Sunday, September 6, 2009

You Can't Fast Forward through the Grieving Process

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed the past few weeks. There have been many things I wanted to post about, yet, I couldn't find the focus to sit down and write.

I have been feeling regret and sadness. These are not feelings I usually do well with. My usual reaction is to sleep and isolate (along with eating) and sort of disassociate from the unpleasant feelings.

I have been keeping up with the blogs. Frankly, I am a little exhausted with all the politics, the fat hat, and mostly the disappointment that my family cannot understand and appreciate me and my journey here.

I arranged with my sister in law to surprise the family at her beach house on the jersey shore. A lot of the family was visiting and she and I colluded that I would come down to spend some time with the family. I don't particularly like taking the train, however, it is bearable during off peak hours. I expected to take a ride back with my parents the next day as they planned to return to the city. There was a little confusion about my arrival time, which we worked out via a few text messages and I had an uneventful two hour train ride to the lovely upscale beach town where they built the " Dream House" I don't visit them during the summer there because they do not use the air conditioning and I am extra sensitive to the heat and humidity. Luckily this last week of summer was mild and I felt up to spending some time down there.

When I arrived there was a very weird energy, a strange dynamic. Everyone seemed distant and no one made eye contact with me except my delicious nephews. At some point shortly after we greeted each other with polite kisses on the cheeks, (usually we hug each other when we haven't seen each other for some time) my Father apologized that he wouldn't be able to give me a ride home because he was taking my two nephews back to the city with them. I questioned why the three of us could sit in the back seat. In my mind these are two tiny boys and my dad has the giant lexus sedan (a late model one before they made the back seat smaller) My sister in law sort of chimed in that the boys have grown a lot. My father sort of disappeared from the room and the way the exchange went down made me uncomfortable, suspicious, and a little angry. I didn't push on the issue because I wasn't in the mood for a confrontation but I was ready to get back on a train and go home.

Later on while playing cards with my nephews, (the loving, fun part of the visit) I asked the boys if they still used the booster seats. I was going to ask them if they were uncomfortable sitting in the back seat with me but i decided against it as I didn't want to involve them in whatever it was that was going on.

A little later on my dad said something about he was sorry he couldn't fit my walker into the trunk and take me home. I thought to myself, hey, wait a minute, my sister in law said it was because my nephews have grown. Now my father is saying it is about space in the trunk for my walker. My bullshit meter was topping out. I didn't feel like getting into it so I just kept quite.

When dinner was announced, we were summoned to the patio table in the back yard. The patio chairs were uncomfortable for me 60 pounds ago. I quietly went outside and asked my sister in law if there was a chair without arms that i could bring outside. She said there wasn't one. The dining room chairs were all without arms but again, I didn't want to get into it with them. So I positioned a picnic bench perpendicular to the round table and went inside to wash my hands. When I got back outside the bench was placed parallel to the table. They asked me if that was okay and I told them yes. I was very upset at this point. The weirdness around the car ride home. My sister in law not offering to allow me to bring out a chair and asking me to use an entire picnic bench. Now I couldn't make eye contact with any of them as I was just disgusted with their disgust of me.

Then the migraine hit me. It has been years since I had one. I started seeing the white spots and got very sensitive to the light very fast. I jumped up and made myself two shots of expresso ( my remedy for a migraine - only works if you get the caffeine in your system as soon as the spots come) and I withdrew to my bedroom to be in the dark. I now see this was my body getting me out of the vicinity of the family who seemed to be deceiving me in some way about the ride back into the city the next morning and my sister in laws ungraciousness towards me about the chair. The migraine was my excuse to get away from all of them.

My brother in law was able to get out early from his job and he came down to the beach which enabled me to catch a ride back to the city with him in the morning. When I got in the car, he said, your much larger than the last time I saw you. I didn't respond, but I thought, there are a lot worse things in life than being larger and for the first time in my life I am finding a little dignity, community, and happiness thanks to my involvement in the Fat Acceptance Community. Again, I just didn't want to get into it.

My sleep that night, next to an open window, with the cool ocean breeze comforting me as I rested was really nice. The ocean views were beautiful. My brother's beach house is very beautiful.

So I guess I will not be going back to any family functions at the beach house, or to my parents house in the Berkshires. If I do go, I am going to make sure that I have my own transportation, as I am not interested in comments about my size as I accept a ride back from anyone. I guess if I do go I should bring my own folding chair so I can sit comfortably when the family wants to eat outside. Who am I kidding. I don't think I am going to be visiting anyone at their summer homes anymore. I just don't have the emotional strength right now to deal with what appears to be drama for them and for me.

