Friday, September 16, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: My Incredibly Failing Body

Summer was good. I made all my trapeze goals. I got stronger, and it showed. I have definition in my arms and am starting to get that low line of hard muscle in my thighs. For a long time, I didn't feel strong and it was a strange feeling. While I've never been the poster girl for being fit, I've always found myself to be relatively in shape. I like doing physical things from biking to hiking. And right before I got pregnant with R I discovered the pleasure in conditioning my body. But then shit feel apart when we moved here.

Yeah, depression happened but other things too. My body hit forty and sputtered out. Once I managed the depression, my next step involved feeling strong again. But I hit roadblock after roadblock. I haven't talked much about this but I live with a bit of pain. My joints ache often and I have flare ups about three months that make it hard to even get out of bed.   When I started to run again my knees went first. I'd rest them but as soon as I started up the pain returned. I sadly realized I'd likely not be able to run anymore. Then I started having sciatica pain which put an end to all exercise. I tried to walk because I read that you should move. Holy hell the pain. I hobbled around our neighborhood feeling miserable. Where was the strong person I used to be?

Trapeze turned everything around. Well, that and PT for the sciatica. Sure I still have pain but trapeze helped me to seek ways to make it better. Stretching taking care of the hip stuff,  and I discovered that exercise actually helped the other pain. If I pushed myself everyday, the flare ups weren't as bad and the daily pain manageable. I wanted to be strong for trapeze and I worked for it. Worked hard. And it happened.

The strong woman returned.

I started running again with no knee pain.

And then a couple of weeks ago, I woke up with intense ankle pain. I iced it, taped it, and after a few days it seemed better. I went to trapeze. It hurt but I could push through it. A few days of fine and then I woke up and couldn't put any weight on it. Even resting it hurt. I tossed all night in pain. I hobbled around for a week. No exercise. And the other joints started to hurt. My fingers stayed slightly bent as straightening them hurt. My elbows. My shoulders.

After seven days, I figured out what I'd done. I collapsed my arch. The injured foot has a visibly smaller arch than the other. The tendon that runs along the inside of my ankle hurts a great deal. I'm going to need more PT and likely an orthic. I might be able to save what little arch I have left. I could likely train to run again but I'm not feeling so inclined. I'm just happy to get back to the elliptical and my weights.

All this set the stage for what happened last week in trapeze class. Like I said I've been in pain for about ten days. I missed a trapeze class already so I really wanted to make this one.  But I wasn't at my best. We practiced our individual routines put together a couple of weeks before. I could do all of my routine but the mountain climber. I needed it to move from candlestick to perch. Mountain Climber is this move that involves one knee hooked over the bar, you drop your straight leg fast so fast that in theory you propel yourself up. This involves grabbing the robe aka letting go of the bar on the upswing.

That night. Rough. Already feeling weak and in low grade pain, I did the move over and over. I failed over half the time. When I did manage to get the rope, I fumbled around barely able to get myself up. It was as Piper used to say "Not pretty. Not beautiful." And the whole point of class was working on making it look good. When we were done, our instructors asked us to perform for our classmates. I couldn't do it. I was the only member who didn't do it. But I knew if I got on that bar, I was going to sob. As we got ready to go, classmates tried to talk to me but I couldn't say anything. I knew if I opened my mouth the tears would come. I cried all the way home.

First, I thought about my classmates. How shitty that I hadn't performed when they all did? We were a class. A sisterhood. I'd let them down. Second, I fretted about the nature of trapeze. The kind of trapeze I do is called aerial dance. But I couldn't dance. And if I couldn't dance could I really continue to do trapeze?

But the real problem lay deep inside. A fundamental problem with how I see myself.  I'd called it failure but a wise woman pointed out that I'm not afraid to fail as I try new all things often. No. It's the fear of not being good at things. Not being perfect. Not being the best. Although there was a failure in this moment. I failed in my attempts to start see myself differently. That last one hurt the most. As I said, I've never really had a hard time seeing myself as strong. I'm pretty realistic about it, and I know I've been at lows in terms of strength. But when I hit the high points I knew it. And during the lows? I always knew the highs could be achieved.

Being graceful though? Nope I never have ever thought of myself as graceful. I love ballet. Have loved it since I was a kid and saw Baryshnikov dance in the Nutcracker. I longed to be able to look that beautiful. To move across the floor like a dream. Like I could fly. Funny dream for a child who tripped over her own feet. A child who once fell down a flight of stairs putting her knee through a glass plate window. I fell out of trees. Off my bike. Walking on stone walls. I had zero grace. Gravity ate me up. Still I watched dancers, all kinds of them, with a ravenous desire. The first time I saw the repertoire group at trapeze, that same stirring rose up once again. I wanted to glide through the air, take grace out for a turn while gravity tries to pull me down.

And that night I failed. All those feelings from when I was little rose up again. The pain of knowing I'd never be beautiful. Graceful. I could see myself strong but I could not see myself dancing. Ever. Funny thing is that I walk around all the time imagining myself doing various tricks to songs I'm listening too. I can see myself hitting ques transforming songs into expression. However on the bar, the self-doubt rests like a mantle. A heavy mantle. I knew that this was my next hurdle.

I am going to have to push past this self doubt. It's my next step. I need to get on that bar and dance. I'm going to push past self doubt and all those feelings of ridiculousness. I'm going to tell gravity to go fuck herself for a bit and I'm going to try on grace. I doubt if I'm going to be running off with the circus anytime soon but I am going to push through this wall. I've got a song ready (Mumford and Sons Lover of the Light), and I have some plans. Let's see if Grace has some mercy on my body if not my soul.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Trapeze Changed My Life

Last Thursday marked the end of summer session at Canopy. We worked hard on conditioning moves something that we'd been doing all summer with an instructor who worked with us a long time ago. At some point, she said "You all are so much stronger than when I worked with you last time." We all flushed with pride. And it's true. We are not the same eight women who started trapeze back in January. We've not just stronger. We're more skilled. We're more confident. And we're a lot closer. I didn't think that taking trapeze was going to include getting close with a bunch of awesome women. I also didn't think it was going to have such a dramatic effect on my life.

But here I am seven months later, a different person.

About three weeks ago, I meet my first summer goal which was simply to do a hip pullover. It was very anticlimactic. No one saw me. It came after a night spent in frustration and tears. We learned a new routine and I felt incredibly weak after not being able to complete it. The summer session gave me a taste of success as did the tail end of the spring session. I mastered surrender and the pinnacle in my mind, catcher's climb. For the first time in forever I felt strong. I started running again and could do four mile runs. Without stopping. And then this class came. Partly it was just that kind of day when you feel raw and turned inside out. Partly it was because not being able to do the thing meant that I wasn't as strong as I thought. I stood there in tears at one point just holding those ropes and I thought "Fuck it might as well try." I swung my legs up and they wrapped around the rope. No one saw me. No fanfare. It reminded me of that time I got to my "goal" weight.

Next class came and as we started to do the routine again, I did the pull over without even thinking about it. I'd already done it a few times in open studio. And the room erupted in applause. Tears stung my eyes again but this time because everyone witness that moment. Those women knew how hard I worked to get this point. "Nope," I thought, "This wasn't like my goal weight at all. This was a real victory."

As we stretched out, we talked about how we felt about this session. I told everyone "Trapeze totally saved my life." And I flushed a bit at how dramatic that sounds. But it did in so many ways. Not just taking trapeze but before that when I got to hang out while the girls did classes. Just being in Canopy made me feel better. The instructors welcomed me along with my children. Some days when shit just felt bad, going into the studio for a kids' class soothed me. I didn't get why it worked. Now I kind of understand. Now that I am working the magic too.

Canopy feels like it's filled with magic. It's all the wonder of my childhood with its bright fabrics hanging in the back and the big rusted red moon on the wall. The light pouring in from the windows by the ceiling halos the room like a spotlight. The bars down with the kids learning their tricks is like all my dreams of being in the circus. I didn't have to run away. I just got to be there. Excuse me for my mystical moment but I wonder sometimes if all the joy and wonder Canopy produces somehow soaks the place.

When I started classes, I got to add to that energy. I connected with Canopy in a different way the moment my hands touched the robes, my feet the bar. Suddenly I was in the circus. It felt pretty damn special.

My depression has shifted in many ways since I started trapeze as has my relationship with my body. I feel strong and beautiful. I feel like my body is light enough to fly but strong enough to lift itself into positions I didn't imagine possible in January. I knew trapeze shifted Camille's life in important ways but I had no idea it would do the same fore for me. My depression is never gone but it's managed and now just for the meds. Trapeze satisfies that restless, listless feeling depression brings me. I can't imagine a life without trapeze in it. Even with the frustration and the failure I wouldn't ever want to not keep at it.

