we are all beside ourselves
At my first (and last) Weight Watchers meeting, the group leader stopped to talk to me afterwards. At one point, she leaned in and said, “Think of it. If you conquer food, you can conquer anything.” Well, actually, no. If food’s your dragon, food’s your dragon, but it’s not really mine.
Let’s talk about last week. On Monday, the boot fitter told me that my ski boots, which maybe had ten days on them before my accident, were incompatible with the six-size differential between my instep and the remainder of my foot. If I didn’t have fifteen days of skiing planned within eight weeks of that discussion, I would have just rented and suffered. Alas, I dropped a Babylock serger’s load of dough on new boots, in a way different size, that needed to be ordered in from New Hampshire. Nothing unmanageable. So, out I went on comped demo skis and boots, and found myself standing on a sheet of ice—not terribly promising for one’s first time back. One of the ski school directors told me to come back to the school at 8:45 the next morning, as the day was licked. You deserve rest.
It snowed 8-12″ that night. Beautiful, fresh snow. The next morning, at around 8, I called for a cab. Cabs were off the road because of slick roads. I couldn’t take the pleasant two-mile walk to the mountain from my inn, as there are nearly no sidewalks and said slickness made cars liable to slip off the road and clip into the shoulder. They’d call when it was safe to drive. Fill your lungs with this space.
I pottered around my inn and had a truly marvelous breakfast. I read some articles and tried to mope minimally. Finally, I gathered my druthers and my innkeeper drove me to the mountain in the early afternoon. . .where the only instructor available for me—my first time back, petrified after reconstructive surgery—was a man who’d been a snowboard instructor for five years, but had only learned how to ski over this past holiday break. Let’s just say, it ended poorly. Indeed, it also started poorly, with me careening down the beginner hill in the wedge I never learned, my cries (screams) of “HELP!” going unanswered.
When I wrote last Sunday, I tried to draw a parallel between my illustrious return to skiing and a potential return to (sewing) blogging. By Tuesday, I started to think that maybe shuffleboard was the sport for me. I called my mother—from whom I did not get my nigh-debilitating sense of duty—to tell her that maybe I was too scared for the fear workshop. Maybe I should just call it quits. She told me to fold. Meet the pain; watch it pass.
As a human, I’m the product of modern medicine, Joan Didion, and Jack Daniels. Lately, though, my petty, individual stress and rings of larger, global stresses, have pushed my normally charmingly and quirkily high anxiety levels into the stratosphere. Now, I feel like the product of constant friction. What used to be a bunch of noise in my head has been ratcheted up to a frequency that can only be heard by dogs. I find myself saying those trite GOOPy, yoga, SoulCycle sayings and meaning them. Let’s find the stillness in this moment.
I’m going to go full Gilbert/Strayed on you now and tell you that the fear workshop kind of changed my life, or helped what’s left of it wash up on shore. At first, I thought, “What business do I have going off into the woods with a bunch of broads to relearn a sport? ” I get frequently accused of being a middle-aged white man. This would end poorly. Yet! Yet, I found in these women partners in crime and, in the weirdest way, found myself. I will follow both Karens and Patti and Mermer and Judy and Emily and almost fifty other women just about anywhere. It reminded me a lot of what we do (did) here. It did not remind me of Taylor Swift’s best friend beach house. Mercy.
Later on that week, as shitty things happened, I actually shifted just a touch and found the stillness in it. I lost my wallet on my second-to-last day after withdrawing a decent amount of money for tipping everyone. A woman I’d known for three days thrust $40 in my hand and refused to take it back when I protested in the name of Lyft, Venmo, and ApplePay. My innkeeper took a detour from the hardware store and picked me up at the mountain, telling me that no matter what, even if it’s the middle of the night, I should call if I need a ride. After I couldn’t print my entire mandatory bus ticket, my bus driver let me on the bus, on the agreement I’d print it at Port Authority. At Port Authority, a 4’11” woman in a neon vest (a Haitian immigrant, I might add) shepherded me upstairs to the printer and insisted on trying to help me carry my gear bag, which nearly took her down. After I asked after the loo, she didn’t just escort me to it, but stood by my skis and bags outside because “Why would you take your things in there?” I came back to the building where I grew up, feeling sick and exhausted (and covered in a thin film of Catskills mud), but got no fewer than a half-dozen hugs between the sidewalk and my apartment.
On a local level, I feel like I’m being flicked to death. On a global citizen level, it’s more like a savage, back-alley thrashing. Everyday, I’ve become increasingly unsure that I’ve got this. But, in weird tiny ways, I wonder more and more if we’ve got this. Or maybe I’m getting more and more optimistic that we can do this. There isn’t a skeleton key that opens us up to conquering the world, but maybe the process of building an us and working for something matters.
God. Now if only I were near a sewing machine, I’d be able to give you a more definitive verdict on this sewing blog issue. To be continued, I suppose.
 Fat is indubitably a feminist issue and I have so much to say about this that I can’t even shoehorn it into a footnote.
Thank you, Karen Joy Fowler (another Karen!), for the title.