how we see ourselves

February 24, 2010


do people have the ability to really see what is in front of them in a mirror?  a mirror is supposed to be a pure reflection of the object.  i think they don’t.  and by they, i mean me.  i have morphed and changed so much over the years.  i was a geeky bushy-eyebrowed teenager and then a lumpy college student with a swagger of sexual bravado that was all swagger and no reality and then turned myself into a hot (i kid you not…sizzling hot – even if it was the 80’s) jazz/cabaret singer.  with marriage came an agreement to attempt to be an equal earning partner and i slowly let go of the living-all-over-the-world prior decade and became the mom then music teacher then, finally, real estate broker.  even these past 10 years of part-time to full-time work in the world of ‘would you like to buy this house’ have been nonstop changes in my looks.  too much mac and cheese when teenage daughter was a baby led to a nice zaftig look that i gradually came to accept and, anyway, it was even my confirmation that i was here to stay as a wife and mommy.   zaftig tends to lead to heavier – and in my case it did.  why stop with 1 slice of difara’s pizza if you can have 2?  i didn’t. 

then breast cancer.  ironically, i slimmed down a bit during the chemo – uhhh…yeah.  couldn’t eat. and then the climb.  rather than be momentarily miserable (i’m bald, i’m bloated, i’m tired, i’m a victim of cancer, i’m not the girl i once was…) i ‘earned’ shoving anything and everything that tasted good into my mouth.  i deserve this apple tart.  why not eat this whole pizza…i may be dead next year.  after everything i’ve been through, you bet i’ll have another slice of that chocolate cake. 

one day i looked in the mirror and saw myself.  how odd that the lens sometimes comes into focus and that day i saw what other people saw and it was awful.  it wasn’t that i was heavy.  i actually don’t think i’ll ever be willowy or even ‘taut’.  but i was bloated and when i saw myself i thought:  i look like one of those people about whom i always think: there but for the grace of someone go i.   except there was no grace and it was me.   

slip forward 1.5 years.  i’ve worked hard at it…trying to change my lifestyle but not lose myself.  i do love food.  i don’t love exercise.  now i have food i love but not so much of it.  i don’t love exercise except that i make myself do it and i feel better afterward.  33 pounds and 2-3 sizes down.  i was feeling quite the skinny mini.  but then i went to buy some spring clothes and when i tried on ‘regular’ sized clothes…i looked heavy again.  i think i’ve gotten used to this size. 

does anyone have a different mirror i can borrow?


wearing my heart on my (virtual) sleeve

February 15, 2010


i have always been rather independent.  i propelled myself from home and once i muddled through the obligatory earn-this-degree and be a semi-functioning adult in this world decade post-high school, i not only moved to new york city to find my destiny but also found myself traveling the world – hmmm…trying to find my destiny love.  there are lots of people i grew up with – and i’m sure this is true for you or for many people you know – who stayed close to home.  they built their lives around what they knew and function happily there (i’m sure for some, unhappily). 

after much world-wandering, i found myself with roots in brooklyn.  first a tiny apartment in brooklyn heights and then, once i was the other half of a couple, sharing a house (a house in nyc~!) further out in midwood.  my family scattered far and wide.  we all used to be in philadelphia.  and when i say all, i mean pretty much all.  my maternal grandmother was one of 13 children and there were myriads of 1st cousins on my father’s side.  we used to have a ‘family circle’ and i remember trips on big rented buses to washington, d.c. as a big family.  we saw my mother’s side a lot when we were younger and less as we grew older.  now, for both sides, we find ourselves scattered.  a few remain in philly but we’ve flung ourselves to new mexico, atlanta, maryland, new jersey, and california. 

imagine my surprise when i found out that a cousin – a real cousin – lived mere blocks from my office.  i found out by accident years ago when a real estate broker mentioned the name of her buyer for a house and that name, rather unusual, was my mother’s maiden name.  this cousin and i shared a great grandfather.  i got in touch and, perhaps as it was a turbulent time in his life – a child on the way, a new house, a wife who may not have been so motivated to socialize with family that was not hers – we never got together.  i knew that something had happened between our parents – something subtle but perhaps his parents weren’t so keen to socialize with mine.  i never got the whole story – as i think it sat more on his side than mine.  one adult not liking another adult.  one non-related adult not liking their spouse’s related adult.   these things happen. they also were living a very very upscale life – a wildly grand house in the plunk middle of the fanciest part of park slope, brooklyn and parents who retired to the very exclusive hamptons. 

i let much time go by.  last year, teenage daughter turned 14 and i remember thinking that it was so silly that she – my only child – had a cousin mere blocks from her school and didn’t know her.  so i emailed.  imagine my surprise to find out in a cordial return email that she had two younger cousins nearby (what a difference a few years make) and was told all the right soothing things:  nice to hear from you; oh yes we should get together; let’s talk at the end of the summer and make some plans.  time passed.  my adult cousin showed up on fb and i friended him.  we went through the same dance.  i have never been shy about taking the first step.  in this case, i took the first step 3 times over 3x as many years.  well, all things in 3’s.   a full facebook-year later, today, i unfriended him.  whatever his issues are, whatever social plane he thinks he lives on, i am finally unwilling to share my small bit of fb feelings with the cousin that doesn’t want to be a cousin.  it was a valentine’s day release.

