Going to Therapy After All This Time

I’m late. What’s new? I’m late to everything these days. I haven’t slept well in months (thanks to a certain non-sleeping baby) and yet, I look like I just rolled out of bed. Then again, I always look like that these days. I can’t think about that now. I have to go, I have to do this. So what if it’s been a long time? I’ll be alright. Right?

Shit, I’m nervous.

I pull into the parking garage of a swanky downtown high-rise. All the cars I can see are either Mercedes, BMW, Lexus or Jaguar. It dawns on me that I forgot to brush my teeth today. I search, in vain, for gum.

I ride up the elevator from the parking garage and emerge into a glass atrium. I find the appropriate suite and check in at the front desk. I fill out some paperwork and they tell me where to go. The whole place is dimly lit (thank god) maybe no one will notice the bags under my eyes. The decor is minimalist with blocks of muted colors and lots of right angles. I feel out-of-place like a small-town tourist gawking at Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue. Maybe this was a mistake.

I wind around a long, u-shaped corridor. The ceilings are high with hanging, pendent lights making little spotlights on the ground every ten feet. The feeling is ominous like I’m going to my doom. Maybe I am? At the end of the corridor there is a set of tall, heavy, black doors. The entrance to hell? I still have a chance to turn around. I open them. I’m blasted with a heat that feels like I stepped too close to a camp fire… or hell. There’s no turning back now. My pride is taking over in the face of all these people in the room and now I must take a seat.

The room is even darker (thank god again). Maybe no one will notice my bumpy, frizzy ponytail or my underarm flab. It’s a long, rectangular space with a wall of windows facing another wall of mirrors. The floor and ceiling are black. We are on the 3rd floor looking out onto a courtyard. There are Christmas lights on the trees, how festive. There is another set of double doors at the other end of the room. There is an empty space in the middle where no one is sitting. I’m late, I can’t be choosy, I hustle to it and set down my mat, water and hand towel. I notice that everyone else has a full-size towel. That’s a bad sign.

The instructor walks in. She is the tiniest Asian woman I’ve ever seen which is saying a lot considering I live in a town that’s nearly 40% Asian. Her booming, drill sergeant voice is incongruent with her size. “Who’s new here tonight?” She asks while looking at me. I nonchalantly scan the room for raised hands. One fit, older woman with gray hair and toned arms sitting kitty-corner to me raises her hand and smiles. I don’t do either. The little Asian instructor gives me a knowing look and it isn’t nice. I look away.

Look little lady, I’m just here so that I’m not at my house where a gang of super-dependent human beings live. I’d like to be left alone to find some zen and I don’t need your help to do that so thanks, but no thanks. Is what I’m thinking.

We start with deep breathing exercises. The sticky, hot air burns like bad whiskey going down. I’m shocked at how hard it is to inhale fully. I know it’s 105 degrees, but damn, it feels like 1005. I’m worried that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and we haven’t even really started. I am barely four months postpartum and I haven’t worked up to this sort of thing yet. What was I thinking? I shouldn’t be here right now. Damn, I should have brought more water.

“Breathe with your whole body.” She says. Ha! I’m trying to just breathe with my lungs. I think.

Right away they start in with some full-body, pretzel-twist bullshit that’s supposed to look like this:

I look in the mirror to check my form. I look like I’m sitting in an imaginary chair hugging myself with my ankle on my knee. The instructor says, “sit deeper, go deeper, push yourself.” She adds. “And don’t forget to breathe.” I want to hurt her. I’m sure I could, I’m probably three times her size.

I’m suddenly hyper-aware that rivulets of water are cascading down my back, a sensation I normally only feel in the shower…when I’m naked… and yet I’m not… I’m in public… in a room full of similarly wet people. It feels surreal, like walls you can see through. Speaking of walls, I’m trying as little as possible to look into the wall of mirrors in front of me.  I can tell that my naturally curly hair is somewhere between Richard Pryor circa 1978 and Richard Simmons circa now. I look. It’s worse, it’s Carrot Top. I also happen to notice that grandma has barely broken a sweat.

