Monday, October 14, 2019

The Ordinary Goddess

Last week, while recovering from surgery and on the same day I was (still unknowingly) beginning to detox from pain medications, I went to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to walk the labyrinth with my friend, Ginger.  I had had a particularly emotional therapy session earlier in the day, which had already exhausted me.  I am also fairly moon sensitive and all signs were pointing at the weekend's full moon being a powerfully cleansing (i.e., emotionally draining for me).  While laying in bed at 1 PM on a Friday afternoon, I thought briefly about canceling on Ginger, but I felt very strongly that I needed to go (and I didn't want to let her down since we had been talking about doing this for a while).  I had never walked the labyrinth the "right way," so we attended a quick informational meeting when we arrived.  I can't even remember what was said to touch off the flood of tears, but they showed up pretty quickly during the presentation.  Ginger slipped her hand into mine and squeezed.  I really can't say enough about how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.  During the chat, I kept hearing the words "the mediocre goddess."  I took out my phone, made a note of it, and let it leave my brain.  Once the meeting was over, we dispersed into the main hall at Grace Cathedral.  As I was still overly emotional, I wasn't ready to walk the labyrinth with other people.  I tucked myself into a dark corner facing the front of the church, and I just let myself melt down.  I don't even know what I was crying for anymore.  By that point, probably the souls of people I've never even met in this lifetime.  I had a couple of people stop, confused, not sure if they should comfort me or leave me alone.  They all left me alone.  Another woman on the other side of the church was crying even harder and louder than I was.  We both needed this apparently.  Eventually, I cried it all out, and I was ready to re-join the rest of the event.  I walked the labyrinth (if you don't know what you do with a labyrinth, think walking meditation), and just felt completely cleansed. 

I almost forgot about the note I had made in my phone.  I pulled it up today and remembered I had thought maybe it would make an interesting blog.  The Mediocre Goddess.  But I just didn't like the word mediocre -- it didn't feel right.  The notes I made after it were:  we can't all lives extraordinary lives, can we?  Then I saw this meme on Facebook that my sister posted.  Man, that hit the nail on the head.  So, that's how The Ordinary Goddess was born. 

We aren't all here to cure cancer.  Or be famous.  We can't all possibly live what society considers extraordinary lives (what does that even mean?).  However, our life could look extraordinary to someone else.  We all want to leave some kind of mark, don't we?  A legacy for after we are gone.  As a woman in her 40's who has chosen not to have children, I sometimes wonder what that would look like for me (although if you meet my four and a half year old niece, she didn't come out of my body, but completely embodies me, so I don't think I have anything to worry about).  Does my legacy need to affect millions of people?  Or even thousands?  What if my legacy is just being a good aunt to the babies?  What if my legacy is something like Nature Goddess Adventures?  Sure, the Facebook page only has a couple of hundred fans, and I am pretty sure I personally know each one of them, but we have plenty of positive interactions with each other.  I would rather cultivate a small group that actually helps and inspires each other than have millions of followers who don't look at my content.  I want people to recognize that we are all spiritual beings connected in this Universe.  I don't even think you have to believe in God or a higher power to accept that.  Did you know that a mouse's DNA adapts so quickly, that within a generation or two (which is pretty fast for mice), people have to change the poison they use to kill mice because they know not to eat it anymore.  There is no newspapers announcing this.  No listserv is cluing the mice in.  They know it deep down in their cells.  This is the connection.  We have that in us.  (Sorry for the morbid example, but it's so fascinating to me.)  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.  I truly believe that. 

Ginger had asked me how things were going with Nature Goddess.  I had so many plans when I first came up with the idea with Vanessa.  I was excited to set up a hiking/yoga event with a little bit of an inspirational speech for a small group of friends as my test subjects.  Then reality hit.  My first event right out of the gate gave me so many road blocks, that I decided I need to take a step back and take my time.  I probably need to make a real company and get insurance before I can truly set up the events that I want to have.  So, I didn't let it stop me, but I did want to do things right rather than throw together something that wasn't going to work.  I have continued to share inspirational posts on the Facebook page, and am still hoping to make my ultimate dream come true -- in addition to the local hiking/yoga events, I'd like to do weekend retreats. 

So, in the meantime, I am content with the slow building of this tribe.  I appreciate every single one of you.  I love the engagement on the Facebook page.  So maybe I wasn't put on this earth to change everyone's lives, but I am so happy to be part of this supportive group who can make a difference in our small part of the world on a daily basis. 

I sometimes struggle with how vulnerable I should be on these posts.  I swear if you just read my blog posts, I probably look like I'm depressed and crying seven days a week.  I promise that is not the case!  I do want to be real about what depression looks like for me in particular.  I feel like we spend so much time expecting people not to talk about their demons, which just seems to create more demons for future generations.  So, I am happy (no pun intended) to talk about what depression looks like for me, or when I'm just feeling emotional and need a good cleansing cry.  That's what this was for me.  Thank you for being part of this journey.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Tales of the Traveling Burrito Blanket

Earlier this year, I saw a Facebook ad for a burrito blanket.  It's a blanket.  That looks like a tortilla.  And I needed to own one.  Immediately.  I ordered one for a ridiculous price.  I think I paid more than $30.  When it arrived, there was something wrong.  It looked nothing like a tortilla.  It looked like someone was stabbed while wearing a white blanket (we called it the murder blanket or the period blanket).  It was horrible and looked nothing like what was advertised.  So I emailed the company and demanded my money back.  They responded that they had been given a "bad batch" but that they had new ones and they promised it would actually look like a tortilla.  So, I let them send me a replacement.  When it arrived, I was ecstatic!  I could make a burrito!!!  Finally!  

