February 06, 2013 ~ Comments Off

loosening up

My husband and I are taking kickboxing classes right now. They basically amount to 45 minutes of continuous movement of some part of your body, usually several parts in rapid succession. Along with kicking and punching, there are lunges, squats, reverse planks, sit-ups, push-ups and other things that make me shake like a junkie.

Just over 4 years ago, I was pretty darn fit. I grew up fat, sedentary and slow, but when I moved to Memphis and found myself utterly alone, my nightly routine began involving 2-3 hours at the gym, sweating my ass off on the elliptical and, most nights, going through a full circuit of weight training.

What I’m saying is, I know my body can do this, that my muscles can become powerful enough, my heart strong enough, my lungs able to keep things moving along. But the real challenge, I’m finding, is my inflexibility. In all the time I was lifting weights and running in place to escape my poor self image, I was bulking up, tightening, but never really MOVING.

I watch the other students planting roundhouse kicks on their bags and hope that I’ll be able to loosen up enough one day to use my whole body to drive my shin into the bag. That I’ll be able to jump side to side with both feet at the same time. That that move where you go from a crouch to a full-out sprawl won’t be laughably impossible for me to even attempt.

Right now, though, everything’s locked. My pelvis feels like it’s fused to my femurs. My knees won’t bend. My ankles feel weak. It’s hard holding up more than 210 pounds, granted, but I know it goes beyond that. I know I should’ve been doing yoga in between weight-training sessions. I should’ve joined a gym where there was a pool to keep me limber. Those are things I still need to do today, and hopefully I will.

Tonight’s class was truly difficult. It’s been a rough week for me overall, and it’s left me feeling weak and utterly drained. I’ve been sick since Christmas Eve (probably still am, according to recent test results) but the symptoms have basically disappeared. Then on Sunday, I stopped wanting to eat – poof! – which is the opposite of who I am normally. I’m never NOT hungry. My brain and emotions have been pulled in a million directions since then, which is why I think I’ve lost all interest in food, but it’s still a little scary.

Tonight, as I tried to make those strong roundhouse kicks happen, I could feel the tension in my joints, the resistance to truly move. As I planted left and right crosses on the flanks of the bag, tears filled my eyes, my fists trying their hardest to mercilessly pummel what’s been eating at me all week.

It’s going to take a long time for me to truly loosen up, to do the moves right and put everything I have into these workouts. But as I think about my joints loosening, I also find myself thinking about the pieces of my brain that have been packed so tightly together for the last few years, at least, that my mind has become just as stiff as my hips.

The troubles I have socially stem from disuse. The mistakes I make are because I no longer know what it means to interact with people, build relationships, be a person myself. And I started making progress toward loosening up my brain this week, by attending an art studio session and building on a friendship. Those two things felt ridiculously good. So good that I could feel those little spots where my brain was welded together start opening up, letting little droplets of life ooze through the crevices. I was inspired, lit up, punch drunk, hopeful. And while the apex is behind me now, those tiny cracks are still there, reminding me there’s so much inside just waiting to get out.

I want my mind and body to be opened, as crazy-hippie as that sounds. I want to experience life and freedom and love and joy without self-imposed boundaries. I’ve spent my life feeling squelched by the world, when, in reality, I had the power to push past it, to loosen up those rusty joints and get moving. I had the power to choose not to make those ever-practical decisions that ultimately left me feeling incomplete and unsatisfied.

The only sticking point is, it’s hard to be alone in a revolution, especially when you’re not alone in life. It’s even harder when you’re one of those people who would lie down in the mud if it meant a friend in need could stay clean. And when you find yourself married and expected daily at your corporate job, it seems nearly impossible to redefine yourself.

I’m starting small for now, in ways I know will help. More kickboxing. More yoga. More drawing. More friendship. More talking. More therapy. More thinking. More writing. More nurturing my spirit in ways that I haven’t, probably, ever. I just want to feel the tightness leave my bones, my brain, my heart. I’ve been stuck for 28 years, and for once, I’d like to be able to truly move.

February 06, 2013 ~ Comments Off

build her up

Dooce posted her daughter’s 108-month newsletter this morning and it totally punched me in the heart. When Leta asked whether her mom was OK with her eating cereal for dinner, Heather thought back to the years of feeling physically inadequate, to the kids who teased her. She knows Leta’s becoming more and more aware of the world and people around her, that she must’ve heard something at school that made her wonder if eating cereal for dinner would make her fat. The following absurdly heartwarming discourse was the result:

So I leaned forward on the table as I gathered my thoughts and said, “If you’re hungry, I think you should eat until you’re not hungry. If that’s one bowl of cereal, that’s one bowl of cereal. If it’s two bowls of cereal, it’s two.”

