Flawed&Flawless

 

I used to hate the New Year. There was always pressure expectation demand that I make resolutions around changing my body, and “changing” always meant shrinking. From the time I was a kid, I wasn’t only observing and ingesting the attitudes women expressed about their bodies always being too big, too round, and too imperfect, but I was also being explicitly and constantly told these things about myself. And every new year, I was presented with the so-called opportunity to fix myself and stop disappointing my family, friends, and future husband (yep, lots of healthy thinking modeled for me in my early life). The weeks that followed were a long, painfully held breath of waiting for that first cookie, that first second helping at dinner, until even the desire for something “not good” came with the heavy burden of disappointed faces and are you sure you want to do thats. Add to that feeling the stress of heightened scrutiny of my body, when all I wanted was to be unnoticed, and you can understand why I was strongly in favor of just cutting January right out of the calendar.

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Work In Progress

I have been avoiding myself.

It seems like it would be difficult; I’ve even heard people say that it’s impossible to avoid yourself, but it’s actually how I lived most of my life. Hiding from my reflection, draping my body in oversized, baggy clothing, surrounding myself with the noise of TV reruns, background music, and mindless reading. It was how I survived, by distancing myself from the reality I was living and keeping myself from listening to my own thoughts. No longer living in this existence, I have been steadily improving my relationship with myself. I have been tuning in, reclaiming time alone, writing. But lately, I have found myself going through familiar motions – filling all the silence, making excuses not to write, keeping a running list of all the ways I am not “good enough.”

This manifests physically, too. My muscles tense and squeeze under nameless stress until I wake up in the middle of one night unable to turn my head. I make no time to cook or prepare any food and go through the day eating what I can buy at a coffee shop, when I remember or prioritize my own eating; more often than not, I eat once during the day and come home at night to order or pick up whatever I can. Continue reading “Work In Progress”

A Walk in the Park

I’ve never been a fan of team fitness. Along with being ‘not much of a joiner’ in my youth, working with a group brings up all my old gym class anxiety – weakest link, strike-out in baseball, The Absolute Worst at volleyball. Even now, the memories of rolled eyes and impatient sighs return. I avoid most exercise classes, and am quick to step to the side of a hiking trail when groups come up behind me. The potential of being the drag, the person everyone is waiting on, brings up too much anxiety for me to handle.

But you can’t curate every moment of your life.

On our recent trip to Kerala (check out my tumblr: weboldlygo), we made our way up into the mountains of Thekkady, home to one of the largest wildlife preserves in India. There are many ways to experience the preserve, everything from self-guided nature walks to overnight camping and tiger-stalking excursions. But the option that most stood out to me was bamboo rafting.

I mean, check out that zen.

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Adding Up

I went to a doctor the other day. This isn’t a big deal for most people, because having a GP & getting check-ups aren’t formerly traumatic experiences that they had come to dread and fear. I have been a frequent drop-in at local urgent cares for pressing concerns & illnesses, but I have been avoiding working with a GP for years.

I haven’t had a great time with doctors, from my childhood pediatrician to gynecologists to my attempts at finding a GP. I don’t often feel heard or understood during appointments. That has to do with my stuff, but my weight and size often dominate the conversation in unhelpful ways. There has often been a blanket assumption that I am dangerously unhealthy, despite test results and physical assessments that say otherwise, and recommendations for eating and fitness have been very unsatisfying (skim milk, cardio 5x a week, stop eating by 6 pm – all actual things doctors have told me to do (not that I’ve listened)). As soon as it was up to me to make my own appointments, I started avoiding check-ups and only going to doctors when I was sick enough to miss work. Even then, it was pretty disheartening to drag my shivering, aching, flu-ridden body to a doctor only to get an antiquated diet lecture that my delirious brain could barely process.

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On the Road to Recovery

I haven’t worked out since returning from the Women’s Fitness Summit last weekend.

At first, I wanted to use that against myself. I started to repeat it to myself, saying things like, I can’t believe I haven’t… or I have to do this and finish that AND I haven’t even…

I started attempting to justify the fullness of my plate, but that was like playing right to the #noexcuses troll that lives in my brain. Sure, I have had to attend team-building with my new coworkers and go to work for planning sessions and complete preparation for the first night of the graduate class I’m teaching, and sure, my house is a mess and I have yet to unpack from the two trips I took in August, and yes, I have so many drafts that I want to flesh out into posts to queue up for my two blogs. I let all this work me up into a familiar stress panic. At work, after a pretty full and productive day of planning, I rejoined my teacher roommate in our still messy classroom. I looked around at the clutter and the boxes and the bare walls, completely overwhelmed by everything I had to get done for my graduate class, for my home, and for myself, and trying to figure out where to fit in everything we would need to do to make our classroom look less like a storage shed and more like a place students could learn. And, you know, sit. (And I haven’t even…)

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Dimples & All

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly kids grow. Take my friend Alie’s daughter, Zaida. Not long ago at all, we were losing our minds over how close she was to standing up. But when I saw her recently, on the day of the Superbowl, that was old news. As she careened around our friends’ apartment, I marveled aloud at how big she had gotten. She turned her cherubic face toward us & broke out the killer smile that is going to get her out of so much trouble in the future. We melted, & she hustled over to lay her head in her mama’s lap & beam up at her adoring fans.
“Oh my god, look at those dimples!” our friend, Laura, squealed in delight, before looking up at my own smiling face. “Oh, Priscilla, you have them, too!”
I fought the urge to cover my face with my hands, a reflex from years of having my face pinched, squeezed, & poked. Laura, thankfully, made no sudden moves. We laughed as she recalled sitting at her desk in elementary school, pressing her pencil’s eraser into her cheek in hopes of leaving a dimple behind.
“I was like that with freckles,” I said, recalling my attempts to dot my skin with pen, marker, makeup, paint.
“You can have some of mine,” Alie offered, not for the first time in our friendship.
Later that night, reflecting on this moment, I was struck by how my longing for other people’s features is fading into past tense. That’s new-ish. Most of my life, I wished I could wake up in someone else’s skin; no more chubby cheeks & dimples, no more explosive curls, every feature I’d bemoaned & hyper criticized melted away. As Mean Girls captured so well, that hyper criticism is all too common among girls, so I had a great audience for the shame & self-loathing I carried with me.
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This is probably one of the reasons why it was always so much easier to believe the negative things people said about me. One negative comment outweighed a thousand nice ones in my mind. It didn’t matter how many people told me I had a beautiful face & a warm, infectious smile; one middle school classmate trying to nickname me “Pillsbury Doughgirl” was enough to cancel out all the positivity.

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Plot Twist

The other day, Boyfriend set his desktop background to a photo of me. He usually opts for beautiful scenery or incredible feats of fitness, so I thought I knew what to expect when he started nudging me to go check out his new screen. But when I was slow to get out of my book, he couldn’t resist telling me, “It’s you!” & it was with absolute dread I shuffled to the computer in the corner of our gym. Absolute dread.

Boyfriend & I generally have completely different opinions of what photos of me are cute (or acceptable), so I wasn’t sure what he would have chosen to blow up across his jumbotron monitor. But whether I was to be met with a carefully posed portrait or a fantastic mid-word candid, I knew I was not going to be pleased.

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