The last box is unpacked; pictures, prints and mirrors are hung on the walls; the furniture is where I want it (for now); the bathroom is organized; and the kitchen is user friendly.
Now it’s time to live here, settle into a routine and find a mechanic, a gym, the library, the nearest liquor store, and the post office.
Saturday, out of sheer necessity (i.e. lack of clean underwear), I found a laundromat. Now for most people, going to the laundromat is a no-brainer. You wash, you dry, you read a book to pass the time. For me, it’s outside my safety zone and therefore subject to way more planning and thought than necessary. And yet despite all my planning, I still screwed up.
I’d separated the laundry at home: a bag of whites, a bag of darks and a bag of blankets. I packed my book, my glasses and my phone. I had a $10 bill and went to the bank for quarters. Then I drove to the laundromat, took my bags out of the hatch, locked the car, walked inside, set the laundry on the floor, and realized I’d left my soap and dryer sheets at home.
‘Don’t panic!’ I told myself. ‘There’s a soap dispenser on the wall.’ I put in a quarter and the quarter came out the coin return. I put in a different quarter and that quarter came out the coin return.
“It don’t work,” said a man leaning over the counter. “The change machine don’t work either.”
“Do you mind Gain?” asked a woman who was texting on her cell phone. “’Cuz you can use some of my Gain if you want.”
“Really?” I said. “Thank you.”
She handed me her bottle of detergent and said, “I don’t have any fabric softener, though.”
“That’s OK, I’ll go over to the store across the parking lot. Community is a grocery store, right?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said, “but go to Family Dollar or Big Lots. It’ll be cheaper.”
I held out a handful of quarters to pay her for the soap, but she just smiled and said no, and told me which washers worked best before resuming her texting conversation.
After starting my wash, I went to Family Dollar and bought dryer sheets, then I went back to the bank for more quarters. (Seriously? $9 to wash three loads?) By the time I returned to the laundromat, my clothes were washed so I put them in two of the dryers that a man with sunglasses told me were the best.
I sat on the sorting table in front of the dryers and took my book out of my bag. The Gain-sharing lady was folding her clothes and placing them in her laundry bags. I’d brought my laundry bags back out to my car. Duh. How did I expect to bring my clean clothes home if I didn’t use the bags? Sometimes I’m overly efficient and don’t think ahead.
As I watched my laundry rise and tumble in the dryer, I thought how familiar it all felt, even though I was in a completely new environment. I’ve been here before, in new territory, screwing up and learning, namely six years ago when I took this last plunge into weight loss.
Weight loss and maintenance are like moving and living in new surroundings. Moving can take a long time, a lot of planning, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes it takes awhile for you to put everything away and discard all the boxes and packing paper, but eventually (hopefully) you get it done and you move on to the next step: figuring out how to live in your new surroundings.
If during weight loss I’d gotten frustrated and stopped “putting boxes away,” so to speak, I’d not have known the joy of living fully and freely in my new space, unencumbered by my weight. Living at my goal weight, I’m the same basic person (more or less) that I was before losing weight, it’s just that now, everything’s arranged differently, and like living in a different home, the sun shines through different windows. I still have to step outside my comfort zone and ask for help, choose role models, and be a constant student of nutrition and exercise, but that’s just part of maintaining any structure worth saving.
I returned to the laundromat yesterday to finish washing bedding. I remembered everything I learned and brought what I’d forgotten before. A man walked in with a laundry bag and a $10 bill. He inserted the bill into the change machine.
“It doesn’t work,” I said. “But there’s a bank just down the street that will give you quarters. Oh, and that washer right there? Yeah, it’s the best.”
No matter where we are in our weight journey, we learn and we pass along what we’ve learned. I don’t believe anyone can succeed alone, so I hope you’re asking your questions, seeking out role models, finding the best path for you. Moving’s rough, no doubt, but living in the space that is a comfortable body is worth unpacking every last box.