re-picturing MOMENTS

What do you need to do to reclaim the moment (and your life)?

re-picturing LISTENING TO YOUR HEART IS HARD

Listening to yourself is hard.

Once you get past focusing on what everyone else is saying and down to the real business of listening to your own voice, what should you do when it tells you conflicting things?

Perhaps you have put your nose to the grindstone with something you really want to do, something you need to do. Perhaps you’re training for a marathon, writing a book, or sticking to a budget. What do you do when your heart is tired, but your mind insists on marching on? What then?

Listening to yourself is hard.

And the truth is that we often don’t want to listen to ourselves, each moment of each day. We want to listen to our heart at the get-go and put our desires on cruise control and just speed along towards our destination. Unfortunately, however, listening to yourself involves reclaiming your own voice on a moment-to-moment basis and being flexible enough to break when some slow polk pulls out in front of you, fix the flat tire that inevitably results on any road trip, or to try a new route when the old one is under construction. You can’t take your authentic journey if you’re on autopilot the entire way.

Perhaps you need to take a break from your training plan to give your body much needed rest. Perhaps you need a day off from your writing schedule in order to think about the project from a broader perspective. Perhaps you need to afford yourself a simple little spurge that doesn’t cost much, but feels like a luxury (e.g., oven mitts from Pier One). These are needs, not wants.

This past weekend, I was supposed to be running 7 miles, but a pesky little knee injury has come back to haunt me. Step-by-step, I had to check in with my knee and change my stride in order to avoid the pain. After 6.5 miles, that familiar ache started to rear its ugly head, but I desperately wanted to keep going (I was so close). However, I listened to my body. I stopped, stretched, and walked (I hate walking on a run). Then I got back on the trail and ran the last half-mile home.

Sometimes the right thing is exactly what you want, but sometimes it’s not. However, I firmly believe that if you reach deep within yourself, you will find an answer for what you are to do (or not do) at this very moment. You may have to change course the next hour, minute, or second, but for that moment you’ll be OK. Even if it is the worst of times, if we check in with ourselves, we find that at any one moment we can be OK, good even.

What challenges have you had when listening to yourself?

My New Home!

Welcome! The Re-Picturing Women Project has found a new home here at sarahgervais.com. For those of you who traveled from my old blog site, I am excited to continue on our journey of using photography and words to re-picture the lives of (extra) ordinary women – from exercise and fashion to body image and social change. I am grateful that you are still along for the ride. Thank you. I will continue to share the voices of everyday women, the latest research, and my own challenges and triumphs on Re-Picturing Women Wednesdays. See you in a couple of days!

running toward your heart

 

 


re-picturing FLOW

Dear Friends,

As I’ve journeyed toward a more balanced version of me, listening carefully to what my heart is telling me every step along the way, I’ve noticed that when the going gets tough, I should sometimes get going and sometimes stop and take a break.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been banging my head against the wall and it’s starting to hurt. So, I’ve decided to sit this round out — to take a breather. Take a moment to realign my heart and mind, my body and soul. No worries…I will return next week. I’ve got interviews with several amazing ladies for the re-picturing women project in the pipeline and I can’t wait to share some fascinating new research about women and their bodies. Here are a few pictures that I took of wildflowers along a Colorado stream earlier this summer. They have been a gentle (and needed) reminder for me to surrender to the flow of the universe.

Sarah

Do you need to press on, take a break, make a u-turn? Are you resisting the flow of the universe?

 

 

re-picturing TRUST

Do you trust the universe enough?

re-picturing FITNESS FASHION

 

am I underdressed in my shirt and shorts?

When did the runway replace the running path?

My academic work recently took me to Washington, D.C. for the annual American Psychological Association conference. One morning I rose early to run on the National Mall. I ran the few blocks from my hotel to the reflecting pool in front of U.S. Capitol and was feeling good. My knee wasn’t hurting, it was warm, but not hot, and I was enjoying taking in the sights.

As I became aware of my surroundings, however, I had a completely novel running experience. I felt…underdressed.

No, my ass wasn’t hanging out of my shorts and my sports bra was in place. However, as I looked around, I noticed that the runners around me, especially the women, were not just sporting the usual shirts and shorts, but many had donned cute, brightly colored skorts, skirts, and even dresses.

It looked more like a catwalk than the Mall and instead of sporting the latest fashion trends, I felt like I got stuck with the ill-fitting leftovers from last year’s goodwill sack.

Well, it turns out that my experience wasn’t unique. It seems that retailers have recently introduced several lines of athletic clothing in which women can be fashionable and functional at the same time. The August edition of Runner’s World featured a cover model sporting a hot pink and orange outfit with an argyle skirt, arm warmers, and a spaghetti strap sports bra. According to Runners Word, fastinistas are the new fashionistas. Instead of wearing shorts and shirts (with bonus points for a synthetic, non-cotton, singlet that wicks sweat away from the body), women appear to be donning skorts, skirts, spaghetti strap tanks, dresses, even mumus and shrugs.

