I’m Not Going to Stop Wearing Lipgloss

I want to continue the conversation on pain from my previous post. It’s obvious I’m no stranger to pain…I’m guessing you aren’t either. I feel things very deeply and pain is no exception. It’s something we all experience and yet, none of us want to feel it. Why would we? It hurts like hell! Let’s face it…no one wants that and we’ll do anything to avoid it. Well guess what? Pain exists and it’s not going anywhere. So why do I keep fighting it? What would happen if I just let myself feel it?

You’ve had this happen before. You experience something painful and you share that with a friend, a family member, a coworker. What do they do? They try to make you feel better, right? They tell you everything’s going to be okay, or you need to let it go, or you’ll get over it in time. They tell you those things because they care about you and they don’t want to see you hurting. It’s a natural reaction. We’ve all done it. But also, and this is just my theory, we do that because we think there’s something wrong with being in pain. It’s as if we think our optimal state is to be happy and positive and joyful…all the time. It’s not. Pain is a part of living life. It’s just the other side of joy. And if we could stop judging pain as “bad”, maybe we could just let ourselves be with it. What would that be like? Stop and think about it for a minute. Does it scare you?

I was on a teleclass last week with Geneen Roth. If you’ve never read any of Geneen’s work, I highly recommend it. She mostly talks about women’s relationship with food. But her underlying message is about acceptance and self-love. Something she said on the call really hit me! She was talking about negative emotions and how we eat or shop or do whatever we do not to feel them. She said, “Ask yourself, ‘am I willing to be with myself? Turn toward myself – lean into whatever it is I’m feeling.’” What I really got from that is whenever I’m trying not to feel the pain that exists for me, I’m not being present to my life in that moment. Even if I’m doing something “healthy” in place of feeling that pain, like working out or talking with a friend, or whatever I do to try to make myself feel better, I’m still not being present to that emotion. And I’m negating whatever is on the other side of it.

Whenever I reach in my purse to put on lipgloss, I feel sad. Because putting on lipgloss reminds me of time in my life that doesn’t exist anymore. I was in a relationship for over a year that ended about six months ago. I thought we were going to be together forever. The man had two little girls who I fell in love with. I was skeptical at first; I didn’t think it was possible to love someone else’s children the way I love mine. But I was wrong about that. It is possible to love children you didn’t give birth to. Maybe not the same as your own children, but just as deeply. I miss them every day.

Every time we went somewhere, we had a ritual. The three of us always put on lipgloss. I have three different shades in my purse…one for each of us. I would hand them out and we would all put on our perfect shade. Then we’d smile knowingly at each other. As if to say, “we look so pretty”. It’s a girl thing! I enjoyed that bonding time with them. I looked forward to it. I miss it.

So now when I reach in my purse for lipgloss I am painfully aware I’m not going to have that experience with those two little girls again. And I feel sad. Now you may be thinking, “why doesn’t she just get rid of the lipgloss so she doesn’t have to feel bad?” Good point. But I don’t want to. The pain is a reminder of how deeply I love those girls and the time we spent together. The reason it hurts is because the experience meant so much to me and it gave me a great deal of happiness. The other side of that pain is joy and I don’t want to forget that. So I’m not going to stop wearing lipgloss just so I don’t have to think about what I’ve lost. I’m going to wear it and smile through the tears…and remember those special times we had together. And hope they remember them too.

Part of this little experiment of writing is to really be open to everything in my life and I think pain is a part of that. I still don’t want to feel it and my instinct is almost always to push it away. But now I know I can survive it and am better for having ventured down that dark road. So when I’m tempted to run away because I’m afraid to feel it, I want you to remind me, there’s nothing wrong with pain. It’s a normal reaction to loss. And maybe, once I let myself feel it, I’ll be able to touch the joy that exists on the other side.

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Leaning Into Pain

I wrote this back in January…right before I started my blog. It was my first attempt at putting myself out there and sharing what I was going through with the world. It was posted as a note on Facebook at the time. Since I’ve been experiencing similar pain again this week, I thought it was worth re-posting here. Pain is a normal human emotion that most of us try like hell to avoid. We think we won’t survive it. But I’ve been asking myself lately, “what if I just let myself feel it?” And this is what happened when I did.

