Before & After

I’m struggling lately with the concept of Before & After photos. I’ve got an arsenal of “before” photos I’ve taken of myself over the years when I’m trying to get down to Raceday Weight. I email them to myself at the beginning of training season and I tag them “weight” and the idea is to eventually take an “after” picture when I get to that weight and then show it off. And while I’ve gotten to Raceday Weight for a lot of my big races, I’ve never done a “Before/After” mosaic to show off. I think partly because, even if I’m at my Raceday Weight, I never really feel like I’m “done” losing weight because I’ve been smaller and a part of me feels like I should always strive to be the smallest I’ve been.

(SIDENOTE: I know all about physiology behind weight and that it’s not important for health and numbers mean different things on different body types, but some of us still use it as a metric to monitor progress year-to-year in training when all other factors are the same as years before.)

But lately, as I’m starting the attempt to get back down to Raceday Weight again for my Dizzy Monkey in November, I look at the “before” girl in the mirror and am looking at her a little differently. When I first really started focusing on my training two weeks ago, my weight was higher than it’s been since before I started boot camp in 2011. 20lbs from Raceday Weight. 40lbs from Weddingday Weight. (Which is not really a goal, but here for reference.) That number on the scale first says to me, “I’m the worst I’ve been in 5 years.”

And at first I was super-depressed to see that number. But, then I looked at her again, like I’ve been trying to do more often. I looked at how far she’s come with personal growth and mental health and how many areas in her life she’s doing better, completely unrelated to weight. And I skipped the “Before” picture because, when I get down to Raceday Weight, I don’t like the implication that the “After” picture is more beautiful than the “Before” picture. That picture only tells what my body looked like, nothing else. And I want to love that body no matter what the weight, and it’s hard to love a body you know is going to be the “before” picture in a few months.

So now I’m thinking about that every time I see Before/After photos. Now, obviously I’ll praise someone using that a way to celebrate and demonstrate a healthier lifestyle, FOR SURE. But sometimes I know the person in the “before” picture was healthy. And I believe deep down she’s beautiful. And I worry that by celebrating her weight loss, I’m somehow condoning the current her as “BETTER” than the past her, and I feel weird about it. I mean, they’ve met a goal so I should celebrate that, right? But suddenly I’m thinking of the “BEFORE” Kim and I want to love her and I see her in all of the other “BEFORE” pictures out there.

And then there’s the ones for skincare. Where the “BEFORE” picture shows wrinkles or maybe some blemishes. Or maybe it’s totally terrible lighting. Either way, these skin care photos are not about health and so I struggle with it even more. I want to reach through to the wrinkled “BEFORE” woman and give her a hug and tell her she’s beautiful and it’s okay to have wrinkles.

I don’t know, I think this is another one of the many times where I’m projecting my own issues onto other people, but my sudden decision to quit taking “BEFORE” photos because they only show my body and not my soul, is affecting my ability to scroll past others and not want to love the person in the “BEFORE” photo and tell her she’s just as beautiful as the “AFTER” version of herself.

Anyone else have weird hangups about Before/After weightloss/skincare photos?

The Girl In The Selfie

Yesterday was a token “busy day” where I had three obligations packed back-to-back-to-back. I don’t allow these days to happen as much anymore, to preserve my own sanity, but sometimes you just can’t avoid them. Long run (18 miles) followed by Track Club picnic/meeting followed by family dinner at our house. I had a moment to sit down and open a beer as dinner cooked and everyone was in their own zones of media enjoyment around the house and I thought, I’m taking a picture of myself and my beer to celebrate wrapping up an insane day.

When I opened the camera I was in a terribly lit spot in the kitchen and when I saw myself on the screen I thought, Ugg. That is terrible. I tried to turn to a better angle but because I was sitting on the kitchen island (What?) my options were limited and every direction I turned I was…to put it honestly for you…repulsed by myself.

