Friday, June 17, 2016

Turn and face the change...

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes. Ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange).  Look out you Rock'n' rollers.  Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes.  Ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older.  Time may change me.  But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me.  But I can't trace time”.
–Changes David Bowie

As always I’m thinking about change, thought I’d give a little nod to our dearly departed Bowie.  We’ve lost too many of the good ones this year.

Have I said how much weight loss surgery has changed my life?  Let me say it now. Weight loss surgery has changed my life.  No regrets. NONE.  However, it is not an easy road and there are definite pros and cons.

I was a big girl.  300lbs big and when I look back on the photos of myself it’s almost shocking to see how big I was.  When people who know me look at photos of me, they always say “I didn’t know you that big”.  Errr yeah you did.  We were friends, family, colleagues. You knew me then.  I promise you. “Wow”.  Yep, wow.  While I hated being that big, I took care to look as good as I could given my limits.  I tried to find clothes that were flattering and that I liked.  Unless you have been overweight, you can’t imagine how hard that is.  

The thing about the way my body was, while big, everything was where it was supposed to be.  It all lined up.  Let’s take my breasts for example, in hindsight, my breasts were great—full, buoyant, lusted after and enjoyed.  I’m sorry that ever complained about them.  Forgive me boobies, for I took thee for granted. 

I never really thought about the beauty of having a body, while overly large, was propionate and pretty predictable.  If you were a man, who was so inclined, to make the attempt and was ultimately successful in getting me naked, you knew what you were getting into.  No surprises here.  You can’t hide 300lbs behind a black tent, no matter how fetching the tent is.

But, I knew what being that heavy would mean in the long run.   Every time I hit a weight milestone, it scared me.  200lbs, 250lbs, 272lbs (why that number? Because when I weighed 272lbs it was my, then all time high. The number that was going to make me take my life in my hands.  That is, until 300lbs.  300lbs really really scared me.  I was slow, sluggish, unhealthy and tired.  300lbs, unless you’re 7 feet tall, is the beginning that is a death sentence really.  It was a matter of time before I started to feel the physical effects of being that heavy. 

Hop, skip, jump I have WLS and the numbers start go down---which makes me happy.  But my body has lost its bounce, fullness and lushness.  My body, in spite of how good it looks in clothes, in spite of what the number that is says on the scale, is withering away.  

This is a common problem of the people who have experienced a "massive weight loss".  In fact, this is image is often shared between those of us who have had WLS. 
That is no joke, just trust me.

Breasts? Think long stretched out tube socks.  Arms? I can hear my arms slap against my body when I brush my teeth.  Stomach? I don’t know what Michelle Duggar’s stomach looks like, but it can’t be good and neither is mine.  Same deal with my thighs.  I feel like a Shar Pei.  That is, I did, until a few weeks ago when I had an abdominoplasty and brachioplasty.

Right now I’m still in some pain, I’m hunched over, walking pretty gingerly, the scars are fresh, I’m rocking out with a drain in my stomach and I haven’t taken a shower since May 20th. * I still have to repair my breasts and thighs, but that’s coming and I feel good about it.  Yes, I said I “have to” repair breasts and thighs.  In order for me to be happy, I need to have a body that matches the matches the number on the scale and how I feel.  Having this wrinkly, deflated body makes me feel badly and has an effect on my morale.  It SUCKS having to wear Spanx every day.

Weight loss surgery was the first step in what is turning out to be long process towards good health and the body I want.  But, I’ll say it again. NO regrets. NONE.

* When I wrote this, I hadn’t yet bathed.  But my drains came out on 
--> June 11th and I am no longer a member of the great unwashed. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Sweet Child of Mine...

She's got a smile that it seems to me reminds me of childhood memories. Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky. Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place. And if I stare too long, I'd probably break down and cry. Whoa, oh, oh, sweet child o' mine. Whoa, oh, oh, oh, sweet love of mine. –
“Sweet Child of Mine” Guns n’ Roses

I've been thinking a lot recently about that fact that I am not a mother. It's got me feeling... A WAY.  It's something that crops up every now and again. This last bout of motherhood on the brain (I think about this a lot) reminded me of something I wrote a while back, but didn’t post.

Last year, or maybe even the year before, Jennifer Aniston appeared on Carson Daily. During the interview, she discussed how people always want to know when she’s getting married or when she’s having children.  She expressed some frustration that the perception is that her value as a woman is less than because is she unmarried and childless. This caused Tamron Hall to piggyback on Aniston’s remarks.

This feels like the story of my life.  I think we're all aware that I do not have children.  When talking to people about issues with kids, I always preface my statement with “I know that I am not a parent” before I say something. Why? I feel the need to beat them to the punch.  Because I know they are thinking it, that because I am not parent, my input is without value.  