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I have been experiencing a fair amount of pain these days. Not that occasional out of sorts, down in the dumps kind of feeling. But a gut wrenching, tear your heart out and stomp on it kind of thing. I won’t pretend it’s been easy…it hasn’t. And there are days I don’t know how I’m going to keep moving forward. But I do; and this experience has helped me look at pain in a whole new way.

Up until now, I have had two ways of dealing with the inevitable pain that life throws at us from time to time. One way was to hurtle myself into a deep, dark depression. A place of hopelessness and despair where I feared I would never feel happy again. The other was trying to get rid of the pain by pushing it away, stuffing it down, numbing it, fighting it or running from it. I’ll be honest…neither of these were great options. Because I never allowed myself to feel the pain in a way that could ultimately heal my heart.

This time around I’ve discovered a whole new way of being with pain. Whenever those moments of overwhelming sadness start to wash over me like the waves of the ocean, I simply lean into it. That’s all…just lean in. I don’t try to figure out what its here to teach me; or what I’m supposed to be learning from all this. I don’t try to talk myself out of my pain. I simply move toward it. I lean in and rest my head on its shoulder like a long lost friend. I cry until the tears are gone and the wave moves through me.

This isn’t to say, it doesn’t hurt or it’s not difficult. It’s just a different way of relating to pain. I’m accepting these feelings as a natural part of grieving any kind of loss. And I’m allowing myself to feel what I feel and trying not to judge myself for it. As with everything, it’s a work in progress and is often two steps forward, one step back. As Stephanie St Claire so beautifully put it, ‎”Sometimes you have to take it on blind faith that your heart is healing. It may not feel like the pain is going away. You might still cry just as hard as ever. But strength, confidence, and wisdom grow invisibly and you must trust that it is there. Rock the world Steel Magnolias!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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Everyone is Battling Their Own Demons

So my “Fat Friend” post has gotten a lot of feedback. Thank you for having the courage to share your struggles and how they’ve affected you. We’re all in this together. I wanted to expand on this because there’s something I’m guilty of and maybe you are too. I tend to compare myself. When I see something that’s thin, I think they must have it figured out. They’ve got to have it all together. After all, they have what I want…a thin body. But I know from personal experience that being thin doesn’t make you happy. So why do I still compare myself?

There is a particular woman in my TurboKick class who seems to push all my “not good enough” buttons. She’s in great shape, knows all the moves and wears cute workout gear. I haven’t been doing the class very long and feel clumsy, fat and frumpy by comparison. So I have a whole story about this woman…who I’ve never even spoken to, by the way. She thinks she’s better than me. She wishes I’d just get out of her way so she could get a good workout. She can’t believe I’m even in this class. What a bitch! If I let those thoughts get to me…and sometimes I do…I want to cry and give up. But here’s the kicker; she’s not doing anything. I’m allowing the buttons I already have from some past experience to be pushed by a woman I don’t even know. It seems so ridiculous when you look at it that way.

A couple of years ago when I was going to the gym all the time I admired those women who had the perfect body. I thought if I could just be like them, everything would be okay. As if they don’t struggle with weight and body issues. Why would they? They’re thin. But what I’ve discovered is that being thin doesn’t give you an automatic hall pass out of self-loathing. In fact, the pressure to stay thin is often more damaging to ones self-esteem than not being thin at all. Think about it. If you’re convinced your level of acceptance and lovability is tied to the way your body looks, imagine the pressure to stay looking that way no matter what.

We all admire or envy those women who have that perfect body. But have you ever stopped to think what they go through? We believe they’re so healthy and we are not. But I’ve known women, who although they look great, do not feel great about themselves. And they use unhealthy means to stay looking that way because they’re so afraid of what will happen if they gain weight. I was there at one point too and the lengths we will go to are unbelievable. Purging, using laxatives, starving ourselves, extreme exercise. We can’t let ourselves off the hook for a second! If you’ve never done this to yourself, imagine what it must be like.

