Monday, June 13, 2011

Two arms and a truckload of baggage

Baggage.  Specifically, “How do you get rid of your excess baggage?" - that was the question I posed to my challenge participants this week.

After suffering a few bristly weeks myself, I thought it would be a good challenge to throw to the masses – something to make them think;  have them assess / reassess and acknowledge a few of the crazy blockages that hit us in this wonderful world of weightloss…

But I knew it wasn’t without a few bumps along the way!   This question was much harder to answer than I anticipated.

Checking in your baggage can be a bit of a rough, bitter-sweet challenge all on its own...  and that's before you even get into the nitty gritty of breaking it down and doing something about it!

Just like the plethora of suitcases available out on the market these days, our baggage comes in all shapes and sizes, all makes and models, and all methods of madness!!   There's no "one size fits all" in this manic side-effect of life, and no one answer to cater for them. 

SO, this is the part where I'm going to tell you that I'm not here to give you lectures, answers, nor pretend that MY methods are the be-all, end-all... they're not!  Nor is my experience with carrying and dispensing of baggage an isolated case (no pun intended, haha) - it's not. I'm just here to tell it like it is - none of this mamby-pamby 'weightloss is wonderful and you'll be forever happy' nonsense - it simply doesn't work that way! 

If things were easy and we didn't need to work on them, then they'd hold little to no value. We value health and happiness - and for that, we must work for it!    Wow, now if only it were THAT simple!!!! 

Nope, with weight issues come A LOT of baggage. Self-esteem and confidence issues, body misconceptions, stereotypes, ill-informed opinions and remarks, nastiness and derogatory statements, unhealthy habits, self-sabotage, negativity in all sorts of forms....  I could go on, but I won't. 

We ALL have issues here - and we're all dealt, and deal, with them differently.  Again, there's no 'one baggage size fits all'. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I only have two arms...  Granted, I've got some seriously awesome shoulders that have been holding up a world of hurt, decades of negativity, and a whole world of self-hatred for the better part of half my life - and hey, they're looking pretty sexy these days with all the weightloss (hahaha)....  but I STILL only have two hands!   There's only so much baggage a girl can carry... 

So what do you do when you get to the point when you simply can't carry more?  What do you do with the stuff that's still dragging behind you, and seriously slowing you down?

I'm no expert here (nor do I proclaim I am) but if you're anything like me, you're a bit of a hoarder. The cupboards are full, there's stuff under the bed, there's things still sitting in bags to give away (but you still haven't managed to take them away yet, 'just incase') and you're still out 'collecting' more. 

So here I am, at the ripe old age of 32, with more sets of luggage on me than even the most seasoned traveler.... and not even one stamp in the passport!!! 

.... and then it hits.  Just when you think you're traveling along fine, you're doing 'ok' lugging all that around with you, something gives - you pull a grief muscle - strain an emotional heart-string - and suddenly it's not so 'fun' anymore being someone who collects all this crap along the way! 

Yup, suddenly you're stuck in the collection depot with a one-way ticket to Breakdown, and not a bloody trolley to help you lug all this with you in sight.   Great. 

.... that's where I found myself the last few weeks.  After a whirlwind of 'new' added to my very huge collection of baggage over the years, it was only a matter of time before I hit the wall, and did myself a 'lugging injury'.  There literally is only so much a girl can carry.... 

Without going into the finer details of who, what, where, when, why (because that's for ME to sit down and sort through) - the process of 'dealing' was brought into the spotlight. Yes, there's a way and means to deal with THE baggage itself, but there's also necessary methods to bring yourself out of the funk that drives you there first, so then you CAN deal with it.  

... and again, no, not all methods are created equal.  What works for one does not necessarily work for another.  What one persons heralds as 'the ultimate answer' doesn't always resonate with somebody else.  We all have our burdens to bear, and we all deal with them in our own ways... 

