Facing the Demons

Someone asked me if I am flattered now when people “flirt” with me.

It is a good question and one I have always had an answer for.

If you did not find me attractive at 420 pounds then I do not care if you find me attractive now.

Which is why my wife is special to me. – Posted by Tony “The Anti-Jared” Posnanski on his facebook page.

This innocent post made me face something I’ve kept in the back recesses of my mind for a LONG time. To answer simply, I’m not comfortable with people flirting with me. I was one of those people who craved it at one time, in another life, because I was unhappy and felt unloved and unappreciated. The attention I got counteracted those feelings but I didn’t like the person I became as a result. So, I packed on pounds to insulate myself from that woman. Whenever I managed to take off some pounds it was like stripping the peel from an onion. I felt extremely vulnerable. As a result, each time I did it I rebounded back to a weight where I felt ‘safe’. It was a crazy pattern and one I’m not proud of – and it kept my weight yo-yoing for a long time.

Even after I became involved with the man who would become my husband I couldn’t seem to put the past out of my mind. I couldn’t seem to believe him when he told me that he loved me no matter what I looked like. I hadn’t known unconditional love before and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. So, I kept fighting my demons. Battles won; wars lost. Then came the ‘aha’ moment, when I looked at a picture of myself and saw a woman who looked much older than her years…and realized something had to change. As the layers of fat peeled away this last time I found myself facing the demons once again. I’ve changed enough to accept the love I have in my life – and feel comfortable and safe at this weight regardless of what I encounter in the ‘world’. I don’t need flirting to establish my self worth. I have that knowledge and it’s priceless.

If I could give one gift to those fighting demons of self worth and body image, it would be the gift of comfort and peace that comes with self respect and love of self.

Peace. Joy. Love. May you be surrounded by it and believe in yourself.

Before:
2008-02-27 Segina Debbi

Now:
IMG_1000

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Newsflash: Fat Lady Is Singing “Auld Lang Syne”

Because we’re human, it seems we can’t cross over into a new year without conducting our own personal assessments of the one just ending. We need to strip off the make up and examine our bare faces (and other body parts – yikes!), complete with all our pock marks, scars and blemishes. We need to ask, Did we accomplish enough? Did we ‘make our mark’? Did we succeed?

So, as the numbers 2 – 0 – 1 – 3 swirl around the bowl one last time before ducking out of sight into the commode of life history, I’ll get mine out of the way now. It’s pretty heady stuff, so prepare to be amazed. Ready? Okay, here it is: We made it.

Deep thoughts, right?
I know!

As I was thoughtfully meandering through the past 11 + months, there were a lot of milestones that flashed up on my mental slide show. Our families and friends shared births, weddings and, sadly, funerals. We marked birthdays and anniversaries and celebrated joys and sorrows of our own and with others. Images cascaded through my mind, each with its own distinct memory. If I hit the mental ‘pause’ button at any given point, I could take a mental time-trip back to their exact moment and re-experience it all – sights, sounds, feelings and even smells. Ah, the wonder of our minds!

Going through it all, there are many, many moments I’d like to re-live and share and also more than a handful that I don’t ever want to go through again (although the life lessons remain). If I could, I’d place my hand against the side of your face and do the Vulcan mind-meld with you. I would watch the expressions on your face in splendid wonder and, at the end, we would both sit back and sigh, exhausted and exhilarated.

And that’s why I boiled it down to those three words.

We made it.

Now, enjoy some of the images from our lives this past year…
2013 year in review 2

Complexity Has a Teenager’s Face

This is a tough one to put into print.

For almost a week I’ve been wrestling with mixed emotions about our granddaughter. It’s a strange sense of déjà’vue, taking me back over 20 years, to a time and place I never wanted to revisit. I’ve been hurtled back to a dark period in our lives, where we (as parents and step parents) struggled through endless days of deceit, trickery, thefts of property, cars and money, underage drinking, runaways, truancy (gee, did I miss anything? …probably…), trying to fix whatever was broken in my older son. He did not want to be fixed, thought he knew better, thought we were dumb/mean/the worst parents ever and wanted to get away from us to a ‘better place where people would understand him/let him do what he wanted’. For those thinking, oh, he was just a typical teen, I need to say, No, no he wasn’t. I know normal. I experienced ‘normal’. I could have dealt with normal ten times over. His behavior was anything but normal, day after grueling day. Those days turned into years that included foster care, 72 hour emergency inpatient assessments, escapes from institutions, prison and ultimately, multi-year spans of silence broken by intermittent promises to change that have yet to become permanent.