So, with what you know about me, you can guess that I did the only thing you could possibly do with a blanket that looks like a tortilla: I decided to make a photo album of the burrito blanket's adventures.  

 Muir Woods
First stop:  Hawaii.  I thought my burrito blanket deserved a vacation, so I took it with me on my trip to visit friends in June (in addition to looking like a tortilla, it is actually a light, soft blanket that is perfect for air travel).  We had adventures all over the island of Oahu.  On my last night, I packed up my little blanket, in preparation for flying home the next day.  When I got home, I couldn't find my blanket anywhere.  I was devastated.  I checked with my friends to see if I had left it on accident.  They didn't see it, and I very specifically remembered packing it into my bag.  So, I did what anyone would do...I took to social media to shame the TSA for stealing my burrito blanket!  I also immediately went to Amazon to order myself a replacement.  I figured I would have more protections if I used Amazon, plus they had a million options for size and color.  

Meet the Murder Blanket
A day later, my friends sent me a photo of the burrito blanket, still living in Hawaii.  And then I remembered that yes, I did pack my burrito blanket, then I worried it was still damp, so I took it out of my bag, and it got thrown into the washer with some towels.  Whoops!  Sorry, TSA!  I quietly took my post down, and told my friends that they were now the proud owners of a burrito blanket.  A day after that, Amazon Prime paid off, and a package showed up at my door.  I picked it up off the doorstep and excitedly opened my new burrito blanket.  A second later, there was another knock at the door, and another box was delivered.  It was the same exact size and weight as my first box.  Could it be??  Was the Universe rewarding me with TWO burrito blankets?!  YES!  Yes, the EXACT same burrito blanket was in the second box.  Again, I took to social media to talk about my amazing good fortune.  
San Luis Obispo

I got a message from my friend Heather a minute later.  She couldn't stand the thought of me being without my burrito blanket, so she bought me one as well.  She literally chose the same brand, size, and color as the one I chose!  She's so amazing.  So, now I have two burrito blankets.  One lives in my car for those impromptu burrito blanket photoshoots.  And the other lives in my house, ready for any travels we may want to take together.  

I know some people question my mental state sometimes.  I don't consider myself immature.  I am able to hold down a good job and pay my own bills.  But I do appreciate the silly things in life.  So, I will leave you with this quote and a few photos of my burrito blanket's adventures:  

It's okay to be absurd, ridiculous, and downright irrational at times; silliness is sweet syrup that helps us swallow the bitter pills of life.
~ Richelle E. Goodrich

Las Vegas
Family Reunion in Tracy

One Last Ride

Buy nine, get one free...  There should be a punch card for surgery.  Strangely, that kind of happened.

Last week, I went in for my tenth, and hopefully final (for now) surgery.  Last year, I posted about my ninth overall surgery, a (surprise) replacement of a leaking breast implant.  I had to go back in for another surgery because they were so uneven.  Any time I did downward dog in yoga, one nipple was constantly coming out of my sports bra.  Just one.  I have an all or nothing requirement for nipples hanging out of my bra.  So, this surgery was a scar revision to even them out.  Everything appears to have gone well.  My pain is well-managed.  I'm resting fine.  I am hopeful that this will be the final resolution for my poor abused boobies.  The next surgery I have on them will be when I have my implants removed when I'm 70. 

What does this mean for my (already non-existent) "pole career?"  I'm essentially done with pole.  Other than teaching a few classes for friends here and there, I haven't poled regularly in a long time.  It is very uneven and painful for my body.  I have had a good ten year run, and appreciate the opportunities pole has provided for me, but it is time to retire my hooker heels.  I never could walk in them anyway. 

I am also in the middle of some other life changes.  I had started school a couple of months ago (which I don't enjoy), and am going to be buying a house in a few months.  I just have new priorities.  I would like to focus on Nature Goddess Adventures, which I believe still embodies the Confessions of a Twirly Girl message of loving yourself and finding joy in life.  So, this blog will continue because I believe the Twirling Viking Warrior will live on, just in a different form.  Although, I do need to decide how helpful it is to write these blogs publicly.  Facebook very clearly hides the links in order to force me to pay to boost them, and I have noticed that my clicks have gone down significantly in the last couple of years.  I guess as long as I'm getting something out of it, I should continue.

So, thank you to all of you who have come along on this bumpy ride with me over the last ten years.  I hope that you will continue along with me as I transition more to hiking and yoga with Nature Goddess.  I appreciate all of you!

