Monday, July 16, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: That Time* I Cried in Target

Last weekend we went to Target after our favorite Mexican restaurant dinner, and I went to the Paper Rebel section in Greeting Cards to get a support card for a friend.

That's when I found this:

Can you see what this says?
"If Britney can survive 2007,
you can do absolutely anything."

I saw this card and did a double take. And then I started laughing maniacally, and I took a picture of it and sent it in a text to my friend I used to teach with, message reading, "WHERE WAS THIS LAST YEAR???"

See, when I had my breakdown at school, I had to stop in the bathroom before this friend drove me home with the school psychologist following, and I joked, "Nobody hand me clippers because I'm having my Britney Moment! Just kidding, I love my hair. But this is a clippers kind of day..." and she laughed, only to be admonished by the concerned psychologist that "this isn't funny! This is serious!" To which she replied, "I know, but even in this darkest moment Jess is STILL FUNNY."

So that's how I went from laughing to crying in Target and went back to buy the card for myself because there was only one and it was just too perfect.

And yeah, I framed it.

While I'm not sure I agree with "you can do anything" sentiment, it's a great reminder that she survived that difficult period in her life, and SO DID I. If I could do anything I might also have a Vegas residency and make a zillion dollars dancing half-naked with snakes, but I guess I'll be content with a great marriage and a career I love and a happy life on the other side of my own personal tragedy.

* I say "that time" like I don't often end up in tears in Target... It's a fairly regular occurrence.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Huh. I See Myself in Serena Joy

I loved The Handmaid's Tale as I love most things Margaret Atwood -- I have my mass market, $5.99 copy, all brittle-spined with yellowed pages, from when I first read it in high school. When I saw the copyright of the first American edition of 1986, I thought I'd had a copy from when it first came out, but later realized that made zero sense as a) I was ten and no one would give this book to a ten year old, b) a copy from when it first came out would have been hardcover, and c) I noticed the additional date at the bottom: "Twenty-eighth printing: December 1991." Ah. That makes more sense. I was 15 in 1991. The same age as Eden.

I loved Season One because it both closely followed the book and delved deeper into the world Margaret Atwood created -- you got to see more of June's life in the days before, and what happened to her husband, Luke, and get answers to what happened to Moira. You got to see more of the other side, too -- the Gilead folks. Maybe even feel a little something for them. And it ended very similarly to the book, although Offred wasn't pregnant in the book.

So I was so fascinated as Season Two came out, because where could they go from here? The book was done, there was no more material there, it had to be all original, and really take us deep into the horrors of Gilead, into the minds of the people who created it, into what a handmaid's pregnancy looks like for all involved, what's going on in Canada for those who've escaped, and how brutal everything could be.


(okay, so now is where I warn you that there are some spoilers ahead, in case you haven't seen it, and also confess that I am still reeling from Episode 10, and haven't finished the season yet because I've been warned that it's pure emotional horror, but also REALLY GOOD TV, so I feel like I have to watch it even as it rips me apart on the inside)

Have you been sufficiently warned?

What I love about Season Two is that you get deeper into people like Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia, who are awful people, who do terrible things in the name of their belief, but who are not one-dimensional villains at all. They have backstories and struggles of their own.

It has been very uncomfortable to relate to Serena Joy. In part because she shows some level of humanity that makes you feel okay about starting to like her, and then she takes that away with, oh, I don't know, smacking a Martha so hard she falls or holding June down while her husband rapes her. Those things make her unlikable, obviously.

But there's these little moments where I was like, "oh shit, I feel for her."

- When she's setting up the nursery, a nursery for a baby that's not growing within her or biologically hers, and it's this connection to a tiny life that she hopes to raise.
- When she has her baby shower and it's kind of awkward but she has all the ooohing and ahhhing over little things but can't sit there rubbing her belly, and then says with increasing aggressiveness "LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME UNTO ME."  That was creepy, but also something I could understand, this strong desire for a baby and feeling of "it's so close, and if I just WILL it to happen it will..." That desperation and single-mindedness took me back. Not enough to oppress a country full of women to get what I wanted, but I could understand it.
- I don't condone smacking anybody, but her fury at when June talks about her own baby shower and reminds her of what she doesn't have, that I could understand. This sense of "ARE YOU KIDDING ME, here is this moment and you are bringing your own experience into it that I'll never have in the same way and RUINING it." It was a salt-rubbed-in-the-wound moment that's happened to me in different circumstances.
- When she's in her greenhouse, tending to her flowers and her plants, putting all her nurturing energy into them when she's feeling the conflicted feelings of waiting for someone else's pregnancy to bring her baby to her. I had tears in my eyes when she was stoically transplanting seedlings and pruning roses, because I've felt that way -- I can't nurture a life, but dammit I can make some flowers grow. (Of course that metaphor gets real icky with the whole "Nothing more than a flower to bee" piece that comes later.)

