More than Strength – Building Confidence

Leap of Faith by Hamner_Fotos

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: I feel far more confident today than I did 8 months ago. I am more willing to take risks, try new things and speak my mind. The interesting thing is that it has almost nothing to do with losing weight or my body at all, but it has everything to do with working out. I started to notice the change a couple of months ago. Julian commented on it as well. I originally assumed that it came from losing weight. I looked better, so I felt better, so I seemed more confident. But you know what? That isn’t it. I’ve spent some time really looking inside myself and I’ve come up with a completely different answer.

Taking risks enables me to take other risks.

When I started running, I had no idea what I was doing. (Truthfully, I still don’t.) So, quite literally every step of my way I’ve been pushing my own boundaries. Having hated the idea of athletics for most of my life just getting out and exerting myself in public was a huge risk. Taking a Run Clinic was a big deal for me. It was a great class and I loved it, (and will probably go back for a refresher sometime soon,) but I had to run in front of other people – something I hadn’t done in years. It is good that my fear of injuries is greater than my shyness! Each time I run, I am taking risks – whether they are external (new locations, other people, weather conditions, etc.) or facing my own internal fears and self imposed limits.

And it isn’t just running, buying a kayak and going out on the water solo for my first time was a new experience. Lifting weights has been a building challenge. (Each time I feel confident in a weight, I go out and get the next one!) Julian asked me if I’d ever consider taking a martial arts class, and I have looked at gyms and other fitness centers in my area. I even went some while out of town – a complete first for me.

I haven’t achieved everything I have set out to do. Sometimes despite my best efforts, my plans go awry, things happen I don’t expect. But here is the important part – working out (running, kayaking, etc.) is getting me to continually try new things, and every time, I feel great for getting out there and giving it my best shot. That’s lead to me feeling more confident in myself overall. I am speaking my mind more and tearing down a number of long held beliefs about myself.

Interestingly, that was what this blog was supposed to be about – seeking new paths, learning more about myself, trying new things, and figuring out what matters. I just didn’t expect to find it this way. I’ve been thinking that weight loss and working out and all that were one path on my journey, but now I see that it actually is the path. It’s leading me, emotionally and mentally, towards being able to take leaps of faith in other parts of my life.

Who would have thought?

Photo credit: Hamner_Fotos on flickr

Note: after writing this, I realized it also belonged on my About Me page, so I have added it to both. It seems to really encompass a lot about me right now.

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I Used to Hate the Sun

The road near my cabin... so much sun.

The road near my cabin… so much sun.

I didn’t always hate the sun. When I was a kid during the summer, sunshine meant days I could go out and play: run around the woods behind our house, build forts, climb trees. My neighbors had a pool I could use, so sunshine meant days of swimming and making up games in the water.

I think I started hating the sun in Junior High, those terrible preteen years. That’s when we started paying attention to our bodies and our appearance back then. (I know it starts much younger now.) I’m old enough that tanning was still popular. Girls I knew started “laying out” to get that perfect summer tan. I tried it a time or two. I hated it.

My family weren’t beach goers, so laying out, if it was to happen, was going to happen at home. As I mentioned, our back yard was in the woods, so it was shaded and full of bugs. That meant one had to lay out in the (very exposed) front yard, something I was far from comfortable with in those awkward years. On top of that, it was dead boring, uncomfortable, and the minute I found a good position, it felt like an ant was crawling on my exposed skin. (Sometimes they were, sometimes it was my brain playing tricks.) I’m also pretty darn pale by nature, and of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I inevitably got burned, and burned bad. Sunblock had a long, long way to go… and back then I knew girls who swore by tinfoil shields and cooking oil to get even darker.

So, I gave it up. I never did tan properly. It didn’t help that when I turned sixteen I got a car, thereby removing the last reason I would willingly ride my bike. Most of the popular girls, the ones who came to school sun-kissed and gorgeous, also played sports or were in summer cheerleading programs. If they didn’t have those, they had access to tanning beds, cottages or beaches. That wasn’t me. I was happier curled up in the shade with a good book, or in my later teen years, spending my spare hours working inside at my job.

