It’s been 102 days

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It’s been more than three months. Fifteen weeks. One hundred and two days. And I’m still sad. I’m still angry. I’m still in disbelief. I’m still heartbroken.

And sometimes, I’m ashamed. A little. For feeling all those feelings over something seemingly so trivial as a TV show. It is trivial, like fiction should be. But fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum (most of the time); fiction is meant to reach out to people, to move them, to make them react in both positive and negative ways, to make people talk, to leave a mark.

I’ve been trying to put in words why Pitch left such a deep mark on me in just ten episodes. I’m saying ten, but I was hooked from the first.

I’m never hooked from the first episode.

I’m curious, I go “Hmm”, I think about it a little, I decide to give the second episode a try, but I never stay glued to my television thinking, “A week is too long to wait.”

Pitch hooked me from the first.

It was surprising, too, because of how unexpected it was. I had seen the promos on Global TV over the summer, but had not paid that much attention to them. I don’t watch a lot of live TV. I don’t have a list of new series I must try in the fall. I make an effort to watch a few French-Canadian series (because I want to encourage local content), but otherwise, I usually catch on a little later—which is not a bad thing considering how fast American networks pull the plug these days.

Yet, I sat down to watch Pitch.

I fell in love with it right away, like love-at-first-sight. In French, we call it “coup de foudre,” which literally translates as thunderbolt. That’s how it was. And while yes, I am #ForeverInLoveWithMikeLawson and his grumpy ways, bad back, and luscious beard, the reason Pitch hit me like a thunderbolt lies elsewhere: Ginny Baker.

From the first few minutes of the first episode, I was completely engaged in Ginny’s journey. I wanted to know everything about her. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted the team to adopt her. I wanted her to do things on her own terms. I wanted her to be happy.

Then, I met the people around Ginny and loved them, too. They were all so well-defined, so engaging. It’s a rare feat to have viewers care about almost all your characters in just ten episodes. In turn, it’s what makes the cancellation of Pitch all the more heartbreaking. Because I care. Deeply.

I want to know how serious Ginny’s injury is. I want to find out if Blip, who is such a supportive friend to Ginny, can be as supportive of his wife when she’s the one who wants to shine in the world. I want to see if Amelia will be back. I want Eliot to thrive in his career. I want Skip to get a closer chance at the Cup. I want Mike Lawson to figure out what he wants, in and out of the field. I want Livan to learn to be a team player. I want Oscar to find love (*cough cough* preferably with Amelia *cough cough*). Mostly, I just want more.

More Pitch.

More episodes.

More games.

More Kangaroo Courts.

More Lawson.

More Baker.

More Lawson and Baker.

More Bawson.

Most of all, more Ginny Baker. I want to see more of her journey. She has so many other stories to tell.

Alas, there will not be more. And I’m not over it.

I’m still sad. I’m still angry. I’m still in disbelief. I’m still heartbroken.

Exercising While Fat: A Personal History

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As a kid, I used to love to run and kick the ball and skip rope and ice skate in the winter. I played outside with the kids from my small-town street and was picked among the firsts in phys. ed. because I could throw the ball hard and fast—I’ve always been freakishly strong for a girl. I used to have physical fights with my stepdad for fun, much to my mom’s dismay. In short, I was a tomboy. A fat tomboy but a tomboy all the same.

Then my first period came and brought big boobs along with it. Though I had never been comfortable in my own skin (being put on diets after diets from a very young age will do that to you), I became downright uncomfortable with it. I didn’t know what to do with those new forms that just got in the way when I tried to run or throw or skip. So, I pretty much stopped sports altogether, thinking they were not made for me—or rather, that I was not made for them.

I picked physical activity up again in my early twenties. I had just been on (yet another) diet—this one, particularly insane with its 500 calories limit per day—and had lost a lot of weight (that wouldn’t last long, but that’s another story for another time). My body felt foreign to me. In my mind, I was still fat, but I wasn’t anymore, not really. I had all this excess skin and felt weak all the time, which was the worst because whatever flaws my body possesses, never had it felt weak. I didn’t know where to start with exercise. I hadn’t played a team sport in years and as an introvert, they didn’t appeal. The gym option was looming big with its flashy advertisement, but it was also paralyzing for someone who had never even lifted a weight. I tried my luck at my local gym, signing up with a “personal trainer” who spent more time ogling the pretty girls than showing me what to do. Needless to say, I quit that fast.

