Monday, February 21, 2011

So, A Muffin Top And A Little Arm Walk Into A Bar...

Last year was a pretty successful year for Jeremy and his friends in the professional gambling world. Even with some less than stellar football weekends (NFL is incredibly unpredictable), they managed to come out of 2010 with a healthy bankroll, ready to take on 2011 with the same amount of tenacity that they approached 2010 with. 

With football being over and March Madness being a few weeks away, they decided to celebrate their successes with a month long trip to Hawaii, specifically on the north shore of Kauai Island. When Jeremy and I were dating, I was pretty jealous of this trip as it was to be a "boy's month" and I wasn't planning on getting to share in any of the fun. We had entertained the idea of me flying out for a week or so, but Jeremy was pretty sure his buddies wanted to keep it sans girlfriends and wives. 

Ladies, if your husband or boyfriend presented you with this idea, how would you feel? 


As a result, I received a very excited phone call from Jeremy a little over a week ago that his friend who had rented the beach houses was tired of fighting off the angry women and decided to open up the trip to everyone. Jeremy told me that he wanted to make this a trip for all of his closest friends to remember and wanted me to be a part of it. He was flying his new girlfriend out from St. Louis and wanted to fly me and Steven out as well. He also invited another friend of his from Las Vegas and her boyfriend. He wanted this to be a trip for the books! 

So, with a little coordinating of schedules and some details to be worked out with a few of his classes, Steven and I booked our flight and are heading to Hawaii in just over two weeks. 

Hell Yeah!!

The other girl coming on the trip is Jeremy's friend, Stacy. In some excited girlie text messages back and forth about how much fun we were going to have, she included a text that said "Sweet! So excited! Now I just have to figure out how to lose 30 lbs in 3 weeks :)" 


I had immediately started thinking the same thing. I don't usually start working on my "bikini body" until April or May… but now I have to squeeze into one in two weeks - yikes! 

As I've mentioned before, while I wouldn't consider myself to be an insecure person, I do have some self confidence issues when it comes to my body image. The skinnier I am, the better I feel about myself. The problem is, I love to eat, I love to drink and sometimes, I like to get crazy and make ice cream shakes for breakfast. This makes the perfect waist a bit of a challenge. 

Additionally, I'm in the process of putting on what I refer to as the "New Relationship Ten" - the weight that seems to come on rather quickly when instead of getting up and kicking ass in the gym for two hours every day, I lay in bed a little longer in the arms of my adorable and cozy boyfriend. And instead of sitting at home at night eating a tofu and spinach salad, I'd much rather be out with him and our friends drinking a couple Guinnesses and indulging in some chicken wings. And instead of waking up and eating yogurt and a banana, I want to show off my cooking skills by making a deliciously plump breakfast burrito. 

Fat and happy is a coined term for a reason. 

Obviously, there is a happy medium to all of this and I know that I'll settle into it. Not to mention, Steven is constantly telling me how much he loves my body and when he says it, I actually believe him. I hate being "that girl" that is always complaining about how fat she is or how that piece of pie is going to go right to her hips. But I also have a fear of becoming overweight and having to struggle again with taking the weight off. Not to mention, I like those size 4 jeans. Those jeans make me feel sexy. 

And then something happened yesterday that really made me think and sort of put me in my place. 

Steven and I were in the car last night, driving to pick up a pizza for dinner. I wanted that pizza. That pizza sounded delicious. But, thinking about Hawaii again, I couldn't help but feel bad and mentioning out loud how I should probably eat something healthier for dinner. As always, Steven assured me that I looked beautiful and not to worry so much about my body. I told him that I have always had body image issues and that it was something I was working on, but was very difficult for me to overcome. 

Steven turned to me then and in his sweet and completely unpatronizing way, he said "you don't have to tell me about being self conscious about body image." 

Steven was born with a birth defect called Radial Club Arm. His left arm is significantly shorter than his right and he was born without a thumb and wrist bone. Two weeks after he was born, he had his first of six major surgeries to reconstruct his arm to increase it's functionality. His most recent major surgery was approximately 18 years ago however he has had over 100 reconstructive appointments in his life. It is likely that he will have to undergo one more major surgery in order to permanently set his arm. 

