Celebrating Fears Faced

When I was in high school, I was accepted as a Rotary exchange student and was invited to go to Belgium for the year. I let the fears of others rule my decision and I stayed home.

That is one of my biggest regrets in life.

As I matured, I began to realize that letting fear stop you from taking chances means giving up on a lot of dreams and on living. I tried, when faced with fear, to push through it and face the fears. I wasn’t always successful, but I grew stronger and more courageous with each attempt, or so I thought.

Yet, something shifted again after I became a mother. Suddenly fear has control over me again, and more often than not I give into those fears. Fear of trying to publish. Fear of making friends. Fear of taking chances. I think this new hold FEAR has on me has something to do with the fact that my life is not my own–my decisions affect Nathan and Sarah. I can’t just pick up, take off, and take chances.

Yet, as I approach this birthday (Eek! The actual day is tomorrow) I find myself yearning to become the person who does not let fear stop her anymore. After I graduated from college and was on the job hung (following a one year internship at a theatre) I had two interesting options on the table:

  1. The more practical option of working for a Canada based Arts Administration Organization that sent people throughout North America to help arts organizations with reorganization and planning. This would have probably led to a solid career in Arts Administration and or Arts Advocacy (one thing I would still love to do ) and–more often than not in recent years ;)–I’ve thought being Canadian wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
  2. A job teaching at an English conversation school in Okayama, Japan.

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time (or even just the first of the celebratory posts), you know where I ended up.

In Japan in my early 20s.

Yet, the decision to go to Japan was not an easy one. It was a fear-filled one. It took some words of wisdom from one of the actors at the theatre company I was working out to help me make a choice. He said,

“There are no wrong decisions. There are choices that can go badly, but they always lead to the next decision.”

I tried to make those the guiding words of my life. This doesn’t mean we never make mistakes, but if we face those mistakes head on–despite our fears–we will make it through to new opportunities, new decisions, and new moments to face our fears.

So today I celebrate the moments in my life when I faced my fears and moved through them. Among those moments, I celebrate the day I got on a plane, headed for a country I’d never been to a job I never thought of, and cried my way from Boston to California before sitting in sleepless fear from California to Japan.

I hope someday to be that courageous again.

My Relationship with Food

Yesterday I found myself in a place I never thought I’d be.

Over the summer I was on track to “writing myself right” and I was walking my way to health.

But then something shifted, and I lost my way again. A few weeks ago I found myself in my doctor’s office, looking at a number on the scale that was higher than its ever been before. My doctor terrified me with the words that, “if you’ve gone this high it will be not time before your weight doubles.”

I didn’t agree with her words. I’ve gained and lost my whole life. I know, deep in my bones, that I can beat this. However she convinced me to sign up for a Bariatric Surgery consultation. “You don’t have to have the surgery,” she said. “It’s really a program to help you deal with your weight.”

“I know what I have to do,” I said. “I know what I have to eat,” It’s just that my head knows but my body responds in its own way.

I went home and cried.

Yesterday I found myself in an introductory meeting, surrounded by people who (for the most part) had more severe weight issues than I do. I listened to the explanation about the program, the expectations before surgery, the different types of surgery. All the while my mind was screaming “How did I get here?!” and I fought back tears. I learned that I wouldn’t even really be a candidate for bariatric surgery, or at least for a surgery covered by insurance, because my BMI is not high enough. I felt relieved, but I still wondered how I’d even gotten so close to needing the surgery. Throughout the presentation I thought, do I want to follow this program in a non-surgical track? Is this program right for me?

At the end of the presentation a group of patients who had the surgery done went up and shared their stories. They all said how it was life changing, and hard work, and took commitment. They’d all lost (or were on their way to losing) well over a hundred pounds of weight. The all seemed happy, but . . .

They all admitted that they couldn’t see their thinner selves in the mirror. They still saw their overweight selves.

One of  them had admitted that she also had a tummy tuck, plastic surgery to remove the excess skin that came after her bariatric surgery. She was still in pain two years later.

A few of them said, “the excess skin isn’t beautiful, but it wasn’t beautiful before when we were fat.”

Why not? I asked. Why can’t fat be beautiful?

