The Joy of Tyson

The first thing I want to share may seem a little morose but bear with me.

Remember that interesting theology course I mentioned earlier?  For this class I am reading a book by Terry Tempest Williams called Refuge and there is something in particular that stood out to me.  The book is all about how the rising of the Great Salt Lake threatened the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge she loved, while at the same time her mother was dying of cancer, so there is a very strong theme of grief and hope for renewal.  At one point, as she was walking along the shore after a storm, she came across a dead swan that must have been taken by surprise and drowned.  Instead of just leaving it there she began to smooth out its feathers and spread out its wings.  She straightened out its long neck, washed the beak and feat and placed black stones over its eyes.

Then she laid on to the sand next to it.

“What I remember most is lying next to its body and imagining the great white bird in flight.

I imagined the great heart that propelled the bird forward day after day, night after night.  Imagined the deep breaths taken as it lifted from the arctic tundra, the camaraderie within the flock.  I imagined the stars seen and recognized on clear autumn nights as they navigated south.  Imagined their silhouettes passing in front of the full face of the harvest moon.  And I imagined the shimmering Great Salt Lake calling the swans down like a mother, the suddenness of the storm, the anguish of its separation.

And I tried to listen to the stillness of its body.”

Yes, I realize the swan is dead and it is very sad.  But I can’t help thinking how beautiful the idea of trying to connect with another creature like that is.  How wonderful it was that she tried to recreate the swans experiences.  I have trouble connecting with myself in such a way.  I think, if I ever had that connection, I lost it by trying to force my body to want certain foods and look a certain way.  I think it is that connection and comfort within my own skin, fueled by a profound love, that I am trying to create here.

And now allow me to introduce Tyson.

I may not be dieting but I still have a goal of reaching 10,000 steps a day with my trusty fitbit.  However, that isn’t always the easiest nor most pleasant thing to do.  Especially when it is cold, rainy and I have no place in particular to walk to.  Fortunately I have a kind neighbor who doesn’t mind letting me walk his young, energetic canine named Tyson.  And this dog is always ecstatic to walk out the door regardless of the weather.

Everything is so exciting to him!  The smells, the people, just being able to move and explore.  And the strength he has as he is trying to pull me this way and that.  Even when he spots another dog and sits still expectantly (I know he just doesn’t want me to pull him away) he still seems so incredibly energized.  That is the kind of joy I want to have whenever I get exercise.  The joy of not only having legs but using them and feeling the strength in my own muscles.

That is why Tyson is my fitness guru.  I find his joy much more meaningful and inspiring then a thin, angry woman yelling at me (though I still have a lot of respect for you, Jillian Michaels).  And just as Williams tried to listen to the swan, whenever I take out Tyson I try to feel his energy and be thankful to just be out and alive.

Of course, as much as I would like to, I can’t spend all of my 10,000 steps each day with Tyson.  Especially since I don’t want to wear out my welcome with my very generous neighbor.  And getting my own dog, which is a dream of mine now, is not really in the cards at this point in time.  So I have invested $8 on an ipod app called Zombies, Run!

Yes, $8 dollars is a bit much for an app but I have spent more on workout DVDs and none of them were this creative.  Basically it is an interactive game where you have to physically run to play.  The premise is that you are a resident of Abel Township after the zombie apocalypse.  The only way to gather supplies for the town is for runners to go out and get them so I am designated as the “lightning quick” runner 5.  There is also an audio component so characters will talk to me, zombies will occasionally moan in the background (very motivational for quickening my pace) and an actual story does unfold.  But I have to run to find out what happens next.  Also, the longer I run the more supplies I gather and the more supplies I gather the better Abel becomes.  So far I have leveled up my hospital and communications.

And the zombie moans really do add to the incentive of running.  My first time out, 25 minutes in I had had enough and wanted to go home.  But the previous runner 5 was on my tail and I ended up running past my house and going an extra 5 minutes till the mission was over.

And so that is where I am at.  I still want my thighs slimmer, but I want to achieve that by eating what I love and doing exercise I genuinely enjoy.  And I’m getting there.  I still have a ways to go before I hit the 10,000 step mark consistently but between Tyson, zombies, DDR with Matt on our own heavy-duty metal pad and the absolutely gorgeous city I live in which makes the walk home from school a joy, I feel I’m getting there.

And you know, the earth and trees do smell fantastic on rainy days.

And they lived happily ever after

I ran from zombies the other day.  That and why I have chosen Tyson as my fitness guru were going to be the topics of this post but I think I will save them for the next one.  Something else has caught my attention.

I stumbled across something written by John Berger in 1972.  He and some others put together essays about looking at art in a book called Ways of Seeing.  I haven’t actually read the book so I can’t put the quote into context of the essay.  I don’t know what painting he is discussing or if he is talking about a certain painting at all.  But when I saw a picture of the page with this quote highlighted, on my college’s website of all places, I knew I had to share it.  (Please don’t take it personally Tyson)

“Men look at women.  Women watch themselves being looked at.  This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.  The surveyor of women in herself is male: the surveyed female.  Thus she turns herself into an object.  And most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

I’ve been thinking about why I view myself the way I do.  Why I have always felt this pressure to change.  It didn’t come out of no where.  Sure I was influenced by T.V. and magazines.  And of course I compared myself to my gorgeous mother and aunt who, despite being beautiful and models at one point in each of their lives, still seemed to struggle with their own insecurities.  I always thought, if they weren’t happy with the way they are, what chance did I have?  I still remember a friend of mine, while I was in high school, standing in my kitchen and saying, “Thea!  The women in your family are so beautiful!  Maybe you just need to grow into it.”

