Archive for February, 2008

Inertia

At times, I fall into the trap of punishing myself for not doing things with inertia. By inertia I mean I limit my interactions with the outside world. I limit the things I am allowed to do for myself. Until I finish the task at hand. I often don’t notice I’m doing this until I am completely stuck, and my life has lost so much of its velocity, it takes an incredible amount of energy to get it up and running again.

At the moment, I am in a phase of getting my life up to speed again. The last few months, I’ve been slowing my life down to the point of me sitting in my house and writing my thesis, and pretty much only coming out to go to work or to get groceries. It got to the point of ridiculousness. If I couldn’t write, I damn well couldn’t do anything else. How insane is that?

And I know it’s stupid, because once I realise it has happened again, I’ll try to hide it from the people closest to me, because I don’t want them to think of me as a pathetic little git. I can only start talking about it with them when I know I’ve started to move in the right direction again.  

Reaching out for help has always been something that’s incredibly difficult for me. At school, asking questions meant I had failed. At home, my dad would either get angry for questioning a set rule, or overly anxious and more upset with the problem than even I was, because I was in pain and that was just the worst thing in the world for him. To this day, I hardly tell my dad anything about any problems I have, because it inevitably makes the problem worse. My mom fluctuates between analyzing the problem and getting impatient, the ‘just get over it’ approach. Which sometimes helps, but often just makes me angry. As for asking friends for help, for me that has always felt like burdening them with my issues.

I know that when a friend of mine has a problem, the only thing I would want is to know about it so I can help, but I measure myself by another standard. See, when I am in my inert phase, my problems are just not worthy of help. Worse, actually, I am not worthy of help. I think I fear abandonment the most, which really isn’t giving nearly enough credit to my dearest friends.

But I’m on the upswing again, so I’m filling up my social calendar. I planned a trip to Spain in April with a few friends, arranged to start up with vocal lessons again, made arrangements for friends from abroad to come visit, I’m helping a good friend move house, I’m visiting my gran, I’m planning evenings out with people, I’m hanging out with my brother and sister. I’d like to get more sports activities in other than cycling, but I managed to hurt my back somehow last week, and now an old injury seems to be playing up again, so my range of motion is a little restricted. Just when I get the feeling I really want  to do something….

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How to talk to my sister

I just got off the phone with my 9-year-old sister. She called me to tell me she didn’t need me to babysit her tomorrow, since her flu seems to have passed. But could I come anyway so she’d see me for half an hour before school. I said I’d come to dinner tonight instead.

My sister is a cool kid. She’s bubbly and chatty and flirty. She rides horses and plays field hockey and runs faster than any other kid in school. She likes school and enjoys sitting in the front of the class, if only because she can chat with the teacher more. She doesn’t give a damn about hierarchy. If she likes someone, she’ll hang out with him/her, regardless of cool factor, age, sex or anything, really. She talks back when she disagrees with something.

She also has some insecure traits, though. She has really bad nerves when she has to present something in class like a book report. When she’s in a new environment, she can be very clingy, though she’s getting better with that. And she’s terrified of getting fat.

First off, she’s not fat. At all. She seems to take after her dad, who could never put on weight however hard he tried until he turned fifty. My mom and I are both fat, my mom much more so than me. And she doesn’t think I’m fat, though she knows mom is.

But lately, she’s been saying things like “I don’t want a sweet, because I’ll get fat,” or “if I eat this, I’ll have to exercise more.” At 9 that’s a bit worrying, I think. And it’s not necessarily that she thinks fat is ugly or unattractive, but it’s that she’s been taught that being fat is unhealthy. And that message seems to be reinforced from so many different directions:

  • My mom is quite unhappy with her body. She’s trying to get better at accepting herself for who she is, but she still wants to lose a lot of weight. At the moment she’s trying to eat intuitively, but with portion restriction (I’m supposedly the only person who knows she’s on a diet. Somehow I don’t think she can hide it). I think, somewhere, my mom is depressed and really hates herself a lot more than she shows. But kids pick up on that.
  • My sister’s dad doesn’t like the fact that my mom is fat. She was fat when they met, but not as fat as she is now. I think he thought he’d be the one who’d make her so happy she wouldn’t need to be fat anymore. Big disappointment there. They rarely sleep in the same bed, supposedly because they have different rhythms, but really because my mom snores. Because she’s fat.
  • Television ads like the one about how it’s healthy to eat less and excersize more if you’ve had a birthday with cake and snacks the day before, just to balance things out, because otherwise you’ll get fat. [government message]
  • School assignments about which foods are healthy and which ones aren’t. As in fat is unhealthy. Not as in you need a balanced diet to stay healthy.
  • The talk among older (teenage) girls at her sports clubs about being fat, and how it’s a disadvantage in sports.
  • Comments from other adults about weight she happens to overhear.
  • Segments on the news about research on how unhealthy fat is.
  • TV shows that are about weight loss, especially those that make kids lose weight as well.
  • Just the fact you hardly see fat people in the media, and that when they are around, a negative characteristic is almost always attached to being fat.
  • Hardly any attention is being given to the fact that not weighing enough or eating enough is at least as unhealthy as weighing too much or eating too much.
  • Or the fact that different bodies metabolize food differently, so people have different needs in terms of food.

These are just the things I thought of at the top of my head. There are many, many more messages about how fat is detrimental to your well-being. The whole image of beauty is skewed in the media too.

So how do I counter all these messages? How do I show my sister that no matter what shape or size she is, she is a beautiful, powerful, smart person? That she is good enough? I hope I’m around her enough to tell her she is a great person and have her believe it.

The Shape of my Heart, uh, Body

Just the other day, I was looking at myself in the mirror. I was in a store, trying on jeans (they fit, btw), and for the first time ever, I could see why I don’t have a really defined waist, and why most jeans aren’t comfortable, even when they “fit”: The distance between my ribcage and my pelvis is really small, only about 5cm at my sides.

 I knew I had big lungs since I was twelve, and we had an experiment in biology class to measure lung capacity. Mine was more than 1.5x what was average for my height. I also already knew that my hipbones were bigger from when I took ballet classes as a kid. My hip bumps were at a completely different place than those of the other girls. But I never put two and two together.

So, most jeans that supposedly sit at your waist, and therefore get narrower on top, sit around my hips. Can you spell MUFFIN-TOP*? My realisation about my anatomical quirks also explains why normal shirts, and also, oftentimes, plus-sized shirts don’t fit right: because my chest is bigger, my breasts are set lower, so the space is in the wrong place in fitted shirts. I’ve tried hoisting the boobs up higher, but if anything looks ridiculous, it’s breasts with a fold above them instead of below (yeah, that’s what my boobs do). Really. Weird.

For some strange reason, I had never realised that my anatomical composition could have anything to do with the way clothes tit fit me. Wow.

So today, I stood in front of the mirror at home in my underwear, and actually looked at the shape my body has underneath my clothes. My breasts are big and soft, and sit at the middle of my chest. My arms are long. I have a flabby bit near my armpit. My armpit is not hollow. I have a belly. My hips are slightly curved. My bottom is quite flat. My thighs are big and muscular. They almost stick out more than my ass at the back. My calves are really defined, but not small.

It’s my body, and I love it.

*Don’t get me started on ‘hipsters’. They don’t even go past my hip joint. Ouch.

Yay for the boys who sing about big girls!

I’m so proud of my brother!!!!! He won his school’s talent contest with a cover of Mika’s Big Girl…. And he’s eleven!

He also got his first rejection from a girl in school last week, so rockin’ it out on stage was a huge thing for him to do even though he was quite depressed. He absolutely loved it. He now wants to learn to play the guitar. He’s been taking saxophone classes and hating it (his absolutely horrible teacher has more to do with it than I think he realises. The guy just can’t explain anything in an understandable manner, and when the kids don’t get it, he just starts the same explanation, only now in a yell. I know, I’ve watched him do it, and not just to my brother).