There's a flip side though -- I totally get that THE WAY she is accomplishing her family is completely awful, with reproductive slavery and the treating of Offred as a vessel for her baby more than an actual human, and being surprised when she is not grateful for little "kindnesses" like showing her the nursery, because this is a nursery for her baby that she is not even going to be allowed to stay with in the house after the birth, and she is nothing to these people but a walking uterus and placenta. That maybe June brings up her own shower because she thinks that they are having a moment of confiding, but maybe it's more that she wants to remind Serena Joy of all she's lost to be here as her vessel, that she had a life and a family before and this has stolen all that away from her.

But it is difficult to watch the Serena Joy story, and to see myself in the desperation to have a baby, the willingness to do (almost) whatever it takes to have that tiny human in your arms. It is difficult to realize that in this world, I'd be more a Commander's Wife than anyone else, unless I was an UnWoman and off in the colonies because I refused to play along with the insanity. Yeah, I'd probably be an UnWoman because I basically tithe to Planned Parenthood and I don't think I could be a Martha, complicit in all that went on in the house and powerless to do anything about it but free from being a Handmaid due to lack of working reproductive parts. But in terms of the infertility, that makes me feel for Serena Joy.


I do love the sedition, the brief feeling of hope that maybe she'll realize that she's made something that may have come from a deep faith and a (misguided) belief that the world could be better if the roles of men and women were more Biblical, but that has deeply disenfranchised her. That she wrote the laws that keep her from writing. That she does truly detest knitting. The visit to Canada was fascinating for that -- to see her smiling as she looked at people living ordinary lives, not scowling at their sin. To see her disdain flicker across her face for the pictorial schedule she's handed. I had so much hope that she'd go more in that direction instead of punishing Offred for her part in their brief friendship and colluding that resulted in her whipping by telling her she can't stay after the birth and then participating in her rape. I don't yet know how the last 3 episodes pan out, but I don't have high hopes. She seems to be like, "huh, well, I sort of screwed myself here, but I can't admit that I made a mistake, so I guess I'll just be all in, and REALLY be hideous in the name of my faith." I do hope that she sticks it to the Commander, and the teaser from Loribeth about Episode 11 gives me hope that maybe at least a little more subversiveness is forthcoming.

Something else in Season Two that was interesting was the juxtaposition of June's pregnancy and the flashbacks to Moira's time as a surrogate. I loved that, because it showed the difference -- one was consensual, an agreement that was made in good faith with a huge dollop of choice, and still painful -- even more painful than originally thought, but DEFINITELY not the same thing as Offred's situation. Which is reproductive slavery. Sanctioned rape. The treating of a woman as nothing but a vessel for another couple's baby, with no regard for her as a person. It made me think on people's thoughts on adoption, and those who were so mystified as to why a birth mother would get to choose the adoptive parents for her baby, as if she was nothing but a vessel for a child that should go to a more deserving couple, and her worth was nothing, just the baby.

Episode 10 was difficult, so difficult to watch, and I am dreading but also looking forward to finishing out the season (between today and tomorrow, I hope). I did not feel for Serena Joy at all in that episode. All my feels were for June. And the scene where she is on her knees in the snow, finally able to let her heart bleed out all over the place now that her child is driven away and she doesn't have to put a brave face on anymore... I sobbed until I had frog eyes. I sobbed for all the mothers who are separated from their children. I sobbed for my children who never got to be, but who I mourn for the futures they never had, for the alternate reality we may have played out had things gone differently. I sobbed for the pure loss that June hemorrhages into the icy winter air.

