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Posts Tagged ‘women’

So, I have to ask, “what’s so wrong with a puffy face?”

If you haven’t had a chance to read the article by Ashley Judd, go ahead and read it now… I’ll wait.
I realize that the nature of the article that Ashley Judd wrote was in defense of the accusations against her regarding plastic surgery. Her thoughts are absolutely on point. The conversation about the way women look is perpetuated by us… women. And why is that? Why have we grown accustomed to being mean to each other, to pointing out the physical flaws in each other with vigor.

We accuse a beautiful woman of being too beautiful and so we don’t like her.
We accuse someone who wears her age on her face of needing to do something about it and so we don’t like her.
If you’re confident in your physical appearance, you’re vain.
If you’re humble in your physical appearance, you’re weak.
And who’s speaking the loudest… our “friends”, our friends are often the worst.

So what if Ashley Judd had plastic surgery? So… what.
She didn’t, however, she had taken steroids for an illness. As my, more than beautiful friend Kelly Bergin points out in her recent article in The Daily Beast… steroids can be a bitch. You never know what someone else is facing.

Plastic surgery, an illness, a life lived hard… so why propagate this maddening conversation revolving around women and their looks. We are affecting the younger versions of ourselves, the girls who are watching it all from the metaphorical sidelines with a nervous anxiety, hoping that this is not what it’s like to be a woman in our world. After all, they are already experiencing this in middle school… at what age do we all just shut up about it?

Why the rush to judge, to critique, to criticize? This misogynistic behavior isn’t just being bolstered by men — we are doing it to each other.

Here’s the thing… Ashley Judd is beautiful, but even more stunning than her physical appearance, as she showed in this conversation she’s leading us in, she is damn intelligent.
Would it have been so bad if she had plastic surgery? Would she have automatically become a fraud? Would it have made us, the rest of us, feel good about ourselves for a brief nanosecond?
What if Ashley Judd would have said, “yes, I’m puffy, I’ve gained weight, I’m 43, let me see your cellulite!” Would that have been the end of the world? Do we need an excuse to explain our outward appearance?

Here’s a truth. I’ve had three c-sections, three. Do you have any idea what having three c-sections does to a woman’s body? There are areas on my abdomen that will never be flat or taut or look anywhere close to a washboard. Quite frankly, I’m waiting anxiously for that day to come when my bladder completely fails me and I can have it tacked back up… because, when they’re in there, I am having them tuck in my tummy and take as much away as medically possible. And I don’t really care who knows, it’s what I want to do… it’s my body.

My body that wakes me up every morning.
My body that goes from plank to chaturanga about 99 times a day.
My body that sends a mesmerizing feeling all the way to my toes when my lips press against another’s.
My body that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when it knows danger is approaching.
My body that gave life to three humans.
My body that bounced back after a miscarriage.
My body that keeps my feet moving forward on all the switchbacks in my favorite hike.
My body that cartwheeled a car off a mountain and walked away.
My body that swims in the ocean.
My body that makes my heart beat quicken when I look in his eyes.
My body that finally allows me to fall asleep.
My body that wraps my arms around someone in a tight hug.
My body that runs that extra mile.
My body that loves me and never gives up on me.

So, is my puffy face unforgivable if it’s because I’ve gained some weight? Do you feel like an ass when you find out my puffy face is because I’m very ill? Will you laugh behind my back because I decided to have plastic surgery on my puffy face? Does my puffy face make you feel better about your puffy face or your puffy stomach or your puffy bum?

I’m not Mother Theresa on this issue, I’ve laughed and snickered and questioned other women’s appearances. But, here’s what I know, I’m tired of being in competition with the rest of the world in regards to my physical appearance, that only puts me in competition with my own body… my body and I are a team, we shouldn’t be competing against one another. The more I get to know my body, the more I realize all the things it does for me everyday. The more I learn to listen to it and trust it… the better care I take of it. I hope, as I’m older now and wiser, that I continue to learn just how magnificent my body is… it does so much for me everyday.
Like right now… my body is desperately wanting me to stop writing this blog post, get off my puffy ass, and go for a jog — so, I will.

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I want to hike the Appalachian Trail and sleep outside for weeks… alone.

I want to join the Peace Corps and end up in some far off land for a couple of years… alone.

I want to camp underneath the redwoods in California and not take a bath and not wash my hair and walk around in dirty clothes and eat cold beans out of a can… alone.

