“All the Wasted Time”


This past weekend was rejuvenating in a way I did not expect. This little idea that I, at many times, did not think would happen actually did. And it was beautiful. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, alumni from Shelton High School got together to put on a musical theatre review show alongside a musical theatre intensive for current students.

Being back on that stage, with those amazing people, reminded me of where I need to be. Watching those awkward, unsure, and somewhat skeptical students gain confidence and try so hard to perform what they had been taught was breathtaking. That is the beauty and the magic of art. God I hope they are allowed to just be, and don’t get torn down by the empty and the jealous.

Music and theatre have always been what has felt right to me, that and writing. I am never more at peace than when studying, practicing, and performing. The nostalgia of this past weekend has also brought up all of the memories of the awkward, shy, and beaten down Emilie of that time. I had absolutely zero confidence. I had not only learned, but been taught to embrace, shame. I was lucky that I had teachers in my life who saw my spark and believed in me, but it took me many, many years to see that myself.

Now, closer to thirty than to twenty, I am confident in my talent in a way I never have been before. I wish I’d stumbled upon this heavy freedom sooner in life, but I will take what I can get now.

And I also know how fragile it is. Despite being aglow from the experience, one cruel and careless comment from a community member in the show was enough to douse my light for quite a while. Enough, even, to produce a few tears in the privacy of my car on the way home despite my deepest wish to be resilient and unaffected. When will I ever be enough? But I recognize that those words and those feelings are not me, and are not truth. Even though they sting.

While I know it is unavoidable, my wish for these children is that they will not be crushed by unconscious cruelty. My wish is that they will never be told that they cannot do it because they are not good enough (because a paying career isn’t often the same as doing what you love). My hope is that they will stick to what brings them peace. And even when they don’t, and they are beaten down, and they doubt themselves, that they will be able to look back at this victory and remember that tiny feeling of freedom, and it will be an anchor to them.

shelton perf arts alumni cast

Sincerely,

Emilie

Art and Adventure


After a solid ten months of 60+ hour work weeks, I am so excited to announce that I am taking a few days of vacation! Today we played tourist and visited SightConnection (what we colloquially call “the blind store”), Cafe Mox (a board game cafe/store), and Seattle Center.

I know that it is so much cooler to be a travel snob and to reject the tourist traps in favor of hipster dive bars and nude beaches (whilst enlisting strangers to take humble brag photos documenting the entire experience), but I must admit I enjoy playing the tourist. Despite being a PNWer and spending a bit of my childhood in and around Seattle Center with my mom, siblings, and grandmother, I had never been up the Space Needle. Boyfriend decided that this would not do, and we abandoned all plans (including the sacred and routine Wednesday night Game Night) to have an official ADVENTURE DAY.

ADVENTURE DAY (yes, all caps) is usually something we do for me, where we force our introverted selves out of the house and around other people. This DAY can be as simple as taking a long walk in downtown Olympia, or traveling somewhere semi-spontaneously. For Boyfriend, we have spontaneous GAME DAYs.

Today was necessary, and so refreshing. Not only did I not have to be in charge of anything but driving, I also had the freedom to forget about the clock. I felt a little guilty being out and having fun on a work day, but that’s what vacation is all about. (Right?) The beauty of the city-scape paired with the gorgeous Chihuly artwork felt like a jumpstart to my creative processing, and reminded me just how much I need beauty and art in my life.

The peace that comes with stillness is also fleeting in my life, and spending 20 minutes sun-basking in front of the fountain was more precious to me than any nap or break I’ve stolen in the last year.

I don’t feel completely rejuvenated, but I am reminded of the need for art and beauty in my daily being. I am working on being more mindful of my need for this care, and hope to create the space to let myself be fulfilled.

Wishing you the ability to recognize all of the art and beauty that surrounds you.

Sincerely,

Emilie

Back from the Dead


It’s funny, therapists spend so much time touting the value of self-care to clients, but somewhere along the way on my journey toward graduation I lost sight of my own needs. I kept telling myself that if I could just make it through, I would have the rest of my life to feed my creative hunger. Just three more years, two more, just an internship, and then you can go back to the things that make you feel fulfilled.

