This Body

I had something really strange happen today. I found myself, for just a few seconds, actually appreciating my body. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I loved my physical self. And it was a strong burst of love, strong enough to throw me off guard. It was like living in a place where it’s been raining heavily every day for as long as anyone can remember, and then one day the sun punches through a tiny spot in the clouds for just a second or two, and shines so incredibly hard that the person who was standing right where the sun happened to touch is now sporting a George Hamilton-level tan.

It happened like this: I was walking to work this morning. Since it’s already getting hot here, I wear my workout clothes to walk to work, then change into other clothes once I get to the office, so I won’t be sweaty all day. My workout clothes are pretty basic – spandex capris always, then whatever t-shirt suits me that day. Sometimes I wear sneakers, but I can’t stand for my feet to get hot, so lately I’ve been walking to work in my hiking sandals, Tevas.

So I was walking along, feeling kind of like a stuffed sausage in my form-fitting clothes, but overall just enjoying the sensation of walking. I really love the new sandals, and they make my walk feel more like an adventure. I was within five minutes of getting to the office, just starting to cross over a busy street, and all of a sudden – whoosh! I found that I loved how strong and capable my feet and legs felt, and how easy it was to carry my (kind of heavy, actually) work backpack. And then I thought “I bet my butt’s looking really great right now with all those squats I’ve been doing at the gym” and from there I started to smile, and felt like someone really should notice me, walking across the street, looking great. Wouldn’t that be a treat for them to see a strong, happy woman going about her day? And then I realized that I’d just experienced a moment of truly liking being in my skin, and it all disappeared again.

But it was there. I felt it. I know what it’s like. So that’s a start, right?

You Are What You Pay Attention To

There’s this stupid photo of a dress that just went viral, and my Facebook news feed is blowing up with people arguing over whether the dress is white and gold or blue and black. The top trending topic worldwide on Twitter right now is #whiteandgold. If you listen hard enough, I’m pretty sure you can literally hear civilization coming to an end around us as billions of brains grind to a halt. I’m going to write this blog post, then log off of the computer for the rest of the night to escape the bread and circus atmosphere for at least a few good hours.

This is appropriate, according to today’s Beautiful You prompt. I’m slowly moving along, and am now at Day 23: Realize That You Are What You Pay Attention To. This chapter asks us to think about what we focus on and give our energy to. If we are what we pay attention to, am I comfortable with that reflection of me? If not, what would I change to better represent who I am?

I focus on a few major things these days: working out/getting in shape, working, and going on pilgrimage this fall. If “focus” also means “waste time” then I also spend way too much time focusing on my looks (mostly hating them), watching TV, and playing around on social media. I’ve been working on trying to take the pressure off of myself when it comes to hating my body, and have found that working out, eating well, and reading this book (albeit slowly) has helped a lot. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m getting there. But the internet addiction is real and scary. The best thing for me is going to be sticking to a schedule and planning in lots of time to be offline.

When I think about how people see me, I want them to think of me as a reader, writer, animal lover, and world traveler. I want them to think that I’m friendly and kind, and though a little awkward, actually quite interested in who they are as human beings. I’d love to be considered a great marketer, but given the amount of internet addiction I’d need to encourage to keep up to speed with every single change we’ve got going, I’m just not ready to put that much strain on my mental health.

And that’s that for the day. I’m going to go read a book. I’ll be back tomorrow with some great photographs. Hope you’ll come back to see.

You People

Click through for a really interesting (if somewhat disturbing) study on modern day trolls. Yes, they exist!

Click through for a really interesting (if somewhat disturbing) study on modern day trolls. Yes, they exist!

Today I experienced something new, but unfortunately it wasn’t very nice; I was trolled. Without going into it a great deal, I’ll say that it was a series of vaguely threatening messages via Facebook PM, starting and ending with accusations that made no sense. At first, I thought that I’d actually done something somewhere online to upset the person, and was really apologetic, but it soon became clear that this wasn’t the case.

During our short exchange, one of the things the troll wrote to me was “You people are so full of yourselves.” It was completely out of context with the rest of the conversation, but that’s probably what made it so effective in her little psychological skirmish. In fact, I’m still having trouble getting it out of my mind. To whomever could the troll be referring? People who like it when everyone’s relatively polite to each other? People who appreciate not being scared out of their wits by weird, threatening FB messages? I don’t know who she thought she was talking to, but mostly I just feel sad that she was too blind to understand.

Umm, yeah.

