Appreciate the Now

A lesson is repeated until it is learned.  I heard that from my mom about a million or so years ago and it’s always stuck with me.  Especially in times of frustration when I feel like the same things keep happening over and over again and I can’t figure out why, that little eight word sentence pops into my mind and I’m reminded that maybe the same thing is happening over and over again because I don’t ‘get it’ yet.

Back on December 30th, I decided to detox from my Christmas Binge Extravaganza and do a Whole 30.  The purpose of my involvement at that time was to try and detoxify all the chemicals and sugar and inflammatory foods out of my body that I had willingly (and joyfully, no shame!) jammed in there over a month.  At the time I was also running about 2.5miles every second day in an effort to get ready for a big run (5K) that my sister and wanted to do (and did).  I took a before picture as per usual and then took the after picture.  Now, here’s where the lesson returns with a vengeance.  That after picture… I was dressed in my yoga pants and my favorite hot pink tight fitting yoga top.  Looking back on that photo four months (and a considerable amount of stress later), I’m very proud of the girl that stood there. The problem is that that girl didn’t appreciate the results of the hard work and dedication that it took to get her there.  And that’s the lesson.  I’ve seen pictures from when I was much younger and I was told (and believed) that I was an overweight cow and should be on a perpetual diet.  To put that overweight cow in perspective, I was a size 8/10.  For 5’10 that’s a pretty healthy, in shape size.  In the photos from then and from January, all I could see at the time were the flaws.  A roll of belly fat here, an arm that ‘seemed’ too fluffy there… a poor angled photo that implied a double chin or some other ‘ghastly’ flaw.

What do I see when I look at those photos now?  Wasted opportunity.  I see wasted opportunity to be loving and compassionate to myself.  I see wasted opportunity to be proud of myself and confident that I am worthy of wearing shorts and tight fitting tanks.

The reason that this is coming up is because I’m frustrated with the body shape progress I’m making in my current Whole 40.  I’m looking at the pictures from January, where I was much slimmer than I am now (truth be told… it’s not MUCH… it’s some) and wishing I would have appreciated the place I was. I’m looking at those pictures KNOWING that I didn’t see the progress and didn’t see the victories.

I actually believe that my stalled progress (if it’s even stalled… it’s only been 15 days) is BECAUSE of my current obsession with photographing myself and then comparing it to January.  Stress like that can make you hold on to fat and adipose tissue.  It can keep you inflamed and puffy.  I’m sure there’s science behind that to back up the statement but I’m not about to go look it up.  I’ve read it before, I know it’s true.

So my next 15 days (the duration of a standard W30) will be dedicated to appreciating where I am exactly in the moments that I am there.  I really want to work on appreciating that the reason that I have puffed during Puffer Fish Week is because I am a health and presumably fertile woman. I want to appreciate that the size of my quads makes easier work of propelling myself home on foot 3 days a week.  (dudes, at the end of today, I’ll have logged 60KM in 15 days!)  I want to appreciate that my favorite hot pink tanktop fits, looks good and makes me feel powerful as I motor down the street.  It’s really hard in this day and age of exceptionally high beauty standards for women (even for those of us that know that health is first and foremost) to appreciate your current place. I always say that if someone is working toward making themselves healthier, then I will give them all the kudos in the world because they deserve it.  So why then, would I not give myself that same appreciation.

I don’t know what this next 15 days looks like in terms of actual measurable success, because it’s pretty hard to measure appreciation.  I do think that it’s reasonable to not take another body selfie to compare to January until at least the 30th day.  Right now I’m comparing a 30 day accomplishment to a 15 day accomplishment… how insane is that!!!

If anyone else out there is doing a Whole30, rock on with your bad self!  You’re (we are) doing something that presumably 99.9% of the regular everyday people around you (us) wouldn’t attempt.  That’s huge!

Just Be Yourself

My mom always says that lessons are taught until they are learned.  This one keeps coming up so I guess I’m still learning it…

The way that I perceive myself and the way that others perceive me is not the same.  My friend always tells me to just be my authentic self and that every good thing and good person that is meant to be in my life will come along… drawn like a moth to a flame.  Just be yourself.  Yourself is amazing he says.  Sometimes, when I’m alone and thinking through things, I remember what he says about being my authentic self… and I over think it… I was saying to my counsellor yesterday that sometimes I wonder what ‘self’ that I’m supposed to be to get the best response from people.