In order to maximize it's productivity, he basically had his forearm completely rebuilt with metal rods after the initial turning of the arm that was done as a baby so his hand was facing the proper way. In December of 1985 when he was about six months old, his doctors performed an incredible surgery where they took his middle finger and created a thumb out of it, giving him the ability to grab and hold things which, as you can imagine, completely changed how he could live his life. With this ability, he would be able to do pretty much everything that someone with two normal sized arms could do. 

However, even being able to do almost everything "normally", he wasn't treated as normal. As you can imagine, kids were cruel. Even today, I've seen grown adults ask him questions out of ignorance like "geez, can you even lift anything with that arm?" He had to learn at a very young age whether or not he was going to let his defect define who he was or simply make it a part of his already wonderful personality. And very, very lucky for him, he comes from an amazing and supportive family who refused to let him ever think he was anything but absolutely perfect. 

So, while he has had his fair share of moments alone in his room with tears of shame and burden, he battled through his differences and ended up becoming a theatre major at the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies and Performing Arts and is currently going to school with a major in Nursing and a minor in Communications. He also does the most outrageous and hilarious karaoke version of My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion that I have ever seen. He lights up a room when he walks in and people who know him the best can't find anything negative to say about his character. 

And I'm worried about ten extra pounds? 

Perspective is quite an amazing thing… and there is nothing more rewarding for me than to be put in check when I start to get all wrapped up in my head. 

One of my resolutions this year was to overcome my issues with my body image. When I wrote the resolution, I wasn't really sure how I was going to accomplish this, short of telling myself every day how beautiful I am and keeping the negative thoughts about myself to a minimum. But seeing as this has been something I've been struggling with as long as I can remember, I really didn't know what my next step would be. 

But then, that's the brilliant thing about Universal Law and the Law of Attraction. Intention is all we really need - I knew I was ready to be done with my self image conversation but didn't know what it would look like to get rid of it. And then I was given Steven, who overcame obstacles that I can't even begin to imagine and is one of the most beautiful people I've ever met. 

Now, I'm excited to go to Hawaii, lay on the beach with my handsome and lovable boyfriend and discuss which is sexier: my muffin top or his beer belly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Have A Brand New Respect For Astronauts

Gravity and I are not getting along that well tonight. I am not a fan of the "must come down" aspect of this particular law. 

I was feeling pretty damn "up" after I wrote my last post. Things just seemed to be moving along quite merrily in my world. It's not to say that I'm unhappy at the moment, just experiencing a bit of a downward tumble which, of course, is to be expected. This is life, after all. 

In his "I must have your attention right now" kind of way, Justin expressed a feeling of discontent with my last post by starting off our conversation with "I really hate reading your blogs". I can't say I'm all that surprised - I can imagine it must be strange for others to read about how I experience my interactions with them. Even more strange when you consider my very public platform. I am not so naive that I don't realize I may come up against some resistance when something I write about is perceived differently than I intended. As a new writer, however, I'm still working on getting used to… ahem… "constructive" feedback. 

Without going into too much unnecessary and irrelevant detail, Justin felt as if reading my blogs sort of took away the surprise factor in our relationship. I wasn't sure what he meant by this… he went on to tell me that he had assumed I had an ulterior motive when getting he and his wife together with his ex-girlfriend, Whitney and her new boyfriend. He figured it was so that my social life could be more convenient as I would no longer need to bounce back and forth between my friends. After reading my last blog, he realized that his assumptions were correct. 

I didn't stick around long enough to find out what this had to do with the "surprise factor" he spoke of. 

I was extremely offended and hurt by his comment. I couldn't believe that he thought my intentions for bridging the gap in their relationship had to do with my own personal gain. Perhaps it bothered me because it was something that "old Tina" would've done. Or maybe it's because Whitney expressed a similar feeling (although presented in a much more pleasant way). Before my head completely exploded, I did take the time to remind myself that a person's perception is their reality and that personal motives are often lost in the glare of everybody's individual sunlight. 

I talked out my frustrations with a few different people and got many different opinions and ideas on the subject. All in all, I ended up feeling okay about things. I mean, I know exactly what my intentions were and it shouldn't really keep me up at night if they aren't always understood by those around me. Right? Hmm… then I'm reminded that relationships become difficult to strengthen when there is a "well, that's like, your opinion, man" kind of attitude surrounding them. 

