Compass

I have a horrible sense of direction. I also fear that I do not automatically know what is right, what is left without stopping to think and orient myself. The right/left hand debates likely stem from early childhood, when my left-handed preference for writing instruments became apparent yet is about the only thing I do as a lefty. Scissors and everything else tends to be right-hand dominant. At that time neither my parents nor school officials tried to get me to only use my right hand, but they did want me to do everything with my left and that was (and does) feel wrong to me.

As for my sense of direction, honestly I was in my 20s and driving probably 10 years before I noticed the east/west/north/south signs on the freeways. Where I live now, I have been in this area my whole life and grew up thinking of the freeway directions as Reno, San Francisco, South Tahoe, and Fresno instead of east/west/north/south (although South Tahoe is not technically north). M always has to correct me because I will be referencing a nearby town and point in the wrong direction of where it actually is geographically in relation to where I happen to be standing. Thank goodness for map applications.

While my sense of direction is a distant corollary to this post, I felt like oversharing obscure facts about me. 🙂

Ongoing Motivation

I have written so extensively on my better health quest and the steps I am taking to do better, be better for the balance of my life. Funny, but I don’t look backwards, don’t wish I had started sooner or earlier in life, imagine how much more accomplished and further along and healthier I would be right now. Before I started this time, I was not ready. Plus if you never think you will be successful at much, it seems sort of pointless to look backward and see the carnage of self-fulfilling prophecies. I had plenty of opportunities; I tried different programs, other trainers, stretches of regular exercise and really good, healthy eating choices. Obviously nothing stuck long enough to make much of an impact or I would not be writing about my current better health quest as this time. I tried setting goals and timelines and measures for accountability and tracking. I faltered, failed, stopped, quit. The cycle was so familiar it did feel almost preordained. I truly expected this time to be more of the same.

Then I started working with J and became the rebel without a rulebook. After a fashion, of course. I am still very much a law-abiding citizen, and the times I have forgotten my wallet and drivers license for trips to the gym were genuine accidents, not me genuflecting the very tiny ghost of any rule-breaking soul I may possess.

I am not big on goals and goal setting; for me it is an artificial deadline that stresses me out should I fail to meet it within a reasonable timeframe. The stress and my own definition of “reasonable” are factors that guarantee failure, so much so that the anticipation of failure makes me not want to start anything that could lead me to meeting the set goal. So I don’t set goals or timelines for achievements. I don’t track milestones and progress on anything other than a vaguely emotional practicality, i.e., how I feel about my progress. Instead of goals, I have some very general, very broad objectives to achieve. Someday. The path is there, and I can take baby steps forward, big giant leaps ahead, or backslide to square one and still feel like I am not a complete and utter failure. Semantics? Maybe. But I have finally discovered a process that works for me and has kept me faithfully reporting to the gym most days and completing a List of the day or some hodgepodge of exercises. Most important to me: I am seeing and feeling the results of my efforts. Not big, not flashy, not something that will set the world on fire and make me some social media phenom (besides, I barely use social media). Simple, quiet, obscure things that matter to me.

My healthier eating is always hit-and-miss. Sometimes I go weeks on end with lots of protein, fruits, vegetables, and feel fantastic. Other times I backslide and eat crap food and pay the consequences for my actions. The zig and the zag of it all doesn’t send me running for the exit and hiding out until those who associate with and inspire me finally give up and fade away. Nope. The zig and the zag – sometimes I make good choices, sometimes I make less positive choices. But there is always another opportunity to change my ways, to do better. More often than not anymore, I step up and I do do better. Negative girl no longer enslaves me. Realistic acceptance of my humanity and imperfection is infinitely more satisfying in its successes and a softer blow in its setbacks.

Perhaps motivation for me is that it’s okay to falter, okay to backslide, okay to embrace my imperfection as it exists right now. Success stories focus primarily on habits changed without the complete backstory of how many tries it took to successfully implement better habits. For the most part, I have stopped reading those as well. Things are too pat, too perfect, too spoon-fed to make it sound doable and even easy. I know from experience none of this is easy. Satisfying, even enjoyable in the positive vibes, but for me it has never been easy. I trust my experience more than the stories I read. I applaud and am genuinely happy for other people’s success, but I do not believe that what worked for them is going to work for me in precisely the same ways.

Fat vs. Fit

Awhile back, J shared with me the following images:

Fit v Fat

Comparison scans of an obese 250 lb. woman versus a fit 120 lb. woman. Image courtesy of enhancinghumanperformance.net.

If I need motivation or a reminder why I am pursuing my better health quest, I can retrieve this illustration and examine it more closely. It’s not just the aesthetics of those big patches of white, but how it envelopes and smothers vital organs and even shows up inside the brain.

Uncomfortable and frightening to view, to know I was far closer to the obese woman scan than the fit woman scan.

Is this enough to get me to put down my fork and lace up my shoes? Not always, but when I’m waffling, when my feelings get hurt by inane comments from friends who I thought would celebrate my efforts with me and instead pooh-pooh and fret about my new little muscles peeking out beneath my skin. Where I see wow! I have muscles! They see something else, something dark and negative and unattractive. And it’s a shame. It’s unfortunate that they project their fears and anxiety about change onto me and my efforts. It’s not nice, it’s not fair, and it’s very hurtful. My understanding has expanded to where I can accept they disagree with my vision of better health. But, my life, my health; they can go pound sand. Most of the time I even express that in a far kinder, gentler fashion, though.