I want to sit on a blanket in the middle of nowhere until a light bulb of recognition turns on in my head and I jump to my feet and howl with the wolves and right then, in that moment, I know… it becomes clear.

I want to do all those things so I can discover who I should be, what I believe, who I can be… who I am.

But I can’t.

I can’t because I have kids and a career and a mortgage and a car payment and I have people who would think I was crazy. But, I’m not — I’m just 43 and finding myself.

So… what are my options?

How do we, as mothers and business leaders and teachers and people with our sanity, ensure that we keep our sanity in the quest to sort it all out?

A weekend excursion without the kids?

A five-mile run everyday while you listen to your favorite audio book?

A blog?

The options for those of us who have passed the point of doing all of our soul-searching before we “settle down and have kids” aren’t as limited as they seem.  We just have to be more creative with our time, more willing to parcel out our existential outings into shortened day trips or weekends away — or even a few hours locked away in our room to sweat it out with yoga.

To be stuck in a reality where you believe you are out of options is the most important battle you need to fight — stop believing, “this is it”.

A gray hair pops up and we panic, the pair of shorts that seemed loose last summer seems a bit snug now — I drive a Kia instead of a Land Rover. One glass of wine works like sodium pentathol. The waiter calls me ma’am. I can barely stay awake for the 10 o’clock news. Life has happened. But, I’m searching.

Searching for the me that I know I am. The me that tries to hide behind all the bullshit of life. The me that we all are, the business leaders and teachers and bus drivers and hair stylists and doctors and lawyers — the mothers. My searching is constant… my trying to be a better person is constant… my looking at myself is constant. Those times when I need to find myself somewhere at the edge of the ocean in California take a bit more planning these days — but, they still take place.

I can go on life-altering soul-searching journeys and still have my kids to school on Monday morning… as long as I set my alarm. I can sleep in the middle of the woods eating nothing but granola under the stars at night… I just have to stop at the vegan deli on my way out of town.

Possibly, my soul-searching might need to take place in Vegas… a different kind of wild lives there.

I can even post pictures on Facebook to prove it’s possible to find yourself… one weekend at a time. I can tweet my run-ins with wolves and coyotes and snakes and poison ivy. I can blog about all the possibilities and where I know they will take me — take us all who are still searching, still unraveling the mystery.

My life is just beginning to unfold. My self-actualizing-soul-searching is at its height. I am poised and ready to live among the creatures of the night… for a weekend at least.

My life is just beginning… this is going to be fun.

I’m 43 and finding myself.

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I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for about a year now… a year because I didn’t think I could put my thoughts to paper clear enough to be read and understood. Then I decided, yes… I could. An indication of what a difference a year can make in the evolution of a person.

I recently read a post over at Zebra Sounds and the author made the comment that we are “complicated beings”. I thought to myself, “Right?, Please explain it to me.” I think you really have no idea how complicated we are as humans unless you take the time to try to figure yourself out — to understand your own evolution, as women, as mothers, as daughters, as friends — the friendship of a woman is like no other. I’ve been making a conscious effort to figure a few things out this year. I think to say the last three years of my life have been stressful would be the understatement of the century. I knew where I was emotionally was not where I wanted or needed to be, but, I was stuck… unable to move forward. Stuck is scary.

I had a friend who mentioned therapy, she thought, maybe, I should try it (I was, admittedly, holding her captive in the rabbit hole with me) — I scoffed… not me, never. This friend said she thought I was one of the bravest people she knew and asking for help would just be one more example of my bravery. I didn’t really believe her, I should have. But I was stuck.

My world crashed.

I was not only stuck but lost.

I needed help.

There were a few days last September that completely rattled me, tossed me around like a kite in a tsunami. I was thrashing about, confused, disoriented, struggling to stay afloat when I could feel the tug of the under current dragging me down — but you would never have known, you would never have suspected.

I am a woman.

I am a mother.

I am skilled at the fine art of outward appearances.

When I say there are things I don’t really remember, it rattles me even more. But, thanks to google, I discovered that memory loss or memory confusion is a by-product of stress and anxiety — not an excuse for ill-behavior, just an explanation for a rational being having irrational behavior.

I think to try to describe depression would be too difficult, there aren’t enough words to paint a picture of the truly eery poetic thoughts and feelings that swirl around — it all makes sense, it’s so clear — the storms are beautiful. Then, the sun comes up and you see the illogical process of your thoughts and this continues… over and over, it continues. All the pieces fall into place and then they clang to the floor in a discombobulated mess of utter confusion… then, once again — clear.

