When Helping Isn’t Helping – The Selfish Act of Giving

“Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree. “Then you can sail away and be happy.” And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away. And the tree was happy…But not really.

Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree
Help. 

Do you need any? I’m sure I can find some between my shoulder blades.

Really, it’s no bother. I’m happy to do it. My pleasure. Think nothing of it. I’ve got this.

Me? Oh, I’m okay. I don’t need a thing, but thanks for asking. Nothing to complain about. I’m A-okay, just fine.

It’s fine.

Everything is fine.

But enough about me. How can I help you?

When I read The Giving Tree as a child, I was fond of the friendship between a growing boy and a tree rooted in place. It was a sweet story about a boy who, through the years, would return to visit the tree. The tree was always happy to give something of value to the boy. In the end, the tree was leveled to a knotted stump from giving all she had to the boy over the years. But even then, she offered her stump as a seat for an old man needing a rest. And the tree was happy.

So happy.

Deliriously happy.

At least that’s how I remembered it as a kid.

I read this timeless classic to my daughter at bedtime tonight, and guess what?

This story is complete and utter B.S. Sorry, Shel.

What about this little snot-nosed kid? Taking, taking, taking and not a single thank you in return? In all of his visits to the tree, did he ever ask her, “How ya holding up without that trunk of yours?” Not once. He just came looking for something else to saw off for his own benefit.

And that seriously co-dependent tree? Was it rewarding to give of herself until she had nothing left? Does this type of selflessness truly make one happy? Grin and bear it, they say. Power through.

It’s funny, though, now that I think about it. This absurd, one-sided saga sounds eerily familiar.

There once was a working mom who thought she was Atlas, and the world was hers to carry. Every day, she hurled it onto her tired shoulders and trudged along, getting nowhere fast. “Look at my strength!” she boasted. “Isn’t it something to behold?” The passersby were undoubtedly impressed. “But aren’t you worried about getting hurt?” asked one of them. “I’m more afraid of what will happen if I let it go,” she replied.

There are times the world feels heavy, and oh what a fantastic, welcomed distraction when it does. As moms, community servants, wives, sisters, friends, employees, advisers, counselors, and vessels for venting – aren’t we all at some point like Mother Atlas? Like The Giving Tree? We carry the burdens of others. We give of our labored fruits. We make ourselves the sacrificial lamb so others can succeed.

Over a lifetime, we shovel out hours, sweat, and tears. We languish over a friend who is hurting . . . a broken relationship . . . an empty donation box . . . a world in debt that looks to us as its creditor. “Help,” the world says, or even sometimes, not. Regardless, here we are, waiting to dive into another dilemma never short in supply. We are not fulfilled until we have nothing left. Then we ask ourselves, “What else can I muster? Where am I falling short?”

Friends, here’s one of the hardest truths I’ve had to swallow like spoonfuls of sand:

Helping others can be the worst kind of selfish.

I know you’re thinking I’m batty at this point, but hear me out. Before I practiced healthy coping skills, my idea of helping was a mad method to deflect pain. It was a way to focus on problems of which I had no ownership. Giving to others was my excuse to ignore.

Ignore my shortcomings as a parent, spouse, and daughter.

Ignore my misgivings about the future.

Ignore my defects of character.

Ignore the shadows of my past I had stowed away in the corner of a dark, locked room.

Helping others also meant I was worthy. It meant I mattered. It mean’t I could offer something of significance to a hurting world, even when I myself was unraveling.

Giving of myself meant I kept busy with everything and nothing at the same time. Running 90 to nothing shielded me from addressing the goals I had for my own life. After all, isn’t it easier to blame a failure to act on lack of time rather than fear?

It’s been said that we must give more in order to get more. But what if you give of yourself until you are no longer there? Until you’re unrecognizable? I was only flashes of light from others’ eyes. Only remnants of others’ pain cradled in my arms. An empty cup drained of recognition.

In the shuffle of feigned benevolence, I had forgotten I was also a person hidden under the weight of the world . . . another spirit in need of saving.

So, to all of my Giving Trees of goodwill out there . . . to my Mother Atlases, REST.

Be still.

Be silent.

Listen.

Do you recognize that small voice inside of you? Is she asking for help? Would a Giving Tree like yourself ignore her?

No, that would be unnatural. You are a giver.

So give.

Give yourself a warm blanket, a hot cup of tea, and some grace.

