Weight loss Regime Survival Tip #22: Pretty Things

My writing desk with my newly budded orchid

When I sat down to write this post, I planned to talk about generic pretty things and how they can be of assistance as you sweat it out, making you feel pretty after you’ve been grubby and sweaty. But the truth is, that I want to talk about one specific pretty thing in particular. I’m not sure if it fully counts as a tip, but perhaps you will find it useful.

When you decide to lose a lot of weight you occasionally need things to keep you motivated.  It is all well and good to think things like ‘strength comes from within’. 

Because it does.

And to add thoughts such as ‘mind over matter’, ‘You can do this’, and ‘pain is only temporary.’

All are true, as are the many other thoughts we use to keep motivated. But sometimes, just sometimes, a little bribery goes a long way.  Now, I’m not talking about the rewards for reaching goals.  I’m talking about just a little something pretty.

Picture this: You spent the morning sweating it out at the gym, your hair a damp bundle that started out neatly on top of your head, but has now shifted precariously sideways making you feel oddly off balance.  Your cheap cotton t-shirt is soaked through and reaching the end of its life span, showing a distinctly grayish tinge around the underarms and neckline despite your best efforts with the bleach.  You increased the weights so your arms feel like overcooked noodles. After your workout, you realized you left your shower products at home and your towel is in the wash.  You also realize you need to pick up milk.

So you leave the gym feeling the thin icky layer of salty sweat on your skin, make a quick dash into the grocery for milk, avoiding the older couple you vaguely recognize, but can’t exactly remember where from and then finally you make it home where you have a wonderful shower and celebrate finally being clean and put on both underwear and outerwear not specifically designed to take a beating as you work towards your fitness goal.

In this case, the something pretty can be a fancy soap, slightly more expensive than usual shampoo, a spritz of the perfume you usually save for special occasions or that one single metallic gold eyeshadow that makes you feel like singing the theme song from the old James Bond movie, at least until you realize the only words you know are the title and have to ad lib the rest to go along with the tune in your head (gold finger, la de da de da de da, it’s the movie with the gold finger, la da, or maybe not, de da la de da, I can’t remember about the gold finger, its been so long so perhaps tonight I’ll rent the gold finger… I’ll stop there, but my brain can literally go on a track like that for hours if I let it just chucking in the two repeating words for continuity.)

I know it sounds silly and frivolous, and it is, but occasionally, silly and frivolous can be useful.

On one particularly rough day, shortly after I started my workout routine, I was feeling awful. I worked my butt off at the gym, and left my toiletries bag on my bed at home along with my freshly laundered towel and clean underwear. I think my bag only had my wallet, car keys, jeans and water bottle in it.  I was ill prepared for the end of my work out. I was also a little freaked out to find that the toilets in my gym’s bathroom were black. I don’t know why a black toilet bowl bothers me.  There is just something about the sight of that shiny black porcelain with the water running over it that really kinda gets to me. I’m sure it is some strange childhood trauma I don’t recall, but it does. 

But that’s not important. It just happened to be the first times I noticed the locker room toilets. Moving on.

I left the gym feeling gross and I had to stop for milk at the grocery.

There I saw a display of orchids. There were a wide variety of them from the regular blues and pinks and purples to the intense rainbow varieties that makes you think Willy Wonka has branched out from chocolates to flowers in order to create some psycho version of date night. In the back of the display I found a white moth orchid.  Its petals were delicately kissed with a blush of pinky purple. It was pretty and gracefully arched, the flowers shivering slightly in the air vent gusting above them.

At the moment, I felt gross and disgusting, certainly not pretty.  As this was the beginning of my foray into the concept known as working out and I was still learning both the machines and my body, I felt as graceful as a water buffalo attempting ballet for the first time.  However like the orchid, I too was shivering in the air pouring down from the vents as my sweat cooled.  So I decided to take the orchid home as my something pretty to remind me that not everything in life is sweat and pain.

Even though it occasionally feels like it.

This is where I confess.

I have a history with orchids.

When I was a child I loved stories of exploration into the wilds. My tastes ran through both fictional and non-fictional sources. I devoured stories of the Silk Road and tales of various conquistadores the same way I went for The Swiss Family Robinson, Indiana Jones and Tarzan. Along the way, I came across stories about people who would later be called the plant hunters, explorers who searched the far reaches of the world to bring home and identify new plant species.

Like many before me, the orchid caught my attention, as did the stories of those who were obsessed with them. Adventurers risking life and limb to secure specimens.  Bribery and coercion of customs officials, clandestine affairs, murder, mayhem and madness. To read of it was utterly fascinating.

I was hooked.

When I moved into my first apartment, I bought an orchid. It died due to what I will call roommate related circumstances. When she thought I wasn’t looking she occasionally poured a little left over beer into the pot because she felt that beer was like water with extra nutrients.  I’m fairly certain this was what caused it’s down turn and probably would have killed it had she not ended up throwing it at her ex-boyfriend.  It missed him and hit the wall but did not survive. Ultimately their relationship didn’t either but I think they broke up and made up three or four more times before calling it quits.  By then, mercifully, she was no longer my roommate.

When I got my first real job, I bought a second orchid.  A cold draft snuck in through a window that didn’t entirely shut that first cold winter and the orchid more or less collapsed on itself and died.

For years I went without buying another orchid, content with other potted plants, mostly herbs for cooking, and contented myself with reading about orchids, the mania they produced in both those who loved them and those who thought they were the very embodiment of evil, and the great lengths and expenses people have been willing to go to for them.

When my love and I moved to Texas we received an orchid as a housewarming gift.  I did my best to keep it alive, but no matter where I put it, the Texas sun found it and the poor plant was roasted alive.  As I often felt that way myself when we lived in Texas, I really couldn’t blame it. I decided I wasn’t going to buy any more orchids.

But then I found this one.  On a day when I needed something pretty.

We were no longer living in Texas and I thought I had a reasonable chance of keeping it alive.  Besides the thought of seeing it on my writing desk made me happy. So home we went.  While before I looked at the history and the social aspects, now I looked at the actual growing aspects of the plant (I know who would have thought THAT would help?)

There was a lot of conflicting information but I tried my best.  And for a while it was fabulous.  No matter how rough my day, looking at the flowers made me smile. It also made me feel a bit like an eccentric eighteenth century billionaire even when I was standing there in sweat stained work out gear, which isn’t a bad thing either.

Then the flowers fell off.

But, the leaves were still green and glossy.  To the internet I went and found that like all plants, they don’t flower all the time. They need to rest and recuperate between flowerings.

The buds actually growing after the first flowers died off and fell like tissue paper to the ground

Apparently the orchid and I had more than shivering in the cold air vents in common as I was learning that I too needed the occasional rest and recuperation periods. I’m sure those who read past posts will agree.

So I kept up with my small once a week watering at the roots with warm water when the plant started to feel dry and hoped for the best.

Guess what?

New flower buds started to appear. I have every confidence that the plant will flower again.

All I had to do was consistently give it what it needed and let it be. I had to trust that its internal processes were working as they should and that this time the plant would survive.

It’s hard not to see the parallel between my past attempts at dieting and my present healthy regime. Which means I started out to buy something pretty, something frivolous and unnecessary just to make me feel better about spending so much time feeling sweaty and nasty and ended up with a bit more than I expected. Beauty may only be skin deep, but sometimes silly is as well. Who knew?

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