A Terrible Loss

I am a mess. I need someone to hold me, a friend to hear me out, but really I’m in search of comfort that I cannot name. I am alone, and I don’t have a way to adequately explain how deep this moment of nothingness goes. There is no one to hear my story. I have run through the mental list time and again, and come up short. I am so tired of living so far away from all of the women I count as my sisters, and so tired of trying to explain to myself how this will all be OK.

The doctor told me that I was anxious (with a touch of depression) a few years ago, and it’s true. I am nearly always anxious, and only sad every now and then. But when I am sad, I usually also know there’s no real reason. It’s easy to see that there must be sunshine on the other side, since the shadow is so flimsy, really. The feeling remains, but the hope is not diminished in its path.

Today, though, I experienced something. I’ve been turning it over and over in my head, and I believe that it might be best called trauma. I was at the doctor’s office. I was seeing my gynecologist for a regular procedure, an IUD insertion. We’d discussed the fact that there would be pain and cramping, and before going in, I read many, many stories from women who experienced everything from no pain at all to severe cramps and faintness and nausea. Not one story mentioned flashbacks or panic attacks in conjunction with the procedure.

I did not receive an IUD today; I’ve been scheduled for an insertion under general anesthesia next week, instead. Apparently my uterus is tiny and my cervix will need a lot of help dilating, and the pain I was feeling as my panic attack started was only about 10% of what I was going to feel. So if I go ahead with it, I’ll do it while I’m knocked out, and wake up with a prescription for pain pills and a weekend to recover on the couch. I’m not so sure, though. If I’m going to have anesthesia, why not just schedule a sterilization and be through with this whole thing? I don’t want biological children; why think about any of this anymore?

The problem here isn’t that I felt pain, or that I was once again feeling ashamed to have my feet in stirrups at the doctor’s office (though it is a source of deep, deep shame, thanks to my good ol’ Southern Victorian upbringing). The problem certainly isn’t the doctor, who held me as I sobbed, and offered me tissues, and assured me that this happens all the time. The problem is that the thing that set me off wasn’t physical or even related to my body. It was related to love. A lack of it. A loss of it. The feeling of having it physically stripped from your body. Of feeling like you aren’t worthy of love, and will never deserve it, no matter how much you try, how much you give.

Just as I screamed, just before I started sobbing and the doctor removed the tools she’d placed inside my body to prepare for even more invasion, I felt the intense desire for someone to hold my hand. No one was there. I was desperately alone, a tiny speck in a giant universe, floating lonely in a sea of forever, all the people I love being pulled backwards from me, out, out, out into their own space. This happened in my head, you see. It’s not something that I’m writing about to describe how I felt – it’s a thing that I saw, eyes squeezed shut on the doctor’s table. I recalled feeling/seeing this exact thing years before, a moment when I felt my soul cry out to the man I then loved, and heard nothing in reply. It was the emptiest I’d ever felt. I’ve never felt it again, because I haven’t given myself so fully ever again.

Also for a millisecond, as I experienced this all over again, I saw something deep in there, inside myself. I’ve built a little mental house around my tenderness, two stories, pink clapboard siding (strange, since I dislike pink), shutters on the windows, green asphalt shingles on the roof. I understood that the house was protecting my ability to love, that I’ve been trying to open it up lately, to air it out and shake the dust covers off all of the furniture. That I’m terrified of the rejection I feel coming. The house is miserable.

Tonight I’m finding myself back there in that terrible loss, experiencing this cosmic echo. And in realizing all of these things, I see now that it was just an echo of an even earlier moment. Only then, it was I who was needed, I who took my hand away when it was most required. “No,” my grandfather said, when I struggled to remove my fingers from his grip. I needed to go finish my homework; I’d come back tomorrow, I promised. It was the last thing he ever said to me: “No.” I have a strong suspicion that this emptiness I’ve seen, this great pulling away, this is how he felt, wasting away in his hospital bed, hooked up to a morphine drip, cancer gnawing away at him. His eyes were squeezed shut, too. Was he struggling to hold on to just one person who loved him, as everyone else drifted away? Will there be someone to hold my hand?

If I believed in an angry god, I would wonder if I’m being punished. Maybe I’m being haunted. Maybe I’m just suffering from anxiety and a touch of depression. I wish I knew where that guy was, the one I loved, the one who wasn’t there to hold my hand when I most needed him. I would egg his house tonight.

Day Two: Kyrie Eleison

Munky is curled up my lap and refuses to get off, so I’m writing this from a Macbook propped precariously on the back of a rather fat, annoyed, and slightly under-the-weather tabby cat. You insist on the lap, you have to take the consequences. *Pauses typing to accommodate overly emphatic tail swish.*

I am emotionally worn out, and need to make this quick. My day started with a text from my dearest cousin to say I love you in the way that only we share. Soon after, I got another text from my college roommate, to say she was in labor with her second child (and is still, unless I’ve missed any memos). I walked to work, and listened to “Kyrie,” by Mr. Mister, a few times. It’s been my top song for the last few days. I read this interesting autobiography a week or so ago by an Irish musician who mentioned hearing “Kyrie Eleison” being sung in church, and I got kind of obsessed with listening to various versions of the actual song. Then one day I remembered loving this silly rock song as a kid, and surprise, surprise, now it turns out that the song is directly referencing an inner Camino. So it’s been on heavy rotation lately, helping me untangle myself. Here’s the real deal, in case you’ve never heard it:

