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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sometimes Things Are Not Okay

Sometimes things are not okay, and that's okay. Sometimes things are not okay for no particular reason, or at least any reason that someone who's not in your head would understand, and that's okay, too.

Sometimes you realize things. Sometimes you realize a lot of things, important things, in a short amount of time, and sometimes those realizations change you. Sometimes those realizations tell you that you have a lot of work to do if you're ever going to enjoy your own life, and that's okay. It's worth it to do the work, even if people don't understand. Even if people don't care.

Sometimes people won't care. That's okay. People only have the capacity to care for so many things at once, and even if you're really important to them sometimes, but not right now (or maybe not ever again), even though you think you need them more than ever, but they can't be there for whatever reason, that's okay. You will get through it. You will get through it with or without them, because what other choice do you have? You either trudge through the shit or you stay stuck in the shit.

You don't like being in the shit. So you move through it. You're the only one who can do that and yeah, maybe it would be nice to have someone walking through the shit next to you. Someone you can talk to about all the shit you're both walking through, or who can distract you from the fact that you are walking through all this shit in the first place. It'd be a nice bonus - a candle on the shit cake, if you will. But you don't need it. You can walk through it alone. That's okay.

Sometimes you might feel shame. People feel shame about all sorts of things. You might feel shame about something you said or did, or for something you didn't do but think you should have. You might even feel shame just for being who you are, or for being the way you think you are because that's what people have told you you are. That's an unpleasant feeling to carry, but it's okay that you feel that way. You are okay for feeling that way.

Shame is a feeling everyone experiences and not a lot of people talk about but it's always there, and it sends people into really dark places because we don't acknowledge it.  But once we acknowledge it and share it, we can start to crawl out of the dark places together. This is an actual science fact.
You can acknowledge and share your own shame and feel better, but you can't make anyone else share with you. They have to come to that place on their own, and maybe they never will. It doesn't mean you're not worthy of trust. You're okay and so are they.

It's okay to feel like no one understands you sometimes. Because really, no one does. No one else is in your head, and that's the way it's supposed to be. It's okay to feel like you don't really know anyone, or like you don't really know yourself. Most people don't understand themselves and that's why they do stupid shit, like lash out at others or hate or avoid or deny. Maybe you won't do as much stupid shit after this time in your life. But you'll still always do some stupid shit and that's okay. Everyone does. It doesn't make you stupid as a person.

It's okay to take time to get to know the real you; the person you want to be instead of the person everyone expects you to be, or the person you've been told you are. You can choose who to be. You can be proud of that person. You can enjoy being that person.

It's okay to be angry at the people you love. They've done stupid shit too, probably because they didn't understand themselves very well. It doesn't help anyone to dwell on the anger, and yeah, forgiveness is hard. But you can do it and you will do it, because you're doing what's best for you right now.

It's okay to change. It's okay to change in big ways, really fast. It's okay to want more out of life and out of your relationships when what you've been getting hasn't been enough. Just don't try to change everything at once, because change is overwhelming to the psyche and you're probably already exhausted just from writing this. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

On Diets and Body Shaming

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Kristie Was Here.
Everyone is different in the grand scheme of the Universe. It’s science. We’re all born with different DNA (fine, unless you happen to have an identical twin. #science) and with that comes different personalities, experiences, and ways of interpreting the world around us.
But there’s one thing we all have in common in Western civilization. We’ve all been exposed to Diet Culture. We’ve been raised with the idea that if we don’t look a certain way, our bodies are wrong and we aren’t allowed to be happy until we fix them. Pre-teen girls commonly think of themselves as “fat” and admit to trying to change their eating habits in order to lose weight. 
Think about that for a minute. Our little girls are taught from day one that their bodies are something to be loathed. How can they ever feel comfortable in their own skin? Comfortable enough to play sports, to stand up for themselves or others, to believe in their voices, to try to create change? They can’t. So, many times, they don’t. 
Just because you’ve been told something your entire life doesn’t make it true. 
Here’s the thing: Hating your body helps no one but the people who want your money or the assholes who want to bring you down. 
People who are told to hate themselves do not treat themselves very well. It makes sense, right? If you hate your body for any reason, how likely are you to nourish yourself in a way that makes you feel your best, or exercise to feel good? You’re exercising or eating to punish yourself for being in a body that you don’t believe is good enough. Body shaming, whether it comes from you or others, just makes you feel worse. There’s no justification for it. So, here’s my advice: do yourself a favor, stick it to The Man, and cut that shit out! 
I know that’s blunt. And I know it’s not easy. These messages aren’t just something you turn off after a lifetime of them being drilled into your brain. You’re going to get upset sometimes when that cute dress on sale only has sizes left in extra small, or whatever doesn't fit your perfectly lovely bod. It happens to even the most fierce body love warriors out there. I’m not expecting change overnight. 
But I want to challenge you to try to look in the mirror and dare not to think of your body as a "work in progress." Love it for what it is right now: a 100% unique, complex gift from Nature or God or The Flying Spaghetti Monster; whatever belief system is your jam. Get to know your body instead of fighting it. Eat food and see how it makes you feel. Exercise and see how it improves your mood. Do and eat things you like. Yeah, spinach is good for you, but if it makes you want to gag when you think about eating it, why put yourself through that kind of torture? Life is too short, gorgeous.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Thanks for the Waffles*, Pawnee (*and by Waffles I Mean Wisdom)

