Sunday, June 11, 2017

When Guilt Gets Too Heavy

Guilt has been heavy in my life. At the best, it's because I'm an idealist with an ideal way to handle every situation, but can't always make it happen. I believe wastefulness is passive violence, denying the truth that others don't have what they need. I'm aware fresh water makes up less than 1% of the earth's water, so even though water's cheap where I live, I don't like to use more than I need. I've got strong opinions about parenting, religion, effective management...the list goes on, creating high standards everywhere I turn.

At worst, it was because I believed God was moping around until I decided to spend some time with him. More recently, I think she's less than pleased when I'm trucking down a perilous path or even if I'm just listless because I don't know which direction is right. 

In other words, there has been a right way and a wrong way to do EVERYTHING. 

Which made me crazy. 

Which made me a failure.

Which made balance impossible. Because, if it's always right to show up to a fast food place with reusable cups, how do I treat myself kindly when I don't have them? If it's always right to get to yoga as often as possible, what do I do when my body says, "No." 


There's been a lot of that. 

Other common names are perfectionism, legalism, falling short, self-condemnation.

Well I'm sick of it. If there's a peace that passes understanding, I need to get in that line. Because there is NO PEACE when you obsess over what's right or best all the freaking time. 

Here's a real thing. I wrestle every day with whether I will make it to yoga or not. Some days I know from the get-go it won't happen, but I can't admit that to myself, so I bounce back and forth about it in my head ALL DAY LONG until every class is over. I weigh pros and cons. I ask myself what will I be happier about after the fact. Will I wish I'd gone? Will I be okay with it? How the hell do I know?! What do I look like? A mind reader? No. Apparently, I can't even read my own future mind. And that is a failure on my part too. Just add it to the list. 

I wrestle every day with what I eat. Will this Dr. Pepper make me a hunch-backed old lady? I've always believed in good foods and bad foods and I could feel good about myself only when I was eating the former. But if you do any reading or get any advice from anyone, you'll no longer be sure ANY food produced in the US is good (except organic veggies) and what are you left with? Guilt. Because...who eats only veggies.

I wrestle with how much we spend. My therapist said, "I hate to tell you this, but you don't have a healthy relationship with money." It's true. I've thought spending more than you make was pure evil. Being in debt, especially credit card debt, was a sign you did something terribly wrong somewhere along the way. This became a new guilt-either-way game for me because my healthcare costs more than we make, but shy of becoming a martyr and not taking care of myself...well, I feel guilty about that too.

So you see, this is madness. 

I've known it was madness a long time and I've known it was making me miserable, but what I didn't know what was throwing me off. 

Apparently I've been moralizing. Marc David talks about moralizing food in The Slow Down Diet, "Food is morally neutral. So is every other object in the universe. Is a baseball bat good or bad? It depends on how you use it. It can be used to hit a home run and make thousands of fans deliriously happy or it can be a tool of destruction, used to smash someone's car window and ruin her day." 

This is why there are variables. This is why the right answer isn't always the same. This is why my strict rules paralyze me - I can't decide anything without breaking one. Decisions can feel like the WORST THING EVER, when really, my freedom to choose is a blessingI've been painting a color picture in black and white and acting like it was so simple. 

I know where that comes from. It's a scarred little human hoping if she does everything right, she'll never find herself alone. Or destroyed, with no song to sing and no one to enjoy it.  

But I believe the stage I live on is lovingkindness. I will never step out of the spotlight that is God watching me and delighting in me. He thinks it's cute when I tie my freakin' shoes. He's made my guilt (real or imagined) a non issue, so we can be together forever. 

And since that's the case, I can stop judging every move I make on a moral measuring stick. I can journey and experiment and try things with curiosity to SEE IF they are right for me this time or not. And if not? NO BIG. I'm learning, questioning and discovering. And that's exactly where I'm supposed to be. 

At yoga or not. 

In debt or not.

Eating veggies or not.

No guilt. 

Just free. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Obsessed With Speed

This is the third of my trifecta. 

If I were writing a comic strip, I'd say something like, "The Invincible Ones are skinny, strong, and fast." Or maybe swift, for alliteration's sake. Definitely not speedy, because it sounds road-runnerish. Beep, beep.

Not impressive.

So, to be impressive, I work hard to be these things. Yes, there are others, but these are pretty painful right now. I may have gone on, blind to the third, except I recently experimented with eating slowly. As a kid, I did this naturally. It's one of those gifts grown-ups think are a curse. When I became a mom, I finally found the ability to eat at the speed of light and I've never stopped. 

