Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's all gone to hell

that's not how you nit-comb, you nit-wit.
TWhew.  What a weird and hard few weeks it's been!  After being very happy with my progress, I just fell apart.  Ate a lot of leftover sock hop pizza or nothing at all, ran around like a headless chicken, babysat my niece and nephew overnight (what an honor -- the first time their mama has left them in 11 months... but 11-month old twins!!, plus Chickadee #1 and #2!!!!), attended my second SJE social event in two weeks (though I wasn't organizing this one, thank God), had the kids home from school on Monday, and then today discovered that we have been infested with... I can't even write the word.  AARRGH!!!  I am so sorry I laughed at an early scene of Bridget Jones:  Mad About the Boy when she discovers that her two children have them.

I am so disgusted and freaked out.  And broke.  Treatment for the chickadees is going to cost upwards of a hundred dollars for a prescription med.  I bought all new pillows and a new blanket for our bed, which came to almost another hundred.  I'm treating myself just in case - another fifteen dollars, plus a replacement for the bottle of olive oil I poured over my head before wrapping it in Saran Wrap.  I'm throwing away all their combs and brushes and am contemplating ditching all the hairbands, hair elastics, barrettes and gee-gaws. I am going to pay someone to clean the car tomorrow.  Laundry is going to kill me over the next few days, and I'm already behind.  I spent the whole day addressing this problem and then worked for a bit over an hour on a project.  I still have remedial laundry to do, and I'm keeping the chickadees home with me tomorrow too, just to be sure they are completely cured, so it will be hard to work tomorrow too.

So, I got back on the scale this morning to find I was at the same place I'd been two weeks ago, after gaining back three pounds.  After I got the bad word from the pediatrician though, I decided Dove Salted Caramel Chocolate bites would make me feel better.  They didn't.  But they were tasty.  So meals today consisted of a cup of tea in the morning (I was planning on eating at home after a planned early morning well-child visit).  Then, at Target, waiting for the pharmacy to process my prescription, I gave in to hunger and anger and disgust with the world and had a sausage and egg biscuit from their little cafe.  Then at home, at 3 pm, one chickadee fed me Medifast cheese pizza puffs while I combed out her sister's hair with a very fined toothed comb.  However, for dinner, we had a wonderful traditional Polish meal in honor of Blessed John Paul II's feast day -- golumpki casserole (I did use the Skinnytaste version), pierogies (only had one), sauerkraut and fresh kielbasa, and smoked and spicy kielbasa.  Dinner was the best part of the day.  And I got to share my love of JPII with the chickadees.  What an amazing man.  He can make me feel better, even today.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Head on a String

While I was at the reunion last weekend, I found myself describing my college-aged self as a "head on a string".  This came up during my discussion this past week with my nutritionist, S.,  who was trying to understand my mixed feelings about the reunion and my TWELVE-POUND weight loss.  Twelve pounds.  I'm very happy about it, but I'm also really appalled at myself too.  S. wants me to celebrate my weight loss and to begin thinking of myself in kinder terms.  More frighteningly, she wants me to stand in front of my only full-length mirror (currently propped up behind the bathroom door and used only to make sure that my hemline is not obscene) and tell myself that I love and accept my body as it is today.  I told her I'm not sure I can do that, so we started to explore this weird mind-body thing that I have going on.  And it was very difficult.

It's difficult to acknowledge the longevity of the disconnect that I have with my body -- it's something that I remember from childhood.  It's in my earliest memories (falling down the cellar steps, falling out of the bunk bed). Later in my childhood, I learned to distrust my body and recognize what it couldn't do.  I learned to see my body as a betrayer and as something that limited me -- the mysterious "virus" in my hip that kept me bedridden for weeks, the regular visits to Dr. Diamond's clinic with the other disabled children, getting into trouble for playing "jump off the shed" with the other kids, tripping over every.single.one.of.the.hurdles on field day in sixth grade.  In adolescence, I don't really remember giving much thought to my body or the way I looked.  I was off in la-la-land much of the time and didn't want to be noticed the rest of the time.  My view of my body at that time was strictly utilitarian -- it contained my brain, which is where all the action was, where anything interesting was going on.  The body stuff... well, that was just running up and down the bleachers in high school, something that both bored me and terrified me, given my lack of coordination!

I think that, for many reasons, that disconnect between body and mind persists to this day.  That's why looking at myself in the mirror feels so dangerous to me.  That's why "affirming" the way I am physically right now feels impossible.

Here are some images.  The first two are pleasant photos -- they make me feel good about myself.  They are from a very happy time in my life, the Rome Semester, Spring, 1986.  How could I have not been happy? I was 19, healthy, and on a huge adventure.  These pictures also represent an idealized version of myself -- the standard against which I tend to compare my present.  I know that is stupid - 19 is many moons ago.  The funny thing is, I don't recall ever giving any amount of thought to my body or the way I looked.  As long as I was decently covered and warm (it was COLD in Via del Pescaccio, 103), that was enough for me.  Again, more utilitarianism, more instrumentalism -- the body is good only insofar as it serves to enable experiences for the mind and soul.  Yes, I know how it sounds.

Now, I contrast that idealized version of myself with the present reality.  Note that this is when I was TRYING to look good.  I called this image "uggh.jpg".  

