the ILLusion

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ILLusion.  The prefix -ill has the most ironic yet appropriate role in the word “illusion” because it means “wrong”.  When we think of illusions, they are sensual and beautiful and magical but the -ill in illusion serves to remind us that this sensual, beautiful, and magical thing that we want is wrong.  We are all a little ill and yet we all buy into the illusion that we see in others and create for ourselves…what we post, how we dress, what we say and do; it is all so laser focused on masking the wrong and embracing and glorifying the illusion.  If I had GAINED 60 pounds in a year, my friends and family would have immediately recognized that I was ill, that something was wrong but having LOST 60 pounds in a year gave those same people the sense that everything was OK and that I was better in some way….The opposite couldn’t be more true…I’m worse in every way- ill to the core yet the illusion that the weight loss created sent the wrong message.  Don’t believe the illusion…it only seeks to hide the illness and it’s perfectly crafted to do just that.

Never before in the history of time have we had more power to shape and control the illusion that we share with the world.  In ancient times, if you were a king, the walls of your tomb would tell your story through biased eyes but now we have the ultimate control…thanks to social media we are visible to a massive, selected audience.  While the audience and the frequency of the exposures we share has multiplied exponentially, the role of our true selves has diminished significantly.  There are hundreds of people you are connected to daily but I’m willing to bet only a handful of them know who you really are.  I think 3 people on the planet truly know who I am and statistically that means you’re not one of them because the person that I’ve crafted myself to be is a just a glimmering illusion of what I want you to see.  If your honest with yourself, you know this is true for you as well and this only feeds the illness because we are all trying so desperately to be just like the illusion of each other that we’re idolizing and aspiring to be something that doesn’t actually exist.

I want her perfect ass.  I want their marriage.  I want a beautiful house like that.  And yet we don’t really know if these things that we desire and aspire to obtain are real or a fantasy.  I’ve recently made a friend who has a large social media presence and he talks a lot about the “artistry” of what he posts online….while I laughed a little when he used this term, what he does and what we all do is just that- artistry.  Artists create something beautiful or interesting from something mundane or ugly…if we’re all busy perfecting our artistry, then what happens to reality?  Where’s the truth?  Does it exist anymore and if it does are we brave enough to show it, to seek it , to desire it or are we only content in the illusion of it.  That friend with the perfect ass, does that perfect ass spend more time on the spin seat than at the kitchen table with her family.  That picture perfect married couple, do they sit in silence fantasizing about other people when they’re home together?That beautiful house, is it fracturing the family based on the crushing debt it put them into?  I want all of these things but am I willing to embrace the reality of what it will cost to attain them?  Or do I just want to put blinders on and bask in the beauty of the illusion?

If this weight loss experience has taught me anything it’s that I want truth…I’m in a desperate search for it.  I want what’s real and honest and true.  I believed in the illusion of being thin and all that it would bring and the illusion has left me hungry, aching, and broken.  Whatever you are searching for, don’t make yourself ill in the illusion, evaluate the illusion for its truth and determine if that is real and worthy of the effort you will need to put into to attain it.

 

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I Wish I Was Fat Again

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I WISH I WAS FAT AGAIN.  The other night, I found myself admitting just that to my trainer in between grunts and groans.  It’s not the first time I’ve thought it, just the first time I was brave enough to say it out loud.  His astonishment at my admission was followed by the inevitable question “Why would you want to be fat again?”  There are many reasons but the central one is that I thought, dreamed, and fantasized that everything would be better, would fall into some perfect order and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The whole purpose in writing this blog has been to let people into my journey with as much honesty as I can muster so this is the most naked, raw, realistic view of what this transformation has done to me.  That fat girl in the picture was happy…she knew who she was…she didn’t give a shit what people thought of her…the people who loved her, loved her because of who she was inside…she had morals and values and never questioned her priorities.  Losing 60 pounds has changed all of that.

People are superficial…me too.  When you’re fat, you are for the most part invisible.  The people who want to talk to you, to be your friend, to date you, do so as part of a conscious choice they make, because despite what you look like, they value who you are as a person.   That was always a beautiful natural filter that I used to my full advantage…it allowed the right people to sift through and kept the wrong ones out.  I knew the people I shared my life with were there for the right reasons.  Losing the weight, removed that filter and allowed the wrong people into my life for the wrong reasons. And you suddenly become hyper aware that you are being seen and while it is kind of hypnotizing in its effect, it really serves no valuable purpose if they are only there because of the way you look in a pair of tight jeans.

