Mamas, teach your children well…
If there is one lesson I learned early in my life it was that being myself was more important that being “accepted”. I hear stories of women with friends who tear each other down and I don’t get it, because if my friends were like that they wouldn’t be my friends.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, someone is going to find fault. If you’re not pretty enough, slim enough, or smart enough. If you’re too pretty, too slim, too smart. Supermodels get picked apart as easily as the awkward girl down the street. I told a friend today that we don’t like in an accepting society, as much as we purport ourselves to be accepting. We live in a judgmental society.
When your child is picked on, I feel it’s important to explain to your child that there will always be someone who finds fault with them. Someone will always be mean. Someone will always be critical. It’s not your child’s fault that those people feel they have a right to judge. The best you can do is set an example of acceptance and tolerance and teach your children the same.
Little girls, in particular, are bombarded with messages about how they should look every day. And now I see it slowly creeping in on little boys as well. Girls should be feminine and attractive. Boys should be athletic. But now boys should be attractive too but still not quire to the degree it’s forced upon girls.
For the longest time the media would show an attractive woman married to an overweight oaf. Still does. Did you ever stop to think what the message to our children in that is? As much as I’d like to believe that it means a person should look past a person’s appearance, it doesn’t seem to be that. What it seems to be is that if you’re attractive and smart, you might be lucky enough to land an idiot. Ugh.
Where is the equally matched couple in a supportive, nurturing relationship? Haven’t seen one. It doesn’t make for good ratings.
I find fault with the media. With the stereotypes. With the belief that in life there is only “one right way” and it’s the way of the person who is criticizing you. I find fault with the belief that women have a right to pick apart other women. I find fault with men and women for making women objects. I find fault with women who accept that they are objects. I find fault with parents who don’t raise their children to respect themselves and each other.
What I don’t find fault with is the individual who does something different than I do. I’m a firm believer that there are multiple ways to get to the finish line. As long as you’re not cheating yourself or others on your way, then you can get there however you want and I’ll still respect you for finishing.
Mamas please, teach your children acceptance. Become more accepting. Become more positive. Become less focused on looks and more focused on talent and intelligence. Boost your child’s confidence in what they do well. Don’t force them to be someone else. And if they’re not accepted by someone make sure they know that there will always be times when they’re not accepted, but that it’s not on them. It’s on the people who don’t accept them. Set a good example and they will follow your lead. You are their first role model and the one that lasts their whole life. You will be the voice in their head for decades. And because of this, you have a chance to change the world. One child at a time.
I’ve had people ask me why I’m going on a “diet” when I’m not overweight and have a healthy BMI. You’re fit and healthy, why change what’s obviously already working for you? Questions like this annoy me to no end, I’m going to be honest about that.
Really? Are we so focused on weight that a change in eating habits has to be a “diet”? There are many definitions for the word Diet. One of them is “the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group” . In other words, the whole of everything I eat on a regular basis is my diet. It does not mean I am “on a diet” in the culturally over-utilized manner of phrase.
So here’s my answer to that question. True health is not just about weight. In fact, weight is one of the smaller factors to health in my opinion.
Oh my god. I just totally pissed off quite a large number of people, I’m sure. Whatever. Be sure to send your hate-mail to LDD@idontgiveashit.com.
There is so much more going on in our bodies to damage our health than just being overweight. It’s simple, change your diet, change your lifestyle, and your weight will likely change too. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll still be way healthier than you were when you started.
Here’s a quick review of the changes I’m making to my diet.
No more refined flour, sugar, or grains. This means that if the word “enriched” or “processed” appears on the ingredient label, it stays on the grocery shelf. Real grains don’t need to be enriched because they haven’t had their nutritional value stripped from them in a chemical process. White and brown sugar is out as well. Were you aware that brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added in? It’s not closer to natural than refined white sugar. Sugar substitutes are off the edible list. On the list is, honey, molasses, 100% pure maple syrup (not that Aunt Jemima HFCS crap) and maple syrup sugar. There are a few others but all sugars are to be consumed in moderation.
No more highly processed foods. This removes most prepared, boxed, canned, and frozen foods from my diet. Flash frozen fruits and veggies are okay, frozen pasta or rice dishes or entrees are not. If an item has more than 6 ingredients or more than 1 ingredient I can’t pronounce or identify as actual food or if the words Refined, polished, enriched, BHT, BHA, HFCS, MSG, Partially Hydrogenated, Aspartame, etc… Yes, there are a lot of words to avoid. The simple way to handle this is, if a third grader can’t pronounce it, or you can’t trace it back to its natural food origins in less than 5 seconds, put it back on the shelf.
Humanely raised and slaughtered, hormone free, free range Meats, Dairy, and Eggs. This should be a no brainer. If you are a meat eater, you should be sickened by the way we treat the animals we consume. If that doesn’t bother you because “well, how is eating them humane?” first of all, get off my page because I already don’t like you. Second, think about the chemicals. Between hormones to make them grow faster, constant antibiotics to keep them from getting sick in the horrible conditions they’re forced to live in, chemicals used to treat and preserve the meat after slaughter, etc…. that’s a lot of chemicals that are held in the meat and released during cooking and into your body when you consume them. Likewise, fish should be wild caught, but keep in mind that whether wild or farmed, all fish is high in chemicals and contaminated with mercury. It’s simply a matter of science and proof of how badly we’ve harmed our environment.
