Category Archives: acceptance

Relinquishing The Fear of Self Care

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A cake pop I brought home to surprise Tegan. It’s so easy to care for someone else.

Did you ever notice how you have to learn the same damn lessons over and over before they stick?  (Unless that’s just me?)  You know in your heart that something is true, and right, and sensible… but there’s a disconnect somewhere in between your heart and your brain, and you can’t seem to make yourself do or practice or even believe that which you know is true.  Then, when things start to go haywire – and they will go haywire, when you’re ignoring a vital piece of your well-being – you remember.  And you go, “Oh yeah, I learned this once before.  Maybe this time it’ll last.”  But no.  You’re stubborn.  And busy.  And stubborn some more.  And before you know it you’re once again off the rails and the lesson comes screeching back to remind you.

Repeat 12,000 times.  It’s exhausting.

For me, the area in which this most applies, BY FAR, is the idea of self-care.  In fact I get a little cringey at the thought of self-care, particularly the idea of self-love.  It just sounds so touchy feely and woo-woo and kind of makes me think of naked people hugging around some sort of goddess-worshiping sun circle.  (*Disclaimer:  I am not judging.  More power to you if that’s your sort of thing.  It just doesn’t happen to be mine*)  It makes me feel uncomfortable and icky.  Plus, as a mom, there’s the whole issue of balance.  And guilt.  And “Do I really want/deserve/have time for self-care, when I could be doing something for my kids?  Or my house…  Or my husband…”  Really paying attention to self-care, and self-compassion (seriously, I even have trouble using the word, “love” in there) means prioritizing.  It means deliberately choosing to take time away from something or someone else, in order to invest it in yourself.  It’s hard.  And it’s conflicting.

And it is so. freaking. important. 

I hear moms all the time saying that they’d love to take up this hobby, or read this book, or pursue this craft, but that they don’t have time.  That their KIDS are their hobby.  Their kids are their passion.  Their kids are their life.   They don’t have time for anything else.  I know because it’s what I’ve done.  It’s what I do, even when I swear that I’m going to be better about it.

But you know what?  I really am a better person – a healthier person, a stronger person, a more contented person – when I take time for myself.   By extension, I’m a better mother too.  A better wife.  A better friend.  I know this.  I know this.

So why do I keep having to learn the same lesson over and over?

I’ve been depressed lately, and the approaching holidays (and all the trappings they bring) don’t help with that.  Self-care – or any kind of care, if I’m being honest – has once again slid by the wayside.  And I’m beating myself up because the laundry is piled up, the house needs cleaning, there are presents to wrap, there are cookies to make.  So much to do and so little time, and I’m going to add more to my plate by doing something for myself??  I find myself constantly conflicted between giving myself the rest I so desperately need, and tackling the next Very Important Thing on my to-do list.  The dissonance makes me immobilized, and the immobilization makes me sit there, hovering, right in the middle…. not doing anything to take care of myself, and not getting anything productive done either.  I’m stuck.  And guilty.  And burnt out.

And again, I find myself having to confront the icky love stuff.  The thing I can dole out in spades to my children … but not so much to myself.

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I’m working on it.  I have to work on it.  It’s not optional.  I’ve seen firsthand what it does – not just to me, but to everything around me – when I make it an afterthought.  It isn’t pretty; it’s really not.  My mental health suffers.  My physical health suffers.  My relationships suffer.

So I’ll deal with the discomfort of whatever it is that makes me balk so much at the very words, “self-love”.  I’ll face all the yuck of my past that makes me think I’m not worthy.  I’ll work through my issues of perfectionism and guilt and black-and-white thinking that make me think things have to be done to a certain standard or the whole world order will collapse.  I’ll give myself the care that I deserve – and good grief, that I NEED – and not feel guilty about what I have to say no to in order to make it happen.

(Well, maybe just a little guilty.  I’m a messy work in progress.)

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My too-often ignored reminders on my dusty mirror with my unmade bed in the background.

It is now four o’clock in the afternoon.  I’ve been home for about an hour.  There’s unfolded laundry beside me.  There are stains to be scrubbed out of the carpet.   I need to vacuum.  There are emails to answer, and bills to be paid.  I need to make a list of cookie ingredients so I can go to the store.  I still have to plan a menu for Christmas day.  I need to finish shopping for stocking stuffers.  There are packages to go in the mail.  The bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in…. too long.  And have I mentioned the laundry??  Holy hell, the laundry.

But it’s okay.  IT’S OKAY.  It really is.  And I’ll sit.  And I’ll write, and I’ll drink my tea and eat my candy cane, and I’ll breathe, and I’ll know that I’m not doing nothing, but rather doing something… for me.  And once I’ve done something for me, and filled up my own cup (another phrase that gives me the absolute heebie-jeebies but I’m going to use anyway), I’ll know that it’ll be easier to commit myself fully to whatever task I decide to tackle next.  Full attention on me.  Full attention on the next thing.  And so on.  Non-negotiable from here on out.  And I’ll resist and I’ll whine and I’ll grumble… and I’ll lean into it all and trust that eventually I’ll get it.  Eventually it won’t be so hard.

Because I really am worth it.  I really do kick ass.

And sooner or later I want to be able to say the words, “Yes, I DO practice self-love”, and no longer wince when I say it.