Thin is a lifetime sentence that comes with a desire to be more physically perfect than you were the day before.  The feedback you get from people is intoxicating and it drives you to keep pushing your boundaries to continue to receive it.  I’m exerting a whole lot of energy into something that personally isn’t that important to me.  When I was fat, I just accepted my physical shape as a part of who I was, not as a defining feature.  Losing the weight made me reassess myself as a composite of multiple factors that I hadn’t previously used in my assessment of self.  Despite being more aesthetically pleasing, I’m never satisfied.  I’m constantly trying to make one part or another of my body more pleasing…not to myself…but others.  When I was fat, I saw myself holistically, now every part detracts from the whole.  I could be channeling all of this time and energy into being a better wife, mother, or teacher (or maybe even ,GASP, making the world a better place) but instead I’m at the gym obsessing over something that really has a nominal value.

I know what started me on this path and that has been the only positive in this whole sweaty, hungry, emotional mess.  I wanted to feel in control again.  I had slowly relinquished all my power.  I had denied that I could solve problems myself, instead relying on others. Controlling what I put into my body and the shape that that body subsequently took made me feel powerful and that is the only thing that continues to propel me forward and doesn’t send me running back to embrace that flabby former self.

There is no happy ending here…the fantasy that losing weight will make everything perfect is bullshit.  Being fat is NOT the worst thing that you can be.  If you look around at your life and it’s full of laughter, love, and small pleasures then don’t think those things will be multiplied by a significant weight loss because in all honestly, they will probably be diminished.  I’m not saying this to discourage people from starting their own personal weight loss journey but I just want you to be prepared and to go into it with eyes wide open.  Know what your driving force is and promise me that it just isn’t to look hot for that guy in high school who didn’t pay you enough attention because you won’t find happiness with that focus (although you will most definitely find out that he was a loser anyways).  Begin your journey with a reason that is great enough to put your whole world into a tailspin because losing weight will mean losing a great deal more than pounds.

Don’t Be Afraid to Redefine Your Perimeter

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In my math class we recently finished our unit of study on perimeter.  Perimeter is the lines that provide definition to a shape and it got me thinking about the perimeters that I’ve established in my life and how they serve to define the life I live.  Certainly the perimeters that I’ve set up around my free time, my relationships with others, and the ones around my belief system have changed as I’ve become a wife and a mother but as I’ve journeyed down the path of weight loss, I’ve found it critically important to frequently reevaluate and redefine them and you should too.  If you’re unhappy with the shape of your body, the shape of your relationship or your career, don’t be afraid to switch up those perimeters and see what change it brings.

We recently had to evict our children from the use of our bathroom because they were trashing our space.  We bought our first house about 5 years ago but prior to that our children had always lived in small little apartments where we were forced to share the space.  And I always loved that they wanted to be close to us and to each other, opting to sleep in the same room and bathe in the same space despite having a large house to spread out in.  We decided when we had children that we were going to use the attachment parenting style where you co-sleep  (family bed until they were each 5), nurse for extended periods of time (2 years for each child), carry your children everywhere in those back breaking slings, etc. because we wanted them to develop an intimate closeness to their parents and to each other.  From the time that they were born until they went to kindergarten, they slept in our bed, they bathed with us , they ate sitting in my lap, and we pretty much spent every moment in close physical contact.  This attachment style served its purpose but as the children have gotten older, we have had to take a hard stance on redefining our perimeters to carve out some personal space for ourselves, our marriage, and for our children to develop some Independence.  Our marriage was starting to suffer from the lack of personal space and time.  My identity was suffering too.  Hard decisions had to be made but once the perimeters were redefined; our family burgeoned with these more restrictive perimeters.

When it came to my weight loss journey, more perimeter shifts were necessary.  If you know me, you know that there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to please my children or my husband but I found myself drowning in an ocean of service to others.  My mother often reminds me when she can see that I’m overwhelmed that when you get on an airplane, that the first thing they say in the safety sermon is that parents must put on the oxygen masks first before helping their children…which of course makes complete sense- if you can’t breathe, you can’t help someone else.  But somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten that and wanting to breathe feels selfish.  The time I spent working out was the only time in my day when children (both my genetic and my students) weren’t demanding something from me.  It was my time to breathe.  Now, it sounds easy to carve an hour out of your day to exercise but I quickly found that outside forces were whittling into that time (“Mom, I need new cleats for my game”, “Mrs. Sutton can you call me back about my child”, “Bec can you pick up my dry cleaning”)….I had to fight to keep that perimeter wide and sometimes that feels like being a bad mom or teacher or wife but that is the price you need to pay to be able to breathe in your space.

