January 26, 1985 is when I was married. It was the happiest day of my life and it being married was better than I had dreamed it could be.
Fifteen years later, January 26, 2000 my life was in ruins in so many ways. I was fat, 265 lbs. I was fifteen years older than I had been in 1985. Three of my children had died. Physically I was a mess as well.
How bad? Well, when I began the long slow road to physical health and started at a gym, I could move between 20 and 40 pounds on the machines, generally whatever the lowest setting was on the weight machines. Walking even a mile was difficult for me. I used to be just a little more fit than that.
It has been thirty-three years since January 26, 1985. Fifteen years to disaster. An interregnum. And then rehabilitation.
Now I weigh a good deal less. I can walk fifteen or more miles, with a full backpack over the Appalachian Trail’s ups and downs. In so many ways things are so much better. I move just a little more weight when I’m not doing other types of exercises.
This all came to mind as I read a story on Facebook that wrapped in someone who was looking at a shipwreck in many ways. They were getting divorced, they were older and they had gained a lot of weight.
It hit me emotionally and I really felt for them. I tried to express that, but did so poorly. Got told I was disgusting and fat shaming. The people I was trying to talk to didn’t get it. I wasn’t shaming the other person — I had been in their shoes — and I wasn’t claiming sympathy as an excuse to deride them. I had been that person whose world had crashed apart. I had been that person, fifteen years down the road, fat and disaster in my life.
I deleted my comments, realizing that I just wasn’t communicating and that it was my fault I wasn’t making myself understood.
In my life things are better now than they were in the year 2000. I was lucky enough not to face divorce (though burying three children in the space of five years was terribly hard and the death of so many dreams). I lost the academic career I had been building towards with publications and seminar presentations. When people called me to ask me to interview, I just really wasn’t fit for it, mentally. Though physically, if you’ve been 5’5″ and 265 pounds with no muscle tone at all (or seen someone who is at that place) you know I was a mess.
It is a terrible place to be. Yet.
Yet that day, January 26, 2018 I was glad to be alive (and glad to have my wife and two surviving children in my life).
They gave me hope.
Now, thirty three years later on January 26, 2018 I was glad to be alive.
It is now February 1, 2018 and I am still glad to be alive. There is so much joy possible. The person I was commenting on seems to see that, to have hope.
I want to believe that they mean what they wrote.
But it was good for me to look back and see myself in their shoes as well and to realize that was in part what I was seeing and what I was feeling.
Life is a blend, and it isn’t simple reductionism, but that is the part of it I feel like sharing.
- Have you ever found yourself at rock bottom and starting over?
- Have you ever found yourself reacting to someone else’s story and then realized you are (in part) reacting to the parts of their story that you see in yourself?
- How significant is it to have something left, so to speak, when everything else has broken? For me, having my wife in my life and having two surviving children (well, one who survived and one who came after all the deaths) was huge. I have friends who have had other things, sometimes just an idea or a writing project that seemed to hold their life together.
- What would you say to someone to give them hope in the midst of loss and darkness? I know that in dealing with other parents who have had children die, words fail me so many times.
- Do you ever have a muddled reaction to something and then realize that there may be more inputs to your reaction than you thought or realized?
- Have you ever realized that you are commenting or talking about something and really not communicating and wished that there was a delete button you could use?
Illustrations are from free stock photos at https://www.pexels.com and from Wiki Commons.
This was an introspection for a change of pace. I’ll be back with something more solid next week.