Sunday, January 21, 2018

Play Through the Ugly

So this is it, you have decided that 2018 is going to be YOUR year. You've got goals and ain't nobody gonna stop you. I'm with you, I'm a goals kind of gal, I'm always working toward something.  

Last week I committed to 21 days of eating clean, exercising every day and making time for prayer and meditation. This isn't anything unusual, it's basically how I've been living my life for quite a few years. But I've been feeling rather discombobulated since the summer with some expected and unexpected stressors that have come my way and I wasn't enjoying how I was feeling in my body so enough was enough. 

The first few days, I was a champion. Tracking my meals, prepping my food, moving my body and making time for prayer and then *insert scratching record here*, life happened. Work turned to crap, I ended up working a long day. I was PMSing, mentally exhausted and had the blues from this cold gloomy weather and so, I ate. The good news is that I didn't eat nearly as much as the old Tara would have, but still, I blew my perfect streak. And instead of moving I vegged on the couch and watching sit coms. 

As I've written before, perfectionism and wellness, they don't play nicely. Perfectionism has us constantly scrutinizing, ourselves, others...because we have unusually high expectations. This week, as I walked by my wellness chart on my refrigerator. I got more and more pissed. I kept staring at the ONE day when I blew it. I got good and angry about it. How could I screw up only a few days in? I started to have an unhealthy chat with myself.  

"This is too hard quit now. If you can't stick to something for at least a week, I mean c'mon loser...I mean Tara. You ruined everything. You are weak. And of course the F word- failure. You failed."

One of the best sermons I heard about forgiveness and unrealistic expectations went something like this. Some people, they are just teacup people, it's all of the love they have to give. They're doing the best with what they have and who they are, but we expect buckets from them. We expect buckets and they're giving their best teacup. And when we don't get buckets in return, we feel let down. 

The same goes with our wellness. We have to remember that we didn't create all of these rotten habits in a week, we won't break them in a week. Heck, I've carried some of my unhealthy habits since childhood. Our effort will some days pour out and we will overflow the danged bucket. But there will be days when life happens [stress at work, at home, a sick child or spouse, traffic, no groceries in the house, loss, financial stress, a crying baby, illness] and all we have left to give is a teacup, if that. We need to be OK with it. 

I went to a counselor a few years back and we talked about dealing with setbacks and disappointments. She told me to sit with how I'm feeling for just a bit, don't dwell. To accept that what I'm feeling is real and then to re-calibrate and move on.   

So day four into my wellness journey of what seems like a million do-overs, that's what I did. I got good and angry and then, I stopped the negative self talk. This is such an important step. We have to learn to be aware of how we're talking to ourselves and when that talk becomes counterproductive to our goals, to know it's time to stop. 

If you're a parent reading this, there's a good likelihood that one of your children tried to play an instrument, or at least that stupid plastic recorder that both of my kids came home with over the years. My husband and I still remember our daughter's elementary school band and chorus concert. All of the kids came out, beaming with excitement and waving to their families. A hush went over the crowd as the band started playing. It was purely awful. They were beats behind and out of tune. Oh the torture to our ears. It seemed to last forever...But when it was over we all hooted and hollered like it was the most beautiful medley of melodies that we had ever heard. Nothing can compete with a proud parents heart. 

To get to the good, we need to be able to play through the ugly. 

We need to keep going, practicing, doing, trying. We also need to be able to focus on the positive. The healthy choices we've made and actions we've taken. These small changes are what will propel us closer to our goals.  

Like those kids up on that stage at that concert, we need to believe that we are doing good work and that playing a few wrong notes doesn't our offset best efforts, it just teaches us what to do differently next time. We keep getting better. 

Make the choice, commit to the choice, continue with courage. 

Love and friendship, 


Friday, November 24, 2017

Gettin' Jiggle with It

Today on Facebook I posted a video of me practicing one of our REFIT® Christmas songs, Carol of the Bells. As a (recovering) perfectionist, I’m not sure you understand how hard it is for me to share videos of me working out. First comes the self-critiquing over form and footwork and then comes the self-critiquing of my body. You see, something happens when we dance, everything jiggles.