I'm not about to counsel you here on how to deal with the finer emotional workings of your mind and heart (that's something YOU need to work through - just as *I* need to work through mine)... No, I'm just going to tell you how I bring a little sunshine back into my day, when I feel like all the dark clouds are taking over, and I want to take a hammer to the baggage...!!! 

These are some of MY methods to release the emotions of being weighed down with weightloss and life 'baggage' - and help ease the discomfort and pain.  No, I don't proclaim that they fix the actual problem (that all comes in due course) but they help me get up and keep moving.  These are just methods to ease, NOT cure...

.... and THAT is what you all want to know when I get asked "Amy, just how is it you've done this for so long and not folded?!"....   THIS is why I can do what I do, and continue to keep doing until I don't need to do any more!!   (... and let's face it, this won't ever truly end - this is my new life!)

MUSIC: one of the ultimate weapons in the force against my misery!  I LOVE music. Loud, upbeat, sing-your-guts-out music.  Don't care what genre or artist - if I like it (and I generally do - I'm very eclectic) then I'll listen to it.   If I'm in a really bad way, then I'm sorry neighbours, but we're going even louder, even more upbeat and yes, there WILL BE SINGING.  I'll belt out my melancholy dramatic tunes for a while, release the pain, get my feelings off my chest, sing my agony away....  and when I'm done with the pity-party, it's time to get my HAPPY on...  and that's generally followed by some seriously awesome loungeroom dancing!!  

It heals me.  It changes my focus, it resonates with my soul, and brings a light back into my heart. It doesn't cost anything (aside from purchasing off Itunes!) and you can do that anywhere. You're free to listen to whatever you choose, any old time!  ;) 

MOVIES: I LOVE a good movie - and have been known to just watch them one after the other... if it means I can 'escape' for a while and let myself breathe.  I'm a sucker for a good flick - and bulk of them I'm happy to sit here on my own and devour!   BUT, just as it was on Friday afternoon when I walked into the DVD store...  I needed 'out' - something light and easy!  Nothing dark or depressing (cuz I'm already there).  Skip the romance (there's none in this life, don't need it rubbed in some more).  Avoid things that make you think too much (cuz my brain is overloaded and melancholy enough thank you)...  KIDS MOVIES!!  hahaha....  Yes, they're my 'choice' when I need out.  

I LOVE the heart behind a kid's flick - and I walked out on Friday night with the new Tangled movie (which I loved incidentally) and sat down and watched that with my homemade pizza and sweet potato wedges (that was my way of being rebellious and eating 'takeaway'.... yup, even rebelling against myself, I STILL ate relatively healthy!!!!).   It put a smile on my face, made me laugh, had me awwwwwing in all the right places, and hey, who doesn't love a fairytale right?!!  (yeah yeah, I know...  "get a dose of reality Amy"... PFFT - bugger off!!!  My life has NEVER resembled reality - I'm still waiting for the fairytale to kick in... let a girl live with HOPE!). 

... and as a side note, my jaw dropped when one of the first songs in the movie went a little something like this...  "When will my life begin?"    Yes seriously...  how did they know?!! 

EXERCISE: yeah, don't roll your eyes!!!  As much as we associate exercise as 'work', it's that "after effect" that I'm in love with here. If you feel like crap, exercise - it'll release the happy-hormones, and the feeling of overcoming your emotions, stepping back up in CONTROL and accomplishing what you weren't even willing to bother trying with is a spot-on way of getting the monkey off your back.  

If you can't win, then beat the bloody thing into submission...  Get sweaty!!!   Boxing: beat the living shit out of your demons!  Running: sweat the pig out of your system!  Pump: build your muscles, get strong and tell those bastards to bugger the hell off!    Yup, exercise makes you feisty - and being feisty is empowering. Empowerment is motivating, and motivation gets you results.  You want results, you work for them - get up off your bum and FIGHT! 

