I like happy endings. It’s why I read romance novels for so long—I want the romantic kiss and the sunset and the ever-after where the music surges joyfully and has got harmonicas in it and everything is swell and nothing will ever be sad, not ever again.
The problem with happy endings, though, is figuring out where the ending is. Sometimes, it is very very easy. The hero and the heroine kiss, that’s one. The family torn apart is reunited, there’s another. The small, wiry kid wins the national boating championship despite all odds and is hoisted up on his teammates’ shoulders and there is cheering.
Weight loss stories are supposed to have very definitive endings—you reach your goal! You have triumphed! There go the harmonicas, and here comes the hero of our story, wearing a slinky dress in size whatever, newly proud of herself and her accomplishments and her rockin’ bod, and there she goes off over the horizon and into the setting sun that is as hot as she suddenly believes she is and then the credits roll and you are dabbing away a little tear and pressing your fist to your heart because it is throbbing with the beauty of it all, so hard it might just thump right out of your chest.
I keep waiting for the credits to roll, I think, and that is my problem. After the credits roll, I can stop thinking about my body, and what I eat and what I drink and if my intestines are going to be difficult that day. I can stop worrying about how I look in jeans and that my belly is still sort of poochy and I can stop hating my boobs and I can just go on and live my life the way life is supposed to be lived, after a happy ending—completely off-screen, without a director’s commentary, without wondering what’s next.
As I understand it, that happens pretty often when you reach a goal. You plant your flag, you look around, and you go “huh. Well. That’s done.” And you realize that there’s nowhere to go but right back down. Here’s where the mountain stops, and it looked pretty high when you were down at the bottom, but now that you’re up there, it looks pretty boring.
I’ve lost all the weight, I’ve gotten the high fives, I’ve gone woo! And now I am waiting for the flourish of trumpets to let me know that I can stop waiting–well, for the flourish of trumpets. Now I am just kind of torn between relaxing into just giving up and forgetting all about it (this is who I am, now, and this is how it’s going to be and things are easy-peasy, from here on out) and fading undramatically into black, and being very disappointed that there’s not more to it, getting mad that there’s nothing left.
Things were so exciting when I was losing the weight. Things were dynamic, ever-changing, and it was a Thrilling Adventure, Full of Spills, Chills, and extra, additional Thrills. And now things are not exciting. Things require work. Pushups and running and vitamins and being healthy without the immediate reward of five pounds down and a compliment every time I see someone I haven’t seen in ten to fifteen minutes.
A few weeks ago I visited San Francisco—my incredibly talented friend Josh Mohr was having his book release party for his (awesomely best-selling, completely amazing) novel Some Things That Meant the World to Me. He was in my grad program; people and instructors from the grad program showed up, and over and over they gasped, and hardly-recognized-me, and told me I looked wonderful and asked how I was and it was startling, to be in that place again, where it was all new and fresh and completely astonishing, how much weight I had lost and how different I look and how awesome everything in the world was and how totally I rule.
I missed that, I realized. I’ve been just ordinary for a long time, and sort of coasting along, waiting for someone to tell me that things were over and done with, and I missed the rush of it. The validation. The high fives and the wows and the holy, holy that comes when you do something dramatic and people recognize how very dramatic it is. I had forgotten, a little bit, where I used to be and what I used to look like, and how I had passed through the gates of paradise and had been issued my passel of virgins and my portion of olive oil and grapes and been warned that this was the way it was going to be, from now on. It crept up so slowly, the complacency and the odd, ungrateful boredom.
There’s plenty I can do—I can declare that my next goal is Ultimate Fitness. My next goal can be a marathon. My next goal can be a six pack. My next goal can be buttocks which can crack a walnut. My next goal can be a triathlon. My next goal can be curing cancer and finding missing children and rehabilitating abused hamsters and looking for the face of god and brokering peace in places that are broken. My next goal ought to be accepting that I had a happy ending, even if I can’t reach out and place my finger directly on the moment where that happened—maybe as far back as when I saw the scale drop below 200 pounds, or the first time I walked up a flight of stairs without dying, or the time I realized that I was worth something, that I had been worth something all along, that I would always be worth something, and I took the batteries out of the scale and gave it away, cue the triumphant kazoo.
I’m done losing weight, and I have been for so long, and probably it is long, so long past time to stop being vaguely dissatisfied, maybe, and figure out what’s next. Cue the extra-triumphant entire band of kazoos.
image by LunaDiRimmel