Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm Sorry. That Scale Said What?!

Auburn Aries and I joined a local Biggest Loser group that runs from January 15 - May 7th.  I thought it would be a great way to reach some goals with like-minded people.  Living in the PNW with nine months of rain, it can force you indoors when you otherwise wouldn't be.  As long as I've lived here and integrated the rain into my life (no, I don't own an umbrella; only tourists do), I am not one of those people who'll go running or biking in it.  I'm more the lazy type who looks outside and sees it blowing sideways, rolls her eyes and says "maybe tomorrow."

Following a discrimination lawsuit a few years back, I spiraled into a depression that reached far and wide.  I've written about it before - at least I think I have.  There's not much I can say about it as I'm legally bound to secrecy over it (like anyone gives a shit.  And, lawyer people, if you're reading this, you can move along.  You're not worthy of my time and you won't get any tasty morsels here).

Following that suit and the sense of betrayal that came with it, I tried to eat (and mostly) drink my way out of it. I thought I was perfecting my Margarita-making skills.  Turns out I was drowning betrayal.  Although as a byproduct I did get damn good at making Maggies.

I didn't realize how deeply it would all affect me.  I didn't know what to expect when you go up against The Man.  BTW, I don't recommend it.  A bank of lawyers that size can spin absolutely anything any way they want to.  As a result and after lingering in the darkness around five years, I awoke to find a spare tire around my midsection.  My long legs were shortened by a heavy ass and my biceps, which I love, were completely hidden.

About the time I realized that somewhere in the darkness I had just simply bought a bigger waste size in my Levi's, all of us techs (storage engineers, Unix engineers, etc) were told the office was relocating and we would not be given cubes.  We'd all be working from home.  I'd never worked from home before.  We were all excited.  That was June 2008.

It's four and a half years later and my longest commute is to the kitchen.

If you add telecommuting to a bout of situational depression, you have a woman whose muscles have been in a long slumber.  You have a woman who's 49 years old (50 on March 5th) who's covering the gray now and not at the top of her game.  When Auburn Aries and I go shopping, people look at my 15 year old and don't even notice me.  Kudos to her for being so beautiful but shame on me for not keeping myself in the shape I deserve to be in.

Well, no more.  I started working with Kaelyn Pehrson (heretofore referred to as KP) who owns Naturally Obsessed.  She's helped introduce healthy eating into my life.  I now drink green smoothies made with kale when not six months ago I swore I'd never eat it because it was a plant I grew in my flowerbeds for curb appeal.  I'm trying to adapt her 90/10 rule where I fuel my body with good nutritious whole foods 90% of the time so the other 10% there's a little flexibility.  Granted I'm not to 90% yet.  I'm probably more at 70/30 but that's okay, too.  Six months ago I was at 5/95!

Now I hit the cancel button on negative thoughts (a work in process as well) and try to focus on only the positive.  I'm getting better at self-love and forgiveness and moving forward toward healthier goals.  I know the methods I'm learning now, slowly, are in fact lifestyle changes.  No fad diet, no hurrying to get the extra weight off and then gaining it back but baby-stepping to build a healthier me from the inside out.

Mentally I feel great.  Physically I feel a world better.  I'm not constipated as much.  I have energy I didn't have before.  I can no longer sit in front of the TV for mindless hours in the evening without the thought popping into my head that it's not conducive to who I want to be.  Not that I don't watch my favorite sitcoms or dramas.  I do.  But I record them for later when I can watch them commercial-free and at my convenience.  Instead of sitting there, I get up and do something:  a chore, go through a box in the garage, read a book, work out, walk the dog.

I love who I'm becoming.  I love that the blinds are no longer closed on my mind and my spirit.  Along with that however, is now my realization that the number on the scale doesn't reflect how I'm feeling inside.  To date I've not worried about the number on the scale.  I've put so much emphasis on that in the past that I decided temporarily in the initial phases of working with Kaelyn, not to step on it.  Instead I'd integrate the easy-to-follow steps KP provides and get some focus.  There was a lot of banged up mental processes in my mind that needed to be stripped and refinished.

