298: The Weight of Me

I don’t understand my body, what it looks like, what others see me as, how I am supposed to look, what is expected, what is healthy, what is normal, what is standard, what is right.

There is a layering of problems associated with my body image.

1) No Norm Exists

No norms exist related to body image except what society, or more so the media and advertisement companies and other corporations want me to buy into. There is a belief system that varies from year to year, dangled in front of me. I don’t want to be a fish: a hungry guppy rising up to take hold of some enticing treat that will likely gorge me, stab me, break me, or result in me being sliced open, gutted, and fried to a crisp. Nor do I want to see the bait. But everywhere this bait floats about, the hook hidden and waiting to damage.

2) I Have a Degree of Body Blindness

It is hard for me to see myself as a whole, and to see others as a whole. I can see when someone has some extra padding, a few extra pounds beyond this societal standard of ideal weight, but I can’t hold the whole of someone’s image in my mind. If I was asked to sketch a body, I could not. Everything would be out of proportion, including the length of the arms and legs, the scale of the neck, and the angles of the face. Everything I take in is somehow mutated and rearranged, so that what I recall in my mind’s eye could likely be a Vincent Van Gogh painting. I cannot see my own body, clearly, as well. I rely too heavily on the eye of a camera, only to have discovered as of late that the camera is not an adequate portrayal of my weight, as the aspects of my clothing, the way I am standing, the angle of the camera, the type of camera, the lighting, and even my mood, posture, and expression, affect the end result (the photo image).

I’ve studied myself in photos for months, and still am baffled by what I look like; and how I look to myself, changes each and every time I glance at my reflection. And even the reflections are deceiving; how I appear in the rearview mirror, the glass of a window, or from one bathroom mirror to the next, always shifts, and I find a new person staring back at me, reversed and bewildered. I am left to wonder where the real me exists. In front of the full length mirror I stand, turning and processing, in awe of the stranger standing there. Photos will generally depress me, as they do not seem to represent who I see myself as. And worse, I can’t really see myself at all in form. I am like an unformed mass, shifting as the flowers and plants vary with the seasons. I cannot find myself, as hard as I seek, at least my outside self; for I seem as mysterious as the birth of the universe, as infinite, and as ever-changing.

3) I latch on to rules and examples of beauty even though the societal norm of perfection is unattainable

I have been brainwashed. I have been bombarded with images of what I should look like. I have been told, in the form of photos, movies, sitcoms, commercials, advertisements, magazine covers, billboards, department store displays, peers’ behavior, and various fix-yourself-now articles, that I am somehow wrong and in need of repair. In addition, I have been informed that if I go through various steps, I will then be adequate, and once adequate I shall be accepted, loved, and adored. I have seen this “beauty” scenario unfold and be reinforced when I was a teenager; seen how the people around me responded and took note of me if I was dressed the “right” way, if my hair was “good,” if my makeup enhancing, my body shapely. I have seen the attention that the socially accepted “beauty” brings. I have also seen and felt how empty the experience of acceptance based on exterior beauty alone can be, seen how fickle and cruel the shallow admiration is. I have felt like a tree adorned for the holidays, sparkly and the center of attention, only to be later tossed to the side of the road waiting my fate. But still, I have this brain, some type of organizational system working inside of me that searches for the “rules” the standards, the way to exist on this planet and in this society. I think, deep within, that if I can find the right path, I will fit in. Yet, I am faced with an unhealthy path; one that leads to imperfection after imperfection, and demands my money, and worse my soul.

4) I exist at one extreme or another

The place of middle ground in all areas of my existence is foreign to me; as hard as I study and try to get there, I cannot. My mind works in extremes. I am generally high or low, calm or hyper, still or moving, cautious or daring, charming or a pain in the butt, loving or stand-offish. The in between space baffles me, and analysis of the concept of middle ground leaves me stranded in thought, wondering why I cannot be “that way,” the way of the masses, the way of the easy life.

Though I try hard to find balance, I continually find myself swinging on the spectrum of intensity, the volume of my every minute, high or low; the intensity affected by the tides, the planets, the food I take in, the music surrounding, the sounds, the energy of other people, the thoughts roaming within, the expectations placed on myself, the voice that rises and interrupts my doing, the inconsistency of trying to be, and the varying degrees of living in the moment.

