Slow Curves and Sharp Turns

I am trying to make myself journal several times a week. I think it is helpful, yet sometimes I feel I have nothing to say, nothing to offer even myself. My head is a dull bulb casting shadows on nothingness. But this morning I have the time and the quiet to sit with myself. I keep thinking I will work more in my connection to myself and thereby my spiritual connection but I’m just not sure what that means. I find that I can create many paradigms to help myself become stronger or healthier, but the mystic seems to come only when it wants to come anymore. Hard as I try I can’t seem to stretch towards it.

There was a time in my life I felt very self aware, very connected to something greater than myself. I’m not sure when that evaporated. A catholic faith was replaced with something less defined, but felt stronger, at least to me. A connection to the spirit that was not encouraged or supported by the formal religion. I have slowly evolved into someone I’m not sure I recognize, which is so cliche it makes me want to puke. But then, these tropes must come from somewhere I guess. Yesterday I ran for the first in a long time, running with intermittent walk breaks. At the end of my run I found myself thanking god, the universe – pick your poison- for my health and the beauty of the day. That is all very normal. But then I found myself pushing to go a little further with my run, just a little. And then I did this totally weird and very unlike me thing, I found myself offering my determination and my suffering to the universe. As though they would want it. How bizarre and how very catholic. But I was desperately serious. Even so, neither the gratitude nor the suffering felt recognized. It was just me and my feet out there alone. This is the wrong path. It was the wrong path yesterday and it continues to be a place not worth exploring today. But somehow here I am.

It all feels like so much noise. I never would have dreamed I could be this exhausted and this sad.

Through all of this I am trying to maintain an outward structure. I keep making dinner, going food shopping, working out and tracking my diet. It feels somehow pointless and at the same time something to cling to. I can make sense of the numbers on the scale and biometrics I pretend are real. The scale was just too cheap to be accurate, but I still follow along religiously the fat – subcutaneous and visceral – as well as all of the other little details my magic scale pretends to know. Really, not much difference between the scale and any other prophet that speaks from a place of ill deserved confidence. Except I feel I have some power over the scale, or at least a way I can show up, affect the outcome. For some reason I woke up thinking about how many people I know dismiss the Islamic faith, deriding the idea that god came to Muhammad in the dessert. I guess in order to be believable it needs a burning bush or a virgin. Of course those two things rarely go together. Irreverent, wrong, no wonder I have no connection. My grandmother would be horrified. I envy people with such deep faith. I am not a non believer, I just don’t think there are so many rules or hoops to jump through. Seriously, why would a higher power need or want to be adored? Such a man made concept. Loved? Probably. Adored? Seems a stretch. There is something so subjugating about adoration. Why would an all powerful being be so insecure that it needed subjugation? It just doesn’t fit. I think it is unhealthy the way we need to deify things. It takes away the mystery and the magic. But then, what do I know?

So I find myself casting around, looking for something to believe in. Something to hold on to. I have the support of. my family, especially my husband, but I feel completely alone. A few days before my father died, before we even knew he was dying, my brother had a dream. He dreamt that my father and two other friends who had already passed were sitting in our old living room with him. They were all together, laughing and drinking a few beers. My father looked much younger but he was carrying himself the way he did at the end of his life. He was frail and stooped over some. My brother asked him why he was acting like that, why he seemed ill. And my father said because he wasn’t all the way there yet. The next day we got word that he would be receiving last rites. My brother said maybe it was just his brain working things out. But I don’t believe that. I feel in my bones that it was my father, reaching out to my brother as he moved on. It isn’t just that I believe that, there is a knowing in me. An unshakable belief.

A Time For Healing

Today, for the past few days really, I have been thinking about becoming. We are always becoming something, moving into the next part of our life, our journey, with varying levels of intention and awareness. Sometimes I feel overly intentional to the point of trying to wrest full control from the universe, but of course the idea of just letting the world be around me is equally disconcerting. The idea of sitting and watching the world go by just isn’t in my being. Maybe that is why mindfulness is so damn difficult for me. I was born an active seeker and doer, to do otherwise is against who I am. However, I have been spiritually bereft for quite some time now, and I know that I need that connection to feel healthy and whole. So where does that healing begin?

In January, January One, actually, I joined Weight Watchers. I needed to lose weight, something I have always arrogantly chosen to do alone. I liked the structure and the plan, because I am at my core a person who loves a plan. What I didn’t realize or count on is how much I liked or needed the connection. Connections are hard for me, painful even. If you have been in any face to face conversation with me you can walk away knowing that I will spend hours dissecting that conversation to see how I showed you what an awful person I am. I have a quick temper, a crude humor and can be self obsessive to the extreme. I suck at small talk, swim only in the deep end of conversations and have no idea how to engage really in any type of polite society. I am the type of person you spend a few minutes with at a party and then move away as quickly as you can. I will have driven you away either by my politics, or my excitement around something (a book, my child, a new way of learning, a sports team -Go Birds.), or my general inability to appear coherent. If there is a wrong thing to say, it comes strolling out of my mouth. So I tend to avoid people as much as possible. It is just easier. Social media allows for pretend connections, thus the connect app in Weight Watchers allows me to sort of connect with a group. It is one place I can go and not worry about politics etc. It is mostly people just sharing recipes, workouts, things I like. But it isn’t real.

