Back Out There

As of today, I’ve gone for three small runs.

It’s about one exact year since the surgery on my right knee, done to repair torn cartilage after taking a wrong left turn.

In the last year, I’ve put on over 45 pounds, and subsequently lost about 30 of that through diet, but still find myself pudgy and soft around the edges – and not the man that Raymond met three years ago.  I have such a journey ahead of me to regain a shape and form that suits me, but, of course, it’s important for me to stop and reflect about the things I’m discovering and learning about myself along the way.

First, there’s the weird anxiety that floods my circulatory system every time I start to head out the door to run.  I sip on a mug of coffee, or chug it, and spend a great deal of time psyching myself up to put on my running gear.  I listen to EDM, at volume, and pace around in some sort of weird dancing swagger as I let the beats and rhythm build inside me.  What I’m doing, essentially, is trying to build up the courage to get out there.  What could I possibly be afraid of, though?

Injury, for one, is a thing – I’ve been there, done that, and it sucked a lot.  It sent me into a pretty steep depression last year at this time as I was prepping for surgery on my knee, and I don’t want to go back to that headspace again.  Ever.  I know, I know…we are a biological creature and aging means breaking down and facing injury on a daily basis.  Still.

Then, there’s the idea of me in running gear.  To be honest, I look foolish.  Lycra, day-glo attire, hell, even the sneakers themselves – all of these things look really weird on my plump and curvy body.  I’m no Usain Bolt.  I’m not lithe, or muscular, or lanky, or even attractively shapely in anything other than baggy jeans and loose tee shirts.  But, running in jeans would look even more stupid, so here I am.  Dressed like a fool.  I know this is super-duper basic of me to be even commenting on, let alone admitting to, but I hate, hate, *hate* wearing clothing that makes me stand out in some fashion.  This shit? This gear?  Yeah, no.  Thankfully, most of it’s a light grey color, which means I’ll blend into the fog and drear that is Oregon’s signature weather pattern.  And that day-glo shirt goes well under the grey hoodie, with only a few bits of it showing.

Beyond looking stupid and not wanting to rip a muscle, what else is this fear coming from?

Well, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s all related to my past experience with weight and body and eating.  I’m still, and will forever be, a recovering anorexic/bulimic.  For over two years, I spent a great deal of energy and effort to expunge my body of everything and anything, exerting exquisite control over my daily caloric intake like it was my reason to even live.  Exerting that kind of control over my body, my physicality, has been my default go-to response whenever I’m feeling like the world I inhabit and everything around me has gone off the rails.  I know how far I am capable  of pushing myself in order to feel like I’m in control.  That, right there – the levels of mania, the willpower, the stubbornness, the monster within me that I’ve turned loose on myself a number of times – that’s the thing that arrests me whenever I lace up my sneakers.  I am afraid of the level of harm I am capable of doing to myself in order to feel like I’m in control of something.

Then, there is the feedback loop that one gets when they get into shape.  People do notice.  Interactions with others become different.  Every single time I’ve dropped a lot of weight, there’s the inevitable compliments that come in from various people I interact with.  Their praise and notice feeds into my ego, feeds into the desire to keep pushing myself further, and that, in and of itself, is highly addictive.  I love praise.  I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t, right?  The thing is – and especially with my history of eating disorders and body dysmorphia – every compliment I ever got when I was at my thinnest was made to a person who had put on the skin of confidence and power, when on the inside, he knew it was all one great lie.  I don’t know if that makes any sense, so let me try explaining it another way.

If you’d seen me at my thinnest – and you probably did because I kept posting photos of myself along the way as a means of stroking my own ego and getting validation for what I was doing – you’d see a guy who looked great and gave off a sexy and confident vibe that was quite attractive.  You’d have no idea, though, what kind of turmoil was going on underneath that outer self.  Under that skinnier, sexier exterior, was a man-boy who was broken.  If you had questioned me, even just a little, as to how I was doing – especially if you’d given me a gin and tonic first – it would have soon become quite apparent that my exterior was really just a facade and that things in my world were quite broken.  The first time I “got skinny” I wasn’t eating but maybe 500 calories a day, was failing in a few college classes, couldn’t pay my car payments or keep insurance on my car, and had a whole host of other issues going on up to and including an identity crisis that eventually led me out of the closet.  The next time I “got skinny” was about the time my marriage was failing and I was facing down the reality that I’d made a real cock-up of things related to my education, career, and finances.  Oh, and I was lonely as fuck.  The most recent time I again “got skinny,” I was living in the spare bedroom of an ex-boyfriend’s house, had no job and no prospects for one, had been called – to my face – fat and unattractive, had zero friends, and went day-to-day wondering just how I was going to eat enough food to curb the growl in my stomach yet not get yelled at by the ex-boyfriend for being a leech.