Last week, I finally managed with a lot of help to get up on the circus bar. Circus bar is different than the dance bar with it's steel bar and two points instead of a single point. It's also higher. I loved it. Loved being that high. I sat up there and looked down at the studio. The air was my element. Joy. Total joy. I wanted to laugh and dance and weep. Being up there I saw a future filled with all kinds of new things to learn not just on the dance bar but on the circus bar, the slings, the invented equipment. A whole world of possibilities. Years of work ahead. Good work that makes the body grow stronger. As I sat up there, I realized I had no fear. The only thing I feared in trapeze I realized was failure. And now sitting on my couch and not on the bar, I know that even failure isn't something to be feared. Fail once. Fail again. Fail better.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Surrender

It's been a long time since I posted a status report on trapeze. I am still at it but there was this crossroads moment a couple of weeks ago that required some thinking through. I got home from that class beat up. I mean seriously just beat up. I had what turned out to be second degree rope burn under my knee from where my capri's rode up and my bare legs slid down the rope. I had lesser rope burn on my ankles and my fingers were so messed up I couldn't close them fully. H took one look at me and was "Like what the fuck?" I kind of felt like that too. It wasn't that the class was over the top hard or even frustrating. I still struggled with one sequence but I felt good about the other one. I just realized that I was the only person in the class who couldn't do both and it was kind of a whoa moment. Like you don't want to be the person who is holding everyone back. That's the struggle for me with group exercise. There's all those other people. I decided that night that I was giving myself the summer to get it and if it didn't click I was going to start over. Or maybe just stop.

Time only made my decision seem right. I've taken up running again and over the last few weeks, my time spent actually running (a loose term for my movement I admit) has increased rather dramatically. First a 5k seemed totally doable and the other day I realized that when I hit week 8 of Zombies, Run, I'd be able to easily run a 5k. Then I started to think about running the Athens Half. Second, I fell back in love with running. I always hate it at first but then at some point the joy hits. Being able to do it without my body falling apart like it did last year is even better. But also I loved being alone. I know I'm slow so I don't plan on winning any medals but it doesn't matter cause no one is going to lose shit if I'm slow. I'm just a good person for you to pass and maybe make you feel better about your pace. I'm super cool with that role. Oddly running just doesn't ever made me feel competitive. It's always been about the love of the solitude of it all.

I had a plan for trapeze. Yeah the summer. But I wasn't going to half wing it. I made arrangements to take a couple of private sessions with another classmate and an instructor who I knew could help me. I also signed up for a conditioning class with my trapeze guru Ann. Then I did thing I used to do when I fall in love with someone impossible. I did it with H. I backed off. If I could manage to build a wall around my tender emotional heart thingie, then when the person ultimately rejected me, I'd be sheltered a bit from the storm. It's never worked. Didn't work with H and of course ya'll know the end of that story. But falling in love is just sometimes painful and no matter what I did I just couldn't help throwing it all in the ring. I'm an all or nothing kind of person. Go big or go home. That's me when it comes to love. And yeah it doesn't matter if I get my heart  broken over and over. But I figured I'd try again. After all I had a lot of love already in my life. Trapeze didn't have to be that hill right?

Despite a week off to let new skin grow under my knee, I didn't feel any enthusiasm as the next Thursday rolled around. I talked about it with my friend who ended up not being able to go. I wanted to stay home and work on my novel which after having jumped the shark for a while was back on track. My friend wasn't going to be there and it would suck without her. I had a whole list of reasons to keep my distance but I ended up just sucking it up and going. And of course the whole night was a reminder of both why I love and hate trapeze.

The entire first half to the class was devoted to me failing. Move after move of Ginger just can't do the thing. I sat there at one point exhausted and right on that edge of feeling like a total failure. But I made that conscious decision I've mentioned before of not going down that path. "You're not out here to be a professional." And the whole while I kept up that studied indifference. Oh yeah hai bar I'm not really into you. But of course I felt my heart breaking a little as we learned another move that I couldn't do.

At some point, someone from the intermediate class called over "Nice hip hang" after I fell out of the move I was supposed to be doing and sent myself into a wild spin. I thought "Seriously?" But because I couldn't argue with whoever called out the compliment I was stuck with it. I sat on the floor for a minute to get my bearings. And then I thought "Someone just complimented you on the move that you hate the most in the world.  The move that you sucked at for so long. The move that you had to fight fear to do." I got up feeling a little dizzy. "You just did hip hang while spinning." I DID HIP HANG ON A MOVING BAR.

When Jo announced we were doing surrender, I was calm. I didn't think I could do it. And I still had that summer plan in mind but now it was different. I wouldn't quit. I might have to redo a beginner's class but I wasn't leaving trapeze. I worked hard for the little bit I knew and while it wasn't nearly as impressive as some of the other things people could do it was a pretty big deal for me. I watched Jo show us the movements and I thought "That's not as bad as I thought." I've watched all my kids learn surrender and every time I am always just like "Wow." It's a pretty move and it looks damn impressive from the floor. But watching Jo do it I thought "I can do that." And I felt my heart perk up. "Get down," I thought sternly, "We're not quitting but that doesn't mean we're falling in love either."

I got up on the bar with my ugly little half hop thing and I stood. I'm good at standing. I usually wait for the others to try it first but this time. This time I wanted this to much to wait. And I wanted to do it alone with everyone working on it. No eyes on me. I stuck my leg out toe pointed like a damn lady and I wrapped it around the rope. For some that tight feeling it left might be panic inducing but I liked the way it held my leg in place. I was trapped but it was okay. I made sure my ankle was against the elbow and then I kicked my free leg forward and back and I slid off the fucking bar. There was only a second hesitation, a moment when I felt a panicked "Oh fuck what have you done?" My lets slid down and the ropes snapped under my arms cradling me. I hung there with my arms out and my back arched held from the ground by the bar that I realized at that moment I couldn't help but love.

Surrender is the move that encapsulates my aerial dance experience. It's aptly named. I step off the bar and I release myself to the ropes. To my body. Trusting my body is not something at which I exel. And I suspect many of my problems with trapeze involve this fundamental mistrust. I don't trust my body to pull me over the bar. I don't trust my body to hold weight in my hands. But on Thursday night I step into the air and let the ropes catch me. I aung there suspended with my arms out and my legs bend with nothing between the ground and I but a bar and a pair of white ropes. It is a strange moment. A peaceful moment. An act of letting go. Of surrender. Kind of like when you fall in love.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Exercise Sweet Spot

I admit it! My running friends sometimes made me want to bury my head in a pillow and yell "NO MORE." Now don't get me wrong I am proud of their accomplishments and yes impressed at their dedication. What I couldn't get was the love that was so strong they wanted everyone to run.

Now I get it. Cause trapeze. I am obsessed. Officially. I read blogs about it. I read articles about it. I pin exercices that show how to prepare for the perfect inversion. I've got a scary recollection for the moves (doesn't hurt that I've watched trapeze for two and a half years). If you're around, I'm going to talk to you about trapeze. I'm also going to say "Hey if I can do trapeze? You can do trapeze. What are you waiting for? It's amazing. Go check out a show. Hey have you heard of Canopy? What? You need a place to send your kid? How about you? I'm pretty sure I'm annoying as hell. And I'm also certain my friends read my posts with the same "Oh god here she goes again" that I used to kind of thinking about the running posts.

I remember awhile ago having an online conversation with some women about motivating oneself to exercise. Most of us would go strong for awhile and then it would just taper off until we cycled back around to being the January gym people. I like running well enough (and yes I am running again) and I actually enjoy using the elliptical but neither activity created a passion that could push through mid year ennui. Once June hit, I was content to sit by the pool and read. Screw sweating. Screw making my lungs scream for air. What would motivate us? It's a question I've thought about awesome.

Here's a weird factoid about me. I'm an exercise science geek. I don't know tons but I've loved learning the little I know. I'm also utterly fascinated by sport psychology as well. I'm not so interested in famous athletes. It's a job to them and while they may love their job getting paid can no doubt push one through the ennui. What I'm into is why the average everyday person becomes an athlete. What makes a woman get up at four am to run everyday before work? Why does my friend bike for miles everyday? Why does that cool old dude at the Y swim laps for hours?

Is it the desire to be healthy? To fit a societal acceptable standard of beauty? Maybe but that certainly doesn't motivate me. And when I read these people's stories, there are these elements but there is also love and passion.

I'm calling this the exercise sweet spot. For me it's trapeze. I don't know what else but love could push me to get back on a hard ass bar when my knee pits are SCREAMING and then slam those said kneepits back onto said bar again. What else could make me wake up with rope burn and have me showing up the next week glad the old rope burn was gone because I was likely going to get some more? I've been doing trapeze since January and it's honestly been really hellish sometimes. Physically and emotionally. It's hard. The hardest exercise I've ever done. It's become a game to see where the bruises show up after class. I'll walk out of the bathroom from my shower and H just shakes his head. It's also emotionally hard. I am not a natural. Every move I do is hard earned. I've cried after classes...like sobbed. I've had to work through my perfectionist mentality, my insecurity, and my really effed up body image. I can't even imagine what shit is coming down the road.

But.

But.

I am in love. I love that feeling when a move clicks. When I'm doing something like holding all my body weight on my arms with my legs off the bar stretched out behind me. Or when I'm hanging on the bar with one foot on the rope and one knee hooked over. I feel beautiful and strong in those moves. And I'm starting to see that when I look at pictures of me on the bar. I don't see someone gross but someone who is seriously bad ass. I like that feeling.

