AGING, Women

DOES THIS MIRROR MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

Is it just me or are there fat mirrors and skinny mirrors? And here is my question for all the mirror makers out there, which one is the right one? What do we all really look like? And why do I even care anymore, other than when I get dressed in the morning and look at myself for a brief check and then that pesky bubble shows up over my head and says, omg what has happened to me?

I write a lot about self talk, perfectionism, self image and spin cycle brain. I am constantly at work on the never ending dialogue between my head and my core belief system. This wisdom and self awareness keeps me in check with my mostly happy existence I am mostly grateful for. Relatively speaking, this piece today is what people would refer to as first world problems. Every day I open the paper, I read about death, destruction and the rise of antisemitism that makes me feel like I am living in a real life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Writing about fat and skinny mirrors doesn’t seem to be a newsworthy commentary.

This is embarrassing to write, but I forge ahead anyway. I know this conversation is one that makes me not alone in my thinking. Years and years of female speak by the line leading ladies in my family always discussing body size, the latest Weight Watchers recipe and the dreaded workouts at Gloria Stevens have left their mark no matter how much positive patty talk I give myself.

When I was in seventh grade, I clearly remember an eighth grade boy saying to me, Alayne, your face on Eva’s body…. Wow. And as he said this he closed his eyes and turned his head with a slightly upturn of his lips letting the fantasy of this hormonal boy designed girl simmer in his loins (apparently, Eva was the desired go to body of the moment and she was a year older than me). I remember thinking at that particular moment that I was not good enough. Rather than saying, go fuck yourself, what about your face and body? I took it like it was a directive. Boys had that power over young girls back then, at least over this boy crazy girl, who for some reason allowed them to decide my self worth fate for most of my adolescence.

Hopefully all of this chick power and positive self talk commentary we have been feeding our girls for the past twenty years has helped them define themselves on their own terms so they don’t have to be guided down the path of negative. But it seems that body image and negative body talk is still a problem with our young girls, the very ones we have been trying to teach to just own it.

Just when I think we are making headway by actually saying negative body talk as a phrase aloud, I see some wacky diet plan being thrown at an eight year old. This is not really some new phenomenon. In my possession, I have a book written by a doctor named Ruth West from the 1950s called, The Teenage Diet Book, given to me my one of my best friend’s moms when we were in 7th grade. I don’t know why or how I still have this book, but it is significant in relation to the blithering bubbles over my head as well as the conversations I have had with members of my female tribe for the last forty years.

this book by Dr. Ruth West written in the 1950’s. Clearly, throwing diets at our young children is nothing new.

I have always had issues with the way I have seen my body even when the way I should have seen it should have been with degrees of worship. I look back at the pictures from my earlier years when I used to use language like, I am so fat, as my perpetual inner dialogue. Then I look at the picture now and my mouth drops open. What a waste of a perfectly good body. Good body? What does that even mean? Shouldn’t it mean, healthy, able to breathe when walking up the stairs or hiking for six hours? Shouldn’t it equate with the word, alive?

As I write today, I am aware that it sounds like I lack the self worth and acceptance I espouse in so much of my writing. Though it may appear this way, I just think it is helpful to say aloud what the bubble over my head occasionally says in its uninvited phrases. The food down turns I have taken in my previous day or week start their yipping in my head labeling themselves as wrong, bad, dumb. I fully realize that this is not helpful. But it is hard to stop the train. And I consider that the years of being surrounded with constant discussion and commentary on body size not just from my own family, but in every piece of literature, magazine cover, and now the algorithms of social media and the internet have planted themselves like an innocent single stem of mint in the garden.

Dieting of yesteryear has turned into softer words, like wellness, clean eating, and it has created a tornado of advice from experts and self described gurus that has left me and my over thinking brain on overload. And almost every woman I know. What to believe? What to eat? What not to eat? Is it even possible to lose weight past fifty five? Then there is the discussion of “set weight” which if you haven’t heard that phrase, you may as well throw in the towel because whatever weight you lose, your body, biologically, won’t stay there as it will work hard to climb back to the old weight for some scientific reason I can’t possibly explain.

