Running Without a Spreadsheet

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I am going to try to explain something here, and am going to do it clumsily.  Your best option is to read this essay by Joshua Fields Millburn – a complicated, smart, pretentious, moderately sexist advocate of minimalism whose book Everything That Remains got me thinking about my life and my choices.  Damn him.  Anyway, it is a better use of your time to read his essay, but I am going to proceed anyway…

I track things.  I have as long as I can remember – in notebooks, then in Excel, now on Google Drive.  I set fun and not fun goals for myself.  Stretching back as far as I remember.  The summer between my 7th and 8th grade year, I set a schedule for watching reruns on TV.  I like structure.  Maybe it isn’t that I like it.  I am addicted to structure.  Yes, that seems right – addicted.

I could tell you that setting goals works for me.  But that is total bullshit.  For most of my life I have wanted only one thing.  To be thin.  I have never achieved this.  I have achieved being slightly less fat on occasion.  For a few days I was even more than slightly less fat.  But almost exclusively I fail at the things I track in notebooks, or Excel, or Google Drive.  If I could get back the time I spent tracking goals I didn’t achieve…  But I can’t.  And now I want to be happy and healthy – screw thin.  So maybe now it is time to stop tracking shit I want to do, and let it go or just actually do the things.

Here is what I was tracking (until this morning)…

* Completing my skin care regimen every morning and evening, as well as flossing

* Giving myself a manicure every week

* Completing 3 sessions of the couch to 5 K program every week

* Completing 3 sessions of kettle bell workouts every week

* Eating six servings of fruits and vegetables every day, drinking six glasses of water every day

* Tracking what I ate – just to be clear – I tracked what I ate and then tracked that I tracked it.  Seriously.  Not kidding.

* Blogging seven times a week

* Finishing a quilting project every week

* Finish a book every week

* Walking my dog twice a week

Well, that’s a humiliating list.  And other than finishing a quilting project every week, I never hit any of them.  I would read a book and constantly check my page count to make sure I was making enough progress for the day.  I would skip a workout, telling myself that I could make it up before the week was up.  I would size up my bag of carrots in my lunch to determine if I could count it as 1 serving or 2.  I managed my spreadsheet – moving through scenarios to see how I could get an “A” for the week.  I always got a D – once a low C.

At best the goal spreadsheet was a failing extrinsic motivation.  But, really, to be completely brutally honest with myself, it was a total waste of time.  Months after reading Joshua Fields Millburn disparage goal setting, I finally am ready to admit that I need to give up the ghost.  So I am running without a spreadsheet.  Today I did 30 minutes on the treadmill, and I will get no “credit” for it.  There is no box to check.  Whoa.

I am not sure what cold turkey looks like.  Probably a lot more of listening to myself.  I put the things I do still want to do (exercise, blogging, giving myself a manicure) on my calendar.  It still is a bit Type A, but I am new at this.  Baby steps.  That will not be tracked anywhere.  Whoa.

How I live, it got me here…

Love, love, love this.  Brilliant and brilliant.  “There’s a little cop inside that prevents me.”

Happy F’ing Birthday!

Happy F’Ing Birthday

I turned 40 about 6 weeks ago.  It was so different from my 30th birthday – they seemed like the birthdays of two different people.  Which I guess they sort of were in a way.

I had four parties when I turned 30 – a different party with a different theme for every decade I had lived in.  I can’t even comprehend that I did that now.  What an f’ing imposition on everybody.  I am hoping it was fun for at least some of the people, but who knows.  In that way that 30 year-olds do, I felt 30 was old – the end of my youth.  And I had figured I would never get married or have kids.  It would never be “in the cards” for me.  I wrongly thought that I would never again get to have a party for me.  Friends had weddings and baby showers.  And I had… well… none of that.  So I threw myself four parties.  Humiliating in retrospect.  Also because I still made everybody come to my wedding 3 years later.  And I had wedding showers.  Plural.  I wonder if I will ever pay off that karma.