So you got me, I don’t know what it’s like to worry about a child that belongs to ME.  Does this mean that I do not have maternal feelings or instincts? Does this mean when some horrible tragedy befalls I child that I do not feel it deeply and cry along with other people (parents AND non parents) watching the same news item? Not being a mother does not mean that I do not have empathy or understanding. I am very resentful of the implication that some how you become a kinder, gentler person simply because you are parent.  We all know that is not true. Just watch the news and read the paper.  Why is this? Why do people, women especially, who do not have children some how dismissed?  

Listen, I get it. When you become a parent, your priorities shift.  There is nothing like being a parent—good and bad. But is parenthood EVERYTHING? Does it make you more valuable as a person? Would I be more empathetic if I were a parent? There is something that we do to women who are not wives and mothers.  It may not be implicitly said, but there is a sentiment that single, childless women are less than or damaged in some way.   Why aren't you married? No children either? Oh. (slightly sad look). 

I remember years ago a friend of mine (who has since had a child) expressed to me the idea that she wanted to be a mother--not just so that she could have a child (which she wanted) but so that she didn't end up one of those "miserable, angry bitter bitches".  I'll bet if were to mention that to her today, she would swear up and down that she didn't say it. But she did. And I'm sure that she is not the only person who thinks that.  Being a parent makes life worth living, right?  So when you aren't, your life is... what? A half life? A cursed life? Or perhaps just a life that is meaningless and empty? 

The notion that I am not a parent so therefore I am less kind, empathetic, loving, understanding or am somehow damaged in some way is galling and hurtful. There are things that I don't need to be parent to know (more on that at a later date). 

I just think that we have a part to play in the world. Some of us are parents, some of us are not.  I don't know that I think that one group is less or more important than another.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Movin' on...

“I'm movin' on, at last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me and I know there's no guarantees, but I'm not alone. There comes a time in everyone's life when all you can see are the years passing by and I have made up my mind that those days are gone”. – “I’m moving on” Rascal Flatts

I did it.  After countless starts, stops, fumbles, frustrated moments, times of abject disgust and despair, I finally walked across the stage and received my undergraduate degree in Sociology (Cha-ching! I foresee big bucks in my future).  Although I know it's not a measure of my intelligence, NOT having a degree made me feel inferior and less than.  What’s worse is that people take this condescending tone when they realize that a person of a certain age is working towards their undergraduate degree.  Here’s how the conversation usually goes once they’ve realized I’m “in school”:
Random Person:  Oh you’re in school? That’s great! What are you doing?
April: Oh, I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Sociology.
RP: (wide eyed) Ohhhhhhh. OK. Well, GOOD for YOU! Good. For. You.
I always get the sense that they want to punch me in arm, pat me on the back and say way to go slugger all while wondering what calamity had transpired in my life. Unwanted pregnancy? Drugs? Life of crime? Problems. In. The. Fam-i-ly?  It killed me every time.   
When I think back to who I was in high school, all I can remember is this feeling of apathy for college.  I knew that I should go, and felt as though I wanted to go—I guess, but couldn’t seem to muster up the energy of actually applying to college.  I HATED school and only did well in subjects that I liked.  If I didn’t care for the subject matter? Forget it, zero fucks.  In addition, I had the worst guidance counselor—her name was Mrs. Pravati. Boom, put that bitch on full blast, ‘cause that’s her real name.  I can see her face in front of me right now—I remember every single thing about this woman.   She was a short, squat, brunette, with no neck, bad teeth and a penchant for polyester suits—usually in a dark color that she paired with a loud floral blouse.  Women like this always wear blouses, never shirts.  She sported a huge rock on her wedding finger and drove a light blue Mercedes Benz station wagon, letting us know that she didn’t HAVE to do this, she worked just for fun.  She had cankles with fat feet that she wedged into sensible pumps, which matched her suits; this probably contributed to the unfortunate way she waddled as she made her way down the hall.  I can recall her, very clearly, telling me that I “might have a chance” of getting into community college.  What’s more, I can remember her saying that to me in front of my mother, and my mother just sitting there letting this woman tear me down.  Huh.  I grew up way back in the day, before each kid was a special snowflake that had to be defended at all costs.  When I was kid, I was not special—I was a tremendous disappointment.  So of course Mrs. Pravati was right.  I haven’t thought about that in years, knowing my mother, she would deny this ever happened.  I can assure you that it did and looking back, I can see how that conversation sealed my academic fate.  Sure enough, I didn’t bother applying to college.  I just randomly showed up at my local community college and enrolled about a week before classes.  Sure enough, I failed.  I never found my footing; I never made any friends—nothing.  A voice in my head told that I should keep trying, but the louder, more dominant voice told me to forget it--- You’re stupid. You’re disappointing. You’ll never do it.  So I didn’t. 
Once I decided that school wasn’t for me—never mind that everyone in my family and the majority of my friends all went to college and on to obtain advance degrees—I knew that I had to work.  I found a clerical job at a small law firm and started work there.  The attorney I worked for asked me repeatedly why I wasn’t in school would always answer the same way. “I’m not cut out for school”.  Every time I said that, his response was “bullshit”.  Months went by and finally one day he offered to pay for 2 classes in a paralegal program.  I took him up on his offer and in 18 months I got my paralegal certificate.  Soon after I started working in law firms—all the while thinking to myself that I should go back and I did a few times.  It just never seemed to be the right time and I never seemed to be in the right frame of mind.  After jumping from job to job for several years, I opted to get a job a university knowing that I would be eligible for tuition remission. 
Let me tell you, it was hard and it sucked most of the time.  There were moments that I felt I would NEVER get there.  But 8, hard earned years later, I did it.  For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I am proud of me.  It was an uphill battle the entire way through.  I wanted to stop so many times, but I didn’t.  It’s been 2 weeks now, and I am still floating.  I did it, I have my degree and no one can take it from me.  Next stop, if I have anything to say about it, is graduate school.
Dear 20 something April 40 something April fixed your misstep. You are forgiven and can move on. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Navigating adolescence

