My favorite coffee mug

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I love outrageous language. I lean toward the dramatic. Make no mistake, I’m not a drama-mama, I just love dramatic language. I love breathtaking prose and heartwrenching poetry. I like to mix curse words in new and unexpected ways.  Gallows humor slays me.  I adore the juxtaposition of dirty words against a flowery background.

This is my favorite coffee mug. I use it just about every morning. I love the way it fits in my hand, the way I can wrap all four fingers around the cup through the big handle and cozy up to my morning coffee. I love that it was a gift from my dear friend for my 50th birthday. It absolutely delighted me when I opened the package. It’s so…ME!! Seeing the outrageous language in that slim, feminine font had me bursting out laughing and it still has me giggling every morning.

I’m not a bitch.

But I did spend the better part of my first 50 years trying to escape that label at home and at work. I am strong, independent, smart, resilient, tenacious and a natural born leader…you know…a bitch.

*sigh*

By my 50th birthday, in my efforts to escape the bitch label, I had become a human doormat. I was so driven to escape that label that I had let my backbone nearly disintegrate. I was so driven to be liked by everyone that I had completely lost the ability to stand up for myself. I was so driven to be loved by everyone else that I hated myself.

Ohmygosh – just seeing that sentence “that I hated myself” brings tears to my eyes. Truth response.

Now, with my 52nd birthday in sight, it’s been two years of rebuilding my relationship with myself, of BEING RENA, of growing a backbone, of learning to set boundaries and learning to stop making excuses for other people’s behavior.

It’s hard.

REALLY hard.

My default reaction is “oh, he/she didn’t mean it” and “well, it’s not *that* bad”. I’m slowly learning that sometimes people DO mean it and yes, sometimes it really is *that* bad.  I’m learning that sometimes I have to say “Bye Felicia” to people and situations that aren’t healthy for me and I’m learning to live with the discomfort that comes with that. I’m learning that I’m not a failure if I walk away from something/someone that doesn’t fit with me. That’s the hardest part, I think. It feels more like giving up than walking away. I’m programmed to soldier on, to motor through, to finish what I started. That stinking thinking kept me in some bad places during my first 50 years. So I’m doing the work to ensure the next 50 years are different.

*sigh*

Man, this growing up stuff is hard, AND I love it. Every day is a new beginning, a new chance to build the life I’ve always dreamed of.

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30 days in

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I’m 30 days into my new plan to take better care of myself. For 21 days I was a rock star. I mean a full on ROCK STAR…meal prepping, walking, getting enough rest, mindfully approaching fueling my body…like a rock star.  And, tragically, like a rock star, once I had a taste of success I went way off the rails and crashed.

Every year I take a day off from work and bake hundreds of Christmas cookies for family and friends. Cookie Day 2016 took me down. Hard.

It wasn’t so much Cookie Day itself that started the fall, it was the days following Cookie Day – the days where there were trays and trays of cookies on my dining room table waiting to be delivered – just sitting there on the table silently taunting me with their sugary goodness. Bastards. That’s when the sugar beast made her appearance. And once she’s out there’s almost no stopping her. Suddenly everything else changed too. No more walking.  My daily water intake was surpassed by my daily Aperol Spritz intake. Meal prep consisted of craftily unwrapping a cookie tray from the table, snatching out a few of my faves, then re-wrapping the tray (I actually got pretty good at that).

“Hi, I’m Rena and I’m a cookie addict.”…..”Hi Rena.”

So here I am on December 29; finally sick of cookies, sick of feeling achy and grouchy and pretty sure I’ve un-done all the progress I made in my first three weeks of being a healthy eating rock star.

The game isn’t over yet. I fell down. I ate a lot of cookies while I was down. I’m not staying down.

Happy New Year, dear friends. Thanks for being with me on the journey. xoxoxo

 

 

The Jill Look

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December 2001

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A sea of SUVs and minivans greeted me as I turned into the plaza.  I was overcome with a sense of panic that felt like a huge stone being laid across my chest.  ‘Tis the season, I thought to myself.  The overcast December day did nothing to relieve my stress.  After finding a place to park in what felt like another zip code, I stepped out of my car frustrated, hot, and tired.  The cold air slapped me in the face as the slushy parking lot assaulted my already soaking wet feet.  How could I be so hot and miserable and yet freezing at the same time?  Even though it was an icy late December day, I had abandoned my coat in the trunk of my car hours before.  My holiday stress had become my little internal furnace.  My cheeks were flushed from the cold and from feeling so overwhelmed.  My hair was gathered into a messy ponytail and pulled through the back of a baseball hat – which was only sealing in the heat.  Why did I put on this damn hat?  My purse felt heavy over my shoulder and my body ached with exhaustion.  I was in a hurry, and I looked like it, walking determinedly through the lot with an intense scowl on my face.  I had a list of fifteen things to do and I was quickly running out of time.  The last days of hurried shopping before Christmas had left me looking, and acting, like a bit of a lunatic.

