Daily Musings

On Buying a Bra

Today I went into a store to buy a bra. This doesn’t sound challenging or an experience that could turn traumatic. Women buy bras every moment of every day, somewhere in the world.

Having moved to Italy two years ago, I had not had the need for a new bra until now (having brought several with me from the US). I’d bought a few online, over the past several years, and found it convenient, but I wanted a new one that I could be sure would fit.

All things wear out, of course, and I’d been on the hunt for a comfortable bra to wear around the house. Having a rather large size in bust measurements, this kind of comfy & stretchy alternative to the kind I wear out in public is a necessity.

So off I went to the local “intimo” shop. My Italian was up to this, I was certain, and sure enough, I easily explained what I needed, and the style was a simple choice. It wasn’t in stock, of course, and had to be ordered - I could come back in a couple days and pick it up.

Va bene, I thought, and of course that’s where it all went sideways.

First the discussion turned to why I didn’t have a breast reduction. Now, granted, I would have had one done in a heartbeat years ago, but in the states, this kind of surgery would be many thousands of dollars - so no dice. Apparently, this is not the case here in Italy, and I was happy to hear it, as I may take an opportunity soon to have a conversation with my Dottoressa on this subject. I offered my thanks for the info, (despite the fact that it seemed a bit intrusive a suggestion) and thought to leave.

The conversation didn’t end, sadly, as most Italians think any transaction should be an hour long affair, so next we moved onto the topic of my weight.

First bit of advice (which every Italian would probably offer), was that I should walk more - In italy, walking is the answer to everything. Well, walking is a bit of a challenge for someone who’s had as many injuries to the skeleton as I have, and who already walks with an obvious limp and a cane.

Once I pointed this out (considering the cane was right inside her shop door), the next suggestion was that I should join a gym with a pool - except the only nearby club with a pool is quite expensive, and well beyond our financial means for membership.

Well, after that, the conversation just had to move onto “taking the fork out of your mouth”.

Bear in mind, she said this to a vegetarian who doesn’t eat big meals, doesn’t drink, and is as active as her body will permit. I already fast intermittently, drink plenty of water, eat mostly rice & vegetables, and avoid meat. Telling me to eat less is a little ridiculous.

You see, this is where the well-intentioned bits of advice just fly off the rails. I know this person wasn’t trying to be unkind. In fact, Italians are endlessly kind - just overeager to tell you how they think you are doing everything wrong.

In the past, unsolicited criticism, advice and general nosiness fell off my back like water from a duck. Today, I could feel tears try to form in my eyes.

Moving to a foreign country, wrangling with indescribable bureaucracy, learning a new culture, leaving all of your friends behind and building new friendships, all of these are really, really, hard to do. So why did this, of all things, ruffle my normal serenity?

Let me tell you about my year.

This year I have learned Italian to a level that I can converse under almost all situations - badly, perhaps - but comprehensibly. I’ve handled all the bureaucracy, and paperwork for myself and my husband, I’ve dealt with multiple crisis, banks and bills, and broken cars. I have designed & built a garden, driven us to Slovenia and back for seeds and plants, started building my apothecary at long last, and have a few clients & patients that rely on me and my medicines.

My very non-non-tech brain figured out how to build a website, and then I designed a sewing room, found and negotiated the purchase of an antique sewing machine, and organised the house bit by bit into something that feels like our home. I’ve given lessons to local children to pass their English exams, and helped friends here and there with projects, and translations and cakes and medicines. I’ve spent days sewing winter curtains for our doorways, and summer sheers to keep out the flies.

I’ve researched and invented a line of medicinal syrups, and a natural lotion using local ingredients, found suppliers here in Italy for missing herbs, gone to festas and fairs to find herb growers, and imported seeds from all over the world for my garden. Driven my husband all across Italy for lectures and conferences, designed a powerpoint presentation with Italian subtitles and didn’t even screw it up.

I injured my spine to the point of a nearly ruptured disk, mostly by thinking I could lift a box of firewood like a 20 year old, and spent months in therapy to resolve the problem and suffered from severe depression all last winter when I was bedridden and in agony.

I’ve pulled muscles moving furniture and fallen down the marble stairs tripping over cats, given myself blisters digging in the garden, headaches from painting walls and plastering stone, and fixed bits and pieces of this ancient house - learning how to do so on the fly. Figured out how to heat the upstairs using a wooden stufa, and froze until I did.

And despite all this madness, I’ve also been teaching myself to paint using pointillism on the windows, teaching myself DLSR photography using YouTube videos, learning how to play the guitar, and writing a book that I hope to publish this year. We have hosted artists, and arranged concerts, we’ve had numerous guests, and visitors. We’ve gone to festas, and thrown dinner parties, and made many, many friends, and not a single enemy.

In August, I navigated the Italian medical system when my husband had a serious health scare, nursed him back to health, changed our diet to align more with my vegetarian leanings, while still giving him some of the foods he craves, and watched the weight fall off of him, and his health improve. I’ve baked, and canned, and pickled a gardens bounty, and dried as many medicinal herbs as I could grow.

And I’ve done all this, while my own weight stubbornly increased. Every joint in my body aches from inflammation that I cannot seem to quell. Turmeric hasn't helped, Yoga hasn’t helped. Even Qui Gong meditation & stretching does not alleviate the tension or the daily unremitting pain.

I discovered that menopause is a bitch, tendonitis is a thing, and turning 50 can have serious consequences when you've got as many miles on your chassis as I have.

So here I sit, and for the first time in my life I have someone telling me I am fat - politely, and kindly - but still telling me I’m fat.

I’ve spent an entire 2 year period dealing with crisis after crisis, and juggling so many balls in the air, that I honestly should be throwing Mark and I a party of celebration.

We did it, we survived this long, and neither of us had a nervous breakdown! Yay!

Instead, I sit here and try to process why I feel so hurt that someone I barely know thinks I am fat. Knowing, of course, that this opinion has no value aside from what I give it - knowing that it is my own opinion that matters, but perhaps this is why I am upset.

I’ve never been so heavy - and I don’t like it. I’ve tried to find a way to be my normal size - or at least what I consider healthy. I eat a good diet, I do as much activity as my body will tolerate, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I should be healthy and less heavy that I am, and yet I am not.

I believe this problem is hormonal in nature, possibly with elements of adrenal fatigue, and I’ve formulated and re-formulated my herbal regimen a dozen times, without success.

I meditate daily. I tried different movement techniques, and for heavens sake, I climb stairs all day long (I counted….on an average day I climb 30 sets of stairs). I may not get in 10k steps every day, but I never get in less than 5k - this house is too big to not walk all the time. Besides, anything more than that and my body rebels anyway.

And then the lesson came to me. It’s easy for us to judge. It is just too simple to assume that a person eats too much, or should exercise more, when there might be far more going on than you could ever know. So I am reminded to be compassionate and kind, and withhold my judgement, as should we all.

I’m an herbalist. I should be able to fix my own body. Given time, I am sure I will fix this.But it hurts to have judgement when I’m struggling to find a solution,

and I just wanted to buy a bra.

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