If you’ve ever sustained weight loss long enough to get stuck, then you understand what I’ve been going through. There are plenty of ways to get stuck. Our bodies can hit the dreaded “plateau.” Life can dismantle our perfectly balanced routine. Dreams – not just goals, but those daydreams we escape into when we wish upon a star inside our hearts –can become achingly undone. They are our most vulnerable and bodacious of wishes. I’ve been stuck in this last one. I had a dream, but I lost it.
This was my dream: for the last three years, I wanted to join a ladies’ roller derby league in Missoula. The Hellgate Rollergirls embody women’s empowerment. They flaunt a gutsy sass. On the outside, roller derby might look like a bawdy mix of burlesque and brawn. Certainly they take things to the extreme, blurring the line between strength and sensuality. That’s exactly why I wanted to join. If I could stand at that border, open my heart wide to receive the fullness of my femininity, peer over its flirty edge, and survive a heady look into my own sexuality, then maybe I could pull back into an everyday comfort with my own skin. At the very least, I didn’t want to watch from the bleachers while other women, with names like “Kitty Bellacus” and “Prefondame” had a ball.
It wasn’t until last fall that I felt ready to join. Still, I had back-of-the-brain concerns. Would one fall bulge my herniated disc? Was I too heavy? Did I have enough core strength to handle the bouts? I answered these questions with a steady ramp-up of core training and cardio conditioning. Anna from The Women’s Club showed me simple, effective moves on the TRX to stabilize my core. My gym has a ski-skate machine which mimics roller skating, so I added that to my weekly routine. To stir my bad-ass self, I chopped wood. When that maul plunges heavy into a block of pine, and I feel the release of that satisfying split all the way up my spine, weakness cannot find me.
It was an easy thing, then, to imagine my roller girl persona. I named her “Lumber Jackie.” In Hellgate Rollergirl tradition, I would adopt an image and take it to the extreme, like overexposing a picture, except with flesh. Lumber Jackie would wear a cotton plaid shirt (cut short at the arms and torso) with pearl buttons popped low enough to hint at a black, push-up underneath. Add cut off Carhartts so snug that my husband would wonder why he hadn’t bought a pair for me years ago. Of course, can’t forget the wide, red suspenders – with matching wool socks – to tie it all together. The cake topper would be my husband’s yellow, lumberjack helmet.
After I had Lumber Jackie all dressed up, I imagined her intro…“Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for…Luuummmbeeerrrr Jaackiieeee!” I yank the cord on my Stihl saw and roll into the arena. Ggggrrrrrr! I squeeze the throttle, pumping the saw over my head to rally the crowd. Grrrr! Grrr!
Yep, that’s my bad-ass girl.
When it was time to tell mom and dad about my plans, I had to borrow Lumber Jackie’s confidence. “Mom, dad, I’ve got to tell you something,” I said in that tone that warns, you ain’t gonna like this.
“Oh, no!” my dad said right away, throwing his hands up in mock exasperation.
“What is it?” my mom asked, hoping to move the conversation to a positive outcome.
“As you know,” I gingered, “well, you know how I’ve been doing some extra core and strength training the last few months?” They nodded their heads. “Well, I’ve been doing it for a reason.” Big breath. “I want to join the Hellgate Rollergirls.”
“No!” My mom let out a horsy breath which she had already held ten seconds too long.
Lumber Jackie answered her back in the same grizzly tone. “Yes!”
After lots of discussion about padding, falling, and general safety, mom and dad conceded to support my latest dream. They’re awesome like that. My brother came alongside, no questions asked. “If she wants to do it, I say go for it!” he said.
Two weeks later, I huddled with four other girls at the edge of a makeshift rink in one of Missoula’s coldest warehouses. This was fresh meat orientation. It was hard to pay attention without glancing at the crew running drills on the rink. I got psyched when she said they could fit me tonight with some borrowed skates and pads, if I wanted to take the rink for a spin. Oh, but first, I had to have health insurance, couldn’t lace up those wheels without insurance. Plus, before I come back, I should also buy a mouth guard, just in case. The practice crew switched to toe-walking drills in the center of the rink. I looked harder. Yep, their lips jutted out from a chunk of plastic in each of their mouths. After I signed a no-sue clause, someone tried to find skates and pads for me to wear, but nothing fit my larger frame. I wouldn’t be feeling the soft breeze of measured speed tonight.
As I left, I sank into the driver’s seat, bummed and confused. Driving home, my fingers gripped limp at ten and two. I leaned into the steering wheel, as if asking the ribbon of road to help me sift through my head, to trace the arc of thought unraveling with every turn. I had options. I could buy a cheap insurance policy through the league, if I could chisel the bucks out of our budget. I could save up another six months for some gear of my own, but my dream didn’t include waiting. I suppose I could be a little more patient and wait a bit longer, but a mouth guard? Seriously? That piece of plastic got me thinking. My derby daydreams didn’t include a mouth guard, nor broken teeth, nor biting bits of tongue off, nor blood. In fact, whenever I pictured Lumber Jackie, she was all about cute outfits and dramatic entries, not fast-paced body checks or full-frontal face plants. I had to admit, for me, Lumber Jackie was all about the drama. By the time I pulled into our driveway, I pretty much decided to let go of my roller derby dream. Maybe I could settle for a more casual skate around downtown Missoula this summer, sporting a red tutu and bedazzled tiara.
I still had a problem, though. My goal, to which I had devoted months of workouts, was kyboshed. What would I work towards now? In the following days, my exercise zeal drizzled like a half-hearted spring rain. I felt more tired, less enthused. Disappointment soured into resentment, conjuring up a whole nest of life regrets. I was in workout limbo. If Lumber Jackie was still alive inside, she had pinched her bar in a tall pine. We both needed to get unstuck. But how?
Tune in next week for part #2…
P.S. Special thanks to Anna for schooling me on the proper lumberjack terminology.
Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet: to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year. She began on Thanksgiving 2011. Will she make it? Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind. Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.