Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Here's a Little Story For You...

Just Exactly What I Wanted

All I did was go to church. Some nurses were taking blood pressures in the foyer and mine was way, way too high, earning me a trip to the emergency room. While there, a routine blood test revealed diabetes. This discovery led to a doctor visit and a dietitian, and now I was home, my head swimming with facts and figures, warnings and advice. Realizing my husband would be home soon, I mulled over what to say to him.
My sweet husband had once told me that he didn’t care if I got so fat he had to roll me around, as long as I was happy. That made me laugh, which was a relief to us both because I had been griping at the time about how ugly and miserable and huge I was, but doing nothing about it, and we were both sick of hearing about it. But I knew he worried about my health, and if I told him I had diabetes, he would want me to follow the doctor’s diet. And there was simply no way I was going to do that. I’d had it with diets and besides, I knew plenty of diabetic people who ate what they wanted. I stopped there and didn’t think about the consequences, just like my diabetic friends hadn’t until the damage was done. My mind was made up. Even though I never kept secrets from my husband, this one would simply have to be kept.
That evening, when my husband walked in the door, he kissed me and then he said, “What did the doctor have to say?”
I burst into tears. “She says I have diabetes!” I wailed. So much for secrets.
Had he tried to help me by offering to be my coach, I’d have rebelled entirely. “Stop!” I would have begged, making a time out sign. “I don’t want to be coached. I don’t want to be a project. I don’t want to do this at all! I feel fine. Forget I mentioned it.”
But as usual, he surprised me. “You don’t have to do this,” was the first surprise. “WE have to do this,” was the second. “We’ll do this together,” he quietly assured me. “We’ll start with a walk after dinner.” And then he did what he does best. He wrapped me in a big, old hug, and kissed the top of my head and for the millionth time I thanked God I had married this man when I had the chance. But I still had no idea how we were going to do it, and after dinner I stayed in my chair.
Over the next few days I tried to decide what to do. “What difference does it make?” I muttered to myself. “I need to lose, like, a million pounds and nothing I do will make any difference anyway.” I decided to do only what I wanted. It is my body, right? Everyone else does what they want, don’t they? The skinny ones who lecture me while the cigarette dangles from their lips?
“But what is it that you really want?” I asked myself suddenly. This thought blew me away. This I wasn’t expecting. I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to diet. I didn’t want to exercise. I didn’t want to be told what to do. I had a lot to think about.
So I cleaned out my purse. No, I wasn’t procrastinating. My purse, known to my family as “the black hole” because what goes in disappears forever, is like an extension of myself. I could survive on a desert island with just the contents of my purse. I rarely clean it out because I figure at some point I’ll need everything in there, but once in a while when my thoughts get too tangled, cleaning out my purse seems to be the only way to clean out my head. Despite all the fuzzy breath mints and shredded tissue, today was no exception, because suddenly I was pulling out a wad of papers. The pamphlets from the dietician’s office! I’d never given them a second thought, which is a good thing because if I had I would of pitched them. But now I was curious.
The first little paper was about all the complications of diabetes if I didn’t control it. I set it aside and began reading something called “The Plate Method.” It was kinda cool, because it was so simple. All I had to do, it explained, was mentally divide my plate into fourths. One section gets protein, such as chicken, a burger or eggs. The second section holds the carb. This might be a serving of potatoes, pasta, rice or bread. The other two sections got veggies. A salad and some broccoli, perhaps, or a whole bunch of greens that take up half the plate. I could add a fruit on the side if I wanted to, or wait and eat it a couple of hours later. Milk with breakfast and yogurt or sugar free pudding in the late afternoon would take care of the dairy requirements. I thought this sounded a little easier than some methods I’d heard of, and I was relieved to see that breakfast didn’t have to include anything green!
Ok, practical and easy. Nobody would even realize what I was doing, although they might think I was a real pig when it came to veggies!
The next pamphlet talked about portion sizes. Yuck. I’d already done the whole weighing and measuring routine. But before I could toss it aside something caught my eye; a little fist. Apparently my fist is roughly the size of a cup. Who knew? The palm of my hand is about 3 ounces, a serving of meat. The first joint of the small finger can represent a teaspoon and a tablespoon is roughly the size of the first joint of the thumb. How cool, a portion measuring device literally in the palm of my hand! This sure beat cups and spoons and scales. This could be done surreptitiously and more importantly, easily! I could do this. I could do this and not even resent it. Shoving the last pamphlet, the one on diabetic complications, back in my purse, I went and asked my husband if he was still up for that walk he’d mentioned. Sweetheart that he is, he didn’t mention that it had been a week since he’d offered to walk with me. He just suggested that we wait until that evening after dinner, when it was cooler.
