On Christmas Eve I woke up with the usual stomach impediments. I’ve been pursuing my recovery full on since I found out I still have almost 30 pounds to gain. Here’s a snapshot: A 9.5 pound watermelon, 200-calorie bar, and over 300-calorie handful of organic Maca maple (crack) cashews before sleeping.
On Christmas Eve, I made sure to get in some movement before anyone woke up, which was short lived. But I did not sit down, instead keeping on my feet for as long as I could. It’s a miserable existence, really. You secretly walk in circles, up and down the stairs, trying in earnest to stave off the uncomfortable feeling of fullness.
I ended up eating breakfast later than usual and kept according to my plan to take it light- almost as a way to undo yesterday’s calorie intake. I suppose my recovery is lacking here. That said, I got out of eating at the Italian restaurant my parents’ made reservations to because I would have to modify a dish three times’ over for it to come a little close to my liking. In the process, my parents would get frustrated, the waiter would likely be confused, and I’ll be dissatisfied regardless. That and I’ll be eating out at least four more times over the next week, so it was a compromise. Or maybe it was Christmas Eve and my parents did not want to participate in another argument.
Speaking of which, I felt my old self peeking through. I wanted to be around family. I wanted to take it slowly and live in the present. I crouched down, butt off the ground, uncomfortably full and constipated, to help wrap gifts by the tree with my mother.
I went to Whole Foods Market where I bought the higher calorie-muesli in cranberry cashew and a cup of pumpkin fig ancient grain cereal. I was pursuing recovery.
I had the opportunity to exercise at home, alone. I had already doused my hair and applied an avocado butter hair mask. I was set to stay home. The yoga mat occupied my mind as much as it did the top shelf in the closet.
I wasn’t going to perform yogic poses. I was going to do a set of mountain climbers, and a bit of core work. Nothing really, but something for me. Instead, I decided to go with them and packed up my low-calorie lunch that I wasn’t hungry for, and hardly walked around the crowded shops. My hair was dripping, droplets of avocado soaking my water resistant wool coat.
I found myself getting frustrated and walked up and down the staircase in the mall multiple times, feeling slightly off kilter, weak, and light-headed. It was the exact time that I met up with my parents who planned on not eating anything later that day.
The comparisons, were kept at bay though since I was in fear about feeling as crappy as I was. I thought my skin took on a shade of yellow. I ended up having a larger dinner than anticipated since I had “worked for it,” despite not being hungry. I was satisfied and full.
Then I got scared and ate an organic bar. Immediately the regret settled in.
I woke up this morning at the same time as my parents. My father is working out and my mother is starting to cook a chicken dish since my brother is arriving for a little over 24 hours.
Despite my belief in my indulgent overeating that is actually still less than what I should be eating, I pushed through, trying to have Reshmi reappear.
So I left low-calorie cookies on the counter that I clearly designated for Santa.
Still, I have been trying to avoid my mother so I can try and walk off that cursed bar.
I then asked her if I should cook breakfast for her and father, like I do every weekend. To my surprise, she replied no but I knew she had coffee already. And she doesn’t have coffee without a nibble on something.
I understood then: she ate one of the lower-calorie cookies that I left out for Santa. It may be 40-calories. The gesture of leaving a plate of cookies and cup of milk for St. Nicholas, was an attempt at reclaiming my old self- the old Reshmi who indulged in her dual Catholic-Sikh upbringing.
But she ruined it. My mother ruined it. Her breakfast was a 50-calorie cookie after no dinner. My father hasn’t eaten since yesterday afternoon and just lifted God knows how many hundred of pounds in weights for an hour.
Merry Christmas. My mood is off. I am pissed. I am full. I am walking in circles on the sly. The bottom of my feet ache. I have to make another visit to the podiatrist because my body went into survival mode again and developed painful callouses on the top left quadrant of my left foot to prevent my bone from directly hitting the ground.
Merry Christmas. I have to devise a plan on how to eat today to undo that bar and start over. I refuse to resume with plans to cook and consume a full-fledged black rice and salmon bowl or my organic chickpea-tomato Basil pasta dish that I had planned on eating.
I sabotaged myself with a desire to recover and I’m sabotaging myself with a desire to eat less than my active parents.
I hate that she’s not sitting down and is instead standing up and expending calories by chopping vegetables.
I hate that she caught me walking around in circles.
She asked me how I prepared the potatoes for a dish I made for her, my father, and brother.
“I don’t remember,” I just told her. I lied.
l could care less. I do remember. I hate that I am squandering my talent for cooking on everyone but myself.
Merry Christmas. Whatever little excitement I have for opening my presents is extinguished.
Most of the gifts are clothing and I feel as though my stomach is about to explode, rounded as it were in an uncomfortable bloat. I had no chance to perform my plank exercises to work my abdominal. I won’t be able to engage in these exercises until 2017 and that scares me.
Whatever small meringue peaks of Reshmi that were appearing, has immediately melted into a piling heap of liquid egg whites-
I’ll have to scoop those up and scramble it for my breakfast in a few hours.
Breakfast: I don’t think she is going to eat anything for breakfast. I don’t think my father will have breakfast. I know my brother never has breakfast.
I am going to have to eat breakfast and I hate it. I hate this. I hate that it’s beautiful outside and I cannot go on a long walk.
I hate that she just asked my father to ask my brother who he is picking up if he wants me to make handmade French Toast.
“But that is lunch. What’s breakfast?” I asked after eavesdropping.
“No,” my father said. “What your mom is preparing is lunch - and dinner.”
Great, so they’re going to have one meal.
“Concern yourself with you,” my mother said. “Just look at yourself.”
“You don’t know how much we ate yesterday,” my father said to my mom’s agreement.
“But that was yesterday. It’s been digested. And yesterday is yesterday, today is a new day. Isn’t that what you always tell me?”
Hot tears are streaming down my face. I am frustrated.
I want to walk into oblivion. I want to walk into nothingness.
“Forget it,” she said. I’ll just make eggs.
Hell no- hell no. I am going to cook that French toast and load it the hell up with all the calories that I have to consume. The batter will be eggs and vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I am going to sprinkle my pumpkin fig granola on top to make up for the lack of strawberries. I am going to douse that grill pan with copious amounts of butter.
I hate that she bought the bread from Whole Foods, suddenly piggybacking on my healthy eating philosophy. Still, the loaf serves 8 and for three people, the calories in the bread itself will equate to my bar and breakfast.
An even playing field is what I am after.
My dad left so it’s just a matter of navigating around her. She’s been on her feet nonstop as well- cooking and cleaning. I want her to stop. I want her to stop expending calories after not eating so that she works out more while I gain weight - which hasn’t been happening and yet it feels like I’m packing on the pounds. It’s getting closer to the time I have to eat.
The sun is shining outside and I wish I could absolve myself in its light on this holiday morning. I wish I could leave this house and let my freshly washed hair out and bask in God’s glory. I lost my faith, but there has to be a God.
Unfortunately my mother turned off the television so my footsteps and the creaking hardwood floors are revealing my endless walking. I’m stuck.
I’m stuck and I don’t know what to do. I could ask to go outside but I know she will take that opportunity to workout while I’m gone and I need to see it. I need to know that she is working out. I need to torture myself and I don’t know why.
I think she tried to make good this morning by asking me if I wanted to open up my presents. No, I will wait for my brother I answered.
Flashbacks of last year’s Christmas morning: it was the first year I was not at all excited to open up presents. I was in a foul mood and my mother reprimanded me for something. I remember glaring at her and hating everything.
And this year, it’s happening again.
When my brother arrives, I’ll have to eat. I’ll have to make their food, unidentified as being neither breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Actually, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to eat and they in turn, will tell me not to make the French Toast. In which case, they’re not going to eat at all.
She’s working out on an empty stomach now. I hate her. I hate her with every fiber of my being.
I do not want to eat breakfast. I do not want to open up presents. I don’t want to spend this week with her. I don’t want to celebrate.
I just want to walk out of this house and into another life. I can only hope that the phone will ring so she can’t workout. I did mentally prepare myself for her working out. I knew that it was too good to be true if she kept going on over a week without exercising.
Yet nothing prepares for you the present. The here and now.
“8:52 right now on this Christmas morning,” I hear the newscaster in the background say just as my mother confronts me with my walking around and says, “Kill yourself.”
8:52 - my birth time. I was born at 8:52 pm in June, three weeks past my due date.
Is this a sign that I am in peril? Is God trying to tell me something? Am I deserved of such sacred attention? Is this just a coincidence?
When I began writing this, it was entitled something different. It was meant to have an altogether festive tone and a positive vibe. But this is real life and in real time, I am telling you what transpires and why recovery is so difficult- why this illness has the highest mortality rate or of all the related illnesses.
And that scares me. But does it scare me enough to eat more and move less?
My skin doesn’t seem yellow anymore.
I think my eyes were deceiving me yesterday.
My feet seem like pillows instead of aching and bruised skin over protruding bones.
I could walk on forever.
When it snows, it forces the majority of the population to stay indoors, to cancel plans, and to slow down. It forces many to be in close quarters with others. Company is welcome, but not the one you have.
I realize as I type this that I, in this moment, do not appreciate the company that I keep. The truth is, there is so very little to appreciate in the way of this company. They’re all in a foul mood, flipping everyone off left and right and yet I yearn for something else, someone else, but not to live with or necessarily speak with, but just to be around. We’re social animals after all.
Enter: The brother, the surgeon. He has 24 hours to be at home before being whisked away in a sheath of white, his white coat.
He is someone who is my kin, who I can live with, but is also someone I hardly ever see or converse with. So I stopped what I was doing, in the other wing of the house, away from my parents, to serve my brother food and to chat it up for the duration of his eating. I got my mother to take in an earful, rarely getting out a word from her, while she was having a sorry excuse for a lunch: two pieces of not so much toasted as warmed up toast. I try not to get locked into the comparison trap of what the other woman in the house is eating as compared to what I eat.
Although, yesterday was the first time I saw her order off the “lighter menu” at one of those God forsaken chain restaurants she favors and then not even eating half of that.
