Sunday, June 13, 2010

"How Much Do You Think a Tan Weighs?"

Ah, summer! The time of year when we pack away our jeans and sweaters and haul out our shorts, tank tops, and swim wear. The time of year where we shop for all the newest & hottest summer so we can stand in front of the mirror and....complain about how we look. Ah, summer. What is it about bright sun and warm weather that pummels our self-image into submission? In my house we have both side of the spectrum: There's my 14 year-old who put on her size one shorts and obsesses about whether or not she is bigger or smaller than her mom was at her age. And then there's me... I'd shove my 50 pound overweight body into my high-school swim team Speedo and stand in front of the mirror thinking to myself, "You, my friend, are a few sit-ups away from People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive!" To picture me at the beach, imagine a 6'6" cross between a low-land gorilla and a manatee stuffed into a bright pair of board shorts. Yet there I am at the beach almost weekly. The other summer anomaly I don't understand is the inverse law involving confidence level and sheer girth. When I see that Stay-Puffed marshmallow of a human packed into toddler sized clothing with what appears to be 30 pounds of bread dough bursting from every gap in material strutting down the beach like Angelina Jolie on the red carpet, part of me stares in horror and part of me stares in awe. Do they love that look or do they accept that look? And should it really matter to anyone but them? Personally, I blame Disney. The Disney Company trawls out 'perfect' young people that can sing, dance, act, and look perfect in the eye of the camera. That's what our kids have to hold themselves to. Every boy is compared to Zac Efron and every girl to Ashley Tisdale (post nose job, of course). Indigo (my 14 year-old) can move you to tears with her voice, she won the lead in her school's production of 'Annie', is a high honor roll student, and is developing into a beautiful young woman. However, she won't leave the house without doing her hair and has to constantly be monitored so she doesn't wind up Tammy-Fae Bakering herself up to fit in with her other overly made-up freshmen peers. Someone like her has absolutely nothing standing between her and a monster ego and yet... Does this insecurity come from us the parents? Of course it does.... up to a point. We, as caring responsible grown-ups, just find it so much more convenient to place the blame on peers or other outside influences. How much blame, though, comes from the home I really can't say. I mean, my mom's been on a diet since Rock Hudson was straight and smoking cigarettes was considered healthy; and yet neither my brother, sister, or myself are really hung up on our weight. It still really doesn't answer how some people are completely comfortable with who they are, and some aren't. We constantly tell them they should be proud of who they are. But honestly, that like telling someone not to worry. The only time you tell someone not to worry, is when they're already worrying. Ultimately, self-esteem has to come from inside each of us. The number that pops up on the scale is a fact. It doesn't tell us we're fat, skinny, or pretty. It's just a number. What that number tells us shouldn't define who we are, or even what we should wear. What we see when we look in the mirror is a heck of a lot more important then what we see when we step on the scale. Embrace we you are! Put on that bikini or tank top and I'll see you at the beach. I'll be the manatee in the obnoxious board-shorts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Lost Art of Boredom

Last Wednesday I took a nap. I was home between the lunch and dinner shift and everyone was engaged in something; Kovi was home sick and currently sedated by Disney, Indy was at an after-school meeting, and Lori was happily typing away at the computer. No one needed anything from me. It seemed like a perfect time for a little escape. Fifteen minutes of decompressing, 30 minutes asleep, 15 more minutes of re-booting for the afternoon. It was perfect. At what age did we decide naps were a bad idea? While that may not seem like a big deal to some, it probably seems like an impossibility to others. I'm either lazy or lucky! We hear that old mantra 'stop and smell the roses' all the time. But seriously, do we even know where to find roses to smell? We pack more and more into our days and have completely ruled out time for nothingness. What time we don't allot for working, family, or sleeping, we quickly fill with recreation assuming its going to relax us, but hurrying to get a bike ride in between work and dinner only fills the time, it doesn't necessarily undo the stress of the day. We need to make time to do nothing. Time to be (and appreciate being) bored. I learned this from one of the hardest working people I know: Koval, my seven-year-old son. His typical day begins with a shower at 7:30a.m, school from 8:15 to 3p.m. One-on-one therapy from 3:30 to 6:30p.m, and bed time at 8. That leaves him with 90 minutes of time for himself out of a 24 hour day. So what does he want to do with that time? Nothing! He doesn't want to go to a park, or go hiking, or anything else for that matter. He wants to sit with his superhero books and Pixar DVDs and do nothing. There are a few things that sometimes trump 'nothing'. Kovi will almost always spring off the couch to go swimming. And lately his favorite thing to do is take our bikes to McDonald's under the promise of french fries. But ultimately he chooses to be bored. It's his prerogative and I will respect it. The other day he and I were walking ahead of the girls from the parking lot to the beach and he was already planning where on the beach we were going to sit and rest. I mocked his laziness, but followed him to the rocks to 'rest.' Sitting there we watched the clouds roil over-head and tried to guess where the sun would peek through next. It was here that I began to accept the body's need for boredom. I work in a kitchen, so I stand 8-10 hours a day. Biking and hiking may get my mind to focus on something other then the kitchen, but my legs sure aren't going to think anythings changed. We all need to power-down completely from time to time. Perhaps that's why meditation is becoming so mainstream right now. It's a grown-up version of watching the clouds. We're realizing that its inconceivable to adequately unwind with a week or two of summer vacation after spending the other fifty weeks working ourselves stupid. Now it's time to sub-divide our already scarce free-time. We need to spend time freeing our body (back to hiking & biking), our mind (I just read a great book about growing up in the 50's, and I write this blog), and we can't forget to rest our soul. Can you imagine a simpler time then when you were seven? When we look at kids, we assume they're happily taking their childhood for granted. But perhaps they are not really taking anything for granted. They know that the river they throw rocks in will still be there to throw rocks into even after they grow up; the wind will still blow the clouds across the sky; and we'll always feel better after a nap. It is us, the grown-ups, who take life for granted. Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans. That shouldn't be the case. Don't be envious of the inspired by them.

Dedicated to Jeff & Dana -- New parents to be.