Sunday, May 20, 2012

Trouble With Horses, Mini-Holidays, Weight Angst, and Things that Seem like They Would be Really Romantic, but Aren’t


Things That Seem like They Would be Really Romantic, but Aren't

Dan, Dan, the Running Man
 Riding horses on the beach has always seemed to me like the quintessential romantic activity. But Mr. Typist and I just got back from a mini-holiday at Ocean Shores for our 10th wedding anniversary, and I come bearing this hard-won wisdom: Riding horses on the beach is not all it’s cracked up to be. I got excited about riding the horses as we were zipping by them on our rented scooters. It looked so idyllic—the noble horses trotting proudly with their swishy tails, their riders rocking along and gazing out at the open sea, the whole tableau so graceful. What better way to be all romantic? Besides, I was feeling a little guilty about my anti-horse outburst from the night before, when we rented “War Horse”, and, after what felt like about 9 hours in, I finally snapped. “That’s it! I’ve had it. I don’t give a damn what happens to this stupid horse anymore. They can shoot him for all I care.” I stomped off to bed, leaving Mr. Typist to discover the fate of Ben or Steve or Troy or whatever the hell his name was. 

 When I told the kid who was doling out the horses at the beach that I had some riding experience, he said that I could have “Dan.” “He likes to go fast, so you have to pull back on him a bit.” Yes! I thought. That’s my horse! Dan and I are spiritual twins. Dan and I will have a beautiful intuitive human-animal bond. They put Mr. Typist on “Tony the Pony”, then hoisted me up onto Dan, who was huge. As we headed down the beach with the other riders, Dan shot right out in front and refused to back off and walk with the pack. The trail assistants acted more as de facto drill sergeants than guides, bellowing, “Pull back on Dan!” about every 60 seconds, but Dan was not having it. Dan was going to be out in front, and that was that. No amount of pleading, bribing, or “pulling back” was going keep Dan from his rightful place in front. Every second that I didn’t have a death grip on the reins, he started trotting. I could feel him itching to gallop. Dan wanted more than anything to take off down the beach at full speed, and while I empathized, (oh did I empathize), they kept yelling at me to control Dan, and I pulled on the reins until my biceps were burning, but there’s only so much control one is going to have over a 1,000 pound alpha beast. By the end of the ride, my bad knee was throbbing, my deep imaginary bond with Dan had been destroyed by his stubbornness, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

 It turns out that Mr. Typist didn’t fare much better, even on the innocently named, “Tony the Pony.” He slid off the horse like a dying man and staggered to the car, threatening revenge on Tony the whole way. Apparently, Tony’s MO was to repeatedly slow to a snail’s pace until the pack was so far ahead he had to canter to catch up, thereby jamming Mr. Typist’s back and chafing other…delicate areas. Then the guides would yell, “Don’t canter Tony!” but of course, Tony wasn’t any more compliant than Dan. As we collapsed in the motel afterwards, both trying to convince the other that we were the one who had it the worst, Mr. Typist actually had the nerve to play the concussion card. “No, seriously, I have a headache in a weird place. I think I have brain damage.” At which point I snorted derisively, and he sulked off to take a nap. All in all, a very unromantic experience.


Weight Angst, or, Where I Expound Upon My Own Hypocrisy

Riots not Diets
I went to get weighed for an employee wellness program recently, and while I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, the actual number was so shocking I burst into tears in the nurse’s office. I know, I know, and yes, I do fully support the Health at Every Size philosophy and believe that thin does not always, or even often, equal "healthy" and there is a wide range of healthy body sizes that do not fall into the “normal” BMI range and fuck society and their unrealistic standards anyway, and please just eat the cookie, but this amount of gain, this fast, is not normal for me. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that not only have I been on antihistamines for the past two months (which are notorious for causing weight gain), the allergies have kept me from feeling any motivation to exercise because of the accompanying asthma and fatigue. Add to that almost 10 months of neglecting my physical health in order to achieve at the new job, being under massive stress, and the newly-acquired habit of eating Jolly Rancher hard candy from the Gift Shop for energy bursts, and well—you have a Typist with a near 20-pound weight gain. 

