Three things for today:
1. I have wanted to post on my Instagram a particular picture by John Stutz in order to discuss a topic and make a point that I began in a previous Instastory poll. I even wrote up a blog entry. But I am beyond hesitant to post the image on social media and am debating just saving it for here, on my website. It’s an image that I asked John to not add into his Fit Girls Volume 1 book that he published several years ago, and I go back and forth on whether I should have made that request. There is a story behind that, and I wish to share it…but the image is definitively a part of that story. Yet the image is also of my backside…in a thong. And you’ll notice I have zero of those that I have personally posted on my social media. I just am not prepared for the backlash of negativity that might come with posting. So I am sitting on that image (no pun intended) for now.
2. Yesterday’s Instagram post was about me being a mess on some days. I had one comment that popped up and made me a little irritated, as it stated, “wow, that sounds pretty messy.” Think about messes in terms of baking cookies. The mess of the flour wafting in the air, the sugar spilling out of the stupid paper packaging when you rip open the box, the spills of baking powder, the eggs not cracking perfectly, the wet dough on the whisk, the bits of dough flying onto countertops, your fingers as you scrape dough off the spoon onto the baking sheet, the melted chocolate when you try to eat a cookie while it’s still ooey gooey ouch too hot from the oven. But the taste of the cookies is no mess. Sometimes, we must get messy and we must accept messy in order to get clean to understand clean to feel clean to be clean. It’s part of life, like anything that is cyclical. Take a shower, go workout, get sweaty, get messy, take a shower, go to bed, get sweaty, get messy, get up and do it again. Dirty the dishes, wash the dishes. Soil the clothes, clean the clothes. That’s the basics. Take it farther and look at anything in life. Humanity is constantly making messes and cleaning them up. Sure, some messes are so great, so tough, so out of control, they can’t be cleaned up. Those are the messes to truly worry about, those stains that no matter how much bleach you pour onto the fabric or floor, you still can’t dissipate the damage. My post yesterday was not one of those types of messes. That doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced a mess or two like that in my life. But my social media page won’t be the place that I discuss messes of that magnitude. What I do feel I am doing partly with my writing at this point in time is opening up more because over the next couple of years as I write more fiction, I will dig into the archives of my existence to create make-believe worlds based upon real occurrences. And when those two collide, you might end up surprised by what my brain sheds onto the page. So trust me when I say that some messes can lead to beauty.
3. I do feel a need to discuss what’s not a mess inside of me. What is shiny and polished, free of dust bunnies and emits a squeak when you run your fingers across my surface.
a. I have empathy. But that came from me being messy. The people who clean too much or only show the clean surface or who don’t collect anything because they don’t want to get dirty are the ones who can’t relate, can’t understand, can’t help you when you feel lost. Sometimes posing clients come to me because they feel I will understand them, won’t judge them, will help peel the off the sticky layers of a cocoon and help them spread their wings no matter the design on those wings.
b. I am intelligent. If you can spark my mind and move past boring small talk, you’ll find that I can carry on quite the conversation.
c. I have wit AND I have a slapstick, goofy sense of humor. I used to teach 15-year olds Shakespeare. If you think I can’t quip and retort, then you don’t know 15-year olds and you don’t know Shakespeare’s material.
d. I sing to my dog. Need I say more on this one?
e. I have an amazing ability of matching colors, coming up with the perfect combinations of colors, and finding the right colors for anyone with any skin tone. By the way: purple is universal. Some shade of it somehow will find a way to be a perfect hue for any one.
f. I love to read.
g. I have excellent grammatical skills. That is a dying ability in this day and age.
h. I talk to myself. I was an only child, so I can manage to entertain myself for however many hours for however many days that another human being does not infiltrate him or herself into my existence. I am okay with being alone. Though, I do prefer to have my dog with me.
i. I can move my hips. For dancing, of course.
j. I may love make up, but I am 100% fine with walking into Neiman Marcus fresh off of cardio and sweat stains and messy hair and no make up on my face.
k. I have green eyes. And I am a Scorpio. I have a unique intensity and passion that not many understand.
l. My gut is 99.99/100% right. And I’ve worked hard to listen to it these last few years.
