Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blind spots

I have come a long way in terms of establishing a more comfortable relationship with my physical self. While I'm not as proactive as I ought to be, in terms of physical activity and healthy choices, I'm kinder to myself than I once was. I nurture my body by treating it to a massage or pedicure now and again. I take vitamins, I take my diabetes meds, and I take care to dress in ways that I hope are flattering. Perhaps the biggest change of all is that I don't hate my appearance any longer. While I'm not excited, exactly, about the way I look, I'm at peace with it now.

I remember in college, having episodes of self-loathing so intense that I had to force myself to walk out of the restroom and back into the classroom after break. I felt so ... unacceptable the way I was, and I was just embarrassed by my own existence. Of course, I look back at photos of myself from that time, and I'm amazed at how completely wrong that perspective was. I was a perfectly, unremarkably fine looking young woman. Not a supermodel, but also certainly not the one-woman sideshow I'd imagined that I was.

So it's gotten better. I typically don't spend a ton of time worrying about how I look, other than that I try to choose fun outfits for work, and I like it when my hair looks a certain way... all the stuff that we all think about, and usually only for about an hour in the morning. But there's been this ongoing thing with this co-worker that has made me feel much more self-conscious, and I'm struggling with how to handle it. He's a bit younger than I am, and very attractive (as verified by some of my other female co-workers) and very well put together. And he's been paying attention to me in ways that feel both good and bad. We see each other only at a weekly meeting, and we sit next to each other and just chat for a minute or two before the meeting begins. Last week he asked if I'd gotten my hair cut (which I had). I said yes and he said "See how good I am?" and gave me a thumbs up. This week, he asked if I'd been working out. I said that I had, a bit, and he nodded and gave me another thumbs up.

I was flattered, of course, but also... yeek. It feels uncomfortable to think that someone male is paying enough attention that those changes register with him. Further, it feels uncomfortable to have him say something about it. I wonder what his motivation is, and that's where things get weird for me. The most obvious interpretation is one of interest. Dude wants to let me know that he finds me attractive. But even typing that feels all wrong. I feel like it couldn't possibly be about me, as if he doesn't actually find me pretty, but he's bored and is just doing a little idle flirting to pass the time at a boring meeting. Or worse, that he's teasing the class fat girl somehow. I do have some experience with being that class fat girl, and being the recipient of some ugly attention from the boys in the class. But adults don't do that to each other. I understand this, and I understand that those experiences, nasty as they were, were over 30 years ago. They're not relevant to this situation. And yet, up they come.

The tough part here is that I'm usually pretty good at reading people and at knowing what's up with them. But I can't tell here, and I can't tell for a variety of reasons. One is that this particular guy is pretty guarded and quiet, and I don't see him except for at this weekly meeting. So I have little information about him, except for the pre-meeting snippets of chat. But the bigger thing, I think, is that this whole interaction hits a decades-old sore spot for me. Much as things have gotten better in my relationship with my physical self, I still feel like there's a blind spot there. I don't always see the pitiful, awful looking girl I used to see, but nothing coherent has taken the place of that image yet. That's an uncomfortable feeling, and it's highlighted by these interactions.

So what do I do? Continue to nurture myself, I suppose, in the ways that I already know how to do. Continue to slowly lose weight and seek out activity, because those are healthy choices to be making. And begin to assemble a new, updated inner vision of myself, maybe even giving private thanks to this gentleman and the dis-equilibrium he has created, since in it is the opportunity for change.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I can't sleep. It's 2:53 a.m., and I've been awake in bed for a while, simmering and cranky and feeling just uncomfortable in my own skin. My hair is touching my neck wrong, my skin feels too dry, my knee and foot ache, my back itches, I am pre-menstrual and bloaty and BLEAH.

The timing is odd in one sense, given that this has been a kind of self-indulgent weekend thus far. I got my hair cut and a pedicure, both of which usually make me feel a fresh and smooth and perky. Hormonally, though, I get it. PMS hits me in a variety of ways. There's not always an emotional component, though when there is it's usually this restless crankiness or a sort of sad, lonely feeling of disconnection. Physically, though, it's pretty predictable. I get carb cravings like you wouldn't believe, and I pack on some water weight that stays with me for a week or so.