Another perimeter i had to reset was the food in our house.  While I was able to exert some self control when I was at work or in the car, the amount of temptation at home was too much to bear.  All the kids school snacks and the crappy dinners with their favorite carby creations were making us all sick.  So we evicted most of the snacks (I only get the ones I don’t like now and I buy just enough to last the 5 days that I pack lunch for them) and I started refocusing on nutritious meals (without a lot of carbs).  In tightening up this perimeter, I was able to make better, more precise and well thought out choices for myself and my family.

Examine your perimeters, make changes, broaden some and tighten others.  Refine the boundaries that define you and make your life take the shape that feels right for you.

In Search of Pain

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Pain is a thing that we spend a good portion of our lives trying to avoid.  We take medicine to ward it off, we abstain from certain things to avoid it, we barricade our hearts against it, and we warn others to evade it.  And yet we recite the mantra “No pain no gain” so deep within us, we know it has value yet we have to reconcile the need for pain and the avoidance of pain if we are ever to grow beyond where we are.  I look for the beauty that pain creates…the lesson it teaches us, the way it shapes us and transforms us with its dull ache.

If you’ve had children, you know that pain, intense pain, yields the most beautiful wonderful thing- new life.  Pain, in labor, has a function…it tells you when to push, it hastens birth, in forces newness into the world.  It is that newness that brings the greatest beauty.  My daughter, who is on the cusp of puberty, is constantly complaining about her growing pains and I remind her that all pain brings about radical transformation…she will transform from a girl to a woman urged on my those feelings of discomfort.  I know she doesn’t get it now, but she will, and hopefully she will remember those moments of being uncomfortable as a source of change and not something to fear.   And remember that pain, that unbearable pain, that comes from heartbreak, the end of a relationship; it teaches us, guides us to what is good and bad for us.  It forever shapes our view of love from there on out.    The pain of losing a loved one teaches us more about love and the expression of that love than any sappy Hallmark sentiments can.    Yes, pain is the greatest teacher and it shapes the course of our lives.  Pain has a transformative power like nothing else so don’t avoid it, seek it out because it tells you that the change you are so desperately seeking is coming.

I spent the last 20 years of my life being comfortable and it certainly didn’t make me happy.  It had the inverse effect- keeping me anesthetized to what I needed to get to in order to find happiness.  Pain has been the variable in the equation that has changed everything for me. Hunger pains have showed me that I was stronger than I thought, that I was in control, and that I was powerful.  Pain in the gym gave me the evidence that I needed to know that I was building muscle, banishing fat, and getting stronger than I ever thought I could be.  My trainer, Jimmy Ready (who’s at Club Fit- in case this post leaves you inspired to embrace pain) knows that I want to leave each session limping because that’s my evidence that I’m accomplishing what I’ve set out to do.  Despite working out all the time, I’ve come to realize that my personal fitness goals are best fed by pain.  I know if I’ve finished a workout and I’m not sore all over that I haven’t finished and keeps me going back for more and pushing harder towards my goals.  Even the introduction of pain in the bedroom has transformed my relationship with my partner, deepening my trust and reliance on him to provide me with what I need to feel alive, powerful, and in control.  In a world where we constantly want to be rewarded, pain provides that in the most bittersweet way.  A hard day of yard work, a tough game on the field, a demanding workout that leaves you breathless and unable to walk down stairs for 2 days- pain is the applause that has value.  We know we’ve worked to our capacity when pain accompanies those accomplishments.  And pain promises that growth and change has happened.

Stop avoiding pain.  Seek it out.  Don’t stop until you find it.  Allow your mind, body, and spirit to surrender to it like a baptism of blood, sweat, and tears.  Know that pain has a purpose and find its purpose in your own life.  Use it to start your own radical transformation and know that pain is temporary but the changes it brings will last a lifetime if you are brave enough to seek it out.

 

 

What’s Your Superpower?