Bryce doesn't understand this, much like Not A Wasted Word's husband who called it "Misery Porn" (a term I absolutely love). He was like, "If it is triggering you, WHY are you watching it? Why are you choosing to sit on the couch all huddled up and crying?" He has zero interest in watching it, and wanted to know how many men watch it since "It seems to be all about pregnancy and childbirth and women being treated horribly" and he also said he doesn't ever choose actively to watch something that will trigger feelings of loss or trauma. So I do watch it all huddled up and crying and alone, usually when he's not home. I watch it because it's good. I watch it because it is thought-provoking. I watch it because I have a bit of a self-flagellating streak, probably.

I am nervous to finish out the season, but also so grateful that there's such good TV to watch, even as it makes me uncomfortable and angry and desperately sad. It is an incredible vehicle for empathy. And, as Roe v. Wade becomes increasingly fragile, a terrifying cautionary tale that a society like Gilead isn't so impossible to imagine becoming something closer to reality. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Tales of Telling

I feel like I've wondered multiple times recently if I'll EVER be done telling people that things didn't work out for us parenthood-wise, most recently here when I ran into a student from two years ago at a local festival and she wanted to know if we'd "gotten our baby yet."

Well, I can tell you it's not done, not yet, and I suspect there will always be people who I will run into who haven't seen us in forever or who I don't know through social media, who will wonder what happened, and it will throw me for a bit of a loop.

When I went to graduation, I saw a student of mine from last year and her mom, because her older brother was a graduate. It was lovely to see her, and to stop and chat briefly -- but then at the end-of-the-year district-wide celebration I ran into her mom (a teacher in the district) again, and she said, "I hate to ask, but my daughter was so excited to see you, and she wanted to know... what happened with adoption?" I took a breath and said, "Oh, oh yes, of course...well, that didn't go well. Not at all, actually, and last year we hit a bit of a rock bottom and decided that 8 years was enough time to slam our heads against the wall and so we are now childfree." And she looked a little sad but also totally understood, and I asked her if she would tell her daughter but not in a "boo hoo" way, because while it is sad it is also wonderful to not be living in the in-between.

Today I was running a bit late for tutoring and I walked into the library in the town where I teach, and a librarian was at the front desk who I haven't seen in forever, and I knew her back when I had one student with autism who did a lot of community-based instruction and he worked in the library, shelving books, and she was the supervisor then. I've run into her a few times but realized it had been QUITE a long time ago when she was like, "Oh my gosh, it's you! How ARE you?" and then said in hushed tones, "I hate to ask," Again, it was a take a breath and then, "Oh, ohhh no. Noooo. That didn't work out. Eight years of heartbreak proved to be too much to continue." And she looked sad but was understanding and said, "oh yes, that's so hard, my daughter's friend has had a heck of a time, just like you guys, and when do you say it's enough?" I had a moment where I felt I had to let her know that adoption didn't work out, either (she looked positively shocked at that one), but said, "It's been a year now, and it's honestly okay. We're good. Life is better when you're free of all that." And then she APOLOGIZED for bringing up a painful subject right before I had to tutor, which was actually quite refreshing (and at this point it doesn't always reduce me to tears, it's just matter-of-fact, so it was fine).

And the last one was no one we knew personally, people we saw at a graduation party who we've seen at other parties with the same people, infrequently. It was amazing, though, because the question was, "Do you think you'll want to have kids?" -- which made me feel like "DAMN this neck cream is working out!" because at 42, nobody usually asks you if you're still thinking about it, usually it's asking if you have elementary aged kids or whatever. And when I said, "No, it didn't work out for us," she moved on and showed us pictures of her dog. Win.

I may still be telling people about our tale of woe and subsequent happiness and freedom from constant awfulness, but the way I am reacting to it is definitely improving. So that's progress, at least.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Liver Update: 3-Month Progress Appointment

I had my doctor's appointment this week to go over my bloodwork and my progress with the whole weight loss thing to save my liver. I was so nervous, because last time the scale was evil and I felt like I was not making any progress at all (it said I'd lost ONE pound, ONE!).

So I did a couple things.

* I made my appointment in the morning, so I could hopefully have the scale be closer to my at-home, post-pee-pre-breakfast number. I think doctor's scales are a conspiracy intended to make you feel terrible about yourself.

