Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the upswing...

Well, for the past few weeks, I've been in a bit of a funk. I've had a few easy 'excuses' for falling into a bit of a rut -- work has been moving at an unusually fast pace. School has been a bit more intense and intimidating than I had originally planned, shaking my sense of intellectual confidence in a way that I haven't felt in a while. And I've had a series of birthday and wedding celebrations that have provided many easy reasons for not sticking to my plan. But those are all just excuses at this point. -- excuses that have made it really easy to doubt myself. To doubt my trainer. To feel really let down and disappointed that I've not had as much progress as I would have liked. Or as much progress as other people I see (on TV) who are fighting the same demons that I am on a daily basis. That's why I haven't blogged in a while... it's difficult to put words out there in cyberspace when you're feeling like shit.

But, over the past few days, I've been reflecting upon what has brought me to this place -- a space of discouragement, uncertainty and well, funk, that initially worried me, but now I'm learning to live in and move through -- for a short while, at least.

As I map out the events and sequences of the past few weeks, I've come to realize what triggered my drop in motivation. Two months ago, I was preparing for my friend's wedding, and had bought a beautiful new summer-weight grey v-neck sweater to wear to the event. I had this fantastic picture in my head of what I would be wearing -- grey flat front dress pants, a crisp pink dress shirt, a chunky black tie, and a light grey sweater that would take away any chill in the air during the outdoor wedding. Matched with a pair of sunglasses and sharp shoes, it was all style, full speed ahead.

So, I bought this sweater. I tried it on in the store. And it was a tight fit. But I bought it anyway... because for the first time in a very long time, I was able to at least buy a piece of clothing that didn't come from a specialty store for 'big & tall' men. I remember hesitating about the purchase, but ended up paying far too much for the sweater, thinking that it might be a bit of subliminal motivation. I got home, tried the whole ensemble on, and envisioned that with two months of hard work, that I'd be able to pull it off. Well, I mean, put it on, really. I tucked the sweater away in the corner of my closet, and proceeded confidently through the two following months not fixated on that goal, but instead trying to remained tuned into how I was doing and feeling at that moment in time.

Well, shortly before the wedding (about 2 1/2 weeks ago), I pulled the sweater out of the closet, and.... it didn't fit. It didn't fit any differently than it did that first day I tried it on in the 'normal' store. I was confused. I was pissed off. I was crushed. So, I quickly had to come up with a Plan B for the wedding, and put myself through the shame of returning the sweater to the store... handing it back to the same salesperson who sold it to me in the first place, dreading that moment when I would have to tell him that I was returning it because it didn't fit. Big fucking surprise, I told myself. Who was I kidding.

So, I think that's what triggered it. I've been working hard for two months. Yes, I could have been working harder, but I've done better than I ever thought I would. I've never felt better. People have noticed that I'm looking different. And it feels good to have people, who haven't seen me in a while, tell me that I'm looking really great. It's a huge difference from just a few months ago when people were more likely to tell me that I was looking tired and run down. So, things were improving, but the sweater didn't fit. And that sucked.

Losing weight and getting in shape is, as I've said before, a tricky balancing act between making significant changes in one's behaviours as they relate to food and fitness, and one's thinking about well, pretty much everything. And as I sit here and reflect upon this sweater... this $100 tool of torture... I realize just how much of this battle has to be fought in my head. I've got a closet full of clothes that once fit, and which I've not let go in hopes that one day that they'll fit once again. Why would I subject myself to the judgement and scrutiny of trying to put on a piece of clothing that didn't even fit in the first place?

Well, I think it comes down to the fact that the sweater was from a 'normal' store. I don't know how else to describe it. But I bought the sweater at a store that I've never before been able to shop at. And for that moment in time, I started to feel more 'normal' than I have in a long time. I mean, since I started down this path, I've been feeling better and better about myself, feeling more and more like I'm part of the 'exclusive club' of people who are fit and healthy. Like I was 'fitting in' like I haven't in a long time, instead of being noticed for all the wrong reasons.

And the sweater reminded me that I still live on the fringe. That I'm still an outsider looking into a world where the margins are heavily populated with people like me who, for one reason or another, don't 'fit'. We don't fit because we're not thin. We're not straight. We're not wealthy. We're not smart. And as I think about it, the sweater not fitting came at the same time when I was feeling like my school work was really challenging. And for most of my life, when other people have drawn their confidence from their athletic accomplishments (which, in many ways defined success through most of my school years), I drew mine from being smart and having academic achievement come pretty easily. It was the one thing I knew I could always do well, and for the past few weeks, I've actually been a bit afraid of and intimidated by the work that lays ahead. So, I'm not feeling academically confident. The sweater didn't fit. What did I have to hang on to? I guess I began to question why I was doing all this in the first place.

