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Perspective

Another one from the archives. I always liked this one because it made me look at myself, my life and my world from a positive perspective. It truly changed my attitude and helped get me through some rough times…Enjoy the repost. – Cari

A New Perspective: What I Learned From
A Guy Named Chet and a ’71 Ford Truck

A funny thing happened at the plastic surgeon’s office a few days ago; I got handed a fistful of “before” surgery pictures and wanted to cry. Not tears of happiness. No, I was genuinely mortified by the images staring back at me.

  • Why wasn’t I happy to see my amazing transformation?
  • Why couldn’t I see how far I’ve come?
  • Why didn’t I understand that I don’t even remember those arms or those breasts?

Well, for starters, I look old and haggard (because I didn’t realize my face would be included in the shots, so I wasn’t smiling), I have a turkey waddle under my chin, and worse – my body is skinny, bony and downright ugly. I realize these are harsh words, (especially coming from someone who supposedly has a good self-image of her new body), but those are the words that came to mind.

On the one hand, I was thankful that the droopy, deflated breasts are no longer hanging around, and my wingspan has been replaced with lovely, toned arms – but I just couldn’t erase the picture of the person with the non-existent hips, bony shoulders and boyish frame.

That is, until an enlightening little conversation with a “wise guy” from my Thursday night support group. We couples (he and his wife, and my hubby and I) were taking in a show at the theater downtown. While waiting to take our seats, I happened to mention my eye-opening experience.

Well, Dave (that’s the wise-guy’s name) thought about what I’d said, and offered this sage tale (to see if it might strike a chord):

Way back when Dave was a skinny young kid, he had a neighbor named Chet. Now, Chet was a funny guy who loved drinking beer and washing and waxing his beloved 1971 Ford F-150 truck with camper shell every single Saturday. The odd thing is, Chet only ever waxed the hood. (Contrary to what you might have guessed, the beer had nothing to do with this seeming lack of attention to detail.)

According to Chet he just waxed the hood because that was the only part of the truck he ever saw when he was driving it.

It didn’t make sense to him to waste time, effort (and beer) waxing something he couldn’t even see.

Which brings me to my little epiphany: I have been worrying about stuff that I can’t even see – not when I’m walking, not when I’m bathing, not when I’m sitting, not when I’m driving – as a matter of fact, it’s pretty hard to see that stuff at all.

Ironically, the only way I can see it is if I’m in a try-on room with a 360º mirror, or if someone is pointing a camera at my naked self! Trust me, when I’m in the try-on room, I am not looking at my bony back – I’m looking at how fabulous my clothes look on me – and I don’t tend to indiscriminately disrobe in front of random photographers.

Which brings me to part two of my little epiphany: Would I rather look good naked or clothed? Well, since my hubby says he loves me no matter what, and my plastic surgeon doesn’t get a vote, I’m going to say that it’s best to look good clothed.

The moral of the story? I’m going to stop worrying about what’s behind me, and start concentrating on everything in front of me – like the future!

No more waxing the whole car; I’m just doing the hood – then hitting the road.

March 22, 2012   No Comments

Carpe Diem: Seize the Someday

I originally wrote this for Gastric Bypass Barbie (my first blog)  in July of 2009. You know what? I still feel the same way…even 2-1/2 years later. I hope you will enjoy this little chapter from the past — and actually seize your day…every day. – Cari

Someday is Not A Day of the Week.
Someday Does Not Appear On Any Calendar.

I remember an old email that went around a few years back. I think it apropos to reprint here:

If I had My Life to Live Over
By the late Erma Bombeck

If I had my life to live over,

  • I would have talked less and listened more.
  • I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
  • I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
  • I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
  • I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
  • I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
  • I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.
  • I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life.
  • I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
  • I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.
  • I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
  • Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
  • When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”
  • There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” …
  • But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.

One of the lines I remembered most from Erma’s essay was the part about the pink sculpted candle shaped like a rose. That resonated so strongly with me at the time, because I was guilty of leaving my candles unburned. Why did I ever buy a candle if I didn’t intend to burn it? Was I waiting for a special occasion (or was I waiting for hell to freeze over?) Who knows?

One thing’s for sure, though – after reading Erma’s message, I started burning my candles (all over the furniture, and onto my good doily, thank you very much!) But, what fun I had smelling the wonderful fragrances, and basking by the soft glow with the lights turned off. After all, candles are made for burning.

So, how does this apply to WLS? Well, if you will indulge me a bit, I’m going to take a stab at rewriting Erma’s message to fit our new lives.

I Will Live the “Bariatric After Life™”
(Before I Join the After Life)

Before I leave this life to join the next, there are a few things I need to do. Since there’s no time like the present, AND, since “Someday” isn’t a day at all, I intend to begin now (and even repeat the things I like the best.)

TODAY:

  • I will not wait until my thighs stop jiggling to put on a bathing suit and go to the beach.
  • I will not beat myself up when I don’t get enough protein in one day, or eat too many carbs another.
  • I will go for a long ride on my bike, and not be afraid that I won’t make it back home. The journey is what matters most; not the destination.
  • I will stop calling attention to the clavicle bones that are jutting out of my shoulders, and will, instead, celebrate them with a cute sleeveless top.
  • I will not wait until my legs are tan enough to wear those cute crop pants without panty hose.
  • I will not insist that we turn the lights off so my hubby won’t see my shrinkly belly.
  • I will laugh heartily and with great gusto when my body jiggles in ways it never did before.
  • I will allow my family to “lay on the good pillows” when they are on the couch, and stop worrying that they will flatten them out. (Maybe I will have to work on this one a little bit…I really like those pillows!)
  • I will stop worrying about the dust on the fan blades in the bedrooms. If I dust them once a month, that should be good enough for anyone!
  • I will stop beating myself up because I can’t do that silly ab-machine at the gym (You know, the one where you lay down with your arms on the bars and then sit up while your back is entirely supported? I get horribly dizzy…)
  • I will hug my daughter tightly and non-judgmentally and not feel responsible for her obesity.
  • I will respond lovingly to my mom when she laments that she wishes I could “eat normally again.” I know that she loves me and wants me to be happy.
  • I will spend less time weighing and more time playing
  • I will stop measuring myself up against others to insure I am “no longer the fattest person in the room.”
  • I will quit obsessing over whether Catherine Heigl really wears a size 6 or not.
  • I will ride a horse on the beach next time I am in Mexico, and not worry that the horse will “break” under the weight of my butt.
  • I will stop worrying that my bra gives me little bulges on my back.
  • I will never utter the words “does this make my butt look too small” again! – By the way, Victoria’s Secret “But Lift” jeans with “engineered lifting panels” do not work.
  • I will not feel compelled to preach the WLS gospel to every big person I see. They will come to it in their own time.
  • I will stop wishing I had done the surgery sooner, and be thankful I didn’t do it later.
  • I will no longer beat myself up because I cannot run. I can do many other things that I never could before – running just isn’t one of them.
  • I will stop criticizing myself because I cannot ride my bike 100 miles in one day (for now).
  • I will not get upset when someone does not like my advice (even if they asked for it.)
  • I will thank God I am able to get out of bed every morning (without feeling like I was run over by a truck), and not complain about the ungodly hour!
  • I will not complain that I must measure my food, and will be thankful that I have food to measure!
  • I will relish flying for business trips (even back to China) because I now have plenty of space between me and the chair and me and the person next to me!
  • I will not take it personally when someone says I took the “easy way out” by having weight loss surgery.
  • I will jump in FRONT of the camera (rather than behind it) when someone wants to snap a picture of me.
  • I will send out Christmas cards with a FAMILY PHOTO on them.
  • I will make plans with high school and junior high school friends, and not worry that they will see my shrinkles (or wrinkles!)

And, with an appreciative nod to Dead Poet’s Society:

  • I will suck the marrow out of life and not choke on the bone.
  • I will sound my barbaric “yawp” over the rooftops of the world.
  • I will live my life to the fullest, with each new breath, because, when that day finally comes, I want to find that I have lived deliberately and not discover that I have not lived at all.
  • I will seize the day (Carpe Diem!)

I don’t know about you, but I waited 40 years for someday (which never came).
The last 2 years have been filled with amazing days, and I don’t intend to slow down anytime soon.

Are you waiting for someday to happen, or is today the day?

What SOMEDAYS are you making TO-DAYS?

March 21, 2012   8 Comments

License to Thrive or License to Drive?


Having weight loss surgery is a lot like being given a racecar when you don’t know how to drive (and can’t even reach the pedals!)

True, before surgery, you go through a whole bunch of driver’s education courses, but you’re given no test to prove you can actually stay in your lane, safely merge into the flow of traffic or even parallel park. Despite that, you get the keys to an Indy car, are warned not to go too fast, and told to check-in regularly with a mechanic (who probably only works on foreign cars, when you own a domestic, or vice versa.)

