My Phoenix Is a FAThlete

Workin' out?  More like WORKIN' IT.

Workin’ out? More like WORKIN’ IT.

I disappeared from MsBehaved.com during the early fall of last year, when life was blowing up in my face. I lost my awesome job and my great house within about two months of each other, and then moved out of another home about two months later. My attempts at dating were so horrible and humiliating that I’ve sworn to never reiterate their intimate details in my public writings. (Now that’s bad.) Pain and struggle and sorrow leaned hard onto my shoulders for about five months, and eventually it slammed down onto my hands in the form of a gloriously resolute writer’s block.

It all started with walking because I felt useless. I would sit in my room unable to write, work, buy groceries, or convince anyone that I was worthy of their attention. I questioned my abilities as a member of the American workforce and my usefulness to the world as a writer. My thoughts turned further inward, remembering pains of the past, the things that happened after high school that made me gain up to 80 pounds by 2001. I was mad that I couldn’t just force an employer to give me a job.   I couldn’t force the world to be nice to me.  And, even though my anger was bubbling viciously by my third month of unemployment, I couldn’t just sit around in my room loathing my condition and myself. So I got up and went for a walk.

This was literally unheard of for me. I’ve always been so bad at anything physical that one might think I was allergic to it – as a matter of fact, I’ve always made the joke that the only allergy I have is to physical activity. I’ve always been fat-positive in my adulthood, even if I wasn’t always pleased with my own appearance, but I’d never felt motivated towards any extreme physical undertakings. Even during undergrad when I rode a bike to class, it was for show – I’m secure enough now to admit that I thought riding bikes was really radical and ‘punk’ and did it for the status alone. Every ride bothered me because I hated to be doing it.  But on that particular day I was feeling at a complete loss, and I decided to go outside of myself for the first time in a while and do something that only a day prior I would have vehemently refused to do.

Somehow I made it the .7 miles to my local grocery cooperative, where I proceeded to take a drink from the bathroom sink (no money for water) and sit on the picnic table outside until I could walk again. It was July, about 90 degrees in the shade in Athens, GA. My skin pulsed and felt swollen, but I had a quiet place to sit where no one would bother me. I could be in my mind but away from my new house, which wasn’t a happy place for me as it reminded me of a failure that had ultimately been out of my control. Control was what I lacked in my life. Things felt as if they were spiraling.

Wedding guest, June 2012.

Wedding guest, June 2012.  Feelin’ cute!

This is when the dating bullshit and unemployment insurance drama started happening, and I began to walk daily to the co-op because the round trip was 1.4 miles. I could be out of the house for over an hour. I did this out of restlessness and anger and I was never dressed properly for it, but one day when I got home I realized that I was sweating profusely, huffing and puffing like I’d just finished a long run. My muscles were starting to adapt to the walking, and I liked the way they thrummed with energy afterwards. It was a different type of energy from what I felt when I was angry. There something sunny and vibrant in it that didn’t come from a dark place.

This was surprising because I was always mad when I walked. It was as if I waited until my anger was about to boil over before I strapped on my sister’s old Reeboks and walked for 3 miles. I hate to use such a clichéd description, but it was almost like having tunnel vision. To be honest I don’t even remember much about May – November 2012 because I was just so fucking angry. I remember horrible phone hearings with the Georgia Department of Labor, trying to stay civil with my former employer on the line as well, the bullshit of dating, and not being able to sleep from fear of cockroaches and other things.

And then in October…well, we’ll just say that he did what he did. It was Halloween night and I was at home in my ersatz Black Vampira dress, sobbing and vomiting because of bourbon, disgust, and rage. I didn’t sleep. At 6 am the sky started to pale, and I started thinking about power. I was in this horrible state over someone who didn’t care if I lived or died. If he wanted to, he could have come in and directed my sobs like a symphony – that’s how much control I was giving him. And that was not acceptable. I wanted my choice back. So I chose to put on my ragged shoes and two pairs of tights, two hoodies, gloves, and a hat, and on All Saints Day 2012 I went for my first run.

