Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Size Zero (and Hello to Size Healthy!)

Want to know the real reason I've been living in gym clothes for the past four months?

Because nothing--and I mean NOTHING--in my closet fits me.

It started in June, when I noticed that my running shorts kept riding up, causing my thighs to--gasp!!--rub together and chafe.  Then, my yoga pants started hugging my butt a little too closely, and forget about zipping up a pair of jeans.  Last week, the final straw: not one, but TWO dresses literally burst at the seams within 24 hours of each other.  I had a complete meltdown and then faced reality: it was time to update my wardrobe.

So, I headed into the dressing room at Banana Republic, armed with new sizes and styles, full of confidence and feeling strong and totally secure in my new, healthier body.

I left feeling deflated, huge and completely pissed off at the fashion industry.

No wonder they use human clothes hangers as models, because these clothes do not fit anyone with a hint of muscle or curve.

And I started missing size zero, even though...

Size zero couldn't run up hills without walking; size healthy can.
Size zero got a stress fracture training for a marathon; size healthy finished one, even on a bad day.
Size zero's half marathon PR was 2:35; size healthy's is 1:57.
Size zero had no energy and slept through most days; size healthy has plenty of energy and runs a successful business with two employees.

Two days ago, I tried again.  I literally grabbed every pair of jeans in Nordstrom's, in three different sizes.  I ignored the labels.  I just tried them on.  Some, honestly, didn't make it past my knees.  Others worked beautifully.

So, I'm purging the closet--banishing size zero forever from my presence, and hopefully, eventually from my mind.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Do We Dress to Impress?

Yesterday morning, I was up by 7am.  I ate breakfast, I showered, I fixed my hair, applied make-up, slipped into a dress and heels and headed into the office.  I was at my desk my 9am.

For most women, this is a typical workday.

For me, it's not.

I grew up dressing to impress.  Pants in church were verboten.  High school was all about having the *right* jeans and shoes.  Guess and Polo reigned supreme.

College was even worse.  I went to the ultimate country club, conversative, prepster university.  Mid-90s slacker/grunge skipped right over Greenville, South Carolina.  Sorority jerseys, hair bows, pearls and dresses were the standard uniform.  I worn jeans *maybe* once a week.  I never once wore pajamas or sweat pants.  I even wore make-up when I worked out and put on a dress or skirt for Sunday morning brunch in the dining hall, even if I'd slept in and not gone to church. 

This dress to impress compulsion persisted throughout grad school and my early working years.  

We're told to dress to impress.  For the job that we aspire to.  For the person we want to be.  For the people we could possibly meet.  For the off chance Stacy and Clinton are hiding out in the Publix with a video camera the day I decide to go--gasp--unshowered and in my 15 year old running shorts to get some groceries.

But here's the deal.  I love heels and dresses and make-up as much as the next girl.  But these rituals are expensive.  And time consuming.  And quite frankly, often unnecessary.

I HAVE the job I aspire to.  I am COMFORTABLE with who I am.  I don't care anymore if Stacy and Clinton catch me off guard wearing workout clothes to run errands, because hey--at least I'll get a $5,000 shopping spree out of it.

And most days, I dress--or dress down--for the sole benefit for my cat and dog.

As women and as a society, we've created all sorts of rules about what's proper and acceptable.  Conversation on recent blogs about the topic have turned into heated debates about whether jeans are acceptable conference attire and the "proper" height of heels and skirts.

But exactly WHO are we trying to impress? 

Are we impressing or just conforming, and to what end?

My friend Allison wrote a brilliant post early this week about this very subject.

There's being professional and neat, and then there's being so obsessed with what everyone else thinks that you're afraid to leave your house without being just *so* for fear of mocking or scorn by anonymous people who could care less about your messy hair, big zit or ratty flip flops.

I totally understand dressing for office culture, for your audience, for the occasion.  I would never wear flip flops to present at a conference, nor would I ever wear anything revealing to anything but a cocktail party.

But I find nothing wrong with meeting a client in my workout clothes before I head to the gym or walking down to my neighborhood restaurant without make-up on.  I'm done trying to be or look perfect all the time.  I can be just as if not MORE productive sitting at home in my underwear as I would be sitting at a desk in an uncomfortable suit. 

And that outfit I wore yesterday to the office?  By 2pm, the seam of my dress was insanely itchy.  My feet were throbbing.  Most of the make-up had sweated off.  I longed to be at home in my PJs, where I could stop worrying so much about how I looked and--gasp--get some work done.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How I Made My Peace with Pizza (and Other Food)

I've always had a really complicated relationship with food.  Over the years, food has been a source of both comfort and pain, not unlike the relationship teenagers have with their parents, needing them and rejecting them simultaneously.

Even as recently as a year ago, I would have said that food was a necessary evil.  That I would prefer to be permanently hooked up to an IV that dispersed the necessary nutrients than ever make a decision about food again.

What a difference a year makes.  Food has become a source of joy, of community, of nourishment.  I look forward to every meal.  I love trying new things and experiencing new flavors.

