Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book of Me #3 - Part 1 - My Physical Self

This entry is going to be a doozy! 

The prompt for Week 3 of the Book of Me is... drumroll... 

Prompt 3: Your Physical Self

  • Your size – clothes size
  • Scars
  • Eye colour
  • Draw your hands
  • Finger Prints
Here's my reaction when I read that:
Followed shortly thereafter by a small voice from somewhere deep inside me...
Am I? 
When I reestablished this blog just three short weeks ago, I promised myself that I would be completely open and honest and would stop skirting the issue at hand. Say what I mean, and mean what I say! Dig Deeper!! I just didn't realize that my new-found sense of purpose would bite me in the ass so soon! I have the distinct feeling that I'm being tested.

So I did what any normal person would do. I read the instructions, thought for a minute, watched the video, thought some more, and then decided that this would require even more thought. Could I really do this? I should meditate on what I want to write about. Ya. That's it. And then I procrastinated while the whole thing sunk in.

I got this wild hair and decided that it was time to post about last year's trip to California, so I hunted down the pictures... lingered over the swimsuit photo that I posed for (hiding behind my boogie board, of course). I thought I was Brave-with-a-capital-B for posting this on Facebook during our trip! I wasn't feeling that great about myself, physically. I'd been working 60+ hours a week for a year at my desk job and let myself go in the process. Not that I was "fit" before that, but at least I was eating better and exercising before I started there. Even considering the broken ankle fiasco. By the time this photo was taken, I was worn out. Physically, mentally, emotionally. This was taken towards the end of our trip, so I was feeling more relaxed and myself than I'd felt all year. (that's not saying much)

So there I was, feeling all empowered because I posted a photo in my swimsuit... and my Cousin called me out! She even said I was a coward!! Who me?! Um, ya. Now that I think of it, it wasn't as brave as I thought at the time.

Even so, this photo portrays how I almost handled this prompt. Smiling and happy on the outside and all, like, "Hang Loose!". But in reality, I was afraid of showing who I really am. Afraid of being seen.

I spent the rest of the week pondering all of that... I finished Harold Fry for my book club and blogged about that. THEN, I finished Fangirl and blogged about that, too! 

By now, another prompt had come and gone... it's an easy one, too! But I don't want to "cheat" and do that one first because it's easier. Although this group is a go-at-your-own-pace kind of thing, I want to stay on schedule and complete the prompts in order. By the time I'm done with this, writing Week 4's entry is going to be like a little reward for making it through Week 3. 

I've been going over and over it in my head looking for a loophole. Something that would "count", yet not reveal my true self. I thought about skirting the topic and writing about the family history behind my features (blonde hair from Dad, brown eyes from Mom, etc). I even pitched the idea to someone and got a "that's a good start!" reply. But it feels like a cop-out.

Last night, I finally decided to just start writing a truthful description of myself starting from the top and working my way down. Of course, digging deeper means that I have a lot to say about any given body part. I ended up writing a whole entry just about the history of my hair and started fishing out old photos to help tell the story and everything! That entry is now a draft for Part 2 of this prompt. My hair is definitely it's own story. But it led me to this.

As I started digging out 35mm photos of myself to tell my hair story, I tried to get a good cross section of various times in my life. Of course, I started with my favorite photos that I had set aside of me during my "prime" back in my early 20s... nights out on the town with friends, family photos standing in front of the house on A Street with Grandma... 


There SHE was! 

The elusive SUPERKATHY!! Young, thin, tan, visible collarbone, bare midriff, long legs, white shorts, hot pink stretchy tanktop with no bra, wearing a huge smile! Smaller in most ways, but somehow appeared larger than life! A Spring Chicken! She was just getting started out in life! Carefree, Optimistic, FUN!! She was 21 and was irrepressible! She was a Size 5 and weighed 125 pounds. She went dancing practically every night with her friends. She once took an aerobics class (her first), but got there too early so she rode a stationary bike for half an hour and THEN took the hour long aerobics class without breaking a sweat. She could leap tall buildings with a single bound! She had her CAKE and would EAT IT, too!! 