* I wore the lightest clothes I could think of -- new short linen shorts (fun red-and-cherry-blossom print ones from my last Stitch Fix) and a white tank-top, and easy-to-slip-off flip flops.

* I took a picture of my scale number at home to prove the conspiracy.

* I didn't drink my coffee before the appointment, in case it caused water retention or raised my blood pressure or something vile like that.

And the verdict was... 

Well, the scale number wasn't what I see at home, but it did say I'd lost 8 pounds (9 since January). I do not understand how my home scale says 12 and the doctor's scale says 9, but whatever. The doctor was very pleased. Unlike last time, I wasn't reduced to tears of frustration and fatalism.

But the bloodwork -- the bloodwork was AWESOME.

* My liver values are way, way down. Back in the normal range.

* My triglycerides are also way down -- almost a third lower than my January bloodwork.

* My cholesterol is high, but the ratio is good and on an improving trend. My doctor was like, "it looks like genetics is against you in this department, but the ratio is more important than the number, and you're doing okay there."

* My glucose was at the high end of normal, but my A1C was totally normal, so I am no longer flirting with pre-diabetes.

It was awesome to have the doctor be so happy with the results, and to feel so encouraged by the results. It's AMAZING what a difference a few pounds makes when your body hates you and converts everything into evil.

Another fun fact -- apparently every extra pound you carry puts an extra 6 pounds of pressure on your knees and ankles, so my weight loss so far has alleviated upwards of 50 pounds of pressure on my joints. Which makes sense, because while my knees are super crunchy, they're not painful. Which is lovely.

And so I continue on, working to get down 20 pounds from my starting point, because it is so good for my health, I feel so much better, and I'm finding ways to get fun exercise into my day. May I be able to keep it up!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Facing My Fear

I was in the library the other day for tutoring, when a book jumped out at me from a display. The clever self-populating display -- Someone Just Returned This! -- had everything from books about pre-diabetic diets to beachy romance reads to a Jon Ronson book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. And on the second tier of the display a pink and blue book caught my eye.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Image result for big magic elizabeth gilbert
Published by Riverhead Books,
an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

What caught my eye was the "BEYOND FEAR" part -- it grabbed me and whispered, you need this book. I love Elizabeth Gilbert, but I did not love Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, I never finished it and it just didn't speak to me, at all. Maybe it was where I was in my life when I started reading it, but I let it go. And then discovered through essays and posts on social media that while I did not like Eat, Pray, Love, I LOVED Elizabeth Gilbert herself.

And I absolutely love this book. I devoured it in about two days. I flagged things. I am thinking about buying a copy to mark up and keep near me.

What I love about it is that it's not about CONQUERING fear, it's about LIVING WITH it. It acknowledges that fear is a part of life and any time you go to try something new, most people have that voice in the back of your consciousness that whispers vile things and shuts you down, and you have to work through that inner naysaying voice to do the things that bring you joy.

And I loved that it reminded me of Mel, and several posts that she wrote (but I can't seem to find to link to specifically, despite searching over a year of posts which was very enjoyable but fruitless for my purpose) where she talked about writing for the sake of writing -- because it brings you joy, because it is important to you, because you want to CREATE something -- and NOT because you want to necessarily become the next J.K. Rowling. That being authentic and feeding your creative self is important, because when you lose that in order to try to get published or picked up or whatever, you often don't get published or picked up or whatever. (But that authentic writing, writing that you do because you love it and it's meaningful to you and you did it for YOU above anyone else, that can surely be successful, but it can also be a side effect of the greater purpose, which is to write passionately, and well).

Elizabeth Gilbert wants you to greet your fear, make friends with it, acknowledge that it's there and probably always will be, and then tell it "okay, I'm going to ignore you now and be creative and do what brings me joy." There is no magical fix for being afraid of criticism, or failure, or not being good enough -- the answer she sees is to meet that fear and then walk on past it, even as it stares daggers at your back. It's going to be there. But you don't have to listen to it.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is this one:

"And you have treasures hidden within you -- extraordinary treasures, and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we don't have time anymore to think so small." 

