Health, Uncategorized

Exhaustion or Covid?

It has been an exhausting school year already.

Since we started back at the beginning of August, we have been dealing with an increasing surge of Covid cases, due to the Delta variant. At first, I was worried that there would be another shutdown, when all the mask drama started, politically. Then, it just became unreal to watch as more and more students and staff members tested positive or had to quarantine.

Allergy symptoms have increased for everyone since this year’s hurricane near-miss (which was not nearly as scary for us as it was last year, since we knew all along that it would miss us and we would be on the clean side). But allergy symptoms are the same as Delta symptoms, so sitting in half-empty classrooms filled with runny noses can be disconcerting.

Add to it the fact that there was a situation that, while it was perfectly safe, triggered a lot of trauma-related emotions for me. And the situation was compounded by the fact that Covid has left schools chronically under-staffed–and circumstances in our state have made that worse this year.

On top of all that, there are constant cautionary tales of vaccines being useless against Delta. So when I started feeling insatiably tired, I felt the need to hide it. It was exhaustion, right? I could not remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep, and lack of sleep does affect me a lot.

Then the stuffy nose and sinus drip cough started. Nasal irrigation and steroid spray kept it at bay for the most part–these are typical allergy symptoms for me, and they do get worse when I am under stress. In fact, I usually carry a bottle of water or coffee with me, so that I can keep from coughing. But when a cough slipped out last week, I got lots of suspicious looks.

I was rocking my TEA-issued blue N95! They have a weird, perfumey smell to them, which brought back memories of last March.

But coughing wasn’t a symptom I had when I had Covid, and neither was a sore throat, which I started experiencing on Friday. However, the muscle aches and headache, which had been getting worse over the past week, were a definite cause for concern. At least I wasn’t having neurological symptoms….until I realized that my eye had been twitching for a few days now.

Luckily, we had a long weekend, so I could lock myself indoors at home and figure all this out. I googled the Delta variant, hoping to learn that my symptoms were completely different from what I was experiencing.

I do get crazy physical symptoms related to stress. Right before I left my previous job, when the situation was very traumatic, I would get muscle aches, GI symptoms, and a low grade fever, which were all psychosomatic. And my resistance lowers when I am under extreme stress. I had to student teach twice in order to get my degree, and had a crazy holiday season between the two unpaid internships. Due to the stress, I ended up getting shingles in my throat at age 23. I also had psychosomatic symptoms, including a stuffy nose and muscle aches, from the beginning of the pandemic up until I actually caught Covid and recovered. So stress was a definite possibility.

However, I decided that I was likely in denial, so I let my yoga teacher know that I would not be in class for the next 10 days. Then I overate and wondered what to do. Finally, on Saturday, I broke down and got a home testing kit. I made sure to stick the q-tip as far up my nose as it would possibly go. And, ten minutes later…

That’s right–no pink line on my strip (on the top)! I will retest tonight, and then I will be good to go back to yoga and work once the long weekend is over.

So surprise, surprise, after having Covid and then being vaccinated, I don’t have Covid. It’s crazy how the current media coverage makes it seem like the most probable result is not going to happen.

Now that the excitement is over, it is time to deal with the actual issue at hand–the fact that stress has caused me to have all of these physical symptoms. It is time to streamline my routine, to understand the limits of what I can get done in a day, to set boundaries accordingly, and to focus on the things that actually are within my control.

The reality is that I am not going to get Covid again. So instead of worrying about that, it is time to focus on all of the good that I can do during this crazy time.

Health, Philosophy

My Thoughts on Body Positivity

Like most women, I have spent a large portion of my life hating how I look. When I was a teenager and my weight got into the triple digits, I decided I must be huge and that everything would fall into place if I just lost weight.

I obsessed over dieting for a few years, certain that getting skinnier would solve all of my life’s problems. Of course I was tiny already, but I thought my very muscular thighs were too fat. And of course my roundy face was too roundy.

Me in seventh grade!

In high school I started eating like any other teenager, which got me up to a healthy weight. And then it kept climbing. I tried a few diets here and there, usually ending up back at a healthy weight whenever I used the South Beach diet.

The only time I was really happy with my body during that time was when I was pregnant. I felt gorgeous with my big baby belly!

Then it was back to the same, gaining then doing South Beach and losing, but never losing enough to really be happy with how I looked. As things grew worse in my career, the dieting stopped and the medicating with food started. I hated how I looked, and that only seemed to make me want more ice cream.

So I get it. When people say they are done with diet culture and hating on themselves, I absolutely get it. When I was miserable with my job and my life in general, the last thing I wanted to do was give up the only comfort I had. And standing in front of the mirror, looking at how awful I looked, only increased that misery.

If I had not started to see my beauty when I was at my heaviest, I think the cycle would have continued indefinitely.

But in seeing my beauty and learning to love that person, inside and out, I began to realize that I was medicating with food because I was miserable. Of course I took steps to make my life less miserable first, and that was the hardest part. But in loving myself, I saw that I was not feeling my best when I was overeating in order to escape. I was not feeling my best when I was caught in an addiction.

That is what led me to my therapist and dietician. If I were eating only when I was hungry and making food choices that led me to feel my best, it would not have mattered that I was the size I was. But the truth was, I no longer experienced the feeling of being hungry. I was so out of touch with my own body that I no longer recognized hunger.