All the while, you go to work and you drive the carpool and you pack lunches and you cook dinner and you have lunch with friends and you clean your house and you do the laundry because we are women, we are mothers, we are skilled at the fine art of outward appearances. This “thing” that had me in its grasp could not leave a smudge on my bubble.

I contacted a therapist… eeny meeny miny moe — that one will do, after all… I only wanted to pretend to seek assistance. I still didn’t think I needed help, I thought that if I went to therapy then I could steady myself enough to regain my shiny outward appearance — I, as sometimes happens, didn’t care about the turmoil on the inside. I was the only one privy to that information and I could handle anything. Several sessions went by, I did a lot of “uh huh”ing, a lot of head nods. I thought to myself that my therapist was really pretty and smart and compassionate and caring… she must be good for her clients, not me though. I was only here to get my outward appearance back —

I am a woman,

I am a mother,

I am skilled at the fine art of outward appearances.

A month went by, or two or five. I began to look forward to my sessions with my therapist, I began to trust her, I began to tell her the things I needed to tell her and I listened to what she had to say. I started to feel better. I slept… for the first time in several months, I slept. I started being honest with people, but mainly with myself. I started therapy for all the wrong reasons, because, when you suffer from stress and anxiety and depression, thinking clearly is not one of the benefits. But I continue my work because of the most important reason of all, me.

We are women.

We are mothers.

We are skilled at the fine art of outward appearances.

We are complicated beings. We mess up and we try to fix. We say the wrong things and we try to shove the words back into our mouths. We love and we let go. We laugh and we collapse under the weight of a shattered heart. We dream and we face reality. We hope… we hope that our hearts lead us back to the friends we’ve lost and lead us forward to those we have yet to meet. We hope the cracks let the love in. We believe in each other and we believe in ourselves. We are women. We are mothers. We are complicated beings — reaching out, holding on, surviving, loving, hoping. Hoping that we can guide each other past the murky water and the glass cage hearts, hoping you understand I’m a complicated being, shattering the outward appearance… reaching my hand out, hoping you’ll grasp it… again.

Because we are women,

we are mothers,

we are complicated beings.

Image from Kind Over Matter

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… making mistakes is part of what we do, it’s how we go about fixing them that matters.

My driving force for a while seems to have been the want of recognition, the want of being special, the want of people to notice. Those wants can quickly turn in to needs… they can quickly control our thoughts and our behaviors and our relationships. Until finally, we realize we have to do for ourselves — because it’s what we need and not because someone will validate our worth based on our actions. So, today… I did something for me. I did it alone. I did it without needing someone at the starting line or at the finish line. I did it knowing that I was enough.

I fell asleep fairly easily last night… that part I can do. I awoke a few short hours later, once again ruminating about the things I can not fix, the words I can not retract, the hurt I can not let go of. I watched the clock go from midnight to 1 to 2 to 3… my alarm was set for 4.  I laid there, thinking of why I needed to stay there… why I couldn’t get out of the bed, why I wanted to hunker down in my self-absorbed pity and remain elusive, out of sight… yet secretly hoping I would be noticed. I got up. I showered. I put on the clothes I had so meticulously picked out to carry me across the finish line and I drove away from my home… is was 5:30am.

I reached downtown and a parking spot I was familiar with by 6am. I thought some more about why I needed to leave… go home… pretend I never thought this was a good idea in the first place. The streets were empty — no one would have noticed if I just ran away.

I stood beside my car hoping for a flood or a tornado or a large fire… instead I turned to see a woman walking towards the starting line as confused and alone as I was. I immediately walked towards her and started a conversation — I do that sometimes, a lot actually. We talked and walked and talked some more. We laughed at how lucky we were to have both parked at such odd places so far from the start of the race… otherwise, we would have missed each other.

We turned a corner and saw thousands of women, over 7000 woman, just like us… alone, together, proving a point, seeking approval, declaring their life’s not a mess, brushing off hurtful words, laughing together, encouraging each other — breathing and leaping and learning and evolving. Women can be so strong for each other — if we just let ourselves.

My new friend and I took a picture together and I realized I didn’t know her name and she didn’t know mine — I knew she was married and had two kids and lost 30 pounds last year and this was her 13th half-marathon and she lived in a town near me and she was a teacher… but I didn’t know her name. Strange, isn’t it? We can learn so much about each other without really knowing each other — it felt good when I learned her name… we were connected. We parted ways and wished each other good luck and made plans to attempt to see each other in the next race. And I was alone again. But, it felt okay to be alone — it felt like something I needed to do alone.

