Beautiful Disaster

It's taken some courage to finally pull the trigger and publish the above picture.  Because I know its not flattering.  At all.  But more than that, it's laying bare to the world something that I'm incredibly vulnerable and sensitive about.  

I took the photo for a reason though.  Or actually two.  One was to serve the initial purpose of wanting to begin to embrace what I have loathed and perceived as a flaw for far.too.long.  The other was what I am doing now... to share it with others to prove a point about body image.

What you see is what my stomach looks like after having three children.  Stretched, flabby, and with a gazillion stretch marks.  I've spent crazy amounts of time and money trying to find ways to cover it up, mask it, cinch it in... suffocate it if at all possible.  Die, bitch, die.  It's always in my mind when I pick clothes out, go shopping, or most especially... think about swimsuit season.  I've cried over feeling like a grotesque monster with this goddamn stupid stomach.  It's ridiculous.

Why do I cringe so.fucking.much over something that is so benign, really?  In the grand scheme of life, some extra skin and scar tissue that is usually almost always hidden, is not really a big deal.  At all.  And yet it consumes me more than I would ever like to admit.  Or at least it has in the past.  

And let's be real.  It's not just the stomach.  It's the small (slightly stretched out) boobs.  Its the cellulite on my butt and thighs.  It's the horse teeth and ever-growing bags under my eyes.  It's everything that doesn't make me look like a svelte, gorgeous, PERFECT super model.  All those flaws and imperfections and things that make us human?  They all create this weird and disturbing form of self-hatred and loathing that defies all logic and rational thought, and makes us just act fucking stupid about how we look.

Quite frankly, I'm over it.  I'm tired of feeling this way about myself.  I'm REALLY tired of seeing other women... beautiful, gorgeous, perfectly imperfect women... feel this way about themselves.  It saddens me so much that this loathing starts so young too, in pre-teen girls.  I'm tortured by the thought of my own daughters hating themselves, and not having the self-confidence to not worry about trivial and vain things. Things that are not only unattainable, but not worth the grief.  Eating disorders, cutting, depression, drug/alcohol abuse, suicide... over a body part? What the fuck ever.  My girls aren't going down like that.  No way, no how. Not only that, but I also want to make sure my son grows up being able to appreciate the real beauty of the very real women in his life, and not hold women to media bullshit standards.  

But that has to start with me.  This needs to be a message they get from their mother.  This has to permeate all of what society tries to provide for them as to how they should look, act, and be like.  I have to be the example, and the model of what confident, beautiful, intelligent women really look like.  That there is nothing wrong with wanting to look pulled together, and everything wrong with obsessing over things that are out of our control.  That being strong and healthy are what matters most, not what shape our bodies are.  That their mom is proud as hell of her marathon PR time, and could give a shit about other measurements.  And that despite the flabby stomach and cellulite, I'm still freakishly strong (and awesome).  

This is easier said than done, of course.  Years, and years, and years of this body loathing are not something that gets erased overnight.  Magazine covers, pictures on Facebook, and for goodness sake those Victoria's Secret ads can all bring me back to the fetal position almost instantaneously.  What gives me confidence and helps me the most though is seeing other women... women that I admire... be so comfortable, and stunningly beautiful... in their own skin.  Women that embrace any flaws that they have, and don't apologize for them, don't mask them... don't even acknowledge them.  This is me... take it or leave it.

So, here I am.  Working on that.  Trying to love this body I was given, and not be childishly ungrateful for it.  It has gotten me through four marathons and numerous other tough races.  It has helped me fight off and survive an assault.  It keeps me healthy, and strong, and physically capable.  And those stretch marks that I have spent years cringing at and crying over?  They're my personal tattooed reminders that my body carried three children through pregnancy, and made me a mother.  Why I would look at them with scorn and loathing, I don't really know.  They're all I ever wanted, really. 

As I look at this picture, it helps me remember all of that.  It also reminds me that far more people struggle with body deformities and flaws that actually hinder their capabilities and/or cause them real pain.  Every.single.day.  I'm never, ever going to have a six-pack.  Or a smooth ass.  Or cleavage.  Yet I can think of millions of people who would give anything for a strong, well-nourished body, and three healthy children. If this picture inspires even just one person to stop fretting about stretch marks, cellulite bumps, cup sizes, and scale numbers and remember that beauty and confidence can be achieved by just being who you are (in my case a badass vegetarian, yoga-loving, tree-hugging, mother runner...obviously) ...then my work here is done.  


F@#k You, Facebook!

So, I'm going to preface this with the forewarning that I'm sort of grouchy this morning.  Like, really fucking grouchy.  Which is really just code for, I'm going to be cussing a whole, awful lot.  Even with my morning run out of the way, I'm in a major funk (have been for awhile), and it's sort of coming to a head today.  Since running this week hasn't helped me get through it, then I'm hoping writing will.  Fingers crossed.