Thin people aren’t immune to the problems the rest of us deal with. They are unhappy, lonely, have trouble with their kids, are in debt, have low self-esteem, hate their jobs, are in unhealthy relationships…the list goes on and on. So the next time you’re tempted (as I am) to compare yourself to someone else, just remember, everyone is battling their own demons. The woman in my exercise class doesn’t have it easier just because she’s fit. Thin doesn’t equal happiness. Self-love and self-acceptance do.

You’re Only As Old As You Feel

With my birthday right around the corner, I’ve been thinking some about age and aging. This blog post may not be of much interest to my younger friends. These things probably aren’t happening to you yet, but they will. Right now you can get a good chuckle at my expense. That’s okay. Just know your time will come. I didn’t believe any of that “over 40” crap…until it started happening to me. For those of you have reached this milestone and beyond, I know you can relate.

Honestly, I don’t feel my age…whatever that’s supposed to feel like. I’ll be 44 this week, but most days I wake up shocked as hell I’m not still 25. Not that I want to be 25 again (no offense those of you in your 20s), I just don’t feel old. Or I guess as old as I thought my mom was when she was my age. Didn’t your mom seem old in her 40s? Funny how my perspective of what “old” is has changed.

I’m not obsessed with staying young; I definitely see the benefits of getting older. I’m wiser, more relaxed, more comfortable in my own skin–most of the time. I feel a little more sure of myself, a little more confident in who I am. But I am definitely seeing the affects of the passing of time. I am noticing more gray in my hair, my eyebrows and other place I care not to mention. In the last six months or so I’ve realized I have to hold things a little further away to read the small print. My body certainly doesn’t look the way it used to; gravity is not my friend.

But I have to admit the most surprising thing is my memory…or lack thereof. I often set things down in places and forget them. I have conversations with my kids I can’t recall. Sometimes I just feel like my brain is so full, there isn’t room for anything else. I mean, why is it I can remember things I don’t need to like state capitals I learned in the fifth grade? Or the Preamble to the Constitution? But I can’t remember I told my son he could go to a friend’s house on Saturday. I don’t even remember him asking me. Believe me, no one has the ability to make you feel more stupid about forgetting things than a 13 year old. So when I tell you this story, I want you to promise me you won’t tell my son. I would never hear the end of that! Do we have a deal? Good!

The other day…perfect, I don’t even remember what day it was. I’m pretty sure it was one day last week. Seems like a long time ago, but might’ve been Friday. Or was it? Anyway, I was busy with work AND thinking about the errands I was going to run on my break. Take a package to the post office, drop some books off at the library, take some things to the school and maybe, if I had time, treat myself to Starbucks. I got everything ready and loaded up my car. It was a little chilly out so I started the car and turned up the heat. I wanted it to be nice and toasty when I got in it to go. I ran back in the house to check my work email one last time and make sure no one needed anything. I figured I’d do one little task while I was waiting for my car to warm up. After getting a number of things done and feeling really accomplished and pretty good about myself, I thought I’d better run those errands or I wouldn’t get to them. I went to grab my purse and keys and they weren’t where I thought I had left them. And that’s when it hit me! I started my car already. How long ago was that? An hour? Two? I really didn’t know. I ran to the window to make sure my car was actually still on the driveway. It was. Thank god I live in a small town where someone would sooner knock on my door to let me know I’d left my car running, than steal it. But still…who forgets they started their car? Apparently I do.

I can deal the gray in my hair…that’s what hair color is for, right? And if I was really so concerned about the forces of gravity, I suppose I could consult a plastic surgeon. But there’s really nothing I can do about my memory. I already make lists upon lists just to remember the stuff I’m supposed to do every day. Do I really need to write myself a stickie note to be reminded I started my car? I think that’s taking things a bit far, don’t you?

Maybe this is just one of those things I’ll have to accept. Or maybe that experience was a friendly reminder from my psyche to slow down a little; to not try to do so much all the time. Could it be this is my mind’s way of telling me to take it easy on myself? Possibly. As I’m approaching another birthday I’m going to look at this as a gift from the Universe. A gentle reminder that in a world that often moves too fast, maybe it’s time for me to cut myself some slack. I am doing the best I can afterall. And maybe, just maybe, that’s enough.

