain I hit a mark closer to 300 lbs., which is painful to even acknowledge today). I recognized that something had to change but I was so very lost. I’ve shared before that, sort of by accident, I began a journey of transformation. The universe led me to what I needed right then and I first found a pathway to fitness. At the time, while I had no diagnosable illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension, I could barely walk down the stairs in the morning because of the pain in my knees and my feet. I struggled to get myself out of bed in the morning because even sitting up was difficult and walking up a flight of stairs was overwhelming. I was in denial and frightened about my future. On a drunken dare, I began kickboxing, finding the courage somewhere deep inside me to make myself vulnerable and show up in a way very different than I had ever done before. Fitness and exercise became a fundamental part of my life for the first time ever. But the underlying issues were never addressed. Within a year, I had lost 50 lbs. and started to see myself in a whole new way. My body began morphing into something different but I was still emotionally eating. I was like so many of the people that I read about. And, sure enough, about a year later, after an injury, I was not able to exercise regularly and the weight started piling back on. And within another year, I had gained back 25 lbs. of the weight I had worked so hard to lose. I was free-falling back towards a place I swore I would never return to. After feeling such great accomplishment, I was awash in a new level of embarrassment and disappointment in myself.

Like most of us, I have watched people on television or read magazine articles about people who have managed to have success with extreme weight loss. I’ve always paid attention to these stories looking to identify their secret. What changed for them? How did they finally find the willpower and discipline to change their lives? What I realized is that no one can ever explain the shift that takes place in your brain when you are ready to change your life. It just happens and you know it. And then you have to be ready to endure it. No one rolls out the red carpet for you, enabling you to strut your way to transformation. You don’t reach the end of the line, walking past the black rope in a new body. You trip and fall and get back up and cry and struggle and breakthrough lots of pain. And then, if you have managed to endure all of that and still have the discipline to stay the course, you might actually make it to the other side. In the late winter of 2015, the switch flipped in my head. I can’t exactly say why and I am not sure I will ever truly understand. Perhaps I was simply ready and had found the strength to look at myself for real for the first time. What I do know is that on March 1st I committed myself to being open and honest about the deep pain associated with my relationship with food and my self-loathing and I knew I was ready to really change my life. I started an emotional and physiological cleanse. I chronicled the journey in my blog, publicly sharing my battle with my weight and holding myself accountable to whomever might have been along for the ride. I started unpacking some very heavy bags and couldn’t help but notice the shifts occurring. The heavy weights that had been buried so deeply inside me were starting to melt away and, with them, the fat on the outside of my body disappeared too. After three weeks, I had shed 15 lbs. and, within months, I was down nearly 30.  I felt different and began to see glimmers of sunshine that had never made its way to my eyes before. In August, after maintaining my weight for a while, I decided to cleanse again, as if to exorcise any remaining demons. And, another 15 lbs. were gone. And then more. Today, I hit a milestone of 70 lbs. lost. I can actually see the end of this road in sight.

After my first cleanse ended in March, I sat with my best friend and shared small pieces of my struggle with him. It was the first time I had spoken so openly about my weight with him and he listened intently, aware that this was a breakthrough. In all of our deep discussions about the various elements of our lives, we had never touched this and he didn’t dare ask because, instinctively, he knew it was a place I was not ready to visit. This time, I told him that I was ready to tackle my issues head on and was committed to take control of my weight and find a place of self-acceptance, wherever that might be. I knew I would know it when I saw it. About a month ago, I sat in therapy and told my therapist (who, by the way, also acknowledged that I had not been very open about my weight battles) that I no longer feared that I would regain this weight. I implicitly knew that something had shifted inside me. I am no longer hiding. This shit is all out on the table. It doesn’t feel great but I know it is where I need to be.

This transformation process has been rough and emotionally challenging. Seeing my body become something I am not familiar with has been both wonderful and disruptive. I struggle to see what others see and often try to imagine how someone who meets me for the first time perceives me. I don’t think the first thing people see is the fat girl anymore. In fact, while I still have a ways to go before I will stop thinking of myself as overweight (and before the medical charts will stop referring to me as obese), I am not entirely certain that the rest of the world sees me as the fat person I once believed I was. My friend explained to me that he thinks I have rewritten my script so dramatically and have made so many other emotional and internal changes that how I show up is so very different than how my old self did. I am not hiding nor pretending to be someone else. I am living out loud and proudly strutting my peacock feathers. I feel bold and beautiful and, most of all, proud and confident. My arms are jiggly, my belly is saggy, my neck is wrinkly and my thighs will forever touch but I feel so good about myself. After covering my body for years when working out, I am now wearing tank tops and funky bottoms. I am coming out of the shadows and confidently showing up, less concerned about what others see. I want everyone to know my story. I need everyone to know my truth. My wish is that it will help another person come out of hiding and feel comfortable enough to confront their own truth.

And, something really remarkable happened to me last week. While, for most, it will not seem all that amazing or noteworthy, for me it was a truly incredible experience. I was out shopping with a friend and we walked into Banana Republic where I saw a jacket I liked. I tried it on, out in the open of the store, and it fit perfectly. I calmly walked up to the register to get in line to pay and, on the inside, I was doing a victory dance. Right there in the regular people’s department I found a jacket I loved. Just a plain old size Large. That was pretty cool. For the first time I can honestly say that I like being Large.

