Haunted

Blog tinkering continues, but apparently I will have some warning before I need to stop updating the blog. This is a good thing. I find myself having the compulsion to write now that the blog seemed temporarily off-limits.

The headlines of late are all about the sexual misconduct and predatory practices of powerful, influential men on the less powerful in the entertainment food chain. Many of the currently reported transgressions are in the distant past, and the criminal behaviors an open secret among those who toil in the industry.

As an adult, I wonder why this behavior was tolerated and hidden for so long. Many of those speaking up now are powerful figures in their own right, and yet they waited until someone else opened the door before speaking their truth and telling their stories. While I understand their fear and anxiety, the real threat of not being believed or supported or losing opportunities to pursue their art and livelihood, I am so angry and so ashamed on their behalf. Part of me doesn’t want to, but for the most part – I believe them.

I was sexually abused as a child, something I have touched upon in the past. It was far worse than what many of these adult women experienced, but degree of crime does not make me more a victim. Being young – events I can recall started around age 3 or 4 and ended when I was 12 – gives me somewhat of a pass (in my own judgment) for not speaking up and speaking out. I also know how it wrecked me to be 30, tell my mother in the safety of a therapist’s office, and have her flat out say not only does she not believe me, she tells my therapist that I am lying “to get attention.”

It was an emotionally killing blow and crippled me.

From that standpoint, I can understand the reluctance to speak out in the moment. I know what kind of risks are involved and losing what seems so important and vital in the moment is too high a price.

My abuser is a long dead – he died when I was 23. But to this day he has effectively silenced me. I cannot speak out loud about what cruelty and evil he introduced into my life, how the twisted, dark, bleak places that still exist and persist in my mind. I understand all too well how disconnected and abnormal I am about emotions, that what most people speak about when it comes to “love” is like they are speaking in a foreign tongue I cannot comprehend. This does not make me a terrible, horrible, or even marginally bad person; it makes me handicapped when compared to what most in my culture and world would perceive as emotionally normal. I strive to be kind, thoughtful, considerate, even if I am incapable of caring and loving in the ways most people desire to be cared for and loved. I do my best. I use my judgment and perception to figure out what I perhaps should feel in a situation. I am one who thinks about what feelings should feel like, and thinking about feeling and actually feeling are very different things.

At the end of the day, trying harder allows me to label and fill containers in my emptiness and separate the good stuff from the self-directed revulsion and hatred I cannot seem to completely erase. Therapy taught me a lot about coping and surviving, even if it could not cure what killed me as a kid.

So in this culture of political correctness and conviction for character-related crimes with little or no proof, I want to believe these accusers speaking out now. On general moral principle, I very much want to believe them. I want to believe that no one accuses others of such heinousness just to get attention or to take the victim role out for a spin.

But it’s hard for me to equate the criminality of touching a knee or unwelcome invitations with my experiences. I was 5 the first time I had a grown man ejaculate in my mouth. I was 8 when my virginity was stolen. I was 10 when a penis was forced into my anus. A lot of layers of awful leading up to each of those milestone events, a lot of other awful events I will forever wish I could forget.

And I was 30 before I spoke a word about it to anyone I knew outside of individual or group therapy with other childhood sexual abuse survivors. And my mother killed me all over again by accusing me of lying about it.

When I was 15 a classmate grabbed my ass every single school day for weeks. It got to the point where I would be on edge and almost hysterical walking one stretch of hallway to my locker. Does the way he groped me – lightly at first, as if it were an accidental brush of his hand to more deliberately, when it became apparently that he could get away with it – does that matter? I was wreck. For a couple of hours daily, I was a wreck dreading and trying to avoid leaving a class and having him somehow always end up behind me.

My friends tried to watch out for me, tried to put themselves between him and me, and to their credit, they believed me even if it seemed incredible that this quiet braniac was being inappropriate. This was the 70s and there were not classes and workshops and seminars on what constitutes inappropriate touching. When I finally broke down about it walking this stretch of hallway and he did his new standard butt grab, he had the gall to approach me directly, in front of my friends, and ask me is there was anything wrong? His expression was the perfect mask of inscrutable concern and curiosity, and all I could do was stammer and turn red with shame.

Who’s the crazy one now?

He never did it again after that exchange. Or he never did it to me again. In time I began to have doubts, and perversely, I wanted him to not judge me so harshly. I was nice to him, kind to him, tried to be extra decent and friendly when we had to work projects together. But I awkward and distanced from him, and it made me feel badly … about me.

I feel a sense of ruefulness now, but it’s my view that high school is hard on everyone to varying degrees and in various ways. Just another rite of passage I’m glad to have so far back in my own rearview.

Yet … all my life I have been haunted by remorse for not speaking up, telling my truth when it could have made a difference. Are there other victims out there I could have helped or spared by speaking up sooner?

As an adult, I can rationally understand the limitations of my understanding. I was a kid, a child, and was not especially close to my parents or sibling or anyone else I trusted enough to get past my shame. For my high school experience, I can imagine him as some horny teenager without any outlets for releasing that energy, and I was a safe target – a nice girl, smart but not in the academic elite circles where he dwelled, not pretty, not popular, just quiet and part of the great unwashed masses of high school.

In work, I do not allow people in power to abuse me, not anymore. I have left jobs because my superiors were cruel and/or demeaning to me, and I have spoken about the experiences honestly in exit interviews. As I have grown professionally, I have learned there are people I can speak my mind with and those who see my pushback as a challenge to double-down and find my breaking point, all within the limits of the law, of course. It’s part of why I will generally avoid a larger corporate environment; the deck is stacked against someone who is not a superstar performer in the revenue-generating ranks.

