I recently lost a bunch of weight, a little over thirty pounds in the last few months.
Strange things happen when you go through a transformation like that. You THINK you will be able to handle the changes and you THINK you will be ecstatic about them, and for the most part you are. But, there is a part of you (well, of me) that can’t get quite get fully adjusted to this new person.
For years I’ve shopped in the Big and Tall department of a local store that generally had pretty nice stuff for us Big Guys. All of my clothes, especially pants, are now way too big, so the other day I walked in there, daughter in tow, and did what I always do in that store. I walked over to the big and tall section, picked out a couple of pairs of pants then made my way to the dressing rooms. I tried on the items and they were huge on me.
Duh … dude, you lost weight. You’ve changed.
Strangely enough, instead of being happy, I felt a little anxious. All my life I’ve been a big guy. I still am, I will never be small, but I’m smaller than I was. In that moment, I felt as if part of my identity, the thing that made me who I am, was slowly slipping away.
“You didn’t like them dad?” My daughter asked when I emerged from the dressing room with the pants back on their respective hangers.
“No honey, they’re too big.”
I returned the items to the Big and Tall section then looked across the aisle to the “normal” sized section. It would have taken only a step or two to get over there, but venturing into new territory was intimidating. I eventually did and started browsing, a stranger in a strange land. After a few minutes, without even realizing it, I crossed the aisle into the Big and Tall section again.
“Dad, what are you doing over there?” My daughter asked.
I didn’t know what to say, I had wandered back across the aisle by sheer force of habit. Or, more likely, the part of me fearful of losing myself had brought me back into familiar territory.
She took my hand.
“You don’t belong over there, you have to stay over here now,” she said, as she pulled me across the aisle.
She didn’t mean anything deep by her statement, she was bored and just wanted me to stop wasting time so we could get the heck outta there, but I found her words profound nonetheless. I stayed put in the regular section although my eye still wandered over to Big and Tall occasionally. Eventually, I found some stuff that fit my new proportions. They looked good and I was happy to be able to fit into the smaller size, but there was a small part of me that still mourned the loss.
Change is scary. Even a change that you’ve planned for. I guess the key is not to wander back into the aisle of the familiar and comfortable. The new place that you’ve worked hard to get to is well…new but it’s where you should be. It’s where you NEED to be.
You don’t belong over there. You have to stay over here now.
The basement of my house is my favorite writing space even though It’s not always the most comfortable. It’s cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and I share it with the spiders who can’t seem to stay away. Artificial light doesn’t do well in the basement, the illumination from bulbs only penetrate so far, giving the room a timeless quality that can play tricks on an overactive imagination, especially when I’m facing an empty page that I can’t seem to fill. I sit in the circle of light, looking out into the semi-darkness and it’s easy to envision a grandmother down here filling shelves with jars of homemade preserves or kids playing hide and seek while the rest of the family is upstairs gathered around a huge transistor radio.
So, more often than not, I turn out the lights when I’m working so the only illumination is from the monitor with the empty page I’m trying to fill. Sometimes the words are there and sometimes they aren’t, like the ten times I sat down to write this post about gratitude. I took walks to think about it, I spoke with a friend about it, I read my favorite books to inspire me, but the grand and eloquent words I wanted to use to express my profound thanks at the many blessings I had been given proved elusive.
So, I sat and let my mind wander, and soon I noticed the sounds.
Water running through pipes.
The rumble of the clothes dryer.
Thump, thumping of my daughter dancing upstairs.
I refocused and tried to concentrate. I have many things to be thankful for and I didn’t want this to be an ordinary post. I wanted the reader to feel the profound feelings that I felt. It needed to be special. But try as I might, the words failed me again and before very long I turned away from the screen and let my mind wander again.
Water running through pipes.
The rumble of the clothes dryer.
Thump, thumping of my daughter dancing upstairs.
I gathered my thoughts and refocused (again) and began to write. About thirty minutes and a frustrating page and a half later, I stopped to read what I’d produced.
Garbage. It was forced and not at all genuine. I was trying way too hard. I deleted the whole thing and leaned back in my chair.
Sounds again, or rather, only one sound. There was no water running and the dryer had completed its cycle.
Thump, thumping of my daughter dancing.
Then the thumping stopped and I heard footsteps running through the kitchen then down the stairs and into the basement where the empty page and I kept each other company.
“Look at this Dad,” she said.