Today during open studio, I practiced a sequence that involves a move that is not just hard for me but scares me. It's the only move that scares me. I'm not scared of the bar at all. I have a healthy respect but there's no fear. I don't mind being up a little high. I don't mind falling. But this move when I did it wrong drove the bar so deep into my thigh muscle I was in pain for a week. Every time I did it after that and it started to hurt I'd do a controlled fall. That wasn't going to work if I had to learn to go from that move to another move. Today I did it over and over and at the end, I slammed into the last move while my classmates erupted in applause. For a few seconds, I felt like a million bucks. And then I thought "Hell if you can do this one you can do spear." Which of course I couldn't do. But knowing that I can do the other one makes me feel like there is a chance I can do this other one too. I am never without motivation. Never without a goal that I need to pursue. Working for everything makes trapeze exciting and dynamic.

And trapeze drives all my other exercise. I am running and doing elliptical to yes lose some weight (I'm hauling a lot of fat onto those ropes) but also to increase my endurance and my cardio strength. I work on my abs and shoulders and my arms because I need these body parts to be strong. I'm excited/terrified because I'm taking an conditioning class with my trapeze guru, Ann. I think she may half kill me but I know I will be even more kick ass when she's done. It's all about trapeze baby I answer when people ask me what motivates me to go the Y almost every day. I'm in love and the honeymoon period ended after the first class. Bruised knee pits get you over any romantic notions you might have. Trapeze is a hard mistress but it's worth it when I feel strong, confident and beautiful flying with those white ropes and black bars.

When people ask me about motivation, I tell them find your exercise sweet spot. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You may have limitations due to your body for sure but I bet that within those limitations there might be more options than you imagined. And if the first thing you try doesn't work? Try something else. It's okay I think to not love a exercise. Trapeze isn't for everyone. I totally get it. I can even get why. Sometimes I wonder what the hell is wrong with me that I love it so much. But there's likely going to be something else. It might be swimming, yoga, pilates, Tai Chi, karate, biking, that HIIT class at the Y, belly dancing, hooping, I could go on and on. But I think and believe that if you can find something you love it will push  you past the midsummer slump.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Two Steps Forward One Step Back

Some days I have to remind myself that even "normal" people have ups and downs.

Trapeze sucked tonight. Not because of anyone in the class or because of the teachers. It was the same group of awesome people. The same amazing teachers. It sucked because of me. I take full responsibility for the shittiness of the evening.

The whole week conspired against me. Things started off fine. I felt motivated to get shit done. Cleaned the house. Wrote an article. Made phone calls. But underlying this was some worry. Worry about my daughter's hip. Worry about my son's weaning from his epilepsy meds. And then the Wellbrutin left my system and things went to hell.

What I thought was a panic attack was actually how I feel when the hyperactivity hits hard. I didn't recognize the feeling because it's been a long time since I felt it. As in since I started taking Wellbrutin. I placed an order for my refill and hit the Y hard. That helped but it still didn't make things totally okay for me.

I debated going to trapeze. I hurt my knee a bit when I hit the Y. I was tired. But I also could feel that skin crawling thing starting to eat at me and I knew I had to do something to work through the itchiness. And I wanted to push the weight of all that worrying off my body. I needed trapeze for the relief it gives me.

I went.

It was a rough night. I felt like I was off for the whole hour. I couldn't get the moves. I felt awkward and weak. I tired to hold onto the small victories. Hey look I managed to do on ab/pull up thing one time. I ALMOST got spear when no one was looking. Look at that my foot touched the bar even if I didn't get up on the bar. Yeah yeah I sort of managed one hip hang without driving the bar into my thigh. But there was so much that just felt like failure. It's been twelve weeks and I can still only hop onto the bar. I'm the only person who still can't do spear. I never managed to go from one hip hang to catcher's hang because I used all my strength to get into the hip hang. By the end of the night, I was covered in sweat  and I ached everywhere but without any feelings of success to go with the pain.

Tonight I almost broke into tears during class. I felt utterly mortified as I told the guest instructor that I felt like a failure and I could hear the tears in my wobbly voice.

"Don't cry" I told myself sternly.

Tonight I just wanted to run from the class. I usually like hanging around and chatting. I tried to fake it, showing everyone the neat video I took of Jude. But it felt stilted. Fake. I just wanted to be alone. I walked home taking the long route so I could have some extra time.

The voices taunted me all through the dark.

"You're such a failure."
"What makes you think you're even remotely good at this thing? Why are you even bothering?"
"Here's another shitty thing you do that you can add to the list of shitty things you do badly."

I started to count my steps. Anything to just quiet them. I wanted to cry but nothing came because I felt a little numb.

I didn't cry until I got home. And then I sobbed. All this work and nothing to show for it, I lamented. My precious beautiful girls all told me about their own moments of feeling this way. H talked to me and hugged me. I felt safe. I felt like I could feel like a failure in my home and not actually be a failure.

The thing is that I think it's going to happen. I'm going to have days when I feel like a failure. I have to learn to roll with those punches. But I also decided it was okay to cry and rage. The frustration is valid. It does suck that you can work out every day, do tons of strength exercises and still not be strong enough to do what others around you are doing. I get the idea that you can't compare yourself to others but I also think that at times it's kind of a pretty normal thing to do.

What I don't think okay is holding onto that feeling. So I cried and I wallowed. I even felt sorry for myself and ate an extra Cadbury egg. I totally forgot all this shit and watched Supernatural.

And now? Well now, I'm like...

"You got what you needed from trapeze tonight."
"You are getting stronger."
"You overcame your fear and did a fucking one hip hang.
"You did some kind of scary ass pull up/ab thing more than one time."
"You totally nailed back float. Again."
"You know how to do candlestick and you like it."

Trapeze is something I love. I also love my class, and I don't want competition to mar how I feel about these women. I realized that part of what drives me to compare myself is that I have this fear that they're going to super out pace me and leave me behind. It's a ridiculous fear of course but that doesn't make any less valid. Tonight I realized I need to let it go. I am lucky enough to have these ladies on the road but really the journey we take is going to look different to each of us. I need to let go that we're going to share everything.

It's okay to have a shitty night. It's also okay to not how to do things. I believe I am going to get there. I believe because I can do shit that I wouldn't have even imagined possible in January.  I never thought it was going to be easy. But that was and is part of the appeal. The work is more important than the designation.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Fringe Benefits

When I first started therapy, I talked to the therapist about how I sometimes felt like I had bipolar disorder. I explained to her that sometimes I had these intense highs that made me also feel out of control. She said, "Maybe normal feelings feel so intense because your lows are so low." I thought about what she said and I saw some truth to this observation. But it wasn't quite the whole story. I carried her words with me because I felt like there was something there; right beneath the surface.

Enter trapeze.

Talking to a couple of the teachers about the pain, I realized I sounded nearly giddy. I did that embarrassed head duck thing I do when I realized how I sounded. One of the teachers just nodded and said "You're like us. You like the pain."

And the thing is I do. But let me back up a little now that I've likely caused a great deal of pearl clutching.

When I'm in the deepest pool of depression, I can't feel anything. I'm in an apathetic fog. Before kids those were the times when I couldn't get out of bed or shower. I just couldn't bother. At some point, when I felt like I couldn't take the nothingness much longer I sought out intense experiences. Usually ones that were not very healthy for me. As life progressed and I realized depression would be my constant companion, I started to seek out those experiences at the start of a depression. I could stave off the blankness for a bit of time if I hid inside something intense. Unhealthy intense. New relationships. Sex. Drinking. Sometimes even drugs.

For a long time after being married, most of my depressions proved short lived. But looking back, I can pinpoint the moments when I sought out breakthrough experiences. Starting my MA for sure was one of those things. I started going to shows during that time as well and live music definitely fit the bill. But the MA ended and anyway had worn thin as an experience by the time I finished.

When we moved here, and I started the journey to one of my longest depressions to date, I freaked out. Let me be clear. I wasn't in a continual fog. It was just long stretches of time. The love I felt for my family always lay so close to my heart but sometimes I felt like I could sense it but not touch it. Those days sucked. I felt worthless and unlovable. I thought they'd be better off without me. I didn't want to do anything intense either. I was scared of seeking it out to be honest. During one of my lucid moments, I decided to try antidepressants again.

This has been me since April, I think.  Things have been good and well okay. No I no longer feel apathetic. Most days I want to do things.But as always with antidepressants I am starting to feel like something is absent. I stopped writing my fiction. With a push I can churn out the blog posts and articles for the Body is Not An Apology but I the novels? It's just not there. I have all these ideas and zero ability to put them on paper. I can edit. But I can't create new things. It sucks. Before trapeze and after NaNoWriMo, I found myself feeling really down. The choice before me was be functional or be creative I hated that these were my only two options. I wanted to be creative but I need to function. Like I have to be a parent, a partner, a friend. That shit is important.


Enter trapeze.

Trapeze is my healthy intensity. This is what I mean when I say I like the pain. I do. But it's not as sexual as it might sound. I promise. Let go of those pearls. I've had rope burn so bad on the top of my feet that it hurts to wear sneakers. The bottom of my knees are speckled with dime sized bruises. My hands burn with calluses that eventually heal only to be reopened with more bar work. I wake up with sore muscles and aching joints. I love it every minute of it. Leaning into this pain is not as masochistic as it sounds. I've always been sensory seeking and sometimes I need something tough to cut through the emptiness.

