The day I realized I was fat

I’ve never been a crazy fit person but I’ve always been active and up for anything that sounded fun – hiking a trail, beach yoga, rec sports, river tubing or paddle boarding.

When I moved across the country to be with my partner after 4 years of distance, I had difficulty getting outside (the climate was different and I hated the heat), I felt lonely and awkward meeting people (and was too shy to try rec sports without knowing anyone), and my depression worsened, which made being active much harder.

I gained some weight, and I wasn’t happy about it, but I also was trying to accept it for what it was – a really difficult time in my life that had an effect on my body. And truthfully, I expected it to be temporary; I expected that I would feel good again.

After seeing the destruction that self-hate can do (more on that another time) I work really hard at acceptance and self-love. That doesn’t mean I succeed all the time, but it means I actively seek to accept my body as is – I don’t restrict food or crash diet, I buy clothes that fit and that I feel good in (even if I wish the tag was a different size) and I refuse to engage in self-hate with other women: “my thighs are so fat” or “I look like a cow” doesn’t fly with me.

Usually..

That is, until today. When a man I hardly know (he works at my company) asked me if I was expecting.

“What?”
“I asked, are you expecting?”
“Expecting what?” [This should have been a clue to him.]
“You know, expecting?” (He then proceeded to make a big, round bump gesture with his hands in front of his stomach.)

For the record, I am not pregnant.

I am, however, mortified.

I actually had to go to my car and scream, because I thought my chest was going to explode.

What this person didn’t know was what hell the past year has been for me. That some days it’s been a struggle to get up and go to work bc I feel so out of place. That some days I feel like quitting and going back to my home state, even though I know this was the right move for my relationship. That this year has been scary, exhausting, confusing. I don’t regret moving for a second, but this year has been one of the hardest of my life. And this guy, who thought it okay to speak out about my body, had no fucking clue.

So today I realized that I am fat.

But while I’m working to gather myself together again, I realized a few other things too:

I realized that I have a dedicated support network to hold me up, and that I’m going to rest on them, because I need the help right now.

I realized that the changes in my body are, in part, due to the major life changes I’ve endured and the associated stress.

I realized that I need to take some time to work on my self care – my emotional well-being.

I realized that with emotional well-being comes physical well-being.

I realized that this one part of me – my weight – is only one part. That I am strong and driven and smart and compassionate, and that those things matter more than my outward appearance.

I realized that I want to surround myself with people who believe their own worth is based on their character too.

It’s amazing how one person’s ignorant little comment can wreck such havoc on our self esteem… if you let it.

I had my freak out scream in the car (I still consider this a completely appropriate reaction). It’s out of my system. Today I choose to reject worth based on other people’s opinions or on superficial characteristics. Today I choose me and my happiness, and that might mean a carb-filled brunch with new friends or it might mean a spinning class that I’ve been wanting to try. My goal is some balance of both.

The Power of Kindness

A colleague of mine, let’s call her Lynne, recently shared with me that she is leaving this branch of our company and relocating to another office across the city.  I had been hearing stirrings of this and had been having anxiety since the second word began to spread, but couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I was having this reaction.  I’ve worked for the company for only 9 months.  I work with Lynne intermittently – a couple of times each week, or so – and it’s not like we have become close friends.  But I could not get it out of my head, that I might have to work at the company without her, and then she confirmed it, and my stomach dropped.

Where was this reaction coming from?

About a year ago, my partner and I relocated from our home in the Midwest to Southern Florida and the adjustment has been hard. To say the least.  The cultures in the respective areas are completely different and, as I work in public service, directly with members the community, I have had to learn new ways to greet people, to communicate, to interact.

If you’ve ever tried to learn something new, you know that it can be exhausting to get up and try again, remember that one thing, and (to be frank) fail over and over again at the new thing you’re trying to learn.

So what is it about Lynne’s leaving that has created such a reaction in my core?

What I know about Lynne is that I can ask her any question, bring her any concern, and she will try to understand.  What I know about Lynne is that when someone makes  a mistake, she doesn’t make fun – she helps to make it right.  What I know about Lynne is that she shares her knowledge with those around her in a way that helps people to learn; that she is humble and soft-spoken when it matters, instead of boastful and self-serving; that she is welcoming  and open-minded, rather than exclusive or superior.

What I know about Lynne is that, above all things, she is kind.

Lynne’s kindness has meant the world to me over the past 9 months.  It has kept me from falling apart some days, and I am going to miss her kindness.  I don’t know how long I’m going to live in this city, or how long I’m going to work at this company.  I don’t even know what I am having for dinner. But I know that I can continue to seek out kindness in others, to encourage it, foster it, thank them for it.  I know that I can commit to being kind.  Because we could use more kindness in our world anywhere we can get it.

