Weight Gain (An SOL Extra)

Disappointment

I’ve stopped being skinny. I have folds around the middle. I think less of myself and suppose others must think less of me too.

In this new state, I am a disappointment.

Shame

My pants no longer fit comfortably. Some waistbands are tight. Some pairs fit snugly across my behind and cause the waistband to slide down in the back. This is a secret disgrace.

Most people cannot see these developments or at least don’t indicate that they notice. By modern Western standards I am still considered slim.

But that no longer describes how I feel. Or how I see myself.

Instead, there is a private shame. A shadow that casts itself over each view in the full length mirror. A mourning for a long battle finally lost.

Guilt

I nearly left out guilt. It fuels my shame and hunches over the struggle. Guilt is active – it should really be a verb. My guilt when I eat too many of the very nice things that I really love, or when I avoid deeply strenuous physical activity, or when I combine those two things together day after day after day…my guilt becomes its own arena that builds itself practically! I tame it by going out and breaking a sweat. I sideline it when I bypass the late night snacks and just drink water all evening.

My guilt is persistent and runs on very little fuel.

Struggle

But I exercise! I do! I remain strong and flexible, capable of unusual feats for a middle aged lady.

These antics, however, will not save me from more folds around the middle and a backside that bubbles then sags.

I eat moderately. I welcome fruit, vegetables and lean meats. I also like breads, and chocolate and after hours ice cream. I know there’s a mismatch between calories in and calories burned. Cognitively I am very well informed about how to address this mismatch.

Emotionally, the struggle between knowing and doing rages unabated. It’s exhausting. I run out of steam to keep fighting temptation. In fact, I’m not that interested in fighting. When everything that might taste good or just feel good to you presents a temptation, it’s easier to throw down your armor and just surrender.

Expectations

What’s eating me alive are my own onerous expectations. I fear that people won’t love me if I’m not thin. I imagine my husband will not look at me if I grow soft around all my edges. I may lose the respect of my students and colleagues if I no longer look the part of the svelte physical educator. I am not sure that I can like myself without the punctuation of stark muscle definition running up and down the whole of my body.

Woman

I am a woman. Menopausal, middle aged, past prime. We know, we have evidence of what happens to women’s bodies in this phase of life. It’s individual and there are patterns. Softening is a fact. Shrinking, drying, receding are par for the course. It doesn’t all happen at once. Some parts can take a very long time. Aging turns out to be an uneven mixture of losses and gains.

Muscle mass is harder to hold onto. Fat hits its stride. Hormones can only spell Fall and Winter. The spread starts in the middle; flab finds a home wherever it can. Real estate values plummet.

Muscle weighs more than fat. But the formula is not the same as it was at 35 or 40 and I am appalled and unamused. Fat keeps colonizing my muscly parts, sitting on top, layering the sides, hiding the strong parts that I know are still there. This is what they warned us about passing 50.

I require more chocolate and cuddling. My intellect is sharp and fierce. Mind over matter means I can read deeply while scarfing ice cream huddled beneath 3 layers of warm blankets.

Women and weight gain. Women and aging. Now, not suddenly, that’s me. I am the subject in the search bar.

The Past

Who I was: the runner – marathoner, sprinter, middle distancer, medalist, champion.

Physically gifted, talented, graced, blessed, exemplary, outstanding.

Much social currency derived from my physical accomplishments.

My body, my athletic achievements, my physique provided a means of communication most likely to win people over, to engender respect, admiration, attention.

As long as I showed up as a competitor, I learned how to present like a winner.

The Present

Not all change is visible. Not all change is negative. Not all change demands apology. Not all change feels bad. Not all change has an antidote. Not all change is here to stay. Not all change knows its history. Not all change is immediate or radical. Not all change is age-related. Not all change is nutrition influenced. Not all change is physical. Not all change is emotional. Not all change is hormone based. Not all change involves other people. Not all change stays inside my head. Not all change finds recognizable expression. Not all change makes me sad. Not all change keeps me up at night.  Not all change happens today. Not all change is unexpected. Not all change scares me.

All there is though, is change.

The Future

What shape will the future take? and yes, I put all the irony into that single question.

