The Scream - Edvard Munch

The Scream – Edvard Munch


No really (hahaha), No really (hahaha), No really (hahaha)

Tap-tap-tap,  Tap-tap-tap

Woohoo,  Woohoo, Woohoo,  Oe-Oe, Oe-Oe

I am being attacked by sound and no matter how much I tell myself that  “I am the one giving the sounds meaning” or to “breathe and just ignore them” I can’t help but feeling like the man in the painting.

I toil away at my computer in a cubicle within a pod of six cubicles on the sixth floor of a mid-rise in the middle of Los Angeles.  My station is at the corner of the southwest side of the building facing the window so that except for when the afternoon sun streaks directly towards me forcing me to close the shade, I enjoy an unobstructed view of the city.  I begin the day by practicing gratitude.  I am thankful to have a job, my view, my health, my family and for the the love I got from my little boy Gus.  For a few hours every morning I am in a place of peace and euphoria and then the rest of the office shows up.

Across the way, separated by a few black file cabinets sits a nice enough man who drinks coffee from a metal cup that he clinks on his desk all day.  In front of him sits a young girl who tap dances away the day; her feet tap, tap, tapping on the plastic mat under her chair.  AND, next to me is a woman who either has friends with extremely scandalous lives or is easily surprised as far as I can tell by how often she says “no really and then laughs”.  I accept that noise is part of the cubicle world and I am not troubled by most conversations or regular noises just these – they grate on me like nails on a chalkboard.

Having survived work, I drive furiously to the gym where I work out my grief trying to leave it and these petty annoyances behind in a pool of sweat.  That is unless “woohoo” girl shows up like she did last night. Then I am subjected to “woohoo” or “oe-oe” every few minutes for the hour spin class. I spent that hour yesterday fighting the urge to just get up and go, telling myself that “she” should not get to disrupt my workout. The question is, why am I so annoyed by these particular noises? Why did woohoo girl sit next to me in a room full of empty spin bikes? Why am I suddenly so bothered by noise?

The house was empty and dark when I got back from the gym last night and with my husband out of town and the older boys getting home much later I knew I had nothing but time to be alone in the silence.  I thought about what it would have been like if Gus was still around.  The two of us would have been together and while I made dinner, he might have been playing x-box in the living room.  From across the house I would have heard him “woohooing” at his kills on Call of Duty. Then, when I called him for dinner, his scooter would have “clinked” along as he rode it from the living room to the kitchen. While we ate, his feet would have been “tapping” under table as they so often had and we would have gotten into “no really” wars as we told each other about our day. I realized suddenly, why of all the noises in the world these in particular got to me – they all reminded me of Gus.  It is then that I understood what A Course in Miracles meant when it said that “you are never upset for the reason you think” , it was not the noise or the people I was upset at but the loss.

As a sit in my cubicle this morning, the noises have subsided or at least I am not as focused on them today now that I know what they mean. At the very least I don’t have the urge to put my hands on my face and yell “silence!”  At least not yet….

Spinning away.


Here I am waiting for my hour-long spin class.  The class is not normally held outside but that day it was and I am not sure why.  The class is already brutal with us alternating between standing and sitting while pedaling fast or slow to the beat of the music, so having it outside in front of everyone on that particularly hot afternoon was humiliating torture.  Having finished with “the Great Purge” (or rather stopped by my family when they found me dragging the couch out) and with nothing else to do at the “sad” hours (the hours I should still be with Gus) I spin away.

I took up spinning when Gus was in the first grade but not with this kind of rigor (at least four times a week currently). By then, I’d gained a lot (I mean a lot) of weight. It had crept on slowly, almost imperceptibly in a conspiracy with my mirror and aided by my over-self esteem. “I am tall and wear my weight well” – I told myself. The truth was that I was fat.  There were reasons for this – legitimate ones – completely understandable.  First among them, was that my legs really hurt when I exercised. I’d been a basketball player in high school and even then when I was at my thinnest my legs hurt – actually burned – when I ran, walked or even bicycled.  The doctors had no explanation other than suggesting that I drink more water and then later – to lose weight (it is kind of difficult to exercise when your legs seize up). Then there was the stress of having two kids while still in college (architecture school no less) followed by the stress of buying a fixer-upper house. When Gus was born, the older boys were twelve and ten, at the height of their million activities and I had no time. I liked to sleep between working full-time, the kids’ sports activities, fixing the fixer-upper house AND a new baby.  The added “baby weight” settled in nicely – everywhere. Then Gus got sick the first time and I ate nothing but fast food for the entire year he was in treatment. I ballooned into a 287 pound fatty.

By the time Gus was in kindergarten, I no longer thought I could look good.  I just accepted my “curves”. Then little Gus would sit with me when I combed my hair, read to him, watched TV or made dinner for the family and staring into my face say “Mom you are so beautiful”. Then, turning to his brothers who were in high school and never so much as looked at me, added “just look at her face! Isn’t she beautiful?”  One day he added to the “Mom, you are so beautiful”, a “but maybe you could get smaller” with his little hands gesturing that my circumference could shrink. Knowing full well what he meant I responded “Gus. You want me to get shorter?  I can’t. I am tall.”  He’d walked away shaking his head.

There is an odd kind of vanity in sharing that my son thought I was beautiful.  Sort of pathetic. Didn’t her husband think she was beautiful? Didn’t he tell her?  Don’t all kids think their mothers are beautiful?  I suppose so, but until Gus, my other sons had never considered what I looked like – or if they did they’d kept it to themselves.  And while my husband often told me he still found me beautiful, I was fat and therefore I thought he was just being polite or in need of something. Sex? Unconditional love? Trying to get out of trouble?  But Gus already had my devotion and if anyone should have ignored me it was him.  He who had already been through so much should be the last person concerned with my looks or health – he should be singularly focused on himself and his needs.  He was the baby, the one that had been so sick, the one we all doted on.  But Gus was not like that – he was always very aware of others.

I resolved to be the person Gus saw and do exactly what he wanted – “get smaller”.  I eliminated the pain in my legs with NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques – look it up it works) and acupuncture. I started walking and then I discovered spin.  That first day on the bike, rubbed raw you know where, my legs felt rubbery and I could barely make it back down the stairs but I was hooked.  Cycling indoors to music? How can it get any better?  Over the next two years I lost fifty pounds.  But then Gus got sick again and I gained some of it back (almost twenty pounds).

I don’t think anyone would have blamed me if I’d gained all the weight back and then some. I’d lost my precious baby boy. But then one day, as I wondered what more to discard, I remembered Gus sweet face.  The sweet face of the little boy who thought I could be better.  The glowing face of the slightly older boy who’d lost his final battle with cancer but was no quitter.  He’d endured his treatments with a smile, constantly comforting me – “Mom, don’t cry I’m fine”.   So I got back on that bike. I’ve lost the sixty pounds so far – with another thirty to go. Gus’ mom is no quitter either.

Me & Gus just before he got sick the first time.


Me & Gus’ after his first bout with cancer.


Me & Gus – after I discovered spin.


Me and Gus during his second battle.


Me now – sixty pounds lighter.


See Gus – Mommy IS smaller!