Wrap yourself in love and never forget you are worth saving.

Today, rest.

Tomorrow you can ask the hard questions about boundaries and motives and fears, but for today, quiet the wind through your branches, settle down in your roots, and give grace. Sometimes that’s all you need to save the world.

A Sober Awakening – How Ditching Alcohol Unearthed my Greater Self

“And there’s a glass on the table, they say it’s gonna ease all my pain. But I drink it down, and the next day I feel the same.”

-Janis Joplin

140 days ago, I squinted and shielded my eyes from the shooting lasers of the morning sun. My bedroom smelled like a familiar Merlot from the night before. My mouth parched with the thirst of an unforgivable desert sand. Rising from bed felt like my worst kind of nightmare, and the bathroom mirror reflected the familiar dread I had come to both loathe and accept. 

“Hey, you. Whoever you are. Get your shit together. You’ve got stuff to do.”

There were nights when I could speak of dreams wrapped up in the cosmos. Questions of “why” were answered with “why not? I’m ready.” I could dazzle anyone with that bubbly, champagne personality. I saw the sparkle of envy in their eyes, mixed with disdain for their own inadequate lives of surety. Why weren’t they as brave? Why did they care so much? 

There were nights before my morning reckoning, although the memories are fleeting, when I cradled that wine glass in my hands like the Holy Grail. The answer. The reason I didn’t worry about the two piles of unfolded laundry. The distraction from obsessing over that important group project with colleagues. The comforting acceptance for who I was swirling in glass stemware, whispering, “You’re okay now. I’m here.” But where was I?

There were nights I waltzed with numbness and felt sexy. Like this skin of mine was something to behold. This face was tender and inviting. These lips, full. These hips, curved like a beckoning hand as I swayed to the last dance (always the last dance) at the masquerade.

When I started to feel, I poured myself a friend and let the numbness wash over me like a wave of relief.

Santosha. 

My okay.

My stop the bleeding.

My standard-issue tourniquet.

But at some point, Numbness quit calling. He acted distant for months, and I feared I had thrown off warning signs of getting too attached. “I think I need some space,” he finally fessed. “You’re trying to turn me into someone I’m not. I’m just not ready for all that.” 

Asshole. 

The mornings were the worst without him. Just when I needed him most. Guilt and Shame replaced him and swarmed through my head like a thousand stinging bees. 

Why did you do this again?

You promised, no more.

Did you ever consider your responsibilities?

To her?

To him?

And where is that elusive debit card? Lost again?

Your car keys in the ignition? What were you thinking?

Looks like another long day of getting by.

Why can’t you drink like normal people? 

It’s time we implemented some limits on your full-throttle bottle craze

  1. Only on weekends
  2. A two-drink limit
  3. Ban the hard liquor
  4. Only on special occasions

By the afternoon, Guilt and Shame would take a hiatus.

  1. Only on weekends *Fridays nights count, right?
  2. A two-drink limit *Better make them doubles, then.
  3. Ban the hard liquor *Gotta stock up on the soft stuff. 
  4. Only on special occasions *Do Canadian and Mexican holidays count, too?

Evening comes and I screw moderation. I eat it for dinner along with my bowl of rusty nails. If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space. That’s what I always say. Come on. Give me your best shot. One with premium gold tequila will do just fine. 

140 days ago, I saw a charlatan shedding her skin in my bathroom mirror and realized it was me. My hard truths were prickly thorns, choking out my smooth talks of adventure and carefree delirium. My painted, peachy smile crafted from forgetfulness splintered to reveal the truths I wanted no one to see.

Where’s that edgy girl . . . the one building castles in the sky?

When did my zest for harnessing the wind get bottled up in the dregs of misery?

When did freedom from control become the control?

I am Socrates’ hemlock.

I am Sylvia Plath’s last swim.

I am Rasputin’s countless deaths.

I am the poison drowning myself, dying a thousand deaths. 

But that was then.

This is today.

Today plus 139 days of discovering how to live.

3,360 hours of seeing with eyes not dimmed by a shroud of guilt for who I wasn’t.

201,600 minutes of not surrendering to the web of fears tangled up in tomorrow.

12 million seconds of teaching myself to breathe in the sweet air of now.

mycuprunnethover

With clarity.

With respect. 

With truth.

Overflowing with feelings not void of pain, but absent of regret

The good and the bad teach me how to live.

How to deal without the numbness.