Unless you live under a terrible rock, you probably know that the Parks and Recreation series finale was this week. 

One of the most beautiful things about this show, and a true indicator of the creative talent involved, is its subtlety. Parks and Rec was always about something, but it didn't throw it in your face. It was layered beneath the brilliant jokes, the sly social commentary, and the slow yet steady development of its characters. And then suddenly you were like, "Oh, shit. I feel something." Those sneaky bastards.

Once this show found its voice after a rocky first season, it had oh-so-much to say. It had things to say that I think are pretty groundbreaking. I truly believe the world would be a better place if it were a little more like Pawnee, Indiana. Here's why:

1. Different people can work together and make progress. Ron Swanson: Government Employee. Libertarian. Lover of meat and woodworking.  Even though Parks and Rec often hilariously and flawlessly mocks American politics and movements, I don't believe Ron Swanson was really meant to be satire. Actual conservatives loved him and no one is laughing that they're not getting the joke. So... how did he and bleeding-heart optimist Leslie become such good friends (and then enemies. And then friends again [spoiler alert])? WELL. They acted like adults, aka the polar opposite of our actual public servants and lawmakers, that's how. And they got shit done. My mind just literally exploded at the thought of that happening in real life. I am now dead.

2. Women are people. Women (especially women of color) are inexcusably underrepresented in Hollywood. When they are represented, they tend to be portrayed as stereotypes without any real personalities of their own. An alarming number of popular movies and TV shows fail to pass the almost comically low standards of the Bechdel Test. The women in Parks, though, exhibit authority, have fleshed-out characters that don't ascribe to stereotypes, and everyone in the world of Pawnee, most notably the men in their lives, have zero problem with this. None of them are sidekicks. None of them want to compete with each other. None of their lives revolve around finding a man or getting married. It's almost like women are complex humans and can actually be portrayed as such on popular entertainment.

3. Leslie owns her awesomeness. A lot of "strong female characters," and women in general, tend to define themselves by their flaws for various reasons: comedic relief, to relate to others, to avoid being criticized. Leslie does not. Leslie had flaws, of course, and they were often exhausting for her friends and family. But she was unapologetically confident in her abilities as a public servant and her absolute certainty in her bright future. Leslie made the city of Pawnee angry. In the real world, Leslie's refusal to play down her passion, her drive, and her confidence are what get women labeled as "bossy," "bitchy." and whatever new horrible names the Internet likes to make up when it feels threatened. The real world is terrified of confident women like Leslie. But we all love it when women view themselves as loserly frauds who don't really believe they can ever do any good, that their success is just a facade. They feel the need remind people that "Don't worry, I'm not too awesome. You don't have to be intimidated!" Well Leslie says "fuck that," (implicitly, this is network TV) and, by extension, has given every other woman permission to do the same. Women are allowed to own their talent, drive, passion, and contributions without a disclaimer.  But it is important to remember that you might be recalled. Even in Pawnee, people are threatened by just about everything.

4. Friendship is most important. Parks and Rec is about relationships. ("Find your team." Excuse me while I sob forever.) Pretty much every main character started out begrudgingly tolerating Leslie's admirable - though at times overbearing - commitment to her friendships. But they eventually opened themselves to her and others - even though that's a really hard thing to do - and were always better for it. The characters may fight, question each other's life choices, or pretend not to care, but they ultimately support each other through some rough, real life shit: losing a job, getting married, moving to another state, having kids, starting new businesses, running for office. Leslie made up a freakin' holiday to celebrate her lady friends! She's a friendship maverick and if everyone tried to match her love for her friends - well, we'd all have a lot more throw pillows with our faces stitched onto them, which is never a bad thing... right?