I was eager to try my new information out and see if my husband noticed. I hoped he wouldn’t. I just eyeballed things with my hand size in mind when I served myself, and I tried to think of the plate in fourths as I chose what to eat. The mashed potatoes looked miniscule on my plate - I tried to get roughly 1/2 a cup - but honestly, when I ate them it was plenty. Especially considering how long it took to chew through that huge salad! I’d loaded that baby down with every veggie I could think of, plus chunks of chicken. It was delicious. I didn’t remember salad being so good. Of course, I usually just put in lettuce and carrots.
Before I could even think about seconds, my husband was asking me if I was ready to go for a walk. We decided to just stroll up and down our block a couple of times and we set off. It was really nice outside. We got talking, just small talk at first, but soon we were talking about things that mattered to us. With no one looking at the clock to see when a show came on, no phone ringing, no dirty dishes calling, we talked in a way we hadn’t done for a while. Soon we were holding hands and talking of our hopes and dreams like we did when we were teenagers. The time flew and the more into the discussion we got, the faster we walked. A gorgeous sunset turned into a cool, pleasant evening and still we walked, back and forth, enjoying each other’s company without interruption. “This is what I want,” I suddenly thought. “A simple, uncluttered life. Time to really connect with my husband and energy enough to enjoy it!”
I never even thought about a snack, and that night I slept like a baby. The next day I was a little sleepy and yet I could hardly wait for our evening walk. My legs were a little sore. “I’m really out of shape!” I admitted ruefully. I thought about all the things I’d always wanted to do. I’d never done them because I never had the energy. Judging from my aches and pains, I still didn’t. “But could I get it somehow?” I wondered. My mind seemed invigorated, anyway, and all day I couldn’t get the question out of my mind. “What do you want to do?” Answers were beginning to drift around in the air like confetti.
That evening after dinner, we could hardly wait to get out the door for our walk. My husband was animated and almost immediately launched into a discussion of the water features he’d like to build in our fledgling garden. His excitement fueled my own, and I was soon eagerly planning a new flower bed by the fence. I’d always loved gardening. How else can a woman my age justify playing in the dirt? I hadn’t done any gardening for a while though. Too hot, I always told myself, or too many bugs. But tonight when my husband asked if I’d like to go to the local garden center on Saturday and “see what we could see” I instantly agreed.
Saturday came and off we went. The variety of flowers and plants got my gardening juices flowing again and I filled my cart with petunias, mulch and manure, ready for a day of planting. At home, we set right to work, my husband planning out his water garden near where I was happily digging and enriching and otherwise playing in the soil. All too soon, my husband said, “Wow, it’s past 3 o’clock. Ready for some lunch anytime soon?” We both looked at my filthy, sweaty, sun burnt self and burst out laughing together. “Tell you what, hon, you go get cleaned up and I’ll take you out to eat!” my husband offered. As I headed happily in to shower and change, I mulled over my day. I couldn’t believe I still had so much energy after working so hard today. And I’d missed a meal without even noticing! When had that happened last?
Pulling out of the driveway, headed to our favorite restaurant, I looked over at my new petunia bed. The ruffled petunias always looked like girls’ pinafores to me, young and wholesome, beautiful and clean. “This is what I want,” I realized. “Energy to garden. Time to focus on beauty.” I hadn’t thought about food all day.
Another week flew by. We would eat our meal and never even think about seconds. We were in too big of a hurry to get out the door for our “walkie-talkie” as we had dubbed it. Soon it was again the weekend. I woke up early Saturday morning and stretched luxuriously. I’m not much of a morning person, to say the least. But lately I’d been waking up rested, and today I realized even my aches and pains were gone. My husband suggested a ride and we headed off in the car, talking and laughing. I soon realized he was taking us to the beach.
The truth is, I love the beach, everything about it. The salty smell alone relaxes me before we even get the car parked, and I come home feeling sleepy and rested all at the same time. But the whole bathing suit issue usually stops me cold. “I want to look decent in a bathing suit,” I realized. “I don’t have to look smashing. Just decent..” For the first time in a long time, as we walked hand in hand beside the waves, I felt like this might be a reachable goal. Later we went out to eat and this time, I asked for a box when I ordered my meal. I put half the meal in as soon as it came, left satisfied instead of stuffed, and still had a scrumptious lunch to look forward to the next day. We went and bought some lovely little dessert dishes that only held a serving and Sunday we enjoyed some ice cream after our walk.
