Turning a weight question on its head

A few ideas have been brewing in my mind around body image, feminism, fat shaming, comedy… yes, all rolled into one.
Maybe I’m still percolating.  For now, here are a few thoughts.

I heard someone joking the other day about being asked how she stays so thin and responding that her job keeps her that way. It made me think about what it would be like to turn that question on its head. It seems to me that the idea that being thin is the ideal to strive for is so ingrained in our collective (western) conscious that this question is a compliment without having to try. So, I did some thinking and reading about discussions of body size, how all too often a woman’s value is based on her looks or assumptions are made about how she dresses and what this means you can do or say to her. On a more fun note, it also reminded me of a cute novel I had read about a woman who wakes up in a world where the standard of beauty is the opposite of our current culture and super models are size 14+ and celebrated for their amplitude (Making it Big by Lyndsay Russell).

As an exercise, I pretended I was being asked: ‘how do you stay so fat?’
I imagined myself blushing at the compliment, coquetishly drawing my hand to my chest in a ‘who, me?” gesture…

“Well, it comes down to a balance of a lot of factors, really. Thank you so much for noticing and asking! I’m someone who learned the behavior of eating emotionally at a fairly young age. I wouldn’t know what to do with feeling good, bad, sad, angry, so I would eat. Oh! I also have an overweight husband, so we support each other in eating poorly. I eat fruits, veggies, superfoods and lots of other crap too, the key is really in the “lots”. The best part is my PCOS which has not only been contributed to my weight but also makes it stay on!”

Yikes, that wasn’t easy to write without wanting to add disclaimers about how I was changing that. I had trouble keeping it within the realm of me (pretending to) be ok with being fat. I felt so many of my own judgments about myself and my weight come up. I realize I haven’t learned to be ok with me because I still believe the voices of others telling me I’m not good enough, that to leave the house while fat makes me a target for people to comment on it, that people feel entitled to comment about how beautiful my face is (and the silent: unlike the rest of you!), or that I am unlovable or lazy because of my size.   I don’t enjoy these thoughts- I feel like I’m being judged if I’m eating anything but an apple in public. Even when I am, I imagine them thinking, oh good for her, she’s eating healthy. Because, of course, it is only ok to be fat if you are actively doing something to become not fat. Crap, I’ve imposed this same set of beliefs on myself and have caught myself applying them in judgments about myself and others.  Please don’t get me wrong, I am very aware of the health risks and consequences of being overweight or obese. I am not saying that ‘this feels good for me, so suck it health’. I’m realizing as I write that I am really just trying to look at where I’ve internalized the hurtful way the world can be about being fat and how this isn’t a helpful way to think on my healing journey. A way of shining a light on it, so I can dispel this pattern.

My feelings of low self worth have, in the past, made me wish or imagine that I was invisible. I literally take up a lot of space now, it’s laughable that I thought I was hiding. Up until now, this has served me well because my ego has thought this was the way to stay safe and protected from being hurt by the outside world. Isn’t that ironic?

Sigh, and there I was thinking I’d keep it light with this post (!). I’ll keep percolating for now, so I suppose this is to be continued…

Is Facebooknormative a thing?

I found myself surprised when I met someone new who didn’t have Facebook. How would we ever connect again?!

Sure there’s email and snail mail, but I’ve never been very good at keeping up communications this way.

It made me think though, have we (I) gotten to a place where we assume everyone we meet is on Facebook? Is this the new “normative”- the assumption that everyone is on Facebook and that this is the only ‘right way’ for them to be? Could someone face discrimination of any form for not being on social media? (not getting a job? a date? an invite to parties discussing this week in memes?)

I joined Facebook in early 2007, just before it really exploded in popularity. In seven years and with 1.28 billion active users around the globe (www.statista.com), has it become so ingrained as to be the assumed norm? (in countries with internet access, smart phones, tablets and computers in every home)

I suspect this concept, or something like it referring to social media, will become a term used in the near future.  Maybe I’ve just coined it!

As has been the pattern with my posts, I ask more questions than I provide answers. What do you think about this idea of Facebooknormative? Have you caught yourself assuming that everyone you meet is on Facebook?

One year later: a comfortable limbo

My birthday is coming, soon, ok, this week, maybe today, tomorrow, Sunday?
It’s kind of like New Years isn’t it? There’s a certain amount of self-reflection that occurs as we approach significant dates like birthdays. What was last year like? How was I feeling last year at this time? What do I want for the next year?

