Contentment

I read an article today that struck a chord with me on multiple levels. The article discusses how a woman who is happy with herself is the beauty industry’s nightmare. What can she be sold (or he for that matter) when there isn’t some perceived “flaw” to fix?

This covers so much more than the beauty industry. This is really huge.

In the fitness world, it’s all about aesthetics. People workout to “look good naked”. 95% of the population doesn’t start a fitness program to increase their cardiovascular health, decrease their A1C numbers, or improve their range of motion and flexibility. They do it to change their appearance. To have a “summer body” or complete a weight loss challenge. People go on crazy elimination diets (I have too!) because we are trying to change something. You can’t sell to prospective clients if they already love the way they look and feel.

I read another article that had this to say about going grey:

“My attitude is this: age is nothing to be ashamed of, and therefore grey hair is nothing to be ashamed of.  Covering my greys with toxic chemicals would not only be hazardous to my precious health, it would be voting with my dollars for an industry that profits mightily from making women feel insecure and ashamed of our bodies starting in childhood.  Covering my greys would be saying “yes” to the notion that I, as a woman, am only valuable or attractive if I look “young.”  It would be saying yes to the idea that age, and its physical signs, are something to be feared, denied and hidden – that I need to pretend to be something other than I am to be deemed worthy.  It would mean I agree with the belief that a woman’s only power stems from her being “sexy” in public.”

I colored my hair for the last time last December. My grey is showing. I really don’t care. I’m actually kind of curious to see where it will come in. Will it be a streak of awesome around my temples? Who knows?! But I want to find out.

I have no more interest in keeping up with the Jones’. I think it’s awesome that you drive that amazing car. I have no desire to go into debt to buy a car I can’t afford to impress you. (I used to.) Having contentment bleeds over into every other aspect of life; financial, relational, spiritual, physical – all of it. It is all so very related.

I will be 40 this summer. I’m all out of caring what people think. I’m mostly content as an adult for the first time. images.jpeg

If I am content with myself and my life, and I want for nothing, how then can I be marketed to, sold to, or upgraded upon?

The thing is, when we finally don’t care anymore it frees us up to concentrate on things that actually matter; giving our time to causes that are dear to our passions and using our talents. Constant consumerism feels wasteful. Chasing youth in a bottle becomes an exercise in futility.

Contentment sure feels a lot more like life and actual living.

Sign. Me. Up.

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Turn Off the Noise

I’m really tired.

I’m tired of all the drama, the hype, the noise around pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

Have you heard the term orthorexia? According to the National Eating Disorders Association:

Orthorexia nervosa is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5, but many people struggle with symptoms associated with this term.

Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”  Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.  They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”  An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style.  Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise).  Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.

Basically, we’ve become so obsessed with diet and exercise it’s on its way to becoming classified as a disorder. To quote Amber Rogers from Go Kaleo, “…nothing says ‘elitism’ better than a long list of foods you CAN eat, but won’t.”

Seriously.

As a person looking to help people in the arena of health and fitness, I find it sad that as far back as most of us can remember, people have struggled with self acceptance, physical appearance, diet and exercise. Aren’t we tired of the dieting culture yet? Aren’t we better than constantly striving for a physical aesthetic? Do we really want to be 75 years old and STILL on some stupid diet?! Aren’t we tired of the noise of ‘Eat this, don’t eat that!’? Even outside of this particular subject, a flip through the Facebook feed will reveal the same kind of noise regarding all kinds of subjects; mommy wars, religious superiority, crafty moms vs. anti-pinterest moms, lifters vs. runners, cross fitters vs. everyone else, and on and on it goes. Follow this guru! No wait, this one is a quack! But this other one is science-based! Follow this person! What?! You follow {insert group/person of choice here}?!

Why don’t we ask questions like “What can I do?,” “What do I think?” or  “How can I serve?” instead of “How do I look?” and “Am I fat?”

I’m really just tired of the noise and the negativity.

Yes, we live in the real world. We like to look nice.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with dressing up or wearing make up, eating healthfully and working to improve physical fitness etc. But where does the motivation lie? How about doing these things because they make US feel better. Not to please others or to fit into some arbitrary jean size. I love to workout. I like the way it makes me feel. My body works better when I take care of it. The black hole of depression is kept at bay through physical fitness. I love being able to help others feel better in their skin, too.

I say let’s focus on other goals instead of obsessively, compulsively fixating on food and exercise.

Let’s reach out to a friend who needs it.
Let’s cook meals at home instead of eating out. Let’s eat it around the dinner table with people we care about.
Why not try something we’ve never done before?
Why not join that group exercise class? Or go for a bike ride? Or do yoga – or anything else that floats your boat?
Let’s be a little more real. Even when it is scary.
Let’s let go of a “someday” ideal and go out and be the best we can be. Right now.
Let’s find something that lights our fire and go after it with reckless abandon.

If you, like me, are tired of the noise, let’s all collectively turn it off. Shut it down.

And go be our own awesome.

