Letting Go & Honoring Our Old and New Selves
I’ve been working on cleaning out my Google Drive because Google has been warning me my storage is almost full, and I don’t want to pay for more storage because that’s ridiculous (in my mind). I’ve already been going through my old e-mails for months (I’ve been at 92% for a while), but hadn’t been aware of the space I was taking up in Drive.
I had stuff in there from 10 years ago and files I have no idea why they were there in the first place. Recipes and photos. Old copyediting assignments. But also files I shared with John during the mountain-house remodel.
Those latter files were a FIND. Maybe they will help me finish the “House Therapy” writing project (see older blog entries). I’ve been stymied on how to begin writing about the creative process of the remodel – how to break it down. The files include lists that could perhaps remind me what I was thinking about during the design marathon I completed during the same timeline as the court case for my assault. It’s been my own personal “how creativity and a project can save you” story.
Anyway, in the process of doing this winter file cleanse yesterday, I ran across an article I had written and with fitness photos of me from late 2017, after just completing a year-long nutrition program aimed at improving my health, eating habits and triathlon performance. I used to be really into triathlon, trained year-round, raced throughout the summers beginning in my mid-40s, and even had a triathlon coach.
Starting to read the article, almost immediately I got a little sentimental, sad and teary. I could feel the emotion building up in my chest and allowed it to release for a few moments and rumble downward through my body.
I was a little caught off-guard by this emotion because I thought I had somewhat “let go” of those photos I loved, which represented both a state of physical health and strength I haven’t been able to get back to yet, as well as the “innocence” of me and my world RIGHT BEFORE my sexual assault. The smiling me in athletic gear and running shoes is the “old me,” the one who had just had an amazingly fabulous 50th birthday year.
Regarding this “letting go:” Maybe you noticed I’ve been changing my social media profile photos lately – updating them to represent me now at nearly 55: older, wiser and more trauma-processed and feeling integrated enough in my coalesced Before & After self to let “that” Dianne remain back in 2017 and to just say hello to her once in a while. And to welcome and celebrate who I am now, someone whom I do really love and think is pretty cool.
But WOW, I was in AMAZING shape when this photo was taken, and I was pretty proud of myself (still am). I had finished the summer triathlon season, had been doing strength training with a fitness coach, was eating mindfully and had dropped that last 18 pounds to help me perform better as an athlete going into the 2018 season.
Look at that smile. Look how happy she is.
She has no idea what is coming.
THAT is what this photo means to me.
So it’s pretty loaded.
Yeah, I guess I have more processing to do to help honor her in my memory, yet continue to move forward. I have made huge progress doing so. But as I write and edit this entry, the tears keep coming in waves.
But tears are good. They are emotion. And we need to feel and acknowledge our emotions in order to recover.
So don’t feel sorry for me. This is a good place to be. I am in a good place.
We Survivors don’t need sympathy. We don’t want it (at least this is what most Survivors I’ve talked to agree with.) We just need our voices to be heard and our stories known. We need people to understand that these crimes happen all the time; that they have tremendous long-term effects on our lives, changing who we are; and that by speaking our truth we ache to help others feel less lonely and perhaps make a difference in some measurable way. We wish to find connection.
We do not speak up to get sympathy. Sympathy personally makes me cringe. Empathetic interest and understanding work, though, and an acknowledgement that our healing is long-term. That we are still in-process. That our wish for a welcoming space for connection and conversation be offered as we continue on our journey so that what we are going through doesn’t feel so lonely.
Four years in, I am not “healed.” I am so, so much better, but the “healing” will be a life-long process.
And using that as a segue back to the topic at hand: This life-long journey of recovery and getting back to health (and fitness!!) is shorter for me. I’m now in my mid-50s. I became a Survivor at 51, not at 20 or 35 when there is a presumptively long amount of lifespan left to go through the initial part of the healing process, figure a lot of things out and get things like sports back on track. (On the benefit side, I had more years of my life NOT being a Survivor than most have.) … My body is aging. It’s only been four years, but four years is a significant amount of time for body-change and wear & tear at my age.