Two weeks ago my dad died. The pain from my fingertips to my chest as I type that is almost overwhelming. It feels blasphemous somehow to share it. But since I write this for me and really nobody reads it, I think it is okay. Like all death, we knew it was coming, just not so soon. My dad was a huge presence in my life, and something I didn’t understand, maybe am only really coming to understand is that he was deeply shy. Like me. It just didn’t present in the way that people think shyness presents. Like me. The definition of shyness is a nervousness or timidity in the company of others.This leads you to believe that shy people are somehow mousy or, well, timid. That definition is wrong. Some shy people choose to protect themselves with arrogance and disdain and even humor and strength. We aren’t all out there dying for you to notice us or invite us in. We aren’t afraid, at least not in the way you think. For me, at the heart of my shyness is the fear that I will confirm all the worst things I believe about myself in any given social interaction. This makes any type of real connection hard, maybe impossible. I see that now in my father. Because the closer people are to you, the more you love them, the harder it is. A confirmation of my worst self through the eyes of someone I love deeply is crushing. The obvious solution is to keep distance. Except that is painful too. I have lost all the opportunities to be with someone I love because of my fears. And now I find myself searching for them.

Why?

Because I let the way I think others view me guide and control my life. The voice in my head is rarely my own and when it is, I disregard it. And because I pretend to place value on other things – cleaning, working, anything else- to surround myself with a moat of protection. A swampy, shitty moat. Because trying was too hard and I was afraid. And tired. I am always so damn tired. You would think that deliberately not making connections would be simple, but the truth is being around people is exhausting and hiding is exhausting. There is no place of refuge. But one thing I know is that I don’t want to stay here any longer. Yesterday I turned fifty four and I want to be fully me. I want to know that I am valuable and that I matter. And I want to find my dad and my grandmom, in my self and in my deepest moments of connection. I want to be okay with the darkness in myself, because I earned it and because really my sense of compassion and grace comes from there, not from the light. Connecting to people in joy is easy, it is when we connect with others in their pain, in their fears, in their need for forgiveness and mercy that gives the most solace and love. That comes from our darkness. Our wonderful, mystical, deep darkness. The place where we can’t see and we have to trust and just love. And probably bleed. I want to stop hiding from this deep unknown inside me. I think there is wisdom in this. Gifts in this. This, I believe, is where the healing will begin.

I won’t of course be able to heal from this loss. I won’t be able to turn back time and change the past. I can only try to be here now. To make this better. I started this post thinking I would write about my plan for health, for my physical health for the near future, the next seventeen days actually. And somehow it turned into this. But I think I found something here that I needed to see, maybe needed to hear. Maybe if someone else ever reads this, they will find something here for them as well.

Getting Honest with Myself

It is already March. By now I thought I would be sporting my new body casually around the house. The great moment when I go outside and people who haven’t seen me in a while would be all: “Wow! Look at you!” And I would be very nonchalant as though it was no big deal. As though we all knew that I wouldn’t remain out of shape for long. As though I hadn’t spent the last two months tracking everything that went into my mouth and sweating out a bucket of water every morning on my bike. As though the other carcass I’ve been dragging around was just an anomaly. A five year anomaly. Well really a thirty year anomaly with brief glimpses of an alternate version of myself breaking through from time to time, with less and less frequency and requiring more and more effort.

But I am still me. I have lost about sixteen pounds and two inches around my waste, but I’m not the goddess I thought I would be. If anything, I am finding less and less goddess and much more crone. On a good day, I say I’m okay with that. I’m fine with the wheel of time moving, I’ve had my day of youth and am trying to embrace my years of wisdom. On an average day, I am not okay with it and I’m working hard with smoke and mirrors in the form of creams and water to delay the aging process. On a bad day I look at my fingers and think, “Really? Hands can wrinkle? WTF?” There are not enough creams, hair dye, water or collagen in the world to stop the aging, the movement of time forward and the reshifting of my skin on my bones. It’s as though my skin just doesn’t remember how to be anymore, or it is just tired. But, I’m only fifty three so I’m hoping that my skin at least can find a comfortable place to lay on my body and not just give up entirely.

I am a solution driven person. Oh, I can wallow with the best of them. I enjoy a good self pity party when I get frustrated or sad. But it is too boring of a state to live in, and I hate whining in general, so I can’t have it be my inner voice for a long period of time. Give me the nasty, mean me any day of the week over that. However, since menopause my go to solutions set off another host of problems. Take drinking water for example. Time tested way to get and stay healthy, not to mention boost weight loss and is great for your skin. And if you are me, leads you to spending quite a good amount of time peeing, all day and night every day and night. So, I do continue to drink water and I am up every two hours at night. I continue to drink water and constantly find myself cutting walks short so that I can get home. I should probably see someone, and I will when life is less crazy. Or coloring my hair, that can be a self confidence booster. Although for some reason I am still shocked by how much gray is actually on my head. Anyway, sometime around menopause my hair started to thin in certain places. At first I thought it was due to one drunken night, some wine and some tweezers. But as it appears to be happening to other people around my age, and that happened at least two years ago, I am left with the conclusion that it is in fact a natural part of aging. Add the gray hair and a very pale scalp and those areas that are thin can look like bald spots. Not super large, not a lot , but that doesn’t matter to me. So color right? It helps alleviate the translucent effect that my hairdresser talked about and it covers the gray. Except it sometimes leave the impression of dyed scalp instead. I am a fifty three year old woman with a comb over.

