Monday, January 28, 2019

Fat Girl Running...

Ah, the wonder of a provocative title.

This might be long. This might be short. That all depends on which direction this post ends up going and how many tangents I end up on, so we will just go on this little journey together and see what happens.

I wrote a post on my personal Facebook page this past weekend. It was a post that I hesitated making at all, for a whole bunch of reasons that I will get into shortly. It was one that I knew would expose me to lots and lots of criticism.

Thing is, I am already embarrassed enough about it in the first place, there really isn't a whole lot that anyone else could do or say to make me feel more ridiculous than I already do. So, there's that.

Here was the post:

Realizing that I am opening myself up to a hell of a lot of mockery and criticism here, I am celebrating the fact that TODAY, just right now, at 41 years and 354 days old, I officially ran an entire mile for the first time in my whole life without stopping.
This message was brought to you by asthma, bad knees, and about a million people who told me not to run and that I'd never be able to do this. Screw those people.


I knew basically as soon as it went up that I was going to end up writing about it, probably at length, and in all likelihood more than once because I will most certainly forget to make some point I am intending to make here.

It was not an easy post to write, because I am 100% ashamed of the fact that my body couldn't do this thing until last weekend. I have really only ever confided the fact that I couldn't run a mile to small groups of people, usually in secret online groups where I anticipate supportive comments. It's not the kind of thing that a grown ass adult admits easily.

And there are so many reasons for that. Just like there is a laundry list of reasons that I couldn't do this thing I just did until this past weekend.

I'll go over my issues first since they are a little bit easier for me to navigate without getting pissed off at society.

First, I have bad knees. I was diagnosed with chondramalacia at 5 years old, told at the time that I was the youngest person ever diagnosed with it. Whether that is true or not, I honestly don't care, I just think it's fun to think that I am some kind of medical prodigy in terms of disease. It's a condition that usually affects marathon runners in their 40s. I was 5. 

Over the years, my knees messed up a lot of things, and I cannot honestly ever say how much of that was legitimate physical impediment versus how much of it was my self-limiting brain telling my that my body couldn't do something.

I'd been told from the time I was 5 that I shouldn't run, that I shouldn't especially do anything involving quick sprints or cuts, that I shouldn't do squats of any kind...but that I was supposed to exercise because I was already a fat kid.  

Lose weight, the perpetual instruction.

But you can't do it this way or that way or whatever.

And yeah, I had doctors telling me that I was a fat kid even way back then. 

Like I said, I don't honestly know how much of it was legit in terms of my knees creating the problem, and I don't know how much of it was in my head. It didn't really end up mattering I suppose because the effect of them both was the same. I didn't do much.

I didn't run. I didn't run, even as a five year old. And because I was afraid to run as a little kid, I never got good at it. I never became coordinated. When I would try, it was sloppy, with a lot of arms involved. And slow. 

I got laughed at when I bothered trying. So I stopped.

Whenever we'd have mile run days in p.e., I'd either blame my actually hurting knees or feign injury to get out of it. I became the unofficial time keeper, perpetually holding the clipboard on the side of the track. I don't know if I could have done it then, since I was too afraid to even try.

I ended up in adaptive physical education for a few years, which was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me in terms of fitness. I learned to juggle (I got up to 7 pins at one point), I learned to play poker, and I learned that I can build muscle like a goddamn professional weight lifter rapidly. We did weight training, and I realized that this body of mine was strong. Scary strong. I could bench over 200 lbs in junior high. 

I come from sturdy stock. I build muscle quickly and efficiently. But the absolute last thing I wanted to do in the middle of puberty was bulk up. I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to run. I wanted to do things my body couldn't do.

So, I did what any anxiety ridden kid with horrible self confidence would do, and developed an eating disorder (this is dark self-deprecating sarcasm here people, don't take what I am saying and apply it to other people, please).

Anorexia. I developed anorexia.

It took me a really long time to admit that is what it was. Even longer to admit that my mind still, in my 40s, drifts that way when things spiral out of control in my life.

It also isn't about food, btw. I have written a few posts about anorexia if you're inclined to read them. Here are some links.


I stopped eating just about anything that wasn't lettuce, started doing a million reps with teeny little weights to avoid bulking, and tried to run. I tried all the time. Sometimes I tried to run several times a day. I'd make it about 100 feet at the most, and end up bent over in the gutter thinking I was going to die, coughing up a lung.

I had asthma. I have asthma. The particular type of asthma I have is cough variant. I never wheezed, and since I thought (and most people still think) that wheezing = asthma, I had no reason to believe that I had an actual medical condition. 

I just decided that I was a lazy pathetic piece of shit. 

Ate even less.

Tried to run more.

Things progressively got worse until I was fainting and passing out and getting worked up for a brain tumor because of recurrent migraines. 

