Fragile. Handle with Care: Being Gentle With Myself


I have been sick, quite sick, for the past month. Actually, I haven’t been able to shake this cold/sinus stuff since September (yay for teaching and a toddler starting preschool). Nevertheless, the New Year came and with it the time to start on my goals, one of the chiefest being to get back into a healthy routine of activity and exercise. This past semester has just shattered my momentum and I have lost a good deal of what I worked for two years to gain. So I start again. But, because of being sick (and because, you know, breathing is a thing), I am having to start back slowly. Too much activity will leave me wheezing and coughing, my throat sore and dry. So I am having to be extra gentle with myself, not something I am used to doing. I am used to pushing myself. I want to push, pull, work, strive, and mold myself back into that shape and tone that I was so proud of back in July. So, right now, it is proving hard to handle myself gently, but I have to or else I will hurt myself and ruin any chance of continuing towards my goal for the foreseeable future. I have to listen to when my body cries “Enough!” and believe that, for the nonce, it really is (and has to be) enough.

This year’s word of intention is gentleness and, ironically, here I am: at the beginning of the year, having to apply that gentleness to my own self. I am having to sit down when I come home from work. Perhaps the dishes go undone or the laundry unfolded of a night as I choose to lie on the couch instead, after Daughter has been put to bed, and I’m having to remind myself that doing just that is okay.  I have never been good at being gentle with myself, so I have found that I need reminders. The graphic below from Alia Joy – Writer‘s likewise-title article is now the lock screen graphic on my phone. I have a chalkboard that hangs in my kitchen and on it is the quote: “Be easier on yourself. If being hard on yourself worked, it would have worked by now.” These are reminders that I have to keep on repeat in my mind and in my heart. I find it ever so much easier to say them to others, admonish gentleness with themselves, and believe their truth than I do when I am the one in need of the reminder. But I do need it. I need gentleness, too! Particularly from myself.

So, while it is frustrating and a bit galling to have to slow down and just concentrate on the small things in my goals for now, it is what I need. I need to hold myself softly and gently for, right now, no matter how I may feel mentally, I am physically a bit fragile, so I have to let my ability catch up to my determination.

It is okay for you to be gentle with yourself, too. If you think you need permission, you have it. There are times when we all are fragile and need handling with care. So, as we continue on into the second week of this new year, let’s check in on how we are handling ourselves, how we are treating ourselves. Could you use a little gentleness, a little lightening of the goals, of the have-to’s? If so, do it. Be gentle with yourself. I know it’s hard and I know the fear of falling behind/failing/losing our place/etc. is always there, but know that you aren’t alone. We all could a little gentleness from ourselves now and then and it’s worth it to learn to give it. And I’m learning to believe that.

 

be-gentle-with-yourself

Graphic from and belonging to Alia Joy’s post on incourage.me

 

Amazing the Change


Author’s Note: I posted the beginnings of this earlier on Facebook but decided to expand upon it here.

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Yesterday, I called going to Planet Fitness “my zen”. Those who have known me a long time know that this is a hugely marked change in my life. I HATED conventional exercise and the idea of going to the gym seemed like an exercise in desperation. When I started belly dancing, I started conditioning/drilling movements as well as using planks, yoga, and other toning exercises to improve my technique and to build up strength and stamina. That, I actually enjoyed and still use some of the exercises. And, yes, I still tiny-shimmy while I am waiting in line or the like.

Now for the honest nitty-gritty. I am five foot one. Before I had Elizabeth, I weighed 120 lbs. and was a 34 D. I rose up to 150 and a 36 D by the end of my pregnancy (the day I saw that on the scale, I definitely yelled out “WHAT?!” in the doctor’s office) but lost the weight rather quickly after I had my darling girl, dipping down to 124 lbs. again. When Elizabeth was still young and able to be carted about in her buggy with no complaint, she and I had a beautiful schedule. She would get up around six or seven in the morning, we’d have breakfast, get dressed, read and play a bit, and then be out of the house by nine-thirty, off for our walk around our little town. Those days, I would speed walk at least a mile, if not more, pushing her in her buggy, my little girl giggling her encouragement as I breathlessly reminded myself to keep pushing. By the time we would wend our way home after a mile walk, stopping at the post office, sometimes the bank, and me fetching myself a strawberry smoothie from the coffee shop, Elizabeth would be ready for her morning nap. I would get her down to sleep, finish whatever cardio and conditioning I had planned for my workout, and then take a delicious shower, undisturbed and all to myself. But, of course, children grow and their routines change. So do their mothers’, and, even though we still walked and whatnot, my weight slowly began to tick up again.

