Honoring Yourself, No Matter What

Honoring Yourself – Honoring what you want, what you need, what you don’t want, so on and so forth.  This seems like a simple concept but I have struggled with it my entire life.  Mainly because I was brought up in a dysfunctional home and subsequently two dysfunctional/codependent marriages which taught me over and over that my needs, my wants and my desires were not important.  I was to self-sacrifice all the time.  You’re upset, poor baby, are you just feeling sorry for yourself?  You don’t want to do that, too bad, you need to make me happy.  You don’t want to take on this job duty that you had already told me you did not feel you were a good fit for, too damned bad.  The list is never-ending of how I have not honored myself, my needs and my wants.

As I approach my fiftieth year, I look back at all the ways that I have let people walk all over me, bully me, push me and just plain out terrorize me for no good reason at all.  Granted, when you’re a child, you don’t have a lot of say in the matter.  As an adult though, even though it may not feel like it, you most certainly have the right and the ability to put up those boundaries.  Yes, maybe it means you lose your job or you have to a find a new but better fit.  Yes, maybe you lose some friends who didn’t treat you well or at least put them so remotely on the edge of you life that they can no longer take advantage of you.  Yes, you may quietly (or not so quietly) push away family members who are toxic and selfish.  Yes, you may break up from a long-term relationship or marriage.  Maybe it takes two divorces before you realize you’re in a holding pattern of abuse.  Abuse you allow because of whatever reason.

Though not always easy to remove yourself or stop a situation where you are not honoring yourself, it usually is pretty simple.  You remove yourself from that person, situation or job.  Just yesterday, I was relieved from a duty that over a year and a half ago, I told my boss and the other person(s) involved that I was not a good fit to fill nor did I want to do it.  I already had a full plate with my current duties.  I had considered moving up into a more corporate position but mostly because I felt that I “should”.  Why did I feel like I should, because everyone was telling me, you need to move up, succeed and the other truth was there were two other employees in my direct office area that were making me miserable.  They were toxic and I never felt at ease or comfortable but by some miracle they had both quit within a month of each other.  The power of just one person to make your life hell always amazes me.  Even when you don’t engage them, their sheer presence within your vicinity is poison.  I never believed all that ‘energy’ bullshit until then.  You felt darkness enter the room with them.  When they were absent from work, you felt joy and a lightness because their negative/evil energy was not there.

The bottom line is I like my job.  I like that it is independent, my boss is in another state and I have the autonomy for the most part to perform my duties and I do so well.  Not perfect, but well.  But for over the last year, I’ve been so unhappy.  Not because of my core job duties I had been doing for twelve years but because of this new and very visible job duty that forced me to work in a global sense.  It’s not that I couldn’t perform this new job duty well, it was that I was too torn between two full-time jobs and I’m a 32-hour full-time employee.  I had streamlined my main job which the person before had been working 40-50 hours a week to within 32-36 hours easily.  But this new duty, the one I was assured would not get much bigger, exploded into something I could not keep up with, even if I worked 40-50 hours a week.  Then there was also the fact that I had told them NO, NO, NO, NO.  Work is one of those things where it’s really difficult to refuse work.  because they are paying you, to work.  You don’t want to be seen as the difficult, pain in the ass employee.  I always try to be the employee I would hire for my own business.  My supervisor doesn’t have to babysit me, I do my job, I take responsiblity for my mistakes and my work load.

Looking back though, I’ve all but made myself sick over this new job especially the last few months when it’s become way too much for me to handle.  I’d been communicating with my boss since last fall that I think this duty needs someone else, I’m not able to keep up.  Nothing in the corporate world ever moves fast it seems.  At least not this kind of thing.  But after many discussions with my boss, I was finally able to sign off giving this duty to a person who truly wants the responsiblity.  I’ll still be in this arena, at least for a while and I’m good with that.  Makes no sense for all my knowledge and training to just be wasted but when I got off the call yesterday, when I saw the form reducing my role to a lesser one was signed, it was as if someone had taken a 100-lb concrete weight off my back.  Not that I don’t want to work hard, I do, but I was just not the right pick for this one.

