Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Warning: this entry contains a bad word. On purpose.

"You know what you should say, don't you?"
Yes I knew.
"There must be another way.". I tried to weasel out of it anyway.

Kay laughed. Kay laughed the kind of hearty laugh of someone who has always had a heart of gold, the courage to call things as they were and the mouth of a truck driver.
She and I had argued for years about whether there was a real use for cursing. I had always said that there wasn't anything you could say with the F bomb that you couldn't say more articulately, say, using something fancy with several more syllables than consonants. Something that ended in -ination - or better, -ification. And any way curse words just made you feel worse. No one could still be angry after uttering the word "dookie.". It worked for me every time. Except now.

I ought to have known when I met Marian that she was that rare breed of female pompous douchebag. The biggest tip off was that she made her money as a "consultant," which used to mean something very specific and now just means, "person who does stuff and presumably gets paid."
But Marian is filthy rich.
Everybody knows her.
Everybody wants to be invited to her parties and sit around in a circle at her feet hoping to get for free the words of infinite wisdom she passes on to her high paying customers for beaucoup bucks.
I on the other hand, pride myself on having No Susceptibility to Wealth And Influence and Being Capable of Making Judgments Based Solely on a person's Merit.
Which was why I would have nothing whatsoever to do with Marian. Ever.
Until she decided she liked Me. Why she liked me was a mystery. I had no influence to speak of and on the social-climbing ladder I was on one of the bottom rungs at best.
Before I knew it I was meeting Marian at her favorite caffee. I was going to Marian's Fourth of July Party and attending weddings of family members I thought were spoiled leeches who'd burned out their best brain cells on designer drugs bought with Marian's money.
I was also feeding Marian's dog while she was away on her retreats and seminars and weekend getaways. I was looking after the house, too. And checking in with the pool boy and the maid and whatever else was so invaluable you couldn't trust the paid help to do.
I told myself this was a sort of Mr. Miagi moment. If I did all the work of carting off the cat's latest kill or cleaning out the dog's infected ear there would be some great lesson, some word and/ or phrase of infinite wisdom which would unlock the doors to health, wealth and happiness forever.
And of course the more of these favors I did the more of them I was "trusted" with. And I learned a lot of really interesting things. Like. Well, like. How Marian always said. How. Like. Well. I can't think of any right now but back then I thought I was learning all sorts of magic things and that was why I was more than happy to help move the Mahogany chest of drawers upstairs and oversee the painter's progress in the bathroom and ...
I had known Marian for years by the time I'd finally managed to get my weight off. She'd been encouraging. She'd had great tips. And the helping out with the dogs and carting off dead rodents and shifting furniture around had been great exercise. Now came the hard work of fixing what had been going on in my head that had got me to a point where I was morbidly obese, dying from my weight condition.
The first stop on the road to recovery had been self esteem and self respect. I would have to build them. I would have to do things which took care of me, just for me. I had to change my opinion of myself. Decide that I was worth the time and effort it would take to keep myself healthy. Do exercise. Think about, carefully choose and prepare my food. It would be hard to do all that if I had the attitude as I had had virtually my whole life: it wasn't worth spending the time and effort on me. My friends, family, whoever was much more deserving of my time and energy. So now I would have to Do Things For Myself Like Take More Care With Food and Exercise.