I trotted through the sloppy lot and began to recognize the soft tones of Muzak Christmas Carols being played through the plaza’s sound system.  The noise only bothered me.  The annoying melody of White Christmas was soon wiped out by the sounds of whiny children and frustrated, snappish mothers.  Great, I thought, just what I need – a bunch of whiny kids and their bitchy mothers who really should have taken them home for a nap an hour ago.  The true spirit of Christmas had completely passed me by.

I dashed in and out of Bath and Body Works in no time at all.  Two things checked off the list.  Yes!  A quick trip to the movie theater for tickets for my nephew and that’s one more thing ticked off my list.  The Hallmark store?  Not on your life.  Not the week before Christmas.  No way.  I just didn’t have enough time.  After all, I was busy.  I had things to do.  Those little ornaments would just have to wait until the after Christmas sale.  I was turning on my heel after rethinking the trip to the Hallmark store when I saw her.  Oh God, not now.  Why me?  I had a million things to do.  There was just no way I could deal with this right now.  More accurately, no way I could deal with her right now.  Jill was walking slowly down the sidewalk.  She was smoking a cigarette and looking down at her feet as she walked.  The world was whizzing past her so quickly, and typical Jill, she hardly even noticed.  She was wearing a cream colored ski jacket and dark blue jeans.  She always looked like an LL Bean model.  Her blond hair was cut shorter than the last time I had seen her.  She had that look on her face.  The Jill look.  The look that says “my life is absolutely miserable and I have nothing positive to say.”  I think everyone knows somebody like Jill.  She’s the friend that will suck the life out of you like fire sucks the oxygen out of a room.  Everything about her is a downer.  It had been three years since her engagement had abruptly ended, and yet she still talked about it as if it had only happened last week.  She was still as heartbroken, still as confused, and still as bitter.  It was as if her misery was her companion now.  It was exhausting to be around her.  She was a beautiful woman, and she was letting her entire future slip away into a world of bitterness and anger.  I could see her becoming a crazy old cat lady.  I looked up again quickly, and made a split second decision to duck into the closest store.  It was easier to stand in there and pretend to look at things than it would be to stand out there and listen to Jill complain about her loneliness.  I waited for about ten minutes and then decided the coast was clear and that it was safe to make my way back out into the plaza to finish my list.

I went on about my day, eventually finishing all of the items on my list, like I always do.  No matter what, I always get it done.  It’s what I do.  I should have felt a terrific sense of accomplishment that I got it all done.  Why did I feel so bad?  What was wrong with me?  Why had this overwhelming sadness settled on me?  I hadn’t even talked to Jill, how did she manage to bring me down this way?  I saw her face in my head over and over again.  That look.  That Jill look.  Dammit!  It was stuck in my head.  That damn Jill look was ruining my day.  That pathetic, lonely, Jill look.  How the hell did she do it?

That night as I was brushing my teeth, I looked in the mirror and saw it.  It was right there.  It had been there all day.  I was ignoring it.  It wasn’t the Jill look that was ruining my day.  It was the Rena look.  As I was brushing my teeth and replaying the events of the day in my head I thought about Jill and I blushed.  All alone in the bathroom mirror, I blushed.  I was ashamed of what I had done.  I had behaved horribly.  I had turned my back on a sweet woman who was simply having a tough time getting back on her feet after a loss.  I was sick to my stomach.  How could I ever fix this?  I couldn’t very well call her at this hour and say “hi, Jill, I totally ducked you earlier today because I didn’t feel like listening to you whine, and I’m really feeling badly about it, so I just wanted to call and apologize.”  That would never work.  That’s not much of a plan at all.  Why can’t I just go back and undo it?  In a split second I had defined who I am capable of being.  I was sick with my newfound knowledge.  I decided that the next morning I would send her a cheery holiday note.  It was nothing more than an effort to appease my guilt.

As I lay alone in bed that night I thought of Jill.  I thought of the pain she had been through.  How she had wallowed in it.  Had she?  Or was she just working it out in her own time?   I thought of the pain I may have caused that day.  I obsessed over whether or not she saw me.  Had she?  Had she seen me at my worst?  Could she ever forgive me?  Did I deserve to be forgiven?  In those moments Jill became my mirror.  She held up the mirror and let me see the kind of pain I was capable of causing.

Some people wear their loneliness openly.  It’s the Jill look.  Always looking down, shuffling their feet slowly, never noticing the world around them.  Others wear their loneliness differently.  They carry lists of things to do, they look through the crowd, complain about tired children, and trot along without really hearing the music.  As I drifted off to sleep I realized that’s what hurt so badly.

