People still don’t know how to talk about weight.
Which is fucking mind-blowing when you consider the fact that every fourth person you meet these days is considered overweight or obese.
This summer I went on an adventure to an outport community in Newfoundland and Labrador that I’ve spent several summers in.
It was like a mini Jack Kerouac “on the road” kind of thing. Only instead of America in all its glory, it was Bonavista Bay — which, in my humble opinion — is ten times more glorious than let’s say… Detroit, for example.
At least ten times.
Maybe that was a bad example.
So, I’m down there, and I’m having a great time. Taking some beautiful pictures.
I’m feelin’ good because I’ve just lost over 100 pounds, and like, fuck yeah — right? That’s no easy feat. And I feel like I’ve got the world by the tail and I’m swinging for the fences.
I’m like fucking Agamemnon out there. Aggie, when he was young… y’know, before he got ambushed and his family were slaughtered needlessly.
Perhaps another bad example.
Either way, I’m feeling pretty good.
So, I’m strolling across this wharf next to this theatre and I’m staring out over Bonavista Bay and I’m all dreamy, and old folk songs of the sea are coursing through my veins.
When who should happen upon me but a former co-worker of mine.
“Lord Jesus dyin’ Christ, if it isn’t Dave Sullivan,” he bellowed. “What a ya at Dave b’y?”
****For those of you reading from other countries in the world — especially the crowd out in Liberia — Newfoundland and Labrador, the place I live in, has literally dozens of dialects. What the above statement is saying is “Hello Dave, how are you?”****
I answered him with the usual local flair, “this is it, b’y”.
I noticed my former co-worker had lost a pretty significant amount of weight. So I made the comment, “you’re lookin’ good b’y, you’ve lost some weight”.
“Yeeessss,” he drawled, “I give up the chips, dressing, and gravy, see?”
***A local delicacy.***
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. I commented on his weight, see, and of course, I was anticipating that he would, in turn, comment on mine.
Only I forgot the last time I saw him was in 2006, and I was much lighter than I am now, and he has no idea that I ballooned up to 435lbs, and then lost a big chunk of it.
He was… unaware.
“You’re after puttin’ on some weight, Dave b’y,” he said. “You oughta look after yourself.”
This is what I like to refer to as a Robert Frost moment. You know, “two roads diverge into a yellow wood, and blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, I took the one less travelled.”
Apologies to Mr. Frost.
Point being, the road I frequently take in situations like that is the road that leads me to dive deep within myself and just start waling away at my soul, my heart, and my self-worth. Like really get in there and knock the ever-living shit right out of myself.
This day was different, though. Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was the sea breezes, maybe it was the Wellbutrin, I don’t know… but I just looked at him and said, “I might just do that, man.”
And I walked away with a smile on my face.
But here’s the thing — yeah, he’s a friggin’ tool for saying something as stupid as that, but how was he to know that I had this big gain and loss?
However, I did set myself up for it. Wanting to get approval from some dude I don’t even know. I mean the last time I saw him I was sitting in his pick-up truck smoking pot staring at an abandoned amusement park talking about how life was created.
And let me tell you, his ideas were not that sound.
Neil deGrasse Tyson he is not.
He also knows nothing about me, and yet there I was with a big sign on my fucking forehead that screamed “LOVE ME”.
And that’s the crux of the problem.
People who are on any kind of journey, doesn’t matter if it’s weight loss, or drug addiction, or sex addiction — it doesn’t matter — all we want is to be recognized for our accomplishments by outsiders.
We want validation.
Why do we want validation?
Well, because it’s a pretty solitary journey. You don’t have to think the thoughts I do on a regular basis, and you know what — that’s probably a good thing.
Cause it gets pretty freaky-deaky up there. Let me tell you.
So, with all of that need for validation in mind, now think about what a an off-handed comment could do.
You’re an open wound to the world and all you want is to be told that things are looking up, and instead you get a big dose of salt right in the heart of it.
And it hurts. Man, I can’t tell you how much it hurts.
They don’t mean it, though. The people doing the talking. They’re just being people, and having a conversation. They have no idea how that may impact you. It’s not a part of their lives, so how would they?
Which is why we need to educate people on how to a) be supportive of those undergoing a change such as this, and b) what the hell do you say? Or even do?
I’ll be perfectly honest here, and tell you that the right thing to say or do and the wrong thing to say or do flip faster for me than a fucking turnstile. My mood flickers like the sun sometimes.
Pretty attractive, hey?
Ladies, form an orderly queue.
All I’ll say is this: use common sense. If you know somebody is struggling with something, don’t single them out, don’t make it a thing. Just acknowledge that they’re going through something, and tell them that you’re there for them. There’s no need to say anything else about it. There really isn’t. Just every now and then, tell them that you’re there. That’s all that’s needed.
As for those of us going on our own journeys, whatever they may be, seek the validation within yourself. Trust your own voice enough that you know when you’re doing good. It’s a hard thing to master. I’m not perfect at it. But once you stop giving the power to the words of other people, and place it in your own hands, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
Here’s a great quote I stumbled upon the other day. It’s by American poet Wendell Berry, who was introduced to me by a very supportive person in my life. And it says this:
“Hope must not depend on feeling good.”
Hope? Hope is in your heart. Just like love, hate, sadness, fear, and any other thing a person can feel.
Hope feels it too, but it doesn’t change what it is, or what’s to come.
Only you can do that.