I don’t know what to think of the stories pouring out about famous, powerful people. Except I am ready to believe the worst about them, even if I am not quite ready to believe each and every one of their accusers.

 

Tinkering under the blog hood

Chatting with fab trainer J this morning, I verbalized a new epiphany about blogging: it keeps me focused and on track with my objectives. While we were primarily discussing my blog on the better health quest (makingprogressgettingfitter.blog), it also applies to this personal blog as well.

Small cakes in the epiphany universe, but through the past few weeks of hardly writing at all, I have become the incredible shrinking woman with regard to my better health quest in particular but my life as a whole as well. Not because I am faltering in my self-employment business pursuits or anything else, but because I have very gradually become more and more withdrawn and feeling boo-hoo blue about my job and the overall status of my life in general. And I have absolutely nothing to feel sorry for myself over – work is busy/hectic/crazy kind of good, health and fitness pursuits continue to be productive, relationships and healthy and rewarding. So it’s not because I’m doing something so terribly wrong or reversed directions and am splattered all over the couch with favorite sugar addictions methodically moving from hands to mouth and not taking care of myself or my business, but because I allowed myself to be distracted by other people’s problems and let that take away from my own more promising priorities.

Since today was my last training session for the next week (fab trainer is leaving on a well-deserved vacation), I thought I would return my focus and energy on catching up around here AND returning to something akin to a regular posting schedule. Because frankly, I do a lot better when I write regularly. No matter how busy I am in other aspects of my life, I can always find a few minutes to jot my thoughts and reflections.

Only as I said, I have been distracted by other people’s issues and trying to be a good and supportive community member. To my detriment. Either I fade away feeling like I am trying to extinguish wildfires by tossing single teaspoons of water at it or I am being smashed to smithereens by wrecking balls seeking care and attention and uninterested in doing that hard work.

Neither are good for my overall mental and emotional health. Me and social media: not a good fit. I have accepted it now and gone back to my 5-minute timer for Facebook a couple of times daily unless it’s something of interest, i.e., written by someone I know and whose thoughts and ideas interest me.

Only another item on my to-do popped up this month: returning to my pursuit of self-hosted blogging. I have been promising myself to get it done sometime before my next renewal, which is now less than 30 days away. While I know this is something I can and should learn to do myself, right now my time is more valuable than the cost of paying professionals to do the work for me. So, I expect to continue to be offline for the balance of this week while they pros move the blog.

And I wonder – what the Hell have I been waiting for to do this? On the one hand, I’m not superwoman; I have plenty of other revenue-producing activities that are a much better use of my time. Besides which – I’m unlikely to be moving the blog yet again after this, so I should leave it to experts … experts I can verbally eviscerate if they screw it up. But they won’t, and not just because they might be worried about what I would do if things do not proceed well.

Which means while there will be no new posts going up after this one, I will continue to be writing offline and publishing as quickly as possible after the move is complete, hopefully Saturday and Sunday.

Because I need this outlet. I’m far more successful and have a much better outlook toward my progress when I’m downloading the thoughts and emotions associated with my life. Honestly, it feels (to me) like my distraction shows in work and the zillions of ideas and things I want to say and to share with my corner of blogville. To say I am feeling rather negatively toward myself the last few weeks as I feel my dedication toward  and enthusiasm for my self-employment business creep away is a lightweight understatement, but I know myself quite well and understand how much worse I can be when feelings of personal failure come into the mix. I’m human, and just like anyone else, I have a lot of days where I feel yucky about myself or tired or just not in the mood to work for a living. I’m not unhappy, depressed, or crying in my water bottle, but I feel off and can accurately pinpoint where it’s coming from.

So I expect the migration process will start this afternoon. Or my willingness to not change anything on the blog will start this afternoon. Hopefully the move will be completed quickly and any new “look” I have for the blog will happen in this timespan as well.

Fingers and toes crossed all goes as uneventfully as expected, and I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

 

 

Exceptional

I have been quieter than usual the last few days. A lot going on in my mind, and more challenge than usual to gather and capture all my thoughts and emotions to put them in order to write. This post, I’m not sure there is order in my chaos, a sure sign of a me trying to capture a lot of big concepts and events and synthesize them down into something that makes sense for all of you. Of late I have been dwelling in the land of sexual abuse, likely triggered and fed by the latest Hollywood scandal. I feel lighter now that I’ve sorted through and downloaded my thoughts. But I always feel obligated to put this type of disclaimer that this is not a typical light-and-fluffy sort of post. 

Are you exceptional at anything? Playing jacks? Skipping rope? World peace? The idea is dominating my thoughts the last couple of days, so much so it’s been hard to sit down and focus on writing out the why of it all much less a training recap.

I had an appointment with TM on Monday as we are winding down this year’s tune-up. Losing friend J extended the process, because while I look and act okay, the cracks are still pretty fragile just beneath the surface. But it wasn’t grief that has my mind in slow-mo idea crunching; it is the idea of exceptionalism.

Vast majority of my life thus far, I have chased and relentlessly pursued average. My childhood traumas made me feel extraordinarily separate and alone, so I craved to be just like everyone else. Safe. Sane. Unmolested.