Once I learned to recognize and honor my hunger and fullness, I realized that I wanted to make food choices that made me feel better. Pizza is so comforting, but when I eat it to fullness, I feel yucky and tired. I enjoy treats still, but I have learned that I feel better when I enjoy them in moderation.

And finally, my weight was a problem. I love running, doing yoga, and otherwise being active, and my weight was causing my knees to hurt to the point where I couldn’t climb stairs normally. Heart problems and diabetes run in my family, and taking care of my health was a part of loving myself.

I worked on being more informed about my food choices. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have treats, but it does mean that I practice moderation with some foods.

So while there are some aspects of “body positivity” that I definitely agree with, there are some areas where my opinion differs from some of the prevailing ideology.

Here are the thoughts I have on body positivity:

1. I had to see myself as beautiful before I could make changes.

I was never able to hate myself into thinness. I had to accept and love the person in the mirror, as she was. Even now, I have been happy with my appearance at every weight. I am trying to lose my pandemic pounds, because I gained them from binge eating. If I just naturally ended up at this weight through healthy eating, that would be fine.

2. For me, having some structure helps me be mindful.

I loved the book Intuitive Eating. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone. However, I need a little more structure and information at this point. I monitor my weight, because it helps me understand my body better. I know that I tend to gain more water weight at different points during the month, for example. I also know that if the overall trend is toward weight gain, then I need to look at my patterns. When I am overeating, it is not long until my overall mental health takes a nosedive.

Tracking what I eat is also helpful for me, because it helps me see my patterns. I don’t obsess over calories, but when I go out of my Smartpoints range, it usually means that I am emotionally eating. Tracking also helps me to eat more of the foods that make me feel better: fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

3. I eat when I am hungry.

Always. I carry snacks with me and eat them when I am hungry. Yes, they are zero or low Smartpoint snacks, but that also helps me to gauge when I am actually hungry, as opposed to emotional eating.

4. Exercise is not punishment.

I went to a bootcamp class once. We worked really hard for the entire hour, and I could not do half of the exercises. I didn’t go back.

Instead, I focus on having an active lifestyle with activities I enjoy. I like running, because I have kind of a competitive streak. Yoga is my spiritual practice, and I never need to motivate myself to go to class. In fact, I need a good reason not to go, if I miss. I love walking, especially in the woods. And bike riding instead of driving is a special treat!

I don’t exercise to burn the fat. I am active because it feels good, and it improves my mood significantly.

5. I eat donuts.

There is a donut shop next to my yoga studio. They have a cream filled chocolate donut. They are delicious. I eat one every Saturday.

6. Everyone’s journey is different.

I don’t sit around, judging everyone who weighs more or less that I do! In fact, I barely notice and really don’t care. We are all at different places, and we are all doing our best. I just think the important thing to remember is that we need to do what works for us, rather than trying to follow a philosophy 100%.

Family Fun, Health

Vacation Adventures (and One Misadventure)

An Early Start!

On the day that the calendar for Elijah’s Retreat opened, it filled up. I was not able to get us our usual spring break adventure, but I did book a few days for us in June.

Usually, we leave right after Rob gets out of work, make the 3 hour drive, and arrive late in the evening. This time, however, Rob had Thursday, the day we were scheduled to arrive, off of work. We decided to leave Wednesday night and stay at an Air BNB in Conroe, which would put us on the other side of Houston for the drive the next day.

We found the most elegant garage apartment I have ever seen!

Ili, of course, had to do her algebra class in the morning.

Off to Elijah’s!

As soon as algebra was over, we made the drive to Elijah’s. Rob and Ili flew balsa wood airplanes in the field by our cabin.

Iliana test drove a couple bikes.

Dinner was hot dogs over the campfire.

And of course I took a walk down my favorite trail!

Friday morning meant one more algebra class. Ili needed to go to the activity barn for wifi, so she settled in, in the sensory room.

Animal feeding time, of course, was a favorite!

It was, of course, beautiful everyday!

Saturday meant feeding the animals again.

Later on that day, Iliana treated us to her baked s’mores!

It was definitely different visiting this time, with Ili getting older. Iliana noticed that she didn’t get as excited about some of the activities, but she talked to Miss Cheryl, who showed her how to lead the horse and told her she can be a volunteer next time we visit, and help the other kids while they are horseback riding. Ili was excited about that and didn’t want to leave on Sunday.

And the Misadventure

We had a few misadventures during this trip as well. I enjoyed having the time to walk and get lots of steps in, and I did a lot of this walking while exploring the woods. After doing some exploring away from Elijah’s property, I came home and took a shower, only to find a tick on my belly. Disgustingly, ticks love my fatty skin, and they always freak me out. I have a lot of moles, but I always look very carefully for ticks. This one blended in surprisingly well and I almost missed it.

So yuck, but Rob was the hero and removed the gross, black bug. It looked like it had just gotten there, which was a good thing.

Then there were my eyes. On Friday at some point, my left eye got really itchy and red. By Saturday they were both red. I figured it was allergies and bought eye drops. They helped a little, then by the time we got home, my eyes were red and angry. I Googled it and decided they must be sunburned. They cleared after a couple days once I was home, although they stayed light sensitive and itchy.

Then there was the heat exhaustion. I have gotten heat exhaustion every year we have been in Texas, and my sore, sore muscles and inability to regulate my body temperature told me that I had done it again. However, this time was worse, as a day of rest did nothing to help. By Wednesday, after we were home, I was beyond exhausted. Wondering if I was dehydrated, I drank Poweraide, which helped a little. I went to bed early and still woke up tired and sore.

