Preparing for that which I cannot control

The possibility of taking a 23-day NOLS course this fall is the first thing to excite me in years.  I’m responsible for at least 50 visits to the NOLS website over the last few weeks.  I’m not really worried (maybe a little) about my mental capacity to handle the backpacking. I’ve hiked from 2-14 miles in a day in the past and handled it well. I’m used to spending time in the backcountry for long periods while covering long distances and tackling rolling terrain.  This is not to say that I’m under some foolish impression that any part of my NOLS course will be easy. It won’t be.  Many of the difficulties I may have I cannot prepare myself for.

What I can do is address the physical aspect to being on course.  I started jogging again when I was in Georgia and the weather was nice.  I tried to keep it up when I got to Chicago, but couldn’t. The temperatures aggravated my asthma and I was a complete shit show. I don’t have insurance so me going to the emergency room isn’t something I can afford.  So, I started with P90X again and get outside when I can.  Additionally, I started another fast. I’m on Day 4/Day 2 (depends on who you ask) and I feel great.  I’ve been moderately active and I haven’t been able to complete my P90X workouts. I also haven’t forced myself to, either.  This fast is about resetting my system and trying to reprogram old habits.

I have a pretty fucked up relationship with food at times.  Before you start thinking I eat 4 supersized meals and a small kitten for breakfast, that’s not the case.  I love vegetables and the cooking kale for breakfast is a common occurrence.  I was a vegetarian for almost a decade then I started adding fish to my diet.  In fact, I’m more vegetarian than pescetarian.  Soda is rarely my go to beverage and hasn’t been for about 2 years.  I make fresh juices with my juicer and drink homemade teas and lemonade flavored with stevia when I have a hankering for something sweet.  My problem isn’t often with food choices. Mostly it’s about quantity. When it isn’t about quantity it’s about choice in a big way. Go big or go home, right? *She shakes her head* I’ve used food as a coping mechanism for a long time. Probably ever since I was able to control what I ate which hasn’t been long. Let me explain.

My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much. My mother did what she could, but I spent a lot of time feeling hungry.  She was from the islands and fed us the rural island version of cuisine.  Well, at least what was available here in the states. That was probably fine, but we were in America and when my brother and I hung out with friends, McDonald’s was a go to. She worked something like 4 jobs and we were left to our own devices often. We’d steal money from her coin jar and go to the baseball field, or corner store and buy candy until our faces exploded.  Fast forward six years and I was sent to a boarding school for financially needy and social orphans called Milton Hershey School (MHS). At The Milt, we had access to plenty of food, but I’ll be damned if it was good for us.  We’re talking Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking.  We ate casseroles, potatoes, cream chipped beef, bullseyes (the breakfast egg dish not the seeing orb of a bull), sugar coated french toast, and their nutritionally deficient cousins. Everything  came in the big box truck known as the meal bus.  Not only was the food for shit (props to the ladies in the Central Kitchen even though it was nutritional shit is was pretty tasty… those birthday cakes and cookies?! I still dream about those) it was also controlled by someone who wasn’t me. I did not grow up learning about the food around me. I just remember we had to set the tables with meat first, starch second, and then the vegetables.  Our portions were controlled. If we wanted more it was kinda a no go. If we wanted less, or none we couldn’t.  We had one “No Eat” food and that was it. Because my mom didn’t want me eating pork, that was my “No Eat” food. Everything else, I had to ingest.

That was middle school. High school was a bit different, but not much. The atmosphere of the school changed and we started shopping more often at the local Giant Food store.  Nonetheless, my education did not include food.

