Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-05-17

The Life-Altering Power of Changing Your Mind

On Friday, Dara and I flew up to Seattle to visit my mom for Mother’s Day. The whole flight was a huge comedy of errors and a GREAT opportunity for both of us to practice the life-altering power of changing your mind.

This was a hard trip for me to plan, since it’s just three months after we lost Grandmother and the first time we were leaving Macy and Biscuit Reynolds after our last pet sitters left them alone after an emergency. Even the thought of booking our flights was hard for me, so Dara sweetly took over logistics. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get us seats together for our flight.

There was once a time I believed I did not look good in red so I never wore it. What a great thing I changed my mind about! Photo by Dara.

Since we each had a window and an aisle, Dara figured we would easily convince the person in the middle switching for Dara’s aisle seat. However, when we arrived at my row the woman declined as she was traveling with her son. Dara and I said our goodbyes and proceeded to have individual opportunities to adjust our thinking on our flight.

Flying while fat is rough and one of the best benefits of being in a mixed-size relationship is being able to sit next to each other with an arm rest up. The first thing that woman did was make sure her arm rest went down–I can always tell when someone is trying to mark their territory on a plane.

This was my first opportunity to change my mind. I didn’t dwell on it, I just let that armrest go down and moved on to my next thought. Earlier in my life, I would have spent the whole flight stressed about squishing as far away as I could from that woman and assuming I was constantly in her way. My ability to obsess about other people’s perceptions of myself and my size was unparalleled and it made me miserable. Now I shift my focus to my own life, my art, my work in the world and focusing on my own comfort during a flight.

Next up was the wailing baby. It was clearly several rows behind me but its discomfort was loud. I put in headphones and turned up 9 to 5 so I could continue conceiving of aerobics choreography. I almost always stop myself from feeling annoyed at kid noises to change my thought pattern to compassion. As uncomfortable as it is to be a passenger on a flight with a wailing baby, it’s way more uncomfortable to be a parent dealing with a wailing baby. I prayed for the baby that it would find comfort and moved my thoughts away from it.

Our flight was delayed by a half hour, which gave me a head start on free movie watching. I absolutely love when flights have on demand movies available, I consider it a $5.99 bonus. I started that Will Smith movie about grief, “Collateral Beauty,” from a totally analytical place. I’m cooking up a grief book idea to help me through my grief about Grandmother and I want to consume as much as I can about grief theories. I did not think about the trigger truck that I was inviting into Row 21 of this Delta flight. The beverage service didn’t happen until I was at the emotional climax of the movie.

Suddenly, the woman next to me knocked over her fresh hot cup of tea and it landed all down my thigh, my leg and in my boot. It scalded at first and I blurted, “Ow, ow, ow!” The woman was very sorry and apologized a bunch of times. I was gracious, telling her it was okay, but still needed to advocate for my needs with the flight attendant. It’s hard to ride that line of being generous in spirit but also making sure that your needs get met, I certainly wasn’t going to sit there with a sopping wet leg and no napkins to soak it up, but punnishing her in any way for something that was a mistake isn’t appropriate. Punnishing people for mistakes creates a psychologically unsafe environment and I believe really strongly in creating a life/workplace/home environment where mistakes and accidents are just part of getting to a good experience/output/joy. Dara’s consulting business focuses on this a lot.

I did what I could but that scalding hot water turned cold really quickly. I could have sat in misery but I just kept turning my attention back to the movie and trying so hard not to ugly cry. I didn’t want that woman to think her spill was making me cry but the jarring hot water when I was being really touched by grief was difficult. I was so thankful that the flight attendant checked on me again and I asked for a blanket–it really saved the rest of the flight for me.

I had to do a lot of changing my mind in order to be ready for this wonderful relationship with Dara. I had to humble myself that I didn’t know everything and learn how to do relationships, dating and communication differently. Totally worth it in every way. Photo by Rick Sorkin.

During all of this was epic turbulence. At least twice the plane dipped very quickly. Both times my first thought was, “Well, I guess this is it.” I don’t really have a fear of dying, I think when you’re destined to go that’s your moment. But I shifted my thoughts to visualizing our smooth landing in Seattle so that I wasn’t sitting there in fear of my impending death.

Dara’s experience of the flight was similarly bumpy. She was one row in front of the crying baby and even worse was the father, caring for the child alone, was *yelling* at it. She was having total empath feels for this poor baby who wasn’t even being soothed. The first sudden drop on the flight happened when she was in the bathroom alone! She thought the plane was going down, too, and considered running down the aisle to me so that we wouldn’t die separately.

The person across from the aisle from her started barfing, the sounds and smell were awful for her (chemo was really, really hard for Dara). When the second intense plane drop happened the woman next to Dara started crying and freaking out, which didn’t help Dara.

I asked Dara how she dealt with all of it and she said she would take a deep breath (nose closed during the barfing) and put her focus back on her work. Taking her focus away from the things disturbing her/grossing her out/freaking her out helped to take the power away from those external influences.

