Monday, January 26, 2009

Five pounds

That's how much I've lost since Christmas. The scale is now giving me a number in the 160's for the first time in at least 5 years.

As I've said before, I am NOT a model for how to lose weight. This is because the weight I gain, I gain by depressive eating and bodily neglect. In order to be fat, I need to eat more than feels comfortable, to eat most of that in crash-and-burn carbs, and throw in some big helpings of sedentary on top of it. Right now, at my current size, all I need to do to lose weight is cue my eating to my hunger instead of my emotions, and make sure I have some exercise in my life. "All"--um, yeah, you're right, it's not actually so easy to manage, but compared to someone whose body's set point is in the obese range? My kind of weight loss story is not fun to hear about, or desirable as a goal. I feel a little guilty, actually, like I'm not adequately protecting my inner fat girl. But I'm still really, really happy about it.

I've been at it awhile, at slower and faster paces, but never anything but gradual, sometimes with upwards hiccups. I'm not dieting, I'm just paying attention to how my body feels when I eat, and honoring that: intuitive eating. Sometimes I go up a few pounds, and I figure it was something I needed, physically or psychologically or emotionally, and I don't sweat it. I figure the loss will start again when I'm ready, and so far it always has. After 18 months of watching a downward trend on the scale, I know I'm going to settle in somewhere, and every time I stick at a weight for a couple of months I have been figuring out how to get used to that shape as my permanent (ish) body, but I do think I have a ways to go yet.

I gotta say I hope it's not too soon. Losing weight is like years of depression coming off my body. It's like bringing myself back to myself. It's like taking up a place in the world after retreating to a hermitage. It's like taking a slow journey back to my body-image home, where the body I imagine I have is the same one people see. I won't do it if I have to actually diet, but I would like it if I wound up back where I was before my my size started creeping up. It would feel like a complete recovery--but I'll take any amount of recovery.

Five pounds since Christmas: it's not a huge amount. But it's taken me around some crucial bend, where I find myself feeling fond of my belly again: I have a round belly. I intend to keep it round. It's been round my whole life, but until these last five pounds came off, I didn't like the shape of it. Now, today, I do. It feels good.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My mother's gingerbread recipe

For Turtle Wexler and Phantom. This makes a sweet, cakey kind of gingerbread.

1/2 c. butter, softened--and soften up some extra for hard sauce, too
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. clove

1 c. molasses

1 c. boiling water

confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 x 8 baking pans or one lasagna pan.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the sugar in the butter. Add eggs and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients with the molasses and combine thoroughly. (While you're mixing is the time to turn on the kettle.)

Add the boiling water last. I like to use the molasses cup to measure the boiling water and stir it a little, to get all the molasses into the cake. Mix until smooth.

Pour into pan(s). Bake 45 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Set out to cool slightly.

While the cake is baking, prepare the hard sauce--this is not really optional, unless you are very silly about your priorities regarding calories and deliciousness. Real, actual hard sauce apparently involves alcohol, but this is how we always made it in our house:

Take some softened butter and a more or less equal amount of confectioners sugar. How much is up to you, but a little goes a long way, though, so I'd start with a couple tablespoons, and you can always make more. Mix with a fork until completely combined. Add more sugar or more butter, to taste.

Eating a bite of hot gingerbread with a dab of hard sauce is pretty much the best antidote to winter I can think of.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Over at Songbird's yesterday, she wrote about the effect rheumatoid arthritis had on her last year, which rang bells for me with my own diagnosis of osteoarthritis, which is a very different kind of beast--it's repetitive stress, rather than autoimmune--but which was my first encounter with a chronic condition in my body.

I learned I had it early in 1997, after spending the fall of 1996 with increasingly crippling pain in my right arm. I was 25. I walked a mile each way to campus, I was a gym rat, I went out dancing twice most weekends, and I was in the middle of a one year night-school course in massage that was revolutionizing my understand of both the body and my body. It changed my life so profoundly that I can't clearly recall what it was like to be me before I was in it.

