Life Lately

It’s midsummer, and I’m taking a respite in the vintage wood-paneled basement so that I’m not exposed to the frequent heat/air conditioner dynamic. My lady lair, as I call it, one of two places where I can recharge and focus without interruption. It’s hard to believe how fast this season has gone, but I suppose it’s natural to feel that way when you’ve been making up for lost time in terms of social outings and get-togethers. In a weird way, I miss the extended periods of rest without the guilt (or wondering what I could be doing that would be considered productive). I try to take at least one day a week to get creative or just let myself be, even if I don’t get fully dressed or only get out of bed to eat and drink coffee.

After being fully vaccinated, I was eager and ready to move forward. I started a new job, and was simultaneously starting to do physical therapy (because pap smears, using menstrual products, and physical intimacy should never be associated with searing pain, regardless of what anyone says). I was finally tackling and making progress in important areas of my life, which was empowering and boosted my confidence as an adult and a woman. One step forward…

…And maybe one or two steps back.

It happened out of nowhere, and initially I thought it was just the typical muscle strain. But I knew something was off when it seemed as if my entire body could barely hold itself up. I was losing my balance and falling in random places, and could barely carry a cup of coffee at times. And then there were the aches, present throughout the day but would especially flare up at night. Not painful per say, but more annoying than anything. I have, and still continue to experience it in my arms, fingers, heels, elbows, as well as my legs. I wondered if it was just a symptom of trauma showing up in physical form from the pandemic, which is why it took time for me to make an appointment with my doctor. That, and I was afraid of being given a list of things that I couldn’t do anymore. 

After an extensive blood test, the results didn’t come up with any serious diseases (which I’m grateful for), and I have an appointment with a specialist next month. I suspect I know what it is based on some research I’ve done, though I’ve tried to avoid Googling anything in order to avoid unecessary anxiety. I’ve been told that I’m just looking for trouble, but I’m only trying to be proactive. There isn’t a whole lot out there about nutrition and health in adults with CP, and I’m in a unique situation where I’ve been physically active and healthy for most of my life. One of my biggest fears is losing my independence; there’s still a lot I want to do, and that includes living on my own, and having a partner (and possibly children). But ultimately I want to show up and be part of the full experience, whether that’s part of my personal life or my career. 

Come what may, I’ll figure it out and adjust accordingly. I always do. 

But I do want to feel good in my body again (which I haven’t felt since I was training for a 5K race in college). Coping with all of all of these things (pelvic pain, achy muscles/joints, etc) can be a very isolating experience. Pelvic pain in particular is something that not a lot of women talk about, and not a lot of professionals in the medical field know about. I continuously fight off the whole “am I enough over here?” and fight through when a lack of empathy tries to tell me that I’m not. I refuse to let any of this change who I am fundamentally, and I refuse to let anyone deter me from what I want to accomplish. In terms of support, I do appreciate people asking about updates and being checked in on. But if nothing else, it’s nice to be reminded that I’m not dealing with these things alone.

One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

On Celebrating My Body

Four years ago this month, I chose to take my body back, putting my energy toward healing rather than hurting and destroying. Recovering from an eating disorder is not black and white, and there is as much of a mental component as there is a physical component. The beginning of the pandemic rocked me mentally, and I found myself teetering on the edge of unhealthy habits in order to cope with the stress of the unknown. Anxiety left me with little to no desire to eat, and when I did I was concerned about my ability to keep it down.

There are times where this kind of journey, this process, this life, has felt like basic survival. Going through the motions. Taking steps and following plans in order to go forward instead of fall backward. And yes, there are seasons, like at the very beginning or after a relapse where that’s the best course of action. But at what point does one shift their focus from surviving and actually start living? Or living again? 

Celebration is vital, and it’s something that’s not talked about enough in support groups and communities. We can talk about body positivity, neutrality, love and acceptance all across the board, but it becomes an echo chamber if we can’t identify and therefore practice what it looks like. And we deserve to. 

Especially now. 