I can’t help but think about last years’ birthday because at the time I thought I had just resolved some major issues with work and life and for a few days I experienced a sense of peaceful bliss and a positive outlook for the coming weeks. It really was a lovely on my birthday 2013, I ate one of my favorite meals, even went to a new bar/venue in town and my husband had the performing jazz band sing me happy birthday. This was out of our norm, but the kind of thing I wanted more of in my life. I also discovered the dark and stormy, what a freakin’ delicious drink!!

I was still depressed and experiencing anxiety about what my future would look like at the time, but I felt empowered by the actions I had taken to ensure I had the time, space and resources to continue to get help and care for myself. You see, I was on a medical leave from work because I was no longer functionally depressed- you know, the kind where you can still manage to get yourself out the door and do your job, but not much else happens in your life? I had hit a breaking point in the Spring of last year, and even when I stopped work, I had nightmares for weeks about certain people at work who had contributed to my stress through their abuse. So, by September I had been seeing my therapist regularly, practicing yoga, spending lots of fun and therapeutic time with my niece, and getting better slowly but surely. I also had just confirmed my insurance coverage, so I knew that I would be able to pay my bills (which was at least a small comfort given the turmoil I was experiencing).

Then the proverbial sh*t hit the fan, please pardon my French.  As someone who recognizes (in the present) that I was depressed for much of my adult life, I see how this influenced my decisions over time, some of these not great. Unfortunately, these included terrible money management decisions.  So, in mid-September last year when I learned that my insurance had arbitrarily decided I was no longer depressed (in spite of documentation from my doctor and therapist and my report), and stopped payment, I had a big problem. The case manager had not only made a mistake, but had failed to communicate it to me for weeks. While in an already vulnerable state, I had to fight for myself.  It took almost 8 weeks of fighting, crying, writing them and having a sobbing fit in front of their psychiatrist that they finally reinstated my benefits. During those 8 weeks, I felt more helpless and hopeless than I ever had previously. I sank into a deeper depression than before and became suicidal. Since I wasn’t sleeping, my doctor prescribed sleeping pills, my first thought while leaving the office with the prescription at the time was ” sweet, now I’ll have a bottle of sleeping pills to take [all at once]“.  It’s painful to remember how I was thinking and feeling at the time. I felt unbelievably ashamed to be unable to pay my bills and have to explain this when needed. I felt guilty that my therapist accepted to continue seeing me when I couldn’t pay her. I was feeling so badly about myself that I believed I deserved to be rejected by her for being so messed up!

This was such a painful time for me, it was only slightly relieved by seeing a positive balance in my account again. I understand the bottom line of an insurance company, but I still can’t believe how inhumanely they behave towards people with mental illness. For the remainder of my coverage with them, I had to fight them at every turn. It took many, many more months of work to emerge from the denial of how badly I was depressed and begin to get well.

Looking back, I am glad that was then. My circumstances are not terribly different, but my mental health and outlook are. This year I have hope. No matter what has happened these last few months, I’ve had this unshakeable ‘knowing’ that everything will be ok. I needed to think and write about last year for some closure. I know this post has only scratched the surface of the depths I flirted with and sunk to last year, but I guess that’s because I’ve been slowly but surely filling the hole, so, even when I jump in now  I can’t go as deep.

Do I have any idea what the next year holds? Nope. I’m still in a comfortable limbo. It’s full of possibility and I think that’s a pretty sweet way to start a new age of me.

This captures it all, I'd say.

This captures it all, I’d say.

Listening to this

 

Is it time to rethink the term ‘zero tolerance’? (mini-Rant warning)

It feels like this term has lost all meaning and I wonder if it is time to find another way to express this concept.

I was reading an article about a prisoner in Quebec who was posting photos to Facebook of himself with expensive liquor. The only response to this from authorities is, well we have a zero tolerance policy for that. Great, so what is the procedure that will be followed? What procedure fell through that resulted in him being able to access the stuff in the first place? (Not to mention the failures in security that led to two prison breaks recently)  I think the original idea behind the concept had some merit, but now it lulls us into a false sense of security and takes the humanity out of dealing with problems (using judgment, experience, common sense).

