Non è spesso che scrivo in italiano. Quindi, certamente farò un mucchio di errori. Vi prego, mi scusate.
La settimana scorsa era la prima volta che ho sentito che esiste una comunità in Italia per le donne afro-italiane che hanno i capelli naturali (anche detto “nappy”). Sicuramente, ero (sono) felice perché mi sembra spesso che la maggior parte d’informazione per la cura dei capelli naturali sia scritta o fatta in inglese, cioè via blog o vlog…comunque, avevo sbagliato.
The other day my sister, Michelle, posted the following to my Facebook page:
“Why are you skinny people doing this to yourselves??? I thought insanity was designed for overweight individuals???”
As you might imagine, the “insanity” to which she referred is the Insanity Workoutexercise program by Beachbody and led by Shaun T. Nine days ago, I decided to take the 8 week challenge and have been reporting my progress to friends and family via Facebook. I am happy to say that I have completed each day thus far and intend to continue so doing.
Now, back to my sister’s comment.
You see, she is right. I am not overweight and thus it would seem that I would have no just cause to take on such a workout program. Right?
FIBROMYALGIA (Photo credit: *SHESHELL*)
I decided to take on the Insanity Challenge, because I wanted to prove two points to myself:
1. I can achieve a high level of fitness as a person with fibromyalgia; and
2. I can take care of my body as I choose to without fearing input from others.
A world of secrets…
Back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my body had been changing rapidly. As I wrote in my recent posts, I had gain a significant amount of weight in only a couple of years. You see, before I started graduate school, I worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor from 2002 to 2004. That period of my life was one in which I experienced a high boost to my body image. I was strong and healthy.
My weight then was higher than what it is now, but it was never a concern to me. My major concerns: strength and endurance. And if there is one thing that I have lamented greatly since having fibromyalgia was the loss of my physical strength and endurance.
With my weight gain came real health concerns, such as being warned about my blood pressure and having some other health issues being labeled as “due to excess weight.”
“If you had 5 minutes…,” collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)
It was frustrating to find myself in that state and feeling that I couldn’t do anything physically about it…like exercise in the way that I had in the past. I was too tired. I felt too much pain. There was a bigger issue though…
As many of you know, I am an art therapist and counselor. I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. This area of specialization developed from my second year internship and subsequent job. So, why would working within this area create a problem for me? Simply this…
How does a therapist embark upon a health improvement that would mean significant weight loss while reinforcing to her clients that their desire to lose weight was unhealthy?
For a long time, I did not have an answer. I worked in a place where there were strict rules on how food could be discussed and what foods could be eaten. Discussion of weight loss, weight loss programs, and diets was forbidden. This is not to say that these rules were always followed.
Also, there seems to be a very strange expectation, i.e. that all Black women are happy with being overweight. I write this because of various experiences I had while trying to manage my weight issues. The most memorable of these was an experience I had with an older White female nutritionist who worked at a local hospital.
I was given a referral to visit this nutritionist because both myself and my doctor believed that it would be good for me to have professional advice on how to safely and slowly lose my excess weight through diet, since exercise was proving difficult for me. At that time I was about 50 pounds overweight.
I sat with the lady and stated my reasons for coming to see her. From her lips came the following response:
“But you’re Black! Why would you want to lose weight? Aren’t all Black women a bit fatter that everyone else? Aren’t you people use to being like that?”
Now, some may believe that I am exaggerating…but I kid you not. Those were her exact words that are engraved upon my heart and mind. I was in disbelief.
There I was seeking help to lose the weight that was causing me severe health problems…and there was that lady telling me that I didn’t need to lose the weight because of my skin colour. Huh?
So, I realized that I had to do it on my own. I decided to take matters into my own hands as I wrote in my previous post. The thing was that at work, although I had explained to some that I was planning to lose weight, there was apparently discomfort that I had made such a choice.
Moreover, I did not discuss just how much weight I intended to lose, because that was no one else’s business except for me and my doctor. Looking back, perhaps it would have been better if I had simply stated a number, even though I did not have a number in mind.
The world in which I worked during that time became closed. I watched as people stared at me with curious and suspicious eyes. I listened as people made side comments about me. I answered as people kept asking me, “haven’t you lost enough now?” or “why are you still losing weight?”
And then there were the painful rumours regarding eating disorders and even my sexuality. It was a truly discouraging time. I often felt alone; and between having fibromyalgia and being the only Black clinician on staff as well as the only art therapist, I often felt misunderstood.
My studio space became a place of refuge during the last year of my weight loss. I watched as people, who were once willing to speak with me or were friendly with me, stop interacting with me. And, in all honesty, the decision to move to Italy came at the right time as who I had been no longer was. The new person did not fit in with my old world.