Yet my whole life, I have had it pounded into me that I am not like anyone else. Those pushing that idea of my not being like everyone else has not had a good or positive connotation. If I blend with a crowd it is because I choose to comport myself into some facade of normal and keep my thoughts to myself. I rarely ever belong, even now as a middle age adult, and through the days and years of my life I have learned to accept it and build a good life and niche. I have no complaints; I only see pathways to enhancement and improvement. Acceptance of my lot does not mitigate my curiosity and interest in the world around me. I cannot change what happened to child me – I learned that a long time ago – but I also learned to survive and thrive in spite of it. How often does that happen? In my experience, not often enough. I have watched the self-destruction of too many other peers in my childhood sexual abuse experience history and efforts to heal and overcome to think my successful transition into middle aged adulthood is a typical occurrence and outcome.

But I am wildly uncomfortable with the thought of exceptionalism, even good, positive, complimentary exceptionalism. To hear TM say that to me – TM who has never lied to me in all these years – felt like a death sentence. Or a lifetime of future discomfort sentence.

My discomfort lies primarily with deeply rooted fear and anxiety. To be different, exceptional, makes me a target. I’m the outlier gazelle in the sights of the predators. Difference is I am a grown-up now. I have a voice. I understand right and wrong, and I am far from powerless. Every time I think of my childhood, I have to pep-talk myself off the ledge of old, crippling fear.

Some scars still ache.

The full context of how this came about: I asked TM if he had insight to why I am successful this time with my diet and exercise consistency when I have tried and failed in times prior. His response was that I am someone who is never going to be satisfied with the simple answers to the complicated problems. I am always seeking to know more and to understand why. It’s true I enjoy knowing how things work. I am a knowledge junkie, a collector of information. In our years of working together, it all comes down to understanding why. Why this happened to me. Why did he choose me. Why didn’t I do more to make it stop. Why, why, why. There are no answers that satisfy me or that could ever quell the raging anger I have learned to restrain and contain and keep in context. But the search continues and seems unlikely to end until my final breath.

I have had to learn to live with that as well.

For a long time I imagined my latent desire to understand the essential why of evil doings to be the central strength and failing in my whole life. It’s made me try harder to be a decent human being; my fear turning into a kind of evil spawn colors most significant decisions of my life to date.

But TM points out that my need to know and understand things was part of what kept me from giving in to the despair that brought others to their knees. Or worse. It is not enough to be smarter than the average bear; it takes a lot more courage (I hate that term) and determination to survive without crutches (drugs, alcohol, poor moral choices, poor life choices, etc.). My personality type also contributes to my success in this endeavor.

For a knowledge junky seeking to understand just about everything that comes into my orbit, I am rather blindly ignorant in my own self-awareness. Frequently I think it is a handicap that comes from the old injury, and self-protection is reasonable. Looking too closely at how I think, who I am as a person requires critical self-examination of all aspects of my life. I’m incapable of that, or I am on my own. Hence the therapy and annual tune-ups.

TM and I had previously discussed my Myers-Briggs and the consistent INTJ results. I have been dismissive of that, feeling the confidence and other favorable traits were so not applicable to insecure and mundane me. TM disagrees and used the example of compliments. He can tell me how much trimmer and fitter I look (as he did on Monday when I showed up in his office wearing gym capris and t-shirt). Because I do not think that about myself to the point that someone I admire and respect as enormously as TM would take notice, I dismiss his comment and opinion as him being nice. Except TM does not say anything he does not mean; in his line of work, he is very deliberate in word choice, tone, and delivery of every utterance. What he thinks may fail to impact me in the moment (because I disagree with his comment) despite my genuine admiration and respect, our conversations linger long after we part from our meetings. I do have my own strong feelings and opinions on many subjects even if they are not fully expressed. In this case and others like it, I offer gracious thanks for kind and flattering words – I have learned at least that much – and either change the subject or blabber incoherently about nothing. Point is, he can tell I am discounting his words, because they conflict with my own ideas. This is me reinforcing my confidence in my more correct point of view.

Put that way, I feel both happy at my confidence (in my own lack of confidence) and horrified that I might come across as so blatantly contrary. But people who like me still like me, so there’s some comfort that at least I’m not obnoxious about it.

The whole 20 minute discussion at the end of our meeting was like turning on my thought grinder the last couple of days. I have been busy and productive in other aspects of my life, but part of it has been fueled by my X-ray examination of this from every single angle and processing what it all means or could potentially mean. Part of me feared I have learned nothing in the many years of off-and-on therapy I have been through with TM (and others), but that knee-jerk was quickly dismissed as negative girl shenanigans trying to hijack.

Truth is I’m mostly glad we can still have a conversation that alarms and elates me. There is so much more still left to know about myself, and I have not become stagnant and boring and hanging around awaiting a slow mental and emotional decline. Developing any sort of self-awareness – I guess it’s not instant pudding either, where you add milk, stir, refrigerate 30 minutes, and voila! Dessert. Like most complexities in life it takes time and patience (hate that term, too) in order to develop any sort of understanding and mastery.

I do like the puzzles life presents to me to solve. Even those outside my sphere of experience or ability to solve, I like that they exist and someone else will work at them and create intriguing solutions.

I learn from my experiences and missteps. In all facets of my life.

This morning I was doing 1-legged Romanian deadlifts with a cable weight machine, and I cannot even describe how tediously difficult I still find them. But I am better with them now than I was 6 months ago, and hopefully 6 months from now I will be a step up from where I dwell right now. Going through them, trying, Trying, TRYING to not weeble-wobble sideways, I understand the mechanics better now. I know what “slow and controlled” means in relation to this movement, and now I really know how slow and controlled is supposed to look and to feel. Knowing does not mean body is capable of doing it. Understanding the way it is supposed to work does not mean mind ceases sending out doubt impulses that impair concentration, though. Despite all the other ways I may do this balancing act, the cable changes it just enough to make challenging in a different way.

