Thursday, March 22, 2012

Going Beyond the Physical

I often find myself wondering what my beliefs are when it comes to the supernatural, specifically things like ghosts and spirits.  Living in Salem, MA (the Witch City) it's kind of hard not to think about these things since our whole town's claim to fame lies in the hands of dead witches who supposedly haunt these streets on a daily basis.  We all know people who have stories of growing up in haunted houses, people who have seen ghosts wandering the halls of their work place at night, or we have known someone who had a friend whose uncle's girlfriend's sister did a seance in her house and now every time she lights a candle the radio turns on.  But how do we know if these stories are true or if we just WANT them to be true? 

Being someone who is generally pretty open minded, I often tend to lean towards believing in all of these unexplained phenomena.  I have had my fair share of palm readings, Tarot card readings, Ouija Board fun, and have even been to see some mediums.  I figured the best way to look at each event was to approach it with the idea that the main reason for my being there was for entertainment purposes, and anything else that might happen would just be an unexpected bonus.  This was specifically the feeling I tried to hold onto when I recently went with some friends to Regina Russel's Tea Room in Quincy, MA.  Regina's offers a variety of different readings and I had been there once before, back when I was still in high school, for a relatively unsatisfying Tarot card reading.  The woman who performed my reading certainly knew her cards and was obviously a very skilled people-reader, but I'm sorry to say that her days of being some kind of prophet seemed numbered.  I remember walking out of my appointment feeling slightly entertained, somewhat curious, and mostly disappointed.  It was because of this reading that I was hesitant at first to return to Regina Russel's, but again, I took to mind that as long as I went into the reading thinking it was mainly for entertainment purposes only, I hopefully wouldn't leave feeling disappointed again...especially since this time I had opted for a spirit reading. 

The difference between your average run-of-the-mill Tarot card reading and a spirit reading is that instead of sitting across from someone who is only a few steps up from saying "Pick a card!  Any card!" is that you are instead shut into a small room with a person who is supposedly going to be speaking to someone beyond the grave.  Spooky, right?  I had never had a one-on-one spirit reading before, so I honestly wasn't quite sure what to expect and I would be lying if I were to say I didn't go into this appointment hoping against hope to be able to connect with my mother. 

When it was time for my appointment, I was taken away from my friends in the waiting room and told to follow a somewhat frazzled looking woman into a tiny room off a back hallway that was furnished with only one small table and two chairs.  If there hadn't been a window in there I would have sworn we were about to play Seven Minutes in Heaven in Regina's closet!  Because I was only paying for a 15 minute reading, the woman basically got started the minute we entered the room.  She asked me to sit down and to let her know if there was anyone specific I was hoping to contact that day.  Being a little skeptical, and almost biting my tongue to keep from shouting out "My mom!", I remained calm and told her that I was just curious to see if there was anyone out there, you know, beyond the grave, who was trying to get in touch with me.  I half expected the woman to sit down across from me and hold my hand on the top of the small, wooden table, but instead she put her little purse down, removed the hair clip that was barely containing her frizzy hair, and crossed her arms over her chest and started pacing back and forth in the tiny room.  I wouldn't go so far as to say it looked like she was having some kind of fit, but I do remember thinking that if all I was paying for and expecting was entertainment, it seemed like this woman was going to earn her money, and then some. 

She started off by saying that she could see/sense five different spirits around me.  This was a little shocking, considering there were only three deceased people in my family whom I was close enough to that would make me think they would want to hang around me in their afterlife, but again, trying to remain passive, I kept quiet and let her continue.  She told me that they might be spirits of people I'm familiar with, or they could just be some random spirits flocking to me, since apparently I am very intuitive and open, which creates a sort of magnet approach for these kinds of spirits.  I was starting to feel a little like the Pied Piper. 

The first spirit who reached out to her was a heavyset woman of average height, probably middle aged, whom she thought was a teacher.  This immediately got my attention (although I'm proud to say that I was able to continue keeping a blank face) due to the fact that all of those descriptors could have been about my mom.  Again, I didn't want to say anything because I wanted this experience to be as "real" as possible and I felt that if this woman could see the hope written all over my face, she would mark me as an easy target and basically spoon-feed me anything she wanted.  I think I replied with a generic "Oh, really?" and she went on to say that she just kept getting a teacher vibe but nothing else really seemed to be coming through.  I was glad that I was able to keep my composure because I figured that if my mom's spirit really was going to try to contact me, she probably wouldn't have just said, "I'm a teacher" and then stopped talking.  I would like to think that she might have been able to offer a few more facts about herself and/or our relationship, so when this teacher person moved on and stopped trying to communicate with me, I didn't feel rejected or even upset. Although I have to be honest, I am curious if there might be a past teacher of mine who might have died who for whatever reason felt the need to hang around and visit me. 

