The Weight Problem I Never Had

Me (in blue) with my friend Debbie at 8th grade graduation.

Me (in blue) with my friend Debbie at 8th grade graduation.

As many of you know from either knowing me personally or reading previous posts, I have struggled with my weight over the years. I’m so tired of this issue I didn’t even want to write about it again. But I had an interesting epiphany that was so BIG I knew I had to share it.

I did not have a weight problem until I believed I did.

You read that right. I know it might sound strange, but I was looking at some old pictures and realized for the first time I wasn’t overweight when I started dieting. And I was shocked!

The picture above is what I looked like when I first believed I needed to go on a diet. I was 13. I was at the age when girls start to fill out and my dad said to me one day “Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds.” That’s my first memory of my body not being okay the way it was. And what I made that statement mean about me changed the way I felt about my body and myself.

I dieted all through high school and after I had my first child at 20. At no time during those years was I actually overweight. Crazy? Definitely! I didn’t start gaining weight until I’d been dieting for a number of years. I dieted myself into being fat.

For more than 30 years I have either been on a diet or off a diet. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about my weight, what I’m eating or how much (or little) I’m exercising. I labeled food as “good” and “bad” and judged myself by what I put in my mouth. “Good” food made me feel virtuous and worthy. “Bad” food made me feel guilty and full of self-loathing.

The pressure to be thin is ever-present and there isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t felt it. If it hadn’t been that statement from my dad, it would’ve been something else. You know the old saying…”You can never be too rich or too thin.” As a society we believe that’s true and we’ve created an entire industry around it. An industry that is now a $20 billion business according to this article on ABC News. And I wasted 30 years buying into it.

I’m not blaming my weight problem on my dad, or the diet industry or even society as a whole. I’m just wondering what might have been different if I hadn’t bought into other people’s beliefs about me.

The reason I think this is important is to show just how much our beliefs influence us. That one belief set me on a course that would dominate my life. The “problem” was an illusion. It didn’t exist…until I started believing it.

In the last 30 plus years I have rarely been happy with my weight. When I was fat I wanted to be thin. When I was thin I wanted to be thinner. And I can honestly say there is no bigger waste of time and energy than to wish things were different than they are. Thirty years is a helluva long time to obsess over something that wasn’t even wrong in the first place.

I’m tired of playing that game so I’m opting out. I don’t now if this will change anything as far as my weight goes. But I do know it will free up a lot of time and energy for other, more fun, things.

Please…take my advice. Don’t waste one more minute thinking about your weight (or whatever it is you believe is wrong with you). Don’t miss another moment of your life wishing you were thinner (or smarter, or prettier or more successful). I’ve been thin and I’ve been fat and I can honestly say my weight didn’t have any bearing on my life other than what I assigned to it.

What you believe about yourself matters because you’ll create an entire life around it. What beliefs are you buying into?

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

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Tired of Being a One (Wo)Man Show

rosieI have been single for most of the last 11 years since my husband and I divorced. I’ve had a couple relationships go the distance. And by distance I mean about a year. One I thought would lead to the alter, but didn’t. There were a couple shorter stints too, and first dates too numerous to mention. But mostly it’s been just my kids and me.

When I was first single I was excited to be the independent woman I always knew I could be. Having been married at the ripe old age of 19, I felt oppressed by my husband who seemed to think it was his job to tell me what to do and be in control at all times. I wanted to show the world (and him) I didn’t need anyone and was determined to prove I could do things on my own. Afterall, I was a modern, self-sufficient woman. I took on the 70s mantra, “I am woman, hear me roar,” like it was my job.

But there’s a flaw in that thinking. And here’s where I’m likely to piss off any hardcore feminists out there. I realized <gulp> I have somewhat traditional values when it comes to male/female roles. Uh oh.

Despite having grown up in a very conservative household, I am liberal in many of my thoughts and beliefs. I believe in equal pay for equal work, equal opportunities for women, a woman’s right to choose. But there are certain things—household things—I just want a man would do.

I guess you could say I’m a liberal-traditionalist. (Is that even a word?)

