Saved

“You don’t save me. I save me.”
— Kim Wexler, Better Call Saul

I watched the episode of Better Call Saul where Kim says that a couple of weeks ago.  On the show, Jimmy’s done something that caused Kim, a fellow lawyer, to be penalized at work, relegated to the windowless basement doing document review, the most menial work a lawyer can get. One night, Jimmy shows up and tells Kim he has a plan to fix everything and get her back to her rightful place in the office. She tells him she’s not interested and he persists; this goes on for several minutes. Finally, she shuts him down for good, making it plain that she’s the hero of her own story: “You don’t save me. I save me.”

I can’t stop thinking about that line. It echos in my head several times a day. I made it my tagline under my screen name on a forum I frequent. It speaks to me.

There are a number of things about my life that I wish were different. The specifics don’t matter. What matters is that I don’t do anything to change my circumstances, yet my frustration and sadness and disappointment at the current state of affairs is constant. I keep waiting . . . for . . . what, exactly? To be magically committed to making things different? To get to a point where I just accept what is and stop wishing things were different?

No, I think I’m waiting for someone else to make it happen. But when did I become that kind of person? When did I become the kind of person who complains about something but doesn’t do anything to fix it? The kind of person who knows what needs to be done but makes excuses about why she can’t do it? I have no idea, but I don’t like it.

I have a firm No Princesses rule in our house. We don’t buy any princess-themed books or toys or clothes, and any that we are given go right to the Goodwill pile. #sorrynotsorry The reason for that is because in most princess lore, the girl is portrayed as helpless, waiting in her castle for a man – preferably a prince – to come save her. My standard answer when someone asks me why I feel so strongly about this with respect to my daughter is, “I’m going to teach her to save herself.”

And yet.

I can clearly see why Kim’s words have basically been haunting me: I’m pretty much just waiting for a Jimmy to show up and tell me how he’s going to fix everything for me.

I’m going to save me. I just need to find the door to my windowless basement.

The Bend

Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.
–from Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

I suspect this is relatively normal, but in the past few days, I’ve started to feel overwhelmed by anxiety. Assuming I go full term, which is never a guarantee, I have less than 14 weeks left in my pregnancy. Some of my anxiety is about what’s left to be done – finding daycare is the big one – some of it’s about thinking I should be doing things more/differently/better, some of it’s about labor and delivery, and some of it’s about what comes after. All of it is fucking with my head.

I’ve been having trouble concentrating at work for the past several days. Pre-pregnancy, when my anxiety started affecting me that severely, I’d pop an Ativan to get me through – maybe once a month, if that. Ativan is contraindicated for pregnancy, though, and while a single 10mg pill probably wouldn’t make a difference or cause a problem, I just can’t do it. So I’m stuck trying to use relaxation techniques and whatever the fuck people did before drugs. And I hate it. So now I’m writing about it in the hopes that it will help.

Daycare here is a nightmare. I started looking at 12 weeks – so, in May for care to start late next February – and it was already too late. We want the baby in the city with us during the day for a lot of reasons, but everywhere has waiting lists that are at least 12 or 18 months long. It’s ridiculous and I know we’re going to have to come up with an alternate plan, but that plan doesn’t exist right now. I seem to be sort of counting on the fact that my life has largely been charmed and things just seem to work themselves out. That is a terrible plan.

One of the ways I’ve been dealing with lower levels of anxiety throughout my pregnancy is by buying books. I have What To Expect, The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy, two books on natural birth, two books on breastfeeding, and The Birth Partner, which David is reading. I feel like learning all I can is the only way to feel in control. We’re also going to take a birthing class, like Lamaze, and three prenatal classes my insurance company offers – one each on labor/delivery, breastfeeding, and infant care. I’m way more informed about things than a lot of moms-to-be that I encounter online, and yet I often feel like there’s still so much I don’t know. Maybe I just need to accept that I can’t learn it all, I don’t know, but for a booksmart nerd like me, that’s really hard.

One of the biggest things is worrying about all the things that can go wrong. This is everything from the ridiculous – How do I know this parking garage isn’t going to collapse and bury me in the rubble? What if my house is built on a sinkhole? – to the actually possible – What if I fall on my belly? What if I end up with severe postpartum depression, and worse, what if no one notices and I hurt the baby? I double and triple check before crossing the street, I won’t eat cold lunchmeat or soft cheeses, I don’t walk under scaffolding if I can help it. Some of that’s reasonable, sure, but my brain is starting to have trouble distinguishing the things that aren’t. Maybe it’s time to check back in with my counselor.

I don’t have a good ending for this post, no tidy way to sum everything up.  I guess I’m just putting it all out there so that it’s out there, out of my head.  Maybe even just doing that will help.  Thanks for listening.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.
— Mark Twain

Wednesday’s Writing Group prompt: What is the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?

