With all due respect to Elizabeth Gilbert
About three years ago my life changed dramatically. My husband called to tell me he was leaving his job at the university. I was three hundred miles away, standing outside a crematorium in Queens. My cousin's husband died suddenly and I made the trip to be with her.
John's decision meant financial uncertainty. I understood why he had to do it and was totally in agreement, but I was scared. What we had talked about for months had become a reality. After putting away my cell phone, I cried and cried. I cried for my cousin, for her loss, and for John and me. It was a confusing mess. Sadly or fortunately, crying was expected at a funeral so no one took much notice. After the ceremony, my cousin invited close friends and family to a lovely Italian restaurant for dinner. We proceeded to comfort ourselves with the world's most comforting food.
Thus began several years of eating my way through the stress of building two new businesses, one with my husband and another by myself. As long as porcini mushroom ravioli calmed my nerves, I didn't need Valium.
During this time trips to the barn to see Annie became more and more infrequent. Not taking the time to indulge in my favorite exercise, riding, meant I wasn't burning near as many calories. During the winter I hardly saw Annie at all. The less I rode, the more I ate, the bigger I got.Efforts to gain control over my need to feed came and went and are well documented on this blog. I knew diets weren't the answer but I struggled with what was. So I did the logical thing. I gave up and just let my stress have its way with me. It wasn't all bad. My hard work did pay off. But as the businesses grew, so did my waist line. Thank God for elastic.
Two months ago, after a long day at work, I dragged myself up the stairs to change. At four in the afternoon I was tired. I felt weighed down, like someone had stuffed a bunch of rocks in my underwear. I reached the top of the stairs and thought, this cannot be healthy.
Our Lady of Weight Loss answered my prayer. "Lighten up! Literally! Stop punishing yourself!"
She said, "Move away from food and toward life!"
There was no miracle, no pill, no weird gimmick. Just the power of loving kindness and generosity of spirit.
And faithfully counting calories.
Within seven weeks I lost ten pounds. Our Lady would remind me to say that I permanently lost ten pounds, because I never, ever intend to have to lose those ten pounds ever again!
There are more pounds to go before my prayers are fully answered. But for now, whenever I feel the weight of the world descend on me, triggering a relentless longing for pasta, I pray for divine intervention from Our Lady of Weight Loss. She always answers my prayer. All I have to do is listen.Ride.
One day, early in our conversations, Our Lady said to me:
"Whatever you do that you love, do more of it."
OK, I thought, what would that be? What was I not doing already that I love doing?
Riding. I could ride more. I could stop letting every little obstacle get in the way of barn time and just go. My family was not an excuse any more. They would understand.Instead of going to the barn once in a while, I began going three, even four times a week, each time feeling as if Annie, smart mare that she is, was checking me out. "Who are you," she'd ask, "and what have you done to my absentee owner?"
In the past I've tried gyms, spent my weight in gold on memberships, but the weight machines and ellipticals just never did it for me. I even hired a personal trainer once, but when she didn't yell at me like Jillian, of The Biggest Loser, I felt cheated. If she wasn't going to be abusive what good was she?
The barn is my gym, my dojo, my zen garden. It is a place where I go to regain my balance. Riding Annie I exercise my muscles and my spirit. Why was I depriving myself of this nutritious stuff? This is what Our Lady of Weight Loss wanted me to see.
Today I am training for a horse show! It is a little, elegant show, held by Maple Row every year. Everyone at the barn and at home has been so supportive. Training for the show has given me a focus outside myself I didn't realize I needed. Because I started taking riding lessons again I feel more confident putting Annie through her paces. Because of more frequent rides, my fear of being dumped is mere background noise, not a screaming siren in my face. Annie and I are getting stronger together and that leads to love. Now when I kiss Annie, she kisses me back! Strangers no more.
It's been over three years since I entered a horse show. I'm proud and very relieved to say my old show jacket fits! Whether we walk away with a ribbon or scratch for some reason, I know this journey doesn't end when the last fence is jumped and the lights go dark over the arena. Nope, we're enjoying this too much to let it go.
As Our Lady of Weight Loss says, "What you lose in weight you gain in energy! Be creative! Create a fabulous life!"
And bring a big bag of carrots.