m. I use my turn signal.
n. I hold the door open for strangers. Yes, even guys.
o. I can carry all of my groceries up four flights of stairs in one trip. I. Am. Superwoman.
p. I have a hyper sense of self. This quality cleanses me and messes me up. So this is a double-edged sword.
q. I have a huge personal bubble, which means I will not be one of those people who keeps walking closer to you as you are trying to get away from me. If anything, I’m the one who is trying to walk away in order to signal the end of a conversation.
r. I am strong. Inside and out.
s. I joked around in my “mess” post that I sometimes can’t control my mouth. That is true. Sometimes, I have an urge to say what I feel needs to be said that others wouldn’t say even though deep down they feel it. But I edit my thoughts and edit my spoken words just like I edit my writing. So I typically know exactly what I am saying when I am saying it. So if I am bothering to speak to you, know that I put thought into it and I rarely blow sunshine up a person’s butt just to clear the storms in their eyes.
t. I have outeaten any guy I have dated. I. Am. Superwoman.
u. If I can learn it, I can teach it.
v. I want you to be to you. I am me. I don’t want you to be me. I want you to be you. So don’t copy me. Be you. You’ll love yourself better that way.
w. I just realized I am on letter “w” and can’t stop four letters shy of completing the alphabet, so onward we go. And speaking of onward and upward, I love to travel and have been to 6 countries outside of the United States and have been to 15 states and am about to add one more to the list.
x. I am creative. If you doubt me, read my blog.
y. I have a diverse career background and have many options to return to if I so choose.
z. But in the end, I pushed myself (with no prodding from others) to complete my applications for graduate school, to risk rejection of my writing, to try for a goal and a dream that I have wanted for decades but never took the time or gumption to make it happen. Only one school of three accepted me, but it was a school that was my first choice, and all it takes is one “yes” in life to negate all of the “no’s”. I am scared. I am afraid I’ll screw up, make mistakes, not be able to write on command, not meet deadlines, find out I am not as good of a writer as I think I am or as others tell me I am. I am afraid of being in debt. I don’t know what the future holds after this program, though I do believe it will open doors that would not have opened if I had not stepped into this goal in the first place. I do believe I will travel vast and far, farther than I already have, and I will one day be like my grandmother when she was in her final days, whispering: “I am ready. I have loved. I have lived. I am ready.” I locked myself into the program by paying my tuition deposit and signing my letter of intent despite all of my fears. In a year when depression and doubt threatened to drown me, I swam to the surface, gasped for air, and fought to survive. That is not to say I won’t go under again. I will. But I understand that ups need downs, clean needs dirty, good needs bad, light needs dark. It is the opposites that make us appreciate the entirety of our lives. And without my mess I wouldn’t have anything to write.
Nine years ago my grandmother passed away on this day. I used to spend this anniversary day in a cloud, a fog, a haze…tears traveling down my face. My heart and head heavy. In 2013, I suddenly said, “No more.” I planned my three-week solo trip to New Zealand in December of that year, and from that point on I made sure to spend this day doing something grand. In 2014, I had a spa day with a close friend, getting nails done along with a facial and a mud massage before eating pizza and cake. In 2015, I weighed in for my last powerlifting meet and prepared for the next day of breaking previous personal records. In 2016, this day fell during my solo vacation to Cancun…a break away from everything and anything that did not include reading, the beach, and a Bellini or three. But this year, I made no plans. I had horrible dreams last night, and a part of me worried about not making plans to turn today into a celebration instead of a mourning. I worried I would be sucked under the covers of depression like the early years after she passed away. But I also purposely didn’t plan anything for today because I know I am making a trip to Oregon for the first half of January to start a new chapter, one that would make my grandmother beam and brag.
She always loved my writing. Always wanted me to do something spectacular with it. Always wanted me to share it with the world. She always believed in me. She was always there for me. She loved me to the depths of her being. She was me: just a little skinnier in the legs, a little taller, a little less filter on the mouth (I was always telling her, “you can’t say that out loud in public!”), a lot more red in the hair, and a love for gefilte fish that I could never understand. She saved me time and time again in life, as she and my grandfather paid off my student loans while I was teaching so that I wouldn’t have to get a second job, giving me their old Pontiac so I wouldn’t have a car payment on a teacher’s salary, helping me out of a really tough situation after my marriage when even my parents chose not to help me. The list goes on and on.