While I'm not exactly where I want to be quite yet, I can accept that this is a journey and I can now enjoy the road I'm on and not look at the gaps as character defects or flaws.  It's like I was on a path that had been neglected.  I had been walking it accepting that it was in sad shape and in disarray.  The flowers were hunched and brown, the grass was overgrown and untended; the path cracked and dangerous.

But now after working with KP, the cracks in my sidewalk have been replaced with brick pavers (one at a time and worth it) and there's sunlight beaming down and flowers are starting to bloom.  The grass is tended and inviting.  I know it sounds all new-agey, hokus-pokus but I've had a complete change of heart.  I didn't know I could and I couldn't be happier about what I'm learning.  There's still plenty to go.  It's a long path but the journey is great and I'm not in a hurry to get to the finish line and prove anything. 

All that being said, however, I do feel I'm at the point I need to give the scale some attention.  Thus, Biggest Loser, local version.  While this version of Biggest Loser provides nothing in the way of diet or exercise (that's all on me) it will make me accountable for stepping on the scale each week and tracking my progress.  It will get me writing in my food journal.  And although I'm not in it for the prizes, if that happens then that's cool, too.

I filled out my card with my username, stepped over to have my before picture taken and then headed toward the scale.  I knew the scale wasn't going to be my friend but I didn't care.  The only thing I cared about was the fact that I was about to unbutton the first button on the lawsuit/work-from-home fat suit I've been wearing the last five or six years.  My sedentary life will finally be over.

I stepped on the scale and glanced down at the number as I stepped off and tried to act all cool like, "eh, I knew it was going to be higher than I wanted and it's okay.  No shock here."  What I wanted to do was lean down at the scale and scream "WHAT THE FUCK?!  HOW DID THIS HAPPEN???  WHO DID THIS TO YOU?!"  But I couldn't.  Even if I had, I knew the answer. 

What I could do was own the fact that I'd let myself get to this place.  For a while I was lost - my self-awareness (something I pride myself on) vanished.  I'd lost my way.  But those times are gone.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not so evolved I looked at the scale and had some Zen moment where I thanked the fat for making me the person I've become.  Oh no.  I cursed a mean streak in my head that was truck-stop worthy but not because I was beating myself up.  I gave myself a moment to be disappointed that I'd let it happen and then stubbornness kicked as I muttered at the scale "I'll show you motherf-cker."

Nothing left but the sweating and discomfort while I wake those muscles up.  To be honest, I don't know when I've look forward to anything more.

Let's get it on!

Friday, January 11, 2013

When Did You Learn Japanese?

It's not that my daughter knows Japanese, but she might as well have. Suddenly it's like she and I are speaking two different languages.

It's official:  I've hit that stretch of relationship with my daughter where she repeats the following words at me like a mantra and declares during every conversation I try to communicate with her "you're not listening to me" and  "you don't understand."

This should be simple.  I set the rules and the expectations and she meets them the first time I ask and at a minimum with no more than one reminder.  Puhlease.  It was simpler to put a fucking man on the moon. 

I was reading an article online in Psychology Today entitled Teens and Parents in Conflict.  They pretty much summed it up:

"There's no point in talking to you: you don't understand me. You don't even know me."

"A teen spits these words at a parent, who is hurt and outraged. How can her own child say these things? She's worked hard to know her own child, learning to read his feelings from voice and gesture, learning to place his words in the context of his day-to-day life. How can her own child now say to her, "You don't know who I really am.""

"Nothing shakes a parent's confidence as much as the onset of a son's or daughter's adolescence. The communication that flowed easily, with words, glances and touch, becomes a minefield."

A minefield.  What an accurate description. While brushing my teeth before bed last night, I was thinking about her online high schooling.  Aries switched schools seven weeks into the semester and has had to make up that seven weeks (since online school works at a different pace) so she's been doing twice the work this semester. 

The problem is while she was good out of the gate, the last month she has been off.  Way off.  Granted the winter break fell in there but our agreement was take one of the two weeks off and work the second week.  She took week one off and couldn't get her motor started in week two.  And prior to the holidays she'd been sputtering.