Why I hate this picture

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I hate this picture of me.

I *should* love it. It’s me teaching my first yoga class – which was the culmination of a summer’s worth of really hard work. I can sort of see that I’m smiling in the picture – I was having fun! I’m clearly talking with my hands – which tells me I was in my expressive state of peace. I remember what a high it was to be guiding that class.

And yet I hate this picture.

I can’t look at this picture and deny anymore that I’m carrying around an extra 25 pounds. I just can’t. I can keep on lying to myself and believe I’m achy and tired all the time because I’m anemic, or not getting enough rest, or not sleeping well, or, or, or….

OR…I can accept the fact that my skeleton is used to carrying about 130lbs, and for the last year I’ve asked it just about every week to carry just a little bit more for me. No wonder my body hurts. No wonder I’m tired.

***sigh*** It’s time to get serious about taking care of myself.

My incredibly energetic and wonderful neighbors across the street are fitness professionals (seriously – they’re like Stepford nice and beautiful). They’re going to help me on this journey to reclaim my body. The journey began yesterday with my first day of sugar-free, junk-free, responsible eating and exercise.

The journey gets pretty effing real today when I push “publish” on this post and commit to sharing the journey 🙂

Lots of people share their journeys with before and after pictures. I’m going to share this journey with gratitude  – not pictures.

Today I’m grateful for courage. Today I’m a braveheart. Today I push publish and put it all out there – the whole messy, crying, doughy, over-eating, sugar-binging, comfort-seeking, self-deprecating, scared, lonely, insecure, hot mess of a 51-year-old curvy girl’s journey to reclaim her healthy body.

Wish me luck.

#BeingRena

Love is a verb

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I’m stuck on this idea of just one thing.…it keeps coming back to me.  It’s about ACTION. I’m a huge fan of down time, it’s a necessary part of life.  AND I know the world moves by ACTION.

(No surprise that after a whole bunch of soul searching and a full out 2-year long mid-life crisis I came back to a career as a 100% commissioned sales person. I like knowing my actions have meaning.)

Mindlessly flipping through Facebook yesterday (taking some necessary down time) I got caught in this circuit of hateful political posts. This person is horrible because of this, that person is horrible because of that, this person is a criminal, that person is a hate-monger, the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, we’re all gonna die, Armageddon is near, conspiracy abounds, stockpile food and weapons because the shit’s about to hit the fan….

oh. my. God.

A whole lot of words and a whole lot of hate.

By the way, how the heck can someone’s entire political opinion be distilled down to a hashtag? #never(insert candidate here)  YIKES. Is this what we’ve come to??????

But I digress…

So I read all these political posts (hate rants) and I realize that just one thing is really important. There is so much ugliness out there. So much cruelty. I don’t want to be one of those people who hide behind a keyboard. I want to engage with the world. I want to change the world, and if I can’t change the whole world then I just want to change a moment in someone’s world. That’s enough! One thing, one moment, one person. Helping one person to feel hopeful or encouraged or seen is enough. Bonus points if its a stranger – because then there are absolutely no strings attached.

I’m getting ready to hatch a great idea. I can feel it brewing.

#BeingRena

One Thing

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I woke up this morning feeling troubled in my soul. Truly troubled. The world feels so hateful right now. Riots in India over water. Nigerian villages burned to the ground. Tentative cease-fire in Syria. Nuclear bomb testing in North Korea. The polarizing candidates in our presidential race. The hateful things Americans are saying to each other and about each other. I just felt icky. Powerless. I felt like nothing I can do or say could possibly make a difference in the world. Nothing.

Doom and gloom. Good f’ing morning, World. ugh.

I got my curvy ass out of bed, made some coffee and went about my upper-middle-class-white-woman-from-the-suburbs morning routine. Fed my dogs, wrote in my journal, lamented over my weight, questioned whether or not I’d be single for the rest of my life, examined my face in the mirror for new wrinkles, cleaned up dog pee in the hallway (after six years I seriously think he does that just to show me he won’t be tamed) and got ready to go to work.

As I was walking out the door to get in my car (at 8:30 – I was already late for work) I heard my dad’s voice in my heart saying “Honey, just do the next right thing”. I don’t know – it was just something he used to say to me. He used to remind me I don’t have to do everything, I just have to do the next right thing. Just one thing at a time, one day at a time, and then my mom’s voice chimed in to my heart saying “sometimes its just one breath at a time”. Okay – thanks Daddy, I hear you. I made a mental note to call my mom later today.

I pray in my car every morning. I know that to really have a practice of anything I have to build the habit. So I started talking to God every morning when I get in the car. Just an easy conversation. Maybe telling Him what I’m grateful for, or what I feel like I need help with, or just acknowledging that I don’t really know what to say so I’m just saying “Good Morning”. Lots of times my prayer is “please let me hear you today”. This morning’s conversation was just “Good Morning, Lord”. I think I was too overwhelmed with the icky feelings I woke up with to really formulate any thoughts.

