Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Highs & Lows

Getting down to 188 lbs was awesome.  It was the culmination of a lot of work and dedication.  I was exercising on a regular basis, watching what I ate and logging about 85% of my weekly meals.  I was cooking for myself and enjoying trying new recipes.

And then I (1) got complacent and took a "break" (yeah, y'all know how that goes) (gained 5lbs) and (2) got injured (I hope y'all do not know how that goes) (see below).  I haven't had any consistent effort in the gym since hurting my back in February.  I went to the gym twice last week and spent the long weekend either in bed or walking around in pain.

FGvW would say "don't worry; focus on what you can do."  Robby, however, is all whiny and depressed. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd feel a loss of self, of identity without being able to work out and be strong.  I also feel like I have nothing new to say and/or that everything I do say is either "I'm injured" or "I'm depressed."

So yeah, you see two paragraphs up where I say I went to the gym? Well I made the mistake of jumping on a scale after a weekend of...shall we say.... indulging...

not happy at all

I can't use the same equation that I used over the past few years to lose the weight.  My back dictates what I can and can't do as well as what I should and shouldn't do. 

I know that I should watch what I eat, eliminate junk from my diet (including alcohol), and do what I can, when I can.  But right now I'm kinda stuck in a loop of feeling sorry for myself (for good reason!) and feeling unsure about my future prognosis. This makes ice cream look especially delicious.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Near & Far

One of my favorite Sesame Street skits was Grover/Frank Oz's "Near & Far" -- where he demonstrated the meanings of near and far.  You were either one or the other.  There was measurable difference between the two things.  By the end of the skit, Grover is exasperated from having to repeat himself so many times.  I don't know why, but I just thought it was so silly.

It wasn't until I got older that I realized that some things can be both near AND far -- just like the title, and not near OR far.  Sometimes perspective collaborates with our minds to play tricks on us. 

This past Saturday marked 20 years since my mother passed away on September 27, 2014 (see "I'm a sensitive soul, though I seem thick skinned"). I spent the week leading up to it in NYC with dad. (I also got to see some friends while I was there too.)  So many times, I am struck by how vivid and tangible that period in my life feels (I carry it with me everywhere I go), and at other times, it seems so distant (and I'm able to set aside the burden of some of those memories).

That morning, my dad went to church, then we went to my mom's grave.  My dad placed red roses in the vase; I cleaned up her headstone and put a few roses and a stone on top.  I had asked dad if we could then go to Robert Moses Beach (a place where I felt especially connected to mom) so I could honor the day in my own way. 

It wasn't until I was texting with my brother from the cemetery to the beach that I started getting emotional.  I thought about how my niece and nephew would never get to know my mom, or that mom would never get to know her grandchildren.  (People often say to me "mom is looking down on them from heaven" -- but that's not what I believe at all.  I find zero comfort in that.)  I thought about what dating would have been like with mom around (I have a sneaking suspicion that mom would have flirted with my suitors).  I thought about mom being there with me if I ever gave birth (She may have just given the doctor the heave-ho so she could be the first to hold her grandchild).  Then I realized how I'm sad about things thing may or may not come to pass.  Then I wondered if I've been subconsciously avoiding or sabotaging myself because I fear losing those things as well.

Dad and I walked for a while along the beach.  We had hoped that since it was the end of September that it would have been empty, but it was an unseasonably warm day and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Eventually we found a place where people weren't swimming as much (right near the traditionally clothing-optional area), and I committed to the ocean the remainder of the dozen light pink, light purple, and white roses.

Later, dad and I agreed that maybe it wasn't the best thought out plan, as the ocean decided to take some and brought the others back to the shore.  Though it may seem inappropriate on such a solemn occasion, I couldn't help but laugh.  I think mom would have thought it was funny as well. 

Two women down the shore picked up the roses and I let them know what I was trying to do.  They understood (and one of them had also recently commemorated 20 years since her own mother passed) and gave me hugs.  One of them said, "Maybe this is just a reminder to let life come back to you." 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I hope you all know that I have a certain amount of contempt for The Biggest Loser. I don't think their methods are safe, nor are they transparent.  For instance, on the show they often talk about how many calories they are taking in but their expenditure is always talked about in vague terms: "reach[ed] their burn."  It is their dirty little secret. They don't want to show just how high the burn target is. They must be running huge deficits.
But I digress...
So anyways, new season and new trainers equal new blog fodder.  New trainer Jen said that people operate out of "Fear OR love." I disagree.
It isnt binary (one or the other). It is a spectrum that we are always on--fear AND love. The trouble we get ourselves into is when there is more fear, anxiety, or apprehension than love, confidence or courage. We just need 51% of the latter to conquer the former.
That, dear readers, is the mental and emptional aspect of weight loss--to manage and negotiate that spectrum, not to deny that it exists. It is especially evident for those who can't rely on exercise to muffle those voices or to remind us how strong we are.
The anticipatory steps that lead up to a life change are often very exciting. Something or someone has shown us a different path. But there is often fear lurking behind. If we change our behaviors and mental processes, do we change who we are? Do we have to give up the things we love and that make us uniquely our own self? Well... sometimes yes and that is okay. That is evolution: a response to our environment.
Fear tries to tell us that we are losing control.  Love always says "Take a risk; I've got your back."
For the past few months, I have been running on fear and with good reason to do so. I had a few good years and thoughy my back problems were behind me. Falling in the shower in February and landing in the hospital in May shook me up more than I had anticipated.
The fear didn't prevent me from moving. I have been walking A LOT in the past few months, but it did prevent me from even going to the gym. The mental block was wanting to do exactly what I did last year: five miles or mlre on the elliptical and an hour of weights. I couldn't get around it.
Until this morning.
I ran 2 miles on the elliptical.  They were slow, but my legs remembered what to do. Did 5 miles on the bike. Did some weights. Came home to my kitteh and ate a peach.
Was it the most grueling workout? No. But it was one of the most challenging. Today, fear was no match for the love I have for myself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September, I'll remember.