Work happened. There were a variety of screw-ups and triumphs. I’d gotten some math wrong yesterday, and had to deal with the consequences today. A housekeeper yelled at me because she needed to yell at someone and I was the only person available. A sales person in one of our other offices was let go, and consequences rippled out from there. A guest was angry that central reservations had told her the hotel was a short walk from the convention center, when it’s actually about 20 minutes away, and expressed her displeasure to me at great length, since I was the first person she saw (there’s a pattern to my day, isn’t there?). A trio of travel agents asked for an impromptu tour of the hotel, and brought their own scorecards to rate various facets of the hotel AND my performance in showing them around. By the time I walked out of the office at 5pm, I felt bruised and battered.

Today I found out that my TripAdvisor account (necessary for work) was also linked to my Facebook account, and I couldn’t log into it without reactivating Facebook. So I had to make a whole new account, which is fine, but was a time suck, to be sure.

After work, I went back home to grab my dirty laundry and head to the laundromat. My parents had called a couple of times over the course of Mardi Gras, and I hadn’t had time to call them back yet, so while my sheets were washing, I called for what I thought would be a short call. It ended up being two hours, and being mostly nice. There was lots of wasted conversation, of course. I hate smalltalk, but it has to be done. I wish I was the kind of person who could stop someone and say, “Yes, you’ve told me that five times already!” But I can’t, because it’s not polite, end of story. You just have to suck it up and write off those ten minutes of your day, and be grateful that you still have a parent to talk to, because so-and-so’s parents are dead (possibly because so-and-so was honest about the smalltalk being boring, and her parents dropped dead instantly). Yeah, I know, I’m super mean. I’ll get what I deserve for being a terrible person. Blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, my dad asked me how I was doing, and I told him the truth, that I’m not OK, I’ve mostly been white-knuckling it lately, and am doing my best to take the steps necessary to treat my anxiety. That I’m considering bankruptcy, because I can’t figure out how to carve a path out of the debt. That I’m not going to kill myself, but that’s all I can promise. That I have a hard time leaving the house. He listened, and then for a couple of minutes, it went downhill. We were back to where I regretted being honest, because he laughs it off and turns it back to a story about how he’s had it so much worse before. Like it’s some awful contest. So I reacted in the only way I’ve learned to keep my temper in check. Don’t fight back. Don’t make it worse. Just let it go. Realize he’s not my therapist, and not capable of helping, and not trying to hurt, even if he is. I thought briefly about just hanging up. But then the weirdest thing happened. It was like he caught himself mid-stride and heard that he was hurting me. He suddenly got serious and told me that he loved me and I could always talk to him if I needed him, and he knew where I was coming from, and had faith that I was going to be OK. My mom chimed in from the background that I could always call her, anytime. It was really nice. I know they both mean it.

The boyfriend is also foregoing Facebook for Lent, and around mid-afternoon, I texted him to see how his day was going, telling him that I was just so worn out already. He reminded me that I’m used to getting many mini-doses of dopamine throughout the day. My body and mind are going to be going through withdrawals from social media for awhile yet. He mentioned feeling anger. I mostly feel sad. I’ve been crying the whole time I’ve been typing this, and am only just now realizing that the front of my shirt is soaked.

I keep remembering what it felt like a couple of months after the Camino, when I felt like someone had taken a grapefruit spoon to my inner self, and scooped all of me out. Plop. I was a husk. I just laid in bed, watching Call the Midwife for days. Just thinking of my cats made me cry. I started to see my dead friend Josh everywhere. I felt like I was already just a milky memory to anyone who had known me. I barely remembered myself. This time, the feeling has been hanging around since Monday. I don’t like to think of it, but this is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Luckily, Munky seems to be feeling better, and now I’ve got freshly laundered sheets, so that’s something. It’s time to pill the cat, clean out the litter boxes, sweep the floor, put sheets on the bed, and get some shuteye.

Deactivation: Tiny Update

So I spent the better part of my evening building a new Spotify account, since it turns out that if you don’t have an active FB page AND your Spotify account was opened using FB as the login credentials, you can’t access the Spotify account. So I opened a new account using my email address, rather than FB, then painstakingly recreated all of my playlists. After that, I cancelled the old account, because by that point I was incredibly ticked off. I’m not even going to try to imagine how many more sites or apps I’m going to have to do something similar with later on in the week. Ugh.

On the other hand, I finally got around to using the Messages program on my Mac, and that’s pretty cool. It blends your phone’s SMS capabilities with the handiness of your computer keyboard, which is useful if you’ve got friends who prefer to talk through text, but you hate trying to use the little touchscreen keypad on a cell phone. Had a short conversation with a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of weeks, and got to actually talk instead of being the texting version of monosyllabic.

I didn’t mention it earlier, but another source of stress is my cat, Munky. He started getting sick with another UTI on Sunday night, and I took him to the vet first thing on Monday. They couldn’t keep him overnight, since they were closing early for Lundi Gras, and weren’t going to be open on Mardi Gras. So they sent me home with a bunch of meds, and instructions for watching to see if he was going to pee. Oh, and a $500 vet bill that represents my next chunk of debt (what, you thought I magically had $500 on hand?). Anyway, they gave him X-rays to see if he had any blockages, since crystals or stones can be fatal to cats, but just like last time, no blockage. Last time it was bacterial, so we’ll wait for their samples to culture and see what pops up.