I would have to Stop doing things that were Not in my interest. Things that did not have self worth and self care at their core.
I would have to Not over eat.
I would have to Not forgo exercise for TV and popcorn.
I would have to stop spending my free hours cleaning out the ears of other people's dogs.
I would have to begin setting boundaries, saying no to all the pompous douchebags in my life and stop letting people have whatever they wanted of me in a vain effort to ensure they didn't leave me or stop liking me or tell me I couldn't play with them anymore.
I had to say no and was able to say no because whether the Marians of my life liked it or not I did not need their approval any more I had something much, much better and much, much more real and solid: my own.
So I told Marian I couldn't stop by and let the electrician in at 6 AM Monday morning. I wasn't available to stay all night and help her transcribe an inspirational song. I couldn't clean out the shed with her; I can't stand spiders.
If Marian really Was my friend and really Did care about me as much as she claimed and indeed as much as I now did, Marian's friendship wouldn't be so flimsy as to float away in the wind the moment I said I had plans for Friday night and couldn't stick around and wait for that special FedEx delivery while Marian went to the charity Gala.
I discovered in my experiments with saying no that nearly all my friends and family were completely OK with it. Some people even seemed to like me more, have the kind of respect for me I was finally showing for myself.
The men in my life especially loved it. And that was a surprise.
And so, though it shouldn't have been, was Marian. I didn't get invited to garden parties any more even though I did still occasionally get invited to help with their organization or clean up.
I had said no to Marian and unlike almost everyone I knew Marian Had abandoned me.
A few months later Marian called me. She was embroiled in a dispute with the pool boy. Would I testify to what he had done? Maybe I would even indicate I thought he was lazy and dim witted and a bit of a drunk and she was so sorry to have been so out of touch lately and we really should get together sometime.
I was going to call back today and tell her I would testify, but only the few facts I knew from one incident I'd been present for. No personal opinion. Nothing exaggerated.

And that was what I told Kay.
Kay didn't approve. She wouldn't take "no" for an answer, maybe-well-OK-but even less so.
"No. There's nothing else to say to that. What she asked you to do was wrong. And I'm amazed you'd even consider taking an hour out of your busy schedule to do it anyway."
I took a breath to say something. "No," she continued, "isn't enough."
She was right. "No" wasn't enough. "No" usually works and frankly given my circumstances I am delighted to announce that I have learned to use it appropriately. But this was one situation where "No" was not enough. "No" just said I wouldn't do it. "No" did not add, "and I am absolutely affronted by the fact that you would even dream of asking me to do anything for you let alone something immoral and potentially illegal."
"No" did not even indicate my deep dissatisfaction with her treatment of me over the years of our relationship. "No" did not give her even a vague impression of the fact that I now had a well developed sense of self esteem and self care that I would not allow pompous douchebags like her to violate no matter how rich and powerful they were.

"What should you have said?" If Kay had had half moon glasses she would have been peering over them at me. I thought about getting her some for Christmas.

I thought for a moment.
I looked around to make sure no one else could overhear.
"Frhg hm."
"Huh?" It wasn't good enough.
"Fuck you.". And your little dog's ear issues, too.
"Now you'll remember for next time, too." Kay slapped her hand on the table.
And she was right. The simplistic magic of "Fuck You," is pure genius. It goes further than "no" in expressing indignation. When used properly it could skip insult and not create, but rather prevent injury.
If appropriate use of "no" is a way of enforcing reasonable boundaries, appropriate use of "Fuck You" is a way of making good and sure it doesn't happen again with someone who has no business being anywhere near them in the first place.
The Boston Tea Party was a "No." The Declaration of Independence? That was a Fuck You.
Unlike "No," "Fuck You" has to be used with extreme care. "No" in the right place will be respected. "No" in the wrong place can be forgiven. "Fuck You," is pretty final. Good friends will apologize.
Weak bonds will be tested.
Pompous Douchebags will threaten to find some reason to see you in court, too. They will hardly believe you wouldn't do this for them after all the words of wisdom they passed on to you free of charge.
To which, again, there is only one answer.
One that says go-ahead-and-try.
One that says I-believe-in-me-but-I'm-clever-enough-not-to-believe-you.

"Fuck You."
It was all I could say.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Small steps can be agonizingly slow but how much better a small step in the right direction than a giant leap in the wrong one." -Me