On Tuesday night, I spent the evening watching the series finale with my friend family, eating bacon and waffles, and celebrating the beautiful ending to a show that means a lot to all of us. Watching the beloved cast of Parks and Rec saying goodbye and leaving Pawnee made me reflect on the changes in our lives - over the past few years and those in our future - and it made me feel a little better. Change is scary. I suck at it. Even losing a favorite show makes me feel a little empty. But if Leslie Knope is ready, so am I.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Emotions (Abridged) 2

This week, I felt_______because...

SENTIMENTAL: My mom is in the process of moving from the house I lived in throughout middle/high school. Though haven't technically lived there for almost 9 years since I moved away to college, this impending change still has me kinda bummed. I know my heavy emotions are mostly about my late father, not the house or the town, but it will be strange to no longer return to such familiar places on a regular basis. Despite the sadness, I have kind of enjoyed going through all my old shit and reminiscing the awkward days of yore. You know, as opposed to the awkward days of now. 


SCHMEXHAUSTED: This is a new word I invented to describe my unprecedented levels of sleepiness. I've never exactly been a morning person, but this week my body discovered a fun, new way to remind me that I am definitely in my late 20s, going on 60. Back in the day, I could easily run on 6-7 hours of sleep. But this week it seemed that unless I got 9 hours or more, I could not function without turning into a cranky toddler in need of a nappie wappie. It literally hit me just this week. So, I guess life is different now. The aging process is a controlling bitch. 

Not yore.

PREPARED: Well, preparing. I've been feeling lost in the wilderness of freelance writing and questioning every single action I take in the course of my work week. It's getting better, but I need to crush this week. I actually have a vision and a plan, and I almost kind of feel like I could maybe possibly in the near future know what the fuck I'm doing ever. So, progress! 

FOX / pandawhale

Read my previous Emotions (Abridged) post here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't Should All Over Yourself

In DBT this past summer, one of the helpful quips often used during sessions was, “Don’t should all over yourself.”

You may have heard this phrase before. It isn’t new, though it was new to me at the time and kinda blew my mind. Just to clarify if you don’t follow or English isn’t your first language or whatever, this is called a “pun.” A pun is a form of wordplay that suggests two or more meanings of similar-sounding words for an intended humorous effect. In this case, “should” sounds a lot like “shit” when spoken in the context of the sentence. Don’t should or shit all over yourself. Both are bad. JUST SO WE’RE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE.

Literally everyone does this. I’ve noticed it a lot more with women. We’re taught from a young age to always be nice, obedient, accommodating, to follow rules. I think that leads to a lot of profoundly dangerous long-term effects, but that’s another rant for another day.

So, what might shoulding yourself lead to? I've seen it lead to being involved in projects you don’t care about or don’t have time for because you feel like you “should.” People stay in jobs they hate for years because they “should” be responsible. They go to colleges they don’t want to go to. They major in things they don’t care about. They stay in marriages or friendships that aren't fulfilling. They have children because society tells them they “should.” They live lives of unnecessary misery because they heard somewhere that this is what you “should” do and if you don’t do it you’re wrong.

I'm guilty of this as much as anyone, and I really think it’s about time we all fucking stop. Everyone has only one measly little life, and we’re here for a tiny fraction of a blip of time in the grand scheme of the Universe. Don’t spend it shoulding all over yourself! It’s pointless and it’s gross. Do what you want. You know, unless what you want is to stab kittens or something. Then do not do that and please seek help immediately. (Contact me for a list a reputable therapists in the west Michigan area)

I’m not saying you need to dismiss all responsibility and live on the fringes of society. There are some things you actually have to do, like, in order to not die or get arrested. Do those, please. Everyone has little things they should be doing but they choose to do other stuff instead. On a micro level, maybe you should be doing your taxes instead of marathoning Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. That’s not what I'm talking about. That’s procrastination and it is a real bummer, I know. Unfortunately it’s also - at least partially - human nature (though you can fight it! I believe in you!).

But the word “should” when applied to a human life is a myth. It implies that there is one right way to do an existence, and that’s just not fucking true. This deprivation of an enjoyable life because you feel like you owe it to society, to your parents, to whomever, that you do your life the way you were taught to do it… that’s not nature. That’s nurture. That’s society. That’s brainwashing. And it must be stopped. Or at the very least, given a giant F U.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Emotions (Abridged): 1

Happy Galentine's Day, you beautiful, unstoppable freight trains.

This week, I felt ________ because...