Comparison may not be verbalized, but it sure is internalized against my better judgment.
My brother was unsurprisingly quiet, releasing bits and bobs of acknowledgement between swallows and sometimes throwing out his characteristically exasperated, “why” and unflinchingly annoying “I don’t know - you choose.”
The white outside is seeping into the crevices of window panes and shutter slits. The brightness had woken me up around 4 in the morning and continued to taunt me until I ultimately got out of bed before 6 am on a Saturday, exactly one week before Christmas Eve. Better for me because I get to mill around the house as some form of cardio before anyone became privy. Not better for me because the lack of routine and hustle on weekends that I hate with an undying passion, feels prolonged.
The saving grace is that one-liner from the Bracebridge Dinner episode from Gilmore Girls. I paraphrase: there’s no such thing as a quick minute because a minute is always sixty seconds.
Well, the same goes for there being no such thing as a slow day because there is 24 hours in a day for better or worse.
But today feels impeccably slow. I just want Monday to come, but that brings a whole slew of other issues.
One: I’m closer to having my lone time without partaking in forbidden activities like walking, depleted for about 10 days.
Two: The ultimate truth of how much progress or lack thereof I have made in recovery will be revealed.
That said, there is a flip side that sidelines positivity and instead focuses on reality, just as with time always being defined by a certain number.
I’ll be closer to having the anxiety end and having the time pass until the new year when everyone returns to work.
No matter what happens in the doctor’s appointment, it won’t change the fact that this will be how much I weigh and how well my organs function, even if I had not gone to see the doctor. I can’t change nor do I have control over it, so expending any energy on it is to no avail.
Just like I cannot change my parents. They will eat or not eat, take off from work or not, and exercise whether or not I like it. Allow this to resonate. Let this slowly sedate your anxiety until it passes. Let this newfound space conquer and fill it with all your hunger, desires, wants and needs.
The snow had stopped. The freezing rain too. The temperature has increased by a few degrees, but the damage is done. Sheets of white still cover rooftops and streets still promise to buckle underneath pockets of ice.
But time will pass. The more adventurous or rather, impatient citizenry have begun to drive. I can hear the soundtrack of crackling snow underneath tires. They are helping to clear the path for those who deem it impossible to exit the confines of their house. Insert my family here.
If only I lived in Manhattan, or on my own, I would have been layered up and out the door hours ago.
If only I lived elsewhere, I would not be prone to comparing: cataloging every meal consumed, or not, by my parents, calculating their every calorie, cringing at their every cardio and sculpt exercise.
Time will pass. Tomorrow the brother will have left before sunrise, the temperature will have increased by twenty degrees and the rain will pour, effectively wiping out remnants of Saturday’s snow. If only the rain could wash away the emotional detritus.
Emotions aren’t solidified concepts. They’re meant to be embraced, could be ignored, but in no way house the truth. And so with time, we’ll be spared of the emotions from now and retrieve a new set. Seasons Tidings.
I’m off kilter, rocking back and forth during the days leading up to Christmas. My routine is thrown off on occasion and my days seem to be filled with the unfamiliar, something that was once familiar, to the old Reshmi. I am talking about spontaneity; Spontaneity you that is brought on either by conscious choice, or, and more times than not, by the company I keep.
Washing my hair according to my scheduled holiday functions means transitioning from a weekend wash to the in-between, sometime midweek, and eating my 9 pounds of watermelon at 9 p.m., an hour later than usual. All of this has made me uneasy.
The longer weekends - I will no longer have the house to myself every Friday until 2017 - have made my incessant social media checking sparse.
Yet the break away from a pixelated screen is welcome in spite of the anxiety that rushes in later when I realize how many posts I missed and feel as though I have to catch up on it all.
I have to admit that sitting down in an enclosed heated car with the late fall sun reflecting through the glass and bouncing off the metal, does well to lull me into a lovely slumber. My head falls, my eyelids close in tandem, and I am rocked to sleep with the faint sounds of radio-play in the background.
I have to admit that the incessant quietude I am otherwise used to, punctuated by bouts of road rage and the latest songs, phone taps, and commercial jingles during car rides that are part and parcel of my long weekends, is a Godsend. I feel connected to a larger world and my legs can rest instead of moving without support on the hardwood floors at home. I am still so unused to uncarpeted floors.
I had an emergency run to the podiatrist after my large toe nail broke in half after getting snagged onto my comforter in the dead of night. The resulting cliff hanger nail caused a dreadful pain that made walking nearly impossible.
Prior to the nail fiasco, for three whole weeks, I felt discomfort on the bed of my foot. Upon turning my foot it over, I saw a small white dot surrounded by, not surprisingly, dry skin. The skin was hard though and my mother swore something had gotten stuck. She tried to convince me into thinking a foreign object had gotten stuck and would become infected.
The podiatrist clipped off the rest of the nail and said that I had developed a callous under my foot. Apparently, when there is little fat or cushion to protect the bone and keep it from hitting the floor, the skin around it begins to form thick layers as a makeshift guard for the bone.
It was clear - my anorexia had made my body run into overdrive again. To keep me upright and functioning, thick layers of skin began to form.
The podiatrist shaved it off, leaving a small indentation where the callous was.
I think I have another one now, this time on my left foot.
It’s odd. Throughout all my years of dancing, pounding on dirty floors, showering in dormitories, swimming for years and traipsing around the locker room, I never developed any foot problems that would send me to a podiatrist. Even after my senior year dance show in college, all my toenails that had loosened and were bloody, had quickly healed.
So my feet literally leave me off balance and I’m rocking.
I’m off balance.
Sometimes my body becomes a furnace, especially during the night while I’m in bed. Other times, most of the time, my body is ice cold. In fact, I relish burning heat in order to feel any warmth, making the living room’s fireplace my favorite part of the house. I sit close to the glass for long periods of time until I’m satisfied with my warmed up body temperature.
Afterwards my body aches. I look in the mirror and see my arm hair singed. I see red blotchy patches of skin. I’ve been slightly burned but my reflexes deceive me. My body is off balance and I’m rocking.
I open up the oven, struggling to turn over my roasting squash when my wrist hits the metal interior. I’m able to withstand the struggle more than anyone else in the house because I don’t get hot easily and just then, my reflexes deceive me once again. I jump in pain- my wrist has been burned. That was almost a month ago, and yet it’s still not healed.
This weekend we’re picking out the Christmas tree.
Remember- not a Friday to myself until the new year, so my weekend begins tomorrow.
After a morning appointment, I’ll have breakfast and then spend a good chunk of the day with the mother Christmas shopping.
Saturday we’ll be on the move - Long Island, Queens to Manhattan and back east.
Sunday is the day we’ll pick up our temporary in-house resident - the tree. Bits and baubles will be strewn until the branches have settled. The vacuum will whizz incessantly to pick up the pine needles.
I bet at least one stray needle will come into contact with my foot.
I don’t know what to expect from this weekend or the upcoming ones until 2017. All I know is that I’m rocking around the Christmas tree.
Her hands smell of buttery goodness, but her skin is parched- dry and cracking. Auburn desiccated blood outlines the cracks in the skin.
I wake up and bake cinnamon streusel muffins. I disregard the “healthy” swaps of egg whites for the eggs, water for oil, and zero-calorie PAM spray for the stick butter that lines the indented muffin tray. I am not going to eat these.
Last night, I roasted potatoes and carrots in the oven for my parents and brother. I used my hands to douse them in olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, rosemary, ground black pepper, and salt. The result was a lovely aroma, perfectly textured vegetables - the definition of a roast. I drizzled some more oil on after, just for the hell of it, and then justified doing so by seeing Mario Bartalli do the same on The Chew.
I had always wanted to roast vegetables for myself: cauliflower, broccoli, rainbow carrots, asparagus, fennel, and brussel sprouts - but I would have to buy my own true olive oil- cold pressed. I would put a much less amount than that described above and I would have to purchase pink Himalayan sea salt. Also, I would have to eat in bulk to ensure calories. I would have it with a poached egg perhaps, or hummus, but I wouldn’t be privy of calories, and that, for whatever reason, disturbs me. Am I eating too little? Too much? I know there is no such thing as the latter until I put on 20 pounds and even then, there will be no such thing as too much.
As I was sprinkling the salt with my bare hands, suddenly they stung horribly. The salt went into the nooks and crannies of my dried skin. I washed my hands but without success. The stinging lingered, and what is worse, is that I am stung even today.
“I was going to get that for you for Christmas, for your stocking.”
She was referring to a color blocked leather passport holder. I just looked at her. I had no words. I’m not even permitted to walk outside for more than 30 minutes and I sure as hell don’t go anywhere else. What would I do with a passport holder in my possession? It stung. It stung that I, who once had a travel bug, slowly but surely lost all desire to satiate wanderlust, especially without an income. That lack of desire, combined with my need to gain weight, makes it almost impossible to travel.
It stings not being able to enjoy returning home at the end of the day because I am at home all day, everyday. It stung that she would even think of gifting me a Passport holder.
Please don’t get it for me. It will just make me more depressed. I told her this and then I thought to myself, what an idiot.
I can just see myself, pulling out the chic leather accessory from my stocking on Christmas Eve. I have tunnel vision and cancel out those standing around me. I don’t jet-set like the rest of my friends do. They go on spontaneous trips, with minimal luggage, and yet somehow seem to be put together without any worry about expenses.
It stung when I was lied to regarding a quote unquote, concerned, relative. It stung that this person didn’t want to be revealed.
It stung when my own blood goes behind my back, calling up a confidante, under the auspice of me having given the phone number myself.
It stings that I am faulted for everything that goes wrong.
Sometimes my hands seem healed. I have forgone that annoying pet peeve of waiting around for cream to dry. I want to honor myself. I want to honor my hands. I remember reading about medical school anatomy lab in Mary Roach’s book, Stiff.
The hand was the single piece of anatomy that signaled human emotion. The hand gestures, it comforts, it expresses pride when it pats a back, it’s placed on sacred texts to validate vows, it touches and it feels. It’s tactile. It makes you who you are.
