After years of body image issues…

…I decide to take part in Boobquake.  It started as a silly thing, but has taken off in ways unimagined by the person who started it.

When I told Conall about it though, he laughed at first.  When he realized I was serious, he said to me, “You aren’t as shy as you pretend to be.”

It’s amazing to me that the man who has known me for the past 13 years would not understand what kind of a step this is.  Last summer was the first time I walked outside in shorts in years.  So, you’d think he’d understand.

Shyness has nothing to do with my clothing choices (although I am very shy when I first meet people).  The clothing choices I’ve made have always been about hiding myself so I didn’t inflict my fat, my ugly on other people.  Going outside in shorts was the first step in really believing that I don’t have to worry about what other people say about me, what they think  about me.  By deciding to participate in Boobquake, while I’m also laughing at the thought that any god would be so petty as to destroy the world, or pieces thereof, because women dressed immodestly (by certain men’s standards that is), I’m also putting myself out there.

I’m taking a stand and saying it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks of me or my looks.  That I’m going to dress how I want to dress.  If somebody doesn’t like it, that’s their problem.

Now if I can only find a way to explain it to the hubby so he’d understand.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good guy, just sometimes … dense.

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I still don’t know how to take compliments

One thing that keeps coming up in my life is that I don’t know how to take compliments. No, really. When somebody tells me I did something well, I usually start to show all the mistakes, or tell how it’s adequate but nowhere near perfect/what they were doing in the 16th century/some other reason why it’s not good.

Today, Conall and I went to the dojo, as they were doing more marketing. I love this dojo, really I do. Sometimes all the marketing they do to members frustrates me, though. Today’s marketing was for “Super Saver” for us to take double private lessons. We are already signed up for as much as we can afford, so the answer was going to be no. We knew that, Sensei knew that (told him so when he insisted I sign up for a slot), so everybody was on the same page.

Well, every so often I like to go girly. It surprises a lot of people when I do “girl up”, because the majority of the time they only see me in jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt/sweater. But, well, look at my life. Stay at home caretaker of my husband’s mother. Not too much opportunity to play dress up there. I’m pagan, so no church to go to once (or three times) a week and dress up for that. I get to play dress up for the SCA, but even that is usually simple tunic dresses and/or sideless surcoats on top of tunic dresses. The closest I get to “dress up” there is when I put on the head jewelry (I have a beautiful amethyst and quartz filet made by my heart sister, and a bronze circlet with some glass pearls dangling from it).

When I go to the dojo, I’m either in jeans and shirt or Gi. I mean, I’m going there to work out, I’m not going to be all dressed up.

Today, I felt like going girly. Yes, I still had jeans on, but my top was more dressy than I’ve worn to the dojo before, and instead of my hair being in a pony tail, I had my bangs combed forward, and my hair mostly loose, with the front stuff caught back out of my face with a silver barrett. Oh yeah, and I had some jewelry on (a white and red pearl necklace and earring set I made while back).

Conall and I walked into the dojo for our appointment, and Sensei J just about did a double take. He complimented my clothing, and then told me “wow, you are beautiful!” I just didn’t know what to say. He asked if I usually dress up, and I said no, just felt like it today. After telling me again that I looked really nice, we got down to business. He knew we’d say no, we knew we’d say no, so we did a lot of visiting that we can’t normally do around or during class time.

At the end of it all, as we were leaving, he complimented me again, and then said, “I know what it is that’s setting everything off so nice.” “What?” “The jewelry. The red and white pearls just make the whole thing.” I know I blushed. I mean … I made the jewelry he was complimenting so nicely, yanno?

I said thank you. At least I’ve learned how to just say thank you instead of saying there’s no way I can look beautiful or gorgeous or anything.

But I do have to say, it’s very hard for me to accept. For so much in my life, I’d been told how ugly I was because I was fat, that nobody would love me, that if I didn’t lose weight I’d have to settle for whomever was willing to look past my ugliness. To hear Sensei J tell me that I was beautiful …

I hope one day I will actually believe it when people tell me things like that. Until then, well, at least I’ve learned how to appear to graciously accept a compliment even when I don’t believe it.

Home made bread

I have 4 loaves of bread cooling on the counter.

Three are plain white. One has cinnamon added. All will be teh yum!

