Sunday, November 1, 2009

If You Can Do This, You Can Do Anything

A journey of 50,000 words apparently begins with six hundred. I wrote all day today. Stop and start, a half hour here, an hour there. I walked around the house. I ate Halloween candy. I finally took myself on a walk around the park sans ipod and debated the futility of a project I seemed to have thought might be a good idea.

On October 27 I signed up to write a novel in a month with a project called National Novel Writing Month. The project sponsored by the Office of Letters and Light raises money to bring writing to youth. Since I don’t qualify for youth anymore, for me, it gives permission to put the editor away, to write freely and fully supported. The website says chances are you will write junk. Maybe. Whatever, it will need editing, most likely. But at the end of a month, at the end of a 50,000 word journey, I will have at least written a novel. A novel.

While on my walk I said I can’t do this. I don’t know what I am writing. I start. I stop. I have no real direction other than my bizarre Walter Mitty like fantasy of being a writer. I usually take my walk around the park to a day dream of me teaching and talking about my writing, as if there was something to teach and talk about. But today as that competitive bitchy part in me refused to let the equally middle aged runner get a head of my walking (I’m faster up hill walking than most over forty runners– it’s in the flats when I am lost in thought that I lose my edge, go figure) I thought I should just quit. What I actually thought was thank god I hadn’t told anyone about this project. Yet.

But then I was almost hit by a car. For the second time in about six months. A distracted driver made her left when the light turned without looking to see if there were pedestrians crossing with the light – that would be me. Luckily she missed. I carried on for a bit. Her car just about grazed my knee – I was certainly entitled to a little rant. As I raged on, she rolled down her window down and said, calmly, almost flatly “I’m so glad that you didn’t get hurt.”

Providence. Maybe. Because in that moment of being the crazed wild eyed ranting woman pitied against calm but distracted driver, I thought, maybe I could do this, write a novel in a month. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to be finished – I mean what if after 50,000 words I’m only half way there? You know what if, I’ll have written half a novel more than I ever did in my life.

When I lost seventy pounds with the nutritionist, Hermien Lee, I didn’t put a sign on my back that read “Seventy Pounds or Bust.” I walked into her office distressed and helpless, just wanting to feel control again. A size ten would have been perfection, but a size ten came and went as I changed my weigh of life right into a size four. And then to keep it off for a year was something. And then two years. But I am in my fifth seventy poundless year and I am still wearing a size 27 jean. (Okay, tomorrow my Sevens may be a little tight, blame it on a few too many Butter Fingers and little too much self loathing at the keys of my laptop, but I can still wear them, without belly bulge.)

The point I made (to myself) as I rounded that final turn home was that my journey of seventy pounds began with five pounds. It began somewhere and then I surprised myself. Hermien used to say if you can do this honey, you can do anything. I haven’t even begun to prove her right. I think I’ve been so afraid, even five years later, that my having lost all this weight is delusional, and that I'm really a fraud. But yet, even after all the candy and the tight jeans, I still know I am thin and I am fit, and I look fine. And I know in a day or two of better, healthy, eating, my jeans will fit perfectly, again. I know that I will return to the right weigh of life.

Just like I know, 50,000 words or not this month, I will still return to being a writer. So why not give it a shot. I can do this.

I came home, made an espresso and boiled some eggs and wrote. I had already written six hundred words that were keepers. So I wrote another 1514 more. Let’s call it Chapter One. If I keep that up, I’ll have 60,000 words in thirty days. So there!

But I do have to return a moment to Walter Mitty. Just for record keeping one of my fantasies has been to meet an old woman with an attic full of journals and diaries. In my day dream, we are brought together by some charitable need on her part and some charitable work on my part. Perhaps I read to her, or bring her lunch every day. We become friends. And when she dies, her journals are left to me, and in that moment of blowing the dust off, of opening the old pages (finding a silver fish or two) I write her story and get booked on Oprah.

As I wrote today, and a hint of some sort of story followed me into the kitchen and through the Halloween bags, I found the old lady. She was here all along. And a journal of sorts has been preserved waiting for me. I am writing a story about my Grandmother. Fictional, and anything but biographical. But still my grandmother. A story for her. With her old hand written recipe as my guide. Isn’t that funny, that what I have been looking for has been here all along. Hmm. Makes you think.