In college, I became a vegetarian.  I don’t remember when or why, I just did.  The cessation of meat consumption didn’t really, at least I don’t think, come with knowledge about healthy eating.  It wasn’t until I went to work for Milton Hershey School full-time at Springboard Academy that I began to teach myself about nutrition.  I’d began some studying in Chicago, but I made pennies and couldn’t afford healthy shit anyway.  When I got to Springboard I made enough money that I could live alone AND afford healthy food items.  Hell. Yes. When I learned about quinoa I damn near lost my shit. Stevia? Hell, that knowledge pretty much gave me an aneurysm. Even then, I was in a SUPER toxic relationship with someone who had CF.  You may not know, but people with CF need to consume large amounts of fat.  People with ADPKD like I have don’t. So with this toxic relationship not only was I not strong enough to set healthy boundaries for myself, the person I was with had the exact opposite dietary needs as I had.

Moving to Seattle is what did it for me. I was working as an Outdoor Educator and physical activity was my life.  When I started with Seattle Public Schools, I had enough money, again, to afford the food we all deserve.  My apartment was across the street from a Jewel Osco, and few blocks from Trader Joe’s, and the Central Co-o: Madison Market — my favorite place in Seattle. I spent so much time at the co-op learning about vegetables, buying fresh breads and cheeses, selecting kombucha, and focusing on my overall well-being. This was two years ago. I’m twenty-nine years old and my healthy relationship with food and nutrition just started. I’m still a baby.

My hope is that my fast will tune my brain and my heart to the key of my stomach. I don’t want to eat when I’m not hungry. I want to remember what hunger feels like and associate that with goodness. Like it’s a message from my body that reads,

Hey, thanks so much for that last meal. We’ve sent it on to do great things and are looking forward to more. ”

Instead of,

Holy shit we’re hungry. We’re hungry. Fuck, when’re we going to eat again? Are we going to eat again? Who remembers how to make biscuits?! Flour’s cheap. We can use water instead of milk. That’ll keep us from dying, right?! Right?!

Two very different messages. I’m tired of teaching my body that panic is a good way to approach meeting its needs.

This NOLS course will test me physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally. I’m worried about meeting my cohort and being the only  Brown person. Worse yet, would be finding out I’m the only Brown person with no White allies.  My standard for interacting with Whiteness is pretty concrete. I’m not going to sacrifice my wellness because of ignorance. I will not allow someone to learn off of my back. My story is not a novelty it’s my life. I don’t know how I can/would/should respond to racist shit that occurs Outside in this situation.  Actually, I don’t want to deal with it all I just want to fucking play outside because it’s my favorite thing to do.

What I can do is prepare (as much as possible) my body for the physical challenges that are certain. Cause NOLS is hard, y’all. I can sharpen my mind and clear out space for frequent visits. Other than that, I can only rely on the me that’s been alive this long and has not gone to prison for reacting to hate — purposeful, or accidental.

I broke my fast and almost murdered my best friend

My friend often finds herself in the Chicago suburbs for work.  Yesterday around 6:00pm I get a text that says, “Two flat tires will be home SUPER late.” I’d just woken up from a nap because babysitting her daughter earlier in that day while on day two of my fast had wiped me out.  I was nothing short of exhausted.  Day two is usually the worst. Your body is like, “Wait, what’re you doing!? STOP.” I like to take it easy but it was the only day I’d get to see my friends from out of town + my friends wanted their daughter out of the house so I melded both worlds.  I ended up carrying this tiny two year old for most of the day.  After all, her little ass legs only rev up to snail’s pace.

I’m home for the evening when I get a call where she tells me that the garage guys need to get the wheel locks off of the car (they’ve had their tires stolen multiple times), but the keys are in Chicago — an hour drive away. So they decide to try and break them off. In the process of doing so they crack the tires. My friend is obviously upset.  She’s in a super suburb which means it’s hella far away from the city and everything closes at ten. They can’t fix the tire. She can’t rent a car. She’s fucked.  My immediate response was, “I’m coming to get you.” Her response, as usual, is to rationalize why she doesn’t need help and then explain to me why she can do it on her own. It’s annoying that she’s so stubborn. So rather than find a place to wait while I drive out, she argues. Our conversation goes like this:

Her: No, no. I can take a cab to a train. It’s the last train of the night, but I think I can make it. [this is like the worst time to roll the dice]

Me: Let me call (her friend in the city who has a car) to see if she can drive out.

