21 January 2007

For 2007, I resolve to conquer myself

I'm having a bit of trouble deciding on an approach to some of my New Year's resolutions. Well, more like how to go about making my resolutions a reality. Now for some people, this would not be an emotional quandary, as frequently resolutions are made and broken for them in a matter of days and no fallout results. Your faithful blogger, however, is not that kind of laissez-faire resolver. (We Aquarians are known to do things counter to the mainstream, anyway, so this shouldn't surprise many.) I generally put some deep thought into my resolutions and make them not only practical, but also make some particular 'time lines' to go accordingly with them during the upcoming year. I try and do this 'year end assessment' to figure out if I'm heading in the 'right' direction at the end of each year, which I know I should do far more frequently but just don't take the time to do adequately. I try really hard to do reassessments at the monthly and quarterly levels, too, but somehow those 'appointments' just get tossed to the mental curb. So yearly it is, and yearly it was again this year.

I'd like to blog that I came away with a distinctive plan of action, that I know what this year's goals are for certain...unfortunately, I cannot. It's not that I'm searching for goals...I'm not...but it's just in the prioritizing such goals that I seem a bit overwhelmed. The goals for this year seem to have a long-term theme to them: i.e., longer than 3 months really before any noticeable progress can be measured. I don't 'do' long-term goals particularly well; I need goals where I can see an actual progress every month in a positive direction.

Last year, when I made and accomplished a serious impact on my financial and credit affairs, I only made it through as well as I did because I could see quantifiable, measurable success each and every paycheck. As it is, that 'vision' allowed me to greatly improve my FICO credit rating, pay off some bills that had seemed to dog me since my illness a few years back, and made me appreciate with exceptional clarity the benefits of a budget. I also became acutely aware of what I was needlessly buying and where, so I could track miscellaneous expenses at Target® or Wal-Mart® and cut those out. I became a more conscious consumer of where my dollars were going (American companies and workers vs foreign ones), and stopped shopping at the megachains that have unemployed so many fellow Americans as much as possible (which has led me to stop most shopping at the Target®s and the Wal-Mart®s and a whole host of others in the process). I learned how to vastly improve my thrift store finds for a fraction of the cost and 'make them my own'. For the first time in my life, I've actually become knowledgeable enough about financial affairs to hold a conversation with complete strangers about them...if really pressed into doing so. I still have one major bill to pay off (the college loan), but the two others remaining will be paid by this April (supporting a parent can lay waste to the best laid plans, let me tell you). I almost understand what most of the analysts on CNBC are talking about now...and more importantly...understand why some of it is quite important for day-to-day life. (And I've become a bit addicted to the fellas on "Fast Money" to the point I now 'eat dinner' with them.) You'd think I would have got this education at an earlier age with my father and close friends working in the accounting fields, but I didn't...in fact, I ran the other way, hard. Being dyslexic and then also being turned upside down a few years back due to outrageous health care costs, the last thing I wanted to look at was numbers, let alone try and understand them, manipulate them to my financial advantage even. So, finally, after thirty-six years into this life I stopped running and 'faced the music'...but I had to stick with it, each and every week to see the end goal.

This year, however, I'm floundering a bit on what, exactly, that 'big goal' should be. Namely, I need to deal with the main thorns in my life: the ones I've been dragging around for God only knows how long...weight loss, lack of self-confidence, and finding my 'goal' and 'purpose' in life. I think that's why I'm hitting a wall setting periodic goals for these...well, not even setting any goals at all, just three lines on a piece of paper so far...because I know how long-standing these issues are with me. I know when I take on one, I essentially take on the others...it's not like I can conveniently disconnect one from the others, as they all feed upon and develop on the others' weaknesses. In many ways, attacking these are far scarier than anything I attempted with the financial submersion (or any other goals in past years, too), because they're less tangible, less 'supportive' by others (on the exterior for the most part anyway), and because I've created them myself. I'm not sure if it was my wise Father who said it or not, but somebody said, "the most difficult battle a man has is with himself". (Dad was always fond of spouting quotes like that and then adding, "that applies to girls, too", just so I wouldn't get the wrong idea. Despite his flaws otherwise, he was a wonderful father and my biggest cheerleader...every child should be so lucky.) Dear Dad, Lord knows, died still battling many of his own. But they were battles he could not avoid, nor control, nor prepare us for...and he did the best he could, always. There are times when I'm glad he has not been around to see my many mistakes, because so many I've made were the result of me just not trying.

But I resolve to try this year, for no other reason right now than just proving Dad was right about me and my potential, after all.

For better or worse, I've temporarily decided on what I think is the 'weakest' (a term I use very loosely) of the three: the weight loss and management. Like everything attached with it over the years, it is handily one of the most emotionally-charged and difficult problems of my life. Like many who are overweight, eating too much has affected all major areas of my existence...everything from my self-confidence (constant negative talk in high school that never really stopped), to my choice of clothing (baggy vs clingy), to my choice of entertainment (mental and sedentary vs physical and active), to especially the people I encounter and deal with in real life (tending to approach 'my own' more than those that are more intriguing, but also more physically fit or 'gorgeous', for fear of rejection). It's like living a life knowing you're acting like a wallflower, but also afraid to get out into the light in case someone may see you bloom.