I live in a neighborhood that’s mostly traditional families. I am one of the few, if not the only, single parent in this neighborhood. And I get somewhat wistful every time the sun is out and all the men are outside washing cars and mowing lawns. There is very little I miss about my ex-husband. But I do miss a clean garage and a well-manicured yard.

My last relationship sealed the deal for me. My boyfriend at the time could build, fix, remodel or restore anything! And I’ll admit I loved that. One Thanksgiving holiday when he came to visit he took care of some things around my house. Not because I asked him to, but because he wanted to. Imagine that…he wanted to! I gotta tell you ladies, there is nothing sexier than a man caulking your tub. And no, that’s not a metaphor.

Or maybe it is.

I just know I find it incredibly sexy when a man is doing traditionally male things.

That’s not to say I need someone to do things for me. I don’t. I know how to change a flat tire, get the lawnmower started after the winter, fix the dryer, put together furniture and replace the element in the oven. Our downstairs toilet was once out of commission for a month while I figured out how to fix it on my own. I’m proud to say I’ve done those things.

The problem was I used to be determined NOT to get help. Not because I didn’t need it or even want it. But because I thought it made me weak and needy. My intention was to prove to the world I could do it all on my own. I wanted to be able to say I didn’t need anyone to take care of me (even though I secretly wanted someone to).

I had to ask myself, “what’s so wrong with being taken care of sometimes?” And my answer was, “not a damn thing!” It’s actually pretty nice.

So the conclusion I’ve come to is this: I can do it, I have done it, I just don’t want to. And there’s something very empowering in being honest about that.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

I Don’t Want to Be Like You

Somewhere along the span of my life, I got the message that who I was wasn’t okay. At the time I believed that without question. So I began a journey to try to change into the person I thought I was supposed to be. That person is you.

You are outspoken, charismatic, tidy, productive. In your closet the hangers all face the same direction and clothes are arranged by color. You love getting up early and checking things off your ‘To Do’ list. Sleeping in feels like you’ve wasted the day. You go nuts for a good organizational system. You have it all together. Or at least I think you do.

I am introspective, messy, a night person. I can completely ignore dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, an unmade bed (it’s a superpower, really). I love to read and could spend hours lost in a book. My ‘organizational system’ consists of piles and post-it notes. I tend to over think things and am a bit neurotic.

I used to think there was something wrong with me that I needed to change. I’ve read the books, taken the classes, participated in the programs all in an effort to be like you. The person I’m supposed to be. Someone I think other people and society at large will approve of.

But I’m not that person. I think those are great traits and if the above describes you that’s awesome! But it’s not me. And it takes an inordinate amount of physical, mental and emotional energy to continue to strive for it. Not to mention, it’s hard to be happy when you’re always trying to be something you’re not.

Society and the media paint this picture of the optimal person. We see phrases like 10 tips to getting more organized, how to make friends and influence people, the early bird gets the worm. Wait. What? I don’t even want a worm. And if I did, I figure out a way to find that little sucker oh say, late afternoon or so.

All those sayings and instructions and lists did for me is help me buy into the belief that I’m not okay the way I am. That there’s something I need to fix. And I’ve been on a mission to do just that!

But I’ve realized that was a mistake. And frankly, a great big waste of time! As Ralph Waldo Emerson so beautifully said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

So I’m giving up the quest. I’m outing myself right here, right now! Guess what? There’s nothing wrong with me.

This is not merely about self-acceptance. It’s so much more than that. This is about embracing, celebrating, and just plain rocking the shit out of who I really am. I don’t want to be like you. I just want to be me…messy, neurotic, amazing me.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

Seeing Old Times Through New Eyes

Me with my sister, our dog Rusty and the infamous station wagon in 1968.

Me with my sister, our dog Rusty and the infamous station wagon in 1968.

Lately I’ve been reminiscing about a much different time in my life. A time before I got so consumed with doing more, having more, being more. A time when things felt easy and fun. I was remembering my childhood.

I had a fairly ordinary upbringing. Until high school everyone I knew lived pretty much the same way we did. The men worked, most of the women stayed home. People lived in modest, usually somewhat messy, homes. No manicured lawns. No one I knew drove a new car. We had enough. We were happy.

