tumblingdays: Oversaturated Photo of a flower (Default)
There is little that discourages me more than feeling like my body is failing me. I've learned over the last couple of years that if I am good to my body, it will be good to me. Lots of things are challenging, but every day life stuff works just fine.

This week, I totally haven't felt that way. Now, this is my fault, mostly. I spent last week in Cancun, and while I was very active, I still wasn't up to my usual level. And this week, I forgot to take a day off from working out (until today). So basically I went from lounging and drinking too much for a week to over-exercising (for my fitness level) and oh yeah, still drinking more than usual. Hmmm.

Last night was ballroom dancing. We started at 6:30 and by 8:30, my shoulder, which is arthritic, was in really pain, my feet hurt, and my Iliotibial bands were on fire. Finally, I confessed to my husband that I plan couldn't do any more and needed to call it. In retrospect, two hours straight of ballroom dancing is a LONG time, and he admitted that he was worn out too. I don't think I realized early on how many dances we sat out because we hadn't learned them yet. Last night it was only the Cha-Cha, and two of the instructors pulled us onto the floor for one round of Cha-Chaing.

Afterward, Jim headed out to a concert with some of his guy friends and I did an epsom salt soak and went to sleep.

Today, my shoulder is still on fire. I'm going to have to make another trip to the doctor about the arthritis, and that is NOT my idea of a good time. I hate the reminders that I have a history of not taking very good care of my body. It makes me feel like a total failure as a human being and a hypocrite since it is so important to me now to live as if my mind and my body are all ME.

Tonight I am home, with my feet propped up and my pjs on. Tomorrow, I have my second walking 5K scheduled, but I am trying to take things easy tonight.
tumblingdays: Oversaturated Photo of a flower (intimate)
I had the therapy today. We talked about the concept of living with your emotions.

A friend posted a really interesting blog entry last week about mediating when she is anxious. She discussed her meditative process and anxiety. She described how at first when she meditates while anxious, her anxiety is a dark dense thing that her breath just goes around. For me, this was another reminder of something that I am slowly beginning to learn- that there is a space on the other side of my negative emotions. At their worst, my negative emotions- especially my anxiety- doesn't feel like a dense, dark thing. They feel like a swirling vortex, a black hole that sucks everything down. I am lost somewhere in them and there is no center that holds. Being able to visual my emotions as a solid mass that I can experience and then recognize that there is something beyond them is a profound epiphany.

Add to that the idea from Women Food and God that when we seek to avoid pain (and negative emotions) the pain that we are seeking to avoid is not our present pain, it is something from our past that we found intolerable but ALREADY SURVIVED. Not that there are no negative emotions related to our current lives, but our belief that we need to shut down, to avoid, to medicate away pain comes from a past time when we were, most likely, children. It comes from a time when we could not take care of ourselves.

But I am an adult and I am bigger than my emotions. I am more than my emotions. I do not "control" them in the sense that I tamp them down and force them under the crushing heel of my rational mind, but I do control them in the sense that I acknowledge them and explore them and remember that everything I feel is not all there is to reality.

My therapist is great at gently reminding me that not all feelings are current feelings. Often, a strong emotional reaction to something that should be minor is because I am not dealing with the present, but with some past event. My psyche is an untended garden, and for every surprising perennial there are any number of weeds to be recognized and pulled up.

I've been practicing a kind of "mindfulness" wherein I just sit still and figure out how I feel right now. Frankly, I expected mindfulness to be easy. After all, it just means being present in the moment. But it is a discipline and one that I have not practiced before. My mind is a slippery slope, skittish and not inclined to dwell on the here and now. It is hard work, but my mind feels fuller for it.
tumblingdays: B&W Photo of a little girl hugging an elephant (loving yourself)
I continue reading Women Food and God by Geneen Roth. As I stated earlier, I have not been blogging every chapter because not every chapter has a lot to say. And honestly, the chapters that do have a lot to say [to me], have kept me chewing over them and not talking about them either. I am up to chapter 6. The first six chapters comprise the first part of the book. It's kind of introduction to the approaching our relationship with food from a new perspective. Since I started the Intuitive Eating process as part of treatment for my ED about 20 months ago, I don't really need a hard sell in this regard. Roth is also advocating Intuitive Eating, though she doesn't call it that.

There is a quote from chapter six that captures my feelings about dieting and about this whole process. It's lengthy, but I am going to quote it here and then talk a bit about it.

Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic. Eventually you will destroy all that you love and so you need to be stopped. The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will be become a peaceful, relaxed human being.