And here I am, at the end. I made it. But I’m depleted, and disconnected. My body has suffered and I am looking at beginning again on my journey of health. There was so much pain, so much creative starvation, and why? Perhaps if I had set aside more room for passion I would not feel so much like I am back at square one.

Don’t get me wrong. These four years have been amazing. I’ve made friends, I’ve developed outstanding skills. I am competent and confident in my ability to be a therapist should I choose to pursue licensure. I have a degree that will assist in my current career. I fell in love.

But I also shut away a part of myself, tricking myself into thinking if I did not acknowledge it that it would go away. This is dangerous. There were times when I could not get air, I was so strangled by yearning. There were moments when I wished I could quit, just to have some semblance of my artistic life.

And yet, I’m here.

Wiser for my mistakes. Beginning again. Promising that I won’t forsake myself along the way. Hoping that others will hold me accountable.

I know I did what I needed to in order to survive, but pure survival is a very bleak life.

An artist without art is not a truly Living thing.

So hello, my dear friends. I’m back.

Begin again flowers

Sincerely,

Emilie

Birthday


Here I am

at 26

thinking what’s so new about this?

Tired, still —

happy, true and not true,

and forgiving paths untread.

Time itself

seems intangible

as though nothing is ever

nearing completion

and yet–

isn’t there comfort in practice?

With Love


Understanding how people are motivated and what stories they were taught only goes so far, some times. There comes a moment when taking a stand and making a choice is necessary as an adult. As a free person. Remaining an idealist, theorist, and philosopher eventually dries up and runs out of purpose. More is necessary.

Amidst the wash of rainbow-colored facebook posts, I was astounded to see a peppering of hate-filled statuses made even more prominent by the juxtaposition. Words like “sodomizers”, bible verses, patriotism, and religious doctrines were all incorporated in the offensive posts. People whose previous posts had been innocuous enough came out of the woodworks making their feelings on the ruling clear–many ex-classmates, some family, and thankfully no close friends.

I’m not writing this to extend judgment. We all bring what we know.

I’m writing out of a feeling of profound grief.

I’ll probably get a lot of flack for typing this, as well as hurt some people’s feelings that I care about.

I’m writing it anyway.

I tend to steer clear of controversy online (for the most part) but that act of self-preservation isn’t enough for me right now. I’m not at this life phase, but if I have children someday, I am terrified that they will grow up learning hate as I did. Even when I was very young, the judgment I was taught was “right” didn’t sit well with me, and I squirmed in the church pew as messages that seemed so un-godlike were delivered from the pulpit. I chafed at the black and white that seemed more cultural status than divine belief, and it took a long time for me to find the space and education to identify those feelings and even longer to release myself from that stranglehold of fear, guilt, and “othering”.

At times I still play along, because it’s easier than standing up.

Nobody likes to be a disappointment.

As I was reeling from some truly horrible updates, I saw another viral post about a pastor walking in his first pride parade. That made me cry too. Then there was the Catholic priest that posted a message of celebration and received threats in return. That’s the kind of love I wish I’d been taught, and hope to pass on. Not the patronizing “hate the sin not the sinner”, not the embarrassed “well they’re my family so I have to”, but true, honest-to-goodness, human rights for all humans love. Now that’s a sermon I could get behind.

I am lucky to live in the part of the country that I do, and to work in a field that creates an environment where self-evaluation is a daily occurrence and social justice is included in trainings. The speed at which things are changing is inspiring, but then I am reminded that there is still so far to go.

I just hope that I am brave enough to challenge messages of hatred and exclusion that surround all of us as they intrude on life. Tolerance, too, needs to go. That’s nothing if not a high status move of oppression.

And yes, I must check myself as I check others.

With love,

sincerely,

Emilie.

I Set My Intentions


If all that I learned in 2014 could be summed up in just a few points they would be the following:
1) Vulnerability takes work, but the rewards are completely worth it
2) Risks can pay off far more than expected, and cause far less pain than feared
3) Sometimes the truths we think we know about ourselves are really masks we have created to protect ourselves from danger
4) People are always both better and worse than we think

Looking back now, it is almost funny to me to think that I thought myself an Ice Queen, untouchable, hard-hearted. I am none of those things, although I learned how to appear that way because I was terrified of being found out and consequently being hurt. It’s sort of impossible to take a leap if you’re too busy convincing yourself and others that you are incapable.