And still the allergies! I had the worst sinus headache.

The last straw was the ringworm. On my left hip was an angry red bump, with the telltale white circle and red circle around it. I bought some cream, and in the morning the outer circle was less red, the bump was brighter and angry, and the outer rash had grown a quarter of an inch larger. I put more ointment on it, because it had to be ringworm, right? Nothing else looks like it. How many other rashes look just like a…target?

Oh crap.

Over on my tummy, the tick bite had swollen up, looking just like the angry red bump in the middle of the “ringworm.” And a red circle was starting to spread around the bite.

After a text conversation with a dial-a-doc, complete with pictures sent, I had a prescription for 20 days’ worth of Doxycycline, which, interestingly enough, is also what our dog is taking for her heartworm treatment. So I will not have heartworms and the dog will not have Lyme disease!

Yes, Lyme can be every bit as scary as the Rona, however it has the wonderful feature of being treatable, especially early on. In fact, we will never know if it is Lyme or STARI, which is spread by the lone star tick and not nearly as dangerous. Whatever it is, it is getting nuked by the antibiotics before we even have time to see what it is!

So today I have had my first two doses, and I actually have the energy to write a blog post for the first time since we got home! I even did the dishes and took out the trash, which also had not happened. The angry bumps are less angry, and the bullseyes are barely there anymore.

I have decided to create a new drink, called “The 2021.” It will be a glass of Corona with a lime in it…

Health, Philosophy

Navigating the New, New Normal

There are some people who never think about social norms. They just instinctively know what to do in various situations, and they are always in tune with the “unwritten rules” of the situation, without even being aware that there are unwritten rules. For them, it’s just what you do.

I am not one of those people.

I have to study the human race as if I am an anthropologist. I have often been assigned to teach social skills classes throughout my teaching career and I love it because it is an opportunity for my students and me to compare notes and learn together! And moving from rural, Northern Michigan to the Houston/Galveston area has provided my brain with plenty of social skills learning opportunities.

For example:

In Michigan, if you are on time, you are late. Down here, it completely depends on the situation. You get to yoga at least 15 minutes early. You arrive at work on time, on the dot. Leisure activities have a lot more flexibility.

In Michigan, you get straight to the point in your interactions. Down here, if you don’t chat a little bit (but not too much), you are rude.

In both places, if you are hosting, your guests will appreciate it if you ask about their specific dietary needs. In Michigan your guests will tell you (and they will have specific needs). Down here, they will tell you that they have no special eating needs (even though they do!).

In Michigan, you do not talk about race–to do so would be rude. Down here, using race as a descriptive characteristic or in other flattering (or at least non-offensive) ways is perfectly acceptable.

In Michigan, students make a sign language “t” for “toilet” when they need to use the facilities, which are called the “bathroom.” Down here, students sign “r” for “restroom” and refer to the facilities by the same name.

In both places, if you meet someone with differing political views, you both talk about how you deviate from your preferred party and try to find common ground.

In both states, the first person to the door, opens it. And it is always a race to be that person!

We have successfully crashed parties in both locations. Just bring something to share!

Rona Norms

So, enter the Rona.

Right away, we were faced with some new, emerging unwritten rules. Some people were extremely cautious from the beginning, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with this weird virus that humankind had never before experienced. Some people were comfortable retaining the risk and just wanted to live their lives as normally as possible. The rest of us fell somewhere in the middle.

Texas reopened very quickly, with in-person classes available at every school, so I re-entered pandemic society more quickly than people in other areas. But of course during all of this, people still spanned the spectrum with their comfort levels. I have friends who are just starting to leave their homes now, friends who we hugging and going maskless a year ago, and the rest of us, in the middle.

Here were some of the unwritten rules that evolved during the Rona:

Follow the lead of the most cautious person in the engagement. My friends who were going to indoor restaurants would eat outdoors with me. And I would meet for Facetime chats or quick parking lot gift exchanges with friends who preferred that.

Ask before hugging, and don’t take it personally if the answer is, “Sorry, no.”

Wear your mask by default, but it is okay to take it off (if you want) if everyone else isn’t wearing theirs.

Put on your mask if someone comes into the room wearing theirs.

Wear your mask while in indoor public places.

Socially distance, whether your mask is on or not.

Post-Rona Rules?

The rules all made sense, and then we got Ronavax…

Schools are very cut-and-dry about the rules for masks. On our campus, they were required for the rest of the 2020-21 school year, then optional starting June 4. Most businesses have also made masks optional. If there is a sign on the door stating otherwise, we always make sure to wear ours when we first walk through the door, then we take them off if other people are not wearing theirs.

The confusing part is when there is no sign. I was recently reprimanded for not wearing a mask into a store with not visible sign. This was more embarrassing for me than it should have been, because I felt like I should have known the rules when I clearly did not.

Well, at any rate, this will be a new, interesting chapter in the stories we tell our grandchildren one day!

Health

Some Notes from Isolation

Stay at home. Quarantine in your home. Flying viruses. Coronavirus pandemic and social distance. Self-isolation to stop the outbreak of the virus. Vector illustration

I have had so many stops and starts with this blog post. And I know I am committing to a few hours, if not the rest of the day, to write this update for all of you. But when my last post was about my husband testing positive for Covid, I figured I probably owed all of you an update.