They already gave him an antibiotic shot, which is nice, since they sent me home with syringes and two different pills, to be given twice daily, and both Munky and I are very unhappy about that. I have a huge gouge on my palm from him not taking kindly to me trying to wrap him into a kitty burrito, and he isn’t talking to me after last night’s rounds of meds. I’ve got a new pill syringe and a cat isolation bag thing coming, since we’re going to have weeks of this, and one of us will probably not survive if I don’t make some high-tech moves to improve the situation.

The biggest way to improve the situation would be to cut down on his stress levels, by giving him (and Izzy, and Charlie) more space to roam. I know that getting a bigger apartment would definitely would cut down on my stress levels from being overrun by cats. And wouldn’t it be great to have access to a washer and dryer that wasn’t literally a mile’s walk away? (For that matter, could you imagine having a car? Oh, the luxury.) I’ve been looking around, but there’s just nothing in my budget in a neighborhood I’d feel safe living in. Plenty of places just slightly over what I’m paying now if I’m happy with hearing gunshots on the next block, but I’m just too old to be brave about that kind of crap anymore. Plus, what if I lost my freelance gig? It’s feeling precarious lately, and my hotel gig definitely isn’t covering all of my bills right now. I’m so tired of squeaking by. They say that you’re supposed to dress for the job you want, but how do you do that if you can’t even afford a new pair of pumps? I started this job with a wardrobe of thrift store finds, and those already old clothes are just getting rattier. I can’t seem to catch a break, between things breaking and the cats. And I could make more money if I could handle the idea of dealing with 10 clients’ social media accounts all day, every day, but I’d be dead or committed within a year. I just can’t be a marketer anymore. My brain is stressed to the breaking point as it is. There has to be another way forward. Just have to hold on, promotions happen like clockwork, gotta have patience.

And just like that, my blood pressure rises.

OK, time to not think myself into stress circles over all the things I can’t do anything about. Gonna pop on a hypnotherapy recording and call it a night. Turns out Spotify has a bunch of Glenn Harrold recordings; he’s my favorite disembodied voice when it’s time to catch some shuteye, though it’s an acquired taste. If you’re like me, and haven’t had success with meditation yet, you might like hypnotherapy recordings as a way to bridge the gap a little bit. I’ve found that some of the subliminal messaging does end up rubbing off. My favorites of Glenn’s are Relax & Sleep Well, Detox Your Life, and Spiritual Weight Loss (which is weirdly less about me wanting to lose weight, and more about loving the fact that it consistently puts me to sleep in under a minute or two). Do you ever listen to hypnotherapy to fall asleep? If you’ve got a favorite, let me know.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I totally forgot and typed Facebook into my URL bar somewhere close to five times today. Usually it happened while I was online doing some other mindless thing, then got sidetracked, and suddenly found myself trying to get to my Facebook page. Which obviously didn’t happen, since I deactivated first thing this morning, but it was still really weird to find my fingers having a mind of their own, and deciding it was time to go to Facebook.

Whole30 Round 1 Results

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July was a pretty busy month for me, emotionally. I made the decision in late June to put 100% of my energy into changing the way I eat, for good, using Whole30 as my template for kicking things off. This isn’t a post about how awesome the Whole30 is, how it works, or what it can do for you. There’s already a ton of information online about the program, including a great website with all the information you need to undertake the challenge for yourselves. I bought the cookbook, as well, but honestly found that the Whole30 website gave me everything I required to make some serious life changes, and all for free.

The program is 30 days long, and I’ve found that the easiest way to explain it to folks is that it’s paleo’s badass older sister. For 30 days, you make a deal with yourself to kick everything out of your diet that could cause inflammation, encourage overeating, or just not be all that good for helping your body work at its top capacity. This includes alcohol, all sweeteners of any kind (yes, even honey and stevia), grains, dairy, corn, soy, and a host of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives – basically, if it comes in a package and the label has more than a couple of ingredients, you probably can’t eat it. In fact, it’s easiest to just avoid processed and packaged food altogether. The program also advises against snacking and replacing “bad” items with “good” versions – you know how you went paleo and quickly figured out how to make those “healthy” paleo pancakes and muffins? Yup, none of that allowed.

I have a long, sordid history of eating my feelings. If I get bored, angry, happy, sad, pensive, (insert emotion here), I will treat myself to food. If I’m with others, I’ll treat myself to a regularly-sized meal. If I’m alone, I’m prone to eating whole pizzas, buckets of wings, two Big Mac meals, whatever it takes to drown out the feelings for a little while. It’s been an issue since I was a child, but I was pretty good at keeping it under wraps for most of my life. I’m just now getting to the point where I’m willing to take ownership, talk with a therapist, and start making active changes to the way I process what’s happening to me in order to eat what I’d like, but in moderation.

