Getting Rid of Your Scale… And other people’s perceptions.

all you need is loveTwo things happened in the past couple of days that have led to this blog. First, a friend of mine wrote to me, “I love how you carry yourself. The way you walk and dance and play, you move like you own your body. I think so many of us (women) are enslaved by our perceived abundances or lacks and we carry ourselves as if to hide those imagined imperfections. You seem to celebrate with your body.” I had to read it several times and then think on it for a while before responding. I hadn’t thought of it like that. I merely move through my life the way I want to move, I love who I love, and I do what I want to do. See, it took me almost 41 years to get to this point, and I’m not going to let other people’s ideas about what a fat woman should and should not do/wear/be/say dictate how I behave.

In a way, as I responded to that friend, being a big woman in this society is an act of defiance. I will not hide myself or shrink myself or try to conform myself to someone else’s standards of beauty.

On the opposite side of that is not letting people’s outspoken approval of my moves toward a more societally acceptable appearance turn my head either. The second thing that happened was this exchange at work:

Co-worker: Are you losing weight?

Me: Probably. Seems my pants go on a little easier these days.

Co-worker: How much have you lost?

Me: I don’t know.

Co-worker: Well, when do you weigh?

Me: I don’t. Or won’t.

Cow-worker: (Dumbfounded) Well, how will you know how much weight you lost?

Me: I won’t.

Co-worker: What will you tell people?

Me: What people?

Co-worker: The ones who want to know how much you lost.

Me: It’s none of their business.

Co-worker: I just don’t understand.

Me: You’re confusing a number on a scale with my worth as a person. I don’t.

We exchanged a few more words, but I could tell she walked away without any understanding. I was trying to explain to her that I do not own a scale. I got rid of it a couple of years ago and I will not set foot on one again. Here’s the thing. I am not defined by a number on a scale. I am a strong, creative, beautiful, sexy, funny woman, and some arbitrary number cannot define my self-worth. It took forever for me to realize this… that someone else’s opinion of the way I look matters not one bit to me. They can’t change who I am. They don’t get to define me.

Am I losing weight? Yes. I went vegan a few weeks ago, not out of a weight-loss plan, but to be a better citizen of this universe and for my own health; soul health, emotional health, physical health, and mental health. I have been exercising a little bit because I feel better when my lungs and heart are working well. I meditate daily because it brings me calm and helps to retain my joy. Does all of this contribute to weight loss? Probably. I am definitely heavier than I want to be for my OWN PERSONAL life goals. That is, I want to be able to run up the stairs, and walk five miles for fun, and hike up hills, and kayak, and swim, and play in the woods. But I do not need to be a certain societally prescribed number to do those things. If I lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy. If I don’t lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy.beth at fest

Society has told us from the time that we were little girls that we should look a certain way. Women need to conform to a certain look that has been deemed attractive. It’s the media and our parents and our teachers. I remember my mother in a constant battle with her weight and that translated to all three of the girls in my family. I heard a family member saying about her maybe eight year old daughter, “She was so tiny when she was born. I don’t know what happened.” I hear a friend of mine constantly saying, “Some women should not wear things like that.”I have another friend who actually weighs herself five times a day. FIVE TIMES. And just try reading your Facebook or Twitter feed during things like the Oscars and seeing posts about how fat a certain celebrity looks in a dress. Seriously? Every time someone mocks a woman for the way she looks, she is sending a message to every one around her (and to herself) that no matter what other accomplishments that woman has achieved, she is not good enough unless she conforms to the prescribed way of looking. Is that pathetic?

It’s time to throw away the scale. Take whatever self-care you need to make you happy, and leave it at that. Shaming has never helped anyone get healthy. Shaming someone about their weight does not make them want to lose weight… it simply puts them into a lifelong battle with their weight that they will have to overcome if they ever want to be truly happy. So start right now with getting rid of the scale. Repeat the mantra to yourself, “An arbitrary number does not define me. Society’s *rules” do not define me.” Fat, skinny, old, young, white, black, tall, short, over abundant, under abundant, big breasts, small breasts, no breasts… whatever your appearance, take it back. Take it back and live your life as an act of defiance. Be who and how you want to be and if anyone has a problem with it, remember that it is indeed just that – THEIR problem. It is time to stop giving in to the culture that raised us to think we aren’t good enough. You know what? We ARE GOOD ENOUGH! Confidence is the ultimate reward. Understand that loving yourself is the ultimate act of rebellion. Flipping off the weight loss centers and the makeup industry and the billions of dollars spent to try to look the way we were told we should look is our choice. We have the power.

