Trauma and a Date

I’ve been lucky in the last year that I’ve been living under some sort of a lucky star… the intensity of my ‘rehab’ if you will was not derailed (or even potentially derailed) by anything.  I was gifted with almost a year of stability to strengthen the parts inside me that needed strengthening.  To make habits that I had hoped would last a lifetime.  To define priorities and then work toward living based on those priorities.

One of the things that I have been very worried about in my own health and fitness journey has been what will happen when something tragic or traumatic happens.  Of course one traumatic event can not be compared to living in a steadily worsening abusive relationship but that time ruined me and I didn’t know if I trusted myself to be able to handle the sort of shit that life throws at you that you have to deal with while you keep moving forward.  What if this ‘new me’ was but a temporary sham I was living and the second that something bad happened, I fell apart again?

This is the very same reason that I have been uncomfortable up to this point in dating…What if I just gave myself away the second someone came along and asked… or worse… didn’t ask but just took.  What if I didn’t learn a single thing and I was just going to fall back into the same trap… That ‘what if’ has kept me from even considering dating…

Last week was emotional and difficult and that culminated in an incredibly complicated and traumatic weekend.  People at work keep asking how my weekend was and I’m certainly not going to share my personal life with them, but every time the question is posed, I am taken off guard and I become speechless as I look back on the train wreck of the last few days.

The good thing that came out of this… the one bit of silver lining I could find was that it didn’t level me.  It could have.  The sheer level of exhaustion I am dealing with could take my knees out from underneath me in an instant.  I will not allow it.  I will not allow something temporarily sad and traumatic to harm me. To derail me.  Did I cry?  Sure.  A LOT!  Did I take a nap?  Yes, of course.  Did I also eat all my Whole30 meals and grocery shop and do my food prep?  Yep.  Did I talk to my friends and my sister instead of going into hiding? Yes!

At the same time as this emotional trauma was happening, I just so happened to be starting to date for the first time in years.  (of course when it rains it pours!)  I am having a very nice time and I’ve met someone who is definitely considered a keeper and we have agreed to not see other people for now just to see where this goes… if it goes no where then fine but it deserves a chance to see if it goes somewhere and that means proper dedication to it.  Plus, there’s no way I could be a serial dater anyway…

I’m trying very hard to feel the fear and do it anyway… not that I’m planning on ignoring any signs that things may be off, but I have some serious hangups about dating, given my past and I will not allow them to derail me anymore than I allowed the trauma this weekend to derail me.  I will take quiet time to sit with my thoughts and feelings and work out if they are just errant self preservation and remnants of old me, or if they are genuine cause for concern.  I will allow my friends and family to meet this person sooner rather than later and I will be open minded about the entire situation, whichever way it goes… Because I owe that to myself. 

I think I’m starting to realize that I have learned my lessons… and I am strong enough to engage in even the tough parts of life and still make it out the other side in tact.

Because I Can

As I was on my after work run last night and my head was telling me that I can’t, I remembered something an old friend once told me about why she ran.  Because I can.  Because I am capable of running and exercising.  Because there are people that physically can’t do it and it would be such a waste to be someone that CAN do it and to take that for granted.

That thought has stuck with me for a long time… She told me that right near the time we first met and that was in around about 2002 so it’s a sentiment that managed to stick in my brain for the last 11 years. 

I was thinking about that as I ran last night.  Because I can.  I do this because I am capable of doing this.  I have been blessed with mobility and perseverance (God knows I’ve used a lot of perseverance in the last while) and a time in my life that I have next to no commitments or demands on my time.  I don’t have kids, I don’t have a significant other, my pet is pretty self-sufficient and I can work my 7.5 hours a day and then go home.  This is not said to gloat of course, I know from the outside it looks like I’ve got it pretty easy and maybe comparatively I do.  This is said because I think it would be grossly taking advantage of this time of my life and not pushing myself.  I could go home and play with the kitty and have a nap and watch crappy tv while I eat crappy food… I’ve done it in the past and I COULD do it again… Or I could put my runners on, grab my ipod and go outside and run as hard and as fast and as long as my body will carry me that day because I can.

Don’t look at me!

A long time ago, when I was unhappy… no, downright miserable, I didn’t really care what I looked like. I was standoffish and mean to say the least because my home life was a nightmare… It was hard to see the beauty in things and I certainly didn’t see any beauty in myself. Now that I’m so much happier and content and at peace, I’m a heck of a lot nicer to be around and putting makeup on and doing my hair nicely just reflects outwardly the inside that I care so greatly for. I didn’t start this lifestyle of Paleo and working out to get a nicer outside, I started it to get a nicer inside… but it’s hard to keep the ‘nice’ contained to the inside and so it’s becoming reflected in the care I take for my appearance now. It was never a lie back then that I didn’t care what I looked like… I really didn’t. I was working day by day to just get through the days without losing my mind and there was nothing left to invest in my appearance.