God. My skin is so red. Did I get sunburned even though I had on sunscreen and wasn’t in the sun? Is this just the general Zoot flush that I hate so much? Why does my nose look so big. Jeezus. Is that another wrinkle? I really should wear makeup sometimes. I’m so terribly shiny and oily. I’m hideous. I can see all 18lbs of weight I’ve gain since January stacked in my ugly fat face…

I’m thinking these terrible things about myself as I’m twisting around for better lighting (Maybe different lighting will make me presentable…) and getting frustrated and then even more upset that I couldn’t even find light that would make me like my face in the slightest bit and then I kinda just caught my own eyes and for a split moment I didn’t see the hideous blotchy skin or big nose or vein in my forehead. For a split moment I saw a 41-year old woman who ran 18 miles that morning with a friend, then hung out with one of her favorite communities of which she works hard as a volunteer, and then bought groceries and came home to clean and cook for her extended family.

But in that moment, I stopped insulting the woman looking back at me from the phone. And it hit me that I was insulting her in a way I have never insulted anyone no matter HOW much I hated them. I saw her face and I replayed the last 10 seconds of insults I had been spewing in her direction and I just felt terrible for her. How could I talk to her like that?

And suddenly I found myself thinking of her like I think of the other women I love in my life. My friends, my coworkers, my family, and most importantly: My daughter. I thought about what I would do if I heard someone talking to any of them like I was talking to the woman on the screen in front of me. And my heart crumbled. If I ever heard someone telling my daughter she was ugly, or being disgusted at my friend’s wrinkles, or meanly commenting on my family member’s weight gain – If I heard anyone talking to any of the women I loved like I had just been talking to the girl in the screen – I would be outraged. I would stop them harshly and yell at them for talking to this beautiful woman like that. I would profess my own adoration for that women – be she friend or family – and I would send the hateful person away because NO ONE deserves that kind of talk, but most especially not someone I love.

And I started crying.

img_7217Because I felt terrible. I looked back at the woman in front of me, now with a face contorted in tears, and I apologized to her. I commended her for all of the amazing things she does every day. I told her she was beautiful and it had nothing to do with her skin or her body, it was because of the love she had in her heart that shined through in all of her actions. The beauty was because of her capacity for empathy and compassion. The beauty was because of her intellect and wisdom. The beauty was because of her caring. I told her she glowed with the love she had for the people in her life and she should be lauded for the positive energy she puts in the world. I told her she had beautiful eyes and that nothing else mattered. Not her skin tone or her wrinkles or her weight gain. None of it mattered because her beauty spilled out from a place beyond the wrinkles in her face or the vein in her forehead. The beauty came from her soul. And no camera could capture that, no matter how great the lighting.

home-timer-phone

Insight Timer – My New Jam.

home-timer-phoneI’ve always known meditation was something that would benefit me, as my mind is a big bowl of chaos 9 days out of 10. But I’ve had a hard time even stilling my mind enough to make it through 5 minutes and after those 5 minutes I never feel refreshed, I just feel frustrated.

BUT! My therapist (DRINK!) recommended an app to me: Insight Timer. And it has something called “guided meditations” which I guess is a common thing I’ve just never heard of. Some have explained “guided meditations” as a good introduction to meditation, with the ultimate goal being doing it self-guided. But others have said, “Eh. Some can ONLY use guided meditations, if you only ever do guided meditations, that’s okay. Whatever works for you.”

I like the later of the responses because takes the pressure off of me, as I’ve often felt guilty for not being able to successfully meditate. This way, I can just stick with guided meditations for awhile. And y’all? Guided meditations are SO MUCH EASIER!

The insight timer has a bajillion guided meditations, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by it and have basically just been working my way through the most popular ones under the “sleep” category. Many of them reference the term “yoga nidra” which I need to research more, but most of them guide you through relaxation of body and mind.

Yes. I get how silly that is, that I need help relaxing. But y’all? It works. I’ve been doing it for several days now and it’s really helping me fall asleep. Last night it didn’t work as easily, but I think it’s because I was listening to it with Nikki and I started getting paranoid that maybe she thought it was weird and it made my mind whir more and not relax. But most of the nights it’s been great and really helps me fall asleep. I’ve done two morning meditations and they’ve been good too. Short, sweet, affirming…exactly what I need.