Although I have nothing against function with fashion, I can’t help but feel a little a loss. The running path used to be sacred space. The only requirement was a good pair of shoes. It was a place where someone could wear what she wanted and be in her body without worrying about how she looked to others. As I reflect back on my time at the Mall, I am struck by the fact that in an instant I went from enjoying being in my body and seeing the world around me to thinking about how the world saw me, focusing on how my body looked rather than how my body felt.

What do you think about fitness clothes? Function, fashion, or both?

re-picturing DIETING

Diet:    (1) What a person or animal usually eats and drinks; daily fair.

(2) A special or limited selection of food and drink, chosen or prescribed to promote health or a gain or loss of weight.

I am stunned that Merriam-Webster can offer such a neutral description of this very loaded concept.

Three separate readers have recently asked me whether I’m supportive or not of women who are focused on dieting and losing weight. Can dieting fit into the re-picturing women project?

My immediate, knee-jerk reaction to these questions is that dieting is bad, bad, bad. Re-picturing women is about accepting and representing real women of all shapes and sizes. Seeing ultra-slim models on the internet, on television, and in magazines certainly contributes to girls and women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. However, have I been on a diet? Yes. For most of my life, in fact. And, when I’m not dieting, I feel like I should be dieting.

Yet, dieting tends to be a big part of many women’s lives.

I recently polled some of my readers to get their perceptions on dieting. And, yes, several people came back with extremely adverse reactions, similar to mine.

Restriction, hunger, thinness, struggle, no food,” came to mind for Lindsey Moser.

Pam Gervais described it is “deprivation, torture.”

Meghan Davidson from Life Refocused said, “UGH. That’s my first thought. And then other very negative associations come to mind–restricting, withholding, deprivation, lack of abundance, punishing.”

“Two words that immediately come to mind are ‘deprivation’ and ‘temporary,’ reflected Elizabeth Thomas of Life in Pencil.

Emily Kayzak chose words including, “Control, judgment, sexism, perfection, waste of energy,” to describe dieting.

Others didn’t have quibbles about dieting, per se, but they had strong opinions about the best approach to dieting.

Maura Tanabe noted, “When I think of dieting, I think of something I always think about around January to lose weight. I find that extreme changes never work for me. The word usually has a negative connotation for me because I feel like it is a huge commitment for a short period of time. Dieting really should mean slowly changing your eating habits to include foods/drinks that serve a positive purpose for your body. I have heard numerous times lately that what you put into your body should serve a positive purpose.”

Similarly, “I think the whole concept of dieting is warped. I know a lot of people who go on extreme diets for weeks before a vacation, shed lots of weight and then put it right back on (and then some) when the diet is over.  I associate times in my life when I was dieting with over-depriving followed by over-indulging. It’s not sustainable. Instead of going on a diet, I prefer the idea of healthy eating as a lifestyle that involves an ongoing commitment to buying fresh, organic food without additives and eating reasonable portions. I like and enjoy eating fruit, vegetables, salads and drinking water. But I also indulge in french fries or chocolate sometimes, and I think that’s fine, too. I don’t count points and I never weigh myself, but I always know when my body is getting sluggish from too much junk food and not enough exercise. If I haven’t been eating healthily enough, I try to tip the balance back in favor of carrots over candy bars,” noted Melissa Dowler of the Long Haul Project.

Offering a similar approach, Elizabeth Thomas noted, “In my mind, ‘dieting’ needs to boil down to fundamental lifestyle changes that speak to our day-to-day choices and carries us through our lives.  So many diet plans seem to work in terms of meeting the goal of losing weight fast, but they rarely seem healthy and sustainable over the long haul.  I’m especially leery of diet plans that eliminate entire categories of food, often based on reductionist reasoning.”

Still others added important caveats or re-frames for dieting.

Taking a “playful” approach to dieting, Lesa Hoffman suggested, “My approach to ‘dieting’ this year has been to think of it as a game – how full can I get and still stay under the number of calories I should have in order to create a deficit? This has meant thinking outside the box in terms of food choices in order to find more ways to get protein, so from that perspective, it’s actually somewhat enjoyable because I end up eating new things… but then on occasions when I do eat my preferred carb-laden food I invariably feel guilty about it, like normal, which is not so fun.”

Offering a man’s perspective, my brother, Ben Gervais stated, “The thought that I am trying to cognitively reposition in my head on the subject is: It is not about weight loss or body image, or anything external for that matter.  Instead, dieting means simply eating foods in a manner that will support my greater goal.  That greater goal is to shape my body in a way that will allow me to do things I desire to do, such as to run faster miles, perform household chores like heavy lifting with more ease, and be more creative in the bedroom ;).  I can’t get to this point without a healthy lifestyle that incorporates proper food intake.  This philosophy is something a close friend of mine at school, a former Army Ranger, is a big proponent of.”

