Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Helen Heroine, Harried Husband and Salvador Son drove a U-Haul truck and their battered old car 1000 miles back to the old house, arriving at Thanksgiving. They felt truly thankful for and hopeful about this new beginning. They pulled off a traditional feast, praying and thanking God for this resolution of the difficult past two years.
Salvador had been away from Oldtown for a school year and a quarter. He missed all of fourth grade, attending in Jobtown, and the first part of fifth grade. When he went to school back in Oldtown things were strange. Kids he used to know and he would see one another in the hall and suddenly realize who the other one was… “Hey… I know you. Didn’t you move to Ohio?”
Helen had accepted the new job sight unseen, with only a telephone interview, and she had flight reservations to her first day on the job. She and Harried had looked up the company at the library, knew it to be a solid one, but those first day jitters hit everyone. She got on the plane, flew to Boston, met her new boss and filled out paperwork. Things were a little disorganized; this was a consulting job. She would be flying from client to client, a new city every week. The beauty of it was that she could still live in Oldtown, in their old house.
Harried would stay home and care for Salvador, as he had back in the days when Helen worked locally. Helen quickly adapted to what was needed for the job. She learned whole new skill sets related to travel: how to travel light, for one thing. The first trip was a disaster… she quickly learned NOT to check bags. She learned to sleep on airplanes: snoozing by the time the wheels went up, waking when they hit the tarmac again on the other end.
Helen already had one skill set: people-pleasing. A-student from grade school on, she would kill herself to “get it right”, sacrificing her personal time to complete assignments, working late at the hotel on her laptop.
Still, she knew she wanted to get her fitness back. She sought out the hotels that had swimming pools and fitness rooms in the hopes of using them: but she didn't always find the time. She was tired of the professional programs, even of the self-help book based programs. She wanted to write her own journey. After all, she did know how this nutrition and exercise thing worked. It had worked for her before. She could do this. And it was worth doing.
On weekends, Helen flew home to Harried and Salvador. Things were honeymoon-like at first. They had so little time together that they cut one another a break. The issues between them were deep, but Helen had discovered a new friend, Debbie Denial, and latched on to her. Helen was pretty happy with the traveling. Harried took a lot of energy as Helen willed him to be happy. Helen was tired. All she really wanted, she told herself, was to be normal. But she wasn’t sure how normal would work if she didn’t have those airplanes to escape on.
Six months into the flying consultancy even larger family events impacted the precarious arrangement. A phone call from her mother in law while Helen, Harried, and Salvador were at church one Sunday started the collapse. “It’s your brother,” she told Harried. He had died of a heart attack, mowing the grass. Harried’s mom was devastated. Harried needed to spend time with her.
They took Salvador out of school, a week before the term ended, because he could not be alone with both a mom and a dad on the road.
Half a continent away, Helen's parents were facing issues as well. The day after the funeral, Helen flew to visit her ailing mother for a weekend, and three weeks to the day after the loss of her brother in law, Helen’s mother succumbed to organ failure. Three more weeks passed quickly, with a flight for another funeral, and those career responsibilities crowing in.
At this point Harried’s mother suffered a stroke. Helen had to keep working, but her head and heart were spinning. She continued almost robot-like, flying back and forth, hanging as much together as she could, until the current assignment ended, a full eight months later. She knew she needed what she got from eating right and moving, so she incorporated walks at noon, and she asked her client to support her moving into an apartment, since this was a long-term gig. This enabled her to eat groceries. She was back on a healthy program, as best she could be.
When the assignment ended, she took family leave time from her employer. Helen was feeling good about the change. She would have time at home with her son, time that Harried needed to spend taking care of his mother's affairs. This was Helen's first extended period of time away from work since Salvador was born, 12 years prior! She was pumped for the chance to be "normal", to put her house in order, and she would worry about making a living again when the 12 week leave was up.
… to be continued …
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Cue the music to The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars).
Helen Heroine had just been hit with huge life changes, after five years of see-saw maintaining. She'd become fast friends with Polly Perfectionist, perhaps teetering in the direction of Opal Obsessive. Under financial pressure, she allowed Carrie Careerwoman to sign her up for a demanding promotion, and now this: alone with Salvador Son, who had never in his life needed to go to day care... until now.
Salvador's day started at 6 a.m. when Helen dropped him off before school, and Helen collected him at 6 p.m. on her way home from work. The time she had lavished on herself while working away from their old town vanished when Harried Husband took off. Harried was supposed to be selling the old house and getting the furniture packed up to move, but Helen felt abandoned. She was fully committed to her son and her career. She turned to her bff Polly for advice.