Sitting in the Ballroom


she believed

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in an empty ballroom at a hotel in Boston. My colleagues had all gone to lunch and I chose to stay behind to catch up on some work and enjoy the solitude. I was unexpectedly working at a client event on a Saturday – I hadn’t planned to be in Boston. But, as it turned out, I was there. As the quiet descended upon me and my mind began to settle onto my laptop screen, I took a breath and leaned back in my chair. It suddenly felt like an eternity since I’d had a moment to shut myself down and just think. So, rather than focus on the work I had intended to do, I gave myself permission to bask in the peace and quiet and let my thoughts run free. Almost out of nowhere, I felt overwhelmed with emotion and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. As the emotions rushed over me, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was beginning to cry. Was I sad? Was I happy? Or, perhaps, was I simply exhausted?

I went with my feelings but tried to suppress the tears because I knew I did not have the time nor the space to let them go. I had a four hour drive home later that afternoon to surrender to them but, for now, I had to take a more analytic approach to uncover what I was experiencing. I went with the idea that I was exhausted. I had just come off a few weeks of incredibly intense work and travel. And, to some degree, I do sometimes get the sensation that I am forever running on a treadmill without any certainty that I am making any advancement in my trek. My focus is always on moving forward but, frustratingly, sometimes I am not always entirely clear on how to do this. So then there are days, like yesterday, when I take a momentary pause and realize how tired my legs are and how familiar my surroundings seem, leading me to wonder if any progress has been made.  On top of that, I sometimes get scared when I don’t have a clear sense of direction. Even more frightening is when I lose perspective on my purpose, which seems to happen more frequently as my life becomes more complicated. I am nothing if not intentional and, rarely do I take action without a somewhat defined sense of the purpose and the anticipated outcomes. It can create an existence fueled by reflection where I devote a good chunk of effort to memorializing my life through my writing or photographs or just burning images in my mind. However, at the same time, I am typically very firmly situated in the present moment. I have struggled with spending too much time looking backwards missing what’s gone or too much time looking forward, hoping for what’s to come and, because of this, I have diligently put an emphasis on being present so that I can appreciate all that is happening and be able to navigate my complex life.

Yesterday, sitting in that ballroom, I never questioned that my feet were firmly planted on the ground. There was a clear sense of purpose of why I was there – to support my team – and I was grateful for the opportunity to do so. Despite my confidence and clarity in my overall reason for being where I was at that moment, I still felt a little lost and out of touch. Over the past few weeks, running so steadfastly on that treadmill, I had somehow become disconnected from my objectives and was simply in the mode of doing. So, I selfishly embraced those free moments of reflection and from somewhere deep inside me came all those free-floating emotions seeking each other out like molecules searching for each other to form compounds.

The moment quickly passed as my colleagues returned and I erased the emotions from my face, collecting myself in order to get back to the work at hand. Later, as I made my journey back home, speeding down the highway and watching the sun slowly sink into the horizon, I relinquished my tight control over my thoughts and feelings and let my mind run free. During my exploration, I acknowledged that the last few years have created extraordinary shifts in my life. Without question, my homeostasis has been altered and I have created a new normal. What made sense and seemed acceptable just five years ago no longer makes sense today. And, while I deeply believe that change is critical for growth and that evolution incorporates both joy and misery, this shift feels so dramatic. There are very few elements of my life that have remained untouched and, in fact, most have been reshaped and sculpted into new forms. I keep searching for remnants of the me that I am struggling to remember. From a distance, most wouldn’t recognize any of the significant changes but all you need to do is push a bit beyond the surface and it looks like my DNA has changed. My tolerance for what was previously acceptable behaviors from both myself and others is now low and my expectations have significantly increased. I have created a state of being and a state of mind that is rooted in deep respect and authenticity. Anything less is unacceptable.

When I allow myself to really take inventory and familiarize myself with this new and, hopefully, improved version of myself, I can’t help but acknowledge that I have had success far beyond what I ever imagined. Sure, on paper, it doesn’t look like much but I am the only one I am trying to impress. Some people take pity on me because of my sad childhood, the loss of my family, or how I have struggled with my weight and my body. In the past, all of those pieces have been complicated and have often overwhelmed me, paralyzing my ability to tackle any of it. But now, it all seems to make sense. It’s as if I have put together enough of the puzzle pieces so that the final image is starting to take shape. I know what I want the picture to look like and, while the final project will not be completed until I take my last breath, I can begin to embrace and take pleasure in the progress I have made. Yesterday, when I was sitting in that room, suddenly alone with my feelings, I knew the tears were an amalgamation of all that has transpired. It was a sigh, collectively expressing my joys and sadnesses. A cheer for all the blood I have managed to draw from this seemingly dry stone. And comfort for all the companion heartbreaks and disappointments.

I used to reach points where I felt like I no longer had the capacity to move forward. As a teenager I would have suicidal moments where I fantasized about not having to fight the fight. It would feel as if my tank had reached empty and there was no place to replenish the fuel. The fear that would overtake me tapped into my deep abandonment issues, resulting in a lack of confidence and an inability to believe that I truly had all the tools and resources necessary to prevail. The reminder that there was no family structure that allowed me to believe I would be caught when I fell backwards created intense panic when I became overwhelmed by the pressure of moving through the more treacherous terrain of my life. Suddenly the fear of the unknown perils that might lie around the next corner rendered me incapable of imagining how I might prevail. The future was a strange and scary uncertainty. For a child who never believed I would live past 25, I never allowed myself to imagine anything beyond the here and now because my life was a paradoxic constant state of impermanence. But I felt none of those fears or worries yesterday. Awash with emotion, anxiety about those familiar terrors seemed remarkably distant and unfamiliar. Instead, the surging feelings were attributed to me catching up with myself. I am moving at the speed of light and rarely have the opportunity to level set. I have flashes of recognition of what is happening and, trying so intently to be present, sometimes it all just moves too fast for me and I can only get a gentle whiff of my new reality. And that’s when I start to feel a bit lost and confused and my mad memorialization skills can’t come into play because I have not been able to stop long enough to jot down a note and capture the experience. For the first time in my life, I am moving in so many directions at once and simultaneously progressing on so many different roadways that I don’t have the luxury of acknowledging and appreciating it all.

