Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On a non-magical roundabout

I hate it when blog posts are like a broken record and become repetative.

As a reader, I like new information and insights, fresh ideas, further reflection, and a bit of narrative development.  To hear what comes off as being the "same ol', same ol'" turns me off.  I'd rather just not read it and imagine something is developing rather than hear the same ol' crap is going on.

Therefore I find myself in a dilemma.

It is for this reason that I have not been posting regularly on my blog since I completed my dissertation.  Since this blog is billed as one that is documenting my journey in seeking to "lose half my weight," if that journey is on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, it stands to reason that what would get posted would be the same ol' crap I've already shared.

I've gained.  I'm awaiting my Ph.D defense.  I feel lost.  I'm not sure how to get my focus back.

Yadda.  Yadda.  Yadda.

Obviously, if someone else were saying this to me, I'd encourage them to shift their paradigm a bit, look at what else could be considered, written about, reflected upon, and explored in order to get one's mojo back.  If someone else were telling me that all they had to say was the same ol' crap, then I'd say they needed some new lenses with which to see the world.

But it's not someone else.

It's me.

And when I think of all those lenses out there I could be using, I just want to curl upon the couch with a cup of tea and the latest episode in my discovery of The Wire, and wait for the internal demands I'm placing upon myself to quieten.

Abstract Crossroads (2009)
DragonArtz Designs
It's obvious that I'm at a crossroads in my life right now.  But rather than it being a straight-forward 4-way, it feels more like a big, jumbled, confusing, scary mess.  That's why I'm having a difficult time communicating it here without sounding like I'm going in circles on a roundabout of the non-magical variety.

And since I tend to exhibit a *tiny* bit of road rage when I drive, I imagine my lost self as one of those annoying people who sit at an intersection trying to figure out which way they want to go, causing me (the part of me who just wants me to figure it out already) to miss the light and sit in traffic longer than I had planned.

Gentle, lost Jayme says:
Take your time, hon.  You're grieving the end of this all-consuming process you've been a part of for 4 years.  What you're feeling is natural.  What you need to do and how you should do it will come to you.  Whatever you need will eventually bubble up to the surface and you'll figure it out.  Don't rush it.
Impatient, road rage Jayme says:
C'mon!!  What is your problem??  You've turned that damn thing in almost 6 weeks ago!  Life goes on.  Get over it.  Hurry up! I've got places to be and expectations to meet!  *HONK HONK*
Fun, eh?

And then I read a post today from Jane Taggart on BlogHer about intimacy and the cost of blogging, asking if bloggers have an obligation to their readers to regularly post and keep everyone who follows you updated on what is happening.  She asks a really great question:
Do we, as bloggers, have any obligation to our Lovely Readers? What happens when life or writer's block or boredom gets in the way and we suddenly find ourselves unable to produce any kind of publishable content? Do we owe readers an explanation? Would we give a dear friend an explanation if we were getting ready to plunge into the depths of the no-contact abyss for months at a time? Is it the same thing? ...

... We think we're out here, blogging, for ourselves. But! The moment we advertise ourselves and gain a following...whether that following is 10, 100, or 100,000+...we owe something to our readers. Something tremendous. Something well beyond ourselves.

In my effort to be authentic, my readers have always had my guarantee that I will always write about where I am in my journey.  If, for now, my journey has been delayed at a rest stop along a deserted highway, do you still want to know about it? I wonder, my dear readers, what part of my story these days you want to hear about?

Eventually, I will get back into losing weight (sooner rather than later, hopefully), but in the meantime, I do not want to bore you with the same old posts, trying to will myself to do something I'm obviously not yet ready to do.  (Yet, I'll admit that to me they're boring but you may very well say they aren't....maybe it's just because I think about it so much more than I write about it).

Maybe if I have some ideas, I can try to meet them and somehow find my way back in the process.

One must always hope.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Adrift in a sea of......nothing

So much for snapping right back into the weight loss efforts and life as I knew it pre-intensive-dissertation-writing time.

Digital Photograph by Matt Stidham
It's been three weeks since my last post and I'm not really any closer to getting back into the groove of things as I thought I'd be.  It's funny - when I was in the midst of writing, I wanted nothing more than to be done so I could get on with my life, doing things I'd had to stop doing in order to finish.  And now that I'm done?  I feel adrift, disjointed, and a little lost.

