The Body Eclectic

March 22, 2017 at 9:38 am (Uncategorized)

I’m in a bigger body these days. I gained thirty pounds during my last three months in the hospital and thirty more during the three month hospitalization before that. That’s sixty pounds. Which is a lot, but then I’ve gained and lost dramatic amounts of weight before. What makes these extra pounds—particularly the last thirty—feel so cumbersome is that I gained them so quickly, all while flat on my back in a hospital bed. I didn’t get accustomed to my new body gradually over time, gaining a few pounds here, a few there. It’s as if some evil-eyed fairy godmother waved her warty wand, and voila, I’m fat again. I’m clumsy in my new, stretched out skin. I gauge spaces I might fit into based on mental dimensions that no longer match my physical ones. I’m constantly bumping into things, knocking over things as my brain scrambles to recalibrate. I also catch sight of myself in mirrors and do a double take. I’m not used to my wider face, the swath of flesh under my chin. With a pause, I recognize myself.

Surprisingly—for me—I haven’t fallen into full-bore self-loathing (well, most of the time.) What I feel more acutely is melancholy for what I cannot do with this extra flesh. A few months ago, I was hiking up to seven miles and even summitted Mt. Helena, the 6,500 foot mountain that looms above my little city. I was going to the gym regularly and riding the bike for an hour at a high intensity. I wasn’t svelte by anyone’s standard, but I was more functional. I miss that. I know I’ll get back to it, that what I need to do is start showing up at the gym and getting back on the bike for ten minutes and building up my stamina. I’m not there yet though. Right now I’m still adjusting to being up and around after so many weeks in the hospital.
When I talk about my weight with Jay, he usually says, “Now there’s more of you to love.” Back when I first gained a lot of weight on high doses of prednisone, I used to shrug off what he said and focus on hating myself. I wanted my skinny, athlete’s body back. I saw my new softness as weakness and could only imagine that others felt the same way. That was years ago, before losing one hundred pounds and gaining most of it back. Maybe I started to realize it’s not my fault that I’m heavier. It’s not like I chose a horse dose of prednisone or to spend a cumulative total of years of my life in a hospital bed.

But my new attitude towards my body is more than tolerance. I’m starting to see the steel behind the fat. My body is a survivor. It’s endured countless procedures, the indignities of surgeries, the years of illness and treatments. A defibrillator bulges beneath a gash of scar on my chest. I used to find this ugly. Now I see the beauty and the strength of my body. It’s fought for me, endured for me, carried me for thirteen long years in Chronic Town.

I miss hiking and my skinnier jeans. But I refuse to engage in self-hatred to get back to them. I’ll lose some weight by returning to daily life. I’ll find my way back to the gym. But I’ll do it with love and dignity. I’ll do it in this body and with this body.

2 Comments

  1. Phyllis Lefohn said,

    Rebecca – What an eloquent description of a journey within a journey. You shine a light for others to follow. Hugs!

  2. Sonia L Gill said,

    You have pierced me with your writing of your life. God you are tough! Bravo Rebecca! You have been given such a heavy assignment in this life and you and your amazing body (along with the love of your little family) have risen to meet it. I hope you have in your mind to do a book. So many could benefit by reading your stuff. Blogs are good but (in my ignorant eyes) I think a book would reach more unsophisticated but needy people. With love, your cousin Sonia.

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