Now that things have changed on the inside, my outside is becoming pretty nice… some days I look in the mirror and see how far I’ve come… and sometimes I look in the mirror and I see how much work I have ahead of me and how long it will really take to wash the pain of those years away… an interesting dilemma has surfaced.

I have a huge secret that I have carried around with me, starting in 2005… and then it doubled itself in 2011… I talk the talk of not carrying shame in something you have no control over… I am an armchair advocate for women’s rights and mental health care for those that need it. I would tell someone till I’m blue in the face that rape and abuse and sex assault is not their fault and that mental health should not carry a stigma with it. Because I, from the seat of my being, believe this to be true.

I was sexually assaulted twice in the last 8 years. Once by someone I barely knew and once by my ex 22 days before we finally ended it. I am in general, not traumatized by it. I made decisions at the time to prevent myself from being harmed more than necessary and while it’s incredibly painful to think about what people with no conscience will do… and I know it will be heartbreaking for people who know me… I’m honestly fine. The thing is tho… that kind of thing… it changes you. It changes parts of you that you wouldn’t think or know it changes until something in your life comes up to show you how you’re different.

The experience has made me quite shy… I’m not usually one to be labelled as shy… in a group of people I know, where I feel safe, I’m not shy… but in any situation where I feel even a little bit vulnerable or out of my element, my personality shuts down and I become painfully shy. It’s taken a very special person in the last little while to see me through my shy protective barrier and pull me out. That same person, who I’ve mentioned here before as a dear friend of mine has also showed me that trust is not always misplaced.

The other thing that my experiences have made me is incredibly self conscious. I’m absolutely terrible at taking compliments… It borders on rude how terrible I react actually. It’s something I am trying to work on… it all goes back to trust then right? Trust the person… trust what they say… trust that there is no ulterior motive. For the last ‘can’t even count that high’ years, I didn’t care what I looked like. Truth was, that was a safe place to be for me. Not that I knew it at the time, because the reason I was wearing so much extra weight was due to other life factors and an emotionally abusive situation. But when the outside started to become affected by the dramatic changes on the inside, that’s when it hit me. People are going to look at me. And I am not comfortable with that. I’m comfortable sharing an anonymous photo of my bikini clad before and after on the internet… I’m comfortable posting pictures of myself online… that’s all anonymous… I’m not comfortable wearing a nice shirt that shows my… ahem…‘assets’ …in a complimentary light and then having people look at me. I rationally don’t think anyone is out to get me and I rationally actually don’t think that anyone would be too interested in me for looks alone. However… the damaged and irrational side of me… that voice in my head tells me to walk faster, keep my head down and go eat some ice cream to get a bit of protective fat back because it’s a dangerous, dangerous world out there. Now the rub… I’m also not comfortable wearing baggy clothes that hide all the work I’ve put into myself. I’m not comfortable wearing too many layers for how hot it is outside and I’m not comfortable pretending that I don’t care about how I look. And there is the situation at hand. I don’t want people to look at me but I’m not going to dress or care for myself in a way that prevents it. I honestly don’t know where to go with that. I wish I could say that the last paragraph of this post was going to be some enlightenment over my dilemma… that I’d made some dramatic association and solved my own problem. I haven’t. The only thing I can give myself is another day and another day loving me from the inside and allowing that to show on the outside. I can only be stronger from my experience and while it would be impossible to say it will never happen again (but God I hope it never EVER happens again), I have to know that my instincts both times were right… and be stronger in trusting them. Because what a shame to be taught a lesson like that… twice… and not to take it to heart and get every ounce of experience and knowledge out of it that I possibly can!

 

NB: It was only recently that I was able to recall all the details from the first assault in a linear fashion. I don’t know if it’s because I was mentally strong enough, because it had been buried long enough or what… (altho no amount of burying it resolved the acute pain of the ‘in the moment’ emotions). I do believe that rape, sexual assault and physical abuse should not be kept in the dark. I believe that the more that people who have experienced it talk about it, the more that we can use our own experience to help teach eachother. That my experience might pave the way for someone else to recognize the signs and help themselves. And to help heal our sisters and mothers and daughters who have experienced it. Every time you find out you’re not alone with your experience is another moment of strength. That takes the dark off the shame and pours daylight on it.