Monday came and instead of dreading it, I felt a cleaning jag coming on. I put on my College Fight Songs CD and bopped my way around the house, humming and cleaning. Cleaning out a box shoved in the corner of the closet, I came across some old workout tapes. “Wow, I haven’t seen you guys in a while,” I said. “I wonder if you still work!” On a whim, I popped Richard Simmons in the VCR player and soon I was dancing up a storm. I tired quickly, but right then and there I made myself a promise. Whenever I did a workout tape, I would keep moving for the duration. Even if I couldn’t do all the exercises, I’d try at least one of each, and meanwhile, I’d keep moving even if it was just marching in place. After that Richard and I met for daily dance sessions and before long I could do the twist to make my momma proud. I began to search around for other workout tapes I could do at home.
About two weeks later, I put my bra on and it did not lift or separate. It just hung there, on its tightest setting, loose as could be. “What’s this?” I wondered. Probably just old, worn out elastic. Perhaps it was time to get a few new ones. Come to think of it, some of my other things were feeling a little baggy. I headed off to the Mall and went straight to the Plus Size department of my favorite store. To my surprise, nothing fit! I mean nothing. Everything I tried on hung on me. This couldn’t be right. Finally I sidled over to the ladies’ department, feeling like a criminal. A svelte, young clerk saw me and headed my way and I cringed, remembering the time not so long ago when just such a clerk had totally humiliated me by loudly assuring me nothing in her department would fit and directing me upstairs to the “big clothes.”
“Can I help you,” this young lady asked cheerfully. I considered for a moment telling her I was shopping for a friend.
“Uh...I was looking for an outfit,” I said stupidly. I waited for her to tell me I was in the wrong department as she looked me up and down.
“Well, okay, so what are you looking for?” she asked. “We have these new skirts in that are just adorable! You’d look great in this one,” and she picked up a teenybopper skirt, offering it to me. I looked at her face. No, she wasn’t playing me. “Uh...okay, I’ll just look around,” I said.
“Whatever,” she agreed companionably. I slipped the skirt back on the rack, but I found another, longer one, and a tank top that matched it perfectly. “No way these will fit,” I told myself as I headed to the dressing room. And they didn’t. They were too big! I went out and got the next smaller size in each. They fit perfectly. I preened and pranced in front of the mirror. Resisting the urge to make an announcement over the mall loudspeaker, I paid for the clothes and tried to act as if I wore this size all the time. Emboldened, I tried on bras. Not the kind in the box, the ones hanging on a little hanger, all lace and silk, with price tags to match. I found an unbelievably sexy one and on this enchanted day the bra fit too. I bought some matching panties and floated home. That night when I modeled them for my husband, his eyes lit up and he said “Wow.” I thought, “This is definitely what I want!”
Six months is up and today I go back to the doctor. I hate going to the doctor. I have this funny feeling that this will all turn out to be an illusion, that the doctor will find some way to snap me back to the reality of my inadequacy. While I wait, I discover the last pamphlet in my purse. The one on complications of diabetes. Finding it fitting reading for a doctor’s waiting room, I pull it out and morosely peruse it. Kidney disease, blindness, heart disease, losing limbs - “I definitely don’t want this!” I admit. Am I back to this? Thinking about what I don’t want. But this last six months has been a discovery of what I do want. And the greatest discovery of all has been that it’s mine for the taking. I used to think that I had so much weight to lose, one little donut wouldn’t make any difference one way or the other. I was so out of shape, what was one achy, sweaty exercise session going to do? Suddenly I realized that if I applied that to brushing my teeth, they would be long gone. After all, what good does one day of brushing do? But day after day and one day you realize, hey, - my teeth never fell out! That’s how eating right, exercising and all the rest was. Not a pointless exercise in futility, but a cumulative way to wake up one day with energy; shop with confidence; get my husband to say “Wow”.
By the time the nurse called me in, I was not surprised to find that I had lost weight. She took blood and ran a quick A1C test, then took my blood pressure. She looked surprised and took it again.
“The doctor will be right in,” she said, and for once she really was.
“What’s all this?” she said with a big grin. Your weight is down, your A1C has dropped a whole point. Even your blood pressure has dropped. And I gotta tell ya, you look great! What have you been doing?” she asked.
“Oh,” I said, as casual as could be, “I have been doing just exactly what I want to do!”