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chickening Out

"I won't make it. I have an ingrown toenail."
Trainers are just another form of teacher. We've heard them all. My dog ate it. I had a sniffle. I was kidnapped by aliens. I was kidnapped by sniffling aliens with hungry dogs and ingrown toenails.
My client who had suddenly contracted an ingrown toenail within the 3 hour span since I'd set up the appointment, was chickening out. I wasn't taking it personally. It happens all the time. I did it a hundred times myself, but the only time I remember was the time I almost chickened out and didn't, and it changed my whole entire life forever and ever.
I had been searching for an activity that would get me out more. I had (long, long story very short - see entry "Dancing Queen" from November 2009) settled on Latin dance. I had gone once. Hardly got asked to dance. Went again. Almost turned the car around and went home to a comfy piece of chocolate cake and six pack of beer at nearly every intersection. Decided to keep going instead. Met Arturo. Learned to dance and to love dancing. Got pretty good at it. Now, only a short time later, I have to be restrained from dancing by my friends and family because I have an important race the next day.
I've fallen in love on the dance floor. Several times. I've made literally dozens of friends and acquaintances. I've learned the art, or some might argue science, of Latin dance. I've branched out to Tango. Fox trot. Waltz. Two step.
The residual shyness, self esteem deficit, fear of intimacy, paranoia, all the things I got as a twofer with my lifelong weight battle, they're all gone. Replaced with the outgoing, friendly, smiling, genuine, authentic albeit slightly sanity challenged social butterfly you all know.
And I owe it all to the fact that one night, dressed in my favorite pink top and my very first ridiculously short skirt and my brand new strappy pink heels I told myself everyone would think I was weird for sitting alone by the dance floor, that I was a lousy dancer, that I would never make friends and influence people, that the women I had met last week hated me and the men I'd danced with thought I was a clod and anyway I'd done it once and once was enough to prove I could and...
And I told myself that as I drove into the sunset in my car and listed in the blink of an eye a thousand reasons why I Should Not Keep Going and Did Anyway.
So virtually every good and permanent change I've made to my life, my body and my mind I owe to one, single solitary fact: that despite all logic, in defiance of all my best attempts at reason, all my ingrown toenails, dogs and rogue aliens with dogs, I Did Not Chicken Out.
I kept driving.
I met someone who helped me.
I not only succeeded at what I'd set out to do, I kept going beyond anyone's expectations.

All because I Did Not Chicken Out. I repeat: I Did Not Chicken Out.

And now as I hung up the phone with what must be the umpteenth client to chicken out on what must be the umpteen-thousandth dance-date-5K-race-swim-meet-gung-ho-fitness-guru-event-X I wracked my brain to remember how that moment when I Didn't Chicken Out had been so remarkably different from the umpteen-thousand times I HAD chickened out. What had scared me off all the times I'd invented aliens or made excuses about sniffles or dogs or work or whatever that had not been present that last, decisive, non-chickening-out moment? The answer? Nothing. Nothing had scared me off. Nothing had crept around the corner preventing me from doing what was clearly in my own best interest. No monsters crawled out of the closet and there were no wild animals hiding behind fence posts. For lack of monsters and bears and aliens and in grown toe nails my brain had made some up.

They were called
Perfectly logical.
Totally understandable.
Completely sane.

Every time I got it into my head to do something beneficial to myself, I would come up with one very good reason why I should.
For instance:
Isolation is one of the main contributing factors to weight gain and regain and overall diet failure. Therefore I need to get out more. So I should learn to dance.
That was a very Good Reason.
But as the day of the actual event crept up, more Reasons kept invading in on me.
Reasons I shouldn't. Didn't need to. Could do something else instead. Something less difficult. Something less scary. Something that had a LOT less potential for disappointment.
And that was THE very heart of the matter. Everything I Did, as opposed to things I chickened out of, had the potential for disappointment. I would be all dressed up in my cutest laughably high heels and ridiculously short skirt and no one would dance with me. Or the other women might cluck their tongues and gossip about me, the new girl. Or I might never learn to be good at it. Or...
It, they, I (and "I" was the worst potentiality of all) might disappoint me.
Disappointment, the very whisp of the possibility of the potential of disappointment had scared me off a thousand times from a thousand things that could have been as beneficial, or maybe even a thousand times more beneficial, than Latin dancing.
So why had the great monster-bear-alien-dog-ingrown-toenail of impending disappointment not tackled me this time? Because this time, just a few days beforehand someone very clever had asked me this question:

Are you going to be disappointed?

To which I had answered, maybe.

And what will happen if you are?

To which I had answered, I don't know.

Are you going to die from the disappointment?


Will you eventually get over the disappointment?

Probably. OK yes.

Right. Because in over thirty years you've never died of disappointment before. And many, many worse disappointments have occurred in your life up to now. How did you cope with them?

