For the second time in a year I’m surrounded by boxes and a looming list which must be completed in the next thirty days. Why? Because I’m moving. Again.
That and I’m desperately trying to lose ten or fifteen pounds. How am I doing this? Well, you should see me. I set up my computer on the ironing board and tune into Zumba classes on YouTube. I feel ridiculous and probably look even more ridiculous. But it’s the only way I can my heart rate going enough for me to sweat like it’s going out of style.
For years I used to go to the gym two to three times a week. Spinning, yoga, weight circuits mixed with low-impact cardio is how I kept myself in shape. Along with weekend bike rides, runs and hikes. And daily half-hour walks with the dog. Until a few years ago I never weighed more than 130 pounds, clothed, soaking wet with a full stomach.
My current weight? I’m not telling. I will say that in two years I put on, roughly, forty pounds. FORTY pounds. That’s without having ever been pregnant.
Last year when I moved from Italy to New Zealand, I kept a whole bunch of clothes that fit me barely or fit me really badly. I was convinced I would get in shape, lose the extra pounds I’d packed on and be able to slip comfortably back into every last thing in wardrobe. Well, a year has gone by and I have not accomplished that.
I’ve never had any issues with food. I’ve never had an eating disorder. My weight was a non-issue because it wasn’t even on my radar. I was fine with what I weighed, even if I wasn’t always thrilled with how my body looked all the time. Now, I look back at pictures of myself, even just three years ago, even just two years ago and think OH! How I wish I’d appreciated that body back when I had it. When I was twenty-eight I could fit into the same jeans I wore when I was eighteen. That was back when I was married. I was rake-thin. I ate enough, but I just didn’t really allow myself to enjoy what I really wanted. Then, when I was going through the agony of my separation, I let myself eat anything I wanted. At first, I needed the fuel and energy. Then, I just used the “I need the nourishment” as an excuse because it was kind of fun. I liked not going to the gym for weeks then months at a time. Slowly, I let myself go.
For the first time in my life my body took on a shape, curves even. Now I have rolls when I’m sitting down. And to be honest, also sometimes when I’m standing up. At first I hated this. My face looked chubby in pictures and sometimes my thighs touched when I walked. Gradually, though, I began to see the benefits. For one, I’m healthier. I haven’t had so much as a cold, nor do I even get cold anymore. Not with my new layers of flesh. Best of all, I have boobs. These are bragging rights: I went from a B to a D, au natural. Before seeing some friends I hadn’t seen in ages, I warned them. “Just so you know,” I said, “I’ve gained a lot of weight since the last time you saw me.” We went to the pool in our bathing suits and they saw what I was talking about. “You’re not fat,” my friend Maria said, “You’re just not skinny.” But when you go from being skinny to not being skinny, you really do feel fat.
But it was the dear Cindy Clough who made me feel like a million bucks when she said it didn’t seem as though I’d gained any weight but that my persona seemed to have expanded as a whole.
Expand indeed. I have one pair of jeans that fit me (they used to be my super baggy jeans) and a lot of tight leggings. None of my skirts fit anymore and none of my trousers or slacks do either. In January I gave away the purple dress I wore to my sister’s wedding. I love that dress but I know I’ll never wear it again. Nor do I think I really want to. I gave it to a friend who can have altered and look stunning in it.
But what to do with the rest? It’s all just hanging in my closet, folded up on my shelves making me feel bad about myself.
So why can’t I get rid of it then?
It has taken me all this time to figure this out and all the way until today before I could put it into words. Ready? Here goes.
It’s not the clothes. It’s what the clothes represent. Who, more than what, actually.
It’s the girl who used to wear those clothes. In Italy, on vacations, in another, previous life. A girl who had firmer biceps, less cellulite on her legs, less gray hair.
Take for example my white cotton pants. The only pair of pants I’ve ever loved that aren’t jeans. I used to play golf in them with my ex-husband. I wore them on our honeymoon. There’s a picture of me in those pants, smiling next to my then-groom, upon arrival at the fanciest, swankiest hotel in the Seychelles where we spent our three-week honeymoon. When people say, “Those were the days,” I get what they mean. Those really were the days. The days I was that bushy-tailed, bright-eyed bride. That was me. In those pants. They are my favorite pants, even if I haven’t worn them in nearly three years. Now, I’m lucky if I can even get them pulled up to my waist.
No one really talks about this kind of stuff and I can see why. It’s hard. Besides myself, I don’t really know that many people my age who’ve been through a divorce. There seems to be such a disconnect in society for people who experience life’s losses. You feel like there’s something fundamentally flawed about you. As if it weren’t for this one thing you’d be gliding along with everyone else, making money, paying off your debts, buying a new house or a new car. You feel as though you’ve been uninvited in the pursuit of happiness. You tried your luck and failed. You had your shot and then you blew it therefore you’ve been banished. Forever. Or so it feels. Even though you know better.
Here you are, going through something huge and it’s all you can do to remember to eat. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is getting engaged, getting pregnant, sending their children off to kindergarten or college. You feel so isolated in your loss. They’re all in line to buy an iPad and you’re just trying to talk yourself into making the bed, to committing to something as little as that so that you can come home at the end of the day and pretend you had it together enough to perform a routine task that other normal people do without fail. Those other so-called “normal” people proudly post pictures on Facebook–of their accomplishments, their kids, their newly wallpapered kitchen. It’s all you can do not to resent them for their happiness. You? You’re just proud not to have become a drug-addict or alcoholic by now.
Then one day your pants don’t fit anymore. You really hit rock bottom. You wallow about this for months. You even decide to rebel against it by eating more or completely relinquishing all sensibilities when it comes to food and taking care of your body. Until one day you can’t handle it anymore. Even your baggiest pajamas, the ones you wore as a cover up at the beach when you lost your luggage that trip, are tight. So you start slowly. You stop eating toast in the morning and start eating yogurt instead. No more butter. You quit beer. You quit red wine (almost) and you don’t let yourself drink anything other than water, a glass of juice in the morning, coffee (with only a tad bit of sugar) and white wine on occasion. And when you say “on occasion” you mean a glass or two with dinner because you can’t deplete your life of all pleasures. You know you’ve made it past the hardest parts of recovery when you’re making your lunch the night before and it consists of fat-free yogurt, a banana and grilled vegetable couscous.
Yes, you’ve got a grasp of things now.
Just to make sure, you try those pants on again. It’s not as bad as you thought but they are still about a thousand Zumba classes away from being zipped up. One thousand, one-hundred Zumba classes away from being buttoned. It is with a deep sense of sorrow and regret you come to the realization you must let them go. You don’t have to let yourself go, just your pants. If you don’t, you won’t have room for the new stuff. In fact, now that you take a better look at them, they’re not as white as you think they are. They hold a tinge of yellow, the zipper is rusted and the hems are frayed. Even if they still fit, you probably wouldn’t wear them anymore.
That girl who wore those pants? She’s not gone, she’s just something more now. There’s more to her–more padding, more cushioning. She even comes with aerodynamic curves that help her to better hug the turns of life’s veering twists.
And so, once again I will do the sifting: what stays and what goes. What I can keep and what I can painstakingly now let go of. I know what to hold onto and those are the things that have made me into the one-hundred and ____ pound, five-foot eight and a half, thirty-three year old I am today. I find it remarkable that I still look forward at all that’s to come. Mostly, I am just thankful to be what I am, where I am. Thankful for all those who’ve loved and led me along my way. Love handles, muffin top and all.