Just Like The First Time

No, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. 

I ran my first “race” since I got sick and was diagnosed with a lung condition that is going to take some working with to manage. I don’t know why I put race in quotations, but a small part of me feels “less than” as a runner. I feel like I am not a “real” runner. I feel like in the meeting last week for a fundraising 5k that I am the financial head for, in which I was in the company of a Boston Marathon finisher, that I was ‘less than’. We were organizing something for charity and “it’s just a 5k” kept getting thrown around… “Just run until you get tired… most people get tired close to 3.1, you know.”

Sigh. I do get tired at 3.1.  I felt “less than”.

When I was 235 pounds I never thought that I would love to run. I, honestly, love to do 5k’s as often as possible, because to me its like a group run with a ton of people who are having fun. It really keeps me motivated to keep going. I have been struggling to get back into it. I have been struggling to get back to a place where I would carve out time wherever I could get it in order to get a run in, some time on the treadmill, or in the very least do some strength training. I think I was victim to a series of unfortunate events and, honestly, a little bit of burnout. I had been going to school full time and working full time for four years – and as I say often – single parenting for over half of that time. Once I graduated, suddenly, I was breathing again. I was enjoying a glass of wine out on the deck, reading books, hanging out with my kids, going to softball and baseball games of theirs, having dinner and cocktails with my girlfriends – it was like suddenly a whole social world that I had been missing opened up so fitness and running fell by the wayside. And then I got really sick and was down for a solid month…and then… Yeah, haven’t done a lot since. I am going to fix that and get back at it and sometimes I utilized a 5k with a cool medal as an opportunity to reignite my love for running. I have expensive running shoes, cute clothes, bought some wireless earbuds (that I still have to tweak a little to stay in!), and I beef up the running playlist with stuff that keeps me moving with fresh tunes.

This 5k was not that 5k…

I was tired and sore as I have been lifting weights at home and doing calisthenics to ease back into it all. Drew pulled up the Kirkwood YMCA and dropped me off near the start so that I could grab my packet. Packets were gone. They tossed me a t-shirt and a number and that is when the sky opened up and it began to absolutely pour. I ran back to the car, even though I had the foresight to grab my Nike lightweight rain jacket – this rain was soaking right through it. I jumped back into the car and waited… and waited… until finally I had to get out of the car and actually go stand at the starting line. I begrudgingly, like a dog that was being put out of the house, got out of the car and headed over to shuffle into line. Put my hand over my heart for the National Anthem. I hit the inhaler twice. And then we were off. The rain had died down to a light sprinkle and I didn’t think it would be so bad! I ran the first three quarters of a mile effortlessly, feeling great! “I can do this. Alyssa is back!”. I watched people pushing strollers passing me. Oh well, my pace is my business. Firefighters ran the race in their full gear carrying the American flag on a pole… Yes. They even had an oxygen tank on their backs. I felt piddly and worthless in their wake. But I kept going… as soon as I rounded the corner up onto the long stretch down Lockwood – I suddenly could no longer see in front of me. I could see nothing. The rain was coming down so hard I was looking straight down at the ground to avoid being pelted in the face with big fat painful drops of rain that showed no mercy. The water was pouring from the back of my head around to my face, rushing off of my nose and my open mouth. I have an SPI Belt that has my phone and inhaler tucked inside of a little bounce-free pouch that is against my skin and just below my bra line. “Please don’t let my phone get soaked!” was my only thought until I was starting to lose sight of the little reflectors on the heels of the runner ahead of me… It might have been a man, however, the rain was so intense that I couldn’t even tell what this nondescript figure in front of me was – all I knew was that I needed to keep up with those little reflectors. My feet were becoming so incredibly heavy because of the water rushing down my clothing into my shoes. They felt like cement weights! I was trudging and had slowed down to nearly 11:15-30/mile roughly. It was BRUTAL!