Umm, yeah.

Most of my life I wasn’t cool enough to fit in with a crowd. I couldn’t be part of a “you people”. But now that I’m older, I’ve finally got a tribe. I know the people I’ve chosen to include in my life, and they’re thoughtful, open-minded, progressive, and almost to a person some of the most understanding and empathetic humans I’ve come across. I’m attracted to their light, like I hope that they’re attracted to mine. We’re mostly nerdy and quiet, and none of us are going to change (that much of) the world, but my “you people” is awesome. The members of my “you people” would NEVER try to scare a person for kicks, or say cruel things while hiding behind their computer monitors. Maybe that’s because most of us were bullied as kids, and learned pretty early that bullies are the worst. They are to be pitied for their lack of humanity, and ignored whenever possible. It’s how we survived. We’ve still got battle scars, but we’re alive, strong, and successful.

Ruminating on this reminded me that I was due for another Beautiful You post, and it just so happens that today’s is all about confronting the negative things other people have said about you over the years. The theory is that we internalize what we hear, whether we want to or not. If someone calls us ugly or fat or stupid, even if we don’t believe it, our minds hold on to that information and replay it from time to time to see if the data is true or not.

For me, there are four specific things I can think of that impacted how I saw myself as a child, and probably still today:

1) When I was about 9 or 10, I visited my paternal grandmother (my Nana) late one afternoon. That morning she’d had a tooth pulled, and she was in a bad mood. She took one look at me and told me that if I kept gaining weight, I was going to have a double chin. I’ve been obsessed with my chin fat ever since, which is stupid because it’s actually quite well defined – and singular.

2) In 4th grade, I got my first pair of glasses. They were huge and red, like Sally Jesse Raphael’s (anybody else remember her?). One of the boys in my class, Blake, picked on me a lot. He started calling me “Red Rims” and everyone else followed suit. I grew to hate my glasses, and I’ve never really gotten happy with myself in them, though I still wear them all day, every day. I’d really love to get Lasik sometime soon.

Really? You've seriously never heard of Sally Jesse Raphael? Click the image for the Wiki link.

Really? You’ve seriously never heard of Sally Jesse Raphael? Click the image for the Wiki link.

3) In 6th grade, I was being picked on a lot. Blake was still picking on me every day (let’s just clear this up though – he’s gotten a lot nicer as he’s gotten older, and I’ve come to realize he might have just had a crush on me). He threw broken pencils at me, called me names, and was generally an ass any chance he could get. But his friend Adam was worse. Adam hit and tripped me every chance he got, and called me “Pigeon Lip” because I had an overbite. That one stuck around, and even followed me into public school the next year, since he was friends with a kid in my grade at the new school. I’ve hated my mouth since then. I’ve had Invisalign, but my teeth aren’t movie star straight, and that’s not good enough for me. I’m pretty sure that my current obsession with getting braces again stems from my days as Pigeon Lip.

4) In 4th through 6th grade, a girl named Shelby picked on me daily. She mostly commented on my clothing and accessories, and pointed out to the other kids how poorly I was dressed. My family didn’t have much money, so most of my clothes were hand-me-downs or from yard sales, and the ones that weren’t were from Super 10 or (if we were splurging) Wal-Mart. I’d get one pair of sneakers to last the school year, and if they got holes we’d just tape them up or do whatever could be done to make them look presentable until the next year rolled around.

Since most of the kids I went to school with were comfortably middle class, if not wealthier, Shelby wasn’t the only one to notice that I didn’t fit in. But she was the only person who rubbed my nose in it in front of people at every opportunity, eventually getting them into the action. I can’t stand being dressed shabbily. I’m not a fashionista, but when something is worn out, or out of date, or not in style, it has to go. I have a lot of anxiety over my wardrobe, and that’s probably why when I get dressed up in regular outfits that look nice, I often visualize myself putting on a costume. Pretty clothes are like armor for me. Like maybe the bullies can’t see me.

The truth is that I have great taste in clothes, people always tell me that my slightly uneven teeth are “cute”, my glasses give my face character, and I’ve tried out the getting fat thing, and STILL NO DOUBLE CHIN (ha! take that!). The things that people picked on me about when I was younger were just silly little nothings, brought on by their own insecurities. Blake was as unhappy at that school as I was. Adam had just moved to town from Ohio, had an unhappy home life, and was trying to assert some kind of dominance over the class. Shelby was obese and unattractive, and wanted to prove she wasn’t a loser by pushing someone else around. Nana had just had a tooth pulled – honest, she was always super sweet otherwise!

