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.