Wednesday, October 30, 2013
I wrote this probably about 1-2 months ago and saved it as a draft because it was just so personal. However, without fail, the blog posts that I am most anxious about posting because they are so personal, are the exact ones that I receive the most feedback on as being the ones who help people the most. So, in the spirit of my new vow to serve others in order to better serve myself, here goes nothin'!.....
Today was beautiful and I had a precious few hours with nowhere to be and no one who needed me. So I went to a local park and ran as hard as I could. I used to spend so much time at this park but when I arrived today, I realized it had been over a year since the last time I had been there. It's funny how places can hold emotions. This park held a lot of my emotions....
This is not the typical love story.
To fully understand how this romance started, we have to go back a few years to when I found out I was pregnant in late 2007. I was not planning nor was I prepared for a pregnancy. In fact, at 30 years old, I had pretty much decided that I didn't want to be a mom.
Part of the reason, quite honestly, is because I'm not, and have never been, much of a "kid person". Another huge reason was because my marriage of 10+ years was, and had always been, rocky. However, there I sat in the bathroom floor at work staring at a pregnancy test in disbelief.
Fast forward to September 2009, my son had just turned one. One rainy day after work I stopped at the park to sit for a few minutes because I didn't want to go home just yet. My marriage of almost 12 years, that had always been rocky, had eroded away to an empty shell of a marriage. The differences and incompatibilities that had worn heavy on us for years, had now broken us to pieces. We barely spoke anymore. When we did, it was often harsh and unloving.
I want to take a moment to clarify something. Two people who are incompatible are just that, not compatible. This doesn't necessarily make either person bad. That was definitely the case here. We weren't bad, we were just bad for each other. There isn't always a villain and a victim in every story. Perhaps, if anything, we were both villains and we were both victims.
So on that rainy day in September 2009, I sat at the park and cried. I cried over the life I was living. It brings me great shame to feel this, much less say it, but I didn't feel about my husband or my son, the way I knew I was supposed to feel about them. I knew I had to change my life or I would suffocate and choke to death on the sadness and emptiness I felt.
A few days later, just 3 months before my 12th anniversary, I left my husband. And I left him in possibly one of the worst ways, over the phone. I was almost numb when I told him, feeling so little. Anyone who knows me would've known something was wrong with me for me to feel so little. Although I might not have been able to remain in a marriage with this man, he had been my family for 12 years and I loved him. One of the reasons I had stayed so long was because the thought of hurting him broke my heart to even think about. In fact, years earlier I had tried to leave and the way he cried hurt me to my soul. So much that I went back to him and vowed never to leave again because I never wanted to cause him that kind of pain again.
But here I was, ending our marriage...on the phone....virtually emotionless.
After I left, it didn't take long for the reality of my situation to really set in. Here I was, a 32 year old single mother of a 1 year old boy. The responsibility felt like a crushing weight on top of me. I actually remember saying to my mother once, "I wish I could just be his aunt or something and enjoy playing with him but not have to be the one to raise him."
It would be great if this is part in the story where I pull myself up by the bootstraps and make a wonderful life for myself and my son but instead....I started desperately looking for a boyfriend. After years of being in a mutually discontent marriage, I wanted passion and romance. Turns out when you're a 240 pound, 32 year old single mother of a 1 year old boy and you're depressed and desperate, decent guys aren't really interested. Hmm, whodathunkit?!
So this very park saw me with a couple duds along the way. Without a doubt, the most dramatic was my high school sweetheart who had came sniffing around from time to time throughout the years but who I always had the good sense to turn down. I gave him the green light and he came rushing from another state to be with me and we reunited at that very park. Romantic right? Hardly...
Turns out he wasn't there to sweep me off my feet and rescue me from my scary new life, but rather had taken a little "break" from his wife to hook up with his ex-girlfriend. I was absolutely devastated when he just never showed back up one day and I only knew he was gone and that his broken marriage hadn't been broken at all when his wife called to tell me he was back home and that I should go get tested for STD's. Those were a few of the scariest weeks of my life but, crisis averted, I came back with a clean bill of health.
Now, you're probably thinking surely THIS is where my eyes were opened to my poor decisions and I pulled myself by the bootstraps and made a better life for myself and my son. Well, you would be wrong again....
Before this happened, every day was already a sad struggle. I had to constantly push back sadness and an unending desire to lay down and go to sleep. But, when he did this to me, I snapped. I honestly turned into a crazy person. I went from barely sleeping to basically never sleeping. I sent him constant texts, emails and Facebook messages. I smeared his name on every website I could find. Yes, he screwed me over but, no, this is not generally me regardless of what someone has done to me. I was so filled with hate and misery and I had finally found the perfect person to direct it at...my cheating, lying ex-boyfriend.