Rob tested positive on Saturday. That night, I slept in Iliana’s room on the floor, to keep Rob isolated. Iliana and I were scheduled to get tested the next day, so we could see how much we needed to isolate. I was optimistic that I would test positive but be asymptomatic, getting myself enough immunity to carry me until it was my turn to get a vaccine.

That was a lofty goal, and not a realistic one for my immune system to achieve.

I woke up in the middle of the night with muscle aches and ringing ears. My temperature spiked, then dropped down to below normal. My stomach hurt. My test was going to be a formality.

I texted my boss in the morning, so we could prepare for the inevitable. Luckily, I had not been following my normal schedule the last two days I was there, so I was not in close contact with very many people. As soon as I tested positive, the people I was in close contact with would be told they needed to quarantine. If Iliana tested positive, more people would have to stay home.

Before noon on Sunday, we knew that I was positive and Iliana was negative. When she started showing symptoms on Tuesday, the school nurse told us that there was no need to test her, unless we wanted to. Since she was in close contact with us, she would have a quarantine until spring break. A positive test would not change that.

Luckily, we will all be set free in time for our weekend trip at the beginning of spring break!

So right now, Rob is back at work, with some accommodations. Iliana has had extremely mild symptoms (most kids do) and is very annoyed that she is not allowed back at school. I am feeling better physically, but still have a lot of brain fog and some sensory issues as I wait for the quarantine clock to run up! I have been preparing for my re-entry into the outside world, which is both exciting and stressful.

Since my life has been completely dominated by the Rona this week, I thought I would share some facts that I have learned from my experience:

I still tried to work from home!

1. Something Stuff Happens In Spite of Your Best Efforts

No matter the situation, when something bad happens to someone, it is human nature to look for a way to place the blame, so that we can believe the situation will not happen to us. Yes, I work in a school. We were meticulous about wearing masks. I wore an N95 at work, circulating between 5 of them that got worn once a week.

We aren’t sure exactly how we got sick, but we do know I didn’t catch it at work (because nobody else there has tested positive). Rob may have caught it from a customer who wasn’t wearing their mask correctly or someone who didn’t socially distance. I may have caught it from waiting in the sardine-packed line to get into Walmart during the freeze.

Sometimes stuff just happens.

2. Our Symptoms Were Mainly Neurological

When I found out I had Covid, my first thought was that I would soon be gasping for air and struggling to breathe. That never happened. My sinuses got a little more stuffy that usual and I have an occasional tickle cough. In the evenings, I go for walks (while avoiding other people), and two days ago I tried running a short distance. I did so easily, without getting winded. I could run a 5k today, and it would be much easier than writing this article.

The bulk of my symptoms were neurological. I was very fatigued, with constant ringing in my ears. I lost my sense of smell, but not my sense of taste (although of course my sense of taste is significantly reduced). I had muscle aches and very pronounced muscle tightness. I also had headaches and felt light headed. My body temperature bounced all over the place at first, and I have remained very sensitive to heat and cold. I am very distractible (although it is slowly improving) and have a difficult time with short term memory and expressing myself verbally or in writing. Mental tasks cause a lot of fatigue, and physical activity helps to clear my mind.

My emotions have been all over the place at well. When I first tested positive, I felt almost euphoric. This led me to overexert myself, and while I slept all of the next day, I became extremely anxious. I was convinced that I was going to start having trouble breathing. My moods have become much more stable, thankfully.

The Rona couldn’t keep me away from my yoga!

3. Re-Entry is a Terrifying Prospect

My quarantine ends on Tuesday, and I will definitely be ready to return to work, as long as I have accommodations for my residual brain fog. I have corresponded with my boss repeatedly, because I am very nervous about returning to a job that involves constant decision-making. Although I have no doubt that my brain will return to its old self, during these last few days before spring break, I am going to need some help. This is a huge shift from what I am used to.

Returning to social activities is scarier than returning to work. I have read stories of people being ghosted and treated as if they were still contagious. Fortunately, my friends are not like that. They have been checking up on me everyday and have assured me that they can’t wait to see me and give me a hug!

4. The Rona Ends

I currently feel like a leper in the Bible, but this is not a permanent situation. The CDC is confident that I am safe to be around children in a public school after day 10, if I have had no fever for at least 24 hours. And while they aren’t sure how long immunity lasts, it is very safe to say that right after day 10, my immune system will be well-armed with enough antibodies to keep the Rona away for awhile.

I am telling you this in case you have a friend who have had Covid. That friend has been on an emotional roller coaster and at some point along the way–no matter how mild their symptoms were–they considered their own mortality. And they did this all while in isolation. After they have met the criteria to leave isolation, they are safe from infecting you or anyone else. The science is very sound on that.

So do me a favor. If you have a friend who has recovered from Covid, go see them, and maybe even consider giving them a hug. They need it.

The evening walks are my sanity!
About Us, Health

R is for “Rona”

Spring break is a dangerous time.

In 2017, I went on medical leave starting the week before spring break. (Here is a picture of my first day of freedom!)

My first day on leave, March 1, 2018.

In 2018, I was in a long-term subbing assignment in Deer Park. On the last day of spring break, a factory caught on fire, which led to spring break being extended by a week.

Last year, of course, we went on lockdown after spring break and did not return to school in-person until fall.

So this year, of course, there was an exciting build-up to spring break. Let’s recap, shall we?

Two weeks ago, most of the class I work in, had to quarantine.

And then we had a week off of school, for what everyone here refers to as “Snow-vid.”

