Usually, I post here about pleasure, because…well, because yummy and awesome and so useful. Because pleasure makes us clear and whole; because pleasure gives us direction; because pleasure makes the difference between drudgery and service, between weariness and joy.
There’s more to life, and this has been bugging me for a while.
I have depression. It was in remission for about 2 years, but recently it has been back (in spades) (and very unpredictably).
As in previous episodes of depression, the well-meaning advice has come pouring in: you need to focus on yourself more, get out more, get exercise, have you seen a therapist? maybe you should make some new friends, learn a new skill, just eat better, take a supplement, take a pill, get a hobby…
and really, at root, you need to love yourself first.
With all due respect.
I do love myself. I didn’t, for years, but I do now. My self-esteem is really quite solid. When my brain is working properly, I know I’m smart. I know I’m skilled. I know I’m well-trained and that my work makes a difference to the people I work with. I know I have incredible capacity to see systems for what’s really going on and help their leaders adjust so they waste less energy on the way to their goals. I know I see people’s current realities and the potential they have. I know holding the vision of that potential and helping people plan to fulfill it makes a difference to them and to the world.
I know that. I know I learn fast. I know my love is incredibly strong. I know.
I have depression. It’s like having a cold in my brain.
When the depression is active, it takes over the circuits that relate to how I see myself in the world. It’s like an alien mind control game. What I know when I’m not having a depressive episode is NO LONGER RELEVANT.
Using the cold metaphor: my nose is stuffed up. I can’t use it to breathe. This doesn’t mean I need a new nose or that I never had one. It means the mechanisms that let me breathe are obstructed.
In real terms this means that I can’t access my brain’s pleasure mechanisms. They are still there (although they can atrophy over time–use it or lose it!) but I can’t use them. The circuits are circumvented or shut off. The less use they get the harder it is, but they can also be rebuilt with time and practice and sometimes medical or diet or exercise help.
So back to self-esteem and self-love: if you or someone you love has depression, self-esteem MAY be the problem, or it may not. But you cannot assume that just because a depressed person says hateful things about themselves when they are experiencing a depressive episode that they actually believe those things when their brain is their own.
If you have depression, ask yourself, honestly, when you’re not having an acute episode:
– am I smart?
– am I capable?
– am I loveable?
– am I interesting?
– am I strong?
– am I creative?
If you kinda think mostly yes, then I’m going to go ahead and say that while you HAVE DEPRESSION your self-esteem is just fine. What you need then are tools to not listen to the depression when it mounts a hostile takeover in your head. That’s a different set of tools than changing how you feel.
You wouldn’t send someone with a stuffy nose to a reconstructive surgeon.
I’m @leelasinha on twitter. Find me there and let’s talk!
Today’s guest post is by the lovely Heather Rees, a career change coach with a strong sense of the value of presence in the body. Please welcome her!
Go Back to What You Are: a Body Of Wonder
Your body is not gross, ugly, misaligned or any manner of wrong.
It is not too fat, too skinny, too tall or short.
It is not five pounds away from perfect or in need of hiding behind clothes.
Your body is this: Gorgeous.
It is perfect and miraculous and worthy of revelry.
It deserves to be licked, tickled and caressed.
It wants adoration and your deepest respect – so give it.
Listen to your body as you would a dear friend and, just like that, play with and love and care for your body with a heart full of abandon.
You want this.
I know you do.
You want this wild freedom to love openly that which we’ve been trained to abhor.
Deep down, deep within, there are places that call you back to this freedom. You once had it, back when you were young. Those sunshine days of wonder when the length of your limb was as worthy of love as the stalk of grass held between young fingers. What happened to those days?
We grow up.
We learn that such love is too brazen, to sure and not enough of everything that they tell us is worth accepting. We learn that our bodies are not that (whatever that may be), and therefore, and assuredly, not enough.
Underneath the nonsense, the rabble of violence, your down deep place still knows your beauty – revels in it! – and all the pleasure your body can feel.
Let’s get back there. Let’s buck the system. Be a revolutionary.
