Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stella


The last time I saw Stella, I was a frantic twenty year-old: scared, bitter, hurting, and afraid. She saw me at my absolute worst: far from home, irrational, terrified of men, terrified of myself, and stuck in my own self-hatred that manifested itself in several weekly meetings with the toilet.


The last time I saw Stella was three years ago in Cambodia. We met when someone recommended her as a counselor. We departed assuming we'd never see each other again. But we did. We connected on Facebook to find out that she would be in the States for the first time and would be in Denver an hour away from where I live. Thanksgiving morning I drove to where she was staying and wrapped that wonderful woman in my arms, hardly believing she was actually there.


I sat across from her on the couch and shared my story, but this time the story was much different.


This time I smiled and breathed deeply.


This time the sunshine poured in through the windows, the street outside was quiet, and I felt safe.


This time I spoke with clarity and confidence.


This time I talked about progress, improvements, and hope.


This time my voice was calm, my sould was at peace, I spoke of forgiveness, and the realization that life is a journey, not a measuring stick of perfection or failure.


This time I talked about a future that doesn't absolutely terrify me.


This time I talked about a God that actually likes me, a God that is not confined in a church or a list of guilts and failures, a God that I'm actually interested in and humbled by, a God that continues to surprise and accept me.


This time I talked about feeling loved and supported and heard and accepted.


This time I talked about sharing my story, writing a book about it, and building friendships based on the one thing I fought for so long: being who I am.


This time was different and I am so grateful.


This is progress. This is proof for all the times I'll try to convince myself I'm going no where. These are the moments that are nearly impossible to capture, to remember, or to duplicate. But I'm sure going to try.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Notes

Here follows one of the many reasons I am in love with Jeremy:

"Morning my Love,

Today may seem like a day devoted to and surrounded with food. Today may seem like a day where there is no relief from the presence of people.

But...

Today is about stopping to remember to be thankful, possibly more aware. You can and have made it through many more meals and gatherings then you once thought you could. The size of your plate says nothing about you. There are other ways to be satisfied. The number on the tag behind you does not rule your life. People are good for you. It's okay to take breaks.

Breathe.
Pray.
Love."

He wrote me several notes to open on specific days during the two weeks we're apart. This one was for Thanksgiving day. He knows me well.












We're going on two years together, the longest relationship for both of us. He's a good one. I'm keeping him around. He's good for my soul.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And I Will

A good friend once told me that I see life like a river full of floating leaves. Some people may just sit on the bank and watch. Others may get in and enjoy the cool water brushing against their ankles. I tend to stand there overwhelmed by all the leaves coming at me and attempt to catch, analyze, understand, and dissect every leaf that comes down the river.

Sometimes I have a hard time just letting it be.

I often feel bombarded and overwhelmed by life. The internet doesn't make this any easier. There is information, facts, and "Life-Saving Tips Every Woman Must Know" at every turn. We have an influx of unnecessary information that the world keeps saying is completely necessary.

Sometimes I get scared that good things are passing me by. I fear that an idea will come and go that I could've written about, but had to finish another damn term paper. What if that thought could've been the perfect song and I was so busy attempting to keep up with life that I missed it? Sure I wrote a book. Should I be doing something about that? Promoting it? I don't know. So I just sit here stunned by everything I should be doing/pursuing/accomplishing. But I'm not.

I'm easily overwhelmed at the feat of simply maintaining life.

This fact has come up recently in several doctors appointments. It's amazing to me how many people have told me recently that managing my stress would improve my health. Stress could be the source of the inflammation in my knee. Stress could be the source of TMJ in my jaw because I'm grinding my teeth at night. Stress continues to be the source of my struggles with eating disorder recovery.

Just when I think I have life pinned down, figured out, boxed in: something changes.

Like Thanksgiving. Always comes. Every year. Yet it surprises me how anxiety grows the closer we get to Thursday. A whole day devoted to food and its consumption. Some years I have honestly thought the day itself would eat me alive. It has yet to.

That's probably what happened today. I got tired of arguing with myself, of deciphering truth from lies, of convincing myself, "No, this feeling will not actually overtake and kill you. We can breathe through this."

Feeling anxious. Feeling stressed. Then I started being stressed about being stressed (Yeah, I'll probably die of heart disease if I don't STOP stressing! STOP NOW!)

It's the stressed people who die of heart disease.
It's the stressed people who miss out on a life that passes them by because they were too busy worrying.
It's the stressed people who are so busy overanalyzing every piece of information that comes down the river, they can't enjoy the wonderful life sitting right in front of them.

I've had worse moments.
I've been more panicked.
I've been more crazy.
I've been less clear.

Breathing continues to be my best defense and a strong offense.

It's going to be all right. These moments come and go. Some days I'm better, some days I'm worse. But EVERY other time I thought I might not make it through an uncomfortable
feeling
situation
event
emotion
assignment
day:

I DID.

And I have.

And I will.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Authoritative

Something to think about. . .

"When 3,407 9th- through 12th- grade European American students described their parents' styles and their peer-group orientation, adolescents who characterized their parents as authoritative (demanding but responsive, rational, and democratic) were more likely to favor well-rounded crowds that rewarded both adult- and peer-supported norms such as "normals" and "brains."

Students, especially girls, who characterized their parents as uninvolved were more likely to be oriented toward "partyers" and "druggies" who did not endorse adult values.

Finally, boys with indulgent parents were more likely to be oriented toward fun-cultures such as "partyers."

In fact, adolescents with authoritative parents are more likely to respond to peer pressure to do well in school and less likely to be swayed by peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol, especially when their friends also have authoritative parents (Collins, Maccoby, Hetherington, & Bornstein, 2000)."