I want my hands to be silky smooth. And just when I think my incessant lotion lathering is working, the spaces between my fingers feel as though they are about to wither away.
Every time I pass by the town deli, I catch wafts of bacon sizzling, cooking, rendering. The smell intoxicates my nasal villi. I breathe in as deeply as I can, almost tasting the smell.
I consciously decided not to eat meat years ago. I never cared for the taste or texture of meat. It’s as simple as that. I have no ethical qualms against butchery or those who consume meat. I am well aware of the nutrients it provides, especially in the way of protein.
The last time I ate bacon was when my mother cooked it years ago in the Queens apartment we lived in that was owned by Trump, the president-elect.
The last time I ate the crumbly strip was when I was 5 or 6 years old and it was likely a Saturday morning. I remember the frozen rows of crinkly air-tight plastic-wrapped bacon being left out to thaw. I always recoiled at the taste of it. I still remember it’s briny, salty flavor and rough texture. I remember the contrast in the all-too-chewy middle and the crispy, crumbly ends. I remember the color- best described as the color of dried up blood or a scab that had not yet healed.
But that smell reminds me of simple times past. It’s like the smell of coffee for some people. They relish those roasted coffee beans, that dank, musky scent from a drip brew. But when it comes to taste, they describe coffee as sharp, chalky, and acidic.
That’s me and bacon. It made everything better as I was heading home from a forbidden walk. I felt full and lacked an appetite before my lunch.
The same goes for when I pass by bagel establishments, although I remember enjoying the taste of those Eastern European delicacies. The smell of the carb-loaded donut-shaped breakfast and lunch item, when toasted, leaves me in a trance. The flaky innards having absorbed the glistening butter creates so strong a smell that I can almost recall tasting it. I remember dismissing the plain bagels and preferring sesame over poppy. I salivated over the delectable spinach bagels from the longtime defunct Manhattan Bagels in Forest Hills.
On weekend indulgence days, I opted for deli ham slices, scallion cream cheese, or jam - strawberry, in between my bagel slices. I sometimes had the chocolate chip bagels out of kiddish desire, but I never really cared for the taste. A bagel wasn’t meant to be cake.
These smells evoke a sense of the familiar. I don’t feel deprived. If anything, they conjure up an otherwise lacking appetite.
Nearby where I live, there is also a popcorn factory. I never cared for the taste of popcorn. Popcorn was always too dry, oftentimes found residence in the crevices of my teeth, and sometimes seemed to get caught in my throat. I particularly never cared for the kernels that didn’t pop, sometimes unexpectedly making their way to the back of my throat, forcing a gag and scratchy swallow. These kernels sometimes threatened to chip a molar. Popcorn never seemed to satisfy my tastebuds either. Even the Christmas variety tins that had caramel and cheddar cheese flavored popcorn did nothing to placate my left-for-wanting palate. And yet I purposely would pass by the popcorn place if I was allowed to go on a walk, because the smell revs up my appetite.
Looking in the mirror, I am starting to see a familiarity. Cheeks are plumped up a little. I tried on a winter hat and didn’t see a deflated face underneath a cable knit rimmed fabric. It has been a long time since I could say that. My healthy face is so unfamiliar to me in the short term, and yet it resonates with the familiarity of a bagel shop.
Photo: Tiziano Vecellio, Titian - Maddona and Child with St. Catherine
Venice, 1576 - taken at the Louvre, Paris, France on the eve of my mother’s birthday, April 16, 2016.
In spite of any attention that my last post received, I want to clarify and make transparent - as any journalist does - that my mother is my best friend.
She is my ride or die.
She is my comrade and confidante.
She is the woman I aspire to be: solid limbs, limber gait, feminine, groomed - beauty defined.
I admire her and I don’t.
I want to improve her.
I don’t want to be her.
I want to embody her ideals more than my corporeal form already does, being born from her.
Without her, I cease to be. She made me promise that this wouldn’t be the case.
I don’t want to break that promise and that is why I want so badly to regain my health, so that I can commit to carrying her legacy of a strong woman.
You, my mother, are everything to me.
As the religion I was born to asserts: without woman, man is not born and kings do not exist.
Without my mother, this Kaur, this so-called princess, does not exist either.
CLXXVII. Friday Night Sweats & Saturday Night Fever make for Sunday Night Solace -
Excuse me, but have you ever tried this hummus before?
It was the first time I went outside all day and it was after 4 p.m. on a Saturday during perfect fall weather. The air was brisk, the sky clear, the sun rays falling universally so that one didn’t have to dodge an extremely cool patch, type of day.
The next day, Sunday, I interviewed someone for a story and it was amazing. I was content. I felt my old self emerge, completely drawn into the story and what my subject had to say. I left with a smile and entered into a car that was filled with tears.
It was Diwali. I didn’t light any diyas, not even a candle. I didn’t shower until that evening. I never went to temple. I ate something unmemorable. It torrentially rained. I neither distributed nor received any customary confections. There were no calls and no messages.
It was like there was a death in the family.
To be honest, I felt deadened inside.
I didn’t want to celebrate. I did, but I didn’t.
I’ve lost my faith. I don’t remember the last time I went to temple or sang/listened to hymns. But I haven’t lost - I cannot pinpoint what it is. That is to say, I overheard my father say he would possibly go to a particularly sacred temple west of India. Growing up we had always planned to make that pilgrimage together, but I am not in the equation. I don’t care, but I do. It’s not like I’m healthy enough to make that trip regardless, but it is what it is.
I never was one to not want to live with my parents, but when I see people in their fifties thriving: wearing nice clothes, having to buy new things, working out, going outside even if just for work, eating a salad or sandwich but scowling if I ever mentioned doing any of that… it’s mentally exhausting feeling as though your Lindsay Lohan and everyday feels like a Freaky Friday. As it is, I hate Fridays and the ensuing weekends in which I cannot go out or do anything for fear of my parents. I hate that I feel as though I am 50- not allowed to move around or pick up groceries, and it seems they’re in their twenties.
What child hates their parents for living their best?
But I am pissed that I mentioned washing my hair and doing my nails at home yesterday, only to be convinced that I should put it off - again. And then the next morning, lo and behold, my mother washes her hair and does her nails before I wake up. I hate that they woke up earlier than me. I hate that I convinced myself that my body requires more rest and more time in bed- especially my throbbing right knee.
I hate that they manipulate me.
I hate that I let them do it. I hate that everyone mentions good intentions but I don’t see it.
I hate that I sat down to dinner yesterday and caught her make a nasty upturned-lip smirk, confronted her, and then had to hear that I’m crazy and I’m making it up. I wasn’t.
But it’s so easy to tag the anorexic as crazy, loony.
Like this morning. All hell broke loose. They wanted to go out for bagels. They made that plan yesterday and I was happily not included in it. And then suddenly, I’m asked to go. More like, I’m forced to go, but I don’t want to go out for breakfast. I am full and usually don’t eat until later. They know this. I refuse and I’m once again labeled the anorexic. The crazy psycho person who needs help.
I want to be outdoors and leave this hellish house but that means going where they want to go: out to eat or shopping- car, indoors, car.
I hate that another beautiful day is gone. I hate that I can’t enjoy the outdoors. I hate everything about my life.
I’m writing all of this so that people can know. I want you to know what I am going through.
So now they’re staying at home. He’s not eating anything and she ate less than 150 calories’ worth of pie.
I would have rather them eat the more caloric bagels. I hate that I fake apologized so they could resume their normal plans of eating said bagels. I hate that they could care less. So here we go again. A weekend of comparisons.
I hate weekends and I can’t shake it off. I hate that she told me it’s a long weekend for Veteran’s Day, so now she has off on Friday -again.
My mind goes one way and then the other. Eat more, you have less than a month until your next weigh-in. No, eat less. If you gain, fine, but eating this much isn’t sustainable. What if they make you eat even more? It’s hellish and uncomfortable.
People who undergo the uncomfortable come out with amazing results. They’re always happier for it. Do it. If you’re not uneasy, you’re not doing something right. Recovery is supposed to be difficult.
I don’t want a nutritionist. I don’t want a “plan,” or just another way for my autonomy to be taken away from me.
Your autonomy isn’t being taken away from you. You’re letting it slip from you. It’s all you.
Let me eat this entire bar, all 300 calories worth, every single day, so I can get out of this hell and start working out while fueling myself this time around. But you’re going to be flabby and dissatisfied with your body. Who knows how long it will take to reclaim your body?
But at least I’ll be able to do what I want and on my own terms. At least I’ll have endorphins kicking in.
Do you want to keep incessantly walking around in circles on the sly around your house or do you want to explore hiking trails, climb and clamber over hills, and see the scenery change? Or use a treadmill that isn’t completely parallel to the ground?
I looked in the mirror while at the mall and I saw a glimpse of Reshmi shining through. For a fleeting few seconds, I saw her. But then I suddenly saw her disappear into that offensive jawline, and pesky vectors formed by skin on either side of her eyes when her face wasn’t in a resting state. Just then I remembered having viewed a beauty blogger’s video journal entry about her pregnancy with twin girls. She said she was gaining a good amount of weight, which was medically advised. The one good thing, she said, was that her face was filling out and any indication of fine lines forming during her late twenties had evaporated. Her face was smooth, her skin flawless, and then there was the quintessential glow.
Should I pretend I’m pregnant then? Should I incentivize my weight gain for another’s life if mine isn’t valid enough or if I cannot succeed in bridging the mind-body disconnect?
I think I should. It seems to be working- just barely. I slept in until 7:20 today and I feel rejuvenated aside from the massive bloat and constipation.
But then I see him working out for hours and I transform into a monstrosity of a person. I feel as though I’m dying inside - lazy, weak, handicapped. I am so devalued by sleeping in, by eating, by remaining sedentary and consciously undoing the widely held belief that 10,000 steps a day is necessary and worth it. I want to move. I don’t want to gain. But I do want to gain. My mind’s cleavage is at odds with the innate bilateral hemispherical one.
