Picture this…

What if you just pretended you were beautiful.  Even if you didn’t believe it.  Just acted on the assumption that your body and face were beautiful to look at and everyone loved it. How free would life feel?

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My attempt at beach pin-up. Feels pretty freeing to pretend I am beautiful.

 

I tried that. Not intentionally really…I just kind of gave up worrying because I’m old. I’m sick with fibro and I am tired. I’m tired of pulling at my clothes and swimsuits to cover my fat etc. I’m tired of being hot when I go out in the sun because I’ve covered my fat so much. I’m exhausted at a beauty regimen that is sort of simple compared to most of my friends. I am pretty much exhausted at life most of the time. So, I just gave up over vacation.  I took a vacation from caring about fat or my double chin or my red face or any other perceived faults.

I think I was encouraged by my sister a bit. She oozes beauty out of her pores. She is young, blond, vibrant with dazzling blue eyes that are unusually shaped. It gives her an allure I can’t describe.  She is so unbelievably beautiful and I’m all the time being told she looks like me. That reflection, seeing her sometimes when I make a certain face in the mirror, has made me feel beautiful and young. Having her close really makes that connection hum for me.

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Isn’t she the stuff of magic?

I’ve always thought highly of myself, a relatively good self-esteem, but I’ve always been a really good fat person too. I covered myself so not to offend someone, from even before I was truly fat. I made sure my “faults” were covered. I never wore stripes. I covered my legs for the most part. My belly hasn’t seen the light of day since I was fourteen. I wear a skirt with my one-piece swim suit, and usually wear a cover up until I can slink into a pool unnoticed. When I read about the body positive movement I was behind it all! I was like “You go girl! Wear that bikini!!! That woman is a badass, but I could never do it.” I would look down at my fat belly and think “No, not my belly, my belly is not for public consumption.” I believe that I should be free to wear what I like. I believe anyone should be free to wear what makes them feel good. I just didn’t think I was at the place where I could put that belief into practice.

 

The body positivity movement is inspiring, but also defending it can be exhausting. There are people who just don’t understand how horrible it is to hate yourself, or maybe they do? I like to think that they truly believe they are trying to help, even if what they do can harm the fat people in their lives. I like to think the best of people. In my own life, I try to not discuss weight with my loved ones. I get so angry and upset. I am tired of explaining that I have to be in control of my body. I have to feel good about my body in order to provide self-care. Why would I care for myself if I felt my body was not worth the time? We want women to care for themselves, don’t we? I want the women in my life to care for themselves, especially my sister. She is so young and energetic. I want her to think of her body as the beautiful miracle it is. To do that, I want her to see me loving and caring for my body. It may not affect her self-esteem seeing me love myself, but I can always hope. As an older, plus size woman I have learned to actively love myself. I take time to maintain my body and I am learning to cast off all those social conventions that have made me feel uncomfortable with certain pants, stripes or swim suits.

This week between learning about the body positive movement, my sisters influence, and the fact that my fibromyalgia flared I decided to love myself. I decided to cast away all self-doubt and just swim, walk, and laugh with abandon. My sister helped me pick out shorts. I wore shorts in public for the first time in years. My mayonnaise legs basked in the sunlight while looking for whales in the Atlantic Ocean. I ran in with my fat arms waving in the breeze and didn’t care. I was too tired with my body aches to pull down my swimsuit over my thick thighs. Did we get shunned? Made fun off? No. Actually, a woman came over and offered to take pictures of us. She said she was enjoying watching us laugh and looking like we were having so much fun. She wanted to help us commemorate these moments. It was a pretty amazing day at the beach.

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Don’t we look beautiful happy?

