Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ideal

For purely cathartic purposes, I write:

I like Zumba. I like teaching and making people smile. I like the senior citizen class that has developed in the morning and the crowded and rowdy younger crowd at night. Both favorite. The older women like simple steps and fun music, the younger group likes to shake it, get lost in the music, and burn calories.

I'm wearing official, teal Zumba pants. Yeah, look online. Their kinda baggy, kinda hip hoppy and basically I feel like a thug (or at least as much as possible in this life).

Yesterday, I cut my hair. Not in the way that it was dramatic and anyone would notice. Maybe it was more an intentional trim. Meaning, I intended to make myself look as glamorous and carefree as Jessica Biel or Kate Hudson. I Googled "short, wavy hair" and came up with the perfect hair style that will probably change my life forever. No huge changes yet, but I'm counting on that after I buy some straightening balm that will turn my curly locks, into beach-worthy waves (or so says John Frieda).

Two days ago a co-worker said that she didn't want to cut her hair because she figured her boyfriend was going to propose soon and she knew exactly how she wanted her hair on her wedding. Yeah, I started thinking, "How do I want my hair on my wedding day? Uh oh, should I be thinking about these things?" Maybe all this talk about marriage has me antsy/nervous/anxious/completely disinterested/ready to get married tomorrow. Either way I went ahead and cut my hair, mostly because I had no idea how I was feeling about the whole thing and decided a rash, not-thought-out decision would do me some good.

You know what else does me some good? Counseling. Yup, still a big fan. Just got back from seeing Lynn a few minutes ago. We're both reading Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth. We read and we talk. It's more like a book club, with a very wise women who happens to know a lot about eating disorders.

Through reading Roth's book, I've realized: I don't trust myself. I fear what I'll do if I'm left alone. I worry that if I were allowed to eat anything I wanted to and not be driven by the fear of not exercising that I'd be completely out of control. It's interesting and intriguing to me that the path to healing has been through the door of letting go. Turns out if I grant myself permission to be human and fully trust myself, life doesn't fall apart. Life comes together.

The other day, as I was journaling about what I'm reading, I realized (again) that if this is what balance is (i.e. my current self, my current weight), I don't want it. Essentially, if 150 pounds is my ideal, healthy weight and this is what a balanced life looks like, I'm still 20% willing to give it all up to be 125. Sick, isn't it. Lynn says my metabolism doesn't trust me and probably won't for another year or two. I can't expect "ideal" weight right now because my body is still learning how to have periods again, how to metabolize food, how to trust me.

I'm still going to burn those clothes that will never fit, but I'm tempted to keep them just in case.

No.
No.

Moving on with further stream of consciousness rambling: It's 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night. I've been back in school for one week. I'm a senior in college. A senior! In college! I know, everyone probably goes through these slight "Huh?" moments when life catches up with them and they realize their back in reality. Yeah, being a senior in high school held a much cooler status than being a senior in college. I have three semesters to go. Last week, I walked into a freshman class and introduced myself as a "senior" then realized they don't think I'm cool. They think I'm old. Darn.

Jeremy lives in Lincoln now. Our long-distance ways are behind us and moving into this short-distance way of life has been . . . has been . . . wonderful. We don't have to talk on the phone anymore. We can just, you know, look at each other. Granted there are a lot of things about a short-distance that they don't tell you about (I don't know who "they" are, but "they" messed up!). Like the fact that dating someone isn't always romantic. No, sometimes it's really un-romantic and normal. Or that sometimes you don't have anything to say and whereas we used to just say, "Okay, I'm going to bed. Talk to you later." You just sit there and don't say anything at all. This isn't always bad. But sometimes it's just weird. "They" don't tell you that sometimes we won't communicate and he'll do what they thought I wanted and I won't tell him what I really want and then we'll both be frustrated. Sometimes you'll just go the grocery store and it won't be thrilling or exciting or fun. It'll just be a trip to the grocery store.

But what "they" also don't tell you about short-distance relationships is that sometimes he takes me on dates, just the two of us, just because we can. Sometimes I'll hug him and just hang on, absorbing the fact that he's still here and not leaving when the weekends over. "They" don't tell you that sometimes the most random, sweetest things will leave me just staring at him. Speechless. "They" don't tell you that feeling safe, heard, and protected are some of the best feelings in the world. "They" don't tell you that navigating the peaks and valleys of a relationship can feel as difficult as summiting a mountain for real, but it's one journey that's completely worth it.