It’s just so uncomfortable to gain while everyone else, it seems, is losing. Join a support group and you’ll see how many need to gain. But I don’t want my life to be consumed by this eating disorder. I don’t want to be around them. I do not want to talk to them, but I want to.
A little advice: Eat what you grew up eating. You’ll want to eat more. I just want to see you healthy and happy.
I want to eat what she’s making, but I don’t. The smell and the taste is omnipresent in my mind’s eye but the smell is also pungent, plunging into the threadbare fabric of my first collegiate sweatshirt that promised so much: Harvard, Ivy-bound. Been there. Done that. Now what? The taste is marred by the after-taste.
Why are you trying to reach point B and dwell on point A without the in-between, the present, the here and now? I want to be mindful. But I want motility. And I want to stand or sit in time and be one with time. I don’t want to race against the clock anymore. I don’t want to fight my body. It’s tiring me out.
And yes, I want to talk to those victims, those who are recovered. They already went through the in-between phase; the phase I want to bypass, the body of murky water I want to cross without floating, but instead soaring, flying above, as an if out-of-body experience, and then landing lightly unto the ground beneath my feet. There I’ll walk.
I’ll never be the same coming out of this experience, but that is not a bad thing. I’ll be better than before - improved. But it takes time. And I have “now” in my possession.
When you trade in something, you get something in return for something lost. What is lost is not necessarily found, and what is returned is not necessarily equivalent - as in an even exchange - to what is acquired.
So there’s that. One thing is for certain, however, that which is acquired is not lesser in value. In fact, a trade in is governed by two parties. It’s not a one-way street. If you don’t want to trade in something, you don’t have to. It is your decision to do so, should you find the other party’s possession desirable.
I’m trading in my eating disorder - the power to control how much I weigh - for something bigger than myself. I’m trading it in for a reclaiming of that power I had when I contributed to society in my own small way. I used to confront men who stopped to stare, leer, and make sexually charged remarks at me. If I could even get my point across to one person, that’s all I needed.
I cringed at the idea of unwanted attention by men, as do most women. No one enjoys a catcall or having eyeballs plastered to their rear end when wearing anything but harem pants.
I remember going onto the Queens-bound F train platform at 63rd and Lexington after my internship. I was wearing a pair of straight-legged jeans with a small hole on the right knee, the result of having fallen face forward while wheeling my small red suitcase along the cobbled path of Locust Walk after a weekend trip home. I had on a short sleeve button-down David Bitton Buffalo plaid shirt. My hair was pulled into a side ponytail. I was wearing my “at home” glasses frame- a plastic black frame with a neon interior. I felt put-together in a casual summer day kind of way. I didn’t expect to be approached by a large unwieldy man that day much less anyone else. As I was about to pull out my withering stare and go off on my feminist spout, he looked me in the eye and said, “You’re beautiful.” His voice and eyes were so genuine in spite of his outward appearance. “Thank you,” I replied before entering the train.
I remember purposely wearing baggy shirts during the warmest summer days when going for walks because I wanted to hide any curves from the wandering eyes of landscapers. It was a reflex for me to cross the street as soon as I heard the whirring of lawn mowers in the distance.
I remember my grad school crush smiling at me and our occasional catching glimpses of each other in our peripheral vision.
I remember dropping pounds, wearing a dress that no longer hugged my thighs and wearing audible heels, walking the streets of Manhattan. I remember men turning their heads at the sound of the “clip, clomp,” only to be met with a straight-edged figure without so much as a bump aside from knees and shoulders. “Nothing to see here,” I thought, smiling, on the outside and inside. They turned their gaze to the next heel-wearing woman, someone who met their expectations - a body that menstruated.
I remember seeing my crush’s face contort and jaw drop when he saw me 4 months later and 20 pounds lighter. I remember feeling hurt, embarrassed, confused, and a tiny bit regretful. Again, there was nothing to see here.
I’m not told I’m beautiful anymore, but I also don’t get that unsavory attention. I don’t need validation, but I am human and hearing compliments does well for my heart and mind. I’m trading off my eating disorder at the risk of being approached by undesirable men but will also have the chance to be complimented and admired again.
I’m trading off curvy thighs for the ability to become a mother, the ability to run, to bike ride, to ride against the wind’s direction and feel as if I’m levitating as opposed to feeling as though I’m suffering a blow to the face and gasping for air.
I’m trading off what has become a very small, closed off world to the one with problems in the most obsolete pockets of civilization that I had once felt weighed on my shoulders as well.
It’s a trade-off, but it’s not immediate. There is a lag time and that period of waiting is proving almost too much to bear. It is so very uncomfortable to remain sedentary, to stop myself from enjoying the weather, to try and pass time with immobile affairs that have the potential to flex the mind- or not.
I remain awake and refuse to slumber. And of the four times that I have committed to laying horizontally, only twice did I feel it justified. The other times I felt weakened, hopeless, and deadened, and yet it was an accomplishment because it was one step closer to recovery. One less calorie expended.
I need to get my liberal college of arts & sciences ass on the level of my undergrad peers groomed by Wharton - I have to go to the stock exchange and make that trip to Wall Street on my own. I need to trade in this hell for another hell- one that I can sideline, one that I can observe, one that I can avoid and help others to avoid as well, one that does not have to be lived.
I thought I would be wearing an engagement ring on my right hand’s ring finger. I thought I would have my male relatives dunk red and ivory bangles in milk before they ran my hands and wrists ever so daintily through the hoops.
Instead a ring made just for me has been dunked in milk and I’m wearing this coral, almost fittingly, pumpkin spiced stone on my right hand’s ring finger. This is a game changer; and when I say that, I hope that it is a game changer in more ways than one.
The stone touches my skin no matter how it falls. It feels large and foreign. I keep swiveling it around and around, and I attempt to remove it before remembering that I’m not supposed to. That and my knuckle is a kind of speed bump that prevents it from slipping off. But I do end up taking it off, without fully realizing it, because it feels so strange on my finger. I guess this is good practice for a wedding ring.
They tell me I’ll get used to it. Keep it on always, they say. Keep it on in the shower too. I haven’t showered with it on yet because I had to bathe before I could wear it, which was yesterday morning and it’s still dark outside at 6 a.m.
I thought I would have mustard yellow turmeric paste applied to my skin to achieve that bridal glow. Instead, I’m lamenting the fact that Kiehl’s turmeric skincare only includes a mask and not a facial moisturizer. I’m on the hunt for a new face cream to prevent my naturally dry skin from drying out more during the upcoming months of cooler temperatures.
What this ring has given me so far is an odd affinity for my Indian identity. The stone’s saffron color does well to place me squarely in the princely court of actor Ranveer Singh for his award winning performance in Bajirao Mastani, which I only just saw a year later.
Standing in the eastward direction while putting on the ring made me feel as though I was performing surya namaskar, a sun salutation that when performed in the morning must be done facing eastward and on an empty stomach. Yesterday morning I had successfully emptied out my rotund anorexia-recovering stomach somewhat prior to putting on the ring. Too much information? Not enough, never enough. You’ll never understand.
I’m hoping my finger plumps up a bit if and when I gain so that the ring doesn’t swivel so much. It feels like an extra appendage. And whenever that day materializes, we’ll make another trip to the highly Indian demographic locale miles away to have the band stretched and molded.
On that day I’ll include myself in the dining experience at the local authentic Punjabi corner joint. I’ll eat the vegetable filled circular bread that is pan fried in nondescript oil, just as I once did. Hopefully then I’ll trust my body. Trust that it won’t blow up out of proportion.
In my body, I will trust. Trust that it will stave off hunger and signal satisfaction. Trust that if and when I do gain, that extra mass that’s not really extra because there is no such thing as being superfluous, will aliquot itself to where my body needs it.
This ring may have no start and no end unless of course we see it from a bird’s eye view, in which case there is a start an end from the top and the bottom. And that gives me hope, because my eating disorder had a beginning and it most definitely has an end. I have to end it, but hopefully this ring will do as they say and aid me on this treacherous path.
In my body I will trust, that it will stave off fullness by means of contracting colons. I will trust it to pack on pounds, hell, an ounce, where it sees fit. In my body I trust to keep my hunger at bay - to not reach the point of SOS in the form of a whining and wheezing stomach that sounds more akin to a sickly leper than a tigress’s growl.
I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I am the “Mai Bagho” of my family. She was a female warrior who later became the bodyguard of the tenth Sikh Guru after going into battle on a cohort of 40 against the Mughals. If Sikh men are considered lions, the literal translation of the surname, “Singh,” then the women are at par. And I need to growl.
I trust that my body will growl. I trust that my body will not only fight, but lead the fight, even that one waged against my mind.
“To hell with it,” I start telling myself everyday. Eat the god damn second slice of bread. Buy a second container of the god damn 80-calorie per cup milk instead of the 25-calorie per cup cashew milk. If you don’t do it, if you don’t gain, you best believe you’re headed toward inpatient hospitalization and over there you’re going to have to consume the chemical-laden Ensure drinks that are always on sale at the store. Over there you’re going to have to consume 2% whole milk that isn’t low-carb and high protein.
Inpatient means gaining as quickly as possible by any means possible. That is, gain on their terms, that which is not financed by your parents. The one that doesn’t think it’s financially sound to buy 36-pounds of watermelon a week, everyday, even when it’s off-season and priced at $0.99 a pound.
Today is the first day of fall. My parents bought a metal-wrought Jack-O-Lantern that when hooked up to our electric line, will have burnt Amber flames erupting from its toothless smile and soulless eyes.
We found a metal, bronze colored Jack-o-lantern, complete with handle, in which to put treats in for the costumed children. My mom and I have a plan to sit outside on those Adirondack chairs, both of us wrapped in our red, black, and white plaid blankets, to greet the passerby and dole out not candy, but solid name-brand, hygienically wrapped chocolates, on the 31st of October.
The day before is Diwali, so we’ll have little lanterns lining the perimeter of our manicured lawn in addition to the aforementioned light-up pumpkin and a couple of real pumpkins we plan on picking up from a farm out on the North Fork of Long Island.
