Starving My Happiness

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I was reading an interesting blog the other day about a woman who was experiencing happiness in her motherly form. It was a nice read. I kept thinking, “Well, that’s awesome that that makes her happier. It’s great that’s she’s comfortable in her own body.” But I’m someone who is not always happy when I gain weight. I often fall into the overweight realm, feel tired running after my kids, have worse symptoms with my mood disorder. At times like that,  I’d sure like to find a happy medium between skinny and fat.

So I decided to to an experiment. I stopped posting selfies for a month. There has been a lot of recent studies on selfies, suggesting they are linked to either narcissism or low self-esteem. And studies point out that women suffer from skewed ideas of self-esteem more frequently. How can we not? We’ve been considered property, sexual pieces of meat and stupid accessories for most of our history. And that hasn’t really changed yet. Powerful women can’t get away from comments about what they wear or what they look like.

So, I stopped taking selfies. Because of this quote:

When we get so distracted by the marketing of ourselves, we can lose touch with our authentic identities and struggle to build real relationships, says Lucie Hemmen, a Santa Cruz clinical psychologist and author of Parenting a Teen Girl: A Crash Course on Conflict, Communication and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter.

I found a lot of truth in that quote. I was marketing myself. I was showing the me I wanted other people to see, not the me that I am, with the extra fluff and unbrushed hair. And it was making me unhappy. I was showing myself doing everything, instead of just doing and enjoying those things. I felt everyone had to see me do it, for validation.

And my perspective has changed. I stopped doing my make-up when I stopped taking selfies. I don’t like to wear make-up. It makes my face feel greasy. I wear it once in a while, to enhance my eyes and my nicely shaped mouth, but usually I don’t want to. It’s a pain, and I don’t like doing things I’m expected to do as a woman. You put on makeup every day, fellas, and shave every inch stray hair, too, while you’re at it. I bet you don’t last a month.

So the no-selfie was experiment one. My second experiment was to go on the 1,000 calorie diet that the mom above was one when she was a size 4. Many dieting plans assert, “Cake, cookies and brownies will never taste as good as skinny feels.” Well, let me tell you how that skinny diet felt: terrible. I lost 7 lbs in three days. And my sanity. I was cranky, dizzy, couldn’t do my workouts because I was so weak, was short with my students, and couldn’t stop thinking about food. I imagine your body would grow more or less used to being starved, but I didn’t want mine to. There are people in this world who do not choose a 1,000 calorie diet, but actually have to live with less than that. People who are starving not for looks but because they have no choice.

It made me truly understand that idea of hunger. I’ve never felt that kind of starvation, and knowing the difference is important. I feel hungry a lot. Chubby people tend to. Our fat literally produces urges that tell us to over-eat. See this nifty New York Times article, if you’re not convinced. Anyway, I lasted 3 days and lost 7 lost lbs on that diet. I gained them back. My body was hungry and it all made my head hurt, so I overate, which often happens when I do extreme things. It’s a dumb cycle, when I can just cut out three scones a week and lose weight. All that to say: Being skinnier felt like shit. Worse than running upstairs with weights on my legs. Brownies feel better. I still need to cut down on them, but they feel better than skinny.

That’s not to say that I think my habits are fine. I need to cut down on sugar and caffeine. I need to model better eating habits for my kids and for my mental sanity, as a woman diagnosed as Bipolar II. I feel much less manic and depressed when I work out and eat well. It’s okay to splurge once in a while, if I can make it “once in a while.” But I’m not great with moderation. My body and brain are often in “all or nothing” mode. It’s frustrating, but not impossible.

A year and a half ago, I was sixty lbs heavier than I am now. I had nerve pain, severe depression, rage spirals and suicidal thoughts. I knew I had to do better for myself and my family. So I started working out and moderating my food in-take. It took me a year to take it off, but those 60 lbs eventually came off. Then I got a job that made it hard to make it to my workouts and I gained some back. But I’m at the point now when I know when to get off my butt and burn some calories. And while being skinny feels like shit, taking a hike, doing yoga, kickboxing, even going on a jog feels heavenly. It feels powerful. It feels beautiful.

We recently got a Torrid store at our mall, and I was ecstatic. I love to dress up, even if I don’t love makeup or doing my hair. I love dresses that sit perfectly on my hips. I love jeans that fit my curves. And both of those things are hard to find when you’re a size 14 and 5 foot 11 inches tall. I’ve been needing sexy panties and tall pants for a while, and I love going to Torrid.

Firstly, I’m a size 0 at Torrid, which makes me feel pretty darn petite. It’s all about fooling your brains, ladies. Being surrounded by models in the clothing that I’m trying on, who look like me, is also a big boost. They are beautiful, tall, curvy and sexy. And I look in the mirror and I look like them and they look like me and I feel awesome. That doesn’t happen in any other store I go to. I bought a sexy sale dress, some sale panties and some pants that fit like a dream and highlight my curves and long legs, and I felt great.I feel so comfortable and sexy and badass in my new dress. And I didn’t have to lose weight to feel that way.It was made for a tall, curvy woman, so it fits right.

I went kickboxing last night and had the stamina to kick over the bag, do sixty sit-ups, ten push-ups, countless squats and hundreds of kicks and punches. I felt great. I’m gonna try to measure my beauty by how I feel from now on. And I think I’ll keep staying away from selfies and starving. Both of them make me feel like shit, and I don’t do them for me. I do them so other people will compliment me, and that’s not who I want to be. That’s not who I was when I was young, fat and geeky. I don’t want to change how I act because the social networking world expects me to be this or that. I like who I am, my kids think I’m the coolest and my husband thinks I’m super hot. He always has, even sixty lbs ago.

