It IS harder when you’re the Fat girl

“People who are overweight don’t want unsolicited advice. Guess what. We know we’re fat. We live in homes with mirrors.” –Al Roker, BrainyQuotes.com

And we participate in extracurricular activities; we sit in seats made for someone half our size; we walk through doors built in the 20’s sideways; we go into stores to try to find cute clothing. Let’s face it, we have a constant reminder that we’re bigger, heavier, or “pudgier” than other people.

I went kayaking this Saturday with the Women in the Park program through Friends of the Willow and Kinni. It’s a non-profit group that does most of the programming in the two local state parks. They got a grant to offer this group, so it makes this fun experience accessible to many more people.

The program offers all of the events free to participants under the grant. If not for that, we’d have to pay for our own kayak rental, archery lessons, etc. I decided to participate because I’m trying to get out and do more active things. I figure I can meet more active people to be my friends if I do more active things. I love you all, but I’m tired of just going to dinner, drinking, and talking. Even a short walk after dinner makes it more interesting.

Anyway, I signed up for this class knowing that I’d know no one in attendance. I was just excited to get some real training on kayaking. I had done it a few times with the kayaks that my in-laws have and it was pretty fun, although I kept falling over and getting water in the boat. I found out that I was missing a key element of kayaking, so now I don’t tip as much.

Now, many are asking “what does being fat have to do with it?” I am reminded regularly by a co-worker that anyone being called “fat” is inaccurate and a trigger for some people. We have fat just like we have finger nails. I am heavier than I look. Many are larger than they would like to be. This is what I’m talking about.

Even the leaders of the class were surprised. At the beginning, we got in the water to practice certain necessary moves. I guess my kayak was sitting fairly low because, when we came out, the instructor replaced my boat with a deeper one that had been in the truck. He said it would help me stay higher in the water. This one didn’t have a strap on the back to hold my coat or my shoes (I prefer barefoot everything, if you didn’t know.) So, I left my coat behind and put my shoes in the bottom of the boat.

This deeper kayak did not keep me out of the water by any means, though. I am heavy, as I said. Apparently, I still weighted it down enough to get water in the kayak. Thankfully, it was less than I would have in the shallower boats. I was reminded as we went, me in my larger kayak, that I am significantly stronger than many people smaller than me. I have to be. Pulling my 266 lbs through the water is a lot harder than pulling Cathy’s 125 lbs. My strength is a positive in many situations. My strength comes from pushing around my fat.

As the day went on, I started to notice more of the water that was building  up on the bottom of my boat. On top of what was coming off of my oars, it started raining. My larger kayak had a larger hole as well. It caught more water. When we returned to shore, others were able to easily get out of their kayak and quickly pull them up to the trailer.

Here’s where another hard part came: Getting up. When you’re thin or light, it isn’t that hard to push yourself only partially onto your legs and press yourself to standing. When you’re someone like me, whose weight plays a significant role in the health of their joints, you don’t want to try to just spring that extra person off of the ground. You need to make sure that your hips are over your knees are over your ankles before you straighten said legs. It’s better for everyone involved. That’s hard to do in a kayak.

On land, if your legs are straight out in front of you, it’s possible to roll to the side to get your legs underneath you before standing. Not so in an aquatic vessel. On top of the not-rolling part, you can’t just put your feet down like in a canoe. The seats in a kayak are very close to the bottom of the vessel and usually do not move backward so that you can get your footing. I still haven’t found the key to standing up easily. What I did was push straight up, get my feet on the bottom of the boat, then grab the front of the gunwale to tip my weight forward over them. This is a hilarious sight if you can’t imagine it yourself. I learned it from the cows in my life… farmers know what I’m talking about.

Ok, after the funny tipping standing motion, I was able to get out of the kayak and started trying to drag it up the beach. The problem was that there’s now 10 gallons of water in the bottom of the boat. Someone tried to help me carry the other end of the kayak and failed miserably. There I stood, waiting for the tiny hole in the back of the boat to drain it enough that we could tip the boat over to drain out the big hole where I’d been sitting.

My adventure was not over. The park where we were at does not have parking right next to the beach. You park at the top of the hill, then walk down a very steep hill to the waterside. I knew on the way down that the way back up was not going to be fun. I was right. These other woman took the hill with ease. 125 lbs is not hard to get to the top of the hill. The momentum holding her back with gravity was so easily overcome that I was in awe. She hardly was breathing hard when we got to the top. I, on the other hand, was drenched in both sweat and river water, along with huffing and puffing like I was trying to blow down a house.

A good friend of mine told me once “My life is not worse because I’m fat. It’s just different.” Worse, maybe not. But I propose that it is harder, and that’s what makes us stronger. We have to work harder to get what we want, like making our own clothing, writing the manufacturer, or going to a different store (or 5). We have to go farther to make people understand, like the extremely unnecessary convincing of our doctors that it’s not because of my fat that I am depressed; it’s the other way around, or going to those 5 stores for a cute outfit, or taking the stairs because the elevator only has room for a skinny girl left. We meet far more people even if against our will, like dating 15 first dates but no second dates, trainers and nutritionists and endocrinologists that can’t figure out how to make us thin, and everyone we bump into in any kind of line.