In massage school, you learn by doing, but also by receiving. Twice a week, we took turns learning how to work on each part of the body, lavishing weeks of attention on the back, with all its overlapping layers of muscle running up the spine; on the thick, heat-generating quadriceps and the hamstrings that insert at the crease where the thigh meets the ass; on the muscles of the hand that actually begin at the elbow and lie along the forearm. Our fingertips learned how to feel through five layers of muscle to the processes of each cervical verterbra. We studied body mechanics and moved from our feet and our hips and our own shoulders as we stood at the head of the table and kneaded out tension from our partners' shoulders.

Before massage school, I felt like I lived in another country from anyone else's body, and as for my own, I trusted my legs to walk and my fingers to make things, and that was about the extent of it. Massage school got me hooked on anatomy and physiology, which made intuitive sense to me and was just so cool. (I realized that while I would have hated medical school, I would have made a pretty good nurse or physician's assistant.) And as I came to understand how it worked, I came to like my own body much better. I also, strangely and wonderfully to me, became the knower of my friends' bodies, not just the friends I made in massage school with oil on my hands, but the graduate school friends who knew me from seminar tables and let me work on them, and later even paid me a little, as I got good enough to feel like I could charge.

In the middle of this, though, my right arm started to hurt, and kept on hurting, and simply wouldn't stop. I finally went to the doctor, who sent me to a specialist, who felt around in my wrist and told me it was arthritis, with attendant tendinitis extending to my elbow. Massage is a repetitive, weight-bearing activity, and writing, typing, and knitting had already put so much stress on the joint that it simply couldn't keep up. I went on a painkiller that made me spacy, and found a brace for my wrist, and laid off everything for a few weeks, then gingerly added things back in as I could. I tried to knit slower. I got a support for my wrist at my keyboard, and a trackball instead of a mouse. I did less writing longhand. I gave up Minesweeper--and, eventually, regretfully massage. I finally accepted that giving one hour's massage was going to cost me two days to recover, and really, I never fully felt the pain go away until well after I'd stopped.

It wasn't hard, accepting that creating and thinking--knitting and writing--were more important in my life than doing bodywork, and that the point had never been to make a long-term career out of it. I finished the course, though, and even took one continuing ed class. I'm not sure how to wrap this up, but that course was worth far more to me than anything I learned for my master's degree.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bring on 2009!

Hi, all. I didn't really want to check on how long it's been since I abandoned you the last time I posted, but then I checked anyway: it seemed like a million years, but it turns out it wasn't quite two weeks, which for me isn't that long of a gap. The good news hiding inside my tenuous grip on the passage of time is that it got so busy at the store that it felt like there would be no end to it--even though, alas, I knew to treasure every single $1500 day. We were slammed, crazy-busy with lines of people at the register at the high points in the day. I haven't run the numbers on the month yet (the store's closed today) but I suspect I'm going to find we're still down from last December: everyone is, all through retail, and I don't have any reason to believe we're different, but it wasn't for lack of customers. The month started slow, and we didn't have as many large sales, but I'm pretty sure we had at least as many transactions as last year. This is good, whatever financial stuff comes down the pike. We're doing something right, if people in the 'hood are choosing to bring their dollars to us when dollars are scarcer.

I'm not going back to last New Year's Day in any kind of archival way, but I suspect, without looking, that it sucked royally, and last January went downhill from there. This year, I'm feeling okay. It's been a better start, anyway. I've been living my life pretty intensely these past few years, and 2008 was up there for intensity. In the lows I was a furious, sobbing, wreck, curled tighly into myself, unreachable: the highs were like sunshine and chocolate and swimming a mile and the feel of your baby's cheek under your lips. The work I did getting from the first to the second was really fucking hard, not that I was doing it alone--well, that's the point, that's what I had to learn how to do, to uncurl and let myself be reached, to trust the love around me. It's harder than it looks, this trust business. I'm hoping it gets easier, though, that this year the direction is uphill, not down. I'm hoping, I'm hoping.