I didn't have cancer. I was malnourished. 

My doctor congratulated me on my weight loss. Never once asked what I was doing or why. 

I never got skinny, by the way. I was terrible at being anorexic. All the illness, none of the thinness. (Again, dark self deprecation here)

The whole maybe a brain tumor thing scared me enough to start eating again, and my weight started back up.

It was a constant, gradual, uphill process. 

Having knee surgery at 14 did not help at all. Those pesky knees. 
~~~~
Fast forward to last year. I had been doing keto with a reasonable amount of success for about 9 months when I woke up one morning and decided to run.

It's funny, I am sure, to some people. I used to muse aloud about people over 40...wonder what happens to people that suddenly makes them want to run. I'd long before then given up on the idea. It didn't make any sense to me. Until it did. 

There were and are a bunch of other things going on in my life that made running seem strangely appealing. I can't explain it really. I call it rage running. Running keeps me a little bit more grounded. Helps process things. I can run until I feel like I am going to vomit, but then I feel better afterwards. I'm a slightly less prickly cactus human when I run. 

There is no logical reason that I, as someone still overweight, still with bad knees, still with asthma (although finally diagnosed in my mid 30s and now treated) should just wake up one morning and think running was a good idea.

And truthfully, there wasn't much running happening at all for a long time. I'd jog for like 30 seconds, become convinced I was dying, then walk. I started doing a couch to 5k program for beginners, and it slowly started to suck less. I went from walking to speed walking to alternating walking with slowly jogging. It was a long ugly process. About a month ago, I started cross training on non-run days. I even started lifting again...because you know what? I'm strong and I build muscle quickly and I LIKE lifting weights and I will probably survive the apocalypse since I come from sturdy people. 

Then last weekend, I decided to give it a shot. See if I could do it. And I did. I ran a whole mile without stopping. It wasn't fast. I'm not breaking any land speed records for damn sure. But I can do it. I did it. And I will do it a whole lot more going forward.

I can do this. My body can do this.

It was a HUGE personal victory, and one of the hardest things for me to express pride about, all at once.

To be proud of myself, I had to admit how long it took me, and how much I had to overcome to do it at all.
~~~~
Now to the part about why I was reluctant to share. I'm going to do this bullet point style because there are so many reasons.
  • Our society assumes that fat people are fat because they are lazy and that thin people are that way through effort, when really there's a lot more at play. Genetics are a huge piece of it, physical problems like bad knees or asthma are huge issues, and then there are all the unseen contributors. Mental health is HUGE. 
  • Our society is exceptionally ableist in terms of fitness in particular. There are things that most people assume that most people should be able to do, and truth be told a lot of people can do them without excessive training or effort. There are a lot of people who decide to start running one day, and just.start.running. And from day one, they can run a mile. And that's great, for them. There are a million other benchmarks here with expectations placed on us, and for all of us who've never been able to do them, we get why this sucks. Add me also to the list of people who've never done a single pull-up.
  • People who are naturally athletic don't understand how hard it is to be uncoordinated around them. I was always the last kid picked for teams. I was the slow one targeted in dodgeball. Some of you out there reading this might have been the first kid picked and the one throwing at my head. I hope you sit with that knowledge long enough to really think about it.
  • Whenever I mention exercise, as a fat person, someone comes along to tell me that I'm beautiful. Umm. I wasn't fishing for compliments. And I'm talking about exercise, not my looks. And those two things aren't actually related, but thanks for feeding into that societal belief that only thinness is attractive.
  • Whenever I mention weight or exercise, someone who has never struggled with weight beyond like 20 pounds, or who "overcame" that 15 lb baby weight gain, has to come offer suggestions or try and compare journeys. Nah. Apples and oranges.
  • Whenever I mention weight or exercise, someone tries to sell me something. Hard no. Don't do that.
  • I'm tremendously self conscious about my body, partially as a result of the things that people have said directly to me or indirectly about me over the years. I'm fat, not hard of hearing. I could hear that mother telling her daughter that she wasn't fat like me, so it was okay. I heard that. Exercising in public, talking about it in any public capacity is like shining a spotlight on every single one of my flaws for all the world to see.
  • I don't want to run with people. I don't want to exercise with people. I don't because I don't want anyone watching me. I am that self conscious about it.
  • I do it anyway because every time I do, someone who understands reaches out. They share their story. Sometimes they thank me for being brave enough to put it out there. 
I'm sure that I am forgetting something. I'm surer still that someone will come along to tell me how wrong I am. I know that someone WILL try to sell me something. 

