Efficient Body

I am trying to lose weight.

I gained about 30kg since both of my pregnancies. In my second pregnancy, rapid weight gain gave me lots of issues. I was mobile, for sure, but so big that it was hard to be active for long. Once I gave birth, the weight did not drop off like it did the first time round.

Sixteen months later, and my body is still clinging on.

Why, body? Why do you need this extra fat? Are you worried you may starve if it slips off?

I joked to my husband that my body is such that if we were in a famine, and everybody became bags of bones, I would probably put on weight.

My body clings to fat in a most efficient manner. If I go into a calorie deficit, I can lose weight consistently for 3 weeks. After that, my body adjusts to this and I plateau or even start going up in weight!

My research tells me that some bodies are more efficient than others, built to last through seasons of no food, built to carry boulders on low energy. I know this to be true. I ate so little for a month, and yet piled on the weights at the gym, leg pressing up to 150kgs, muscles growing stronger, bigger, more defined – and I could be satiated on so little.

But I want to shed these heavy 20kgs. They feel uncomfortable on me. They make my face look unrecognisable, and my legs feel bulky, and I feel like I am dragging my body around. I want to feel free of it, to run fast across a field like before and not worry too much about uncomfortable jiggles and things falling out of place.

I don’t want to lose weight for looks or because I feel insecure. I want to do it for comfort.

Yet when I mention this, the immediate response is wide eyed surprise, and exclamations that I don’t ‘need’ to lose anything and not to ‘buy into’ our appearance-obsessed culture.

I get it.

But since when does wanting to change how your body looks and feels equate to a bad thing?

Why rush to tell someone they don’t need to do something, when they really want to?

Why assume that one wants to change the shape of their body purely due to insecurity or appearance-obsession?

Is it unhealthy to want to lose weight?

If it is unhealthy for some, why make it so everybody feels weird about trying to lose weight, one way or another? Do we apologise for this desire, and assure the ‘Body-Positive’ community that we aren’t mentally ill, and aren’t harming their agenda, but just want to change something for us?

Love Letters #49

Let me set the scene for you.

A candid evening. Why candid? I don’t know. Candles around the drawing room. Laura in her peach dress, flowing gently from her shoulders. Golden curls pinned up; it was the evening, she would unpin them soon. Aunt Abigail had rung the bell for supper. She would join Laura after seeing to her roses in the conservatory.

Laura gently arranged the pillows, setting the tables straight. She was purposeful in every movement, as though she wanted time to tick by slowly.

They had left in a hurry; John had a patient to see to and Mary wanted to go in the carriage so she could bundle the little puddings into their own beds. Hugs and kisses, sloppy ones from the darling angels, a sweet one from Mary, a squeeze on the arm, a murmur that she would see her soon. A hug for her brother, tall and grim, lips taut. He had a patient to get to.

Laura straightened up, sighed. There was a soft knock on the drawing room door. Supper.

‘Come in,’ she said, turning to the window to pull the drapes against the darkness outside.

She heard the door open so she turned around with a smile on her face – which then froze, lips halfway there, dimples just beginning to form. A painful drop in her heart. A throb in her chest. Tightening so she caught her breath. Then she composed herself quickly, one hand on her hair, the other to her neck. Her eyes didn’t meet his, they rested somewhere on his collar.

‘Hello, Tom.’ She smiled properly, moving towards the settee. Something else to look at.

‘Miss Smith.’

Another painful throb. She could die. In fact she would. Right there. That would show him.

‘Miss Smith? Come now!’ she smiled again, ‘How could you?’ a teasing lilt in her voice. She kept her smile, dimples dancing, and sat down, arranging her skirts around her as she did so.

‘Laura, then. I.. how are you?’

‘Oh, very well thank you. John and Mary left only moments ago. Did you not see them?’

‘I did. John was in a hurry to get to old Mrs Pettiforte.’

‘Yes, indeed.’

‘And my sister frazzled, as always.’

She heard, rather than saw, the smile on his face.

