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Happy Birthday…I think

My birthdays tend toward melancholy and nostalgia. I know better, and yet that’s how it is. At my age, it is difficult not to look back on the “glory days” that, oddly enough I didn’t know may prove to be the highlights of my life. It’s equally difficult not to regret what projects still have not been finished, what words left unsaid, what relationships abandoned, what dreams yet unrealized.

And so, yet again it is time to reassess. Scrap unworthy goals and set new ones. Determine what is worth pursuing and what paths are better not following. With–statistically speaking–half my life already over, what will I now do? Where will I go, and with whom?

But while I would be lying if I said I don’t want to do more things than I have done, truthfully what I am finding more imperative each day, is HOW I DO THOSE THINGS. That is to say, even if I only do one small thing, did I do it with integrity? Did I persevere until I saw the results I was initially looking for? Or did I allow myself to be dissuaded by nay-sayers (even those that insist in hanging out in my own head)?

At this point in my life, more important than accuracy, or even consistency is authenticity. If there is one thing I will celebrate this year, it is the blessing of still being on the path to being my most authentic self, and showing as much grace and mercy to myself as I show to others. Whatever I do, I will do it with boldness and with tenacity and with joy. Because that is who I am. I will give my strength to what I believe I should (until I see things differently) and then if need be, I will change my course, because that is OKAY.

This year, I want to live unapologetically–even if I do so quietly. I will accept that I don’t have to be popular, neither on social media, nor in my real human interactions. I will cast out the fear of judgment and criticism of people who have never taken the time to get to know me. I will give myself the love that I know I deserve. I will be my friend. I will embrace every part of me, and wish me well.

So, I guess this is a happy birthday, eh? Happy Birthday, ol’ gal! Happy Birthday.

17

My Epiphany

Before you ask, I will tell you how it came about that I decided AGAINST the bariatric sleeve after all I have done to pursue it.

WELL, a week ago, I had a follow-up visit with the Nutritionist. I came armed with my food journal that they’d made us keep for several weeks. And to be honest with you, I felt a bit smug. Smug because I felt that I have done so much RIGHT. Each day, I had completed all the categories: the day of the week, the time of day, the exact name and portion size of what I’d eaten, the caloric and protein values, how much water I’d drunk, how much exercise I’d done, what non-eating activities I’d done, AND the daily personal reflection they asked that you write. I congratulated myself that I’d stayed away from carbonated drinks and caffeine and that I’d almost always chosen single-digit fats and sugars, as they suggested.

Did I stay inside the 1000-calorie limit that they had recently imposed? HELL NO–excuse the expletive. But when you think about it, the changes that I’d made had been so comprehensive that I began to feel like a new person; I DESERVED to be congratulated. And yes, I did lose weight despite the fact that my daily calories at first were around 1400, and later closer to 1200. I was certain that the Nutritionist was going to give me a pat on the back and release me to have the surgery that the surgeon had told me he’d be glad to give me the first week in August so that I’d have time to recover before the new school year begins.

Just imagine my shock and dismay when the Nutritionist said the complete opposite. She said that I’d done okay, but that in her opinion I had not PERFECTED the goals to the extent that she could feel confident that I would not sabotage my own surgery after I’d had it. PERFECTION????? So, all this time she was looking for PERFECTION? Something that she did NOT say in the original group meeting we’d had. Long story short, she sent me home for another month to PERFECT this new eating life-style.

I already know what you want to ask and believe me when I tell you that I addressed your question to her, so that you will not have to. I said–very calmly, I might add–“Forgive me, but is it possible that it’s just ME? Am I the only 300-pound person who wants to know how you expect us to PERFECT all this BEFORE we have the surgery? I mean, if we could do that, then why on earth would we be asking to have the surgery in the first place???”

I would like to bet you seven thousand dollars that you CANNOT guess what her wide-eyed response was. Go ahead. Guess.

HAH! You are wrong. Her actual response was—brace yourself for this please—“EXACTLY!”

WTF? How could she say “exactly” as though we were saying the same thing? As though we were on the same side of the fence. As though she were not the only obstacle standing in the way of my much-dreamed-of and sought-after surgery?!