Take All The Pictures (And Pose)

The very invention of the photograph was to create and keep memories, and for a long time you had to appreciate it, regardless of how it developed. Even before social media, I loved picking up a camera and capturing the beauty around me, even at the risk of annoying everyone else. Photography has become a favorite hobby, and I’m not going to deny that I love doing photoshoots (and having mine taken). I haven’t spoken about it much due to the fear of frequent discouragement, but I have been curious about modeling, regardless if it involves money or not. I’m fascinated by the creativity, the set up, and the way everything comes together. 

I want to remember the days, the moments where I feel good; good, confident, and completely and unabashedly myself. As scary as it is to see my body change, it’s even scarier to think about where I’d be or what I’d have to go through if it didn’t. It’s a sense of maturation, a softening, even if it’s not conscious. Your body is allowed to evolve with your mind, and it’s part of why I wear less eyeliner, only use hot tools on my hair when truly needed, and am most comfortable when wearing less clothing. 

I try things, but I don’t share it all with the world, because not everyone deserves to see it. I have a right to pleasure and enjoyment, but I’m rather selective about who I allow into that part of my life. It already feels vulnerable enough, and if I’m going to make it public, there has to be a purpose. I reject shame, and making anyone else feel that way merely because we’ve had different experiences.

Cultivate a sense of Adventure

I adore exploration; There’s something romantic about getting on a train or a plane and wondering what the day holds, who I might meet, and how it would change my life for the better. The recovery time might take longer, and I have to priortize rest and relaxation in the same way I do having a social life. All I can say for sure at the moment is figuring out how to do both is ongoing.

My family and I had to delay a vacation due to the pandemic, and then ended up making it happen almost a year later. It took a lot of balance with making lists and doing research, while still trying to roll with whatever was out of my hands (especially in terms of weather). I’m still a work in progress in regards to asking for what I want, and claiming victory in speaking up and putting something out there. This is especially true for me in relationships, both personally and professionally. 

It’s the kind of curiosity, vision, and creativity that has carried me through a lot of hills and valleys in life, even more so in this last year. 

Move. Dance. And Don’t Worry So Much 

Movement is a gift, and one that I often take for granted. I love to dance, regardless of speed, and despite never having concentrated on one specific type. At times I’m hyper-aware of the way others might watch me, which is why I’ve never been keen on taking classes (due to the impulse of self-comparison and criticism, wondering why I feel like I could but can’t seem to do it like those around me). But when I’m with people, when the lights go down low and the music is loud, I give myself full permission to go all out.. Sometimes I’ll start in on it without fully realizing what’s happening. Sometimes I’m in church, and sometimes I’m on a sticky dance floor surrounded by old-school paneled walls holding memories that could span decades. 

I’m going to a wedding in a couple of weeks, and I haven’t been part of a crazy party since my birthday back in 2019. I’d like to think I’d kick my shoes off and completely let go, or maybe ease back into it, depending on what the vibe is. But I will be in my element, and I will try not to overthink anything. 

Sip and Savor

My relationship with food has been complex as far back as infancy, texture sensitivities and subconsciously absorbing elements of diet culture playing key roles. I know that I enjoy grazing/snacking more than taking in fuller portions, and the latter can be overwhelming to the point where it causes anxiety. I’d like to expand my palate more (I take pride in trying mushroom stuffed pasta recently), but it’s all in the baby steps. I don’t label any food as good or bad, and do my best to listen to what my body wants and when it wants it. Rather than restriction, I focus on variety, even though there are days where all I can do is get something in my stomach, even if it isn’t particularly nutritious. 

I want to be fully able to see food as an experience, rather than something to rush through or survive on. I love the meditative aspect of cooking, and the sentimentality of drinking coffee in the morning and wine or tea in the evening. It’s those parts of my day that force me to go slow, to look around me and pay attention. And if you’ve ever heard me make a raunchy reference to eating chocolate (mousse, gelato, etc) maybe after reading this you’ll understand why. It should be pleasurable, and damn it if it can’t be sensual every so often. 

And when I can’t rejoice in my skin, or the things that come with it, I simply try to show it compassion. Here we are, calloused fingers and toes. Thank you, slightly pudgy tummy that sticks out because of poor posture. It all moves and functions differently, but I adapt and I figure it out. 

