Thursday, July 22, 2010

Some Travel Reading for Your Journey out of Shametown

Himself writes book reviews on a regular basis. (Interested parties can drop in here.) He's been bugging me to do it for a while. I told him it was too much like work, too much like school, and too much like he was telling me what to do and he could suck it. (Because polite discourse is always our preferred method of communication.)

In this case, however, its a good place to start. A good place to begin to explain the mental remodeling that's been going on with me these days. So I'll follow his format, and try to explain how much these books mean to me.

Book the first:

Title: Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body
Author: Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby
Publication Year: 2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 223

How I Found It: I'm having a tough time remembering how I found this book, but I'm pretty sure I stumbled upon Kate's Shapely Prose blog and it went from there.

This book is like that friend you wish you had in high school. The one that stood beside you, thought a little faster, and had the right thing to say when football players made ignorant comments about your weight at your locker. The fearless friend. The one that moved effortlessly between the cliques and refused to fit anyone's definition of cool because she had her own thing going and anyone who didn't like it could kindly fuck right off, thank you and goodnight.

Kate and Marianne quote Melissa McEwan of

"It remains a radical act to be fat and happy in America, especially if you're a woman (for whom 'jolly' fatness isn't an option). If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident-- and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cowcalls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery."

This book is a manifesto for finding that will and bravery. It dusted me off, set me upright, and dared to suggest that coming from a place of pressure, self-loathing, and miserable resignation to yet another diet is really not a foundation for effective self-care, never mind that its frustrating, ineffective, and turns you quickly into a sanctimonious preacher of the most tiresome ilk in a desperate effort to milk what little rush comes from those early days of control, when you make your little books and charts and buy your tools and convince yourself that this time, despite some 35 years of contrary evidence, THIS effort is going to magically make you someone you aren't and you'll stay that way, aloft, by some bottomless measure of effortless grace that comes from the Being Thin Fairy, who transports you to a magical land where everything fits and you feel fabulous all the time and your checkbook always balances.

I recommend this book as a starting point. More are recommended in its Appendix to suggest a better pattern for caring for yourself simply because you deserve good self care, WITHOUT weight loss as the goal. This book has made me pay attention to how often people talk about diets and dieting, how often they declare themselves good, bad, worthy or unworthy based on the number the scale gave them or whatever they ate that day, as if specific foods have a moral value. How many times I've done it. And how very, very tired I am of doing it. I'm learning how to be that friend I wish I had, both to myself and to others.

Next Time: The Nuts and Bolts of it all: 'Health at Every Size' by Dr. Linda Bacon

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I could get used to this......

Summer vacation. Say it aloud: Summer vacation. It has all sorts of satisfying noises in it, especially for someone who hasn't been able to take one in twenty years.

Twenty years, you ask?

Twenty years. In an industry with a 'peak season' during the summer. At companies with something called a 'vacation blackout period'. There was one week in July of 2004 when I took off and was allowed because, given the client I was dealing with, if I didn't get away from my desk for a week I was going to appear on the news walking meekly before a Delaware state trooper after a multi-hour standoff during which I would have simply broken a few of my boss'Lladro figurines and demanded a cheesesteak on a decent roll before dissolving into exhausted sobbing.

My first couple of weeks of unexpected vacation were a bit of an activity-filled blur. I disseminated resumes almost immediately, but the first week was our fire department carnival, so my idle time was spent avidly scrubbing the smell of fried peppers and onions and funnel cake out of my hair and lamenting the failure of modern dentistry in this part of the world. I cleaned a few things, sorted a few things, signed up for some volunteer work, started the networking process that will land me my next job, and finally, finally stopped and took a breath.

I'm loving the quiet. Just the clean quiet of an afternoon. The hiss of wind in the trees. My backyard is beautiful and I stopped seeing it; flying home between this and that and only allowing myself to be annoyed by the incessant barking of dogs. I'm soaking up this respite, this rest between measures. I know the music will take up again soon enough and I don't want to waste this.