c, part two: english majors don’t do math.

part one is here. there’s method to my maddening backstory. i’m getting there. have some faith.

i got where i got, i think, because i didn’t understand the pure math of it all.

i spent most of my life as the kid who didn’t play sports, who didn’t do much besides school. part of that was circumstance–i grew up lower middle class with a single mom who for most of my younger childhood was in school and working full time and so discretionary income was not something we had much of in our house–but most of it was choice. if i’d wanted to do something, my superhero mom would have made it happen. i seem to recall one ill-fated karate lesson. i think she wanted me to do more, to move more, but there’s only so much you can do when you have everything to do.

the truth of the matter is that i was and have always been the stubborn bookworm. on saturday mornings, when other kids finished watching cartoons and eating cereal and started riding bikes and playing football, i headed off to immerse myself in the world of the wakefield twins or in some fictional realm the vast shelves of the library offered me. there, i excelled.

here is one of the most basic truths about me: i like to excel. i like to be good at things. i deeply dislike struggling, feeling stupid, and failing. so…books, i’m good at. sports and most things that are active…not so much.

so, rather than try, i stayed away. i didn’t know that life is sometimes all about struggle, that in the struggle you find the hardest won and best feeling triumphs. i didn’t know that i could suck it up and transcend. i didn’t know yet that i was a fighter.

such was life for the child me. i was okay with it. i’d be book girl. but even i should have understood this simple math:

(input=lots) + (output=not enough)=increasing size.

nope. didn’t get it. i just kept going. a few years ago, i might have told you that i tried everything in some sort of woe is me, eyerolling frustration. i did probably TRY everything. i distinctly remember a three or four or five month period of mom and i doing this horrible mcdougal diet. now that i look back at it, it’s an awesome way to eat, full of whole grains and vegetarian protein, but as a thirteen year old, i hated it. i couldn’t stand brown rice and vegetables were simply out of the question. i was so hungry because i wouldn’t try anything new that i ended up eating beans and whole wheat toast. but i hated the 95 grain bread my mom kept buying so much that i would put mustard on it just so that i could stand it.

seriously, i’m not even kidding.

so when i used to think that i had tried, i don’t think i understood what it meant to really try. can i quote yoda here? it seems appropriate: “do or do not. there is no try.” the more i get to know myself, the more i realize that i am one of those people who, when i commit to something, that’s it. done deal, the show is over. so the vegetarian/weight watchers/low carb/whateverthelatesttrendis plans weren’t ever really tried. i dabbled, sure. i was looking for a quick fix. i wanted something easy.

i wanted to not have to change.

but i still didn’t understand the simple math of it all.

commitment + action = change.

until about a year after i moved to florida. i had reached a breaking point. i was struggling to walk across campus in the heat. i was alone and seriously overwhelmed in my first year of my phd program. i was struggling to make friends and my love life was just a ridiculously sad barren wasteland, if you’ll pardon the dramatic metaphor. four hurricanes–i’m not even kidding–came through during my first fall and i just didn’t know what to do. add to that the chronic pain i was experiencing and i was at my mental and physical limit. doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and i decided that maybe i needed to start changing the way i was eating. i read something about foods that add to inflammation and decided to make three changes.

i decided to switch from white bread to wheat, to eliminate chocolate from my diet, and to do something else that i can’t remember now.

when it started to work, when i started to feel better, something clicked. it wasn’t about a number on a scale. i FELT better. i could manage life better. and all because i changed something so completely in my control. all of the sudden i understood. i don’t know why i understood it then, but i did. it all came down to really basic stuff.

eat less, move more. read labels. count, count, count. measure, measure, measure. everything.

finally, it was simple. it was math. the irony of that fact does not escape me, nor does the simplicity of it ever cease to amaze me. it’s still very simple. it’s still entirely up to me.

the freedom of that fact is incredibly empowering. the weight of that reality is sometimes intimidating.

but that’s life, right there: it’s entirely up to me.

coming soon: c, part three: cracks.

3 Responses to “c, part two: english majors don’t do math.”

  1. Good for you for making life changes and being in control of them. Thanks for your very nice comment on my Brillig post from last week, too — I’m finally getting to visit everyone back after a very busy weekend. Best of luck in your PhD program, too. I know how slow the process can feel… but it is SO worth it.

  2. your beginning story reminds me about my elementary school days (side note, you need to hear the story about when I met mir in the first grade, it’s cute and hilarious). I sat against the building and read during recess. I got picked on for it. But I was a STICK til I hit puberty because I couldn’t stand sweets and loved veggies and fruits and such. To this day I don’t understand kids who shun veggies like the plague.

    The best thing about moving is there IS something for everyone. Just because you haven’t found a particular type of moving to get really excited about doesn’t mean it’s not out there. You just didn’t have the benefit of a dad who pretended you were a boy and made you play five different sports before you settled on basketball. When I was five my dad coached basketball and after his games he’d let me shoot hoops (and fail miserably of course.)

    I dunno. I’m tired. I have a whole nother chapter to read. WOOT.

  3. Amazing when you realize your destiny is completely is your hands.

    Sure change is tough but knowing that you can do whatever you want or change the way you look is so empowering. It’s also scary as hell but empowering nonetheless.

    Congratulations on figuring that out!

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