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.

 

 

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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 ;).