Why bother? Well for one, when I have gained ten pounds, I feel like shit. I feel bloated. Every outfit I put on feels like it shrunk and as I actually think this, I realize, oh shit, no the dryer is not expediting heat mysteriously shrinking my clothes, but rather the extra weight is making my clothes feel snug. Darn it. I was ready to call Gils Appliance and buy a new dryer. Then I look in the mirror and that bubble shows up and the voice starts its scolding, Why did I eat that ….. yesterday? I was supposed to start the Whole 30 for the thirtieth time. Come on Alayne, you are going to Florida in a few months….you better get ready.
So I do as Whole 30 commands, stop looking in the mirror. Don’t get on the scale. Just stop the madness. This always helps. And I come back to the beginning of this piece about the fat and skinny mirrors. I know they exist, they are in every dressing room that sells women’s clothing. They are definitely in bathing suit stores and lingerie stores. They are in my gym. And it gets me thinking about perception as reality. And my own reality of aging and the way my body is changing just because of aging.

I realize that I am lucky to be able to write this slightly self-deprecating piece. I am alive and anyone reading this is too. Fat mirrors, skinny mirrors aside, life is a process, and there is never likely going to be a time where I can 100% say good enough. This is the most ironic part of aging, this self-awareness in the midst of the bubbles over my head. Self acceptance is part of the evolution of aging and the more aging women I speak to, the more honest conversations we are having about this process. Honest conversations are the best part of aging with like minded women I surround myself with. Mirrors and extra ten pounds aside, truth is beauty and if aging is truth serum, then bring it on.

Health, life lessons

ON A BENDER

A slight bump in the road occurs, occasionally, when I go off the deep end and slide into sugar and wine oblivion. Sometimes it is just a slight curve and I put my hands on the wheel and do a quick course correction. Then there are the times when I head straight down the bank and end up in a ditch hoping someone will find me before it is too late.

This sounds dire. I sound like there is a cause for an intervention. It is not that bad. Really. Because the one thing I know about me better than anyone is my own slippery slope. I used to blame it on PMS, but I can’t do that anymore since there is no more of that. There is definitely a time limit on using the C word too, coming up on two and half years already, I think I have used that excuse for going off the deep end enough. “Enough already,” I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head say.

So what is it? Why do I have this constant yo-yo where I can feel so incredible and unstoppable, not drinking any wine or eating any sugar that it causes me to almost self-sabotage, like there is some force greater than me saying, “Oh yeah? You feel this good? We’ll fix that.” I know every time I break my flow with “just one glass of wine” or “just one brownie,” I am off and running. Before I know it, I have eaten like an entire cake and drank way too many bottles of wine on the front porch.

Why does this happen? A normal person (if there is such a thing) would say, “Well, Alayne, if you know this is your pattern, then why must you incessantly rewind, repeat?” Sounds so simple. I am a smart successful and generous entrepreneur. I “live life to the fullest” following my brother’s instructions from his death bed like there is no tomorrow. I know better. But yet, I slide.
I have worked incessantly on myself for years trying to understand this pattern of mine.

The funny thing about twists and turns is that I only realize the ‘why’ part after the deep dive. During the dive, when it would be most advantageous to catch myself, is too late. I am ALL in. Whipping up blueberry cake, chocolate babka and cheese-ladened Mexican lasagna filled with dairy that surely would make my breast cancer doctor wince with estrogenic pain.

What I have realized with this last wild ride is that this happens when I am stressed. It is not some self sabotage at all. In fact, I like myself, I am happy with my world, why the hell would I need to sabotage this life I have made with my own two hands? But yet here I am. The weekend after too much wine and too much babka.
Stress.

Cortisol.

High stress=High Cortisol levels.

High cortisol levels=constant fight or flight mode. But there is no fight and there is no flight except to the refrigerator and thus the fatigue subsides as soon as the first sip of wine or the first bite of cake.

It is immediate. And it is satisfying- this temporary fix that no amount of self talk can persuade otherwise. Cortisol is pure power. It is what has made humanity sustain itself. But humanity, these days, is not the same as it was when survival was literal. Survival these days is dealing with the stressors that our bodies and minds could never be prepared for. On top of this, there is the constant brain workings of my mind with thousands of ideas and trying to execute many at the same time.

