thin perils

a kind of average of my size and shape then

When I lived in Austin I had a large friend group of women, and we often included their boyfriends and husbands in group events (their choice, never mine, and not because my husband lived in NYC . . . I wanted to be with my women, and when the men were there things changed a lot). During the period I was at my thinnest, one woman told me every single time her partner attended, “Don’t you sit near him,” and then she’d look me up and down and position them at the far end of the group from me. I never could figure out which one of us she wouldn’t trust:  me, as if I’d try to lure him, or him, as if he were not in control of himself.

Throughout that long period of my thinness, I heard similar comments from other women. I also heard all kinds of mean things about my size and shape, catty things, insulting things, things that derived from a kind of jealousy. I know women internalize misogyny, and I know a lot of it centers around physical appearance, and I know I’ve made my own share of such comments and judgments about thin women, and I know that for myself, they came very squarely out of jealousy. Cut that bitch down so she doesn’t ….WHATEVER.

around the time a couple of friends told me I’d gotten too thin

Still, it surprised and hurt me when these comments were directed at me, and especially by women who were my friends. I tried always just to smile back — for they were always smiling at me with all their might, and adding in nervous laughter too — and I knew I was no threat to any of them because I don’t like men and I really don’t like attention from men. Nothing makes me dash to the other side of the room faster. But more than that, I was no threat to them because they were my friends! I did have friends who were supportive in a number of ways, and some who pulled me aside in concern that I became too thin for a while, but the one(s) who saw me as a threat never saw me as anything but a threat.

It always made me so sad. It made me sad for myself, and for the jealous (or whatever) women, and about this stupid culture. But I’m thinking about it again because I think I’m back on track. Today marks one complete and uninterrupted week of daily yoga and walking and eating better. The scale is moving but the part that matters most is that my relationship to those things feels like it has found its groove again. I do look forward to having my thin body back; golly did it feel good. For me, feeling light physically went so beautifully with feeling light in my mind. I felt so good in my clothes, and no matter what anyone else thought, I thought I looked good for the first time in my life (misogyny directed at myself all those heavier years). I want that physical feeling back, so light that I can run, so light that I can pull on my skinny jeans and Converse and bounce lightly out the door. I want that feeling where my breasts were so much smaller and lighter that I could sleep easily, and clothes looked better and felt more comfortable. That body was just for me. Like many women with profound trauma histories, and especially profound sexual trauma histories, when I felt threatened I raced back into my fat body where I felt safe from men, so when I feel heavy, it drags along the implication that I must feel threatened. (And of course I DO, we have the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief who is an existential threat to us all, and to the whole world.)

It can be disheartening to find myself out of breath 10 minutes into a level 1 class, when I could take a 90-minute level 2 class without even breaking a sweat, but you work with who and where you are, and you work with the body you actually have. I need to be in better shape when winter comes and my daily wood-hauling work begins. But this is the eternal lesson of mindfulness: drop the story and be where you are. Child’s pose if I need it. The discipline of showing up on the mat is the biggest point, not what I do or how long I do it. I haven’t yet found the inner quiet, but I assume that will come. One thing that occurs to me that’s very different this time than the last time I started this path is that we now have a nightmare government. When I started my last mindfulness reboot, we had President Obama, and now…..well, we have this terrifying country.

One challenge I have now that I didn’t have when I lived in Austin relates to my husband. My experience with husbands is a common one, based on what I’ve read: sabotage. “C’mon honey, just eat some ice cream with me.” “You don’t have to diet this weekend, right? I’ll make us some lasagna.” Etc etc etc. In Austin, I had ~18 days to focus hard on eating only and exactly what I wanted to eat, to do yoga whenever I wanted, to walk when and for how long I wanted. When you live alone, some things are just simpler. Then I’d go to NYC for ~12 days and either give in and then regain ground when I got back to Austin, or struggle with him about food. His cooking is heavily based on frying things, and he uses gallons of oil. (I almost never use oil, except some drizzles of olive oil, and I never ever fry anything.) And his cooking is delicious! But he’ll accommodate me by making a big salad…..with glugs of his homemade blue cheese dressing. Or a Caesar salad and if you know what goes into that salad you know it’s not healthy. Or he’ll deep fry some vegetables for me. NOW, I am alone Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for dinners. He gets here Friday afternoons around 4, and leaves for the city Mondays after dinner. We have a lot to figure out. I tend to walk more when he’s here, and I can easily roll out my yoga mat and do yoga whenever I want (plenty of space here, unlike in our apartment in the city), but the eating thing is HARD.