When she saw that I was nonplussed by her response, she continued, “I mean, that’s what I ask myself every day! I want all of our clients to see and understand that if you don’t get this right, you are going to end up weighing exactly what you weighed before the surgery and then all of this will have been for nothing! Why would you sign up for a surgery without knowing how to maintain your weight loss?”

Okay, so I’m not ignorant. I realize the total validity of what she said. BUT IT STILL DOES NOT ANSWER MY QUESTION!!! How do you expect me to do PRESURGERY what I have to do POST SURGERY?! Because if I could, then I would not NEED surgery. It would only be a matter of time, and I would lose weight, slow as a snail though it may be. But I WOULD lose weight.

And suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks. Surgery or no surgery, I will HAVE to demonstrate the willpower, the grit, the persistence to consistently do the right thing, eat the right thing, stop eating the wrong thing, stop eating when I’m satisfied, nourish myself with wholesome foods and not junk, stop all emotionally based eating, etc., etc., etc. So there was my answer. That was my epiphany.

If they were going to make me do all this perfectly before the surgery, then the surgery is just a quicker, more costly route with potential complications and recovery time that I can’t afford to miss from my job. At the very least, I can thank them for helping to reestablish my feet firmly on this path. When I signed up for the surgery, I honestly thought I no longer had the ability to control myself. Well, they helped me prove myself wrong.

8

I’m Out

Well, if you followed my blog because I was about to have Weight Loss Surgery…I’m sorry for both of us.

I’m opting out of the surgery, and I’m still pressing toward being my most authentic self. I hope you will remember that my original purpose for beginning this blog was to discover and express that true Self.

I am sooooooo happy for all my friends here who have had and those who will have the surgery. I wish you the best of luck and the best of health. I honestly mean that. I pray we will all get there; where we want to be.

As for me, I had to confront the truth: that I had made a fear-based, emotionally-charged decision: something I know from experience is a horrible thing to do and rarely has good outcomes. On the contrary, the decisions I have made that way have usually come with a horrifying price tag and many, many regrets. At the age I am now, I honestly cannot afford to make many more decisions like that.

Somewhere deep inside I have believed and do believe that I will receive Divine help. And yet it seems that looking back, I have consistently drawn back in doubt and then fallen into the trap of trying to do what has been successful for other people. I have never been true (over the long term) to the Guidance that I know for a fact that I have received. Instead, I have made many choices in desperation. Even now, I am carrying around an extra 100 pounds on my body that is largely due to one of those decisions to act in desperation when my weight-loss efforts were not paying off dividends fast enough for my satisfaction.

Be Blessed. Be Happy. Be Well.

9

Up and Down (Part 2)

It was difficult to accept the diagnosis of Bipolar from the psychiatrist because of the way I had been raised. We come from a very fundamentalist religious background that pretty much “demonizes” every sort of illness and ESPECIALLY mental illness. I am not pointing fingers at anyone; I’m simply explaining why it was so difficult to accept. What made it worse was the way people would preach a doctrine of physical and spiritual perfection that made those of us who were still struggling in any way do the most hypocritical thing possible: hide our ailments and pretend that everything was okay. Admitting any sort of sickness or disease or disorder or habit after having professed salvation was the same as saying that Christ had died in vain or that despite Christ’s great sacrifice you are lacking in the faith required to receive the benefits. Either way, you’re a loser.

I can’t tell you how many prayer lines I stood in, each time believing that THIS was the night that I would be set free FOREVER. But as the months rolled on, each black pit of depression was blacker than the previous one. I lived in secret misery for years, still proclaiming Jesus as the healing miracle worker who has no respect of persons. I simply attributed my own lack of change to my inability to continually exhibit the faith that was sufficient to move Him. It was like being at the grocery store with .50 cents and the cashier telling you that you need $50. No matter how much you believe in her grace and mercy, and no matter how much you beg and plead, and no matter how much you seek to flatter her with praises you’re not leaving that store until you pay up. That’s the way I saw my own faith deficiency. And with each passing year, I felt more hopeless.

