Face-planting on the finish line.

It’s a very hard-won victory crawling over the finish line to Saturday this week. As I’ve shared before, my back is giving me a lot of grief trying to incorporate more activity into my routine. Whenever I add that third walk to the day, to reach my 30 minutes of activity and get ever nearer to the 10K steps a day I should be walking, my body launches a major protest that has crippled me more as the days go by. In the past I could go back to the two walks and find some kind of relief. Sadly this week it’s just been even more of a struggle. By Friday, coughing, laughing, turning slightly in my chair or even taking a deep breath caused my back to “hitch,” seizing up for a few painful seconds where it’s too painful to even breathe.

My coworkers are even seeing it now, which is major. Most people never know what I’m going through, but this… I can’t hide.

Still, I tried to maintain at least two walks a day throughout, refusing to admit defeat. I just usually came home and collapsed at the end of the day as a result.

Plus there’s a lot of negative stuff happening at work that have really dragged down my spirit. In that respect, I really do feel defeated, and have for a very long time with this company. In the year and a half that I’ve been there, I’ve officially gone up for positions that would pay very well, positions for which I’m well-suited and have experience, only to be passed over for other candidates, some of whom don’t have experience that I do.

I guess I can’t be too surprised this is an ongoing pattern since that’s been how I got officially hired into the company. I started as a temp last February, when they needed some assistance getting caught up on a project. I worked so well they kept me on, doing odds and ends to justify my time there until a position opened up and I could be hired full-time. Such a position came around last May or June, a billing position that was being especially created for our particular site – the Mother Ship of a company with six other sites across two states. A billing consultant interviewed me for this, and he believed I was the perfect candidate, but he was forced to interview two other favorites from the company, to keep it “fair” and “equal.” The owner made the ultimate call, promoting someone who had been there near a decade without any real upward mobility aside from merit increases every year to reward her for her continued service. It’s hard to hate over that, and I figured as long as I got my foot in the door replacing her entry level position, I would eventually work my way up the ranks.

So I accepted the position, which paid $10,000 a year less than the billing position, and have worked my butt off since then, revamping the department I’m in, taking on other roles, being a vital part of the billing team, figuring that in the future I could work my way into a position that would pay me for what I bring to the table: decades of experience and a focus on excellence that even surpasses the company’s standard.

In the year and a half I’ve worked there, I’ve focused on learning things outside the scope of my job to help assist, be a team player, get the work done. Bring money into the company, keep it healthy. Protect my job and the jobs of everyone around me. All I’ve asked in return is a higher investment on me as an employee. When they needed help at another site, running their Medical Records department, I stepped up. In fact, I was virtually *begging* for this opportunity to show what I could do. I created Standard Operating Procedures for how I ran my own department, so I wanted to take this to another site and further prove how efficient I could be – especially since their site had decided they didn’t even need a full-time Medical Records Coordinator. The reason they needed anyone at all is because the one they had quit rather than go to part-time work.

Months went by as they tried to patch the leak in the dam. They tried to send our old MR person, the one who got promoted, but it didn’t fit her schedule. They sent another employee, who does work for all seven sites, so she wasn’t able to get them caught up with the demanding duties of her job. Meanwhile I was chomping at the bit, just for the opportunity to show what I could do, like a stallion stuck in a starting gate. When the time came, I drove 3+ hours to go to that site 2-3 times a week to catch them up (which I did handily, impressing everyone there to the point they wanted ME full time.) And I probably could have run both sites, the largest one (where I work, along with another coworker in MR) and that smaller one, which has 1/3 of the census, and I told the founder this. I suggested that for just $1 more an hour, they could save the $30K+ a year hiring anyone over there and I’d just do both.

They paid me mileage to go back and forth to the site, it was a nice little boon to the check. One more dollar and hour would have made it a sweet little gig – AND saved them tens of thousands of dollars annually in the process.

Within a few weeks they hired someone there… for $1 more than I make an hour.

And I’m still helping them out, because that’s my ethic as a coworker. You help, even if you’re not getting paid. Things need to be done, period.

My current ED (Executive Director) pulled me in during that time, saying that they wanted to “promote” me to working in another department in my home site to cross-train. That turned out to be lip-service to keep me quiet in the wake of my ballsy request for a raise. The department they wanted to cross-train me in had just been downsized from two people to one, and they basically told her that she’s doing well enough that they can’t justify the expense of having someone else brought in to help her.

So nothing ever came of it. They dangled the carrot and then they dropped the ball.

Another opportunity came up recently where a very well paid employee resigned in our admissions department. I applied for her position, because I felt like I could kick ass it, the same as I did with the department I’m in. Nothing we do is rocket science. It’s a medical administrative office, and the non-clinical stuff is pretty basic. I felt like I could bring a lot to the role. I contacted the recruiter at the advise of a friend, and she confirmed that the move would have definitely included more money.

I figured I was a shoe-in. The job needed someone who could talk to outside sources and families, and I have customer service experience in spades – to the point I was implementing their new phone standard *BEFORE* I was technically trained to do it. The minute I got the new protocol, I enacted it. The CEO called and got that kind of excellence, and couldn’t stop raving about it. They needed someone who could be accurate and precise, and that’s my job as Medical Records Coordinator, often to the annoyance OF the Admissions department, as I’ve returned a lot of paperwork for being inaccurately filled out and won’t budge on it till it gets fixed. I have a very, very high standard, both for myself and others.

Not to mention BOTH my ED and another manager came to me the day that this gal resigned, asking me if I was interested. Of course I said yes. They said it would include alternating weekends, which didn’t make me happy but for more money I wasn’t going to complain.

When she asked me how much more I’d need to give up my weekends, I told her at least $18 an hour – which was a bargain price for the department and the role. Again… I was keeping the company’s bottom line as part of my focus.

But of course the minute I brought up more money, the whole subject once again dropped like a hot potato. I heard through the grapevine they ended up interviewing someone ELSE after that, someone who already gets paid more than I do, and it went as far as an official interview with all the managers, which I never got.

I figured that was that, until the recruiter herself wanted to interview me – which she did on a Friday. That following Monday, after she talks to my ED, the recruiter tells me the move would be “lateral” – meaning I would get the same money I’m getting paid now (entry-level pay) for a vacated position that paid over $30 an hour.

Oh, and I’d have to give up ALL my weekends, so that the other gals in that department – who get more than $20 an hour, can get their weekends off.

Everyone who knows what that position entails was flabbergasted by the offer, which, I truly believe was given like it was to force me to say no.

It worked. I said thanks but no thanks. If I’m giving up ALL my weekends, it would have to be $25/hour.

At least.

Ultimately they brought someone else entirely in and guess who is doing a lot to train her to revamp the department to what it should be, per their own compliance rules, which were still not being followed by the chick who had just left?

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this new gal, who is there “just to help out,” makes more than what they offered me.

This seems to be a similar and frustrating pattern.

Finally, the position I really wanted became available: the office manager position. It has been vacant since February, when our then-office manager (and my boss – the best boss ever) had quit. She recommended me before she left. I had actual hands-on experience in the role, since I worked closely with her from the time I was hired on as a temp. I worked on HR files. I worked on the invoices. I created tools to help my then-boss to keep track of our current vendors and make the billing process more efficient. I even helped her write the newsletter. She knew I’d kick ass. I have management experience. I’ve helped two start-up companies, and run my own business on the side, so I bring maturity and experience to the role. I’ve hired, trained and supervised people. I work closely with the billing group every single week to turn their Bill Hold around from a two-hour trainwreck to thirty minutes at most, with a couple of months bringing it down to either $0 held or a handful of holds at the site level.

These are firsts at our location.

The *only* reservation I had about taking the position meant I’d have to manage my fellow coworkers, who, back in February, wouldn’t have taken too well to the change. But I feel like those relationships had gotten better since then, so I applied the day I saw it, which was a day after it posted, though I really didn’t expect anything to come of it. No one pulled me in to ask me if I could do it, even though I know for a fact that they had two people recommend me to the higher ups.

To my surprise, they actually interviewed me for it, but it’s not my first rodeo, particularly with this company. There’s a clear pattern that has repeated several times and I can read the signs. Their silence is a dead giveaway. I know that interview was just one more for the “Circus to appear fair and equal” show. They gave me a ten minutes, telling me how they “couldn’t pay me much more” than I’m getting paid now, despite the title and the workload.

They also said I wouldn’t have to manage anyone, which was my only admitted reservation to taking the position. But I already know now that the compensation is how they force me to stay right where I am, where they get maximum work for pennies on the dollar.

So I made it plain in the interview that even with only a slight increase, the promotion to manager (especially in such a short time) would really indicate what kind of work I do for the company, and be a great boost to my resume.

I’m forty-fucking-seven, I don’t have ten years to waste on an entry level position. If you want me to stay with your company, you’re going to have to meet my effort with respect and compensation. With VALUE. A raise is one way to do that. A title is another.

But that’s now how this company works. They’re drowning, but spend millions of dollars on consultants and manager training at ski resorts, but they can barely afford more than a 2.5% merit increase for all their employees, down from the 4% last year, and none of whom even got a face-to-face evaluation this year.

Unless you just happened to check your compensation history, you would have even missed you got a “raise.”

But I watch shit like that. And I watch what goes on around me. That’s why I’m 1000% sure that they’ll hire someone else as office manager – probably someone they approached before they even interviewed me, someone with less experience who will make more than what they want to pay me.

And I’m left wondering what the hell is wrong with me? It’s like I’m never going to get anywhere with this ED and this HR person. They’ve decided a long time ago where I belong at this company, and it’s at the bottom.

It’s been a rough, rough week dealing with this. It’s hard not to take this personally. The office is filled with people who make more money than I do, who play around on their computers, who slack on the work, who have no incentive to make the company stronger and healthier. They want to come in, do their eight hours and wait for the weekend. The “not my job” crowd never really sees any kind of consequence for their lackluster behavior. They get the same “merit” increase every year as everyone else, and this year was no exception. They barely get written up, even when they cost the company money, because upper management binds the hands of those trying to make a difference in the company. The red tape that we have to navigate through is a stranglehold, and I thought that it was contained just to this company, but my husband, who is a new assistant manager for a retail store, says he faces it too. Everyone is so fucking afraid of getting sued that slacker employees can damage the company with barely any retribution anymore.

Good news for them. Not so great news for people who actually give a damn.

To prove my point: last year it was uncovered that some employees were clocking in from their phones before they even entered the building, which was essentially stealing money from the company. It took months to get HR to take this seriously. Instead they wanted to “train” everyone that you shouldn’t clock in on your phone, you should clock in on your desktop computer, and without that training a “write-up” would be unfair, because they can claim they didn’t KNOW it was illegal to clock in a half-hour before one showed up for one’s shift.

I was gobsmacked. Is this REALLY where we’re at as a society?

Finally, months later, legal got involved and people were written up/suspended… but they all still work for the company.

And each and every one of them gets paid more than I do.

My spirit has died a little more every single day I’ve worked there. But it’s a job, and I have bills, so I stay. It’s not that I haven’t applied elsewhere. I have, especially on those days I get really frustrated. I’ve thought seriously about the day I can walk out of that building, flipping the bird to every single person who has made my life more difficult in the process.

I’ve been told to hang in there, that this company is facing a transition period. That rock star consultant they hired has a simple business plan: hard work will be met with more money, while the slackers will feel the pain of less. They tell me to wait out the storm and eventually it’ll be the job I want it to be.

But the fact is I don’t want a “job.” I want a career. I want my career. When the writing thing worked it was like I wasn’t working at all, even when I was pulling 15-hour days to churn out book after book. My back was never an issue. I could work around everything. And I got paid better than any other “job” of my life. It just felt *right*… like I had stepped into the life I was supposed to have.  It was physically and emotionally painful to compromise on ANY “job,” which is a big part of why I have been so dissatisfied for so long.

Stuff like this just reemphasizes to me that this is not the place for me. It hurts because it is supposed to. If they gave me a $5/hour raise, I’d stay forever, taking their shit because it’s easier to go down when you have money in the bank. I’d grow complacent. I’d give up on my dream because it’s smarter to count on the money that comes in on a regular basis, instead of the ebb and flow of book revenue, particularly when Amazon makes it more and more difficult for people to find you.

This current job and all its financial limitation keeps me hungry, for lack of a better word.