A few months before my mother passed away a photographer friend of my mother's asked if we would help them test out the new backdrop at their studio.  It was my first turn at modeling, and I was very bad at it -- very self aware and uncomfortable.  My mother was a natural.  She always has been a bit of a cheesecake in front of the camera.

I hadn't thought twice about the photography session until years after my mom died.  I went to the photo shop to have some pictures developed (remember when you used to have to do that all the time?).  The shop owners had found the developed photos from that test shoot and were hoping to give them to me when they saw me next.

Inside the envelope were a dozen unexpected treasures. If you look at our family photo albums you can see when my mom got her Pentax K1000:  the photos go from family outings and special occasions to hundreds of photos of flowers and sunsets and the occasional family photo. After mom died, I searched for photos of the two of us (versus group photos), and there just weren't any.  

I'm so thankful to have a photo like this to be among my last with my mother.  Despite all the angst (oh my goodness, so much pubescent angst) and arguments, the frustration and fights, I have these photos that remind me of the love we had for each other (and the love my mom had of coffee).  

This last photo of my mom looking at me really just gets to me.  In all the other photos, she's looking at the camera or making funny faces (talking?), but in this one she looks at me so lovingly and I'm so completely unaware of it. Sometimes I close my eyes and insert myself at different stages of my life -- such as graduations, or a future wedding, etc. -- and I imagine this is how my mom would look at me.  It makes me sad that I didn't and won't have that chance, but also so thankful that for the moments I did have a mother that loved and adored me.  It's more than many kids get. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Resistance, Relinquishment, and Acceptance

Buddhists have a term -- dukkha -- that often gets translated as "suffering." But the term dukkha is much more complex than just the sensation of suffering:  Dukkha is the dissonance between what is (the present moment) and that which was (the past) and/or that which we want (the next moment).  Quite often the dukkha comes from the desire to control what happens in the next moment -- controlling a situation, an outcome, and even our own self.  Buddhists hope to end or mitigate dukkha by focusing on what is true and real in the present moment.

Show me one person trying to lose weight/gain health that hasn't experience dukkha. 

I've yet to find someone looking to lose weight/gain health that isn't suffering.  I see it in their eyes and I hear it in their words.  They suffer the past unhappiness and trauma that lead them to gaining the weight.  They suffer the present moment of having to carry the physical and emotional weight.  They suffer the anxiety and fear of having to live the rest of their life on a diet or in a gym.

Past:  So many people who are looking to lose weight are held back by their feelings about the past (disclaimer:  in the case of trauma, any investigation into the past should be done in a safe and moderated environment such as a psychologist's office so as to not cause further trauma).   In my opinion, it is next to impossible to change your life until you address the past and untangle yourself from its influence.  It's not about denying that your past happened, it's about saying that you're no longer going to let it dictate your present and future. Understanding one's past is much different than being held hostage by it.

Present:  The present is the only part in your timeline where you have any control, any say, any choice. In order to truly be in the present moment, you need to forgive yourself for any missteps that you may have made in the past and then let it metamorphose into the love you have for yourself today. Believe it or not, this is the way to enjoy the weight loss/health gain process.  Transformation cannot come from a place of shame, deprivation, anger, fear, or outside influence. It comes with having your mind and heart connected to your body in this very moment. You will have good days and bad, and moments that are hard, but you will find the strength to endure because this is a process of love.  Be a part of the the process; not apart from it.

Future:  The future is anything that has not already occurred and is not happening at the present moment. It's a place of endless possibilities.  When we try to control situations, outcomes, people, we restrict those possibilities of what could be.  Who knows, maybe the universe has something better for us than we could have ever imagined with our limited point of view.  The magic happens here.  When we learn to let go of our anxiety and fear in the present, we open a door to the future.  It's the ultimate act of relinquishment -- to give in to the process and say "let this path take me on a journey" versus "I know where I am going."

Now... just because I understand these concepts doesn't mean I'm a good practitioner of these things all the time.  I know that I hold on to the past; a past defined in loss. I find myself so focused on trying to get through things in the future that I have blinders to the present moment.  I forget that I can make healthy choices even while I feel inundated.  And I'm so very bad at trusting a future based on present actions.

BUT, I'm able to practice awareness of these things. I can catch myself in moments where I'm stuck in the past, or where I'm trying to architect a future. I feel the dissonance in my body when I'm trying too hard to control things that are not within my purview to control.

Shotover River, South Island, NZ
Sometimes I just close my eyes and imagine myself in a stream, and instead of trying to swim upstream, I just accept the flow, relinquish control, stop resisting, and enjoy being a part of the flow.