Tag Archives: Patty

Anxiety vs. Food

If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, seen a weight-loss commercial or an interview of someone who’s lost a significant amount of weight, you’ve probably heard them say, I’m never going to be heavy again!  Personally, I’m too afraid to utter those words.  Rather than test fate, I know that I still have to take things one day at a time.   2012 has taught me many things – mainly, that nothing in life stays the same.  Never before have I been more aware of that than the past few months.

I spent the majority of this weekend working at Patty’s house, removing the last of her belongings and saying goodbye to the one remaining thing that linked me together with her – her home.  I’d been dreading Saturday and Sunday, becoming increasingly agitated as last week drew to a close, but attributed my emotions to a host of other, unimportant things.  With my anxiety building, I found myself wanting to reach for copious amounts of comfort food before the weekend even arrived. 

This time I tried to think ahead and made a plan to busy myself with painting instead of eating.  By the time Thursday arrived I was furiously working in my studio, finishing three watercolors before the day was over (quite a feat for me.)  All three paintings had themes that were specifically chosen to give a calming, zen-like feel.   Here are two of the three that I finished:

 

 

Thursday came and went and I climbed into bed exhausted.  I wish I could report that I didn’t give in to numbing my grief with food, but I’d be lying. 

On Friday, I woke up determined to not only begin, but complete a very tedious art project.  Working solely with cut paper and glue, I pushed myself for over 12 hours until I finished this: 

I regularly post photos of work in progress on my Facebook art page (which you are invited to ‘Like’ if you’re a Facebooker) and I love receiving comments and ideas from people.  On this particular project I had several comments from some very wise people who saw things that I didn’t.  Well, not until it was pointed out to me:  one – she’s a young Patty (who used to wear a red hat every time she went out) and two – she is me.  Two people combined to make a self portrait. 

Well now, that ought to make a good topic for a therapy session, no?

Again, when I was finished I’d hoped that the anxiety I was feeling would be gone and that I could wake up on Saturday and put myself into full work-mode.  The weekend came and went, leaving me feeling completely drained, both emotionally and physically.  I didn’t binge (I didn’t have time), but I did make extremely poor choices and ate without regard to any consequence. 

Today, I’m feeling disappointed in myself; I really wish I’d been able to channel my emotions strictly into my work – to completely lose myself in distraction.  After seven+ years in maintenance, you would think that I’d have worked out this part by now. 

If anything, this experience has shown me that I will most likely always be a work in progress.  Now that the crisis has passed all I can do is pick myself up and try again next time.  Until then I’ll just keep reminding myself that at least I haven’t thrown in the towel.  I’m still fighting to figure things out and hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to say that food and I have a very healthy relationship with one another.

Have a good week, everyone. 

XO,

~E

 

Inherited

Hey there, Everyone! I hope you all had a great week.

I’ve made a vow to do something creative everyday, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.  It’s been working. Not unlike exercising, if you work hard at developing a habit – soon you’ll find that you miss that activity if you don’t connect with it every day.   I wish I had the same diligence about exercising.

In a little over 2 weeks it will be four months since I had surgery. Today (actually, in about an hour) I am going to the doctor.  I should be feeling markedly better by now but for some unknown reason, I am not.  On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst kind of tired you can imagine, I am hovering around a 12. In the mornings I have fairly decent energy but as the day progresses so does my lack of stamina. 2-3 PM seems to be around the time where I hit my ‘wall’ and I suffer from the type of fatigue I never dreamed existed.

Unfortunately as the weeks and months pass, the fatigue is getting worse. My blog has suffered; my strength, and most importantly, my overall quality of life. Exercise is no longer an option for me unless I do it as soon as I get up in the mornings and then, it can only consist of walking 20-25 minutes on the treadmill.  I am eager to find an answer to this very frustrating problem; no longer can I blame it on recovery. 

The good news is that when the culprit is found, whether it be hormone, thyroid, anemia or whatever, and I find myself beginning to feel better I suspect it will feel like coming out on the first day of Spring from a long, dreary winter; I’ll be ready to take on the world!  So, for as boring as my blog has been these past few months, just you wait, because when I regain my energy this place is going to be a reader’s paradise! Winking smile

 

Remember Patty – the elderly woman I used to work for? Her children have been in town trying to remove the remaining items from her house so I’ve been helping every morning this week doing small thing like packing dishes, making trips to the Goodwill, and coming to terms with the fact that the home I’ve worked in for the past 12 years will soon be sold. Patty has really great children and I’ve had the pleasure of growing closer to them as we all make our way through the grieving process. They’ve allowed me to choose several items to keep that have become quite sentimental to me over the years. Here’s a few of my newly adopted mementos.

