What’s Up With The Broken Heart?

So, I posted yesterday’s post and a bunch of peeps contacted me today wondering if and why I had a broken heart. 

Just to clarify…no…I am not currently experiencing Broken Heart Syndrome.

Yes, I have experienced it many times in the course of my life, with 2009 being a record-breaking year in the relationship department since being single. Contrary to popular belief, a broken heart doesn’t get easier to deal with as one gets older.  I think it gets worse. I don’t know why this is.

As for last night’s post, I just wrote and what came out is what came out.  Were there any events that triggered that post?  That’s a great question!

In all honesty, I’d have to say yes there were incidents that led up to me writing a post on the broken hearted, but it wasn’t my broken heart that started me down that path. 

Nor was it the sense of any dying dream that I was coming to grips with having to give up. 

In reality, I was just tired.

I was bone weary tired to be exact.  It’s been a long, grueling, exhilarating six weeks.  The adventure of doing new things, the excitement of opportunity, the hope of what can be possible is both energizing and exhausting.  The most difficult element is that when the demanding pace slows, and the seeds that were planted lay momentarily dormant before bursting into full bloom, there is a season of waiting.  This waiting can be somewhat anticlimactic.

I know this because I’ve been there in that place of let down after a great experience.

I am not there now.  I don’t feel any let down or disappointment or anything other than a sense that something really exciting is just around the corner.  Even if the most exciting thing that is around the corner is Spring Break, I still am feeling nowhere near sad, lovelorn or despairing because things somewhere in my life are less than I desire.

The reality is that some things in my life are less than I desire (except where the scale is concerned and then…well…let’s not go there in this post), but I’m not broken up over them.  Well, at least, not today.  The reality is also that some things in my life are better than I ever could have imagined at this point.  It’s also true that there are many, many things in my life that are still unwritten, untold, unimagined.  These are the things yet to be which are not now. It’s life.  It’s my life.  It’s everyone’s life to some degree, I think.  The good, the bad, the becoming, the yet to be. The happy, the sad, the exciting, the disappointing…the ever so daily.

Life is just moving along and I like it…at least most of it, most of the time.

No broken heart here, though I’ve had my share of experiences with the Broken Heart Syndrome.  No thwarted dreams, though I have a few of those too. The reason I wrote what I wrote yesterday is simply because I sat down to write last night and that post is what came out.

I liked it.

I posted it.

That’s all.   

Looking Good Naked

j0423115At this time of  year, fitness centers typically experience an increase in membership.  If you belong to a club or gym you might find that for the next eight weeks it will be tough to find an open treadmill or elliptical trainer. It seems looking good naked is on everyone’s mind after the holidays.

There is another excellent post over at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy about physical appearance vs. feeling good. She brings up a number of great talking points on the topic of body image issues, being a slave to the scale and our self-esteem and how it connects to our physical appearance.  We often say that our self concept shouldn’t be based on how we look but, for so many of us, it is.  I maintain that for many of us, how we look matters a great deal because how we care for our bodies is often indicative of deeper feelings we have toward ourselves and our value as individuals.  If we want that to change then how we go about changing our physical appearance is the first step in beginning to care about and for ourselves.

Lose the Scale

j0422209Being an ex-competitive swimmer, swim coach and cyclist, and also and ex-aerobics and fitness trainer, I know how ineffective the scale is and how it can really work against one’s efforts at getting healthy. One’s weight can fluctuate a pound or two every day and even more for some women, depending on the time of the month.  In addition, if you are enslaved to the number on the scale, but you are truly about percent body fat rather than weight you might get to a place in your fitness regimen where you actually begin to gain weight while continuing to lose inches.  Those who absolutely use the scale as the sole measuring device in their quest to look good naked run the risk of ignoring some better health indicators. They can become easily discouraged and frustrated.  This is counterproductive to the person who really has the goal in mind of becoming a healthier, more physically fit individual.

Percent of Body Fat is A Better Indicator of Fitness

I prefer to consider percent body fat or Body Mass Index  and inches lost when I work on improving my fitness level (because muscle weighs more than fat and building muscle eats fat).  One can be a size 3 and still be very fat.  I don’t want that for me.  I want the toned look and you can’t get that by merely losing weight on a scale you must transfer fat to muscle somehow.  If you are seriously overweight or out of shape or have never really done any serious training, please do two things:

First, get a physical and a physician’s okay before you begin any exercise program.  Even if you are relatively good health, this is always a smart move. 

Second, seriously consider investing in a personal trainer who will meet with you for an hour once ever two weeks for, at least, the first eight weeks of your program.  Even two sessions with a personal trainer can be incredibly valuable in helping you jumpstart your motivation and your journey back to fitness.