Though I did hope to lose weight on the Whole30 program, my biggest hope was to give my body a break, time to cut out the cravings so I could hear my emotions more clearly and find ways to soothe myself without food or alcohol. My second biggest desire with this program was to kickstart a health change that will snowball as I get closer to my 35th birthday in November. I’ve got some crazy big birthday plans to hike the Grand Canyon and go horseback riding in Monument Valley, and I didn’t want my weight to get in the way of either of those things (especially didn’t want to end up hurting a horse – what kind of jerk wants to do that?). I’m aiming to be back at college weight AND feeling strong and vital come November. Thanks to this program, I think I’m on track for all of my goals.

The biggest surprise to me on this program was that it really wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t have any strong cravings for junk food until around Day 28, and I was able to easily overcome them. I did have some crazy weird food dreams around halfway through (one dream that I was eating garbage bags full of gooey, delicious chocolate croissants, and another dream that I owned a 24-hour brunch spot and had to taste test all the new dishes).

I did start cooking more, and doing meal prep, and though I’ve kept a pretty simple diet on rotation, I’ve gotten a lot better at the things I make, and am ready to start expanding my repertoire a bit. So far I make a pretty mean batch of slow cooker cabbage rolls, and though I hated the last carnitas recipe I tried, I’m ready to give it another go. I also found out that my “allergy” to garlic, something that had plagued me for years any time I had a drop of the stuff anywhere near my food, has suddenly disappeared. I can only think that I don’t do well with garlic when it’s combined with grains or dairy in my meal. Since I can eat it now (and really like it), I’m learning how to cook with it, finally. Made some simple and delicious baked green beans and garlic the other night, in fact.

Many people report that chronic aches and pains tend to go away during the Whole30, since ditching inflammatory foods gives your body time to heal. I’ve suffered from Achilles tendonitis in my right leg for a couple of years now, and it went away by the second week. I also went off of birth control medication about four months ago, and was just starting to see some acne show up just before I went on the Whole30, which is the biggest issue for me in not being on the pill. I generally get really nasty hormonal acne on my neck, chin, and chest, and the only thing that can make it go away again is taking the pill again, which really sucks since the medication makes me feel terrible, otherwise (but I’m so vain, and I do love my clear skin). I’d just gotten my first painful zit, and was steeling myself for more, but it’s been a month now and my skin looks great. I’m chalking that up to my hormones not dealing well with something I was eating. We’ll figure that out at a later date; for now, I will gladly accept the clear skin.

Many people do a program like this and combine it with exercise for best results. For me, this has always been about making a permanent change in my relationship to food, so I didn’t want to make too many changes at once. I wanted to get this to stick, then eventually work into getting more physical again. So no heavy exercise, just biking and walking to work, like usual.

The end result is that I lost almost 11 pounds and quite a few inches (see below), didn’t drink for a month and didn’t miss it, and was able to start rationalizing my way through any occasion where I’d feel like bingeing on unhealthy food. I took the day off on July 31st to eat pizza and ice cream (definitely not part of the plan, but I’m not going to down myself over it), and started Round 2 on August 1st, with a plan to wrap up on August 30th. I’m not completely sure of what I’ll do after this month is up. Since I’ve been eating very well and feeling good this entire time, and not feeling too put out, I’m guessing I’m going to stay Whole30/paleo 99% of the time, and then have a treat every now and then if I feel like it. I might also do what I did this month, and be really strict for 30 days, have one day to eat whatever I please, then back on the wagon again. We’ll see what feels right when I get there. I’m not gonna get too worked up over it just yet.

Here’s what I lost this month. I’ll keep you up to date once Round 2 is over; hoping that with added exercise, I can do as well as I did on the first round.

Start – July 1st, 2016

  • Weight – 193.6 lbs.
  • Waist – 35″
  • Lower Stomach – 44″
  • Hips – 47″
  • Chest – 39″
  • Arm – 16″
  • Thigh – 29″

End – July 30th, 2016

  • Weight – 182.8 lbs. (Loss = 10.8 lbs.)
  • Waist – 33″ (Loss = 2″)
  • Lower Stomach – 42″ (Loss = 2″)
  • Hips – 44.5″ (Loss = 2.5″)
  • Chest – 35″ (Loss = 4″)
  • Arm – 14.5″ (Loss = 1.5″)
  • Thigh – 27.5″ (Loss = 1.5″)

Total Weight Lost – 10.8 lbs.

Total Inches Lost – 13.5″

Belly Button Lent

Can you tell that I like horrible jokes? I’m as corny as they come. Last night, in fact, I spent the better part of an hour reading a website for The Potato Rock Museum, an online collection of rocks that look like potatoes, with arguments that these rocks might actually have been potatoes at some point. I laughed over some of the images until there were tears streaming down my face. I mean, seriously – you can’t possibly tell me this isn’t one of the most amusing things you’ve seen today:

Yum, what a lovely baked potato! Wait a minute, that’s no spud – that’s a ROCK!

Whatever, I thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, I’m just writing this little post because it’s the first day of Lent, and I felt like it deserved some attention. Not for any religious reasons, mind you. I’m decidedly not Catholic. I’m not even celebrating Lent in any official capacity. But since the first day of Lent happens to mark the end of the Mardi Gras season, it’s a useful demarcation for me in other ways.