More fruits and veggies, organic when necessary. I’m not rich… not even close. But I do have a good number of grocery stores and fruit markets in my area that sell a large variety of fruits and vegetables fairly cheap. I cannot afford to buy organic everything, especially with the restraints on meats and dairy. Amish chicken and free range beef, plus cage free brown eggs and hormone free milk means I have to restrict my organic fruits and vegetables to the “dirty dozen” the majority of the time. Those fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amount of pesticides are:
I’m a fan of everything on that list, so I’m going to have to make some substitutes and sacrifices when money is tight. To help preserve the food I do buy (because I don’t have anywhere to compost yet and I HATE wasting food) I purchased a food saver vacuum seal machine. So far, I’m pleased with it. I might even write a review of it after I’ve used it a bit longer.
Now, why is organic, unprocessed, whole foods such a focus for me? Simple… When I was a child my father explained to me that I should never use more than one household cleaner at a time. Bleach and Ammonia emit chemical fumes and, even if you don’t mix them directly together, these fumes can linger and combine and…. Explode. My little brain was fascinated. That started my fascination with what I like to call the “joker effect”. If you remember your Batman movie mythology correctly, the line of beauty products that the Joker produced was only dangerous when two or more products were mixed together. You could use the perfume or the hairspray with no ill effects, but if you used both. Hoo Boy, bad things happened.
We have hundreds of thousands of chemicals that are used for everything from food preservation, to flavor enhancement, to pest control, etc… each of these is subject to FDA approval and regulation. They’ve all been “tested” (to whatever degree you trust the overworked and underpaid government authority that approved Thalidomide and Aspartame) individually, but it would be impossible to test these products against each other in all the possible combinations in which they are consumed. (For more information: How the EPA regulates pesticides)
Pesticides alone are currently under intense public scrutiny and have been labeled by many in the realm of science as “obesogens”. A family of chemicals that alter the human metabolic process in such a way that diet and exercise can potentially be futile. (Read an article at the NIH: Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity for more information.) Chemicals, such as pesticides, have also been linked to a higher rate of heart disease and cancer. But in our society I’m pretty sure that the statement “They’ll make you fat” would be more successful in deterring people than “It might give you cancer”.
Those are the meat and bones of my new “diet”. When evaluating how I wanted to change my eating habits, because I’ve always wanted to eat more healthily, I had to ask myself two things.
If you can’t answer both of those in the affirmative and mean it, then it’s not the right diet change for you. A change in diet, one that will make you healthier, has to be sustainable. It has to be something you can carry with you for the rest of your life to be truly successful. It also has to provide wiggle room. We all have parties, graduations, weddings, summer events to attend. We can’t always be expected to skip the slice of cake, or the occasional Italian beef sandwich. We just have to “cheat” in moderation and within limits. An ice cream cone is okay a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s is not. A simple rule of thumb, don’t keep cheat foods in the house. If you have to go out to have them, they’ll be more difficult to binge on. Walk to your local ice cream shop for that ice cream cone. You’ll get some exercise and still have your “cheat” treat.
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating… how is it that on the whole, we’re so much more informed about what is and isn’t good for the human body, but we’re unhealthier than ever in human history? Get back to the basics, eat like your grandparents (or great grand-parents) ate, and you just might find that you feel a thousand times better.
On my journey to clean eating I’m going to try to review products that I find, devices that I use and recipes that I make. I hope you’ll all join me in adding healthier choices to your diet and stop using the word “diet” as something you only do to lose weight.
My thoughts for the day-
Warrior Dash was amazing. I’m totally hooked. Not a fan of the running part, mostly because I slacked off the last couple weeks with my running program, but I loved the obstacles. I feel like I zipped through all of them. Next year, however, I want an earlier run on the first day. By my wave on Day 2 the course was destroyed and there were numerous times where I had to proceed with extreme caution, including an entire half mile where I feel like it took me 20 minutes for what should have taken 5. But, I finished in 1 hour, 6 minutes and I completed every obstacle.
I moved like I had blinders on, my only concern with forward momentum. One of the last obstacles, a steep hill rope climb with wooden slats to help you up, had a line at the bottom. For good reason too, it was at the end of the half mile mud disaster and the wooden boards and rope were completely slicked over with slimy mess.
At the far edge I noticed there was no wait… there was also no rope. After a quick survey of the climb itself I decided I could barrel through with no rope. Carefully placing my feet on the bottom slat I reached up and forward to grab the next slat so I could get a foot hold on it. I spider crawled my way up to the next level of muddy mess until I was through. As I waited for my teammates at the top, I treaded carefully to a quasi-dry patch to catch my breath and exhaled in victory. I was three obstacles and about .2 miles from the finish. That last half mile of slipping and sliding through the mud took a lot out of me, but I felt accomplished. The rope wall climb, the horizontal cargo net, the rock climbing wall, the barbed wire army crawls… it was all so much more fun than I expected.