Then a friend told me about semi-private training, which ended up being my saving grace. Trained professionals actually paid attention to what I was doing, but also challenged me and recognized that I could do a lot more that what my body might signal. I learned to not only understand, but to trust my body again. And after a few years of semi-private sessions, I was ready to venture into the fitness world on my own.

There’s a strange paradox surrounding fat people and exercise. We are told to exercise because that’s the “secret” solution to losing weight, but we are often ridiculed when we do. Or, perhaps worse, seen as a commodity: the before picture in a body transformation campaign, the image of what you should strive to erase forever.

As most fat people who joined a gym and go regularly would tell you, people have no qualms to come up to you, a total stranger, to give you “encouragements” you never sought. “Way to go!” “You’re making the right decision for your health.” “Keep going! You’ll lose the weight in no time!” Because god forbid that fat people would exercise just because they—gasp!—like it. Because yes, it’s good for their health, not in a weight loss perspective, but per the common principle that it’s healthy to exercise: you relieve stress, you feel better, you sleep better, your body releases endorphins, which is awesome, and you just feel good while doing it or right after (or both!). No, no, no. If you’re fat, exercise equals weight loss. Exercise is a punishment for your past excesses. Exercise is a way to fight your own body.

And if you dare take that exercise outside, you’ll often be greeted with your very own special cheering squad. In lieu of the traditional cat-calling, you’ll get people yelling at you that you’re fat (hey, thanks for this brand new information, buddy) or “Keep running, fattie/fat ass/other such original expletive” (yeah, that’s kind of what I’m doing, but thanks for the “encouragement,” I guess).

But here comes the worst part for me. I’ve been a runner for a good dozen year. I don’t run marathons or, heck, even half-marathons, but I do run on a regular basis—typically three times a week in the winter (they don’t nickname it the dreadmill for nothing) and four to five times a week in the summer. I don’t run because I’m training for something, but simply because I like it. It’s an exercise that works for me. Running regularly means needing new running shoes regularly. Like many fat people, I hate shopping, but shopping for athletic clothes poses an additional challenge: the imposter syndrome kicks in. For many reasons—including those listed here—I feel like I don’t belong in sports equipment stores. I have to enlist the help of a buddy (usually my sister) to provide me with moral support. For running shoes, I always go to the same place. It’s a shop specialized in running gear. The sales staff is mostly made of kinesiologists, and the store features a running track so you can test the shoes to make sure you get the right fit. I go back there because I normally get a good service. I still dread it, but I come out unscathed and with a brand new pair of running shoes.

The last time though was a completely different story. I ended up with a sales clerk who just didn’t believe me. He kept on addressing me as though I was a beginner, despite my numerous claims to the contrary. It took me mentioning that I took part in one of the shop’s 8-week running clinics and my sister interjecting that I also biked and swam regularly, and, oh, that I also owned a punching bag (hint, hint: back off, dude) for him to accept that I was indeed not a beginner. By then, he switched to the weight loss talk. Because of course, that must be my ultimate goal!

For me, that’s the most exhausting part of exercising while fat: having to constantly justify wanting to exercise for the simple benefit of exercise.

Wanting to run because I like to run.

Wanting to exist just like everybody else.

The Day I Became Invisible

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It was surprisingly easy. In a way that defines irony better than Alanis Morissette ever could, fat people are all invisible. Though imposing in flesh and poundage, we are constantly ignored, pushed to the side as though we aren’t even there. That is, until we get in the way and then become a nuisance, a (large) object of mockery, a grotesque figure to despise. Oftentimes, we use that invisibility as an armour: if no one notices us then maybe, just maybe, we can get by and go on with our day. Maybe we can simply live.

I was already invisible by choice, too; opting to work from home, to wrap myself up in an introvert bubble, venturing out only when necessary and trying to limit outings to the daytime when most people are trapped in the nine to five.

But I truly became invisible the day I realised, quite randomly, over a phone chat with a long-distance friend, that time had sort of erased me. I did not matter, my life was leaving no trace, no legacy, no token, no lesson, no compelling story. I became completely see-through when it dawned on me that the only thing I will leave behind will be a bunch of stuff, a hassle to clean up and make disappear—something waiting to be rendered invisible, too.

Saturday Night, Sober

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My sister and I caught a late movie.

I’d been intrigued by The 9th life of Louis Drax so I wrote down the schedule for the week of release, but life happens and I couldn’t make it to the cinema. A week later, the movie only played at 9:30 pm. Every night of the week, but at 9:30 pm.

When you’re an introvert in your 30s, 9:30 pm is late.