I doubt I am alone with struggling with loving discipline for myself and restriction, with treating myself gently and spoiling myself. In my treatment of myself, I see a pattern well established long before I was the person primarily responsible for taking care of me. Often my childhood was a pattern of neglected NEEDS and an over-abundance of WANTS. This is how you "spoil" someone, not by ensuring that they feel safe, loved, protected, and nurtured, but by replacing loving support with sporadic overabundance paired with benign neglect.

So, for years I've done pretty much exactly the same thing to myself. I'd diet or otherwise restrict my eating and then I'd follow that up with a period of overeating. Or, I'd go back to my bulimia - binge and purge.

Now, I am struggling with the kind of structured discipline that comes from loving yourself and wanting the best for yourself. I kept typing here that discipline has never been a part of my life, but it's not true. It's just that before the last couple of years, discipline was about restriction. Treating myself gently is not something I have much experience with. I live my life hard, whether that hardness comes from restriction or from casting off restrictions. I was living as an over-indulged princess or a bereft pauper. I will eat it all or I will eat nothing. I will exercise every day, balls to the wall, or I will sit on my ass. I will sleep a lot or I will not sleep. I would save compulsively, denying myself necessities or spend like a reality TV participant.

And now, I have taken a big step off what seems to me to be a very high cliff. I have to trust myself to be neither the pauper nor the princess. The rules are not black and white. I can take a day off from working out and it's not "falling off the wagon." I can eat a piece of chocolate and it isn't "cheating." I can buy something I like and enjoy it. I want this to be my normal, but often this is still a matter of closing my eyes and making a giant leap of faith. I have to believe that my body is not shirking if I feel like I need a break from my workout routine. I have to believe that a craving is a momentary want that I can choose whether or not to indulge and not a sign of weakness or deprivation. It's hard. It involves a lot of sitting still and listening to that faint, faint voice inside of me. I am not good at sitting still, and I often doubt that voice.

Even with all of that, though, I am happier than I have been in a really long time. I am slowly beginning to trust myself. I am finding that I can live under a yoke of gentle discipline and that I can be responsible for myself. It gratifying. Right now, there are frequent failures, but they are becoming more about a failure in the moment rather than feeling like I AM a failure. The difference is profound.
tumblingdays: (celebrate)
It's been a week of new things...

I already mentioned riding a mechanical bull over the weekend. Well, last night I did some modeling work for a chain clothing store. It is unpaid work, instead they give you a pretty nice discount, and since I shop there anyway, that works pretty well for me. I spent two and a half hours walking around the store, wearing outfits picked out by a stylist and chatting with customers. There was no catwalk and no photography, though we were asked to include walking through the display windows as part of our circuit. All of the women involved were very nice, and we had a wide range of very different looks. The store carries plus-sized clothes, so no woman was smaller than a 14, and we ranged up to (I would guess) a size 24. Some were taller women and I was surprised not to be the shortest, since I am just over 5 feet.

I was flattered to be asked to come in and do it in the first place, and REALLY flattered to be asked to come back and do it again. I like my body, and I do not think that I am unattractive, but I am well aware that I do not fit into society's narrow range of pretty. I am also pretty solidly headed toward middle age. None of these are characteristics that make me think someone would ask me to display my clothes on their body, and especially that they would ask me to come back and do it a second time after I did it once.

But- to my complete surprise- I sold clothes. One woman left with the outfit I had on in hand almost in its entirety. She bought two of the three pieces I was modeling at the time. As I chatted with other women, they told me that they loved the way I looked and asked about fit and also asked my opinion. The best part of the night was talking to a woman who doesn't like her body at all. Her proportions are difficult as she has a curvy bottom and narrow shoulders. I recommended a beautiful skirt, and she balked. I suggested that she just try it on. It looked so good on her, and she actually teared up looking at herself in the mirror. For fun after that she tried on other skirts and got progressively less critical of her body as the night progressed. She left with the first skirt she tried on and thanked me after she checked out for making shopping "fun" for the first time in a long time.

My own experience with the clothes I wore was similar. The stylist picked slim cut pants for almost all of my looks. Like the woman above, I am very curvy in my hips and butt, and I have quite a bit of lower belly fat (unlike the woman above who did not have a lot of belly fat). I was shocked when I put on the first pair of pants to discover that she had chosen form fitting leggings and a suit jacket that did not fall below my butt. I wore it though, and this is the outfit that another woman bought outright. I would not have picked any of the four outfits I modeled. Elements of them yes- only one of them was completely outside of my personal style. I like tailored looks, and this shop pretty much specializes in tailored looks, so that wasn't an issue. I loved the way I looked in them though, and I when I did my own shopping at the end of the night, I came home with two pairs of slim cut pants. One pair, which are brown suede and break all my "rules" for what I wear (slim cut, tapered, need extra care...) I bought almost solely because my husband came by the store to see how things were going and his eyes lit up when he saw my in these pants. How could I not buy them after that?

