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Sunday, February 15, 2015


Yesterday I was working on a blog entry about what an absolute piece of shit my adoptive mother was. I was thinking about all of the times she flat out showed me how little she considered me in her life. I was proud of the mother I had been and sure that, even though we struggled and had ups and downs, Audrey always knew I loved her. I sent Audrey a message on Facebook and said, “I hope you know how much I’ve always loved you.” She said she did not.

I immediately fell into a place that was dark. I wanted to find a way to become even more separated from the world than I already am. I decided that all of the progress I’ve made in this journey of self-discovery through writing was irrelevant because I was obviously not the person I thought I was. How could I have been such a dedicated mother and my child say she didn’t know that I loved her?

I look back at all of the things I did as a mother that were wrong. I loved her wrong, I already realized that, but I loved her nonetheless. (see blog "Bubba and Otis") I made her the center of my life. I made her my reason for getting up in the morning and being successful at work and making more money. That is a lot to put on a child, even if we were both unaware of the fact that I was doing it. I have so many memories of loving her. I had joyous moments of revelation that I was in absolute, no-doubt-about-it love with another human being. This was the connection I thought I would never feel. And my heart just collapsed last night to hear that she didn’t feel it.

Did I teach her to detach? I only just recently realized that it's a serious problem of mine. (see blog "No, Thanks") I pushed everyone else away without a moments notice while she was growing up. She saw family members and people who should’ve been my lifelong best friends become immediately and permanently irrelevant in our lives. At 12, she was able to push her father away. He was awful to her and she witnessed the violence in his home that had been the reason for our leaving him when she was born. As glad as I was that she was doing it, I did wonder if the fact that I had pushed my own adoptive mother away earlier that year taught her about the impermanence of absolutely anyone.

As she watched me push people away, maybe I told her subconscious to always expect her time to come. Maybe I taught her how to construct a wall and be very careful about who you let inside. And maybe she put me on the other side. Oh God. That is so painful. I missed a very important lesson. Somehow I thought she understood that she was my true love. She was it. She was the one I would never stop loving. We fight all of the time. Still. Even in her 20s. But my heart has never even considered not keeping her in my wall. She hurts my feelings for sport when she is mad. She fights dirty and says the most hurtful things she can think up. She has been violent with me and told me she hoped I’d die. And I never protect myself from that. I always want her in my life.

I have kicked her out of the house. Maybe she thought that’s what I was doing. Maybe I needed to make it clear that I couldn’t live with her disrespect in my home but I would never want to live without her in my heart. I have taken breaks from talking to her. When she is mean and nasty it is my coping mechanism. I can’t listen to any more of it because her sole intention in those moments is to hurt me. Even I can’t live with that.

I keep getting stuck on every memory I have from her childhood. I honestly thought it was happy until she became a rebellious teenager and I took it wrong. I admit I didn’t handle it properly. I thought it was about me and so I took it personally. But I also realized around that time that I had unintentionally given Audrey a life lesson during her formative years that I had no value. I had used the fact that I was her mother to attribute value to myself. I never thought of myself as a singular human being who was important or worthy of anything. I literally taught her that I didn’t deserve respect.

She never respected me when she was a teenager. I couldn’t find a way to reign it in. I would’ve never been able to do that. I couldn’t go back in time and raise her as a woman with value that demanded and deserved respect. She never cared about the ridiculous sacrifices I made to give her everything that I could. I have to imagine that, to this day, she is the only child to have attended Columbus School for Girls while living in a trailer park. Everything she wanted was an expectation not a request. When she was accepted to Case Western Reserve with a $37k annual scholarship (before we even applied for all of the others she would qualify for because I was good enough to be so incredibly poor) and she decided to go to OSU who offered her no scholarship I told her I wouldn’t pay for it. She was so angry with me. She screamed, “You said when it was time for me to go to college you would work 2 full time jobs or do whatever it took to make sure I could go to college.” My reminder of the $20k+ I had just paid for her high school experience which merited her a $37k scholarship meant nothing. I was irrelevant. I had no value. She literally thought I should be working 2 full time jobs to send her to a college that didn’t offer her scholarships.