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Filed under about me, acceptance, self care

My Dear Daughter, Your Value Doesn’t Change With What You’re Wearing

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The following was recently passed around Facebook.  (Emphasis at the end is my own.) The author is unknown:

A girl bought an iPad, when her father saw it, He asked her “What was the 1st thing you did when you bought it?

“I put an anti-scratch sticker on the screen and bought a cover for the iPad” she replied.

“Did someone force you to do so?” “No” “Don’t you think it’s an insult to the manufacturer?” “No dad! In fact they even recommend using
a cover for the iPad” “Did you cover it because it was cheap & ugly?”

“Actually, I covered it because I didn’t want it to get damage and decrease in value.”
“When you put the cover on, didn’t it reduce the iPad’s beauty?”

“I think it looks better and it is worth it for the protection it gives my iPad.”

The father looked lovingly at his daughter and said, “Yet if I had asked you to cover your body which is much more precious than the iPad, would you have readily agreed???” She was
mute…..

Indecent dressing and exposure of your body reduces your value and respect.


May God guide us all.

My first reaction was one of disgust.  As my eyes scanned the comments looking for other people who felt the same way I did, I was just met with “Amen”s and “How true!”s.  More disgust.  Had we read the same thing?  The tome that reduced a girl’s body to a physical object?  One that lost its value if it wasn’t clothed in a certain fashion?  One that wasn’t worthy of respect if it wasn’t properly covered up?  I think the thing that bothered me most of all (“bothered” isn’t even the right word… it creeped me right out) was that the father “looked lovingly at his daughter,” before he gave his edict to cover up, like she’d covered up the iPad.  Misogyny and control aren’t love.

Ultimately, reading things like this makes me so overwhelmingly sad.  Sad because they illustrate how far we still need to go.

Sad because they remind me of the prevalent thinking of girls being somehow “less than.”

Sad because they only cheer on the patriarchal society that sees to it that the men get to dictate what women should or should not wear… or do… or think.

Sad because it speaks to the larger issue of a world that somehow simultaneously heralds women as nothing more than sex objects, and disparages them for said sexuality at the same time… calling them whores.  Or loose.  Or easy.

Sad because this is exactly the kind of teaching that leaves girls feeling devalued and worthless, like they don’t deserve love.  They’re nothing more than their bodies, right?  So if they showed too much skin, or looked too attractive, or God forbid engaged in premarital sexual activity… who would want them?  (Many abstinence-only trainings go so far as to compare girls who’ve lost their virginity to used chewing gum.)

Sad because it contributes to a culture of victim blaming that leaves the 1 in 4 women who will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime feeling ashamed, as though it were somehow their fault.

At the time of this writing, my daughter is only eight.  But I fear for her future if this is the kind of thing that people aspire to teach their daughters, and pass on to their sons.  Is this really the message we want to send to today’s young girls? That they’re nothing more than a body?  A body that must be properly covered lest it “lose its value”?

My message for my daughter is very different.   At the end of the day – away from the white noise of society, and the church, and advertising, and television, and social media, and politics – this is what I want my daughter to know:

You, my dear daughter, are amazing.

You are strong, and kind, and creative, and intelligent, and funny.  You have a big, beautiful, giving heart.  You make people laugh. You take care of those around you.  I don’t doubt for a second that you can achieve absolutely anything that you put your mind to.

I hope you know how incredible you are.  I hope you know how much you have to offer.  I hope you know that your value, your worth as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a human soul… it’s infinite.  The world is a better place just because you are in it.

At some point in time, society is going to try to reduce you to just your body, but you don’t have to listen!  I need you to know that you are so much more than your body.  Your body is just a physical place to house your beautiful soul.

I don’t mean to diminish it though, because your body is pretty freaking amazing too!  It lets you run, and jump on the trampoline, and pump yourself high on the swings.  It lets you swim like a mermaid, and give fierce hugs, and bake cookies with your brother.  My hope is that you are kind to your body: That you will treat it well, and feed it good foods, and give it plenty of exercise.  Not for me!, and not to reach some aesthetic ideal, and certainly not for society, but for YOU, so you can keep it healthy and strong so you can do all the things you want it to do.  I hope you take your body on grand adventures.  I hope you build and create things with your hands, I hope you aren’t afraid to get dirty, I hope you use your skills and your time to help others.  Maybe one day you’ll climb to the top of a mountain, or ski down one instead. Maybe your body will one day give birth to a baby, or carry you onto a plane to go adopt one.

Yes, your body will take you to amazing places.  It is is going to grow, and hurt, and heal, and love, and fight.

One day you’ll feel the thrill of a first romantic kiss, and the physical ache in your heart at a romance gone wrong.

It seems grossly superficial and irrelevant to even think about how you are clothed (really, in the grand scheme of things, what on earth does it matter?) but sooner or later someone’s going to make you think that it’s important, and I want you to know this:  I hope you dress in a way that makes you feel beautiful and comfortable and confident.  I hope you dress in a way that reflects you.  I hope you dress in whatever makes you feel best able to grab life by the horns and leave your own unique, indelible mark.  The one that says, “I was here.  And I mattered.”