I wasn't able to get much information about the next spirit who came to contact me.  The medium started off by asking if there was someone in my life named Danny; that just so happens to be my father's name.  She said that the spirit who was coming through was doing so from Danny's side and that he had a message for Danny, which would make sense as Danny's father (my grandfather) died when I was five.  I was desperately hoping the message would be something along the lines of, "Tell him to grow up and get his act together!" but unfortunately that wasn't the case lol.  She said the spirit was telling her that Danny is in the process of looking for a new job (which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone in my family as Danny changes jobs more frequently than most people change their underwear) and that he should continue looking because he will have his new job by the end of 2012.  I wonder if I should let my uncles know that they might need to be replacing him soon in the family business?  Nah...I'm sure that knowing him, they already have a back-up ready and waiting! 

The next spirit came through quickly after that and the medium asked me if I was close to someone named Jenny.  I told her that I have a friend named Jen and she confirmed that yes, that was who this particular spirit was referencing.  She told me the spirit coming through was an older woman, "a grandmother type" and that she had been trying to get in touch with Jen for quite some time.  Apparently Jen has a similar energy to me in that her aura is welcoming to spirits, but for some reason, Jen is a little more closed off than I am, therefore making it harder for spirits to connect with her.  The medium asked if it had been a while since I last saw Jen and I confirmed that it had been, since I don't think I had seen her since Christmas.  The spirit then asked if I would bring a message to Jenny; she wanted Jen to know that whatever it is that Jen has been struggling with, that it will get better and should have resolved itself by this summer.  The spirit was very concerned about making sure Jen doesn't shut down from anyone close to her or shut out the people around her, as they will help her come to her decision.  At this point I'm thinking to myself, "What the hell is going on with Jen?" but then the spirit seemed to fade, having already given me the message.  What was interesting about this particular experience was that my friend Jen is only called Jenny by her grandparents and aunts and uncles on that particular side of her family.  No one else calls her that.  Also, my friends and I were actually going to Jen's house after our readings, which again, would be the first time I was seeing Jen since Christmas.  Obviously there is no hardcore evidence here, and even though I did my job and passed the message on to Jen, I still don't know if there really is some kind of internal struggle going on with Jen that she has been battling.  I do think the coincidences are a little interesting though.

At that point in my reading, the medium was no longer pacing back and forth in the room, she was in fact sitting across the little table from me and tended to lean back against the wall with her arms folded across her chest and her eyes closed while she communicated with the spirits.  No other spirits seemed to be jumping out to connect with me, so she asked if there was anyone specific I wanted to try to get in touch with.  I figured it was now or never to mention my mom, so I did so and she asked me for my mom's name.  Once I told her, she put her head down on the table and just kind of rocked her head back and forth a little bit.  (Again, even if I left with no actual spirit connections, this woman was good at making these communications seem interesting at least!)  She seemed to connect with my mom pretty quickly and said that my mom loved me, was very proud of me, and that I am stronger than I think I am.  At this point, I think it's important to note that no matter how much of what the medium had just told me was "stock response", meaning that she could have been saying those things to any daughter, son or loved one from a spirit, and that even though the skeptic in me knew there was a good chance these were just generic words, it still did not stop me one bit from crying right there in that little closet. 