can’t win for losing

February 9, 2010


i admit it.  i was in a total funk the other day.  it was the first day i hadn’t gone into my office in a week and with appointments picking up and the tug tug tug of a bazillion emails and phone calls as is the norm in real estate sales, i had a mini-collapse at home.  so i admit it.  things were emotionally piling up.  at some point in the afternoon, i decided to finally read the big pamphlet that a friend gave me from sloan kettering cancer center.   what to do to take care of yourself – lots and lots of general and specific information about healthy eating and supplements.  it had been sitting on my desk for a few months and i was finally ready to tackle it. 

imagine my positive surprise when i realized that i already knew most of it and was doing lots of it:  cutting out processed foods; eating well; keeping my weight in line (i think losing 33 pounds counts as that!); and carefully considering some supplements and avoiding others.  tada!!!  suddenly the day was looking up.  i was the epitome of a forward-thinking positive cancer survivor – and so why not do something i had never ever done before.  there it was.  the ‘what’s your bmi’ page.  hey.  i used to be a 1x (truly teetering on a 2x for the very last bit of it) and although recently i hadn’t gotten to walk on bertha, my elliptical, as much as i should, i recognized that and was being careful with food and just trying to do a lot of city walking to make up for it a little.  and my size 14 j. jill knit pants (my holy-shit-these-are-regular-size-14-ok-cut-for-real-women-size-14-pants) were actually getting a little big on me.  and my tush…i may still have a belly but no bum left from all that elliptical walking.  wowsers.  so yes, why not finally know my bmi?  what did i care from body mass index?  and then i realized i was incapable of performing the math skills necessary so i went on some handy-dandy web site (bless google) and plugged in the numbers:  5’3″ and 171 pounds.  (well, that day i was).  and then it comes back.  the number.  the number.  the number was 30.  and in the 2 seconds it took me to realize that that number – 33 pounds lighter and well-exercised and moving forward in a positive direction – qualified me for OBESE. 

not good.  not good for me.  not good for my head.  not good for my (emotional)  heart.  not good for my bad habits. and i did something i hadn’t done in 1.5 years.  i stormed out, bought a big meatball sub (which, sadly, was not well made at all) and stuffed it down my obese-bmi-throat.  feh. 

my funny and uber-smart uber-insightful brother-in-law wrote to me the next day after i vented to him that i had topped over the edge.  i hope he won’t mind me quoting him here…but he always says the right thing to me (at least in email form): 

“Same dialectical twist for the pig-out.  The whole point is that it has become a rare event.  Everyone breaks down from time to time.  The important fact is the together person you are to break down in the first place.  Your eating habits have been excellent for an impressive duration.  Tomorrow they will be again.
Stay away from technical assessments of how you should feel though, indicators such as BMI.  That is science for Olympic athletes unethically applied to the general public in order to foster self-loathing that can be administered to by commercial interests.  In this, medical professionals are either corrupt participants or hapless dupes.”
ben made me feel better. 

estrogenic beings

February 3, 2010


sitting barely awake at my computer trying to ingest very hot coffee with the today show playing behind me on the tv in my bedroom.  you know, that tune-in/tune-out thing that you do … fact is, i barely watch tv anymore.  i basically listen to it.  i have always liked the chatter behind me while i work or write.  much different that sitting in a noisy office with loud voices.  my ears perk up at a segment on relationships between teenage daughters and their moms.  tada!  and it comes down to the usual bibble-babble:  you’re alike; you’re not alike; you have/had similar experiences separated by generations.  blah blah blah.  then the talking-head-promoting-book-man says:  [paraphrasing here] the issue is that the both people in the relationship are essentially ‘estrogenic beings’ and when one has levels that might be up, the other might be down. 

but what happens when one is essentially brewing with estrogen (most obviously teenage daughter) and one is … well, not.  mine was  the estrogen gone bezerk.  and the reward for that is the path to an estrogen-free existence.  basically being turned into a happy eunuch.  happy to be alive,  to be here.  definitely deprived of that essential hormonal olive-oil that drives my essential femininity.  in many ways i’m happier at a more base level that i knew how to be for many years – perhaps the booby prize (pun intended!!!!) for surviving not only breast cancer but all the treatments and the long recovery.  on another level, i have no sex drive, thin hair and a sense that i am out of touch with some of the more intimate emotions of the heart that come from being an estrogenic being.  hmmmm.   i wonder what the  talking-head-promoting-book-man would say about all of that.  no matter what he researches or intellectually justifies, i sincerely doubt that he understands what it means to be an estrogenic being turned into a happy eunuch. 

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