Before I left the hotel in Boston yesterday, I ran into an old pal. She’s someone I haven’t seen in a while. Actually, she’s kind of a new pal who I hadn’t seen for quite some time. She is one of those rare people who you meet and immediately connect with on a deeper level, making you feel like you’ve known each other forever. And, she’s one of those people with whom the sight of her face makes my own face light up. She just makes me happy and magically calms me. We ran into each other in the hallway (admittedly, I knew she was there and was hoping to see her but had just about given up on a chance interaction) and we embraced with pure glee. We stopped to talk to me for a few moments and soaked each other in. As if knowing exactly what I needed, she took a long hard look at me and acknowledged me. She had been watching me from afar, checking in through Facebook or sneaking a peek at my blog. I was so thankful for her genuine and heartfelt comments and I am sure she had no idea how much I needed her acknowledgement in that very moment. Her embrace and kindness was like an antibiotic. She managed to gently shock my nervous system and reset me. Surely unbeknownst to her, she is a part of my external memoralization – one of those important souls who keep track of what’s happening and help me on the days that I can’t remember. The days that I’m too caught up in what’s happening in the moment and don’t have the ability to reflect on where I’ve come from.

Driving home yesterday, I took all this into account and started to unpack some heavy bags.  I needed to break it all down for myself and take some personal inventory. The solitude of the drive, the ease and comfort that came from putting the work behind me and appreciating the brief yet meaningful interaction with my friend allowed me to unwind and let the air out of my lungs. It was time to take stock in myself and truly embrace the changes happening inside and outside of me. For years now, I have sat in my weekly therapy sessions, picking at small wounds, letting the blood flow freely and finally giving them the air to breathe and heal. Over the recent months I have tried to catalog all of this and, rather than searching for the individual scars to remind myself of the pain, I have remarked at the beauty of my healed skin. I see myself differently. I can now see the caterpillar that transformed into a butterfly.

The journey home was a series of self-exploratory internal dialogues that led me to some simple understandings and declarations. Most importantly, I knew that all of the components of me that the outside world was experiencing was influenced by one simple truth – I had finally taken control of my life. No longer is anyone else dictating who I am meant to be, how I am meant to live, or what makes me happy or satisfied. The process of reclaiming control was intricately intertwined with a simultaneous release of pain and fear. No more looking backward and trying to rewrite my story in order to make it more palatable. No more looking backward with regret or to recapture moments that felt so good in fear that they will never occur again. Instead, I have reached a point of acceptance and, remarkably, with the acceptance has come another transformation – one that symbolizes so much more for me than anything else I could accomplish. My body has transformed into one that I am proud of and feel extremely comfortable in. No matter what other successes I have, this will always be the one that I will feel most proud of. As someone who has struggled from my earliest memories with shame and a lack of respect for myself, to be able to see myself differently and be able to nurture myself lovingly is almost mind-blowing. As the metaphoric weight of my emotional burdens have been lifted, so have the literal pounds melted away and the person that looks back at me in the mirror is someone new and I am getting to know her for the first time.

As I pulled off the highway, traveling the surface streets to my home, the sky was growing dark. Sitting at a stoplight, I looked up and saw the most magical pink and purple sky. It reminded me that, for about an hour of my ride through Connecticut, there was a little strip of rainbow surrounding the sun. I wanted so badly to grab a snapshot of it because it was so unusual but, alas, the traffic was moving and there was no chance to capture it except in my mind. Near home, I looked at the pink and purple sky and appreciated the daily transformation of day into night. My experience in life is probably not unique, except for the fact that it is mine. My travels likely align to many of the experiences that others have as they transport themselves on their own human adventures. I suddenly felt small and minute in retrospect and it felt good. The largeness of my feelings that afternoon were important but minor in the grand scheme of big life. It was a moment that I may remember years from now or may just be another moment that helps enlighten me as I make my passage through life. Hopefully, it will resonate for someone else and give them the permission to indulge in an emotional exhale just like I did.

Oops! I Did It Again!


louis ck

On March 1st of this year I did something that, unbeknownst to me at the time, was life changing. It seemed rather unremarkable then but, looking back, it is incredibly clear how significant it was.

I started a cleanse.

Yes, it seems banal. Ordinary. Trendy.

It was time for me to do something about my eating and general health. After struggling with my weight my entire life and being a confessed emotional eater, I was looking for something that would help me change my behaviors. It was a 21-day cleanse and I figured that in three weeks I would likely see some shift in my routine and approach and, hopefully, develop some new practices. I shared my journey through my blog, hoping that my very public adventure would provide me with some level of accountability that ordinarily I don’t always provide for myself. I tended to my mission adeptly and I managed to completely dismantle my psyche in the process, creating a new approach to how I look at food, health and myself, in general. In other words, I accomplished my goal.