Last night my heart was broken. I wanted to sell my house and go join the Peace Corps. I wouldn’t have to make lasting relationships or lament those I had lost. I could just disappear and be useful to others as I could not be to myself. I tend to be slightly irrational when my heart gets bruised. But in the morning with a fresh perspective I can reflect on my own imperfections. I can identify them. I can acknowledge that I am supposed to have been an imperfect parent. That is the only way parents come. Imperfect. I am an imperfect 42 year old. Audrey is an imperfect 22 year old. I am willing to hold myself accountable for my short comings. To date, she is not. Whenever we argue the only things we can discuss are my failures. When I ask her to see her own she says they are my fault. But she is grown. She is an adult capable of reflection. All of her life I had something I told her that would always merit an eye roll: “If you make your problems someone else’s fault, you remove your own capacity to own it and correct it. Because you are waiting for someone else to fix it.” It is time for Audrey to acknowledge every single thing I did right and everything I screwed up as a parent and look at where she is at this moment. She can lament my failures but they have brought her to this moment. This moment is hers. Solely. She has to decide on her actions. She has to decide about her future. She has to forgive or not. I can’t force that on her. It has to be sincere. I guess I will have to wait and see.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mataluna: 151 Afghan Pashto Proverbs

In Mataluna: 151 Afghan Pashto Proverbs, Captain Edward Zellem offers the reader unexpected and exciting revelations from the history of the Afghan languages to the artwork inside. A key is given to make decipherable the Pashto alphabet and lends to a more beautiful experience as each page gives the proverb in English along with the beautiful script which had previously looked so foreign.

The depth of each proverb is explained and many come with pictures. The artwork is created by Afghan high school students. They are members of this culture whose interpretations and use of these lessons will shape their own futures. It shows their personal interpretations of each proverb. One can only imagine a similar project being offered in an American school of any level to mark the similarities or differences in interpretations.

The proverbs herein are beautiful and thought-provoking. Many have English equivalencies which bring close a culture that before seemed so distant and unfamiliar. The beauty in this piece is its poignant, yet unspoken, direction to its audience of our commonalities. The truths and wisdoms which have been handed down for centuries have been realized, independently, throughout the world.

This collection truly is an earnest accomplishment of honor. It has inspired me to take another path on my present journey of self-discovery. For the month of March, 2015, I will be taking a different proverb every day and relating it to my own understandings of my culture and my life. I imagine many souls would find revelation in these pages.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Parting Gift

On July 21, 1978, I was 5 years old and the only child of my father, Keith. I was the apple of his eye. He thought I was the cutest thing ever. He was totally right, of course. Later that day, however, things were going to change. There was going to be a wedding... My dad was marrying Peggy and she and her two children, Dawn and Scott, would now be in our family, too. We were all going to be in the ceremony.

My dad and I went into the entrance of our church with the long hallway. This time, though, we turned right immediately and walked a hall I'd never been down. It was probably the only place there I hadn't yet explored. We went to a very large, old church with lots of mysterious alcoves to explore. My future brother and I went on adventures every Sunday while the grown ups talked after services. We knew this was the hall we had to avoid. I was with my dad, but it still felt like I was getting away with something. This curious path ended up leading to the doors the reverend would come out of each Sunday. This time, though, my dad and I came out of them. Together. We met up with my new mom, brother and sister and we all committed to be a family.

I was going to have to share my dad now. He was the only person that I knew really loved me. For sure. I was uncertain about our new additions, but I was also glad to have more people in my family. My dad worked a lot. I spent much of my time with babysitters or in the alterations department at the store with our seamstress, Norma Needle. (I can promise you that Needle wasn't really her last name, but I honestly don't ever remember her having had another). Now I would stay home all of the time and be with my family every day.

We never referred to one another as step-. We were brother, sister, mom and dad. It was very Brady of us. It felt right, though. My mother was garbage and so was their father, so we all easily acclimated into our new roles. There were plenty of ups and downs growing up, but I think we were pretty much a normal American family with a mom who was too soft, a dad who was too hard and, eventually, three pain in the ass teenagers.

