Toe Drama, Part 1 (In which I tell a story of toe problems)

If I uttered the phrase “ingrown toenail” to you, I’m guessing you wouldn’t shudder in fear and dread.

Me? I hear that phrase and kind of want to throw up.

Let me back up.

If you are someone who’s been around reading my random thoughts for any length of time, you know there are certain lessons I keep learning over and over (and if you’re new, welcome! What’s up? Nice to see ya!)

One of the lessons I can’t seem to hold onto is that life has a way of throwing up obstacles and challenges just as I think, “Look at me! I’m all good!” The piece I can’t seem to let sit in my gut has to do with recognizing these obstacles and challenges AS my life, not interruptions of it.

So, just as I was building back up from my tendinitis, starting to feel like I was truly on the road to recovery, lifting up some heavy shit and eyeing a 300lb back squat by the end of 2014, I got an ingrown toenail.

It was late July and it wasn’t a big deal. I googled home remedies and thought it might improve. It didn’t. The first week in August, two weeks before we left on a European cruise vacation that we had saved and scrimped and worked hard for and dreamed about for, literally, YEARS, I decided action was needed. There was no way I could traipse around Spain, France and Italy and drink in our trip of a lifetime with this bum toe.

I went to a podiatrist and, though he was a little brusque, he efficiently hacked up my toe (not the medical terminology, which I believe is “partial nail avulsion”) and sent me on my way with instructions. And for a time, things were pretty normal, as ingrown toenails go. I had a bandage on my toe for a day or so, and then I downgraded to a big ole Band-Aid.

The trip was relatively unaffected, although we affectionately called it: Europe, 2014: Don’t Step on Mom’s Toe! Because it was high season in Europe and everywhere we went my toe was in direct peril of being tread upon, usually by my own tightly packed-in family. At any given moment, you might hear me hiss, “Don’t step on my toe!”

Despite the warnings and the nickname of our vacation, my toe STILL got stepped on multiple times. Usually by my own kids. Ouch.

But, you guys, THIS:

europe vacation cruise gelato

Please take me back. At least just for one gelato. (Also you can click the image to see it full size and admire this beautiful scenery. And please take me back.)

So in the grand scheme of this amazing and possibly life-changing trip, the occasional toe pain wasn’t really figural. I avoided swimming because of it, but you know. The cruise was packed and the pool was tiny, so the idea of swimming in that pool with all those bodies was a little gross to me anyway.

When we got home and back to reality, though, it was clear that something wasn’t quite right about the toe. It had been about a month and it just wasn’t healing. If anything, it had gotten far worse, with the skin all round the toe starting to deteriorate. (eeeewwwwww)

I went back to the podiatrist the first week in September and he mercilessly hacked up my toe again. This time, I was less inclined to refer to him as “brusque” and more inclined to see that the guy was kind of a jerk. He was bullish–he barely talked to me for two seconds before he started digging into the VERY SENSITIVE area in my toe with a metal tool. At which time I am not ashamed to say that I screamed and practically leapt off the chair. And at that point I was shaking all over and asked him to please numb it up and not touch it again until he had done so.

Which he did. And then he hacked off another big chunk of my toenail and said it should heal up nicely from here. He prescribed me more oral antibiotics and sent me on my way.

Yeah, uh, the healing part? Not so much.

I tried to ignore it, because when it was all covered up by bandages, I could forget about it. Sort of. And, you know, it was early September and still warm enough to wear flip flops all the time, so for a week or so, I was like, what toe problem?

Oh, that pain in my toe? That’s nothing. (*cries in the corner from the pain*) I mean, if I could just get a shoe on my foot, I could go work out, right?

But then. Then it got even worse. The raw mess part of my skin crept ever lower, beneath the bandage, threatening to branch out from the toe.

This all seemed rather unbelievable to me. I was a normal, healthy person and I had been on repeated antibiotics courses. What was the deal with this toe? Surely if I gave it a couple more days all would be well. I mean, it was an ingrown toenail, for Pete’s sake!

Uh, no. I could barely stand the pain.

So I went back to the jerky guy, despite my hesitation at his lack of…well, anything resembling empathy.

When he came bustling in the room I was VERY clear with him. He was not to come at me with his metal tools. In fact, he was not to touch my toe before looking at it and talking to me about it. It was extremely sensitive. I told him straight out that I was afraid he was going to hurt me again.

He didn’t care. He grabbed his metal tool and dug in.

I screamed, “DON’T TOUCH IT!” Seriously. I felt like such a lunatic, but this guy was a barbarian. I was now full out shaking. He apologized. He said he thought if he could just clip the edge, he could take a closer look.