Fast-forward to today and it seems like the standard is so much higher; the pace so much faster. I sometimes fantasize about having enough money to buy a new car and remodel my house. I have visions of hardwood floors and granite countertops; stainless steel appliances, leather furniture, a flat-screen TV. All around me smart phones, gym memberships, mani/pedis, and designer handbags have become the norm.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those things. Some of them weren’t even available when I was growing up. And I certainly enjoy the many advances we’ve made. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to connect with you today. I’m just noting the difference.

I’m also not insinuating life was easy for my parents. My dad worked hard and money was a constant worry raising four kids. But, back then it never occurred to me the adults in my life wanted more the way it seems that we constantly do now.

What if they had it right all along?

I have so many fond memories of times gone by. The worn linoleum on my grandmother’s kitchen floor. Birthday cakes not bought at the store but painstakingly crafted into pink elephants with coconut frosting. The old station wagon in which my parents took us to the drive-in where we would watch Evel Knievel movies in our pajamas.

The tire swing hanging from the old cedar tree behind our house. Lazy summer afternoons spent at the lake with all our friends. Getting books from the Bookmobile because the library was too far away. The clothes my mom used to sew for us.

Homemade bread. Eating food fresh from our garden, especially the raspberries from the bushes transplanted from my grandmother’s house. Fruit from Eastern Washington my mom bought each year in wooden crates from a man named Harry and canned for the upcoming winter months.

Having only two channels to watch on TV…three if we could talk my dad into going up on the roof to turn the antennae. The hand-me-downs I got from my sister. I admit I didn’t appreciate either one of those at the time.

Looking back over my adult years I can see how much time and energy I’ve spent trying to better my life, when it was really pretty good all along. These days I’m longing for the things I didn’t understand the importance of as a child. Like growing my own food and lazy summer days.

Life was good. Not because we had so much…but because we didn’t. Things were so simple then. Sometimes less is more.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

Lessons from a Teenage Boy

Image credit: http://malibumom.com/2013/03/16/whats-for-dinner-mom/

Image credit: http://malibumom.com

Every day Kyle, my teenage son, asks me two questions. “What’s for dinner?” and “Is it going to be good?” The first question I only find mildly annoying when I don’t actually have a plan for dinner. The second one, however, I take as a personal attack. Every. Single. Time.

People come into our lives as teachers. I would say this is especially true of our children. I believe Kyle is in my life to teach me patience, acceptance, and most of all, how not to take things personally.

Kyle and I are very different people. I am open, compassionate, optimistic. He is bossy, opinionated, cynical. If The Odd Couple were a mother and son duo, we would be it.

Even as a child, Kyle was very different from his older brother, Mitch. Mitch was very sweet and loving. He felt remorse when he got in trouble for something. And he always wanted the people he loved to be happy…he still does. Kyle, on the other hand, has always been a bit like a grumpy old man. He wasn’t much of a snuggler, hated having his picture taken, and got genuinely pissed off at being disciplined. Both boys are dangerously smart with wicked senses of humor. But, while Mitch taught me about love, Kyle is teaching me about me.

Recently, when I flew off the handle because Kyle asked me, for about the millionth time, if dinner was going to be good he told me, “You shouldn’t take this so personally.” I really lost it! I told him to sit down, shut up and eat his dinner. There may or may not have been some cursing on my part.

I felt bad, of course. I always do. I apologized for yelling at him. His response was a casual, “It’s okay.” I’m fairly certain he didn’t take my little outburst personally at all.

It didn’t hit me until the next morning. Taking things too personally is something I’ve struggled with…particularly in my relationships with men. I realized in that moment I have the perfect opportunity to practice NOT taking things so personally with Kyle every single day.

What if, when he asks if dinner is going to be good, I could take that as just a question, rather than a personal attack on either my intention or my culinary skills? What if, instead of getting so defensive, I could answer lightly, “I hope so!” or “That’s the plan!” or “Nope!”

For an entire year after I first read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, I practiced the agreement “Don’t Take Anything Personally” religiously. But I worked on it with people other than my children or a significant other. Now it seems I’m getting another opportunity that’s a little closer to home.

