Saturday, September 28, 2013

These Times, they are A-Changin'

Well, my life is definitely changing! After 10 consecutive years of having children in diapers and/or in a crib, we are diaperless and cribless here. J The kids started school a couple of weeks ago. All of them. Brandon started 5th, Nathan 3rd and Ian 1st. They are all three gone ALL DAY. The twins also started preschool three days a week. So, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between the hours of 9am and 11:30, I am without kids. Hmmm. Not sure how I feel about it, but I’m definitely taking advantage of the time. This is a hard entry for me to write because of some of my deepest insecurities. So, here goes.

My entire life, I have felt like I was fat. It’s hard for me to admit here, even though only a couple of people even read my blog besides me. J I went on my first diet at age 9. So for the last 26 years I have been obsessing, to some degree, about my weight. It’s heartbreaking for me to look back at pictures of myself and see that I was a perfectly normal and acceptable weight until I was 16 or so. I remember all the way through junior high and high school, continually making deals with myself that I would lose weight over a break or the summer and then I would enjoy high school. I didn’t date much because I figured no one would want to date someone like me (read: because I was fat) so why even open myself up to that kind of rejection? Finally, between my junior and senior years of high school, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy and I put on A LOT of weight. I graduated high school at about 200 pounds.

During college, my weight parked itself at about 200 pounds, give or take 10. I was so busy working, going to school, working some more and worrying about money and everything else in general that I rarely thought about my food. My senior year of college, my school schedule was so demanding that I wasn’t able to work as much as I had previously. Because of that, I had less money to spend on groceries and so I lost weight simply because I didn’t have the money for it. It brought the term ‘starving student’ into very sharp focus. I lost about 35 pounds by graduation.

The year before I met my husband, I was working and single and went to the gym regularly. It wasn’t unusual for me to hit the gym 4-5 days a week. I felt good, accomplished, but it was more about how I looked. I didn’t date much during college either, because I felt unworthy of anyone’s attention. I wanted to prove to myself and others that maybe I was a desirable person. Maybe someone would want to be with me?

Falling in love with my husband was a dream come true. Still, to this day, I pinch myself. He has loved me through 4 pregnancies and even more clothing sizes. He has never once fed my insecurities or made me feel unattractive or unworthy. He has encouraged me through countless diets, exercising binges, and New Year’s resolutions. He has been, and still is, my biggest fan.

So now, here we are. Age thirty-five. Middle age? Maybe. But once the twins started preschool I realized that it was time for me. I have spent the last 10 years completely focused on others. And that’s the way I intended for it to be. I knew that when I became a mother, my needs automatically shifted to the bottom of the list of priorities. I chose that and I stand by that choice. But now that the twins were in school a few hours a week, I could take care of myself guilt-free. J

The university where Peter attends law school has a state-of-the-art rec center. Because Peter is a student, he can go for free and I can go for a very reduced price. I started going only during the twins’ school hours, 3 times a week for about 2 ½ hours. For the first time in my life, I found that I enjoyed it. I usually hate exercise. In the past, I would always find (or create) a reason that I couldn’t exercise that day. Now, I find myself going to some effort just to make it happen. I started trading babysitting with a friend so that I could go on Tuesday and Thursday as well. I get up early on Saturdays so I can get in a workout before Peter has to go study.

Initially, Peter showed me around and gave me some pointers. He’s been going for a year or so and showed me how to use the equipment, where things were, etc. We often work out together. Though we’re doing different things (he’s into running right now, I only run if someone is chasing me) we’re there together. J It’s almost like a date, just with lots of sweating and no makeup.

That’s another thing. Going to the gym in the mornings has meant something else: I have been seen at preschool drop-off, regularly, without makeup. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but I haven’t been seen in public without a full face of makeup in about 20 years. Definitely a little scary, for me and for them, I’m sure.

It’s also been an exercise in not caring what other people think. I didn’t realize how much of my time was spent worrying about what other people thought about me until I started going to the gym. I was worried about what people would think if they saw the chubby middle-aged mother of five sweating it out next to the 22-year old coed. Did I look ridiculous? Would they laugh? Was I using the equipment correctly? Did I give myself away as a newbie exerciser? Would they know how many hours and years I had spent neglecting my body? Was I wearing the right thing? Did I look like I belonged? It was exhausting. So, right along with my sweating and lifting weights and clocking endless miles on the spin bikes, I have exercised my mind in the arena of not caring what other people thought of me. Frequently, I actually have to whisper to myself: “It doesn’t matter. You don’t care what they think.” It’s been pretty cathartic too. And you know what I’ve realized? They probably think about me as much as I think about them while I’m there, which is not a lot.

That being said, I do care about a few things still and that’s not likely to change. Even if I were to get into phenomenal shape, I would NEVER prance around the women’s locker room buck naked. Getting showered and dressed feels a little like a laser obstacle course. Showering then dressing without any of the 22-year-old beach bodies seeing me in all of my stretch-marked glory can feel like Mission: Impossible some days. Especially when I forget something in my locker or it’s super-crowded.

But, overall, I am really enjoying my newfound freedom. I haven’t focused on myself in years and it feels good. It feels amazing to exert myself physically and mentally, to see my body and stamina change. I have developed a new appreciation for my body and all that it has done and can do. It made five people, for crying out loud! Even two at once! My body has given me so much and I haven’t been very nice to it. I’m down 16 pounds now. I can wear my wedding ring for the first time in almost six years. I can fit into clothes that have been gathering dust in the back of my closet for at least that long. Last week, Peter and I completed a 10K bike ride in about 40 minutes and I came in fourth! And there were more than 4 people racing!

Probably the most exciting change is that this doesn’t feel like a temporary thing to me. It doesn’t feel like a ‘diet.’ It feels like the way my life is going to be from now on. It feels like it’s finally time to take care of myself a little now that my kids are getting older and can take care of themselves a bit more. Sunday is my day to rest, so you won’t see me at the gym tomorrow. I can’t wait for Monday morning. J