Yoga is good

We signed me up for the gym a few days ago, and I swore to myself I’d do the yoga group class on Sunday. I have been tentatively looking forward to it, sort of in the way you look forward to going to the dentist and fixing your toothache. I didn’t buy any new outfits or do anything special, but I was trying something new. I haven’t stepped outside my comfort zone  in a long time. I was so determined to do it right, I filled the water pitcher and the hot water pot before bed. I even started this post Saturday night, knowing I’d be unable to face the shame of deleting the draft if I chickened out. Preparedness is key.

My husband extols the virtues of working out in the mornings. His reasoning is, if you do it first thing, you won’t feel bad about spending the rest of the day in your underwear, playing video games. I see the wisdom in that, and underwear + video games was my afternoon plan until yoga was actually finished. I felt – and still feel – so good, ready and raring to go. I’d only been home an hour, and I’d already done the dishes, cleaned the bathroom and made myself lunch.

Then, I headed to the neighbors for a few glasses of champagne. Yesterday was definitely worth celebrating. Namaste, folks.

PS: I did the Eagle Pose for the first time and didn’t fall on my face:

From Yoga Cats calendar

It was very affirming.

All in

I’ve been reading a memoir called Half-Assed between appointments over the last few days. It was written by a weight loss blogger I’ve never heard of but she seems very nice. The story itself is light and quick, so it isn’t one you’ll need a quiet room and a fireplace for, but I’m liking it so far.

I got mine for free on Kindle but it doesn’t look like they’re doing that anymore.

I love memoirs. There are so many people I will never meet who live interesting lives and have insightful things to say about themselves. I’m not so crazy about biographies, however  – if I want to read what someone else thinks of another person, I’ll read a tabloid. Other people’s opinions tend to be shaded with unfair bias. Yes, people will see themselves a different way than they truly are (a point the book brings up again and again) but that attitude colors how they interact with others and how they live their lives, and becomes part of the larger story.

Which brings me to my point: I fell in love with this book on page 130, when I read and re-read the following passage…

I convinced myself to tie up my running shoes after I repeated an old saying: You wouldn’t care about what other people think of you if you knew how infrequently they do. In other words, “Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too.”

I never wanted to exercise as a kid because my childhood asthma didn’t let me move the way I wanted to, and being out of breath made me feel self conscious. Rather than run, I read. Rather than join a team, I played alone. Not much has changed over the years, and as I face down 30 I know this sedentary habit needs breaking. My husband, Zeus love ‘im, is so supportive about getting me to work out with him, but he always frames it as, “No one is looking at you, no one cares what you’re wearing/doing/look like”. I know he means well, but that statement is just not true.

I have ears. I hear what gets whispered and giggled over out in public, whether its at the zoo or in a waterpark. I have always been very aware of myself when I am with other people, even those I love and trust. This quality most likely is a result of all the people-watching I’ve done in my life. On the plus side, I never (okay, almost never?) get very drunk in public, but I can also never really relax. Getting sweaty in a huge room full of other sweaty people, in my ugly ass running shoes and ratty ass yoga pants, all of us jiggling away on various machines, is not appealing. I don’t care if hitting the gym five days a week will make me look like a movie star and help me live to 163 years old, I don’t want to. I don’t want to because it makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being judged.

People will look, and they do judge, but there’s not much I can do about it. I have within my reach the power to make myself healthier and fitter, and I’ve let what some person might possibly think at some point hold me back for five fucking years! The worst part is, I’ve never thought of it that way until I read that line. It makes so much sense.

“Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too” is my new mantra, and after reading it I picked up my cell phone and told my husband I wanted to join his gym.

We’re going tonight to sign me up. I’ve heard it’s a pretty nice place, and they even have yoga!

Fallen friend

This Memorial Day, I am thinking of Shawn.

KIA October 26, 2009 in Operation: Enduring Freedom. 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Afghanistan.

When I think of him, and what he was to me, a flood of old stories sweeps through my head. In my memories, he is as alive (and as full of bullshit and sick jokes) as ever. When I try to verbalize them, my mind fails me and I am unable to find a way to describe him, or capture the essence of this person who is now dead. Every word feels empty, and in the end I have nothing to say. Even now, almost three years later, I am failing. I am speechless.

I am still grieving for him, as I knew him years ago. While he lived, he set the world on fire. As it is now, all I can do is remember.

Self-Love

Happy Love Your Body Day! *

Loving your body doesn’t mean you have to love every minute you’re in your skin – we all have bad days, big zits, water weight or a regrettable hair coloring decisions to contend with. Now and again, we all look like a hot mess on a wet day and there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter what your mother or the commercials say. Entire industries are built on the idea that you’re not enough – not thin enough, muscled enough, manly enough, feminine enough, good enough – for the faceless Them. It’s enough to depress even the most esteemed of individuals.