It's no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I think everyone does.  On one hand, gee it sure is nice to keep up with people, and socialize, and have this fun medium for being able to offer support, and friendship in ways that we have never been able to before.  I truly do enjoy seeing what my friends are up to, especially those that live far away, and to be able to carry on conversations based on what they're latest status or pictures are.  I've watched my college bestie Erin, who's in Australia, go through this awesome journey of becoming vegetarian and losing lots of weight recently.  She posts beautiful pictures of hikes and races she's doing, and it truly makes my heart happy to be able to support her.  She just posted a picture a few weeks ago on her birthday, and she's always been gorgeous.  But she looked so happy, and glowing, and stunning... I nearly cried.  Just so, so, proud of her.  Or there's the former babysitter of ours that is now married and a mother herself (and please believe, that totally makes me feel OLD), who I get to watch and support as she goes through the growing pains of new motherhood.  Feels like watching one of my own kids, truly, and it's super fun to be there as someone she knows she can reach out to when she needs advice.  And it's that way with all the friends, and all the co-workers, and all the former high school classmates who post about their kids, or running, or life, or other accomplishments.  I like being able to be a part of that.  I like being able to applaud everyone on.  I think in this world of where humans can be crueler than cruel to each other sometimes, it's great that there is a place that hopefully people can feel supported, and even loved, in ways that they may never have gotten before.  

That all being said.  There is A LOT that I fucking hate about Facebook.  I mean HATE.  I'm so tired of the fakeness.  I'm so tired of people posting things not because they truly care, but because everything on Facebook is so visible.  And so if you post a comment, or to someone's wall, or post and tag a pic, everyone and their fucking dog that somehow revolves around your universe in some way is going to see it.  And so shit is being said, or posted, or commented or what-the-fuck-ever, not because its genuine in any way, shape, or form.  But because everyone else will see it.  Facebook for some people is not about friendship or sharing... it's about keeping up an image.  About putting out there an online 'self' that is no where near what your actual self is, but what you want people to think about you.  And FB makes that so, so, so super easy to do because we're all connected, almost all the time.  

I'm not saying that everyone who posts anything on Facebook isn't being genuine.  Far from it.  I'd like to think that most of what I post... on my own wall, or to other people... is because of actual caring.  But I feel pretty confident in saying that my friends don't need Facebook to know that I love them and care about them.  I can be thoughtful, and supportive, and available to my friends, without having to make sure the rest of the world sees it.  And vice versa.  FB definitely makes it more convenient to stay connected and reach out, no doubt. (Again because of the everyone being on, all of the time thing). But day in, and day out, there are things that I know not to be true in real life, that gets posted or said on FB that is clearly for the visibility factor, and I'm over it.  I'm fucking over the syrupy sweet posts and comments, after hearing people shit-talk each other in other venues, and behind each other's backs.  I'm fucking over the staged pictures, and the warm fuzzies, and the goddamn hearts everywhere.   Why?  Because my pictures, and my warm fuzzies, and my hearts are genuine.  I'm genuinely proud of my friends and kids.  I'm genuinely supportive of other people.  And I genuinely feel those warm fuzzy, rainbow, fucking hearts when people who are special to me are happy. And so the ones that are put out there just to make a big, goddamn show of things piss me off, because they bastardize and devalue my genuineness.  

This year has been a rough one for me.  It's made me really have to dig deep, and figure out what my priorities are, and what my true values are.  One of the biggest lessons I've pulled from this year is the value of honesty.  Of being real with people, and being genuine.  Of understanding and recognizing who my real friends are, and who the people in my life are that just want something from me because of their own selfish needs.  Who I can count on, and who I can't trust any further than I can throw them.  As I make this transition into a new year, it really is symbolic for me this year more than ever of creating a fresh start... a new beginning.  I only have one resolution this year.  It's not about money, or organizing, or fitness.  It's not about adding something, or giving anything up.  It's just about me.  About me being genuine and honest with myself, and with others.  About cutting out all the image bullshit, all of the worrying about what other people will think, and just being present.  About only spending time on the people and things that are worth it, and worrying less and less about the people and things who are not. And about letting the people I care about know that I care about them without needing to make a show of it.  

This  of course, means a lot of different things, but it definitely, definitely means pulling away from Facebook more and more.  I still want to see what everyone is up to.  I love the new baby pictures, and the race pictures, and the life-in-general pictures too much to completely give it up.  I love hearing about other people's kids, and accomplishments.  It truly does me good to see all those things.  But Facebook, unfortunately, like so many things that humans create, is fucked up.  It just is.  We humans are capable of some of the most beautiful things, and some of the most hideous.  Facebook is an example of all that glitters is not gold.  But even more, it is an example of human nature and how so many people are only capable of being thoughtful, caring, loving and 'selfless' when they have an audience to watch them do so.  And I've just decided I'm not interested in participating in the unhealthiness and toxicity of it anymore. 


The Truth Hurts

It's been awhile again since I've had any time... or mental clarity... to be able to write.  (Okay, let's be real... I have proven time and time again that I don't need mental clarity to attempt to write).  But I do find myself with some quiet time this morning.  My kids are with their dad, I've already knocked out a (very) brisk morning run.  I'll need to run a few errands and pay bills online at some point, but right now I am cuddled on the couch with my Chloe and coffee, and pretty much don't want to move.  So, I won't.

