Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Running Tights

Running in public is never easy for me. But now that I'm at my personal highest weight it's even more about pushing myself way way out of my comfort zone. Last time I tried the Couch to 5K, I ran in my backyard so that no one would see me. I can exercise in public but running is something I feel like I must be thin to do. My already acute sense of self consciousness is magnified with every running step. And the thing is that when I feel bad about the way I look, I tend to layer. It's not something I'm proud of but it something I do almost on autopilot. But when you exercise, layering is problematic. I mean one can do it but it rather sucks.

When I pull on my running tights, I carefully avoid all mirrors but at some point I catch the faintest of reflections. The reflection of long thin legs tapering into a round rolly circle of fat where my stomach threatens to break out of the spandex. If I am able, as I sometimes am, to step back a bit, I am not sure what is so repulsive about a big belly pushing against some cloth. I mean, I'm clearly fat but it's not disgusting really. It's not a reason to hide inside, to not run, to not wear the clothes that are the most appropriate and comfortable for the duty ahead. But then I am slammed right back into the culture I live in, and I fear that I will be laughed at, mock, become someones personal "Person of Walmart." I live in secret terror that someone is going to snap a picture of my fat ass running, and post it on the Internet as a big "NO."

It happened the first time I went out. I like running out doors, and now that I've got the big fancy jogging stroller I don't want to run in the backyard. I also have a new attitude. I don't think I need to earn the right to wear fucking running tights, or maybe I earned the right because I'm running and that's what you wear when you run and it's cold. It's pretty simple. People should get to wear what they want without fear of being mocked, censored, raped, violently assaulted, etc. And that attitude pushed me past the people who had set up their hammock in the park, passed the walkers, the people driving by. Until the end, when I ran by a couple walking their dog. They were thin, Indy, the kind of people who populate our neighborhood. As I plodded by in my slow slow jog, the woman snickered and as I went by, she said something to the man, and they both burst out laughing. I could feel my attitude melting into shame and humiliation. All the years of mockery for being fat, the times I've been mooed or oinked at from school until just a couple of years ago hit me hard. I finished my run but with the flush of embarrassment.

I admit that it was a lot harder to run after this. I did my Day 2 run at home, safe from the eyes of the neighborhood. Then I didn't run for a lot of days. I had good excuses. Too busy running around kids around. It was too cold to bring Jude out and I hate running at the gym. When Monday rolled around, it was balmy. The rest of the week was going to be cold. I had to get out and get Jude out. I pulled on my tights. Shamed at the way they kept rolling down over what seemed liked the most giant belly ever. I put on my biggest tee shirt hoping it would cover most of my fat. I hauled the stroller out, strapped Jude in, and put my Ipod onto my new running set list. As the haunting, dark beginnings of Crystal Stilts filled my head, I began to walk. Toward the construction men who were working on the small park across the road from my house.

"Please don't let the running start." I thought over and over. We made it safely past the men who only glanced up briefly as Jude and I walked by them.

I started to think about all the memes that made fun of fat women wearing tight clothes. Of the assumptions that a fat woman MUST dress in a way that "minimizes" her fatness. The idea that of course she must notice that she looks FAT, and that she MUST WANT to hide this fat. I started to get really pissed off. What the hell does society want, I thought as I started to puff through my first one minute run. People think fat people should exercise but they don't want to make clothes for fat people to exercise in, and they don't want to actually see fat people in clothes for exercising. People want fat people to feel good and look good but only if it's clothes that hide the fat. What.is.wrong.with.this.picture? Everything, I answered, and began to stop giving a fuck that I was a fat girl in running tights. I took of my coat when I got hot because I was hot. I stopped caring that my shirt was riding up because damn it I wasn't going to run in a tent.

I finished my run going past the construction workers who didn't look up from their lunch. I ran by cars, and by other runners who were all thinner than me. I ran by walkers, and their dogs. I ran by a little girl and her mom. I ran and I ran angry that I even had to spend so much time in my head to get me to a place where I could wearing these stupid running tights without feeling shame.