After things returned to “normal,” Rob started feeling like he had a cold. I figured he wore himself ragged during the snowstorm and needed some time to rest and recover. He had a low grade fever that went away, and it seemed to be a run of the mill sinus cold. By the end of the week, it was definitely improving. I wore my N95 at work and was very careful about avoiding close contact at yoga, but it seemed like things were going to be fine.

Friday afternoon, Rob sent me a text, saying that he had lost his sense of smell.

So I learned a lot of things. I learned that Covid tests are free, even if you don’t have insurance. I learned that the rapid test was offered nearby. And according to Rob, putting the swab an inch up your nose is more difficult than it seems.

Three hours later, I learned that quarantine for close contact starts the first day of close contact, which for us was the day Rob’s symptoms started. So I will basically be off of work (except for a few things I offered to do remotely) until March 8, and Iliana will be distance learning. She is taking it in stride and already looking at her grades and getting set up!

So no yoga class for yet another week! I don’t have a good track record with doing well in isolation, and of course I freaked out initially. After a texting conversation with my wonderful, wonderful yoga teacher (who reminded me that I can do the videos 24/7 if I want to!), I had a much more positive mindset. I could even see how I had been so exhausted that having some time to rest will be beneficial.

Tonight, we have Rob isolated in the bedroom, and I will be sleeping on Iliana’s floor. But this has seemed ridiculous, because there is a good chance that Iliana and I also have the virus but are asymptomatic. So we are getting tested tomorrow.

Ili has started a new puzzle!

The upshot is that if I test positive, I will likely have immunity until I am eligible for a vaccine. So my days of not being able to hug might soon be over! In the meantime, my focus will be on self-care. If my body is busy kicking the arse of a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, I want to do all I can to help my immune system continue its victory streak!

Health, Philosophy

Better than Touching the Floor: 3 Lessons I Learned on the Yoga Mat

Tight hips and inner bliss are not mutually exclusive!

This week brings with it a very happy anniversary for me. Monday will mark my fifth year of practicing at Moonlight Yoga. (You can find the story of my yoga journey here.)

As the date of my “yoga-versary” was getting closer, I noticed that I was getting very frustrated with myself in class. It’s been almost five years, I told myself, and I still almost never touch the floor. I still need to modify almost every pose I do. That normally doesn’t bother me at all, but somehow, the number “five” was giving me a case of the “should have’s.”

For those of you who aren’t as familiar with yoga, the physical practice is only one of the eight limbs. Over the past five years my mind has also improved its flexibility, so I knew that I needed to redefine my thought pattern. I could stop thinking about my limitations and challenges and start counting all of the blessings that my practice has brought me.

Triangle is one of my favorites, and I do it my way!

I don’t always touch the floor…but I can almost run 10 minute miles.

I don’t always touch the floor…but I have learned to love my body.

I don’t always touch the floor…but I have lost 60 pounds.

I don’t always touch the floor…but I have given up drinking.

I don’t always touch the floor…but I have learned to see my value.

I don’t always touch the floor…but I have found my dream job.

I don’t always touch the floor…but I am a part of a tight-knit community.

I don’t always touch the floor…but I have found friends who challenge me to be the best me possible.

I could go on and on with this list. Yoga has enabled every major life change that I have made over the past five years. And in the grand scheme of things, it really does not matter if I touch the floor!

So today, I wanted to share some of the unexpected lessons that I have gained from my yoga practice:

My teacher and mentor, Cass

1. Everybody isn’t watching.

When I first started practicing yoga, I set up my mat in the back of the room. I hoped that nobody would see my overweight body attempting the poses with a ton of modifications. When nobody ever said anything about how I looked–or how anyone else looked, for that matter–I got brave and moved closer to the front of the room.

What has surprised me over the years, is that a lot of people (in class!) seem to assume that I am very flexible, because I have been practicing for so long. Which means that they absolutely have not been watching me! The truth is that everybody is focused on their own practice, so they don’t notice (or care) what I am doing.

This translates to life off of the mat as well. So many times I have worried about what people would say when they noticed choices that I had made in my life. I held off on giving up alcohol, because I thought it would be awkward to explain during a party. But once again, nobody noticed or cared what was in my glass.

2. Growth is not a straight line.

When I first started practicing yoga, I noticed significant improvements in my flexibility, right away. It wasn’t long until I was touching my ankles on forward bends and coming closer and closer to touching the floor.

Then, unexpectedly, my hands could only reach my knees.

Over time, I learned that my flexibility corresponded with my emotional state, stress level, and degree to which I was caring for myself, among other things. Sometimes it still feels like two steps forward and one step back. But that means that I am still moving forward.

At the beginning of almost every class, my teacher, Cass, says, “Anything you can do today, is good enough.”

I have found this to be true with any major change that I have tried to make in my habits. My weight loss, for example, has been all over the place. I started out on fire, and lost 10 pounds easily. Then I gained 3 back. And so it went. At one point I lost 20 pounds and regained 10.

Currently I have lost 60 and regained 14. But the journey continues. It’s easy to take and all-or-nothing mindset and declare failure at the first setback. But that is a recipe for never succeeding.

Pyramid always makes my legs happy!

3. Listen to your inner voice.

When I first started practicing yoga, Cass stayed near me through most of the class, so that she could discretely show me how to modify the poses and use props in order to get the most out of my physical practice. As time went on, I became more independent and learned to do what I needed to do in order to feel the right stretch, no matter how it looked.