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If you’re like me and you’re a mom, you already know what your superpower is…invisibility.  You do it all: schlep children to their activities, you cook healthy meals, you clean the house, you show up at the PTA meetings, you bake for the bake sale, you’re the team mom, the Girl Scout leader, the first one to volunteer yet no one knows your name.  You’re either “mom” or Olivia and Taylor’s mom…your husband even calls you mom…you cease to exist…you’re invisible…although it doesn’t feel like a super power at all…in fact it sucks.

Now I get it…I know some of it we bring on ourselves….somewhere along the line we actually start to believe that being invisible is a good thing.  We accept this superpower as a consequence of surviving the nuclear waste leak that is sometimes referred to as parenthood.  As if changing diapers (see the toxic waste reference) mutates us into invisible beings.   We place our children in front of us in every picture like farmers presenting their harvest- this is what I have to offer.  Bullshit.  We pack on the pounds after children as part of our invisibility force field.  No one’s looking anyways so I might as well finish off that quart of ice cream.  We start shopping for clothing at places with “barn” in their name like we’re accepting that we’ve become cows.  We accept that wearing our hair in a low maintenance style makes the most sense (whatever that means).  We stop wearing sexy lingerie to bed because well, he’ll sleep with me in my cotton underwear and t shirt anyways and we’ve only got 10 minutes so that doesn’t leave much time for a costume change does it?

FUCK all of this.  I don’t want to be invisible.  I want to be seen damn it!  And not just as Olivia and Taylor’s mom or as Mike’s wife or Romeo’s owner….I want to be seen as the sexy, vibrant WOMAN that I know is in there somewhere.

I’d like to say that we live in the kind of world where I could be seen for my smart ass sense of humor or my charming ability to carry a conversation but let’s be honest…if you really want to be seen, it starts with the physical.  So as I started losing weight, I looked for any way to make the person I felt I was on the inside be seen on the outside and that started with ditching the sensible shoes.  Ladies, you know, you never feel more electric than when you’re walking around in some motherfucking heels.  You can’t walk in heels without a natural swagger, a strut, a saunter.  Then I moved on the the undergarments…I didn’t care if the material chapped my nipples or the underwire cut into my skin or if the thong occasionally got lost up there and had to be retrieved….I knew no one was going to see them at work but I felt a little less invisible when I knew what I’m rocking underneath my clothes could also be seen on page 37 of the Victoria’s Secret catalog.  And the clothes, just because big flowing peasant tops are in right now doesn’t mean I need to hide my shape under a yard of fabric.  God (and let’s be honest…Ben and Jerry’s) gave me this shape and I’m certainly wasn’t going to hide my light under a bushel, no matter how dim that light was at present.  I started taking a lot of selfies too because you know what…I don’t need my kids in every picture as some sort of explanation for why I look the way I do or as some kind of reference point.  I also started taking A LOT of dirty pictures of myself…sometimes I send them to the hubs- sometimes they’re just for me. Sometimes I look at them in my car before I pick up the kids at soccer or swim or dance just as a reminder that I’m more than a taxi driver.  My husband sometimes has to remind me that I’m a mother and not a porn star and to that I say FUCK YOU. Even if I’m invisible to most of the world, I can see myself.  And then there was the weight-loss…the quickest way to be seen…..which is ironic if you think about it…the larger you are the less people see you…the smaller you are…well you know.

Whatever you do, trade in that superpower of invisibility for something that is actually super and makes you feel powerful.

 

 

 

 

Beware the Life in the Middle

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When I was 15, I was diagnosed as bipolar with extreme mania.  I took medication for a time until I realized that living in the middle sucked so much worse than the way I had been functioning.  While I’m certainly not offering any opinion on what others with the disorder should do, I know for me that living life in the middle seemed to be something to be avoided like carbs.  Now, most of the women I work with and am friends with are on some kind of mood stabilizing medication because life in the middle seems a safer, calmer, more lovely place to live.  No judgement.  We all do what works for us but I know that is something that I don’t want in any part of my life….bring on the crazy, the moody, the screaming and yelling, and crying because I know that it comes with snorting laughter, the shit eater grin, the uncontrollable dancing in the kitchen, and the running through the rain with your arms outstretched and I don’t want to miss a moment of any of that.