Not that I'm about to have kids or anything, but doesn't this kind of take the guess work out of a few aspects of parenting? I'm not saying it's a quick fix or your kid's mistakes are your fault, but the studies were intriguing when they broke it down so simply.

If you want good kids who care about school and pick good friends, have high expectations, be responsible and reasonable, and give them a voice. Choose family friends who have a similar parenting style and give off solid values.

If you want kids who party and do drugs, be uninvolved. Distance yourself. Put food on the table and nothing else. Buy them everything they want so you look good, but don't actually give them what they need: you.

Optimism

Last week, I asked my counselor, Lynn, if she believed that people are really born optimists and pessimists or if we just become whatever label we are given. I don't want to label myself a pessimist for fear that it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy that I settle into. Lynn didn't have a clear answer except that she does believe optimism can be taught.

So she gave me some homework to write down every positive thing that happened on any given day. I picked Monday.

*woke up feeling rested
*slept in a warm bed
*no mice sounds coming from the ceiling (yeah, we've had mouse problems. But now we've got traps)
*water for a parched mouth
*space heater
*daylight savings
*great hair day
*I have teeth
*clear-ish skin
*eyes that see
*ears that hear
*apple cider
*cute boots and comfortable dress
*fruit salad
*got to class on time
*interesting class period
*when asked to write one word to describe how I feel, I wrote "optimistic" while most everyone else in class wrote "tired, " "overwhelmed," and another felt "like butter"
*"Teenage Dream" song redone by Boyce Avenue (youtube here, it will make you happy too)
*warm, morning weather
*supportive parents who let me dream and choose my own path
*a wonderful boyfriend who supports me and makes me smile
*incredible roommates who encourage me to think deeper
*cereal with bananas
*grandma Florence's humor
*a protective sister who knows me well
*having a cell phone/lap top computer/car/college education
*speaking English
*U.S. resident (these two qualities are not superior, they are merely helpful)
*my parents have never questioned whether or not I could go to counseling
*I wrote a book
*fun birthday weekend: waffles, walk on North Jamaica trail, card games, The Oven, movie
*allergy-free food that I can eat!
*good friends
*two day extension on my 15-page term paper
*my usually grumpy teacher was in a good mood
*extra time
*perspective
*deep breaths
*spontanaety
*kissing
*productivity
*peas
*PB & J
*cooking
*little kids that are cute and don't belong to me
*ditching class to enjoy a warm November afternoon
*honest conversations
*feeling helpful
*things falling into place
*gluten-free, vegan pear pie
*early to bed
*cozy blankets
*peace

That's 53 positive things in one day and I KNOW I didn't get all of them!

I am blessed. You are too. Try making a list.

Neon Pink Swimsuit (with ruffles)

Geneen Roth writes in her book Women, Food, and God that, "the most difficult part of teaching people to respect and listen to their bodies is overcoming their conviction that there is nothing to respect. . . The possibilitity that there is a place in them, in everyone, that is unbroken, that has never gained a pound, never been hungry, never been wounded, seems like a myth as far-fetched as the Sumerian goddess Inanna ascneding to earth after hanging on a meat hook in hell. But then I ask them about babies. I ask them to remember their own children and how they come into the world already gorgeous and utterly deserving of love. They nod their heads. They realize that brokenness is learned, not innate, and that their work is to find their way back to what is already whole."

Roth describes a meditation retreat in which she asked the women to stand in front of a full lenth mirror and describe what they saw:
"I see humongous thighs."
"I see flat stringy hair."
"I see a horrible double chin."
"I see arms that hang down to Montana."
Essentially, My body and I are one. There is nothing good about my body, therefore there is nothing good about me.

Then, she asks them to look again, beginning with their eyes. "I asked them to look beyond the color and shape of their eyes and to see what was seeing. For people who didn't quite understand the seeing-what-was-seeing part, I asked them to remember what it was like to be a child before they began to label and name the objects in their world. What it was like to see an extravaganza of form and color before they knew it was a rose and could compare it to other roses . . . When they walked up to the mirror, they used words like brilliance, like precious, like completely open."

There is no goal, no end place, no test to take. No one is keeping score. Not is watching us and deciding whether we are worthy enough. Only us.

This idea of looking beyond my eyes in the mirror to the person beyond the eyes was . . . embarrasingly mind-blowing.

Instead of looking at the outside, I looked on the inside and was surprised at what I found.

Inside there's this little girl with golden, curly locks standing in the bright green grass wearing a neon pink swimsuit with ruffles. She's eating a popsicle. She looks happy.

She's never hated me for eating too much or exercising too little.

She's never considered disiking herself because she knows she's awesome!

She's the uber-confident little girl who loves to twirl, eat Frosted Flakes with a spoon two
times the size of her mouth, and mix up mud pies garnished with bush berries and twigs.

She's never been interested in what others were eating or wearing or saying. Shes' in her own little world.

She's tough enough to run around with her brother and go fishing, but sensitive enough to cry, to feel, to care, to write poems about her pet snail, George.

She's always known she was perfect because she's never considered any other option.

What's not to love, afterall?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Twenty-Three

Surprisingly, she survived another year.

How did this happen?
What constituted the last 365 days?
What did she learn?
How did she change?
One year later, was she better or worse?
Healing or stuck?
Growing or stagnant?
Happy or settling?

She found herself in that same familiar place: contemplation. Which scares some people, but comforts others. She felt that tinge of "happy" creeping in again. She didn't know what to do with it, but she just let it settle in and cozy up to her steady breathing.

Happy. Happy.

It can't be coincidence that 50-something year-olds never say, "Oh how the years have dragged by!" No. The years always "fly" by. Life doesn't slow it maintains whether we take time to notice or not.

Her heavy eyelids reached for closure as the nighttime sunk in.

Twenty-three?

Twenty-three.

Hmmm...