Everything. Remember when Lady Gaga did the Super bowl and she was a freaking amazing rockstar and people had the nerve to talk about her belly pooch? C’mon people, even rockstars jiggle (at least what I tell myself).

So how is it that an introverted gal like me (the one who used to stand in the back of any fitness class and not talk to a soul) became a fitness instructor this past summer? And how does a (recovering) perfectionist freely share workout videos and pics on social media without pressing the delete button?
It starts with my why. If you have a strong enough why, you can find a way to do the hard stuff. I have many whys, but in this case my why is:

To empower women to find their strong. 

I want women of all shapes, sizes and ages to see their immense possibility. That movement can be fun. That former couch potatoes can become fitness instructors. That being fit doesn’t come with a size or weight. Fit is a state of mind. I also want them to know that strong comes from the inside. When you begin to work on your inside, the outside starts to follow.

This past year has been humbling physically for me, with a bum knee (physically therapy, cortisone), a foot stress fracture that keeps coming back and now something going on with my neck and shoulder. It’s slowed down my wellness progress. I’ve gone from being in my best shape last year for Hawaii and my daughter’s wedding to having a little more fluff.  A little more fluff makes me a little more critical of myself. It makes me hesitant to post my workout videos and pics for fear that people will judge me. Oooo, Tara’s put on a few pounds. Yes, I have. I struggle. I love food. I’ve been maintaining my 40 pound weight loss for almost 7 years now. It’s not easy. But here’s the deal, women who find their strong- they DO NOT QUIT.

If my workout videos or pics motivate one person to get moving, one person to try something new, one person to find their soul workout, one person to believe that no matter their size, shape or age that they are strong, I’ve accomplished my why. 

I decided to become a fitness instructor at 45 because I can. Because God gave me this one body to care for. Because movement is medicine and dancing it out is therapy. Each week God gives me the courage to stand up in front of a room of women to get my jiggle on. So they can see that everybody jiggles and every body jiggles and that’s OK. I want them to embrace who they are. I want them to laugh and feel joyful. I want them to leave REFIT® feeling stronger and more courageous than when they started.

So let’s get jiggle with it ladies. We are better together.
Love and friendship,

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Peace and Quiet

Peace and quiet, as a Mom of younger kids, I wished for it daily. I longed for some time to myself, a weekend that wasn't gobbled up by activities. For life to be less hurried. Yet I'll admit, there were some phases that I wanted to speed up. Namely the toddler and early teen years (so much sass). Much of the time I felt like I was just hanging on for dear life. My husband and I were young parents, I was 21 when we had our daughter. Looking back, we had no idea what we were doing (ha) but at least we had a whole lot of love to give. 

As my kids got older, I wanted to stop the clock. Not because the teen years were precious moments to be savored but because I knew that our family dynamic was starting to change. In hindsight, those teen years were precious moments to be savored. From the last minute homework or project help, to the late night counseling sessions. From celebrating my kids getting their drivers licenses to the times I held my breath waiting for the car to pull into the driveway. 

The first night we got home from dropping our son off at college, I found myself leaving the front door unlocked and the porch light on, listening for his car to pull into the driveway when he got home from work. Alas, he was give hours away and quite joyful at the idea of being on his own. The whole situation felt unsettling. I said so to my husband as I turned off the light and locked the front door. 