I thought writing was the best way to express what I'm truly thinking. Still… sometimes things are read differently than how I think they will be. I suppose to some extent, this is the nature of communication. 

This was not my only challenge with relationship gravity this week. 

Things are going really well with Steven. There is a very comforting confidence about our relationship that revolves around the fact that we simply "get" each other. Our sense of humor is almost exactly the same. Neither one of us ever misses a beat. The amount of time we allot for social interaction as well as personal time are almost identical and every time we part ways, I have to ice my cheeks for an hour from the constant smiling and laughter that is such a huge part of our time together. 

So, when things got tense tonight, I wasn't really sure how to handle it. 

We were enjoying some social time with Whitney and discussing the scenario with Justin and his comment. In retrospect, I shouldn't have brought it up as I am pretty done talking about it… but I wanted to share what Jeremy had to say on the subject when I mentioned it to him. 

Jeremy, of course, being the President of the "Tina's Blog" fan club and with his practical business mind brought me off my emotional foothill by simply saying that any piece of writing that evokes a passionate reaction from someone - regardless if I find it to be positive or negative - is good writing. I liked this. It helped me shift into a place of contentedness with the situation. 

Steven disagreed with this comment by stating that it would most certainly apply if it were just some random reader who had an opinion on one of my experiences. But the fact that it was Justin reacting to something about… well, himself, that the personal connection and reaction would be strong whether it was good writing or not. Obviously, he wasn't saying that the writing wasn't good… he was simply emphasizing the fact that Jeremy's thoughts may not be completely applicable in this situation. 

I found him to be very animated when he shared this opinion. I sort of felt like he was angry that Jeremy had made this comment. 

So I snapped at him… I said that Jeremy's comment made me feel better about the situation and that it was the kind of feedback I needed to hear to shift me from my own frustrations with what had happened.  

There was some silence afterwards. After a few more comments from Whitney about things, we gently eased into other subjects. But, my mind had already started to go and I could tell there was some disengagement on Steven's part also as our combined energy, which up until this point had been completely in sync, was now disconnected. I knew almost immediately that it had nothing to do with Jeremy's opinion on Justin's comment. It had to do with Jeremy. 

Well, not just Jeremy. Cory too… and not just Cory, but my solid relationships with many of the men I've dated. You see, I've been so wrapped up in my own happiness about being able to maintain such healthy relationships with the people in my life that have brought me joy and taught me about myself that I forget sometimes how hard it must be for the new man in my life to have to hear about how wonderful my ex-boyfriends are. In fact, Steven told me that when I mention either Cory or Jeremy, my face actually lights up. 

Yikes. I'm not crazy about the fact that Steven still carries a picture of his ex-girlfriend in his wallet and here I am, sharing a meal with my ex-boyfriends at least once a week. Not to mention talking about them all the time, just like I would any other close friend. It takes a very strong and confident man NOT to get up and walk away from me. This was something I didn't realize until tonight. 

For the second time this week, I had to talk to myself about a person's perception being their reality. I know exactly how I feel about Cory and Jeremy. And any other ex that I may keep in contact and have a friendship with. If there were any romantic feelings left, I wouldn't pursue a friendship with them at all. In fact, I was so hurt after my second break up with Cory that I had to remove him from my life completely until I truly felt I was over him. I wasn't sure if we'd ever even talk again. But, one day, I realized that we weren't meant to be a couple and that he was simply a really great guy that I wanted to keep in my circle of friends. Case closed. 

With Jeremy, the connection was just never one of passion and romance - our brains found each other and locked up. I'm not sure we could unlock them if we even wanted to. We didn't even need a grace period after our break up. We immediately settled in to what the relationship should've been all along. But knowing that we gave dating a shot was very helpful as we never have to wonder again if it's something we should try. Case closed. 

I know how I feel. But I have to be compassionate to how all of this may look to someone who has been in my life for all of thirty days and sees past boyfriends floating in and out of my space constantly. 

We talked about it for a while after Whitney left. I didn't want to part ways having had tension between us for the second half of the evening. I felt we communicated our thoughts well and that we came to a common ground, but our giddy and glowing energy was a bit dimmer than I wanted when I watched him walk away towards his car. My chest hurt and my eyes filled with tears as I drove home and thought about how I was supposed to work all of this out. 