It doesn’t need to be like this.  It doesn’t need to feel this way.  I don’t need to be afraid of myself.  I know this.  I *know* this.  I’ve spent most of my life waging this inner battle with myself.  I’m tired of it.  I’m not in a place of desperation.  I’ve got a stable roof over my head, a job that pays quite well with pretty damn good benefits.  I have a magical and wonderful man who still enjoys curling up around me at night and holding me tight.  I have a lot of great things going for me and I feel like I’m in total control of my life.

So, really, I need to get over myself and just get out there.  I’m dressed in these horrible running clothes right now anyway.  This doesn’t need to be like every other time I’ve decided to go running.

 

Summer Progress Report

As of this writing, I’m officially down twenty-four pounds since June 21st, 2016.

That’s almost half-way to 200, from the 250 I was at.  It’s been two months.  That’s twelve pounds a month.  If I can keep this up, I will be around my goal weight of 175 pounds, which is where I was when I met Ray, by the end of the year.

I’m really having a moment about this today, and really needed to get it out of me.

I still am not ready to share what I’ve been doing, mostly because I had a bit of a revelatory moment back in June about how I’ve been approaching health and weight loss.  For me, it seems, the more I announce things online, the more I share my gains and goals and plans with those who know me online, the more apt I am to falter and fall off the wagon.  This time around, though, instead of posting about it (though I’ve come *really* close at times), I’m just sharing photos of myself.  I think, in time, the weight loss will become more evident, and if asked about it, I might share my secret.  It’s really no secret – it’s just a better system of eating that works for me – but because I’ve imbued it with a little magic – a little bit of my inner pagan self who finds power in concoctions and potions and recipes – I can’t talk about it.  Doing so will dissipate the magic.  It’s a little like Fight Club in that the first rule is that you don’t talk about Fight Club.  So goes this new journey I’m on.

In any case, I feel a ton better.  I’m feeling way more alive, more energized, and more in tune with the animal-creature-being that I am.  I’m figuring out what cravings actually are, what hunger actually feels like, and how best to respond to these needs.  It’s really a re-learning of the things that have always been inside me – the biofeedback loops we are all born with – that have been muffled by years of eating incorrectly and responding to cravings in a way that is detrimental to the rest of my health.

I’m anxious to start exercise again, especially since I haven’t done much since I had surgery on my knee last February.  I really put myself in a hole after that, afraid of pushing myself, afraid of hurting myself more, and psychologically, it took a massive toll on me.  I found myself justifying the pizza, the beer, the constant naps and lethargy to just compensate for how awful I was feeling about being broken and not being the young and elastic man I once was.  Right now, I can feel those emotions sliding back, dissipating, leaving my body, and what’s replaced it is a new-found confidence.

I still have quite a few milestones to arrive at.  I still have things I’m not quite doing right, but overall, I have to say I’m really, really enjoying this little journey of mine.  Who knows.  I might actually be Fit by Forty.

On a Walk

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

Milestone

I stepped on the scale, and registered the number there:  215.

For a couple of days now, I’ve sat with that, putting it on the back burner, and going about my life.  Things are rolling on here at the house. I’m caught up in the settling, the anxiety of a new place, still getting my bearings, and so I really didn’t let the number on the scale really take on any meaning.  That is, until today.

