Sunday, June 22, 2014

Great Expectations

Summers can be hard.

Which kind of stinks, because aren't summers supposed to be easy? The heat slows you down, spending a day at the lake is your only homework, an ice cream cone is a balanced meal, your toes and your heart can take a deep breath. 

These were summers of summers past, but not recently. As I have grown older and confronted the perfectionist beast inside of me, summers have routinely convinced me to make this summer the best summer yet. 

This summer, I'll go to bed early and wake up early.

This summer, I'll run everyday.

This summer, I'll lose 10 more pounds.

This summer, I'll make more money.

This summer, I'll read for education and for pleasure.

This summer, I'll fully learn about and understand the Middle East. 


This summer, I'll be so fit that I will finally feel comfortable in my body and go to the beach with friends.


And on and on. 

(Sometimes being in my head is exhausting.)

These summer goals I make for myself, much like New Years Resolutions, amount to one great expectation: this summer, I'll be perfect. I'll be disciplined yet carefree; I'll be strong yet delicate; I'll do it all and make it seem effortless. 

The summer I find myself in the midst of currently has been no different. The destructive voice in my head has been churning out goals at full speed: I am working three part-time jobs (nannying, interning at the Boys and Girls Club in Kalamazoo, and [still] interning with Adios Barbie) while also writing my Senior Individualized Project (SIP), due the first day of Fall Quarter. 

But wait! There's more! 

I'm hesitant to share this, but I still find it difficult to concentrate when sometimes all I can think about is how much I miss Maia. Her passing is tangible; I see her smile many times a day on my wall and feel her warmth when I cuddle with her stuffed giraffe, but sometimes I wonder if these reminders serve to trigger my pain when I am already feeling lonely. Or maybe I'm looking for an excuse to disregard SIP work and watch Orange is the New Black. It's a toss up. But dearest Maia, I miss you so. 

A professor once told me that sometimes we can only improve one facet of our lives at a time, because we have finite reserves of energy, time, and patience with ourselves that we must protect for the long haul. I'm trying to nurture this wisdom during a time when I want to pull a Liz Lemon and "have it all". Because when I take a step back and look at the summer ahead of me, 11 weeks seems awfully short for a complete life revolution. Maybe this summer I am focusing on money, networking, and academic projects. Maybe that means I shouldn't train for a half marathon as well (an honest thought I have been having). Maybe that means I shouldn't let patriarchal oppressive beauty standards of acceptability convince me to fall back into old restrictive eating patterns (wait-- definitely. It definitely means that). Maybe that means I don't have to expend an exorbitant amount of energy on being a changed person when I return to school in the fall. Maybe change happens all on its own.

I have written before about my "less+more" lists, what I feel is a healthier alternative to sweeping resolutions. I've kept my old one in mind for the last 6 months or so, but I think this new season might call for a refreshing new list of what I want to do less and more of.

---
Less saying I'm ok when I'm not. Less Facebook. Less multi-tasking. Less gluten. Less wishing parts of my body away.

More meditation. More music. More looking at myself naked in the mirror and appreciating my body. More running (for fun, not for a race). More blogging.
----

Excuse me, while I go write these down in a place where I will see them often. We are all working projects, but that doesn't mean we need to work on all of our projects at once.

xxxx.
grace.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My Heart Belongs to You

You know when something happens, and you know, right in that instant, that it will shape the rest of your life?

On Monday, May 12, 2014 our world lost an eight-year-old girl full of magic and light. Maia is, in many ways, my little sister, my friend, and my inspiration in continuing to find gratitude for my body and my world. 

I will not go into too much detail in order to protect the privacy of Maia and her family, but I will say this: at only eight years old, Maia was bigger than all of us. She had so much to teach me, and had a significant presence in my life when I needed her most. She taught me that bodies are more than their appearance, that bodies are tools, that I should be grateful for how well my body works. She taught me that food is delicious (I'll never forget her smile upon the first bite of yogurt) and necessary to keep us moving. She loved me when I didn't love myself. She didn't care how much I weighed, she never judged if I wasn't wearing makeup, she was patient with her little brother and thankful for her big sister. She loved me. And I love, love, love her.

"Nothing is as special or precious as a little sister's love."