This year was completely different.  As the date approached, I waivered between having a small dinner with close friends, or just doing something with Bill.  It was inertia, but I ended up just going to dinner with DH to celebrate my birthday.  And it was wonderful and quiet and ended up being exactly what I wanted.  And it was a little more than inertia.

A couple weeks before my 40th birthday, I was diagnosed with diabetes.  Eye-popping HbA1C levels.  And I was decimated.  Decimated and humiliated.  The stigma of being the actual embodiment of the obesity epidemic obliterated any positive conception I have worked very hard to get of my physical self.  Kaboom.  People who love me would try to explain that it was more than just that I was fat – but making “excuses” made me feel even worse about myself.  I had failed.  Period.  The jokes  and media reports and warnings about fat people – I am fat people.  I am the downfall of society.  Where’s my crown?

And my endocrinologist helpfully said “Diabetes is caused by eating portions that are too big.”  Fuck me.  Really?  I have cut my life to only 20 more years tops because of portion sizes.  Fuck.  And the only way to not have had a sentence of a brief life filled with going blind and losing my feet was to eat smaller portions?  I must be the dumbest fucking idiot in the history of dumb fucking idiots.  Again, where is my FUCKING CROWN??

That is where I was.  At the brink. And alone except for three little life rafts… which joined to become a rowboat, and I can see land now.

First, my excuses. 

I have a family history of diabetes. 

I felt hungry all the time.  I can see you rolling your eyes, but now that I am on the right kind of medication, I know the difference.  Being hungry all the time was real, not imagined – I could eat a giant meal and still want a giant meal.  Topped with whip cream.  Now I can tell the difference between eating because of hunger and eating because of emotion.  Before I gained some control through medication, it all felt like eating because of hunger.  I still eat because of emotion sometimes, but I know I am doing it.

I am a stressed person.  If my husband read this blog and read that sentence, his eyes would roll to the back of his head and the sheer magnitude of the understatement of that sentence. I get stressed easily and don’t always have the best skills to release that stress.  Stress is a contributing factor to diabetes.

These excuses, or rather contributing factors, to me having diabetes eased the bass drum of self-hatred in my head.  Sure, there is plenty of this that is still absolutely my fault.  But there were contributing factors.  I am not the worst person in society dragging us all down to economic ruin.  I am not.

Next, my husband.  DH is a superstar of husbands.  He stepped up and cooked yummy healthy meals and is always willing to go for a walk.  And he never waivered in his love and belief in me.  Sure, love comes from the inside, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have it from the outside also.

Next, my parents.  My mom told me that I wasn’t a total human failure because I had diabetes as many times as was possible.  And my dad had me start texting him my blood glucose readings – making it feel a bit more normal.

Support.  Love.  Regular exercise. Good health insurance.  All I needed to feel like a person who belongs to the world again.  Worthy of the world. 

So, happy birthday to me.  You are stuck with me, Society.  Say hello to the Queen of the Obesity Epidemic.  Long live the Queen!

Chicken and Sad

I took four weeks of adult absolute beginner ballet at a “big ballet studio in Kansas City”.  I was the biggest, not the most uncoordinated, but one of only a handful of the women in the class who attended all four weeks – a big challenge because the class was on a Friday night.  I am either getting older or smarter, but less stuff scares me.  I have tough conversations (confrontations) almost daily at work and it is like so much water off a duck’s back.  And I take a breath, walk into a ballet class, and stand amongst the thin on the ballet bar and know that I belong there as much as they do.  I sauté in the front line and look at my fat stomach and choose to put the thoughts about how gross I am out of my head – replacing them with thoughts about how much I deserve to love myself.  It is hard, but I do it.  Because I do deserve to love myself, and years of hating my body never got me nowhere.