I am unsettled. Every inch of me unsettled. And like the shifting of my body image in my mind’s eye, my state of being shifts. My efforts are circumvented by the infectious factors all about me. In being this way, I take on tasks with a high degree of interest or I give a task no regard whatsoever. This, this taking on of tasks, applies to the way I manage the weight of my physical body. I can be extreme for months with a diet, avoiding certain fattening and bloating foods, avoiding sugar, avoiding all junk food, avoiding grains, etc. But I can only exist in the state of extreme for so long, and then I break, and where I had felt to be in a constant state of fathom, I now emerge into a state of feast, starving and deprived. My weight fluctuates depending upon where my pendulum of intensity exists. I am at the mercy of my passion or lack of interest.

5) I feel better at my ideal weight, but the definition of my ideal weight varies depending on source.

I would like to say that I am comfortable in my own skin, but I am not. I have latched onto an ideal number for my weight based on how my clothes fit and how I appear in some photos. Not all photos, because even my ideal weight looks odd in most images. To me, when observing myself, I can appear obese and bloated, even though I am told I am skinny. Ideal weight is listed and available on medical charts. But this weight standard is obsolete. I have always been much heavier in scale number than I appear in form. I was stick-skinny in high school, skinnier than most everyone, but I was heavier on the scale. I am 5’ 4” and in the last several months average about 139 pounds. This is a high weight for some people, but for me I can fit into size 4 or size 6 pants. For me this is thin. At 137 I start to appear gaunt and unhealthy. I know that I appear best at 139 pounds even though this amount weight is repeatedly reinforced in movies, magazine articles, and charts as “heavy.”

I am confused by contradictory data, and contradictory data is everywhere. There are sources that say it is good to go into menopause with weight around the belly, and some fat on the bones, as this decreases your chances of bone loss. I have read it is natural and healthy to have some excess body weight as one approaches their fifties; yet so many studies warn of various diseases and fatalities if the weight is not monitored and controlled. I look back at paintings from the centuries before, and think the voluptuous women look lovely. I look at the stick-skinny, starving-themselves women, and think they look stern and unhappy, rigid and angry. I look at myself and don’t know what I think, beyond a woman struggling to find the “norm” and what is “right,” in a world with variables and contradictions.

I latch onto numbers. So I latch onto 139 pounds as my standard, as my ideal, as my place to be. But I have a slow metabolism. I can eat one meal a day and gain weight. Is my esteem wrapped up in my weight? I don’t think so. I think my esteem is wrapped up in the unattainable image I think I am supposed to attain: an image I cannot see in my mind’s eye, an image that is deceptive, contradictory, and unachievable. I am not wrapped up in looking skinny or attractive enough, I am wrapped up in trying to figure out what I look like to begin with, how to keep a number on the scale from fluctuating so I feel stable in a very non-stagnant world.

I just want to fit in, or more so blend in. I don’t want to stand out for a perceived “negative” attribute; I don’t want to be unhealthy; I don’t what to exhibit gluttony; I don’t want to appear “wrong.” All these “norms” and expectations I set upon myself. And I don’t know how to turn the voice of expectation off. How to just be with me. How to just love me. How to see I am not this vessel that ages daily, slowly deteriorating towards death.

6) I set different standards on myself than other people.

I logically can tell myself that I do not care what others look like, and this is the truth. My dearest friends can be any weight, and they are just as lovely and beautiful to me. I don’t take notice of people’s weight as much as their eyes or their kindness. I love all shapes and sizes, and find attributes that are unique and different to be interesting and attractive. I like a woman with a little fat on her, personally. And if I were a man, or a person attracted to women in a physical way, I would choose someone for their inner beauty and character, not for their weight. Weight would not be a factor at all. And as a female attracted to men, I am not attracted to the weight or fitness-level of a man. At this point in my life, I could be in a romantic relationship (if I wasn’t married, of course) with any shape or size, any ethnicity, and any age (within reason).

The outside exterior of another, male or female, friend or stranger, no longer affects me like it did in previous years. I see the collective person: their soul, energy, purpose, drive, love, heart, etc. all interwoven to produce a beauty. Yet, I cannot do this with my own self. Make myself see my collective beauty.