Now, granted, there are many health reasons to lose weight, and extreme obesity is a dangerous condition. But it doesn’t mean people who carry extra pounds are not beautiful.

I felt like I was at a sales presentation, marketing procedures that will make you beautiful and, in that way, make your world perfect.

It doesn’t work like that.

I left thinking, this program isn’t right for me. While they do include psychological help, as well as nutrition and physical therapy, it just didn’t feel like a match for me. Maybe I’m making excuses, but I have to go with my gut here.

But then again, my gut has been leading me wrong for a long time, or I wouldn’t have been there in the first place, would I?

This morning I woke up with a new determination. I am getting back on track. I’m going to find my way back to a healthy weight, by eating with awareness and exercising. I will go back to the plan to “write myself right”. I will believe in myself and my ability to do this. I will confront the issues that lead me to seek comfort in food.  I started today, eating a healthy breakfast and then doing a 1 mile power walk with weights (a video exercise program)

While I’m doing this, however, I’m going to get up every morning, look into the mirror and say to myself, “You are beautiful just the way you are.”

Lisa the fairy queen

 

 

Walking, Writing, and Working the Weight Away

Some of you may remember that many moons ago I declared I was going to “Write Myself Right” meaning that I would use my writing as a tool to help me achieve my personal health and weight-loss goals. As often happens, my good intentions lasted only a short time as I found myself trapped into the vicious cycle which goes something like:

self-doubt–>boredom–>depression–>eating out of boredom,depression and self-doubt–>feeling fat and ugly–>self-doubt–>

It’s really an ugly cycle that just got uglier as my job search lead to dead-ends, my writing felt like it was empty, and my confusions about what I want to do with my life grew. Somehow writing myself right became too hard, and I simply tried to write my way out of the slump I was in, without worrying about what my body did.

Over the past month, however, I faced some brutal realities, and shifted my attitude. It was not an easy month, as I took on the role of single mom, while Nathan went ahead to his other home, a place where I have yet to find my place. The month apart was emotional for many reasons, but I began to realize that I am the only one who can change my destiny, and that I was tired of succumbing to the depression. I took strides to give myself a break. I blogged less, but wrote more. I took myself for walks. I cleaned and reorganized the house. I signed up for webinars to help me clarify my personal career goals. I worked on establishing better boundaries and understanding between myself and my daughter, so that she could see me as an individual as well as her mother—in other words, as a person who is not simply the protective extension of her existence.

It was a month of learning, growing, and crying.

Now we are here in Iowa, at our “summer home” where I am always torn about being here. In some ways I love it, but in others I become frustrated as I have yet to find my place here and end up feeling frustrated and guilty half the time.

In my new favorite movie, Brave, Princess Merida asks the question “If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?” I answered the question for myself this week by taking a few simple steps.

Literally.

Sarah had swim lessons every morning this week. I took the time during her 45 minute lesson to walk on the track, adding some oomph to my workout with the help of wrist weights. On Thursday morning, before her class, I took my first ever Pilades class (and I still feel it in my stomach) so I swam a little and soaked instead of walking. I also walked around the theatre lot all week in search of props and helping out here and there. I tried my best (in a place where eating healthy is sometimes challenging as the food is plentiful and decadent) to eat lightly and right. I also gave myself a break from the emotions, but sleeping, writing, and basically trying to just be in the moment.

This morning I put on some short pants that I bought last week to bring with me to Boji. Pants that I wore last weekend. Pants that were a little snug when I bought them.

Today I feel like I  need a belt.

I don’t know what the scale will say. I don’t know if the weight is just water weight. I don’t know if this is a permanent change or what.

But it really doesn’t matter. I feel like something has shifted inside myself, and something good is about to happen. I still don’t know what it is, but I am excited to face it.

One step at a time.

Things I Don’t Understand

Confusion

Confusion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every day I just get more confused. I don’t understand . . .