If I am honest with myself, I know that these and other experiences are only going to progress. My hair is not going to stop being gray, although I am told it probably won’t keep thinning. My skin is not going to snap back into a twenty or hey even forty year old form. My bladder, well, that is something I just can’t think about right now. Maybe, out of everything that can be helped. So what? So do I allow myself to become, to be thought of as less of a person because I am not the magazine cover? Because my body has the audacity to age? Although, that is the loud message from society that we are given, that I have absorbed so thoroughly. I can easily see you as lovely and important, as a person in your own right regardless of the shape and size. But for me, my own self image, my body screams lazy and failure. An outward exclamation mark of the person I am. A sign post listing my litany of failures as a human. For years I have lived with the idea that I don’t deserve certain aspects of life, of joy because of the way I look. I have held off doing things, trying new things and even saying things because I felt I didn’t have the right to it. And, because this is about honesty, I have to wonder if I have dismissed another’s perspective, idea or even pain because of how they look.

So dig, dig deeper into why this is. I know that there are plenty of messages from media, from the world in general to reinforce this. But other people seem to get past it. Why is there this need to constantly work on the way the package looks, not the health, but the appearance? Yes, eating well and exercising are important to health. But if I am honest with myself it isn’t about that. That is a side benny. So is it because I believe that who I am, the parts that can’t be summed up in skin, hair, nails and weight is so deeply flawed that it needs a perfect host? Or is it because that I don’t know how to be perfect inside, that I see myself with such deep imperfections, damaged from the start really, that working on the outside is a diversion. Some measurable way to feel better about the person inside I could never fix.

In the beginning of the year, my New Year’s resolution was to accept myself, to stop fixing myself because I was tired of seeing myself as broken. I don’t think it is that easy. So, there it is. Well, that’s enough wallowing for this week. This whining is getting on my nerves.

New Year’s State of Mind

I love New Year’s. The chance to start over, clean slate, yaddi yaddi. And, as with most things in my life, I set a list of impossible goals. A long list of all the ways I am going to fix me. As I wrote before, I am tired of this mentality. I want to continue to grow, I don’t need to be fixed. However, old habits are hard to break. I like lists and goals, they give me structure and stability. So I am working on creating healthy goals that have true intention behind them, instead of just being reactionary. Because I don’t just want to grow. I want to enjoy myself and my life. I want to live now, not when I become the perfect person. So here is what has been playing across my mind over the last few weeks.

Start Where I Am Seems pretty obvious but I constantly have to remind myself to be okay with where I am. I can’t start where I want to be, or where I think I should be. I can only be here right now. Here is a sum of all my experiences and my choices. So, if I am disappointed in myself for my weight or my lack of stamina, I also need to recognize the joy I experienced baking the cakes and eating them with my family. The times I chose to stay home and write, or spend time with my children and my husband instead of rushing out the door to exercise. This is my life, and it doesn’t always or even often compartmentalize. There is a long list of never ending chores and short time to be with my family and those I love. I’m here because of the decisions I made. But that means my future self will also be based on my choices. That’s a powerful thought. I can make different choices and change my starting point. Every day.

Control My Story This is something that I struggle with all the time. I allow others to define me and then I tend to stay in that box. It’s silly really, but also damaging. I can’t control what people say or do, or even how they choose to perceive me. So many times I don’t do things because I am worried about what people will think. Even joining Weight Watchers had me self conscious. Trying to live up to an idealized version of myself while also not allowing myself to grow out of the way I think others see me is so limiting and definitely unhealthy. It makes me sad and angry. I don’t want to walk around sad and angry all the time. Too often I have heard people tell my story and I don’t even recognize myself in it. I can’t control that. I understand that now. And even though I can’t control what others choose to believe about me, or the way they choose to portray me, I can control me. I know who I am. I know what I am about. I just have to continue to live it. Yes, growing and trying all the time and yes being happy with who I am. I like me. I think I’m funny as hell.

Look Forward, Reach Back I am really bad at accepting any type of help for anything. I see it as a weakness. That’s just foolish. I need help. Everyone does. So whether it is showing up for a Weight Watchers workshop or just asking for someone to help around the house I am determined to self advocate. It is okay if I don’t do it all. Not only should I not have to, but it really is impossible. And I can also help others. I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, but I do want to remember that it doesn’t have to be grand. I can add joy to people’s life whether it is through a kind word, or some action. I want to do something for someone else every single day. I am only setting this goal now, as I think of it. But I think it is a good goal.

Connect This is something I am notoriously horrible at doing. I do not form deep connections with people. I pull back and hide myself away. Some of this is because I am protecting myself, because I just don’t see myself as likable. The more connections I make, the more chance that feeling has to be validated. But then, maybe it also has the chance to be disproven. Not everyone is going to like me. I have to live with that. But if I am controlling my own story, at least for myself, then I might be able to do this. One thing I noticed is that when I do connect with others, I feel so much better. It is just a conversation, but it makes me feel somehow more human. Everyone needs to be seen.

So there it is. These are my resolutions that I am hoping to keep. In some ways I know that they are not great goals in that they will be hard to measure and put together some sort of action plan. Right now, to me they seem more important than lose thirty pounds or take a class. I think if I can get these down, the other stuff will follow.

My Story, My Choices, My Narrative

This year has been like no other for everyone. I have been teaching from home which in some ways I love. I love the teaching part, the connection with the students and the ability to see the whole child and their trajectory. I love being able to pop downstairs and start dinner and not have to be out the door so early. I love being home. I am a homebody. I love catching glimpses of my daughter as she works at her desk, or just listening to her teachers, who are amazing.