I was always very aware of my fathers disappointment in me when I would let him down. He never seemed to be as upset at Dawn and Scott when they screwed up. They always seemed to get lighter sentences, too. I thought he was harder on me because he liked them better. Looking back, I think he was disappointed because of our first five years together. He knew me as a sweet, loving, perfect little girl. It was probably a lot harder for the two Angies to coexist in his mind. As much as I disappointed him, he never stopped loving me, though. I knew that. I used to joke around when I would call the store. Whichever of the girls answered, if they would ask, " Can I tell him who's calling?" I would always answer, "Tell him it's his favorite daughter." A part of me was kidding. But a part of me knew that it was true.

My dad was a caretaker by nature. All of us kids have stories of his generosity. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008, Audrey had just started at a very nice private school that I really couldn't afford. I gave my Jetta back to the bank and got an absolute piece of shit so I could make my monthly payments to her school. It needed fixed so often that I should've kept the Jetta. I had to borrow money from my parents sometimes to cover the repairs. My dad wasn't really sold on the idea of the private school at the time but he knew I was doing my best to give Audrey an education equal to her abilities. So he helped. He said he believed that when his kids were doing the right thing, he wanted to support that. We could've argued about whether or not I had been doing well before then, but I can just resolve that " the right thing" is subjective. At least he thought I was on the right track before he left us. Because he had just been diagnosed and (now I understand) given six months to live, he bought me a car. It was only two years old and had 14,000 miles on it. He told me he wasn't going to leave this Earth and have to worry about Audrey and I on the side of the road in the Buick. I didn't remind him that we both had cell phones and I had my annual AAA gift from he and mom. I graciously received the car. It meant everything to me. That is one small example. I do believe my dad would've left my mom a millionaire if it hadn't been for his generosity and care for others.

When my dad was in the hospital, and then hospice, I wanted desperately to return his many favors and care for him. I'd have done absolutely anything to bear his pain. There really is no more helpless feeling than watching someone you love suffer and having no capacity to do anything for them. I had memorized all of the "safe" zones on all of his monitors. I would harass his poor nurses whenever he was out of range. I could at least make sure that the people who could help him were doing all they could. I'm sure they wanted to kick me in the head.

On February 6, 2011, I woke up and looked around. It was still dark outside and everyone was still asleep. We had all made camp in the hospice family room and were sleeping in chairs. I went to the bathroom then headed down the hall to see dad. The nurse had told us what each of the final stages would be like step by step. We noted each step. They each took time. Hours. I passed mom and Scott in the hallway. Mom said that my dad had just entered the final stage of shallow breathing. We all figured that would be a long one, too. Mom and Scott were heading down to the cafeteria to get everyone some breakfast. I'm sure dad was tickled that they finally left. I know that he wouldn't want to go while anyone was there. Of course, then I walked in and blew it. I sat down beside him and wished him a good morning. His breathing was very obviously different. I was making small talk to him. I said,"I haven't even seen a mirror yet today. I'll bet I look like a witch." I walked into the little bathroom in his room and ran wet fingers through my hair. I went back and sat down beside him again. He was gone.

I could finally hold his hand again without hurting him. I told him how much I loved him while I cried and tried to catch my breath. I paused for a moment before I called mom and Scott to come back. I realized that I had just been so fortunate to have awakened at the exact moment that I did. I was with my dad when we entered our family and I got to be with him when he left. I felt guilty for being selfish, but I felt like he was just a little bit more mine than anyone else's. And I felt honored to have been given that final moment alone with my dad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Little Bit of Cancer

Today isn't the anniversary of my dads passing, but for some reason I always think it is before I correct myself. We lost him on the 6th. On the 4th, which was a Friday, I scheduled the day off from work and Audrey from school so we could have a long weekend with my dad. Because I always wake up at the crack of dawn, Audrey and I made it from Columbus to the hospital in Akron before everyone who lived up there. I was sitting in a chair by the window being quiet so I didn't wake him up when the doctor came in and shook my hand. I imagine there had to have been some type of other conversation first, but I only remember him saying, "Your father isn't going to wake up again." I really wanted to be mad at the doctor, but I didn't have the energy. I literally felt deflated.