I knew I'd feel this way, to some extent.  You don't pour your heart and soul into something for four straight years, turn it in, and then simply go back to life as you knew it.  I knew there'd be a period of feeling aimless and grieving the end to the process.  What vocational purpose I had in life (beyond this particular part of getting fit) is somewhat diminished.  For four years I have called myself a PhD student and when asked what I do, I had something to say. 

Now?  I have no idea.  Given the current state of theology/religion departments in the UK, chances of me finding a job in academia are pretty slim.  So I find myself facing the prospects of blazing new trails, working freelance, writing and doing informal education - but such a possibility feels a bit overwhelming right now. 

There's a part of me that's tired of being a pioneer.  It's always been my default.  I feel like I am always fighting against the current, doing things differently, taking the road less traveled by.   Despite the positives of such action, I'd like to travel in someone else's slipstream for just a little while.  I really don't have the energy for whacking through all the brambles and undergrowth, clearing a bit of earth, and building something new right now. 

There's too much unknown.  I don't know if my dissertation will be passed by the examiners (my defense is in December).  I don't know yet if my current job will continue beyond the end of the year.  I don't know where I'll be living 6-12 months from now.  And after all these years of preparing, I don't know if the world wants what I've got to give if I did go my own way.

All of this, as a result, takes its toll on my efforts to be healthier.  Over the last three weeks, the scale has been as up and down, bobbing along as I have.  281.6, 278.2 and today's 280.

I'm eating good stuff (for the most part), but just too much.  And I have determined that I am definitely a binge eater.  That has become apparent in the last 3 months.  And I am going to the gym, but not enough (about once a week so far).  I'm not recording, I'm not keeping track, I'm not counting.  And so I'm not seeing results.

I decided to go back and look at where I was a year ago on this here blog and I found something interesting.  Roughly this time last year, I wrote a post about priorities that was an attempt to kick myself in the tail and get back in gear.

Is there a pattern here?  Is October my "drift" month?  Is the waning daylight connected to my despondency (aka "lack of courage and umph")?  It's totally plausible.  Add on top of that this period of life I'm in and it's no wonder I'm struggling.

So maybe this is an opportunity to start fresh, to wipe the slate clean, to make a new schedule for myself and see what rises to the surface after a few weeks.  I want to be gentle with myself, acknowledge this place of life that I am in, sit with it and not try to make myself busy in order to gloss over it.  But I also know I can't sit with it indefinitely.  Eventually I need to act. 

So today I'm going to spend the day figuring out a schedule, making a list of priorities and what needs to get done work-wise, figure out how to map some ideas I have, and see what happens.  I may also change my weigh-in days to Wednesdays.  Sundays just aren't working for me, really.

Will let you know how I get on. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

And now we return to our regularly scheduled program....

Well, it's been almost 2 months since my last post - and holy cow, what a 2 months it has been!  Seriously, it has been a roller coaster ride of emotions, pressure, stress, writing, editing, and more as I've spent the last 2 months finishing up my Ph.D dissertation.

But it's handed in now (I did that a couple days ago) and life is slowly returning to some semblance of normal, albeit a strange kind of normal without having this idea of the dissertation always looming.  My defense is in early December, so it's not completely done.  I'll need to go back to it, read, and do a bit more research in preparation for my defense.  And then, in the defense, most likely there will be recommended revisions before it passes.  So the process is not completely over, but barring major revisions, the hard part is done.

Want to see what it looks like?

the front cover

first page of chapter four

one of the prettiest pages to me - footnotes are beautiful!

A few stats about this thing.  It turned out being:
  • 395 pages (352 pages of text + 34 pages of bibliography)
  • 87,859 words in main text 
  • 48,978 words in footnotes
  • approximately 1,200 paragraphs
These 395 pages represent four years worth of work for me, and while I know I need to be proud of this achievement (and I am), it's hard to celebrate fully until I know what my examiners think.  I can think I did the most amazing thing in the world, but if my examiners don't like it, it can all be for naught.  So early December will bring the result and will dictate just where I stand in the whole process.

So it's not over.  But it is over for now.

And so now life returns to what it was before the madness began.

So, where am I on the whole losing weight thing?

Heavier than I had hoped I'd be, but about what I expected.  Shall we reveal the toll the last 2 months have taken?

Drum roll please....