Answer: chocolate cake.

And did the chocolate cake make it go away?


Did it help?


What did help?

Nothing. It went away on its own.

That's right. The feeling of disappointment had gone away all by itself. In a comparably short amount of time.

As compared to the grief I'd felt losing my beloved uncle Joe, disappointment had been a cake walk.
Compared to the loneliness I'd experienced when I'd first come back home after years of world travel and had no friends and barely knew my own family? A little of the D-meister had been like falling off a log.

Next to being abandoned by my boyfriend for an important soccer game on Valentine's day? Not being asked to dance was practically a pleasure.

Of all the awful, bad, distasteful lousy things that had happened to me, disappointment over not being good at dancing or not being asked to dance or... Whatever, was Nothing. It was not a monster. Or an alien. Or a bear. It was not even a potentially rabid field mouse.

It was nothing I couldn't handle.
There, that day as I drove into the sunset to Sacramento, that was the day I realized that

I Could Cope. Even If I Was Disappointed.
And I didn't need the help (or rather hindrance) of chocolate cake.

Since then I've seen them a thousand times: The Reasons.

They surface anytime the potential of disappointment comes up. They float over the phone lines from friends and clients and relatives who see

Potential Disappointment

As something so overwhelming that they are utterly debilitated by it.
And what do I do when The Reasons strike?
I think about that night of dancing.
How it led to a dozen friendships. Love.
A new and utterly satisfying career.
And yeah. A little disappointment.

Today I had my first ever race win. I got an interview on TV. I met some die hard runners who will be a whole new set of friends, and half a dozen potential clients.

Last night I almost decided not to run.

Because I really was tired.
I still had a sniffle from last week's flu.
I wasn't sure I was totally over those shin splints.
The course was too hilly.
I was in a ratty mood.
I had paperwork.


Actually, the possibility that, although I, the fitness guru, Should win the race, there was always the possibility I MIGHT not.

Impending disappointment.

Would I die of the disappointment? No.
What would happen if I wasn't disappointed?
The possibilities are endless.

Don't let the mere whisp of a potential for impending disappointment make your life one long chain of them.

The only time you can guarantee you'll be disappointed, is when you chicken out.

Win the race when you can. And be disappointed when you can't. It's OK. Really. You'll see.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Small steps can be agonizingly slow but how much better a small step in the right direction than a giant leap in the wrong one." -Me

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saying No to Noah

"No." I said, a little more firmly than I ever believed I could. "No, thanks but no."
The No-ee, let us call him "Noah," shook his perfectly chiseled head and blinked perfectly shaped dark, mysterious long lashed eyes in real disbelief.
"No? Really? No?" Noah even knew my story, and being himself a fitness professional was aware that formerly overweight people often have self esteem issues and ensuing trouble saying no. Besides which, he was, well he was Noah.
Noah. The hottest thing on the slightly overripe singles scene in that raging metropolis known as Sacramento. Noah has a fast, though as he will tell you at some length, very environmentally friendly shiny, metallic vehicle. Noah has shiny shoes and fashionably tailored collars he wears with ties with shiny metallic stripes on them and shiny cuff links which are both stylish and expressive of his personal style. Noah is six foot something and built like a meat refrigerator. Noah has a gaggle of semi speechless, often babbling, rambling, giggling divorced GenExers dangling from either arm like belly dancer bangles.
Noah is smokin hot.
Noah is popular.
Noah can dance.
Noah is - and this is unanimously agreed upon by every man, sane woman and small child who has known him longer than 15 minutes - a pompous douchebag.

