Day 29: Framed in Film

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A few years ago, a professional photographer friend of mine, Dave Rodrigue, took my picture. Actually, he took many pictures, but you get what I mean. He does these beautiful black and white portraits of people wearing their own faces and clothing, being themselves for the camera. Nothing fancy, just whatever the person wants to wear (or not wear), and whatever expressions happen to flit across their faces during the shoot. Some of his models have done tasteful nude shots, others are shot in their homes, wearing house-dresses and staring out the window – he’s interested in catching sincerity in his lens. It’s pretty cool.

Mostly what I remember from my shoot is being superbly uncomfortable in the outfits I had chosen to wear. He took a professional portrait for me to use on LinkedIn, and my lipstick felt too bright. My jeans were brand new, and they fit well, but made me feel like a stuffed sausage. I’d brought along a set of very modest retro lingerie that covered more than my bathing suit, and the fabric felt like something you’d use to sew a backpack. The only outfit that really made me happy was an outfit I still wear today – a giant t-shirt and a soft pair of jean leggings. In those old pictures, I can now see the internal struggle that was going on. My softness was part of me, yet I insisted on fighting against it, insisting on constraining myself with these strict barriers of elastic and cheap satin. There was this sense that I was expanding, and it wasn’t going to stop. It was like I was using clothing as sand bags, trying to prevent the flow of my body.

A few days ago, Dave asked me if I’d like to pose for him again soon. Since then, I’ve been thinking about it, pros and cons. I’m about 30 pounds heavier now than I was, and I know from his series that he loves to use the same models and explore as they age and change. I want to say that I’ve been aging with grace, and perhaps I have, I don’t know. I know I have more lumps and bumps and wrinkles than I did then. But more important than my weight is my sense of self.

Back then, posing for Dave’s camera, I was given full permission to be myself. He made it clear to me that I was allowed to dress, pose, and act exactly how I’d like, and he was not to be taken into consideration. My comfort and freedom of expression were paramount. This concept was so far out of the norm for me in male/female relationships that it took me years to even understand how far removed I felt from the idea of being able to just be me, and not worry about how the man in the room perceived me. I’m still just barely able to understand how groundbreaking this moment was.

The problem of my sense of profound discomfort with my exposure during the shoot was not a problem of “showing too much skin.” At the time, I thought my sole problem was weight, and a general unhappiness with my body because I just wasn’t trying hard enough. In one small way, that was true. As a woman, I was used to feeling ugly and at the mercy of others on a daily basis. This meant that the shoot was a strange juxtaposition of feeling like I always felt, but being given permission to strip away all of the things that made me feel that way, should I so choose. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my photographer friend was returning my dignity to me by being more feminist than I was at the time. He had more appreciation for my complexity and comfort than I did!

The media tells us that it’s magazines and movies and other women that make women feel bad about their looks, and if everyone says so, who am I to argue? However, in my own reality, I felt the most pressure from my partners. Up until the shoot (and even afterwards) I spent my adult years only buying clothing that my lovers expressed an interest in, whether we’re talking form-fitting retro dresses, or lacy underthings, or thigh high stockings with a seam up the back. Hair, nails, and makeup must always be taken care of. God forbid you let your pubes grow out, or go too long without waxing your mustache.

I spent SO MUCH MONEY on services meant to turn me into the perfect woman, and it was never enough. I was never going to be a sex symbol. I was going to keep getting hairy, and chipping my nail polish, and getting that particular butt itch feeling that comes from sitting too long in lace underwear and having your fat ooze out through the tiny holes in the floral pattern. And honestly, many women get a kick out of taking all of these measures, pushing themselves to extremes to grasp at the fleeting concept of beauty. But for me, it wasn’t my thing. I do love mani/pedis and facials and massages, and there are comfort reasons to consider when looking into waxing the stray strands off of every conceivable surface…but I never wanted to be a magazine woman. The real me is more “let’s climb a mountain” than “let’s go to barre fitness.” Props to the dancers out there, and much love to gals who wear lace and heels and have the perfect dress for every occasion – but that’s not who I want to be when I grow up.

So I’m realizing that somewhere along the way, I lost my own personal style because I was too concerned with having men like me. I remember that once, back in college, a boyfriend was upset with me for not wearing sexy lingerie. I carefully explained that one little lacy outfit (even a cheap one) could cost around a quarter of my rent payment, and I wasn’t inclined to waste my money. He eventually offered to take me shopping and buy whatever we agreed on, but the things he liked were so ugly and – to me – demeaning that I didn’t take him up on his offer (in fact, we broke up not long after).