So, after hosting living room comedy shows since he was about two, he’s now branched out into music in school. Good for him.

Research Blues

I’m suffering from a bad case of report writer’s block. I need to finish my research report, so I can finally get my MSc. Of course, after doing the actual research I went travelling, and now I’m paying he price for not finishing the project at that time.

I have never been very good at writing official papers, which is something that fits perfectly with my general anxiety about exam-taking. It’s so hard to create something I’ll be judged on. So I have come up with many ways of avoiding the project. One of them is, oddly enough, sleeping. I have never slept in as long as I have been the past week. I’m usually up before my alarm goes off at 6am, but lately I’ve been waking up around 9 without even noticing I’ve turned the alarm off. I know the only way to get past this is sitting down and actually doing the writing, and that I only need a day or two of fulltime writing to finish once I get into it.

So what the f*** is stopping me?

It doesn’t help that there’s no set deadline. I don’t have to finish this (officially) until I want to actually get my MD, which is at least two years away. So sometime before that, I have to finish this. But who wants to be writing a report on research they did years ago and won’t be pursuing further in the near future? Especially during internships with 70-hour workweeks and shiftwork and too little time to sleep. So I really want to finish in the next couple of weeks. As in, write the last pages this week, and reference the last bits I haven’t referenced yet. Then submit the report to my direct supervisor and rewrite next week and submit the final report the week after that… But that does mean I’ll  have to actually write the rest of the damn thing.

And how do I do that?

A work in Progress, or My Diet

Intuitively, I’ve never believed in dieting. I’ve never been the skinniest person in the world, and I’ve thought in the past that being skinnier would be better, but dieting has never made  sense to me. I’ve been told I could stand to lose a little weight, but dieting, in my mind,  isn’t going to fix the ‘problem’. I’ve been told I’d be happier if I were lighter, but I don’t believe dieting is a cure for unhappiness.

I have never been on a diet.

But in the past I’ve not told anyone my opinion on dieting. I was afraid people would ridicule me, so I just nodded along with their dietary advice, all the while thinking “yeah, yeah, sure, whatev, no way I’m getting into this.” And then I didn’t diet.

Sometimes, I lost a bit of weight, and people would ask me what diet I had followed. At this point, I’d mumble something about eating more veggies and less sugar (usually true, I guess), but I would be really uncomfortable. Because I’m not sure. I’m not sure because I don’t keep constant track of my food. Because just like I’m terrible at remembering what clothes I had on on previous days, I honestly don’t remember what I had to eat two days ago. It’s just not something I need to keep in my brain, when there’s so much to remember already.

I also don’t like the “how much have you lost”-question. Honestly, I have no idea. I have scales somewhere, but they’re packed away in a box, because I don’t use them. A few years ago, I wasn’t too comfortable in my skin, and thought I’d try to lose weight by excersizing more (I temporarily had more time on my hands), and my dad came up with the gem of “you should be weighing yourself every morning and night and you should count your calories.”  Yeah, sure, if you really want to drive yourself nuts, go see the weight go up and down and up again, and then punish yourself with less calories in, because you gained 2lb in one day… But to make him happy, I went out and bought scales. Even used them a few times on a weekly basis. But my weight was not what made me feel bad about myself, so I decided to stop measuring my value and happiness by it.

I am not on a  diet.

But it’s easier for me to let people assume I’ve lost weight through dieting, rather than through being too busy to eat or just for no apparent reason. There’s enough things I worry about every day, enough self-esteem issues to work through, enough insecurities to overcome without having to worry about what I put in my mouth. I eat what I like, when I want to (or get the chance). However healthy or unhealthy.

I won’t ever go on a diet.

And from now on, I plan on telling people just that. Next thing is to stop worrying I’m the fattest person in the room.