But eating slowly gives your body a chance to absorb nutrients from food, which my fatigue suggest would be useful. I'm also hopeful it will also help me turn my experience of food inside-out. So during a meal, I told the rushing voices, "No, this is important. I'm going to take my time and there's nothing you can say about it." 

After a slow breakfast, I was driving to work and the pushy voice said, You're stopped at a light! Grab your phone and check your email! Normally, I'd probably say, "Brilliant! I'm so efficient. Look at me go!" But this morning's breakfast woke me up to having options and I told that pushy voice, "No." 

I felt pretty saucy about it too. 

The voice started blathering about getting behind and what people would think... 

I said it could shove it. 

In all these years, I've prided myself on being efficient. God's actually asked for my Rush and I've told him to shove it. Not in so many words, but with my actions. "I like being this way," I told myself. "I like going fast." And that's partly true. I like to go fast when I'm inspired, but that's because I'm in the flow and it comes from excitement about what's happening. It feels nothing like the Rush. Rush is pushy.

I had a moment of clarity during this little exchange. I realized the voice rushing me isn't a neutral, if-it's-best-for-you kind of voice. It's a my-way-or-the-highway voice. It's the jerky boss. The impossible coach. And I've been hustling to impress him far too long. 

He gets me all hyped up sometimes, telling me everything is riding on this one afternoon. He can get me low, berating me for how I blew it and all that that means. He's never pleased with anything and never gives me time to celebrate when I manage to do something well. He just pushes me on to the next thing. When things flop, he doesn't care how hard I tried. It counts for nothing. I count for nothing. I'm always trying to make the cut with him and know I never will. 

Well, not anymore. 

I see you, mean coach. 

I'm done hustling and going crazy for you. 

I'm out. 

Who knows what that looks like - I'm just glad I finally know that behind your "Go, go, go!" was a "You're not enough!" Because every time I tried for you, I unwittingly agreed with your premise. I taught myself, little by little, that it was true. 

But it's not. I am enough. I'll go when I go and I'll stop when I stop and none of it will have anything to do with whether I'm enough. 

My soul is free and I will untether myself from you as many times as it takes. 

Good-bye, Rush. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I'm Also Obsessed with Strength

Some people are saying strong is the new skinny. Well, crap. That just happens to be my other obsession. 

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be tough. I didn't cry easily as a girl and believed there was virtue in suffering silently. I hoped pretending my skin was thick would make it so, and everything would hurt less. If I got strong enough, I'd be safe.

I equated strength with muscle. I chose the hardest workouts and felt proud when I finished them. If I went to gentler classes, I'd wimped out. I wanted to feel good about myself and the only time I felt good about myself was when I was being strongI also felt weak when I opted for a c-section delivery. A real woman would push two babies out! When I met a woman who'd delivered twins vaginally, I felt a pang. See? She did it. I could've too, if I'd just been brave enough to try. The stupid thing is, I developed HELP syndrome and couldn't have delivered vaginally, even if I'd planned to. But logic doesn't help you feel better when you're afraid, does it? 

Childhood trauma taught me, You're never safe because the people you need most will hurt you on purpose. Unless...

Unless you're stronger than them. And the fantasy was born. 

A couple weeks ago my yoga teacher said, "You know it takes strength to be soft, right?" 

Yeah, yeah. I see it on other people. The strongest let you see how they feel, pushing past stigma to be honest and real, even when it means crumbling. But when it's my turn to crumble, I look for another way. A stoic, tidy way - those are my favorite. Crying til I need to blow my nose has got to be my least favorite. 

But that happened with two sweet yoga teachers. It didn't feel okay at all. I felt apologetic for the chaos I was feeling. While I hugged one teacher, the other teacher whispered, "This is strong." 

And do you know what that felt like? 

Trauma was like choosing between standing in a fire or submerging myself in a pool of water. Obviously, I dove for cover. It's not safe up there, I will stay here. Everything was muffled and blurry, but I couldn't stand being up there, fully alive in the face of so much pain. 

It seems nothing short of miraculous to come out of the water after so many years. But to come out of the water and find I'm safe?? 

I have no words.  