I’m the Fat Friend Again

So this is what’s been going on in my head lately. And you know if I’m thinking about it, I’m going to write about it. Because if I’m thinking about it, it’s safe to say some of you are thinking about it too. The issues with weight and body image are well known to most women. It’s a burden we all bear.

Almost as long as I can remember, weight has been something I’ve struggled with. It started in elementary school. I was always thin as a child, but I developed earlier than the other girls. In the fifth grade, getting curves is not desirable and I was made fun of by some of my classmates. My dad, who to this day has the most incredible metabolism of anyone I’ve ever known, pointed out that I’d gained a few pounds. My sister, who has a completely different body type than me, was the same as she’d always been. And that was the beginning of a lifelong quest to get, and stay, thin.

I have achieved that goal on more than one occasion in my life. In high school; after my first son was born; and my most recent success was about two years ago.  I’m not going to lie…it feels great! But here’s the thing. It doesn’t necessarily feel great because I’m more healthy. That’s part of it and it does feel good to be able to move my body with more lightness and ease. But health wasn’t always the motivating factor and I didn’t always lose the weight in a healthy way. Losing weight feels great, and I’m ashamed to admit this, because I look good. Isn’t being thin what we’re all supposed to strive for?

For most of my adult life I’ve either been trying to lose weight or rebelling against the cultural standard to be thin. But even when I’ve been a size or weight that should be acceptable to me, I have still obsessed about food and weight in a way that I know is not normal…or healthy. For much of my life I weighed myself every day. And my mood was often determined, not by how I felt when I woke up that morning, but by the number on the scale. C’mon…you can relate. We’ve all been there.

My most recent foray into the world of weight loss left me completely neurotic. I exercised obsessively…sometimes for two hours a day. I wouldn’t eat out, I didn’t drink, I had a whole list of foods I couldn’t, or wouldn’t eat. At first it was easy…willpower is an amazing thing. But it only lasts so long; in my case about six months. After that I was white-knuckling it every day. I had horrible cravings because I deprived myself. When I couldn’t take it anymore I would binge on all the things I wouldn’t let myself have. I felt relieved for about a second. Then the self-loathing kicked into high gear and all I could think about was getting that food out of me. To this day I have no idea how I stopped myself from purging. I would throw food in the trash just so I wouldn’t eat it; only to find myself unable to stop thinking about it. And yes, I have eaten food out of the trash…I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth. I was on the edge of a full-blown eating disorder, but hey, I was thin, right?

Even given all that I have to say, one of the best things about losing the weight was I wasn’t the fat friend anymore. I finally fit in…I was one of them. Yes! I have a group of close friends who are the most loving, supportive women I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing. No matter what, I know I can always count on them for anything. But they are also very body conscious. That is not a judgment; it’s an observation. And I will admit, it wasn’t always easy to be the chubby one in a group of women for whom being thin is very important. I was, and still do, compare myself to them. As much as I tell myself I’m the same amazing person no matter how much I weigh (and they tell me too), I don’t always believe that.

So here I am again…the fat friend. I know there’s something for me to learn from this. All of life is a classroom. I am resisting the urge to go on yet another diet. I’m tired of being a hamster on that wheel. And I’m wondering what it will take for me to truly accept myself just as I am, right now, at this weight. Because honestly, most days I don’t. What if, for the first time, my acceptance of myself did not rely on losing weight? What if I could really believe what I already know? That being thin does not make me more acceptable, more loveable, more worthy.

This has been a lifelong challenge and I don’t expect it will change overnight. But I’m learning as I go. And I think, like many things in life, it will take time and practice. Because the truth is I am not how much I weigh and neither are you. Together we can set a new cultural norm. One where we all see the loveliness in ourselves and each other. Not based on what we look like, but on who we truly are. That’s a tall order considering the social pressures on women to be thin. But I think I’m up for it. And I think you are too.