‘As is Mary’s way,’ Laura agreed. ‘We were not expecting you for another year,’ she said then, abruptly. Her eyes lifted to his face. He was looking directly at her, into her soul, even. Piercing, green. His face, so familiar, so different. Older, more tired. Drawn. Something in his look compelled her to look away again.

‘I know.’ He opened his mouth to say more. She saw him swallow, hard, search her face until she flushed. She waited for him to give her more information. She didn’t know what to ask. How to ask. She could not ask. So she looked at her sleeve and picked at it.

‘Aunt Abigail and I will have a light supper here by the fire,’ she said, after a short pause. ‘Please join us.’

‘With pleasure,’ he said. She felt the settee bend as he sat down next to her.

Supper arrived, as did Aunt Abigail. Larger than life, sailing into the room and immediately taking command. Fawning over Tom as though he were her own nephew, she took control of the conversation. She enquired after his studies and his work abroad. She lamented on the Medical profession, in turns berating it for taking Tom away from them all for such a long time, and praising him for his medical feats, saving lives and relieving discomfort. Laura was quiet through supper. She kept her eyes on the bread; thick slices with a beautiful golden crust. The butter spread generously on top. Beautifully cut slices of cheese, rich and deliciously fresh tomatoes from the vegetable garden. Her tea was milky and sweet. A nice meal.

It tasted like cardboard in her mouth though. There was a pain in her chest, a lump in her throat. Her eyes glittered brightly in the firelight, her cheeks flushed from the heat of the flames. She took her tea in gulps, but the lump in her throat would not budge. It grew larger as the evening lengthened, as she watched Tom become more comfortable, as she felt his eyes look her way a few times, questioning her silence.

Finally he stood up to leave.

‘A wonderful meal,’ he said, as he bid them goodnight.

‘Laura, see the boy out,’ her aunt said.

She dragged her feet. Smiled at him, followed him out the room and down the hall. He opened the front door and stepped out into the moonlight. A gust of cold air around her, and she shivered.

‘You’d best close that door,’ he warned, ‘no use getting a chill.’

‘It was good of you to come by,’ she told him. She still did not know what he was doing home a year early.

He didn’t say anything, forcing her to look up at him. Tall, dark with the light of the moon behind him. Crisp wintry air, stars alight in the heavens. She couldn’t see his eyes, nor the expression on his face. Yet she knew he was about to say something, for there was dread in his stance. His shoulders sank with heaviness, the joy he had displayed that evening around Aunt Abigail had left him completely.

‘Laura I…’ he began.

He cleared his throat. Then, abrupt, ‘Goodnight. Be warm.’

He turned and walked down the path. She felt as though a pack of wolves ought to have been chasing him, he should race away from her, she should throw her fury at him and shock the calmness out of him. Oh she could scream! His walk was a meander. He even paused to look at the sky, then back at her. Then he raised an arm in salute.

Fingers trembling, she shut the door upon his wave and stalked upstairs to bed. Not a word to her aunt, who Laura heard humming to herself as she marched past the drawing room.

Goodnight, indeed!

In Retrospect

Sometimes after a big massive fight I go away to Retrospect.

And in Retrospect, my glasses become clean. Images are sharper, crisper. The air is tantalising and if I stick my tongue out, I can taste everything. The breeze, the way the birds fly, the blossom petal on a wind current. Everything.

My regret because I pushed it.

My sadness because I pulled at it. Nitpicked it. Wanted to fight at the beach. Get it off my chest. But in doing so, it was hammering his chest.

Don’t go to bed cross, they say. I never do. Maybe I need to visit Retrospect before I try to get things off my chest in the moment.

Retrospect has a fantastic way of making you make mature decisions with your tongue.

Image Credit

Childhood Baby

I woke up from a horrific dream in which I was living my childhood life as an adult.

My childhood was amazing. There were cockroach infestations, terrible arguments between my parents, and I had a glass thrown at my head once.

By one of them.

But it was amazing.