I had another twelve paragraphs of rambling personal anecdotes and encouraging words, but then I stumbled across this:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ladies – just because the Miss Universe competition uses these characteristics doesn’t mean we all do. Someone out there loves you, you can be sure of it. [via]

Truer words are rarely spoken, especially on the Internet. Hey, I feel better already.

Perspective is important. In the words of Mary Schmidt: “You are not as fat as you imagine.” But remember, loving yourself entirely is just as, if not more, important than just loving your body. There is so much more to who we are beyond how we look. When others think or speak of you, the size of your heart and the way you treat others will weigh more heavily on their opinions than the size of your ass or the way you walk.

Need some guidance?

See also: The Society Pages: Love Your Body Day

Be free.

* Okay, Love Your Body Day was actually yesterday but I left my post draft on another computer, so here we are. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to say Happy Birthday, Snoop Dogg! Snoop’s always been a big proponent of being yourself, living confidently and learning from your mistakes.

Baby girl wanna be grown
She got a Facebook page and a cell phone
Her daddy getting money her momma on the go
She moving too fast but she really don’t know
Life is a trip lil mama don’t drink that
They telling you it’s cool baby don’t take that
Cause if you do ain’t no telling
You’s a good girl why you fighting and rebelling
If you keep that up you gonna end up spread
Misled better yet sick in the head
So stop trying to be like them and be yourself
Stop look and see yourself

Sex trafficking: Won’t someone think of the children?!

Jezebel’s (blessedly now employed elsewhere) Irin Carmon asks: Do Anti-Sex Trafficking Ads Really Need To Be This Graphic?

Short answer: Yes, obviously.

Longer answer: For many in America, sex trafficking looks like this:

These two yahoos are behind The DNA Foundation, created to promote awareness and stop child sexual slavery and trafficking, using other celebrities, YouTube and ass kissing media articles to get the word out. You may have seen their PSAs online. Their website is vague and clearly self serving, but gosh is it all so nice and clean, attractive and funny.

DNA claims to be global but the PSAs make it clear this is a wholly American campaign. The “real man” stereotype is popular in US movies and TV shows, the videos are exclusive to YouTube and their “action plan” conducted entirely online.

No real screen time is given to why we’re watching all these well-known American movie stars bumble about for 45 seconds. The uncomfortable conversation of millions of children raped, kidnapped, killed and drugged is never broached. Americans, generally, don’t like actual sex or, to a lesser degree,  violence. Combining the two is a recipe for disapproval and complaint letters, so the otherwise explicit  subject becomes glossy and easily digestible; an unfortunate side effect of our collective delicate sensibilities is that it also becomes easily forgettable, like any other part of the media machine.

We prefer such shiny posturing over the much harder realities of life, so is it any wonder that’s what we get? Is it any wonder why nothing is ever accomplished, why nothing gets done?

No man, real or imaginary, should rape children, regardless of their grasp on the concept of cereal. Women should not only prefer but demand a man who does not engage in sex with prostitutes, especially underage. These are not radical words or ideas, so there is no need to soften their impact with fluff. Bradley Cooper is not realistically standing between a man and his final decision on if he is comfortable buying a child prostitute, so why involve Bradley Cooper at all?

Meanwhile, around the world, governments and non profits are working to show the reality and repercussions of sexual slavery – even on humorous but relevant levels – and America clutches her breast and gasps, “Is this too graphic?!”

No, it is not too graphic. I wish it were possible to make it more graphic. It isn’t easy to talk about, but it’s happening everywhere, and the victims deserve more than half baked gender jokes and a lot of lip service. Real men, and women, are facilitating this violence every day.

I bet some of them even know how to make a sandwich.

Women be misrepresented

Just last night I read a Cracked article about obnoxious and stereotypical traits given to nearly all women in Hollywood productions. This morning I woke up to a similar story in the New Yorker. Who knew the go-to guide for the cultured and sophisticated would be so in sync with your average college-aged stoners’ favorite website?

We’re really not that different, you and I. Got a light?

The high cost of low opinions

Confession time – I used to look down on people who shopped at WalMart.

My own family shops there and I have friends who love it, but I was bothered by reports of the crap they pull on their employees and their hand in the decline of small businesses (which turns out isn’t actually true), and I was loathe to deal with the “type of people” who shopped there. The usual reasons. I also took it upon myself to share my views with anyone who asked or even broached the subject of the store itself, in person and online. I watched clips of The High Cost of Low Prices and was sufficiently indignant for years.

Getting married and moving your entire life across three states can do strange things to a person. Drain all resources and savings, for one, and (spoiler alert) the bills don’t stop coming just because you changed your address. When my husband first approached me about shopping at WalMart, I was adamantly against it. I probably gave him my usual spiel, accused him of being a Republican, and he gracefully let the topic drop. He’s sneaky like that.

A few weeks later, he brought it up again, and again I shot him down. As our finances crumbled, so did my defenses. We had so much we wanted to do in our new life, with so little to spare. When he asked if we could hit the Supercenter for some home improvement and gardening things, I reluctantly agreed. I complained my way through 12,000 sq ft of budget-balancing opportunities, grudgingly admitted we’d gotten a hell of a deal, and swore I’d never step foot in one again. Well, that mostly stuck. I still hate those massive warehouse stores.