Oh, the wouldas, couldas, shouldas that have taken hold in my mind because of this addiction! I can't recall how many 'conversations' I've had mentally with myself after an event where I was not my 'true' self because of fear of ridicule...and then promptly stopped and ate something to 'make me feel better'. Diets haven't worked because I'm an emotional eater: I get upset, I eat; I get depressed, I eat; I get lonely, I eat; I get bored, I eat. Sometimes I eat healthy, sometimes I don't, and sometimes it's not even food I particularly like. A lot of times, I even skip meals because I 'know' I'll be upset or stressed and will overeat later. All the dieting, healthy eating, and exercise in the world can't stop a person from overeating if that person has become dependent on food to the point similar to their lungs to oxygen. It's funny, I have a good friend who's battled anoxeria nervosa for most of her life now (she once weighed in at 88 lbs and she's my height at 5'11"), and she thinks it's oddly funny that overweight people and extremely thin people both see food as 'friends'...but she asserts that the anorexics just are fickle and immediately find reason to 'hate' that friend, whereas overweight people constantly seek that 'friend's' comfort. She assumes the role of the thin, cute, fragile, bubbly sorority girl to 'fit in' when she feels overwhelmed with unfavourable emotions. I assume the self-deprecating, joke-telling, slightly oddball 'funny fat girl' persona when I do. As ridiculous as this sounds, we both keep hoping one day we'll wake up and find that the Self-Confidence Fairy has stopped by and changed our lives overnight. And there's no coincidence that the predecessor to this blog (the one that was hacked into and destroyed by someone back last spring) was titled "Tales from a Fat Woman's Closet".

A few days ago I happened across a notebook I had with me last year in Newcastle, outside Sydney, where I wrote some poetry and notes (another defence mechanism I use: always take something I can read or write with so I don't have to engage other people), and it just made me cry when I reread it. That night, despite the notebook, I was approached by some of the friendliest Aussies I've ever met and also some Yanks, all of whom invited me to come join them on the pub's balcony for drinks. For a moment there, I almost left my table to join them. Then, as I always do, I took a look around and realized I was to be 'the fat girl' of the group, and instantly compared myself in negative terms to all the others I saw. The things I wrote in that notebook about myself haunt me still, as I sat there in that pub scribbling madly away, clearly fighting strong urges within. I must have wrote, "I should really go out there and at least talk to them", at least 10 times. I did somehow manage to talk to a girl I remotely knew, but only for a moment until my confidence made a nosedive once more. But it wasn't until the group was leaving...down stairs and around some bends and across a street to a car park...that I finally left my table (and, coincidentally, the food I had ordered to 'calm me' uneaten) and tried to say hello. Don't ask me why I did it, because I can't explain the motivation even now. By then, though, it was too late...and as they pulled away without acknowledging me, it finally hit home that it was me and not other people who had the problem with my weight. And what did I do after this (rejection)? I went and scarfed down a curry meat pie from Harry's Cafe De Wheels there along The Wharf (which, as a testament to my eating, I can safely say was better than my memory of its better-known namesake over by King's Cross in the City proper). The next day, before my train back to Sydney, I went back to the 'scene of the crime' as I called it then, and went to that balcony and sat...alone...at a table on that balcony I had so fervently avoided the night before. And, as I sat there, looking at the glorious water in an Aussie summer, I ate to the point of stuffing myself...because of my own anger and shame towards myself. For that day in my notebook I wrote, "I hate Newcastle"...which is a lie, but I do hate the truths about myself that Newcastle exposed, to be certain.

The 'scene of the crime' in Newcastle, NSW

At the end of the day, I'm gonna have to give this 'battle with me' a go...I'm gonna have to try and kill the golden bloodsucker that's been a part of my life for far too long, since childhood, in fact. It's not like I'm morbidly obese or anything...I only need to lose about 50 lbs to be within my suggested target goal...but in the terms of what it's done to me otherwise on so many levels, the way in which the excess baggage has brought me down, is suffocating. I'm tired of being the person I've made myself today, and I'm tired of wondering if the 'real me' will ever get let out. I'm tired of not taking chances for fear of ridicule. I'm tired of missing..intentionally or no...opportunities because I'm weary of assuming a 'public role' I absolutely hate playing, but the only role I know. Life is good and grand and full...I know this far better than most...but could end tomorrow. So this year, I'm working on making sure I remember that always and learn to like, and be, 'me'. Whoever that person is.

There can be no more hesitation, for the year, the month, the week, the hour for change is here. Right now, I have no plan, just a general goal. Who knows, there may not be a 'plan' for something you have to fix internally. Like so much in everything I do, it may be just have to be trial and error. But plan or time lines or assessment or no, it's gotta happen. And it's gotta start now. There cannot be any more Newcastles.

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