Exactly five months after I finished my cleanse, I decided to do it again. There was no clear motivation for me repeating the process except that I inherently knew that I needed to focus in on myself once again. After all, my results from the first round were extremely satisfying. The first time I cleansed I lost 10 lbs. and, subsequently, I managed to lose about another 25, along with drastically changing my relationship with food. I continued to workout very regularly and have felt much more active and fit. But, as the months marched on, I could gradually feel myself starting to lose my focus.  While I have not reverted to some of my destructive eating patterns, I could see that I was ever-so-slightly taking my eye off the ball.  The summer brought socializing and drinking and, even though I managed to keep the sugar and heavier foods at bay, I became less intentional about making sure that what I was eating was nourishing my body. My workouts were still pretty intense but less regular. Fortunately, the pounds were not packing back on but, in my new evolved state, I could recognize that I was slipping and needed to cut myself off at the pass. Plus, I wanted to feel that euphoric state that comes from eating clean and living a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to wake up every morning feeling good about my choices the previous day and not battling with myself about what I was putting in my body. So, I decided to give it another go. After all, it is just 21 days.  Three short weeks.

Once again, I found a window of time where I would not be traveling for work and would have the time to commit to preparing food and working out nearly every day. While this cleanse is relatively easy to follow, it does require you to commit some serious time to planning and preparing and to exercising. I sort of love the idea that these 21 days are a chunk of time devoted to me. It is like a little respite where I put everything else second and focus in on myself.

In preparation for the cleanse, I decided to go back and re-read the 21 days worth of blog posts from the last time in order to get back into the mindset. I was surprised when I quickly recognized that nothing about this time resembled the last. I foolishly expected my experience to be similar but, as soon as I read the first post, I realized the error in my thinking. Nothing about me today even remotely resembles the me who was preparing to start the cleanse on February 28th. It seems quite incredible that so much could change in five months but, in actuality, it has. For starters, I am not setting out on the cleanse with the dismay and disdain for myself as I was the last time. Before beginning the cleanse in March, I was profoundly disappointed in myself. After having lost about 50 lbs. several years earlier through intensive workouts, the weight was creeping back up and I had lost my motivation to exercise. I would longingly look at photographs of myself from that time, feeling overwhelmed and regretful of my lack of discipline. As someone who is typically quite regimented in my behaviors and very thoughtful about my actions, this was a major blow. This time, none of those feelings exist. On the contrary, my confidence level is high and I am extremely proud of my success because I look better than I have in years and am, inarguably, in the best physical shape of my life. While I still have plenty of weight to lose, I have never been healthier. Now, my motivations are about enhancement rather than rescuing myself from a dark hole. And, by the way, that feels pretty amazing.

Another big difference for me is that, this time around, I am approaching the experience with a sense of confidence and clear expectation of outcomes. There is much more intentionality about my approach. Last time, I really had no idea what to expect and was just hanging on by a thread, hoping that I could stick to the plan and get through the 21 days. This time I can see out to the horizon and imagine where I might land at the end. I have the benefit of knowledge of how this experience can and will play out and gives me more control over the outcomes. That is not to say it will be any easier but I am comforted in knowing that I am no longer a rookie and can guide myself through the hills of this path.

This journey is also a little different for me because it is a journey of acceptance rather than of accomplishment. Completing the cleanse in March left me with a tremendous sense of pride, not just because of what I accomplished but because of the resulting shifts in my life. More mentally than physically, I felt altered. My body didn’t look dramatically different but it set me up to manage my relationship with food much more powerfully. As a result, the weight started coming off rapidly and there was an ongoing ease as I approached social occasions and difficult eating environments. I was in control. Since that time, I have openly spoken to others about how the cleanse was a demarcation line in my life – it was, without a doubt, a transitional moment. There was such significance to the timing, the process, the experience and the outcomes. Now, I no longer need to prove to myself what I am capable of. My challenge is to accept the person I have become. I see glimpses of a version of me that I really appreciate and that excites me. Right after I finished my cleanse the first time, I shared with a friend that, more than anything, my objective was to let go of the control that food held over me. With two years to go before I turned 50, I wanted to plan to give myself the gift of entering my 50s without being ruled by food or my relationship to it. I want to turn 50 with a sense of acceptance of who I am rather than continually lamenting what I am not able to accomplish. Whether a size 6, 10, 14 or 18, I want to be comfortable in my skin and proud of who I am and what I have done for myself physically and mentally. I no longer want to be held hostage by my weight. The cleanse was the beginning of that process and, now, five months later, as I begin the process again, I can clearly see my destination.

So, this time, I selected this past Saturday as the start date for my cleanse. And, for about a week before I started, I decided to let myself eat whatever I wanted. After having given up foods like pizza, steak, diet soda, ice cream and most carbs and sugar, I gave myself permission to be gluttonous. I wanted to experience all that I had been “missing” and see where that landed me. I started the week off with pizza and ended it right there again. By the end of the week, after only about five days, I couldn’t help but recognize how crappy I felt. My appetite was ravenous and I was shunning my usual favorites of fruit and vegetables and was seeking out carbs and sugar. No surprise, of course, as I was not appropriately nourishing my body but, instead, was unconsciously shoving food in my mouth that emotionally I believed to be satisfying. I no longer could taste anything and found myself soothed by the comfort of the textures and the reminiscence of what these foods once represented for me. Near the end I was even beginning to binge eat. On the last night before the cleanse, I ate three slices of pizza and followed that up with a bowl of cereal and some graham crackers and milk.  These were all foods that had been removed from my repertoire, not because they are “bad” foods but because they make me feel bad. I was bloated and uncomfortable and found myself, once again, caught in the vice of food. It scared me how easily I could fall back into those bad routines and it was a distinct reminder of how important it is for me to eat consciously and nurture my body.  For five months I had not one single craving for any of those foods and, after just a few days, it was all I could think about.  Fortunately, I knew the cleanse was coming and this was only a temporary state.