I am not going to go into details on this (so maybe I’ve picked the wrong thing for this prompt?). Something happened to me – or, more accurately, someone did something to me – many, many years ago. It fucked me up in a lot of ways for a really long time, and probably still does, to an extent.  But the person responsible is not a monster; I don’t hate this person, and I’m not angry at this person. I forgave this person a long time ago and, honestly, it wasn’t even that hard to do.  I’m responsible for me, and any anger or hurt or resentment I carried over what happened only hurt me, kept me from moving forward, so it had to go. And that was the end of that.

I Got Skillz

If I could have, I certainly would not have chosen this particular form, given the bony ideal of our society.  Mine would have been taller, leggier, skinnier-armed.  But since I wasn’t consulted in the matter, and since I walk around in these curves every day, sleep with them every night and wake up with them again, I’ve had to make peace with them.  Consequently, I’ve come to think my body is quite lovely and womanly.
— Geneen Roth*

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Tell us about a skill (other than writing) that you’re currently working on building in your daily life.

So many.  Mostly, or most importantly, I’m working on my health habits.  This means that I’m trying to make making healthy choices a habit.  This means that I’m tracking my food intake and trying to pay attention to my hunger cues.  This means I’m going to the gym or otherwise exercising more days than not (right now it’s 4, so I’ll take it), even when I really don’t want to.  This means I’m learning to recognize that surge that happens after something stressful that automatically makes me think, “I must eat to fix this thing I don’t want to feel anymore, and don’t give me any of that carrot stick shit.”

This also means that I am exhausted.  And resentful.  And hungry. But I keep trying.

* I’m not there yet, but this kind of acceptance is what I strive for.

I Have Thoughts

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.
— Sherlock Holmes, in A Study in Scarlett, by Arthur Conan Doyle

So, this Jezebel article is making the rounds: Weight Watchers Probably Won’t Help You Lose Tons of Weight, So Maybe Stop Dieting?  The article was prompted by Weight Watchers releasing its latest iteration, Weight Watchers 360, this week.  Most of you know I have been on Weight Watchers for more than 6 years; I got the new plan information in my meeting earlier tonight.

There are a lot of different topics covered in this article; let me say up front that I’m not here to debate the science of weight loss.  I know the statistics, I know all about Health at Every Size (HAES), I read several fat-acceptance blogs.  I don’t dispute that many, if not most, people fail at “diets,” and I certainly believe that weight is not a barometer of health.

Also, I don’t disagree with this, either:

the new plan, dubbed Weight Watchers 360, is pretty much almost exactly the same as the last time I attended — “Members will still continue track their food intake with PointsPlus values — numbers assigned to foods based on the content of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and fat,” — with a few more add-ons to purchase.

In fact, as soon as I remembered it was roll-out week, I wondered how long it would be til my leader showed us the new crap to buy, which is always only marginally different than the previous crap.

My main issue with the article is that it appears to have been written by someone who has not experienced Weight Watchers in several years, at least since the switch to the PointsPlus format (as opposed to the plain old Points format), and that the author appears to violate one of my scientist father’s favorite axioms: Anecdote does not equal data.  That is to say, she presents her own experiences with Weight Watchers as the Weight Watchers experience.

So, here’s my experience:  I joined WW when I was 29, the summer between my second and third years of law school.  I was tired of not feeling like I fit, both in the world metaphorically and in my own skin literally.  I lost exactly 50 pounds in exactly one year; it took me a year-and-a-half to lose the next 24.  During that time, I was following the program closely, though not perfectly or religiously.  I was exercising four to five times a week.  Once I got the hang of the program, I didn’t find it difficult at all, but I had a pretty laid back attitude towards things: I recognized that points are not an exact science and I accepted that, when I couldn’t calculate points precisely, I would just have to do my best to estimate.

The Jezebel author said WW and its focus on points caused her to obsess over food; that’s my default, though (healthy or not), so it didn’t feel any different to me.  If anything, I felt more in control of my eating when I was following the program.  Growing up, my mother didn’t allow junk food in the home, at all, and, far from teaching me to eat a balanced diet, I fairly lusted after the things that were forbidden to me.  When I baby-sat and the parents said, on the way out the door, “Help yourself to any snacks,” I was like starved man at a buffet.  When I had to sell candy bars for fundraisers at school, my poor parents always had to cough up the difference to cover the ones I secretly ate.  Because I constantly felt deprived (despite never actually going hungry), food is, to this day, probably the thing that occupies the largest part of my thoughts.

WW gave me structure, and rules, and a limit – when you’re out of points, stop eating. That seems crazy to some people, my husband included.  But I never learned to listen to my body, to feed it when it was hungry and stop when it was satisfied.  When there were good tasting foods to eat, I ate them in quantity, like I might never have them again.  And implicit in the limit is, if you’re still hungry when you’re out of points, you probably aren’t eating the right things, so make your points count nutritionally.  That’s another thing I think the Jezebel writer gets wrong:

If we really wanted to make a difference in national health — from WW to fat kids — we’d be focusing on health. Weight would not be a factor. Programs like “Weight Watchers” would be “Health Watchers” (or, er, something catchier?) and we’d focus on eating fruits and veggies, moving our bodies, and loving ourselves at whatever weight.