I read posts on HAES and agree with the concepts, but wonder is fat stigma a real thing?  Is it something us fat people are imagining?  and then BAM!!  In absolute beginner, no one was particularly friendly with me, but that was ok.  I smiled and laughed at the jokes of the teacher and the confident students.  I smiled at everybody who made eye contact.  But I was nervous and maybe that smile seemed needy, not friendly.  Who knows.  Maybe that was it or maybe it was because people think less of fat people.  That we aren’t as bright or as worthy?  I don’t know.  There was one woman who returned my smile and said hello and we shared 3 jokes (I kept count), but for the most part I was excluded.  And there were two very beautiful, older, thin, very rich women who engaged with most of the classmates and the ballerina teacher, but did not return my smile or speak to me.  And, again, that was ok.  Who knows why.  Could be because I had black, not pink shoes.  Could be because I looked nervous and needy.  Could be because my grand plie was very not grand.  Could be that I was fat.  Truly, I don’t give a shit.  The rich and thin typically have not been my crowd, and that’s cool.

And then last week I went to beginners (having earned my promotion out of absolute beginners).  I got their too early (because I yam what I yam), paid, and waited while the childrens’ classes ended.  As the women lined up for the beginners class I started to get too nervous.  One pulled out a special foot stretching device and started to strap on pointe shoes(beginner, my yass).  And then the two older women came in and didn’t smile (but neither did I).  And then a series of thin and beautiful pulling pink slippers out of thousand-dollar bags.  For the millionth time I chided myself for buying black slippers because they were on sale (that loving myself thing comes and goes).  But I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I had every right to be here, and walked into the class.  Just because I was completely conscious of my size and my black slippers, doesn’t mean everybody else is.

And then, BAM! , a very mean comment about my size whispered by two of the women – a shared, knowing look between the two older women, and I grabbed my bag and left the classroom as quickly as I could.  Chicken.  ‘Cause fuck that.  I deserved to be in that class.  It was beginners ballet.  And I am a large, black-slippered, paid up, begginner ballerina.  There is fat stigma – at least enough to get me going out of that class I should have stayed in.  But I drove home, trying to calm myself, trying to stop the tears.  Because I can’t possibly be crying AGAIN because someone said something mean about my size.  I can’t still really be living this?  As a kid, as a teenager it was blatant and fairly regular.  As an adult, it is more about people who are smaller than me complaining to me about how fat they are – which I work very hard not to take personally, because it isn’t personal, perhaps tone deaf, but not personal.  But this was someone talking behind my back in front of me about how I was fat and deserved less because of it.  Seriously, I mean, fuck.

But I am over it.  I have the best husband in the world who let me cry and then helped me get mad – which is better than sad.  And then I ate a lot.  And then I got over it.  I need to find the courage to go back (to a different class on a different night).  And I will.  Not this week, but next week.  Because me and my fat stomach deserve to be there.

Fucking fuck fuck

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In my advanced age, I try not to get worked up by much, which is fairly easy since not much works me up.  But I had this fire put into me by my dad, and at moments of crippling incredulity, it ignites and all that I can do is spew obscenities in some useless attempt of making things fit in my head.  I cannot believe that there are people who are choosing to maintain their power in exchange for the loss of jobs and further degradation of the shitty conditions that the poor live in in this country.  That it is just accepted that it is ok for politicians to screw millions of citizens so that they can, I don’t know, maintain their speakership, makes me so angry my head buzzes.  That so little rationality is applied in our government is just a fact that can’t be changed.

And so I turn to philosophers – who take the “fucking fuck fuck” buzz in our brains that is the enigma, doubt, confusion of human existence and attempt to establish patterns, insight, and calls for rational thought.  Tonight I am turning to Hannah Arendt (pictured above) to soothe me.  If you are railing against the government tonight, like I am, maybe it will help you…

“Courage is indispensible because in politics not life but the world is at stake.”
― Hannah ArendtBetween Past and Future

Here is to courage… and if in your life you find yourself choosing to do something where the only discernible benefit is keeping your power over others, please reconsider.  For the philosophers.

What I Will and Won’t Miss

A few weeks ago I stumbled across Nora Ephron’s list of what she will and won’t miss when she left this world. The list made me cry and laugh, because it is so wonderful and because she is gone. The idea has stuck with me – and I find myself many times a day categorizing all that is my existence into these two categories. It gives me a moment to try to catch up with myself.