When I am being charitable, I believe they are trying to be kind to me. Love yourself and your body, no matter how correctably unhealthy it may be with it’s extra pounds that will likely bring on life-altering health conditions, serious disease, and premature death. You’re beautiful with the thick layers of fat that limit your ability to breath and put such a strain on your bone and joints and make it more difficult to move about freely under your own power. Let me shower you with freshly baked cooking and brownies and bread dripping with butter, because I know how much you love these poisonous (to me) foods; it’s an expression of my affection for you that I support you in this manner.

Then there is the gym and the exercise. You can’t train every day, because you’ll overtrain. Do crossfit, because it burns more calories in half the time. Never mind that you might get hurt, because you obviously are not meant to exercise if that happens. Lift weights? Not too heavy, or you’ll become unattractively bulky and flat-chested. Pay a trainer? To do what? Pander to your ego?

That’s me, being realistically charitable toward those in my life who do this to me and others like me. Loving, manipulative saboteurs. Looking back through my personal journal, emails, and other communications I have saved – at one point or several in the last 2 years I have heard all these things from present and former friends.

It saddens me, yet makes me so glad that I am capable of making and enjoying new friends who have more in common with me and are more supportive of my lifestyle goals. Ultimately, I would like to be more muscle, less fat. It doesn’t happen quickly, and it’s definitely not  glam makeover process. But that’s okay. I have time and keep myself occupied enough to not get (too) impatient.

Thanks for Being My Compass

After J sent me these pictures Monday, I asked him if he had the source, so I could credit where I got them. J replied that he couldn’t recall the source, but to google skinny body versus fat body and they would likely pop up. Sure enough – several pictures and results did appear on my screen.

Compass

Text exchange with J thanking him for pointing me in the right direction to locate a source of these images.

It occurred to me after I sent that text the wording used was more telling and on-point than I realized when I expressed my thinks. After 24 hours of thinking about it further, I realize that it’s an accurate description of many people who hold sway and influence in my life.

I am on my present better health journey because of choices I make every single day. Thing about me, I know and readily admit I need help getting started and proceeding when I have little idea of how to start or how to proceed. I lack the discipline and motivation to teach myself to learn what I needed to learn to be successful on my own. Many people are more naturally physically gifted than I am, or have the patience and tenacity to stick with a self-motivated, self-taught program of diet and exercise, many from practical necessity (not everyone can afford the luxury of a personal trainer or have made friends with a dietician or have a doctor who lifts). Beyond J, though, there is M, who does not exercise the way I do but is thrilled and grateful that I have found activity and community that keeps me engaged and moving forward. There are close friends near and far who ask me almost daily about how things are going in the gym or what I am pursuing right now. There is the tribe I have found and adopted within the club, in my office, in my crew of clients.

Before my whole gym tribe went away on vacation or had to stay away with illness at once last week, I had not really realized how dependent I have become on our frequently brief interactions throughout the week. At the office the conversations about food and exercise are so common I almost take them for granted, except I don’t. The interest is genuine, the curiosity about what others are doing sincere. While I wish they would all run out of contract with their own gym chains and come work out at mine, I am glad they are out there doing something, even if it is playing basketball 3 or 4 nights per week or choosing Orangetheory or yoga classes. I’m glad to hear about their interests and pursuits, happy they are equally interested in mine. We compare notes and it provides a warm fuzzy sense of camaraderie and support. I want to protect and promote those aspects of these friendships, because the relationships are important to me and I want them to be healthy and vibrant and around for a good long stretch of time.

I get that now. For years M would say something like that to me and I would hear it as a criticism, that I was somehow deeply flawed because I did not take care of myself. In the thrall of negative girl, I did not hear the concern for my health and well being in his encouragement to seek out something that motivated me to care for myself.

But I hear it clearly now. And every day I’m grateful M is who he is and has the wisdom to understand wounds and scars impaired my hearing, not matter how loving or gentle it was framed.

While I honestly could not tell you what direction north is, I am fine with asking for directions. I am also fine with utilizing resources available to keep me on a specific journey. Life is fluid and ever changing, and I know the time will come when I am likely to have to part with my village of experts. When it happens, it will be sad, but like parenting, they have given me a good foundation to continue building on my own or the skills to evaluate and find a different expert for the next leg of my better health quest. Finding those willing and able to help me know when I’ve wandered off the path, when I’ve zigged when I should have zagged – within my realm I know I only have to ask. Or to listen and to learn when someone shares their wisdom and their experiences.  I have the tools to evaluate what’s real, what’s worth testing, what’s bullshit, what I should ignore.

I’m surrounded by folks willing to help and to guide. I trust them to never intentionally send me in the wrong direction when I’m not sure. And I am a better person for all they do and share with me.

Under the influence of negative girl, I perceived myself as handicapped or special needs because I needed help from others to learn what I did not know or was not blessed with natural talent and ability. In reality, I now characterized myself as fortunate that I am capable of receiving instruction, possess the ability to mostly understand it as a concept and a theory, and have the willingness to try and to do the hard work necessary to make the wisdom part of what I now know as well.

I am making progress.