Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year's Pez-olution

I’m sitting on the couch mowing down Pez from Amelia’s stocking stuffer. My puppy just made a meal of her own feces, and our new security system keeps making weird beeping noises, alerting me to the fact that an intruder may stumble across this sad, sad, scene.

It’s December 28th, folks, and as I sit here braless, contemplating all that was 2016, I’m acutely aware that I’ve got no plans for this next year. Everyone’s joining a gym, learning a new language, promising to quit some bad habit, and yet here I sit, munching on some Pez. My New Year’s Pez-olution. 

Last year I vowed to lose twenty pounds, which I did (I just didn't vow to keep it off). The year before that, I vowed to lose thirty. It’s always been about weight with me. Losing it and gaining it. Dropping it and piling it right back on. Carrot sticks to Cheetoh Puffs. Health shakes to Dairy Queen Mocha MooLattes.

This year, as I gaze upon American soil from my very own American couch (or more likely Chinese), I’m reminded that my life, which was once a whirlwind of different countries and emotions and experiences, has finally slowed to a soothing, high-caloric lull. I’m home, surrounded with people who sound like me and even look like me. No more tiny people with all their tiny clothes. No more pencil-thin French women who somehow make smoking look glamorous and sleek, while if you stuff a cigarette in my mouth, I closely resemble a Sasquatch on fire.

I vaguely remember years ago trying on a black gown at a little French boutique. There were no mirrors in the fitting room (just another way for the French to body-shame me), and after awkwardly taking no less than thirty selfies to avoid finding my way to the public mirror, I decided that this dress may actually be a winner. The employees (whom I’m certain moonlighted as Victoria’s Secret angels), studied me like a trigonometry equation. I immediately felt self-conscious and blamed my curves on the baby weight. “I just had a bebe, you see,” I explained to Gisele and Naomi. “Ah, oui,” they mumbled in return. I peeled the dress off of my now shamed body, hung it back alongside all the smaller, impossible sizes, and returned home to my  giant, three-year-old baby. 

And here we are now, 2017 just days away, and I can’t help but wonder if all this self-focus is my real problem; that besides all the food I've been consuming, I’m actually just too consumed with myself. And no, this isn’t some cop-out to losing weight (I know I'd feel healthier and more energetic sans twenty pounds), but rather an awareness that I’ve made myself the center of my universe, and in doing so, I've left little room for much else. 

So instead of some cliche resolution where I promise to go to the gym three times a week until April rolls around (chocolate bunnies, of course), I’m going to forego any actual resolutions and simply try harder: try harder to be a more involved mother; try harder to take less selfies and more pictures of my kid; aspire to notice the needs of those around me instead of only obsessing about my waist to hip ratio; aspire to replace anxiety with faith; and above all, and perhaps most importantly, strive to be continually kind. 

This obsession with food and body image is going to be a lifelong struggle for me. I'm never going to tire of frosting straight from the can, nor will I ever wake up one morning and think, "You know what sounds good, Stefanie? Celery! Go grab yo self a stalk!"

But I can be kind. Always, I can choose to be kind. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Weight of It All

Not only did I put on my fancy sweatpants today, but I wore a bra as well. I felt so good about these accomplishments that I walked into Walgreens with a little swagger in my step. For the third time in weeks, I was loading up on medicine for my sickly four-year-old. Three bouts of strep throat since September and two sinus infections. #germbag

Strep made an appearance early on in Switzerland, and every time my daughter gets it, well then so does big mama. I remember sitting in the doctor's office and Amelia gagging and dry-heaving as they swabbed her throat for strep. I was up next, and apparently the doctor was concerned with my lack of gagging. "Has anyone ever told you that you have no gag reflex?" she asked in an accented voice.

Cue OCD panic. Is something wrong with me? Why can't I retch on command? Do I have a failing pharynx? I immediately went home and typed "no gag reflex" into my Google search. Yup, bad idea. A bad, blonde, busty idea.

My anxiety always seems to get me into trouble. It manifests itself through panic and ridiculous compulsions. People have often told me that I struggle with showing emotion. The truth is, I never really show my emotions because I'm too busy eating them. I prefer my anxiety with a side of curly fries; loneliness with a milkshake; and irritability with a crispy chicken salad (hold the salad, please).

Whenever my OCD symptoms worsen, so does my unhealthy relationship with loaded nachos. I've gained 15 pounds this year, hence the sweatpants (though I do have a pair with rhinestones). Most of this came on during my move back to the United States. As soon as our last box was packed, I fell into some sort of anxiety-ridden frenzy that has yet to loosen its grip on me.

How will Amelia reacclimate? Should I find a job? Will this weight gain lead to diabetes? Will Amelia make new friends? Is there an underlying medical issue as to why she keeps getting strep throat? Should I go for a master's degree? Are there bats in my attic? Should we try for a second child? Does my husband still think I'm enough? Could our new puppy have roundworm?

This question reel goes through my mind about every other second. I'm like a hamster on amphetamines who can't come off its wheel (except maybe for the wheel part---too much exercise).

And then, in what seemed like divine intervention and the timeliest of answers, I found out I was pregnant. Just like that, I had my direction: I was going to be a mom again. I was elated, terrified, and grateful. Most of all, I felt a renewed sense of purpose.

And then I miscarried.

I've always suffered from inadequacy. I've let it eat away at friendships; at my marriage. And now it was eating away at my body. Why had it failed me? Why couldn't it just do its damn job?

I feel back at square one. Like I have something to prove. And although I know this sounds very self-deprecating (albeit hormonal, as well) and not completely true, it also feels real. Grief, no matter how you calibrate it, always feels so very real.

Amongst all the chaos in my mind and a few very choice words for God, He had a little something for me in return. On my way home from dropping off Amelia at school, I stumbled across a picture she had taken while I was driving. A curly reminder of how blessed I already am.

I don't pretend to understand what God's plan for me is in all of this; only that I know there is one.