You will change lives just by existing.  I know, because you’ve already changed mine, and you’re not even nine years old.

And the thing is, no matter what you’re wearing, no matter how much you weigh, no matter what your hair or your face or your body looks like, you STILL HAVE JUST AS MUCH VALUE.

Because your value?  Your worth?  That’s inside of you, and no one can take it away.


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Filed under acceptance, parenting, perspective, respect, self image, Uncategorized

Why We Need To Keep Talking About Leelah Alcorn

Leelah Alcorn, 1997-2014

Leelah Alcorn, 1997-2014

I’ll be 41 in 2 days.

Even at 41, it still stings when I get disapproval from my parents.  At this point, it’s stupid little things:  they don’t like my nose ring, or that I gauged my ears.  They stopped being excited about my tattoos after number 2 or 3. They hated my dreadlocks for every day of the three years that I had them.  Such silly, inconsequential, superficial things, and yet I still – even as a grown, confident, very true-to-myself adult – I still falter, still wilt a little bit under their disapproval.  Yes, I understand that they love me, but the feeling is still there, just under the surface.   The feeling that I’m not living up to expectations.  The feeling that I’ve disappointed in some way.

I cannot imagine, even for a second, the pain of being a teenager… a child… a time that’s confusing and difficult and rife with growing pains even under the best of circumstances… trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in…. and being met with rejection from your parents, the very people who are supposed to be your rock and your protector… rejection not for something immaterial like a hair style or a clothing choice, but for who you are.  

Make no mistake, Leelah Alcorn was rejected by her parents.

In an interview with CNN, Leelah’s mother, Carla Alcorn said:

 

“We don’t support that, religiously  [In response to her identifying as a girl].  But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

 

And you know what, I’m sure that she did love her son. I don’t know Carla Alcorn. I have no reason to doubt her words. The problem is… this son that she loved didn’t exist.  In Leelah’s own words, she knew she wasn’t “Josh” from the time she was 4 years old.  She was 17 when she took her life, so that means that she lived for 13 years as someone other than who her parents wanted and expected her to be.  And when she did tell them?  She was met with disapproval.  She was met with rejection.  She was sent to Christian therapists… therapists who didn’t address her big feelings, didn’t help her with her depression, but instead tried to “fix” her.  Tried to tell her how wrong she was.  Tried to tell her how she just needed to pray it away. Pray away the person that she’d been since she was four years old.

Her parents did not support her, she’d been cut off from her friends, and even her “therapists” (who are supposed to help!) only served to tell her how shameful she was.

I think about how alienated and alone she must have felt and I feel sick.

And if you’re reading this and thinking, “Well it’s sad that she took her life, but being transgender is wrong,”  I don’t care that you think it’s wrong.  And I mean it in the most respectful way possible, but I really, truly don’t care.   Because there’s such a thing as a right and a wrong way to treat people, and we have failed – all of us, as a society – we have shamefully failed in our treatment of people like Leelah Alcorn.

As for her parents:

Her parents have the right to their religious beliefs.  They have the right to disagree with her decision to transition to female.  Absolutely.  But as parents they also had a responsibility.  A responsibility to realize that their right to their own beliefs did not and should not supersede their daughter’s right to feel safe and loved and accepted in her own home.  A responsibility to understand that their religious rights end where another person’s human rights begin (and not just any old person, but their CHILD!).  Leelah had the right to be loved and cared for and protected FOR WHO SHE WAS, not who they wanted her to be.  Even in death, they refuse to call her by her chosen gender pronoun, and that to me speaks volumes.

I hesitate to bring religion into it, because I don’t really believe it’s about religion.  I believe it’s about love and acceptance.  But I feel like it has to be addressed, because I have seen far too many comments along the lines of “This is why I hate Christians.”  [And as an aside, I need to believe that the people who say that don’t actually hate all Christians, because if they did, it would mean that they practice the very same bigotry that they’re speaking out against.]  It stands to be said that not all Christians would behave the same way as Leelah’s parents.   Not all Christians are the same.  It bothers me – deeply – how often I find myself needing to say that, but it’s true.  In fact my faith informs me very very differently.  My faith tells me to love…. deeply, truly, unconditionally. My faith tells me that in order to parent, and parent well, that I need to accept and honor my children for WHO THEY ARE, not tell them through my words and actions that the essence of their identity is wrong or bad or shameful.

My faith tells me that the God I love would not create my child in a particular way (in Leelah’s case as a chid born with male genitalia but who ultimately identified as female), only to want me to reject and alienate the very person He created.

And don’t misunderstand me.  I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be the parent of a transgender child.  I can’t pretend to know the pain of losing a child, and the pain of knowing that my own choices contributed.

What I do know is that the words Leelah spoke in her heartbreaking suicide note reflect not just the anguish of her own life and death, but also speak to a much more universal problem.   There are countless other “Leelahs” out there, and they need our support.  And as the days pass, and people mention her name less and less, I feel almost panicky inside. Panicky because I feel like we NEED to keep talking about this.  I feel like we need to remember.  I feel like we need to take the lesson learned from Leelah’s life and death and live it.

What does it take for our society to wake up?  What does it take for us to stand on the side of compassion and understanding and acceptance for all people?  What does it take for us to err on the side of love?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves all the time, not just in response to tragedy.