Perhaps a little too much, according to the scale (which, yes, I know, I need to throw away) and pretty much all of the clothes in my closet.

I KNOW I'm happier and healthier.  I feel strong and sexy.  And I shouldn't let numbers--whether it's the scale or the label in a piece of clothing--dictate how I feel about myself.

And yet, it's been getting to me.  The old feelings of inadequacy, those desperate urges to control and ration and manipulate every morsel and every calorie every second of every day have been flooding back.

Until today. 

Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert and my girls' night at the movies for Eat, Pray, Love (more on that here), I had a huge craving for Italian pizza. So, I popped over to my neighborhood place, Antico, which specializes in genuine, wood-fired, melt-in-your mouth, drool-worthy pizzas.

The owner greeted me with a huge hug and loudly proclaimed in his thick Italian accent:

Now here's a woman I love!  She loves to eat!  I mean, really, really eat.  Look at this pizza--the sausage, the cheese, the bread--she eats it all!  Bellisima!  I love a woman who eats!

And you know what?  I love ME when I eat.  When I really eat.  When I savor every morsel, inhale the smells, detect every nuance in flavor.  Because I'm happy.  And healthy.

So pass the pizza.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why I Hated Eat, Pray, Love

Tonight, I went to see Eat, Pray, Love with four of my good girlfriends.  Cliche, I know.  It's only *the* chick flick of the summer.

As I'm not the greatest fan of books made into movies (name a movie that was better than the book--yeah, I thought so) AND I loathe traditional chick flicks, I was a bit hesitant about wasting $15 and three hours of my life on this movie.  That, and this was the last night my husband would be home this week.  But, I rarely get out with friends and just have fun, and I was in the mood for some escapism, so I decided to go.

So much for escapism.

About ten minutes into the movie, I realized why I'd been so resistant to it.  It wasn't the overpriced tickets, the time away from work or my husband or the quality of the movie.  No, it was fear.  Of being reminded of myself.  Of opening old wounds.

If you've read the book or seen the movie, you know about the scene on the bathroom floor.  When in the middle of the night, Liz pleads for a sign from God, for a way out?  I was there, paralyzed with fear and the chilling realization that the life I'd built for myself, the one I asked for and dreamed of, suddenly didn't fit any more.  And just like Liz, I found myself on the cold bathroom floor at 2am, totally alone, then calmly crawled back into bed and asked for a divorce the way some people ask you to pass the salt.

That scene was so real and so raw, and it left me so shaken and vulnerable and guilt-ridden, that I nearly ran sobbing from the movie theatre.  Instead, I sobbed silently in my seat, wondering if the pain of someone physically stabbing me could hurt as much.

I remember reading the book before I hit that phase of my life.  I found it engaging and poignent, with much too tidy of an ending.  I recognized myself in the bits about meditation (I'm notorious for my fidgeting and inability to sit still), and well, who wouldn't want to spend four months in Italy gorging on the food, language and culture.

And then I had my breakdown.  My lonely, scary, life-changing bathroom moment, and I tried to read the book again.  At first, I bawled.  And then I got mad.  What I wouldn't have given for even a week's vacation, let alone an entire YEAR to find myself, learning Italian, eating great food, meditating, studying life's secrets with medicine men and gurus and making out with a hot Brazilian man, all while getting PAID to write a best-selling memoir ?

It was all too self-indulgent.  For most of us, life goes on.  We can't escape the pain or shift it to a new locale.  We face it every morning, living in the same neighborhoods and same cities, awkwardly running into mutal friends, recounting the story to everyone we've ever know, fighting back hysterical sobs at the slightest reminder, all while trying to "live" a normal life.  The bills don't stop coming, the clients don't become less demanding, people don't stop asking nosy questions--life goes on and on, and while the pain becomes more distant, anything and everything can bring it bubbling to the surface.

Every time I think I've healed, that I've moved on, that I've grown onward and upward, an experience like this reminds me how freshly wounded and sad I still am.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No Boundaries

When I first started blogging about four years ago, my ex scolded me for being "too public."  I had shared several personal things that I felt compelled to write, among them, depression (a familiar topic in this space), the suicide of a close family friend and my rape.  I'm not ashamed of any of those things and would gladly talk to stranger and friend alike about them, mostly because I don't think we talk about the difficult things enough.  And your response to yesterday's post is proof of that.  Many of you shared your same struggles publicly, others shared them privately, but the fact of the matter is that far too many of us suffer in silence.  We put on masks.  We show only our happy faces.  We strive for perfection.  We don't give ourselves room and time to breathe and feel and just BE.  Our true selves--stripped and bare and vulnerable.

After my ex asked me to remove that first blog (which I now know was just his way of controlling and isolating me, but that's another post), I started blogging under pseudonyms.  And even when I added my name to this blog, I was uncertain.  Not from a personal perspective, but from a professional one.  I'm strong-willed and opinionated.  I write about a lot of personal things.  Would that make potential or existing clients uncomfortable?  Less willing to hire me?

