Today’s post was previously super-heavy and without hope–but I’ve gone back, edited down quite a bit, and put in the hope of escaping loneliness someday. Click to read about how loneliness develops, and how it can shape a life.
A few days ago, I got a few chicken tacos from my local Taco Bell, fixed like I always have them fixed–just chicken and cheese. (It’s been months since I’ve eaten the beef at Taco Bell because the quality has REALLY gone down, at least in my opinion–more about that later.) But the chicken has usually been a refuge for me.
I bit into the first of my tacos, only to realize that the chicken had an unusual sharp flavor, almost a cleaning-product flavor. Not only that, but it was oddly-textured. One more bite, and I realized there was another dimension to the bad taste–it tasted off, as if it had been kept past its expiration date.
As I peered into the depths of the taco shell, wondering if I’d gotten hold of some strange ingredient by mistake, a piece of “chicken” fell out…and it didn’t look the slightest bit like chicken. Instead, it looked like something that had been formed into the vague shape of chicken pieces. The color was nearly pure white–it almost looked like meat fat that had been reshaped.
I honestly don’t know what I got hold of that day, but all three of my tacos were like this–I tried bites out of each one, in the hope that maybe only one or two was affected. That wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, it was what I had spent my eating money on that day and I had long since left the store, so I had to try to salvage what I could of the meal. I ended up eating around the meat entirely and just throwing away the horrible “meat” product I had been served.
This disgusting taste, plus the slight nausea and dizziness I experienced about an hour and a half after eating what I could, convinced me that I had gotten hold of something terrible. And it looked and tasted a lot like what most people are describing as “white slime.”
What Exactly IS “White Slime?
The technical term is “mechanically separated chicken” (some pictures are available here). During mechanical separation, meat is basically sieved like flour (just under really high pressure) to get all the bones out, making it look a lot like meaty cake batter.
While the process sounds (and is) a little disgusting, in ways, it’s a more efficient way to get all the meat off an animal carcass, and it does reduce waste. And, after all, mechanically separated meat forms bologna and hot dogs, two things I’ve eaten in great quantities most of my life. In fact, this process has probably helped food prices over the years since it was introduced back in the late 1960s, according to the Wikipedia article.
So What’s the Big Deal?
There have been health concerns about MSM before, especially concerning connections between mechanically separated beef and mad cow disease. But, since outlawing beef from mechanical separation, this has been widely reduced. Unfortunately, keeping mad cow disease out of the meat does not stop other health concerns. The standout issue to me is that both mechanically separated chicken (“white slime”) and pork (“pink slime”) are treated with ammonia to kill bacteria before being packaged.
Knowing that ammonia is poisonous, and knowing that it’s used in a lot of industrial-strength cleaning supplies, this bothers me. Is ammonia what I was tasting in those tacos? Was the meat perhaps treated a little stronger with “bacteria-killing” solution to disguise the fact that it was a little past its expiration date, perhaps?
I worry that the addition of ammonia is actually making the meat product less nutritious and more poisonous. Whatever was in those tacos (whether it was simply spoiled meat, ammonia-treated meat, or a combination of the two), it did make me nauseated and dizzy afterwards, and I don’t usually react badly to any food. I don’t have the answers, but I do have some disturbing questions which need to be answered. Are we cutting corners too much just to make a profit, if slightly-spoiled or over-treated meat products are now being served?
The Wider Picture: General Fast-Food Quality
In the last few years, quality in fast-food cuisine has gone measurably down–I used to love Taco Bell’s ground beef, for instance, but ever since they got sued over it recently, the taste is no longer rich and slightly spicy, but kinda flat and over-reheated. Most people I talk to don’t seem to notice a difference, but then again, I get my tacos without lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, so the flavor of the meat itself is not overshadowed for me. I’m left wondering what exactly I’ve been eating all these years, to be honest.
It’s not just Taco Bell, though; foods at other fast-food restaurants that I used to love are no longer as good as what I remember, and I’m a very picky/sensitive eater, so I pick up on taste subtleties more often. The “cleaning flavor” has been sneaking into other types of food, too, and I’m wondering if the addition of ammonia is as necessary as people make it out to be.
Now, I know fast food is definitely not health food, but at least it’s supposed to taste like food, right? Even if what I got in those terrible tacos wasn’t “white slime,” I’d like to know what it was (or what it was supposed to be). The production of “white slime” and “pink slime,” while having existed for decades, seems to have taken a turn for the worse, and I’m afraid it’s mostly because of the bottom line.
More (and professional) research is needed to discover whether these strange tastes are a result of individual franchisees trying to stretch their dollar, or whether corporations are trying to cut corners to make a little more profit. But I really hope we all can get to the bottom of why cheap food production seems to be going a little too cheap. After all, when one cannot afford to eat anywhere but fast-food places, as is increasingly the case, that cheap and available food should still be edible!
For More Information
Mechanically-separated meat (MSM) article @ Wikipedia
Meat Product Chart @ ProPublica
Specified Risk Material article @ Wikipedia
Meat slurry article @ Wikipedia
Pink and White Slime: Videos @ Gothamist
A huge toybox sat in the 3-to-5-year-old Sunday school room, stuffed to the gills with an assortment of donated toys. Our church was small and funding for toys was rather low on the list, so a good number of the toys were either missing pieces or broken. Us kids were pretty rough on ’em.
Most of the kids in my Sunday school class gravitated toward the new and shiny toys, the freshly-donated toys whose stickers hadn’t worn off, whose colors were still bright and whose plastic pieces were unscratched. In typical childlike behavior, those were the toys that got played with the most; the ones missing pieces, the ones whose joints had fallen apart and whose screws poked out, were buried in the toy coffin–I mean, the toybox.
