Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “fitness

The Happy, the Fit, and the Beautiful

OFF-fit-beauty

I’m not a huge fan of artificial beauty. And to be honest, I’m a little afraid of the uber-fit or uber-beautiful, but that’s my problem. When looking for my next relationship all of these things have to be taken into account, and some of them are contradictory.

Happy.

That is my number one indicator of success in a relationship. I KNOW how happy I am, and I project this joy and enthusiasm everywhere I go. I have been married twice, to people who liked to bask in my joyous glow, but perhaps did not have as much radiance to contribute themselves. I have begun learning, as I have now dated several women, that happiness is the biggest turn-on there is, for me.

Fit.

The obsession with glorious abs is a bit overblown in my opinion. When my wife was in her fittest mode, she felt a bit hard and unhealthy. There was a edge to her attention to fitness and getting her run in, regardless of what needed to be done. Now I understand the runner’s need to run. But when she was her fittest she was also her most obsessive about everything else. And in contrast, when she had just given birth to our second child, and was probably at her softest, body wise, and heart-wise, I thought she was about perfect.

Why do 90% of the people on the trail who are running look so uncomfortable? And us walkers seem much happier.

I’ve met the fit-obsessed women in my recent years of singlehood, and talking about “working out” is probably one of the last things I find fascination with. Um, do it, run, swim, diet, Pilates, whatever, but don’t make a life’s journey about. OR, if you do, I guess you need to find someone else who has the same priority in life. My priority is health, wellness, and how I feel about myself. The six-pack abs of my high school swim team days are long gone.

I’d rather walk around the lake with you than try and keep up a conversation while we’re jogging. Besides, if you don’t run correctly you’re probably in for more injuries and less overall quality of life, that greatly outweighs the longevity benefits in my life. There was a joke once about how for every hour you ran you added a day of life to your mortality. The punchline, yes, but you just spent an hour running.

Why do 90% of the people on the trail who are running look so uncomfortable? And us walkers seem much happier. And I don’t really see the runners=fit walkers=not-as-fit concept holding up as I observe the men and women on the trail. There are just as many obese people running as there are fit people walking. Again, fitness and uber-fitness (or fitness obsession) are different things.

Beautiful.

There is something about a beautiful face or smile that can transform any body type into a potential. But there are also a lot of beautiful people who are unhappy. It may not be due to their outward appearance, but it seems the most beautiful people I’ve ever met have been pretty neurotic in some fundamental way. Either they were overly focused on their hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, etc. to really pay much attention to their attitudes or their mental/spiritual programs. No, beauty is not a spiritual attainment, but it can be a part of someone’s life that is more of a burden than a blessing.

I have never known chemistry to develop over time. Either you have a tail wag or you don’t.

And with beauty I have to talk about my fixation on women’s shoes. 90% of the time, when I see a woman in Carry Bradshaw heals I think, “Gross.” And it’s not that I don’t think some of them are quite sexy, but it’s something else. Perhaps it’s the extravagance of a $500 pair of fashion accessories that is distasteful to me, but I don’t really know an expensive one from a cheap knockoff. Perhaps it’s the “porn look” that I associate with this kind of foot ware, the in-the-mall-look-at-me sort of vibe. And I am willing to admit that it’s my problem. But something about a woman in really sexy shoes says, “No thanks,” to me. And I’ve known men who were just as shoe obsessed, but it was running shoes, lots and lots of running shoes. There’s something a bit hedonistic about a shoe obsession, and when the budgets have monthly dollars assigned to them, I’m just baffled.

Anyway, what I’m learning about, in my short dating career is that all of these things factor together to make a YES or a NO for me, for my base animal instinct, we like to refer to as chemistry. It’s either we are wagging our tail when we see the other person or we are not. And if we are both wagging our tails we can start imagining or drafting ideas about a relationship.

I have never known chemistry to develop over time. Either you have a tail wag or you don’t. There are “maybe” tail wags, that might actually be an indication of something that could be build more firmly on the rest of the relationship, but most of us want the strong, leg-slapping, tail wag of passion before we’re ready to invest in building a relationship.