It’s really an accomplishment for me to make bread completely from scratch. Back when I was married to the ex- (15 years ago), I tried making bread. It would raise beautifully the first time, but once in the pans, it wouldn’t go anywhere. The outcome, of course, was a flatish brick of cooked dough, but not anything I’d ever call bread.

Birth mother had gone through a phase when I was still living with her, when I was about ten I’d guess, where she would make bread every month. She’d make enough that we’d have bread for the whole month, freezing the loaves we wouldn’t eat right away.

I remembered watching her make it, and it didn’t seem like it was all that hard. Mix everything together, knead it for a while, put it in a greased bowl in the oven to raise. Once the dough raised double, take it out of the bowl, punch it down, put it into greased bread pans, and then put it back in the oven to raise again. (Or, if the oven was already being used baking another batch of bread, put it on the back of the oven to raise again.)

Did I mention that our oven at birth mother’s house was gas? The kind with the pilot light on all the time? Did I mention the oven I was using when I tried making bread 15 years ago was electric?

Yeah, there’s the difference. The pilot for the gas oven kept the oven at a slightly warmed temperature. Perfect for causing the yeast to grow. The cold electric oven never did that.

I made at least 20 loaves of bread before I finally gave up as it being a lost cause. And of course, the ex- used that against me — I was so useless, I couldn’t even make bread right! (But he never tried it himself.)

I felt a total failure. I *was* a total failure in my mind.

I eventually received a bread machine for a birthday gift a while back. I used it all the time, but it didn’t redeem my failure at making bread. After all, in a bread machine, all you have to do is put the ingredients into the machine in the correct order and turn it on. The machine did all the hard work (mixing, kneading, keeping it at the correct temperature) for you.

While I had the bread machine, I did a lot of research into bread making, and knew the theory of why I had hard, dense loaves of baked dough all those years ago. I still wasn’t willing to try to make bread from scratch. I knew when I failed (not if I failed, but when) it would just re-enforce how I was a failure. You know, can’t even make bread right.

When MiL bought the new oven, I saw it had a proof setting and thought it was time to get over my fear of failure with the bread. I no longer have the bread machine, so if I want fresh, home made bread, I will just have to do it the hard way. Still, it took 6 months before I worked up the courage to try.

Two weeks ago, I made my first ever batch of home made bread. It turned out wonderfully. It rose well, had a great density, wonderful grain, and tasted awesome! The only problem was that according to the recipe, it was only supposed to make two loaves, but it really should have made four loaves. So I had a couple misshapen loaves from when they over rose the bread pans.

Today, I made another batch. This time I used four bread pans, and I have beautiful looking bread loaf sized loaves of bread. They’ve just come out of the oven, so I can’t cut into them yet to see how the inside is, but I’m sure they are as good as the last batch is.

Even though I’m getting better, the old thoughts, the brain washing my parents and ex- did sometimes still creeps in. But I like that I can now add “bread baking” to my list of skills. I like even more knowing how far my self esteem has developed in order for me to even attempt it two weeks ago. At the time, I went ahead and did it, even though I wondered if I would fail again. I was willing to risk having to deal with the voices coming back if (when, the voices were saying) the loaves turned into flat loaves of baked dough.

Pushing myself can have good consequences, I’m finding. In this instance, delicious consequences. Later, once the bread has cooled enough, I’m going to cut myself a slice and spread some butter and honey on it. Yum

I am not yet where I want to be

For those of you who are long time readers of this blog, you might have noticed I’ve not been doing my Friday “self esteem” stuff lately.  There’s a reason for that.

I don’t think what I have to say on self-esteem or my recovery process (which is what Friday’s had morphed into) is worth anybody reading about.

I’ve been having a tremendous amount of growth lately.  At least, that’s what my therapist tells me, and people around me.  I’ve been working hard, and am facing my demons (even the demons I never wanted to face and the demons that were so small I didn’t even know they were there).  I’m working my way through triggers with Tai Chi I didn’t think were ever going to be there.  Or maybe I’d told myself I’d already taken care of these issues.

So, yes, I’ve been kicking butt and taking names in my recovery.

The thing is, I can see where I want to be, and I’m not there yet.

I’ve come so far in my recovery.  In the span of a couple years, I’ve learned more about self-acceptance than I ever had my entire life.  Yes, therapy for 19 years (going on 20, oy) has laid the foundation, but even though I had the knowledge, I never had the beliefs to go with the knowledge.  In the past couple of years, the beliefs have started to happen. 