My oldest son remains broken to this day. Contact is sporadic and I remain guarded and protective of our family. The truth is, I love him as my son, but I don’t like him. That’s very difficult to admit.

Our middle granddaughter, one of his daughters, has a deep seated resentment for him. I understand it because he let her down at every turn, making promises that were unkept, not contacting her on special occasions, etc. She had her mother’s love, but needed more. And us? We didn’t even know she existed until a little over a year ago. She was already a teenager. She’d been told nothing about us-just left to think we knew about her but didn’t want to have anything to do with her. That couldn’t be further from the truth. So, we came into her life and encountered a woman-child filled with false bravado, wanting to reach out but fearing rejection. Intensely intellectual. Highly emotional (what teenaged girl isn’t?). Volatile, with a penchant toward drama. Self abusive.

She doesn’t want to be anything like him, she proclaims. Yet, all her behavior is following his pattern. Lies. Deceit. Thefts. You get the picture. Tell her she’s like her dad and she explodes in anger, saying she’s nothing like him (NOTHING, do you hear?)… but I sense that, deep down, she knows the truth and that is her biggest fear.

Whenever her father broke the law while living with us, we called the police and pressed charges. He knew the consequences of his actions yet continued to make bad decisions, and then his actions became more brazen and he started breaking laws that didn’t just involve our home/property. He went to court more times than I could count. He played the game well, got his wrists slapped at first…but eventually, found that the court had run out of patience with a repeat offender. He could lie better than anyone I had ever met, and I often think he has actually convinced himself that the stories he tells are the truth. I told him more than once, son, if you would just use your mind for good, you could do anything. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

Our granddaughter’s mom and step dad have followed a different path with her, giving her wide berth. She knows she can get away with things and she takes full advantage of it. She’s already been in court and now faces fines and possible jail time if those fines are not paid. That does not frighten her…yet…because I’m sure she believes her parents will pay the fines for her to keep her out of jail. For all I know, she could be right. It isn’t what I would do, but I am not them.

I would let her go to jail. I would take her calls and listen to her pleas, but I would not cave in. But again, that’s me…and we all know how well that worked with her father, don’t we?

So, here we are. She barely knows me as her grandmother, but she DOES know I am a strong woman who is somewhat immune to her rants. I love her dearly as my granddaughter and pray for her every day… and yet, there’s a silent, unspoken reality that says that, while I want her to know we love her unconditionally, we will not allow her to walk over us and use us until we are no more than nubs. And therein lies the rub. Because I cannot make excuses for her behavior. She’s too smart and too savvy for that. To say she’s the victim of her past is too easy. We all know people who have come through much worse childhoods and not only survived, but thrived. We all have things in our past that we should not have had to deal with as children. So, we take those things and say, okay, I know what NOT to do…and I know how to be a better person…and they don’t become crutches for bad behavior.

I wish I could instill in her a sense of self worth that would overcome whatever demons she is dealing with. I worry about her. If I could mend her with love and duct tape, I would do that. At this point, all I can do is pray for her and love her. If you have any spare prayer time, I’d appreciate you sending some for her, too. Thanks.

Locker Room Etiquette

They are called ‘Private Parts’ for a reason. Fact is, I don’t want (or need) to see them. And, even if they were extremely special (which they aren’t), I don’t want to see you lathering them up and rinsing them off. It’s just plain wrong.

Close the damn shower curtain. CLOSE THE CURTAIN. Is that so difficult?

…so, at this point you may being asking, ‘Something bothering you?’ Yes, my perceptive grasshoppers. Yes, indeed. It’s been festering for weeks – since I joined the Y, as a matter of fact. Since the first time I wrapped a towel around myself before stepping out of the shower stall and came face to face with a middle aged woman in the stall across from mine vigorously soaping and stroking herself with the shower curtain wide open.

It was not a pretty sight. I walked out and past her silently, wondering if she was claustrophobic or otherwise physically/emotionally limited so that she could not shut that curtain. I’ve tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. But after watching and listening to her over time, I don’t think there’s anything stopping her from pulling that curtain closed. She can do it. She just chooses not to.

And therein lies the rub (no pun intended).

