To Piching Butts and Blowing Kisses…and Proportion

I know this is a kind of kooky title for a blog post, but it was appropriate for this past week and I have Warren to thank for it. Things are changing, my perception is shifting and I’m not sure exactly what has transpired but I know that I am shedding emotional skin and emerging as something new. I have become a shape shifter, in the best of ways.

I have been particularly bold this week and that is new and exhilarating. Nothing that most people would write home about, yet big for me and my journey.  Maybe it’s just beginner’s luck…what ever the reason I am grateful to have had so many good experiences being present in my own skin this week.

I had dinner with one of my best friends on Thursday and it was exactly what I needed. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of weeks and it was like sinking into a soft pair of pj’s – very comfortable and warm. It is so easy to spend time together. We laugh often and discuss all the insignificant and monumental elements of our lives. It is wonderful. The only drawback of the evening was leaving my leftovers on the table. Mind you, we were laughing hysterically and I was too distracted by our giggles to remember the dinner I had just paid a pretty penny for.

Later, as we walked around a bookstore I asked him for a favor. He is an accomplished artist of many mediums (although he would not admit this to you) and I recently got a sketch kit I wasn’t sure about using. I asked for a tutorial and we sat down for a quick lesson over coffee. He opened up my eyes to the world of proportion in figure drawing. He let me try it out and I sketched out his face. It was fun. I think we’re going to start going to a drawing class together soon.

I’ve decided that sometime, in the next year I would like to volunteer as a figure model for a drawing class. I ask you now to close your mouth and read that sentence again. I know, right? Something is definitely changing around here. I’m a terrified to be naked in front of strangers, but I think that doing something this daring might be exactly what I need. I’m curious to see my shape and form through the eyes of artists and strangers – I wonder what that experience might do to shake up my perception?

After class today I met with my theater troupe for a short acting workshop. We started by getting into our bodies with some stretching and yoga. I was happy to feel my body respond and give into the extension of my limbs. I have been absent in my body for such a long time, I’m enjoying getting to know it again.

I’m looking into next week with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. I’m delighted at the progress I made this week and I don’t want to lose any momentum. I will continue to shift…

I don’t know how this picture ties into all of this – I saw these trees as I was walking to the Light Rail after class and it struck me as beautiful. An abundance of things are striking me as beautiful these days.

Forest for the Trees

I have tried to post for hours. I keep typing and erasing. Typing and erasing.  I think I have so much to say, but not sure where to start. I saw this picture and immediately thought of the idiom – Can’t See the Forest for the Trees.

This idiom is used with someone who is overly concerned with detail, someone focusing on a particular problem who is, in turn, missing the whole point. I think you would have seen my picture next to this definition before I broke down at the end of 2010 and started this blog.

It would seem that I’m doing better at seeing the forest and the trees respectively these days and that feels good. I haven’t been obsessing about any particular problems and that has been sweet relief from my usual thought patterns.

I’ve noticed this change in thinking in many areas of my life, but especially in my love life. Last year I would have added the comment – or lack thereof, but this is a new year and the reemergence of my genuine self so there will be none of that negative nonsense.

Nothing of note has happened yet –  no, I’m going to scratch that. My perspective has changed and that is a huge accomplishment. I’m surprisingly open to the possibility of someone. I have been open to this possibility (in theory)  for quite some time, but in my mind there were always certain parameters. I was open to a particular person that I had invented in my head and no one in reality seemed to fit. These days I’m excited about the possibility of someone, but more importantly, I’m excited about the possibility of experience.

I’m still interested in meeting and sharing the rest of my life with someone special, however, I’m not looking for that at this moment. I realized a couple of weekends ago that inside I still feel like a teenager. In my late teens, I had my heart put through a blender on puree. In the aftermath of that love disaster, I closed the doors to my heart and haven’t unlocked them for anyone. I saved myself a lot of extra heartache in some ways, but I also caused myself much more suffering by not allowing myself to experience anything. I protected myself from the bad, but who knows what good I’ve missed out on.

I’m petrified to be vulnerable and I’m unnerved at even the thought of anything romantic because I’m so out of practice. Yet I don’t feel paralyzed by that fear any longer. I’m finally really open to the possibility of even flirting, maybe a date or two.

I’ve unlocked my doors and opened my eyes.

Love’s Liberation and Bright Blue Toes

This is Lilly. She is a rescue black lab that we adopted three years ago. She is the funniest dog I have ever known. She had a horrible life of abuse before we saved her from a shelter. She’s a bit rough around the edges when she’s scared, but once she lets you into her heart she will love you with unwavering intensity and devotion. Every day Lilly greets me with such love. I wonder if anyone else in my life loves me so deeply.

