Tag Archives: improving yourself

One Month Down, Eleven to Go: The State of the Steff

Why, hi there, you.

I’m just checking in. It’s a nice morning. My coffee cup is full. I thought, “Why don’t I go say hello to my minions?”

Yoo-hoo, minions! Hallo-o-o-o-o, minions.

Your friendly neighbourhood blogger is doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.

My year of Being Better is underway. I promised myself I wouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions, and I didn’t. Instead, I would become a better version of myself by the year’s end. In, well, hopefully every way.

A better writer, a better exerciser, a better eater, a better sleeper, a better relaxer, a better coper, a better friend, a better daughter. You know. A better me.

We get so hell-bent on timers in this digitally-powered world we live in. We have reminders to set reminders. From iCal date-planning to the extreme, to actually CHOOSING to get Facebook and Twitter notifications, as if life wasn’t full enough of micro-management.

You know, if y’all like that shit so damned much, you can keep it. I set reminders for when missing something would cost me money. Otherwise, I roll with it. And I’ve never, ever had any smartphone notifications turned on besides texting. Because life is meant to be lived, not full of alarms.

On this quest of betterment, I’m not micro-managing myself. I’m not setting a timeline and measuring my progress constantly. Instead, I find myself now and then remembering where I was a year ago today (packing and panicking ahead of my move to Victoria), maybe 4 years ago today (just beginning to make progress after my first back injury), even 8 years ago today (recovering from a head injury).

What was life like at those times? What were my goals? How would I stack up now?

Uh… everything is better now. I’m better now. I have far to go, sure, but don’t we all?

I’m in a lucky place because I know exactly how far I’ve come on the inside. I need to be in a place now where that shows on the outside.

I need to eat better and exercise better because it’s not an option. Either I feel good and enjoy life again, or I continue hiding out in the Cave of Mordor (what I call my apartment).

I’m much further along both those paths than I expected to be just one month into the year. How very exciting, minions. Do you see my excitement? I see my excitement. Yes, I do.

Soon to be my shiny new bike.

2012 ended with an incredible gift: The complete, final realization that my bike is continuing to be the main reason my back issues exist.

There’s a point in chronic injury where pain or discomfort (whether a livable level or something debilitating) is so omnipresent that you just lose your ability to discern what improves it or hurts it. It’s when you’re so unable to tell what the spikes are from that you just don’t know what to change to move beyond that.

I rode an upright hybrid bike recently, and better yet, one fitted to my measurements taken by a great bike shop. This was like a Dutch-style bike with a step-thru frame, suspended front forks & seat, nice big tires with semi-slick tread, and elevated close-to-body almost-wrap-around handlebars, and it was almost a religious experience. All this pressure inside my back kind of fell away, the strain on my shoulder and neck reduced.*

To imagine cycling, that thing I love, being comfortable? Even painfree? Or… dare I even think it, beneficial?

This weekend, it looks like I can buy this bike. Let’s see.

Today, I’m showing my old bike, Mighty Murphy. (Named, of course, for Dervla Murphy, the old Irish travel writer who cycled Africa’s Ukimwi Road in her 60s.) Hoping it sells. It feels like I’m breaking up with my past. Like I’m stomping my foot and pulling a Gloria Gaynor moment. You’re not welcome ’round here no more!

And it’s kind of like that. The painful breakup of a relationship. That bike is two worlds for me. It’s the thing that makes me one of the rare people who can say I know what it’s like to lose 80 pounds through nothing but hard damned work and powered by ME, but it’s also the thing that makes me one of those rare people who can say they know what it’s like to live with chronic pain for more than four years.

“Love/hate” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Had I not gotten sick at Christmas and laid low with a massive marathon of three seasons of The Wire plus an endless tirade of overrated TV on the PVR, my back wouldn’t have gotten the rest it needed so I could get on my bike in the new year and actually discern what was really going on inside me.

Then I had pain again, and I saw how I couldn’t stand straight when walking, and finally everything made sense.

Some might think the solution would be getting off the bike. But that’d be like telling me to live life without writing or photography or cooking. It’ll never, ever happen. I need that to be myself.

So. The new-ish me, the bettering me, the under-progress me is pretty pleased to be starting a new phase as “the urban cyclist” this weekend.

A shiny bike, a clean slate, and roads I’ve never seen before in a town that’s been my home for less than a year.

Being better, becoming better shouldn’t be an ordeal. You shouldn’t be punishing yourself for failing to meet expectations or demanding greater than what you’ve done. All progress is progress. Our lives are long. We can always keep becoming better. Growth has no end-point. Stop thinking you need to be the person you dream of being tomorrow, and be present in the moment while you’re getting yourself there. Maybe you’ll never be this person, this version of you again. Remember the moment.