In other words, you’re given a license that says you’re an expert at doing something you’ve never had much success doing, because you pretty much always ended up crashing.

Of course, since you’ve been entrusted with this amazingly fast and agile vehicle, you’re not going to tell anyone that you aren’t old enough or experienced enough to drive it, because you’ve convinced yourself you’ll figure it out along the way.

That first year is supposed to be spent learning how to make your car operate at optimal performance, yet many of us have the pedal to the metal because we want to see “how fast we can go.” Most of the time, we’re doing 150 miles per hour, while complaining that we’re “going nowhere fast,” (since the speedometer says we should be able to go 200.) Meanwhile, we’re texting-while-driving, busily updating our Facebook statuses about how fast we’re going, and don’t have a single finger on the steering wheel!

Once we survive the first year, the second year is supposed to be spent preparing for maintenance. You know, checking the tires (are we getting enough exercise), checking our fuel levels (are we consuming healthy foods in appropriate portions), checking the fluids (are we drinking enough water), and determining what we’ll have to do to keep our car on the road (creating a routine). All too often at this point, the pit crew is frantically waving us in for a quick touch-up, but we’re too busy to stop because things are “going so well.”

Who needs labs? Who needs vitamins? C’mon, I can eat pretty much anything I want and still lose weight…!

Year two should be about moderation and adjustment, but more often than I care to recount, it’s about pushing the limits and ignoring the warning signs.

Don’t believe me? During this period, you’ll frequently hear people say that their car will be able to run like this FOREVER! That they’ll NEVER slow down and will ALWAYS be able maintain this level of performance.

“100 pounds gone FOREVER! I’ll NEVER go back again! I will ALWAYS workout every day and measure all of my food!”

Unfortunately, those of us who have been around the track a few laps will tell you that the road is NOT always clear, you DON’T always get to “draft” the leader, and SOMETIMES, there will be collisions that you might not be able to avoid. You will have to learn evasive maneuvers…you will have to learn to slow down and speed up; you’ll have to learn to be efficient with your fuel, and be vigilant in your maintenance and routine inspections, you’ll have to learn how to make repairs, and yes, you’ll have to establish ROUTINES.

  • Does any of this sound remotely familiar?
  • Do you think it sounds reasonable?
  • Would you give your toddler keys to a Ferrari?

I think not…

Here’s the point: Having weight loss surgery doesn’t make you an expert at anything, except learning to drive really fast before you’ve learned to even how to start the car. Okay, okay, I hear you: Is it reasonable to believe that anyone is ever really ready when they have surgery? I dunno. I think maybe not, but I will allow that some people are really quick studies.

Perhaps it boils down to this: Should everyone automatically be given a license to drive, just because they happen to be able to reach the pedals?? Will everyone who GETS that license be able to drive forever without crashing?

Maybe so, but likely no.

What can we do to change or improve this situation? Well…

  • Maybe we should explain to people that weight loss surgery will give them a license to THRIVE, not a license to DRIVE.
  • Maybe we should stress that it’s up to them to gain experience behind the wheel before they start racing around a track without the knowledge of how to avoid injury.
  • Maybe, as “mature drivers” ourselves, we should start waving the yellow flag to warn new drivers of potential hazards on the track.

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but now that I have a “few miles” under my belt, I have come to the conclusion that it’s my job to tell new drivers that they aren’t trying to capture some checkered flag so they can hoist a big silver cup that says, “I lost 150 Pounds. Forever!” I have to tell them to go easy and get those new tires warmed up before they race into that sharp turn. I have to tell them about hairpin turns and spinouts (regain and plateaus). I have to encourage them to run their race at a safe and maintainable pace…

I don’t know if anyone ever did that for me (or if I’d have listened anyway), but I don’t want to find some post-op broken down on the side of the road – or worse, in jail for a DWI (driving while ignorant).

Weight loss surgery is NOT a race to the finish line.

Weight loss surgery IS the keys to a new car that will take you as far as you want to go…if you maintain it, that is.

Enjoy the ride…responsibly 😉

* * *

If you are having trouble “keeping your car in your lane,” feel like you’re “permanently broken down” on the side of the road, or just “can’t keep up” with the flow of traffic, find a MECHANIC (doctor, therapist, counselor, support group) and get a check-up from the neck-up. It’s the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself and it will definitely extend that “lifetime warranty” we all signed up for!

March 14, 2012   No Comments

When You Look For Trouble…
You’ll Always Find It.

The WLS community is a microcosm of our world at large, which means that it’s made up of all sorts of people who might not normally “play together,” were it not for the common bond of bariatric surgery. If you think of our group as a high school, then — for better or worse — you’ll quickly see where the problems begin.

Let me draw some parallels for you:

In high school, the only thing that everyone has in common is the fact that they are students. Some are better students than others. Some try harder than others. Some don’t try as hard, but succeed anyway. Some are popular. Some are athletic. Some are quiet. Some are boisterous. Some are creative. Some are nerdy. Some will graduate. Some will drop out. Some will go to college and go on to become teachers themselves.

In the WLS community, the only thing that everyone has in common is the fact that we have all had bariatric surgery to treat our obesity. Some of us follow the eating program to the letter. Some of us do not. Some of us are extremely athletic. Some of us are not. Some of us are outgoing. Some of us are reserved. Some of us will maintain. Some of us will regain. Some of us will have longterm success and inspire others in their own journeys. Some will disappear and never be heard from again.

We all know about CLIQUES which, by their very nature are exclusive. This exclusivity necessarily means that some people are accepted, while others are not. Some people fit in, while others do not. With that said, does that mean that cliques, in and of themselves are inherently bad? After all, birds of a feather DO flock together. And. there’s a very good reason for that: They have something shared in common. Isn’t it better to do something you like with someone else who likes to do it to? In a perfect world: YES. But, unfortunately, cliques (like the WLS community) are made up of — gulp — PEOPLE. Yes, those imperfect creatures that make mistakes and can be mean, insensitive, thoughtless and spiteful. Ahhh, but those very same (imperfect) creatures can also be loving, thoughtful, courageous and forgiving.

So, what happens when you introduce the variable of typed words into the discussion? Do you think people can misinterpret things? Do you think it is possible for people to think the worst and immediately stomp all over people? Do you think that adding photos to those written words can make the situation exponentially more confusing? How about videos? EEEK.

Here’s my point: Just because someone shares ONE commonality with you, doesn’t mean that they share ALL OTHERS. And, just because they share a commonality with you, doesn’t mean they FEEL the same way about it as you do.

Let me explain my rationale for this little discussion. Over the course of my online life, I have noticed something of a maturation process that many people undergo. They start out life as “newbies” (just like post-ops) and eventually branch out into more confident and frequent contributors. In other words, they get the hang of things and venture out into deeper waters to test their new skill set. Some people sink; others swim, and still others retreat to the safety of the kiddie pool (preferring not to get in “over their heads.”) All of this is fine until a person in the deep end calls the person in the shallow end a loser just because they are in a different part of the pool. Or, the person swimming laps complains about the high diver because they believe that pools should only be used in one way. And, in the high school context, the seniors start calling the sophomores and freshmen stupid and, blah, blah, blah.

Speaking of pools, did you ever go to a pool party when you were in high school? If you’re like me, the sheer thought of donning a bathing suit struck terror all the way to my toes! I did NOT like to go to the beach or pool parties or anything remotely resembling an event that required little clothing – because I thought I was fat. And, you know what? I used to get quite disgusted with people who “wasted so much time at the beach,” or “wore skimpy bikinis to the community pool,” because I was sure they were just doing it for attention. It’s amazing how worked up I’d get all because I was: JEALOUS. Yup…it hurts to say it, but I was jealous and insecure.

But, I never said anything to anyone. I just stewed in silence. I was unconfident and nervous and didn’t think I had a right to say anything. And, well…in that case, I probably DIDN’T have any business trying to “break up the party” so it was just as well, but here is a little secret I have learned since then: I thought I was overweight and was absolutely convinced that my friends thought they weren’t. That’s right, I thoroughly believed that they thought they were perfect. Oh sure, now I know better, but back in those days, my weight made me angry, insecure and invisible. I didn’t fight my battles and I believed I deserved everything that “happened” to me. I’m not sure what they thought because I was too busy worrying about myself.

Anyway, all of that changed when I turned 40 and had gastric bypass surgery. As the pounds disappeared, I became more visible and finally learned that I have a voice, an opinion, and valuable experiences –– all of which have translated into seeds of confidence and self-assurance.

Truth be told, you’d have thought they operated on my vocal chords, rather than my stomach, because I began to talk like I’d never talked before — and I really did talk a lot before 😉 I also got OFFENDED a lot. Yeah, I spent a lot of time fighting battles — using my newfound confidence and vocal chords, of course –  but, when you spend all of your time fighting, you actually stunt your recovery progress!

