Thursday, July 25, 2013

Confidence vs. Arrogance

Any time I write about self-image, weight lifting, exercising, our diets, publications, and anything at all happy, the following thoughts ricochet about in my brain after hitting "publish" on my blog:
  • People are going to think I'm arrogant and self-centered with all this, "Look how joyful and healthy I am" stuff.
  • Am I arrogant and self-centered?
  • I better write a sarcastic and funny post about all of my faults and how much I suck.
So, immediately after I wrote about how good weight lifting was making me feel and the degree of self-confidence that gave me the power and strength to stretch into yoga poses I'd never been able to hold before, I wondered if what I said was arrogant.  Am I a braggart?

And then this verse came to mind, one of my favorite Bible verses,
"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

There is a huge difference between arrogance and confidence, and an equally huge difference between humility and self-deprecation. 

While confidence and humility can walk hand-in-hand, joyfully celebrating the good work that you are while realizing you aren't perfect and that's okay, in fact that's just right because you are still in-progress, and this growing and refining and shaping is beauty and art and the stuff of life,
arrogance and self-deprecation propel away from each other.  Arrogance and self-deprecation propel you away from others.  Arrogance and self-deprecation speak opposite lies in the same direction: one says I'm so much better than you. The other says I'm so much worse than you
Confidence and humility tend to operate from a position of neutrality: I am someone who matters.  You are someone who matters.  I will treat you as if you matter.  You will treat me as if I matter.  Because we matter. 
Ironically, both arrogance and self-deprecation turn the spotlight on ourselves.  Look at me, I'm awesome, so much more awesome than you! or Look at me, I suck!
Confidence is knowing that you are a good work.  Arrogance is thinking you are the hottest piece of work to walk the planet and thus you need no more work at all.
People always say, "Ivan the Terrible. Oh, he's so terrible, oh, I'm so scared of Ivan, he's bad news." When in fact, the correct translation is, "Ivan the Awesome." - Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smythsonian
Humility is willing to wash the feet of a stranger.  Self-deprecation lies down on the floor and begs to be stepped on, and when you tell it no, you don't deserve to be stepped on, you're great!, it says, no, no, no, really, I am a doormat.  Step on me.  Self-deprecation downgrades its worth so that others will take pity and deliver praise for how awesome you really are.
Unlike arrogance and self-deprecation, confidence and humility don't carry around a yard stick to see how they measure up with others.
No more measuring.  Who are you?  Who were you created to be?  Are you walking in that direction?  Keep walking. 
Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought, and don't think of yourself more lowly than you ought. 
Consider yourself and be confident.  Consider others and be humble.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Little Heavy Lifting Goes a Long Way

I started a new workout regimen a few weeks ago after months of doing hardly anything at all except an occasional yoga class.  I had a hard time figuring out when I could fit in exercise during the spring without running from work to pick up the kids from daycare, to cook dinner, to eat, to pack up and drive to the gym, and then to home for baths and bedtime.  While Brandon was on the road, there just wasn't a way to do that without eating takeout, which kinda defeats the purpose of working out.  Kinda.

But Brandon has been mostly home since the end of May (yayayayayay), and as we've readjusted to living together again, it's occurred to me that, yes, maybe I can go to the gym for an hour a couple of times a week.  I'm also on summer hours, which gives me an additional hour of daylight at home with the kids (we work 7:30-4 during the summer, with a half-hour lunch), plus the kids have been going to bed a little later than they would on a school night.  AND since Brandon is around more, I don't feel like going to the gym when he is around is going to cut into quality time together.

I can come up with lots of excuses not to work out, and they are pretty legitimate excuses.

Over the last few weeks, though, I started weight lifting after hearing my friends talk about weight training.  They recommended The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess.  With a title like that, who wouldn't want to give it a try?  Good job, marketing department at Avery Trade.  The book offers a case for lifting, a helpful training program that includes using all of the equipment on the "man's side" of the gym-- barbells and dumbbells and benches weight machines-- along with a helpful diet and nutrition guide.