A funny, and true story about this dress at the reunion (I feel the need for some levity, even if it's at my own expense):  In Haggar cafeteria on Saturday, I was talking to one of my friends, A.H., who reads this blog (hey A!).  She asked if I were wearing "the red dress" and I replied that I was.  I told her that I'd gone to Target in the morning and had gotten some Assets by Spanx pantyhose, that I'd also come prepared with a Spanx bodyshaper, and that the dress itself comes with something called Magi-sculpt, which is essentially a tube within the dress itself designed to smooth out all the places you want to smooth out.  But, I said, "There's not enough spandex in the world to take care of THIS situation."  We laughed so hard we nearly cried.  One of our classmates was at the table and was intrigued by our laughter.  He came up to me later and told me he had to know what we were laughing about because it was so great to see us.  Poor S., I told him.  His response was very funny.  See why I love these people?   

Here's another that is better. I look contented.    

Notice that it's a headshot?  Hmmmm.  

Most of the time, I don't really think at all about how I look -- I avoid mirrors, I don't wear makeup or do my hair.  As long as I'm decently covered and cool in the summer, warm in the winter, that is enough for me.  
You see the problem.

I think I need to read this again.  But I will do it in front of the mirror, which I've taken out from behind the bathroom door.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Spirit of a Place

I spent the weekend in Irving, Texas at the 25th year reunion of my graduating class (University of Dallas, 1988).  I've written about preparing to go the reunion but I don't think I've ever expressed what I'm about to say.  It took a meditative and solitary swing on a contraption outside Blakely Library (now the College of Business building) on Sunday evening for me to start to process what I thought of everything and how I saw myself fitting in to the whole scene.

First, I have to say that I had a great time at the reunion.  I have been so blessed in my life to know many wonderful people whom I met at UD.  Many of my friendships today have their origins in Catherine Hall or Jerome Hall or the Hotel La Villa (103 Via del Pescaccio), or the student apartments, or, even (heaven help me) Old Mill apartments.  I reconnected with some old friends and also talked at more length to some people whom I knew in school but didn't really click with.  I'm happy to say that they are all still as interesting and vital as they were decades ago.  Some of us are with God now and their loss is felt deeply.  Some of us have been scarred literally and figuratively by the intervening years.  And yet.  And yet.  There is still the kernel of the person, the child really, who came to UD ready to learn, to encounter life and knowledge in all its fullness.

I know that the kernel of that person is still within me.  I've really struggled at times in my life to retain a sense of wonder and joy in the every day.  I've struggled to be grateful for who I am, how I am, what I like.  I know that I've always been a bit unusual (the scarf-wearing, novel-writing days of high school, for example -- what was I thinking?). But sometimes it's really difficult to be so far out of the mainstream, especially in situations where everyone is pretty much out of the mainstream.  I mean, how weird do you have to be to feel marginalized in a group that happily included a guy who welded aerodynamic fins to his car one summer to see if it would improve the gas mileage between Pittsburgh and Dallas?  A real, bona fide scientific experiment which I remember hearing about in the cafeteria line  the first day back at school sophomore year.  To this day, I'm in awe that someone thought of this and actually DID it.  The guy was a senior when I was a sophmore -- don't remember his name, but do remember his experiment!

Anyway, there were points during the reunion where I felt so alienated and so sad.  So marginal.  At the Friday night party in the Gas Monkey (owned by a classmate and super duper cool) and at the Saturday night party in upstairs Haggar, few people asked me anything about my life or my husband, my children, or the work I'm doing.  Some people I talked to already knew a lot about me from my evidently amusing Facebook posts so I am sure they thought they already had heard what I had to say -- and maybe they were right (I recognize my own tedium sometimes!)  The "sidebar" conversations I had with individuals at breakfast, in Haggar, on the Mall, or in the Rathskellar were much more fulfilling, so maybe it's just a function of large social group dynamics.

But I'm at a happy place in my life in terms of accomplishments, yet I couldn't share them.  I found myself at points wishing I was just back at the hotel or even back at home. I know that much of that was coming from inside myself.  I'm an introvert and social situations are stressful to me.  I don't like to tout my own accomplishments and I much prefer to prompt others to talk than to really share what's going on with me.  But I still want to be rescued from my own introversion sometimes, you know?

On Sunday night, after all the brouhaha was over, I went back to campus, to my favorite spot -- one in which I spent a lot of time -- the Church of the Incarnation.  To me, it is a really beautiful church.

I especially love the Eucharistic Adoration chapel.  It brings me peace and was where I had the first of my God smacks:

One thing that really struck me was that, as I walked out of the church and up to the Mall (where I found my swing contraption and thought deep thoughts, about which more later), I noticed a student sitting on a little bench outside the church where there was a statue of the Blessed Virgin.  All was quiet -- it was about 5:30 in the evening.  This young guy was quietly praying the rosary.  No fanfare.  No "look at me praying".  No "let's go say a communal rosary".  Instead, a quiet moment of contemplation and prayer.  Books piled to one side, probably left over from an afternoon spent in the library. And I was filled with such gratitude to have been able to be in a place where this was not ridiculed or alien.  Where prayer was as integrated into campus life as much as studying, writing papers, drinking beer, and going to Club Schmitz was.  

So, despite my ridiculous melancholy, I am so grateful to have had this weekend.  I love that I'm a UD graduate.  I am grateful to my classmates for helping me to become who I am today.  I'm grateful to UD for giving me space to be a brainiac without shame.  And for introducing so much to my life that I love now.  I am grateful to have been shown a model early in my life where faith was not just affective or subjective, but part of a rich, millenia old tradition of reason and learning. 

Go Crusaders!