You Are Allowed to Take Up Space

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Yesterday a friend posted on facebook about an experience she had shopping with her 2 year-old daughter.

She was trying on clothes and her daughter said to her, “Mommy, you look great!  You look tiny!”

My friend said her heart broke, and she wondered how a 2-year old could have possibly learned that looking great means looking tiny.  She immediately sat down next to her and said, “Sweetie, Mommy doesn’t look tiny.  Mommy looks just right.”  And her daughter smiled and said, “Okay Mommy, you look just right; and so do I!”

That story touched me and got me thinking.  I think she did an amazing job of addressing the “tiny = beautiful” issue right there, in the moment, in a natural and honest way.*

You know what, though?

I don’t know if I would have caught it.

And I’m ashamed to admit that.

As passionate as I am about women (and men, but I’m going to be focusing on women today) accepting themselves exactly they way they are, I still struggle with it myself.  And I don’t know if my child calling me tiny in an effort to praise me would have set off the alarm bells that it probably should.

I started thinking about my own body image “journey” (please, someone supply me with a less cliché word), and I realized that as far as I’ve come, I still haven’t been able to let go of that desire to be “tiny”.

Why is that?  What is so appealing to me (us?) about being small and skinny?  When I look at other women, I don’t mentally whittle them down to a size 00.  I absolutely love curvy women, and I think there is nothing sexier than seeing a woman who is obviously comfortable with herself, and has chosen to embrace her body, rather than trying to hide or mask it.

And yet.

And yet I look at myself sideways in every mirror I pass, assessing the size of my stomach.

And yet I often wear sports bras and looser shirts, trying to flatten and hide my breasts so that I lose all semblance of curves and look thinner and straighter.

And yet I long to be smaller, thinner, wondering what it would be like to be able to fold myself up into practically nothing when I sit on a chair, or to not have to tuck my stomach back into my pants when I sit down, or to be able to wear clothes and know they are going to hang just right on my frame.

I was talking to another friend about this, trying to get to the root of the issue.  I couldn’t figure out why thinness wasn’t a body type I idealized in or expected from other women, but somehow, after everything, it was a standard I kept holding myself up to.

She said something that I’d never been able to pull into conscious thought before.

“It’s about not wanting to take up space.”

I recognized the sentiment as soon as the words left her mouth.

It’s about not wanting to take up space.

I am uncomfortable in my own skin.  I feel I don’t deserve the space I take up, or maybe I want to hide sometimes.  I want to be smaller, ever smaller, so that I can choose when to disappear and when to be noticed.  I don’t want to take up space.

But guess what?  I am 5’8″.  Even if I lost 20 pounds, I would still be 5’8″–just more gaunt, and definitely saggier.  (Sorry, boobs.)  No matter how much weight I lose, I will not be able to erase my body.

And I don’t need to.

As women, we are constantly apologizing.  We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and we go out of our way–sometimes shoving ourselves out of the way–to make sure that we don’t.  We are constantly apologizing for our feelings and for our thoughts and sometimes, for ourselves.

But we are entitled to our thoughts, no matter how different they are.  We are entitled to our feelings, no matter how “unacceptable” they are.  Binge eating is tied into this–when you think your feelings aren’t acceptable, or you’ve never learned how to deal with them, you numb them.  Hide them.  Shove them away.

It is okay to feel and to exist, and to take up as much space as you want to.  You are a human being, a person created by God.  You have a right to be.

Accept the space you take up, and own that space.  Fill it however you want to.

You are allowed to take up space.

 

 

 

*I just feel I should point out, there is nothing wrong with being thin or tiny if that’s how your body is.  I know naturally small women sometimes get left out in all the anti-media “real women have curves!” hype.

The thing is, some real women have curves.  And some real women don’t have curves.  Our definition of what constitutes a “real woman” shouldn’t hinge on her appearance.

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What does body acceptance (or self-acceptance) mean to you personally?

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Brightness

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We were at the park the other day.  The boys were playing and I was distracted.  I’ve been a little preoccupied lately with trying to find an apartment and get our living situation sorted out.  This next year of school coming up for Silas (his last one!) is exciting, full of audition rotations and interviews, but it means that he will be out of state for pretty much the entire year.

So there’s that.