Perhaps recovery is a double-edged sword.

Imagine standing in the middle of a circle with a big sword and just swinging at everything around you. Unfortunately, one of those people you strike might be trying to help you, and someone else might not be doing the thing you are absolutely convinced they are doing. Picture this: Did you ever “windmill” somebody? You know, defend yourself by flailing your arms wilding, like a windmill? The net effect was that people would get ‘karate chop” and “whacked” by your arms, hands, fingers and elbows. It’s really hard to defend against he windmill maneuver. Unless you just choose to stay away.

You’ve heard it a million times: Perception is EVERYTHING. What do you see when you hear someone say that having weight loss surgery is cheating? Do you automatically “windmill” them and chop them down to size? What about those people who tell you their surgery is better than yours? Or the people who say that people who consume artificial sweeteners are going to burn in hell? Or what about people who make rash decisions about you, based only on your pictures?

The old-new Cari used to go after every one of them with a chop-chop-chopping action. The old-new Cari windmilled everything. If it even looked remotely egregious or offensive, I was on it. But, like Don Quixote, everything began to look like a windmill that needed to be neutralized – until I finally figured out how walk away…I stopped windmiling, and I stopped trying to stop OTHERS who were windmiling,  I stopped perceiving everyone who disagreed with me as windmilling and I just…moved along.

Fortunately, the new Cari realizes that, in general, most people tend to speak their minds without any intention of harming me, some are trying to harm me (but probably don’t recognize that they are striking out) and MOST are simply hapless. In other words, they are ignorant to everything from weight loss surgery, to hair color, to shoes, vitamins and protein shakes! So, while everyone is entitled to their own opinion,  not every opinion requires a comment.

What changed in this scenario? Are other people doing anything differently? Maybe. Maybe not….I’m not sure, because I have’t checked. (No, I’m not an ostrich, sticking my head in the sand) I now choose to focus on the good stuff and let the other stuff take care of itself — which is, I think, the moral of this story. We don’t have to treat everyone who disagrees with us as if they are an attacking windmill, and we don’t have to be windmills that attack others. Likewise, just because we share a common surgical procedure, doesn’t meant we are all “automatically” (and necessarily) in the same club (or need to swim in the same part of the pool).

We can just be who we are and let others do the same.

At the end of the day, not everyone is a windmill, and I don’t need to “windmill” everybody who sounds like they *might* be disagreeing. Every pool has it’s “warm spots,” and every high school has it’s annoying people, and that’s just the way the world works

It’s okay to be Y-O-U and it’s okay for others to just be themselves.

And what about if they are different? Well, you can choose to make a big stink about it, or just move to a different part of the pool or campus; It’s your choice.

March 12, 2012   5 Comments

Up Binge Addiction Creek Without a Paddle

Being an addict is like drowning in a sea of…well..poop. Let’s just keep it “clean” because my mom reads my blog. Anyway, it’s like being up *that* creek without a paddle.

When I was actively participating in my binge addiction (read: feeding it), I was drowning in that familiar “geographical creek” we all know and hate…I was in way over my head. I wanted help, but knew that no one in their right mind could understand:

  1. why I was even IN this pooh-pool to begin with
  2. why anyone would willingly venture in to save me
  3. why I thought I couldn’t get out by myself
  4. why I thought I deserved to be there
  5. why it looked like I was “enjoying” myself (many believed I had obviously “chosen” to be there.)

That last one is tricky, but it’s unfortunately a common perception about addicts (that they choose to remain addicted, despite the consequences), and while that is true (on a primal level), perhaps they are there because they don’t BELIEVE they can get out of the muck (if they even deserve to).

I don’t presume to know the answer to that one, but stick with me because this is going to get a little DEEP…

That Geographical Creek We All Know

At some point along the journey toward recovery, every addict is faced with the truth of his or her circumstances and is forced to decide what to do about it. Many will choose to do “nothing” (in other words, keep drowning), but others will decide that they WANT to be saved, even if they aren’t sure how or IF they can do it.

In my case, the moment presented itself post-surgically, after the honeymoon, when my ghrelin (hunger hormone) returned with a vengeance. Up to that point, I was convinced that, thanks to my excellent new behaviors and habits, I had kicked my carb addiction to the curb and would never have to do battle with it again. Why would I? I had no cravings and just felt…great.

How wrong I was.

You see, my addiction was NOT strictly physiologically (chemically) based…nor was it strictly psychologically (behaviorally) based . It was environmentally, conditionally, reactively and habitually based…which meant that, to simply “fix” one aspect was not to address the full scope of the problem. Thus, *just* removing the physical craving wouldn’t eliminate my addiction, especially if I wanted to transfer to something else (like shopping or drinking). Ultimately, an addict is an addict is an addict and, as I like to say, you can be addicted to pocket lint if you want because it’s not the substance; it’s the behavior.

Meanwhile, back in the muck, with my old foe back in my face, I was struggling to remember to at least keep my mouth closed while drowning in my addiction — something I failed at much of the time. And then one day, I removed myself from the sludge and struggled to the shore.

There I stood..stinky, sad, weakened and afraid. Until something caught my attention: RECOVERY. Yes, recovery. It was a shining city…on the other side of poop creek. It was HEAVENLY and sparkly and there were lots of happy people there. I wanted to be one of them…but I wasn’t sure how to get there.

“There MUST be an easy way to cross,” I reasoned. “They must have crossed a bridge or flown in a helicopter,” I surmised. Obviously, they hadn’t waded through that body of filth to get there because…they all looked so clean!

So, I spent time studying the creek and the island of recovery on the opposite side. I looked at the creek, and I squinted at the land of recovery. I yelled to the people on the other side, “Can you help me cross?!” I asked. “How did you get there?” I called. Each of them answered the same way, “You can’t get here alone, but no one can do it for you.”

What in the world? Was I living some Buddhist Parable??? Were they telling me that salvation from my binge addiction would only be found in some imponderable mystery?

In a word, “Yes.”
In another word, “No.”

I hollered again, “Can I get to the other side of this creek?”

The answer was unanimous (and loving): “YES! You can do it in just 12 little steps…”

Ugh. Not THAT. Anything but THAT.

So, I tried it my way. I walked up and down the shoreline (wasting at least 1,000 steps)…looking for a narrow spot in the creek where I could wade across and not be swept away by the strong current of addiction.

It didn’t exist.

I fashioned a canoe of ignorance. But I lost my paddle, found myself in rough waters, overturned my boat, and found myself back in WAY over my head.

Eventually, I realized that there truly was only one way for me to cross the river of addiction and get to recovery isle: I would have to follow the steps…just like everyone else had.

I began with the ones I already knew and quickly found myself waist-deep in the goo. And then I decided that I didn’t need *all* of the remaining steps, so I tried to just dog-paddle the rest of the way. No luck. Nearly drowned. Again.

I tried again. This time, I closed my eyes, held my breath and waded in…I was there for what felt like an eternity. Until I got so scared I had to turn around and go back to the place I knew…sure, it was addiction, but it was comfortable. I was familiar with it. I knew what it felt like, and, even though it was yucky, I remembered the “good times…”

And then something strange happened…I came to the sickening realization that, before I’d given up on myself that last time, I‘d nearly made it to the other side. Did you hear me? I had ALMOST MADE IT, BUT HAD GIVEN UP. Why? Bbecause my eyes were closed and my nose was plugged and I couldn’t see how far I’d come. All I knew was, I was over my head and wasn’t sure if it would get deeper before it got better. So I cut and run. I was more than halfway there when I turned around and came back!!!

Exhausted (and disgusted with myself) I called out to my new friends, “HEY! Why didn’t you dive in and save me? Couldn’t you have dragged me to the other side with you?!”

They calmly whispered, “No. You must do this for yourself,”

This made me very cranky…so I pouted a bit and acted out (like a 5-year old) and drank stuff that I shouldn’t (cappuccino martini anyone?) and ate stuff I didn’t need (I’ll just have one…) and felt…miserable. What was wrong with me? Why weren’t the old ‘tricks” working? Why didn’t I feel BETTER (like I used to?)

Easy: I tasted recovery…I saw what it looked like and knew that I could never be truly happy unless I lived there.

Back into the brackish sludge I went. Taking the familiar steps. Plugging my nose. Closing my eyes. Shutting my mouth. One step at a time. And one day…I noticed that my head was above the muck and the grime. I was emerging on the OTHER SIDE OF THE CREEK. I was nearer than EVER to recovery.

And I stopped. Dead in my tracks.

What if I can’t make it? What if I get there and then fall back into my addiction? What if…? What if…? What if…?

