Fried Green Tomatoes

friend green tomatoes

(photo: Desi, the Italian voice - flickr.com)

I’m not really a big ‘chick flick’ person, but I love that movie. Not really so much for the story of Ruth and Idgie, although that’s entertaining enough. No, for me the real attraction is watching as Evelyn (Kathy Bates) transforms. Forget a coming of age story; Evelyn proves that it’s never too late in life to find yourself.

Even though I’ve lived outside of the South for most of my life, in some ways I still had a fairly Southern upbringing. Life was full of things that ladies do or don’t do. Some of them were relatively banal – ladies don’t chew gun, run in the house, say ain’t, spit, or scratch in public.

Some things that seem innocuous enough, though, can become toxic. Do as you’re told. Don’t object, argue, or give your opinion unless it’s asked for. Be agreeable. Don’t interrupt, don’t be selfish. The list was almost unending, but in some ways, they all came down to the same thing: What you need is unimportant. Put everyone else’s needs first. If there’s anything left over, take care of yourself, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience anyone else.

Don’t even get me started on the ‘rules’ for dealing with boys. A whole new level of, well, I don’t even know what to call it. But that’s a story for another day.

But somehow along the way, I managed to miss out on the training for what seems to be an essential part of the true Southern lady – the quiet backbone of steel. Hell, forget steel. A backbone of titanium. Remember Gone with the Wind – Melanie Wilkes rising from her sickbed and rushing to Scarlett’s aid when the Yankees showed up at Tara? She could hardly walk, but she would have fought to the death for her loved ones. She was sweet, kind, thoughtful and gracious, but there was a line. That line didn’t waver, and couldn’t be crossed.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of biting my tongue or turning the other cheek while my lines were being crossed. I thought maintaining harmony was too important to risk, that keeping relationships by allowing others to do as they pleased was more important than taking care of my own needs.

In Tomatoes, Evelyn follows Idgie’s lead in calling for Towanda. Towanda, the avenger, righter of wrongs, queen beyond compare! I’m gonna find my own Towanda, and put her to work. She’s been lazy for far too long.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes….

Windmill

(Photo: Angie Rayfield)

Change comes about when we stop trying to shape up the other person and begin to observe patterns and find new options for our own behavior. ~ Harriet Lerner

I thought about saying that I began the process of change on September 15, 2010, but that’s not really accurate. That’s simply the day I had my surgery.

Or I could say that all of life is a process of change. On a philosophical level, I suppose that’s true. Whether we like it or not, things change. But as a life philosophy, it doesn’t really resonate with me. I admit, sometimes I can be a little fatalistic (it is what it is), but “life is a process of change” somehow seems a little too passive. Too much like believing that we’re all just wandering around, waiting for something or someone else to make a move so that we can react to it. I get a mental vision of those films we used to watch in science class, the ones with amoebas just floating around, shifting shapes in response to stimuli.

Personally, I prefer not to think of myself as an amoeba. Even if I’m sometimes guilty of acting like one.

This particular set of changes began over a year ago. There’s no particular date, no magic moment of epiphany. No, it was more like watching jello set – it just slowly thickens until it’s finally solid.

That’s how it went for me. No a-ha moment, just a gradual and growing realization that there were things I was unhappy with in my life. But it wasn’t only that. There was also the gradual realization that there were things I could do to change those things that made me unhappy. Which brings me to my lapband.

It took me a long time to realize that is wasn’t so much that the weight gain was a problem as that it was a symptom of the problem. Of course, it’s a symptom that creates a whole ‘nother set of problems, but that’s a story for another day. That’s not true for everyone that’s over (or under) weight. For some people, it’s simply a matter of calories in and calories out. Those are the folks that can step on the scale, say “Damn, gained five pounds,” and cut the beer and pizza for a month or so until it comes back off.

Sometimes I’m jealous of those people. Sometimes I resent them. And sometimes I want to bop them upside the head, because that segment of the population includes the subset that sneers at fat folks and is fond of making comments like “Anyone can lose weight if they want to. All you have to do is [fill in the blank].” I’d point out to those people that their smug superiority is not helpful no matter how good it makes them feel, but (a) they’re not likely to listen, and (b) they’re not reading this anyway.

Are you wondering if there’s a point to all this? Why, yes. Yes, there is. The point is that my journey isn’t a matter of physical change. There’s a mental change that has to happen along with it. For too long, I’ve allowed myself to ignore my own needs and emotional well-being in favor of making allowances for the needs of others. It’s time to realize that it’s not selfish to take care of myself. It’s time to change my behavior.