So, why have I written about this or about anything else?
Because it was time. Especially as a counselor specializing in eating disorders. You see, even counselors are human. 😉 Even we struggle with our bodies, including food concerns, weight and body image.
It is a strange paradox about the world of psychology. As a counselor you are expected to help others in overcoming their problems. At the same time, however, it is seemingly frowned upon by peers if you have problems of your own.
This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006
some of us feel that there is a need to be invincible. That there is a need to hide what hurts us, to hide our struggles, to hide our true selves. We walk about attempting to be the tabula rasa (blank slate) for everyone, including our peers…and it just doesn’t work.
There is a reason why…
many of us, who were once bright and shining candles, finally burnout.
There is always a reason why…
I write about this, as well as the previous blog post, to write the truth about a topic for which I held tremendous fear: my weight loss.
I write because I believe that it is the job a therapist to be human and to show his or her client that there is always a path to be found out of the difficulties of life, not just via book lessons but through setting the example by how we live our own lives and how we take care of ourselves.
1. Address the health issue. What does that mean? As much as I hate to admit it, it means losing the weight that I have managed to regain. It’s not much, but I dislike talking about and thinking about weight-related issues, especially given my area of specialization in therapy. On the other hand, I am human and would love to be able share this aspect of my human experience without judging myself. It’s not just the issue of weight, but there are a host of other things I need to get under control, such as actually finding myself a doctor here in Rome. I suppose I have been in a bit of denial that my life is actually rooted here now. Getting my own medical team together to help me with fibromyalgia is really about the last step before I finally see myself as officially living here. Completed.
2. Abstain from dating. That’s right, I am still single…and still loving it. 😉 Every now and again, however, I have managed to allow myself to date someone briefly. As nice as dating and all of those emotional things are, for me, they get in the way of my accomplishing some personal goals (like making time to write) and also interfere with resolution number one (like eating better and treating my body well). So, no-no to that. 😉 Partially Completed
3. Maintain my GPA. This might read a bit strange, but it’s very important to me. Currently, I have a 4.0 and two scholarships at my university. Um… Given issues surrounding my health, stress from emotional drama, and other issues, I have not been able to function as I would like in school. That is, I have been too ill be to attend more often than not. It is beginning to remind me of my most dark period when I was working and found myself too ill to work. Thus, no matter what, the goal is to ensure that I get out of this semester 4.0 intact. Yes, I’ll be holed up in my room or at the uni library…such is life. 🙂 Partially Completed.
4. Make space for friends. Yeah, I suck. Yes, you read it here first, and can feel free to repeat it, because I am about to do so–I suck. I know I have acquaintances and friends. I see that I have a list of some hundreds of people on my Facebook account, a bunch of contacts on my LinkedIn, and some folks even here. I look at my phone and I recognize that I have an actual contact list with people’s names on it…not just the auto-dial numbers for my cellphone service. So, why don’t I spend time with them? Well, the reason is twofold: one, I hate feeling as though I am imposing on other people’s time (childhood issue), and two, I am often sick (see task number 1 of this list), involved in emotional drama (whether my own or someone else’s), and am busy with studying. Ongoing.
5. Work and save. I have to write this. I really miss having a steady income. I miss knowing exactly how much money I would have coming to me at the end of the month–it’s not a small thing. As an adult, and I suppose I can consider myself one now at 34, it’s not easy matter to try live on limited resources. Furthermore, taking the step that I did (which I do not regret for an instance) to come to Italy meant relying upon savings. Thus, of course, it would make sense that my savings is quite depleted. But as they say, once you are at the bottom, you can always climb to the top. So, with what I make before paying anyone else, I shall have to pay myself first (my mother taught me that). 😉 Ongoing.
6. Work and pay.Yup, isn’t it lovely? Like many others, I have bills, bills, and more bills. Try moving your life to another country…you will find that it will mean bills, bills, and more bills–at least, until you’ve got yourself settled into a job, which I do not. For all intents and purposes, I am a student, and work as a student when I can. The plan, however, is to pay off at least one of my major bill by the end of the year, and to make the others more manageable. Enough said on that. Completed.
7. Write. It’s a bit scary to write, but I’ve got a story that I believe in, and for which I have been unable to make time due to the issues involved in the first six resolutions. So…if one my main points in life is that I want to be a writer–no, not want to be, I am a writer–then I need to write…not just that story, but also this blog and all the other places to which I put my thoughts. So, the goal? To write at least two-three solid chapters. I am not pushing my luck to think in terms of numbers of pages. I’ve already stated that I will be updating this blog at least weekly to update about my progress. Completed.