ANXIOUS: I'm trying to build a new business as a freelance writer. I have a shiton of things to do and learn, I feel frazzled and overwhelmed on the daily, and every day I seem to be disappointed with myself over not getting as much done as I think I should have. This blog has unwillingly been thrown onto to the backburner because apparently starting a freelance business is really fucking hard and time consuming. Who knew? (Everyone knew.)

LONESOME: Working from home is a new adventure that will take some getting used to. I'm an introvert who genuinely loves alone time and needs it on a regular basis. But Joel works long days and 12+ hours a day all alone in a small apartment without speaking real words to an actual human person (dog-persons don't count; sorry, Ranger) is starting to take its toll on my mental health. I'm trying to combat it the best I can - going to the gym a few times a week, going someplace else to work for awhile, making friends with the ghosts in my house - but it's cold out and I hate talking to strangers and sometimes the ghosts just want to be left alone with their unfinished business!! I find myself whining to Joel most days about how I miss him. But the truth is, I miss everyone.

GRATEFUL: Despite my anxiety and intermittent loneliness, I can't imagine doing anything else. There are times when I want to give up and go back to finding a soul-crushing, dead-end job with a steady paycheck like a real American, but then I remember what that was like. Office life does not suit me. This is where I'm supposed to be. This new life is the flavor of shit sandwich I can stomach, if you will. Not everyone has the opportunity to live the life they enjoy, and I'm so thankful I have the privilege of building a business while not having to worry about making rent (thanks, Joel! ♥♥♥). Everything sucks sometimes, even your dream job or your vacation or your marital bliss. Most days I believe the work will pay off in the end, and if I do forget, I have an amazing support system of people who remind me to snap out of it and keep on truckin'. 

COLORFUL: I did this to my hair:

I missed the Manic Panic phase in high school, so now I'm late to the game and it's time to go all out. Really though, this is all just a part of my futile attempts to become a magical rainbow unicorn.

Cartoon Network / Via http://truepokemonchampion.tumblr.com/

This is the first post in a new series inspired by Stephanie. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Life: An Update

So life has been a bit of a whirlwind these days, but in mostly good ways. After returning from our Belated Honeymoon (which was perfect and amazing and I will gush about it later, with photos) on December 21st, I went to my hometown to visit some high school friends and fetch my dog, who I probably missed more than anyone during our 10 day absence. No offense, human friends.
Look how unbearably adorable he is:

Don't you just want to throw up a little? 

Then it was Christmas. First, a small Christmas Eve friend gathering at our home, then Christmas with my mom, then with my mom and brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephew. Finally, the annual "Super Fucking Classy Christmas Party" our friends throw where we all dress up pretty, drink champagne, and listen to classy music while getting moderately messy marked the end of the 2014 Christmas season, which I will always remember fondly as a six-day blur of glitter and people and wrapping paper and food, followed by a two-day nap.


Joel and I were determined to finish organizing our basement before our New Year's Eve party. We had been talking about organizing that basement since basically the dawn of time and our Must Finish Date kept getting pushed back because of reasons. First we wanted to get it done before fall, so we (I) wouldn't be so cold down there. Then it was before winter for the same reason. Then it was before our trip. Then it was by New Year's Eve, which we actually stuck to so we could use it as some extra space for our New Year's Eve party. And after a few days of a frantic purging, cleaning, and organizing extravaganza, our basement went from "so disgusting I refuse to ever step foot in it" to "not bad for an old, creepy basement." We finished it on New Year's Eve day. 
Important note: The disgusting part was not because of us. We rent an apartment in a house that was built 100+ years ago and this basement had not been cleaned out in, like, 50 years at least. Seriously. We threw away our broom after using it to clean down there. THAT'S how gross it was.

Note the lack of dead bugs all over the floor. That's because of me. You're welcome, landlord.

In the first week of 2015, I got started furiously working on my new business venture and I'm feeling motivated, inspired, and a little overwhelmed. I have so many goals and plans and there is so. much. to learn, I'm trying not to let my brain turn to mush and my anxiety-monster turn me into a raging psycho. But I got my first paid client (shh, don't tell him I'm technically an amateur), so I think I'm off to a good start! 

But of course, it wouldn't be me if a few crappy things didn't happen. So naturally, we had to actually come home from our vacation and say goodbye to my new friend The Ocean (crappy thing #1). Joel got rear-ended on Christmas Eve in our brand new leased car, leaving a dent the size of a baby's head in our bumper (crappy thing #2). His new $150 Nikes, a gift to himself for being awesome at work (he rarely buys anything for himself) got stolen out of the front seat of our SUV. We didn't even realize it until after Christmas, after they had been gone for about a week (crappy thing #3). THEN, $500 was stolen out of our bank account from someone who got their hands on his debit card number (crappy thing #4), which apparently happens "all the time," according to the bank, and there's nothing anyone can do about it except heavily invest in gold and bury it in several different locations around Pawnee. We will get it back from the bank eventually. They originally said it would take up to 90 days because banks do not like to give you your own money ever, but Joel threw a fit and talked them down to 10 days. I would have just accepted the 90 days and cried about it, but he's a lot better at knowing when it's okay to be an asshole and actually doing it. 