Mine were the only little hands to delve into that graveyard of toys and dig out the broken ones.
Every Sunday I found a new “project” to work on, every time our teacher was finished with the Bible lesson and let us play a little while. One Sunday it was a jointed doll whose leg had fallen off; I found the doll’s leg stuffed inside a jack-in-the-box, and reattached it by the end of Sunday School that day. Another Sunday it was a cardboard religious puzzle set, with one piece torn in half. With a few strips of tape on the back, I fixed the torn piece so that I could put the whole picture together again.
Being such a bringer of chaos as I was then (I could un-straighten a room in 5 seconds, given a free moment with an open toybox), this was inexplicable, that I should want to fix broken toys rather than play with shiny new ones. But I followed the same practice at home, fixing up the toys I accidentally broke in too-zealous play, even if they sometimes ended up in a wad of scotch tape or rubber bands. I just hated the sight of a broken toy–it made me horribly sad, even at a young age.
I don’t really know why I have always been drawn to broken toys, and drawn to fix them in particular. After all, I’m not much of a handywoman, nor do I own a set of tools. My fixes weren’t always the most professional-looking, either. (LOL) Maybe it’s because a broken toy feels like a visual representation of lost childhood, lost innocence, broken childlike trust. Something twists, in emotional pain, when I see a broken toy, and I long to fix it so that everything is “right” again. Seeing a fixed toy, seeing it work like it’s supposed to again, always made me irrepressibly happy–I’d usually jump around and do some kind of happydance when everything was “back to normal” again.
Fixing the Broken World: Too Idealistic, or Someday Possible?
These days, I wish the world could be fixed with such simple implements as tape, rubber bands, and glue. It makes me just as sad to see others arrayed against each other in violence and hatred, leaving broken humans in their wake. Since I was a child, I’ve often thought of playing my music and reading my writing to the world, to help put back together what has been shattered so often. People have told me that my writing and music brings peace to them, and it certainly has brought that to me over the years as I created it.
It would be wonderful if the same art that has lifted me up and kept me going could someday keep others going, too; it wouldn’t be just an ego boost, but a true life’s purpose for me. Who knows, maybe the idle dream of making everybody feel better through my writing and music is too childlike, best left with the Barbies and Legos. But perhaps I’m still in the business of fixing broken toys–maybe I’m just aiming for slightly bigger toys, now.
I’ve had pets most of my life, from cats to dogs, from turtles (Mr. Koopa 😛 ) to rabbits (Mr. and Mrs. Bunny). Both my mom and me are animal-lovers. (I regularly swerve out of the way of animals in the road, and have been known to weep if I can’t swerve out of the way in time.) I also like to cuddle and pet animals…but the pet store is an exercise in both fun and masochism. I love them, but I have to leave them all there. ;_;
I Apparently Cannot Haz (Living) Petz
Why do I have to leave pets at the store? Unfortunately, we live in the middle of a big forest which is simultaneously a little too close to the roadway–most of our pet animals end up navigating straight into traffic and being killed. We also suspect that other people nearby may have ended up accidentally “adopting” our pets, since many of “our” animals were half-wild and we could never catch them to put collars on them. Not to mention that the pound has likely been called by to pick up “strays” that might not be stray.
The dangers from humans isn’t the only danger to our pets. Wild animals, like raccoons and feral dogs, have killed many of our smaller animals (poor Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, and all the little kittens that have disappeared over the years… :C ). Heck, even some of our own pets have fought or preyed on each other–two of our otherwise nice dogs absolutely loved killing and eating many of the kittens that were born on the place during their lifetimes. (Is it any wonder I’m a cat person?)
After the disappearance of my last cat, Stacy, and her unnamed kitten, I have been loath to get another pet; my mom feels the same way since our last dog, Big Sam, was hit and killed in the road. As horrible luck as we’ve had keeping pets over the years, it just doesn’t seem right to subject another pet to that, or to get attached to yet another pet that will just get killed or disappear.
The Great Indoors Ain’t All That Great, Either
And if you’re wondering why we just don’t keep them indoors, it’s not because we don’t love them, but because indoor animals are just not an option right now, due to ill health. Keeping a pet inside is more responsibility than any of my family can handle right now with all the health problems Mom and Dad and I all have. Ill health has also led to lots of human junk and mess scattered about our house (you don’t move home six times from college without junk accumulating everywhere). This would not be a healthy or safe environment for a pet. And since outside is just as unsafe for pets as inside, it pretty much means no pets for us.
;_; I Miss Fuzzy Furry Friends…
But knowing all this doesn’t stop me from missing the company of a little animal (most especially a kitty). There’s just something about having a pet around the place…it’s comforting to know that I can go outside and just relax while petting a sweet kitty or doggie. Without animals around the place, I get nervous when I hear nighttime sounds around the house (it ain’t my animal making that eerie crying noise, so what is it?)