How to navigate this newfound freedom and tackle obstacles that once baffled me.

Today.

Right now.

mycuprunnethover with love

With gratitude for today, and 139 days prior

Today my bathroom mirror reflects a familiar face I thought I’d lost.

Good morning, you.

Beautiful you.

I thought you’d never come home.

Welcome back.

Care for a spot of tea?

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates on anxiety and stress management. Thanks for reading!

The Anxiety of Clutter, Worship of Spatulas, and Other Stuff

Want to know what steals my serenity? 

Seven spatulas.

Lego pieces from a Star Wars (or maybe Harry Potter) build set.

Junk mail.

Almost-expired coupons for fast food we never eat.

Three bedsheet sets for when I change my mind.

43 single socks with matches eaten by the dryer (I’m sure of it).

24 Happy Meal toys.

18 stuffed animals.

Three dried-out toothbrushes from when she forgot to rinse.

Coffee cups with snarky sayings.

School activity sheets constantly fished out of the recycling bin by a sentimental, six-year-old packrat.

Books with spines never bent.

Photos with no frames.

Frames with no photos.

Decorative pillows adorning the floor.

A drawer of eyeglasses similar to Fred Sanford’s.

A mason jar of nuts and bolts to go with things never fixed.

An elliptical machine for hanging laundry.

A size six dress that says “someday”.

That whatchamacallit that goes with my thingamabob. 

By the way, have you seen my thingamabob? It was right next to his obscure, homemade tool that looks like trash, but I’m told is quite useful for those projects left unchecked.

Stuff: Imposters of joy I let into my home without a single, conscious thought. How did it come to this? Since when did life revolve around accumulating stuff (not even sexy, exciting stuff), followed by picking up said stuff? It’s as if I awoke one morning to hundreds of roommates that moved in unannounced to mooch off of my precious weekends and late weeknights after soccer practice. 

“Hey Chelsea. It’s me, again . . . the lone yellow dinosaur sock at the bottom of the clothes hamper. Still looking for my sister in here somewhere.” Did I just hear the dryer belch?

Why is this Bear Bryant stamp collection still staring at me?

Am I a bad mother for not keeping that eighth Halloween craft she made in Kindergarten?

How many Rubbermaid containers without lids should one person keep? You watch. As soon as I get rid of them, those lids will show up, laughing.

In the 1990s, stuff was at the peak of its importance in the American diet. And as a 90s kid, I ate that stuff up. For the holidays, my mom loved to do it up big. Christmas came out of a Sears catalog. My brother, sister, and I would have our big markers ready to circle anything we may find remotely entertaining in that 600-page gospel of stuff. We got most of it, too, along with a few other surprises. I must have been a good girl every year for Santa to bathe me with such glorious distractions. By January, I would hear my parents lamenting that they “had to do something to get by” as bills for the extravagant December show started knocking on the door.

And here we are again – the season of consumerism wrapped inside a Trojan Christmas horse. T’is the season to see folly. The season of crazed deal junkies rearing their haunches, eyeing the windowsills, and leaping through sliding glass doors to sift through red sale tags. Did you know an American child asks for a Ryan’s World Surprise Egg every seven seconds? Better hit the pavement early this year.

It’s the season of Ariana Grande’s I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it. It’s the “ONE DAY ONLY”, “BOGO”, “ACT NOW”, “Hurry before it’s gone.” We’ve added yet another 24/7, neon-lit Christmas to our carts with cheap down payments and unforeseen interest.

Even Charlie Brown’s sad looking Christmas tree, the one that represents simplicity and contentment with what we have? It’s priced at $14.90 on Amazon with free 2-day shipping for Prime members. Wait, it’s a Lightning deal for another five minutes. Strike now! Strike now!!!

I know by now you may be worried about my wellbeing with this impending, blackest of black shopping extravaganza upon us. Rest assured, I’ve taken extra precautions this year.

See, I had picked up that yellow sock of mine one too many times. I had walked into a pile of “deal with it nows” for longer than I could stand it. While my family of two-legged and four-legged loved ones looked to me for answers, acknowledgement, direction, love, I was distracted by stuff. Life-sucking stuff. Stuff that brought me nothing but anxiety.

