The New Year Resolution
I always believed it was a cliché, a déjà vu, even a snobbish choice. I was sure that, at least eighty per cent of the women in the developed world, would chose it as one of their New Year’s resolutions: losing weight. For this reason, considering that one should be happy in his own body, and even if New Year was fast approaching, I decided to postpone this resolution until undetermined later date.
But something changed when, right before Christmas, I found myself at the supermarket, picking up the last marshmallow bag, that I intended to wrap and put under my Christmas Tree. A little snotty kid run to the shelf and tried to grab the bag from my hands. As I pulled hard, determined not to let go, he looked at me in the eyes and, with a naughty grin, he told me: ‘Can’t you see? You do not need that! Look at your flabby belly!!’ And he pointed at my – indeed – flabby belly, coming out from the elastic waistline of my gym pants. I blushed, stood up, angrily glared at the boy and let go of the much desired treat.
I walked back home, devastated. I went to my bedroom, entered the walk-in closet and looked at myself in the full mirror. That was something I had been avoiding for ages, just throwing quick glances at the small bathroom mirror: to fix my hair, or to check black circles under the eyes, new lines, or a pimple on the cheek. I did not dare to undress myself though, as what I saw was more than enough to make me run to the kitchen, take out peanut butter, jelly, chips, pop corns, snacks, Oreo biscuits and the sad box of instant macaroni cheese …and donate them all to the nearby Soup Kitchen. Instead, I did not. The truth, speaking loudly from the mirror, was not enough. I had all possible excuses: soon it would be Christmas. I would spend it yet – once more- on my own, watching TV with only my faithful mongrel Snapper by my side. I needed to draft a ‘New Year Resolution’, before taking further steps, and that would take me some time. I also had to think of some extra points to add to the resolution and make a noteworthy list. Therefore, as usual, I procrastinated.
My name is Lisa, I am 40, still single, quite chubby (to put It mildly) and moody at times. I have an obsessive-compulsive behavior towards food. I mean, when I feel down, eating definitely makes me feel better, happier and much more satisfied. In those bad days, it becomes my main activity and I keep munching from morning to night. I work as a clerk at a lawyer’s office. I do not like this job, as it is really boring, but I am a creature of habit and I have been sticking to this ordinary but safe job for 10 years. My boss is an annoying person, but so am I, at times. We know what we get from each other, and this created a sense of security that has maintained the status quo for all these years. Despite that, I am not happy. I feel I cannot stand this boredom anymore, and even less my boss’ attitude. Therefore, I truly would like to change and find a new job.
A few days after the marshmallow episode, one night I dreamt of my image in the mirror. It was expanding, losing shape and swallowing up everything on its way, like those creepy creatures in the ‘Spirited Away’ Miyazaki’s animation movie. I woke up screaming. That was when I decided that it was the time to do something. To take responsibility for my actions and my bad eating habits. Enough with looking at myself in the bathroom mirror or from the breasts down only while standing (from that angle the perspective was quite different and things looked flatter and not so prominent, I admit). I had to face reality. Therefore, after my Christmas, as usual rich in sweet delicacies and treats of any kind- that were always compensating my loneliness- I sat down to draft my 5-points resolution.
1) Losing weight
2) Dedicating some time to meditation, to be able to accept the undergoing diet/fitness program and possible, consequent delusions. For that, talk to Amanda first.
3) Finding a new job.
4) Watching a famous and good movie ( enough with the Latin-American television soap-opera, that always made me copiously cry).
5) Stopping reading chick lit and light-hearted romance books and dedicating some time to the enjoyment of a famous classic novel (not too romantic, possibly). Ask Melissa for advice.
I did not add ‘Finding a boyfriend’, because 5 points were already quite a challenge and –like everyone- I had my priorities in life, and finding a boyfriend was not one of them at that stage ( especially if I did not manage to lose weight first).
