Showing Up

Becoming Okay with “I Don’t Know”

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I don’t do well with the unknown. I don’t think I am alone in this. However, I’m living in the middle of a great unknown right now. Maybe even an unraveling. No, definitely an unraveling.

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I wondered why. I’d only slept 5 hours the night before. I felt restless. Couldn’t get comfortable. I tried to read, tried coloring in my paint by numbers app, nothing until about 5a. It was about the time I fell asleep that it hit me.

Nearly everything I have identified myself by is falling away or has fallen away. Shedding parts of your lifelong identity aren’t just as easy as brushing crumbs off a counter. There are layers upon layers upon layers. And when you think you’ve peeled off the final layer, you realize this is a task that is going to take a while, maybe the rest of your life.

Not to mention, there are so many emotions involved. Trauma. Shame. Guilt. Sadness. Searing anger. Disappointment.

I’ve spent most of my life in defense mode, survival mode, with a wall taller, more fortified, or bigger than anything Trump can imagine around me. Always ready to either fight or flight or completely shut down. Shutting down as a teenager felt easy, but in my 30s, I’m facing what I did not feel strong or capable or smart enough to handle back then. I’m not exactly sure I’m strong, capable, or smart enough to face them now, but it’s no longer a choice to keep avoiding them.

Childhood and teenage me numbed out or took flight, nearly 37-year-old me walks around looking for a fight. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong, I dare you, it says. Treat me like I’m stupid or naive, say something about my weight, tell me I’m too much or too emotional. Fucking try me. Okay, maybe I’ve always been like that too, it is just more focused these days and my patience for bullshit is thinner.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately realizing my life is my own. I am my own responsibility. What I do, say, think, believe, feel, and how I live is up to me and for me. I can’t live for anyone else but me. I will never be who my mom wants me to be or the way she thought I might live out who she wanted to be or felt like I could be for her. I will never be quiet, submissive, and compliant like my dad always wanted me to be.

I am outspoken and I talk a lot. (Or really, I vacillate between talking incessantly and taking an unintended monk-like vow of silence.) I am introverted but typically outgoing (see: my vacillation between talking and monk-like silence). I love to use the word “fuck.” I have always been, and will always be, curious about sex and have a unfiltered sense of humor. (Though in all of this, I try to be respectful of others and behave appropriately for their comfort levels in these areas.)

I have never been containable, which both parents reminded me a lot like it was something to be ashamed of mostly because I’m female, but which I realize now is a superpower. I don’t like being told what to do, I’m stubborn, I also refuse to walk blindly into anything anymore (and I’m not sure I ever did unless it was on purpose), and I am done allowing people to tell me what to think about myself and my life. (Now, if I can just figure out how to be my own boss so I can work for myself, haha.) I was taught growing up that I could not trust my heart, body, gut, or mind, that I needed direction from someone or Someone else.

I have felt restless my whole life. Curious and questioning about everything even when I let other people shame me out of it by threatening that I would isolate myself if I believed differently than them. I felt so starved of love and a sense of belonging growing up that I squashed and belittled every thought I had that opposed those around me. I guess this is that part of human evolution where we adapt to survive, and adapt I did.

Last week, it hit me when I started to write about some of my identity changes that I don’t have to explain myself. That hit me like a ton of bricks. All my life, I’ve tried so hard to make people understand me and gotten so upset when I’ve felt unheard or flat out ignored. I have laid myself bare as a plea for my parents, friends, and John to please know me, understand me, and affirm/validate me. Or I’ve used it as a way to try to get them to open up to me. See? I’m telling you everything, now it’s your turn. But it wasn’t just to connect. It had more manipulative intentions. It was about control. I wanted them to open up so I knew everything I could know about them so a) when they used their knowledge of me to hurt me, I could do the same, and b) because I thought it would protect me if I could predict what they were going to do before they do or right as they were doing it.

But, I attracted people whose defense mechanism was, and maybe is, to keep me at arm’s length. So I could never fully know them, so they would never become predictable to me, so I could not manipulate or control them. This is a smooth steel wall I’ve tried to climb with John for eight years, never able to grip my limbs onto anything, just sliding down over and over again. I watched a video the other night about attachment styles, and as soon as I heard/read about the insecure avoidant attachment style, I knew that was the attachment style John has. It is one that struggles with control and trust issues and dealing with emotions (or avoiding them at all cost).

I, on the other hand, have a similar one that screams, “I’m okay as long as you’re okay” and almost never feels okay because I can’t tell how okay the other person is while also trying to please them, and if they’re not okay, I’m not okay – the insecure anxious attachment style. Our attachment styles are a topic for another post though.

I have put so much trust in what others think of me for so long, and those whom I’ve trusted with this seem to recognize this mistrust I’ve had with myself and treat me how I treat me, like I’m naive, stupid, and incapable of making any good decisions on my own. I really cannot put into words the anger this has caused in me lately. Not so much with the other person, but with myself.

See, the thing is, no, I don’t have to have explain or justify myself, life choices, or anything else with anyone else, except maybe the person or people I’m making those decisions with. However, I do have to explain them to myself.

What I have realized lately is this: I’ve had these lifelong fears of abandonment, rejection, and neglect, being unloved and unwanted while doing all of these things to myself. I have been projecting all of those fears because I could not look inside of myself and see that the one hurting me the most was me. 

I have spent so much time worrying about how everyone else will perceive the changes happening within me that I haven’t bothered to check in with myself. Hey, Amy, how are you feeling? How are you dealing with this? Are you okay? What do you need? I didn’t even realize how much I need to do this, how important this really is, because I was always taught that my self was not a priority, that I was supposed to put the needs of others before my own.

I think for all the times I’ve felt so hurt and angry at others for ignoring me, it has been my body and my spirit being hurt and angry at being ignored by me and put as a lower priority than others. 

And you know what? No, I’m not okay. I haven’t been for a while. I am coming to terms with things I’ve believed my whole life being mostly, but I don’t think intentionally, lies and a container to scare, control, and diminish me. Keep me in line. Keep me distracted from the real shit going on around me and to keep me from fighting against the injustices going on around me that I’ve been privileged enough to not recognize.