I know I am lovely inside. I know I have a huge heart, massive amounts of sensitivity, compassion, integrity, honor, and love, but yet, when I evaluate my own beauty I go back to this fictitious number on the scale.

7) I don’t know where to turn for help.

If I let go of my rigid goal of maintaining a certain weight, I would gain weight. While I might be able to learn to feel comfortable in my own skin when I am heavier than now, I face other complications as I gain weight. When I add on pounds my chronic fatigue and chronic pain increases, exercise becomes harder, and just moving in general is burdensome. When I gain weight I do not recognize myself, or rather I recognize myself even less, and I am confused when I see my image.

However, while striving to maintain my weight, I put unyielding pressure on myself of what to eat and what not to eat. I punish myself for cheating. And for me cheating is having organic cheese puffs instead of organic red peppers with my humus. I tell myself terrible messages, such as I don’t have willpower, I am going to gain weight and no one will love me if I am not attractive, I will forever be alone, and on and on.

In addition, food affects me drastically. I cannot eat anything, beyond pure protein, without having instant pain and fatigue. So, I often go most of the day without eating, because as soon as I eat I have a reaction, in that extreme fatigue sets in coupled with pain in my muscles and joints. I have tried many different diets, food combinations, etc. for many years, to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that I am allergic to earth food, and that’s just the way it goes. For me eating fruits, nuts, and vegetables all day is the best, but I crave more.

There aren’t any answers out there. I’ve searched and searched; I’ve waited. I’ve dug deep inside. I’ve meditated, medicated, supplemented, detoxed, etc. I finally reached the point where I believe the best thing for me to do is to stop analyzing my diet and being so extreme. But that’s what scares me; for when I let go, the weight comes back, and so does the resulting painful effects. I’m searching for that state of limbo, where I can just exist without effort, without constantly trying to rebalance, where I can just be. But even the searching hurts.

8) I find my security in the number on the scale.

You could tell me I’m lovely. For a short while I would bask in your compliment. But then, the words you gave to me would fade away, and within a day, or sometimes hours, I would no longer feel your compliment. Instead I would wonder once again if I was truly too ugly for this world. I know this sounds absurd, but this is the untruth that plays out in my mind. I do not understand what I look like, and thusly do not understand how you perceive me. And everyone perceives me differently based on their own life experience and developed tastes and biases. Everywhere I go, I know if someone takes note of me, I am being evaluated. And I dislike that invasion and aspect of being in society.

I want to be seen as the interior me, but am forced to be first presented dressed in this physical essence. In some ways my weight is the only thing that I can control about my appearance, the only thing I can keep the same when all about me is shifting. The rest of me, beyond the finite number on a scale, I cannot see or determine. I cannot find the truth of what I am on the exterior, and so the only security and constant I can return to is the number on a scale. I have a lot of dependence on the number.

It’s not that I want to control my weight; it’s that I want to control some semblance of my existence. I want to understand my physical being, even if it’s only one small aspect, one three digit number.

Everything changes so much in my world from moment to moment, from thought to thought, and event to event, that numbers have been my security blanket for years. So, yes, the number on the scale is my enemy or friend. As it climbs I fear the future, and as it decreases towards the “ideal” I know I am moving forward towards a part of who I was or am. The further I am away from the number on the scale that I have decided is “the number,” the further I am away from my own sense of self.

I long to find my security for my physical self somewhere beyond a number and beyond an image. But I often wonder, if I cannot view this illusion of self, then how can I be secure. Rather it is acceptance I seek. Acceptance of the unknown and the release of my dependence on outsiders to quantify who I am. An acceptance in the knowing that although I am invisible in regards to my appearance to physical self, I am solid in my understanding of spirit.

Day 203: This is Boring. This is Pain.

This is boring. This is pain.

Somedays, like today, I struggle to function.

Every day is a huge challenge for me; something that I seldom talk about or mention. Just getting out of bed takes a lot of effort. I don’t like to write about my  pain and various physical “conditions,” as I am not my conditions, I am not an illness, and I am definitely not pain. I don’t like to talk about everything I must do to keep myself moving.  But I am. Mainly because I was on the couch all day and had a heck of a lot of time to process. Plus, a little boring never hurt anyone.

