Yes, I am fat.

Once, in a counseling session, one of my kids asked if they could be honest with me.

Um, yes.

Then they said, “You’re fat.”

Again, um, yes.

The back story is that this kid wasn’t happy about what we were talking about and was trying to make me mad so we would stop. Unfortunately for her, it didn’t work.

I’ve thought about that brief conversation off and on since then, exploring my mixed thoughts and feeling about it. I felt hurt and upset and pissy. I felt ashamed and defensive. And there was a part of me that stayed completely neutral and just nodded agreeably.

The fact is, I am fat.

It’s not a positive or negative statement. It’s simply a fact.

I have had, and still do, my share of issues with my weight. I’m well aware of what my weight is for me…a shield, an unconscious protection from the world. And the result of years of burying feelings and anxiety, grief and loss.

Other than during sex or while floating in the ocean, it’s rare for me to have felt comfortable in my body. I’ve thought off and on throughout my life that my body felt a bit like too-small clothes, ill-fitting ad not quite right.

Well meaning doctors, family and friends have “expressed their concerns” over the years. I’ve received a LOT of advice and suggestions on how I could lose weight. (I do find it a little odd that people automatically assume I want to do so without asking me.)

I hear a lot of “shoulding” from people. I should be more active. I should eat differently. I should feel this way. I should think about it this way. I should want to change. I should love my body as it is. I should weight myself. I should not weight myself.

The fact is I weigh about 300 lbs. (Give or take, I don’t often get on a scale so I’m not completely sure.)

Admitting that brings up a lot of shame. I do often feel self-conscious and uncomfortable with my body. There are times I wish I could do more active things and just don’t have the physical stamina for it.

AND, despite all that, my weight does not define me.

I am smart. I am creative. I am funny. I am compassionate and clear. I am strong. I am moody and emotional. I am nerdy and geeky and quirky. I am often impatient and restless. I am messy and obsessively organized all at the same time.

I am a complex and slightly contradictory being. My body and my weight are very small aspects of that being.

Someday, when I’m ready to put the time, consciousness, and energy into it, I may decide to release some of my weight.

Or, maybe I never will.

Either option is okay. I am who I am. Weight has little to do with that.

(I must confess here, finding a non-professional photo of me to post was a bit of a challenge.  Even though my body doesn’t define me, I seem to have resistance to having my picture taken – especially any full-body photos!)

A Little Mind Spelunking

I’ve been toying for a while now with the idea of starting to blog about the various aspects of my life that are challenging to me. The idea is that being more open about the things I often feel shame about will help to 1) reduce the feelings of shame and 2) help move me out of the stuck feeling that surround them.

So, that’s what I’ve started to do recently. It seems the first area up for me is relationships. And my bafflement of them.

I was noticing tonight after a social gathering, a strange blend of feeling connected and yet very much…not. It’s not an uncommon experience for me during or after social gatherings with friends.

On one hand, I feel happy and loved and accepted.

And then also out of place, awkward, a sense of not belonging or not fitting, and a sense of being left out or on the outside looking in. I don’t particularly care for these feelings.

My usual patterns have been to a) feel sort of lost and cry until I fall asleep (fortunately, this one is rare nowadays) or b) totally distract myself and avoid the feeling. I’m not terribly proud of either of these but there ya go.

The last few times these feelings and thoughts came up, however, I’ve followed them deeper. I’ve gone spelunking in my own mind to see what was in the caverns within.

What I found? A deep desire for human to human connection.

Relationships have been a more challenging aspect of life for me. And for a few years, a couple of years ago, I let myself withdraw and become very isolated – and slightly hermit-ish. This, ah, did not help me to feel more connected and more confident in relationships.

I’ve been changing that over the last couple years and it has been full of a lot of starts and stops and bumpiness and lovely surprises. Now, I do have a wonderful circle of friends who are totally loving and supportive and fun. I am all too aware that any and all feelings of separation, outsideness, aloneness, and non-belonging are results of my own uncertainty and self-doubt.

Still, there are two roles in my life that remain empty, two spaces to be filled, that I miss the most. I miss having a partner. A love relationship to experience the ups and downs of life and to create a life with. And I miss having a best friend. Someone to chat with about everything and nothing, someone to laugh with and just hang out with and enjoy the company.

I’ve been blessed to have had both of these in my life. However, both my fiancé and the woman who was my best pal, at differently times in the last decade, died and moved onto another life. They both left space in my life that has not yet been filled.

In my mind spelunking tonight, I’ve found that although it is often painful in the waiting, I do trust that the perfect people to fill these spaces in my life will appear. It’s almost as if I feel them finding their way to me and the closer they get, the more intensely I miss their presence.

