The first two blogs that Barbara and Lynn wrote for the Refuse to Regain site in May 2008 encapsulate their maintenance philosophy. Both blogs are posted here on this page so new readers of Refuse To Regain have an understanding of how each woman approaches and writes about maintenance from their own personal experiences. They call it their “Green House Philosophy.”
The Green House – May 13, 2008
By Lynn Haraldson-Bering
I live in a green house. A really green house. The asbestos siding is pale green, the porch “skirt” is evergreen, the shingles are dappled moss green, and Astroturf is glued to the porch and front stairs.
My husband and I moved into this little 1910s Cape Ann in the spring of 2006 with plans to eliminate the green. Big plans that included paint and siding and maybe even a new roof. It is now spring 2008 and we’ve gotten as far as painting the porch skirt brown and taking up one inch of Astroturf. The house is still very green.
On a sunny day last week, I swept up tree buds and vacuumed dead maple leaves crammed in the corners of the porch and wrapped around stacks of pots stored there over winter. I shook out the blankets covering the wicker lounge chairs, wiped down the railings and tables, and brought out candles we will light in the evenings as we sit outside and watch the sun fade behind the tulip trees across the street.
Checking for rogue leaves and buds, I laughed at the absurdity of vacuuming Astroturf and remembered two years ago how hard I tried to rip it up. Using a razor and a screwdriver, it took 30 minutes just to peel away a one-inch square. I called Carpet Barn and asked for advice. A man there told me it would take at least a day to rip up the carpet using glue-dissolving chemicals which would most likely damage the wood underneath, if it was worth saving at all. Unless we replaced the entire porch, we’d most likely want to lay down – what else? – more carpet.
The cost for such a job? Around $10,000.
So I made the most of the Astroturf and made my peace with it. I laid down two large area rugs and filled the porch with decorative containers and flowers. I sweep and vacuum the green and forget, for the most part, that it is green.
Painting the pale green siding was one option and replacing it with modern siding was another. Yet when both jobs came in priced more than replacing the Astroturf, we bought a gallon of brown paint and eliminated the one shade of green we could control – the evergreen porch skirt. Once we built the deck in the back, planted gardens, and built a wood fence, the green-house effect was less obvious and the personality of our house emerged, lessening the green-house effect.
Now when I drive up into the driveway, I rarely notice the green of my house. Instead I see a home, sturdy and strong, surrounded by beauty and filled inside with love and warmth. It’s the only green house on the block and it’s easy to find when I tell people who’ve never been here, “Just look for the green house.”
And so it is with my body. I live inside a “green house,” soft from skin that lost its elasticity in the years when I weighed 296 pounds. When the stretch marks faded they formed rivers of silk-smooth scars along my belly, hips, breasts and arms. Thin layers of skin that I can roll between my fingers – there is no fat in the lining – undergird my lower stomach and lay wrinkled along my inner thighs and under my arms.
I moved into this “green house” body slowly, starting with a diet plan in January 2005 and adding exercise in April 2006. I got to my goal weight in 2007 with plans to remodel. Big plans that included scalpels and sutures. But the costs were too high, both economically and physically, and I was left wondering, “What now?”
I tried self-loathing and I tried hiding, but hating and hiding my entire body because of some sagging skin was as foolish as hating my house because it was green. And unlike a house, this is the only body I get. If I want to live in peace and enjoy its many amenities, I have to accept my body’s “greenness” and see past the skin and stretches and realize its muscle and strength and its heart and soul. Where there is sadness and longing, there is also love and joy. My body is capable of empathy. It is determined. Cute underwear and well fitted jeans help, too.
Barbara, my website partner, was right on the mark when she said after I told her about my green house analogy: “We are living in these reduced and imperfect bodies at a happy distance from the rest of the culture. We seem to be outside of it and observing it. I have a feeling of living in the cultural ‘country’ while others are living a less examined life in the city.”
Welcome to maintenance and welcome to this life-examining website. Barbara and I want to help you live comfortably in your “green house.” This is your website for information and open dialogue about what it means to live in these reduced bodies. We look forward to hearing from you. Leave a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up Here On The Hill – May 19, 2008
By Barbara Berkeley
I love Lynn’s description of her “green house”: a living space that’s not perfect but one that she’s come to love nonetheless. The very imperfections that bothered her most at the outset are the things that now define a unique environment. All green houses have their beauty.
It’s easy to see that our imperfect bodies represent some version of the green house. No one over age 40 has the Architectural Digest version of the human form (except maybe Christie Brinkley, who at 50+ still appears to be a Barbie doll straight from the package). Although we all know this, it seems to be much harder to make peace with our physical imperfections than with the fact that our car is beat up or our house paint is peeling. After all, our bodies are so incredibly personal and are so intertwined with the vision of self that we present to the world. And while it’s true that no individual has the whole package, there is always some friend or acquaintance who has a better version of whatever body part is bothering us on any given day. Her jaw hangs less. He’s got actual abs. Her legs don’t have any spider veins.
Do we have to learn to love our own green house? Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be love. But at the very least we need to be fond of the old thing. I believe we can get to a happy acceptance through gratitude and humor. What are the things you can you do now that you couldn’t do prior to weight loss, for example? Be thankful that your new body has made them possible. That body was once abandoned and lay hurt and forgotten on the roadside. Now you’ve brought it in from the cold. By providing continued care and concern, you can learn to love this stray…despite its torn ear, its bald patches of fur, its limp. It may be funny and even a bit absurd, but it’s kind of cute, isn’t it?
My own green house is no more perfect than Lynn’s. I think of it as sitting up on a hill. The placement of this physical and spiritual home means that I live both inside and outside of the world my friends inhabit. Most of them are not seriously trying to control their weight. I think of them as living down in the valley. I prefer to live on the hill because I follow my own rules when it comes to weight, eating and exercise and I can’t afford to be influenced by what the valley folk are doing. Over time, I’ve developed a sense of pleasant detachment when I interact with them . I can be with someone at lunch, but I withdraw to my hilltop when they order dessert or reach for the bread. I can attend a valley wedding, but I’m up on the hillside when everyone else is raiding the buffet table like a marauding army.
Some people have used the acronym SAD for the Standard American Diet. I think that’s apt. I understand the forces that are causing SAD eaters to make their choices, but I really don’t want to be pushed around by those forces any more. In fact, I refuse. I’ve learned to switch into this hovering, dream-like detachment whenever my eating or exercise style is challenged. I’ll give vague answers. Sort of smile. And go right along following the rules I’ve established for myself. The sunshine is so nice up on the hillside.
In a recent post to Lynn’s weight loss blog, a five-year maintainer described the process of keeping weight off as “groping in the dark” and referenced the trial and error that had led her to a still tenuous success. All of us who intend to keep weight from returning have experienced this feeling. We have the sense that we must do something very different in order to keep from being pulled back into an inevitable decline. But what to do? We should all talk about this. I’ll be happy to share what I’ve learned if you’ll do the same. Whatever strategy we employ, one thing remains certain. We can’t do what the rest of the world is doing. If we are successful, it means that we’ve found some rules that work and have most likely moved out to that little community on the hill.
Successful maintainers are warriors. They are relentlessly devoted to remaking their lives. They battle for information, search for answers, use trial and error and refuse to be driven backwards. This makes for a pretty heroic little group.
Our hilltop community is still small, but I am convinced that it can grow at a rapid rate if we only exchange ideas, strategies and successes. If you have not yet considered a move to this territory, let me encourage you to look at the real estate. The air is clean, the food is simple and the view to the future looks just great.