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Tuesday, 07 July 2015

Laughing and Living Large

By Theresa Joseph Willis

Funnyman Bob Hope said, “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”

That’s how I’ve come to feel about those life-long struggles that seem to challenge us from the cradle to the grave. Here’s one of my adventures from a few years ago.

After working for over 25 years as a grants manager in the medical center, I returned to college to prepare for a semi-retirement career in nonprofit health promotion. One of my final courses was a 12-week community nutrition course that was only offered on campus in the middle of the work day.

The classroom was furnished with old desk/chair combos that do not accommodate plump (okay, fat) people.


Those of us who are living large can attest that we always try to arrive early to scope out the seating arrangements. But I was five minutes late on that first Tuesday and the instructor had already begun speaking.

I wanted to walk down the back row and sit behind everyone so as not to bring attention to myself but the students on that row had used the extra space for their backpacks. I could not avoid rubbing either my breasts or my buttocks against them as I passed so I simply smiled and motioned that I would sit elsewhere.

As another late student entered the room, I took the first empty desk I saw in the middle aisle.

Friends, I could see that my equator (okay, midriff bulge) was not going to fit into that contraption so I sat down quickly and I shocked myself! I smashed my carcass into that chair and then busied myself by taking a pad and pen out of my bag while I caught my breath and hoped that the sweat dripping from my brow did not sting my eyes.

Not looking up, I smiled sickly - turning red, orange and blue in the face - and thought, “Lord, please take me now like Enoch!” It wasn’t my time, thankfully, so I just sat that way, letting the rest of my body hang out into the aisle, while the wooden desk dug into every crevice and soft tissue of my body.

The pain was so intense that my eyes began to water. I tried to concentrate on something else - you know, like the heroes in old western movies did when they simply gritted their teeth, while the town’s “doc” poured some whiskey over their open gunshot wound to dig out a bullet with a fire-sterilized knife.

I noticed that I was probably the most mature (okay, oldest) person in the room and one of only three overweight students in the entire class of 150. I tried to look slimmer and could feel myself slinking down into the seat (surely I was imagining this because my body was absolutely stuck in that chair).

I was grateful that I did not have to look the instructor in the eye, who by then was vigorously preaching about obesity in the U.S. The young lady seated in front of me was wider and taller than I and also hung out into the aisle, such that she completely blocked my view of the professor and vice versa.

As the syllabus review was winding down, I became totally engulfed in an out-of- body experience and my left leg, foot, hip and both buttocks went numb. Then ever so faintly, the instructor announced that the class was a “hybrid” and would meet one day on campus and one day online.

Suddenly my glassy eyes began to re-focus. I could not feel my body below the waist but I knew that I was still alive because I heard someone who sounded like me actually giggle when she said, “...so don’t come to class on Thursday.”

I made an A in that class. When we got around to studying the obesity epidemic, all of those young, slim students who I thought would be judgmental towards me surprisingly shared their own stories about struggling with weight.

The dreaded desk/chair became my weekly weight-loss gauge and it helped me to lose 32 pounds that semester.

Moral of this story: Before you can change unhealthy habits, you have to work on improving the health of your mind. So LAUGH every day and LAUGH heartily. Laugh at yourself and don’t worry that other people may be laughing at you. Who can frown and laugh at the same time, right?

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


A delightful story! Like you, a sense of humor is what gets me through life. Long may you laugh!

You are my hero!

Never knew you were such a good writer! Keep up the good work!

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