Monday, June 9, 2014

Make Me Feel Proud: Day 30 - Staying Fueled

A restful weekend with lots of sleep and few obligations has given me enough of a perspective to finish off this challenge. This was more difficult for me than I thought it would be. I had this Pollyanna view that I'd just skip along, thinking of things I was proud of, and grow as a person, et cetera and so forth. 

It turns out that being proud of yourself really takes a lot of work when the chips are down and things are looking dire. It takes some deep digging and a willingness to look on the bright side, both of which make me feel like I've been told to go hold hands with Big Bird from Sesame Street. Do I have to? Really? Seriously?

I think it was important for me to explore this, because it has, in general, changed my perception of myself for the better. I can't say that I'm totally finished with the self-deprecating comments to myself, but I do pause after I utter them. Do I really mean that? Do I really need to say that? No, I don't... because I'm actually a lot better than I say I am.

In terms of my struggles with emotional eating during stressful times, I decided I'd do this when I got to work today:

It's a Post-It stuck to my computer to remind myself that, no matter what happens, if I decide I need to eat, I may as well choose fuel instead of treats. It might be more calories that I need, but at least they'll provide me with some kind of useful energy for the long run, instead of the sugar rush and subsequent crash.

And, after I thought about it, learning to feel proud of yourself regularly provides you with a bit of fuel to feed on during the hard days: the days when people drag you down, or when you do things that you're not so proud of. It's a bucket of "good stuff" to dip into to remind yourself that you should keep moving forward, because you're kind of awesome, really.

Today, I'm proud of myself for recognizing opportunities when, in the past, I would have seen them as obstacles or setbacks. Sometimes, the scary stuff is there to make you realize you can handle things outside of your comfort zone.

Stay awesome, people.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Make Me Feel Proud: Days 26 to 30

I sort of regret my earlier post about not feeling tired because it's been a tiring week full of highs and lows. I feel like I'm re-emerging into some kind of semblance of real life again today. I don't think I handled the week as well as I could have. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about it.

I'm generally a pretty disciplined person: sleep well, eat well, exercise regularly. I know this routine works, and I've been doing it for a couple of years now. For some reason, when things go off-kilter lately, I throw it all out the window. Weeks like this are usually followed by a few days of self-loathing, even if it is accompanied by a determination not to do it again.

If there's one thing I've learned: I know I will do it again. And I have to be ok with that... somehow.

I suppose one way I could learn to accept that I am going to fall off the wagon is to remember what I DID do:

  • I kept up some of my exercise routine
  • I took a rest day when I needed to
  • I ate most of my daily vegetable snacks later in the week
Also, upon reflection, I realized the other day that I'd had way too many treats and not enough fuel, which is why I was burning out later in the week. I suppose that's a realization to be proud of as well.

As for why I've been throwing my routine out the window, well, that's a different discussion. It's really a lack of planning on my part: I haven't thought of things I could do instead when life gets stressful. I'm going to spend some time writing privately about it. I need a better game plan.

One day to go. I'm not sure how proud I feel right now, but I'll have to keep digging. I mean, what else am I going to do? Give up?  I think not.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Make Me Feel Proud: Days 22, 23, 24 and 25 - Faster, Stronger

I would have added the word "higher" to this blogpost, but it turns out the Olympic Committee gets really upset when you use their stuff. Whatever.

I've been very proud over the last week at how well my fitness level is progressing. It's not easy to come back after giving away a kidney, but it is entirely possible. I've been finding that, after weeks of work, running is becoming easier, cycling is not so hard, and my muscles (the ones I'm allowed to use) are getting stronger.

I think it's helped that I haven't really given myself any kind of time limit to get back to where I was before the surgery. I've had good days and not-so-good days. On days when I struggled to stay moving on the road or on the treadmill, I reminded myself of what I learned a couple of years ago when I was first learning how to run: just because it's hard today doesn't mean it will always be hard. It will be easier next time.