My partner tells me I’d be better off if I could let go of my negative framing.

I say I’ll be better off when I let go of worrying about what others might expect. I’ll be better off when I allow myself to find joy without guilt. I do feel better when I move in ways that make me happy, that reward me with some sense of accomplishment.

I am better when I name my demons.

The gain here is not weight, it seems. The gain will be love of self. Kindness to self. Patience with self. The gain will be permission to be. To breathe. To embrace who I want to be.

I can imagine the weight my love will carry.

The gain will be the weight of self-love. The gain will be the weight of self-acceptance. The gain will be the weight of self-knowledge. The gain will be the weight of self-discovery.

Weight gain.

 

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SOL Tuesday: Preaching To The Choir

I’m in the choir.

Someone is preaching to the choir.

I’m listening.

A choir practices regularly. A choir is in the habit of learning

new material.

In this church, we take turns.

We can all preach when we feel called. And someone in the choir

will be there to listen.

To witness.

To testify.

We each hear the message in our own way.

We are not a monolith.

The choir – we hold each other accountable.

I join the choir to build my repertoire and community.

Embedded in our community of song and message

I feel called to preach myself sometimes.

And I encourage others to go on and preach to us when the time is ripe.

Not everyone needs a pulpit to preach. Notice how

some choir members are preaching with the way they live their lives.

We don’t talk as much about that kind of preaching

but it’s powerful.

Listen.

#Preach

 

SOL Tuesday Live from Nashville

It’s Tuesday and I’m in the United States.

Dear O’Hare,

I underestimated you and I apologize. I got through Immigration and customs in record time and easily made my way to the connecting flight. It’s true that I assumed the worst and was pleasantly surprised.

To my taxi driver in Nashville,

You read me well. We spoke 4 sentences each at the opening before you put on music whose origins I could only guess at. Shortly before we reached the hotel I asked you where the music was from. Ethiopian classic you told me and then asked if I liked it. Indeed I found it very calming. I left your Taxi feeling kindly welcomed to this city of saloons and honky tonk music.

Notes to self:

On the flight you watched Deadpool, Teen Titans movie, music videos of the ’90s and Skymusic. You did not read.

American celebrity gender norms are oppressive. There seems to be very little room for stories which fall outside of boy meets girl blah blah blah genre.

Has violence always been code for “action”. Action movies revolve around violence, harm, revenge, destruction, right? How is this considered entertainment?

Deadpool was violent and generously ironic. I didn’t love it but it had some artistic merit.

SOL Tuesday although it’s Wednesday

An opportunity I was given took.

I asked my dear photographer friend to do me the honor of taking some pictures of me that might be used in my book. She has photographed me before and those pictures are among the absolute favorite images that I have of myself.

She rented a studio. I was very close to being on time.

I arrived hungry and spent but I brought along some maki and spring rolls to share. Eating was my first priority. I felt a little cranky from the day’s nonsense. Thankfully we were not in a rush. We chatted as I fed myself and she fiddled with getting the espresso machine to produce something potable.

We’ve been friends for many years. We used to work in the same school. I’m still there. She moved on and now does only the photography that’s worth doing. I love her work.

I changed into a simple summer dress. Perhaps my favorite by now – it’s blue and feminine and undemanding.

To begin she showed me an approximate spot on the backdrop spread and instructed me to close my eyes and just dance. Music was playing, I felt relief and began to move. I dance rather naturally. If there’s music that speaks to me, I just listen and respond, however I choose, in whatever way I feel. She encouraged me to do precisely that.

small movements, just the hands, then a slight sway of the torso. My eyes stayed closed while my shoulders relaxed and my feet joined the party.

At some point I opened my eyes and danced more freely. Twisting, turning, reaching, bending. She asked me to spin. My skirt rose while my calves flashed. The soles of my feet peeking out at the camera lens, also wanting to be seen, appreciated.

Music flowed – some familiar, some not – and I moved. I sat on a stool and danced. I sat on the floor and danced. From time to time L. would show me a group of pictures, excited about their beauty. And I agreed. They were beautiful photos. Of me. Just moving, talking laughing in front of the camera without a care, well, in those moments I felt beautiful.  Graceful. Strong. Expressive.

