Get down.

Last night I got real down on myself. Real down. Not so much on my Self, at least not at first, but on my body, which was suddenly, yet again, alien to me. I recall gazing at, prodding, examining my body as a young child, and while it was quite mysterious then, it was not so much alien as animal. I was in awe of the biological wonder that made up a human being, and in recognizing my own anatomy – a working muscle under this calf, peach fuzz on my forearm, delicate veins under my eyelid – I realized my own Humanity, and for the first time received a sense of being both special and Special. I am a human. We are many, I am one. “What fun!” I thought. “What will I grow into? What kind of women will I look like?” I asked, perhaps too eagerly. Even then, unaware of the weight and meaning of the words, I knew that it was valuable to be beautiful, sexy, pretty… and I wanted those adjectives mightily without even knowing why.

I have grown since then, and yet gazing into a full-length mirror is still a mystery. This time it was this space between my breasts (breasts I only started wholeheartedly loving within the last year) and my rather ample hips and thighs (still working on those) – this space where a flat stomach could, would, should (?) be. What is this torso, and to whom does it belong? Me? Really? How did I become this way? Is this okay? I saw laziness. And sadness, and boredom. Heartache, failure, fear, stress, apathy, and, best of all, insecurity. I really just love that one.

Objectively, I could say I saw fat, but if it were that simple I wouldn’t be writing this. For one, I don’t want to say that one body type is better than another and there is SO MUCH INTENSELY COMBATIVE discussion of fat and fat-shaming and thin-shaming and disorder and pride that I am even tentative to write this at all. But I will, because looking in the mirror is a subjective experience for every single one of us, and shame and pride and love and loathing come in all sizes and shapes and moles and hairs and scars.

I acknowledged that I’m probably sucking in at least 30% of the time, maybe 80%, I have no idea. Sometimes it’s conscious and sometimes it’s not. I also have no idea why I do it (aside from mass media capitalist hegemonic patriarchal antiquated ancestral traumatic spiritually disconnected material culture). Body dysmorphia – often described as a preoccupation or obsession with a minor or imagined flaw, often to the point of disordered behavior- is not easily understood because it varies so greatly in its manifestation from person to person. But I would go as far as to say that everyone experiences some level of misperception of self (side note: we are all divinely beautiful and powerful creatures). Of course, some of us come to a point of ill health and chronic suffering, while others may fleetingly wallow in loathing for just a day or two – but we have all had the experiences of self-doubt, illusion, and fear, particularly around our body-image and notions of attractiveness and worth. I once offended a group of friends, some of whom had suffered through anorexia and bulimia, by suggesting that if I’d ever had body dysmorphia, it was in reverse, or somehow scrambled. I would look in the mirror and see someone beautiful, only to see a photo, later, of the same night and feel horrified at the denial I had allowed myself concerning my fitness and appearance. Insecurity transcends time and place because it isn’t really about this or that body part or awkward phase so much as a deep internal conflict about who we are.

Me, as a child...

Me, as a child…

...Not giving a fuck.

…Not giving a fuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want familiarity with my body again – I long for the confidence and awareness that came with regular yoga practice, the smoothness and precision that came with being a dancer for most of my life. I catch a glimpse of my hands, my knees, and yes, my fat, and I think “Where did that scar come from? Are these the pizza dough arms Grandma is always talking about? Ouch, I should have stretched before doing a victory split at the bowling alley, white Russian cocktail sloshing onto the waxed floor while I lie here, hamstrung out.”

Me, as a teenager, very much giving a fuck.

Me, as a teenager, very much giving a fuck.

While this familiar scene of “Ugh” was playing out in front of my mirror, my actual Voice spoke up, from somewhere between my spine and heart and skin and brain and vagina, all like “Girl, why you doin’ this again?”

I didn’t have an answer for her, er, Me, at that moment, but the question itself may have been enough. This Process, the self-critique/shame/grossout-leading-to-hopefully-a-new-burst-of-inspiration-and-motivation thing, is not new. It happens here and there- usually when I’m a little heartbroken (I am), a little unsure of my direction (I am), a little disappointed in my seeming inability to get up just 20 minutes early to do yoga (I am), and when all my finances and hygiene and immediate food supply are in order (they are). The triple combo of Vulnerability, Awareness and Stability force me to hone in on what, if anything, is keeping me from Happiness. So, Girl, I am doing it again, but it’s not about the fat, or all the clothes I just bought with my tax refund to look hot, or the fact that a guy I really loved is probably eating something greasy and delicious with his very beautiful, thin, new girlfriend. These are symptoms.