I can’t wait until next year. I’m going to get my running up to par and then next year I want to finish time under 45 minutes. I also want to fund raise as a Warrior for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s a great cause and I feel that these challenges need a higher purpose for me to find them truly satisfying. This year I donated my shoes (which were in okay condition prior to the race) to Green Sneakers for cleaning and reuse. That coupled with the fact that this was my first race (of ANY KIND, let alone off-road obstacles) made finishing a very satisfying accomplishment.
My shopping for my “clean kitchen” continued yesterday with an enormous grocery trip that consisted of 4 dozen cage free, vegetarian fed brown eggs (on sale for 2.49), about 25 lbs of fruit and veggies, 10 lbs of chicken, and 4 pounds of steak. Now I need to spend a day cooking, portioning, and freezing meals for the next two weeks. Which will put me into my deadline of July 1st. If I can keep it to 150 every two weeks, I’ll be ecstatic. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to over-run my budget on occasion. On the plus side, the 4th of July is coming up… this is my favorite time to stock up on post-holiday sale meats. Two years ago I purchased 77lbs of various meat cuts for 82 dollars. Portion Packaged and frozen, that purchase lasted me 9 months. I’m hoping to repeat that this year… though I might need a deep freezer by the time I’m done.
After resting following Warrior Dash (glad I took a day off of work) I’m looking at my finances and my schedule so I can plan my training program. I’ll let you know how that pans out.
Hope everyone is enjoying this early summer weather as much as I am!!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The only thing holding women back is other women”. It is absolutely ridiculous the way women feel they have to compete with each other by tearing each other down. Snarky comments, unwarranted insults, callous judgment; we’re terrible to each other. What we don’t see is that it’s not only hurtful toward the person you aim it at, it’s self-detrimental as well.
I get that we’re conditioned from birth to be the prettiest, to compete for the attention and affection of other, to be jealous of any girl/woman who has something we covet. But at some point in time, we all grow up. One would think that in growing up we’d be able to teach our daughters, nieces, siblings, etc… to be better women.
The other day I saw a heavier woman jogging on the side of the road. A few years ago I would have thought to myself – “Keep going girl, lord knows you need it.” Now I think “Good for you, keep it up!”
It took years of mental conditioning to go from criticizer to cheerleader. We pick on each other on the basis of looks, weight, personality, intelligence, fitness, clothing, boyfriends/girlfriends, occupation, gpa, parents, siblings, children, child rearing practices… the list can literally go on and on. Every single nuance of your life is open for criticism so that another woman can benchmark and unconsciously rank herself against you.
She’s prettier than I am: -1pt
Her house is larger -5 pts:
She drives a nicer car: -3pts
She’s got much larger boobs: – 1pt
Her husband is fatter than mine: +3 pts
Her son got a D in English, mine got an A: +6 pts
Her nose is crooked: +4 pts
Her lawn looks like crap: +3 pts
Her ass is sagging: +6pts
If we could count cards in Vegas the way we tally our social ranking as women, we truly would rule the world.
The problem is, we don’t keep it completely internalized either. The above tallying would converse something like this:
“You look great today, Sally , are you trying new makeup? I don’t know how you keep up with your mortgage payment, don’t you every worry that John will lose his job and you’ll get foreclosed on? The leather seating in your car is so extravagant, it’s too bad it’s not available on my car, but you know my car is eco-friendly, so no animals were hurt in the process of building it. Do you think that much cleavage is appropriate for our outing today? I mean, we’re heading over to a “play-date” so my son can help Johnny Jr. with his English homework. Speaking of Johnny Jr., it looks like all this studying has him behind on his chores, I couldn’t help but notice your lawn is overgrown…. Oh, Johnny Jr. doesn’t handle that? Please tell me John won’t be out there mowing shirtless again. Maybe all of us could hit the Gym together later, I mean, I go every day so my ass doesn’t start sagging.”
And this would be the conversation between “friends”. Can you imagine the out-and-out hostility between people who don’t know each other?
Even with as enlightened as I try to be, I rank myself without thought sometimes. It’s hard work to deprogram a habit you’ve had ever since your school friends pointed out that you were still carrying a Teddy Ruxpin lunchbox when they had already moved on to Barbie or Rainbow Brite. These habits start in grade school. Even my optimistic self can’t conquer them overnight.
When I catch myself rating what I have, how I look, or anything else about me, I have to pull myself back. I have a great family and supportive friends, I’m active and fit and healthy and I’m providing my son with the best foundation I possibly can. I have to work harder at not judging myself than I do at not judging others.
How much do you judge others? How much do you judge yourself? Is there a male perspective out there you can share with me?
Women, answer me this, why can’t we be one large sisterhood? Our mothers and grandmothers fought for equality with men in the workplace, in the political world. They fought for the freedom of choice. We can choose to work. We can choose to vote. We can choose to raise our children as we see fit.
Why, when they struggled for this equality, do we now see fit to terrorize other women based on their choices or even worse, on their looks?
The next time you feel you have the right to judge another woman, think about whether or not you’re doing it just to make yourself feel better. Seek out your own insecurities and attack them with the same vigor you attack other women and maybe, just maybe, we can finally take a step towards building a web of support and cheering on other women that changes the future of womanhood for the following generations.
Smile sympathetically at the woman whose child is having a meltdown in a public place instead of shaking your head in disdain.
Cheer on the woman who has the confidence to jog in public for working to better her health.
Be supportive of a woman’s choice to breastfeed, or bottle feed, or co sleep or detachment parent.