How can I say this, after listing some of the most traumatic events? I felt loved, a lot of the time. Especially when I was younger. I loved my baby brothers, who are now ‘the boys’, and both tower over me.

I have a lot of good memories, and maybe it’s nostalgia speaking, but I was a happy child.

I do remember a lot of misery and depression, some of which seeps into my adult life, but I was so happy. I loved going to school, I loved my friends. We had so many gatherings and parties, my parents took us to lots of places and really did spend time with us, and enjoyed doing so when they were not stressed. I loved reading all the time and have such fond memories of being curled up behind sofas or under desks with a book. Books tucked behind my textbooks, and once, intently reading a book hidden inside my wardrobe with a torch.

So why was my dream so horrific, then?

I dreamt I was in my childhood home, around the people of my childhood (family, friends), and my baby had gone missing. But I was for some reason supposed to suppress this information. I didn’t know where she was, but we all knew she was no more, and her little sweet voice went ‘mama, mama, mama’ in my head, just how she does in real life. Eventually as the dream progressed I could no longer contain my pain and began to wail in sorrow. The kind of wail where you just cannot help yourself. You lose all sense of anything and give into the hurt.

At that precise moment, my eyes flew open, and it was 6am.

Staggering out of bed, eyes barely open, still nursing that terrible, searing pain, I stumbled into my babies’ room, and there she was in her cot.

Snoring away.

Little fists curled slightly on the mattress.

Long eyelashes dusting the soft roundness of her cheeks.

She has been so tough this past week. Clingy, moany baby. ‘Mama, mama, mama’ all the time, tugging on my legs to be picked up, not sure what she wants.

But today I feel reminded to be so incredibly grateful for her, and am looking at it in a different light. Oh, let the baby be clingy. She needs you!

I have just finished typing this and can hear her little voice, thick with sleep, saying ‘mama’.

So off I go to squeeze her!

Human Graffiti

I have twenty eight years on this God-given earth.

I think every single human being is made to put their mark on earth, in any which way. Little dots graffitiing out way through the blip that is our lifetime, before others replace us.

And others come across our art, for it is art, really, and what do they see? What do they learn? Do they continue our mark, adding paint and fine-tuning our brush strokes? Do they add details that we never saw, burgeoning our art into something else?

A beast, maybe. Clawing its way through solid walls and leaving a trail of rubble and wreckage in its wake. Sharp, sabre toothed, bad temper, a reek you can smell through seventeen mattresses.

Or a home, silent and still. Lampshades dangling cobwebs and dust. Do they come in and brush the dust gently away, painting warm glowing light in the corners, adding colour to the drab sepia, laughter of children drifting down hallways, carpets laid fresh like green grass. Strong, strong roots. Calm, loving, old arthritic hands knitting cardigans for everybody’s babies. And then years later, when you walk down a hospital corridor with your own babies and pass a rack full of hand-knitted cardigans a warmth floods your being. You wish she was there to knit cardigans for your own babies. My Nani. My Len. My first baby, she said, always, even though I was the first daughter of her first baby.

What do you see when you stand on the old old spot where millenniums stood before you? New homes on old grounds. New parks where old schools used to be. Do you think of the ghosts of yore, or do you dream of your own future ghosts to be?

Are you caught up in this race that everybody seems to be on?

Are you clouded by other people’s emotions and expectations?

Sadness and joy.

Have to fix all pains.

Not realising that sometimes, pain has to run its course.

What is your art?

New art? Continuation of somebody else’s art?

What pictures do you draw, my friend.

Thin Wrists

When I was about 13 years old, I used to ride the bus home from school everyday with this girl who lived in one of the apartment block buildings in our complex.

She was thin, so pale, with large brown eyes and the longest, curliest lashes you ever saw. Her mouth was a little wide, and she had dimples. I thought she was gorgeous – all the girls did, in fact. She was so pretty. Looking back as an adult, I can see she was painfully thin. Her bones jutted out at the collar, shoulder blades and wrists.

