Taking on the PTA President position was a very quick shift from Solo Actor to Team Player. For almost a decade now almost all of my efforts have been self-directed and generally self-focused. Now I’m Team Captain, and I’m feeling not just the weight of tracking all the moving pieces, but also (especially) that of recognizing or acknowledging the many ways that I screw up. And learning to do so frankly, without dwelling, without excuses.
Yesterday, a Sunday, I began the day at my parent’s house in central WA. I photographed my cousin and her new husband in their wedding attire and felt confident and excited about what I created for them. Drove home, packed up, and made it out the door just after 1pm to get back to Seattle with some extra time to spare before a 5pm meeting with my PTA board.
Except I forgot that driving back to Seattle on a Sunday afternoon always stretches longer than anticipated because all of the other people trying to get back to the city before Monday morning.
And my meeting was at 4pm, not 5pm.
I had said “4pm? That’s great. I’ll be there.” I said those words out loud and then I wasn’t there. Everyone else made time in their weekend, arranged with their partners to handle the kids so we could gather, at my house. The meeting was at my house and I was an hour late.
My husband jumped right in and set up the team to work at my dining room table in my absence. I spent the last hour of the drive talking through the voices in my head telling me I’m a stupid idiot, that everyone else manages to juggle their life enough to be where they say they’ll be, that this particular indiscretion was egregious and outrageous and indicative of many faulty things about me.
This particular form of accountability, accountability to a demanding and complicated group effort, comes with a lot of opportunities to own up to the ways I fall short of my intended Self. Once I calmed down the Inner Critic I was able to think more clearly about what I can do to prevent a mistake like this in the future. This one, being an hour late to that particular meeting? That’s done. The roads are what they are and the speed limits are what they are, and there was nothing I could do but walk in my own front door to a team of volunteers diligently plugging away in my front room. I immediately apologized, they immediately reassured me that it was fine – but I wanted them to know that I don’t find it okay to operate that way. Integrity is one of my core values and I hadn’t lived up to their expectations of me, and my expectations of myself.
I’m not going to dwell on my mistake, that doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m checking my calendar morning and night now to make sure I firmly understand what I’ve committed to the following day. I’ll be budgeting four hours for the Sunday afternoon drive back to Seattle from now on. I’ll extend grace and compassion when others are late or absent. I’ll extend that same grace and compassion to myself.
This morning during my meditation, a guided course led by Sarah Blondin, I realized that I can’t imagine myself in my own mind without Bad Body Thoughts disrupting my zen.
Should I picture myself as I currently am, and sit with the revulsion I feel over my overflowing belly, wobbly chin, sausage arms, flat rump, massive thighs?
Or do I think of some form of my idealized self, me when I was thinner, me when I was younger?
No, that won’t work either. It always leads me back to Option A, distracted by all the things that lead me to feel like a piece of shit. Because instead of being some form of my idealized self I’m… me. As I am.
I work hard to keep these feelings inside. I never say negative things about my body in front of my children, and when my daughter grabs my belly fat and tells me it’s BIG and SQUISHY I focus on making sure that I don’t create negative associations. Genetics being what they are, it seems likely she’ll have to deal with a squishy belly someday herself, but even if she manages to do what I haven’t been able to (stay slim, master impulses, prioritize output over input) she’ll face down situations throughout her life where she has the opportunity to be an ass to someone who is fat. She’ll know that’s not how her Mama raised her.
I give myself a solid A on this area of the parenting report card, but that’s not enough because I’m more than Mother, I am Me.
There is no on/off switch for this, at least not one that I’ve found. I read the BoPo articles and follow the Instagram accounts and admire the women who have made progress toward loving what is. I know what I want to feel, and it isn’t too difficult for me to play the part and project outward. I can do the selfies, and put up some Instagram Stories about self-acceptance, and it does help. But it’s still more of a band-aid than a cure.
Do we become what we think or do we start with action and the thoughts shift from there?
“One of the whys is because I can write. And writers write.” – Dr. Maya Angelou.