And of course, there are the casual daters who are looking for nothing more than an opportunity to exploit the tale of another animal without any concern about “where things are going.” That’s okay too, but it’s just not me. I tried casual sex and I’m not that into it. But maybe I haven’t had the leg-slapper yet either. And if I did, I imagine I would want to start building something where there may be nothing to build.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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images: smile, sexy fit, beauty, creative commons usage


Divorce Recovery: Loving Yourself Better, So You Can Eventually Love Again

OFF-lovehandles

Getting right with yourself after divorce is the biggest challenge you’re going to face. All the mechanics of divorce, will eventually take care of themselves. But the emotional fallout might be a bit tougher. I often rely on the language and support of the 12-steps to recover my balance when I’m under the rock of depression or sadness.

And for me, the biggest part of that recovery was regaining some self-confidence and self-love. I felt defeated and broken when I walked out of my marital home and into the world of single dads everywhere. I knew the loss that was coming, now and for the rest of my life I would not have unlimited access to my kids and their hopes and dreams. That loss is still the hardest part for me. I used to love going in late at night and appreciate (give thanks) for their beating and healthy little hearts. Now I can’t to that on most of the nights.

But the areas in me that needed healing were much more personal.

  • I didn’t feel sexy or desirable
  • My extra weight felt like a fat-sumo-wrestling-suit
  • The sadness made it hard to exercise at all
  • My initial attempts at dating felt desperate and disconnected
  • Loss of all touch and closeness (except from friends and my kids)
  • Loss of the hope that I would ever be with another woman
  • My mental processes were so wrapped up in ruminating the past, that I felt slow and unintelligent most of the time

And at the deepest core of my pain, I wasn’t sure my body, my soul, was worth all the effort it was going to take to resurface and regain my position as a strong father. A strong single father. At a few dark moments, it just didn’t seem worth it. But then I remembered my dad, and what the loss of him in my early twenties did to me, and I soldiered on.

I go from moments of feeling fit and healthy to feeling fat and uninspired, often in the course of one day. And it’s not that I’m fat one day and not-fat the next. It’s more about how I see and talk to myself.

Today, four-ish years after I walked out on my kids and married life (not my idea) there are still points of pain and sadness, but overall I’d have to say I’ve recovered most of my energy and enthusiasm. I still miss my kids on the nights they are not here with me, but we’re managing. All of us are managing.

Today I read a piece about how the human body ages over time, written from a very healthy and zen perspective. And while I don’t do all these things, I wanted to share them, and the source post, in hopes that you might find some inspiration for your own journey. You are worth it. Whatever you have to go through to get back on top of your game, whatever it is, DO IT.

Here are the  8 Things I Learned from 50 Naked People – published in The Elephant Journal.

breath in - the off parent

click for larger version

So let’s spend a brief moment together, breathing *that* in. I could spend a long time trying to absorb these wonderful affirmations into my own self-image.

The physical body needs love: Your body doesn’t lie.

What are the things that need healing around your body image? I’ll share mine.

The thing your most embarrassed about: my size. Notice I didn’t say weight. I go from moments of feeling fit and healthy to feeling fat and uninspired, often in the course of one day. And it’s not that I’m fat one day and not-fat the next. It’s more about how I see and talk to myself. And I’m working on it, on just loving whatever I am at the moment. Today those emotions are more tripped up by something I ate, or bloating, rather than some massive increase in my girth.

And what I can do about it:

  1. A better diet (not dieting)
  2. Fewer rich indulgences (the tend to breed next indulgences: frappacinos, ice creams)
  3. More activity (doing what I love)
  4. More energy from healthy activities; 4
  5. Emotional boost and joy from being in a relationship (when that happens).

I’ve got a gentler way of talking to my 50+ year-old self. I’m still easily influenced and sometimes angered by fat obsession. And I’ve never really felt fit enough since I left high school hyper athletics: I lettered in three sports and was always driving myself to win.

Now, of course, the matches are less important, and it’s the game that makes me happy. Even losing, I can appreciate the skill and performance of the other players. (Tennis is my passion.) But I love playing. I love seeing a player who has it all and disassembles my game with several well placed shots at critical moments during the match. It’s a chance to watch my own emotions and my own reaction to winning (when I win) and losing (when I get creamed). And that too is about balance.

