Here I am
thinking what’s so new about this?
Tired, still —
happy, true and not true,
and forgiving paths untread.
as though nothing is ever
isn’t there comfort in practice?
Here I am
thinking what’s so new about this?
Tired, still —
happy, true and not true,
and forgiving paths untread.
as though nothing is ever
isn’t there comfort in practice?
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.
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.
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.
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”.
P.S. If anyone is considering signing up for a Birchbox subscription, click here for a referral.
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.
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.
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.
It’s funny how intentions, once thought, can bourgeon into life.
With a lot of hard work, of course.
In addition to work and school, and homework, and more work and school, I’ve also been doing a lot of personal challenging and growth lately. Not in a debilitating my-entire-world-has-been-pulled-from-under-me work like I went through in undergrad, but fine-tuning work that may look more subtle, but has been groundbreaking for me. In case you are wondering, I highly recommend therapy to everyone. Not just because I’ll want clients one day, but because it is ludicrous that we are encouraged to check up on all parts of our body regularly except for the one part that is the most complex and least well known–the brain. As introspective as a person is (and if you know me you know I’m all about introspection), the fact of the matter remains that an outside eye is crucial to separating reality from misinterpretation.
As envious as I am of those people who don’t have 4.5 hour classes on summer evenings, I am absolutely loving my graduate program. In addition to the coursework, role plays, and facilitating I am also finding the experience to be opening me up in so many ways. I am writing plays, poems, prose, and songs; practicing my instruments, and even getting out of my hermit sanctuary much more often than I used to. I may not have enough hours in the day, but I am making the most of them.
Certainly, it isn’t rosy all the time, but over all I have found such grounded peace and happiness. The world around me isn’t as solid. Things are whirling around. There are a lot of things I’m worried about (such as my eventual internship), but worried on an exterior plane. Even while confronting painful insecurities and memories, on the deepest level I know that my life is congruent with my needs. At this time, I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.
In addition to unearthing things I had thought long managed or forgotten, I am also gaining somewhat clearer insight into certain projects that I want to work on. I have several writing projects, as well as certain areas of scholarship I would be interested in in the future. I don’t know the timeline, location, or logistics but I am still very sure that eventually I will pursue a doctorate. Of course, I am open to knowing that life always changes, but this seems very important to me.
I’ve also found over the last year several things about myself: being close to my family is much more important than I used to think, I value roots, it is very difficult for me to be vulnurable yet important that I learn how to be so, and I don’t function well in a messy environment despite what my surroundings may at times indicate to the contrary.
I do have one complaint however; as I try to open up and lower my shields, I’m finding all sorts of stray energy from all over darting in. Has this always been going on and I just never noticed it or allowed it to affect me, or are people sensing that I’m not running around in a tunnel of my own making anymore and responding accordingly? Every day I’m finding myself surprised by the intrusions (however well meant) and have not yet found a way to navigate this shift. That’s ok, I expected turbulence. I suppose that I shall just have to deal with it one way or another.
Ok you extraverts and energy-drawers–how do you deal with the constant intrusions without shutting yourself off? Maybe it’s just learning how to finesse access, and something that will come with time. I am confident that I will develop the skills I need in this area eventually.
The final thought I’d like to leave with today is that I am finding within myself a greater capacity for empathy. Or, rather, less selective empathy. This is a blessing, albeit at times a heavy one.
I have a new resolution/mantra/life approach, and it is this: “stop volunteering for things”. Now before you start judging me as a heartless, horrible person please take the time to understand the context. You know by now that I am a go-getter who likes to be involved in a lot of things. I am a doer, and I rarely say no to activities. However, there comes a certain point where enough is enough. For instance, I had a month straight of 0 weekends (through a combination of work and volunteer obligations) and somehow at the end I was utterly exhausted. A novel concept, yes? I have finally made the decision that working full time and going to grad school full time is quite enough for one person to handle. Does this mean that I will never pitch in at extra events when needed? Of course not. But it does mean that I am going to be much more mindful of what I say yes to, and will try not to actively seek anything extra out. In addition to not joining new groups (outside of work) or volunteering for additional things, I am going to be more mindful of scheduling in time to decompress with friends. I’ve entered a stage in my life where I am wanting to spend time with others more than I have before, and while I still need time to myself to recover I also equally need one-on-one time with others.
My own health, in general, is going to be a huge focus for me in the coming months. I need to be more holistic in my approach to self-care. Travel season completely derailed the fitness progress I had made running last summer, and I never seemed to have the time or energy to pick things back up and focus on myself. Instead of things slowing down as I was back home, I just seemed to be in an endless cycle of signing up for more things and becoming more run down. Because of this I feel less fit than I have in quite some time, and I have noticed that the negative body-image messages I fought so hard to reprogram a few years ago are popping back up again in full force. It’s funny, isn’t it, how when we think the work is done the same problems reappear to torment us yet again? Turns out our stuff never completely goes away, we just become better at coping with it. Rather than falling into the hole of negative self-talk, I am making the decision here, now, today to be proactive and make the change I need in order to be happy and healthy.