My mind holds the ideas, but what I lack is the reality of how much time each idea is really going to take. This is where my stressors are. So much work, SO little time. I am convinced that as much as we talk about nutrition as being a precursor to cancer, my gut tells me it is cortisol’s constant production in my system. This is why I exercise and meditate- to attempt to create tools to wind down this overactive brain of mine. And it really helps.

But sometimes I just need to eat cake and drink wine. This really helps too. Except that after a few days of it, my heart starts to race and my head starts to think negative thoughts that were definitely not there before I did my deep dive. The effects of meditation and exercise and healthy eating are cumulative. The effects of wine and cake are immediate and sometimes I just need immediate.

self love, Women

LOVELY MID-FIFTIES BADASS MANIFESTO

I am getting closer to my mid-fifties by the minute and I thought it would be fun to start a #lovelybadass manifesto. I want more loving and kind manifestos in this wacky world of hate and violence I have found myself in. If you want to add anything, send along, maybe we will end up with something so powerful we will rule the world with our badass goodness. I would like to add that my heroine, Doreen Wiggins, the loveliest bad ass ass I know is the one who bestowed this phrase upon me. THANK YOU D.

#LOVELYBADASSMANIFESTO

I will as often as possible lean into the good parts of myself. My shape, my skin, my wrinkles and age spots, right down to the hairs sprouting from every orifice EXCEPT my brows and eyelashes, the only hairs sprouting there are the grey wiry ones.

I will drink the fucking glass of wine or two or three or the whole damn bottle and enjoy it. I will cease and desist the perpetual blithering that happens before and after said glass of wine and just enjoy the need for some release.

I will as often as possible commit to loving my health by nurturing it with goodness. Good food, good thoughts, and good silence. And when I don’t do this perfectly as I know this is absolutely impossible to keep up, I will have a blast taking the deep dive down the rabbit hole and trusting that maybe this is just what my body and mind needs at the time.

I will continue to celebrate my life the way I want despite what every blog post screams at me from my unsolicited algorithms telling the algorithms to spew back on a daily basis. 10 WAYS TO SAVE MORE MONEY, 7 WAYS TO GET FIT IN 7 DAYS, 8 STEPS TO BE A HEALTHIER YOU can go fuck themselves. I going forward and sometimes backwards will make my own lists and follow them the way I want.

I will buy more typewriters with abandon no matter how crazy it is, I will celebrate my own crazy and people can come for the wild ride or not.

I will live and over commit to everything and either make it all happen or none of it because life feels urgent and messy and glorious to be in the muck. I will celebrate that this is just who I am no matter how many times I hear words like, Slow down, just say no and all of the other rules and regs from outside forces.

I will continue to have a love hate relationship with technology knowing that like football, I will never understand it because I don’t want to. THAT SIMPLE.

I will continue to surround myself with only people, places and things that bring me joy. This is something I have complete control over and I will move into my mid fifties knowing it is my right to choose each time, every time.

I will look affectionately at every tight assed gorgeous twenty year old who has the confidence of a young #lovelybadass. I will smile at them and not wish their age on anyone because no matter how tight their ass is in a thong at the beach, no matter how smooth their youthful glowing skin is, if they are lucky to make it to my age and beyond, they too will be me on the beach looking at them. Admiration is a lovely gesture and I bestow it on them with happiness thinking also, this too will pass.

I will smile at everyone. Strangers and babies and dogs. Even if I don’t get a smile in return. Even if they are not smiling at me first. I will do this because I enjoy smiling at people.

I will cut flowers and give them to random people because I have a killer garden and why not share some of it with strangers and friends. Like a thank you note, flowers spread love.

I will come up with a billion ideas and likely only execute less than 1% of them. This is just how my brain works. I accept this despite how many of my friends likely roll their eyes every time I share a new idea.

