The Wagon

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On July 5, 2007, I decided to quit a lot of crazy things cold turkey. These things included caffeine, sugar, white flour, corn syrup solids, sucrose, fructose, lactose, and whatever the hell else I decided to lump into my insane dietary experiment.


At the time, I was 14 months postpartum and had never lost my baby weight, plus I found myself so addicted to coffee that even after four cups downed in rapid succession, I still pled exhaustion. I was so dependent on caffeine to get through the day that my daily consumption rose as my tolerance did. Soon, no amount was ever enough. Clearly, something had to change. Also, my pores were clogged and so were my pipes. Congestion of all kinds plagued me. Finally, I suffered from major anxiety and experienced an “electrified” sensation almost nightly, akin to an odd vibration resonating throughout my body that felt like an adrenalin train run amok through my venous system. It kept me up for hours.


I just basically felt desperate, you know? Like I needed to infuse health into my body or something bad would happen. For the six months before I cleaned up my diet, I’d been sick continuously, and truly felt an organic shift in my body, like something had been altered on the chemical level, and that something was not good. I actually got the flu for the first time ever in 2007, in addition to countless urinary tract and sinus infections, eczema, and other unmentionable afflictions.


So like I said, I quit eating crap. I ate more vegetables, fruits, grains, and all of Trader Joe’s Aisle #9. I did not touch sugar or artificial sweeteners or white flour, and ate only whole grains. All of which led me to almost instantly feel better. I fell sick less often, cleared my head, found natural energy, not manufactured, and I lost a pound or two. Best of all, I wasn’t hungry. I ate whatever I wanted — but it was all nourishing and energizing and I didn’t need that much of it. Pretty soon, I lost my craving for junk.


I kept this up for a long while, too. I was vigilant about this new way of eating. Because I know me — if I allow even a bite of something “bad” for me to fall upon my tongue, I tend to say “fuck it” and eat the whole damn thing. It’s true. Addictive personality is my bag, baby.


So it’d been all whole wheat pasta and brown rice and quinoa and chick peas and spinach and canned pumpkin for dessert for a good year at least. Then…I let little things slip in. White pasta here and there. A bite of chocolate cake. Some potato.

I know, I know. Everything in moderation. But I’m telling you people…THAT does not work for me. I am not a moderate person. It’s either this or that. Not something in the middle. I’m not temperate. I put my butt on the slide and down I go like a greased pig.


So. Down I went. It took about, hmmm…let’s say 8 months. I still largely ate good-for-you things until about October, then drove the fuck-it truck. But first, let me back up to say, I actually like eating the whole wheat, the grains, the fiber…because my mama trained me that way…but when I let the dietary offenders in, I let them in but good.


Now things are dire. For some reason (flying anxiety! flying anxiety! flying anxiety!), about three months ago, I stopped managing my dietary health. It was as if one piece of my health pie (emotional) crumbled, and I let everything else follow. Since then, I drink too much. I eat too much junk. I don’t ever move from this chair. (The one in front of my laptop. The one I sit in now.) My relationships suffer, too. Everything is off balance.


You’ve probably guessed that this is not just about eating. It’s about being off-kilter, akimbo, in every way. Physical health is a part of the aforementioned pie, to be sure, but when all is not right with your world, there’s more to the story.


For one, my job means I never move. As a freelance writer and editor, I am in front of my computer every ding dang day. Five hours can go by, and I haven’t blinked. And because I’m self-employed, anything that takes me away from my wage earning is naughty. So I do not go to the gym. Or rise from my chair to exercise. Or call a friend to chat. Of course, I procrastinate. I Twitter, and Facebook, and blog, and comment…but even my “hobbies” are sedentary.


For another thing, I tend to go through “phases.” My current phase is to drink wine almost nightly. And as much as I love my wine, prior to October of this year, I never drank every night, and certainly not solo. But now I am. I crave the deliciousity of red wine and want it often. Plus: the addictive personality? Means I don’t stop at one glass. But I have my seasons, and they usually pass. It’s like I’m a seesaw, and while I can go too far one way or the other, I always balance out eventually and achieve homeostasis again. Still I wonder if that will happen here, or if this drinking is indicative of something I need to pay attention to, of something that won’t pass.