2 October 2011 weigh-in

Starting weight:                          327.0
Last weigh-in (9 August):          270.6
Current weigh-in (2 October):   279.6    
Gain of                                       + 9.0

Total Loss                                -  47.4 lbs

Yeah, it's a little disappointing I have to admit.  I was doing pretty well at maintaining until these last 2 months, and then all health-related habits pretty much took a hiatus with my blog.  
I wish I could have continued to lose or maintain.  But at the same time, I know I need to give myself a break.  I have just completed the hardest thing I have EVER done....and probably one of the hardest things I will ever do.  The task was immense, to say the least.  And so, a 9 pound gain, in the big scheme of things, is not the end of the world.

I'm headed back to the gym this coming week.  Time to get back into the routine.  I miss running.  I miss swimming.  I miss feeling strong.  I feel flabby, slobbish, and weak again.  I feel tight, inflexible, and heavy.  My lack of exercise and improper diet (particularly not enough fruit & vegetables) has wreaked havoc on my digestive system, skin, and mood.  I didn't want to go back to that, but this dissertation exacted its price in whatever way it could, and unfortunately, that's what went.

But what's done is done.  
And watch out, October, because I'm gonna try hard to knock you out.

What have I missed in your world?  
And what do you do to get back on the horse after a break?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weigh-in no. 47: the kid's alright...

It was my blog's one year birthday yesterday!  My first post was on 8 August 2010 and, my my...what a year it has been!!

After last week's weigh-in, I was feeling a little defeated, reluctantly resigned to the idea that, yes, I am probably going to gain a bit over the next 7 weeks as I try to finish my dissertation.  Somewhere in my head, I had translated last week's 272 weight to 273.  And just to beat myself up a bit more and know just how bad I've been doing, I weighed yesterday morning (notice I didn't even bother to weigh on sunday) expecting to see 274 or so....

and lo and behold....

Weigh-in no. 47 (-1.4 lbs)

hot diggity dog!!

Starting weight:   327.0
Last week   :        272.0
This week:           270.6    
Gain of                -   1.4
Total Loss          -  56.4 lbs 

* sigh of relief *

Blame it on stress, blame it on water weight gain, blame it on whatever....but man, I feel so much better knowing that I actually am maintaining rather than gaining.  At 270.6, I'm only up 0.8 lb from when I started maintaining in June to finish my dissertation.  Suddenly, I go from disappointment in myself to pride in a matter of minutes.  Crazy, huh?

I'm usually loathe to blame gains on the time of the month or whatever for myself, mostly because I have a Merina IUD which pretty much causes me to hardly ever have a period, but this past week I had a bit of one.....and that must have been what caused the gain.... because I haven't eaten any differently than I have been eating....

And let's talk about the whole eating thing.  I still eat healthily.  I looked at our grocery basket Sunday night when we went to get groceries and it was full of fresh fruit, veggies, complex carbs, healthy proteins, and the like.  Despite the gain I thought I had, I was proud that our eating has changed and that even at this stressful time, the basket wasn't full of junk.

'Cause you know what?  If the house had junk in it, I'd be eating it right now.  I've mentioned it before, but I want to say it again: this whole losing weight business takes a lot of time and energy.  Some folks think that it's just a bit of a shift and life continues on as normal, but it doesn't.  At this particular stage in my life as I devote 90% of my mental energy to the labor and delivery of this PhD dissertation, I have been overwhelmed with the reality that I just don't have the energy to count calories and give serious thought to my food choices.  The amount of energy that it takes to have that mental conversation, talking yourself out of eating something....it's just not there.  

Which is why grocery shopping has been so important in this process.....that is the only time I really have to be intentional about what is purchased and stocked in the house.  

In other news, I had a chance to meet up with friends this past weekend (which is a big deal in and of itself....this whole PhD malarky is such a solitary business!!) and, after hearing my disappointment in gains (this was before I weighed), they encouraged me to post about everything I'm losing right now - not just weight but things I'm ticking off my list that show progress on the dissertation front.

