Get Confident, Stupid! or How I Learned I Was Not Alone In The Sea of Suckage

In my circle of friends, I’m totally the weird brother in-law from The Hangover.

My friend, we’ll call her, “Jolene” (because that’s her name) and I spent a truly nightmarish amount of hours together while we were in school. We saw each other more then we saw our families for probably three months. Because of this, people seemed to think of us as a single unit. A woman in the student life office said, “In my mind, you guys are best friends, live in the same house, cook and do everything together!” So…she thought we were married? To each other? Maybe this is why that guy implied I was a lesbian in a job interview.

But the funniest was when our student group advisor wanted to talk to Jolene and I, but got pulled into a meeting. We’ll call him, “Dave” (that’s really his name, I’m bad at this pseudonym thing). Jolene and I had to leave, so I sent him an e-mail that said, “We had to go, but we’ll talk tomorrow.” A little later Dave calls my cell phone. I told him I was on my way home, but what’s up. He said, very seriously, “Is Jolene with you?” I giggled and thought, “Jesus Christ, do people really think we live together?” My inner smart ass became my outer smart ass when I said, “Now, Dave, Jolene and I do not actually live together.” Silence. Um…okay. Clearly Dave was not in a very Beth place that afternoon. I straightened up and put on serious businesswoman face. “No, she’s on her way home, too. Do you want me to tell her something for you?” For the record, he recovered and found me hilarious again the next day.

A visual representation of trying to find myself in the world after school was out.

I thought of this story when one of my friends was lamenting how much longer he had left in school and I gladly offered to change places with him because I loved school and miss it almost every day. He said he couldn’t relate, but asked why did I miss it? Honestly, no one had ever asked me that before and aside from, “it was awesome,” I didn’t know how to answer. Thinking about it for a while, it boiled down to being in a kind of insulated, supportive environment. Even on bad days, I knew there were a bunch of people who had my back and that I could turn to when things got rough. If nothing else they were there say, “Guuuuuurl, I know.” Then they’re just gone. Suddenly it feels like you’re floating alone in this big sea of suckage where no one gives a shit about you.

But then I started thinking, is that really true? I mean, just because I feel like it’s true doesn’t mean it is. I believe a lot of stupid shit, plus feelings are kind of dicks and lie. A LOT. Can I call up those same people, get advice, share victories, or just vent and would I do the same for them? Absolutely. I do it all the time (much to their dismay). They’re the people I want to do everything with and if we could move into a compound and hang out all the time, I totally would (no, I wouldn’t) (yes, I would).

So, just because we aren’t forced to be in a teeny room with each other for an ungodly number of hours every day doesn’t mean that there is less support. Yes, people get busy and have to do their own thing, but I know that I’ve got an awesome support system around me. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it.

Losing 91 Pounds It’s Not What You Think (Or At Least What I Thought)

chloe

Chloe’s expression is my internal life when ever something good happens to me

I have a hard time believing things. I started a new job about a month ago and I refused to believe I actually had the job until then end of my first day. That came and went and I still refused to believe I had it until I got paid. Pretty much every time I walk in I’m surprised someone doesn’t say, “Didn’t so-and-so talk to you yesterday about not coming in any more?”

When I started this latest round of the weight loss merry-go-round, I didn’t really believe the numbers on the scale as they went down. Every week I’d weigh in and sarcastically record the numbers. “Minus 5 pounds. If you say so.” But over time, it became hard to deny that it wasn’t the scale playing an elaborate joke on me. It was actually happening. Then the day came when I not only weighed what my driver’s license claimed, but that’s when my bad at math self realized that meant I lost a grand total of 91 pounds off my highest weight.