Decide to not worry for an hour or a day what exactly your body is (or isn’t) and tune into what exactly it feels. The rhythms, the shifts, the openings and aches.
Decide to notice what comes and goes: the breath, your pulse and all that you hear, see and smell. Touch and taste, too.
Decide on pleasure. Ditch the pain. Yes, you may have reasons to complain (pain is no lightweight) but what you feed will grow. Grow pleasure.
Pleasure comes in through our senses – those impeccably crafted inborn centers of pleasure making, and pleasure taking.
As small as a hair dancing on our neck. As big as a merlot. The sense you connect with gives back what you seek: Love, pleasure and down deep feeding of that place that knows how perfect you really are.
Heather Rees is a career change coach and strategic ally for women who want to do work that is meaningful to them. She is also the creator of the newly released Soul Revival: a Return to Your Senses – an exploration of the senses to spark creativity and reconnect with the soul. Read more here, or connect on Facebook and Twitter.
Just took a nap on the beach. That makes two hours today on the beach, one lying down. Here’s why that’s important: outdoors is not the enemy. It is awesome. Some days it is more nap-worthy than others but it is not a bad place to be. If, like me, you have made it your gym of choice, you need to love it as a general thing. Whatever your gym is, you should love it as a general thing. Not all the time but enough that you think, oh yay! I get to go to the [gym].
Because this is not about weight. This is not even about fitness. This is about pleasure.
I have an amazing friend who is working their tail off right now to recover from a back injury. They are partially paralyzed. That is .courage. yo. Also a definite fixation on pleasure. Like, the pleasure of tying your own shoes.
Walking three miles on the beach is awesome. It brings me back to joy and gratitude. That’s what it’s about.
Keep your focus on pleasure. That way you will be happy about doing your movement and play. Two, that happiness makes your body chemistry better. Three, beauty makes your life better. I’m always on twitter posting about how #mygymdoesnotsuck. I post pictures. Because it is gorgeous. Now i want to see who else does it.
What is your beautiful workout place? Gym? Park? Mountain? Use your gorgeous children as weights? Share on Twitter! I want to see. hashtag #mygymdoesnotsuck and #iamanathlete
I went swimming today.
Which might be no big deal.
Let’s start with the complicated: I had drowning dreams as a child. I used to wake up choking, mouth clamped shut.
And when the swimming teacher threw me in the pool to “teach” me to swim, I held my breath and let myself sink to the bottom.
That was it for swimming lessons, pretty much.
Despite all that, I love the water, love being in the water, lakes and pools and ocean.
I used to spend Far Too Long in the shower and in the bath.
I love being in the water.
And when someone very close to me discovered that, she bought me a wetsuit. Why? Because Maine. Specifically, Maine. Is. Cold.
Or at least the ocean is often cold. If you wait for times when the water feels good, you could be down to about six or eight weeks of swimming a year.
The first time I wore it, it was like magic. Just like the first time I wore Vibram five finger shoes, I suddenly felt like I had a new superpower. I could go in the water and Not Be Cold! Amazing. A-mazing.
But after that summer, by this and by that I didn’t get it out again for a while.
And then today happened.
I got up, got dressed, got to the beach by seven. Walked/ran three miles (out and back) and felt like I wanted to swim. But about half a mile from the end of my route, the air changed. It got chilly. I knew I couldn’t swim without being chilled for the rest of the day. I put a bookmark in it, remembered I had a wetsuit, and…
came back in the afternoon. With the full wetsuit, not the halfsie one. I wore my version of a bikini (thank you, Moving Comfort bras!) and pulled the wetsuit on, zipped myself up (love those long zipper pulls!) and headed into the water.
Shock, shock, bliss.
The way a wetsuit works, it allows water through but then it traps water in the neoprene. That water warms up and insulates you from all the rest of the water. So those first few minutes are cold, but then you’re fine.
I also had my brand-new, so-excited-to-have-them, made-in-Italy, gee-these-really-fit open water goggles. They’re like a cross between regular goggles and a dive mask, with a big silicone seal that goes all the way around your eyes, but it leaves your nose exposed.