I didn’t get too crazy over Mardi Gras. In all, I had eight drinks over two weeks. I ate a tiny sliver of king cake, a huge BLT poboy, a slice of pizza, and a decent enough helping of fried foods and snacky things, as is my custom during the season of debauchery. Overall, though, this was a very tame holiday season for me. I didn’t even leave the house on Fat Tuesday. I’m getting old, and as it turns out, I really enjoy being sober and healthy.

That being the case, I’ve decided that this Lent I’m going to go for it. No drinking for the next 40 days. I’m also going back to eating paleo, and even though the Iron Tribe transformation challenge is over, I’m going to keep working out four to five days a week. Right now my loose goal is to get to around 170 lbs by Easter.

Now here’s the kicker. If I can get to my next goal mark of 170 within the next 40 days, I’m going to buy myself the present I’ve wanted for a few years now. I’ve had my eye on this ridiculously trashy diamond belly button ring.

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I’m currently wearing a sterling silver one with swarovski crystals, but if I can keep up the good work, I think I deserve to get something lovely and silly for my good work – a genuine white gold and diamond ring for my naval, perfect for accenting my prized lint collection.

Too bad I can’t find one with potato rock accents…

Beautiful Is

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It’s funny the things that we grow up learning not to say. When I was a little girl, my mother would have a fit whenever my father sometimes uttered “shit” or “damn” by accident. She wanted me to grow up to be a lady, and ladies never use what people in my neck of the woods call “cuss words”. In the end, her plan backfired. Every time she shushed my father’s errant cusses, it only served to make me more excited about the day I’d finally be able to pepper my own conversations with those juicy and forbidden verbal fruits. I actually added a few words in, just for good measure. Yes, Mum, I talk like a sailor when I’m not around you. Sorry about that.

The failure with cussing aside, sometimes her lessons worked. There were other things that I was instructed to avoid saying, things that still very rarely cross my lips. Two words that almost never see the light of day in my household are “ugly” and “stupid”. Even writing them feels unfair, crass, cruel. I mean, sure, every now and then I’ll describe an inanimate object as ugly, or an action as stupid, but when it comes down to it, I’d still rather use other words if possible. I don’t even like it when people talk about having an “ugly Christmas sweater”. It makes me feel sorry for the poor sweater. Guess that means I was programmed well.

That being the case, I’d especially never use either word to describe a person. But even though “ugly” is something I’d never call myself, neither is “beautiful”. Why is that?

Today’s prompt (Day 13) in Beautiful You is to talk about what the word “beautiful” means to us, and consider what it is that makes us use the word to describe other people. Maybe through exploring how we feel about beauty, we can be one step closer to understanding that we might just fit into our own parameters, and be beautiful, too.

To me, the most beautiful people I’ve met are those who shine from within. I’m picturing a handful of truly beautiful folks right now, and comparing them with each other in my mind. Each is kind, and would never be cruel intentionally. Each is willing to listen. Each is willing to help. Each is quick with a smile, and bounces back easily from adversity. Whether or not they believe in a higher power, they’ve each seemed to be a product of fate, as far as I was concerned. Each of the most beautiful lights in my life has appeared just when I needed them most, and imparted some kind of lesson to me. None of them are conventionally physically beautiful, but their attitudes and behavior make that kind of thing unnecessary. The light within gives them that kind of glow from which no sensible person can turn away.

I can only hope to be as beautiful as that one day. Until now, it’s never occurred to me that I was hoping for that kind of thing, but I’d love to be someone’s beacon one day. If it happens, it happens. But if not, that’s OK. I feel good about being me. It’s hard not to, when you realize how much beauty surrounds you.

 

Dissatisfaction

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?”

– Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Today’s prompt (gee, I’m going slowly – just on Day 12) in Beautiful You is to realize that my dissatisfaction is not about my body, but rather other things in my life. I’m supposed to consider that fact, and see what my mind is really trying to tell me. What else should I be addressing?

I don’t necessarily believe that being unhappy with the way I look is to be blamed entirely on other life problems. That being said, of course there are a ton of things that all of us need to work on to create better lives for ourselves. I could write a thousand page dissertation on all of the things that I’m dissatisfied in this world, starting with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, easing into the destruction of the rainforest, and rounding out nicely with bigoted, low-IQ’d fundamentalists and their conservative buddies in Congress who are trying to shove their ideals down our throats at every twist and turn these days.

But given today’s reading, I feel like I’m supposed to be talking about what in my life is so dissatisfying that that I’d turn it all inward and focus on being ashamed of my body. Let’s see.

I’m terribly smart, so it’s not that. I’m witty, and I make people laugh. Not uproariously, of course, but I’m not devoid of humor, so that’s a good thing. I’m mildly successful, and creative, and I try very hard to be very nice. So none of those. I’m not really that talented at anything though. I’m a good writer, and a good singer, and I make origami, and I put together great outfits when I try. I’m also a good cook, though I hate cooking and try to avoid it as much as possible.

OK, I’ve figured it out. Kinda. I procrastinate a lot. When I’m anxious, I freeze up (if it’s the good kind of anxious, because otherwise I have a panic attack or something similar). When I freeze up, the only way I can calm myself down is by ignoring the thing that made me anxious. Since almost everything makes me anxious these days – phone calls, emails, talking to people, social engagements of any kind, social media, trying to write long form, trying to be creative, you name it, it’s stressing me the fuck out – this process of ignoring things turns into procrastination. Procrastination begets its own kind of stress. Now, I’m not stupid, I can honestly look at this situation and go, “well, if it stresses you out to procrastinate, wouldn’t it be better to break down the things you have to do into small, manageable chunks and accomplish them that way?” No shit. It’s how I end up making it through every day without boiling over into panic attack mode. But every single day is a repeat of the scenario. It’s driving me crazy. It’s definitely driven me to depression.

