Near & Far

One of my favorite Sesame Street skits was Grover/Frank Oz's "Near & Far" -- where he demonstrated the meanings of near and far.  You were either one or the other.  There was measurable difference between the two things.  By the end of the skit, Grover is exasperated from having to repeat himself so many times.  I don't know why, but I just thought it was so silly.

It wasn't until I got older that I realized that some things can be both near AND far -- just like the title, and not near OR far.  Sometimes perspective collaborates with our minds to play tricks on us.

This past Saturday marked 20 years since my mother passed away on September 27, 1994 (see "I'm a sensitive soul, though I seem thick skinned"). I spent the week leading up to it in NYC with dad. (I also got to see some friends while I was there too.)  So many times, I am struck by how vivid and tangible that period in my life feels (I carry it with me everywhere I go), and at other times, it seems so distant (and I'm able to set aside the burden of some of those memories).

That morning, my dad went to church, then we went to my mom's grave.  My dad placed red roses in the vase; I cleaned up her headstone and put a few roses and a stone on top.  I had asked dad if we could then go to Robert Moses Beach (a place where I felt especially connected to mom) so I could honor the day in my own way. 

It wasn't until I was texting with my brother driving to the beach from the cemetery that I started getting emotional.  I thought about how my niece and nephew would never get to know my mom, or that mom would never get to know her grandchildren.  (People often say to me "mom is looking down on them from heaven" -- but that's not what I believe at all.  I find zero comfort in that.)  I thought about what dating would have been like with mom around (I have a sneaking suspicion that mom would have flirted with my suitors).  I thought about not having mom there with me if I ever gave birth (She may have just given the doctor the heave-ho so she could be the first to hold her grandchild).  Then I realized how I'm sad about things thing may or may not come to pass.  Then I wondered if I've been subconsciously avoiding or sabotaging myself because I fear losing those things as well.

Dad didn't follow my advice in picking the easternmost beach.  He kept driving further west.  He then parked the car and we walked for a while along the beach.  We had hoped that since it was the end of September that it would have been empty, but it was an unseasonably warm day and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Eventually we found a place where people weren't swimming as much (right near the traditionally clothing-optional area), and I committed to the ocean the remainder of the dozen light pink, light purple, and white roses.

Later, dad and I agreed that maybe it wasn't the best thought out plan, as the ocean decided to take some and brought the others back to the shore.  Though it may seem inappropriate on such a solemn occasion, I couldn't help but laugh.  I think mom would have thought it was funny as well.

Two women down the shore picked up the roses and I let them know what I was trying to do.  They understood (and one of them had also recently commemorated 20 years since her own mother passed) and gave me hugs.  One of them said, "Maybe this is just a reminder to let life come back to you."



I hope you all know that I have a certain amount of contempt for The Biggest Loser. I don't think their methods are safe, nor are they transparent.  For instance, on the show they often talk about how many calories they are taking in but their expenditure is always talked about in vague terms: "reach[ed] their burn."  It is their dirty little secret. They don't want to show just how high the burn target is. They must be running huge deficits.

But I digress...

So anyways, new season and new trainers equal new blog fodder.  New trainer Jen said that people operate out of "Fear OR love." I disagree.

It isn't binary (one or the other). It is a spectrum that we are always on--fear AND love. The trouble we get ourselves into is when there is more fear, anxiety, or apprehension than love, confidence or courage. We just need 51% of the latter to conquer the former.

That, dear readers, is the mental and emotional aspect of weight loss--to manage and negotiate that spectrum, not to deny that it exists. It is especially evident for those who can't rely on exercise to muffle those voices or to remind us how strong we are.

The anticipatory steps that lead up to a life change are often very exciting. Something or someone has shown us a different path. But there is often fear lurking behind. If we change our behaviors and mental processes, do we change who we are? Do we have to give up the things we love and that make us uniquely our own self? Well... sometimes yes and that is okay. That is evolution: a response to our environment.

Fear tries to tell us that we are losing control.  Love always says "Take a risk; I've got your back."

For the past few months, I have been running on fear and with good reason to do so. I had a few good years and thought my back problems were behind me. Falling in the shower in February and landing in the hospital in May shook me up more than I had anticipated.

The fear didn't prevent me from moving. I have been walking A LOT in the past few months, but it did prevent me from even going to the gym. The mental block was wanting to do exactly what I did last year: five miles or more on the elliptical and an hour of weights. I couldn't get around it.
Until this morning.

I ran 2 miles on the elliptical.  They were slow, but my legs remembered what to do. Did 5 miles on the bike. Did some weights. Came home to my kitteh and ate a peach.

Was it the most grueling workout? No. But it was one of the most challenging. Today, fear was no match for the love I have for myself.

September, I'll remember.

A few months before my mother passed away a photographer friend of my mother's asked if we would help them test out the new backdrop at their studio.  It was my first turn at modeling, and I was very bad at it -- very self aware and uncomfortable.  My mother was a natural.  She always has been a bit of a cheesecake in front of the camera.

I hadn't thought twice about the photography session until years after my mom died.  I went to the photo shop to have some pictures developed (remember when you used to have to do that all the time?).  The shop owners had found the developed photos from that test shoot and were hoping to give them to me when they saw me next.

Inside the envelope were a dozen unexpected treasures. If you look at our family photo albums you can see when my mom got her Pentax K1000:  the photos go from family outings and special occasions to hundreds of photos of flowers and sunsets and the occasional family photo. After mom died, I searched for photos of the two of us (versus group photos), and there just weren't any.  

I'm so thankful to have a photo like this to be among my last with my mother.  Despite all the angst (oh my goodness, so much pubescent angst) and arguments, the frustration and fights, I have these photos that remind me of the love we had for each other (and the love my mom had of coffee).  

This last photo of my mom looking at me really just gets to me.  In all the other photos, she's looking at the camera or making funny faces (talking?), but in this one she looks at me so lovingly and I'm so completely unaware of it. Sometimes I close my eyes and insert myself at different stages of my life -- such as graduations, or a future wedding, etc. -- and I imagine this is how my mom would look at me.  It makes me sad that I didn't and won't have that chance, but also so thankful that for the moments I did have a mother that loved and adored me.  It's more than many kids get.