Almost daily you can find news items of children being bullied at school, but don’t worry! The school and school Board have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Oh ! Phew, I was worried for a second there that someone might actually do it anyway. Unfortunately, we also read a lot of stories of ridiculous cases where schools, for example, have followed their policies on cases where a touch of thought and a speck of judgment would have gone a long way to spare those involved from potentially life long impacts and those enforcing the policies from embarrassment. Cases that aren’t cut and dry (or border on the ridiculous, like children being suspended or expelled for sharing candy that someone thought was drugs) call for the use of discretion, evaluation, judgment, humility, common sense…

I remember learning about the concept of nursing judgment in school, at the time I attributed a lot of it to ‘instinct’ as well. In any profession, a certain degree of instinct or judgment is developed based on training, experience and the personality of the individual. All of these come into play when making a decision. At what point did we decide to absolve ourselves of this by creating zero tolerance policies with cut and dry responses? How many of them have enough structure in place to educate and prevent the actions that might result in severe punishment? I’m not naive about the lack of resources in a lot of cases- not enough people to supervise, not enough funds for educational materials, not enough anything (!). I mentioned humility above because I wonder if sometimes it would make sense for someone accusing another of a crime against a zero tolerance policy to reflect and recognize (if) they have made an error in judgment? I guess a little emotional intelligence would serve well here, too. When did professionals become afraid to use their expertise to make sound decisions? An educator, human resources professional, police officer (etc.) have training and experience to draw from when making decisions within or apart from a policy. Why do we take this responsibility away from them?

So then what do these policies really do? Prevent legal action? A firmly worded policy looks good, makes us feel good, but what good is it without thoughtful and appropriate action? Or thoughtful and appropriate prevention of the behavior the policy doesn’t tolerate?

I guess when it comes down to it, the issue I have is less with the term itself and more with how the concept has lost it’s strength and credibility over time. (sigh) Maybe that’s the problem- with the wonderful variability and capacity for change and growth that we have as human beings, any rigid policy doesn’t work because it removes the humanity from the equation. It removes the liability well enough though, doesn’t it?  Is it then the hyper-litigiousness of society that has created and fuels this concept?

So what do I propose as a solution? I’m unsure. When I began writing this post, I thought that I might come up with another term or concept to replace it, I haven’t. Maybe it just needs a thorough re-branding (!) and thoughtful evaluation of what is being done to prevent that for which we have zero tolerance.

Hmmm.

 

 

Frequency: more questions than answers

Having recently watched Inner Worlds Outer Worlds  I’ve been visualizing and reflecting a lot on the connections between energy and frequency and vibration and the patterns that make up our material reality (matter/anti-matter). I’m not a physicist or quantum physicist, merely a curious seeker.

The first thing I’ve been conscious of relates to sound and how frequencies change the way we feel, how matter moves and arranges itself. As someone who sings (as a hobby), I am always learning more about the technical aspects of music. What amazes me is how despite not having formal training, my mind has an understanding of major and minor keys, intervals, pitch… and I have to ask myself the question: how? Why was I moved to tears at the climax of this piece: Hurt by 2 Cellos ? Some ‘royal we’ how questions: How do we know that minor keys make for sad sound? Is this something we learned? Discovered? Know by exposure? Or is it because our cells resonate with these frequencies to the point that we feel the associated emotion as a chain reaction of sorts to the vibrational response in our body to the sounds heard? How did the first composers know? Was it an experiment all along, try this and see how it makes you feel?

When watching the Amazing Resonance Experiment, so many questions arise. (5201 Hz is my favorite) How do the grains of sand know how to arrange themselves? How is it decided where they will go? Is there something innate in the sand? Can this experiment be expanded to explain other pattern and formation phenomena? Does this apply to the formation of our universe, for example? To humans? Maybe the stuff we haven’t figured out yet in terms of the big bang and why our cells do what they do comes down to frequency, or the resonance of the surrounding energy acting on the matter. If there was literally a big bang, did this sound produce everything and all possibilities? forever expanding and contracting, birth, living, death…this process exists in the Universe, our planets, individuals. It’s mind blowing. Did the big bang resonate and produce matter and patterns in matter that organized themselves based on the frequency? Does this account for variability because the sound would have to travel through time and space and be transmitted through matter so by the moment it reached each individual ‘thing’ it is a different frequency causing different patterns to form? Will we one day be able to register the great energy of the Universe and have an understanding of how it began, functions, and impacts all things? Is this the great meetup between the divine and our mind’s understanding of science?