During the entire run I yelled and cursed and cried, I ran too hard and too fast and called him a fuckhead and a drunk and a good-for-nothing, and when I got home everything hurt. I thought of control again and how that run had essentially been for this horrible guy, my old boss, all the people who never called me for an interview…I had created a “them” in my head and was beating myself up for them, and that wasn’t right. I’d hit a milestone but I was horribly disappointed in myself for the road I’d taken to get there. Without even noticing I’d tricked myself into becoming physically active over the course of the summer, but here I was overextending my joints and putting horrible impact on my ankles in attempt to punish someone who didn’t care anything about me – and certainly my former employer didn’t either. My anger had shown me something positive that I could do with all of this energy, a path that could lead me out of this hate, but anger likes anger. It wasn’t going to lead me down the path, but instead I would have to break away from it for myself.

I was surrounded by nothing but negativity and I was choosing for things to be that way. I was turning into a barfly, and that’s never good. I subconsciously blew a job interview at UGA because I was sure they wouldn’t want me (dressed wrong, acted wrong), even though I was horribly qualified for this entry-level administrative position. My thoughts were getting dark in a way that that they never should, so I decided to stand back from it all. To take a day and survey my life and understand what I could affect and what I couldn’t. As I stated before, I couldn’t force love or work to happen for me. I was unhappy with my body and my personal lack of physicality but I wasn’t very willing to do anything about it that fell too far in line with the beauty standard. This aversion to conforming with the beauty standard started with me in high school and it was just as strong at 31 years old, but I realized I was doing myself a disservice by ignoring the voice in my head that told me to lose some weight. I’d been hearing it since 2001 but ignoring it because I thought it came from the pages of women’s magazines and male stylists, types whose flippant remarks about women’s bodies are often taken to heart. I didn’t want those to be my reasons for shaping up.

In the end, it was a love born from anger that would be my reason.

Bianca recommended the Couch-to-5K Running Plan and I got started. I could clear my head on a run, think my way through all of those horrible things, make plans for the future and strategies for finding work. I stopped drinking beer and changed my eating schedule to keep myself from snacking so late at night, but that was about it as far as dieting is concerned.  No restrictive dieting because that’s not fun for me at all.  I ran daily for a long time until my knees starting protesting, and getting a Zumba DVD at a free market pretty much sealed the deal for me. Four days of running and three days of Zumba were my regimen. Less beer meant less going out, and my wallet was thankful. Soon I found myself thinking of nothing but running when I woke up in the mornings, and I still don’t brush my teeth before a morning run. It’s out-of-bed, then shoes, tights, shirt, headphones. Hit the door.

in jesus name, lettuce spray.

On stage with the co-op band. Feelin’ cute!

I started seeing results, and I started feeling better. I saw my thighs tighten up and my ass get rounder, my belly shrink and my tits deflate – the latter was quite upsetting, but they’re still a real pair of knockers if I don’t say so myself. My arms got smaller and the sun on my skin made its tone deep brown. I pulled on a dress from ten years ago and screamed out loud. My parents saw me during Thanksgiving and made me take off my coat and give them a spin. Thirteen years of weight brought on from not being able cope with an adult world was slowly sliding off of my frame, uncovering the person that had once been there. The anger was being replaced by determination, by an almost frantic desire to not be this woman anymore, a woman who wore her pain on her face and her heart on her sleeve, someone who felt kicked and bullied and was preparing to lie down and let the onslaught of feet and fists just overtake her. I wanted a fresh start, and I wanted to make that start with the body I’d had in 1999.  I finally loved myself again after months of self-loathing, and this new-found love really didn’t have anything to do with the weight loss.  I had found a real way to demonstrate to myself that I cared, and it didn’t matter if I didn’t think anyone else did.  I saw what my body was capable of and I noticed how great it felt.  I wanted to cultivate that good feeling.

By November I had a job at my wonderful neighborhood co-op, and I’d lost 35 pounds. I still work there, and I run 2 or 3 miles after work most days. After a run I drink raw juices with chlorophyll that I add for my skin, or sometimes I’ll just have a glass of wine (trust me, try it). I remember the emotional sickness that drove me to exercise and I almost want to thank the universe for turning my life on its head, because now my motivation is self-love and care. I see the benefits of exercise and athleticism, and as a fat person I enjoy the looks I get as I go loping past sorority girls in brand new running gear, Beyonce singing about coupes and sixes in my headphones. Something amazing came out of the horror of last year for me. Everything burns and then a phoenix rises, yes, and my bird was fat and athletic. I’m 50 pounds down now and I personally find my body to be beautiful and luscious and strong – I lift 60 lb. boxes of potatoes with no problem and I outrun people half my size on a regular basis.