Knowing that pets help reduce blood pressure and stress, and knowing that I find myself stressed out more than usual these days, makes me know I could likely use a pet of my own at some point. Till then, I’ll content myself with keeping my boyfriend’s family pets entertained…after all, throwing a ball for a severely ADHD Dachshund does have its perks. XD
This was a dribble of content I couldn’t do anything with, until I turned it into a poem…and then it bloomed, suddenly and unexpectedly. I hope you enjoy this very different Tuesday on the Soapbox entry…
Sometimes I wonder if
I just landed here some years ago
Look out the back window
Wondering where my spaceship is
Been here long enough to acclimate
And yet the society I live in is baffling
I’m supposed to be a human
But human nuances perplex me
I don’t understand why “friends” trash-talk each other
I don’t understand why humans
Like to see each other in pain
I don’t understand why it’s funny to watch someone else fail
I don’t understand why people
Like to yell at those they love
Cloaking this misunderstanding
Is easy most of the time
But I can’t hide my grimaces from everyone
Someone’s bound to notice
Too sympathetic to not react,
Too chicken to speak up
I am caught in a trap of silence
And it’s easier to stay in it
I don’t understand why wars have to be fought
I don’t understand why humans
Defend things and ideas more than each other
I don’t understand why it’s funny to provoke another to tears
I don’t understand why people
Hate someone else’s ideas enough to kill
Was I really born as a human,
Or do I have shape-changing alien skin?
Am I really part of this society,
Or will I one day be called back to space?
It really makes me wonder,
Because there’s so much I don’t get
About how we all relate to each other–
And why I’m beginning to mimic it
I don’t understand why distant death is worth a shrug
I don’t understand why it’s weird
To cry for someone you never knew
I don’t understand why it’s okay to ignore someone else’s need
I don’t understand why humans
Have to need and be hurt before they understand
It’s slowly been happening, over the course of the last year and a half. Gradually, my weekend trips to the gaming shop my boyfriend and I frequent have become more work and less play. At first, I thought I was just being annoyed by some of the people who go there, but it’s not that. Disturbingly, it seems I’ve lost interest in playing many of the games I used to enjoy.
When I had my laptop with me at the shop, I could use it as a “shield” from all the bothersome conversations; I didn’t have to sit there thinking, “Do we REALLY have to spend 5 hours doing nothing but discussing new Magic cards? Do we REALLY need a long and involved discussion over dinner about the new HeroClix set?” I could surf the Internet in relative peace, doing what I really wanted to do (blogging, Facebook, surfing sites I never get to see over dialup), instead of being immersed in this gaming culture that I increasingly felt outclassed in. Now that my laptop baby is in the shop (and has been for almost two months), the situation’s scabbed top layer has peeled back, revealing a deep resentment and no small amount of anger about it.
My frustration with gaming (and my apparent loss of interest in it) is frightening and strange to me. This is an activity I used to enjoy greatly with friends and my boyfriend–in fact, my boyfriend and I bonded over HeroClix and Magic. Now, I find it useless to even play anymore; I know what’s going to happen as soon as I choose one of my Magic decks and he chooses one of his. It seems pointless to play. Same with HeroClix…I feel like I don’t have enough mental energy for the strategy required anymore, and even if I did, everyone would be using all the new “hot” figures and I’d be swept off the board before 5 rounds had passed.
It’s like I’ve lost my gaming mojo. Pardon the Austin-Powers-ism, but there it is. This activity, which I used to take such pride in and such pleasure in, is now almost worthless to me. I’ve suffered depression enough times in my life to know that “loss of interest in favorite activities” is a hallmark, but I don’t feel depressed in any other aspect of my life. Just gaming.
Since I at least have a passing knowledge of psychology, I sought to delve into this problem, and I came up with a few possible explanations for this:
- I am female and the rest of the gaming crew is male
- The current gaming crew is more cutthroat and competitive than my old gaming crew
- Every weekend, I have to “share” my boyfriend with these competitive guys and I get almost no quality time with him
- The old gaming crew has splintered apart, with most of them becoming competitive jerks like the current crew
- With all the new expansion sets coming out in both games, I feel beaten before I even begin a game
- I don’t feel like I’m friends with anybody in the current gaming crew
- I can’t be my whole self with any of the current gaming crew because no one there cares about my writing, my music, my church activities, etc.
Let’s delve into each of these reasons, just a bit.
I am female and the rest of the gaming crew is male
I am bewildered at how much this bugs me. It never used to–I always got along better with guys than girls when I was growing up, and I never was particularly “girly” in terms of fashion and gossip. But I am an adult woman now, an adult woman with very few female friends left in my home state, and I find myself suddenly more isolated from “girl talk” than I realized. Most of my female friends have already “grown up”; gotten married, had babies, gotten jobs, etc. And here I am, still playing in the sandbox with the boys. The boys might be okay with a girl in their midst, but I increasingly feel that it’s not “my place” anymore, as bad as I want it to be. What began as a great way to spend my Saturdays is now the worst day of the week because I don’t feel like I fit in.
The current gaming crew is more cutthroat and competitive than my old gaming crew
When our old gaming shop closed, it seems, the old casual gaming crew went with it–we all went our separate ways for a few years. In the interim, we began attending a shop in another county, another city, with all new players. All was well and good for my boyfriend, who has a great love for games and blends in well with the other players because he knows rules better than anyone else. I, however, did not feel as though I had a place, because my casual style of play was simply outclassed by the competitive styles preferred by the “new” crew. I don’t like 5-turn defeats and alpha strikes, but I’m forced to play against these types of strategies just to ward off the painful boredom of sitting and watching.
Every weekend, I have to “share” my boyfriend with the new competitive crew and I get almost no quality time with him
This is a pretty big beef I have. We’ve been going out 3 1/2 years, and some Saturdays I feel more like a glorified taxi driving him up to the shop rather than an active participant once I get there. He tries to engage me in games, but more often than not he’s called away from our game to answer a rules question in another game, or he ends up talking strategy or new expansion sets with some of the other guys and it leaves me completely out. I feel like I have to “share” my boyfriend with everyone else on Saturdays, when I barely get any real quality time with him during his crazy-busy work week or on Sundays, and it leaves me feeling cheated. It’s hard to even bring this up with him because I feel like if I complain, then I’m being a typical whiny girlfriend and yanking him away from time with his friends, which I know he needs. But if I don’t complain, then it looks like I’m perfectly happy with the arrangement, which is not the case at all.