And that woman who missed me with her car. A wake up call? A reminder that life is short and I need to step a little faster, a little lighter, perhaps with a little more purpose, perhaps with a better eye to what’s around me. Hmm. Makes you think.

To Begin...

Welcome to Waistless – the place to come for lightness in eating.

Hemingway wrote, I think directed at me, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

So here goes. The truest sentence I know is that losing weight is hard work. That staying slim and eating healthy over time is the hardest work I will ever do. Run as fast and as far as you can when you hear the word “EASY” mixed with the notion of losing weight. It is not easy. There is no magic pill, though the lords of marketing so want us to believe otherwise. Losing weight begins with the moment we make that choice, the moment we push the cake aside, the moment we order the tall non-fat latte instead of the Grande Hazelnut Cappuccino. For some of us, losing weight is simply a matter of changing old habits, eating better, gaining knowledge, but for others, like me, losing weight is about changing coping skills, and that, my readers (if you exist) is the hardest work of our lives.

I had an old friend who passed away this year, a nutritionist, at one time to the stars, but more recently to a bevy of West Los Angeles housewives and overworked career women. Her words, “LEAVE THE KITCHEN. FIND ANOTHER PLAYGROUND IN WHICH TO PLAY” still echo in my head every time I am sad, or happy, or bored and I wander into the kitchen to satiate some need other than hunger.

Think about it, if our kids were jumping rope next to a drug dealer at the local park we would stop going. Yet, we go in and out of our kitchen and pantries when we make meals, when the phone rings, when company comes over, in moments of happiness, in moments of great despair. We play in that kitchen and let the chocolate chip (or BBQ’ed potato chip) pimps and dealers play on our weakest temptations.

When my mother began to lose weight, her most difficult moment in the day was in the late evening when she took her last daily pills. She would walk with confidence into the kitchen, the plan laid for a glass of water and her pills, and exit the kitchen only moments later a fallen woman with a mouthful of chips or crackers and a glass of juice. It was the nutritionist who suggested that mom simply move the pills, and a glass, to her bedroom bathroom upstairs. Avoid the kitchen she said if that’s a problem. Find another playground in which to play.

For me, as my children graduated preschool and I was the only mother still in high rise too tight gap denim from a former decade (no hint of red thong here), I desired low rise jeans the way that addict in the park needed his fix. But with a butt the size of Montana and a belly that jiggled like an unbaked muffin, I was not about shop in a store where the size two saleslady asks sweetly, eye brows raised “Can I help you?” So I found a playground in late night online shopping. No size two sales girl here!

Late at night when I normally would be indulging in that infinity bowl of cereal --You know the one that begins with the promise of just one bowl, but what to do with the extra milk, and then too much cereal, then extra milk -- on and on it goes until the box is nearly emptied. So I left the kitchen for my makeshift office and shopped until I dropped in the safety of the cyberspace dressing room. I would order the jeans a size too small and when they would come, alone in my bathroom with the household sleeping I would try them on and on and on, until that hard eared day when they fit.

Notice I didn’t say “magical” day. In fact, I edited out the word “magical.” There was nothing magically about it. I worked hard to lose weight, to fit into those jeans. Not exercise, that came later and I will write about that as well. This was food weight loss. This was finding a real shoulder to cry on when I was sad and leaving the chocolate chips in their bag. This was day after day of planning and measuring and counting and cooking and avoiding Starbucks and all those new cupcake shops. This was hard work.

This was seventy pounds ago. I am in my fifth year of maintaining this weight loss. It ain’t easy. Old coping skills can be replaced but they never die. I am amazed every time I find myself late night alone with that infinity bowl of cereal, or an empty bag of chocolate chips in my hand. But I have changed my playground and when I land in the wrong place for certainly the wrong reasons I am, albeit disgusted with myself, able to find the path back to what really feels good – healthy foods, feeling slim and strong, fitting into jeans I bought four years ago. (Yes, I am infinitely out of style!)

I am offering this blog to all of you out there disgusted, still looking for a magic pill, to lose that weight. I know this sounds so zen and seventh moonish, but look to yourself for the magic. We are the magic pill, we’ve just been blindsided by an inundation of fast fixes laden with fat food and quick microwave dishes.

I invite you to write along with this blog, use this as another playground. Find voice in saying no to binge eating and too much sugar. I need your help because this is hard, and maybe my success can open up a door, or at least a window, to help you breath easier as your find your way in the magic less world of real life weight loss.