Spread laughter and acceptance so that you can reap laughter and acceptance in return.
To any woman who reads this who has ever been judged by herself or others, let me say “I accept you, I support you, and I will cheer you on as you struggle to make your path in this world. Be happy with who you are and I will be happy for you as well!”
Just my thought of the day.
I consider myself diet conscious. I try to eat right. I’m working on exercising more. I have a keen interest in nutrition and the holistic benefits of natural food. I’ve considered going vegetarian, but confess readily that I’m an omnivore so it’s unlikely to happen. I devour nutrition books and information the way other people shovel down French fries (figuratively speaking). I know what’s good for me, I know what’s bad for me, and I strive for moderation and balance.
Even then, I know that it’s not quite enough. And, because I am easily distracted, I know I’ll never step my game up and meet my own standards of food unless I challenge myself to do better. So today, I’m thinking, it’s time to start planning. It’s going to take planning before I can implement my 30 day food challenge. It’s going to take preparation and the steely resolve of the truly determined.
Unfortunately, I cannot achieve everything I would like to. Veggies and fruit completely grown at home (or at the very least through a crop share), Amish Chicken raised locally on a sustainable farm that produces equal quality in their cage free eggs. A diet completely lacking in refined sugars and flours that doesn’t sacrifice taste. A handsome, half naked, tousle-haired Australian chef to do all of the cooking for me – because I do NOT have this thing people call “free time” often enough. Clean counters, cabinets and refrigerator shelves that house only the easiest, most nutritious snacks and meals. The list goes on and on… truly.
I gave up sugary drinks as a child because soda makes me sick to my stomach, literally.
I love broccoli, spinach, kale, lima beans, green beans, black beans, white beans, cucumber, bell peppers, and tomatoes. I strongly dislike carrots but I eat them because I know they’re good for me. I’m not a fan of corn and avoid it whenever possible.
I cut back my coffee intake, even though I drink it black, to help my sleep schedule.
I drink, on average, a gallon of water a day.
I eat a ton of fresh fruit, veggies, yogurt, eggs, and chicken.
I exercise a minimum of 4 times a week for 45-90 minutes each time.
I get approximately 8.5 hours of sleep each night.
I have reached the point where I consistently consume the 1250 calorie minimum I set for myself (this was a big one for me.).
The New Plan
Remove added sugar and sweeteners from my diet as much as possible. This means checking labels and deciphering the ingredients.
Adhere to portion sizes strictly.
Reduce intake of highly processed food.
Add two fish meals a week.
Institute a “meatless” day of the week.
Reevaluate my cabinets, counters, and fridge contents. Donate or pitch any items that don’t meet my new goals. Stock shelves with handy snacks.
Increase and diversify my vegetable intake; shop at local farmers markets when possible.
Maintain workout schedule.
Maintain water intake.
The Hurdles to Overcome
All of this sounds easy, until you consider my life and the people in it. We can start with my 2 year old son, who is on what the doctor calls “the white diet”. Common for children his age, he eats only chicken nuggets (fried with smooth batter texture), chips, crackers, and pretzels. We have tried everything with him. My parents even stopped arguing with me when they saw how he would sit there and refuse to eat, even after having fasted all night while sleeping, for three hours. He’ll honestly cry for three hours and refuse to eat ANYTHING that doesn’t fit on his personal approved list. I kid you not. He doesn’t eat cookies, candy, ice cream, Jell-O, or even cake, because he has “texture” issues with them. That’s one difficult factor.
The next factor is my parents who, bless their hearts, feed me dinner about 3-4 nights a week because I work and am in school 9 months out of the year. Typical dinners include a lot of white pasta, heavy sauces, and double portion sizes. Add in my sister, who is a huge believer in eating healthy but also a faithful Herbalife user who, (no offense because I love her to death) seems to think that I shouldn’t eat two of my daily meals, I should drink them instead.
My best friend and hetero life-mate is also my partner in crime. We have the ability to support each other in our goals, but also tend to rationalize and justify each other’s slip ups. This is a double edged sword, but I wouldn’t give up time with her for the world.
Then there is my son’s father. He’s a healthy guy who’s lost a lot of weight, toned himself up, and is running a new business as a personal trainer. He’s a great inspiration and adheres (mostly) to the chicken, rice and veggies rule of weight loss. He’s also my biggest deterrent in this, because I cannot stand the idea of eating the exact same thing 3 – 6 times a day, or worse, the same meal for breakfast, the same lunch, the same dinner, etc… every day. If my meals are that boring and repetitive, I’ll never make it.
An additional complication is that I spend so much time shuffling from my place to my son’s father’s place, travelling with an overnight back twice a week. Whatever I eat has to travel well.
Now, I know that people overcome obstacles worse than these all the time but we are all different and, knowing myself as well as I do, I know my own limits.
Here is where the planning comes in. I purposely set a start date for this challenge of July 1st, over a month away, to give me time to get over the stress of training for Warrior Dash as well as give myself some downtime following a rough spring semester. It gives me time to purchase items I need and organize my life and living space better. It allows me to investigate and collect recipes. And all of this allows me to formulate a plan of attack for the food prep I’m going to have to do every Sunday. Because that is pretty much the only day I have each week to prepare my meals for the week.