There are so many things I could say about her being so much more than a grandmother to me, so much so that she was actually a second mother to me. But I am not ready to be outrageously public about the things that were missing from or incredibly hurtful in my childhood and teenage years. But here’s one thing: her face always lit up when I entered the room. Her voice always brightened when she realized it was me on the other end of the phone. I have yet to have another single soul in my life who has matched her in personality, creativity, uniqueness, and love for me. When she died, a void was born, and only after I planned my trip to New Zealand did I realize that no one else in this world will ever fill that void…except for me. Because I am her. And sometimes when I lose esteem, fall into old habits, tell myself hurtful things, I remind myself that if I dare tell myself I am ugly, then I am saying she is ugly too…and that’s not fair.
It’s interesting because she used to always say she knew she wasn’t beautiful, just interesting to look at. (To me, she was beautiful…looking like a Lucille Ball and aging with grace.) She felt that it was her personality, her ability to make others laugh, her social skills, her creativity, her intelligence, her way with words and way with threads, her delicate fingers that shaped clay and porcelain and held paintbrushes and fixed the shattered remains of broken statues that others from all over the country brought to her to fix…she felt that it was these qualities that made my grandfather and her friends fall so deeply in love with her. What is funny is that I feel the same way about me, except I don’t know I will ever find a man in this day and time who would ever resemble my grandfather, for he too embodied so much special that I just don’t know it could ever be replicated.
My grandmother. My “grand”mother. She was there for me in my first breathes, and I was there for her last ones. I spent my summers growing up at her house in Skokie, Illinois. I saw her at her highest and at her lowest. I helped carry her, helped put make up on her, helped make her laugh, and I certainly made her cry a bunch (I think I have an innate ability to make anyone cry…and laugh). I talked back to her. I bickered with her. I wrote poems for her. I lectured her. I listened to her lecture me. I watched her draw her eyebrows on and spray enough AquaNet on her hair to kill a small Texas town and listened to her lecture me about sunscreen and taking care of my skin. I watched her face when she ate ice cream. I remember her splitting her pieces of Trident gum into thirds and drinking 7-Up and Ginger Ale. I remember having chocolate Italian soda with her for the first time and eating peanuts at Wrigley Field while we watch her Cubbies play. I remember her throwing jinxes and hexes at the TV when she watched both the Cubs and the Sox play. I remember when she took me before I started ninth grade to get my eyebrows waxed for the first time and get my hair cut and done up nice after my mom didn’t take me to a hairdresser for over a year. I let her teach me how to sew and do needlework. I remember the little butterfly cross stitch kit she got me and how happy she was when I finally got hooked on something needle-and-threadish.
She didn’t understand the powerlifting or bodybuilding or muscles on girls thing. She actually said to me, “You feel like a rock. Women are supposed to be squishy.” I laugh as I type this. In all honesty, she hated the muscles on me and once told me I look like a man. Ironically, that was back when I was going on stage at right around 100 pounds. She eventually apologized and never said it again. She watched me perform at every show she could attend and no matter what she thought of the muscles, she always told me, “You were the most beautiful one up there.” As she sat in the audience, she would tell everyone around her about her granddaughter. She would find out who they were there for and would make a deal to cheer for their loved one if they cheered for hers. That was my grandmother. She would talk to a stranger and about a stranger with no hesitation and no filter. The things she would say! (As I mentioned earlier, I was constantly telling her, “you can’t say that in public!”) I still hear her when she used to tell me, “You need to learn how to small talk,” and “Poems should always rhyme,” and “If I were a boy, I’d date you,” and “Put your sweater on; I’m cold,” and “As long as you are happy, I am happy.”
Do you know our last words were “I love you”? How many people do you get to say that to in their final hours before they slip away from you forever? I got to say it to the person who impacted my life the most, who steers her soul through my bloodstream.