Her: No, let me see what else I can do to figure this out.

Me: I’ll borrow (my friend who just drove into the city’s) car and drive out.

Her: *annoying statement that’s trying to avoid getting help*

Me: I need to have a conversation with them now because if you don’t figure something else out then I won’t be able to get in contact with them to get the car to help you. They have toddlers and it’s getting late.

Her: Something annoying trying to convince me that I shouldn’t bother and that she’ll be fine.

We hang up.

I call my friend, tell her the story, ask her if I can use her car and her immediate response is, “Yes, do whatever you need to do.” I have amazing friends by the way.

I call my stranded friend and tell her I have the car.

Her: …okay, well, I’m going to get a ride to the METRA station and arrive in the city around midnight.

Me: Okay. I’ll come and get you from the METRA station downtown.

Her: No, it’s fine. I’ll just take the “L” into the city.

Me: It’s midnight. That’s dumb.

Her: It’ll be fine.

Me: I’m picking you up from the train station.

We hangup.

You may ask yourself why I’m adamant about going to get her. First, it’s because it’s who I am. If you call me and tell me you’re stuck, I’m going to come and get you. Second, I know what it’s like to feel exhausted and stranded. Sometimes you just want someone to say, “I’m coming to get you.” I don’t have a hero complex — although it reads like it– I just know how annoying it can be to wait for the train after a long day, let alone a shitty long day.

It takes me an hour to get to where my friend is staying to pick up the car. I know I used to live in this city, but I can’t remember shit about getting around. It’s super annoying. Lost twice in one day? Ugh.

I get back to the apartment with the car a little after 10:15pm.  At this point I have THE WORST HEADACHE OF MY LIFE. I head up to the apartment to charge my phone because it’s at 14%. I call and ask her if she’s gotten on the train yet. She says no because the people who dropped her off dropped her off at the wrong train station.  The train doesn’t stop at that station after 10:00pm.  At this point she’s waiting for a cab to pick her up to take her to the correct train station before the last train leaves for the evening. If you haven’t guessed it, her phone battery is also dying and there’s nowhere for her to charge it. I know, I’m shaking my head too.

I forget a lot of what happened here except this part:

She tells me she’s looking into the empty parking lot through the window of the train station and there’s a car behaving erratically. It’s circling the EMPTY parking lot repeatedly and the people inside are staring at her through the train station windows.  Their behavior is making her nervous and she doesn’t feel safe.  Now, my friend is not someone to whom fear comes easily. I can tell by her voice that she’s upset and scared, which is making me frustrated — I know, I know, it’s not a logical response, but it’s my response.  I ask her if she can get somewhere safe and she says she’s waiting for a cab but that might be 30 minutes. In my head I’m thinking, “THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST LET ME GET YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.” She keeps telling me about this car and how her battery is dying. And I’m like, where are you? I’m coming to get you. Her response, which in my opinion should have been, “I’m at 3459 N. Whatever Street in Whatever town Illinois,” was, instead, “I don’t know where I am and I’ll email you the location once the cab takes me to place where I can plug my phone in.” What? Who says that?

At this point I just said, “Look at the GPS on your phone. Tell me what city you’re in so I can start driving. I have no idea what city/town you’re in so I can’t even leave Chicago.”She tells me the city.

