Category Archives: body

How do you love yourself?

Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

[cross posted from my blog]

Shoes I Have Known and Loved

My friend Kelly, who blogs about fashion, feminism, and other quasi-girly stuff at How I Learned to Wear a Dress, asked this question on her blog’s Facebook wall:

At what point did how shoes look (and how they looked with your outfit) supersede how they functioned?

Oh the memories.

I was, at one time, a devoted shoe hound. For one thing, no matter how hippy or busty you are, shoes fit fairly reliably compared to pants or a dress. If you’re a size 9, you buy a size 9, with few exceptions. There is no plus size section of the shoe department, and few women have shoes in multiple sizes waiting in their closets until they can get into them.

Shoes are also less of a commitment. Feeling a little puckish today? Lace up your combat boots—no need to go the whole nine yards and get the pegged jeans and shredded Clash t-shirt out of storage from your parents’ basement.

Besides, function is a relative term. When I was young all my shoes were functional — I went drunk rock climbing in the dark wearing crazy pointy-toed white ostrich-skin pumps without any trouble. My youthful feet could make any heel, any toe, any platform work.

It’s kind of like how no clothes are ugly or ill fitting when you’re 19 because you are just bursting with sexy, “Corinna’s going a-maying” nubile hotness regardless. (How else could American Apparel be so successful?) When I go to Ragstock or another shop staffed by young urban hipsters, the cashiers are flaunting it: “Look at me! I’m wearing an ironic Cosby sweater and corduroy pants the color of moldy mustard and I still look sexier than you could with a $1000 and a personal stylist!” At some unconscious level, they’re playing a game of fashion chicken that they can’t lose: see how many ways can I violate traditional aesthetics and still look freakin’ awesome?

And so I loved shoes from about ages 12 to 30, and then there was a dramatic decline, for familiar reasons:

1) My feet grew after pregnancy and most of my collection had to go.
2) I never wore anything or went anywhere that required cool shoes.
3) Years of going barefoot (and pregnancy) meant that my feet could no longer squeeze pointy-toed shoes even if I bought them new.

I am not too sad about this, just as I am not really missing 19. But I can still relish the memories, from the 4-inch wooden stilettos I wore to tour Niagara Falls with my parents and grandparents when I was 12 to the tall black cowboy boots I wore with tights and short jean cutoffs for much of grad school. Those were good—if, in the case of the stilettos, somewhat messed up—times.

Besides, shoe trends these days perplex me. Setting the functionality of high heels aside, is there a more boring shoe than the high-heeled pump? Putting a 5-inch heel, or toe platform, or shiny patent leather on it is like tacking up pictures of your cat and George Clooney in your office cubicle. Sure, it’s a little more interesting than the bare fabric walls, but you’re still in a cube. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

These are the shoes I have my eye on now: they’re like my old LL Bean lined duck boots (circa 1987) meets Converse high tops (circa 1985) meets my cowboy boots meets Sorel. Like all of those old shoes, they go with anything, but especially they’ll go with the snow.

Can You Accept That?

Knowing what really constitutes “self-love” has always puzzled me, so I am liking these recent questions from AM. I really like the metta meditation, but I am not always sure, in practice, how unconditional love will look.

To look good in my wedding dress years ago, like many brides-to-be, I decided to needed to lose weight. I was attending Weight Watchers meetings, and we were talking about self-love. I said that I needed to accept myself as I was, and decide that I am OK now, regardless of whether I lose any more weight or not.

It was a good realization, and as it happened accepting myself as I was then did make it easier to lose weight. I probably lost another 20 pounds before the wedding, and the WW leader was very complimentary about my success. She also said, “Aw, remember back when you said that you would have to accept yourself as you are? And now look at you! You didn’t have to accept that.”

I felt sad for her, thinking as she did that a less than perfect body was not acceptable. Yet I could also see what acceptance meant to her: giving up on yourself, not really loving yourself enough to treat yourself well and give yourself the best. It is such a hard balance to strike, between loving yourself as you are now and dealing honestly with things that you could stand to improve. It’s hard to tell the difference, sometimes, between giving yourself a break and giving in to things you know are not good for you.

Soon after that, I wore my beautiful wedding dress, moved away, and continued attending Weight Watchers meetings and losing weight. As a thought exercise, the WW leader encouraged our group to close our eyes and imagine how life would be different after we lost the weight we wanted to lose.