You may think, as well, that this was a weird list. That I could add more meaningful points and really try to change my life completely or add value to it. It is a matter of perspective. Obviously, point 4 and 5 might seem quite easy to fulfill. But they also implied the eradication of a bad habit first, to get to the desired result. And THAT was the issue! What my life could be without soap operas, I could not imagine. Even less…how to live without chick lit or romantic stories of fantastic women busy with their relationship and sex and love adventures? These stories were my surrogate, a preparation for a real romantic story, which would come, one day.
1) Resolution number one: Losing weight
I was serious. I wanted to change my life, to have a new self and to go and purchase one of those nice dresses that always looked so fabulous on average-weight women, but not on me. My target was to lose at least 20 pounds. That would have made me look a healthy 120 pounds, that was not yet that good for 5 feet 2, but it would have already been some achievement for me.
I went to check the nearby gym, and – as expected- they tried to sell me some kind of package, which included personal training and nutritional advice. It seemed quite expensive, but I had no choice. The guy was very good at presenting me the benefits of losing weight while getting toned and keeping a balanced diet. Definitely, he said, I needed to combine all the three elements, if I wanted to see some results. He claimed that in two months’ time at most, and without too much suffering, I would have started noticing some realistic changes. Two months’ time seemed to me a hell of a long time to see ‘some realistic changes’, I told him. But he kindly replied that I had quite a lot of weight to lose, many muscles to tone, and that would not have been easy. So, I signed up for a six months’ membership and I went to buy some kind of better gym attire, as I had nothing that could be presentable, besides the one that showed my flappy belly to the nasty kid at the supermarket. And that had been left in the laundry basket ever since that day, as if unnoticed by me. It constantly reminded me of a – soon to be – painful past. A past I wanted to leave behind. It was not easy for me to get nice gym clothes, or at least, to look good in them. Finally, I purchased a set that was quite reasonably priced. Pink pants and pink top. That would have not exactly camouflaged me among the ultra-fit gym regulars, but I did not care.
I sweated, I swear, for the first two months. And I cried in silence, for what I saw. Beautiful creatures were surrounding me: women with firm boobs – not moving even while they were running miles on the treadmill- long toned legs and hard butts that any Brazilian samba dancer would envy. Why did they ever come to the gym in the first place? To remind me of my misery? For the diet, I tried living on salad, chicken breast and special protein milkshakes. I went to sleep early, not to suffer the grip of hunger. I had nightmares of sumptuous banquets, which I could see clearly, but I could never reach with my hands.
Despite all my efforts, I did not lose more than 4 pounds in four weeks. Which were NOTHING on me!!Nonetheless, the trainer insisted that I was on the good track to a successful outcome. I should not give up, and I should be patient, he said. I was not so convinced, but I promised myself, but not to him, that I would have tried.
2) Resolution number two: Meditation
With all this suffering, I decided to dedicate some attention to meditation, which could possibly help me concentrating better on my ‘fitness- and-hunger program’, as I called it and maybe even to cope with the stress resulting in a forthcoming change of job. I admit that I have always been skeptical about what I considered a new-age approach to life. But someone was as happy as a lark when she got to know about my intention to be ‘converted’: my friend Amanda. Amanda (just the name is –in my opinion- quite evocative and fits her perfectly) is an amazing person, for many reasons. She is constantly feeling at peace with the whole world, behaving calmly and smiling even at the worse individuals on earth. She is a gipsy-like woman, who enjoys the presence of spirits and believes in the power of yoga, chakra, meditation, Vedic astrology, Reiki and all that stuff. She knows everything about seeds and similar ingredients, the only food she is eating plenty of. Flaxseed, chia seeds, millet, apricot seeds, together with almonds, quinoa, goji berry, bulgur and salads seasoned with yogurt and apple cider vinegar are classic staples in her diet. Cleansing herbal teas of any sort accompany all this.