Life is filled with highs and lows and ultimately if you average them out, well, you end up average…which I guess is still a central tendency of being in the middle.  Yes, while the lows suck, they make you appreciate the highs so much more that it tends to skew the average a little higher.  Recently, my marriage has been all about getting the “d” (no, not that “d”), the D.I.V.O.R.C.E.   The last month has been the worst of our 12 years of marriage and of our 19 years of living together.  And while I did briefly contemplate his murder in the last month (I may need to chill out on the crime TV) and I’m sure he did the same, when we came out of this low time, the feelings between us are now stronger than they have been in a decade.  Almost losing him, being at my lowest point, made me hyper aware of how lucky I am to have him and how deep my love for this man that I picked is.  You know when you have a cold and you think to yourself- “Man I miss being able to breathe freely” and then the first day you start to feel better and you actually appreciate the ability to breathe…something you never even gave a passing thought to….that’s what riding the highs and lows gives you that life in the middle doesn’t.

So how does all of this relate to fitness and weight loss…I think it’s pretty clear.  There have been moments on my journey in this last year where I’ve been on a euphoric high, my weight was down, my body was morphing into something more pleasant, my husband couldn’t keep his hands off me….and then the low would strike…out of no where…all that progress would stop or even GASP go in the opposite direction.  And because I embraced these highs and lows, because I knew the lows would pass, because I was seeking them out, I didn’t give up…I didn’t stop…I didn’t say “Fuck it bring on the brownies”.  Instead I fought to get back to the highs…I used the lows as a step to get out of my rut and try something new.  I hadn’t lost any weight in the last 6 months so I tried a variety of things (some successful and some not so much) to step out of my lows.  I fasted, went to the gym 3 times a day, sucked down more apple cider vinegar than my body could handle, returned to some bad habits, yet nothing worked…but I wanted that high again so badly, I refused to give up.  So my final step was getting a personal trainer… and while you’ll see me limping around, things have started to turn around and I’m heading to the high again.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned from my trainer thus far also relates to highs and lows.  I spent the majority of my time with weights doing the same weights for the same number of reps….I thought that worked…not so much apparently.  Like life, your muscles need to have highs and lows, they need to experience variety, times of high and low stress to stretch and grow…you see the analogy there, right?

While living life in extremes is not a life approach that works for everyone, I challenge you to taste it briefly and see if it doesn’t make you love deeper, your life feel more rewarding, and your ass look even more spectacular.  Hey, highs and lows don’t just work for squats ;).

Watch Who’s Watching

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I’m constantly reminding my children to say thank you, to look for people who need a friend, to work their hardest in school, and to have an attitude of gratitude (that’s their favorite- it’s always greeted with an overly dramatic eye roll).  Despite correcting their behavior and constantly talking to them about the kind of women I want them to be I am painfully aware that all these lessons and lectures have nominal value and that it will be what they see me DO that will have the most influence over who they will become.

So I try to model the way they should behave, view the world, and view themselves through my actions.  When it comes to relationships, I’m OK with letting them see my husband and I have a profanity-laced screaming match because I also make sure they see me sitting on his lap, holding hands at the grocery store, and going out for child-free dinners.  I wear sexy lingerie to bed every night because I want them to see that relationships require sustained effort in a variety of ways.  I don’t let them watch Disney movies because I don’t want them to believe in fairy-tales.  I do want them to see a realistic view of the relationship I have with their father so they won’t have a skewed view of what marriage and love is and maybe, just maybe, they will pick a partner who they can build a life with forever.  When it comes to being a mother, I make sure they see me at every game, practice, recital, and lesson because I want them to know that raising their children means being there for the little and the big things.  I make sure they see me cooking homemade, nutritious meals and taking care of the house so they can learn how to take care of their own families one day.  I make sure when I go to work I’m dressed up (yes even on dress-down Fridays) because I want them to see how seriously I take my job and my role as a teacher.  I’m hyper aware of everything they see me doing except when it comes to how I view my body.

Last week, I was trying on a bathing suit that I purchased in front of the floor length mirror in my bedroom while my girls were watching TV on my bed.  I was disgustingly pulling at the fat on my sides and complaining loudly about how nursing them killed my boobs.  I started to cry looking at a reflection that seemed to show nothing but my short-comings and my youngest child came to comfort me….”Why are you crying Mommy?” she looked up at me quizzically…”Because I’m fat and no matter how much I work out, I’m still fat”… She thought for a minute and then said “You’re not fat, you’re mommy”…She saw me as perfect because I was her mommy, she wasn’t looking at the stretch marks or the rolls when I bent over.  I took off the bathing suit and kicked it to the corner and went in to take a shower and try to regain my composure.  I came out calmer to find that my 11 year old had put on the bathing suit and was standing in front of the mirror, pulling at her perfect frame and examining herself at every angle with the same look of disgust that I had just modeled moments before and I realized my error immediately.  I’m trying so hard to send her the right messages about so many things that I forgot about the most important message, that her beauty comes from within.