Last week was a blur-- literally, my vision was blurry at times, my eyes continuously puffy, my throat dry, my voice quiet. I think it will take a long time for me to make my way through all this grief, but this week has been better (in that I can start feeding myself again and stand up straight) but I still think about sweet Maia mía often. 

I know that relapsing on old habits is common during times of grief, but I have one very good reason not to follow that trend; Maia helped me-- in so many ways-- dig myself out of the hole of self-hatred, that I feel like it would ignore everything we had together to relapse in the wake of her passing. I can clearly picture her resting in the stars, still loving me, still pulling for me and my continued recovery. I am not about to disappoint an angel.
...
Yesterday my best friend and I escaped to the beach for a bit. We sat on the dunes above Lake Michigan, ate brisket and collard greens, and watched the waves crash below. We cuddled under a blanket, and I cried in her arms. We quoted New Girl, talked about sex, and I laughed harder than I had in a long time.

We watched the sunset. I'm pretty sure Maia painted it just for us.


Take care of yourself, whoever you may be. Love your body, love your soul, love your family and friends and enemies. Go to the farmer's market, take an extra long shower, reevaluate your priorities, and write a poem. Take care of yourself, whoever you may be.

I love you forever, Maia mía. Go out and play.

xxxx.
grace.

Friday, May 2, 2014

What I Wish I Had Said

I'm a feminist. 



I'm also in recovery from disordered eating. 



I am well-read in major feminist theory and see the patriarchy at work wherever I look. I generally don't give a fuck when someone accuses me of being a hysterical woman who can't take a joke. 



I try to approach ignorant and hurtful comments with education and a zero-tolerance policy.

But a couple days ago, I was written off as a hysterical woman who can't take a joke. And I was silenced and hurt afterwards. And I didn't get to say what I wish I had said. It's been boiling up inside of me, from the pit in my stomach all the way to my fingertips, which are conveniently never far from a keyboard.

This is what I wish I had said.


Dear coworker,

Our boss asked us to take the media golf cart to the mail center to pick up some packages. He handed me the keys because I was standing closest to him. My driving there is not a threat to your masculinity. I pointed out that you were welcome to drive on the return trip, but you declined. 

Oh, so you engaged in a sexist script just because it was there? Just because you couldn't resist establishing the inherent power dynamic between us? Not because you actually wanted to change anything about the current situation?

When we got to the mail center, I picked up the package that happened to be closer to me. Yes, it happened to be bigger and heavier, but it was the most logical thing to do. Imagine me going out of my way to pick up the smaller one: not only would I be subscribing to traditional roles of female subordination, I also could have expected a similarly sexist comment from you. So instead, I picked up the package that I did, and was subjected to, "You sure you can handle that big thing all by yourself?"

Actually, yeah, I'm sure. I can hold my own body weight 15 feet off the ground while wrapped in pieces of fabric. I regularly hold my own in push-up contests. I got this. 

Jump ahead two minutes, and we're driving again. You share a "fun little laugh" about the time you saw a woman driving a golf cart across campus to pick up a few small pieces of mail. You finished with, "How lazy can you be?" and then tacked on "Well, she was a super heavy person, so…"

And with under ten words, all of the air escaped my body. While still trying to focus on the road, I managed to get a "That's not very nice" out of my constrained windpipe. Still, you continued on with your justification that big people are inherently lazy.

As a matter of fact, coworker, fat and lazy are not synonyms. And you don't know the entire story of the situation of which you viewed a maximum of three seconds. And what makes you think you have the right to distribute laziness cards to the world? What makes you think anyone else's body is any of your business? I know you've been socialized as a white male and that it's acceptable to police other people's bodies, but newsflash: it's not. Pick up some Foucauldian and feminist theory for once; women policing their own bodies because they think other people are constantly watching them (ahem, like you) is the basis for low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and the continued oppression of women. 

We are now parked back at the media center, but the door is locked, meaning we have to carry these packages through the library lobby instead. "Oh, I see why you took the bigger one," you said, "you want us to walk through the lobby and show everyone how strong you are and how weak I am. Cool. Thanks."

