Change Sucks

I hate change. How much do I hate change, you ask? I hate change so much that even the school year’s ends gives me pause and dread. Why do I hate change, you ask? Fear of the unknown, simple as that.

Because I am a high school teacher, the day that school ends, the two vast months of freedom loom frighteningly in front of me instead of dazzle exuberantly. That’s how much I fear change and that is obviously a deep seeded fear. Who else would (briefly) despise two months of freedom, except somebody petrified of change?

My school day is a dichotomy of a super fast and zany pace, tamed and micro managed by bells that ring at times like 10:21. Slowing down and exercising free will about when I would like to have lunch and use the bathroom poses a challenge once sun’s rays shine their fiercest.  Well, I adjust quickly, create a loose routine, learn to slow down my pace so that freedom quickly becomes my amazing companion. This type of change is temporary with the turn of the calendar, so adjusting is simpler, gentler than some other changes. Once the two months are up, you can only imagine the anxiety levels that I experience with adjusting to the days back to school. But that too levels off and life if good.

But being my age brings about a ton of change that is not temporary.  And these changes downright suck. I fear them the most. I have spent years averting them with healthy food choices, a comprehensive exercise regimen, and doing lots of other things that help keep me youthful.  But, like we all do, I eventually lost the fight. Or do we?

Not wanting to wallow alone, I again hit the text lines and collected more data. People my age are struggling with changes surrounding:  marital status, hair color, hair loss, hair texture, empty nests, college bills, new drivers, wrinkles, metabolism, skin elasticity, grandchildren. Daunting, right? Way more daunting than a couple of months of free time. Way too much for me, that is for certain.

So you can imagine my dismay when, while practicing downward dog, I noticed that Gravity had won a battle that I was unaware was even being fought. My diet, heavily laden with olive oil, was no longer protecting the elasticity in my skin.  Gravity vs Elasticity. Gravity won. The levees of elasticity busted wide open and all I saw was wrinkles and moon craters…on my thighs. Thighs that were smooth just a week ago.  Thighs that I had spent years shaping with runs and lunges and squats and kickboards and who knows what else. When I stepped into jeans that I had just pulled out of the clean laundry basket, they would not budge over my knees. My thighs just weren’t having it. Yoga pants for me, for now on.

Then a few months later, Gravity played another shitty joke on my me. She defied my waistline and allowed it to actually move UP about three inches.  A waist that I had meticulously maintained with a healthy and fresh diet and oblique crunches and Russian twists and side bends. This time the jeans wouldn’t button right under my belly button. My waist just wasn’t having it.  Good thing high waisted pants were on their way back into style.

button pants

That isn’t me, but this picture perfectly portrays my exact dilemma. I had lost control and gravity was either conquering me or abandoning me. That bitch.

Wrinkles on the face: smile lines, lines on the eyes, I can handle and even celebrate as  evidence of a life well lived, as does Bastille in “Laugher Lines,”

“Changes on our hands and on our faces, oh, oh
Memories are mapped out by the lines we’ll trace.”

I like that concept of wearing my awesome memories on my face, so this type of change is gently, albeit slowly, accepted by me. Other body changes. Not so much.

But then…Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants–an amazing book, btw–says: 

body changes

As do I. I deny it and even try to hide it. Behind yoga pants and high waisted jeans. I figure out how to cover up most of these changes that have personally affected me. I (try sort of hard to) make sure my grays aren’t showing. I (sometimes) use concealer to hide my wrinkles. I (try not to forget to) cut bangs to hide my forehead wrinkles. I (usually) paint my toes.  And I (almost always) pick sundresses that are baggy enough to fall over my head when I practice handstands. Oh, the irony!! Consult, Bare [It] Naked, Ladies [And Gentlemen], if that ironic is lost on you. 

This type of change…unlike my job that is constantly changing with the earth’s turn around the sun…the type of thing that previously had been steadfast (that I worked hard to maintain) but then shifted and now the new change appears to be here to stay, was a tough pill for me to swallow.

I have been the butt of many jokes in my day but rarely was the joke about my butt or my body.  Except that one time, after my freshmen year in college, when my cheerleading coach told me that I had gained too much weight over the summer. She was correct. I worked so hard making money that summer that I didn’t tend to staying strong and fit for my cheerleading squad obligation at East Carolina University, home of the Pirates.

Maybe you are appalled right now because we are taught not to say those things to girls. And I totally agree. With both sides, if that is possible, my coach and you.  See, I was disappointed with myself (there are certain activities that require a certain physical fitness level) but my feelings were hurt too. I pushed down those hurt feelings and took action to make things right with myself and with my teammates.  Don’t be a pussy. Fix it.  It is always more complicated than that. I was already burdening my team with extra weight, I didn’t want to burden anybody additionally with my hurt feelings. So I felt disappointment both in myself for not staying strong both physically and emotionally.  I worked hard to fix it. I convinced myself that I was doing it for the team. I was probably 75% right.  You can imagine my delight and satisfaction when my coach came to me a few months later with the compliment, “Wow you really made some amazing changes. Nicely done. You are looking strong.” I was thrilled that she recognized my efforts towards being a team player.

Since then, I have worked super hard stayed fit through a healthy diet, lots of exercise, and an active lifestyle. I pride myself on that.

But I also appreciated my coach’s compliment on my appearance, that 25% of me did anyway. How could I not? And has much changed in the last 30 years? I say I want to be strong so that I can continue to take adventures skiing and hiking and exploring the world. But is there still that side of me that wants to fit into society’s opinion of what being fit and strong looks like?

It is true: I value strength above all else, but there is also a part of me that wants to appear a certain way as well. A part of me that feels pride in a strong and healthy appearance. Well here I am 30 years later, trying my best to stay strong but my knees hurt and my shoulders lock up…and that bitch Gravity is just letting me down, no matter how hard I try. Or is she? Is it possible that Gravity is just showing me that physical strength appears in all kinds of different body types?

Back to the polls with my friends.  I asked Debbie about how she is dealing with her body changes. Her answer is amazing. Read closely.

“My main focus this past year has been on my self image and why I made the choices I have in the past. Learning a lot and finding I don’t have any patience for games or BS. Also that my gut instinct is on point and my physical appearance, although important for my overall health, it is what it is. In my younger dating days, I craved approval and tried to control everything. My self worth was based on others opinions and attitudes towards me. So I just wanted them to like me. Didn’t really matter if I liked them so much. Crazy right?! Age, wisdom, and faith have made me a lot less worried about what others think. They will either like me or not and visa versa. Takes the pressure off.”

I love this. And this meme sums up how I envision Debbie’s current place on her journey:

Like Diana Ross says in “I’m Coming Out”

“There’s a new me coming out
And I just had to live
And I want to give
I’m completely positive.”

Thighs riddled with wrinkles and moon craters, elevated waist line: I love you and accept you.  I will continue to treat your with kindness and a fresh, healthy diet, and lots of exercise and fresh air.

But if all else fails, we should all take a page out of Oscar Wilde’s wise words of wisdom:

drink to seperate

So that we don’t get them confused. Nourish them both.

 

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