Thursday, July 14, 2011

the comfty chair

Sometimes I don't wonder what she would look like if she lived, I wonder what I would look like if she lived.

Like a domino trail, I feel parts of me fall, touch another, it falls, until I am nothing but a heap of fat mush around a still-beating broken heart. My organs writhe around my grief. My muscle twist and cramp around my sadness. I ache. I read on a blog about how stomach muscles atrophy and tear after too many children too soon, and it makes a woman hold her weight right there, like she were still pregnant. It is so fucking cruel that after her death, I looked pregnant. That some days, I still look pregnant. And people look at my belly, unsure of what to say. Is she? Isn't she? My body is a fucking traitor--Killing my baby. Making the world ask me if I am pregnant.

I sometimes don't know whose body this is. And yet I know I am still strong. I know my back can take carrying two children for eight hours, because that is what I do all day. This is the body of a woman in mourning, a woman in pieces. I stare at pictures of me, recently, pictures of me at the beach in swimming costume, and wonder who the tired, old, fat lady holding my baby is. She looks like my mother, only heavier and taller.

This year, I had one resolution, one goal, to make peace with this fucking liar of a body. Within ten days, I quit drinking. That was six months ago. I feel better about my body without the alcohol. I feel better about everything without the alcohol. There is this great Buddhist teaching about change.

When you are walking all day, monkeys pummeling you with small rocks and poop from behind large trees, your shoes a tad too small, and thousands of people swarming at you in the opposite direction, a big comforty red chair with padded arm rests looks like the most comfortable thing in the world. And indeed, it is. You snuggle in. Your feet are rested. The poop is off of you, and it smells like lemon verbena in the chair. (It is a lemon verbena filled pillow under your head, you didn't know that, though.) This chair is so comfortable, you decide you will never leave it. This is your chair. Your life. The world is too hard.

After twenty minutes, you are still comfortable.
After two hours, your ass is starting to hurt a little, like you need to adjust yourself, maybe.
After two days, this chair is no longer comfortable. It is starting to become a nightmare. You dream of the street with the poop and the traffic.
After two weeks, it is torture.
After two months, you are completed debilitated. Absolutely unable to walk if you wanted now. The chair is the instrument of your paralysis.

BUT WAIT, the chair, the red comforty lemon verbena chair! You love that chair!

We need change. We need to always look at the things that we think help us, that work in our lives. Alcohol worked for me for a very very long time. It was my big red comfty chair with bourbon-aromatherapy pillows. It worked as a de-stressor. It just worked for the pain of my traumas and past hurts. And then, one day, it didn't. Oh, I stayed in the big chair. It was the most comfortable thing I could imagine at some point in my life, and some moments, I even believed it still was. But one day, I was paralyzed. Well, me and my emotions were debilitated. I was broken by the thing that was the most comfortable thing in the world.

I am not sure what I am getting at. I am really just writing this so I understand.

Oh, right, I was fat. Or maybe I am fat. My daughter died in me. And I am fat. She didn't die in me because I am fat. She didn't die in me because I drank too much before she was even an idea. She didn't die because of me. It has taken me two and a half years to write that sentence. Listen, I am not the fattest woman ever, but I have some mama chub. But I am starting to be cool with my body now, even though it is not the body in my mind's eye. It is a fat middle aged body. Because the shame of being an alcoholic is no longer coloring the perception of everything about me now.  Another chair that paralyzed me was the self-deprecation chair, the comfortable puke green one that smelled like bourbon.

And so, even though I cut out some liquid in my daily life, it has changed every little thing about me. I can see the muscle under the fat. I can feel the strength again. Sobriety is helping me making peace with my body. Am I healed? Fuck no. But I am walking towards a place that is in the neighborhood of peace and healing, like the corner of Okay Avenue and Grateful Street. And honestly, I am still learning to walk after years in the same two chairs.