I took the meds. First, Lamictal at the lowest possible dosage. Three months later the psych increase the dosage. Later he added another med and then later increased that dosage as well. At the end of a year, I was on 3 different meds including stuff like Welbutrin and Abilify, all at the highest dosages. Eventually I was not myself in ANY way. I was in a distracted, agitated, sleepy CLOUD which did block out the crazy-impulse voices, but unfortunately also blocked out my own voice. I don’t remember being able to think ANY thoughts or feel any feelings except aggravation and lethargy. I remember wondering what was the point if one way or the other I was still going to feel like a miserable wretch.

Knowing that I had been advised not to ever come off all those meds without doctor approval or supervision, I still did it. My psychiatrist had told me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life, period and that we would just keep switching up and changing things until we found what “worked.” After a year, we had not found that magic combination. So I prayed that God would help me and sustain me when I threw the remaining meds in the trash. I committed to trying to live in a way that would not welcome anymore drama into my life and in return I just wanted Him to help me not to kill myself.

Seven years later, I am still alive. I try to live in a balanced way. I am thankful to have loving, supporting friendships as well as a loving husband. I work a full-time job and am working on a Master’s Degree. Until recently, I had been committed to eating well and getting lots of physical activity; things that I know have an impact on one’s ability to cope with life. Above all, I have embraced a spiritual path of meditation and have been blessed by the teachings of my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. I give glory to God for having stabilized and sustained me thus far.

THAT’s why I was so upset about the recent Psych Eval in which he said he would not recommend me as a candidate for weight loss surgery unless I got back on medication. It’s like a slap in the face and a total disregard for my growth over these seven years.

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Thank you! You are the Best readers Ever!!

followed-blog-50-2xI don’t know how it happened, because I’ve only published 17 posts in this particular blog. I began to write in earnest on April 26th, so in less than a month, you have brought me up to 50 readers. Excuse me, FIFTY-TWO followers. Well, I don’t just follow people on a whim, and I assume you don’t either. So, again, I really appreciate you and as always, look forward to your comments. Happy Blogging, Everyone!!!!

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People: My First Grade Teacher

lgekkc3tperdvzis70v3  My favorite teacher was either my First Grade teacher, Mrs. Schwakowski, or my Third Grade Teacher, Mrs. Calabrese, who looked exactly like her husband, the band director of the town’s only high school.

Mrs. Schwakowski was thin, lanky, and athletic-looking. She always wore pants and sweaters. She had an angular face and a sharp-edged haircut that accentuated that fact even more.

She seemed so evenly good-natured. I guess that’s the thing I must have liked most about her. She neither snapped her fingers and referred to groups of her students as “people,” like one of the Sixth Grade teachers could be heard doing [People, get in line!]; nor did she coddle and fawn over her students as some of the Kindergarten teachers downstairs did.

I wasn’t her favorite student. If she had a pet it was Stephanie Shmidt. How could Stephanie not be anyone’s favorite with her long eyelashes that looked like they were snow frosted on the tips. How can anyone’s lashes look like that?! But I sure liked the way the way the teacher would entrust to me certain responsibilities that made me feel important and grown-up. Like when she would tell me to deliver the attendance to the office!

Honestly, though, I don’t really imagine that she had a favorite. She treated us all fairly and kept us all at the same distance. I’ve seen some teachers hug their students. Mrs. Schwakowski was not a hugger. I don’t even remember her giving any special attention to Angie, who used to make a point of crying every single day. To me, it was kind of embarrassing. I remember wondering if she was really supposed to be in the First Grade, after all, or if her parents had gotten her moved up a grade. You know how some of the more affluent people of the dominant culture used to get their kids moved up a grade all the time. At any rate, whenever Angie cried–that is, upon being dropped off by her mom; whenever it was time to change from one activity to another; or whenever it was time to go home–Mrs. Schwakowski would simply ignore her!