Leelah shouldn’t have died.  Oh she shouldn’t have died!  By all accounts, she was a beautiful and talented soul. But I thank her for leaving her words for all of us, for the powerful and important and timeless message of love, acceptance, and kindness for all.  I pray that she finds the peace that she never found on earth.

 

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

 

Sending love to all, in Leelah’s honor.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

If you are transgender and contemplating suicide, you can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860

LGBT youth (24 years and younger) can call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-7386

For all ages and identities, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

 


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Piercings and Perceptions (Those people are SCARY)

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A few weeks ago, Tegan (almost six at the time of this writing) got her ears pierced. She’d been toying with the idea for at least a year, but was nervous because she knew it would hurt. She talked about it all the time, and asked me lots of questions.  My response was always the same.  I wasn’t going to talk her into it, or talk her out of it.  The only one who could make that decision for her body was her.  “When you’re ready, you’ll know.   And when you say, “when,” I’ll take you.”

That moment came just a few days after Christmas.  Knowing that I wanted to take her to a skilled, reputable piercer who would use a needle rather than the guns used at places like the mall, I made a bunch of phone calls, and asked some friends who’d had their girls’ ears pierced.  We ended up at a wonderful shop, with a kind and patient piercer who knew just how to calm Tegan’s understandable jitters.  When we came in, the soundtrack to Frozen was playing, and she even had the guy at the front desk put on “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” just as she was about to pierce, because she’d overheard Tegan say it was her favorite.  How above and beyond is that?

Making it even more of an “event”, Tegan had not just her dad and I in her entourage, but also her grandparents who were visiting from Massachusetts.  She’d wanted to share it with them, and they were happy to come along for the ride.  It was a big, momentous day in her life, one that I was so excited to be able to give to her.  We couldn’t have asked for a better experience, and Tegan is thrilled with her new earrings.

I’m thinking about it today because a friend just happened to share an article about why you should take your child to a tattoo/piercing shop (as opposed to the alternatives) to get their ears pierced.  It wasn’t new information for me, but I read it with interest since ours was such a fresh experience.

When I was done, I read the comments, which were largely made by people like us… people who’d had great experiences, and were happy to share about it.  And then there were a few that stood out, a few that said, (I’m paraphrasing):

I would never take my kids in to a place like that.  People who work at those places look scary.  I wouldn’t want my kids to have nightmares.

I grew up around such prejudices and similar attitudes about people with piercings, tattoos, etc. as well.   I remember once when I was a kid, a woman visited our church with a sleeveless dress on that showed off a cute little flower tattoo on her shoulder.  It was adorable (a million times tinier than any of the tattoos I would go on to get) and I was fascinated by it.   But when it was mentioned later in my youth group, it wasn’t to talk about how pretty it was… it was to talk about what kind of “image” a tattoo is sending to the world…. a tattoo that we wouldn’t have even seen had she not been wearing a sleeveless dress, which, of course, sent its own message.

I decided somewhere along the way that I wanted something different for my own kids.  That I didn’t want them to see people for their clothes or their hairstyles or their body modifications, but for who they are as people.  I want them to assume, first and foremost, that most people are good.  That most people are kind.  That most people will treat them as respectfully as they’re treated in kind, no matter what their outer packaging looks like.   In fact, one of the reasons I keep my dreadlocks even through those moments of “I’m cutting them all off!” desperation, is that they open so many doors for acceptance.  It’s rare that we don’t have an outing that finds us talking about dreadlocks with all kinds of different people.  Pierced, tattooed, modified, dreaded, shaved, dyed… all those people that moms like the one up above find “scary”… making friendly conversation and sharing kind words with strangers.  Just like… well, just like the regular people that they are.  Subsequently, there are few things that shock my kids appearance-wise.

That’s not to say though, that there’s anything wrong with a child being unsure or afraid of something he’s not familiar with.  Not at all.  Just a few months ago, we were at a museum when Tegan saw someone with some startling differences, things this woman was born with, that really scared her.  I couldn’t fault her for feeling that way. How I could I?  She’d never seen someone who looked like that before.  What I could do was remind her, and myself, that it’s all just external.  Just packaging.  That beneath the exterior, we’re all the same.  We’re all beautiful.   Worthy of kindness, respect, and love.

So my response to those who wouldn’t want to expose their kids to those “scary” people would be this:

First, some of the nicest people I have ever met have been at tattoo shops.  Truly.  I’ve only had wonderful experiences at every single one of the shops I’ve gone to.  My theory is that the artists who are tattooing and piercing are following a passion … people who follow their passions are happy … and happy people are nice people.  Let down your guard, and let yourself see it.

And second, kids take their cues from their parents more than from anyone else.  If we continue to avoid people who are “different”, they will continue to believe that “different” is scary. If we stay far away from the guy with the long dreadlocks, scoff at the guy with the coaster-sized gauged ears, and silently judge the girl with tattoos all over her neck, our kids will learn from our example.  It starts with us.

It’s okay for kids to be scared or unsure when they’re first faced with someone who looks “out of the ordinary.” It’s not okay for us, as parents, to perpetuate it.

 


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On Loving My Christian Neighbors

You know what really bugs me?