There I stood. Muck up to my ankles, stinking to high heaven, shivering and weak…but then…I looked back over my shoulder at the life I’d lived in addiction. In that moment, I realized that I couldn’t go back. Oh, I don’t mean it wouldn’t be “possible,” I mean that, emotionally, logically, rationally…experientially…I couldn’t do that to myself again. I knew the pitfalls. I knew the stench, the sickness, the despair. If I attempted to do the “familiar old things,” the price tag would be even higher than before, because I now knew exactly how much it really cost. Ultimately, it would just be foolish on every level. Talk about burning a bridge! There was only one way out; FORWARD. I had to go through it…to get through it.

You know what? With a deep breath of accountability and commitment, I took that final step and reached the island of recovery. It felt good. Unbelievably good. Peaceful. I exhaled…and then I waited. At this point, I haven’t ventured far from the shore, and the temptations of addiction still lap at my feet…BUT, I am committed to being healthy…to being here…to living with others who have shared my journey. To living a LIFE IN RECOVERY.

As I look behind me, I see hundreds of people who are also drowning in addiction. I see hundreds who don’t know help and hope exist, and I see hundreds who are trying to convince me they are “just swimming.” But, for every hundred who won’t ask for help…I find one reaching out for the answers. Looking for hope. And that is why I do what I do.

I now know what the recovering addicts mean when they say “you can’t do it alone but no one can do it for you.” I also know what they mean by, “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.” To maintain my recovery, I must share my news with all who will listen — and even more who won’t. Not because I foolishly believe I can “save” them, but because I know that, eventually, some of them will realize they can save themselves.

The moral of the story is this: Addiction is crap and it stinks. BUT — recovery is there for the taking, if we are willing to trust the process, wade through the stench, and reach the promised land on the other shore.

Are you in over your head? Are you afraid you can’t make it? Trust the process and keep moving forward. You might surprise yourself.

February 16, 2012   3 Comments

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

I grew up in a great neighborhood. First of all, our block had a cul du sac, which meant that we didn’t get much traffic (except for the kind that thought there was an exit out the back). Secondly, we had a really cool hill (both on the street AND in our driveway), so we spent most of our summer days hurtling our bikes, skateboards, Big Wheels and roller skates (not blades, thank you very much) down the hill at *death-defying* speeds. When we weren’t tempting fate, we were doing “bike rallies” — which really just consisted of a bunch of us going ’round and ’round and ’round the “big block,” hooting and hollering (to beckon kids out of their houses) while blasting some Gordon Lightfoot song on our AM transistor radios and clothes-pinning playing cards to our spokes so we’d sound like ‘motorcycles.

It was great fun, and we never tired of the monotony.

Unless we were doing something else – like playing kickball (running the bases we’d painted on the street in reflective spray paint), tag football, HORSE, hide-and-go-seek (in the dark, naturally), or – on windy days – flying kites from Mr. Taylor’s front lawn.

His house was prime real estate for a number of reasons:

  1. It was situated at the intersection of a “T”, meaning that you could run up the block (to launch your kite) and end up straight on his lawn (which was on a hill, so you could comfortably recline on your elbows.)
  2. It had super thick St. Augustine grass (which was not particularly soft, like Bermuda or Fescue, but did create a nice cushion.)
  3. He had apricot and plum trees in the backyard (so we didn’t have to go home when we got hungry.)

Yes, our neighborhood was quite active, but also competitive. With a nearly equal ratio of boys-to-girls (boys being older), that meant there were lots of Barbies getting kidnapped (mine, mostly) and flour bombs being dropped on houses, and mock wars being fought in the streets. It also meant that kite flying was not just for fun: It was serious business, not to be entered into lightly. Sometimes, we would have “dog fights” at low-altitudes, where the “loser” found his line sliced or his kite torpedoed into a tree. The winner would ink a skull and crossbones on his kite to signal another kill.

To up the ante, eventually, the boys learned that fishing line presented a greater defense to the opposition, as it was much harder to see, didn’t snap so easily, AND had the added bonus of distance! You could fly your kite A LOT FARTHER on fishing line, than you could on standard kite string. Some boys were very smart and ran their kites from fishing rods (for easy “reel-based retrieval”); others used wooden dowels, or just held the spool in hand.

Never one to miss out on a great idea, I checked around and learned that the best line was something called “100# Test,” and it came on “450 yard” spools. If memory serves, it was about $1.99 at the corner Thrifty Store.

Not one to let St. Augustine grow beneath my feet, I hopped on my trusty bike and headed to Thrifty to pick-up my very own secret weapon. I wanted to be the first girl to beat a boy (which did happen, by the way…except that it was Howard, and most people weren’t very impressed by this victory, but that’s not the point of the story…) Anyway, at first blush, the idea seemed reasonable enough: Find the fishing line marked “100# test, 450 yd length” and buy it. Unfortunately, when I got there, I learned that there were many different KINDS of line (nylon, braided, salt water, fresh water, fly-fishing, stream) AND, they were all priced quite differently. As a matter of fact, *some of them* cost as much as $5.00 per spool – for only 50 yards!

After about 20 minutes of indecision, I determined that the most important factor was PRICE, at which point, I narrowed it down to the nylon line and grabbed for the appropriate spool. Which would have been the end of the story. Except…I noticed that, FOR THE VERY SAME PRICE, I could get something called “80# Test” and it had (get this): 975 YDS of line!!! In other words, whoever was smart enough to fly their kite from it would SURELY win the neighborhood award for “greatest distance.”

The case was settled and I bought my fishing line. I couldn’t WAIT to attach it to my kite and show the boys how it was really done.

I can remember the day like it was yesterday: There were the proverbial fluffy white clouds dotting a cerulean blue sky and it was just windy enough to launch the kite, but warm enough to bask in the shade on Mr. Taylor’s lawn. I took my “Sky Spy” kite (replete with new 80# test fishing line) out into the street…assumed the position…and ran! Soon enough, the kite was aloft, and I was gleefully unspooling yard-after-yard of fishing line. My kite was the envy of the block…at least, as far as anyone could tell…you see…at some point, I had let out nearly ALL of my line, meaning my kite was nothing more than a tiny, 2-eyed speck in a big, blue sky.

This was great fun. For about 15 minutes. (Seriously, how long SHOULD you fly a kite?)

Soon enough, moms started bellowing out their front doors for their kids to “come home for dinner!” Mine was no exception and, not one to disobey, I immediately set about reeling my kite in. As it turns out, my brother was ALSO flying HIS kite, so we both had to bring our Sky Spies back to earth. Misery loves company.

Except…

  • Did I mention that my brother was using 100# test/450 yd fishing line on his kite?
  • Did I mention that he wasn’t shooting for a “distance” record that particular day?
  • Do you remember the “rock incident” from Big Sur?

Well…he got his kite down pretty fast…in like…five minutes, and quick-as-a-whip, he was ready to head home to wash up for dinner. As a matter of fact, EVERYONE had their kites in hand pretty fast. Except me***

*** I refer you to the aforementioned 975 yard spool.

Needless to say, the task of winding my kite back to Mr. Taylor’s front lawn was a daunting (and lengthy) one, and soon enough, my brother was back to gloat tell me that I was “in really big trouble with mom and dad.” I asked for his help, but I’m *pretty sure* I didn’t get it. He might even have laughed at me (but I don’t want to fib if I’m not sure.)

These are NOT my hands. That is pretty much how my line looked, though.

Anyway…there I sat…for 1, solid hour. By this time, of course, it was dark. The street lights were on. I was alone…and YES, my kite was still aloft — SOMEWHERE OUT THERE. Lord only knows how, because it didn’t seem to be windy anymore.

Which might explain what happened next: I’m fairly certain I was within 200 short yards of retrieving my kite, when the darnedest thing happened: It began innocently enough with a tiny “plink” and then…quicker than you can say “I spy a loose kite in the sky”…the tension on my spool was gone…and the remaining line inexplicably drifted to the pavement…and across the treetops, front lawns, power lines, streets, and chimneys.

Hmm…Let me see if I got this straight: I spent ONE SOLID HOUR reeling in my kite, risking life, limb AND grounding, JUST so I could LOSE MY FREAKING KITE SOMEWHERE OVER BOYAR PARK (1 mile away?)

In a word: YES.

In retrospect, the moral of that story is pretty simple: MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER AND SOMETIMES MORE IS LESS.

The corollary is: CHEAPER ISN’T ALWAYS BEST.

So, how do I apply this to my Bariatric After Life™? Well, just like I tried to get the most bang for my buck with that blasted fishing line (without fully understanding its usage or considering whether or not it even made sense), I have tried to do the same thing with food. There have been times where I have tried to “get away” with eating things that are “not as healthy as other things,” (like: sugar free cookies), and there are times that I ended up eating WAY TOO MANY of those things that are not as healthy as other things (like sugar free gummy bears)…and well…I paid the price. I learned the hard way that before you choose a fishing line (or food), you really need to understand HOW YOU INTEND TO USE IT and whether it makes sense.

I guess you could say, you need to choose the right “pound test” for the job!