8. Paint and other creative stuff. I sometimes forget that I have a degree in painting. I forget that I love to draw people’s faces and to express in this creative manner. I forget, too, that knitting and crocheting soothe me. I forget that I have a classical guitar that’s been leaning against my desk for over a year. I forget that I like to sing and write songs… I am not even sure of my voice anymore. I forget that I have a violin and a “How to Play Violin” book…and that I love teaching myself how to play instruments. Man, I am wicked forgetful about things that keep me and have kept me sane in this life. So, back to what brings comfort. Ongoing.
9. Remember. I tend to forget (see number 8). There are certain things that I have learned over the course of the last few years that I want to focus my mind on for the remainder of the year…and beyond that. First, is to remind myself to practice achieving bodhicitta (I want to reread Pema Chodron‘s The Places that Scare You and to find my copy of her book When Things Fall Apart). Second, is to practice the law of attraction. Whether it is the idea of “show me yourself, and I will tell you who you are,” or “like attracts like,” I have come to understand that I what I put out there in the world is what I get back. Thus, I will work hard to keep my mind and heart in the place that is best for me. Ongoing.
10. Gratitude. I would like to say that I express gratitude always and in a way that those who know me can understand, but that, I think, would be unreasonable. Instead, I will state that my focus is on learning how to express my gratitude to everyone who has shared with me a part of their lives no matter how small. Ongoing.
So, that’s it! Again, let me know your thoughts! And cheer for me, will you?
I’ve wondered how best to begin writing my blog once again. Indeed, perhaps I have been suffering a harsh bout of writer’s block and apathy. Okay, I concede that writer’s block is not a fairly accurate description of what has (or has not) been happening as I have actually written a fair amount since my last posting… just not here. 😉
The apathy, however…
It remains unknown to me: the first moment that my eyes closed to the world, my ears failed to hear spoken words, my body refused to sense external and internal emotionality… My memory brings me back only to the moment of darkness, a darkness that surrounded my entire being, shutting down access to everything and everyone.
This was not despair. This was not anhedonia. This was (and still is) apathy. Perhaps a better word to choose would be stoicism in its most holistic meaning.
I imagine reading such words might prove shocking for some who know me. Truly, my realization of what has been happening was comparative to being doused by a bucket of ice water.
To see not in the extremes of good or bad, to be not in the extremes of glad or sad, to wake each day without hope or despair, to greet each person as neither friend nor foe… this is the result of my process for the last two months or so. A prevailing sense of calm has descended upon me. It reminds me of the still moments in heat of summer when we become too tired to think or to move, or even before and after the fall of heavy snow or rain when the world is overcome by the awe of nature. For a brief moment, we recognize that we must hide or perhaps we have been hiding in order to protect.
It is fair to say that I have been weathering a storm of loss, betrayal, grief, anxiety, and anger for over a year now. It is equally fair to say that I have been showered with love, friendship, family-connection, opportunities, and creativity. Still, what is to come now? What can I make of this moment in my life now that the pendulum of life has stopped swinging, now that it seems to be decidedly in the middle?
I have decided to be content with my apathy. After all, I have made it through…
Now, it is time to begin a new story (literally and figuratively).
Until next time,
P. S. I promise to be less disjointed in my next posting. 🙂 Thanks also to everyone who stopped by! Truly, it means a lot to me.
In an age of YouTube, Facebook, WordPress,Twitter, and the universe knows what else; we are are inundated with many means of electronic communication, and we are no longer limited to sitting in front of a hulking desktop computer in order to access these many many means. 😉 Rather these days people have laptops of all varieties, iPads, cellphones, and all sorts of other gizmos–I really am not hip to it all, so I cannot list everything here, but trust me… it seems like there is a lot out there.
Truly, I am not complaining. I am a fan of technology in many ways. There may be some who will remember me from my computer camp days at Stanford, when I was teaching computer programming to pre-teens who are (oh my word…) in their 20s. So, what’s my point?
The point is that I miss the days of simpler communication. I miss the days when a face-to-face conversation could be held without the barrier and the barrage of constant text messaging or Google-searching or Twittering or whatever else. I miss the simplicity of even a telephone conversation without call-waiting and its constant beep. Actually, what I truly miss is letter writing.
I am not quite sure what happened. (Okay, perhaps it was the advent of email, or MSWord, or something… who knows.) Somehow, however, it seems that many of us have lost touch with the beautiful art form of letter writing in favour of the faster methods of communications: email, Skype, sms/text, calling, etc. It is not simply just that many of us have lost touch with letter writing. It seems that many of us have lost our love of (if any ever existed) the actual art of penmanship. In my opinion, it is a sad commentary when The New York Times has to publish an article on how to improve one’s penmanship and declares the downfall of American handwriting.