So much of the good that happens in life comes from determination and intention. Outside factors such as location, privilege, socio-economic status, ability, and access certainly contribute to a person’s life, but I firmly believe that the most important factor is intentionality and outlook. Can a positive attitude outweigh not being able to pay the bills? Absolutely not. I’m not saying go blithely forth into the world without paying mind to the practicalities, or to reality. Stuff happens. But on the other hand, life should also not be an Edith Wharton novel. Stuff does happen, and people have choices.

I have decided that once I graduate from my master’s program it is not likely I will immediately pursue licensure, however I have found that the program has solidified my belief in self-efficacy and the power that one has over one’s life. I will never forget a particular Rogerian Person-Centered statement I first heard in my Individual Therapy class, “You have within yourself all of the resources that you need”. I do not want to demean anyone’s situation, I know that we often don’t have the power we need, and that when abuse is involved everything becomes mal-aligned. That being said, I feel that the culture in which we live enables selfishness and a lack of self-awareness and self-responsibility. I’m not saying we should hate on the Millenials, or write a dirge about how technology killed society. What I am witnessing is a  trend of people blaming external factors for their lives, and giving up on themselves.

This breaks my heart. For whatever reason, it has become “easier” for people to adopt a stance of defeat rather than one of confidence. (Energetically, however, I would argue that it is far more draining to give up personal power).

Success doesn’t come without work, but it also doesn’t come without trust.

And, often, just when you think your work is done that is when it is really beginning.

Shields can be necessary, but letting them down is such a blissful relief! Speaking as someone who developed an art out of raising shields, it is utterly refreshing to not have to always use them.

So now, in this new year, I set my intention to continue to allow myself to be vulnerable, and pursue growth even if it is terrifying. I set my intention to make meaningful choices in life. I set my intention to be more giving to and supportive of others. I set my intention to live my life fully, and to relish the present rather than yearning for an intangible future.

I hope that you choose to thrive in every way that is possible for you in 2015, because I fully intend to do so.

Sincerely,

Emilie

On Dating


Dating has been on my mind a lot this year, and through the highs and lows I’ve realized that the entire system of traditional dating is entirely not my cup of tea. Dating, from what I’ve seen, seems to boil down to a lot of strategy and very little vulnerability. From group-sourcing text messages and following arbitrary rules of what you can and cannot say, to being careful to present and solicit only the “appropriate” information, to trying to completely hide all natural bodily functions, the entire system seems built for the pure purpose of shoring up insecurities and adding anxiety to a person’s life. Excitement, certainly, can be found in the drama of waiting for a response or wondering which emoji most appropriately captures the emotion one wants to communicate, but to me it seems like an unnecessary expenditure of energy. I am not writing from a scorned or unhappy place (quite the opposite), but I wonder how many others are fed up by this system designed to leave people dissatisfied and only superficially acquainted with the people they are dating?

I understand that I am an Introvert, and it is energetically draining for me to spend a lot of time in surface level chitchat. I understand that my personality makes the modern style of dating even more difficult, so take this with a grain of salt. People have told me I am intimidating, and that I am blunt. Yup, it’s true. You caught me. I say what I mean, and I don’t play games. You get what you see with me. What’s messed up is the fact that that is so terrifying and unusual. I would think that people want to know what they are getting into in a new relationship. Don’t you want to know what makes your partner tick, how they behave when they’re hungry and sleepy and sick, and what their fears and hopes are? I’ve been informed that I apparently skip over all of the entry-level fluff you’re supposed to live in for a while before getting to the more personal information. But you know what? I don’t care. Not that getting to know new people is ever a waste of time, but I do not understand the model of investing as little as possible only to be disappointed months later once you finally get to know and are not compatible with the person you are seeing.

The process of keeping oneself at arm’s length is also in direct opposition to being vulnurable. The simple fact is that there will never be happiness and trust without a leap. And, yes, you can get hurt. Things can be amazing for a little while and then not. But how do you find either the good or the bad if you don’t open up? To me, the dating “game” seems comprised of status moves, rather than relationship. While it may seem that this approach keeps you safe from harm, from what I have witnessed and experienced it merely keeps you from possible happiness.