(This is where my husband would offer, “LOTS of things?” and I would roll my eyes and clarify, “Okay, you know what is really bugging me today?”)

Today, it is really bugging me that so many people choose to pour their time and energy into passing judgment on others’ lifestyles and – this is the part that bugs me – cloaking it as concern for their poor Christian souls.

I love God.  Let me start there.  With all my “heart, soul, and mind”.  That’s Matthew 22:38, for those of you who like these things accompanied by scriptures.  You know what comes right after it?  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And that’s where I, and I’d imagine lots of other Christians, often stumble. Sometimes it’s just damn hard work to love your neighbor.   I mean, it’s easy to love nice people.  And people of other faiths?  Muslim neighbors and atheist neighbors and Jewish neighbors?  No problem there either. People of different sexual orientations?  Gay neighbors and straight neighbors and bisexual neighbors?  Done.

But good grief.  Loving my fellow Christian can be difficult.

I’m not your “typical” Christian, if there is such a thing.   I don’t fit neatly into a box, and I get that.  And non-box-fitting Christians often make other Christians … nervous.  I get that too. Here’s what I don’t get.  Why on earth would the way I choose to live out my faith bother you? To the point that you feel such an irrepressible urge to actually WARN me:

You should be careful with yoga.  You’re opening yourself up to the occult.

Tattoos (or piercings, or any other form of personal expression that you find distasteful)  are defiling God’s temple.

Any so-called Christian who lets their children play first-person shooter games is not a true Christian.  Period.

As a Christian, I can’t believe you’d ignore the biblical instruction for corporal punishment.

Celebrating Halloween is honoring evil.

And overheard just this morning, again in reference to Halloween:

“Sugar-sprinkled poison is still poison.”

I could certainly go on, but those are the ones I hear most frequently, and with the most fervor. What it boils down to is a good, old-fashioned, “Shame on you, you bad bad Christian!  You’re getting it all WRONG, and it’s my job to tell you.”  It’s exhausting and irritating.  And, like I said, not too helpful in my genuine quest to love all the Christians.

The thing you need to know is that my faith is strong.  My mind can be changed about many many things, but not that. I am confident in my relationship with God, and I am confident that He loves me exactly as He created me. So while your genuine concern for my soul is touching – if it is in fact genuine – your efforts to change me in some way are really only serving to annoy me (and also to add fuel to the “Christians are just judgmental a@@holes” fire.  So well played)

If your choices are not harmful to others, I will support your right to have them like crazy.  Don’t want to celebrate Halloween? Cool with me.  Don’t want to do yoga? Super.  Don’t like certain video games?  By all means, don’t buy them.  Rather die than get a tattoo or a piercing?  Your choice to make.

All I ask is that you extend me the same courtesy.

I’ll respect the message sent by your dark porch on Halloween.   I won’t show up at your door with my zombie child, I promise.  I won’t force you to do yoga.  I won’t even make you look at my tattoos.  I’ll just… love you.  From afar, if that’s what you prefer.

Because here’s what I’m thinking.  If, as Christians, our job is to get out into the world and spread God’s love, and we can’t even act in a loving way towards each other?  Something’s not right.  Pointing fingers and splitting hairs and damning people to hell over everything they’re getting “wrong” does no good for anyone.  And let’s be honest, none of us are getting it 100% right anyway.  We’re human.  Gloriously flawed, imperfect, constantly growing and learning and involving humans.

And MY flaws and imperfections (and/or those things you perceive as my flaws and imperfections)?  They won’t hurt you.  Really.  You’re okay.  I’m okay.  My choices are between me and God.  He’s got this.  He’s always got this.

No outside help required.

 

 


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That Girl Needs To Lay Off The Cheeseburgers

Does that title make you uncomfortable?  Good.  It’s supposed to.  It made me uncomfortable to write it.  We’re supposed to be bothered by such derogatory comments, because we all know (or at least, we should know) that they’re unkind and hurtful.  I sincerely hope that if you’re reading this right now, that we can agree – whether you’ve ever said something like that or not – that picking on someone for being a larger size is not a very nice thing to do.

What I’m wondering then, is why on earth it seems to be so socially acceptable to knock someone for being very thin?  When did this become okay?

Hold that thought.

Last Sunday was the Grammy Awards.  I get more excited about awards shows than I rightfully should.  I love them.  I do.  I love music and movies and television and pop culture in general; I love the pomp and circumstance; and I love the revealing of the answer to the scintillating question that’s on everyone’s minds:  What will the stars be wearing??  It’s true.  There’s something strangely thrilling about watching pretty people in dresses that cost more than my car.

My husband, who would rather have extensive elective dental work than sit through more than 3 minutes of an awards show, was beside me in body but not so much in spirit… so I virtually watched it alongside hundreds of other people via Twitter and Facebook.  It was interesting following all the commentary in real-time.

Adele’s wearing color!

Chris Brown and Rhianna are publicly canoodling even after he assaulted her.

Oh. Em. Gee.  It’s Justin Timberlake!

And then came the body-shaming.  “Someone feed Taylor Swift a sandwich.”  “Nicole Kidman needs a cheeseburger.”  “Faith Hill’s gotten way too skinny.”