Anyway, I called her to tell her of my intentions, and she rushed to my place, all excited. She entered my home sporting her usual long and wide skirt, which was covering her ankles, circled by silver anklets, visible under her short knitted socks. As it was cold, she was wearing a poncho and her usual Indian silk scarf, rolled around her neck at least three or four times. On her wrists, her inevitable sandalwood bracelet on one side, and the moon stone bracelet on the other. That would protect her from…I do not remember what. Long and curly red hair were falling on her shoulders. The smell of patchouli invaded my home as soon as she crossed the door, leaving me quite nauseated. In noticing her happy but lost eyes, I wondered if Amanda was regularly smoking joints. Sometimes she looked a bit stoned, like on that day. But her strict vegan diet, she told me once, did not allow her any extra ‘herbs’ of dubious effect. I would have not put my hand in the fire for that, but anyway, I respected her for her huge knowledge of all these weird subjects. I asked her for some advice on how to be introduced to meditation and possibly join meditation groups, and I was eager to know if this choice could have helped me overcoming the continuous fists of hunger, and my anger, resulting from my diet. Also, I had to deal with the disillusion given by the miserable four pounds I had lost in two months, that went unnoticed by Amanda, as expected…
Amanda, tall and skinny (obviously, seeds and berries do not make you gain weight…), introduced me some notions about mindless meditation and ‘Vipassana’, insight-meditation, as well as transcendental meditation, closer to Buddhist practice. She asked me to try to repeat two words in my mind: ‘so-hum’. That was the natural sound of our breathing in and breathing out, she said. ‘Really? Why did I never notice?’ I thought. I tried to listen to my breathing but…no! I could not hear any ‘so-hum’. In any case, I repeated the words within myself. But I was so concentrated in breathing right and under forced command, that at one point I felt I was hyperventilating and my head started spinning. I felt lightheaded and, from the lotus position, I fell down to one side. Amanda came to my rescue, scared. She told me that it never happened to her to witness anything like that after only – at most- five minutes of simple practice. She told me that I should not command my breathing. Probably, she said, my mind was too full and restless, or maybe I was too weak, as I was eating less in order to lose weight. She said that I should try again later, when I felt less stressful.
‘So,’ I asked her, ‘What is the point of starting meditation, if I have to wait until I feel less stressful?’ It sounded like a conundrum to me.
‘Lisa, why don’t you try with some yoga first?’ Melissa asked me, trying to change subject.
‘Yoga? Would I lose weight with it?’ I replied, eyes wide open, as I recovered from the failed breathing attempt.
‘Not immediately. I mean. Yoga helps you to feel mentally and physically better. But taken alone, unless you train every day for at least a couple of hours with a combination of Vinyasa and Hata Yoga, and maybe even Hot Yoga, it would not make you lose weight.’
Vinyasa, Hata, Hot Yoga (this last one sounded intriguing though…). What was she talking about? Was she speaking Arabic (or Sanskrit, probably)?
‘Then, no. I will stick to the gym training. Thank you!’ I blabbered, confused.
‘Would you like to try some goji berry or chia seeds? They are fabulous and they would help you feeling great during your diet!’
The idea of eating dried berries or seeds, just like birds did, appeared disgusting to me.
‘Er…no, thank you. I will stick to grapes, full of seeds.’
‘Yes, but do not forget that grapes are very sweet and sugary…’ Amanda added, probably thinking that I was hopeless.
‘What about raisins? They are smaller…’I was teasing her now, but she thought that I was serious.
‘Whaaattt??For goodness’ sake! Do not even try! Bye Bye, Lisa. I have to go to my Reiki lesson now,’ she sighed.