The last day we were there my sister was kind of bummed we didn’t get to swim in the ocean again and we usually try to do something a little crazy and life affirming when we get together, so I suggested we get into the ocean with our full clothes on. I was wearing leggings, an exercise bra and kind of a fancy shirt. Right up until we got to the water, I was going to wear my shirt because I had always said, “Never my belly.” At the last minute after placing my purse on a rock, and giving my husband my phone to take pictures, I triumphantly whipped off my shirt and bared my belly in my exercise bra. I just dove in and laughed at the wildness of running into the ocean almost fully clothed. I was having too much fun splashing and laughing with my husband and sister to care about how my white fat belly looked in the sun. Again was I laughed at? Pointed at? I don’t think so. I wasn’t paying attention. Frankly, I didn’t care one last bit.

I felt triumphant. I was bonding with my family and I was not ashamed. It has made me want to take care of my body even more. I was exhausted and sore after. I don’t want to be exhausted and sore while on vacation anymore so I am working even harder. It isn’t shame that works, it is capability that inspires me. Please listen, if you feel like only shame works. It doesn’t. Living is a pretty magnificent carrot. It’s hard living when you’re shrouded in shame.

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That’s right! That’s my beautiful belly.

Self-conscious about Selfcare

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I have learned something very important lately. There is a value in what some people might call “selfishness.” I don’t advocate loving yourself above the love of others. I would just advocate taking care of your mind and body so that you can help others more consistently and powerfully. I grew up in a Christian household in a bible belt state. There is a stigma against anything that could be considered “selfish” especially for women. Mothers are supposed to give up all for their families. This is an underlying rule. This is something ingrained in every woman. Women and especially mom’s sacrifice. They’re the ones who cook, clean, and the last ones to eat dinner. Last Thanksgiving, I was home I watched most of the mothers be the last ones to get dinner and then they stood around eating it because there were no more chairs left. Why is it always the women left standing? This is just one example of many I saw growing up that said being a mother/woman meant being selfless, wanting less than. It’s not just the Midwest, I’ve read that families where both parents work across the US women still do seventy percent of the house work. I don’t think it is just my Midwestern roots cleaning their way into heaven.

When I quit my job to move to Philly because husband got a new job, we decided that I would pursue my writing and try to build a career. Two things happened that made that a difficult venture. First, my health went wonky. The pain I had been dealing with got steadily worse, as documented on this blog. Second, I got too caught up in taking care of my house. That sounds silly doesn’t it, but it’s true. With fibromyalgia I only get so many “spoons” of energy to do things. I would get up make breakfast, and then clean something draining all my spoons and then have no energy to do anything else. It was ridiculous how long this went on. I would clean like a mad woman and inflame my fibro and then maybe be out of commission for a few days. I was getting less and less done. Sadly with fibro, I have had no choice but to be “selfish.”

My mom says the bible doesn’t advocate selfishness, but I venture that the bible doesn’t say anything about cleaning your house, doing laundry, or being the last one to eat Thanksgiving dinner. It does tell us that we should take care of our bodies like a temple because the holy spirit resides there (paraphrasing.) This has been my new goal, my new focus. It is hard, years of ingrained guilt is hard to buck but I am doing it.

I kept reading about women in the wellness industry who put their health first. There was a reoccurring theme on the website well+good.com where women explain their daily morning rituals. https://www.wellandgood.com/tag/my-morning-routine/   These women are yoga instructors, nutritionists, and healthcare gurus. They are also wives and mothers. I was always reading what they do every morning, their indulgent rituals, and feeling extremely jealous. They usually start their day with hot lemon water, yoga or some other exercise, cuddles and conversation. They also usually do something else indulgent like art, journaling, or hanging out in the park. It seemed to me they had a relaxing Saturday before their work day. All of these women make an insane amount of money, claim to feel good and satisfied every day. Those aren’t the only signs of success but I still couldn’t see how they were doing it. So, emboldened by these articles, I decided to put my health first.