But, it’s not linear.  I want to go from Point A (I’m scum, everybody hates me — and rightly so, I might as well take myself off the planet and stop using up air that people who are worthy of it could be using) to Point Z  (I’m great, I have talent I use, I’m secure in my abilities and able to take correction when it’s warranted, and I can tell the difference between somebody who’s really giving correction versus somebody who’s just being critical) by going through Points B, C, D, E etc.

It doesn’t work that way.

So, all these new found beliefs, the ones where I can say “I’m an artist” without feeling like I’m lying (for example) are wonderful.  Unfortunately, they also are still in their infancy.  It’s still very hard to say, “I’m an artist” without hearing the voices in my head sneering at me that what I do isn’t art.  And even if it was art, it’s so bad nobody would want to buy it.  (The fact that few people are buying anything right now leads credence to the voices.)  It’s hard for that poor little, newborn belief that I’m an artist, and a good one at that, to hold it’s own against the long term entrenched feelings.

It’s like that in accepting my body.  In Tai Chi, there is a long wall of mirrors in the dojo.  It’s there so people can make sure their form is correct as they do the exercises.  I look in the mirror as I’m doing the exercises, and, as long as I can concentrate on what I’m doing, I’m okay.  The minute Sensei has me stop (to teach me the next part of the exercise or whatever), I see a fat lady staring back at me.

Yeah.  “Fat” isn’t a four lettered word and I really do believe that.  But mirrors have never been my friend, even as a child, when I was skinny and saw a “fat, ugly person” staring back at her.

I can see where I’ve been.  Ten years ago, I couldn’t have looked in the mirrors at all.  The fact I can look in mirrors is immense progress.  The fact I still see “fat woman” (as opposed to “woman, who happens to be fat”) shows me how far I’ve yet to go.

Physical healing is not linear.  I learned that after my knee surgery.  I’d have good days and bad days, with my knee progressively becoming better and stronger.  Yet even six months after the operation, I’d still have really bad days.  If I know healing isn’t linear, why do I think emotional healing is linear?

Maybe it’s because I think that, after almost 20 years in therapy, I should be done by now.  Yes, I know better.  I would tell any other person making these same statements, that they just are where they are, and that they have come so far.  That life is a process of learning and healing and dealing with things, and it’s never done until we’re dead.

Good words to tell others, huh?  I guess it’s much easier to give that advice than it is to take it for myself.

Courage

After the internet discussion yesterday, the person who seemed to make it personal about how lazy I am and I went into a private conversation.

One of the things she said to me was that I was courageous.   I think maybe I am, but not for the reason she believes me to be courageous.

Her view is that I am a food addict, living in my denial.  Her view is that since I’m engaging in this discussion, I’m ready to hear about my denial and start the steps to necessary to stop my addiction and do the hard work necessary to have a better, non-dysfunctional life.

I’ve not written her back yet.  I need to take some time to really work out an answer to her. 

She’s really serious about this.  She has compassion for me, because she’s been where she thinks I am (in denial about her addictions, which were different than what she perceives is my addiction).  I don’t want to be heavy handed.  She’s reaching out, she feels, to a fellow addict, offering a hand of help.

Courage.

It’s funny that I can be seen as courageous for the absolute wrong reason.  My courage comes from going into a place where I know my views will be ridiculed, where I’ll have to listen to how wrong I am, where I’ll have to hear people say things like how all fat people should just die.  My courage comes from not letting anybody else shut me up about my experience as a fat woman, the disrespect I have gotten from people in general, the misdiagnosis I’ve gotten from doctors. 

My courage comes from telling people that MeMe Roth isn’t right.  It comes from confronting people who are supposed to know better twitting (tweeting?) about a conference going on at a university where they are holding a conference on the importance of play, yet state this in their online flyer:  “Children under the age of 10 represent the first generation in years not expected to live as long as their parents,” Mainella added.  My courage comes from not backing down when the person I confronted got angry with me for telling her she needed to vet her sources better.  My courage comes from writing the university in question and telling them they need to vet their speakers better, and to stop adding to the fat hate and discrimination that is going on in the world right now.

I still don’t know what I’m going to say back to the person who called me courageous.  But I think we can both agree on one thing.  I do have courage.

