Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

I’ve been in a big transition lately.  A whole lotta things have been changing my perspective.  Nothing eventful.  Nothing dynamic.  Just small, meaningful movements in my heart have given me a whole new look at what I want in my life.

What’s funny about that shift is that when you know what you want, you’re immediately aware of what you don’t want.  What’s better, you’re also aware of what you won’t tolerate.

One of these things is friendship.  I’m crystal clear about what I want in a relationship with a friend.  I want honesty.  I want support. I want time.  Those are the 3 legs of the tripod of friendship that must exist for the relationship to stay balanced.  And there’s a reason for those.

Honesty: I must know that you are honest with me.  I don’t want you to be abrasive, but I do want you to be honest.  I’ll ask your opinion.  I’ll ask for help.  I’ll ask for perspective.  If I can trust you to be honest, then I know that when I ask for your opinion, you’re not telling me what I want to hear.  If I wanted a lemming as a friend, the choices are abundant.  But I want truth and trust.  And as BFF#1 says, “You can say anything where trust is present.”

Support: I can be a little bit of a risk taker (file that under “Obvious statements of the year).  So I get excited about new opportunities and things that inspire me.  I can overwhelm myself with possibility and work myself to death on things that don’t matter.  Once you’re honest with me by telling me what you really think about the 18th project I’ve taken up this month, I want you to tell me that you believe in me.  I want you to say, “You got this.”  Even better would be, “Can I help you with it?”

Time:  This one is a biggie.  I need you to actively engage me in discussion and spend time with me.  And not only when you need something.  But when you want to say hi.  When you want to know what is going on in my world.  When you want to share something good that happened.  Something bad that happened.  I want you to want to see me for lunch or dinner or coffee or shopping or pedicures or a movie or just to run errands together.

Understand that I don’t need this all the time.  I don’t need you to reach out every single day.  I don’t want a friendship that feels like a checklist or a chore.  But if you treat people you work with or people you just met better than you treat me, well then there is a big problem.  If you make excuses to not spend time with me, or “forget” to update me on a situation that you needed me to help you through when you were in crisis… then there is a problem.  If you’re not saying, “How are you?”  Or “What’s happening in your world?” or “I haven’t heard from you.  Are you okay?”, then we ‘ve gone off the rails a little.

As I continue to grow and learn more about me, I find that I’m actively communicating these changes with my loved ones.  I want them to grow with me.  I want them to be in my corner.  Because they matter to me.

Sadly, there are some that aren’t ready to make the jump.  They’re content to be where they are, and that’s okay.  I was resentful for a while.  I felt like their desire to stay where they were was a rejection of our friendship.  I realize now, though, that just as I’m ready to grow, they may not be ready to.  And that’s okay.  My journey is my journey.  And theirs is theirs.

I’ve made the choice to allow that separation to happen.  I don’t want to go through the veritable “break up”, which no one walks away from unscathed.  But more simply, I want to allow them their own space on their journey.  I want to wish them well.  I want to remain thankful for their influence in what’s gotten me here.  I don’t want them to look at me as someone who pushed them into something they didn’t want.

I want their happiness as much as I want my own. 

And I wish them love and light on their journey.  Perhaps our paths will cross in another intricate fashion, once more.  Until then, I’m happy to have loved them.  And to have had their love.

We’ve all dealt with friendships ending at some point.  How have you handled it? How has it been handled with you?  Do you look back with regret, resentment or respect?

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Quit waiting. Now’s the time.

I’m fired up today.  Why?  Because I just read the interview with The Biggest Loser winner.  Rachel Frederickson went from a size 22 to a size 0.  Her weight dropped from 260lbs to 105lbs.  Which is absolutely incredible.  Amazing.  Inspiring.

But I took issue with one quote posted on USmagazine.com.  This one.

“I can’t wait to do everything,” she gushed. “To go out and make friends and take people up on offers to go for coffee or to the movies and just really embrace every moment of life and not hide anymore!”

Well, that’s awesome, isn’t it?

Wait…. What?  Let me read that again… she wasn’t making friends or having coffee or going to the movies or embracing every moment of life because she was heavy?