So I’m going to use this daily opportunity as an experiment of sorts. To see if I can stop making that simple question mean something negative about me and take it for what it is: a question. This will take some practice on my part. Kyle knows how to push my buttons. But I can see the benefits in my current and future relationships will be HUGE! If nothing else, Kyle will have to figure out a new way to get under my skin. And that will make this totally worthwhile 😉

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

Do Nothing

My mind and my soul have been having quite a battle lately. My soul wants me to relax, go with the flow, and trust that everything is working out perfectly. My mind, on the other hand, is being its usual rigid self…trying to figure things out, put together a plan, work towards a goal. I am caught in the middle.

I have been working toward one thing or another as long as I can remember. Like many of you, I come from the school of thought that encourages DOing. Our society rewards achievement, goal setting, and productivity. And I bought into it all…hook, line and sinker.

Then things changed.

In December I was laid off from my job. Fortunately (or so I thought) I had just completed training in September to become a life coach. So in December and January, along with the usual holiday festivities, I focused on getting my coaching practice up and running. It never occurred to me my mind and body might need a break. But by the end of January, I was done. Tapped out. For the first time in my life I stopped. And that scared the shit out of me.

All I could hear—from somewhere deep inside me–was “I don’t want to do anything.” But doing nothing wasn’t an option to me. Not moving towards something feels very uncomfortable. Anxiety kicked in and it was tempting keep moving…in any direction. But my soul was adamant. And I was really tired. So before I took off in hot pursuit of the next thing I thought I should be doing, I decided to take some time to listen…to that still, small voice within.

I started doing an exercise regularly that I learned from Abigail Steidley. Abigail is a Master Mind Body Coach who was also one of my instructors during life coach training. The exercise is called Drawing on your Inner Wisdom. Perfect, I thought. This will show me what I need to do and where I need to go next. I was on board.

It went a little bit like this:

Question: What should I do next?
What I meant: Please, please, please tell me what to do.
Answer: Trust. It’s all working out perfectly. You don’t have to force it. Just go with the flow. Relax. Let things happen.

Question: Should I enter a writing contest?
What I meant: Is this it?
Answer: Do nothing. Now isn’t the time. This is the time to rest. There are better opportunities for you down the road. Let it be right now.

Question: What will I do for work?
What I meant: I need a direction here.
Answer: Relax. It’s not time for that yet. Just be. What are you in such a hurry for? It’s okay to do nothing. Stop fighting the healing process. Just let it be.

Question: Should I contact an old love?
What I meant: I need something to distract me from not knowing what I’m doing.
Answer: Wait. It’s not time yet. Be patient. You’ll see the purpose later. Take care of yourself. You’re not ready for this right now.

Each time I did the exercise I asked a slightly different question, but the answer was basically the same…do nothing.

If you know me you know that Do Nothing isn’t really in my vocabulary. Even during times when I don’t appear to be doing anything physically, I am typically doing a lot mentally; thinking, analyzing, trying to figure things out. The idea of doing none of that is pretty foreign to me.

Then the other day, during my meditation, I had the following conversation with myself. Yes, I realize I talk to myself a lot. Probably because I spend the majority of my time alone and also because I’m an introvert. Are you saying you don’t talk to yourself? Well, then one of us is just weird. I’ll let you guess which one. Anyway, back to the meditation:

Me: So…I’ve been doing nothing. Now what?
Soul: silence
Me: Seriously…what’s next?
Soul: That’s it…do nothing.
Me: You gotta be kidding me! For how long?
Soul: As long as it takes.
Me: sigh

Ok, I’m a lousy liar. Truthfully I didn’t really sigh at the end. I said fuck! But sighing seemed softer, more ladylike, more appropriate. You shouldn’t swear at your soul, right? But, seriously…fuck!

I really thought I was on this path to figure shit out so I could get on with my life. Doing nothing wasn’t part of the plan. And yet, here I am…

So I’m doing the only thing I can. You guessed it. Nothing.