  • why who someone loves and chooses to spend his/her life with makes any difference to other people
  • why it matters more who you know than who you are
  • why money means more than who you are
  • why women are still perceived as not equal
  • why men are so afraid of women’s power
  • why we are forced to “opt out” rather than “opt in”
  • why my body, and what I do with it, has anything to do with anyone but myself and my family
  • why there are so many women who support the subjugation of other women (as long as their individual power is not touched, of course)
  • why poverty is blamed on the poor, when the system works against them
  • why the rich get richer and the middle class disappears
  • why racism still exists in a world where the only difference between races is color of skin
  • why being different is seen as something bad
  • why certain beliefs should be seen as more right than others. I simply don’t believe that. What I believe is what I believe. What you believe is what you believe. And as long as those beliefs don’t hurt each other, that shouldn’t be a problem. But now, it seems that in some belief systems it is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to hurt anyone who believes differently.
  • why all the foods that are bad for you taste so good
  • why I usually like my nurse practitioners more than I like my doctors
  • why I can accomplish more when I have more to do, and I can’t seem to write when I give myself a break from blogging daily.

All these questions and more floated through my head today as I had a sort of surreal medical experience. (Sorry guys, if you don’t want to read about women’s issues, stop here).

I lay on the table at the OB/GYN, legs in stirrups, as my wonderful new Nurse Practitioner exchanged my expired birth control for a new one. Now, that’s not unusual, except that this was happening in the environs of what I assumed was a Catholic hospital.

“Is this a Catholic hospital?” I asked.

“Yes it is.”

“So how are you able to do this?”

“We got special permission. These things can only be done within these four walls,” she said, indicating the small suite of examination rooms we were in. “If you wanted it done in the greater hospital, it couldn’t happen. We don’t even have access to hormones there.”

Surreal, isn’t it?

I suppose the battles between religion vs. science, common sense vs.  faith,  believers vs. non-believers, owners vs. workers, powerful vs. powerless, etc. will continue on ad infinitum until humankind destroy’s itself completely.

I suppose that makes sense, but I still don’t get it. Can anyone explain?

Taking Time Off

Yesterday I stayed in bed all day.

Seriously, I closed the door to the dogs, the daughter, the husband, the bills, the writing, the beautiful sunny day and everything else. I’ve been battling some serious pain all week, radiating out from the top of my spine and making it difficult to turn my head or move, and yesterday I decided that all I could do was rest.

Today the pain is less. My blood pressure has dropped (not that it has been high, but my doctor wanted me to keep tabs for a while and the reading was the lowest ever) and I managed to get Sarah off to school without any major blow ups.

Time off is good.

Nathan came to say goodbye to me this morning and give me my challenge for the day (1000 words, plus getting out of the house to enjoy the sunshine).

” A thousand words, huh?”

“That’s easy,” he said. “You do it almost every day.”

“I know, but I just don’t feel very write-y today. I especially don’t feel bloggy. I think I’m done with blogging for a while.”

“Well, you wrote that emotional post on Saturday. Maybe you just need time off.”

“I just don’t think I have anything to say right now. I might write a post telling people that I am cutting back. I’ll try posting once a week or when I’m truly motivated, but otherwise . . . ”

“Do whatever you need to do.”

So dear readers . . . I’m taking time off. I will not disappear. I will still read and comment. I may still be inspired by the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups (even though I skipped last week). I am still going to contribute to the Seven Deadly Sins contest. But, I am not going to push it when it comes to posting.

I’m going to take time off. To quote from one of my favorite bloggers, Nancy over at Spirit Lights the Way: “Ahh . . . That’s better!”

The Wonders of Walking

I just took my first real walk in almost two weeks. A walk around a track, heading nowhere but that zone of heartbeat footstep heartbeat footstep.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

I had been walking daily, but my routine disappeared at the advent of spring break and the ensuing parental challenges. My daily walks got pushed to the back. Of course, I could have walked with Sarah, but any time I mentioned that suggestion it met with resistance. She’s not adverse to exercise, but on her terms not mine.

We did go for one long walk through the botanical gardens, which is always a delight. Except when you have to practically force someone to go with you. Sarah eventually realized how much fun it was, and enjoyed discovering her photographer’s eye.

Lovely photo taken by Sarah.

Mystery tree photo taken by Sarah

We also went on a mini-walking adventure as a family on Patriot’s Day, which gave me a few minutes of peace between arguments and complaints.