I took a deep breath, but before I even consented, he clipped into it with his metal clippers and this time, I didn’t practically leap out of the chair, I actually leapt out of the chair on one foot. I could barely control my shaking, and the toe was bleeding where he had clipped it. It was all I could do not to cry and I am actually having a mini-trauma while typing about it.

“I’m done here. Give me my records.”

He tried to sweet talk me then, told me he was going to take the whole toenail off and that would solve it.

“Nope, you are never touching me again. Do you hear me?” I looked at his nurse, “Do YOU hear me? He is not to touch me again.”

I wish I could say I stormed out of there, but it was more like a wounded hobble. I did have my records, though, so that was a win.

I went to another doctor the next day, knowing it was pretty serious at this point. The pain was so intense.

When I arrived at the new doctor, I was terrified, you guys. I will tell you straight up that I started crying as soon as I sat down in the chair. Like I had podiatry chair PTSD or something.

The nurse was so nice to me as I explained to her what had happened so far. When she unwrapped my toe she had this look of mild shock on her face. I feel like if she had some Xanax on hand, she probably would have given it to me. And, frankly, I would not have turned her down. She promised me that no one would touch it.

The doctor was amazing–Dr. Charlot-Hicks in New Haven, should you ever need a podiatrist. She took one look at it and said, “We’re just going to numb you up right away, before we do anything else.” I literally (and I do mean literally) wept with gratitude. It wasn’t my finest moment.

She did take the whole toenail off that day, and wanted to admit me to the hospital for IV antibiotics. I convinced her to hold off, what with my husband being in Detroit and all. There was this super strong oral antibiotic that she ordered for me instead.

Unfortunately, after three days on it, I started having chills and running a fever. When I called her office to let them know, they were all, “Go to the hospital. Go directly to the hospital. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.”

So what started off as a minor blip–“just” an ingrown toenail–had turned into something that was completely putting my life on hold. At least that’s how I viewed it at the moment. As if I stopped living my life when I got admitted. In fact, the five days I spent there taught me a lot…but let’s talk about that another day.

To be continued in Toe Problems, Part 2…In which I make an Important Point with this very long story. And possibly share some disgusting pictures (but way at the bottom so you don’t have to look unless you want to).

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If this is not the epitome of the new blog tagline…

Then I don’t know what is.

You have to watch this TEDx talk with Lizzie Velasquez. Seriously.

No matter how bad we think we have it, we can always find the positives.

She is so amazing, inspirational and funny. One of my favorite lines: “I’ve had a really difficult life, but that’s OK!” Challenges are ok. Overcoming them to find the positives makes us stronger, better, more grounded in ourselves and who WE are.

Take a look…it is so worth the 13 minutes.

rEvolution. (A not-so-short story in which I tell a secret and inexplicably use a metric ton of quotation marks.)

So I’ve been keeping a little (okay, big) secret from you, and it’s time to have an open and honest conversation about food and my new philosophy. And the meaning of life. (haha, just kidding. That was my last post.)

Without further ado, here is my shocking reveal:

I stopped giving a crap about what I eat about three months ago.

Gasp!!

Here’s another one that might make your head spin:

Not giving a crap about what I eat is one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

I appreciate that this may be quite scandalous to you. You may have a case of the vapors over it. I’ll give you a moment, and then I’ll explain.

(Insert telephone hold music for 30 seconds; I’ll eat a piece of cheese, or maybe a chocolate, while I wait.)

First of all, lemme backtrack for a sec. I may have exaggerated a teensy bit for shock value when I said I didn’t give a crap about what I ate anymore. (I understand that the thought of me exaggerating may also be a shock to you. Please recover from this shock quickly so we can continue moving forward.)

What actually happened three months(ish) ago is that I reached a critical point in my journey, a turning point. I have been evolving steadily for the last two years, in my body and my mindset, and this turning point, I think, is one of the most important ones I’ve experienced thus far.

The end-all be-all of this journey for me when I started was LOOKING the part of a badass…having people know, by looking at me, that I was a strong, fit person.

Hell, I’ll say it outright, I wanted to be thin and look jacked. I wanted to be a size 6 again, and until I was, there was no good reason for me to buy any nice clothes, to really spend time trying to look good or feel good about myself, because I wouldn’t until I met those goals. THEN, I was REALLY going to be awesome.

So to achieve this awesomeness-through-looking-thin-and-jacked goal, I set out on a strict clean-eating regime, eating clean 100% of the time for a full 2 months. After that initial super strict period, I scheduled one splurge meal a week. Sometimes, when schedules got busy, I would have more than 1 splurge but I stayed on track with these eating habits for several months.