I don’t know if I want answers, or if I have merely enjoyed the process of asking these questions. I’m excited to witness my mind behaving curiously and asking questions. I’m both intellectually and spiritually curious and have never felt more sure that the two are intertwined. Much of today has been spent pondering this, where science and divinity meet, and I’m tired now. Off to rest and listen to music!

<3

5201hz

Many things: Examining the “what’s this about?”

Beginning to write this blog has been part of my process of reflection on who I am, what interests me, and serves as an exploration of my writing voice.

I’ve spent a whole lot of time thinking I was ‘made up’ of the labels that could be applied to me. My profession (nursing), my size, depression & anxiety, having PCOS. Attached to each of these was additionally the baggage and weight of what I wasn’t, a long list of what I was NOT. “Not an artist, Not healthy, Not balanced, Not fertile”. I equally defined myself as what I was and what I wanted but was not. I longed for more creativity, for peace in my mind and a sense of control over what was happening in my body. I have to laugh at myself once again because I’ve realized in writing this another reason for my ‘amplitude’- look at all this crap I’ve been carrying around! Forgive my lack of skill, but my visual mind often produces images to go along with a concept so I’ve included my drawing of what I mean:) (The ‘Nots’ are meant to be little anvils) The second drawing represents the way I see my journey with depression. For most of my adult life I feel I’ve been ‘below the vitality line’, with dips into more severe bouts of clinical depression. What has changed with the work I’ve been doing is that I see that now I am emerging from the foggy veil and icy grip depression has had on my life and my mind, and am making my way towards vitality. I guess my only problem with my little visual is that vitality (or happiness, wholeness) is not a destination and the linear appearance seems to imply that it is. Each choice, each action that brings me joy has me living with vitality. I guess my little incline could represent the practice that it takes to break patterns of thought and behavior and employ new ones. Yes, practice!

PhotoGrid_1409244437157

So what of these labels I’ve applied and all the judgments I’ve attached to them? Well, recognizing them for what they are has allowed me to free myself from the belief that this is 100% true about me. For the last four years, I have been singing in a chorus. This has brought me so much joy, I don’t even have the words. Without realizing it, while I was judging myself for not being as artistic as I wanted to be, I was being creative and expressing myself through song. Then I started being responsible for the PR of the chorus and taught myself about using social media for promotion. Within the last year, this lead to an amazing opportunity to be in charge of social media content creation for a singing festival. I took a class in creative writing. I had an article published in a small local paper. I participated in two amazing short term singing projects that exposed me to new styles of singing and grew my love of music. I’ve found an amazing opportunity to write about cultural events for an online paper. It’s no longer an ‘all or nothing’ thing for me. Each of these are a small piece of what I am, and satisfy the creative artist part of me. All this from someone who used to view themselves as a nurse, and only a nurse.

I’m also a wife, an auntie, a sister, daughter, colleague…

The more I write, the more reading this may feel like I’m getting away from a point.  I guess it comes down to the fact that I am many things, so as an extension, this blog is and will be about many things. I might write some poetry, reflect on nature, muse about depression and health, contemplate fertility, energy, spirituality, walking, singing, dancing, reading, yoga, meditation, self-discovery, Doctor Who, life, etc. I began writing for me, and me is lots of different interests, qualities, loves, joys, sorrows. As the creator and conductor of this train of many things I call life, I’m on board and laying down the tracks and leaving this blog as evidence of my journey. Feel free to hop aboard and join me if you’d like.

 

 

Never seen the sky before

Something has changed in the way I am seeing the sky lately. Has it always been this vast, or have I only just started looking up?

It started about a week and a half ago when I participated in this wonderful outdoor concert with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. It took place outdoors in the East end of the city. From the stage area, we were raised just enough over the city that the sky could be seen in every direction for what seemed like forever. Before the show, I went up to the top of the risers to view the crowd (which swelled to an awesome 40 000 people!) and was taken aback at the immensity of the sky from up there. How much of it I could see. It was overcast but the clouds were strutting, let me tell you. There were silver rolls, slate puffs, and roiling masses in all shades of grey. It was incredible.

Since that moment, I’ve been noticing it more and more. I looked up in the parking lot of the grocery store and saw blue flecked with white clouds in every direction- it nearly floored me how beautiful and simple it was. I can only think to describe it as though somehow I’ve been viewing the sky through this tiny lens and I’ve just begun taking panoramic shots.