I stayed out there for maybe 30 or 40 minutes, backstroke, floating, playing, bouncing. The surf was strong, there was a storm coming in, but there wasn’t any riptide to speak of and I was so, so happy.
The ocean lifts me up.
The ocean sets me back on my feet.
What a gift.
There’s one caveat: if you are like me, the biggest risk is that you won’t notice how tired it makes you until you get out of the water and are shaking a little. That not-noticing can be fatal if you’re not super careful. If you’re thinking about heading in to shore, it’s time to head in. If you think it might be time soon, it’s time now. Play safe out there.
That said, everyone near a body of water should own a wetsuit and use it.
I swam in the ocean for 30 minutes. After I walked for an hour this morning. I loved it. It was a joy. I am an athlete.
What is your favorite thing, so good you can’t resist? Tell us! Tweet #Iamanathlete.
Let’s start here: Moving Comfort makes INCREDIBLE sports bras. So when I saw that they were making dresses for being active in, I was thrilled. YAY, I thought. The bra plus a skirt!
Not so fast.
My dress is an XL in black, and runs true to size. Empire-waisted, with obvious seams, it is not suitable for a formal office but meets my standard of “business casual” in a pinch. The fabric does have a sheen to it, and there is a logo down the middle of the back. The dress is a little tight around my middle only because I am apple shaped. None the less my therapist said I looked “professional” in the dress with a linen shirt over it.
The bra is a shelf bra with MASSIVE elastic underneath it. This saddens me because MC makes SUCH AMAZING sports bras, and I had high hopes that they had simply attached a bodice and skirt to a bra. That would be my ideal.
This bra is not sufficient for any kind of bouncy exercise. It is, however, just fine for going out and about. Unfortunately, the wide elastic then must be combined with a real sports bra (I use one by Moving Comfort, of course) for exercise which means a LOT of ribcage compression. On the upside, when you’re done you can remove the sports bra and still be reasonably dressed. Also, if your chosen form of exercise involves being upside-down, the built in shelf bra can be a handy asset.
Because I’m short (5’2″) and apple shaped, the bodice tends to scrunch up under the bustline, which is a little awkward but has the result of putting the fuller part of the skirt where it belongs.
Length: it’s a little long in the torso for me, but again, I’m short. The skirt is just about perfect, several inches above the knee, and completely nonrestrictive. The fabric is heavy–the weight of a lined swimsuit.
Color choices: I think this dress may be discontinued, as I can’t find it on the website for the current season. It was either black or multi–would love to have seen it in a bright red or cheerful tangerine or soothing aqua. I do hope they haven’t discontinued the idea of the running dress entirely–it has a lot of merit, and their version is really lovely. You can even go commando if you don’t plan to bend over…
Got a favorite exercise solution for the apple shape? Tweet it! #iamanathlete
I am an athlete.
Athletes, as I am discovering, come in ALL shapes and sizes and other things.
Do not let your brain determine who is an athlete and who is not. It will be wrong.
Now generally I consider myself female-gender nonconforming. What does this mean? It’s complicated, but for the sake of simplicity let’s just say this: as a general rule I don’t do pink and I don’t do dresses.
Except lately I do.
Because what being truly me in this body means to me is that I’m living, as much as possible, in authenticity. I want to really be me, and hell with what all y’all think.
Of course, authentic me does, to some extent, care what you think. I want you to have as accurate a picture of me as possible. I also want to honor your limits. If you don’t want to see random nudity, I want to make it possible for you to avoid seeing it on my website. I might have it up here somewhere (not yet, but it’s possible) but if I did I would give you the chance to make a choice about whether or not to see it. Consent, it’s sexy.
But I’m not really willing to change what I do because you don’t like it.
Or because you think something about it that I wish you wouldn’t think.
Which brings me to dresses.
When I traveled to India 15 years ago, I chose to wear Indian clothing while I was there. In India at the time, clothing was pretty sharply gendered. But what I discovered is that when everyone wears the same thing, the definition of what that thing means has to get bigger, not smaller.