And this one:

"You can live a long life, making and doing really cool things the entire time. You might earn a living with your pursuits or you might not, but you can recognize that this is not really the point. And at the end of your days, you can thank creativity for having blessed you with a charmed, interesting, passionate existence."

The book is all about harnessing ideas and nurturing them before they decide to leave and visit someone else who will do something with the material, and pursuing creative endeavors like writing despite the fear that might otherwise stop you from uncovering those treasures inside you.

It sent me further down a path I've been traveling recently, thinking about patterns in my life and just how much of it has been formed by fear. I love my life, and where I have ended up despite heartbreaks and bad circumstances, but there are a lot of twists and turns that were almost entirely made up of decisions based on fear, and I don't want to continue in that way.

One goes back to college, and the moment where I decided that I did not want to continue in the secondary education program attached to my English degree. It's true that when I watched my video in a mock lesson where I taught my peers analysis of "Tintinnabulation" by Edgar Allen Poe with my professor and he asked me "What kind of a teacher does this make you want to be?" that I started crying and quietly wailed, "I don't WANT to be a teacher, actually!" It's true that I said that I didn't feel as excited about it as everyone else seemed to be, and I was having a hard time envisioning myself as a teacher, and it just didn't seem right to me. But that wasn't the whole truth. The whole truth was that I was afraid. I was afraid my lessons weren't good enough, I was afraid I lacked the authority to convincingly employ classroom management, I was afraid no one would take me seriously, I was afraid that everyone would see right through me and see the failure that I was sure to become, and I was afraid that I'd somehow have to get my driver's license before field experience (and DEFINITELY student teaching) started and that would mean having a car, too, and I had no idea how to get the money for that as I really didn't have much saved at all. And so I quit. Honestly, I thought very poorly of myself, lacked all kinds of confidence, and was fearful of independence -- which led to my decision more than anything else.

That same quality led me to the next decision based on fear. After graduating college, I was with my boyfriend (who would become my ex-husband), and things weren't as terrible as they would get but they weren't great, either. I thought about breaking up with him, briefly, but I was afraid to be alone. Afraid no one else would want me. And I really, REALLY wanted to get out of my parents' house and be on my own, to begin my adult life, and I didn't see how my $24,000 editorial assistant salary in the NYC area was going to allow me to do that unless I moved in with my boyfriend. I was scared to try to do it on my own. And I waffled back and forth between "Things are good and so what there are bumps, everyone has bumps" and "What am I doing, I deserve someone who is going to treat me well and be nicer." And I went with, let's move in together -- we both wanted out of our parents' houses, we both wanted a more adult life, and it seemed like a good move.

It wasn't.

This was followed by the decision to continue on and marry a person who was capable of amazing cruelty and scared me to the point of running out of the apartment to sit in the courtyard (not super relaxing, as it was Yonkers right on the border of the Bronx, and while I didn't feel unsafe it was disconcerting to get woken up in the middle of the night to police chasing a car thief up our fire escape yelling "Freeze motherfucker, FREEZE RIGHT THERE!" so being outside was sort of iffy, but felt safer than staying inside on many occasions). I married someone who frequently told me I was fat and stupid. I married someone who yelled at me a lot and punched me in the arm and shook me by the shoulders and threw things at my head, because even when three different people tearfully begged me not to marry this man, my answer was "But we've already booked everything for the wedding." "I've got my dress already." "It's too late." I was afraid. I was afraid of disappointing people, of being alone, of needing to find a roommate and an apartment, of the awfulness that would probably ensue if I called off the wedding, and I didn't want to even entertain it.

So I didn't.

And then I stayed far longer than I should have because I was afraid again of leaving -- would people think being treated shittily was enough? Was Nicole Kidman's smeared face transferred onto the ivory living room wall paint above the couch because my Glamour magazine had been thrown forcefully at my head (he missed), enough? I wasn't afraid because of a stereotypical "If I can't have you, no one can" type thing, or being told that if I left I'd have the shit beaten out of me, because I never had the shit beaten out of me. I was afraid to strike out on my own. I was afraid to have people be disappointed in me for having made a bad decision. I had no confidence in myself, none whatsoever. The only good decision I made was to go back to school for teaching, because it was either that or have a baby and he said he wasn't ready and wasn't sure he wanted kids at the time, and I wasn't willing to put both off. So I went back to school, in a weekend program where I could continue working full time and freelancing because I paid for the whole thing out of my own personal money with no support whatsoever other than student loans for the second year because it was no longer possible to freelance and complete a Master's Degree and work full time.

