Saturday, May 03, 2008

good sport

i have made some connections recently that i want to flesh out a bit. writing helps me to do that, and because i think this might connect with other's stories a bit too i'll blog it instead of journaling it.

my father always wanted a son. i was the first born of two girls and somewhere along the way i understood that if i was ever really going to capture my father's attention it was going to have to be me building the bridge instead of him. my father was born and raised in minnesota, and i remember hearing once on the Prairie Home Companion about minnesota language systems. two farmers standing at a fence at the end of a driveway having a conversation. it's a couple of grunts and hmmmms until a truck goes by and they both become animated talking about whether it was a chevy or a ford and you can't shut them up. minnesota language systems.

my dad was like that. if you got one of his 4-5 pet topics he became animated, interested and engaged. basketball, football, fishing, hunting or trapping. that's it. that's all. he's a man of few words until you engage his language system and then you can't shut him up.

it didn't take me long to realize that when i played sports i got his attention. i was a bright kid, and actually really athletically gifted, so i excelled, and got his attention. two points. literally.

it became my life. each season was filled with either softball, volleyball or basketball and downhill skiing. i was skilled at all and they kept me busy and social and i enjoyed playing on teams.

when i got to high school i became the gym teachers pets. we had two gym teachers. they were an older lesbian couple who adored me. i remember the junior and senior burn outs who had to retake freshman gym hated me because the teachers always picked me as an example or trusted me with responsibility. it was the only time i had any physical altercations. we were playing flag football and they determined to make me hurt. it worked, but somehow, something intervened and it stopped. i'm not sure what, i have no memory of what happened after, but they only picked on me once. i wish i could remember if i stood up to them or if someone came to my rescue, but i remember that i was frightened.

in my junior year of high school i realized that i was really knowledgeable about basketball and by that time i had grown tired of the gym teachers and the basketball coach and i had had our differences. i realized that the boys team was far more interesting than the girls team and decided to start to take stats for the boys varsity team. we were good and ended up taking conference and going to state - and the boys were way more interesting than any of the girls team.

that was the first time i think i realized that most guys weren't interested in a girl who was better than they were at sports. and i was. i kept playing volleyball and was captain my senior year and all conference. it was my favorite sport to play and found co-ed pick up games were great places to meet guys. volleyball players were less threatened by females who could play. and because i was a setter they loved having me around because i made them look really good.

getting to college my first real boyfriend wasn't athletic at all. somehow the guys who always stole my heart were a little awkward and soulful with a bit of the bad boy in them. usually not jocks. anyway, he was terribly threatened by my athletic ability, and while he made the basketball team he really never got to play. i took stats and virtually stopped playing sports. i realized that his 'manhood' (ugh, this is so offensive to me now) was more important to me than my own personhood. and i sacrificed myself.

my second year of college started with me playing sports again as we had broken up that year. he never returned to school and i reinvented myself again. i played volleyball a lot and we had a good co-ed team. unfortunately there was a woman on the team who rubbed me the wrong way and i couldn't stand her. she had some ability, but no training and was so bossy. it was at that time was when i met liam. it was way more fun to be with him, than be bossed around by her, so i left the team.

liam grew up playing soccer, his father was nearly on the irish national soccer team and spent liam's childhood trying to fulfill his missed chance in his sons. it wasn't liam's favorite thing to do, but he was still played it, just not passionately. i was attracted by a man who had no real interest in sports as the thought of living my life watching my husband watch sports had little interest to me.

again i withdrew from all sports because they didn't fit into our social life.

it was then that i started to pack on the weight. you see i never, ever had to diet before. i was always athletic so i could eat anything i wanted (i was a compulsive over eater back then too, i just maintained my weight with exercise. most likely a compulsive exerciser too, which is really what is motivating me to write this post).

liam was a 6'4" twig and could eat like a horse. he had a metabolism like a hummingbird and loved to eat. and wasn't at all bothered by the fact that i did too.

