Thursday, July 26, 2007

Me Time

I take it when I get it - and I get precious little of it these days - but when I do get it, I enjoy it!

Me time. A time when I can do something that no one is waiting for, expecting, directing me to do, or needs. No one but me, that is.

In the same way that babies raised in large families can sleep through lots of noise and chatter, I'm learning to grab this time whenever I can - even in the midsts of some non personal event. I can now sit in a car with my husband and daughter and spend 15 minutes tweezing my way to a groomed state, oblivious to their presence.

This skill will either save my sanity, or I am just one step closer to changing my underwear in the middle of a traffic island.

This has been a week of driving - a week of sitting behind the wheel, usually in traffic, trying to find a bit of peace at each stop light and seeking new routes from St. Paul to Lake Calhoun.

Adventure is a fine thing, but I'm glad that next week we'll return to our more calming and healthier routine of me walking Max a mile to his day camp in the morning, walking home (with Atticus), then repeating the exercise in reverse later in the afternoon.

I miss these daily walks - but I don't think I could have taken them this week anyway, what with the humidity and heat and my wacky breathing. So it worked out that the week I needed to be in air conditioning for my breathing, I was able to spend HOURS in my PT Cruiser. Yay.

Thank heaven for the downpour Thursday - blessed relief!

Well, except for the poor men who were in the St. Paul sewer during the storm. Still missing - just terrible.

And - no matter HOW much I walk, or how careful I try to be with the eating - I feel that my body shape is sort of frozen in time right now. It seems that there are times when weight just falls off, and there are times when it won't come off with a hammer and chisel. This current period of heat and stress is one of the latter - and it will pass - but it's rough now.

I'm not too concerned with it. Aside from the breathing I feel very healthy right now. I'm walking a lot, getting a lot done, doing a nice amount of physical work and I feel good. But I don't feel thin.

Every year in August I feel so lodgy, then in the Fall I slim down without really trying very hard, so I know this will pass. But it bothers me. And it bothers me that it bothers me.

I think it's due to many factors - the societal pressure to be thin, my own desire to wear pretty clothes, wanting folks to think well of me when they first meet me. And, perhaps most troubling, the fact that my husband has "shrunk" - he's shorter now than he was.

I feel so very exposed when we're together. I find myself explaining to folks I've just met why I'm so much taller than Gerry. Not good for either of our egos. I know that this makes him feel handicapped - lesser in some way - and I need to stop it. It's ridiculous to allow my vanity to cause Gerry pain.

But it's hard to be a bit of a sight gag. I've often said that in our society the worst thing a woman can do is take up too much space; the worst thing a man can do is take up too little.

I don't mean that seriously, of course - and things have changed a lot (for the better) since I was a teenager. But there's that feeling that it's just not quite feminine to be too big.

Or, to follow the panty hose corollary, the taller a woman is, the less she is allowed to weigh.

I break that rule. I'm simultaneously happy, proud, ashamed and irritated by my looks - I think we all are. I'm upset that a bias against fat is still strong - and accepted. The last acceptible bias. But on the other hand, I feel that there's a growing movement of pride in our bodies, no matter what their shape and size. I see this wherever I teach - and I do love those Dove ads.

In the shower, soon after I delivered Max, I remember thinking, "How can I hate a body that has given me two such wonderful babies?"

This is on my mind because we went as a family to see Hairspray - and I absolutely loved it! I want to see it again - SOON!

I loved every moment of it - it was the best movie I've seen in a long time! The message was so empowering, if a little shiny-happy-starry eyed.

And yet - the role of the fat woman who overcomes her self loathing to come out of her shell and enjoy life with her daughter was played by a man.

I thought John Travolta did a fine job - he's been dissed in some reviews, but I thought he worked his butt off, and did as well as any guy could do. When John Waters made the original movie, Divine was a magnificent Edna - a force unto herself. And there was a poetic balance when Harvey Fierstein was cast on Broadway.

But as I watched the musical film version of this bubbly, period morality play, I felt - I imagined that I felt - as though I were seeing a black-face performance. Why was it necessary to have a guy play Edna, really? Would a middle-aged, fat woman be so terrible to see? Are there no actresses who could have done the part? Queen Latifah was magnificent, Nikki Blonsky was an utter delight, but where was my own personal role model to cheer for?

I wanted to cheer when Edna danced in the street, or sashayed with her husband. But I kept thinking, "He's playing a cartoon character - am I a cartoon character?"

Do I have no right to see myself represented by a "real" actress?

I thought it was especially ironic given the subject matter of the movie - integration and the desire of black folks in Baltimore to see themselves represented on local TV.

And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie - I loved it - and when it comes out on DVD I'll buy it. Hannah's already memorized many of the songs, and Max was dancing in his seat.

I just wish they could have seen a real woman playing Edna.