On this fitness journey, I’ve had to look at myself very critically and I know that I’ve completely fucked up when it comes to the messages I’m sending my daughters about their bodies.  It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them that they are beautiful,spectacular creatures if I let them see me hating my own shape.  I remember my own mother being very critical about her body and having always been significantly heavier than her, I always thought “Wow, if my mom thinks she’s fat, she must see me as enormous”.  I also remember my mom having an entire dresser drawer in her bedroom filled with candy which she would binge on every night when we went to bed.  My mother shared everything she had with us but would freak out if she even heard the creak of that drawer opening… We knew that those special treats had a significant value to her and this may have been the strongest message she sent me about food despite making beautiful homemade dinners every night.

Be mindful of what messages you are sending to your children but more importantly look at yourself through their eyes.  They don’t see those fine lines by your eyes as ugly- those are where they see all the laughs you’ve shared and the traces of smiles that you’ve lovingly bestowed.  They don’t hug you and revile at the squishiness of your back or sides, they push into it because it is a part of who you are, a soft place to land when they need comfort.  They don’t see that mommy pouch as something gross but as a gentle reminder of where they first lived inside you before they moved into the world and now only live in your heart.  They are watching…intently watching…wide-eyed…make sure that they see you loving your body and accepting yourself because it will be the strongest lesson they learn from you.

 

 

Cheater

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I’m a cheater.  I’ll admit it.  Everything about the word is sexy- including that it has my favorite word “eat” right smack dab in the middle of it.  When I think about cheating, the thrill of excitement that travels up my spine at the speed of light is driven primarily by the fear of being caught, of doing the wrong thing when you spend a lifetime always doing the opposite, of the devilishness that is contained in being secretive.  But when I really think about it, the darkness that surrounds it clearly dims the reality.  Cheating only shines in its murkiness but when you bring it out into the light of day, it loses most of its appeal.

I live my life pretty out in the open.  What I say, what I post, the image I share with the world is pretty broad and gritty.  I’m not afraid to share the craziness, the messiness, and the happiness that permeates my life as a mother, a teacher, and a wife.  But when I have a secret- I closely guard it like a treasure.  My husband and I have lived together for almost two decades so he knows me very well.  We have always had a pretty open and honest relationship but the things that he doesn’t know about me, the really dark shit that would scare him, I clench onto that and wrap myself in satisfaction that there is something that is all mine, that no one but me knows about, my own little dirty, dark place where I can live alone.  Secrets are delicious in their depravity and their solitude.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this journey examining what power the secretive side of me has over my life and what I’ve found is disturbing to say the least.  My most treasured secrets have to do with food.  Cheating with food is my favorite affair.  Eating well in public and cheating in private is something I think many people struggle with in their lives.  It’s hard to hide a drug problem but food is the perfect cheating opportunity that still allows us to function and dysfunction at the same time.  I’ve struggled for the last 25 years with bulimia.  It’s been my most treasured secret.  Eating for me has always been tied up in darkness.  On the outside, it’s all smiles and laughter but food is a tenebrous place for me…it’s where I punish and reward and more importantly where I rebel.  My whole life I’ve had to be the good girl.  I’ve had to swallow a lot of sadness and put on a good face.  I’ve had to be a grown up before my time and embrace responsibility before I ever really got to taste freedom.  Eating a dozen donuts in the parking lot in my car was always my secret little “fuck you” to the world…yeah you think I’ve got it all together well watch me eat this until I’m literally sick.  It was my silent scream that I’m not okay, that I’m hurting, that this whole life is a sham.  But as I started to change my body, I realized that if I’m screaming in silence, no one can really hear me or help me.  I think any kind of cheating has this duality to it.  Not happy in your relationship, rather than saying and showing what you need, cheat….but then are you really getting what you want and need or just silently screaming out for help that won’t arrive?  Secrets have no voice.  Cheating makes no sound.

