Last week I attended the first of a year-long management training series. This particular session was focused on personality profiles - strengths, weaknesses, ways to compensate, etc. Typical “know thyself” stuff. Which is not to minimize its importance, only to say that this type of work is increasingly familiar to me.
In fact, I was really digging the subject matter and completely invested in the class when the trainer flashed a quote up on the overhead…
“We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”
I looked around and saw many of my classmates nodding in agreement, excitedly writing the quote in notebooks or on handouts.
“We cannot change the direction of the wind…”
“The fuck I can’t!” I thought to myself.
And I wanted to say so out loud, but stopped myself. It didn’t feel pertinent to the conversation though, in all honesty, I believe it to be one of the more important conversations we could be having…
Why do we insist on defining such small worlds for ourselves?
I’m not a scientist. I know shit about the physics of aerodynamics - or whatever the hell you call “wind science” - but I do believe this, the mere act of adjusting my sails is changing the direction of the wind. And I’m done minimalizing the effort it takes to adjust my sails.
It might seem like semantics, but language matters. When you expend your precious energy making an effort to change the direction of your proverbial sails, which is the story you would rather have define you? “I couldn’t change the direction of the wind, so I adjusted my sails.” or “I changed the direction of the wind by adjusting my sails.”
Even if you didn’t mean to… even if you adjusted those damn sails by sheer happenstance… and even if you didn’t get it right the first or fourth or four hundredth time, my gentle snowflakes, claim that ish! You ARE changing the direction of the wind.
And just as much as we need to claim what we are doing – or have done – we need to claim what it is we have the possibility to do. With all due respect to Saint Francis and his “God grant me the serenity” mumbo jumbo (sorry, not sorry), I reject the idea that there is anything we cannot change. There are a million different ways to change the direction of the wind, all of which we could discover if it mattered to us enough to do so.
Deciding which changes are worthy of our time is the question that matters.
The first adventure continues
Continuing on my first great adventure of 2016, I decided to do yoga in public. And not just anywhere in public, but in Grosse Pointe - land of the uber-thin, nimble, old school monied, hangry soccer mom.
As Jillian, therapist to the stars, said when I later told her, “Go big or go home.”
Truth be told, I choose Grosse Pointe because my step-daughter works at a yoga studio there and was subbing for the regular yogi the night I decided to make my grand yoga debut. It wasn’t so much a matter of “go big or go home” as it was safety in the numbers, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story.
I convinced my friend, M., to go with me to the class. Again, safety in numbers. Also, he makes me feel better because he was as equally as concerned about the very most important elements of yoga class… what one wears.
In all honesty, the other students weren’t very hangry-looking at all. (It was a candle light class, so maybe the soft glow hid their furrowed brows.) There was a teeny pre-teen child in attendance with her older sister who did not yet have the burden of adulting to bunch up her ligaments, so she was super bendy and showed everybody up and I hate her. And there was a woman with *gasp* black socks (probably also a Detroiter) who made me feel better about my capital F Funky Feet. And then there was M. next to me.
“No judging if I fart,” I warned him as my girl started the class.
Within minutes of beginning the class it was very apparent to me that yoga with a Tiny Tummy is drastically different than yoga with a 305 pound body. (Shocking, I know.) I don’t know that words can properly describe the feeling of being so afraid of what your body can’t do only to find that it can do it without effort. And, to top it off, is doing so in response to direction being given by your daughter - always your student, but now your teacher.
The experience was absolutely surreal.
I spent the entire class cycling between overwhelming pride, silent tears of joy and silent giggles. Silent being the operative word here because one simply does not make a noise in a yoga studio lest they suffer the judgement of the nimble, future-hangry, super-bendy pre-teen across from you who can somehow hold downward dog while kicking one leg up in the air for, like, 30 minutes straight.
That last part might be a slight exaggeration.
The girl had us rest our legs on the wall for the final pose, savasana, as she walked us through a final guided meditation of healing white light traveling down our legs, up through our core, out our crown and into the world. She then walked around to each student, one by one, and placed her hands on our shoulders to breathe with us. I was struck by how firm her touch was. This child who literally tiptoes through my house and has a touch so light that cupboard doors are never quite shut, grounded me completely with her confidence.
I lay thee - elated, proud, at peace and SO full of gratitude. Breathing, smiling, breathing, smiling…
“Roll over onto your side,” she whispered to the class as she shut off the music.
And I did…
And I farted...
I laid on my side, curled in a fetal position, shaking from the laughter that was welling up in the Tiny Tummy.
And so ended the first great adventure of 2016
One of the first assignments in my grad program was to develop my future vision for myself - 2, 5, 10, 20 years out and beyond. I've done this type of project before but, for some reason, this was the first time that it actually meant anything to me.
Maybe the time was just right. Maybe it's maturity. Maybe it was my current life circumstance. Maybe it's a matter of increased self awareness. Whatever the reason, for once the vision actually felt attainable.