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Path to Joy

In July, my friend Cathy Weiss talked about joy on her lightworker Facebook page.  You can watch that video HERE.  She said something that really resonated with me.  Everyone's path to joy is different (as is everyone's healing path).  What works for me might not work for you.  The ocean calms me and makes me happy.  Maybe you hate sand between your toes and seagulls trying to eat your snacks.  I can be in the middle of the craziest hike and want to give up, but seeing the most beautiful hawk fly overhead takes me out of my head and reminds me of why I do these hikes. 

There is no one size fits all.  And that is true of everything in life. 

Cathy had us do a photo challenge in August:  31 days of joy.  I love challenges like these.  It actively reminds you to seek out joy on a daily basis.  Sometimes, it can become tedious to find something that brings you joy every single day and then post it on social media, but then I think you're losing sight of the purpose of the challenge.  Just find joy in the small things.  I find as much joy in seeing a ladybug on a flower as I do a huge gathering of my friends.  I feel like people who are most resilient and best able to handle the hardships in their life are the ones who can find love in the world where it seems like there may not be any.  Yesterday was a very emotionally draining day for me (actually, this whole weekend, and probably the last month or so have been).  As I was stopped at a light on my way to work this morning, with puffy eyes and a foggy head, I saw a feather float by my car window.  That's a sign from my grandfather who passed in 2000.  Everything is going to be okay.  It made me smile. 

If you want to see some of the photos I posted for the challenge, you can find them on my Nature Goddess page HERE

The challenge ended on my birthday, with me visiting a place I had wanted to see for the last year.  In fact, when I saw a photo of this location on Facebook over a year ago, I made it the locked screen photo on my phone.  Then a couple of months before my birthday, I remembered I had the power to make it happen.  Check out the photo of me above McWay Falls in Big Sur.  I had such a wonderful birthday weekend.  We got to kayak with otters in Monterey.  We drove through Big Sur and hiked around the gorgeous trees and beaches.  We watched sunset on the beach in Carmel.  I couldn't have asked for a better celebration of my years on this earth. 

If you are struggling to find your joy, just look around.  Our world might sometimes feel like it is full of chaos, but I bet you can find one thing to bring you some joy. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

This is the cry for help...

This month is National Suicide Prevention Month.  

In 2015, I lost my boss to suicide.  In 2009, the person for whom I was named took her life.  Recently, a friend's daughter took her own life as well.

When people take their lives, so many confused loved ones ask what signs they missed.  They ask, why didn't the person ask for help?  Maybe they did.  When I am struggling, I feel like I'm screaming: THIS IS MY CRY FOR HELP.  And most people are patting me on the head and telling me I'll be okay.  I want to scream: I AM NOT OKAY!  When I try to share some of my struggles with people, you watch the uncomfortableness wash over them.  What do they say?  What do they do?  Most of them do nothing.  And I can't blame them.  I don't even know what I need in that moment.  I don't need them to fix it.  I know I can do that for myself eventually.  I guess I just want someone to be there.  

Depression fucking sucks.  I don't always see it coming, but once it hits, it can be so hard to dig out of it.  I'm a functional depressive person.  I still shower every day.  I go to work.  I just feel empty and alone.  I start to lose interest in things like food or being social, and can't sleep much.  I try all the positive affirmations to help me feel better.  They don't work.  If I try to talk about it, I feel like I'm being dramatic.  If I don't talk about it, I feel like I'm drowning.  Sometimes I am laying in a dark room crying -- what you'd think depression looks like.  But a lot of the time, I'm sitting in the real world, surrounded by tons of people, feeling like I'm the only person there.  I feel like a ghost -- invisible to everyone around me.  I scream: I AM NOT F*CKING OKAY!  But no one responds.  So we put on the brave face and continue on.  Smiles for everyone.  Hey, fake it til you make it, right?  

And at the end of the day, the only person who can save you, is you. 

If you want to know what depression looks like, this is it.  

If you need help, please reach out.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.

P.S.  I have a lot of amazing friends who hold space for me without pushing when I'm not in a good place.  For them, I am eternally grateful.  They have helped me through some extremely dark times.  I feel very fortunate.  Thank you.  

Friday, September 20, 2019

Back to School

I am very blessed.  I have a boss who encourages me to want more for myself.  I have been in the legal field for almost 25 years.  I basically went from high school to a law firm at the age of 18.  I moved into local government (although still in the legal realm) about five years ago.  It has never really occurred to me to do anything else.  I like my job.  I like the people I work with.  But my boss is looking out for me and thinking about my future.  So, she started encouraging me to go back to school to finish my Bachelor's degree (in this organization, I can't really move into any higher positions without one).  Well, let me back up.  About a year ago, she tried to get me to do a kind of work study program to take the bar exam and become an attorney, but I very purposely did not go to law school 20 years ago, so I certainly don't want to do that now.  However, we have tuition reimbursement, and what else am I doing with my evenings but playing kickball and drinking too much with my friends like I'm still in my 20's?  Why not go back to school? 

I started the process of looking into what I would need to do to get my Bachelor's degree almost a year ago.  Initially, I thought I would just get a generic business degree.  However, after meeting with counselors and speaking with the director of one of their programs, I decided I would get my degree in recreation.  It would apply to my current situation working in local government, as I could someday move into the Parks and Rec Department (let the jokes about the TV show begin...).  Then I have so many more options available to me, especially if I decide to leave the state.  In fact, a potential job that would have been good for me (and offered more money) came available the same week I started school.  Had it opened up a week before or a few months down the line, I would have applied for it (with my current boss' blessing).  But I am way too overwhelmed to think about learning a new job right now. 