After a while I realized that the boys had wandered off, so I went to go find them and round them up for a Costco trip (bless you Costco, for being the high point in our weeks).  I found them playing in this little field of clover.  It was lush and green (everything that I miss, living in the desert) and absolutely beautiful.  It was a nice reminder that, even when I’m lost in a fog (even one primarily of my own making), there is still brightness out there.

All I have to do is look up.

 

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Speaking of bright things, I just finished my fourth book of the year (I know, I’m so behind 🙂 ), and–miracle of miracles–all four have been fantastic!  It’s rare that I read so many good ones in a row.  I just started the next one in my stack and I’m eager to get lost in it.

Are you reading anything good right now?  I’m forever working on my “to read” list and I’d love to add to it.

Basic Intuitive Eating

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The way I understand Intuitive Eating (hereafter referred to as IE in this post) at its most basic level is this:

Eat (whatever you want and whenever you want) when you are hungry, and stop when you are full.

That’s it.  Now there are ways to go deeper into the actual practice of IE, like keeping a food/mood journal, practicing mindful eating by only eating when sitting down and never eating while you’re distracted (i.e. on the computer or watching tv or reading), etc.  But let’s just stick with the simplest explanation for now, which is listening to your hunger/fullness signals and not depriving yourself.

This has worked wonders for me.  Now, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s not easy or quick to adopt (at least, it wasn’t for me).  It might be hard to allow yourself all those “bad” foods you’ve been trying to deprive yourself of for so long.  Even if you haven’t been successful at depriving yourself for more than a day or two at a time, you’ve probably been conditioned to think of foods as “healthy foods” or “junk foods”, so you feel guilty when you reach for the Cheetos instead of the carrot sticks.

For people who have lost the ability to eat in response to their body’s needs, IE can be a huge leap of faith.  You may be scared that your appetite is so huge that it will never be satisfied.  You may worry that all you’ll ever want to eat is cake and Cheez Whiz (not together, hopefully) and that you’ll gain weight and spiral into a miserable cycle of eating and eating and gaining and gaining and never being able to stop.

I had these fears.

And I’m not going to lie to you and say everything was smooth and easy, or that I ate “crazy” for a couple days and then got over all my cravings.  In fact, for the first several weeks, my new IE “diet” was primarily made up of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I kid you not.  I baked and ate them every single day, without fail, for more than a month.  It was what I wanted, and as long as I was eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was satisfied (HARD to do at first, and even now), it was “legal”.

I definitely overate when I was learning, and I still do.  It’s okay to overeat sometimes–everyone does it.  Sometimes that’s part of intuitive eating.  It’s not about being perfect.

But you have to learn to eat without judgment.  This is so, so huge.  IE is, in a large part, about rewiring your brain, getting rid of the “overeating–>guilt–>restriction” mentality.  I threw out all the food rules I had memorized over the years (and I could write an entire book on all of those rules), and ate cookies when I wanted cookies, chips when I wanted chips, veggies when I wanted veggies, and meat when I wanted meat.

Eventually, you will get tired of the Cheez-its and brownies.  At some point, your body starts to crave other, more substantial, and more nutritive things.  And by putting all foods on an even playing field and removing the labels (good/bad, healthy/fattening, etc) that you had given to everything, you disempower those foods that once seemed to hold you captive.  Cheesecake is no longer a special, sinful food that you know you shouldn’t be eating so you binge on it whenever you actually let yourself have any.  Once you break down those mental barriers and let yourself have anything you want, a lot of those forbidden foods lose their allure.  

You might find out that you don’t even care for some of the foods you’ve been depriving yourself of.  Once I actually allowed myself to eat them deliberately, I found out that I’m actually not that fond of Oreos. Or any storebought cookies.  Or Hershey’s chocolate.  Now, if I want chocolate, I don’t binge on chocolate chips and hope that satisfies my craving.  If I want chocolate, I’m going to get myself the real stuff, the good stuff–because I deserve it.

That’s what it really comes down to–learning to love and respect yourself, and transferring that love and respect into how you feed yourself.  Getting rid of all the mind games you’ve been playing with yourself and finally being totally and completely honest about what it is you really want and need (which often isn’t even food–we’ll probably talk about that sometime soon).

There are a hundred things that could be said about IE, and a hundred people who have said it better.  But hopefully this is a decent starting point.  Feel free to weigh in, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sick Day

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I’m not feeling well today, but blogging makes me happy, and I’m trying to avoid taking (another) unintended hiatus.  Yesterday was full of sunshine and hours of reading, and the day ended with dinner at a restaurant with my parents and grandmother.  (The boys’ behavior at said dinner is not something I care to discuss right now.  Let us think of pleasant things instead.)

