Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Receiver of the Slain

She stares up the stairs. He looks down at her with his cold blue eyes, well, at least they feel cold to her. She wouldn’t even know if his body felt warm. Standing on the landing, he stops, covers his mouth and coughs. His eyes widen, his hand full of blood. It drips from his mouth, slides down his chin and onto his stiff white collar shirt. Isabel stands frozen at the bottom of the stairs.

“Thor,” she manages to whisper.

And then he tumbles down the steep steps his large athletic body limp, blood trailing. Life suddenly moves in slow motion. Somehow she dials 911. Somehow she kneels down over his body. What do you do when someone you hate is lying on the floor bleeding? Isabel wants a flicker of love and hope to course through her veins, but she is numb. She isn’t a monster. She helps. She opens the door for the EMTs. She watches as they wipe away the blood to administer CPR. She is in the ambulance. At the hospital.

She is listening to a doctor. She wonders if she should fall to her knees. She has blood on her hands. She feels like Lady MacBeth. Except Lady Macbeth felt guilt. A blood clot, they tell her, filled his lungs.

"He must have had symptoms, Mrs. Erickson."

"Dr. Erickson-Fink," she wants to correct him with his white coat and sympathetic face.

“I’m sorry. There was nothing we could do.”

Thor and his light eyes and blond hair and broad shoulders is dead. His anger is dead. His silence is dead. His cold unforgiving stares- dead. His late night texting with god knows who- dead. And relief washes over her-- blood still covering her hands and her clothes. Tears flow down her face as she sinks to the ground. A nurse reaches out to comfort her. Isabel cringes. Isabel feels like sin. Isabel feels lightened and guilty. Someone takes her arm, lifts her up.

“Do you want to see him?”

Does she want to see him? She closes her eyes and tries to remember what it was like to love him. She tries to remember when his breath on her neck felt like heaven. Instead her brain shifts to the phrase she’s uttered over and over again in her head all these years, “I wish he would just hit me, and then maybe he’d feel bad.” And now he’s dead and they expect her to view his lifeless body. Hasn’t his body always been lifeless? Or maybe just loveless. She wants to scream and run and tell someone the confused tangled thoughts invading her mind. She puts her hand over her eyes. She knows she looks like grief.

“Do you want to call someone. His parents, perhaps?”

Isabel looks up, wanting to laugh. Thor was alone in America. She used to believe he was alone because his family was heartless. Now she knew that he was heartless. "Was that too dramatic," Isabel wonders. "Does shock bring drama?"

Soon, she is whisked into his hospital room. The room is cold and white. He is cold and white. She sucks in her breath. For a moment Isabel wants to touch him to take her husband in her arms and breath life back into him. He was already almost not her husband anymore. And now, she is a widow.

A nurse interrupts her thoughts. "Mrs. Erickson?"

“Isabel, you can spend as much time as you need dear."

And then what?” This isn’t a movie where people know what to do. Where people have plans. She is unprepared. His body still lies there. “Cover him up!” she wants to scream. “Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Leave me alone!" Thor. I worked so hard to be brave enough to leave you. I almost worked up the courage. Thor, I can’t remember loving you. I want to feel love right now. I want to feel horror that another human being has dropped dead in front of me.

She slumps to the floor again. Isabel doesn’t want to see him again. She wants him to be taken away.

She wants to be alone.

She is totally alone.

She is free.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Body Cleanse

Last month, a friend, whose book I am editing, shared with me a new cleanse system she is following: a regimen of two shakes a day and one healthy meal, a host of extra vitamins and two cleanse days per week for the first two weeks. Something about her enthusiasm struck me. And for some reason, I wanted to jump on board. She was happy to guide me. There was something inside me that screamed- I can do this! The question, of course, is why. Why do I want to jump on board. Is it about health? Is it about weight? Is it about body image? Am I giving in? Am I selling out? Am I? Am I? Why Why why?

I struggle with this issue on many levels. My most public fight is the body-positive feminist in me who dreams of opening a plus-size boutique and fights for women like me to know they are beautiful despite what society might say otherwise. But my private fight is with my history, the long line of disordered eaters in my lineage, my own defiant eating, my holding onto the weight of rebellion, of grief, and of the struggle to feel normal. I walk around with the feeling that I am beautiful in spite of not because of my body. I walk around with confidence and horror; pride and shame.

The most private answer to why is that I want another baby. 

Bam, I said it. Now, it’s out there in the universe. Besides being single (which isn’t a factor that would necessarily stop me from getting pregnant), I don’t feel that my body is in a place to get and be pregnant. I’m not asking for much from my body. I’m not asking to be skinny or even non-plus-size. Just….different.

Another piece of the conversation is my heart. People jump to what they think is the obvious reason: my heart. Yes, I just had open heart surgery. Yes, there are people who are overweight that need open heart surgery. My surgery, however, was about structural deformities that I was born with. There is no plaque filling my arteries, my blood pressure is not high, and I don’t even high cholesterol. Why am I even telling you this? Because I am sick of justifying my weighted existence. I am sick of people who think they have the answers to my questions.

I have mixed feelings about my body image. On one hand, I am beautiful, I have great style, and as everyone knows, I am never lacking in the dating arena. But then it happened...that moment every fat girl dreads-- being called out by a stranger. Not a total stranger. My best friend’s new boyfriend.  I met him for the first time on New Year’s Eve. It was a great night. Or, so I thought. He had one huge problem with the whole night: me.  Everything about me irked him: from my cleavage to my clothes to my open conversation. But what irked him the most was my fat. I can’t recall everything my best friend relayed to me, but the gist of it was that he couldn’t understand why I was fat. Why was I occupying so much space? (Frankly, I think every way I occupied space bothered him and not just my weight). 

She quickly dumped him, but his words stuck with me. They occupied  the deepest weakest part of my being. Some dumb, immature, grown up man who cared for no apparent reason (if we had been on a date and he wasn’t attracted to me, that is a completely different story. That I can understand and that doesn’t hurt me) had pointed out my biggest fear--- like he’d unraveled some deep dark secret. I suddenly felt the space I was occupying. My normal confident shell cracked ever so slightly. (okay, maybe more than slightly).

So, then my friend comes along with this shake program and suddenly, I’m like, fuck it. Why not?

Except after a pretty successful two weeks the culture of the program gets under my skin. I am in awe of the results pictures in our support group, and there are things I really enjoy reading and sharing, but it really isn’t a support group. It’s a virtual pep rally, and I’ve never really been one for pep rallies. I’ve come across real issues. The cleanse drink for the two consecutive cleanse days makes me violently ill. It’s gotten to the point that I can’t even think about it without getting nauseous. 

While my friend has been amazing about it, the group as a whole just seems to think I should work harder at it. Suck it up. Drink it anyway. My body thinks it poison and I should drink it so that I’ll get skinnier faster? Is that healthy? Then there is the fact that you aren’t supposed to eat for two days. Just drink the drink. Last night, I couldn’t do it, so I ate some veggies, and guess what? I felt like I’d failed. Eating veggies made me feel like a failure. 

Am I setting myself up for disordered eating? What kind of example am I setting for my kids?

That’s the one I struggle with the most. I didn’t have someone to teach me healthy eating. I was taught to fear food. And to not eat in front of my children seems like a terrible idea. If I should change anything, it should be modeling a positive, healthy, and smart connection to food.

I have no really answers right now, just a million questions I’m throwing out into the universe. I have no intention of giving up the program. For the most part, I really enjoy it, but I need a little more reality with my cleanse. I need someone else to say- this sucks! I’m miserable. I’m confused. I’m struggling. and I want the answer to be...me too. me too.