A Dose of Real

Recently over on Single Dad Laughing, author Dan Pearce wrote about what he terms a disease of Perfection. (Please take the time to check it out and read through it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

In the article (that you just read), Dan discusses examples of very real situations, but that we are unable to reveal our true selves for fear of what people around us will think. For a long time, I’ve thought the same thing with regard to Facebook and other social media and wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that when we use social media, we tend to compare our real, messy, uncensored life with the highlighted, glossy, highly edited version of everyone else’s life. This only sets us up for feeling, well, like crap. In Dan’s examples, there are even fatal outcomes in situations when being less than authentic becomes the status quo.

There is always someone out there who is better, more giving, smarter, more fit, less selfish, richer, prettier, stronger, bigger, smaller….whatever adjective you like. Ultimately, there is only one YOU. There is only one Me. If we choose to be someone we are not, if we choose an inauthentic life, even virtually, then we are robbing the world of our voice, our talents and our contribution – whatever those may be. I get that, but it’s still so hard to be our authentic, let-it-all-hang-out selves, isn’t it?

He asks us to take the challenge and add a dose of “real”. So here goes:

I lost 50 lbs in 2011. I have over the last 3 years, gained 35 of it back. I loved the way I felt when I had lost the excess weight. Something changed along the way, however. I still feel pretty darn good most days. I continue to workout, I continue to gain strength, and I can still run half marathons. I still pursue health and fitness. I love moving my body, getting enough sleep, running, and being active with my kids. I care way less what the scale says. I was down to a size 6, now I’m a size 10. I started at a size 16-18. I sometimes feel like I failed because I didn’t maintain that 50 lbs loss, even though I’m in better health than I ever was before my weight loss journey began.

I struggle with depression. Yep. As a person who gravitates to the “light” and the “funny”, I still struggle with it. I’ve even seen a professional to gain tools to deal with it. It sucks. (Which is another reason I am fiercely passionate about healthful food and fitness – it keeps the darkness at bay.)

I am not perfect. We all know this intellectually, but seriously – I am not perfect. I post cute kid pics like most parents, but then there are some days that make me want to tear my hair out. I try to be the best parent I can be. There are days when I am definitely not.

I was fired and was crushed. I was told that my spin class was to be cancelled after only having taught 6 classes. The attendance wasn’t sufficient to continue to offer the class. I love spin, and was just starting to get comfortable. I was fired via email the day before Christmas. It sucked. Last week was the first spin class I have taken since being fired. It felt great to be back.

I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up. I love to write. I love to teach. I love health and fitness. I’ve done combinations of all three. I do feel that when the kids are both in school full time, my windows of opportunity will be opening a bit wider and am sensing a shift. I don’t know what I want to do, but I’m excited about future possibilities even though the unknown scares me.

This whole post scares me and I do not want to publish it. Which is exactly why I need to.

Here’s to being real.  What’s your dose of reality?

“Real” Friends

Not only was the subject of friendship a WordPress Daily Prompt today, but it’s something that I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks. Last weekend I had the pleasure of running a 5-miler with a dear friend who I haven’t seen outside of cyberspace in 6 months – entirely too long! Catching up with her was such a gift and 5 miles never flew by so fast! We chatted about all things parenting and motherhood; how the house is never as clean as we’d like, the differences between racing pre-kids and post-kids, lack of time, how it takes longer than one might expect to find your ‘new normal’ as a mother, breastfeeding woes, and how everyone else seems to be doing it better. I mentioned that if someone cares more about how your place looks when they come to visit, perhaps they should be shown the door.  She looked at me as we were running and said, “Thank you for being a REAL friend. I don’t have to pretend with you.”

That sentiment was probably one of the most touching compliments I have ever received in my life.

Honestly, I just don’t have time to be anything but real. What you see is what you get. Most days, I don’t wear make up. I love yoga pants and workout clothes. I love to laugh, really laugh – guffaw and bend over and let ‘er rip!  When I cry – it’s usually of the full-on ugly, soul cleansing variety. My hair is in a pony/bun conglomeration more often than not. I love all things touchy-feely, emotional, self-improvement, empowering and fist-pumping. The real stuff of life.

I have been blessed by wonderful friendships, mostly due to our military life. The friends you make while moving every few years aren’t like any other friendships. No one in your life, try as they might, can truly understand it’s like, what is required, and what kind of support is needed, than a fellow milspouse.

It’s hard, to be sure. If you’re leaving in two to three years, why be real? Why let your guard down? Why get invested when you know it’s only temporary? We hate the inevitable “fair winds, following seas/goodbyes/see you laters”. We all hope to stay connected, but in the back of our mind we understand that some relationships are for a specific time, even if that’s not by choice or how we’d like it to go down, sometimes it just does. It’s hard to maintain true intimacy over the miles. The web makes it easier – but we kid ourselves to believe it’s the same. We miss the day-to-day details of life. Instead we have to be content with the highlight reels until we meet again.  If making friends as an adult is like dating, saying goodbye is the worst kind of breakup.

