A Rollercoaster at the Skating Rink?

“I lost 20 pounds…How? I drank bear piss and took up fencing. How the fuck you think, son? I exercised.”  — Shit My Dad Says

Oh, if it were only that simple.

Tuesday night I drew the short straw and endured yet another elementary school skate night at local rink, Skate City, with my two oldest.  As we made our way to the rink I considered what this night would look like for me next year when the twins will be attending kindergarten at the same elementary school.  Four girls, eight skates, lots of screaming, loud music, sweat and bruises, and four times the amount of skating rink food.  Nachos.  Popcorn.  Big pickles.  Dippin’ Dots.  Hell, I might as well get myself hooked up with some intravenous gas meds now.  

Before we entered and as a last attempt to spare myself, I tried to talk Madison out of renting skates, even bribing her with money to play in the arcade instead.  But alas, she wanted to strap on a pair and join her little kindergarten friends as they clung to the walls and made their way around trying not to get taken down by the bigger kids.  Shucks.  As I paid for entry and skate rental, Emily ran up ahead to find her friends, get laced up and hit the rink.  She had received a pair of pink in-lines from Greg and I for Christmas last year in the hopes that she would practice and thus, make skate nights a lot less painful for all involved.  That hasn’t panned out exactly the way we hoped it would.  Practicing – practicing anything – isn’t her strong suit.  Bless her heart, she still comes home with baseball-sized bruises on her knees. 

True to form, Madison and I made it around the rink about four times when she said she was ready to quit.  $1.00 spent for each revolution.  She quickly slid off her skates, returned them, and made her way to the arcade area to play games.  I stood on the side watching Emily skating by herself, no friends around.  She was a little awkward, trying hard to maintain speed and balance and sway to the beat of the music at the same time.  I remembered the feeling.  Trying to be cool and make it look effortless all the while repeating to myself don’t-fall-don’t-fall-don’t-fall-don’t-fall.  After a while, I went to catch up with Madison and her friend keeping an occasional eye on Emily.  She is at that age where they want you to be far away, but not too far away. 

I saw Emily skate by a few times while I was sitting in the concession area puttin’ down a hotdog, nachos, and drinking a coke.  It was quite good, actually.  Finished with my rink food feast and out of money for the arcade games, Madison and I decided to bail on the event.  I hooked up a ride with a neighbor dad for Emily so she could stay until the end.  Thinking she would be happy about this, I went looking for her to pass the news along.  I was  about 20 feet from the pack of kids she was with when I saw a boy get right in her face and scream, “Emily!  Emily!  Stop it!”  “You’re SO uncool!”  My own face turned red and hot as I imagined the embarrassment she was feeling.  I could read the pain and humiliation on her face from 20 paces.  It took all the self-control I could muster to stand back and watch, when I really wanted to be like Tipper in What Happens in Vegas and “junk-punch him in his man-business”.  Warning:  Don’t mess with my girls. 

She skated toward me sweaty, red-faced, and completely deflated so I decided to scoop her up and take her on home with me.  She was a little upset that she wouldn’t be staying until the end, but I think she realized that it was better to cut her losses and go on home.  She’s old enough to appreciate the fact that tomorrow’s another day.  As I walked out with her, my arm circled around her pulling her close to me, I thought about what I wanted to teach her in this moment.  And my first instinct was to suggest that we go get a McDonald’s sundae.  I know.  Using food to soothe emotional wounds is not a healthy message to send a 10 year-old. 

Yesterday I sat in a 12-hour best picture movie marathon with a dear friend.  We were discussing our weight (over bottomless popcorn and pop, by the way) and why it seems to be the one thing in our life that we just can’t get control of.  I lost 27 pounds last year only to have gained back 12 of it in the last three months.  I have tried every fad diet under the sun trying to lose weight, though I had the best luck I’ve ever had last year simply by cutting out pop, watching my calorie consumption, and exercising.  The issue for me, as for many women, is not losing the weight but keeping it off.  And my instinctual response to Emily’s situation is the reason.  I use food to soothe whatever emotional wound I happen to be nursing at the time. 

In the roller coaster of my life, the one thing I can count on to keep me company when I land at the bottom is food.  And I’m not talking about the good and bad days with my kids, my marriage, my un-career or whatever.  It is an internal roller coaster that cycles around every so often, and more often than I’d like.  Couple that with a very real sugar addiction and I am just a hot diet mess.  When I am feeling blue eating a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit with a hashbrown magically makes me feel better.  And eating a whole pan of sticky buns instead of just two makes crazy sense to me.  And God help me if we have a candy-infused holiday during one of my low points.  Around Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or Easter, I will dole out candy for the kids like this:  one for Cameron, two for mommy, one for Quincy, two for mommy, and so on.   

I think many of you can relate to this.  When I am depressed, blue, or whatever you want to call it, I feel like I am actually living in an impaired state.  A lot like driving while impaired, but (hopefully) without the risk of killing someone else.  I’m tired and my moods and reactions are extreme.  My mind’s ability to fight off temptation is down.  Depression is like an emotional AIDS, if you will.  So it isn’t just about practicing self-control.  That sounds easy.  It’s about gaining control over what’s going on inside me emotionally.  And that is the hard part.  It has taken me nearly 40 years to figure that out.  Or maybe not to figure it out, but to admit it and say it out loud.

So here it is in black and white.  This year, the year of my 40th birthday, and with my 4 beautiful girls as my motivation I will conquer my emotional rollercoaster, and in doing so set a positive example for my girls and finally find some success in managing my weight.

Tonight is the Oscars, though, and Greg is making chicken marsala……so I’ll start tomorrow.

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