I don't want to bore you with details, but I will share where I am and what I still have left to do, just so this all makes a bit more sense (as it's ridiculous for me to assume everyone knows the kind of stuff I've been busy doing):
  • Since June, I have wrapped up writing and editing five chapters, totalling roughly 240 pages (66,000 words in the actual dissertation, 36,000 words in footnotes).
  • Yesterday, I sent those 5 chapters plus an argument summary for each section and a table of contents to external readers and supervisor for editing, proofing and feedback.
  • I still have my final chapter - chapter 6 - to finish, plus overall introduction, conclusion and abstract/summary to write.
  • And finally, I have to make whatever changes my external readers suggest I make and final edits to the entire dissertation once it's all finished.
And I have 6 weeks left to do it all.  Turn in date is 30 September, but it needs to be finished about a week before that in order to have time to get it bound into soft cover (paperback) in order to be submitted for examination.

At times (mostly it's when I'm getting down on myself about not losing weight), I begin to think that what I'm doing isn't that big of a deal, that I'm making it into a huger deal than it actually is.

But other times, when I consider that it's taken me almost 4 years to get to this point, and that this is the culmination of a LOT of work, stress, and thinking, I give myself a break.

And it occurred to me the other day that I have never once heard anyone say, "Compared to this, doing a PhD is a piece of cake," or "My PhD was so much easier than __fill in the blank __."  One friend reminded me this week that its supposed to be hard, otherwise everyone would do one.  And this process is supposed to weed out those who can't produce what one needs to produce in order to get those letters behind one's name.

But is my success guaranteed?  No.  I could do all this and still not pass.  What are the chances of that happening?  Ummm....I'm not sure.  I'll have a better idea when I hear back from my readers in about 3 weeks' time.

So, with all that going on, I have to give myself some credit; a .8 lb or even 5 lb gain isn't that big a deal.

Mel Gets Fit posted this image on Twitter the other day and I loved it. (btw, you should check her out - she's doing great work!)  It seemed to sum up not only my weight loss journey, but just where I am in general right now on good days...or what I have to remind myself of on bad days:


1 year on and I've lost 56.4 lbs (4 stone) and am churning out some of the hardest work I've done in my life. 
I think that's worth celebrating!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weigh-in no. 46

I'm still here.  Two weeks since last weigh-in and up two pounds.

Starting weight:   327.0
Last week   :        270.0
This week:           272.0    
Gain of                +   2.0
Total Loss          -  55.0 lbs

I didn't post last week because I didn't have anything to say.  And, while I don't really have much to say here either (or at least I don't think I do....), I couldn't not post.  

Two months from yesterday, all being well, I will be finished with my interruption in trying to lose weight.  My dissertation will be handed in and life will return to a new version of normal.

Some reflections on things as they stand at the moment:
-  I'm starting to feel fat again.  I'm only up 2.8 pounds from my lowest weight, but I can feel it creeping back into my psyche.  It's partially related to my gain, but mostly I think it is because of my substantial decrease in exercise.  Sitting on my bum all day at a desk typing away isn't doing a lot to keep the slob monster away.
-  I recognize that my quest for balance feels a little out of balance with my priority toward this dissertation taking center-stage.  And yet, I feel as if it is the best thing I can do for me at the moment.  It's not my only choice - I could quit, get an extension, or whatever - but it's the only thing I want to do.  It has to get done, and the sooner the better.  And I think it's just part of life that sometimes you have to put important things aside for a short amount of time to get other important things done.  It doesn't make it easier though....

So, that's where I am.  Hanging in there.  Waiting for October 1 to hurry up and get here - but not too fast because I still have a lot to do!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weigh-in no. 45: between starshine and clay

Weigh-in no. 45 (-0.6)

Starting weight:   327.0
Last week   :        270.6
This week:           270.0    
Loss of                -   0.6
Total Loss          -  57.0 lbs

I'll take it. 

This week has been a bit blah for me, so a loss is welcomed.  Everything sort of culminated this week in my mind - the weight of my dissertation, the weight of the f*%cked-up-ness of this place I live in called Northern Ireland, the weight of my attacks of self-doubt that I'll actually pass and get those three letters after my name and a decent job after all this work, my actual weight and inability to focus on it right now....

So I've been a bit down this week.

But things are coasting slowly back up.  I've made some decisions regarding my research and what I need to do to get it done, I've tried to note where my doubt is rational and irrational and act accordingly, and have reminded myself who I am, where I want to be, what kind of life I want and what it'll take to get there.