I have already made it through three days and am feeling so much better. Admittedly, I am a bit tired from the cleansing and detoxing that is occurring in my body (I always compared it to the early days of pregnancy when your body is furiously building a human being and the exhaustion is overwhelming). And, emotionally, I find that the absence of food as a comfort results in some level of crankiness and self exploration. But, those are good things that always lead to positive breakthroughs.

Recently a friend admired me, acknowledging how much weight I have lost since March and I really tried to gain perspective on that. My husband keeps telling me how great I look and, every now and again, I run into someone who hasn’t seen me in a while and they remark about how much I have transformed. It is hard when you are living inside your body to see what others see. There is only so much distance you can create to develop a level of objectivity with yourself. So, I heavily rely upon those closest to me to help me see through their eyes and I pay close attention to how the clothes fit and how I endure my strenuous workouts. The easier they get and the more endurance I develop is always a reminder that I am getting stronger and more fit.

This summer, one of my obsessions was watching Extreme Weight Loss with Chris and Heidi Powell. I am fascinated by the journeys taken by the participants in their program. The transformations over the course of a year are remarkable and powerfully moving. With each of the participants’ stories, I found a piece of myself, relating to their struggles and appreciating the hard work they have to put in to achieve the results. It’s easy to think that you are alone when battling with your weight and freeing yourself from the addiction. Most of my friends have not had similar struggles in their lives and I have always felt like I have endured this solitary battle. Food addiction is often a very silent and lonely fight. And, as someone who has battled to overcome my addiction for years, I am grateful for anytime there is an opportunity to showcase the challenges and pain people face when trying to regain control of their lives. Food is not something we can cut out of our lives and the power it has over so many of us is not always evident. I am thankful to have achieved the levels of success I have and am excited to continue to liberate myself. There is no greater satisfaction than ending a day knowing that I was able to make choices that were right for me. There are many instances in which people try to encourage me to loosen the reigns and indulge and I choose to stay the course and do what is best for me. Those are winning days and I take them one at a time.

I’m excited to see where this 21-day journey takes me. I won’t be blogging each day to share my daily updates but I will share my story because I think it is important that we do so because you never know whose life you are going to touch to help them make a change. After all, that’s what we’re here for – to make a dent in the universe and affect others in a positive way. Hopefully my journey will do that.

Building a Family


family

In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit. – Marge Kennedy

When I think about my life over the past few years, the closest analogy that comes to mind is a roller coaster ride. And, I despise roller coasters. The highs have been incredibly high with me waving my hands in euphoria and the lows have been suffocatingly dark and dreary. Yet, I have stood in the arena again and again and bravely faced all of the opponents that challenged me, refusing to back down, refusing to be thwarted. Each day, for me, is a delicate balancing act of managing my demons, checking my emotions and leveraging the ample opportunities that come my way. Every day, I tap dance and juggle, having learned to make lemonade from the copious bushels of lemons that have made their way to me.

I choose to do this without regret. I choose to do this without feeling looked over or left behind.  I choose to do this, embracing the flaws that compose the mosaic of me because, without them, I would not be myself. And, inarguably, I have my days where it is harder to detach myself from the anxiety and frustration that sometimes comes with my daily regimen. Today felt like one of those days. In fact, today was a roller coaster ride on its own. We began the celebrations and ceremonies of our children moving up from elementary and middle school. We started the day clapping the 5th graders into school, signifying the last time they would enter the charming schoolhouse as students. Emotions were high and tears were shed and my boy marched boldly down the path, head held high and proud as a peacock. Later we sat in the small, hot auditorium, where, as a parent, I have sat countless times over the past 9 years laughing and crying at assemblies, plays, concerts and moving up ceremonies from kindergarten and 5th grade. I wept as I watched my son reveal himself to me in ways he has not demonstrated before. He assured us that he was maturing and understood what was important in life. He stepped outside after the ceremony and hugged me and his father and traveled around the front lawn of the school looking for teachers and other parents who have been familiar faces over the past six years and embraced them, sharing his love. And I was so proud.

As we drove home, I quietly reflected on all the families that were in attendance. I counted all the extended families that were there cheering and weeping, sharing their love with the young graduates. Many were familiar to us as we have seen them over the years and some feel like extended family to us. However, for my kids, my husband and I have the daunting task of playing all those roles as, in our family, there are no grandparents or aunts or uncles or cousins to cheer them on. No cards or notes to acknowledge their accomplishments or friendly faces showing up, especially for them, to show support. It’s mine and my husband’s job to fill in all the gaps. And – hopefully – my kids never notice the difference. I suppose there are many ways to approach our situation that is devoid of family. For me, I choose to fill the empty slots and ensure that my children never feel like they are missing out. Our little unit magically bridges the gaps and plugs the holes so there is no seepage. No love escapes without first being showered over my children. My goal, always, is to ensure that they grow up without deficiency.