I want and need to crack that code again, and really – that’s all that the revenue from this job should provide.

As I sat at my desk in tears the other day, so frustrated with their treatment of me, and trying my level best not to let it rewire the chatterbox, that this is somehow what I deserve, I decided that I’ve grown too complacent. This isn’t a matter of them not seeing my value. They know what kind of worker I am, and they’re just jazzed they can get me (and keep me) at bargain basement prices. And I’ve taken it because despite that I don’t get fairly compensated at the job, I do make quite a bit more than minimum wage.

It’s just not enough. Not with everything I have to do. So I work harder, hoping that somehow the universe will reward.

Instead, it only throws me more scraps. They offered me a part-time job with another side company and I almost took it, even though I had no idea what kind of compensation I’d see. It wouldn’t be overtime, even though that’s what I’d be working. But how can I turn down money, when my finances are a big part of my problem right now?

After everything that happened this week, I wrote the founder and told her thanks for the opportunity, but no. I’m barely hanging on by a thread now, especially with my back. Something has got to give, and it can’t be me.

I need to create clear and consistent boundaries, focusing on what is really important: Plan A.

Whether this new job comes through or not, I’m going to stop treating Plan A like it’s Plan B, and vice versa. And if this promotion doesn’t come through, then I’ll know for sure that there is no future at this company for me. I’m sure as shit not going to languish in the same entry-level job for ten years waiting around for them to pay me what I’m worth. It’s a value statement, in how much they want to invest to keep me on the payroll as a part of their company. Despite the lip service of how I’m aces there, they clearly don’t value me as much as some of the others they have working there. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. As long as I’m being tied to the bottom rung of the later, that’s how I’m going to measure my ambition with this company going forward. They’ve offered to cross-train me on other positions, but I’ve decided to decline on doing anything above my job description unless there’s compensation involved. It’s time to make a stand, and if nothing else – THAT is what this job has taught me. I know what value I bring to the table. If they can’t see it, then they don’t deserve my best. I’ll do my job the way I have always done it, because excellence is not a choice for me.

But as far as doing anything else, above and beyond, to help them excel as a company, that comes at a price and I’m tired of being the only one who pays it. I’ll spend the time I would have spent working part-time for someone else on my OWN dream, which is where that time belongs anyway.

If the universe has determined that I’m going to play Sisyphus my whole life, then I’m going to roll the boulders up my own goddamn hill.

Despite this rocky week, I’m pleased to report that I didn’t binge despite several very close calls. It was almost frightening how little it took to wake the Sugar Monster inside. I just needed to feel good and it wasn’t happening, and I found myself physically having to turn myself away from the cravings. It was a conscious choice to say no, rather than the conscious choice to say yes.

After these last many months, I consider that a major victory. We’ll talk about that more tomorrow.

I did have a girls’ night last night where I drank a little too much, but I maintained my food intake like a champ despite all of the temptations. I really want to and feel like I need to go to the park for a little zen time, but my back is still in piss poor shape, so I’m going back and forth on whether or not I should do it. My son, who is a fitness guy, tells me it’s okay to take some time off to rest, that I’ve done enough this week, but it’s not just about the four or five miles I walk.

I just need to decompress, and that’s one of the best ways to do it. Spirit-wise, it’s probably one of the better things I could do. But where the spirit is willing.. the body is simply limited.

This, more than anything, is why I’m on this journey I’m on. It’s not to attract men, or make people like me more. It’s not even to make myself more promoteable in the workplace. It’s so that I can do what needs to be done, when I want to do it.

I’m sick and fucking tired of limitations. We’re nearing a Daffy Duck level meltdown. Seriously.

This week hurt because it was supposed to, to show me how I’ve clung to an ill-fitting cocoon for so long. This job doesn’t fit any more than this big body.

Somehow I have to break free… from BOTH of them.

It’s time someone treats me with the value I deserve, starting with me, because who on earth is better skilled or qualified?

I’m kicking ass for Ginger now. The world can prepare itself accordingly.

The Selfie Experiment: Learning to add myself back into my life.

Not too long ago I read this article on how women in particular shy away from photos, which virtually remove them from the history of their lives and their children’s lives. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. I know as I was growing up, being “vain” was frowned upon and widely discouraged if you were a girl. If you liked your image too much, there was something wrong with you.

In today’s Selfie-obsessed culture, many older folks carry the same kind of belief. Why do you need so many photos of yourself, they might ask. You just want attention, they might say. It’s unhealthy to need that kind of validation from others, they may assert.

Whether you post a photo for yourself or for others, you’re going to get nailed to the wall for it. You’re “narcissistic,” you’re “mental.”

The peanut gallery has plenty to say on the subject of you and what you think about your self-image, and has always, always, always felt the definitive authority on the subject of, well, you.

If you are a bigger girl, in particular, trolls Internet-wide often make posting selfies an exercise in stamina, to see how much body shaming you can withstand if you dare to share a little too much self-love.

There are those “brave” girls who dared to post a glam shot before prom, only to be kicked in the teeth by Internet strangers. There’s only one thing worse than a non-perfect girl posting a selfie, and that’s her audacity to be happy about it. For that they must shamed immediately and put right back in their place… the shadows.

In the end, when we look back over our lives, we see the decades of watching our children grow up with nary a hint that there was a non-perfect mother around to guide them. After we’re gone, it’ll be up to our children to piece together the limited info we leave behind, often already painstakingly edited by us, leaving gaps and holes that our children – who have often been much more merciful to us than we ever could have been – to fight for each memory we left behind to share with their children and grandchildren who follow.

Eventually we’ll be erased entirely, much to the delight of our critics. This is, after all, what we deserve.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently. Being somewhat in the public eye as an author, my image is often meticulously groomed to court a wide audience. There are those folks who won’t read a book by me because I’m *gasp* like the imperfect girls I write about. In fact, I’m worse. I’m heavier. I’m not as attractive. I’m older. There is nothing about my image currently that begs for the attention of a wide crowd. So to protect my image I have to be hidden, out of view, all my selfies policed by those who want me to sell as many books to as many people as possible.

Yeah. About that. I’m kind of over it.

When I started writing I wanted the career of Danielle Steel, who was the top-selling romance writer of the day. I wanted people far and wide to read my work and love it. I tried to write books that I thought might appeal to everyone. It never worked for me. Mainstream wasn’t my lane. They say write what you know, and here’s what I know: I’m not for everyone.

But I know who my audience is: my audience is that group of women who have been told subtly and outright all their lives that they don’t deserve a place in the spotlight. My audience is the group who edits themselves out of their lives because they don’t want to make the people that love them look bad. They’re embarrassed for their kids who show around their family photos, which dare to include a non-perfect mother. They don’t want their husbands to proudly display a photo on his desk at work, lest he be thought less than for having such a non-perfect wife. They’re the ones taking dozens of photos to post on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s always, always, always of their kids, their families, their friends, food or places they get to see, with nary a selfie in sight.

And the reason that is my audience is because that is who I have always been. I’m not a selfie person. For every one I dare to post, there have been a dozen taken and rejected because I didn’t like the way they looked. It’s like I’m that chick on Seinfeld who looked gorgeous in one light and hideous in the other, so I can *only* post the ones where I feel I look attractive enough to be seen, even though they’re all pictures of the same person.

Years back my bestie, who loves me regardless of which light I’m in, asked me to take a selfie at one of Hal’s shows I attended. When I told Hal of this directive, the Selfie King grabbed my phone and spun around so we could take a photo, no fucks given about the angle, the lighting or the Ginger he happened to snap at the time. It was one and done, because there really IS only one Ginger, and he’s always been as OK with that as my bestie has been.

halselfie

The people who truly love you feel that way, even if you don’t. That’s why they tag you on the photos they share on social media. It’s not to embarrass you or make you look bad. They are happy to include you as part of their world.

showselfie

The people who truly like you, respect you, admire you – they don’t care that you’re non-perfect because they figured something out the people who need you to be perfect haven’t: there’s only one kind of perfect any human can accomplish. You’re perfectly you, and that’s the only thing that matters. In the end, we’re all varying degrees of beautiful, part of this glorious, diverse mosaic of individuals that deserve to be recognized for the unique people that we are.

And guess what? The picture simply wouldn’t be the same without you. So you’re fucking perfect as a result.

The truth is editing myself out of my life, including my career, has done nothing but *damage* my image. How can I write books that empower women to feel beautiful and worthy of love if I’m too scared to post a selfie because it means someone I don’t know won’t like me? My own characters would smack me silly for such foolishness. It’s not only okay that I’m non-perfect, it’s okay that I exist just as I am. I have value just as I am. This journey to health and wellness isn’t about finding that value, it’s about *owning* what was already there. If I’m unhealthy it’s because I’ve forgotten that, and won’t take care of myself as a result.

That’s something the shamers don’t get, nor do they even care. Your health is not the point, no matter how much they claim it is.

So I weighed the pros and the cons of becoming more Selfie-proficient as I’ve dipped my toes in the public image pool. Granted, not too many men are going to “like” my photos. The ones who do are generally older, married, friends, family or gay. I am okay with this. As a married woman, I don’t need a lot of guys paying me attention anyway, and I’ve always preferred the safety of guys who actually don’t want to have sex with me.

Women will like my photos more often than not, and since they’re my audience anyway – that’s ideal. Especially if they’re “non-perfect” like me. (Spoiler alert: EVERYone is non-perfect like me, we all just have different ways to hide or display it.)

So I won’t get any attention I don’t want from predatory men, and I’ll hit my target audience for women. Sounds like a couple for the pro column to me.

Some women will recoil every bit as much as a guy when they dare to see my audaciously posted non-perfect selfies, which means I might lose them as a reader. Honestly what I write would never appeal to them anyway, so really… what’s the loss? If you won’t read my book because you think I’m (insert pejorative here,) you really wouldn’t get much out of my books. I don’t swim in the shallows. I navigate deeper water, one that dares to wear the skin of the non-perfect. If you need your writers to be pretty or perfect, or the “fantasy” of living through the characters they write who are, then I’m simply not the writer for you.

I consider this a pro as well. It’s okay that you don’t want to read my books. There are plenty of writers out there who write those kinds of books, you’re going to be okay. There are plenty of readers out there who read my books, so I’ll be okay too. Hat tip and move on.

See, what many don’t seem to understand about me is that I don’t mind a smaller career as long as it is significant. I’m not out to become a millionaire from my books. I’m out to change the message, which is my only real barometer of success. The fact that I’ve sold even one is a miracle according to the industry, and I’ve sold many more than that, remaining solidly in the top 20% of all independently published writers for six years.

That means there’s room for the non-perfect. There’s room for the message. There’s room for me.

I was perfectly content selling enough to live on, and I did that *without* white-washing my image to some lesser non-perfect image a wider audience could find palpable. My first series hit big even though it broke a lot of rules and smacked conventional romance in the face. For those who couldn’t stand the idea of reading about such non-perfect characters, I basically said #byefelicia. This isn’t the book for you, I’ll tell you before you even buy it. I’ll discourage you from spending your money on something we both know you won’t like.  I’m not for everyone. I know this. You need to know this.

And you need to know that I’m perfectly okay with it.

That’s the kind of ovarian fortitude that built my career. When I caved on that, thanks to industry pressure, my burgeoning career flatlined. I don’t think this is a coincidence. You can’t build a career on bold honesty and then hide from the spotlight and expect things to get better.

That’s not how I roll. That’s never how I rolled. And since my instincts have proved the more successful, Ima go back to what I know works for me.

This is why I’ve dared to make this blog public, to explore all my deepest darkest demons on a public stage. THIS is how I built my image. The people who will buy my books, who will love my work, have always, always, always been the group who looked a little deeper, who cared a little more about what a non-perfect like me had to say. They seek me out. They find me… and they stay.

THAT is my audience.

And I’m done lying to them, watering myself down trying to pretend I’m something I’m not. I’m 100% proof. Some can handle it. Some can’t. That’s just the reality of my entire life.

Knowing this, there is really no risk then in throwing myself into the selfie pool, so I’ve not only been posting more selfies on Instagram but I’ve started posting on Snapchat. I get to utilize these social media accounts for my public image every bit as much as every other account I have. It is limited thus far, but I notice the more I post of my image, the more forgiving I am of it. This is just me, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Each selfie I post is a bold declaration that I deserve to be a part of my history, my family and my career.