Yes, I have thin privilege. Yet I also live in a handicapped/disabled body, which society at large does not celebrate (if that was the case, ableism wouldn’t exist). It feels like a paradox, looking one way but having multiple layers to contend and come to terms with. And that is a whole story for another time. 

Right now, I thank God for four years, and for the way he physically made me. Even where there are days where I struggle and question and want to just get it right already. 

Here’s to draping myself in grace, and grace for those around me.

Let it be so.

When I Talk About…

Initially I wanted to tell as many people as I could, or at least many as I thought needed to know. When you keep a serious problem like an addiction/disorder under wraps for a length of time (whether intentional or not) you suddenly don’t want to have a filter anymore. You want to tell the truth, all the time, believing that’s exactly what you need to do to heal. And perhaps in a way, I absolutely needed to back then.

But as the saying goes, not everyone can handle the truth. And my truth is that recovering from an eating disorder is complex and multi-faceted. Three years later, I’ve come to regard it as something sacred, a big part of my life, but a part nonetheless that not all can be part of. There’s an assumption where if you don’t openly discuss the absolutes of who you are, you must be ashamed of them. Yet what if it’s not shame, but protection, that motivates the quiet? A healthy protection of progress, and protection of self.

///

My best friend asked me how I wanted to celebrate, given that the pandemic had put the original plan on pause. My immediate family was supposed to reunite in Florida after my brother’s return from deployment, and we’d even spend a day at Disney. The courage to share with my mother what that trip would mean to me, what I had accomplished personally, was enough of a celebration in and of itself. It was tough to come up with anything else beyond that at the time.

I dreamed the night before the three-year mark about being surrounded by cakes, each one looking too damn delicious for words. And the morning of the seventeenth, I finally came up with a short-term idea (well, mostly). It should involve macaroons or chocolate truffles (two of my favorite sweet treats). I want to get dressed up and go dancing when it’s safe enough. Do a photo shoot. Anything that allows me to appreciate food and my body.

And yet, recovery is so much more than that, and I want it to be a focus as I continue to grow and evolve: it’s about getting in touch with yourself, valuing yourself, and ultimately coming back to yourself.

The romantic in me. That sense of child-like wonder and awe. The sensitive smile with a tender heart who cries easily. She doesn’t need to be found because she’s always been there. She just got buried under a lot of garbage for a while. And though I’ve done a lot of work in terms of getting to know her again, there are aspects I’m still learning to accept and embrace.

///

As Sunday ended, I had a hard time falling asleep, so I began to pray:

I’m sorry that I haven’t always loved and cherished this beautiful creation that you’ve given me.

I’m sorry for when I didn’t show it compassion or understanding.

I’m sorry for the ways in which I allowed my body to be disrespected and used. I wasn’t strong enough back then.

Thank you for three years of healing.

For learning how to honor, rather than avoid hunger.

For trusting myself enough to know what I need when I need it.

And thank You for walking with me through it all, especially in the moments when I’ve felt very much alone.

Of course, there is grace; grace for when I wake up too late and feel like I don’t have time to eat breakfast because I must play catch up. Grace for when I chug a protein drinks or various snacks just to get something in my stomach. Grace for when I the constant news of COVID-19 made me want to hug the toilet because I couldn’t hug anyone else. When I fear that gaining weight will no longer mean I’m beautiful, because that’s what I’ve known and was used to

But I am more than that. I have my heart, my mind, and my spirit. My church, listening to podcasts, reading books that make me think, quiet time, all remind me that I have a body, but other parts of me just as much nourishment.

In some respects, with diet culture so prevalent, I’m always going to struggle. I’m now just finding the gumption to call BS when I see it. And it takes a lot of mental energy to let things go when people around me just don’t “get it.”

There are good days, and there are hard days. I’m grateful to be part of each one of them.

Beauty in Affirmation

 

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Bombarded my myths

And society tricks

Drenched in perfume

Permed and wearing glasses

Sponging whatever they said

About what it meant to be a lady and a girl

 

Glitter and tears stung my eyes

Stand up straight and walk right

You want help?