But now I’m reading back through this, and I don’t know if I’ve answered the question at all. Maybe these are two different issues that happen to be going on at the same time. Hmmm.

I guess the other reason I might be dissatisfied and taking it out on my body is that I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out. But no, that’s not either. I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out, so I overeat and drink, which in turn makes me gain weight (along with the thyroid issue), and then I’m dissatisfied with my body. But I guess that works. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with my life and blaming it on my body, it’s that I’m dissatisfied with life and find a way to treat that dissatisfaction in an unhealthy way that allows me to turn my attention on my body. Woohoo! Great to know.

Well, I’m already treating part of the issue – I’ve been eating paleo (including no drinking) for a week now. I’ve lost over 6 lbs already, and aside from being tired from my workouts, I’m feeling pretty OK with my body right now. It feels strong, and that’s good. I deadlifted 105 lbs the other day!

I guess that being dissatisfied with the way I look could very well be related to being embarrassed and awkward when it comes to presenting myself physically. I hate being looked at, and any time I get in the spotlight, it makes me really uncomfortable. The same thing happens all the time at work and in social situations – I’ve just learned how to hide how I’m feeling and project a somewhat more confident exterior to my clients and colleagues. The constant doubt and fear does impact me on a personal level every day, and probably also has something to do with my procrastination and interpersonal relationship issues. This is something to think about.

Make ‘Em Laugh

Click through to find out more about this book I keep going on about :-)

Click through to find out more about this book I keep going on about 🙂

I’m not quite sure what day of Beautiful You I’m supposed to be at today (it’s one of those chapter-per-day books, where there’s an exercise each day for a year), but I’ve only made it to Day 10. Which is absolutely fine, because today I’m supposed to be sharing positive thoughts about myself, and for most of my holiday break, it was difficult – nearing on impossible, in fact – to find a single one. Luckily, I’m feeling pretty happy today, so I’m sure I’ll be able to dredge something up.

First off, today’s the second day of the Iron Tribe (that’s my gym, btw) Transformation Challenge, and I’m loving it so far. There are two different divisions – performance and weight loss. I’m doing weight loss, since it’ll probably be a year or more until I’m as strong as some of the people are in the performance division. Yesterday I walked to and from work from my house (almost 7 miles, since I did a little extra walking during the day), and went to the gym. Today I did the same thing, but only clocked around 6 miles.

I also worked out both days – part of the challenge is to log 5 workouts a week, which is cool, because my plan only pays for 4 workouts, so for the remainder of the challenge I’m getting a free class every week (thanks Iron Tribe!). Yesterday’s workout was pretty easy, really – We had 25 minutes to do a 500m row, 200m run, 100 single-unders (that’s jump rope for the layman), then 36 burpees and 36 wall balls, which are a similar motion to thrusters if you lift weights, just with a medicine ball. Today’s was a little more intense – it was a timed workout where you started at 2 pull ups, 2 pistols (one-legged squats), and 2 burpees, then 4 of each, then 6 of each, then 8 of each, etc, adding 2 of each rep each round. At the 10 minute mark, whatever round you were on, you’d go back the other way – 8, 6, 4, 2. I ended up doing 50 pull ups (I’m not that much of a bad ass, I use a band for assistance), 40 pistols and 40 burpees. I know, I’m boring you. Hell, I’m boring myself. But I’m proud that I’m getting stronger. It’s nice.

Anyway, today is supposed to be about positivity, and since working out makes me feel great about myself, I guess that was as good a place as any to start. But let’s really get down to brass tacks here. Beautiful You asks me: What do you most appreciate about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness that moment? If so, who was there and how did he, she, or they react?

When I was in high school, I took classes on a block schedule. We had four or five long classes a day for a semester, and then at the end of the semester we had an entirely different set of classes. We got to choose two electives each semester. Since the only way my parents knew to pay for my college was to have me go into the military after school, I was put in Air Force JROTC from the beginning of freshman year on. It taught discipline and teamwork, but also sacrifice.

I wasn't just in JROTC - I was  on the JROTC color guard AND drill teams, a cadre, went to officer's training school in the summers, the whole 9 yards. Even so, I was so relieved to not have to go into the Air Force in the end.

That’s me with the American flag, marching in a parade. I wasn’t just in JROTC – I was on the JROTC color guard AND drill teams, a cadre, went to officer’s training school in the summers, the whole 9 yards. Even so, I was so relieved to not have to go into the Air Force in the end.

 

One of the biggest sacrifices for me was having to give up one elective each semester to be in JROTC. I really wanted to take art, and drama, and dance, but with JROTC eating up half of my electives, and the other electives needing to be things that my parents deemed “useful,” I had to be really careful about selecting the rest of my fun classes. I never got to take drama or art – two things that I still love, and have a sneaking suspicion I would have excelled at had I started early – but I did get to take one semester of dance.