Now, I’m juice fasting. It’s only the 2nd day and I’ve already overexerted myself.  I’m hella cranky. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I have THE WORST HEADACHE OF MY LIFE, and I thought I was going to be in bed by this point. I am going to drive a little over an hour to get her.  I know that it’s not safe for me, or the drivers around me if I drive in my current state.  So I ponder breaking my fast.  I think. “Well, there’s a vegan protein bar with great salads I wonder if they’re open.” I look at the map and they’re in the opposite direction of where I need to go to get her making this trip almost 2 hours instead of one. All the places around me are bars, or just shit shows in terms on waiting on food, but I know I can’t drive. Well, I know I don’t want to drive like this so I look across this street and there’s a shitty chain pizza place. It’s right there and I know I can get something immediately. With guilt, frustration, and hunger fueling my steps I get some pizza and get on my way.

Minutes after I eat something the headache subsides. I get lost a few more times while driving –UGH– but I get to her.  She’s super grateful and happy that I brought her dog with me. I knew she’s want to see him after such a shitty day.  She does the thing panicked people do when they’re safe, unload all of the shit about their day at lightening fast speed.  I felt badly, but all I want to do is listen to hip hop, drive, and get home. No talking.  I tell her, “…hey, so I broke my fast and I’m feeling kinda shitty about it. I ate pizza and it’s making me feel gross plus I’m tired I can’t give you the attention you deserve. I’m sorry.”  She’s like, “…oh, it’s okay I don’t need 100% of your attention I just need to talk. Oh, and I ate a great salad I feel pretty good.”

This is where I run into trouble. Many find speaking cathartic. I find solace in silence.  How do you maintain your composure when the person you’re around needs the exact opposite of what you need? Plus how do you respond to someone who just sat in a restaurant eating salad and drinking margaritas while you ate shitty pizza and hated yourself? You. Don’t. Say. Anything. I know my emotions are all askew because I’m fasting. It’s 1:30am and my responses are totally irrational and hyperbolic. I’d be picking a fight just to be mean and that’s not cool.  I awoke this morning still frustrated and greasy. I have to start this shit again and that’s annoying.  I’ll talk to my friend about how I felt, eventually. For now, I just want to do yoga, meditate, and find my happy place.

Fasting and babysitting leads to reconciliation

Oy. My head hurts, and my lips are dry. My nose is stuffy, but that’s annoyingly usual. My shoulders are sore and I feel like there’s a cat litter box on my tongue.  There’s a lot going on.

I went to the Zoo with Magoo aka Goober aka Goo, today.  It was nice to be around her in this way.  I was her only option for safety and she clung to me just as her parents said she would.  We had to fake her out though.  Before we left we pretended like Daddy had to go to work, Mommy had to leave, and Grandpa was going to the doctor. She said her goodbyes and everyone bolted to corners of the house, except for me. Heh Heh Heh. We walked down the block and she held my hand. A two-year old’s hand is really fucking small bee tee dubs.

We still have our issues, but it was a good day.  We took the bus, which she loves, and she fell asleep. The little White girl and adult Black woman in public is an eye catching dynamic to say the least.  There will probably be a post about that later.  I carried her from the bus stop to the zoo and the wonderment commenced. That little lady fuckin loves animals.  Like lost her shit with excitement and loves all animate objects not human.

I was nervous about spending the day with her because she cries as soon as I hold her. It’s kinda like I’m the plumber and she’s the drain. Her pores and ducts let loose when I’m around then I look like I’ve kidnapped a small child. Her grandpa joked that he was going to put out an Amber Alert as soon as I left the house, the bastard. I laughed, but was totally willing to chop him in the throat

We met up with my friends who were in town and their two kids. I go way back with those little munchkins. Like since before fertilization back.  I almost delayed moving to Seattle so I could see the youngest be born.  We’re close.  Having the opportunity to hug and love on those little buggers filled up a part of me I didn’t know was empty. Hopefully I’ll get to hangout with them tomorrow.

I sat down with the intention to create a post about this fast I’m on.  It’s the second day and I’m kinda feeling it as I mentioned in the first paragraph. Instead, I talked about the children in my life.  Huh. Maybe I just needed to get that out. In my early twenties there came a point when I wanted children of my own. My biological clock stood in place of my heart and I felt like I would expire if I didn’t procreate.  Being around my Friends With Kids (great movie) over the last 4 years has changed my mind. I love kids — not all of them by any means– but I’m not sure I want to expel any from my vaginal cavity.