Well, maybe just a few: 

I'd really like to be a bad ass, but even more, I want to be alive and realize I'm loved and safe. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dear Skinny-Obsessed Me,

I know I've ignored you, wishing you'd eventually give up and leave. I've also blamed you and fought you, but today I want you to know, I finally understand.

I understand you grew up in the 80s when women were celebrated if they were skinny, tall and had legs for miles. Virginia Slims had the goal right in their name. Worse than that was hearing some of your favorite, most important people boil someone down to their weight. They judged it and insinuated things your little soul couldn't grasp, but you knew from their tone, it was bad. While you remember only a few of these comments, there were probably a hundred more you took to heart. 

All this created a web of beliefs that are amazingly strong. Fat people are out of control. They can't get their shit together. They're lazy. They've given up. They can't find happiness. They aren't attractive. They won't stay in love. They won't enjoy being respected by others. On the flip side, if you're skinny, the world is your oyster. All good things will come, including respect and belonging, admiration and love. 

I know you've seen exceptions - people who happen to be big living rich, happy lives. Over time, you've decided this is possible for some people, but you understand you're not one of them. You start in a deficit. You aren't on an equal playing field and for you, the only way to get there, is to be skinny. If you want a chance at love and a happy life, square one is being skinny. It's not life or death, but if it's happy life or hopeless life, the desperation feels about the same. 

So you hustle and try and feel guilty about unhealthy food choices and proud of healthy ones (when you know which are which). You feel good on days when you work out hard and bad on days when you don't or work out with less intensity. You feel angry when diet and exercise don't equal lost pounds and crazy when your weight goes up randomly. You feel disgusted when you see photographic evidence of the "extra." 

But then there are the wondrous days when the weight decides to come off. Seeing my smaller reflection in the mirror feels like you were handed a golden ticket. Today will be great, I think. I can hardly go wrong. After all, I'm so small. And you see the problem. There's no end to wanting to see a smaller reflection. You get it. That's dangerous. But it feels like heaven.

So recently, when I gave myself breaks from my healing diet, you hoped it would be okay. But it wasn't, was it? The weight came and you felt desperate. You panicked, thinking the disciplinarian needed to come back out to get us on track. I understand. You thought everything - literally everything hung in the balance. 

But it doesn't. I know why you thought that. I do. But...

Amazing, beautiful things happen in this world. Things beyond what we look like and it's what matters: love and wonder and life. All this greatness is happening and we are part of it simply because we were born. We can't demote ourselves and we can't disqualify ourselves no matter how much weight we gain. I am here and my whole purpose is to interact with the Divine and be part of all this greatness. 

So sweet little part of me, who is skinny-obsessed. I love you for trying to make me better and protect me from a terrible existence. But I want you to know we're going a different direction now. There will never again be a day, when we have no choice but to get the disciplinarian out or say mean things to our self or believe all the painful lies we've been told about what being fat means. There will never be a day when punishment by salad or boot camp will be the answer. We will walk in love and acceptance and let our body, our one precious body, know it's okay. 

We love it big.

We love it small.

We love it. 

How big will it get in the process? I don't know and it scares me too, but we are still going this way. If we find ourselves in a clearing that's skinny, but it's not love or acceptance, we will turn tale and run.

And we won't stop til we're home. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Main Bathroom After

So here's what our bathroom looks like now. I apologize for the photo quality, as it's a very small room and tricky to photograph for an amateur like me. I'm making up for it in quantity, so get ready...

We kept the vanity, faucet, toilet and tub. It was really the walls and floors we changed. The gray is the same because I love it so...but added the surprise of a pink ceiling.

We had hoped to remodel this bathroom three summers before it was actually a possibility, so I had lots of time to acquire the perfect accessories. The piece of art below, came from the decor consignment shop where I used to work. The towels and towel hooks came from World Market. They no longer have the hooks or towels, but I highly recommend them as a towel option that has the beauty of Anthropologie towels without being so pricey. In fact, I'd love to have a set of these to switch out from time to time! You can see all their pretty towels here

These lights are my favorite. They were second hand as well, and offered the brass I craved, but they were just naked candles. I found frosted cylinders to make them a little more modern and now their light is nicely diffused. The link is not to the site where I got mine, but they came broken three times because of poor packing. 

This toilet paper holder was from CB2 and while they don't have the exact one available they have this one that's wonderful. I love the touches of brass, but also love that I didn't have to replace everything. My faucet is still brushed nickel and it looks great. So if you're in love with the brass trend, but nervous about making a total switch (or can't afford to), try some pieces mixed in. The mix of metals can give you a relaxed vibe. The overall effect is more organic and less perfect, which I love. 