These are my first steps on the crowded dance floor of life. Yes, I hear you snickering. Yes, I know for some of you this makes me the butt of your joke. For some, it makes me easier to reject because you find me so repellent.

But, since I was never trying to attract you anyway, I can’t care.

My characters, my audience, my family and my friends… and all of those who dare to swim past the shallows…  deserve more of me, not these limited scattered pieces I’ve been encouraged to leave behind by the people who don’t give a shit about me in the first place, who would rather I be erased entirely.

But I ain’t goin’ anywhere.

I’m putting myself back into my life because I deserve to be there.

Screenshot 2017-06-11 13.22.55

Sunday weigh-in: 292 (1.6lbs lost) 58lb muscle (+3lb gain.)

Non-scale victories: Three of four instances where I was going to excuse a binge, I avoided the binge entirely, and maintained walking 20 mins per workday all week despite back pain.

 

 

It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.

The other night my son and I were chatting and my new journey to health and wellness came up, including the challenges that I face particularly with the physical activity thanks to my current limitations. Last week I went balls to the wall with the walking only to collapse over the weekend. My “bounce back” time has increased exponentially, and it’s frustrating the shit out of me.

It’s still such a chore to do the work necessary to meet my goals.I mentioned this to my son, who has done athletic training before in high school gymnastics and then kung fu classes as an adult. “I just can’t wait for it to get easier,” I lamented, since it’s still like trudging uphill through molasses.

“It’s like that quote,” he tells me. “‘It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.'”

I knew in that moment that was going to be my blog topic for the week.

Like his father before him, he has a passion for physical activity that bypassed me completely. It was just never a part of my childhood, never modeled to me by those closest to me. My parents weren’t physically active. My dad was much older and disabled, my mom worked full-time to support the family. Like so many Southerners, many of the celebrations we had centered around food. If we traveled, we didn’t go camping or hiking. We went to see relatives, other older, Southern folk who cooked good ol’ comfort food, enough for an army.

There were no physical games to play, and any of the games I played in school were stressful. When you are hard-wired for anxiety, a simple children’s game like Duck Duck  was an ongoing nightmare. These were obligatory, too, which deeply tests my Personal Choice Boundary. After you’ve had your consent taken away, doing things you don’t want to do because you have no choice leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. So the Presidential Fitness Tests that began when I was 10 at once became the bane of my existence. Run a mile? Are you crazy? The only running I ever did was to escape mean dogs.

Then, beat me if you can.

Though I grew up in 70s/80s, I didn’t have roller skates or a skateboard. I went to a roller rink exactly once, in 1981 or thereabouts. I enjoyed it because of the music, but I couldn’t get myself coordinated enough to maneuver the silly things. I knew that would come with practice, so I asked for some skates for Christmas.

I got a lamp. Such was my childhood.

There were only three physical activities I enjoyed. I liked jumping rope (before I got boobs anyway,) though I couldn’t Double-Dutch to save my life. I’m just not coordinated at all, which is one of the reasons I don’t dance. It’s like my body and I aren’t exactly friends. I tell it to do one thing, and it gives me something entirely different. I’ve become subconscious to it to the point of paralysis. The only way you’ll find me dancing is if I’m locked in a safe room where no one could ever possibly catch me attempting such foolishness.

I also enjoyed the game Four-Square, mostly because it was a game where my size didn’t compromise me. I could play it and I could win. This was important. After my dad’s encouragement silenced, I felt like I had ended up in Loserville. I had plenty of detractors to laugh at me when I stumbled. It almost felt as if they expected me to, like they were waiting for it so they could pounce all over it with sadistic glee. And it’s tough being a living, breathing punchline. Hence why so many fat people don’t (insert public activity here).

If you haven’t watched the new NBC hit series “This is Us,” it stars an overweight actress whose battle with her body and her self-image is a huge part of the show. Her twin brother is an actor known for his impressive physical appearance, and she, by default as his right-hand gal, ended up going to a major Hollywood party at his insistence, even though conventional wisdom suggests people like us would not fit in at such an event. He needed her there and, thanks to her boyfriend’s insistence that they go, she went. Said boyfriend, Toby, is also a big guy who gives zero fucks what anyone thinks of him, so he hit the dance floor with gusto, ready to get down amidst the most beautiful people in the industry.

Kate was much slower to follow. Why? Her entire perspective shrunk to the whispers, the murmurs, the barely concealed laughter and amusement. All she could see/hear were the detractors, those who couldn’t WAIT till she got on the dance floor so they could snicker over the fat chick “trying” to dance.

You’ve probably seen Hairspray. You know what I’m talking about. The detractors are everywhere.

So naturally Kate hesitated. Why put yourself on display like that? You might as well walk right in front of a firing squad. There’s no fun to be had when you’re the butt of the joke. It took her quite a few drinks to muster the nerve to join fun-loving Toby on the dance floor, because that’s the job of booze – to lower one’s inhibitions and raise one’s DGAF.

I totally get that. I’ve danced publicly exactly three times, and alcohol played a part in each and every one, including my wedding dance.

The third activity I enjoyed was leg wrestling, which we did around fifth or sixth grade. Jeff will have to chime in here since his memory isn’t quite as fractured as mine. It was in elementary school, though, and I remember enjoying it because I was killer at it. My leg strength, to this day, is phenomenal – thanks mostly to carrying all of me around day after day. I was flipping people left and right, like some kind of prize-fighter, which at long last restored the admiration and acceptance I had lost. I only got flipped once myself, by some skinny kid, and I remembered thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

I liked winning. Winning felt good. I was gaining respect in a way I hadn’t ever been able to in a P.E. class before that. When I was eight, I was the slowest runner and the easiest pick for Duck Duck Goose. By the time I was 11 or 12, I was a beast who could take you out.

I liked that. Apparently Ginger + Time = Badassery.

I’ve always had very high standards for myself. I don’t just want to do a good job. I want to dazzle you. And I can’t do that if I’m falling down on my ass because I can’t skate, or making you double over in laughter because I can’t dance.

Humiliation is a hard pass for me. Oddly enough, it was the one thing I passed it down to my two kids. Both can watch a zombie get his skull curb-stomped, but if someone gets embarrassed they have to leave the room.

Neither one of them dance, which – again – is all me. Their dad was known as Disco Dan back in the day.

Me? I’ll be nursing a drink at the bar nodding my head along with the beat, thank you very much.

So I do most of my failure stuff in private, where no one can see. When I was nine, I wanted to learn how to ride a bike. My sister had moved out, leaving behind a purple sparkly bike I had long coveted. And I was tired of being a weirdo. I wanted to do what the other kids could do, the normal kind of stuff that we all share as a collective experience. And I simply couldn’t do that. I didn’t know how to swim, skate, ride a bike, I’d never gone camping, I didn’t have any friends who participated in any group games. I was even too big for the Big Wheel I begged my mom to get me when I was in third grade.

I decided I was going to ride that fucking bike. My mom couldn’t teach me because she didn’t know how. My dad couldn’t teach me, because like I said – he was disabled. My sister wouldn’t teach me because she had her own family at the time, and – frankly – hated me anyway. With no friends there to teach me, I decided I’d just teach my own damned self. I dragged that bike into the alley, which was a pretty secluded place with a flat surface, and I didn’t stop until I learned how to ride it.

And nobody knew about it until I was zipping around the neighborhood like a pro.

This has been my long-standing problem. And I know it’s not unique to me. I know there are plenty of us who just don’t want to suck at anything. But you kind of have to suck at something before you can excel at stuff. Natural talent is a good place to start, but skill gets you where you want to go. That takes training. That takes learning. That takes sucking.

At my son’s wedding, there will be dancing. Well, there will be dancing *available*. How much dancing is actually done will depend entirely on how the bride convinces my non-dancy son to participate, and the kinds of people we end up inviting to the shindig. I would like to look back on the event without thoughts of humiliation OR regret, so that means I have to drag that old bike back out into the alley to, simply put, get over myself.

I’ve been waiting 40-something years for this stuff to get easier, so I’ll enjoy it more, and, by extension, do it more. But it’s never going to get any easier. I’m just going to have to get stronger. The biggest obstacle in my way to do that is to learn how to get past the suckatude. There’s nothing stopping me anymore except me. I can buy my own damned skates now, which I just sorta kinda figured out just now. I got my kids skates when they were young so they could learn how, but I somehow never thought to do the same for me. Interesting epiphany that comes complete with its own action plan.

Guess it’s all on me now.

I have purchased dance videos or looked up instructional videos on YouTube to practice my little heart out until I master the moves, but so far I still embarrass my own damn self when I do it.

Virtually I’ve become that room full of hateful detractors, mocking and laughing at my own attempts to get it right.

And I may never master get it right. I may always look like a spider on a hot plate, to quote BBT’s Bernadette. But there’s a great line in the movie “Florence Foster Jenkins,” where Meryl plays a socialite who, though she loved to sing, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. At the end, she says of her critics, “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t.”

I fucking wept like a baby when she said that. One, she’s Meryl Fucking Streep. But man… that quote hit home.

Kind of like my son’s quote the other night. If it’s never going to get easier, which is what I’ve always kind of been waiting around for, then I’m just going to have to get stronger.

THAT I have complete control over. Just like the bike so long ago.

There is no expiration date on any of this. I took my first hike when I was nineteen years old. This was back when Dan and I were homeless in L.A., and we were looking for something fun to do that didn’t cost anything. Since Dan was a fitness junkie, who barely had a spare ounce of flesh on the man, he decided he wanted to explore Griffith Park. For those unacquainted, Griffith Park is a huge municipal park in L.A. that spans over four thousand acres of land and houses the Los Angeles Zoo, the Observatory and the Hollywood Sign. It has trails for humans and horses that wind through sloping hills for these amazing views of the city. Dan, who came from West Virginia “hillbilly” stock, could run those fucking hills in his sleep, and couldn’t wait to race up that hill when he saw it.

I was a lot, lot slower, with a more “Can we not and just say we did?” attitude.

I had never hiked before, particularly in hilly terrain. Considering I was carrying 210 pounds, it was not the stroll in the park I thought it might be. I paused maybe four times going up that moderate hill, testing Dan’s limited patience. It was on my fourth “break” that this little old man went *jogging* past us. He was gray-haired, easily 60 or better, but he was trucking like a champ up that incline that had stymied me. He was barely out of breath. Humbled and chagrined, I got up off my butt and I didn’t stop again till we got to the top. If he could do it, I had no excuses. I was nineteen, FFS. I was overweight and unconditioned, but I was still in my physical prime.

And man. What a view once we got there.

I’m no longer in my physical prime, but I’m also not as bad off as I have been. I’ve got some challenges, but I’ve made it a habit of overcoming challenges and doing what people didn’t think I could do.

I dazzle folks. That’s my M.O. That means my physical prime very well lies before me not behind me, provided I pull my head out of my ass, get my shit together and learn how to survive the sucking.

So I guess that means I have only one alternative left. It’s time to shut up and dance.

 

 

Walking and water = Good. Lemonade Pie = Bad.

Well, this was a week. I jumped right into the thick of things when I returned to work on Tuesdays, not ONLY did I walk on my two breaks, my walking buddies at work and I shot for three ten-minute walks, to make sure we got in our 30 minutes of exercise one way or the other. Tuesday through Friday, I got in over 8000 steps daily.

By Friday I was paying the price and pretty much collapsed when I got home. My back was tweaking hard core. I couldn’t even cough or take a deep breath without seizing pain. God forbid if I had to sneeze.

But after a day of rest yesterday, I’m feeling sore but in much better shape, enough to do all the errands that pile up for the weekend, like housekeeping, laundry and grocery shopping. I’m going to save the park for next weekend, so I can work on conditioning myself a little more.

No sense throwing my back out going full-throttle, when I’m making progress I can see and feel.

I ate more than normal this week, because that’s how it works with exercise. I’m just hungrier. So I focused instead on making my walking goal. As expected, my weight loss wasn’t as drastic as last week. I only dropped a couple of ounces, even though I stuck pretty much according to plan.

Where I fell off the wagon hard was the call of Lemonade Pie, which is my weakness. I was only going to make one pie for Memorial Day, but I ended up making two at my future daughter-in-law’s request.