The medium then went on to say that my mom was glad that everyone had received all of her belongings that they wanted and she wanted to thank me for making sure that was all done the way she would have wanted.  (Interesting side note:  I am the executor for my mom's estate and have been in charge of not only figuring out who gets what as far as materialistic things, but I also am the one who writes out the checks to distribute any money left in my mom's estate after all the bills are paid off).  Then the medium told me that my mom was worried about my sister since she tends to close down and bottle everything up inside herself.  She said she wants my sister to try to open up more and let people into her life easier.  This is something we have been trying to get my sister to do for years, so maybe the 23rd time's a charm, right Em?  ;)  Next she told me that my mom was very happy that I am with Roland and that she knows he will always take good care of me.  The medium then asked if I have any children yet and I told her no.  Her response was, "Well, then you will!"  She said that my mom told her I am going to have a daughter of my own and that my mom has already met the spirit that will become my daughter and that when she is born she will have my mother's eyes.  I will admit that this hit a certain spot in my heart, because as corny and hokey as this may sound, I have always felt that I am destined to have a daughter, even though I went through stages in my life where I wasn't even sure I wanted to have children.  It's just this feeling that I have, almost like a knowing, that I am meant to be a mom and that I will have at least one daughter to whom I will be very close.  Obviously the medium could have told all of this to anyone, as it wasn't very specific to myself or my mom, but still, hearing the words was enough to strike a chord in me and touch me in a very special way.  Even if it's not true, is it bad or wrong to think that my mom's spirit and my future daughter's spirit have already met and connected on some level?  Especially considering the fact that they will obviously never get to meet here on Earth?

At this point in the reading, someone walked by and knocked on our door to let the medium know that our fifteen minutes were just about up.  Kind of like Last Call at the spirit bar.  The medium then asked me if I had any questions for my mom before we ended the session.  I was honestly still reeling from the whole experience and hadn't thought of any specific questions to ask beforehand, so the first one that came to mind was to ask if my mom had any regrets.  The medium put her head down again and told me that my mom did regret all of the arguments we had had over the years and the time and energy we each spent being mad at each other.  She said my mom was sorry for letting things go on the way they did at times and she wished she had let more things go.  The medium also said (repeatedly) that my mom was sorry that her body just couldn't keep up with her.  She said that my mom was fighting right up until the end but that her body just wasn't strong enough to hold on.  The word "cancer" was never mentioned by either myself or the medium, but it hung in the air like the dark cloud that it is.  Tears once again stung my eyes as memories surfaced of the last night I saw my mom, and how I watched her body bring forth its last remaining option of having to shut itself down.

As a means of attempting to complete the session and probably lighten the mood and end things on a higher note, the medium told me that my mom will often hide my keys from me as a way to get me to slow down and enjoy life more often.  She also said that when my mom is near me, she frequently flickers the lights to get my attention and let me know she is near. 

I thanked the medium, wiped my eyes one last time, and went out into the lobby to join my friends and discuss all of our sessions.  There were four of us that had readings done that day, and I can honestly say that out of the four readings, mine seemed to be the most accurate.  Even to this day, weeks after the spirit reading occurred, I still can't say with 100% certainty that I believe everything the medium told me.  I have gone over and over everything she said to me and have thought about how I acted in the session or if I gave anything away by my facial expressions; things that would have encouraged the medium to react to me in certain ways, but unfortunately I will never know.  I do know that I still believe in ghosts and spirits and I do believe in the possibility that there are people out there who are capable of speaking to these spirits, and maybe the medium was able to talk to my mom, but maybe she wasn't.  This is where I have to remember that my main goal for going to the medium was for entertainment purposes, and anything else I got from the experience was a bonus.  I can admit that I never actually do lose my keys, however, I find it to be a weird coincidence that since having my spirit reading, there have been a lot of different lights flickering on and off in my presence.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Five Months Out and Going Strong

Ok, I know I's been WAY too long since I posted anything, and I feel horrible about that.  There have been so many times that I have sat at the computer with the full intentions of typing out a nice, long blog post, but something always seemed to come up.  I know, that's no excuse.  But here I am now, and I'm going to make sure that I don't let a whole month go by again without posting anything.  And those of you who see me on a daily or weekly basis, feel free to give me a good slap if I go more than two weeks without posting something.  Someone has to keep me in line, and obviously Roland isn't doing his job!  ;)  

So yeah, can you believe that it has been FIVE whole months since my surgery?  I sure can't!  It's so weird because on one hand, the surgery feels like it was forever ago while on the other hand, sometimes I feel like everything just barely happened.  It's so bizarre!  Either way it's hard to believe that it has been such a short amount of time since my surgery.  In the grand scheme of things, five months really isn't much more than a blink of an eye, yet so many things have happened in this short span of time that it feels like it couldn't possibly be any less than a year ago when I had the operation.  In only five months I have managed to change my appearance, increase my energy levels, learn some of the feats that my body is capable of, and remember what it feels like to start to feel good about myself again.  Plus, did I mention that I have now lost 120 pounds?  That's like a whole person!  When I first decided to have this surgery, I knew that all of these things were possible and would likely happen, but I never expected them to happen so quickly; I thought it would take years.  It still amazes me how often people tell me how great I look and compliment me on  my weight loss.  I don't mean for that to sound so egotistical, it's just that these types of situations often create very surreal moments for me.  I'm not able to see the same success in myself that apparently other people are seeing in me, and there are many times where I have to fight off the natural urge to respond with, "Thanks, but nothing has changed in my weight, I'm still the same."  But that's not true.  At this stage post-surgery, my body is still changing almost every day and despite the fact that I am no longer losing weight as quickly as I was right after the surgery, I am still losing weight continuously, so of course people are likely to notice.  It's me who isn't seeing the picture clearly.