So I lost at marriage. And here on out I have to learn to be a single dad to my two kids. So what. Sometimes the game doesn’t go the way you want it to, so you move on, try something different, and give up only after the last point is played.

Perhaps a partner who’s on the same trajectory of self-love and healing from fat-shaming. We’re not fat. We’re where we are. And we’re here to love ourselves, and with luck, others.

So my embarrassment about my fatness is really left over shit. I’m not *that* fat. I’ve been much fatter. And healthy, for me, is not obsessing about fit or fat, but focusing on eating better and playing more tennis. And knowing that we’re not getting any younger, when I look back at some college photos of me, when I was (at that time) feeling quite fat, and noticing how great I looked.

I’m guessing if we could look back on our “now” selves from our “much older” selves, we’d admire our energy and vigor. We would probably not say how fat we were. We might, but those are the tapes I am eliminating from my vocabulary, both inner and outer. So much of what we say to ourselves is mean. If you say it out loud, you might hear how to be more supportive of your process, as you would be supportive of a friend.

I’m not trying to become a model. I’m not really trying to call in some much younger women who are super-fit and perhaps more focused on super-fit guys. I’m not going to be that guy. But I am aware of things more tangible, like my energy, my optimism and creativity, my blood pressure. All those signs are GREAT. What more can I ask for?

Perhaps a partner who’s on the same trajectory of self-love and healing from fat-shaming. We’re not fat. We’re where we are. And we’re here to love ourselves, and with luck, others.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: love handles are whorey handles, laura g, creative commons usage


Nobody Is Going to Hold Your Dream for You

Our obsession with abs, men and women of the gym crewSo when did we start making love to abs? I’m kinda sick of it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a sculpted body is nice, and obvious results from a hell of a lot of work… But…

I’ve seen my abs once in my life. I was a sophomore in high school, I was on the swim team and we were swimming twice a day, lifting weights, and eating well. It was all so planned and supported. And I had swimming teammates, and perhaps a romantic interest in more than one of the women on the swim team. It’s kind of what you do up East in the Winter. Swim, Basketball, or Ice Hockey. I swam.

Once in my life I had the abs we so aspire to. But is it like pornography, the uber-fit woman or man? Sure we glamorize the human body. And the magazines are filled with 20 – 30 year olds who have spent a good bit of their free time working on their abs. I can’t think of anything quite so boring.

I’m afraid the effort it takes to maintain that form would completely outweigh the potential time with me, or time fulfilling other parts of what’s important in a life.

I wasn’t one to spend time in a gym. I mean, running on a treadmill going nowhere. What do you do with that? Watch TV? No thanks. And something about being inside, always feels kind of like cheating. But, then again, I live in Texas, and it’s fuckin hot out there. So what’s the trade off?

I probably will not see my iron stomach again in this lifetime. I mean, it’s possible, but it’s not really a goal of mine. I can’t add up the number of hours it would take, doing stuff I don’t like doing, hate actually, over the next 6-months to a year. Um, yeah… Not going to happen.

That’s not to say I don’t have ideas of getting in better shape. I do. It’s just, the learnings I am getting along the journey back to fitness from depression, divorce, and isolation, are unbelievably valuable. It’s a process back to myself. Back to learning what I’m in it for, what I like doing, and what the time is worth that I could be spending “at the gym.”

I have plans. I am getting ready to work with a nutritionist to learn about things like gluten and carbs and my particular chemical make up. But I can tell you this, I have had love handles in some shape and form, since I was 2 years old. And that one brief period of my life, when I was 15, was the only time I’m going to have a GQ-cover-worth stomach.

So that’s not my goal. And while I would love to nuzzle up to the beautiful body above, I’m afraid the effort it takes to maintain that form would completely outweigh the potential time with me, or time fulfilling other parts of what’s important in a life.

She once said to me, about her beauty, “It’s all I have.” She was depressed about her divorce and she drank alone on weekends when she didn’t have her kids.

