An Actual Waist
I'm formerly fat. There once was a book entitled A Thin Book by a Formerly Fat Psychiatrist .
I went to therapy from the age of 13 until 40 and the bulge did not budge.
I may have been fat in utero , my tiny nose already sniffing my mother's breast of veal, which now makes the aging vegan's nose wrinkle in horror. I did manage to emerge victorious in my prep school yearbook graduation photo, all periwinkle-blue eye shadow and an actual waist. The makeup was later jettisoned along with the coordinates of the waist.
The playwright Peter Barnes observed, "Don't ask me for answers, only explanations." I got plenty. I pull them out of the air like unrealized dreams. Maybe seeing my mother die of a cerebral hemorrhage on our living room floor started the doughnut rolling. Maybe it was my anorectic sister's chasing the windmills of beauty and male conquest, spending three hours or more in the bathroom every day of her life improving her already perfect face, so construction workers could whistle at her in the street, every street.
Food was my shepherd; it comforted me. The mother lode then were Entenmann's sugar squares, a sort of magnified sugar doughnut, only square instead of round, which took up twice as much residence in one's stomach. Recently, as close as the month of June, the be-all and end-all of the universe had changed to HEB Market's generic pecan pie ice cream. I've never had cocaine or heroin, and I despise drinking, but I know incontrovertibly that no high from those substances ever could hold a candle to the first creamy drop of the stuff on my tongue.
I only made it to 150 pounds at my worst, but to me it was as bad as those who struggle with 200 or 300, and even those who are so afflicted they are unable to leave their beds, or homes. The cloth still cut just as deep and savagely into the folds of my thighs. The arthritis still incapacitated me just as thoroughly. To even get out of bed was a flaming torture, my fat arms clutching and grasping at the air in front of me, looking for a handhold anywhere.
I was just as not-there-there, just as potted a dusty plant in some corner of the room, ignored and passed by all and sundry as my portlier brothers and sisters were.
I rebelled against the culture that crowned the pretty and castigated the fat. In Zen Buddhism, which I practice, there is "no picking and choosing." This means that everything, by and of itself, is already perfect, a budding Buddha, unsullied by labels and judgments.
In surveys, people would rather be blind or run over by a truck than be fat.
I, too, whined the litany: "I tried every diet, every group."
Then one day another friend of mine, a heavy smoker, at risk for death at the age of 40 something, had an operation (not connected with his smoking). He smoked his last cigarette in the waiting room, and emerged from the surgery a nonsmoker.
Something literally went off in my mind, an explosion of understanding.
The guy who had smoked for 30 years no longer existed. Literally. Another tenet of Buddhism is that there is no such thing as a separate self. This concept bamboozles the practitioner for years.
It happens to be the truth. We are changing every minute, because the entire universe is doing the very same thing. We are all facets of a continuum, winking sequined facets of a whirling disco ball.
Thus, the person who got orgasmic over sugar on the tongue could, simply, in a philosophical and psychological word, disappear.
On June 29, 2005, I did.
The facets of the continuum reformed into an individual who no longer ate 99.9 percent of things with a face, or added sugar. This person actually craved things that were good for her, like apples and spinach. And even worse, or better, she could Frenchly manage portions, a spoonful of this, a soupcon of that.
I had a last taste of the pecan pie ice cream a few months later. It was too sweet, a syrupy strangle of the taste buds.
There is suffering, said Shakyamuni Buddha. There is an end to suffering.
All conditioned things are impermanent.
Physicians, heal ourselves.