I adore Steven, from his karaoke name of Right Doggy to his commitment to his friends and family and all the creme-filled goodness in between. I didn't expect to date so quickly after breaking up with Jeremy, but then again, as badly as I want my Road Dog, it's no surprise that the Universe presented me so quickly with such a viable option. 

He assures me that he doesn't want me to do anything differently and that my open communication about my friendships is something that he has a lot of respect for. Still… I can't help but think there is something I could be doing to keep him from feeling even a little insecure or concerned without jeopardizing the quality of my relationships with people like Cory or Jeremy. 

My head tells me that time will take care of everything and that as long as Steven knows that I only have eyes for him, the comfort level with my other relationships will improve and eventually not be an issue. This is probably accurate. 

My heart tells me that I need to do whatever it takes to let this man know how important he is to me and that if he thinks my face lights up when I talk about Cory or Jeremy, it becomes Clark Griswold's house at Christmas whenever I talk about him. As always, I will do my best to connect these two and find the happy medium. 

Because there is one thing I know for sure in all this confusion… 

I have definitely found a Road Dog in Right Doggy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Turns Out Life IS All About Relationships... Go Figure

I sat across the table and watched Jeremy glow as he talked about the new girl he met on a recent trip to St. Louis. He was going on and on about how great she was, how she reminded him of another girl he used to date. He talked about her red hair and fun personality. He loved that she was such a hard worker and was giddy about the fact that he met her at a card table. He is getting ready to go on vacation for a month and is tired of all the traveling he's been doing - but she asked him to come back and visit her for a few days before he leaves and he was trying to decide whether or not to go. I knew he was going to go… I'm pretty sure he knew he was going to go as well. 

As I listened to him and sipped on my Grolsch, I couldn't help but smile. I was a little nervous going into lunch with him. I felt like it was time to let him know that I had started dating someone else. Obviously, the romantic relationship between me and Jeremy ended amicably, but the one that started between me and Steven happened rather quickly. I became a little worried that Jeremy would feel strange that I became involved with someone so soon after our breakup. Clearly, this wasn't an issue. 

I've said it before and I'll continue saying it as long as it impresses me: when the lines of communication are so clear between two people, it is almost impossible to surprise one another. He knows that I want to find my partner for life (or my "Road Dog" as my hairstylist calls it) and I know that his dynamic personality will continue to attract others to him. It really wasn't surprising that we were having this conversation so soon after our relationship ended. 

I was relieved. I knew at that moment that as I had suspected for a while, Jeremy was brought into my life for reasons that didn't involve romance. Like all of my other ex-boyfriends, I was grateful for the time that we did have and for what we learned from each other. I also love the fact that we can continue being in relationship with one another and am eager to have him as a friend for life. 

In relationship. I've been thinking about this phrase a lot the past week or so. In that leadership program I was involved in, being "in relationship" with others was supposedly the key to living a life of purpose and being happy. That was why the program focused so heavily on connection and communication with others. The idea was to work through issues of negativity and superficiality and get to the core of why a particular person was brought into your life. The idea was to identify the traits in that person - both positive and negative - and relate them to something in ourselves that we could pinpoint as a source of attraction. 

It was a little hard to grasp at first. However, now it comes completely naturally to me. Why have I attracted this person? What is it that I love about him/her? What is it that I don't understand or don't agree with? What kind of conversations do we have and what am I learning from them? Why do you suppose they attracted me? The answers to these questions build a firm foundation on which to build the relationship. 

Having the freedom to do whatever I want has been incredible in many ways. I've realized recently that I've been doing something that I didn't really think was a priority when I set out on this mission to "reinvent myself." I'm working on these foundations. It started with my family. My mom and I have been working diligently on better communication and respect for one another and the quality of our relationship has improved on what I consider to be quite a massive scale. My mother and I have always gotten along okay, but it no longer feels forced as it has in the past. Even when we have our differences, we are able to talk about it in a way where we really see where they other is coming from and can work past it with unconditional love as our guide. 