You wrinkled your forehead a bit and then pushed harder. “But what if two bowls of cereal make me fat?”

“You know what?” I said. “If two bowls of cereal fill you up then dinner was a success. It doesn’t matter what you look like.”

“It doesn’t?” you asked.

“No,” I answered. “You want to know why? Because you’re absolutely perfect and always will be.” I then lifted up one of your arms to make a point. “Even if this hand right here grows to be as big as a house, it will still be a perfect hand.”

You giggled and shook your head. “I won’t be able to pick up a spoon and eat cereal if my hand is THAT big.”

“Well then, I’ll get you a bigger spoon,” I said.

This seemed to satisfy you, but I wanted to make sure that these words lingered long after that meal. “Leta, you are my favorite person,” I said.

I got a little teary-eyed thinking what it would’ve been like to hear something like that when I was a child. In the middle of the elementary schoolers asking, as elementary schoolers do, exactly WHY I was so fat. Somewhere between my fellow trumpet players asking the only other female in our section to pull back her hair and show us all how SHE didn’t have sideburns, and the high school kids who didn’t get me labeling me a lesbian because clearly no guy was ever going to take a liking to a gargantuan, hairy girl-thing. Maybe while I was chatting with 45-year-old skeezes in AOL chat rooms, pretending to be 22 when I was really 15. Or when I was gazing forlornly at the precipice of ending my life because I was convinced I’d never be truly happy a single day in my life.

I don’t necessarily blame my parents for never expressing my uniqueness and beauty. I was their third child, separated from my closest sibling by 9 years and birthed on the brink of my parents’ marriage collapsing after nearly two decades. There were a lot of other things for them to worry about, like child support, court proceedings, going back to work after leaving college to get married and raise babies, getting remarried to extramarital affairs, picking up the pieces of their lives… making new lives after 20 years of being each other’s everything. I can’t imagine a damn thing harder.

Still, though, it would’ve meant a lot to the woman I became. Even when you have the clarity of mind to look back and see what messed you up along the way, that doesn’t fix the problem. When I saw a therapist a few years back, I beat him to the punch on diagnosing every single problem I had. But that didn’t make me cry any less, or make me stop wishing I could just disappear from the world forever.

I guess the most important thing I took away from Heather’s story is that, no matter what you say to your daughter (or your son), it will leave a mark, whether anyone realizes it or not. She is making sure her mark on Leta is filled with love and encouragement, self-acceptance and healthy attitudes, kindness and strength. The mark my parents left on me was more along the lines of responsibility to the detriment of joy – fiscal, personal, etc. It was more about good grades and finding a job. The practicality of the world overshadowed my ability to enjoy it, to fully live. And I find myself regretting that to this day. I hope Leta never regrets anything. Not a single thing. I’ll never meet her, or her mom, but they deserve a life of freedom, not bound by the hang-ups that cast shadows over what it means to be truly alive and fully happy.

[Above excerpt © 2013 Armstrong Media, LLC.]

February 06, 2013 ~ Comments Off

emooooo

I just remembered why I don’t listen to Pandora all day long at work. *wipes away a tear* I have no idea what they’re even singing about, and I don’t know enough about music to detail why it stabs me in the heart like one of those spring-loaded meat tenderizers, but there you have it. Time to create an upbeat station! *desperate clicking*

February 05, 2013 ~ Comments Off

things I want to do

In the next year, there are a few things I want to do, in no particular order:

  • Go to a few more life drawing studios at Memphis College of Art
  • Do a little sketching every day at lunch
  • Start and finish my Sketchbook Project book in time for the tour going through Memphis
  • Get a small tattoo, most likely of a sea turtle to commemorate my time on Fripp Island
  • Get some kind of “hidden” brightly colored highlights so I don’t get fired for having wacky hair
  • Have a meaningful visit with my best friend, who lives in Michigan
  • Kickbox the shit out of myself so I can look in the mirror without cringing again
  • Start talking to people at work, in social situations, etc.
  • Put myself in a few more of those aforementioned social situations
  • Try to make and keep friends here in Memphis
  • Listen to more good music
  • Stop being so fucking hard on myself

February 05, 2013 ~ Comments Off

dumping ground

I have run out of places to say stupid shit.

When Facebook is full of your relatives and co-workers, and Twitter is packed with pretentious bastards who will call you out for sounding like a tool, where can you turn to say things like:

I really wish I could take pictures with my eyes. There are so many things I want to remember exactly the way I see them, from the angle I’m in, without pulling out a clunky SLR or cheap point-and-shoot. There’s emotion in the angle and memories made in that moment that cannot be brought forth with even the most masterful manual focus.

See?

I guess I just have to say stupid shit here from now on.