Smirking reporters greeted me as I returned home from a grocery run. An ambulance pulled away down the block, moments before I carried my sleeping son inside our rented rowhouse. The photojournalist surreptitiously took some B-roll of me unloading the car -- which I knew I could not prevent, since it was a public street -- and I knew that on my third trip out, as the reporter approached, he'd be wanting to get my opinion on camera. But about what?
After asking permission to interview me, the reporter asked me what I thought about the series of reports of a prowler sneaking into women's homes in my neighborhood. Apparently, they wake to find him standing over them, and at least one awoke to being fondled.
Having once been a reporter, I immediately understood their smiles. On the range of badness, this fell neatly in the middle, above petty theft and vandalism but below a violent crime like rape or murder. I imagine the ambulance had been due to precaution, and the latest victim had been rushed to the hospital for an examination. Still, the news gave me a chill, thinking of my child sleeping just inside.
Dutifully, I answered the questions, as follows: Of course I was surprised. I intended to take extra precautions. Yes, I kept both my doors and windows locked, even on hot summer nights. "That's what air conditioning is for," I told him. Yes, it was a quiet neighborhood, where people tend to look after each other, which is why I suspected that the prowler fit in and avoided looking suspicious.
This is not what I intended to write today. But in an odd way, it fits.
I feel the same way today as I felt twenty-some years ago, when I hugged the fellow members of a weekly vegetarian potluck upon learning that our friend had been assaulted while walking home after dark. We comforted each other while resolving that we would not live in fear. We would be cautious, yes, but we would not cower.
I'd intended to write about my struggles lately in a more mundane area: weight loss. A few months ago, I broke my toe in the stupidest way imaginable, by kicking off my pants while changing in the YMCA locker room, and smashing said toe into a very solid bench. That incident led to me sitting out my regular exercise for weeks, and it coincided with some friend drama that shook my confidence. Depressed and in pain, I turned to food, snacking unrestrained in the wee hours while taking extra transcription work during the height of the Flight 370 disappearance investigation.
My weight jumped up 15 pounds in about a month. Then I finally managed to pull myself out of the mire. I stopped eating after 9 p.m. and started a 14-day herbal detox, losing 6 pounds the first week. Since then, my weight loss has been more gradual, but at least it's no longer crawling upwards.
The experience was a rude setback, since I'd lost 20 pounds over the previous year and had hoped to finally shed the remaining 38 pounds of my pregnancy weight gain, now that my baby is a preschooler. With this weight gain, I felt as if my body was rebelling against me.
My husband shared with me an Alton Brown video, where he said it better than I ever could: "Keeping weight off is like fighting zombies. You think you killed all the zombies, and then there are more zombies. There's just more of them. They never freaking go away. You have to constantly keep your 9-mil on you. You have constantly keep a machete nearby. And that's the way it is with diet, because your body does not want to maintain the weight you've set. I mean, it'll get used to it after a while, but any chance your body gets to betray you, it will."
Like Alton, I've discovered that weight loss is a never-ending struggle. A key to my success has been to avoid sweets, which tend to put me on a nasty sugar cycle of snacking and fatigue. I've also discovered I've developed intolerances for gluten and dairy. Avoiding them keeps my digestive system on track and helps me avoid the belly bloat, brain fuzziness, gassiness and other unpleasantness I suffer from when I succumb to temptation.
I got a nasty reminder recently of why I can never relent, when I snuck a sliver of my son's leftover birthday cake. The next day, I was living in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch about uncontrolled flatulence, feeling as tired as if I'd just pulled an all-nighter.
Yet another reminder that, whatever happens, I've got to stay strong. Whether it's facing down fear when I turn out the light or turning away the temptation that can derail my progress and turn my body's chemistry against me, I'm taking a lesson from bluesman Jarekus Singleton, who sings about how, despite all the trouble he's been through in his life, despite all the tears, he will not give up. Like him, I will not stop trying, despite the obstacles thrown up in my way. I refuse to lose.
To hear the Alton Brown interview, starting at the quote mentioned in this piece, follow this YouTube link: http://youtu.be/ZzzVdhyKjww?t=11m28s
To hear the Jarekus Singleton song, "I Refuse to Lose," follow this YouTube link: http://youtu.be/n8thKcGefio. Warning: It will get stuck in your head, almost guaranteed!
The story they put together didn't use the interview with me but only a brief glimpse of me putting groceries inside my house, as their example of getting in "an open door." You can see the video -- and read the story -- at the local ABC affiliate's web site.