My hair is falling out. They warn you it is going to happen, but I just assumed it was one of those warnings that they have to legally tell you about, but it isn't really going to happen.
Oh, it's SO happening.
Every morning I comb my hair and handfuls of my luscious blonde locks detach themselves from my head and clamber on to the teeth of my wide tooth comb. If everything I read didn't assure me it wasn't going to be the case, I'd bet you a lot of money that I was going to be bald soon. Thankfully, however, that's not the case... or at least should not be the case.
I would like to think, should it come to the point where I do, indeed, go bald, that I'd be one of those women that looks bad ass doing so... like Sinead O'connor or GI Jane or Imperator Furiosa. But who knows? It's been, like, 45 years since I've rocked the chrome dome.
You know, there is a shit-ton of irony that comes along with weight loss surgery. You go through hell and high water to feel and look good and, just when you get to the point that you've dumped a ton of fat and are feeling really fucking awesome for the first time in forever, shit starts to go south. Like, literally, physically south. Your skin gets so loose that your abdomen jiggles for a full minute after a sneeze, your ass starts creeping down the back of your legs, and your form reverse stretchmarks that look like a hella-angry bear took a swipe at your tummy.
Any one of these would be enough, but combined? Oh, hella sexy, my snowflakes. Hella sexy.
I’m in Cleveland this week to kick off the fourth semester of my Master’s program - a week-long immersion in positive organizational development and change known as the “residency.” Classes start on Sunday afternoon and run straight through Saturday afternoon.
The residency is not just a full immersion into the subject matter, it’s a full immersion into oneself - fully witnessed and supported by 30-some other members of a cohort. The amount of personal, as well as professional, development done during these times together is nothing short of life-altering. Tomorrow I will leave Cleveland, just as I have every time before, drained and exhausted, but exhilarated and eternally grateful for the week that just happened.
It is a fantastical, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime alter universe.
One would think, with all this deep self-examination and magical-unicorn-like growth, it would be all sunshine and roses. And how I wish that were true. But, the fact of the matter is, with this much introspection and change, shit can get scary. When so many of your historical assumptions - about yourself and your world - are deeply examined, and turned upside down and inside out, you can easily lose sight of your north star. You can just, kinda, get lost sometimes. Before you even realize it, the demons can start to creep in and you find yourself resorting to old behaviors to cope.
It happened to me this residency as a matter of circumstance. The majority of my cohort stays in the same hotel while in town so, even when we are not in class together, we are living - and playing - together. And playing, for a good portion of the cohort, means spending time together every night after class at one of the many local restaurants/bars. I tried to join in a few times this past week, but in each instance I ended up uncomfortably full from poor food choices and grazing for too many hours on end. I am just not in a space right now where that kind of temptation is a good idea, so I essentially segregated myself.
In staying behind, however, I got to spend some quality time with a few other members of the cohort who also chose not to go out - taking long walks with them or talking for hours over one - just one - glass of wine.
I hiked up my big girl panties and patted myself on the back as I told myself how proud I was of me for recognizing my limitations and giving myself a little grace.
But then, as the members of the cohort who had gone out together, en masse, began to pour into the classroom every morning, giggling at their inside jokes - jokes I was no longer part of because I had missed out on the long night at the bar - I started to shrink. I was jealous… sad to not be a part of those inside jokes, sad not be “in the know” and sad to be on the outside.
It set off a vicious cycle of emotions and self-doubt… a metaphorical ought-self shit sundae.
First layer: A solid base of FEAR
Was it all going to unravel?
When did being “in the know” suddenly begin to matter to me again? That was a demon that had been dealt with long ago in therapy, after all. I hate it when I think I’ve conquered something only to find out that it still has the power to sneak back in. Because, if that lesson can be unlearned so easily, what other lessons was I going to start unlearning?
Forget that it took me 40+ fucking years to learn the wrong lesson in the first place… I should correct that shit overnight, right?!
Second layer: A steaming pile of SHOULD
Where’s Waldo? And by “Waldo” I mean my goddamned gratitude.
Where the fuck had my attitude of gratitude gone? I mean, it’s not like I was holed up in my hotel room, alone, after all. I had been party to some amazingly intimate and personal conversations and moments with other classmates. My sadness was a dishonor to them and I really should just be grateful for their fellowship.
Third layer: A heaping ladle of SELF-DOUBT
It’s not you - it’s me?
