Forks, Knives, and a Fear of the Holidays

TurkeyThis past July marked my two year anniversary of being a Weight Watchers lifetime member.

If you were to rewind to 2016 Allison, she was overweight, prediabetic, and self-medicating anxiety and depression with drive-thru 20 piece Chicken McNuggets. I don’t regret my wake-up call to the state of my health (which blissfully and coincidentally occurred in a doctor’s office two weeks before Thanksgiving). But I’ve found that sometimes the rampant unhealthy mentalities like to bind themselves to the healthy intentions. And for the last three years, this has genuinely plagued me. 

Because I’m afraid of food.

Perhaps this is because my relationship with it has been so wishy-washy. There are moments where I am like the clingy girlfriend insisting we spend every waking moment together, and there are moments where we’re seeing other people. I am either in a state of “not caring” or “caring too much.” There has seemingly never been stability. I’m either indulging or I’m fasting. There is no in between.

I’m reminded of my strongholds when the monthly bloat hits and I’m doing squats in my unbuttoned jeans. I’m reminded of this when there is a surprise invitation to lunch or a catered meal at work. I’m reminded of this when friends ask to make us dinner.

I’m reminded of this when Thanksgiving is just four days away.

My email is flooded with articles of “how to enjoy your holiday with Kale” and advertisements flash across my screen informing me that, “the average American gains 6 pounds during the holiday season.” And when this happens, I sprint to the drawing board to carefully construct a game plan as to how I will show-up and be present without eating. I place zucchini noodles in my shopping cart and throw the pasta back on the shelf. I make schedules for water intake to fill my belly. Or sometimes, I don’t even show up at all.

But even when I do appear, I’m never really present. Because the internal arguments with myself over scales and portion sizes are so freaking loud that I can’t hear the conversation around me. The conversation that marks the reason for the holiday and has us bent over plates to begin with and the reason why Thanksgiving, in years past, was always my favorite.

I sure do miss the holidays.

I miss the days where my preparation for the holidays consisted a list of chores for each family member before guests arrived. I miss the days where we lay awake in anticipation of Santa’s clicking boots on the roof. I miss the days where food was not the thing that defined my holiday, but the family that surrounded me.

What I would give to have those blissful moments of innocence back. The moments of my childhood where trivial things didn’t matter and a yearning for quality time prevailed. No matter how far I extend my arm to grab hold of these moments in my adult years, I always find myself just slightly out of reach. And it is then I find myself tucking the fork neatly back in the drawer for a later time.

But, while my internal arguments rage on, and while my fingers glide across these keys, I am pushing through to say, “No more. Not this year.”

This year, I will show up to relatives’ homes with my casserole dish of green bean casserole in hand, and a bag of sweatpants to change into after dinner slung across my arm. I will laugh, joke, and cry with the family around me. I will hide my bathroom scale until January.

Because 6 pounds, or not. You just don’t get these moments back. 6 pounds can come off in a matter of weeks. 6 pounds don’t get to determine the quality of my holiday. They do not have permission to send me on a downward spiral back to 2016. Enough is enough.

Because it’s the holidays for Christ’s sake, and life is just too damn short.

 

 

Saltine Crackers with a Side of Self Doubt

As I sit on this Sunday afternoon, deep in my feels, with hands at my keyboard, the question of the year seems to plague me. I resent even typing it out here because it’s annoying and redundant. But here I am, blinds drawn, in yesterdays sweats typing away the same old question: When will I be enough?

I’m sure family, friends, and coworkers galore are sick of hearing me ask this question. I  truly ask it all the time. And even when I’m not verbally asking the question, they seemingly see it deep within me. Because a girl that has struggled with the idea of perfection since her elementary days is by no means opaque. Allison, and her self doubt is at it again, folks. Please let out your sighs of frustration and strap in.

See, the answer is always right in front of me. And I can always point to the evidence that make the answer true. I completed a work assignment on time… check. I managed to give myself a day to recuperate… check. I fit in a brisk walk with the dog this afternoon… check. But on the days where the lesson plans don’t make sense, or the work assignment was forgotten, or I sat on the couch and absentmindedly ate an entire sleeve of saltine crackers while neglecting my unscrubbed bathtub, it’s just so easy to forget all of the things that I’ve done right. I’m failing and I’m nothing. Blah blah blah.