With that said, I do have my experience written down. I understand it now in a way that I didn’t understand it then. Having uncovered it and poured my own daylight on it, I now understand why in some circumstances, I am the way I am. There is nothing gory or perverse in my account. There is no content that you couldn’t read on a computer screen at work. And yet, I go back and forth on whether to post it. Not because I’m ashamed, or scared, or even care that it’s on the internet. More because I am terrified that it will hurt people I care about to the depths of my soul. Do I know that these same people are statistically likely to have had a same/similar experience? Of course. Does that make it easier? No.

I think it would be cathartic to share it. Even tho the majority of the readers here are strangers. Because that’s another ounce of daylight shed on my experience from each person who reads it. I’m still debating. Your thoughts would be so appreciated as to the route I should take. But even if I get 0 or 100 comments on it… the decision still rests with me.

Before and During

The best way to do a ‘Before’ and ‘After’ is to post a picture… which I will spend the entire time I write this post contemplating whether or not I will post one… I have it… it’s just a matter of whether I want some people I know in real life to see it…

But there are some less visual indicators of change. And I would argue heartily that they are the most important ones and the physical changes in a person are merely the side effect of this. I retweeted the following yesterday…

Don’t expect external changes if you’re not committed to internal change.

My sister once said that the extra weight I was carrying was my pain on the outside. At the time it seemed reasonable but I filed it away, as I’m wont to do and only now has it come back to me, in a more processed and understandable state.

Only once you are no longer in the painful situation is it possible to understand the magnitude of that pain. My mind never processed it as a whole… bits and pieces were given to me in dribs and drabs… I do believe that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle and part of the way that manifests is that for someone like me, who is an uber processor… I didn’t process it all… it would have killed me… the sheer volume of pain would have done me in.

So slowly, as things came up they were either put on a shelf for a later time or processed… thought about, ruminated on. I don’t think it was a conscious effort… I didn’t sit down and pick a moment in time or an experience and intentionally… the thoughts and feelings just happened…

And then, one day I found myself feeling something I hadn’t felt in years… I felt happy and calm. I didn’t recognize it at first… it was a somewhat foreign feeling… I didn’t feel like yelling at people when I was driving… I was kinder to people around me and I handed out more benefit of the doubt than you could shake a stick at. I smiled at people. And the incredible thing was that as I explored this new feeling of calm and happy and let it lead the way for me, the response I got from the world changed… the world became more calm and happy around me. People smiled back. I laughed with strangers. I felt centered in my body…

The part about the internal change creating external change that creates the most problems is that it looks easy. People only see the physical changes. They only see that it looks like you just decided to be happy one day. They only see the results of fitting into smaller clothes and none of the immensely hard work that you’ve undertaken to get to that place. Which means that when you make these internal changes of which the side effect is physical change, the resistance from your friends and family can be overwhelming and they can sometimes really work at you to get you to ‘change back’. It’s understandable really… if you think about it. I was a comfortable place to land…I was consistently available to be used and mistreated because I was already in a vulnerable place… I was easy to control… I wasn’t a viable threat…

I’m not a super competitive person… at all. I’m a live and let live, do your own thing and let me do mine, kind of person. I’ve always been that way and a change in my mental status or my physical status isn’t going to change that. However, I do know that people will, without me knowing it, engage in competition with me. And now that I’m changing… becoming the next chapter of my life, there are no longer ‘easy wins’ for those that choose to secretly compete with me. I’m okay with that. I understand it and I understand that it can be so uncomfortable for those close to me that they react in a less than graceful way…

I often want to say ‘I’m the same person I’ve always been’. That’s easy to say for me because I’m here, in me… I know that the way I am has always been here… deep inside. But the way I present myself to other people now… that IS different. I’m not the same anymore and I wouldn’t want to be.

I’ve decided through the writing of this that I’m not ready to show the before and after picture. The external changes in me are not as important to me as the internal changes. And the only way to stand by that statement is to leave the visuals out of it for now. (note I said for now…)

Laugh at Me

So a long time ago I was sitting in a coffee shop giggling with a girlfriend.  Well…. Giggling… not really… full out, hold my sides, don’t care who hears/sees laughing.  The owner of the coffee shop is also a friend of mine and after a while he came over and sat down with us… Did you see those people sitting across from you that just left he asked… Yep.  Well, he said, the guy that was with them came up to me and asked me if I knew you… he’s in the film industry and he said your laugh was awesome and he wished that there was a way to bottle it. 

Of course that made me laugh even more… some out of nervousness and some because when people talk about laughing it makes you laugh… well, me anyway! 

It’s a memory that pops into my head every once in a while and it came screaming back to me this morning.

