Difficult Beginnings – Life Experiences


I cannot say that writing is coming easily to me now. I’m a bit discouraged and  know why. I am never going to write the next great novel. I can admit I am not an accomplished writer and have to stop thinking in terms of being great. I have to just practice writing daily. If a book comes together, all the better.

I always thought I would write nonfiction. I never really had an interest in writing fiction because I did not know if I was creative enough. You know, there are a lot of books out there and many stories to tell; I just need to begin telling the ones that come to me, good, bad, true, untrue.. It’s all practice and a way to find our voice.

I am going to write a bit of nonfiction here. It is about me and is not wrapped in shiny paper and pretty ribbons. It’s sad, but true. It is also happy and inspirational in some ways.

It is my hope to provide inspiration and support to young, beautiful girls who have not discovered this in themselves yet.

It happened so suddenly, I cannot even remember going from one state to another. All I remember is it began in third grade. I was eight years old and suddenly gained weight, a lot of weight. It was extremely noticeable in old school pictures that I love to look at now, but used to hate.

It was like being on a rollercoaster that could not be stopped. The weight just kept coming and my problem became more dire every year.

I often wonder if there was some kind of trauma. I’ve had years of therapy due to my difficult younger years, but have never found answers. Perhaps I just ate too much, but when? How?

I was one out of eight children, all raised the same. I was the only one who had this problem and my parents did not know how to handle it. They loved me. My siblings loved me. I could not love myself and began to identify my worth by my weight. For example, I remember those terrible days in school. Our school nurse needed to weigh us and check our height. Each year, she would jot down the results in some file and it was awful. In fifth grade, ten years old, I weighed in at a whopping 157 pounds. I remember that because it was traumatic. To put it in perspective, I am now 57 years old and I weigh about 159. I am now taller, but not by much. I am  5’3,” so I have always been some what short in stature with the roundness of an apple.

Our family was middle-class and we had everything we needed, especially for a family of ten living in a small home. We all ate the same foods, not the best by today’s standards but we had beans, rice, potatoes, ground beef, chicken, and Mexican food often since that was our culture. Our parents used to buy a few snacks once in a while, but kept them in a box up high in a closet, rationing them to make them last. We had some fruits and vegetables, but my parents were raising eight children and feeding all of us was expensive. They found ways to make it all stretch. Unfortunately, it was not the healthiest diet, but not terrible either.

As far as exercise, I played softball and ran around the neighborhood with neighbor children. We rode bikes and walked further away from home than children do today. It was a different time. We could roam the neighborhood, hang out at friends’ houses, walk to the store, and explore our world.without worry and we did, especially during the summer months.

Our schooling was the same. We all went to 13 years of Catholic school and had many friends from the same families. It was not unusual to see large Catholic families back then. We were a tight-knit group, a well-respected good family.

Of course, there was no perfection in my upbringing, but it was normal. We tested the boundaries, sometimes getting caught, others times not. It really was a lovely way to grow up. To this day, my siblings are all close. Unfortunately, both parents are gone, but their memories live on in each of us.

I’ve asked myself many times, “How does one child out of eight develop such a problem that lasts a lifetime?” Genetics? Could I be the only one to receive this gene? Trauma? Yes, there was some. I can write about those another time, but was this the cause? I have a theory, but that’s all it is.

My youngest sibling was born when I was eight. I had four younger siblings in all, but my baby sister was especially loved and cared for. Not that the rest of us were not, but the baby was more coddled and protected by everyone. Could the problem had been simply losing some affection and attention from my mother because there were other children who needed it more?

My mother’s last pregnancy was not easy. I do not know the specifics. I was too young, however, I know my mother had a full hysterectomy right after the last birth. The poor woman’s body just couldn’t take it anymore after so many births. She may have been sick for a while and unable to care for us the way she normally did. I really do not remember details.

My baby sister also was not well and spent a little extra time in the hospital. She recovered after a rough start and life went on.

I seem to remember having feelings of jealousy over the baby, but also having deep love for her too. To this day, I feel very close to her and definitely still protective. Could I have had problems reconciling the two emotions at once? I may never know the answers and wonder if it is even necessary to seek them at this point. The past is behind me. There is nothing I can do today to change it. I can only live in the present and hope for the future.

After going up and down in weight for most of my life, I have worked hard to change my lifestyle. I have been successful in many ways. As a retired teacher, I now spend my time taking care of myself and my family. I have little stress in my daily life and do what I enjoy. I am a happier person because of it.

The biggest change of all of this is in the way I feel about myself today. I had such self-hatred and low self-esteem for so long. I felt unworthy for many years. My life was always clouded by this one issue. I gave so much power to the number on the scale and let it identify my worth. If I had the issue under control, I was a better person. If I did not, I was unlovable. How I perceived life back then was very unfair and incorrect.

There are many stories to my life, some very sad, but there are joyous ones too. Today, I focus on the positive. I have definitely learned to love myself without letting imperfections overshadow the good in me.

Life is still a struggle at times for different reasons, but I have learned many lessons.

