A poster on Tumblr says wisely:

The phrase “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” can apply to terrible things too. You may not realize the amount of pain, depression, or abuse you are living through until you experience what life can be without it

 Every recovery story is probably different.
I’ve been thinking lately about the tiny little things that are so much better in my life. Even when I’m sad or anxious, my overall life is so much more bright and joyous, and it comes from a collection of little things that I’ve been able to shed.
I no longer:
– have to sleep with my face to the door, and back to the wall
(lest I give you the wrong impression: nothing has actually come for me through a door or window, it was just a possibility)
– compulsively lock the bathroom door in my own house
(seriously, life will not shatter if someone walks in on me)
these are just tiny signs. But they mean a lot to me.
Because they mean I am experiencing the world, for all it’s ups and downs, as a less terrifying place.
And I am glad.

Fat Girl, Judging

It all starts when she walks into the cardio room.

Her leg muscles shimmy in unnaturally trapezoidal shapes, soft-edged only enough to be more irritatingly cute. For a moment I only noticed that she has the kind of thigh gap teen magazines weep over, but then I see she is also only about 5 foot.

And the (internal) litany begins.

“What are you, 16?* Sure it’s easy to look like that when you’ve only been eating solid food for like a decade.** We’ll see when you’re 30 and have a real life.***”

*At 16 I was skinnier, too. **I still was not tiny at 16. ***In fact, I never saw the inside of a gym until my late 20s, and I still don’t have a real life…

But you get the picture. When a girl comes into the gym who has clearly been using it well, I resent that. Why are they there? They already are perfect, and surely if they look that good it’s easier for them. The gym is for me, the fat kid!

“See, I have other priorities in life besides how I look.”

What a hypocrite. The only reason you are in a gym is because you hate being pudgy.

I mean, there’s another side of me chirping back– “Isn’t it sad that she’s being forced to fit the mold of female beauty? That having gym toned muscles is how modern people try to attain a natural form we’d have if we lived more active lives and ate fewer refined foods?”

And yet another part chimes in, “I wonder if she’s insecure, and that’s why she’s working so hard to look perfect.”

(A better question: how many women exist who are not insecure about how they look? Especially at 16? {She was probably older than that, I am exaggerating.})

The worst part is that I know my judgment is just part of the vicious cycle of women judging others’ use of time and resources. And I don’t philosophically agree with the ugly things my mind is saying.

It’s OK for me to be in the gym because I’ve let myself go, but I get to judge girls who have maintained their musculature, or maybe (heaven forbid) enjoy exercising?

I want to protect myself from the internal judgment I feel, so I turn it outward. I congratulate myself on running a paltry few minutes when she gets off the treadmill after a light walk, though I know it’s either because she was warming up, or because it’s a light day.

“Or because you’re so obnoxious to watch running, hefting all that deadweight around, she wants to wait until you leave.”

See, it’s so much easier to think in snappy one-liners that push away my discomfort with someone else’s success. With being where I don’t feel like I should be, because I don’t love being here or even look like I’ve been going there at all.

But this isn’t license to judge. And my confession here is also a reminder–body positivity can’t actually live in the same space as shaming others.

Ugh, this stuff is hard.

The Process of Un-Numbing

Apparently I am becoming a person who weeps at the movies.

OK, “weep” may be an exaggeration–“cries fat, warm tears” is more accurate. But still, for someone who never cried during a movie before the age of 20-something*, this is an unexpected twist.

I honestly am not quite sure when it happened–that I decided emotions were dangerous and had to be muted. All I know is that when I first started doing some uncovering and emotional work, I did NOT expect it to take years to thaw from that deep freeze.

But anyway: MOVIES.

Granted, the two movies I watched this week that made me feel like a watering pot are Inside Out and Moana.

Both are emotional journeys–which, if you know anything at all about me (even if it’s just the headlines of my blogposts) is kind of both my kryptonite and my superpower. Funny how that works.

It also is partly that I am seeing everything through a lens of emotional journeys these days.

But a girl going out on a ship to save her island in the face of criticism and having to believe herself worthy? Having to convince a demi-god he is worthy not because of his powers but as a person?

T_____T

I feel like I might have a detailed write-up on this movie in me. But maybe while I’m still bringing myself to tears when I think of the theme song ISN’T the time.

 

*this is slightly inaccurate: Ever After made me cry. But it was definitely more the last straw on the camel’s back of 15yo hormones, jet-lag, and reverse culture shock. It was definitely an outlier.

Translating “Write What You Know”

When they said “write what you know” I don’t think they meant “set your werewolf poems in the landscape you walk everyday” exactly…but I do think that’s the spirit of it.

This is a writing rule a lot like “show don’t tell”. It is used so liberally and often without nuance.

I think I’m finally really figuring out how to do this. It’s been about 20 years since I started writing seriously, so this is a little alarming, as far as rate-of-growth is concerned…but anyway, a lot more of my writing is coming from a personal place. No matter how strange the subject matter.

I think hearing this phrase, people immediately leap to “but I have been very boring”.

I know. We’re writers–being boring helps us actually get work done. Unlike acting or other arts which can happen impromptu, we need to sit and be still for long stretches to accomplish anything.

And here’s the thing: I started out writing stories about ninjas in imaginary oasis countries. And now I’m writing…well, about the same kind of thing. What has changed?