When she first came to live with my family she was described as a savage. You couldn’t even look her in the eyes. Well, I could. She trusted me within the first five minutes. She has come to be a different dog. Love, family and belonging gave her a second chance to blossom and thrive.

I caught the last ten minutes of a new program called Master Class on the OWN network yesterday. This show featured the incomparable Maya Angelou. I wish I could have seen the whole show.  She spoke in those last few minutes about the power of love and liberation. I thought of Lilly. I thought of myself. As I sat there, listening to her harmonious voice, I started to cry. Even through the t.v. screen her eyes bore into mine and her wisdom shook me.

Her words of love and liberation echoed what I have been reading/learning about in the lessons in A Course in Weight Loss. How can I expect my body to change by hating it. Only the power of love can liberate and release. It seems so simple…

I wasn’t taught to love myself unconditionally. There are always strings. I was only truly worthy of love if I looked or acted a certain way. Even when I’ve tried to conform, there is still some aspect of myself that just isn’t up to snuff. This is one of the major reasons I want to change this year. I want to be a mother someday and I don’t want to pass this on to my children. I don’t blame my mother anymore…she taught me the lessons she was taught by her mother. I was instructed to hide my unique magnitude. I had to refrain from bragging about my talents or bright light. It is any wonder I have rebelled and found another way to be large.

I want to stop this cycle. I want the hereditary skill of self-hate to end with me.

In an effort to connect my mind, body and spirit – I wanted to include a meditation practice in this experiment. I wanted to use the visualization techniques in A Course in Weight Loss but since I’m still working through the first lesson, it’s too soon to start these meditations. Luckily, I remembered about a technique I read about in Prevention magazine some time ago.

The technique is mentioned in an essay called, “Happiness Is a Choice” by Ann Patchett. She recalls attending a meditation workshop and learning a technique for seeing the goodness in others. Ann sat for 11 minutes every day, her hands in front of her heart, palms spread apart by a few inches, and visualized her husband as his best self inside that space between her hands. She was to do this for forty days. If she missed a day she would have to start over again.

Ann realized that as the days increased, she was responding to him in a different way. She was grateful to have him. She says, “The more goodness I saw in him, the more goodness he showed me. I didn’t change my husband, I changed myself, and in doing that I opened my eyes to what had been there all along.”

I decided today that this would be a good meditation to start with. If I could see my own goodness for 11 minutes every day, maybe I could have my eyes opened as well.

I have tried meditation in the past and have failed miserably. My mind wanders. The incessant chatter in my brain drowns all my good intentions and I give up. This morning, I tried this meditation. I set my alarm for 11 minutes. Every time my mind wandered to other thoughts, I would bring my focus back to my breath. I would breath in the thought I am. I would breath out love. In – I am. Out – love. In – I am. Out – love. I am love. I am love. Soon I had my focus back and I could think about my goodness again.

My goodness seemed a bit of a stretch this morning so instead I visualized all the things I wanted to be good at. I saw myself teaching a class full of engaged children. I saw myself writing books, singing in front of a captive audience, laughing with friends, enjoying a date…

When the alarm sounded, I jumped. I couldn’t believe that 11 minutes had passed so fast. I also couldn’t believe that I was able to do it and keep my focus. It was the first time I have ever felt successful at meditation. I’m actually looking forward to doing it again.

Afterward I felt more focused and centered in my own skin. I generally rush through getting ready, but today I took my time. I used a face mask and almond body butter. I painted my toe nails bright electric blue.

Since the meditation is meant to be at least forty days, I will be adjusting my grid accordingly. I’m excited to heed Maya Angelou’s call to love and liberation. I showed Lilly how to love and watched how it transformed her. I want to love myself with the same adoration that she shows me every minute of the day. I have spent many years wallowing in self-hate, and was crazy enough to expect things to change. This year I’m learning to be present. I looking forward to liberation.

Solitary


I have been alone in the house since Saturday. It has been quiet and peaceful. This afternoon the weather started to turn and tonight has been cold and snowy. I want to curl up with a mug of hot tea and watch movies all night, but I have to be up early for school in the morning.

It has been a bit of “two steps forward, one step back” this week. I still think I’m making progress with this journey, however, I’ve come to a place of unease this week.

I think some of it has to do with the fact that it is quiet enough to actually hear myself think. I’ve been waking up from a self-imposed coma these last couple of weeks and I’m conscious of my size, figuratively and literally at the moment.

