But I Never DIDN’T Have a Life

There is no doubt in my mind that when someone chooses to lose a tremendous amount of weight that it is a life-changing, transformative experience.  I also understand that weight loss surgery for most is a life saving operation that can extend life and drastically improve its quality.

There is a local bariatric surgeon (who shall remain nameless) who widely advertises his services on television, radio and on billboards.  The television commercials for this particular doctor have two women in them, one older, one younger and both of them talk about how their decision to have weight loss surgery changed their lives and they outline the reasons they elected to have surgery to help them manage their weight.

The older woman says, “My one reason was to simply live.”  Okay, I get that–you want to spend time with your grandchildren and your doctor told you that you needed to do something about your weight.  I’m right there with you.  My primary care physician told me pretty much the same things as yours likely told you, which motivated me to seek out my surgeon.  Never mind that it was something I’d been thinking about for a few years–at one time I’d actually attended another surgeon’s seminar to learn about weight loss surgery long before my insurance would cover the procedure.  But it took my PCP telling me that if I didn’t do something about my weight I’d be placed back on Januvia and then probably insulin, to light the fire under my butt.  Never mind the whole host of other health problems I’d develop since I’m now 40.  So I totally get where the older woman is coming from in terms of doing this for health reasons because self-preservation is an instinct I possess in spades.  In short, I love my life and don’t want it to end prematurely.

So then the younger woman says, “My one reason was to live life again.”

You mean, you didn’t live before?  You didn’t have a life?  Now that, I don’t get.  I mean, you allowed your fat to keep you from going places and doing stuff?  Why?  Why would you do such a thing?  Why would you deny yourself the joy and bliss of fully living?

I have never once felt that my fat kept me from living what I believe to be a pretty freakin’ awesome life so far.  Not. Once.  It’s like I told my therapist the other day,

You know, I have had a pretty fabulous life so far.  I have two college degrees, I’m married to the best husband ever, I’ve gotten to travel lots of places, I have a professional career that I am proud of and I have fantastic friends and a wonderful family.  I have never once felt like I didn’t live my life, so I don’t get it when people say, “This surgery gave me my life back.”

And I don’t.  At my heaviest, I weighed well over 400 pounds.  Was the quality of my life diminished?  You bet.  It’s no picnic to carry that much weight on a frame that’s only 5’4″.  Never mind the health problems that accompany such obesity.  You name them, I had them and was being treated for most of them.  Life wasn’t easy, but I lived fully each and every day.

This is me, living.  In clockwise order from top left:  at Niagara Falls, in front of Reunion Arena when I worked for the NHL's Dallas Stars, graduating with my Masters degree, being serenaded at Commander's Palace, my portrait from when I was my school district's Secondary Teacher of the Year.

This is me, living. In clockwise order from top left: at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side;  in front of Reunion Arena when I worked for the NHL’s Dallas Stars; graduating with my Masters degree; being serenaded at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans on my 40th birthday this year; and my portrait from when I was my school district’s Secondary Teacher of the Year.

But did I ever once feel like I didn’t have a life?  Never.  Did I feel like I was missing something, like there was a hole in my soul because of some thing on some list of “things you must do because you are alive” that I had not done?   Nope.

And perhaps because I did not allow my life to be put on hold because I am fat, I have a tough time conceptualizing the idea that this surgery will magically give me the life some may feel that I have not lived back to me.

How I view this surgery is that it will allow me to continue to live the life I have been blessed to have been given by my parents 40 years ago.  The sleeve Dr. Nicholson created for me nearly three weeks ago is going to allow me to have at least 40 more years on this Earth (that’s what I told him I wanted, anyway).  I plan to work the hell out of this splendid tool so that I can get those years (and then some, hopefully) and to paraphrase Thoreau, suck the marrow out of the rest of the life I’ve been given.

Yes, there are things I would have never been able to do at 400+ pounds that I will be able to do as I continue to shrink to a healthy weight, but I didn’t allow my inability to do these things to stop me from finding other ways to make my life the rich and wonderful experience that it has been so far.  I look forward to trying a myriad of new things that previously would have been unavailable to me at my former size.  I am excited at the possibilities that being a healthy size will allow me to explore, and that will undoubtedly enrich my life in countless ways.