While doing this, I missed a lot. I turned down a few invitations and I missed several social events at my work (pizza truck, ice cream sundae truck…why do delicious treat foods come on trucks? I digress…)

At the time, I was okay with missing these things. I felt that I was making a choice to prioritize my long term goals over what I wanted in the moment. They were the right choices for me at the time.

I could have gone to these events and just avoided the pizza/cake, and I fully acknowledge that I made the conscious choice NOT to do this. I was so embroiled in managing my food, and I didn’t trust myself enough to abstain from “bad” foods, so I chose to miss the entire experience instead.

At that time, I felt awesome about these choices. I also felt–and I am somewhat ashamed to admit this–a little bit smug and superior to all those people who were down there snarfing pizza and ice cream while I worked at my computer and chastely snacked on carrots and almonds.

As for my progress, I was doing ok. I was “losing weight” as they say. People were saying nice things to me, I was generally kicking ass in my progress.

And then some evolution happened. LIFE happened.

In November, I went on a splendiferous vacation where I happily overindulged every meal, every day, and halfway through the vacation was so backed up and bloated that I couldn’t button my triumphantly purchased one-size-down jean shorts. I still enjoyed every minute, and every bite, of that vacation. (Thank you, drawstring sweat shorts, for being there for me on the best vacation ever.)

After that vacation, through the holidays, through to mid February I struggled mightily to “get back on track.” I would go a few days of clean eating, then I would binge. I would try again. I was determined, as always, not to give up. To fall down 80 times and stand up 81.

At the same time, I started to gain steam with some heavy lifting in my training. I was loving the lifting, but suddenly I started to feel weak and tired. I wasn’t excited about my workouts anymore. I felt like I had lost my mojo, especially since I was freaking obsessed with getting my fat ass back “on the wagon,” but just couldn’t seem to do it.

I am sure some poor food choices were responsible for some of my fatigue, but as I did some reading and I talked to my trainers,  I ultimately concluded that I was overtraining and not eating well enough to support my training.

I was pushing too hard on too little fuel, and it was hitting me hard.

Now, you might think that this would launch me back into another bout of holier-than-thou clean eating. But, given my yo-yo patterns of the last few months, I decided to try something different, since I was looking for different results besides the super-clean-eating-alternating-with-super-awful-binges pattern I had recently gotten into.

I took a long hard look at my goals and my life, and this was my catharsis (pay attention! It’s exciting!):

Although my journey is not over–and won’t be until my heart stops beating–I am a badass RIGHT. NOW. Without “losing any more weight” or fitting into a certain size or bypassing every pizza party or slice of cake. Before I reach my squat goal or have a day where I feel like pull-ups haven’t completely defeated me (does that day exist?), I am STRAIGHT UP AWESOME, TODAY.

I am strong and fit. I am kind. I am funny. I make people happy. I love fiercely (no matter who makes fun of me for saying so), and I give a lot, in a lot of different ways. In my own small way, I make the world a better place. And what I eat, weigh or look like has no bearing whatsoever on any of that.

I decided that day I didn’t want my life to be about logging food choices and keeping to a breakneck workout schedule that exhausted me for all the other great things I wanted to do.

I didn’t want my life to be about measuring every ounce of food that passes my lips, and I REFUSE to measure myself and my worth by what I ate, looked like, or what the stupid ass scale or measuring tape said.

I realized that food had continued to control my life. Sure, it was clean food, but it was controlling me nonetheless. And I’d had enough. I had too much living to do to let food control me anymore.

From that day on, I stopped paying attention to what I eat. No food log, no measuring cup. And to my shock, I have not gone on a no-holds-barred indulgence spree. Quite the opposite, actually.

Here’s the thing, peeps: three years of being an “off and on” clean eater, and I know what it means to eat clean. I know how to gauge my body’s response to food and I now prefer to eat real, whole foods. They make me feel good. Fast food and processed foods continue to straight up gross me out, so I don’t touch them and probably won’t anytime soon.

But dairy is delicious and good for me, and it doesn’t bother my stomach, so every day I eat my Fage yogurt with raisins and almonds, or banana almond granola, or sometimes with cocoa powder, and sometimes with Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter (amazeballs).

I eat steak and chicken and barbecue pork. I eat peppers and squash and spinach. I eat a crap ton of bacon (mostly turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s. It is magical.)

I also eat chips and pasta and cheesecake when I have a mind to, and at least twice a week I eat a grilled cheese for lunch when I work from home, because it’s delicious. I take the kids out for ice cream when I feel like it. I drink good beer and sweet iced tea sometimes. Last week, I attended this year’s pizza truck gathering and I ate 5 a-mah-zing slices, thankyouverymuch. And enjoyed the hilarious company of one of my favorite co-workers while doing so.

