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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 30: Staaken to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (final goal)

Distance: 17,5 km

Speed: 5,5 kmph

Time: 3h10m

Soundtrack: Did You Give the World some Love Today Baby by Doris

I AM DONE! There’ll no doubt be many afterthoughts in the next days or weeks that I hope to share with you, but I’d like to at least give a quick summation and my first thoughts to wrap up the “on the road” part of the project.

Today my plan was to meet J at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and there were some mixed messages about his arrival time due to train confusion, which led me to have a long and leisurely lunch at a café – eating lunch indoors, what a luxury! – and then basically running the last 3 km because he’d already arrived and I was so excited I tried to magic the traffic lights green (with mixed success…).

It was a rainy and stormy day but cleared up after the first few hours, and I found myself just walking around with a big smile on my face.

When I arrived at the hauptbahnhof, after the initial long hugs and PDAs the heady, giddy laughter bubbled up in me again and I walked around in kind of a dazed state, laughing maniacally. Trying to take in the enormity of what I had just done (again with mixed success), and trying to take in the enormity of Berlin and all the people. Guys, Berlin is huge.

And now, here I am, freshly bathed (though sadly not as nicely dressed as I would like as J didn’t manage to bring most of my normal people clothes – though I am wearing jeans for the first time in a month or so, and it feels pretty good) and in a beautiful hotel room (with a tub!) that I only have to leave in order to get food. Tomorrow I don’t have to walk anywhere unless I want to. Nor the day after, nor the day after.. I don’t have pack up all my belongings and try to remember where I’ve been and where I’m going. It’s been a wild ride and a crazy adventure, and I’m still sort of landing…

Some initial thoughts though, about my body. It is truly amazing. I mean I’ve proclaimed to be body positive for a good while, heck I even built a business on it – and I stand by that – but this experience has definitely taken that to another level for me. Like, I know myself so much better and so much more intimately than before. I know, I love, I respect every freaking millimetre. I really don’t think I could ever feel disappointed by my body again. So here’s to you, my incredible, soft, strong, tough, flexible body, for carrying me through all this. I love you.

Also, I am not a small woman. I have at times in my life been skinny (though that was sometimes also due to ED). I am fairly strong and fit, because I enjoy moving my body and testing its limits, but I have by no means always been this way. And I just want to say that you should never let anyone tell you you cannot do something because of the weight or the shape of your body. Or because of your gender, or any other seemingly limiting quality. Because if I can do this you sure as hell can go after those goals and dreams of yours, in your current, wonderful body, that doesn’t need to shrink or grow or become fitter or better – it just needs your love and respect. And it has earned it.

Don’t let your dreams be dreams. And don’t ever let anyone body shame you – least of all yourself.

And now it’s time for tapas. Peace out!

 

 

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 29: Nauen to Staaken (Berlin)

Distance: 22,5 km

Speed: 5,2 kmph

Time: 4h20m

Soundtrack: Berlin by Briskeby (for obvious reasons… )

So, I am in Berlin! I am still on the very outskirts and still have a final 17 km to go tomorrow to reach Berlin HBH and my final destination for this journey, but whatever happens now I can officially say I walked to Berlin.

I was a little concerned that I’d miss the sign, as I did when I crossed the border into Germany, while chasing paths through the pouring rain – but lo and behold, there it was:

A few more steps and I was officially there. I had to stifle a giddy, heady, almost mad laughter that started bubbling up in me. On the surface of it this project is kind of insane. Just another madcap idea I had. The difference being this time I actually followed through.

Many thoughts on the project, my experiences and what made me actually do it this time are yet to come. Once the dust has settled. Once I’ve taken my final walk (you know, for now, not for ever – that sounded a bit dark just there). Once I’ve had some time to rest, reflect and regroup.

As predicted there was pretty heavy rain today as well, but it didn’t bother me nearly as much as the previous two days. Today I walked with a kind of lightness, a joy (though yes the wet feet were icky) and a sense of absolute certainty that it would all be OK.

Even though I am in Berlin and even though I’ve walked more or less exactly the distance (635 km) I set out to when I first planned this project, I feel it’s still important to walk the last 17 tomorrow. And not only because my man should be waiting for me at the train station roughly when I arrive (though that does add to the feeling of anticlimax I’d experience if I were to say take the bus). Only then will I feel completely finished and like I have closure. Like I truly did the thing.