After mixing batter for a batch of Mickey Mouse pancakes one morning, I stared at those seven spatulas (the ones that had seven separate reasons for existing) and I lost it . . . like apeshit crazy lost it. I could no longer allow my life to be cluttered with stuff that didn’t matter. Without more contemplation, I grabbed an empty box from the garage and started dumping everything I had picked up a million times before. I purged that kitchen of every item I couldn’t justify keeping. And then I washed, rinsed, repeated those steps in every room in the house over the last three months.

In a short amount of time, I purged half of my family’s belongings with their blessing (sometimes). And you know what? I don’t miss a single thing. Even now I can’t recall what it is that I removed, but I can tell you what was added back. 

Deep breaths.

Smiles.

Belly laughs. 

Hugs.

Conversations deeper than skin.

Needle on the vinyl.  

Dances in the living room. 

Time.

Love.

When I finally cleaned out that last junk drawer, you know what I finally found tucked away in there? You’ll never believe it. It was my thingamabob, just staring at me behind the container of thumbtacks and AAA batteries.

Come to think of it, I remember what I called it, now.

Let me introduce you to my old friend.

This is Peace, right where I left it.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!

Fear as Your Compass: A Scary Story

What do you fear? Can you make a list? Or do you get prickles on the back of your neck just thinking about jotting down those heavy anchors of anxiety?

I made a list of my fears this week. Know what I learned? Fear is the equal and opposite reaction of the heart.

See, the deepest part of my heart has this true north. It knows where to go. It needs no rationalizing. No reasoning. No explanation. It is and has always been. It will be there in the morning when the sun rises and when the shades are turned down for evening slumber.

But then comes along Fear, like the drunk at the party who ruins the casual conversations, hurls in the punch bowl, and passes out on my newly-laundered bedsheets, only to wake in the morning and wonder how the hell he got there. You’d think he wouldn’t be invited to the next affair, but yet there he is, his invitation clutched in his hand with a bottle of Jack in the other. Time to crash and burn, again. You asked for it.

Heart: Let’s experience the world. There’s so much unchartered territory. It’s time.

Fear: Really? What about those obligations? How can you take the world off your shoulders long enough to enjoy it, anyway?

Heart: Please don’t keep me locked in here much longer. I’m bursting at the seams.

Fear: Are you sure? I don’t think you’re ready. Why don’t you settle in to a more comfortable setting? Here, I’ll give you a few distractions to keep you busy. Makes the days go by faster, you know.

Heart: You’re giving me someone else’s problems? Honestly, It’s like I’m talking to a brick wall. Look, why don’t you just get out of my way. I know where I’m headed.

Fear: Ah, but dear Heart, did you forget what you’d leave behind? What will the others think? What makes you entitled to do what you want? Selfish! That’s what you are. And just when I was starting to like you…

Mind: Well, Heart, you know he’s right. it isn’t in your nature to hurt anyone. Just yesterday, you invited a down-and-out friend to join you for tea in your chambers despite your overbooked schedule. And oh dear, it looks like she left things in a mess! Better get this place cleaned up before your next guest! Where was it you said you wanted to go, again?

Heart: Ugh, not you, too! I could keep this place clean if you would stop convincing me to invite guests who overstay their welcome. I know you’re both worried about me, but I assure you, my map is pretty reliable.

Fear: Must I remind you, Heart, of the last time you went out on a whim? Oh, how easily you forget! You lost poor Mind along the way and then all hell broke loose. You failed then. You will fail again.

Mind: I know you mean well, Heart, but last time you raced ahead and I couldn’t catch up. There I was, lost in the wilderness with my list of to-dos just getting bigger and bigger while you were out gallivanting to God knows where….

Heart: I knew where. I know where now. Let me go.

Fear: If you insist. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Mind: Wouldn’t tomorrow be a better day to start, instead?

Heart: <face plant>

A wise friend of mine told me that if I’m living with one leg in the past and the other in the future, I’m pissing on the present. With my list of fears in front of me, I realized how piss-soaked my “right nows” had gotten. So, I did something to stay vigilant of the present. I grabbed a lighter and lit a flame, and watched my list of fears slowly but surely burn into powdery embers.

Note to Mind: It’s time to take a backseat. Heart knows where she’s going. Stick with her. Keep her in check, but never in line.

Note to Fear: You’re an asshole. Back off unless there’s a real wolf afoot, rather than the one you’re parading to be.

Note to Heart: Go. I’ve got your back.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!