This would be around the time that I finally, at the urging of many, and increasing thoughts of suicide, decided to go see a doctor. It turns out that I had a very severe case of postpartum depression.
This explained so much, it explained why I never connected with my son the way I should, why I felt numb when I left my husband, why I felt this desperate, desperate urge to have a man in my life, why I ever got back with a boyfriend who, in high school, slept with quite a few of my friends and ended up in prison for numerous reasons and why I felt an unending need to spew hate at him. I was NOT this person and finally I understood why I was behaving the way I was.
However, understanding why I was the way I was did nothing to fix the problem. That's what medication is for, right? Wrong, the medication was horrible and expensive and I got off of it fairly quickly.
Now surely THIS is the part where I get my act together and start living a better life....no such luck. It was a long zig zagging road where I made more poor decisions including a 2 year relationship with a guy who rejected, belittled and cheated on me.
But this IS the time that I started to educate myself on better and more natural ways to cure my postpartum. I changed my diet, started exercising on a regular basis and getting a good night's sleep. This didn't happen all at once, mind you, but as time went on and I began to see how much these things could positively affect me, the more I did them and the better I got.
Along the way, my local park saw my son and me there quite often. I would push him around the track in a stroller, every step miserable and slow. As he became older, I would bring him to play on the playground but I wasn't truly ever "there" with him. I was either inside my own head or checking my phone constantly to see if my NEW cheating boyfriend had responded to me yet. Or I was scanning the playground to see if there were any cute, single dads around that could save me from my life of sadness and fear.
Somewhere along the way, I can't exactly pinpoint where, I fell in love with my son. Deeply in love. I began to look into those big blue eyes and actually SEE him, perhaps for the first time since he was born. As he took those first steps, drew a picture of his first monster and toddled off to his first day of daycare, I fell deeper and deeper in love. Now, at almost 5, he has captured my heart so completely. I am saddened and ashamed for the time so early on when I was on autopilot, always loving him, always doing the mechanical things I should do to make sure he was fed, bathed, etc. but never really loving him the way he deserved to be loved.
Now he is a little man full of character and his soul touches me in ways I can not describe. My heart is swelled with love to think about it. His name is Phoenix. And I realized today just how fitting a name it is. Because, he has grabbed hold of my heart and dragged me up from out of the ashes and into the light. I think, if not for him, I may have slipped away completely but having this little helpless person before me who required, no demanded, my attention, forced me to stay in this world at least a little.
But this isn't the end of the love story. My son has captured the biggest part of my heart but there is another love I have found along the way. My love for myself. I love my imperfect, sometimes crazy, selfish, angry, unbalanced, scarred and beautifully flawed sacred self. I love myself enough to know that I can publicly share my most shameful parts, as I just have, and that I am STILL enough.
And because I finally, somewhere along the way, got my priorities straight and gave my heart to the right people (that being, Phoenix and ME) I stopped running toward men who were toxic for me. I still always wanted the love, romance and passion that I felt I was missing for so long but I stopped being willing to find it anywhere and to settle for it in small, inconsistent doses. I held out and was rewarded finely. Now I have someone who is just as imperfectly perfect as I am and he does much more than fill that empty spot. He is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader....my soul mate. But if he leaves me tomorrow, although I would be heartbroken, I will STILL be enough and I will still find joy in life.
After my run today, I walked slowly for a while and looked around this park that had seen so much of the most tragic part of my life. I remember how heavy my body, and my heart, always felt when I was there in the past. How perfect that I was there today. In the Springtime, a time of new beginnings, in my new, fit body with my sound and happy mind, having just taken my son to his kindergarten assessment this morning. The Dogwoods were in bloom, the sun was shining and my heart was full. I cried tears of happiness and relief that I had survived the darkest hours in my life. Then I ran a little more...just because I could.
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Thursday, September 19, 2013
I am a gym rat! I love the gym. I love the clank of the equipment, the whirl of the treadmills, the crappy music and even the sometimes weird, flashy outfits. I love it all. Give me some lifting gloves, good music in my headphones and some iron and I'll see you in 1-2 hours! Love it. Love it. Love it.
However, this was most definitely not always the case. I used to feel such anxiety when I went to the gym. I felt like everyone was starting at me, wondering why the fat girl was in the gym. Then, add on top of that, not knowing what the heck I was doing. I felt like a fat fool, and my gym memberships usually collected dust (along with my gym bag) until I finally would cancel them convinced I'd start again later. Maybe New Years, after I had worked out at home for a while and lost some weight first (which also never seemed to happen).