I've been thinking a lot about honesty in relationships lately.  And not only in my relationships with other people, but in my relationship with myself.  As I'm processing what 'went wrong' in my marriage, one of the big themes that keeps erupting time and time again was that I wasn't being honest with my husband, or myself, about my unhappiness and the source of my unhappiness.  And that was more toxic and more unhealthy than almost anything else that was going on.

And so as I've been thinking about it, of course, it comes down to the fact that sometimes the truth hurts.  Sometimes it's difficult, and it's messy, and it's ugly.  And so many times it's just easier, or at least seems easier, to mask the truth instead of meet it head on.  I end up not trusting my own gut about things, and I end up not addressing the truth with friends or loved ones because it's scary.  Sometimes really effin' might-end-your-marriage scary.

Part of the problem is that we as humans just aren't great about dealing with the truth.  When it does hurt, or is scary, or is ugly, we tend to put up our defenses that keep us from feeling the hurt, and do or say things to try to distract or block it.  We do this in our responses to others who confront us with the truth, and we do this to ourselves when confronted with the truth.  And so this ugly cycle begins of expecting others to act defensively about the truth, or acting defensively ourselves about it.  This just then is what  keeps things bottled up and unsaid, and in the end far more toxic than actually dealing with that truth.

This isn't rocket science, of course.  It's no secret that some of the most healthy and fulfilling relationships are those that embrace honesty.  That make it safe for the truth to be exposed without judgement or defensiveness.  That allow for open communication, and confrontation to happen in a productive manner.  I just am not sure how I have gotten so off track with trusting myself, and in turn being strong enough to trust others with the truth.  I think back about how I stayed in a four-year relationship with someone who constantly cheated on me, and never trusted myself enough to not put up with that.  Or how I refused to confront that issue with my boyfriend.  I'm not sure why I allowed eight years to go by in my marriage and failed to have any truly honest discussions because of fear of hurting my spouse.  Or how I never was even truly honest with myself about what was going on.  I think about all of the times that I was too scared to face the truth, and how what it really meant was that I didn't have enough respect and confidence in myself to not accept anything less than the absolute truth.

As I'm healing now, and working through the whole gut-wrenching, raw, and painful process of divorce, one of the things that I'm working on is trust.  With myself, and with others.  Easier said than done.  But as I experience friendships with people that allow me to assert myself and talk about the truth, no matter how difficult, then I make progress more than any kind of therapy could do.  And I'm so thankful that I have those people in my life that want to see me healthy and happy, and are patient enough to go through this process with me.  In the midst of all the hurt, and heartache, and ickiness, I'm feeling incredibly blessed and content with the best friendships that a girl could ask for.  And that's the truth.


One Tough Bitch

Wow.  It's almost surreal to be posting again.  It's been a long time!  But today has been the first day in a long time that I have felt like posting.  Yoga has that affect on me. Feels good.

Most of my friends and readers are fully aware at this point that a big reason why I have not posted in so long is because I am currently going through a divorce right now.  And boy does it suck.  Definitely, hands down, the hardest thing I have faced in my life thus far.  But you know, divorce is the process of ending more than a relationship. So much more. And no shit that ain't easy.

It came to my attention this week that there is actually public chatterings of women who are almost effin' giddy about the fact that I'm going through a divorce.  Something like, 'oh how the mighty have fallen,' or 'watching Little Miss Perfect self-destruct'.  I know... WTF, right?!? Who DOES that? Who publicly delights in another person's misfortune?  How pathetic and miserable does your own life have to be?  But you know me... I'm such an effin' bleeding heart that instead of staying angry about it, I just can't help but feel sorry for them.  So terribly sorry for them. 

For the record though, I have never labeled myself as perfect.  Never labeled my life as perfect, and sure-as-hell never labeled my marriage as perfect.  I have many, many, MANY times shared what my shortcomings are as a wife, mother, friend and human being.  If YOU have decided to put the label of 'perfect' on me, then that is frankly your own issue.  I can't take responsibility for other people's insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. I just can't.  And I will not apologize for not airing every f#@ked up thing that happens in my life on Facebook or this blog.  That does not make me a phony.  It means that I personally choose to share those things with my close friends and confidantes, and not the whole.effin'.world.  Can you really blame a girl? I'm not batshit crazy, and really don't want that to be people's image of me.  Fair, right?

I also would like to point out that I have never, ever, EVER called someone a trainwreck for going through a divorce.  EVER.  If I have ever called you a trainwreck, I can guarantee that it was a) to your face.  Because that's just how I roll, and b) because you are in fact a trainwreck and I am just calling it like I see it. Just sayin'...

But yeah, I'm going through a divorce.  And I won't lie, the pain and the sadness is so crippling that I am absolutely paralyzed by it sometimes.  There have been many, many, many times in the past few months that I have found myself unable to breathe.  I've cried an effin' river, and then some.  Sometimes it feels so absolutely crushing, that it makes me think, 'This is absolutely what drowning must feel like.'  I have dealt with insomnia, and nausea, and have lost a shit-ton of weight that I couldn't afford to lose in the first place. I mean, there's no shooting rainbows or sunshine up your asses on this one.  This is the bottom.  Rock bottom.  The anxiety and the sadness and the pain is so effin' overwhelming.

