The Weight

“Take a load off, Fanny,” sings The Band in their 1968 song The Weight (Music from Big Pink). I feel they are singing, “take a load off your fanny” to me. Weight has been on my mind a lot of late. I carry it in excess in many forms.

Overinflated fat cells around my belly and hips compete with the confines of my jeans for dominance. I should not eat Trader Joe’s Giant Peruvian Inca Corn in my apartment at night when I’m not hungry, only lonely. But I’ve finished the crossword puzzle, my hands hurt from knitting, TV is bad, and it’s just a little too quiet.

Ligature marks on my arms tell not of nights in white satin, but of bags. Shopping bags, gym and yoga bags, trash bags – that I load up and carry down the long halls of my apartment complex. Yes, I should use the shopping cart I bought to avoid just such torture, but I often forego it, thinking, “oh, I can carry these myself, and I’d much prefer that they cut off circulation to my hands and make my fingers tingle.” A rolling gym bag used to alleviate that burden until I succumbed to peer pressure like a middle school girl and stopped using it when one patron said, “Ya plannin’ to move into the gym or what?”

As a stay-at-home mom I felt like a modern day hunter/gatherer; always schlepping things in and out of the house, a little winded each time, but pleased with the conquest.

And the mental/emotional baggage? I am literally a fathead when it comes to that. We often lug the burdens of life in our minds: As mothers we are proverbially only as happy as our unhappiest child. As citizens of the world we watch the news with despair. And we all carry personal, private mental weight.

Lisa Lampanelli, “The Queen of Mean,” recently previewed her new play, Fat Girls, Interrupted at the Westport County Playhouse. This fearless standup comic, who can cut down even the most bold and brazen with one lightning-swipe of her rapier tongue, got serious for this new endeavor. Not that the evening wasn’t filled with laughs. Four women: Lisa (who recently underwent gastric weight reduction surgery and looks like, well, a new person with the sides of her head shaved and her “man bun” died an Easter egg blue), Katey (a naturally thin woman played by Patricia Kalember), Brittany (an anorexic/bulimic portrayed by Jessica Luck), and Stacey (a woman comfortable in her heft, acted by Lisa Howard) sit and shoot the – stuff. They lull us in with talk about foods that they, and of course we, remember and love. Nuclear neon pink Hostess Snowballs, Foot Loops, and peanut butter straight from the spoon….

But the tone takes a turn as they talk about how their weight – or lack thereof – makes them feel, and how what they feel weighs on them. The thought-provoking evening elicits murmurs, nods, and in some cases, cackles, of empathy. Every one of us in the audience can relate in some way.

It makes me reexamine what we all carry.

Coincidentally, I signed up to participate in one of Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra’s free 21-Day Meditation series. They run them periodically, and I find they are a good way to get me back to a regular practice. This one is entitled “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body, and Spirit.” Oprah, no stranger to weight loss struggles, just bought a hefty chunk of Weight Watchers and is actively promoting it and her own participation in the program. It’s no surprise that they chose this topic. I suspect mercenary self-interest, but I’m pleasantly surprised as I settle in and listen each day. It’s more about balance than banning bread; more about compassion than calories. For me, the timing is perfect. I will plug in every day and see what I can learn about lightening up. It may be a myth that it takes 21 days to change a new habit, but it’s a start.


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