There isn’t a moment I don’t feel something askew in my body. Because I am so sensitive, even a hair in my face can irritate me, even cause a rash. My own hair! My nose constantly itches. Sometimes my eyes. All my joints seem to hurt. But I can’t tell if it’s my joints, my muscles, or something else. And neither can the doctors. Right now the couch hurts my bottom. The laptop desk hurts my thighs. And at least ten different areas in my body are either in pain or irritated or itching.

I’ve been diagnosed with at least ten syndromes or illnesses. Nothing is a definite. Nothing truly proven beyond a long list of symptoms. At this point I could have inherited something, suffer as a result of multiple injuries/accidents, been prone to pain from stress or environmental toxins, or made everything up in my head.

Sometimes I like to think everything is in my head. At least I have some control that way. The older I get, the more I realize my whole reality is in my head, anyhow. All my thoughts control my mood. My eyes what I see. My ears what I hear. My brain what I take in, recall, process, judge. I’m sure my spirit plays some part, as well as my second-brain (the intestines), but seriously, so much goes on in my head to begin with.

There are lots of things I have to do in order to function. If I skip any of them, or if something is off, I am pretty much certainly going to be in bed or on the couch for a large period of time. Each day I wake up, I feel like I am preparing for battle: a battle just to survive the day without collapsing in great fatigue and pain.

Here is a list I keep in mind to help manage my days.

1)      Shower; something about the hot water on my body rejuvenates me and reduces my muscle pain. If I don’t shower I feel extra greasy and itchy. If I don’t shower, I feel increased pain all day. Problem is, sometimes I’m too tired or fatigued to even think about showering. I have to force myself to. I don’t like showers. They are boring.

2)      Pig hormone; for my hypothyroid I have to take a natural pig hormone. I haven’t eaten pork since sixth grade (my decision). So at first the thought of ingesting any part of a pig, felt odd, but then I figured it was the pigs way of paying me back. Pig karma, for not eating them for so long. Trouble is this hormone gives me the skin of a fifteen year old. I appreciate the healthy glow, but the sticky oil and chin breakouts, I could do without. Seems I’ll take longer to get all wrinkly, though. So, I guess that’s a bonus, even though my skin is worse than my teenage sons’.

3)      Various supplements; if I go too long without any supplement, I feel it somehow. However, one benefit of being me is that I’m very sensitive to what is happening in my body. In September, it will be two years since I’ve had a cold or flu bug. I can feel a cold coming on. I feel it in every joint in my body, like I’ve been poisoned. Feel it before most people do. And when I do, I load up on Vitamin C and Vitamin D. So far I’ve managed to keep from getting sick. Fingers crossed and knocking on wood. I can tell things about me, too. If my eye sight is growing worse, I need more magnesium. If my leg twitches, I need my multivitamin. If I am tired, I need to take my iron and eat a little fish.

4)      Diet; it’s easier for me to list what I can eat, than what I cannot. I can eat nuts, fish, vegetables, and fruit. Everything else gives me some reaction. Chocolate gives me rashes and makes me break out. Dairy gives me rashes. Wheat makes me bloated and depressed. Artificial anything gives me stomach issues. Most foods in general cause me extreme fatigue immediately after eating. If I am going to eat, I usually have a small portion of salad. Grains are going to make me tired. Wine hurts the salivary glands in my neck. Beer gives me a stomach ache. I am definitely high-maintenance. If I am not careful, after a meal, I will be in pain and fatigued, and have to take a nap.

5)      Liquid; I need to have lots of water and green tea. The green tea gives me the boost to function in the morning and alleviates my chronic fatigue. Green tea also lessens my pain. If I have coffee I go into a spastic mode. If I want to clean I have a quarter cup of coffee in the morning. If I drink coffee I will be up past midnight and have lots of cool ideas, or what seem to be cool ideas, but are really elaborated ramblings that don’t prove much of a point. Coffee makes me paranoid, worried, and stressed. Oh, and agitated.