The disease is, I think, Fear. As usual. Fear that I won’t be beautiful enough for the next partner. Fear that there won’t be a next partner. Fear that if I REALLY went after my dreams it would mean a whole lot more responsibility, and power, than I’ve ever had. Fear that if I really ate healthily and exercised every week for me, and not for x-y-him, I’d have to stick with it, day after day, and that’s hard. Fear that I quit things when they’re hard. Fear that if I don’t make this decision now it will affect me for the rest of my life. Fear of the rest of my life. Fear that the person I keep claiming I am, or claiming I will be, is in fact right here, and always has been, and will be for the rest of my life, and it’s MY FAULT that I don’t feel connected to her, that I shy away from her, intimidated by her immense potential, unexplainable wisdom and seemingly effortless awareness and confidence. I am afraid of myself, and I’m sorry.

Once I manage to forgive myself (I do), and acknowledge that this wave of despair will pass (it has), the obvious remedy is Love. But I don’t mean love in just the sense of self-acceptance and compassion – both of which are extremely important, valid and needed, as well. I mean love in the celebratory sense – to revel in one’s own existence and honor it by the perpetuation of a thriving life. To get up and stretch, or skip that cocktail, or go for a run (or even just a walk) because you love You so much that you want to ensure a long, healthy life in which you can learn constantly, share your abundance with others, contribute to other’s happiness, and find contentment in your own.

Okay, well…I took notes this time, so I think I’ve got it. Thanks, Jessalyn. I’m gonna hold you to it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

If you love something…

I love writing. It is by far the activity in which I feel the most relaxed… yet stimulated. Playful, yet serious. I speak, think, and feel – (perhaps I should reconsider that order) -through the written word with both confident comfort and consuming wonderment.

Still, sometimes, life rushes in on itself and becomes dream-like in its vibrancy and contrast, and I am just too damn busy having a Now to write about it.

So I let it go. I miss it the entire time, and when I return, I come meekly. If the craft were a professor in zes office, I’d be knocking the (always open) door lightly, with just a third of my side body inched into the entrance. Tilting my head in so as not to seem too bold, I’d ask “May I come in?”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

(k)NO(w)SE in a Book

Jessalyn:

Great piece on the power of narrative in cultivating community and Self, by my good sister friend.

Originally posted on Relatively Raro:

You’re sitting in your house, the freezing rain pounding on the windows as you sit in your pajamas even though its 1pm. Your cat looks at you as if she’s asking you what you’re doing there, this is her spot during the day when everyone is at work, and shouldn’t you be out somewhere, doing adult-human things? But it’s your vacation, and you’re at home, and you have spent the last few days only emerging out of your comfy space late in the day, because otherwise you have your nose in a book and you can’t get out of it. The story is currently your overwhelming reality. You’re thinking about it and dreaming about it and no matter where you go, you can’t stop thinking about the family that is split apart and at war, or the lost soul being tortured in an Indian prison, or the young girl trying…

View original 1,140 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jessalyn:

I’ve been considering doing a post on this myself, but as it is somewhat overwhelming, emotionally and content-wise, I am being lazy and re-posting this excellent piece by Lauren Nelson. If you follow through to her blog, she also has a very thorough follow-up post on “false accusation” arguments…***TRIGGER WARNING***

Originally posted on Rant Against the Random:

TRIGGER WARNING:

The following includes descriptions, photos, and video that may serve as a trigger for victims of sexual violence.
Please be advised. 

Someone asked me today, “What is ‘rape culture’ anyway? I’m tired of hearing about it.”

Yeah, I hear ya. I’m tired of talking about it. But I’m going to keep talking about it because people like you keep asking that question.

Rape culture is when a group of athletes rape a young girl, and though there are dozens of witnesses, no one says, “Stop.”