And, of course there are things I find challenging. Sitting for so long, has helped to increase my weight by a solid twenty pounds, but honestly, I was already on that path. This just added gas. I hate teaching online, because I can’t just pivot or fully implement many ideas. There are things I can do that I couldn’t do in the class, but overall, I would prefer to be in person. I think most kids feel that way as well. Even though I know in person classes are also struggling with challenges, I still wish I was there. But then, maybe they wish they were here. And I miss so much the time with my daughter as we drove to and from school. It seems we see each other less now that we are both home.

I have come to believe that we are exactly where we are supposed to be at any given moment. Sometimes we roll through life on autopilot and just aren’t aware. But I think most people feel the pull of the present. It’s just for me there are so many layers and reasons to not listen and be aware. So many things to hide behind, like the mundane needs of everyday life: cleaning the kitchen, making dinner, paying bills, laundry, etc., etc. And this is painted over with my view of myself and often the way I think other people see me. I say think, because in my greatest moments of clarity I think most people are just thinking about themselves. I have found that the voices in my head that hold me back I attribute to others but they are my thoughts of my own self worth. Mostly. Sometimes I have allowed people to take up real space in my head.

So what does all this mean? Ever on the journey and mindful of my age -always evermore aware of that- I find myself once again in the position of January, wanting to be something that I am not right now. Wanting to be better. For me this often starts with the super artificial and shallow, my weight. The numbers that continue to define me. It is a beast I may never tame. However, how much of my life have I lost or put on hold because I felt that the scale declared that I did not deserve it? In my darkest thoughts, my weight is always proof of my failures but it is not what brings me to such sadness. That is always my belief that I am innately unlikable, unlovable. That I really don’t matter. Believing this, I have morphed into whatever I think people perceive me to be so that I fit and I belong. But really, I feel as thought I fit and belong nowhere. But there is something, a continuous push inside me that just won’t let me fall. That won’t let me cross the line and completely submerge myself into this belief that I carry. And I can lay out multiple examples that support my belief. But that is a road that I no longer want to go down. The thing is, and of course it is the obvious, all of those examples begin and end with the way others think of me. The value I think they give me. And then I take it as my own. This is where that stops. Maybe I will never be the most popular or well loved. But I want to become the most popular and well loved to myself. I hate the cliches, even if they are true, that others won’t love you if you don’t love yourself. Woo fucking hoo. Thanks for that, because when you feel innately worthless that doesn’t really give you much to go on.

So I have been doing this really (okay I wrote dumb, but I deleted it) let’s say out of character thing. I have been cracking jokes to myself and laughing. Out loud. And then I say something like, “Ha! I crack myself up!!!” Okay, it isn’t I love you, but it isn’t hey you’re an asshole either. And, I bought myself a spin bike. We have a love hate relationship, and this post may go longer in the effort to avoid it for another few minutes. Doing this is huge, because it means I wanted it and got it for me. I am hoping other people use it, but I didn’t let that be the deciding factor. And, as long as I was spending money, I joined Weight Watchers. I never wanted to do this before. I thought that if I couldn’t do it on my own that it was further proof that I was damaged. And, well putting myself out there in yet another social setting where I anxiously await the moment for everyone to realize that I am a big old asshole, well that just isn’t any fun.

And I am taking back my narrative. For too long I have done or not done things because that is what I am supposed to be doing. This is who people think I am. The fact that anyone would ever feel entitled to tell someone else their own story is really less a reflection me and more on their own issues. Joining WW is part of this. I’m not the type of person to join anything. Well, maybe I will be. I’m not really sure yet. We’ll see how it goes. And I am going to fully show up as myself every day. That is my commitment to me. I’m not really sure what that means, which I know makes it harder to do, but I’ll figure it out. It will probably constantly change. Here is what I know. I know that I am funny, most of the time. I know that I am working on shedding the parts of myself that either no longer fit or never fit.

I waited fifty three years for someone to show up and make me worthwhile. And nobody did. Not even me. But today I am working on showing up for myself. My life. My choices. My narrative.

Okay, Michelle, let’s begin.

You Can’t Out Exercise A Bad Diet

So, yeah, I’ve been working on the Betty Rocker Ninety Day. And for the most part I have been completely true to the exercise program. I have changed some of the days around on the calendar, but I get in four hard workouts (for me) and mostly my yoga. Like everyone else I’ve been struggling with the new normal. Like a lot of people, I am worried about keeping my family safe and our financial future.

I think the biggest impact it had on my everyday health, besides stress was I really let my eating plan just go. In the beginning it was because we never knew what we were going to be able to get in terms of food. A lot more pasta crept into my life. I was eating more bread, often because I just didn’t know what else to eat. What food was safe? What food could we get? And, in the beginning, I baked all the time. Several times a week at least. I’m a freaking awesome baker, so yeah, I ate it. I would just wake up, scour the Internet for recipes and then poof! instant comfort food and inches for my belly.