This girl is an endangered species.

Years of ups and downs, poor choices, and broken hearts nearly destroyed her. About a year after this photo was taken, she gave her heart to the first nice guy who asked for it. Nice guy, but not THE ONE. A "friend"... one who didn't make her heart race. Not realizing this, she married him and lived unhappily ever after for the next 5 years. She gained weight. She morphed into someone who Stayed Home and Cross-Stitched. She tried to lift weights once when he was at work, but instead... she jacked herself in the mouth with the end of the barbell and lost her two front teeth. She gave up. Then gained more weight. She was crushed and defeated. and then she was RELIEVED when the relationship finally ended. She had cut herself off from her lifeline... her friends... and she lost her zest for life. She literally wasted the best years of her life, when she should have been out there experiencing LIFE and becoming even More Kathy! 

So she started over.

She whacked her hair off (a pattern that will show itself every time she has major upheaval in her life). She went to Travel School. She went to Graceland!

Elvis, Elvis
We Miss Your Pelvis

She got her groove back.

She got a Real Job that led her to wonderful New Friends! She even got a LIFE! Travel! Excitement! She completed a half marathon! She played on a volleyball team for several summers. She lost weight! She felt like she was ready for a bigger pond. She finally left Lincoln for Omaha... not a big enough step. Then she finally left Nebraska for Chicago!! Huge Step!! Things were looking good! New beginnings!! She was training for a Marathon!

A few months later, her Dad got cancer and died. 

That led to more poor choices and a lot of denial and anger and sadness. She gained weight again. More, this time. Eventually, things started picking up again and the hurt didn't hurt as much. She even joined a social group and made more new friends! Then she LED the social group! She tried new things! Went new places! She went out practically every night for a year, even! SuperKathy was on the horizon! She was in the Zone! She bought a Condo near the lake! 

She CLIMBED the STAIRS of the John Hancock Building! All the way to the top!

SHE was EVEN in a PARADE (on TV!)! 

She was Burned. Out. Running on fumes. She commuted 3 hours a day round trip for 3 years. She needed something New. She looked high and low for a job in the city. She applied. She wasn't even called in for an interview. 

She went to Life Coaching School. She healed old wounds. She learned to listen and how to share. She changed. She made even more new friends! Things started falling apart with her old friends. I don't think they liked the new CoachingKathy.

Her dreaded Desk Job took a toll on her health. She sprained her ankle at a freaking parade. On St Patty's Day. She limped. Then she healed. Then one day a month later, she went to start her car and something popped in her back. She couldn't breathe. Her ribs had literally popped off her spine in 3 places between her shoulder blades. She was flat on her back (everything else hurt too bad). She was done. She took it as a sign and leaped!

After the chiropractor popped her back into place, she left her Desk Job, cashed out her retirement, and took a year off work to recharge. 

She got a DOG! (Isn't he cute?)

Together, they walked! Things were looking up! She slimmed down a little and breathed a lot! She tried Coaching full time, but failed. And then panicked. Now what? She met a guy, another wrong one. Great friend, but not THE ONE. She was out of money. She gained weight. Her car was reposessed (she "gave it up" as far as anyone else knows). Her Condo was foreclosed. He helped keep her somewhat sane and then helped her clear the place out.

She moved back home to Mom's house in Nebraska. Mom moved to her small town place. Eventually, the Guy followed and they tried again to make a life together. But it was doomed from the beginning. They just weren't right for each other. They tried. He Kathy-ized her Mom's house so it would feel like hers. She gained more weight. She got a job decorating donuts, which morphed into full time management of a deli and bakery. (What?) She worked 70+ hours a week. Exactly what she said she would never do to herself again.

She burned out. Again.

She got a Retail Job! She had a discount! She worked too hard. Who knew that cashiering was such back-breaking work?! She quit.