I know it's a bit of an extreme question.. I mean, it was just a friggin' sweater. It's just a class. But I don't give myself much space to screw up. I don't provide myself with either the self-understanding to acknowledge that I've not done as well as I could have, or the self-forgiveness to accept the fact that I might have failed at something. Failure isn't really an option. And I suppose that's why I've avoided tackling weight loss for so long. I've failed at it so many times before, that I don't even want to come near that devastation again.

I need to learn to be patient. I need to learn to trust. I need to learn to forgive.

So, I dumped most of this on Sebastien last Wednesday as I was stomping through my warm up on the treadmill. And I know I threw him for a loop. He wasn't expecting me to be in this 'bad space'. And God bless him, he tried to encourage me to get out of it. But no matter what he said, no matter what he that point, not much was going to make me feel better. I didn't know what was going to make me feel better either. I just had to 'be' in my funk.

So, I 'was'. I continued my workout, in spite of my pissy mood, and consider myself blessed that Seb stayed by my side through the funk last week. It would have been easy for him to digress into a bunch of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' platitudes to try to make me feel better. But I think he got the sense that the best thing he could do to get me through the funk was to simply let me be there... but do 50 crunches, a bunch of weight work, and cardio while I was there. I guess if I'm going to be in a bad space, I may as well make it productive.

All this said, I'm starting to feel better. Over the past two weeks I have felt sad. I've felt like I'm failing. I've felt alone. It was really easy for me to throw a pity party for one. But, thanks to the love and support of wonderful friends and family, my party got bigger... and it wasn't about pity.

It was my 35th birthday two weeks ago. And because of the wedding (where I was to wear the fated sweater that didn't fit), I didn't really celebrate the occasion. Instead, I planned a dinner for last night to celebrate. Yeah, it seems a bit self-indulgent to plan and throw my own birthday party... but it is what it is.

And last night, as I sat at dinner, surrounded by 16 fantastic friends, all of whom love and support me, I realized that I'm not alone. That I'm not failing. That I'm actually pretty damn happy (the gin and tonics helped!). I've got wonderful people in my life who are here to get me through the funks. To help me wallow in the bad times. To help me celebrate the accomplishments and victories -- big and small. People who love me not in spite of my deficiencies, but because of them. I'm loved because I'm not perfect. If I were... frankly, I just wouldn't be that interesting. And that even though I felt like I didn't fit in.. that I was stuck living life in the margins.. my friends and family remind me that that is not the case. I belong. I fit in. I fit.

So, at the end of this convoluded stream of consciousness blog, rest assured that I'm starting to feel better. My dear friend Liza and I had a wonderful conversation the other day, and she helped me to see things a bit more clearly. She helped me realize that even though I'm feeling like I'm not making as much progress as I would like (or would dream of having, no thanks to the extremes presented in the media -- like the people on the Biggest Loser who lose 23 pounds in one week 'cause they work out 5 hours a day)... even though things don't seem to be moving as fast... at least they're moving. And she helped me remember that I have a choice. I can continue to do what I'm doing and make positive changes in my life, knowing that in 6 months, I will be better off than I was 6 months before. Or, I can do nothing, and nothing changes.

I think I'll go for the change.

I need to remember that this is going to be a long journey. Sebastien estimates 5 years... I think he's crazy... but he's probably right. But I hope you can see how telling me that this is a 5 year adventure is going to not only scare the crap out of me, but also throw me for a bit of a loop. Either way, it took me a long time to get here... change isn't going to happen overnight.

Patience I will have to learn.
Trust I will have to have.
Forgiveness I will need to figure out.

Amid it all, I will need to remember one thing:

Kia Kaha.
Stay strong.

PS. Liza also helped me remember that at work, we get killer benefits for psychotherapy... I think it's time to look after my brain again as much as I'm trying to look after my body.

1 comment:

  1. Where's that sweater and I will kick it's ass...and then kick yours. It's a sweater and I am glad you found the deeper meaning. Don't ever feel alone. I am in NZ. Not outer space. Don't worry. When you have reached your goal I will take you to Banana Republic(ahah) and buy you a rack of grey sweaters....and then you will realise that those stores aren't normal. They sell to the masses of skinny people who want to look the same. You have always marched to the beat of your own drummer and the new you wardrobe will reflect that as well.
    Kia Kaha means stay strong and you have to find it in you at all times...even if you have to summon it up from your baby toe..summon it. Kia Kaha Tama. I love you.