Here's the thing. I don't have to earn my right to wear anything. If you don't like my body, don't look at it. My body is not disgusting or repulsive. My body has done pretty good for me all these years. I have used this body hard and put it through quite a bit of agonizing pain all in the quest to be thin. To shrink myself to a standard set by a society that at the same time tries to sell me shit food. But this body still stuck with me. I bore children with this body. I have run and climbed and danced and made love with this body. This body is a pretty amazing wonderful thing. I shouldn't have to hide it so that I am not mocked for it. I shouldnt' have to worry about it something is too tight or if this dress looks like shit on my apple shape (never mind that I love the dress). I wish I could say I"m over it but I suspect I will keep struggling but that's okay because the struggle is worth it. It's worth it when I see my own daughters comfortable in their skin. Not worried about being fat or not. Just happy with their bodies that serve them well.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's not about political correctness, it's about not being an asshole

Lately I can't help but notice there's a great deal of whining from people about being "forced" to use "politically correct" terms. Lots of hand wringing over the "word police." What's interesting is that every single time I see this kind of whining it comes from white, abled-bodied, neurotypical, straight people. Usually conservative but not always (a surprising number of my "liberal" friends don't get the problem with the r-word, and then defend their use of it).

Now let me just say this. If you are white, abled-bodied, neurotypical, straight, etc you have privilege. Period. And that means you don't get to decide what people who are not white, abled-bodied, neurotypical, straight get to be called. It really is that simple. You don't get to whine that you can't use racial slurs or gay slurs or disabled slurs. It's not about you . It's not about that five seconds that it takes to not go on about how you don't mean my kid when you ever so casually drop the r word.

Part of being in a position of privilege is having control over what words are used to describe you. Especially public words. And part of letting go of privilege is going to mean allowing those who are not in societal positions of power to dictate the language they want to describe themselves. It means letting go of what you want, what's easier for you, and about getting our your mental ass to relearn how to talk. It's okay if you slip up but instead of whining about the word police? Apologize. A simple "I'm sorry that was not OK for me to say" can go a long way.

Really it comes down to just not being an asshole. If someone doesn't want to be called gay or black or whatever don't call them that. When people who have intellectual disabilities tell you that when you use the r word as an insult or to denote something you think is unimportant or insignificant don't use it. There shouldn't be any space for trying to argue a position here. There is no position.

You're not being politically correct when you defer to someone asking to not be signified. You're ceasing to be an asshole.

I was just attacked on Twitter for "speaking for people of color" thus I took away any mention of race. I won't presume to speak for POC and I apologize if that is what anyone took from this post. I will continue to say that it is often people of privilege who defend using words that are considered slurs by others. I understand that I am white. But I am also not neurotypical, have children who are not neurotypical or white, and grew up extremely. This isn't a poor me commentary but rather a place to openly speak of who I am.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Each Day Is Filled With Joy

Life with five beasties is not always a big party. Well actually scratch that...it is a big party. One that is so long that it has eeps and flows. In any given day, we fluctuate between laughing hilarity to teen angst complete with slamming doors and muttered insults. Now I get that the Beastie abode is one intense place, and we certainly do have a house full of very passionate people so our experience might be a bit different. For me, it's been a revelation because before I meet H I spent a great deal of my time alone. Oh yes I had roommates, and I was very close to a couple of them but it really wasn't like living in a family as much as I thought it was at the time. When I hit my winter depression, I isolated and there wasn't anyone who pulled me out. I could sit in my room, listen to dreary music and read dreary poetry until I was so sad I could barely move. In the middle of those icy isolated winter days where the light is not nearly enough and the dark comes too early, I knew whole days with no joy. Entire days where I never laughed or smiled. Days where I could easily avoid seeing another person if I so wished.

My life is nothing like this now, and hasn't been since I had Umberto. Don't get me wrong I don't think having children is some kind of cure for depression. It's not. And I've dealt with my own fair share of depression since having kids. In fact, I went on anti-depressants for the first time in my life after having kids. I am not going to belittle that depression can hit even harder in the midst of parenting. Parenting is tough and it's sadly often a very isolated experience. And in my parenting years, I have felt all these emotions, and have struggled with finding my own identity that got lost in motherhood, and all the things that people have written millions of things about before. This is my disclaimer before I continue.