Relax, grasshopper. Enjoy the ride. Like I am. Or soon will be.

______________________

* Buying a bike isn’t a “Ooh, shiny. Look, it’s green!” thing. You need to get FITTED for it. The right bike for ME could be entirely wrong for YOU. I not only have been fitted by a fantastic bike shop, but I was referred there by my Ironman-competing masseur and I got my bike style approved by my physiotherapist. The last time I bought I bike, I bought what I thought was pretty. It’s cost me thousands of dollars in lost income, pain, and more. Do your research. Don’t listen to anyone except professionals. Period.

Steff’s Easy-Start Guide to Changing Your Life: Part Two

I began this series last month, here’s part one. It’s pretty unstructured, but the early part of the series is focusing on the head game, because without the head game down, you’ll have no success. It’s all in the head game.

The most important thing you need to do if you want to effect serious change in your life is stop bullshitting yourself. No more excuses. Get it done.

What, you want to wait until everything’s perfect and momentum is good, the clouds are gone and the humidity is stable? Right. Come back here to Planet Earth, where rarely do you ever get what you want when you want it, even in restaurants where you’re paying for precisely that.

That’s why you gotta take what you want. Fuck happenstance and trials and tribulations. Shit happens, always will happen. That’s how life unfolds. I’m down 60 pounds this year, even though the last four months have been consumed with bouts of insomnia, several illnesses, debilitating back injuries, cockroaches infesting my home, and even overtime for the last three weeks steady while rehabbing my back injury, and yet I’ve lost 25 pounds in that time. Continue reading

Fat Girl No More: How I Lost 50 Pounds

Two piles of “fat” clothes sit in garbage bags by my front door, waiting to get donated, like the two bags I ditched last week. It’s the end of an era.

I’ve been buying clothes lately, the last two weeks. It’s been emotional hell. I’m about a size 15 now (down from 22/24), and that makes me almost too big for most “normal” stores, and too small for “fat girl” stores. It’s been a bit of a chore.

It’s been hard, because getting to know your body when it’s not your body anymore, well, it’s a journey. I decided my judgment was shit, ultimately, as I found myself shopping emotionally and not critically, so I made the choice that anything I bought I’d put on ice until I went to a half-dozen or more stores, and then I would Assess and decide then what should be kept of all my purchases.

Well, today was assessment day. Several shirts are going back, as well as a beautiful fire-red winter coat, because they’re all too large.

At last weigh-in, three or four weeks ago, I was down 50 pounds. I’ve probably not lost anything since, or not much, and don’t care, because I continue to improve and change my ways, my clothes keep getting looser, and that’s my REAL goal, not a “number”. The real weight I think I’m down, though, is probably closer to about 85 pounds over the last 5 or so years. It’s 50+ this year alone. Continue reading

Steff’s Easy-Start Guide to Changing Your Life: Part One

So, a Twitterer made the comment that, with the holidays almost here, the annual malaise of reflection and regret would soon be upon him. And I thought, “Wow, this is gonna be the first time ever I sit down at the end of a year and go, “Holy fuck. I accomplished THAT?””

16 months ago, I acknowledged a few things to myself. I hated my job, hated who I had become, hated the way I treated my friends, hated the negativity I was constantly caught in, and hated my body. I was initially overcome with despondency. With so much to work on, where in the fuck would I start?

The trouble with being an unhappy person, or at the very least unhappy with your life, is precisely that: Where in the fuck do you start? Continue reading

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

You can’t get to where you’re goin’ if you don’t know where you’re leavin’ from. That’s one of those truisms said a million ways by a million voices. It’s true of every one of us. Whatever our differences, that’s our commonality.

Knowing from whence you’ve come versus where it is you’re headed is one thing, but knowing how the hell that trip came about is quite another.

Last new year’s eve I finally had a night to myself after several days of being with family and friends non-stop, and I spent some time thinking on the year I wanted to have ahead of me. I wanted to lose at least 50 pounds. I wanted to get a grasp of my finances. I wanted to take writing seriously again. But most of all, I just wanted to become a better self.

I’d spent two years going through one hell of a ringer, as if life was some game show that decided I had a two-year contract of Running The Gauntlet.

“Will she make it out alive? Good golly! Make sure you tune in to see more of the exciting antics as life doles out doozy after doozy to our fair heroine! What a ride this one’s gonna be, Billy! Hoo, boy!”