I'm doing it anyway...because I know that out there in the interwebs, someone might be reading this who has tried and failed every diet known to man, who has tried to exercise and given up over and over and over again. Someone out there has weighed themselves 7 times today alone, only ever keeping track of the lowest number. Someone out there is battling eating disorders in a world that still believes they are about food. (spoiler alert, they still aren't) Someone out there is tying their shoes and wiping their tears and giving it another shot. 

And I see you. 

And I am rooting for you.

Hell, I'm rooting for us all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Random Mid-January Thoughts of a Human Cactus

Hey, look at that. First post of 2019 and it only took me 15 days...

I miss the days when I used to write all the time. I miss the days when blogging was an accessible platform for people to share their stories, to meet other writers, to find kindred spirits. Anymore, it is just a way to open yourself up to constant criticism from people who make no attempt whatsoever to actually understand who you are or why you are writing or why you are writing what you are writing. The trolls of the world have sucked the fun out of it, but if I'm being completely honest, it isn't just the trolls. Nope. It's the "friends" who show up only to criticize you, it's the family members who show up only to dispute whatever your account of the past might be, it's the people you already know and probably care about in one way or another showing you who they really are over and over and over again. That's what truly wears on a writer the most.

And that's why the vast majority of us just aren't doing this anymore.

Which makes me question the wisdom of even doing this now. Here. Today.

I know why. I need to write. I started doing this for myself. I lost my reasons there for a good long while. I found my way back to them. Avoided them a lot. And still I find myself here pecking away at the keys every so often because I need it.

Even knowing someone is going to insist that I'm wrong. Because. They. Always. Do.

Wikipedia: cactus version of me

It isn't something that I expect the non-writers of the world to understand. It's just a part of who we are, all the way down to our core being. This is how I process things. All the things. The good things, the bad things, the things that piss me off, the things that give me joy, the things that remind me of all I have lost, the things that give me hope. And yet, I have to do it in that precarious tightrope walking fashion that anyone who publishes publicly must learn. I can tell my stories, but never in their entirety, because my stories often don't just belong to me, and I don't have the agency to tell the stories that belong to other people.

Woooooo....I guess I really did need to write.

I meant to do this two days ago, with a specific topic in mind, and I will get to that specific topic in a moment...probably as a capsule Things That Piss Me Off segment here. First though, I have to write about today.

(Trigger warning for pregnancy loss)

It seems like I write this post every year, which probably isn't true. But it sure feels that way. I felt that nagging grief rise up again this morning at 3:36 a.m., the annual nighttime wake-up call that always comes on the fifteenth of January. I never have to actually make a conscious effort to remember that night nineteen years ago. My body, my subconscious, my soul does it for me. Automatically.

It was in those small hours of the night when I lost my first child.

She was dead before then, probably for at least a week or more by that point. We'd received that news from a radiologist we nicknamed Doctor Death for his official relaying of both a cancer diagnosis and what he methodically and unflinchingly called a "fetal demise", sitting in a dark ultrasound room with a screen that wasn't flickering the way it was supposed to be flickering.

I don't even know how long I sat there and cried as I felt all the hope and optimism about the future that I'd had just moments prior leave my body in deep heaving guttural sobs.

I don't want to talk about the details of what I went through in those next few days. I try to block it from my memories. Try as I can to push it away, there are still, even after all these years, times when it is all I can think about.

And today is the day that I let myself mourn. The other 364 days of the year belong to everyone and everything else, but today belongs to her.

Her name was Hannah.

I never had the chance to hold her. I never got to marvel at the color of her eyes or how the sunlight made her hair shine and sparkle like spun gold. I never got to hear her giggle for the first time, never fell asleep with her on my chest as I inhaled the scent of who she was. I never got to do those things, because she never got to be here.

Without her presence and then absence in my life, I can't say who I would be today. I know that even if I had children eventually, they wouldn't be the children I have now. I may have never changed my priorities in the way that I did. I may have stayed on that career path. I may not be physically in the place I am today.

Everything might be different.

She changed me, as certain as the DNA from every single conception remains with a mother forever. A few years ago, as I was helping another mother navigate a pregnancy loss, I mentioned that weird little scientific fact to her. They really do forever remain a part of us, even the babies we never hold. For her, it was both comfort and the confirmation that she had been seeking that this experience had indeed changed her, irrevocably and permanently.

It took me almost a decade to write about her at all. I know that my insistence on still doing it after all these years probably annoys some people. The people who say things like, "it is in the past", "you have other children", "it wasn't meant to be", "get over it already". Statistics tell us that pregnancy loss happens far more often than anyone really realizes. We just don't talk about it because it makes other people uncomfortable. We are supposed to worry about other people's comfort before our own. We are supposed to be more considerate of other people's feelings than our own. We are supposed to quiet and silence the grief inside our hearts for the benefit of others.

No.

This is a part of my life, and maybe it is a part of your life too.

And today belongs to her.

