Friday, May 31, 2013

On Losing Weight (or not) for the Wedding

I've spent the past 18 months planning my wedding.  The decorations, the timeline, the food, the guest list...hours and hours and hours of time spent crafting this day.  Somewhere in the back of my head during that time was the half-baked thought that at some point, as the day drew closer, I'd crack down on my diet and amp up my exercise.  I'd start being more diligent about my skin care routine, test out spray tans, find the right jewelry, find the perfect shoes, figure out how to apply makeup to make me look like the most perfect, glowiest version of myself and on and on and on.

And now, 45 days out, give or take, I haven't done any of those things.  I (hopefully) have a dress being made, but have accepted I might end up wearing something totally unplanned should plans for that dress fall through.  I've been playing a bit with makeup and (surprise) pretty much just look like myself with it on.  I bought some shoes that I like but know I'll probably end up in some old sandals a couple hours into the party.  I haven't figured out the hair.  I've been making apple hand pies and developed a recent obsession with potato chips (in other words, eating whatever the heck I feel like) and have been lucky if I can hit Pilates a couple of times per week.  I'm sure someone somewhere would tell me I'm not exfoliating enough.

And it's all kind of lovely.

Here's the thing: I love my body and I'm pretty happy with what I look like  (I know it may be considered a bit gauche to make such outrageous statements, but that's another post for another time.).  And while every single wedding timeline I've looked at over the past year and a half has included some version of "change how you look" (aka no matter what, you need to look better/different/usually skinnier if you're going to successfully commit your life to another person's), I've never felt entirely comfortable with the notion that I should look like anyone other than myself as I marry H and celebrate with our community.  Those people?  They're there for us.  They're not there for a smaller-size-than-I-currently-am or tanner or whatever version of me.  Since I've been the same size and pretty much looked exactly the same since the beginning of time, I'm assuming they all have a decent idea of what I look like--I don't want my wedding to be about everybody whispering among themselves, "Oh my god, did you see Kate?  She looks amazing!  I wonder what she's been doing?!"  I want our guests to focus on enjoying themselves, not on what I'm wearing or how toned my arms are.  And as for H?  He's seen me snotty and with drooling-sleep-face.  He's seen me have night terrors, screaming bloody murder in my sleep and he's seen my ugly cry face.  He's watched me pop a squat in the woods, big white tushie out for all the animals to see, and he's seen me with a big, unmanageable wad of pho noodles falling out of my mouth.  He's more comfortable with those versions of me than he will ever be with the made-up version, so I certainly couldn't claim that pleasing him would provide any motivation for me to change my appearance--he either wouldn't notice or wouldn't like it, guaranteed, and I like it that way.

Of course I want to feel good about myself at my wedding, but I want to feel good about myself all the time, regardless of what's going on in my life.  And because of that, I take pretty damn good care of myself, which sometimes means lots of bike riding, kale and Pilates, and other times means dinners of apple hand pies and wine after a week with no exercise.  That's life.  That's my life.  If I were to radically change any of that, the underlying message would veer dangerously close to, "you and your life aren't worthy of the love you're going to receive at your wedding."

If nothing else, being hangry + adhering to a strict workout schedule + planning a wedding = bridezilla, which I'd really love to avoid if at all possible.

So yes, passing the point where those timelines suggest I start changing what I look like and not doing anything about it has been freeing.  It's too late now to really change anything--too late to lose any noticeable amount of weight, too late to go on medication to clear up hormonal skin issues, too late to find the most perfect shoes, too late to grow an extra six inches.  I'm just going to look like me on the big day.  I can't wait to hug our guests, eat tacos and try not to slurp the cocktails down too fast.  I can't wait to get raccoon mascara eyes and for my hair to get sloppy and to trade those 4" heels in for my old flip flops.  I can't wait for that moment at the end of the night when most of the guests have left and we can just lounge around, tired, slightly drunk and entirely satisfied, absorbing all that this process has been.  I can't wait to just be: be totally present, totally overwhelmed with peace and gratitude.  I simply can't imagine that, in the presence of so many people we love who love us back, the thought, "I really should have done more triceps presses" will entire my mind.  The very thought seems preposterous.

I can't say I'm at all times totally above the "you've got to look like a beautiful fairy princess at your wedding" pressure.  Sometimes, on days when I'm tired or crankypants or whatever, I start thinking something to the tune of, "you really better get your act together before the wedding."  But, as with so much in this process, it's essential to plan in regular reality checks because wedding culture has become, and sometimes it feels easier and thus more appealing to absorb the bullshit rather than practice that good old independent thinking.

I don't know that there's a firm answer to any of this.  I don't know if I would have the ability to be in this place had I not spent the past decade working towards some version of it.  I just encourage anybody, whether you're planning a wedding or not, to step back to evaluate your feeling that you don't measure up.  Who taught you to feel that way?  Who validated and encouraged those negative feelings?  Who taught those people to feel that way?  Who's at the top of this food chain?  Do they really give a shit about you?  Do you really want to give them a seat front and center at your wedding, in your life?