I thought that another outfit seemed a little young for me- slim cut jeans with a t-shirt and an open longer sweater. It wasn't though. I looked fresh and young, but not like I was trying to hard. I didn't buy the t-shirt, but the other two pieces went home with me.

Overall, it was a really positive experience, and I definitely plan to do it again. After two and half hours of walking around the shop in heels, but feet were KILLING ME. I'm sitting here this morning with them propped up before I get ready for my next adventure.
tumblingdays: Naked Gnome Running Off with a Sharpie. (blogging)
On a site that I frequent, someone posted a picture that said, "May your life be as awesome as you pretend it is on facebook." The quote made me laugh and it also made me think about the way I present myself online. I'm an honest, open person. I've worked hard over the past few years to balance my open-nature with a growing appreciation of holding back a few things for myself. Since getting married, I've also had to consider my husband's personality. He is more closed off than I am.

It's interesting (and probably a little egotistical) to pull up my facebook, pinterest, twitter, etc. pages and see the way it looks to someone who isn't me. If I were a stranger or an old friend who only knew me from online what would I think of me? Would their impressions be accurate? Would they be positive?

So I did a quick round-up and came up with some adjectives based on my own pages:

fun, nerdy, cluttered, active, sentimental, fashion-oriented...

Not bad. Maybe not the first five adjectives I'd use to describe myself in RL, but still okay. Except for the sentimental one, they are certainly things most people can figure out about me in a very short conversation.

I was a little surprised by how much of my sentimentality shows up in my on-line presence. It's a part of me that embarrasses me more than a little bit and a part that I would have adamantly died existed before the past year or two of therapy. I don't much like to admit how easily moved I am by quotes, music, a good book, a well-crafted story. I tend to avoid movies that tug the heartstrings because they leave me feeling manipulated. Vulnerability doesn't sit well with me.

Still, I have slowly been learning to appreciate the fact that it is better to feel and be vulnerable than to not feel. It's a cliche, I know, but also a lesson that was a long time coming for me.
tumblingdays: (work)
I took drama classes in high school. I can hear you joking now, "What teenager needs classes in drama?" But that's what the school called our theatre classes, and not without reason. I started my sophomore year, after a successful summer of re-inventing myself. I thought I would love being on stage- the attention, the acknowledgment... But I hated it. Part if it was stage fright, but a larger part if it was that performing didn't exhilarate me, it exhausted me. I continued with six semesters of classes because except for actually being on stage, I loved everything else about it. I loved creating something from scratch. I love the camaraderie. I loved studying plays, set design, lighting, even building sets. I loved the house lights going down. I loved costuming and music. I loved the act of finding the right symbols to evoke the right feeling at the right time.

Most of all, I loved directing. It was fantastic to be the bandleader of a crazy group of people working to bring a vision to life. I was, even in retrospect, pretty good at it.

Lately I have been struggling with a process in my career that is a lot like acting. Every time I have to do it, it evokes my memories of the times I had to get up on stage as a price for taking these classes that I otherwise loved. After it's over, I end up feeling like a vampire victim- utterly drained, confused, exhausted, a little bruised.

I thought I was going to be done with this stage of my career before the end of this year and then some things went wrong, and now my chance to move on is delayed until at least March 2012. I know it's the right choice, but the idea of keeping this up for six more months exhausts me just thinking of it.
tumblingdays: cornbread (cooking)
Last night I successfully made my first jambalaya. It's not a fancy dish, but I have to balance the amount of protein that I need to be satisfied (again with the Intuitive Eating) with the right balance of flavors, and that can be tricky with rice and pasta dishes. Plus, I very, very rarely cook rice, so that was tricky too. I am pleased with my success.

I used Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" recipe to get an idea where to start, but I feel like jambalaya requires a certain amount of improv. Plus, he's clearly not a Southerner, and it shows in some of his traditionally southern recipes. It was missing a few key elements- like okra. Actually, it didn't have all the elements of the trinity either, but I left some out because I was using farmers market veggies, and we had no celery. Anyway, I have learned that okra isn't widely available outside of the South, so I'm not surprised a cookbook dedicated to the basics would skip it. I happened to have a whole passel on hand despite having pickled several quarts of it already. It's been a good growing season for okra.



