Don’t Overdo

Your body is one smart cookie. It tries to talk to you all the time. Are you listening?

It’s really tempting to push through pain and exhaustion to finish up what you’re trying to get done. Believe me. I know. It’s also hard to stop having fun even when your body is protesting. But it’s not as if you get to trade your body in for a newer model if you wear it out. Aside from the possibility of a few replacement parts, this carcass, flawed as it may be, is pretty much it for you. So it’s important to take care of it.

The day I wrote this, I had been mowing the lawn in the hot sun. It was the only opportunity I would have to do it this week, and I really didn’t want my neighbors to give me the stink eye due to my neglect. That, and the lawn does look better when it’s properly maintained. So mow I did.

But I had to keep taking breaks. I was sweating profusely. My heart was pounding. I was getting dizzy. More and more, I had to stop, sit in the shade, drink some iced tea, and lie flat until my heart slowed down a bit. Then I’d mow some more, and sure enough, it would happen again. I’m neither as young nor as thin as I used to be.

At one point I thought I was going to pass out or vomit. Back to the shade. As I lay there, I thought, “You know, I could die. All alone in my yard.” That would suck. I have plans. I’m working toward a future, here!

Suddenly I realized that the lawn was not worth dying for. Common sense, you’d think. But it was actually an epiphany for me. So, the front lawn looks great, but the back yard is choked with dandelions and clover. But, hey, I’m alive. And the bees are thrilled.

Afterward I took a cool bath, and then a nap, and felt much better for it. I bet my body is astounded that it took me so long to wise up. I suspect it feels like that quite often.

I need to become a better self-listener. I’m not going to win some prize for pushing myself too far. There are no medals for abusing one’s health. I don’t know about you, but I want to live to mow another day.

Bee and Dandelion

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Self-Advertising

I firmly believe in self-expression. I think every adult human should have a right to dress however he or she pleases. I just wish more people would put some thought into exactly how they express themselves.

I’m not referring to that annoying habit that some men have of wearing sandals with knee socks. (I think that looks absurd, but your fashion rights should extend to bad taste as well.) I don’t mean wearing colors that obviously clash or make you look like bozo the clown. (Again, your option.)

I’m talking about when your clothes send an ugly message about what you think about yourself and the wider world.

For example, in this day and age, you can order a t-shirt that says absolutely anything. There are customized print on demand companies that can take your self-expression to the next level. But just because you can wear something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

For example, the t-shirts above definitely send a strong message, but it might not be the one the wearer intends.

  • I don’t care about other people’s feelings.

  • I’m an idiot.

  • I enjoy upsetting people.

  • I have a really warped worldview.

I don’t see how wearing a shirt like this benefits anyone, including the wearer. It makes no sense.

And then there are these jeans, which apparently are quite popular at the moment.

flossjeans

Here’s the thing. Most women like to put their best foot forward. At least that has been my experience. So if you want to wear jeans like these, I assume that you think your most redeeming quality is your body. And there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your body. I vaguely remember what that’s like. But these jeans (or the lack thereof) say to the wider world that your sexuality is your primary selling point. It would be much classier, in my opinion, to walk down the street naked.

Hyper-sexual clothing makes me very sad. I know a lot of amazing women, and what makes them amazing is not their physical form. It’s who they are. It’s their intelligence. It’s their kindness. It’s their abilities. I bet the model above is a very nice person, but I’m quite sure most people who look at that photo aren’t having that thought.

If you are wanting to draw people to you with your self-expression, you might want to ask yourself what kind of people you will draw to you if you’re wearing these jeans or those t-shirts. First of all, you’re going to intimidate a lot of really amazing individuals. You’ll disgust and repel others. And the ones you attract with those jeans, especially, will not be interested in who you are inside. None of these garments say, “Take me seriously.”

I’m not suggesting that women should cover themselves from head to toe, revealing only their eyes. (Unless, of course, they wish to do so, in which case more power to them.) I’m not saying that no one should voice their opinions. And I’m definitely not telling you to be ashamed of your own body.

I’m merely saying that showing the world that you have dignity and respect, especially self-respect, and inviting them to learn more about you through civil conversation will be, in the long run, a great deal more appealing to those who will be most likely to treat you decently.

And when all is said and done in this insane world of ours, decency is what we all deserve.

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Don’t Compare. Contrast!

A lot of women in America (and, I’m sure, in other places as well) are trained from practically birth to compare themselves to others and find themselves wanting. We can’t live up to those photoshopped models in the fashion magazines. How many of us look in the mirror and are unsatisfied with what we see? I know I am. My thighs are bigger than your thighs. Trust me. I know.