Cocky me thought that between the A.A. I already had, along with the paralegal certificate I had obtained 21 years ago from the same school I'd be doing my B.S., I would maybe have a year and a half of work, and then I would magically have my degree.  Oh how wrong I was!  Apparently the rules were slightly different 20 plus years ago.  Not only do NONE of my paralegal courses count towards anything, ten units from my A.A. also don't count.  So, before I can even apply to Cal State, I have to go back to community college and take four classes.  I work full time.  So I can't exactly bang that out in one semester.  I thought maybe breaking it into two classes for two semesters (and taking online classes) would make it more palatable.  However, I am looking at one year back at community college and probably another five to six years at Cal State (if I'm taking two classes each semester).  I'll be almost 50 by the time I'm done!  Circumstances made it so I couldn't start until Fall 2019.  My first semester back to school in over 21 years started one month ago. 

And.  I.  Fucking.  Hate.  It.

Not just a little bit.  Like, I'm breaking down in tears at least once a week because I'm so tired and overwhelmed.  I'm not sleeping well.  I'm not eating enough.  I've been dropping weight and when people tell me I look good, I want to scream that I am not losing it the right way.  Some days I am like a toddler throwing a tantrum on the floor and other days I am like a teary eyed teenager who cannot get out of bed. 

First issue.  Online classes.  While I thought it would be more convenient so I'm not having to sit in a classroom all night after sitting in my office all day, it really just means I now go sit at my desk at home alone all night after sitting in my office all day.  It requires discipline, and I am not excited enough about these classes to want to do this.  I AM doing it.  But I don't want to.  I am normally very social, so I feel very alone and am definitely battling some old depression issues.  Also, rather than just sitting in a classroom, having a lecture/discussion, then going home to do homework, I'm having to log into this online program anywhere from three to six days a week to keep up.  It's time consuming and frustrating.

Second issue.  I don't enjoy the teaching style of one of the instructors.  However, it is the one class I am required to take, and it has to be taken a minimum of one semester before transferring, so I can't drop and take it with someone else next semester.  I find him to be a little condescending, he's unorganized and a lot of the written material feels disjointed and confusing.  I understand that these classes are modeled for the Millennials, so I guess it is just my own fault for being too old for this shit. 

Third issue, which is really probably issue number one.  My ego told me that I'm a grown up with real life experience, who was going to waltz back into school and kill it.  And I'm not killing it.  I am struggling to keep up and am not enjoying the poetic subject matter of the English class in particular (Psychology is a lot more interesting, and I like how the instructor runs that class, but it still requires a ton of time in front of the computer).  I have always liked to say I'm not a "cerebral person."  I don't get off on having intelligent conversations just for the sake of having them.  I'm just a regular person.  I'm okay with that.  The English class in particular is requiring me to dig a little deeper, so pushing me outside of my comfort zone is making me angry.  My yoga instructor was like, you need to figure out what that is triggering in you.  I've been debating it with myself for awhile now.  I think it's just realizing that I'm not better than all these annoying 18-year-olds I'm supposed to be having "intelligent" discussions with in these online forums.  We are all here learning and trying to better ourselves.  But, seriously, reading some of their shit makes me want to pull my hair out. 

In addition to all of this, I am preparing for NCPP next week (the final month before the show requires a lot of time intensive tasks).  I have surgery the following week (so I'm having lots of dreams about how I'm not going to wake up).  I have a friend who is dealing with the very tragic loss of a family member, and I am trying to be a good friend and hold space for him when he needs it.  Basically, I'm an emotional wreck who doesn't have a whole and happy brain to offer to school right now. 

As of now, I am committed to finishing out community college.  It's just a year.  I have six units this semester, but next semester I only need four.  Plus, the English class was the only required class.  As long as they are transferable to Cal State, I can take any other classes to fill the remaining units.  I really need to sit down and do some soul searching about what I want out of school and life.  I'm half way through my career.  Do I REALLY need this to feel happy and whole?  I don't know yet.  Next year, I have the opportunity to buy a house that has been in my family since the 1950's.  More money would be nice, but money isn't everything.  I am definitely focused on my future, but I don't know that more school will equal a better future.

If you've had experience returning to school later in life (especially if you did it while working full time), I'd love to hear about it.  I know people keep telling me to just be positive and stop complaining so much, but I seriously need to be able to vent or sometimes I feel like I might explode.  I'm struggling here.  More than I have in a few years.  Emotionally, it's very scary for me.  I know I'll make it through, I always do.  But when I'm in it, I feel like I'm drowning. 

Deep breaths while I'm underwater just makes me a mermaid, right?

One day at a time. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

So it begins...

About a year and a half ago, I put a photo on the locked screen of my phone.  It is McWay Falls in Big Sur at sunset.  The colors are gorgeous.  I wanted to see it in person. 