For now, I bid you adieu and urge you to go forth and kiss a cat today.

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Even if she hates you for it.

Scenes from the Week

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In spite of my ups and downs and what you dear readers probably perceive is a dreary outlook on life, we do actually manage to do things sometimes.  🙂

We often have lunch at the park, as winter happens to be the perfect picnic season in Arizona.

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We also nap.

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I finally managed to paint my nails this week (while watching What Not to Wear, bien sûr).

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(When I showed my nails to Silas, he examined them for a moment and then said, “You need to learn to color in the lines.”)

Speaking of painting, I got brave and pulled out the brushes and paints, and we decorated rocks.  And any exposed skin, apparently, when my back was turned.  (“Oh no, mom, we painted our bodies!  We not ‘posed to do that!”)

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Now we’re headed to my parents’ house for dinner with family.  In spite of everything else that’s going on (oh, we’re moving again by the way…so I have to spend my spare time stalking listings on zillow and calling realtors for appointments even though it feels like WE JUST DID THIS A FEW MONTHS AGO), life really is nice.

(Plus I’ve almost finished my second book of the stack!)

 

—–

How was your week?

 

 

Do Not Disturb

In a fit of ecstatic card catalog searching and clicking, I apparently reserved 15 young adult novels at the library without realizing it.

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When I went to pick them up today and saw how many there were, a sentiment akin to “holy shit” may have crossed my mind.

I guess I’d better hunker down and get a start on this pile.

The very idea fills me with unimaginable glee.  Life is good, you guys.

I’m praying (futilely) for rain, because what is better than a blanket, a book, and a grey day?

Nothing.  The correct answer is “nothing”.

 

—–

What is your favorite way to spend your alone time?

 

 

 

 

What Goes Around

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I’m starting to notice patterns in my moods.

I’ve never paid much attention before, I just kind of got swept along by them, alternately riding or being dragged by each new wave and the whole time thinking, “WHAT IS THIS? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”

But now I’m trying to notice, to become aware of how I’m feeling and when I felt it before and how long it lasts.  And I’m beginning to recognize patterns, predictability, which is really nice.  Predictability is comforting.

I believe the medication takes the edge off of the highs and lows, makes the depression less consuming and the anger less intense and uncontrollable.  So I’m very glad for this, and I recognize things could be, and have been, much worse.

Every once in a while I wake up and the first thing I think to myself is, “I feel amazing!”  I love those days.  Those are the days when I clean the house and spend all day making loaves of bread and homemade granola and cooking elaborate meals and doing preschool activities with the boys (which they absolutely love).  Although they last at most a full day, I treasure those times.  My house would be a disaster if it wasn’t for them.

And there are days like today, and yesterday, and the day before that, when I wake up just feeling off.  Something inside me feels wrong.  I recognize the feeling, and I know what it means.  I know it means I will be on edge all day, and that I will have to let the boys watch extra TV so I don’t snap at them.  I know that when I do have time to myself I will be pacing, or mindlessly clicking through windows on the internet, because my mind feels at once dull and completely scattered, unable to focus or retain interest in anything.

Sometimes, on days like this, I get easily overwhelmed, or overstimulated I suppose.  Too much noise feels like it’s crowding my brain, and I can’t process the words that are coming at me.  Sometimes I can’t stand the feel of things touching me, and putting on a pair of jeans makes me want to tear my skin off.  On these days I’ll wear the most comfortable things I can find, neither too loose (extra fabric can be irritating) nor too tight (for obvious reasons–feeling like you’re being squeezed to death would set anyone on edge), and soft, tagless fabrics only.

No amount of yoga or meditation or attempts to be positive seems to help lift this spell.  Maybe there’s more I could do (I’ve never been one to fake it till I make it, I find lying about my feelings exhausting), but for now, I hold on to the knowledge that this day will pass, and not every day will be like it.

High or low, nothing lasts forever.

I take comfort in that.

 

——

I had something else in mind that I wanted to write today, but I gave up after a few attempts and decided to do what I do best, which is to write honestly.  I know this was a very personal post and I may have regrets about it later, but for now, it is what it is.

Peace and good days to you.

 

 

Greeting the Day

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I woke up early this morning.