CLEAN & ORGANISE: because there's nothing worse than when your mind and heart are scattered, bruised and confused to walk into your home and be bombarded with clutter, mess or 'ick' that just makes you feel worse!   Clear up and clean up - a little bit of structure can really help give you back that sense of 'control' - and that makes dealing with your other bits and pieces a little less hectic.  If that means crying over your overflowing pile of dishes in the sink (like someone over here has been known to do) then DO IT.  OR double-whammy it - loud music AND vacuuming is terribly cathartic!!!  Don't knock it til you try it!  ;) 

Same goes for your work schedules and duties.  Wall charts, diaries and menu plans - know where you're going and you have a hell of a lot more incentive to actually DO THEM and get the results you want.  Even if that means just getting through your very basic list, then so be it - if that's what it takes to start generating more results, then why are you waiting?!

GOAL LIST: this one's a little harder sometimes - particularly if you're struggling to see over the top of your baggage pile...  

Goals are FABULOUS for structure and a 'road map' - but can be very overwhelming and sometimes downright upsetting when you feel like they're slipping further and further away.  I sometimes feel like they're the "X marks the spot" on my pirate map, and just like on the cartoons, the little dotted line that's trying to find that X seems to be going the long way, round in circles, and stopping off at all manner of destinations when that wretched X is still sitting in plain view to the audience!!

But that goals list doesn't HAVE to be big and commandeering. How about breaking it down into sub-goals, mini-mini-goals, or let's face it...  There's a lot to be said about the practical old 'to do' list.  Mine is a big lined lecture notepad where my client jobs, general duties, 'chores' and all manner of things I need to achieve get jotted down.   And because I'm me, they get highlighted off in pink (naturally!) when they're complete. There's a real sense of accomplishment when I can cross an entire page off, full of pink lines, knowing full well I've met other people's expectations, finished MY odd-jobs and I'm already onto a new page following...  

I also schedule my exercise sessions, pre-plan my menus and meals with a scheduled shopping day... and everything else is "on the fly" - based around the fact that I DO have to facilitate time for ME in the mix.  Not always easy, and I know I've struggled a lot with these aspects lately having thrown my entire routine out the window for the benefit of others...  but this was a huge priority MUST DO when I stamped my foot down last week, and said I want my control back.  This is ME controlling MY LIFE.  The outcomes are dependent on me putting in the effort to achieve them.

REWARDS: just as with the goals list, there's no point in having a list of to-do's if you're not willing to reward yourself along the way.  Don't care whether it's because you lose some weight that week, whether you stick to your menu plan 90% that week, whether you did the load of washing that's been sitting in the bathroom for the past fortnight... don't care!  You DO deserve to be rewarded for every positive action you pitch and then deliver in your life.

I'm not saying that means you get to go out and shower yourself in all things shiny (though that's appealing, save it for the big ones!)....  but little rewards and acknowledgements go a really long way.  I've taken to buying little implements for my kitchen - now that I've discovered how much I love to cook and how awesome it is to try new things!  My $2 measuring spoons were a marvel a few weeks ago, and the new $3 grater I bought myself today was because I did my exercise last night, even though I wanted to sit on my couch and throw a tantrum instead... that was my WIN and I deserved to be rewarded for breaking through the negative.  

Needless to say, over the course of the last 3.5 years, I've collected all manner of 'rewards' and tools that help me continue on this insane mission I'm on - none of them have been unwarranted. Some are bigger and more expensive than others, and some were for no other reason than to keep me geared up for the bigger picture ahead...    A little present to yourself goes a long way!

SHOPPING: ... which leads me right into this one!  Not everyone's "cup of tea" or way of releasing baggage, but quite frankly, I find shopping one of my positive tools!   Why?   Because I USED to hate it - despairingly, begrudgingly, blatantly...  I HATED shopping with such a vengeance...   The fact that I am NOT that negatively-geared irked person in a shopping centre now is reward enough!   I shop, because I'm no longer hindered by it...    

It has a dual-purpose for me though.  It MAKES me get out of my house, into a social environment, out of my 'hiding zone' and amongst people.   One of my biggest issues when I'm in a negatively-geared headspace is my ability to switch off the rest of the world and go into hiding (easy to do when you live and work on your own - and have a decade of being a superior hermit already secured in your history).  