Towards the final quarter mile, it stopped raining but there were significant amounts of flooding on the streets heading down to the finish. Lots of hopping around and sluicing back and forth between rather large puddles that you could not see the bottom of. When I got down to the finish line, Drew was standing on the sidelines cheering for me – as he often does. My chest hurt, my breathing was shallow and it was incredibly unpleasant all around. Once we got home and I was able to peel off the soaked clothing that had chafed all parts of me that you don’t want chafed…

No, my friends, this was not the run that reignited my passion to get back “at it”…

For your entertainment…

 
Drowned rat. And yes, that is mascara and eyeliner from the night before running down my face…

Next one… July 4th morning. Perhaps I will find a 10k close by, however, they are fewer and further between.

Tonight. Engagement photos! Got a lot accomplished my mother in law’s help this weekend! Centerpieces, linens, invitations, flowers. DONE!!!!

Reading for Pleasure: The Beauty Myth (and how its not a myth at all…)

I sometimes take a break from my 8-5pm desk job and head down the street to Starbucks where I enjoy a grande iced caramel Machiatto. My fave. Sometimes I bring a book and sometimes I just play on my phone.

In a significant effort to address my body image issues that seem to encompass all aspects of my life, right down to fidgeting in a chair because I am concerned about the profile of my body looks in a chair with jeans and a t-shirt on, I’ve tried to read more about why women feel this way. Why I feel this way. It’s an obsession – to near psychosis that if I am not looked at as “thin” or “pretty” or “beautiful” by people who are potentially more attractive than myself, I feel as though I am clearly not doing something right.

This is a piece of my life that I have yet to be able to get past. With thyroid disease controlling a lot of my life, I gain weight twice as easily as most people – and it takes twice as much for me to lose it. I also have a tendency to gain in very undesirable sections of my body that are nearly impossible to lose. I have put on about 7 solid pounds in the last year or so that I have been unable to lose. They simply will NOT go away. I got discouraged. I stopped running. I stopped going to the gym. Yes, you read that. “What!? Alyssa!? The girl who used to get up and run at ungodly hours of the morning??? The girl who spent into the triple digits on workout gear and running gadgets??? The girl who eats clean and low carb and pisses us off with info about it and pictures of her stupid food on social media?! No….. it can’t be!”

In Naomi Wolf’s ‘The Beauty Myth’ – my eyes began to open within the first few chapters about how women’s own bodies and what they SHOULD be, according to society, are used against them in a very unsubtle way to keep us under control. The beauty myth keeps us from building lasting bonds with other women who are “prettier than us” … or competition in any way to us. If they are competition – we either succumb to the depression that we will never “be like her”…”if I could just add a sixth day to my work out I could look like that”…”maybe if I skipped a meal…” and then we do nothing because the depression takes us over because we can not ever be someone else, we can only be us. Or… you slip into the other end of the spectrum where you drastically cut calories, carbs, and spend more time in the gym than is humanly necessary — to be “more like her” because of course you are bombarded with her gym selfies on Facebook… pictures of her abs on Facebook. Make no mistake – these are not progress photos to promote yourself for weight loss – these are a virtual preoccupation measuring contests done between women to make sure you know, they can do it, and you can’t and if you do, they are going to one up you even if it means anorexia, starvation, or death-by-gym.

I can only be Alyssa in my 5’4 frame. I will probably NEVER get into a size 0 or size 2… I am going to have to be OK with a 4 and 6, otherwise I might be doomed to be stuck ‘here’ for life. I am going to have to learn to be OK that I will never be taller and I will never “be like her” (general). I am 100% certain there will be women who will read this who perhaps wear a couple sizes larger than me who will openly judge this kind of thought process… who would LOVE to be a size 4… but its a never ending cycle that you cannot get out of once you are in it. The thrill of losing weight. The ability to buy a pants size smaller giving you an intense rush. The ability to walk by a mirror and say “Hey! You’re looking svelte and thin!” – it’s an addiction that is kind of like a substance abuse – its a high that when you start at over 100lbs to lose and watch it melt off… you cannot easily give that ‘high’ up without some VERY damaging consequences to your psyche, your emotional maturity, or in some cases, your so desperately earned figure.

Anyway, I sat down in Starbucks today and cracked open the book, feeling self conscious about being in a t-shirt and jeans and flip flops and worrying about how I looked slouching in a chair. I felt like I was succumbing to exactly what I was reading in the book. I felt like instead of being an intellectual woman, reading a smart feminist intellectual book, in a coffee shop. I was a spectacle. Perhaps, only to myself. Other coffee drinkers and passersby didn’t seem to notice, since I was watching them to see if they were looking at me.