Toward A Healthier Lifestyle…A Personal Journey

While I know a great deal about the right things to do and the right ways to think about my body, its appearance and its health, I like many, many others have become negligent over the last decade. Sure there have been periods of good fitness, but I haven’t really stuck with them.  Of course, I have to cut myself some slack.  I’ve endured a pretty volatile decade personally, have been homeless and battled an emotionally abusive ex.  When survival is priority one, looking good naked gets much lower priority.  Even so, I’ve let go of some really great eating habits, stopped the consistent exercise and weight training program I had going and simply shifted my fitness priorities to the bottom of the list.  I don’t look horrible, but I really don’t look my best.  More importantly and more significantly I don’t feel my best. I find that it is when I don’t feel my best that I am most prone to worrying about my appearance, suffering a loss of confidence and self-esteem and I’m especially prone to really stupid questions like “How hot am I, really?”  I hate being in that place mentally and physically. 

j0402353Big Little Wolf’s post, my own personal journey to date, and experiences like these are crystallizing for me a sense of direction as I consider my own health and levels of fitness.  Note that I did not say weight loss program.  Because for me, though weight loss will inevitably be an outcome I hope to accomplish,, I am not venturing down this road with that goal in mind. In my post, two days ago, I spoke of moving toward a healthier lifestyle.  It’s true, I want to look good naked because that mirror in my bathroom is not exactly gentle in revealing the truth about my physical appearance, but I most certainly and more importantly want to feel good all of the time, not just naked.  I don’t just want to get smaller, I want to get better.  And better, might not necessarily weigh that much less, but it will look better naked.  It will walk further and faster.  It will not get winded. And, since I am the one looking at myself in the mirror, groaning daily with disappointment in myself about the extra pounds I’ve packed on and the muscle tone I’ve lost, and feeling disappointed with what I see (because the disappointment represents not beauty or lack thereof, but a deeper sense of loss) then looking good naked becomes important to no one…else…but me.  I’m the only one that matters.  It is indeed a deeply personal journey, but one with very visible results.

Getting Comfortable

But there is something even more significant at play here for me.  It is that idea of feeling comfortable in my own skin.  It is that idea that it is what it is and it is the best I can do so who cares what anyone else thinks.  Now, realistically I know, I should feel this way no matter what I weigh or what my muscle tone is, but the reality is, this is not the case for me.  Because the big reality is this, how we feel inside our own skin is largely determined by our fitness levels.  Our fitness levels often determine whether or not we look and perform at optimum levels.  All of those things conspire to impact our self image and our confidence in our abilities in other areas. True, self acceptance no matter what, is important.  I’m not suggesting we all have to be stellar examples of fitness and brawn, but when our ability to function at our best each day is implicated, then I suggest that’s the time to really rethink our health and our habits.  Feeling comfortable in our own skin is more about doing the best we can with what we’ve got under the circumstances and I, for one, am not doing the best I can right now.  Not even close.  This bothers me.  It bothers me enough to make a change.  For me, it’s what 2010 is going to be about.

Starting Measurements…The First Steps

j0321131 So, yes, yesterday, I pulled out the tape measure, hopped on the scale and took the front-back-side before pictures in my bikini.  Not because I intend to obsess over every little thing I eat or don’t eat.  Not because I intend to go on a crash starvation diet or crazy workout plan to burn that fat fast.  I’m smarter than that.  And, though I know my body will quickly respond to increased exercise and improved diet due to its past fitness, the reason I am doing it is not to get skinny…it is to change my lifestyle. It is to change my thinking.  It is to become comfortable in my own skin. Taking the measurements now, before I’ve really begun will help me gauge my progress and will motivate me to keep going.  It gives me a starting point.

Fitness is About Character Development and Personal Growth

While this is about looking good naked on one level, it is also about so much more than looking good naked because whenever one begins a journey of this nature there are mental challenges that must be faced and obstacles that must be overcome.  I’d like to suggest that the journey toward improved health for me will be less a journey of fitness than a supreme course in character development.  I will need to test my commitment.  I will be forced to persevere.  I will need to focus and stay focused and that, because I am so easily distracted, will be challenge enough. I will need to flex and adapt to a schedule that changes dramatically twice a year while still keeping up my regimen of good eating and daily activity.  I will need to make some hard choices that won’t be pleasant or instantaneously gratifying (like that second glass of wine or that extra helping of pasta or saying no when I’m just not hungry) if I am to move myself into a place that bodes well for the health and longevity of this physical thing I call my body, not to mention the mind and spirit that it contains.  It won’t “feel” good sometimes at first, at others it will feel better than anything.  It will require me to flex my discipline muscles, tone my determination, and exercise my mental fortitude and push my commitment to my own improvement to the limits. j0402666

But that’s the cost for every one who would accomplish anything of value. 

The Wild Mind

Success is often not a matter of talent, but a matter of tenacity.”  ~Nathaniel Bronner Jr.