I'm not loving any of my classes this semester. That doesn't mean no, no never. Just not right now. I'm taking a full load of education classes and they're less than inspiring. I will be doing observation hours so I'm hoping that makes me excited about being a teacher some day.

I'm taking book orders. So if any of you live in Lincoln and would like to buy a copy of my book, Honestly, I'm Struggling, email or comment here and I'll get one to you.

If you are in the Colorado area, contact my mom or me.

If you're somewhere else and would like to get a book, they'll be available in ABCs and on-line sometime this fall.

Thanks for handling the random, meaningless-ness(?) of this blog. But I feel better.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wasted

I was advised not to read the book Wasted: A memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher. "At least not yet," my dietician told me two years ago. A bit graphic and a bit (har, har) difficult to swallow. Of course hearing that you can't do something just makes you want to do it more. But alas, I knew she was probably right as sometimes ED literature really is too much for me to handle when I already feel so dang fragile.

I've been making steady improvements and I found Hornbacher's book on sale at Barnes and Noble. I took it took it as a sign. I understood immediately why my dietician warned me about it, as chapter one begins:

"It was that simple: One minute I was your average nine-year-old, shorts and a T-shirt and long brown braids, sitting in the yellow kitchen, watching Brady Bunch reruns, munching on a bag of Fritos, scratching the dog with my foot. The next minute I was walking, in a surreal haze I would later compare to the hum induced by speed, out of the kitchen, down the stairs, into the bathroom, shutting the door, putting the toilet seat up, pulling my braids back with one hand, sticking my first two fingers down my throat, and throwing up until I spat blood.

Flushing the toilet, washing my hands and face, smoothing my hair, walking back up the stairs of the sunny, empty house, sitting down in front of the television, picking up my bag of Fritos, scratching the dog with my foot.

How did your eating disorder start? the therapists ask years later, watching me pick at my nails, curled up in a ball in an endless series of leather chairs. I shrug. Hell if I know, I say."


I read the book slowly, never more than one chapter in a week. It's a lot to handle. It's a lot to be reminded of. Each time I pick up the book, I remember this is her story and my reading about it offers the opportunity to strengthen and affirm my own journey. Either way, I read carefully and talk to people about it so I keep perspective.

Marya Hornbacher makes me laugh:
"Puberty is a peverse right of passage in contemporary culture. The nice school nurse comes to talk to your class telling you how you're going to Become a Woman. You want to scream in horro as visions of cellulite dance in your head. Girls, Becoming Women, begin to emulate the older women in their lives: They diet. They borrow their mothers' vocabulary, expressions, mannerisms. Between poring over the mysteries of long division and playing kickball at recess, they also discuss, in weirdly adult voices, "keeping their weight down," with that regretful knowing smile. They pinch their bellies, announcing, "I'm not eating lunch today, oh, no, I really shouldn't." Becoming a Woman means becoming someone dissociated from, and spiteful toward, her body. Someone who finds herself always wanting."


All good, but indeed, the best part I've read of her book so far is this:
"This is the very boring part of eating disorders, the aftermath. When you eat and hate that you eat. And yet of course you must eat. You don't really entertain the notion of going back. You, with some startling new level of clarity, realize that going back would be far worse than simply being as you are. This is obvious to anyone without an eating disorder. This is not always obvious to you. But this stage, when it is effectively Over, is haunting in its own way. Your closet companion is now, as ever, the mirror. You could detail, if anyone asked, each inch of your skin, each flaw amplified, each mole, bulge, wrinkle, bone, hair, pock, except for your behind, watch your back, so to speak. This is the pitiful stage where you do not qualify as an eating-disordered person. And you feel bad about this. You feel as though you really ought to count, you ought to still merit worry, still have the power to summon a flurry of nurses, their disdain ill hidden, your skeletal smirk.

But you are in the present tense."