I’m not sure I am ready to go public with what these things are, but they are the bedrock of who I have been my entire life. Me trying so hard to be good enough to be loved, only to be told I haven’t been this from the start while also realizing I have been (what a winding road of a sentence). Yeah, I know it all sounds confusing and vague right now. I hate vague posts because I too am nosy and judgmental, but right now, I am putting myself first. Figuring out where I stand, how I feel, and if I want anyone else to know anything else about this.

Suffice it to say, I am in a great unknown. Thankfully I’m not alone in this, as the more I walk along this dark path, the more lights I find in various places, communities of people who tell me, “I know exactly how you feel,” and people who don’t feel exactly as I do but who tell me they understand why I feel that way. At the same time though, I feel alone. I am also coming to terms with the fact that it is okay if others don’t understand me as long as I understand me (or try to). My validation most importantly needs to come from within, though yes, it helps when others do it too.

But this isn’t something to look at with nothing but trepidation. I am becoming the person I was always and am meant to be. Right now, because I am still dealing with lifelong shame, trauma, and a scarcity/survival mode mindset that includes people-pleasing and codependency, the authentic me is still a little bit of a stranger. Or maybe an acquaintance, like I recognize her, talk to her occasionally, but don’t really have a real connection with. I am learning how to know someone without it being as a means of controlling them, and this includes myself. A relationship without manipulation or high steel walls or trying to work out my issues through them. Boundaries are good, and I’m learning how to establish and maintain them, something I was never taught or that were never respected growing up.

I was not born with a deceitful heart or worthless or unlovable until someone else loved and sacrificed for me. None of us were. I refuse to believe this anymore. I refuse to believe I should be ashamed of myself for who I am at my core. I was born loved and will always be loved, no matter what. I was created from the same materials as the earth, sky, and universe. I am small in the grand scheme of things, but I play a role like everything else created. I am just as needed, just as important even in my insignificance in this vast, infinite creation.

I have always loved Marianne Williamson’s words, “Who are you to play small? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” I’ve said for years that I’m done playing small, but playing small is safe and comfortable. Not easy, but safe and comfortable.

I will be 37 years old in 11 days, and as I get into my late thirties, I realize, life is finite, I can’t keep waiting for everything to align to live my life fully as I am. That’s not even a real thing that happens. I am living now and have been since the minute I was born. I can and will continue figuring things out along the way and make room for the person I am becoming and will become as I keep moving along.

There is no one “real” me. I, like everything else in this universe, am constantly evolving. And often, evolution requires deconstruction or even destruction. We see it every day in nature itself. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, erosion, eruptions, the earth is constantly making room for new, reminding us we are always all in flux, and shifting to maintain balance. Now, instead of clinging to the parts of me I need to let go or expectations of others or perceived expectations of others as a means to feel adequate and worthy of love, I’m thanking them for how they got me here and letting them go.

A couple of weeks ago, I cried in bed next to John, “I feel like I am living my life in one giant circle, forever coming back to the same place, people, and experiences!” I was so upset because John didn’t get the job he interviewed for in Savannah, and it meant we weren’t moving out of the Atlanta area. I thought, though I knew better, that maybe if we moved to a new area, my life might get better, easier. (Just like I’ve thought with losing weight, getting married, getting out of debt, and making more money.) I could find a job without worrying that the people I interview for know me already from past jobs and past bosses who probably don’t have kind things to say about me. Maybe there’d be some new area I could find a job in, something more creative, even if it paid less.

But we are staying here. Thankfully, we are moving this month back to Smyrna and it’s not the apartment complex we lived in before we moved to Chicago. That is different. I am different. John is different. Our marriage is different. This is not going in circles on flat land, this is spiraling up the staircase which means coming back around to the same things sometimes. Until I face the deepest, most broken, most painful and shameful parts of me, I will continue to run into them.

(And as soon as I find a job, I will be going back into therapy.)

I have identified with my trauma, shame, sadness, resentment, and guilt for far too long. Identified with being a child of divorced parents, raised in an abusive, traumatic, and dysfunctional environment. Identified with the size of my body and always being too big, too loud, too outspoken, too brash, too stubborn, too much. Identified with a religion with a book and leaders all too okay with using shame and the fear of condemnation and eternal separation from love to incite pain, violence, and suffering in anyone who doesn’t conform to it, especially women, instead of the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness that is talked about in the beginning of the second half of that book. I have felt and known a lot of it was bullshit most of my life, but did not know anything else but that and did not want to feel even more ostracized than I already did, so I followed along (like I mentioned early, intentionally blinding myself once I knew better for self-preservation).

I don’t know what to do with quiet, calm, and peace. It stirs up turmoil inside of me and makes me want to create drama and stress for myself, and, oops, John. Old habits die hard. I’ve been in survival mode my whole life, not realizing until recently I don’t need to anymore. No, it’s not going to be smooth sailing from here on out, but trust isn’t black or white.

Trust isn’t about perfection. Trust is an action taken that tells me I will be okay no matter what, a fulfilling life is about risks, and oh my god, it is okay to make mistakes. That’s something I was taught against growing up, being taught that mistakes were bad, why couldn’t I “just behave,” failure deemed me worthless, I had to be perfect to be loved. What a fucking lie. 

So here I am in the unknown. I mean, life has always been this way, but now I am embracing the lifelong unchartered territory I am moving in. Life is finite. This is it. My purpose is to acknowledge my connection to the universe around me in all of its moving parts, embrace whatever is coming as just a part of life, enjoy as much as possible, and release what needs to go.

October will be a busy month. John and I both turn 37 next week, him on the 10th and me on the 12th. We start moving to our apartment in Smyrna on the 13th, and my dad and brother Caleb are coming on the 20th to help us move the big furniture (or what is left after I sold almost everything). John is off from October 19-28, his first real time off in the two years we’ve been back in Georgia, so after we move out of our apartment in Marietta, Caleb is going to stay in our new apartment with our dogs while we go on vacation somewhere. I’m voting for the beach while it’s still warm, but we’ll see.