Life is harder and that’s ok. What’s not ok is when there’s judgement because of it. I was lucky this weekend; no one openly judged my abilities to kayak but myself. I was grateful that no one offered to help me up the hill or suggested that I sit down half way up on the bench. I just wanted to keep going. But there are times when we can’t avoid the feeling of judgment.

Imagine being told you need to buy the seat next to you on a flight, that you are too large for a ride at a theme park, or that your company didn’t get your size of the company shirt that EVERYONE ELSE got. Now also think about the looks you get when you go out with the one you love. Instead of a tiny salad, you order a beer, burger and fries. The girl down the bar snickers and points your way and you can’t help but wonder if it’s about the food you got. The attendant at a clothing store looks you up and down and says “I’m sorry. I don’t think we carry your size. You’d be better off at Lane Bryant.” I do love Lane Bryant, but I wanted to try on that cute, flowy floral you had in the front window. Ordering bras from a catalog because they don’t carry your size, then having to send them back multiple times because the store attendant sized you wrong.

Self-judgment is the biggest risk we face. We try to blend in; to talk quieter so no one notices the fat girl. I won’t do that anymore. When I feel that bug in my brain start to attack, I get louder. If you don’t like the loud fat girl, you probably shouldn’t hang out with me. My husband says I could make friends in Antarctica, and I probably could. I like people and I do think that no one means to be mean. A lot of that judgment is self-preservation or self-hatred. They work so hard to be skinny that they’re terrified that the carrot cake they ate might make them look like me. Fine, let them be terrified. Looking like me is not the worst thing that could happen, but they don’t know that. I do. I have a good life, albeit harder than theirs. But I don’t battle with that fear. I’m happy to be me and to have my fat. I’m happy to be strong and loud and blunt. And all of these things because being the fat girl is harder.

Enjoy your cake and we’ll see you on the road.

Hey it’s me, your suicidal friend

I like to go around reading others’ writing as well. Every once in a great while, I  run across something that I really relate to.

Today,  I saw something posted semi- privately and I instantly wanted to spread it far and wide. I can’t say that I still struggle with these thoughts,  but there are very important people in my life that do. I found this helpful for those of us that want to help,  but don’t know where to start.

I went about getting permission from this person.  She said she didn’t want any credit other than sharing her name.  No links; no pingbacks.  Her badge is Jade Sage. Thank you for sharing your heart and your writing. Hope we see you on the road.

So, without further adieu, here is a profound writing by Jade Sage.

Okay, so I’ve been dealing with some things lately, that have been pushing me towards that edge. I’ve been actively suicidal for close to a week… and this isn’t my first time here.

But this isn’t about me or my problems, specifically.

This is a PSA.

A lot of people don’t know what to do when someone they know is suicidal. They don’t know what to say, because what if they say the wrong thing? Or they don’t understand depression and can’t relate. And that’s okay. Really, it is.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have good brain chemistry. Some of us have developed healthy coping mechanisms. And some of us have neither of those things. Or parts of them, and it’s not enough.

Anthony Bourdain died today, from suicide. He didn’t commit suicide- he is not guilty of a crime. Suicide killed him. Depression killed him. I keep hearing that people are shocked, that they never saw it coming. Sometimes it’s the people that seem most together, that need the most help. Bourdain was a drug user- that was his coping mechanism.

People who die from suicide are your friends, family. Neighbours, pastor, anyone. There is no prejudice, for depression.

So when you have a friend who is suicidal, what do you do? What can you do? Here are my thoughts:

– be honest. If you can’t relate, tell us… but maybe add that you would like to help.
– ask us what you can do for us. Honestly, sometimes all I need are creature comforts, like my heating blanket, to make me feel a bit better.
– do not NOT talk about your life. So many people don’t want to overburden a suicidal person, but by shying away from sharing, you’re pushing us away, and cutting us out. By sharing your own life, you create grounds on which two way empathy can be built.
– check up on us. Please. Be annoying. We will eventually respond. Your messages tell us that someone cares.
– please don’t recommend therapy, drugs, or suicide hotlines. (At least, not more than once!) We know they exist, but if we are sharing with you, we need a personal connection. Suggesting these things, while meant in a helpful way, actually can push us away.
– be kind. Even if you don’t have the energy to handle us, be kind.
– it’s okay to not be able to handle us. Sometimes what someone else is dealing with is too much for you- and we understand that! That’s why we are in this situation! So if it’s too much for you, tell us you love us and that you want to help, but listening is too hard- ask how ELSE you can help.

Suicidal people are people. We need help and support. We don’t need lectures, moral opinions, and judgment.

Be kind.

Surfing in Wisconsin

“Social media sites create an illusion of connectivity” — Malay Shah

“We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.” — Erik Qualman

“You have friends all over the world; you just haven’t met them yet” –Couchsurfing.org

I can go on and on with quotes about social media. We have a lot to say on this subject. There’s information to suggest that 55% of people throughout the WORLD use social media. There is NOTHING ELSE in the entire world that 55% of people agree on (other than needing oxygen, food, and water). And I’m thinking that this phenomenon has something to do with us feeling more lonely and disconnected.