I’m buying those acorn squash like there is no tomorrow because tis the season. To hell with feeling immensely full after eating. The flesh inside is golden, with just enough body to not feel too starchy and yet not end up a puddled mess of fibrous pulp. The flavor is all at once sweet and nutty. And so I eat it because I leave it undressed, without salt, butter, oil, or spice and hospitalization requires it to be doused in any combination of tastes so long as it achieves high caloric status.
I’m seeking out sweet potatoes for the same reason. They’re in season and the bright orange innards are so sweet but not cloyingly so. The consistency lends itself to having a nice runny golden yolk running through it. The rivulets of which cut the starchiness, no salt needed.
I’m throwing caution to the wind by agreeing to go out to eat. I choose a place beforehand, planning out my order, because having someone do it for me means meeting scientific requirements that doesn’t lend itself to the experience of taste.
If it weren’t up to me, my salads would be drowning in dressing, and whatever isn’t absorbed by the micro greens will just have to be sopped up by crusty bread with a spongy interior, and my beverage would be a nice tall glass of milk. And when I say nice, I mean anything but that because who in the hell would have milk with their dinner or eggs-any-style brunch? Sure as hell isn’t me.
I’ll have a coffee, black, oh and decaf because I have accepted the fact that having caffeine and being underweight is probably at par with intoxication.
I’m not a rebel,but I am willing to fall.
What better time than now, today, the first day of fall?
My mother told me this yesterday after I admitted an obvious relapse. She reprimanded me first, as is the norm and I don’t know why I would expect anything else, but I again mistakenly thought she would softly assure me that I would get through whatever it is I needed to get through. She’s not that type of mother.
You have to have will power. It’s all a mind thing, she told me.
You see, I went through an unhealthy weight loss that wasn’t considered anorexia, years ago, back in freshman year of college. Back then, I had only lost 10-12 pounds, but I rapidly put the weight back on. I had lost my period and was taken to my pediatrician who threatened to send me to rehab. I was so naive and vulnerable. I was scared shitless and I was so happy to be home and eating my favorites again that I ate, and ate. I stuffed my face, dismissing my shrunken stomach - the result of not eating.
I ate until nausea consumed me. I ended up throwing up at times, but hating the bodily discomfort of trembling that accompanied it. I hated how throwing up felt like I was being possessed, head over the toilet, and I avoided it all costs. I would rather suffer from a stomach ache and have the contents of my stomach come out through my rear end than through my mouth. I also didn’t want to undo all the work of eating to gain.
So my father would walk around the block with me, in an effort to make my body acclimate to the enormous amount of food.
Eventually the weight I had lost was part of me again and my stomach was open. I say that the weight was a part of me again, as awkward as that sounds, because my body, as is everyone’s, has a set point - a weight necessary in order for our hormones to function properly. This is how much space we’re supposed to take up, lest we’re dead.
I didn’t think about how many carbs I was eating when I ate toasted bagels with butter. Hell, there was no other way to eat a bagel than with butter.
I never thought about the fried crunchy bits on chaat - a sweet and savory popular Indian street food. I never thought about the starchy boiled white potatoes or the added sugar from the cloyingly sweet tamarind chutney.
I never thought twice about savoring the Betty Crocker muffins my mom made, substituting the oil and eggs it called for with water and egg whites. I thought that was a healthy choice. Kudos, mom. That George Foreman Grill of the 90s did well to make us privy of healthy eating.
I never did like granola bars, though I took to Kudos, the brand of sticky cereal bars that had traces of chocolate chips, more than any of the others on the market.
I would look forward to pancakes, made from boxes, filled with refined white flour, with added blueberries and a slice of glistening butter melted on top.
The past couple of days, I have felt as though my heart was going to give out. It felt fatigued. My breathing had begun to feel labored. My veins bulged along my arms and legs until they physically hurt. My sunburned skin felt taught. I felt as if death was eminent. I had anxiety and panicked. I burst out crying.
I called an eating disorder specialist at NYU for who a consultation cost $600. She said my eating should be medically supervised. She said, “that’s why so many people die of this.” I don’t want to die. I don’t want it to end like this. I also don’t want to pay $600, but the direness of my situation having dawned upon me by this Johns Hopkins medical school-educated woman, my brother a fellow alum, was all it took to put me in my place. The fear she instilled in me was enough, no fee necessary.
Yesterday I ate more and did not move lest I expend energy. My mom asked me to eat a bagel. I refused, so she left without picking up one either, despite the fact that she wanted one. I knew I had made a mistake when I told her to go to the bagel place that I walked to, to buy her bagels. It’s about an hour walk away from my house- figure 3-4 miles coming and going. She flipped and my secret was out.
She asked me to eat a slice of pizza for lunch after I couldn’t breathe again yesterday. I again refused.
I made her muffins this morning. I know she loves them. She asked if I was going to eat. Again, I refused. I had already felt disgusted with myself for eating so much yesterday, for having that dreaded protein shake this morning. She refused to eat the muffins.
I took her by her hand today and vowed, regrettably so, not to move. I self-imposed house arrest. I hate that I did that, but I have to.
After our argument was patched up, we decided to sit outside in the backyard and look through the 800-page September issue of Vogue. A bee was trailing me.
Now, for your point of reference, I don’t react to wild creatures outside. I don’t so much as flinch when a bee comes near me. Pests, on the other hand, like those creepy crawlies that rhyme with “coaches,” scare me to no end.
So the bee would not let me be. At this point, I lost my yogic stance because there was a high probability that I would be stung. And in the Darwinian case of predator and prey, being the latter, I stared to bob and weave in spite of my weakness, lack of energy, and bulging veins.
My mother’s maternal instinct revved up and somehow she made contact with the bee on her first kick, knocking the wind out of it so that it fell to the ground, and then swiftly stepped on it. “There,” she said, stoic, strong, and satisfied.
That was my momma bear. She is the epitome of a strong woman. She is doing her yoga now while I eat and sit and sit and eat. I am pissed. I feel like she is egging me on, taunting me, working out in front of someone for whom working out is off limits.
But she was willing to let me buy the bicycle I wanted yesterday and she stood in line at customer service just so she can show the manager the organic superfood bars I love to eat, but that they sold out of. A part of me felt like she did it because of their high calorie count. But then again, she didn’t complain when I opted for black bean soup and whole grain toast instead of the Italian food my father and her planned on eating. And she got me a subscription to Health Magazine, knowing fully well that a good deal of its contents revolve around exercise.
I think those were her ways of giving me a little happiness in my world of darkness.
We went to a women’s undergarment shop while looking for additions to our wardrobe for fall. We both noticed that the quality of the shops products increased since the last couple of years when we decided to peruse their shelves only to leave disappointed.
I know I keep coming back here, but I really like this place, I told my mother. Especially since- I paused, leaned in closer to her and whispered - they support eating disorder awareness. My mom knew how serious this was. Hardly anyone knew anything about the dire health risks of anorexia aside from victims, their families, and specialists.
“They do?” my mom asked.
Yes, I replied. Don’t you remember last year at the walk? They were one of the sponsors and gave away tote bags.
After having paid and prior to leaving the shop, my mother went up to the store manager without my knowledge. She thanked her for supporting the National Eating Disorder Association. She left the store smiling.
I’m in a hole and I want out. I want out so badly. I want to travel, to write, to work, to live. Laughing is so foreign that it physically hurts on the rare occasion that I do.
I can’t live like this anymore. I thought this “can’t” made me weak, but in reality, it makes me strong. It makes me a strong woman.
Maybe I’ll dress as Rosie The Riveter this Halloween. Maybe I’ll have the energy to hand out treats to the costumed children. Maybe I’ll be able to laugh without doubling over in pain. Maybe I should just do this and forget that I let a year pass without progress.
1. Your mother measuring out less than a cup’s worth of Cheerios (below 100 kcal) and then ultimately deciding to have a cup of watermelon (46 kcal) instead.
She decides to do this in front of your face immediately after you have declared a vow to eat above 2000 kcal a day while remaining sedentary.
You take off on a walk, packing the 3 pounds worth of caloric protein shakes that you hate, so that you can return them once and for all. You want to get away from her. You want to scream at her and raise hell. You want to gently slap her hand that clasps onto the measuring cup handle. You want to, but you leave instead.
2. Upon reaching your destination, or just about, you see your reflection in storefront windows just as dusk is setting in. Spider-veined legs that could be mistaken for wooden stilts had you not been only 5 feet and 4 inches, shine in the setting sun.
You flinch. You’re terrified of yourself. You turn back home, debating whether or not walking the few more feet to drop off the 3-pound load is less detrimental than lugging it all the way back. You decide on the latter, reevaluating how much you should eat for dinner after settling on something less than what you had planned before the first sighting.
And just when you thought you made up your mind, you become aggressively upset again, replaying over and over the image of Cheerios falling and then settling neatly below the 1-cup mark.
You go back to the original plan of eating a less calorically dense meal. You justify it by saying how you’re not fickle-minded. Instead, you stick to your word. Except the hyphenated word, calorie-consumption, preceded by 2000 and up. Confusion sets in. Now what? Another day in fear?
You remember the mantra you wrote in that new planner you bought and only today bothered to scribble in after deciding you would sit down during the day: You Do You.
You remember seeing a weight restored anorexic captioning her Instagram photo with the words, “Recovery never tasted so good.” You want to spite your mother so that while she suffers from lack of a tasty meal, you get to indulge in something delicious. In yo’ face, you think.
You want to go home now. You want to be by your mother’s side, in the safety of her God-given maternal instinct. You regret not agreeing to sit with her and pass the time by flipping through the newest J. Crew catalog, which you had planned on doing before her restricted dinner. But you know that immediately after the bonding experience, she is going to do her yoga.
“Life is complex,” is not just an understatement, it’s a lifestyle. It’s routine. It’s a cycle. It doesn’t end.
Complexities don’t end, but surely an eating disorder does. Either that, or your life comes to an end.
You’re frightened by this idea.
More than anything, you want to go home now. You want to rewind to actually sitting it out all day, to not have undone the little that was made in the way of progress.