This is not a rant about the methods of how to find a partner. Use a dating app or website, go to singles events, hang out in restaurants and bars and libraries and coffee shops, or go on a blind date. But when you do, present your genuine self. Don’t count how many hours or days it has been since you last communicated. If you want to text, text. If you hate that type of food, be honest. If you are really into a person but they don’t meet your laundry list of expectations, examine your intentions and actual needs as well as what you bring to the table rather than writing them off for superficial reasons.

I’ve tried that other thing with planning and rules and safety. It’s bullshit.

Be yourself instead.

Sincerely,

Emilie

Birchblogger Review: Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?


The monthly subscription service for beauty products, Birchbox, partnered with Mindy Kaling on their August box as well as a social media campaign that concluded with a live twitter chat with Kaling. As part of this campaign, Birchbox sent out several copies of Mindy Kaling’s bestseller Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) to members of their Birchblogger network to review. I was one of the bloggers who received a copy, and the following is my take:

 

Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fast-paced and pithy showcase of Mindy’s comedic talent, and the balance of frivolity with depth Kaling carefully curates showcases her craft. Reading more like an anthology of humorous anecdotes and hip-yet-provocative editorials than a chronological autobiography, Kaling’s book is always trendy and occasionally poignant. Furthermore, despite protestations to the contrary, Kaling subtly calls out sexism through critiques of the comparisons of female comedians, as well as through personal anecdotes about industry beauty standards. One example used is when she learned other actresses would be auditioning to play her in an unsuccessful television pilot, “[…] I could convincingly play Ben Affleck but not Mindy Kaling”.

Kaling’s writing is hilarious, and if familiar with her work on The Office and The Mindy Project it is impossible to read the book without hearing the cadence of Kaling’s own voice. (Rumor has it she narrated the official book on tape, and if the online customer reviews are to be trusted four out of five say it’s amazing). Scattered between anecdotes of growing up as, “a child who wore cardigans”, and strong opinions on the importance of male chest hair, fans of Kaling’s work will also be excited to get a quick peek behind the curtain in the writer’s room of The Office and Saturday Night Live (one of which turned out better for Kaling than the other).

Despite the frequent and blasé name-dropping of Kaling’s contemporaries such as Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, B.J. Novak and her “frenemy” Rainn Wilson, Kaling comes across as instantly relatable. Kaling shares many of her personal struggles with weight, body image, rejection, hot-headedness, and romance—not to mention romantic comedies—in a way that is genuine and normalizing. Oh yeah, and truly funny.

It is interesting to note that Kaling thanks B.J. Novak in her acknowledgments for his feedback, including his recommendation that she work on not “sounding racist” in her book. While the thank you is humorous, there are a few moments in the book where jokes about race flirt with the border between provocative and tasteless. However, there are many more that land flawlessly.

From the first page Kaling is endearing, and comes across as someone who would make a really great best friend. Not a seminal read by any means, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fast, effective compilation of the inner musings of Mindy Kaling. The book is entertaining for everyone, and a treat for her fans. Kaling shines through her unique mixture of drama, genuineness, and comedic timing, easily winning the hearts of her readers. After all, there is something delightfully charming in her willingness to confidently state, “I’m kind of a mess”.

Sincerely,

Emilie

 

P.S. If anyone is considering signing up for a Birchbox subscription, click here for a referral.

It’s All About That Body


You have likely already watched the music video for “All About That Bass”, I know it has been popping up in my facebook feed for over a month now. The beat is catchy, there is a musical reference to JT’s Sexyback in the middle, and the dancing/aesthetic is perfectly adorable. The message of the song is body-positive, and there is a refreshing mix of body types represented in the music video. So, really, what’s not to love? See below:

So why am I writing about it now? While most of the dialogue I have seen surrounding this clip is positive, there is a concerning thread that I have marked from time to time. Somehow, in the movement against photo-shopping and “thinspo”, a charge has been taken up by certain communities that women who are on the smaller end of the body scale are not “real women”. You’ve all seen and heard the phrase “real women have curves”.