Maybe it’s my reluctance to believe things, but I didn’t celebrate. I thought, “We’ll see what the scale says next week.” Like it was going to change it’s stupid scale mind and I’d say, “I knew it!” But I think I had all these wrong ideas about losing weight, like my life would fall into place (ha!), I’d get the ideal job (still working on it) be anxiety free (did you read the first paragraph?), be making millions (I’d settle for hundreds), and Ray LaMontagne would release his hit song, Beth (keep hope alive). But I just lost weight. That’s it.

Don’t get me wrong, being smaller is great! Going from a size 22 to a 12 is something I can’t even explain. I can walk into almost any store and buy something off the rack now. I’ll curl up in a chair and I’ll realize I couldn’t have done that while heavier. Several times I haven’t recognized myself in photos. But they’re all fleeting victories in the grand scheme of things.

You know that saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? Maybe it’s because I”m not skinny (I’m still a good 15-25 pounds away from where I’d like to be and I still won’t be skinny), but let me tell you, that saying is pure, unadulterated, first class bullshit. Being a healthy weight is a good thing, but as good as really gooey pizza on a fall day? As good as a big plate of cheese fries? Nachos? Caramel apples???

hellno

Food is DAMN GOOD. When you lose weight, it’s still DAMN GOOD. There’s this misconception that all thinner people are health nuts and desire nothing but salads and fruit at all times. Wrong. They’ve just decided they want that healthy weight more then they want those cheese fries. All the healthier weight people are shaking their heads or thinking, ‘Well, no shit.” Yeah, trust me, it’s not that obvious to everyone. At least it wasn’t to me. I always thought that if I dieted long enough, that a switch would flip and I would instantly be purified from wanting less healthy foods. If that happens, I will totally tell you, but I’m not holding my breath anymore.

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Being very overweight you get drafted into a club you don’t even know you’re in. When you see another overweight person, you automatically know at least a portion of their struggles and have this unspoken link. Going somewhere new, I would always think, “I hope there is another big person there.” Why? It’s not like we were going to hang out. Maybe if the healthy weight people decided to form a shame circle Twilight Zone style or stage an impromptu intervention, I’d have someone to go through it with? Being a part of that club was a huge part of my identity and I didn’t realize it until, just like I got drafted in, I got quietly booted out. I have this urge to tell people that I used to be heavier, to say something in a hushed conspiratorial tone. “You know, I get it. I’m down with the struggle, man.” If they didn’t think I was trying to sell them drugs and actually managed to figure out what I was talking about, they’d think I was a braggy dick. So this is one area I generally keep my big yapper shut unless it comes up and it usually doesn’t. I’m not even sure how it would come up. “Hey, did you used to be fatter?” is generally not something you ask people.

High Anxiety

Final Postage stamp project. The upper left was created based on a tutorial from Computer Arts magazine and I used the same techniques in the other 3 stamps. WordPress make the images a little fuzzy, so click the image for a higher res version.

Before I start on today’s topic, I wanted to give a 5K update. Monday I got a text from the person I was to run with saying she was in the ER and “don’t sign up for the 5k!!!!!” My first thought was, “You are in the ER! Why are you thinking about the 5K?” and, of course, I had already signed up. She’s doing much better and now my sideline cheerleaders have doubled…to two. I knew I would think, “Why did I think I could do a 5K??” but I thought I would actually be running the 5K at the time and not a week before the race. I’m going to walk the route Friday, so I can see what I am in for. I can do this. Right? (grabbing your lapel) RIGHT??!?!?! So yeah. If you see me,  talk to me, see a rodeo clown that reminds you of me- I’d appreciate it if you would let me know that I can do this (even if you are lying).

Anyway….on to the real post.

For the past two weeks, several people have randomly talked to me about their anxiety. In person I’m about as articulate as a drunk wombat (okay, a drunk wombat sounds super cute, much cuter then me) and my on-the-spot advice comes out like, “You should probably do….stuff….” So I thought I would write about what I do to cope with anxiety. None of my strategies are ground-breaking or even overly complicated, but for me they work.