Another boyfriend loved for me to wear thigh highs and pinup girl style, and though it pleased me to dress up and go out on dates, I was never comfortable. When I did try to inject some items that made me feel sexy, it resulted in complaints that I wasn’t really trying. (My most upsetting example: a long, devastatingly sexy, curve-hugging satin nightgown, straight out of a film noir, casually referred to as something an old lady would wear.) Eventually I did stop trying completely. I exclusively wore pajamas in the house for the last few years we dated – Anna and the 24/7 stretchy pants. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was protesting having to stop being myself to be a girl that he could tolerate having around (not a girl he adored, not a girl that was beautiful in any light, just someone he’d be too lazy to kick out of bed in the morning), but that’s what was really going on.

So here I am, 30 lbs. heavier and a half-decade smarter, wondering if I have the courage to sit for Dave’s camera again. What have I learned about myself? Am I strong enough to make choices for my body that are truly based only on my own desires, and not rooted in my need to please everyone else? Time will tell.

Today’s Weight: 191 Lbs. (Mind: blown.)

Today’s Exercise: 16,858 steps (including 30 minutes on the elliptical), 8fit workout, foam rolling, weight machine stuff for arms, short ab routine.

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Day 28: The Path

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I’ve had a difficult week, and have been avoiding writing here out of exhaustion and a sense of irritation with myself. I’ve been going to the gym regularly, but my diet hasn’t been that great. I was gaining weight at the beginning of the week (before the diet went off the rails), so I’m sure I’m back up to my starting point by now. I haven’t binged, but I have eaten more than I should on a few occasions, and have eaten things that I know don’t agree with me or my idea of health (chips, chocolate, soda, you get the picture). I have been getting more and more disgusted with myself by the day, but today I have to remind myself that everything is OK, there is no perfect path to my destination. I make the road by walking it, so it’s my job to keep putting one foot in front of the other, at my own speed, in my own way. I forgive myself. Everything’s OK.

This coming week, I’m going to start working a couple of overnight shifts at my old job, to help speed up the process of paying off my debts. Things are admittedly more difficult for me when I have more money, because I feel compelled to spend it all on food. But I have taken precautions by setting up savings buckets within my savings account for some of the things that I want to accomplish – mostly to have enough money for a deposit on a new apartment, and to save for my current rent while putting as much money as possible into my credit card bills. It occurs to me that I should also start a beauty/wellness savings bucket, to be able to take care of myself when I want to – for massages, mani/pedis, that kind of thing.

Even though I’ll be working 24 hours more each week (sigh), I am looking forward to it in an odd way. The more rigorous my work schedule, the more I will be required to pin down all aspects of my personal schedule. I am better at sticking to a plan when every single part is mapped out. It’s definitely not as fun as going with the flow, but it gives me less room to screw up and eat like a wild thing. I’m also looking forward to working out on the job, since I’m essentially working the graveyard shift and will have little to no interaction. I’m just there to make sure that the hotel stays in one piece overnight, and no one’s going to mind if I do some late night yoga or try to get in a majority of my Fitbit steps by walking laps around the hotel grounds (as long as I’m quiet and don’t wake the guests). If I am diligent and frugal, I can pay off the smallest of my credit cards within a month, which will improve my credit, and also open up my finances enough for me to increase saving up for the new apartment.

Today’s Weight: Too scared to check. I’ll look tomorrow.

Today’s Exercise: 13,000+ steps, 8Fit workout, 5 minutes on a really weird interactive exercise bike, self-guided ab routine.

Today’s Interactions: This morning I met up with a friend from college and his wife, and we talked for nearly an hour. Had a short phone chat with a friend from California, briefly texted with a long-lost bestie who lives in Croatia, and then had lunch with the boyfriend at our favorite little cafe, where I remembered the waiter’s name (!!!). Tonight I chatted with my across-the-street neighbor, then met up with my friend from down the block, and we took her dog for a walk and chatted with everyone we passed. I might be chubby, but I’m not chubby AND antisocial 🙂

Day 23: Finding Space (Disordered)

I’m not going to attempt to put this blog entry down in any real order, or edit it when I’m done. I want to be in bed by 10pm sharp, so that gives me 20 minutes to ramble, then close this computer for the evening.

First off, here’s a thing I realized today: I weighed in at 190.2 lbs this morning, and though that’s not the first time I’ve weighed that amount this month, it’s the first Monday that I’ve weighed that. Also, if I go back and look at my weight history on a charted line, though I’ve had fluctuations since starting this new way of thinking about food and exercise, I am on a constant downward course. So yay me.

Another thing I realized today is that I’m legitimately in recovery. I’m a recovering binge eater. I have been working at this for 23 days now, and though I will always be working at it, for the rest of my life, I’ve done a good job for these 23 days. And that’s something I’m allowed to feel proud of. (Not so proud that I can go out and order pizza to celebrate, but you get what I’m saying.)