Trapeze is that bit of sensory push I need to jolt me away from the gray tendrils of depression. But it doesn't make my black dog go away either like antidepressants. I'm companionable with my depression after nearly thirty years of having it beside me. I don't like the feeling of having it muffled. Like I know it's there but I can't feel its fur beneath my hands. Trapeze gives me something that keeps the apathy away but also lets me channel my depression into my art. And trapeze I think at some point will even give me a new way to express that art I feel inside me.

Last night's class was not one that looked successful on the surface. We started with a sub which always makes me feel tense but she was great. She lead us through some demanding conditioning moves that at first glance seemed impossible. But I managed to do most of them and felt pretty strong. Of course that all ended when I immediately failed at doing spear (which I have done before), and thus not even being able to attempt the new moved we learned called Harlequin. I didn't do much better with a move called a back float, and by the end of the class my arms just refused to do anything hard.

But I didn't feel bad. Some of that has come from all the shit I worked through last session but a lot came from my new perspective. In some ways trapeze has saved my life. I've heard this sentiment expressed by a lot of other people in only a half joking manner. No I wasn't suicidal but I was feeling like I was about to lose something. And now I feel like maybe along with therapy and keeping up with my vitamin D, trapeze might be what I need to keep myself functioning without the meds.

(I just want to note that I am not by any means knocking meds. I think they are life saviors for a lot of people including me. I also feel totally comfortable knowing that I might have to take them again someday).

Monday, March 21, 2016

What Seeing Looks Like

Today the two older girls started slings over at Canopy. H and I decided to turn it into a family event and walk over. As we crossed the tracks, Jude's feet started kicking and she yelled in joy. She recognizes the warehouse where one of her favorite places resides. When we walked through the doors, she squirmed in her dad's arms to be put down and immediately ran to Ann. Ann simply put is amazing. I love her. My kids love her. I don't anyone who doesn't love her. She's been working privately with Camille and Jude for nearly a year now on trapeze. She picks Jude up and kisses her. Jude hugs her tight making her special cooing sound reserved for those she adores usually just H and I. But Ann gets a coo while daddy gets a goodbye wave.

I could go on about how amazing trapeze has been for the girls. Someday soon I will write that post. Today what's been playing in my mind is the relationships between Ann and the girls. To me that holds equal weight with the physical/emotional rewards reaped from trapeze. 

Let me rewind. I didn't know Ann well when we began attending classes at Canopy. I saw her around of course but I didn't really talk to her. I can't even remember how we first started talking but I remember the first time she met Jude. She fussed over her and asked to hold her. For some reason it came up that Jude had Down syndrome. Ann responded "Oh my best friend has Down syndrome." I hear this sometimes. Or the other variation of my "insert distance relative relation here" has Down syndrome. But when Ann said it it was different. She meant it. She really did have a best friend with Down syndrome and it was no big deal. I liked that a lot. 

And that's how Ann is with both Camille and Jude. She's working with them as a kind of awesome therapy but she's also working with them because they all love to fly. Ann doesn't see either of them as a list of things to check through. There are no evaluations in this therapy. Instead Ann works with them based on their individual strengths and weakness. But she also works with them like they're people. This is an unusual thing to happen to children anyway but I am learning it's even more so when the child has a disability. Ann doesn't erase their disability either. She sees them and she works with them but she doesn't let it be the sole definer of the child before her.

I'm pretty picky about who gets to work with Camille and Jude. I won't tolerate disrespect for any of the kids but with Camille and Jude I am even more fierce. Camille for example is never required to look people in the eye. I also ask her teachers to allow her to have other means of communication for those days when verbal language is hard. Not many adults are willing to do this and thus they don't get to work with my kid. It's a pretty simple decision for me. You have to respect their nuerodiversity. 

Camille right now works with two adults. Ann and her art teacher and amazing artist Hope. They both love Camille not in spite of her Autism but because of it. They nurture, encourage her to grow, and often push her out of her comfort zones (although gently never forcefully). I am thankful everyday for these two amazing people. They've accepted Camie and I know that this simple thing will follow her throughout her life. Those early moments of acceptance shape us and set the map for how we allow ourselves to be treated. I remember clearly those adults who loved my quirky self and nurtured my weird spirit. I also remember the ones who stomped on me and tried to push into rigid molds. 

The other day I asked the owner of Treehouse Kid and Craft if Jude could take a class that was for older kids. "Of course," she said, "We love Jude." 

Once at Barnes and Noble as I ordered our treats and coffees, the barista exclaimed "Oh it's Jude! She's like a rock star around here."

We don't want to leave Athens because of these people. They don't love Jude or see her as a rock star because she's the "special" kid. They just like her because she's funny and pretty damn cute. Athens has become a place where my quirky children just fit in with everyone else.

"There's something about the kids here in Athens," Hope's boyfriend told me once while we watched Hope teach some young children about modern art. 

There's something about the kids because there's something about the adults. 

There's a video circulating around, and I won't get into it here. There's been enough excellent criticism already. I don't need to add. But I do want to say that being in Athens has shown me what real acceptance looks like. Acceptance looks like just another kid but also a recognition of that kid's disability. Maybe it's because Ann and Hope and others honor that difference instead of pretending it doesn't exist. Neither women has ever said "I don't see Autism in Camille" or "Jude doesn't look like she has Down syndrome." None of the awesome adults in my kids life from teachers to our friends have said anything like this either. They don't pity us or glorify what some see as our sacrifice. Our kids are valued as simply adding to the diversity and richness of this community's life.

What it all comes down to is that erasure of difference doesn't make us better people. It doesn't make us more accepting. Dangerously it can lead to us not seeing how prejudice operates. After all if we're all the same how can we point to  disparities in how we're treated? What I want for Jude is people who honor her difference and value her humanity. Because we don't get to treat people decently based on their similarities to us. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Getting Strong

The Sisterhood met up again for the new session on Thursday. We were down one which was sad. But we did have a new member who I hope felt welcomed into our fold. The atmosphere felt happier, more relaxed than last week. I'm not sure why but everyone just seemed at ease. We laughed a lot during our warm up which I think always sets us up for a good class.

I also came armed with a better attitude. One of my many gurus, Debbie told me that morning "Girl you need to go easier on yourself." She's right of course. I do. I thought about it as I drove home. I'd never ever shame my girls for not being able to do a trick. Why did I feel like it was okay to do it to myself? And I also thought a lot about the anger at my body for not being strong enough even with all the work. Seemed like a pretty shitty thing to feel about this old body that has done some pretty amazing shit. You know like giving birth to five children.

For the last year or so, I've struggled with how to feel about my body. A lot has gone wrong. First, the gallbladder went wonky and oh the pain. So.bad. Then I had the miscarriage. I think that is the one that really screwed with my sense of self. I didn't want to be pregnant. We were good with five feeling like Jude was the perfect conclusion to our childbearing days. But then there was that test with the big positive result. Just as we came to terms and started to feel tentatively excited, we lost the pregnancy. I wasn't very far along, I know, but the pain was devastating. I really fell into a pit during that time even with the antidepressants. And of course my body didn't miscarriage naturally and I had to have the D & C. At this time, my knees gave out while I was  just getting back into running and the sciatica problems started. I felt like my body was just falling apart, and I was resentful about it. Combined with the emotional pain, I just really retreated from caring for my body in the way it deserved.

But trapeze made me remember that my body is very much a part of me. Hating it wasn't going to get me far. Trapeze thrusts you into having to deal with your body. There's no "When I get thinner" or "When I get stronger." Those things are happening but the reality is that they happen as I'm doing shit on the bar. I don't get to lift a lighter weight or only use a machine for thirty minutes instead of an hour. And the thing is that most of the time my body does this stuff. Oh it protests sometimes but it doesn't quit on me. Ever. And I'll be damned if I'm going to belittle a body that works so hard. It's shifted my entire focus of how I see myself from how I eat to the language I use.

I walked onto the mat feeling good. And then Ashley said "Lower your bars shoulder or chin height." And I thought 'Well damn we're going to be doing bar stuff. Again." I started to kind of moan a bit but I didn't let myself fall into thinking that I couldn't do whatever it was we were going to do.

Jo showed us the first new trick for the night. It was a variation of shoehorn called candlestick I felt my heart sink. Not only could I not do shoehorn; candlestick was a move that I'd watched my girls recently master. Girls who have been doing trapeze for two years.

I put my hands on the bar and tried the proper way. No dice. So I did the "easier" method of grabbing the ropes. I gto on the bar, and got my foot on the rope (Holy rope burn batman!) and there I was spinning in a lazy circle, upside down with my hands off the bar. Let me make this clear: I WAS ONLY HANGING ONTO THAT BAR WITH MY FOOT AND MY KNEE. It was uneffing real. I couldn't believe I was doing this, and I couldn't believe how easily I was doing this.

The whole night went like this. I struggled with a few moves but also really pushed passed some of the restrictions I placed on myself. We learned a move called angel which required me to thread my top leg between my stomach and the bar. I tried once, and felt like my leg got caught.  I took a deep breath and said "I think this is another one where my weight is going to hurt me." But Ashley showed me that I was starting in the wrong position (let's just say my body must really like candlestick). I took a deep breath, hopped on the bar, got down horizontally, and threaded my leg.

Perhaps even more amazing was that I hung on that bar for a good number of minutes while Ashley tried to figure out if I could get from there to there. Seriously I hung there, and TALKED to her. I wouldn't have been able to do this back in January. I am stronger but the problem has been that I've limited myself because of what I believed about my body. Even though I'd been learning to love it again, I forgot that even in love one has to examine one's stereotypes and preconceived notions. I believed I wasn't strong, and I am convinced that this belief held me back.

