Wednesday, July 18, 2012
A short time ago, I emailed two photos of myself to a friend. Having photos taken of myself is rough and sending them to a friend was even tougher. Like so many people with a lot of weight to lose, I am very camera shy. But I decided to keep pushing past the comfort zone, to keep doing at least one thing every day that scares me at least a little. I had my husband take two photos of me because the ones I took of myself by reversing my Iphone camera didn't look the way he saw me every day.
Yesterday I pushed myself by finally taking a flow yoga from on my limited pass for a local gym. The pilates had been tough and really put too much pressure on my still healing tailbone. I also had to worry about asking too much of my shoulders. This time I finally took a chance on the class and found more than I ever expected.
Self acceptance and self love. Because this teacher wasn't making clear that I was too fat for the class, a real imposition, someone who would hold the rest of them back. She wasn't rolling her eyes and making clear that her talents were wasted on someone as huge and hopeless as me.
Instead, in this room full of mirrors floor to ceiling, where I could not escape the image of me in yoga pants and my bright tie dye shirt that made me look even bigger, this teacher immediately learned my name and kept telling me how great I was doing. She was the first teacher to tell me to use double blocks under each hand to protect my wrists as I did the downward dog. Suddenly that position went went from one I dreaded to the position of refuge, the one I went to when I couldn't keep going any longer.
This was flow yoga, the kind that kept moving, never really stopping, and I had sweat dripping down my forehead like I'd run a race before that first hour was up. And I made it 75 minutes before excusing myself to go swim. The class was scheduled for an hour but the students benefited from getting an extra half hour of class--because the teacher was that committed to doing what she loved.
Something shifted inside of me as as she kept reminding us not to look around the room, to look straight ahead, to look within our own selves, listen to what our bodies were telling us. So often we have drowned that out. I would find that in meditation when I was amazed to realize how tight my shoulders were, how I had really ignored where I held stress, what hurt, what needed attention.
By the end of 75 minutes in that class, I felt like I had longer, leaner lines, and I felt empowered, just as this teacher said yoga was supposed to be. I no longer felt like a big, fat woman rolling around on the floor in yoga class, not belonging amidst all the others who were half her size. In fact, I felt like I very much belonged and couldn't wait to go back.
How powerful that experience was soon became apparent. I never changed in the changing rooms because I was so embarrassed about my size and had way too many people staring at me if I ever did. Even in my bathing suit, I had people staring at me sometimes. And I have a very expensive, very fine fat lady bathing suit that even reduces me at least a size.
A woman walking into the locker rooms, averted her eyes from me and made a remark to her friend, making clear I was a very unpleasant and horrible sight, the fat lady in her bright pink one-piece bathing suit. But I didn't let this get to me as I headed right to that gym and swam laps for 45 minutes. Instead I was thinking of how insecure she must feel about her own self to make that kind of hurtful remark. So unnecessary. Her reaction reminded me of the comedies where people are surprised by the giant fat old man who is naked and headed their way. Only I was appropriately dressed for someone about to swim laps. (I did thank my lucky stars that she wasn't around when I was discreetly changing in my bathing suit, so eager to get into that pool.)
The pool is another place where I feel strong because I can swim laps for at least 90 minutes on a good day, although not after yoga or pilates. But I get a much better workout in the ocean--without the chlorine. And what I did before that, over the weekend, was get a chance to swim across big ocean waves doing my breast stroke, working it for all I was worth, feeling that freedom as my head dipped below the water (wearing Speedo swim goggles) and my hands swept to my side.
It dawned on me later that I might also love the breast stroke because it is like the Tibetan yoga pose of sweeping one arms down along one's sides to sweep away thoughts and distractions. As you soar through the water, doing the breast stroke, you can get focused and feel the freedom, gliding through that water. (Of course, if you make a mistake in the ocean, you can get a face full of water on your way up.)
Today I am back to decluttering, pushing myself to donate another 60 books and dvds, sometimes reading books just so that I can finally give them away. Already my husband has put his pottery creations on the two top book shelves and they look magnificent. Now I discover that I need to clear out more books since I am making more space in my home office space. The more space I make, the more I want. It feels so good not to be completely closed in by dusty books and what not.
