A Prayer for the World

Let the rain come and wash away

the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds

held and nurtured over generations.

Let the rain wash away the memory

of the hurt, the neglect.

Then let the sun come out and

fill the sky with rainbows.

Let the warmth of the sun heal us

wherever we are broken.

Let it burn away the fog so that

we can see each other clearly,

so that we can see beyond labels,

beyond accents, gender or skin color.

Let the warmth and brightness

of the sun melt our selfishness

so that we can share the joys and

feel the sorrows of our neighbors.

And let the light of the sun

be so strong that we will see

all people as our neighbors.

Let the earth, nourished by rain,

bring forth flowers

to surround us with beauty.

And let the mountains teach our hearts

to reach upward to heaven.


–Rabbi Harold S. Kushner


It’s Thanksgiving time.  I have been abundantly blessed.  Thankful and grateful and blessed, that’s me.  I can’t complain.  Except I do.  Where do I get off whining?  Where do any of us?

In my weight loss support group, the talk is the same as the conversation in my head for decades on end.  What treats can I squeeze into my daily allotment of calories?  I want my cake and to eat it too.  I want to be thin, but there’s homemade macaroni and cheese.  Can I budget my Thanksgiving Day food allotment so I can enjoy stuffing, and mashed potatoes, and gravy, and the buttered rolls?   Or hey, screw it, I’ll cheat on Thanksgiving and think about dieting after the holidays.  But the pants are too tight. 

All you can eat

If you’re reading this, and you don’t struggle with overeating, then you have my admiration.  Also my sneaking suspicion that your character flaws lie in less visible but perhaps more morally questionable places.  Uh huh. But not my business.

Why can’t I have a big slab of pumpkin pie, like all the rest of America?  Oh, I forgot about people in poverty… but this is about me right now.  I hate that I’m deprived of Caramel Cream Cheese Pecan Brownies, when those spiteful people with fast metabolisms eat everything they want and never get fat!  It’s not fair.  I feel cheated and sad when I see other people wolfing down fried chicken, or loaded baked potatoes, or Death by Chocolate cake, because I want to join in.  Not the death part, though.  Other people enjoy Starbucks Venti Salted Caramel Mocha (570 calories,) why can’t I?  Are there even lattes in my future?

Salted Caramel Mocha

But in the meantime, what if I looked hard at what I often ignore?  Echhh.

I have indulged in a lifetime of bad eating habits.  This is no surprise to any of you.  You can see my belly. Come on, polite is just a lie.    

I am horrified to discover that I have increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease because I’m fat, even beyond the risk factor that my mother had Alzheimer’s.  I take four prescription medications.  I say no to activities with friends because I’m embarrassed that I can’t keep up with them.  So fun is more subdued, more sedentary.  Dominoes, anyone?  I’ve consigned myself to sitting in a chair.  I’m tired.  Which is boring, really.  I hurt.  I have pain in my left hip.  I have arthritis in my low back.  Which must be worsened with higher body weight. 

This year I have a new diagnosis of asthma.  I run out of breath when I exert myself.  My brain and my muscles don’t always get enough oxygen to run the show.  And now there’s sleep apnea, so I go to bed with a plastic mask affixed to my face, with a long hose pumping air into my lungs should I forget to inhale.  This is a direct result of my body mass index being too high. I’m fat.  If you think you need to point it out to me, please don’t.  I’m aware.  Here’s a direct result of my lifelong habit of using food for comfort, and reward, and to tamp down unwanted feelings, which compromises breathing.  Yeah, ill-gotten coping strategy, rooted in childhood deprivation.  Blah blah.  But this is now.  I will breathe in and out over 23,000 times today, each breath altered because of my habits with food.  My childhood was a long time ago.  I’ve got to quit whining.  It is not attractive.

I have no defense if you’re judging, me, but you smokers, quit that! 

I’m not that heavy.  I know people way heavier than I am.  And there’s always somebody sicker than me.  I don’t need to shame myself, or them either.  They are doing the best they can see to do, and it’s none of my business.

I’m just talking about me.  And if you can relate, that’s your stuff.

Does the sensual pleasure of Toll House cookies determine the quality of my life?  Is ten minutes of something creamy or crunchy or chewy in my mouth so satisfying that I really don’t mind drastic curtailment in my enjoyment of my body?  Am I bothered by the narrowing band of leisure opportunities that work for me?  Do I notice the effort of breathing in and out, or consider how long I’ll be breathing at all? 

I’ve gotten used to moving slower—I only notice it when I walk across an airport.  I’ve rationalized buying bigger clothing. I’ve told myself those buff gym rats who can actually follow the Zumba instructor’s moves must be less intellectually or emotionally evolved than I am.  I’ve settled for the life of the mind because my body won’t go that way.

I can whine that poor me can’t have all my favorites at Thanksgiving.  I can moan about the Christmas cookies that will be shoveled into my path, and have to be agonized over.  Would a luscious treat magically convey the richer life I hunger for?  Or do I really crave the sumptuousness of a life of vitality?  Is what I really want more about competence and exhilaration in simple striding and stooping, leaping, squatting and stretching?  To play with my three-year-old grandson, to model empowerment for my teen granddaughter, to hold my own with my younger friend who wants to hike.  Will I fulfill my promise of an afternoon of bowling to my ten-year-old grandson?  

Griffin!  Mr. Charisma.  He’s always thrilled to see me.


Aubrey! Smart and creative.
Chase! He bowls. Mad game skills.
Madi! Smart and pretty.

I’m not talking about having ripped abs, or entering bodybuilding competitions.  I’m talking about using this almost sixty-five-year-old body as it was designed.  To move, to engage, as a vehicle for life.  To enjoy the daily pleasures of flesh.  To feel the sensation of ownership of the body I was given. 

I can gaze transfixed into the pie case at Village Inn, or I can notice how my belly fat might risk that my brain won’t sustain rational thought and witty conversations in my golden years.  Pie could mean my memory drains away, and puddles into my cellulite.  It might mean that I dial back my shoe-tying and switch to Velcro, that I quit expecting to move on my own two legs from the car to the movie theater. 

Should I plan for a wheelchair?  My bathrooms are not accessible!  Are oxygen tanks in my future?  Diabetic supplies?  Compression stockings?  None of this is sexy.  Will the equipment necessary to hoist and heave and move my body around be too difficult to haul out of the trunk?  Will I just stay in my house?  Will somebody have to wipe my butt because I can’t reach it?  What cost to my self-esteem over that?  Or I can start moving! 

That’s me in the turquoise top.  An inversion, in yoga class.

The deprivation model of living has me jealous that the next person gets away with triple cheese lasagna and garlic bread dripping with butter, and Tiramisu for dessert.  But while I’m drooling over the menu, I avert my eyes from the ease of a woman exactly my age wearing smaller pants, with a spring in her step, a glow in her skin, and a light in her eyes.  Look away from the menu!  Get back to yoga class.

These days I’m retired, and I can choose how I invest my hours and my money.  I can put my feet up and binge-watch Netflix.   I can indulge myself in whatever I really truly want.  What do I most want?  The sweet fleeting instant of a cream puff melting in my mouth tastes like an ingredient for isolation, depression and disability.  Cream puffs age me faster.  Is that what I was craving?