Does that just mean exercising? Shouldn’t health also include my mind and soul? Instead of cleaning first thing in the morning, I am doing my yoga, meditation and prayer, and then I am writing. Afterwards I am getting what cleaning I can done before starting dinner. Even then, sometimes if I clean enough I am taking a little hot tea break mid-afternoon. By doing this, giving to my soul and mind, I am getting more done than ever before.  Another product of my Midwestern upbringing, I like being useful. When I accomplish things, it helps my self-esteem. This is probably one of the traits that makes me the proudest of my heritage. While my productivity really makes me feel good about my new plan, it’s not the only thing. I feel better. I am getting my yoga in, and my quiet time and my writing which is something that has always made me feel whole. I am doing that corny thing they always talk about: filling my cup before helping someone else. I am putting my oxygen mask on before putting one on anyone else.

You know who is happiest with my new plan? My husband. I am making dinner every night. The house is more consistently clean. I am in a good mood. I may actually make money on my writing someday if I can keep up with this consistency. This “selfishness” turns out not to be so selfish, and maybe it could pay off even further in the future.

Losing the Incessant Weight Loss Narrative

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Sweating even before physical therapy!

I met with my physical therapist this week and was bragging to her about doing my stomach and hip exercises and actually asked for more. Can you believe I asked for more exercise? I used to hate exercise. I actually asked her for more. She told me no. She said to stay at this level for another month. She doesn’t want me to do too much too fast. With fibromyalgia, you have to work out at low impact and build up slowly. So, I can’t add exercises willy-nilly. I have to be methodical.

But I was pumped, man! She put me on the exercise bike and I was bragging about how well I am doing. I love physical therapy and I love yoga. I have been doing so well. I am forty-one and for the first time in my life I have an exercise habit. A habit.

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More sweating, out and about

The amazing part is that it’s working. I haven’t lost weight. This isn’t that blog. I’ve never in my adult life seriously put effort into losing weight. I was told over and over that I needed to lose weight for my health. I was told over and over exercise will help me lose weight. That really didn’t resonate with me because I’ve always been fabulous even plus size. I’ve seen people lose weight, it takes over their whole life and in my experience, they always gain the weight back. Somewhere in the back of my mind that always seemed fruitless.

So here I am on this exercise bike telling my physical therapist how wonderful I’m doing, like a five-year-old explaining stuff to her momma. With just six months of these exercises I have not only gotten the pain down to a measly two or three days of my cycle, I’ve also fixed my knee and can walk upstairs normally. I am freaking wolverine! I have healed myself in six freaking months. That, my friends, is astounding. I am not just being hyperbolic because I was in so much pain that I thought my life was officially a deep pit of despair.

While I am sweating on the bike talking about how awesome it is, the conversation turns (like it usually does) to how I wish I had known how all this worked before. Then I talked myself into being frustrated again. Why did I not know that this would be so easy to get the other, I feel more important, benefits of exercise.

People can’t stop talking about losing weight. Lose weight for better health. Exercise to lose weight. Oh my goodness people can’t shut up about it. In magazines, books, newspapers, on TV, in school, at home, all I have ever heard about exercise is that it helps you lose weight and it’s good for your health. That’s great but extremely, excruciatingly vague.

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Sweating while fabulous

You know what happens when I read? I learn something. It is a very specific something. If I read a book about snakes I learn about snakes.  For the fast six months, I have been walking a mile – two maybe three times a week depending on my fibromyalgia and every day I have been doing warrior pose. In just six months, I have healed a knee that has been unable to do stairs for years. The only reason I have found this out is because I had to start exercising to fix my pelvic pain. So doing these things, these small exercises fixed my knee. Do this specific exercise to strengthen where you are weak and in this much time you will have this capability? I don’t know the specifics but I am sure athletic people and physical therapists do.

Why don’t we talk more about capability based goals? Why aren’t we talking about how easy it is to build up muscle. I feel like this physical therapy is voodoo it’s so amazing. I have followed my therapist’s instruction religiously, and that is the reason it is working. It is small things. I haven’t been doing super aerobics. I am not working out two hours a day or anything. I’m not running up stadium bleachers to Chariots of Fire, or running down the road pulling an old man to Eye of the Tiger. I am just walking and doing light yoga.