we dated through the last three years of college and i became heavier and heavier. there were a few times we had broken up and i realized that i was never going to get another man looking like i was, so i began to run again, and skip meals and starve myself (never really dieting though) and got back into shape, dated casually, messed around and then found myself back with liam when school started the next year.

we were married the september after graduation and then we both began the slow, consistent climb up in weight. it happens to so many. it really happened to us. food was comforting and times were tough. i've blogged through much of that if you care to look it up in my archives.

anyway, what brings me to this place is that i realized that i had demonized exercise and sports in my mind. because they were linked to my father and attention i had determined that i was never, ever going to try to earn again by being athletic and loosing weight (oh my weight has always been a burden for my father - he always tried to tempt me by promising me the reward of buying me a whole new wardrobe when i got to my "goal weight" as he put it - it messed with my mind and my self acceptance and any acceptance from him).

these past few months liam and i have both found a really good place with food. making friends with empty, buck's diabetes, regular meals and recovery have all come together to slow, permanent changes that have had an incredible impact on our bodies. i sit here typing in size 14 jeans. i am astounded. i haven't been in size 14 clothes since i was in junior high.

i haven't weighed myself in over six months and don't really care what the scale would say. i am only eating meals and eating healthier, not strict, and i am enjoying my food, not shaming myself and not limiting myself, except for the trigger foods that i've avoided for years.

the other night at our small group there was a verse in psalms that someone read about 'god lifting up your head' - and it reminded me of my junior high years. i spent 90% of junior high looking at the floor. i remember little snips from those times, walking through the mall, me 20' in front of my parents and my father muttering things like "does she think she's too good for us? does she think she doesn't have parents? does she think if she stares at her chest all the time it will grow?, etc..."

i shared with the group that the shame i carried through those years made it impossible to look anyone in the eye. my sexual addiction, eating disorder, shame from the abuse and introversion made it impossible. hanging my head was the only way i knew to move through public.

and then i said these words "it was only sports that helped me to break through that" - oh. my. gosh.


i had never consciously realized that - how i said it out loud i'll never know. but it was the truth. instead of sports being a manipulative way for my father to give me attention they were the very tool god used to raise my head.


what a change in perspective.

so today was the first time in years that i got my butt on a bicycle. i went for a bike ride today. i don't know where this will lead. i don't know what form exercise and athletics will begin to take in my life, but i know that i don't want to be a lethargic couch potato any more. but i have to admit i am afraid.

nothing with my addict soul is ever simple. i really don't want to be at all compulsive in this area of my life either. i know that if i am avoiding emotions and life by exercising, while physically healthier than watching television, it is not emotionally or spiritually healthier if i am doing it compulsively.

i've always joked that i'm compulsive about everything, except cleaning and exercise. i really don't think i can honestly say that any more. now it's just cleaning. in taking my OA inventory i had to admit that i hadn't dieted compulsively, but had maintained my addiction with exercise.

in everything balance. god help me to find it please.


renee altson said...

thanks for posting this, my dear friend. i always respect your vulnerability & honesty. thank you for letting it affect me, too.

Hope said...

First of all I love the title.

I love seeing connections being made here.

And I so identify with your struggle that anything can become compulsive.

Baby steps. Trust. You don't have to do it perfectly.

Northwest said...

So very fascinating to get a glimpse into your upbringing. Brings back so many memories of me and my Dad.

He, like your pop, is a man of few words, almost none of which were directed at his clumsy, non-athletic oldest son. I honestly believe there were years in my childhood when the words my dad and I exchanged could have been counted in the hundreds.

But what I really like best about this post is the sense of centeredness that emerges as the narration progresses. It feels like you are comfortable in your skin, in the here and now, even as you narrate a childhood replete with mixed messages.

A story about how we can grow up despite subtle and overt challenges to emotional health, in other words.

wilsonian said...

Hard to tell what is more freeing... finding that your true self was back there all along, or finding the joy of movement again now.

Beautiful post, Bobbie. Thank you.

I bought a bike a few weeks ago. I'd suggest that we ride together some time, but I could NEVER handle the hills! lol...