It was a bad idea. Those pies lasted till Thursday, which meant I was eating more of it than I should have just because it was there. It was only 227 calories per slice, but it was pure sugar, which my body processes like cocaine. One hit is never enough.

Suffice it to say, Sugar is and will always be my nemesis.

But I’ll still chalk this week up as a win, considering it was a lesson learned (ONLY MAKE ONE G’DAMN PIE) and I was able to meet my physical goals all week – which was huge given the current state of my back.

It’s a non-scale victory I will happily take. And I got my first, “Are you losing weight?” comment, so … SOMETHING is paying off.

I also curbed soda for the most part and drank at least 4 16-oz containers of water daily, thanks in part to the exercise. This is a huge win.

This week I’m going to focus on meal-planning, sticking to rice, veggies and fish for my lunches. I’m also going to make sure I have fruit on hand all week to handle the sugar cravings. I may plan out my week ahead of time for lunches, just so I know what I’m eating and I won’t have to worry about juggling the calorie content.

This seems the most effective process. But in order for it to work, I have to work it.

This is my challenge to myself this week. I’d really like to break 290, and exercise alone isn’t going to do it.

Wish me luck! And pray for my back. It totally needs it.

Weigh-in: 293.4

Learning not to give a shit about what #theysaid

I was reading an article by UpWorthy today, regarding a sad hashtag that had taken root for people to share their body-shaming history with the world. It was called #theysaid, and the hateful things people have said to us, often under the guise of caring or concern, broke my heart, especially when it was said to very young girls. I started going through my history on Facebook, encouraged by another brave friend doing the same, and ended up remembering some of the more shocking and upsetting things that were said to me, stuff I normally keep buried because that’s where truly hurtful stuff belongs.

Suffice it to say if I had a nickel for every time they said what #theysaid, I’d have a shit-ton of nickels; enough to fill a sock and bonk people on the head with it. I walk around a public invitation for their oh-so-helpful advice and critique. Whether it was said with malice or not, they helped wire my own sadistic chatterbox with lots of ammo to virtually beat myself up for thirty some-odd years, and they did so knowingly and gleefully, thinking I somehow deserved it, telling it would help.

It totally fucking didn’t.

If that’s not a reason to blog it out and work it out, I really don’t know what is.

“Did you get held back?” – said to me by my fifth grade classmates, because I had boobs at 11. They never did believe me when I said I wasn’t. #theysaid

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“You’d be hot if you’d just lose weight.” Said to me by many folks, but the first time I remember hearing it was from my brother-in-law. I was 12. #theysaid

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“Don’t you want to lose weight?? Don’t you want to be thin?” Said by my P.E. coach on the first day of co-ed P.E., when we were tasked with running a mile and I couldn’t do it. I was 15. #theysaid

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“Do your nipples point outward or down?” asked a DJ who was trying to figure out before he met me if he wanted to have sex with me. I was 17. #theysaid

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“Nobody is going to want you.” Said by my first husband, back when he was unmedicated, when he thought tough love would help motivate me change. I was 22. #theysaid

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“GO ON A DIET!!” – screamed at me by a guy driving past me as I was *riding a bike*. I was 23. #theysaid

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“Your haircut makes you look like a lesbian. Since you’re associated with me and we’re the same size, this makes me look bad.” – said by a former boss. I was 25. #theysaid

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“What does she know about losing weight?? She looks like she weighs 300lbs!” – an anonymous comment when my blog was featured on AOL. I was 33. #theysaid

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“What do you know about sex? How can anyone find your pussy? It’s probably underneath layers of fat and sweat, like fucking cottage cheese!” Another anonymous male on the Internet, who challenged what I might have to say about birth control in a political forum. I was 36. #theysaid

My doctor, at a first appointment, without any testing: “You’re diabetic.”
Me: “I’m not diabetic.”
Doctor: “Do you get up in the night to pee?”
Me: “Yes. I always have.”
Doctor: “Then you’re diabetic.”

SPOILER ALERT: I wasn’t diabetic.

I was 36. #theysaid

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“Have you tried to lose weight?” a smirking doctor asked, when I told him I had tried everything to get rid of my chronic back pain – even though I was flat on my back three times a year because of it. I was 38. #theysaid

headshots2009

“Look I know you women hate to hear the truth, but there is such a thing as a “universal standard of beauty:” and it isn’t you. Men really don’t care about your intelligence, your wit, your charm, your job, etc. All men are genetically programmed to seek the conventionally attractive women… Men don’t want heavy women and we will never hesitate to let you know it.” – an anonymous comment to a blog where I talk about how ineffective fat-shaming is. I was 42. And married. Twice. #theysaid

This was also the same year where a “friend” confided in me what a mutual friend had to say about my size, that this person never wanted to see me hanging around because of my weight, and that I should have gone to the gym instead.

Turns out that friend did NOT say those things. So either she said them because SHE felt those things or she said them because she knew it would hurt me the worst. Either way… #theysaid.

2012Fierce

“Is this writer even a woman?” – said by a book reviewer when I dared to use actual measurements for my Rubenesque heroine, whose HUUUGE bust size was still five inches smaller than what I wore at the time. I was 46. #theysaid

2015

As you can see, scrolling through the pictures, all that “helpful” advice only made the problem worse… as if I really didn’t care to win your favor, to attract you or to make you love me any more.

And guess what?

I don’t.

It’s taken me a few decades but I’ve come to realize that body-shaming doesn’t make you a straight-shooter. It makes you an asshole. And frankly, I’m glad you don’t like me. I get to have a standard too, and shooting you straight, you just don’t measure up, buttercup.

You are one of the main reasons I have had the toughest time dropping the weight, because without this barrier that repels you I MIGHT actually have to deal with you one day, and the thought actually repels me.

When that day comes, and it will not because of you but in SPITE of you, I’ll just have to find clever new ways to repel you.

Until then, while I try to figure that out, kindly fuck off.

And have a nice day. #Isaid

 

Month One Progress. Back on track. (Sorta.)

Well today marks about one month into my new commitment to get under 200lbs by March of next year. The good news is I’ve lost weight. The bad news is it wasn’t at goal.

But progress in the right direction is still progress, or so they tell me. And my nutrition/goal tracker didn’t yell at me when I recalculated my calorie needs to get to 199 by March 26, so it still thinks it can be done.

So there’s that.

My focus this week was reversing some negative habits that were definitely hindering my progress. I used calorie restriction for the first time since i started intermittent fasting. Using SparkPeople, I started to track my food through the first part of the week. Fell off towards the last, simply because I found out something startling: I wasn’t eating as much as I thought I was eating. It was an important thing to learn. When you have an ED, your relationship with food can become horribly skewed. To see it in black and white that I wasn’t pigging out like I thought gives me new data with which to go forward in a much healthier way. When I put my foods into the calculator, even when I ate something “forbidden” like fast food or chocolate, I realized I was getting about 1500 calories per day.  Some days, I even had to work to get it up over 1000 by the end of the fasting period. It turns out that my failure to show results wasn’t necessarily because of the amount, it was the type of food I was eating. I think I’ve pinpointed the culprits down to bread and dairy, which I feel were working against me. If I bought yogurt or cheese to help get me through the week, I didn’t see the progress I wanted.

I’ve been told that dairy is inflammatory, and this would certainly suggest there’s something to that.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t binging before, generally towards the end of the fasting period, probably because my body was still physically hungry. My routine is 16/8, so I don’t eat for sixteen hours a day (from 9pm to 1pm the following day,) allowing me an eight-hour window to get my calorie needs.

Thanks to my body burning more fuel, this obviously increased my regular food intake, and right before bed which current wisdom tells us is no good. Knowing I had to log my food, that curbed a lot of desire to just keep going, like we talked about in the last blog, so some days I just didn’t, stopping at 1100 or 1300 calories. (Hence the drastic weight loss for the week, I’m sure.)

But as for my normal intake without the binges, I’m doing okay even though I’m “indulging” in the foods I like rather than going on any strict “diet.” It showed me that I have more room to play with food intake than I thought I did, particularly at the start of my day. I had been keeping it low to moderate during the day because I have a Southern cook preparing the evening meals, which are always ginormous – or so I thought.

Turns out they were running about 700 calories, even with a dessert thrown in.

This gives me a little more wiggle room, putting me back on track to what I was doing when I started intermittent fasting the first time around, where I saw so much effortless success *without* having to count calories.

Of course, I was also making much smarter decisions about food too, which I’m putting a much more concentrated effort in these days.

Back on track all the way around, I guess.

I also started walking again at work, usually putting it hand in hand with the food intake. When a coworker splurged on donuts on Friday, I allowed myself to have one – AFTER my walk. I’m trying to create real life balance that takes the emphasis off of “bad” or forbidden foods, so that I can participate in the world around me.

But I’ve been trying my best to reorganize my thinking, since physical activity is hand-in-hand with the food intake part of my process. I can’t change my body without the physical conditioning, and building strength is every bit as important as losing weight. I took it easy to start, to ease my knee and my back into things. By the end of the week I was even able to tackle the file room, so score one for building a little stamina.

Due to the lack of exercise throughout the month, I haven’t really seen any body changes. The measurements have more or less stayed the same. I think that’s my goal for the coming week, especially since I have Monday off. Sounds like an excellent opportunity to go for a walk at the park, which does more to transform my body than anything else I do. I can walk almost five miles at a stretch and it feels like nothing. It is my favorite form of exercise hands down, and, happily, the most effective.

It also renews my spirit every single time I go there, and some days I need that more than others. I think as the days get longer, I’ll be doing this after work as well. I meant to do it over the weekend, but real life intervened as it often does and I simply didn’t make it more of a priority, which I realize is a self-defeating decision at best.

Recalculating…

At any rate, I’ve met some minor goals and for that, I’ll give myself a well-deserved attagirl. I don’t hand those out as easily as I should, which is probably directly due to the perception problem I have in relation to body image, food intake and self-esteem.

Sounds like a blog for another day…

In the meantime, here’s where we stand at the end of Month One:

Weigh-In: 293.6 (-4lbs)

Measurements: 49-45-58 (+1″, same size.)

 

 

 

 

 

Fat Town.

It should go without saying that I love to travel. An open freeway beckons to me like a lonely lover. I have literally traveled – by car – from one coast to the other, and loved each and every minute of it. This is my idea of paradise:

open-road1

And I plan to do it again and again and again, until the wanderlust is exhausted at last.

I don’t anticipate this happening anytime too soon, especially since my Muse loves to travel every bit as much as I do. You put me on the open road with some good music on the playlist, and my creativity just unlocks. It’s unchained. Unstoppable. Other people see mountains and cactus and oceans and forests from their windows. I see stories. I see the history of the Native American going west, and the backdrop for the civil war going east. I see monsters and aliens and heroes and survivors as I pass through place to place, summoning the spirits of those long gone, as legend, history and imagination blend into one.

I’ve even been known to meander through cemeteries, the older the better. I love reading names and dates and wondering exactly what their lives were like. I long to know what comprised the dash between their birth date and the day they died.

If there’s a story there, I want to know what it is. The more forgotten, the better.

I guess you could say I’m a seeker.

My mother must have been too because we never stayed in one place for very long. By the time I was eighteen I had moved over twenty times, across two states and a smattering of towns. I learned at a young age that if you get stuck where you are unhappy, you simply move.

Dan was the same way, so I became even more of a nomad once I met him.

During my many travels, I’ve gone through tiny little slips of towns that barely have anyone living there, yet live there they do. They seem satisfied with that tiny little parcel of land, and breathe life into what might otherwise be a ghost town without them. I often wonder if maybe the people who settled that town were heading somewhere else, and just decided that particular speck of land was good enough, and no one that followed ever thought to question. Kind of like the scene in Pleasantville, where wild child Jennifer, as played Reese Witherspoon, asked her class what was beyond the borders of Pleasantville, and everyone seemed so puzzled by the question.

Why would anyone go beyond Pleasantville? It’s just so darned… pleasant.

Clearly these small town folk across our nation feel the same way. A small number of people stay there in those little one-streetlight towns, where the only jobs seem to be at the fast food restaurants or gas stations where people passing through need to stop to refuel before they head on out again.

Seemingly, they never feel stuck enough to move, as if they are perfectly comfortable there. I can’t fathom such things, personally. Not when there’s so much to see and do and experience.