I see it now in my clients. The unease. The feeling that everyone is staring. Convinced they don't belong. They are somehow different. So here's what I know about the gym that may make it easier for you to walk into your own the next time......
-You will never know what to do if you don't ask! It is stressful enough to go into a gym where you aren't comfortable without walking in clueless on how to operate anything or even where everything is located to begin with. At the gym where I work part time, we have an amazing program that is free of charge where we will work with members and teach them how to use all the equipment and set them up with different workouts. While most gyms might not have anything nearly this involved, they will probably offer some kind of orientation. You may have to ask for one. Ask! You're a paying member! If they offer nothing, pay for just a single personal training session and ask the trainer to teach you how to use all of the equipment. It'll be the best money you've ever spent in a gym!
-The two giggling women on the treadmills are NOT laughing at YOU!....Neither are those men on the other end of the room. This is actually a fear I somehow forgot to have when I was overweight and new to the gym environment but I see it in so many of my clients. People often go to the gym with their friends for two reasons, it is more fun and it is more comfortable because THEY are often self-conscious too. Often, they never look up, only down at the treadmill and at each other. They get in their own little world and cut up and have fun to make the hour pass. They don't even notice you doing squats and, if they do, there's really nothing funny about squats! Unless if you are just doing some kind of bizarre exercise that no one has ever seen before or just in some kind of way trying to draw attention to yourself, I promise, they aren't laughing at you!
-Which leads me to my next point. No one thinks it's weird or funny to see an overweight person at the gym. This is what seems to keep overweight people out of the gym the most. However, oddly enough, people almost always feel the exact opposite about overweight people working out. They respect it. Especially if you're really working hard. Okay, I'll admit it, if you sit on a recumbent bike eating a doughnut, they're probably going to judge you. But if you're red faced and huffing and puffing, they're gonna admire the hell out of you!
-You shouldn't skip the gym because you've had a bad day. A horrible day is a PERFECT excuse to go work out. Take each stressful moment you've had in your day and sweat it out! Leave every ounce of stress and anxiety on that gym floor! Exercise is THE BEST medicine for stress and anxiety! I am living proof! (In case if you're new to my blog, I cured postpartum depression through exercise and proper nutrition.)
-Waiting one more day really does matter. All those days you've been skipping?....They've added up to years! If you work out today, you'll feel so glad you did. You'll look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow, and not feel hopeless. Perhaps the most discouraging thing about being obese is this: You can eat perfectly, work out religiously for an entire month and STILL be obese! It feels like you'll never get to your ideal weight.
In fact, I have to say, having just recently gained about 10-15 pounds and plugging away at them these last couple of weeks, it's sooo much easier than trying to lose 10-15 pounds when I still had 100 to go. This is for a few reasons. First, it's easier in general to move, which makes exercise much more pleasant (or at least tolerable). Second, my hormones are not all out of balance like they were when I was obese which means food and exercise affects my body differently. And, perhaps the biggest motivator, I can work out and eat good for a few days and see results in the mirror and in the way my clothes fit. However, when I was larger, the actual pounds fell off much quicker. I remember I had a friend I would text each Monday after my weigh in with texts like "down 5 pounds this week", "down 7 pounds this week". Now, I'm extremely happy if I can manage to lose 2 pounds in a week. Which doesn't happen many weeks. But, overall, much easier and motivational.
So, in the beginning, when those giant drops started to dwindle to the standard 1-2 pounds lost, I had to learn to shift my focus from the "superficial" results and, rather, focus on the immediate, internal results. I would really pay attention to how my energy level was after a work out and my mood in general. Perhaps the biggest motivator of all was really focusing on how proud of myself and in control I felt when I DID work out opposed to when I didn't. Notice everything. Do you feel more positive? Do you sleep better? Control your cravings better? More energy? Does your back ache less the next day? THESE are the things that will keep you going when the scale starts slowing down.
-You should go even if your workout buddy just canceled. .....no seriously, it wasn't your "sign" not to go! Workout buddies are a tricky thing. My boyfriend is my best workout buddy ever. Like me, he's a total gym rat. I can always count on him to be by my side, pushing me to the point of exhaustion. We joke and laugh which makes the workout fun and he always keeps me motivated. BUT I'm lucky! Most people's workout buddies....quite honestly?...suck! Because most people, quite honestly? Aren't motivated yet! It is estimated that only 15% of the population works out on a regular basis. So right now you are trying to become part of that 15%. If you've got another person who is trying to do the same and you both are depending on each other to get to the gym then, guess what?! You have MORE than an 85% chance of failure. So, you have two options. If your workout buddy keeps dumping you to go home and watch American Idol with her hubby then dump HER! Either decide you are going to go by yourself or find a friend who is already part of that 15% and ask them to drag your butt to the gym with them every day!