They will come and until they do, there is much life to be enjoyed. This is what I reach for when the aching feels so huge. (Really, though, they could move a bit faster. I’m not the most patient of souls!) :)

The Mystery of Personal Relationships

I have a bit of a confession to make.

I’m a counselor. (Well, this isn’t the confession yet.) I’m trained to build relationships with clients. I’m trained in communication. I’m trained in boundaries and self-disclosure.

Personal relationships, though? (Confession time). They baffle me.

The irony of this dichotomy is not lost on me.

I’m not particularly socially savvy. I have a tendency to doubt that people really like me. I often feel unsure and awkward and self-conscious. I tend to let others take the initiative in relationship with me. I’m usually seen as quiet and shy and somewhat aloof. (In truth, those last 2 sentences aren’t me at all.)

I’ve spend a lifetime trying to demystify personal relationships and friendship. I watch people around me and it seems to natural for them. And I ask myself why I just can’t seem to get it. I’ve spent years trying to fake my way through it and not let anyone see my discomfort and uncertainty. It’s not as if I haven’t had or don’t have relationships and friends. I do. They just don’t often move beyond a surface level because I’m freaking myself out trying to figure out how to be me and be in relationship.

But, dammit, I’m tired. Tired of feeling alone. Tired of pretending I have any clue what I’m doing. Tired of trying to figure out who I’m supposed to be, how I’m supposed to act, and what I’m supposed to do. Tired of doubting, of taking hours to make a phone call or invite someone to do something. Tired of questioning my every action or non-action.

Mostly, I’m tired of hiding and shaming myself for not being better at personal relationship and friendships. I’m tired of condemning myself for not knowing what I don’t know. None of this is working for me.

So, as I’m writing all of this, I’m wondering, “Am I really going to just put this out there for anyone to see?” (And the little voice in my head goes “Are you crazy?”)

Yes.

Hiding it, denying it, shaming myself for it isn’t working.

Something has to change. Putting it out there is my way of doing something different.

I don’t expect finally voicing it and saying “hey, look, this is me and this is what’s going on with me” will magically fix it. I do think it will help silence some of the shame and allow me to be more honest in my relationships. I do think voicing it and realizing that voicing it didn’t kill me will create more of an opening for me to just say to friends “I really want to know you better and spend time with you – and I’m not sure how to do that. Can you help?”

Bravery and freedom comes in all different ways – sometimes it’s ignoring the voice in our head that says we should have it all together and finally admit that we don’t.

I know this socially awkward and insecure person isn’t the truth of me. The truth of me is confident, clear, loving, secure, and infinitely connected.

I believe she’s in me. She waiting for me to stop hiding.

This is me. Open and honest. Not having it all together. And that’s ok.

Settling into Unsettledness

“I don’t know.” “I’m confused.”

Phrases I’ve been saying all too frequently to myself recently. Today, it occurred to me that perhaps I do know and I am clear on the questions I’ve been asking myself.

I just don’t particularly like the answers I’m getting. Or what they mean for my life.

I’m back in a place that is all too familiar – though no less uncomfortable than the first time – changes taking place within and all around me, doubts, questions, restlessness, and a feeling of unsettledness. My life is, once again, shifting beneath my feet and curving into new pathways and directions. I’m starting to realize this is more the rule than the exception in life.

See, the answers I’m getting to my questions about what I want and who I want to be and how I want to live in this world, well, they don’t fit the nice, clear path I had mapped out. And I always have a plan. Even on the all too many occasions those plans have been suddenly and irrevocably altered, I just sat right down and mapped out new plans. Even in my planning, I usually have a plan.

Take my career for example. Aside from one brief side detour, the plan has been (since I was TWELVE) to be a counselor. Through ups and downs and scattered plans in every other area of my life, this has always remained constant. Through high school, college, graduate school, and actually working as a counselor.

Get a bachelors degree in psychology. Check.

Get a masters degree in counseling. Check.

Work as a counselor. Check

Get my LPC (licensed professional counselor). Basically, check. I just completed my required supervised hours and have send in my application for approval to have my unrestricted LPC license.

Things are going along exactly as planned. I’m working as a counselor for a great agency, building my private practice on the side, well on my way to moving into full-time private practice and creating my long dreamed of grief & bereavement center.

Then suddenly, recently, a little voice deep inside saying, “Eh. Maybe not counseling.”

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

The thing is, it’s not that shift in desire or plans that has me so unsettled and uncertain. I’m pretty adaptable. I could just create a new plan. It’s not even really, when it comes down to it, the answers of what I want to be doing that are so unsettling.

It’s that I can’t see the steps from here to what I want. Without the steps, I can’t map out a nice, neat path forward. That’s what has me wanting to wallow in the land of “I don’t know” and “I’m confused.”

