Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Parenting before children

I became a parent before I had children.

It's my responsibility to make my father be his better self. So he will show up, to face the reality of the situation. It's a responsibility born of love, because I deeply love my flawed father, and he deeply loves his flawed daughter. And yet, it weighs at my psyche, so I eat.

I recently told my stepmom how excited I was for my upcoming 30th birthday. She laughed and said, "You were 30 when I met you [at age 14]. You always have been." It's true that I have always been responsible, carefully weighing my choices against potential consequences, a skill developed from our family dynamics, from having to cope with the realities of life from an early age.

It's not just my father to whom I have a responsibility. I collect lost things. My porch is full of beautiful chairs discarded from our neighbor decluttering his home. Inside, my home has too many animals, full of rescues who are sweet and wonderful and shed fur all over the damn house. My children are adopted from foster care, "older youth" because their memories of their biological parents make them unwanted by all the adoptive parents who want to pretend that it was their baby all along. My children sat in foster care for years as a consequence of their ages when they entered care, 5 and 6, already "older youth" in an unfair system.

My collections bring me incredible joy. I love having chairs for people to sit on, animals to pet and purr, and children to share my life with. I sought these lost things out for their joy, but always they show their past lives. The chairs are nicked, the animals scared or aggressive, and the children heavy with emotion.

As my grandfather lies sick in his hospital bed, I am trying to manage my father. "You should visit. You should call." I'm trying to convince him to leave his toxic environment and join me in my new city.

At the same time, I am dealing with so much else. I move quickly, never stalling too long on a decision before I jump in head first. I multi-task, not just juggling my work and children, but trying to build community and be my best self too.

Right now, I am also managing depressed friends, calling and visiting to ensure that at least today won't be the day they commit suicide.

I am unpacking and renovating a home and trying fiercely to feel settled in this new place.

I am trying madly to make friends in this place, going out and finding new people and places and community.

I am preparing to teach a subject I have never taught, still a brand new teacher beginning Year 2.

I am trying to manage my own sadness about my grandfather's sickness, about how I have rarely been in touch with a family that cared for me in my childhood.

I am helping my children settle into their new home. I have promised them it will be their last childhood home, and I intend to keep that promise by making it so incredible I never want to leave.

I am celebrating and preparing for children's birthdays, the start of classes, and the approaching High Holy Days.

I love my full life. Every week people come to our place to celebrate Shabbat, and we eat good food in a home filled with love and half-packed boxes. Food is central to our lives. It's how my parents showed they loved me, and how I show up for my family and friends. In the midst of this chaos, we always have Shabbat.

I live in a beautiful community, full of incredible people. I want to show up for them, but it's hard sometimes to show up for myself. I rarely prioritize myself, and I don't know how to prioritize eating healthy and gym over my children's needs, my wife's needs, and my own stress. Since I found my scale, I have not gained weight, but this month I have not lost weight either. We have gone out to eat too much, and I haven't utilized my beautiful kitchen for healthy choices. I worry that as the summer comes to a close and the stressors of life do not diminish, that it will feel impossible to manage my health and responsibilities.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Do you want s'more?

In line at Trader Joe's with a cart full of healthy-ish food, I reach for a bag of butter-honey potato chips. Rarely does the impulse area grab at me, but I had just talked myself down from various other unhealthy items in the snack aisle, and I was too tired to say "No!" to myself one more time. I took the bag, justifying it by the incredible price (less than $2!) and the fact that the children would like it, and I put it in the cart.

That day, I proceeded to help eat the entire bag. Later, when my wife commented on the fact that the bag was almost gone, my eldest child said, "It was mostly mama." I was so angry. First, it wasn't mostly me. I had worked really hard to not gobble down the whole thing, using tricks like sharing with the kids, having the kids hold the bag, and saving some for my wife. Second, she was right. I had eaten more than anyone else. While I hadn't eaten most of the chips, I had eaten almost half the bag, despite there being four of us eating the bag together.