Just Leaf Me Be – A Natural Remedy to Get Away from it All

When I was a kid, I remember lifting large stepping stones in our backyard to forage for roly polys and marvel at how they folded into themselves, cocooning their inner bodies from the outside world. Other times, I would pluck a blade of grass and search for tiny holes in the yard where grub worms were hiding. Sticking the grass blade into the hole of earth, I’d wait until the worm latched on before abruptly yanking him from his home to examine him. Afterwards, I would roll over on my back against the soft clover and stare up at my looming oak tree, attempting to count the number of leaves on the tallest branch I could see.

My grandfather instilled in me a passion for the outdoors. In fourth grade, my science class was assigned a take-home project involving putting together a leaf classification notebook. As sexy as this sounds now, it was a daunting task at the time. Unbeknownst to me, what came to follow was an adventure with my grandfather that’s still lodged in my memory like sticky sap from a sugar maple.

My grandfather was a natural explorer. He scoured every inch of Lauderdale County, through briars and bushes, creeks, and streams, to pluck from loblolly pines, hearty pecans, sweet gums, black walnuts, red cedars, and towering white oaks. I’d watch him crawl from the brambles to deliver a huge sassafras leaf. I used that particular one to create a leafy character for the first page of my notebook. “Sassy” was a hit with my teacher. In the end, I had over 100 different leaves in my notebook and one tired, old grandpa in Zip City.

Today, I find myself nestled within the wilderness that surrounds me. There I can breathe, inhaling what my grandfather taught me years ago.

Slow is okay.

Unplug.

Explore.

The best finds are sometimes off the beaten path.

When I am in the world, I am bombarded with crises that I have no control over, but yet feel compelled to solve. Ever pay attention to how many emergencies come across your screen during one social media newsfeed scroll? Nestled between pics of toothy grins from my little cousin twice removed, videos of cats falling from televisions, and occasional dachshunds running in hot dog suits, there are short blasts of urgency imploring me to take action.

Did you know Greenland is melting into the ocean? The Emperor Penguins are going extinct due to disappearing sea ice. North Korea is testing nuclear weapons. Trump is golfing again. Here’s more about the mass shooting. Here’s another mass shooting. Burger King is serving plant-based whoppers. The New York Giants may have to relocate if they finally find Jimmy Hoffa at the west end of the stadium. Bacon causes cancer.

Compound the world’s problems with the daily work grind and social event schedule, and I’m begging for some fresh air.

When I am not in the world, but of the earth, my senses are keener. I can smell the red clay dirt muddled with fresh pine. I can hear the nearby creek, cold as ice, washing away the weeklong schedule block. The taste of wild honeysuckle brings me back to the days when my world was wrapped up in studying grubs beneath cinderblocks and deciphering the animals that appeared as clouds in the sky.

To offset my obsession to fix, manage, and control the world around me, I travel to areas that don’t demand my attention. The dirt trails that beckon me know where they’re headed without my advice, thank you very much. The millipede crawling across a world of bark and branch isn’t frozen in place, concerned with which foot it should move next. The limestone boulders are in no hurry to get anywhere, and I’m willing to bet that sapling up ahead is more grounded than I’ll ever be.

Sometimes this world is too much. Too much demand to react to issues that are out of my control. Too much of “can you believe it?” “This is unprecedented.” “Why the end times are near.”

Not enough “just because.”

“I love you.”

“Be still and know.”

“It’s going to be okay.”

“You are enough.”

“Just breathe.”

“Just be.”

How bizarre it is to become overwhelmed with the vast world surrounding me when an entire colony of ants built their lives around a small heap of dirt, unconcerned with what that other pile of earth a few feet away may be doing at any given time. When I am surrounded by nature, all of those worries fade away into the orange rust and starburst pink sunset.

Readers, you may not be a fan of the great outdoors, and that’s totally cool. Flying bugs and poison ivy aren’t everyone’s favorite past time. But heed my advice. Find your own outlet to shrug off those negative messages. Don’t be like the roly polys that live under a rock and ball up in fear when light is shed on them. Embrace the warm light like the grub worm. Clench onto that blade of grass, pull yourselves out of that hole, and bathe in the sunlight.

Famous mountaineer John Muir said that between every two pines is a doorway to a new world. How refreshing it is to leave the old one behind.

Blogger’s note: If you’re a woman who is truly interested in some stress relieving explorations in nature but don’t know the first thing about navigating the path, the Shoals’ League of Outdoor Women is a great option. The League gets together throughout the year to hike and incorporate some useful workshops like first aid survival training, plant identification, camp packing 101, and even an upcoming photography in nature class. You can check them out on their Facebook page here to get involved.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!