Now the question is, what do I do when I can’t see the plan?

Nothing. At least, not right now.

I let where I am be ok. I stand in the unsettledness, the uncertainty, and questions. I continue to live and enjoy my life and my work even as I imagine and dream of the new life and slightly different work that calls to my soul.

I trust that the path will unfold beautifully even if I don’t map out the steps. (She writes as her inner teenager scowls and mutters annoyed, “Trust. It always comes down to trust. Bleh.”)

I look for the joy and the thrill of happy surprises around the curves I can’t yet see and the unexpected gifts along the way.

I settle into the unsettledness and enjoy the adventure of it all.

It’s a road trip without a map (or GPS). Let’s see enjoy the scenery, shall we?

Forever Held

In my body she bloomed
As she grew
I carried her life within
My love expanded -
More and more and more
I cradled her
But for a precious moment in time
Though she left, my sweet child
She remains forever held
In heart and memory

I will hold my daughters, Grace & Lily, who left before they really came, forever in my heart.  This week, a number of years after each one left this life, I had a memorial ceremony to say good-bye and finally let them go.  It was beautiful and sweet and filled with love and gratitude.

One day, soul to soul, may we recognize each other once again, sweet ones.
Until then I will love you.  That is enough.

Everyday Gratitude

In the sweet silence at the close of dusk
Gratitude speaks for this day today
In the chaos, in the quiet
All is well, all is right
For this, my beautiful, this is Life.

Daisies, Dreams, and Drumming: Finding the Beauty of What Is

Last night, as I drove home from a laughter-filled, fun couple of hours with some of my favorite people, I was stuck by how happy and peaceful and deeply grateful I felt.

    • Grateful for these people who have brought so much laughter & love & fun to my life.
    • Grateful for so many other amazing people I am so privileged to know.
    • Grateful for parents who love me and support me in so many ways (even if they don’t always “get” me!).
    • Grateful for this diverse, anything goes community I live in.
    • Grateful to be a part of creating a school that empowers kids and encourages them to focus on their strengths
    • Grateful to be here, now, with all the ups and downs and twists and turns of my life
    (just to name a few)

Yesterday was a somewhat bittersweet day for me. It’s the day that would have been my daughter’s 8th birthday. I miss her. I miss that I never got to hear her voice or see her eyes or watch her grow. As I’m working to help create this school, I often find myself thinking of what I would have wanted for her and how much fun it would have been to bring her there to learn and create and discover.

Yesterday could have a very sad day. It has been in the past. It would be very easy for me to wallow in the what-could-have-beens and sadness. Instead, it was a good day. It’s become a day to celebrate all the beauty in life and to be grateful for the beautiful beings that touch my life – just as my little Grace touched my life. Instead of wallowing in the sad, I reach for gratitude. And each year on her birthday, I give away a bouquet of yellow daisies to someone (or several someone’s) who, in the previous year, helped remind me of the beauty, fun, and joy in living.

Instead of regretting what could have been, I get to celebrate the beauty of what is and honor my Grace in the process.

This has been the most peaceful and, well, easy birthday anniversary since she died. I laughed a lot. I was very productive (yippee!). I spent some time outside taking in all the spring flowers and leaves and sunshine. I remembered all that’s beautiful about my life and how blessed I am.

Grace has been here with me, too.

I have one ultrasound picture of Grace, taken shortly before she died. I’d been thinking it was about time to take that picture down and put it away. Seeing it always made me a little sad. Wednesday night that frame fell off a ledge and completely shattered (and I do mean shattered – frame, glass, and all!). Ok, Grace. I get the message :)

Wednesday was actually the day I felt the saddest. Until I went to hear a group of women drummers perform. They were amazing. Just a few minutes into their performance and I felt the sadness dissipate and lift. And I danced and laughed and simply leaned into the experience of it all.

The rhythm of the drumming stayed in my head all night and I dreamed of it. Grace was there, too. I couldn’t really see her clearly and she didn’t say anything out loud, but she wrote the words to this poem in the air in letters of bright blue that sparkled and glittered. When I woke up this morning, I wrote them down.

Some would probably tell me that was just my mind merging the two events. But I know Grace was there, lifting that sadness. The picture frame breaking and the poem were reminders that life is always moving forward and that the beauty of life is found now, in what is.

Thank you, Grace. Even though you couldn’t stay, I’m so grateful you chose me.

Drumbeats

A thousand drumbeats in my head
Pulsing
Beating
Crying out
Tear the veil of there to here
Open, open
Light pours through.
Rhythm dancing
Body swaying
Feel the pulsing beat.
Open, open
Chanting, singing
Grace in motion.
Breathing faster –
Stop.
Booming silence
Echoing
A thousand drumbeats in my head