I stood on the scale and closed my eyes as the nurse read the number. I winced. I knew things had gotten bad again. I just didn’t know how bad.
Some people drink when they’re under stress; or they smoke. I think we all find some way to self-medicate when we feel awful. I eat. I binge in the evening and then mindlessly snack until bedtime.
“Dad, you eat, like, enough for four people,” my son tells me.
Sometimes, I do, and I’ve been under a lot of pressure for a very long time.
For great chunks of time. I can offset the calories with exercise. It’s a perverse take on the old weight loss equation –take in less than you burn up. Instead, I burn up as much as I take in –or I did.
I’d go to the gym, pump iron, I’ll swim, walk or trot. I’d find chores that kept me active, that kept the weight at bay, but with the looming bankruptcy of my newspaper followed by news that it was likely going to be sold to a company with a reputation for slashing jobs and cutting services to churn out what would barely pass as a free shopper paper, I felt crushed by forces I had little control over.
Either way it came down, it was going to be hard. If I lost my job, bankruptcy and ruin seemed right around the corner. If I kept my job, I’d be pushed to do more than I already did, which is often in the neighborhood of too much.
Add to that, I already wasn’t sleeping well. I felt isolated and alone. Things at home were chaotic. Money kept getting tighter and I couldn’t see a way out.
Then my mother died.
Mom had been sick for a while, longer than the time she’d been at the nursing home in Virginia. Before her stroke, she’d fallen down a couple of times. My sister, Laura, told me that Mom’s hip was probably going to need to be replaced. Her back was a problem, too, had been for decades.
Mom hadn’t take care of herself. She’d been defiant of her diabetes for a couple of years, ate whatever she wanted regardless, and her weight had always been awful.
She didn’t exercise. Her weight, back and hip made it hard for her to walk much more than the length of a shopping mall and back.
After the stroke, Mom’s health began to steadily disintegrate. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Her diabetes became more difficult to control. She struggled sometimes to even breathe. Then in the last year, she’d had a couple of incidents where she’d gone unresponsive and had to be brought back around in a hospital emergency room.
Her death wasn’t a surprise, but it was still a shock. I’m still living with it –the grief and the guilt of it.
For most of her time at the nursing home, Mom shared a room with a delusional old woman who sometimes babbled out of her head and out of her time.
The room they shared was smaller than my college dorm room, and Mom spent most of her time watching television. She’d used to love to read, but reading was harder for her now, and she couldn’t really do the old math puzzles like she had before.
I hated visiting. The facility unnerved me. Sometimes, you could hear residents up the hall, out of their minds, screaming until they were hoarse. Others, hollow-eyed and silent, would creep the hallways in their wheelchairs, peering through open doors to gawk and stare.
My mother’s declining condition frightened me. We struggled to find things to talk about sometimes. Mom’s world had shrunk considerably and I couldn’t stretch out my life for longer than a couple of hours.
I didn’t go as often as I should have and I didn’t call nearly often enough.
Mom died and these are the things I think about a lot.
Then the paper was sold, not to who we expected, but to someone else. We had to apply for our jobs, which seemed to be mostly a formality. Decisions had probably already been made.
There were cuts. They weren’t lethal, but they still hurt.
Things began to settle. It was like looking around after a storm had passed, surveying the damage and trying to figure out what to do next.
Over the last six months, I’d been putting on weight, which was contrary to what my doctor had told me to do six months ago. He’d told me to lose 20. Instead, I’d gained almost 30, which earned me another pill to take every morning because of high cholesterol, a result of all the extra calories.
I felt pretty bad, too. Exercise at the gym had been inconsistent. I’d stopped going to my self-defense class, wasn’t really going as often as I needed to be part of the Kanawha Kordsmen.
Instead, I was staying home alone a lot, watching hour after hour of Netflix while scrolling through Facebook.
But I’m trying to right things. I dumped Facebook off my phone a week ago. I’m working on getting away from even looking at it on my off-time. I’m also cutting back on my television viewing, reading a lot more and trying to get back on track with my resolutions. I’m working on straightening out my schedule, making an effort to not eat as much garbage or eat as much of anything.
The blog is part of the process, too. My head is not together at this point and I recognize that, but I think I can fix this.
I hope there will be noticeable progress by the time I officially launch this thing in a month. I guess we’ll see.