Please, Don’t Watch Me Sweat

This year, I’ve been on a bit of a health journey. Nothing serious, but just simply trying to make small, healthy changes. Drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising.

The last one is the thing I struggle with the most. I’m not a lover of running. I do not understand the running craze. People who love running are anomalies to me, though they seem to be occupying greater and greater percentages of the population for some reason. Just know this – If you see me running, then there is probably a child in danger or a mass murder following me. Those are reasons to run. My health? Meh.

I think its okay to not love every form of exercise. I mean, not everyone loves every sport – so why should I love burning calories in every single form there is?

Yet, sometimes I feel like this anti-running thing is precisely the problem. Surely, because I have no interest in running a 5K or mini or marathon or tough mudder or ragnarok thingy….surely, that’s not the reason I’m over weight? Right? Right?!?! Somebody, quick! Reaffirm me!!!

Okay, this is probably denial. I will admit it.

The truth is…I don’t like for people to see me sweat. Literally, even when I was in shape, people would comment on how red my face was when I exercised. The worst part is that it was usually one of those muscled powerhouses checking in due to liability.

“No, I am not dying, thank you. I am just part Irish and we get red in the face when we drink…and when we exercise, apparently.” I would say and then feel total mortification. I am a serial over-discloser. A “fine” would have been perfectly acceptable here.

I truly only have two memories of the gym/workout place that I enjoy. The first was when I lived at home with my parents. Maybe it was tenth grade? I had a gym membership and a license. Some mornings or some very late evenings, I would hustle to the gym and workout in bliss…I mean, solitude. Hmmm….

Solitude = Bliss

No surprise there! Perhaps my introversion extends to physical exercise too. It probably does, because I don’t even want my kids around when I get my sweat on. Though, in my defense, the eight year old tends to say things that aren’t so tactful. Like, “Mommy, why do your boobs jiggle so much?” Invariably, I end up screeching through gasps of air about not pointing at people’s private body parts. Then, the child will say, “Mommy, are you dying?” Because obviously, if I can’t talk due to exertion, then I must be dying.

Thank you, eight year old. You are a bright, shining ray of affirmation.

The only other time I have enjoyed working out was when I was at boarding school. I had a friend, actually two of them, who would randomly be in the gym when I arrived. Jimi and Shane. Both of these guys were hardcore gym dudes. What is a hardcore gym dude? Ummm….anyone dude at the gym more than I am.

Anyway, they were just these really nice guys who said nice things like “You can do it!” and “You are going to have abs like Shakira!” This sort of thing was really good for me. I did get pretty good abs by the time I hit 500 situps on an incline bench, but they were never near Shakira range. Still, the votes of confidence were incredibly appreciated.

So here I am, thirty-three years old, trying to like exercise again or at least tolerate it enough to be able to do it on my worst depression/anxiety days. I’m not sure that my depressive days are the problem though. The days I am high strung? Now, those are the days I struggle to exercise.

You would think that there is a certain level of energy surrounding anxiety. Perhaps I could just channel all of the angst into a turn on the elliptical or a few reps with the weights? One would think something like that if they didn’t have debilitating anxiety.

Now, I’m medicated so it should be fine, right? I wouldn’t say my anxiety is well-medicated at all. I could probably find something that works better or is preferred, but that is not something I’m ready for right now. Honestly, it took three years to figure out the medication for my depression. I really just want to maintain for a year or two and I’m giving myself permission.

So yes, when I workout, especially around other people, it usually goes something like this…

Anxiety Goes to the Gym

I walk into the gym. Someone makes eye contact with me. My brain cycles through whether they are thinking any of the following things…

“She is fat.”

“Bet this is her first day here!”

“Oh my god, why is she wearing that?”

“Oh my god, why isn’t she wearing (insert some item here – likely, a girdle)?

“Does she really think working out is going to help *that*?”

I scan my check-in card and turn towards the workout area. Five thousand machines are in front of me, as well as more people with eyes. My brain begins sorting the various eyes turned toward me – malicious or kind? Additionally, now I have these thoughts.

“Oh my god, which machine do I use?!?!”

“Which one is the furthest away from anyone?” (Because I can’t yet determine which eyes are malicious or kind.)

“Treadmill or bike or elliptical? Which one will I look less awful doing? My feet will be insanely loud on the treadmill, because of my poundage. The bike isn’t really full body exercise so the gym rats will know I’m a noob, even though my fat ass probably already gave it away. Eliptical it is! Now, furthest from anyone!”

Locating the elliptical, I hop on and try to get the thing going. It beeps loudly and I do this weird stop/start combo thing that probably looks like I’m having a seizure. Now,I’m thinking…

“F*ck!!! F*ck! F*ckity Fuck!”