A Moment of Peace

But, in general, I was never able to reach the rhythmic meditation of walking.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

Without those moments of walking for myself, for my health, for the rhythm for the words, stress built up in my body.

I found myself feeling like this:

Muscles in my left shoulder and the my neck turned into bricks, leaving me to grope for the leftover pain killers from past bad back experiences, and an entire morning sleeping yesterday.

A lovely morning of sleeping, I might add.

Today, the pain is manageable, and I decided I would brave the outside world. I went for a walk around a track.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

When we went on the family wander last week, we walked in an area that had been damaged by tornadoes last summer. We were actually looking to go into a park, but the swath of damaged trees was greater than I had imagined, so we ended up just wandering by a boat launch that we happened to notice. I felt awe at the signs of recovery all around me, despite downed limbs and broken trees.

Green leaves growing from a trunk that refuses to give up.

Being bent, crooked and broken is not obstacle for a tree that wants to keep growing.

Today I went for a walk, and now I feel like that tree. Broken in places, but still fighting, growing and breathing.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

Walking Toward Life’s Lessons

I have been having a difficult week in my own mind. The INNER CRITIC has been screaming loudly, telling me that I am wasting my time.  The GREEN EYED MONSTER has been popping up, as I compare myself to other’s even though I know I shouldn’t.  QUEEN SELF-DOUBT has made loud pronouncements, trying to banish Queen Esther before she could even make her voice heard. LORD LONELINESS laughed at me as he partied with his friends.

I sought solace and solutions away from the written word. I went for walks. On Wednesday, I took myself to the nearby botanical garden, hoping to find inspiration in the flowers of the greenhouse. I was greeted by a woman who said, “You look like you are ready for a day of stress relief and beauty. Enjoy! But first, feel this.” (She hands me a bud that fell from the pussy willows decorating her desk). Her smile and encouraging talk began to break through my shell. Wearing  my “butt shoes” (my sneakers that are supposed to help with getting in shape) instead of boots I found myself crunching through snow to wander paths I thought would be closed. Yesterday, as the temperature soared into the 60s and the snow disappeared, I walked against the brisk winds down my street, listening only to the beat of my feet and the songs of the birds. I didn’t bring my camera. I didn’t bring my music. And in the silence of being alone, I rediscovered something along the way.

The following is what I discovered.

I

Greeted by pussy willows.
Touch a whisper of softness
like a baby’s blanket
floating in air.

II

Being alone does not have to be lonely.
The crunch of my feet in the snow.
Bird song, at least three different types, though the birds remain hidden.
I breathe deeply of the fresh air, the breeze sending a scented message of spring.
It is not cold, despite the snow.
The wind fills me with the potential of life.
I wish I could paint the scents in the air, and fill my words with pictures.

III

The true beauty and power of life can be found in the tiniest of details. It is not about  the grand moments or grand gestures, but finding joy in the finite details and tiny miracles that surround us.

IV

I walk away from the computer and the grading and the pressure to accomplish.
I walk away from the frustration of words, of not finding the ones that work, or having too much to say.
I walk away from the house, and the dishes, and the dogs begging for attention.
I open the door and walk down the steps, without music, or camera or notebook or phone.
I walk and my feet take on the rhythm of the road.
I feel my legs stretch, and I push myself into the joy of the movement.
I walk for my health.
I walk for myself.
The sun feels warm and bright and happy.
The breeze is strong, and pushes against me, but I walk stronger.
The wind howls through the trees, yet I am in a brief space of calm.
I walk by the grandfather and grandson clearing the yard.
“How are you?” he asks.
“I’m great!” I say, and I surprise myself because I mean it.
I walk by the grandmother and granddaughter walking a frisky puppy.
“He’ll jump on you,” she says.
“That’s OK,” I reply, and I smile.
I smile, and I smile, and I smile.
I walk and my smile grows, although nobody is there.
I walk away from the worry and rediscover

 My smile.

Battling the Bulge During Birthday Month (A Write Myself Right Update)

I have always known that February is the longest month. The combination of cold weather and (usually) snow-filled streets lends to the desire to hibernate until spring blows in; cuddling with a good book, a blanket, and rich, fattening foods.