A mere four days before, we sent our daughter off to Qatar with her husband to live and to teach for one to two years. Talk about ripping the empty nest Band Aid off- ouchie! One night that week I was lying in bed thinking moping and the house was so quiet. I was having one of those "this is your life" moments remembering all that had transpired in our bedroom. Every Christmas morning that our kids came zipping into our bedroom to tell us that Santa had come. My teen daughter flopping face down on the bed so that we could have another heart to heart talk about friends, school or faith. Sometimes burying her head under the pillow because it was too embarrassing. Our elementary school aged son balling his eyes out because he was being bullied. Toweling our kids off after they swam in our over sized bathtub with their swimsuits and goggles until their feet were white and wrinkled. The nights of musical beds when our kids were sick or having bad dreams. Waking up feeling slightly displaced or with someones toes in our faces. Nights huddled under the covers waiting for a thunderstorm to pass. Endless bedtime stories when I tried to skip pages but my kids finally got wise enough to know what I was doing. Intimate talks that went late into the night as we worried about our kids, analyzed a situation and tried to solve their problems. Lying in bed and dreaming about their futures, wondering how they'd turn out as they grew into adults. 

I really thought I was prepared for this empty nest gig. I mean, I have hobbies and friends and...a life. I am thrilled to get back to some things that I've put on the back burner for a long, long time. I feel fulfilled and content. Yet there are some days that the nest feels so...well...empty. It feels a little like grief. It comes in waves, in moments like the one in my bed, thinking about our family that was. Don't get me wrong, our family still is, but it is different now. Not a bad different, just different. Like when you buy a fabulous pair of shoes and they are slightly uncomfortable but you know that when they are broken in they will be just right. It's hard to sit in discomfort though. I'm scrunching my nose up as I think about it. I just want everything to feel right again, but I actually don't know what right feels like. I don't know how this new normal is supposed to feel. I guess I'll just thud around in this new pair of shoes until they feel better. Clomp around a bit until I feel more comfortable. I'll stretch and press into this new stage of my life. 

And now instead of peace and quiet, I just wish for peace. Peace for what life is now and for what life is to become. Peace that my children are safe and happy. Peace that God is watching over them. Peace that we've given them a solid foundation. Peace that we've done all we could to set them up to be successful, kind and compassionate adults. Peace in my impatience. Peace in my discomfort. Peace in my worry. 

Peace that life is unfolding exactly as it should. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

All In

I’m quite sure that no parenting book or words of wisdom could prepare me to be the mother of young adults and for the different kind of heart hurt and angst that comes along with it.

In the upcoming week, my youngest son leaves for his first year of college. As if him being 5 hours away wasn’t enough, my daughter and her husband just told us that they are moving to Qatar. Yes Qatar in the Middle East. And they are leaving in less than a week from now.

My husband and I used to have a hashtag #en2017 (empty nest 2017), and we used to excitedly chant it when our “kids” were getting on our nerves. Yet now that it’s here, I’m not quite as gleeful. I’d like to think that I kind of had my mind wrapped around our son leaving. I was mentally prepared for the tearful ride home from Pittsburgh, clinging to the fact that we’d see him in October at family weekend. Knowing that he’s ready, and excited, it’s time for me to let go.

But Qatar!?! When I texted or told people that our daughter was moving far, far, FAR away for 1-2 years, I got all kinds of responses. All of them which I appreciate. Some were empathetic. Some tried to take the positive “what a tremendous opportunity” route. But the response I appreciated the most was from my one girlfriend who responded “WTF!?!!! I would be devastated.” Exactly. And thank you.

The sermon at church today sure was timely. So timely I’d say it was God given. Our pastor talked about the notion of being ALL IN and raised the question “do we believe that God is truly the Lord over our lives”? As in, ALL of our lives. As in, not just when things go well, but when they are in the crapper. When we are experiencing our deepest hurts, can we still go ALL IN and believe that God has an intention for this time in our lives?

I have a deep faith and have experienced a world of hurts. Very, serious hurts. There were seasons of my life when I questioned God’s plan for me. I felt abandoned by Him. Yet He was always faithful.

When my children became young adults I realized that I had no choice but to go ALL IN and trust God with not only my life but the lives of my children. It was the only way I could have any kind of peace when it came to letting them go. I had two comforts to rely on as my kids came of age: 1) that my husband, family and I gave them a good foundation and that 2) God would take care of the rest.