I have to say, much as I don't enjoy this, it's way better than it used to be. In college, I had all of this, plus crazy cramps that were occasionally completely incapacitating. Discovering ibuprofen (recently over-the-counter when I went to college in 1984) improved the quality of my life one week out of the month by giving me some control over the pain issue. But I continue to feel this sense of wanting to crawl out of my skin (and then go drown my cranky inner child in ice cream and margaritas).

Feeling comfort in my body has always been an issue for me. I've certainly come a long way. I think of my young self in middle school and high school, struggling to come to terms with this woman's body that feels awkward and uncontrollable. I was one of those girls who ends up with a womanly body earlier than most--in 5th grade I was nearly as tall as I am now, and I had the breasts and hips of a much older girl. I understood that as fat, though looking back, it really wasn't. But I also needed glasses, and got acne, and got braces, a good two years before my classmates did. So while they were mostly still knobby-kneed kids, I was coping with the life-explosion that is puberty, and it just didn't go that well. I didn't know how to dress or care for my new body, and I ended up mostly trying to hide it and myself. I have such visceral memories of feeling terribly uncomfortable in clothes that didn't fit, in a body that didn't seem to fit.

Those memories give me perspective. It still isn't easy, and sometimes my relationship with my body is more adversarial than I'd like. But there's so much more that I know now. I STILL have acne (sigh...35 years later), but I know what to do about it and how to keep it under control. I know that the shape of my body works with some clothes and not others, and I know where to go to find things that will likely work for me. I know what kind of makeup I like, and that I like my toes polished and my fingers not. God knows there's still plenty of room for improvement, but remembering what it used to be like is kind of a comfort on this uncomfortable night.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Are you there, blogosphere? It's me, Luna.

Ahem. Well... It's been a while, eh? A couple of years at least, during which time my life has changed in some important ways, and stayed the same in some others.

Some of the changes:
  • My father passed away
  • I finished graduate school
  • I landed a permanent job as a psychologist
  • I bought a house
  • I got a dog

So, some good developments, some rough ones. I reviewed the last several postings from when I was last here, and I was writing a lot about my father's health issues. Those finally got the best of him in August of 2008. My mother passed away in 1996, so my father's passing left me a 42 year old orphan. I felt every bit the orphan and not so much the 42-year-old, or what I imagined a 42-year-old ought to feel like, particularly one who had recently purchased a house and gotten a permanent job.

I feel...more stable now. It's been two years since that turbulent time in my life. The house, shared with the world's coolest pit bull terrier, feels like mine. The career, shared with the world's coolest colleagues, feels like mine. My life, mostly, feels like mine. Things generally feel comfortable and familiar.

Among those familiar things is my ongoing struggle with weight and health. My weight has been fairly steady in the last two years, topping out at about 238. A few months ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which I suppose merits a spot on the "changes" bullet list above, but I'd rather bury it in a paragraph and deny the fundamental significance of it. As a result of the diagnosis I've been forced to focus more on my health (despite half-hearted attempts at denial), and I've slowly begun to lose some weight. As of yesterday, I'm at 219.5. My progress has been slow, by design...I've been losing about a half a pound every week or so. This seems to be working for the time being.

I've been thinking about small ways to support a healthier lifestyle. I walk daily with my dog, which she loves. I have been taking care to nurture my physical self as well, to remind myself that my body is worth doing nice things for. I get pedicures, I buy good bath products, and I try to remain on friendly terms with this physical self that I inhabit. After so many years of war, small acts of kindness toward my body are significant and help to maintain the truce we've agreed upon.

And I have missed writing here. I don't know exactly what direction future posts will take, but I know that I need a place to think about all of these issues: food, body, diabetes, activity, health... all the big things I've always wrestled with.