As a matter of fact, coworker, I don't make all of my decisions based on how you will appear to others. This is what we call internalized sexism, which would require you to ask yourself a few questions: Why do you feel so uncomfortable walking next to a woman carrying a heavier object? Why do you think everyone is constantly judging you and your masculinity? I already know that you fear this because you are often on the other side of this, as we saw with the previous story. But please, please learn that you are not a constant object of ridicule, there is no need to live your life on the defensive, because that leads to offending others, like me. 

xxxx.
grace.

UPDATE: My roommate believes strongly that the fact that we were arguing over who has the biggest package should not be lost on my audience. Thanks, Rachel.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Representations

Hello beautiful starlights, I hope it is sunny wherever you are today. As for me, I'm in the middle of a 10-hour day on campus, a combination of class and work that has me indoors until 9pm tonight. Still, I'm sitting by a window, so that's something. 

I found this while poking around the web a couple weeks ago, and wanted to pass it along (I've posted a few of the images below, but follow the link to see the entire set). This photoset portrays all different types of women in our modern world, breaking away from the stereotypical images of women as either sex objects or housewives (or both). NEWSFLASH, advertisers: women have tattoos. Women have short hair, long hair, curly hair, straight hair. Women have babies, women do not have babies. Women make things with their hands or their minds. Women play sports, women read, women fish and hike. Women cook, bake, and sew. Women fire guns and go to medical school. Women are fat and thin and everything in between. Women laugh, women cry, women are people. 

How do these images compare with more traditional stock images of women we see on a daily basis? What are the differences in the messages they convey? How do you think seeing images more like these would affect our perspectives and feelings about ourselves?

Representation is important!








MAJOR HEART SWOON FOR THIS ONE



xxxx.
grace.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday + Inspiration = Minspiration?

Oh poor, neglected blog, I apologize. It has been way too long since I've posted, and it's not due to a lack of desire or ideas. Over the past couple weeks I have moved back to school and into my first big-girl apartment, started classes for the first time in a year (thanks, study abroad, for taking away all my work ethic), and started a kick-ass internship with Adios Barbie!! (Quick plug for them, go 'like' their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter at @AdiosBarbie to see my witty and relevant daily posts!)

I will write about all of this and more very very soon, but for now, I just wanted to share a tidbit of love with you all as we dive into the week that awaits us. I was scrolling through Melissa A. Fabello's Tumblr this morning and found this:


Maybe a whole lot doesn't need to be said for this, but its truth really hit me hard this morning. Maybe particularly because I woke up late and had to scramble to get ready, leaving my house not looking very "presentable" in my mind. I found myself stuck in a loop of negative self-talk and pity while sprinting to campus, which quickly devolved into focusing my anger on how I looked, as it so often does. We all have the power and ability to fill our brains and hearts with love today, to remind ourselves that we can take up as much space as we please, that the size of our thighs is not nearly as important as the size of our hearts, and that "no one [not even yourself] can make you feel inferior without your consent." 

xxxx.
grace.

p.s. the "mispiration" thing is a work in progress, but might also be a not-so-subtle play off of thinspiration/fitspiration, which we all know is the worst.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Surviving

**WARNING** This post will be less personal and more of… a creative discussionan editorial… 
a strongly worded…

It's a rant, ok? It's a rant.

During my time off between study abroad and spring quarter of college, I've been doing many things. I've travelled to Cleveland, Chicago, and Madison (to visit my dear friend, my sister, and my other sister, respectively). In between those adventures, I've been splitting my time between families who I babysit for, fold laundry for, and micro-manage other aspects of their households for (the other day I made $50 sorting baby clothes. Score.)

But also, I've been watching a lot of TV. It had been six months since I had been able to watch the few shows I follow, and my parents were kind enough to DVR them for me while I was gone (Parks and Recreation, New Girl, and Criminal Minds, in case you were wondering).

And that's how I came across this travesty.


Cue rant.

Actually, wait. I… I don't even know where to start. Maybe I'm a bad ranter, maybe I'm just supposed to spew anger across your computer screen, is that what rants are? Or should there be more organization to it than that? Are there rules for a rant? Even if they were, should I follow said rules? Aren't rules just a social construction anyways? 

xjasdkahdsfiewnanwkfhioeejoifawery98THQ82HTKNFKJkhdskgjhaiet8wohe

That's the sound my stomach makes when I see this commercial, notifying me that I am about to throw up.