Again, I have to ask:  When did this become okay?  If we can all agree that it’s not right to negatively point out someone’s larger size, why shouldn’t the same hold true for those on the other side of the spectrum?  Why should we be critiquing others’ bodies at all?

The day after the Grammys, I was looking through a pictorial of the attendees’ dresses on a popular entertainment website.  On the side bar, two previous articles caught my attention:  The first, an article touting celebrities’ best-kept weight-loss secrets.  Right below it?  “The most scary skinny bikini bodies.”  Is it any wonder society is so confused, with that kind of disparity?  Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight!!  Too skinny, too skinny, too skinny!!

I used to be the “too thin” girl.  I’m not anymore  – my 39 year old body has resolutely decided to naturally carry 20 more pounds than my 29 year old body – but once upon a time I was the one being told to “eat a couple sandwiches.”

It’s hurtful, and it’s embarrassing.

I remember being at a holiday party once, all dressed up and feeling festive and pretty.  I was shivering, literally shaking, because it turned out I was coming down with the flu.  A friend of a friend looked at me, and said, loudly enough for the whole roomful of people to look at him, “It’s because you’re so damn skinny.  You need to eat something.  I can practically see right through you!”

15 years later, I can still remember exactly what he said, and exactly how it made me feel.

Dove has an ad campaign called “Real Women” that mostly features women with curves.  Real women have curves, these ads cry.  And you know what?  Sometimes they do.  And sometimes real women have no curves.  Sometimes real women are tall and lanky.  Sometimes real women have big boobs, and sometimes real women have no boobs.  Sometimes real women have no hair, and sometimes they have hair everywhere.  Sometimes real women have flabby thighs and flat butts and muffin tops.  Sometimes real women have big ears and stretch marks and bony knees.  Sometimes real women sit behind a desk all day and wear a size zero.  Sometimes real women spend all day in the gym and never get below an 18.

Sometimes real women laugh when they want to cry.

Can we stop with the body shaming?  I am so, so tired of a culture that fights so hard against a “thin is beautiful” mindset that it’s only succeeded in carving the second side of the same damn coin.

Thin is beautiful.

Big is beautiful.

Healthy is beautiful.

Strong is beautiful.

Vulnerable is beautiful.

Happy and confident and kind are beautiful.

We never know someone’s story just by looking at them.   Can I say that I again, because *I* seem to forever need to reminder?

We never know someone’s story just by looking at them. 

It’s easy and convenient to assume that a diet or a sandwich will cure someone’s supposed “flaws”… but it’s far more kind (and so much more productive) to never see them as flaws to begin with.

(I wrote about this same subject here)


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Filed under acceptance, body image, judgement, love, rant, self image

Books and Covers

 

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

Such an old, tired cliche, and one that has very nearly lost all meaning.  Sure, we pull it out from time to time, and make ourselves feel like it is a new revelation… but does anyone actually live by it?  From what I can see – both online and in the world around me – judging books by covers is not just still present, but very much alive and well.

A few weeks ago, I saw a comment on a blog from someone who said that in his mind, tattoos automatically mar a person’s inner beauty.  Now, I’m well aware that people feel that way, but having two tattoos myself (and I’m just getting started :)) the words still stung.  It’s one thing to have an opinion…. to not personally care for tattoos or dreadlocks or piercings or whatever… but to actually just look at a person, to see only their outer shell, and then make a decision about who they must be inside?  That’s a problem.

Last weekend, we did one of my very favorite things and went downtown to catch a Diamondbacks game.  They would lose, 5-0, but we didn’t know that yet.  We parked at our favorite $5 lot a few blocks from the stadium, and had walked most of the way there when we passed a homeless man sitting against a lamppost.  He looked to be in his 60’s, his skin dark and weathered from the Phoenix sun, and had nothing with him save for a hand-written sign that said simply, “Food.”

Living in a city this size, we see homeless people often.  I would never say I’ve gotten used to it – because I think we’re in trouble if we ever get used to such a thing – but it’s far from an unusual sight, especially in that part of town.  But here’s what I noticed on Friday night:

As we walked, we were sharing the sidewalk with two kids in their 20’s.  They looked… well, they looked like you’d expect two young people who’d just come out of a pub on a Friday night in downtown Phoenix to look.  They were tattooed.  They looked somehow totally chilled out and restless all at the same time.   Their pants were so low that I could very nearly see the bottom seam on their plaid boxers, and they were doing that weird waddle-walk that I’m assuming is necessary to keep them up.

“Are you hungry?”  They’d stopped in front of the homeless man just as we all passed.  “Here, take this.”  One of the young men handed him his plastic take-out container from the pub.  “We’ll bring you back some hotdogs, in case you’re still hungry later.  Bless you, brother,” he said as they walked away, and I lost sight of them as we all merged with the sea of people getting ready to enter the stadium.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Was there anything different about what they’d done than if they’d been well-dressed businessman in their 40’s?  Well, no.  A kindness is a kindness.  But the thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about – the thing that made me sad – was that just because they do happen to look a certain way,  they likely have to work even harder to disprove people’s preconceptions.  That they have to know that, just like that blog comment all those weeks ago, that there are going to be people who take one look at them and decide that they’re not as beautiful on the inside.  That they’re somehow less than.  Somehow less likely to be kind.  Somehow less likely to be giving.  Somehow less likely to be good.