There were a few times when I would stay after class and ask for suggestions on how to modify a pose. Cass never told me what to do in these cases. In fact, she had to say very little! As I demonstrated how the pose looked when I did it, I would modify it on my own. All she had to do was reassure me that it was perfectly fine for me to do it that way.

Through yoga, I learned that I am the expert on my own body, and that if I listen, I will know what it needs. Of course, the same has proven to be the case with my mind and with my life choices.

Like most people, I have a lot of well-meaning friends who like to give advice. And like most people, I have made bad situations worse, through following that advice. I know that the people giving the advice meant me no harm, but the truth is that I know myself better than anyone else. If I listen to my inner voice, I will know what I need to do.

So here I am, getting ready for my five year yoga-versary on Monday! I am looking forward to many, many more years of joy and lessons–both on the mat and off!

You can check out Cass’s yoga classes on Moonlight Yoga’s Facebook page. She posts a live streamed class for a donation every Tuesday and Thursday morning. You can also see her previously recorded classes at any time on her page.

Health, Philosophy

How Personal Growth Changes Relationships

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Losing weight, finding sobriety, and making career changes can all lead to losing friends.  A simple Google search will confirm this and largely paint this as negative.  Former friends will push food and feel left out when you aren’t able to go to pizza night.  Old drinking buddies will pressure you to have “just one more,” and you will never feel comfortable joining them at the bar.

And yet my experience was different.  None of my friends cared what I ate when we got together.  Nobody batted an eye when I brought my own salad dressing and coffee creamer.  When I started ordering Shirley Temples, everyone was very supportive, and even insisted I send my drink back if it had too few cherries.  Nobody pushed food on me.  Nobody pressured me to drink.

But still, I experienced major shifts in all of my relationships, and I ended up letting go of some of my closest friendships.  This is because the changes I had made had less to do with food and alcohol, and more to do with learning to love and value myself.  And as I learned to love and value myself, I began to seek out those who would value me as well.

It began with my closest group of friends.  For two years, we would meet up and support each other through our struggles.  But I noticed a change when I began losing weight.  I found myself downplaying my accomplishments, and when I did share something positive, it was ignored at best.  Nobody was being mean–we were just moving in different directions.  I felt a sense of hope, that I was unable to force anyone else to feel.  We were just at different places.

And then in my other interactions, I began to notice how unkindly I was being treated, and how much energy I was wasting on people who did not care.  Recently, I was writing Christmas notes to acquaintances, in an effort to bring more joy to their day.  I became very jaded when I number of these people threw these notes away, without saying a word to me.  Now, my interactions with these people had been slightly strained, and I realized that my notes were a way of seeking connection with people who were not interested in connecting.  I was wasting energy chasing people and seeking their approval.

Finally, in the midst of this realization of negativity, I brought a case of water to my yoga class.  When I go grocery shopping, I usually pick up a case of water to put in the refrigerator at the studio, since it is easier than storing my own water and cheaper than buying a bottle every night.  Even though I share the water with everyone, I come out ahead.

As I walked through the door, balancing the case of water on one arm, while holding my mat and props in the other, my teacher immediately took the case from me and said, “Bethany that is so sweet of you!  Thank you so much–I really appreciate it.”

At that point I realized that my teacher was not going above and beyond, with that statement.  She was acknowledging my act of kindness in the way that acts of kindness deserve to be acknowledged.  (I am not referring to random acts of kindness here–I had done this deed seeking connection, and I had found it).

After class, I told her that I wanted to create a reality where her response to my kind gestures was the rule and not the exception.  That I wanted to spend time and energy with people who valued me for who I am.  She said, “Look at all you’ve accomplished, Bethany.  You can create any reality you want.”

So, moving forward into the new year, with “Create” as my one word focus, this is my promise to myself, in my relationships:

1.   I will not waste time on groups where I am invisible.

I have lost count of the number of conversations where I have been interrupted as soon as I opened my mouth to speak.  Or where my comments have gone unacknowledged.  I have Googled this and tried tip after tip to make myself more “interesting.”

But here’s the thing.  While I understand that someone might occasionally get excited and talk over someone else (and I know I have done the same thing), even if I am not perfect–even if my social graces might even be lacking at times–I deserve to be around people who value me and value my contribution.  I do not need to try to be good enough to not be interrupted constantly.

Along the same lines, I am done with trying to get into conversations that I am closed out of.  You know the scenario.  Some friends are standing in a circle, having a conversation, and you walk over to join in.  Slowly, the circle closes in, leaving you out.

I used to think this was normal, until a close friend of mine did it a few weeks ago.  This is exclusion.

It is okay if not every group wants me as a member.  I am not for everyone.  But it is not okay for me to keep trying to change who I am, so that the groups will want me to join in.  If I am not accepted for who I am, then they are not my tribe.  I would rather have a smaller tribe, than hustle for approval.

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2.  My vulnerability must be earned.

I like to give.  I have come to understand that acts of service is my primary love language, and that giving of my time and energy is simply something that I do in an effort to connect with those around me.

At the same time, I also enjoy doing random acts of kindness.  These are often anonymous, and done in a way that the person will not be able to find me in order to contact me afterward.  This is something that brings me joy and also helps me to feel connect to humanity at large.

The problem comes when I mix up these two “motives.”  When I am giving and expecting nothing in return, giving is its own reward.  However, when I am giving in order to express my love and friendship to someone, I am giving with the expectation of connection.  This is not “wrong.”  Everyone has a way in which they express these things, and everyone is hoping for connection in response to their efforts.