This post is basically just informative. So I can share my discovery with you. This weekend was not quite as energizing as I was hoping it would be. I had hoped to get some good resting and relaxing in but failed miserably. I’m a little frustrated with that because I’m getting wound up a lot, feeling a little on the edge of frenzy as soccer and school picks up. I had tried to practice my “self care is healthcare” this weekend and schedule some time to nap and rest but I just felt guilty for trying to nap and rest.

(Yes. I’m aware of how ridiculous that is. Feeling guilty for trying to take care of my mental health. We will save that for another day.)

So I needed the nighttime sleep help for sure. I’ve been unable to stop waking up early, but if I can go to sleep easier at night, then hopefully I can balance it all out. Let’s just hope this Insight Timer app keeps helping me. If you check it out and you find anything good (I wasn’t lying when I said there were nine million of them.) let me know! I think you can actually connect, make “friends” in some way but I’m not sure if I’ve figured that part out yet.

Anyway – if you check it out tell me what you think!

13566919_10154950284903496_7859029678401480069_n

Eavesdropping on Myself

I was having coffee with a friend and she was telling me about how she totally forgot to see if her kid’s soccer stuff fit the day of their new season evaluations. It didn’t fit so she frantically had to scramble to buy stuff while they were at school on the way into work and she has no idea if it will fit or even if they would like it. So, of course I to her, “Well – that’s shitty. You know your kid’s friend does soccer AND gymnastics AND music AND dance lessons and her Mom has a full time job and I’ve never seen them without the right gear. AND she always looks flawless. You can’t even handle this one thing. You’re the worst. Your kids are going to remember the shame of this night forever.”

**********

I talk a lot about the value of language and how you will never hear me complain about “political correctness” because I want to know if my language could offend someone. I’m certain to be ashamed and embarrassed at first, but since I believe everyone has the power to teach me something, I would hate to build a wall from learning from entire groups of people just because my language was unwelcoming. (FYI – GLAAD has a great resource page explaining why certain words are “problematic” which speaking of anyone in the transgender community. I send this link out a lot lately with discussion of transgender rights.) Word choice is incredibly important because in some communities certain words incite extreme negative feelings. My kids knew the word “faggot” was a terrible slang word long before they heard it on the playground (which they have already heard quite often), so there is no part of them that ever hears that word and doesn’t bristle in defense of their brother. WORDS MATTER. And knowing what words trigger what negative feelings to people you would rather not alienate – that is KEY to building a diverse community.

But SHIT, yo. I alienate the crap out of myself with the language I use when talking to myself or describing myself to other people. I don’t take time to really think about word choice like I do when I’m talking about marginalized minority groups. I just grab the first (and often negative) phrasing or words that pop into my head without ever taking time to think about the messages I’m giving myself.

(BTW – I’ve discovered a new podcast and the hosts use terms like, “Shit, yo” and now it’s my vernacular which works for a 41-year old white woman, don’t you think?)

If I have to point out an error to someone I take the time to do it gently while reinforcing positive messages too. I consider respectful language when talking ABOUT or TO people prone to bigotry. I play my words in my head first before advising someone who is hurt or down on themselves. I think before I speak.

But do I take ANY time to consider language I use referring to myself? Nope. Not at all. I evidently want to choose words that welcomes diversity as long as the group is diverse with people not me.

Sometimes I’ll casually use a overly negative word or phrase to describe myself or my behavior and I’ll get called out on it in therapy. And it’s not just that ONE word or that ONE phrase that is problematic. But it’s all part of a bigger picture of me trying to look at my life and myself in a more positive way. Specifically with how I interact with the people around me. I carry a lot of anxiety about relationships and social interactions and by framing myself in a negative way constantly, that reinforces those anxieties. I constantly feel like I’m a terrible and inadequate Mom. (Hell, I wrote a whole blog post about it recently.) I often “jokingly” describe myself as a terrible wife and hard to live with and I build my husband up as this superhuman man who puts up with me.

And no matter how I play off my “Mom of the Year” jokes and sarcasm or my “Why he stays married to me” humor as all lighthearted – it’s not. I have moments or days or weeks or months when I feel very unworthy of anything of value and those “jokes” and self-deprecating language are not helping me build the foundation of self love I so VERY much need.