You do you.
You do you.
You do you.
You keep telling yourself this as you make your way back home.
You do you.
You do you.
You do you.
You plan on heating up your dinner upon entering the house, but you’re still not sure what you’re going to eat.
You tried to distract yourself from walking incessantly by actually turning on the television this afternoon. But every time you try, something comes up: the television was not turning on.
You think back to your breakdown yesterday - your soliloquy, when you kept asking God why this was happening to you. You remember telling God that you never in a billion years expected this to happen to you. You reminded God of your daily excursions to temple, something you truly loved to do and did of your own accord for years. You asked God what you did to deserve this.
And just when you’re getting angry again, you remember breaking the pact you made to yourself yesterday- to limit walking and to eat even more, no matter what. After all, your mom got married. Your mom gave birth. Your mom has lived her life.
You’re home and you’re pissed. Sure enough, your mother is doing yoga while you go heat up a lentil stew with a side of cheese. All of this before your nightly 9 pounds’ worth of watermelon and snacks.
After the eating deed is done and waiting out the stomach pain before finally laying horizontally, you open up the pantry, feeling as though you could eat more when during the day, this isn’t the case.
You come face-to-face with your mother’s shelf, filled with the goods that she always loved and managed to eat without gaining an ounce: Devil Dogs, Junior Mints, and Godiva macaroons.
You see the new box of chocolate cupcakes that have the baseball mitt-design frosting, which she bought a couple of hours earlier, ripped open. You peek inside and see that two individually wrapped cupcakes are gone. She probably packed them to take for breakfast tomorrow morning, you think.
So you look in her undesignated lunchbag only to find a sweater and some paperwork. You then explore the inner canals of her purse without finding anything in the way of food aside from breath mints.
It dawns on you: she may have eaten the two cupcakes when you were out on your walk. So you look inside the garbage, throwing to the side all of your disposable plates and watermelon rinds.
Sure enough, you spot a cupcake wrapper. Unsure of yourself, you keep looking until you find the second missing wrapper.
“Food is fuel,” you think to yourself.
You realize you don’t know the whole story after all. You tortured yourself about her not eating as much as you, when in fact, that wasn’t the case.
It is the next morning. You talk to her bright and early, fearing she may go at it again with you. Instead, yesterday’s arguments seemed to have dissipated. She tells you she might buy bread to have with her butternut squash ravioli today. She tells you to buy a scale just for you, and doesn’t force you to stand in front of her. You think maybe she understands, or is at least trying to help. You’re on a walk while talking to her because well, you ate too much last night and you feel disgusting, but you want to enjoy breakfast when you go home. You hope the long walk will help.
It does - eventually. Or maybe it took you to eat more to finally relieve yourself.
Later in the day, she makes a comment about your weight. She decides to eat a cold cut sandwich instead of the pasta, but you don’t care. You think you don’t care. You do care, but not so much. You think this is progress, but it isn’t really. You try to avoid anything that may cause her to talk about your weight, but her grimace and comment - “oh my God” - weighs on your mind.
“How are you doing,” he asked me as we were walking by each other. He asked it with all the inflections of someone who is engaging in cool small talk, with a particular affinity for the Long Island accent. There was no verb after the initial inquisitive “how” and the all too deceiving double vowel ending of “you” was substituted for the first letter of the alphabet, still deceiving because it was produced as a short vowel u. The second verb in the gerund form became two words blended into each other: do and in.
“How ya doin?”
I replied: “Good. How are you?”
I was surprised at my own chipper tone. I’m not well. Not in the least. Arguments from last night have rolled into this morning, bulldozing what I was building up in my head to be a new, good day, and flattening the crux of this pleasant summer day into nothingness, before pummeling the end of the day into a dark oblivion. It’s an alternate world, my world. There is neither a calm before nor after the storm.
This week is predicted to be a stormy one and today was supposed to be the sunny, pleasant Bon Voyage to the weekend. This week, the girth of the storm, will be our calm. That is to say, the upcoming work week will promise a timetable of errands. There, in turn is an unspoken compromise that lends itself to our pantry being stocked with the necessary groceries and having the mailbox emptied of its contents. The idea of not have to expend energy on petty domestic affairs after a long day at work - that’s the calm for us.
Weekends are deviations from my robotic routine and as I’ve mentioned before, are not looked forward to. Weekdays, however, come and go. While I am always appreciative to see time pass, that’s just it. I’m seeing time pass. I’m not living.
Or so I think.
Because as I walk and occasionally catch shade, tilting my neck up and away from my phone screen, I see rabbits hopping away from the intruder, cats glowering all the same, three women conversing at a yard sale, two boys on scooters, cars driving by, leaves rustling, and shadows being cast before again making way for the sun.
I need to escape. I need to look beyond and get away from this routine because while it can be cathartic, it too can be toxic. This is a dilemma. It’s not just that life is complex and quote unquote, shit happens. It’s not just another bump in the road. It’s anything but that.
Shit is hitting the fan and it’s spreading everywhere. It’s the picture in chemistry textbooks that are used to describe diffusion of gas particles or entropy, a state of natural disorder.
My disorder is unnatural. It’s abnormal. It’s one big set of prefixes before words that can stand alone.
The turmoil I find myself in is all on me. My burden has become the burden for one and all, and while I deny my father’s declaration, I will admit to the idea that if I have to suffer - if I have to be reprimanded for going for a walk or not eating this, that, or the other, then it’s only fair that everyone else should be miserable as well. Let them reap that which I am subject to.
That may sound ugly, but it’s how I feel and I cannot hide from it. I believe this is known as bitterness. The other truth is, I don’t find this bitterness sweet. I find this sentiment altogether horrendous, though understandable given the circumstances.
I want this all to end. I want the brief honeymoon period, erected on fake dispositions upon my brother’s homecoming, to last forever instead of ending after a short 4-day span. We were falling back into the sights, sounds, smells, and conversations. A semblance of that which you hope never changes or comes to an end, was making itself known again. But all that had resurfaced just as quickly disappeared.
And I’m trying to escape. I’m walking away and returning. I go back and forth and reprimand myself. I’ve become a prefix and called my father to pick me up so I wouldn’t have to walk back before walking again. I’m mulling over getting a bike instead. At least living will be mandated then- I won’t be staring at my phone and typing this while riding a bike.
When a recovering anorexic fits into a pair of maternity jeans from the GAP, all hell breaks loose. I had no idea the sale denim leggings were for a budding mother. There was no indication on the tags. After all, the size translated to zero and they looked tiny.
I ventured to compare the price I paid in store to online as soon as I came home, yet I could not find the pants anywhere. It was not until I googled a description of the pants that something almost identical came up for the maternity section, and yet it was not the same as the pants I purchased. It was close enough though.
I wasn’t sure if the pants were for the pregnant or not. It’s like when medical professionals advise against looking up symptoms on web search engines. The results are not reliable.
Still, I was so disgusted by the idea of me buying a pair of maternity pants when I haven’t had my period in 2 years, that I ventured to return them less than 24-hours later, picking up the wrap denim skirt instead.
I had been eyeing the skirt for a long time. For one, it was almost a carbon copy of a denim wrap maxi skirt my mom used to own. It was also right on trend with the 90s scheme- my childhood and preadolescent era. It is timeless, classic, and a staple piece for my rustic-contemporary wardrobe. It personifies Americana.
George, the cashier, said that the pants were not maternity, and yet I couldn’t muster up the courage, If that’s what you call it, to keep the garment which wreaked so much havoc on my mind in the several hours that I owned the pair of leggings. The skirt was not an impulse purchase; I had wanted it for a long time. The size of the skirt was xsmall.
I don’t know what to think anymore.
I put on spandex leggings for the first time yesterday and my mother suddenly had no desire to speak to me. She thought I had lost weight. I didn’t. I gained. I think.
She tapped my shoulder blades that poked out from underneath my sweatshirt before announcing that she was going to the car, away from me.
I went out with the same leggings today and the amount of stares cast in my direction was unsavory to say the least.
The leggings, my mom said, were the reason for the stares. She advised me to wear dresses or skirts to cover up my legs. I asked her if she was embarrassed. She responded that she wasn’t, but that if I did not want to be stared at, it would be wise of me to not wear close-fitting clothes.
All that said, I’m back in my sweats and just in time for this unexpected cool-down in temperature. The less than 80-degree Fahrenheit highs in combination with the cloudy overcast skies, and my nightly watermelon eats that is equivalent to an internal AC, have made me feel like it’s fall.
Catching glimpses of the supermarket aisles, I saw bags of candy corn, plastic pumpkin baskets lined up in varying hues of Halloween colors: smoky grey, majestic purple, acid green.
I saw faux foliage of ashen yellows and glowing ambers, next to cutlery in the same color scheme for Thanksgiving.
I am overcome with sadness. A wave of whimpering threatened to escape my slightly parted mouth so that I could remember to breathe while preventing dryness.
Another outstanding interview, another person hired “internally” from within the company - someone who already knew all the senior editors. Another disappointment. Another prospect collapsing in on itself. Another season coming to its end without a task to complete.
As much as I am enamored by the fall season, I want for expectation. I need to look forward to something. I am not entitled but I can say that I deserve this much. “Make it happen,” I said, he said, she said, to no one in particular.
Everyone who is everyone that claims to feign over fashion attests to loving Zara - that European clothing brand that hopped on over across the Atlantic with its faux suede pinafores and patent leather pleated skirts, quirky bags, and multifaceted capsule collections.
The truth is, it’s a cheap, low quality production assembly line of clothing. At least I think so. My mom calls it the sister to H&M, a store we share a mutual hatred for. It’s doing a poor job of piggybacking off of my beloved - The United Colors of Benneton - which formed my conceptions of European lifestyle while growing up in the heart of New York City.
It’s where my parents purchased the heftily priced 100% sheep wool forest green hooded, wooden barrow-button downed coats for me and the creamed fur hat I longed for as a way to emulate the Russian aristocracy. The hat was what I associated with the svelte Eastern European Olympic gymnasts that I saw on television. It’s where I purchased my first and only beret: So très chic.