 

 

 

27 Goals for my 27th Year 

In just a few days I will celebrate my 27th birthday.  I’m glad to be leaving 26 behind – it was a year of trying hard to be brave (moving across the country), facing fears (exploring a new culture) and firsts with S (moving in together), but it was also really lonely (moving across the country), really uncomfortable (exploring a new culture) and really REAL (moving in together).

Nonetheless, I believe in celebrating birthdays, so here are 27 things I want in my 27th year:

  1. Cut out things that make me unhappy.
  2. Learn to say ‘no’ to things that I know won’t add to my happiness.
  3. Be proud of the boundaries I set for my happiness (and stand by those boundaries!).
  4. Do more of what makes me feel good.
  5. Be proud of doing the things that make me feel good – even if people think they’re weird, even if people think they’re stupid.
  6. Ignore people who think my “good things” are stupid.  That’s stupid.
  7. Focus on getting stronger, rather than getting thinner.
  8. Embrace whatever my “stronger” or “getting stronger” body looks like, simply because it’s mine.
  9. Release myself of other people’s unhappiness – it’s not my job to fix it.
  10. Remind myself, kindly, when I forget that it’s not my job to fix it.
  11. Release myself of regret from past mistakes or failures.
  12. Actually, don’t even call them failures.. call them “lessons learned”.
  13. Embrace the place I’m in  –  wherever that is: try the language, do the activities, jump in (the Atlantic Ocean).
  14. Also, embrace the suck  –  acknowledge that, even though this is where I am now, this isn’t where I’ll be forever.  Take comfort in that.
  15. But don’t wallow in the suck – this place isn’t for me, make a new plan, move on.
  16. Keep being brave – if this place isn’t the place for me, explore someplace else.
  17. Be honest, stay true, do the kind and right thing – even when it’s not the popular opinion.
  18. Just be kind – before anything else – because we all need kindness.
  19. Most of all, be kind to myself.
  20. Keep facing fears – keep trying to reach out to make connections, keep trying to find places to fit and love.
  21. Build up a bit of a skin – every attempt to make friends and find places to fit won’t be successful.  That’s okay.
  22. Adventure!  Small adventures, big adventures, whatever – just adventure.
  23. Try new foods, or experience cultural foods – a small adventure.  Quesadillas and spicy shrimp tacos will always be available.
  24. Travel – leave the country for the first time!  Travel to the place we might move next.  Travel home.  Travel to the next town over.  Travel anywhere.
  25. Get that tattoo I’ve been wanting for 2 years.
  26. Paint my nails – painting nails used to be so relaxing and meditative for me, but I’ve gotten away from it.
  27.  At the end of 27, focus on what I did well this year. ♥

 

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In a conversation with a good friend today about my struggles to adjust to South Florida, feeling lonely and missing the familiar, she said something that I found extremely sobering:

“I know that stuff is important, but the cost is your happiness.”

_____________________

I’ve always been a career-focused, forward-focused, movement-focused (FOCUSED) type of woman.  I’m not one to be stagnant or “wait and see” or “figure it out” – I don’t even like to be in the same room as people like that because I just can’t function that way.  The ambiguity makes me anxious and uncomfortable and craving an answer.

[In 7th grade, I was quite unhappy after not making the cheerleading team (twice), so I spent the next summer creating my own training program, working nearly every day to improve my flexibility, jumps, and motions.  That fall I made the middle school squad – I was so proud.  By my sophomore year of high school, I was on the varsity team and during both seasons of my senior year, I was captain of the varsity team.  I have always refused to take no as an answer.]

______________________

After moving to Florida with S and being faced with, what felt like, pitfall after pitfall, I fought hard to make this place work.  I read books, I reached out, tried to meet people and make friends, tried to focus on my career, tried to think of this place as just a “temporary home” in order to ease the pressure I felt.  But it’s been clear that I’m not settling in the way I hoped.  And so S asked if I wanted to try someplace else.

I’ve been so focused on making it work here, that, while I have fantasized about going someplace else, I didn’t think it was really an option right now.  But S has opened that door for me.

Suddenly the pressure (specifically the pressure I’m feeling to decide about a 5 year contract at my company) doesn’t feel quite so high.  I also am acutely aware that I have to wipe the phrase “I have to ___” from my list of excuses  – because I don’t have to do anything.

So, is it a failure if I couldn’t make it work here?

