Monday, August 19, 2013

Just the way you are

One of my favorite songs of all time is Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are".  It brings back memories of lying on the living room carpet, mooning over the future Mr. Right who would love me just the way I am.  (Dear Reader, I married him.)

As you click on that link there and remember the wonderousness of the saxophone, an instrument which is sadly silent in pop music these days, get ready for another God smack story.  It happens to me ALL.THE.TIME.

I recently listened to a talk on body image and one of the things the person was saying was that it is important to accept and love your body (not just your "self", your "mind", your "I", your "ego", your "soul", but your BODY) the way it is right now.  She suggested leaving little notes and affirmations for yourself where you can see them, as you internalize this message.

So, here is mine, perched in the corner of my bathroom mirror, both upstairs and downstairs:

Love the pajamas and glasses and messed up hair, and the view of my showerhead in the background.  Sigh.

But, despite the fact that I'm wearing flannel pajamas over a camisole in AUGUST and complaining about my glasses being on and my messed up hairdo, I am trying to take this message into my conscious and unconscious mind.  I really am okay.  I really am okay just the way I am now.  Of course, I don't believe that, but I think it bears repeating, so I will repeat it.

That's part 1 of the God smack.

Part 2 is this:

A central article in the current issues of Weight Watchers Magazine is all about how we talk badly about our bodies and hate the way we look and how this is both unhealthy, unkind, and counterproductive.  

Part 3 is that I got an email from the lovely Heather K Jones, linking to her latest video, entitled "What To Do If You Hate Your Body."  I have to listen to it again.  Heather makes a lot of sense.

It's 1:18, dear Reader.  Writing blog posts is evidently what I do when my husband is away.  But I have to go download the dreaded Tess of the D'Urbervilles and get started on it for next month's book club.  I vow to vanquish it this time, dear Reader.  It's one of my least favorites and I've been assigned to read it at least twice in my life and, I think, have tried it on my own at least once.  But the promise of a good book discussion and a night out with the ladies is a strong inducement.  

"You're Better, Mommy"

Yesterday started out really stressful and sad and ended up being a lovely day.  My husband was leaving for five days of work-related travel.  I brought him to the airport, chickadees in tow.  We had a traffic-less drive to the airport (thank God it was a Saturday), but my husband, who is not the travelling type, regaled the children with the horrors of travel when you have to do it for work.  It's stressful; it's uncomfortable; you don't speak the language; you can't eat the food (he has celiac disease which makes restaurant dining in foreign countries challenging); you have to perform at your best while battling jet-lag and exhaustion; you can't see any nice sites but only the inside of office buildings, etc.  I know that this is how he feels, but, Lordy, it was stressing me out.  I actually like to travel, to a certain extent, although most of my travelling was done pre-TSA, pre-cattle-car-style flying.  I'm going to have to do some serious counter-balancing with these kids or they're never going to want to leave the metro area.

Anyway, we had some time at the airport, so I parked and brought the chickadees in with me as my husband checked in.  As he said goodbye, right before going through TSA security, Chickadee #2 started to wail and cry.  It was really, really loud.  Really, really dramatic.  Really, really pathetic:  "Daddy!  DADDY!  DON'T GO OR IF YOU HAVE TO GO, TAKE ME WITH YOU!!!! DADDY! DADDY!  I DON'T WANT YOU TO GO, DADDY.  COME BACK, DADDY.  COME BACK!!!!"  Heads turned.  One woman clutched her poor heart in sympathy.  The TSA agents were annoyed and amused at the same time.  I was afraid her crying might get him selected for secondary inspection.  He made it through security and turned to wave goodbye.  The crying increased in volume and intensity and bathos. In desperation, I sat down with her and let her cry for a few more minutes, and then gave her a time limit to get herself together.  Her response:  "I'll only stop crying if I can go with Daddy."  Um.  No.  On to Plan B, extemporaneously created on the spot:  Let's go to Mount Vernon, since we are almost there anyway.

Mount Vernon is a place that lets you really appreciate the great good fortune the United States had in George Washington as the head of the Revolutionary Army and as our first President.  In particular, the new (to me, at least) the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center was fantastic for us all.  It is really well-designed and has activities for all age levels and tastes.  One of the best things we did was to visit with Martha Washington, who allowed the chickadees to pose for a photograph with her.  They LOVED it and I'd go back tomorrow if I could.  All in all, we were there from about 12:30 until almost 6:00 pm.  And, here is the amazing thing:

I was able to walk around the entire time with almost no pain.  

I'll say it again, y'all.  

Almost no pain.  

You would have to have been me for the past several years to understand why this brings tears to my eyes.  I've been avoiding activity and exercise because I'm in such constant and debilitating pain.  I thought it would never leave me.  I was preparing myself mentally to be in pain for the rest of my life.  And now it is almost all gone.  Oh - it's not perfect.  I had to stop and rest every once in a while.  I was tired.  Walking back to the car was hard on the backs of my legs and I had some pain last night.  But still.  It was sweet.

