Tag Archives: self-image

Five Years And A Thousand Words

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My own personal D-Day…

Today, June 6, 2017, is the 5th anniversary of my weight loss surgery.  I kept a blog chronicling my journey from the initial consultation with my surgeon on October 25, 2011, through the 2-year anniversary of the surgery itself, writing the final post on June 6, 2014.  Those stories, trials and tribulations still live in Cyberspace at:

http://www.incredibleshrinkingdiva.blogspot.com

I hope people still stumble across that blog and gain some insight, inspiration, information and humor from it.  For numerous reasons, I did not include photographs in that blog.  It just was not part of the journey I felt like sharing at the time.  However, I admit there is truth in the adage that, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  So on this, my 5-year-Surg-I-Versary, I am posting some before-and-after pictures…with some caveats.

I have bounced back from my lowest weight, more than I would like.  And I am working on shaving some of those pounds away.  It is a lifelong journey and my weight will always be something of a struggle.  That is all part and parcel of this process.  Even with my bounceback, I am profoundly grateful that I am not where I started.  I am stronger and healthier than before surgery and I am free from the hip and ankle pain that drove me to pursue surgical intervention after having exhausted every other means available to me.  Weight loss surgery is a true last resort and should only be considered when all other measures have failed.  Knowing all that I know now, I would make the same decision.  For me, it was what I needed, when I needed it.

So, here are some pictures.

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With my longtime friend Mary K. Briggs, April 2010 and March 2017

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With my husband, Sweet Pea aka Jeff Cutshaw, August 2010 and April 2016

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With friend and singing partner Marc Hampton, November 2011 and April 2017

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With mentor in music and weight loss Eric Thorson, November 2010 and December 2017

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With Delta Omicron sisters and friends Allison Hendrix and Ann Jones, July 2009 and July 2015

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Me.  Just plain old me.  July 2009 and April 2017.

I’m not where I want to be, but thanks be to God, I’m not where I used to be.  Life is good and I’m healthy.  I am blessed and greatly loved.  I am thankful.

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It’s not always a bad thing…

Patchwork And Potpourri is not my first foray into the blogosphere.  For anyone who does not know, I underwent radical weight loss surgery 3 years ago in an effort to improve my well-being and quality of life.  As part of the weight loss process, I wrote a blog about that journey, from my first consultation with my weight loss surgeon through my 2-year surg-i-versary, which happened last year while I was in New York preparing to sing a concert with several choral groups at Carnegie Hall.  It was a no-holds-barred look into my experiences with medically-supervised weight loss prior to surgery, the tests required for insurance approval, surgery and recovery and all the nitty-gritty-nuts-and-bolts ranging from periods, poop and vomit to changed relationships resulting from my changed appearance.  The weight loss blog is located at:

http://www.incredibleshrinkingdiva.blogspot.com

I encourage anyone with weight or self-image issues, especially anyone considering weight loss surgery, to visit there and read about the good, the bad and the hilarious stops along my weight loss path.

My total weight loss was 136 pounds, and at my lowest weight I actually dipped a few pounds below my dietician-recommended minimum (although that didn’t last very long!).  In the past year I have regained a bit of the weight because I’ve been trying to comfort myself.  Three friends died from cancer this past year, and, while some people turn to alcohol or drugs to medicate their pain, my substance of choice has always been food.  And as I said to a friend yesterday, nobody eats broccoli for comfort!  “Comfort food” for me is generally laden with starch, fat and sugar.  Delicious stuff for sure…and deadly for some of us if we indulge too much or too often.

The good news is that I have visited with my dietician and started to unpack the pounds I packed on this past year.  I have a conference next week which involves a dressy dinner, and I can zip myself comfortably into the dress I bought for the occasion, which is a victory—and a relief!  I’m still well over a hundred pounds down from my highest weight and largest size, and I’m on the healthy wagon once more hoping to shrink back to my lowest weight and smallest size.

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Even at my smallest, I am not a skinny person.  I never will be.  I have way too many boobs and hips to ever be skinny!  And that’s fine.  God made me curvy.

God also made me sensitive, more than some people in my life have been comfortable with.  Sometimes folks have made me feel bad, ashamed of my tender nature, as though sensitivity equals weakness.  More than once I’ve even tried to “change” how I am, without success, of course.  I have come to realize that big feelings are just part of my basic wiring, and, while sensitive people do require a bit of special care, we’re not broken, as some people would have us think we are.  The same critics who say I’m too sensitive always seem to be grateful for my compassion when THEY need it.  It’s funny how that works sometimes.

Parts of me will always be plus size.  And that’s fine, too.  I laugh and cry bigger than most people, because I feel my feelings more deeply.  Dolly Parton once described herself as having a brain underneath the hair and a big heart underneath the boobs.  I’d like to think that’s me as well.  (Maybe we’re related!)