By the end of December 2014, I was 139 lbs. and some high ounces and I decided that I had had enough of not feeling good about myself and, for once made myself some New Years’ goals. As such, I got myself to the Planet Fitness about twenty minutes’ drive from my home. My trips there had been sporadic at best up until that point. Now, I determined that it would be a regular occurrence, at least twice a week. And so it is. With a good friend running by my side, I have never lacked for challenge or encouragement. For the first few months, all I had the courage to try was the elliptical. It was hard at first, really hard. I won’t lie about that. I don’t like running. I was a sprinter, inherited it from my father. Long-distance running just made me shudder and groan. So getting on the elliptical for half an hour sounded like an impossible goal. But, eventually, I found myself developing more endurance, breaking my personal performance records, and actually starting to ENJOY running. It is something that has become just for me, something that is building my strength and my health, and where I can set goals and push myself more and more. Recently, I branched out into the weight machines as well and found that I really, really like strength training on them. I also walk with my little family, work out at home, and play outside with my toddler daughter. My legs are currently mostly muscle now from running, and I love feeling the ache of muscles pushed to greater strength. It is an absolutely stupendous thing to find yourself stronger and being able to add weight to the machine or resistance levels to the elliptical. To walk into the gym feeling like a warrior and walk out feeling like a conqueror. 

Since December, I have gone from 139 lbs. down to 132 and then, as I have built muscle, I have ticked back up to 135 (my weigh-in this very morning).  No, I’m not as light or thin as I was before my pregnancy. Yes, I have gone up a dress size since then. Yes, I’m still a 36 D. BUT. I know that I am stronger and healthier than I was, and my body craves movement and exercise more now than before. I am also eating better/making better food choices while still treating myself at times. I post my fitness and exercise on Facebook as well as in a journal as a means of tracking and keeping myself accountable, and I am always grateful for the encouragement that my friends and family give.

So, almost seven months down the road, I can honestly say now that I LOVE my time at the gym. It’s time just for me, doing something that will make my life better and, therefore, make me more able to hopefully better the lives of my loved ones.

It’s hard. It’s a struggle sometimes. It’s a daily series of conscious decisions. Sometimes I do really well, sometimes I’m just middling, and sometimes I fail. But I always get up to try again. I’m doing it and so can you, without a doubt! Keep running, keep lifting, keep dancing, keep breathing, keep doing. Keep on!

I Don’t Exercise to be Healthy…


Author’s Note: This is a post about my weight, self-esteem, etc. This is entirely personal and more than a little of what people would call vain. Just be warned, in case you aren’t interested in reading about it.

A few nights ago, a dear friend posted a version of that picture (*points off to the side*) on her Facebook page and I had to be brutally honest with myself and admit, “Yep. That’s right.” It may be totally vain or selfish or whatnot but it’s the total truth. I eat as well as I can to be healthy, but I can do better. Always. I exercise, I bellydance, walk, etc., however, to look good, to feel beautiful and proud about how my body looks. Yes, only one person is going to see me naked but I want to look good nevertheless.

I have fallen away from my normal habits of exercise of late, with the change in the weather and the holidays and all that. But I cannot only blame those circumstances as that would be unfair and lazy on my part. I haven’t been as disciplined as I should be and that is on me. I have gained enough weight since the summer to now rate as overweight on the BMI scale. I don’t like that. I don’t like feeling like I don’t look well in my clothes. I miss the curve in my waist that I envied in my mother as a teenager and worked hard to get. I miss the tone that bellydance and daily walks pushing Elizabeth’s stroller uphill gave me. I miss the feeling of being beautiful as I danced, with pride in my technique and stage performance. I want that all back.

So call me vain if you so wish. It’s your opinion and that’s fine. It’s also fine that I want to look the way I want to look and feel the way I want to feel. That is my goal for this new year and I am looking forward to it. I know it will be hard, I know I will have to give up some of the things I really like. I will have to make time to get to Planet Fitness and bellydance class, even if it is inconvenient or I am tired after a day with Elizabeth. It will be worth it. I will be able to fit comfortably into the dresses and skirts that I love, and, hopefully, I will come to enjoy the exercise again, find a new happy spot in my soul, and give my daughter a run for her money in the energy department. Maybe I will even start performing again. And, just maybe, my heart – with all its little vanities – will once again smile to hear shouted across a room “I hate you, Ben!”