Friday, May 25, 2012

Reclaiming Control

Being a single mother by choice means often being out of control in regard to one's life, which is ironic because the definition of an SMC is a woman who has made her destiny happen -- she created her own family, though she did not have a partner to help her do it. What I'm
talking about is the actual living as the sole caregiver.

Parenting is so demanding a job that it feels like one is at the mercy of the child's schedule a good part of the time. The school schedule first and foremost but also the athletic schedule, the music or theater schedule, the scouting schedule, the summer day-camp schedule, etc. The pediatrician and dentist appointments, the teacher conferences, the homework, tests, special projects, and more. Weekends for SMCs are not partly about the kids; they are almost always completely about the kids. Vacations can't be taken at Club Med Turks & Caicos, which is for adults only. They are taken at Disney World or, in our case in previous years, at family-friendly Club Med Sandpiper, Florida. Tack on challenges unrelated to single motherhood such as career transition, professional and personal disappointments, neighbor problems, financial setbacks (hello, Internet fraud!), and the really big one -- STRESS!!! -- and you can comprehend why the caregiver/breadwinner can feel like her life is not hers to lead.

This epiphany hit me like a Mack truck last weekend when I happened to glimpse a divorced friend of mine in the company of her new boyfriend, a man I have known somewhat much longer than she has. Seeing them together reminded me what I don't have: a satisfying existence separate from my sons. It reminded me of my scarce "me time." And it reminded me how little control I have over my own life.

I know what you're thinking: "She was pining for her friend's boyfriend." Well, sorry but no. I was emotional that day because of my stark insight. Of course, it was hardly the first time I had come to such a conclusion. I've been in the 24/7 mother business for eight and a half years after all. However, I hadn't experienced a "moment" (gross euphemism) like that in a long while because I am very adept at not letting what I see get to me. In other words, I have grown a thick skin. A very thick skin. But not an impenetrable one.

Interestingly, the scenario -- having to stop my vehicle to allow a romantic couple to cross the street -- was very similar to one I experienced about ten years ago in Cambridge involving an ex-boyfriend and the woman for whom he left me. Actually, I felt less of a sting from that one (I wasn't crazy about him to start with, though he was a good amateur stand-up comedian) than this recent one.

Still, I am not made of metal. (Okay, I have two metal pins in my left knee.) I felt something. Yes, I did. I felt a painful self-realization -- so much so that I also felt a need to make a change in my life. What I saw propelled me toward self-improvement and empowerment.

I have been caught in a vicious cycle since February 2011 when two things happened: a. I injured my back and b. my boyfriend broke up with me (yes, in that order, the bastard). The former prevented me from being able to clean my home, which in turn prevented me from being able to have people over. And the latter caused me to turn to comfort food (well, the former did, too.) Yep, you guessed it: I put on weight. A few months later, a toilet malfunction caused water damage to my home, throwing it into further chaos. More dominoes fell as the year wore on. Needless to say, the die had been cast. I became unattractive in my own eyes. (Heck, it could have been much worse. I could have found solace in alcohol or another substance, but thankfully I don't have that predilection.)

Now the buck (and the russet potato chips) stop here. I re-enrolled this week in the Jenny Craig weight-loss program. Two years ago I dropped twenty-seven pounds in the program on top of the three I lost previously on my own, making for a total of thirty. I looked great. Then came the congratulating myself, the easing up, the stress, the ice cream, the slacking off, the stress, the s'mores, and the stress. My JC consultant had warned me about gaining the weight back, but she concluded: "I don't think you will." She really meant it. Well, famous last words. I have done just that and raised her fifteen L-B's!

I still don't think I look fat, or maybe I just don't want to admit it. I look like "a larger version of myself." That was my running line before, and I'm sticking to it.

As I write this, I have been on the program three days. I have experienced some hunger pangs but have been good -- quelching them with apple slices dipped in low-fat salad dressing or a JC "anytime bar" (nutrition bar designed to curb your appetite) instead of cookies or chips and guacomole or salsa. Though I am not as motivated as I was the last time, I feel I am off to a better start because I am managing my desire for snacks more effectively. I've been to ice cream shops with the boys at least twice in recent weeks and have abstained from indulging. That is heretofore unheard of. The real test will be watching Christopher and Charlie gobble down multiple gooey s'mores when we are away camping. I will tell you right now: there will be no denying myself. I refuse to deny myself. But I will cut back on my usual intake. Hopefully. Yes . . . definitely.

I need to make this weight-loss attempt stick -- if only to gain some measure of control over my life, which too often feels like a circus act. Juggling and high-wire tightrope walking come readily to mind.

If I can persevere and be successful, I will regain the confidence lost in regard to my appearance. I can lead a more engaged life with adults, and perhaps someone else will have to stop her vehicle to let me and my future mystery man cross the street.

That would be nice.

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