The first 3 times my response was, “No, I am just fat.” The questions, as you may have guessed, were different variations of “Are you pregnant?” And these questions were asked by customers at the library. I laughed and shrugged them off. When someone who sees me regularly asked me this question, it irked me. First, it is none of anyone’s business. Don’t ask me such personal questions unless I have offered the information myself. Second, can’t you see the lovely gray streaks in my hair? I am almost past the childbearing age. Menopause is real, meno belly is real. Read about it, know about it and leave us, menopausal women alone! Third, this is body shaming, so stop.
After my parents died last year, I gave up on life. For a while, I did not want to be alive because I couldn’t see the point. There was enormous amount of guilt, grief, depression. I went to work, put my sparkles on so nobody knew I was hurting, came home and sat on my chair staring at the ceiling. I wasn’t aware of ‘smiling depression’ till a friend shared an article after tWitch’s death. As I read the article, I checked all the boxes. I was not brave enough to ask for professional help. I am still not ready. This blog was my coping mechanism. Writing down my feelings helped. As I was crawling out of the quagmire of grief, as I was starting to learn to live around the loss, my baby cousin sister died. She was terminally ill so the end was not completely surprising but it shook me nonetheless. However, the way she lived till the end inspired me to live too. Despite cancer, despite chemo, despite horrendous sickness, she went out there and danced. She was a dancer. Her zest for life despite knowing her days were numbered and perhaps, because of that knowledge, inspired me to get off my couch. Before all these losses, I lived with a false sense of invincibility. These two years have taught me a hard lesson – life is short, unpredictable and we only have one shot.
That realization and my vanity, the double whammy made me reluctantly get up, lace up my sneakers and tentatively enter the gym. Moreover, my dexascan shows I have started losing bone density. The doc said I can’t fight genetics (yes, osteoporosis is my heirloom) but I can certainly delay it. Gravity is my friend, she said.
When I first went to the gym a few weeks ago, my desire was to work towards a flat belly so people will stop asking me if I am pregnant. However, my goal changed as I sweated on the elliptical. I don’t care about my belly any more. I care about how I feel after spending an hour or more at the gym. I feet better mentally. Even when my body tires, my mind rises above the usual stupor. The release of dopamine and serotonin during aerobic exercise is real. I have been aware of it. And then there is the music. I slap my head phones on, connect it to my phone’s bluetooth and get lost in the music that rains down like a salve for my soul – Rabindrasangeet, Suman, Nachiketa, Lopamudra, Chandrabindu, Hemanta, Manna De, Kishore Kumar, Rafi, 90’s Bollywood hits, I listen to them all. That one and a half hour is completely dedicated to my body and soul.
So yes, these days I look forward to the gym. Not to flatten my belly but if that happens in the process, I won’t complain, but to do something for myself, release the happy hormones to help with my mental health and surrender to the music of my soul.
The fourth time was the charm. It dragged me out of my house to take care of myself. I am grateful to the fourth person, after being angry with them. 🙂