I hung out with my brother outside of a family get-together the other night. We went out with a couple of friends after the Superbowl for a few beers and a round of Golden Tee. I was trying to recall the last time he and I hung out together socially and couldn't remember. It was really nice. The holes in our relationship seemed, at one time, to be irreparable. Now, I find that even if it's a slow process, the holes seem to be shrinking and closing one at a time. I very much look forward to the day when he and I are complete again. Lately, it seems like this day may not be as far off as I originally assumed. 

Something else pretty amazing happened the other night that has helped to confirm the fact that relationships can be repaired. 

I've attracted a great new little family called The Dojo. This is the group of people that I sing karaoke with while on my pursuit for my Black Belt. When my friend and ex-boyfriend, Justin, invited me out and encouraged me to sign up, I thought it was just going to be something silly to do whenever I needed to let my hair down. And it was… but already I've gotten so much more than I expected. 

A few weeks ago, one of the members of The Dojo had his Black Belt Ceremony. This is a celebratory night where the person being honored gets to pick what the theme is going to be. Ben, the newest black belt in The Dojo chose a White Trash theme for the evening. Since I find that I toe this line in general, putting together an outrageous outfit for this fun event wasn't very difficult. 

I had only been out to karaoke with The Dojo two or three times at this point and hadn't really gotten outside of my comfort zone to meet anyone yet. As it turns out, when you show up to a place wearing a see-through wife beater with breasts pushed up and out in a tight black bra, tiny shorts revealing a thong hiked up your back, and black strappy high heels, it's pretty easy to make friends. The following week, I had added almost twenty new friends to my Facebook account. 

I also met Steven, who I am currently dating and completely nuts about. He has been part of The Dojo for a long time. I love watching him interact with this family. He is well respected and adored by so many of it's members. I've had the pleasure of meeting his real family and friends outside The Dojo and it's so clear in all of his interactions how important being in relationship is to him as well. He's a natural. He loves others so whole-heartedly and without judgment. His energy lights up the room and like moths to a flame, it's rare that you ever see him standing alone. 

Our relationship is very new and as our purpose for finding each other continues to be uncovered, the one thing I know for sure is that I attracted him because of his strong focus on relationships. Once again, I can see based on what I've attracted just how far I've come in this particular arena. 

Last Saturday, I asked my friend Whitney to come to karaoke. I wanted her to bring her boyfriend, Bill. I was pretty sure Justin and Stephanie were going to be there as well. Here's the nutshell story: I dated Justin off and on for a while. While "on", he met my roommate at the time, Whitney. Once "off", they started dating. They dated for over a year and even moved in together. However, it didn't work out and they ended up separating. Amicable is NOT the word I would use to describe their separation. 

Shortly after their breakup, Whitney started dating Bill who she met through Justin. Bill and Justin had been friends for a while. This created… awkwardness. In the meantime, Justin jumped into online dating to see if he could meet someone and very rapidly came across Stephanie. After dating briefly, Justin and Stephanie got married downtown after football one Sunday. To know Justin and Stephanie is to know why this wasn't as crazy as one might think. 

I have spent the last few months bouncing back and forth between Justin and Whitney. Not only am I good friends with both, but we are all a part of The Dojo. Finally, after many conversations with all parties involved, it just seemed time to make something happen. I knew there was a chance that it could end badly. However, somewhere inside I had a feeling things were going to be okay. 

Well, to my delight, things were more than okay. Steven and I sat together at The Dojo last Saturday and watched with grins on our faces as Stephanie and Whitney sat and talked for hours. Justin and Bill were conversing with ease and confidence (and dare I say.. relief?) and we all sang, laughed and drank together as if there wasn't even a hiccup that needed overcoming. In fact, I left my phone and car keys at the bar that night and when my adorable and very selfless boyfriend drove me all the way back across town to pick them up, we walked in to find all four of them still sitting at a table, talking and connecting like old friends. 

Epic score. 

Jeremy, Cory, Whitney, Bill, Justin, Stephanie, Mom, Dad, J.J., The Dojo and Steven. Just a few people in my space that are proof of how amazing life can be when we focus on the fact that people DO matter and that being in relationship with others DOES instill a sense of purpose that can't be measured. I am not too naive to think that times will not always be rosy - but with love, commitment, outward focus, honesty and communication, we can create the relationships of our dreams in all areas of our lives. 

Money, houses, cars, clothes, careers, etc… at the end of the day, it truly is the shoulder to shoulder that counts the most.