Why risk being real?

Because it’s worth it. Even though your heart breaks, it’s always worth it. To the degree that saying goodbye sucks, it is to the same degree that being authentic and truly yourself is a breathtakingly beautiful experience.  I would not be the person I am today were it not for the real and honest friendships made along the way.

Reach out. Take the risk. Show up. Be kind. Be real.

It’s always worth it.

Daring Greatly

I’ve mentioned before how much I admire, and have learned from, the author of Daring Greatly, Brene Brown. I am watching her on an episode of Lifeclass and am reminded again about the power of vulnerability.

After receiving a call to interview for a Spin Instructor position at a local gym, I did my requisite freak out-happy-dance-squeal-high-five-my-friend-who-happened-to-be-here-when-the-call-came thing. But shortly after that, I began having the same doubts and negative thoughts, “Can I do this?”

In her book, Brene calls them shame gremlins. And oh boy, do they rear their heads at me when I’m scared, trying something new, or putting myself out there – as in getting up in front of people to lead them in a class.

Always, always I have to remind myself that every single time I’ve been vulnerable it has never returned void. Whether it is the creativity in my writing, opening up to new people, or teaching – it never returns void when I remember the following:

1. I have to be authentic. When I stop emulating others or putting on the “armor” of what I think people want – it works. And contrary to the gremlins, the world does not, in fact, end.

2. When people continually encourage you, it’s really good to start believing them. I’m not talking about flattery and “rah, rah you got this”-type cheerleading. It’s in the trenches, empathy, gut-wrenching, hand-gripping, awe-inspiring moments when people take the time to tell you how they really feel and what they really think about you. It’s thoughtful, true constructive criticism with a whole lotta love.

3. I can’t be comfortable and courageous at the same time. Brene spoke about the moment when our hand is on the arena door, we are about to step into some hard-core vulnerability by putting ourselves out there and being seen, and all the self doubt comes rolling. It’s uncomfortable, it’s gut-churning, I call it the “transitions”. I’m the type of person that just likes to know things before I know them. A to Z without the yucky uncomfortable process of the other letters.

The thing of it is, if I skip the transitions, shy away from the door, and decide to stay where I’m at, I never get to feel the joy, the exhilaration, and the victory of the arena. I’ll stay comfortable. It would be easier. It wouldn’t be so terrifying. (Read: vomit-inducing).

My hand is on the door. I’m walking through it. It’s scary to be sure. I will likely get my butt kicked in the transition-yucky-learning curve arena. But I’m going to get up and keep walking through that door.

It’s never returned void.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”
― Brené Brown

“I can’t be paralyzed anymore by the critics. My new mantra is, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, then I’m not interested in your feedback. You don’t get to sit in the cheat seat and criticize my appearance or my work with mean-spiritedness if you’re also not in the arena. Now, if you’re also in the arena and you’re putting your ideas out and you’re owning them and you’re saying “I disagree with you about this and that, I think you’ve got this wrong” — then not only do I invite that, I freaking love that. I love that. I’m an academic. I’m hardwired for a good debate.”― Brené Brown

Trepidation and Encouragement

On Tough Mudder eve, I’m feeling nervous. Like every new race, I’m always nervous. Anxiously reviewing the list of preparations, questioning whether there was enough training, enough sleep, enough nutrition….the list goes on and on.

I have never regretted trying new things. Ever. I may have been in pain, achey for days, occasionally disappointed, and sore in places I didn’t know existed – but never regret. This race, perhaps even more than the marathon, makes me VERY nervous.

On this race eve, as I pack and prepare and we head south, my husband comes in the with the mail and hands me an envelope. I open it, noting the return address from a fellow DumBell Fitness recruit. They left Hawaii before we did. She was always very motivating standing next to me during those grueling workouts.

I open it up and find this:

photo

On a day I can really use a boost, I get one. Big time. The fellow recruit that sent this to me had saved this sticker for me from the time we had had a conversation in the parking lot over 2 years ago. 

Ultimately, the only thing we take with us or leave behind is how we impact other people. I am so touched that she remembered, followed my races, and reached out to encourage me (and I’m sure many others along the way.)

That I may have impacted anyone else the way that she, and so many others have influenced and encouraged me, I will call myself very lucky indeed.

Thank you so much, Melissa. You have no idea how much I needed this today.

“Everyday try something that scares you. Push yourself beyond the limits you thought were impossible. Do not stay in your comfort zone, but learn to see what lies outside.”

Daily Prompt: 6 Word Story

Today’s prompt is to write a 6-word story of what the future holds, then expand on it in a post.

“More of this, less of that.”

More fun things, less have-to-do obligations

More reading and writing, less time wasting

More working out, less procrastinating

More menu planning, less asking, “what’s for dinner?”

More slow, less hurried

More enjoying right now, less waiting for what’s next

More face-to-face, less face-to-screen

More sleep, less staying up too late

More love, less apathy, petty, and mean

More of the good stuff, the stuff that matters. Less of the stuff that doesn’t