I was so ashamed at all the chips I ate. And yet, I continued.

Late my wife asked me, "Do you want another s'more?" Despite the fact that the ingredients were put away, and she would be going up a flight of stairs to get the food, and I had eaten half a bag of chips, and I had a s'more already, I said yes. After the marshmallow had browned over our outdoor fire pit, I ate it hastily and shared a bite with my kid.

I thought that maybe if it disappears quickly, it won't make me deeply embarrassed. The whole time eating the gooey deliciousness, I was thinking about how I shouldn't eat this. It felt like another failure of my willpower. Already I eaten half a family-sized bag of chips, and now I was powering through another s'more. Why do I sabotage my weight loss efforts in these ways? And yet, I continued to eat.

I went to bed at 9 p.m. that night. I had been tired that whole day, with little sleep the night before and the night before that. It had been weeks of bad sleep, filled with summer fun and children, late night parties, drinking on the porch, and other activities ill-suited to weight loss. It had been fabulously fun, and draining.

I eat more when I'm tried, and as someone always on-the-go, I am almost always tired.

I slept 12 hours that night. I woke up exhausted and shamed by my behavior. I fear it will never change. Already my weight holds me back. I don't fit into rollercoaster seats, or airplane seats. I measure my girth against chairs and avoid smaller places.

The next morning I logged into My Fitness Pal for the 390th day in a row. I fear it's all for nothing. Nothing changes. I keep getting bigger, I keep over eating. I can justify the bad choices - I was tired, I was celebrating, I was stressed - but it doesn't change. I am not losing.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hurting and changing

The room vibrates with sound, electrifying the sweating bodies moving against each other. Our Saturday night DJ was a skilled professional, building the energy of the dance floor and making me move my body. For over an hour, my friend and I stomped, swayed, and gyrated to the club's music. We weren't ready for the night to be done when the DJ announced it was the last song, yet we shuffled out with the other sweat-drenched partiers. Walking home on the warm summer night, the breeze cooled us as we talked about what good fun and exercise it had been.

At 29, I finally have the nightlife experiences I've always dreamed of. Late night adventures have always held my fascination. I love to dance, and I love to have fun, but dance clubs were always outside my reach as a regular experience. As a sober young adult who was scared of risk, I had no companion to accompany me. So, I relish these nights of dancing debauchery (even though I now no longer do it sober).

Yet, one must always face the next day, and the next morning, slightly hungover, I woke up to find my knees were not the same as they had been the day before. They were swollen and painful. I spent the day trying to avoid all inclines, which is hard to do when your home is on the second floor and includes an interior staircase. Getting up from chairs was painful. Going up the curb was painful. Sitting down was painful. Climbing into bed was painful. It was a day where I worried about my morbidity. Less than 30, I was already experiencing the pain I associated with my 90 year old grandparents.

This summer I weigh more than I have before. At 281 pounds, I should lose over 130 pounds to be in the "healthy" BMI range. It feels impossible and necessary. For a year I have counted every calorie, and slowly weighed more and more. For a year, I have meditated on my desire to lose weight, and all that has changed is that I now track every single thing I eat, even as I eat too much and judge my portions poorly.

This year has also been the hardest of my adult life. My children have unraveled, I survived a hard year of teaching, we mourned the death of my father-in-law, we remodeled our home from a dilapidated place missing windows and floorboards to a messy home that was only slightly safer, and we bought and sold and bought houses and moved to a totally new city, living between two places before we could truly settle somewhere new.

And so I keep trying. My weight loss goal doesn't begin and end with a number - either on the scale or inside my clothes. It begins with chasing my children at the park and long nights dancing, and it ends with my beautiful wife - healthy and living together into our old age. Something has to change.

So, today I went to the gym for the first time in months. I googled healthy recipes. I went shopping.

Something has to change. So I made a change today. Hopefully, tomorrow will be even better.