Our body is an amazing thing. As a child, my ankles always turned me off exercise. Even now I have to worry about turning them if I don’t concentrate. I am working on them with my yoga. I am working on my arches too because I have some super flat feet. As a child, if I complained about my ankles I was told I was just lazy. As a chubby little fourth grader that is all people saw in me. What if someone had saw a little girl with bad ankles and taught me how to strengthen them? Could I have become that BMX trick biker I wanted to be? Probably not, but at least I might have had a regular exercise practice all these years.

If we worried more about our bodies capabilities than what they looked like on the outside, maybe someone would have helped me with my ankles. I’m not abdicating guilt in my weight. I am just saying that now that I know what I can do, I have been working very hard for the first time in my life. If it hadn’t always been about my weight, if it hadn’t always seemed so insurmountable, perhaps I could have started this earlier. Maybe I would love other types of exercise besides yoga and swimming, or maybe not. I just think this is another reason why the weight issue needs to be discussed differently.

Wrapping Revelry

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I love wrapping presents. Most of the people in my life don’t understand, and consider this task a rather fruitless or joyless task. My mom only does enough wrapping to disguise the gift and she even finds this tedious. My friends sourly say things like, “Oh, I’ve got to wrap presents tonight.” You can hear the trumpet blowing in the background sadly Wahhhh wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I can’t wait to wrap my little parcels. As soon as I get the first purchase home, I clean off the table, turn on the Christmas music and arrange all my wrapping supplies. It is one of my favorite things to do all year. I used to have a plastic tub filled with wrapping paper, bows, tape, and scissors. I had to get rid of it in my new apartment and I miss it. However, I still buy enough for the current year and take my time making each package look pretty.

I love wrapping for many reasons. Some are selfish. I love looking at the shiny wrapped packages hanging around our house, like tiny promises of momentary joy. The colors reflected in tiny lights or flickering candlelight. It’s kind of like marketing for a movie. Those packages are a small preview of the shiny faces to come.

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I love wrapping because I feel a release in the process. For moments of time I am thinking of the person who I bought the gift. Do they like this color? Does this paper remind me of them? Santa Claus paper is always reserved for Mom. Blues are reserved for my sister. I try to have funny little cute images on my nephew paper. I even have slightly staid manly-ish paper for the men in my life. While wrapping I think about the person, memories and likes and dislikes and try to imagine how they will feel about the gift or the wrapping. For whole moments, I am outside of my mind and anything that stresses me. I am joyful with anticipation. It’s like a meditation. I picture the joy on their faces for just a little bit, hoping it takes them out of their worries for just a minute.

That’s the other thing I love. It is a beauty that will last only a little while. So much of artifice and art is meant to last a long time. Wrapping is meant to be torn apart. ­­­­­I love the idea of someone thinking Look how pretty that is and then ripping it to shreds. I love watching people tearing apart wrapping paper. That is so fun! I feel like small pleasures here and there are all we can really guarantee in life. To be lost in a little bit of time here or there. To be lost in something beautiful for a minute like the look on my sister’s face when she opens something surprising or lovely.

No one can count on the big stuff. Big moments don’t last very long and then you’re only reaching for the next one after that. We live in the small moments: Brad kissing me unexpectedly or tearing up when I am happy, my Grandma gushing when she is proud of me, my sister texting me to call her out of the blue, Mom confiding in me, or Caleb telling Grandma how he took lead on his school project.

I soak up all this happiness and marinate in it. If I don’t collect them. If I don’t pay honor to them, if I don’t hold these moments almost sacred, then they fly by without notice. I only remember the pain. Because sadly, pain is memorable on its own without me adding my notice. Like my little offerings to my family, I think God or life offers us small presents in moments of love or beauty and the key to true happiness is to hold them in your mind dearly and most precious.

Are there any small rituals surrounding this holiday time that you adore as much as I do wrapping?