We've adopted rather healthy eating habits in the Wells household since last spring when we tried the Whole 30 program, and we probably stick to a Paleo diet 70-80% of the time (Friday is always pizza night... I still eat ice cream because it is heaven in a bowl... etc.).  My metabolism must be relatively high, and my genes must be pretty decent.  I'd be okay with my figure for the most part if I stopped drinking all of that whiskey with my husband (but who wants to do that?).

Benefits of good nutrition aside, I like the idea of being toned and in shape. Weight lifting is something I haven't done much of before, besides bench pressing Henry on the floor and the occasional half-hearted dumbbell workout after a half-hour on the elliptical.  So I started this workout.  I walked into the gym the first time, my textbook on lifting in hand, and self-consciously maneuvered from station to station.  I felt like I would probably hurt myself, and the boys with their pecs and their biceps would offer to help and then snicker later.  I felt kind of blubbery and noodle-y.  Unsure.  Insecure.  I felt the way I did on the drill team in high school - lanky and out of place.

But after the first workout, my muscles burned and tensed.  And although I did manage to drop the long metal bar used for lat pull-downs on top of my head in the second workout (twice), I was starting to get a feel for the gym equipment.  I'm on my fifth workout now, and here's why I'm going to keep at it:

Last night at yoga, I held eagle pose, twice.  I held half-moon pose with the help of a block.  The week before, I held crane pose.  After an hour of a challenging yoga class I was ready to keep going, partly because my body is actually stronger physically, but mostly because I felt confident.

I can lift the weights on the big-boy side of the gym.  I can squat a barbell with weights on the ends. I can do twelve regular push-ups.  I feel stronger.  My muscles exist and they hurt a little but mostly they are making themselves known, maybe even celebrating being used for something more than carrying in groceries.  I don't think I look any different.  I am pretty sure I've actually gained weight (the scale can go weigh itself).  But that's fine, because it isn't just muscle I'm building.  It's strength, physically and mentally.

I talked after yoga for a little bit with a friend about this holistic approach to health.  I think we can be strong spiritually and strong mentally, but if our bodies are weak and we lack self-esteem, those other areas of our person aren't going to operate as well as they could.  Our whole person wants to be healthy, and if one area of our lives is out of whack, it's going to affect the rest of our bodies.  

This is true in a negative way and it's true in a positive way - so if everything is operating decently and I'm getting by with my pretty good health, adding in a new routine or a new habit (maybe meditation, prayer, running, weight lifting, yoga, cutting out soda, eating more vegetables, completing more crossword puzzles, reading more books)... whatever it is, is sure to enforce the other areas of strength in my life.  I might actually be able to do more than I thought.  And that might actually build my confidence.  And that might make me feel kind of good at the end of the day.  

I can come up with lots of excuses not to work out, and they are pretty legitimate excuses.  But if a few hours of strength building can buy me more energy for my kids and husband while improving my overall self-image, then maybe that's a good investment of that time.  And I can't wait to post photos of myself looking like this:


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Looking for the Goods

First off, is broken, and I'm unhappy about it.  I kept hoping it would reset itself or just reappear, and after multiple attempts to contact customer service people at Google and at, I have given up, deleted the domain name entirely, and with any luck it'll become available again in the next couple of days, so I can register it once more for my use.

This is one of the reasons I haven't written lately.  Another reason is because I've had two weeks of vacation over the last three (I wedged in five workdays somewhere in there), and most of this time has been dedicated to my husband and the three little people.  Heavenly, I tell you.  And the last reason is that I actually have been writing, quite a bit, but it's all super-secret-awesome stuff.  Not really.  It's for school, though, which means it is hopefully going toward my thesis, which is HOPEFULLY going to turn into a book.  

But before any of that can happen, I need to go yell at the circus animals hooting in the room above me.

Sigh. Okay. Threats of separation delivered.  I don't know why it is that they respond so well to this threat - I would think it a treat to get the whole room to one's self while the other one snuggles into my bed.  I like having the bed all to myself... once in a while.

I have the bed all to myself this weekend, a foretaste of things to come.  I admit I'm already panicking about Brandon's road trip days beginning again in August.  In fact, my heart rate just jumped a little.  It feels like summer is already over now that my vacation days are nearing an end and the MFA residency is approaching.  Before I know it, we'll be back to soccer games with an angry toddler and the husband out of the house half the week.