At this point I had lost a substantial amount of weight, at least 40 pounds. I looked a lot different than when I had started, had great clothes, a cute new husband and new apartment. Still, as I closed my eyes I nearly started to cry. I realized: the magical life that I thought would materialize after I lost weight was no closer than it was 40 pounds ago. I had not suddenly become more confident, famous, witty, or wise. I did not love myself any more as a thinner person. Inside I was still perpetually dissatisfied not just with how I looked, but who I was.

Once again, I had to recognize that if I wanted to love myself, I had to start with where I was at that moment, and not wait for myself to get a little thinner—or to get a cuter apartment, or to have a few more publications, or to organize my photos, or whatever was holding me back.

Pretty soon I’ll be celebrating the 16th anniversary of wearing that wedding dress, and I know from experience that self-love, accepting yourself where you are, starts over all the time. It’s not a one-shot deal. Not only do you have to deal with doubts that creep in when you aren’t looking, but you also wake up sometimes to find that “where you are” is somewhere you didn’t plan to be.

You’re asking all over again: Is this place OK, and if it isn’t, am I still OK? Getting back to a “yes I am” after that takes some effort. The metta practice can be wonderful for that. It can also help you sort out the difference between the place you don’t want to be—not taking care of yourself, in a bad relationship, in a rut—from who you are.

I also love AM’s questions. I don’t judge my friends’ bodies. I don’t even think about their careers. I don’t judge their parenting or their houses. As a highly critical person, I’m well aware that my friends are imperfect, but that doesn’t make me love them any less, and when I think of it that way it seems like a possible step to extend that to myself.

I love me, I love me not

So, there is more that I want to say about Unconditional Love, not that I am an expert, far from it.

First of all, I am not even sure what it means to love unconditionally. How does it work, in a practical sense? What does a relationship of unconditional love look like? Is unconditional love detached? Dispassionate? Would you ever want to love your spouse or lover “unconditionally”? Should you give unconditional love to your abuser?

I don’t know if I will ever find satisfactory answers to those questions. I just keep living and trying to love people the best I can. Sometimes I do a pretty poor job, especially when it comes to loving myself unconditionally. It is a good trick to try to imagine that you are your own good friend. How would you treat yourself? How would you talk to yourself? How would you change the way you support and care for yourself? Could you possibly smile with happiness at seeing your good friend when you see your own reflection in the mirror?

Sometimes I wonder if anyone is able to love themselves so unconditionally. Then I wonder if maybe lots of people do and it is just me that doesn’t get it. Maybe the phrase Unconditional Love is too lofty. Maybe I could start to do it, with baby steps, if I just said I am loving myself where I am at.

Today in Chocolate: Sizzling Bacon Bar

I like chocolate, but I am not a Chocolate Lover. I don’t like things marketed to women that presume we all start tossing our 36Ds at whoever presents us a with a Hershey Bar. I will not buy a book called Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul, simply on principle.

At a restaurant, I’d be more likely to order something lemon or caramel. Given my choice of the ultimate food, it would be a perfect peach.

Still, I’ve learned that some days call for chocolate.

If I thought I was controlled by hormones in my teens, wow—they got nuthin on my 40s. Teen hormones were something more like a ferris wheel: highs and lows. Forties hormones are like a roller coaster built by spiteful demons: nauseating highs, terrifying plummets, and lots more curves. And at certain hormonal times, chocolate is required.

It’s so required that my husband will go get it late at night, when I have that certain hysterical gleam in my eye. My husband who works from home and often wears pajamas until dinner will gladly get dressed and get us a soothing nibble of something just a touch less dark and bitter than my mood at the time.

So it was that my daughter—after a lengthy crying jag that covered death, pollution, and swimming—said that she needed chocolate, and I decided to heed her call.

After searching the local fancy candy shop, this is what she decided to come home with.

Sure, Vosges has had a bacon bar for a while, and bacon has become old news as a fusion food. What made this bar interesting to us was that:

1. Apparently Christopher Michaels is the chocolatier for the Academy Awards,
2. He is originally from Brainerd, Minnesota, and was inspired by Minnesota lake and fair memories,
3. Not only does it have bacon, but it has Pop Rocks! (or generic equivalent)

That’s right. So when you eat it, the popping candy pops in your mouth like sizzling bacon. Hello! Is that not happy-making food when thoughts of beaches you love and your eventual departure from the earth is overwhelming you?! It’s like the bacon is fresh and hot and the little fat bubbles are still popping as you snarf it down—with chocolate! Just when I thought bacon-as-trend was completely played out.

One downside: the bar cost freaking $8.75. When I told my daughter she could choose any chocolate bar, this possibility had not occurred to me. “A one-time treat,” I made clear as I drove home, barely able to stop myself from pulling it out of the paper sack and ripping it open en route.