I decided to celebrate entry into my 43rd year by going to McWay Falls.  When I visited the website, it said the trail was closed due to a slide.  I didn't let that deter me.  So I printed some hikes, and figured it would work out -- it always does.  My friend Ness joined me on the adventure.  We started the weekend by kayaking with the otters in Monterey.  The next day, we drove down to Big Sur (the beautiful drive alone made it worth it), and learned that the trail we had chosen was closed, but the good news was that the very short McWay Falls trail was open!  You walked less than five minutes to an overlook.  It was packed with people, which was a little annoying (didn't they know this was my birthday dream?!).  But it was still beautiful.  I had to stop myself from climbing around a fence to go see the part of the trail that was closed off.  I didn't want to get arrested on my birthday.  As my friend Jim reminded me, as it was a holiday weekend, you shouldn't get arrested since the judge won't be in until Tuesday. 

McWay Falls is gorgeous.  Humans aren't actually allowed on the beach.  I'm not sure if there is no way down there or if they just don't allow people to go, but that's probably part of why it is so beautiful.  So pristine.  I could have sat there all day just looking at the water.  I don't know why water touches my spirit so deeply, but it does.  It heals me when I'm broken.  I'm not broken right now, so it just brought me a ridiculous amount of happiness to merely be in its presence.  It was truly a spiritual experience. 

As if that wasn't already enough, we continued to a beach in Carmel, and did 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach -- just enjoying an entire day of ocean and beautiful views.  We stayed with my sister and her family in Carmel, which allowed me to start my Sunday with yoga on the beach before driving home.  This was a short, but amazing trip.  I couldn't have asked for a better birthday. 

There are a lot of things I've accomplished in the last year and so much more I am planning to do in the upcoming year. 

I went back to school last week, after a 20 year hiatus.  I need to finish a couple of classes and will then be working on a Bachelor's degree (more on that later).  Our 6th annual Northern California Pole Presentational will be at the end of this month (because what I apparently needed during my most stressful month before NCPP was school on top of a full time job).  I have another surgery scheduled the week after that (more on that later as well, but it will ultimately be the end of my pole "career").  I am looking at buying a house next year.  I am also contemplating a career change.  I have been happily planning hikes each weekend, and am enjoying cultivating the Nature Goddess Adventures Facebook page. 

I don't want to sound like I'm busy just for the sake of being busy, but I do have a lot going on.  The next month in particular is looking pretty hairy, but I hope after that to be in a routine, and more able to go with the flow. 

So my 43rd year begins just as awesomely as other years in my recent past.  With lots of fun in the works, lots of growing, and an expectation that my future is looking pretty bright. 

My 516 month photoshoot...the silliness will never end!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Little Boxes Theater

Although my pole dancing "career" is winding down (more surgery ahead, heading back to school, etc.), I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a sparks photoshoot with the dynamic duo from Little Boxes Theater last May.  They have a space in San Francisco, but this shoot was actually done at Twirly Girls in Pleasanton.  Someone is quite literally grinding metal to create sparks behind you during the long exposure.  You have to find a move you can hold for about 10-20 seconds (which was hard for me in heels, so I chose really simple moves and was still surprised at how bad I was shaking), and then he moves behind you in the dark to create the effect.  It was pretty cool. 

The sparks never hurt but my thigh highs came away with holes in them, so be careful with certain materials.  My bathing suit was fine. 

They are also known for rain and glitter shoots, and I understand they recently started doing underwater shoots. 

Anyway, I don't know why it has taken me this long to post these photos, but I wanted to share them here.  Please contact Little Boxes Theater to book your shoot!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Accepting the Masculine and the Feminine

I almost titled this Masculine versus Feminine, but I'm tired of everything being a fight.  I've also been fighting myself about posting this blog.  I don't know why.  So, here it is.  If it resonates with you, let me know.  

For most of my adult life, I have been a take-care-of-business, accept no one’s shit, take no prisoners kind of girl. In a job performance review once, in fact, I was told I was “too direct.” I told them they never would have said that to a man (probably only serving to prove their point). I was proud that my balls were bigger than most dudes’. The facade was that I didn’t need anyone to take care of me because I could handle my own life just fine thank-you-very-much. I was very aloof and avoidant in relationships. I was a serial monogamist with commitment issues, which doesn’t really make sense.

It’s pretty lonely at the top. But the truth is, we are made to want a partner. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s fucked up is society tells us there’s something wrong with us and that we are desperate if we say we want to settle down but haven’t found the right person.

In my 30’s, I had two long term relationships. Neither were good or healthy relationships. And I probably emasculated both of those guys every day, mostly by not needing them. I never really cried because showing emotion like that was a sign of weakness. I rarely told either of those men that I loved them. And I resented them both for wasting my time. Yet I also allowed guilt to keep me in those relationships even though it should have been easy to see that neither were viable from early on.

I spent much of my life living in my masculine. It was almost like I hadn’t even heard of my feminine side. The side of me that gives and accepts love and desires to gratefully share in what another human has to offer. I was too busy just taking care of myself. I hated it. I was exhausted and felt like I never got a break.