This “training” is such a big part of our culture that I suspect many of us don’t realize we’re doing it. I’m sure, for example, my mother didn’t do it intentionally. But those times that she said she wouldn’t “be seen in public” with me “looking like that” sent me a message, loud and clear. There’s some unwritten standard, and I do not meet it. And I got that message at school, on TV, in magazines, in music, from every man and boy who crossed my path, ad nauseum.

If you ask women to name someone they know who is thinner, or smarter, or prettier, or more popular, or taller, or shorter, or better in any way than they are, those women, if typical, will be able to answer you with very little hesitation. It’s sad that we all carry that baggage around with us. It’s tragic. There’s a reason that 90 percent of all people with anorexia or bulimia are female.

There’s also a reason why this culture persists. It’s convenient for retailers. It keeps us buying shoes and clothes and make up and shampoo. And it’s convenient for men. If we weren’t weighed down with all this comparison foolishness, our confidence would soar and we’d rule the world. We can’t have that, now, can we? Oh my goodness, no.

Let’s all concede that no two people are alike. Everyone will be more or less of this or that than the person standing next to them. Personally, I’m thrilled at the diversity in the world. I think we need to start thinking of contrasts instead of comparisons. It would be ever so much healthier if we got into the habit of acknowledging each other’s strengths and capitalizing on them.

For example, I have one friend that I go to for advice on publishing books, and another who is my style guru. A third can tell me everything I need to know about home remodeling and repair, and a fourth is an expert on the environment. And these people, I’m sure, come to me when they need input about matters that are more in my field of expertise. Together we are a formidable, amazing force in this world. And no two of us look alike. No two of us are alike.

As the meme below indicates, we may not all be identical, but we’re all awesome!

1 30ToObsaO_7vMFU-MP5d0w

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Baby Steps

“If you don’t start exercising and lower your cholesterol, you’re going to have a heart attack or a stroke.” This, from my doctor. My heart sank.

We’re talking major lifestyle change, here. You see, I used to have this amazing body. I mean, a killer, slammin’, take-no-prisoners type of body. Until I was 28 years old, if I had an issue with my weight, I’d simply make a mental note to lay off the cookies, and the pounds would melt away. Exercise? I didn’t need no stinkin’ exercise!

And then I stopped producing the human growth hormone, as one does, and began living with a tall guy and had the mistaken idea that I should keep up with him when we sat down to eat. I expanded overnight. That, of course, plunged me into a deep, dark depression. And I comforted myself with food.

I try not to look into mirrors. I don’t recognize myself when I do. Yes, something definitely has to change.

So about 9 months ago, I started making small alterations to my diet. And, lo and behold, I found I felt better. And as these small changes became habits, I’d add more dietary changes. Now I’m proud to say I’m vegetarian 4 days a week, and a lot healthier than I used to be on the other three. I’ve lost some weight. I still have a long way to go.

So when I went in for my follow up cholesterol test, I was really looking forward to the results. I was really proud that I’ve been eating so much healthier.

Imagine my horror when I discovered my cholesterol levels where even higher. This resulted in a stern lecture from my doctor.

Okay, okay, okay. I need to start exercising. It can’t be avoided. But how does one become an exercise person, for the first time ever, at age 52? At this point it feels like the couch cushions have been fused to my behind.

I’m certainly not going to become a jogger. The only time in my life I’ve ever run was when I was late for an airplane. That’s the level of motivation I require.

If the terrain around here weren’t so hilly, and there weren’t so many ghost bikes around to remind me of the many fatalities in this town, I might get a bike. But no. And long walks, all alone, are just too depressing to contemplate.

There is a public pool near me. I’ve never been there. I like swimming. But when I get home from work, I’m not very motivated to leave again. And when the weather is cold, the prospect of getting wet leaves me… well… cold. And let’s face it: there’s no job on earth that’s more sedentary than being a bridgetender.

Excuses, excuses.

So what to do? I’m a firm believer in baby steps. That’s how I changed my diet. Maybe I can apply that to exercise. I know myself well enough to realize that some radical, all-encompassing lifestyle change is not going to stick. But I can sneak changes up on myself, bit by bit.

So you’ve heard it here first. Today I brought some hand weights to work, and I plan to use them 15 minutes a day for starters. I’m trying to frame it as a gift that I’m giving to myself rather than a chore that must be done. Wish me luck.

weights

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A Few Thoughts on International Women’s Day

First of all, happy International Women’s Day! It’s nice to be recognized and celebrated. I’m glad that organizations throughout the world will be using this as an opportunity to speak out about equal rights. I’m thrilled that this will open up dialogues that many people wouldn’t otherwise have thought to have.