I told my sister about it, expecting her to nix the idea on account of lateness, but she said we were tougher than that, and so we caught a late movie on a Saturday.

This blog post is not about a movie, though I could talk about The 9th Life of Louis Drax; it was a strange experience. And Jamie Dornan is not a bad actor: don’t let yourself be turned off by that 50 Shades crap.

But this post is not about that. So here I am, a quiet 36-year-old taking the metro late on a Saturday night. On a Saturday night in mid-September when school is back in session but not yet in full swing.

The first sign that tells you that you do not belong: you are not drunk. Not even a little tipsy. You’ve just walked out of a movie theatre where you drank iced tea. Diluted iced tea at that. Walking into this wagon is akin to entering an alcohol sauna. You take a breath and liquor hits your nostrils. Alcohol is seeping through the pores of the youth—doesn’t help that the weather feels more like early August than mid-September.

You take a seat with your iPod and magazine—the camouflage tools of the introverts—thinking you’ll just keep your head down until the metro stops at your station. But it’s all right, it’s OK. You’ve been young once. Kids are drunkish and on their way to another party or club. They’ll get off at some point over the next few stations before the train leaves downtown, and then the rest of the ride will resume in somewhat normalcy.

One station over and a group comes in. You don’t want to look up but you do. Because they are a large, rowdy group and one of them is playing loud music from his phone. It’s a group made up of eight boys and two girls.

Eight fully dressed boys and two girls clad in tight jeans and bras. Not cropped tops, not sporty tops: bras. Lacy bras.

This is also not a post about fashion or about policing what women and girls should or should not wear.

So the girls are kind of staggering around, partially due to their high heels and partially because they’re drunk. They proceed to use the metro poles as stripper poles (quick aside: EW!). And they are surrounded by drunken boys who brandish their phone cameras like social media weapons. (And they are not the only ones filming. As a non-drunk passenger on this train, I noticed two more people filming, unbeknownst to the girls, including a man who looked to be in his 50s.) Now individually, those boys are probably nice, normal boys, but all you need is one bad apple, and four drunken boys to one drunken girl is not a good ratio. I may not be the best at math but I know this. Four to one means I don’t like the odds. Throw in that bad apple and shit can happen quickly.

So I guess this is a post about that.

Oh boy!

While I am firmly in the camp of those who say that, as a society, we need to stop telling girls how to not get raped and to start telling boys not to rape, in the meantime, I live in the real world. In the real world, as much as it sucks, girls and women cannot get drunk freely. Girls and women need to protect themselves. In this age where even your grandpa has a phone with a camera, they need to protect themselves even more. We have all seen the devastating results the shortest of videos can have on the lives of people.

You know what the saddest part of this tale is? I didn’t do anything. I’m not proud of that, but I felt outnumbered and, I guess, too sober to approach the girls and maybe try to give them a friendly warning. Also, I can remember what it’s like to be 18, 19, 20. Would I have listened to the 36-year-old woman with her Harper’s Magazine in the metro? The 36-year-old woman clearly on her way to bed who looks like she never had one drink in her whole life? Probably not.

A Quicky

 

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I need to do better.

I need to be better.

I need to work smarter.

I need to keep my objectives in mind, all the time, even when I’m down, I’m sad, I’m disappointed, I’m tired, I’m exhausted; even when I just want to crawl under the covers and never, ever get up.

I need to be kinder to myself and others, even virtual strangers.

I need to stop comparing myself, to stop looking at the neighbour’s grass, whether it be to look down at myself or to find myself in a better position comparatively because everything is relative, especially in personal achievements, so comparisons mean nothing.

I need to stop thinking that I should be somewhere else than where I am right now—where I am is fine.

I need to do better.

I need to be better.

Biking While Fat or Driving While Stupid*

(*post renamed following suggestion from Ann Marie)

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The general consensus is that it’s hell to drive in Montreal. If you don’t have the snow and ice to contend with in the winter, you are faced with the dreaded orange cones on the myriad of road works sites all happening at the same time from May until November, and all being terribly managed by our inept city administration.

The summer of 2016 is a perfect storm kind of situation. With a bridge about to collapse, an interchange falling apart and the 375th anniversary of the city looming just around the corner, everything is happening at the same time. It’s frustrating enough for drivers, but for pedestrians and cyclists, it’s downright nightmarish, because nobody thinks of them in their planning. They block the streets and sidewalks, leaving just enough room for cars to go through in a very narrow line and no alternate route for pedestrians and cyclists.

