Half of the time we’re gone

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I used to watch this show, My 600 Pound Life

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It was about morbidly obese people, how they had bariatric surgery to lose weight, what happened to them afterward.

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There was a woman who was so overweight she couldn’t walk. She had to ride around in one of those scooters. The show followed her around the grocery store as random people told her she was disgusting.

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Finally she had a gastric bypass. The weight fell off. After a few years, she was down to 150 pounds.

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She had a whole new life. She was coaching little league, making friends, joining book clubs, catching up on all the socializing she had missed out on for decades.

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Before, she was housebound. After, she could barely stay indoors for a few hours.

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Her husband had been with her through everything: The weight, then its disappearance. He could tell she still carried around the old person she was.

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“She still turns sideways when she walks through doors,” he said.

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In November I moved to Seattle. My hometown, my home country, my first time living there since 2005.

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There were no logical reasons for me to do this, only personal ones. Friends. Family. A general restlessness I can never find a noun for.

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I always agonize over these Big Life Decisions, always get regretful and nostalgic immediately after making them.

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Then, slowly, I acclimate. Like getting over a breakup or leaving a job, eventually I get used to the new normal I have chosen. I stop weighing it against the one I have left.

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Everyone knows Christian Doppler was the guy who discovered the Doppler Effect, that thing where soundwaves bunch up when they come from a moving object, the eeeeEEEEEoooo you hear when an ambulance goes by.

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What I didn’t know until recently was that Doppler discovered his effect before anyone had ever heard it. It was 1842, nothing had ever gone 50 miles an hour, no one could stand there to notice the change in pitch.

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Doppler, through sheer intelligence, described something that the world eventually proved real.

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In my head, this is how smart people, real live adults, make decisions. You think and you study and you make blueprints for the future and then when it happens you’ve already explained it.

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In 1781, after they discovered Uranus, astronomers got more accurate predictions for the rest of the solar system. The new planet’s gravity pulled everything in its direction. Astronomers could stare up into the sky and know, months in advance, where they would find Mars and Mercury and Venus.

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Or at least, they should have. Once they started looking, they realized that all the planets were just a tiny bit off where they should be.

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The only thing that could explain it was yet another planet, even farther out.

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For years, scientists back-calculated where, and how big, the new planet should be. When they were finished, they pointed their telescopes where the calculations told them and there it was. They called it Neptune.

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I think I find these stories so appealing because they imply that there’s something objective about the world, discoverable, that all I have to do is think hard enough, crunch all the numbers, and the answer will be obvious.

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But of course that’s not true. No matter how hard you look into the future, you still bring yourself into it with you.

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These are all random photos of Berlin I took over the years.

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Out a bus window, on a morning jog, biking home. Dismount, snap, continue.

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I miss it already. It is big and empty and strange and sad, full now with my own history and even fuller with its own.

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My new life, the new normal I’ve chosen, isn’t waiting to be discovered, it’s something I’ll have to invent.

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I can already feel myself adjusting, old memories getting taped over with new habits, concerns, people.

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Everything I left here becoming, eventually, just one of the ways I still turn sideways.

7 Comments

Filed under Berlin, Personal, Serious

7 responses to “Half of the time we’re gone

  1. Ylime

    Wow. I’ve never left a comment online before (nor am I really on twitter) but you have just nailed how I felt coming home to Seattle after 10 years abroad in Asia. So much color, so many stories that seem to fade a bit against Seattle grey (esp in winter). I eventually found that while the ache remains and the visions of distant adventures persist, I discovered a quiet contentedness which was missing before. Must be all those trees.

  2. I don’t know if I could go back. Riding the ferry across the Sound to Winslow at sundown….that is a view I can never get over. Yet the thought of dealing with Seattle traffic, crappy potatoes, and the cost of housing! I look at job openings at interesting private schools then shake my head. Nope. Can’t do it.

    As you say though, if I had to, I would get over it. I would regroup and resink my tap root. A new normal would lie at my feet. Seasons would pass and I would remember that time I lived abroad.

  3. I absolutely love this post. I can relate to it on so many levels, your reference to the over weight woman and how she still had some actions so ingrained they never left. Although my reasons of relating are entirely different than I think what the post is about. The going home part… I was raped at 14 I spent years making myself obese and in the last year shed 115 pounds I suppose it is the equivalent of that 14 year old girl. I hate my home town, it is such a place of evil, people hiding their dirty deeds and those who are aware of said dirty deeds being left to not pay for them.
    My grandson was born a year ago so I have had to go back to that place more than I ever wanted. A place I have spent the last 17 years avoiding.

    Aside from the loss of the pounds that I had packed on as a protection, I lost my entire perception of who I was. The invisible fat girl, the victim who for 38 years has hidden behind the fat. Now I am exposed, people look at me, they comment on my success at weight loss, they LOOK at me… I now have to find me.. I have no idea who I am anymore. What I do know is I still cower, I still put myself down, I still walk slumped over and do not look people in the eyes so they cannot see me. I suppose that is my turning sideways.

    Thank you for this… It has helped me in ways nothing else has… for some reason it just resonates with me. I will be bookmarking it and looking at it often. I pray one day I no longer turn sideways.

  4. verseberger

    Really, really beautiful post, very moving, and totally stuck the landing: “Everything I left here becoming, eventually, just one of the ways I still turn sideways.” I am going to remember that. Thanks for posting.

  5. Simply beautiful post. Thank you. I hope I’ll keep it in mind as life changes (or doesn’t change) for me this year.

  6. I think that’s probably the best last line… Everything I left here becoming, eventually, just one of the ways I still turn sideways.”
    I hope I stop turning sideways.

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