And so I am capturing some of my list here, copying the super amazing cool cat Nora.

What I Won’t Miss

Arguments about whether women are as funny as men or not
“Social Media”
Cars – driving in, paying for, riding in, paying to be fixed, insuring
The moment of anxiety when the phone rings
Couples Baby Showers
Weeds and Mulch
Music played at chain restaurants
Billed hats worn in the wrong direction
Shoes
Bras
Breaking News
Worrying about my appearance
Meetings
Sushi and the pressure to like Sushi
Dieting
Listening to others talk about dieting
Shopping
Smiling when I don’t want to
Saxophones
Raccoons and squirrels
Goodbyes
Not having enough time

What I Will Miss

My puppy’s blue eyes
Making my family laugh
Making my friends laugh
Bright fabric
Roses
Jewelry
Iced Tea
Peppermints
A cold bedroom and a big comforter
First snow
Finishing a task
Ballet, but most specifically giant leaps where the dancer pauses in the air
All the songs that break my heart
People who can laugh at themselves
Strong hugs – when a person is trying to give you a piece of them to comfort me
Colors – particularly the bright ones
Girl Scouts
Art galleries
Rivers
The picture of my great grandmother
My mom’s smile and my dad’s laugh
When DH calls me “Kitten”
Knitting
Gathering all the details on my stepkids’ days

Cataclysm!

The crack is always there. 9 steps up, on the left. Every time I look it is both bigger and smaller than it was yesterday. Every time, every day. I know it will always be there.

Every thing is always there. Nothing is here. I always want and don’t want a cheeseburger. And a nap. There always is an angry client to call back. It always is the same scene out my windows – forth and back and forth again. The desk and the couch and the car and the sound of my alarm clock are the same every day. The break from routine is as hard the millionth time as it is the first. It is always the same and leaves me feeling the same.

Come, cataclysm, come. Prove to me that I would be ok. Sparkle and shine and explode and radiate and fall from the sky in luminescent chunks. Show me that I will be ok. Don’t sneer and slowly crack and tease. Fucking explode. Prove to me.

I will trade you my fear and constant not-poverty and teeth-gnashing and checking the time again.  I will trade you those things for money, chaos, the ruin of new scenery. It is fair – a very fair trade. My anxiety is vintage.

Forget it. I know you are not coming. You are elsewhere creating and destroying the lives of other, more worthy people. People who lived on and for the brink. People who quit when it is time to quit, people who scream and rail and run. I stay – I churn and don’t create and don’t destroy. I punch in and never punch out. Cataclysm is not for me, even if I am for you.

So I will create my own cracks – it is all I can do, thank you very much. I will seep change slowly. I will patch the cracks and turn off the TV and shake things gently – waking up my possibility.

Reason #54,687 to LOVE St…

Reason #54,687 to LOVE Stephen Fry

“I suppose the thing I most would have liked to have known or been reassured about is that in the world, what counts more than talent, what counts more than energy or concentration or commitment, or anything else – is kindness. And the more in the world that you encounter kindness and cheerfulness – which is its kind of amiable uncle or aunt – the better the world always is. And all the big words: virtue, justice, truth – are dwarfed by the greatness of kindness.” ~ Stephen Fry

Rock my *$(#$#*^%% socks off!

Below are some women who have turned my frown upside down recently. I have always thought that disregarding people based on appearance is a bad thing to do. All the time disregarding my own value because of my size. I have internalized the assumptions about what I can’t do, can’t say, can’t count on from the world because I am not together enough to be a “normal” weight. I even have put on a pedestal attractive (thin) people who seem to like me DESPITE my appearance – that their ability to “overlook” my weight is a sign of their superior character. Oh, for f’s sake.
I have been collecting in my mind inspiration – women who show me that amazeballs doesn’t have a size…

1. Mellissa McCarthy. I have loved her from the moment (on Gilmore Girls) her face fell when Lorelai pointed out that she (Sooki) hadn’t had a date in years. I connected to that moment – her character and her as an actress – from that moment on. I have not been able to watch her new thing, Mike and Molly, because I am afraid it would heap on sterotypes that would make me cringe – but I still love her. And when she won for best actress at the Emmy’s I was thrilled. Funny doesn’t have a size.

