Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Hi Me, It’s Nice To Meet You!

A work in progress…

Your Masterpiece

A few years ago, I came across an article on HuffPost called “Your Body Is Not Your Masterpiece.” Someone shared it again on Facebook last week and it continues to resonate with me.

I have had an issue with body image forever.

Ok, maybe not forever. When I was three or four I think I was pretty confident.

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Or at least I didn’t really think about it. 🙂

But since then… it has been a problem. Not as big a problem as it is for others. I haven’t developed an eating disorder or resorted to self-harm. (There but for the grace of God…) But I know people who have gotten to that point.

And all because we are taught from a very young age that all girls should be on diets, and our appearance is of utmost importance.

13102873_775370532599596_5770325674659865143_nI recovered the above photo when I went on a quest to find a picture of myself when I was last at my most confident, self-loving self. I had to dig back a loooooonnnnngggg way. Sure, I found a lot of pictures where I think I looked pretty good. I had a bright smile and the right clothes and looked like I was having a good time. But if you look closely, you see that smile hides a certain level of anxiety; it doesn’t quite reach the eyes.

 

So here I am realizing that I haven’t really loved myself, my appearance, my body in oh, 40 years or so. How sad is that!?

Then the article I mentioned crosses my path again and it occurs to me that I am maybe meant to glean some piece of wisdom from it.

Our body is not our masterpiece, but the instrument to play it on. Our body is not a project, but a paintbrush. Your body is not the masterpiece – your life is.

How many women (and men) bash themselves verbally for the flaws they perceive when they look in the mirror? I am guilty of this. My inner mean girl is a total bitch when she is talking to me! I would never say the things I say to myself to others, friends or enemies. So why do I allow myself to say them to myself? Habit?

I was reading a book recently called The Four Day Win by Martha Beck. It is about wrapping your brain around the concept of self-acceptance and how that will aid in any efforts to get healthy. It is about altering our belief system about ourselves and what we are capable of. The very first chapter stated it so simply that I almost fell off the recumbant bike as I was reading.

“You and your body are on the same side.”

Read that one more time…

Who knew!?

I have been looking at my body as the enemy. It is not model thin. It is not athletic. It has some lumps and bumps that I wish it didn’t. But none of that is my body’s fault.

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Have I exercised regularly? Um, no.

Do I sometimes feed it cookies for dinner? Ah, yes. Who doesn’t?

Did I grow up in a house where school work was placed higher on the achievement scale than athletics? Yes, totally. (I grew up in an un-athletic household, but more about that another day.)

 

Yet somehow, despite this treatment, I expect a miracle from this body of mine. I look at heavily photoshopped magazine models and think bad thoughts about my poor body.

Well, today this changes. 🙂

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Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Self-Talk Becomes Your Truth

This.

The Names We Call Ourselves

As a spiritually curious person, I have read a lot about different religions and faiths. One of the pagan rules of the universe that has stuck with me is that you get back what you put out there. Do good, and get good back. Do evil and you will be repaid in kind.

I can’t help but think that the same type of rule holds true for how we speak to ourselves. Speak positively and you become positive. Speak in barbs and insults, and you will begin to believe they are true.

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Tell yourself often enough that you are stupid, fat, uninspiring and you become those things. You will never see yourself as anything else no matter what you do. Tell yourself you are kind, happy and inspired, and you will eventually come to believe it.

I think people who stay in abusive relationships have a similar mind-set. If you hear the bad stuff often enough, you start to believe it, and it becomes the only reality you know. Someone standing on the outside of that abusive relationship looking in will remark that they would never stay in a relationship with someone who treated them like that, said those cruel things. But they are not in it. When you are in it, deep in the trenches, it can become the only thing you know.

Unfortunately, I think too many of us are in abusive relationships with ourselves. We can forgive weakness and errors in others, but expect ourselves to be perfect and never make mistakes. We expect ourselves to be super-human and when we don’t live up to that impossible standard, we verbally bash ourselves for it. Some people take it a step further than verbal bullying and physically harm themselves.

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When we allow this harmful pattern to continue, it affects all areas of our lives. We get depressed and anxious; we no longer trust our gut and stop standing up for ourselves in other relationships. We drink or smoke or eat unhealthy foods because we don’t think we are worth the effort to not do those things.

The best gift we can give to ourselves is to forgive and forget. Let go of the time you made a fool of yourself. Release your previous bad decisions. Re-learn that it is okay to start over, to fall flat on our faces, to not know the answer. Forgive. Forget. Let go. Release. Re-learn.

That is what life is all about.

Why is it so easy to do this for others, and so difficult to do this for ourselves.

Be careful what words you use to speak to yourself. Choose them wisely. Stop saying things to yourself that you would never say to a friend or even a stranger!

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Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Squelching the Inner Mean Girl

Even after a year, I still have to work on this self-talk thing…

The Opposite of Fat

Last week I talked a little bit about my body and how mean I have been to it my whole life. I do nothing to strengthen it and bond with it and yet I expect perfection from it. I look at the photo shopped pictures in magazines and feel bad about it. I shop for clothes only when I absolutely have to and I feel worse about it.

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While the clothing manufacturers have me pegged as “average,” I think I am fat, and the BMI (which was obviously developed by the devil himself) thinks I am morbidly obese. The F word (and I am not talking about the four letter one here) is bandied about in my brain on a daily basis. As someone who believes that the universe will answer us depending on what we send out there, this is not a promising way to work on my self-esteem.

There are growing movements of fat women who are embracing the word. They love identifying themselves as fat and feel strong and empowered by the term. I have nothing at all against them. I wish I could be more like them- embrace myself where I am now and wear my extra pounds proudly. Maybe if I felt strong and powerful I would be able to do that. But I don’t. I feel weak physically, and I know I owe myself and my body more than I am giving it.

