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.

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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.

March

March is a pretty month.

A fair month.

A blooming month.

March starts out grey but ends up golden, a full spectrum from bare branches to boughs dusted in pink and white. 

March is the gateway to longer days.
Brighter evenings.
Warmer rays.

March breathes and her breath is sweet.
She roars and her wind is fresh.
She beams and her sun is a ray of promise.

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Good Luck

She was the lucky girl, the good girl, the happiness and sunshine girl. Her bright curls and her light smile and her sparkle voice – a bubbling brook, a tinkling stream, the voice of a promise of something better. Something exciting, the whisper in the wind as you stare over a bridge at the city lights in the dark. That wind. The telling of something fantastic coming your way. That was her.

Good luck charm, her father called her. Apple of my eye. Little poppet. Pet her head. When she got too old for that it was in a knowing glance.

Sunshine smiles, her mother said. Her mother sang her name in a million variations.

Gorgeous girl. Laughing girl. Girl with all the ideas.

Happy girl, smart girl, girl with all the talents.

Girl who opened her mouth and was listened to. Who asked and was given. Who glanced and was warmed to. Girl with all the gifts.

And they said ‘Everybody likes you’, and they said, ‘everybody thinks you’re great.’

So it became that it was to everybody she looked for her self worth. Not within herself.

Now that you’re grown.

You have to be in a kind of mood for writing, and for working out, and for doing anything remotely productive and worthwhile.

That’s what I used to think.

Now I know you have to show up, even when you don’t feel like it.

Show up every single time your child cries in the night, and they will have a healthy attachment with you.

Show up every session at the gym, or move your body every day, even when you don’t feel like it, and your cardiovascular health will excel.

Show up everyday and write, if you want to be a writer.

Show up for yourself, and you will reap the benefits. Nobody else.

One of my favourite quotes is this:

Write a million words, the absolute best you can write – then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.

David Eddings

I have had to show up these past three years. I have had to show up for my kids, at the expense of myself. I have had to show up regardless of how I felt, how ill I was, whether I had brushed my teeth or not.

And because I have had to do that, I have had to take a good long look at any hours I had free, and fill them with things which made me a better person.

A stronger person.

A person I wanted to be.

I don’t know what this means except maybe that I am growing up.

move your body

I have started exercising again. Moving my body. I do it a lot, to be fair. But then life gets stressful and movement takes a back seat.

But moving your body brings life to your capillaries.

Life to your fingertips.

Your hips.

Your sadness.

You can be sad, but when you move, your sadness sort of dances. The wobbling self pity fountain stays away. Dry eyes, smile lips.

I cycle down the Great Shilling Way. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? I like to think it is. It’s the path old soldiers during the First World War took. On their way somewhere. There are metal figurines of these men in their oval helmets, carrying rifles. Iron-wrought poppies. Fields to the right (or left, depending which way you’re coming), and the main road on the right.

Or left.

The Great Shilling Way.

So I cycle. I also own some weights and I use those at home with a resistance band I bought years ago on Amazon.

I go to the gym. I lift heavy weights. I can squat 40kg now, and can leg press 100kg. I’ve always had super strong legs, probably why I enjoy cycling so much.

Red face. Red capillaries. Strong legs to squat down and pick things up whilst carrying my heavy 12kg baby.

Happy mood, movement, energy levels soaring. Tired muscles, but the kind of tired where you can feel the strength quietly building.

I hope this movement spree lasts longer than the last one.

Moving my body is fantastic for my mood.

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that evasive slumber

Do you ever overeat when you’re tired? I do. Both my children were up all night last night and as a consequence I have eaten my bodyweight’s worth in snacks today without even realising.

When I finally collapsed in bed at 2am last ‘night’, I shut my eyes and succumbed to slumber. It was the most glorious feeling. Then that familiar cry. Only at night it’s twenty thousand times more irritating and has that unique power to make you feel furious.

But you fight it. For that precious sweet face. You scoop the chubby bundle of baby up and bring them into your own bed.

Then the pattering feet, and the croaky child voice, ‘Mama, mama, I’m scared.’

So you haul the other one into your bed too.

And try to succumb again to that glorious sleep. It’s there alright. Tantalising. Close. You feel it.

But your kids have other ideas. One of them is attempting to crawl in the bed because it is her newly found skill and she loves to do it. She is laughing as she tries to get her chubby legs up, chaos in the covers, pitch black room. And then the almost-3-year old is awake. Banging his feet on the headboard. Asking me to open my eyes. Telling me stories. Chatting to his baby sister, who chats right back.

All through the night.

All through till morning.

And they do not tire. No siree. They hanker for breakfast and are little spitfires ready and gearing for their day of action. Playing, fighting, giggling, pulling things out of cupboards, sticking play dough in corners and smushing it into rugs, snotty noses from leftover colds.

I wish today I could say ‘Ahhhh it’s all so precious and worth it.’

Y’all.

I KNOW it is.

But I don’t feel it today.

I feel angry. Tired. Frustrated. Guilty. Bloated from all the sweet chilli thai rice crackers I have been eating to keep my bleary eyes awake. And the countless mugs of coffee I have downed today. That massive hot chocolate I had for lunch. My oh my. I fell asleep trying to put them to bed at 7:30pm BECAUSE HELLO, SHOULDN’T THEY BE TIRED AFTER THEIR NIGHT OF PARTYING?

No.

No they are not.

8:30pm came and went and it crept to 9… still wide and happily awake.

Bloody hell.

Some days parenting is a ride.

Today is that day.

Today I am bedraggled, a mess, and totally lost. I sit here writing this when I am supposed to be working but I am so tired from my sleepless night and my full-on day that I want to go to bed. But I am also terrified to go to bed because I know as soon as I give in to the glorious sleep that is beckoning to me.. I will be rudely yanked away again.

I know it.

News From Sebastapol. Charles West Cope (1811-1896). Oil On Canvas, 1875.

P.S. Look, I only write this to document. Not to complain. I love my babies with every fibre of my being. I would wrestle sleep to the ground if I thought their lives and health were in danger. I know one day I will sleep and sleep and sleep because they will be grown and off living their own lives and I will be sad and miss them. I KNOW this. However, I also know that in the moment, sometimes, it all gets a bit too much. You can feel frustrated and angry. You will also feel guilty for feeling frustrated and angry. Being a mother is so insane. It’s so mad. It’s so crazy. It’s so surreal and unbelievable and unfair and beautiful. You can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t catch the fleeting time, and yet you wish it all away. You can’t get enough, and you have way too much.