But I cannot deny that some of Zara’s designs are quite ingenious and though it’s a shame that production budget costs create a dearth of quality textiles from which to create the garments, the integrity of the designer’s brainchild remains in tact. I recall admiring the outfit an international peer from graduate
School would wear. It suited her and I had not known that she was donning Zara apparel until her boyfriend remarked how she would only buy expensive clothes, from Zara, when we we were reading about analogies made to the journalism business. I let the “expensive” misconception slide because I secretly fancied her boyfriend: handsome in the old Hollywood way except he was South Asian and bore a striking resemblance to the late actor, Shammi Kapoor. I was content knowing that he sat two seats over because the surnames of him, his girlfriend and I were juxtaposed alphabetically, but I digress.
I cannot deny the therapeutic quality of purchasing a new addition to my wardrobe nor can I deny the prospect of having somewhere to wear it to. I cannot deny a good investment that also happens to be at a great price, and so I walked into Zara, picturing the handsome fellow grad school peer turned associate producer, approving of my decision with his trademark overbite smile. This daydream admittedly made me laugh in the girlish way of my high school days. I felt happy and let my preconceptions of the massive store go by the wayside.
I picked up a bottle green minidress with an asymmetric neckline bordered by four large tortoise shell buttons. There was a nifty pocket on the left panel. The fabric was not suede but polyester, yet it looked otherwise. The last one left, I clasped the hanger and made a beeline to the fitting room.
It looked just like me: unique, able to be worn for all seasons. I could wear it now, during the summer, as is because it was short-sleeve and above the knee, and the fabric was not too heavy. Yet the fabric was heavy enough to be worn in the fall with a light cardigan or jacket thrown over it and opaque tights with my distressed brown leather knee-high equestrian boots. I could wear this with sweater tights and a chunky buttoned down sweater and UGGs in the winter. The dress was more dressy than casual and seemed the perfect attire for a fashion conscious magazine journalist to wear in an office setting, should one exist.
The deep green and spotted buttons would allow me to switch off between any of my three glasses frames that range from black to taupe to a ombré tan. This was an investment piece.
And though the dress seemed all too perfect, the full-length mirror revealed what nothing else could. I was still too skinny. I still looked emaciated. There was nothing attractive about my stick figure. Visions of the dreamy video journalist evaporated. I flashed back to the weeks before my grad school graduation when he caught sight of me in the hallway. I saw a wave of shock contort his face while I tried to avoid his gaze, spinning on my heel and walking away in the opposite direction.
I was not as bad as before, but I was nowhere near to what I was before this sickness ever befell me, or rather, before I ever did this to myself. I still needed to get my period. I still needed to have my thighs be closer in proximity to each other. I still needed my spine and shoulder blades to not jut out so much.
I was determined to stuff my face later. The dress was slightly form-fitting on my gaunt frame and despite not filling it out, I know that as soon as I put on the healthy weight, this dress would no longer be an investment piece. I would refuse to wear it because I don’t like wearing curve hugging and constricting clothing. It would be what I called my “anorexic clothing.” That is, the disordered clothing that are staples in my wardrobe because I would strive to fit into then despite the fact that they were old and made for a much younger body.
Perhaps I should keep the dress. It would do good for me - I could gain a good 15 pounds and still fit comfortably in the dress. And who knows, I could perhaps meet not that crush I had, but a true companion, a future husband.
Ultimately, I have decided to return this dress. All because I know that the quality is poor. It’s parachute-like fabric does not reflect me.
I opt for quality. I air on the side of aristocracy.
I would rather purchase the classic and q quilted Chanel than the trending “NERD” engraved pleather clutch.
Mirror, mirror on the wall. I’m regaining not only my body, but I’m regaining my self, my identity.
I’m 26 and I don’t need permission to go out. I don’t need permission to do this or that or anything else that I want to do, and yet I think deep down, I don’t want to venture out on my own. I don’t want to waver from routine. I’ll just end up reprimanding myself.
My friend told me that this penchant for routine is akin to being habitual about something- being robotic about something. To be able to adapt this way of life- doing the same day after day is a form of therapy. It’s meant to put one on track. It’s meant to take the overthinking work out of the equation. He needed that and I needed that. I need that. I think I do. I think I do.
I think it’s not ok for me to skip dinner and just consume my 9 pounds of watermelon. It’s not ok yet. But I did deem it ok to eliminate the caloric protein shakes in the dead of night that helped me to gain whatever I have so far. And then I grew anxious and purchased six more bottles - there are five left - after I finished over 40. I plan on returning the rest. I saved the receipt. I can’t do this anymore. For no reason other than its complete abnormality.
I bought my mother a “skinny” vanilla latte today - far less in calories than my organic protein shake. I heard her say that it tasted nice. She took several sips before dumping more than three-quarters of it down the kitchen sink. “I’m full,” she said. There went four dollars and change, down the drain, quite literally.
My mother would rule me not eating dinner as out of the question. She would snicker and form that half-protruding pout - “the evil smile,” I call it. And yet she’s full off of less than anserving size of farmers’ market cherry pie and less than two pounds of watermelon, even after working out: a combination of yoga, squats, glutes floor work, and crunches.
“Go ahead. Skip dinner,” she said, taunting me. It was a dare, not an ultimatum.
So let’s play a little game of Truth Or Dare. Dares don’t apply to me, so truth it is. Here we go.
I can’t help but feel gluttonous, especially due to the fact that I neglected my workout for her sake- we had plans made Thursday evening, that she decided to debunk Saturday morning- the day of said plans’ execution.
My routine was thrown off once again. Anxiety ensued but I went with the flow.
We decided to look at charcoal grills. Why? I have no idea. There are no plans to have people over for a barbecue, like we used to. I wouldn’t enjoy eating because while everyone else is fasting for the feast, I’ll be chomping away all day.
Just like today.
I told my mother we should go out - bask in Summer’s soon-to-end glory. I was met with a scowl, and a triumphant declaration of heat causing fatal repercussions- especially for someone like me- underweight, she said.
I am known for loving and thriving in conditions as hot as 110-degrees Farenheit and especially as someone who doesn’t weigh as much as before, I love the heat more so. I don’t feel chills. Warmth is preferred.
And so we made our routine trips- from air conditioned house to car to storefront-one being the farmers’ market which is owned by a man who exclaimed that I was my mother’s daughter and that he sees me here all the time. Yes, I am a glutton.
But to the man working on the construction of a defunct cleaner-tailor storefront, I’m the woman who walks a lot. I didn’t tell my mothe that little tidbit, but for a full three days, I stopped taking my walks, fearful that I may be overdoing it. Fearful that I may have lost weight even though my face looks fuller, my hair is healthier, my legs have stretch marks and jiggle a bit, and the car now recognizes me as a human - the light for “passenger airbag off” is no longer enlightened like an ambulance.
So we’re in the parking lot of the place I frequent for my watermelon, sweet potatoes, and acorn squash. Today I picked up a new one-serve, 17-gram fat-filled packet of sunflower seed butter as well.
A woman in her 50s or 60s, roundabout my mother’s age, emerged from her blood-red Ford Mustang. I saw her before my mother did. She was anorexia defined. Her physical state surpassed my original low weight by leaps and bounds. This woman has zero-body fat. All the sinews of her muscle can be seen. Her legs are stilts. I don’t know how she can walk.
I wasn’t disgusted, but I was empathetic and I observed with a mix of mild curiosity, unfortunately, some kinship, and fear for her life.
Then my mother saw her.
She was shocked. She was disgusted. She gasped, called on God in the way that agnostics do, and immediately bowed her head and threw one hand over her already obscured vision from the chic Burberry aviators I wish I could wear had I actually bothered to put on contact lenses or to approve of the way I looked without glasses.
Before she covered her face as if Paparazzi were all over her, I said, “I know. I know.”
I was never as bad as that, I told my mom.
She replied incredulously, “you don’t want to be like that.” She said this in an accusatory manner. As if I fancied the opened-coffin look.
The woman offended my mother and yet, ironically, my mom seems to emulate her by fasting from 2:30 pm until tomorrow morning when she’ll again sip on coffee and dine on an anorexic sliver of cherry pie.
I’m 26 but my mother still slights me for going out for less than an hour without a car because God forbid I walk. I don’t need to take it, but I cannot deny my ears nor the fact that one’s children are expected to obey.
I’m 26 and yet I feel imprisoned.
I flipped when she told me she wasn’t going to eat because she had a few bites of watermelon and ate lunch “late,” before I ate my own lunch. I could have avoided the argument, but part of me relishes the fact that I don’t have to seek approval for taking off from the house for longer than 45 minutes when we’re on talking terms. Part of me relishes the fact that I’ll be left alone so that when I eat, despite not being hungry, over half of my food intake for the day, I’ll be alone. No one will have to see me be the glutton.
What irks me though is that my mother keeps saying that she’s not [insert low weight here].Because I am no longer that skinny. I gained and I feel that because I am no longer that weight, I shouldn’t be eating as much as I am counseled to eat.
What irks me is that she wants to eat outside and buy dessert but will just have that meal all day - a treat - while I’ll have to keep consuming more and more.
What irks me is that she seems to empathize with me: “gain the weight and then you can kickbox again.” It’s as though she doesn’t really think that will ever happen. She’s just feigning support, to placate me.
Mother, may I?
May I understand where on Earth you’re coming from.
A red bubble, a number, and a tap later revealed something that the mirror did not: a snapshot of an imperfect life. That seems contrary to the culture we’re used to,doesn’t it? A culture in which photos on social media show only the times where we’re rosy-cheeked. Like that time someone had not posted anything on social media until a magazine profile of herself came out and then disappeared again until the next time something fortuitous came up.
In my case, however, I saw a sickly, deathly, person with spindly arms in the picture. The teeth were exposed in a foreign smile. The face stretched out for a body too small. The smile rehearsed.
Unrecognizable and yet in an instant, identifiable.
I went from person to number, and still not yet a statistic. One can only hope that I will never be one.