I’m going to need to pack a full day’s meals every night before bed. Breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, etc. On days when I won’t be home I have to pack or plan dinners for me and my son’s father.
I have to figure out how to accommodate my son’s picky eating (which our doctor says he’ll grow out of eventually) without tempting myself.
And, more importantly, I have to get the people I love on board with it. They don’t have to join me, but I don’t need them unintentionally sabotaging me either.
I’ll keep you all posted with updates as progress is made. And, if anyone has any recipes or ideas to share, I’d love to see them!
Keep Calm and Tread On.
In the first quarter of this year I lost 30 pounds due to stress. I had what was, basically, a nervous breakdown. I am the opposite of a stress eater. I suffer from stress induced anorexia, I also tend to not eat when I’m really involved or occupied by something. Obviously no one, not even me, was happy with my weight loss. But when I got a handle on things and was able to drag my happy, optimistic self back up to the gleaming surface of the world again, I decided I was going to seize this moment and turn it in my favor.
It was time to take something that was unhappy and unhealthy and turn it into something beautiful and empowering.
I resolved to eat better. Not healthier, per se, because I already focus on veggies, fruit, and moderated portions. But definitely more often and on a routine schedule – so I started packing a full work days’ worth of meals every day that included snacks and vitamin supplements. I limited my coffee drinking to before 11:00am and I increased my water intake to nearly a gallon a day. I started tracking my calories again.
I signed up for Warrior Dash, which forced my unmotivated behind to return to the gym (where I hadn’t been for 4 months) where I signed up for two boot camp and one spin class each week.
I’d lost the weight, which was half of what was holding me back. Now it was time to tone and strengthen.
So, to keep myself honest, this is my progress report.
To date: I’ve gained 5 pounds but lost: 4 inches on my hips, 1.5 inches on my waist, and 1 inch on my chest. I wear a size 6 jean (7 juniors) but I now have to wash and dry them on hot and after wearing them for an hour or so they sag in the thighs and butt. Official sizing charts put me in a size 4 (5’6” – 34, 25, 36) but we’ll see about that.
The bikini I purchased for motivation is, because I’m a moron and bought a large, too big on the bottom. So I’m going to have to buy a new bottom prior to our trip to the Dells at the end of the month.
On the exercise front: I can run a mile at a 6 mph pace without stopping or feeling like I’m going to die. My squats go all the way to the floor now and I have actual muscle in the back of my arms, as opposed to old lady pigeon wings. I don’t even complain about the diamond push-ups in boot camp anymore.
I’ve been lazy with my running program. I’d like to say I’ve been too busy with school (I just finished another 4.0 semester which brings me to 3.88GPA overall) but the truth is I’ve just been more interested in having a life. I’m going to try to get back on board with the running, but I won’t kick myself too hard if I don’t, since I’m still taking classes during the week.
My food intake has improved, but it’s not perfect. I do great on the days I’m at work, but on Thursday and the weekends I forget to eat, I sneak coffee in the afternoons, I don’t drink enough water, and I completely forget about my vitamins. I’m working on a solution for this… Probably making a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, so I have no excuses not to eat. But, at least on average, I’m meeting my calorie minimum every day!
All in all, I’m glad I’m back to my shiny, happy self. I’m determined to continue on my path of personal growth and, barring another extremely traumatic series of events, am hoping to avoid any more nervous breakdowns because it’s really not the preferred method of losing weight.
This post is my way of keeping me honest about my progress this far. Pictures might be added at a later date.
Anything worth having is worth working for.
My parents may have taught me this lesson a little too well. Because I believe that everything takes work and I’ve reached that point in my life where I want things for myself and my family I have a tendency to take on more than I have time to manage.
I have a two (almost three) year old at home. I work and, even though I’m underemployed, that’s 30 hours of my week not including my commute. I’m a full-time student. I’m training for a 5k obstacle course. I’m looking to buy a house. I’m researching 4 year degree options. I’m trying to have a social life.
It’s exhausting, to be completely honest. But I feel accomplished and proud of myself every day. I have an amazing support network that’s filled with people who cheer me on when I’m struggling, support me when I’m worn out, and encourage me to be my best.
When I hear stories of women who get an advanced degree while working full-time with 2 or more children and little to no support system I am astonished. I honestly don’t know how they manage it. Even with all of the resources at my disposal I struggle to balance work, home, and school. I couldn’t imagine doing it under more difficult circumstances. I applaud every one of those women – they are my inspiration on rough days.
The lesson that you have to work for the things you want seems to be one that isn’t applied well these days. I know too many people, generally younger than me but not always, who seem to feel the world owes them something. The problem with that philosophy is that eventually life smacks you in the fanny and makes you get to work.
Even when you’re willing to work life sometimes smacks you in the fanny to remind you to work harder. The last four years of my life felt like a never-ending struggle. In work, in life, in my relationships. Even though things are evening out for me now, it made me realize that maintaining a good, happy life takes continuous maintenance. I’m good with that. I may come home exhausted, I may look at my studies and desperately want a night off, I may have to bike out to the middle of nowhere and vent my frustrations, but at the end of the day, I can reflect back on every struggle I’ve had and know that it’s worth it.