This forces me to walk out my door, interact with people (if necessary - granted, you can be equally as lonely in a crowded room...) but it makes me MOVE.  I may feel like hell, but it makes me part of the world.  Whether I like it or not  (and without being too melodramatic....  I'd have preferred NOT) - it forces me out of my funk, switches on the 'happy face' for the benefit of others, and I HAVE to be elsewhere...    It's become one of my assets in the fight against stifling baggage... 

SUPPORT NETWORKS & 'TALK IT OUTS':  not one of my strongest points, and I'll explain why shortly, after all, you'd THINK I'd have this one pegged!

I have a whole network of amazing individuals (forums and social sites alike) that I'm aligned with, who all have similar goals and nuisances with their weightloss.  Their familiarity with my struggles and understanding has - without doubt - had some of the biggest impact on me coming this far on my own in the past few years. Having like-minded individuals prop you up when you're down; when you're faulting everything you do; can't see the light for the big pair of blacked-out goggles on your face; a kind word and a great ear...  these have made a profound impact on me in the last few years.  

I simply didn't realise people existed out there who could understand me the way they do. In fact, I spent over a decade living in the shadow of despair, thinking I literally was alone, and told NOONE of just how hard and bad things were...  THAT is some of the baggage I still carry, still weighs me down - that feeling of isolation has never truly gone away.  I struggle trusting people with my 'issues' - and as such, keep bulk of it hidden well and truly under my belt. Weightloss was one of the foremost issues amongst that 'batch', and the one that I've since been able to take control of...

As you guys know, for three years I went into weightloss mode in dead secret - it was only the online forums that knew what was going on, and that was because they didn't have to see me on a face-to-face basis.  I didn't trust anyone enough to tell them what I was trying to do - nor did I trust myself to accomplish this insane task I'd set out to achieve.  In my mind, failure was the only outcome and I wasn't prepared for yet another public humiliation...  

So you can imagine my surprise when I started opening up to these online strangers.  My history with internet people is rocky at best (I've been burnt before) and my lack of social skills "in real life" leaves a lot to be desired.  Finding connections with people through the internet has been a godsend for me - bouncing ideas, inspirations, successes, triumphs, heartbreaks, frustrations... and friendship  - THEY have been some of my saving graces.   ... and I don't say that lightly. 

I have formed some of THE most amazing true friendships from people hidden behind a computer screen.  These people, I'd do anything for... and it's returned.  I have a massive network of 'Amy supporters' at my disposal now too - who far outweigh the few blips that I've encountered along the way (note: the previous blog post!!!).  The HUGE support from you guys has been mind-blowing, and it shocks me just what an impact that has on ME on a daily basis.  I am truly humbled by that - and it strengthens and allows me to stand up and stay true to what I'm trying to do here, when I'd prefer to run away and hide...  

Having the capacity to talk through your issues with people who truly care is one of THE most amazing feelings in the world - particularly for a girl who simply couldn't voice any of them for the better part of half her life.  It's not always possible for someone to seek impartial help (counsellor, psych, etc) - whilst they ARE there for a reason, sometimes you need something more - that element of true, pure friendship and genuine care - that a "professional" simply can't deliver.   Sometimes it's a simple hug from a trusted friend that completely out-plays a session on a couch with a stranger...

Now, don't get me wrong here.  Professional counselling has its place - and as I've been reminded (a lot) lately, it's an avenue to actually help FIX the baggage and facilitate change where it's necessary.... and I'm all thumbs up and 'let's give it a try' if that's what you're ready to do (in fact, I encourage it). 

But I'm not talking about FIXING the actual root problems here (that's a WHOLE other story) - I'm just talking about methods to dispense the emotional pull of the baggage... "lightening the load" in the interim so you can get up off your butt and get through your day!     Counseling and professional sit-downs aren't everyone's cup of tea, and let's face it, if you're SO excruciatingly baggaged down that you're incapable of moving into that zone... then you're kinda stuffed.  