When you deal with weight issues your entire life, you learn to see the world in a different light at times and to view yourself differently than how others might see you.  Much of that is a defense mechanism because the reality is, no matter what we may say otherwise, fat people are generally very sensitive and we often have trouble dealing with things like self-discipline, criticism, and at times, reality.  We are also really good at making excuses for ourselves and our behaviors, because deep down even we know that we aren't fooling anybody with the bad choices we make, especially ourselves.  Food is often not only an addiction for us, it's a support system.  Although there are actual genetic and scientific reasons that contribute to obesity (something I have briefly touched on before), the fact of the matter is that those reasons only carry so much weight, pun intended.  Food is a very emotional concept for most of us; it is consumed at happy events like weddings, birthdays, and general social events, but it is also consumed during difficult times, like funerals, while PMS'ing, and when feeling generally sad, stressed, or depressed.

Prior to having the surgery, all patients have to go through many different tests and doctor appointments, simply to make sure that they are healthy enough physically to go through with the surgery.  What many people probably don't realize is that not only do patients need to make sure they are physically able to get through the surgery, they are also checked to make sure they are mentally and emotionally ready.  At first, while I was going through all of these different appointments, I wasn't really sure why it was so vital for me (and all other patients) to have a psychological evaluation.  My feeling was that yeah, obviously I have some emotional issues that I have spent my life dealing with via food, but considering the surgery I was having, I didn't expect to have some kind of crazy epiphany while having the evaluation; what else could they tell me or help me discover that I haven't already heard before on my own or from other therapists?  I was surprised though, because I didn't realize that this psychological evaluation was not only to just discuss why my weight was so high and why I wanted to have the surgery, it was also to discuss how I might feel after the surgery.  Again, it took me a few minutes to wrap my mind around this because for me personally, I was thinking that after the surgery I would be great!  Yeah, I might need some time to recover and my body might be sore for a while, but it was worth it if it meant that I would be losing weight like I was never able to before. I honestly couldn't understand why my feelings post-surgery would even be an issue, because I was psyched and so looking forward to everything that was going to happen.  It wasn't until I got home and discussed things with Roland that we were finally able to make sense of it all (I do my best thinking while talking, so sometimes it takes that to happen for me to fully be able to understand something or figure a situation out.  Just a little side note for y'all!).  For many of us who have weight problems, especially those of us who have had these issues our whole life, often the main cause of that is due to emotional pain that is softened by eating.  It's that whole comfort thing.  What we realized after my psych evaluation was that again, not only were they trying to make sure I was in a good place emotionally prior to having the surgery, they also wanted to make sure I was stable enough to be able to deal with the aftermath of the surgery, aka not eating as much.  Again, that may sound silly or weird to some of you, but to those of you who are emotional eaters, I have a feeling you're already starting to pick up what I'm throwing down.  Those of us who are emotional eaters find comfort, solace and dare I say happiness when we eat, especially all of those wonderfully not good for you foods, generally the greasier or more sugar-packed the better.  After having gastric bypass surgery, not only does it take a while for you to be able to eat real and solid foods again in general, but it also means that you can often say goodbye to all of those wonderful tasting, bad for you foods, maybe not permanently, but at least for a long time.  And what often happens when people lose their sense of comfort?  They get depressed, stressed out, and generally unhappy, which isn't a good frame of mind to be in while you are trying to recover from having a major operation.  It also doesn't help that there is a big occurrence of depression in overweight people in general anyway, so basically this psych evaluation is to make sure that you can handle dealing with the stress of recovering from surgery and eventually day-to-day life without having your basic life crutch; food.