Oh no, it’s that mother-effing dancer pose. I used to be able to do that one. It’s supposed to look something like this:

I get up into it well enough. I’m there for a second but I’m so focused on keeping a grip on my ankle, that feels like I just slathered it in Crisco, that I fall right out. “The secret is to push just as hard as you pull.” She says. “If you do both with equal effort, you will not fall.”

Fine. I try it again. This time I don’t focus on my ankle, I reach and kick in equal measures and I don’t fall. Hm? She was right. It worked. Equal measures.

We’re now 7, 8, hell, maybe 15 poses in? I don’t know. I’m in a fair amount of discomfort which has caused me to lose all concept of time. Pain and heat will do that to you. I want to leave so bad. The heat is claustrophobic. If I were by the door, I would definitely leave.

Toe stand. Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding me? I’m supposed to do what?

I look in the stupid mirror. I look exactly like that twisty pretzel thing from earlier. She walks in front of me. I try to pretend like I’m focused. I stare straight ahead and try to maintain what little balance I have. I check out grandma again. Son-of-a-bitch, her’s looks better than mine. The second I think that, I fall. My little Asian nemesis leans into me and says, “The moment you take the focus off yourself and place it on other people, you will fall.”

When I try it again, focused only on what I can do. It still doesn’t look right, but I don’t fall.

The room has reached a temperature that I’m sure should set off some type of alarm because I feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust into flames at any moment. Apparently, I’m not the only one. The mini drill sergeant goes to one door and opens it letting a rush of cool air in that I can faintly feel. Then she crosses the room to the other set of doors and opens them. I suddenly realize why no one was sitting in the middle of the room. It’s hotter than Hades in the middle.

Okay, now you’ve just lost your damn mind if you think that’s happening:

You want me wrists to turn how? Ow! Ow! Oh my god if I didn’t have carpel tunnel when I got here, I do now! “Don’t forget to breathe.” She says. How can I breathe when I’m crushing my lungs and my face is planted into my mat? Isn’t that like the OPPOSITE of breathing?

“Yoga is like life.” She says in a shrill, demanding voice. “You have to learn to breathe through the pain and discomfort. Always, breathing”

We’ve got to be at the end now. I don’t think I can do another pose. I can’t feel anything except the burning of my skin and the heavy wetness of my clothes. She utters that magic word, the reason why I even do this shit in the first place… the one word I’ve been waiting to hear for 90 excruciating minutes.

Savasana.

Now THAT I can do. I melt into my mat. Now I can feel my entire body breathing, or maybe it’s heaving? It takes a few minutes, but the pace finally slows. It’s quiet. Aw, how I’ve missed quiet. I’m relaxed, gooey, warm and peaceful like waking from a good dream. A smile crosses my face.

I did it. I did the whole thing and I didn’t leave. I’m alright. Hm? I wonder what else I can do?

I’m nearly the last one to get up. I gather my things and walk toward the door. I make my way down the same, intimidating, utilitarian corridor from whence I came. I’m even more disheveled now but this time I hold my head high. I OWN this corridor. This corridor is my bitch!

The little Asian woman looks at me as I leave and says without much of an expression, “Thank you for coming. I hope you come back soon.”

“Definitely.” I say as I reach for the door. But before I open it I turn and say, And thanks, you were a big help.”

She smiles and holds her hands in prayer over her heart and says, “Namaste.”

Namaste, indeed.

Advertisements

I Am the Fattest Bridesmaid

Yes, it’s true. I am.

While in the company of my besties (whom I’ve been friends with half my life) nothing sends shivers of anxiety up my spine faster than hearing the two words… “group picture!” Oh and they LOVE taking pictures of themselves. Who can blame them really? If I were that good-looking all the time, I’d probably upload every lovin’ minute of my day too. Here’s me blowing my nose…here’s me doing laundry… oh, and here’s me typing, “here’s me!”

I give you, Exhibit A: This is one of 3243256426 pictures taken on my friend’s wedding day last year wherein each of my best friends was either the bride, or a bridesmaid.