I hate to use such corny language, but this has been a real journey for me. I’ve shocked everyone around me by being proudly athletic, something that my sister says that no one ever expected out of me, the loudly fat-positive feminist. This speaks to our culture’s inability to associate fatness with athleticism, and it’s become a mission of mine to disprove that with every run I take, every time I unload shipments at work, and at every dance party I attend. I look back on the fall/winter of 2012 and I definitely wince, but I appreciate the fire that anger lit under me back in August, and I’m endlessly pleased with myself for being able to let it go and mature into a determination that still shocks me. I’m about to get up and go running now, and I can’t wait to feel the sun on my shoulders.

Read more from Rashaun here! 

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Comments

  1. It’s really good to read this. Especially because I’ve been in somewhat of a parallel angry-depression to (oh god I hope) recovery state. Thank you for the reminder to accumulate strength and resilience, and to keep going outside.

    • Thank you Michele! It’s been a struggle reconciling my decision to lose weight with my attitude towards the beauty standard, but I’m confident and happy with the decision I made.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I’m really inspired, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Since there is so many fields of seaicplties that I have a choice of, I still really can’t choose one. So I am going base on my personal experiences. My original goal back in high school and maybe even before that, was to work in a Neonatal ICU! I had a brother that passed before he had his first birthday from heart complications, and that year I spent a lot of time at hospitals with my parents. My goal the first couple of years was to work with babies just like him. That was until I had my own children, I would of still loved to have worked in that career field but the heart ache I would most likely endure when one of those babies did not make it home. I could not have handled!On to more positive experiences, I have worked with the elderly and Geriatrics interests me very much. Being surrounded with people that have lived a fulfilled life is so much more rewarding. Even though at times it is the ending stages of their lives, and it is sad when someone does pass. It’s less of a heartache to know that most of the time they are ready to move on. They are still very dependent on you and when you are able to help them with their needs that’s the most rewarding of all, plus you form a special relationship with the patients and their families.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been in a similar place to you, where I was very depressed and basically went through many of the processes you described. Everyday was very hard, until I took up running, and as soon as I did, I stopped drinking so much, eating better, writing more, and it helped me think. I lived for running. Then last year I met someone who took control over my life, and forced me to stop running. I quickly went back to drinking, not writing, and hardly leaving my house. I’ve only recently just had the strength to start back at running, and I’m already noticing the positive differences, and how much I’ve missed it, and actually need it to function. I gained a lot of weight during that time, which I’m certain will shift as I keep it up. But I really liked your article, as it completely get what you are saying =)

    • For some reason, my account didn’t show up – sorry about that.

    • SmartNotebook9.7英文版,確實是可以自由以滑鼠使用,否則SMART不必要大方的讓人下載,而且它已聲明使用限制了,只要不用在「competitive products」就可以了。但是這樣的免費試用能持續到何時就不得而知了。但千萬不要以SmartNotebook9.7直接搭配Wiimote電子白板使用,一定要叮嚀老師們以Viewer來上課,這是完全合法的。自由軟體很難能做到像商業軟體那麼好,期待教科書商能改進電子白板教材,增加讓老師自由編輯的功能。阿誠 Reply:六月 24th, 2009 at 11:55 下午陳老師您好:不管是9.5、9.7或10版,SmartNotebook的下載頁面都標示著Please note that SMART Notebook Software is peemittrd only for use on SMART products. Use of the SMART Notebook Software is subject to the terms and conditions of the Software End User License Agreement.應該不是「只要不用在 competitive products 就可以了」那麼寬鬆。Smart Notebook 可以在沒有連接白板的狀態下使用,但不表示這麼做符合他們的版權聲明,當學校沒有任何SMART的產品時,真的說不出Yes, we only use the SMART Notebook Software on SMART products.

  4. Julie Muselwhite says:

    Your writing is so raw, powerful, and beautiful. I truly admire your talent. Keep writing!!

Trackbacks

  1. […] is a comment I received on Facebook regarding my most recent blog post here at MsBehaved.com.  I wasn’t surprised to receive a comment like this, just disheartened, […]

  2. […] you’re a Ms. Behaved regular, you’re well aware that editors Bianca and Rashaun are both hardcore fathletes- thick hotties who like to get physical for the joy of it, and bust […]

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