But at the same time, it frustrates me that we still need a day like this. Aren’t we women every day of the year? Don’t we deserve basic human rights all year round?

Recently I was sitting at a table with 15 other women, so I took an informal survey.

  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been touched inappropriately without your permission.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been cat called.
  • Raise your hand if anyone has ever discussed your breasts, behind, or legs without your initiating that conversation.
  • Raise your hand if your opinion has been dismissed as trivial.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve heard a man singing the words “bitch” “slut” or “ho” along with the radio.
  • Raise your hand if you yourself have been called a bitch, slut, or ho.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve seen nude women calendars in public places.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been interrupted by a man who insists on explaining something to you that you already know.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been treated like an idiot by a mechanic.
  • Raise your hand if men have assumed that you’re not intelligent.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been rejected based on your weight, age, or shape.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized because of something you were wearing.
  • Raise your hand if people have assumed you need to ask a man’s permission to do something or go somewhere.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of not being feminine enough.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being too girly.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told you do something good, “for a girl.”
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to drive behind a truck with naked women mud flaps.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been paid less than a male counterpart.
  • Raise your hand if men that you’ve trained have been promoted above you.
  • Raise your hand if a man assumed you needed his protection when you didn’t.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told something was women’s work.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being emotional or hysterical.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.

Try giving this survey the next time you’re with female friends. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that in the vast majority of cases, every woman at the table raised her hand. And that’s probably the most outrageous part of all – that it comes as no surprise.

The only reason that this happens is that we are not in the exclusive group of humans who sports a penis. That simple fact makes “us” not “them”. As far as I can tell, that appendage does not endow people with superior abilities of any kind. It just means we get to be easily identified as being on the other team. And society has arbitrarily decided that our team gets to be the losing team. It’s not rational. It’s not just. And it’s not acceptable.

I for one am sick and tired of being treated to micro-aggressions every single day. Case in point, I looked at my supply of Graphicstock pictures to see which one to use for this blog entry. This, below, is their idea of a good image for Women’s Day. Because we all should be depicted as naked, sexy, thin, with long flowing hair and luscious lips, arching our backs while floating with our heads in a flowery cloud.

Happy Women’s Day, indeed.

happy-womens-day-greeting-card_m1nzs5do_l

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My Body Lets Me Have It

Consider this to be a thought experiment. If your body were a separate, sentient being, and you were simply a parasite who rode around inside of it and dictated what it did, what would your body want to say to you? I’m fairly certain mine would be rather furious.

So, what follows is my attempt to voice my body’s opinions.

“Oh, HELL no! This has got to stop. My whole life, I’ve done every single thing you’ve asked of me.

“I have run, walked, jumped, and even danced to your tune. I’ve toted that barge and lifted that freakin’ bale. I’ve even climbed up the side of a volcano for you, for cryin’ out loud! I have fought off infections, suffered broken bones, survived illness and surgeries, and subjected myself to untold numbers of indignities, all for you. For you!

“And what have I gotten in return? Abuse. Pure and simple.

“You’ve pierced me, poked me, and put me in precarious shoes. You’ve sunburned me, dehydrated me, and exposed me to toxic substances. You’ve closed my fingers in doors. You’ve crashed me into things. You’ve dressed me funny. You do stuff you know is going to make me feel worse.

 “You fill me with junk food. I don’t need it or want it, and still, in it goes! It’s like there’s this crappy food conveyor belt and you keep it piled high. Are you trying to turn my liver into foie gras?

“And do you exercise? Do you even take me for a freakin’ walk? Nooooooo… Not you. You’d rather sleep or binge-watch Star Trek. (Although I must admit, you give me plenty of rest, and then some.)

 “And where’s the appreciation after all I’ve done for you? You don’t love me. You don’t even like me. You do nothing but criticize me. You have spent half your life being ashamed of me, and picking me apart for not meeting your standards. That’s the thanks I get.

“You are a kind person. I’ve seen you be kind to others every single day. It’s time you appreciated me for all I’ve done for you, Buddy-roo. It’s time for this relationship to become a two-way street. You’d be lost without me. Where’s the freakin’ love?

body

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Post Surgery, You’re Still You

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Where are YOU Located?” In it I talked about how I basically think of myself as residing somewhere behind my eyes, and that my body is kind of the vehicle I ride around in. I still think that way the vast majority of the time.

But there are some exceptions. Prior to my hysterectomy, I wondered if I’d still feel like a woman afterward. Would I still be me? Or would I feel as though an important part of who I am was now missing?

This is actually a common anxiety. I’ve heard women express it just before having a mastectomy, too. After all, as women, we are taught to reduce ourselves to the sum of our body parts.