If you think I’m standing in the back row by sheer coincidence, you are sadly mistaken my friend. If you saw all 3243256426 pictures, you would see that unless explicitly instructed by a photographer, I am trying HARD to hide every square-inch of my body that isn’t my head. Pretty much the only thing I was thinking all day was that dressed like twinsies next to these girls, I might as well be holding a sign above my head that says, “hey look at me, I’m the obligatory fat friend!” Us big girls are hyper-sensitive of shit like that. Just like alcoholics know exactly where the booze is at a party, we know where all the cameras are located and at which moment one is about to be used on us. It’s an extra-sensory skill developed after one too many pictures sent you into the depths of a dark depression. Other skills are impromptu camouflage and running to the back row faster than a fat kid to an ice cream truck. I do those pretty well. Exhibit B:

That is because I have spent the better part of my life feeling shame over my shape. I am 33 years old and it has taken me this long to be able to talk about it without feeling embarrassed. In fact, just a year ago I couldn’t have even written this. So why the sudden change of heart and mind?

My change of heart is because of these two:

Over the last 10 years my husband has never ONCE said a disparaging word about my body even at its postpartum worst. Although I may never understand his enthusiasm, he loves my body and takes every opportunity to tell me so. Sadly, it has only taken me 10 years to believe him.

And my daughter. Oh my daughter. Every night when she’s done with her bath she runs around the house in oblivious, naked freedom. She’s downright giddy at her nudity and even dances in front of open windows smashing her cute, toddler tushy up against the glass. How I envy her… more importantly, how I love her. If I can spare her the meaningless years of self-loathing I have put myself through over the bulge in my butt, the curve of my hips and the girth of my thighs, it would bring me endless amounts of joy. I want her to grow up not just believing, but KNOWING that her inner beauty is far more valuable than a single digit number on the tag of her jeans. She deserves that and I know that I can’t give it to her unless I have it myself.

In my formative years I didn’t have the physique to garner much attention from the boys; especially when my core group of friends are as beautiful as they are AND could shop in the pre-teen section. I’ve been wearing double digits since the day after I started my period in the eighth grade. I have fluctuated in my life due to pregnancies, obsessive dieting and/or working out, but basically, my body sits comfortably and reliably into a size 12. Some of my friends are wearing a size zero… did you hear me? I said ZERO… at 33 years old… ZER-O. The biggest of them MIGHT (on a bloated day) wear a size 10.

My calling card, the thing that set me apart, was being “the smart one.” As you can imagine I had to wait several, painful, formative years before that characteristic moved its way up the desirability scale. Back then, I would have traded 30 college credits for one night as the prettiest, thinnest girl in the room. I spent years feeling like that and I don’t want my daughter to spend one second feeling that her worth is tied to something as superficial and fleeting, which ultimately, has nothing to do with who she really is. THAT is why I’ve had a change of heart, because she IS my heart.

As for my change of mind? Well, it is just that. I. Changed. My. Mind. I’ve made a conscious and concerted effort (because it takes a lot of BOTH) to stop looking in the mirror and subconsciously rattling off 15 different insults. I’ve stopped mentally holding myself up to an impossible standard and beating myself up every time I fell short of meeting it (which was always). I have stopped denying, degrading, disrespecting and devaluing my worth in my own fool head based off a meaningless number that has ZERO, ZER-O relation to my true value as a human being. So as for my change of mind, it was just that, a change of mind.

Recently, I have come across encouraging articles and images promoting a healthy body image for women. Major companies have launched extensive and well-funded campaigns to help change the public discourse and I want to be a part of that effort. I want to use my discourse to help change the world my daughter grows up in. I sense that the tides are turning for us women and I’m thrilled at that prospect. I feel that society is starting to understand that fat doesn’t equal worthless which is an equation I have believed my whole life. It’s a faulty math problem that ends with me.

Yes, I am the Melissa McCarthy of my friends and I am FINALLY learning to be okay with that. Because she is one funny-ass woman and I would TOTALLY be her best friend if she’d let me.

