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The Importance Of A Strong Support System

by Erika Nicole Kendall

That “politics of safety” post that I wrote?

That was tough for me. I mean, there’s nothing more foolish than feeling like you don’t even want to leave your house. Turning yourself into a hermit. Alienating yourself. It’s difficult to admit that that’s the kind of choice you’re making for yourself, even when it’s obviously to your own detriment. But, as I’ve written before, I have to acknowledge where I’m struggling in order to adequately solve it and move beyond it.

The hardest part of writing that post actually didn’t involve any writing at all. The hardest part of my post was handing it off to The Mister, and asking him to read it. I felt bad – the post is an accidental indictment of his city and the environment that made him who he was – but I had to trust that he would try to look at it all from my perspective and think about how he could help me become stronger and more comfortable.

A big part of this is the fact that I’m just not comfortable. I’m an Indiana girl in NYC and the city is mad intimidating… I rarely know where I’m going, relying heavily on Google Maps to get most places instead of my intuition (I’m a strong believer in understanding my “never eat shredded wheats,” man… and shoutout to those of you who get that reference.) because I don’t know where anything is, and am generally frustrated by my inability to drive anywhere. (No, I drive…and you can try to drive out here if you want… but you will lose either your sanity – because people can’t drive worth two pink pennies – or simply lose every dollar in your wallet, because parking is insanely expensive.) Driving is a privilege that affords you privacy… and peace. You don’t have to wonder why the hell the only other person in your subway car keeps pacing, like he’s arguing with the voices in his head over whether or not he should stab you, if you’re in your own car, instead.

To put a long story short, The Mister figured it out: if I’m going to develop a sense of comfort, I have to become NYC-savvy. You just… you really can’t get by living like a suburbanite in the most un-suburban environment in the country.

He’s pretty damned committed to making sure I become comfortable, too. I mean, a big part of this is probably the fact that if I don’t become comfy, he’s going to be sentenced to a life of wedded non-bliss smack-dab in the middle of the corn belt, and that’s pretty close to death for a life-long big city fella. I’m just sayin’… I’m sure he has his own motives for being so vigilant, but I’m also certain he just wants me to feel whole in his home state.

I don’t know that I’ve ever blogged about support systems before, and how important they can be to someone starting out a new way of living. Lots of people don’t need them – they’re simply nose to the grindstone, straight for the goal, undeterred… and I think that’s great. I also think that, if a person knows they have difficulty seeing the long term goal because the short term instant gratification is so satisfying, a person should accept that they may be in need of a support system to keep them focused.

When I first started out, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t know about calories, activity, or even vegetables. I didn’t know about cooking, I didn’t know about my body image issues (like, you know they’re there, but contextually you don’t know what they are and how they inhibit your ability to change yourself), or anything about emotional eating. And, most recently, I didn’t know my issues with safety were affecting my willingness to change my body size, and that I need to do what I can to feel more safe. My fiancé, a new addition to my support system, is helping me to parse that out.

I can remember having countless conversations with my sorority sister about food and how her family has always been pretty healthy. We discussed the fact that her family even frowned upon using boxed meals/foods… they were adamant about keeping everything fresh. We talked about how she avoids fast food like the devil because, quite frankly, “if I eat it, I’ma have to wear it… and I’m not trying to have that. It doesn’t taste good enough for all that!” And, before I knew it, I’d learned three things that never dawned on me before, as someone who was morbidly obese: that people do turn down food, instead of just eating everything that comes to them; that it is okay to pride yourself in cooking only fresh meals; and that food, and any pleasures that might come from its consumption, doesn’t have to be top priority.

I can remember having daily conversations with my boy, a former (according to him, you never stop being a Marine, so he’ll probably harass me about the “former”) Marine, about his commitment to his exercise regime. “I spend all day at my desk, I’d rather be at a MMA (mixed martial arts) class than sitting on the couch watching TV. Besides, I like the way I look.” And, I’ve got to be real – even though I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time and spent almost all day watching TV, the part of what he said that resonated with me the most was “I like the way I look.” It wasn’t said with a “shrug,” as if to imply “acceptance,” it was said matter-of-factly. It was said in a way that implied “I wouldn’t have my body any other way.” I couldn’t say that I was able to give off the same vibe in talking about myself. I had accepted my shape, but had never had those same feelings before. It was through him, that I learned that my body image could use some work.

It was also through him that I learned the importance of a real and true commitment. Not a bullsh-t penny-annie commitment where you work out for a few days and then fall all-the-way-off. I’m talking, three-sports-at-a-time-plus-running-so-you’re-active-seven-days-a-week kind of commitment. Freakish commitment. Not only does your body benefit from it appearance-wise, but you push your understanding of what it means to be “sore”…what it means to be “tired.” You realize that your original understanding of “done” gets pushed beyond what you originally planned for. You start feeling like maybe… juuuust maybe… you had the game all messed up. Maybe… juuuuuust maybe… you were a little bit (or a lot) lazier than you thought, and, well, very few people earn their wings (or weight loss) by being lazy.

