Like most people, one of the first things I do every day when I wake up is get dressed. To be honest, this is one of my least favorite activities. You see, I have a hard time accepting, let alone loving, this sagging, bloated, several-years-post-child, almost 40 body of mine. When I look in the mirror or choose my clothes, I have this mental image of myself as I was in high school when it was physically difficult for me to gain weight and I rarely topped 109 pounds at this same height. After all, I really still FEEL most days like that well-intentioned but slightly naive girl struggling to define herself in a world that doesn’t seem to give a shit about what she values. So when I look in the mirror and there are rolls on my back, love handles bulging over the top of my jeans, my belly sticks out and the dark circles under my eyes aren’t from mascara I was too tired to take off, really I just want to say “fuck it” and crawl back in bed. But who gets to actually make that choice, right?I have noticed that I’m surrounded by women that most, if not all, hate the way we look. We speak a language of diets and Spanx and fears about whether or not we will fit into a certain shape within a certain time frame. When we meet new people and don’t know what to say, so often we drop into conversations about how when we cut carbs we “did great” but then gained it all back or how we think we are somehow defective because we can’t seem to make it to the gym everyday like we know we should, like “those other women” seem to be able to.
But I can attest that, having spent time on the skinny side of the pasture fence, before I grew up and learned that if I couldn’t still look like I did before I had a baby, that I belonged out in a field somewhere like livestock out of sight rather than being able to be proud of my body, clothed or naked, that “those other women” may really not be doing anything at all. They are just us, not some “other”. Maybe they have faster metabolisms or hell, just a different body shape. Does that really mean that everyone else who can’t wear a single digit size has no worth?
If we really want to not feel like crawling back in bed every morning when we open our closets, we have to change those conversations to be about wanting to be healthy over wanting to be thin and stop feeling like failures when we grab Starbucks because we like it and not always deny ourselves because of the calorie count. For me, this also means letting myself buy new clothes when I need them too, instead of trying to cram my body into a skin that once served a different me, a version of myself that no longer exists.
Admitting that my body is different is hard for me, but living a full, authentic life requires hard things.
#vulnerabilityproject #bodyimage #healthynotskinny(image:Pinterest)
Day 5: Love love love this girl with all my heart and soul. Though I am not one of those women who have always had aspirations of being a mother, I can’t begin to describe the joy that this almost 15 year old surprise has brought into my life. I am so proud of her and the bright, thoughtful, and kind woman she is becoming and so thankful to the Universe for tossing this curveball into my life. Sometimes the best things come from disruptions to your well-intentioned “plans”. (obviously an old picture…her hair is purple now) #vulnerabilityproject#motherhood #bestkindofsurprise #authenticity
Day 6: If I had or wrote a book that was titled this no one could ever finish it in their lifetime. It would be far too long. Because stuffing my opinions and emotions is something I can do at almost an Olympic level proficiency. Maybe it’s due to my upbringing or my work in a service capacity for my entire adult life or maybe it’s just my deep seated desire to hear other people’s stories and understand where they are coming from. I find I am much better at not saying things than saying them.
But sometimes silence is the best gift you can give because it lets others have their turn to say what they need to, to let their hearts out of the caves their owners have been hiding them in and to have a chance to breathe and be human.
I honestly believe that what we choose to not say is sometimes more important than what we do. I test this theory every day in my work and yesterday my choice of silence turned an angry stranger into a man who was just scared and hurting.
I wish our choice not to speak could come from this place of making space for each other and not one of animosity. This was an excellent reminder to me that when I do speak, my words should be truthful, necessary and kind.
Day 8: Sometimes I avoid writing at all because it brings up such deep emotions for me and really is the place where I let myself be who I really am, where I become most vulnerable. Today I did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time that absolutely terrifies me. I published an article on Medium under a pen name.
There are some subjects that I have been dying to write about, mainly to help me work through them, and I feel like they need to be published because they might really be helpful for other people in some way, even if just to make them feel less alone. But I’ve been terrified to do it under my own name because although the internet gives us a certain amount of anonymity, there are always risks to saying how we feel or revealing who we are to the world in such personal ways. Taking these sorts of risks might affect my family with some of these topics and they deserve that space to not be exposed against their will. Writing under a pen name seemed like a good compromise to that.
I have no idea how this will be received, especially since the nature of these post is revelatory and by using a pen name, some of that authenticity in personal essay/memoir is almost stripped away. Feeling a strange mix of terrified and elated, but somehow so much lighter for having done it.
Day 9: I’ve always struggled with this idea that what I do for a living defines who I am. I’m pretty sure my obsession with this topic comes from that moment in my adolescence where I was told I needed to decide what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life and the notion that if I decided wrong I would be dooming myself to a life of drudgery and waste thousands of dollars on meaningless degree programs in college. My solution: stop after my Associate’s degree and never really decide to avoid taking the risk and making the wrong choice. Well, now I find myself approaching 40 and still not quite sure what I “want to be when I grow up”, what direction to take in the great job I have or how to translate my gifts into something that would help me survive economically.