Come, help me change hearts and minds too.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word…

I didn’t want to publish this post. When I started writing it, it quickly turned into Bitchfest 2011 scheduled to perform in a venue for one. I didn’t want to publish it because I wanted to maintain a positive vibe here and write about all sorts of enlightening things, not the darkness of my personal hell. Then I decided, fuck it, it’s my blog so I’m going to publish it anyway. That’s pretty enlightened of me, right?

I’m finding that unless you are also currently the primary caregiver of multiple, small, non-sleeping children, 24 hours a day, that empathy is hard to come by. I mean, wasn’t I supposed to know this shit was hard? No one has a baby thinking it’s going to be all designer onesies and chubby ankles, right? And didn’t I consciously go and have a second one KNOWING exactly what I was in for?  Furthermore, haven’t mother’s been taking care of infants since, like the DAWN OF TIME and with far less gadgetry? So what the hell are you bitching about you spoiled, first-world, crazy woman?!

Unfortunately, knowing that my problems aren’t life-threatening or world-ending doesn’t make me any less frustrated. Similarly, knowing that it’s only temporary, helps to ease that frustration for about five minutes until the overwhelming, blurry-eyed weariness sets in again. So, if maybe I can break it down on a biological level, people can understand why I spend most of my days trying not to hit things.

First:

A mother, particularly a breastfeeding mother, is biologically, physically and chemically responsive to her baby’s cry. A nursing mom, (myself included in the early weeks), may express breast milk when they hear their baby cry. It makes sense that there is a strong symbiotic relationship between mother and child, you know, so we feed them and don’t leave them to marinate in their own fluids. In fact, I was told by my pediatrician that “colicky” infants (like the kind I make) might just be ahead of the evolutionary curve. Ever hear the saying, the squeaky wheel gets the grease? Well, the crying infant gets the boob.

As for my personal experience, I can feel every nerve ending in my body tingle when my son cries. It feels similar to grabbing a live electrical wire, which I’ve done while changing light fixtures. I am particularly sensitive when I’m lying prostrate, sound asleep at 3 o’clock in the morning. The moment he lets out his first whimper, a jolt of electric energy courses through my limbs that pops my eyes like the jump cut of every zombie movie ever made. If I have to listen to him cry for more than five minutes (which happens a couple of times a night) all that electric energy starts to make me nauseous. It actually sucks worse than I can make it sound because you have to factor in the emotional aspect of this equation which is just too sad to mention.

Second:

You can die from sleep deprivation people. Literally, like, die. There’s a reason they use it as a means of torture, because it’s effective. It’s actually most effective when you let someone fall asleep for just a little while and then keep waking them up, again and again which happens to be exactly what my son does. Personally, I’d rather be water-boarded. Studies have shown that a sleep deprived person is more impaired than someone over the legal limit of intoxication. Speaking of intoxication, chronic sleep deprivation feels similar to a really shitty hangover; a perpetual, all-I-want-to-do-is-eat-greasy-food-and-sleep, kind of hangover. Chronic sleep deprivation (I’m going on four months people) can make a relatively sane, rationale person, do insane, impulsive things like destroy Diaper Genies and hallucinate.

A month after my daughter was born, my husband and I went to Lowe’s. I stopped to read a magazine at the checkout counter and when I looked up, they were gone. I shit-you-not within ten minutes I had the store manager locking the front doors and calling a Code Adam. Turns out they were in the gardening section. THAT is what sleep deprivation will do to you.

I bet I can guess what you’re thinking? “So how are you able to spend so much time writing silly shit on the Internet if you’re SO sleep deprived? Shouldn’t you be sleeping RIGHT NOW if you’re so tired?”

You’re probably right, I should. But honestly, writing, yoga and caffeine are the only things GIVING me energy right now. Because what I know for sure is that when you’re doing what you love, what you were born to do, it fills you up with all the things you need to go on in the face of adversity. So I keep typing. I have to keep typing or I will probably get myself banned from every large box store in the Puget Sound region.

Well, well, will you lookey there? I actually did write something enlightening. Yeah me.

Now Playing at Bitchfest 2011: Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word…(so Mommy can type a few thousand of them and feel sane again.)