There was nothing hard about it. I got to be me – dancing, moving, conversational me. L. gets me. She sees me for who I am and knew exactly how to help me show who I am for the camera.

In the afterglow I realize what a rare gift I have been given. These few hours in a spotlight that is kind, generous and warming. I put myself on display for an opportunity to be seen and to see myself.

Tomorrow I will get to see a sample of what the camera captured. I wonder what my memory will say.

SOL Election Tuesday 2018

If I should die before I wake

I pray the Dems the House to take

And in the Senate let it be

A big blue wave to set us free.

 

Go, go, go to vote

locate your polling scene

patiently, patiently, patiently wait your turn

Democracy a dream

 

I’m so glad we had this time together

Just to have a vote and wait in line

Seems we all know who we need to put in office

But the polls insist the stars are not aligned.

 

May our votes be counted, our voices heard, the results favorable and our fundamental rights remain in tact.

 

 

SOL Tuesday: Letter to an old friend

Below is a letter I imagined writing to a friend when I’m in my retired years. Not sure what prompted this but it was an interesting experience.

Dear K.,

When was the last time you received a letter from me? No doubt, it’s been a while. Instead you’ve probably heard from me in blurbs and bite-sized communiques traveling through the digital ether.

You should know I’m still here at the same e-mail address. I still live in the same city. Google will find me if you think you can’t.

Some stuff has happened, some things have changed. Both sons are out in the world chasing their dreams and discovering where there are nets and where there are none. As far as I can tell they are both happy and well adjusted. Each is an artist in his own right – one in the digital realm, the other in athletic forms of flight.

As for me, I’m getting on in years. Physically I can still hold my own on a yoga mat. I walk regularly and Fall has become my favorite season when the air is crisp and ground is damp with colorful leaves. I’m grateful we still have seasons. Who knows for how much longer?

The old man and I lead a pretty quiet life together. We read a lot and alternate turning off the light for each other at night once we drop the book we were holding and drift off into the comfort of slumber. Our sleep schedules tend to align only partially. We still say goodnight with a kiss but after a few hours usually only one of us is in bed. So it goes. We are grateful for our relatively good health and projects that keep us curious about the future.

I bet you have barely aged. I’d love to hear from you and know that you are still bringing good into the world. I regret that we have always lived so far away from each other.

Maybe we can see each other again before… well, you know.

Be well! Lots of hugs,

S.

SOL Tuesday: Deadlines on vacation

I’m on vacation. We’ve chosen a week at a thermal bath near the mountains smack in the middle of Austria. My 11 y-o is into Fortnite, youtube, some swimming, reading and more Fortnite. I’m working pretty hard at this relaxation thing.

And I have deadlines. Imagine: a course description for a week long intensive course of my own creation on the topic of Digital Identity. It’s only a couple of paragraphs but it should describe an at least rough plan of action. Yeah… And throughout the process, I need to keep reminding myself that I am capable and qualified to do all this. Because in between I, of course, hear my chorus of inner skeptics telling me quite the opposite.

I also promised to proofread a chapter of my husband’s master’s thesis. Because after all, I have time, right? Of course, but I still want to drink 2 glasses of wine at dinner because I can, and sleep in because I can, and wow, the day just flies by.

While I am here in this peculiar social configuration called an all-inclusive hotel stay let me make a few random observations:

  • After a certain hour, like 1:30pm, most of the guests seem to have been in or under water at some point. In any case, everyone you see in regular clothes looks scrubbed – you know, a little rosier, maybe even a bit shiny.
  • Small children seem most likely to be interested in practicing their independence at mealtimes.
  • The guests are a reasonable cross section of central Europeans: Austrians, Germans, Hungarians and maybe a couple of other nationalities. Middle aged folks outnumber millenials at least 4 to 1. (At these prices, no wonder.)
  • Random socializing is limited and rare. People stick to their pre-arranged groupings while remaining vaguely polite to strangers.
  • Dinner is the only meal that offers evidence that the hotel is more or less full.

At any rate, the water is warm, the room has a view, we have time and opportunity to spare. Deadlines will come and go. We will have relaxed to the best of our ability.