Well this morning I was reminded again, that the ‘self’ that I am when I’m not overthinking it is the self that my friend is talking about.  

Be you.  Be silly.  Be friendly.  Be crazy and goofy and loving and happy and joyous.  Let your real, authentic personality come out and play and the people that don’t like it aren’t people that you want around you anyway… 

This morning I was taught (again) that being all those things above pay off.

I missed my regular bus by about 30 seconds… however, not being in the mood (or with the energy… damn this ridiculous fatigue) to run a block or so, I decided to just wait the ten minutes for the next one… So I stood outside in the cold, playing on my iphone… freezing my digits off.  And then a bus arrived.  ‘Not in Service’ said the flashing sign on the front of the bus. But then the door opened and the driver invited me aboard and said that he’d take me as far as he could down my route and try and catch up with the bus I missed.  He said that he remembered me from when he drove my route in the summer. 

Now… think that through… That’s someone who remembered me from six months ago… someone who has seen easily thousands of people in the last six months and he remembered me enough to know that he wanted to stop and do something kind for me.  We chatted and laughed all the way until we did catch up with the bus that I had missed earlier and my Not in Service Hero pulled in front of that bus so that it would have to stop and then wished me a happy day (in French I think… it was definitely not in English) and I got off his bus and walked back to the one I’d missed.  And then something else incredible happened.  The driver of the bus I missed saw me… 50 blocks from my usual stop and looked surprised and confused.  Opened the door and asked how I got ahead of him and all the way down here…. So I told him I’d missed him by seconds but that I didn’t have the energy to run and then my NIS Hero picked me up and brought me this far.  And you know what he said? ‘I looked for you when I went past your stop and I thought about waiting a second but I didn’t see you so I had to keep going.’.  I was so touched that he knew I should have been there and he actually looked for me… what a kind sentiment!

When I got to work I went to the coffee shop I always go to and saw my young barista friend… our faces mutually light up when we see eachother and we always share a chat and a smile before going about our days.  Today we laughed about taking over the world and then that’s when the events of the morning sort of hit me.  I’ve left a lasting impression on these people just by being me. 

Sometimes our self-perception gets in the way of being able to see how others perceive us… I can say for certain that I need to be reminded constantly that the ‘real me’… the ‘self’ that my friend encourages… she’s the key to my happiness.  At no time am I more joyous and friendly and silly and loving and happy as when I am being shown that being those things consistently start a perpetual circle.  Being joyous and happy and silly and loving makes me feel those… which make me want to be those… It takes practice to let ‘real me’ out of the dark because it hurts more when ‘real me’ is rejected or wounded, but oh my… the rewards when ‘real me’ is welcomed by the world with open arms and good deeds and smiles and the kind of human love that boosts my spirit! 

It’s difficult to not bring all of this back around to health and fitness.  When your body is quiet and content, it’s just enormously easier to hear the other things going on.  I remember my sister saying that when she switched her diet to the paleo/primal way of eating, she could hear her own thoughts easier… it was difficult to understand and I’m sure it was difficult for her to explain, but boy, she wasn’t wrong.  When Body is taken care of and not a massive urgent concern to Mind, then Mind gets to focus on other things. Mind gets to have epiphanies and process ideas and information in a pure uninterrupted way that is not feasible when Mind is too busy worrying that Body is a train wreck. 

So I’ll go through the rest of my day… week… month… trying to remember that being authentic is the key and I will be duly rewarded in my life by authentic people and experiences.  And the rest will just fall away like dust in the wind…

Not Making a Choice IS a Choice

I was chatting with a commenter on my last post and one of the things that came up is that not making a choice is a choice.

It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if by simply not making a choice… not choosing a path when presented with options, that we could stop time?  That the world wouldn’t keep going around us until we had decided what we wanted and were able to take our step down whatever path we chose.  The unfortunate reality is that because time passes, regardless of what we do… regardless of whether we make an intentional choice or not, there’s always a default path that we just end up down because time doesn’t wait.  The other unfortunate thing is that it’s very rare that the default path is anything other than a negative… Maybe it’s not a clearly negative thing right away but dollars to donuts, letting life just happen around you isn’t going to net super positive results.

Nowhere is that more evident than in finances and health and fitness.  I don’t claim to be an expert on either but I have no sage wisdom to give about finances other than ‘pay your bills’ and ‘don’t ignore things’. 