Earlier that week my mom called and said he was making a remarkable recovery. He was talking and eating and she thought they might let him go home. I believed their sending him home meant he was getting better. No man has ever lived who was as tough as my dad. The last time I'd seen him, the weekend prior, he was in really rough shape and made no sense when he spoke. If anyone could have recovered from that state, it would be him. Sadly, what I didn't understand at the time was, my dad wanted to die at home. His pain was so overwhelming that they couldn't control it outside of hospice. My mom just told me my dad might be able to go home to die. I thought he was recovering. She never called back to tell me things had changed. She probably couldn't bear the thought of my reaction.

I have always kind of just accepted that the rest of my family kept a lot of things from me. I am very sensitive and don't deal with suffering very well, especially if it's a loved one. I'm not sure if they do it to make it easier on me or themselves, but I am glad to play along. My dad had had a cancer diagnosis three years prior and he called to tell me that they found "a little bit of cancer." Im sure that was meant to soften the blow. He never told me, however, that this "little bit of cancer" diagnosis also came with a prognosis of six months to live. He was very willful and no one doubted that he would perservere. I checked on his progress all of the time. He or my mom would update me and say he was doing radiation or he was doing chemotherapy and they were working. The doctors were taking good care of him. That is what I wanted them to tell me and they were good enough to oblige. I wasn't ever going to be prepared for anything more than this generic back and forth we had created. I was never going to be able to accept that we could lose him. My dad and I hadn't fixed everything yet. I hadn't come to the place in my life where he was proud of me yet. He was Audrey's only real father-figure and he couldn't leave her. She was getting ready to graduate. He was going to walk her down the aisle one day. I just wanted to live in a world where a little bit of cancer was really a thing.

I now know that my dads cancer progressively worsened and spread to other parts of his body over those three years. After various attempts in Ohio, my dad had flown to Texas for special treatment where they had come up with a new plan of attack and, as far as I knew, it was working. Not long before the end when he was admitted to the hospital, I was on the phone with my sister turning from Broad St. onto Waggoner Rd. when she said, "Yeah. And now it's in his brain." The conversation immediately went silent as I pulled into the Meijer parking lot to prepare my mind to process what she had said, while Dawn, it was clear, had just realized she wasn't supposed to tell me that. I was upset and accusatory. In that moment, it was an insult to me that my family had kept secrets. Apparently, they had even determined that Audrey was strong enough to know more than I did. Of course, my willingness to play along had brought me to this moment and it was just as much my fault as anyone else's. To be honest, I was probably more angry that she told me anything at all. I was pissed that I was going to have to now step out of my bubble and believe that the toughest man I would ever know was really suffering. And mortal.

One morning, after I learned that the cancer had spread, Audrey and I were in the car on the way to school and she said, " Mom, stop saying that." I have this thing where everything I think comes out of my mouth. I wasn't even aware that I was talking. I knew what I must've said, though, because it was the sentence on repeat in my head, "I hate you." Over and over I thought it and, apparently said it. I apologized to Audrey and told her,"I wasn't talking about you, baby. I hate cancer." She said, " I know." She knew. She is such a gift. I was telling cancer that I hated it. It's a pretty strange and irrational thing to have on repeat, but she knew and understood me in that moment. I was absolutely wrecked inside. I would sit at my desk at work and tears would silently stream down my face for days in a row.

The truth was too much to handle. My mind raced constantly. It's so unfair! He never smoked. Ever. He shouldn't get lung cancer, I should. He just has to get to retire and drag mom all around the country in an RV. That "ignorance is bliss" bit is true. It's so nice not knowing. But my dad was in a really bad place and I had to accept that he might not pull through. I had to start preparing myself in case it happened. But all I could think was, " I hate cancer."