‘Bye Amanda, sorry for disappointing you…’
‘We will try again. No worries…’
3) Resolution number three: Finding a new job
I started out by mailing my CV to different companies and offices who were looking for ‘Clerk’, ‘Secretary’, ‘Sales Manager’ and I even stretched it to ‘Assistant General Manager’. I did not consider at all, obviously, those ads requiring a picture or ‘full picture’. As I expected, for ten days or more, no replies whatsoever. I started losing hopes. Finally, I received a reply from a company I did not even remember I sent my CV to. They were looking for a ‘Sales Manager’, a position I had never covered before. I was quite surprised that they called me: probably it was a job where the salary was mainly commission-based, so they did not care much about previous experience. It is true that I never sold anything to anyone in my life, besides my mother’s cupcakes at the school fair, but there is always a first time.
While on the phone and due to the excitement, I did not listen carefully to what the woman on the other side was saying. I just remembered that she mentioned the sale of some herbal products. That would be great! I thought of Amanda as my first possible customer. Then, there could be all her friends, who were going around with piercing at the nose or on the belly button, sandals in summer or winter and bangles on their wrists. I met them all once at a full moon party organized by Amanda. Thank God, on that occasion, I had eaten my three sandwiches before joining them. The food on offer was inedible and indescribable. I could just recognize some beetroots that – by the way- I do not like. Anyway, I knew that Amanda’s friends, just like her, were always on the look for the ‘next’ seed, or berry or herbal supplement, to feel great and enhance their mental and spiritual status.
Full of hopes and quite excited, I put on my one and only suit: black pants and black jacket with white shirt. Formal and unpretentious. The jacket was long and it was covering my butt, although this was still sticking out from underneath in all its mighty presence.
I reached the office ten minutes late. I knew, it was bad, very bad showing up late at the first interview, but that stupid bus delayed, and I did not take into consideration any possible setbacks. I rushed to the 12th floor. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and I tried to sniff if any bad smell was coming from my sweaty armpits, to avoid any embarrassment. So far, so good. Rushing, I stopped outside the office. I read the slogan on the glass door: ‘The only herbal supplement that will truly slim you down and change your life’. What??
Just when I was pondering the possibility of going back home, a woman opened the door and – scanning me more than once from head to toe – she said with a big smile:
‘Hello! You should be Lisa. Nice to meet you. I am Jenny.’
‘Hello Jenny. Nice to meet you. Yes, I am Lisa. Sorry for being late, but my bus…’
‘No worries, no worries at all!’ she said, even before letting me finish talking.
I threw a look at Jenny. She was short but she looked like a miniature doll: long and shiny black hair, flawless skin and perfect, proportioned body, with a small waist, flat belly, toned legs and medium-size boobs, just right on her frame. She was wearing a super tight dress. I felt, once more, out of place.
‘So, Lisa. This should be the right job for you, as it will motivate you a lot. We are selling a fantastic herbal product that will give you a body just like mine. And what is better than selling something that you yourself have tried and that has changed your life? This is the point: showing the world your ‘before’ and ‘after’. Your efforts and your achievements. Would you mind if later we take a picture of you? You just need to remove your jacket.’
Wow! She was joust going to the point! I immediately focused on the two things that stroke me most in what she had just said: ‘A body just like mine’ and ‘You just need to remove your jacket’. Well, a body just like hers was impossible for me to get, even with liposuction or major surgical cosmetic procedure. It was a matter of genetics! I had wide hips, large waistline and my legs were short, not at all in proportion with my body. Even if I achieved to lose 60 pounds, I would have never looked like that doll. The second statement : ‘You just need to remove your jacket’ made me think of 1) my sweaty armpits 2) the full evidence of my overweight body and, even worst, the obvious prominence of my butt, no longer hidden under the jacket.
Jenny, who probably had seen many hesitant candidates, continued undisturbed:
‘You know, Lisa. All this has been widely proven. You just need to follow the instructions and recommendations. There will be many supplements to take, together with our herbal pills and drinks, which are all natural. It is much easier than what it seems. I tried it myself. And look at me!’