And my Mom… ohhhh, my Mom. My Mom is courageous. Fierce. She’s also an evil Scorpio, which means that she’s always my biggest cheerleader, in her own special Scorpio way. She’s just… remember when I called my Mom scared on the way to Rockefeller Center, and she referred to me as “the cowardly lion, calling the Wizard for some courage?” From her, I’ve learned (and am still learning) that fear can often a good thing. Whenever I’m afraid to the point where I’m calling her, it means I’m heading off into new waters and need reassurance that I should keep going. It’s so bad, that at this point, even she knows how it goes. She’ll even tell me, “Eventually, you’ll stop calling me when you realize you’re not calling me because I need to talk you down off the plane… you’re calling me because you need me to tell you to jump.”

Now, I have this super-dope dude in my life who is trying to see Brooklyn from an all-new perspective – no longer as a single man, but a family man. With a child and an almost-wife to think of. He’s got his own learning curve to deal with, as well as having me to work with, here.

Fun times.

He’s helping me claim the city for my own, and a big part of that is… well… going out into it. He started by finding the water for me – literally:

The view outside the Fulton St. South Street Seaport

which helped me out a ton because, quite frankly, I miss the freaking beach. Not because I like being naked in the sun, but there’s something peaceful about looking into never-ending sky and sea… with the occasional cruise ship interrupting your view. I just… like the water.

Follow that up with a trek across… none other than… the Brooklyn Bridge (of course he couldn’t take me on the Manhattan Bridge first):

with more… yep, you guessed it… water:

He ain’t slick.

Let’s also talk about the bright idea he had to order some lime and tomatillo tortilla soup – take-out – at 10 at night, and we should walk to go get it. “Oh, come on… it’s not that far! It’s not that big of a deal! We’ll take the dogs.”

Yes… I went, and yes, I lived to complain another day.

There’s also the actual safety component of the post I wrote about, though, that can’t be faded away with some fun foot travels. For that? Actual self-defense training. The unfortunate thing about someone encroaching on your space and disrespecting your boundaries is that, no matter how “scary” you look, if the end goal seems beneficial enough to the perpetrator, they will violate your boundaries. It doesn’t matter where you are, or who you are. None of that changes the fact that you can always fight, and if you fight, you can always try to win.

I’m learning a lot from this. Not only that there are amazing and beautiful places worth exploring in this giant, massive, monster of a city… but that there are places for me, here. That greatly affects my ability to be comfortable. It’s nowhere near as bad as I thought it might be, but should it get bad some day, I can be prepared to fight to win.

My support system is invaluable to not only my weight loss but to my growth as a person. I can’t go on, eating bad food, being lazy, not committing to anything or never leaving my house… always afraid of something. They were always there to give me the extra push I needed in the direction I wanted to go. Each one acted as a mentor to me in the way in which I wanted to go, and those are the only people I even let in on my desire to lose weight, because I looked up to them and admired the parts of them that I wanted to rub off on me. They were willing to yank my head out of my hindquarters when necessary, and cheered me on when I needed it. Everyone needs a support system like that. I’m eternally thankful for mine.

Do you have a support system? What have they done for you lately? (Ooooh yeah!)

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6 comments

Rae May 3, 2012 - 4:59 PM

First off great article. I’m still experiencing the after shock of “politics of safety”. I can relate in more ways than I care to disclose. Crowds, gangs and groups of people give me such an uneasy feeling that it will deter me from doing what I need to do. It’s the awkward insecure feeling that if I look back, probably has more to do with my childhood than anything. That coupled with the way I truly view myself [ah ha moment]. I would rather not go somewhere or not do something than face the anxiety of people I’m not familiar with. So I totally get it!!

A support system can be key because sometimes you need someone to hold their hand out as u reach for that finish line or just to help u jump over the next hurdle. My husband has been that and I’m grateful. But the thing is, I have to come to that moment on my own, but I never refuse his help getting me there. You can be a whole person alone which is extremely admirable, or u can choose to allow your other half to help fill in some of the gaps of your heart along with you. Thank you for holding the mirror up for us all to see ourselves.

Cristy May 4, 2012 - 1:57 AM

I’m a new reader here, and I just wanted to say that you can always ask me if you want recommendations for nice, affordable places to go! New York really is a great city, so I hope you can adjust to it and be happy living here. 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall May 4, 2012 - 7:05 AM

*big hug* Thank you! 🙂

Annette May 4, 2012 - 4:39 PM

I understand I lived with my Aunt for a few years in Brooklyn. Have you made friends with any of the locals. My Aunt was a wealth of information, since I had a car we would go out exploring. Brooklyn is a lot of fun. I went shopping to church I was all over and loved it. Unfortunately, I had to move on I missed those days. She was my hangout buddy, and knew Brooklyn’s best attributes. Suggestion but an intention for a supportive group of hangout buddies that share your health ideals and see what you get.

Politics of safety opened up a can of worm for me. Still dealing with it which is good. I stuffed that down with food long enough, and covered myself to protect myself. It’s still difficult to deal with men (mostly black men) who feel it’s their right to verbally judge you to your face and grade and harass you. But I have learned to move past the fear and ask who are they if they are hanging around. I surprise myself maybe I am just tired of living in fear.

Chasing Joy July 3, 2012 - 3:57 PM

A support system. I need to work on that. I need to let people in a bit more so that they can be there for me.

Diatta December 14, 2013 - 4:34 PM

Wow. I understand as the city can be intimidating but walk with a purpose and be yourself. I love being a support system for someone. My friend left NJ to come here to MD and I am her support system since she left her mom and sis back in Jersey. You will figure it out.

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