Can I “refuse to take no for an answer” by rejecting a lifestyle or location that isn’t making me happy?

 

Tethered to Home

Tethered to Home: A reflection of exploring new and missing old. 

 

I am pulled back like the hard snap of a rubber band;

Pushing forward, stretching, seeking the new, before being yanked backwards yet again.

 

Tethered, I am reminded, to what I left behind,

No matter how hard I tried to charge ahead.

The advance was bogus anyway, right?

Fake it ’till you make it, right?

Because I am tethered.

 

Sometimes I am thankful,

Because I’ve reached too far into the new, so far,

And I crave the astern.

I grasp for the tether, feeling my way blindly,

Because this is all unfamiliar.

The tether gives me relief,

Comfort,

A moment to catch my breath.

 

And as soon as I catch my breath, I am thwarted.

I wanted growth, evolution, transformation.

I wanted to make it.

On my own.

Without the tether.

 

I can’t be tethered forever,

Can I?

 

So I lean forward again, into the new.

But perhaps more slowly this time,

Inflating little by little.

Expanding the new, little by little,

And checking behind me,

Because the tether is there if I need it.

Home is there if I need it.

 

via Daily Prompt: Tether

Homesick

What do you do when you feel homesick, disconnected, far away?

Really, I want to know.  Because I don’t have any good answers today.

I figure I can embrace it (#lovewhereyoulive), distract myself and push it away or wallow in it.  I briefly think of calling friends from home, but this is just public wallowing.  I’m a little tired of trying to embrace South Florida (because it feels like I’ve tried and tried and tried).  I realize that feeling ‘home’ doesn’t develop overnight, but today I’m over it.

[I’m going to warn you right here that this entry doesn’t come to any conclusion about what the answer is.]

So in my wallow-ness, looking for some sympathy, I google “living in wrong place”:

Laura Donovan writes about her realization that NYC was not the place for her: “I realized then that NYC had turned me into the absolute worst version of myself”, she writes.  Donovan writes that you know you’re living in the wrong place if:

  • You’re always dressed wrong
  • You hate the weather
  • You always want to get out
  • Everything angers or upsets you
  • You blame all of your problems on the city
  • You don’t fit in with the culture
  • It doesn’t offer your favorite food
  • You hate the transportation situation
  • The benefits don’t outweigh the downsides
  • You’re always wondering what the heck you’re doing with your life

OUCH.  Thanks for the gut punch.  The lines about hating the weather made me laugh because this has been my complaint from day 1 – we moved into our apartment on a 95* day in August, and because S (a wildlife biologist) works outside in said heat and I work in an air-conditioned building, I have nothing to complain about.

But the cultural aspects have been so, so difficult for this Midwesterner to adjust to.. “Some thrive in cities like NYC, but I was a mess there”, says Donovan.  She’s right on point here – sometimes I think the no-rest, party-hard, in-your-face, focus-on-glitz-and-glam culture in South Florida is slowly driving me crazy.  What’s been particularly hard is realizing that some people really love this city – my work colleagues, many who are natives, love this culture – they seem energized by it, excited to be a part of it.  And I just don’t get it.. 

Grace Edwards writes that “living in the wrong city for your lifestyle and personality can steal your peace, negativity effect your career mobility, social options and finances”.

She says you know you need a new city when:

  • You need a different pace
  • The weather is killing you
  • Local activities bore the hell out of you
  • Your career can’t thrive where you are
  • The people suck
  • The housing prices are astronomical
  •  You can’t stand the commute
  • You’ve always wanted to move but are too scared

One thing I’m proud to report is that I don’t feel afraid to move again – we moved once, across the country, away from everyone we knew, and it didn’t work out.  And we survived.  This outcome, while less than I had hoped for, at least makes me feel resilient.

But I often feel that the people suck.. and that’s a shitty realization.  It’s not that I feel the people here are less or that the people from where I’m from are better, it’s just that I often feel that the people here are choosing to be rude or inconsiderate or selfish, and so it’s hard to have unconditional positive regard for the people I’m surrounded by, as experience has shown me otherwise.