In my defense (thanks, in no small part to brilliant marketing) I really believed that a lot of those food choices were equal to the alternatives (even BETTER) – just like that fishing line seemed equal to the alternative (even BETTER) — but the reality was, I lost sight of what I was really trying to achieve; I forgot what was reasonable; I forgot the real goal.

At the end of the day, any kite-flyer worth his salt will probably tell you that the goal to successful flight is MANAGEABILITY. It’s not always about distance or height – yes, you can do tricks – it’s about maintaing control of the kite. It’s about proving that you are in charge — not the other way around.

Weight management is the same way: It’s not about some magical number on the scale, or some teeny number on your clothes. It’s not about weighing what you weighed in high school, or squishing your shrinkly butt into those acid-washed “mom-jeans” from the 80’s. It’s about MANAGING your health and feeing good doing it.

You know…as I look back at that summer…so long ago on Mr. Taylor’s front lawn…I realize my kite was flying ME. Just like when I ate those things that seemed okay.

These days, I’m flying MYSELF — Oh, maybe not as “high” as other folks, but at least I’m airborne, and — hey, my life is manageable. At least for today.

Now, where did I put my black marker? I think I need to add a skull and crossbones to my scale…I killed another pound today!

January 25, 2012   4 Comments

Throwing Stones (and Missing The Mark)

Greg and a Pouty Cari - Big Sur circa 1971

This is Me (Pouting) & My Big Brother (Greg) in Big Sur
My mom did this picture for me.

When I was about six, my parents took my big brother and me camping at Big Sur. If you’ve never been there, it’s a stunning area on the central California coast, just off picturesque Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway). There are towering redwoods (though, not the tallest on the coast — those are further north in Humboldt) and lush ferns (think: Jurassic Park or Return of the Jedi, and you’re close), babbling brooks…and WILD BOARS. Yes, wild boars. My big brother, Greg, used to traumatize me by taking me on *long*  hikes *way out in the forest* and convincing me that there were wild boars hiding  in every burned out tree trunk — or, if they weren’t there at the moment, they’d be returning any second (and they would probably eat me!)

Despite the wild boars (and scary big brother) Big Sur was wonderful and we vacationed there several summers.

Side note: My mom (God love her) was not the…um…er…outdoorsy type, though she gamely tried to be (so I’ll give her credit). On many trips, we all slept in a big (heavy) canvas tent with a little porta-potty just inside the “door,” so it was pretty *rough.* Being an RV person myself, I can understand why tent camping might not be the most inviting thing to a girly-girl, but I think my mom *might* have taken that whole “comforts-of-home” thing a tad far…she actually packed her LIGHT UP MAKE-UP MIRROR  so she could do a “full-face” each morning. I am not kidding you! This mirror was like one of those old-school beauty mirrors with bulbs dow either side — AND (since this was the deluxe model) — three lighting conditions: Indoor/Fluorescent, Outdoor (camping), and Evening. I loved that mirror and she always looked beautiful in it, but it is sorta funny to think back now and imagine doing that myself. Okay, maybe I would…

But, back to my little story. On this particular trip, my dad decided it would be a great idea for us to hike up to the “famed” Big Sur waterfall. No, this is not the ‘really’ famous Pfeiffer Falls, but rather, the smaller, less notable, but still pretty ‘Big Sur Waterfall.” it was a very easy 1/2 mile hike, but to my little 6-year old legs, it felt like a full day’s walk (which meant that my dad would have to carry me on his back sometimes…)

Less-Famous Big Sur Waterfall

Well, after about 7 hours (or 30 minutes, depending upon who you talk to), we arrived at our destination: BIG SUR FALLS! My dad went right up to it and let the water *dangerously* run into his hand! Meanwhile, my mother kept yelling at him to ‘be careful,’ and ‘come back!’ While this was going on, my brother had found some neat, flat rocks to walk out onto, which put him sort of towards the middle of the stream. He was very brave and, as much as I wanted to go, my mom wouldn’t let me.

This disappointed me to no end and I was completely inconsolable.

Until my dad started throwing rocks into the creek. Naturally, *I* started throwing rocks, and we had great fun.

Kerplunk! Sploosh! Splash! Kathunk! Whee!

And, just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, my dad encouraged me to throw “overhand.”

Now, up to this point, I’d been throwing underhand (granny-style) because that’s what 6-year old girls do. I told him I couldn’t throw overhand and didn’t want to. But he insisted that I “at least try.” So, I did. I found a really great rock, took aim at the stream and…let her rip.

I would love to tell you my aim was true and that I hit the stream right where I targeted, but that isn’t *exactly* what happened. No…actually, I beaned my brother in the back of the head (and he bled…a little). That’s right, I hurled a pitch that would make Fernando Valenzuela proud — right at his noggin’.

Oh. Brother.

Not ironically, Greg was extremely unhappy about this event and, as far as I can remember, called me a really bad name. Something like, ‘Stupid!’ — which is as coarse as it got in my house. Maybe I deserved it…a little…but I didn’t mean to hit him. I was AIMING somewhere else!

Well…I was totally devastated after I hit my brother with that rock. Absolutely demolished…and I cried and cried and cried (until I started hiccuping and had to stop because my mom said she didn’t want to hear another peep out of me, and you KNOW how that goes.) Eventually, I got over it (although, I think my brother is still a bit steamed about it to this day) –– AND –– I did finally learn how to throw OVERHAND.

Which brings me to my point: Sometimes, we MUST try things that we aren’t really sure we can accomplish…even though we might fail…because, sometimes (maybe often), we WILL fail.

Like, trying to lose weight. How many diets did I try (and fail) before weight loss surgery? Here’s a hint: About the same number of pitches I threw as pitcher for my summer league girls softball team, the Bat-Her-Ups. Yeah, I know, stupid name, but we had super cute uniforms – blue and green polo stripes with white collars – don’t ask. To be clear, it was soft pitch, and it was underhand, BUT when I was not pitching, I played 2nd base, which meant that I DID have to throw OVERHAND, so at SOME POINT I had to figure out how to do it, right? Let’s just say it’s a skill I acquired somewhere between the time my brother threatened to hit ME with a rock and about age 9.

How did I learn this particular skill? By trying — over and over and over — until I got it right. True, I was never a STRONG thrower (so, putting me in right field was a horrible idea without TWO cut-off men), and the ball often went straight into the ground, but thanks to my “pitch back” in the front yard, and some much-needed instruction from my pop, I got fairly accurate at making the ball go where I pointed my toe.

Did you catch that? I learned to point my toe where i wanted the ball to go.

Guess what? I kinda learned the same skill in my Bariatric After Life™! I  learned to look where I want to go (towards healthy weight management) — NOT where I DON’T want to go (towards uncontrollable weight regain) — and guess what? That is where I go (mostly).

However, when I take my eye off the ball (stop journaling my foods, stop working out regularly, stop paying attention to my behaviors, etc.), I veer off course…and the ball goes straight into the ground — OR, I hit MYSELF in the head! D’oh! Fortunately, I get it over the plate more than in the dirt, so I’ll consider my RBI pretty good (and improving)!

Anyway, let me leave you with these two things:

1) Big brothers can be mean, but you shouldn’t hit them in the head with rocks, and
2) Weight management IS possible, if you learn  proper form and practice regularly.

Just like throwing overhand.

January 24, 2012   4 Comments

I Am Black & White…With a Cherry on Top

A (Not-so-brief) lesson on PERSONALITIES (aka “Better pull up a sofa and some protein before you read this.”)

I am a study in contrasts. I am a black and white thinker who loves to live in the grey area. I am all or nothing, but want it all. I am happy-go-lucky, and I am a worry-wart. I am optimistically pessimistic. I am positively negative. I am certain I can do anything but afraid that I can’t. I hate being a procrastinator so much I bought a book to fix it…and never finished it. I am the most social loner you will ever meet. I need to be loved deeply but don’t love deeply, unless I love you deeply. I forgive everyone but myself. I plan everything – including spontaneity, which I dislike. I’m sure I can go forever; until I stop, and then I’m sure I’ll never start again. I can be deeply shallow and deeply deep. I forget to remember things that I remembered never to forget, and I remember things that I was supposed to forget. I remember things exactly as they weren’t and have a hard time remembering things as they might have been. I laugh as hard as I cry and often cry laughing. I am skilled at making people laugh and am equally capable of making them cry (but, as an adult, have learned NOT to do that). I am impatiently patient and patiently impatient. I go when I should stop and stop when I should go. I believe that if less is more, then more is better and less is just unnecessary.

When things happen to me, I’m convinced that I deserved it, but I am frustrated when I don’t deserve what happened to me. I love to be the center of attention, but hate parties. I need to be alone, but I hate being lonely. I am an enigmatic foregone conclusion.

I am maddeningly complex, yet deceptively simple.