Beautiful You says to replace the things that these people said with better lessons that I can carry around in my psyche. Lessons like: “you’ve got kissable lips”, “those glasses make you look quirky”, “love your style – it’s really brave”, or “glad you inherited my side of the family’s great bone structure!”

It’s OK, I already know. My you people have been telling me.

Beautiful Is

Helen-Keller-quotes-about-beauty

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.

Fixing A Hole

I’m painting a room in a colorful way, and when my mind is wandering, there I will go. – The Beatles, “Fixing A Hole”

For those of you who’re just tuning in, I’m reading a book called Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self Acceptance, and answering the daily questions that the book puts forth. It might look like this is my second post of the day (and technically, it is), but my earlier post was written yesterday. There’s absolutely no reason to explain myself to you, but I’m doing it. So I suppose that’s a great place to start with today’s musings re: how body image has impacted my daily life and outlook…my negative self image has definitely made me much more apologetic about EVERYTHING. I should probably start counting how many times I say “Sorry!” to people who don’t need to hear it throughout the day. If I were to take a broad guess, I’d say it comes out at least once an hour on average.

But what am I doing most of the day? What are the hills and valleys of this issue, as seen throughout a day in the life of this particular Anna? Let’s explore a typical weekday and see if I can figure it out:

I wake up somewhere between 9am and 11am, depending on a variety of factors (working at home? stay up late night before? bed extra comfy? back hurt? cat sleeping on face?). Get out of bed and try to stretch my legs/backs/hips. Sometimes feel disgusted with whatever I wore to bed the night before. I’d prefer something lacy and/or silky, like a 1930s film star in her boudoir – maybe even with maribou feathers, just for shits and giggles – but have never bought anything like that because I feel like I’d just look like a feathered, silky monster. Also, if I’m being honest, because my last bf hated when I’d wear anything long and elegant, and I hated short and slutty, so I eventually just got confused and gave up since nothing I found that made me feel sexy was titillating to him in the least. That’s no excuse for now, but it’s the truth so I’m putting it in here. So I’m wearing a t-shirt or maybe lounge pants or something sloppy and I am comfortable, but instantly tend to be kind of disappointed in myself for looking like trailer trash.

I go to the bathroom, brush teeth, wash face, that kind of thing. I generally don’t do my hair or put on makeup. It depends, really. My hair is really short on purpose – I hate wasting time styling it. I love wearing makeup, but most mornings I just feel like it’s no use putting on warpaint. It’s a combination of the fact that it will melt off during my walk to work, or not be seen at all if I’m working at home, or that I don’t interact with clients at my office, so no one will see it there either. But there’s also an underlying current of displeasure with my face. Plus, I really want to go to Sephora and do their Pantone color matching service and have them teach me how to put my makeup on expertly. I feel like I’m just doing it wrong when I do it, and that’s just not true. My makeup application skills are perfectly adequate, and I don’t look like a clown or anything. I do the “no makeup” look pretty well.

Next up is getting dressed. I hate almost every stitch of clothing in my closet. Even the things that fit right tend to piss me off because they’re two sizes bigger than I want to wear. I’ve gotten rid of everything that’s too small for me, but the stuff that’s my size still doesn’t fit me the way I’d like to. And it’s not even the style I’d like to wear. I really miss getting dressed up for work. Like REALLY miss it. It’s the saddest thing ever to be the only girl in an office of three – even if you adore your coworkers. I also really miss wearing vintage clothing, and it’s hard to find stuff that works for my new shape. So I put on jeans and a shirt. I try to wear pretty shirts, but they all look like crap on me. I feel like a figure-less blob. I feel masculine. I used to have this long-legged strut that people would point out all the time. Now I feel like I’m just dragging myself around like a swamp creature. I grew out of my bras, so I have no beautiful bras anymore, when I used to have at least a few. My underwear fit me perfectly, and are comfortable and cute, but I long to wear lace and satin again. When I’ve tried, just to see if I can pull it off, I feel revolting and ashamed. So I don’t.

I make breakfast – paleo, delicious and energizing – and drink a cup of decaf. It’s the first pleasant thing to happen during my day, because I know that each time I make the conscious effort to eat something that’s good for me, I get stronger, and that eventually my (comparatively) small sacrifices will add up to big changes. I walk to work – 2 miles. By the time I get there, I’m in a great mood.