These are, at least, our plans. I’m also going to be more seriously applying for jobs during this time. I was fortunate to make enough money from the sale of our unwanted furniture to keep me afloat in paying off my credit card and car through October, but I will need a job by early to mid November.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past four months of being unemployed, and I’ve been facing a lot of what I’ve tried so hard to ignore most of my life. I am in another cycle of deconstruction and evolution and know this will be ongoing throughout the rest of my life. I am still learning it is okay not to do anything and that sometimes I will have to push myself (but with more love and grace and less harsh criticism like I was given growing up). I don’t profess to have anything figured out, and I’m learning that, really, no one totally has their shit together. It just seems that way on social media because we curate it that way.

Right now, I am getting to know myself as I am now. Being as authentic to who this person is as possible. Checking in with myself first. Trusting myself. Understanding that how others people think of me first of all doesn’t define me, secondly isn’t any of my business, and lastly isn’t nearly as important as how I think of me. Learning myself under all of my disguises used to try to be enough for everyone else. Becoming less passive, less passive aggressive, and telling others whom I know mean well, “I appreciate your input, but I am doing what is best for me in my way and even if you think I am wrong or naive because it isn’t how you’d do things, this is my journey to live and learn and I will and have to live with whatever happens along the way.”

Like I said earlier, I will not explain, justify, defend, or rationalize myself to other people unless it is in a discussion or decision that involves them. This will be incredibly hard for me because this has been forged into me, into that survival mode, all of my life. I’ve always been incredibly reactive, which those who have abused me feed off of and use to victimize themselves. But no, I’m practicing slowing down, taking deep breaths, remembering how others treat me is a reflection of them, not me, and the same applies in my thoughts, feelings, behavior, and reactions to them. I am asking myself, Why did that bother you so much? What part of you is this speaking to? What is triggering this behavior in you?  

And as far as boundaries go, here are a few things I will be drawing the line on, meaning I will no longer be an open book and will decide how much I want to share:

  • My religious beliefs (or for now, lack thereof)
  • My body: its weight, size, and look
  • Diet/Health
  • My marriage
  • My career choices
  • Where we live/whether we buy a house or not
  • Whether we have kids or not
  • Political beliefs
  • Other sensitive topics

I don’t know how much I will tell of what’s been going on with me lately, but I can tell you that facing this identity breakdown/evolution/deconstruction/whatever you want to call it and saying it out-loud to myself and those I trust most has felt so healing. And I’m just starting. I am still afraid of what may become known in the weeks, months, years to come, but as soon as I said the words to myself and those trusted people, my head cleared unlike any other way ever (without the use of Xanax). I felt free. The feeling waxes and wanes now as I begin to deal with all of the trauma I’ve experienced in those identities, but a truth has been spoken, and I know I’m on the right path.

In late August, I asked God/the Universe/myself/anyone listening with any sort of power or influence over all of this to break me of my need to know and control everything. And in the past few weeks, I’ve felt my iron grip on these needs tighten around my body to the point of suffocating and crushing me, then slowly relaxing and releasing. No, I’m not okay, I may not be okay for a while, but I am moving in the right direction.

I am becoming okay with “I don’t know” and finally, coming home to myself and healing my most important relationship of all, the one with myself. I am scared. I still want to run, fight, and distract myself with every possible thing, and that’s okay too. There’s no right or wrong here, just information. I will forever believe everything is working out as it is meant to, and I need to get out of my own way.

 

Showing Up

There Is Only “Now”

A few weeks ago, as we were eating breakfast, I went to get a second piece of the quiche I made right as I finished the first, and John said, “Maybe you should wait before you eat anymore. It takes at least 20 minutes for our brains to register that our stomachs are full.” I both felt enraged that he was spitting that diet mentality bullshit back at me and like I’d been stabbed in the heart. The look I gave him was enough to motivate him to get up and cut that second piece for me.

I didn’t know what to say. I knew I needed to say something to let him know that I cannot have him commenting on my eating habits like everyone else has my whole life. All I got out at the time was, “You sound just like my mom right now.”

While sitting there, barely acknowledging the piece of quiche I’d wanted just moments before while I ate it, I thought about my baby book. My mom gave it to me a couple of months ago. I remembered all of the notes about my weight she’d gotten from doctors and decided to hold onto as keepsakes. After breakfast, I grabbed that book and sat down on the couch opposite of John and started flipping through it.

I knew there were a lot of notes from my pediatrician about my weight in the book, but I was appalled to find out how far they went back.

The first one was dated September 28, 1984. My brother Adam wasn’t even a month old yet. I was about 2 weeks shy of my 2nd birthday. I first remembered being conscious of my body and weight around 5 years old, but it turns out the seeds were planted much earlier on. In the notes, my then pediatrician told my mom to carefully watch my weight. She, with her own lifelong history of disordered thinking around her body and weight, took that shit seriously and never stopped until just recently.

When I finished reading note after note about watching my weight, I looked at John and said, “I have never been able to have any peace with my body or with food. I never got to learn how to intuitively eat. I’ve never been allowed to trust my body. My weight and what I eat has been a topic of great concern and commentary my entire goddamn life.”

I have been thinking about this ever since, and unpacking the trauma behind it all. I have a lot of internalized fatphobia around it that I am continuously unpacking as well.

I have been obsessed with my weight and body my whole life because I thought I had to be, to seem like I was paying attention to it and working on it to make other people happy. I’ve been blogging about it since October 1, 2001. I’m beyond exhausted over it all and just want to stop.

I told John today that I don’t give a shit what people think of my body when I’m out in a swimsuit at the pool or beach, but that was a lie. Today, I almost didn’t go to the pool when I heard a couple of teenagers talking and playing in it. Then I turned away from them, like I turn away from John even though he knows what my body looks like from all angles, to take my pants off, took a deep breath before I turned around, walked to the edge, and jumped into the pool.

I worry about people thinking I’m pregnant because my belly sticks out a lot in comparison to my proportionate chest, hips, thighs, and shoulders.

I worry about John telling me, “Okay, this is about as fat as I can stand you. You need to lose weight.”

My brain continues to remind me that it doesn’t believe that I can take care of myself without the strictness of weighing myself and counting calories.