Am I glad I had surgery and shrank my body?  Absolutely!  Would I do it again, knowing what I know now?  In a heartbeat.  My hips and ankles don’t hurt anymore.  I feel healthier and stronger.  And I feel more free to live my life no longer being ashamed about the parts that are stil big: my personality, feelings, hips, boobs and HAIR!

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Patina

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Worn-in versus worn-out…

A friend and music colleague celebrated birthday number 51 earlier this year, which is the same birthday I am about to observe.  On social media, he posted that someone had told him that, at age 51, he was “officially on the downward slope of life”.  Odds are, this is true, if one does the math and considers the law of averages.  Still, while I know neither the context of the statement nor the person who made it, its tone sort of…crawled all over me!

Thoughts are like birds.  Some of them fly overhead quickly and are gone.  Some land on a person’s shoulder and stay a while.  This thought about the downward slope landed on my head, brought in twigs and mud, and nested.  

Our society is overly focused on beauty and youth, and usually the two are tied together.  We don’t hear much about the beauty that comes with time, wisdom and, yes, age.  I think we are cheating ourselves and the generation behind us when we tell ourselves and them that we lose beauty as we gain years.

All of this got me thinking about the many things in our lives that get better with age.  My favorite jeans, sweaters and t-shirts are the ones that have been worn-in over years, sometimes decades.  They are more comfortable, softer.  When I lost all my weight and I was replacing my wardrobe, I made many eBay purchases, and I purposely looked for jeans that had been “pre-loved”.

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I tend to gravitate toward things that show their marks.  Again, after my weight loss, I bought some new cowboy boots, but I bought a pair with a “distressed” look to the leather.  I wanted them to look a little beaten-up from the start, and I am enjoying the process of leaving more marks on them.  I think cowboy boots look better the more worn-in they are…but maybe that’s just me.

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I have always been a finger-tapper.  It’s just a nervous habit, I guess, but I find myself tapping my rings on my work surfaces.  As a result, my rings get little dings in them.  When I was a new bride, the first time I “ding’ed” my wedding band broke my heart, and I felt like I’d ruined it.  I realize now, though, that all those marks just tell its story.  Gold frequently worn develops a mellow glow that new gold cannot replicate.  I love and value every single scratch on my wedding ring, and on Mama’s chunky gold band, which bears both the marks of her decades of wear, and now the ones I have made on it.

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Part of the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “patina” is as follows:

“The surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use”.

I love that.

Last week I had the blessing of enjoying some time with a couple of different longtime girlfriends who are also around my age.  As I sat with each of them, I appreciated the  various paths down which we have traveled.  Each journey is unique, leaving its marks behind, and we have all experienced both much joy and great heartache.  And I appreciated the radiant softness in their faces, a kind of beauty that can only be built by years and experiences.  Younger faces, younger hearts, lack the depth that only time can provide.

In a couple of days, I will no longer be simply 50.  I will be IN MY 50’s.  I look in the mirror sometimes and it scares me to death!  My lines and spots bug me, and it seems like I see new ones every day.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve never been “beautiful” in any conventional way, so losing my beauty is not my concern.  Sure, I want to look as good as I can for as long as I can.  But feeling healthy and strong, showing compassion, being open and tender with the people I love, singing with joy and gratitude to the God Who gave me my voice…those things are way more important.  And the ability to do those things has come with time and experience.  They are part of my unique patina.

More years of my life are indeed behind me than ahead of me.  That’s fine.  The fabric of my life is still being sewn, stitched into my body, my face…my heart.  Like that ancient flannel blanket my Mamaw made, I pray my life will be remembered by those close to me, and that its patina leaves a soft warmth that envelops everyone I have loved.

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The Eye Of The Beholder

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What IS beauty, anyway?

 

We live in a world that is both beautiful and hideous.  We live in a society that is focused on selling us the idea that we can be “beautiful” if we will simply purchase and use certain products, starve our bodies into becoming a specific size and/or shape, and hide anything about ourselves that could possibly be perceived as a defect or an imperfection.  To me, these impossible standards of beauty are part of why our world is hideous.

Perfection is impossible…and if it were possible, it would be boring!  The iconic supermodel Cindy Crawford once told about a conversation she had with her mother in the very early days of her modeling journey about whether or not to remove her famous mole.  Her mother offered the insight that the mole made her face unique and memorable, and if she removed this unusual feature, all that would be left would be a scar.  

How many of us, in our efforts to fit into some arbitrary definition of beauty, have at some point or other, obliterated the very characteristics that make us identifiable and unique?  I am all in favor of beauty measures that help us to feel better about ourselves, that enhance the qualities and features that we like in both face and figure, and especially those that make us healthy and strong.  But I think the days of torturing ourselves and fighting against our looks need to be over.

God made us in His Image.  He made us beautiful.  At the end of His creative work, He declared all of it, including and especially humankind, very good.  Who are we to say otherwise?Image