I call bullshit.  I do.  See, I believe that she was hiding.  But not because of the weight.  I think she was hiding behind the weight.  And I feel like the article was misleading.  Pointing the finger at weight instead of self-esteem is what feeds the stigma that you can’t be happy unless you’re a size 2 or a size 6 or a size whatever.

I’m not going pick on Ms. Frederickson, because I believe that her reasons are hers and I can’t be prouder of anyone who finally finds themselves again after being in the darkness of their own soul.

But I will pick on the men and women out there who buy into that bullshit. I’ll say this, quite plainly, so there is no confusion about the message of this post.

You don’t need to be a size anything to be happy. 

Weight doesn’t matter.  Status doesn’t matter.  Money doesn’t matter.  Being in a relationship doesn’t matter. Number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers doesn’t matter.  Your job doesn’t matter.  The car you drive doesn’t matter. Do you feel what I’m saying here?  NOTHING outside you matters.  Not a single thing.  What matters is how you love yourself.

But I can hear what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “But I’m not happy with my weight.  I think I’m ugly.  I feel fat.  I hate how I look.  I don’t like how my clothes fit.”  Yup…. I got that.  I know how that feels. Understand, though, that being happy and loving yourself are quite different from knowing that you can be a better version of you.

If you don’t like how you feel in your clothes, do something about it.  Use the discomfort to your benefit.  As humans, we run to pleasure and run from pain.  What you need to determine is whether or not the pleasure of feeling comfortable in your skin outweighs the pain of continuing what you’re doing now.  And if it does, do something about it.  Begin it today.

But if you find yourself saying awful things to yourself, if you find that there is a tape that plays in the back of your head that tells you that you’re not good enough or you’ll never succeed or worse (believe me… I know that you tell yourself worse), then it isn’t weight you need to drop.  It’s that nonsense.

I’m not hating on weight loss.  I’m speaking from a very knowledgeable place.  10 years ago, I started my weight loss journey.  At 25 years old, I was a size 22.  And in 10 months, I lost 70 lbs and went down to a size 8.  I quit the program I was on and in the blink of an eye, I put 50 lbs on.  I went back on Weight Watchers and started losing weight again.  But it was harder this time.  Maybe because I spent a whole lot of time hating myself for putting the weight back on to begin with.  Or maybe because I was a little older.  Or maybe because it gets harder the second time?

All I know is that I wanted that size “whatever” badly.  Size 10 came and went.  Then size 8.  Then size 6.  But that wasn’t enough.  I was already well within a healthy weight range and my BMI was great!  That wasn’t enough, either.  There was a magic number that I wanted.  It became an obsession.  I took up running.  I watched my calorie intake like a hawk.  I punished myself for transgressions.  At first, it was with more exercise.  Then it was with lowered calorie intake.  And then, with pills.  And then with purging.

Yup.  I was a size 4, 135lbs, and purging every day.  I took water pills 3x a week.  Laxatives 2x a week.  I was living off less than 600 calories a day, BEFORE I purged.  Who knows how many calories were actually getting absorbed?

Outwardly, I looked healthy.  I didn’t have the sunken eyes and sallow skin of the anorexics on TV and in magazines.  I looked like a normal girl.  Normal…

I was far from normal.  My throat burned at night.  I spent a lot of time crying when I was alone.  And the voice that spoke to me in the quiet darkness was ruthless.  I told myself every awful thing that I’d never utter to another human being.

“You’re not good enough.”

“You’re embarrassing yourself.”

“You’ll never be good enough.”

“No one likes you.”

“You’re worthless.”

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“Why are you still trying?”

“You’re ugly.”

“No one wants you.”

“Everyone knows you’re a fake.”

“You’re fucked up.”

“You’re useless.”

“I hate you.”

That last one.  I said it a lot.  And you know what?  I was very convincing because the voice that spoke to me in the dark was my own.  I had no defense against that. How do I tell myself that I’m wrong?  I should be the ultimate truth in my own head.