If I’m wearing jeans, I have to unbutton them if I’m going to be sitting for that long. That puts me back in a shitty mood. If I’m wearing yoga pants, I can feel the bulge of my stomach and that also tends to put me in a shitty mood, but at least I’m more comfortable.

I spend the workday working (obviously), but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about my body (did I eat the right thing? am I craving something? why am I craving it? am I actually hungry? should I get a snack? have I had enough water? how much weight will I lose this week? do you think I’ll actually gain weight instead? did I have to unbutton my jeans when I was a size 8? are my shoulders fat? do I look fatter with short hair? should I get an under-desk exercise bike thing? will my boobs shrink when I lose weight? did I have more cellulite this morning than I did a week ago? is this deodorant still OK, or am I smelly? why can I not stop shaking my foot? am I that sensitive to decaf now? am I too hairy? i feel like my teeth are shifting back to where they were before Invisalign – can other people see that, too? blah, blah, blah…). It’s exhausting. Too many thoughts swirling in my brain. Too many of them negative. Too many of them all about me.

If I’m at work in my Chicago office (or getting ready for a trip there), I think a lot about the clothes I’m going to wear. The office is all ladies, most of them thin, young and stylish. On top of that, since I’m a senior member of the team, not only should I look more pulled-together than they do, I should also look more in control of myself (read: not fat) than they do. I’m only barely able to hold up my end of the bargain, and I feel uncomfortable. If I’m in Chicago, I’m not eating paleo because there’s nowhere nearby to go for something easy and within my limits. This, plus having caffeinated coffee while I’m there, are probably majorly to blame for not feeling/looking my best. At least in New Orleans I’m sticking with paleo lunches and decaf – they really seem to help.

Assuming I’m at home in New Orleans, after work I go home. Depending on how the day went, and how unhappy I am, I might buy a bottle of wine or some “bad” food on my way home to console myself. Fried catfish filets, mac & cheese, and mashed potatoes & gravy are my favorite treats. Most of the time now I manage to avoid these, though. I go home, drink water, eat a paleo dinner, and spend the night writing, watching TV, or hanging out with my boo. Four nights a week now I go to the gym before heading home. I feel great at the gym. I love lifting weights, I love the people in my class, and I love the feeling of accomplishment during and after the workout. It makes me feel better about eating a healthy dinner when I get home.

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So what I’m seeing (feel free to weigh in, if you’ve made it this far and have alternate views) is that my clothing is a major source of emotional upheaval for me. I have the power to wear pretty things and make myself feel better – maybe I need to get them tailored, or explore wearing more dresses, or make the leap and only wear screen siren nighties – whatever makes me feel good and giggly again. Maybe I should hire a personal stylist to help me out of the slump.

I feel inferior to most other women because I don’t feel pulled together in comparison, but I don’t pull myself together because I feel like it’s pointless because I feel unattractive. But won’t I feel attractive if I pull myself together? So maybe I should just put forth the effort to do the things that make me feel pretty every day. Though to do that requires an attitude of self-worth, and that’s going to be a tough one to scrounge up overnight. But I can certainly try. And I should definitely go to Sephora. Maybe this weekend. I deserve it.

I’m exercising and I’m eating pretty well. I could eat better. But I’m not a fat, disgusting bastard. I’m just a normal girl with a few extra pounds and some pretty big self acceptance issues.

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The other thing that I should talk about is being on stage. I love to sing. Or at least I used to. I mean, I still do. Just not in public. I’ve got a slightly nasty case of stage fright, but I’ve always been able to get over it in time to get up there and do my thing. I’ve been in a number of bands, and people who heard me on stage back in the day tell me that I’ve got a beautiful voice. I don’t know about that – I sound like myself to me, and let’s face it, who really likes hearing themselves talk (or sing)? But people like the way I sound, and I like the way I feel when I’m singing, and that’s really all that matters. I feel powerful on stage. Or at least I did.

But this year for my birthday I went to karaoke with a bunch of friends, and someone took a video of me singing on stage. I was shocked at how big I looked up there. My previously awkward stage delivery looks even worse with another 50 lbs packed on. I looked like an egg doing the hula (and I was singing ABBA, so really, it wasn’t that far of a stretch of the imagination). My secret ambition has been to get my shit together and get back on stage with a real band sometime soon. Now I’m not so sure about the “soon” part. It’s probably the most devastating issue I’m facing, but until now I’ve been facing it alone. Maybe now that it’s out on the blog I’ll be able to work it out in a less stressful manner.