But as long as I’ve been a member, WW has, in fact, focused on eating fruits and vegetables, and exercise (Activity Points, anyone?), and not beating yourself up when you stumble (which is a form of loving yourself no matter your weight).  If the author didn’t get that at her meetings, she was going to the wrong meetings.

Speaking of meetings, this is another place where my experience largely diverges from the author’s.  In 6+ years on WW, I have never gone even a single week without attending a meeting.  I’m not kidding – I’ve attended meetings in at least five different states and in Canada.  I’ve gone when I was on vacation, and even while I was on my honeymoon.  My leaders have never “beaten into” our heads the amount of weight they’ve lost; some of them don’t even mention it unless someone asks.  I’ve never seen young children at WW meetings who are actually on the program (and you have to get special permission under 16, I believe, to even join).  I’ve certainly never seen anyone “shamed” at the scale, as the author contends; every receptionist I’ve ever encountered has been exceedingly discreet.  And while I have seen members “brag” about disordered eating behaviors, I’ve also seen my various leaders explain why those behaviors aren’t healthy and help the member identify the need she’s trying to meet and find other, healthier ways to meet it.  As for this:

There were the women who presented, at least to me, as being socially acceptable weights. I sat next to a few of them, and they shared with me the pain of trying to lose the “last five pounds”. Anyone who’s ever been to a WW meeting will let you know that this person is a common fixture. While perhaps not technically underweight, and you can’t tell anything by looking at a person, I’d find it highly unlikely that these people needed to lose weight for medical reasons.

Well.  First, there’s no rule that only people who need to lose weight for medical reasons can join WW.  Second, WW has a weight range for every height (which I believe also takes age into account); as long as you are 5 or more pounds above the low end of the range for your height, you can join.  Third, what the fuck business is it of yours?  The “last 5 pounds” is just as important to her as your 20-, 30-, 40-, or 100-pound goal is to you.  Is it difficult sometimes, as a much heavier woman, to hear a much thinner woman lament how hard it is, when you feel like you’d kill to be the weight she is?  Yes, undoubtedly.  But you are not her.  You don’t live in her body.  And you sure as shit don’t get to judge her or say, essentially, that she has no right to be in that room.

The author also says that WW and its focus on points drove her to disordered eating behaviors, like “starving” herself before meetings, eating whole packages of WW gummies because they were only one point instead of eating an apple, because that’s 2 points (again, this, too, goes to show her info is outdated; fruit is now points-free on WW).  My experience is the opposite: Never in my life has my eating been less disordered than it was during the first three years I was on WW and carefully following the program.  During that time, I was much less likely to hoard food, sneak food, eat alone because I was ashamed of what I was eating, eat until I felt my stomach was going to explode, binge eat, eat mindlessly, etc, etc, ad nauseum.  My entire eating life prior to WW, and in the last 3.5 years, has been defined by those behaviors (why is another post altogether and beside the point for today).  It was only with the structure and support that WW provided me that I was able to eat like a normal person.  I finally fit.

Now, obviously, I have gained back all of the weight I lost, plus 12 pounds, over the course of the last four years.  That places me among the storied 95% of people who reportedly are unable to sustain their weight loss.  That’s not WW’s fault, though, and to suggest it’s a failure of the program is folly.  WW didn’t stop working for me, the way the author claims it did for her.  I stopped following the program, first in small ways, and later altogether (I never stopped going to meetings, though, because I never wanted weight loss as a goal to fade from view; also my unbroken meeting streak is kind of a freakish point of pride for me).

It started when I began dating my husband and wanted to make him all the foods he loved and join him in enjoying them, and when it was more important to spend time with him than to go to the gym.   Basically, I made the decision at that point that something else was more important, and my lack of diligence caught up with me.  Over the last several years, I’ve made numerous halfhearted attempts at following the program for a few days here and there, but I never put in the same level of effort that I did back in the beginning, and so I never saw any results that would lead me to keep putting in the effort.  It’s a vicious cycle.

But.  I know WW would work for me again if I really committed to it.  I’ve never met anyone who truly followed the program (and not even “religiously,” just mostly) for whom WW did not work.  I’m not saying those people don’t exist; the Jezebel author claims to be one of them.  I’m saying, that’s not my experience and the experience of many of the people I actually know who have done WW.  And I’ve known A LOT of them.

My purpose in writing all of this is not say how WW actually is; it’s merely a counterpoint to the Jezebel article, because I feel that author did try to say how WW is, and I don’t believe that any one person’s experience is universal.  Accordingly, as they say on the internet, your mileage may vary.

P.S. Was I the only one who thought it was awesome that the name of the researcher quoted in the Jezebel  article — an article about weight loss — was Dr. Bacon?