6)      Exercise and movement; I have to move. Once I sit down, it is very hard for me to get back up. Especially if I combine eating in the morning with sitting on the couch. And forget it if I eat, sit on the couch, and skip my shower—I’m pretty much down for the count on those days. If I walk my serotonin levels increase and my mood is better. Everything is brighter. If I walk far, lately five to seven miles in a day, it is easier for me to sleep deeply at night. Fatigue sets in badly about 3:00 pm, so if I can walk then, sometimes a second walk, I can keep from sliding into the unable-to-move zone.

7)      Weather; if there is a lot of barometric pressure from clouds then I have a hard time moving. Also, if it is chilly, my bones ache. At least it feels like my bones ache. On cloudy days (most days in Washington) I need to make sure I take care of myself; if I do not, I will not function. On cold days the far infrared sauna is helpful. But sometimes I am too fatigued to go into the sauna. The thought of having to undress, shower, and then dress again seems overwhelming. I worry about how I will keep up my walking with the end of summer coming. I have to find ways to exercise. We have an indoor treadmill which I avoid. And a stationary bike I haven’t made friends with, either.

8)      Sleep; if I do not get enough sleep, I will have increased pain and fatigue two days following. If my sleep is interrupted and/or not restful, the next days will be harder for me to move. I am sensitive at night. I need a special mattress for my body to feel comfortable, must wear long sleeves and long pants, regardless of the weather, or I itch, and need to use earplugs. All noises bother me. Particularly banging, high pitched noise, the ticking of clocks, water of a fish tank, voices, television, and snoring.

9)      Stress; if my stress level is medium to high, I will have instant pain. People’s moods affect my pain. Screaming, whining, loud noises, yelling, fighting, and the like increase my pain. Unwelcomed news increases my stress. Lies are a big trigger for me.

10)   Thoughts; if something is out of the ordinary, if plans get changed suddenly, if I notice something on someone’s body that is out of the ordinary, then my thoughts may overwhelm me to the point of exhaustion. My thoughts can trigger sudden onset of pain. When something I am looking forward to is suddenly canceled I am fine. But when something happens I wasn’t expecting, no matter how pleasant, I can get overwhelmed. Skin “issues” are a big trigger for me. I have an odd rash around my eye. I worried and fretted today about my eye, and collapsed on the couch from fatigue. I catastrophize in my mind, thinking of worse case scenarios. My sons have mosquito bites all over them from one hungry house bug we’ve yet to catch. And my chin is breaking out from that pig hormone. All this increases my thoughts.

11)   PMS; oh yes, the lovely word. The five days of hell for me. All my pain increases, fatigue doubles, negative thoughts increase, and basically I think the whole world hates me. My face and stomach swell up and I look and feel like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. This makes it harder for me to leave the house and exercise, which can lead to further fatigue and bring on depression. You’ll notice I do not post photos of me during this time. I also get cravings for chocolate! Not something I should really be eating.

12)   Chemicals; I have to avoid all chemicals in products and makeups. Thus the frizzy hair and minimal makeup. I get instant pain from inhaling chemicals in all forms. I have to avoid places with new carpet, paint, flooring, or other odors. Plastic smells are the worse.

13)   Information; I have to be careful what I read or watch. News or a film can deeply affect my mood, which triggers…you guessed it…my pain. People close to me have learned not to share sad news that doesn’t directly affect me. Some visuals I’ll never be able to get out of my mind.

14)   Noise; certain genres of music physically hurt my body. Dogs barking hurts my ears. Loud cars, especially motorcycles hurt. Too many people talking all at once, large gatherings with lots of conversations at the same time, all cause me trouble. Noise can affect me for the entire day, and may mean I have to stay inside the next day to recuperate.

15)   People; people affect me in all sorts of ways: their mood, their appearance, their smell, their mannerisms, voice, attitude, energy-level, facial expressions, spoken words. If my feelings get hurt, which happens more times than I’d care to ever admit, then I typically will feel pain somewhere in my body. If a person is sick, I might get phantom symptoms, even if I don’t know they are sick. If a person is happy or sad, I might start to feel that same way.