When I had few other ways of doing 1-legged RDLs, it seemed so much harder. But now I have dumbbells, TRX, and landmine – possibly others that I have forgotten. All look and feel just a little different. With that kind of comparison and contrast, the cable version is not so bad. Or rather, my effort with them is not so bad. In fact, my effort with them is very good and my ability is improving. Because of my interest in how my body works. And my faith and trust that I will improve. So many times I doubt myself and my capability to learn.

This is what enormous progress from 2+ years of consistent effort and study looks like for me.

My trainer is fabulous and very good at his job. He’s also scary smart, which was the outstanding quality and key takeaway from our very first meeting. While still fully in the thrall of my own brand of gym crazy, I recognized and respected his intelligence and compassion. Yeah, it took a few months for me to gain traction on what that meant to and for me, but I got there.

I rarely feel especially smart. I feel curious; I feel interested. I feel capable of learning, yet not especially bright. Because of that, smart people are almost addictive. I love that they know things, are bright in ways I lack, and are able to share their knowledge and capture my interest in different things as I try to develop understanding and make it all make sense. The puzzles they solve so effortlessly and present are good mood food for me, because there is a particular brand of energy that tends to draw me in and get my thinking pumping. Unless they are assholes. If they’re assholes, no amount of scary smart is worth my time.

With my better health quest, I’ve made huge strides in reshaping my shape and improving the quality of my overall health. TM made me recognize and understand that it’s my making the better choices for help and guidance that have kept me focused and allowed me to develop the mindset to keep going long after my typical (up until now) expiration date with exercise and healthy eating. My personality demands certain qualities in my coaching, and if I try to deny that particular quirk I will end up unhappy with my poor results.

TM reminds me of this every time we meet. Not saying it in words, but by his example in working with me to guide my thinking and teach me new tools to manage my life during the other 166 or 167 hours per week I’m not sitting in his office. Every year we moving into the next chunk of undiscovered country of all-about-me.

Thing with therapy – something often complained about by others – the all-about-me discoveries may never end. Some years I feel very self-indulgent in our tune-up sessions. Others, I have real stressors or issues I want to address head-on and resolve for a better, less nut-ball crazy life. This year, I wondered if there were perhaps there are other qualities of my personality now demanding recognition and attention? Although deeply sad and grieving the death of friend J, I am not in crisis. I am not endangering myself, my marriage, any of my closest relationships, or my livelihood. If anything, I am shedding other deadwood and unhealthy relationships that impact my ability to pursue what is most important and/or modifying my impulses and capabilities that might impede personal growth.

Learning new skills, acquiring new tools to live a better, more interesting and fulfilling life – all good. But the struggle is real. And no matter how much or how frequently I may feel myself completely ridiculous in how difficult it seems, the struggle is still real and tough for me to process and reconcile past, present, imagined future. Sometimes.

It truly is the “sometimes” in this equation that grows smaller every year.

I cannot deny or change the broken pieces, emotional shrapnel, big ugly scars from terrible injuries sustained as a kid inside my heart and my head. Look at any of the scars on my body and I feel confident I could tell you when, where, and how I acquired them. The ones on the inside – I am mostly incapable of speaking about them in detail to anyone. So many years of silence and withdrawal have made those events harden like granite in their mind vault compartments. But therapy has provided me tools and workarounds that let me move about freely through my life in spite of the mental and emotional limp-inducing load I carry.

Healing could be a misunderstood term. It’s not that I stop caring about or feeling the pain from past hurts; I seriously doubt I or anyone else will ever forget major traumas. But perhaps healing is the choice to set it aside to the point that these grievous injuries no longer rule or have direct impact on our present or threaten our future.

Very recently, I read something that described therapy as a temporary measure that does not fix you, but provides tools to fix yourself. Not sure I agree with that either, because I will never be fixed or made whole. However, I know TM and other professionals through the years have taught me skills to cope and to let go as much as I could to be functional and productive, to have a good life. The piece was thoughtful and made me feel like I were having a whole body root canal without anesthesia. As unpleasant and painful as that sounds, it frequently happens when someone says something imminently sensible and intelligent. The context of which she was writing (cheating in a primary relationship) is completely unrelated to me and my issues; perhaps there is a solution and tools for someone to fix themselves in that context. But reality for me is that my dragon is unslayable, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be quarantined and its dark power harnessed for good or at least better purposes.

Maybe in this way, I’m exceptional. Framed in that context, my thought grinder winds down and quiets for awhile.

Creating the life and livelihood I desire

Thinking about a lot of things the last week or so, and it’s been a good, healthy, creative sort of process. To be clear, I am not especially creative. Where other people may throw splashy colors of paint at the wall and it somehow looks amazing, I use a ruler, draw straight lines, create geographic figures, color neatly inside. Nothing wrong with perfectly aligned squares and triangles filled with blocks of the same color, but it’s not especially arty. Likely this explains why I am an accountant and not an artist.

C is here this week, and it’s been wonderful to see her. She’s experiencing personal issues right now, and as a family we do our best to be supportive and encouraging, to help her get through it whatever ways we can. I’m proud of her taking steps to address these things, in her own ways. I want her to be healthy and happy.

It is also an exciting time in our household. M and I have had many discussions about where we are right now, our plans for the balance of 2017 and into the coming year. Nothing big or fancy on the horizon – a business trip to Texas is probably the biggest blip on our radar, and I am not 100% sure M really wants to go with me. Houston is not a hyper-appealing attraction for him, but we can make it work and have a lot of fun. We will be there together, it will not be dreadfully humid, and the client I am working with there is engaging and thoughtful about good eats and things we may enjoy.