Recently, my younger son and I were talking about a trip I was taking to visit with the family of a faraway friend. I talked a lot about my friend’s mom and how much she loves to bake and fills their home with multiple varieties of cookies and cakes. My son, always on a mission to satisfy his sweet tooth, grinned wildly at the notion of experiencing such reckless abandon and asked if he could stow himself away in my luggage or, better yet, would I purchase him his own seat on the plane to join in the fun. Sadly for us both, I had to decline his plea. Earlier this year a similar conversation arose about my friend’s mother and my son declared “I need a new grandmother!  Sign me up!” It is moments like those that the reality creeps in for me and I wonder if my attempt at filling all the roles in my kids’ lives is sufficient…or if they just do a good job masking their disappointment.

Over the years, the burden seemed to have lessened but, recently, as my daily life has become more complex and there are more pressures heaped upon me, I have become acutely aware of the added stress of trying to be all things to our children. Sometimes, in moments of weakness, I allow myself to lament the absence of anyone else who might offer to supplement all that we can offer our children. I find myself envious of friends who can call upon relatives to fill in for them when they simply cannot be there or, amazingly, just need a break. And then I think about the conversations I have had with friends about asking for help or getting support when days are tough and, on the inside, I whisper, ever so softly, “can you give me a family?” It’s no longer a need for myself but now for my kids. Well, that’s not entirely true. I need it for myself because I need to lighten my load. I need to outsource some of the responsibility and loving. And the minute I even remotely feel ashamed by this truth I remember that family is a structure that exists for that very reason. It is there to provide support and to build a foundation to ensure that the house does not collapse. So, meekly, I cry “uncle” both literally and figuratively and know that it is perfectly acceptable to do so. My kids deserve it and so do I.

On the other hand, I feel a remarkable sense of accomplishment that we have been able to provide our children with all the love that would otherwise have been showered by an array of relatives. We have managed to compensate – to over-compensate – for all the missing puzzle pieces and, for that, I feel tremendous pride. When I look at my kids, I recognize how well-adjusted and confident they are and know that we gave that to them. There is never any doubt. We made it happen despite the absence of any support. We inherently knew how to love and nurture them and never once displayed our own disappointment – or dismay – over the missing family. Despite my younger son’s wistful fascinations over someone else’s grandma, aunt or cousin, I truly believe that he will not grow up remembering what was missing and, instead, will relish what was present. His gratitude will be ever-present and, in my opinion, no greater gift could ever be offered to him.

We have done a superb job of building a little network, here in our community, of friends and neighbors who showered my son with hugs and kisses today. He felt loved and appreciated. And, even though we congregated at lunch, just the four of us, and even though there was only one card to read, only one gift to open, we made sure it was substantial and meaningful so he didn’t wish for more. And, of course, he didn’t. Frankly, it’s all he knows and he is thankful for what he is offered. I also make sure that each weekend, as my older son takes his place on the lacrosse field, fighting hard to lead his team to victory, I take enough photos and videos to make him feel like the world is watching and cheering him on. And the other moms and dads pat him on the back and send their good wishes, making him feel acknowledged and proud.

As the little car of my roller coaster climbs to the top of the peak, I feel a sense of dread and anxiety about what I am missing and how I may default on the needs of my children. But once we crest the top and the wind is behind us and the inertia sends us careening to the bottom of the ride, I let my arms rise above me and release the fear and tension, knowing confidently that I got this. I can always wish for more (and I do and I will) but, when I get off the ride, I realize I had this all along.

Donning My Mom Genes


motherhood

I’m convinced I was born without the “mom gene.” My hypothesis is confirmed repeatedly whenever I am engaged in activities with my kids. For starters, I’ve never been one of those moms who comes prepared with Mary Poppins’ purse filled with everything but the kitchen sink. Instead, I’m the mom who shows up at a sporting event forgetting to bring sunscreen, snacks or drinks. Yep, you know who I am. I’m the one who lets my kids leave the house in the spring or fall without a sweatshirt and you see them shivering in the fetal position under my jacket as they sit on the sidelines or are at a gathering with friends. I’m also the mom whose eyes start rolling towards the back of her head when around other moms as they talk about recipes and sure-fire remedies for sore throats, poison ivy or engage in the popular topic of identifying lice. My brain cannot process information and I quickly fade away, taking cover in a safe mental space where children do not exist.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids tremendously and could not possibly be more grateful that I was blessed with my two boys. However, I have had to learn to accept that I did all this while suffering from a significant deficiency. Without question, I am typically an epic failure when it comes to the hard-core mom stuff. Sure, I can clip nails (although one of my early attempts landed my then 5-month old firstborn in the ER for stitches), clean wax out of the ears and dispense medicine. I have a first aid kit to tend to minor scrapes and cuts and can navigate my way around Neosporin. But, that’s all folks. That’s the end of the road. I don’t cook meals, I loathe the field trips and I am doomed if left to create a costume. Halloween gives me hives.

Over the years, after packing for more than my share of guilt trips, I have come to accept my lack of mad mom skills and have tried to stop beating myself up. Every trip to the playground used to leave me penitent when the other moms would pull ziplock bags out of their designer diaper bags filled with pretzels or goldfish crackers. I’ve now moved beyond the shame of each and every time I needed to borrow a wipe or a bandaid when one of my children skinned a knee or had ice cream dripping down their face, shirt, hands and legs. It was a quickly learned lesson that I would just never be that person. I’m not that mom. And, frankly, I am in awe of those women who can pull a stick of gum, a tissue, a tweezer or an assortment of other devices out of their bag and turn themselves into MacGyver. I just watch in wonder.