I just got back from a walk/run of about 10k.  While out there, feeling the endorphins and all that comes with elevated heart rate and such, it hit me.  By reaching that number, 215, which is thirty pounds less than the last time I stepped on the scale, I’ve, in fact, reached about half-way to where I want to be in my skin.  I feel my best at around 185 or so, which if you do the math, is about 60 pounds less than where I was at my heaviest this year.  The fact I’m drawing in close to that mark, that midpoint along this journey, means that, actually, I’m doing something right.  I can, for just a moment, be proud of myself, and this morning, while I was putting one foot confidently in front of the other, I felt that emotion: pride.

No, I’m never going to be a skinny little otter thing.  I see plenty of that walking around town here – tall, lanky, barely 150 pounds, able to whip off their shirts at any opportunity, confident in how their flesh sits on their frames.  Typically, this only works to make me grind my teeth and self-loathe even more because, let’s face it, we’re all a little jealous of the pretty people we see.  Today, though, for just a few minutes, I allowed myself the feeling of being among those confident, head-held-high men.  I inhabited my own body, my own flesh, and while there was still plenty of jiggling and such going on under my tee shirt and around my thighs, in a white heat of euphoric endorphins, none of that really mattered.  What mattered, and what continues to matter, is that I’m effecting positive changes in my physicality.

Giving up sugar in my coffee, cutting back on the alcohol, swapping cereal for a green smoothie or scrambled eggs, drinking more water, paying attention to my sleep, getting out for walks when feasible – these are the steps I’ve taken.  Small, incremental, and at the micro-level, barely registering as change-making.  Taking a step back, though, and reflecting on where I was when I began to regain control of my body about five months ago, I’ve come a long way, and today I am proud of that fact.  The journey continues, though.  It is my life on the line here, after all.

 

While Out Walking

It’s been far too long since I posted an update on my fitness.  There’s a perfectly good reason for that.  I’m embarrassed by it.

I stepped on the scale last Sunday (about six days ago).  240 pounds spun up on the dial, and stared back at me as I leaned forward, looking over my belly to read the numbers and count the dash marks.  The red indicator dash aligned squarely at 240.

240.

This is precisely fifteen pounds less than I have weighed at my heaviest ever – a weight I carried during my first year of college.

I stand at about 5’9″ tall.  This, according to all scales and charts, puts me in a spot that is not one I ever wanted to be in again.  I am, official, obese.  I know, I know…charts and scales are not the end-all-be-all of a measurement of health.  I get that.  I also get, however, how I’ve been feeling over the past few months.

When I left Caleb’s house, just over a year ago, I was hovering around 170 pounds.  I was on a very, very restricted diet (because I couldn’t afford to buy food – I had no job), and spent my days sleeping or running to deal with the anxiety of the situation I was living in.  As soon as I had a job, though, I also signed up for the gym at work, and for a bit of time, it was exactly what I needed.  I hit the gym every other day during the week, and went running as often as I could.  I also moved into a new home, where nutrition and food to eat was readily available.  For the first month or so, I ate anything I could.  As long as I was going to the gym, I kept my weight at a manageable level, but more importantly, my clothes fit better than ever.

I met Ray shortly after moving and settling into this new life, and at first, he met me right as I was transitioning into this new life, new home, and new job.  He was attracted to my activity level.  Back then, he was also hitting the gym a couple of times a week, and had a decent yoga routine that he loved.  Neither of us were what you’d call athletic, but we were making the effort.

Sometime over the summer, and for reasons I still don’t know, we both focused more on eating well and camping and staying in with each other, rather than being as active as we had been.  For him, his workload increased a lot – working two restaurant jobs during the summer here in Portland means you’re always at work.  For my part, I simply sat behind the wheel and drove my bus, but continued to eat as though food was a precious commodity.  Then, I stopped going to the gym, as my schedule shifted from a structured Monday through Friday routine to one that was more all-over-the-map.  Instead of one garage, I began to work out of all of the garages in the metro area.  Some days I worked ten hours and had zero time/energy to get to the gym.  Other days, I just wanted to sleep.  On days off, Ray and I spent our time grabbing bites to eat, camping, and the occasional hike – but nothing too strenuous.