It’s a beautiful… BEAUTIFUL day here in Vancouver and I was with my same girlfriend waiting in line at Whole Foods to get a coffee.  We were being ridiculous and making eachother laugh, as usual and a bubble of unfiltered laughter burst out of me and caused the guy in the line in front of us to turn around… Sorry I said… thinking that I was being a bit obnoxious so early in the morning.  No, no was his response.  I love your laugh!  (which makes me laugh…).  He smiled at me, this huge, joyful, completely open smile and said that my laugh made him laugh and that it was awesome.  About 20 seconds later a girlfriend of mine came up to me and said she had just been walking out the door but that she’d heard my laugh and had to come and say hi and give me a hug.  That made me laugh even more and I said it was funny that her comment was the 2nd one in about 30 seconds about the sound of my laughter… the guy in front of me, beaming from ear to ear said it wasn’t even 30 seconds… 

The entire encounter was brilliant and fills me to this moment with a bubbly mirth that fills my body and soul with the endorphins of joy.

It also reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend the other day. How just the act of being ourselves can be a gift we don’t even know we are giving to another.  Our trusting nature, a caring touch, a bubble of laughter… our society frowns on the mere act of interacting with a stranger so we almost never have these conversations with another, but it’s likely that while you go about your daily business, you’re touching other people… just as they are touching you… giving you a gift they may not know they’re giving.   Someone told me yesterday that the thing they liked about me was that I was true…I believe the quote was ‘You’re honest about who you are. You are not some crackerjack bullshit flavor of the month.  You are true.’ The experience today with the guy at the coffee shop and the statement from my friend last night just underlines that being true to who I am… something that is very important to me is not a wasted effort.  In this world of fake and social media and doing whatever you want with no consequences, it’s a good reminder that the power in being true is always worth the investment to learn who you are and then live that life.

Something a little different

Image

I’m in a black hole of writers block! I have about a dozen half written posts… processing, learning, growing… and they all come out sounding like such a bunch of garbage that I can’t hit the publish button. I envy people to whom writing comes easily. I’ve been told I’m a good writer quite a few times now and for sure I have a distinct style and can sometimes put words together in a poetic or inspiring or entertaining way. But when the words are flying around in my head like a mile wide tornado, it’s frustrating to no end. They won’t come out in any meaningful order… so I decided to do a little experiment and I made a word cloud. If I had all the time and talent in the world (which I have very little of either), I would get out a sketch pad and make my own word cloud. But since I don’t have either of those things, this was the next best thing… and it gets the words out of my head and onto the screen/paper in a more organic and creative order. I think it’s pretty clear from the image where my head is at lately…

trust... person...influence... lie

trust… person…influence… lie

Dollars to Donuts

Well… donuts are verboten so lets talk about dollars. 

I have a rule in my house that goes like this:

We don’t throw out food.

That’s it.  There is no food throwing out… if the porkchops end up dry and over cooked, that’s too damn bad because that’s what’s for dinner… All those veg that I steam and roast in anticipation of the week?  They’re all eaten and not a single shred of Brussels Sprouts goes to waste.

This is night and day compared to the food situation I’ve been involved in, in the past.  I hate to be wasteful and I really loathe taking out the garbage and emptying the compost so it’s in my best interest to eat that which I bring into the house and that which I cook.  That being said, I feel that there is room in my cooking and feeding routine to save some money.  Lots of money is saved, comparatively speaking, from when I had less control over my food environment and things were thrown out constantly, but I believe that I can sharpen up my current feeding tactics and make it cheaper and I have a great reason to try.

I’m planning on hiring a weight lifting coach here in town.  I just sent an email to him to give him some background of my story and see if his philosophy and gym fits with what I’m looking for.  I’m hoping that he will agree to take me on as a client and give me direction and plans so I can work out myself between our sessions. The rate is reasonable but in order to make it work in the budget, I need to try and get my food purchases to be more efficient.

So for 14 days I’m going to document everything I eat.  Not in oz or grams or calories, but in dollars to see where my meals can be made more cost effective and where I am already doing well (I think breakfast is pretty good).  I will then take these two typical weeks and create from them a food budget.

And you’re in luck!  I’m going to share that information here with recipes where applicable.  I already know I have some great cost saving meals and recipes, so I’m hoping that I can tweak and adjust them to make them very valuable in the consumption department and very invaluable in the monetary department.

I’ll also post back and let you know if the weightlifting coach is going to work out and share my journey on that with you.

If you have any money saving recipes or tips/tricks that you’d like to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments and feedback on the meals and expense will be appreciated too.  This will all start on Monday so I get two weeks and two weekends in the ‘study’, however since I eat a lot of the same stuff every week, I will start working on the math now.