I’ve noticed in recent interactions online, I feel empty. It felt like my interactions on social media were more about the “media” than the “social”. This led me to make a decision. I have decided to use Facebook only for groups and events now. Trying to avoid my feed as much as possible. Why? Because it’s not really social there. My feed is a bunch of information being thrown into the world; thrown at the wall by my friends and family. It reminds me of advertising in a magazine. We tend to just flip through it until we find something for us. It has nothing to do with connecting.

Anyway, I’m moving most of my social to groups and in person meetings. Last night was a good example. I used the Couchsurfing app to find a Twin Cities event that happens every week. This community has created great friendships and memory makers. Couchsurfing is a way to travel on the cheap and really see the world through the eyes of others. The idea is that you can lend your couch (or guest room or air mattress or floor) to a traveler or two. They, in turn, teach you something or hang out and offer the same couch service to others if they can. It’s a great way to find travel partners and new friends. I highly recommend you check it out.

Back to my experience with this website/app; Jeremy and I joined the site years ago, when it was in its infancy. When we checked it out first, it was an interesting idea, but not something that had hit any kind of stride yet. There was no one around us that used it and only a small handful of people in the places we were looking to travel to. We also had almost no friends who were willing to write us a reference. We filled out our whole profile and got as verified as we could without paying anything. Then we forgot about our profile there. When Airbnb came out, we touched base back there, but had no desire to focus enough to try this new concept and learn the new website. Then came the app and his most recent trip.

Currently, Jeremy is in San Diego, CA learning about Watsu. It is a bodywork modality that he’s gotten a new passion for. That passion led him to search out classes so that he can also be a practitioner of water therapy and help even more of his clients with their mental and physical illnesses. When we were planning his trip, the question of what I would do for 2 weeks without him came up. Would I still come home every night if I didn’t have to? Did I really want to keep travelling 52 miles one way each day for work? No to both. I wanted to stay closer to work so that I could drive less and enjoy my extra hours in the day.

Couchsurfing came to mind when we were booking his Airbnb stay there. Why couldn’t I stay on someone’s couch close to home? That way, if something was shady, I could just go home instead. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know the tricks to convince a host to let me stay. But I did know how to find local events on the app. I joined an event last night for the first time. My first time actually being able to use the app helped out a lot.

First of all, everyone that joined this event online actually showed up, plus a few that hadn’t joined. This is a new concept for us Facebook users. When we have 5 “yes” answers and 15 “maybe” answers, we expect 2 attendees. Events get lost in the turmoil of the feed. So, our social on FB can turn into that feed thing again. On Couchsurfing, there’s no feed really. The events are front and center; the interactions with real people become the focus. You can’t forget when the event feed is constantly reminding you that you have something coming up.

Second, all of these people value interaction. Why would you sign up on a site to be hosted or host someone if you didn’t care about the interactions? They want in person meetings, hugs, and sharing a drink. That interaction is what taught me that short “trips” are better than long ones. I had posted a 2 week hosting opportunity on my trip, hoping to stay close to work for 2 full weeks. Yet, I have Tuesday class that I would need to go home for and Wednesdays I have a standing time to stay with a friend already. Plus, my mom is coming up for a conference at one point and I plan to stay with her for 2 days. So, that breaks my “staying” down to a few short trips. I have thus changed my trips to a few short ones. Hoping this leads to a stay or two. I’m still hoping to interact with one person or more during the times that I’d like to not have to drive to work.

Third, references are important. Interaction and connection are vulnerable experiences. Having someone tell you that another person is good can be a big anxiety reducer. We already do this for people!! How many times do you vouch for someone in your life? “Oh yeah, I do know Troy. He’s a great guy” when your best single friend tells you that she met someone who knows you. “Kelly and I used to work together. Glad you met her.” “John and I went to school together.” There are ways on the Couchsurfing app to do this. There’s personal references, host references, and traveler references. You may have a great place to stay, but be a slob when staying at others’ places. That can be found on here. You may be great at making friends, but not be able to host anyone at your place. So you’d have no references from people you’ve hosted, but many can vouch that you’re a great person to host at their place. We do this in real life; I like that this community offers the opportunity to do it online as well.

Cutting back on Facebook for my social media experience is a hard thing for me. I have spent hours and hours just scrolling my feed, sharing things that make me laugh or cry or angry. It’s a bad habit that I’d like to break. I don’t want my hobby list to include “spending hours staring at a screen sharing pictures of words”. I’ve had moments like this in the past when I found it particularly good to disconnect. I think this will be a way to find real friends again, instead of 1000 followers that like my dog videos I share. It’s already been wonderful for me. Last night, I loved really connecting with a community of vulnerable people who crave interaction and genuine connection. I’m grateful for their new place in my life.

So, what Apps and events and groups do you use to keep it cheap and still fun? What ways do you really connect with people? How do you contribute to the giant brain we’ve created with the Internet? And how have you contributed to the hands and feet of it that go out and find real interactions? Hopefully, you’ll consider reaching out by staying on my futon. Come and surf in Wisconsin in The Girl Next Door. With that, we’ll see you on the road.