After our daughter told us the news, and my husband and I were driving home processing it all. I said to him “I don’t even know why people have children, they rip your heart out.” OK, maybe a bit dramatic but hey, my mama heart was hurting. Being a parent of young adults can be terrifying. All of the sudden they are not under your roof anymore and you have no…more…control. Beyond the no control thing we also have the knowledge of all of the stupid stuff that we did as young adults. My husband and I dated in college, and boy were we stupid.

A friend of mine and I were talking about how it feels to send our kids off to college and she said that she felt a sense of mourning, that she was mourning the loss of the relationship. Her saying that made me feel better because that’s how I was feeling.

There is some goodness in the midst of all of this change. As a mama who is now on the other side, who has sent her daughter off to college, received her home, moved her back in, moved her out and watched her getting married. There is a new and different relationship that blossoms with adult children. There’s something crazy fulfilling that comes from watching our adult children find their ways and shine.

If you’re not in that place yet mama (or papa) (or caregiver), just hold on. It will happen. Your adult kids still need you, just in different ways and it will be equally if not more fulfilling to forge this new normal.

Heading into what is going to be a tough mama week, sending my son off to Pitt and my daughter off to Qatar, the comfort I seek is from the one who I trust the most.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7

This will be my verse of the week and I’ve written ALL IN on the palm of my hand to remind me that I need to trust God with ALL aspects of my life. Even when I’m afraid to let go.

"A carefully cultivated heart will, assisted by the grace of God, foresee, forestall, or transform most of the painful situations before which others stand like helpless children saying "Why?" - Dallas Willard

No matter what new normal you are facing, it is my prayer for you that the grace and peace that only God can bring comforts your heart. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Dragon Slayer

Doubt, it’s a dream killer. It might be a more powerful dream killer than fear. Fear can be used to our advantage, sometimes it's an impetus that moves us forward. But doubt, doubt makes us feel uncertain about ourselves, others or our circumstances and can stop us in our tracks. 

Growing up I was an only child who lived in the country. I had a creative artistic mind and quite the imagination. I loved to write stories. I’d draw and construct and make them come to life. I was the creator of that world. I was always the hero of my story. Given the (fairly traumatic) childhood I had, I needed that safe space. A place where I was in control of the ending of my story. I’m sure that many of you can relate.

What happens to that sense of wonder and possibility as we get older? Life. Life chinks away at our armor of invincibility. We get hurt. We experience things like death or divorce. Depression, anxiety or addiction. Job loss. Financial stresses. Abuse or neglect. Illness. Pain. Loneliness. Our life might not take the path that we thought it was going to. A gap grows between our expectations and reality. And sometimes that gap gets filled with a heap of emotions until it feels like we are buried in them- sadness, regret, anger, impatience, worry, hopelessness.

When we’re in that state, it’s awfully hard to find our way out. Because the stories we start telling ourselves aren’t ones where we are the hero. We’re so mired in physical or emotion pain we move from hero to victim. Even if you are or have been a victim of something or someone, staying a victim doesn’t allow you move forward. To move from victim to victor, you have to take control of your story and that starts with the story in your mind. You have to realize that you are the one who is making you feel powerless. Because you hold the power. You control your choices. You control the reactions to your circumstances. We’re not kids anymore, but we still get to write the ending to our stories. Deep within us we still possess that glimmer of hope and possibility for our lives.

So how do we conquer those great dragons of doubt?  It’s time to armor up by:

Surrounding ourselves with positive people. There will be times in our lives when we don’t believe in ourselves. It’s during those times we need people that will show us our possibility. That will love us through it. That will speak truth to us. As I write this it’s thunder storming. My dog has planted herself right next to me because she’s terrified. I can feel her heart racing. Sometimes we need people next to us to assure us that it’s going to be OK. If you don’t have those kinds of people in your life, it’s time to evaluate your tribe.

Being grateful. Gratitude is a practice. Many times when we’re in the thick of a crappy circumstance it’s hard to see the positive. But the reality is that someone will always have it better and someone will always have it worse than we do. As we’re wallowing in self-pity (sometimes justified and sometimes not), there is someone else dreaming about the life we have. Take 5 minutes each day to write down 5 things that you are grateful for. You’ll be surprised at how this will change the way you are looking at your life.