Today I went to a meditation class at my local yoga studio, and was happy to find that an old art world acquaintance of mine was leading the class. I love where his mind goes, and find him to be such a compassionate and lovely man, so it was a pleasure getting to hear his take on mindfulness. I talked to him for a little while, and it turns out that the studio will start offering a weekly meditation class this summer, so that’s exciting.

Another thing that is on my mind is not as great. My stomach feels weird. I was having cramps all day yesterday, which I assumed were ovulation cramps, since that’s a thing that happens to me. But now something just feels off. Not painful, not cramping, not bloating or constipation (although that’s certainly a thing that I need to get better about regulating). It just feels not right. So I’m writing about it here in hopes that I’ll be able to pinpoint a date and symptoms in case it becomes something more serious than not enough fiber and probiotics in my diet.

It’s 9:59pm, so I’m signing off.

Today’s Weight: 190.2 Lbs.

Today’s Exercise: 15,712 steps (9.11 miles), which includes a 30-minute round on the elliptical. Also, a 9-minute tabata routine on 8Fit.

Today’s Interactions: Various, including a long conversation about fantasy books with a coworker, a phone call with my parents, pre- and post-class conversation with the yoga teacher, and some messaging with a couple of long-distance friends.

Day 22: Under Pressure

It’s Sunday night, and I’m in a pretty rotten mood, stemming from the combination of a headache and feeling entirely too stressed about money and social obligations. As I wrote and edited the first draft of this post, I realized that I was blaming it on the boyfriend, but that isn’t fair. This is all me, all my hangups. So very many to dig through.

We aren’t from the same world, and I keep getting reminded of that. New Orleans is so different in its expectations. I was raised in a different culture, where you never ask for the things you need, and you always think twice before letting people go out of their way to help you. And if you have even half a backbone, you would never let anyone go out of their way, unless you’re in danger of imminent death/dismemberment (and honestly, probably not then, either). In short, I was raised to feel ashamed if anyone had to lift a finger to help me when I could have figured out a way to do the thing myself. My own mother didn’t get out of bed in the morning to make me breakfast when I was a first grader, for gods’ sakes.

And though I don’t expect people to feel ashamed when I help them, I certainly do not enjoy being at the mercy of others. It always feels like the underlying emotion on their part should be begrudging, at best, but more likely some sort of seething animosity, a criticism of my weakness and pointlessness as a human being. Whenever people do nice things for me, I feel like I’ve pressured them into it. I hate that feeling. I’d rather just not have them go out of their way at all. I’d much rather walk 5 miles to the store than ask a friend for a ride. Or hand wash all of my clothes rather than ask the friend who lives a block away to use her washer now and then.

Anyway, a friend invited us over to watch the series premiere of American Gods, and offered to pick us up from my house. Then when we were there, she bought pizza and fed everyone (no pizza for me – I stuck to the stuffed grape leaves and La Croix that I’d brought). We were the last to leave, since I was waiting on the boyfriend to call an Uber (I couldn’t afford one, or I’d have done it earlier), but then the host offered to give us a ride home, too. I didn’t want her to. It felt like we were putting too much on her plate. Where I’m from, you offer to do something like that, but with the full expectation that the person will tell you no and go on to do the polite thing – find their own damn way home. In the end, we got into her car, the boyfriend handing me the chips and salsa he’d taken from the kitchen. I put them next to me on the seat, and at the first turn, the salsa jar fell over. The lid wasn’t screwed on. To my horror, salsa spread out all over the backseat, the scent permeating the car.

Our host/driver was so gracious about it, but I was incredibly embarrassed. And because the host didn’t seem to take it badly at all, neither did the boyfriend. Given their behavior at the situation, I know I should have been able to follow suit and just let it go. But really, I was so angry at myself for not checking the lid, and annoyed with him for putting me in a position where I’d have to overthink things and go checking lids after him, and also for forcing me to be beholden to our host for the rides to and from her apartment, and then again at myself for being so negative and not being able to take things at face value.

At the same time, I know that had someone spilled an entire jar of salsa in the back of my car, I probably wouldn’t be angry at them. I’d clean it up and move on with my life. And I know that if I offered to give someone a ride somewhere, it would be my prerogative. But I’m having trouble digging myself out of the guilt loop, and feeling like I just ruined our host’s night by putting her through so much trouble, and feeling like I can’t talk to the boyfriend at all about this because it makes me look insane. But I’m pretty sure he’d also see that I’m hurt and he’d be sensitive to that. Holy fuck, my brain hurts.

Also, I used all of my paper towels and my very last clean towel in helping clean out the back of that car, and I just don’t have the money for paper towels or the laundromat right now. I was already in a state over the amount of money I’ve spent this weekend, between getting my hair cut (which was entirely necessary) and a few meals out that I shouldn’t have bought. I did waste too much money on Friday night and then getting breakfast out yesterday and today. I simply do not have a spare penny to spend on anything besides exactly what my budget dictates, and because of this weekend I will be screwed for the rest of the month. I knew that, and I did it anyway. I keep doing this to myself. I hate being poor. I hate being in debt. Now I’m thoroughly wound up. At least I’m too broke to buy too much food; there’s that.