Donnie dropped the ball on something recently and his first instinct was to feel terrible and my first instinct was to ease his mind and give him reassurance and love.

But I dropped the ball yesterday morning and I beat myself up about it all day. That conversation from the beginning of this blog post? That was a conversation I had with MYSELF. And that is DAILY. When I write it out like I was saying that stuff to a friend? It sounds TERRIBLE and CRUEL. I mean, what a shitty person to talk to a friend like that! If I heard someone talking to a friend like that in a cafe, I would be OUTRAGED. Hell, I probably would have gone over there and been like, “Dude. You need new friends. This woman is an asshat. Come finish your coffee with me.”

I need to be as in-tune with my own feelings of self-worth as I am with everyone else’s. I need to take the time to consider my language towards myself like I do towards anyone else. I was careful in how I addressed the mistake Donnie made because I wanted him to remember that he’s been working 60 hour workweeks and so he shouldn’t stress out about this one error. But when I’m looking at mistakes I made? I’m thinking about all of my friends who do it so much better than I do and I just allow myself to continue talking terrible to myself.

Here’s another one:

My friend was talking about how her husband is always talking about how sexy she is. I just straight up told her, “Really? That’s crazy. You’ve put on so much weight. You never wear makeup. Your boobs are so saggy and you’ve got that CRAZY distorted muffin top and since you’ve put on weight none of your clothes fit so that belly just hangs out over everything and I CAN’T BELIEVE HE FINDS YOU ATTRACTIVE. That’s insane.”

I mean, COME ON. Don’t we all want to punch that woman in the face? BUT THAT IS HOW I TALK TO MYSELF. And it sounds fine and acceptable in my head until I type it out here like it’s a conversation with a friend. Then I’m like, “Yo, BITCH. STEP OFF. SHE’S SEXY AS SHIT AND HER MAN IS LUCKY SHE EVEN GIVES HIM THE TIME OF DAY.”

(I’m totally pulling off that language, don’t you think?)

So I’m trying to really think about how I talk to myself. How I describe myself. I’m trying to look at it from the outside and hear my words like I’m eavesdropping on two friends in a restaurant. If the words I’m hearing makes me want to stand up and gut-punch the girl saying them? I might want to reconsider my message. No one deserves to be talked to like that. NO ONE.

meme12

A Blessing And A Curse

It’s funny. When I was talking to my therapist about my “mission to avoid collapsing into the black abyss” (I like giving my therapy goals different overly-dramatic names) I was laughing about how a lot of my problems come from FINALLY CONQUERING MY DAMN SOCIAL ANXIETIES.

Stay agoraphobic. Leaving the house ruins your life.

Kidding!

Kinda.

I definitely was not in a happy place back in my Never Leaves Home Or Talks To People phase. And I definitely do not want to trade in the tribe and community I’ve gained for the peace of no life. HOWEVER, it is funny to look back at all of the balls I’m juggling and see how many of them are because I felt it was important to get out of the house and make friends.

DAMN YOU, FRIENDS.

The problem is – now I can’t live without them. So I’m compelled to not let any of them down because I’m terrified to go back to the days where I wallowed in my solitude. And for some reason – in my head – they’ll all forget about me if I don’t say, “YES!” to everything they offer.

And saying “Yes!” to every thing a friend offers wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have SO MANY AMAZING FRIENDS. That’s the downside to finally conquering your social anxieties – you might meet a lot of amazing people AND THEN NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.

I saw two friends at Publix this week that I haven’t seen in forever and just getting hugs from them boosted my heart and my soul and THAT IS WHY I CAN NOT SAY NO. Part of it is definitely the fear of abandonment my therapist helped me uncover, but part of it is also that I just love the energy I get from being around people I like. I no longer run and hide when I see someone I know at the grocery store – I scream their name and give them big hugs. WHO AM I?

So the secret is finding a balance. And focusing on those outings and events and obligations that give me a positive NET GAIN of energy. I have a few that zap me more than they fill me and those need to be kicked to the curb.

And maybe meeting some assholes once in awhile.

It’s easy to say “NO!” to assholes.