Lesson learned, even if it means I might come across as difficult or even maybe a bit insubordinate, I should have stuck to my guns.  I should have prepared myself to look for a new job and stood my ground.  By allowing myself to be run over, I was angry and frustrated for over a year.  On top of that, I was driving my husband, kids, cousin and close friends crazy with my bitching (sorry guys, but thanks for sticking with me).  I could have offered to be a backup which would have been a much better spot for me because the experience breathed new life into my career, forced me to get out of my little corner of the world and work with people all over the globe.  This gave me new experience, new confidence and new self-esteem as well as reminded me that I can do whatever I set my mind to.  But I also know I’m not the big corporate career ladder climber.  I don’t want that stress, that responsiblity or all that political landscape you have to figure out and tip toe around.

Yesterday after work, my husband left for his night shift and I retired to my exercise studio that looks over my backyard and the fields/woods behind our house.  I had opened the window and rode my exercise bike, then did some free weights.  I finished the routine with some yoga.  For yoga, I turned off the music and opened the window more so I could hear the frogs in the swamp as they peep in unison and the many bird songs that our yard is blessed with.  Once I got to my floor work, I realized that I was actually listening to nature’s music outside.  I also realized that it had been a long time since I had been relaxed enough to even notice all that goes on around my home.  I’m fortunate to live in the country which suits my personality just fine.  The closest house is a quarter a mile away.  For a good ten minutes, I remained in corpse pose with my eyes closed listening to the frogs, the birds and the occasional sound of a vehicle traveling down my road.  I had lost the joy of living because I was anxious, stressed and not honoring what I truly needed.

As I laid there, I made myself a promise that I am going to take care of myself no matter what.  Even if I’m afraid I might lose my job, lose a friend or whatever it may be that I’m afraid of if I don’t comply.  Granted, there are rules and laws that I can’t ignore but let’s all have some common sense here, ok?  There are always things we have to do that we don’t want to do like certain tasks at work, chores, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. but are necessities of life.  But in this case, I honestly didn’t have to take on this additional duty.  And I did say “NO” multiple times but eventually caved against my better judgment.  I told myself that it was just because I was being a big old P that I wasn’t taking this on that maybe I was just afraid but this would be a good move for me.  Nope, I truly didn’t want the extra responsiblity at least not on that level.  I should have stood my ground, politely and respectfully of course.

That’s been the problem all my life, I’ve always been afraid to assert myself.  I didn’t believe that my wants, needs and desires were not important.  I should self-sacrifice always but that’s all bullshit.  I’m much better at standing up for myself but obviously considering this last year or so, I needed to take it one step further.  Held fast, and as always, my biggest folly – I SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED MY GUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s always an epic fail when I don’t listen to myself, my instinct or my gut.  It’s always an epic fail when I let someone talk me into something that all the way down to my core, I know I do not want to do or be or take.  At my job, the worst case scenario is that they fired me, though I doubt that would have happened but I could have found another job.  The bottom line is that I did have a choice though not one I wanted to really have to deal with but I could have survived losing my job.  We almost always have a choice, the result might not be pleasant if things don’t go the way we hope but usually they are survivable.  Sometimes events or things that seem the end of the world just are new starts into something wonderful.  I think had even the worst case scenario had occurred and I got fired, I would have been better off because I would have honored myself.

That said, I’m really happy that it worked out in the end and I get to keep the job I have had for over twenty years.  Of course, I could get laid off or fired but for now, things have worked out.

As I approach my fiftieth birthday early next year, my mission is to always take care of, honor and protect myself regardless of the situation.  Even if it means an outcome of which I may be afraid, I will stand my ground and stand up for myself.  Scouts honor!

 

 

 

 

 

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My Struggle With Intuitive Eating & Emotional Overeating

Toward the end of 2018, I decided to make some pledges (not resolutions) to myself and my own well-being. They are:

  1. My Health & Fitness – Conquering my overeating & shed the extra “person” I carry from the result of not dealing with my emotions, boredom, etc.
  2. My Peace – I can’t control other people/situations but I can control how I react.
  3. My Self-Care – Putting this first, I deserve it at all times.
  4. My Joys – Once my responsibilities are taken care of, I deserve to spend my time in ways that make me happy and joyous.