Why stay in one place?

And yet… here I am, for the fourth decade straight, living right square in the middle of the same place I’ve always lived: Fat Town.

I first rolled into Fat Town way back in the 70s and figured, hey. It’s comfortable here. I know who I am here. Nobody bothers me much. The expectations are low for all the residents here. People outside our borders look us up and down, decide what we can give, and what they want to take, and more often than not pass us by.

It is that “passing us by” thing that is a big, big appeal for Fat Town, especially for someone like me.

Though it seems illogical to everyone else who damns fat as the quick pathway to an early demise, Fat Town is safe.

That hidden speck of town is off the beaten path by design. Fat works many times like a fortress, to keep people at arm’s length when it might prove too dangerous to let them any closer. So we burrow a little deeper away from folks, setting up our environment to keep us as comfy (and padded) as possible. We have all our favorite luxuries and all our chosen enablers, who help us keep what is often a hard life more comfortable.

You might be asking how Fat Town could be comfortable, given the residents are often reviled and hated, heaped with public shame and abuse as though they deserve it, simply because they weigh more than folks think they should.

Doesn’t this make us a target for negative attention?

Not as much as Thin Town might think, especially if you’re a woman. Everyone outside of Fat Town is perfectly content ignoring those of us who live in it, which is quite comforting for some of us who learned a long time ago if you’re targeted for how appealing you look, really bad things can happen.

Lately I’ve been thinking how my life would change if the barrier I put in between me and everyone else was gone. I’ve tried to use some visualizing techniques, since I’ve never been able to imagine myself “thin”. My brain simply won’t go there, and I think I’ve pinpointed the problem: stark terror. When I think about hugging someone I care about, someone who could hurt me because of how much I care, without that extra padding between us to absorb the blow, I feel like I could hyperventilate. Likewise, I start to feel uncomfortably vulnerable when I think about being in a crowd of strangers without my Fat Suit on to keep me oddly invisible to those who might cause me harm.

It just seems easier, and safer, to keep everyone, good or bad, at the border of Fat Town.

That terror is important to understand. I moved here initially because I was terrified of men, and men generally don’t favor girls who live in Fat Town. I probably didn’t do it consciously to start, but it has been a more or less conscious choice for about three decades now.

I was a pretty child, or so they tell me.

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Even when I was a baby, men would line up outside the church nursery just to hold me. It was one of my mother’s favorite stories.

GingerBabySmirk

I was the star of my life up until I was four, when I was snatched from my front yard by a stranger who would forever alter how I looked at men. By no real surprise, I guess, this made damned sure I’d alter how men would look at me thereafter.

lubbockgin

Then…

2.2.2017

Now.

Suffice it to say, I found Food Town before I eventually moved to Fat Town. I was a four-year-old harboring a dark and dirty secret I felt I couldn’t share. I needed comfort for that. The only person who knew about that need and subsequently could meet it was me, at the time a four-year-old child. I decided to self-comfort with the only thing a child knows how to do. An extra cookie. Another piece of candy. A bowl of ice cream – anything to make the boo boo sting just a little less. Even today, if I’m feeling bad I reach for more. More of what? More of anything. Whatever you have that makes me feel good, load me up. Make it count. I wanna feel it. It’s instinctual. Primal. It all goes back to that four-year-old who had to self-comfort and had no clue how to do it. I had to use the limited tools I had at the time. And just like the baby doll I had way back then, I would feed this aching four-year-old when she cried.

Since she cried in private, because no one could know why she cried, likewise she ate in private, because no one could know why she ate – and she sure as shit wasn’t going to tell anyone.

I’ve written about this in a few of my books, taking a heroine who has been stained by sexual shame and how she self-comforts with binge eating as a result. Though I’ve written some very explicit intimate scenes, these were the ones that make me feel most exposed. At one point, I literally threw my laptop across the bed after I finished writing one. You know that dream of being naked in a crowd? That. Times, like, a gazillion.

The safest part of living in Fat Town is that most people will chalk it up to my laziness alone. I simply have no willpower. They don’t know the real reason, which for a lot of us would be the worst thing ever.

By the time I was ten, I was a secure resident in Fat Town. And of course there were kids who said what they were going to say, but I usually let it go in one ear and out the other. It probably helped to be bigger than the bullies, another silver lining of Fat Town. How do you frighten off a bear? Pretend to be bigger than the bear.

I simply chose not to pretend.

Being picked last for games didn’t matter much to me because I didn’t care to play those games anyway. That kind of physical activity didn’t allow for creativity, at least the kind I liked to indulge. I would play alongside my favorite TV shows quicker than I’d play kickball. I might have danced, the ultimate form of physical creative expression, but there were a lot of hang-ups there. In a strict religious upbringing, anything that even hints at sexual expression is forbidden, even more so if you’ve been chewed up like a  piece of gum and you can’t let the world know how tainted and corrupted you are and risked being loved or thought of any less.

Since being pretty was no longer my objective, I aspired to be the smartest person in class. I easily reigned over the playground with a ton of friends who would love the imaginative games we’d play.

gin1980

Then, like now, I was fun, I was just way more outgoing. I liked to have a good time. I attracted friends who loved to laugh, to play, to *live.* And why wouldn’t I believe I was awesome? I had all these great qualities and I knew with all certainty the only man I let close to me after 1974 would never, ever hurt me. My daddy gave me that confidence. He treated me like one in a billion, and that’s what I felt like.

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Then he hurt me in the most awful way possible. He left.

I was eleven when my dad died, and I felt like I had lost the only person in the world who treasured me for who I was. This was more than love. It was more than the value I got from others. I actually felt like a prize, like I, myself, was this precious gift to be exalted above all others.  Suddenly, like a splash of cold water in my face (more like a tsunami,) I realized that not everyone would love me as unconditionally, or treasure me as wholly.

In fact, I realized a little late (especially given my long residency at Fat Town) that not many people wanted to love me at all. Forget being treasured, I found myself fighting for basic human value. Being pudgy was cute when I was a kid, but the older I got, the more work I had to put into in order to earn that courtesy from other folks. I needed to change for most of them to even pay attention to me, much less value me or – God forbid – love me.

But the bad habits were already in place, second nature to me by that point.

whatdoesntkillyou

Through the 1980s I tried many times to leave Fat Town, if only to chase after everyone else in Pubertyville where all the boys I liked seemed to live, only to get hurt by someone’s unthinking actions. I’d poke my head out only to get bonked by some karmic anvil, then race right back to where I was comfortable (safe), bolting the doors and locking them tight so I couldn’t get hurt like that ever again.

I don’t know that it was conscious at this point either. I’d get hurt, I’d eat. I’d eat more. I’d eat a lot. I’d eat as much as it took to numb the pain, and as the pain grew more intense, that amount multiplied. It only exacerbated the problem and became this endless self-defeating cycle.

gin1982

What Fat Town looked like in 1982, when I was twelve…

 

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Fat Town circa 1985, when I was fifteen.

People who live outside of Fat Town see how illogical this is and tell us, time and again, that in order for things to change we must change some things. But change hurts and that’s how we deal with pain. Food is not only a comforter, it’s instant gratification. The further you get into Fat Town, the more appealing that is. I can eat that chocolate cake and get a boost of endorphins *right now*. I’m happier, *right now.* It’ll take weeks, months, even years to see the kind of change I need to truly escape Fat Town, to make me as “happy” as the world around me tells me I’ll be. You know, later. Eventually.

They want me to give up happiness now and pull the lever on a slot machine for a possible happier happy in the near future, in a future I really can’t even envision for myself. And for what? So I can live longer? So I can attract people who show me daily they don’t give a shit about me? Those aren’t necessarily the high stakes you think that they are.

By the time I was thirteen, I just kind of figured out my life was going to hurt. If things were going well, I could count on something big and bad happening to keep me from getting too full of myself, like God making sure I paid for such a healthy sense of esteem when I was little. I was raised to believe humility was a virtue, particularly for women, so there was a problem with someone feeling a little *too* special. The pounds packed on. Acne hit at thirteen like a machine gun. My teeth started to twist, and my mother certainly didn’t have money for orthodontics. It wasn’t like I was ever going to be some raving beauty.

gin13

I couldn’t figure out why I, who had been denied so much in my young life, should give up the one thing that gave me true, unquestionable pleasure. Simply put: getting fatter didn’t matter. I had set up my place in Fat Town, where things were safely predictable, even if lonely.

I’d been behind the eight-ball for nearly ten years at that point, and nothing around me indicated it was going to get any better, at least for the long haul. Putting a diet on top of it often felt like insult to injury, considering the thin girls I knew weren’t any happier. They were every bit as scared, lonely and insecure as I was, they were just better at hiding it.

Only I carried around the physical manifestation of such things.

Despite my fluffier exterior, I still attracted people. I was still creative, smart and fun, plus I cared about people. A more devoted friend you couldn’t find. I knew if people loved me despite my permanent address in Fat Town, they deserved the best of me. And that’s what they always got. Still, to this day, that is what they get, maybe even more so.

And I got lucky with some great people. There was my bestie Jeff, who was the opposite of me in every physical way…

bestfriends

Yet he loved me every bit as unconditionally as my Daddy did. Maybe even more so. He treasures me, and he has showed that to me every single day of our 37-year friendship. This is remarkable to me because he has seen it all, good, bad and ugly. Of anyone in my life, he knows me best. He knows all the dark secrets, all the bad choices, all the temptations I did and didn’t take. Even still, to this day, I confess my darkest desires, my most impossible dreams, and I know he won’t judge me or love me any less.

He was even the first person I told about what happened to me when I was four, when his unconditional love saved me from making the worst, most permanent “instant” fix of my life.

Other people got in too. I made all kinds of friends from all walks of life. Though some will sell you the sad sack fat girl meme, I still got hit on. I still GET hit on, and in fact got hit on this very week when I went to a club to see a friend play. No matter my zip code, I’m still me, so I still attract folks, even living squarely in the middle of Fat Town at my new address at the cross streets of Old Street and Obesity Boulevard.

They’re just fewer, and I’m kind of okay with that because along with good folks, there were also those who got a little too close who were not so good. Back-stabbing friends, people who would use me to get to other people, or girls who would use me to make themselves look better to guys by comparison. Not the least of which were a whole number of men who were not so noble. As I got older, and started filling out into a fuller figure, this mostly meant older men. In Pubertyville, everyone was every bit as insecure as I was, and they couldn’t risk having a girl like me on their arm for the whole world to see.

Older men didn’t care about that stuff, because usually I was never on their arm in public either. They made their visits to Fat Town in private, where they could savor womanly curves wrapped in youthful innocence and I was starving enough for attention that I’d let them.

ginger1986cropped

That’s the paradox of Fat Town. It can keep you safe from some, but if you’re used to hurting yourself, it makes it that much easier to accept when others hurt you as well. And I felt like I had control over it, because I didn’t get unwanted sexual attention like other poor girls did. I didn’t have to learn how to tell a guy to fuck off, that I wasn’t interested.

I simply took their interest away, and took my chances with those that remained.

I never wanted just anyone to want me, that shit was far too dangerous. But I still wanted to be the star to someone I loved, just like I used to be, without all the risk. Hence why I would always, always, always return to Fat Town, where the expectations are lower, fewer people gather, and no matter what happens I can self-medicate with my drug of choice (food) – to hell with the consequences. So what if fewer people loved me? Love hurt. So what if life was shortened? Life hurt.

Food comforted. It made the hurt hurt less.

Despite the alcohol I started drinking when I was fourteen, or the sex I started having around the same time, food became my vice of choice. Not only was it quick and easy and often cheap, it was socially acceptable across the board. The universal wisdom of the ages? Fix it with food. Have a bad day? Have some chocolate. Feeling a bit out of energy? Have a soda for a pick-me-up. It was socially ingrained into me that food was a fix-all, which was even validated by a doctor when I was eight years old. After I passed out at lunch one day in the third grade, the doctor diagnosed me with low blood sugar and recommended a candy bar and a soda if I got too lightheaded. My own mother wouldn’t let me have soda, but a doctor said it was okay?

Well, okay!

Food became my luxury of choice. We couldn’t afford skates, but I could get a dollar candy bar at the store and feel pretty darned good while I ate it, and after the sugar rush kicked in.