I talk about others never allowing me any peace or trust in my body, but I don’t have it for myself either. I instead run a continuous loop of all of these scenarios in my head to prepare myself for the comments of others that never come and if they did, do not define me.

I decided to take the above pics tonight to make a statement to myself to stop looking at myself as some project to fix and a body I can’t fully inhabit until it is societally acceptable. There is nothing wrong with it, nothing that deems me unlovable, but yet…

I have stopped dancing because I don’t like seeing my belly and thighs flopping all around when I shake my hips.

I have stopped wearing some of my favorite dresses because they still fit but more snugly around my belly.

I always wear leggings under my dresses because I don’t like how lumpy my legs are and because my thighs merge into one large mass when there is no fabric between them.

I am always making jokes about how fat I am in front of John.

Last week, I listened to @the.holistic.psychologist’s (Instagram) inner child meditation on YouTube. In it, you envision walking up to your childhood home (in my case, my grandmother June’s house since my parents moved every 2 years until they divorced), seeing the little child version of yourself, taking them by the hand, walking through the house and seeing every room, walking back outside, kneeling down to the child’s level, holding them, and telling them, “You are safe, you are loved, you are wanted, you are enough.”

I felt a wall of resistance at the beginning of the meditation. I thought, No, this is dumb. This is stupid. I can’t do this. I can’t meditate. I can’t get the breathing right. I don’t want to do this, but I persisted. Just at the point of holding my little child version’s hand and going into the house sent sobs wracking through my body. I could see every room in that house, and I heard June and Lib in the kitchen, but I didn’t see anyone. I could feel all of the pain, trauma, shame, and tension that I lived in at that time and for years to come. Coming back out and kneeling to about 5 or 6-year-old me, hugging her, and saying those words, more sobs came out instead of the words.

I never felt safe in that house. It was impossible to with all of the fighting and dysfunction and two uncles who made me feel very aware and very protective of my body while also very ashamed of it.

I never felt loved or wanted by parents. I only felt in the way. Hearing my mom say years later that I was too emotional, a burden, and that neither her nor my dad wanted me when they got divorced felt like a confirmation of that lack of love I felt from them and that it was my fault.

I never felt secure then and I don’t now. I know that’s why I go so all-or-nothing and fantasize that if I could just lose weight/get out of debt/find a husband/find a job I love/etc. as fast as possible, I can finally relax and enjoy my life. And life doesn’t work like that.

The peace I want isn’t just about being able to eat without diet advice or commentary. The trust isn’t about just preventing myself from binge and emotional eating so I don’t get any fatter.

This is all about grounding myself in who I am so that I don’t base my identity on how others see, think, or feel about me.

It is like those poles you see at the beach that tell you how high the storm surge of each category of hurricanes can get that actually survive the hurricane with the marks to show disaster assessors how high the waves got during the peak of the storm. I want to be firmly planted but able to bend and sway in the wind without snapping in two.

A friend of mine recently said my “color” (fire) seems to dim more and more every year, and she questioned if my marriage has played a role in that.

I don’t believe it is my marriage itself, but my expectations of myself in our marriage and my issues with codependency and people-pleasing. (This is not about the conflicts in my marriage that relate to both of us, and I’m not bearing all of the responsibilities and blame in them either.)

This is about me always putting myself and my desires on the back burner, something I have done my entire life. Spending more time wanting to be a different person, or at least have a different person’s body because I’ve been convinced my whole life that mine is wrong and flawed. About me still believing I am too much and being afraid of shining too brightly. About me being so intent on developing relationships with others that I don’t have the time or energy to develop the lifelong one with myself.

I’ve wanted to felt seen, known, and heard my whole life, yet I procrastinate and do everything I can to avoid allowing the person to see, know, and hear me to be me. I ache to be encouraged, celebrated, and affirmed, but withhold those things from being done by me. I thought the other night that I keep looking back at the me John found more attractive nearly eight years ago that I don’t stop to acknowledge how much I’ve been through in those eight years and that maybe, quite possibly, I’m a completely different, but stronger and better, person now. And that being in this relationship was the catalyst that made me face a lot of the trauma and associated emotions that only being with someone else, no matter who it was, could help me face and heal from.

Last Friday, I quit my second job in the past year and a half because it wasn’t right for me. I went against my gut yet again and wound up with a boss I had doubts about from the get-go. Again, settling and selling myself short. However, in this one, I began to find my voice and speak up for myself. I also decided to trust that my debt will get paid off, but that it is better that it is not at the expense of my mental or physical health. I am very fortunate as well that John is a supportive husband and has the means to cover the majority of our living expenses while I figure out what to do next.

First step is that it is time to get to know myself. To spend my free time alone and start not only hearing myself, but actually listening. To live fully in and enjoy my body as it currently is because no matter what, it will change numerous times throughout the remainder of my life. To write and maybe learn to meditate or at least figure out how to slow the swirling thoughts down in my head. To find things that scare me and do them.

To enter into a peace treaty with myself and decide okay, I am going to trust myself.

My goal this summer is to take life as it comes each day and take myself just as I am in those days because “now” is all I really have.

Showing Up

Self-Care and Exercise

Source: @therdnutritionist – Instagram

These days, it is so hard to separate the connection between exercise and weight loss. Fitbits, apps like Runkeeper, and workout equipment all tell you not just the distance and time you’ve covered but the estimated calories burned.

Though they are few and far between, I can remember being active as a kid without knowing or caring how many calories I burned.

I am the oldest and only girl in my family with three younger brothers. My brother Adam and I are 22 months apart in age so we were playmates as kids.

We played freeze tag, hide and seek, basketball, football (I was the QB and had to play two hand touch while the boys could tackle me because they said I hit them too hard, haha), and kickball.

When I was 10 years old, my mom signed me up for softball and Adam up for baseball. He played 2 seasons; I played 4. I loved playing softball because I was good at it. I’m super competitive which led to some emotional meltdowns when we lost, but I could hit the ball nearly out of the park and throw harder and further than any other girl on the team. (And people were always surprised that a chubby kid and teenager like me was such a great softball player, which spurred a love of defying others’ expectations and stereotypes of me as a fat person for the rest of my life.)