When I began the vision, I found a picture to ground me. At the end of it all, what did I want my life to look like? This was the picture...
The picture has a whole story attached to it in my mind... a 70-some year old sage that travels the country telling stories and does yoga next to the ocean in the process. It is freedom, flexibility, aging gracefully, wisdom. I knew, however, if I was going to become this sage, I was going to have to make some drastic changes in my health. The Tiny Tummy was already in the works - flexibility became the cause du jour.
I had dabbled in yoga a bit here and there, taking a Yin class at a local studio a few years ago. I was the only person under age 60 in the class and one of two of three that wasn't recovering from a broken hip. But it's what worked for a 302 pound body that got winded tying a pair of shoes.
And it was awesome. After the class ended I bought bolsters and blankets and diagrams so I could continue the practice at home. Which I did... twice.
Last year I decided to start again. I downloaded a yoga app and started practicing by myself at home where I could do modified poses without the judgmental eye of thin, young, nimble yogis everywhere. One of the poses in the flow I started with was Eye of the Needle. Looks simple enough, right? Unless you have a gut. Lots and lots of gut. And lots and lots of thigh. I did the modified pose and pretended I was okay with it.
Fast forward one year and to my 2016 resolution to take me and my body on twelve adventures - twelve things I haven't been able to do in a long time - or ever - because of my weight. I choose contorting myself into Eye of the Needle as my first adventure because flexibility feels like a damn prophetic way to kick off a year of undertaking twelve new feats.
On January 2nd I decided to give Eye of the Needle a try - to see how far I had to go. And, lo' and behold, my hands slid right around my thighs without any effort at all. It hadn't occurred to me that the ten inches I had lost off my hips and the four inches off of my thighs would make it infinitely easier to perform this "monumental" feat. There's a story in here about becoming reacquainted with my new body, but I digress...
So, mission accomplished! Right?
Well, not really. Technically, the pose was never really the point - it was just symbolic of the real adventure... integrating yoga into my life on a regular basis. And maybe even doing it in public.
Which, by the way, I also did.
But that, and the bodily function that punctuated the experience, are stories for another day.
So, I kind of thought I had this - the Tiny Tummy thing - all figured out. I thought I knew why I got fat in the first place. I thought I knew what I had to do to not be fat anymore. I thought I knew that fat really wasn’t about fat anymore. I thought I knew why I had been on a three month plateau and I very damned well thought I knew what I was going to do to end that three month plateau. I thought I knew that I was going to tell all of you about it on January 1st and launch into a twelve month project and have lots of fun stuff to write about and be mightily victorious in my journey to a healthy body and it was going to be awesome and super and fantastic and sparkly stardust was going to follow me everywhere for the rest of my life.
And then New Year’s Eve happened - some dude that I’ve never met before, and hope to never meet again, made an inappropriate comment about my body. Which seems harmless enough because that shit happens to women everywhere every day and they handle that shit without losing their shit all the time. Right?
Well, maybe not so much.
Apparently that one little comment was a mighty fucking huge trigger for me. So much so that I’ve thought about it pretty much nonstop ever since. I even spent an entire session weeping about it to Jillian, therapist to the stars, on Saturday. How is it that one so seemingly innocuous comment from someone who doesn’t matter at all to me can make me feel so small - so minimized, patronized, inconsequential?
“Fuck. There’s something still here, isn’t there?” I asked Jillian, therapist to the stars.
And then she smiled that knowing smile she reserves for moments when shit’s about to get called out for real and asked if I was finally ready to tackle the big issue I had been toying with, but avoiding, for the past five years.
I said yes - as long as we could do so in the fifteen minutes we had left in session because I had made some big plans for the next twelve months and this whatever was really getting in the way. She insisted that it was going to take just a tad longer. Sigh... therapist to the stars, my ass.
In the fifteen minutes we had left on Saturday she challenged me to define what it was we were going to be working on - give it a name that I could hold on to when it got messy and focus started to get fuzzy. In short, develop a battle cry.
This morning, while playing on Twitter, my battle cry finally came to me in the form of two hashtags (how terribly Millennial of me) - #reclaimyourbody and #minenotyours.
My body has always served me well - even when fat. Actually, especially when fat. My fat kept me, psychologically (and, I guess, physically), safe by keeping unwanted attention at bay. But here’s the rub... it was shaped and formed in response to others. My body was fat so you wouldn’t pay attention to it. So even if it was serving me, it was serving me to serve you. (The proverbial you - not actually you, my gentle snowflakes.)
I have decided that I want a body that serves me exclusively now. Thing is, a healthy body that serves me well is also a body that gets attention. A body that some douchebag in a dingy bar on New Year’s Eve will try to lay claim to. When that creep complemented my breasts he was, in essence, telling me how pleasurable my body was to him and that shit just did not sit well with me. To quote Dr. Frankenfurter, “I didn’t make [it] for you!”