The old gaming crew has splintered apart, with most of them becoming competitive jerks like the current crew
I used to love playing with the old crew because we just HAD FUN–we weren’t trying to one-up each other all the time, or win money, or gain any kind of prestige. Now, at least 2 of our former number are always talking “best strategies to win tournaments” and playing like they’re in competitions all the time instead of playing against friends. There’s only one of the old crew I still even talk to like a friend anymore, because the others have become strangers to me. We all grew apart, I guess, and I find myself more nostalgic and wistful for what has been lost rather than trying to build anything new, because it just won’t compare.
With all the new expansion sets coming out in both games, I feel beaten before I even begin a game
I don’t play Standard format in Magic, and I don’t play Modern Age in HeroClix. Most of my cards and figures come from Vintage format and Golden Age…which singles me out among the players at the new shop. My strategies, therefore, don’t match up to a lot of the “new hotness” that is being produced by both game companies. I’m not drooling over the latest 13-attack Clix figure, nor do I care about the latest monstrous Infect creature that’s starring in all the Poison Counter Magic decks. I just want to play MY strategies, the ones I made up MYSELF, not something I got off the internet. But my strategies are not good enough to beat Tier 1 strategies, and like I said, I feel beaten before I even begin a game these days.
I don’t feel like I’m friends with anybody in the current gaming crew
Because I have withdrawn from the current crew’s gaming scene, I feel like I can’t get close to anyone. I desperately would like to make friends with them, even just to chat about random stuff, but no one seems to bother with talking about anything that doesn’t have to do with competitive Magic or HeroClix, etc. I feel hamstrung; I don’t always WANT to talk about gaming stuff because it’s become a smaller and smaller portion of my life, but what do I have in common with these guys otherwise?
I can’t be my whole self with any of the current gaming crew because no one there cares about my writing, my music, my church activities, etc.
I am much more than the sum of my games. But you’d never know that if you saw me at the gaming shop. I feel unable to talk about anything but games (see previous subheading), even though I have tentatively tried to broach other topics a few times. I have tried to share my poetry, my music, my church activities, the fact that I’m writing a novel, and tons more stuff about me, but no one seems interested. My forum threads are stillborn; no one is interested in me, and thus, I find myself less and less interested in them. How can I enjoy myself if I’m limited to talking about (or more often, listening to) stuff I don’t find interesting anymore?
A Kind of Summary
One thing’s for sure, this loss of interest in gaming goes much deeper than just hatred of a particular shop, a particular player, or how the games have evolved. It seems as if my very identity is shaken by this. I used to identify myself as a “gamer girl.” Now, I find myself wondering if I even want that label anymore. According to this very blog article, many things have changed in this situation, including myself, and…I am now at a crossroads. I’m sure I’m not the only female to find herself in this situation, but I am powerless to do much about it except write.
Perhaps, by writing this and getting some of these poisonous feelings out, I can find a way to either renew my interest in gaming or withdraw from it completely. After all, gaming is not life…at least, not for me anymore.
I talk about forgiveness a good bit, but it’s much more difficult than I make it out to be. Sometimes, I pretend to forgive, but I really don’t. When someone hurts me on purpose, I remember it, whether I want to or not, for a long time. Years later, when I meet people who have previously been mean to me, I remember what they did, and it still negatively colors my perception of them. I might be able to carry on a polite conversation, but the horrible memories of their hateful words and actions hang between us like dirty laundry, silent but still fluttering in the breeze.
And I have a feeling I’m not the only one who carries these kinds of feelings.
When people deliberately hurt me and don’t care that they hurt me, I find it almost impossible to let go of the hurt.
Take the gang of girls in 6th grade who routinely stood on each other’s shoulders in the bathroom to see down into my stall so that they could make fun of my privates and my pooched-out belly, and dumped bathroom trash down on my head while they were at it. And their teasing did not just confine itself to the bathroom–oh, no, they poked me in the back with the sharp ends of pencils in class, slapped my open locker door so that it would hit me in the head, and mocked me so hard about my partially-clad body in the girls’ locker room that I took to changing in the tiny bathroom stall. (Not to say that these girls DIDN’T try to wedge their heads underneath the door so they could see me doing that, too. Ended up having to stuff my gym bag under the door so they couldn’t get under it easily.)
Their daily humiliation tactics are still effective years later–I’m still hunching in shame writing this. And it seemed that most of my teachers were blissfully unaware of this, or they chose to ignore it because I was the “problem kid,” the one who always cried about everything. I never stopped bringing this to their attention, but it took my parents talking to my teachers to get them to see that I wasn’t making this stuff up just to get attention. And even then, the teachers’ solution was to “make me some friends,” allying me with one of my worst enemies in an attempt to keep me from being lonely. They made such halfhearted attempts to understand or rectify the situation that it was laughable, if I could have laughed by then.
If I was commanded to instantly forgive these girls (as God commands us all to forgive), I don’t know if I could, not even 14 years later. I still want to punch every one of them in the face and stomp on their necks for the senseless cruelty they dealt out to a naive 12-year-old who didn’t know how to fight back. I have had vivid, triumphant dreams in which I did just that, letting the weight of my body, which they mercilessly teased me about, crush their throats so that they strangled to death under my feet. That’s how much I still hate all of those girls…
…and I hate myself, for being so evil as to think such things about another human being.