But that’s just it – I was the ultimate truth in my head.  That is actually what I thought.  And no amount of weight loss changed that.  It seemed that the more I lost, the worse I felt.

So why the rant?  Why hate on poor Rachel for her weight loss because *I* was screwed up?

The reason I’m ranting is because I know too many women who are just like I used to be.  They lose weight and think that once they get to goal, they’ll think differently about themselves.  And once they arrive, they don’t.  They might be proud of their accomplishment.  And they might enjoy the new clothes and the new attention they get and the compliments from loved ones.  After talking to a number of them, though, I found that there is this fear inside them.  “What happens if I gain the weight back?  How much can I gain back before I’m considered a failure?”

So that is why I’m ranting.  I know it’s taken me a long time to get here, but this is why I’m fired up: No matter what, you’re not a failure.  No matter what that scale says, you’re amazing.  No matter what size the tag on your clothes reads, you’re beautiful.  No matter what you used to look like, you’re perfect now.

If you’re beginning any personal transformation, begin with the right frame of mind.  Love yourself.  First!  Quit hiding.  Quit waiting for that magic number on the scale or the right size pants to go out and live!  Go have coffee.  Watch movies.  Make friends.  I can guarantee that you are more than the number of that tag.  I can assure you that what you have to offer the world, someone is looking for RIGHT NOW!

So go out and live.  Work on yourself.  Do  that.  Lose weight.  But for the love of everything beautiful in the world, please…. love yourself first.  Don’t wait for what you think to be perfect before you go out and grab the world by the horns.  Spoiler alert: you’re already perfect.  Now’s the time.

I’m sorry: An open letter to my loved ones

Dear family and friends,

First and foremost, I’m sorry.  I feel like I’ve let you down in many, many ways.  And there is nothing to say, except, “I’m sorry.”

I can honestly say that I don’t have a handle on what’s happening with me, lately.  At one point in the not-so-distant past, I was lively and energetic.  That girl is…. well, she’s gone now.  And I don’t know where she went.

I feel like I can never get enough sleep.  Never.  I’m exhausted.  During the week, I force myself to get out of bed and carry on with my day.  I get up at 5:30 am, drive to work, work all day (most of the time without a lunch break), drive home and finally take my shoes off at 6:00 pm-ish. I. Am. Exhausted.  I make dinner (which, admittedly, isn’t all that exciting these days), and I collapse on the couch, too exhausted to do anything else.  By the weekend, I lie around the house, unmotivated to do anything but sleep.

And then, there’s the pain.  I don’t know that you would ever understand, unless you have been where I am right now.  Miserable doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Imagine, if you can, the last time you were really sick.  Then, imagine the last time you were really sore.  Like… for me?  It’s like the time I had walking pneumonia, combined with feeling like I had just done a half-marathon.  I dread waking up, because moving in the morning is like trying to break out of an invisible cast.  I’m stiff.  It hurts.  And I don’t know if it’s just a morning thing, or if I’ll be suffering all day.  Once I get going, random things will bother me.  My hips will hurt.  Or my toes will burn.  Or my back will ache.  Or I’ll be itchy.  Or my legs will cramp.  Or I’ll have a headache.

Good God… the headaches.  They’re not to be underestimated.  It could be a dull, constant headache.  Or Satan can be gripping my brain with his red-hot, pokey fingers.  They can last a few hours, or for days.

I get tired of taking medications.  Side effects from them mean that I have to take other things to try to feel better.  For example, the Tramadol makes me itchy.  So I have to take Bendryl to alleviate the itchiness.  But Benedryl makes me sleepy.  So I have to take an energy pill.  The energy pill makes the pain worse (not sure why).  So I have to take Tramadol.  And so it begins, again.

……I carry guilt with me.  All the time.  I feel guilty because I am tired.  I feel guilty because I am lazy.  I feel guilty because I am crabby.  I feel guilty because I am distant.  I feel guilty because I’m weak.  I feel guilty because I’m losing the battle.

I don’t have the answer.  But it isn’t for lack of asking the question.  Please, don’t stop loving me.  Don’t leave.  Don’t close your ears and your heart.  I’m trying.