It’s supposed to be 11 mm of rain and winds of 40 kmph. But do you know what I say to that? COME AT ME, BRO!

(I’m probably going to want to eat those words come morning time, but just let me have this one, will you? I like just walked 635 km, mmmkay?)

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

Sarah and the accidental rest day

So, today I was going to take the train across the river and only have to walk about 7-8 km, however through a misunderstanding I got picked up by my hosts at the train station. Either they didn’t understand that my intention was to walk (it’s kind of hard to explain without additional context why I’d choose to walk with Voldie in the rain when they can drive me in a few minutes – actually even with context it’s a bit hard to grasp for some), or they just thought I was being overly polite when I said that I would walk from the station, because there they were. And then it quite frankly seemed rather rude and unnecessary to decline. So I skipped another 7 km and gave mister blister some more time to calm the eff down. And they let me use their washing machine, so I once again have clean clothes. I’m not exactly complaining…

However, I do fully intend to walk the last 100 km or so over the next 5 days. This is not the preamble to me taking public transport the rest of the way, I assure you. I am admittedly getting rather sick of walking and being on the move every day, and I’m not looking forward to the rain that’s predicted for the remaining time (I have been very fortunate with the weather so far though), but I am very motivated to see it through. “I wanted to walk to Berlin but then I sort of walked to Stendal and couldn’t be bothered anymore” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.. 😉

But through the kindness of strangers I am dry, clean and relatively well rested for one more day. Which is not a bad thing…

I’ve actually wanted to say something about the kindness of strangers and about human contact for a while, but I’ve been too tired to do writing outside of daily updates.

I have of course alluded to my loneliness and how nice it has been to stay with certain people and be welcomed into their homes, but I have more to say on this subject.

I thought it was going to be easy to be mostly alone. Actually, at first I thought I maybe wasn’t going to be mostly alone – because as you may remember I started this whole project encouraging others to come and walk with me. And while I hadn’t expected that to be a daily occurrence I was sort of hoping it would last more than the very first day.

Regardless, as an introvert and HSP who enjoys quiet and her own company, I thought even if people don’t come along I’ll be fine. And I am, kinda. I mean I’m definitely talking to myself more than before, and to bugs and cows and trees and such (still totally normal, right?). And it’s coming up on 4 o’clock in my current flat now with just me and my tinnitus and not another sound of voices, cars, church bells or even birds (maybe because of the rain?) and it does feel ever so slightly weird.

In my normal life, back home – that seems to have taken place in a time and galaxy far, far away by now – I spend quite a lot of time at home, and don’t go out and do things very often. And that’s just fine and dandy, because I need and like a lot of alone time/downtime. But I do always have 3 cats around, and of course J is usually not far off (upstairs, in front of his computer.. ), so I still get my basic social needs met quite easily.

Because we are all social animals – even us introverts. I’m definitely not longing for a party, but a proper face to face chat with a good friend (and a hug) would be nice. Even when I stay in cities, and am not wandering through the woods alone, my interactions are usually limited to buying food or checking in and out of places I’m staying.

I noticed many years ago already how meaningful and important just small interactions with other human beings who are kind and friendly can be. I was super stressed at the airport for one reason or other, but every person I met, at the check-in, at security, at the kiosk etc., were just nice, and smiled and helped me. And by the time I was ready to board my flight I felt completely fine again, even happy.

Because of this I also realised what kind of impact me and my mood potentially have on others, and what kind of impact I’d like to have. I started making more of an effort to always be friendly and smile to anyone I was dealing with, be it in shops or at my work. In fact I once had an evaluation at work where my boss said it was so great to work with me because no matter what was going on I was always friendly and cheerful. Believe me, that’s really NOT the case. However, I do strive to be positive and friendly in professional interactions and in interactions with strangers (family and friends too of course, but they do get to see behind the mask for better or for worse), because I know how important it can be. That doesn’t mean you can never have a bad day. But I recommend as much as possible to not take it out on others (novel idea, I know).

So, now that I’m quite done patting myself on the back for my positive influence on others, let’s talk about others positive influence on me.