The greater the pain, the greater the fear, the greater the indulgence. If one is good, two must be better. When you feel like less, simply have more. This made sense to the four-year-old who was still comforting me.

All these years later, feeding a problem is still part of our cultural message, which makes changing these habits a battle I usually fight all alone.

And like any four-year-old, I’d rather have a Snickers bar than kale.

Growing up is hard.

Even more challenging, in and out of Fat Town are the feeders. It is our nature to comfort with food. It is our nature to celebrate with food. It is our nature to seek food. The poorest person on the planet will feel like a king as long as he has something to eat. It is our basic human luxury. So, when we care for others, food is where we start, from the time they put a newborn baby in our arms. Even those who criticize you for your Fat Town zip code will be the first to invite you to lunch, take you to dinner, buy you something delicious and tell you to indulge in a decadent dessert, just this once, because you deserve it.

The people we love deserve to be spoiled, right?

Spoiled. What an appropriate word.

Even my husband, whom I love and I know loves me, will pop off with, “It’s not like we do it every day.”

Confession: I do it every day. I think about, obsess over and rejoice in food every day. I indulge in one more bite every. single. day.

Unlike an alcoholic, who is encouraged to change their behavior by divorcing themselves from everything in their life that led to the problem, a food addict has to learn to manage their disorder when they are inundated with triggers every hour of every day. Whenever we eat, we have to make conscious choices about the food we place into our mouths. Back in 2003, when I first decided to get serious, it was like I was playing Russian Roulette every time I took a bite. Every. Single. Bite. Matters. And we have to question where that line is between healthy nourishment and unhealthy emotional eating.

That’s why everyone always jokes that they’ll start their diet on Monday. You can’t escape it. It’s all around you. Every day. Name me a major holiday that doesn’t revolve in some way around food. Name me a celebration that doesn’t have food at the heart of it. There’s always something looming in the future that makes “giving it up” inconvenient. Even at our offices, our coworkers show their love for us by buying donuts or the bosses spring for a pizza party.

At my office, there’s a constant supply of M&Ms because our CEO has decided to use the fun little candy as a way to teach our new business model.

Hell, even I keep a candy dish on my desk to give my coworkers who pass my desk a little something to perk up their day.

It’s cheap and it makes people feel good. What more could you ask?

So you make it work in Fat Town, which, even if you’re doing anything to ultimately move away from it, is your address for the next several months or years while you make these changes. And truth be told, it’s not so bad to live in Fat Town. Yeah, we have problems. We get shamed on the regular. We have to go to special stores to buy clothes. Sometimes we find ourselves suffering health consequences from our extra weight, and very little empathy riding shotgun since, after all, we’ve done this to ourselves. But I know who my friends are. I know that men who interact with me want no more than I’m willing to give. I have a built-in asshole detector the minute I meet someone new where I can tell whether or not they’re a decent human just by how they look at me. I’ve got decades of experience now reading people, and I know when they see the fat, and when they see me.

Sure, we don’t get promoted as often, overlooked as “lazy” because that’s the common stereotype. Sure, we don’t a dozen likes on our Instagram selfies by men, who reserve their kindnesses and their compliments for the women they want to bone.

I, personally, consider that a plus.

Sure, there are people who won’t read my romance novels because they think I’m talking right out of my ass, because what woman from Fat Town knows about real romance anyway?

I’ve been managing those things for years, and most of the time I come to the conclusion that my fat has actually *saved* me from the folks who couldn’t be bothered to care about me in the first place. I’ve made it more challenging to love me because I need people to get through the obstacle course to prove that they’re worthy, that they won’t hurt me, that they can be trusted with the treasure that is me.

I’ve locked it away in the ultimate safe. And only those really special people, who are brave enough to risk the stain of loving someone from Fat Town, have cracked the code and proven themselves worthy.

I guess I really AM Mjölnir.

So you see the confusion. You see my dilemma. Just like that small town girl who is intimated by the lights, noise and dangers of the big city that may call to her, I’m petrified to permanently say goodbye to Fat Town. Hence why this is where I’ve always returned.

It’s a battle, for sure. But one thing about me… true no matter where my address… I am a conqueror.

It’s time for me to hug that little four-year-old and tell her everything is going to be okay. She’s going to be all right. I’m going to keep her safe in ways I never knew how to do before, because I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. I’ve been through many battles, I wear many scars, but I’m still here. I’m still breathing. And that means I am stronger than what has happened to me. I don’t need to pretend I’m bigger than the bear. I AM the bear. So we can venture outside the fortress, we can live the life we are terrified to live, because no matter what, we’re going to be okay.

It’s time to move on now. It’s time to travel somewhere new. It’s time to get “unstuck.”

I’ve never said this before, and maybe the Universe needs to hear it: I can handle it now. No matter who I meet. No matter what I face. I’m ready.

Today I can only make a step, but I’m taking it. One step away from Fat Town and towards Gingerville.

Let’s go.

Recalculating…

It was 1989 when I first moved to Los Angeles. Coming from small-ish town Texas, it was quite the culture shock. I’d only been driving a little over a year, since I was a late bloomer and didn’t get my license until I was eighteen. Back then, you had to get driver’s ed in order to get your license at sixteen. Unfortunately, that was a class my mother had to pay for and, as a single mom working 70-hour weeks at a convenience store, she simply couldn’t spare the extra funds. Forget getting my own car at sixteen, it turned out even getting the license was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

In November of 1987, the minute I turned 18, I got my GED (because I had skipped the horror of high school) and my driver’s license. Within a month I had my first job. Basically I burst out of that gate like a race horse that had been stuck in the starting gate too long. (A running theme in my life, now that I think about it.) By February of 1989, when I was 19, I decided to make a break for the west coast because the man I loved was sick and tired of living in Amarillo, Texas, and had come into a small amount of money that he decided to use as his ticket to ride.

Since I was so blindly in love with him that I would have followed him to the ends of the world, I ditched everything I knew up till that point and went with him. It was on my To-Do list to live in California anyway, so I wasn’t going to miss my chance, especially since missing that chance would have meant losing Dan.

I decided in most hopelessly romantic heart of hearts that wasn’t going to happen.

Needless to say, Los Angeles was a far, far cry from Amarillo. It’s huge. It’s filled with a LOT of people. I went from a town of about 100,000 people to one in the millions. The freeways were these intimidating snarls of concrete tentacles I had zero idea how to maneuver. By the time we arrived in town, little old ladies were zipping past us, even with us doing the speed limit. This looked nightmarish for a new driver like me.

Getting around such a foreign place was daunting. Thankfully back then they had what they called Thomas Guides. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it was basically a book of maps, large grids of large cities you could flip through to find your way around.

 

Recently I was watching an old Moonlighting episode where David was fussing over one of these and I was all, “OMG! I know what that is!” The first time I watched the show, when I was about 15, I had no idea. Only time and experience gave me insight on what an invaluable tool it was, especially living in Los Angeles.

I think they probably had it for most major cities, but one absolutely needed it for L.A. Los Angeles frustrated me greatly. The street layout simply didn’t make sense. New York City, where I found myself navigating by car in 2009, a full twenty years later, was much, much easier to navigate. It’s a grid, which is much more straightforward than the meandering chaos of Los Angeles. What works in other towns simply doesn’t work here. Both Dan and I would find ourselves lost more often than not, which was even more frustrating for him. It caused a great deal of stress between us, since I was his navigator by default as the passenger. I was basically still a kid when I was tasked to figure out the confusing puzzle of L.A., and the Thomas Guide was my go-to guide to get us rerouted back on track.

Often I had to do this in high-stress situations, with an aggravated Dan, whose bipolar disorder had yet been diagnosed. Likewise my anxiety disorder had yet to be identified. So the madder he got, the more anxious I got. By necessity I ended up flipping through that book like a pro to put these crazy squares together in time to get us where we needed to go in order to avoid a scary fight.

Thankfully these days we don’t have to juggle a War and Peace book of maps to get around anymore. Most of us have smart phones, which will tell us in a soothing female robotic voice which turns to take, when, what direction to go and where we can find our destination. She never gets frazzled, like I used to so long ago. She’s confident she can get us to wherever it is we have decided to go, even if we get horribly off track.

I started using navigating systems to travel during my Comedy Groupie days, when I was traveling all over the country to see Hal Sparks perform comedy. It was one of those Two Birds, One Stone kind of things. I loved to laugh, and no one makes me laugh harder than Hal. Also, I was born with a touch of wanderlust, so whenever I would get bored in my ordinary workaday life, I’d set off for somewhere new to do something I loved to do, see people I loved to see, get to meet friends from all over the country I’d only just spoken to online before. Just a weekend here or there, to break up the monotony, to spice up a boring, average life that fit me like a suit cut a size or two too small.

Deep down I knew that an average life was never what I was supposed to be living, so I needed those weekends more than other folks, who could condense their wanderlust down to two weeks a year and call it a “vacation.”

I wanted a life that would leave me so fulfilled I wouldn’t need a vacation from it.

Back then, though, I needed these getaways like I needed oxygen. In my heart of hearts, I dreamed of one day getting the freedom of Janet Dailey, one of my favorite authors growing up, who set off to write her Americana series by living for a time in all fifty states to write a romance centered in each and every one.

Eventually I would use my cross-country experiences to write my own romances, so I guess I kinda sorta got what I wanted. I even sold a lot of books as a result. Still not done, though. The dream is still in progress. And the good news is I don’t have to break away from my current life near as much as I used to.

Progress. I’ll take it.

And wherever I go, there is nothing more reassuring than having that soothing female voice telling me, with confidence, the directions I need to get there. Sometimes she’s wrong, but not nearly as wrong as I used to be way back in the day trying to figure out which page to turn to in the Thomas Guide. Now I punch it into the navigator and I’m on my way, confident I’ll get where I need to go.

It even provides what time I can expect to arrive, what traffic I may run into, and offer alternatives if I need to amend my plans. Score one for technology!

Even more reassuring, if I take a wrong turn because let’s face it, sometimes I do, it will take a moment to recalculate and reroute me so that I’m never lost, merely delayed.

It hit me in the last week or two how much that applies to this first month of my new commitment to myself. Imagine my chagrin when the universe lobbed another brick my way with this advertising campaign from Jeep:

My whole life has been one recalculation after another. Nothing has gone according to plan, pretty much ever. The same is true for most hero’s journeys. If things went according to plan, it would be the most boring, unrealistic story ever told. The success stories we want to hear are the ones where our heroes and heroines revise, reroute and recalculate. This gives us inspiration how to do likewise because let’s face it: the path to success is rarely Point A to Point B.

path-to-success

So I had a bad couple of weeks. It happens. I could beat myself up about it. I could “throw the baby out with the bath water,” as the old saying goes. Or I could look around. Get my bearings, and recalculate.

I wanted to start walking every day at work, using my two, ten-minute breaks to get out of my office chair and away from my computer for physical activities. Then, my knee caved. My back gave. I ended up sitting more than standing.

Recalculating…

I wanted to tackle my emotional eating particularly in how I have been handling stress lately. I’ve been easily triggered for emotional sabotage since last year, giving in to my  binge eating more often than not. And knowingly so. I’ve become enlightened enough to know what I’m doing when I’m doing it, so it’s no longer an unconscious choice but a conscious one. One I can change as the urge hits me, if I so choose. That’s the good news. That it’s not second nature yet is the bad news. My so-called warning system is usually about ten minutes or so before I cave to temptation. I realize I want to eat to “feed” whatever it is that I don’t want to feel, and I debate about it all the way up until I do it. Yet I still find myself doing it, more often than not.

So naturally my fragile house of cards picks this month to come tumbling down, which has me in a tailspin how to handle all those old triggers that have been firing at me at once, usually in the middle of my “debate” time, which means I’m “reacting” more than acting consciously.

Recalculating…

I wanted to find some work-life balance, but thanks to everything crashing down at once I have to jump at any economic opportunity, which means overtime, which means no days off as I tap dance over hot coals for my writing career, which barely fits in the small window a week I get to set aside for it as is. Opportunities are stacking up, and I have to figure out a way to take care of everything that needs taking care of, with me and my health coming so often at the bottom of that list.