The caffeine addiction is up and running again as well. I can’t wait to make my coffee each morning and I down it like a whore at the Chicken Ranch. So with all this immobility, and poor eating, and imbalance in my emotional life, I’ve noticed that my skin is wan, rough, and crepey. That my digestion is sluggish, and uh, big. That my mood is snappish and solitary. That my spine is inflexible and sore.




Bruises and red marks pock my calves and the stretch of muscle, fat and bone between my ankle and knee — historically the thinnest part of me — swells and puffs over the elastic of my socks. This concerns me, but not as much as how I am with my husband and children. These days, I seem to require so much “alone” time to achieve mental equilibrium that I ignore my family and respond with one-word answers. I’m not balanced in all quadrants — physical, emotional, spiritual — so I greedily suck up time to decompress the stress of mothering, of wife-ing, that I’m teetering too much in one area, and not contributing enough in the others. I seem to think that if I make it right with myself, I’ll be aligned with the rest of the world. And largely, that stands to reason. But not when you have a family who needs you. Then, you need to figure a way to make time for you and for them. Maybe I’m too selfish.




Today, I took a walk by the sea. And afterward, I collapsed on my bed, staggered at the blood pulsing in parts I hadn’t felt in months. The tingling and the thrumming and the electrifying enlivened me and I cried at the intensity of awareness, of feeling myself move again.


With that movement, I yearn for vibrancy, stretching, motion, synchronicity, connectedness. I wonder if I can transform like I need to, if I can attain health on all levels, if I can breathe the air without snuffing out the oxygen that fuels me.


It’s a decision, I say. Nothing but a decision. Not about flying anxiety, nor moderation, nor what I do for a living. It’s a decision. Sometimes you fall, tuck and roll.


And it’s only because you put your mind to it that you ever get back up.


31 thoughts on “The Wagon”

  1. I’m right there with you at the bottom of the “greased pig” slide. In fact, I recognize a lot of people I know down here at the bottom of this slide – we’re in good company.

  2. I’m so feeling you here. Except my feelings weren’t nearly so articulate. I just know I gotta do SOMETHING because feeling like this? Unacceptable.

  3. I don’t really have a comment about your content here. But I wanted to say that I found this really compelling reading.

    Have you heard of the Fucket Bucket? Both David & Amy Sedaris have mentioned in in their books. Amy’s cookbook has a photo of one. You have a plastic bucket. You write “fuck it” on the bucket w/ a Sharpie. You fill it with candy, booze, junk. You only touch the bucket when you wanna say “fuck it” to the world. Like Amy said she hit the Fucket Bucket when her rabbit died (*having a midcentury pregnancy test joke moment*). I believe there are also handwritten instructions from the inventor of the Fucket Bucket: Paul “The Rooster” Sedaris.

  4. This could be me and what I’m going through. Right now. Substitute bad eating habits for bad sleeping and time management habits, and you’ve got me.

    Here’s to both of us getting back on the wagon.

  5. Again I can relate to everything you wrote. I am on the fuck it truck all the time. I have made it a resolution myself to get in better health but sometimes just thinking about it and planning it is so overwhelming that I end up driving the fuck it truck full on. I’m still working on it though, not giving up yet.

  6. OH yes, have been driving that truck in moderation since about Thanksgiving. I’m giving myself until after I celebrate turning 40 (Fri!) and then I’m buckling down again. I haven’t slid far but slide I have.

  7. Wow, I can so relate. I can’t do extreme changes like you did with your diet … I can only take baby steps. Here’s the baby step I took: I have two bad hours at night when I am depressed and exhausted and everyone else in the house is off doing their own thing. During these post-dinner hours I eat junk, watch crappy TV, and generally just want to be left alone in my bedroom. My daughter convinced my husband to get an elliptical machine from our neighbors and it ended up in my bedroom. In front of the TV. So at least now during this time I am not eating and I am not sitting in a chair. I still get to watch TV, and I even work up a little sweat. I don’t feel so bad during those two hours anymore. Baby steps. The Fucket Bucket is a good idea too!