Ironically, even though I am taking it slow and steady, it feels like this patience has rewarded me with a quicker return to fitness than I expected. My 6km run this morning all of a sudden felt like a breeze... no, who am I kidding... it's never easy to run... maybe it felt just a tad easier than it has been since I started up again. It feels like it's time to try a little bit more. And it feels like I'm ready for it. And I feel proud to prove to people that donating a kidney doesn't mean that you will be bed-ridden and struggling for the rest of your life.

So, here's a picture of me after my run this morning. Isn't it weird how photo taken in your bathroom mirror are always so foggy? Maybe it's the sweat, I dunno. But maybe you can see how energized I feel.

Faster and stronger and proud.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Make Me Feel Proud: Days 18, 19, 20 and 21 - Work, Energy, Legs

I'm starting to flag. Blogging daily becomes quite tiring after a while. This blog reminds me of how much of a challenge blogging is in and of itself, and I admire writers who are able to write something every single day.

This is not to say that I haven't been doing this challenge. Even when I haven't been writing, I've been compensating by thinking of a couple of things a day that I'm proud of. Most of the time, it has to do with my job: I've been really proud of the things I've been able to accomplish each day. I keep thinking that I wasn't doing anything like this kind of work this time last year, and I'm proud of how much I've learned and what I am able to do now.

I'm also proud to say that I haven't uttered the words, "I'm tired" for about a week now. It's strange to say, but those words come out of my mouth so often that sometimes they just come out without me thinking of it. I said it a couple of times today to myself as I went for a short walk during my lunch break. "I'm tired," I said to myself. But then, I stopped and realized that I wasn't actually tired. I was just speaking words that were part of my regular routine: regular proclamations of weariness.

But I'm not actually tired. I've been sleeping well, going to bed early, keeping up with my early rising throughout the weekends, and therefore not playing catch up. I feel good, and I'm proud of it.

Also: I'm proud of my legs. They're good, strong legs. I was admiring them in the mirror in my leggings today.

So: work, energy and legs. Proud of them all.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Make Me Feel Proud: Days 15, 16 and 17 - Explanations

I usually explain how I arrive at these challenges at the beginning of each one, but I was so anxious to get started on this one that I didn't bother to do it at the time. I've been thinking about what happened to make me want to start this challenge, and I think it's worth sharing:

A few weeks ago, I was on a work trip. On my way home, I strolled through one of the airports I had to stop at, looking for my gate. I was feeling tired, and I just wanted to get home. As I walked, I caught the eye of one of those salespeople who have samples on a tray. The next thing I knew, I had a free sample of soap, and I was being lead over to his booth. He was selling beauty products. "Well, what the heck, why not?" I said to myself.

He did his sales pitch, and I bought myself a nail cuticle kit and a skin scrub. But then he started on the face creams, and I was starting to get tired of spending money. "On a scale of one to ten, how much would you say you care about your appearance?" he asked me.

I thought about it and replied, "About an eight." I care about what I look like, but it doesn't consume my every waking moment.

"Ok, I want to show you something here. Have you heard of collagen?"

Of course I'd heard of collagen. I'm a biology major, after all. But then he was applying a cream to half my face, and it did a pretty good exfoliation job. And then he was applying a moisturizer, and it felt pretty good. But it was pricey, and as I said: I was getting tired of spending money.

"I don't think I'll bother," I said.

"You say you are an eight out of ten on how you care about your appearance, and you don't want to buy this?" Then he told me to compare the one side of my face to the other, and to note what it was doing with the fine lines around my mouth, and the redness... and suddenly, I felt like I SHOULD buy it, like I SHOULD do something about those lines... and the redness... my skin hadn't been looking so good over the winter... maybe other people were noticing my acne and the scars...

And then, I was buying both the exfoliator and the moisturizer. And then he let me go. And I felt... numb.

Later on, I felt stupid.

Then, I felt angry.

Why did I do that? Why should I be so sensitive about my appearance that it should make me want to buy products that will promise to make me look better? Why was I so vulnerable?

Because he found a way to make me feel ashamed. And it worked.