For, and again I emphasize, for me, parenting has also brought a whole load of joy into my life . And this is really important. At first, I found myself a bit mistrustful of this joy. I kept waiting for someone to pull the carpet out from under me. Whenever I was sad or depressed, I leapt on that moment like it was  life line. "See!" I thought smugly, "There really isn't joy for me!" Usually five minutes later, Umberto would smile or hug me. Eventually Camille would be adorablely silly. Piper would dance. Rowena would tell us some off the wall story. And Jude...oh Jude with her smile and her clever sense of humor. They would all force a smile, a tiny bit of hot joy from the cold. At some point, it occurred to me that I was afraid to be happy. I realized it a long time ago. What was wrong with me? I wrote about it. I talked about it. Why was I scared to admit that I felt joy. That I liked laughing. That being with my family made me so happy I felt delirious with it?

One day Camille told me she didn't like to smile.

I remember being wounded by that line, and how I had spent so much time not talking about being fat that I had forgotten there are other things we might not want to pass onto our children. It was clear I needed to spend some time evaluating why I was bloody terrified of being happy. And it turned out that was quite a worm hole. There were so many things. I was terrified that if I allowed myself to be happy that some great cosmic trickster was going to come and take it all away from me. Depression had been a part of my life for so long that it felt like it was the only emotion I could have. I also didn't understand how one could have joy and depression at the same time so when I felt joy I quickly killed it. No room for that here thank you very much. And part of it was that joy didn't seem to fit in to a world with so much injustice so much pain so much wrong.  The real kicker was realizing that being unhappy, depressed, grumpy had become a part of my personality so much so that to not be that way felt like a betrayal of my very self.

But when I had that moment when I was pregnant with Jude, I promised her and myself that enough was enough. For Camille, for Jude, for all of my beasties, it had become vital that I learned to embrace joy. To accept those beautiful, funny, sweet moments as worth receiving. Over the last year, I have smiled more, laughed a great deal. I've cuddled with my sweet children. Marveled openly at their amazing sparklingly selves. There are so many pictures of me smiling and laughing. It was a good year. A beautiful year. A year fulled of all the normal shit that just makes happy to be in this life with these people.

And the thing is that there was crap stuff too. I yelled too much and felt like a bad mom. A certain beastie boy became a teen and well I'll just leave it at that. I didn't lose any weight and used food more than ever as a drug. I was angry a great deal. I struggled with depression. There were WEEKS where I had to force myself to leave the house. I cried because I hated myself. All this happened in between the joy.

Here's what I figured out. Being joyful, embracing what is wonderful and beautiful in your life does not negate the shit stuff. It doesn't just vanish because you're happy. Yes sometimes, perhaps most of the time, the joy does make that shit stuff bearable. I could be happy and still have to wrestle with all my demons so to speak. Being joyful didn't make me less of a writer. It doesn't diminish me as a person. it doesn't make me dumber or smarter.

More importantly being joyful doesn't make me any less outraged. And this is important. For every bit of joy I allowed myself this year, there was an equal measure of being accused of being angry all the time. I was told to lighten up, to embrace life, to love not hate, and on and on. I chuckled every time because how ironic was it that the year I opened up to joy was also the year I reawakened my passion for social justice? You see, I am utterly outraged at the state our world. The lack of compassion we have for our fellow earthlings both human and nonhuman is frankly disgusting. The killing of innocents, and even of not innocents. The wars. The way we shit up our environment. The fact that people with disabilities are treated with so scorn, pity, and injustice. The killings of young Hispanic men. I could go on but I think you get the picture. The world, my dear readers, is fucked. And that pisses me off. It makes me angry enough to write and to yell and to demand change. I'm outraged enough to call senators on the phone (major phone phobia here). To travel to Atlanta in the middle of the summer with five kids. To go stand in the cold to support a mayoral candidate who had big dreams for our little town. The joy doesn't take away from the outrage.

In fact, I think the joy fuels the outrage. Because joy is a big thing. It's something that demands to be shared. When I feel this joy welling up inside me my urge isn't to damp it down but to let it come and to let it flow to others. The fact is that we all deserve joy and when we are denied the most basic of human rights we are also denied joy. And that is wrong. Period. So much of my own fear came from feeling undeserving and that speaks to a bigger problem than just my sad low self-esteem. What does it say about our world that we feel like you have to earn or deserve joy? Be warned that I'm about to get all mystical. Joy, I suspect, is a mystery. One of the great mysteries.We do not earn joy. We accept it. It comes to us like a gift.

"Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for joy. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and joy you have not begun to live." Thomas Merton