It wasn’t just my pale hue that kept me from fitting in with the popular crowd. I was always too bookish, too artsy, too… odd. I had friends, but they were all like me, second or third tier odd ducks that were all funny, smart and great to be with, but also frequently socially awkward or a little too unfashionable to really fit in. At the same time I was meeting and spending time with a group of kids with dyed hair, white skin, and thick black make up. This post punk precursor to the goth movement defied the sun by only going out at night. My other friends, a bunch of theatre geeks, were too busy running from school to rehearsal to worry about things like getting sun, or “a little color” as my Mom always called it. (“You’d look nice with a little color.” she’d say.) All of this sort of snowballed into an extreme dislike of the sun.

Oddly, it wasn’t people who were tan that I didn’t like. My sister has that perfect skin that tans beautifully, my Dad did too. I knew plenty of people who worked outside or played sports that were tan and I didn’t think twice about it, but personally, I started to deeply hate the sun. Then all the findings started coming out relating sun exposure and skin cancer, and it cemented it for me. The sun and me – we just didn’t get along.

There are other factors as well. I‘ve mentioned before that because my legs have always been fairly thin, (despite me being larger everywhere else,) that I didn’t wear clothing that showed them off. The end result? From my freshman year of high school (when it was mandatory for gym class) until this May, I did not own or wear a pair of shorts. In the summer I wore jeans or skirts… long skirts. I didn’t even like capri pants much. Also, thanks to my fair skin, when I went out in the sun I covered up, either with clothing or super sunblock – the higher the spf, the better. (My sister called my sunblock “sweater in a bottle.”) Also, I didn’t “gleam” or “glimmer”, I sweated, a lot. Essentially, summer sucked – and it was all the fault of the sun.

I never got as bad as my mother, who (out of a fear of cancer) avoids the sun so completely that her doctor had to put her on Vitamin D supplements. I like nature and being outside – I just like it in the shade of a big tree, or in the spring or fall when it isn’t so stinking hot.

Then something happened…. I started running.

I started in the spring when it was still cold outside, but of course, that only lasted for so long. Then one day last month I went for a run in the middle of the day. I had appointments in the morning and plans in the evening, so I went out around noon. It was hot. The sun was high in the sky and there were no clouds. As I sat in the parking lot of the park, I realized that I hadn’t packed sunblock. I decided to go anyway.

It felt crazy and a little risky, but as I ran, I thought “How bad can it be?” It’s true, I was only out for a half hour and roughly half of that was under trees, so I don’t think I got any “color” at all. It was on that run that I started thinking about my relationship to the sun. For so long I fought for my pale skin that I had turned it into a point of pride. I considered the whole lot – athletics, tanning, shorts, exercise, sports, summer – all of it, as something that wasn’t me. The fact that I avoided it proved that I was different, and I embraced that difference.

But then I started running and it all changed. Later that day I stopped at the store to pick up some sunblock for my running bag. I went straight to the “sport” shelf. I ended up buying a small bottle spf 30 lotion for my face, but a spray on can of spf 15 for the rest of me. I have never in my adult life bought a spf below 45.

A few days later, I bought my first pair of running shorts.

Today, I’m sort of tan. Not dark tan by any means, but you can tell I spend time outside. (Admittedly, usually at 6:30 AM and 6:30PM, so we aren’t talking about a ton of exposure here.) I have three pairs of shorts and three pairs of outdoor walk/running capri pants and one pair of jean capris. Considering I own probably less than 5 pairs of pants, this has become a high proportion of my wardrobe. The sun doesn’t bother me now, and frankly, neither does the heat. I’ve mentioned that I have been running on days in the high 80s with 100 degree heat indices. I’m okay with all of it.