Emma Lord reflects that sometimes a change means moving to a new city, state or timezone, but sometimes a change just means moving to a different area of the same place.  She says that “you know yourself well enough to know when you are in the right place, and when it might be time to consider a major change”

Lord’s list of “signs it’s time to move on” are:

  • You get major FOMO living where you live now
  • You went on a trip and were sad to leave
  • There are too many bad memories attached to where you live
  • You are constantly asking your friends who moved away what it’s like
  • You are hesitant to make long term commitments where you live now
  • You’ve talked about moving before
  • You have major road rage where you live now
  • Your career goals would be better served elsewhere
  • You want to be closer to your family
  • Or, you want to move further away from your family
  • You don’t agree with the points of view for your state
  • You are too hot/cold or can’t take the weather anymore
  • You just need a change

Oh man, I totally have FOMO.  I have been brought to tears at the thought of missing my friends getting engaged, have babies, and move on with their lives – because I imagined doing all those things with them – I expected to be there for all of it.  And then I expected to still be a part of it even though I wasn’t physically there.  Don’t get me wrong, I send the new mommies and babies all kinds of obnoxious gifts and visit when I can, but it’s just different.  And here’s the kicker – I also have fear of them missing out on my life.

I love that Lord brings up that it can be exhausting to consistently feel like you’re fighting when it comes to culture or opinions of a city – “although I’m all for sticking around and fighting the good fight where it most needs fighting, it can be too upsetting to live in a place where people have drastically different views than you, or where you’re surrounded by mindsets and moral codes that feel unshakably problematic to you”.  PREACH, girl!  I have been feeling this a lot lately – like I can’t beat ’em, but I can’t join ’em either because it’s against my moral code.

I can identify with a lot (okay, most) of the thoughts the authors have listed as reasons to consider another city.. which is a little distressing, as S and I had planned to stay in our current city for a few years.

Still, Lord’s reflection that “Change is not as far out of reach as it can sometimes feel” brought me a little bit of comfort.

Eat Local 

Through S’s job, we met some friends who invited us out to breakfast.  They chose an authentic Cuban restaurant.  A little leery of the new-ness, we said yes.

Accepting the invitation to the restaurant accomplished a few things:

  • Building relationships with new friends
  • Eating local and supporting the local economy
  • Exploring the area
  • Existing in the culture of our city

We met these friends through S’s work and felt liked we clicked with them right away.  But even so, making friends is like dating again for the first time – it’s awkward, embarrassing and anxiety-provoking.  These friends were relaxed and knew the area, and so we asked for their ideas about where we should meet, with the caveat that we wanted to try something unique.

Cuban toast and cafe con leche (I’m told I ate the toast incorrectly.. can you eat toast incorrectly?).

We met at a local cuban restaurant and tried the local cuisine – cafe con leche (strong, strong, strong coffee with milk), cuban toast (flat hot bread with butter; the taste would remind you of sourdough), and croquetas (ground ham and cheese coated in breading).  On our way out, I grabbed a pineapple soda (my favorite thing of the morning).  The food was unique in flavor, texture and ingredients.

I loved watching the people come and go from the restaurant – many who appeared to be of Cuban descent and most appeared to be locals/regulars.  It wasn’t my cup of tea (er.. strong coffee..) but it was worth the trip.

After leaving the cuban restaurant, we headed downtown because our new friend had heard about a gelato place she wanted to try.  We parked a few blocks away and walked the short distance to the shoppe.

There is nothing as good as gelato on a humid, 98* day.

Can you live off gelato?  Because.. WOW!

This place was run by an Italian family.  The waitress made a comment about how she was still learning the language -her Italian accent was heavy and she was sometimes difficult to understand.  It was so refreshing and relieving to encounter someone else, albeit different, who was adjusting.

Third Space 

I love the show Friends. I didn’t watch it when it was on TV, as I was between the ages of 4 and 14 when it originally aired, but I discovered it on Netflix (#millennial) and now almost constantly have it on repeat.

Friends and How I Met Your Mother became fast favorites because there’s something comforting about the familiar ‘young adult’ problems they faced (the one where Monica goes through a break-up with Richard, or the one where Rachel is trying to figure out her career, or the one when Lily and Marshall have to take a break to figure out life) and because of the close bonds they maintain through many life changes.

Photo from IGN.com

Both shows have a mutual space in which they gather – for Friends it’s the coffee shop, ‘Central Perk’ and for How I Met YourMother it’s the bar, ‘MacLaren’s  Pub’ – the crew always sit in the same couch or booth and it’s like a home away from home.  Melody Warnick would call this a “third space”.

Photo from Dailymail.com

In Warnick’s book, This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, Warnick describes the process of learning to love her new home and finding a ‘third space’ – a place other than home and work that you can find peace, feel comfortable, hang out.

In the spirit of trying to love the new place that S and I live in South Florida, we decided to try to create a third space.  This is especially important for us because we live in a small, one-bedroom apartment and the space is laughably limited (our family recently came to visit and we all stayed in the apartment which conveniently lost it’s air conditioning for 24 hours, making us hot and sweaty, in addition to being physically on top of each other.. It was an experience.).