Now, however, my February’s have become hectic months. Nathan’s birthday is February 12th, Valentine’s Day (which Nathan and I have usually avoided) becomes a bigger challenge every year as Sarah gets older, Sarah’s birthday is February 15th.

Add onto that, “Uncle” Norman, who lives with my sister, celebrates his birthday on February 11th. However, he and Deb are visiting his family in Ireland so we won’t be celebrating all of the birthdays as a family until February 25th.

In between we have February break in Massachusetts, a week-long public school vacation that starts on February 20th this year. A week-long possibility of food temptations like going to the movies with equivalent movie fare.

This Friday is the school sponsored Daddy-Daughter dance, and Saturday we will hold Sarah’s birthday bash for friends. Of course, we have to celebrate her actual birthday by sending cupcakes to school.

That’s a lot of cake.

This year there was also the additional food fiesta of the Superbowl. Since I now live in Massachusetts, I couldn’t really avoid it. Usually, it’s a good excuse to stay at home and watch movies.

Suddenly I am faced with a long month full of festivities and food, and I chose this month to begin “writing myself ‘right'”?! Am I crazy, or simply setting myself up for failure with good excuses?

The Horror!

I’m here to tell you that it is, indeed, possible. Last week, after my first full week of writing myself right, I lost two pounds. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but it is actually ahead of the game, because the program in the book suggest a 1 lb. loss a week. Think about it, two pounds a week would mean 104 lbs. in one year.

I don’t have that much to lose. I actually need to lose the equivalent of one  Sarah.

(Photo by Uncle Mom "Taochild"). No, I don't want to lose her, just the equivalent of her weight. 😉

It hasn’t been easy. I’m not going to lie. Each time I write my Morning Pages or in my journal I discover something about myself that I don’t really like, or that seems too hard to fix. Every time I log my food into Caloriecount.com (which I am using to help me keep track of the nutritional value of my food) and my day isn’t perfect, I feel frustrated with myself. Every time I don’t exercise when I should, I feel hopeless. I am definitely having emotional ups and downs.

But, and this is a big BUT (as opposed to my own butt which is hopefully getting smaller) I feel really good. I have exercised almost every day, including a 70 minute hike through rocky, hilly terrain with the family yesterday (including dogs) to celebrate Nathan’s birthday.

Nathan got to choose how he wanted to spend his day. We surprised him with breakfast in bed (Sarah’s idea) and then he wanted to go on this hike, even though it was extremely cold outside. After that, he wanted to make some of his fabulous chicken wings and watch the Lord of the Ring’s trilogy while playing games for the rest of the day. (Have I mentioned Nation is a little geeky–but I love him for that). Now, his chicken wings are killer. Seriously, they could even tempt a vegetarian. But, I managed to only eat two. That’s right

Not 10-20 as I probably used to do. It felt good. I actually ended the day without having eaten all of my calories, even including the small piece of cheese cake that I ate to celebrate (supposedly only 180 calories). I usually try to eat all of them, but it didn’t happen yesterday. That’s okay too.

Today, I start another part of my journey. I mentioned that I had signed up for a writing course. Well, the course materials came this weekend, so now I’m really beginning. I’m terrified to be completely honest. What if my talk of writing a book is all talk? What if I don’t really have a story in me? What if, like my other book, I write it and it just gathers dust in a corner somewhere? What if I fail?

It is scary enough to want to eat myself stupid. But I’m not going to. I’m sticking to the plan and I’m truly going to write myself right.

So bring it on February, the longest month of they year. Bring on your chocolate hearts, birthday cakes, and other decadent treats. I will not let you defeat me!  Now I need to go do my walking tape before I start writing!

“Write it ‘Right'” and Other Reasons to Write

“From the front of the classroom, the transformation that Morning Pages causes is almost startling. Even after two and a half decades as a teacher, I am still struck with wonder as people seem to change right before my eyes. I call the process ‘spiritual chiropractic’ as changes are made in exactly the direction that they are needed. Overeaters curb their binges. Undereaters begin to eat more regularly. From the front of the room, the increased health is readily evident. And ‘all’ they are doing is writing.” (Julia Cameron, The Writing Diet: Write Yourself  Right-Size”

I am changing my life. One word at a time, one creative project at a time, one moment at a time–I am manifesting a life that fills me with joy. That is difficult and sometimes scary, but it feels right.

