Today was the first lovely spring day we’ve had in a very long time here in Portland, OR.  This winter busted lots of records with regards to rain and damp, and as you all know, I’m way too much of a princess to go out in the rain and get my move on.  That, coupled with the knee injury last month, has really, really set me back in terms of my fitness.  I was already on a downward slope from the place I was a few years ago, just before I met Ray, but as of today, I really have hit a point I am not proud of.  I’m as heavy as I was at my heaviest last year (circling around 240 pounds), and for me, that’s way, way, way too much.  My body feels just out of control, and even though I’ve been somewhat good about my diet, and somewhat good about exercise, clearly it’s not working the way it once did.

Today, after a nice chat with my pal Andy back in Denver, it sank in that I’ve arrived at my middle-age.  This means, in terms of weight and food and all the rest, that I will never have the same level of metabolism that I once did, even just a few years ago.  Decadence and indulgence now doesn’t mean just a few more reps at the gym, or even another mile of walking or movement.  Now, it means another tick up on the scale, needing a *lot* more effort to correct.

The other factor, though, that has come to light while I have been arriving at this little place in my life, is the comments that I get from those around me who have seen me change over the last two plus years.  Things like, “you look so much happier/healthier than you ever did before” are coming up in conversations across many of my friends, none of whom talk to each other.  I find this striking, considering that when I thought I was at my sexiest, I was also at my leanest and meanest I’d ever been.  What is the x-factor there that they’ve seen grow and develop even as my waist has expanded and my energy level is coasting at best?  What is that thing that they see when they look at me that I simply cannot see when I look in a mirror or catch my reflection in a passing storefront while I’m out walking?

I set off on a short jaunt this morning – about two and some miles – because it’s just so damn lovely outside and my vitamin D levels have been tanking for so long.  Out there, wandering through the neighborhood and taking in all of the glorious spring flowers and smells that come when the sun shines on land that’s been forever soaked by deep rains, I had a moment of epiphany.  Yes, another one.  YES, I know that these often come while I’m out moving around, and I know know know that they are the things I need to keep discovering as I meander along on this little path of mine.

Beneath this exterior flesh of mine, beneath the curves and stretch marks and dimples in places other than my face, there is a beast.  He’s hairy, he’s powerful, and he’s always been there.  For some damn reason, all this time, I’ve been really afraid to let him out.  I did see glimpses of him just before I met Ray, when I thought I was looking the best I’d ever looked in my life, but again, he’s slipped back into the shadows, back beneath the surface.  I wonder, perhaps, if he was revealing himself to me then as I was bracing to embark on a very, very solo journey, and preparing to have to take on the world all by myself.  Like some sort of protective shell, looking powerful and strong as an outward avatar of myself meant that I wasn’t going to take any shit from anyone, that if you approached me on the street, you might think twice about talking to me, or that you might see me as a person who was very self-involved, and therefore not needing your intervention, or your commentary.

The fact is, though, when I was at that point, I was at one of my lowest emotional levels in my life.  I had gone from living in a gorgeous house, with a man I had fallen in love with, and had this actual life of a big back yard, a full-size garden, a home to make my own, and was watching my dreams come true-to-life, to living in the back bedroom of a friend’s house who took pity on me, and wanted to help me find my feet again in this town of mine.  I had given over so much of my life to the will of another person that I had no idea who I was, or what I really wanted for myself.  My life with the now-ex-boyfriend wasn’t my life.  I was a mere accessory to his life, and facing that all down as he and I split up was gut-wrenching.  Of course, being me, I took it all out on myself – and my body.  I ran and ran and ran.  I hit the gym like a fiend.

I had given up on ever finding a person to share my world with, especially considering just how much of a mess it was – I mean, really, who could possibly want to be with a man who was only making about $1000 a month and couldn’t even really afford his own groceries, let alone a nice dinner date or a trip to the movies?  At that point, I had resigned myself to needing to be ultra-self-sufficient, and having to just say no to everything else but work and my bills.  I needed to protect myself, I needed to look strong, and I needed to wear the armor of a muscled man just to face the day.

Then, of course, I met Ray, and I was able to let down my guard.  In the process, I also let down my rabid need to wear the aggressive solo muscled look.  Ray re-introduced me to the world of eating pleasurably.  He supported us both, taking us out on dates, out to the bars and restaurants around Portland, and allowing me to enjoy cuddling up with him rather than one more hour at the gym, or even one more mile on the road.  I gladly accepted the offer to get lazy because, let’s be real, attaining a muscled, chiseled body takes *lots of effort*.  It also can be super consumptive of one’s time and mental energy, and Ray constantly reminds me that there needs to be a better balance in my life than being so obsessed about one thing or another at any one time.

So, while I am not blaming Ray for the extra pounds I’ve put on since knowing him – about 60, if I’m totally honest – I am saying that he’s helped me get to where I am today.  I am happier.  I am more contented in my life.  Instead of having my dreams given to me, I’m having to earn them the right way.  I am still carrying around that inner beast – the protective, muscled, furry, foxy man that I had started becoming as an act of defense.  What I need to do, and what I think is the health journey before me now, is to find a way to let that side of me out, without feeling like I’m doing it as an act of personal protection.  I don’t need the rock-hard chest, the powerful thighs, the narrowed waist to defend me.  What I’d like, though, is all of that as a statement of defiance against the demons of my past.  I want to have that kind of look as a way of saying I have overcome things and I have achieved a better, stronger life.

I know this is rambling, and I know it probably makes no sense, but it’s what I’m feeling, and it’s where I stand today.  I do have a massive health journey ahead of me, but I now know the goal.  I now know what it is I’m seeking.  IMG_3287

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