And someone out there is going to want these books that I never read, whatever else I can donate. I'm determined not to let the stuff hold me back. It is part of the weight loss journey, and just like I swim through the water with so much momentum, feeling that water stream along my sides, I want to be able to reach my goals that way, too. A person has to be free of clutter to swim, truly streamlining everything. Down to the goggles, the suit, and sometimes the cap. And the suit has to be the kind allows free movement, sturdy, nothing on it that could hold a person back. In other words, you leave all the junk behind.
In yoga, it is the same. It is down to you and your mat, and your teacher if you are in class. Although your teacher will tell you to focus on yourself. What is going with you. What your body is telling you. What you need in that moment. And if you need to go into child pose or downward dog for refuge, that is okay, too. And you'll find yourself taking chances that you never thought you'd take before, like putting blocks underneath your feet so that you can open up further in the bridge pose and finding out it feels so good. It really works.
I once read about a woman whose life left her without a home, but she did not consider herself homeless. Her life was rich with friends who allowed her to sleep on their couches and floors as she found her way. She wrote a brief story about how she always had a home because she had her yoga mat. As soon as she spread it out, she was home. Home on her mat and home within herself. She took comfort that she could practice yoga and meditation any where. Her circumstances meant that she had lost nearly all her stuff, but she wrote the story because strangely, in this whole process she had regained her own self, her on her yoga mat.
So today as I push myself again, this time out of my comfort zone is aiming to really fill up those donation bags for charity, determined not to let stuff hold me back, knowing I'll have even more space for yoga, meditation, and my daily workouts.
Sometimes it is hard to let go of things like the gourmet cookbook that reminds me of an amazing restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina that served the best she-crab soup ever. That was before I had a shellfish allergy and before I became mostly vegan and mostly raw vegan at that. I still had a delicious meal at 81 Queen Street, a lovely, romantic little place, where the birds fly down in the outside section, keeping the guests company in the most delightful way. But as the water joked, everything there seemed to be bacon or wrapped in bacon. Not totally true. They do have other kinds of dishes, all exquisite, and yes, they can come up with some very fine salads, too, but the cookbook reminds me of good times but actually has very few recipes that I can make now adays. I might give it to my mother in case she wants to make a fine she-crab soup. The crabs and other shellfish in northern New England are especially flavorful.
There are books I've never read and will never read, or just never finished. I'm not going to at this point. There are books that reflect a life I no longer live, that don't serve me now. And of course, there are books I have no plans of releasing at this time. My treasures. And I do love a good book.
There are the coffee table books that I have a hard time letting go of but never look at any more. They were expensive, full of fine photos and artwork, but they are huge and never read. There are cookbooks that I will never use now, that I never really liked as much as others, and computer software books for software too powerful for my computer. I let go of expensive language CDs that never worked right when I finally got to them, most of them already released. A heart break. Sometimes I have 10 different books by the same author but they all say essentially the same thing. Should I keep them all?
Even if I just let go of 2 books per day, that is 14 per week, and I will eventually get to that goal. And along the way, the momentum has pushed me to read at least 20 books I would not have read otherwise. And sometimes I have given up brand new books that book clubs sent me in the old days, that I couldn't stop, couldn't see the point of sending back at great expense, new and yet old. I released many of those, with relief, and haven't belonged to book clubs in years.
Of course, as I get down further and further on the shelves, it will get harder and harder to decide what goes and what stays. I couldn't possibly let go of my books by Joan Didion, some of them hard to get now. I studied her essay writing in college and was in love with books like "The Book of Common Prayer" and "Salvador." Her latest books, including "The Year of Magical Thinking," certainly are new favorites, written in a way that only she could. Being pushed to read so many treasures and the books I never got myself to read otherwise is a great part of the journey.
As for the clothes, I can hardly wait until I have lost so much weight that I have to completely empty my closet, even though it will cost to replenish my wardrobe. I think that will be an interesting experience.