Silently Strangling Myself with Memories
Those mean girls aren’t the only ones I have trouble forgiving, either. Especially in middle school, I had a profound hatred for most of the people I went to school with, because I was verbally and physically abused by many different kids (shoved against lockers, held against the wall and pinched/slapped, picked on for everything from my “high-water” pants to my developing chest and hips). And I got repeatedly told by school authorities to “be more mature” and stop disrupting class with my complaints about being treated this way. All I know is, if this had been done to me in the “real world” and the offenders had been 18 years old, they would have been put on trial and sent to jail. I have a hard time forgiving the students who did this to me, the other kids who just stood around and watched, and the school authorities who refused to believe me and took the word of my tormentors over mine.
I’m probably the only one who still remembers what these people said and did; it lives with me every day. But how can I forget what they did, when it harmed me so much, when it happened at a time that I was very vulnerable?
I forgive the new hurts in my life a little more easily, because any harm I receive these days is usually due to accident rather than malice–we’ve all grown up and become a little nicer to each other, at least most of the time. But the old, malicious hurts, the ones I received while still developing, are almost too scarred to ever return to normal. How can I let go of the bitterness and hurt, when that bitterness and hurt has been incorporated into me, has become part of my story and part of the way I react to certain people?
Acknowledging this gap between false forgiveness (paying it lip service while still feeling bitter) and real forgiveness (truly accepting the other person’s error as just that, an error) is important. Forgiveness, eventually, comes through realizing that people are not just the sum of their errors. One reason I’m so guilt-ridden about the mistakes I’ve made in my own life is because I keep looking at my life as a whole and only seeing the places I messed up–I focus too hard on all my errors, and it makes me have a negative self-image overall. I am not just the sum of my errors, and neither is anybody else.
But just realizing that is not enough to be able to forgive. This hatred, this bitterness and resentment, is old and dried and caked on my spirit. I have lived with it so long that it has become part of me, and excising it will take time. Yes, that gang of 5 or 6 girls made a lot of mistakes when they treated me like that, but I doubt they would have cared if someone had told them it was a mistake. Malice against another person for no good reason is something I don’t understand. Vengeance, angry justice, is something I understand all too well, and it’s something I still hunger for. Forgiveness cannot come if you are still seeking vengeance…believe me, I’ve tried.
Like many people who have trouble forgiving senseless, malicious acts, I don’t understand why I was treated the way I was by so many people, and I will likely have trouble forgiving until I understand. I have tried to reason out why so many of my classmates might have struck out at me this way–possibly jealousy because of my academic record? Possibly personal insecurity just like mine? Possibly trying to climb the social ladder by doing what everybody else was doing–picking on me? But nothing seems to match with the particular brand of outright gleeful cruelty that was dealt out to me by the gang of girls I spoke of. I fear I will never understand why they felt the need to hurt another person who was clearly no threat to them, physically, mentally, or spiritually. By the end of 6th grade I was so bent and broken inside that I often wished I would die in my sleep…and it was largely due to them. I was more of a threat to myself than they were, strictly because I knew hurting or killing someone else was wrong. (Didn’t stop me from thinking about it, a LOT, but I never did it.)
Forgiveness, the Christian Way
I know that to follow God’s will and Jesus’ teachings, I must be able to forgive, not just partially, not just saying the words, but actually doing it. And so, I am praying the following prayer, starting tonight and every night until I can finally forgive:
Lord, you know my feelings about these girls. You know how much I hate them, how much I resent them and regard them with bitterness. Help me lift these terrible feelings away from myself and trust them to You. Help me realize that these girls are humans too, that they might have been suffering too, even though right now I cannot believe that. Work in my heart and help me heal.
Forgiveness, the Christian way, is a daily process, full of backsliding and regaining balance; it’s not a one-time deal at all. If it was, I’d have been done years ago. This may seem silly to pray about something 14 years in the past, but if I’m ever going to feel free of bitterness, I have to do this. It may be the only way to stop feeling strangled with bad memories.
As a “fat girl” for the last 14 years of my life, I have struggled with my weight and my shape, trying all different types of lifestyle changes, eating plans, and even exercise programs. I have alternately hated my body and tried to love it, tried to use exercise equipment and then eschewed it, etc. I’ve tried walking alone on a track; I’ve tried doing various diets (even low-carb, for about 5 minutes); I’ve tried exercising with music on headphones. Nothing worked for a very long time–I got bored, I got out of the habit, and then it was back to living like I was, relatively sedentary because of my lower body’s arthritic injuries, and avoiding anything green and leafy like it’s got mold.
Does “Healthy Living” Always Have to Equal “Lonely Living?”
During these years of struggle, I’ve noticed something: “living healthy” is a lonely process, like I referenced in the title of this article. It’s very difficult to get people to eat healthier with you, or to exercise regularly with you, due to scheduling, different food needs and likes, and just plain being too busy or too disconnected. And since I’m such a social creature, liking to do things with other people than by myself, it makes it doubly hard to stick to any plan. Not only are the plans difficult to follow because they’re SO different from the way I live my life and they often cause me lots of physical pain, but I have to do everything alone. Doing things alone is a great way to unmotivate oneself.
Perhaps I sound like a crybaby. No matter; I’ve been called a crybaby many times during my life, and I’d say that my sensitivity makes me a much more impassioned writer and a better artist than it makes me a well-adjusted human being. It’s just that if I have to go through something as life-altering, painful, and tough as “getting healthy,” then I’d like a little support. After all, there are support groups for everything else in life.