"Well," Polly said, "You need to be a perfect mom and career woman now, too." Rachel Rebellion stepped in with more advice: "Salvador hates what you eat... and you can't let him starve. Besides, you don't have time to cook. You'll just have to eat what he eats." Reuben Resentment added a jibe or two, "Just look what Harried did to you! If he'd only do exactly what you want, things would be perfect, just like Polly wants."
Over the next months, Helen's energy was seriously compromised, and her health with it. Salvador got sick a lot, too. Helen did not make the connection to the high fat, high sodium diet of fast food. She left Earnie Exercise behind more and more often. She started hanging out with Salvador at the local movie theater, or playing video games.
Harried Husband came back in time for the holidays, but he had failed to do any of the things Helen had asked him to do while away. He didn't sell the old house. He didn't move furniture out so they could live comfortably in their little apartment. Harried and Helen argued entirely too much, with Reuben whispering in both their ears.
Poor Salvador Son! He knew no one in this new town, his parents were fighting, and he was getting sick. Seems the murderer wasn't just after Helen! Harried came and went for weeks or months at a time.
Hannah Hopeless moved in next door, with her roommate Dora Depression. Freddie Foodbinge offered comfort to Helen, and she accepted. It was impossible, she thought, and she decided that Polly Perfectionist was right. It wasn't even worth trying, since she couldn't do it perfectly. Besides, if she had food in her mouth, it stopped her from saying things to Harried that she would regret... or so she thought.
The scale showed alarming gains in that year, as Helen gave up the battle of maintenance. A full fifty pound gain was showing by the time Helen decided to stop trying to control what Harried did, a year later. Helen was truly terrified.
Helen remembered what it felt like to be fit. She wanted it again. She wanted Harried happy, Salvador well, and some space to work on her own health and fitness. With determination and hope, she waved goodbye to Dora and Hannah.
With help from Carrie Careerwoman, she applied for and got a new job. The new job would allow them all to move back to the old town, but Helen would have to travel for a living. Financially it was clearly the right thing to do, since Harried did not work, and they could not afford to pay for both places. But adding this new twist would have its own challenges, as well.
... to be continued ...
Monday, November 15, 2010
When we last left Helen Heroine, she was ten pounds from her "formal" goal, the one chief detective Wendy Weightwatcher said she should meet. Only at this point, Wendy had changed the plan of action, and Helen's bff Polly Perfectionist was throwing a fit.
"What works has to be ONE specific plan. It can't change all the time!" Polly sniffed. Rachel Rebellion took a pot-shot at Polly, "You know, I was getting bored with that same old plan, anyway, but I'm not sure I like the new one, either."
Poor Helen, none of her advisers were being very helpful at this point. She decided that the goal was unachievable as she watched a few pounds slide back on over the holidays. After all, she rationalized, she was entitled to celebrate with her family, wasn't she? They were getting cranky about her rigid food plan anyway. Harried Husband kept saying, "Just this once" wouldn't hurt anything. Reuben Resentment wanted to blame Harried, but underneath, Polly Perfectionist blamed Helen for the holiday mishaps.
Still, Helen went back to Wendy and brought all this up. Wendy was OK with Helen wanting to maintain at this level, but it would make the price go up. Helen fired Wendy's agency, and decided to go it on her own. She would have Earnie Exercise to keep her company. And he did.
The arguments among her friends and advisers continued for quite some time, but Helen hung on by her fingernails. She clung to the rationalization, a year later, that while she'd gained ten pounds back, she was, in fact, in a smaller clothing size. She was "maintaining".
This struggle, rationalization, and slippage went on for about five years. There were times when Polly and Earnie worked together. Other times, Polly berated her, or Earnie would take a hike and not come see her for a while. New friends joined in the battle as Helen looked for another detective agency that might have the final answer to who was taking away her energy and motivation! The weight went up and down, by as much at 25 or 30 pounds, but the justification was present: she hadn't gained it ALL back. She was still determined she'd NEVER go back there!
After a period of prolonged harmony between Polly and Earnie, at the end of five years, Helen was in a dress size she hadn't seen in her adult life.
Helen was proud and confident. It would never happen to her again. But then Harried Husband decided he couldn't take care of Salvador Son any more. He dropped Salvador off in Helen's new work city and disappeared back to the old town. Helen was now a single mom with a career, and poor Salvador, now in 4th grade, was going to have to adapt, as was Helen.
... to be continued ...
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Armed with her new tools (tracking and a list of foods), Helen Heroine went home to put the plan into action. She was not at the moment looking for the suspects, she was just going to stop the plot to kill her in its tracks by protecting herself with these tools. She'd worry about blame in a while.