When we got off the flight we arrived at the shuttle bus terminal to go to the deep woods where my mom lives on the Olympic Peninsula only to find out that it was sold out. By then I was hangry and overwhelmed and had to carry all our luggage because Dara’s still in post hysterectomy no carrying more than 5 pounds mode.

My problem solving skills were weakening, but after fifteen minutes of trying I figured out how to take a Lyft not at surge pricing to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. They Lyft ride plus the ferry was a little bit cheaper than the shuttle for both of us and it was a negligible difference in how far mom had to drive to pick us up. However, we arrived at the Ferry ticket booth thirty seconds after they announced that they had final boarding on the ferry we were trying to make and had to wait another hour.

When I first heard about EVERYBODY, the body positive gender affirming gym opening in LA, I didn’t know how I was going to participate. By changing my mind about my capacities, I realized I could take all the work I had been doing as a body positive warrior for self love all these years and channel them into dance aerobics. If Richard Simmons could do it, I could to! I’m building up my following and would love to have you join me on Thursday nights!

As luck would have it, the waiting area has a gorgeous view of the Seattle waterfront, the Commuter Cafe at the Ferry terminal had these incredible salads that are hella cheap (take that, $15 tasteless LAX breakfast burrito!) and we were able to just sit and enjoy ourselves and finally debrief our wild flight.

One of the skills I’m most grateful for every day is the ability to interrupt my thought patterns. I can sit pretty steadily in a hell of my own creation if I don’t do this because once I go down that spiral it picks up steam.

I was really taken by how both Dara and I survived what could have been a completely miserable experience by choosing to change the directions of our thoughts and focus on something else. I find gratitude lists are a helpful way to change thought direction, I use the Serenity Prayer sometimes, I take a macro look at the situation from lens of an outside perspective. I use the six month rule–will this matter in six months?

Mom got stuck behind a draw bridge on the way to pick us up (things are slow out on the Olympic Penninsula) and she arrived five minutes before we did on Bainbridge Island to pick us up. The timing worked out perfectly, even if not as planned.

I was always a cat person and it took changing my mind about dogs in order to be open to Macy in my life!! She’s changed everything for the better!

2017-04-12

FAT SEX WEEK XXL: A Queer Couple Reflects on Their Nude Adipositivity Photo Shoot

Welcome one and all (who are knowingly entering into this adult-themed conversation)! This is Fat Sex Week XXL, the second edition of QueerFatFemme.com Fat Sex Week where I explore many facets of fat sex. Named for Magic Mike XXL, which was even better than the first Magic Mike, I’m hoping this edition is louder and fatter than ever before! Check this tag for all of the posts!

I love the Adipositivity Project! Photographer Substantia Jones has been tirelessly taking gorgeous art nudes of fat bodies for over a decade. As Jenna says below, seeing naked fat bodies helps normalize body diversity and is a gateway for fat acceptance.

Photo (of me!) by Substantia Jones. From the Adipositivity.com website: The Adipositivity Project aims to promote the acceptance of benign human size variation and encourage discussion of body politics, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather through a visual display of fat physicality. The sort that’s normally unseen.

I love this project and have so loved my collaborations with Substantia. I really value shooting with photographers multiple times over the course of years. It’s so fun to develop as artists and continue to check in.

When I shot with Substantia in LA last summer I did my first with my partner for the annual Valentines Day series. (You can dig around the Adipositivity website to find it!) A series intended to show that fat people are totally worthy of love, it always gets a lot of media attention. Substantia said that she suspects that most couples get busy after their shoot and it got me curious about the experience of a fat couple in the Valentines series.

Jenna and Sam were kind enough to answer my questions in honor of Fat Sex Week XXL!

What was the process behind your decision to pose for Adipositivity?

Sam: I had found Adipositivity before I met Jenna, and was already a fan. I got a bit starry eyed when Jenna mentioned she knew Substantia online. We joked for a bit that she should pose at some point, and the joking got a little more serious. I thought Jenna would make a great model, so I was all in favor. Then Substantia posted a call for couples, and we decided to jump in with both feet.

Jenna: Sexy pictures of other fat people set me on my body love journey. Among these pictures, I came across Adipositivity. Seeing Substantia’s work meant a lot to me, especially since her work included fat people just being. For me, being visible is part of my activism and of course someday dreamed for posing for Substantia. Then the day came when she was looking for couples for her VDay series. It was fairly soon and we made our schedule work so we could go to NYC and do it. Most of me couldn’t believe I was going to do it, but I knew it was something I had to do. Letting other people know that fat love, fat bodies are important and valued and beautiful. I did have a moment of “I won’t be able to be president if I’m naked on the internet”.

Jenna and Sam for Adipositivity! Photo by Substantia Jones.

How did you feel after the shoot? After the photos were released?

Sam: The shoot was honestly one of the most positive body-related experiences of my life. We had so much fun doing the shoot and hanging out with Substantia, that it was really just kind of a high for a couple days. The photos actually being online, though….that was both exciting and little anxiety inducing.