The bitterness of life can turn into sweet honey.

Fear


June 9, 2015 – by DAnthony2

As dawn bursted with warm yellow ribbons, it reached around the sun-bleached shutters and forcefully pulled my heavy, sleep-filled eyes ajar. Excitement immediately built up in my chest, relieved only slightly by a gleeful exhalation. Anticipation for the distant evening was nearly unbearable for my six year old patience threshold. This was the day I would attend a sleepover for the very first time in my entire life.

Most of the day that followed included an in-depth preparation ritual that consisted of me packing all of my necessary equipment. This included a thick, white blanket to use instead of my black, quilted sleeping bag which, for some reason I can’t remember, was unavailable for my overnight stay. A variety of pocket flashlights resembling generic white doctor’s pens were stored in my pockets in case I needed to navigate my way to a bush to relieve my bladder in the middle of the night. I, in my six year old state of mind, thought that I would abide by the unspoken rules of camping rather than make the twenty foot journey to the house and use an actual toilet. Anyways, the entirety of my things were neatly rolled up and stuffed into an incredibly small plastic garbage bag in a scene that resembled the creation of a sausage. I distinctly remember sitting on that bundle for hours in front of my hulking CRT television set while watching some cartoons so that I could occupy myself until the sun started to dip behind the verdant evergreen Oregon trees. A conversation arose from my worried La Fave 1 mother, who wanted to make sure that I would be able to handle the new experience of spending a night alone without her in regards to my crippling fear of the dark.

“Now, are you sure you want to go to this campout?” she asked in a voice of maternal concern.

“Yes, mom.” I replied in a tone that only a six year old can get away with.

“Okay honey, I just want to make sure you’re alright.”

Little did I know that the night would, in fact, not go as I had hoped.

Arriving at my neighbor’s small, plain looking house a few doors down from mine, I held my oversized and overstuffed sausage bundle close to my chest in an embrace like that of two long lost siblings. Much of the evening has since escaped my memory, although I have a faint recollection of roasted marshmallows with their blackened, sizzling exteriors. Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember how many kids in my neighborhood were present. However, I can recall with near certainty the layout of the backyard campsite. The aforementioned site contained three mid-sized tents in a triangular formation with blue tarps stretched across their tops like snowcaps on a mountain range. The backyard itself had a modest line of bushes which hugged the traditional and ever-present white picket fence of the small suburb. A large set of sliding glass doors faced the yard, casting light from the kitchen onto the pseudo-wilderness. After the not-so-memorable events of the evening, everyone turned in for the night, each tent with three to four occupants. If the night had ended then and there, I probably would have thought of the whole experience as mediocre.

The full moon wrapped itself in the sparse cloud cover above as a flapper dons a flamboyant feathered boa. I woke with a start, a feeling of great urinal pressure invading my sleep. Wielding one of my trusty pen-flashlights, I noticed something strange: besides me, my tent was completely empty. I unzipped the entrance with the rapidity of a desperate prisoner escaping in the night. Though I had originally planned to urinate in the bushes, as previously mentioned, I decided that I would check on the house first. As I peeked into the glass sliding doors, I saw my tent mates curled up in the living room across from the kitchen. They had abandoned me for the comfort of a large brown sofa which seemed to mock me from inside the security of the home. I tried the sliding doors to no avail and I knocked without a response from the comfortable betrayers which left me in the tent alone. Panic set in as my urge to relieve myself became impossible to ignore. I made my way to the nearest bush, holding my flashlight with my teeth, and doing the dirty deed. Though I had no audience, the feeling of peeing in a bush left me mortified. Upon further inspection, the other tents were just as vacant as my own. My fear was pressing against my diaphragm, forcing me to breath a little heavier. It was night, the middle of the night, and I was alone.

From deep down within me, and from depths of my personality that I had not yet explored, I found a light in the darkness. The fear that used to debilitate me had now become inconsequential compared to a growing sense of mechanical awareness. It allowed for me to shut off my fear of the dark in order to rationalize the situation I was in. The evidence I gathered told me that I was alone and that I should pack up my things and walk home. So I did. I marched back to that tent, I threw all of my things back into that tiny plastic bag, and I walked away with my pack hoisted over my shoulder, reminiscent of a cartoon hobo. The shoes I had arrived in were also thrown into my bag, leaving me barefooted as I made my way to the moonlit street. As I walked, the brisk night air filled my lungs with a satisfying tickle while the lightly shrouded full moon greeted me with a clear path home.

I made my way up the porch and up to the solid oak door that barred entry into my home. With a quiet yet strong voice, I called out to my parents while tapping on the large door. The hollow sound of my knocking echoed across the empty streets and bounced off the fences of my various neighbors. My mother answered the door, squinting from sleep with an expression of relief. She knew, somehow, that I would return and she slept in the living room in direct view of the main doorway in accordance with this prediction. Call it maternal instincts or what have you, but I was overjoyed to see her and solidified this joy with a hearty hug. Tonight, I had overcome my fear of the dark.