Tomorrow, I'm going to my first open studio (Two days of trapeze in one week! What a treat!). I am determined to do a hip pullover because I am certain I can do it. I know I'm strong enough, and I know what my body feels like in that space. And you know if I don't do it that's okay too. It's going to come.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Body Knowledge

The other day I reached behind me, and for whatever reason I found myself acutely aware of the way  my muscles stretched and moved. It was fucking profound. I kind of lost myself thinking about my body and the way it can move. It's miraculous really.

I've never been really aware of my body. I don't think about it much to be honest. Even in the midst of being in the best physical health I've been in, I sculpted my body and ran without thinking a lot about the way my body moved. I mean there was a cursory awareness but I didn't find myself really pondering the way my body looked when I ran. I'd think about technique only long enough to keep myself from injury. With running it was even more removed than weights because running was my escape. I ran to not think about my body.

And it's deeper than just exercise. I don't think most of us really spend much time thinking about our insides so to speak. Even when pregnant and going through my natural childbirth phrase, I just didn't think about the mechanics of how my body birthed. It's not something I needed to think about unless of course something went wrong. I became quite aware of important a big toe could be when I broke it twice in a six month period. When my gallbladder went wonky, I definitely felt in tune with the pain that comes from something going dreadfully bad.

End result of this kind of body unawareness is that I often felt disconnected from my body in space. I was always the "clumsy" kid constantly falling downstairs and bumping into things (the aforementioned toe break happened because I kept stubbing my toe on our dining room bench). Even as adult I am not often aware of my body in relationship. And most of the time it's just not a big deal. Until I fall in love with the bar.

Watching our instructor do a hip pullover was the first time, I started to realized that my body unawareness might be a problem. Even with Ashley giving me a boost, I couldn't get my body positioned right on the bar. I ended up on the floor every time.

"I just can't see my body," I told her laughing at how ridiculous that sounded.

With weights I've become reliant on mirrors to check my position. I've never had to check my position through feeling. For the first time, I had to move my body in relation to space and an object. A thin object hanging on two ropes. Which means that not only did I have to figure out the way my body looked on the bar, I had to do it on something that is always moving.

I went home from the hip pullover class determined to see myself in the dolphin position. I visualized myself over and over again. This worked for things like shooting star, and later would work for spear and bird's nest. But with hip pullover, it was no good. I could see myself in my head in that position but when I got on the bar, I couldn't see it anymore. It took almost the entire session for me to realize that I needed to feel myself.

A couple of classes ago, I struggled with all the moves but at some point I realized that I could get into dolphin from hip pullover. I'd been able to get into Catcher's Hang without too much trouble because my body just kind of flipped into that move. Ashley pointed out while watching me that I kept moving my leg to the outside of the rope instead of the inside. I focused the next time I went over, and I felt my leg starting to swing out which I quickly corrected and bam I was in position. A very uncomfortable position.

Last night sucked so much. I worked my ass off and my hands were raw and blistered by the end of the night. And I didn't do one fucking new move. It was a hard hit. I was used to my bad class good class routine so having another bad night really threw me. I didn't cry this time. No I was pissed. I've been working my ass off. I spend every night of the week doing some kind of exercise including very intense cardio sessions at the Y three days a week. I do planks and other ab work at home. I've been doing assisted pull ups. And last night I felt like I had zero strength.

"You don't have the strength to do these things," I thought bitterly watching everyone else do the moves as I sat on the mat feeling pissed off at my body.

We ended the class again with standing moves, and I tried to find solace that I could do those with relative ease. But as I sulked on my way home, I told H, "Those don't take any strength. I'm good at them because I can be weak and still be good at them."

But I thought about that a bit more today. I remembered the way my shoulder shifted as I put my arm around me to reach. And I thought about the best moment I had last evening. See I sometimes get to watch a Beginner II class while the big girls' do a conditioning class. Yesterday they did a routine where they moved on the bar with their eyes closed. Improv style. I found myself intrigued and a little scared as some of the women got so dizzy they were almost sick. But as I moved into skater, I leaned back, threw my arms, and....closed my eyes. As I spun softly in the air, I just lost myself in something new: my own body. I could feel the robe pushed against my butt along my leg and up my neck, and the way my heel drove into the bar's elbow and pushed the bar away. I could place myself in space with a sense much different than anything I've ever used before.

Why do the stand moves do this for me when the other ones don't is something I've been thinking about for the last few hours. Perhaps it's that the standing moves do appeal to my strengths: legs, balance, and a likely unhealthy love of the robe. I think some of it is that I feel like I have more steps to get into the moves. There seems like there is more prep. Regardless, I realized that yes strength plays into this but there's also the need for me to slow down just a bit and place myself in space. I thought I was good to go because I can see my body in my head doing the tricks but the problem is that is not enough. I have to get to that other place of seeing.

This intimate relationship with my body and how it moves gives me so much more than just some funkadelic moments. I find that knowing where I am in space also gives me a new appreciation for my body. Combined with that patience I talked about last week, I feel like I'm just getting to know myself for the first time. I pay more attention to the way I twist and the way I reach not just in exercise but also in the simple action of doing dishes or writing a grocer list. I'm suddenly curious about how the muscles work  to do what they do. But mostly I am just in awe that flying lead to me feeling so very grounded.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Patience

I am not a patient person. I've always had a hard time with waiting. I rush through things: books, writing, parenting.

But exercise always brings me up short and trapeze even more so because I'm not good at it. I'm not a natural. I have to work damn hard for every single move from the simplest to the hardest. But any exercise I think is a lesson in waiting.

When I first realized I loved being physically fit and that I was strong, I was also smack in the middle of the Weight Watcher's world. I lose weight so slow. It was a crawl to the finish line: .2. 5. oh wow one whole pound! I'd lie in bed and fantasize about what I might look like thin or fit or whatever and it felt so far away. It was hard going to meetings where people would consistently lose 2lbs per week or to watch others at the gym looking ribbed while I plodded along with my wee weights. I never watched (or watch) The Big Loser but I do admit that sometimes I'd long for things to be that fast.

But of course it's dangerous to lose weight that fast or to exercise that much with no experience. Too many stories from former contestants bear witness to that fact. Getting fit is a slow process. Shaping the body's muscles is an act of mediation. And ultimately I think of love. Watching my body shift and change made me see my body like I'd never seen it before. It made me see my body the way a lover sees my body. I knew every line, every definition, every indentation. I knew my body's limits and just when I could push further without everything falling apart. It was an experience that I think began to fuel my path to radical self acceptance. The fat body I have now is the same body I carefully crafted so many years ago. Unfortunately, I lost sight of this fact as I struggled with years of depression.

Trapeze made me fall in love with my body again. It hasn't been easy because of that pesky patience thing. I want to be good right away. I want to be strong immediately. But it doesn't work like that for me. Somedays I work so damn hard and do nothing right. I miss every move. And then I go home and spend a week thinking through all the moves, pinpointing when I went wrong. I have to push through a lot of things during that week: self loathing (see last week's post), frustration, physical pain and of course impatience. I go back and do many of the moves I missed, and totally fail on new moves. The cycle repeats itself.

As the days push through, I am watching those lines in my body become more defined. I am getting stronger. I feel it. I see it.

Tonight was not my personal best. I only did one move even marginally correct. I also felt weak tonight. Tired. I knew coming in that it was going to be hard for me. But I tried, and I tried hard. I could have left discouraged but I didn't because I made some shifts in how I think.

First, I ended on a high note. I've made it a point to not wear myself out on all the things I can't do. I leave enough energy to go through the moves I'm good at. Tonight I practiced all my standing moves which I think are my personal best.

Second, I remind myself that I do trapeze for love. I'm not doing it to compete or to be the best. I have all the time in the world to get intimate with this thing I love. I think it's like when you meet someone who makes your stomach turn inside out. Part of you wants to rush through all the feelings. But another part of you savors every touch, every word, every kiss. And then you wake up sixteen years later and realize you're still learning the curves of your lover's body.

Third, no self loathing talk allowed. After the picture crisis, I faced a bit moment. Did I let my self loathing define my entire experience? Or was I going to look at those pictures and see myself as my daughter saw me? As my friends saw me? They saw me as strong and beautiful in it's strength. I put the pictures up and over a few hours started to see them as others saw them. I realized if I was going to keep at this thing, I had to learn to love the body doing trapeze now as much as I loved the that would come. Thus when moves prove too hard due to my weight instead of berating myself for being fat, I think "You will get stronger, you will get there." I don't bemoan my lack of skill and instead remind myself of what I can do.





