Shoulder Selfies


I do not enjoy having my picture taken, and I take terrible selfies. So why am I sharing a compilation of selfies showing off my pathetic looking arms? To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure. I know I have had this blog post percolating in my head since last night, but sometimes the idea splits into multiple ideas and I get a little lost trying to navigate my way to completion. I cringed while taking these photos, and I cringe every time I look at them now. Although my theme for this year is Powerfully Beautiful, I still struggle to see the beautiful when I look at a picture of myself. Perhaps that is why I felt the need to take these pictures and post them here…to remind myself of truth I am not comfortable believing and to reject the inner voice which says that there is something wrong with the image reflected back to me.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

I have never believed that phrase, because I have been hurt far more often and more deeply by words than I have ever been hurt physically. My body bears scars from injuries I’ve sustained over the years, but they pale in comparison to the scars inside that no one can ever see. Maybe some people can brush away hurtful words like crumbs on a lap. As someone who savours and values words, I tend to soak them all in, good or bad. Over the past few years, I have grown more capable of rejecting words that are false or harmful to my well-being. As I have grown more comfortable in my own skin and in self-confidence, I have found strength in knowing and being exactly who I am. The opinion of others began to matter less, but I realize now that I have also been sheltered in a way. I have changed and grown a lot over the past few years, and that has been amazing and wonderful and good; however, the people surrounding me have been supportive and encouraging and wonderful, too. That’s a good thing! But, aside from the odd comment from a complete stranger, I haven’t experienced much, if any, criticism or negativity towards my nature, my character, or what I do. Until quite recently.

To be fair, my recent experience was actually quite mild. It’s not like the comments were spiteful or intentionally meant to be hurtful. I’m sure they weren’t even meant to be directed at me personally. In the grand scheme of things, the comments should have slid off my back like water off a duck, because I know it wasn’t personal or mean-spirited. Actually, I was caught off guard by how much I was bothered by the comments. I had some mopey time, cried a few tears, shared my feelings with a couple of trusted friends, and then shrugged it off.

I know who I am, and I like who I am becoming.

Lots of people comment on the fact that I do not look like I lift weights. I get it…I mean, look at my biceps! They aren’t bulging. But you know what? I’m not a bodybuilder. I am not training to achieve a specific physique. I am a powerlifter, and we come in all shapes and sizes. My shoulders are not as big as a swimmer’s, but I still have trouble finding shirts and jackets that aren’t too tight in the shoulder. Some might find that unattractive or unappealing. Again, I get it. I’m not too keen on the look of women with extremely massive bodybuilding figures, but I can accept that their perspective is different from my own. Sometimes I look at my shoulders and feel unsightly. Other times I look at my shoulders and feel strong and powerful. I suppose that explains, in part, why the recent words stung like they did. Those words latched onto the dark side of my psyche, the side that is critical of self and vulnerable to attack. No matter how strong and confident I become, I cannot completely eliminate that dark side. It is a part of who I am.

So, I suppose I am sharing these awful photos, because that is also a part of who I am. I am learning to laugh at myself, to step outside of my comfort zone now and then, and to see myself as beautiful. (Even here I want to make a sarcastic comment to downplay the ‘beautiful’ comment! Must resist!) I cannot isolate myself from people who might say hurtful things, intentional or not, but I can continue to surround myself with people who love, support, encourage and know me. Who knows? Maybe one day I will even look like I lift weights!