Last night, I was invited for dinner at a friend’s place on the Plateau. From my home in the Hochelaga borough, it’s a pretty simple route. I ride up to the Rachel bike path, which takes me right through the Plateau, only one block up from my friend’s place. Simple. Yeah… No.

Road works on Pie-IX and Sherbrooke meant blocking the bike path abruptly and offering absolutely no way across. I had to ride on the sidewalk (something I hate doing) and hop off whenever I crossed pedestrians to find an East-West street with no road works but also large enough for bicycles and cars.

I managed to get to my friend’s place (almost on time) and immediately thought about how the hell I was going to get back home later in the evening.

In the end, I opted for a pretty long detour but one I knew was free of obstacles and would allow me to ride safely home. And it all went well… Until I got to just three blocks from my place. A road works site that wasn’t there when I left home four hours earlier was now blocking my bike lane and much of the road. Fortunately, at this late hour, drivers were kind enough to give me room to circumvent the obstacle and join the bike lane again, which I did, only to be stopped once more—this time by a driver who had chosen to park right on the bike lane. Not only that, but also right in front of the point where the bike lane becomes a bi-directional bike path, which meant that I couldn’t bypass the car on the road side because a platform stood between the road and the path. So my only option was to bypass it on the sidewalk side (something I hate doing—repeat). As I was doing that, the driver came back to his car and so I told him, in passing, that parking there was not exactly brilliant. And those were pretty much my words. No invective, no swear words, no yelling—just me saying, “Hey! That’s really not smart to park there because you’re blocking the bike path.”

(A quick aside: I rarely, if ever, engage with drivers when I’m wearing my cycling helmet. They are sitting in a potential weapon and road rage is not as uncommon as one might think. I’m a very respectful cyclist. I stop at red lights and stop signs, I signal my intentions, I check my blind spots: in short, I always keep in mind that if an accident occurs, I’m the one who will wind up dead or, at the very least, seriously injured. The end.)

Of course, that driver could not accept responsibility for his poor choice of parking and had to stop very aggressively (or more appropriately: jump in my lane) at the next red light to shout a “What did you say to me over there?” in my direction. Because he was blocking my path, I didn’t have much choice but to engage. I repeated the same words I had said earlier in a calm voice. He made threatening gestures at me. I told him that he was the one out of line and I had been nothing but polite, but the fact remained that he had parked on a bike lane, which is illegal and—well—frustrating and unsafe for cyclists.

And of course, because you can’t bicycle while fat, that’s when he chose to call me a fattie and to stay in my way until the light turned yellow just so that I would miss my light. Thanks so much for that, best buddy! It’s not like my ride home already took an extra fifteen minutes because of the long detour I had to make or anything.

I have to ask though: Do the people who try to insult you by referring to your weight actually think it’s a great insult? The ultimate diss? The retort to kill all retorts? Because between you and me, that’s pretty weak. And honestly, I was much more concerned with the possibility that he might run me over than by whether or not he thought I was fat.

Staring Squarely at Square One

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Though a good friend said it’s not exactly square one because yes, I’m going back but going back to address something I neglected before. Neglected is actually not the right word: I overlooked it, I ignored it, I mostly pretended it wasn’t there. Because I know it will hurt like crazy when I bring it to the surface—just glimpsing at it makes my heart ache and tears flow.

So I make excuses, and they are not bad excuses exactly.

I’m not ready—well I wasn’t a year ago. One appointment with the therapist had me bawling for one hour straight and her simple, straightforward plan filled me with pure dread.

I’m too busy—that one might be true. Work is crazy. That’s how it goes for freelancers. You can’t pick project timelines for your clients; they impose them on you. If you like the client, you do your damndest to make it work. Truth be told, you do almost your damndest even for the ones you like a little less.

And there’s this excuse I never quite pinpointed before. I knew it was there and I blamed it on a more general concept. Well, I live in Canada, a part of the world that is rich, comparatively speaking, where there is no war or famine or terrible hardship. I make a decent living, I own my place (though the bank is still an important co-owner), I never lack for anything (except vacation), I’m free to go wherever I want, so how terrible can it be really? Then I picked up this book. In truth, I ordered this book over a year ago but I’m only now finding the courage to take a closer look. In this book addressed to adults like me or adults with similar issues, there is this one paragraph on page 13 (interestingly) that spoke directly to me. Like all other paragraph titles in the book, this one is printed in a bold font, but in my case, it might as well have come with a flashing arrow leaping out of the book. “Feeling Guilty for Being Unhappy.”