So people wore “girl clothes” and climbed scaffolding with pots full of cement; people wore “girl clothes” and worked in factories. People wore “girl clothes” and did everything.
And I realized this: our clothing has become limited in its meaning because we have allowed ourselves more flexibility. If I don’t feel “girly” I don’t have to wear “girl clothes”. I can express my inner non-girly-ness by wearing jeans and an oxford shirt and a tie. (I wouldn’t because I don’t like wearing ties. but I digress.)
So when I wear a dress, it signals “girly” because I had a choice about whether or not I wore it. I can play with it, but regardless of what I intend it becomes a public flag about my gender.
Dresses and skirts (and kilts!) are practical fuckers. As I’ve said recently, dresses are particularly suited to apple shaped bodies (NB: of all genders) because they don’t rely on waist tightness to stay on. I have a Utilikilt that I love the hell out of because I can do ANYTHING in it,and for some reason it doesn’t fall down like most of my waist-based garments do. It seems to cinch below my belly. Shoutout to them for figuring out how to do this a little better.
So now we have a dilemma, if we are practical, which I am.
On the one hand, society has decided that non-bifurcated garments are for people who express at least a certain minimum of femininity. (At some point I will rant my rant about hair on my legs and wearing skirts).
On the other hand, for many of us of many genders, the non-bifurcated (skirt-like) form is super useful. If you are into draped clothing, it is also hella easier to drape.
My conclusion: practical trumps what the culture has decided. I have decided: this is what I look like, this is what I wear.
One of the most liberating things I have realized is that I can do any damn thing I want in a dress.
Fortunately utilikilts and running dresses have taken the delicate out of skirts and dresses so I can sit on the ground and run my feet off with impunity. I’d love to see a cotton twill tunic…
So you may see reviews of running dresses here. Because I’m wearing them and I have opinions. And that is that.
What do you think about reclaiming all garment shapes for all people? Tell us! Tweet #genderanddresses #iamanathlete
I went running this morning. Just a short run, on the beach. it’s 50 degrees and windy, and this is my first .run. this season, and my first barefoot run.
You saw my clothing rant–today’s solution: running dress from Mountain Hardwear (size L) (shoutout to them for also having a men’s kilt!) with a wind-resistant fleece (LL Bean. I live in Maine) and a Moving Comfort bra (they rock. Totally completely rock.). Bare feet (running on packed sand ftw) and bare legs.
Result: exactly the way it should be. I didn’t notice anything bouncing or chafing or otherwise distracting from my workout.
That said, it was cold. I ran until I felt like walking (my usual start-exercising routine. It works.) and once I slowed down my much-neglected calves started cramping.
What I didn’t do: “push through it”
What I did do: keep moving. Because cold plus stillness equals trouble.
I stretched and eased and moved and kept walking.
And I cut my workout a little shorter than usual. Generally I go about 3 miles walking and running. Today, more like 1.
1) pain is information. It tells you something’s not right. I don’t believe in ignoring it.
2) working out should be fun and enjoyable. This doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself but it does mean not making yourself miserable. If I’m miserable today, I likely won’t go tomorrow. Today I get points for going in the drizzly, grey, cold morning. Things I will remember: that I wasn’t cold once I started moving, that running felt good, that I recovered easily. Things I won’t remember because they didn’t happen: that I was miserable, unhappy, or sick afterwards. The thing about movement is that when it feels good we do more of it. It felt good to move. I’ll remember that. Plus, I got to pet a friendly dog.
I am an athlete. Therefore I listen to my body. It makes me want to move, and it makes me want to take good care of it.
How do you want to take care of your body when you’re moving? Tweet it! hashtag #Iamanathlete
I wish someone would pay attention.
Nike, Mountain Hardwear, Patagonia, EMS, REI, MEC, Danskin, Title 9, Junonia, I don’t care.
We’ll leave Lululemon out of this for obvious reasons.
There’s a big problem in the athleticwear world, and I’ve just about had it.
If you are apple-shaped (waist bigger than hips) and over, say, size 12, they don’t make athletic gear that STAYS UP. This is especially true for women, I suspect. If I am going to bounce around, I want my clothes to STAY ON MY BODY.