That is where I can see my bad diet. My arms look pretty good, and my legs are becoming more sculpted. I have gained at least an inch around my middle. I think the rest all went to my face. When I am on Zoom calls I spend quite a bit of time counting my chins. It is a little depressing, because I never realized how vain I was until I had to see my reflection for long periods of time.  So, I have promised myself I will work on my diet. Soon. In the future. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think it is a good thing. Food is becoming a little easier to come by and I am working on eating healthier. I am trying to add a vegetable to every meal and seriously limit my bread. When I was working out hard every day, my formula was protein and a vegetable with every meal, a little fat and some whole grains. I would like to try to go back to this. Two reasons I haven’t are because I haven’t been able to stock the house for this and I don’t always want to.

Lunches are the hardest. I sort of stare into my fridge for awhile. Depending on how hungry I am I can come away with yogurt, nuts and some fruit or some really mayonnaise filled tuna on some bread. This week, I have also been sleeping better so eating healthier feels easier. When I don’t sleep for long periods, that is one of the first things I let go of.  I am very good at enabling myself when I feel sad or like a two year old. I only have two settings when it comes to my self talk. I am either “Aww, poor baby. Here just eat this yummy warm apple cobbler and curl up on the couch.” or “What the ever loving FUCK! Get up off your ass and quit being such a baby! If you would just DO something you would be fine.” Yeah, it’s a definite ward in my head.  But, I’m used to it. I work towards balance, and sometimes I achieve it but never for long periods of time.

Sometimes I get tired of working towards things. Especially lately, when so much is out of my control.  I begin to wonder what the point is. I am scared a lot. Maybe spending too much time in my apple cobbler setting. Days blend together and activities have been harder. I realize I spend much more time sitting. Not just because that is how teach and prepare now, but also because I spend waaaaaay too much time reading the news. Just when I think I can get a handle on something and keep going, some other disaster I just can’t do a damn thing about creeps in and my fear jacks way up. We have been working on getting a puppy. I can’t help but worry that this could literally kill one of us. It scares the shit out of me. It exhausts me.

But then, I saw someone I love deeply recently. (through Zoom)  She goes to the hospital every day. She is working in the ICU. I knew of course that she was working in the hospital, but I didn’t realize where. But of course she is. She is highly trained, amazing under pressure and just super smart. Of course she is in the thick of it.  And I realized that I am not exhausted. I am scared, I am sad, I am even petulant at times because I hate this.  But I am fine. Yes, this sucks. Yes, this is hard. But it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself.

This is life for now.

I am lucky.

Peeking Under the Hood of Fear

candleWhen I was in first grade I had a teacher that told us we could die at any time. I can’t remember the context but I would guess that it was in relation to not sinning since I was in a Catholic school. This bothered me so I took this information to my older cousin. He was in third grade. I think I expected him to say, only old people die. In first grade I was lucky enough to have no experience with death. The only person I knew who died was Jesus and he woke up in three days so it all worked out okay for him. Death wasn’t a thing for me. Until it was. My cousin did not say only old people die. He told me that was completely true. Not only did I not know when I was going to die, but I could come home from school at any time and find my parents murdered in my living room.  This is my first real memory of being afraid, what I think would now be termed anxiety.  This began years of fear of going to bed, I needed to keep an eye on my parents. I was sure that if I let them out of my sight they would die. I vividly remember my mother trying to reassure me as I sat crying in the kitchen. She just didn’t understand. There were nightmares, weeks and weeks of unrelenting nightmares. Not being able to save my parents or my siblings. Once I dreamt my sister stepped in a puddle and disappeared. Once I dreamt my younger brother was carried off while I was trapped in a phone booth. To this day I can hear him calling to me to help him.

But it wasn’t just that. This fear had a child, fear of the fear. I never knew when it would take hold. I was afraid of not just death, but the fear of death. So when I was working in my phonics book and finding rhyming words for read, I would ppicmonkey-1ut my hand over that box in the page in an effort to escape the word it invoked in my mind. I was terrified to go to sleep or be left alone at night. As my siblings slept in the room we shared, I would lay awake pretending I wasn’t afraid. Ashamed that I was. 

Eventually, I outgrew this, sort of. I still have this almost superstitious need to worry, as though the act of my worrying will prevent bad things from happening. I also have some pretty deep anxiety around driving on highways. This is new in the last few years or so. When I first learned to drive, I wasn’t afraid to drive anywhere. Over the last few years, small worry has bloomed to full on fear and has made my world smaller. I spend a lot of time on google maps finding alternate routes. Recently, I have surfaced this shame because there was no way to hide it. Once my daughter’s friends moved out of state, far but within driving distance, I had to be much more open about it. So what does that look like? Once about five years ago when coming home from Pittsburgh my husband asked me to take over the driving. I was a little nervous but I did it. And everything was fine for about the first hour or so. And then suddenly it wasn’t. Suddenly, I felt panic. I had this fixation on monitoring the speed of the car. It was like a forgot how to do it. My grip on the steering wheel tightened and I was one hundred percent positive I was going to crash and kill my family. I asked my husband to turn the radio off because I thought it was distracting. I stopped participating in the conversation in the car. I’m sure my husband was scared. I was terrified. We made our exit and once off the highway I was able to relax. Since then, I vacillate between needing to get over this fear and feeling as though I am a menace on a highway.