How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?  ~Anthony Robbins

Kicking Off The Holiday Season

j0422837 I have a friend who firmly believes that Halloween is the holiday that officially kicks off “The Holiday Season”.  Being a person who really knows how to entertain and, yes, even cook very fine meals, she is all about celebrating.  And she is good at it.  Whether you agree with my friend or not, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, followed immediately by the day now known as “Black Friday”  (only in America and when did that happen anyway?), it is clear The Holiday Season is well underway. 

The Problem

In years past, I was all about Christmas and decorating and making everything festive and, like my friend, I enjoyed celebrating in the company of family and friends.  But somewhere along the line things went horribly wrong and suddenly, The Holidays, have lost their appeal to me.  Or maybe I’ve just become very, very confused about does and does not matter when creating those memorable holiday moments.

Okay, things didn’t really go “horribly wrong”, at least, not all in one big life changing moment.  It was more like a gradual decline and I think I did it to myself.  Too much pressure, expectations for myself and those of others (mostly in-laws), the demands of being a new mom, starting a new demanding career at the same time (oh, yes, I do wish I’d played Solitudethat card differently), and the gradual erosion and decline of a marriage.  Along the way, The Holidays lost their charm.  They became something to be endured; a source of pain, frustration and immense exhaustion.

After the second divorce, I tried the best I could to make Christmas memorable for my children.  This wasn’t easy, since I was now in the place so many people find themselves in after divorce:  broke…if not bankrupt. I was definitely the former, scrambling to avoid the latter.  Looking back, I don’t even know how I survived that first Christmas because child support hadn’t even kicked in.  The second Christmas was also pulled off with meager finances and the third Christmas, last year, was the first Christmas my children spent away from me.  That was tough! 

  Yes, I am fully aware that in spite of the pretty lights, the happy smiles on people’s faces, the advertisements that boast loving couples, happy families, and joyous, grateful children with lavishly decorated homes where trees are standing amidst a treasure trove of gifts, the cost of which might easily feed a small third world nation somewhere for a year, The Holiday Season for many, is a season of pain, regret, disappointment, sadness and deep loneliness. Many of us, especially those of us who are Singles in a World of Couples dread the advent of the holidays because it means we will be attending yet another office party alone, waking up Christmas morning alone while the kids wake up and open presents elsewhere, eating alone with no one to greet us in the morning or drink a toast with us in the evening.  That awareness can gnaw at us and deprive us of joy, energy, and contentment.

A Solution:

Now, if I let it, that could depress me.  I could spend my time regretting the misused past.  I could spend my time fretting that I am now unable to provide my children with what I’d always wanted and hoped to be able to provide them materially. I could feel badly that I don’t have significant other to share the joys and sorrows (or my hot tub!) with.  I could get weepy that things are not exactly what I wanted or how I planned or imagined.  I could despair that things are not better than they are.  Sometimes I do.  Not for long.  Maybe only about two hours a month…if that.

Solution:  I don’t let it.  I’ve learned to enjoy what I have and be grateful that I have it.  I’ve also learned that things can always be worse.  After all, as one friend recently said to me, “You have a roof over your head, a good job, you are paying your bills haven’t had to foreclose on your home or file bankruptcy, you and your kids are healthy and you have food on the table.  It could be so much worse, so chin up!”

I’ve learned over the last three years to think differently about many things.  I now think differently about my holidays.  I think very differently about the holidays on those years when my kids will be away for Christmas Day.  I’m not so hesitant anymore to ask out that guy friend to my office Christmas Party.  I just make sure it is someone who understands that this is not a Friends With Benefits situation or that I have any illusions about us as a couple.j0444098  I’ve given myself permission to be single and to enjoy it.  I’ve given myself permission to take full advantage of the times when the kids are away.  I’ve met enough people and have plenty of friends that if I want a date to an event I can have one.  If I’m sitting home alone on a weekend night it is because I have chosen it, not because I have no other choice.  I’ve learned to be at peace with myself.

I no longer feel that I’m missing life if I stay home…alone…curled up on my couch in my lounge pants and t-shirt…in front of the fire.  Would it be fun to be using my couch differently?  Of course, but I’m not desperately hoping that will happen or thinking that it must happen in order for me to feel validated and alive.

Mostly, I’ve learned that the off times, those times when the kids are away at their other homes is a great time for me to work on the many home improvement tasks I have lined up.  I don’t have to worry about kids wanting to help with the painting or spreading the mess throughout the house. I don’t have to stop mid project to fix a meal and clean it up.  It’s also a wonderful opportunity to catch up with some j0438433of my adult friends that I have a more difficult time connecting with when the kids are around. It’s a great opportunity to get caught up on laundry and if all else fails…

…it is a wonderful time to try to learn to cook a new dish! 

Yeah, like that’ll happen anytime soon!

I do have questions though for those of you out there who, like me, have a shared custody or a parenting plan that means your children will be away from you some or all of the holiday season. 

How do you handle the holiday season when you don’t have your children with you to celebrate?

How has divorce changed how you celebrate the holidays?