Day 20: Vulnerability, Mermaids, and Jeans

Tonight I am celebrating embracing vulnerability, which managed to show up several The Sirenways throughout the day. It began with my 13-year-old mistakingly getting dressed wearing my jeans. As she realized that they were a size too big, but not unwearable, she begged me to borrow them for the day. Normally I let my girls borrow my clothes whenever they want, but I found myself telling her a very quick “No!” When she asked why, I instantaneously answered in full honesty, “Because I only have a few pairs that fit me right now!” Eeek! Did I just say that? Did I just admit I those were my fat jeans?!?

I could see the look of her concern in her eyes. “Are you ok, Mom? What’s going on.” I had just walked into the very discussion I had been trying to avoid with both of my daughters; the “I’ve gained 20 plus pounds and those are one of two pairs of fat jeans that I own. Oh and I’m struggling with my overweight body” conversation.

I was so terrified of sharing my own body image issues out of fear they too would take this burden on. I thought I was somehow be protecting my girls. But guess what, not only do they both have body image issues, they both suffer from emotional eating.  Go figure!

The recognition of a pattern that started with my own mother caused me to launch into a seriously vulnerable moment. To this day, I still harbor some resentment toward my mother for hiding various truths from me. I felt that I would have benefited from her knowledge over the years, but instead I inherited shame.

It was right in that moment that I knew I had to break the pattern and be vulnerable for the sake of my daughter and for me. Hiding my Truth from her was in no way shape or form protecting her from the struggles almost all women have. If anything, it may have made her feel more alone and  therefore worse.

On our way to school, I shared with her that I had gained weight and that I was mostly frustrated with how my body felt. I told her that I too have to work on body acceptance, and we shared our sadness of the fact that there was absolutely no chocolate in the house.

I mostly emphasized that as an adult, it isn’t uncommon to have weight fluctuation, and I knew that I wasn’t supporting my body with a healthy diet or enough exercise this winter. We talked about our most challenging emotional eating moments and started to brainstorm ways to support each other.

I feel horrible for passing emotional eating onto my daughter, but at least now, I can be vulnerable with her and share that I am nowhere near perfect, and I also struggle at times. It’s a delicate balance when dealing with body image, but lying just doesn’t cut it. Kids always seem to pick up on any major issues whether they are discussed or not.

The second and third place that vulnerability made an appearance today was in my painting and drawing classes. Both classes consisted of critiques of our last few assignments, and let me tell you, there is nothing more terrifying then displaying your art for open discussion. There is something so raw and exposed about this whole process.

However, I am extremely proud of myself for putting it all out on display, especially in my figure painting class, where we work from live models. In one of my paintings, I had screwed-up the legs and didn’t have the model to work from to complete the painting. So, I turned her into a mermaid. I flat out told the class what had happened, and was commended for my imagination as well as figuring out a perfectly logical solution.

My teacher explained that she would rather us add something in than leave the painting in a place that we were unhappy with. It felt authentic to share my process with the class. Perhaps it would help someone else in the future. Either way, I am glad that I mentioned it rather than smugly pretending that it was my creative intention all along. It was my Truth.

I used to think being vulnerable was telling truths about yourself in the form of stories from the past. This may be part of the picture, however, I am quickly learning that true vulnerability stems from living authentically and in your complete and total Truth, and then stepping out and owning it. It is not easy, but I have to say, it feels damn good. And that is something I am truly proud to model for my daughters.

With love,

Anatheia

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Day 1: Depression, Chocolate, Yoga and Maltipoos

As I sit down at my computer tonight, I realize that I have drifted away from my main purpose of this blog. I originally set out to chronicle my journey not only as a healing process for me, but to share my vulnerability with others and remind you that it’s ok to not be ok. What has resulted is  months of paralyzing perfectionism. Writing became a chore, because I didn’t want to post anything that was less than stellar. And of course there were the images…Every post needs to have amazing copyright-free images. Believe me, this process is even more time consuming than Facebook. Then there’s the editing, re-editing and editing some more.

So tonight, I am taking a stand against my true Virgo nature and saying fuck it! The truth is I have hit a pretty low point in my depression and I am sick of feeling stuck in a dark hole. This may not be my best writing and there may be errors, but if I don’t start writing again or doing things differently, nothing will change. In fact, I’m writing this straight on WordPress and not as a safe document in Word or Pages. I will tap into my new love of photography and use my own photos or none at all. No copyright issues there. I release my perfectionism…well, for now anyway.

To catch up on my 40th year thus far:  While I have maintained my celibacy and isolation from men, I have secluded myself from other forms of fun and joy in addition. I have disconnected from friends who seemed unhealthy (which isn’t a bad thing), but at the same time have completely cut myself off from the social world. My search for a job has been met with many rejections in a variety of fields. I have been officially looking for work for a year now, with way too many versions of my resume and cover letters to count.