The quickened pace of life that will begin in a few short weeks makes me tired already.  I don't think I've had a long enough reprieve.  I don't want to feel like a single parent for half of the week again.  It is not easy.  

There are times, of course, when it isn't so bad.  A few weeks ago as Brandon worked to settle back into the full-time dad routine, every. little. thing. I. did. was. wrong.  Every thing.  Not wrong, but different from what he does, I should say.

"Did you put my water glass into the dishwasher, Gary?" he teased one morning after I had prepared breakfast, loaded the dishwasher, and cleared off the counter.  His dad, Gary, is known for the quick snatching and cleansing of the glassware, almost before your lips have left the rim of the cup.  I sighed.  "... The kitchen looks nice," he said with a smile, reaching to pinch my butt.

"When do you go back to work?!" I squeaked.  "Can't you call ESPN and ask them for work?"  This, after counting down the days until he was done with work for the summer.  This, after a mental breakdown this spring, after childcare challenges and scheduling conflicts and children who miss him and ME ME ME who missed him over and over again.  Go back to work, I said.  Leave me alone.

We laughed and squeezed each other.  "You have to stop critiquing everything I do, husband of mine. It's driving me bonkers."

I had gotten used to running things my way without Brandon around.  And then he was back, full-scale, with not much to distract him from the household and our children except the occasional round of golf and softball.  We had gotten out of step and in turn kept stepping on each other's toes as we did or did not take out the recycling, did or did not load the dishwasher, did or did not take Henry to the potty fifteen minutes or forty-five minutes after the last time he went.  

The trouble is now that we've worked out a few of these kinks, now that we've learned how to live together again, kinda, well, now he's going to go away again.  This is not the norm, this more laid back summer of temperate weather and short-distance road trips, of golf and barbecues and softball and boats and drinks with friends.

No, the norm is more like the last two days alone with the kids after Brandon left for the weekend to spend time with a friend.  The norm is me and my three little people eating pizza on a picnic bench at the park, walking across the lawn for ice cream, home in time for baths and bed.  The norm is me and my three little people on the couch for Saturday morning cartoons, the slow rise for scrambled eggs with cheese, and then a ride around northeast Ohio, to the tall ships in Cleveland with my mom, to the backyard swimming pool at my in-laws.  The norm is the long ride home with Henry sideways slouching in the backseat while the older two watch a movie and I seek through the stations for tunes I can sing to.  The norm is small feet stomping and giggles from the floor above me, empty threats of separation until they are quiet, sound asleep with feet and arms draped broadly across their beds.  The norm is this silent living room, the clicking of my fingernails on the keyboard, the flick of the paper as I turn the page on a memoir, the clock ticking past the time I'd go to bed if Brandon was here.

If Brandon was here, the Indians game would be on, and he'd be yelling at the TV or talking to the commentators about the last play or commenting on the job the stats guys are doing or laughing at the local evening news anchors.  If Brandon was here, the computer would be sitting on the floor charging, my book would be cast aside, and I'd be cradled between his chest and his arm, listening to the sounds of his stomach and heart (because if he had any of that pizza tonight, his stomach would have been talking louder than his heart).  We might be sipping whiskey (oh, who am I kidding, we would definitely be sipping whiskey) and listening to music, or maybe he'd be playing his guitar, or maybe none of that, maybe just us, alone in our living room, being husband and wife, occupying this space we've created together.

It is good when he is here.  It is good when he is gone.  Both are good.  In fact, when both are in their best gear, both are very good.

I don't always see it this way because I want both goods simultaneously and that isn't possible.  He cannot be here and not here all of the time, and if he was here and not here all of the time I would resent him for not being here when he is here.  You totally get that, right?

It is hard to learn how to balance this life.  How to make room for each other when we're together.  How to appreciate the space when we're apart.  How to shore up the foundation when the support beam goes missing.  How to lean into each other when the rain washes everything away.  How to be content - even when I want him near.  Even when I want him gone.  How to love deeply in every season.  It is hard.  But it is very good.

(That's what she said.)