I’ve gained 10 lbs since I lost 60 last year. Because I had to work really hard to be a size 10/11. And I had to stop cooking dinners I really liked. I had to stop eating sugar period, and I had to run, not just workout, every day. I know it seems weird that I would have to work that hard for a size 10/11, but I do. I don’t have a good metabolism. I’ve always been a big woman. But I’m a healthy one. My doctor says so. My strength says so. I say so. When I feel I’m falling away from doing the best for me and my family, I will always work hard to get back on track. But skinny will not be my guide. Happy will be.

 

 

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That’s What You Worry About?

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I’m having a hard time with my moods this week, which might make me crankier than usual. But I’m not sure it’s my bi-polar mood swings this time. I actually think my annoyance might be pretty organic. We’ve all been beat over the head with the Starbucks red cup issue, and I think most of us agree that it’s silly. Giant corporations are pretty careful with their images. And Starbucks, being a company that promotes tolerance in their workplace, probably made the red cup in order to be sensitive to those who don’t celebrate mainstream holidays. Overall, it’s a non-issue. It’s a cup for coffee that a company who has no reason to identify as solidly pro-Christmas chose for their hot beverages. It’s not a gun in your face, nor even a slap in your face. It’s a cup. The issue is only an issue because a person with a privileged life wanted to feel oppressed.

But non-issues are not just the domain of Evangelical pastors. I feel like non-issues are popping up all over the internet lately, and it just bums me out.The fact that the Seahawks aren’t doing well this year is a non-problem. I don’t know these guys. They get paid too much, which is a societal issue I’d actually be keen on hearing addressed. But their winning or losing doesn’t really effect my daily life. I don’t want to discuss, for hours, how their offense could do this or that.

I know that I, too, am guilty of making issues out of things that aren’t issues. We all do it. Sometimes when I’m manic, I get angry about the stupidest shit. I once gave away most of my wardrobe because I didn’t want to do laundry anymore. That’s sort of a non-issue, isn’t it? I mean, poor me with my too many clothes that need to be cleaned. I think I probably made it a huge issue for my husband, who could care less if I wore the same t-shirt every day.

He looked at me like, “That’s not really a big deal.” And it wasn’t. It’s maybe a bigger deal than a red cup, but not much. I’m not oppressed because I have to do laundry. My husband and I have to play our parts. He happens to bring in most of the money and his job is far away, so he can’t be home to do a lot of the chores and helps when he can. My job is done mostly from the home, and I can throw some laundry in while I write. He’s a present father and a caring partner. He treats my goals as valid, and supports me in them. He can do and often does laundry. He simply doesn’t really care if the house is a mess. Probably because it’s a non-issue.

I’m not trying to say that people don’t have their struggles. There are some people who are killed for their beliefs, orientations, race, etc. There are people who have generational trauma, whose very being was/still is appalling to the majority. Those people probably have issues. There are people with chronic illnesses, some who are dying, who have to fight trauma daily. These people probably have valid issues.

It’s okay to be annoyed that your day’s not going well, that someone was rude to you, that you can’t do something you want to do. But I’ve been asking myself lately, when I start to feel oppressed, is that really a big deal? Do you really know what it’s like to be oppressed? Is this an issue or a non-issue? Turns out that a messy house and kids building Lego towers in my living room is a non-issue. When my drink order is prepared wrong, it’s a non-issue. I can just ask for it to be done again, and it will happen. I have money to waste on coffee every day while I write books. I can do these things because I’m pretty privileged. I have actual issues. I have had actual trauma. I’ve been talked down to and berated for my gender and my physique. I’ve been sexually abused. I have a mental illness. But I find that my social feed is crowded with non-issues and I catch myself making non-issues a priority on my feed, and, in turn, my life. It’s all so Real Housewives or Kardashian or whatever dramatic reality tv show kids are watching these days.

This red cup thing is a non-issue and it’s silly. But so are many things I’ve been complaining about this year. I seriously think most of my social feed would not make it through the Dust Bowl, a world war or, dare I say it, a zombie apocalypse with how much we complain about little things. I don’t want to do it, anymore. I want to appreciate where I’m at. Make a difference when it comes to the big issues. Take a breath and realize the difference between an issue and a non-issue.

I don’t feel qualified to define what a “non-issue” is, but I know them in my own life when I start to rail about them. I’m gonna try to stop that. I’ve got bigger problems in my life, and I don’t need to add to the drama. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go tell that barista that my Gingerbread Tea Latte is missing it’s gingerbreadiness. In a polite way, of course. After all, a few squirts of gingerbread flavoring will fix the issue, and they’re usually spot on with my drink orders. I don’t really care that the to-go cup is red, since they know I’m just going to stay until my editing is done and they give me an environmentally friendly mug. They are empathetic that way. And I like reducing waste when I can. I feel it’s an issue of importance.

Motherhood and Self Image Poetry Featured in Two New Anthologies

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Some cool news, folks! I’ve been busy creating poetry and talking people into publishing it. Meerkat Press is releasing a speculative poetry book called My Cruel Invention, and they’ve chosen my poem “Frankensteining” for their wonderful anthology. The poem is about how we tear ourselves down, how we create ourselves as monsters. I hope you’ll pre-order the anthology, as the poems therein are astonishingly good.

I’m also excited to share that a couple of my poems on motherhood and body image will have a home in What is a Mother to Do? This anthology dares to showcase motherhood in all it’s gory, sticky splendor.

Even later in 2016, a poem entitled “Unraveling Shame” will be featured in the No More Shame poetry anthology. This anthology is extremely empowering and important. It gives survivors of sexual assault a voice, a say and it dares them to show their strength.

Thanks for putting up with this little tidbit of poetic information. I’m proud of these wonderful anthologies, and hope you’ll give them a try when they are released.