As a plus-sized woman (and don’t even get me started on the fact that the designation “plus-size” exists and is something humans have to shop and live by) I can understand and appreciate how this saying may have gained popularity. I spent years (and still spend long moments) agonizing over my body and all of the ways it is not what it ought to be according to the messages I see and hear. However, no matter how genuine and empowering the intention, any time a proclamation is made that “real _________ equals __________”, the truth is that whatever population does not equal that blank is being marginalized. For example, look at what else popped up when I searched for that phrase on Pinterest:

[And don’t get me wrong, I love this model and have shared photos featuring her before. It’s the callous message some user slapped on that I find problematic].

Can you see how this messaging is equally problematic?

I have felt dis-empowered too many times by comparison to want to intentionally perpetrate that dynamic with anyone else. Rather than comparing ourselves to others in order to see what is lacking, why cannot we as humans support each other and recognize the beauty that lies within each of us?

I am not being trite or disingenuous or naive when I ask that question. From personal experience, I have found that in the few moments when I am truly able to drop my judgment and tallying up of individual little bits I am surprised by how beautiful I find everyone to be. Truly. And I’m not talking inner beauty or personality either. I am talking the (purely physical) inherent majesty and artistry imbued in the human body. In all human bodies. Try it.

How ridiculous is it that we judge our body types and shapes according to some arbitrary standard, when we have no control whatsoever over our bone structure? I will add, as well, that body and physical beauty standards differ dramatically by culture, geography, time period…(not even going to touch the sub-cultural influences of so-called gender identity and sexual orientation within all of those other parameters).

Let’s take a look at that music video again. While the verse includes the lyrics I find to be the most important, “Cause every inch of you is perfect/from the bottom to the top”, there are some other lines that are not quite so universally empowering. For instance, the chorus:

“Because you know I’m all about that bass/’bout that bass/’bout that bass/no treble”.

A clever play on musical terms, the bass references plus-sized women, but through other lyrics such as “boys they like a little more booty to hold at night” as well as the booty-grabbing that occurs in the video, it is clear that the “bass” refers also to booty. I’ll admit that as much as I love the song, the first time I watched the video I felt a little sting because of these lyrics. You see, I’ve got the teensiest little bass. I mean, I happen to think that my booty is perfectly adorable, but I have certainly never qualified as having “junk in my trunk”.

Isn’t that horrible? In this body-positive video, featuring a singer that has similar physical attributes to myself, one of the few things I focused on was the fact that I do not feel that I possess enough booty for men to “hold at night”.

(Again–not going to touch on the message of women as sexual objects either, that’s another post).

What is that?!

If I had let it (and have certainly done at times in the past), that tiny little moment could have been enough for me to spiral down the body-shame rabbit hole that leads to the “this-is-why-no-one-will-ever-love-me” oblivion, which in turn is absorbed and trapped by the wet blanket of perpetual self-repugnance.

Luckily, I instead chose to acknowledge the moment as my peculiar little friend, acknowledge its existence, and continue with nodding my head and finger-tapping along. (Thank you therapy).

I have a feeling that this experience is not unique. Indeed, the lyrics that directly proceed the message about body perfection highlight the universality of insecurities, “Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches Hey/No, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat”. While not all “skinny” women may think of themselves as fat, there are just as many body expectations and judgments happening on the other side of the spectrum as well–just take another look at the images pasted above.

To be completely clear, I am not saying that we should not be good custodians of our bodies and our health. I have blogged copiously on the subject of my health, my weight, and my body image journey. I am currently working on this area again, and not only have I lost 12 pounds in the last few months but I intend to lose more. What I would posit, however, is that not only are we all beautiful, but our beauty is unique and not dependent on our size. In other words, comparing one person’s beauty to another’s is the surest way to negate everyone’s.

And yes, there are times when beautiful is the furthest thing from what I feel.

You want to know what’s funny though?

As a sort of body experiment I’ve been taking some wardrobe risks lately. I decided that I was tired of waiting to wear what I want until I feel that I have carved out a body “worthy” of being shown. So, as a result, I have adopted something I am internally calling “Slightly Skanky Saturdays and Sundays”. All this movement entails is showing more skin than usual, but in a classy Emilie way. Slightly sheer shirts with a hint of bra showing through, short skirts without tights or leggings, and gracefully plunging necklines have all been a part of this experiment. My “racy” looks are likely not even a blip on most people’s wardrobe radars, but for me they have had a profound effect. The most marked instance of success during this experiment happened a few weekends ago when I wore an actual bikini to the actual beach. I frolicked in the waves, ran on the sand, and even had some photos taken to document the occurrence.