“Everyone has now definitely stopped to look at me!”

“Yes, those are definitely malicious eyes!”

“Screw it, I’m just going to look like I know how to work this thing!”

I begin vigorously pumping my arms and legs, willing the machine to just cooperate. It does…sort of. Now, I’m thinking…

“Oh my god, is this thing set to mountain mode or something?”

“I can’t breathe….I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe….”

“What would my therapist say?!?!? Something about the moment….something about the moment…stay in the moment.”

“This moment f*ing sucks!!!! Damn it, therapist, why do I pay you so much money!”

“What’s that you say? Oh, breathe in/breath out? Do you see that I’m climbing mount Everest here? Breathing is a little tough right now.”

“Oh my god, I’m having an anxiety attack AT THE GYM! Oh my god. Oh my god…what do I do? What do I do?”

At this point, I glance up from the elliptical machine from hell and discover a floor to ceiling mirror. Said mirror reveals my bright red face infused with a mixture of horror and confusion, as well as the eight malicious sets of eyes looking at me.

“Who puts mirrors in a gym?!?!?”

“Hot people who are in shape and want to look at themselves – that’s who!”

“Damn, I’m not hot OR in shape!”

“Why is that hot, in shape lady looking at me?!?!?”

The elliptical decides that the warm up is complete and switches into actual mountain mode.

“Oh my god, oh my god. Malicious eyes. Malicious eyes. Mountain mode. Mountain mode. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe.”

At this point, I decide that nothing is worth keeling over on the elliptical and being resuscitated by EMTs while the malicious eyes look on from their various perches in front of the reflecting glass.

Stumbling off of the elliptical machine, I beeline for the locker room, only to discover a naked, hot chick strutting her stuff. I pretend to be looking in a locker, even though I didn’t bring anything in here, because lord knows I don’t want to see *that*. Determining that I’ve stared at the locker for an acceptable amount of time, I rush out trying not to note how many people are probably watching me head for the exit.

I collapse in my car and notice that its 8:35.

I worked out today – for 7 minutes.

Solutions?

Well, after all of this reflection, I’m going to try working out at home. Did you know Amazon sells rowing machines, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, etc.? I put the power of Prime to use (shipping a machine to me definitely makes up for the yearly membership fee). I’m also going to listen to affirmations while I’m exercising. In fact, I’m actually considering having my husband read them while I record him. Things like “Your so sexy. Keep going. Shakira has nothing on you.” Ha!

Do I have social anxiety? Probably. Am I introverted or do I have social anxiety? No clue. It doesn’t really matter, as long as I don’t let it make my life too small…or my waist too large.

Candidly,

Ash

Your Future Self Will Handle It

I have goals. Lots of them. Dreams, too.

Yet, I find myself disconnected to them more than I’d like to say. By disconnected, I mean that they don’t seem worth fighting for in the moment. The desire is gone. The push to make it happen? Absent.

I know I’m not alone in this, but I do think that I’m more susceptible than others. I’m a ‘feeler’ much more than a ‘thinker’. My emotions are too often my guide. Ignoring them is like devaluing them to me. I can’t put them on pause and press play later. I do think, maybe, there are people who are able to do this.

I am not one of them.

I also think that, as a parent, I don’t get as many opportunities to feel my emotions as, say, a non-parent. When all four of my children are home, I am constantly in a dialogue with myself to keep things steady, calm. It’s that holding space thing. I do it for my children and sometimes that means I don’t do it for myself.

I’ve spent all my energy mastering the monster within (AKA Scream Mom) and the brownie calls to me with it’s sweet relief. Yes, I have that long term goal to lose weight. I am so very tired though – of not giving into myself, of choosing the right thing, of pressing pause on my desires.

The brownie is gone. Eaten.

I gave myself something, I try to reason. Yet, inside I know.

I know that I also stole something from myself – something from my future self.

My future self…

In my therapy program, there was a phrase that we often said to deal with anxiety.

My future self will handle it.

It was a way of recognizing that in this moment, I could do nothing to change the outcome or sway the future. So many times, there is nothing to be done, but wait for the inevitable hammer to drop. Yet, while we wait, we destroy the present with fictional pain from the future.

Sometimes, too, there are things to be done, ways to prepare for the future. In my scenario above, I could have NOT eaten the brownie. It would have prepared me for the future – a future with a healthier me in the spotlight. Damn, she’s hot!

Yet, sometimes, in fact most times, I find that valuing the current me is more effective. Here is what I mean…

As I ate the brownie, I reasoned that I had given myself something, but it felt suspiciously false. I knew that all I had given myself – was a pudgier gut down the road.