So this decision to stop taking on other volunteer work is very important for both my mental and physical health. I need to have the energy to focus on maintaining physical activity as well as healthy eating, in addition to the time to prep for both things. While I am certainly not where I was junior year of undergrad where I began that first health journey, I definitely feel like I have lost more progress than I would have liked. That is ok though. We are all humans, and as such, are allowed to go places on our journeys that we may not have expected to. Like the cycle of change, each “misstep” is really just a change in trajectory, not a step backward. We can never move backward–and that is comforting.
In addition to a commitment to regular exercise and an awareness of my eating, I also need to practice mindfulness regarding my thoughts, feelings and reactions. Rather than being angry or disgusted at my internal thoughts (more negative energy) my mission is to learn how to acknowledge those thoughts and messages; giving them the attention they need in order to be fulfilled and float away. This is very difficult. But I am committed.
At the same time, too, I welcome support and encouragement. I would love to build a network/community of those who are going through a similar journey, or a different one but are willing to share. I welcome workout buddies (however I need to plan things in advance as my schedule is quite full, and as an introvert I do need time to mentally prepare myself for plans). I also ask for moral support as I am going to begin watching the office goodies and refreshment outings.
Finally, I am also committed to getting regularly scheduled practice and writing time back into my days. I was in quite the funk yesterday, and much later than I should have I decided to sing through some musical theatre books and practice the piano. Just like that, I had the most amazing next two hours of the evening. Quite simply, when my artistic needs are not being met I become depressed. The fix is simple, so rather than giving into these feelings of depression I will try to be better at taking the steps to meet my needs. I have resigned myself to the fact that it is likely I will not have the time to perform until I finish my masters degree, but this does not mean that I cannot be writing and singing and playing my instruments on my own time. As long as I prioritize having my own time.
It is hard to remember that as a multi-dimensional person I have multi-dimensional needs, but I am committed to a holistic self-care approach. I invite you to examine what needs are and are not being met in your life, and to take the steps necessary to meeting them for yourself. After all, we do our best work and are our best selves only when our needs are first met.
Wish me luck, and let me know if you need any encouragement!
In Developmental Theory we discussed the concept of the “full moon moment”, or a time in which we are shining with accomplishment. In that moment, if caught at the right time, praise and acknowledgment can help propel us forward. Or, if not caught, can lend to an even deeper need for acknowledgment, as well as developmental stagnation. I think I’ve been very fortunate in this area. There are so many moments that, when I look back, have helped guide my trajectory in a positive way. I know my strengths. I also know many weaknesses. I am so often surprised at how many people are able to rattle off weakness after weakness, but are stumped when prompted to list their strengths. There is also a difference between a true confidence, and an area of sensitivity hiding behind hubris. This is not to say that I am free of those moments–I certainly have as much ego as the next person. I also know what it is like to be genuinely confident without being enslaved by ego.
I am grateful that I have had many advocates, many supporters. In addition to family members, my encouragers have most often been educators. People who meet me now are often surprised that I am an introverted observer, and was once painfully shy. That is until they see me at a party, or, heaven forbid, in a potentially flirtatious interaction. The tremendous personal growth I have made is due to a lot of hard work, but also due to the potential others have recognized in me. I am lucky. Without those honest but unexpected nudges, I know I would not be where I am at currently. Teachers from elementary to high school to college and beyond have lent me the courage I needed when I did not have it, as well as the permission to know what I am good at. I also know the feelings that occur when my full moon moments are denied or deflated. Again, and I cannot say it enough, I am so grateful that those experiences have not formed the majority of my meaning-making.
I wish I was better at affirmation and acknowledgment. I am a recognizer and encourager of strengths, but I am not good at the gooshy stuff. As a matter of fact, flowery affirmation still makes me uncomfortable when directed at me (even though I appreciate it later). While I can intellectually see other’s emotional needs, I am not always equipped to meet them. I am an excellent listener, and I can be steadfast in times of chaos or need. I am not an empathizer. It is my mission this year to be more cognizant of other’s full moon moments, so that rather than squashing them with a correction or dry joke (no matter how entertaining) I can be a nurturing element in their lives. I’m not a social worker, I have to be jealous of my energies because I am so easily depleted of them. I am an educator at heart. I am an encourager. I want to help others help themselves.
So, as cheesy as this sounds, thank you to my supporters. Thank you to my teachers (in and out of the classroom) and supervisors who have recognized my talents before I have, to my advisors who have encouraged my interests and drawn out my talents and personality. Thank you to the community members and family and friends and advocates–for your patience with my areas that need growth but mostly, thank you for the gift of knowing me. This is a gift I will always cherish, and hope to pass on to others:
The gift of self-knowledge, the gift of self-worth and self-respect, the permission to honor the self as one would honor others.
So often in the culture of care, the self is the one person not taken into consideration. Which, unfortunately, depletes the self’s ability to care for others.
It is not selfish to think of oneself.
It is self-hurting and disingenuous not to.