 It was a wake-up call that I have to start prioritizing my body. Whether it be anorexia,  weight-cycling, self-abuse, or just plain nutritional neglect, most of my life, the health of my physical body has taken a back seat to almost everything else. I rarely go to a doctor. In fact, I don’t even have a doctor right now because I’m “too busy” to make or keep an appointment. I ignore pain until I can’t anymore, and when I do go to a doctor, I usually disregard their advice. I have little regard for my body and wish more than anything I didn’t have to live in one. And yet I expect it to function perfectly and up to my exacting specifications no matter what sort of neglect I inflict on it. 

 The gig is up. I have to start making my health a priority. This doesn’t mean getting thin at all costs, or even getting thin at all (I know I will never see 125 pounds on my 5”9’ frame again), but it does mean paying attention to what I’m eating instead of snarfing down a grab-and-go lunch that I don’t even taste so I can get just a little more work done at my computer. It means taking time to exercise, to leave the office, to walk, to get fresh air, to find a doctor I trust, to reduce stress, and to be more mindful about my eating. I’ve never been an overeater, but my eating has been very imbalanced—eating the wrong things, too quickly, eating nothing, then eating a lot because I’m suddenly starving, or doing ten other things while I’m trying to stave off hunger pains with whatever I can grab from the cafeteria. Or eating a big dinner at night because I haven’t eaten during the day. Whatever it is, it has to stop. I’m uncomfortable at this weight, but worse, I don’t feel strong. Like my ebullient Dan, I want to feel strong and powerful and fast. What that means for each individual is different, but for myself--I don’t feel it now, and I want it back. 


Of course, the the undeniably sick part of all this is that if I had lost 20 pounds in under ten months, I'd be thrilled. I wouldn't care what was happening to my health, or worry about my body or my life being out of balance--I'd just feel happy that I had lost weight for what ever reason it was. And I suspect that any doctor would agree--whatever it was, if the weight was coming off--if I was getting thinner--than it must be perfectly okay and totally healthy; no need to dig for a cause or worry about "imbalance" as long the physical, external body looks the way it "should". 

Sunset at Ocean Shores
Things that Seem Like They Wouldn’t Be Romantic, but Really Are

Mr. Typist and I went to dinner for our anniversary at this truly amazing place called Collin’s Restaurant in Ocean Shores. It was like dining at someone’s house. The tables were all set up around the very homey kitchen, and you could watch the staff cook in full view. We had this absolutely to-die for meal, at which I was actually able to slow down, enjoy, and be totally present with. It was perfectly made, and all in all, a joyous occasion. (It’s amazing how much more I enjoy food when it’s made into a meaningful event rather than just something I have to consume in order to keep working.) Afterwards, the chef came out to introduce himself. When the staff found out it was our anniversary, they gave me a red rose from their bouquet on the mantle. Roses are “my” flower, and I knew that this was a sign. Of what, I don’t know. Just the fact that it’s a sign is enough for me.

Afterwards, Mr. Typist wanted to drive out to the beach to catch the sunset, but it was freezing and I wanted have a swim before bed. However, I acquiesced, and we were rewarded with said sunset, which I ran out of the car in my sleeveless dress to catch on camera, thereby causing violent shivering, thereby causing Mr. Typist to get all protective and turn up the car heat. Very romantic, that. 

But as fun as the trip was—and it was a blast—there was nothing as romantic as coming back home, cleaning up the house after the cats had had free reign for three days, and getting back to our everyday lives. I have always believed that there is great romance in ordinary lives, but sometimes we need sunsets on the beach, fast horses, and beautiful candle-lit meals to remind us of it.  


--Kristen McHenry


1 comment:

Steven Cain said...

Happy anniversary!

Thank you for the laughs... I'm gearing up for a romantic horse ride of my own... ugh.