Six months on
I’ve been meaning for awhile to write a six-month reflection post, since it’s now officially six months since my body blew up on me, and I felt the blog deserved a marker for that. Right now I’m feeling like the blog deserves so much more than I am giving it in general, but more on that later. For now, I’ll do the body stuff, because it’s time.
This is actually hard to break into, this round-up. It’s too easy to lapse into clichés like "six months ago everything changed" or something else that’s borrowed or pat, or overstated. That’s been the trouble with this gig all along. I didn’t get cancer. I didn’t have a debilitating accident. I didn’t contract or express a disease with a sexy name or high profile or even really visible symptoms. Essentially, I just folded in on myself. I hurt, but I could fake it and look okay. I couldn’t really function, but I could move around appearing like most people. It was like this condition I went and had in secret. The pain very rarely came on in a hard bite; usually it came (and still comes) like a slow fog, until all of a sudden it’s everywhere, and you realize the fog is poisoned, and oh shit, where are the pills?
I have learned a lot in the last six months, and I have changed a lot more both physically and mentally than I have in any other six month period. I was not able to do much work that paid, and in fact I was a serious drain on the family purse. But I did a lot of work in my body, and a lot in my head. A lot of work in my head. I have come to a few conclusions, most of them not terribly profound, but they’re nice and centering, and I’m happy with them. I’ll share them here.
Maintaining a body isn’t something you can do for a little bit. You have to do it forever. I took two weeks off to go on the trip, and I was very active on the trip. I also did a lot of sitting in the car. The cost for those two weeks off and all that sitting is amazingly big. I lost a great deal of my core, and my stamina is way down. I’ve spent a week trying to get back, and I’m not yet where I was when I left: I’m guessing in another week I might be close. Today I’m feeling for the first time almost like I want to feel again, but not quite, and it’s really hitting me today that it is not that I will work out and do weights and train until I’m at an ideal point and then I can slack off. This is what I will do forever. All my trainers and therapists have said as much, but today I fully grasped what a marriage this endeavor has been.
Fitness and health are addictive. I was upset a lot on the vacation when I couldn’t exercise, and I got frustrated at the realization that while I was willing to stop and do the work, time didn’t often allow it, and so it had to be put aside. This week I have been rabid about getting my workout in. Yesterday I got caught up in revision and didn’t get to the gym, and this morning I didn’t even let myself open the document. The gym had to come first. Quite simply, I like how I feel when I exercise. Or, rather, I like how I feel once I have exercised. And there really is a zen to my routine. I have come to find the time on the elliptical comforting, and I look forward to it. I’m sometimes cranky about having to push myself, but I like the feeling I get when I complete a set. Not only is it helping my body, but it made me feel I accomplished something.
Getting fit takes so much more effort and so much more work than anybody ever told me it would, and losing weight is even harder. I work out at least six hours a week. I spend half an hour on the treadmill. I do weights and pushes and planks and all manner of tightening, strengthening, and firming exercises. They do work. I have gone down a bit in size–but not much. I still see pictures of myself and feel like I look way, way too big. I still have thighs that alarm me when I put on a bathing suit. I still look at other women and feel jealous and angry because I don’t understand why they get to be so much thinner than me when they don’t even work out. I get mad sometimes because all that work didn’t make me in a size twelve by this time. I can’t decide if I wish people would have told me it took this much work, or that managing food is even harder, or if I’m glad they lied and told me how great this was going to make me look. It has made a difference, but it’s a lot slower. My trainer last fall told me she gets frustrated with how easy our culture paints weight loss, and I’m starting to agree with her. It’s not something you can cheat on. It has to become your religion, or you need to make peace with where your body is and be done with it.
The work is hard, but what it gives your mind is worth even more than what it gives your body. I have learned that when a pain bit hits me, I find out fast what issues I have been avoiding in my life. If there’s something I haven’t dealt with or processed, it will surface, and it will be ten times worse. If I’m feeling upset or low or vulnerable, a pain episode will magnify it. It’s those moments that are the most dangerous, because it’s then that it’s so tempting to hide behind the pain, to use it as an excuse for not doing things. It gets tricky, because sometimes the pain means that I truly can’t. It’s hard to know when I’m rationalizing and when I’m recognizing. I’m not always good at sorting the two out. But when I chose to examine what the pain dredges up, when I accept where my body is, I can often find it easier to accept where my mind is.
There is a zen to pain. I can’t really say that I’m glad or sorry that this condition happened. This is, actually, how I have always been, but for whatever reason, this is when it’s chosen to go critical. This pain, this weakness, this condition: it is who I am. It is me, and I am it. It is my teacher. It is my demon. It is my lover, and it is what I fight. It is as much a part of me as my arm. It is something that I can use to change myself and mold myself and discover myself, or it is something that I can use to hide and make excuses. It is, as my physical therapist says, my gift.
I’ll end this by saying that I’m happy. I’m good with where I am. I do not resent my condition. I want to keep working with it. I want to keep exploring and challenging, and changing.
And that, pretty much, is where I’m at.