When you are overweight, you can't see or feel the difference when you lose a few pounds. The opposite is also true: you can't see or feel the difference when you gain a few. So--in my experience anyway-- you go back and forth, up and down a few pounds all the time. Down because you try, then back up because you can't really feel your effort so why bother? Going the distance? Too daunting a task.
So you go up and down five pounds, then ten, maybe fifteen. Over time you go up more than you go down. And suddenly you find yourself at a weight you promised yourself you would never ever see on the scale. So you pretend to yourself that you're okay where you are, because trying and failing would feel worse than learning how to love and accept your new, heavier self. If you have a healthy self-esteem and value things about yourself other than body image, you figure it out. Your pretty face, sense of style, sense of humor, intelligence, compassion, creativity, and strength are worth a lot. Your family and friends love and accept you. And you do the same.
But then one day something shifts. You decide you can go the distance because if you don't the future is bleak. That something may be one certain thing. Or it may be a confluence of things.
Deciding to change careers.
Getting ready to spend a summer away in a city that's fun to walk around, where you will not be getting in a car to move yourself from every point A to point B.
Seeing an old picture of yourself and thinking, Oh my god, how happy I looked! Not necessarily How great I looked, but how happy I seemed to be. I didn't avoid the camera then.
So you say Enough! Get it together, girl! You have way too much to offer to hide behind that wall of... what?... insecurity?...fear? Whatever it is, you decide it just doesn't suit you anymore.
No more looking back. No more beating yourself up. What's done is done. You shift your energy. You set a realistic goal, seek support from a few people close to you who will encourage you, and you start to get it done.
I think we are out of the woods, no snow flakes in sight. Finally. Mid-April. We didn't even get the tease week in March this year. Again. Obviously I'm a little frustrated and afraid to say the word that starts with sp and rhymes with ring, because here in New England we know Mother Nature is a special kind of Beotch. I mean lovely, wonderful, powerful. Perpetually PMS, super awesome beotch woman in charge.
All the parking spots are back in my school's parking lot, so competing at seven a.m. with sixteen year-olds--who could take the bus--for a spot where I work is a little easier (though no less insulting). I can see around corners. I don't have salt stains on my car. My heat is off. And I'm not having hot flashes yet!
I can't help but step out into the sun and think that I need to roll down the windows and crank up the tunes. It is time to watch the tan slowly and ever so slightly develop on my hands, face, and eventually forearms as I move from long sleeves to three-quarter. My ankles and feet will remain pasty white as I move into capris and sandals until I hit the pool, but it is underway.
Thanks, Mother Nature. You made your point. But now I plan to enjoy every moment you are not being ornery.
In this day and age it is important to protect your identity whenever possible. Especially since a certain medical insurance company had a colossal breach, I might be slightly paranoid about it. Unfortunately, because my shredder jammed and I have yet to give in and buy a new one, I now have a copy paper box full of garbage to be shredded. It really is garbage, isn't it? Junk mail, credit card and car insurance offers, catalogs with credit offers, prescription disclaimers that come attached to the bag. Because now we have to worry about medical identity theft (unrelated to said breach, so that people can't go in and pretend to be me when they need a mammogram--and that's another post) in addition to tax fraud and social security fraud, prescription bottles are another issue entirely.
Have you ever tried to get a label off a prescription bottle? Do you have a few a month to keep up with? Or do you just save them for pins and paper clips and fun girls' night ice cubes and Popsicle shapes or other things ala Pinterest? I [heart] Pinterest but that's not me. I have enough things to hold my things in other things, and I'm trying really hard to de-clutter so I don't save them and reuse them. "Upcycle" I think is the trendy term. I try to get rid of them.
And it's infuriating. Because what do you do when you get the label off? If you can get it off in fewer than three pieces? Tear that into tiny bits and and scatter the pieces between the kitchen garbage, bathroom track and living room in case someone goes through your trash? Or do you the stick the pieces to the garbage in your box of sh*t to shred?
Do you understand my frustration? I do not love you, oh-so-secure prescription bottle labels. You drive me mad.
I planned on getting more housecleaning done this April vacation--de-cluttering and catching up on overdue projects. I realize though, as I get ready to go out in the glorious sunshine and enjoy my first al fresco lunch of the season, I'm okay not giving my apartment that attention. I am giving myself that attention. I am an overdue project. I have de-cluttering to do. I have come a long way this last year, but I have a way to go.
The last five years have been some of the saddest, and most stressful, of my life.