The next time you feel your shoulders slump in defeat over a setback or something that didn’t work out the way you thought it would ask yourself if you’ve put in the work. Have you earned it yet? Answer yourself honestly. I’m a firm believer that if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to making something happen, you’ll eventually reach your goal.
Keep Calm and Tread On.
“Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!”
“Seven Secrets of Successful Couples Revealed.”
Get in line at the checkout of any store and these headlines pop out at you, challenging you to pick it up off the rack and add it to the cart full of stuff you probably don’t actually need. You thought you were happy with your relationship, but maybe those “successful couples” know something you don’t.
We’re cultivated from birth, in our culture of consumerism and vanity, to always look for the next best thing. Nothing is ever supposed to be good enough. There’s always a better version around the corner. And there are magazines, commercials, and all other forms of marketing there in the background whispering, always whispering, that you’re probably not as happy as you should be. With yourself, with your thighs, with your food, with your children, with your relationships; you don’t even realize it but as a woman everything about you is under a slow, steady, never-ending merchandising attack.
Stop at the magazine rack the next time you‘re at your local bookstore and note the difference in headlines. Ironically, the Men’s Magazines and the Women’s Magazines might feature a beautiful woman on the cover, but for completely different reasons. When was the last time you saw a Men’s Magazine that said “10 Sex Moves that Will Blow her Mind and Bind her Heart”? The sexism of the media and advertising has been much debated over the years but all you really have to do is walk through a store and pay attention to what lines the aisles; the differences between how things are labeled for men and women.
Women: Your wrinkles, laugh lines, cellulite, graying hair, dull uneven skin, lifeless or limp tresses, saggy arms (boobs, thighs, butt, whatever) are all HORRIBLE. You will hate yourself forever if you don’t fix them. Your children are not smart/cute/advanced/gifted/spoiled/organic/indulged/enlightened/etc.. enough and will grow up to be gang banging serial puppy murderers if you don’t catch up. Your relationship is NOT happy! You’re deluding yourself if you think it is.
Men: You need to increase your physical and sexual performance, take this supplement. Look at this half naked model on the cover; she likes puppies and her turnoffs are drama, carbs, and puffy-beer bellied men. You should work out more. You should also eat lots of meat, drink lots of beer, watch lots of sports, and be practically chained to your grill.
Yes, that was a very sexist view of the marketing strategies aimed at women and men and it represents just the two extreme sides but really… walk through a store and really look around. If you’re not offended, then I applaud you. Eventually, we’ll go into depth about the garbage that bombards women from the day they’re born and makes them so neurotic, but that day is not today.
Today I want to focus on relationships. Now, you might ask why I lead in to this subject the way I did and there are a couple of reasons for that.
1.) American culture presents relationships and the associated value of said relationships differently to men and women.
2.) Men and Women have been trained to view relationships differently.
3.) There’s a good chance that something is sabotaging your relationship and you don’t even realize it.
4.) It’s my blog and I can lead in to a topic any way I want. So Nyeh!
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way:
We’ve all be taught to look for the fairy tale. True, all consuming, match made in heaven, they lived happily ever after, love. The pieces will fall together perfectly and it will seem almost effortless. Even when you fight it will be (relatively) easily resolved. “I’m Sorry” always heals all wounds.
Wow! What a load of CRAP! You might find your perfect match and it might feel like that – for a little while. But all relationships eventually require work. They will not always be perfect. You will argue. You will fight. “I’m sorry” sometimes won’t count for shit.
Now we can move on to the real heart of the relationship issue:
Women learn early that a relationship is essentially required in order for her to be complete. Men, however, are taught to be complete on their own. This isn’t anything new and really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. But for some reason, I’m fairly sure I can hear the indignation of the women reading this right now.
“I don’t need a man to complete me!!!”
And you’re right. You don’t.
But, chances are, you’re still acting and thinking like you do. See, a woman secure in herself and her relationships reads that and thinks “That doesn’t apply to me.” She gives a little shrug and moves on to a different blog. She doesn’t get upset or defensive. She also doesn’t buy magazines because they have such enticing articles as”2012 – your astrological predictions for lasting love”.
If it makes you feel any better, I’m with you. I still get defensive; just not as often as I used to.
The more aware you are of yourself and your surroundings (including the little landmines that try to sabotage your relationship and self-esteem) the more you’ll be able to be like the confident woman who read that and clicked the little “x” on their browsers thinking “Wow, what a completely ridiculous thing to say. That blog totally doesn’t apply to me.”
The more aware you are, the more you’ll challenge the way you view things. Why do you think your wrinkles are ugly? Why do you think your cellulite makes you less attractive? Why do you think the stretch marks you gained while creating life are hideous? Where did you get the idea that you have to wait for someone to sweep you off your feet? Who do you think has the perfect life and why do you think so? How much airbrushing do you think that model needed?
You’ll challenge yourself so much, in fact, that you could end up viewing everything in your life differently. But you have to be willing to ask and answer the hard questions. You have to give up your current mindset (” This is wrong with me”) and adopt a new one (“this is right with me”).