Well, here we go again.

So, I’m back at the day job. I have to admit, when I left last fall, I didn’t think I would be back. I think I kind of halfway expected that I would be a famous novelist, living in a quaint and cozy (but fully insulated and close to cool things like meditation groups, thrift stores, and Trader Joe’s) log cabin in the woods, working on my third or fourth novel, living in a completely satisfying, but not too ostentatious manner on the regularly rolling in royalties.

Well, that didn’t work out. Things happened…. like my van dying in Illinois while on a road trip and needing to buy a new car. Little things like bills. And the fact that I was kind of floundering about how to even market my charming and engaging first novel. Don’t get me wrong, I love “Man Enough.” The reviews were fantastic. Old, churchy straight people loved it. Young, transsexual twenty somethings loved it. Middle aged moms of gay people loved it. My friend’s grandmother loved it. It won an award. I was invited to speak to a couple of groups. I even did an interview. But… Well, it just didn’t hit a wider audience. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of how well “Man Enough” sold for a first novel. Very proud. And I’m proud of the fact that I even wrote a novel and got it published. And I am proud of the fact that my second novel is coming out in a week. And I am proud of the fact that I am midway through my third novel and already making notes for the fourth. I’m proud. I’m happy.

But then, dammit. I’m working at a grocery store again.

Still, I feel as if I’m moving forward. Small steps, day by day. My publisher has gotten our books into a couple of bookstores and is working on more. We are looking at setting up a couple of signings. I’m going to Dallas for the GCLS literary conference in June. I have a radio interview in a couple of weeks for a lesbian radio show in Madison, Wisconsin. I just hired a wonderful daughter of a friend who sent out press releases to one hundred sources in hopes of getting reviews or interviews.

One step at a time, one book at a time. One interview at a time. One conference at a time. And in the meantime, I need a steady paycheck to help pay the bills and buy dog food. (For Brutus, not me.)

Is it a failure? Not at all. Is it a step backward? Well, maybe. But it is a necessary step that will lead to more steps forward. I am on a journey to follow my dreams and sometimes journeys involve turns and forks in the road, and sometimes, you have to make a u-turn and drive back the way you came for a while, and that’s okay, because the main thing is not how long it takes me to get to my destination, but the fact that I even started the journey at all.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past couple of years is that the best way to get what you want in life is to be grateful for what you already have. I am grateful. I’m more than grateful…. I’m blessed. I’m blessed with a love of writing. I’m blessed with loving and beautiful friends who are my soul mates. I’m blessed with an amazing mom who not only let me move back in with her, but who constantly watches (and spoils) my dog when I make my frequent trips out of town. I’m blessed that I am not afraid to try.

Don’t be afraid to try. I guess that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from this whole adventure. If you want to do something, just do it. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve done so much more than you would have done if you had never tried. So, I am keeping my heart and mind open. I’m setting my intention to the universe. I want to be a writer who lives off of her writing for the rest of my life. And I want to put out progressively better books and articles. A movie deal wouldn’t come amiss, either.

No matter what happens, though, I am going to keep my heart filled with gratitude for what I already have and for what I have already accomplished. I am going to keep moving forward without trivializing what I have in the present. I am going to live mindfully, while allowing for reaching for my dreams.

Seems as if I have finally achieved a beautiful balance between living in the moment and preparing for the future. That, my friends, is a lovely lesson indeed.

But What About All of the Contradictions?

But What About All of the Contradictions?

My latest article on Lightworker’s World, in my spirituality 101 series “But What About all of the Contradictions?” A look at finding balance amid the overload of spiritual information out there.

The Art of Not Taking it Personally

Don Miguel Ruiz, in one of his Four Agreements, wrote, “Don’t take it personally.”  This is a variation on a standard theme within spirituality circles and frankly, I’ve had quite a problem with it. When you get into a situation where someone is abusing you, or calling you names, or bullying a child, how do you not take it personally?