When I think back on all of this, even though I’ve been conscious of my weight and body since I was 5 years old, I don’t remember wondering how many calories I burned. I don’t think I was of the mindset yet of bargaining with myself over how long I had to work out to eat whatever I wanted to eat.

That came along with the Jane Fonda workout tapes and aerobics classes I did at the gym with my mom.

Even back then, exercise did not help me lose much weight, but it made me leaner, but I still equated the two.

They are still so deeply intertwined in my brain, exercise and weight loss, and trying to exercise because I enjoy it (I actually really do) has felt impossible because it keeps triggering thoughts and hopes for weight loss. Being unable to separate them has actually kept me from working out altogether even though I really want to.

So in some ways, I’m not sure if it is all me grieving or feeling fearful in my heavier body over where I am physically now versus then or if that nagging desire to lose weight is behind it all. Either way, I’m not doing anything. And I’m tired all the time and feel weaker and it is mortifying for me when John and I walk somewhere hilly and he’s ahead of me and asks me if I’m going to make it because I am breathing so hard and unable to keep up with him. It just reminds me of all the other times I was the one in the back of the pack gasping for air and feeling like I was a burden to the group.

Maybe it is all of those things, but how do I proceed from here?

I think I need to start thinking of exercise the way I think of other important parts of my life, like my job, marriage, friendships, finances, and etc. I do actually love to exercise, like I love my husband, making money, spending time with friends, and etc. even if I don’t always want to get out of bed to do any of those things. Moving my body is as vital as brushing my teeth. I can tell the difference in my body when I’m not moving it regularly and not in a weight loss/weight gain sort of way. My legs, back, and hips are so tight and inflexible from not stretching and moving them enough and that contributes to the pain I feel when my endometriosis flares up.

I decided to re-join LA Fitness back in February because there are gyms by my job and apartment and I want to get back into Zumba and have a place to do the Couch to 5K training when it is raining or cold outside.

I think I have been maybe four times since then.

I’ve “graduated” from the C25K program several times, the last time outside where I was able to run four miles without stopping and it was glorious, but now I can barely run for more than 90 seconds. I am so awkward and uncoordinated in Zumba because I am so out of practice with dancing because I struggle with how I look now while dancing in my bigger body. I haven’t dared to hike the mountains around here like I used to because it feels so uncomfortable trying to move and breathe with my lost endurance. I haven’t cycled either even though I now have a bike for similar reasons.

I also want to work on letting go of the all-or-nothing mentality that is the dying breaths of the diet mentality and perfectionism. To stop feeling like everything has to be structured and organized or it won’t work. I’ll never have a clean desk at work, for instance, but I don’t stop going to work for that reason and I still go home when it’s time to go home even if I’m not “finished” with everything.

Self-care in re-learning exercise outside of the diet mentality means letting go of the rules that diet mentality brought to exercise. Moving my body in ways I want to for however long I want to. Not forcing myself to stick to a schedule, but still finding time for myself to move my body so it stays strong and flexible like I find time to brush my teeth so they don’t rot and fall out and time to shower so I don’t become the “smelly coworker” and I don’t slip out of John’s arms when he hugs me because I’m so greasy, haha.

This is easier said than done, but I don’t have to get it right. It’s an experience and an education and there are no right or wrong answers.

How do you dissociate exercise from weight loss and the diet mentality? What do you enjoy doing? Tell me about your experiences with exercise and moving your body out of self-care.

 

Beautiful You

Day 15 – Beautiful You – Consider What Self-Acceptance Can Add to Your Life

Last night, John and I went to the Atlanta Braves’ home opener against the Chicago Cubs, our first real date night in a long time. This game was special because of our ties to both cities.

We both grew up Atlanta Braves fans – me in Alabama, him in Georgia. Three years ago, we moved to Chicago for his then-job with American Airlines at O’Hare Airport. While in Chicago, I worked in concessions at Wrigley Field and got to watch the Cubs go to and win their first World Series in 108 years. Some say I broke the long-standing curse, haha. Because of this, I have such a special place in my heart for the Cubs, but I am also a Braves fan. You can see where it might get tricky.

Either way, John and I decided that he would come to my job and we would walk to SunTrust Park because it’s only about 4 miles away. Four miles is nothing for us. We’ve walked from Evanston, IL to Chicago, IL before, about a half-marathon in itself.

We’ve all heard our parents lament about having to walk “uphill, both ways, in the snow, barefooted” before, right?

Well, it wasn’t snowing last night and thank goodness I had on a comfortable pair of shoes, but damn.

Walking from Powers Ferry Road to Windy Ridge Parkway to SunTrust Park is literally uphill both ways.

My body was not prepared for this.

When we got to the biggest hill near the stadium, John bounced ahead of me like the little unlimited stamina bunny he always is when it comes to anything steep, and behind him, I gasped for air and forced myself to think of anything else to distract myself from the burning in my thigh and calf muscles. He turned around and asked if I was going to make it. All I could do was nod and grunt.

There were moments I felt embarrassed because the thoughts rolling through my head were, oh my god, I am so out of shape / I have got to lose weight / I am holding John back / this must be so embarrassing for him.

But then I had this flashback of myself when I was this size before, trying to walk a half mile down a mostly flat street and having to stop because my legs and chest hurt too horribly to go any further and here I was, pushing myself up one huge hill after another. I only stopped when I had to, like with red lights. I made it up to that goddamn stadium without stopping to catch my breath.

I am really fucking strong.

That was the voice that emerged from them all. I mean, think about it. John only carried 150 pounds up those hills, I carried around 265 pounds. A whole 115 pounds more. How strong do my legs, lungs, and heart have to be to accomplish such a feat? If John wasn’t impressed, I sure as hell was when I thought about it once we arrived at the stadium.

I gasped for breath just as much fifty pounds lighter too, but this time I had more to carry.

And then we did it again on the way back from the stadium and even he was groaning and complaining of his legs and feet hurting.

I walked over 10 miles yesterday, mostly up some extremely steep hills.

It was so uncomfortable, but it was yet more proof that my body can do and does incredible things, and this is so much of what I am trying to focus on when my anxiety over my body size and shape tries to creep in.