Running, and losing weight, first brought me to a place where I felt more comfortable taking risks. By taking those risks, I’ve started challenging my own long-held beliefs. Not just about the sun, but about how I dress, how I look, what I do – and don’t do. I know the fact I bought, own and wear shorts doesn’t seem like a big thing, but you have to realize that the last time I owned a pair it was 1986. It is a big deal.

We have these personal manifestos of all things “me” and “not me.” They are the very definition what we like, what we do, even who we are. They serve as mental shortcuts. When something new comes up we can check it against the list – is this me? Will I like this My taking up running is challenging, and changing, that manifesto. At first it happened subtly, but now I see it, and I embrace the change. When a friend recently suggested a climbing gym, “the old me” instantly started to demur, but I caught myself, and instead I said, “tell me more – where is it located again?” 

I’m not throwing away every long-held belief about myself, but I am holding them up to the light. I’ve decided to let the sun shine through.

 

Who Are You?

Be Who You Wanna Be

 

I love this sentiment, and yet, I think it is harder than that. How do we know what we want when we haven’t experienced all the options and alternatives? It’s like when you are in high school and adults start asking what career you want. Granted, there are a few lucky individuals out there who know deeply and intuitively what it is they want, but for the rest of us it is a big old gamble.

I think the only thing we can do is listen to our gut, while still being open to new experiences and ideas. Things I’ve thought were set in stone are now changing as I age. In fact, many of the best people I know are still evolving, still exploring and still figuring out who they want to be. It’s a constant adventure.

My Dog, My Trainer

Why are you blogging? We should be walking right now.

Why are you blogging? We should be walking right now.

My boyfriend recently reminded me that while I started losing weight officially in January, I actually started quite a bit before that – back when I got my dog, Hermes.

It’s hard to believe that he hasn’t been with me forever, but in fact, he came into my life August 2011. I’ve always been a walker, but Hermes made me hardcore. Because I don’t have a fenced in yard, and he is a hound dog, I can never just let him off leash. So, twice a day irregardless of wind, rain, shine, blizzards, tornado warnings, hail, thunderstorms, or any other weather, Hermes and I are out pounding the pavement. I walk him roughly an hour a day during the week (a half hour in the morning and then again when I get home) and a bit more on the weekends.

Even if I had a fenced in yard, I’d still be walking him. (I mean, look at that face!) Hermes doesn’t care if I am too tired, or feel like wearing slippers rather than hiking boots. He doesn’t understand weekends or sleeping in, (so, we are up at 6:30 regardless of the day of the week), and he doesn’t care about my bad day or weekend plans.

Hermes has two things that he dearly loves in life.  Walks and naps.

Naps rule.

Fine. I will nap until you are ready to walk me again. Please hurry.

Now, I would never suggest that someone get a dog to lose weight. And even though there are tons of articles out there touting the wonders of a pet on your health, bringing an animal into your home is a huge commitment. It’s also fairly expensive. Not all families or individuals are suited for or have time for a pet, especially a furry buddy who needs long walks every single day.

For me though, he’s been a godsend in a lot of ways. I love the little guy and I am glad we found each other. I adopted him from a shelter, but I am a firm believer that the dog you need will find you. Hermes found and claimed me. He also got me into shape. I don’t think I would be contemplating running right now if he hadn’t kicked my butt in gear with walks. We’ve literally hiked for hours up at my cabin, and that’s built up my strength and ability to determinedly head out – even in sleet.

I’ve considered training him to run with me, but I think that might be a bit more work than I am ready for. There is a reason that you see people running with Labs, Boxers, German Shepards and even Rotweilers, but you don’t see people running with mixed breed hound dogs! Hermes doesn’t love his walks because of the exercise and pretty views – that’s what I get out of it. He gets the smells. When we walk, that brown nose is plastered to the pavement and he moves like a metronome across the sidewalk. If he encounters a particularly enticing smell, he plants all four paws and forty pounds in a dead stop. We’re working on that.