... and me being the kind of girl I am (and not in a zone ready to tackle the 'professional' stranger talks yet)... that genuine, caring support network is literally like my lifeline.   There's more worth in those words online from people who truly understand than you guys can ever imagine - I value it greatly, and attribute my success (in part) to having someone let me 'talk it out' with them, when ordinarily I simply would not. 

RE-ESTABLISHING SELF-WORTH: as one of the biggest methods for throwing off the negatives, it's one of the MUST DO's when I'm feeling extremely down on myself. With all the self-doubt and negative self-talk, it's a MUST for me to break that cycle - and it's not enough just to think it.

I literally get up off my bum, do my hair and makeup (even more important if I have nowhere to go) and present the version of me TO MYSELF that I want to see, and believe I can be. It might sound silly to some, but a new hair colour, doing my nails, doing my makeup and sitting here in good clothes can actually be a huge catalyst for breaking the downward spiral.  I don't NEED to show anyone else - it's ME who needs to feel and see it.

I've lost count of how many times this one has worked - and after the few weeks of negatives I've had lately, the hair colour is sitting here on my table, my nails are bare ready for the new polish, and I'll be sitting here in a face mask shortly...  because I'm worth a hell of a lot more than toxic self-inflicted voices telling me I don't deserve to feel beautiful.  This is me telling ME I'm worth the time and effort....   

TALK IS CHEAP: and words and empty promises won't actually help you. Don't just tell yourself what you'd "like to do", cut the excuses and just bloody DO IT!  

(That's the one that comes out after I've had a good cry, had a shower and washed it away, replenished with a chug of fresh water and had enough of the pity party!!!  Sometimes you've just got to get a little brutal and quit the wallowing...) 

So there you have it guys. These are just a few of "Amy's Baggage Methods" that I've found work to ease the load when it's all getting a little too heavy. We ALL have issues and hurts - and for the most part, we carry them pretty well!    .. it's just sometimes it all gets too much, and you need to have the tools that work for you "ready and waiting" so you can kick back into gear. 

I'm no different to anyone else.  Just because I've been at this weightloss thing for the long-term and kicked some kilos along the way, didn't mean I left all my excruciatingly heavy bags somewhere along the way!   Far from it actually. 

I'm still very fragile (as I've discovered the past two weeks) and still suffering some serious past haunts (which I thought I'd put well and truly under lock and key in the storage facilities.... oops!)... and having thrown my entire life into a new chapter that I never foresaw, you can imagine how much new stuff got thrown into the mix!  I have new baggage now, that still have the freaking labels attached!!!     (... much like my wardrobe, hahaha)  - and that's all piled right on top of the old stuff!

I 'deal' as I need to deal - it is what it is.  I take full accountability for all the baggage I've checked in - I'm not about to leave half of it lying around waiting for someone else to pick it up or sort it out - that's for ME to do, and I WILL do it in good time...    I know what's there, I'm very much in tune with what it is and how it's ended up there - and when I'm ready, I'll start "bag and tagging it" and trying to figure out if I need it any more.  Some will stay, some of it won't ever go...  but that's ok.   You don't have a 'full life' without collecting some things along the way, right?   Not everything is "throw away" in this society - some of it has its place, whether we like it or not - and it's there for a reason...  if not only to remind you of where you've been and what you've gone through...  and make you appreciate the difference when you change things later.

I make NO APOLOGIES for my baggage, it makes me who I am.  So if I have a few extra bags to add to my collection along the way, so be it - it only serves to make me stronger.  I'll sort it when the time comes and make room for the next batch...  and if I play my cards right, eventually the bags will get smaller, and the LIFE EXPERIENCES I've taken from these will start overflowing my pockets instead...   that's the goal!

1 comment:

  1. Amy, you have such an incredible gift for putting words on 'paper'. This is such an in-depth post, but beautifully written. Well done. Some great coping mechanisms explained here too. Thanks.