And then I could start my new life, because I was given the gift of infidelity, and that meant to me a "socially acceptable" way to leave the situation. No one could blame me for not doing enough if I left because I was rampantly cheated on, right? And if anyone tried to say that it was my fault, that somehow I had "let this happen" through my inadequacies as a wife, and that I should give it another go, well those people would clearly be assholes and I shouldn't listen to them.

I was afraid of all the uncertainty wrapped up in leaving, but I had a LOT of support from friends and family and a lot of things slid into place so that I didn't have to be homeless or quit my teaching program because I had nowhere to go and no savings because all the savings were in his account and the divorce took nearly 2 years to come to settlement. Many wonderful people made those rough couple of years possible.

And this is where I learned to live with fear, at least in my personal life, and to go for what I wanted and to choose my life partner better. It turns out I deserve to have confidence in myself. I see my life now and it is AMAZING how sheerly different it is from my life 15 years ago. It's also amazing how different I am. I am thriving in my teaching career, I am married to an incredible man who is supportive. Our life is so full, despite not having the children we so wanted, and we have a cozy, inviting home and colorful gardens and just a tremendously wonderful existence.

I do feel like I slid back into the fear with infertility, and I felt like once again I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I was afraid to leave it. I didn't want to let people down, or have regrets myself that I didn't do enough before moving forward to something else. I became far more anxious again and afraid to take risks, to branch out, to do different things.

And then I broke up with infertility and the dream of parenthood, even though it was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and I've been focusing on living beyond fear. Again.

I've taken up tap dancing again, and Buti Yoga for the first time, and I said yes to chaperoning the 8th grade D.C. trip. I pursued National Board Certification as I was in the death throes of chasing parenthood, which in retrospect looks very, very similar to pursuing a Master's Degree in teaching as my marriage imploded the first time around. I was feeling out, "what can my life be about when this doesn't work out?" in a very similar way. I also had the courage to attend a literary conference in my city, alone and feeling very deficient and mildly unprepared, but I did it and it was good for me.

I found Big Magic right at a time where I am working at writing more, not long after that conference. This summer is about exploring different avenues. It's about branching out and facing rejection (which is inevitable) so that I can have the possibility of getting out there in the world in new ways. I love this space, this space is at the heart of me, but I want to explore more ways to write and have it read, of course in addition to this precious slice of the internet. That voice always comes back to me when I want to write more: You suck. Who do you think you are, submitting something for publication? You aren't a good writer. You shouldn't even try. But recently I've been telling that voice to shut the fuck up. It can live there, crouched in the darkest, dankest spaces of my subconscious, but I'm going to ignore it and shine my light on other parts of my mind. This book helped me to see how much of my life I've sacrificed to fear over the years, and how much I'd like to move beyond that small, shrunken existence and live that transcendent creative life.

Image result for big magic elizabeth gilbert
Image courtesy of PopSugar

This makes Bryce very happy, as he's been encouraging me to do more since, oh, forever. It's so frustrating for him when I read a book or a blog post and go, "Yes! I should do something exciting! I should push myself and expand what I write! I feel so encouraged!" and he is like, "I'VE BEEN SAYING THAT TO YOU FOR YEARS, BUT OKAY, GIVE ELIZABETH GILBERT ALL THE CREDIT."

I want to work hard and devote time and see what happens. I want to answer a resounding yes to Elizabeth Gilbert's question, "Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?" 

Monday, July 2, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Making Friends With Yoga

Yoga is one of those things that I usually prefer to do alone: in my TV room, in front of one of my many DVDs that I probably know by heart now, wearing nothing but shorts and a sports bra, with no one to witness my excellent form, my complete faceplant, or the way that bridge pose or shoulder stands make my bosom suffocate me. 

My best friend loves to go to a yoga studio, in part because she found one near her that offers both sweaty yoga and relaxing yoga, and this crazy thing called Yoga Wall where you can be upside down for most of the hour, and in part because she has three children and the time including the drive is a blissful minivacation (and usually the best time for us to have a phone conversation uninterrupted). 