The child of my fear has also grown up. It has developed into a distrust of my own opinions. Is it really not okay to do that, is that really dangerous or is that just my anxiety? What’s the right call here? Should I take my daughter to the doctor? Maybe she is beginning to get strep and untreated strep can attack the heart. Maybe I am over reacting. I have to say, when it comes to my children, I tend to err on over reaction which is not really easier. I live in a world where I wonder if people will dismiss me because of my fear, my previous wrong calls. Maybe I am somebody to not take seriously because you know I am always over the top. And then, maybe they won’t take me seriously at a time when I am right. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Only I am not looking for attention, I am simply desperately trying to think clearly and not allow this to harm the people I love.  Which leads to a sort of social anxiety. I find social situations mostly uncomfortable unless I am drinking. But not all the time. Sometimes, I can wrestle this down for awhile. But normally, if you and I have had any interaction you can believe that at some point I will examine every aspect of that interaction, tone of voice, body language, words in search of what? I have no idea. Probably the proof that I am annoying.

Enter Covid-19. For people like me who are constantly struggling to stay out of a state of fear, this is the worst possible scenario. Everybody is worried, or scared. The problem with people like me is we have little trust in our own judgement right now. I am not sure if I am overreacting or just dong the sensible thing. This is why I push back pretty hard on people saying it is no big deal. Of course it is a big deal. You don’t close state’s worth of school districts for no big deal. I feel as though I am living in the beginning chapters of The Stand by Stephen King. The almost bizarreness of the radio in the background, proclaiming all is normal when the world is falling apart outside my door. Except it isn’t. Everything is the same. Everything is different. More than anything I want to be in one of my over the top moments. But it is harder and harder to believe that now.

So, this is where I am. Everytime I feel as though one of us is in a space that might put us in danger of the virus, I start the clock. Tomorrow marks fourteen days since we’ve been to the Flower Show, but only seven since my daughter has been to New York. Tomorrow marks day one of my son coming home from school. But then, my husband is going to work every day. So, where do I start the clock? For a person who has anxiety, this lack of knowing is terrifying. If you are lucky enough to be one of those people who find this as no big deal, or perhaps even a way to get caught up on your at home projects that’s great. I’m really happy for you. Know that you live in privilege right now, not just because you aren’t afraid but because you don’t have to worry about finances, health care, eating, etc. You don’t have to feel guilty, just don’t belittle the people who are really afraid. Whether we really need to be or not. Trust me, I would much rather not live in this state of constant fear and shame.

Working Out in Weird Times

wordcloudTomorrow we put my son on a bus and he goes back to school. My daughter comes home from visiting one of her best friends and our life goes back to normal. Well, as normal as it can be these days.  I can definitely catastrophize events, so this coronavirus has embedded a stone of fear in my belly. I move pretty freely between we will all be fine and then wondering if we, or at least some people I care deeply about won’t.

I think as a person you get so used to being in the young category that when you aren’t it is a bit abrupt. You keep redefining the definition of young. Few twenty year olds really think of forty as young, but all forty five year olds do. The benchmark of age is forever flexible. Until it isn’t. Until you see something like the coronavirus and you realize how close to the category of risk you are. I nearly fell over in the early stages of this event. I read an article that said the people who were most at risk were fifty and above.  And I was outraged. Because the last time something like this came around (H1N1?) I was comfortably in the “safe” category. I was in the sympathy zone, worried about how this was going to affect those other people. Now I am the other people? The numbers have since been readjusted. So for another dozer years at least, I can lean on the cushion of youth. At least for this one. It’s actually kind of funny because I was insulted. Are you calling me old, Coronavirus?

So, my age has been more on my mind as I work out in the mornings. This week there has been this one move where you start at standing go down to the floor and roll up on your back, almost as though you are going to do a backwards somersault. Remember those? And then you rock forward and stand back up. She says we are ending with something fun. Or have fun with it or something like that. Well, here’s a fun fact, it’s practically impossible for me to get up without steading myself on something, or getting a little help. When the hell did that happen? When did getting up off the floor become part of a workout? Seriously? So she’s busy saying, “Push through the heels.” And I’m squatting with by butt hovering above the ground a little, flailing my arms in front of me as I try to push up. Normally I wind up sort of pushing off the floor with one hand, sometimes I hold onto the bed. Sometimes I curse her out a little bit, because it makes me laugh to do so. I am my own biggest fan of my own jokes, so it keeps me smiling. And she does so often say to smile.

And then there is another move called downward dog flow. You start in plank, then push back to downward dog and then drop your knees to the floor, use your legs to push back up to plank, back to downward dog, etc. I actually like this move, but only after I cut the drop  your knees to the floor business. When I push up my knees sound like they are trying out for a rice krispies cereal commercial. They don’t hurt, and I really don’t know if it’s bad for me, but I hear them complaining so I adjust. If I’m honest, I think my knees have been noisy for years. And it’s not like they got louder. I think part of it is that I don’t feel as invincible. And so now I’m finally doing what I should have been doing for years, being more careful with them. Take notes, youngsters.

I am three weeks into the program and I can’t say I’ve noticed a lot of change in me. I have been taking the pictures and no you will never see them. But, that is another way that I am rethinking things. I know I am getting stronger. And I know that working out and eating better will help to keep me healthy. This is something that is true for everyone regardless of age. I could probably be eating healthier but I am making small adjustments. (Read, my consumption of cheese and wine have remained steady over the weekend.) Right now I am proud that I have been sticking to this program.Maybe next week I’ll say, and I’m ready to be wine free for awhile.

Nah. No need to be ridiculous.