In all relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc…) each person brings something to the table and needs something in return. Both parties come with baggage, surprises, and scars. But they also come with unique views and, hopefully, characteristics that can help you achieve a better personhood. See, a good partner won’t complete you (sorry, Jerry Maguire fans) but it should assist you in your personal evolvement. It should be something that you can grow with, something that gives you room to be yourself, helps you feel secure to become the person you’re supposed to be, and provides support, encouragement, and love in times of setbacks or frustration. Just don’t expect it to always be perfect. Because, there is no such thing as perfect.
I’m not going to give you a list of the top ten things you should do to make your relationship better.
But I will tell you what I’ve observed Happy couples doing. I say happy as opposed to successful because… how do you judge success in a relationship? Longevity? A couple can be miserable but stay together for 60 years. So… let’s go with happy.
1.) They respect each other: They might tease, joke, or play around. But they have a mutual respect for each other’s feelings, opinions, and input.
2.) They feel secure together: I think that a small degree of jealousy can be a good thing. You should feel protective of your relationship and partner because it holds high value to you. But at the same time, you should feel that your partner is as dedicated to your relationship as you are. You should feel completely secure in yourself and how your partner feels about you.
3.) They’re open, honest, and accepting with each other: They have nothing to hide from each other, so nothing is hidden. They wouldn’t think twice about saying “Hon, there’s an email from my sister on my account with the address, would you mind printing it out while I finish getting ready?” They know how each other feel, they express their feelings without fear, and they’re not afraid to have detailed billing on their joint cell phone account. Usually, if someone acts like they have something to hide it’s because they’re hiding something.
4.) They still say please and thank you to each other: In other words, they don’t take it for granted when their partner does something for them.
5.) They’re still affectionate towards each other: even when the super passionate period cools off. Small touches, protective gestures, and loving body language are the little physical I love you’s that show in a happy couple.
6.) They make decisions as a couple and keep each other informed: This goes hand in hand with respect. No one person has the full power to make all the decisions and no critical information is ever held back.
7.) They have similar interests, opinions and hobbies, but they are not attached at the hip. They’re as comfortable doing their own thing as they are doing things together.
8.) They’re both willing to work when things get difficult: It’s never a one sided relationship. No one wins, no one loses. They both win when they work things out.
9.) The good is more valuable than the bad: These people place more value on the good times than they dwell on the bad times. The good things they share are worth more to them or are enough to make the bad times easier to get through/work out. They can go through a stretch of hell, when everything looks bleak, and it seems to last forever. But, no matter how bad it gets, they work through it together without forgetting how they feel about one another.
10.) They mean it when they say “I’m sorry” and they understand that forgiveness doesn’t come with a time-table. Little things are forgiven with a kiss while large ones are forgiven through mutual effort and willingness to forgive.
I’m sure there are many nuances to these happy relationships that I’ve missed. But those seem to be the common; underlying themes to every couple I know who is truly happy.
The world, your friends, the media, without even trying, is going to try to sabotage your happiness. So I guess the only thing I’d add to this list is that when you feel angry, or hurt, or upset, or unhappy in your relationship; that you ask yourself “why” you feel that way and then answer honestly. Is it a “toilet seat” issue? (the equivalent of being angry because you sat down on the cold, porcelain rim of the toilet or almost fell in – in other words, something you should let go of.)
Is it something that needs to be thought about further? Is it something that needs to be discussed?
You might learn something about yourself, what you expect/need from a relationship, and, at the very least, why you respond to things the way you do.
Do not let the media, society, your family, or even this blog tell you how to be happy. Question yourself and what you think you know. Next time you’re in a grocery line and you’re thinking you want to pick up a magazine, get the one with the collection of 30 minute meals. It’s less likely to make you dislike your body, your home, and your relationship.
And keep in mind that I’m divorced and currently single. So I probably know absolutely nothing about the actual practice of building a solid, lasting relationship. I can only try to interpret what I see, be happy with who I am, and try to implement it when I find a partner I feel is worth it (and me).
Oh, and I avoid magazines that have headlines that say “Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!. Really? 10 tricks to a strong relationship? Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.
The next time someone assumes something about you that isn’t true:
Try to breathe. Take a step back. And remember not to assume something about them in return… (Mainly that they’re an a$$hole) because it’s counterproductive and only damages your own mental health. Remember: Keep Calm and Tread On.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks with my semester winding down and finals to survive. I had wanted to post this particular topic much earlier in the week, but sadly, just couldn’t find a spare few minutes to sit still and write it out. But, late is still better than never.
As a woman I often feel like the very things that set me apart from the opposite sex are the things I get crucified for. If I cry I’m too emotional. If I’m quiet when I need to think I’m cold or angry. If I’m strong then I don’t need a partner. If I’m weak then I’m needy. All of this leads to an extreme amount of confusion and guilt that I try very hard not to cave in to. I am me and I’m good with that.
But every once in a while, my own emotions catch me by surprise and confuse me even more. I’ll start with the most recent time (there are two that I want to cover here).
On Wednesday, I arrived home from work to find my little one sick with a fever. He was lethargic and generally miserable, with no apparent cause. I cuddled him, kept on him to drink water, and finally gave him some Tylenol to bring down his temperature. I don’t panic over these things but I don’t feel guilty for that, because I have such a large number of kids in my family that I know when to panic and when not to worry. But as 5:00pm rolled around, I started worrying. See, I have a spin class on Wednesdays. I paid for it. I didn’t want to miss it but at the same time, I felt like a bad mother for abandoning my little one when he was sick.