Not fall down.
Not need to be hitched up.
Not, by all that is holy, trip me when they end up around my ankles.
Occasionally I find a pair of shorts that works. Sometimes. The rest of the time, all the well-meaning leggings and carefully-designed yoga pants roll down under my waist and slowly scootch down until they hit the point of no return, or until I yank them back into place while trying to continue to move.
It makes me nuts. In fact, it makes me NOT go running. How do men deal with this? I have no idea. Even Junonia, which is generally really good about making athleticwear (in feminine styles only) in larger sizes, designs most of their gear assuming hourglass and pear shapes, which means there are hips to hang things on.
In the end, I have resorted to running dresses, which are the only logical solution. They still cover the important bits, but they do so by hanging from my shoulders, which are apparently close enough to regulation proportions to keep things where they belong.
Mind, I have not historically been a dress-type-person. But I AM practical, and if a dress solves a problem, I am generally willing to go with “solution” over “random cultural hangup I developed in third grade”. I had my reasons, but I have my reasons about dresses, too. In fact, my transition back to wearing skirts came when I acquired a Utilikilt. Think Robin Hood. He wore tights…But I digress…
So on the topic of running dresses: yay! A practical solution. Now, could we please get them in sizes and cuts that accommodate apple shapes? Because, dear sportspeople, there are LOTS of us who like to move who are not sturdy hourglass-12’s or willowy and spare 2’s. (And what about the men? We’re not that advanced as a culture yet.) I am somewhere between a 14 and a 16 unless you’re a different kind of size in which case I might be something else. Yay manufacturer sizing. And my waist and hips are usually the same, unless it’s the week of my period in which case my waist might well be bigger.
This is especially irksome when I see people who make athleticwear grumbling that more people should get in shape. If you want us in shape, MAKE US SOME CLOTHES. *ahem* Have you ever tried to work out in jeans? I have, because my jeans stay on my body.
Nuu-Muu (linked above) has absolutely come the most consistently close to this. Their size chart indicates that I could reasonably order an XL and have a chance of it fitting. Thank you, Nuu-Muu. I notice your Ocean dress is sold out in XL and apparently not offered in XXL. Sadface. Further, you have SO MANY cool prints that aren’t even available in the larger sizes, like, ever. Why?
Still, here’s what I love: the length, designed for actual movement. The prints, designed for actual humans. The style, high necked enough to actually use for actual exercise. Win, win, win.
Mountain Hardwear made the dress I’m wearing right now. Too long, and too deep in front, but it looks halfway decent which is more than I can say for the other brands I’ve tried on.
Apple shape, people. If I’m paying $70-$90 for a dress, I want something that’s comfy and flattering both.
And here’s another idea: for those of us who sometimes need pants under our dresses (either because we do a lot of inversions, like in dance, or because we don’t live in California), how about a secret hidden way to hook the pants or shorts to the dress, so they can’t fall down, while still making it easy to use the toilet?
And what about the men? Exercise kilts? I’m listening.
Also: How about women’s board shorts that come in XL and higher? Those are nice technical fabrics with drawstrings built in. If you can find ones that fit, those suckers .don’t. come. down. Score! I’d wear men’s, but they’re usually so long they look like capris.
Gramicci has some great climbing pants with built in belts and gusseted crotches. That’s what I’m talking about. How about that design with a little spandex built in, for when I’m not rock climbing?
I’d love to exercise without shocking anyone’s mother. That’s all. If I could do it without breaking the bank, too, that’d be great but I know I want my clothes made by people making a living wage.
Might I suggest a focus group of round athletes to help with brainstorming and design?
Who’s with me?
Tweet it! What’s your athleticwear beef? How do you handle apple-shaped-action? #apple #Iamanathlete
I waited to pee for 45 minutes this morning.
I was too busy dancing to stop.
This is nothing short of a miracle.
When I was…oh That Age, about sixth grade, I discovered that I couldn’t dance.
This was a wee bit of a surprise, seeing as how I’d been contra dancing since I was ten and could learn all the moves on my mom’s aerobics TV shows.