“Anti-Health” Support Groups, Ahoy!
In fact, I’m comfortable making the assertion that we currently have unintended “anti-health support groups” in America and around the world. There are plenty of people to help you eat all the wrong things, but if you’re on a super-healthy diet, you eat alone. There are plenty of people to help you laze around and watch TV all day, but if you’re going to exercise, you have to do it by yourself. We all help each other sink farther and farther into unhealthy activities because those unhealthy activities feel so darned good and the healthy activities feel like punishment.
In light of this, why are fat people like me subjected to teasing, ridicule, and blame, when we ALL are to blame for being rather hedonistic in our choices of lifestyle? Somehow, it’s still completely “our fault” for being fat, even when the culture immediately around us rewards bad choices and punishes good choices.
When Good Health is Associated with Bad Emotions
I’m tired of being lonely during exercise, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Apart from my Zumba experience, which has been amazingly awesome despite not being able to do quite all the moves yet, my exercise repertoire in the past mostly consisted of boring workouts that somehow manage to leave me unbearably sore and bedridden the next day.
Walking, for instance, BORES ME TO TEARS. Just walking and walking around in a circle not doing anything else productive is not relaxing for me–it makes me anxious about the time I’m wasting doing this useless junk when I could be at home working on a project I’ve got coming up. Walking and other “10-reps-of-this, 20-reps-of-this” exercises drive me insane. There’s nothing to THINK about except how much pain I’m in, and how much pain I’m going to be in tomorrow, and how airless my lungs feel. There’s an incredible isolation that descends upon you when you’re in pain–no one else can feel what you’re feeling at this moment, and quite possibly, no one even cares how much it hurts. When exercise is associated with humiliation and pain, it’s no wonder people don’t want to do it.
I’m also tired of being lonely at the dinner table, and I know I ain’t the only one. When everyone else is indulging in wonderful treats of all types and you’re stuck with a “Rabbit’s Delight” salad, you begin to feel like the odd one out. If you’re the only person counting calories, watching carbs or fat, etc., you feel like you’re in “Food Time-Out.” Starving oneself while everyone else eats heartily, eating something that tastes absolutely disgusting just because it’s “healthier” than what you like, is not my idea of culinary fun. As a very picky eater, hating almost all vegetables and fruits because of the nasty pulpy/crunchy textures and brackish dirt/water tastes, it’s hard for me to find healthy things that I can eat, though even I draw the line at Taco Bell’s ground beef these days (it’s more grease than meat, or is it just me?). I try to choose the least of the food evils and eat smaller portions of whatever I get, but I still feel like I’m depriving myself–and I end up hungry 45 minutes later, without fail.
Do We Deserve “Body Punishment?” I Don’t THINK So!
When “getting healthy” is lonely, boring, and horrible, it doesn’t exactly help anybody join the program. And yet, it seems there’s an idea of “body punishment” for those who have to get healthy to live longer lives–somehow, it’s perceived that we “did this to ourselves,” so we “deserve” all the pain and hardship we go through to get healthy. Not everyone who is fat and/or unhealthy got that way by life choices; sometimes, as in my case, our genetics chose for us.
A Side Note about How My Genetics Chose for Me
As a young child, up to about age 10, I was actually fairly slim, and tall for my age. In fact, my grandmother once got mad at my parents after seeing a photo of me at age 8 on a recent beach trip–she saw the dark circles under my eyes (hereditary) and the slenderness of my whole body and thought that they weren’t feeding me enough. But I went from being that tall and almost-too-skinny 3rd grader to being a rounded, textbook endomorph model in 5th grade. I was 90 pounds and 5’3″ at the beginning of 5th grade, and by the end of 5th grade, I was 145 pounds and 5’5″. I had just turned 11 years old, and went from skinny girl to fat girl almost overnight, gaining butt, breasts, and hips, and a wonderful little muffin top belly which has helped me look pregnant ever since. It was like a switch flipped off, and my metabolism crashed, with absolutely no change in exercise level or food intake. My mother, my aunt, both female cousins, and my maternal grandmother all went through this same body change at onset of puberty as well, so I know it’s not just peculiar to me.
I wish all the skinny Minnies who run diet and exercise plans understood this, how my own body betrayed me and made me a target for all the school bullies, both male and female. Because of how I was treated, especially in middle-school gym classes, exercise became strongly associated with feelings of unpreparedness, humiliation, and sub-humanity. It has taken over a decade to even begin to break down those psychological associations of punishment and pain, and I’m fairly confident my experience is all too typical.
How Can We Start Helping One Another?
Yes, I will say if somebody’s just sitting in bed day after day stuffing themselves until they’re almost sick, they’re doing themselves a disservice. But even so, they deserve support too. Otherwise, there will be no motivation to leave their comfort zone, and they will sink further into their painful and insidiously dangerous lifestyle. While I’ve never turned to food as an emotional void-filler, I do know the hopeless feelings associated with diet and exercise, and it’s no place for any human being.
If you truly want to help someone become healthy again, you don’t treat them like dirt–you offer them support in the form of being an “exercise buddy,” a “going-out-to-eat buddy,” whatever kind of buddy you need to be in order to keep them accountable (and keep yourself accountable, too). Knowing that someone else actually gives a rat’s rear end about what you’re doing is a wonderful motivator; I’ve seen it work with me and with other people, too. When other people reach out and care, when others connect with you, want to know week by week how you’re coming along, you start thinking “maybe I’m worth being cared about.” That healthy attitude change is the first real step to becoming healthy in body again.