Through all of last year, the weight crept on.  Slowly, but over time, my waist expanded.  My work uniform grew tight.  I needed larger shorts.  My strength was waning.  Headaches.  Neck and muscle soreness and stiffness.  When I did try to go running, five miles seemed like a monster goal, when only a few months prior I  was doing seven to ten miles per run regularly.  I simply didn’t have the energy or drive.  In fits and spurts, I’ve tried and tried to restart the engine of me and keep striving to my Fit By 40 goal.  Instead, I reached for a slice of pizza, another peanut butter sandwich, a nap, a glass of whiskey – anything I could to feed this weird craving of always being hungry.  For his part, Ray never said anything to me about it.  He saw me getting pudgier, but as he was also growing softer – I coined the term “love pudge” to explain what was going on – we both agreed many times that something needed to change.

That all came to a head last Sunday, and it’s when I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

I’ve gone paleolithic – mostly.

I have done diet research for quite some time now.  I even bought the book “It Starts With Food.”  I have read countless articles about this kind of change in my approach to food, and while it all sounded great on paper, when the rubber met the road, I still found myself using cream in my coffee, along with lumps and lumps of sugar.

I still found myself reaching for bread and peanut butter when I needed a snack.

I still snacked constantly when I wasn’t sleeping.

I was still raiding the fridge upon coming home every damn time, no matter what time of day it was.

I still felt hungry.  I still felt run down.  I still felt more weight going on my bones.

So, I hit a reset button. I’ve started by doing the basics:  no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no processed anything.  So far, as of tonight (Saturday), it’s been nearly one week on this diet change.  So far, so good.  In fact, I weighed myself yesterday, and much to my glee, I found I’d lost five pounds during my first week of this new approach to food.  After some further research, I learned that 5-10 pounds lost during the first week or two is not unheard of because, it turns out, eating a lot of carbohydrates also means retaining quite a bit of water.

After just one week, I already have noticed that my hunger cravings have changed.  I only feel hungry after going far too long between actual meals.  I’m not feeling a crazed buzz after a meal, followed by a hard crash in a few hours.  I feel more balanced.  I feel like my moods are leveling off too.  Not putting sugar and milk in my coffee means I’m actually sipping my go-juice slowly, and thus not spiking my caffeine levels as high/low as before.

As far as actual meals go, my housemate (who does all of the food purchasing in our living situation), has done a really great job of keeping veggies and fruits stocked.  There’s plenty of the protein I need to eat available, and he’s always open to suggestions for food purchases.  I’ve had to turn down a delicious pasta dish, and instead opted for a massive salad with tuna on it.  Tonight, I said ‘no, thank you’ to pizza – something I truly loved – and had baked chicken and a garden salad.  Getting food that’s on the meal plan at convenience stores is next to impossible, so I am learning to pack better when I do head out the door.  I am, however, fortunate to be in Portland, Oregon, where the food options are plentiful, and every kind of dietary need can be easily filled, as long as I know where to look.

I know Ray is already annoyed with all of my chatter about how I’m feeling, but he’s being super supportive just the same.  Today, our conversation turned to actually going to the gym together and getting back on that fitness horse together, something I’m very happy to do.

I had a glass of wine with dinner on Friday night, which is not on the food list.  Truth be told, it was a decent red Malbec, and while I am used to having more than just one glass, it was all I needed.  Today, I countered that indulgence with a decent walk with Ray in the morning, and a lot of healthy foods all day long.  I’m not ever going to be militant about this – that kind of exactness is not in my nature – but I am going to make a real effort at this.  I need it.  I need the balance, the feeling of health, and to take advantage of my ability to move and be active for as long as possible.

This is a change, but I think, in time, it can just be what I eat, and not some sort of freakish experiment.  Perhaps this, in a way, is an extension of learning the power of the word ‘no’ and taking control over my life again.  Perhaps this, in a way, is me being even more of an adult.

 

 

Just Taking a Walk

I had a conversation this morning with my friend Amanda.  She and I, both of the same age and from the same hometown, are staring down the idea of being 40 years old in the not-too-distant future.  We both have body issues, and have both been caught up in the pursuit of acceptance and belonging based solely on how our bodies are formed; the more beautiful we are, the more people will want to get to know us.  Over the past year or so, though, we’ve both changed our minds.  Thankfully.