Strangely, I have always somewhat disliked the right side of my face.  I always called it my stroke face. I have what I call a “wonky eye” (one eye is slightly more open than the other, which is actually pretty common). I feel like my mouth is more down-turned on that side. I even think my nose looks completely different. When I take photos, I generally turn the left side of my face to the camera. “This is my good side!” I will rearrange a group photo to put myself on the correct side if I can.  To me, the right side represents the analytical/masculine side. The left is the more artistic/feminine side.  In reality, facial asymmetry is pretty common.

I was thinking of how this plays out in my life. In my last long term relationship, I was the “man of the house.” He was working on his doctorate and only worked (for a paycheck) part of the time we were together. So the care of the household fell to me. I worked full time. I made sure the bills were paid. I had to cook. I had to clean. We really were just two humans who lived in the same space. Barely roommates. Definitely not lovers. I never got to just relax. I always felt like I had to take care of everything. He was legally blind so driving responsibilities fell to me as well. I think about how the “masculine” side of my face would have presented itself to him as I drove us everywhere. The ugly face that I hated. The face that hated that relationship and feeling like I had to be the "man of the house."

After I got out of that relationship four years ago, I met the “love of my life.” He’s the one that opened my heart up again and reminded me what love was. He was very much in his masculine. And he made me want to be in my feminine. To accept love. I suddenly wanted to be the traditional 50’s house wife who cooked and cleaned for her man and anticipated his every need. I would have had ten kids with him if he’d asked me to. (Look, I’m not saying this was all healthy, I’m just saying I felt like a crazy teenager in love for the first time.) He would drive and we would hold hands. The beautiful, feminine left side of my face presenting to him. Smiling. Telling him I loved him. He wasn’t the right one ultimately, but he taught me some important life lessons.

Recently, my friend Andrew took a ton of photos of Kim, Ginger, and me at the Golden Gate Bridge. We put on fancy dresses and took some super fun photos. When I saw the pictures, I realized I didn’t hate the photos taken of the right side of my face. For the first time probably ever. Whether 350 pounds, 180 pounds, or somewhere in between, the left side of my face has always been my preference. And on this day, I finally accepted (and actually liked) both sides of my face, the balancing of the masculine and the feminine, and of myself.

This is like the acceptance of my shadow self. Or acknowledging my inner child. All of these parts of me are exactly And rejecting any part of myself only makes me feel like I’m not good enough. But I know I am.

I spent so many years feeling broken, and then the last few years really working on healing myself. I believe that this realization and acceptance of all parts of myself is kind of the last puzzle piece falling into place. This is who I am. This is how I speak (or write). This is what I look like. This is how I conduct my life. Take it or leave it. I’ve always spouted that script, except now I believe it.

I’m so grateful for the path I’ve been on, and for the growth I’ve experienced. I feel like a completely different person than I was even a year ago. I have spent so many years battling myself and I have finally found some peace in this crazy world.  

Monday, July 1, 2019

Mirror, Mirror

My pinup outfit
I have a problem.  I don't know what size clothing I wear.  It has been an issue for years. 

Post-gastric bypass, you can imagine that it might take some time to get used to a new body and clothing size.  I went from 350 pounds (size 28) to 180 pounds (size 12).  It was actually overwhelming to go from shopping a small store like Lane Bryant to being able to fit in clothes on multiple floors of a store like Macy's.  Studies have shown that it can take your brain a year to realize your body is smaller.  Therefore, you may turn sideways in a crowd to fit through an area you can actually walk straight through.  Apparently, 15 years later, my brain hasn't caught up. 

Chubby Lori
I am currently a pretty solid size 16.  I generally wear an XL, although sometimes I go up to a 2X for comfort.  I am talking about American sizes, not those weird Chinese sizes where I'm sometimes a 4X and sometimes a 12X.  I certainly shouldn't be wearing a 3X in American sizes for any reason.  Tonight, I opened a package of clothing I ordered awhile back.  The dress is a 3X.  It swims on me.  The bathing suit is a 2X even though I've ordered from this site multiple times and a 2X is always too large. 

I was in Hawaii two weeks ago and I participated in a pinup contest.  I went to a pinup clothing website and spent an insane amount of money on an outfit for this contest.  I read the sizing instructions carefully, didn't believe them, sized up, and had clothes that were swimming on me.  These are not clothes you want to be too large.  They should have a fairly snug fit.  I couldn't return them easily so I spent $200 on clothes I probably won't be able to wear again (unless I want to spend more money having them altered). 

"Skinny" Lori
When I worked in San Francisco, I remember often wearing baggy slacks and a shirt that was easily two sizes too large.  My friend said to me one day: stop dressing like a homeless lady.  I don't know what my deal is.  I think I may know what happened though.  When I was going through my first year of weight loss in 2004/2005, I was losing weight so quickly that I was losing an entire size each month, and was essentially needing to replace my wardrobe every few months.  When my clothes were baggy, I felt skinny.  When I would size down to clothes that actually fit me, I suddenly felt fat again.  So I think I now associate baggy clothing with feeling thinner.  However, in reality, when I see photos of myself, and get feedback from friends, baggy clothing doesn't accentuate my assets and actually makes me look larger than I am.  My brain does not comprehend.  I don't know if my brain still equates too-large clothing with being skinnier, or if I am so terrified that tight clothing might show off a fat roll that its just easier to deal with the baggy clothing. 