-Crotch sweat/swamp butt is normal!! I remember when I first joined a gym many moons ago that one of the (many) things that made me self-conscious was the line of crotch sweat that would be on the seat after I used a piece of equipment. News Flash: Your crotch sweat is probably smaller than mine! My boyfriend and I joke that I leave a "Y" on the seat while he leaves more of a "T". Some people just leave a big honkin' sweat puddle....which is totally rude. Clean up your sweat guys! But, bottom line, your bottom is gonna leave a line. :)
-It's okay to make faces! I've trained a few women who won't work too hard because they are worried they are going to grunt or make an unattractive face. Look around folks!! The people making the ugliest faces are usually the ones in the best shape! No one is going to be like "haha, look at the face that woman who is working hard is making". 95% won't even notice, the other 5% will admire you for pushing yourself. I make the ugliest faces imaginable when I work out. However, my goal is not to be attractive in the gym, it's to work hard so I can be attractive everywhere else.....oh, and um, to be healthy and junk too.
-Strength training is not just for meatheads!!! Women, lifting weights will NOT make you big. Oh, you're the exception? No, you are not the exception.....no, seriously, you're not. I thought I was too. I'm almost scrawny and I curl 25 pound dumbbells. When I was heavy, my arms were tree trunks. Turns out that was hard, solid fat on my arms wrapped around tiny muscles, not bulging biceps. Men, lifting weights almost definitely will not make YOU big either. Getting really big takes hard work and specific diet. That's just for men. For women, forget about it. We need testosterone to gain muscle and we just don't have very much of it! Muscle is hard to get. HOWEVER, we want it!!! YOU want!!! When it comes to metabolism, I want you to look at it like this: our bodies are vehicles and calories/energy/fat stores is fuel. If our bodies are made up primarily of fat, we are a little 4 cylinder, fuel efficient car. It takes very little energy/calories/fat stores to get us around. However, if we are primarily muscle, we are a Hummer. Extremely fuel inefficient and burning up calories/energy/fat stores all over the place. Not at all fuel efficient. We want to be Hummers!!! The reason most people start gaining weight in their 20s is because that's when we start losing muscle (approximately 1/2 pound of muscle a year). That means that, if we are eating the same amount of calories in our 20s, 30s, 40s+ that we did in our teens, we will gain weight. UNLESS, we offset this loss with as much muscle mass as possible!
-And, on that note, The free weight section is not just for the men! I see it constantly. Women walk in the gym, hop on a piece of cardio equipment, and an hour later they leave. As I just mentioned, strength training is essential! Furthermore, long extended cardio is not an effective way to lose weight! I love to drag women kicking and screaming into the free weight section and introduce them to the joy of true strength training. I've seen many fall in love with it. There's a reason the men flock to this section. It's where the results happen! Very little can take the place of unsupported, free weight exercises. Ladies, this is YOUR area too! Men will not drop their weights and turn to stare in disbelief if you walk into "their turf". In fact, they're probably so wrapped up in what they're doing that they won't notice you've walked in at all! If anything, they'll admire you for "working out with the boys". And, ladies, that's at ANY size! The bigger you are, the more admirable it will be!
-The stability ball will not pop!! Overweight people, take note. These balls are meant to hold a LOT of weight. Some balls can even hold up to 750 pounds. Check the ball to make sure it's a little mushy (not too firm, not to soft) and that there's no bulging seams. Then sit that tushy down on that ball and get to work. You'll be fine! ....same goes for treadmills.
So, there you have it. The gym seems scary because it's unfamiliar. The more times you set foot in there, the more comfortable you will become. If you are a member, you have just as much of a right to be there as anyone else! Make sure you pick a gym that isn't a "meat market". A good sign of a meat market would be women working out in sports bras only. A more conservative gym will not allow this. The YMCA is a great family type place, so definitely check it out if you have one near you. Make sure you find a place that makes sense in your life. Close to work or home? Good hours? Child watch if needed? Then take the leap and just go! Also, keep in mind, anytime we make ourselves uncomfortable and step out of our safe and familiar zone, we grow as individuals!
Good luck and I'll see you at the bar. (That's gym talk....you'd know that if you went.)
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