It’s not like I was going to leave him in the care of a stranger or someone incapable of cuddling him with the same amount of love I give him. He was staying with his Nana (my mother) and I would be home in an hour. But as I was settling him in and taking care of the last-minute details I suddenly felt like a horrible mother. Despite the fact that I knew he would be okay and well taken care of, despite knowing that he didn’t have anything serious, I felt terrible.
This ties back in to my habit of feeling guilty whenever I take time to myself but it was obviously amplified by the fact that my son wasn’t feeling well. A brief discussion with my mother reassured me that he would be fine, that she would call me if anything happened – no matter how small, and I left for class. Class is a whole three minutes away from home (five if I get caught at a red light) but I cringed the whole way there, because there was a small part of me that was really happy to not be missing it.
I fell into my usual groove at class and for a good half an hour I actually forgot about work, money, relationship problems, and … my sick little man, cuddling at home with his Nana, waiting for me to come back. As I walked back to my car my shoulders slumped and my drive home was a study in guilt and anxiety. But when I got home, my little one was passed out comfortably on the couch in his little diaper, his Nana diligently standing guard and rubbing his little back. His fever was coming down and he was just tuckered out now.
My heart lightened as I gathered him in my arms and he touched my face for a moment and whispered “Mommy… Hi Mommy” before sleepily burying his face in my shoulder and returning to a restorative slumber. The guilt washed out of me as I realized that part of being a mommy is being able to pick responsible caregivers for my child. I trust his father. I trust my mother. I trust my sister. These are the people who care for my little one the most often and I know that they have me covered if I have to work, study for school, or even just attend a fitness class I paid for in advance.
That night I read a news story about a woman who killed her 22 month old son for interrupting her Farmville game. I was horrified and saddened, but instantly glad that I’m the kind of mommy who feels guilty for leaving her ill son with a loving caregiver for a fitness class.
**As an aside for those of you wondering, my little one was back to his perfectly happy adorable self by the next morning.**
The other event I wanted to write about occurred a week ago. Having noticed that none of my workout pants were fitting properly anymore (and therefore no longer suited to working out in because they kept trying to fall off me when I run) I took my mother and the little one with me for a quick run to JC Penney last Thursday during our usually weekly errand run. I grabbed three new pairs of running pants, a couple new shirts, checked out and we left. My mother has mobility issues, so we had “rock star” (read: Handicapped) parking.
As we were walking to the car an elderly gentleman approached me from his van and asked me in a thickly accented voice “could you please give me a boost?” It took my brain a moment to process the scene… Me, my little one in my arms, my mother, this elderly gentleman standing next to a van with out-of-state license plates in the handicapped parking place next to us… Well, to put it simply, where I live I’m more accustomed to being approached by someone panhandling. Also, “boost” isn’t the commonly used term in my region.
Of course, once my brain (a little slow because Thursdays are my day off and I’m usually rushing around without thought) finally caught up I replied “Absolutely, of course!”
This elderly gentleman looked unbelievably appreciative as I got my mother and son settled in the car. He looked a little anxious as I backed my car out, but then relieved as I simply pulled in closer to his van so the cables would reach easily.
We fumbled for the hood release on my car – in my defense I’m not unversed in general vehicle maintenance, but my car is brand new and I’ve never had to pop the hood yet – got the jumper cables hooked up and his van started with very little fuss.
I smiled to his equally elderly wife, who remained seated in the van, as I closed the hood of my car. But as I tried to walk away I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Please,” he said as he stopped me, “For your time and trouble” as he tried to hand me four dollars that his wife had apparently fished out of her purse.
I was mortified. A kind deed should be its own reward. This couple was likely someone’s grandparents, I thought, as my mother and her grandson sat in my car.
“No, really, it was nothing. I’m glad I could help. Please, have a safe trip” I said as I held my hand up in a gesture of refusal.
It took a few minutes of assuring him that I wouldn’t accept his money, and then my mother refusing to take the money for my son through the window when he tried another angle, for him to realize that we really wouldn’t accept his money.
He said “thank you” one more time as we pulled out of the parking space, a look of gratitude on his face. I’m pretty sure it was that look that was my undoing because as we drove away I started crying. I simply couldn’t help it. The tears came out of nowhere and I’m still not quite sure of the cause. Was it that if that had been my grandmother (rest her soul) or even my mother, I would hope they would find someone to help that would refuse the little cash they had available? Was it simply tears of being glad I could help someone out? Was it the example I was setting for my child who, still too young to understand, that the deed is its own reward? Or was it that I suddenly thought “Oh dear, I hope I didn’t insult him by not taking his offer of compensation for my time!”
So there you have it. Women are emotional creatures. It is part of what makes us such appealing creatures. We’re emotional yet strong enough to endure almost anything. We’re loving but sometimes need time to process without being thought of as cold. We laugh when we should be crying and sometimes cry when we should smile. We have tough exteriors but are easily wounded. We’ll forgive easily but not trust without time and proof. And whether you realize it or not, we tend to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, which is why we do it so rarely… Love us for these qualities and we’ll never fail you. But please, please, don’t say things like “you’re so emotional” like it’s a bad thing, because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us when really, it’s perfectly natural for us to be that way.