Visiting a friend who lives away from the city lights, I noticed how much larger the view was from there. That endless darkness spattered with light expanded in front of my eyes.

I don’t live in the prairie or desert, where it’s typical to see skies go on forever. I’ve lived in the city or suburbs and even where mountains or trees slice the piece of sky to see. I’m enjoying experiencing it exactly where I am, now.

These reflections have made me think of the line from the song ” Come What May”, sung in Moulin Rouge. I feel like I’ve never seen the sky before. I’m grateful for the wondrous and varied view it provides.

Sunrise: Reflections

To gaze upon the face of the sun, that first light, and see the echo of its glare everywhere you look.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the sun rises. For this giant ball of light and fire to cross our path, why, it takes a whole day! Yet to burst forth from the edges, its earnestness is unsurpassed. Except perhaps when to sleep at night, it slips back beyond the veil in equally short measure.

A fine pink hue lines the horizon, splashed with oranges and yellows-painting the sky as a spotlight might announce the arrival of the main act to the stage. It comes! Unfailingly! Unwavering! This painting in the sky trumpets to us all: Hail! Here comes the sun!

I just walked

So, as the title suggests, I went for a walk today. Got up, had some cereal, downloaded a walking distance tracking app and went.

It sounds like no big deal, and it isn’t for most. Today was different though. My thinking around walking and just going out had changed. Many steps, transformations, and changes in perception have lead up to this moment. I really can’t pinpoint one reason why today was different, but I was inspired to write some of the reasons it was and how I got here.

I had not been taught to love myself, accept my body, and disregard what others think. I’ve spent most of my 34 years concerned about all these things and being completely unforgiving and judgmental of myself. I’ve bullied myself for many years.

Partly a reaction and partly a protective mechanism, I’ve become very large. Not in the woo-hoo body positive “yeah I’m a big girl and I love it” way. I’ve been insecure, self-sabotaging and have had a long held belief that I am so flawed and vulnerable that I deserve to be huge and unloved and disgusting- because I’ve felt disgusting inside. I recently read a comment someone wrote about plus-sized women and how we are always told that our weight is not ok and something we need to fix, to change. That there is this huge public sense of approval of someone who is fat if, and only if, they are doing something about it at any time they’re in public view. Ok, fatty, you’re allowed to be outside and part of the world because you are on your way to the gym or are eating an apple. I realized that I had internalized this message and felt ashamed about eating around others and constantly judged myself when I was outside doing something as simple as a walk. I imagined all kinds of horrible things people might be thinking about me as I walked. “yikes, good thing she’s out here, has she ever got weight to lose!”” Ohh, you shouldn’t be stopping, you got a long way to go to get fit” ” What are you smiling about fatso, you’re disgusting!” “Are you sure you want that ice cream?”  Even when I was feeling good about myself, the imagined thoughts of other included judgments like ” well you look nice, for a fat person”, or the common, “oh, she’s so pretty, if only she’d lose weight”.

As I write these thoughts, I’m feeling a lot of emotion come up. Some sadness and a whole lot of compassion for the pain I’ve caused myself in thinking this way. I’ve been on a journey of healing with some moments of very intense release of past hurts and ways of thinking about myself. Today’s walk marked a milestone on this journey because I just walked. I enjoyed the feeling of moving, I relished the fresh breeze, the green, the water, the beautiful water lilies. The sounds of the ducks and seagulls competing for my attention when I stopped to sit (sadly for them, I hadn’t brought any bread crumbs!)

I wasn’t thinking of this walk as part of a ‘weight loss journey’, something I ‘should’ do, I had no destination in mind or goal. I just walked. I tracked my distance because I wanted to as a fun way for me to keep track of something tangible from my journey. I don’t care about my pace or the calories burned. It’s funny, I just realized that this feels familiar. In the Fall of 2008, I walked the Camino de Santiago (approx 800+ km across northern Spain). I hadn’t trained but I did it by getting up and walking everyday. One of the things I loved the most about it was that while your day would start with a general idea of how far you had to go to get to the next place you would sleep, the only thing you had to do was walk. Walk, drink water, stop to eat when needed, then keep walking. It is the  most natural thing in the world. As I walked today, I resonated with the memory of the rhythm of moving, my foot falls, the feeling of being present in my body. That’s it. It felt so good to just walk again.

On the Lachine Canal

Water Lilies on the Lachine Canal