Let’s just get this out of the way early – I’m not a great dancer. I’m coordinated enough to pick up line dances and couples dances with a little practice on the floor, and can flub my way through a tango social if needs be, but when it comes to jazz, ballet, or modern (basically anything where I have to be on my own), I’m hopeless. I had a ballet teacher call me an elephant once. I’m just kind of hopelessly white – nothing shakes the way I’d like it to, lol. Anyway, at the end of the semester we had a dance show, where all the girls taking dance got to perform a couple of routines. My class did three dances, but I only remember one. It was the best one, so that’s OK.

Greasers in NYC, 1950

Greasers in NYC, 1950

The routine was a 50’s number. Half of the girls were dressed as greaser boys (there were no boys in our dance program), and half of the girls were in poodle skirts, with ponytails and cute sparkly neck scarves. We were mostly dancing solo, but would interact and do some swing dance types of moves with our “partners”. I was dancing with an older girl named April, who passed away under dark circumstances a few years ago. She was a sweetheart, but normally tried to appear really tough. That really worked for the greaser costume. For one of the moves, the greaser would swing the poodle skirt girl through “his” legs, leave the poodle skirt girl lying there, and then walk around her. It’s hard to explain, but it was a cute/funny scene. The poodle skirt girl was supposed to be in love with the greaser, and looking up at “him” adoringly.

Poodle skirts sans poodles, 1956.

Poodle skirts sans poodles, 1956

 

April and I were at the front of the performance, right in center stage. The theater was packed (I’m from a small town – there’s not much else to do). Everything was going off without a hitch. We danced. She swung me, then started walking around me. I pretended I was over the moon in love with her, stuck on a dopey grin, and batted my eyes. As tough as she was, she couldn’t help but crack a grin back at me. The crowd loved it, and we got a laugh. It was one of the best moments for me. It was the precise moment that I realized I could be someone different onstage if I wanted to. It also made me feel special because even though I wasn’t the best dancer, I still had a talent. I love to make people laugh. It’s a great feeling. Making a crowd laugh? Wow. I was on cloud 9 after that show.

But that’s only part of the answer, I guess. Though I love to make people laugh, my real gift is caring about people, and genuinely wanting them to be happy and well. I love that about me. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that when people don’t treat you with utmost respect, it doesn’t mean that they’re awful people, it just means that they don’t understand the degree of everything’s interconnectedness yet. I also have to remind myself that maybe they never will get it, and that’s OK. That’s their journey.

My journey, my biggest need right now, is to be OK with me, and that means finding small things to love or accept (hopefully both) about other people, without letting them bog me down in their darkness. Hopefully I can offer a little light to help them on their way. I can still remember April as she cracked that grin at me. She had a tough life. It was too short. But she had a pretty smile. That spark can never die.

Ladies: Measure Your Tits

I know it’s a risque title, but it says exactly what it needs to: women, get to know your girls better! Mostly, this is just a cautionary tale from one clueless woman to the rest of you (much more in-the-know) ladies out there, about how easy it is to misjudge just about anything, including your bra size.

The story goes a little something like this…

On New Year’s Eve, I decided that nothing in my closet was going to work for going out that night, and I deserved a new party dress. So I took the bus downtown in search of my dream gown, and remarkably, found the perfect thing a couple of hours later. Side note: I found the dress at Saks 5th Avenue, which is normally WAY out of my price range, but they had a 70%+ off rack, plus a 20% off sale on sale items. I ended up walking out with a gorgeous $600 dollar dress for just around $100 – total score.

Anyway, once I had the dress, I realized that nothing in my existing lingerie collection would really be pretty enough to wear with it. I wanted something retro and lacy, so I went to Trashy Diva, which is this amazing New Orleans-based boutique that sells vintage-inspired dresses, shoes, jewelry and lingerie. They actually have two shops just for dresses and a small selection of underthings, and then two shops that sell nothing but shoes and small accessories, and another two shops just for lingerie. I don’t live that far from one of the lingerie locations, so I walked in there in the hope that something would pop out at me to go with the dress.

Click the photo for more info on Trashy Diva's lingerie selection!

Click the photo for more info on Trashy Diva’s lingerie selection!

The shop is like a lacy candy store. Everything is so pretty and soft and silky and sexy, and you can’t help but feel a bit naughty just being in there. There are garter belts and beautiful silk stockings, and all manner of designer underpinnings at prices to match. As you might imagine, I was overwhelmed with my options and just sort of stood there, looking stupid, until the customer service person came to ask if I needed any help. I nodded, and confessed that since my weight gain, my boobs had grown and I was unsure of my size.

Now, even though I was telling the woman that, I was pretty sure I knew my size. After all, I was wearing a bra that fit me. I’d originally been a 34B, but once they became too uncomfortable to wear, I’d moved up to a 36B, then eventually a 38B, which seemed OK. But still, it never hurts to check, I thought. Besides, I hadn’t had a bra fitting in at least five years or more. So bring on the tape measure!

The tape measure came out, and the circumference of my rib cage just under my breasts was measured. I was surprised to see that the customer service person had the tape marked at 36 when she pulled it away. Then she measured my breasts at their widest. I saw her mark the number on the tape, but didn’t know what it meant. “So I’m a 36B? Am I just wearing my bras wrong or something?” I asked. She chuckled gently, then informed me that I wasn’t a 36B, or even a 36C – I was now a D cup.