I stumbled on this episode of my favorite podcast, The Unmistakable Creative, the other day while out on a long walk and found myself walking over 4 miles just so I could hear the entire thing. This interview delves into so many of the fears I have held around making this choice and outlines all that is wrong with our culture’s expectation that we need to know and decide at such young age.
I may not have any idea what I want to be when I grow up yet, but I don’t really know if I ever need to decide, because I am letting go of the idea that I need to be defined solely by what I do and not who I am. For now, I’m content to let the journey itself be enough. I hope you’ll have a listen and see what I learned from Tess and Srini about leaning into our fear.
Day 10: These last 8 or so years have been pretty tough for my family financially, the last couple of months especially so as all the robbing of Peter to pay Paul and the hustle of just trying to survive and do the right thing and the horrible luck of things that seem to only break in threes came to a head. But we always adjust, we pull together and we make hard choices that we hope move us in the right direction.
This week we took a huge step in (hopefully) making this part of our lives less stressful. Any change is hard, but it is so much more so when there is no safety net. But there’s also no shame in admitting that you need help, in reaching out to others for guidance and in needing to start over.
Here’s to new beginnings, hope and a marriage where “for richer or for poorer” is actually a challenge we are willing to join hands and accept.
Step1: Figure out what the figurehead (i.e. the teacher, boss, parent, etc) wants.
Step 2: Observe carefully what everyone else does and determine where their struggles are.
Step 3: Do better than your peers at giving the figurehead what they want, especially focusing on being the best at the areas where your peers (aka “competition”) struggle.
This is what winning is supposed to feel like, and I hate it, because, although this system is something I have become pretty adept at, I don’t WANT to compare myself to or compete with others. I want to COLLABORATE.
The many hours I spend in my head are consumed by trying to avoid this win-lose mentality and figure out ways we all win, ways where no one has to feel less than. Because, really, when we compare ourselves to others, someone always comes out on the bottom. Part of me believes this is why we are always our own worst critics, because we try to avoid that hurt.
What would the world look like if we saw it only through this lens, through an intention to be excellent to each other? How would this change what we say and do every day?
This week is becoming something of a spiritual retreat for me and intentionality is its focus. I’m challenging you to join me in this: be deliberate for just 24 hours with what you do and say. Be the observer of your life. Are your words and actions reflective of your values? Are you being excellent, to yourself and others, or just going through the motions, just passing the time before you leave this earth.
Don’t waste this life, not a single moment, not a single interaction. You hold so much power in your behavior, power that can change the world for someone else. This is the kind of intention I personally want to live my life with.
Today while we were waiting for a table at lunch and sitting on the sidewalk we met a man named George who was just walking down the street going God knows where. George stopped to say hi and in a few brief minutes we learned a lot about him: he is 70, now works for Ohio E-check after retiring from NASA, is originally from another state and has lost most of his family in recent years. But then he went on to tell us how blessed he feels for having lived so much longer than his parents and sister got to and how he has so much more to look forward to, including moving back to his home state before he has to go through what would be his 5th Ohio winter. All this from a complete stranger in the span of 1 minute. And then, just as suddenly, with a fist bump and a spring in his step, he turned to head back the direction he was was going and left us with this parting gift, a nugget of truth both my friend and I needed to hear, each for our own reasons: you just gotta take it one day at a time. That’s all you can do.
Sometimes it feels like there really aren’t any coincidences in life. I don’t get all of the “why” behind it yet, but I really think this sweet man was meant to cross our paths when he did. But one thing is for damn sure: it’s easier to spot these little unexpected blessings if we follow George’s advice and take it all one day at a time. #streetprophets#vulnerabilityproject #onedayatatime #addiction
Tomorrow begins the great act of learning to piece life back together so tonight I will crawl inside my chrysalis and rest so I can greet tomorrow’s challenges with a spirit of loving kindness.
(So very grateful for all the kindness you have all shown me throughout this ordeal. Please know that you are all deeply loved and precious to me.)
(If you are in a position to help me with the financial challenges we are experiencing, I would be so thankful for the help.) gofundme.com/sp3wgs2j
I don’t know if anyone else is doing it with me, but people are reading. They are finding comfort in knowing they aren’t alone and I have been on the receiving end of oh so much love that I didn’t honestly believe that existed for me, for my family.
And I am changing too. Despite all this new stress, there feels like there is hope. My shoulders are more relaxed. My jaw doesn’t ache at the end of the day. And even though I still cry, I’m doing it less and, most importantly am less ashamed of my humanity.
Humbled, awed and grateful for you, for this, for all of it.
But it has been said that you get bitter or you get better.
