By Marti Zuckrowv
Ginger is a rescue white boxer. Her albino-like appearance put me off when I first met her at my nephew's house several years ago, but her gentle, friendly disposition lured me in.
So now we have a relationship, a committed relationship.
I show up three times a week and the two of us old gals take an hour walk up through the hills of Oakland and into Piedmont, where huge homes abound and an army of
gardeners maintains large yards. Ginger pees often, and although I like to keep us moving at a decent clip, I know first hand about aging bladders, and don't mind the frequent pauses in our "exercise walk."(I carry my plastic bags like all responsible dog walkers do.)
As we walk, I imagine living in the grand homes we pass and wonder what life would be like if I wasn't me. Who would I be? What if I wasn't first-generation American and my ancestors had come over on the Mayflower? What if my mother hadn't lived through pogroms in Russia, subsisting on black bread and whatever scraps of food could be found, sometimes sucking on salt to ward off hunger? What if my Polish father, a child himself, hadn't been left in charge of his three younger siblings when his mother died of cholera where they nearly starved before coming to America?
Would feeding myself be a simple matter? Would I be free of my "fat phobia?" It's difficult to remember life before my thin obsession enslaved me. Ginger doesn't share in my "what if" game, thrilled to be out and about sniffing the world around her and trucking up the hill. No pondering there.
Nor for my cats, Alfalfa and Oats, two huge guys that my husband refers to as livestock. These cats know how to enjoy life. I envy the content life they lead. The authentic way they exist. Like Ginger, they investigate their surroundings,
content to be alive, fed, and loved. I want that comfort.
I love my life, and celebrate each day that I wake up,
feel my husband's warm body beside me, climb out of bed, and prepare my
sacred cup of coffee. It's the idea of feeding myself
that hits like an earthquake, rattling my peace and
shaking my reverie. If I put nuts in my oatmeal, will
I get fat? If I eat a banana now, can I have another
one later. Fat free or one percent milk? How I'd love
to butter my toast, absolutely a no no. A criminal
offense in the mind of an anorexic. Liquid load; drink
more tea so you won't be hungry. How many packs of gum
do I have, will they last me through the week? Let's
see, I'll be taking two walks today, so it's OK if I
add raisins. Do I deserve to eat?
My therapist tells me to reverse the equation: Did you
eat enough so that you deserve to exercise?
Somehow, I don't get it; the body needs food to stay
ALIVE. In one session we both cracked up imagining
my nutrition philosophy applied to the bedridden
patients in a hospital. Well, they would all die, we
both agreed hysterically. Even I saw the madness in
that way of thinking. For others.
So what's the deal, I chide myself on a daily basis?
It's about mothering, about nurturing me. Nourishment?
I nourish myself in so many other ways and reap the
benefits of feeling satisfied and full, pursing my
passions, diving down into my creativity and bringing
forth self-expression. I walk in nature, I get
massage, I make love, and I indulge in wine. What's
the deal with FOOD? Why did the obsession with being
thin bite me in the butt?
I see through so much of the consumer hype the media
pushes on us, I don't need a BMW, season tickets to
the ballet, the latest designer clothes, diamonds, a
face lift, a boob job, a flat TV. I like the gray in
my hair. I don't get my nails done. I'm far from being
a girly girl.
Is it (A) the subtle and not so subtle messages I've
been exposed to for most of my life? Is it (B) a
biochemical disorder? Is it (C) learned behavior? Is
it (D) the dance world I traveled in) I pick all of
the above. I wish none of the above were of concern
to me. Well, I wish there was peace in the world,
food and shelter and medical care for everyone, a cure
for cancer, AIDS, and Alzheimer's. The list goes on.
And life goes on. And Ginger and I go on taking our
walks in the hills, our hearts beating, our blood
flowing and our relationship deepening. I am learninga lot from her, and maybe one of these days, I'll stop
playing the "what if" game and enjoy the rest of my
life fully, no matter how much I weigh.
Writer Marti Zuckrowv's Dance on Paper column appears the first week of every month in MyStoryLives. She lives in California.