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.

 

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

 

Stones in My Belly


Today, I sat in the dressing room of my favorite store, surrounded by lovely dresses that I had tried on. Beautiful bold colors and lovely silhouettes. However, I wasn’t excited or delighted by these lovely frocks. Quite the opposite. Instead, I felt disappointed. Not in the dresses but in myself. Here I am, at the height of my purposeful activeness, and yet when I slipped on my favorite style of dress from my favorite store, in my usual size, I found myself going, “Umm…I don’t know how comfortable this feels. It’s a bit tight here and I thought I had more movement there before.” In other words, I had to go up a dress size today. Again. That was devastating for me. The number the on the scale has gone up rather than down, so much so that I have removed the offending appliance from the bathroom. I am doing all that I can outside of outright depriving myself, or at least trying to: eating better/more healthily, drinking more water and fewer sodas, and exercising regularly as well as increasing my overall activeness. Yet there I sat, utterly disappointed and not wanting to leave that tiny room even though I felt mocked by the dresses hanging on its walls.

All I could think was: Is this what hard work gets me? I understand that bodies have fluctuations and balances and blah blah blah. But I’m TRYING. I’ve been trying for the past year and a half. My weight has gone up almost five pounds since March and, when you’re 5’2, five pounds can make a real difference, believe me. What the $@#&?! I’m working out every day, cutting back on the stuff I enjoy but know isn’t wholly good for me, for what?! 

I was (and still am) pretty frustrated because all of this feels like a poor return for hard work. Since having my daughter 3.5 years ago, I have gone from 122lbs. to 139lbs., from a dress size 6 to an 8 to a 10 (today). I won’t lie. I am ticked off! And here’s the part that makes me even more upset. I had a wonderful workout time this morning. I pushed myself to heavier weights on the machines and I ran hard. I was sweaty but strong and I felt good. Then I went from warrior glorious and feeling proud of myself to wanting to hide behind hoodies and pajama pants and the walls of my house.

Now, I know a few things. I know that feelings are irrational most of the time. I know that going up to 139lbs won’t seem like much to some people, might still even fall into the “skinny” range in some minds, but it’s a big deal to me. I know that working with weights build muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. I am a human being who can think and reason and, rationally, I know all of these things. But I was devastated today. You are more than welcome to consider me overly-emotional, vain, basic, fishing for compliments, whiny, what have you. And, if that is what you think, here is something that you need to know.

I DO NOT CARE.

Part of the reason that I write this blog is because I am wanting to be more honest about how I approach and write about life. So here it is. I really don’t care if you think I am making a fuss over nothing. I am not asking you to fix this. I am not here asking you to make me feel better. This is just where I am right now, the place that I am trying to fight (and write) my way out of. One of the things that is sitting pretty heavily on me is that I will be visiting my childhood home in a month and, if I have gained weight/inches/whatever, I can guarantee you that someone in my family will notice and comment on it. My family members are experts at throwing out seemingly innocuous comments that bore right down in the center of me. As a dear friend pointed out, “There is a reason they [family] know how to push your buttons. They are the ones who installed them.” Jabs about weight and physical appearance have always been a thing in my extended family, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt. It did. It still does.

It’s times like this that I try to recall the words of favorite authors, lessons that they have taught that I have tried to weave into my own life and mental/spiritual/emotional practices. Both of the quotes that came to mind today are from Lysa TerKeurst. The first is one that is threaded throughout most of her books and one that I hold close to my heart during my processes, particularly those physical and emotional. Getting healthy and strong is not something that happens immediately. It takes time and work and is often fraught with stumbles and failures. Perfection is not a thing that happens but progress is.

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A year and a half are definitely “slow steps”. Many days when exercise and healthy eating are accomplished through determination over motivation. Slow transformations of my mind/thinking as well as my body. Imperfect progress is the perfect terminology for this, I think. I am not being very gracious with myself, I admit. I have had thoughts and ideas flit through my head that are definitely not healthy and could lead to a myriad of problems if I attempted them, which would only destroy everything that I am endeavoring to build in this (albeit temporary) temple of flesh and bone and blood. But I won’t do it. I won’t. I will keep going, step by step, day by day, decision by decision, small victory by small victory. Stones build a wall, not boulders, after all.

The second quote that I found popping into my head today was this one:

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So I decided to give myself some encouragement today, to try to shift my perspective from one of disappointment and criticism. So this is what I posted, sans all the details that I gave you above, because that wasn’t the point. This was:

Because the brain weasels are on a rampage and I’m feeling rather low on the body image spectrum today, it’s time for a perspective shift:

*My strong body can get me out of bed at night when my daughter needs me.

*My strong body can walk around all day and play with my girl with less back pain than it used to have.

*My beautiful body can hold and cuddle my daughter and husband close when they need me.

*My strong body can bend, stretch, stand, lift, and carry to help keep my home in order.

*My strong body can push itself to be stronger and better and has gotten to a point where I find myself saying, “I can do a little more.”

*My courageous body can help my girl avoid the pitfalls that I am constantly climbing up from and learn to love herself unconditionally, whatever shape/size/silhouette she is.