They’ll fix you

Go fix your legs

Lose yourself

Until awakened by faith

 

You’ve got a figure

Cover up

Slinky dresses and corsages are the exception

Thick eyeliner and a faux glow perpetuate confidence

The edge of childhood and woman

Longing to be someone else

 

Leaving home, a teen no more

Tops get lower

Lips get drunker

Wandering eyes

Compliments like butter

But skin keeps getting thinner

And the mind sinks deeper

 

Taking a warrior pose

Seeing the outline of my bones

Side pinches, measurements, and anxiety

Are what I’ve come to know

A shell of sorts, I search my soul

Sick

Tired

Hell

 

What is beauty?

Only seems to be reflected by those looking back at me

Mirrors can lie

Scales can cheat

But the heart still beats

To the beat of my own personality

Kindness, courage, and confidence

The best accessories

 

Blessed by perspective

Not all can comprehend

Where I’ve been and how I got here

Testaments to how I’ve loved and lived

Fiercely, deeply, evolving

 

Created to create art

For a purpose

Speaking words of truth

A light and hopeful breath of fresh air

 

Beautiful, Blessed, Beloved

Remember it always

Wear it well

Live it out loud

Beautiful, Blessed, Beloved

By God

By truth

From above

Until Kingdom come

Too Human

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First it was her legs, poked and prodded

Always something needed to be corrected

Another surgery, rounds of needles

She hated hospitals

“Am I Ok now?”

Onto the next one…

 

Young and blossoming, make-up had to be flawless

“Your hair’s not straight, let me fix it”

Outer beauty was the shield of protection against whispers and words

Of misunderstanding

And she had to be the one to keep it from happening

They saw through it, and they talked anyway

 

A few years later she went off to college

Sheltered and unaware of the culture

She had her independence

That was met with ignorance

Curiosity with eye-rolling

And going out with eye catching

 

It was the first time men seem to find her attractive

Flattering, but a little confusing too

She didn’t try too hard to dress

But the groping and comments never seemed to rest

There were things that they did

A way that people lived

It felt good sometimes

So she figured she’d roll with it

 

Real life came around

With many ups and downs

Most of which were out of her hands

So she did what she did to keep going

She had her body

Not a care that the scale dipped lower

Or that her stomach rumbled from hunger

Tired of being small and backed up against walls

She needed cheap relief and she got it

 

A timeline of sacrifice for perfection

Why is perfection worth seeking

if it means denying and losing who you are?

The church folks implore it’s worth trying for

Few speak against it being worth dying for

And before it was too late

She realized that the worry, obsession, and frustration

Wasn’t worth it anymore

 

This standard of grace is new

Four months in

Beginning again

Setting boundaries instead of casting blame

Walking around with a naked face, unashamed

Sharing her journey, when appropriate

Practicing awareness of feelings

Instead of just sucking it up

She is not a body, but has one

Also a heart, mind, and soul

She refuses to rush the process

Or be guilt-tripped for the sake of someone else’s ego

Surrendering it all to her Creator

She’s soft, yet powerful, like water

And water is part of being human

Some still say she’s too much, and that scares others

But maybe she’ll a little too human

Which not all know what do to with

But for this firecracker, deep-thinker, and people-lover

It’s more than enough

Getting Wonder Woman All Wrong

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She was motivated by compassion rather than revenge.

Her strengths were not by chance, but by proper training and preparation.

She did not want to hide, nor did she want attention. She was simply fulfilling what she felt called to do.

Chills scattered across my skin as she grabbed her shield and began climbing the ladder out of No Man’s Land.  She rose up and began to run forward in cinematic fashion, deflecting bullets off her wrists in the process. I was so overcome by the power and awe of these singular moments that tears formed in my eyes and poured onto my cheeks. I had come across an article headline where many admitted to crying during this particular scene (and others), but didn’t read any further for fear of coming across spoilers. And while it is wonderful that strong female characters have been brought to the forefront in action-adventure, there’s another reason, a personal reason to celebrate the incredible film and story that is Wonder Woman.