There’s a lot to be said for physical beauty. And there’s a lot more to be said for attitude, life approach, centeredness, and warmth. (see Enlightenment post) And when I find the next woman, I hope she has a slim figure, it’s what I’m trained to be drawn towards. [It probably has more to do with my older sister’s ghost than any media driven ideal.] But that’s not the first thing I’m looking for or at.

So here’s the concept: No one is going to hold your dream for you. The woman who I met a few weeks ago, who felt like a first possible “match” was not impressed by something. And she couldn’t possibly see the me I am aiming for. And could I actually expect her to understand my self-improvement plan? No, of course, she sees what she sees.

And the lesson here is, SO DO I. I see myself, and if I compare my stomach to my 15-year-old stomach, I might get depressed. But it’s not about my stomach flatness. That might be something that she is interested in. And it might be something that I marginally aspire towards, but it’s nothing like the athletic-gym-addict stomach above.

I recently met, and hung out with a woman who resembles the picture above. She was funny, cute, spunky, and obviously obsessed with her image. She once said to me, about her beauty, “It’s all I have.” She was depressed about her divorce and she drank alone on weekends when she didn’t have her kids. [The definition of tragedy.]

We can’t set anyone else’s priorities or reprogram their dreams. The near match woman was as close as I’ve come to someone who seemed balanced.

But she didn’t have time for me. I wasn’t stalking her or anything. We went out dancing one of those vodka nights. And we had a blast. And I was only able to wrestle one more meeting out of her, over coffee where she fiddled with her iPad the entire time.

Her email later said it all. “We can have fun. I just have to get some more of my life back together first.”

A few months later I saw her running on the trail around the lake. There was a moment of recognition and she ducked her head and ran on past. Yes, fine, I didn’t want to interrupt her run.

Later I pinged her via email. “Did I see you this afternoon on the trail?”

“Yes, that’s about all I have time for, being a single parent and all. Work, working out, and taking care of my kids.”

“Okay, well, you looked good. Hope you are well. Cheers.”

That’s what we’re all doing. Setting priorities between work, self, kids, relationships, spiritual practice. There’s only so many hours, and of course, you are what you pay attention to.

So I’m happy with a flat and fit stomach on others. And I do want to get mine in better proportion to how I would like to look. But if I start aspiring towards my old 16-year-old body, I can lose sight of my own priorities.

We can’t set anyone else’s priorities or reprogram their dreams. The near match woman was as close as I’ve come to someone who seemed balanced. And if I’d been more balanced, maybe she’d have seen the same spark I saw. But, of course, she could not hold the idea of who I was becoming, or where I was going. How could she? There’s no one who is going to hold your dream for you.

No worries. Of course she is out there. And the me I want to be is too. Oh wait… The me I want to be is right here. I need to remember that.

It gets better.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Harsh Awareness: I Wouldn’t Date Me – What Am I Looking for After Divorce?

There is no time to slay the dragon, the dragon is your friend

“There is no time to slay the dragon. The dragon is your friend.” – Reshad Feild.

An amazing sequence of events over the last few days has triggered a new moment of self-awareness.

PART 1: I went on an OK Cupid first date with a woman on Monday evening. And after three hours of engaging conversation she gave me the, “I’ll call you, okay?” She was fantastic. My first real online-dating HOME RUN. Not too amazingly beautiful or self-consumed: she was just self-aware enough, and funny, and already in my tribe/constellation of work. In other words, she fit on my MAP.

Dark hair. Fit. Very witty. Creative passion. Conversationally flexible and diverse. And strong, agressive, confident. In fact, she was so confident, at the end, she said something like, “So, I’m getting the idea that you’d like to go out again?” I agreed. “Okay, well let me catch my breath.”

Uh oh.

PART 2: My own self-evaluation gave me only one answer. (Again, this is my projection, I have not heard a peep from the sweetheart behind OKC door number 1.)

I’m fat.

The only issue I could even imagine that would come between our connection on Monday night was my midriff. It’s not easy to admit that. Or this. I don’t think I would date me.