The Case of the Hidden Ham – How Hogging your Emotions Harms your Health

It’s amazing what I think others can’t see about me. I wrap it up tightly into a ball and clench it in my fist behind my back, hoping they won’t ask me what’s hiding behind there. But like anything that’s not dealt with over time, what you conceal about yourself can get bigger and bigger until eventually, you could end up like the lady who tried to steal an entire Smithfield ham by shoving it up her Hawaiian muumuu dress.

Shocking analogy? Not to a grocery store cashier. My first job at the age of 16 taught me about real life responsibilities, hard work, communication, and the exciting revelation that people are strange. Somewhere on that strange spectrum is where I reside, shifting left and right depending on how ordinary my peers appear to be at any given time. Somewhere on that same strange spectrum is that ham-crazed, Hawaiian muumuu lady. I’d like to imagine we’ve crossed each other at some point in the middle, giving a slight wave and hint of recognition as we bypass each other in the deli aisle we call life. Aloha, Hawaiian muumuu lady. What’s the price of bacon these days?

I’ll preface this story by saying not all who steal food from a grocery store do it for the same reasons. Some are desperate and hungry. Some forget their wallet at home and are too proud or inconvenienced to leave a buggy full of groceries in the middle of the aisle. Some see stealing as a challenge to usurp the moral code. Others rationalize they are owed that extra case of Mountain Dews hiding underneath their cart because the stocking clerk was rude when they asked what aisle the elusive chow mein noodles were located. For the muumuu lady, I have to believe her feat to disclose a thirty-pound ham between her thighs had to be a quiet cry for help.

As she waddled towards the double-door exit, her arms reaching south to conceal the pig beneath her floral patterned dress, I’m sure she could smell freedom in the air mixed with the aroma of hickory smoke wafting from her bloomers. Unfortunately for her, my spastic, stuttering manager was quick to respond to her beeline for the exit.

“Ma’am, I-I-I need you to s-stop! I know there’s s-s-something under your d-d-dress. I need to s-s-see what’s u-under there.”

The muumuu lady came alive. “How dare you! You may not look under my dress, you pervert!” she yelled while slowly losing her Kung Fu grip on the ham. She toddled with all her might through the sliding door exit, my manager close at her heels. It was then that the muumuu lady poorly attempted a getaway trot across the parking lot, ham still in tow. Hard lesson to learn: Sometimes, it’s important to know your limitations.

One, two, three steps into her feeble escape, she tripped over a curb obstructed by her protruding belly. As she rolled across the parking lot in one direction, her hibiscus floral pattern gleaming in the sun, the ham tumbled away from her as if attempting a last ditch effort at freedom.

Why do I tell you all this? In hopes you’ll learn some of the same valuable lessons I learned that day:

  1. Don’t go sticking hams where they don’t belong.
  2. A small, spiral-cut ham is just as tasty as a 30-pound whole ham and much easier to conceal in one’s bosom.
  3. When you try to hide something that big in your life, it’s bound to come rolling out of you at the most inopportune time.

For the sake of this blog, let’s focus on lesson #3.

Now if you know me personally, you’re aware that I don’t shy away from sharing my feelings on various subjects, my dreams of what is to come, and ideas to collectively dissect with one, two, or twenty of my creative thinking friends.

But what about those things that feel uncomfortable? Those inconvenient truths about myself? Those things I dare not rise to the surface for fear of rejection or judgement or the unknown? The past traumas and resentments rooted in my mind? The unspoken conversations that reel through my mind but never surface? Eventually all those feelings jumble up inside of me, wrap around my chest, and anchor near my feet like a gigantic ham hiding beneath pretty, floral fabric.

I have witnessed emotional explosions from friends and family members. They were generally the quiet ones. You know the type. They never complain when their Subway artist puts mustard on their cold cut when they explicitly ask for mayo. Instead of returning a gifted toaster because it shorted out, it rests on the shelf in case the gift giver arrives unannounced to their home. Their spouses still thinks they love those fat-wedged shoes they gave them at Christmas. They hate those fat-wedged shoes. They don’t rock boats. They sail through storms, their heads covered from the wind and rain. They’re quiet until they’re not. Then, the ham rolls out from under them just when they least expect it. They explode with anger from the tiniest mishap in their lives and their loved ones look around and wonder, “Who the hell is this person?”

