>Courtyard-

There’s nothing quite so nice as being able to sit out front of your door enjoying the breeze of a late spring evening. It’s something I missed living in DC. An eight story apartment complex with no balcony isn’t conducive to sitting outside. Here it’s me sitting on my new deck chair with the Minions of Chaos and Destruction rolling around on the concrete and feeling the breeze cross their whiskers.

The apartment complex I live in reminds me of a prison cell block, multiple levels around a central courtyard. What can I say? It’s the criminal justice major in me. It’s an old design, very Spanish in origin. When you spend a little time out on the walkways, you see the brilliance in the design. First off, the long walkways do an amazing job of carrying breezes through the whole complex. The wind swirls around and helps cool the whole area down. Next up, the shade provided by the tiered design and ample trees keep the doors and windows shaded from the heat of day. The central courtyards provide a place for people to gather and interact. Walk out your door and you are instantly part of whatever gathering is going on.

It’s brilliant environmental building, at once taking into account cooling, aesthetics, and community needs. It’s a window back to a point in time where people were part of larger communities. You interacted with your neighbors, rather than just mutter a monosyllable greeting as you pass. Today apartments are designed as self sufficient units, with separated decks and patios. Bonding doesn’t occur on the balcony, it’s carefully scripted at recreation centers. By accident and design we systematically isolate ourselves from the world around us.

Being overweight is another way of isolating from the rest of the world. Each pound adds another layer of protection from the world around you. Over time feelings and emotions that connect you are conditioned away with food. Feel pain, eat something to distract or boost mood. Anger, rage, love, hope, and joy all blur. You learn that there’s something wrong with feeling anything with intensity. Bit by bit you block yourself away from the world, building your own self contained apartment where you only occasionally say a muttered hi to the neighbors as you pass.

Learning how to feel again is scary. At first you don’t know what to make of the intensity of the emotions that you start to let out. Good or bad, you can’t tell the difference. The temptation to go back to status quo is strong. Hang in there. Minute by minute you start to learn that feeling something with intensity isn’t always bad. In fact it can be empowering. As you learn what fear feels like without the barrier of fat and food between you and it, you learn that fear has a purpose. It’s a warning signal. It doesn’t mean you stop moving forward, it just means you take an extra hard look around you to see if there’s a real danger.

You find the strength in feeling anger, acknowledging it, then moving past it. You understand that feeling true love makes the possible pain of loss bearable. You move out of the climate controlled, over processed air conditioned cube you were living in and step out. Out onto the balcony and look over the courtyard, teeming with people living, laughing, and sharing their lives.

Life is to be lived together,