First, my inherited table:

 

 

For twelve years I listened as Patty spoke about how she and her best friend went shopping for this table while her husband was studying for exams at Harvard in the early 1940’s. She often talked about the wonderful dinner parties she threw in their little apartment.  She’d serve dinner to their best friends in the world as they gathered around that small table, which she continued to adore even 70 years later. By the time I met her it was worn, scratched, and had numerous water rings on the top. The last 2 or 3 years she talked about having it refinished but she couldn’t part with it long enough to have it done. When I acquired it, I immediately took it to a local strippe shop and had it done in her memory.

 

 

The owner of the shop told me that this table was built somewhere in the mid-1800s. The materials used to screw it together were hand forged by a blacksmith. I adore my little table and hope to experience half as many warm memories with it as she did.

Next, you have to see these gloves:

 

 

 

They are so small, my hands barely fit inside. I imagine these gloves adorning her petite hands at a festive Chicago-style party in the 50’s, with a matching long, flowing, gown.

 

 

And finally,

 

 

 

A door which hung to the left of her entryway, which, from what I understand, was taken from the house of one of Patty’s favorite places to live.  It traveled with her half way across the country until they both finally settled in this area.  You may recognize the design from the work of artist Robert Indiana.

The door is in a desperate need of paint as you can see, but I’ll have it looking as good as new in no time and will most likely hang it somewhere in my garden.  I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the places it and its owner have traveled.  It’s a reminder that no matter how trapped I’m currently feeling health-wise, there’s always an open door nearby that’s ready to lead me on a different path.  I know; sounds kind of corny, but it’s true, right?

Have a good weekend and as always, thank you for reading.

~Ellen 

Move that body while you still can!

I think we can all agree that sometimes, the fear of the unknown can keep us from doing things that we know may actually be good for us.  I seem to have a head as thick as a brick because I find myself experiencing this concept over and over again.  When I’ve completed a task that I had to FORCE myself to do, 99% of the time I am glad that I did it.  Why is it so hard to listen to my instincts?  Don’t I know myself better than anyone else?  When that nagging thought keeps looping over and over again saying, ‘You should really do this…..you should really do this’ why do I hesitate?  It frustrates me beyond belief.

Perfect example:  how long have I been talking about going to Hot Yoga? I was too embarrassed to look back to previous posts so I don’t know how many times I’ve posted about it but I do know it’s been several.   I asked a couple of people about Hot Yoga last year, specifically, ‘What’s it like in there?’ My only response:

It’s freaking hot!

Every time I pictured myself in Hot Yoga, I thought of one of those sweat lodges where people feel like they’re going to pass out from the heat.  Denied water and any way out, the room becomes more and more intolerable with each downward facing dog. You are like a wilted plant on your mat, melting in a puddle of your own sweat.  Great analogy, huh? Don’t you wish you had my creative mind?  Not!

Well, I finally got off of my rear end and decided that this was the week to get in that class.  Here’s the pep talk I gave myself that got me there:

In four days you won’t be able to get off of a toilet without assistance.  Don’t you want to appreciate every move you can comfortably make with your body between now and then?

Good God, yes

So, I went.  And you know what?  I loved the class (shocker, huh?)

Things that I wish someone had told me about Hot Yoga.  If I’d known these two things, I’d have gone a long time ago:

1.  For someone with Raynaud’s Syndrome (an annoying condition where your hands and feet are cold 90% of the time) a class like this is sheer bliss.  The air feels like a warm blanket on a chilly night.

2.  I cannot get over how much more FLEXIBLE I am in this class.  No one told me that I’d be able to sink into poses that I have trouble doing in a 70 degree room.

3.  It wasn’t that hot.  The temperature was around 103 degrees with 30% humidity.

I am going to miss yoga a lot while I’m recovering.  And the interesting thing is, I’ve been trying to find some information on when it’s safe to begin reintroducing yoga after major abdominal surgery – I cannot find anything.   Weird. I know that twists and backbends are going to be out for a while, but really – I have no idea what’s safe to do and what isn’t.

Patty’s funeral was on Wednesday.  It went well as far as funerals go, I guess.  Her children gave me a photo that I forgot was ever taken.  It was a picture of us at Patty’s 90th birthday party:

Such a good photo of her.  My sweet lady.

 

I’ll check in with you all once more before I head off to the hospital.  Have a good weekend.

~Ellen

The Cycle of Life

While sitting in Atlanta International Airport awaiting my connecting flight that would take me to my getaway spot for the next several days I kept telling myself that this trip was not to be squandered.  Somehow, I needed to muster enough willpower to leave thoughts of the past few weeks at home and live in the moment; to distract myself long enough for my mind and body to prepare itself for the next stage in my life.  For a planner and a natural-born worrier like me, that seemed like a tall order to fill. 