But you know what?  Despite all of that, I know I'm going to be okay.  WE'RE going to be okay.  Because regardless of how tough this is, it (unfortunately) was the best decision that I could make for myself, and for my husband, and for my kids.  I'm not going to get into the details, out of respect for Mike and the kids.  There are no hard feelings, though.  I have nothing but respect for my husband, and I am fully confident that we are good enough friends, and love our children so, so, so incredibly much, that we will survive this as we have survived everything else... as a family.  Because no matter what... no matter what we file in court in the next few months or what our living arrangements are now...we are still a family.  And we always will be.  That fact alone gets me through most days.

And I also hate to break it to the poor miserable souls of the world, but I am not self-destructing.  Not at all.  I'm struggling, sure.  Some days are better than others.  But I'm okay, and will continue to be okay.  I'm still running as much as I can, and have started scheduling in lots of yoga. I have got the most amazing family and group of friends that any girl could ever ask for.  I have been BLOWN AWAY by the comments, posts, messages, emails, texts and phone calls that I've gotten.  I mean, you all have made me cry, and cry, and cry again.  These are tears of joy, and happiness, and just plain gratitude, though.  And it means so much to me to know that for every sad little person who wants to hate me and say spiteful things for no other reason than their own lack of self-worth, there are literally more than a hundred of you who I have touched or inspired in some way.  This girl's cup runneth over again and again.

So yes, life is difficult right now.  But I'm beginning to learn that sometimes in order to get the best out of life, you have to go through the worst.  And I will still stay positive, and I will still embrace the good in life.  I will still do those f@$kin' cartwheels, in my f@$kin' nightgown, in the f@#kin' driveway.  Because I am strong.  And I have people around me who make me stronger.  And when this is all said and done, I will get that full-sleeve tattoo that I've been planning forever.  Anyone know the sanskrit for 'one tough bitch'?


Spring Cleaning

"Live simply so that others may simply live"

I have this phrase hanging in my kitchen. I placed it there to serve as a reminder for practicing a life that I value living. A life that isn't centered around consumerism and waste...a life that prioritizes quality over quantity... a life that keeps me centered, and happy, and in balance with the Universe. (Oay, that maybe sounds a little new-agey, but you know I don't give a shit). The point is, that it is definitely a major value for me to live a life, and teach a life to my children, that is simple. Not only because it is good karma, either. But because I truly feel its not only the right thing to do, but also ensures that both me and my family benefit from a healthier, less stressful life because of it. It ensures that we're not wasteful, that we're taking care of our environment, that we're giving back to those who are less fortunate, and that we're taking good care of ourselves as well.

Now, for anyone that isn't living under a rock, you also know that all of this is so much easier said than done. We're surrounded by so much fast-paced, convenience -driven, waste-laden consumerism, that its hard to even breathe. We convince ourselves that we need things, that no one actually needs, and spend money and acquire stuff at such a warp speed rate, it almost makes me dizzy when I think about it. And as a full-time working mother myself, I am in no way immune to the seductive nature of buying, and acquiring, and wasting. Most of it is a time issue. I buy things, or throw stuff out, or get lazy about environmental-friendliness because it's just easier to do so. And so as I write this, despite truly wanting to live a simpler, less stressful life, I am sitting in a home that is packed full of stuff and 90% of it is not necessary or even being used. Makes me totally sick to my stomach.

So I've decided, in the name of getting back to simple, of really living what I value, and of being a better global citizen, that the next three days of my Spring Break will be about simplifying once again. I'm totally going to be a woman on a mission. I have a bathroom cabinet of half-used shampoo bottles, and beauty products that need to be consolidated and recycled. I have a basement full of books, baby clothes, and old cassette tapes that need to find their way to the public library or Goodwill. I have cabinets that need to be cleared, closets that need to be sorted through, and whole rooms that need to be purged and organized. Nothing will be sacred... if its not currently serving a function (or won't in at least 6 months time), then its going. I mean, it really is beyond ridiculous how much stuff in here is doing nothing for us right now except sit. And once I've purged, and given away, and thrown out, then I will be setting up systems for making things like recycling, using cloth, eating cleaner (and more vegan), and cleaning healthier a lot easier. They are things that are important to me, and things that I need to prioritize. It's so easy to let life take over, and to get sucked in, but when something is important to you then you can't take just keep telling yourself that you'll eventually focus time on it.

I'm not going to pretend that this exercise in cleaning, purging, organizing and simplying isn't just about a need to act on something I value though. I have no doubt that this process will be very therapeutic for me in many ways too. My dearest friends know that there are personal issues that I am very much struggling with right now, and this little exercise is very metaphoric in a lot of ways too. For the past six years of my life, I have put a significant amount of time into growing children and creating a home for my family. I have no regrets about the time I've spent, and I'm incredibly thankful and blessed to have the little family that I have. But I think that I became so involved in being a wife and a mother for so long, that somehow my own sense of self got buried underneath. Even with my conviction in the beginning to say that would never happen, it still happened. Over the course of the last year, I've slowly begun to push out of the pile... an arm, and then a leg, breaking free. There is still stuff that needs to be moved, though. Both literally and figuratively. Boxes of baby clothes, children's toys, maternity jeans... books, and binkies, and breast pump accessories. And while this process is necessary, it's also a little painful. Because I'm learning that the person that I'm unearthing, that got buried underneath everything, is not the same person that she was when the piling started. I'm not really sure yet who this person is, and I'm not quite sure her arrival really means. It's all incredibly confusing, and well... a little scary.