My Aunt Tanya helped me move into my dorm freshmen year of college and with her youthful slimness, big smile and perfectly matched outfit and accessories, everyone thought she was the college student.  She’s only 13 years older but still… my roommate was very relieved it was just me she was going to live with.

She’s even thinner now.

Last time I was at her house, I sat in her kitchen and cried as I ate the cheesecake she gave me for dessert.  I knew I was never going to look like her, or my mother for that matter.  And I am so tired of being ugly.

She has never talked to me about that.

Anyway, despite all that, I think that what really cemented it in was Disney.  Or perhaps I should say fairy tales in general.  The ones where the prince fell in love with her from across the room because of her astounding beauty.  Her long shiny hair, slim figure and startling blue eyes instantly made her worth loving.  And that is how a woman earns her happy ending.  Whether it’s in a song, a movie or a book, the best thing to be is beautiful.  And a requirement for being beautiful is being a small thing that he can whisk away.

It’s painful being the one beside the beautiful girl, watching all the guys look at her and ignore you.

I guess it’s kind of funny since I have my love.  But there is still a part of me that questions if I am worthy of that love, if I have truly earned my happy ending.  How can I expect Matt to always love me when I am having such a hard time loving myself?

I think that’s as far as I can go today.

What I should of done, what I stopped doing and what I am doing

I could kick myself.  Recently (I’m pretty sure it was April 10th) there was a Bodylove photo session on my campus where girls were encouraged to come down, say what they loved about their bodies and pose for pictures.  And I’ve known about it for weeks.

Here is what went through my head every time I saw the flyer.

“Oh!  How cool!  And that is exactly the type of thing I am trying to do for myself.  Too bad there isn’t anything I like about my body yet or else I would go.  Not to mention I generally hate pictures of myself.  Oh well.  Maybe they’ll do it again at a time I’m confident enough to participate.”

I should have gone anyway!  I could have said anything!  My ankles, my belly button, my hips for dancing “Little grass shack” the way my mother taught me.  My hands that allow me to write, paint, knit stuff for people I care about and wear the beautiful ring my love gave me.

I could have even faked it.  Just because I don’t care for the shape of them doesn’t mean I can’t love my arms for allowing me to hug my little brothers and sisters or my legs that allow me to walk Tyson from next door (who happens to be the cutest dog in the world) and play DDR.  It doesn’t matter!  I just should have been there.  I should have met the other girls, talked to them and faced one of my greatest fears alongside them.  I should have been there.

It is very possible I will regret this somewhat later on but… I think I have to swear here and know that I will never, ever let such an opportunity pass me by again.  No matter how I feel about myself I should go.  I should even tell friends to come with me so that they can make sure I don’t chicken out.  Future me probably won’t be too ecstatic but I’m sure future future me will be very happy and proud I went through with it.  Fingers crossed.

Moving on.  Last  time I asked whether or not counting calories was a diet or a lifestyle change and I am sure it all depends on how it is used.  For some people, it is a wonderful way to get a sense of true portion sizes and how much food they really need.  For others, it can become a very restrictive form of dieting.  And since, despite my best intentions, I seem to be gravitating more towards the latter category, it is something I need to stop doing.  You know.  Cuz’ of the whole “diets don’t work” thing.

But that is hard to do.  This past Christmas I received a pedometer called the Fitbit, a.k.a. the best step tracker I have ever come across.  I can  wear it on my bra so I have it on 24/7 and it can even tell when I go up stairs.  It’s basically technology magic packed into this little black device about the size of my thumb that monitors how active I am all of the time.  And of course there is a corresponding Fitbit website with colorful graphs and charts and a food tracker that changes its calorie expectations based on how many calories you burn.  All in all, it’s pretty nifty.

I really wanted to use the the calorie tracker so that (A) I could get the most out of my Fitbit and (2) so that I could eat a wider range of foods without guilt.  I figured as long as I was tracking the calories then sugar, white flour and even fast food would not have to be off limits.  I wasn’t always consistent (another red flag I was heading into dieting territory) but I did it as often as I could and, when I did eat healthier food, I was really proud to enter them in.  Every entry was accompanied with a profound sense of accomplishment as did every day my intake fell at or below my goal.  And that is why I need to stop.

The majority of the time on days I tracked I usually ended up under the goal… sometimes well under the goal.  Though I swear I only got 870 calories one day on accident.  I was really busy that day!  But it still shows I have taken calorie counting to the “very restrictive dieting” end of the spectrum and, if I am serious about not dieting, I shouldn’t do it anymore.  It’s difficult because I am still trying to eat the same range of foods, even those typically on “bad” or “avoid” lists, and it makes me anxious not having the protective blanket that is calorie counting.  I am through the looking glass with no diet to hide behind.  I know it should be very freeing but I can’t help feeling vulnerable.

But I still won’t give up on my Fitbit all together because it really does motivate me to walk more which has to be a good thing.  In fact, I promised myself I would never use the elevator at school this semester and I have stuck to it.  I can’t really report any miraculous weight-loss result but I can show what my increased activity has done to my roller bag.  The circle of rubber hanging piteously to the side is how large the wheel used to be before I destroyed it.  And quite frankly I have never been more proud to ruin something I own.

So I guess for now I’ll just keep walking and figure everything else out as I go.