It was the wrists, though, that I used to feel inadequate about.

I would squeeze the skin around my own wrist tightly, so it wrapped around the bone, wishing my bone would point outwards like hers did.

I told myself if I skipped breakfast and lunch every day for a month, I would get to that stage.

So I did. I took one green apple to school with me everyday, and did not eat breakfast or lunch for a month. I lost so much weight that my uniform hung off me like a sack.

When I compared my wrist to hers in the bus, though, I did not see my bone. What a fat ugly wrist you have, I told myself, squeezing the skin back to see the shape of my bone.

I am 28 now, and I think of that story and feel very sad and angry.

What business does a child have to be worrying about the size of her wrist bone when there are mountains of books to read, tonnes of trees to climb, hundreds of puzzles to solve, heaps of games to play?! Why wasn’t I thinking about those things? Why was I so hyper focused on my wrists? I was clearly built heavier than that girl, both of us beautiful in our own child-like way.

I think and think and remember girls talking about diets and weight loss and spots and who was fatter than whom and how much everybody weighed. So much shame in a number. We also played games, we tore through corridors and played KINGS and netball and amazing games of hide and seek in the maze-like grounds of our school. Yet when we went back to the classroom and stood in front of the air conditioning, guzzling bottles of ice-cold water, our conversation went back to who was pretty and which hair salon her mother went to.

I see children being mislead, somehow, and I can see how that has clawed its way into adulthood and adult life.

This obsession with appearance.

This lack of adequacy.

I don’t need to say I am grateful we didn’t have phones or social media back then. We all know what children today are subjected to.

To be blessed.

Ahh. Hello. Little blog of mine.

It’s been a while. Two months, I think.

March promised me so much on her blossom scented breath but you know, April has proved to be more frilly and flowery than my favourite month. No showers, just sunshine. Pink blossom in powder puffs adorning trees and soft sweet apple blossom scattering itself through my window like dainty fairies. Love love love.

I did not write the things I intended to write. I barely treaded water, to be honest.

I caught the coronavirus, I travelled with my kids, I worked until I fell asleep at my keyboard – not once but several times – and I watched things while I folded laundry or tidied toys or folded laundry or washed dishes. Or folded laundry. Bloody hate folding laundry but when I think that I catch myself by the arm. I say, ‘Dear, dear dear dear. Don’t you forget the blessing of clothes to cover your back and a washing machine in which to wash them. So help me God.’

I added the ‘so help me God’ because people in books say that and it sounds like a strict admonishment.

My son started nursery for the first time in both our lives. I cried tears after I left him and there was a hole in my heart and a sad emptiness in my home – he is only gone 5 hours a day but it feels eternal. Two days a week only, and he loves it. He asks to go to school on days we don’t go, and he doesn’t want to leave when I go to pick him up. A great sign, right? I hope so. I do hope so.

I watched Bridgerton, yes I did, and I enjoyed the frivolity of it all. I did indeed. I watched Wild Wild Country and I marvelled at people’s hope and search for the truth, even if it ends in futility. We are so good for hoping, aren’t we. Us humans.

I read a wonderful book called ‘Talking to Strangers’ and it’s all about how we perceive others, and it touches on the wrongs in the systems that run the countries where most violence, crime and racism occur. The author seems to think it boils down to how we approach and talk to strangers. How we cannot decipher each other at all, how the truths we grew up believing about others, were in fact not truths at all. Fascinating stuff.

I read another book called ‘Beauty Sick’, and how the obsession with appearance is a disease in Western society. I really resonated with that. I believe most women would. When I discussed it with my husband he had a different opinion and it infuriated me and turned me into a little spitfire. He told me he didn’t want to talk to me anymore as I was being rude.

I went to think about it for a bit and decided he was correct, and I didn’t need to lash out at him because his opinion was .. INCORRECT. I should have just listened and pointed out the discrepancies in his arguments. Glaringly obvious to me but he is of a different ilk. Cut. Tribe.