The race started and I was filled with the euphoria of Jo Dee Messina singing the national anthem and the DJ calling for the thumbs up over the PA and the crowd of women who surrounded me and I ran. I ran for the first mile at a slow steady pace — 12.46 minutes. Then, like a bowling ball being tossed at me from a tree high above… it hit me. The lack of sleep, the lack of food, the hurtful words, the stress of life, the anxiety of not being able to say what I know I need to say… the lack of understanding… and I cried. My legs slowed, I could barely keep them moving forward and I walked. I walked most of the second mile — 28.54 minutes total time lapsed.

The last mile… my tears were dried up but I became angry… pissed really. Pissed that so much energy had been wasted seeking approval that would never come, pissed that I allowed hurtful words to penetrate my being, pissed that all I wanted was a chance to fix a mistake but instead I got threats and I ran. I ran hard for about 1/4 mile. Then another wave of emotion crept in… the happy. I passed an older man waiting in the crowd to cheer on a loved one and he called my name and put up his hand for a high-five as I ran passed… I smiled. Then I passed a woman in her 60’s who had suffered a stroke and she was running, determined. I raised my hand to her for a high-five and told her I was proud of her as I ran by… and we smiled at each other. Then I saw a woman approaching in the opposite direction who was struggling. Her weight had clearly gotten away from her over the years and she walked, slowly, determined. I raised my hand and reached across the barrier and gave her a high-five and told her to keep going… no matter what, do not stop. And we smiled at each other.

And there it was… the finish line. Strangers lining the street, calling out the names of the runners as we came down the final stretch, the DJ cheering over the PA, a band playing off to the side — it was all right there. The good in people… it was all right there — and I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with it, and it was over. I cried again, hoping to leave the hurt and the pain out there… on the streets. Maybe I brushed a little off, maybe time and space and distance is necessary to correct some wrongs… maybe I’m sitting here now — just imagining the possibilities.

Not sure who Jo Dee Messina is? A Nashville badass, and here’s one of my favorite songs by her — fitting I’d say.

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I have struggled with my weight for 20 years or so. For reasons that I’m not going to delve into here, I gained quite a bit of weight during a 15 year span — 80 pounds to be exact (give or take depending on the day, the craving, the emotional turmoil). I’m betting that many of you are shaking your heads and whispering, “me too” at this moment. We are women.

It astounds me to hear women, that by all outward appearances are physically perfect, complain about their looks, their weight, their need to change something about their person. But… we are women. By nature, we are seemingly predestined for a life of wondering if we are physically good enough.

Too fat.

Too thin.

Too tall.

Too short.

Hair too straight.

Hair too curly.

Eyelashes too short.

Endless.

I’ve tried every diet plan known. The only thing I hadn’t tried up until a few months ago… learning to like myself. A new concept and not one that has come without diving into my own faults and weaknesses — I think we, as women, are programmed to recognize positivities in other women. We are programmed to see beauty and intelligence and bravery in other women but we have a hard time recognizing it in ourselves. Self-awareness is hard… yet vital.

So, a few months ago I announced to a few friends via the internet that I was going to get healthy (something about announcing an endeavor like losing weight to a bunch of people keeps you accountable). I immediately started a yoga practice thinking it would help clear my thoughts and sort through some things that were burdening my world. Yoga is not an easy exercise. It is not about meditating and lying still and “kumbaya”. It is a workout — one I had trouble making it all the way through when I first started. I also dusted off my year old treadmill and climbed aboard. Finally, and hardest of all, I changed the way I thought about food. This being the hardest because, I think, as women we turn to outside sources to help feed the need that seems to be vacant within our own worlds. Learning to look at food differently meant I had to learn to look at myself… just look at myself. I didn’t do this alone. I reached out to some complete strangers (including a littlefluffycat) and some close friends.

It has been seven months since I started taking control of myself and trying to know what it feels like to like me.  I now do my yoga practice everyday, I walk on the treadmill 6 miles a day, I throw in a few other workouts here and there as time permits or my emotions need it, and I eat healthy. I have lost around 50 pounds. I would like to lose about 40 more. I recently had pictures taken with my kids and there are a couple that I think will look nicely here on the blog (soon). I guess that’s part of the “learning to like myself” thing.

I think that we, as women, have a tremendous power to heal each other and ourselves. We have the power to remind each other that we should like ourselves. We have the power to be good to each other and to say to each other that we are okay and we are not alone.

Watch This!

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