I am a sanguine. Ahhh, but it’s not that simple. You see I also have a “melancholy” side! What that means is, my “happy” car will be traveling down the road of life (without a care in the world) and then SUDDENLY (without warning, I might add), I’ll hit a patch of “sad” and my happy car quickly hits the sad skids. I hate it when that happens and…gosh..I never seem to see it coming. So, this means that I am a certified Sanguine-Melancholy (not to be confused with a melancholy-sanguine, which is an entirely different animal).

WAIT! Right about now, you’re probably asking: “What the heck is this ‘sanguine-melancholy’ junk?” Well, if you must know, “Sanguine” and “Melancholy” are two of the four temperaments (also known as humors) identified by Hippocrates (many moons ago.) In those days great thinkers were convinced that each personality type was directly connected to a surplus (or deficiency) of a particular bodily fluid (e.g., blood, bile or phlegm. Sorry, but it’s true), and that balancing these fluids would make people more emotionally stable. These four temperaments (sanguine, melancholy, choleric and phlegmatic) were widely accepted as a complete way to define every human being…until the early 80’s, when one was added to the mix (supine), but since I don’t know much about it, I’m going to ignore it in this post.

Suffice it to say, I have only my very best friend (Jan) on the entire planet to blame for this maddening (yet limited) knowledge of personality traits, for if she (Jan) hadn’t told me, I’d never have been bothered by it. Likewise…I’d never have been helped. So, you see, having knowledge of the basic “temperaments” is quite useful, because it can really help someone better understand someone else, even if that knowledge can sometimes be painful.

First of all, I’m a big believer in “intention.” Learning these character traits has helped me to better understand people who have different traits than my own, because I can see that my intention for doing something is often quite different than someone else’s. In other words, if I do something a certain way, my intention might be to hurt, yet someone else (or a different personality type) would do the same thing, but instead, be doing it without a thought of whether it will hurt.

Let me get this out there now: Anyone who is not a sanguine or a melancholy is cranky and uptight.

Okay, that’s not “completely” true….Cholerics and Phlegmatics are not (necessarily) cranky and uptight…I just feel that way because I’m not like them. But, it is helpful to note that cholerics (and to a lesser extent, phlegmatics) make the world go around because they keep law and order and make sure that things get done. Heck, they usually MAKE the laws and DEFINE the order. That means: We need them; they are great (and powerful) leaders for lots of reasons, mostly because they don’t allow silly emotion to muddle their decision-making, but also because they tend to be tenacious and energetic. You can see why I have a little difficulty interacting with them…they are

TOTALLY UNLIKE ME.

Hmmm…How can I explain this better? If you think of people like dogs (!!!), cholerics are like a dog that won’t let go of a bone (it IS, after all, HIS). Phlegmatic dogs will bury their bones (albeit, in a secret place) for safe-keeping and future need. The sanguine will loyally follow you to the ends of the earth (without really knowing why) while the melancholy will plunge into an endless fit of despair when you leave (because you are most likely never coming back).

Remember, I’m the sanguine(melancholy) which means that I always want you with me because if you leave you’re never coming back, but if you stay, you need to be nice, and oh yeah, sometimes I need to be alone and I worry that I will hurt your feelings.

Seems perfectly reasonable to me…except that CHOLERICS are the bane of my existence.

There, I said it. Happy?

Just when I think I’ve gotten everything ironed out, I add a NEW choleric to my world and end up going through the whole learning process all over again! To be fair, I can be equally maddening to cholerics, but I am not going to give them equal billing here…on my blog.

Here’s my story: For pretty much my entire life, I’ve been plagued by cholerics…starting with my daddy (who was actually a choleric-melancholy, but don’t get me started on that.)

As a rule, cholerics and phlegmatics approach things based upon what they know to be facts. They are not emotional about decisions; they make them because they are right. (Sounds very fair and reasonable…don’t you think?) They do the right thing and expect you to do the right thing – without excuse or explanation.

I, on the other hand (being the sanguine-melancholy) make a decision based upon how I and others will FEEL about it. (Don’t ask me how I know what they will feel; that’s part of my mystique). And yeah, I agree that it all seems sorta…silly…

After all…we’re talking about validating decision making based upon Fact vs. Feeling.

Given those two options, I’m betting most would choose fact over feeling, but – there’s a little more to it than that.

Let me toss out another metaphor: If we’re talking about cups, the choleric’s cup is always the biggest and is always overflowing. They really don’t consider whether anyone else even has a cup. The phlegmatic’s cup has just the right amount of liquid in it (whatever that amount should be.) The sanguine’s cup is always full, while the melancholy isn’t sure he even HAS a cup.

  • The choleric says: Do it my way. My way is the right way and there is no other way.
  • The phlegmatic says: I’m doing it this way because it is the right way to do it.
  • The sanguine says: I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do and because if I do it, everything will be okay.
  • The melancholy says: I don’t even know why I’m doing this…nothing will change, it’s probably not right, and it never will be, besides, someone is probably going to be disappointed with me.

Those are extremes, of course, and you should know that we all have a little of everything in us, so it’s very rare to find a “purebred” anything (though legend holds that they do exist!) Having said that, people do TEND to lean toward a particular trait, and this is what propels us through life.

Are you catching on?

I tend to put my energy into being sanguine, and am always surprised when the melancholy comes to town. I am absolutely withered by cholerics and just don’t understand phlegmatics. When I encounter a melancholy person, I try to cheer them up (even though I am one).

If we’re in the 100 Acre Wood, I am Tigger, Rabbit is Choleric and Eeyore is Melancholy. Perhaps Piglet is Phlegmatic, and Pooh is Supine…but I can’t be sure.

So, why am I talking about this and why does this matter in my Bariatric After Life™? As usual, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching to figure out why I do the things I do and why I think the way I think. Naturally, this whole “personality trait thing” factored heavily in my processing because I believe it is the key to unlocking my long-term recovery from obesity. i really, really do.

Here’s why: Growing up, my feelings were hurt ALL THE TIME (which is why I ate…to make myself stop hurting). Now, this was largely because I didn’t understand the intention behind anyone’s actions and generally ASSUMED that others were being mean (for no apparent reason!) Through great persistence (and occasional bashing) from my choleric friend, Jan, I now know that when my dad (a choleric) said something was “fine,” he meant just that. In other words, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, so it was…FINE. He wasn’t trying to hurt me or be mean. But, I didn’t know that then, so I ate.

That is because I was NOT fine with this answer, preferring to hear something more definite…like…”It’s GREAT! It’s AMAZING! I’ve never seen anything better.” Of course, a choleric wouldn’t waste time talking like that (unless it were true), but again, I didn’t know that when I was 8! I thought my daddy was tactless and rude, while he thought he was just…fine.

Growing up, I’m sure my over-sensitivity was infinitely frustrating to him. I mean, why should he have to qualify everything with an superlative? (Stupendously Fine! Magnificently Fine! Unbelievably Fine!) Did he really have to take an opinion poll to get an answer he already had? Why did he have to worry about how other people FELT every time he gave an answer? If he wanted to be mean, he’d be mean, otherwise…people just needed to know that everything was: FINE.

Poor dad.

But…I wanted harmony, while he wanted productivity. So, I ate.
I wanted peace, while he wanted action. So, I ate.
I wanted happy, while he wanted compliance. So, I ate.
He got mad, while I got hurt. So, I ate.

Sanguines are ALL ABOUT FEELINGS.
Cholerics are ALL ABOUT FACTS.
Sanguines are about MAKING PEOPLE FEEL BETTER.
Cholerics are about MAKING THINGS HAPPEN.

Of course, in those days, I didn’t understand the differences in personality types, and thoroughly believed that everyone should think, feel and behave the same way as I did.

When they didn’t, it short-circuited me. I thought they were doing it on purpose.

The sad part is, I believed it was my lot in life to be beaten up by cholerics…which makes it even WEIRDER to know that I married one! That’s right, MexiKen is a choleric (with a little melancholy thrown in for good measure.) Some would say I’m a glutton for punishment, seeing as how a choleric is like water to the sanguine’s flame, but you know what they say: we marry our dads and I’m no exception.

But really, there’s more to it than that. You see…somewhere, down inside, I am DRAWN to cholerics. I NEED someone who is stronger than me to keep me on task…to make sure I finish stuff. It’s like playing with a tiger: As long as I’ve got him by the tail, I’m okay, but eventually, I might get bitten. (The melancholy in me is certain I will eventually get bitten, but the sanguine is positive I never will…and doesn’t even want to think about it.)

So, I might need a choleric, but does a choleric need me? I mean, why exactly, would a serious choleric put up with a silly sanguine? Easy. Because they need fun in their lives and they can’t do it alone. It’s not how they tick. Imagine the king and his court jester: Make me laugh – NOW. Ha ha ha. Okay, now stop. (Yeah, that’s a choleric). Obviously, there’s a little more to it than that: They love our carefree enthusiasm and zest for life. They love how we can do stuff (without worrying a whole lot about the consequences.) They love our spontaneity. They love our silliness. But, they can’t stand our flakiness and oversensitivity. They can’t stand how we have to decide how we feel before we can even decide what to order from the menu.