Find out what drives what you keep secret.  Listen to those clandestine parts of you, try to find out what they are telling you and speak those words out loud to the people that love you.  You will invariably find out two things.  One, that what you’re cheating with really doesn’t solve your problems but continues to deepen them like a river cutting into a valley carving deeper and deeper into the bedrock.  Two, that what you’re cheating with really isn’t as great as what you could have if you could just say those words that you’re keeping secret.  Stop cheating yourself out of getting what you really want.  Bring those secrets out in the open and watch the healing and rebuilding begin.

 

I Let My Mister Replace My Sisters

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I challenge you to look through any old pictures of yourself before the age of 10 and  you will find that every picture where you are with your female friends- your bodies are intertwined like vines.  When we were little, before boys came onto the scene and complicated it all, your life as a female was tied to your female friends.  I watch my daughters at dance or tennis or Girl Scouts and find that through out their time together, they are in constant physical contact with each other, arms linked together, holding each other around the neck or waist, holding hands, always attached.  Somewhere around adolescences that all changes….losing one’s virginity often means losing one’s girlfriends and that is the greatest loss of all.

Growing up, you relied on your girlfriends to make every decision from what to wear, what activities you participated in, what path you chose at school or on the field, what you found funny or offensive, and look at you now….all those influences are male and probably just tied to one male.  I let my mister replace my sisters and it may be part of the process in growing up but it sure does suck.  My girlfriends shaped me in ways I wasn’t aware of until their absence was felt years later into adulthood.  Your girlfriends would tell you when you were being an asshole in the most constructive of ways.  They would tell you what kind of behavior was acceptable and what wasn’t.  They would tell you what your value was in a relationship and to the world but somewhere along the line all their invaluable input faded and you put your entire stock and self worth into what your husband or partner thought.

You wouldn’t take your car to be serviced at the frozen yogurt shop would you?  Of course you wouldn’t because they don’t have the equipment you need to get things right again but we as adults tend to lay our struggles down at the feet of people who don’t have the equipment we need.  And while my husband certainly has the equipment I need in one respect, his lack of a vagina and a woman’s mind certainly doesn’t help me come up with a solution that solves my problem.  While I’m only partially joking, the issue is that women in today’s world go through a common set of experiences that is foreign to most men.  When I’m crying after sex to my husband about how my body has changed due to having children, he can sympathize but he can’t empathize because due to the luck of the draw, he didn’t get the privileged of going through that transformation.  The female experience is unique and we need to realize that we can best be healed, heard, and motivated by others who have experienced those same joys, challenges, and sorrows.  My husband doesn’t know what it’s like to be violated in the most intimate of ways.  He can’t understand what it feels like to carry a human life inside you and then lose it.  He doesn’t know why the commercial about the lost puppy made you lose your shit during the Super Bowl.  He doesn’t understand the significance of losing your name when you get married.  But your girlfriends do…

Besides a common experience, the way that men solve problems is inherently different than how women seek out solutions.  I often find myself going to my husband with an issue and he inevitably has either one of two solutions, either it’s my fault or someone else’s but that’s not how women solve problems (that blame game belongs entirely to the war mongers (I mean men)).  Women will look at a problem from every angle and give you input for a variety of solutions and then (this is the most important part), they will give you the information that you need to solve the problem yourself.  A man will tell you what he would do and then get pissed when you don’t solve it to his exact specifications.  Women are collaborative in how they solve problems.  I see this all the time in my classroom.  A group of girls working together will begin solving a problem by getting feedback from everyone and then harnessing the specific talents of every team member to come up with a solution.  A group of boys will often spend the entire time shooting down each other’s ideas in an attempt to build up their own and run out of time to finalize a solution.  And they run the world?  Yikes?

As I began losing weight, it was the feedback I found from women that was most crucial in moving forward and making more progress….not that my husband’s golden comments of “Wow I can fit my arms all the way around you now”  or “Your back fat roles aren’t swallowing my hands up anymore” weren’t super motivating.  Women, some who were my friends and some who just happened to notice a change in me, knew exactly the thing I needed to hear to keep me motivated, to make me push myself harder, and to bolster my self-esteem.  All women have struggled with body issues, it’s an unfortunate right of passage that is unique to women, so they know what they would want to hear and they have the courage to speak it and the deep desire to see others of their gender succeed.  While you might have traded in your sisters for your mister, don’t be afraid to reconnect to your girlfriends or make new ones.  Men understand the importance of this gender specific bond and they don’t seem to have to sacrifice their boys when they grow up so fight for yours.  Whether you are trying to lose weight or just need to be heard, your girls are here for you- you just need to reach out, grab them by the waist or the hand and journey back to your 10 year old world where your girls were everything.

