Actually, I’ve just been in contemplation mode, mainly. When I was a child, that would have meant sitting on top of a rock, down by a neighborhood creek (thoughtlessly trespassing on someone’s property, but it didn’t matter in those days), feet in the cold, rushing water. As an adult, I prefer to perch on a softer landing spot. I often have a book too.
First of all, I’d like to thank everyone in my last post for being so encouraging about my writing, my perspective, my voice on this topic. You have given me pause. I had pretty much given up on writing about weight-loss maintenance, at least in any compensated fashion. It is nice to think that others find my thoughts worthy.
While I haven’t entirely given up on writing on this topic, I am going to postpone and turn my attentions elsewhere. Mid-September, I enter training in the Clinical Pastoral Education program for St. Luke’s Hospital in my hometown of Kansas City.
Back in January, a close friend died, one who had been encouraging me to plumb spiritual depths, ponder imponderables and (as she had done) go to seminary. Her career path led her to edit a national religious publication for a time and serve as a congregational pastor for a time. I was shaped most, however, by being present for nearly all of the penultimate chapter of her life, in which she was technically mostly retired (but spent her days advancing peace in creative ways), and parts of her final chapter (as I could travel, and as time allowed). It occurred to me that being present, God’s emissary, during people’s most important and challenging chapters would make for meaningful work, especially once my nest goes empty in five years (a chapter I’d like to plan for).
Muriel and I met shortly after she had had a radical mastectomy following breast cancer. At the time, she decided not to follow up with chemotherapy. She preferred to fortify her body’s defenses against the internal enemy, through nutrition and other means, rather than try to poison it and herself. Her children were grown, her obligations on this earthly plain mostly met, so she claimed the luxury of declining an ugly fight, knowing her decision might result in a shorter, if more comfortable, life. Actually, however, her strategy kept her alive for nine lovely years. Years that would change me.
My friend’s death reminded me that when my mother had had a stroke in 1999, four years before she died, I learned that there was nothing more rewarding than being useful for her, comforting to her or just present. This was not an effortless revelation. On my two-hour drives to see her, I would squeeze the steering wheel, afraid I wouldn’t find words, afraid of awkward silences ahead. I prayed, “just let me be useful, God. Help me figure out what to do. Help me find words. Help me.” I had a toddler at the time, who I could count on to provide some entertainment for one visit in a weekend, but toddlers are multi-faceted, and I could also count on him to test the limitations of the residential center where she lived. It wasn’t childproof and, in fact, was designed to make electrical outlets, toxic cleaners, mini-blind cords and other dangers more accessible, not less. So, I knew I would leave him with his other grandma for most visits, and I would go alone and try to communicate with someone I loved, who could not communicate back much. And that was scary. At first.
But God answered my prayers. Cynical me. My prayers. I always figured out how to be useful. How to be present. One week her slipper had fallen off, for example, and I could see that the monthly visits by the podiatrist weren’t enough to maintain her feet. I started giving her regular pedicures – gentle and without polish. Just washing her feet, moisturizing the skin, clipping and smoothing the nails. I also curled her hair with a curling iron some weekends. We did girly things. She helped me wrap Christmas presents. Simple stuff. And meaningful. I am grateful I found the inner resources to visit despite my fears and reservations. I know that many people need help finding those resources, and I’d like to be helpful toward that end.
My spare thoughts, therefore, have been straying from weight and health to matters spiritual. My reading list has changed a lot. I’m pretty ecumenical to begin with, but I must admit I wouldn’t know how to pray with a Rastafarian, Sikh, Zoroastrian, or any number of believers/nonbelievers/counter-believers and their families who might show up in the hospital and need to call on their spiritual resources to get through challenging times or pass into new chapters. And while I hope I would simply and humbly let them lead me, I’d like to know what might be in store and how I might be supportive and avoid being insulting. So I am bouncing about in books on various world religions. I have a book on science and religion too (seems apropos for the medical/spiritual vortex I hope to enter). And I have been doing a lot of soul searching and navel gazing. I have not, however, been reading up on the science or cultural mythology of weight control.
I’ve visited some blogs. Left a comment here and there. But I have not been the Data-hound Debra that I imagine myself to be for this blog. And I’m cool with that. I hope you all are too.
I am guessing that I will retire this blog soon. I hope to do a wrap-up entry or two, and then, at the risk of seeming vain, pay for the domain for another year and leave it up, because I think our discussions would be helpful to people entering into weight-loss and weight-loss maintenance, or considering avoiding another round of yo-yo weight cycling. Many people find this blog through search engine terms. I think that’s a good thing, and they should be allowed to come and read.
I know when I started this blog I was just out-and-out angry. There were days I felt like I was going to burst from my skin in rage because I had been served up a stinking pile of lies . . . by doctors, by scientists, by women’s magazines, TV morning news programs, and other purveyors of cultural mythology. I had known about and been seething about these lies for years, so my first entries were fire-breathing.
But over the year my discussions with you, the readers here, have dissipated my ire, and I am now, most days, more stoic than angry. I’m living with all the big lies in peace instead of rage. You affirmed that I wasn’t imagining the lies. You challenged my over-reactions to the lies. You cheered my indignation at the lies. You explored and analyzed the lies with me, and offered some brilliant insights. And, some days, you just affirmed me personally. I owe you people a lot for helping me get to a more peaceful place. If I have any chance at being a competent hospital chaplain, it is because I went through some necessary preparation here. Who would ‘a thunk it?
I think there are lots of angry people (or soon-to-be-angry people) who have just discovered or are about to discover the big lies regarding weight control – that it’s just portion control, that it’s just tips and tricks, that it’s a lifestyle, that it’s ridiculously easy once you’ve figured it out. Yeesh. What baloney! I think our discussions will help them process the challenging journey ahead. After a year, the science we’ve discussed in these pages will be old, possibly updated or reversed, and some links will go defunct. In any event, after a year the blog can go where ever old blogs go. Then you and I, my on-line friends, may be content that we have done a little something to make the world more honest and realistic about weight control, and maybe a little kinder and accepting of people of all sizes.