Jenny showed me some pictures of herself ‘before’ and ‘after’. I concluded that they had been all heavily photoshopped. No other explanation. No way, it could not be the same person! She then continued describing the products, the benefits, the change this products had in people’s life. Then she said: ‘I do not know if you have a boyfriend or if you are single, or married, but I can assure you that with this new body and new life you – and your customers – will notice how men will find you irresistible. They will die to get out with you’. I was speechless. Wait a minute. Either she was a mentalist or, for sure, I looked like a desperate lonely soul. Otherwise, she would have never dared to come out with such a comment. But to me, that was the straw that broke the camels’ back. I had enough! I just regretted that my dream of creating a network of customers through Amanda, had been shattered. Unless Jenny was also selling some fattening herbal products. Then, maybe we could have started talking…
‘Jenny, thank you. I will think about it, but I do not see myself as a very good salesperson,’ I blabbered. Jenny would not let me go. She knew her job well. She knew how to leverage the full potential of her amazing and hypnotizing skills. I was desperate and I did not know how to get out of her office. My head started spinning. I thought of the meditation and the ‘so-hum’. I practiced the ‘so-hum’, forcing my breathing yet once more. Again, I felt lightheaded. I dramatized the situation:
‘I need to get out. I feel lightheaded, I feel like fainting. I need some air…’
Jenny finally stopped talking. She told me: ‘Sit down, I will bring you a glass of water, or – even better- a glass of our herbal jelly drink, which will help you feeling energized’.
My God, the woman would never give up! What a determination! Deep down, I was truly admiring her. ‘Yes, please,’ I said. I was recovering but I pretended I was still on the verge of fainting. As soon as she went to the nearby room to get the magic herbal jelly, I got up and rushed out of the office. I prayed that the lift would come soon. The lift came just when Jenny was trying to chase me. She was holding a glass containing a slimy green drink: ‘Lisa, Lisa, wait. You need to try this. Please…’
The lift door closed as I was waving her a shy good-bye.
The day after I went back to my office and greeted my boss with the biggest smile. I never felt so happy to be back to my usual and boring job.
‘Good morning, Mr. Smith.’
‘Good morning, Lisa. What is that big smile, today? Did you, by any chance, find a new job?’ He was sporting a huge and ironic smile on his face.
How intensely I could hate that man, sometimes!
After work, as soon as I entered my apartment, I walked straight to the kitchen. I took the New Year Resolution paper I stuck to the fridge under the magnet of the Rome Coliseum – a present from my grandmother – and I tore it off in hundred pieces. With satisfaction, I threw them all in the garbage bin. Then, I opened the kitchen cabinet. I looked at the jar of Nutella chocolate spread, winking at me. I took out three slices of bread from the freezer, I put them in the toaster and I voluptuously spread the Nutella on the bread, occasionally digging the index finger inside the glass jar.
I sat on the couch with my feet on the coffee table, and the jar on my lap. I turned on the TV and started watching a new episode of my Latin-American soap opera, wiping away some tears from my face, and this time not only because of the romantic drama.
Resolution number four: A good movie to watch? ‘There will always be time,’ I said to myself.
My novel ‘Flying with the Wild Wind’, written by some unknown author but read by a few inconsolable women like me, was expecting me on the bedside table. Next to it, my list of ten possible ‘great novels’ (Resolution number five: Reading a classic novel) I should have started selecting, choosing at least one first. They were a combination of candidates, compiled thanks to my friend Melissa’s advice, who worked at the bookstore. She had no idea of what I could possibly like, besides my light romantic literature. Therefore, she mixed and matched different authors, titles and genres, being also quite brave – if not pretentious – in her choice, I must say: ‘War and Peace’, ‘Don Quixote’, ‘Tom Jones’, ‘The Charterhouse of Parma’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘On the Road’, ‘Lolita’, ‘Sons and Lovers’, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.
Maybe next year! Too much to deal with now… I needed distraction.
‘Tomorrow is another day,’ I told Snapper, while I patted his head thinking of the gym trainer, who surely would not have seen my round face for a while…
Snapper licked my finger, appreciating the sweet taste of simple happiness.