When the time came, I wasn't ready. I was still just busy hating cancer. I never came to terms with any of it. Unfortunately, the only thing I learned, aside from the fact that I definitely hate cancer, was that I really like my bubble. It doesn't matter why I'm kept out of the loop on things. I could never have handled three years of watching him suffer and knowing he was going to die. I forgot to eat most of the time during the 3 weeks he was in hospice and lost over 10 pounds. I looked disgusting. I couldn't sleep. I would lie in bed and just worry about my dad.

Those last two days were unbearable. His pain was so bad that while I was talking to him and holding his hand his body shuddered. My aunt told me I was hurting him. I hurt him by holding his hand. That was it for me that day. I couldn't stop crying so I stayed in the hospice TV room. I didn't want to cry in front of him.

The day dad died I was numb. I had found the strength to say the words, "You have to let go now, dad," the day before without my voice betraying the face he couldn't see. I wasn't ready for him to go, of course, but he was in so much pain that even I had finally resigned myself that there was no way to come back from the state he was in. That morning, after he had gone and everyone had been informed, my family gathered around him and I felt calmed by knowing that he was no longer in pain. But I still hated cancer.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Little Girl Found

I was a pretty girl in high school. I had no idea, of course. I was lucky to not have a battle with acne. I had really healthy hair (nevermind its height, we didn't have a choice back then). I was a Brill, so I had a wonderful wardrobe. I was most often seen in jeans and a concert t-shirt, though. I was a normal teenager, I guess. I struggled with thoughts that I was fat. I would lament that I couldn't share clothes with my friends. Any logic that said everyone has a different body type and can't be the same size was lost on me. They were smaller than I was. So I was fat.

Rolling into my mid-30s, I lived a pretty ignorant existence where my weight was concerned. My doctor had tried ad nauseam to convince me that I was too heavy, but I told her that I was quite aware of that fact. Every time I went to see her I would face backward on the scale when the nurse weighed me. I made it clear that I didn't want to know. Very few people were allowed to take a picture of me. I had no mirrors that would show my lower half.

In 2007, my graduating class had our 16th class reunion (long story). Our name tags were actually a pretty cute idea. We each got a sticker with our senior pictures on it. I had gone to Kohl's to find something to wear and ended up settling on a pair of capris and a t-shirt. I knew I looked bad. I was too stubborn not to show my face, besides, I had been one of the organizers so I couldn't back out. And I had to wear that fucking sticker. It was hard to look at her, that young, beautiful woman on my chest. It was even harder to have a curious face finally realize who I was after seeing her. It was kind of a timid, graceful horror. No one wanted to hurt my feelings, but REALLY? I imagine there were many discussions at the bar that night after I left.

One of my girlfriends emailed me pictures of the reunion the following week. It was absolutely shocking. That wasn't me. I wasn't that fat. I stared at it for what felt like hours. I would close it out on my work computer but kept pulling it back up. I didn't really look like that, did I? That was my revelation. Those pictures were what motivated me to finally get something done about it.

I researched all of the diets and surgery options. I knew that I would never succeed at a diet because it seemed impossible. I had too much weight to lose. I found stories where it had been done, but they were few. I found hope in the surgery options. I really focused on the gastric bypass because it removed the part of your stomach that processes sugar. I knew that sugar was my biggest downfall. It took a long time to realize it but when I quit smoking I replaced my post meal cigarette with chocolate. Eggs, bacon, toast and Reese Cups? Absolutely! And I had a 20 oz of Coke at my side 24/7. I never drank anything else.

I went to my doctor because I had decided to do the gastric bypass. Of course, the first step was to actually figure out my weight. My license said 235, which was a guess, but it couldn't be too far off. 235 was really fat. And I was really fat. Imagine my shock at learning I was actually 300 pounds. I always round up to 300, the honest truth is my brain has screwed up two numbers and I have since forgotten which number it was: either 294 or 297. So, dear reader, please just accept 300 as my truth. I have. I pleaded to my doctor to send me to the initial meeting with the surgeon as my insurance required that she start the ball rolling. She said she didn't think it was a very good idea. I don't know why, maybe because she was talking to a woman who refused to even know what she weighed or maybe she didn't feel comfortable with the surgery as it was still a newer procedure. I loved my doctor with my whole heart. She knew it. But I told her if she wasn't going to submit me for approval then I would go find another doctor. She finally relented and referred me to my initial meeting with the surgeon.