If you’ve got big knockers, congratulations. If D sounds small to you, again, all the best. But for me, after years of barely being a B, the idea that I could one day fill out a “ginormous” D cup sounded like the thing of utter fantasy. As the customer service person started to lead me around, pointing out bras in my size that fit my other criteria – lacy, black, cleavage-creating – I remained incredulous. The obvious answer to all of this was that she’d screwed up. There was no way in hell I could fill out a D cup.

Except that I did. The first bra she had me try on went home with me that afternoon. It was absolutely gorgeous, and a perfect fit. Suddenly, that odd bit of underarm fat that always squished outside of the bra seemed less noticeable. The bands, just a tad wider than those on my B-cupped bra, didn’t press into my shoulders as much. My breasts still looked exactly the same size to me, and fit into the bra in the same way that they’d fit into my other bra, but seemed more secure, like they were held in place a bit better. Apparently the difference between a B and a D is not as much as I’d always thought.

I went out that night with a bit more confidence. It was like I’d gotten an instant boob job – no pain, just the same old lovely rack, presented in a spiffier getup. Before leaving the shop, I talked to the customer service person a little more about how I could have been so wrong about my breast size, and she said that it was something she saw multiple times a day at the shop. We’ve all seen women who are obviously wearing the wrong sized bras – you can always see telltale signs like overhanging back fat, or that interesting double boob effect where there’s extra breast tissue trying to pop out of the top of the cup. In the past, I always thought I’d never be one of those girls. But now I know that it’s ridiculously easy to get your numbers wrong. The wrong bra might not even look or feel that bad, if you don’t know what signs to look for.

If you have no clue where to start, you can get measured at any lingerie shop. If you’d prefer to do it yourself, Brittany Herself has an EXCELLENT how-to on her blog. She also includes a super in-depth video in her post by Caty135, which I’ve also included at the top of my post to make it easier. Make sure to give both a glance, as they contain some great information on why you should be careful when getting fitted at a chain lingerie store like Victoria’s Secret, and how to make sure your bras are fitting correctly.

Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky like me, and end up getting bigger knockers in the process!

 

 

 

Detoxification: Eight Days In And Smelling Fine

One of the ways that I knew my ex and I probably shouldn’t be together is that he didn’t smell good to me. And from his comments when I’d come home sweaty from a run, I didn’t smell too hot to him, either. For a long time I just chalked it up to being a stinky person, and I made sure to bathe a couple of times a day so I wouldn’t offend him too much. Then something strange happened. Once we broke up, and I started hanging out with my now-boyfriend, I started realizing how much I loved my new guy’s scent! Even better, one day, before I’d become bold enough to say something so weird to him like “Your sweat smells like happiness!” he grabbed me and gave my sweaty body a long, contented sniff. Behold – a relationship between two genetically compatible people! I’d tell you guys not to tell him I said that, but he reads this, so guess the cat’s out of the bag.

I’m giving you that background so you’ll know how important scent has been to me. It was a source of great insecurity for a very long time – most of the way through high school (oh, the days of Love’s Fresh Lemon and CK Truth), forgotten once I got to college and found independence, and then again when the ex started telling me that I was stinky on a regular basis. So probably about a third of my life. Which is complete and utter bullshit. But anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I still wear perfumes and scents when I feel like it. But there’s a difference between accenting your natural aroma and trying to suppress it.

A couple of months ago, I noticed that my scent had changed somewhat. I smelled different when I sweated. Nothing bad, and nothing that hinted at illness or an imbalanced flora. (Ladies, if you’ve ever had vaginitis or a yeast infection, you’ll know what I mean.) Just different. I didn’t like it. It was stronger than I was comfortable with, and it made me uncomfortable as I walked down the street in sweaty gym gear, or entered a crowded bus after wearing the same outfit all day. All the same, even though I knew the smell was overpowering for me, I was pretty sure that no one else was really registering it as distasteful. We’re so much more conscious of our body’s unique scents than others are, and I tried to keep myself from being too anxious and self-conscious. However, my natural state is medium alert, so telling myself to calm down isn’t that useful most of the time.

It’s eight days into my detox. I haven’t had coffee or alcohol in eight days, or wheat, meat, or dairy in seven. And this afternoon, after a particularly sweaty day, I noticed something strange. My scent has changed again. I was used to an acrid, sweet n’ sour overtone, and it’s gone. In fact, my gym clothes barely had a scent at all to me, even though they were sweated through. I’m not sure if this means that my smell went back to what it used to be, or if it’s something completely new, but it’s an interesting development. I’m going to have to get a smell-tester in here to confirm that I’m not making this up. Hope he still thinks I smell good, now that I’m getting healthy.

Other than that, all is well. I’m not having any major cravings, and my headaches have stopped, but I am still pretty tired by the time 4pm rolls around, and I need a nap every afternoon to power up for my nights. I need to be eating more, I guess, but I feel like I’m stuffing myself silly with food every day. My mental state seems to be a bit less scattered, and I’m going to sleep and waking up much more easily now. That’s good, because I’ve got so much work to do. Speaking of, I’ve got to get going. Wish me luck!