What I have found to be the most helpful about these experiments is not what I expected. Yes, I feel beautiful much more of the time now no matter what I am wearing. Yes, I feel empowered when wearing my slightly skanky ensembles. But honestly, the most powerful realization I have had was that I actually think about my body much, much less when I’m not worried about covering it up. That’s right. Instead of the non-stop inner narration I’ve been accustomed to that tracks every inch of clothing, every roll of fat sitting or standing, every slipping strap or seam alignment–instead I am experiencing a new form of freedom.

Do you have any idea how much more enjoyable life is when one layer of background tracking and judgment is removed, even for a moment or two? This is truly heady stuff.

Of course those scripts do not just disappear. After seeing the photo of myself in the full body bikini shot I had an immediate “well, I should do some core work” reaction and chose not to post the photo online. But then I moved on. And that moving on? That is a hugely important and monumental success for me.

As the internet continues to grow as a platform for education and liberation, I want to encourage intentional thought and inclusion versus comparison in our discussions surrounding beauty and body-image. I focus on my experience as a woman because that is what I know and what I have to offer, but I know that body messages and insecurities are not constrained by so-called gender roles. Tragically, they are the demesne of all humans.

Rather than parrot “It’s All About That Bass” as an example of us versus them, I hope all-sized humans can enjoy it as a fun, and meaningful, jam.

And if anyone has a lead on that mint-green hot-pant body suit please send my way–my teensy bass and I would rock it.

Sincerely,

Emilie

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Sorry.


“I’m sorry”.

This has been very difficult to admit to myself, but those two words–they are not innocuous. For me, they are extremely problematic. You see, I spend a lot of my time apologizing for taking up space. It has taken me a long while to notice this pattern, or rather to admit to its existence. Despite all of the work I have done convincing and “logic-ing” myself otherwise, I have very strong fears and insecurities.

Particularly in interpersonal relationships, I second-guess and doubt. I doubt myself–my worth, my draw, even my own sharp intuitions that are often frighteningly reliable. I close myself off, and I ignore things because I convince myself that they cannot be true. I assign blame to myself. Always to myself. So I say “I’m sorry”.

Even when I’m not blatantly apologizing, I find a way to minimize my own worth. If my life were an improvisation exercise (outside of the professional arena, but even sometimes there) I would paint a perfect example of establishing low status. It’s painful to watch, and at times feels impossible to stop. Then, I add on yet another level of judgment, and berate myself for my own actions. Rather than extend love, I weigh myself down with guilt and disappointment.

There are so many contributing factors to this pattern, some I can identify and some I cannot. There are many external messages I have internalized over the years that exacerbate this response. Here is some of the dialogue that, unbidden, plays over in my head:

“You’re not good enough”. “You’re ugly”. “You’re selfish–god wants you to be humble. Don’t admit that you’re good at things”. “Why would anyone like you?” “You’re too fat–you’re not desirable”. “You’re too smart–you’re a snob and you think you’re better than anyone else”. “You’re cold”. “You should try to be more like ____________”. “You shouldn’t read so much”. “You’re prideful”. “How dare you ask for what you want?” “Ladies wait”. “You’re so full of yourself”. “You don’t deserve ________”. “It’s all your fault”.

There were all of those moments when I was confident and allowed myself to glow–and was subsequently targeted and trampled on. After enough pain I learned to hurt myself first, so that others could not. I dimmed my glow–I taught myself to apologize for not only my errors but also my triumphs.

“I’m sorry”.

And I’m trying to teach myself not to be.

And I’m sad that this script is still so activated in my life.

And I’m angry.

I do not need to be sorry. Not for existing, not for thriving, and not for wanting to spend my time with others. Not for admitting that I do want.

And I’m trying to believe that.

And to forgive myself when I do not.

I’m still sorry.

But I’m learning, painstakingly, not to be.

Sincerely,
Emilie