He is, as Aunty Caroline would say, he is a ‘Man.’ Capital ‘M’. That’s all there is to say on the matter.

I hate the news.

I hate the news.

I hate the news so much that sometimes I mindlessly scroll through it while my chest tightens. I roll my eyes and tut and my breathing becomes shallower and the sun sets behind me and the breaths I hear from the chests of my children grow slower, deeper.

And it’s dark, pitch black, my screen an illuminated rectangle in the gloom around me, shadows of furniture rising up in silent protest.

What’s wrong with living in the present.

What’s wrong with asking the neighbour if they were the ones who chopped all that offensive ivy in your back garden while you were away for a week.

Like that is the biggest news of the week, and not the bombs dropping on all the countries around the globe, their children starving to death, their big devastated eyes beseeching from behind the screen.

And you like and share and rant away.

Charity groups accept payments and then screech into your email inbox several times a day, several different names, screaming until your ears pop that these children need you and that their tents are filled with snow and water and they’re all sick sick sick and have no homes and are starving to death so please help.

Heartless, you are, if you want to switch off and focus on your life for a bit.

Cold.

Cruel.

Selfish.

What do you do? Wither in pain for all the pain and suffering in the world?

Somebody said you have to take care of yourself and turn off the bad news because you won’t be able to live in the present, dead birds and dead children and soulless eyes and manic leaders. How can you live though, while they don’t?

And the thought always pushes its way through red raging chaos;

The thought that what if we say too much bad news is not good to avoid helping, to selfishly continue to live our peaceful lives in blissful gluttony.

What is the truth, really.

The Giant Fell into the Raging Sea

Here is my contribution to the March 2022 Writing Prompt from Michelle at Putting my Feet in the Dirt.

The giant fell into the raging sea. Oh, the roaring sea. The storm went on for hours, slashing the sails, smashing against the sides, scratching holes in the wood and splintering the deck. The sailors vomited over the sides. In relief? In terror? In dread of their own deaths?

Nobody thought for a moment about the giant until it was too late. They were all slumped in various places when the storm waned. The clouds, thick and heavy and furiously black, quickly dissipated. The sky they left behind was alarmingly blue. Too cheerful, it seemed, for the carnage it left behind.

A loud sobbing sound rose from the depths of the ship. Louder than the slowly fading roar of waves. The sound grew wilder, more grief stricken.

One by one, the sailors raised their weary heads. Sunken eyes, drenched hair, damp clothes.

‘Who’s that?’ one of them muttered.

‘We’re all on deck’ another groaned.

‘Apparently not.’

The wail rose higher in pitch, until the sailors’ ears began to ring.

The captain went to see what was wrong.

When he came back up through the hatch, his face was a deathly shade of green.

‘What is it?’ he was asked, as he pushed past his men to look over the side of the ship. Pushing past them again to run across the deck and look over the other side. His breathing grew heavier as his men crowded him, looking over the edge, craning their necks.

The water was blue and glorious again. The sunshine lapped at the waves, glittering into the distance. The deck was almost entirely dry.

The wailing below was a siren. Screeching into the piercing blue around them. Raising hairs, shivering timbers. The sailors pressed closer together as the captain let out a groan of despair. His eyes were wide as saucers, his knuckles alabaster white as they gripped the handrail.

‘It’s over, lads,’ he whispered, ‘we’re finished.’

The first mate was now striding towards the hatch that led to the underbelly of the ship. The prison cell. Where they had chained the giant using the strongest iron on land. He began to descend, and the other men were quick to surround the hatch, peering warily as the first mate disappeared into the blackness below.

The captain stayed on deck, staring with unseeing eyes into the distance.

There it was. The tell-tale surge of ocean. A giant wave, hiding the monstrous giant beneath its surface. Hurtling towards the ship at breakneck speed.

The first mate emerged from the hatch soaking wet.

‘Giant hole!’ he spluttered, ‘Giant hole! All the creatures are drowning! Giant’s gone! Giant hole!’