Until we get that worked out, I think I’ll run solo.

 

 

Wine Over Chocolate

Wine, chocolate and coffee by Rob Qld

If all be true that I do think,
There are five good reasons we should drink:
Good wine – a friend – or being dry –
Or lest we should be by and by –
Or any other reason why.

Henry Aldrich, Five Reasons for Drinking, c. 1700

Here’s an odd thing – I have discovered I care more about wine than chocolate.

I mentioned yesterday that since losing weight, I’ve noticed a lot of changes in my thinking. This is definitely one of them. Before hopping on the journey to Smaller Pantsville, I would have told you that chocolate was my drug of choice – especially dark chocolate paired with mint. I don’t have a big sweet tooth for cakes and pastries, but mini Peppermint Patties rock my world.

As for wine, I like it; I am also quite fond of port, but I don’t drink it all that often. I might have have an open bottle of red on the counter and a bottle of port in the bar, but I don’t drink it every day. In fact, weeks can go by between one bottle’s demise and when I decide to open a new one. This is very different to how I feel about chocolate – if a bottle of wine is there at the end of the night, I might have a glass, but probably won’t. If there is an open box of Andes mints on my counter, those suckers are going down!

That was, until now. Since I have started calorie counting, chocolate has lost its pull. Usually I see it and think “Nah, not worth it.” Here’s what happens – it’s getting towards the end of the day. I think, “Hey, you’ve had a great day today. Why don’t you walk the dog for a few extra minutes, and tonight then have some chocolate?” I picture curling up on the couch with a glass of milk and a mini Patty or two and then… Nah. It isn’t worth it. I decide on a cup of herbal tea instead.

On other nights, I’ll get home and think, “Hey, it’s been a long day, but you are good on your goals. Why don’t you walk the dog for a few extra minutes, and tonight then have a glass of wine?” I picture curling up on the couch with a book and a glass of wine, and I think, “Totally. Let’s go pooch!”

Prior to this, I rarely turned down chocolate – of any kind. I probably had some every day since there is almost always some kind of candy around the office, but now it just doesn’t interest me. My coworker has a big bowl of malted Easter eggs on her desk and another one of Hershey’s miniatures, and they hold no temptation for me whatsoever. Even though I can actually have anything I want, (in limited quantities of course,) I haven’t walked by her desk.

I think there are two things going on here. The first is that a glass of wine means relaxation to me. I usually have it with friends or as a celebration, or even just to shake off a bad day. It is more than just fermented fruit juice. I still don’t want it every day but when I do want it, it’s usually for a reason. I can’t say the same about chocolate. The other thing is that the more plant based foods I eat, the less I want white sugar. I still like chocolate, but I don’t like what it does to my body. I don’t like the “sugar high” feeling I get. Also, the less of it that I eat, the more the sweetness seems far too intense. It’s just too much for my palate  Give me a bowl of strawberries or an orange instead.

Of course I am not giving up chocolate all together. I still have some Peppermint Patties from Christmas squirreled away. (What? That’s only a couple of months ago. Don’t judge.) And I suspect there will be special events and other reasons when chocolate sounds enticing. In the meantime, I like that my way of thinking has shifted a bit. It feels healthier. It also feels like I am in a place to make deliberate choices about what I really want – which is a great place to be.

Photo credit: Rob Qld

Green Eyed Monster

Grown men fighting in 1938 by Smabs Sputzer

I want to punch my coworker in the face.

Smug bastard, he is walking around here all happy and unaware that I want to give him a black eye… maybe two.

What has he done to become so happy and become the target of my wrath?

He quit.

Now let’s be clear. His quitting will have very little to do with me. Oh, it might make things a little more complicated around the office, but nothing terrible. It isn’t like I will have to pick up his work or anything. No, the reason I am seething has very little to do with him – and whole lot to do with myself.

