How I got here
My mother died on a Friday night. By the time I got to the hospital, she had passed. I had been there an hour before, all night, all week, all month. I had said goodbye a hundred times. Was it enough?
At first I couldn't look at her, let alone touch her. Then I was all over her, stroking her face, kissing her. I never wanted to leave that room. That sweet, sweet woman. That’s what I told her. And that I would ask God to take his very best care of her until I could be with her again.
I had a two-year old baby, a three-month old marriage, a 33-year old fat body and a whirling mind. It seemed that I could never concentrate on anything for a reasonable amount of time. I could never get my thoughts together before they came spilling out of my mouth. I could never get enough sleep. Sometimes, many times, I couldn't get enough air.
It started a long, long time ago, but to take a point in time, I’ll begin with Sharlene. Sharlene was a 55-year old-waiting-to-retire systems analyst who was contracted to work with our team. I was placed in a suffocatingly small room with her for four months doing analysis work. No windows, no phone, no Internet, no personal space, and again no air. The woman looked me up and down every morning when I came to work, commented on the amount of bags I was carrying, wondering aloud if they all contained lunch provisions or was I going to the gym today and did I remember when I was working out three hours a day training for my show and boy, was I tiny then and did I think I’d ever get back there, and was I worried about losing the weight I needed to lose to fit into my wedding dress and how many calories was I eating these days anyway?
Holy shit. A normal person (I've always considered myself to be somewhat abnormal, a mutation of the general species) would have shut her down right away. But she was senior to me and sort of ugly, with nothing else to talk about and I felt sorry for her. Probably a part of me felt a kinship with her too, a sister in obsession. So I bought into it. I was at the whiteboard one day, a month before the wedding, when she commented on my ever-present black pants and asked again how I was going to lose enough weight to feel good at my wedding. I said, “I don’t know Sharlene. It’s on my mind every minute.”
Stop. It’s on my mind every minute? I had a child to care for. The cancer had at this point made its way into my mother’s bones, all too quickly taking from me the person I identified as the other half that made me whole, my way home, the constant grounding force in my life. I was trying to have my wedding in time for her to be there. I was struggling to keep my job. Was I really preoccupying my time and thoughts with the size of my arms and belly? Yes. It was one more thing, but it seemed like everything. If only I could get that under control, I could deal with the rest.
For spending so much attention and effort on something, I was getting nowhere. And Sharlene - if I had a nickel for every time she told me that she only eats 1500 calories per day, I would not have to do analyst work. Where had all of her obsessing gotten her? She was easily 60 pounds overweight.
I was a girl with endless insecurities, who had a baby, a back problem, food issues and then her mother died. She was closed for so long, locked in a box with a spreadsheet, a Vegetarian’s Guide to Getting Your Life Back and a soupbowl of instant coffee. After trying everything, saying everything, reading everything, doing everything, writing everything, thinking everything to death, I needed to emerge - not necessarily expecting to be fully enlightened, but for the most part able to enjoy my life, my children, my husband, my job and friends, and see myself for the capable mother, wife and woman I am.