nikkipolani said...

What a fun and inspiring story, Tracie! I love the gentle support and love of the woman's husband.

Rosezilla said...

Thank you, Anne. The husband is based on my husband.

Protege said...

Beautiful! Told with lightness and such a candid sincerity; absolutely touching.
It is strange how life guides us at times onto the right path if we are sensitive enough to listen to our heart and if we are lucky enough to be surrounded by love and understanding.
Very inspiring story, loved it.;)

By the way, my verification word is:
Imagine that.;)

Betsy said...

This is by far the best thing I have read all day. So honest...so inspirational...so wonderful! I loved it. Good for you! And what a sweetie you are married to! Thanks for sharing! :)

Beverlydru said...

Wow. I have to confess I almost skimmed this and I'm SO GLAD I read every word. This is so encouraging. To anybody. About anything. Thanks for taking the time to share that. Well written too! And I loved your comment on my blog about your husband and learning that great rewards come when we submit to one another. You're a sista. : ) I wanted to email you bu don't see your email address.

Cherdecor said...

Wow, that is a great story!

Susan said...

This IS encouraging - good for you, and thank you for sharing!

Betsy said...

Now I'm thinking this is some of that fabulous fiction of yours! Sometimes I come over here and can't tell if it's a personal story or something from your imagination. You are such a great writer!...seriously! :)

Connie said...

Wow! Thanks for the inspiration!

Charli and me said...

Congratulations! That's a wonderful story. You are blessed to have such a supportive husband. This was a great post.You are an inspiration to all of us.

rhymeswithplague said...

The longest journey begins with just a single step. --Confucius

And victory is yours, one step at a time!

Jill said...

OH! I am tickled you stopped by The Glen but then happy I popped over to read your candid, inspirational story!!! WONDERFUL!

thedailydish said...

Tracie, your stories shine - and this one is perhaps the best yet. What a wonderful light you throw to the world! Keep shining! xo

jenniferw said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, dear Tracie. You have helped me today. God bless you, my friend!

p.s. when are you coming to eat peaches? Hmmmmmmm?

Sara said...

This is a marvelous story...and told so well. I love this lady's turn around to such a positive outlook...and I'll be thinking about this story the next time I reach for that second chocolate muffin that I really don't want or need but eat it just because it is there! Love the plate theory, and the hand measurements....I've heard them before but I needed to hear them again.

Thanks for the encouraging message.


Merle said...

Dar Tracie ~~ Wonderful post and a great story. Thank you for sharing this one. I have diabetes but not too seriously (so far) but found your story very helpful, though I
don't have anyone to walk with and
walking has not been easy of late.
Thank you also for your comments and
I am so glad you liked the Red Marbles; it was a nice story and makes us think about doing good deeds as they are remembered better
than words. I am fine after my fall which was inside on the carpet
The getting up was the hard part.
Take care, my friend,Love, Merle.

Lavinia said...

Oh my goodness, this is truly marvelous. Wow, what a post. Filled me with joy!

I hope you are having a wonderful mother's day, and I hope that your health continues on the path of joyous wellness!!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This was great. Is it a story or real life?

Nicole said...

This is so good. It gave me a warm, happy feeling inside. :)

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