It’s not that I’m looking for miss perfect body. In fact, when I have run across her in my past, she was so self-absorbed as to not have much time for anything else. And it’s not that I’m afraid of a little softness. Actually there were times when the ex-y was way to gaunt, in my opinion. She was much more beautiful to me when she was less hard. So it’s not that I’m looking for some IDEAL, playmate (puleeze) or porn star image of a woman. That’s not it at all. But…

But, I’m sure I have tolerances in my taste. And there is some measure of fitness, or out-of-fitness, that simply turns off my “desire” gene off. And here’s the kicker: looking at myself, I think I’ve fallen outside of my own desirable range of fitness. I wouldn’t date me.

It’s the ONLY thing I can put my finger on, about why this date with massive energy and touch points didn’t end up with plans for a next gathering. There are some other possibilities. She did mention that simply turning on her OKC profile she got about 10 immediate propositions. Mine being one of those. So maybe she wants to check out the rest of the field before going on date number 2 with any of us, or me, more specifically.

But the lesson for me was: I am outside of my own tolerance for fitness. And that’s something I’ve known for a while, but something that I did not have such a clear handle on. Which leads to the next awareness.

PART 3: I have been stepping up my fitness routine again. And part of that is walking. And one of my favorite walking locations is our local trail that curves around a small section of the Colorado River. It is amazingly inspirational to see all the people, all the different bodies and styles in motion. And I wonder about the runners. (I have been a runner before.) And their fitness levels. But of course there are runners of all shapes and sizes and levels of experience too.

What I’ve wondered about for a long time is what motivates runners to run. The high? Fitness? Aspirations towards the perfect body? And this time, the day after meeting my “match,” I had an idea.

Maybe everyone on the trail was running AWAY from something. For me that would be: 1. getting fat(er); 2. aging and health; 3. heart fitness. OR perhaps they were running TOWARDS something instead: 1. an ideal body; 2. a competition they are preparing for; OR BINGO 3. someone they want to be with.

So I had been running away from things, but until I met my “match” not running towards anything. I’ve been too busy trying to reconstruct my stability, get my financial house in order (still a ways out on that one), and make progress on my creative projects. I have not really put much attention towards dating or finding that next relationship.

I had also not met anyone who inspired just that.

PART 4: The dragon I am wrestling with today is my own. I’m a bit sad that my first “match” is probably giving in to first impressions and moving on. If I have learned anything, when they say, “I’ll call you,” and they don’t, there is no amount of persuasion or offering that will have an affect. If they say that, they are done. (Maybe I’m projecting. We’ll see.)

But I am not sad about her. And I’m not really walking towards HER, but the idea of HER. I have already let her go.

It is the ME I am comfortable with that I am walking towards.

I made an observation in therapy yesterday as I was talking about this, “Maybe people in that class of fitness like to be with others of the same class. Today I’m just a bit out of the class I want to be with.” I am happy with my fat self, and I am actually pretty happy over all. But I am looking to get back to the dating class where I am most likely to find a match.

I don’t want the uber-fit yoga-runner babe. She thinks about little else. I want someone who’s comfortable with whatever they are. And in order for them to be attracted to me (IMHO) I need to be in the same relative class, the same relative level of fitness.

Now that is something I can walk towards with a bit more vigor. Because walking away from the other stuff was okay, but it didn’t have much charge to it. I can see my “match” now. Fully clothed, sitting at a table drinking coffee and smiling. She’s funny. She’s smart. She has many things in her own life sorted out.

And SHE DIGS EVERY SINGLE PART OF ME. And of course, when that happens, the response won’t be, “I’ll call you.” In my movie it will be more like, “What are doing this weekend?”

That is the dragon I am dealing with today. And I’m happy to befriend him and see how we can both get what we want.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

(The story continues: Met My Match: My Online Dating Near Miss Responds)

Reference: Steps to Freedom – Reshad Feild

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The Ballet Dancer and the Buddha – Do We Have a Disconnect?

fit or fat or just right?I am not happiest when I am going through a fat period, but it happens. Sometimes fatter than others. I guess it’s common for a lot of folks. Maybe the balance between our bodies, work, and spirit are an interrelated display of how in-balance we are in our lives. But if the disconnect begins to happen between someone’s body and how it feels to be in it, bad things can happen. I know, I’ve been there.