I wanted to go to a hospital in Michigan because my friend had gone there and they exclusively did these surgeries. I figured they would be experts. But they were assholes. They talked down to me. The nurse was rude and their psychologist was a moron. You have to see a psychologist to get approved by your insurance. This lady heard that I had been misdiagnosed as bipolar many years prior and decided I was mentally unhealthy. I was referred to one of their long term treatments before seeking approval for the surgery. I decided they were not the place for me.

I looked around and found that Ohio State had a reputable program. I went to the orientation and really liked their speakers and their staff who spoke. They were open for questions afterward and genuinely seemed to respect their clients. I left there that evening so glad that I had not decided to stay with the group in Michigan. I had my referral sent there and began the process to getting approved by insurance. I had to see a psychologist. We did a long test and then discussions and she determined I was a good candidate. I had to go to nutrition classes. I had to go to a sleep doctor. For approval, I was required to have a co-morbidity diagnosis. This meant I had to have something that could kill me like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. I was surprisingly healthy for being so incredibly obese. I did have sleep problems, though. So I took the sleep test and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Yay. I had something that could kill me!

The entire process from beginning my search to getting the surgery took a year. I learned a lot in that year. I not only learned about the different diet and surgery options, but I learned about myself. On February 9th of that year (2008) I decided that if I was going to have to give up sugar for the rest of my life I would want to see if I could even do it for a minute. So I gave up sugar that day. I had had an accidental slip in June when I went to McDonalds for a Diet Coke. I told Audrey, "Ewww... their machine is off. This pop is foul." She tasted it and replied, "No, mom. This is regular Coke." My taste buds had decided that my beloved Coca-Cola was now foul. Awesome.

I got a call in mid-August from the nurse at the OSU Bariatric center to tell me that they had received approval from my insurance and that I could schedule. I took the next date they had available. Duh. I knew I would never be able to have sugar again so I went to Graeter's. I hit the drive thru and got a mint chocolate chip ice cream hot fudge sundae. Medium. I would've normally ordered a large but I was trying to be more thoughtful about portion sizes. (Wink). I pulled into the parking lot facing north. The sun was bright and I had to put the visor down. I made quite an event of it. I turned my ringer off and my radio up. I sat back and took a big, perfect bite. It had my ideal amounts of ice cream, whipped cream and hot fudge. This is what I had promised myself back in February for my celebration when I got approved. It was gross. I was a little pissed and a little tickled. I walked over to the trash can outside by the edge of the parking lot and threw it away.

On September 15, 2008, I went into the Ohio State University for my Gastric Bypass. I knew the failure rate was high if compared to other life-saving surgeries. But I also knew that the success rate was based on the patients attitude. I was too stubborn to go through all of this and fail.

My recovery from surgery was not at all as painful as I was told it would be. I do have a high threshold for pain, but it was really nothing. I was supposed to have 6 weeks off, but it was pretty boring. I was fine. Really. The diet was the biggest thing to become used to. I knew I couldn't have sugar. And I knew that sugar was in a lot of things one might not consider. But I had carefully stocked my fridge and pantry with the items I had read about in my nutrition classes. Fortunately, I really don't care about food. I can eat the same thing for weeks in a row. If my taste buds don't reject it, that's fine. I did have an unfortunate attempt at eating out where I learned the hard way that marinara sauce has sugar in it. I got to see what that "dumping syndrome" was all about. You really only need that lesson once.

The week before Thanksgiving, my girlfriend had a party and I felt comfortable with what would be the right food choices and felt uncomfortable receiving a lot of praise for all of my successes so far. It had been only two months and my progress was so profound that you could tell immediately by looking at me. I had lost 65 pounds. This included the weight I lost before the surgery when learning the new nutrition from the class and giving up sugar.