Today at school, I had an awkward conversation with another teacher about size. I don’t think I handled it well – mainly because it was seven in the morning and I hadn’t turned into a human being yet. After reflecting on the comment back and forth all day in my mind, I realize that the awkward element of the comment she made was about her issues with her weight  – not about me in particular.

For many years I feel like I have been the opposite of an anorexic. Let me explain. I have known people who have struggled with anorexia and no matter how thin they are, they still see themselves as overweight. I have been the inverse of this because I don’t think I am as overweight as I really am. Sometimes it shocks me to see photographs or my reflection in a window and I think, “Who is that person?”

That skewed perception of myself has been brought into focus with this project. I am accepting my size and self in a new, realistic way. Perhaps that’s why the size comment she made felt so odd – it was almost like she was fishing for my acceptance, to make herself feel okay with her own size. The conversation felt so strange today because I recognize the place she’s coming from, but it doesn’t fit me any longer.

I have been in this disproportionate body for at least half my life…as I connect to the real me that has been buried inside this fortress of skin, I’m coming to believe that avoiding the reality of my size only led me to get bigger and bigger every year.

It’s as if the more I ignored myself, the bigger I got in an attempt to get my own attention.  I feel a bit like a solitary tree in the storm. That image doesn’t have to be lonely or sad anymore…today it’s beautiful and strong.

I  don’t want to be the solitary tree and isolate. That’s part of the reason why this blog is important to my journey. I want to be honest and open about this process.

I am liking the idea of the image in this post because the tree is a symbol of my inner journey. Even if my physical body changes, my roots are deep and exist below the surface. I may be the only one who knows how deep they go. Doing the emotional inventory and seeing myself/size with realistic and loving eyes is hard work, but learning to value the strength of my roots and resolve to change is worth it.

 

Reappearing Act


I went to see Black Swan with a friend last night. I can’t say that I enjoyed it per se, but it was interesting and I’ve thought about it all day today. I also had a crazy dream last night that I’m sure was inspired by the swirling visuals from the movie. It started like a normal dream, but suddenly everyone was treating me differently.  A bunch of people asked me if I was alright and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Finally someone said, “Mary you look so different…you’re disappearing!”

I looked over my shoulder and saw my reflection in a window. I smiled and said, “No. I’m reappearing!”

I don’t remember anything else about the dream, but when I woke up this morning I recalled that line with such clarity. It felt like a profound declaration of truth and a big step in the right direction.

I’ve been talking about this present project stuff a great deal this week. I’ve received oodles of support and it helps keep up my resolve to continue moving forward.

It felt good to be with friends last night. Laughing until we cried. I’m lucky to have the people I have in my life. After dinner, I explained why I started this project and although my friend supported it – she didn’t quite understand why I’ve felt so lost. I’ve realized in talking to people about this, that in most cases I’ve hidden my discomfort quite well. After we discussed the specifics a bit more, she was glad that I decided to address my disappearing act. She was proud of my “going deeper” to make positive changes in my life.

I was thinking about my focus for this post earlier and I kept seeing a rose in my mind’s eye.  I love that from this perspective the rose almost looks like a maze. It reminded me of this journey  – getting to the bud. Working my way back to the center.

Sometimes I feel like I could only be described as beautiful from a distance. Sort of like when you see a famous painting in a museum –  when you get up close, it looses some of its magic. All you can see is the brush strokes and what you’d thought as beautiful is now distorted.

This picture encouraged me to remember my beauty today …even up close. To keep walking though the maze of petals until I completely reappear!

Talk soon!

Riding the Waves

It’s warmer today than it’s been all week, but I’m still cold. I usually run on the warm side, however that hasn’t been the case the last week. It’s twenty degrees right now and soon we’ll be back in single digit temperatures for the evening again. I thought the picture might help warm me up 🙂

The week has been okay. I’ve been riding the waves of emotion and energy level every day. I’ve been fighting double ear infections and haven’t wanted to do much of anything. I hate to report that, but I’m trying to be honest. That said, I have been writing daily and working through the 21 lessons in A Course in Weight Loss. I’m slowly but surely getting through the inventory of emotions in the first lesson. Some are harder than others. On Monday I worked on writing out my anger. I was surprised at all the things that came up to the surface. Turns out I was holding onto anger in all areas of my life. After I got it all written down, I felt noodley…like I had just stepped out of boiling water. I know it’s good to get all these emotions released.

