Something Happened

Yep. That’s it. That’s the mission statement, the tag line, the slogan. The catchphrase, the summing-up. The last sentence. The epitaph.

It would make an excellent epitaph, actually. Here lies Chuck. Something happened.

Something did.

My wife decided she wanted the day. Yesterday was her last free day until Christmas break, more or less. She’ll find a couple between now and then, but nothing she can count on. Summer is over for her, as classes begin at the university next week. Here in the Northwest, fall quarter means fall. Someone suggested the other day that, really, our public schools should run through the end of June and not start up until October, sort of like the colleges and universities do, and I’d sign on. June is often a dreary month up here anyway, weather-wise (there’s a reason we call it Junuary); let’s make summer great again, if you ask me.

We took yesterday, then, and headed to the foothills of the Cascades, two days after driving over Stevens Pass to Leavenworth for a friend’s wedding. That might have been the penultimate summer trip, heading for the hills, tossing coats in the backseat just in case. It was 37 degrees outside when we returned back over the pass, a signpost for what’s coming.

Yesterday, though, was reasonably warm and sunny, and we wandered around Issaquah for a while before heading for a hiking spot. My wife is feeling deconditioned lately, having an exercise treadmill test last week and not being pleased (the results were normal; her heart is fine). She got out of breath quickly, and it frustrates her, but she’s not one to push it out of frustration. We took an easy trail and stopped often, saw some deer, smelled some outdoor smells.

The professor, catching her breath.

The professor, catching her breath.

And I was as supportive as I know how to be. Of course. I understand pretty well how hard she works, and will work, and how cramped life is going to be for the next nine months. I want her to be healthy and happy, absolutely. There’s only so much I can do with the clock and calendar, though.

So I walked slowly, sometimes getting ahead by 30-40 feet, checking out the next switchback, coming back to her to let her know it wasn’t that steep, or rocky, or far. I tackle much steeper hills almost every day, so this wasn’t surprising. I was hopping around like a very supportive bunny husband.

And since I’ve been immersed in this subject, I kept thinking about what happened.

I was thinking about a couple of hikes with my brother, back in the late ‘90s. Not much in the way of hiking, actually; just climbing hills or ridges to get to a vantage point, but tell it to the lungs. I was carrying that extra hundred pounds, and I was at least an occasional smoker at that time (it varied), and on both occasions I’m guessing all involved were picturing a Medevac. All I remember is the misery, being horribly, painfully out of breath. My muscles hurt. My skin hurt.

And now, 20 years later—and older—I could jog up those hills, no sweat. Maybe a little sweat, but no problem. And no exaggeration; I’ve done it.

So. What the hell.

Pictures or it didn’t happen.

There ya go. There’s my problem in a nutshell. It’s not that I don’t have pictures; it’s that all of this was BF (Before Facebook), so nobody remembers and it might as well not have happened.

People remember, of course. Family, a few friends. But I suspect these are fuzzy memories, only snapping into place with a stray photo of the rotund one. It was a long time ago.

And now, as I note the 10-year anniversary of doing something about that, I remember very well but I can’t seem to find the words. So I end up feeling arrogant and cocky and oh-so-noble when I don’t think that way at all. Because I was there, and I know.

I don’t know why I gained so much weight, and so fast. I have some ideas. It’s not something that I think about much, but occasionally I do. I wasn’t getting on the scale but I do have those pictures, and I can sort of piece it together. It’s possible I gained 100 pounds in five years. Something definitely happened.

It evened out, eventually. When I started fattening up, I was in my mid-30s and stood out among my contemporaries. Ten years later, the others were starting to catch up and I didn’t feel so alone. Just another fat guy, pushing 50, no surprises here and now no surprise anywhere else. We’re all getting heavier.

I was a lean kid, all the way through high school, and then I gained what I’ll just call the freshman fifteen, since I assume that’s what it was. Stress, change, eating independent of mom’s dinner table: it’s pretty common.

And those 15 pounds never gave me a break, all through my 20s. They’d creep back on, I’d eventually get fed up (sorry), start running and watching my diet, lose them, feel all cocky and thin, then repeat. You know the story, probably.

It’s not like I even was overweight, not usually. Just a tendency toward softness and flab.

Then that something came along, as it will. Again, I have no real answers. I got sedentary, I got busy, I got indulgent. I got crazy, maybe, a little. And I got fat.

My wife, thin and active, worried a lot. When she served as a chaplain at a hospital during her seminary years, she brought up stories of patients around my age, other men who were facing mortality from a hospital bed. She could picture me there, someday or maybe later on that day, and she was right.

What happened shouldn’t have happened. What didn’t happen, should have. If you follow.

There’s no way to look at me, the way my life had played out by that point, and see hope for change. I was a slave to routine, to habit, to compulsive behaviors, some far worse than others but with a clear trajectory: at best this would be a challenge for me, forever. At worst? That hospital bed seems the best option.

I had no skills for transformation. I was sedentary, kind of lazy, more drawn to activities that involved keyboards and monitors than anything involving movement. And I ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted, as much as I wanted. I hated being fat but not as much as the idea of doing something about it, although I bitched and made a couple of attempts to at least stop the bleeding. I generally just bled anyway.

So something happened. Something happened 10 years ago, tomorrow. No lightning bolts. No epiphanies, no doctor’s orders, no voice of God. I was in a pretty positive mood at the time, so there’s that. I’d lopped off about 15 pounds over the past couple of months, eliminating a couple of foods that were causing me to set record weights for myself. Those 15 were the easy ones, I knew, but I amused myself by drawing up a plan that was simple, based on as much science as I could discern from reading articles online, and designed to change one life into another, easy-peasy.

It worked out. Ten years later, then, and now I’m compelled by an imperative I don’t really understand and can’t seem to explain. It wasn’t supposed to happen to a guy like me. I don’t have willpower, whatever that is. I definitely don’t have discipline, or a history of athleticism and a passion for exercise. I’m never going to lose weight, not as much as I need to.

There it is, then. Something happened. Maybe I’m just trying to finally figure out what.

Chuck SigarsComment