I want my most comfortable body back. It’s my body and it isn’t for anyone else. I don’t look forward to women’s reactions when I get it back. To be honest, I never noticed any different reaction from men no matter what I weighed; I’m older now and largely invisible to them which is also a relief. But it’s the women’s reactions that were the most problematic, and I have my own shaming self to deal with, my own jealous snarky commentary to grapple with.

Onward. It’s a rainy Monday here at Heaventree, but another beautiful day. xoxoxo

strange (for me) stability

stabilityOn June 27, 2014, I started something new. What I really mean is that once again, I decided to do something new — even though it was the same old “new” thing I’d been trying to do my whole adult life: lose weight. I always accompanied that with the little thought and keep it off, but I never even put that into my decision as a real thing because I didn’t think it was possible. Because this has been my life-long M.O.:

  • Lose 50 pounds by starving myself
  • Several weeks later, “slip” and decide what the hell I’ve ruined it now.
  • Gain 50 pounds because I don’t know how to lose 5 or 10, but I sure know how to lose 50!
  • A couple of years (or more) later, repeat.

When I took yet another stab at it in the summer of 2014, I had a different mindset. I had a longer view; I was thinking about what I wanted my life to be in this next stage, so it was a whole-cloth, decades-long (hopefully!) view. I wanted to take excellent care of myself because I do want a decades-long stage, and I’m 57. I wanted to feel differently inside, and that was the umbrella over everything else. Strangely, I didn’t decide to start “on Monday,” or “at the beginning of the month,” I decided to start right at that moment, 4pm on a Wednesday, I think. I’d already been eating mostly vegetarian, by which I mean completely vegetarian when it’s my cooking, and doing the very best I can when others cook for me.

Because of who I am, I needed to monitor my “gains” (which means my losses), so I weighed every single morning. My day drifted into a rhythm: green smoothie for breakfast, nuts and fruit mid-day, an hour of yoga at 4, a beautiful dinner made for myself, an hour-long walk after dinner, and meditation before bed (and work in all those long spaces in between). I liked it! A lot! It was easy and it fit me. And the weight fell off, which surprised me.

But really, my biggest fear and concern came then, when I lost the weight. Losing weight, know how to do that, check. Keeping it off, complete mystery. And then my friend Megan said, “Decide you can do it! You can.” As silly as it may sound, that was transformative. Something shifted.

I’ve weighed myself every morning I could ever since, and that slight monitoring feels important. The coolest thing is that there were times I gained weight! During my month in Chicago, I gained 10 pounds; no surprise, given the kind of cooking and baking I was doing, and IPAs I drank. But the big surprise is that I shrugged, meh, who cares — because I enjoyed my time eating with the kids, and it felt like comfort and care. And I knew that I’d just get it off and get back to myself. When we travel to Southeast Asia, I want to enjoy the foods we eat and not be worrying, so when we return I always have a few pounds to lose so I can get back to myself.

Get back to myself. It’s just become “myself” now. There are times I can’t do yoga for a variety of reasons and I really miss it, so when I can do it again, it’s a sigh of return. Aah, back to myself. The weight slips away and I feel myself again. It’s a version of myself that never existed, a dreamed-of, elusive version, and now it’s just ME. And the best part is that I feel present in my life in a way I didn’t before, which brings the stillness I wanted.

How? Why? Truly, I think these are elements:

  1. I started immediately instead of waiting, even for the next day. Kinda caught me off guard! Oh, I’m already in it! One thing about that, I think, is that I’d already “blown” the early part of the day, surely, eating more or differently, which helped me think about those experiences differently.
  2. My perspective — the rest of my life was the whole point, instead of right now.
  3. A whole-life approach instead of just diet and exercise. And in fact, not even approaching it as “diet and exercise” but instead mindful eating that made me happy, and moving my body in ways that feel so good. I wanted to be calmer inside. Still inside. I saw all the changes I made as contributing to that goal, because that was my real, centering goal.
  4. Daily monitoring. For me, I really believe that’s important. It doesn’t come with inner nastiness, or critique at all! And my weight fluctuates, too — not just the big fluctuation of Chicago, or the semi-big fluctuations of vacation (which are usually 5 pounds), but up 2 down 1, etc. It just gives me a general awareness. I also have a number in mind that is my outer limit of gain, and if I hit that, I am just a little more careful with my dinners until I drop below it. More vegetables.

I love the way you can keep surprising yourself, even at 57. Once in a while I realize, with deep surprise, that I’m wearing the same size I’ve been wearing for more than a year. I don’t care what that size is, although I’m happy with it, but I do like that it’s the same size. And the stillness inside me, the way I more easily address the world and myself — not always, but more often and more easily — surprises me too. I am able to be present much more often, now. All that also feels like me now.

Today I’m flying to NYC and then we’ll be off to China at the end of the week. I hope it’s a good Tuesday in your life! xoxoxoxoxoxo