Importantly, one of the goals of re-picturing women is to help women live more fully in their bodies. Although I want women to love their bodies how they are right now, I don’t want to encourage women to just act as if they love their bodies or to just sit still if the universe is prodding them to do something with their bodies. It is a very touchy issue, though. Every woman’s experience is different. My hope is that the re-picturing women project can honor the unique narratives of all women and help people realize that each story is to be respected because it represents a real experience from a real woman. One of my readers recently realized that she was carrying around layers of extra weight to protect herself from the hurt of serious losses she had experienced. Another reader wanted to stop using food to stuff what she was really feeling. And a last reader simply wasn’t happy that she wasn’t fitting into her clothes anymore. Do I support these women making life changes that are helping them to live more fully, be more alive, feel like their bodies belong to them? Hell yes!

Is dieting good or bad? Well, the answer is probably…it depends. It depends on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It depends on whether it helps you feel more in touch or alienated from your body.

What has dieting revealed to you? Please weigh in on this weighty issue!

re-picturing STORIES

What role do you play in your story?

re-picturing A REVEALING SELF-PORTRAIT

After I took this (failed) self-portrait today, I was struck by two things. First, I need to get a remote control if I want to take self-portraits without cursing and gnashing of teeth. Second, although not my intention, this self-portrait revealed something telling about my relationship with time. As the nice little blur from the photo reveals, I couldn’t sit still long enough to let the camera do its work, just as I often can’t pause long enough to savor the moment, to be lost in what I’m doing, or to soak up the present.

As I continue on this journey of re-picturing women, representing “real” women with words and photos, I am struck by how women do anything and everything to bend the rules when it comes to time. Don’t get me wrong. With the many demands on our time – work, family, cooking, cleaning, mowing, trying to fit into our clothes, creative ventures (if we’re lucky) – something has got to give.  There simply aren’t enough minutes in an hour, hours in a day, or days in a week to get it all done.

I have little to no respect for time and the feeling is mutual. The faster I try to push time, the faster it pushes me. Last week, I noted that most activities take 3 X longer than I think they will. However, this knowledge does little to stop me from pulling out pen and pad, making lists of often 30+ items, and prioritizing all of them as “must dos” ASAP. Of course, I never get these activities all done and I am left feeling impatient, incompetent, out of sorts. When I have the weight of the next step bearing down on me, it is very difficult to enjoy the activity that is right in front of me. I don’t enjoy cooking when I’m thinking about the dirty dishes that inevitably follow. I don’t get into the flow of running when I’m thinking about how quickly I’ll need to return home to shower. Writing a manuscript (or blog post or whatever) isn’t much fun when I think of the next three I need to finish when I’m done with this one.

So, I use little tricks – I say tricks because it gives the illusion that we can do it all – when in actuality like all illusions, realistically we can’t. Multi-tasking – doing two or more activities at one time – for example, cooking dinner, responding to e-mails, washing dishes, and talking on the phone – is one such trick – a frenetic flurry of activity that makes us feel like we’re getting a lot done and makes us crazy at the same time.

Like a runner who somehow missed her turn (probably because she was so focused on finding the finish line) and is now running down the wrong road and doesn’t realize that the race ended hours ago. She’s tired, she’s getting no where fast, but she can’t stop because she’s got to finish this race, damnit!

I wonder what would happen if I tried to take one step at a time. Might I be able to create just a little time, a little space, a little stillness for me?

What would your self-portrait reveal about you?

picturing TRUTHS FROM MY JOURNEY

Truths from my Journey

I’m celebrating my birthday today. It’s not actually until next Tuesday, but July 19th did not neatly fall on a weekend, so the party (yes, party) we planned either had to fall a few days before or after. Oh, did I mention that its not just A  birthday, it’s one of the “BIG” ones. Even though it will pass just like any other birthday or any other day for that matter, it has been the catalyst for a yearning of my spirit to find some significance in growing older, some meaning in where my life has been and where it is going.

As I remember the happenings of the past decade and dream about the possibilities of the next, instead of focusing on outward, external accomplishments (e.g., my life list), I find myself turning inward, trying to grasp what I know for sure, aching to articulate my own personal truths from my journey. These are my truths right now at this moment. They don’t necessarily reflect the truths from the past decade, although some do. I’m not sure that I’ll carry all of them into my future journey with me, but some I will. However, this is a picture of my truths, right now.

1)   Everyone just wants to be heard

2)   The Universe has room for all of us

3)   Running feels better than not running

4)   I need 8.5 hours of sleep, even though I try to convince myself otherwise each night

5)   Always order what the house specializes in at restaurants (i.e., don’t order a salad at a burger joint)

6)   Most things take 3 times longer than I think they will

7)   The only predictable thing about crazy people is their craziness

8)   Aperture priority rules

9)   Self-love is a work in progress

10) My dog will always have to tinkle right before Penn State is about to score

11)  Always wait a few days to step on the scale after vacation

12) My partner and I will always fight on the first day of a trip

13) Follow your gut, it never lies

14) True friends are willing to have the difficult conversations

15) Reclaim the moment because life is simply a smattering of moments

Even if you don’t have a BIG whatever coming up, might you be able to find some grounding in your own personal truths?

Photographer: Tom Tiegs