In the end though I have to believe that this 'Spring Cleaning' is absolutely necessary... not only for my own well-being, but also the future well-being and happiness of my family. I know that it may be messy, and overwhelming, and exhausting at times, but in the end, its far too crucial to continue to let go for even another day. Time to put on my big girl panties, and get to work...


Thank You For Being A Friend

It's Sunday morning, and I'm up early before the natives have awoken. Typically, I would be running, but with my husband out of town, I instead find myself drinking my coffee, enjoying the quiet, and becoming lost in my thoughts. And once again, I thought that it might help me process these thoughts by writing...

I've been thinking a lot about friendships lately. I've written before, and have had many conversations with other woman, about the difficulty of forming real and lasting friendships with other females. I of course wrote that whole essay years ago about feminist theory, and panopticon prisons, and the mommy 'wars' that kind of outlined my thoughts on it, but the bottom line is that patriarchy has not only made many men in society mysoginists, it has also created us to be mysoginistic ourselves. We tend to overvalue qualities that we as a culture have labeled as 'masculine,' (aggressiveness, stoicism, competetivness) and undervalue those qualities that we've labeled 'feminine' (compassion, nurturing, patience). And so not only does it feel like we're all competing to be accepted by men, and by society, as something more than just 'a girl,' but we're also all competing with each other for those 'spots.' (As if they're is only a limited amount).

A lot of this of course then involves low self-esteem, insecurity and jealousy... something that our culture seems to cultivate all too well in women and girls. Most of the standards that are set, by media sources (TV, magazines, advertising) and by ourselves, are completely unattainable and unrealistic. And yet, so many of us continue to strive for those standards, thinking we're going to impress others by getting there. But as I've seen in myself, and in others, this ends up ultimately just breeding anxiety, and self-doubt, and worst of all... contempt in other women. This contempt brews its ugly head in a variety of ways, not the least of which is in passive-aggressive forms through female friendships.

I think we've all probably been there. No woman has gone her entire life without having at least one 'frenemy,' if not more, in their past. These are the friends that generally do a better job of putting you down, rather than building you up. They secretly like to watch you fail. They become competitive with you, over small and ridiculous things. You find them constantly trying to 'one-up' you, or passive-aggressively pay you a compliment, that is really a put-down. For whatever reason, they are jealous and insecure, and have made you the target of their own self-loathing. It's difficult to hold a conversation with them, without it become all.about.them. They don't celebrate victories or accomplishments with you, but instead try to either belittle by using sarcasm or, again, compete by making it about themselves. Friendships for them are solely about feeding their own ego, and nothing else. There is a lot of taking, and little to no giving.

When I was younger, I think these friendships were more predominant because of our age. We were teenagers, and so it was kind of a hallmark to be selfish, and manipulative, and insecure. I mean I'm not saying that its okay, and I certainly hope that my own daughters become confident enough teenagers that this isn't just a given, but... I think some of it is to be expected in high school. There is still some emotional immaturity there that has to work itself out. (This is not to say that I didn't have some really great friendships in high school; friendships that were so good that they've followed me into adulthood, and that I value immensely). As I got into college and early adulthood, female friendships got better, but I was surprised how much the 'frenemies' continued to remain. Cultivating very real and genuine friendships with other women was a lot harder than I had imagined it could be. There so many times seemed to be that underlying element of insecurity and jealousy that didn't allow for any true emotional connection.

As a mother, it became less difficult to meet other women for friendships, and more difficult to maintain them. It seemed that the insecurity and jealousy didn't begin to falter over time, but was only heightened by this new role of becoming a mother. Again, I can (and have!) written an entire essay on the 'mommy wars.' (There have been entire books, and television shows, and magazine articles devoted to the mommy wars!). My general feel for it is that motherhood, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is THE most important job we will ever have. And I don't think anyone can argue that the pressures and expectations put on us by our culture as mothers are insurmountable. There is a reason the 'supermom' complex exists. Our 'performance' as such, then becomes pretty valuable to us. Not only because of these expectations, but also because we're held responsible for the outcomes! It only makes sense then that if I can point to other women who I don't believe are parenting well, then it will make me feel better as a parent to point that out and degrade them for it (either internally or externally). Same premise as before, just amplified. And so, in motherhood, the 'frenemies' seemed to abound.