But lucky us! We’ve got a Neighborhood Market just down the street, my husband helpfully pointed out several times until fate found me standing in the doorway, gripping our shopping list in one hand and his shirt in the other

I expected to have to find another place to buy fresh vegetables, but their selection and quality was fine. Rice is cheaper than anywhere else, the bagged apples are actually crunchy, beans are constantly on sale, and on and on I could go. It was an evening of thrills and surprises, and we’ve shopped there ever since. We’re able to afford more fresh produce than if we went somewhere else, so we’re eating more healthfully than we were before. The meat can be dodgy sometimes, but that’s about it.

No, this is not an advert for WalMart. Here is my point: a few weeks ago, while pretending to mind my own business, I overheard a conversation between my husband and someone else, and they were talking about WalMart. This person made a remark mildly chastising us for our decision to shop there. He lectured a bit like I used to do, then recommended the documentary I posted above. ‘Educate yourself,’ he was saying, in so many words, ‘because no half-thinking person would ever want to spend their money there.’

I couldn’t be annoyed, because I understand. After all, that used to be me. But what he, and I, and a whole lot of society doesn’t understand, is this: taking a stand is important, but sometimes circumstances get in the way. Now that I have been forced to get over myself and my own petty judgements, I can understand that sometimes food is food, and every life decision need not be political.

My little family needs to eat. The woman ahead of us in line with six kids under age 10 and a SNAP card – they’ve got to eat, too. As for the man parking his BMW as we wheel out our buggy, maybe he just knows a good deal when he sees it. There are other things to spend your money on. WalMart is not full of welfare queens, snotty children and cross-dressing old men. The employees are not all disenfranchised immigrants and senior citizens robbed of their life savings. Yes, there are still major issues with the way the company is run, but these and other problems exist in other, ‘better’ companies as well. Target is anti-gay. Whole Foods is anti-fat. Pedophilia is rampant in the Catholic Church. The world is full of assholes, and a lot of them are CEOs.

It’s called picking your battles, and knowing when to call a truce. If you stop to fight everything that crosses your path, you’ll end up exhausted without moving an inch. Withholding one’s money in silent protest accomplishes nothing but to stoke one’s ego; our monthly grocery budget won’t really affect anything at all, anywhere, except how much we have to eat and how many other bills we’re able to pay. Our pickles are no more evil than anyone else’s. We are still good people who love equality and puppies, and donate to NPR.

We all have to keep our heads above water, by any means possible. Whether that’s a food bank, the cheap brand of toilet paper for just one more month, or yes, even shopping there, so be it. Some may disagree; that opinion doesn’t make our shopping shameful, and pointedly avoiding darkening that doorway certainly doesn’t make you better than the rest of us just trying to get by.

Hiking the ridge

I work six days a week, Monday through Saturday. My one day of rest is Sunday, and this Sunday found me tumbling out of bed at 4AM to start the coffee and breakfast we’d need to complete our 4.4 mile hike. (So much for rest.)

There’s a trail in our local state park that leads up to a canyon with staggering levels of rock. When the snow melts or we have monsoon, water rushes into the rock and creates fountains and pools of moving water, and it’s a popular place to go cliff jumping and swimming. Lucky for us, there was a heavy storm the night before so water was guaranteed. He’s been eager to hike it since he moved here six months ago, so along with a friend of ours, we hit the trailhead at 6AM.

I don’t like hiking. Going up sucks so much; mostly the steep and almost constant uphill climb. Its one redeeming quality is cooler weather, but then that means an obscenely early start. Going down is shit, too. Not just the heat of the day but also trying to avoid breaking your ankle or tumbling over the cliffside for trusting the wrong rock.

All the negativity evaporates once you make it to the end. The feelings of utter relief as you realize you’re mere steps from sitting down already, and the thrill of having made it all the way, are intoxicating. All the better if your hikes include something awesome at the halfway point, like a waterfall or cool looking rocks – something you can gawk at and talk about. Hike there, chill out, go back.

My husband + friend went swimming with a few other hikers that popped up after we were settling in. I’m not much of a swimmer, but by some fate I married a man that should be awarded an honorary blowhole. I ended up scarfing down a Power Bar and taking pictures of everyone, lounging on the rock like a lizard in the sun. I even grabbed a cat nap while the guys changed clothes and missed the show completely.

I dragged ass on the way back down; apparently my shoes aren’t that great at firm gripping, not slipping or being useful while hiking. All of us were dying for a shower and something to eat by the time we got to the car, moaning on the ride home about various pains and conquering the mountain. As promised, my husband rewarded my bravery and stiff upper lip (not a euphemism) with the proverbial carrot on a stick that got me throught the morning:

Some people think it’s a waste to take in a heavy meal after all that feel-good exercise. Those people are wrong.