She had been communicating her hours and I was logging attendance and approving assignments but it turned into trying to figure out how many hours she worked because she took so many breaks (breakfast, then a long bio break, then lunch, then whatever other distraction she could pile on).  Being her learning coach turned into policing.  It was a constant stream of reminders to get her assignments done, get your required number of hours in, stay focused, turn that TV off.

The agreement before online school was that since this was online school and not home school, she needed to carry her load and get the work done without putting me in the position to have to dog her to get it done.  Be the young adult that she is and be responsible.  I'm a parent, I knew that there would still be reminding and dogging but at fifteen and a half years old and this being an alternative to attending Bully Central High School, I was hoping she'd realize this was a privilege and get it done.

The girl who wanted to achieve her AA concurrently while in online school (which is possible with online school) has now become the girl who can't focus; a girl who's lost the fire in her belly.

When I walked into her room last night after brushing my teeth, it was to talk to her in a way that was heartfelt.  To share with her in two or three simple, loving sentences of where I was at with online schooling.  Nothing complicated or bitchy.  Which I did.

It was met with exasperated sighs, eye rolls, and being told over and over that I don't understand; that I'm not listening.  We continue the conversation as she tries to explain that she's been doing better this week (she was at here Dad's Saturday through Wednesday and only did the number of assignments due for one day) and it's not fair that I'm not recognizing her work.

I try to explain the end of the semester is coming and the number of assignments she has to turn in daily is non-negotiable and that she needs to stay on track.  She tells me I don't trust her to get it done.  Well, no, based on evidence and her track record as of late, I can't "trust" that it will get done.  I explain that I can't wait until the 11th hour too see if she stays true to her word.  I have to, as her learning coach, communicate with her daily about her school work and do everything I can to ensure she's successful.  Then she reminded me again I wasn't listening and didn't understand.

'Round and 'round we go, where we stop, nobody knows.

I end up in tears because I'm doing all this with no support trying to do the best I can.  I'm the only parent working to give her everything she needs and all I'm asking her do is meet her commitments.  She's crying because she's misunderstood and every word I'm speaking to her is somehow being translated into her mind that she's a fuck up who can't get it right.

Going back to that Psychology Today article:

"Arguments with parents can often be understood in this context. While those common teenager/parent quarrels, which explode every few days, are, at a superficial level, about curfews, homework, housework, and respect, a teenager's real focus is on a parent's acknowledgement of his maturity and capability and human value. "No, you can't go out tonight," cuases more than a glitch in a teen's social diary; it implies that a parent doesn't trust him to make his own decisions. And, in a teen's eyes, that's not only unfair; it's humiliating. Even apparently minor exchanges can trigger major reactions, making a parent feel that "everything I say is wrong!" A parent asks a checking-up question, and the teen feels like a little child again. "Have you got your keys?" and, "Do you have enough money for the bus?" are loaded with the implication, "You're not able to look after yourself." These questions would be easily tolerated if uttered by a concerned friend, but from a parent they pinch on a teen's own doubts. Feeling threatened by the kid who can't remember to take his lunch, his keys or his money, he blames the parent for reminding him of the child-self still residing within him."

So let me get this straight.  A teenager's real focus is on a parent's acknowledgement of his maturity and capability and human somehow I have to figure out a way to say "get your work done" all while not making her not feel less than for following up.  If he "blames the parent for reminding him of the child-self still residing within him" how then do I broach these issues.  It's my job to get Aries ready for the outside world; to get her ready to fly on her own which means we practice at home until she's ready to go out into the world.  I just can't ask her to do something again or do better or push harder because it'll upset her?!?!