The more I think about marriage – and I have a lot recently for various reasons – the more I realize that there is a lot of work in intimate relationships. Give, take, compromise, play to your strengths are all things I have said recently to others about forging stronger ties with your partner. We’ve got close friends going through a rough patch in their 28 year marriage, far from the first in recent years. It makes me appreciate what M and I have built together. Neither of us are the same person we were 25+ years ago when we met, and working through our own rough patches has left us appreciative for the ways we have changed and adapted and grown together.

This does not mean I do not want to smother him with a pillow to get my way from time to time. That is just the way I roll.

More than that, though, business is booming. My client roster is stable and the work is steady, and I have been regularly getting one-off projects that spike my working hours every week. If I had any worries about making a living after my last full-time job ended, they have been eradicated in the last few months.

Speaking of my former firm, I have been doing some consulting with them on a couple of projects. Melissa had asked me about this in the comments, and yes, they did grudgingly agree to my quoted rates. However, I have been able to do the work they wanted/needed in about a third the time the staff person who had been assigned the work, and I have offered to show him the methods I utilize to get the deliverable prepared. Thus far, they have preferred to outsource the work to me, except when I had to push the schedule back twice due to scheduling conflicts with my other clients. I suppose the new management did not understand that my going off and pursuing my own clients and work meant that I would be busy enough almost immediately to not have time available for them.

I am fortunate to have landed so firmly on my feet, something I am grateful for and do not take for granted.

Am I changing? Most definitely. I am focused on work and building something bigger and better. My life. The life I want to live and including the livelihood I desire.

This has been my whole quest, my whole life. As it should be for everyone.

But what I’m thinking lately … people want what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and do not necessarily want to compromise or give up or give in to anyone or anything else or even work that hard for it.

Perhaps I am being hard on those around me right now. Within my own life and world, I understand my close and once closer friends and the bumps in the roads. Sometimes their spouses or significant others’ are unreasonable assholes. Sometimes they are as well. In a couple of cases I know how easy it is to lose ourselves in the parenting role, to the point that we experience almost a grief-like state when our kids grow up and move on and into independent lives. We are so wrapped up in our identity as super mothers that we lose our identities as wives or independent units.

Or maybe we just get tired and want to be lazy when we reach middle age. Only we have to keep working at jobs we hate and are unwilling or unable to find a way out.

Pride is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s related to status or doing something to pay the bills that bores us to tears. M and I have crafted a marriage that works for us. I don’t judge anyone else in their choices of life and lifestyle, but my hope is that we can each find peace and contentment in some facet of our lives.

The danger of pride is it can lead to a sense of entitlement. Or if things are crappy in one area of our lives and it impacts our pride, our sense of self-importance could be twisted and turn us into an entitled asshole. Being humble and kind has its own benefits.

I’m cautious about it. Paranoid even. M worked hard much of our life together and has made things simpler, smoother for me. In our present days, I can indulge my workaholic tendencies, building my business and reputation among clients and community where I toil. I cannot allow myself to become overconfident about anything in my life, and I find it akin to walking a tightrope. If finding balance is a challenge, maintaining balance is possibly even more than that.

Or maybe I’m just new at it. I have always been more secure in my professional pursuits than anything else, and it would be easy to become very big-headed about my own success and importance in the bigger picture.

In my pursuit of better health, I put forth a lot of effort. Maybe I am more accustomed to it now, but it seems like this is what it takes. What I do, how I exercise, how I eat, how I conduct myself in the rest of my life – it has become interwoven in the fabric of the rest of my life now. Still a very long way to go, because I have a whole long life ahead of me that requires that I eat healthier foods, that I exercise, that I work at the intellectual curiosity pursuits that capture my imagination, that I continue to give a shit about those worth caring for and about that cross my path and turning away from those who waste my time. It’s not that I think my time is so very valuable; it’s that I believe everyone’s time is valuable and should not be squandered.

I’m learning, every day I’m learning. Right now it’s how to cut off, let go, dismiss the disagreeable or anyone else who does not “spark joy” to make me think or grow as a human being.

We all have our hopes and dreams, even for those of us who have such small scale, modest hopes and dreams that they seem impossible to separate from regular life. Maybe I do not get to be a fitness model in this lifetime (not an ambition, just an example) or the smartest person in the room. However, I’m happy being this much healthier version of my former self and I will always be glad to be the dumbest person in a room full of highly intelligent people.

And I did that. Selfishly and for myself primarily. I work hard and do the heavy lifting to get this far in my better health quest. I read, I study, I listen to other voices and ideas to expand my own worldview. I have a thriving little business with clients who like and respect me and the imperfect guy who is just about perfect for me. Because I invest the time and the energy to make it happen for me. Not overnight. It’s taken years to get this far. But my effort is paying dividends both big and small.

And that’s mostly on me. I’ve had help. I’ve had coaches and friends to cheer me on when the going got tough or bitch-slap me back to reality when I wanted wallow. But mostly it’s all me.

It feels good to be me, something I am gradually growing accustomed to feeling.

Coping with past histories

M and I have been married nearly 20 years, together for more than 25. A long shared history.

However, we both had lives, friendships, relationships before we became a couple. Like everyone else. Not so stark difference with us is that vast majority of my friends pre-M have become part of the fabric of our lives post relationship. In fact, many of my old friends became close (or sometimes even closer) to M through the years. M, however, took a 20 year hiatus from ALL his closest friends in his long running career. I mean, zero contact. It’s made for an interesting integration in the years since he began running again and crossing paths, making inroads into the old trail running ultramarathon world.