Perhaps you feel like I do when recalling a past or present crisis in your life.  Just days or even hours before, you move along living your life like everyone else.  You get up, eat your usual breakfast, go to work and run errands afterwards.  You make an effort to eat well, exercise and have dinner. You spend what is left of the day talking with your family members, make plans for tomorrow and go to bed.  Although sometimes a bit mundane, it’s a routine that you’ve developed and it works for you. 

Then, suddenly – your entire life skids out of control like a car on wet pavement.  When the careening finally stops and you realize that you’re still alive, everything around you is a complete and total wreck.  Have you ever noticed that when Life hits you with a sucker punch it knocks the breath out of you and forces a cold stop, while it continues to move along like nothing ever happened?  It’s like you’ve been shifted onto a parallel universe where the people around you go about their usual business without realizing that everything is different.  You want to yell, “Don’t you see what just happened? Life has stopped, here!” But people continue their ritual of getting out of bed in the mornings while you struggle to touch your feet to the floor.  They eat their usual breakfast while you can barely tolerate a bowl of cereal due to the knot that’s settled in the pit of your stomach.  They go to their jobs; you no longer have one.  Their days pass with not enough time to complete life’s many tasks.  Your day drags on.  And on.  And feels like it will never end.  You’re so consumed in your own grief to see that it’s your life that’s changed, not theirs.  This is your battle to fight.

 

I heard from a dear friend during my time away.  I told her that I was struggling in my attempt at being in the now; I couldn’t shake the despair long enough to enjoy even the simplest cleansing breath.  She gave me in part, this advice:

Feel the warmth of the sun; appreciate the cycle of life, anomalous circumstances, compensation, beauty, simplicity, complexity.  Life is good, my friend. 

I understood and appreciated what she was telling me.  I made the decision that I was going to sift through the muck clouding my heart and head and find the beauty that was surrounding me.  As it turned out, the beauty found me. 

As some of you know, I have a special fondness for Loggerhead Sea Turtles.  They are some of the most beautiful, endangered creatures of the sea.  The last time we were in Florida we arrived at the end of nesting season.  During that time, my husband and I were given GPS coordinates to a turtle feeding ground.  We kayaked to the area a couple of miles off shore and watched as several dozen or so rose to the surface to gather air before plunging back into the depths of the bay.  This year our arrival coincided with the beginning of nesting season.  It’s during this time of year that the female Loggerhead swims to shore and uses all of her energy to make her way to the upper area of the beach where she uses her flippers to laboriously dig a hole deep enough so that she can deposit anywhere from 75 to 100 eggs.  Using her flippers once again she covers the nest with sand and then uses what little energy she has left to push her way back to sea.   It’s uncommon to witness this kind of activity, however if you’re walking the beach at daybreak you can spot evidence of the turtle’s activity from the previous night.  She leaves behind clues in the sand that looks like this:

Around mid-week my husband and I decided to take a walk on the beach.  I didn’t particularly want to go but reluctantly agreed.  It was around 10:30 PM.   We walked silently, enjoying the solitude of our surroundings until I spotted a dark object on the surf.  It was large enough to stop us dead in our tracks – most likely four feet long by three feet wide.  We stood there watching as it slowly worked its way onto the beach.  We looked at each other and I whispered, ‘Is that what I think it is?’  He didn’t answer, but we both knew exactly what it was – a female loggerhead looking to lay her eggs.  We watched in awe as she struggled against the sand, dragging herself to the perfect spot on the beach.  We remained nearby (within 30 feet or so) for almost an hour and a half before she finished covering her eggs with sand and made her way back to the water.

While we sat watching her in silence, I had some time to be alone with my thoughts.  Here was this nearly three hundred pound creature who likely traveled hundreds, even thousands of miles just so that she could offer the gift of life to her offspring even though roughly, only one in 5,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood.  I thought about how incredibly precious her life was; how beautiful she looked and how incredibly lucky we were that she allowed us to share such a personal moment with her. 

Then my mind started wandering to thoughts of Patty.  For the past year or so she often said to me, ‘Ellen, if I died tonight I’d die a happy woman. I have wonderful memories and have known some wonderful people. I’ve enjoyed my life, and feel very fortunate.’  There I was, in the midst of dealing with death while the beginning of life was unfolding before my eyes.  I missed her terribly at that moment, though my tears weren’t coming from the same sorrow I’d been feeling these past 3 weeks.  They were tears of understanding, acceptance.  We all lose people we love in many different ways.  We mourn broken friendships; loss of pets, the end of marriages, and the death of those whom we cannot imagine existing without.  We wonder how we will carry on.  I wondered how I was going to carry on with all of the changes in my life that are happening.  But then I’d shift my focus back to the turtle on the sand, and I felt at peace with it all.