Surrounding ourselves with positive messages. I was telling someone the other day that I had gotten back into the bad habit of starting my day with Facebook. Ugh, the power and pull of social media. I do much better when I start my day with a positive podcast, blog site, exercise, prayer, meditation, audio book or devotional. Pay attention to what’s draining you and replace it with something that can fuel your fire for the day.

Serving others. Serving others takes the focus off of us and our circumstances and often that’s exactly what we need. Serving others allows us to see the beauty and possibility in people and to reconnect with the ultimate dragon slayer, hope. Serving side by side with others allows us to see that there is still good in this world.

Extending grace and forgiveness. Offering grace and forgiveness doesn’t absolve the person who hurt you, it frees you and it frees your heart. I could write page upon page on this topic. Grace and forgiveness is a process. But once you free your heart, you are able to write a new story for your life. 

Armor up baby, it's time to save yourself.  

Make the choice. Commit to the choice. Continue with courage.
Hugs & friendship,

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Afraid to Fly

Last week I did something a bit unexpected, I signed up for Refit instructor training. Yes you read right, I, Tara Elizabeth Watson, signed up to be a fitness instructor. If I wasn’t so terrified, I’d be laughing hysterically at the thought. As I’ve shared in a previous post, I rubbed poison ivy leaves all over my body in elementary school just to avoid field day. Spoiler alert, I was terribly allergic! I was on first name basis with the school nurse because of my many feigned illnesses to get out of gym class, especially those dastardly presidential fitness tests! Over the years, fitness has not been my forte. I did pretty much everything I could to avoid movement. I used to lie on my couch watching the Biggest Loser whilst eating a piece of single serve cake I had picked up from Giant. I would wander aimlessly around the YMCA gym not knowing how to use the equipment, make a half assed effort, leave frustrated and pick up a pack of Entenmann’s chocolate crumb donuts to eat on the way home to make myself feel better.

I’m feeling a bit sick just thinking about the commitment that I made. My heart is racing and I’ve started thinking of ways that I can get out of it. I am afraid. What am I afraid of? Many things. I am an introvert so the idea of sitting in an 8 hour training class with people I don’t know is enough to make me run like holy heck in the opposite direction. I fear the unknown and I usually build it up to be much worse than it ever actually is. I’m a control freak, a researcher and a planner. I like to know everything before I start something. Since I don’t know what the class will be like, I worry that I won’t be able to do it. I’m afraid that my knee injury won’t hold up or that I won’t have enough physical endurance. I fear that my ship has sailed. That I’m too old and it’s too late for me to try something new. And as Nate (my husband) laughs at me, I worry that people won’t come to my class once I’m certified. I’ve always been petrified of being rejected. Why he laughs is that I’m always three steps ahead of myself, I didn’t even go through the certification course yet but I’m already stressing about the fact that people might not show up. *snort* I am seriously a hot mess!

A little over a year ago, I had that same sinking feeling in my stomach. I had taken a big leap moving from being a 20 year Weight Watcher veteran to trying Beachbody. People that knew me were skeptical and hey I don’t blame them. I was skeptical myself. I went from being a Weight Watcher’s evangelist to trying something new. If you’re just getting to know me, I blogged about my decision and then blogged weekly about my 21 day experience.  

A completely unexpected turn of events came out of me trying Beachbody, I found out that I love fitness. Let me write that again for those who can’t believe what they are reading. I, Tara Elizabeth Watson, love to exercise. I love how my body is getting stronger every day. I love competing against myself. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a workout that I couldn’t complete just a few weeks before. I love the extra energy and stamina I am feeling. Now don’t get me wrong, are there days when I go into slug mode and do not feel like moving? Ah, yes. But I realize that I feel better when I move, not just physically, but emotionally.