Fourth, there is no end product. I think what intrigues me about trapeze is that there are always new possibilities. I can't imagine being bored with this movement. Ever. And the thing is that there is no end to what I can train my body to do as well. I think that one thing that sunk me when I was so fit years ago was the idea of an end. That was partly a weight loss mentality at work. When you're focused on losing weight, there is always this end goal. When you hit it there is a sense of disappointment. It's not nearly what you imagined in your head aka the heaven's don't open and shine light upon you. It's also a kind of dead end feeling. What's next? Nothing. But with focusing on fitness, there is no end product. My body needs to be worked, loved and shaped throughout the years not just as an end goal that translates as a number on the scale. There are still planes to my flesh that I have yet to learn. My body moves already in ways that surprise me and I suspect I have a lot more to learn. In other words, the end goal is the process. It's an act of patience to sculpt the human body. Each trapeze class doesn't bring me closer to the end, it just introduces me to new roads to explore.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fat Girl On the Bar: The Fat Girl Part

Tonight's class should have left me high. I did spear, bird's nest on the bar, and arrow. I hopped on the bar in a new way. I still can't do hip hang but I got a little closer, and while I didn't do our new move, I felt confident that I could do it next class. I got to big swing in Catcher's Hang which was as amazing as I'd imagined. I left actually feeling pretty good. I no longer beat myself up over what I can't do because I've learned that I'll get them eventually. And it's not a race. Not a competition.

Should have...

I had this post planned on in my head all week. I almost wrote it a few days ago but made myself wait. Now I find myself both pleased I wait and also miserable. I wanted to write about how trapeze has transformed how I see my body and my efforts at being healthy. This is not going to be that Fat Girl post. It is partly about that experience but it's also about easily a frame can shift. Part of me wants to not write it knowing the pain it's going to cause me. But I want this to be an honest experience. As a true a telling as I can make it. And that means the hard shit is hard.

When I do trapeze, I don't forget I have a body. For a long time that is how I hid from feeling fat. I just pretended I didn't have a body. I did things that didn't remind me of my body. But over the years, I've tried to push that instinct. Trapeze really shoved me out of this comfort zone. I'm acutely aware of my body all the time. If you're anything less than fully in touch with how your body moves you're going to get hurt. At first, this level of awareness proved uncomfortable. I used (and still do at times) a lot of humor in those moments. Jumping to the punch line about my fat before anyone else can beat me to the punch. It's an old defense mechanism I learned in Jr. High. No matter that no one there is going to make fun of me.

But after a few classes, I stopped thinking of my body as being cumbersome, huge, or fat. I mean, of course part of me knew that I was fat. It's impossible to not be aware when you're hauling that much body fat up a rope. I can't deny that I'm big because things are harder because of this weight. But I made myself imagine myself as totally badass up there. I told myself everyday that I was one strong ass bitch, and after some time I started to see myself as that badass bitch on that bar.

Thus inspired by the fat women who do yoga, run, etc and take pictures of themselves I decided that I'd push myself a little more and take pictures of me on the bar. I'd been working hard for the last eight weeks not just at trapeze but at eating healthier and exercising everyday. I felt so fucking strong and awesome. When I saw myself in the glass front of store windows, I didn't wince away because I saw in those reflections someone who could hang upside down from bars, who could twist her body into interesting shapes, who could spend hours on the evil elliptical. Doing trapeze totally changed how I saw getting in shape. It no longer revolved around getting thin; it revolved around getting better at trapeze.

Yes I know the pictures. I had my daughter come in and take them. She loved watching me learn the tricks she knew and after the class she said "You were great Mama!" Those words meant so much more than any other compliment I've ever gotten. And then she handed me the Ipad. A brief glance left a tiny hollow in my stomach. "Think about how strong you are," I told myself. "You are that big and you are doing that stuff." It worked through the big swings where I discovered the joy  of hanging upside down and flying through the air. It worked while I broke my blisters to swing by my hands high into the air. It worked until I got into the van and started to look at the photos.

Body dysmorphia is a funny thing. I remember when I was super fit before I got pregnant with R. I was pretty thin for me, muscular. I thought I was fat. All I saw were the fat rolls when I wore anything slightly tight. I still had those scary gross fantasies where I imagined shaving fat off my body. Now of course I look at those pictures and wonder what the hell I was thinking. But then all I could see were the fat rolls and the acne scars. Now that I'm actually fat, I sort of feel justified in seeing my body as enormous. Who is going to say "Now Ginger,you're not as big as you think you are."? No one because I AM huge. And that makes seeing photos of myself often very painful.

When I looked closely at the photos, my daughter took, I wanted to cry. In front of me was this short, obese woman with cottage cheese arms and back fat hanging out of her tank top. There I seemed to lumber next a group of thin woman who all made the moves look graceful. I had seen them struggle but none of that showed in the pictures Piper took. With me, I think it looks like every struggle is apparent. Never once do I see the bad ass graceful person I imagined in my head. Instead, I see how my legs are not as straight. How my body is not positioned correctly. And sometimes I can't even see what move we were doing. I can't help but it think "It's the fat. It's so encompassing it covers everything."

Part of this journey for me has to be about how I see my body. And right now I just feel so disgusted and repulsed by myself. I wonder how anyone who watches me do this can not help but feel disgust. And yes part of me wonders if I even deserve or belong out there. Part of being really fat is a sense that you should just hide yourself away until you can make the fat go away. It's one reason why I kept saying "I'll do trapeze after I lose some weight." We live in a society that mocks fat people, looks at them with scorn, takes pictures when they're exercising, etc. Everyday I'm reminded of how fucking gross other people find bodies like mine. I read the comments on fat model's pages, and am stunned by the anger that a fat woman dare show flesh, dare be happy, dare do yoga, or run or do anything but sit in self loathing really. And I want so much to be stronger than this hate. I wanted to smash it and say "Fuck you world, I am not going to hide my body away." But sometimes my own inner mean girl comes out and reminds me that if I can't even love my body who the hell else is going to?

I hope I can get back to that bad ass strong bitch mentality I had going. I'm not going to quit because I am acutely aware of this would effect my daughters especially the one who witnessed me working hard and having a great time. And I wish I could unsee the photos. I wish I could have realized before that I just wasn't ready to push myself this far. But mostly I hope that I don't retreat to my room, hide under a blanket, and wish myself into a thin non existence.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Earth Worm

Camille and I began walking to her Saturday trapeze class a few weeks ago.  It's not a long walk at all. Sometimes we talk. Usually about Skyrim which is Camille's latest obsession. This time she said "I'm bringing my Ipod." I admit I felt a little hurt. I enjoyed this time alone with Camille away from the constant demands of the other children. But I also knew she wanted to work on her trapeze solo. As we strolled along, we kept taking an ear bud out to share songs that we thought might lend themselves well to trapeze routines.

Midway to the studio, I saw Camille stop out of the corner of my eye. I paused as she knelt down thinking she had to tie her shoe. Instead, she carefully picked up a long pink brown worm from the sidewalk and placed in the grass. She stood and flushed a little when she realized I stood watching her.

"I just wanted to get him to safety," she said.

"That's fine." I said.

We walked in relative silence the rest of the way. Camille lost in a world where she fit trapeze moves to song cues; I thinking about the fact that I had a child who not only noticed earthworms but stopped to save them.

When I first began to suspect Camille was Autistic, she was two. I didn't know much about Autism having only known a couple of Autistic people. I read a lot though, and was always hauled up short with the idea that Autistic people were not empathic. A lot of the portrayals I read made them sound like psychopaths and narcissists. I had yet to find the many Autistic writers, I know now, and I admit I was scared. Camille as she got older did seem oblivious to other people. But she wasn't oblivious to suffering. We watched Marley and Me when she was six and she sobbed for hours. She couldn't sleep that night, and I held her on the couch as she'd swing between calm and sobbing. Maybe she doesn't have Autism, I thought witnessing this intensity of emotional outpouring.

Her relationships with her siblings was equal parts intense and disinterested. I wonder sometimes as she watched with cool detachment as they hurt themselves. But then when Umberto began to show seizure activity, she came to worried that he'd die. I wonder if perhaps her concern revolved around how these small tragedies would effect her as opposed to her worrying about him. It wasn't so much that I wanted my child to be unempathic as that I was trying to figure her out using an ableist model.

I remember her once seeing a picture of a piglet that had the headline "Look me in the eye and tell me I'm tasty" and she licked her lips and said "Yum." She seemed to develop better relationships with stuffed animals than she did with real ones. With real ones, she'd reach a pitch of sensory satisfaction and become almost violent towards them. Surely this showed a lack of empathy. I worried.

As she got older, I let go of that earlier research. I knew deep down that Camille was an Aspie as she liked to call herself. I also knew that it didn't mean the tragedy I had been lead to believe waited for us. Camille when allowed to be herself proved funny, clever, artistic, and yes, empathic.

I first saw it in full force when she became passionate about saving the wolves after the famous wolf obsession. And again when she identified strongly with the disabled wolf in a series she began reading at eight. In fact, Camille had a strong affinity with the characters she read about sometimes so intense she'd weep.

What I came to realize is that Camille felt everything with an intensity that would crack open most people. Her emotions don't come half assed. They sweep through her and over take her. I could see why one would hide behind sardonic humor (the pig incident and for the record she refuses to eat pork). Her reactions to animals came only after sensory overload. If your emotions felt like the raw end of a wound, wouldn't it be natural to be careful who you let into your life? How you responded to others? I didn't have any proof except for the girl before me. I knew Camille to be not just empathic but incredibly so perhaps more so than any other person I've ever meet. And as someone who knew all about hiding behind humor, sarcasm, and distance, it made sense to me at a personal level. I just decided to work with the assumption that Camille was not cold and remote but so intune she had to build walls to protect herself.