Giving with the expectation of connection, involves vulnerability.  When I wrote the Christmas notes to my acquaintances, I was putting myself out there.  I was very hurt by their reactions, but in the past I would have continued to reach out to them and seek their acceptance.  But now I realize that they have not “earned” my vulnerability.  If it is not a connection, I can simply let it go.

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3.  I will stay away from the co-dependent dynamic.

For so long, I was the friend who struggled, who “needed help.”  I was so convinced that I needed someone to save me, that I often fell into the co-dependent dynamic in my friendships.  I would be clingy at times, and I would immediately contact the other, seemingly stronger, person for advice and support.

Some friends immediately set boundaries with this, but others became addicted to “helping.”  Their role in my journey became their addiction, and this often led to them becoming more involved than what would be appropriate.  This never ended well.

My desire to have equal friendships and avoid falling under the wing of a co-dependent friend, has led me to approach this from both angles.  First, I do tend to stay away from or set boundaries with friends who show signs of co-dependency.  I make my own choices.  I fight my own battles.  I take care of myself.

But I also am mindful in my role in creating and perpetuating this dynamic.  I am learning to stop myself before running to someone else for “help” when I am facing strong emotions or other challenges.  I am learning to use my tools, so that I am not constantly seeking a rescuer.

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4.  I am seeking experiences beyond support groups.

When I was getting started losing weight, Weight Watchers was an excellent source of support.  I went to workshops, I joined Facebook groups, and I was in contact with many people on a similar path.  In the same way, AA was very helpful when I was struggling with my sobriety, both in person and on social media.

And yet, I don’t see myself as a “lifer” in either of these groups.  My struggles are a part of who I am, and overeating and drinking alcohol are two coping mechanisms that I am working to avoid.  But I think there is a danger in defining myself by these struggles.

The focus of my life right now, is not on weight maintenance or sobriety.  It is in using the tools that I have gained through losing weight and becoming sober, to move forward.  So surrounding myself with peers who are still struggling with these issues, is not going to help me accomplish my goals.

It is one thing if I want to do service and help people who are still struggling with these issues.  But for my own growth, I need to look to other places, to new horizons.

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5.  I no longer worry about finding “like minded” friends.

Surprisingly, I have found that I feel more comfortable being myself (and more accepted) by friends who have different political, religious, or lifestyle views than my own.  In fact, I have found that in “like minded” groups, dissenting from the group set of beliefs is strongly frowned upon.

When I am around friends with differing beliefs, we all feel free to share our ideas and learn and grow together.  When we accept that our views are different, we are more respectful of each other’s views.  As I have gone through this evaluating process, I have come to realize that I have four friends whom I trust very strongly.  One of them is my husband.

And yet, my husband and I have different religious beliefs.  And I vote differently than two of my other friends.  What we do have in common is our mutual love and respect, as well as our desire to learn and grow.

And that is more important than any smaller ideologies.

Health

The Skinny Diaries

Last year, the holidays fell conveniently during a major lapse in my weight loss efforts, where I regained half of the weight I had lost over the course of 10 months.

This year, I was .4 pounds over my goal at my Weight Watcher’s meeting, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  By then, I had been a member of WW for 21 months, and I had worked with a therapist and a dietician for two years prior to that.  I was determined to reach this milestone, holidays or not.

I rolled over 4 weekly points everyday, and brought fruit trays to both of the Thanksgiving gatherings I attended on Thursday.  I happily enjoyed reasonable portions of all of my favorite foods, and ended the day having eaten a respectable 45 points, while enjoying fun, stress-free times with my friends and family.

If this were my final exam, I passed with flying colors!  On December 3, 2019, after 3 decades of restricting, then binge eating, I reached my weight goal.

I knew this was a huge personal victory, but what surprised me was to learn how rare of a victory it was.  My heaviest weight had put me in the category of “obesity,” and I now have a BMI of 20, which puts me close to the lower end of my healthy weight range.  I lost 60 pounds and went from a size 14 to a size 0.

My research showed me that .8% of women with obesity, ever reach a healthy weight.  Of those who do, the statistics for maintaining that weight are significantly better, with only 78% regaining the weight they lost.

So I did, in fact, do the nearly-impossible.

My journey and eventual success have provided me with some unique observations on the obesity epidemic and our cultural attitudes toward weight loss and diet.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1.  We need to separate “weight” from “worth.”

Weight is a weighty topic.  We all assume that somewhere out there, everyone else is thin and staying that way effortlessly, while we are the lone fat kid in the corner of the room.  This is not the case.  Most Americans are overweight, and this is the case in most other western nations as well.  It is a societal issue, not a deficit in one person’s willpower or character.

For me, one of the biggest turning points was when I could weigh myself without judging that number.  Weight is a data point.  Being overweight causes healthy problems and shortens life expectancy.  It is a health issue.

However, that does not mean that a person can not be beautiful at any size.  It does not mean that a person is not worthy at every size.  We need to stop judging ourselves and everyone else and band together to get to the root of this problem that is affecting our society as a whole.

I was pretty in this picture too!

2.  We need to ditch the thinking that a quick fix even exists.

Everyone wants to lose weight.  But here’s the catch: They want to lose is FAST.  Like now.  In time for Christmas.  In time for the class reunion or wedding.  We don’t want to diet forever.

But it isn’t about temporarily depriving ourselves, using willpower, then going back to our old patterns.  The way we eat now, has made us gain weight.  Going back to the way we eat now, will make us gain more weight.  Trying a quick fix might lead to some water weight loss initially, but sustaining such a way of eating is really not possible over the long term.