And this is the full opposite lesson of what I teach my kiddos. I’m so keen on presenting the “growth mindset” in morning meetings and throughout work time that I forget to present it to myself first. Instead of failures becoming a part of the learning process, they become the reason I sprint to the drawing board with hopes of a plan that will serve as the salvation for my soul. Because if there is a fail-proof action plan in place I’ll never have to feel incomplete again.

What a freaking lie. The plan never works. I always end up back on my couch. Except this time with a bag of mini reeses peanut butter cups and unwashed floors.

It doesn’t even matter the number of reassurances and “great job” cheers I seem to receive. It doesn’t matter that the world around me seems to keep turning and everyone is okay, because the dishes aren’t done and my social plans fell through, and the dog was left in the cage too long today and I’m just not okay. 

It’s exhausting to live in a head that pushes you to insanity. Because 99.9% of the time I reach it, crumble,and spend the following hours trying to locate all of the tiny pieces of me. And what a colossal waste of time, because if I had just allowed myself the grace to fail, I wouldn’t have had to waste my time in rebuild mode to begin with. I would have just been building all along.

I guess the practice of applying what you preach takes a bit more effort than I had anticipated. Maybe the act of believing reality is a conscious effort and a choice you make every day. Maybe the sleeve of saltines and the unwashed floors are just markers of your humanness and merely an insignificant supporting detail in the narrative.

Because, whether you feel it or not, girl, you’re okay. You’re enough. And you’re killing it.

I’ll keep repeating that to myself today.

Pineapple Pizza as a Saving Grace

It doesn’t matter how skinny I get, I always seem to find common ground over a slice of pizza.

See, things have been rough. Life has been happening. There are many late nights in our marriage bent over budget spread sheets and calculating estimated sales tax on groceries. There are snores pointed towards opposite walls and exasperated “would you please just do the dishes tonight because if my body has to move one more inch, I swear to GOD, I’ll crumble to dust” sentiments. Seasoned married folks laugh and proclaim that this is certainly “normal” when I cry out how different I thought our marriage would be. I laugh back in an attempt to swallow whatever bit of sanity I have left.

Despite the above, I know we are happily married. We still laugh and joke and love as we did in our beginning days. I still find myself rolling over at night and feeling the security of the soft loud snores next to me. I still climb into his arms while watching a movie (and he still lets me, despite how sticky and humid our apartment may be). I still can’t seem to stifle a laugh at his terrible jokes. (Or his uncanny ability to laugh at his OWN jokes) And while moments like these seem virtually untouched by time, I feel like all of those other moments are so very different. The “filler” moments, as I like to call them, seem to be structured less around goodnight kisses on the porch steps of my mother’s house, and more so around I’ve asked you 1,000 times to unplug the toaster when you’re done with it, for the love of GOD.

It’s so incredibly easy to be bogged down by the filler. To proclaim it as the definition of your reality and to write it down as if it were some sort of diagnostic for the state of your marriage. I can not claim to remember the number of times I have doubted the future of us based upon whether the jar of hair wax was left on the bathroom counter or if it were put away in the medicine cabinet. But what I do know is that the jar of hair wax turns into dirty socks on the floor, which turns into the “turkey isn’t fully cooked” which turns into “stop micromanaging me” which turns into “you just don’t care.” And that is the moment when I reflexively start writing out prescriptions because CLEARLY our marriage is OVER. (Enter, Allison and the melodramatics.)

They all told us marriage was tough. And as much as the Allison from three years ago claimed to be ready for it, she wasn’t. Because sometimes the issue isn’t undercooked turkey. Sometimes it’s “you’re working too much” or “I can’t seem to get out of bed today” or “we’re short on rent.” It’s slamming car doors and a swallowed desire to jump in the car and drive in one direction without stopping. Part of me knew this was coming, but can anyone ever be prepared for it?

A particularly rough month has just concluded as I just finished up my last month of work for the summer and successfully passed exams I had been preparing for the last six. Our arguments have been occurring with fewer days between them and we have certainly both been at our wits end. (Rightfully so on his behalf, as I am not a fun person to be around when I am over stressed and overtired). But with the conclusion of our “hell month,” I decided to call him up while he was on his way home and say, “I’m ordering a pizza. Pick it up on your way home.”