On average, I would say I am “splurging” or “cheating” about the same percentage, possibly a little more (it’s hard to say) than I was with my yo-yo habits of before.

Here’s a major difference though: I’m not calling them “cheats” or even “splurges” anymore. I am calling them “food.” I am calling it “eating.” Because that’s what the hell it is.

The general sum up is that I am much of the time eating whole, unprocessed foods without too much sugar. That’s basically what I eat because of the habits I’ve formed over the last couple of years, so I needed to go through those strict times to create those preferences. And I’m grateful for that.

What I am ditching are two very specific “rules” I once held myself to:

1) that there are certain “off limits” foods that must be avoided until a pre-determined “splurge” period

2) that I need to carefully monitor ever single ever-loving thing I put in my mouth, and keep my calories lower so I can “lose weight”

As a former anorexic and bulimic, I am no stranger to food rules, and they are dangerous and toxic. So they can get the hell out of my life.

And without the food rules, I feel free. I trust myself, and I feel amazing. I feel strong in my workouts (which I have cut back to 4, maybe 5 a week depending upon how I feel) and I am listening to my body…what it wants and needs to be fueled properly, and how I need to balance work and rest to continue to get stronger.

I could give two craps about “losing weight.” Or what the “right” foods are before and after training, or on the days I don’t train, or if I should eat dairy, or if there are too many grams of sugar in something. I check labels for HFCS or any gross chemicals that are not good for me and my family, and I buy organic produce most of the time.

Other than that, I eat. I eat because I’m hungry, I eat because my body needs fuel, I eat because I enjoy it. Sometimes, I forget to eat when I’m busy and sometimes, I eat too much and my belly lets me know…and it’s all good. I haven’t weighed or measured myself recently and have no plans to, but I can tell you all my clothes fit just fine, and I continue to be awesome in general, and to kick ass and make major strength gains at my workouts. My guess is that my body will continue to change over time, and that’s cool, too.

Food is good, and so is life. Eat, people.

Life. Love. Kindness. Joy.

I’ve had some opportunities to think about death lately. Lots of them, actually. And I’ve been wavering about whether or not I should actually write this post, because it’s a bit off the beaten path of my usual schtick. (And it’s loooooong.)

But that’s ok. It’s my blog, and I’m going for it.

So we spent some time with my husband’s 96 year old grandfather recently. With no disrespect, he has never been the kindest man, so we were quite surprised to see a very different side of him after a year alone following the passing of his wife of 72 years.

He was looking back, voicing regrets, dispensing wisdom. We listened. The voice of a man facing the end of his days, with everyone else gone before him, is not to be ignored or taken for granted. I saw it as a gift that I’d like to share with you.

Here’s the thing, peeps. Not a single one of us is getting out of this thing alive. I don’t say this to be morbid or make you sad or fearful, and this is by no means a YOLO kinda thing, because that’s just not my bag, baby.

I say it simply because it is true. It is one of the essential facts of our existence, but one that we are uncomfortable talking about openly. Like if we all keep real quiet about death, we can somehow manage to outsmart the powers of the universe and LIVE FOREVER!

Oh wait, I forgot–that actually totally worked for…uh…yeah, right, NO ONE, EVER.

So why not embrace this essential truth instead of skirting around it?

Let me help: We’re all going to die someday. I am. You are. Each and every one of us.

Even if we are pictures of health and safety…even if we always wear our bike helmets…even if we never, ever drink too much or smoke cigarettes…even if we are strong swimmers, change the batteries in our smoke detectors regularly, drive cars with side impact airbags and Anti-lock brakes, and work out regularly and eat whole, clean, organic foods most of the time.

Before you start to think this is a “Life is short, eat cupcakes all day, bitches!!!” type of post, Imma stop you right there.

Everything I’ve noted above is an important practice that we should keep doing to be as healthy and happy as we can during our time here. I’m going to keep doing all those things.

But in the end…well, it ends. No matter what. No matter who. No matter what.

Think of it, mull it for a bit…like I’ve been doing.

Now before you get all mad at me for making you think about your inevitable death and stop reading the blog all together because you don’t know what the hell happened to that sassy, snarky fat girl that USED to write this not-so-serious blog about how much she could push press, take a second to realize that accepting the reality of death is actually quite freeing.

Because once you’ve accepted the dying, you can get on with the living. The REAL living.

tragedy of lifeAnd the LIVING, people, is what this post is about. (Read the title, yo!)

The more I’ve thought about this lately, the more excited I’ve been to LIVE. I was heading down this thought path already in my efforts in the recent past to be more in the moment, show gratitude for the people I love, and work on loving myself more and caring what others thought less.