It’s been extra difficult lately for me to do this, especially when I’m not in an upswing.  The earlier I wake up, the longer the days are.  So I often sleep until I hear that loud whisper in my ear.

“MOMMY.  MOMMY.  MOMMY!” [I finally stop pretending and open my eyes.]  “I’M HUNGRY.  MAKE ME BREATHRAST.”

“It’s “breakfast”.  And ask me nicely.”

Or,

“MOMMY, I PEED.”

Also nice to wake up to.  Although, when he feels inclined to do so, he can strip his own sheet and toss everything in the washer for me (and even start the laundry, if I’ll allow it).  So that is convenient.

But this morning was one of those rare ones when I rose before the sun did.  I didn’t want to at first.  It was dark and cool and both cats were snuggled up to me.  (THE BEST.)  But I forced myself to roll out of bed and greet the day.  (And let me tell you, it is so much more relaxing to get ready when two small people aren’t rifling through your makeup and your closet and chasing each other around and jumping on your freshly-made bed.)

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Having this time to myself in the morning, to start my day slowly, is a lovely, lovely thing.  It helps me get in the right headspace to face the day, and by the time the boys wake up, I’m ready to attend to them.

I even did some yoga this morning. (But don’t be too impressed.  It was 12 minutes.)

I used to be a naturally early riser.  It was hard not to be, growing up in a household where sleeping in until 9 on a weekend was considered a cardinal sin.  But sometime over the past few years, I joined the “sleep as late as I possibly can” team.  (Their sales pitch was pretty tempting.)

I used to love getting up early.  Well, I didn’t love the actual physical process of dragging myself out of bed at 5 am, but I loved the dark, quiet mornings when I was the only soul awake.  I have my best thoughts in the morning, and my personality type desperately needs that solitude before the bulk of the day descends upon me.

Being able to recapture that feeling today was golden.  I realize that one morning does not a habit make, but here’s to hoping I can replicate this tomorrow.

—–

 

Are you an early riser or do you like to challenge yourself by leaving as little time as possible to get out the door in the morning?

 

 

Still Here

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I have lots of things to say but a combination of a lingering cold and chronic laziness has had me out of commission lately.  I’m going to try my best to get back into writing etc (STORY OF MY LIFE), but for now, here’s a picture of Hobbes.

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I hope you had a lovely weekend (holiday weekend if you’re in the US!) and that this week is much better than you expected.

 

Love you guys.

 

 

 

Trying on the “Fun Mom” Hat

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Today I took the boys to the mall.  It has been quite a while since I’ve done that.

My memories of previous trips to the mall include a double jogging stroller that doesn’t always make it through doorways, two young children that felt nearly impossible to keep track of sometimes, the sounds of crying and screaming as I dragged the noncompliant little beasties all the way across the mall to the parking lot that I was hoping and praying contained our parked car…I could elaborate, but what I’m trying to say is that after multiple unhappy, frustrating, and embarrassing trips, I basically swore I would never ever (ever) take those two small people to the mall again.

But guess what?  I don’t have two toddlers any more.  I have a 3 year old and a 4 year old.  And it is nice.

Babies and toddlers are adorable and fun too, but I like having conversations (incomprehensible as they may be sometimes) with these two little people.  I like seeing their interests and personalities emerging, and I love that they get excited about things.

Today I was feeling super mellow and apparently equal to any task because I decided we should take a little field trip to the mall so I could return some mascara (Sephora I love you so much).  So we drove the 30 minutes to the mall and played in the kids’ area, wandered around, rode the elevator multiple times, explored the Lego store, and bought cookies at Paradise Bakery.

(Sugar is magical and stress-relieving.  Trust me on this.  This is what I bought the other night when some major stress descended.)

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We went to the park afterward for a picnic lunch (correction: we went to the park after I tried to go into what the boys dubbed with wrinkled noses a “mama store”.  I naively thought I could spend a few minutes looking at clothes but that fantasy was shattered by the two boys that started racing around the store, shrieking and now shoeless, about 2 minutes after we walked in).

A trip to the mall.  Playgrounds.  Legos.  Cookies.

I will freely admit that I am often impatient and irritated, and sometimes I wonder if that’s all I’ll ever be able to manage.

So it’s nice to know that I can be fun sometimes.

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Do you have fun plans for the weekend?  We never do, but Fridays always put me in the mood for pizza…