Hannah said later, "Mom, you would have been really good in that part. Well, if you had a fat-suit on..." Which was very sweet and unexpected. So now I have two dream parts to play someday; Edna Turnblad and Mrs. Lovett.

The vanity continues - it's grouted and the edging is in place.

I've run a bead of silicone around the inside of the mosaic area to act as a dam when I pour the poly on tomorrow, then I'll let it sit for a few days.

It's truly been a labor of love, it has made me so happy to make this for the bathroom. I hope it turns out that we really CAN use the vanity top!

Hannah leaves on Sunday morning for Girl Scout camp. We had signed the kids up for these various camps (canoe camp, invention camp, girl scout camp) in March, before Gerry's diagnosis. Back then we thought it was a back problem for which the doctor would find a solution (like vertibroplasty)

I felt it was necessary to round out the kids' summers as much as possible. As things turned out, giving them such a rich and full summer has been quite a blessing - and has kept both their minds and our minds off of the seriousness of our situation. We'll take the joy wherever we can get it!

When it became clear how serious Gerry's illness was, and what this would mean for us financially, I contacted the different camps to see about getting a refund. With only one exception, they each offered us partial scholarships so the kids could stay in their various programs. I was so grateful - we are
all so grateful.

I'd never imagined there was as much kindness as we've been shown since Gerry's diagnosis, and it's difficult to know exactly how to feel (besides grateful!)

I continue to drag my feet about writing to thank folks - partly due to busy-ness, and partly just not knowing how I can express these very deep - and sharp - feelings.

Thank you, everyone, who has been so kind, and please know how much I appreciate your patience in waiting for a decent thank you from me!

Especially these gorgeous chocolates (Thank You Marnie!!) with the little doggie (which I'll send with Hannah to camp)

... And - especially - the Nordic Ice Pack that came WITH the chocolates... Now THAT was an unexpected joy!


Anonymous said...

Hi Annie,
I think it's not about the weight it's about how you feel about your body. I guess I'am about size 4 US, and it's sort of OK, but I can't look at my body in the mirror without thinking that it's so so horrible and the bones are seen everywhere and I just feel skinny and clumsy because of it. This is how things look to me from my side of the fence. I feel that I wouldn't mind to have few extra pounds put on me. On the other hand, I am sure I'd find another thing to complain about.

July 28, 2007 5:45 AM  
Helen said...

I hear you. I had just the same thoughts about men in fat suits. But I've noticed a funny thing about my weight. I used to be normal weight and I felt fat all the time; I've now gained a lot of weight because of my health (or lack of it) and the odd thing is that I don't feel fat: I'm amazed every time I see myself in a mirror. It's a strange business, women and their weight. I don't think we know the half of it yet.

But I once read an interview with Isabella Rossellini where she referred to 'one of those days when you feel short and fat', and I thought, well, maybe I look like Isabella Rossellini and I don't know it? Hold that thought until your next weight-change arrives, dear Annie.

July 28, 2007 5:52 AM  
Nancy said...

I've always felt somewhere between the need to have a room of my own and having a room with a view... and then there's the weight...but it isn't the actual weight, it's the illusion.

July 28, 2007 9:09 AM  
Luise said...

For what it's worth, my own theory about generosity and goodness:
I genuinely believe that most people want to be helpful -- you need directions, you've broken your hip falling on a sidewalk and need a lift (yep, really), whatever. Just as there are people and events that bring out the worst in us, thank heavens there are other people and events that bring out the best in us, and we respond positively however we can. It's both personal and impersonal; it's giving, not taking.
Some days it's hard to hold on to this, given our life and times, but I persevere.

July 28, 2007 9:25 AM  
knitintensity said...

As you write this particular entry, you remind me of times when events have changed the direction of my life sharply, sometimes quite unexpectedly. It can be very jarring, but it seems that you and your family are plowing on admirably. You must, after all, keep LIVING your lives! I hope the kids have a marvelous time at camp and that you all thoroughly enjoy the home renovations. And, I totally agree: who knew it would be so dang hot and humid in Minnesota of all places?

July 28, 2007 9:48 AM  
Carol said...

Don't worry too much about the weight itself. Worry about your health. And it has been proven in several studies that even if the exercisee doesn't actually lose weight, the weight actually shifts away from the danger zone (internal abdominal fat) and thus the person is healthier. So keep walking and damn the torpedos! Or something like that....

July 28, 2007 10:04 AM  
Marnie said...

Your vanity looks so beautiful. I just love the design.

I'm glad the chocolates arrived and hope the whole family enjoys them.

We're thinking of you and sending good thoughts.

July 28, 2007 11:32 AM  
Anonymous said...

I love that vanity. You are soooo talented, in so many ways!

July 28, 2007 12:56 PM  
Anonymous said...

having seen the show on Broadway twice, I have never once thought of Edna as a man - I have always thought of her as a woman and a wonderful one at that!