In my teens an early twenties, I proudly called myself Wonder Woman in Real Life, though my only vivid interpretation is the most recent summer blockbuster. I’d seen various references through the old days of Cartoon Network, but never knew her story within the context of any comic books. It was a lot of assuming and creating a definition in my own head based off her title alone. I desperately wanted to be strong, fierce, and independent; not for the sake of being a heroine, or doing what was right, but merely proving people wrong. It was a defense mechanism, a way of communicating that underneath a sweet (and perhaps naive) exterior, there was a badass not to be messed with.

And one could argue that the fictional Diana Prince is similar, but the difference between her and I has been a matter of pride.

She never had to proclaim who she was in order to make a statement or have an impact, nor did anyone have to point her out in dramatic fashion in order to shape her identity. She allowed herself to be helped and advised in adjusting to the outside world (even when the majority of the responses to her requests were “NO!”), leaning on her male comrades for support without total dependence. Her relationship with Steve is not a back and forth of who saves who, but it more so revolves around what they teach one another, about partnership, grace, and the harsh realities of justice and evil. And as I’ve dug deeper and reflected on what this film has meant to me, I realized that perhaps it’s not just social media, loneliness, and ignorance that’s slowly killing us. Rather, it’s also individualism.

The reasons for “every person for themselves,” are plenty, from the fear of coming across as needy/codependent, to the fear of rejection and abandonment. I’ve always been, and still am slightly terrified of being too much, and have assumed that’s why people tend to disappear out of my life every so often. It seems like when it comes to lending a helping hand now a days, there’s a bit of a debtors mentality, where if you do something for someone, then they automatically owe you (or vice versa).

And so we do everything ourselves, or at least we try to in order to avoid pain, disappointment, and betrayal. Whether it comes from society or otherwise, we’re either pressured or expected to dig deep within ourselves and by ourselves for that which is beyond comprehension. We dig and we dig until we’ve become hallow shells, resentful and isolated from what we were created for.

Love. Connection. Community. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

I believe that love comes not from within, but from God above. And I believe that we learn to love ourselves through experiencing aspects of God in other people, both women and men.

The first time I heard that God loved me was from a man.

Had it not been for the men I’d met during college, I wouldn’t have begun to understand what loving myself meant until much later. They accepted me and didn’t judge me, even in the midst of bad decisions and mistakes.

And not too long ago, a man whom I very much care for, admire, and respect said to me, “You’re one of the strongest and most resilient women I know.” He then continued, “I wish you could see in yourself what I see in you.”

But I think that’s what relationships are for, whether they’re platonic or romantic; again, to show us what we’ve been blinded to by impossible standards.

///

I’ve had to fight battle after battle since the day I was born. More recently, it has been the battle to overcome stereotypes, establish a career, and live my own life. A battle to let go of anger and allowing my heart to soften toward my family history. And now, a battle with a disease that threatens to land me in the hospital, and perhaps even take my life.

Since coming to terms with it three months ago, many have asked me how they can help or support me. Most days I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that it goes beyond just getting me to eat, or encouraging me to take deep breaths when I feel like going back to an unhealthy physical behavior. It’s a lot of patience, especially as I’m still in the midst of trying to get some kind of professional help. It’s grace when I ask obvious questions or bitch and moan over silly things, portraying myself as self-absorbed.

But mostly, it’s letting me know that it’s OK to not be a superhero. That I’ve got this, and we’ve got this.

There is part of me that will always be a fighter, stubborn and willing to kick down doors if need be. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have lived past infancy. But I’m practicing and allowing myself to be soft: Instead of “I’ll show you!” it’s, I’ll show you what I have to offer. Rather than getting angry at those who don’t understand, I seek to gain a better understanding of both myself and others. And rather than putting up walls, I choose to set boundaries. It’s still in present progress, and I can’t say whether or not I’ll fully get there.