I suppose I am wondering what has happened… or rather, why has this happened…
I remember as a child and even as an adolescent examining my handwriting, examining the handwriting of my family members, and other people’s. I looked for aspects that I liked and disliked, a stroke here or a loop there. Even today, I continue to be highly aware of my handwriting and it is important to me, especially when writing a note or a letter to someone else. I am prone often to re-writing several times in effort to exact my penmanship to my liking (no, this isn’t perfectionism). This extends itself to my personal writing, such as journaling. My style of writing often matches my mood and I will go back and reflect upon not only what I have written but how I have written.
I suppose one could say I have always had an interest in graphology or what is commonly known as handwriting analysis. I suppose one could also say that I am a product of an old-fashioned British colonial system, where I went to Catholic school and had numerous nuns staring over my shoulder to ensure decent handwriting! 😉
No… The truth is simply that I like the actual act of writing, the feel of pen against paper, of ink flowing into form of letters then words.
There is a beauty and an art to the process of penmanship, of letter writing, of which I believe it is important to go in search….
Okay, there are many aspects of life that I sincerely do not understand and perhaps will never make an attempt to do so. This list is, however, focused on two areas of interest to me: relationships and modernity (and really how the two come together or not).
Text messaging etiquette… No, really. What is a good amount of time to wait for a response? Or better yet, how much time can I wait before giving a response? Eric Charles, I know you know already-Honestly, I’ve read the articles in my inbox. No one, however, seems to be following the same rules on this issue.
Modern dating… Yeah, I am starting to feel like I am from the age of the Flinstones. Yes, I am that old (in some people’s minds). What happened to a simple thing like, “Do you like me, yes or no?” You know, stated or written, or carved in stone… Now it’s all evasive text messaging, Facebooking, and whatever-else that is happening to be out there these days.
Men… On personal relationship level. Enough said. Next.
Women… At least, on a personal relationship level, when it comes to dating men. No, I really don’t know what happens to the minds of women that seems sometimes to become so sadomasochistic (more maso- than sado-) when confronted with the possibility (and perhaps not probability) of a romantic relationship. It’s like the temptation to hit the either “Self-destruct” button OR the “Annihilation” button (sometimes both) becomes too great.
Love… I remember watching movies like The Princess Bride, and thinking, Oh, how romantic that someone so wonderful and good-looking can come into your life and do everything to be with you! Yeah, I bought into the Disney version of the fairy tales too and even thought myself a Princess Charming at different points (and probably was to some people). I probably was a frog too and never quite changed into what was expected after being kissed… Ahem.
Anyway, the point is that we supposedly meet someone and for some reason or another we “click” with them or are (dreaded word) “into” each other… and then we imagine ourselves skipping happily off into the future together.
I mean, this is not a belief held only by girls or boys, teenagers and young adults. Plenty of adults and elders still hold on to this idea of the “happily ever after.” And honestly, I don’t get it. What really is happily ever after? Is it happily protected from facing the reality of the person with whom you are spending time, because you are both holding up your masks still… showing your best selves?
And then, once the masks fall (because they inevitably will), suddenly will one or both of you fall out of love too?
The reality is that we tend to expose and place into the hands of the person receiving our love our very vulnerable selves… It is this vulnerable part that suffers the consequences of our pretense of “happily ever after.”
To put this all together: Here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t understand a world in which men and women get together without even really speaking with each other and use text messaging as a method of making dates and expressing feelings, even to the point of beginning and ending relationships.
So many people I have met recently have told me about being broken up with via text. No phone call, No email. No face-to-face meeting. Perhaps not even full sentences. This is the text-speech land of love that we are in now.
The“nice tm w u b4. gd lk. bye.” world
… and we are told to accept it. That it is okay that we no longer give each other the decency to meet face to face to part ways… What??? Hence, I am beginning to feel a bit old.
You see, I still like to write letters. I hate to talk on the phone and prefer to meet in person. I rarely watch television or listen to the radio and am certainly not “hip” (yes, I wrote “hip”) to what is going on out there in the world unless I am told by a friend. I like myself this way. I am a pretty relaxed person as a result of my decision to be the way that I am. My relationship with technology extends to checking email, because I have to and writing my blog, because I love to. I go on Facebook, because I wish to be connected to my family and friends as I live far away from many of them and I can make new connections through social networks.
So, I am not saying “Down with Technology!” What I am asking is “What is happening to us that we should choose to live in avoidance of each other?” We speak of globalization and so much connection.
Yet still, I see people spending more time being disconnected while being in the physical presence of their fellow human beings, because they are too connected to their technological playmates in the shapes of iPads, iPods, BlackBerry’s, and whatever else is out there…
Until next time!
P.S. A small disclaimer: I am a bit obsessed with the music of Charlie Winston at the moment. 😉