Carve Me Like a Pumpkin

I am preparing my body for surgery. I don’t yet know when it will happen, but I know that it will; I want it to happen; I am willing to endure quite a lot to make it happen.

On the weekends, I eat the calories I don’t get during the week. For a number of reasons, I don’t eat enough during the week. Enough to get through the day, enough to (usually) get through my workout, but I don’t get three meals. Instead, I make it up on the weekends, piling up all-day breakfasts of eggs and bacon and cheese and veggies. I store up fat and protein, attempt to minimize carbohydrates, wash it all down with water and coffee and fruit juice.

I am preparing my body for surgery. Changing where I get my calories from, and what I do with them, is part of that. A year ago I quit smoking– my doctor outright bribed me to do it– and though I have wanted a cigarette every day since early November 2016, I haven’t had one. (One small exception: I think I went through an entire pack in a few hours the night of my grandfather’s funeral, but most of those probably died in the ashtray. I hope.) When my doctor said she’d start me on hormones that very day if I’d agree to quit, I was already counting how many I had left (hey, they’re not cheap).

I am preparing my body for surgery. Three years of gradually increasing (changing, shifting, refocusing) workouts has already remolded my body. I can see it when I walk past a mirror, in the breadth of my shoulders, in my gait. It isn’t true that I never learned how to walk like a woman; I did, and I can, but it feels too much like a limp. Recovery will take weeks– initial recovery, back to normal daily activity– but the better fed and conditioned I am, the better it will go. I hate cardio with a passion, but since I am negotiating to pay someone to injure my body quite badly, I will do cardio if it increases my ability to take the hit.

The word “incision” gives the impression of something neat and precise, as if the intention of the surgeon and the purpose of the scalpel made the result any tidier. As if that could reduce the physical damage inflicted. That it is for good result, toward healing, does not make it any less damage: I will wake up with a wound the approximate aspect of a sabre cut across my chest. I am going to look like I got into a fight with a toreador. I am, for several days if not weeks after, going to feel like I got into a fight with a toreador. It will, by most estimates, take every bit of a year for the changes to be finished, before I am fully recovered. These are simply facts.

I am preparing my body for surgery. The general experience of having a body, being a consciousness plugged into a bag of meat and bones, seems to be fear of its inevitable frailty. And this is strange because, as those who have endured it can attest, the human body can absorb and recover from a truly staggering amount of damage. This soft body of ours has highly elastic limits. There is a reason we are as prolific and successful a species as we have been: it seems to be that whatever our outsized overdeveloped brains can conceive, our much-maligned but highly adaptable bodies can deliver. As long as the brain doesn’t give out, the body can adapt to an awful lot. I am preparing my body to take a hit; the planning phase– nutrition, exercise– is a way to convince the brain that the body can soak the damage I have coming.

This is going to suck. The worst part, though, will not be the day I go under and wake up a couple pounds lighter with a tear across my chest. It will not be the days immediately following, confined to shuffling about on pain medication. It will be the boring weeks, the long stretch after, when I don’t hurt but I’m still forbidden to break a sweat and I’m not seeing any progress in my recovery. When I start to go stir crazy and imagine I can feel my muscles softening. It will be the slow six months of recovery, when scarring and swelling is all I can see in the mirror. That will happen. I know it’s coming. It isn’t taking the hit that’s the hard part, it’s waiting to get back up, and wondering if you’ll ever be the same again. In my case, it’s a little worse, because I don’t want to be the same after I heal: I will have to wait and see if it worked, if going through this was as worth it as I wanted it to be.

I am preparing my body for surgery, and it is almost there. My brain needs some more time. Anticipating the damage and the aftermath still makes me queasy, but I’ll cope. I want this. I want what it will get me.┬áThe advantage this overfed brain of mine gives me is that I can imagine the future, and if necessary, I can live there. Edit out the intermediary parts even as I live through them. My brain wants more time, and healthcare negotiations being what they are, it will get some whether I like it or not. It may not be a good idea to let it have too much more, though. I will not let myself keep getting in my way.