But the best way to get healthy is to start getting real. No cape. No lasso or tiara. Just an open heart and willingness to see what wasn’t there before. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Deep Skin

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To some degree

My life has been about my body

Fixing pieces with needles and surgery

Braces for my legs

Had me walking like a robotic contraption

Than attempting to perfect with the ‘right’ hair

Painting my face with acceptable colors

Wearing clothes that enabled me to blend in

Or at least try

 

A college student, naïve should have been my middle name

Rape culture seemed foreign and distant

I did not consider myself a target

Because I did not see myself as sexy or beautiful

I was just trying to be human, to be me

But my twenties showed me the difficulties

Being groped in dimly lit bars

One bragged about “ripping” me “in half”

If he could bed me

I never let anyone past my apartment door

But I beat myself up

For not standing up

 

Post-grad was another picture

Dating without reservation

Where hormones and desire took precedence

It feel natural and right in the moment

Always followed by doubts and questions later

I never voiced what I truly wanted

It felt silly at the beginning

Like forcing each other into a pressure cooker

So I let it roll, and eventually rolled into the deep end

Where I no longer had to wonder

Yet such experiences were anything but

Heat of the moment, nothing more nothing less

Where they disappeared like ghosts

Flinging me into depression

And debating regret

 

But I’ve kept going

And out of many, there’s only been a few

Who don’t beg me for some kind of stimulation

We talk like adults

I feel seen and heard

The others don’t really know me

And I question my responsibility

Whenever the same scenario plays out

We meet, we kiss, and then he leaves

Me asking, “What could I have done differently?”

I resent being the one to always apply the brakes

Or to have that role

When they have a voice too

 

It’s a lot to take on

As I work toward loving my body

And keeping my insides from destroying it

I need to openly communicate that I’m not just skin and body parts

I have them

But I also have a mind

A soul

And a heart

Which is challenging

When living in a culture that values what is initially seen

Over what is seen in time, and with patience and grace

I won’t fully blame myself

Or the guys that buy into stereotypical bullshit

But if I am more than just what magazines, media, and even doctors say I am

I have to stand my ground

And live that out

When I make mistakes

Grace upon grace upon grace

In The Valley (Life Lately)

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About a month ago, I began waking up and struggling to get out of bed. I’ve been in funky throes before, but never to the point of complete exhaustion and not being able to think straight. It hit me without warning after unexpectedly losing my job and choosing to do something that I can’t say I regret, but in hindsight it had more of an emotional impact than I anticipated. Over the past several weeks, I’ve had to come to terms with some heavy stuff all at once; being formally diagnosed with depression and anxiety was a relief, having sensed it all along and now finally being able to address it. The health of my body has been a tougher pill to swallow, not because it was a surprise, but because I had been denying it for such a long time. For now I’ll say that it has a lot to do with a lack of appetite, along with the ability to keep food down when I do eat. I don’t want to hide anymore, and I’m slowly opening up to my closest friends and family regarding both situations. And whether I’m on the road to recovering or learning how to manage certain things, I want it to be for me, so that’s why I’m only sharing so much at the moment.

Yet even among those that I know, I’m not sure how to adequately describe what I’m going through. The circumstances are atypical, at least in comparison to the way that the issue is portrayed in Hollywood and the media. And because of that, I wonder if I even have the right to talk about it out loud. By merely looking at me or looking at pictures, you wouldn’t guess that there was anything going on. There have been accusations of dramatizing the circumstances or discussing the subject to get attention, and that is not something I would stoop to when it comes to something that can potentially kill me if I’m not careful. It’s unfortunate how it still comes down to looks; one has to “look” sick or be at death’s door in order for their struggle to be taken seriously.

I can’t say how I feel about it all right now, specifically identifying with having an illness or a disease. I would much rather call it a weakness; a weakness that was the result of wanting control in the midst of chaos, and the fear of losing control if I ate too much or didn’t exercise enough. And yet, I ended up losing control anyway, where it psychologically ran wild for two years. I don’t see this as another notch of shame to add to my belt, or another layer of baggage that will supposedly make me hard to love. I’m actually grateful that I’m coming to terms with it sooner rather than later, as though God gave me a lifeline rather than letting me nearly flat-line before I asked for help. It feels like a major (and hopefully a final) step in dismantling this tough as nails exterior/persona that I portrayed in order to protect myself. It’s already teaching me a lot spiritually, and I’m leaning on my faith more than I ever have in a long time.