July 28, 2007 1:14 PM  
Glenna said...

Hi, Annie. I'm only a middling knitter as far as experience goes, and I haven't done much lately knitting-wise, but I'd love it if you could design some graceful and flattering things for the not-tiny woman. I have one book of designs but I'd eagerly buy a bunch more if I could find ones that didn't make me look outlandish or as if I were wearing something meant for a man--or for granny. And I'm not a good enough knitter to calculate the stitches necessary to make a sweater just a size larger. Frustrating! So I don't knit much for myself or I stick to non-size projects like afghans and hats. Bet you're just the person to do it for us....

Best wishes on your husband's upcoming medical treatment, and please take good care of yourself. LOL about changing your underwear in the median. Or you can do what I've seen--someone flossing on the Metro in DC!

July 28, 2007 2:31 PM  
grammilu said...

Regarding being "fat" or "thin", I just looked through a book on "The World of Art", containing paintings throughout the ages. Soft and round are IN!!! Comfort yourself with knowing all of us who are wishing we were thinner, are actually the artists' ideal over the ages.

I just love your vanity. You are terrifically creative. Take time to love yourself for who you are--someone I have been enjoying for a year now, via your blog. Thank You!


July 28, 2007 3:33 PM  
Joanne said...

I read this message and I found myself agreeing with you. Over and over. Amen, Sister! About the body image thing, about the Dove ads and the perception of women in the media, even about the humidity--but I don't live in Minnesota! I hear you, and I agree!

One thing to check in on regarding weight/health. A pretty high percentage of women, about 14%? have a thyroid issue as they age. It's easily solved with daily medication. This can cause weight gain, among other things...and thyroid levels can shift according to weather and season. It's worth checking into this the next time you're at the doctor's. It's a blood test and a check list of symptoms to talk about. I know, like you have time to go to the doctor now? (but really, it's worth asking about...) If you're walking that much and eating right, well, you definitely shouldn't be gaining weight.. I care about you, friend! Be well!

July 28, 2007 5:54 PM  
Knitting Linguist said...

Yes, yes!! I just took my daughters to see Hairspray yesterday, and I had pretty much the exact same reaction (mostly positive, a little weird about John Travolta). I loved that my girls were seeing a movie which celebrated bodies that are non-"standard", and that the "fat chick" got the handsome guy. I'm not a skinny person, and probably never will be, and my husband at 6'6" (I'm five two -- wanna talk about laughter, you should see people's reactions when we dance together, sigh), so both of my girls are bound to be fairly Amazonian. I have to say that having them around has, bare minimum, stopped my all-to-frequently self-deprecating mouth better than anything else ever has. I want them to be proud of their bodies and what they can do, and that means I have to learn how to model that behavior myself. It ain't easy...

I'm so glad your kids are enjoying their camp experience. I know you're heading into a rough(er) period; I'm sending good thoughts.

July 29, 2007 2:42 PM  
ellen said...

I saw you on Ravelry today - welcome to the crowd! It sounds like you are beginning to figure out how to live in the "new normal". We're all thinking happy thoughts at you, of course.

July 29, 2007 9:37 PM  
Working Mom Knits said...

The vanity top is gorgeous! I'm so glad that you had the idea - and artistic ability.

Cheers to you and yours. I'm sending supportive vibes you way.

July 30, 2007 11:02 AM  
Friender said...

Ok, I've always wondered, what the HELL about the pantyhose sizing?!?! Thank god I never have to wear them anymore, but I am 5'11" and EXCUSE ME I will weigh a healthy weight (170, thank you) and so WTF?!?! why are the pantyhose manufacturers assuming that the taller you are, the skinnier you are?!?! where is the common sense in that? thanks...I always wondered and I still continue to. but now I feel a little better somehow.

July 31, 2007 5:10 PM  
Anonymous said...

Well. I think you have to relax about the height differential. My grandmother was almost 5' 10" and my grandpa was 5'3", and they got along great. He was a brilliant guy and she was the funniest woman I ever met. I can't recall her apologizing for his size, the closest accomodation she ever made was to stand in her wedding photo, while he sat in a chair, LOL.

July 31, 2007 8:56 PM  
honeybee33 said...

I can't thank you enough for finally putting into words the angst I've felt for the past seven years. I'm a taller, larger, older woman myself, who met and married the love of my life - who's all of five-foot-four. My marital bliss consistently collides with my feminine identity, and it feels so shallow and anti-feminist - but there it is anyway. "Sight-gag," indeed. /:~\

RE: Generosity - I get it. My husband comes from a long line of "doers," and it's almost impossible for them to acknowledge the natural give-n-take of the universe when it seems only natural to them to always be on the "give" side of the energy-flow, rather than the "take."

I s'pose with both issues it's a constant challenge to balance who you really are with what you actually believe and what you truly value.

~ hb33 ~

October 27, 2007 3:29 PM  

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