Monday, June 10, 2013

Trees, Bikes, and Oh My!: We Have a Long Way to Go

It's been an exciting Omily week! I learned how to care for street trees properly, made a commitment to care for my body more, spent a day at St. John's networking and meeting new clients, and spent an evening with friends exploring the tarot over local craft beer.

Seriously, does it get any better than that?  Some of this stuff is going to wait for a more relevant (i.e., Omily Tarot or Eating Omily) post, but some of it is great to talk about right now!

So, on Thursday, I joined Jasmina, my friend, neighbor, and partner in neighborhood improvement, at a tree care workshop put on my Million Trees NYC.  We adopted twenty-two trees lining the streets of our neighborhood, and by taking this workshop, we learned how to care for them properly, and gained access to free tools, mulch, and other resources.

Some high lights: trees between two and five years from planting are the most vulnerable: the contractor who planted the tree is responsible for watering the tree for the first two years after planting, but it takes about five years for the tree to be well-established enough to weather the droughty conditions of an NYC summer.  Anytime the weather is 85 degrees, and rain-free for a week, your trees are uncomfy and could go for an extra drinky.  Those young trees, who are still growing their root systems, benefit, and can die without, twenty to thirty gallons of water, delivered slowly once a week.  By watering slowly, but deeply, the roots are encouraged to grow DOWN, which leads to a more structurally stable tree (less likely to topple), and also discourages shallow roots from running amok and pushing up the sidewalk.

Trees also benefit from using one of those mini fork-looking gardening tools to rake up and loosen the soil.  This allows water to better percolate down when you're watering, or when it rains.  It's also a big help to remove weeds, since they're competing for the same resources as your tree.  Small flowering plants that aren't heavy feeders/drinkers planted in the tree pit are a great way to advertize to the area that somebody loves this tree, and throwing trash at it would be a crappy thing to do.  Why not show the trees in your 'hood some love?  They give you fresh oxygen and shade, filter dust and polutants out of your air, and add beauty and good energy to your space.  They deserve our support!

Other cool things I saw this week were citibikes!!  Citibikes are getting lots of flack from just about everybody, and obviously it's a system with some issues, but, you guys, HELLO!  It's a BIKESHARE!!!  Less cars, more cooperation.  This is inately a good thing!  Here are some pictures I snapped of the one near 6th and 14th (maybe it was 16th?  18th?).
Yaaaay!!  And, here they are two days later!  Notice the difference between the above photos and these ones...
PEOPLE ARE USING THEM!!!!!  Yaaaaaay!!!!  I haven't hopped on one yet, but I definitely will, and speaking of cardio exercise, I was feeling all kinds of superior after my scathing review of Dr. Hitchcock's fat-shamey article...and then something happened to remind me that just like street trees, and citibikes, I still have a looooong way to go:

For the past few weeks, as I've transitioned into shorts I've noticed something unusual: my thighs rub together when I walk.  This isn't unusual for the vast majority of women, and it's a healthy state for most of those women.  But for ME, it seemed a bit unusual.  Seeing as my size hasn't fluxuated since the end of high school, I kept assuming I had just forgotten what wearing shorts felt like and telling myself to calm down.  ('Chill, Omily, you're a healthy woman, and your thighs are just reminding you of how awesome they are!')

THEN, I was assisting an aerial yoga class, and one of the students referred to my thighs as 'juicy.'  In the moment, I laughed, and agreed that, yeah, my thigh flesh totally gets pinched in certain aerial yoga inversions, just like hers!  Later on, I mulled it over.  Did I self-identify as a woman with juicy thighs?  Did I want to?  'Juicy' is certainly not an insult.  I love juicy chicken, juicy peaches, even juicy thighs...I just thought that mine didn't necessarily fit that category. 