Or, to bring it closer to home, when your partner is being an ass, how do you not take it personally? If you have a hubby who decides he would rather watch baseball than go to dinner with you? What about a sister who tells you that you look fat in that outfit? Your best friend doesn’t return your phone call for a week? Your boss is just plain being a dick?

This is where I have been struggling. It’s all very well and good to say to not take things personally, but how do you reconcile trying to live that without letting someone treat you like a doormat?

And then today, while walking the dog (and I really do seem to always get these periods of illumination during the dog’s elimination), it became clear to me why I can’t take it personally.

See, I have spent a great deal of time over the past couple of years moving into a place on non-judgment. I think it is a process, and it takes practice. For example, when someone comes into the room wearing a strange outfit, and the people I am with make fun of it, I do not. I don’t think anything about it. In fact, I understand that the judgment speaks way more about the person making fun than it does about the person wearing the original outfit. And I have been pretty fond of trying to help others come to a place of non-judgment. For example, in a friend’s recent Facebook thread, there was a heated discussion about people being bothered by seeing adults out in public in pajama pants. Well, I countered that we could never know the whole story as to why they are wearing pajama pants, so we can’t judge. Maybe they have a deathly ill child and had to run to the pharmacy for medicine. Maybe they’ve recently had surgery and can’t wear regular pants. *MAYBE* it’s none of our damn business why they are wearing pajama pants and we should be better people and not judge them. (But see what I am doing there? I’m judging the people who judge.) As I said, it is an on-going process and I think only completely evolved religious masters can ever get to a place of complete non-judgment… after all, as long as there are still rapists and child abusers and people who torment animals, I will still have judgment in my heart.

-But- I think I have come a long way in my non-judgment and I think it has helped me to be a better friend. I don’t care what my friends wear or what they do for a living or how much money they make or whether or not their houses are clean.

So how does this on-going practice relate to not taking things personally? Well, it finally hit me today. It really isn’t about me. If someone tells me I look ugly in my outfit, that says absolutely nothing about me. I haven’t changed one bit from the moment before they said it to the moment after. *THEY* are the ones who have changed, by speaking in unnecessary cruelty. And I don’t know why they are like that… perhaps they’ve had a bad day. Perhaps they feel as if they look terrible today. Perhaps they are just nasty. The point is, I don’t know. I can’t know. None of us can ever truly know the entire depth of another person’s mind and heart. Heck, some days, I don’t know why *I* do everything I do… let alone anyone else. So, in the spirit of non-judgment, I must also put myself into the mind frame of not judging someone when their behavior goes against my own comfort.

Now, does that mean that you should just put up with someone who acts like an asshole to you? No, definitely not. Just because you are trying to be non-judgmental doesn’t mean you have to live with someone who treats you like crap or remain friends with someone who is always trying to drag you down. You make a choice. Are the good parts of the friendship worth the bad parts? I have gotten rid of friends who seem to do nothing but complain. I’m not going to judge them… perhaps they have valid reason for always being unhappy. But I prefer to choose my happiness and being around negative people makes it more difficult.

You can make your own decisions based on other people’s actions, but you can’t control their actions. I was just having this conversation with my bestie the other day. I do not like to talk on the phone, so unless it is an emergency, I am probably not going to call you back, maybe not for weeks. Text me, Facebook me, email me, whatever. I just really don’t like to spend much time on the phone. You can take it personally, or you can practice non-judgment and understand that that is just the way that I am. You can then choose to accept it and stay in my life in a NON telephoney kind of way, or choose NOT to accept it and cut me out of your life. Either way, we are each being responsible for our own decisions and we are not taking it personally! Just understand that no matter what, you cannot fully understand the reasons for a persons actions.

You can carry this over into your job, too. If a customer is being irritable, remind yourself not to take it personally. Practice the art of non-judgment. Remove yourself from the situation and remind yourself, in a non-judging sort of way, that their behavior has really nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them.

You really do get out of life what you put into it. But you must be doing it for yourself. You cannot change someone else’s life, you can only change your own.

Non-judgment, personal responsibility, and not allowing others to dictate your life all fall in the same space. Removing your ego from the equation allows for better life decisions. Of course, I’ve read all of this stuff and I have tried to absorb it. But I don’t think it really means anything until it sinks in all of a sudden while walking the dog…. BAM! Lightning strike. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out.