4 weeks and a day

The week isn’t quite over yet. I have one more work day to go before my weekend, but this week has felt rather long. At least a dozen threads of thought are floating inside my head wanting to be tugged and put to words. And yet, if I try to focus my attention inward, I find my eyes glazing over and my focus sucked into a black hole of nothingness. Maybe a solitary tall Americano simply wasn’t enough caffeine for the day. Maybe I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I did last night, but I am on the wrong side of the bed. The work day was steady but good, except for spilling several litres of frapp roast all over the fridge, the floor, and myself. My training session was decent, I think. I have eaten fairly well today. Had plenty of water. Regardless of the cause, I am fading fast.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5

with belt: 135 x 1 + 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 3, 190 x 3, 190 x 3

My coach was training alongside of me today, so we were sharing the squat rack. I was squatting, while he was doing Anderson squats. That meant the safeties needed to be changed every set. For my set at 135, I lifted the bar and walked it out, braced and squatted. Clang! We had forgotten to change the safeties after Michael’s set. Made the change. Reset. Finished the set. Ironically, a couple of sets later, we forgot to change them again, but this time after my set which meant that Michael was squatting deeper than anticipated.

The rest of my sets were okay. A couple of reps had a slight forward pitch. These past several months have taken my squat and turned it into something else. It’s still a squat, but it isn’t exactly how I used to squat or how I should. After Provincials are over, we’re going to deconstruct my squat and start at the beginning, but that’s something to think about in 4 weeks plus a day or two.

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on bench, small arch:

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 83 x 3, 103 x 1

with feet on floor and arch:

115 lbs x 1, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

115 x 3 paused each rep

2. TRX rows x 20

Now almost time for bed.

The Collector

“Introverts are collectors of thoughts, and solitude is where the collection is curated and rearranged to make sense of the present and future.” ~Laurie Helgoe

Thoughts. So many thoughts swirling around inside of my head. Some good. Some heavy. Some happy, others sad. From the fleeting to the stuck on repeat. Wild daydreams. Hopes and fears. Deep sorrows and gut-wrenching heartbreaks. Coulda, shoulda, might have beens. Self-doubt, self-recrimination, selfishness. Inner giggles over thoughts of irony, of private jokes, of embracing my awkwardness. Silent anguish, hidden from scrutiny and acknowledgement. Envisioning the achievement of goals. Envisioning failures. Seeing molehills turn into mountains or mountains crumbling into dust. Fingers sifting through mental photographs of the past. The heart desperately searching to see into the future. Confusion. Melancholy. Euphoria. Creativity. Endless hope. Ceaseless critique of self. Thoughts.

I collect my thoughts, swirl them round and round, shake them up and watch them gently settle like crystals in a snowglobe. Some thoughts get filed away like a cold case that has finally been solved. Others stay open to replay over and over again. Most are small, innocuous, but some are anything but. I write a few but not all. Not even close. Thoughts, like words, are precious to me and laying them bare is like ripping open my chest.

Admittedly, I think too much sometimes. Perhaps sometimes I don’t think enough, although I suspect that the truth is that I probably don’t speak my thoughts nearly enough.


The Tell-Tale Heart

“Our heart can never overindulge, for our capacity to love grows as we do it. The heart is a muscle that wants to lift heavy things, so, love-and keep loving.” ~B. Oakman

A television commercial can cause my eyes to well with wetness.

A stranger’s story of random blessing will bring a sting of tears to my eyes.

A beloved book, oft read and remembered, tugs at my emotions every time I take it down from the shelf.

My motherly instincts cry tears of joy with every milestone reached by my children.

Streams of tears flow fiercely for friends facing trials and tragedies and celebrations of joy.

Words, both written and oral, have the power to melt my heart and turn me into a sniveling fool.

Memories move me in a multitude of ways: choking, inspiring, motivating, heart-warming, heart-breaking.

My heart is tender to the cry of a kindred spirit, easily broken for others, by others, by my own doubts and mental self-flagellation.

And yet, my heart is strong and resilient. It beats fiercely with passion and with compassion. It is vulnerable yet indestructible. My character flows forth from every heartbeat. My tears are not a sign of weakness, rather an outpouring of inner strength.

The Message

A few days ago I received a message requesting I call this person at Shaw Television in regards to a little segment they had done on me in August 2015. I couldn’t imagine why they were wanting me to call, yet I found my insides fluttering with the same nervous energy that I experienced when I was originally contacted by Shaw. I am not overly fond of conversations on the telephone, especially with complete strangers and particularly when I am unable to mentally/emotionally prepare for the conversation. But I called. It turns out that a piece of paperwork was missed way back when, and I was being asked to fill out a form. I can do that!