I will talk to anyone and everyone, who wants me to, about my mastectomy, my breast implants from my mastectomy, and all of the boob conversation that happens. Because what lies in front of me in the mirror every day is my luck that it was caught early, that I have a sense of perpetual urgency to live with wild abandon that at times gets me in trouble, and an upright and almost perfect set of tatas that deserves low cut dresses. (Thank you Dr. Michaud).

I KNOW, RIGHT?

I will always work out. Of all the healthy lifestyle choices I make, exercising is the most important for my mental health and my physical health. And if I don’t get to the gym, I will go outside and walk even if it is around the block. Nature is youth and happiness serum. No question it is what has rebounded my body into the speedy recovery from three breast cancer surgeries, surgical menopause and crazy brain.

I will blow off working out too.

While I am working out with loud music and my lovely trainer telling me to squat and then jump to a burpee and do a bicep curl like this is something normal, I will stop critiquing my hips and my flabby arms as I do this with the mirror staring me back. I will blame my flabby arms on breast cancer surgery. Why not? Free pass, right?

I will offer with wild and joyous abandon my help to anyone starting their own businesses. Pay it forward helps propel success. Success helps people pay it forward. Simple pleasures.

I will continue to say the word, fuck, because there is nothing like this word to get a point across. And there is nothing like fucking. And yes I will say this too.

I will say I love you to friends and family often. Maybe too much. Why not? I will continue to work on my five favorite relationship words, THE FIVE A’S from the incredible David Richo, who wrote a book that could easily be the only wedding gift for a new couple or anyone for that matter. This book changed my life, How to Be An Adult in a Relationship. ATTENTION. ACCEPTANCE. APPRECIATION. AFFECTION. ALLOWING.

If I start to go negative about something, I will do my best to change the conversation to gratitude. It never fails me. Not always easy when my brain starts spinning into the oblivion of negative thinking, but when I remember to go to what I am grateful for there is an immediate shift. EVERY TIME.

I will speak my mind when I see both subtle and loud patriarchy. It is the silent killer of feminine energy and I will no longer be silent.

I will say the words vaginal dryness.

I will continue to connect with people and create connections. Supportive, kind connection is what gives me pleasure and I want pleasure.

I will try my hardest to rest, to read in the middle of a day even when there is so much on my to do list it is making my head spin. I will stop. I will stop. I will stop. Clearly, this is not easy.

I will type on my typewriter collection and, snail mail, send more thank you notes I will do this often because typing on a real old school typewriter and writing with an actual pen and paper gives me a sense of calmness, it is almost like meditation. And it is sending kindness and light through the real air waves. No social media can ever replace receiving a real typewritten or hand written thank you note.

I am sure I will think of many more once I hit the send and publish button. Manifestos, when used for goodness, are like this; they invoke more goodness. We need more goodness. We need more kindness. We need more connection. And goodness knows we need more women speaking their truths ALOUD AND LOUD.
#LovelyMIDFIFTIESbadass indeed.

MORE:

I will not talk about food and the consumption of it as good or bad. I’ve been good will no longer exist as a description of my previous day’s history.

I will offer help if I see a stranger struggling with putting groceries in the car. They can say no, but I will offer to help.

I will eat the mother fucking ice cream whenever I want. And if Ben and Jerry’s continues to call their pints, three servings, I will start a boycott because it is not normal to think that a pint should not be eaten in at the most 2 sittings, (ie within an hour of each other)

I will continue to bang and bop my head when Robert Plant sings, “When the juice runs down my leg” Or when ACDC screams some misogynist song realizing completely that this goes against everything I have ever fought for because the beat and the headbanging sounds and the singing at the top of my lungs overrules every modern era #metoo movement. I grew up in the most misogynistic era listening to ads that say things like “boys don’t make passes at girls that wear glasses.” I am confident in my ability to separate. So: For those about to rock, we salute you. 

I love not having to ever wear a bra again. #Goreconstructionafteramastectomygo

Ditto for never having to buy tampons or maxi pads again where I had previously never considered that the tax that has been charged on these as a luxury item shocks me more that I never questioned it all of those years. I shudder to think about how much that adds up to. Shameful. Misogynistic. Way more than ACDC if you ask me.

More to follow I am sure.