Head, meet nail.

The author writes that individuals who’ve been through a trauma similar to mine are quite competent adults. Actually, the fact that we function so well makes it hard for us to take our pain seriously. That’s where the guilt over feeling miserable comes to play. Oh boy, is that ever true! How many times have I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should go back to therapy?” only to have my second thought be, “But why? You’re fine. Everything’s OK. Why can’t you just be happy? Look at the countless number of people who have it SO MUCH WORSE than you!” And so I stopped myself, put my head down, and kept at it, because it is true: so many people have it so much worse.

But now that I’ve read that paragraph…

In my work, I often translate projects that have to do with normalizing a concept, breaking people out of their isolation by making them understand that what they feel is normal, common; basically telling them that they’re OK. I’ve been translating about this concept but never applied it to my own life. This paragraph managed to do that for me in a way and, strangely, gave me permission to go and look for help.

So now I’m back to square one, but perhaps with better tools to tackle it?

Failing at Life

Imagine being told over and over—in words, in looks, in gestures, in subtle and unsubtle ways—that whatever you do, you are wrong.

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You grew up doing pretty well in school. You had a good group of friends, even best friends who stood by you and loved you for who you are. That’s because you have a pretty wicked sense of humour and you do love to laugh and talk about nothing and everything. You’ve also been told that you’re a great listener and give decent advice.

You wound up going to university and you graduated with distinction. You found a job in your field even before you got your degree. You’ve been working in that field successfully for fourteen years now.

Even though you were a woman and single, you decided to invest in your very own condominium. A year into your mortgage (much to your mother’s dismay), you made the big jump to freelancing. And succeeded. To this day. It’s been eight years.

You faced your fear of cars and learned how to drive.

You faced your fear of the gym and signed up for semi-private training sessions so you would learn to do things right.

You picked up running. You’ve been running for over ten years. Oh, and you love it.

You bought a bicycle and are now enjoying biking everywhere from April to November (you live in Canada and biking in the snow just ain’t for you).

You started a blog (years after they were in fashion, but hey! Everything’s cyclical, right?). You began to write short stories.

You faced your fear of judgement and hired a private trainer to learn how to swim. You’ve been swimming for over three years now and you can butterfly stroke like nobody’s business.

 

Private. That word. Twice.

Yes.

 

Because even though you do all of this; even though you always strive to better yourself, to push your limits, to not let other people dictate how you should run your life, you go against the grain because you’re fat, and fat people are not supposed to run, to bike, to swim. They’re not supposed to like who they are. They’re supposed to engage in a constant fight against their body, day in, day out. Oh, and they’re also not supposed to go against prejudices. Fat people don’t run. When fat people run outside, it’s totally OK to yell insults at them. But also: if fat people don’t run, then it’s OK to yell insults at them, too. After all, they’re being lazy, right? They should be called on it, yes? They need to be reminded of their fatness, just in case they forgot about it for a second. It’s not like they live in their bodies every single day of their lives.

So fat people cannot do anything. Fat people should disappear.

All my life, I’ve been fighting against my body. I’ve been told that it’s not right; that I should not be OK with it; that I should not be complacent; that happiness could only be within my reach if I lost weight.

All my life, I’ve been told that I’m failing at life.

The Unwritable

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There’s this story I’ve been trying to tell, to write. I’ve made several attempts at it, attacking it from different angles, but somehow it stays out of my reach. And I think I know why.

There’s been a certain level of frustration building inside of me about the status of women today, in 2016. While we’ve made strides in certain fields, it feels like advancements in many places are eroding, if not being ripped away, and I don’t know what to do about it except for this frustration that’s gathering speed. Women barely managed to be recognized as equals in Western societies and already the discourse is back to us needing to hide, to not show traits that are too feminine; actually to not show ourselves too much, to literally cover ourselves.

And then there’s this story which, no matter how I try to shape it, wants to come out submissive, accepting of the inevitable, and I’m raging against it by stopping a few paragraphs in, not liking its voice, its tone, pushing it aside, and yet the story remains in my head because it still wants to be told. The trouble is I don’t know if I can do it. I’m not a great writer (maybe I’ll never be), I’m still a work-in-progress, I haven’t really found my voice yet (and maybe I never will). I want to try to tell this story, but I don’t know if I can do it justice by writing it the way it wants to be written. I also feel half-crazy for talking about a story as though it has a will of its own, but this one does.

So I’m left with this frustration, this anger, and a story that’s just not being written.