Even though I tried not to do it, I couldn’t help but question why I was no longer on the “inside.” Was it really a matter of circumstance or was it a matter of choice - their choice? Had I done something to offend them.
Yes, all of them… because self-doubt is so not rational.
Fourth layer: A thick ribbon of INSECURITY
“Why nooooooooooot?” asked in the whiniest voice ev-ah.
How could I even beginning to imagine such ill intent of such amazing people?! They’re just doing what they always do, after all. I can’t expect them to alter their plans because of my Tiny Tummy.
“But, why not?” I whined in my head. I would have changed my plans if they had made such a request.
Fifth layer: A thin layer of PANIC
Christ on a cracker! Another lesson unlearned!
The voice of therapists past crept up in my mind. “Why didn’t you ask? What’s the worse that could have happened?” Fuck! Another lesson unlearned.
The cherry on top: A fuckload of SHAME
Fuck, I should have asked! Healthy people ask for what they want. That’s one of the most important lessons that my coach ever taught me. The coach I lambasted just a few blog entries ago. What the hell, let’s throw in some guilt for being mad at a him.
My precious snowflakes, sometimes it is simply exhausting to be me. Or, you know… human.
While I live for these moments of introspection and, more importantly, realization, I long for a day when the self-doubt and the shame and the “shoulds” go away permanently. My bank of psychic energy is finite and I would much rather spend it learning new lessons that reviewing those of old. I suspect, however, that we never become so enlightened that some of the old self-doubts can’t creep back in. The trick, I believe, is to be able to quickly recognize them and cycle through them before they do too much new damage.
So, tonight, instead of beating myself up for falling back on old behaviors that no longer serve me well, I choose to be grateful for the fact that the I was able to recognize and stop the shit sundae before it stole an entire week of amazing experiences.
Be gentle with yourself tonight, my precious snowflakes… and you too, Ursula Ann.
As I was going into weight loss surgery I had only one goal in mind – I wanted to be able to cross my legs again. I mean, there were a few other goals I had identified like being able to hold downward dog without breaking my face, not dying and not offending anyone in a post-surgery, anesthesia-induced haze… but the leg-crossing “thing” really stuck with me. To me it wasn’t just about crossing my legs – it was about regaining my femininity.
And I know that is going to piss off a bunch of people because it kind of pisses off the feminist in me too. Just remember, it’s not the point of this story and if you get stuck here, this isn’t a story for you. Now, onward…
The thing about crossing my legs was that I had done it before. I knew how it felt. And post-surgery the feeling kept coming to me - lift one leg up… place one knee on top of the other… rest. I practiced doing so, lying on my back in bed in the morning where gravity could help. I even dreamed that I crossed my legs and in that dream I felt what it was like to “sit like a lady” and no longer have the fat of my thighs force me into a masculine posture.
And then, one day, I felt unquestionably compelled to do it while riding in a tricked-out pink jeep en route to the Grand Canyon. I lifted one leg up… placed one knee on top of the other… and rested. It worked! I was so elated that I wanted to cry, but held back the tears for the sake of the people surrounding me – strangers who would have no way to comprehend the victory that had just taken place in their presence. I wanted to take a picture, but worried that everyone would assume I was some pervert taking a selfie of her crotch.
I should have gone for it anyway – at least I wasn’t photographing their crotches.
Since the Grand Leg Crossing Victory of 2015™, I have been in a mental stall on my health journey. I’ve tried to force myself to get back in the game promising I’ll eat better… drink more water… walk 10,000 steps daily… make a deal with the devil if the scale will only move to the next set of numbers. The next set of number is going to be a really big deal – it’s a set I haven’t seen in over two decades after all.
None of it works though. I’m sneaking food I shouldn’t be eating. I forget to take my water bottle with me to work in the morning. If my pedometer says I’ve walked 7,000 steps at the end of the day, I’m okay with it because it is still more than the average American. So, after a three week hiatus, I plopped myself down on Jillian, therapist to the stars’, couch yesterday and let my frustrations flow for 15 minutes straight. “What the fuck?!” I whimpered as I finally came up for breath. “Why can’t I get it together?”
“What’s on the other side?” she asked.
For the next 20 minutes we had a discussion about whether or not I was scared of what is on the other side, about annihilating my “former self” (two year old Ursula – she’s so cute and we’ll talk about her another day) and about what got me to where I am today, and then it finally hit me…
I don’t know what’s on the other side. I don’t know what the other side feels like. It’s, largely, unknown territory.