This was the picture my friend took of me that day. Somehow I couldn't see the big change, probably because I looked at myself every day. It was quite a profound comparison to where I had been that summer.

The weight loss was so fast it was hard to believe. In October of 2009 I weighed 145. I weighed more than I had in high school when I was "fat," but now I knew that I wasn't fat at all. I was finally in a place where I could feel pretty. I had not purchased clothes because it seemed like a waste of money. I had some clothes donated by friends on my way down, but I didn't buy any myself. None of them really fit so I opted for dresses that could just hang without falling off or I would use a binder clip to keep my pants up. I looked ridiculous. That year I asked my family for gift certificates from Kohl's for Christmas. It never even occurred to me, but I got a winter coat from my mom and dad for Christmas from the store (I always refer to "the store." My family have been clothiers/furriers since the 30s). The store had been downsized in recent years and didn't even carry plus size clothing. I hadn't worn anything from the store since high school. I was so proud to wear a coat with the family label in it again.

On January 3, 2010 I went to Kohl's with my gift cards from the rest of the family. I always start at the clearance section. I found a pair of jeans that were a size 5. I wasn't sure what a size 5 translated to in women's sizes but they were clearance. I couldn't possibly fit into these but I filled my cart with all kinds of sizes from the 5 jeans in the junior department to 10s and 12s in women's. I thought it would be exciting to see if I could pull up the 5s so I tried them first. Not only could I pull them up, but I could zip and button them, too. I was overwhelmed. I started crying. Seriously crying. I called my mom at the store from the dressing room. She couldn't make out what I was saying. I calmed down and told her that I was wearing a size 5. It wasn't just joy. There was fear in that call. What if I fuck this up? A lot of people lose weight and put it back on. It was an amazing mixture of emotions. I feel confident the people in the rest of the dressing rooms at Kohl's were not as emotional about my revelation as I was and were hoping I would soon leave.

These are the jeans. I wasn't trying to show off my butt, I was showing off my jersey.

That following summer I was able to submit for reconstructive surgery. I went to the plastic surgeon that OSU suggested and he was great. He made me feel very comfortable standing there in my underwear and having him grab large masses of empty skin and taking pictures. He told me when we were done that he doubted the insurance company would approve me because my skin wasn't too bad. HUH? Gladly, my insurance disagreed. I was approved to get the excess skin from my stomach removed. I was not approved for the rest.

This surgery was in June and it required a cut from my breastbone down to my pubic bone and then a long curved cut from my pubic bone up and over each hip. He stitched two layers of skin. The recovery wasn't too bad for that one, either. It took a long minute to determine which ways I could turn and how I could stand or sit with the least pain, but after that it was fine.

After having had gastric bypass, you have to visit your surgeon once a year. They take your blood to make sure you are getting all of the vitamins you need and weigh you and make sure you are comfortable with your progress. I was always afraid of my progress. Finally, after about 4 years, when I said, "I'm afraid I will gain the weight back," to my nurse practitioner, I received a chuckle and a reply, "If you were going to do that you would've done it a long time ago." I felt so much more at ease after that. I started to coast into life with a little more confidence that this would be me now and I wouldn't fuck it up again.

Last September was the 6 year anniversary of my surgery. It was the very best decision for me. Everyone has to judge and recognize their own strengths and limits before making such a decision. I knew that I could live without sugar. And I knew that I could succeed with the help of the surgery. I have days now where I feel beautiful. I don't apologize for saying that. I don't feel arrogant. It took a lot of work, both mentally and physically to get to say that. Quite honestly, I am entitled to that feeling.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Collateral Damage

I waited 39 years to tell a man that I loved him. A couple of men have suffered a long, awkward pause after having made their affirmations, but I was never willing to lie. Not about something like that. Just like everyone else, I want to be loved, but I have always been very leery about committing to anyone. I would say my family has had more than an average amount of divorces in it. By the age of 8, I had decided that I was never going to get married. I wanted love, though. It was just hard for me to believe anyone was going to mean what they say for the rest of their lives. I'd pretty much rather never hear it than have to devote any part of my heart to believing it.