Mine - not yours. For me - not you. To serve me, exclusively.
There’s so much more to work out on this front, but this is as far as I’ve gotten in the past 48 hours. Apparently Jillian, therapist to the stars, knew a thing or two when she said I couldn’t solve it all in a day.
What I do know moving forward is that the body I envision serving me best is more limber, flexible and strong. There is no number attached to that vision because I have no clue if limber, flexible and strong happens at 200 pounds, 175 pounds or 150 pounds. The number doesn’t really matter- nurturing a body that can accomplish things that it hasn’t been able to do in a long time, or ever, is the goal. By extension, the numbers will change - a happy byproduct of a twelve month adventure to reclaim my body and make it mine again.
So, the adventure…
Over the next year I am going to:
More to come soon on the how, when and why of these twelve adventures soon.
I had really intended to start this year off telling you all about a new project I am starting next week to undertake 12 awesome adventures this year. I’ve been crafting the blog post for the past three days and was all set to hit publish today. But all that is going to have to wait one more day because, my gentle snowflakes, I am mad tonight. Mad as hell! And I have a bunch of thoughts that I really need to get off my chest.
No pun intended....
Last night at the bar a drunk guy hit on my - repeatedly. I am so out-of-practice with such things that I didn’t even realize it at first. When he came up and whispered to me that I “had to dance on the bar before the end of the night,” I laughed. I assumed he was admiring my mad dancing skills (because, obviously…) and was only encouraging me to have more fun. I figured out he was a lecherous douche bag, however, when he came up to me half an hour later and proclaimed that I had nice breasts.
I was so taken aback I didn’t know how to respond. I was all like, “Uhm, thank you? And you know that tall, shaved head, goateed, full-sleeved tattooed dude up there singing karaoke right now that could put you to sleep with one punch is my husband, right? Oh, and also… NOT appropriate.”
His response? “I just thought you should know.”
Motherfucker, I know I have an impressive rack. We are intimately acquainted as a matter of fact. And, truth be told, I had even started to leave the house in something that showed it off earlier that night. However, I decided to opt for comfort (and warmth) instead and threw on long-sleeved t-shirt before walking out the door because my husband - the ONLY person other than the masochist at the mammography center who should be concerned with my boobs - already knows what’s under the t-shirt. Hence, I decided there was no real need to put them on display. I wasn’t going out to put on a show - I was going out to have some fun.
And I was having fun… so much fun. Good company, good drinks, good karaoke (the Mr. - not me), lots of laughs, a little (obviously awesome) dancing. It was all good. Until you had to come along and reduce me down to a few body parts that you somehow decided to lay enough claim to that you could, publicly and without shame, comment upon them.
Now I know we all do stupid things when we are drunk. You know, like that time I didn’t punch the asshole at the bar that thought it was okay to comment on the current state of my breasts. But how fucking dare you?
I spent a lifetime hiding my body from the world behind a large layer of fat. I did so because I was bound and determined that anyone who loved me was going to have to prove that they loved me for more than just my physical appearance. (Seriously, just go with the theory - I don’t have the wherewithal to explain it all tonight.)
Through five years of hard - really, fucking, hard - work, I have finally reclaimed my body. So much so that I let a surgeon slice me open in an effort to keep it around just a little while longer. In doing so I am fully aware that I am opening myself up to some unwanted attention. Trust me… my body has been the centerpiece of any conversation I have had for the past nine months. Eventually, however, I always steer the conversation to what really matters - how I feel as opposed to how I look.
And last night I felt good… so good. I was celebrating! In 2015 I have worked my ass off (literally) crafting a good marriage, a happy kid, a fruitful career, a healthy body, a clean and organized sanctuary (minus the basement - I can’t be held accountable for the basement) and eleventy-billion thoughtful and smart papers and presentations for my Masters program.
I had earned that night of carefree fun so many times over this last year.
And here’s the thing… you didn’t notice me because of my boobs. There were lots of women at the bar with beautiful bodies last night. (Trust me, I peeked.) You noticed me because I am a confident woman who is (finally) comfortable in my own skin. A woman who is free and unafraid. A woman who laughs and celebrates and revels in life. A woman who also happens to have a biological advantage (or disadvantage in some instances) on top.
That’s what you noticed, you fucking moron. You are just too ignorant to actually name it.
It is no wonder to me tonight how women get so screwed up in this society. We are such complex creatures - full of hopes, dreams, goals, hard work, love and beautiful souls. Yet, in a moment’s notice, all of it can be erased by one drunk douche bag in a dingy bar on the eastside of Detroit with a simple proclamation that reminds you that, to a large part of the population, your primary function remains being a set of eye-pleasing body parts.
I call bullshit. And the next asshole that tries to belittle this amazingly complex woman gets punched… or a thirty minute dissertation on the patriarchy.
Probably the dissertation.