So No. 1 is what I’m going to focus on though they all sort of tie in together. First off, #1 is not a diet. I’m not counting calories or forcing myself to work out to burn calories. Sometimes I log my food to pick up on trouble spots, make myself more mindful when I’m eating at points that I’m not hungry and maybe need to address some underlying emotions or issues. When I started Intuitive Eating, I didn’t address the core reason I struggle with overeating to start with. Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic household, food became my drug of choice since when you’re 9-10 years old you usually don’t have access to drugs and alcohol. Though watching my father, I knew I didn’t want to abuse alcohol. Food was my friend, my comfort and still is today except now I want to go a step further and shed my frequent need for comforting with food. This feels like one of the final steps I need to take in my journey to overcoming my past abuses and traumas. Frankly, I don’t want what happened to me in the past to win.

Long story short, I didn’t truly follow Intuitive Eating (IE) as it is intended. I used it as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, but I wasn’t eating to true hunger, I was shoveling junk into my big mouth to buffer the pain and anxiety from my past. Then I blamed IE for failing me. Nope, I failed me. I was eating when I wasn’t truly hungry. I wasn’t listening to my body but to my emotions, my fears, my anxiety, my stress, my boredom, etc. IE didn’t fail me, I failed IE. I failed myself but it’s okay. It’s all in a learning and recovery process.

People who have suffered abuse, sexual trauma/rape etc. especially women, tend to be overweight as a coping mechanism.  Wearing a “fat suit” makes you feel safer from unwanted attention. Start to lose weight, get smaller and the moment you start garnering more uncomfortable attention, you’ll unconsciously start overeating to pad up your protective fat suit.  In a way, it feels like your superpower to be invisible to other people.  You can fade into the background considering you’re not being targeted for fat-shaming. 

In my life, I have experienced verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse so I struggle in many different ways but I’m determined to overcome these coping mechanisms. It’s time I break free of my past and live a freer life. I know I will always be haunted by my past but I don’t want it to win. I will falter but I will pick myself up, brush off and keep going. Eventually, the falls will become infrequent and I will also learn to catch myself before hitting the ground sometimes. But I have to be patient and kind with my trips. I just want to overcome and drop this baggage. I want to stop suffering, stop overeating and take care of my body. It feels like this extra “person” of fat/weight that I carry around weighs me down and serves as a constant reminder that I’m still letting my past win.

The principles of IE are simple:  Eat when hungry – eat what you want until just satisfied.  Incorporate gentle nutrition and joyful movement.  Well this is my take on it, the book is more involved but this is the overall view.  When you are struggling with emotional/stress overeating, it throws in an additional challenge.  I’m not going to diet any more.  I’m not going to weigh or measure myself.  It has never once helped in the long run.  I’m not going to berate myself for what I eat but I’m also going to stop ignoring my emotional overeating and fool myself to believe oh, it’s just intuitive eating.  Um, yeah, Laura, nope, nice try.  Stop excusing your overeating as IE.  Just stop it already.

The other night, hubby and I went to Walmart to get some groceries but it had started pouring down rain while we were inside.  Our car was halfway up the parking lot so I grabbed ahold of the cart, bracing some of my weight on the handle and started running toward it.  Because some of my weight was being carried by the cart, I felt this incredible lightness.  I couldn’t tell you how many pounds the cart way holding but it doesn’t really matter.  The experience made me think of how much better I would feel if I was not carrying an extra ‘person’ of weight.  How much lighter and stronger I would feel.  How much more I could do.  Of course this triggered the whole dieting thing in my head, but I pushed it out of my mind.  I can’t live my life dieting.  But I can live my life honoring what my body wants and needs.  I can honor my life by dealing with the hard emotions, loneliness, sadness, grief, anger, frustration, etc. by facing those uncomfortable feelings.  My body is padded with all my overeating.  

Another recent experience is I deleted all my fitness tracking apps off of my phone.  Since my late teens, movement has been mandated exercise to lose weight.  I must walk, ride, run, hike – X amount of time at Y intensity to burn Z calories.  It was never about joy or enjoyment.  Diet mentality sucks.  One day I walked four miles with my daughter on the bike path.  Several times I caught myself thinking – ‘you better walk faster you’re not burning enough calories’, ‘quit stopping, your heart rate will drop’ and ‘push, push, push’.  Each time, I would push those thoughts out of my mind and go back to enjoying what I was doing.  If I wanted to stop and poke under the leaf litter hoping to find an early wildflower, then so be it.  If I wanted to stop and take a few photos of an area, no problem.  If I just wanted to stop, close my eyes and breathe in the fresh air, go for it.  Somewhere along the way, I had completely given up my enjoyment of being outside moving.   Without realizing it, we had walked four miles (my phone auto tracks steps and I checked out of habit).  