My heroine is shopping, and her different ethnic background means she has to look at clothing for housewives. My hero gets excited about buying a box lunch at the train station, instead of taking one packed by his mother.

The were-canines worrying about being shot if they trespass on someone else’s land in dog-form.

And of course, I still need to do my research about the things I’m not familiar with. But I can also look at a story where I somewhat phoned in the setting details and when wondering how to fix it, think about whether it would be more interesting to have it happen in an alternate US Midwest, rather than an imagined historical Britain.

The phrase isn’t “limit yourself to what you know”. It should maybe be “draw on things you know all too well”.

The cliche phrase will still be everywhere, but now I’m going to think, “Ah yes. Do crazy things using details I know from my own experience.”

Which does mean breaking out of boring, every once in a while, to get exposed to new details. I’m thinking about letting some were-creatures take up residence in New England, too….

A Solo Valentine

Maybe my body is the topic for this week. Maybe tomorrow I will let it live it’s usual non-Internet life.

But in follow-up to yesterday’s post, I want to write a short love-letter to my body.

Dear Body,

Since you came into this world, and your parents were given 15 lasagnes to eat by loving church friends, you have been under a sort of attack.

Despite Italian heritage it turns out pasta is not your friend, and neither is pasteurized milk in large quantities. I’m still in denial about the tomato sauce, but I’m sure you know what the truth is.

Anyway, from being a colicky baby, and a redhead with an odd suite of genes, you have had it kind of rough. Dear stomache [sic] you are a trooper.

Despite my dislike for doing anything besides reading, when I got you out the door, you were actually pretty co-ordinated. I’m sorry the only thing I cared about in the Summer Kid Olympics was the pie-eating contest. (Stomach, man, my bad.)

And when I took up softball and kept pitching despite the fact that it hurt me, I’m sorry. I should have done my own research but Google was still new then, and I didn’t get much computer time.

Still, I should have listened.

Lately, I think, we’ve been on the same page a lot more. Loosening up a little with yoga and belly dance has made some good headway on repairing our lost trust. You’ve done a really good job with what you had to work on.

I’m sorry about all the acidic coffee. And the sugar that keeps you below-par.

I’m already working on that. Your input has been very valuable.

And you know, I do appreciate you. Redhead genes: I appreciate the way though my skin burns under the sun, you do your best to tan a tiny bit anyway. That though I have a low threshold for certain kinds of pain, I have a high threshold for some others.

That my hands have always been easy to train to do new things, and that sports have never been as frustrating because of my eye-hand coordination being pretty good. Thanks for be quick to build the muscle I need.

I appreciate that I’m just about the right amount of tall (especially after improving my posture). That my mind racing has brought me to this place of being a writer and coach. And that when my wisdom teeth came in it closed the gap in my front teeth–but not all the way, because I’m used to that.

For being able to keep going long after I would have guessed I was done exercising. For putting up with strange foods and not being actually allergic to much of anything.

For showing the lineage I’m otherwise not that close to culturally, and helping me realize I’m different from the American norm early.

To the rest of our lives together!

~Love, Bethany

Beauty, Intangible

It’s something I’ve written about before, I’m sure, but I’m still thinking about it.

I’m putting together a lovely box of essential oils, essential-oil products, and gifts for this program, Bone Deep.

It’s a two-fold thing, taking its theme from that old saw “beauty is only skin deep”.

If only. There’s an implication “Therefore it is unimportant, and no one should care!” There is no question that paying less attention to external beauty would be nice, especially for the poor kids getting jaw-shaving surgery (among other things) in the K-pop industry.

But it also clashes with this idea that beauty can come from within, something we know to be true.

So, this box includes skincare stuff–infused with essential oils that are great to lift the mood AND treat your skin deliciously.

It also includes a booklet about taking 14 days to improve your love toward yourself. Being at home in your skin is an indefinably beautifying thing.

It also includes three sessions with me on the subject, because getting support and targeted help with the process is invaluable. (I can tell myself over and over again that I’m FINE but it’s when a coach asks me, “So what is really happening” that I’m honest with myself.)

The problem with dismissing beauty is that it seems to be planted in our consciousness for a reason. The way we evaluate it is directed by our cultures–the way we respond to it often coded by our own experience.

(For instance, the way I feel hostility and mistrust toward guys with a certain set of features, because I watched a guy I thought was cute sucker-punch the school misfit. I’m sure many of them haven’t done that, but it’s coded in that they’re capable of deceiving me!)

We react to other humans through a complicated mesh of factors, and what our eyes see is incredibly powerful.

The good news is that very often we see “confidence” before we see size number, or “kind eyes” before we see wrinkles.

It also matters that what you see in your body and face is a reflection of what is going on in your health. As I get more and more experienced as a health coach, I start to notice certain tells in faces or body-shapes that correspond to physical issues.

(Was phrenology so off after all? Who can say, very little legit research on that one…)

Your skin shows, in a muted way, where you’re under stress, where your diet is out of balance.

I include beauty (in the sense of skincare and fitness) in my passions, even though externals aren’t something I hold as a virtue. Instead, it’s because it has a very real interaction between emotion and health, the two things I’m the most fierce about.

Love and beauty from within–you can’t get the one without the other, it seems to me.

What can you do to show your body and spirit a little love today?