May I make you proud, Mama Delle—more proud than you already are—as I open my own soul, throw away my ego, strip down to the barest of my being, find the esteem to understand that I really do belong in this graduate writing program and find the belief that I will not fail and will instead rise like the golden Phoenix bird you made long long ago that now sits on my living room wall. My writing and my happiness will always be dedicated to you.
A previous coach told me in my previous off season: “Don’t write down your workouts prior to doing them. You may feel differently or need a different approach when the day and time comes to hit the weights and complete the exercises.”
I agree…and I disagree, of course. I spent all of last year not writing down my workouts prior to going into the gym. This isn’t a newfangled approach. I have utilized gut instinct and a daily dose of “what do I need right and right now for my physique in the tomorrow land?”. But I feel there comes a point when writing down a workout prior to stepping into the gym effaces a bit of anxiety that can creep up during the beginning stages of off season.
There are phases I go through after completing my show season:
I don’t have a ton of help this off season like I did last off season. Well, like I did to start off the first few months of last off season because there a came a point when that assistance dwindled off, and I was on my own for 80% of my workouts and choices. Which is fine. I am an independent girl and have coached myself through plenty of off seasons and preps and done a dandy job.
But I know I most adhere to a particular train of thought in order for this off season to be successful and have it to lead to a more auspicious start to my competition prep in 2018 than what occurred for my Alaska prep in 2017. This quote from Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind leads us into my thought process quite well: “. . . dawn was a small beginning compared to the ending of a season: the ending of a year.”
Human beings love beginnings. New ones (as if there are old beginnings, though I suppose when you recycle an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, that is an old beginning and one I don’t recommend). But we don’t appreciate endings. We are saddened by them. Or we are anxious to say good riddance to something and end it once and for all, but for the sake of having a new beginning. I have tried hard since 2014 to appreciate my achievements in the moment. To string out the experience like Christmas lights along the long base of a rooftop. To marinate in the award of completing something successfully—even with the stumbles, pitfalls, mistakes. I practiced this heartily at the 2014 WPC Powerlifting World Championships. I hit 8 out of 9 of my lifts, earned the bronze medal for the United States, and set a world record in a class that had no world records set prior. Typically, in years past, I would have drowned in the mistakes and not appreciated the entire experience as a whole.
I have strived to experience my experiences more wholeheartedly ever since then. As a result, it has allowed me to understand and accept an ending of one phase as an important precursor to the beginning of another phase. Think about this in terms of relationships. If you never truly deal with both the good and the bad of the previous relationship and understand the importance of the ending, you cannot successfully begin a new and healthy relationship…healthy being the key word.
I think this happens in the fitness and athletic worlds—with powerlifting, strongman, karate, track-and-field, bodybuilding, etc. And I think it is worse in the arenas that an athlete competes independently of others, in other words, not on a true team where all members of the team are doing an athletic venture together in the moment to reach a common goal. We finish a competition, and then we either find grievous faults or we don’t know how to appreciate the goal earned without the interference of the next goal breathing down the past goal’s neck. So we never celebrate the ending. And sometimes…sometimes, the ending is more important than the beginning.
I am still ecstatic and proud of my ending to the 2017 competition season. I became a Phoenix bird as I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, and earned my fifth-place finish at the 2017 IFBB Arizona Pro. But I also re-lived, re-examined, re-inspected the Alaska prep and end result. By doing that, I came to terms with the mistakes made (by myself and others involved) and set them in a pile labeled, “Learn from this!” I had emotional, mental, and physical things to learn, but if I had chosen to turtle myself and hide from my 16-week experience leading into Alaska, I would never have risen to a level of personal pride and success for Arizona.
The ending of a chapter is necessary for the beginning of the next chapter. The ending of a season is necessary for the beginning of the next season. The ending of a relationship is necessary for the beginning of the next relationship. Don’t abuse your endings or hide them under your bed. Keep them in plain sight, for they create your might.
Jodi Leigh Miller is a Women's Physique IFBB Pro with experience in all divisions. She is a record-achieving power-lifter, posing specialist, certified trainer, life coach, and author. She holds an English degree from The University of Texas at Austin and is a certified educator. Jodi was recently accepted into the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Pacific University Oregon and begins January 2018. She is an experienced, knowledgeable, multifaceted phenom who shares her soul in this blog.