I have talked to many different people who have had this surgery already and many of them told me it took them months to years to finally be able to keep many solid foods down with no trouble.  I can only assume that it's these kinds of people to whom the psych evaluation is really geared towards, people who cannot eat normally for a long time after surgery.  I am  not one of those people, and often these days I don't know if that is a good or bad thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of throwing up or getting sick and generally not being able to eat, but part of me does often wonder if that path might have ended up being better for me, only because at this point I can eat pretty much whatever I want, and have been able to since 2-3 months post-surgery.  Sure, I still had to be really careful when I first started eating solid foods again, and there were many times while I was still healing when I thought I might throw up, but I never did.  As I continued to heal and was able to add more and more foods back into my diet, I was surprised to see how many foods didn't bother me.  They tell us in all the support groups and information meetings that there are many foods that even years post-surgery are just not tolerated well by the new little stomach pouch, mostly "heavy" things like pasta, white breads, some meat, and ice cream.  I can honestly say that at this time, I have tried all of those things and have not been sick once.  Yes, I still have to be careful of how quickly I eat and how much I drink around meal times, and there are plenty of greasy and/or heavy foods that will make me feel not-so-hot afterwards, but overall, I have pretty much sailed through this whole experience.  And I'll be honest, that's kind of what worries me. 

Obviously I had to have this surgery because I have issues with food, particularly in making the wrong choices and not exercising as much as I should.  I knew from the beginning that this surgery was not some kind of miracle fix that would automatically turn me skinny and make it so that I would never have to worry about my weight again for the rest of my life.  This surgery is merely a tool, meant to help me help myself along the way.  It works great by helping me shed a lot of weight up front (thus the 120 pounds so far!) just due to the fact that I'm not eating as much as I used to and my body breaks the foods down differently now, but eventually my body will start to compensate for the changes that are currently happening and it will start to try to hang on to some of these nutrients that for right now are zooming right in and out of my body.  I will still have to work hard to make sure I exercise on a routine basis and eat the right things; it's all about making healthier choices.  The general way my body is now wired because of the surgery will continue to help me keep my weight down for the rest of my life, but only if I treat it properly.  And again, this is the part that I'm worried about.  Because I have already found that I can pretty much eat whatever I want again (albeit in much lesser amounts) I am scared that I won't be able to keep things under control.  I have been doing much better at eating healthy and making smarter choices, but I'll be honest, I could be doing a lot better.  I still probably eat pizza more often than I should and I'm definitely not eating enough vegetables.  I've gotten better at keeping up with exercising (I have found that mixing up the exercise really helps a lot, so that I don't feel so bored while doing it, which makes me dread it less) but I know I could be doing it more frequently.  I'm proud of myself for losing so much weight already, but I also feel like I can't take much of the credit since my body is pretty much losing the weight on its own because it has to. 

At this point, five months after the surgery, I have found that my weight loss is happening at a much slower pace and I believe part of it is due to the fact that my body is now trying to even itself out. My surgeon told me that around the year mark post-surgery, my body will start to not only understand that I have had this surgery that has re-routed my digestive track, allowing me to absorb less nutrients, it will also realize that it needs to fix itself and make it so that I can absorb more nutrients again, thus allowing for weight gain to be able to occur.  If you think about it, it's pretty incredible that our bodies are able to do this.  It's like evolution on a much smaller scale!  The problem is, I don't want any weight gain to occur, which means I'm going to have to really stick to my mantra of making better/healthier choices.  My biggest fear is that I will have this surgery, lose all kinds of weight, and then end up putting much of the weight back on again.  It's a realistic fear because it's what has happened to me my whole life. But on the other hand, prior to this, I didn't have the tool of having a re-wired body and an even stronger desire to be proud of myself, and I am holding onto that to keep me going.  I'm getting married in seven short months and want to look good for  my wedding, plus we are planning on having children not long after that, and I want to be able to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy children.  Once those children are born I want to be able to run around with them, get on the floor and play with them, and have the energy to not only keep up with them, but to want to take them places and interact with them as often as possible.  I also want to spend an incredibly long life with Roland and those children, and I won't be able to do that if I don't keep a handle on my weight.   I am scared of what could and couldn't happen, and I'm scared of failing, but I am optimistic that I will be able to use that fear to keep me going in the right direction.  Of course, it also helps that I have incredibly supportive friends and family around me, who I know will help me achieve any goal I reach for, and I consider myself lucky every day to have so much love around me.  I know it will be hard at times, but I also know that I am stronger than I think I am, and I can achieve whatever I put my mind to.