But that thing that people did when they went to school dances? It made me feel weird.
Much later I would discover that this was about improvisation + getting it wrong + being judged + feeling sexy when I moved + knowing that wasn’t something I wanted in public or at school, but at the time it was all I knew that I couldn’t dance.
And in fact, it stayed like that for a good long time. Twenty years. Twenty years of yes-I-can-learn-that-routine and of-course-I-can-contra but no-I-won’t-get-on-that-dance-floor.
Plus, the music was WAY too loud and it hurt my ears.
(There is NOTHING uncooler than insisting that you need earplugs to be in the same room as the speakers. Except sticking toilet paper in your ears because the teachers say you must be in the room with everyone else.)
Fast forward, fast forward.
It was 2009 when I finally really unravelled the mystery. I was at, of all things, a business conference, targeted mostly at women, in New York City. The incredibly unshy Marie Forleo had everyone UP and DANCING between every speaker. The vast majority (VAST) of the attendees were straight women, so that entire meat market feeling was missing.
And I danced.
Just for fun, no one watching, because the beat was good.
And the very old key turned in the very rusty lock, and I started to occupy my body in that particular way for the first time.
fast forward a few more years.
A friend says, “You really need to try contact improv.” And then she takes me there and yes, I really should have tried it about ten years ago, but I wasn’t ready.
And then I go home and contact improv is waiting there, waiting for me to find it, along with related dance experiences like Dance Sunday.
Which brings me to this morning, and needing to pee.
I was dancing at Dance Sunday, which is two hours of uninterrupted music during which you can dance in just about any way you choose, with others who are present or solo. I was mostly solo, and dropped right into the experience, the movement, the music, blissfully not thinking about anything, just present with the dance.
I noticed I had to pee, but didn’t want to stop–the greater pleasure will generally win–so I figured I’d wait until the music started to come down from the peak of the parabola.
It was 45 minutes, 45 more minutes of serious movement, partnered, alone, partnered, 45 minutes of being lost in the experience before something came on that broke my focus and I was willing to pause and go the bathroom.
This is what athletics feels like to me: not pressure to perform, not forcing myself to keep going keep going keep going, but a deep desire to do more of what is giving me such joy that I don’t want to interrupt it, not for anything, not even to pee.
Afterwards there was a picnic on the grass and lovely conversation and good company with some of the dancers.
And now I’m tired. And plotting to make dance clothes.
I am an athlete, and this is what it looks like when art meets sport.
When have you forgotten yourself in the movement?
Tweet it! #Iamanathlete to follow the conversation.
Years ago I knew a kid.
He was seven.
He was visiting me in the woods of Maine.
And he arrived, unpacked his portable Nintendo, and announced with great confidence, “I’m more of an indoor-type person.”
Indeed he was.
He spent the week with his Nintendo, camped out in the middle of my living room floor.
His sister and brother and mother and some other friends and I all spent a bunch of time tromping around the woods. But he was an indoor person, and indoors he mostly stayed.
He is, in fact, still an “indoor-type person”.
He is many other things as well.
But I have found that making declarations like that, for better and for worse, can be very powerful.
What have you declared yourself to be in your head? How often do you think or say, “I’m not that kind of person”?
Not the kind of person who makes friends easily or has that much money or is good at cooking or likes adventures or….
and what is so integrated in your identity that you’re sure nothing could root it out? Are you a geeky person or a beautiful person or a creative person or a disorganized person or…?
Our earliest en-title-ments come from our families and our peers.
Are you a bookworm? An athlete?
Who said so?
Who said not?
What would you like to be?
Once upon a time there was a magician who appeared to (you) and promised you could be anything you wanted. Which titles would you pick out of the hat if you had it to do over again right now?
Why not pick them?
I’m running an experiement right now. I’m claiming “athlete”. I am an athlete.
Because I like to move my body, I’m an athlete.
Because I like to stretch my phyiscal abilities I’m an athlete.
I am an athlete.
What are you?
(and are you an athlete? Tell us on Twitter! #Iamanathlete)