Today: In your “Beautiful You” journal, consider what self-acceptance would give you if you decided to embrace the practice in your life. How would your life be different? In what ways do you need to see the world as more abundant? How do you begin today?

I think if I embraced the way I saw myself last night, with more admiration or even just acknowledgement, so much of my anxiety over my body, food, and how others perceive me would melt away. I have struggled to trust myself – body and mind – my whole life and have so heavily depended on the guidance of and validation from others, people who can only talk to me via their own experiences and knowledge of themselves. I have sought diet and nutrition advice from doctors, relationship advice from my friends and books, financial advice from friends and books and the internet, and even when everything in me is screaming to run the other way or is so aggravated with myself for allowing others to try to run my life, I have felt like they know something that I don’t and their perspective is more valid than my own.

If I lived in my body with more acceptance and grace, my life and everything in it would feel more like it was mine, like it belonged to me, and with that authority over it, I would feel more freedom to live like I want to live.

I have lived with such a sense of scarcity around love, affection, acceptance, and personal freedom my whole life. They have all felt like they need to be earned with some sort of grand performance of perfection. And if someone else is getting it, there is less to go around for me. It has gotten me caught up in comparing myself with others and feeling like shit because I can’t seem to measure up.

If I could shift to a sense of abundance and realize all of those things are around me and in me, I feel like the sense of competition would simmer down because there would be nothing to compete or fight over. (Of course, I also understand the privileges I have too, in that scarcity is a real thing for far too many people in this world.)

Walking out of the stadium last night with John’s fingers interlaced with mine, it hit me how much love is right here for me in my own life. I’m not alone. I’m not invisible. Instead, I have been blinded to it because of the fear, shame, and insecurities I’ve allowed to create my perspective on everything.

I am strong because my body can do great things, but I am also strong because my body and who I am have overcome amazingly hard things to get me here. Life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. My acceptance of myself doesn’t either. There’s no perfect way to do anything, just the way I was meant to do it, mistakes and all.

Beautiful You

Day 14 – Beautiful You – Banish “Have You Lost Weight?” from Your Vocabulary

Credit: @jennifer_rollin // Instagram

So excited to be finally getting back to Rosie Molinary’s wonderful book, Beautiful You. It feels like exactly what I need right now.

Today’s reading is about asking people if they’ve lost weight when you see them as your first response to how they look.

I remember when I started losing weight in 2005 and I was constantly asked if I’d lost weight. There was a sweet older woman who saw me on the elevator about once a week and each time, she asked me how much I’d lost and told me I was getting “prettier by the week” and to “keep up the hard work.”

I don’t believe it is intentional but whenever people have said to me, post-weight loss, “Wow, you look so great now,” my first thought is, How horrible did I look to you before?

And everyone seems to think you want to know what they thought about your “former” self. I was told by coworkers how I looked like the Unabomber in my black trench coat when I started walking at my heaviest and told things like, “I’m so glad you are doing this for yourself. You have such a pretty face.”

And after I lost a considerable amount of weight, I was damn near harassed by these same coworkers anytime I came into work in a new outfit or did something differently with my hair. “Look at you, girl. You look great. You must have you a man now or something.”

And when I regained the weight I lost, the compliments went away and all of my meals were critiqued and I was asked if I was going to go walk that day.

At home, it was criticism until I lost weight and being told I’d never keep it off and then silence once I lost the weight and kept it off for about 14 years. It was refuse to shop with me when I couldn’t wear clothes in “regular” sizes and then delight in shopping with me when I could.

Now that I’ve regained the weight, my dad says I need to “do something about it.” I went into a Lane Bryant outlet store last summer and though my mom had gone into every other clothing store with me in that outlet mall, she found an excuse not to go into this one with me.

When you ask someone if they have lost weight, unless they’ve told you they’re trying to lose weight, you don’t really know what is going on with them. Like, for example, my Aunt Debbie. About 5 years ago, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was a fat woman at the time, but as the disease progressed, she lost a significant amount of weight. It always made me cringe when I read comments under her photos on Facebook where people said things like, “You look so great now, Debbie!” even while she was dying from one of those worst, most painful cancers you can suffer from.

As a society, we are still so far from understanding that how someone looks does not require a comment and does not have to be attached to their size or weight or looks. We can find so many more things about people to compliment them on that do not have anything to do with these two things. When we sum up people by their size and weight, we are telling them that is all that matters about them even if that is not our intention. And since so many of us are still clawing our way out of the diet mentality, or are still drowning in it, it is hard for us to get out of this habit and so hard for us to separate our self-worth and self-validation from the observations of our own bodies by ourselves and others.

I like the suggestions in the photo I shared in this post. People are so much more than the size of their bodies so let’s find something else to compliment each other on. And like Rosie mentions below, if we think someone looks great, let’s say exactly that.

It is human nature to notice the differences in the sizes of our bodies and others’. Don’t shame yourself for that. However, keep that thought to yourself and if you feel compelled to compliment the person, find a way to do it that has nothing to do with that difference in size or shape. Let’s remind each other that we are way more than the bodies we carry our beautiful souls and personalities in.


Today: Make a commitment to banish “Have you lost weight?” from your vocabulary. Our weight shouldn’t be up for grabs in conversation-as either question or commentary. When you ask someone, out of the blue, “Have you lost weight?” you leave her wondering what you think of her and why. It’s one thing if your sister reveals to you that she wants to get healthier and hopes that you’ll help her on her journey. But it’s another thing entirely to ask such a loaded question of someone whose goals, insecurities, needs, and medical issues you know nothing about. If what you are thinking is really “You look great!” then just say that, with no qualifiers attached. By banishing weight loss comments from your vocabulary, you keep yourself from perpetuating the notion that someone’s weight and body size are fair game for discussion and up for both grabs and judgment.

Showing Up

Self-Care & Self-Sabotage

For the past month, I have been keeping a food/mood log to write down what I eat, my hunger levels before and after I eat, and my mood when I eat. For the first couple of weeks, this was really helpful. I was more in tune with my body, understood why I wanted certain foods at certain times, and felt like my body and I were finally beginning to work together.

But then something went haywire.