As I’ve shared before, I’ve put on some weight over the last year due to the conflagration of having a sit-down job and giving up a workout regime that had me lifting and running whenever possible.  Instead of spending my time chasing down what I think my body should look like, I’ve opted to spend more of my downtime getting to know Ray, and going on camping and hiking adventures with him that have brought me a true sense of peace and joy.  I’ve let go of the anxiety that drove me to the gym and out on the pavement to run in the first place, and in its place I have allowed myself to simply enjoy the present-tense of my life.  Of course, this has softened my body.  I’ve had fits and starts about getting back to my original goals, and pushing myself to stick to a plan that has me at the gym three times a week, with running added in there too.  I’ve had moments, especially when Ray was overseas, when I could feel myself falling back into that pattern as a means of dealing with my anxiety and worries, but each time I started, it was a mixed bag of emotions – good and bad.  Something had changed, and something wasn’t right about every time I’d started working out again, which is why I simply dropped the plan again and again.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been mulling over what I should do.  It’s clear, I need to keep exercise in my life, but it has to have a different reason for being part of my day-to-day existence.  I can’t exercise as a way to beat back anxiety demons, and then drop it once those demons are placated.  I need to do something sustainable, something that fits into my life, and is simple, and seemingly effortless.  One of the senior drivers I met the other week said something that hit home.  She looked me square in the face and said, “Get up out of that seat as much as you can.  Do not sit still for too long.”  I’ve taken that to heart.

One of the most basic movements that I am able to do is take a walk.  I’ve always been a walker, whether walking all the way to my grandmother’s house as a kid along a woody riverside path, to walking five miles to work simply because I was up before the buses were running.  I have always prided myself on being able to set my mind to right simply by putting one foot in front of the other and just walking.  It was in that spirit that this week, I set a project for myself.  My work schedule is such that I don’t go to work until 1p all week long, and I’m not out so late that can’t get up at a decent, reasonable time in the morning.  I took the opportunity to set a small goal for myself: go for a walk every morning this week, and just see how I feel come Saturday.

Today, Wednesday, is day three of this little project.  Each morning, I’ve walked about two miles through my neighborhood, at a steady pace.  There’s a little cafe along my route which provides a little motivation in a cup, and in my ears, I have the chance to catch up on podcasts and the news.  All in all, by the time I’m done, there’s a little glow of perspiration on my body, and I feel like I’ve started my day off on the right foot.  So far, this is a very doable, very manageable, very achievable goal of mine.  So far, it feels good.

I told this to Amanda this morning, and she said something that struck a chord.  She said her approach to exercise has changed too.  She’s decided that exercise is more about health rather than seeking to achieve model status.  This, for her, has added back the fun-factor when she goes to the gym, and when she can’t make it, she says she doesn’t go crazy with guilt and remorse.  I heartily agree with her.

I’m done feeling bad for not hitting the gym.  I’m done with beating myself up every time I take off my shirt.  I’m done with comparing myself to the hundreds of beautiful men I see daily, both online and in real life.  In the end, just taking a walk seems to be just what I need to do.  Working out is not an act of desperation any longer.  It’s me, being human, doing something at human-scale.  It’s not CrossFit or trying to prove to the world around me that I’m worthy of it’s approval.  It’s not military-grade intense.  Laying this foundation – by shifting my approach, along with setting small, fully-attainable goals, I think I’ve hit a button that suits me.  Finally.

Something Real

Yesterday, I decided to let myself go.  Around noon, on a gloomy Sunday, I opted to pour myself a stiff brunch cocktail – a simple screwdriver made with a bit more vodka than I probably should have – and I sat at my laptop and played a little more of a video game I bought about a month ago.  As time passed, my video gaming turned into sending out messages to fellas that I’ve been meaning to contact for some time, but for whatever reason, had not.  Eventually, I fixed myself another drink, and started to text Ray about the remainder of our day.  I was tipsy, but as it had been a really, really long time since I’d allowed myself a bit of indulgence, it felt good.  I meandered my way down to Ray’s, where I promptly took a little nap while he finished up his ballot for voting.