As I got older, I got more adept at picking out the 'frenemies' early on, and weeding them out right away. I was lucky enough to find many women who weren't going to be catty, and malicious, and competitive, and found a wonderful nurturing little community with them. I made the mistake unfortunately then of trying to befriend someone who was clearly a 'frenemy' in every way shape and form. I guess I saw a small window that I could potentially help influence this person, and have her see what it was like to be in a supportive and empowering friendship. This was of course, not only incredibly presumptious of me, but also incredibly naive. I totally should've known better. I was never going to be able to give more than this person could take, and I was taking a beating in the process. Some people can hold toxic people like that in their lives, and not be affected. I am not one of those people. I don't like the energy. I am a social worker that deals with dysfunction and personality disorders all day long. On some level though, I felt I should be able to maintain a friendship that involved me not expecting anything from the other person. But it's draining, and unhealthy. And in the end, I couldn't forego my own mental health to try to be 'friends' with someone who just couldn't overcome being jealous and insecure about me. I made a decision when I was dating that a relationship wasn't worth it if I was continually feeling I needed to change the other person to make it work. I need to heed that wisdom in my friendships as well.

As I've mentioned, since I've began running again, my community of friendships has grown and I have been pleasantly surprised and incredibly thankful for all the women currently in my life who are genuinely invested in my happiness, and who are happy to share in my victories, and support me during my failures. But most important, they are also willing to kick me in the ass when I need it, and tell me when they think I'm wrong. Not all of these friendships are created equal, and I won't even begin to pretend they are. Of course I'm closer to some of these friends than I am others, and I get different needs met by each one. There are about 2-3 women in my life who I share everything with, but I truly value all of the other friendships that I have, all for different reasons. It's not about padding egos, or implicit support, nor is it about bringing each other down or being competitive. It's that great middle area of being supportive when needed, but also pushing and challenging each other to grow. In other words, its how I would define genuine friendship.


King of Anything

Before I even begin, I just have to say that I'm completely blown away by the response I got from my last post. A post I wrote primarily out of my need to process some of my own thoughts and responses to some 'drama' that had occurred in my life over the last week. A post that in many respects was a little rambly, and unorganized, and well... no different than some of my other posts. But apparently I struck a chord with a number of people. I enjoyed and appreciated all the feedback, from the 'likes' and comments on the Facebook link I posted, to those of you who sought me out in person/by phone to talk to me about it, to those of you who messaged or emailed me. I not only appreciated the support and validation, but I also am very thankful for everyone who shared something personal or painful or even humorous from their own life experience. Incredibly humbling, all of it. Thank you.

I will be starting a new venture this spring by being an assistant coach for Girls on the Run here in Sedgwick County. We had our training yesterday, and on the way to it I was listening to one of my favorite songs, Sara Bareilles' "King of Anything." Such a great song. And within this song, there is a small refrain that I've always liked, but really struck me as I was driving:

All my life I've tried/To make everybody happy while I hurt and hide/Waiting for someone to tell me its my turn/To decide

For as long as I can remember, I've been a people-pleaser. I've always had it in my head that other people, and their needs and feelings, are more important than my own. It seems like I've always felt the message, ever since I was a little girl, that putting my own needs and wants above everyone else's made me selfish, and uncaring. That I needed to smile, and be happy, because people didn't want to be around a girl that was unhappy. And that I should be happy making other people happy; that it was something that should be inherent in me as a girl, and if I wasn't then there was something wrong with me. And so for many, many, many years I carried that people-pleasing, and that low self-esteem, and that general view that how I felt... about anything... didn't really matter. I lived in this horrible existence of hating my body, hating myself, and being afraid to do anything. I curled up in the fetal position, blamed everything but my own attitude for holding me back, and plugged along. Feeling miserable, and alone, and pathetic.

I posted on my Facebook at the beginning of this year that this last year of my life, for the first time ever, I had really started to appreciate myself more. This last year has been an incredible journey for me. I started having some realizations, or epiphanies, or whatever it is that you want to call them. I stopped looking to other people, or material things, to try to make myself happy. I finally went for something that really scared me, and ended up realizing that 'where the magic happens' is always going to be outside my 'comfort zone.' As I listened to the song, and then sat through the GOTR training (which is a program all about building up the confidence and self-esteem of young girls), I thought about what changed for me this last year. Here's what I came up with:

1. Confidence is sexy. I think too many times women get the message that they are being full of themselves, or bragging, when they are proud of themselves or their accomplishments. Somehow, guys don't seem to have this problem. I don't know how many times I have done it, or have heard female friends do it. "I don't want to brag, but..." The people that care about you want to celebrate your accomplishments with you. The people that are going to get jealous about them, or try to bring you down, are probably people you don't need in your life. As long as you're not in everyone's face 24/7, or act like you're better than everyone else, then it's totally okay (and good for your soul), to go public with your pride.

2. Learn to take a compliment. This goes hand in hand with the first one. I used to be horrible about compliments. Someone would try to say something nice about me, and I would instantly downplay it, or focus on the negative, or joke around. For whatever reason, I couldn't accept a compliment at face value, or worried that I would appear too self-indulgent by agreeing to a favorable remark. Total bullshit. Don't do it anymore. And once you get really good at genuinely accepting compliments from other people, you'll also get a lot more adept at genuinely handing them out as well.