I don’t know if was my stomach being so upset and angry following up to my period or what, but I find myself ignoring my body again and going against it. And my moods are all over the place. I will start off the day in a really great, excited mood and then hit the bottom of the barrel by the end of the day, angry and sullen.

I refuse to allow myself to feel good for a long period of time or to celebrate any progress or to acknowledge and appreciate where I am.

I just fucking hate everything, including myself, when I get into these moods.

And I want to binge eat. I want to eat pizza and ice cream even if I am stuffed to the gills and my body aches afterwards like it does today. It’s like in the middle of it, my body is demanding for me to listen to it, “we’ve come so far, Amy!”, and I am like, “Fuck you, I don’t want to hear it.” And then I eat too much and I physically hurt and then I feel awful the rest of the night.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Why can’t I allow myself some self-validation, self-acknowledgment, and self-compassion? Why am I holding that impossible and ever-moving measurement stick to MYSELF? Why am I treating myself the way I was treated my whole life, a way that shattered me into millions of pieces over and over again? Why do I refuse to see the good in my life, to see where I am loved?

I really don’t know but I am so over it all today. My whole body aches from trying to smother all of this anger and sadness with food last night and from not being able to sleep well from the pain. And like I mentioned before, anytime my stomach aches, I start cramping around all of the endometriosis in my pelvis so that’s happening too.

I have had it beaten into my brain so long that my body is not okay, that I am not okay, that I can’t seem to think anything else. I just keep expecting to be treated and leered at and made fun of like I always was growing up even though that never happens anymore. Nothing I could’ve done then or could do now would give me the acceptance and validation from those people who constantly belittled me about my body that I still so desperately want. I mean, if I wasn’t fat, it’d be something else. Even now, it isn’t so much about being fat than me not thinking along the same lines as them politically and religiously.

I think everyone sees me and my body the way those people did and it casts a big, black shadow on all of my relationships, including the one with myself.

I still want to punish my body for things that were never supposed to be seen as wrong, like its size and shape and how it works or doesn’t work.

Maybe I still don’t believe I deserve healing or to have a healthy relationship with anyone, including myself.

I haven’t gone to the gym in about 2 or 3 weeks and every day, I’m like, okay, go today, and then I go home instead. I want to start running again, but just go home instead. I have a bike now and the weather is nice, so it’s like, go ride your bike, but then I make my stomach hurt and I sit inside instead.

I wish I could stop being like this. I don’t even want to post this blog post. I don’t know how to take care of myself when I feel like this – so agitated and angry. I feel like I can’t communicate with my body or anyone else. I am so stuck in my head that it exhausts me and I can’t travel any further through my body.

How do I get out of this whirlwind of self-loathing and self-pity and how do I stop sabotaging myself? How do I allow myself to believe I am worth all of the effort I make to have a better relationship with my body, food, friends, family, John? How do I focus on validating and acknowledging myself without worrying so much about getting the same from others? How do I focus on my needs and feeling like they’re worth to be spoken aloud?

I am in a lot of pain today, probably more so emotional than physical though the physical pain is there too.

What do I do on days like this?

How do I take care of myself when I want nothing to do with myself?

I am so tired of feeling this way.

 

Showing Up

Self-Care & Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating
Source: @lindatuckercoaching // Instagram

Well, I didn’t go into writing about my need for better self-care with the intention of starting a series, but here we are.

And today, I am writing about my history (albeit a dysfunctional one) with intuitive eating.

“Intuitive Eating” has become quite a buzzword in the health community and on social media in the past several years as fat and body positivity circles have increased the awareness that diets don’t work and eating disorders are being seen in girls as young as 7 or 8 years old. It was a term first coined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch back in the 1990s when they wrote the first edition of the book with the same title (note: not an affiliate link). 

Intuitive eating involves trusting our bodies to tell us when we are hungry, how and when to eat, and when we are satisfied. Though the term “intuitive eating” has been hijacked and branded into another restrictive diet on social media, true intuitive eating has absolutely nothing to do with weight loss and everything to do with listening to and trusting our bodies.

The sad and hard truth of body trust is that many of us have been told from a very young age that we cannot trust our bodies, that we need someone else (i.e., parent, partner, doctor, etc.) to tell us what our bodies need. I think this is especially true for cis-women and anyone who has or has had a uterus, ovaries, and a vagina, as we see in the constant political battles over reproductive rights. Our society has told us from the very beginning that our bodies, sexuality, thoughts, behavior, and decisions cannot be trusted and need to be kept under lock and key, the key to that lock belonging to anyone else but us.

The constant monitoring of the female (whether cis or otherwise) form is a means of control in a patriarchal society and financial gain for the beauty and “wellness” industries.

I can remember being as young as 5 or 6 years old and being told I could not have dessert because I was getting fat even when I was maybe 10 pounds overweight as determined by my pediatrician. All I wanted was an ice cream cone or my Easter basket candy or a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie. I watched over the years as my brothers were allowed to eat pretty much whatever they wanted, even when they were chubby, while my meals and body were constantly monitored and scrutinized, and where they were praised for being broad-shouldered and tall, I was made fun of and shamed.

Thus began my dysfunctional relationship with food and my body.

I know as deeply as my mom’s actions and words towards me hurt me, they were coming from her own pain, shame, and the same battles she faced in the same household – my maternal grandmother and great-grandparents and uncles – and her desperate desire to prevent me from experiencing what she experienced. But dysfunction breeds dysfunction if you just repeat the words and actions done to you.

I first learned about intuitive eating in the 1990s and even read the first edition of Evelyn and Elyse’s book back then. I mean, when you’ve been dieting since age 6 and you’re a voracious reader always looking for some way to improve yourself, you come across these things. Back then, it was still heavily steeped in diet talk because they were just learning and developing what intuitive eating meant and no one in healthcare or the media was ready to give any attention to anything that might lead to fewer buyers of all of the diet and “fitness” products.

I stumbled upon it again about 3 or 4 years ago when I first began following people like Jess Baker, Christy Harrison, Kelsey Miller, and other anti-diet bloggers, dietitians, and podcast hosts. At this point, I had kept off 50-60 pounds for about 10-12 years, but still felt like I was on shaky ground. I still tracked my food and exercise in MyFitnessPal nearly daily and was still absolutely terrified that if I ever stopped, I would regain all of the weight I’d lost and then some.

