I've written before about how my life felt restricted before my vertical sleeve gastrectomy—not only did I know that obesity would kill me, it was physically and psychologically hurting me every day. While I still am overweight, and have a long way to go, taking 85 pounds off of my frame has had a tremendously positive influence on my overall well-being. NSVs for me include, but are not limited to:
- Not constantly worrying about fitting in seats at restaurants, theaters, etc., making me reluctant to go out and enjoy life
- Not waking up in the morning with back/knee/ankle/arm/neck pain
- Not being restricted to my orthopedic mattress (which is now in storage with the rest of our stuff, pending our upcoming move) because sleeping on anything else caused agonizing back pain by 3:00 a.m.
- Not panicking when I have to shop because I am inching out of the highest sizes typically sold, even in plus-size shops
- Fitting comfortably in a queen-size bed with my husband (who lifts weights, and is very broad in the shoulders—only one of us can take up extra space if we are going to sleep peacefully!)
- Not wondering if the first thing people think when they see me is, "Wow, she has gotten bigger."
At Christmas, my husband capitalized on the first NSV mentioned above, giving me tickets to see Carousel this spring as my present. To quote him, when he gave me the present, "I know you love the theater, and have avoided going to see shows for a long time because you aren't comfortable in the seats. I thought that, by April when the show is on, you would be able to go and fit in a seat without worry." Two weeks ago, we went to see the show at the Chicago Lyric Opera, and it was fantastic. I was so giddy when I sat down and fit beautifully in the seat, I actually started to cry. We took a selfie to commemorate the moment.
I am grateful for all the weight-loss wins that led up to that moment, and tomorrow, I am excited that I will catapult over another previous hurdle, in what will likely the be the pièce de résistance of NSVs. Tomorrow, I am flying, alone, to the Mom 2.0 Summit.
I cannot recall a time in the last decade when I have flown alone. Once EJ was born, and my weight started to really pile on, I just didn't feel safe flying on my own, sitting next to strangers, worried about spilling out into their space, not being able to put my arm rest or tray table down all the way, and asking for a seat belt extender. Then, in 2010, there was the whole Kevin Smith/Southwest debacle, in which he was escorted off the plane because he was too big for his seat. I mean, if a famous movie director could be told he was too fat to fly, I was certainly not going to get any special treatment. I love Southwest, and continued to fly it when traveling with my daughter and husband, borrowing space from my child within our family row. In my mind, though, in 2010, a door slammed shut for me: as long as I was obese, I could not fly on my own.
It was convenient that, during this time, our family was grad-school poor. It was easy to justify not spending money to attend conferences, visit friends, or to pursue work possibilities on our own travel dime. Heck, we didn't have money for essentials, why on earth would I book unnecessary flights?
For someone like me, who loves to travel, loves to meet new people, loves to explore the world, swallowing the reality that I could not go where I wanted to go (and do what I wanted to do, Mama Cass-style) was too painful to think about. I didn't face it, fully. I imagined travel for another time and place in my life, unsure of when that would (or could) happen.
Tomorrow, it is happening. I am flying to Phoenix. Alone. To a conference that is suited just for me, to meet new friends and learn new things. To feel the sunshine, and go swimming in fancy hotel pools in my plus-size bathing suit. To visit with family I love. To test out the new freedom that comes with being in a body that, while still heavy, is reasonably proportioned and not extraordinarily difficult to haul around.
I have to give a shout-out here to my friend, Kate, whom I met last year at another blogging conference—one in which I flew out with my entire family, and attended with a close friend—for tipping me off about the sold-out Mom 2.0 Summit, and helping me to get in touch with another blogger who was hoping to transfer her ticket and hotel reservation because she could no longer attend. Having someone cheer me on through the process made me feel like I could actually do this.
The conference's opening party theme, "Rise of the Phoenix," is not just a metaphor for me; I feel like I have been through a fire, and am reemerging, ready to fly again. To my fellow passengers tomorrow, please excuse the inevitable tears of joy at take-off. To my fellow conference attendees, get ready to meet the most grateful participant at a blogging conference you have met in years.