Decluttering actually can be a great journey, not just what we release, but what we keep. For isntance, I uploaded nearly all my CDs to Itunes and now have access to music that was hidden away for decades. I went on a pleasurable journey listening to all that music that I purchased so very long ago, never dreaming that CDs might also go away some day. Of course, I kept some CDs but tried to keep it to all that would fit in a shoe box. the ones I'd play in the car or when visiting my parents, that kind of thing. Because Itunes will take care of a lot of it. Although I have never been able to enjoy headhpones much so I don't know if I'll ever be a true IPOD person.
Reading the books hidden away in my many bookcases has been a pleasure. I'm now reading "Sophie's World," a book about a 14-year-old girl who starts getting mysterious correspondence from a man who is teaching her the history of philosophy. It was a best seller and I meant to read it but it sat on my shelves for years. I made up my mind that I couldn't donate it until I at least read the first 200 pages. I'm getting quite the philosophy lesson as a mystery unfolds.
Right now, I'm listening to "Riverdance" because I just found the CD hidden away in a box that had yet to be decluttered. And I found that intense Ab workout for ChaLean Extreme strength training. Now I have no excuses not to do that kickbutt workout and will start back with that program soon. I've gotten good at doing the cardio, stretching, and core exercises, but now I have to be sure I have the essential ST training as well. It is importance to weight loss and fitness, as well as preventing injury, keeping balance. (Yoga keeps the spine supple and many sages say we are as old as our spine. It also helps with balance and much more.)
Eleanor Roosevelt said we should do at least one thing every day that scares us, and I love that saying. So every day I ask myself what will it be today? For some people, it could be trying a new food or restaurant. Maybe it is trying out a green smoothie in that blender or trying out that super food Spirolina. (Yes, I still take the cold packed pills but wonder if I should powder.)
For some people, taking a chance is learning a new language, then travelling to that country. For others, it is getting a new job or maybe a new career, moving to a new place or even an entirely new location. For others, it might be finally going to that medical or dental appointment that was delayed for ages or taking a chance on an alternative medicine treatment. It might be going to that yoga or pilates class, getting into the swim pool or ocean even though one is heavy. It might be allowing photos to be taken of oneself or keeping a journal, a food diary, or buying that bright red outfit or bikini. Some people will sign up for scuba diving, sky diving, kayaking rough Alaskan waters to see glaciers and whales. Others will work toward hiking the Inca Trails that lead to Machu Picchu in Peru or finally getting to the Himalayas. Some will finally reach the mountain peak that they could see from their home all those years while others just take a deep breath and lose 20 pounds, even though they fear it could result in scary changes in one's live.
It turns out that for many people, the toughest things of all sometimes seem like the simplest. One person can clear out all the junk in one day, while another person must slowly go through the layers of stuff and life for ten years before letting it all go.
Peter Walsh always urges people to have a vision for their lives and the life they want to live. Before they even start decluttering. And to have a vision for each room that is being decluttered. Envision it. Have a purpose in mind. That is helping me as I start heaping up the books and a few movies I never watch any more on dvd. And sometimes I just tell myself that I need the space (and less dust.0
I've had to go another round of allergy shots as much as I would like to quit. Yes, I did make it through two years of allergy shots in both arms for mold, dust, various pollens including trees and grass. Right now, it is the dust and mold allergies that I have to pay the most attention to. So decluttering could help me to reach goals of getting away from shots and maybe even Allegra one day.
And a decluttered home is a healthier home, with better air flow, less risk of mold, dust, etc. That is reason enough.
So what have you done today to push yourself past the comfort zone? Have you taken Eleanor Roosevelt's advice and done at least one thing that scares you? (I am not talking about ridiculously foolish risks and neither was she.)
And what is my reward? Because I believe in rewards. I am working on buying some extra yoga blocks so that I can do the downward dog without risking my wrists each time. I only have one, and the class I took yesterday showed me that that, along with a yoga strap for raising up the legs, can actually help. (Iyengar yoga uses these props a lot, too.) And yes, I do have several yoga and pilates dvds collecting dust that can be used, not to mention what I can stream from Netflix.)
I want my life to be streamlined the way it was when I was swimming through the ocean waves on Friday the 13tth. (No shark sightings this time, what a relief! But I did see the most extraordinary group of wild ponies. It just took my breath way it was so beautiful.)