And being absolutely honest: it’s really hard for me. After a few false starts where I felt trapped or ignored or minimized or any other range of negative emotions – only a fraction of which are all in my mind – we have come to a solution that mostly works for us: M attends significant events alone.

It’s not that the runner people are mean or unpleasant or don’t try to somehow integrate me into the conversations. No, not all all that. There is just this whole big giant block of shared history and then 20 years of catching up and including the shared history, and then there is this non-runner wife who is clearly bored AF by endless running stories and updates on new running adventures and yet more rehashing and retelling of stories and memories that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my life with M.

Even typing that, I feel the twinge of childishness creeping into my own judgment. It’s not like I haven’t tried; I have. But my own capacity and social skills have me hamstrung, and it’s hard to bridge the gap with folks who treat running as a religion and your husband as a trail running legend, if not elevated to demigod status, retired or not. Because of that, I must be equally special or gifted somehow with the fleet-of-feet sport, right? Fuck no. I’m accustomed to that surprise-to-incredulous expressions that cross their faces; sometimes I’m even mightily amused by it. Their eyes go from glowing in anticipation to anywhere but mine when they try to engage me. Because I don’t run. Like Ever. Maybe if I’m being pursued by someone with murder and mayhem on their mind, but since that has yet to happen to me, I cannot be sure. Possibly I could be persuaded to run under those circumstances.

I sound really small and petulant, particularly to myself. But I’m over it now. I’m tired of trying to fit in with the great unwashed asshat community that are many of M’s former competitors and “friends” in the racing circuit.

Anyway, when we have invited runner people to our home, I’m fine to infinitely better. We are hosting, I am busy, I have a relevant role. In another type of social setting – at a race, at a banquet after the race, at other running events – I feel like an unnecessary accessory. This does not come from M; that part originates with negative girl and persists in my general boredom. Bad, bad combination.

I’m wrestling with it again this afternoon. M is attending a wedding, the groom is his best friend’s son, and my hyper-responsible side is sort of squirming. M had said we would both attend, and after a bit of a snippy tiff this morning, we agreed it best if I stay home. I do not typically fail to meet my commitments unless the reasons are valid. My not wanting to go is not really a valid reason in my book.

Snippy tiff – still not sure if this was me picking a fight or me just expressing how I feel and it falling short of M’s expectations. Bride and groom have this magical and romantic love story, per M’s telling. Since I barely know them – the groom have met in passing a few times, have seen the bride from a distance on another occasion – they quite honestly mean very little to me. Wife of the best friend – we have nothing in common, and as far as she’s concerned I’m dumb as your average box of rocks, not at all socially prominent, and therefore someone to be polite to and then set aside. It’s fine with me; we are just very different. I will not fake what I don’t feel, and I quite sincerely wish the happy couple well, but I do not find anything especially romantic or extraordinary about their relationship. Maybe I was a lot too blunt about it, but I essentially said to M that they really do mean nothing to me. I’m happy for them. I hope they have a long and happy union. But I’m not all ooey-gooey about their romance and very special love story.

M thinks my outlook is dark. I think I am realistic and honest about how I feel. However, he felt it would be unlikely that I could avoid showing my indifference. The rest of the tiff – M’s joking references to A and K as “future ex-son-in-law” or “future first wife” have not set well with me and I have told him so in the past. But compared to his glowing optimism and joy about the “specialness” of this union, frankly it irritated me far more than usual. I saw or heard little of this sort of thing when G and K got married, although we both love and adore K and G and K as a couple. For C and A, there has been a conservative concern about their long-term relationship, because there are some unique challenges built in. Our concern as parents – we want our kids to be happy, to have healthy and thriving relationships – and the way we show it is just different. I get it. But since I’m already in a bit of an iffy, vulnerable state, it’s impossible to not feel a little hurt by the contrast.

So I am sitting at my desk pondering things rather than watching the this couple walk down the aisle and then eating and drinking and being merry at the reception. And we are all so glad. I’m actually happier here, and in truth it’s healthier for my own relationship that I am here.

But I wonder if I will ever be confident enough to withstand running-related events. M does not compete anymore, but he’s still highly regarded and respected in the running circles he travels. Many, many of his good old boy network is still active in local ultramarathon circles, including volunteering at races, mentoring others new or growing into the sport, crewing other runners during actual races.

Many of the folks M knows and hangs with now – I enjoy being around them and would gladly, happily go to their weddings or events. Thing is, these are relationships M has begun, fostered, built during our marriage. I am not just the woman he left racing to find; I’m the one who finds dirty, sweaty people standing on my pool deck when I get home from work. I have shared history with these folks along with M.

However I try to describe it, it is just different. And while our solution to my feelings seems extreme (even to me), it is also the only thing that truly works. Hating myself for feeling the way I feel does no good, and in truth M is comfortable with going alone. While he will never openly agree with me, he enjoys himself a lot more not having to be concerned about me.

By the time he left for the wedding, we were fine. Usual, typical, relationship normal type fine.

Like weddings, life and marriage are imperfect. Many a bride has hopes and dreams of the “perfect” wedding and something goes wrong or falls short of lofty expectations. Same with marriage. In my own, it’s fortunate we can be honest about our disagreements. M doesn’t always see the snubs and such that I feel, and I accept full responsibility for my own insecurity and social awkwardness. This world of his old friends, many of whom are athletically-snobby (M has his own strong and wide bias in this area as well) – I don’t belong there. It’s good that I recognize it and dial direct in dealing with it.

But I don’t always feel great about it. Human here, with my own little fragile ego to make me absolutely certain it’s real.

