In last Friday’s post (see “I’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”), I wrote about how I’ve been reading some of my old journals for my book project (more on that later). Here’s another post, albeit a bit darker, about this looking into my past via my own words.
1987. I was 23 for half the year, my daughters were 4 and not quite 3, and I was married to husband #2. I was dieting, as usual (I weighed about 250), and wrote a lot about my first husband who’d been dead only four years.
Much of this particular journal was painful to read, especially knowing the outcome of marriage #2 and the growing pains I endured as a mother. In this journal, I wrote about the time I told Carlene to shut up. I felt horrible and went to her room and apologized. She hugged me, not wanting to say anything because if she did she knew she’d cry, and Carlene hated to cry.
Soon after that entry, I’d found a poem by Peter Meinke that I copied in my journal. In the margin I wrote “daughter Carly” next to the author’s reference to his son Peter. Here’s the poem:
This is a poem to my son Peter
Whom I have hurt a thousand times, whose large and vulnerable eyes have glazed in pain at my ragings
Thin wrists and fingers hung boneless in despair
Pale, freckled back bent in defeat
Pillows soaked by my failure to understand
I have scarred through weakness and impatience your frail confidence forever
Because when I needed to strike, you were there to be hurt
And because I thought you knew you were beautiful and fair, your bright eyes and hair
But now I see that no one knows that about himself
But must be told and retold until it takes hold
Because I think anything can be killed after awhile, especially beauty
So I write this for life, for love, for you, my oldest son Peter, age 10 going on 11
I copied this poem because it reminded me of Carlene, of my failings as a mother to understand her fears and vulnerabilities. While I didn’t yell often, and not always at my children, when I did, it ruined so much of the good we had. It made them walk on egg shells, not wanting to rock the boat of my inability to express myself more civilly.
I remember clearly the day in 1992 when I slammed the phone a dozen times and shattered it in the receiver after fighting with my almost ex-husband. Carlene, brave and soft, said to me, “Mommy, it scares me when you yell.” She was 9. She said her sister agreed. Carlene faced me knowing my response might be more anger. But it wasn’t. I was embarrassed and humbled and so very very sorry for having frightened my children. I was rarely ever angry at them. I was angry at my life. Angry at death and hardship. Angry at myself for bad choices and regret. I promised her I’d never yell again, and I truly made every effort not to. I still had my moments, but at least in those moments I remembered Carlene and her brave voice telling me how she felt and my tone was less venomous.
Reading my journals is rarely a happy trip down memory lane. I seemed to always write about the bad stuff of me, flogging myself nightly for the things I did wrong and not the things I did right.
I’ve done this often with my body, too. Even now, I get angry sometimes when I think about what I’ve done to it and for what it can’t do anymore, much of it due to having been morbidly obese. But just as I promised my daughter I’d try my best to never yell at her again, I’m going to promise myself to do my best to stop the cycle of anger, grief and guilt I put myself through with much frequency. I will do this by journaling more positively and finding alternatives to self-flagellation as solutions to my perceived failings.
One positive alternative and something that makes me happy is to share things that have been helpful to me throughout my weight loss and now in maintenance. What I’ve found is that the more informed I am about food and exercise and the psychology of what motivates me or holds me back the more successful I am. Knowledge is power and so I’m passing some power on to you.
I’ve gone through my book shelves and found 11 books and two DVDs that I’m going to give away here, one at a time until they’re gone. The only thing I ask in return is that if you win a book or DVD that you either pass it on when you’re done (if you’ve found it helpful and can part with it) or keep it and donate a non-perishable healthy food item to your local food shelf.
Pure &Simple Stretch” with Karen Voight. Not only is this a great introduction to stretching (or if you already stretch, this could teach you some new, interesting moves), Karen Voight has a calming presence. We can all use that now and again.
Leave a comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to throw your name in the hat for this DVD. I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday.
Regarding my book: I have completed the proposal (which, ask any published author, is a bear and often harder than writing the entire book). It is being shopped around by my agent, so right now it’s up to publishing industry. WHEN someone buys it (I’m staying as positive as I can), I will then finish writing the book. So it will be at least a year, but I thank you so much for your support.