The voice on the other end of the phone was very friendly and conversational. She asked if I was still competing and told me to keep in touch, to let them know what I’m up to in competition and so on, possibly for another segment. The entire conversation wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as I had thought it could be, although now I am looking at a form and wondering how I am supposed to fill out half of the page. The form isn’t quite what I expected either. Name, phone numbers, email and signature…no problem! Do I need to fill out the rest? The parts that sound like they are intended for potential stories. I thought I was just going to be signing a permission form or something.

Since receiving that message on Thursday, I have re-watched my Shaw segment a couple of times and shared it with my boss, which means that it was also seen by a co-worker. That’s okay. I really have no idea just how far that segment has gone since it was first aired, but I do know that it has traveled further than I could have ever anticipated. While I will likely never know the impact my little story will have, I have to believe that there is a reason why someone thought my story was worth telling in the first place. It doesn’t seem like much to me. Scratch that. To me, my story is incredibly important, but I never feel as if it is important or special in comparison to anyone else. When I look beyond my four walls, I feel small and insignificant and unworthy of attention.

From my current position, I have a perfect view of my powerlifting medals (all 7 of them), a trio of photos of me competing at Westerns last summer, my daughter’s artist’s statement placard from the sketch she did of me squatting which was displayed in the Art Gallery last spring, and the actual sketch itself. I am a sentimental softy, but I’m okay with it. They are also milestones. Visual reminders of the path I’ve already traveled and guideposts towards my future destinations. My Shaw segment is just another one of those milestones. I look at it and experience a moment of uncertainty…was that really me? How did I ever manage to speak in front of a television camera? Then my thoughts start to wander…just how far have I come since that was filmed? I’m not even quite the same person anymore. I’ve done more. I have grown more. I’d like to think that I am more. At least until the doubts creep back in!

If you haven’t seen the TV segment that I’m talking about, you can watch it here.

Finding the Beautiful

Apparently it is National Compliment Day. Who knew! I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to give a compliment than to receive one. Some types of compliments are almost impossible for me to accept without embarrassment, attempts to minimize or outright denial. Changing the way I receive compliments is a part of my Powerfully Beautiful theme for 2017 and always a challenge.

A few days ago I came across a 7 day challenge to love your body via Girls Gone Strong. I was at once intrigued, hopeful, doubtful, frustrated, and uncertain. I’m 45 years old. How can a lifetime of not liking my body be changed in only a week? To be completely honest, I don’t truly believe that is possible. However, for all of my doubts and insecurities, I like to see the glass as half full more often than half empty, or at the very least that the glass can be topped up. I am a realistic optimist. And even though I’m skeptical that seven days is all it takes to change how I feel about my body, I do believe that seven days just might be enough time to change the direction of my internal thoughts and to send them off down a better path.

Part of today’s little assignment was to take a few moments to think and write about what I find most beautiful about myself, both internally and externally. I get a kick out of these programs & courses that state you will only need 10-15 minutes a day to do the work. As if! Maybe if you don’t actually put thought into your responses…but I digress. I sat with blank paper before me for quite some time as I considered the question and how I could possibly respond. Almost instantly I knew that it would be much easier to find something internally beautiful. Thinking about external beauty just made me want to cry.

What is beautiful about me as a person? Inside? Even here, looking at the inside, I see so many flaws and short-comings and imperfections that make me question the validity of my answer.

  • I am loyal. When someone slips past my defenses and isn’t frightened off by what they find, he/she will be my friend for life. When someone allows me the privilege of being their friend, I take that rather seriously.
  • I care and I love. Sometimes I do forget things, but I typically remember details, big and small. I consider others wants and needs before my own a great deal of the time.
  • I encourage. I take great joy in building others up and in expressing love and gratitude.