But this face to face encounter with someone contemplating so intently the end of his days–and having lost more than enough people near and dear to me far before the ripe old age of 96–it’s given me a bit of a shove.

I’m 39 years old, and I still feel like I’m 20 something. I feel like I have many, many long years ahead of me with the people I love. I certainly hope I do, but there are no guarantees.

ca9f3010ea8e03c2644a69ec86ee7d0bSo what do I want to do with my limited-time life? What do I want to accomplish before my unknown expiration date? How do I want to be remembered?

If that goddamned proverbial bus cracks me in the ass TODAY, would I have regrets other than the sadness I’ll leave behind in the lives of the people who love me?

And lest you think me cliche, let me say that I’m not talking about creating a bucket list, either. Help me out, here, Thoreau old buddy:

a4fff66b2a003e846467c690b7bac9b2OK, well I’m not exactly talking about going into the woods. But the rest is so right on. Living deliberately. Getting at the essence of life, my life. And LIVING it while I’m here.

For me, this is a deeply personal thing. I’ve been soul searching. What ARE the essential components of my life? My world? My existence? What do I stand for? (Most nights, I don’t know…)

Here’s what I’ve boiled it down to: Love, Kindness, and Joy. With INTENTIONAL caps. Word.

Let me elaborate. (Because I always do.)

LOVE: I want to love fiercely, and be fiercely loved. I want to feel it oozing from my pores. I want to feel love and gratitude spilling out of me like baubles in a too-full jewelry box. I think I’ve been afraid to say and live this in such an unabashed way before. Why is that? Why would I want to hide the passionate love I feel for my life, my family, my friends, and the beauty in the world around me? Why wouldn’t I want to gush with gratitude for all I am and all I have, to let it bubble up and overflow, touching every person I come into contact with every day of my life?

stop lookingWell, I do want to do that, but frankly it’s hard not to focus on the negative, the annoying, the everyday stupid BS. So I’m not saying I’ll be a perfect picture of love and gratitude at any given moment of any given day. Most assuredly not when some jackass cuts me off on the highway, for example, or when my kids leave the friggin crayons out AGAIN and the dog eats them AGAIN and I’m cleaning up multi-colored turds in the yard for a week.

I’m saying I plan to practice loving with passion and ferocity as often as I can, including loving myself. And I have a sense that the more I practice, the better I will get.

KINDNESS: I just finished reading another amazing book by Khaled Hosseini called And the Mountains EchoedI recommend this book–and any of his books, for that matter. His writing is gorgeous and the stories he tells are so rich and authentic.

So in the book one of the characters said something that’s been sitting in my heart ever since (where I hope it will take up permanent residence, at least most of the time). Reflecting on her own life, she says: “I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that…It would not have been that difficult…I should have been more kind.”

This line sticks in my throat. It is NOT that difficult to be kind. What does it cost me, but perhaps my pride sometimes? Big deal.

Listen, everyone has their faults, and people can be incredibly annoying. I often find myself incredibly annoyed by people, most especially the ones I love. I acknowledge as I write this that it is unfair, but here I am admitting on the Interwebz.

(Sidebar: if you are someone I love, this is me admitting that you have probably annoyed the shit out of me at one point or another. But I am just as aware that I have probably annoyed the shit out of you just as–if not more–often. So let’s just acknowledge our individual annoying qualities, be kinder to each other, and move on with our lives. Love ya!)

See? Acknowledging that people are flawed, human, prone to bad choices and idiosyncrasies, bound to hurt each other sometimes–sometimes hurt each other deeply–does not indicate that they are any less deserving of kindness. (Note to self: It really doesn’t make them any less deserving of your kindness. Stop being a bitch sometimes.)

And like the character in the book notes, kindness is something I have never regretted giving, when I have chosen to bestow it upon people. When I have (rarely, but ever more frequently of late) chosen to bestow it upon myself.

I commit to choosing kindness more often, so that eventually I will become a characteristically kind person, both to myself and others.

JOY: Here we are, the big finish. Joy. What brings me joy? So many things. Hugging my son, and feeling his sharp bony ribs when I squeeze him. Marveling at the fact that this boy that I once carried in me now has a tiny boy-mustache growing. Hearing my daughter belly laugh. Seeing her admire herself, unabashed, in the mirror. Dancing. The sound of my husband’s car pulling in the driveway. The wide smile he sometimes flashes, not nearly often enough. The feel of his arms around me. DisneyWorld. Lifting heavy weights. Setting out on a road trip at the crack of dawn with a car full of people and snacks. Writing this blog. Coffee on a quiet morning. Reading a great book. Friends who get me. Watching my kids work together on something, and speak kindly to each other while doing it. My dog. A sunrise as I drive to an early morning workout.