Losing weight meant changing my habits permanently.  It meant making changes I could live with, which meant that the weight came off slowly.  It meant getting back on track the multitude of times I slid back into my old habits.  It meant dealing with my tendency to emotionally eat.  It meant changing the situations that led me to have those emotions in the first place.

I quit my job and found another.  I left my closest friends and chose to spend my time with different people.  I quit drinking.  I changed my patterns of communication and interaction.  This wasn’t done overnight.

3.  We need to remember what a healthy weight looks like.

At my WW meeting tonight, I learned that most people quit either in their second week, or 10 pounds from their goal.  The latter might surprise some people, but I did not find it surprising at all.

As soon as I approached my healthy weight range, I began getting “concerned” comments, that I had “lost enough weight.”  The comments only increased in their frequency and intensity as I approached my goal.  Strangers and barely-known acquaintances began to voice their concern that I was losing too much weight.

But here is the thing.  I am not underweight at all.  In fact, I could lose 7 more pounds and still be at a healthy weight.  Because everyone around us is overweight or obese, we have forgotten what a healthy weight looks like.

Not actually fat. Not underweight either.

4.  We need to change our negative attitude toward weight loss.

Yes, you know I am not a fan of memes.  But the ones about weight loss are the worst.

While it is true that we all have a collective frustration at the difficulty of losing weight, simply reinforcing that negativity does nothing to change anything.  The truth is that we can do hard things.  We can do seemingly impossible things.  But we don’t get there by constantly repeating that we can not do it, even if our repetition is under the guise of humor.

No. Just no.

Another theme in our memes and in our conversations, centers around the notion that eating healthy means deprivation.  Yet through most of my weight loss journey, I ate ice cream everyday at lunch time.  Whenever there is cake in the lounge at work, I help myself to a small portion.  I eat tacos.  I eat pizza.  But I do not overeat these things.  There is nothing luxurious or self-care related about overeating.  It is an addiction and a coping mechanism.  True self-care will make overeating seem ridiculous.

So those are some observations I have made on my journey so far.  I am sure that as I continue into maintenance and work on other aspects of my personal growth and development, I will have more lessons to share with all of you.

 

 

Health, Minimalism, Philosophy

Create

Good morning, friends, and happy black Friday.

I know that I have taken a break from blogging, but I have most certainly not been idle.  It has been a time of change and re-invention.

As of yesterday, I am now 8 months sober.  It’s not even a big deal anymore, in my daily life.  I have learned that diet Coke is often free at bars, but Pellegrino is not.  And that the best bars put lots of cherries in their diet Cokes.

shirley temple

This fall, I started a new job doing behavior intervention at a small charter school.  Working full time again has taken some adjustment, and I have had some triggers from the past that I have had to confront.  But I love what I do, and I love my co-workers and students.

A surprising change in this arena, has been that Iliana is also attending the school where I work!  The program she had been in, in the traditional public school she had been attending, was only available at a junior high that was 30 minutes away by car.  The bus ride got to be too much, and I did not like the difficulty I had being involved and communicating with her teachers, due to the distance.  So after two weeks, we transferred her to the school where I work!

 

Charter schools are simply independently run public schools, that are not part of an ISD or school district.  They are 100% school of choice, so they tend to be smaller.  Iliana has thrived with the individual attention she is getting!  She is in pre-AP math and has tested out of speech (which is HUGE, because the language delay/disorder was the most significant part of her disability).  She works with a special ed teacher and counselor on her social-emotonal issues and is doing very well.  (And what could be better for a minimalist wardrobe, than adorable school uniforms!)

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The biggest change for me is not I am not as big as I used to be!  On Tuesday, I will most likely reach my weight goal at Weight Watchers.  But that is just a formality.  The hard work is finished!

I have read from multiple sources that only .8% of obese women ever reach a healthy weight.  Most people would consider a probability like that to be impossible.  And yet here I am.  I have lost 60 pounds and plan to never need to lose 60 pounds again!

So I have done the impossible.  Now what?  While I will be focusing on maintenance and still attending Weight Watcher meetings and using their tools, I know it is time to move forward and work on new goals.  (Here are before and after pictures!)

 

And thinking of those goals, brings me to my one-word theme for 2020.  Do people still do one word themes?  I am not sure, but I definitely will be!  And my one-word theme for 2020 is, “Create.”

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I have already survived.  I have already faced my inner demons and completely changed my life.  All that remains now is to work on the, “so what?”  It is time to create the reality that I want to experience.

I know a one-word theme is open-ended, but I do have some specific goals I would like to start with.  Maybe these will be my goals for the year, or maybe they will grow and change.  My immediate goals are:

  1.  Reconnect with the blogging community and write a blog post at least once a week.  I will set aside a specific time to write, when no one is allowed to interrupt me.  Not being firm on this has led to my lapses in blogging in the past.
  2. Work on my stretching and flexibility on a regular basis.  Do stretching exercises at least 5 days a week.
  3. Run a half marathon.  Run at least 3 days a week for now, because the stretching will help more than anything.
  4. Declutter and fix up the boat to the point where it is everything I want it to be.  Do the budgeting to make this happen and make it a priority.
  5. Connect with positive people, rather than letting negativity suck me in.  Be kind, but stop personalizing people’s bad moods.

So this is what I will be working on in the next year!  I look forward to sharing it with all of you!