It’s a good thing, a considerable grace, that I am not an alcoholic or a smoker or a drug addict. I don’t think I’d ever have been able to recover. No, really. I do not, I find, believe in my capacity to make that kind of change.
I am reasonably certain that this does not make me a weak or evil person. I do think it makes me a person who is actually, in some interesting senses, someone who is very lucky that her comfort/rebellion/haven/behavioral crutch of “choice” has been food–which is arguably the slowest killer of all those kinds of excessive-compensation tools. It might have been even luckier if the behavior of “choice” had been exercise of some sort, but that would have made my father entirely happy, thereby killing the point of the rebellion. I put “choice” in those sly, coy quotation marks because some things are determined (not inevitable, just determined) by whatever complicated knot of environment and genetics does that stuff for (or against) us.
I am also reasonably certain that it doesn’t mean that I am a person who has given up on her own life. But it may mean that I’ve got no sense of agency in some areas. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue since the turn of the year–partially, I suppose, because I have been hoping that this year would be better than last–and that I might manage to push some positive change in some area or other. Also, I have a good friend who’s got a minor addiction to life-plans and life-coaching and change-making in her own life, and this stuff works for her–she has a remarkable record of deciding that she wants this or that set of things to happen and then figuring out how to make them happen. I have always been quietly (maybe not so quietly?) envious of her sense of both agency and adventure.
It’s hard, at this point, to sort out what’s authentically (yep, I’ve gone back into therapy, so the lingo will be creeping in now and again) me and what’s been bred into my cells by my life, not to mention what special chemistry those two factors have created. But it seems worth thinking about some. Maybe a lot. Again.
Some of this inward-gazing thoughtfulness is, of course, driven by the fact that I am turning 59 this year and have become very, very aware of how much older 60 sounds to me than 59. It’s really the first time in my life that I’ve been weirded out to this degree by an oncoming birthday (35 bothered me a lot, but not like this). It’s hard not to just collapse under the weight of Things I Have NOT Accomplished.
We moved constantly when I was a kid. I was a shy, odd, big child and didn’t resettle very easily, though my parents tended to assume I did because I was so verbal and socially functional with adults. I was in a different school every year from nursery school to the 7the grade. That was a lot of let’s-pick-on-the-new-kid crap, and I was clearly, by nature, a tender and very gullible unit. This really isn’t to say poor me as much as to try to sort out the etiology of my weird combination of passivity and noisy rebelliousness. Both sides of the coin have tended to cause me trouble, though the autonomic oppositional tendencies (themselves considerably in conflict with my general insistence on being a good girl…) have also, in balance, probably saved my life more than once. I’d think I were special if I didn’t suspect most humans run around sorting through all this paradox and complexity most of the time, too. I will admit that I may pay more attention to myself than most do, though–probably the product of lots of time by myself as a kid–only kid with parents who were mostly both in school and working for the first seven years and then just working thereafter; when you’re your first and most reliable friend, you kind of inevitably spend lots of time paying attention…
So, mostly, what I think I learned is that life consists of what happens to you and your only real power is in deciding how to behave about/in response to it. It’s funny, because that belief coexists and persists right along side the fact that the couple of times I have actually defined what I wanted and gone for it–a quite specific husband and a couple of degrees–I have had not inconsiderable success. Mostly though, my policy is to keep on/show up/keep slogging away–which is fine, but which doesn’t tend to yield for me the same dynamic results it does for the heroines in novels and magazines. Big change–I think I might distrust that–or distrust my ability to make it happen. After all, I’ve been trying to leave Delaware for 40 years. Fail. I’ve been trying to lose weight off and on, trying to exercise regularly off and on, trying to get a poem into Poetry off and on, for decades.Fail. Fail. Fail.
The weight thing is stupid. Periods of success have inevitably and predictably been followed by re-gain. Turns out that’s not actually because I’m some monster of in-discipline. Which is not as much of a relief as it probably ought to be. It sound lovely to think that some thing that’s been torturing you for close to 50 years should turn out to not be your fault. But realizing that it’s not your fault means that you end up with no real power in the situation, either, which is, oddly enough, a bummer.
The exercise thing may really be a case where just keeping at it will add up to something good. Or not. When I am exercising, I feel better about myself, but it’s only half because I’m doing myself a kindness. The other half is because I’m being a good girl–letting either my long-dead father or my very alive Diabetes yammer and nag at me until I comply. And, my god, that is an exhausting daily conversation. In the cartoon version of my life, both my father and my diabetes educator are going to be represented by an itty bitty snarling Jillian Michaels who sits on my shoulder and chews on my ear drum.
The problem with that picture is that there is no angel on my other shoulder.
Ye gods and little green apples, I hadn’t actually realized that until I typed it.
Well, that’s quite enough revelati0n for one day. Going to have to go think on that for a bit.
Meanwhile, Upworthy posted this rather interesting little film to FB:
It’s got the usual panic-inducing stats at the beginning, but then it offers some actually interesting science which suggests that crap-food companies like Frito-Lay are engaged, unknowingly until recently (maybe), in the same sort of addiction-inducing marketing that cigarette companies have been knowingly engaging in for decades. I have a friend (who’s highly acute and deeply rational) who fusses at me a bit for being so knee-jerk anti-corporation, but when you actually look at stuff like what the cigarette folks have been intentionally putting in their products to make them more addictive than nature intended even as the science on how murderously bad-for-you they are already mounts and mounts, it’s kind of hard not to just assume really bad faith as the a priori operational mode of the majority of corporations.
And it has been fun to watch all the continuing hullaballoo and discussion occasioned by Lena Dares-to-be-Normal-Looking Dunham’s oeuvre. When was the last time a 26-year old started a genuinely significant culture-wide conversation? Gooooooooooo, Lena!
And I gather that Fox, in it’s infinite and disgusting pursuit of the journalistic equivalent of whale snot, brought yet another long-distance-diagnosing-pseudo-doctor on in the week after the Grammys to snigger and squeak about about Kelly Clarkson’s and Adele’s weight. Good grief, is there no barrel whose dregs they won’t suck and spew? Anyway, I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone thinks there’s anything excessive about Clarkson’s body–it’s just sort of average-sized, and there are actually several women in the Nashville stable who have non-super-thin bodies–bless the hearts of country music fandom. And Adele, well, for crying out loud, whatever size she is or isn’t, she’s crazy-beautiful, can sing like nobody’s business, and has the wit and spine to snub Bobby Brown very publicly, so just shut up. Her body is her business. But in any event, she seems to have more of a handle on what’s important than any of the snarky bitches pretending concern for her health, which looks just glowy anyway. I don’t recall that Fox ever expressed any similar “concerns” about Amy Winehouse’s health… But then, Fox is just a bubo on the neck of civilization.