At 50, I had finally found my mojo after working so hard for so many years to overcome physical and health challenges.
And I guess I’m still angry he took that away from me — and stole precious years of my remaining allotment of good health and fitness.
I will continue to work toward fitness again, a slow process for me. Getting traction has been difficult. But I crave having that sense of strength again. It’s such an amazing feeling that even in the “innocence” of my Before, I never took it for granted because it was hard-won for me. I remember saying to the photographer (a family member) as they took my fitness photos on that day, something like, “If I get sick or something happens to me, remind me that I once achieved this, that I did this.”
A future foretold?
As I look back at the 2017 writing, there actually is wisdom I can use as I continue the step-by-step process of getting a foothold on stable health. I had remembered most of the tips (and many I still use), but reading the bulleted points as a whole, I found there are clues I had forgotten about.
So I thank my 2017 Self for documenting this, putting down in words the methodical process that once worked for me and that has kept me somewhat steady — given me cues about the importance of listening to my body, advice that has carried over within the structure of healing trauma.
And I also thank my 2017 Self profusely for being in that kind of shape at precisely the right time to help me save myself just four months later. She helped me fight him, she gave me endurance, and she gave me a good foundation for self-care as I began my healing process.
I’ve included the short 2017 article below in case it speaks to you where you are in your trauma-healing and health-recovery process.
Here’s to the old and to the new. May we honor both.
The Pursuit of Non-Perfection
I’ve been working on figuring out my body for several years – weight and health issues. But for the last year, I’ve been participating in a nutrition-coaching program through my strength coach. And for the first time in my adult life, I can now maintain my weight through my eating (rather than primarily through exercise), which was my goal. I’ve also gotten out of the cycle of beating myself up when I slip up. It’s a major relief!
This week I graduate out of the program, and I’m ready.
As part of the last piece of the program, we work on paying it forward. So I wanted to share several key things I’ve learned the past year that have affected my eating and my overall health. Maybe one of two nuggets might help someone else find or start their path toward better health.
I’m including a photo from 2010, when I was about 175 pounds, and my photo from last month (above). I’m now 132ish. The final 18 pounds, or so, have come off the last year. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with how I looked in 2010; I just was unhappy with the up and down struggle with my weight and the stress that came with it. My weight doesn’t stress me out now, for the most part; and I have tons of energy, and I feel strong. And I’m hoping better eating will fend off disease as I age. Both my parents died of cancer, and that’s always in the back of my mind.
* This was my number one takeaway: Don’t try to be perfect. In fact, fight against it. Screw up on purpose, and then practice getting back up. This is life. And imperfection is way less stressful than trying to do it right every day.
* With 95% of my meals, I eat a protein, veggies, a whole grain (as in the whole grain cooked, not processed in any way) carb and a little fat (oil, butter, avocado or nuts). It’s a habit that I’ve created, and it’s how I think of my meals now. This is what my body needs. Notice I said 95%. Last night I ate fried plantain chips for dinner. Oh well. As long as I make better choices most of the time, I’ll be OK.
* I’ve improved my mindfulness when I eat. I eat slower and less, most of the time. I let my brain catch up to send signals for fullness, which I generally pay attention to. And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I forget.
* Develop a sleep ritual, and do it every night to retrain your brain. You have to shut your brain off BEFORE you hit the bed. I’ve been doing this for several months now, and sometimes I don’t need to do the full ritual anymore, but most nights I still do. I haven’t taken a sleep aid in several weeks. …. Better sleep improves your health.
* There are no big secrets in this process of weight loss. It’s about slowly accruing small changes that build on one another. That’s what makes lasting change. Try to do it too fast, and there’s a danger it will be short-lived.
* There’s no finish line. My journey continues after this “graduation.” I will use the habits I’ve learned for the rest of my life, and sometimes I will have better days and sometimes I will have worse days. But as long as I make better choices MOST of the time, I will maintain my weight.
Not the End.