I have been grieving lately and though I haven’t experienced a death in my family (thank god!), or in my circle of friends (whew, you never know with that group!), or with any of the cats in my house (bummer!), nonetheless, I have been walking around in a perpetual state of bereavement. My wife describes it more like ‘moping around’ — as in her admonition, “Stop moping around!”
Okay, so I have been ‘moping around.’ What the heck is ‘moping around’ anyway? I googled ‘moping around’ to be sure I understood what my wife was yelling at me in the course of my day, and, sure enough, someone on the internet wrote that ‘moping around’ means “sitting around, doing nothing, and looking miserable – i.e., think ‘teenager.’” Yes! This definition fits me exactly: I do sit around (– a lot!), I essentially do nothing – according to my wife(!), and lately I have been miserable. As for thinking like a ‘teenager,’ my wife says I think like a teenager all the time. She says I act like one half the time too!
Since I brought up my wife, she would add that I should re-evaluate my emotional priorities. I guess that’s also true, but what are my emotional priorities anyway? As I enter this later phase of my life, it seems to me that whatever emotional priorities I have lodged in the system must be embedded so deep that it would take a coal miner rather than a psychiatrist to get at them. Besides, at this point in my life, my emotional priorities are not meant to be accessible anyway, are they? Especially not to the casual reader and certainly not to me, and besides, what the hell? – Wouldn’t that be very un-‘teenager’-like?
Anyhow, as much as it seems like this is where I’m going with this blog, this entry is not about ‘moping around’ and discovering my ‘emotional priorities.’ Perhaps, I will save that for a later discussion. No, this narrative is focused on grieving, and why I feel l have been out of sorts of late.
I went back in my hometown over the holidays and met up with an old friend who took a moment to re-introduce me to his aging mother. I must say, she looked great. She was in her mid-eighties and still living in their family home. She was sharp and cognitive and progressing happily through her life with an infectious smile, a smart swagger, and an obvious thrill for being on top of her game! How refreshing it was to sit and talk with her.
As we got up to go, she looked at me, and, as if finally remembering which one of my friend’s friends I was, she asked me, “Weren’t you the pudgy kid with the red hair back in high school?”
It had been such a pleasant conversation; her statement caught me by surprise – What? PUDGY??? She smiled at me sweetly. “What happened to your red hair?” she asked.
“Oh,” I laughed somewhat stiffly, quickly glancing at my friend and then back at his mother, not reflecting on where my red hair had gone between high school and now but rather on that word, that poofy word “PUDGY!”
– Was I really so pudgy back then that she would remember it 40 years later?
– Why wasn’t she asking me where my “pudginess” is now?
– Does she still think I’m pudgy?
Images of me as a boy, as a father, as a man in the mirror shaving that very same morning flashed instantaneously before my eyes. Am I really that heavy? I decided in a sudden flash I never liked my friend’s mother, back then or now.
“Ah,” I responded, trying to stay in the moment, “My hair’s been turning white for awhile now.” I forced a small laugh,”but, at least I still have hair! Ha, ha!”
– How pudgy was I back in high school? Is this what the girls thought? My friends thought? My friends’ parents thought? No wonder none of them would have anything to do with me!
“Aw, don’t mind her,” my pseudo-friend said later as we got into his car to get some beers. “My mom’s been going senile for awhile now,” he said, noticing my silence. “She doesn’t remember anything. Soon she won’t recognize me at all.”
“Look,” I said, “I understand why she would wonder about my hair, but, but –“ (what the heck, I had to ask – I’ve worked so hard…) “ – she doesn’t… she doesn’t think I’m pudgy, does she?’’
“Of course not,” my friend responded way too quickly, looking over at me as he started up the car. “Everyone can see you lost a ton of weight.” (A ton! – it wasn’t a ton! No way!)
“Then why,” I asked, “why didn’t she say, ‘Where did you get that beach body?’” I was looking at him, sort-of-like pleading for him to agree, you know, in an adult-sophisticated-kind-of-way, but he was staring at the road, speeding quickly out of her cul de sac, like he was desperate for a beer.
“My mom’s also blind,” He mumbled as an afterthought. “Did I mention that?”
“Oh, that explains it,” I responded. “Otherwise, she would have noticed my rock hard abs under my shirt, along with my red hair – lighter now, for sure, but still red if you squint just right… “
– Nothing like an old friend’s crazy mom, who should have been put down years ago, to start my depression. Still, this can’t explain why I have been grieving, and, surely, I can’t blame a blind, old, senile woman for my moping around long after I returned home.
And, hey, so what if I am pudgy, anyway. There, I said it. So what – isn’t everybody?
The thing about weight, I decided, is that it hangs on you all the time. All day. Some might say, your entire life. It’s like a mortal, infectious disease. Catch it, and it won’t let go. It never let’s go. Or, rather, I should say, I won’t let it go. I can’t let it go. For some reason, I just can’t let it be.
I am experiencing an emotional moment, a mourning if you will. Perhaps, I am grieving for the fifty pounds I lost over the past year-and-a-half, and although one side of me still wants to lose another twenty-five pounds, I think I miss who I was. Yes, it was dead-weight to the average doctor or cardiologist, and it did nothing for me at all, except get me out-of-breath sooner, and, yes, it looked horrible in the mirror – like I was wearing an outer fat suit on top of my sleek inner lining, but, let’s face it, it was me, it was my dead weight accumulated from years of careful cultivation. Some people buy furs and mink coats, I like to grow my own…
You might notice, I don’t think I am as comfortable with the new “pudgy me” that I’ve become versus the “fat me” I thought I enjoyed. Even more importantly, I’m not sure I deserve the gains I have achieved.
A few weeks ago I had the strangest sensation. I weighed myself early one morning and realized I was at my lowest weight in years – in, literally, something like two decades. Suddenly I had the most uncomfortable feeling – rather than a sense of joy and elation, I quickly looked around to see if anyone had noticed. It was like I had stolen a candy bar from the drugstore. (Oh god!) Now, I ask you, how could anyone be watching if I am standing in the middle of my bathroom with the blinds drawn and the door closed. I jumped off the scale! (Damn!) After standing there in the nude with the shower running, assessing the situation, I got back on the scale again. (Hmmm…) I got off it a second time, shook the scale thoroughly, then moved it to a new spot on the floor. It had been near the sink. Maybe something was wrong with the floorboards there. I tried it near the toilet. (Oh no, this was not good.)
I felt like I was an interloper who somehow had fooled my bathroom scale and even my own body into thinking I had lost more weight than I should have. It turns out, not only had I passed my “new year’s resolution” for the year but now was in a range I never dreamed possible, at least not so soon. How could this be? Yikes, how could I sustain this?
My body and mind rebelled; within days I quickly regained the five or so pounds I had lost and was back to a level within which I could breathe easier. In fact, as it turns out, in which I could take refuge, as I have been hibernating at this level ever since.
It’s like I have to fight for every pound I lose, and, indeed, if it is a hard-fought war, I will accept the gains I’ve made. Each month I go through a process of ungodly effort, small achievements, and, finally, token acceptance. Alternatively, if the battle is too easy, if I drop pounds too quickly, I rebell and lose ground. For me, I guess, without the angst of fighting to vanquish each ounce, ounce after ounce, it’s not an accomplishment. Or rather, perhaps, I am having an out-of-body experience, and it’s someone else’s accomplishment, or, perhaps, it’s just an experience not to be valued. Perhaps, it’s the battle itself and the fight for each inch of ground that provides meaning.
So this is my evolving story of pudgy me. I am stopping here as still I have a lot to say, but we’ll need to take it one ounce at a time.
Categories: Pudgy Me