Thus when research came out that autism might mean hypersensitivity, I wasn't surprised at all. It only confirmed what I'd seen in Camille and in the other Autistic people I meet. Over the years, I've come to realize how the stereotypes that started so long ago (check out Nuerotribes for a pretty decent history of the discovery of Autism) effect the ways we perceive our own children and how incredibly dangerous that can be. I spent a year trying to see my child as pretty much a psychopath because of things I read about Autism. I wonder how much of what we perceive comes not from what is before us but from what we read influences the way we see.  I think of how many people miss a chance to claim an identity that might change how they see their place in the world simply because of mistaken ideas, observations done wrong.

Perhaps we are missing the subtleness of a child stopping to save an earthworm.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fat Girl on the Bar: More on the Sisterhood

After every class, I say "This was the toughest class yet." It's old hat. But seriously last night? Toughest class yet. Ass kicking class at it's best. I have rope burn on my foot. MY FOOT. We learned a move I just watched Piper learn and struggle with. I had to do things vertically with my body. Upside down vertical. I had to struggle with my weight for the first time in class because I couldn't do some of the things because I didn't have the strength to pull 200lbs. It should have been discouraging but it wasn't because I did some things I thought I couldn't do and even the things I couldn't do, I did parts of them. I'm learning to not see these nights as failures but rather as steps to mastering hard things.

But what really impressed me last night was my class. The sisterhood as I've come to think of us. We're a small class of nine. I lucked into an experiment Canopy decided to try. Two classes in one studio. A small intermediate class practices behind us while we use the front of the room. It's fun to look over and see where we'll be some day and I kind of wonder if makes that class feel good to think about far they've come. But the real advantage is the intimacy that happens between people working their asses off together.

From the beginning, I liked these women. The laughing from the start made me feel comfortable as did the nonjudgemental feel to the group. I'm the biggest woman there, and that's always a hard place for me to be. I detest being the fat friend. I don't do exercise groups because I don't want to be the only fat person. I feel that when that happens I get lots of "extra help" in a really condescending way or I become the touchstone for inspiration "Hey look if the fat girl can do we can all do it!" Or even better the assumption that I'm not a strong ass bitch. Which I am. I promise you. My classmates didn't look at me this way nor did the instructors. Instead we were all scared shitless of this awesome adventure upon which we were about embark.

Last night it all came together why I love this class. Last night like I said was hard. And it was hard not just because these weren't my strong moves. Everyone had something last night that they didn't quite get (although one woman rocked her way through it all, and yes we all cheered her in wistful envy). You'd think there would be less laughing, more frustration, and a lot more discouragement. You'd think that but you'd be wrong.

When Jo showed us the moves, we all laughed in disbelief but every freakin' one of us got up on the bar and tried. We hooted as we fell, flailed, and then cheered for those of us who did it. At some point, I found myself sitting on the bar talking another classmate through a move. I couldn't do. And the funny thing is that it helped when I attempted the move again. No  I didn't full do it but I got closer than the first time I did it. At another point, one of our serious woman warrior members helped hold me up as I tried to do another evil move called the spear. I had to clasp the bar with my inner thighs with my legs straight above me and my hands on the bar. Yeah. Didn't happen but the fact that my classmate was willing to hold me up? That amazed me.

And I helped spot another classmate in a move I loved but that made her nervous. There were so many high fives last night as we practiced the moves ourselves and then helped others to master them. Last night I didn't feel like dead weight at all. I felt like a member of a team. It was not just about our personal selves getting the moves but an effort to make sure all of us got them. To the point where we helped each other. What's extra awesome is that I feel like Ashley and Jo are part of our team as well. They have become far more than just teachers; I feel like they're part of our little tribe. I kind of dread when we have to move onto other instructors which I hope won't be for a long time.

As I walked home last night, I did so sore with bruises and rope burn but also smiling because I felt so good. Good about the moves I did for sure but also good that I could help a couple of people out. Good that people helped me out. Good that we cheered for every hard earned victory by everyone of us. I've always been a little weirded out at calling people who are not my relatives sister. But I felt like that about the group last night. I wonder what would happen if we changed the way we approached exercise classes or any class for that matter. What if we saw each other as fellow travelers instead of competition? What if our only competition meant pushing ourselves harder? My only barometer in trapeze is myself. And because I let go of comparing and competing, my feeling towards my classmates is not one of jealously. Sometimes there is some good natured envy but it's not a petty little feeling. It's a "Damn girl, you got this and I wish I did to" kind of feeling.

I'm going to level with you dear readers: this is not an easy feeling for me. I've been groomed for a long time to treat people in class with me as competition. Of course one could be friends but there was always this tension of being better: a better teacher, a better student, a better mother. And the anxiety I felt over this made these things almost not pleasurable. The times when I could let go and just enjoy myself were freeing but those times didn't come often and when they did they were short lived. Even with trapeze I struggle with comparing but having since made a conscious decision to not approach it this way, I've made myself turn my thinking around whenever it gets to those petty places. And last night I saw what this kind of thinking leads to and it's a very fine place.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fat Girl On a Bar: Gazing Into the Future and Bets Made

During C's private lesson, Ann told me about a woman in the adult student classes who is sixty-three.
"Sixty-three," I thought, "That means I've got at least twenty years of trapeze in me."

A shift happened last week where I saw trapeze as something I could get better at, something that I loved so much I was willing to push through the failures and the tears. After my rather disastrous third class, I felt broken hearted. Yes some of my tears came from frustration at not being able to do something. But a lot of those tears came from a bad case of heartache. I loved trapeze. From the moment I touched that bar I knew I found that exercise sweet spot.

I've got this thing about pursuing things I suspect that I suck at. This has always been a thing for me, and I'm never sure when one quits. It got worse after the graduate school debacle. And of course I've got major imposter syndrome with the writing. How long does one determine when to just give up on something? Common sense told me three classes didn't really determine if I sucked or not. But when you're coming off feeling like a failure it's hard to see clear.

And like I said "Imposter syndrome." It sucks. And it's pretty much the underlying thing that makes me quit shit. But what exactly was I impostering this time? Nothing. I didn't want to be a professional. I just wanted to get on that damn bar and do the best I could at something that I loved. I like it all. Every bit of it. I like that it pushed me physically. I like the feeling of spinning in the air. Hell I even like the pain. And because I have nothing to lose, I allowed myself to keep taking the class good or bad. But when Ann told me that I took another step further and saw myself doing not just trapeze but maybe silks, lyra, Spanish web...the list spread out before me. And I let myself dream. The dream didn't involve being the best or being a professional. The dream involved me doing something I love for a really long time, and maybe trying other things I might love too.

The actual class? Fabulous.  Not everything I tried I succeeded at this time so it was good to come off the class still feeling good. Last week, I felt on fire. This week I hit about half the moves. I pushed myself to try even the mounts because it is awful tempting to just keep hopping up. Got my toe on the bar this time which is a lot further than I was last week. We did our standing moves, and I still suck at bow sprint. Some of this comes from my bra. Hilarious right? With bow sprint, you have to push your chest against the rope while pushing the bar behind you with your foot. In order to take my hands off the rope in front me I have to wedge that damn rope between my boobs. Pretty hard in an industrial sports bra. I love how the solutions to my problems are not always about strength or flexibility. Skater is easy for me. I credit that to my fat ass since in order to balance in this move you have to wedge the rope between your butt cheeks. Charming I know.

And my mental work paid off too. Last week, I didn't quite get the air split. But I went over it in my head, realized I was not thrusting the bar out with my foot when I stepped backwards with my other foot. Nailed it first try this time. I love how I can go over these moves in my head and then make it all come together in class.

This week we added the airplane to our standing repertoire. Okay so I love this one. It hurts like hell but we've already established I'm a pain junkie, and it's rope pain. I'll just leave that there. This move involves having my arms against the ropes, stepping off with one foot and throwing my arms out. My arms hold my upper body while my foot on the bar pushes out to keep balance. This means the rope digs into your arm, and yes I had a bit of rope burn (still do actually). I loved it.

I had a feeling we'd be doing Catcher's Hang, and I was right. It's funny but I kind of know the process from watching so many beginner classes. Three so far. Catcher's Hang has a bit of history around here as it's the move that really scares R. She can do it one handed but getting her to let go of both hands is a battle. I made a deal with her before my class that if I let go with both hands she would let go too. It was a bet I made with a fair amount of trepidation.  Catcher's hang is just that... a hang. Upside down. Meaning I'd have to pull myself up from being upside down. And of course it also involved the dreaded hated hip pullover. First time, I got up with a boast from a fellow classmate, and even though I didn't make it to dolphin (where the hell are my feet?) I did naturally get into Catcher's Hang position. I adored being upside down, and I liked the feel of the hang. With this one my legs came around the outside of the robes with my knees hugging the bar. As long as I remembered to keep my feet pointed toward my ass, it felt amazing. But I didn't dare let go. Not so much from fear of being upside down but from fear of not being able to get back up. I was exhausted after the first attempt, and feeling a little eh about the hip pull over but I remembered my promise to R. I got up again, and let go. Oh it was wonderful. Spinning slowly upside down. And then to my amazement I got my hands back to the bar.

We finished by learning skin the cat. Horrible name for what is my new least favorite move. I hate this one even more than the dreaded hip pullover. Basically it's a neater way to get off the bar. In practice, my legs are supposed to go under the bar toward my body and up over my head turning me into a backwards somersault. Didn't happen. I practiced lowering one leg at a time so I could get used to the feel of my body weight on my hands. I'll try again next week.