So I'm back, continuing this journey, with the understanding that the train never pulls into the station, and so I'd better make the trip worth it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seasonal Slump

It's been a chaotic few months, and something about the waning of winter is encouraging me to pull myself together and get things in order a bit.

I don't feel like I suffer from seasonal affective disorder, exactly, but I do feel like there's a part of me that just doesn't cope well with the dark and cold of winter. All I want to do is eat and sleep, and I find that I'm draggy and tired all the time. This is probably pretty par for the course around here, as our winters (and this one in particular) take a lot of fortitude to endure. But I don't make it easier on myself; when I'm low in energy and/or mood I tend to indulge myself with lots of tasty carbohydrates, which just make me more draggy and tired.

Last weekend I decided to cook. I made a pork loin marinated in citrus juice, garlic, cumin and oregano, and it was really nice. I also made an egg casserole kind of a thing that was good but very, very rich. I've been taking these things for lunch all week, and lo and behold...I'm feeling a little better. A little more in control. And thank goodness.

I was sitting with a cup of tea this morning and thinking about what I really want for myself. I realized that it's more complicated than just lookin' hot and feelin' groovy. That's a part of it, sure, but it's also about feeling calm and in control, and about respecting myself. And about having a body that's functional, so I don't have to worry about being able to go on a hike or climb several flights of stairs, or...well, you get the idea.

So often I just feel like a cork bobbing on the open sea, with very little to say about what happens to me, food-wise. I totally lose sight of the fact that I have a choice about what I eat, and not to choose is still a choice. It all just feels so thoughtless and automatic. I go to the cafeteria at work, and I pick what to eat based on where the shortest line is. Oh, and I get something for dessert, because the Little Debbie rack is right by the cashier, and I like those, and why not? And I drift through the grocery store, just impulse shopping.

So I think the trick for me will be to live a little more intentionally. I'm headed over to the grocery in a bit, and I'll go with a list. Winter's over yet, but it feels good to be thinking these thoughts and planning for the sunshine and warmer weather.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Adventures in Feminine Hygiene: The Sequel

So, I'm finishing up my second cycle with the menstrual cup (aka the CooterCap), which I first wrote about here. I have to say, I LOVE this thing. For me it is absolutely leak-proof, and surprisingly it's less messy than tampons as well. I also love the idea that I'm not putting bleached and otherwise chemically-processed fibers into or in close proximity to my body, and then I'm not throwing them out where they can sit in a landfill or the bottom of a lake forever. Oh, and the one-time investment? That too. It's all good.

The accounts I read prior to trying it out all talked about a learning curve, and there's definitely been one. I'm just now getting comfortable enough with insertion and removal that it's not a bit of a production, as it was when I first used it. And I can imagine that for anyone not used to having fairly...uh, intimate contact with her body, it might take a bit longer to get really in the swing of the whole thing. But for me, keeping at it has paid off. It's become easy, convenient and comfortable. I wish I'd gotten one 20 years ago.

So. I highly recommend the cup--it's a nice thing to do for your body, your wallet and the environment.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Visit with Dad

I went out to visit my father this weekend. He's been having cardiac issues and isn't taking very good care of himself, which landed him in the hospital last week. It was scary. My relationship with my father has always been complicated, and it's no less so now. It was so difficult to see him looking frail and scared; as someone who's never been seriously ill, I can only imagine how frightening that is. He is 81 and has never made healthy choices--he smoked until he was about 55, never exercised after about age 30 and is a perfect Type A personality. Oh, and eating habits? Red meat all the way, baby, with some pasta and bread now and again. But vegetables? Ha. If it grows in the dirt, it's not going in his mouth.

So years of hard livin' have caught up with him. He needs a valve replacement and is beginning to suffer from congestive heart failure, as well as arthritis that is beginning to create some mobility issues. My angry, temperamental, larger-that-life father has become a frail, vulnerable little old man who doesn't make great choices for himself, and I just don't know how to be with him.