The list could go on, but I think you get it. The point is that living, to me, means recognizing all these things as sources of pure joy and adding more of them to my life…or at the very least, recognizing and acknowledging them when they are in front of me.

And dumping all the crap that doesn’t bring me joy.

Now listen, we all have to have some crap in our life. Responsibilities. Obligatory STUFF that is decidedly non-joyful. Cleaning the cat box comes to mind.

The reality is that we can’t necessarily “front only the essential facts of life” as Thoreau did. Well, technically Thoreau didn’t have to front ANYTHING–he had a rich aunt who took care of him or something like that so he could afford to just laze around at Walden Pond for a couple of years and write about icicles and whatnot. Me? I got billz and such. And you probably do, too.

So, practically speaking, we can’t just run around all the time doing only the things that bring us joy. (“Cupcakes! Spending sprees! YOLO, bitches!” Uhhhh, no.)

But when we’re 96, what will our legacy be? I mean, I definitely don’t want my legacy to be, “She didn’t pay her bills or clean her toilet because she was too busy eating cupcakes/loving people/being kind and joyful.” The thing is this: I’m just a regular person, so I’ll have to have a job and scrub the floors and be a respectable member of society. I don’t expect to have to get out of doing those things.

I don’t expect or need to be famous or widely renowned or anything.

I don’t care if I win any races, and I’m all set if I never have the body of a fitness model…because I am probably just as fit as most of them already and I’m committed to the idea that what a body can DO is more important than what a body looks like.

No, those things aren’t of critical, 96 year old end of life importance to me personally.

When that bus of doom knocks me into the afterlife, or whatever comes after this, I want my kids and my husband to know that they were loved, and loved fiercely.

I want my friends to know how utterly grateful I was for their joyful presence in my life.

I want someone, somewhere, to have been brightened, even in some small way, by a kind act from me.

I want to be remembered as someone who was passionate, loving and kind, and full of life, laughter and joy.

Oh, and I want to squat 250. That would be pretty cool too.

Your turn.

Apples to oranges, and silencing the evil voice.

They say comparison is the thief of joy. (Who are “they,” anyway? And where do “they” come up with all these clever sayings? I digress…already. Typical.)

The point is, I agree. (Well, somewhat…but more on that later.) I agree in theory, but, as with most of “their” clever sayings, this one is so much easier to say and think about than to actually believe and live into it.

I KNOW…I know, I know, I know that I’m not supposed to compare myself to others. My rational, logical brain repeats the phrase to me regularly in an annoying old schoolmarm voice.

But there’s another voice, too. An insidious, evil little bitch of a voice in my head that sometimes just won’t shut the hell up.

“You’re the fattest person in the room. No one is going to like you here,” she whispers into my ear at a party.

“That Tuff Girl can do dead hang pull ups! You’ll never be able to do those. You’re too heavy. You’ll ALWAYS be too heavy,” she scoffs during a workout.

“Look how ‘together’ that other mom is! She’s not running around from one place to the next like a crazy person, always five minutes late. SHE didn’t forget to turn in the money for the teacher’s gift. SHE sent in the permission slip on time,” she taunts me when I arrive, breathless and with metaphorically windblown hair to a school function.

(I told you she was an evil bitch.)

So yes, in all these instances, comparison IS stealing my joy by shifting my focus to negative and spotlighting the things I see as my weaknesses instead of strengths.

And today’s message has a story, of course. If you’ve been hanging around the FFG FB page, you might have noticed some new photos. I did something that terrified me and signed up for fitness shoot, and the pictures came back yesterday. I shared a few over there and will be doing some updating around here with the rest of them.

As I reviewed the photos, I got super excited. I saw progress in those photos. I saw confidence and empowerment and general badassery in myself. I was proud.

Two of my amazing friends also did the photo shoot and I was absolutely bowled over by their photos. Strong, confident, kickass women who I am so very lucky to call my friends.

But I did it, guys. I did that thing that I am not supposed to do. I compared. I compared my pictures to my friend Samantha’s, and in doing so, I lost some of the initial joy I felt at seeing my own pics.

Me and Samm push press Me and Samm planks

Me: Wow, Samantha looks amazing!

Evil Bitch Voice in My Head: Better than you! Who were you kidding taking these pictures in the first place, fat girl?

Me: Shut up. We’ve both worked hard to make the progress we’ve made. We both deserve to feel awesome about these pictures.

Evil Bitch Voice in My Head: OK, sweetheart. You keep telling yourself that. But I’ll be HONEST…nobody wants to see your pictures when they could look at someone like Samantha.