The plan was to hit up our favorite little bar here that has one of the best happy hours (and most affordable) that we’ve ever seen.  $2 cocktails and $2 snacks meant a couple of drinks and a couple of pretzels between us.  We then moved on to a cute little tea house just up the street a bit, which was absolutely adorable, and some place I definitely want to return to.  After tea and some light snacks, we made our way downtown to a drag show, something we both have enjoyed in the past, but hadn’t had the opportunity to see in a long time.  It was a pleasant experience all the way through, really.

What stuck, however, was the conversation that he and I had over the course of our afternoon.

It’s no secret that since meeting him, and starting my bus driving job, I’ve fallen off the wagon of health and fitness that I’d been on for some time.  I found myself diving into exercise and strength training as a way to cope with anxiety and all of the troubles I had in my personal life.  It was an escape.  It was a means to an end in that I could possibly garner more attention from the fellas I was seeking to date if my body was in better shape.  Nothing’s more basic than initial attraction, but that connection factor is solely based upon looks (like it or not), and I knew that I needed to at least look good.  I needed to at least appear like I had my life together, when nothing could be farther from the truth.  When I was living in that dark, cold house with the ex, without a job, and without a whole lot of hope and optimism, I struggled really, really hard to at least keep up appearances.  It was my Yankee training coming through in spades.  I learned really early in my life that even if you have nothing and your whole personal world is in chaos, you never, ever let on that this is the case.  You put on a veneer and smile and fake your way through the day.  You never want to be an emotional burden on anyone, and you certainly don’t want people talking about you or pitying you.  Pride is huge, and pride, for me, was always and forever based on outward appearances.  Looking good = everything is fine, even when it’s not.

The conversation Ray and I had yesterday surrounded the health and wellness of our lives.  He knows that he needs more activity, more exercise, in his life.  He’s mentioned his yoga that’s fallen to the wayside.  He has also voiced a concern about my health too.

He knows and recognizes that we both have put on weight and are not as active as we should be.  He is concerned about my cigarette smoking, which I’m loathe to admit is still a thing in my life.  The way he delivered these concerns about my health, though, resonated in a way that has never happened in my life before.

My previous boyfriend had been really callous about my body shape and his judgement towards how I looked.  He blatantly called me fat, saying that he thought I’d be further along with my fitness goals than I had been upon my arrival here in Portland, Oregon.  I took that insult, that deeply-cutting punch to my self image and self esteem, and turned it into the thirty pounds I lost in the time I was stuck at his house.  I used to run miles and miles and miles out of rage, out of resentment, just to prove him wrong, especially after he ended things with us.  I hit the gym hard, with a routine that was exhausting, but was definitely giving me the physical results I had wanted.  I wasn’t doing it for myself, though, even though I’d tried to convince myself that I was (and kept touting my progress across the social networks, and even here on this blog).  It wasn’t the first time I’d been called fat, or unattractive.  It wasn’t the first time that my body shape had come in between me and a person with whom I’d fallen in love.  My reaction has been practiced over and over again, too.  I’m well versed in exercise out of spite, rage, revenge, and to prove the other person wrong.  I did the same with Thomas.  I did the same with Nathaniel.

With Ray, though, something is very different.  With his concerns, they’re not coming from a place of judgement or resentment.  They’re not shared out of spite or bitterness.  When he told me that he’s concerned about my weight, and that he really wants me to give up the cigarettes, it wasn’t out of judgment or anger.  Honestly, and for the first time in my life, he told me these things because he actually cares.  It’s real.  This whole thing.  He wants me to be a healthy and vibrant part of his life because he actually loves me, and actually wants me to be the strongest, happiest, healthiest person I can be.  This is a very, very far cry from everything I’ve ever experienced with regards to judgment of my body and state of being in the past.

Going forward, there may not be many days where I “let go” and allow myself to indulge in alcohol like I did yesterday.  Going forward, I am resolved to make smoking a thing of my past – again.  Going forward, I’m not going to go running because I’m angry, or I’m going to ‘prove him wrong,’ or because I’m feeling worthless.  Going forward, any actions I take to improve my overall health will be because I want to improve my life as well as the life I’m now sharing with a person who really, honestly, and truthfully cares about my wellbeing.  It’s all different now; it’s a new reality.

I feel like I’m re-learning how to live my life and I embrace this kind of change.  I’ve needed it for quite some time.