And during that horrible window of anxiety, many of us can’t or won’t discuss these fears with our loved ones, because we feel they wouldn’t understand, or the subject would make them uncomfortable. How could a man get it? Or an adult child?

But believe me, your family is worried about the procedure too. And they will be just as relieved to see you come out the other side. So try to talk to them about it. It will help all concerned.

If you’re needing reassurance, I can tell you that every woman I’ve talked to about this subject agrees that after the fact, much to our relief, we still feel like ourselves. We all learn that “we” are not our body parts. When that pound (or more) of flesh gets removed, we still exist. We still have our personalities, our thought processes, our character. We still live and love and laugh.

“We” survive. We survive. And you will, too. I promise.

i-am-461804_960_720

Mind, Body, Spirit

Human beings are complex organisms. That’s a given. And in our fast-paced modern world, it’s easy to neglect oneself. If “you” are just one more thing to add to a mile-long to-do list, it’s understandable if you don’t quite get to that particular item every day.

But putting yourself on the back burner is something you do at your own peril. If you don’t take care of yourself, all the other things you want to do will quickly become impossible. There’s nothing more frustrating than discovering that you’ve brought calamity upon yourself through your own habit of basic neglect.

At the beginning of your day, ask yourself what you plan to do for your mind, body, and spirit. And at the end of the day, evaluate how well you did in reaching these goals. At first it may feel strange, but it will quickly become a habit.

Your mind needs feeding just like your body does. Never stop learning. Find the answers to your questions. Read. Try to discover something new every single day.

Your body needs to be nurtured for it to properly function. Exercise. Eat right. Do not neglect your health.

Of all the members of this grand triumvirate, spirit is probably the most often neglected. If religion or spirituality makes you uncomfortable, think of it as your inner being. What did you do today to bring yourself joy? What makes you feel at peace, or connected to the wider world? Have you allowed yourself to be creative lately? Here lies your reason for being. Take care of it.

Take care of you.

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Homunculus II

Now, doesn’t that sound like the name of a really bad horror movie sequel? Au contraire. Yesterday I wrote about the 16th century concept that a man’s sperm consisted of microscopic fully-formed humans. Called a homunculus, one of these little guys was said to get planted inside the woman, where it would grow.

Okay, that’s weird enough, but when reading up on the subject, I came across something even more bizarre. As scientists began to figure out that some parts of the human body have more motor control and/or more sensation than others, and those parts of the body are controlled  by various parts of the brain, they drew a representation of how the human body figures in the brain, and since it was a fully formed (albeit very warped) human body within the body, they remembered the story of the homunculus, and decided to name their concept the Cortical Homunculus. They drew it like so.

1.images_brain_map_final_MotorSensoryCortex-L

And then, someone got the bright idea, based on this information, to draw what a body would look like to our brain, based on the values imposed upon it by our motor cortex and our sensory cortex, and this is what they came up with.

2.images_Cortex_Man_topographical_map_brain_Motor_sensory

Now, if that doesn’t freak you out, nothing will. I for one now feel as if my brain isn’t me, and I can’t relate to it at all. I think I need a hug.

HWP

Oh, how I hate acronyms. They set people apart. Either you are “in the know” or you aren’t. If you aren’t, is that your fault? Are you supposed to sit around memorizing a list, in the hope that you will hit upon every acronym that crops up in your life, now and forevermore?

Here’s one I’ve come across quite a bit on the dating website I’ve recently joined: HWP. Thanks to Google, I’ve discovered that it means “Height/Weight Proportionate”. As in, “I only date HWP women.”

This infuriates me on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. Oh, but begin I shall.

Let’s start with that tricky term “proportionate”. Is there some official guide that will indicate whether I’m in proportion, or, heaven forfend, am completely out of proportion? Who gets to decide?

Must I be measured before you ask me out to determine if I fit within your narrow range of acceptability? It reminds me of those rides at the state fair. “You must be at least this height to ride this roller coaster. But what if I don’t want to ride your roller coaster?

And if you consider my body warped in some form or fashion, some other man might still find me quite physically appealing. So without getting into your improperly prioritized brain, how would I know if I meet your qualifications?

If you are a well-meaning but deluded person, here’s some advice. Never use the term HWP. Most women, since practically birth, are trained to be hyper-critical of their bodies. A lot of them will see HWP and self-eliminate, because they can anticipate the potential for rejection. So you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people.

Most of all, here’s what HWP means to me: You are a shallow, egotistical a**hole with values so skewed that I wouldn’t want you in my life. So thank you for revealing that to me from the get go, rather than wasting my time.

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All these women weigh the same amount. All these women are beautiful. [Image credit: fozmeadows.wordpress.com]