My commute to work is a whopping 5 minutes (unless I catch the light at the corner of Main and Wisconsin). As I rolled down Wisconsin Street completely caught up in my doom and gloom I spotted a guy with a shopping cart full of bags of bottles and cans (have I mentioned how much I love living in the city?). Sort of absentmindedly I pulled over so I could grab the bag of bottles and cans I had tossed into my trunk over the weekend. It was like I wasn’t really even thinking about it – it wasn’t really a decision so much as an autopilot reaction. I remember thinking that I hadn’t ever seen this guy before – its usually an older woman on this street picking up cans. I left my car running, grabbed the bag and walked across the street saying “good morning, can you take these for me?” He lifted his head full of long blonde hair and revealed the most beautiful smile. He looked me in the eye and said in a loud and clear voice “hey, thanks, have a good day”. I flashed him the peace fingers, smiled, and headed back to my car.

As I was clicking my seat belt I felt it. It was kind of like a jolt and a strange buzzing in my scalp. It was total awareness. The shopping cart guy’s face flashed in my head. A new voice flashed in my heart…

“just one thing”

In a morning where my prayer was sort of a throw away “Good Morning, Lord”, I heard Him. I can’t do everything. But I can do something. I’m not powerless. I can do just one thing, and that one thing is enough.

Hope is alive in my heart.

#BeingRena

 

 

 

 

Giggle breaks and resilience

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I’m working most weekends this summer on completing the 200 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) training. My classmates are a group of fascinating and impressive women. Its quite a journey; exhausting, invigorating, enlightening, humbling and soul stirring. 


Sitting in a guided meditation Saturday morning I was asked to take my thoughts to a place where I had been uncomfortable. I immediately pictured myself just half an hour earlier – floundering around on my yoga mat sweating, confused, off-balance and unable to make sense of anything. The instructor’s voice fell on me like she was speaking a foreign language. I was overtired and overwhelmed.  I was struggling and nothing was making sense. I did the only thing I could do.

I collapsed onto my mat laughing.

Laughing at myself, laughing at the situation, laughing because I knew I was gonna hop back up – I just had to take a giggle break. And then I got back up. And that’s SO what I do. I get back up.

The problem is I don’t always control when I take a break in the rest of my life off of my mat.

That place of floundering around on my yoga mat sweating, confused, off-balance and unable to make sense of anything is not that far from what life feels like sometimes. When work is piling up and there aren’t enough hours in the day and my house is a mess and my homework isn’t done and the laundry is piling up and my boyfriend is looking for my attention and I haven’t taken the dogs on a hike in weeks and I can’t remember for sure the last time I saw Alex and my mom is asking me for something and my friends are saying they haven’t seen me enough and and and…..

That’s the time I need to take a giggle break.

But I don’t. I wait until..no…actually its not waiting because waiting is an active choice and there’s nothing about this that’s active. It’s entirely reactive. When my whole life is on overload, then I burst into tears. I cry and cry and cry it out. Then I get back up and keep trying.

Why do I do that? Why do I wait until life has become completely overwhelming and then cry as a reaction rather than making the active choice to take a giggle break way before that point?

I knew I could take a giggle break in the middle of yoga class then get back up and try again because I trust my teacher. I know she accepts me as I am for who I am (as she does everyone) .  I trust that I’m safe. Because of that trust, I can take a giggle break and catch back up with the class. I know that even if I screw up its all part of the learning curve.

So why don’t I feel safe enough off of my mat to just bust out with a giggle break and cut myself some slack on the whole learning curve of life?

Why do I think I’ve always got to be strong?

How does it serve me to think I’ve got to be strong all the time? Does it let me be a little bit of a martyr? Probably. Does it let me hide behind a Mac Cosmetic varnished game face? For sure.

How would my life be different if I thought of myself as resilient instead?

My whole adult life is a treasure trove of both blessings and opportunities to prove I’m resilient; leukemia, single parenting, divorce, brain surgery, grief and then a 3 year peiod of darkness.

Yeah, I’m resilient.

So why do I not live out of that place and take more giggle breaks?

Maybe resilience is about heart, not about will. Maybe resilience is facing the world every day with shoulders back not in strength, but in accommodation for the way my heart has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger with every opportunity for resilience.

This means I’ll have to give up my security blanket of strength and my mask of “I’m fine”. I’ll have to put down some of the resentments I carry around with me as a matter of habit. I’ll have to actually live out of resilience.  Ahhhh….I think I like this….

…and I’m pretty sure resilient women take more giggle breaks.