And I think that if we’re being honest, we’ve all had or have something in this area that we can work on… some preconceived notion of how a person should be or think or act just because of the way they look.  And while I’ll never know who those kids were from the game, I’d like to thank them for reminding me once again that we need to knock it off.  Like, yesterday.

My kids are so naturally great at this.  So loving.  So accepting of differences.  I don’t want them to grow up in a world where it’s okay to think that anybody is “less than” just because of the way he looks.  That it’s okay to make a decision about somebody based on the way they dress, or the color of their hair, or the fact that they express themselves through piercings or tattoos.   I want them to know that a person isn’t more or less likely to be a good and kind soul just because of their outer packaging.

Unfortunately, yes, it’s a truth that sometimes people do bad things.  Oh but so very, very many people are good.

And until they’ve shown us otherwise through their actions, shouldn’t we be giving everyone the benefit of the doubt?


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Filed under acceptance, fears, kindness, labels, life

I’m a Hypocrite (and sometimes I don’t recycle)

A truth about blogging:  Sometimes no matter how carefully you choose your words, no matter how diplomatic and respectful you feel you’re being, no matter how clearly you think you’ve shared your viewpoint…. you still get called judgmental.  Short-sighted.  Preachy.  Hypocritical.

Hypocritical.  Hypocritical.  Hypocritical.

The odd thing is the perverse pleasure people seem to take in pointing out this perceived hypocrisy.  “Admit it!  You’re a hypocrite!!”

Okay, I’m a hypocrite.  So what?   I don’t mean to be flip, and of course I strive not to be a hypocrite.  It’s just that everyone (at least if s/he’s being honest) is a hypocrite sometimes.  We all mess up.  We vow to do better.  We change our minds.  We learn.  We grow.  We mess up again.  We’re human.

I’ve kept this blog for over 6 years now.  I GUARANTEE you that I’ve contradicted myself.  I guarantee you that I’ve written posts I’m no longer proud of.  I guarantee you that I haven’t always been as nice as I could have been.

The only difference between me and anyone else is that my missteps are out there on the internet for all to see and critique.

And if I don’t happen to be writing about it, you can rest assured that I’m living it.

Yes, sometimes I’m a hypocrite.

Sometimes I don’t get enough sleep and I snap at my husband.

Sometimes I don’t get enough sleep and I snap at my kids.

Sometimes I gossip.

Sometimes I judge people too quickly.

Sometimes I’m impatient.

Sometimes I’m just too damn tired to rinse out the peanut butter jar, and I throw it in the trash instead of the recycling bin which is right. next. to. it.

And you know what?  I refuse to beat myself up about any of the above.  If you’d like to beat me up for it, that’s certainly your prerogative.   Indeed, it’s easy and convenient to make a snap judgment about someone based on one real moment (I know… I’ve done that too…) rather than recognizing each other for what we really are: fellow travelers at various ports in this journey of life.  Growing through our trials, learning from our mistakes, and waking up each day with a new resolve to do better.  At the end of the day, we’re not much different, you and I.

I’m not yet the person I want to be, but that’s okay…. because He’s not done working on me yet.

And thank God for that.


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Filed under about me, acceptance, growing up, hypocrisy, judgement, learning, life

Dear Chick Fil A: I Love You, But…

Chick Fil A.

You’re sick to death of hearing about it.  I am too.  BELIEVE ME, I am too.  Two days ago, I vowed I would not weigh in.   Yesterday I realized I had no choice, if for no other reason than to preserve my own sanity and get it off my chest, if not off my news feed.

I am a huge proponent of respecting other people’s right to have their own opinions, and to voice those opinions as they see fit.  Let me just start there.  One of the things that has bothered me about this from the start (and there are so very many things that bother me about it) is that those of us who don’t agree with Dan Cathy’s stance are getting accused of not respecting his right to free speech.   Of course he has the right to speak.  Is anyone actually saying he doesn’t?  That’s an honest question…  I’ve read so many ugly words coming from both sides that at some point I started tuning them out.

Another one I’m seeing a lot of is a graphic that says:  “‘I disagree’ is not equal to ‘I hate you.'”  Absolutely.  Merely disagreeing, and harboring hatred are two entirely different things.

Here’s the problem…

I’m of the opinion (and remember, Dan Cathy gets to have an opinion.  I get to have an opinion.  We all get to have an opinion) I’m of the opinion that the Bible is not nearly as black and white on the issue of homosexuality as most of my fellow Christians would have you believe.  Setting that conversation completely aside, let’s say for the sake of argument that homosexuality is wrong.  There still remains the fact that the Bible is exceedingly clear on one thing.  We are called to LOVE. 

Of course, of course!  Love the sinner, hate the sin. 

No.  No, no, no.  Love the sinner (and we’re all sinners).  Period.   I believe that that “Love the sinner, hate the sin” admonishment is one of the most hurtful and damaging phrases ever to be uttered.  If we’re actively hating something about someone else, we believe they should change.   We’re making our love conditional, and half-hearted at best.   In essence we’re saying, “I love you, but…” Can any good come after that ‘but’?   To truly and completely love, we just have to LOVE.   With no strings, and no conditions.  Think homosexuality is a sin?  So is pride.  So is arrogance.  So is gossip.  So is judgement.