Recalculating…

None of this is ideal, of course, because life isn’t ideal. In fact these are the typical challenges I face. None of it, absolutely none of it was new or unpredictable. And I knew this when I started this. Things are chaotic right now, to add this on top is yet another stressor which I knew going into it could prove counterproductive. And, as expected, I haven’t excelled in this as much as I had hoped to. It sucks, but just like any wrong turn, I have to reroute myself to get to my destination, particularly since this goal has a deadline.

No matter what happens between right now and March 26 of next year, I have to climb over the boulders, skip over the rocks, dodge past the bullets and wade into the lava to make things happen. (Which is pretty much how I make anything happen.)

I didn’t do this to fit into a dress, even though that will be one of the bonuses. I did this because if I didn’t, I’d be pissed I didn’t when I went shopping for said dress. I would have beat myself up endlessly that I had a year to make a change and I didn’t do it, like all the other 47 years that came before it, and yet another year has come and gone and I’m still in the same place I was.

THAT is my motivator.

That time is going to pass no matter how I spend it. I can either make small steps and see incremental change or I can blow it off and stay the same – the choice, really, is mine. And it’s never going to be ideal enough for me to get through it any other way. I understand this now.

Still, failure is a tough pill to swallow, especially publicly. But this, too, is part of the process. Nothing will force me to recalculate quicker than being accountable for getting lost, just like all those years ago when I was scrambling through endless pages of the Thomas Guide, paranoid that Dan would get pissed at me for getting us lost. AGAIN.

So now I get to woman up and admit I took some wrong turns and I didn’t end up where I planned. It happens. It sucks. But I can learn from it. And it won’t ever change until I do.

I’m up 2.6 pounds this weigh-in, which was actually down over a half a pound from last week. I weighed in at 298 last week, but I didn’t bother recording it because it was during “that time of the month,” which has gotten increasingly that-time-of-the-monthier as I get closer and closer to menopause. One week a month I’m basically useless as my body kicks into some demonic hormonal overdrive in ways that make me long for the baby factory to just shut down already. Some months are mildly annoying, some months feel like I’m auditioning for a scene in Carrie. I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice it to say, there’s no activity during those days. Some days I’m stunned I even make it to work.

And some days I don’t.

But in every cycle there’s *always* bloating, a lack of sleep, insatiable cravings and, ultimately, a weight gain.

Needless to say… I allowed for the recalculating.

This week I tried to make up for it. I was more conscious about the food I ate, paying a little more to eat a little healthier. Drinking water over sodas (mostly.) I even got to walk during my breaks at work, so there was progress in that area at least. This was good news, considering the bike ride I did on Mother’s Day leveled me for the first three days of my week. By Thursday, I jumped all over the chance to walk even though I didn’t feel completely healed. I took it slow, one walk that day, and by Friday I was able to walk twice.

Incremental progress, but progress nonetheless.

The emotional eating thing though, still my biggest nemesis. I let it beat me up several days this week. I own that completely.

I have a few ideas how to reroute myself out of those as well. I may be trying those this coming week. It’s going to require some deep introspection I probably won’t want to make public, yet that might be the very thing that helps me defeat this thing once and for all. Most of my binging is done in hiding. So maybe it’s time to stop hiding.

Whatever it takes, right?

Recalculating…

So… new week. New goals. Walking more during the workweek, that’s number one. Portion control and watching food intake, definitely number two. Dealing with triggers has to be number three.

And we’ll see where we end up from there. It’s almost been a month since I started. Let’s see where exactly I find myself. It may not be the destination of eight pounds lost that I wanted, but it’ll be a turn in the right direction. No matter what, I’m not lost. Merely delayed.

Recalculating….

Weigh-in: 297.6

 

 

Limitations are not my favorite.

So yesterday was my weigh-in. I actually debated long and hard about doing a weekly or a monthly weigh-in, but weekly weigh-ins, though frustrating, keep me more on track than letting things go for a month. If a weigh-in looms, the Good Girl in me wants to make sure that the numbers go down instead of up, which helps me make better choices than I would if I could “put off” that scary marker of progress for another three weeks.

It keeps me accountable, and that’s what I need right now. I may need you all to talk me down from a ledge here and there when hormonal stuff and life in general don’t yield the results I want. As I already told you, if I’m aiming for two pounds, I really want it to be anything over that.

Some weeks that just won’t happen.

This week was one of those weeks.

I lost 1.4lbs so I’m down to 295. I’m actually surprised it was anything at all. My workout regimen at the moment is walking during my two 10-minute breaks at work, and then on one weekend day, I walk at one of my favorite spots in the world, Mile Square Park. It is my place of zen, where I can walk 4-5 miles in a stretch and barely feel the pain.

To me, this was slow. Apparently it wasn’t slow enough.

Lately I’ve been feeling the pain. I start nothing easily. We’ve all heard “no pain, no gain,” and that’s how my brain was wired. I want to see drastic results so I feel like I need to make drastic changes, which is always, always, always how I start out.

Unfortunately, though I did start doing this about a month or so ago, I wasn’t able to keep up with that kind of workout regimen. About three weeks ago I hurt my knee. Not sure how, but it was pretty debilitating for about a week. So I took some days off and went right back to it. Not so surprisingly, the pain returned, adding back pain to the mix for all the compensating I was doing to go easy on my knee.

As some of you might well know, back pain has become my nemesis these last eleven years and will sideline me quicker than anything – especially since the only real thing that ever worked to control it was medicinal marijuana and I’m a respectable working woman these days. I’m not going to go to work “high,” just like I never wrote high.

My son Tim cautioned that I take it easy and give myself a chance to heal. I’m not one to relax and take it easy, and going slow is not in my playbook. For anything. Not being able to walk every break like I was doing, or going to my favorite park for a big weekend tally of about 4-5 miles, was difficult. It’s a glacial pace that feels like I’m not moving at all.

But what was more difficult was losing sleep because of the pain I’ve been in. Limping around my office because everything just hurt so bad, and still pretending I was operating at 100%, doing everything I normally do and jumping in to do more cuz, that’s just me. But it’s left me feeling even older than my 47 years, which is depressing as hell.

Limitations are not my favorite. I don’t like being told no, or that I can’t do something. Unless it’s something I don’t want to do and then whatever, but most of the time I want to power through and impress the bejeezus out of everyone – including me.

I’m hard as fuck to impress, at least when it comes to me. But we already went over that. I also don’t forgive myself easily, so this chatterbox has had a field day whispering in my ear that I was going to embarrass myself with a public weigh-in that didn’t show a loss, or worse. Showed a gain. I had to make peace despite the chaos that this week hasn’t been so much about losing weight as it is compromising with what I was willing to do in order to meet my goal. So I couldn’t walk? What else could I do?

My main goal this week was ditching Diet Coke. Has not been easy, but has not been as hard as I thought either. I didn’t have the normal raging headache withdrawal, thanks to drinking more water. And it’s not that I don’t like water. I don’t put anything in it, I just ice it up and go and usually I’m good.

It just doesn’t do a whole lot to turn me on. It’s kinda boring, especially when you have to drink so freaking much of it a day. Fortunately at work they gave us a pretty cool insulated cup for Administrative Professional’s Day, and it keeps water pretty cold, which works out well for a sipper like me. Because of this I’m drinking more, which means I’m less tempted to reach for a Diet Coke.

Extremely good news for Goal #1.

It helps that the vending machine at my office has been possessed by the spirit of Hal Sparks, who regards Diet Coke as “the devil’s ass sweat.” (He’s not far wrong.) Even if I put in my 85 cents in that dumb machine in a moment of weakness, whether I get my fix or not is like a pull on a slot machine. And, just like a slot machine, I wind up putting in more than I take out.

I also went back to ordering tea when I got lunch out. Since I broke my addiction to sweet tea in the 80s, it’s my go-to drink if I don’t want to drink water. A shout-out to all restaurants who provide a flavored tea that doesn’t include sugar. Y’all come through in a clutch, I’m just saying.

To ease myself off of sodas, I’ve been drinking Diet Ginger Ale instead. It’s a caffeine-free option that includes ginger, which they tell me is good for me, especially when it comes to controlling inflammation.

Either way I don’t care, give me some damn bubbles dammit.

For food, I’m doing the intermittent fasting – mostly. This means I typically eat between 1pm and 10pm, but life will occasionally throw a wrench in my plans. As long as I do it every other day, I feel like I’m getting some benefit out of it. (I do prefer to do it daily, though.) (Working on it.)

The next challenge will be watching my calories, which I’m kinda doing now, opting for foods that have a lower caloric value rather than the cheapest option. Anyone can tell you those are usually NOT one in the same.

One of the appeals of intermittent fasting is that I didn’t have to strictly police my  caloric intake to lose weight. I could eat bigger meals less frequently, but I was able to make it work for me a long time by eating whenever I was hungry and stopping whenever I was full, as long as it was in the time frame of the Eating Zone.

I need to read more about it to really get the most out of it, and now that I have finally finished the rewrite on my script yesterday (YAY) I should have some downtime at last to concentrate on all of these other goals.

I think that was part of my overall happy problem, I was hitting life full-throttle every day of every week for the past few months. Probably the five months, really. I haven’t had a whole lot of downtime to relax and recharge, and I kinda need that to avoid those deprivation triggers that whisper in my ear, “Go ahead. Do it. You deserve it.”

Creating more life/work balance is on the agenda for this reason. This has been very difficult to do balancing my writing career on top of a full-time job. Why? Because I don’t like limitations. If I have something I want to write, I don’t want to limit it to a few hours a week. I want to sit down and write till I’m done. So carving out an hour before work, then having to stop what I’m doing to do something else, will vex my muse like a MF, which will frustrate me to the point of uselessness.

Basically everything needs reevaluating. I’ve been weighing my needs against my desires and my (gack) current limitations, which hasn’t been fun-time for Ginger.

But the best news of the week is that I’ve been able to mostly keep the emotional eating under control, even with some not-so-nice stuff going on at the 9-5. Change is coming one way or the other and I’m kinda freaking out about it. I’m just so grateful every single day that I have such support from some incredible friends, who give me the courage to face scary changes head on. So even though there have been an occasional binge or two, and a happy hour where I probably indulged a little more than I needed to, I feel like I’m on the upswing of this particular cycle.

I’m not there yet. I’m climbing out of the fog, but new storms loom. I just have to figure out what I can do because even one step in the right direction is progress.

As someone once told me:

Chin up
Knockers out
Bitchface on
Fuck the Haters.

Even if that includes me.

A lil history, some goal planning, and sweaty-palmed, white-knuckled transparency.

Howdie, folks. Welcome to Day Two.

Except it isn’t Day Two, just like yesterday wasn’t really Day One.

Anyone who has nosed around this blog knows that the whole weight loss journey is one I have run up to and run away from enough times that even *I* roll my eyes when I pledge to start again. It just never feels like it’s going to happen, not for real, and not forever.

The only real success I’ve had transforming my health and my body was in 2003/2004, when my first husband’s sudden death from a massive heart attack scared me straight. I literally felt like I was playing Russian Roulette every single time I took a bite of food. It’s no secret that I was in much worse shape than he was, because I outweighed him probably by about a hundred pounds.

I usually outweigh everyone by about a hundred pounds.

I started that journey at over 330 pounds, which was around the size I was when I got married, which was twenty pounds less than when Steven and I met. By the time Dan died, I was a size-32. I felt enormous.

But, despite the obvious visual cues, I *wasn’t* as bad off as Dan was because his health problems weren’t quite so visible. And despite what people could “see,” those problems ended up killing him at the tender age of 43.

Still, I knew I was on a dangerous path. As the only surviving natural parent to two young boys (then 13 and 11,) I knew I had to get serious. So I did something drastic and terrifying. I decided to blog about it.

This was before the books and before the social media platforms that have cultivated my brand. This was back in the days of AOL, when they had jumped aboard the blogging train, and would feature interesting blogs on their front page to drive traffic to other areas of their site.

See, the thing you have to know about me is that I’m an overachieving teacher’s pet. I knew if I made this journey public, it would drive me to succeed because I would never risk such personal failure on such a public platform. I want to WOW people, remember? I don’t want pity. I want Atta Girls and pats on the back, just like everyone else. So when I committed to it, I committed to it 100%. I knew I had to be fully honest or it wouldn’t work. I had to display facts and figures, publicizing each weigh-in so I was forced to be “real” about half-assing anything.