I read a quote somewhere recently. It went something like:
Imagine how many industries would go out of business if all of the women in the world stopped feeling ashamed of their appearances?
I made up my mind that day that I would never, ever let anyone use my insecurities against me like that. And the only way to safeguard against that was to feel proud of myself every day, in every way I could think of. And the only way to do that was to practice feeling proud of myself.

In reality, that face cream is pretty darn good. My skin does look and feel better for it. I just wish I'd made the decision to buy it out of a real desire to have it, rather than out of shame. I won't let that happen again.

So anyway, over the last three days, these are the things I've been feeling proud of:

  • My ability to feel comfortable cold calling suppliers and asking for quotes and information.
  • My ability to strike up easy conversation with people.
  • My legs. They're good, strong legs that let me run and cycle and walk as much as I want.
Take that, beauty product salesman. That's the last time you shame me into buying anything.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Make Me Feel Proud: Days 13 and 14 - A Bunch a Day

I've been working a lot of hours the past few days. I don't mind it. I far prefer to work a bit later than get slammed by a big deadline later on. I also don't mind banking a few extra hours to take another day. You can't tax a day off, I always say.

When I'm working long hours, it's really important for me to keep some good food nearby. I've learned to divide up food into three types: food for fuel, food for maintenance, and food for treats. Often, these groups overlap each other, but for my purposes, it's a good way to make sure I get everything I need.

And yes, I need treats.

Food for fuel is mostly high-protein and complex carbohydrates: meat and whole grains. That kind of stuff. It's the stuff that builds muscle and/or gives me energy to keep moving.

Food for maintenance is stuff like fruits, vegetables and "good fats" that you find in nuts and olive oil. It's the stuff that keeps my digestion running smoothly, keeps my blood vessels clear, and keeps my hair and skin and nails healthy.

Food for treats is stuff like cookies and ice cream and fries and all the stuff you find at a carnival. It's the stuff that makes me sit back and smile when I eat it, but usually makes me feel a bit sick if I have too much of it.

I used to really struggle to get enough maintenance food, especially vegetables. Today, I'm proud that I've taught myself to eat at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day. It wasn't easy, and I didn't set out to get that number. The vegetable consumption increased when I started working at my current job. I needed something to do with all of my nervous energy while I'm concentrating hard at my desk. I figured that, if I was going to chew on something, far better for it to be something like vegetables than cookies and candy (though the candy bowl at work gets frequent visits from me as well... ahem...).

So here's a shot of the two large yogurt containers of vegetables I prepared for the next two days of work. This, along with the other fuel-type food I take with me, will keep me going during the long days at work. No matter what else I eat each day, I can at least feel proud that I gave my body something to keep it running smoothly.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Make Me Feel Proud: Day 12 - Leaping

A year ago, we were in the midst of making a big move to a new home. It was not the first move I'd ever made: in fact, come to think of it, it was May of 1999 when I left home to my first big job in the UK. That was a big move, too.

But this move was different.

Moving to Vancouver Island was the most daring move I'd ever made. Each move before that was preceded by a calculated strategy: a job hunt, a careful exploration of the new town, hours of research of amenities, local organizations, leisure centres, grocery stores... When we landed in a new place, I knew it well, and I knew what I'd be doing there.

This time, I didn't.

I made this move out of a need for a change so large that I dare to call it a rebirth: I needed to find me again. I had no plans. We just looked at our finances and knew we'd be ok, then we secured a place to live, packed up our things, and we went.

People found it hard to understand. Did I not have a job lined up? Did I not want to be closer to my family? Did I know anyone there.

No, no, and no.

Oddly, since I have been here, I do feel closer to my family, because I'm happier. And when I'm happier, I want to talk and share what is happening with me with them. Being further away seems to have made me closer to them.

I've been incredibly lucky. I found a job with people I like and with work that I enjoy. I've also realized that part of this move was for me to understand that the harder you work, the luckier you get. I worked hard to get here: was frugal with my money so that I could afford to take this chance. And it paid off.

Today, I'm proud that I had the courage to take a leap of faith. I'm very happy: happy enough for it to scare me, really. How much good stuff could someone have?

I won't dwell on it. I'm just grateful. And proud.