Since a 65+ pound weight loss and the removal of my gall bladder, pizza is a food that I normally shy away from. It makes me so uncomfortably sick that I immediately regret the decision halfway through the first slice. But somewhere in the residual insanity of the previous month, I decided that this week was the week for trial #48. So I preemptively popped a couple Tums tablets in my mouth and placed an order on my credit card for a medium pizza (with pineapple) and cheese bread.

And I’ll tell you that when it arrived, we opened the box as we used to 5 years ago. We sat on our half sunken-in couch and laughed and chewed. We joked and ate and laid with jeans unbuttoned, simultaneously regretful and proud of our decision. It doesn’t matter how skinny we get. It doesn’t matter if the socks are left on the floor. It doesn’t matter if the turkey is undercooked. It doesn’t matter if we can’t seem to get out of bed. We always seem to find common ground over a slice of pizza.

And damn, it feels really good.

Treadmills, Metallica, and Day Dreams of a New ‘Me.’

There’s just something about Metallica and a treadmill.

I am by no means a ‘gym junkie.’ I was the girl in high school that feared the effects of the sweat dripping down my neck on the hair I had spent 30 minutes flat ironing that morning. I am the girl that when asked what sport I played growing up, recounts memories of marching band and reading books under trees. I am the 5 year old that hated playing tag because, “running is hard.” Unfortunately this  mentality lives on today, as I find that I, despite unrelenting efforts to exercise, am fully lost in nervous sweat, while running through 37 excuses as to why I shouldn’t be exercising today:

Perhaps that ache in your back will come back. Better climb back into bed.

You have about 59 years worth of work to do today. Is it really that important to go TODAY?

Remember that one time in 7th grade Gym class when you nearly puked during the mile run, and then devoted the rest of your adolescent/adult life to abstaining from physical exercise? Don’t break the pact. 

Usually these excuses are enough of a reason for me to call it quits, kick off my half tied shoes, and climb back into the comfort of Downy-laden bed sheets, but for some reason, last week, I found myself on a treadmill.

And somewhere buried beneath the “Dear God, make it stop” sentiments, I was reaching for the volume button on my phone, to blast Metallica just a little louder. I don’t even like Metallica. But for some reason, here I was, panting like a slob, internally screaming the lyrics to “Enter Sandman,” while attempting to regain whatever sanity I might have had left.

But, man, there is just something about Metallica and a treadmill.

There is something about that feeling of strength paired with resilience, paired with, “Oh, hey, I can do this.”  In this moment, I was able to mentally let go of stomach rolls and nightmares of excess carbs. I was able to let go of bikini body day dreams. I didn’t have to worry about gains or losses, because there was just something about the way my body felt beneath me. I, of all people, somehow felt strong and capable. I’m not quite sure why or how I ended up there, but I did. Perhaps it was a moment of insanity, or perhaps, for once, I finally felt empowered.

There’s just something about Metallica and a treadmill.

When I am there, there are no fun house mirrors or freak shows. There’s no confusion as to why my body feels so foreign. When I am there, I am truly there; all of me fully present with each limb moving perfectly in unison.

I have tried for so many years to achieve this euphoria. And at times, I think I find it, but only for a fleeting moment. I find it buried beneath all of the words that tell me that I’m nothing, and that I will never ever be the girl that enjoys execise. I uncover the girl that doesn’t need a bikini body or tighter abs. I find the girl that enjoys the high of hard work and emotional release. I find it for a moment, and then I lose it. And I’m right back to where I started.

Honestly, that is the worst part; when I find myself back in the jail cell of my own head. I know that it is a byproduct of the waste that has been inputted into my skull for decades. It is the ‘Yadi-yada’ of television screens and glossy pages of magazines. It is side eye glances at community pools and memories of soft sobs in fitting rooms. It is all of things I try so desperately to scrub away.

But there is something about Metallica and a treadmill.

There is something about me when I finally decide to let go.

There is something about being empowered by imperfection.

Maybe one day I can stay in that place a little longer.