I think I’ve been in denial about how many emotions I’ve been suppressing. I’ve already filled up most of the pages in the back of the book and I still have twenty more emotions to write about. When I really think about it, even as a child I had a hard time releasing my emotions. I remember being seven or eight years old and feeling slighted about something but not talking about it. Then a week would pass and it would fester. Eventually, I would explode and hardly remember the thing that made me upset in the first place. I’m realizing as I go through the process of writing out my emotions, that I still am holding onto more than I should.

I think I’m afraid of being considered emotional or crazy if I let it all out when I feel it. I’ve been told since I was little that I am too emotional so I guess I just learned to stuff it all down. I’m not always agreeable and I can be rather feisty, especially with my family, but I’m understanding with deeper clarity that emotional avoidance is something I need to keep working on.

I know that I have to embrace myself and come to peace with all of me. I need to accept every ounce of my personality and that has to mean that it’s fine to be an emotional mess from time to time. Maybe if I can ride the waves of my emotions in a healthy way, I won’t have to clean up the carnage of my emotional explosions for too much longer.

I’ll keep swimming through it. I’m definitely learning a lot and this is only the first lesson. I might choke on some salt water as I bob in the surf, but eventually the tide will even out and I’ll enjoy a back float in peace.

I’m Late!

Yesterday completely got away from me. Not because I was too busy…I was busy, but busy with fun stuff. I didn’t do one thing that I needed to do, including post for this blog. I was conscious of needing to blog yesterday, but it was too late to count for yesterday by the time I got home.

I picked up the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes this morning and saw this quote, “The modern woman is a blur of activity. She is pressured to be all things to all people. The old knowing is long overdue.” This could not be more true for me. I have a hard time saying no to family or friends and in the meantime, push myself farther back at every turn.

This was the main reason I wanted to incorporate a grid in the present project. But yesterday’s experience is typical of my usual M.O. – I know that making a grid is the easy part. I am nervous about keeping it up. I think if I tackle it as soon in the day as possible, I’ll be more likely to get things done. I also want to have a week of it under my belt before my classes start and my plate starts to pile up again!

I know that this journey is going to be positive, but I’ve already hit some small speed bumps this week. The goal is to not give up. The 12 step motto of One day at a Time is certainly something I need to embrace with this project and my life in general. I need to concentrate on the next right step and maybe then my life will start to come into better focus as well.

 

Walking Tall


It’s been a good couple of days. I haven’t finished figuring out my grid yet. We’ve had unexpected company in town all week and I started back at school for my final general education internship. I have  been working on my room and the organization has been going well. I haven’t finished because a lot of what I’d accomplished had to be brought back into the small space when the company got stranded here in Denver. That said, it won’t take much time over the weekend to finish up.

I’ve felt the need to purge stuff again too. I had a bit of a hoarding problem last year. It started after I lost my job in 2007. I started spending money like crazy on clothes and books. Mainly clothes. The depressing thing is that I found two complete outfits last week that still had tags on them. I can’t possibly wear all these clothes and I don’t want to store them anymore either when other people could put them to good use. There is a Dry Cleaner near my house that collects clothes for a woman’s day shelter and I think I will be contributing soon.

I also starting reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I’m really enjoying it so far. I don’t start university classes until January 18, 2011 and I wanted to get in as much personal reading as I can. I still read for pleasure during school, but not as much as I’d like to because of all the required reading. Sara Gruen has a way of writing with extreme specificity that sucks you into the scene. I’m lucky to be able to create fine movies in my head as I read, but her writing makes the movie vivid with Technicolor.

Even though I’m enjoying Water for Elephants, it was depressing to know it has been sitting in my bookcase for over a year. The receipt was still sitting in the pages, boasting all my purchases from that day at the Tattered Cover. I realized in disgust that I haven’t read any of the books I bought that day, over a year ago. Like the clothes, I’ve decided that I have no business buying any new books anytime soon. I need to read the ones I already have and save my pennies for other things.

There’s a nice philosophy that I’ve never been good at where you get rid of something if you buy something new – to balance it out. Like if I get a new pair of jeans, I have to donate or sell another piece of clothing. I think I will be trying this out in 2011 as well. For the first time ever I’m understanding that all this stuff is holding me back and weighing me down. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the kind of person who can carry their whole life in a knapsack, but I could try to find a happy medium…

I have been spending time daily working on A Course in Weight Loss. It has been very enlightening, but this portion is definitely going to take more than 21 days. Just the first lesson may take a couple of weeks. Marianne Williamson asks you to take an honest look at all the emotions you have failed to acknowledge and process – shame, anger, judgement, unforgiveness ect. She asks you to write it all out. To not go unconscious. So far, I have been honest and unflinching as I go through this inventory of bricks that I’ve built around my heart and literally built as pounds on my body. It is draining to write it all out, but I haven’t acknowledged these feelings in a long time. I worried that airing all of these long hidden emotions would upset the apple cart and knock me into a tailspin. I thought that I better warn people to watch for falling rocks, but my emotions have been more on an even keel these last couple of days than they have been for a while. I’m surprised and encouraged. Every day I feel a little lighter, even just energetically.