I’ve been asked about support, and truthfully I’m not entirely sure what that looks like. I’m going to both a recovery group and individual therapy, though not as often as I would like. I don’t expect anyone to fix me, nor do I want them to try to, because I don’t need to be fixed as much as I need to be fed (literally and figuratively). I need patience as I navigate how to think differently so that my stomach can accept nourishment. I need compassion (NOT pity), as I walk and stumble as I figure out what kind of treatment is best for me, and what allows me to be healthy. I need to get out, spend quality time with people I care about and have deep conversations. I need to experience adventure in new places, taking road trips and be spontaneous. I need hugs and physical touch. More than anything, I need to be encouraged not to hide anymore. Hell, that’s how I got here in the first place, because I isolated myself and the pain eventually manifested itself on a physical level.

I’m not broken, but I am human. I want to be an example for others, to show that you can face adversity with both grit and grace. I’m not going to wait for the light to just magically show up in order to start healing, but to be a light myself. True strength is not self-reliance, but being able to admit that you cannot do it on your own.

I am strong.

I am brave.

I am resilient.

I am loved, and worth loving.

And by the Grace of God or come hell or high water, I am going to be OK.

For anyone who is out there struggling, regardless if you can relate to this or not, so will you.

We got this.

Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)

 

 
 
Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)
 
 
What makes a real woman?
She asks
As she curls her hair, her lashes
While trying to stand up-right
*Stares at unpainted nails*
Her closet begs for change
Sentimental remnants long-since hanging by thread
Wear the black heels, they said
Raise your height so that you can actually be seen and heard
Take care of yourself so that others can take you seriously
Walk right, speak firmly but softly, don’t appear foolish
Act the part, and she might believe it
She sees her body as a vessel
Yet unsure of the role it’s meant to play
She’s no Victoria’s Secret Angel
Child-sized with flesh and muscles
Meant to give life and share intimacy
Untouched, but demanded to perform and please
Though not just in media or magazines
Sacred texts take it to the other extreme
Let a man lead without question
A clean home paves the wave to a clean heart
Look up at others, because she doesn’t know any better
She was not raised, but she can be taught!
Sensuality is a light switch
Still a performance, albeit joined by a ring
The images come together as I quiz my reflection
Preferring what’s in my head to what’s in the mirror
Fighting labels the way some have fought for autonomy
I am
Complex
Layered
Worthy of love and connection
A child-like heart molded by my Creator
Eclectic and multi-faceted
Wanting to be wanted, but still valuing independence
Dancing and laughing
Simultaneously wearing a cross around my neck
Shining gold or silver pairs with red lipstick
You cannot measure a woman by the size of her jeans
Or the height of her shoes
Beauty doesn’t necessarily fade
But it changes
We’re all different kinds of colors and flavors
Sweet, spicy, determined, and feisty
Marked not just by what we give
But how we love, embrace, and honor
Let’s honor ourselves as human beings
Speaking in kindness and bravery, with-holding judgement
That’s the real thing


 

photo credit: Time. via photopin (license)

Body Wars (And Peace)

It’s that time of year again; the time where a lot of us look in the mirror and analyze every inch of our reflection. Whether it starts on New Years or a month before spring break, we stare, we scrutinize, and we tell ourselves that it’s a matter of practicing good posture or actually sticking to doing those fifty crunches that we were told would make our stomach’s flatter in six months. Soon enough, that all-too familiar voice chimes in and gets louder by the minute; it sounds like nothing yet comes from everything around us, from the media to even friends and family.

 
You are too much of this, and not enough of that.
 
Growing up, I never dealt with any major weight-related issues, unless you count the time period when I was an infant and had to gain four pounds in order to go home from the hospital. My grandmother affectionately nicknamed me her “Bag O’ Bones”, because of my lack of body fat. Some will argue that I’ve had it easy, and I won’t deny that in some respects that’s true. I was, and always have been fairly active person, especially coming from a family of athletes. My fast metabolism and a liking for healthy meals early on in life have definitely helped as well. When I went to college I avoided the freshman fifteen by long walks around campus a lot (rather than taking the bus) and learning how to make decent food choices. 
 
Yet somewhere in there at least one person would make some sort of comment about my figure: 
 
“You’re too skinny!” 
 
“You need to eat more!”
 
“Why do you even work out? It’s not like you need it.” 
 
“We’re going to fatten you up when you get home.”