It’s time for bed. Too much to do at work tomorrow morning to keep badgering myself with things that have long since passed.

Day 21: Lazy Saturday

It’s Saturday, and I find there’s little to say. Last night I was at work until after 7pm, and by the time I got home I was absolutely knackered. The boyfriend came over, after all, and I worked on finding a little more energy to go out and get tapas down the street at Mimi’s. Afterwards, we talked about writing and movies and all things creative into the wee hours. It was a perfect night, as all nights are when spent in his company.

Unfortunately, though, since I didn’t go to sleep until around 3:30am, and woke up at 10:30 this morning to get my hair cut, I didn’t get nearly enough sleep. I’m running on empty, and my body and mind are feeling the effects. I had wanted to clean the house today, but I don’t feel cut out for it. I hand washed a couple of small loads of laundry and cleaned the litter boxes out, and then spent my evening window shopping for weird things on Wish.com.

Wow, this was one boring blog post. I’m going to bed.

Today’s Weight: 189.6 Lbs.

 

Day 19: Sleep

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I used to be an accomplished sleeper. It was just something I excelled at – staying in bed all day, sleeping deeply, dreaming something exciting. I love to sleep, and I crave it. It’s one of my top favorite activities, and I’d do it more if I could. In fact, I function best on roughly 9.5 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Sadly, that’s just not possible in my life at this point. To counteract this, I aim for a perfectly respectable 8 hours of sleep each night, and track it diligently each day with my FitBit. However, I seldom actually achieve my goal during the week; on average, I tend to get about 6.5 hours a night. Yes, you heard that right: along with 35% of the U.S., I am sleep deprived.

On the weekends, like many people, I endeavor to play catch up. I know from experience that a 10-hour patch of slumber refreshes me without messing up my sleep schedule, so I try to get that much sleep on Friday and Saturday night. That means no late nights out partying, but it also means that I’m somewhat recharged by Monday. But I hate that, too. I want to be fresh and on my game all week long.

So it’s time to start working on getting my sleep numbers up to at least 7 hours a night. I think I’m going to reset my FitBit goal to 7 hours, and see if I can consistently match that for a few weeks, then up the time a little bit to say, 7:10, then eventually start creeping towards a solid 8 hours of sleep. If the FitBit can help me get in 12k steps minimum a day on a consistent basis, I think I can be using it to work on decreasing my sleep debt, too.

Today’s Weight: 191.8 Lbs.

Today’s Exercise: 12k+ steps, a 9-minute tabata workout via 8Fit, 20 minutes on the elliptical, some foam rolling & a little bit of an ab workout.

Today’s Interactions: I met a guest at the hotel who was looking for a gym to go lift weights, so I walked him over to my gym and got him a free pass for the day. He was a sweet guy. Also talked with Theo at the gym (of course), and stopped by the boyfriend’s job to say hi and give him a hug. That last part wasn’t as positive as I wanted it to be, but I don’t have the energy to work on it right now. Need a shower and so much sleep, stat.

 

Day 18: The Old Job

I picked up a shift at my old job tonight – returning to my hospitality roots, so to speak. Currently standing here at the front desk of a little boutique hotel just outside of the French Quarter, bopping along to a live rendition of “We Got the Funk” being played across the street. Maybe the dancing will help work off the bagel I just ate when I lost all self control and broke into the continental breakfast supplies.

It was a pretty good bagel, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Have I mentioned how much I adore bagels? They’re up there with New England clam chowder on my most desired foods list. When I went to NYC for the first time a few years back, I spent a month obsessively researching bagel joints to make sure that I’d get to try everything worth trying in my short trip. Spoiler alert: I did not even make a dent in my “must try” bagel list during my trip. I love bagels. As in, why did anyone ever bother inventing sliced bread? I think I’m just going to say “the best thing since bagels” from now on.

Anyway, it’s Day 18, and everything’s OK. Didn’t get to hit the gym today, so looking forward to doing that tomorrow. Haven’t had a true binge since I started the blog, so I’m feeling pretty good about that. And it put me in such a wonderful mood to get here to this job this afternoon (after leaving my other job) and feel so welcomed and loved. I really enjoy working the front desk here. So many opportunities to be kind to people, and to really help improve lives in tiny ways. It’s days like this that I remember that I got into hospitality so that I could learn, learn, learn and run my own little albergue one day.

Today’s Weight: 190.6 Lbs.

Today’s Exercise: Standing here at the front desk has to have gotten me somewhere, right? My feet are killing me!