I found this mirror second hand as well! I love having a mirror tall enough that Brian and I can see in it at the same time! Our medicine cabinet mirror had been too small to share. It also doesn't cast shadows like the medicine cabinet one did. 

Here's how Brian put tile around our shower, eliminating the need for curtains all the way around the tub. 

We also had nowhere to store anything, so we had a hanging pocket organizer that held our shampoos etc. I didn't take a picture of it, but by the time we took it down, the mesh fabric was orange with hard water stains. Needless to say, I love my new shelf. The only sad thing is the tile color wasn't what I'd hoped for. I wanted a punchier pink, but all I could find was blush or salmon. Blush is still pretty, but not being tile experts, we didn't realize you have to use a different thin-set with glass tile. The dark stuff we used shows through in places. It's unfortunate, but I have a shelf!

There's the ceiling. I'd love to find a pearlized finish to put on it, so if you know of something, I'd love to hear about it. 

At long last, we had everything finished and I took my inaugural shower. I was rejoicing until I opened the shower curtain and saw water pouring out of the ceiling vent. We had to open the ceiling and fix a plumbing problem and now it all works. We just have a drywall patch that's taped and waiting til we can hire someone to finish it for us. Again. 

So it did not go smoothly and it cost (gulp) $2,000 in the end. But it is done and I am glad and enjoy it every single day. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Main Bathroom Process

I'm not going to burden you with a running dialogue but this photo tour will give you some idea what it was like to live in our house while we were renovating. It was pretty dusty. 

We got the floor tile set and felt encouraged. Until two tiles started rocking. We got those fixed and another two rocked. It was maddening. This is when we cursed the fact that we are not professionals. Or rather that we are professionals in other areas. It would not be the last time.

While the window was out, this cat decided to hop out and have a wild adventure. We had no idea when we brought him inside, we were also bringing a whole family of fleas. Then a box of bathroom items we'd stashed in our bedroom jumped out at me while I made my way to the bathroom in the dark. It broke my toe. 

But it did get done. I finally painted. And here's a sneaky peaky at the final product:

And that's not even the best part. So many more pictures for you soon!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Main Bathroom Before

Well, my friends. After months of it being finished, I finally photographed my new bathroom. A little walk-through seemed in order after all the bleating you heard about how hard the process was. And for the sake of perspective, I'd like to show you how it was before our first renovation in 2009. 

You can see how it was since 2009 over here. And while it looked pretty nice in photos, there were things that were hard to live with. My biggest gripe was how impossible it felt to clean it. Imagine trying to clean around and behind this radiator (below) - particularly when it was hot! Not to mention all the wasted space. We couldn't put our trash can or scale anywhere on that side of the sink. 

The radiator needed to be taken out and stripped because it had been painted with paint that was not heat resistant. In the end, we decided to take the radiator out completely, since it's a small bathroom and stays warm without its own heat source. 

The plaster walls didn't appreciate the steam our showers created. The paint was happy to peel off in chunks that fell into the tub with us. 

Above you can see why it felt impossible to clean. I had almost given up at this point, knowing it would be gutted soon. It hurts a wee bit just showing you these photos, but I'm determined to keep it real. A lot of renovations I see on blogs feel out of reach. The budgets are big and the finish is amazing. Well, this will not be that post. 

Our floor was another problem. The original wood floors were all we could afford when we first renovated, but the toilet had problems in the years since. Brian repaired it several times and finally replaced it when the tank cracked, but the floor would never be the same. 

I know...gross. I had clearly given up. We decided to replace this window, since I didn't have the energy or ambition to try to get to the bottom of all that paint. 

The tub hardware was original and there was no mixer in the faucet. I didn't know what a mixer did, but it helps you get the right temperature of water. So this is why I would turn the knob for hotter, hotter, hotter and suddenly it would get cooler. 

So those were our major beefs with the bathroom. Sorry for all the grossness! 

It was bad enough we decided to work on it even though we had only about $300 to put toward it. It is miles better now and I'm so glad we did it. It cost much more than we expected in money (not that we thought our $300 would get us far) and boy did it cause trouble in ways we'd never imagined, but it is done and I'm looking forward to the summer of 2017 simply because there is no renovating to do! 

I promise to be back with pretty pictures soon!