I don’t like it. I shouldn’t have to see her private stuff, or how she handles it. I shouldn’t be able to tell someone whether or not she’s got a Brazilian or abdominal scars. I don’t want to know, yet, when I open my shower curtain and she’s standing there in full view, less than 5 feet in front of me, it’s hard to miss.

To be clear, the Y has a well equipped women’s locker room with two rows of nice, private shower stalls with curtains. Women don’t have to shower in a common area. It’s nice. Really nice.

Yet, still, there are those who feel the need to just bare it all. I don’t get it. (And I don’t want to).

So, I recently started giving some signals of my displeasure. Last week when I opened the shower curtain and saw her, she looked right at me. I gave her my most disgusted look and shook my head with (I thought) complete disdain. I can tell you this – if I’d done that to my kids, they would have definitely known they’d crossed the line. I have a good ‘look’. It gets the message across.

But this week, I heard her start the water in the stall across from me and could tell that, once again, she was up to her old tricks. I steeled myself against the sight. I knew I had to ramp it up…and I did. When I opened the curtain and saw her, I walked out, saying, “Jeez, seriously? Shut the frickin’ curtain!”

I know she heard me (how could she NOT?) and I fully expected her to approach me as I dressed, but she didn’t. She went to her locker and acted as though nothing had happened, having an ongoing conversation with another woman (who was showering at the same time in another stall with the curtain closed: i.e., normal).

I don’t know what next week will bring but I’m hoping for a lot less exposure.
None would be nice.

It’s Only Fitting

I’ve spent a lot of time on the toilet over the last couple days. I’m not trying to gross anyone out here – as the old saying goes, ‘no brag, ma’am. Just fact.’

No brag indeed. Just getting to the start line of my colonoscopy was a race in itself. The prep was an endurance event, sprint, and dirty girl mud crawl – all rolled into one!

It’s all behind me now (OK, I’ll try to resist any more puns- but that one was just too good not to include!). No polyps but the doctor found some inflammation and sent in a sample for biopsy. We’ll have results in 7-10 days. Meanwhile, I’m keeping positive vibes going and looking ahead rather than (ahem) backwards. (aren’t you proud of me?)

But (no pun intended, honest) while I was seated there on the stool today, I happened to notice the clothes tag on my pj’s staring up at me. “XL” it proclaimed. XL indeed. Like I needed a reminder at that point about the size of my bottom, hips and legs?

Now, before I go too far, for all those petite ladies out there who buy XL clothing because they like to wear loose clothes, especially pajamas and sweats, I just want to say, good for you. You are able to make a conscious choice to buy those big clothes. I’m happy for you (I guess).

But, from my perspective, here’s the thing – it’s tough to find clothes – especially workout clothes and sleep wear – that looks and fits nicely if you’re a size 14 or larger.

I look far and wide (again, no pun intended) to find good clothes that fit me. Some brands – Champion & Under Armor, make it easier. But Nike, Adidas and most of the other ‘top’ active wear providers need to listen when women like me say, ‘your clothing sizes need to be re-vamped to include those of us who won’t be in any upcoming commercials!’ We need workout clothes, too – dri-fit clothing, cold weather gear, warm weather wear, bras, shorts – all of it. Personally speaking, I shouldn’t have to go to the men’s section to find a top that fits my shoulders without straining. I’m an Athena…not Godzilla.

It would be nice to shop for women’s workout clothing without feeling bad about myself for not being a size 10 or less. I won’t ever BE a size 10 or less. I’ve accepted that. It’s taken a while, especially considering some cruel memories.

When I was a child, my mother would take me school clothes shopping at a store called Robert Hall Clothing.
Robert Hall
We’d start in the children’s section but ultimately be led to the back of the store – the ‘chubby’ section. The saleswomen would ‘tsk’ as they pulled out selections for me to try on. ‘If she loses weight we’ll be able to find her SO much more,’ they’d tell my mother in a pseudo-whisper I was meant to overhear (as motivation?). My mom would nod and agree as she turned away in embarrassment. I’d cry silently in the fitting room as I sweated and tugged ugly clothing into place, wiping away any evidence of tears before opening the door afterwards. I hated shopping then – and (here’s an aha! moment) – it’s probably why I dislike clothes shopping to this day. Shame on them all. Shame, shame.

The reality is, I am 40+ years older, living an active, healthy lifestyle but still large enough to be considered overweight – and I want good looking, well fitting workout clothes. I want choices. I want pretty colors. I want to look feminine.

It’s not too much to ask. So, get with it, people. This is long overdue.