Of course I did not know that when I stood at the bar guzzling my Friday night diet coke, listening to him educate me on the best process for training "serious runners," (I and my 3 hour 58 minute marathon being of course mere fooling around), the proper nutrition for best strength resistance training results, why my brand of dance shoe was actually unacceptably constructed for safety and comfort.
I shot a glance at my favorite barman. I asked for a refill, the hard stuff: maybe the shot of sugar from regular coke would chase away whatever blood sugar issue was barring me from having the pants charmed off me like every other girl that Noah had deigned to turn his attention toward.
He was, after all, THE hottest non-married, non-gay non-Rick-the-barman in a 50 mile radius.
And he is, I repeat, a pompous douchebag.
Which you must understand would not have made a difference to me just a few short years ago. In fact the last time I found myself exploring the dating scene I was hung up on (in chronological order) a Serbo-Croatian tax accountant who admitted after the first date that he really just liked me because I looked like his ex-girlfriend. Then showed me a picture he carried in his wallet. There was the sicialian who called his stock broker in the middle of a lunch date to make sure he'd sold whatever he was supposed to sell and went around telling everyone how he did something with cell phones that was "very lucrative.". He did not specify "and did not require anything to fall off any trucks," but that went without saying. And an engineer who swore he wasn't married, no, he just had to visit his sick mother up north every weekend. And no, I couldn't come. It wasn't advisable. Mother was contagious. What was it? It was rare. He forgot what they called it. But deadly. Except for family members. They were immune. And wives, of course.

Yes, with a few exceptions my dating life had been Filled with pompous douchebags. And looking at Noah, I realized now why that was.
In all those years, in all that time I had never said "no." I had never had a line on one side of which was, "acceptably confident and admirably self assured," and on the other, things like "slightly pathetic schmuck," "arrogant weasel," and "pompous douchebag."
The reason I had never drawn that line was that I had so wanted to be wanted, wanted to be in a fulfilling relationship with somebody everyone thought was really great that I would do, say and put up with anything, alright almost anything, to get it.
I listened while a cute but very sad man explained that I just wasn't his type but I looked so much like her I could certainly hang around him as long as I liked. I put up with the announcements about the lucrative truck accidents and the sick mother with cheap-mistress-itis.
But I drew the line at Noah. I hadn't been a pro very long but I'd been, for all intents and purposes a student of diet and fitness all my life. I knew more about nutrition than most, practically had a degree in how to run hill repeats for speed training. And my dance shoes had served me quite well thank you very much. Almost as long as I'd been dancing. And they were kind of hot, too.
Finally, I had found a place to draw a line. Something you couldn't do, somewhere you couldn't go no matter how how many other women's pitter-pattering hearts you'd just smashed to smithereens in my favor.
You could not be a pompous douchebag to me and still have the privilege of buying me dinner. Or even a diet coke. Ever.

Since saying no to Noah I find myself saying "No" all the time. Not just throwing "no" around like confetti. Using judgment. Examining when no is really necessary. Thinking that "no" is actually a great screen.
It turns out people who love me - even people who just like me a lot - do not jump up and run away whenever I tell them no. When I'm too overworked to cook dinner my house mates do not dream up excuses to banish me. When I forget to stop by gramma's house she does not change the locks and shutter the windows for my next visit. If I tell the guy I'm dating I cannot see him anymore because he is a pompous douchebag he does not run around town spreading rumors that I stuff my bra. Though I am down one dance partner. Which of course, is worth the risk.
And that's the rub, isn't it? A lost dance partner is nothing compared to the lost self respect, the sacrificed identity that goes into accommodating a pompous douchebag. So much of yourself has to be swallowed, and quite literally swallowed - often in the form of cake and ice cream - that you can hardly breathe for discomfort. It's no wonder that when you can't consciously draw your boundaries, when you can't stand on one side of the degrading, patronizing, demeaning jerk line and wield your extra powerful battle axe of "no," your body does it for you. It draws the line in the form of physical distance. Maybe, it hopes, when you have a few inches around your middle everybody will Go Away and Leave You Alone with all the demands you can't meet and behavior you should never, ever have to tolerate. In other words, if you don't draw the line, your body will help you out.
It will certainly get rid of all the pompous douchebags. Pompous douchebags have no regard for overweight people.
So learn to say "no" when "no" is needed.
Even when you're worried it will make the no-ee abandon you. Or hate you. Or never want to see you again.
Because if the no-ee is a decent person who really likes you he/ she won't abandon you. Or hate you.
And if he/she isn't? He may abandon you. He may take off in a huff almost spilling your diet coke all over your barely visible skirt.
And good riddance.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Small steps can be agonizingly slow but how much better a small step in the right direction than a giant leap in the wrong one." -Me