This was important to me because I have an eating disorder where I binge if things get too intense. It was a coping mechanism I picked up as a child, after the incident when I was four years old. Like I said yesterday, I immediately hid everything so that I could be “normal,” but the trauma was still there. I became my own comforter at four, so the only thing I knew to make myself feel better was to “feed” the hurt. You can see the changes almost immediately. Here’s a photo from the house we lived in when I was abducted:

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Here’s a photo from kindergarten, a year later:

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First grade, a year later than that:

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And second grade, a year later than that…

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As the years wore on, I had to eat more to feel more comforted. I’d eat at school, then come home and eat whatever my parents had left over from lunch. By the 1980s, when I became a latch-key kid, when I had to prepare my own dinners and feed myself when I was only eleven, I could kill a box of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. I’d stop eating because I ran out, not because I ever felt there was “enough.” To be completely honest with you, I don’t recall ever feeling “full.” When people tell me they’re “stuffed” and can’t eat another bite, I don’t get that. I’ve felt like I couldn’t eat another bite, but if there was still food left, I kept going. It was Clean Plate Syndrome to the Nth degree. Mentally I’ve never felt satiated, because what I was eating for was never physical hunger. It was to numb and emotional void. Food brings pleasure, so I needed that pleasure to make the Not Okay okay. (Later I would add sex and spending and gambling and a host of other vices.) Whatever felt good, I needed to have more. It was the only way to even things out against the staggering mountain of CRAP my life tended to be.

Imagine my delight when I realized in 1985 that I could eat Nutri-System, supplemented with nightly nachos that were off the plan (but helped me feel “fuller”), and still lose 36 pounds in three months. If that program hadn’t sent my mother and me into the poor house at $90 a week, I might have actually got down to a “normal” weight.

These have been the patterns of my life. The more chaotic the circumstances, the more I binge to deal with them. This is why diets never work for me long haul, especially since I already told you yesterday, most of my life has been spent in the Not Okay.

In 2003/2004, I *started* my weight loss journey in the Really Not Okay, right after we lost Dan. He died in September, and I finally got around to doing something about me in November of that year. Things were going along mostly well until February, when I got the emotional rug pulled out from under me again, when Steven was seriously tempted outside the marriage.

This was very tough for me to handle at that time because Steven was one of the few men on the planet I truly believed could love/desire me even as heavy as I was. This was the woman he fell in love with:

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That the woman who tempted him wasn’t overweight really threw a major wrench in my progress, making me feel everything before that was a lie. I was sent into an emotional tailspin. The only reason it didn’t derail me completely was mostly because I was doing a public blog, where I had 100% transparency. When he messed up, the whole world knew it – just like they knew it when I messed up.

I didn’t have four-year-old Ginger feeding me. I had dozens of strangers, sisters on the same path, who could hold me up and keep me focused.

But, all things being the Internet, it was not a journey for the faint-hearted. Doing anything publicly invites criticism. When AOL featured my blog on their main page in February of 2004, ironically just before the whole thing blew up with Steven, I got plenty of complaints and criticisms too, and so did AOL. “Why would you feature her weight-loss blog? She looks like she weighs 300 pounds!”

Again, I had to have an “after” photo to validate the “before” photo. I had to be “okay” or else no one would listen to me.

But I wasn’t okay. Hence why I needed the blog.

You don’t need a weight-loss blog if you’re thin, do you? This was a part of the journey, and ultimately it was successful. This was me at the beginning, in November 2003:

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And this was me in September of 2004, wearing the same shirt:

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This was me when I married Steven, at a size 34:

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And this was me in 2004, ten sizes smaller:

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What do I know about losing weight? About as much as I know about gaining it. And what I know for certain is that the only thing that has ever worked for me long-term was if I stopped hiding from it.

I write Rubenesque romance because I don’t agree with the narrative you have to be thin and beautiful and perfect to deserve love. I’ve never been “thin”, “beautiful” or “perfect,” and I have found love, been married, the whole nine.

Yet I still hide the numbers because there’s a deep shame that I’m not okay. Even within the books, I write “smaller” larger women because I’m easing people into the novel idea you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Sadly it’s necessary, because I’ve had my share of criticism about the heroines I write and the romances I write not being “realistic.” One recent critique was for a size-16 heroine who was top-heavy and the (female) critic pondered if I was even a woman because my heroine’s measurements were YUUUGGGEEE.

In reality, I’m larger than my heroine – so that was really nice to hear. Not. But that’s part of the cognitive dissonance that makes sizes and measurements and actual numbers on the scale scarier and more negative than what they are. It’s all relative, and each body is different.

At my size hiding the numbers is stupid really, because it’s not like I can hide the reality. You look at me, you know that I’m overweight. The medical diagnosis, morbid obesity, is pretty obvious to any layman who passes me on the street. And believe me, they’re not shy about diagnosing it.

Yet I am still ashamed of the number. I still hide it. I still yearn to be okay.

As we established yesterday, I’m not okay. And that’s going to have to be okay.

So in order to make this work, I gotta get real about it. There’s gotta be some transparency because without transparency there’s no accountability. If I want to meet my lofty, lofty goal, there has to be some accountability.

And let’s talk about goals for a second. Like I said before, I’m an overachiever. I always push myself. I’m incredibly ambitious and completely self-driven. Bosses normally love me because I go above and beyond. I need little supervision or really little guidance. At my current 9-5, I have no one who looks over my work at the end of the day to make sure goals are being met. But they’re being met, by God. In fact, the goals I set for myself are just a fingertip out of my reach most days, because of how hard I drive myself to succeed. I plan my day without a second to spare, working all the way up to the minute I clock out. I take the standard they give me and push it into overdrive.

For example, the job I do is in medical records. A primary function of that job is taking a paper record and converting it into a digital file so we can file it into our Electronic Medical Records, or EMR. When I took over that position in July of last year, the company standard was to have those files converted and into the system within a week of obtaining them.

I made sure they went up within 24-48 hours. I figured why wait? It takes about fifteen minutes for me to do a file, so why not get each one into the system as soon as we get it? And it doesn’t matter if we have one or twelve to do in a day, I make damned sure that the minute it gets to my desk, it is on the fast track to get into the EMR so everyone who needs the information has access to it, rather than hounding me to fax this or upload that. I’m on top of my job so that they can be on top of their job, which is both time-efficient for the employees and cost-efficient for the company.

As someone who has run her own business before, as well as helped others start-up businesses, that’s just how my brain is trained to look at processes and procedures. I work smarter, not harder, aiming for excellence rather than accepting the status quo.

So now THAT is the standard in my department. And I’m pretty freaking proud of that, really. I took something and made it better. I impressed people. I changed things.

Mama likes.

I like my goals lofty. It’s why I can write a book as fast as I can, or produce a quality screenplay in weeks rather than years. I don’t sit on ANYTHING. I figure out a way to get it done and I get it the fuck done, because I’m OCD to the NTH and I need shit checked off my list.

But being done isn’t the only objective: I push myself with a deeply rooted drive to be excellent.

The weight loss is really no different, even though my lofty goals have, more often than not, derailed my progress more than anything else.

They will tell you that losing 1-2 pounds a week is the best way to ensure that you have long-term sustainable weight-loss. So of course, me being me, I won’t be happy unless it’s 3-5. And those weeks I don’t make it, because I won’t, because no matter what you do sometimes the scale just does NOT move, for whatever reason, or there are gains even when you do everything right, because that’s the painful irony long-term weight loss, fucking bum me out hard-core. If you watch This is Us, you’ve seen this unfortunate dynamic work with one of the main characters, Kate. It’s almost too painful to watch sometimes. The episode where she does everything right and doesn’t lose, and finds out her binge-eating boyfriend loses more, devastated her. And me. Been there. That shit sucks.

And I know, intellectually, it isn’t a formula. Every body is different, and the road to physical excellence isn’t always X+Y=Z. Some weigh-ins come whenever you didn’t get a full night’s sleep, or you’re on your period, or it’s holiday season and no matter how many extra miles you walk on the treadmill, that chocolate and cookie and turkey and pie will derail your progress. There are dreaded plateaus and, unfortunately for me, emotional ups and downs which put me face to face with my ED.

A mathematical formula leaves no room for life, especially a not-okay life that will  punch you around a bit and knock you off your footing. I still have triggers and a real disorder that I battle, sometimes on the daily. There are days that I will fall short, no matter how high I am.

For that reason alone, I’m aiming higher. If I’m working for outstanding, maybe, just maybe, I’ll land in the exceptional anyway. I never want to idle at average. In anything. Ever.

And it’s become increasingly obvious to me that I need to be here, in front of you all, to get where I need to go, when I want to get there. And my reasons for it are not merely cosmetic anymore. Which raises the stakes even more.

Last July I had my first real weight-related health scare. I had just taken over a new position at my 9-5, and it came with certain growing pains that had me anxious and overwhelmed. When you have an anxiety disorder this can feel like hell, and it did for a long, long while. One morning I had a pretty intense anxiety attack at work. They’re not that uncommon for me, though when you’re having them it pretty much makes your brain go haywire. Instead of dismissing it as the same kinds of attacks I’ve had in the past, where everything is okay, it feels like The End. That wretched voice in my head whispers, “What if this IS a heart attack, and not just your anxiety?”

That particular morning I decided that, since I work in a medical environment and I’m around nurses and medical professionals, I’d just have it looked at. So I went into one of the nurse’s offices and explained my symptoms. She took my blood pressure and it was, for the first time ever, off the charts. I’ve only had minor increases in my blood pressure before, tapping out at maybe 130/80. This time it was 150/90.

Needless to say, it tripped me the fuck out. For once, that anxiety attack I was feeling was a legitimate medical alarm. I left early that day, buying a blood pressure monitoring machine before I even reached the house. From that moment on, I was determined to make some changes.

I got rid of Diet Coke, which is one of my bigger addictions, and, at the suggestion of a friend, started intermittent fasting (which we will talk about later.) I started exercising again. I ditched all processed foods and watched my sodium intake. My blood pressure evened out, usually maxing out around 125/80, but on the whole staying under 120/80, enough where I wasn’t monitoring it every day. Within months, I started shedding weight again. Everyone around me was telling me how great I looked.

I lost about twenty pounds over three months. I went from a size 28 to a size 24. I could buy new clothes in smaller sizes that would actually fit.

Then… November happened. We’ll talk about that later as well, because it really is another blog in and of itself. Suffice it to say, four-year-old Ginger started feeding a very emotionally traumatized forty-seven year old Ginger all the comfort foods that made things feel okay when they weren’t okay. Emotional eating/binging came back hard, undoing all of my progress to that point.

I’ve tried to restart it several times but hiding myself from the Not Okay has meant that I haven’t had one iota of accountability to conquer these particular demons.

Hence, the blog.

So THIS is my new starting point, even though technically speaking, it’s not.

I’m going to include all my social media in this new endeavor, although some to a lesser degree than others. I’ll post progress pics on Instagram. I’ll post workout progress on Snapchat. I’ll post all the nitty gritty about weigh-ins, measurements, food and workouts and the like on my Sparkpeople profile as I add them into the plan, which – again – we’ll talk about later.

And here is where I’ll do the emotional workouts for my journey where I’ll just be real about the numbers and how much it terrifies me to do so.

Gonna feel the fear and do it anyway – which is how I do anything successful in my life. And aim high… because even if I shoot for the moon and miss, I’ll land among the stars.

That being said, my goal is get under 200 lbs for my son’s wedding next March. The last time I was under 200 pounds was in 1989.

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That’s nearly 100lbs in ten months, or 10 pounds a month, making eight pounds a month the baseline (2lbs per week). This  would still put me around 210, which is where I spent the majority of my teen years:

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Anything less than eight pounds a month will require reexamination and modification. This is a journey, not a formula. I may try a lot of different things just to keep my body from settling into any routines, which seems to be the death knell for my progress.

And that, really, is what I’m aiming for the most. I may not reach Excellence in ten months, but ten months from now I won’t still be linger in the Not Okay.

It’s time to make things okay.

Starting weight:

May 2017 – 296.8

Starting measurements:

49/45/57, Size 26/28 (depending on where you shop – again, a topic for another blog…)

So that’s it. No shame. No fear. No hiding. Just a starting point.

Let’s do this.