Sweetest of all, however, was the conversation with the chickadees that occurred on our long walk back to the car. Chickadee #2 took my hand and asked me solicitously, "Do your legs hurt, Mommy?"  "A little bit," I replied, "but not too badly."  She said, "You know, Mommy, you are much better lately."  I asked what she meant.  Then she and Chickadee #1 began to list all the ways that I am better lately.  

"You are more healthier." 
"You do stuff with us that you didn't do before."
"You take care of yourself better now."  
"You do yoga."
and on and on.  I promised myself that I would remember all their little gems of hope but, of course, I've forgotten.  

What I haven't forgotten was that they noticed.  What I haven't forgotten is that they are worth everything that I am doing to try to be healthier.  What I haven't forgotten is that they are God's gift to me and my gift to the world.  And I'm working on being worthy of that gift.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I'm Unkind to Myself, Even in My Dreams

Last night, I woke from a crazy dream at four in the morning.  I promised myself that I would remember enough of it that I could write about it today.  It's always dodgy to try to convey dreams to other people.  Things that are logical in the context of the dream are nonsensical in real life; things that seem significant are just confusing in the retelling.  Nonetheless, here goes:

I was in a library looking at a (nonexistent) viewbook from college.  It was a compilation of photos from my senior year, kind of like a yearbook, filled only with pictures of seniors.  In it, I found a photo that has never existed anud would never ever have existed, even in my wild and crazy college days.  I was wearing a cute little bikini in a hot pink and white harlequin pattern and was standing sort of twisted away from the camera, so that the part of my body most visible in the picture was the side of my torso.  As I encountered this (imaginary) picture of myself from my senior year, I had a very strange double reaction.  On one hand, I looked at this person with happiness -- "oh, there you are!" "You looked wonderful!" "What a cute bikini, whatever happened to that?" and on the other, I began to pick out all the flaws in the picture "oh my gosh, you can't see my ribs," "what in the hell was I thinking, wearing a bikini?," "I'm embarrassed for myself."

When I woke up, I marveled at the fact that I am so adept at self-criticism that I can do it in my sleep.

My lovely cousin, Simba (nickname) recently sent me a message on Facebook.  She said,

I read your wrecklamation blog whenever you write one and am so proud of your determination and perseverance in working on a healthy lifestyle. It is so important for the girls to see you making good choices and they need to know how badass their mom is when she sets her mind on something. I just can't help but notice that you rarely talk about all the things that make you amazing. I hope you know all of them- it's easy to focus on how far we have to go instead of being proud of how far we've already come. I do that too. I just wanted to share this little video with you because I just love it. I actually do this with Jessica sometime and I hope you'll join us.

I think I need to take Simba (and Jessica) seriously and do the little "I'm awesome" dance every morning.  I don't really know where the self-criticism comes from -- maybe from my family's peasant beginnings where, if you call attention to your good qualities, the pooka might come and stick you one in your eye for your boldness.  Maybe it's that old Irish begrudgery.  Well, you know what they say about that -- and if you don't, it's that old English four-letter word that can be every part of speech (and start's with an "f") the begrudgers.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Steps along the way

It's day 5 after seeing the nutritionist and committing to drinking water water everywhere, and I am making strides.  Every morning, except for yesterday, I've had a nice tall glass of water with the juice of half of an organic lime mixed in.  It's very lovely, refreshing, and good for me, too.  The funny thing is, before my sister came to stay with us recently, she told me that she had one special request -- could I please make sure that there were lemons on hand because she drinks a tall glass of water with the juice of half a lemon every morning.  I called her last week and told her that a nutritionist recommends her routine.  I've also tried to pay attention to my thirst and to satisfy it with water.  I am doing very well, with some few exceptions.  Today's breakfast limewater was jazzed up with a splash of organic cherry juice.  I bought a bottle to put in a smoothie and the children didn't like the cherry vanilla smoothie flavor, so now I have almost a whole bottle of the stuff that I need to find uses for -- suggestions welcome!  I also bought myself a nice new water glass and also a Camelbak water bottle.  The squishy straw sippy thing was a little difficult to learn how to do, but I think I've got it now!

Last night, I went to a friend's house for a little one-on-one yoga session.  For the first time in months, I left feeling only residual pain in my hip.  To say that I was surprised would be an understatement.  I kept checking back in to see whether the pain, which had been nagging and aching like a toothache you can't get rid of, had come back.  I was shocked when it stayed away until this morning, and then went away quickly as I went through my daily routine.  An afternoon of sitting at my desk, although productive in terms of work output, made the pain flair up again.  Never fear, though -- my friend gave me a handy cheat sheet of exercises to incorporate into my daily practice:

Though I don't think I was doing some of the poses correctly, I did feel mostly better after doing them this evening.  Hooray.  This is huge.  Just huge.