I’ve talked already about my lovely stays in Quakenbrück, at the farm in the tiny house, and in Celle, where I was welcomed into the homes of strangers and made wonderful connections and had interesting conversations about life, dreams and passions. But even small interactions like a chat with a man walking his dog who thought it was really cool that I was walking to Berlin, or this older cycling couple I met in the woods that complimented me on my German (yes, really!.. ), have a big impact on my mood and my sanity during a long day of solitary walking.

So, I notice over and over again how important connection and kindness is. Exactly how this will play a role in my future I am not sure, but I must share more of myself with others and open myself to connecting with them.

And, as they say – you never know what someone else is going through, so be kind – always.

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 13: Vechta to Ehrenburg

Distance: 36,5 km

Time: 7h47m

Speed: 4,7kmph

OK, it’s going to be a short one guys, because I’m honestly way too bloody tired for any “triumf of the human spirit” nonsense. But I made it. And I’m still able to walk – well, hobble at least.

It was pretty rough though. Not just because it was long, but my app led me astray a few times as well and I persisted a bit too long in fighting my way through nettles and small trees in hope that the path would become more pathy, because I was starting to panic about what the hell I’d do if there was in fact no path there. Fortunately only a small stretch of the route seemed to be missing.

But yes, this has been the longest day with Voldie by quite a bit (7-8 km), and though there was only a light drizzle of rain in the morning it was still a looooong day, with achy feet and shoulders and having to deal with my period on top of all that. Thankfully that seems to be winding down now.

I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to be able to get through another 33 km tomorrow, but when I do, I get to stay in a tiny house (which I think has a bath tub) on a farm, and I’ve been looking forward to that. And since there’s no shops or restaurants nearby my host has offered for me to share meals with them, based on what they produce on the farm which sounds like a cosy and authentic experience. So maybe I can get through the 33 km just thinking of that… And knowing that the day after I only have 23,5. Fingers crossed!

The homesickness was real when I saw this. If I’d seen anyone at home there I’d probably have rung the doorbell and talked Norwegian at them.

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Mental health and BoPo articles

Fake it till you make it – yes or no?

Lately I’ve been seeing pushback on social media regarding the (in)famous expression “fake it till you make it”, and it got me thinking about the different ways in which we fake it, and which of them are useful.

I’m sure we’ve all heard this term in some context or other, and I think the pushback is related to the toxic success-culture that social media helps breed, and the idea that if you are not part of it, you are failing. 

Finding a balance

It’s hard to hit the right balance, whether as a private person sharing large and small life moments with friends and family, or as a business owner or influencer trying to reach your target audience. 

If you’re posting only heavily edited pictures (like using beauty and slimming filters for selfies), champagne and caviar, and quotes about loving yourself and life you will not only risk alienating people by being over-the-top, but you can also make others feel like they are failing at life because they do not live up to this polished image you are projecting onto the world. And it will make it much harder for you to ask for help when you need it, when the carefully constructed public image starts to crack.

On the other hand it’s understandable that you don’t want to share every detail of your marital or financial problems with the world at large, and that can also be something that puts people off from interacting with you or following you. Nobody wants to fill their life with negativity. 

My advice is to be real. Be true to yourself. If you are speaking your truth you will automatically be genuine. And don’t take yourself too seriously. Did the cake you attempted to make come out looking like unicorn poo? Did you take the worst selfie in the history of mankind? Did you attempt a cool dance move and fall flat on your face? That’s OK, we’ve all been there. And sharing those moments of your life with people gives them a glimpse of the real person behind the online persona. It makes it easier for people to engage with you, and it makes it easier for you to admit when things are not perfect. 

It’s great to have goals and aspirations, to be ambitious and go out there in the world and get stuff done. But it’s also totally OK to admit that right now things are not going as you had hoped, or that you’re struggling.

Being realistic

There’s also obviously a limit to fake it till you make it. You cannot fake being rich (buying things you cannot afford, projecting a social status and class that’s not in line with reality, etc.) and expect to become rich – in fact it’ll probably have the opposite effect. Faking your appearance is not only horrible for your self worth, it also only really works until people see you in real life, without makeup on, in your sweat pants, and so on. 

Faking it is a psychological tool that can help boost your confidence both inwards and outwards, but it requires work, adaptability and insight into yourself. It is not a magic trick.  It’s a process of self-development and learning.