Maybe, someday, the girl that you used to know will come back.  Until then, just keep loving the girl that I am, now. Hug me.  Tell me that I’ll be okay.  Hold my hand.  Talk with me.  Let me vent.  Help me forgive myself.

With unparalleled love,

me

Well, I’d call this a breakthrough

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’d say that I handled this season pretty well this year.  Most holiday seasons are ones filled with dread, for me.  Besides the general stuff (whiny, bratty children or adults that don’t behave any older than their shoe size), this time of year has typically kept me hostage in a terrible past.  A past until, quite recently, I didn’t even fully understand.

I’ll throw it out there because I’m stronger now, and I know I can handle it.

I’ve talked about how poor my family was. This wasn’t just a holiday thing, we were poor all the time.  But that is something I can come to accept, if only out of sheer ignorance.  The real shitter about the holidays, for me, was that a time that should be filled with magic and hope was a time that stole my youth and innocence.

Shortly after I was raped (by a family “friend”) at the ridiculously young age of six, my step-father began molesting me.  This happened around Christmas.  I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I had repressed a lot of those explicit memories.  I knew it happened, but didn’t really remember when it started.

Everything came back to me, last year, and it wasn’t pretty.

But, it wasn’t all for naught.

This year, I was more mellow.  I wasn’t rushing out to decorate or have all the big parties.  But I didn’t hate everything and everyone, including myself.  I didn’t have any Christmas music freakouts.  Actually, to the contrary, I was actually able to laugh at the songs (rather than curse them), with BFF #1.  There were no tirades about the terrible behavior of children and their even worse parental units.  I even managed to get my Christmas tree up and decorated without fighting with anyone in my house.

The shooting in Newtown, CT threatened to derail me.  And for good reason.  I began to write a whole post about it, but couldn’t.  It was too painful to try to make reason from the tragedy.  I know many people who felt the same.  But I said, and say, my prayers and move on.  Because it’s all I can do.

This morning, as I write this, I’m sitting in my favorite chair, with snow lightly falling outside, and a cup of coffee next to me.  The hubs and the kiddo are still fast asleep.  I’m enjoying the peace.  And, if I remember all the commercials and movies, this is part of Christmas, right?  I’ll get the glory of watching them open their presents and then we’ll all settle into the hum of enjoying them.  But for now…. peace.

And, my God!  It feels good.

Happy Christmas, readers.  I hope this day brings you the peace that I’m overwhelmed with, right now.

The true meaning of Christmas

**Last year, I posted this on my blog after reading The Bloggess’ post about how she gives, and the way she inspires her readers.  It’s worth re-posting, in my opinion.

I’ve long spoken of my disdain for the holidays. The greed. The outrageous behavior. The ridiculous parents who spoil their children (who are already spoiled and misbehaved). The people going further into debt because they just *have* to give that present to so-and-so because “it’s what you do for Christmas.” The fighting between family members. The nonsensical drinking at functions and the following justification because “it’s Christmas” and that makes it okay.

BFF#2 even got me a “Humbug.” This little creature that is ugly and, for me, symbolizes the ugliness of the season.  I love it.

But beyond that, you might be asking yourself, “Why? Why, flame, are you so fired up about this?” I’ll tell you why. It’s a little sad story I like to call the history of my life. It may be depressing in the beginning, but stick with me. It gets better, in the end.

I wasn’t always so jaded. For the first few years of my life, I didn’t know enough to be jaded. That all changed when I hit the ripe old age of 6. I learned, then, that things aren’t fair. And you know what? I was okay with that, for a while.

We were poor. When I hear my friends (who are all doing well for themselves) talk about not wanting their children to “go without,” you’d think they meant food or shelter or something equally important. But no… they’re talking about laptop computers and other bullshit. When I say, “I went without,” I mean that quite literally. At times I didn’t eat. At times we didn’t have electricity. I was even homeless, for a small time, and lived in a parking lot.