3. Being a martyr is unattractive. And dumb. I had played this game for way too long as a mother, and try to keep from falling into the trap anymore. I knew I wasn't taking any time for myself, and was bending over backwards for everyone else, but instead of saying or doing anything about it, I silently pouted and held a pity part for myself. Poor me. I work so hard, and no one appreciates me. But guess what I learned? My husband didn't know I was feeling taken advantage of, when I wouldn't say anything about it. My kids obviously weren't going to be able to do anything to help me. Resentment is terribly toxic in relationships, and I have begun to refuse to let it build up in mine. If I needed a break, or some 'me' time, or a life outside of my family, then I was going to have to be the one to create it. This doesn't make you selfish. And no one is going to die for the hour you want to go for a run, or meet a friend for dinner, or take a bubble bath. Start demanding that you get time to take care of yourself, and don't ever apologize for it.

4. It's okay to cuss like a sailor. Young girls and women definitely get certain messages about 'acting like a lady' and what 'nice girls' are supposed to do. Clearly, I've worked through this. It's important to me to be a good person: compassionate, nurturing, positive, and helpful. But just because I want to be good person, doesn't necessarily mean that I have to give up some of my own personality for it. I'm no Mother Teresa. For me, this means that I can still be snarky and sarcastic with the best of them. I cuss sometimes. (Okay, a lot). I have an inner-16 year old that likes to show up. But as long as my behavior isn't hurtful to others, or toxic for myself, then its totally possible to be a good wife, great mother, awesome friend, caring social worker... and still be irreverent and crazy sometimes.

5. Don't be your own worst enemy. As I mentioned above, it became very clear to me that the only one that was really holding me back, keeping me down, or telling me I couldn't do something, was myself. A lot of this negative self-talk and inner doubt came from a lot of the messages I got about what it means to be a girl, or a wife, or a mother... but in the end, it was up to me to decide how I was going to let others make me feel. I had spent so much time beating up on, torturing, criticizing, and insulting myself, and it made me really sad to think about passing that on to my kids (especially my daughters). Once I finally decided that I wasn't going to listen to my own inner demons any more, it became easy to love life, be happy, and let things go.

In the end, as I've always said, I'm a work in progress. I don't have everything figured out, and I don't do everything right all the time. I stumble along the way (lots). There are days when the anxiety and the negativity get the best of me. And that's okay. But the important part is that I keep moving forward, and keep trying to make progress... no matter the setback. I owe a lot to my husband in helping me through a lot of the ickiness, as well as my friends. When you're surrounded by people who love you, who challenge you to grow, and who want nothing but the best for you, then those voices don't have as much of a chance. I'm so grateful for the family I have, the friends I have, and the life that I have. I won't apologize for it, I won't go back, and I keep my distance from people who feel the need to bring others down. I'm really looking forward to spending these next few weeks with a group of 15 girls, ages 7-10 years old, in hopes of being a great coach, a new friend, and more than anything else... an excellent role model.


Keepin' It Real

I've been thinking a lot these last few days about people, and Facebook, and blogging, and about how we represent ourselves and our lives online. I've recently been accused myself of not being 'real' on my Facebook page or with my blog posts, and that apparently I'm either fabricating what I post, or misrepresenting myself because its mostly positive, and happy, and joyful. The assertion is that this all must be 'bullshit' because nobody's life could possibly be that happy, and positive, and joyful all.of.the.time. And my answer to that I guess is: well, DUH.

I know that with all of this online access, and Facebook, and Twitter, and blogs, and such, that a people can literally post whatever it is that they want, whenever they want, about whatever they want to, at any given time. If you wanted to write your entire life story, or share every random thought that went through your head, or air every little detail of your dirty laundry, you could totally do that. But most of us don't. Well, if we're not crazy we don't. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle between not sharing anything at all, and sharing just about everything we can. And so it's really user discretion then as to how much we choose to share, and how much we don't. Not rocket science really, but it seems that there seems to be some confusion about this process. Since I can choose to share whatever I want to online, and I'm probably not going to share everything, then it is inevitable that many of us have things that that we also choose not to share.

I'm generally a very happy, positive person, and so it just makes sense that most of my posts are happy, and positive, and hopefully a little inspirational. Those are things that I like to post about, those are things that I enjoy posting about, and those are things that I get really positive feedback posting about. It makes me happy to be a positive person, and sharing that positive energy is what I like to do. Period. This is not to say that really crappy, non-positive things don't occur in my life. They do, and they do a lot. I guess I've always lived under the assumption that this is just an understood. For everyone. I don't know anyone that doesn't have life happen from time to time. I have three kids, I work a fairly stressful full-time job, I have relationship ups and downs that occur with any marriage. I mean, I have a life and that certainly includes bad days, tears, stress, heartbreak, angst, anger, and just plain icky stuff. But just because I choose not to always share that stuff with the world online, doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, and it certainly doesn't mean that I'm trying to fool people into thinking it doesn't happen. It just means that I am choosing not to always share it. That's it.