Sigh.

And on goes the battle. I fight this battle every day, sometimes every minute. And it’s a hard battle, for sure, with casualties on my heart that are tough to overcome.

But I’m not giving up on it. I’m going to keep fighting until I silence that noxious little bitch for good.

And here’s something else I’m working toward: a type of comparison that ADDS joy instead of stealing it…because there are some kinds of comparisons that can do that, which is why I only somewhat agree with the statement I opened this post with.

What I mean by that (incredibly convoluted) idea is this: when I compare who I am today with who I used to be, I can draw confidence, strength and joy from how far I’ve come, instead of a cancerous focus on how far I still have to go.

Comparisons like this one:

very heavy me StephLowRes-13This comparison shows the difference three years makes. My guesstimate would be about 45lbs of fat lost (including, apparently, an entire chin), and a ton of muscle and self-confidence gained.

But beyond that piece, more subtle–but to me, far more important–differences shine through in my posture, my expression, and my attitude in each picture.

The first one shows me leaning forward a little, with my shoulders raised up a little bit…clearly uncomfortable with having my picture taken. My smile seems to be trying to overcompensate for my utter lack of confidence. I distinctly remember having this photo taken, and the discomfort I felt at that moment about the way I looked. I hated being in pictures. I hated being in my body, and it showed.

In fact, at one point I showed that old photo to my friend Samantha. I also distinctly remember her response when she saw it: “That is not the same person I know today. I don’t know who that person is.”

Compared to this new picture, she is absolutely right. It is me, but a completely different version of me who had no idea how awesome she was and could be.

By contrast, the current photo shows my unwavering gaze, my firm, confident posture–chest out, shoulders back–and how at-home I feel with some heavy weights in my hands (those are 25# apiece).

THIS is the me of today. THIS is the kind of comparison I need to be making, and the kind of comparison I am going to keep bringing myself back to, no matter how hard it is.

So take THAT, evil bitch voice in my head! You are going down.

——————–

*Special thanks to Samantha for letting me share her pictures and talk about how amazing she looks in a very public forum. I continue to be so grateful to have you in my life for so many reasons. Heart.

*All fitness shoot photos (ie, all the pics here except for my hideous “before” shot) are credited to the very amazing Eric Brushett. Any weird stretching or photographic wonkiness should be entirely blamed upon my amateurish attempts to create collages, and not Eric’s mad photography skills.

Choices.

choices So nearly two months ago, I got a pretty awesome freelance opportunity plunked down in front of me. Reputable client, work I was digging on, and the potential for some sweet gravy on the budget. And while our budget isn’t hurting, who doesn’t salivate over a little gravy once in awhile?

I chewed on it for three days. Tried to brainstorm “solutions” for how I was going to fit in the work in addition to the rest of my life.

Of course, this opportunity came just after I had written this, so I was definitely feeling the heat of keeping up with all my shit already.

But, the choice seemed clear: I should definitely take the job. The money would be great, and I’m good at what I do, so I could easily make it work.

The choice seemed (also) clear: I should definitely not take the job. I had no business adding more stuff to my ever-expanding plate, even stuff I really like.

I’ll cut the suspense. I didn’t take the job.

I mourned the loss of an interesting freelance job (and the gravy) for a day or so. Or maybe a week. I spent that extra money in my head. A new car was involved, obviously. (But more on that later.)

Here’s where I’m going with this: choices sometimes suck, and you may or may not know if you’ve made the right one. I agonized over this one but ultimately I knew it was right because it was in line with the values and goals I was setting for myself:

Stop adding. Love my people. Work on myself. Focus on what’s here.

I also got a nice little karmic victory a week later when my boss sat me down and awarded me a promotion and a fat (phat?) raise…about the equivalent of what the freelance job I passed on might have been worth.

It’s nice when the universe sends us a neon sign telling us we’ve made the right choice.

But of course, that’s not always how it works.

Sometimes, we make a decision and second guess it. Sometimes, we have to make and stick to a decision over and over and over and over and over even though it makes us wonder if we’re really taking the right path.

Which brings me to this:

VW Jetta

Behold the anatomy of my embarrassing car

This is my car. My 10 year old, broken down, beat up, dented and dinged, dirty with cat paw prints, somewhat humiliating car.

Sometimes I call it the babysitter car, because it looks like something a college nanny would drive.

I can’t really blame my kids for throwing their trash all over it.

It’s been a good car for 10 years, got me where I needed to go, made 2 trips to Florida and back (or was it 3?) and I really loved it before it turned into a cringe-worthy piece of crap.