My excitement comes from reading the course syllabus for my PhD program. My heart palpitates at the thought of traveling the world. I salivate thinking about sleeping in my car in the dead of winter while driving cross-country for the seventh time.  When I think about dating or having children the part of my heart dedicated to dreams and passion shrinks like a flaccid penis.  I’m not there anymore.  My ADPKD is supposed to flare up when I’m about 37. Dialysis will begin shortly thereafter.  It’s not wise for my body to endure dialysis and pregnancy separately let alone simultaneously.  The longer I wait to have kids the more likely it will be that I shouldn’t.

Perhaps all of this is my body, my heart, and my mind reconciling that I’ll always be,  “Auntie Jéhan.” If it’s not, and I feel that yearning again I have no qualms about adoption. 🙂

Related Posts:

Detox

I am a Mouthbreather

Body Image

What to do about Magoo

Body Image

To say I have a problem with body image is to Mitt Romney might be a Republican.  My struggle with weight has existed since college.  While many put on freshman 15, I put on freshman 40 (+/-).  My face puffed and my calves, which are usually fat free expanded with cellulite as well. I have a pictures where my potbelly looks like I’m 6 months pregnant.  It’s been a struggle. Often a struggle of which I was unaware, but a struggle nonetheless.  During my last Obgyn visit in 2010 my doctor told me I needed to lose 50lbs.  A few months ago I went to the emergency room with chest pains. At a follow-up visit the doctor told me I was strong, but I “needed to lose weight.”  I can pack on 20 lbs in a season without thinking about it.

Photo 326

After proofreading this post I wanted to take this down. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to remove it…for now.

One of the biggest issues that comes with these weight fluctuations is a skewed body image.  No matter how much I weigh,  when I look in the mirror I see that 6 months pregnant not actually pregnant 19 year old. This is a picture of my back a few months ago.  My bra is too small and back fat is spilling out the sides.  The thing is about 2 years ago this bra fit perfectly, and was, in fact, an eensy bit too big.

I don’t have a picture of of my back, but this is a random picture of me from that summer when I was at my most fit.  Photo 49

I spent the summer leading backpacking trips and had less than enough food to eat.  I remember cooking a red pepper with an onion, adding salsa, and putting it in a corn tortilla.  I couldn’t afford bus fare to and from work, so I’d bike the 10+ miles to and from the base each day I was in the front country.  Seattle ain’t flat. In the back country I’d carry a pack between 50 & 80 pounds (+/-) and hike 2-7 miles daily.  I was in great shape.

It is nearly impossible for me to maintain that level of fitness in the front country.  Fitness was my entire life. The problem with the off-season is that I was not burning the same amount of calories, I consumed relatively the same amount of calories if not more, and I wasn’t consuming the same quality of calories (Red Hot Blues vs. G.O.R.P.).  As a result, I needed to find a way to burn a large amount of calories + go to work and lead an urban life.  Not simple. I’m not a fan of pretend exercise. I don’t want to go to the gym. I’d rather hike 14 miles to get from one campsite to another. With the hiking it’s mandatory exercise. The gym is pretend.

I started roller derby in June of 2012. I skated about 3 times a week from June until August.  I was in a different kind of shape. Just look at my legs.  Here is a picture of me in July or August of 2012.

Photo 335

My rectus femoris (totally had to look that up) are AMAZING. My gracilis (again with the look up) are lacking.  I know you can’t “spot” burn fat, but that’s a place I would if I could. I’d like to accomplish a few things:

1. Reconcile what I look like in the mirror with what I see in pictures, and what is true in real life. There is a huge disconnect for me.

Photo 317

I had no idea my stomach looked like this until I took this picture and saw it. Even when I looked back at the mirror I couldn’t see myself as I was.