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The next morning the candlelight flickers off the wrapping paper to illuminate my yoga mat!

Out of Mourning, a New Resolve

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I am sorry that this smile is gone.

My beautiful, young, full of life cousin just passed away in her sleep. Ashley was nine years younger than I am. She passed away at thirty-three due to complications with her ongoing lung disease. She will be missed by so many. I really admired her spirit and determination. See Ashley has had lung problems all her life. She spent so many days and nights in the hospital being watched over by her poor Mom and Dad who worried constantly. She was a slight little thing as a kid and grew into a rebellious youngster. All of us are rebellious at one point but when you have bad lungs smoking and drinking are even worse. Luckily this time was short. She pulled it out quickly and then focused on her health. Ashley died being a wife, a devoted step-mom who undeniably adored her charge, a spitfire (crazy smart opinionated women run in my family) and amazingly a weight lifter.

It would have been so easy for Ashley to ruminate on the fact that she was born with a set of defective lungs. She could have sulked and stayed in bed, but she rallied and built a full life for herself. Not only that but she built her body up. She worked out steadily and ate well. She built up a business. To see her do all that with the body she was given, makes me feel inspired to do the same.

The past two weeks I have been requiring myself to do yoga absolutely every day. You know that hashtag #yogaeverydamnday? I haven’t really understood that because I feel like it has a negative connotation and yoga has always been enjoyable to me. This past two weeks I have been understanding it. There are days when I have had to crawl to my yoga mat and start by laying on the floor to stretch lightly. I slowly loosen my creaky muscles until I can move without pain. Then I move on to stretches that require all my muscles. It has become a requirement for all of my days. If I don’t do it then I will be in pain all day.

I think that it would be easier sometimes to just stay in bed. I have spent many days this year in bed with the pain and I am sick of it. I hope the ritual I have adopted will keep my out of bed for the foreseeable future. I haven’t tested this theory during my dark days when Aunt Irma visits, but I guess we will see. My physical therapy is working and I am so happy about it.

I think this new resolve is coming from a place of remorse for how much I have let my body sort of fend for itself against my vices.

Perhaps I can take up her mantle of good health. Maybe someday I can be someone people look at and say Hey, she had all that pain but she still put her health first. I hope so. I just have to keep making that uncomfortable walk/crawl to the mat every morning. If I can build on that. I might be able to follow her example.

Questions about the Yoga Community

 

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My first prototype outfit: jeans. It worked until my workouts got more difficult.

I just finished my fourth day of “Thirty days of Yoga with Adriene” and I am finding that I love it. Husband and I are amazed at what are bodies are able to accomplish after only four days of practice. We still have problems though because we didn’t understand two of the shoulder stretches and we continue to have wardrobe malfunctions. It is okay because we are at home so there is no embarrassment but it is quite annoying.

First off, my husband’s pants kept falling down. It is so cute to me his pale cheeks glowing in the darkness of my living room, if not distracting. It annoyed him to no end. He just let it stay down but our apartment is pretty cold. After the work out I was teasing him because he had a striped pattern on his buttocks from the yoga mat. I however didn’t apparently have the concentration to keep from pulling up my pants which would fall down every time I did downward dog. It wouldn’t uncover my butt, it was my tummy. My pants would go down leaving my large white belly swinging in the breeze. Not only that, but my boobs were almost suffocating me because the bra I was wearing wasn’t very good. So I kept having to maneuver them this way and that in between poses. Downward dog, which we kept coming back to, wasn’t as enjoyable as usual. I was trying out an outfit that I thought might work on the outside.

See I usually do my yoga in pajamas. I can’t do yoga on the pier in my pajamas. Even if I could it wouldn’t be that comfortable since they do yoga on the pier in the summer and all my pajamas are fairly warm. (Husband is pretty insistent on keeping the apartment artic cold.) Going to do yoga at the pier is one of the things I have promised myself as a reward for trying more difficult poses and longer yoga work outs. I would love to meet other people who love yoga as much as I do because my family and friends are sick of me talking about it. I would love to be around other people who can tell me if I am doing things right, and HELLO it is doing yoga on the pier. I mean I love the water, and I love yoga. It seems like the nexus of joy.