The next day, it was warmer and the sun was in and out.  Being in west-central Ohio, the winters can be brutal and I wanted to get back outside.  This time I drove to a park fairly close to my house that has a lot of off pavement trails as walking on pavement makes my knees and hips hurt if I do it too much.  Even though it was muddy, I brought an extra pair of hiking shoes and set off.  This time the exercise Nazi in my head was quieter.  A few times, she popped up but I ignored her commands.  I wasn’t on a set schedule and had several hours to myself.  Before, I would have my exercise tracking app on and be compulsively checking it for my average walking speed, calories burned and time elapsed.  I’d be hiking briskly, not stopping to admire much of anything.  

Three different times, I had scared up a giant blue heron who was fishing in the creek and nearby small lake in the park.  The last time I saw him, he was standing on a slowly shrinking ice patch at one end of the lake.  He cocked his head to one side so he could see me better as I slowly approached.  I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures with my camera.  I crept along the trail excited that he hadn’t flown away this time.  He watched me cautiously and I watched him.  As I gently took soft steps, I was able to get closer photos until I had walked right by him (or her – I have no idea how to tell them apart).  I stood there staring back at him, taking in the quiet of the day, the sun coming in and out from behind the traveling clouds.  Maybe, I thought, if I were to have a spirit animal, maybe it’s a blue heron.  

Eventually, I moved on and he stayed on his ice perch to fish.  As I finished my hike, I reflected on my heron encounter.  A month ago, I would have been so focused on burning calories that I would have barreled down the trail scaring the heron a fourth time.  I wouldn’t have given myself permission to just go gently, slowly and enjoy the encounter with reverence and awe of such a beautiful bird.  My mom used to say ‘like a bull in a china shop’.  Well that’s been me going through my life breaking things and missing the delicate cues of the world around me.  Missing the beauty of the ‘china’.  I don’t want to be the bull anymore.  I don’t want to charge through my life.  

When I got back to my car, I was surprised to find I had walked five miles based on my phone’s step counter.  This time I checked out of sheer curiosity and not a goal.  If I had set my goal to hike five miles, I would have charged through just wanting to get it over with and on to the next thing.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed the hike like I did that day.  I’d been impatient and making up reasons in my head why I couldn’t possibly hike five miles.  But this time, I took my time, I took many photos with my phone (prompting me to order a recharageable portable power source since I almost ran the phone battery down).  I spent time just being present, being mindful.  I didn’t even notice I had hiked so far because distance wasn’t my goal.  Left to my own devices and enjoyment, I obviously will hike further than I would expect.  

Between the grocery cart experience and that day’s joyful hike, I realized I am on the right track.  I want to be lighter, more joyful, less encumbered and simply mindful.  When I ordered the power source, I also ordered a small sling day pack to carry a water bottle, maybe a sketch book, some charcoals and possibly my Nikon camera.  I also ordered a bracelet with a butterfly charm as a reminder to focus on the beautiful, to fly above the world’s expectations and BS, as a promise to myself to enjoy life, to honor what my body needs, to conquer the emotional/stress eating, to live the very best way I can.  I also ordered a pack of my fave Pilot V5 roller ball pens in a bunch of colors just because I wanted them and the bright chartreuse green is my fave.  

I don’t know if I will get smaller or lose weight.  The only way I will know is by how my clothes fit because I just can’t weigh or measure my self any more.   I don’t have an ideal size in mind, I figure this is up to my body to let me know what my size should be.  I believe that if I can for the most part eliminate emotional/stress overeating and that I listen to my body giving it gentle nutrition, that I may end up smaller/lighter.  Or not.  Either way it doesn’t matter.   The goal is to overcome old, poor habits and trust myself and my body.  That’s it.  To learn how to deal with my stress and emotions.  Instead of grabbing something sweet that I am not truly hungry for, I sit down and journal my feelings or go for a long walk to ease anxiety.  It’s all about self-care which I have ignored for years.  

It’s time to be brutally honest with myself each moment of every day and ask myself ‘what do you need right now?’.  There is truly no better time than right now to be my own best friend.