So, while I am disappointed, I will keep working. I will keep getting stronger. I will keep doing what I can to build up my healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I will keep the tags on my dresses for now (as they were bought for a specific occasion in a few weeks) and we will see if things change. If not, though, I will still wear those gorgeous colors and beautiful silhouettes and determine to strut my stuff as proudly as I may.

The Space at Center Stage


For those of you unfamiliar with me, body image has been a fairly constant struggle of mine for most of my life. This struggle has intensified at several different point in my life, the most recent being with the up and down weight bouncing I experienced post-baby. Almost three years later, my weight seems to have settled for now, I work out just about every day, I’m adjusting my eating habits bit by bit, and, this past week, I felt pretty darn amazing. I can now see the changes in my body, feel the differences as I develop more muscle and strength. It’s a relief, in a way, to see that almost eight months’ worth of consistent hard work is paying off. That might not seem like much to some, but it is quite a big deal to me. I hated doing conventional exercises, I hated the very idea of running, and the gym? Yeah, no thanks. But I made a decision and have pushed myself to stick with it, constantly reminding myself to be patient and keep working.

“It takes time,” I would and still say to myself, “It takes time. Be patient with yourself and keep working.”

A good many things in life, we work at for a long while before we see any results, and we are told that the best things do not come with instant gratification. Instead, we must work and work and work some more and wait to see what comes to fruition, if it comes to fruition. I have stuck with this and worked and worked and worked and I am seeing the fruit of my labor, not only in curves and tone and heavying dumbells but also in finding satisfaction in the work itself. It’s an odd, odd feeling to actually crave working out, to crave the heightened heart rate, the burn in my muscles, the sweat on my brow. It’s not just odd, it’s downright weird sometimes. But it is also beautiful.

It is beautiful to see the changes in myself, not just in my body. It’s beautiful to again feel the desire to be me, fully and boldly, and to do something about it. It’s beautiful to not be afraid of being beautiful and acting like it. It’s not just body image, it’s a sense of self that I am regaining. For a long time (longer than I would like to admit), I have felt like I needed to tone myself down, step back out of the spotlight, stick to my corner, etc. As if, if I were too much ‘me’, then there wouldn’t be space for someone else to be ‘them’. I don’t understand that idea; I didn’t then and I don’t now. And, honestly, I am damn tired of it. Me being me does not threaten anyone, nor should it. Each and every one of us is completely different. We are unique and glorious all on our own. Me being me does not mean that someone else has to be any less them or vice versa.

This does not mean that we need to shove everyone else out of the way. It doesn’t mean that we cannot work behind the scenes to help someone better their own sense of self and their own lives. It doesn’t mean that we cannot wear the roles of mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend, or wife and be a support and helpmeet to someone else. What it means it that we can do all those of things, but that we mustn’t forget ourselves and the role that we play for us. Your first role: you. Don’t forget you. Don’t forget your strength. Don’t forget your spirit. Don’t forget your glorious. Don’t forget your beautiful.

A friend once said to me: “I think you could leave yourself a bit more space in the center of the stage.”

And you know what? I think they are right. It’s time for me to reclaim my space. Maybe we all could leave ourselves a bit more space in the center of the stage.

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!

Talking Sense to Myself – #MadetoCrave


Conversation with myself this evening –

Me: I should have made better choices with my food today.
Me: What?! All you have eaten today is a baked potato with cheese, bacon, and sour cream and a strawberry lemonade for lunch. What are you on about?
Me: Yeah, but it was more calories than I thought and, if I eat that apple pecan chicken salad for dinner AND make cookies like I promised Bizzy, it’s going to put me close to, if not over, my intake for the day.
Me: Listen to yourself. You’re doing it again. This is what drove you crazy and to tears before. Let it go. You are doing what you can, as much as you can. You are making much better food and portion choices, on the whole. You exercise every day, sometimes multiple times. You have cut back on your snacks or you grab fruit instead of junk. You’re doing well. So…cut yourself some slack and give yourself some [God-encouraged] grace. Eat the damn salad and then BAKE THE DAMN COOKIES, for crying out loud!

This was an exercise in me being totally honest when I have struggles. I have been MUCH better on the sweets and not just baking cookies or grabbing ice cream when I feel the “I want it” tickle in my brain. And I was honestly starting to get to a very stressed out place…over TWO MEALS. Not good! So, I ate the salad (until the chicken was all gone, yummy!) and then I set it aside. And now cookies are cooling.

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!”


In the last year, I have lost approximately ten pounds, am within 1-2 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, and, I think, have gained about a pound in muscle over the last almost-month. I am 21 days into a 30-day ab and squat challenge, the furthest I’ve ever made it into a fitness challenge like that, and I’m already planning my next one. It hasn’t been easy but the last two months have been the most triumphant. I’ve lost a dress size (in certain stores), one pant size, and I feel myself getting stronger again. The strongest I had ever been was back in late 2007-2008 when I was belly dancing hardcore, five classes/practices a week, not including personal daily practice and conditioning. I remember when we were working on a troupe routine to “Rhythm Nation”, I watched us move perfectly together in the mirror and I felt powerful, strong. I want that back, and I’d like to think that I’m getting there.