Just to complicate things, every trait has its positives and negatives, and negatives from one trait often have negative affects on another (intentionally, unintentionally or otherwise). That’s where it gets really messy.

SO, with that said, can my problem with cholerics be fixed? How do I function in life if I know my negatives might rub someone else’s negatives the wrong way? What do I do if I don’t think I even HAVE negatives and can only see the negatives in others? How do people get anything done if half the population is hurt, while the other half is angry???

Well, I don’t claim to have all the answers (as I am clearly still a work in progress), but what I can gather is this: Each personality trait has to respect the other for both their strengths and weaknesses (that’s number one), but secondarily, all personality traits must work to overcome their own destructive weaknesses so that their strengths can shine through. They must each find a way to be the best version of themselves they can be.

This is a really, really tall order… one which I have learned cannot be handled alone. My personality traits are so deeply woven into my tapestry, only GOD can help me unravel the parts that aren’t stitched well. Only GOD can help me to overcome my deficiencies; only GOD can give me strength when I am weak, and enable me to embrace my shortcomings (without running away in terror). Only GOD can give me the grace to persevere through the harshness and triumph over doubt. Only GOD can give me strength NOT to eat when I hurt. Don’t misread this. I don’t think that God will “do it for me.” I believe that, in my prayerfulness and humility, HE will show me the way, grant me mercy, give me strength and offer guidance. Just like a parent.

Sounds great. How long does all of this work take? Two days? A week? Maybe a year? How about…a lifetime? Yeah, this personal growth is the gift that keeps on giving! Every person on the planet is unique, but I guarantee you, once you know and understand what makes others tick, you can solve (and even avoid) most problems pretty quickly (which can translate into recovery)….unless they are Supine…which I don’t get, so we’ll have to leave that for another post.

At any rate, this has gone on longer than a kinesiological-geometric-chemistry textbook, so I’ll end it with this: Sometimes, personality traits collide in a troubling way, but if we learn tolerance and compassion, we can (and do) work together for good.

Ultimately, we need all types to make our world go around: Cholerics, Phlegmatics, Sanguines, Melancholies, and yes…even Supine (though, I still don’t know what they do).

We need all types to make us laugh, make us work, make us think, and make us dream.

As I see it, my job (as a sanguine-melancholy) is to just do it…without worrying so much about how it feels, whether it’s perfect, or what others might think.

Your job (if you accept the challenge) is to learn more about character traits for yourself! The good news is, there are lots and lots of resources on the web. Heck, there are even TESTS you can take to help you determine what makes you tick (and gain a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses.)

Google:

FOUR TEMPERAMENTS (also Four Humors)

FOUR PERSONALITY TYPES

SANGUINE CHARACTER TRAITS

Trust me! You’ll get an eyeful (and a brainful).

By the way, sometimes, I misinterpret stuff or just plain get it wrong, so if I mischaracterized something (Jan), feel free to tell me. Just be nice about it. Oh, and I’m eager to hear your personal tales, so if you know who you are, let me know how you’ve learned to be a better YOU! Success is about learning from others, so be bold and share!

November 9, 2011   8 Comments

Tinkerbell…Stinkerbell…Stinkin’ Thinker-Bell

When I was a little girl, I ADORED Tinkerbell. My brother even bought me a little necklace with a tiny figurine of her on it (she was painted white, I think, and the chain was silver). There was just something magical about the way she flitted about, and of course, I loved her little fairy dust trail…and the way she pouted with Peter Pan when she didn’t get her way. I distinctly remember watching in utter fascination as she tapped the top of Sleeping Beauty’s castle during opening of The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights….Maybe I identified with her a little bit, I’m not sure, but one thing I do know is, my dad used to call me “Stinkerbell” (heaven knows I’m not going to get into the particulars of why he called me that, so don’t even ask…)

ANYWAY — I have this memory from way, way back…I must have been about 4, but I can’t be sure. I was at Disneyland with my mom, dad and brother, and it was “very late” (probably 8 o’clock – at least an hour past my bedtime!) We were on Main Street, surrounded by a crush of people. Now, from my perspective (from way down there), I was surrounded by a forest of legs and rears, but those things were connected to real people – whom my dad could clearly see (from way up there).

So, there we were, rushing to get…somewhere – (who knew where and far be it from me to ask, because my dad was tugging me along so fast, my feet weren’t touching the ground and I couldn’t catch my breath.) At some point, I clearly remember hearing that I needed to look up because Tinkerbell would be flying from the Matterhorn! This was very big news, as evidenced by all of the rushing to get to THE prime viewing location.

With mom and brother setting the pace up front, and I in tow (mostly airborne) behind my dad, we hurried to get to THE PLACE where I’d be able to see HER fly! Apparently, all of my dreams would come true (or something), if only I’d look.

Well, somewhere between “here” and “there,” I encountered a very unkind curb and I hit the ground with a splat. Don’t worry, though, my dad didn’t leave me there to be plowed over by the human avalanche: He snatched me by my elbow, nearly pulling my arm out of the socket, and willed me to WATCH TINKERBELL.

But, I looked down, while she flew over, and the rest is history.

I MISSED TINKERBELL.

Of course, it was my own, damned fault. I should have hurried. I should have run faster. I should have watched where I was going. I should have seen Tinkerbell so my life would be complete.

But I blew it, and all I had to show for it was a bloodied knee and a bunch of sticky tears streaming down my face.

At least, that’s MY version of the story.

Now, as an adult, I can tell you with great certainty that my dad wanted me to see a really wonderful thing, and I know that he probably felt I was dragging my feet (pretending to be tired so he would hoist me onto his shoulders and carry me – which frustrated him to no end). I know that he never intended to hurt me, and that his disappointment was not directed at me. My dad was just like any other parent…he was sad because I had missed a magical moment.

But, the 4-year old can’t understand that…even 44 years later. The 44-year old carries with her a misconstrued truth shrouded in undefined fear. You see, 4-year old Cari, being dragged (against her will) through a scary tangle of angst and legs, was afraid she would fall. She was afraid because she couldn’t see what was coming. She was afraid that her dad would be mad at her and not love her because she was stubborn and missed the big thing.

Well…guess what? After my tumble, he was mad…and I was scarred for life…all because I didn’t understand his reaction and filled in the blanks the best way I knew how: With fear, uncertainty, guilt, blame and shame.

I did it to myself. I deserved it. I was to blame. Shame on me for missing Tinkerbell.

And that is how things go awry while people are growing up. That is how we become the adults we are…by witnessing other people’s adult experiences as children, and then projecting our ignorant and incomplete child’s perspective onto our own adult experiences. The sad thing is, we don’t always know we’re doing it.

Until we come to a place…maybe in therapy…where we realize that we’ve been seeing things as we thought they were, and not as they really are.

So, why the sudden memory of Tinkerbell?

Well, I believe I have been living my life, fighting to keep up with everyone. I believe I have allowed people to rush me so I would be somewhere they thought I should be because I believed that they knew better, and I needed to go with the flow. That’s why I followed them – I struggled to keep up…struggled NOT to fall, struggled not to fail…I just wanted to be okay so everyone would like me. I heard them say, “Do it now! Do it like this! Don’t miss out!….You’ll be sorry…”

Those horrible words have churned over and over in my head and I have allowed them to scare and propel me for my whole life: You’ll be sorry if you don’t keep up.

Why??? Because…

  • I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
  • I didn’t want anyone to be mad at me.
  • I didn’t want to do what they wanted me to do, but…I thought this was what I was SUPPOSED TO DO.
  • I thought that, by keeping up with people, I’d finally see Tinkerbell.

How wrong I was. Think about it for a moment…

A lot of people think you can only see Tinkerbell from ONE vantage point and for ONE moment in time. They fear that if you don’t see her when they think you should see her, then you won’t ever see her at all. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I will be sorry. Sometimes I will miss stuff because I don’t keep up, BUT — You know what? (This is a biggie): I have learned that sometimes I don’t want to see Tinkerbell, I just think I do, because I don’t want to let anyone down.

In case you were wondering, that is what a people-pleaser says: I don’t want to disappoint you. Yes, sometimes perfectionists say that too, but other times, well…the people-pleaser is terrified that someone won’t love them if they don’t keep up.

Ouch. Emotional growth is a funny thing…just when you think you’ve got it mastered, something else pops up to take the place of that nasty behavior you just got rid of.

But I digress.