I don’t think I’ll get to do it this year because I have nothing to wear, and finding something in my price range, in my size seems near impossible.

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Khaki capris? Now I do it in my bra and hubbies underwear but not going to show you that…lol

I have been able to really embrace yoga as an exercise, but nothing more than that.  I’ve been adding yoga feeds to my Facebook and Instagram. Yoga magazines and Yogis are almost consistently positive and usually educate me on being a better human. I enjoy that because I am always striving to be calmer, and more helpful to other humans. Also it is extremely dark on social media, and a dark time for all this year. I need inspiration just to keep from sitting around depressed. What I didn’t count on were the countless articles and ads that show me clothing I can’t have. Continue reading “Questions about the Yoga Community”

You Can Take the Girl out of Oklahoma…

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This was how Oklahoma welcomed me. 

 

About a month ago I went to visit my family in my native state of Oklahoma. I was inspired by my family to move more and to enjoy the simpler things that I sometimes ignore. My family is extraordinary and every time I am around them it is as if I have been given new life. Sometimes it reaffirms who I am. Being away from my home state for so long sometimes allows me to forget what I have inherited and how deep those Okie roots run: the laid back sense of humor, master story telling, and the vein of gumption that runs through all of us.

It’s that tenacity and live wire like energy that is contagious. Inspiration to move and accomplish the physical is everywhere.

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Going to the grocery store with Mom is like an aerobics work out. I was still getting out of the car and she had a cart inside already. 

In the mornings Mom and I would do our perspective exercises. She does a video by Gilad, a very handsome, bulging, swarthy man. She’s done various videos of his for years. I don’t enjoy the aerobic videos so I went over to the corner and played my Pandora music channel and did yoga. This concurrent clashing music didn’t even bother us. At one point we discussed how this could be a metaphor for our relationship.  I said it is funny how we clearly like different things but still hang out because we love each other so much.

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We are so proud of my beautiful, smart, strong sis.

I was encouraged to walk by my sister Katie because she walks everywhere. We trekked all over the OSU campus before I had to take my shoes off and sit until someone brought the car to me. My feet were done but she was still going. I feel after 40 you shouldn’t have to suck it up.

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Yep, we even fed a horse! These people live super special lives.

My brother and his wife have a handsome five year old son named Caleb and he inspired everyone to get physical. Katie and I even risked and failed at cartwheels. That family spends most evenings outside in the sun after dinner riding bikes or watching Caleb ride his big wheels up and down the driveway. I got to ride bikes, slide down slides, fight imaginary wolves and run through the park. Caleb and I even had a session of yoga together. That was so fun. There are these children’s yoga videos on YouTube, and he loves them. A fifteen minute video story of going to an amusement park with a Hispanic penguin had me sweating!

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First time on a bike in years, can you tell?

 

While some of these attempts didn’t work out so well (one slide left me with a swollen and bruised thumb, another with two skinned knees, the cartwheel left me with a slightly sprained ankle, and I also got kicked in the head more than once while rough housing,) the fun that I had was more than worth it. I will never forget this trip because I learned I miss being playful. It is absolutely the best exercise. I miss that idea that my body is here so I might as well see what it can do. Seeing what my body is capable of is an activity I have neglected and it is actually fun. My new fitness goals are: being able to perform a cartwheel, AND get enough arm strength to walk only on my hands while someone holds my feet by the time I go back to Oklahoma. We tried it this time. While I could hold my brothers legs while he walked the living room, I couldn’t quite walk on my hands. I will though mark my words. I am doing planks every day.  If I can walk on my hands then maybe there is even a handstand in my future! Now that is exciting! Won’t my nephew be so proud of Aunt Danielle?

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I felt like this was the appropriate image for a mic drop…