By the time I was 8 years old, we lived in San Diego and had it rough. My mother was sinking further into addiction (her drug of choice was meth, but I suspect she did other things, too). She was also struggling with undiagnosed severe hypo-thyroid disease and narcolepsy. My step-father, at the time, was sexually abusing me, and using heroin. We had several other people living with us, all unemployed and all addicted to drugs and alcohol. Both my brothers were working or away from the house a lot of the time, trying to make a living and/or escape the madness. I had no such luck. I immersed myself in books, school, and other cerebral activities. If I was in my head, my heart was less attached to the awful situation I lived in. We got two checks at the beginning of the month, every month. Disability and child support. We lived like Kings and Queens for the first couple of weeks.

The problem is that Thanksgiving and Christmas come at the end of the month. When I was 9 years old, I didn’t eat on Christmas Day. Nothing. Not compressed ham-loaf. Not mushy stuffing. Not even gross gelatinized cranberry sauce. Not. Any. Thing.

When I was 10, we got on some sort of list that delivered food baskets for the holidays. We also got presents that year. I got a jacket. And a toy, I think. I remember my mom asking me what I wanted, and I felt uncomfortable asking for anything. I didn’t know who was giving me a present, and I certainly didn’t think it was right to *ask* for anything when they were being generous by giving me anything at all. I would be happy with what I got. And at the end of the day, that’s something that’s never changed.

When I was 11 years old, I got a bike. Someone, a stranger, bought me a bicycle. A 12-speed. I was floored. When I was 13, I got make-up and a journal to write in. The very first entry I made in that journal was that, someday, when I was older, I would do the same thing for a kid who was in need.

When I was 13 years old, I understood these things:

  • Life isn’t fair. And you had to deal with it.
  • Poverty existed, and I was living it, but “poor” is a state of mind.
  • The best gift you can give or get is love.
  • Regular people had the power to do extraordinary things.
  • Although adults make really bad choices that make their lives the way they are, children suffer. A lot.
  • The kindness of strangers can literally change someone’s life (and it’s changed my life a number of times).

By the time I was 14 years old, I lived with my dad. We didn’t have a lot. I’d even say that we still lived below the poverty line – but we were not poor. We chose to make do with what we had instead of going on welfare. My daddy sacrificed so I could have little things. I did without, sometimes, so my dad still had money to go out and have adult space.

Fast forward to adulthood. Those bell ringers you see? I give whatever change I have in my pocket or purse to them. And my daughter does the same (she’s been doing it since she was 5 years old.  She’s 17 ½ now). I was in line at the grocery store, once, and a woman wasn’t able to pay for her Christmas meal (ham, potatoes and stuffing), so I paid for it.

But the tradition I have that is the most important to me is “The Giving Tree.” (If you don’t know what that is, go to your local grocery store and find the Christmas tree that’s normally near the service/customer service desk. There will be a tree that has little paper ornaments on it. You can choose a name, go buy a present, bring the name and present back to the store and they will get it to the child.)
I go to the store every Christmas, and pick a name off the tree. I look through the names and almost always find a name of a child who reminds me of myself, at that age: a girl about 11-14 who has general interests listed but no specifics. I look, hard, for a gift that matches those interests and bring it back. Sometimes it’s been a diary. Sometimes a winter coat. Sometimes an art kit. Every year I do this.

That is what Christmas is. Christmas is the act of giving. It’s the act of giving to make someone else’s life better, without the expectation of receiving and without the sense of obligation. I do this every year because I said, when I was 13 years old, that I would. If you’re looking for Christ in your Christmas, this is where you find Him. In giving.

Last year, I was amazed to find that strangers who stumbled on to my blog were inspired to give.  So many people, last year, went out and sought out their own local Giving Tree.  Guapo read my post while waiting for his girl.  He went inside the bookstore he was near and bought books to donate.  Right then.  After reading my post.

I only hope to do the same thing this year.  I picked my child to give to this year.  I’m going shopping for her on Black Friday (the day when humanity is at it’s worst, in my opinion).  I hope I inspire you, this year, to give. It doesn’t have to be money. Give of your heart. Give of your time. Be kind. Love people. That is the spirit of Christmas. Everything else is just noise.