Of course, this does leave me with just a wee bit of insecurity. I can’t help but wonder if I’m not that mom, then what kind of mom am I? Am I just the one who spends all her time working and has missed out on all the milestones and accomplishments? How many more times will I rely upon Facebook to see photos of concerts, field trips or games? I’ve battled these questions for the past 14 years and cringe every time I hear another parent say when they meet me for the first time: “Oh, you’re _____’s mom!!  I wondered if he had one…” Really?

When my children were born, I didn’t really give much thought to what kind of mother I would be. The excitement of my first born’s arrival was surely coupled with typical first-parent worries but I simply assumed I would figure it out. I wasn’t the expectant mom with a birth plan (just get him out as painlessly as possible was my mantra) and I never wrote a manifesto for myself outlining the type of parent – or more specifically, the type of mom – I wanted to be. My main objective was always very clear – to love my kids and send them out into the world feeling confident and secure. If I was being truly honest with myself, I couldn’t guarantee that I had much more than that to offer. I had no real mommy role models because my own mother was deficient in her own ways and all the other moms I knew were glorified from afar and I didn’t get to see the true inner workings of how they pulled off what they did. I was never even sure that all those moms who were ever-present and running the PTA were, in fact, the best moms. The true test, of course, was how their kids turned out in the end and how the kids felt about their moms when all was said and done. Ultimately, while I hated when my own mother said this, I now know she was spot on  – you do the best that you can.

I joke about my obvious shortcomings with friends and they kindly remind me of all the good things I do for my kids. I talk with more seasoned moms who have seen the fruits of their labors with grown children and they reassure me that my children will be ok. And, there is no doubt for me that I am an incredibly loving and supportive parent and play a critical role in my sons’ lives. I just don’t fit the traditional Carol Brady or Harriet Nelson or whomever the most current ideal mom role model is. I don’t fit into any of those archetypes. Someone recently made a comment to me that my children follow the course I set for them and I thought long and hard about that because it seems unreal to me that I have set any course. Every morning I wake up and feel like I am winging in. I have no idea where the day will take me when it comes to my kids and I hope and I pray that I will have the right answers and the wisdom to guide them as they blaze their own trails. I have never dictated (nor has my husband) their journeys and have only encouraged the interests they have demonstrated a passion for. We set ground rules for behavior and have laid out our expectations as it relates to respect, hard work and honesty but, beyond that, the road has always been theirs to explore. I have loved my children with every ounce of my being and remind them frequently how much they are loved and supported. And I also remind them that if the requisite ingredients are not in the house, I might not be able to procure cookies, cupcakes or a last-minute cake. I simply don’t have those skills. I have taught them about responsibility and how to respect women. My very existence is evidence of what is possible for women who seek fulfillment both professionally and personally.

My sons are now a teenager and a tween and neither of them think those mad MacGyver skills are all that necessary any longer. My ability to drive and withdraw cash from my bank account ensure my superhero status in their lives. After all, my younger son proclaimed that MOM stands for Made Of Money. For me, however, I am still working on my cloak of invisibility during those recipe swap, illness remedy and homework discussions. I long for a day when I can feel equally proud of missing those games (because of what amazing things I might be doing when I am not there) as I feel when I manage to whip up a batch of brownies without having to make three trips to the grocery store. A girl can dream…

Tis the Season of Endings


seasons

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.  —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have begun to refer to this past month or so as the “Season of Endings.” While it feels like this has snuck up on me, I have been staring down the barrel of this gun since last year. As the school year wrapped up in the spring of 2014, I telescoped out to the spring of 2015, imagining what it would be like to see both of my boys moving up and entering new stages of their lives. We’ve been through this before with the older one but it was a subtle ending, a minor shift of the universe as he ended his time in the secure blanket of elementary school and made his way to the middle school, embracing the roller coaster ride of adolescence and hormonal inconsistencies. It seemed like a small moment at the time because the younger one was still, seemingly, our baby and was providing a safeguard that we had a long way to go before our lives as parents would truly shift and our children would begin their not-so-slow ascent towards adulthood.

This year, both our boys will move up. The younger one finally leaving the pediatric nest of grade school and the older one beginning the final stage of his mandated academic career as he prepares to rise up to high school. I’m incredibly proud of both of them, shining stars in their own rights. And, I am surprisingly overwhelmed by how their rapid maturity and readiness to embark on their new journeys stands in stark contrast to my desire to push them back into the womb. They are navigating their journeys with confidence and competence that is equally impressive and humbling. As their mother, I struggle to strike the proper balance of nurturing support and respecting their growing boundaries. It’s an obstacle course that I trip over daily, rewarded with eye rolls, exasperated sighs and complete insolence. My older one has fine tuned his ability to tune me out and disregard my wishes while the younger one is watching carefully as his mentor blazes the trail.

For my older son, this year is transformative. As an athlete, he is moving into a much more serious period of his young athletic career. He has his eyes set on playing in college and is beginning to understand the implications and obligations that come along with that goal. He is constantly weighing his options, looking at potential outcomes and examining consequences. I wonder where he learned this and question if his father and I truly had the capacity to teach this to him when this was never ingrained in us. He is remarkable. He shared with me this week that the girl he had asked to accompany him to the 8th Grade Dinner/Dance was  just a friend because the girl he wanted to ask would be more than a friend and he didn’t want to get involved with someone who was going to be leaving for the entire summer to go to sleepaway camp. It took me a few seconds to process his comment and I had to quickly decide if I was immensely proud of the logical and mature thought process or if I was saddened by his lack of whimsy. Either way, I respect his decision and admire that he made one that he is comfortable with. I sensed no regret or disappointment. He had not settled. He made a choice and was secure in that. Wow. That just happened.