When the sea turtle made her way back across the beach and slipped into the water it was around 12:45 AM.  I walked up behind her as she was about to disappear and took this photograph:

Early the next morning we waited anxiously for the proper authorities to come and mark the nest – tamping stakes into the ground and surrounding the area with orange tape.  They attached a sign to the site as a warning that it isn’t to be disturbed.  We thanked the team of volunteers for their time and effort, and one of them asked if we’d be interested in adopting the nest.  Along with a certificate and an open line of communication regarding the progress of the nest, we eagerly accepted with the standard $25 donation and asked that it be dedicated in honor of Patty’s memory.

 

I recently read a passage on grief.  I cannot remember where I read it, but in essence it stated: 

Grief is nature’s way of assisting us to cope with the loss we have experienced. We learn to take all the love and emotion that we had in the person we have lost and reinvest it in those living around us. 

I take comfort in that statement, and on that night, felt the love and emotion over losing someone dear to me being reinvested into that turtle.  She was a gift.  She gave me a deeper appreciation of the cycle of life and reminded me of how precious it is.

As I await the Memorial Service on Wednesday I know that Patty wouldn’t have tolerated my sadness in this way.  Instead, she would have reminded me to be happy that we had each other for as long as we did. 

For that, I am very happy.    

XO,

~Ellen

Going Away to Gather a Better Perspective

Since Patty passed away I have been at her house per her family’s request to sort through clothes, wash items, clean linens, etc.  I’ve gone every day for the last week and a half.  Not until yesterday did I realize how mentally draining it is to be in her personal space while she is missing, yet feeling her presence everywhere.  As of today, I’m officially resigning from that position. 

Today I started packing. 

My husband and I are going away for a few days.  We are taking some time to readjust, refocus and allow ourselves a moment to walk away from the storm.  Patty’s Memorial Service will be held the week before my surgery, just a few days after we get back.  I will be speaking there and need some time to figure out what I could possibly say that would convey how much she meant to me.  

We purchased our tickets for this trip many months ago – one of those ‘too good of a deal to pass up’ kind of sales.  Until recently though, this vacation has been very unwelcome.  The timing I thought, was terrible.  Once I faced the decision of having the hysterectomy, I wanted to cancel the trip and have it done immediately

But you know, if things had worked out that way I wouldn’t have been with Patty when she died.  I never would have had the privilege of taking care of her at the end of her life because I would have been recovering at home.  Now that she’s gone, having this trip land right in the middle of her death and my surgery is the biggest gift I could ask for; at times it’s been the only thing holding me together – so, I’m grateful to be going. 

We are headed back to the beach.  Where we do not intend to move from this spot, right here:

 

If I have time I will check in, leaving you with one of my favorite posts.  If not, I’ll see you back here sometime next week. 

Be good to you, and to everyone you love.

See you soon. 

~Ellen 

Everything and Nothing

Lately it feels like this blog has been suffering from an identity crisis.  The title, Fat Girl Wearing Thin leads the reader to believe that he/she will stumble upon a series of posts that are related to weight loss or maintenance, but the last several posts have read more like a train wreck.  Writings of health decisions, major surgeries, deaths, mourning.  Today I’m just writing for me – because I need to.  It’s about everything, yet nothing.  Feel free to read or skip today, depending on how you’re feeling.

 

For the past 12 years I knew that my job was temporary, but I became comfortable as the years went on.  If anyone was going to live to celebrate her 100th birthday, it was this woman.  Every medical appointment she attended left her doctors impressed at how healthy she was for her age.  In fact, just last week she had a complete physical.  Her blood work came back better than people half her age.

I feel as though I’ve lost a spouse; a mother; my closest friend.  For twelve years we were in constant contact with one another.  She was my responsibility and I felt needed.  And loved.  Now, I feel useless.

The one piece of comfort I can take in all of this is that I was able to keep my promise to her.  She wanted nothing more than to live in her home until she died.  I told her that I would do everything in my power to make that happen, and that I would take care of her until the very end.  I’m very grateful that she died not having to go to ‘Senior Camp’ (her common term for a nursing home), nor did she suffer.  As the ache becomes less intense, I’ll remember my promise to her as one of my greatest accomplishments.

Surgery.  I am scheduled for the morning of June 5th.  Funny how it isn’t that important to me, anymore.  All that worrying and now I barely think about it.  I’m sure that will change as it gets closer.  I recently realized that the majority of my loose skin resides in my lower tummy area and that is also where the scar will be.  If not done properly, my stomach could end up looking worse than it already does.  I put in a call to the doctor to see whether or not I should have a consultation with a plastic surgeon.  No bikinis in my closet these days so no worries there, but I feel that I should avoid further trauma to my skin if at all possible.

The comforting words you’ve all sent to my inbox and/or left as a comment once again reminds me of how lucky I am to live in this online neighborhood.  I can’t thank you enough for your love and kindness, and  hope you’ll stick with me as I make my way through these changes in my life.  As I find my way beyond today, I think of this pin I found on Pinterest:

 

Ain’t it the truth.

 

XO,

Ellen