I'm aware that this period in my life is a transition time as I know I am finishing up one big thing to eventually move into something new.  Those times in life (and I've had my fair share) have always been hard for me.  You'd think I'd deal with change well after all the moving and re-starting somewhere new that I've done in my 35 years...but the unknown and insecurity about what the future holds always weighs on my mind when transition is imminent.  

And the fact that I'm not self-destructing by gaining a lot of my weight back in all of this is pretty amazing, really.

Note to self:  Take heart.  Have courage.  You've learned a lot in the last few months.  You're human and you'll continue to make mistakes, but look at all you've done with your life thus far.  You're gonna get through this, and it'll be fine.  Your mantra has always been "Somehow, it always gets done and things work themselves out."  No reason to stop saying or believing that now.

One of my favorite poets is Lucille Clifton and I am reminded of a few lines from my favorite poem of hers, called "song at midnight," on these days:
won't you celebrate with me
what I have shaped into 
a kind of life?  i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
Lucille Clifton, "song at midnight," from her collection called Book of Light (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1992)Available on Amazon here.

And so I continue to move forward.  One foot in front of the other.  Without drama, but with determination.  One page and one footnote at a time.  Trying to asking no more of myself than to do the very best I can, knowing that it will not (and should not) be perfect.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weigh-in no. 44

Weigh-in no. 44 (- 0.8 lbs)

Starting weight:   327.0
Last week   :        271.4
This week:           270.6    
Loss of                -   0.8
Total Loss          -  56.4 lbs

I get the feeling that over the next couple months, I'll keep losing and gaining the same couple of pounds over and over.  But as I decided a couple weeks ago, I've committed to maintaining until I get my dissertation finished (I know y'all are going to get tired of hearing about it, but it is pretty much all my life consists of right now!).

However, perhaps I should say that even though I didn't go to the gym this week, I did run/walk intervals and churned out 45-50 pages.  That, I think, is worth celebrating!

Also, my best friend back at home put some goodies in the post for me for my birthday, including some clothes that I had ordered from Old Navy (on a side note: jeans here in the UK/Ireland don't seem to be made for big-bottomed girls.  Most larger women I see here (or most people in general, I have to say) have kinda flat patooties.....and, for that reason, the jeans just never seem to fit me right around the hips and ass area.  So I have to order them from the states).  I ordered 2 XXL t-shirts (not the plus-size, but normal XXL) and 2 pair of jeans in size 18 & 16, so I could work my way into them over the next few months.  The t-shirts?  Kinda big!  I can still wear them, but I think I could have gotten away with an XL in both.  And the jeans?  I could put on the 18's and wear them, but I wouldn't leave the house in them just yet.  So nearly there....and while I've committed to maintaining, perhaps they'll be a good motivation to lose just that little bit so that I can wear them.

On the exercise front, I find myself a little frustrated with the whole running gig.  I still like doing it and I'll continue because the movement I'm doing, regardless of the time I'm able to do, is good.  However, as you may notice if you read the blog regularly, before I left on vacation in early June, I was able to run 13 minutes (1 mile) on the treadmill without stopping.  Not a huge amount, but a hard-won and kinda big deal for me.  

Granted, it was on a treadmill.  With no resistance or incline.  In a climate-controlled gym.  

And I took a break from running for about 3 weeks.

And now I'm running outside, around my neighborhood.  There's hills.  Gentle inclines, more like....up and down....

But damn if it doesn't almost kill me to do 3 minutes now!!  I went back to Couch to 5K training just for the ease of things (time, music, prompts, distance measured, etc) and Week 3 kicked my ass.  What the hell is that about??  (can you tell by my profanity that I'm frustrated?)

Seriously...I'm heaving by the 3 minute mark...WTF?

Oh well.  At least I'm not getting stitches or shoulder pain anymore, which I was getting when I first started running outside.  And I'm learning how to regulate my pace better.  And I'm getting my heart rate up despite the amount of time I actually run.  So I'll keep at it.....but still.  Damn.  Kinda makes me mad.

Oh, and I've figured out the snack food for the library thing.  Measured servings of dry cereal like Cookie Crisp or Cheerios seems to do the trick for me with the need for crunchy, bite-size snacks instead of M&Ms or the like.  The roasted chickpeas didn't turn out so well - a bit like unpopped kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the bag - so I'm not sure if I did them wrong or if that's just the way they're supposed to be.

And that's me for the week.  Wish me luck - chapter due to my supervisor this coming week!!