16)   Dread; if I am dreading something, particularly medical news, doctor appointments, or an upcoming outing, I will have trouble concentrating and relaxing. I will loop in my mind and spin in my thoughts. This will cause tension in my body, which leads to other problems. I have to get blood tests done about every six months to check my vitamin, protein, iron, and hormone levels. The thought of annual or biannual appointments for anything, sets me into a mini-panic.

So that’s my boring list.

This is boring.

This is pain.

Great movie Sliding Doors to watch when you are stuck on a couch!

And dang if that mosquito didn’t just buzz in my ear!!!

Day 175: Squirrel on a Wall

Lover’s Point Pacific Grove
Squirrel on a Wall

“Do you think the title ‘shag-o-rama’ would pull in a lot of blog readers?” I asked my husband

I know just the thing to say in the morning to make him laugh. I’m gifted that way, in my off-the-wall-goofiness. And I’m starting to really like that about myself. I see the world through the eyes of a child: somewhat innocent, a bit naïve, and at times downright clueless. Before, when I was younger, people sometimes perceived me as the ‘dumb blonde’ or as fake–assuming it was impossible for someone to be that goofy and hope-filled, naturally.

I don’t buy into people’s judgment of me anymore. I understand now, that like everyone, I have an amazing spirit. I know I am a spirit who never gives up and often tries to see the best in people and situations. And that my spirit just happens to be giddy, joy-filled, surprisingly forthright, and sometimes bold. I embrace my worthiness and I am pleased to do so. And the more I do, the more beauty I recognize in other people.

However, in embracing me, I cannot help but notice that many people are not embracing their own worthiness.

Instead of embracing self, there exists this talking down of self and others. There remains this inability to take in a compliment or kind word, this constant criticism of self or others, an all-encompassing blame, and a narrow scope of focusing on the “negative” aspect of someone else’s life. There often exists a lack of effort and follow through to forgive others. There is often a lack of responsibility for personal choice and action, and an overwhelming sense of ease and comfort to focus on materialism, collection, and possession. To move ahead, to succeed, to surpass and win. Life appears to be a race filled with fear and blame.

sign downtown where I live

For many, day-to-day life has become a routine. The creative spirit has been sucked out of the masses through consumerism, fear-based messages, and dogma that indoctrinates lack of hope and an infections drive for success and materialism. There is an ongoing separation from neighbors, friends, and family. As a collective, some people have forgotten how to appreciate nature and people, and instead are consumed by avoiding failure or disapproval.

This lack of self-worth is evident in the way people focus life around food. How as a society many have chosen food as a way to stuff the empty holes inside. Inner holes and empty space, this sense of lacking and emptiness, is best filled through creativity, self-expression, and an unyielding urge to share and connect, and of course through love. Instead we are stuffing ourselves with food, to the point of fatigue, disease, and depression.

Food has become our center light. More thought is spent on food than anything else. And in second place is death, dying and disease. Everywhere in word and picture and form, we are reminded of pending cancer. We are bombarded from a fear-based society by the ever pending potential threat of illness, danger and doom. And then we are offered the remedy of poisonous foods as appeasement.

Someone has it all backwards. The collective buys into this fear and food stuffing, and more and more fear is spun.

window in Pacific Grove

Recently, I was saddened and stirred by the site of a squirrel. Just one squirrel. He was so very fat and sickly, swollen in spirit, sitting there at Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove California on a stone wall. So engorged that he could not budge. I literally stuck my camera right into his face, and he didn’t flinch. I sighed and whispered to him: “You really need to stop eating so much, Mr. Squirrel.”

Problem is the tourists feed him the leftovers from the beachside hamburger joint: french-fries, hamburger bun, ice-cream cones. Poor little critter doesn’t have a chance—constantly bombarded, he is.

And here we are, feeding our people the same. Junk and poison. Fear-based propaganda and polluted thoughts, as well as food lacking nutrients and value.

And so many are sitting on the wall now, unable to move, to walk toward their soul’s purpose, to give and inspire, to create and connect, to live and love, because they are so overstuffed with poison and misery.

I feel for the overfed and tired squirrel. I was once one myself. Watching from the sidelines and wondering how to move. But I found my legs, and now I wonder over and over, how to pull all the squirrels of the wall. One by one, to free people from society’s bondage.

Pacific Grove Squirrel
ever before