A False Sense of Security.

Mr. Stuck and I recently spent some time down at our lake property for a much-needed mini-vacation. We let the days and our imaginations determine our activities: we swam, boated, and fished, and we visited a local small-town festival. We spent time in conversation, watching the fish rise on the lake and spotting the same paddle boarders gliding by each day. And, as usual, we brought way more food and supplies than we actually needed and lugged a lot of it back home.

The simple, amusing observation that we always seem to over pack for our trips sparked an interesting conversation one day. I called us ‘contingency packers’ because we are the king and queen of ‘just in case.’ I’ll bring extra food, just in case someone runs out of hot dog buns or prefers peanuts to Cheetos. I’ll bring soda (that we don’t drink) just in case the kids want some. I’ll add Tylenol, ibuprofen and aspirin to the first aid kit just in case someone has a preference; I’ll bring feminine supplies just in case someone else needs them. I’ll bring extra socks, shirts, and jackets, just in case someone gets wet or cold and has no change of clothes. You get the idea.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared. In fact, it’s great advice. Mr. Stuck, being the former Boy Scout that he is, has a full complement of hand and power tools that he tosses into the truck for such occasions, just in case he has to repair some wiring, fix a flat, or perform some mechanical miracle while we’re away from home. I have always appreciated his foresight and ability in those situations. Granted, he’s been able to pull off amazing things in less-than-ideal circumstances, but he’d much rather have resources available to him when he needs them, and I completely understand. Most of us, I’m sure, would agree.

The problem lies in how to find a happy medium between the essentials and our unforeseen needs and wants. Do I really need to bring 3 bottles of sunscreen just in case I run out? Probably not. Do I need to pack 6 T-shirts, when in reality I will probably only wear 3? No, I don’t. Do I need to bring hot dogs AND brats AND chicken sausages AND cheesy hot links to make everyone happy? No. But I do.

At one point, I thought that if I could make lists and follow them, I could vanquish my over packing tendencies. Unfortunately, my lists, though short at the beginning, grew longer and longer. I kept adding more things. I couldn’t make a clear determination between what I truly needed and what I thought I needed, so I took it all. Having all that stuff available made me feel in control. It gave me a (false) sense of security. Even with my good intentions, the problem just got worse: if some was good, then more was better.

Is this manner of thinking part of the reason I was obese? Probably.

I began to see parallels between having ‘stuff’ and having food. I couldn’t distinguish between real hunger and emotional hunger, so I ate when I didn’t need to, and I always ate more than necessary. Food, like ‘stuff,’ meant comfort and security. Sound familiar? The baggage I take with me on vacation mirrors the weight I carried with me most of my adult life and the disorganized mess in my home. The junk in my house is the junk in my diet is the junk in my suitcase is the junk in my head. The things I did to cope had no effect on what actually happened. In reality I was out of control – way out of control.

I used to joke that my messy desk was the sign of genius; now I know it’s just the sign of my inability to make a decision. I used to think that ‘contingency packing’ showed that I was prepared; now I see that it’s proof of my insecurity. I used to think I was unhappy because I was fat; now I understand that I was fat because I was unhappy. What I’ve found over the past year is that losing weight didn’t ‘fix’ me. In fact, it made me see that I needed more fixing than I realized. My obesity wasn’t the cause of my emotional issues; it was a symptom.

I struggle daily with the baggage in my life, whether it’s the clutter in my car, the piles of unfolded laundry on my couch, the stacks of paper on my desk, or the vestiges of my obesity-wired brain telling me I ‘need’ a cheeseburger. I still can’t discern very well between what I think I need and what I actually do need. I still have terrible impulse control. And I still have trouble ‘letting go’ – of emotions, of habits, of material possessions.

But now I feel an urgency to make a clean sweep. I want to simplify my life and de-clutter my home. I just don’t need all that stuff anymore.



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Aging like a fine wine. ;-)

12 thoughts on “A False Sense of Security.”

  1. Awesome awesome awesome. I do like reading about your emotional discoveries; they cause us all to stop and think and inventory. I am paker-stuffer-collector just-in-caser as well. Oh, to be free from too many choices. Tell me it’s not too late.

    1. Thank you! It’s not too late! I know it will take a lot of focused effort, but I am determined to change this trajectory. I crave a simpler existence. Clean the house, clear the mind.

  2. What an exquisite post, Becky! I can FEEL this. I relate deeply to the insecurity around not being prepared for eventualities that I’ve given myself responsibility for, especially as a mom. Of course I have that pair of foldable scissors in my purse! Of course I have a granola bar for the hungry child or husband. I provide. We did our big sorting and divestment of stuff earlier this year, and it was easier than I thought it would be. We had a goal — in preparation to move to Hawaii with just a 4x4x4 foot pallet — so that helped with the most stubborn memorabilia! Can it fit on the pallet? I recommend this clearing out highly to us 50-somethings with grown children. I love how you’ve made the connections in your life, and how you share them so honestly and articulately. 🙂 Aloha.

    1. Thank you, Christi! I don’t know if I could reduce my footprint to a 4 x 4 x 4 cube of stuff, but even if I can clear out a fraction of what I’ve accumulated, I will be happy. It’s exhausting to look at and think about. I appreciate your encouragement — I hope I can do it as easily as you did. Aloha!

  3. Your post is very pertinent Becky. We’re in the same phase. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate over 20-30 years. I find it difficult to throw things away. I figure there must have been a good reason why I bought this or that and that I’ll probably need whatever it is one of these days – even though the thing may have been sitting untouched for years. For me, the worst thing is paper. I think I flunked the section of time-management training that says you should only handle each piece of paper once. Anyway, good luck with everything and take care. – Kel

    1. Thank you, Kel. It really is amazing, isn’t it? And with my folks and his folks having passed on, there are many boxes from those households that need to be gone through and cleared out. It’s such a daunting task — but so rewarding! I’m with you on the paper thing, too. I have way too much of that! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. Rebecca,

    I loved your blog post you read last nigh so much t that I had to come to you blog to get more of your great writing.

    Thank you so much for reaching inside and sharing yourself with me and others. It is very touching.


    1. Thank you, Theresa! I very much appreciate that you read and left a comment.
      I don’t pretend to have any more insight than anyone else, but I have come to some understanding while on this journey of mine (ours) and if any of it rings true for anyone else, I’m delighted.
      Please feel free to check out the “WLS” category at the top of the page for more of my weight loss posts, or any other posts that might interest you. The blog also has a Facebook page so you can receive notification when I post something new.
      Thanks again, and I’ll see you next month at the meeting!

  5. Perfect timing – this article. “Letting Go” and making a “Clean Sweep” are two things I’m great at postponing. I’m confident you will do well with your goal, Rebecca! (smile)

    1. Thank you, Tommia!
      I procrastinate altogether too much, but I’m taking this one step at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? Thank you for your vote of confidence!

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