The only time I went to a yoga studio was when I went to Fertility Yoga, which was lovely when it served its purpose and then it kind of soured yoga classes for me. Maybe if I didn't associate yoga classes with opening my hips and increasing pelvic bloodflow, maybe if I didn't associate yoga with a horrid class with a substitute instructor who told us to do an opening mudra over our uteruses and do a visualization where we did our best to persuasively invite our babies floating in the ether to come to us...which might have been powerful had it worked out, or had I not miscarried a couple of weeks earlier and was stymied as to why my invitation was always rejected, why I was continually stood up in this regard. Acupuncture has similarly been ruined for me because I associate it with the ability inability to make my uterus receptive to an embryo or two, or my ovaries capable of making embryos that didn't whittle away in the dish.

I don't intend to go back to acupuncture, and I never intended to go back to a yoga class, until a margarita-fueled conversation with a friend resulted in signing up for Buti Yoga at the same studio where I take tap classes. The video that explained this form of yoga was terrifying, filled with very earthy, half-naked women sweating and whipping their hair around and talking about unleashing their inner power. Some of that sounds good, but most of it looked a little overwhelming, and like I wouldn't be able to keep up...but at the same time I was really, REALLY drawn to it. 

Well, surprise, we signed up and we both showed up last Monday and IT WAS AWESOME. There were no bare midriffs and no sweaty hair-whipping. Just a small group of women, sweating it out and opening chakras and dancing and doing plyometrics and feeling a very primal connection to our bodies. It sounds like I've drunk the kool-aid, but it was a seriously invigorating class. And I kept up! Some things I cannot do (I have never even heard of this "flipping your dog" thing you can do to extend a three-legged dog), but I just modify and nobody cares. And everybody is sweating like a beast. It's my new favorite workout.

I was initially nervous to be in a yoga studio again, because I remember many a shavasana where tears just rolled down my cheeks and settled into my cleavage as we did our final meditation and everything was so focused on the miracle of getting pregnant, a miracle that just never panned out for me (for long, anyway). But it feels amazing to go get out of my comfort zone, to join the company of other women carving out time in their busy schedules for fitness of body and spirit, and to be a part of a supportive environment that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what my body can't do, but rather helping it to get stronger in ways I absolutely can control. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, likely ones that actually are micro and not cheating like this post? Go here and enjoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Loving My Body Again

I used to love my body, with all its curves and bulges. It used to be easy.

Way back in high school, I was known for sitting in the track/cross-country locker room in my underwear and sports bra, in a sort-of lotus position, pretending to be Buddha. Even when running upwards of 30 miles per week, I had a belly and love handles, but I loved them.  Not enough to wear a bikini per se, but enough to be goofy in the locker room.

I started playing "hide the mole" -- a bizarre game where I would do side bends and make a little mole on my midriff disappear into my chub repeatedly, while chirping "hide the mole, hide the mole." I was  am a little weird.

I named my stomach Marge (as in Large Marge) -- and in college, when she got a little larger, I had an inspired moment the night of my twentieth birthday. I gave her an actual face, with blue eyeshadow and a lipsticked mouth around my belly button. As my friends and I had some pre-frat-party cocktails in the dorm (I think statute of limitations covers me here), I did an odd sort of bellydance, making Marge talk and even smoke a cigarette. It was hilarious fun, and even more so when I, um, somewhat chastely "hooked up" with a guy at the party who I'd crushed on for a bit, um, woke up in his apartment (it was chaste! I swear!), and realized that Painted Marge was still hanging out on my belly. Which might have been very confusing if things had been just slightly less chaste.

I joked about my belly, my constant companion, the fat that just wouldn't disappear. My legs could be thin, my arms could be thin, but I still looked like an avocado pit with toothpicks stuck into it, hanging out over a glass of water.

I lost some weight, I gained some weight, I fluctuated back and forth but Marge was always there.

And then infertility happened.

I discovered that Marge was actually part of my PCOS, that how I carry my fat is totally related to my diagnosis. I discovered that Marge made it a little easier to do the subcutaneous injections in my belly, for I had a bit more to grab. Poor Marge was covered in bruises, particularly when evil Lovenox became a part of the protocol.

