Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Last Marvelous Gift

snakes upward, with a little flickering tongue,
after so long beneath the duff and the pine twigs:
dead, they said, but
you know how it is with reptiles, in the cold
they shut down but 
they neglect to die.

So in the mornings, I work out: I am determined not to lose muscle mass, and so far -- judging by my strength -- I have not. I lie on my back and explore this new lean body with my fingertips. Everything about it delights me, even the slight slackness of pelt that's slung like a pair of bandoliers, and the thin wattle at my throat when I cock my head a certain way. You can't be fat for forty years without it leaving marks. I'm content to bear my scars. Underneath it is all lean muscle, all strength and hardness. I feel old but deathless. Rendered.

When last I weighed this much I was soft, in so many ways. I have never lived in a body so serviceable, so apt, and I am not taking it for granted: this is a last marvelous gift from the dealer of grace.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Small Liberties

A sly grief, twining up through the blue sky and the sudden maple blossom. Another trick of age has come upon me: I squint, now, at moments of irritation or perplexity. Wrinkle my nose, in that wonderfully expressive, nonsensical English phrase. I catch myself doing it, and in the moment the fact that I turn sixty in a few days becomes suddenly explicable. Inevitable.

Still the wind is fresh, and the crows climb up to play in the gusts, and there's a fine sunlight, laid on with a hasty brush. It will do, I suppose. I suppose it must. I walk up to where Burnside Street bridges the freeway to have a look at the mountain. Pure white and larger than usual, as though someone over on the far side had carelessly elbowed it, shoved it closer.


Home. Stew in the crockpot: done for now. I'll leave it to simmer overnight. In the morning I'll add some broccoli, portion it out into containers. Lunch for us for the next five days.

Dark flows in now. I'll wash up at some point, do the dishes, call it a night. 

That which is impossible to thee is not impossible to me: I shall save my word in all things and I shall make all things well.


Small liberties: taking transit instead of driving, and not having to trouble about my car -- I don't need to remember where it is, or track how the parking fees might be tallying, or worry about going out of range of it: none of that. I'm free. But I am so small, now, the wind could blow me away. An eddy might blow me aboard the train, or sweep me off again.

Good night!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

An Irreparably Broken Appetite

Circling back, as I do these days, to why my weight loss efforts are working -- I have been "on program" since last May, losing a pound a week: I started out at 222 lbs and I'm presently at 170 -- why did it work this time? 

There's lots of answers. Every time I've failed I've learned something. I painstakingly built up a knowledge and habit of simple cooking and maintaining a kitchen, which I badly needed even for the "Tom's and Burgerville" stage of my present weight loss: a big part of this was the huge crock pot of soup or stew, made every five or six days, that has been my (and Martha's) daily lunch. Other habits, and learning about what makes me tick -- what makes me hold a line or crumble -- were essential. But the one that stands out to me most at the moment, and the one that was very different this time, was conceptual: it was deciding that my appetite was totally, irreparably broken.

Lurking behind every attempt before this was the idea that at some point, if I ate the right things, or ate in the right way, if I developed the right habits and attitudes, I would eventually want to eat the right amount of the right things. This idea was peddled to me by all sorts of people of all sorts of dietetic persuasions. Back in prehistoric Scarsdale days, I was told that I would learn to find fat greasy and disgusting, and my grapefruit-purified appetite would naturally find salad and cottage cheese as attractive as a burger and fries. Atkins told me that if I stopped eating carbs my appetite would be healed, and I wouldn't want to overeat. Different people identified different food demons, but the common theme was: exorcise the demon, eat the right things in the right way, and your appetite will be a trustworthy guide once more. You'll naturally eat the right amount.

And I totally bought it. I bitterly resisted logging my eating and measuring my food, because I hated the constraint, and because it really wasn't going to be necessary, right? Once fixed, my appetite would be reliable again. The artificial constraints -- a needless scaffolding -- would fall away, and what I wanted to eat and what I should eat would be exactly the same thing. Such an appealing dream! And however much everyone disagreed about other things, they all seemed to agree on this. Getting back to a naturally dependable appetite was possible!

Well, after the collapse of my Atkins-ing, I was finally open to not believing this. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I ever found it particularly believable. I suppose partly because I so much wanted it to be true; but also because the Natural held such cultural sway. What you wanted couldn't just be wrong, because that's not how the world worked. Desires were healthy. They could get twisted a bit by a weird upbringing, hijacked by taboos, corrupted by conceptual distortions, but they always had a healthy foundation, which, given enough reasoning and effort, you could return to. I had real difficulty abandoning this conviction, and entertaining the idea -- which really, all evidence supported -- that my appetite for food would never be a reliable guide to what I should eat, or how much I should eat. 

When I finally came around to this, I found it oddly liberating. I didn't have to make myself like anything, or to pretend I disliked anything. I didn't have to change my instincts or my appetites. I didn't even have to change what I ate at all (even if eventually I did.) All I had to do was eat less. 

It was still a formidable problem, and one that has required all my will power and ingenuity to address. My particular solution wouldn't necessarily work for anyone else. But it was finally the right problem.