I used to watch Survivor when I was young. My sisters and I would cuddle on the couch and get grossed out watching strangers eat worms and gasp at their handmade machetes. We argued over our favorites to win. We swooned when Rob proposed to Amber during the finale. 

But now, the only thing I'm grossed out by is their blatant discrimination and small-mindedness. The creators of Survivor have added a "fun and crazy twist" to next season's format. Instead of randomly dividing contestants into tribes (with culturally re-appropriated names, mind you), they are now being much more deliberate, diving them into three tribes: brawn, brains, and beauty.

Contestants are now divided up based on a singular facet of their identity, in order to determine "what it takes to win". Because, you know, someone can't be both smart and beautiful. Or both strong and smart. Or both strong and beautiful. Or strong and smart and beautiful. Or none of these things, because all three of these categories are totally not based on narrow definitions of beauty, intelligence, and strength. And because it is totally respectful and accurate to reduce someone to a singular identity, regardless of how they themselves identify. And it's totally cool to teach viewers that you have to fit inside one of these tiny boxes to be considered worthy. 

[That's sarcasm, people. Do I even need to say that? Probably not.]

This is the exact spot between a rock and a hard place that so many of us find ourselves in. Society so often reduces everyone to a singular identity. You're either popular or a loser. You're either skinny or fat. You're either an athlete or a nerd. You're either smart or dumb. We're forever stuck in high school, sorting people into distinct cliques without the possibility of transcendence. 

We're stuck.

When we put people into these tiny boxes, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on them to stay there or risk the consequences of societal rebellion. When we label someone as "the athlete", they must work tirelessly to maintain that identity, putting them at risk, in this example, for exercise addiction, injuries, disordered eating, isolation, depression and anxiety as they cling to this singular identity. After all, if they're no longer an athlete, who are they? 

[I use this example because that is exactly what happened to me. I write what I know, people.]

So not only is the new twist of "Survivor" sexist, simplistic, and offensive to these contestants who are being put on display for all of the U.S. to gawk at, it also perpetuates our nation's obsession with black-and-white thinking. While it may be more challenging to see the multidimensionality of identities, not doing so reaffirms to every Survivor viewer to stay inside their socially-prescribed box. 

Finally, we need to look at this event through a media literacy lens. Why did Survivor change the rules on us? Could it be because the show is now in it's seemingly impossible 27th season, and long-time viewers are losing interest in the show's repetitiveness, and feeding off of society's sexist ideals is a sure-fire way to boost ratings? Absolutely. In a capitalist industry in which each program fights for air time (and therefore for more profits so network CEOs can buy that fifth vacation house they've wanted since they bought their fourth), competition is fierce. Adding these shocking twists to programs and accompanying them with intense previews is a tried and true way to encourage people to tune in on Wednesdays at 8/7c. 

[Just in case you needed more proof that our disordered society is completely systemic and controlled by profit-driven capitalistic corporations.]

Keep fighting the good fight, love bugs. Let's embrace the beauty of brawn, the brawn of brains, and the brains of not watching TV.

xxxx.

grace.

BONUS: Last night I found this awesome t-shirt over at feministapparel.com. If it weren't sold out and I had $25 to spend on a t-shirt, this would be on my body in 3-5 business days. #riotsnotdiets forever.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Some Days (and Desiderata)

Some days are hard.

Some days I wake up unexpectedly early, family obligations ahead of me and a night of interrupted sleep behind me. Some days I feel incapable of doing basic adult responsibilities. Some days I feel heavy and clunky and grow cranky while trying on potential interview outfits. Some days I pick at my fingernails too much and forget to eat a real breakfast. Some days I drag myself downstairs to the treadmill but give up when Netflix isn't working. Some days I feel like I can't do anything right. 

These days happen with less and less frequency, but still, sometimes, I have these "some days". And on these days, these days when the internet's slowness upsets me more than it should, I take a deep breath. I eat some sweet potatoes. I make a birthday card. I do something I know I will be good at. I clean a forgotten corner of the house. I read this poem: 
    "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story. 

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism. 

    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass. 

    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    Be gentle with yourself. 

    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy. 

And I carry this message of gentleness with me until bedtime.

xxxx.
grace.