Yet on the heels of terrible loss in my family, I have celebrated happy occasions with those of us who remain: three weddings, three babies on the way. A baby boom in the next generation of my family. Three new souls to replace the lives we have lost. I hope those cousins are as close as I am to mine. Still. So much good ahead lies ahead. I am grateful and I am loved.
Despite the stress, I have also had some really happy times. I am grateful that I have always been able to laugh and to make people laugh--sometimes just because my crazy laugh is contagious. I know sometimes people are laughing at my reaction, and not the joke, but that is still fun. I have great friends and have had relaxing vacations. Laughter has never left me. It is one of life's sweetest gifts, and best medicines for the soul, and I am grateful to laugh a lot.
In a conversation with a friend the other day, I made this analogy. I feel like despite good times and laughter, I was still in a fairly dark place. I was somewhere dark but always able to peek my head out and let the sun kiss my cheeks. I took part in momentary pleasure before retreating to that comfortable, albeit dark, place. But lately I've done doing some of that personal maintenance, if you will. Just catching up on me.
I am no longer trapped by the thought of being stuck teaching until I retire; I have made a plan to change careers. I have unearthed and let go of some hurt. I have opened my heart and therefore myself up to romantic possibility, and although my first attempt was an epic fail, I'm okay. I am moving forward. I am not just laughing but experiencing joy. I really am joyful. I understand that I can feel hurt and angry (even in the same day, as I have recently) but I am spending more time in the figurative sun.
How glorious today to acknowledge that as I get ready to step out into the real deal, 70 degree sunshine. Okay, only 65 degrees. Even still. It has been a long, dark winter.
In interviews I have seen Oprah ask famous people--not exactly in these words, but something akin: what would you tell your younger self? Recently my friend Deanna asked me if I could give my younger self two words of wisdom, what would they be?
I don't know if I can be interview-eloquent, nor do I feel I can limit myself to one, single two-word phrase. But I am going to try to come somewhere in between in this post.
I have always been confident in my intelligence. I was my parents' daughter, after all. I was smart and curious and a good student. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw my second grade teacher at the wake of a friend who passed tragically and unexpectedly. I had an opportunity to tell one of the most influential people in my life that she was just that, that she had a profound effect on me, as a young girl, a student, a writer, a human being. All these years later, she had changed, but I recognized her; her spirit was still so familiar to me. Just as I moved forward in the line she hugged me, and said she remembered me. "Of course I remember you! You were a genius!" she said. "How could I forget those eyes?" I told her that she was a great teacher, so kind to me when I was a student. She took the time after school to teach me capitalization and punctuation when we hadn't learned it yet because I showed her stories I was writing at home. She could have shut me down, told me "wait till next year," but she didn't. She encouraged me all those years ago. And I embraced her, as I did the opportunity to thank her. That moment was a gift. Second grade with Miss D was a gift.
I have also always, always felt unconditional love from my immediate and extended family. Sundays spent with them at my grandparents' connected me to cousins who as a result are more like siblings. It made me feel strong. And loved.
Along the way I have developed friendships that I have taken as seriously as family. If you are "good people" and truly my friend, then you are family to me. Perhaps because I have always been single, maybe just because I truly appreciate human connection, I don't know where I would be without that collective family.
Yet somehow, despite having all the right foundations, being strong and feeling smart, and knowing that I was unconditionally loved, this crazy, f*cked up, superficial world has made me feel at times that I was "less than," not deserving of romantic love. So I have made bad choices in relationships. I settled for less than I needed. I haven't demanded what I deserved
I'm fast approaching the sixth decade of my life and still I have not.
I'm not preparing for an interview with Oprah (half of this would be edited out anyway), but I will follow through with two words. Not a single two, but pairs of words I stand by, many of which I wish had been told, but appreciate that I needed to learn on my own.
Try hard. No fear. No regrets. Abandon doubts. Health first. Worry less. Drink less. Don't smoke. Ever ever. Have fun. Be yourself. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Happiness follows. Accept love. Feel joy. Reject mediocrity. Be yourself. Honor yourself. You rock.
I have a great life. I couldn't ask for a better family or friends, who are my extended family. I am not, nor have I ever been, married, but I have not given up hope that one day I will grow old with someone. I feel loved every day by said friends and family, but I know there is another love out there for me. It's just not time yet.
I have rich and vivid memories of the first five decades of my life, but plan to make the next decade my best one yet.
After eighteen exhausting years of teaching high school science, my wheels are turning and plans are underway to reinvent myself.