You may be reading this and think, “that’s me,” or you could be thinking, “I have no issues with expressing my feelings as they come.” Whether you choose to compartmentalize your feelings or express them as quickly as they arrive in your heart and mind, everyone has a ham hidden somewhere in the folds of their muumuu. It may be pain from a past experience that you chose to store away until you are strong enough to unpack it. It could be a festering thought that never seems to get communicated properly. It could be a passion of yours that you’ve left untapped, waiting for the “right time” to act on it. Whatever the case, a good ham is a terrible thing to waste. The more you hold that stuff in, the longer it will take for you to unravel it in the future. Don’t wait. If you don’t want to share your thoughts with the world (I’m speaking to you introverts), tell a close friend, write it down in a journal, or speak to a counselor. Get those thoughts out before they become dynamite. Think of all the wonderful things you can store in that brilliant mind of yours once you clear it of all the clutter.

Speak your truth. Speak your feelings. Speak your passions. If you’re like me, the art of sharing your insides to the outside world in whatever fashion you choose can make you feel ten times lighter . . . or at least thirty pounds lighter now that the ham’s out of the way.

And despite the muumuu lady’s actions the day of the pork thievery, I’m sure she just needed to let it all out somehow, too. It also makes for a killer lesson to teach her grandkids: Never go to the grocery store hungry.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!

Fat Girl Syndrome – How Heavy is Your Mind on a Bathroom Scale?

We’re friends now, right? I mean, you already know from my last three blogs that I’m a mom wracked with guilt who drinks too much because she feels imperfect. You know what gives me heart palpitations, but I guess I haven’t discussed the most pressing form of anxiety that weighs upon this heavy mind. This subject has, after all, been the elephant in the room I’ve been avoiding for some time now, pun intended.  I may as well hit the hard stuff if we’re going to continue this journey together. So here it goes.

My physical body feels like an anchor weighing me down to the past. It’s hard to run from your own body, ya know? So it’s kind of a constant reminder of the big fat elephant in the room. I’m just being real with this one. No sugar coating. I mean, I know what all that sugar coating did for me as a kid. It wasn’t pretty.

As part of an exercise in Sunday school this week, I asked the class to recount their earliest memory of their childhood. I smiled watching their eyes flicker with reminiscent dreams of yesteryears. Because I was facilitating, I thought I could easily bypass my own memory, but just when I thought I was in the clear, I heard, “Now what about you, Chelsea? What was your earliest memory?”

Immediately, I went to my memory box and pulled out a happy, acceptable answer. “I remember riding in the car with my parents while we discussed my upcoming fifth birthday.” Sounds simple enough. Nothing to be judged there. Of course it would have been a short stroll down memory lane to bring up that second memory that conveniently stopped short of my vocal cords.

I was 8 years old when I stood on my bathroom scales, my mom standing behind me, peering down. “Almost in the triple digits,” she said with a slight worry in her voice.

That same year for my ninth birthday, along with the typical Goosebump collection, gear for my baseball obsession, and Space Jam memorabilia (don’t judge), I received something else: The Richard Simmons Tone & Sweat and Disco Sweat VHS combo. “We’ll do it together,” my parents told me, reassuringly.

This was when a healthy lifestyle meant imagining that pre-packaged cardboard with bold “low-fat” lettering was the answer to acceptance. It was waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays to attend those 10-mile races to cheer on my dad, pass out Gatorade to sprinters fainting at the finish line, and seeing the hope in my dad’s eyes that one day all this “excitement” might rub off on me. It never did. Especially when that lady hurled her breakfast near my feet at the San Diego marathon. One plus for me, though, since I remained at the finish line without venturing off, I was first to the champions’ tent to scout out the Dominos pizza before anyone else.

“You did the munchies, now we’ll do the crunchies!” Richard Simmons would yell at me the next day. His blue sequined jumpsuit and disco ball hair blinded my eyes as he Cha-Cha slid his way into my living room each afternoon following one of my dad’s big races. Breaks between sets included devouring cups of melted cheese from the microwave. (Just call it an early introduction into my low-carb craze later in life).  

As I entered high school, Richard Simmons lost his appeal, although I did find his soothing rendition of “I Will Survive” a bit promising. Another burpee won’t kill me. I will survive. As long as I know how to sneak Little Debbies, I know I’ll stay alive.