Food has become my numbing agent and the gym is but a distant memory. I’ve gone back to school 3/4 time to work on prerequisites for a graduate program, which I’m waiting on pins and needles to hear my fate of acceptance or rejection, and am working on a coaching program. In my spare moments, I am running kids to sports and school, dealing with teen drama and binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix while I step away for more chocolate intermissions than I would care to admit.

My depression has taken such ahold of me, that I have not only gained over 20 pounds, but I am lethargic, out of shape and mopey. This is not who I am. This is not what I want to model for my girls. I feel so out of touch with myself that it only makes me want to eat more chocolate. To make things worse, I am supposed to travel to Mexico with my uber weight-judgey family in 5 weeks and cram my plumper self into a bathing suit. Sigh…

As I sat on the floor trying to motivate to do something today, my incredibly sweet, fluffy and healing Maltipoo sat beside me and gave me a knowing look. She gazed at me with unconditional loving eyes and jumped up to lick my face. She didn’t care that I was overweight. She didn’t care that I have gone into serious debt or am unemployed. She saw me for love and love alone, my true essence. If she could see me this way, why can’t I? I dragged my ass up, got dressed and went to yoga for the first time in many, many moons.

I’m not going to lie, it was hard. My overweight body argued with every pose, feeling more awkward than ever. I had to constantly reign in the mean girl thoughts every time I looked in the mirror (they should really cover mirrors in yoga) and winced at this unrecognizable body. I had to constantly remind myself to be gentle when I couldn’t even hold poses or get into them comfortably. Something I’m not used to.

After all of this internal struggle, I left class feeling refreshed. Today I made the choice to leave the house and chose movement instead of napping or eating or shaming myself. And although it will take some time to feel good in my body again, I took the first step today, and that is huge.

As the day wore on, I still battled with 3pm exhaustion and emotional eating. I gave myself permission to be ok with that, and am fully aware that the one baby step of going to yoga is monumental.

And so it is that I have decided to embark on a 21-day Bringing-Myself-Back-to-Radiance Adventure. I decided to not call it a challenge, because the word challenge itself is just that, too challenging- a sure-fire set up for failure.  And why 21 days, you might ask? I don’t know, it seems to work for Deepak and Oprah. Oh and I guess there’s that whole 21 days to change a habit thing. Let’s face it- it just sounds good.

Each day I am celebrating one thing about my day and sharing it here. If I try to change everything at once, I will fail, backslide and the shame spiral will continue. If I only do something active once everyday this week, that is a start. The food can come later and I’m ok with that.

If you have ever been in this situation, I would love to hear your success stories in the comments. I would love to hear your failures. I want to hear it all and celebrate you too. This is such a challenge for women and we need to support each other in community. Being raw, vulnerable and real is my gift to me.  And so I share my adventure here- unfiltered and only re-read once for editing.

With Love,

Anatheia

 

The Victim vs. The Hero

The Victim

There once was a girl who lived in fear; fear of who she was at her core, and who she would become if she didn’t transform into the woman her parents and society dictated. She had heavy, deep emotions, which often made her feel embarrassed or ashamed. She quickly learned to make up stories and excuses as to why she was crying over things that didn’t seem like a big deal to most .

girl in braids

Not understanding why her emotions were so amplified, she assumed there was something wrong with her. There were many times she found herself confused about various aspects of life, as her parents communicated little to her. Even the dynamics of their marriage seemed troublesome. She feared her father’s anger and viewed her mother was weak for never standing up to him. Nothing she did was good enough for her father. In his eyes she was always wrong, even when she was right.

As she grew up, she learned to stuff her emotions away, ignoring the intense pain. However, with this avoidance, she blocked out the good feelings as well. She became numb to emotion and feared intimacy. Although she was given everything she needed and wanted, in terms of material goods, she always felt guilty and underserving. Later in life, this would shift to a feeling of expectation of financial support, coupled with the burden of guilt, shame and unworthiness.

She attracted friendships and relationships that emulated her feelings around her parents. Her early sexual experiences led her to feelings of inadequacy and shame and set the stage for relationships with men who were emotionally unavailable. As she began to determine her self-worth by how someone treated her, she often became enmeshed and co-dependent in her so-called intimate relationships.

victim of ice cream loss

She spent most of her time taking care of other people, inevitably leaving her resentful when her needs were unmet. However, she was never able to express herself, because of her fear of hurt and abandonment, believing that if she spoke her mind, she would be construed as whiney or needy.

When given the opportunity for freedom and independence, she often became fearful and used an excuse of obligation and responsibility to end the experience prematurely. She did not follow her dreams after college because they were not practical, and instead chose a profession that was stable, and would be easy to abandon when children entered the picture.

She faced a constant internal emotional struggle of extremes, vacillating between calculated responsibility, and passion and sensitivity. As she suppressed her creative side, she became miserable.

Sixty-plus hour work weeks became the norm, allowing her perfectionism to provide extra work and an excuse not to spend time with her husband and herself. She became increasingly unhappy, and because she couldn’t express herself, she began to gain weight as a result of emotional eating.

The girl married too young out of fear that she would never meet anyone again. Her husband was safe, stable and predictable; boring. But, she did what she was taught to do, marry someone who could financially take care of her.