And then my fear came true.

I have felt like such a failure over the past 2 years now. And I am so exhausted from fighting with my body daily and trying to work through the noise in my head that tells me I am killing myself, I’ll get diabetes before long, probably die of a massive heart attack like my maternal grandmother, great-great grandmother, and great-great grandfather did, that John is probably disgusted by me, I’ll never be able to wear cute clothes again, how did I let this happen, all of the hard work I did is gone, etc.

I probably worry about dying every single day here lately, and I know so much of it is because it is so ingrained in me that being “obese” (or even “morbidly obese” by the bullshit BMI standards) means I will get diabetes, have a heart attack, and die by age 40 if not sooner.

I keep making half-assed attempts to log my food in MyFitnessPal again and weigh myself daily and all, but then I just stop because I get so angry at myself for knowing better and still buying into the diet mentality bullshit.

I am so tired of this.

I am tired of not trusting my body and my hunger and fullness levels. Tired of ignoring all of the ways my body talks to me like with my exhaustion and craving for sweets and when I turn to food when what I really need is to be heard and maybe hugged. Tired of feeling afraid to let go completely of my desperate desire to lose weight. Tired of still seeking a body that I am very likely never meant to have because my body is so set in how it wants to work and what it wants to weigh. I am tired of the shame in feeling like I’ve “ruined” or even “destroyed” my body when it actually works pretty fucking well every single day.

Intuitive eating feels like such a foreign concept for me because I don’t think I was ever allowed to eat intuitively, not even as a young child. I was forced to clean my plate, even threatened with a spanking if I didn’t (though finishing my plate has hardly ever been a problem for me).

I was told I could not have the sweets I wanted, so I learned how to sneak them. I got really good at muffling the sound of the cellophane housing an oatmeal creme pie by pressing it against my leg as I shuffled into the bathroom to damn near swallow it whole.

I overate as a big “fuck you” to my parents, grandmother, great-grandparents, and uncles who always had some critical comment about how and what I ate.

When I went to college, it turned into a food free-for-all because no one was there to tell me no. Too bad the shame didn’t stay back in Montgomery too when I moved to Mobile because this food freedom turned into a vicious binge then shame and self-loathing cycle until I was finally as fat as my family had been calling me my entire life.

I still moralize food and congratulate myself on the days I eat “well,” meaning within a certain calorie range or something along those lines. When this happens, I sabotage myself out of anger towards myself for still patting myself on the back for following the dieting mentality that has plagued me my whole life.

But like many of my dysfunctional habits – like being codependent and controlling – binge eating served a purpose in my teens and college years. I didn’t yet know how to process all of the trauma I was experiencing at the time and didn’t yet know that my being an empath and highly sensitive was a good, healthy thing, so I used food as a coping technique.

And now, at 36, I am in some ways thankful for that food but also really fucking confused with how to implement intuitive eating for myself.

Sometimes I have moments of clarity, like realizing I really like to eat egg sandwiches for dinner even when I have the makings for a salad or some kind of meat and veggies dinner. Sometimes self-care is making and eating an egg sandwich because I am too tired to stand at the stove and cook anything that is going to take any longer and I just need something easy and somewhat healthy to feed my body with. Or I understand now that with my thyroid being out of whack again over the past year and the exhaustion it, PCOS, and endometriosis bring, I will crave sugar for some kind of burst of energy. And on the backside of that, being insulin resistant means my body will struggle to process that sugar I am consuming for energy and my hunger levels will go haywire.

But maybe that’s how it works. My brain thinks it’s all just supposed to click into place like the clarity and resolve that always comes in the first few days or weeks of a new diet.

I don’t want to approach intuitive eating with the diet mentality. I want to approach it with my desire to have a healthy relationship with my body. Just as I am still learning to trust John in our marriage because of my fears of repeating the dysfunction I was raised in, I know trusting my body will take time. I’m just not the most patient person, haha.

In my desire to practice better self-care, I have deleted the MyFitnessPal and Happy Scale apps off of my devices. I can’t say I will stop weighing myself completely, but I am weaning myself off of the scale. I have unfollowed all of the keto and weight loss Instagram accounts I’d been following in the hopes of having an “amazing” before and after transformation picture where I’m suddenly lean and talking about how I can finally be me and have the life I’ve held myself back from for so long. (EYE ROLL emoji here.) Instead, I am following intuitive eating, body positive, and health at every size accounts.

Yesterday, I had this thought that I need to feed myself how I wish I’d been fed as a child. Without the rules, shaming, and criticism. Some of my weight gain has been because I decided to stop restricting myself from eating ice cream and found myself eating it for dinner 2 or 3 nights a week. Now, I have it maybe once or twice a month because I’m finally starting to trust that it is never off-limits. I know if I had a little girl, I would want to treat her how I didn’t get treated, so maybe I need to treat myself like that little girl? It sounds very psychobabble, but maybe the key to being kinder to myself and more accepting and trusting of my body is to treat myself like I would treat my daughter.

This post isn’t meant to solve anything but to share that I understand how important feeding my body what it needs regardless of its nutritional or caloric value but also share why that is still so hard for me right now.

Self-care is not a familiar practice for me because I was raised to believe that I’m supposed to put others first, so it would make sense that this also means acknowledging, listening to, respecting, and trusting my own body would be difficult.

This post will also not be the last time I talk about my journey with intuitive eating, and I definitely won’t ever have it all “figured out.”

I started this blog to work through all of the stories I’ve told myself my entire life in order to either end the stories or change the plot. My story about my body is a lifelong one but it can be a better one. My brothers and I talk about how we learned what not to do in all of the dysfunction we grew up in. I have applied that in my marriage and finances and my constant striving to know myself better and help myself heal and become stronger and healthier.

I want to do this with my relationship with my body too. It feels like the final frontier which I guess it is because it is the relationship that will be with me until I take my final breath.

What do intuitive eating mean to you? Have you ever had a troubled relationship with food and your body? How do you handle the constant barrage of messages on how you should eat, exercise, look, and weight?