 

 

More than the Body

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 9.05.24 AMSaturday mornings are some of my favorite times. The early morning hours when I own the house, the quiet, the coffee and the day stretched out. All things are possible. It’s the time during the hectic week that I can actually think. Sometimes this means writing, sometimes this means reading the news and sometimes this means staring out the window, watching the sun come up. I always feel late if I wake up and the sun is already in the sky. I love the gray of the early morning. I love to set my intentions, breath for a moment, light a candle. It is in these moments that I try to have no expectations for myself. I owe nothing to anyone This is a short, short moment. Because all too soon either I will begin to create the unrealistic to do list or someone in my family will unexpectedly wake early. And then the moment slips away. I love Sunday mornings as well, but there is more urgency to move and accomplish when you have work the next day then when you have the abundance of time.

One of the places my mind has lived in these moments is beyond the challenges I have with my weight and my body image.  Last week while I was writing I had the realization of how I can’t possibly love anyone fully and without criticism if I first don’t allow that for myself. If you know me at all, you know that this is not the sort of thought process I normally engage in. I was raised with the idea that you don’t let too many things bring you down, you don’t let life beat you up and if it does, well suck it up it happens to everyone. Quit your whining and move on. I believe in that. Sort of. I have a very low frustration level for myself and others when they refuse to work at their challenges. There is a slim line between venting and wallowing and I have no patience for wallowing. Not that I don’t engage in it from time to time, but then I need to smack myself in the back of the head (figuratively, of course) and work it out. I believe in finding solutions, making plans and then actually following through.

So, when I realized that I continue to circle back to what I am terming depression with some anger issues now, but really, I’m not a professional, I couldn’t just sit in a funk. Over the years I have reached out to professionals, but for me never found the right fit. The last time, after a few weeks I felt a little disgusted with myself and the whole process so after a couple of months I ended it. Why did it take me a couple of months? I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But that is another whole issue. I have tried SAM-e to some benefit. This is an herbal supplement and for about a year I really did feel as though it was working. It gave me a pause, that’s all. It just gave me that half a second I needed to question the thought, or reign in the emotion. But then, I decided that I didn’t want to be on it forever and there was a bump when I came off. I was definitely more irritable and that is putting it mildly.  So, bye bye SAM-e.

Recently I have been reading and watching lectures on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. I have known about this or course, but never really learned how it worked or the science behind it. In a nutshell, your thoughts (cognitions) affect your emotions affect your actions (behaviors). This is a cyclical process not really linear. If you engage in therapy, the therapist may have you capture your thoughts in a journal or within a graphic organizer while correlating these thoughts to actions and emotions. I am doing a very bad job of explaining this. But in essence, if you can reframe or change your thoughts, or reframe or change your behaviors there is a domino effect on the other two. One of the lectures around positive psychology spoke of actively searching for the good in your life. Apparently, we are actually predisposed to seek and hold onto the bad in our life.  There is a theory that at some point in our evolution this helped us survive. So if you feel, like me, that your are constantly seeing things from a negative viewpoint and have to actively reframe them cut yourself a break. Maybe we are just excellent survivors To counteract this, we need to intentionally focus on what is good in our life. One way is a gratitude journal. I have tried gratitude, maybe a little half heartedly several times but found it to be a very surface activity. Listing what I am grateful for, leaves me in a bind of making sure I count everyone in, lest their feelings get hurt. Yes, I know it makes no sense but that’s how I’m wired. What if I die and they come across a journal and suddenly realize I forgot to list their name? Geez! The pressure! And then I watched a lecture on positive psychology and realized that it wasn’t really a list. Well, I guess it could be, but what he was doing with his patient was having her find one instance in her day and writing about it in detail. Where were you? Who was there? What was the smell? The sound? The moment? Why was it special? How did you feel? Our moments come at us so fast in the day it is easy to lose the good ones.  Taking time to unpack one really good moment can help us reframe our thoughts, and therefore our emotions and therefore our actions. Another way is to simply write three sentences every night answering these three questions: What moved me? What surprised me? What inspired me?  Full disclosure, I haven’t done either of these things yet, but I am going to try them. Soon. I promise.

However, as I constantly have to remind myself, this is a journey. I’m always going to be a work in progress. Maybe that’s why I jump into so many things with such passion but then they seem to fade away, like my hard core workout program and being vegan. I have always felt a little ashamed about this. As though my passion was only surface and this is evidence that I am a somewhat unreliable person, always moving from one thing to the next. But what if that isn’t true? What if instead of being brief lived passions they are stepping stones? What if my time being vegan served its purpose and opened the doors or paved the way for the next thing? What if instead of saying I get really enthused about something and then lose interest, I say I jump in and allow myself to become filled with all that one thing has to offer and then after saturating myself, I take what is valuable to me and jump to the next one thing? I am not giving up, or losing interest, I am growing. Can I hold onto that?

Maybe that is part of the appeal of the ninety day challenge. It has an end point. It is a beginning and I can reuse it, but I don’t have to. Or I can use it how I want. That’s a hard one for me, because I feel as though if I don’t do it exactly then I am failing. I have to work on that. For now I am working on being over fifty and trying to be okay with what I see in the mirror and who I am in life. Small words that have so many big emotions and thoughts. So I am hoping that small changes in my behaviour and my thoughts help bring big changes in my feelings and self image. For today, I am going to do my workout and try to live in the idea of abundance, gratitude and grace.

And maybe some wine. I mean, it’s Saturday and I’m not a saint.