Much of what’s wrong with it could be fixed, creating a slightly more respectable form of transportation for me, if we didn’t keep saying we were going to get a new one “soon,” so might as well just leave it.

I could probably clean it a bit more often, but you know…I’m getting a new car “soon,” so what’s the point?

(I WILL get a new car this year. You know, soon.)

So why am I still driving around in the shame-mobile? Technically, we could afford a new car. Like any other family, we could afford lots of things, but not everything, so we make choices.

For the last couple of years, I have traded the excitement of getting a new car for a healthier lifestyle.

Working out at a reputable studio like Bodyology with amazing trainers costs money. Eating whole, unprocessed, mostly organic/nitrite-free/free range/grass-fed foods is not as cheap as Hamburger Helper from Walmart.

For the last year (almost exactly), our family has spent $350 a month on a fitness membership. By my calculations, that’s a monthly payment for a pretty sweet new ride.

When I think about that, sometimes it does make me second-guess this decision I keep making.

Maybe I could scale back my workout schedule and work out by myself a couple of times a week. (Yeah, THAT would happen.)

Maybe we don’t need to spend so much extra money on these fancy-schmancy “whole” foods. (Sure, great idea. Extra helpings of hormones, chemicals, and GMO’s, please!)

And when I really think about it, although I’m totally psyched to get a new car (soon, I swear) and not feel like a broke-ass 20-something everywhere I go, it’s also not nearly as important to me as our healthful lifestyle.

harry potter choices

This post would not be complete without one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes.

Choices show our character and indicate our values.

I’m not saying I’m suddenly proud to be driving my crappy old car or anything. I’m just saying that when I think of my ongoing car-shame as part of the price I pay to keep moving forward with my goals, I can keep on living with it.

(But seriously, not that much longer.)

So, what choices are you making, and what do they say about you?

 

Put on the suit.

Fun fact: I am a huge Avengers fan. So when I title a post “Put on the suit,” there’s really no excuse for me NOT to include this photo:

avengers

Oh, hello.

But this post isn’t necessarily about superheroes. Well it sort of is. But anyway, on with it.

So it’s been a crazy week. (“What else is new, Steph?” you ask.) The school play is tomorrow night so we’ve been running to dress rehearsals, and preparing for shows tonight and Saturday night. But before we GET to Saturday night, we also have a big children’s event at church on Saturday morning, followed by lacrosse practice, then my son’s birthday party on Sunday.

Not to mention the fact that I have family members arriving tonight at 6pm to go over to the school with us to see the play, and the house is a mess and I have no conceivable time between now and 6pm when I could actually clean it. Well, I guess I could be doing it now but I’m pretty sure my husband and kids wouldn’t appreciate my running the vacuum at 5:03am. So yeah, dirty house + impending company=more stress.

My blood pressure just rose writing those two paragraphs.

But in the midst of this week, I had a very cool epiphany on Tuesday.

Tuesday was a kind of “meh” day. After a school delay because of MORE WINTER WEATHER (I can’t even talk about it) I worked from home for most of the day. I also had to miss my date with the iron at 6am because of the aforementioned weather.

I had a ton of work to do but couldn’t seem to get focused.

I tried to focus on cleaning up around the house but still felt so “off.” So I told myself I was too busy (not) working to clean.

I accomplished very little that day except eating a bunch of crap that was in my house for no good reason. You know, just because it was there and I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so stressed and unproductive. So obviously, eating some shitty food was the right answer.

sarcasmI tried to cut my losses by planning a work out date with Mr. Badass at 6pm. But I couldn’t find a sitter.

General malaise ensued. More food was eaten. I figured it was a wasted day and got on with it.

Then I decided to stop being an asshole and signed myself up for the 7pm class to do the ole “kid switcheroo” as my husband came out of the 6pm class.

At 6:20, I (rather reluctantly, in full disclosure) went upstairs to get ready for my 7pm tabata workout.

Again, full disclosure, I tried to think of some excuses that would make it okay for me not to go.

And then it happened.

I pulled on my sports bra and workout gear, and I immediately felt better.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was somehow true. As soon as I was in those black pants with my sweet ass blue training sneaks on, I felt like myself again.

The bad day was left behind. The crappy food. The sense of general wrongness.

I was ready to go kick some ass. (And I did.)

For me on Tuesday, those workout clothes were my equivalent of Ironman putting on the suit.

Ironman

It felt wrong to choose a photo that did NOT include RDJ’s face.

So what’s your suit? Put it on, and kick some ass.

***update: At 7am, I managed to clean up my house a touch, with the help of a handsome husband. I wouldn’t call it “clean and pretty,” but at least  it is “vaguely presentable.”***