Right where I need to be

Blogging. It seems the process takes on life of its own. There is so much to write about, yet so little of any substance. Or so goes my judgment and justification for why I’m not getting more posts written and published.

I have been pondering blogging a fair amount in the month of September. Not in terms of ceasing to blog, or chastising myself for not posting more frequently. No, this was more an observation of the ebb and flow of life. Work of late has been picking up – new clients, new projects, new chunks of time that might have been utilized writing being devoted to income generating projects instead. Or being sick. Or sleeping. Or any number of other tasks and priorities.

Each of us have our own individual reasons for writing and publishing about our lives, ideas, thoughts in a public forum. For me there is a catharsis and empowerment in blogging. No doubt in my mind that it has been a contributing factor in my evolving confidence and maturity to date.

An old friend emailed me last week an apology of sorts. This friend was extremely judgmental about my better health quest when I first began, asking intrusive questions about my weight loss and making derisive statements about the size of my upper arms. It was hurtful, yet the pattern of our lives that I would mildly object, tell her to knock it off, have a minor disagreement that would blow over. Lather, rinse, repeat over various topics through the years. The last time, though, I was working hard at my exercise, getting on and then staying on the consistency training plan. Her words offended me, triggered feel badly about me emotions, and I suddenly woke up and realized I do not need any help with my own negative self-image. It was terrifying to end a multi-decade long friendship, but I had to protect myself. TM (my long-time, long-suffering therapist) helped me through the logistical details, and it was a Very Big Deal for me to tell her that I needed to distance myself from her and her attitude and we should no longer communicate. She did not take it well, and it was like high school all over again with her “poor me” crying among our mutual friends. I was not being mean. Taking care of myself to the best of my ability is a unique job and primarily, ultimately my primary responsibility to myself.

It cost me a lot in terms of friendship and social interactions. While hard initially, I also understand people and that our individual needs do change along with the circumstances of our lives. But when I look back and examine the wins and losses, I see it merely as trimming of deadwood from my life. There are folks I kind of miss at certain times of year, yet I can also see there is nothing to apologize for in my behavior toward them. I did not say “you’re a horrid person and need to be banned.” Nope. Not my style. I was clear and direct: “You do not respect me or my choices. I think our friendship has run its course. I wish you well.” Or something equally benign.

She thought that was harsh. She felt I was being mean, yet telling me to fire my trainer because I was not losing weight under his tutelage was not out of line. Either way, we parted way, and in the last 2 years when our paths have crossed I was banished to her vision of freezing Hell. Oh well; I am apparently immune to social frostbite. It divided our friends, many on the other side of the line with her. The few I do still communicate with are honest about how difficult and uncomfortable it can be to be around someone as serious as I have become about overhauling my diet and my exercise habits; it points out to them the flaws in their own lifestyle choices. I understand that, and no, while in my own blogs I may have the zeal of the born again, I do not routinely flaunt it or criticize their own choices that differ from my own. However, my already thin patience for the whining and excuses is also lessened as well. All I ask, and sometimes it is too much, apparently – be responsible and own your choices; stop making or seeking sympathy and understanding when you continually make excuses your own inaction.

So I do work on that.

I want everyone to be happy, and I am sympathetic when life does not work out as we hope and desire. However, if you are repeatedly self-sabotaging and shooting yourself in the foot, common sense says put down the loaded gun or at very least remove the bullets before pulling the trigger. Yep, folks who do get irritated with me for my practicality admit that it is primarily because I am disrupting their pity party with reality. They still like me enough to forgive me for being a voice of reason.

So the email from my original frenemy was a bit of a surprise. The way it was worded, the way it sought to “share” responsibility for our falling out (yet still refused to accept her role in it), I had zero inclination to respond in anything akin to a positive way. There is enough of a legacy codependent within me that felt poorly about that choice, so I reached out to TM for help and support that I was doing the right thing by deflecting her outreach.

In the meantime, there was some additional information from other mutual friends. Frenemy has uterine cancer and is facing surgery and other cancer treatment. I am sympathetic, yet I feel little inclination to reach out and be part of the support team for her. Part of my lifelong habit is to feel guilty for my lacking more generosity toward her. But I got my own stuff brewing and whatever caring energy I have available needs to be directed toward me right now.

And I have no reason to feel guilty about taking care of myself. I have learned through the years that putting my oxygen mask on first is always far more beneficial than trying to take care of others while I am wounded and in need of care myself.

The timing of this could not have been worse, yet I wonder – is there ever a perfect time to have someone you have known most of your life be diagnosed with serious illness? Or is there ever a good time to realize you’ve been kind of a fuck up – are are so ridiculously fucked up overall – in allowing someone to treat you poorly and then return with whatever expectation that their illness is going to matter so much that you stop dead in your tracks and abandon all sorts of leaps and bounds forward?

I am in an emotionally weakened state right now and rebuilding my defenses and acceptance skills. Sometimes picking at the childhood wounds causes fresh pain and unexpected bleeding that cannot be staunched with the first aid skills I have adopted through the years. Good thing my village of experts includes a mental health specialist who seems to have infinite patience waiting for my next breakdown.

After an hour together yesterday and half a box of kleenex, I am still muddled yet so determined to be stronger and not let my past interfere anymore with my forward moving present. I hate hating to deal with this old shit, because it pierces the facade that I am so boringly average. And I get up, go to the gym, move whatever weightier weights I can to and fro. It’s good for body, but it is soothing balm to my soul.

Good, bad, ugly – life is messy. It takes some time to learn the necessary skills and gain the experience to put it all in order. I need teachers and guides. I’m grateful that I have grown up enough to know how to seek out help.