And then Marge became a symbol of things that pissed me off.

She was big and could make me look pregnant when my ovaries were swollen with a zillion follicles, and then even after things didn't work out because all the drugs wreaked havoc on my body. I could fake looking pregnant in the mirror, hand on my belly, and imagine what it would be like to have an actual growing human in there, and then when I realized that that was never going to be a reality, it filled me with fury.

I consoled myself with comfort food and wine. I didn't exercise as much, in part because I had orders not to when my ovaries were huge and then post-transfer, but I also didn't much feel like doing anything physical. It felt like fertility treatments were physical enough. I did do yoga, but then I quit that, too, when I cycled through three groups of women, most of whom left pregnant, and when they came back for seconds I couldn't stay and be the stagnant horror story any more.

Between my wedding and beginning of our treatments in 2009 and the beginning of 2018, I had put on nearly 40 pounds.

And I hated my body. Even more so after we definitively resolved childfree, because my body had failed me utterly and if I wasn't going to be a parent, well then why take care of myself? My best friend told me that I called myself fat and complained about my fattiness way too much, and it upset her because I used to always joke about my belly, and now I seemed so unhappy. But I didn't feel like I could change anything.

Then, in late January, I got my fatty liver diagnosis, and realized that I couldn't afford to hate my body any longer. When the doctor tells you to lose 15-20 pounds, or else face diabetes and liver damage, well then, you'd better do it.

It makes me so mad that it took that level of health risk to make a change. Why wasn't it worth it for me to be healthy for me? Not for a baby, not so I could run after a toddler, but so I could be healthy and reasonably fit and do physical things without fear of dropping dead?

I really started thinking about this when I read Mali's review of Lesley Pyne's book Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. I haven't read the book yet, but the tenth paragraph of Mali's post really sent it home to me -- I hated my body thanks to infertility and the betrayals therein, and I needed to make peace again. And I realized that I am well on my way.

I started the Liver Plan in February, and have kept up with most of it. I have lost at least 12 pounds (I haven't done a weigh-in recently, but I suspect it's more now), and I KNOW I have lost inches. Which is more important to me.

I love food far too much to restrict that totally, but I have really done a great job getting my body moving, and getting into better shape.

Last summer, I went to visit my best friend and we hiked up Mount Beacon, and she (and I) thought I might die before we reached the top. I was seriously winded, and sweaty (although I'm sweaty regardless), and my heart rate had to be through the roof. I think that was one of many moments, including getting winded CLIMBING THE STAIRS at my two-story middle school, that was a wake-up call. I needed to get into a fitness routine.

And now, I am doing fun things and trying to move in some way every single day. I do a 45 minute elliptical workout 2-3 times per week. I do tap class on Thursdays. I do one of my "tapes" -- yoga/pilates fusion, sometimes with hand weights, once or twice per week. And, substituting one of those, I started doing Buti Yoga on Monday. I walk the other days.

Buti Yoga is something I was afraid of, but also strangely drawn to. It is a mix of yoga, tribal dance and primal movement, and plyometrics. It is super high-intensity. And it is awesome.

I can run up the stairs at the gym and not be winded at all.
I can do high intensity workouts and not feel like I'm going to drop dead.
I can see beautiful muscle in my thighs, and a waistline that is shrinking.

I am that person who took pictures of herself in shorts and a sports bra from three viewpoints and keeps an album of progress. I am NOT that person who shares them with the world, because at this point in my life I feel like Marge should be under wraps, but I CAN SEE A MAJOR DIFFERENCE. My face is thinner. My pants are starting to be loose. My dresses fit amazingly well. I'm wearing shirts I haven't been able to wear in years.

I love my body again. I have farther to go, but I am pretty damn happy with how I've turned things around. I'm happy with my level of fitness more than the number on the scale. That's always been more important to me. And I don't plan to lose a shit-ton of weight, because I look real stupid skinny (my boobs don't really shrink, and I look ridiculous and mildly obscene when not balanced out). But I'd be happy to lose a total of 20 -25 pounds or so, with some of that strong muscle added in.

I feel strong. I feel empowered. I feel like I have my body back, and I have learned to love her again.