Learning, and not doing it alone

As this article states, faking it really only works if you are still open to learn from your mistakes and from the process. 

Be ambitious, say that you are going to climb Mount Everest or design the perfect AI, but if you don’t succeed, acknowledge it and use it as a learning opportunity rather than brushing it off, getting angry or pretending you did it anyway. 

Or say you jumped into a crowdfunding venture, giving it your all, believing in it and the power of your message and that you were in fact going to walk from Amsterdam to Berlin, only to discover that crowdfunding is really hard. You could choose to see yourself and your project as failure, or you could recognise that crowdfunding for a cause, by yourself, without much of an online presence, in a sea of other good projects and causes is actually quite difficult. You can choose to be proud of how far you have come, you can choose to adapt your plans to something more feasible, and you can learn for next time. Be better prepared, get help, do more research. And remember Edison. 

Also, there is nothing wrong with recognising your limitations. If you hate public speaking but want to be a politician, recognise that it’s going to be harder work for you than for someone who is naturally outgoing and well-spoken, so you have realistic expectations going into it. I went into this day with the wish to get a ton of stuff done. But I am not a fast writer and it’s currently approaching 6 PM. And that’s OK. In the immortal words of Ron Swanson: never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.

It is also really important to have people in your life to whom you don’t fake it. A friend, parent, partner, penpal, what have you, with whom you can share your fears, concerns, and dreams and just be you. Faking it can help you get started, help you drive your career or project further, but it cannot be all you are. Underneath all of it we are all fallible and vulnerable people, and that is a beautiful thing. Not something to be afraid of. 

Impostor syndrome

I have impostor syndrome in pretty much everything I do. So a certain level of faking it is simply necessary for me in order to get through the day, and not curl up in a ball on the floor (a slight exaggeration, but you get the point). Even now, writing this article, I experience imposter syndrome. What do I have to say about this, why should anyone listen to me? When are they going to realise that I have no idea what I’m talking about? But partly exactly because I have this experience, I do know what I’m talking about. And every time I overcome that feeling, and I give someone advice or embark upon a project and I realise that I can do it, and that people appreciate my help and advice, it becomes a little easier. That voice in my head becomes a little quieter. So, I keep going, even though it terrifies me sometimes. 

The upside of impostor syndrome is that I get to be amazed and surprised every time someone tells me I am doing good work. 

Positive self-talk and confidence

There is some truth to the saying that what we give energy to grows (the whole “the wolf you feed” concept). It’s not the be-all-end-all, and having negative thoughts is not why you are depressed, why you have cancer or why you are poor. Positive thinking does not cure (mental) illness. 

However, there is definitely an advantage to using positive thought as a tool to achieve a genuinely more positive outlook. It’s OK to fake confidence when you’re nervous, to get stuff done. 

And to take a personal example: I have struggled with body image most of my life, and it has taken a lot of me saying that I love myself and I love my body before I genuinely started to feel like it was real, true and lasting. It honestly helped to repeat this over and over to myself, and also to others. Of course, just saying the words is usually not enough. You have to try and feel it. Maybe love is too much to begin with. Maybe you can try to feel like you accept your body, or there are certain things about your body that you can appreciate, and try to build on that. Megan Jayne Crabbe’s tips for belly love in her book Body Positive Power are great for this (in fact the whole book is great for anyone who struggles with body image). Try starting with gentleness, kindness and understanding. Touch your belly in a gentle way, appreciate that it is part of your body and that it is necessary, remove judgement from the thought process. If you can manage that even for a few seconds, it is something you can build on.

Another great tool for getting into a positive frame of mind is energy tapping.

Positive energy tapping

As an energist, I use a certain idea of faking it till you make it in my work. With modern energy tapping we acknowledge the negative emotions, we accept that they are there, and they are valid, but we do not feed them. Instead, by focusing on what positive energies we can use to evolve the negative feeling, we feed the other wolf, so to speak. Again, this is not a magic trick. It requires knowing yourself, being open, using your imagination and connecting your energy body to your mind and physical self. But by connecting to the power of positive energy, by feeling it in the body, by breathing it in, we can in a very real and helpful way fake it till we make it.