Friday Series – Dreaming the Impossible

It’s amazing how serendipity happens sometimes.  I’ve been thinking of things to write for today, and couldn’t come up with anything that sounded good to me.  A lot has been happening, my understanding of things have cleared in a lot of ways, but not enough in some areas for me to write about it.  Let me tell you, as a writer, I hate when that happens!

I decided to do my morning ritual (when I can, sometimes I’m too busy, then morning ritual becomes evening ritual, or next day ritual) of reading blogs and twitter and email.  One of the things I found in a twitter update started me thinking.  The Power of Dreams is an eight minute video from Honda, and of course it’s about Honda products, but it’s also about working through failure.   It’s about letting your dream drive you to greater things (pun not intended).

All the demands from Soichiro Honda were to take risks and fail.  The idea is you can fail 100 times as long as you succeed once.  “Trial and Error” sums up Soichiro Honda’s ideas.  We can only make fantastic advances in technology through many failures.  I think that’s what he wanted to say.
Takeo Fukui, President and CEO, Honda Motor Co., LTD. (Global Honda)

They end the video with a quote attributed to Thomas Edison, talking about inventing the electric light bulb:  “I never failed.  It just didn’t work 10,000 times.”

Then I went and read Pie in the Sky, and Dave Hingsburger was also writing about dreams in Moment By Moment.

Roll play: woman says to staff ‘this is my dream’ staff says ‘I don’t believe in you, you can’t do it.’ 50 people with disabilities surround the two with the low chant ‘Believe in yourself, believe in yourself, believe in yourself’. It seems almost a magical and mystical moment. I hear such gentleness in their tone, I feel the meaning they put into the words, I know the faith they have in the gesture. More, I see the one in the roll play close her eyes and let the words of reassurance and faith rain down on her, she is not now in a roll play, she is now getting what she needs.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my dreams lately.  I found that, a long time ago, I put my dreams into a locked glass cabinet, in a locked room.  I was told so often that I wouldn’t ever become anything, or make anything of myself, I believed it.  Why try to succeed, indeed, why have any dreams at all, if you are only going to fail at everything you ever attempt, if you are a failure just for being alive?  Right?

So I locked my dreams away safely; from myself and from anybody who might ever try and stop me from reaching my dreams.  Every so often I’d go and look at my dreams.  I’d turn on the light in the cabinet, and the dreams would glitter and sparkle, like fine leaded swarvoski crystal.  The sparkle would reflect in the tears I wouldn’t allow myself to shed, and I’d turn the light back off, and close myself off from them, from their allure, from their promise of eventual success (after a bunch of failure). 

I kept my dreams so safe, I kept them safe from me as well.  I wouldn’t risk touching them, after all, I was a failure, so anything I touched was doomed to failure, including my dreams.  Even my dreams.

The past few months, a lot has been changing in my emotions, in the way I’m looking at everything.  All of a sudden, the groundwork I’ve been laying for the past two years in therapy has finally kicked in.  I’m having revelation after revelation after revelation.  I knew if I kept pounding at it long enough, the breakthrough would happen, and it has.  It is still happening.

One of the ways this breakthrough is manifesting is that I’ve gone into my dream room, and I’ve turned on the light in the cabinet.  I’ve seen that my dreams, while they still sparkle, are covered with dust, and so I’ve unlocked the cabinet, and taken them out of their safe place.  I’ve dusted them off.  I’ve looked at them, to see which ones have already been accomplished (yes, even though I wasn’t trying, and never acknowledged I’d done it, I managed to acheive some of my dreams already), and which ones no longer serve me. 

After retiring, with honors, the previous dreams, I still have a lot of dreams.  Some of my dreams are pretty risky.  I’m going to have to learn new skills.  I’m going to have to learn to network, to speak up, to stop putting myself down all the time.  I’m going to have to learn how to accurately evaluate my own stuff, and if I can’t learn that, I’m going to have to learn to trust other people when they tell me my stuff is good.  I’m going to have to develop relationships with people I respect to give me an honest answer when I ask what they think of my stuff.  And most of all, I’m going to have to learn to trust myself, and my ability to do my stuff.

That last is the hardest and riskiest of all the new skills I need to learn.