The strangely ironic thing about all of this is that I am one of the most outgoing people that I personally know… but what goes on with this is solely inside my head. We have been trained from a very young age to value ourselves only if spectators find us “beautiful” or “attractive”. We are only worth something if we are “thin”, if we lift weights, if we go tanning, if we are “pretty”, or if we don’t ever let a drop of sugar touch our lips. I’ve been brainwashed, too, and the terribly sad part is that I cannot simply shut it off. One does not simply wake up and say “I am beautiful even if I have little roll in the front when I sit down in a chair and slouch a bit.” No. Not at all. We spend all of our time counting carbs, figuring out if we are in ketosis, figuring out how many calories we burned on that run or on the elliptical, looking in the mirror – front, back, sides, fussing over cellulite (even though that is skin structure, not fat deposits), and getting on the scale every day.

I am getting married in less than four months and my focus is not on the fact that I am marrying the most amazing, caring, affectionate, individual on the planet — my focus is on the fact that my dress won’t lend well to fat arms and from a lower-upward angle it will make me look like a short stout stuffed sausage with chubby arms (which don’t go away no matter if I am at my thinnest).

We are having our engagement photos taken on Monday – and instead of being excited that these are the first professional photos we will have together — all I can think, no, obsess about is that I don’t have anything that is going to help hide these 7 pounds and look like I felt 7 pounds ago. I don’t have any clothing that is going to prevent my arms from looking “flabby” like they have my entire life (redundant self-deprecation). I am instead bargaining with historically how much I have lost in a week by eating 100% clean and knowing, I won’t lose enough in enough time.

When we were on vacation in Florida this previous week – I decided to eat what I wanted to eat, within reason, because “food tourism” is something I enjoy. Legitimately enjoy, but what I do to myself after enjoying food is a cycle of looking at my profile in the mirror, crying, or berating myself into believing that I am “fat”. And when we took pictures together as a family, I strategically placed the middle of my body behind one of my family members… generally a small child – because I couldn’t bare to look at this ‘setback’ in progress. Oh, you don’t believe me? Let me show you.

Destin1

There’s me behind girl child standing on the dock of the Oyster place in Destin! We look so happy! (But…I’m plotting to keep my body out of the shot.)

Destin2

Oh, Hi! Here is us again on a gorgeous beach in Destin! We were so happy to be out of the hotel… (But…I placed myself half behind girl child AND kept my dress on until after pictures were over…)

Florida1

Well, would you look at this! A strategically placed purse so you cannot make out the silhouette of my arm.

Florida2

Almost COMPLETELY behind girl child. Where did Alyssa go!? Its like hide and seek!
Florida3

Boy child used as a blockade for my midsection and strategically wearing black in this dreadful summer heat and humidity of Florida. Smart…right?

And it occurred to me, that I am the person in the book that Naomi Wolf is talking about. I am the girl who isn’t using my power for bigger and better things in the world – I am stuck right down here where society has raised women to stay because I am focused on all of the wrong things. I am trapped in a mortal body that the world has convinced me is just ‘average’ because I don’t have abs… or it is just ‘average’ because I don’t have tiny thin little arms…or it is just ‘average’ because I don’t have a thigh gap… or it is just ‘average’ because I am only 5’4 and will NEVER be a single centimeter taller. It isn’t a myth (it is – but it is not…) it is a very real world that I live in every day and I think other women do too, but they are not going to say it out loud – they aren’t going to post it on a blog or put their dress size, or the size of their jeans or what they weigh out in public. I think there are more of us than we care to admit, because as soon as we show weakness that is when it opens the door for someone to step in and exploit that weakness. The truth is, I know it is not just me… it is an entire society of automatons wagering guilt as they raise their forks to their mouth and hearing other women they know saying “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips, my dear!” (I have heard it) when they are looking at the menu at a restaurant or buying groceries for their home.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

I would encourage other women like me to read the book. Really. Read it now. And don’t put it down when it starts to sound like they are talking about you… if you get to that point definitely don’t stop reading it.