I certainly am not in a place to condemn or judge anybody who truly wants to lose weight (or whatever your version of "lose weight" is).  I'm lucky to be pretty healthy and to feel good physically and mentally most of the time.  I'm lucky to live in a culture bubble that mostly supports how I look, or at least doesn't pay much attention to it.  I'm lucky all the dresses I considered came in a size to fit my body.  I can't exactly be up on a "don't diet for your wedding" soap box because for some people, getting healthier or smaller or bigger or whatever might be the right choice for them (but it's gotta be for other reasons than an upcoming wedding).   What I will preach about is ignoring (as much as possible--sometimes it's hard, I'll admit) all those people telling every bride everywhere that she isn't pretty enough to get married.  Because it's a lie.  Because looking a certain way has very little to do with a wedding.  Because those people haven't met you and don't have the first clue what the right thing is for you right now, all things considered.  Because nobody tells a groom to lose weight or get a manicure before his wedding.

I suppose the bottom line here is that there is already so, so much to feel insecure about in life and probably even more so when doing something most of us are not practiced in doing (throwing  a giant fancy party for a bunch of people who don't know each other and, oh, also committing yourself to another person).  Lots of those insecurities are completely valid and deserve some soul searching, information gathering and attention.  Processing those insecurities eats up lots of time and can be kind of exhausting, depending on the day.  So try not to unquestioningly accept it when people try to feed you even more, particularly when those insecurities are complicated by you being a dollar sign and somebody making money from you believing you're not already good enough.  Build yourself a filter to block the crazy and, if you can, solicit some friends from your support crew to be your filter when you aren't up to the task.

And, because I've been trying to find an eloquent way to end this for the last three paragraphs, each paragraph resulting in more thoughts, more writing, I'm accepting that this post, like our wedding,my life and me may just not fit into a perfect box or have a tidy ending.  Does anything, really?  Signing off.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Perfect Granola

I'm coming back.

I defended my master's thesis last week.  I passed.

There are four assignments left between now and graduation.  Two are almost complete.  Procrastination has set in, hard.

When I walked out of my presentation room, away from my committee, I didn't want to celebrate.  I wanted to wash dishes.  I wanted to catch up on favorite blogs.  I wanted to sit in my house, in my happy pants, with nowhere to go, nothing to do.  I wanted to just soak it in.  Also, I was zonkered.  Despite feeling like I've dealt with the pressure and stress relatively well this semester, my resources have been drained.

And as I come back to the rest of life, as I find my footing and figure out next steps, all I want to do is be with beauty.  I've been going to yoga classes regularly again; as I sweat and open up, I feel a lot of the gunk leaving me, permitting, each time, just a little more openness for clarity to seep in.  I've been helping my mother with their house design--we've been working on this project together for over a year.  How sweet it is to exchange daily e-mails and texts with my beloved mother, sharing ideas, making decisions, seeing progress toward something beautiful.  I've been cleaning out my gardens from last year's growth, getting dirty and sweaty and building a glow that only working the dirt can bring.  I've been spending more time just sitting, not feeling guilty about what I should be doing that I'm not.  And I've been cooking.  We've been eating well.

What I've learned in the past is the first few weeks of rest after a busy period are the sweetest--they are the most treasured, because the memory of the busy-ness is so fresh, creating a clear contrast, making the practice of gratitude simple.  Some days I feel anxiety about an unknown future, but then I remember this time is a gift, and just as I don't believe in saying, "You shouldn't have" and "This is too much" when somebody gives me a thoughtful present, I'm choosing now, in the face of this unscheduled, unsure time, to simply say, "Thank you."  These days have been replenishing.

Also, I learned to make the perfect granola.

The simplicity of this recipe, the wholesomeness and the requirement that I be at home for an hour and a half to make it are perfectly representative of the past week.

For many years, I tried to make granola healthier.  I'd reduce the oil, reduce the sugar, add flax seed and oat bran, play with strange combinations and flavors.  But here, this week, I decided to just let go.  Let go of the shoulds and should nots.  Let go of the need for granola to be something other than what it is.  Is this granola energy dense?  I'm sure.  Is it unique and creative?  Not really.  But this week, it doesn't matter.  It feels good to me and because of that, it feels right.  I hope you love it, too.

Classic Granola
adapted from Alton Brown.  If you're curious about adding cashews or you'd like it just a tinge sweeter, please visit his recipe--it's lovely.

Preheat oven to 250°. 

Into a large mixing bowl, place:

3 c. thick rolled oats
2 c. slivered almonds (skins on, preferably)
3/4 c. sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 t. salt
3 T. dark brown sugar
6 T. maple syrup
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Mix this all together until the dry ingredients look coated.  I like to do this by scooping from the outside of the bowl to the center while turning the bowl, but however you can get there, do.

Spread this mixture onto two baking sheets, thinly to encourage even crisping.

Bake the granola for an hour and fifteen minutes, removing from the oven every fifteen minutes or so to stir, allowing the granola to brown evenly.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a bit, then stir in:

1 c. raisins

Store this in an airtight container.  It should last for quite awhile, at least a few weeks.