I don’t know if other communities talk about this, but for public speakers in the LGBTQ community we have a concept of “oversharing” – this feeling when you’ve talked about very personal things in front of strangers, and you’re left feeling kind of vulnerable and drained afterwards. For me, I had to learn my boundaries around this, and also to accept that this was cost of my activism. In a way, I felt the same way about our Adipositivity pictures. I felt a little overexposed and vulnerable, but I was aware that I was going to feel that way, and I was okay with it. I felt the change we were helping make in the world was worth the cost.
Primarily, though, it was thrilling. I was so excited to be an Adiposer, and to see which pictures were picked up for which sites. It was also really fun when someone who knew us would send us a link and ask “is that you??????”. We enjoyed the experience so much we did it again the following year!

Jenna: Substantia made us feel awesome. We read over her information she provided before the shoot and we kind of just paced around until she got there. Once she was there, it was really easy to get naked. I felt awesome after the shoot, never really knowing how I got to this place in my life where I was naked and proud. After the photos were released it was just so neat to see us through Substantia’s eyes. How she posed us, how we looked at each other and how my body looked. I saw the stretch marks and lumps and my hangy breasts but thought it looked great and I was so happy that I didn’t spend hours going over my imperfections. I was just really
content with all the photos and loved seeing our love translated into images.

This question is specifically for Sam. You included a rare model statement with your photo for this year’s Adipositivity Valentine’s Day series. Will you tell me more about how you feel at home in your body after taking T and how this has interacted with your feelings about your size?

Photo by Substantia Jones.

Sam: Being fat with a female body I think was particularly difficult for my dysphoria. A fat female body is especially soft and curvy – something I love in my partners, but it was the opposite of what I wanted my own body to be. Taking T helped a lot with that – I’m still soft, but I have firmer muscle underneath, and my fat has shifted on my body to a more male distribution. So, it was easier to not hate my body so much, when it looked at least somewhat closer to what was in my head.

Being fat has been both a blessing and a curse in terms of passing. I still have fat rolls, and those can still be perceived as a feminine shape. When I had breasts, they were large and difficult to conceal. I had (and still have) quite an ample ass. Those things combined really made it difficult to pass consistently, even after I’d been on T for quite a long time. However, being physically larger has always seemed to make people think I was stronger and tougher than I was really was, and definitely made it so I was challenged by transphobes less often than my slighter brothers.

When I think of myself in relation to body positivity, I definitely think of it in terms of both my physical transition, and my lifelong struggle with my size. My gender dysphoria was so much easier to deal with, honestly. Even though I transitioned quite a while ago (twenty years as of last month), there was a pretty clear path for how to change my body to match my mind. There were definitely difficulties, of course, but it was pretty easy to see how I could “fix” the problem. Learning to be comfortable in my fat body, in a fat phobic society, has been a much more difficult challenge. There is so much internalized crap around size that’s reinforced every day. The body positivity community provides some help here, but I find it so heavily tilted towards the feminine (with good reason, of course, women bear the brunt of our fat phobic soceity) that it’s not really as much of a support system as I could use. Online, at least, I find the most comfort in the gay bear community. There is something very powerful in seeing men who look much like myself being viewed as sexual objects of desire.

As what I would affectionately call a “Fat on Fat” couple, do you have any fat sex tips for my readers?

Jenna: I really like being naked as much as I can. That has really helped me feel comfortable in my body and Sam compliments and loves on me all the time about it. It’s nice to hear that and know he is so attracted to me.

Sam: I think it starts outside the bedroom. We both have baggage when it comes to our
bodies, so it’s not always easy to climb into bed and feel instantly sexy. Having Jenna make sexy comments about my body in passing does a lot towards making me feel like she actually likes my body, and makes me feel safer when the clothes come off.
I also think our queerness and openness around sex itself helps a LOT, as does our acceptance of ourselves as fat. We don’t have as many preconceived notions about what constitutes sex, and that makes us more willing to experiment with what works for us, and to be honest about what doesn’t work. Sometimes we have to change an angle, or move a fat roll out of the way, or whatever. We laugh if we feel silly, and then get back into it.

Photo by Substantia Jones.

How do you keep the spark alive in a committed relationship?

Jenna: I think accepting our sex life as it is has kept the spark alive. It may sound strange, but not worrying if we still love each other because we haven’t had sex in a month has really been affirming for me. We achieve intimacy in so many other ways that I feel really fulfilled in my life with Sam.

Sam: Like Jenna said, intimacy seems to be very important for us. We probably don’t have actual sex as often as other couples, to be honest, but we are always very intimate with each other. We’re always touching each other, kissing, holding hands. That seems to be very satisfying for both of us in a way that only sex achieved in past relationships. Not that we don’t enjoy a good sexy romp, but I don’t think we *need* it nearly as much, because we always feel connected.

Substantia works so hard to keep this self-funded project going! Consider buying prints for your home (both helping to normalize body diversity and supporting fat art)!

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