This picture motivated me to eat 300 more calories before I went to sleep the day before yesterday. This picture motivated me to eat a carb-heavy organic bar with a spoon dipped into a new jar of all natural sesame-cranberry peanut butter and then 2 tablespoons of the same with a few bites of a protein bar the night after.
“Do you know how many calories are in a teaspoon of peanut butter,” the man at the gym had asked me when deciding I had not gained.
I did know- all too well. I have a confession: I love nut butters. I switch between raw cashew and almond butters, 2 Tablespoons daily until yesterday when I had just about 4 tablespoons. My Memorial Day buy was organic honey sunflower butter after trying it courtesy of the Penn Station GNC. It was a last-minute purchase before embarking on a trip without a kitchen. I figured that as long as I had some sort of carb-vessel, I could slather on my favorite condiment and make a sandwich.
I remember the nutritionist who I abandoned last year, telling me to eat 4 T a day if I so desired. That scared me: I know it’s healthy, but that much fat content?
And just as soon as I finished eating beyond fullness, suddenly regretting the consumption, I looked at this photo again.
My picture did not justify my eating beyond fullness, beyond satisfaction, but instead proved to me that I can and that I have to. I do have to eat more than he, she, and most anyone else has to.
In the picture I saw some attributes I liked: my big eyes reappeared, perhaps a bit too large for the face at the moment, but at least they were no longer snake-like slits struggling to open and close due to the lack of skin elasticity that was once an issue.
I saw my teeth - straight and a bright white with dark black crevices peeking through, a sign of gaps between the teeth, void of any plaque buildup due to my meticulous flossing and brushing.
I saw my skin, and although slightly burned and tanned over the weekend when I neglected to apply my vitamin C enriched face cream, was pretty clear - a testament to my exfoliate, cleanse, tone, and moisturize regimen that is always on repeat.
I’m looking at this photo while walking and instead of trying to find the sunlight, I’m dodging the sun rays from cloud-parted skies in an effort to find shade. I’m no longer cold in eighty-degree weather. I’m not quite boiling, but I have always had a high tolerance for heat. I’m dodging the sun so I won’t turn ashen. Suddenly I realize, I’m making strides but my kin doesn’t seem to notice or acknowledge them. Maybe it’s a case of being too close to notice.
Maybe they need a picture to look at. It turns out that move is picture perfect.
There are things that make me happy, but that also haunt me. For example, having a song playing in your head that you associate with a particular time in your life. While it may evoke beautiful memories, it also evokes something altogether terrible.
I find myself on occasion singing in my head the rhythmic beats of a non coherent language. It goes a little something like this: “boom, boom, shh, shh” followed by “Now drop!” Each syllable is matched by a bodily movement. The “drop” is a split second jump-squat. The song is part of a Zumba mix I used to practice daily as an at-home workout during graduate school. I practiced this routine so much that I still remember full sections of it after not having glanced at the YouTube video in over a year.
Sometimes your life’s soundtrack isn’t terrible but does cause your vision to blur because that time can’t be brought back.
Another happy haunt for me
are basil leaves. Yesterday, my mother decided to make my father’s recipe: An avocado-basil pesto with white wine mixed in with spaghetti cooked in butter. I think pasta is a wasted carb that takes up room in your body for no reason other than to satiate, so I didn’t eat it. Then again, I’m allergic to avocado, (insert gasp here), so I couldn’t have consumed it anyway.
As I took out the bunch of basil leaves bought at our local Fairway, a waft of sweet and sharp herb scent swept me away to another time.
I saw snapshots of my old house, of my old backyard enlightened by a summer sun. I heard my mother cackling from the second-story window facing the backyard as I dodged bumble bees while trying to clip basil leaves from the burgeoning green basil plant growing in our yard. I felt the heat of the sun tanning my forearms and felt the creeping of embarrassment redden my already rose-hued warm cheeks because I had the sneaking suspicion that the brothers who lived next door and who were also my peers, caught stealing glances of me hopping around with scissors and leaves like a forest nymph.
“I smell my childhood,” I said out loud yesterday. I remember the basil leaves being made for pesto, or thrown into a plain pasta. I remember the basil leaves being planted between a folded onion-tomato omelette on a summer Sunday morning.
And as I’m typing this, a part of me wants to let out a cry, but only in my mind’s eye. My eyes are dry. My hands are dry too now that I think of it. Actually, my scalp is dry as well- I was just searching for a conditioning hair mask earlier this morning.
There is a lingering faint smell of garlic bread in my brother’s wake. He’s off to the O.R.and the baked loaf still sits in its entirety on top of the seemingly pristine granite island. It came out warm and fresh from the local farmer’s market yesterday evening, and so the condensation soaked through the wax white paper bag, causing me to place it in the plastic produce bag and then again in two other plastic grocery bags. It looks like a packaged organ that my brother must have seen during his time on the hospital’s transplant unit.
I was in charge of the bread yesterday while he went to wander the market aisles in oblivion, a therapeutic activity he never has time for. I was not privy to the garlic bread condensation that moisturized my patchy hands until they began to feel unfamiliar. That is to say, my hands began to feel unusually smooth, lubricated almost, and certainly dampened.
I looked down at them and then inhaled deeply. And all I remembered were the garlic knots from the corner pizzeria in the neighborhood I grew up in - a favorite treat of mine.
I’m happy to say that I am developing new happy haunts.
The birds that chirp here are varied. There aren’t just two fighting one another. There isn’t a single pigeon, instead there are bright red birds, black and orange ones with pointy beaks, birds with crowns atop their head, and small black Ravens.
I’ve seen rabbits hopping along instead of squirrels scurrying.
There is the sound of lawn mowers that are mostly being wielded by homeowners as opposed to laborers. The laborers here don’t ogle me, instead throwing up their hand in a friendly wave or nodding in acknowledgement of human-to-human interaction.
There are the sounds of kids voices at the nearby school, but not from fighting or harassment, nor are there any profanities, so commonly heard of in New York City.
There are school buses pulling up and adolescents exiting with backpack straps on both shoulders and pants above their hip bones.
There is a corner deli that smells not of charred bacon, but of gourmet styled sandwiches. There is wood paneling inside and a nice umbrella seating area just outside.
Instead of satellites and window air conditioning units jutting out of identical houses from the exterior, there are manicured lawns in front of uniquely different looking single-family homes. Roofs are covered with solar panels and there are white picket fences without any graffiti in sight.
Culs de sac replace dead ends.
And I am coming around the bend as well, moving along without a dead end in sight.
I used to take for granted my parents, brother, and I all being at home at the same time.
I used to be so immune to the aroma of sautéed onions and spices in the large metal kadahi, or large concave wok, inhaling deeply without knowledge that this smell would be fleeting if ever present in the near future.
The warmth of security in company and pungent cooking smells, powerful kitchen exhaust aside, was something I never fathomed going away. It was part of me and it still is.
On this unusually cold day for mid-May, my brother has returned home for a little less than 24-hours. My dad doesn’t have a business meeting to attend to and my mother finished cleaning, washing, and cooking before the brother’s arrival. Both my parents and brother are now indulging in some much-needed self-care. I suppose I am too in writing this.
She’s blowdrying her hair while flipping through pixelated pages of a novel on her Kindle, all after doing yoga.
The father is in the basement powerlifting and cycling.
The brother is showering after his second consecutive 24-hour surgical shift.
The aroma of the meal my mom prepared for my brother’s rare visit, but that I won’t eat, a meat dish, is delicious smelling and invokes my childhood memories. Yet it also provokes my pre-existing nausea and that ill feeling, causing my face to contort, trumps all.
So now a candle has been lit. It has a musky cedar wood scent left over from the holiday season coinciding with December.
It’s May, but I’m cold because of the overcast skies and blustery breeze and also because I haven’t yet showered; It is Sunday and I only get 5 or less hours of sleep a night, so taking a late warm bath seems comforting and smart. My reasoning is as follows: I can go to bed smelling of fresh fragrance and body soap essence, my milk and honey body lotion and feet cream and my rose face moisturizer. The next morning I can go to the gym for a less-than-intense 20 minutes, still feeling fresh and then cleanse after. It all works out. In fact, it almost seems effortless.
And it’s times like these where appreciation for such effortless tasks trumps any irritation associated with problems. It is this feeling of gratefulness that in turn makes me feel warm, cozy, and grateful. I feel my youth returning to me in these moments. I wouldn’t say it’s a flashback. There is no going back. Rather, I would call this nostalgia of a more tangible variety than the pining that comes part and parcel with it.
And then I snap back to the here and now.
My brother is sleeping. My father is likely on his iPad. My mother declares that she’s “too full” from a sandwich and won’t eat the dinner she cooked.
Essentially, the dinner is for the men, the sex that requires more food.
The comparisons and self-consciousness starts again. I ignored the English Muffin she had for dinner yesterday despite the fact that I had an entire roasted acorn squash with Mahi Mahi that I cooked. While higher in calorie, my meal was made of wholesome, healthy foods- more nutritious than the enriched flour of her English muffin, that’s for damn sure.
Clearly the comparison is still lingering in the back of my mind.
Like the day before yesterday, when I went out to eat in front of someone who didn’t. Or the day after, when someone else said they would watch me eat because they weren’t planning on eating themselves. My life has suddenly revolved around food again because, irony of all ironies, I seem to be the only person who (insert expletive in the form of a gerund here), eats.
I’m frustrated. I’m upset. I’m determined - to do what, I don’t know. Survive or live? I know the answer is the latter but why isn’t it happening? My God, why is it taking so long?
Why must everyday resolve and devolve into something less than ideal? Hell, less than just mediocre?
I’m doing what I have to do. I am.
Neither self-entitled nor attention-seeking; I’ve never taken a selfie. I apply and apply and apply some more, my skill sets squandered in the eye of the hurricane that is this millennial generation. I didn’t have to walk 80 miles in the snow in wrecked shoes, but this generation of mine is more difficult, I promise you that.
Sleeping, driving, watching - and here I am, hours later, in circles, I am typing silently for you.