In the movie Meet the Robinsons, Lewis (the hero who’s traveled to the future) learns that his arch-nemesis — Bowler Hat Guy — is his roommate from the present.  Lewis single minded focus on making his inventions would keep Goob up during the night, every night.  During the big baseball game, Goob could have caught an easy fly ball out, but didn’t because he was asleep standing up.  Instead of the fame and fortune he would have had for catching the ball, he got beat up by his team mates and let that failure eat at him for his entire life.

Lewis: Look, I’m sorry your life turned out so bad. But don’t blame me you messed it up yourself. You just focused on the bad stuff when all you had to do was… let go of the past and keep moving forward…
Bowler Hat Guy: Hmm, let’s see… take responsibility for my own life or blame you? Dingdingdingdingding! Blame you wins hands down!

It’s not as easy to get over a traumatic past as that (I’ve been actively working on it for 19 years now!), but that little snippet does have some value.

I’m not a failure just because I was born.  And yes, I can focus on all the bad stuff in my past, and keep believing the message that I’m not good enough, that I’m a failure, and leave those dreams locked safely in their lighted cabinet.  Or, I can work on seeing myself as I really am, keep moving forward through all the failures and setbacks, and take those dreams out, dust them off, and see what they — and I –are made of.

To be here today, looking at and starting to pursue my dreams, is actually something 2 years ago I would have said was impossible.  Since I’ve successfully completed one impossible dream, I’m sure I can make some of the other impossible dreams come true for myself as well.

Butterfly Effect, take 2

A lot has been going on in my life in the past week and a half.  I’ve had a lot of revelations about myself, and I’m coming to a conclusion that I’m okay.  Maybe better than okay.

First there was the idea last week that I have an area in my life where I’m emotionally healthy.  I stated last week that I wasn’t sure where the butterfly effect of that realization was going to take me.  Then I had the reading at the art show “Finding Our Voices” for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in my city.  That went very well, I got a lot of positive comments on my piece after the reading.

Finally, yesterday something happened that made me realize, again, I might have more emotional health than I gave myself credit for before.

I was in the grocery store, shopping, when I was accosted by a young (18 to 22 range) man panhandling.  Now, I’ve never had this happen IN the store before, so it was odd to begin with.  Also, when I looked at him, I could tell that he was either on drugs, or coming down hard from drugs.*  I told him I didn’t have any money, and that’s when things started to go bad.  He stepped nearer to me after I said no, and he was close enough to touch me to begin with.  I automatically stepped back, and managed to put the cart between us, even as he was asking, “Are you sure?  Not even a couple of bucks?” 

I calmly replied, “Yes, I’m sure.  I don’t have any money.  Please leave.”  He looked at me a bit longer, seemed like he was going to come closer again, and at that moment somebody walked past the end of the aisle.  He saw that, turned around and left. 

I immediately found a store employee, described what had happened and gave a description of the man, and they found him and escorted him out of the store.  When I was ready to leave the store, they had an employee help me with my groceries to make sure he wasn’t still outside or wanting to mess with me more.

When I got home, of course, I had the whole gamut of reactions one gets at a time like that.   The feeling of terror, the thoughts of how bad that could have gone, the feelings of intense relief that it went as well as it did, the physical shaking as the adrenaline rush that had carried me through finishing shopping and driving home finally ended.

It was much later when I realized I had not acted like a victem.   I didn’t freeze, I didn’t just give him money even when he was trying to intimidate me.  As he was stepping into me, I stepped away from him and put a physical object between us.  I calmly told him to leave.  And afterward, instead of thinking that I’d somehow brought this on myself and that I shouldn’t tell anybody, I immediately sought out a person who had authority to kick him out, and reported what had happened.

 Would this have happened like this if I’d not had the realization I had a week ago?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that my reaction to this incident is different than it’s ever been in situations like this before.  Before, I’d blame myself for somehow deserving it, I’d castigate myself no matter how well I handled the whole situation.

Just like the saying of the butterfly’s wings beating starts the chain reaction that causes the tsunami on the other side of the world, last week’s realization of health caused a chain reaction that is evident to me and those who know me right now. 

I didn’t blame myself for the incident.
I took appropriate steps to keep myself safe.
I didn’t freeze with the fear I was feeling.
I reported the incident afterwards, and took further appropriate steps to keep myself safe.
And even after it was all over, I still haven’t blamed myself for the incident.

For me, this is a major step.

*I used to work for a substance abuse counselor for 3 years.  I’ve seen people who have come to the office for their group sessions drunk, high, coming off a high, and sober.