Love anyway.

Chick Fil A donates money – millions of dollars worth of money – to organizations whose whole reason for existence is to fight against, and ostracize, gay individuals… including groups that link homosexuality to pedophilia, groups that feel homosexuality should be outlawed, groups that think homosexuals should be exported from our country, and groups that believe homosexuality is something that can be “prayed away.”  One of these groups is the Family Research Council, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  I ask you, implore you, in all sincerity …. if you were homosexual, or your child or your best friend or your brother were homosexual, would any of the above groups (or the organizations such as Chick Fil A that support them) make you feel particularly loved?

I’ll be honest:  I’ve never eaten at Chick Fil A, mainly because I just don’t eat that kind of food.  And I’m certainly not going to start now, not because I simply disagree (I want to be really clear about that) but because just as it’s their right to financially support blatantly anti-gay organizations, it’s my right not to.  And yes, I’m aware that I’m likely supporting other such organizations without even knowing about it…. but when you know better, you do better.   I want my dollars to support groups that promote love, not more division.

I have seen so much righteous indignation, name-calling, and judgment from both sides of the issue.   I’ve seen well-meaning Christians proudly boasting about their support of a company that they may or may not realize gives money to a known hate group; and I’ve seen detractors casually throwing out words like bigots, and homophobes, and haters.

I’ve seen people telling Dan Cathy in no uncertain terms where to go and how to get there.  And that’s clearly not the answer here either.

These are real people … people with failings and shortcomings to be sure … but real people, who are so much more than a cause or a principle or a religious or political crusade.  And as I’ve thought about it, and pulled it apart, and boiled it down, I’ve realized that my responsibility here is no more and no less than to love.  Simply.  Fully.  Unconditionally.

And man, it’s simple in premise but not always easy in practice.  It’s hard to love people sometimes.  Sadly, often sometimes, my fellow Christians are the hardest of all.  But I honestly do want to love like Jesus loved.  I don’t ever want to fall back on “loving the sinner and hating the sin.”  I don’t want to put conditions on my love.  I don’t want to be a hypocrite.  So I will say to Dan Cathy and to others who support groups that aim to oppress, disparage, and ostracize others,  “I love you”.

And then I’ll just stop talking.


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Filed under acceptance, bible, faith, hypocrisy, kindness, life, perspective, rant, respect

Dreads at 3 Months: Redefining Beauty

My dreads are three months old.  Which means for ninety something days now, I’ve been carrying around these ropy, tangly, matted knots, instead of the long, thick wavy hair that partially defined me for all of my previous 38 years.   And they look, well…  they’re a huge mess.  Their current appearance does not do much to help the opinions of my mom all the people who think that dreadlocks are unkempt or unwashed.  Despite my tender loving care, some days they look a little bit – or a lot – of both.  I feel this overwhelming need to say that out loud, because I can feel the looks.  I can feel the wordless stares.  Not necessarily because I have dreadlocks, but because I have crazy, messy, rebellious teenage dreadlocks.   They’re a mess.  I’m aware.

They are filled with crazy loops and twists and lumps and bumps.  All of which are a normal progression in the journey of dreadlocks (and actually a good sign that they are doing what they are supposed to do), but somehow very different in reality than they were when they were merely hypothetical.   There are things to do to “tame” the loops a little quicker…  there are techniques that involve basically poking and threading with big needles, and/or I could always find a salon that does dread maintenance.

BUT.  And it’s a big but.  I’ve decided to embrace the chaos.

Some of the “maintenance” recommended by certain websites and schools of thought can actually cause a lot of damage.  And the last thing I want is to commit to a long-term hairstyle, only to have them thin and fall out because I didn’t treat them properly!  More than that though, is this linear idea that neat, perfect and uniform = beautiful.   Did I decide to take this drastic and bold step with my hair, only to make it look like everyone else’s?  If I’d wanted that, I could have gotten perfectly round extensions.  No, what I signed up for was a journey.  I’m surely not done with my own journey of growth, so why should my hair be any different?  I have bad days and bumpy days and setbacks… but I am learning to trust that there is beauty, not just in the end, but in the process.

I didn’t like what I’d started to see in myself over the past several weeks as my hair changed.   Me, forever proud not to be overly attached to things like make-up, hairstyles, and fashion…   I was mourning my old hair.   I’d be fine for a few days,  hiding it all under a buff or bandana, and then I’d take a good look in the mirror, wanting to look nice for church or dinner or just a day out.  On one shoulder would be the confidence. “You can own this!  You’re awesome!”  And on the other, would be that insecure teenager again.   “But.  But.  It’s not pretty.”

I am so much more than my hair.

At the same time, my hair’s become an outward symbol of an inward process, more so than I ever could have imagined when I started this journey three months ago.  I look forward to having mature, beautiful dreads in a couple of years.  I do.  But now, I look forward to the journey even more… loops, bumps, and all.

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.

The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress!

The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

But neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

It never was able to fly…

As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.

Struggling is an important part of any growth experience. In fact, it is the struggle that causes you to develop your ability to fly.

 


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Filed under about me, acceptance, being happy with what is, dreadlocks, life, self image