Ahh yes, the present tense, the in between, the not-quite-sick-enough, but still quite a bit messed up. The I-don't-know-what-to-call-this-issue-I-guess-I'm-just-a-woman. I hesitate in getting stuck here, in actually believing that there will come a day when "eating disordered" is not part of my vocabulary.

Because I look around and gather that either every woman on planet earth has some kind of disordered eating, or I'm completely normal. Those seem to be my only two options in a world where women scrutinize, analyze, and pick apart their thighs, their tummies, their waists, their calories, their carbohydrate grams, the glycemic index, and believe---yes, whole heartedly believe--that this has something (if not everything) to do with their worth as a human being.

As if the size of our jeans has anything to with the amount of our worth.

This is not normal. This is not okay.

And yet I'm tempted every day to believe it as complete and total truth.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Women, Food, and God

Have you ever read or heard something that made you wonder--even for a moment--if someone snuck inside your brain and pulled out what you were reading or hearing? Like the thoughts or ideas were so identical to your own that they had to have been stolen? Or maybe you're long-lost siblings? Or at best you should be friends and you'd get along perfectly?

That's how I feel about Geneen Roth. I'm reading her latest book called Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything. I want to eat it up faster than I can chew it, and ironically, that's a lot of what the book is about.

" . . . our relationship with food is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself. I believe we are walking, talking expressions of our deepest convictions; everything we believe about love, fear, transformation, and God is revealed in how, when and what we eat. When we inhale Reese's peanut butter cups when we are not hungry, we are acting out an entire world of hope and hopelessness, of faith and doubt, of love or fear. If we are interested in finding out what we actually believe--not what we think, not what we say, but what our souls are convinced is the bottom-line truth about life and afterlife--we need go no further than the food on our plates. God is not just in the details; God is also in the muffins, the fried sweet potatoes and the tomato vegetable soup. God--however we define him or her--is on our plates."

She begins chapter one:
"I turned to Hostess Sno Balls the same year I gave up on God. . . I didn't like praying. I didn't like getting down on my knees and talking to the air; it felt too much like begging for love that I already knew I couldn't have."

"For the time it took to eat four or six Sno Balls, my hair was curly, my legs were as long as Madi Isaacs's and my parents gazed adoringly at each other during picnics at Lake George."

"I don't believe in the God with long white hair and X-ray vision that favors some people, some countries, some religions and not others. I don't believe in a sky dweller, the knower of all things, the granter of prayers. But I do believe in the world beyond appearances and that there is so much we can't see or touch or know just by looking. And I do believe--because I have experienced it again and again--that the world beyond appearances is as real as a chair, a dog, a teapot. . . I don't believe in a God that most people call God, but I do know that the only definition of God that makes any sense is one that uses this human life and its suffering--the very things we believe we need to hide or fix--as a path to the heart of love itself."

"Women turn to food when they are not hungry because they are hungry for something they can't name: a connection to what is beyond the concerns of daily life. Something deathless, something sacred. But replacing the hunger for divine connection with Double Stuf Oreos is like giving a glass of sand to a person dying of thirst."

"But when we welcome what we most want to avoid, we evoke that in us that is not a story, not caught in the past, not some old image of ourselves. We evoke divinity itself. And in doing so, we can hold emptiness, old hurts, fear in our cupped hands and behold our missing hearts."

Roth tells of a woman who suffers extreme loss and asks what she should do. Roth says:
"The answer to "I have no idea how I am going to get through this" is: You allow yourself to sob, to heave, to feel as if your heart has a boulder crashing through it. You sit with your father. You listen to his sorrow. You get help from your friends. And you notice that at the end of every day you are still alive. . . if as adults we still believe that pain will kill us, we are seeing through the eyes of the fragile selves we once were and relying on the exquisite defense we once developed: bolting. Obsessions are ways we leave before we are left because we believe that the pain of staying would kill us."

We all have ways to bolt. We all have our junk, our addiction, our vice, our "thing" we wish wasn't a part of our lives. This book challenges me to sit with pain, neglect, loneliness, discomfort, and change instead of running from it. Instead of covering up those feelings with food (enter: alcohol, anger, sex, pornography), I'm trying to feel just feel it.

"Staying requires awareness of the desire to bolt. Of the stories you are telling yourself about the need to bolt. Staying means recognizing that when you want to bolt you are living in the past. You are taking yourself to be someone who no longer exists. Staying requires being curious about who you actually are when you don't take yourself to be a collection of memories."