Health and fitness is just one big choice that we make every day.  And putting off that intentional choice until ‘tomorrow’ or ‘January 1’ or ‘after some big event’ is a choice to let more time and more opportunity slip away. 

 Every day that comes along is an opportunity to just let life happen to you and delude yourself into thinking that not making an intentional choice means that the outcome is ‘out of your hands’.  And every day that comes along is equally an opportunity to take responsibility for yourself, and your life and your wellbeing and make a choice.  Sure, maybe it won’t be the best one, or maybe you’ll have to make many choices in a trial and error type of method in order to get where you want to go.  But that means that you are intentionally living and choosing and growing and trying.  Not just letting the default ‘happen’. 

Again I come back to the motto of this blog.  ‘Time passes anyway.  Do something useful with it’.  Every day that goes by is a blessed and golden opportunity to do something purposeful.  Make a choice.  Make many choices. 

If given the choice, which we always are, I choose to choose.

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.

Tagline

The daily prompt from about a week ago on Daily Post was to discuss the tag line that we would assign for our lives… kind of like you would assign for your blog.

Well, I guess I didn’t do a good job of separating my life from my blog because the tagline from my blog header is actually the tagline for my life.

The time passes anyway…  do something useful with it.

Time doesn’t hold on for us to get our shit together, make decisions or plans.  Hours and minutes go by at the same rate regardless of whether we’re ready for them to pass or not. It’s a cruel game when you think about it. A week could go by… not much in the grand scheme of things… a week to make a decision… a week to make a plan… but you’ve got to be careful because one week turns into two and two turns into twenty and before you know it, half a year has gone by and you could be no closer to your goal, your new path or your future.

This passage of time is no more obvious than when you want to change your body.  One day in December you decide to ‘start tomorrow’ to get your beach body for the following summer.  The holidays happen, you indulge… always tomorrow you’ll start.  January 1st rolls around and you say that your first day back at work will be the day.  Tomorrow never really comes, even tho it comes exactly every day. And before you know it, you’re in the same body as you were in December (or worse), only it’s beach time.  Beach time came and your beach body didn’t… And the worst worst worst part about the passage of time in which time changes but you don’t is regret.  Where could I have been today if I’d started six months ago like I planned?  Why did I let every day slide by only to end up halfway through another year and no where near where I want to be.

The time passes anyway.  And it can hand you an aching regret if you’re not careful.  I wasted a LOT of years letting time pass around me… by me… with no input from me as to where I wanted to go.  I let five Christmases pass where I didn’t see my family because the choice to not see them was easier and less painful than the alternative of trying to stand up for myself.  (Imagine that!  My situation was so acute that the pain of not seeing my family at Christmas was LESS than the pain of standing up for myself.  THAT is hard to live with). The time passed.  Every moment of that time is a moment that I want and can’t have back.

Do something useful with it.  Useful is the word I used.  I could have chosen myriad words to put in the place of useful.  I could have said productive, loving, effective…  Or I could have said the following simple statement. Do Something.  We all know that not making a decision is making a decision (we all know that… right?!?).  Well not doing something is doing something.  Not making a plan, not making a change and not making an effort are all doing exactly the opposite of what you think you want to do.  I say ‘think’ because the reality is that if we wanted change bad enough… if we were ready for change enough, we’d make the change. Making wholesale change in your life is not the same in reality as it is depicted in the movies.  I have a burning memory of watching some Ashley Judd movie where she’s in jail and she decides to put her ‘time’ to good use and turns herself into an athlete.  Of course the 35 seconds of a film compilation is ‘exactly’ the same as real life right?  No where does it mention that it takes her two years and some, if not all of the time, it hurts.   Real, wholesale change of your life is a dripping faucet… not a firehose.  It’s a tiny bit every day that is moving in the direction you want to go in.  It’s a dollar in a jar every day.  It’s no snacks in the evening every day.  It’s a kind word said to yourself in the mirror every day.  And as time passes and you spend a moment every day when that six months finally passes, you’ll see just how far you’ve come.  But because change is so very slow and methodical and each day builds on the next, you really must waste no more days as time passes…

I want to say that I found the last thing on Instagram or some other ‘inspirational’ poster site, but really, I just made it up, so if it sounds stupid, that’s why. This is what I ask myself every day.

If I won’t do it today, why would I do it tomorrow?

Ask yourself that.  And then get out there and do something.  Because time is passing.

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.