I choose better. #vulnerabilityproject#movingforward #notavictim
Pretty sure I’m approaching that low point that typically is followed by radical personal transformation, just my sure what that looks like yet and zero energy to think about it today, which I am also blaming totally on McDonalds, cuz, hey, I’m incapable of anything involving willpower right now and the drive thru was right there.
Since I can’t spend my entire life in the park talking to the animals like some kind of hippie Disney princess, I do the next best thing and set aside time each day to meditate and remember just how much we are all the same, which helps me remember that, even in my darkest hours, when I am at worst, I am never truly alone. #vulnerabilityproject#meditation #thichnhathahn #weareallmadeofstars
But I do it anyway- I over schedule, I take on too much and, before I know it, I am bitter and angry towards everyone around me and a kind of exhausted that comes from deep within my soul.
So if I know that I do this, why don’t I stop?
When you are not busy and there is time for thought and rumination and imagining, there are cracks where fear seeps in. Fear that I am not enough, fear that I am not doing enough and worst of all the honest realization that despite all my grasping and planning and attempts to control my life, everything is completely and utterly beyond my control.
That’s some pretty heavy shit, to realize that all the time I spend spinning my wheels is pointless. To know it is just a technique I use to guard myself from fear is huge. If I am busy, I don’t have time to think about how lonely I feel. If I am busy, I don’t have space for the truth that someday everyone I love will die. If I keep moving, I get to hold this illusion that my own mortality does not exist, that my purpose here can be ignored in favor of what seems to be basic survival, that time is not slipping through my fingers while I make excuses that I THINK keep me safe but really just keep me small.
Why am I so stressed out and busy? Because I am running from fear, full speed ahead into my own suffering.
The antidotes to this? Faith and love.
Anyhow, the whole cause of this is this ridiculous mindset I frequently find myself getting sucked into: martyr mind. I fucking HATE being a victim and know that the majority of the time I catch myself thinking and behaving like I am, it is really all in my head. In reality, the only person “making me” do or feel anything is me. It’s all about perception, people.
So, this morning I raged for a solid 50 minutes on the way to my husband’s work and then drug my bullshit attitude around all day and continued to let the smallest things piss me off. Now I am home, fed and relaxing, and as I reflect back on my day, realized how stupid this is and that I allowed it to happen again. Ugh. Not my proudest moment for sure, and I hope that I can start to recognize the beginnings of this so I can avoid my martyr mind the next time it rears its ugly, foul mouthed head.#vulnerabilityproject #martyrmind #roadrage#isayfuckalot
So what would happen if I made it a priority to write, if I take what I’ve learned this month and assembled it as a complete story, my own heroine’s journey.
I will have dared and I would be able to say that I really lived.
What dreams do you have that, if you don’t act on them, will one day die with you? What can you to today to make those dreams come true?
#vulnerabilityproject #dreams #writing #fear
You know, what I think ticked me off was not the idea that I was being asked to smile in the throes of a terrible depression and what, to date, seems like the biggest challenge I have ever been handed in my adult life, but that this came from another woman when, historically speaking, women have been told to basically suck it up and smile pretty for centuries. We’ve been denied the right to vote, own property, have an opinion, pursue an education and our own interests, be financially independent and on and on and on and yet here was a successful, professional woman I admired saying this to me when I was just being honest about how I felt. I really wasn’t even looking for sympathy.
So… Here’s what I have to say about that: FUCK THAT SHIT. I’m a compassionate person who is generally kind and supportive and helpful to others ALL GODDAMN DAY. So long as it hurts no one else, I have just as much right as the next person to get pissed, have a rotten ass day and, most importantly of all, to share it if I want with whoever I want so long as I own the problem as my own and am willing to accept the consequences of deciding to share. (BTW, when I complain, it doesn’t necessarily mean I am expecting a solution. Sometimes a girl just needs to vent.) This is a right I have not BECAUSE I am a woman (despite all the stereotypes) but because I am human, damnit.
Oh, and today, I feel much better and I kind of feel proud of how cute I look so here’s a selfie with a smile because today it’s how I feel and I own ALL of it, even the crap.
#vulnerabilityproject #keepsocialmediahuman#intersectionalfeminism #emotions
Touché, Universe. Message received. Loud and Clear.
But, now that I don’t have to be perfect, as Steinbeck said, I can be good. Now that I feel like I am okay with giving up my quest to be perfect, I can be happy.
What comes next? More of the same. Continuous learning but behind the scenes. Right now I’m in desperate need of more time to process, more space to breathe and more time to photosynthesize my experiences into writing.
Who knows… Maybe my #vulnerabilityproject will turn into a book this year, my own heroine’s journey of sorts.
Thank you all so much for following this, for your love and support. I’m so awed and grateful to have had each of you touch my life. #thankyou#keepsocialmediahuman