A Little Background

I work for a small company of roughly 13 people, (…make that 12,) and here’s the thing – we are like Hotel California, no one ever leaves. Roger, my coworker, started just a couple of months before I did – 14 years ago. That’s right, I have been working at the same company for 14 years.

That isn’t to say that people aren’t asked to leave. Over the years many people have been laid off or fired, but there just haven’t been that many that have chosen to leave on their own. There was a gal three years ago who left to be a stay at home mom and a gentleman a few years before that who decided to go back to school to a university across the country. Of course, he continued to work for us on a freelance basis. The only other person I remember leaving was someone who left to start his own business, and again, he’s continued to work for us now and again.

Why do people stay? They stay for all the reasons you might imagine. The pay and the benefits are good. The work is stable and secure (we haven’t laid anyone off in years.) It is a challenging environment, but in a good way – rarely stressful. The work changes enough to keep it interesting. I have solid coworkers who aren’t into office politics or being pains in the ass. While it is not exactly the kind of job you jump out of bed for in the morning, it is one you feel good about going to. In all, it is a very good place to work.

Roger and I have been carpooling for about three years. While I won’t call us close friends, (we don’t associate outside of the office much,) we have certainly shared a lot in those daily car rides, and in truth, I am happy for him. He seems to be starting a new phase of his life.

…but that is also why I want to punch him. I admit it, I’m jealous. It isn’t that I want another job, I am happy where I am. I am jealous because he is taking that leap of faith – starting something new. I want to start something new!!

The only slight problem here is that I have no idea what it is that I want to do. I really need to figure that out before I go jumping off ledges. Here’s what I do know:

I have a huge project that ends in June, but another that starts in May and runs through September. That is going to keep me hopping through the spring and summer. For my own sense of sanity, I am trying to keep the rest of my life fairly stable. I’m going to keep working on my weight, and keep managing the finances so I can add more to the jump fund, but I am not looking to add anything else. Change, as wonderful as it can be, can also be really stressful.

I am also going to keep reading, keep writing and keep thinking about what “happiness” means to me… What am I going to do to make coworkers want to punch me?

 

Awesome illustration from Smabs Sputzer

 

Winter Walking

winter quote

The truth is, I actually enjoy winter walking. All you really need is decent gear. A good set of boots, gloves, a warm coat, scarf and hat, and perhaps a set of ice fishing cleats, and you are good to go. I complain about winter a fair amount, but that is because I hate driving in it. Walking, however, is another matter.

Yesterday the weather was beautiful – sunny, clear and in the high 30s. I went for a walk on my lunch hour, something I haven’t done in awhile. With all the walking I do before and after work with the dog, I haven’t felt the need to walk on my lunch hour as well. It was nice to walk at my own pace though… and not have stop every time Hermes picks up an interesting scent on bush or tree!

I’m starting to think about walking more. A couple of weeks ago we had some pretty severe weather on a night I had a commitment. I am the President of the Board of a nonprofit organization, and that night they were having an event that I had to attend. The snow was coming down pretty hard and driving home from work that night was rather unpleasant. Walking, however, wasn’t bad at all. Hermes and I had a very nice stroll about the neighborhood. So, I decided that instead of getting my car back out and fighting through the snowy streets, I’d just walk it. I wore comfortable clothes, packed fresh makeup and a brush, and gave myself 45 minutes.

It took me 18.

That’s what started me thinking about walking. I burned calories, not fuel, and I felt safer. I also felt a little smug about not having to find parking during a snowstorm. So, this weekend I walked to the salon where I get my hair done. It is about a mile away and took me roughly 17 minutes. (I would have made better time if the sidewalks weren’t still pretty snow covered.) I like walking with my pooch, but as I say, it’s also very nice to walk without him, and since I am trying to lose some wight anyway, I think I will see if I can burn a little more shoe leather, and a little less rubber.