I was reluctant to even link to this blog to my professional website because I didn't think it was, well, "professional."  And I had all of these preconceived notions about what a "professional" blog should be. Neat and pretty and upbeat, stocked with great photos and full of great tips about business and entrepreneurship and PR and social media.  Not some free Blogger template filled with my late night angst and deepest fears.

And then I connected with inspiring, honest and REAL people like Allison Nazarian and Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, people that run successful businesses without losing their identities.  Who write about anything and everything because that's who they are.  The person and brand are one and the same.

And I threw out all of those ideas of what a blog "should" be.  This is my name and my blog, and I can write whatever I want to.  Because I AM the brand.  There is no distinction between Laura Scholz, the person, and Laura Scholz, the writer/speaker/business owner.  It's all part of the same whole, the same essence, the same being.  I am who I am.  No apologies.  And no boundaries.

Thanks to you all for teaching me that very important lesson.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Working In and Through Depression

After a long run this morning and an afternoon of napping and not nearly enough fuel, my husband and I decided to go out to eat.  I was starving, my blood sugar had crashed, and I was desperate for food.  But I could NOT decide what to eat.  Nothing sounded good.  I couldn't make a decision.  I was overwhelmed.  I wanted someone to do it for me.

And after agonizing over dinner choices for half an hour, I realized that I've been depressed.  Not the uber-serious, can't get out of bed or function depression, but the low-grade kind, like that nagging cold that just won't go away.  Simple things--like deciding when or what to eat, returning an email or call to a client or getting dressed--turn into major chores. 

My type of depression--dysthymia--is actually defined as a "low-grade" depression.  Persistent, nagging, irritating, always hovering, yet rarely pushing me over the edge.  In fact, I'm so used to living with it, that's it's "normal" for me, and sometimes I don't even notice these little episodes until I start putting the pieces together.  A few mornings of sleeping in.  A few canceled meetings or social engagements.  Not eating well or at all.  Feeling overwhelmed by mundane tasks, like showering or washing the dishes.

I do most of the right things.  I take medication.  I've been to therapy.  I do yoga.  I run.  I'm pretty open with close friends and family.  I know the signs.

But none of this changes the fact that this is a significant part of my life, and it affects me the way any chronic illness does.  I have asthma.  Again, I do all the right things.  But every now and then, I have a bad day, and there's next to nothing I can do about it, other than accept it, treat it as best I can and hope for a better day tomorrow.

The complicating thing about depression is that it's not just physical.  It's extremely mental.  So, yes, I recognize the signs, I know it will pass, and yet, it's hard not to get frustrated and self-critical and downright despondent when you wake up one day and struggle to do the routine things of life--let alone, run a business.  Without making excuses, but also acknowledging the reality that on some days, I'm working with a bit of a handicap.

I'm still working my way through this reality, especially as my schedule gets busier, my client roster gets fuller and people make more demands of my time and energy.  I usually give myself one day a month where I can "wallow" without self-hatred or guilt, when I just acknowledge the demons, let myself cocoon and hope for the best in the morning.  But if it goes on two or three days or even a week, what do I do?  I tell close friends and family when I'm not feeling well and need time and space, but what about clients?  It's hard to predict when the monster will strike.  I could have an amazingly productive week filled with good energy, creativity, positivity and 14 hour days, and all of the sudden, I'll crash.  It may be a day, it may be a week.  But deadlines and meetings and obligations don't stop.  I can slow them down, temporarily, but it's much easier to explain to people that you have a migraine or stomach flu or bad case of allergies than to say "I'm sorry--that project will have to wait three days because I'm depressed and don't have the energy to deal with it."

It sounds like an excuse.  And it is and it isn't.  I work through the hard days much better than I did even a year ago.  Even on the worst of them, I manage to get a few things done.  But I also can't expect myself to blow through 100+ emails, plan comprehensive client strategy or attend four straight meetings on a day when I can hardly get out of bed.  And I'm probably my worst critic.  I feel like a failure if I don't accomplish all I think I should in a given day or week.  My inner perfectionist really isn't a fan of "can't" or "rest."  And yet, it's my reality.  Sometimes I can't.  Sometimes, I need to rest.  To give myself a break, literally and metaphysically.  Some days, you power through, and others, you just muddle through.  And it needs to be okay.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Today marks the three year anniversary of my business. Its inception wasn't the result of a genius business plan, or months of preparation or some late-night creative inspiration. No, quite simply, three years ago today, I lost my job. A job I loved. A job that came with a near six figure salary, a corner office overlooking Peachtree Street and a boss I adored. And it all vanished.

After the obligatory crying, panicking and desperate calls to friends, I sat down at my computer in the corner of my spare bedroom and composed an email to everyone I knew, telling them I was immediately available for freelance writing and public relations work. And Scholz Communications was born.

It's not been an easy path or a direct one, but every twist and turn has led me here, and for that I am grateful.  And I'm most especially grateful for all of you--my family and friends and colleagues and clients--who have continued to believe in me and counsel me through the constant fear  and change and self-doubt.

So thank you, one and all.


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