Author’s Note: What you are about to read is a composite “day in my body,” involving all the pains and aches (and troubles) I’m likely to face on any given day. After all, no one knows exactly what anyone goes through in their daily lives, and that’s my point; I write this to talk about pain and fatigue in a personal, immediate way.
This post outlines a pretty typical day for me back in 2011–ankle pains, knee pains, headaches, and all. Even though I have had some relief from my headaches since then, it still shocks me that I do indeed go through most of these events every day. I guess even pain becomes customary and normal after a while. Yikes, what a thought. 🙁
This post might not be the most enjoyable (or interesting) I’ve ever written, but it is certainly eye-opening. If we all lived a day in another person’s body, what might we experience? What might we suffer?
Waking Up…In Pain
The insistent MAINK-MAINK-MAINK-MAINK of the alarm clock startles you out of bed. Actually, you weren’t really asleep–you’ve been going in and out of sleep for the last hour, lying there on your side. Too many things to think about, too much to do today…and since your flattened pillow was crammed against the loose headboard, your neck and head are burning with pain anyway. It’s almost more of a relief to sit up and shut the irritating alarm off.
Right foot hits the floor, and the old familiar lightning strike of pain zaps your heel, zipping up the back of your leg, threatening to crumple your knee even as you try to put weight on it. Familiar as this pain is, it’s still a shock to the system. Depending on your left leg (the obedient one, at least this week), you hobble to the bathroom; even after eight hours of rest, your right ankle is still swollen and hurts, just as it has hurt every morning for years.
Getting Ready for the Day, And Already Tired
Completing your morning ablutions is a sorry task this early in the morning. Having to depend on your left leg yet again in the shower makes the whole leg a little sore, but it’s better than dealing with the brain-jangling pain in your right ankle and foot arch (the one that never existed thanks to genetics). Murphy’s Law dictates that next week, your left ankle and left foot arch will be the ones acting up every morning–you just hope your right ankle is a little better by then.
As you descend the stairs to the basement to retrieve clothes, one step at a time, you’re not sure which ankle hurts less. Each time your heel strikes another stairstep, there’s a sharp clanging pain like horribly-out-of-tune church bells in your nerves. But it must be done, and you clump down the stairs heavily, stumbling by the time you reach the basement.
You struggle to fit your jiggling thighs and tummy into panties and then jeans, “dancing” into them to fit the fabric around your hips and waist. Elastic leg bands slide perfectly into the grooves between thighs and stomach, binding your flesh tightly, as underwear has done since you were eleven years old. Zipper and button tightens the waist of your jeans, though there was no chance of the taut fabric going anywhere even without being fastened–the 10-inch difference between waist and hips takes care of that.
Shirts are a little less difficult, but you still look lumpy and saggy in the mirror. Even the expensive plus-size bras don’t make you look your age–it looks like you’ve already had several children and never gave them a bottle of store-bought formula in their lives. Weight drags at your shape in every direction, most evident when you try to haul your 300-pound mass back up the stairs; knees crunch painfully with every upward step, and weakened ankles threaten to roll inward and crumple your legs as you pull yourself up.
The Walmart Trip of Fail
Getting dressed and getting back up the stairs was enough of a challenge, it seems–you’re already out of breath, and disgusted with yourself for it. You had planned to go to Walmart today to pick up groceries, but your ankle angrily disagrees. Even thinking about the walk in from the inordinately-large parking lot is unbearable at this point. Why bother going, when you’re only going to get to the door and want to just turn around and go home?
It takes a lot of motivation to finally get up the courage to go out. Strapping on the black ankle stabilizer brace provides a momentary flood of relief; if only the thing were waterproof so you could wear it in the shower. Maybe then the ankle would feel well enough to conquer Walmart. As it is, you will settle for just picking up what you absolutely need and getting out of there without standing in horrible lines that make the soles of your feet burn.
Walking the aisles at Walmart–or any large store, actually–is a grand adventure in Tantalus-like torture. So many things you want to see and do, and yet your ankles and knees have put you on a strict timer: “5 more minutes and we’re done,” they shout. Never mind that it will take 5 minutes just to pick up one of the items you need. You end up pushing past that horrible time limit, but the growing pain on the outside of your right ankle indicates swelling, again. You’ll be paying for that later, and not with a debit card.
Noon comes, and sees you coming home with groceries in tow; hitting the gas pedal with your right foot is only marginally less painful than standing in the lines. You really wish the woman in front of you had not mistaken the “20 Items Or Less” line for the “Customer Screams at Cashier for 10 Minutes” line. But you’re seated again and you’re back to your usual self, not emotionally strained and near to bursting out with anger, like you feel when you stand for long periods of time. Driving is a lot less painful, and you feel the blood pressure in your temples receding, even though your right temple is beginning to throb with the first teasing poke of a headache.
Headache Comes to Join the “Party”
Later in the afternoon, after you’ve come home and unloaded the groceries, you’re lying in bed, luxuriating in being off your swollen ankles. The right one is currently lying atop a towel-covered ice pack–cold has never felt so good. It’s good to be off your feet, and you try to get a little bit of computer work done (typing, designing, and writing), only to realize that the teasing headache of a few hours ago is now starting to bloom into your face and down your neck on the right side. Turning your head and trying to pop your neck results in a short respite, but the pain comes roaring right back, burning along nerve endings, turning your pulse into a painful drumbeat. This pain centers in the right temple, making vision flash and concentration almost impossible within minutes.