The man I waited to love was very patient. I waited a full year before I would even let him in my house. In that year we grew to really know and understand one another. I felt understood in a way that I had never felt in my life. I believed that I loved him and that he really understood what a sacrifice I was making in telling him so. I'm not sure, now, that it was love. It was safety. It was a kind of security I had never known in any facet of my life. My entire self was safe there. He never judged me. He never asked me to be something other than what I was. My little quirks that had always driven so many crazy were adorable to him. I could wake up after a drunken evening where I'd been nasty to find him in the kitchen asking, "How do you want your eggs?"

After a year together he asked me twice to meet his 12 year old daughter. I was afraid to do that. I didn't want to screw it up. I literally had to see a therapist before I committed to it. From all he had told me about her, I loved his daughter long before I met her. I didn't want to be the next person to walk into her life, tell her I cared about her and leave her later. I knew how that felt and I would never do that. My therapist helped me get to a place where I was sure that I would never be that kind of person. I finally met her and she was even sweeter and more lovely than I had imagined.

We had custody of his daughter. Actually, he had custody and we were together so it felt like I did, too. Her mother wanted nothing to do with her so it was the three of us. I made every sacrifice I could to take care of them. I wanted them to know how much I loved them and wanted to take care of them. I went overboard. I tend to do that. I will be working on coming back from the financial sacrifices I made for a long time. I don't think I regret them, though. It was where I was at that time and they both enjoyed a security that neither of them had ever known, so I think it was worth it.

Toward the end of our relationship I started to feel irrelevant. It had been apparent for a long time that he was incredibly selfish but I made many exceptions and excuses for him. But I finally got to the place where I told myself (and him, though my self was the only one listening) that I deserved a man who would be seen in public with me. I deserved a man who would take me on a date, ever. I deserved a man who did anything for me for the past 3 birthdays or Christmases. I wasn't going to leave him, though. I had long talks with his father and decided that I would stay and take care of them until his daughter graduated. I didn't want to let her down. I hoped that in this time he would learn that I was worth making the small sacrifices that I needed him to make.

Just before Thanksgiving in 2013 I had to leave. I learned something that I couldn't unlearn. I would never be able to commit the next  5 years of my life to him. I wanted to maintain my relationship with his daughter but that wasn't possible. I am unable to write about the tragedy as it is not only mine, but it was one that would change my life forever. The pain and confusion were so profound that I wasn't sure that I would be able to live with it for the rest of my life. The tragedy was compounded by the knowledge that this commitment I had made for the rest of my life was ending. For good. I felt the most intense feeling of solitude that I could have ever imagined. I had gone through a terrible loss when Audrey went to college, but she was still in my life and would always be my daughter. This was something decidedly worse. I thought that if I died, that would be great.

I decided when I left him that I was done. I was never going to be able to date again. I decided that no matter how long I live and no matter how lonely that lonely becomes, I would rather be lonely for the rest of my life than ever be vulnerable again.

I found this picture today cleaning out my iPad looking to make space.

That is what I lost. I lost the idea of ever being able to comfortably connect with a man again. I will never be held or cuddled again. I will never be understood or accepted the way I had been again. It has been over a year since the tragedy and nothing has changed. I am working on my depression and still yearn to have the security I thought I had, but I am not willing to sacrifice my emotional and mental stability to try. I lost my capacity for hope. I can no longer fantasize about someone coming into my life and receiving all that I am and patiently waiting for me to let down my wall. It took me 39 years to be sure that I was in a safe place and I was wrong.  After my last train wreck of a relationship it had taken me 17 years to even try dating again. And, believe it or not, getting your ass kicked daily is not nearly as painful as the pain that comes with deciding to fall in love and being so unbelievably wrong.

There will be no happy or positive revelation at the end today. I will never have the strength to change these truths. I don't think I even aspire to.