Here’s what I need you to know (and I need to remember): Recovery happens one breath at a time, and sometimes, you run out of breath. Sometimes, you chase something you think you’re supposed to be chasing, and then you realize…when you stop to hold that stitch in your side and catch your breath, that you just might be chasing someone else’s Tinkerbell — OR — you can get there at your own pace and you won’t miss a thing! Just because you don’t see her when everyone else does…doesn’t mean you’ll never get to see her; it means you’ll see her in your own time. (Although…if you’re stubborn, it could take longer…just sayin’.)

Since I love to end things on a happy note, I will tell you that I eventually did get to see Tinkerbell, and I didn’t trip over a curb in the process. I planned and positioned myself where I knew I needed to be and – miracle of miracles – I saw her fly from the Matterhorn! Okay, I saw her wires too, but that’s not the point. The point is, I found a way to do it without falling down in the process. And, no, I don’t think I “let anyone down,” either.

Isn’t that really the goal in our Bariatric After Life™? – No…I don’t mean we aren’t supposed to to fall or let anyone down! I mean:

  • WE have to set our pace.
  • WE have to set our sights,
  • WE have to go for it.
  • BUT – NOT because we want to please someone else.
  • NOT because we are afraid someone will get mad at us…

We have to do it because…we get to experience the magic that we all deserve.

November 8, 2011   7 Comments

OBESITY IS NO LAUGHING MATTER

OBESITY ISN’T FUNNY

By now, I’m thinking that most of you have already read Dr. John Kelly’s unfortunate article, where he used one-liners to “find humor” on the subject of obesity. If you haven’t read it, I’m not going to post a link to it because I think enough people have already read and responded to it, and there is really nothing new that could be added to the discussion.

That article (and the reaction from the obese community) inspired today’s post, because everyone has the right to be unfunny.

Let’s begin:

COMEDY IS NOT A LAUGHING MATTER

Comedy is important to me. Being funny takes guts and you have to be a risk taker to pull it off well. Sometimes that works out great; other times…not so much. Just take a poll of people who know me, and ask them to describe me in 5 words. I guarantee you, the word “Funny” will be near the top (and might be repeated). It’s who I am, and it’s a part of myself that I’ve always embraced — especially when I was obese. You see, being funny was a great way to deflect attention from my obvious *indelicate condition.* Like most comedians, I used my humor as protection from the world, figuring that if I said something derogatory about myself first, others would realize that nothing they could say would hurt me. I was offensively offensive. (Or defensively defensive. Or defensively offensive…I can’t be sure).

However you define it, you and I know it was a lie, but that didn’t stop me from believing it.

LAUGHING UNTIL YOU CRY

Have you ever laughed so hard, tears streamed down your face and you couldn’t see straight? There’s a fine line between humor and anger — at least in my experience. The thing that truly makes something “funny” is the kernel of truth behind the joke. We feel better when we can laugh at an uncomfortable truth; it diffuses the tension. And, any comedian worth his salt will string you along, dropping bread crumbs of your life experiences so you can follow the joke to it’s “inevitably” funny conclusion. He’ll invite you to agree with him so you can laugh with him. How many times have you listened to a comedian and said, “Oh my gosh! That’s happened to me!” or, “That is SO TRUE!”

Basically, the comedian’s job is to make sure we are on his side, in order to keep the laughs coming.

WHEN THE JOKE FALLS FLAT
(Alternately known as, “Oh Crap!” or “I Take it Back!”)

Unfortunately, humor is not a guaranteed thing, and what one person finds funny, another might find disgusting or offensive; what I laugh about might not be what you laugh about, which is why there are so many forms of humor: Visual, slapstick, potty, crass, edgy, whimsical, goofy, biting, audible, sardonic, droll, juvenile, etc. Ever think about the number of comedy movies out there? Trust me, I’m a very discerning comic, and I admit that I don’t find much of the contemporary movies to be funny. But, just watch my daughter and husband viewing “Jackass” and you’ll see what I mean. I’m left scratching my head, going “What’s so funny about someone getting locked in a car with a swarm of angry bees?” and my family is saying, “Let’s watch that again! That’s freaking HYSTERICAL!”

Comedians put themselves out there and hope that everything they say or do will be funny. When it isn’t, it can be downright uncomfortable. Ever seen a joke go over like a lead balloon? At best, you’ll hear uncomfortable laughter and throat-clearing; at worst, you’ll get a roomful of boos, or some walk-outs. Comedy isn’t pretty. But, that doesn’t stop us from trying. Maybe we’re slow learners, but as a comic, I LIVE for the laugh. I LOVE it when someone gets my humor. I LOVE it when I can make my best friend laugh so hard, she snorts cherries through her nose and begs for mercy (as best she can between guffaws.) I’m relentless and sadistically string her along — waiting for the moment when the laughter will die down (meaning that she is recovering) just long enough to spring my next salvo on her. It’s my favorite pastime.

But, guess what? Not everybody likes my humor. Some people think I can be mean, while others are sure I’m just trying to be superior by saying things so cerebral, no one will ever get the joke. Trust me, it’s the “Jackass” crowd; I’m convinced…but anyway…

WHEN LAUGHTER IS NOT THE BEST MEDICINE

If you will recall, I began this post with mention of Dr. John Kelly and his unfortunate article. I’ll be honest: I experienced a broad range of emotions when I first read it. Initially, I was disgusted. I remember saying that I thought the man was a “pig.” I might have even said he was a “stupid pig” (I’m not sure). Next, I was dismayed, because I didn’t think the hurtful one liners were even FUNNY. It’s one thing to say something mean that’s funny, and quite another to say something that’s both mean AND unfunny.

Fortunately, I didn’t stop there. I decided to write the “stupid” doctor a letter — but took great care not to lambast or insult him. After all, it’s pretty hard to educate someone you’ve just eviscerated. People are funny that way…

Anyway, here is why I took the time to write the letter:

  1. I felt he deserved to be treated the same way I would want to be treated if I found myself in a similarly untenable position.
  2. I knew he was already getting run through the meat grinder by angry obese people, and didn’t want to “pig pile” on him.
  3. I really wanted an explanation, so I could better understand the “why” behind the article.
  4. I truly believed he had made a catastrophic, yet innocent, error; he had a momentary lapse of judgment; he made a huge mistake. I wanted to help him understand why he was getting attacked.

Guess what? He wrote me back — and boy, did I feel his pain. He’d been insulted, verbally assaulted, lambasted, grilled, belittled and yes, even threatened. Why? Because he wrote an INSENSITIVE and UNFUNNY article. He poked fun at an easy target. Everyone laughs at the fat person, right? Sadly, I think what made the situation the worst was this simple fact: HE IS A DOCTOR, and he should *know better.* That’s right, he, more than just about anyone else, should understand the pain of this disease.

Guess what? He’s human and he screwed up.

But…he OWNED it — immediately. He fell on his sword and did everything he could to stuff that genie back into the bottle. But, of course, just like when we (weight loss surgery people) eat something we shouldn’t, and get horribly sick, we can’t undo the damage; we can only try to do better next time and HOPE we are given a second chance. Sadly, that is not at all what happened. He wasn’t given a second chance, and apparently, to some letter writers, only death by a thousand cuts would come close to serving as penance for his grievous sins.

Here’s what confuses me: We (as obese and formerly obese people), demand compassion and understanding. We scream and holler about how insensitive people can be; how rude and judgmental they are; how mean and unforgiving they are. We don’t let anyone get away with ANYTHING that smacks of insensitivity to the obese population.

So, if that’s the case, why wasn’t Dr. Kelly treated with the same compassion and understanding we demand? Why wasn’t he given a chance to explain himself, acknowledge his error, and apologize?

I don’t know about you, but I was given a second-chance when I had weight loss surgery.

I was treated by a doctor who was probably just as frustrated as Dr. Kelly with having to operate on an obese patient — but he operated on me anyway — just as Dr. Kelly does.

Fortunately, there is a lesson to this mess:

We  Should All Be Perfect and Never Make Mistakes.

Wait. Maybe that *isn’t* the lesson, although, to read the hate mail Dr. Kelly received, you’d surely *think* it was.

Let me try that again…

The moral of the story is this:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Take the time to understand what you do not understand
  • Make decisions based upon accurate information
  • Forgive when forgiveness is honestly requested

Pretty simple, don’t you think?

I am a fan of Dr. Kelly — the man who made a serious mistake.
The man who offended a million people in one fell swoop.
The man who tried to be funny, but wasn’t.
The man who saves people’s live through surgery.
The man who apologized for the error of his ways.
The man who is not being given a second chance.

I’m not asking you to be a fan; I’m asking you to forgive and allow him to make amends. I truly believe he is a “convert to the cause.” He wants to join the battle against bias, stigmatism and criticism of the obese. I think that, if you’ll give him a chance, you might hear something you actually agree with.

At the end of the day, no one issued me death threats when I was obese; I believe Dr. Kelly deserves the same consideration. He is, after all, only human.

October 27, 2011   11 Comments