I’ve been pretty open, probably too open, about my anxiety. But for years I was in total denial that I had anxiety. About anything. Ever. To people who know me in real life, I’m sure that is hilarious, because I’m wound pretty tight approximately 85% of the time (the other 15% I am sleeping). I thought I had to have this veneer of perfection and could not show any cracks in my surface. So, the first and biggest step for me was admitting it. Even now, when I feel anxiety creeping in and try to struggle against it or resist it, it gets worse. When I admit the anxiety is there, I can work with it and find out how to deal with it instead of blaming myself for not being this 24/7 happy robot gameshow hostess woman (did that last sentence make you think of Flo from the Progressive commercials like it did me?).

If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this- feelings are not factsImagine you are walking outside in the dark. You see something on your path, but it’s hard to make out what it is, so you keep walking towards it (why did you go out without a flashlight?? That is how horror movies start!). You get about 10 feet away and realize it’s a bear. You are suddenly flooded with adrenaline and panic sets in. What is bear confrontation protocol? Run? No, don’t run. Running makes them chase you or something. Punch it in the head? No, that’s sharks. I think. What the hell is a bear doing in Chicago anyway????  A car drives by. It’s headlights illuminate your path and you see the “bear” was a couple of garbage bags some slob left out. The “bear” was only real in your mind. The vast majority of the time, the reality of the situation usually is never as bad as we build up in our minds. If I catch myself creating bears where there are none, I stop, take 3 deep breathes and remind myself that I am not in real danger.

I examine what is happening in that moment. The sounds I am hearing, they way my clothes feel on my skin, any tension by body is holding, my breathe going in and out, and any other sensations. The Buddhists call it mindfulness and, for some reason, when ever someone says, “The Buddhists do it”, whatever it is sounds really wise. Anyway, non-Buddhists heard about the practice of mindfulness and realized that it is great for reducing stress. Best of all, you can do it anywhere at any time in a minute or two.  Most anxiety comes from projecting our fears into the future. “What if I do this and my legs fall off?” “What if I go in there and fall into an abandoned mine shaft?” “What if I forget to wear pants and everyone laughs at me???” By switching our focus into the present moment it’s nearly impossible to panic- even if you’ve fallen into an abandoned mine shaft.

Something I need to mention is that it’s important to not wallow in your fears. Experience the feelings to their fullest extent, but let them run their course and move on. Realize that whatever you are feeling, everyone feels at some point. Like I said last week, you are not a special snowflake. The world is not divided into people with unflappable confidence and you. It’s just that some have decided that the only way out is through and that voice in their head, that tells them the world is going to collapse if they do whatever, is full of crap.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Think of that voice like an overprotective relative who you know has your best interests at heart, but is annoyingly free with the advice. You listen politely, thank them, roll your eyes behind their back, and do what you were going to do anyway. Even if you panic, remind yourself that no one has ever died from a panic attack (seriously). Your chances of passing out from a panic attack are also near zero (look it up, Mr/s. Skeptic). However, your chances of regretting opportunities lost forever because you let your anxiety and fear take your power are much, much greater.

But don’t take my word for it. Here are some resources written by people with lots of letters after their names giving practical advice on how to cope with anxiety and not let it overtake your life.

Articles:

Ways of Coping With Anxiety – About.com

Happiness V. Now-Ness- Psychology Today one minute mindfulness exercise

Books:

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane– Don’t let the name fool you. The first several chapters of this book are dedicated to helping reduce stress and anxiety. It goes on to to give other practical advice on helping your self image. Really a great book.

Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers– The second half of this book is a little iffy, but the first half is definitely worth the price. But if you’re too cheap to buy the book, let me sum it up for you. 1- literally everyone gets afraid, 2- they do what they are afraid of anyway, 3- with practice this gets easier, but the fear will never go away completely. Saved you $9.

And I’ll find strength in pain. And I will change my ways. I’ll know my name as it’s called again – “The Cave”, Mumford and Sons

Have a great week!