I wonder, is this all my shit? Is all this emotional stuff on my side of the street? Should I have specifically asked my sister in law about the dining room chair? Should I have asked her what she was talking about when she said her boys had gotten bigger and needed the entire Lexus back seat to themselves? Should I have asked my father why he was telling me about an overloaded trunk when my sister in law was telling me that the boys needed the room in the back seat to themselves as the reason why they couldn't give me a ride home? Should I have told my stepbrother that I'd prefer for him to not make comments to me about my size anymore when he was nice enough to offer me a ride home?

This morning, my other sister just invited the family to her home for a brunch. Do I ask her to make sure there is a comfortable chair without arms for me to sit at when we eat? Do I decline the invitation?

I have been involved with a spiritual teacher over the last four years who says there is nothing more important than that I feel good. Thinking about this family get together and the ones that are coming up does not make me feel good. It makes me feel bad. I put the boundaries in place about discussions of my weight or my food or my health. They are honoring them. I know that when there is a family dinner at my parents house, there give me a chair without arms for my comfort.

I love them and I feel badly that they are so convinced that I am killing myself with fat that I can feel them holding themselves back from saying stuff when we are together.

So much of whatever little positive personal identity I had was linked to being a part of this loving family. Now, with my Fat line drawn in the sand with everyone, I am not feeling drawn to spending time with a lot of them. This is very sad for me.

The song, "You Lost that Loving Feeling" sort of sums up how I am feeling about most of my family right now. I guess claiming my own personal right to be, via Fat Acceptance, might also mean letting go of some of my identity as a member of a fun loving family and accepting that things are changing as I move on in my life which they see as a self justification for staying fat and I see as my first authentic chance at a happy life.

I just wish I could fast forward through the grieving process.


  1. I've only read your blog twice, so I'm a stranger totally unqualified to comment. But that's not stopping me. :)

    Your family has drunk the weight Kool-aid, and they aren't prepared to see you as anything but walking death as a fat man; that much seems evident. Or rather, they can't...unless you educate them.

    I read a lot of, "Well, I didn't say anything because I just didn't want the hassle." And that's a valid coping strategy, sometimes. But it seems like perhaps you're expecting a little too much from them on the mind-reading and consideration front. Clearly, they're not able to think in ways that are considerate of you on their own, and you let them off the hook, every time. It wasn't okay that you couldn't move a chair. It wasn't okay that someone moved the picnic bench from how you'd set it to accommodate you. I don't know where you live in reference to your folks, so I can't speak to the transport issue--if you are a surprise guest, you really can't expect people to be your surprise ride home, even if those people are family.

    I think you have to have the conversation. It doesn't have to be heated or emotional, but if you're not willing to be considerate of your needs, why should anyone else? Next time, go into the dining room and grab a chair that works for you. It's your sister, not a stranger, right? And if anyone asks, you just say matter-of-factly, "This type of chair is most comfortable for me, thanks." Or when your sis asked if it was okay that the picnic bench was moved back to its original position, you can say, "Actually, no. I moved it that way so that I could be more comfortable; I'm sure you understand." She'd be a pretty shitty hostess to insist on parallel benches at the cost of her own brother's comfort, wouldn't she?

    Believe me, I understand needing to distance yourself from family for your own mental health. However, before you take such a drastic step (one that, in your own words, causes you to grieve), perhaps you need to make it clear that you will see to your own needs without apology. Do so enough times, and they might catch on; and if they don't, well, you know you tried.

    When we're fat, it's easy to assume everything is about our being fat. Sometimes it is. But sometimes people are clueless, sometimes people are asses, sometimes they're both. Sometimes we're projecting onto other people the stuff we still haven't dealt with in our own minds. Like not being worthy of our own reasonable defense, or like our miniature martyrdom in the face of easily correctable situations. You deserve a seat at the table, literally and figuratively.

    Good luck.

  2. I agree with Kristie that it's hard to know what you were perceiving and what was really intended on their part, but that doesn't preclude you from deserving their respect and acceptance. I'd remember, though, that you are also knew to the fat acceptance thing and in the same way that it's not an overnight thing for you, it's definitely going to be a process for them.

    Perhaps that's all the more reason to do as Kristie suggested and talk to them more repeatedly about this stuff, not confrontationally, but to let them know they need to treat you differently. Perhaps in the same way that you set a boundary on the discussion about your size, you can open up the discussion about your self-acceptance journey but when they say your size is bad for you, just reply with the same line every time. Maybe something like, "Science has proven that fat and weight do not kill people." Or anything like that. Just repeat it to the point that they stop saying anything comparable and then you can discuss your acceptance journey.

    I'm not saying that will work and you've worked really hard to set your boundaries, but I'd hate for the celebratory time of year coming up to be one that you didn't get to be with your family during. Whatever you do, I hope that it involves as little grieving as possible.