Hours Later and No Relief, As Usual
Lying in your darkened room, the classic treatment for a migraine, your ankle lies forgotten for the moment on its ice pack. It’s now been an hour since you took your prescription “migraine medicine,” and 30 minutes since you took an Advil Migraine, and yet the pain still surges through your temple, making the whole right side of your face feel funny. If you press your fingers to your temple, you can feel a blood vessel, corded and thick, pounding right under your fingertips. You’ve had all sorts of headaches all your life, ranging from the dull thump of a sinus headache to the sharp, eye-searing classic migraine, but this is a headache in its own class…and medicines do not touch it, just as medicines do not completely soothe your crunching knees and swelling ankles.
Nighttime–You’ve Made It One More Day
As evening falls, you manage to take in a little TV, along with a little bit to eat…the headache won’t allow much past your lips, but you’ve got to eat something. The ankle, as if sensing its complaints won’t be paid much attention, has quit aching quite so much, so the stumble to the kitchen is less painful than you feared a few hours ago. Now the goal is to ease the headache enough to sleep–except for the fact that every position your neck gets put in to go to sleep results in alarmingly-worse pain rocketing up into your head.
You end up resting propped against the headboard for a blessed hour or two, until at last the headache loosens its death-grip on your temple and eases off just enough for you to sleep. Sleep dulls the pain, but it will wake you again in the morning; the irritating MAINK-MAINK-MAINK-MAINK of the alarm will not be needed tomorrow morning, because it will already be jangling in your nerves.
Many of us suffer from physical clutter in our homes (myself included). It’s a modern housekeeping malady–we have tons of stuff, lying all over the place or squirreled away wherever it can fit. Most of us don’t even want to THINK about opening our storage closets or outbuildings anymore.
Clutter Isn’t Just Physical
But clutter doesn’t just manifest as piles of old receipts on the desk or stacks of old books on the floor. Clutter appears also in our heads. I find myself pushing aside various half-completed mental to-do lists and worries in order to try to complete a task; when I drive, I often start sorting through old guilt, things I forgot to do, and random ideas that pop to mind when, of course, I can’t stop to write them down.
Yep, my mind is a very cluttered place, just like many of the rooms in my house. Any horizontal space in my home is instantly a clutter magnet, and any free neurons in my brain are instantly taken up with endlessly processing and reprocessing worry and guilt. The worry is about tomorrow, and the guilt is about yesterday. Today is too full of failing to even process most of the time.
I would feel fairly safe in guessing that most of us suffer from cluttered minds. If you look at the increasing instances of car accidents, workplace problems, and relationship/family strife, it all seems to point to stress and overcrowded minds. Victims and perpetrators of car accidents alike say “I never saw him/her coming,” for instance. We were too mentally busy to properly look, perhaps, or to properly brake to avoid an accident. I’ve had more than a few near misses myself, so it’s easy for anybody to slip up. We also slip up in our emotional lives, hurting others and never even noticing because of the mental clutter we are tripping over.
Housekeeping for the Mind
Trying to de-junk our homes is one thing. It seems to be easier to separate out what is clearly too broken to save, too dirty to bother cleaning, and too old to matter when we are handling physical objects–well, at least for people who don’t hoard random stuff like Propel water bottles. (Not my finest moment, I assure you.)
But what about de-junking our brains? It’s much more difficult to discard old bad memories, especially when it seems like they hold a terrible truth about the kind of people we really are inside.
For example: Sometimes I lie awake at night thinking about the time I chucked a rock behind me during recess, trying to get back at some of the mean boys who were throwing rocks at my legs as I ran by. I hit another little girl instead, and I really hurt her leg–bruised it up something awful. And I never truly apologized. It’s been almost twenty years and I still think about it, because in those moments I was vengeful and selfish, and it led to carelessness that hurt someone else. And not only did I hurt someone, I never apologized. Is that the kind of person other people remember me as? Is that the kind of person I still am?
That’s one small example of my guilty mental clutter, among the many dirty and shameful memories I have stacked in my mental closet. It’s like I hoard these memories as a reminder that I am capable of being an awful person, just in case I ever get a little bit too full of myself, just a little too proud of the person I’ve become.
I have a feeling that a lot of us do this to ourselves, maybe not always to de-puff our egos, but for reasons of our own. Maybe we feel we’re not good enough to warrant being happy, or maybe we keep these old memories around as a way of keeping ourselves from backsliding back to where we were. In any case, these cluttered memories, those old worries, guilt, and fears, keep us from living the kind of life we want to live, just as the stacks and stacks of junk in my room right now are keeping me from living the kind of life I want for myself. We can make ourselves literally sick doing this kind of stuff to our minds–anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic stress don’t just appear from nowhere.
Courage to Pick up the Mental Broom
If we want uncluttered minds, we have to be willing to work to clear it. My very wise and very forgiving boyfriend has talked with me often about letting go of old guilt, even saying one time, “You know, you’re probably the only one who even remembers that this happened. If the people you hurt or offended that long ago have forgotten it, then why are you still holding on to it?”
I explained my point above, about my old actions possibly revealing an ugly truth about me, and he said, “Well, if you didn’t have any flaws and never made any mistakes, you’d be Jesus, and as awesome as Jesus is, I don’t know if I could date Him.” We laughed, but he was right. I needed to let go of old junk in my head; even if the “ugly truth” was true at the time, I can work now to fix that flaw in myself now. People can change, houses can be clean again, and minds can be clear.
I can’t say I sleep like a baby at night now, because I don’t. I still have old guilt and new worries swirling about on my mental floor. But at least I am now armed with a broom, and can sweep those problems out. You can be armed with a mental broom, too.