I am not a purist in language or in cuisine. I get annoyed by people who think that "authentic" is the same as "good." This particularly annoys me with "peasant foods." All cultures have foods that are some variation of "leftovers." The Irish and British have "shepherd's pie." The French have rustic casseroles. Jambalaya is one of these things. It's rice plus whatever you have on hand that needs to be used. Over time, these peasant foods have been codified either because they become trendy and someone's particular recipe becomes famous or because someone writes them down and the written version becomes THE version. Folk stories follow the same process. Cinderella had a million different variations before it was written down. So, anyway, I made jambalaya using veggies on hand in middle Tennessee during this growing season and it was delicious and recognizable and not "authentic." Meets included smoked Kentucky ham, locally made andouille sausage (amazing), and shrimp.

tumblingdays: B&W Photo of a little girl hugging an elephant (ed)
Yesterday was my bi-monthly meeting with my nutritionist. I am recovering from a lengthy history with disordered eating, and while I have made huge progress the last 20 months or so, I still have a long way to go. I am also in the middle of prepping for a major certification exam for my career. Since my ED has stress management implications, this leads to a rough balancing act.

But, this week I had a kind of ridiculous epiphany. I've been maintaining with 5 pounds or so the same weight since I started prepping for this test 10 months ago. I've exercised steadily and my eating has fluctuated in and out of healthy choices. (Don't get confused here, "healthy choices" is not some fucked up code for dieting. I mean eating in a way that makes my body feel good and allows me to experience my emotions rather than stuff them down with food.) I have none-the-less stressed that I should be doing more "work" in this area.

I'm not sure what brought it on, but this week, I got some perspective. I imagined what emotions I would feel if one of my "normal" sized friends told me that she was prepping for a major life change, doing extensive planning, juggling a whole host of new responsibilities, but she felt like she needed to be focusing on weight loss at the same time. I'd be angry at her and for her. I'd be mad that she considers "weight" as important as these other things. I'd be annoyed that she is spinning her wheels with this issue when there is all this other stuff going on. And I'd be angry for her that she feels like she needs to take on this task RIGHT NOW on top of everything else.

This revealed a part of my psyche that I am still struggling with- because I am not "normal" sized, I feel like I don't get that pass to ignore my weight when I am already dealing with so many other things. I don't have a right to just be myself - healthy, active, comfortable- because I wear a size 20. That isn't right. I am active and healthy. I manage stress through exercising and other productive means. I practice self-care. The fact that I am not losing weight is pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things. My nutritionist took it one step farther and pointed out that stress causes your body to slow weight loss because it is holding on to those reserves for your "fight or flight" moment.

The other part of me it reveals is just how deeply seeded the "diet mentality" is. At the beginning of the summer, I would have told you that I am not a dieter. I don't diet. I try to eat intuitively- food that satisfies me and makes me feel good. But this focus on why I am not losing weight amid everything else tells me that there is still some diet mentality going on in my noggin. More work to do there...

In the past, under this kind of stress, I probably would have quickly lost a lot of weight. Dieting was my tool to "control" what I could control- calories going into my body. Some part of brain kind of expected me to lose weight and is disappointed, even though my even keel is one of the best signs of my new, healthy lifestyle.

I have to make peace with the fact that this is the right way to live, working with my body to treat it right rather than trying to force it down the path my brain thinks it should take or hiding from it. Some days, this is tough road.
tumblingdays: May the bridges I burn light my way (past)
I've been making plans with an old friend to spend a weekend with her and her husband in about a month. I'm super excited about it, but a little nervous too. I used the term "old friend" here, but I am not sure how apt it really is.

By one measure, she is my oldest friend. We met when I was four and moved into a house in her neighborhood. But then at nine, I moved away and our contact was sporadic until I was about 16. Then- well, some things happened in my family life that are best left for another post- and I lost contact with most of the people from before. In large part, this was the choice of the people in my past. In some fewer cases, this was my choice. And in a very few cases, this was no one's choice. I turned 16 before the age of Facebook and cell phones and it was easier to lose touch with people then. The problem is, I don't really know who I just "fell out of touch" with and who made the choice to abandon me and my family. This makes me slightly untrusting of people in general, and bitter and definitely untrusting of people in my past specifically. And even among those who couldn't deal with what was going on at the time, some of them have since searched me out to reconnect. My past can be a tangled mess sometimes, and mostly I try to live my life moving forward.

Chronology aside, she is really someone that I am just getting to know as an adult. We met up for a tentative lunch a few months ago, and it went so well that we spent literally hours at lunch and then at coffee afterwards. I like the adult that she has become, and I like that we are reconnecting. At the same time, it is really, really strange to interact with someone who remembers me best as the child I was before... When she tells stories about our past together, it's like getting a postcard from a distant country. I wonder if she feels the same way?

Coming up next month, my husband and I are spending the weekend as her and her husband's guests. We don't live in the same city, and this will be our second in person visit. I admit that I am a little nervous. It's a big step for me to invite select people from my past back into my life. It scares me that this decision will be repaid with new hurts. I hope not though. I hope that it will be a step in merging the old me into the person I am now.

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tumblingdays: Oversaturated Photo of a flower (Default)
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