I was recently talking to a friend about body dysmorphia.  Body dysmorphic disorder is when you are so obsessed with a perceived flaw that you are almost unable to function in life.  I always felt like my issue was special to me being a larger person, but my friend is 111 pounds, and she battles it as well.  The old me would have hated on her for thinking she's flawed or fat at that weight.  The new me recognizes that we all have our issues that we are trying to deal with and I respect that this kind of shit wreaks serious havoc on our brains. 

I'm actually at a weight that would historically make me feel fat and unhappy.  Perhaps I've just gained muscle, but I feel great, my clothes fit fine, and I like what I see when I look in the mirror. 

Golden Gate Bridge photoshoot
The thing is, mentally, I do feel good.  Really good.  Like, I've probably never been this content with my body in my entire life.  I do have fat rolls, loose skin, stretch marks and scars, but I don't have any issues wearing a bathing suit in public, or putting myself in skimpy pole outfits.  I mean, I get that thinking I'm chubbier than I am doesn't mean I can't also love my body regardless of size.  Maybe it's actually a good sign that I think I'm a 3X and I'm still cool wearing whatever I want to wear.  Last weekend I did a photoshoot with some friends at the Golden Gate Bridge.  I didn't hate any of my photos.  I felt gorgeous in every single shot.  In fact, I usually have a weird thing about which side of my face I want photographed, and I even liked both sides of my face!  (More on that coming soon.)

I am extremely grateful for my current mental state.  I have certainly battled some serious demons in the past over how I look and feel.  The truth is, I feel great. 

Sharing my fat with the world

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Koko Head Challenge

Lulumahu Falls
 A couple of weeks ago, I was very fortunate to be able to visit my friends Jake and Wendy in Hawaii - on the island of Oahu.  I haven't been to Oahu in 20 plus years.  I last stayed in Honolulu/Waikiki Beach.  It was kind of like San Francisco, just on better water.  Tall buildings.  Crowds.  Beautiful and I'm certainly not complaining about being in Hawaii, but it wasn't my favorite trip.  Staying with friends outside of the big city was a much nicer experience.  I got to hang with locals in cool spots and saw things I never would have seen had I been in the tourist trap.  

My first full day on the island, we hiked Lulumahu Falls.  It was funny because there were fences and signs to keep out but everyone was happy to point you in the right direction.  Even a police officer told us how to get started.  It wasn't a super difficult hike, but it wasn't easy either.  You're crossing streams and climbing over fallen trees and rocks.  But the falls are beautiful and swimming before we came back down was a treat.  I fell a couple of times on that hike.  Once trying to climb over a fallen tree or rock (got into those splits I don't have).  The second fall was a pretty awesome slo-mo fall on my face in the water when I slipped on some moss.  I also had a couple of slips on the way down.  I started chronicling my falls on Facebook because they were so funny. 
On our way to Lulumahu Falls

After that, we headed to Waimanalo, which a travel website named as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world.  It did not disappoint.  We saw a turtle hanging out around the rocks.  It would poke its head up to say hello every once in awhile.  My friends told me a "hilarious" story about their friend who was almost eaten by a shark and had to swim to this island to save himself.  His friends never came looking for him and he eventually had to swim back.  When they tell it, it is pretty funny, but I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been in the moment.  On the way home, we stopped at the Makapu'u Lookout and Halona Blowhole.  We ended the tour with sunset at China Walls.  I can't even describe the beauty that was China Walls.  You walk out on to this cliff and people are surfing along the rocks.  There is no beach in site.  The waves and sunset were indescribable.  It was amazing.

The next few days included hanging out, a pinup contest (Congratulations to Wendy for taking third!!!), and the full moon at a gay bar.  We did so much but if I go into it all, this blog will be a 20 minute read.  It was such a fun time.  From my friends' backyard, I could see a mountain with some stairs on it.  Koko Head.  I wanted to do that hike.  (Well, what I REALLY wanted to do was the "stairway to heaven," the Haiku Stairs, but they are closed to the public and I didn't want to risk the $1,000 fine or wrath of the locals who live near there.  Also, it is four times as many stairs as Koko Head, so I should probably be relieved I couldn't try them.)