Everyone says parenting is the hardest job they've ever had.  But for right now pretend I've pulled my chair around right in front of you and I'm knee-to-knee with you I've take her hands and I'm leaning in and looking unblinkingly into your eyes.  Can you picture it?  Now hear me when I say, it's the hardest fucking job you'll ever, EVER have.  Take the toughest job or thing you've ever had or done and multiply it times ten thousand.  There's no rule book.  There are no easy answers.  You literally guess until you get it right.  IF you get it right.  It's frustrating and makes you want to pull your hair out in patches. And just when you think you've got it figured out, BAM! your kid becomes a sullen, snarky teenager who stays in her room and can hardly stand you. The pisser is I have a really great kid so imagine my shock and horror when the tide changed.

Oh yeah, it's rewarding too.  Blah blah blah.  This post isn't about that. 

Somewhere there lies an answer to all of this.  It's going to be up to me to learn how to cope with this and alter the way I deal with her keeping they "why she's behaving this way" in the back of my mind.  It's a good thing women are more evolved than men because I'll tell you right now, she'd never get her father to put in the time I am.  He'd stay pissed and throw his hands in the air. 

It's no wonder teens go off the reservation.  There's this delicate web of complexity that if you don't pay attention to it, you're kid will end up on Dr. Phil talking about how she was a truck-stop hooker with a heroine addiction giving blowies for a pack of smokes.

I hope if she heard anything I said last night it's that a.) I am proud of her and that b.)  sometimes we have to take our own inventory and be honest about what we're doing and that c.) if you put in the required hours and do the work then no one can say anything to you.  There's beauty in that last one.  It keeps the boss off your back, you stay under the radar, and you come across like a superstar that always gets it done.

In the meantime, I'll stay on my quest for answers.  Or patience.  Goddess knows without either one of those two I'll be buying my plane to see the good Dr.!


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Alone On A Raft

I feel like I'm out here floating on a raft by myself.  I feel invisible.  I'm working through the logistics and finances for moving to San Diego and I've no one to bounce it off of.  It's not that I need someone around for that but I'd like to air it out sometimes to see if I'm missing anything.

Of course, Auburn Aries is just waiting for me to give the word.  She'd have her shit packed and in the car before I finished the sentence.  She's as ready for an adventure as I am.

Even more important than the logistics, is how nice it would be to be able to share my excitement, and my fear.  We're moving.  I'm not vacillating.  But it would be really nice to talk about the moments I have when I frantically ponder and hope and need hear it from someone else just to keep me sane.

I talked with my sister yesterday who pointed out that I've become Howard Hughes - a recluse who never leaves her house.  Granted when Hot Toddy moved and then Do Rag moved and then Golden Boy moved and then TJ moved, and then other long standing friendships whittled down the list of friends with whom I socialize.  I went a nearly a full decade hanging out with the same group of people and I loved it.  Wouldn't have changed it for the world.  And then it changed on its own.

With everyone scattering to four corners, I was left behind to deal with the ghosts of friendships past.  It was so hard being the one who was left behind.  God it was hard.  It took a while for the physical absence to be replaced with phone calls but even now in a situation where I'm planning a move this big, I've got time zones to deal with from Hawaii to Virginia to Minnesota and it isn't easy to get the shoulder to lean on when I need it.  I can't just pick up the phone and scream "how am I going to get all this shit done and be ready to move in July?!?!"  I have to plan those conversation which takes the passion out of the moment at which point I arrive at 'why bother, I'll just take care of it anyway since there's no choice so why bother anyone anyway' and then the "Raft Reality" hits again and BAM! I'm a little sad and a little lonely.

I've tried to make new friends.  I've tried to penetrate other circles of friends where I have acquaintances.   People are used to what they're used to, you know?  When all the smoke clears, I don't end up getting invited to the barbeque or the cocktail hour or the baby shower.  And that's okay.  It's a little sad and frustrating but it's okay.  I was the same way with my group of friends.  We were snobs about letting anyone into our circle.  What we had worked and it was a no-weirdo zone.  Maybe I'm the weirdo.

But I digress.  Of course what I do know is I will get it all done because I have to, that's reality.  I will figure it all out because that's what I do and when the time comes, I may have to get by with a little help from my friends.  After I pick up the phone and ask for it of course. 