She says this bolting is like:
"living in hell: refusing to love because you want the endgame to be different than it is. Wanting life to be different from what it is. That's also called leaving with leaving. Dying before you die. It's as if there is a part of you that so rails against being shattered by love that you shatter yourself first. Another name for this pattern? Obsession."


Oh, Geneen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Grieve

I'm proud of my friend, Michael.

He recently returned from a year overseas teaching in Egypt. I invited him over for lunch today at Ben and Ashley's. We made waffles and chatted about his year overseas. He brought pictures of his adventures camping on Mt. Sinai and walking through ancient temples where Moses probably chillaxed. He brought stories of interesting students he had in class and odd cultural differences between the two worlds. He reminisced about the great group of SMs who spent the year together, the trips they went on, the laughs they shared. He told me of the incredible school principle who opened up his home every Friday night to the SMs who would come and watch movies or clear out the leftovers. He showed me pictures of the flag football game they organized on Thanksgiving day. He shared his world with me, his great adventure which he'll never forget as long as he lives.

Sitting there listening to him, I should've seen it coming. I should've recognized this might touch a soft spot for me, but I couldn't help but think: I wish my year was more like his.

I'll never forget my experience as long as I live either. It wasn't all gloom and doom, but it was most definitely bittersweet. My experience was so different than his. My experience was so different from most SMs that I've talked to.
I have the tendency to feel regret and remorse.
I have the tendency to want a refund.

Yes, I'm grateful for the lessons I learned.
Yes, I know we grow through hard times. Got it.
Yes, I know I'm a different person as a result of that year.
But is it so bad to kinda envy a year that didn't involve isolation, sexual assault, and a mental illness or two?

Two weeks ago, on my drive from Colorado back to Nebraska, a Fernando Ortega song came on that always reminds me of my time in Cambodia. Upon hearing it, I thought about how I felt in Cambodia and where I expected I would be by now, at the age of twenty-two. I cried thinking of all the things I am not. Not a few tears. No, the ugly kind where snot's coming out.

I thought at twenty-two I'd be:
skinny
busty
acne-free
content
a social butterfly
balanced
solid
steady
comfortable
more independent
happy
fit
decided on a career I was passionate about
more alive

Instead, at twenty-two, I am:
a bit unsure
human
capable
learning
growing
fragile
introspective
honest
broken
and not a size 6, busty, or acne-free!

There's a good chance that my body wouldn't healthfully tolerate a size-six. I may never be the social butterfly that she is. I want to strive to be more content and comfortable in my own skin, but right now, in this moment, I'm just not. This is not about giving up on dreams or settling. This is not giving up.
This is letting go.

I'm going to have a funeral for the life I thought I "should" have had. I'm going to say good-bye and grieve the loss of the life I thought I wanted. Maybe I still want it, but I need to let go of the fact that I don't have it now.

Learning contentment means accepting myself in spite of what I (or others) may decide is wrong with me. I want to learn radical self-acceptance. I want to officially say goodbye to the regrets related to high school, surgeries, battling an eating disorder, trying to impress people I do not respect, having a rough year in Cambodia, and trying to be something I am not.

I want to move forward. The only way I see that happening is for me to grieve and say goodbye to the shoulda, woulda, couldas in my life and move forward with vibrant hope. Not the hope of a perfect life, but the hope of a life well-lived.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I am NOT a "Guy"

I'm tired of people confusing me with a man.

I don't look like a man and yet several times a day I am called a "guy." I can admit I didn't realize that people were mistaking me for a man until recently. The reason I didn't realize it is because somehow it has become acceptable to refer to a group of people by general male terms. There are a lot of reasons we do this, some have correlation to this rule being true in the Spanish language.

But often, even if I'm in a group of women, someone will say, "Hey guys."

Now I'm not really blaming anyone in particular. For 21 of my 22 years on planet earth, I've done the same thing, not thinking much about how I use the term. "Guys" has become a general term that means "everyone." I know that people don't actually think I am a man, but answer me this: How would a man feel if he were in a group of men and someone said, "Hey ladies!"

Oh wait, we already do this, don't we?