I’ve realized the key is, as with anything, to not resist it or think it should be any different. It’s not easy and I go in and out of resistance depending on the day, hour, minute. When that happens, I gently (or sometimes not so gently) remind myself…it’s okay to do nothing.

What’s on the other side of all this nothingness? I have no idea. And that’s not really the point. The purpose for me is to let go of my need to control, force, or make anything happen. A little at a time. Each and every day.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

The Winter of My Discontent

I’m sitting in my living room with the sun streaming through the window. It feels warm on my face and I close my eyes in an effort to take it in fully, soak it up, hold onto it. This is a rare moment of peace these days. A moment when it feels like things are going to be okay. There’s room to breath. The sun is shining…all is well in the world.

This has been—and may continue to be—‘the winter of my discontent.’ (I’m sure Shakespeare will be cool with me borrowing that line from “Richard III”.) But for those of us on the positive thinking track, it appears negative, ungrateful, destructive. Many days I have shut myself off from the world believing I should feel better. Other times I’ve written about it and then felt guilty for focusing on it. Truthfully I’m just trying to learn how to navigate—an ultimately accept—this is a part of my life.

As early as middle school I can remember having these feelings—fear, anxiety, depression–and wondering what was wrong with me. In my 20s and 30s I took anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to quell the thoughts and feelings that seemed too dark to face. But taking medication to ‘fix’ the problem left me feeling like there was something wrong with me. So I stopped. It’s been almost 14 years since I used those drugs to get through the difficult times.

But something else has happened; something more insidious than the low moods themselves. Over the years and in the reading of self-help books too numerous to count, I am back to believing there is something wrong with me; that I need to be fixed.

I do believe positive thinking can be vey helpful. I’ve seen it in my own life. But the downside of taking positive thinking too far is that when I’m feeling angry, fearful, frustrated, or sad, I beat myself up. Mentally and emotionally I kick my own ass. And I gotta tell you…it’s exhausting!

What do we say to someone who’s feeling down? “I hope you feel better soon,” right? Because we believe (myself included) that ‘feeling better’ is the goal. But what if ‘better’ is part of the continuum between suffering and joy? Neither one of those states is superior to the other. They are equal participants in the human condition. What if we could say instead, “I love you no matter how you feel and I’m here if you need someone to listen”? What if we (and by we I mean I) could be more accepting? Especially of those feelings that are uncomfortable to us.

Moods are just like the tides…they follow nature’s rhythm. Sometimes they’re high, sometimes they’re low. But you don’t think there’s something wrong with the ocean just because the tide is out. And if it feels like it’s been low tide for far too long, don’t worry. High tide will return when it’s supposed to. In the meantime, think of all the treasures there are to discover when the tide is out—seashells, creatures of all kinds, the occasional message in a bottle.

The treasure I have found is writing.

Writing, for me, has become a way to talk about the things I don’t really know how to deal with. It’s also my way of finding ‘my people.’ Not as a vehicle to commiserate or feel sorry for myself. But just to feel heard and understood. This is how I can do something constructive with what I’ve learned; how I can help those who have similar struggles and feel like no one understands them. I write about my life to say, “I get you…and there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Like me, you may be sensitive and not realize it, feel things more deeply than other people and not know why. That’s okay. Really.

For most of my life I’ve tried to understand what I thought was wrong with me so I could fix it and be like other people I’ve admired. But now I’m taking a different approach. I’m learning to find more acceptance and love for myself. To be honest about what I’m feeling or thinking and not force it to be any different. To realize this is the way I am and I don’t need to apologize for it. It might not always be pretty or seem ‘in control’, and that’s just fine.

The irony is in accepting the parts of myself I’ve worked so diligently to fix, I realize more and more there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. And in the wise words of The Beatles…I’m learning to “Let it be.”

**This post is in memory of Debbie Ford who taught me to accept all of me…the good and the bad, the light and the dark. She believed our gifts are in the shadows. And it is only in accepting the whole of who we are that we will really become all that we are meant to be. I am forever grateful for that lesson and for the many other ways she changed my life. Wherever you are, Debbie, I hope you realize the impact you have made on the world. But most of all I hope you know how much you are loved.**

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

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