The good:

The great:
Melissa McCarthy on SNL

The sublime: Her skirt-falling-off story on Ellen.
Melissa McCarthy on Ellen

2. Brittany Howard in Alabama Shakes. Fucking fuck fuck fuck. I know I should use my words, but I can’t find them… FUCK! I mean…!!!!!!! She kicks ass… and is kind enough to let those white boys kick ass with her. I love her, love this song, love her clothes, love how she plays guitar, love her hair, love that the world I live in contains this kind of awesome. Being a rockstar doesn’t have a size.

The good, the great, the sublime:
Alabama Shakes on Conan

3. Of course, Adele. I do love her voice and her music, natch. But I registered for the Army of Adele in Forever Service to her Excellency after watching the clip on 60 minutes below. Who raised this woman? Please write a book on parenting IMMEDIATELY. Did I wake up in Neverland? Is Adele the second coming? Insight doesn’t have a size.

The good:
Adele talking body image on 60 minutes

The great:

The sublime: Margaret Cho serving up some ass kicking’ to Karl Lagerfeld. “When you say we are fat, you murder our grace, and we’ve already lost so much to begin with.” TEARS. FLOWING.

In the spirit of these women, my therapist-approved commitment is to stop making fun of how I look to get in the nasty comments about my self before other people do. These women own being awesome and I can too.

Troof! (disclaimer)

Someone I love very much has breast cancer, and the thought is so debilitating to me, that I have a hard time focusing.  Getting through work without crumpling into a ball on the floor and crying while rocking myself has taken about all of the emotional energy that I have had the last few weeks.  And writing on this blog, although something I love to do, seemed like an indulgence I couldn’t allow myself.  As my mom aptly said the other day during one of her much appreciated calls to check in on me “It is like nothing else matters… like nothing ever mattered.”  Until this whole cancer crap is fixed, I feel like I need to hold my breath.
But I started to breathe this week.  And writing on this blog is one of my favorite things to do… and so I am back, with a disclaimer.
I hold back what I write because of the audience on this blog.  I am sure most of the audience is imagined, but I think it includes my parents, some coworkers who are also friends, some friends who have different politics than me, some people who think oversharing is overcreepy.
Which leads us to the disclaimer… please discontinue your reading of this blog if:
1. Reading my personal revelations will affect the respect you have for me at work.  I have worked at the same place for 13+ years – my friends and my work merge… show me a person for whom that hasn’t happened and I will be impressed and assume they are a robot, but that is not me.  One year I made an actual resolution to make a new friend who didn’t work where I did (Hi, Lisa!!) … that is how hard it is for me.
2.  You will be compelled to bring up personal things about my life at work around people who are not my friends… i.e. “Can you show us your presentation, G?  Oh, and later you will have to tell me about that pap smear… that sounded like a funny story.”
3. You will not like me if you have different political views than I do.  This does not apply if you are a liberal – you will probably be cool with the shiznit I opine.
4. You don’t like fat people.  You know who you are – but thanks for faking it to my face – I totally couldn’t tell!
5. You can’t separate our interactions from what I write here… this is hard to explain- but lemme try.  I excel at being a chameleon.  To keep peace, I will be whoever I think someone needs me to be, even if it isn’t true to myself.  I am uncompromising on the big stuff, but not much constitutes big stuff for me.  It is humiliating to admit that my personality is so much ether that can blow one way or the other, but it is – and in many ways that has served me well in life.  Being able to get along isn’t the worst character trait ever.  But on this blog I am going to further cut my teeth on being the real me – with my real opinions.  I share real opinions on this blog – but I tend to apply a thick coating of peppermint and chocolate.  And if that sounds totally unfun and could jeapordize the relationship we have, then please don’t read.  At this point in my life I don’t want to be losing friends.
6.  You can’t abide curse words.
So for the three of you that are left, welcome!  Even if I am writing just to myself… I am excited!