Generally when I'm having a bad day, or I'm stressed out, or I'm angry, then Facebook or my blog are not coping mechanisms for me. I talk to my husband or my girlfriends, go for a run, drink a glass of wine, or head to the yoga studio. I have other ways that I deal with the real life that happens to me all the time. I don't live my entire life online. That is not to say that I haven't, and don't sometimes use writing as a way to process things, and I certainly feel like I have shared a great deal of 'real' issues from time to time. I've written on both Facebook and this blog a number of times about having a bad day, or feeling inadequate as a parent, or dealing with my depression and anxiety. I've shared these when I've needed to, and when I've felt comfortable with it. There is also plenty that I haven't shared though, but it certainly doesn't mean that it didn't ever happen. I've contemplated suicide in my life several times pre-marriage and kids, and used to drink massive amounts of alcohol to self-medicate. My biological father is a crazy drunk who just several years ago crashed his semi into another truck, and burned over 75% of his body. (The man that I call my dad, not only because he adopted me, but because he's the person that has truly been my father most of my life, is not my 'biological' father). And there are still other tragic and sad things that I will never share online, and will be kept safe within myself and my family, and a few of my dearest, closest friends.

And I don't say all of this to garner sympathy. Everything that I have now shared are also things that I've worked through, and continue to heal from. And this is also not to say that there is anything wrong with people who do regularly share really hard life experiences, and emotions online. Heather Armstrong over at Dooce.com is a-ma-zing at this, and she has this perfect blend of grittiness, and humor, and self-deprecation. That's something she is good at, and people respond well to her, and get a lot from her blog in those ways. She's got a talent for it. But that is not me, or who I am, or what I'm comfortable with sharing. I like keeping it upbeat, and positive. Not only because I don't always feel the need to share the bad stuff, but because I'm just not prone to negativity in general. I don't get bent out of shape about piddly shit, and I don't normally have a lot I feel I can complain about. My life certainly isn't perfect, or all rainbows and sunshines, but I do try to embrace that there are a lot of great things about it.

But now, I've decided, in the name of continuing to keep it 'real' today (as well as to help myself process, I won't lie), that I also have a confession to make. I was kind of an asshole these last few days. I stepped completely out of character, and did and said some things that I not only typically wouldn't do or say, but I also am a tiny bit ashamed about. But first the back story:

Have you ever known someone who was, well... for lack of a better term, a bully? You know, the kind of person that was kind of loud and obnoxious with their opinions, and took great pride in the fact that they had the ability to really piss other people off. The kind of person who doesn't fight fair when you disagree with them, but will instead start striking below the belt, hurling viscious insults, and coming back with completely irrational arguments. You know, like an Ann Coulter type?

Well, I'm not going to go into terrible detail about it, because I honestly feel that completely re-hashing it here would just be petty. But the bottom line is that I've seen this person chew people up and spit them out for many years now, and it always upset me a little that she always got to beat people down and not fight fair when they disagreed with her, but if you ever gave her a taste of her own medicine, she'd quickly throw in a few jabs, grab her ball and want to go home. End of discussion. And something happened a few days ago where she did this exact same move again, talking all kinds of shit about me (see first paragraph above, actually), but not saying a word of it to me directly. And friends, I don't even know how to describe it, but something in me snapped. I had just hit my boiling point of dealing with some of the hypocrisy and childishness. And so I went after her, and I went after her HARD.

It wasn't pretty, and I'm not proud of myself at all. She was getting super angry, flailing to make an argument, and just couldn't stop from responding to me each.and.every.time I provoked her. And so I just kept going. I couldn't keep myself from continuing to taunt her. But the ugliest part of it all is that there for awhile, albeit a short while, I was really enjoying myself. Like, totally taking delight in making her squirm. And even though I finally began to feel bad, and the glee didn't last long, it was definitely there. After the fact, I didn't like seeing that in myself. At all.

So in the end, its clear to me that I could never be a ruthless bitch. I just don't have it in me, and I'm more than okay with that. Some people would call this a weakness, but I think its a strength. We as a society seem to overvalue aggressiveness and stoicism, and undervalue compassion and nurturing. And I could write an entire dissertation about that, but will save it for another blog post. I regret the way I behaved, but sincerely don't regret the experience. I truly did need to cut this toxic person from my life, but my aggressiveness toward her was really was all about me, and my need to obviously expel some demons. Lesson learned, demons expelled. I did what I needed to do, apologized, and am moving on. It really does feel good to detox sometimes, I just don't recommend doing it in the same way. And now I'm going to need to be working to replenish some good karma, stat!

At my core, I'm a nurturer. I'm happy, and I like helping make other people happy. I'm a classic bleeding heart social worker, for goodness sakes. I'm a positive person, and I like to just effin' radiate positive energy. I am not good at being viscious, or judgmental, or condescending. I'm just not. I want to build people up, and not tear them down. And I don't think I've ever tried to insinuate that I'm perfect; clearly I'm not! But I've lived in negativity, and depression, and self-loathing for quite some time, and it did nothing for me. That's truly not my reality anymore, and I'm thankful everyday for that. I posted the quote below on my Facebook wall a few days ago, and I like it so much I'm going to post it here again. It truly doesn't feel any more 'real' to me than this anymore:

"I do cartwheels, okay? In my driveway. Sometimes in my nightgown. And I will never stop trying to live life this way."

Plus, the Whole Foods Parking lot video. Because this is TOTALLY how I roll...

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