I'm on the edge of glory and I'm hangin' on a moment of truth. Out on the edge of glory and I'm hangin' on a moment with you. I'm on the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge. I'm on the edge of glory, and I'm hangin' on a moment with you. I'm on the edge with you. – Edge of Glory, Lady Gaga

My boyfriend has a 15-year-old daughter.  She really is a good kid. I like her, she likes me and we get along. My relationship with him would NOT be successful if she and I didn’t like each other, so the fact that we get along is a blessing.  Sure, there are few things that concern me; I’ve shared them before.

1.     Her hygiene is disgraceful, truly.  I don’t get it.
2.     She has this weird block on her race. She refuses to identify as a person of color. She’s got a Black dad and a Latina mom.  At MOST she’s is biracial. 

At some point these things are going to be issues for her, the writing is on the wall on that one.   I’ve decided, for the most part, to keep my distance from it.  If it comes up and sounds crazy, I say something.

I see how her dad is struggling to accept the fact the she is growing up—he is in SUCH denial about it.  Actually, maybe denial is not right word.  It’s more like he knows its happening but it devastates him and he wants to stop it.   I keep telling him that, that train has left the station.  She IS growing up and he had better accept it and adapt or he’s going to miss out on an opportunity to get to know her as she turns into a young woman.

There is a part of me that wishes we were closer.  We like each other but I’m not her confidante.  Not being her confidante is fine, but sometimes I wish I were, because I want so badly to tell her things that I wish that someone had told me.   That might be one of the biggest regrets I have in NOT being a parent.  I’ll never get to tell a young woman all the things I’ve experienced and issues I’ve wondered about.  I would love to tell young women the following:

1.     It’s ok to be curious about stuff. That’s normal. There is nothing wrong with exploring you.
2.     Not everyone should be permitted access to you.  Boys, girls, it doesn’t matter. Be choosy as to whom you call friend.
3.     Someone that tries to get you to do something against your will is NOT your friend.
4.     Sex is great, but it’s not going anywhere. You can wait. It will be there later. I promise.
5.     If you do have sex, PLEASE be careful.  Understand that is YOUR responsibility.  Do not trust anyone to care for your physical and sexual health.  No, do not let him put it in for “just a second”.  Side note---men will try this at every age. Trust me.
6.     No one is allowed to make you feel bad about being yourself—even your parents. Tell people when they are hurting you. 
7.     Take chances! Now this is tricky. You want to tell kids to take chances, but you don’t want them to, accidently, kill themselves or anyone or setting fire to the house.  However, if there is something that seems interesting to you, do that. Regardless of what your friends think.
8.     Stand up for yourself.
9.     Stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves.
10. Be kind—to yourself and other people.

Those are the things that come to mind right now.  I just remember being so conflicted about so many things when I was a kid.  I was super emo and there wasn’t anyone to help me navigate adolescence.   I genuinely thought I had no value and it breaks my heart to think of it.  If I am able, I would like to help her navigate her adolescence.  Just to make sure, as much as possible, that she make to the other side relatively unscathed.