We decided on Atelier 3, a coffee shop and lounge, lovingly called At3 by those of us who can’t pronounce “atelier” (adl-yay) correctly (“atelier” means “a workshop or studio used by an artist or designer” – thanks Google).  We had been here once before and it reminded us of a coffee shop we used to frequent in college – a little hippy, lots of board games and eclectic decor.  The atmosphere is open and there is lots of natural light.  There were a few people in and out, and it got busier later in the afternoon, but it was mostly quiet.  We played games, drank mimosas and ordered breakfast sandwiches. We made small talk with the barista and another patron, asking for his recommendation on places to rent kayaks.

We actually really enjoyed our afternoon at At3.  We laughed a lot (thanks to a question game that asked things like “which of you fart more?”) and we felt relaxed (a rarity due to our busy schedules).

Friends-esque set up – was this meant to be?!

So – will we be back?  I absolutely think we will.

 

Finding Beauty 

In Melody Warnick’s This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, she discusses ‘walkability’ of her new town and opts to walk as much as she can to be able to better explore and appreciate the beauty of her neighborhood.

I travel 20 miles South to my job in Miami, but due to the heavy traffic, it often takes me an hour or more to commute (thank you, audiobooks and NPR for keeping me sane).  Walking or biking obviously isn’t an option for me, and we don’t want to move further South because S works about 10 miles North of our home.

While driving along rows of perfectly planted palm trees might seem exotic for a Midwesterner, I sometimes miss the forest-lined highways and roads that bend and wind around farms or lakes, sometimes turning to gravel.  Of course in the urban areas of Michigan, driving wasn’t so whimsical, but maybe because it was familiar, it didn’t seem so stark and dull.  Miami, comparatively, feels like a concrete-jungle, like too many people in too small a space.

During my stop-and-go commute one day, while stationary on the expressway, I snapped a photo of the city skyline, just as daylight finished blooming, revealing the metropolis in the distance.


When I showed my Miami-born-and-raised colleague the photo, she was ecstatic over it: “wow, this is so beautiful!”, she cooed.  “Beautiful?”, I thought, “What’s so beautiful about buildings?”.  It was cool, but nothing like scenes from home (see the cover photo above – titled “a sunset in rural Michigan”, by photographer Nick Scobel).

In reading Warnick’s book, I had an “ah-ha” moment – my colleague thinks this place is beautiful because this is her home, because she has fond, loving, wonderful memories of growing up and raising a family and having good experiences in this place.

I don’t know if I can commit to loving this place, or to staying 3-5 years, but I can choose to look for what is beautiful while I am here.  It’s a different sort of beauty than I loved in Michigan, but beautiful just the same.

Unpacking

In Melody Warnick’s This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, Warnick conducts a self experiment to see if she can create place attachment to her new home.  She says reports that, according to research, “place attachment peaks 3 to 5 years after one moves to a new city”.

…3 to 5 years!?

I think I actually laughed out loud when I read that line.  I was not planning on 3 to 5 years.

When S and I first moved to South Florida, I was sure that we would only be here a short time.  I had a mental plan that we would move for a couple of years and then be back in our home state of Michigan, where we could pick up with old friends and old favorites, maybe even old jobs.  I couldn’t possibly be away for 3 to 5 years.

When we left the Midwest, it felt as though Michigan should remain static, since we were the ones changing.  But then my friends had babies and got married and bought houses – and we weren’t there.  Their parents got sick, or they had a death in the family, and we weren’t there.

“Unpack your life wherever you are”.

Warnick reflects on a conversation with a friend who recommends “unpacking your life wherever you are” – even if you’re staying in a hotel room, unpack your things and settle in.

Though we’ve unpacked our boxes, I wonder if by staying focused on the things we are missing, and by viewing South Florida as a “short stay”, we are remaining boxed up.  I wonder if S and I need to unpack the hopes and plans and ideas we have for our life together and get started on them, rather than holding off.

Putting a timeline on our life in Florida seems to be keeping us boxed too.. but there’s also a fear in acknowledging that Florida could feel like a home.  Becuase Michigan was our home.

Can you have two homes?

Warnick argues that you can have attachment to more than one place, and that if you have created place attachment sucessfully, you can do it again somewhere new.

Perhaps she is right.  But there is also grief in moving and leaving home, no matter how good the move is. S and I moved to be together after years in different cities and states; we found jobs in which we have opportunities for growth.  If we create attachment to this place, as we had in our last place, then won’t we grieve this place too?  And is that grief worth the work it takes to unpack?

To be determined..