So the question is, do I love fitness enough to get over my fears and to take this instructor training? Perhaps not. It’s gonna take more than that. It’s going to take faith.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

My God is bigger than my fears. Period. I know this. I also know that everything that has led me to this moment and to this decision is God given. This past year and a half has been filled with circumstance after circumstance that have intertwined me with people to get me here. I could not have dreamt of this path on my own. I started a faith based wellness class at my church which led me to meet my current Beachbody coach Erica. I said yes to trying Beachbody. I signed up to be a Beachbody coach. I started to grow my team. One of my coaches introduced me to one of her clients. This client does Refit. I wrote for Grace & Such and one of my writing colleagues also does Refit. Something about Refit grabbed my attention. I feel like this is the next step for me and all I can do is trust in God’s direction. God put the desire in my heart to become a Refit instructor and to start a wellness revolution in our area. So that’s what I’m doing.

Spreading my wings to fly is terrifying, but what’s more terrifying is not trying at all. I refuse to be afraid to fly.

I may fall, but with God as my safety net, I know that I will land on solid ground. 

Make the choice. Commit to the choice. Continue with courage.
Hugs and friendship,

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

You Freaking Dig

So, you’ve gained some or all of the weight back and now you’re in a funk of epic proportions. This funk might include self-berating talk like “I knew I would gain it back” or “I always fail” or “I’m just meant to be fat.” The funk might also include anger. Anger that you lost control. You want to scream “how did I @#$#@@ get here?!?” It feels like you’re going backwards so why the hell should you try again. And then you move into pity party land of “this is too hard” and “I just can’t do this anymore.” You also might be feeling sad and lost because usually when we gain weight back we’re so ashamed that we isolate which is the worst thing we can do.

Sometimes I joke with my husband that it would be easier just to gain the weight back. Because the planning, the prep, and the physical and mental work that it takes to lose and maintain weight, it’s hard. But as the quote says “losing weight is hard, being overweight is hard. Choose your hard.” For me, what’s harder than losing or maintaining my weight is what came with being overweight. The exhaustion, being out of breath, sleeping all of the time. Skipping events because my clothing didn’t fit. Weight related medical complications. Shopping in plus size stores. Depression. For me, that’s the real hard.

How do we move so quickly from being zoned in and on top of our game to having absolutely no motivation whatsoever? How do the behaviors that we thought we had made into solid habits disappear? I wish I could tell you that I have a magic solution, but I don’t. We can lose the weight, be a rock star on maintenance for 10 years and then go through a life experience that has us gaining it all back.  That sounds encouraging, am I right?!? I’m writing this because it’s a reality that many people, including myself have faced. We find ourselves in the situation described above and we have a choice to make. The choice is simple. We try again, or we quit. Ouch! #reallife

If you’re reading this it means that you don’t want to quit. You don’t want to face the real hard again. But you’re tired. You’re tired of trying. You’re tired of fighting. You’re not sure being healthy is worth it anymore. Yet there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to give up, that wants desperately to get on track and that’s exactly what you need to do. Try again. Now don’t whine and lament and get pissed off at me for making try again sound so simple, it’s not. It’s not because life is complicated. Life throws us illness and family stress and moves and divorces. Life throws us injury and heartache and money troubles. And when this happens, we need to dig. Dig deeper than we ever have before.

We need to remember why we started this journey in the first place. We need to write down our why’s and keep them in front of us. We need to remember what it felt like to be healthier. And then we dig. Digging means showing up. Digging means doing the work when we don’t want to. When we’re not motivated. When we want to throw a crying baby fit because it’s too hard and it’s not fair that some people NEVER have to deal with being overweight.

Digging means accepting how we feel at this moment. Sitting with that disappointment, sadness and desperation. Acknowledging that it sucks. Feeling those hurts and then, letting them go. We cannot hold on to those feelings. We need to accept them, but we can’t let them fester. Letting them fester is like having weeds that cloud our minds and leave no room for new growth.

If you’re still with me, it’s time to get to work. It’s time to get back to the habits that worked for you. It’s time to reach out for help. DO NOT do this alone.

It’s time to freaking dig. 

Continue with courage. Hugs & friendship,