This Blog post started out as a response to a Blog written by Debra0818 called "Addiction (Dec 26)". It started getting out of hand for a response entry. Debra seemed to have struck a nerve or conjured up something I needed to talk about. So, I offer it here as a Blog entry with thanks to Debra for the inspiration!
My father was a brilliant, kind, quiet, well-loved man. His response when anyone would ask how he was, was always the same, an enthusiastic and jolly, "fat and sassy!" Everyone loved him and his ability to make fun of himself. He laughed, too!
In truth, he would have likely been considered morbidly obese. In today's world, I imagine he would have been recommended for bariatric surgery, but in the era in which he lived and on the income we had, it was not an option. It was also MUCH more dangerous then -- probably more dangerous than the weight he carried. He tried many times to lose weight, but never really lost more than a few pounds...and even then, they would come back on at the first celebration of any kind or holiday which in our family was ALWAYS about food.
Despite his size, my father was a VERY active man. He worked and supervised hard labor construction and road jobs. He was outside all day and came home exhausted, usually sunburned and sweaty -- even in the winter. Through all of that he was a gentle man who loved his children, his wife, and the miscellaneous pets we collected. He was a serious businessman and worker who was well respected by his superiors as well as the laborers who reported to him. I obviously adored him!
Despite his deeply private self and quiet ways, he told me once through teary eyes that he thought he had an addiction to food. I was young and not sure I understood, but had the good sense to ask him why. He said almost every day he vowed to change his ways, to eat less, to eat healthier. But, when the food was put before him, he just loved it so and wanted to eat it. It made him feel GOOD! He felt he could not resist it, that he was somehow addicted.
I often wondered why he chose ME to tell this to. The truth is that I was the one most like him. I looked like him, shared many personality traits, cared about education as he did...and I was also the one who struggled the most with my weight. People would often say, "YOU must be one of Mr. Matkin's daughters! You look like him in every way!" While I was flattered, I always assumed that they also meant I was fat, just like my dad...a confusing thing to process as a child.
My father died 20 years ago, very suddenly at age 66 from something that had nothing whatsoever to do with his weight. He was a healthy man and we were shocked to lose him. When I think back to the day he told me that he thought he was an addict, it makes me incredibly sad. Sad because I think I know how he felt and what he went through...
It is an odd thing to lie in bed at night hating yourself for messing up again, but by morning making a promise that you will never feel that way again. THIS is the day! Everything will be different! I'll make a few small changes -- just a few. Then I'll keep going! I'll feel good about myself! Then...a week or two later or even the very next night, it begins again with more self hating, judgment and promises to change! But, THIS time...
It is excruciating to HATE having your picture taken because you are always surprised and repulsed at your own image when you see it. Smiling, laughing with friends and family, or doing something you love...it should be a celebratory thing. But, when all you see is that body -- Is it the angle? Is it the clothes? Can I REALLY be that big? I look gigantic next to (insert almost any name here). How do I even live with myself? How do OTHERS put up with me? I obviously am a failure. Just LOOK, and you will see!
Is this how my father felt? My lovely, wonderful, kind, smart, compassionate father? Did he berate himself in the middle of the night? Did he HATE all of the pictures that I so cherish of him?
It may seem too late to be talking about this, but, I DO believe my father and I can do this together now. I truly believe I did not lose my connection to him when he passed on.I admit to being very afraid. How can I fail so many times and then keep trying again? "Fall down 7 times, get up 8," right?
So, here I am getting up again. Actually, I "got up" this time a few weeks ago after another major backslide. But, I still fear the end of the holiday break and a return to a very busy job -- which I love, but is incredibly demanding! I'm going forward and hoping, committing, vowing, that I can be the person my father would want me to be...and more importantly, the person I want to be. AND I'll try not to be so hard on myself if things don't go as I had planned...again. I'll get up again.
This, like any other habit...or possibly addiction, must start with caring about myself and then doing what needs to be done to be kind and loving to me and also to those around me by bringing my best, most fulfilled self forward. This is the legacy my father left for me, and one that I can pass on.
GinaBug (a nickname given to me by my father, by the way!)