What do I find most beautiful about myself externally? I’m biting my tongue to not say something negative or self-deprecating. It is easier to find beauty in my character than it is in the mirror or the way my mind sees my outward appearance, and, although I eventually came up with some instances of feeling beautiful, my natural inclination is to temper them with qualifiers and explanations. It requires tremendous effort to not do so now.

  • I feel beautiful when I get my hair cut, coloured, and styled.
  • (Okay, this one cannot be stated without the extra commentary, because this answer isn’t how I always feel.) At random moments, in random attire, I feel beautiful. I might be wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but, for a few minutes in the day, I can feel beautiful. Another moment might find me in a dress or pyjamas, wearing my glasses or wearing my contacts, hair up or hair down…there is no rhyme or reason.
  • Where I feel most beautiful is the gym. In a t-shirt and shorts and funky knee high socks. Sweaty. Hair threatening to break free from its’ restraints. I might be tired or sore, elated or frustrated, but I feel strong, capable, powerful…and beautiful.

Today is the bonus day of my weekend, and it has been my intention to make today all about staying in my pjs and doing virtually nothing but relaxing and resting. As such, I’m not exactly in a position to be receiving compliments today, which is likely just as well since I’m not always comfortable accepting them. However, I am going to take some time to send out some compliments, and I am going to keep plodding along on this journey, learning to love myself inside and out.

From Good to Bad in 60 Seconds

“So, if you are too tired to speak, sit next to me, because I, too, am fluent in silence.” ~R. Arnold

My mouth is reluctant to produce speech tonight, but it isn’t due to the fatigue I currently feel from being up early for an open shift or having only the caffeine from a double tall latte. I am sitting here, mostly silent, because my mood is cranky and dark. Simmering. Bubbling.

Most of the day was rather good. I had a good morning at work, attended an interesting meeting, had supper cooking in the crockpot, had a good appointment with my chiropractor…then I came home and a headache began to creep up my skull.

The reasons for the black mood don’t matter much, except to me, but my mood grew blacker still as I listened to the prattle going on around me. What I wanted was silence. What I got was noise, criticism, and condescension. That’s a combination that is almost guaranteed to ruffle my feathers and put my mood into a perilous nosedive. Actually, now I’m swiping at tears.

I could say so much, but then I’d likely be made to feel chastised like a wayward child all the more. I know that my blog is of little importance. I know that, while my blog has 1700+ followers, it is regularly read by only a handful of people. I get it. I am okay with it. But it stings something fierce to be questioned and criticized for what I share in my blog, especially when the questioning comes from someone very close, from someone who chooses not to read my blog, who seems to have no interest in understanding the context or purpose. In real life, I am not an open book. I will listen more than I speak. I keep my deepest thoughts and feelings as tightly locked up as possible, and I don’t hand out keys to those treasures very often. A person could know me for years without ever truly knowing what I’m thinking or feeling or what makes me tick beyond the surface. On my blog, I am more open, more honest, more reachable. It is easier for me to write words than to speak them. Still, even in my blog, there is a veil which separates the public projections from the private. I don’t share everything, and for good reason. When I do choose to share something, I’ve got reasons for that, too.

I want to be able to laugh at myself. I want to be real about this journey that I am on. I want to see silver linings more than I want to see storm clouds. I want to see my progress. I want to encourage others. I want to be known and understood. Maybe even sometimes I am just proud of what I have accomplished or how far I’ve come. Sometimes I just need the reminder that I am okay, that I can do it, that I’m enough.

So, when someone important to me asks, “Why would you post that picture on Facebook?!” in such a tone as to imply that I had done something horrifying and shameful…well, it crushes my heart and fans the flames of fury. It is all the more upsetting knowing that the question was spoken out of ignorance, which flows out of the refusal to take the time or make the effort to read the words that accompanied the photo. My blog post explained the photo. If you want to question why I do something concerning Facebook or my blog, at least do me the courtesy of actually reading my post first. If you still don’t understand, then we can talk about it further, but I honestly don’t think it’s all that complicated.