To borrow from Jill Scott:

I’m taking my freedom,
Pulling it off the shelf
Putting it on my chain,
Wear it around my neck
I’m taking my freedom,
Putting it in my car
Wherever I choose to go,
It will take me far
I’m livin’ my life like it’s golden, livin’ my life like it’s golden, golden, golden

I have lived.  I have lived well.  I have been fully present in all the moments of my life, no matter how trivial they may seem at the time. I have experienced great love, great joy, great heartbreak and great loss.  To me, this is what it is to live.

I have lived.

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10 responses to “But I Never DIDN’T Have a Life

  1. I was always an active person when I was obese. It never stopped me. But it was a big effort. Today I am delighted to move and participate without much effort as I am healthier than ever.

    • When I was younger I played sports like tennis, golf, volleyball and softball. I never let my fat dictate what I could and could not do back then, and that hasn’t really changed. I had to stop because of injuries, but as I lose weight I am hopeful I can appropriately rehab my injuries and play both of those sports again. I am excited at the prospect of becoming a runner as well. Life doesn’t stop because one is overweight–I think someone has to purposely choose for it to.

  2. You have a great outlook on life and making the most of it. It’s the kind of thing that really helps make the surgery successful.

    I do hear people from time to time who look at the surgery as the magic pill. It’s like it’s going to wave this wand and everything’s going to be perfect. The surgery is a fantastic tool but it’s not THE answer and it’s certainly not the meaning of life. I do worry that pinning all your hopes and dreams and reason for being on the surgery can be a disaster waiting to happen because when you hit the plateau, or when people are still jerks when you are thin, or a million other things that can and will go wrong with life happen, now what? So I really appreciate your kinda putting the brakes on that way of looking at things.

    I did have to kind of catch myself a bit because I think I’ve said that kind of thing before, that I have my life back. I do know there are times where I say I wish I’d done it years ago but when I really think about it in some ways I think I did it at the right time. There have been times in life where I was probably not in the best place for going through something like this. For me it was like, life got good enough for me to believe this next step is something I deserve for myself, and it just got better. But I do think that when I say I got my life back, it’s not so much that I didn’t have a life, but more that I got back a quality that I haven’t had in years. That doesn’t take away the other things in my life that were quality but there is something incredible about having an energy that either I never knew existed or I had long forgotten.

  3. So inspiring.

  4. You are absolutely right–the surgery is not a magic pill or bullet. In fact, my husband and I were discussing this very thing today in a different context (seeing food and wanting to eat it–a topic for another post, I’m sure!). I am a firm believer that in addition to the surgical intervention done with surgery, mental health must also be treated. With something as drastically life-altering as surgery, the head game has to be taken care of as well. I am thankful that I have multiple avenues that I am taking advantage of for caring for the psychological end of things–my support groups (real and virtual) plus my therapists have made this journey much easier to survive and sustain. I could not have done this without their guidance and help.

    Going into this process, I knew there would be times when my body would fight me–my therapists prepared me for that. I have yet to experience a stall or plateau but I know they’re coming. Thankfully I now have the tools to handle my behavior when they do happen.

    I too think that this could not have happened at a more perfect time for me in my life. I don’t know that I could have been ready to do this earlier on in my life because I don’t think I was in the right headspace for it, and I think to be successful, that’s the most important thing for one to consider. Your head absolutely must be in the right place for this to work.

    I am eager to see what life will be like once I can move more and do more! Time will tell.

  5. I know exactly what you mean. We were a military family for 22 years and my husband has been retired from the Marine Corps for three years. We moved eight times and I made our house a home with every move. I raised our son and went to school part time. Now our son is at college and I’m half way through my Masters degree (in teaching, I want to teach secondary English) I have a great life! I just want it to last longer and I want to do things like fit easily in an airline seat.
    Your blog is great!

    • Thanks for the compliment! I’m glad you enjoy it. 🙂
      Way to go on getting your Masters! Teaching is a great gig to have. I love my job tremendously…what better job is there that allows me to go to work each day, share what I know and love with students and feel like I’m playing while I do it? Not too many!

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