I brushed it off at the time, but between the constant feeling of thigh-on-thigh, and the 'juicy' comment, I found myself spending way too much time examining myself naked in the full length mirror.  Hmmm...could it be?  Could they be bigger?  In spite of all my hard work at accepting myself and others just as we are, the thought made my heart pound, and not in a good way. I finally decided that I should measure my thighs and hips, thereby proving to myself that my body was objectively just the same as always and this was all in my head.  Thanks shitty media!  I pulled out the measuring tape, and...oh.  My thighs and hips were, objectively, two inches bigger around than they were the last time I measured them.  Days later, I've recognized how INSIGNIFICANT this finding is, and am feeling pretty solid about my (juicy?) thighs, but at the time, I went into an all-too-recognizable tailspin:

It was all there: the whiny tone of voice, the use of the word 'fat' in a negative, accusatory sense, guilt that I had been neglecting my body, the sense of betrayal: that I could no longer trust my body to look after itself.  I rushed from one rash idea to another: no more Sunday morning pre-church pastries...adding a toning routine to my evening...cutting out dairy...but even in the midst of this clearly unhealthy reaction, there was another voice.  It sounded something like this:

"Oh pipe down, it's two damn inches. You fit into all the same clothes, and no one, not even your husband who sees you naked a lot, has noticed. You are essentially the same. Look at your Mom: your thighs and hips are going to soften and grow with age. It's normal and healthy. And if you think for one damn second that I'm going to waste my time doing leg lifts when I could be meditating or sleeping, you've got another thing coming! Going off dairy...honestly...I only have one thing to say to that, you loon: CHEESE."

In spite of all the craziness, a sensible part of my brain was stonewalling: flatly refusing any severe changes to my diet and lifestyle, on the grounds that my diet and lifestyle are HEALTHY.  Thank God, all my effort wasn't for naught!  I may not have been able to erase the old, negative recordings, but I was able to add some new ones!

Over the next few days, I worked toward making peace with my body by tuning into that sensible voice more, and talking down that bat-shit voice when it popped up. Also, because it is possible, given that I'm a little young for age-related softening and growing, that a hole in my self-care regimen is adding to extra padding, I took an honest look at my diet and lifestyle:

Oh, I could have a little bit more restraint toward carbs. I decided to add a green smoothie to my daily diet, because more green stuff is never a bad thing, smoothies are delicious, and the extra influx of fiber, water, and sweetness might satisfy my carb cravings.  This fresh look made me realize that I hadn't been completely honest with myself about my exercise routine: between aerial and yoga, there is no question that I get more than enough weight-bearing exercise to keep my muscles and bones strong.  Now that I spend at least twenty minutes stretching every night, I'm confident I'm maintaining and increasing my full range of motion, and keeping my muscles limber to prevent injury. 

However, I do ZERO cardio.  Well, ok, people go on about sexercise, but I'm not doing that for an hour straight three times a week, more's the pity.  I do walk a lot, living in NYC, and I've spent years telling myself that's enough, but I am not sustaining an elevated heart rate on any kind of a regular basis.

Women die of heart disease.  It's not a joke, and here's the thing, there are two sides to the fat acceptance coin: fat people generally get worse health care because any complaints they have are chalked up to their fat.  Thin people can have serious problems with blood sugar or their cardiovascular system that fly under the radar because doctors assume thin people are healthier.  We know this is not true.  On some level, I was falling back on the same fat-shaming, bullshit excuse: "I'm thin, so I don't need to worry about cardio!"  Not true.  Heart disease runs in my family (it pretty much runs in everybody's).  Loving myself just the way I am means taking proper care of myself reguardless of how close to society's ideal I look.

And that.  Sigh.   Means incorporating cardio into my life three times a week.  I hate cardio.

So yesterday the husband and I ran the Prospect Park loop.  We did intervals: two minutes running, and two minutes brisk walking, back and forth.  I was miserable before the first two fast minutes were up.  I was REALLY miserable by the time we'd made it back to 15th Street, and home was still twenty minutes away.  We were absolutely beat the rest of the day, and I'm really sore this morning, but that just proves how much my body needs this: I'm in pretty crappy shape!

We'll be mixing up our cardio routine with zumba classes (me), and cycling (him/both of us), and I'm looking forward to having better stamina in the skies, and on the ground as we continue.  It's also giving a me a new body-acceptance challenge: constantly checking in and reminding myself of why I'm doing this: it's not about my thighs.  Maybe they'll shrink a little.  After all, my lower body doesn't get a ton of exercise in aerial, whereas my cardio exercises are all lower-body focused.  That would be ok.  Maybe they won't, because this is my healthy body right now, and that will be ok, too.

Juicy thighs, healthy heart.  Juicy thighs, healthy heart.  Juicy thighs, healthy heart...see you in the park!

Live Omily,
~em

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