I’ve never met anyone so gifted at ignoring another human. It is an amazing skill that I cultivated while raising my own kids. Angie used to make a point of her crying. Some days it was obvious that even she was not that enthused about her task and she’d have to put forth extra effort just to work herself up into her usual frenzy. First she would manufacture big crocodile tears. Then the whimpering would start. With each whimper, her bottom lip would pout further and further outward. Then she’d begin the pathetic wail that would lead anyone with a less-experienced ear to believe that there was truly something wrong with this child. But when this would avail nothing, then next step in her routine would be to ratchet up her cries to those of the despondent; and then the outraged because Mrs. Schwakowski was as unmoved as a mountain impervious to pebbles tossed at it.

Angie’s entire performances from start to finish never lasted more than four minutes from start to finish. And every day we were as shocked and happily surprised to notice that because of the quiet and firm impasse created by the force of Mrs. Schwakowski’s personality, Angie had suddenly become just as engrossed in coloring or writing or reading as the rest of us.

But ignoring Angie wasn’t her only gift. Mrs. Schwakowski commanded her troop in a way that I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a woman command, direct, and instruct 30 small individuals. I don’t remember ever hearing her voice raised in shrill tones like I used to hear Mrs. Daniels. I don’t remember her making sarcastic remarks that might go over our heads like the Fifth Grade teacher, Mrs. Summers, or the Fourth Grade teacher, Mrs. Edminston.

Her presence alone held sway. Her wish was our command. Somehow her will became our own and we found ourselves repositories of vast amounts of knowledge: how to read long sequences of ABC’s strung together into words and sentences; how to manipulate those same ABC’s on paper, creating our own words; how to stick blocks together to represent numbers we could never have imagined as real things; and above all, how to color inside the lines!

You might imagine that her somewhat boyish haircut outlining her facial features might make her intimidating. Especially since under her daily sweater she only had tiny insinuations instead of the big mounds that motherly teachers sometimes smothered their charges with. But she was approachable. She had a just-right warm candle smell, like a person who only uses body spritzers instead of colognes and perfumes. And her skin–you could only ever see her face and hands–was the exact peachiness of the “flesh-colored” Crayola crayon that comes in the big box of 68.   At the end of every single day, Mrs. Schwakowski looked as quietly energetic and unruffled as she had that morning. Her goodbye was as calmly expectant as her morning hello. I have never known a more person more constant. I wish that every single child who has to attend public school could have a Mrs. Schwakowski as her First Grade teacher.

6

Woohoo! Time for the Mental Health Evaluation

Well, I didn’t know quite what to expect when I called to schedule an appointment with Jeffrey Smith, who will be conducting my mental health evaluation. I had to leave a message once I got off work at 3:40, so I didn’t think anyone would be returning my call today. But amazingly, he called me at 7:30 p.m. wanting to know how soon I’d like to come in. “Would Friday at 10 be okay?” WHAT?!

Seriously I thought he would suggest something a couple of weeks out. Well there are two issues. Number one: I already have to take off two different days within the next couple of weeks. One for the appointment with the doctor who will perform the surgery. And the other day is so that I can go to a local school and deliver the commencement address there. Believe me when I tell you that taking off days this close to the end of the school year when students have all these state tests coming up is REALLY frowned upon. I can’t take off yet another day, nor even get a half-day sub so that I can go see another doctor!

When I told him that I really could not come in on Friday, as much as I’d love to–brace yourself for this one–he suggested that I come on Saturday. WHAT?!

Okay, so now for the second issue I mentioned (see above). I kind of hemmed and hawed for a second and then just went ahead and told him that I didn’t feel comfortable scheduling the appointment until I know how much cash I need to have on hand, seeing that payment is due at the time of service. He asked about my insurance, which is Blue Cross Blue Shield, state employees plan. He asked if I’m on the 70/30 or the 80/20 plan, which I couldn’t remember since I never have to use the insurance (thankfully.)

And the good news is…[drum roll, please]…I have to pay $35. You read it right folks, $35. And for the first time since the school year began, I’m really glad to be a teacher. By the way, he suggested that since I know that I’m going to have a surgery, I should get switched to the 80/20 plan. (Can you do that???) And the other news is that the whole evaluation will be over in 2 hours and not in 2 sessions like the letter originally stated. Go figure.

So, in 4 days I go get my head checked out! I’ll keep you posted.