Pinup ready
On my last full day before leaving, Jake took me to Koko Head.  Now, from far away, it looked totally doable.  Once you're standing at the bottom of those stairs, you realized you've probably made a horrible mistake.  This is over 1,000 "stairs."  Not stairs.  This used to be a railroad for the military to get supplies up to their lookout.  It is often steep and the railroad ties are not evenly spaced.  Before we even start, I know I'm going to die.  It is also later in the morning, so the sun is beating on us, and it is humid.  I am sweating before we even take our first step.  I ask Jake how long it takes him to do the stairs.  He says 20 minutes.  So I say, then I can do them in 40.  And so we begin.  I don't want to bore you with too many details, but let's just say that it doesn't take me long to realize I am not going to be able to hike this as quickly as I thought.  My heart rate almost immediately gets up to max level, and stays there.  I was often having to take breaks every five steps.  There are parts where it is steep, or you are going over a ravine, so climbing like a ladder is easier than standing straight up.  There was a point where I am huffing and puffing and I hear a guy on his way down on the phone.  He says something about grandma being up there still.  I was like, your grandma did this?!  Jesus.  I saw his grandma later.  She told me it took her two hours to get up there.  I just keep telling myself to keep moving.  Even if its slowly.  One step at a time.  But I get five steps in and I need to take a break and drink some water.  It was embarrassing.  I kept telling Jake, I know I'm not in the best shape, but I shouldn't be THIS bad.  He was super patient and just kept saying to rest as much I needed to.  I realize now that I probably didn't fuel up properly for this hike, and maybe didn't drink enough water.  There's a video of me coming up the last few steps and I look delirious.  Also, once I was on top, I took some "panoramic" photos, yet they aren't on my phone, which means I didn't do it right.  But I went through the motions as if I had taken them.  Anyway, I was slowly making my way up, and I saw an Australian girl sitting on the other side.  She said she was in good shape and had trained for it, and she was also struggling.  So we decided it was the humidity and heat.  Finally, I am almost to the top and Jake is taking a video.  Later, I'm watching myself sway and kind of lumber up the steps.  I look down and I see a squid painted on something with Lolo under it.  Although Lolo is my nickname, it means crazy or stupid in Hawaii.  I laughed and walk up the last few steps.  It totally motivated me to keep moving. 

Along the hike up, almost everyone who passed me offered encouragement. You can make it!  It will be so worth it when you get up there!  Jake wanted to make it a drinking game but we would have died from alcohol poisoning.  You're probably wondering how long it took me to get to the top?  Only 0.7 miles, but it was practically straight up.  An hour and 20 minutes.  That's how long.  At least I beat that guy's grandma.  And people weren't lying.  The views were worth it.  Once I had the chance to sit and eat a snack, I was a whole new person.  Jake and I made a friend at the top of the stairs that day.  She was an Australian girl traveling alone.  She hiked down off the mountain and came to Cockroach Cove for a celebratory swim later. 

Climbing Koko Head "stairs"
Jake and I talked about that hike later.  He said some people give up.  I couldn't imagine being that close and not finishing.  There's certainly no shame in respecting your body's limits, but I just kept telling myself, "take one more step."  There were points where I was literally pushing down on my knees to keep myself moving.  Failure was not an option.  It was a mini version of my Half Dome trip.  I was going to finish that climb no matter what.  And I owe that to the encouragement of the friends who took me on those hikes. 

On the hike down, Jake ran ahead and our new friend Mallory stayed with me.  Within the first couple steps, I tripped and scraped my leg and elbow.  Then another couple of steps later, I twisted my knee.  I could put weight on it, but bending it hurt a lot.  Getting down one sided was going to be a challenge.  So I sat on my ass and crab walked down most of it.  Way easier on my knees.  Not so much on my butt and hands.  I ripped my pants.  But we made it down in under 30 minutes. 

We then went to Cockroach Cove to swim in the ocean.  The beach is beautiful.  We bobbed in the waves for a bit.  Then I ran to get my phone to go up along the side to take some photos of Jake and Mallory.  I hit some weird sand cliff and did another slo-mo roll down the sand, completely covering myself in this super fine white sand.  It took me forever to get that sand out of all of my crevices.  It was hilarious.  I don't know why I fell so much on this trip, but I provided some good entertainment for others. 
China Walls

Once we left the beach, Jake's coworker took us out in the ocean on his boat.  We saw turtles and rays.  The water was so beautiful.  It had rained, so we worried it was going to be too cold or rainy to be out, but it cleared up perfectly.  He took us to Kaneohe Bay Sandbar.  You're in the middle of the ocean but you can get out and you're just in waist deep water!  It was so beautiful.  His friend's three year old son kept telling me he wanted to look at turtles or find treasure.  ("Aunty, let's look for treasure!!"  He is so adorable.)  So we picked up coral and looked at it (don't worry, we left it there).  Once we were done, as we were driving back, he goes, "oh look over there, its a tiger shark."  What.  The.  Fuck.  We were just swimming in this water!  Still, so amazing. 

I haven't taken a "real" vacation, an entire week off just for fun, in a long time.  I've done long weekends.  I've hung with the family.  But mostly, for the last few years, I've just been saving my time off work for surgery recovery.  This trip was so wonderful and I am so grateful to Jake and Wendy for hosting me.  It's sad how quickly time gets away from us, and we look up and years have passed without taking any significant time to recharge and do something for ourselves.  While I do have to have another surgery this year, the recovery should be much shorter, and this is going to be my last for the foreseeable future. 

I'm super proud of myself for that Koko Head hike.  One thing I appreciate about myself is that I rarely give up once I decide to do something.  Even if it takes me longer than someone's grandma, I will get there one step at a time.  If you want to check out some other photos of the hike, as well as some videos, check out Nature Goddess Adventures on Facebook:

Waimanalo Beach
Cockroach Cove
Climbing Koko Head
View from Koko Head
View on the other side of Koko Head
Made it to the top of Koko Head
Made it back to the bottom of Koko Head
Celebration swim at Cockroach Cove
Kaneohe Bay Sandbar