Despite all that stupid stuff, I feel pretty positive and, like, kinda great, for the first time in a long time. (Knock on wood. My only superstition.) It's like I don't even know who I am anymore.

But honestly. Do any of us really know who we are?


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Be Your Own Best Friend

I've never been one to call my significant other my "best friend." I don't care if anyone else does, of course, I just don't think there's anything wrong with admitting that romantic relationships are inherently different than friend relationships. Joel is my most favorite person in the world. But he's not my best friend.

In fact, I've always secretly had an aversion to the term "best friend" in general. It seems so exclusionary. It reminds me of a part in one of my favorite children's books, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Daywhen Alexander gets demoted to third best friend and then tells that little punkass frienemy Paul what's up:

"...Paul said I wasn’t his best friend anymore. He said that Philip Parker was his best friend and Albert Moyo was his next best friend and that I was only his third best friend.

I hope you sit on a tack, I said to Paul. I hope the next time you get a double-decker strawberry ice cream cone the ice cream part falls off the cone part and lands in Australia."

Harsh, Alexander. I would never wish a fallen ice cream cone on even my worst enemies. But still, that kind of hierarchical bullshit would make anyone cranky, so I feel you, guy.


Of course, we're not children anymore and it shouldn't be that big of a deal. You can clearly have more than one BFF without assigning numbers. But the childhood fears of exclusion and envy never really go away. They're all in the backs of our minds, even if we'll never admit it out loud. Things like Facebook and other social networks only help to exacerbate these unpleasant feelings. We're all just children deep down inside, wishing our friends would sit on a tack whenever we feel like we've been unfairly left out. The difference is that adults are (usually) more logical and can get over it without telling their friends they hope they sit on a tack. Because it doesn't mean your friends don't like you, they just have other friends and a life and shit. And that's great! I hope everyone has lots of friends! Except for Paul. Fuck Paul.

But I have a radical idea that could maybe help us all feel a little better about ourselves, if only by a fraction:

Try being your own best friend. 

No, don't dump all your BFFs. You need them. That's not what I mean. They're still your friends, close friends, soul sisters, blood brothers, sisters from another mister, boos, brosephs, whatever. But I believe something magical can happen when you choose to love yourself the way you would a First Best Friend. 

A lot of people are so mean to themselves, myself included. We make a mistake at something and think, "Who am I kidding? I can't do this. I'll never be good at this. I should give up now before I further humiliate myself." Or we accidentally say something awkward and stupid in public and think, "I'm so fucking awkward I don't know why people allow me to be in public ever." We look at ourselves in the mirror and hate on our looks or the way our outfit hangs on our bodies. We call ourselves lazy losers for choosing to watch another show on Netflix instead of doing something productive. If we do something good, we question whether it's good enough or whether we deserve recognition. 

My point is: We say a whole host of terrible things to ourselves that we would never in a million years say to a friend (unless you're a mean, shitty friend). Your friend says she had a rough day and messed something up at work, what do you say? You encourage her. You tell her everyone makes mistakes. You give her hugs and/or booze to make her feel a little less crappy in this moment and maybe talk about how she can do better next time. 

My notebook.

So why are we so shitty to ourselves? Why can't we be compassionate, understanding, and supportive to ourselves in the way we would to a friend or fuck buddy romantic partner? The next time you're thinking of your friends, I dare you to add your name and face to the list in your head. Make it Number One. You're your First Best Friend and everyone else comes next, in whatever order floats your boat (but don't rank them out loud like Paul, because fuck Paul). There's power in language. Calling yourself your Number One doesn't make you arrogant or pretentious. It doesn't  mean that you always put your needs before others (though sometimes you should). You still have beautiful relationships with other humans. You just have one with yourself, too.

Considering yourself your First Best Friend simply means that, the next time you fuck something up (and you will, 'cause everyone does), you're much more likely to treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness, which is obviously better than abusing yourself. By the same token, the next time you do something super awesome that you would normally question whether or not is "good enough," you can say to yourself: "Good job, buddy! You fucking nailed it! You're so awesome. Let's get a beer together." Then have a beer. You deserve it, friend.