  8. Oh, woe is me. Sounds a little too familiar. I have a bit of a problem with the moderation thing too. I lost all of my weight after baby #2 on Weight Watchers, and tried it again after baby #3 with no success. I can’t figure out what’s different this time. I’m frustrated and then some of the bad habits started creeping back in. DH gains 5 pounds on vacation, goes running 5 times and cuts out beer for two weeks and loses it again. He now weighs less than me. *Sigh*

  9. Wow. Life changes tend to send me to the fuckit truck. With Kid at College, dogs dead, my husband and I are just rattling around in the house together, and its easy to get lazy, eat frozen dinners instead of cooking, drink too much, and sit at separate computers ignoring one another.

    Perhaps what I need is a walk on the beach, like you, to wake me up again.

  10. Girl! I am so in synch with this! I was so good this past year, not eating sugar, eating healthy, not drinking (much), losing weight, and it all went to hell in November. I think I’ve gained 7 pounds in a two month period and the damn sugar is calling my name!

    Needless to say, I’m trying to jump off the back of the “fuck-it truck” (love that!), and clamber back up on the wagon of sensibility as well, so yeah, I’m feeling you baby!

  11. the most poignant part of this post?
    “And it’s only because you put your mind to it that you ever get back up.”
    and that’s all you need – clarity. and you’ve got it, baby. or, as i call it, the “SNAP OUT OF IT!” talk that i have with myself on a regular basis.

  12. I love this post. As an owner/operator of a fuck-it truck fleet, I know exactly what you mean. I can’t do squat in moderation when it comes to ‘bad’ food. I’m almost where you are… I’ll probably be there tomorrow. You’ve just given me inspiration, my friend. It’s time to make a change…

  13. I’m not sure what I want to say, except that I admire you for being so self-reflective, and I hope you keep taking those walks by the sea. For yourself. ((hugs)) — And, unrelated, thanks for the book recommendation! I can’t wait to read it.

  14. Like others, I relate to so much of this.

    “Finally, I suffered from major anxiety and experienced an “electrified” sensation almost nightly, akin to an odd vibration resonating throughout my body that felt like an adrenalin train run amok through my venous system. It kept me up for hours.”

    This is the best description I’ve ever found for a sensation I’ve never even come close to adequately pinning down with words.

    This is a wonderful piece and I’m very glad I read it today, because there are some things in there that I need to think about.

  15. What a thought-provoking post. And I’m like you in that I’m better at all or nothing. Moderation is tough. Which is why I just can’t have white cheddar cheez-it crackers in the house! I smiled at the Trader Joe’s Aisle #9 reference. I strongly suspect you’ll get it all together. And then some. xo

  16. “…then drove the fuck-it truck…”

    That was a piece of sheer genius right there! Perfectly describes my own life for the last 12 months. And if I don’t get it together, the fuck-it truck is headed for a cliff!

    Great post Deb. It has made me think long and hard about a lot of things. Things I don’t want to face, but now that they are staring me down, I’d better.

  17. Oh yes, I know the wagon that you speak of. I fell off of it a long time ago and am reaching up to put myself back in the wagon. Perhaps your cold turkey approach to food will work. In the meantime I am taking babysteps and starting with exercise – you should join me in the Modern Mom challenge. Lots of us that have fallen off of the wagon are working together to get back on.

    And btw, are you a Pisces?

  18. I was never as bad as you (health feeling wise) and was probably never as good as you (but close), but I know exactly what you’re talking about.

    How could I quit doing Pilates when I KNEW it rescued my from 20 years of chronic back pain?!

    I’m with you–I’m going all in again. Good luck to us both.

  19. holy frickin’ shit! this so describes me, too! I can’t do moderation, either, and the “fuck it” truck is not just a rental car around here. It’s the car I live in! Shit. Thanks for putting this to words for me.

    I need to throw open the door and jump out of the truck even if it’s still moving!

    Love you so very much!

  20. Oh, and I know you didn’t do it for me (did I mention that I’m also self-absorbed?), but I do appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your heart here! Love. Love. Love.

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