However, in order to really live the life I envision I have to get control of several (inevitably linked) things, my weight, my health and my self-confidence. I don’t need to be a size two or anything, I just want to be a healthy weight so that I can hike comfortably with my daughter (at my own short-legged pace, of course) or travel to other countries without worrying that somehow I hold others back or might end up in the hospital. I don’t want to worry about my heart stopping at a strange moment, or future manifestations of diseases that I could prevent by simply taking better care of myself.

I know how to eat healthy, and I have had some successes without actually dieting. If I use the word diet, even in my mind, I am doomed to failure so it has been banned from my consciousness. However, in typical fashion something always happens to reverse my success. No, not something! The only thing that gets in my way is:

Me, Myself, and I

I come up with excuse for not exercising, or for eating one more cookie, or for choosing something unhealthy rather than healthy.

In the same way, I am an expert at making excuses for why I am not progressing in whatever creative project has caught my attention.

I can’t do this to myself anymore!

So I am taking on a challenge, inspired by Julia Cameron, author of The Writer’s Way  and The Writing Diet. I am going to write myself right.

But not just my weight, and not just through writing.

I am going to:

  • write myself right
  • create myself calm
  • dance myself delighted
  • walk myself wonderful
  • sing myself sensuous
  • paint myself pretty
  • journal myself joyous

I am going to do all these things and more. I know it won’t be easy and sometimes it will feel impossible. I know that life will have its ups and downs. I know I can’t do it alone.

But I believe in myself and my ability to “write myself right.”

Anyone need or want to join me?

Walking at My Own Pace

I breathe heavily, straining a little as I contemplate the next step. Where should I put my foot so that I safely ascend and don’t twist or break anything? Where is the best place for my makeshift moss-covered walking stick, to help guide me up the difficult spots or support my weight as I climb a challenging point?

Up ahead, the dogs pull Nathan forward with joyous canine energy. Plenty of new things to smell, and an adventure they haven’t had for a while. Sarah leaps from rock to rock, a graceful mountain goat-child. Occasionally she wanders back down toward me when they lose sight, just to make sure I am following the trail.

Sometimes they stop for a view, or to explore a mysterious crack in the earth. This allows me to catch up. Sarah waits long enough for me to snap a photo of her, but then the dogs and she pull ahead, barely giving me time to catch my breath.

But I still moved forward at my own slow and steady pace.

And that’s when it hit me . . .

I am NEVER going to be the world’s best hiker or a super fast walker.  But that’s okay, as long as I continue to move forward at my own slow and steady pace.

I have been reading Be Your Own Best Life Coach by Jackee Holder, and she writes:

“Accept what existential psychologist James Bugental calls ‘the nevers.’ Make a list of all the things you will never be [. . .] Far from being pessimistic there’s something comforting and disarming about embracing acceptance that leaves you free to embrace more of what you can achieve. What we may never be leaves more space and energy to concentrate our effort towards the very things we can be.”

I am NEVER going to be . . .

  • the world’s best hiker or a super fast walker
  • thin
  • a millionaire
  • a tenured faculty member
  • a famous director
  • a famous actor
  • a leading woman in the business community
  • the next JK Rowling

I’m not going to be those things, but there are plenty of things that I can and will be, even if I only move at my slow and steady pace. This doesn’t mean I won’t push myself, or pick up the pace at appropriate moments, because I can do that. But, I find, when I try too hard to keep up with others, or feel like I am holding other’s back, then I start to hate myself. I feel bad about what I perceive as my frailties or flaws.

In Slovakia I found my own pace. “Keep walking at your pace,” I said. “As long as I can see you in the distance, I’m fine. I’ll tell you if I need you to slow down.”

I never needed them to slow down. I always got where I was going in the end.

I will always get where I am going, and I will do it in a way where I can feel pride as well as enjoy the journey, seeing the sights along the way and  always moving at my own pace.

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