After several years of marriage and two children, she began to feel isolated and ignored. She sank into a deep depression using various forms of addiction to mask her pain.  Eventually, she created destructive behavior as a way to end her miserable marriage. She carried all of the pressure and guilt feeling that she ruined the lives of her husband and children, which led to intensified feelings of self-loathing and unworthiness.

Today, she continually repeats the same relationship over and over again, still becoming enmeshed and co-dependent, attracting emotionally unavailable men, because she herself is emotionally unavailable. It is easier not to feel.

Now she has no savings, barely scrapes by each month, and is financially dependent on her ex-husband and parents. She still struggles with large weight fluctuations and emotional eating. She feels run-down and ragged driving her kids from one activity to the next, and beats herself up for not being a better mother. She doesn’t make enough money to support her and her children and feels enabled by her parents, but is afraid to stop taking their support. She feels lost.

The Hero

There once was a girl who grew up in very happy home with parents who loved and adored her. Though they didn’t have a perfect marriage, she understood that they loved each other and were able to work through their issues to remain married for many years. She looked to them for guidance and support. She had few concerns, as she lived in a pleasant home, and was always provided for with many comforts. She grew up feeling safe, secure and loved.

This girl had an amazing gift of empathy and sensitivity that would serve her greatly throughout her life. Her parents recognized that she also had ambition, fire and independence. They nurtured these traits by allowing her to travel to foreign countries before the age of 18, without parental supervision. These trips instilled a love of culture and appreciation of the beauty in her world. She was also fortunate to travel with her family at times, enjoying many relaxing vacations.

As she grew up, she developed friendships where she could use her gift of empathy and sensitivity to help those in times of need and emotional despair. She had many intimate relationships, and while not all of them ended or progressed how she would have liked, she learned valuable lessons about herself and the world in the process. She was always able to speak her truth, without fear.

She was blessed to have been able to attend college out of state and study abroad. During her travels, she met people from all over the world and learned several new languages. She was fearless and adventurous. Because of her parents generosity, she was able to explore many new environments and create memories that would stay with her forever. However, her deep value of responsibility led to her decision to cut her travels short and finish school in a timely manner.

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Soon after college, she married a kind, easy-going man who was devoted to her. She chose a noble profession, and although the hours were long and the pay less than ideal, she worked above and beyond and helped many children in the process. During this time she lived on the other side of the country, and once again was able to travel to places that would’ve been challenging to access otherwise.

She became a mother and was fortunate to be able to leave her career to stay home with her two beautiful children, while her husband supported them. Several years later, she consciously recognized that she had made choices which were no longer in alignment with her true self. Life at home needed to change, and she realized she was not meant to spend the rest of her life with the partner she had chosen. Exhausting all resources to make to best decision for her family and herself, she ultimately had the immense courage to leave the relationship. She knew that although it would be challenging, it was the right thing to do.

Now she embraces her life as a single mom. Welcoming her wide range of emotion, she practices balance between her practical, analytical side and her creative, emotional dreamy-self. She has the impressive power of manifestation and understands that both positive and negative aspects brought into her life are appreciated as valuable lessons to expand, prosper and grow.

She is wonderful mother and her children adore her. They constantly mirror who she is and share many of her traits. Although they express themselves in their own unique way, she constantly works with them to understand their gifts, so they too can practice balance. In the process, she often finds they teach her many lessons about herself.

Applying her gifts of practical organization, intuition, empathy and sensitivity, she has established a business where she can help assist people to create positive energy in their lives. Her business continues to grow, and although she has decided to forgo the stability of consistent income, she is blessed to be able to spend time with her children after school, participate in extracurricular activities, as well as nurture them when home sick, and during holidays and summer.

She is fortunate to have the temporary financial support of her parents and ex-husband, so she can continue to grow her business and take care of her children. She even is able to travel every year with her family. She lives in a beautiful home, where she has created a beautiful workspace, providing amazing flexibility to nurture and take care of her own needs during the day. She loves and respects her body, knowing it is perfect regardless of its shape or size.

Every moment, she appreciates her life and looks excitedly into the future of what adventure lies next. Although she doesn’t not know the exact details, she is ready bring in abundance on her own. She lives in her true authenticity. She is optimistic.

I’m sure you’ve guessed it. These are both my stories told from different perspectives. It is easy to look at our lives from the place of the victim. I spent a lot of time not even believing I had the right to tell my story as a victim because my “life wasn’t that bad.” That statement in itself is pretty victim-y considering I am only devaluating myself in thinking I don’t deserve to feel badly.

SuperheroEveryone has their story to tell, and while some may seem much more horrific than the white Jewish girl growing up in an affluent area, it is indeed my perspective. And today, I make the decision to change that perspective and recall my life from the hero standpoint. I can make the choice to release the victim and live in my truth; the truth that I kick-ass on a daily basis, and although that may look different on any given day, I still kick-ass and take names. Today and from now on, I recognize that I am, and always have been a Superhero…after all, every hero needs a good back story.