“My future self will handle it.” I automatically reasoned. Oh, well there it is. How will my future self handle a pudgy gut? With debasement and internal angry dialogue of course.

Damn it, future self!

And then, like a dawning morning, a light presented itself. My future self could find ways to meet present desires that don’t include brownies.

Things like watching my own TV show while the children are school. A TV show with romance, swearing and adult themes – something I NEVER do during the day.

I could also go online and find a flourless brownie made with protein powder and applesauce. I could give myself the gift of making something ONLY for me. (And yes, even chalk flavored brownies can be a gift!)sf

I could light a candle and honor all the things I gave up for the small people in my life.

I could spend 15 minutes distracting myself from the brownie urge with something else that I like – something like a game on my phone, one of those cool adult coloring books or knitting a winter hat in spring.

The point I am trying to make is that sometimes giving into your short term feelings is a good way to move forward. If I hadn’t gifted myself that brownie, then I would never have thought of all of the things I could have done instead. I just would have obsessed about the damn brownie that I didn’t get to eat!

(Or maybe I’m just reasoning my way out of my current brownie guilt? Quite possible.)

If today you are struggling with disconnect from your goals and dreams, then maybe find a way to honor it, to give in. Sometimes, it’s exactly what you need to move forward, to reroute your map into the future.

And if not? Your future self will handle it.

Candidly,

Ash

 

 

Two Negative Thoughts I Want to Ditch

A friend of mine recently asked me, “If you could get rid of any negative thought, then which one would it be?” It was a question I haven’t thought about in years. I actually don’t believe we can control or eliminate thoughts. We can only acknowledge them and then choose whether to accept them or not.

Yet, it had my mind whirling. What would I choose to lose?

  1. Negative thoughts about my body.

I think this is the area that harms my well-being the most. I struggle to see truth in this area so when a negative thought comes, I have no idea what to do with it. Accept? Let go? No clue. Am I fat? Overweight? Clinically, yes. Does this thought help me? Not necessarily. In fact, it mostly overwhelms me. At the same time, if I never had a negative thought about my body, then would I even be interested in healthy change? I think not. Perhaps our negative thoughts are more of messages or arrows pointing us to areas of improvement. Regardless, this particular area confuses me and I don’t know the truth or the way forward most of the time. If I could avoid this particular pain (which I cannot), then I would (but I cannot).

2. Negative thoughts about my purpose in life.

Some days, things feel really meaningless. Yes, my baby does need his bum wiped. No, I do not feel it gives my life meaning. Yet, it is one of things I do most frequently and so in my head the negative thoughts come. What am I doing with my life? Am I really helping the world? How can I make a difference? Just today, these thoughts rendered me immobile and I lay in bed questioning the meaning of life, while listening to the activities of my household in the background. For hours I did this. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get past these thought  – to choose – accept or let go? Oh, how I wish I could! But I cannot.

Those are the two things I would ditch (if I could), but, unfortunately, we can’t skip pain in life. We can’t skip negative thoughts and, as I said earlier, this is probably a good thing. Negative thoughts, like failure, are simply arrows to areas that need attention. Just as I’ve said about failure, we must meet negative thoughts with curiosity, not condemnation.

To My Body

Dear Body,

I will never forget the days after my second miscarriage. Swallowing emptiness, a piece of me was lost forever. Pain and fatigue occupied my sleep and my waking. You were speaking to me, but I did not want to hear you. You had let me down. All of me had wanted that baby, all of me except you. Why had you given up? Why had you failed me?

When miscarriages happen, people say stupid things. Things like “It’s better this way.” and “It just wasn’t meant to be.” My mother said, “Your body just wasn’t up to it.” I didn’t want to hear her and I didn’t want to hear you. All of my life, you had never talked back. Now, it seemed you were screaming – screaming and whispering all at once.

The message I felt and heard was all too clear. “You have never cared for me. Why should I care for you? Why would I willingly do anything for you?”

I didn’t know what to say so I slept. I cried. I raged. I slept again. I ate. I cried. I slept again.

We never came to terms, you and I. Life slowly ebbed into normalcy. New things, different things happened. Occupying things.

I was pregnant again and this time, you didn’t give up, for whatever reason. That’s when I knew you had not really let me down. You hadn’t failed me.

Miscarriages are the way of things. They happen. No one knows why.

Years have gone by now.  We never came to terms, you and I.

I wonder, is it time? Most of my life, I’ve trounced you around paying no attention to your messages. I was taught to be that way. I chose to stay that way.

What if you were always talking? What if I had listened?

No matter, now.

What do you say today, my unknown neighbor? What mystery do you hold?