So you would think in my new outlook to eat healthy and exercise more that I am aiming for the opposite of fat. As society defines it, that would be skinny, right? But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

See recently someone very close to me has been going through some upheaval in her life. It has been very stressful and has seriously messed with her health. She wound up in ICU with critical electrolyte levels suffering from severe dehydration and malnutrition brought on by ulcers. She is on the mend now, thank God. She now has medication to help with the underlying medical issues and is on a weight gain mission. She never starved herself purposely, but was physically incapable of taking in enough food. She is what most people would consider to be the opposite of fat.  She can easily slide into a size 1, something many of us “average” women would dream of. Yet she is tired and cold and has to take medication to “prepare her stomach to take in food.” That is something my stomach has never seemed to have an issue with!

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We went out to dinner together and it was evident that we were on two different pages with regards to our diets and nutritional needs at this time. While she has been focused on the Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy and pudding for dessert (all soft foods that will help her put on the pounds again), (mmmm mashed potatoes and gravy!), I am living in the broiled haddock and steamed veggie kind of mindset. Two different ends of the menu spectrum, both reaching for the same goal. It was eye-opening for me. She is not happier with her current weight than I am.

And through all this, I have come to realize that while skinny was always the end game of any diet I attempted over the years, I don’t want to be skinny any more. I am redefining the opposite of fat. I want to be strong and flexible. I want to be self-assured and confident. I want to choose not to do something because I truly don’t want to do it and not because I am ashamed of how I may look doing it (God forbid, I look fat and uncoordinated when it is bad enough to just look fat, right?)

I want to be healthy. That is the new opposite of fat for me.

I am finally understanding that my body and I are in this together. I cannot make it stronger and healthier for anyone other than myself. I am learning self-care and self compassion along the way. And I am learning to love the journey I am on. I am forgiving myself for not having a magic formula or wand to wave and make my body perfect. It will never be perfect. I have scars and no amount of weight loss will make them disappear. But I will find my balance here somewhere, and I will find my confidence too.

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Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Letting Yourself Go

And no, I am not talking about personal grooming here…

I am talking about releasing our focus on the results and enjoying the process. In what? In everything! As I always tell my mom-in-law when we are quilting, “Perfection is highly overrated!” If we get too caught up in the perfect seam or perfect corners, we lose the joy in the process. This goes for any artistic endeavor and most other areas of life.

There is a practice in Japan called Kintsugi. It is where a cracked object such as cup or bowl is not thrown away. Instead, the cracks are filled with gold. In doing this, they emphasize the imperfection and make the object even more beautiful. You can read more about this here and here. I think the is a wonderful way to celebrate the things in life that do not always go as we planned.

Four years ago, I wrote the following post on this very same topic. Funny, how our minds keep coming back around to the lessons we need to learn. 🙂

Chasing Imperfection

“Embrace exuberant imperfection”  (Chris  Baty, No Plot, No Problem)

For years, I have been intrigued by the Zen concept of beginner’s mind. In its simplest explanation, it is the ability to allow yourself to be a beginner at something you have done a million times. This is a skill that I think most of us have lost by the time we enter high school. As young teens, we are so worried about what other people think of us, and so quick to act as though we know it all, that we miss out on the joy of being a beginner. Sadly, this way of thinking, acting, and living follows most of us throughout our adulthood.

I have tried to cultivate this again in my life by taking classes in new subjects like quilting and yoga, and starting violin lessons in my late 30s (adult beginner violin teachers have a special place in heaven!), but I have really learned to use this in my writing.

For most of my life, I have had a secret desire to write. In my teens, I would carry a spiral notebook around and let my angst spill all over the page in poems and letters that I would never send. But somewhere along the way, I stopped carrying my notebook. I stopped writing down my inner most thoughts and feelings. I stopped writing completely.

During this time, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Now, I certainly haven’t done any scientific experiments in this area, but I firmly believe there is a direct correlation between this diagnosis and my inability to put words to paper. I have read many books on spirituality, depression, and writer’s block.  I have come to believe that the reason I stopped writing is fear; fear that It would not be perfect, fear that someone would read what I wrote, and fear that I might write something that would hurt someone else’s feelings.

When I learned about beginner’s mind, I decided to apply it to my writing. I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and pledged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. For those who have not tried it, this is not an easy task, but with dedication and persistence it can be done. The trick is to approach each day’s writing with a sense of wonder, to let your mind go and release your expectations for the finished product. It will most likely suck, but the point isn’t to make it perfect; the point is to get it written. Somehow, I have done this and “won” four times and counting.

Unfortunately, as soon as I won, I promptly put those novels away and never looked at them again. My husband asked me why I never tried to get them published. I have given this some thought and realized that I hid them out of fear. Not fear that they wouldn’t be good, but fear that maybe they were good.  If they were judged good, then people would expect me to be able to do it again.   And what if I couldn’t?

There it is again. Fear of being a beginner. Fear of floundering around in imperfection until I manage to find my way. Fear of not knowing what I am doing, of looking like I am anything less than an expert. We all have areas in our lives where this fear keeps us from doing something we really long to do. I am slowly learning to embrace this fear, and do it anyway.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg writes “…beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a new journey with no maps.” I believe this is a good way, not only to  writing, but  to approach life.

With each passing year, I believe more and more that perfection is highly over-rated, and in seeking perfection, we miss so much joy. The beauty of living is in the imperfection. It is not the destination, but the ride.  It is in letting our inner critic go and embracing the experience of being a beginner over and over again.

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

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