The season of endings is truly bittersweet. And, I have found, it is seeping into other areas of my life as well. As I prepare to celebrate my boys transition to the next stages of their lives, I am carefully trying to not overshadow their moment. However, I know myself well enough to realize that when life is changing beyond what I can control, I will look to control other types of changes in my life. I try to ease my discomfort with everything moving so fast and my inability to keep up with it all by focusing on the areas of my life that I can control and change at my own pace. Our lives – mine in particular – is always in a state of flux and I never sit still for too long. As I have often shared, change is both scary and exciting to me. I crave it and I try to control it. I dread it and I am wildly anticipatory of it. Like my boys, who are ready to move into new schools, make new friends and partake in new experiences, I grow antsy with the familiar, seeking out new experiences and interactions. I love the thrill of the new and the opportunities and adventures that come along with that. I love to reinvent and refresh and am always looking for ways to introduce that into my life. Whether it be a new job, a new friend, a new hairstyle or a new hobby, I am always trying to find ways to create new and interesting experiences for myself. And, like with the Season of Endings, I do this while struggling to let go of the old. I hang on, often far too long, failing to detach from what I have outgrown. My metaphorical closet is stuffed with clothes and shoes that no longer fit or are not in style.

During this Season of Endings, I commiserate with fellow parents who are bracing themselves for all kinds of new adventures as our children embark on the next leg or their journeys. We love them and support them with tears gently spilling from our eyes as the umbilical cord stretches just a little bit further, getting ready to finally split off. We watch our babies grow a little taller, talk a little deeper, walk a little faster as their little hands slip from ours and they assure us that they can cross the street on their own. We hold our breaths as they step out from the curb, trusting that we have reminded them again and again to look both ways and take care of themselves. We beam with pride as they take long strides in the crosswalk, making their way to the other side, waving proudly to reassure us that they did it. They made it all by themselves. And we weep a little more while feeling grateful and proud.

Each day that passes and I endure another element of the Season of Endings, I realize that we are quickly morphing into the Season of Beginnings. It’s a new road and a new chapter for all of us.

People Plan, God Laughs


“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

fishtankOne of the many dichotomies of my life that sometimes leaves even me with whiplash is my ability to embrace the impermanence of my life running up against my need to plan. I am a chronic planner – probably not as extremely far along on the spectrum as some of the more compulsively organized people I know – and this need often collides head-on with the nonstop flow of change. Perhaps, I suppose, there is some deep logic to my planning. I plan for all eventualities, knowing full well that my primary plan is likely to be pummeled by some unexpected occurrence. Ultimately, I am prepared for a variety of outcomes.

I do truly embrace the notion that life changes on a dime. And, in fact, sometimes I introduce the change into my own life in order to challenge the status quo. I am restless, typically bored when things become too familiar or predictable. I like to move things around and mix things up. When I was a teenager, I frequently rearranged the furniture in my room in order to gain new perspectives. I have always liked to have a variety of friends, continually affording myself a new panorama. So, despite my need to have plans in place and create a level of order in my life, I have a high tolerance for the unpredictability that constant change creates. I was raised to expect change as my mother used to often say “People plan and God laughs.” I am acutely aware that God is continually getting side-splitters watching me. I acknowledge his hysteria and continue planning nonetheless.

One of my goals in my life has been to effectively read the cues and prepare myself when change is afoot. I have astutely read the tea leaves time and again, seemingly forecasting outcomes of different experiences. My senses are fine tuned and I am not typically surprised or overwhelmed when changes take place. However, the one area of my life that usually creates the greatest vulnerability and challenges my ability to predict the future is with my relationships. I have been blindsided far too many times, devastatingly hurt by betrayals or misdeeds by people I have cared for. I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to my relationships because I don’t install safe boundaries that protect me from the surprise left turns that are often outside my peripheral vision. Because I invest so much into my relationships, I frequently relinquish the planning and the control and allow them to take on lives of their own. Authentically, I drop my guard and allow myself to get pulled out by the tide, hoping that if the seas become rough, I can swim back to shore safely without too much fatigue. I’m usually successful and, sometimes, not so much.

I was recently sitting and talking to a friend who I had lost touch with for many years. I struggled to remember what precisely had pushed us apart and felt frustrated with myself that I had not been more intentional with this person. I knew there were elements about their personality and behavior that didn’t jive with mine and, yet, here we were sitting and laughing like old friends. We connected and it appeared that we were a good fit. Was it simply that our lives had diverged or had it been a clearer choice on one or both of our parts to move in different directions? I couldn’t help but reflect on the many relationships that had, at one point or another, been so integral and meaningful but suddenly were no longer a part of me. Relationships that seemed non-negotiable. Relationships from which I derived oxygen. Yet I was still breathing while they no longer provided an inflow of air. I have reminisced time and again, marveling at how unbelievably interconnected I have been with one person or another, then impaired by the rupture and finally settling into a new normal. There was no planning for it, there was no alternative strategy. For me, I simply had to move on and move forward and maybe, one day, look back in wonder.

Change is inevitable and, in fact, there are few non-negotiables in my life. My kids being the primary. Beyond that, I know that tomorrow could be a new reality and, regardless of how much I plan or try to prepare myself, disruptions will occur and my landscape can look entirely different. And, admittedly, I don’t entirely hate that concept.

Vive la difference.