I don't know what the future holds for me and my little family.  I know I'm not going back to the same San Diego I left 23 years ago. But I need to take a risk.  I need to put myself out there and shake things up.  I'm praying the sense of home that's deep-seeded inside of me sings from the mountaintops once I get there.  The brown, brown mountaintops.  I want to wake up to sunshine and be able to walk the dog without immediately mopping the hardwoods after we come back in.  I'd love to not go through towels because I'm drying the damn dog off.

Mostly...I want to be able to call my best girlfriends, Pua or Cathy, and drive over to see them.  I'm looking forward to the call where they say they're going to pick up Auburn Aries to go shopping or have lunch just because they want to spend time with her.  I want Aries to feel what it's like to hang out with her "Aunts" because she's never really known what that's like.

I may have days where I want to "shout out at the ocean, 'HEY IT'S ME'" but I know deep down I'll be alright.  For many of my friends I may be out of sight but I know I'm not out of mind.  I know I can call and they still love me. 

As for that raft, sometimes I may forget there's an oar attached to the side and sometimes I may not like having to use it only during the scheduled hours of availability.  I'm just grateful there is one.  Hard days or not, I'm grateful for what and who I do have in my life and I have to not let my whining  moments get in the way of remembering that.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Dago Bound

I'm going home.  I've decided to move back home to San Diego.  I've lived in the Pacific Northwest for 23 years and although it's beautiful up here and Portland has a distinctive vibe which I find wonderfully appealing, I can't stand the rain anymore. If there were just three more months of decent weather; say three months of spring or three months of fall, I'd probably stay.

For me, Portland is what San Diego was.  It's got this chilled, laid back way about it.  It's diverse and welcoming and people are friendly not to mention how absolutely beautiful it is here.  It will be hard to leave and I know I'll shed more than a tear when I pull out of town. 

I moved here when I was 26 so essentially although I was born and raised in San Diego, I'd only lived there as an adult from ages 17-26.  I've lived 23 years of my adult life here.  This is what I've come to know.

You'd think based on what I've said already that staying up here would have more pull.  But nine months of gray and clouds and rain is a lot.  We had 50" of rain in 2012.  The fourth wettest year in history.  It's too much.  Night after night I sit in my livingroom and shake my head and ask myself what the fuck I'm doing.

The other reason I'm going home is I have a support system back home that I don't have here.  I don't have any close friends here.  I know hundreds of people a large part of which I consider friends but they aren't people who call to see how I'm doing or to see if I'd like to go have coffee.  They don't ask how Auburn Aries is doing.  They don't understand or care about the struggles of being a single parent.  No one with whom to wax poetic all things parental; the highs and lows.  There is no shoulder to cry upon, no one to tell me I'm doing a good job.  Or a shitty one for that matter.

Most of my chosen family has moved away in search of work (successfully I might add).  My sister, Skinny Girl, moved to the midwest in November.  The only sister and brother I have left up here couldn't give two shits less about me.   They've never approved of my life or the way I live it.  I don't kowtow to their opinions and judgment and it pisses them off.  They've never appreciated that I march to the beat of a different drummer.  I don't fit in their box and that makes me an anomaly which is unacceptable to them.  Apparently it still pisses me off because I'm still talking about it.  ARGH!

Moving back home I have access again to female friends that are my age and have kids and get it. They are women I love and respect and have something in common with.  Plus I can give Aries an adventure.  Let her see what that many consecutive sunny days feels like.  Or what barbequing on Thanksgiving feels like.  I want to be able to show her around my home town and give her some options.  She wants to go to college in SoCa anyway so this makes her a resident.

So now the thoughts are all consuming.  Movers vs. UHaul vs. POD.  Stay with friends for a couple weeks while I find a place or trust someone else to pick it for me?  What do I want to keep that's stored in the garage vs. what needs to find its way to Goodwill. 

There are a lot of variables, but there's one thing I'm sure of:  I've not felt this happy about a decision I've made in a long, long time.  I haven't taken a risk on anything in years.  I've just been going through the motions day in and day out.  This time it's for me.  And it's for enriching Auburn Aries' life.  Cost of living is more and we may struggle but by Goddess, I'll give it everything I've got.