I wonder all the time who she'd be. Who she might resemble. What she would love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, now that I have cried all over this perfectly good keyboard, the post that I intended to write two days ago, but got distracted by furniture construction and other shiny things.

If you've been anywhere near social media in the past two weeks, you've probably seen them. The posts about decluttering. Minimizing. Holding all the things and asking them if they bring you joy. The arbitrary limits on the number of books one should own. The television show. The posts about people feeling like their houses are too messy to even watch the show.

Here's the thing.

If this approach works for you, and you want to do it, and you don't want to read any criticisms of it, just stop reading now. For real. Just stop reading. The rest of this post isn't for you. Besides, something needs folded. Go.

For real.

I'm not kidding.

If you like this whole movement and don't want to hear anyone question it, stop here.

Beeeeeeeeep.

....

Okay. If you're still reading this, let's move on.

Again, if you like this approach and it works for you or if it is something that you've always done your whole life or annually anyway and you think it's just a handy guide, great. I'm happy for you. Your house is probably a lot neater than mine.

If I lived alone, my house would probably be a whole lot neater than it is. But, I don't live alone. I live with a house full of people who all approach life very differently, carrying the baggage they already have from things that have happened in the past and have wide variations in how they function.

This house is never going to be "neat". It took me a long time to accept this truth, but I have made my peace with it mostly.

Now, for the criticism part.

And yeah, I have read the book. I've also read the Swedish death cleaning one and personally prefer that one for reasons that I may or may not remember to write about here eventually.

My biggest issue is that the entirety of the approach is steeped in privilege. Multilayered privilege. Like sooooooo many layers of privilege.


  • The idea that people all have the means to purchase high quality, often expensive things that will last a lifetime.
  • The reality that many people struggle to fund basic necessities.
  • The impact of not having enough money, at any point in your life, on behaviors related to possessions.
  • The idea that people all have so much excess.
  • The fact that our culture is largely disposable and many consumer products aren't easily repairable anymore.
  • Mental health issues are often tied directly to purchasing behavior, collecting, the inability to part with items or clean at all.
  • ADHD and related conditions especially with executive functioning components that can make it impossible to complete even minor tasks, so you end up starting projects (and making a huge mess to go along with it), get overwhelmed, quit, beat yourself up, repeat.
  • The reality of grief as it affects possessions.
  • The after-effects of dealing with hoarding behaviors in yourself or in other people. For the record, having lived this directly, I would absolutely make the argument that hoarding is a form of addiction.
  • The consequences of not having boundaries respected, or of having things taken from you or stolen from you, even as a child or even as a punishment.
  • The reality that women are indeed primarily responsible for managing most household stuff, apparently made glaringly obvious on the show more than once. 
  • The idea that anyone who wants to declutter or minimize has the time and ability to do so. That they are physically able. That they are mentally able. That they are financially able. That they can willingly forgo whatever else they would be doing with that time.
  • That everyone in their house is in the same place on all of the above ^^^.
So, yeah. If you've always had enough money that you could buy food and housing and random unnecessary consumer goods, if you haven't dealt with major loss or grief, with addictive behavior, with mental health conditions impacting how you view possessions, maybe it is helpful. 

Maybe. 

And even then, even if it is helpful, are you in a place where you really have the time, energy, and desire to devote to getting rid of stuff? Do you even want to get rid of it? 

My mom was a hoarder. My dad threw stuff away whenever she wasn't looking. Neither is a very healthy behavior pattern, and they both set me up for issues well into adulthood. My mother especially impacted my home, as her hoarding invaded my space. She bought and shipped things to my home constantly. She purchased items secretly for my children and gave them instructions to hide it all. 

...
Pause here for a moment. If you are a grandparent, don't do this. You are undermining the parental authority of your child, causing massive damage to their trust in you, and teaching their kids to hide things from them. DO NOT DO THIS.
...

Years of therapy for my kids later, I am STILL finding things in my house. She has been dead for years, gone from this place even longer. And I am still findings things. 

Things don't only bring me joy or utility. Some things are just things, and when your parents are both dead and you have very few connections to who they once were, you hang on to the things that bring you neither utility or joy because you just hang on to them. 

And that is okay.

You want to keep that pair of jeans you haven't fit into since the 90s? Do it.

You want to keep those black suede boots just in case they come back into style? Do it.

You want to keep full bookcases of books you loved/hated/haven't yet read. For the love of Ravenclaw, DO IT. 

Do whatever works for you, in this moment. Don't worry about what someone in a book or on tv tells you to do with your stuff.


If you're ready, when you're ready, if you are able, when you are able, then maybe she could offer you some guidelines. But don't feel bad if you can't do it now. Or if you don't want to.

In the meantime, take care of you.

The internet has a way of making us feel bad about everything these days. Sigh.

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