I spend the next ten minutes watching her proudly show me the progress she’d made on the move she was practicing upstairs and discussing the difficulties of handstands and bridges and back walkovers. When she was done, she hugged me and ran back upstairs. In a moment, the thump thumping began again as she’s started to practice the next move.
As I listen to her dance, I realize that I’ve been going about this all wrong. I was like a bull in a china shop, stomping around and looking outwardly for the thing I only needed to be still to find. I would have heard it, the thump, thump, thumping that means that my daughter is dancing. As long as she is dancing everything is fine.
I am thankful for many things. For health and strength, for Sunshine in the morning, for you reading his post.
I haven’t spoken with my father much lately. A few weeks ago we spoke about the past. I chose to tell him how I saw things. He chose to not talk to me anymore.
That’s the risk you run when you share your truth.
The other day, stressed and tired, I snapped at my daughter. She didn’t deserve it and a few minutes later I sat next to her on the floor and apologized. Without a moment’s hesitation my sweet, wonderful child threw her arms around her flawed and imperfect father and said, “it’s okay Dad, I forgive you.
Then she ran to get her backpack to get the picture that she’d drawn for me, and we talked about the good times we had in the summer.
It took a six year old to teach her father about forgiveness.
Still, I haven’t made the call I know I should make. Maybe my truth is the truth and making the call would be tantamount to denying it. Maybe, there’s a part of me that knows that I should have kept my mouth shut and allowed my father to have his reality, and not knock down the walls he’s built around the truth. Maybe I’m sick and tired of being the one expected to make the peace.
So, what will happen if history repeats itself? How will it feel if I am on the receiving end of the quiet anger from my grown child who’s too tired, too stressed and too damn weary to give much of a damn what her old man thinks? I hope that I’ll have the strength to admit my failures. I hope something of the little girl who threw her arms around her dad remains and that she can forgive me once again.
I hope she remembers that I took her to the beach, and that we went to Coney Island and we had fun.
Once upon a time, my dad took me to the beach. He took me to Coney Island. We had fun too.
One minute I’m staring up at the ceiling, listening to the creaks and shudders of a house settling down for the night and wishing, hoping praying that just for once I could fall asleep like a normal person, then the next I’m in a frantic dreamland fun house occupied by every bogeyman I’ve ever been afraid of. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loss, so my dreams are saturated with sad goodbyes that translate, when I wake up, into a fog of emotion that should burn away in the sunlight but never does. The worst ones involve my daughter and her walking away to a far-away building. She enters and some hazy form is just inside the doorway, someone I feel I should know but don’t. She embraces him/her then shuts the door without looking back. She is gone, and I know without anyone telling me that I won’t ever see her again.
Maybe it’s the season. Maybe it’s me coming to terms with things I should have a long time ago. Or maybe, as a friend told me, I’m mourning, finally.
“Daddy,” she said. “It’s the song we danced to at the father-daughter dance. Remember, at the recital?”
I did remember. The father-daughter dance is usually the last number at her dance recitals and last year the song was Dance with Cinderella, the kind of song about a father and daughter I might have made fun of in another life. Now that I am a father, with a daughter, the song about a dad watching his little girl grow up and get married gets me every single time. During rehearsals the song played over and over and over, and over and over a roomful of men, tough resilient men, men of all races and ages linked by the common thread of our love of our little girls, wiped their eyes and pretended not to see the emotion welling in one another as we danced with our beautiful daughters.
I felt the emotion again and began to think about the dream I had the night before and how the song fit perfectly into my fears of losing what I loved. Then…
“Dance with me Daddy.”
I stood up and tried to remember the steps and for the next three minutes we danced, me trying not to step on her feet, she trying to get in as many twirls and spins as one gorgeous six-year old ballerina could in so short a time. When the song was over we danced some more to another song, then another, then another.
It wasn’t until later, after I’d kissed her good night, that I realized I’d missed the point of the song, of my dreams, of life. Stop worrying about what may come and enjoy what is. I wasted time agonizing about the future when the present is here to be lived. I still don’t know what my dreams meant, or why I was having them but now it doesn’t seem as important.
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone…
My daughter is six going on twenty-two. Things are changing. Too damn fast.
Yo Gabba Gabba, Dora the Explorer, and Little Bill aren’t on the television anymore. I miss them. Even the Fresh Beat Band is a thing of the past.
Now there’s the Disney Channel and the more grown up Nickelodeon and something called Big Time Rush (a blatant Monkees rip off). She picks out her own clothes, and where I used to take her to dance class and walk her inside, now she runs in alone, waving as the door shuts behind her.