She got a job at a Bookstore! She sold e-readers all day long. Great people, great work environment, but boy did her feet hurt at the end of the day. Standing. Just standing. And talking. And more standing. She lost her voice from all of the talking. 

The Helpful Guy went back home to where he came from after their relationship fizzled. So she got a second job at the horse track selling beer. That was fun! Still just standing and talking, but boy did she make money! She was outside in the fresh air with the horses! She met a Man! They didn't connect, but he reminded her of everything she wanted in a man. She she decided to Try Again. 

She started walking! And even running! She ate right! She lost weight! She sprained her ankle. Again. It's hard to stand all day... at two jobs... when you're wearing a Boot. The summer job ended and it was back to one paycheck. 

She started to feel like a loser. Setbacks upon setbacks upon setbacks. Start and stop. She started to feel like she'd given up and sold herself short. All her friends had "real jobs" and she worked Retail. But she had Experience! She used to make Real Money! She should try again! 

She got another Travel Desk Job. This time, with Groups! She planned! She sold! She Traveled!! She got paid to go to football games! After 11 years as a Travel Agent, she finally got her Passport! She went to Germany!! 

That summer, she went back to the horse track! This time, they DID Connect!! Laser Beam Eyes! They rollerskated! They talked! They spent time outdoors! They fell in Love. He was THE ONE. (and he still is!)

She still worked. More and more. She worked her butt off (figuratively, obviously). She took a big corporate group to PARIS! She sent video of the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower to THE ONE. He sent her pictures of the giant fish he caught in MN. She worked and worked and worked! Then she worked some more! She gained and gained and gained again. She worked at this job for one year. By the time their California trip rolled around...

She looked like this.

That was a year ago. 

Then I was fired from my job (because I wasn't "happy").

And I started over.


I cried a lot, but this time Dane was there to help me pick up the pieces. He believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. We spent a lot of time outside together over the past year and that helped me heal the recent wounds that had formed over years and years of old scars. The starting and failing and starting over time after time after time. I feel that I've lived MANY lives. I'm ready to live just this one now. Seriously.

Dane took this picture as I was about to get pummeled by a wave. He's not a Documenter like I am. He only takes pictures of Really Special Events. In that moment in time... I Was Happy. I was also FORTY-FOUR. I weighed nearly 190 pounds (not my highest) and was a Size 16. Barely. I WAS (and still am) FAT. The only thing that I still have in common with SuperKathy is that I still wear a Size 7 1/2 shoe and my ring size is still a 4 1/2. And I can still encircle my wrist with my thumb and ring finger and they still touch. Small miracles.

I showed him the SuperKathy photo last night and he was in shock! But he saw ME in that photo. But he also thinks that I'm BEAUTIFUL just the way I am. Now that he's seen SuperKathy, he tells me that he can see her still. She's hiding in there, waiting to come out again. I feel safe now. I'm tired of this. I'm tired of hiding and cropping. Tired of sticking my chin out when people take my picture so you can see my jawline and not just my big underchin. I'm tired of feeling like SHE's not ME. I see glimpses of her every now and then, so I know she's still in there somewhere. She's not Extinct yet... just Endangered. I need to dig her out. Get some sun on that girl! Let her inner light shine through!!

I think that FINALLY, I'm in the right place at the right time to do that.

I'm FORTY-FIVE now! If not now, then when?

I'm back at the Bookstore. I walk around. All. Day. I lift weights in the form of Books! I do a million squats a day in the way of shelving books on the bottom row. I use my brain AND my brawn. I'm getting stronger! There are actual Muscles underneath all of the layers of beer, ice cream, and takeout that I've had over the past 23 years. 

I ate real food! I started losing weight again! I even bought a new swimsuit for the first time in 15 years! The black one in the photo was well past it's prime, so I retired it in favor of a new blue hibiscus one with a skirt! That was a HUGE step! 

Then I started stressing out about money. Stopped grocery shopping. Ate at work. Started drinking pop again. I gained weight. Again.