I’d say I’m not obsessed with the skinny-fit abs on a woman. I guess I’d better hope she’s not obsessed with my abs either. (grin)

That said, I had the opportunity to crush up against that imagined flexibility quite recently. My ex-y is a very fit and finely tuned woman. And if I were to describe my first wife, I’d say she is still as hot as she was when I met her, petite, wiry and fiery. So in my two core relationships I’d say I’ve leaned towards the lean.

And last week I had an opportunity to explore my proclivity for the athletic body type. A wonderfully fun and witty woman showed up in my life. And before we’d even met in person, I could see from her Facebook pictures that she was of a different body type then I was trained to crave.

[I recall when I first started dating my ex-y, telling a friend, “She’s kind of a big girl.” I was speaking primarily of height, but she was stout compared to my wispy first wife. “That’s the way I love’m,” my friend said. And I too became familiar and fond of the woman who could match me toe to toe in a balance of strength and femininity.]

And so I prompted my mind before we met, about this woman’s body type being a bit more in line with my current shape.

What if I’m not into that? I wondered. What if the woman [the women] I’m really after are after someone fitter than me? Makes sense.

Well, I’m after the fitter me too. And I’m more in touch with the feeling of being out of balance with my body today than I have ever been. I am aware of my minor Buddha belly, and I am in motion to make things different again. However, until then… What am I saying about that woman that may just be my own dorky inexperience?

Can the Buddha in me love the Buddha girl, or does my craving for the ballet dancer override my intellectual attraction?

And how’s it worked out so far with these amazingly beautiful women?

I had a theory when I was younger that you had the triad of Spirit – Mind – Body. And, in my understanding, I could only focus on two of the three. And it was clear I had chosen Spirit and Mind. It’s not that I’ve not had very fit periods in my life, I have. And it’s not like I’m massively obese, I’m not. In fact my waistline is 8 inches bigger than it was at my peak fitness moment, sophomore in high school, swimming team. So I’m not off the map of myself. But I am a bit out side the comfort limits.

Today I’m much more aware of what’s happening with my body. I have more time alone to discuss things with myself. I have this relationship pause to self-assess what happened before and what I want to happen next. And I am fascinated by several of the most beautiful women I have ever been around. And while I desire them both, I am clear that they are not who I want to be with. I wonder if that is not my same self-deluded radar showing them as out of bounds, or damaged in some way.

Both my marriages ended in some pretty serious sexual dysfunction.

Marriage one brought her sexual abuse past out of the closet after we’d been married about a year. And the skeleton never returned to the closet, or left the side of the bed when we were making love.

Marriage two was more complicated. There was nothing wrong with my ex-y’s sexual functioning. At least not in the beginning. We had the most fulfilling and full sex lives of anything I’d ever experienced. But at some point she began closing something off from me. She began protecting and guarding some inner part of herself. And when that starts happening, it’s not long before the person would rather not more than rather. So as she withdrew further into her protected self, she had less willingness to open up to me. Even a casual quickie became something we had to map and schedule and detail. And after a while, even my desires began to be re-channeled.

So today, am I a Buddha in search of a ballet dancer? Or am I an athlete in a Buddha phase still looking to return to a less Buddha-like time? And would I be willing to be with the Buddha girl? Is my taste for ab candy as much a habit of experience or cultural imagery? These questions I don’t know.

But an illuminating moment comes when I think about the two “most beautiful women in the world” that I have been hanging with. Would I do almost anything to have another amazingly hot woman in relationship? And would I over look her potential red flag warnings while examining her musculature? I don’t know. I have in the past. But I’m trying to do better this next time.

And I guess the most important part of this entire process that is becoming more clear is my need to love myself. I am going through a fat period. That’s okay. [One of my friends was talking about my need to get in shape before I could find the woman I wanted to be with. “Dude, if she can’t appreciate you for exactly who you are, fk her. You’re not a different person when you’re in better shape. If that’s what she’s all into, she’s not the one.”]

So, I know, we project The One. There is no ONE out there. But am I willing to miss all the Buddha girls out there, just because I think I’m only attracted to the ballet dancer?

Good question.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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