I decided last fall, in a swirl of overtime and craziness at work, that I’d take serious stock of life over Christmas. I’d had my brother staying with me for a few days over the holidays, for what was completely an exercise in excess. A cousin had heard we were hanging together for the festive week, with no other family nearby, and sent a massive food basket with $200-worth of gourmet regional goodies. We drank and ate and smoked dope and watched half the movies in my extensive library… Continue reading

We Interrupt The Regularly Scheduled Broadcast…

…to inform you that there’ll be no regularly scheduled broadcast.

Every now and then I’ve been making mention of not feeling well. Truth be told, this has been ongoing for a long time — months. This weekend, everything changes. I’m making some radical lifestyle changes because I’m tired of feeling like I’m drifting through life. As a result, I’m probably about to enter some pretty heady spaces, and postings might be interesting over the next week or so. Most of the lifestyle changes are dietary. No sugar, no dairy, blah, blah. For a foodie like me, you might as well just instruct me to climb on up and nail myself to a fucking cross, ‘cos that’s about how it feels like. Still, I’m excited.

Motivation is hard to come by when it comes to making drastic changes. I used to always joke that, “Well, I’d love to quit smoking dope but I just can’t seem to find the motivation.” Hardy-har-har. Same thing with diet. I’m the kind of person that’d rather haul my fat ass 30k on a bike than give up the brick of 5-year-old cheddar taking up space in the fridge.

[SFX: SCREAMING]: “Not the cheese! Anything but the cheese!”

“Oh, my God, Harry. I never thought I’d see this. Is this what I think I’m seeing? Death by cheese slicer? Shit, man. Hey, can you pass me a cracker?”

But, I’m pulling a Marcellus Wallace and I’m about to get medieval on mah ass, baby. What does this mean to you? A disconnected Steff for a couple days, but ultimately, a new, improved, better Steff! Now comes in cherry flavour, too!

My mind’s been in a fog. Back when I was smoking dope chronically, I could blame the dope. When you quit being chronic, though, and you’re still in a fog months later, you need to ask questions. Me, I’m a crystal-clear kinda gal. I’m used to being razor sharp, able to argue anyone on anything, always ready to go. THIS feels weird. I feel like one of those people you see underwater, trying to talk. Bubbles come out but sound’s a murky mess, just tonal variations, and nothing with any semblance to clarity.

Ever notice that; that how you feel drastically affects all your relationships in your life? You’re less able (less wanting) to communicate how you feel? Less able to put a finger on it? More muddled in your speech? More easily confused? Check, check, check, and check.

I know what’s good about my writing, I think — or at least I know what it is that I like, and it’s my tendency to be open, introspective, and astute. I don’t feel like I’m able to be those things these days, so how I’m feeling is literally changing who I am. And the funny thing is, I’m not falling over sick or anything. I’m not debilitated, I’m not chained to a bed, or taking tons of drugs. I’m just “off.” It’s time to flip the switch.

I guess that one of the hardest things we can do in our lives is admit that we’re not happy with who we are. I’m more or less content with who I am, but these days I’m not happy about it. It’s not a negative thing, this feeling I have now. This is really freeing, actually. Realizing where your problems or lack of satisfaction stem from can be a means of unlocking yourself and promoting change. I feel like I’m on the verge of exciting times. I feel like all this grief I’ve been going through has been solely to remind myself that there’s something better around the corner, but I need to motivate myself to bridge that distance. Like I say, finding that motivation is always a challenge, but when it hits… whoomp, there it is.

And it doesn’t matter what you’re hiding from — maybe you drink too much, maybe you smoke too much, maybe you’re dishonest with friends — who cares. Deep down inside, you know you’re fucking up. You KNOW you’re the source of your own problems, but admitting it’s like stabbing a fork in your eye; you could do it, but why the fuck would you?

Of course, I’m not advising you stab a fork in your eye, but a little honesty with the self’s not a bad way to start a day, you know. What do you least like about yourself? Why? And is it so hard to change that? What’s the obstacle? Is there a way to change the difficulty factor in that?

I like me. I’m a good time to be around when I’m on my game. These days, I’ve been flat and listless and I just feel a world away from the gal I know I am. It’s a diet thing. Tomorrow, a hardcore detox begins for a few days. This means, I’m gonna be unpleasant. Expect rants. Expect grumpiness. And then, I’ll be back in black, back to cool, all that I wanna be, and more. I’ll be like a fucking Army ad, man.

Know what I love most about self-analysis, though? I save myself $120 an hour. Fuck shrinks. I own a mirror. Have an awesome weekend. I’ll be sitting over here, jealous, drinking lemon juice and wishing it was a beer.