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Monday, February 7, 2011

Displaced Anger

On The Other Side Of Weight, Displaced Anger Still Exists

By Lynn Haraldson-Bering

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog on Lynn’s Weigh about displaced anger. That blog elicited some deeply personal comments. One in particular addressed obesity. Here’s what Jane wrote:

“I have come to understand that just being overweight for so many years has created displaced anger that sometimes spills over to the one I love and trust the most. In reality I am really angry (and sad) within myself for all the years I have lost to this struggle: the functions and celebrations not attended because of being ashamed of how I look; not allowing myself to feel loved because I don’t feel worthy; the pretty clothes not worn and the bike rides and hikes not taken with my family. These are just examples of missed opportunities for joyful interactions with the others in my life.

I know Jane's words don’t resonate with everyone who was or is overweight, but my guess is that it hits home for a lot of us. While I thought I’d dealt with the kind of resentment and regret Jane, yesterday I learned just how deeply engrained those emotions still are.

My husband Larry and I went to the store to buy potting soil and mulch. Driving there, I was stopped at a light behind a woman in a large SUV who refused to turn right on red.
Come ON! Tap, tap, tap on the steering wheel. Gas is on the right!
When the light turned green, I s-l-o-w-l-y drove behind her.
Tap, tap, tap. Much sighing.
Half mile later it was clear she was going to the same store as me. This woman was controlling my every move!
Tap, tap, tap.

I broke free of her in the parking lot when I abruptly turned into the first parking lane. She parked a row over and got out of her SUV, all blond and suburban, while my husband patiently listened to me rant on (and on) about what a lousy driver she was.

Even as I ranted, I knew I was disproportionately annoyed and that her driving didn’t warrant the amount of adrenaline coursing through my body. Something else was going on, but I had to calm down before I could figure out what it was. So I stopped in front of the mulch, took a deep breath, and figured that whatever was driving my anger would manifest itself in due time.
Flowers 001 
An hour later I was planting pansies in pots and barrels by my front porch. I ran out of soil just as I started working on the second of the two barrels. The moment that last bit of dirt hit the bottom of that barrel, I knew why I’d been so ticked at the woman in the SUV.
The other bags of soil were in the garage about 150 feet away which meant I was stuck. Stuck in the way that when I was obese I needed other people to fetch things for me down the stairs or up the stairs or far away or someplace that was physically difficult to get to. Stuck in the way that caused me to avoid parties and school functions. Stuck in the way that made me feel useless and lacking, trapped in a body that couldn’t do what I asked of it. I was obese then. I’m not now. But I’m still stuck. Stuck with arthritis and I couldn’t fetch the soil from the garage.

I was mad at the woman in the SUV because buying – or more specifically, loading and unloading – large bags of mulch and soil had always been my job, something I did every year, something I COULD do every year. Now this year I cannot. Because of the arthritis in my wrists and shoulders, Larry had to go with me to the store because I can’t lift soil and mulch into my car anymore.

I haven’t wanted to explore this, mostly because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it now and I can’t change the past. But the question is begging to be asked, the question I’ve avoided since making goal three years ago: Do I have all this arthritis in my knees, shoulders, wrists and toes because I was overweight and obese for so many years? Like stretch marks and loose skin, is arthritis my daily reminder that, for years, I fed my insatiable desire for starches and sweets; gained and lost and gained and lost a lot of weight; and for the most part treated my body like it was separate from me?

The answer is probably not a resounding yes, but it’s not no either. I am, in many ways, responsible for the shape of my body now. The choices I made about diet and exercise and the things I declared acceptable (basically ignoring the weight elephant in the middle of the room) accelerated the degeneration of my knees and feet, and perhaps contributed to the degeneration of my wrists and shoulders.

And right now, that truth feels pretty shitty.

No matter how much weight I’ve lost, no matter how far removed I am physically from 300 pounds, I am and will continue to live with the consequences of my obesity.

Even though I give myself a lot of credit for stopping the weight before it got any higher and for losing the weight which has given my other systems better health, here on the other side of weight, displaced anger still exists. I know I need to forgive myself and move on, but sometimes I feel stuck behind a woman in an SUV who refuses to turn right on red.

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