 

 

Let Fear Be Your Fuel Not Your Entinguisher

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I’m a parent so I get the significance of fear to keep people safe.  I know that hearing me scream “Don’t touch that” or spanking a child when they do something dangerous serves a purpose.  As a teacher, I know I can control a child’s behavior with the threat of a phone call home.  Fear has a function in childhood and adolescence to keep us safe, to let us know where the boundaries are, to remind us of limitations that are acceptable for appropriate behaviors.  While it is a necessary component of our early years, it tends to mutate into a force (like gravity) that keeps us chained and grounded in adulthood.  Losing weight challenged the role that fear played in my life and forced me to use fear as fuel for change instead of a stopping point.

We got a puppy about a year ago and our neighbors got a dog around the same time and they almost immediately installed an electric fence for their dog.  And while I know this keeps their dog safe, it also limits his experience.  We have a creek behind our house and our dog loves to play in it.  Romeo likes to woof at the teenagers who cut through our property to get to the Carvel.  Our dog likes to greet our neighbors with a good crotch sniff on their property and while I’m sure they don’t enjoy it, I can’t bring myself to limit him because of the way I feel so deeply about how the fear of the zap has kept me from fully experiencing life.

I was talking to a new friend the other night…someone I never would have talked to ever before I lost the weight and she was laughing about how we have become fast friends in a short amount of time despite knowing and interacting with each other for several years.  When I was fat, I didn’t feel like she would want to be my friend but now that I was thin, I texted her one night and we became friends almost instantly.  Now undoubtedly, we would have been friends even when I was fat because she’s just a cool chick and we have such great conversations despite not really having parallel lives or experiences but I let the fear of rejection hold me back from experiencing this great friendship.  I was afraid of the zap of rejection and it kept me from a new friendship with someone who has already broadened my thinking and experiences.

I never got to say what I wanted to, what I needed to, to my dad because I was always reminded of the wooden spoon my mom used to teach me to respect my elders and now he’s dead and I’m emotionally stuck because I let fear stop me from telling him what a piece of shit I thought he was.  My husband had always been riding me to tell people who were walking all over me to stop but I always let the fear of losing them in my life keep me penned in like a dog with the shock collar.  Now, my husband may have preferred not to push me in that direction because I no longer have any fear about telling people in general (and that poor man specifically) exactly how I feel about the way I’m being treated.  I’m not going to lie, it feels fantastic, almost orgasmic to release those words that I would have swallowed and buried deep.  The fear is gone…if I lose you as a friend or a colleague or an acquaintance oh well….I can’t live swallowing these poisonous words and feelings anymore and I won’t live with the fear of disapproval either.

I recently went skiing with my kids and my husband.  I had only been once before in college with a friend who was a great skier but not a great teacher.  I remember being paralyzed with fear going down the mountain for the first time (the mother fucking mountain not the damn bunny slope).  While I didn’t die, I knew that the feeling of being out of control was not a sensation that felt good for me.  So there I was a decade later on the bunny slope, in tears, as my kids had to drag me down the 10 degree incline.  I literally cried, shaking, snot dripping down my nose because I was so afraid.  Fear had paralyzed me and I couldn’t enjoy this beautiful moment with my family because I was literally frozen.  I started thinking about the hundred other fears I had and how irrational and ridiculous they were.  I’m not a great swimmer (probably due to those 30 years or so when I desperately tried to avoid being in a bathing suit in public) so I actually keep a life vest under the front seat of my car in case I go off of a bridge and into the water with my kids in the car so I can save them.  As I science teacher, I know that we would be dead from the impact so why do I clench my whole body when I’m going across a bridge?

Fear has no place in adulthood.  It’s irrational.  It holds us back from living a life that quite honestly is worth living.  So what if people think you’re weird or a bitch?  So what if you don’t think you can do it and you end up looking like an asshole trying?  So what if you disappoint people…life is disappointing and living a life in fear isn’t really living at all.  As you start to shed the extra weight, imagine each pound lost has a little of whatever fears trap or zap you from living a life that sets you on fire then run the yard and take in all the sniffs it has to offer.p