I also noticed today that I’m not slouching any more. I walked down the hallway at school today and felt tall. I held my shoulders back. It was a nice change that other people noticed as well. I have been trying to decide what physical activity I’d like to tackle for this first 21 days. I think yoga or walking would be good. I want to start swimming again on a regular basis, but I’m low on funds right now and think that will have to wait for a while. I have all the yoga stuff any wannabe yogi would desire (another one of my many spending sprees over the years). It’s been pretty cold around here lately, so walking outdoors would be difficult on my lungs…I think Yoga is the winner. Besides, I am not flexible in the slightest and could use a dose of stretching every day. It also would be a good mind/body/spirit exercise. Sounds like I just made up my mind!

I haven’t finished my grid yet, but I’ll get that teased out and post it on the blog on Saturday. I know it will include small chunks of time devoted to writing, music, exercise and meditation. Marianne includes many great reflections and visualizations in A Course in Weight Loss. I have to admit that I’ve looked ahead a bit. I’m going to spend time daily working through these meditations/visualizations for the 21 days to see what that could bring to my present.

I have to admit that it made me mighty nervous to post what I did last time and be so honest about my doubts and shortcomings. However, I feel better getting it out of my skin and onto the page (web page). I think just the act of committing it here gave me more power to proceed and move toward change. I was afraid that letting it out would make me feel smaller and embarrassed, but I think it did the opposite. I’m walking tall and learning  to like the view.

 

Hello world!


Welcome to the Present Project!

Today is January 1, 2011 and I am excited and a little bit scarred. I have decided to take the new year as an opportunity to create a better life for myself. I will be blogging about this year-long journey here, every Wednesday and Saturday for all of 2011. I might be posting more often as the year progresses, but you can at least count on new posts on those days!

The first course of action is committing 100% to myself. I have a couple of techniques in my back pocket that I haven’t actually used, for whatever reason. I guess they seemed to woo – woo New Agey or too simple. Whatever the reason, I will be trying them now. I will commit to working on my belief in myself and creating a life focused on the present. I am intending to incorporate various ideas, techniques and lessons into my life, splitting the year into 21 day increments (perhaps more time, based on the project). I will be reflecting about these changes and any effect they have on my life here. I will take this year and embrace practices that might improve my mind, body and spiritual connection by adding balance, acceptance and love for myself and my life.

First up, this week I will be starting fresh. I have been really bad about taking care of myself for a long time. I don’t give myself the proper care in terms of structure. I have rebelled against structure, but am understanding now that some structure is necessary to get things done.  I was extra stressed last semester. I’m in a master’s degree program that keeps me very busy. I worked as a substitute teacher and helped my family get through some tough times. I made it through the semester and came out on top with straight A’s again, but I want to make this semester easier on myself.

I need to organize my space and keep it up. I don’t want to spend a half an hour looking for a lesson plan because my space is so disorganized. So this week I will be working to make that happen. I will also commit to keeping it up every day for 21 days. This might sound silly, but I think it’s a good first step toward a better life. It’s also a small way to showcase that my space matters and that I matter in turn.

Second, I have a weight problem. I have been fighting with my weight since I started to enter puberty (begrudgingly) in fourth grade. I have a love/hate relationship with my weight because I don’t want to be like this, but I also get resistant to conforming to societies ideas about what makes a beautiful woman. We are bombarded with images of thin, wispy women and we are constantly told that anything bigger is wrong. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. I wish for a world that embraces everyone exactly as they are. However, that wish needs to begin with me. How can I ask the world to accept me, when I don’t accept myself. I know deep down that I have to find a way to love myself. I plan to learn how to do just that this year.

I don’t want this journey to be just about weight loss. I want this journey to be a road map back to the fourth grader who knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was perfect, exactly as she was. I want to embrace my present, yet recover that perfect girl who I left behind all those years ago. If I can accomplish that, any weight loss that happens as a by-product will be gravy.

Marianne Williamson wrote a book in 2010 called A Course in Weight Loss – 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever. I have decided to work through these 21 lessons as the spiritual component to my first 21 day experiment. I will be working through the book until January 22, 2011.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

I feel like there is so much more to write, but I think this is a good start. I appreciate this opportunity to grow and learn.

Talk soon,

Mary

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