What happened last week was that his kidneys temporarily quit working (the dye from a CAT scan he had was toxic enough to shut them down) and he ended up with fluid collecting in his lungs. He got more and more short of breath, to the point that he was having trouble walking from his bedroom to the kitchen. Finally a friend of his came by and saw the shape he was in, and he bundled my father up and took him to the hospital. A week of oxygen, balanced meals and diuretics in the hospital, and he was feeling much better by the time I got there this past Friday.

During my weekend there, my brother and I tried to get some more support for him around the house, which he's always been resistant to. He has finally agreed to have home health people come in three times a week to do a little cooking, help him run errands and make sure he's not sitting in front of the TV with his lungs filling up again. I repeatedly found myself lecturing him about needing to make better choices about his health, be proactive about some of these changes that need to get made, etc.

And that made me feel like a big hypocrite. I mean, how proactive am I? How healthy are my choices? The only difference between us is that I'm 41 instead of 81. Well, that and the smoking, and the personality variables, and...OK, so there are plenty of differences. But I see myself in him too--a person with a demanding life who just wants to come home from work and eat tasty, comforting food that she doesn't have to think about. Who doesn't want to have to motivate herself to go to the damned gym after working all day. Who is good at ignoring the signs that her body sends that it would like to be healthier and fitter.

All this has also been strangely motivating. In the last few weeks, whenever I've been dragging my feet about getting to the gym, I picture my father, with his bad joints and poor cardiac health, and it gets me there. I'd prefer not to be coping with these issues when I get older, obviously. I'd like to be one of those 80 year old ladies who's able to work in her garden, walk her dog, travel and generally feel energetic and engaged in the world. And that's not going to happen for me if I just sit here and ignore the fact that my knees hurt and I get short of breath easily even now, at 41.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What I did on my Winter Vacation

Well, I’m back. I made it through the holidays and through a surprisingly pleasant week-long visit with my father. Since I’ve been back in my own space and my own life I’ve been coping with the January blahs…it’s UNBELIEVABLY cold here, and gray, and I’ve struggled with the desire to eat nothing but carbs, drink like a fish and sleep too much. Actually, I’ve managed to keep the drinking and sleeping under control, but as usual, it’s the demon carbs that have proved irresistible.

Here’s a funny thing. I ate a lot around the holidays and gained about five pounds. I’m up to about where I was when I started this blog, which I’m not thrilled about. Interestingly, though, I’ve had several people in the last few weeks say “Hey, have you lost some weight?” I’m really not at all sure how to understand this…at first I was thinking it was due to Pilates, but I only went three times before my gym-buddy and I abandoned it for the holidays. So I don’t think it’s that. I don’t have an answer, but it makes me feel as if all is not lost.

I do, however, feel like most of the momentum I had throughout the fall is just gone. I’ve been completely unable to get myself to the gym, despite knowing full well that I’ll feel better, sleep better, have more energy, feel prouder of myself, etc. if I do. I’ve been playing games with myself, like telling myself that I can’t listen to any of the music on my iPod unless I do it at the gym. And like the stubborn child I am inside, I reply “Fine.” And the iPod sits on m desk, while I sit on the couch and watch TV.

Life is fairly stressful these days…my father continues to have health problems that appear to be getting worse, and I feel unsure of how to help. More to the point, I feel unsure of how to be close to him and how to be supportive while he’s feeling worried and scared. I know that I would feel more in control if I were to eat better and exercise. I also know that that control would be an illusion, but it’s one I’d welcome at this point.

Thank you to those of you who have sent me holiday greetings or otherwise left kind comments. Squilla, I was happy to hear that you’re alive and well in Australia, and your man is there with you now. *S*, thank you for your regular presence here—it’s always nice to hear from you. You too, Meegan, and Erin. I’ve been reading all of your blogs, even though I’ve been commenting only sporadically. Maybe what I need to do to to foster some re-engagement in the process of caring for my physical self is to blog more frequently and to get back in the habit of thinking about my physical self. That I can do.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful 2008, with much happiness, good health and inner peace.