Even with this failure I  left the class feeling really good. I have some problems, yes, but I'm holding my own too.

Fast forward to Saturday...guess who did her Catcher's Hang without hands?


Friday, February 05, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Defining Success and Trusting the Body (or Not)

Last week, I hated Thursday. Carrying around fear and anxiety all day sucks. But yesterday I felt at peace. I knew what I couldn't do and I made peace with it. I prepared my body as much as I could during the week including playing around on monkey bars, shoulder weight work, stretching, and the evil elliptical (it's a different kind then the one I'm used to and it works my body aerobically like nothing else). I've been eating better, less binging and more veggies without totally depriving myself. I spent a lot of time thinking about emotional baggage that came up from last class as well.

I walked again and this time without that dread hanging out over my shoulders. Although I shouldn't have listened to Serial on my way because dark with murder story equals super creepy.

We launched right into moves this time, and I admit to feeling a lot of relief that we wouldn't be spending a big chunk of class trying to get up on the bar. I tried to get up a couple of times but my hands kept slipping and finally I just did the hop on the bar. I did make an advance in that I could do the hop without holding onto the bar just the rope. My next goal is to hop on with both legs instead of one at a time. While others practiced getting up, I practiced sitting star. I figured since I was already on I was not getting down.
Piper doing sitting star back when she first started almost three years ago!

Once up Jo announced we'd learn tree frog, and I felt that pit open inside me. I was finally on the damn bar, and I wasn't convinced I could hold on for the pose or that I could pull myself up if I even managed to hang on. But I quickly pushed those thoughts away and latched onto my new mantra "Fail once fail again better."

Okay so the tree frog involves handing from the bar by your knees while holding onto the bar with your hands on either side of your knees. You let one leg go and curl it out with your neck extend. It's a pretty move. Simple looking. Not so simple in execution.
Camille in the far back. Her class is doing tree frog here. They look much better than I did I suspect.

Slowly I lowered myself down, nervous because I had lost my grip already in trying to mount. Hanging on by my knees felt surprisingly wonderful. I liked spinning slowly upside down. This made me feel good enough to pull my leg out and bam I was doing the move. I was holding the robes this times not the bar, and when I was ready to pull back up I could do it. This shocked me. I've had a hard time pulling myself up on the robes even when I've been boosted. But this time I pulled right back up to sitting. Feeling confident, I went back to hanging from my knees, and then held onto the bar. I could do tree frog but I didn't feel confident to try to pull myself up so I just came to the floor. But I did tree frog. Twice! That little bit of success pushed me onward.

Once we had all done tree frog a few times, we moved onto learning Alpha and Omega. Alpha involves a one knee hang with your knee toward one end of the bar. You hold with the same side arm as leg. This one proved harder and I fell a couple of times. Grip spray proved my salvation with this one, and I nailed it once I could grip comfortably. It was a much harder move than tree frog and I could only hold on for a few seconds. Endurance is for sure my next step in mastering these moves.

Camille doing alpha during her first performance
Omega was like tree frog but we let go of a hand: the opposite side from the knee that hung on the bar. This was proved a bit easier than Alpha for me but I still only could hold it for a few seconds. Once we practiced this, Jo and Ashley showed us how to do seashell in both moves. This is simply put a gorgeous move. In both Alpha and Omega you grab your hanging foot with your free hand and curved around arching your back. I did it. Seriously. It was hard and it took all my strength but I did it.

What I learned from last night:

One, defining success by one thing is going to make you feel like failure. I have spent the last three classes defining my failure based on upon my inability to get on the bar. Seriously. That is the only thing I can't do in class. I have done all the "tricks," Some better than others and no doubt not with a whole lot of grace but I can do them. But I couldn't see that as success because I got into my head that getting on the bar was the thing. And even then I can get up. Yes it's only one way but hell I get up right?

Don't beat yourself up for the one thing you can't do. Look at what you're doing.

I realized last night that I am very strong in terms of my arms and legs. My abs are mush and this is what is killing me. As I get stronger in that area with all the prep working I'm doing, I know that at some point I will be able to get up there in other ways. I know this because I can do other things really well.

Two, I do not trust my body and this is a problem. We learned a move that everyone swore was the easiest way to get up. Basically you hold the bar with your arms behind you, lower your head and back until you feet lift off the ground and go over the bar. I can not do this because I don't dare to let myself fall. I am not confident that my legs will go up that my arms can hold my weight. It's a major mental block and I'm sure it's what's keeping me from getting on the bar (along with mushy abs). I don't know how to overcome this fear. And it makes me sad.

When I did lose faith in my own body? I suspect it happened a long time ago when I was young. I used to swing by my knees from tree branches and metal bars on the playground. I knew no fear and totally just knew I could swing up and pull myself to sitting. I don't have that anymore, and I feel serious terror at the idea of just letting go. I need to work on this obviously but I have no idea where to begin. But it's a move forward I think in just recognizing the block. When I talked to Ann last Saturday she asked me "What's the problem?" I couldn't answer her then. I had no idea. Now I do. I don't trust that my body is going to get me over that bar and I am scared of what will happen it fails. 




Monday, February 01, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: The Sisterhood

I talked a lot about last class feels with a variety of people: a friend taking the class with me, Ann, H, my mom. Really anyone would listen. I had a lot to process, and I also had the added burden of not wanting to make anyone feel like they failed me. No one did fail me! But I have to learn to wrestle with the things that trapeze brings up for me. Nothing comes without baggage I think, and anything involving my body is going to make me process a lot.

Thus in that spirit, let me begin with: I LOVE TRAPEZE. I really do. The few weeks I've been doing it have been life changing. It's centered me. It helps with my body image and most times it helps my mental state. But all that doesn't mean I'm not going to struggle with the hard stuff not just the physical but the emotional. I made up my mind when I started this series that I would be above all things utterly honest about the experience.

Here's where I struggled last week:
I hate being the fattest girl in the class. Note that I don't hate being fat. I just hate being the only one. My classmates are for the most part supportive and if nothing else the ones who might not be just don't say anything. Still it's hard to not feel like my struggles are because I'm fat or to think that others are not thinking this as well. It's likely paranoia on my part but it's a paranoia that comes from real experiences: not just mine but from many other fat people who love to exercise.  Comments that some might think come from a supportive place often feel condescending when you're overweight.

Amazingly I've not felt this from the teachers which is big and what keeps me coming back.

And all that leads to the biggest struggle: insecurity. It's not just in terms of my body but in terms of my writing, my parenting, etc. Low self-esteem is a bitch and it sucks up a lot of energy. I feel as if I spend much of my day working myself up to do things. Sometimes it's little things like getting dressed and going out in public (what are people going to think? will I be the fat friend?). Other times it's bigger things like sending out a query letter or..taking a trapeze class.

This is important I promise.

While getting my hair cut, my awesome stylist, friend, and fellow writer told me about how she meet a woman who feels competitive with all other women she meets (no names were exchanged). I said almost offhandedly, "I think that feeling competitive comes from insecurity." Ahhh.

I talked this out with H over coffee.

"Do you feel competitive during trapeze?" he asked me.
I had to think about it. "Yeah I do. I don't want to but I hate being the only one who can't do things." And last class unlike the other classes I found myself looking at the other students. I compared myself to them and found myself lacking. I had not done that before.
"Do you want to feel competitive?" H asked me next.
"No."

And just like that an epiphany. There should have been lights and angel music. My insecurity is what is driving me to feel like I have do what everyone is doing and do it as well. It so overshadowed my experience that I couldn't think of anything else. I couldn't think of my successes because I was so busy focusing on everyone else's successes. When I talked to H, I could think of a lot of things I did better than in my first class. I got up on the bar to standing in only two tries instead of the five it took during my second class. I did Skater without my hands on the robe even if only for a few terrifying seconds. I did get up on a waist high bar, and with help I did get up in the underbar way. Pretty impressive when you think about it.

I've always loved how my girls don't see trapeze as competition. They only push to make themselves better. Not better than anyone else just better. And that is what I want for myself. I don't need to compete against any thing but my last class. As long as I'm working toward being better that is enough because I'm not doing this to perform or to be a top student. For once I'm doing something where the only thing I want from it is the pleasure of doing the thing. There's no job waiting for me at the end. No report card. It's just something I can do because I love it.

Insecurity is a real bitch and we're trained from early on to feed it with competition. We're encouraged to be the best in school. We have to get into the best colleges and find ourselves making excuses when we don't get into those schools. As women we're supposed to compare ourselves against other woman in terms of beauty, thinness, how much we juggle, how we parent, and so on. It's no wonder so many women don't like being friends with other women.

Ann asked me on Saturday if I would feel more comfortable with two tracks, one for those who need more modifications and those who don't. My gut reaction was "Yes oh yes" but then I felt a pang. Would I have to leave my class to do this? Because I realized in that moment I didn't want to leave them. I don't want to hold them back either. I've come to feel like these seven other woman embarking on this journey with me.

"Part of me would love it," I told Ann, "But another part of me doesn't want to leave my group. They're so encouraging and we all cheer each other on."
Ann nodded "Yes," she said, "That's the sisterhood."