We see it in sports movies or in Avatar when the general refers to the men as "ladies" and "bitches." Men are called "ladies" or "women" as a put down. It is offensive for a man to be referred to as a woman. I hate that who I am is a put down (Or think about how a gay/lesbian feels when ignorant people continue to say something is "gay," meaning it's stupid?). How do you think it feels to be referred to as a man, when I'm proud/happy/thrilled to be a woman?

Several people have told me, "It doesn't matter. It's just a phrase. It's just a word we use to talk about a group of people." Yup, I get it. It's easy. But words matter. I realize it's familiar, it's common, but since when has the easiest option been the best one? The bigger question for me is, when we were looking for a neutral term to refer to a group of people, why didn't they choose "ladies" instead of "guys"? If "guys" is really gender neutral, then why don't we say "ladies"?

The answer is obvious, but something many people dread talking about. The reason you can call people "guys" instead of "ladies" is that on the totem pole of power in our world, men are still above women. I won't get heavy into the debate on equality. But let's look at the business world or the sports world, a woman is admired and rewarded for aspiring to more masculine traits. But what happens to a man who dreams of being an interior designer? A florist? A ballet dancer? That's right. He gets ridiculed and made fun of.

I remember one day when I was teaching English in Cambodia I said, "All right guys, get out your textbooks and finish your homework." As you might guess, because they learn English quite literally and don't have the background of American context, the guys followed my directions and the girls continued talking. Can you blame them?

I want men and women--boys and girls--to be individuals, to be proud to be who they are. What message are we sending little girls, when from a young age we constantly call them "guys"? (For a thought-provoking look at raising "little princesses" check this out)

We can do better.
I can do better.
So I am.

I've stopped calling women men. When I'm talking to a group of people, I'll say, "Hey everyone" or "Hey ya'all." Yup, that's right. I'm meaning what I say and saying what I mean. Revolutionary right?

I like what this blogger wrote defending women's plea for uniqueness:

"What matters is that some women, when they are referred to as a guy, or when they are lumped into a group of “guys”… feel erased. . . .So, if you are only concerned with your language as you understand it… fine, keep calling women guys. But if you are concerened with your language as other people hear it, and particularly if you are a nerd concerned with how you might be creating an environment hostile to women…. please… stop calling everyone “guy” and start calling them developers or hackers or folks or people…. or ladies and gents or lovelies or whatever other gender neutral terms your brain can dream of."

Check out Alternet's conversation

Also, remember the conversation will happen whether or not you choose to participate. Those men and women who are being intentional will greatly appreciate you taking an extra second to give a damn.

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bank

If there's not a bank somewhere
filled with all my possible Joy,
where Happiness is withdrawn
and I must stay within my budget.
Then I've been misled.
If there's not a place where
Giggles and Smiles and Laughter and Tickles
are transacted with proper trade.
Then I've been missing out.
If there's not a vault of Glee
in which I must limit my Bliss
for fear that one day I'll end up
bankrupt.
Then I've been mistaken.

If this bank of Joy does not exist
If I've been making payments hoping to earn
what people accept as free
If being human only guarantees me the
"pursuit of Happiness"
well, then, that makes sense.
because I never believed people really "catch" it anyway.
We just pursue.

But let's suppose I could.
Let's suppose that I
could "catch"
the Happiness so many seem to have.
What would I do?

I would be
one of those people who
laugh hysterically when they're sitting
alone
reading something funny.
They just laugh.
I would too.
I would actually use
the sunroof on my car
even if the wind tousled my hair
even if I got a sunburn
even it it didn't make complete sense.
Because those people look happy.
And I would too.
I would be
one of those people who
eat noodles
with butter
and cheese
and no vegetables
Because they can.
And I could too.

If I could catch Happiness,
if an account number wasn't
required to access my
limited supply,
I would dance more
smile more
kiss more
sing more
eat more
snort more
be late more
breathe more
get "B"s more
play more
twirl more

be more.

I would feel
and live
and thrive
in a life that didn't
put a credit limit
or an overdraft fee
on the Joy
I so desperately need.

If Happiness is readily accessible
to me,
then
I'm
going
to
get
my
life
back.
And I'm starting
with noodles.