Is it my top chocolate for Cacao Alert level day? Perhaps not. But it was worth a try, maybe more than one time.

Rating: 4 eggs out of 5, partly for novelty factor

Do you have a chocolate you’d like to submit for review? Sans bacon, please.

A Declaration of Independence

I love this idea from Crescent Dragonwagon: Each 4th of July, consider, “What would I like independence from this year?”

I’ve thought about it for days, however, and I really struggled to com up with anything. I think it’s because I self-helped myself nearly to death as a thirty-something, always doing something for 20 minutes a day, or 3 pages every morning. But how many things can you do for 20 minutes a day before wide swaths of time are dedicated to the idea that you need to do more, be more, think more—and weigh less?

At some point I swore them all off, and since then I have been reluctant to make any grand plans—a shame, really, since apparently the quick route to success as a memoirist is to do something, anything, for one year and then write a book about it. I was so disappointed to learn after turning over My Year of Meat at the bookstore that it was a novel, not a diary.

The good thing is that I am a lot more accepting of myself. Life gets in the way a lot more than it did even 10 years ago, and I hate setting myself up to fail by making a promise that I will write a blog post or write down all food consumed every day. Sometimes giving up on a grand scheme and tucking into bed with a book is the best freedom of all.

Still when I try to think of a specific intention for this year, my mind still goes there, to the programs and routines and “every day without fail” that feels much more like a prison

I think what I would most like independence from this year, then, is tomorrow. Today I can write a blog post; tomorrow, who knows? Today I can sit down for lunch instead of a PMS-driven feast of peanut butter covered pretzels; tomorrow, we’ll see. Today I’ll sit and watch my breath when I find the time, whether or not that same time will be good tomorrow.

It’s funny: some days all I want is more tomorrows. This week: two more friends with cancer. I look at my children, my husband, the unfinished business, and think, “Please, please, many many more tomorrows.”

But that can deprive you of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness just as surely as days and weeks measured out in 20-minute blocks. Maybe even more so.

What do you want to be independent from this year? What petty tyrant needs to sent across the ocean so you can let freedom ring?

Note: Years ago I purchased and absorbed, sponge-like, much of CD’s Passionate Vegetarian, possibly the hugest cookbook I own. I rediscovered her as a tweeter and blogger who often writes about midlife, and writing, and a little about death. And her midlife is further along than my midlife, so it’s like having a little lantern swaying ahead of me, farther down the path. (Kind of like how I enjoy having a husband 6 months older, just clearing the brush a little for my next birthday.)

Saturday Night Blues

Ever have one of those days where you feel pretty terrible about yourself? Like you are too fat, and kind of a bitch and your refrigerator is gross and everyone knows that you are actually lazy? *sigh* I hate those days.

Waiting for Monday

Personally, I would like to lose some weight. The chance of breast cancer reoccurring is reduced if I lose some weight, exercise and eat healthier. You would think that would be a huge motivator but some days it just isn’t enough.

I want to alternate running and lifting weights six days a week but not a week goes by that I don’t get too busy. Recently it seems like just getting enough time to walk the dog is an accomplishment.

I also have a goal of keeping my calories under 1500 most days of the week, but it is seriously difficult when you’re eating on the road or feel like you only have time to pick up something fast for dinner.

But, even on a good week, when I don’t really have any excuses, I give into cravings for a donut or something sweet with my afternoon joe, and instead of adding years by exercising, I actually subtract years by sitting on my butt surfing the net.

One of my problems is that if I make a bad choice during the day, like treat my daughter and myself to some ice cream after lunch, then I feel like “Well, I ruined today, I might as well go for it.” and have a bowl of buttery popcorn and a beer after dinner.

Another problem is my “Monday” fix. I always tell myself I will start my new diet or my new workout regimen on Monday. Monday just seems like the right day at start something new. Then, to get ready for the “deprivation” I will be experiencing come Monday, I eat whatever I want over the weekend.

What am I waiting for? For exercise to be easy and smaller portions of healthy food to not only fill my stomach but fill my emotional hunger too? I have a feeling that can happen. Actually it sometimes does. I have experienced runners high and I love salad more than burgers. But waiting for healthy living to be easy isn’t working. I’ve packed on a dangerous amount of weight waiting for Monday.

I need to realize and remember that each day is a new day to make better choices. One cone of ice cream at lunch doesn’t mean I’ve ruined the whole day. And, even within each meal, I can make a better choice than the worst choice, even if it is not the best choice. For example, I don’t have to finish the whole cone or “lick the platter clean.” Each moment is it’s own moment. Maybe just narrowing it down to moments will help me.