  1. Thanks for this post and this metaphor, Angie. I am still working to identify my own chairs, I think. Some days I feel like I keep dragging myself out of one, only to find my (metaphorical) butt going numb as I sit in another.

    A coworker asked me if I were pregnant again a few weeks ago, and for a few days I hated my belly, my poor, hardworking belly that's been cut open twice in the interests of keeping babies alive. I still hate it sometimes, but I'm trying to be proud of it, of myself, to remind myself that my mama chub means a lot more than most people can see.

  2. Firstly I want to say that I like these posts where you are kind to yourself. We're all cheering you on out here in blogreaderland but, at the end of the day, it really does have to come from inside. Sorry to go all triumphant-sports-movie on you there.

    After 32 years of goal-setting and plan-making, I've had a hard time finding my comfty place in this new world where willpower and discipline didn't save R and can't protect C. It sometimes seems as if it's all equally comfty and uncomfty.

    Yeah, those shapeless legs in the background of all those beach photos are mine as is this stagnant career but, I can't seem to care. In fact I feel like it's taken more discipline to back away from my type-A, controlling lifestyle than it did to maintain it in the first place.

    But, enough about me. I really just want to say that I think you're really kicking life in the ass.

  3. I am glad that you are starting to make peace with your body. Sending you love.

  4. I liked this. I liked the idea of finding muscle again.

  5. She didn't die because of me. I think that there might be whole worlds in that one sentence. I'm glad you were finally able to write it.

    Congratulations on escaping your comforty chairs and I hope that you can continue to make peace with your body. Sounds like you are walking towards a nice neighbourhood. xo

  6. What a wonderful metaphor. I love Buddhism and look forward to the day when I can incorporate it more completely into my life. It was very helpful for me after my loss. Life is all about change and it's frustrating that the human mind is so hell bent on writhing against that change. Why does everything have to be so hard?! Recognizing it is the first step towards accepting it, and I'm glad you've taken that first step. I need to take that step over and over again, it seems. I'm sure you have too.

  7. I was just thinking about this today, how I often find myself wondering what I would look like, what I would BE like, how my life would be, if my son were here. It is so hard for me to even imagine him here. I'd love to go to that parallel existence where he made it and just look to see what I'd be like (and obviously, what he'd be like!).

    Great post, Angie.

  8. Wonderful use of metaphor. I hope to meet you on the corner of Okay Avenue and Grateful Street someday. Someday real soon.

  9. This post made me think about that axiom that you usually see on posters at a gym or high school: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." Or something like that. And I actually like that axiom.

    But you're right--we work something until it doesn't work anymore, but sometimes it's just so routine and seemingly easy that we don't realize what was once helpful is now what's holding us back.

    You rock the house, Angie. Thanks for being you and being real.

  10. Thank you for this Angie - there are words here that I really, really need to hear right now. I so identify.

    My comfty chair is stuffed, not with bourbon, but with chocolate, cake ... and I'm still sat in it. Still seduced by the numbness of sensation that seemed like pleasure once upon a time. I need to get me out of the chair but I haven't managed it yet.

  11. Wow. I only just recently found your blog and you are a wonderful writer. This was the perfect post for me to read today. I understand this feeling so intimately well. Sometimes it's difficult to separate out the physical from the emotional. Often I find that the physical changes I've undergone in these recent years serve as a very poignant reminder of the rest of the journey.

  12. Angie, I love that your post punches right into the centre of things.

    I've got that belly too - and would be so mad at my pathetic abdominal muscles whenever people asked if I was pregnant. Yoga is slowly helping with that. And I sometimes imagine that my body didn't want to let go of that pregnant shape, because it didn't want to let go of Z either, and then I can start to be compassionate towards it rather than treating it like a traitor. But that is such a hard process. So glad that you are taking those hard steps out of the comfty chair.

  13. Loved your post. Excellent writing!

  14. This. is such a beautiful post. I am so glad you are working towards peace with your body - a struggle i know a bit of myself.

    sending you strength and love


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