Rocking It

Screen Shot 2020-02-22 at 9.38.28 AM

After what can only be described as a slow decline in my workouts and my attitude, I am finally trying to work my way back with the Betty Rocker 90 Day.  To do this I have had to come to some hard truths about who I am, where I am and what I can do. The first thing I needed to let go of is what I could do just five years ago. For reference, five years ago I was running seven miles and working out six days a week for about an hour or so every day. I did HIIT and cardio in the form of running and biking. I was out of bed every day by four thirty and then four to get to the gym. My eating was on point and I felt (mostly) amazing. I say mostly because I was eternally sore. In my mind, if I wasn’t constantly pushing myself, always going a little longer or a little farther than I did the day before I was failing. It was a really militant lifestyle and it became the center of my world. If I wasn’t sore I was backsliding.

I like to say when my appendix burst my whole plan blew up but that would be a lie. Even before that I was already losing my will in my workouts. They were less joyful and more of a grind. Having to get to bed to so early made me lose time with my family. Making this the center of my life, meant that other things that I love were pushed out, mostly family & friends. Not that I didn’t spend time with them, but I worked them around my workouts as opposed to the other way around. I began to resent this. So, slowly, I started losing will and grit. It meant that my runs became first slower and then consequently less far. Or I would have to run more time to make up the distance.  I also hit menopause pretty hard. Sleepless nights, intense hot flashes and just rolling emotions will sometimes just wreck my world.  And my IBD began to flare more and more often with more intense episodes. So I would miss workouts, I would feel intensely bad about myself, I would refocus and create an unattainable plan, which I would fail to complete, which would cause me to feel bad about myself. During all of this I was going through stretches where I would get little to no real sleep. I would get  three or four hours of broken sleep for four or five nights in a row. During the day my head would buzz, I felt fragile and by the time the weekend came I wanted to fall to the floor rock and cry.  I could actually picture myself doing that.

Eventually this lead me to the only place it could, an unhealthy life in all aspects: mind, body and spirit. There were of course other contributors to this lowpoint, my son going off to college, challenging experiences for my daughter, my own natural wonderings of who I am and what I am doing with my life. Pretty much common everyday stressors that I was struggling with and berating myself for the struggle. This is where I was when a friend at work shared that she was doing this Thirty Day Challenge. Fifteen minutes every day for thirty days and she was raving about it. My first instinct was to scoff at the idea. For someone who use to work out well over fifteen minutes, I didn’t believe that this would work. I was at the time trying another program to help keep me on point and I was finding it a drain and a drudgery which of course in my mind meant it was working.  I was also trying to maintain my running which was continuing to spiral down.  So at first, my skepticism kept me away. But then I watched her commitment to the challenge and then start the ninety day challenge. She posted pics every day she finished one of her workouts and I could see the transformation. At the same time, notices of my own  accomplishments from years ago would pop up in my feed as though to mock me from my past.

Finally, I decided to quietly try the Thirty Day challenge. I say quietly because I couldn’t face publically failing at yet another thing. So I did it without telling anyone. And if I am honest, to the letter, I did fail. I only completed twenty nine workouts and I did not do it in the thirty day period. I got the flu and was out of commission for about seven days. This left me with workouts stacking up in my inbox. But here is what I did right. I kept going I just kept knocking them out and it was hard after missing a week. I noticed my arms were getting more definition and my legs were coming back. I was still trying to fit in short slow runs but I wasn’t beating myself up if I missed them. That was the most important thing I did right. I gave myself some grace.

People talk about loving themselves, but then often go into self flagellation mode as though that is a form of love. It isn’t. Beating yourself up for things that you do or don’t do, the way your body looks or the very unique way you move through the world is not love of yourself or others. On the flip side, liking who you are, being proud of your accomplishments and reveling in the weirdness that is yours alone is not conceited. You really are the one constant in your life and you can not make true deep connections with others unless you make them first with yourself. If you love yourself in a way that you always find yourself wanting or wrong (and let’s face it, that is not love) you can’t possibly love anyone else any other way. So, love freely, openly, fully and, as my friend likes to say, fiercely.

I am now finishing the first week of the ninety day challenge. I am doing the intermediate program. It takes longer than fifteen minutes a day but never more than thirty five, so far and mostly I am done in about twenty to twenty five minutes. I could probably make it faster by working through the exercises without the videos but the videos not only keep me motivated they help me to remember my form. It’s funny that it seems the very thing she is talking about is exactly the reminder I need in the moment. It is hard. But it is doable. I do find myself struggling to complete the third round but I keep pushing forward. I think this is because it is the last round. I have moved my rest day from today to tomorrow, so after this I will be doing my final workout of the week. But that is the only change I made. I am trying to keep to the eating program, but not allowing myself to get shaky from hunger just to stick to a plan. That’s a pretty big leap for me.

I feel pretty good about myself right now. And I am really grateful to my friend, Keisha, for bringing this program into my life and for supporting me through it. Even when I kind of wanted to be invisible.

For me, I am happy with this program. I try never recommend gyms, programs or anything a person has to pay for on this blog. (Ha! Ha! Ha! As though I have swarms of followers to worry about,) I do share what I am trying and how it is working for me If you are in a rut, if you really want to try something to get back in shape or more importantly become healthier, try the Thirty Day Challenge. It is free. It is literally risk free. So I am really excited about this and I am recommending at least try that if you are looking for a plan.

I am hoping to revive this blog the way I have revived my workouts. So, I’ll keep you posted on the Ninety Day.