At the end of it all, it simply reminds me: I am right where I need to be. And it is going to be okay.

Musings from a darker side

This post is from a darker and murkier place where I seldom venture much less blog about, and the content may be upsetting and triggering for some who read. Not sure how long it will stay posted, but consider this a warning label for any other survivors who may happen upon it.

I have been seeing my therapist, TM, again on a fairly routine basis. Part of it was just an annual tune-up, because I value his professional expertise in guiding me through the emotional lumpies in my life. When friend J died so unexpectedly, I needed some hand-holding in coping with my grief.

For me, grief is a box that should stay sealed. Forever. It brings out all sorts of infinite emotions I am incapable of coping with in the period it occurs. Which is why TM and I have our annual routine. The box labeled childhood is always leaking something that must be cleaned up and put away in more orderly fashion.

Being human is a messy business. Being human and me is not better or worse than anyone else. Our experiences are unique and there is no basis for comparison. I don’t even want to admit how many years and how much therapy of various stripes it took me to accept that reality.

Yet this is part of why I am back in TM’s office a couple of times each month, discussing acceptance and my perception of reality. For the most part, my view of reality is like a clear pane of glass and the only distortion is what I manifest onto the view from my personal biases and experience. The view is not different for any stranger standing next to, yet our interpretation of what is or is not occurring could be very different.

My better health efforts are starting to show on the outsides as well as on the inside. Yay me, right? For the most part, yes. The rest of it – it’s complicated.

Self-image and self-esteem are things I have battled and struggled and labored feverishly over my entire life. Those who are important to my own worldview, their opinions mean a great deal to me. I value their esteem, and I work hard to earn and retain it. The rest of the population, sure it’s more pleasant if we can get along and interact in a civil and polite manner, but I could honestly care little about what they really think or feel about me. From a public relations perspective and as it may benefit me or my goals and objectives, the effort I put forth to maintain good rapport and friendly interactions varies. But since I am generally a decent, thoughtful person, it costs me little to nothing to be nice to others.

My own sense of self is warped. In my own view, I am an invisibly average sort of person, going through and living my life among the rest of the beings in the world and doing nothing particularly exceptional or worthy of much praise or correction. I have a good work ethic; I try hard to meet or exceed expectations attached to the responsibilities and requirements. In the work I’m doing right now, what my clients think about me personally matters more because I work directly for them, and accounting is not so complex that they could not find someone else as competent. However, my niche market seems to be more in the personal touch I bring to the work. I routinely remember and track significant family members’ birthdays, anniversaries, children’s events and have had success with suggestions for gifts for all occasions. While I myself dislike (and therefore suck) at party planning, I can put together something if called upon to do so. I have attended enough wing-dings in the past that I have a sense of what happens at corporate parties and retreats and can seek out appropriate resources if needed. Thing is, these are small details that may matter to a client and not a big deal for me to make note of and track.

But that’s work. It’s imperfect yet far easier for me to accept a compliment for a job well done than it is to have someone say nice things for and about my efforts in the gym or to overhaul my diet.

A standard disclaimer for me is that I am not model pretty, because it’s true – I am not the stuff even gracefully aging conventionally pretty women are made of. I also tend to discount the importance of physical attractiveness, gauging this as only that I have good personal hygiene and be well groomed when going to work or into most sorts of public forums.

Herein lies the big issue that has me back in TM’s office: I’m reshaping my shape into something more conventionally nice. Good even. I mean, I look okay in my gym leggings and capris. I can wear a racerback tank top and not be self-consciously freaking out on the inside. I actually have some muscle peeking out after too many years of fat slabs over my whole body.

People notice my effort. They say kind and complimentary things, or they say things that sound kind and complimentary with an overlay of snark so it comes out sounding like the opposite. I try very hard not to discount or pooh-pooh it. I am working at upgrading my gracious acceptance.

Mostly, I do not want anyone to ever know that it freaks me out and frightens me when they say nice things. Because it’s not ever that I want them to stop, or be afraid of complimenting my hard work and effort in this regard. If that were the case I’d be wearing baggy sweats and oversized t-shirts down to my knees. And I never want anyone to judge me as so very vain that I brush off their kindness as “I know, and I deserve all your praise and admiration.” Because that’s not me either. I am horrified at the idea anyone would ever perceive me that way.

The fear and the ensuing anxiety is real, though. And even though I know it’s completely irrational, I cannot make it stop.

Hence my back to therapy. My only consolation for being this type of nutball is that there are worse reasons to be in therapy.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I am a sexual abuse survivor. From the time I was 3 until about 12, I was regularly molested, then raped, then sodomized. I was a chunky kid because of it. I would rebel against washing my hair or even taking a bath because of it. I felt ugly then because of the abuse. The fear and self-loathing, the inability to control anything that happened to me or my body – it was real and impacts my life decades later. Those impacts are all but impossible to erase, and the best I can do is mitigate their influence and my reactions to triggers.

So, here I am – back in TM’s office talking about it. I am not going to stop trying to reshape my eating habits so I make better, healthier food choices, nor am I going to stop going to the gym and working as hard as I work to become stronger and burn away the excess fat from my frame. These are really good, really positive steps up, steps forward for me, and I do not want honest efforts that I should be proud of to be tainted by fear of physical improvement and anyone taking note and complimenting me on my efforts.

While I frequently wish myself into a mental and emotional foot-stomping tantrum about not wanting have to have these fights with myself, it’s not something I can change. I comfort myself that my scars are part and parcel of who I am in the here and now. And despite everything, I’m not too bad.

The war for my healthiest sense of self continues, one battle at a time. But I’m winning.