But it was obvious to anyone with eyes, Richard Simmons had failed me. I was F-A-T as ever and I started calling bullshit on those Lean Cuisines. By the time I graduated high school, I was 270 pounds. Despite being too large to ignore, the world did it all the same.

Sure, I had friends. I had plenty of them. And I was the life of the party if I say so myself. I could make them laugh with jokes about being a cheerleader at the top of the pyramid during pep rallies. Imagine, me hoisted to the top of a triangle of bleached blondes who twirled their hair incessantly. What a gas!

I credit Oprah Winfrey for my “aha” moment. Not the time when she rolled out 100 pounds of fat on a Radio Flyer wagon. It was when she admitted that her first weight loss journey was a fad and realized that eating healthy was a lifestyle choice. It was that statement that stuck in my head during my freshman year of college. Also, the fact that I had a 3-hour gap in my schedule to devote to the gym since I couldn’t justify using all 180 minutes to gorge on General Tso’s Chicken.

I made a choice at age 19 to lose weight for myself and no one else, and girl, my addictive personality kicked in big time. If going to the gym was what I would do, I would live there. One hour wasn’t enough. Two, either. I’d spend half the day at the gym sweating away all the insecurities I had about my body to make myself presentable to the world.

Within a year, I had shed 100 pounds. Did I give myself a check mark? For awhile, I did. But I’ve learned after bearing a child and putting on that Chamber twenty (this is a real condition where you put on 20 pounds working at a chamber of commerce) that this journey is one I can never call complete.

Growing up, I thought if only . . . if only could I reach a specific number on those bathroom scales, then everything else would fall into place. I would frolic in fields of green like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Today, I’ve kept the weight off my body, but my mind is still heavy. The pressure of not going back to where I was sometimes feels all consuming. It’s the monkey on my back. It’s the stretchmarks across my shoulders and mid-section.

I struggle with analyzing motives from strangers. They hold the door for me or give me a slight nod when I cross them on the street and I wonder, “Would you have done the same for the fat girl?” When I was the big girl, I was invisible, but I shrink and now you see me. Why is that?

Why is it that I feel the recognition I’ve received in this small town will slip through my fingers if I eat that piece of birthday cake? Why is it that I want to grill the gentleman holding the door for me downtown? “Sir, just who all do you reserve an open door for? I want names.”

All of you women out there, how many times have you felt like your physical image is the only reason you were treated a certain way by a stranger? Or the only reason you got that discount that expired a week ago at the grocery store? Or why you get that extra nod walking downtown?

As women, we’ve grasped at that ladder and climbed with all we’re worth. We’ve cured incurable diseases. We’ve traveled to space. We’ve sailed the seven seas and we ALMOST won the U.S. Presidential race (argument for another day).

We’ve used our voices to negotiate treaties, to rally for peace, and to re-imagine the world as an egalitarian society for ALL people, boobs and vaginas included. Even then, even now, our physical bodies, not our abilities, can get us an extended half-off price at cocktail hour. Have we really come so far? Maybe we have and our minds have yet to catch up to the transition.

Am I the only one who feels like I have to kick it in high gear to maintain that image for fear of losing all acceptance in the world? I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one who feels like her mind and soul are not enough to make it in society. The intelligent, funny, big boned girl just isn’t enough, is it?

Ladies, what’s it going to take to feel worth it? To look in the mirror and see ourselves as ourselves and not the pre-judged version of someone else? When, after we’ve worked a full day’s pay like a boss, tucked the kids into bed, and used our “free” hour at home after they slumber to do housework, can we look at ourselves as champions? As survivors? As enough?

For too long, we’ve let other people tell our story. What’s yours? Will we let them define us by a little flab around our midsection from carrying the next generation of wild-eyed wanderers? Surely that’s not it.

Today, I still look at pants three sizes too large and wonder if they will fit me. I sit in a seat in coach and take a deep breath as I attempt to secure the buckle. I remind myself at pool parties that it was me who won the “biggest splash” award at Christian summer camp. I question myself on everything. Can you do this? Are you sure?

Yes.

Yes, I can.

Yes, you can.

The world is full of shit that pulls you down. Don’t let your own doubts be one of those.

Florence + the Machine reminds us that it’s hard to dance with a devil on our backs, so shake it out.

Shake it out, ladies.

Sprint across the runway.

Robe yourselves with love.

The past can be heavy.

Shake it out.

Shake it out.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!