2. Develop an eating lifestyle that is not reward based and does not lend itself to stress or emotional eating

3. Understand that women are different. Websites like My Body Gallery are fantastic.  I don’t need to look like: Michonne.1.2  imagesimages-1images-2

No matter how much weight I lose I won’t be shaped like them.  My body is built to climb mountains not to grace the covers of magazines stocked on shelves in a society that oversexualizes women.  Their bodies are beautiful.  I just don’t need to make them the mile marker for my own.

Taken 3.20.2013

Taken 3.20.2013

Related blog entries:

Chest Pains – She is indeed Undone

Detox – Wearingmyblackness

Knock Kneed Mary – Wearingmyblackness

All images of copyright of their original owners. If you see your photo here and would like for it to be removed just let me know.

Cheers!

Black don’t crack

Written by contributor Mallory Green

Black Don’t Crack

On February 17, I turned 28 years old.

A lot of people have anxieties about getting older.  I don’t, really.  Actually, let me take that back.  I do.  But for me, my fear is getting older and not having anything to show for it.  I live in Chicago and I work heavily in the world of theatre.  This means that I don’t have a ton of money.  I’m afraid of living my whole life under the poverty line.  No money, no assests.  Besides this fear, I’m quite happy with getting older. I look forward to being in my 30s.  I see it as an exciting adventure, much like my 20s have been so far, but with more… assuredness.

My mother is 64, and is quite ok with getting older.  In her words, “The only way to not get older is to die, and I’m not trying to do that.”

Now, if you’re black, have black friends, or encounter black ladies at the grocery store, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “black don’t crack.”  I say it all the time.  But is this really true?

Look, it’s not like I’ve done extensive research on the issue, but what I do know is that the black women in my family look good!  All of my aunts are in their 60’s and they have skin as radiant as Moses descending a mountain with a couple of stone tablets.  Not to mention the legions of older black actresses who all look exceptionally unseasoned.

Phylicia Rashaad, age 64.  Ain’t nothing cracking over here

Phylicia Rashaad, age 64. Ain’t nothing cracking over here

18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party ? Red Carpet

Stacey Dash, age 46. Also known as ‘Dorain Gray.

So what is their secret?  Genetics?  A secret skin regime?

These questions popped up in my head because in the past few months, I’ve become increasingly more aware of how my face has changed over time.  I don’t look bad (good God, I’m only 28), just different.

Me in 2009

Me in 2009

Me on my 28th birthday

Me on my 28th birthday

I look like a 28 year old, and honestly, I think that’s awesome.  It just weirds me out that I perceive myself as looking very different.

So this spawned something a little crazy.  On the morning on my birthday I woke up, and went to Walgreen’s, where I proceeded to buy $60 worth of anti-aging products.  With every item that I picked up I thought, “This is ridiculous,” but I still bought them, every one.

There are a million and one things besides anti-aging crap that I could have spent my $60 on. But at the time, it seemed imperative.  In the mirror, I see this face that I happen to like—but am afraid of it changing again.  In the back of my head, I was hoping to freeze in my 28 year old face forever.  Of course, that isn’t going to happen.

Maybe I’m writing this blog post to myself, so that I don’t go over the deep end.  There are so many beautiful, extraordinary, exceptional women in the world whose happiness is blocked by their distress about aging.  I don’t want that for myself.  Maybe I need to change the way that I think about my face’s metamorphosis.   Maybe my face looks different than it did 4 years ago because today I know more.  It may have changed because today I am more confident and self-assured.  And I know for sure that I love myself today, more than I did when that earlier picture was taken.  And maybe that’s what showing up on my face.

To read more of Mallory’s writing please feel free to visit www.MallorySSTP.tumblr.com

If you’d like to contribute to wearingmyblackness.com contact me at wearingmyblackness [at] gmail [dot]com.

Related posts: Guest Blog Your Blackness