I continue to get calls from friends in Baltimore and a few from really older friends in D.C. and Houston. Many are just catching up. Others who thought I was a bona fide city girl are wondering if I’m tired of small town life yet. After eight weeks? Not a chance. I’m just settling in. But, it’s funny in a way because life is way different for me right now. Better? Why, yes – but that is not discounting so many great things about the previous places I have lived. And, the people… how can you not miss your close friends?
The life in a small town is way different than in a major city. There are so many things you don’t have to think about anymore, like rush hour traffic, a slower pace, and even crime to some extent. And, there are so many things I took for granted in the city that I have to do some planning for now, like some shopping for various items or heading to the wine warehouse store with the biggest selections around.
These eight weeks have given me time to start making some major changes in my lifestyle habits and in the way I take care of me. I’m going to bed earlier on a consistent basis and getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night – and, sleeping like a baby, I might add.
I had a bad habit of burning the midnight plus oil in Baltimore – just doing one more thing before I went to bed. What I found was that trying to get by on less than seven hours of sleep was not doing me any favors. If sleeping is when our body rejuvenates, I was certainly short-changing mine. I wonder how long that can go on before there’s a big wakeup call?
And, even though I ate pretty healthy foods before, I am much more aware of choosing healthy now. Vermont is very focused on local homegrown foods and there are tons of organic farms and plenty of farmer’s markets around carrying veggies, fruits, breads, meats, eggs, milk, and cheese – and it is abundantly available. Not cheap, but very worth it. So, our eating has gotten even healthier although we are still enjoying homemade goodies, too, and are not depriving ourselves.
I am moving every day… whether it’s going to yoga, pilates, riding my bike, hiking or just going for a walk. To my surprise, in just eight weeks, moving my body has become an addiction. A good one, too.
So, here’s the big surprise for me. I hadn’t gotten on any scales since I moved here. Before I left Baltimore, I was totally stressed out, not sleeping enough, and eating on the fly. I also had a pair of white pants that had been a little tight last summer. In early June of this year, they looked like Barbie doll pants to me. Instead of putting them in the donation pile, I decided to bring them with me. Perhaps they would fit me again in the future? Wink. Wink.
Well, that kind of thinking usually doesn’t work for me unless I go on some extreme eating plan or take out a second mortgage and buy every supplement that Dr. Oz swears will make you lose weight effortlessly and take them all at the same time. The only thing different for me besides the overall relocation to Vermont is… I am sleeping more and better, eating better foods and meals (no skipping meals), and moving – lots more moving than I had been doing. But there has been zero deprivation – still eating good cookies, drinking micro-brews and sipping red wine.
Well, lo and behold, yesterday I thought, “Wonder if I can get my butt in those white pants?” After digging around to find them because, trust me, they were not the first thing I unpacked for this summer since they actually depressed me more than they motivated me. But, I found them and put them on. And, they glided up over my hips with no forcing. And, the zipper flew up smoothly with no catching. Zip!
Whoo Hoo! It’s as if when I forgot about how I was looking, or stopped being consumed by the “to do” list and made myself a priority – not just for a week or ten days – but by making some real lifestyle changes, then the sun, the moon and the stars lined up to help things out. I never felt better and my butt fits in those pants. Life is good.
Once again, I am wondering why it took moving five-hundred miles for me to initiate these changes. I could have made them in Baltimore, or D.C. or Charlotte or Houston. But, the mindset was not there and my focus was on getting other stuff done. Stuff that seemed way more important than me at the time.
So my challenge to you… what can you do, what one small step can you take, that will start you on the road to really taking care of you? Just take one step towards the goal of loving up on yourself. And, of course, if you’re there or have already started making the changes that support you in the healthiest ways… I want to hear all about it. You’ll keep me going, too.
“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.”
– Margaret Sanger
I have a friend who needs someone to “be there” for her. She just found out she has a scary illness and even though I am not close by, I want to “be there” for her in all the ways that I can.
There is an art to “being there” for someone – to be able to hold space for someone who needs consoling, to feel along with them, and to let them know you care. Depending on the trauma or hurt involved, many of us don’t know how to react, what to do or how to just “be there.” Regardless of how “close” we are to the person involved, we can stay away and avoid the situation completely – be MIA – to “give them some space to heal,” which can be the easy way out for us.
At various times in my life, I’ve been MIA for people mainly because of my own fear of dealing with whatever the situation was or just being uncomfortable about knowing how to “be there.” At other times, I’ve done a pretty good job at providing some comfort. I think as we mature and experience our own traumas, we realize how important empathy, care and “being there” can mean and what an important part of the healing process it is – no matter how long ago the trauma happened.
As I spend time talking and working with sexual assault survivors or being there for someone who has lost a loved one or someone going through a divorce or someone who has lost a job or someone dealing with a serious illness… I find the most important thing is just to “be there” and keep in mind what might comfort me if I was experiencing the same hurt and pain – and, it’s never comparisons. You can’t compare.
Just a couple of years ago when asked why I was working on a project to support sexual assault survivors, I told the person inquiring about my personal experience of being a survivor of a stranger rape. While I have done lots of healing around this issue, it’s still there and tugs at my heartstrings at various levels. Without a breath, her immediate response was to tell me about an experience she had and how awful it was. The focus became her and I have to be quite honest, knowing this particular person in other situations, I felt it was her usual attempt to one-up or let me know that no matter what I’ve done or been through, she has been there, too, and it was much worse or much better. Know any of those people? While I was shocked and saddened that she had been not only a sexual assault victim but that she had suffered as a teen, I felt invalidated and dismissed at the time, because there was never any further response to what I told her except to talk about her story. From my experience, comparisons don’t work … ever.
In January, 2014, David Brooks wrote an article in the New York Times called, “The Art of Presence.” The article touched a part of me and contained much wisdom about how to “be there,” like:
- Do be there.
- Don’t compare ever.
- Do bring soup.
- Do not say, “you’ll get over it.”
- Do be a builder.
- Don’t say it’s all for the best or try to make sense out of what has happened.
I encourage you to read the entire article. It may touch you, also. And, as I move toward “being there” for my friend at this time and no doubt, for others in the future, I hope I keep getting better and better with this process.
What about you? What pearls of wisdom do you have to share about “being there” for someone else? What have you learned from experience?
“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words.”
– Thema Bryant-Davis, Ph.D.