Last week, I hurt my back again. This time, it went out in my lower back.

It's the pattern. I'm aware of it.

Start Over.
Eat Right.
Lose Weight.

Something Happens. Spin the Wheel of Pitfalls! What will it be this time? Injury, Stress, Work, Family, Money, or just plain Boredom.

Engage Coping Strategies! Depression, Fast Food, TV, Couch Potato-itis! Self-Sabotage underway! Pity party in full swing! Thankfully, I gave up other bad coping strategies somewhere along the way.

Gain Weight.

Start Over.

I know that this is a really long post that mostly doesn't have anything to do with My Physical Self, but really... it has everything to do with it. I have to understand what road I took to get here. To where I am today. So I don't take another wrong turn. Being physically fit and healthy is not independent of being emotionally fit and healthy. There are internal and external factors that have everything to do with if/when you lose/gain weight. 

It's more than "Just eat right and exercise!"

The thing is... when you're tired and disappointed and overworked and broken and riding an emotional rollercoaster all day, it takes up all the available energy you have. There's no energy left to make dinner or exercise or step away from the ice cream. It's even been scientifically proven that stress makes you gain weight! It may take a while to burn this off, but I will. 

That's why I know that if someone on The Biggest Loser has a mental breakdown and cries and is counselled by Bob or Jillian... I know that's their turning point. That's where they double their efforts. That's when Real Change starts to happen. 

What will help? Forgiving myself for becoming... THIS. That's a good start! I've beat myself up for way too long.

I have a good support system in place. Checks and balances. 

I just got a promotion at work, so that helps financially as well as balancing out my schedule so I can get some kind of system going.

I have my blog up and running again, too! Like I've said, I work things out better in writing than just being all jumbled up in my head. It wasn't until I started writing about my Ups and Downs tonight that I realized the frequency of my peaks and valleys. Man! I'm ready for things to even out! It's almost chartable... happiness down, weight up, hair shorter. Happiness UP, weight down, hair longer! Like clockwork.

Over the years, I've discovered what works for me and what doesn't. I've educated myself about proper nutrition. I know what to do. I just stop doing it. I let myself get derailed. Note to self: Stop. Doing. That.

The thing that I think will make the biggest difference is that over the years, I've done a lot of soul searching and self improvement in the quest to understand myself and what makes me tick. Discovering that I identify as being a Scanner will make all the difference! Now I won't have to beat myself up for not being able to stick with a strict regime. I know going into this that I crave change!! Variety!! That will definitely make things easier on me.

Finally, the most cathartic part of all of this has been that it's all out in the open now. No more hiding. No more fear of being seen. I've beat myself up a LOT over the years for "letting myself go". Now, the only thing I need to let go is my shame and disappointment and disgust. It'll come in time.

Until then, I can't wait for the day when I can finally say THIS!!

Thanks for sticking with me if you're still reading! The important thing is that I still am. Reading and Re-Reading. And anytime I feel like falling off the horse, I can come back here and find my Center again. 

NOW do you know why I couldn't start with my hair and work my way down? It goes much deeper than just my outward appearance. Down to the very Core of my Being. That takes time. And a whole lot of words. 

Most importantly... Patience, Understanding, and Love.


ps - On my way to bed last night after writing for 6 hours, I noticed that this was the thought of the day on my Louise Hay Calendar. Is that fitting, or what?

pps - I can't wait to do this again next year.

pps - Posting Now! Before I chicken out.


  1. Wow Kathy! Congratulations on this post! So many of us have gone through similar things at times in our life. I have some of the same issues as you do. There are people who understand! I applaud you for writing it all out and trying to understand. Best wishes, so glad you are happy and with someone who is happy just the way you are!

  2. You ARE SUPER, Kathy. Thanks for a great blog, and your many inspiring posts.

  3. Thanks, Denise! Writing is so therapeutic... I think I'm losing weight already just from all of the deep seated issues that I'm getting out of my system here! WAY better than a cleanse. ;-)