I know what will get me there – the food, the water, the exercise – but those are behaviors, not the motivators. Those things don’t feel like anything to me, neither does a number on a scale but, crossing my legs – that physically felt like something. I could visualize it, internalize it, practice it, own it, desire it, chase after it…
*Le sigh* I peaked way sooner than I thought I would and I need to find a new motivation to keep going.
For a while I’ve had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I needed to accomplish something BIG - like a 30,000 step day – to get me going again. And I’ve spent quite a bit of time beating myself up over the feeling. Why does everything have to be so BIG? Why can’t I be happy with sustaining a status quo? I was really starting to question if there was new kind of broken inside me that needed to be fixed.
I know now that the desire to take a 30,000 step day is because I can visualize it. I’ve done it before, I know the feeling when I’m done – the exhilaration, the accomplishment. It’s something I couldn’t really do just five months ago, at least not without a TON of effort. Now? Still takes an effort, but totally doable .
Of course, with my schedule, a 30,000 step day isn’t exactly in the cards these days. More than that, it is too easily accomplished in one day and, once I did it, I’d find myself right back here again.
What I need is a vision – maybe a physical feat, maybe not - that I can work myself towards now. And just like crossing my legs meant so much more to me than the simple action of doing so, this “thing” has to hold a value to me more than itself. I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out what it is, but I’m at a loss at the moment. It came so easy the first time around, but just knowing the elements of what I need makes me feel so much better already.
Until next time, my precious snowflakes…
On Sunday I worked on a class presentation for 16 hours straight, finishing at 4:30 in the morning on Monday. I slept all of three hours before going to work and then meeting up with my classmates in the evening to review the presentation one more time before submitting it. Today was another full day of work followed by a meeting for a local hospital Board I joined earlier this year, followed by a meeting with a potential client for my Master’s field project (thesis).
I had every intention of coming home tonight, post-meetings, eating dinner and going straight to bed. But I came home to find a delivery from Amazon - a book that I just couldn’t wait to read. In retrospect, I probably should have waited - I just don’t know that I have the mental spirit tonight to process the whirlwind of emotions I just experienced.
The book was written by a former professional development coach. This is someone that has had a great impact on my life for a number of years. Unfortunately, our last “official” interaction happened to be during an incredibly hurtful and tumultuous time in my career. For whatever reason, when I most needed affirmation and compassion, he choose to stop being an advocate and, instead, decided to teach me “a lesson” in front of my leadership cohort. I left in tears and never went back.
I still don’t fully know why it all went down the way it did, but I did learn a valuable lesson - your mentors are fallible humans too. After licking my wounds for a period of time, I eventually got to a point where I could be friendly with him, but I never allowed him to coach me again. It doesn’t negate the many valuable lessons I learned from him prior to that point, but it did make it pretty easy to say goodbye when he decided to sever ties with my employer earlier this year.
And then I read his damn book - his very beautiful book full of very beautiful words and beautiful lessons and beautiful wisdoms. I was full of gratitude that all the lessons were familiar because he had already taught them to me personally. However, by the end, I was more sad than anything. How can a person with that much wisdom and insight fail you and never even realize it?
To be crystal clear - that question isn’t about him. The question is why I continue to allow people to have a level of influence in my life that they have either not earned.
And while this may seem like a divergence from the Tiny Tummy topic, it’s not really. The choice to have weight loss surgery only came after many years of hard psychological work that culminated in an epiphany that I deserve more - more health, more happiness, more LIFE - not because anyone told me so, but because I finally believed it. And I only came to believe it once I came to the realization that I was living a life, to that point, dictated largely by what others had told me I deserved - a lot of somebody elses that had, in no way, earned the right to dictate such things to me.
Subsequently, my circle of influence has shrunk dramatically over the past three years. Friends and acquaintances once clearly positioned in the inner circle have been moved to the outer rungs or, in some cases, completely out of my periphery. It is, in some ways, a lonelier life - but not any more so than surrounding myself with people that didn’t share a mutual investment.
But sometimes, on late nights that follow 16 hours of homework and two days of high-psychic energy investments, when my soul is raw and my resilience low, a bit of melancholy washes over me when I am reminded that they are people out there that just can’t SEE me the way I wish they could.
In the pre-Tiny Tummy days I would deaden the melancholy with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s - or a tub of mac & cheese. Tonight I have made the choice to just sit here with the feeling and really feel it - to coach myself through it by written word. As much as “the muck” sucks, this - the writing, the ruminating, the awareness not altered by any chemical… This feels like victory.