Her bff Polly Perfectionist stopped by that very first week. "You can do this," Polly assured her. "Not one bite over. Measure everything. You can only succeed by being perfect." Helen listened and followed Polly's advice. The next week at the meeting, the scale rewarded her: 10.5 pounds lost!
Helen was elated, and hooked on Polly's plan. She continued to follow Polly's advice for several months, and by the 4th of July (this all began in February), Helen was looking and feeling pretty great. But then Harried Husband helped with the holiday cookout. Their relatives, Prudence and Patrick Portly were coming, and he wanted to make a good impression. He was not sure which dessert would please them, so he bought four or five different kinds, just to be sure!
At the picnic itself, Prudence asked Helen about her weight loss. Helen proudly extolled the virtues of Weight Watchers. Prudence picked a hole in her pride by commenting that she had once been on that program herself, but as soon as she went off it, it all came back. "But I will say for them, it won't kill you to keep eating that way for the rest of your life." Polly Perfectionist ate it up... "You see," she told Helen, "you have to be perfect for this to work. Look at what happened to Prudence when she wasn't perfect."
In the days that followed the event, Rachel Rebellion brought Freddie Foodbinge and Reuben Resentment over for a visit. "Look at all this leftover dessert," Polly told them. "It is the enemy. It was wrong of Harried to bring it in the house." Reuben suggested, "You've told him you needed his support. Go ahead and eat it. Get fat again. That will show him!" Rachel chimed in, "Besides, you've been good for Polly for so long, you deserve a little treat now and then!" That made sense, so Helen tried a bite... and it was soooo good. Only Freddie then took over... "come on, just a little more..." until they were... all... gone.
The next morning, Earnie Exercise woke Helen and took her out for her training run. Helen was miserable and hung over from all that fat and sugar! Polly chimed in her ear: "You see... you can NEVER do that again!"
And Helen pretty much didn't. All the way 'til October. Polly ruled her life, dictating what and when she must eat and how much and when she should work out. Helen thought Polly was a good friend. How little she suspected.
By October, Helen's success at the scale amounted to 80 pounds lost. She was very happy. But storm clouds were gathering... she had ten pounds to go to her goal, but the stresses at work were increasing and the financial strain of paying for those meetings... and then in December, they CHANGED the PROGRAM, and Polly went completely nuts!
... to be continued ...
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Someone had stolen her youthful energy and her health. That was plain. Helen Heroine's mother in law even made comments on the phone, not even there to see the clear physical evidence: "Are you all right, dear? You sound winded, have you been running?"
What was worse, Helen was beginning to suspect that the thief was doing more than stealing health and energy... he was literally killing her!
Helen was an intelligent woman. She had a full life, plenty of reasons to want to live it! She did not want to lose it. She was independent and determined: she would solve this mystery. She would figure out just who that murderer was, and have him (or her) arrested!
There were plenty of suspects as Helen started her investigation. There was Carrie Careerwoman, who spent hours in a sedentary job... far beyond what was required. There was Polly Perfectionist, who was an expert at tossing in the towel and not trying rather than not "doing it right" when it came to diet and exercise. There was Harried Husband, who seemed to have endless demands for Helen's attention after work, despite leaving a pile of things undone while he stayed home and cared for their son. Which brings up Reuben Resentment, a squatter who shadowed Helen as she went between work and home. And Rachel Rebel, a close neighbor who would charge in and bring treats from the local eatery: Temptations by Tessa. Her suspicion of Seth Sedentary was strong, but she didn't have enough energy to kick the bum out of her life! And let us not forget Freddie Foodbinge, a chum from her youth, who showed up periodically, because he hung out with Rachel most of the time!
But there were also rays of hope, those reasons for living. There was her son, now five years old. Helen's deepest fear was that in the condition she was in, if he were to fall on the playground she would not be able to get to him in time to help. She would be unable to run in her deepest need. She would solve this for her son... she would regain her fitness and her health.
Helen believed in professionals. She was a professional herself, after all. She trusted her own intelligence, but she wasn't sure her knowledge of this area was good enough. So she decided to hire a private agency to help her find the thief and potential killer.
She was completely despondent at the first meeting with Wendy Weightwatcher, the chief detective. Her hair was unwashed, for heaven's sake she'd come away in her husband's coat... the scale, the first tool of the investigation, read a whopping 225.5 pounds. Her face fell. Still, Wendy gave her a plan: a tracker, a way of counting, and a new shot at the scale the next week. This would be the start of the investigation.
... to be continued ...
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