It’s as frustrating now as it was back then, given that I’m constantly taking care of myself to the best of my ability. I’m well aware of my eating and exercise habits, along what works for me and what doesn’t. But it’s not so much the remarks in themselves that I find annoying as much as whom those words are coming from; it’s sad when those who should be encouraging you to love and accept yourself are the ones trying to convince you that you’re somehow not healthy.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t genuine concern, but there are better ways to go about the conversation than making snarky comments or dropping hints.

Maybe it wasn’t even about me, but more so about people projecting their personal insecurities onto me.

With developments in technology over the years and the fact that more are now openly discussing the subject, dealing with body image and what’s healthy versus what isn’t can be complex. New studies regarding what to eat and what to avoid are being released all the time and it’s constantly sending people into a tizzy. There’s a love/hate relationship for Victoria’s Secret and “Fitsporation” on Pinterest, while celebrities are being glorified or attacked all the time getting older or having babies. A lot of popular music urges people to celebrate who they are, but not without undermining others by referring to them as “skinny bitches.”

Do we really have to look at one side as the enemy in order to embrace the other? It seems exhausting and completely unnecessary.

While I was training for my first 5K race last spring, I went to a health specialist at the my University’s rec center to make sure that I was doing the proper preparation. Not only was she incredibly helpful, but it was nice to hear that I wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong as it was. She explained that because I’m living with Cerebral Palsy, it’s perfectly normal that I have a slightly different diet and exercise routine. And as I went about my days getting ready for my upcoming run, I noticed a change in how I felt because I ate certain foods or focused on specific exercises. As I type this, I’m recalling a line from a commercial that I saw on TV a long time ago; it’s been well over a decade, but the message is still relevant now as it was fifteen years prior.

“It doesn’t only matter what you look like, but what you feel like.”

It really comes down to this: Pay attention to how you feel while and after you’re doing something, and that goes for both workouts and food. I like  to involve lots of cardio and movement, where I’m aching by the time I’m done. I’m not one for a ton of greasy or heavy food because they both make my stomach hurt. And in terms of how I eat I’m much more of a grazer throughout the day as opposed to eating three big meals at designated times.

No one body is exactly the same, so I don’t think you can determine whether someone is living a healthy life based on looking at them. Yes, this country has problems with both obesity and eating disorders, but how one navigates that is not exactly black and white. I get the reasoning behind some countries banning models who don’t meet a specific BMI requirement, but who’s to say that they’re always in control of that? It’s kind of insulting to those who do struggle with such life-threatening conditions, because there are other factors that go into it besides dramatic weight loss. As I said previously, if the signs do indicate that something isn’t right, there are more genuine and loving ways to discuss the subject then just demanding that they eat.

But there are times where body acceptance does not just involve clothing size or weight.  For me, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m fairly petite for someone my age and am done growing. I have moments where I absolutely hate it because it’s difficult to find shoes that fit, while tops and swimsuits can be a struggle because the straps don’t stay up a lot of the time. I know that some aspects of sex are not going to be easy (at least at first), and while that might be awkward to read, it’s important for me to think about as I determine what I want in my life and who I want to surround myself with. I’m an adult now, and even not everyone understands that, I have to choose what’s best for me.


Just as choosing to make lifestyle changes is honorable, so is choosing to accept things as they are, as long as that person is doing so in a safe way and for the right reasons. As much as I wish women would stop complaining about getting back to their pre-pregnancy bodies (or struggling after a certain age), I have no room to comment because I have not been down that road. As much as I wish that some of my family members would exercise or that others would stop smoking, I can’t force them to do it. I believe in leading by example, but not in the way that we shame or blame others if they choose not to follow. 

I hope one day that we’ll realize that our bodies are not the enemy. Food is not the enemy. Instead, it is that false, monotone voice that spits out unrealistic expectations without experiencing real life. It speaks out of fear, rather than speaking from a place of love. That’s where I’ve found peace; knowing that I am what I am because I’m a human being and a child of God. I don’t need anything else to define my worth.

I’m ready to put my weapons down.



 

 

photo credit: Tell me that you’ll open your eyes via photopin (license)