Rape culture is when a group of athletes rape a young girl, and though there are dozens of witnesses, they can’t get anyone to come forward.

Rape culture is when a group of athletes rape a young girl, and adults are informed of it, but no consequences are doled out because the boys “said nothing happened.”

Rape culture is when a group…

View original 1,124 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Woosh

I am in it now. I made the leap and enrolled in vocational midwife training. There’s no way of knowing if I am Truly Ready but somebody inspired me to have faith.

A few months ago a wonderful young woman I had known only briefly passed away. Despite the short length of our friendship, she made a lasting impact on me because of the fierce joviality and truth with which she shined. She was in a coma and her parents had to let her go and I was crying over a shitty dirty martini when I found out. Even though she would never read it, I went home and wrote to her about why she inspires me. That week I also signed my life back over to being a student. I am grateful.

Dear Annalise,

You are so very you.
I have always looked up to you. My knowing you was not for very long.
It was here and there but each instance was so connected, so real. 
So genuine.
If someone better than me wrote a song about you that’s what it would be called.
You are so truly a part of your passions, honest about your truths, courageous about your seemingly obvious decisions.

Of course, we should have a garden at school.
Of course, us students should be embracing connection to our food, to our Earth.
Clearly, the rest of us were too shy to step forward with ideas that should have been manifested 20, 30 years ago, and you did it anyway. You did it because it was the absolute right and strong thing to do.

We never hung out much, socially, at least, and so I was intimidated by your raw grace.
In rainboots you showed me, gleefully, the compact discs hanging above leaves and buds and sprigs, to ward off hungry birds from you and your recruits’ hard labored plants.

Vegetables, and fruits. The stuff of essence. The stuff of our cells. You knew it and proclaimed it proudly, without making anyone feel stupid or ugly for not knowing. And for those of us who did know, you reminded us why we got involved in the first place.

To feel hot sun on our cheeks, and warm earth breaking up in our fingers, like dogs or children, neither shame nor doubt holding back our butts from sitting down, splat, in the dirt, to seed something delicious.

For me, to teach others. To bring communities together. To help me us, you brought a poster with a carrot dangling off of it, a reminder of the power that we, Youth, with a capital “Y”, have to innovate and foster change and growth among our loved ones, in familiar places. I kept the poster in my living room for months, waiting until our last final exam to bring it, as delicately as Rochester winds allowed, to your laughing hands and eager face, so that you could use your bright piece of paper again sometime, to show what you had done, and maybe inspire someone else to jump, springily, on board.

You, Annalise, somewhere between Nature and us Humans. Someone on Facebook called you a nymph. It’s true, you are entwined in all that is green and water and light. But also, your personable heart shines. Even in class, listening to the Facts of Life through the Lens of Economics, I could hear your smile opening in the desk in front of me, I could feel your eyes roll at our pessimistic professor’s bad jokes. But never in a mean way. Always kind.

A nymph, yes. A drop of dew, hanging quite precariously – and yet purposefully – from a pumpkin leaf. A pumpkin you planted. To be made into pie to share with your friends.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Amplify: One Voice Summit

It’s been a long time since I posted but only because I have been ridiculously busy! I’m moving this weekend and so will be caught up a little longer, but I just had to share some exciting news. In September I entered an essay contest to attend an event in Washington, DC that is right up my alley and addresses, in my opinion, the interrelation of two of our hugest problems: reproductive health and environmental justice. The Amplify: One Voice Summit 2012, held in mid-November, will be a space for youth advocates to come together, discuss these issues, learn methods for activating change, and practice political involvement in the nation’s capital. I am honored and excited to be a recipient of the prize – free attendance to a program that, despite only being in its seventh year, I believe to be an innovative seed for the growing future of sustainability and human rights activism in the 21st century.

Ecological sustainability and family planning (or lack thereof) may not sound related, but they are actually intertwined in a very deep way that, unfortunately, has become something of a knotted tangle.

Food scarcity, water access, CO2 emissions, overpopulation, disease – these are all related issues. They are overwhelming and difficult problems that leave many of us feeling helpless at times. How are we supposed to address everything at once?

The beautiful part of this sad picture is that addressing any one of these issues helps the others improve. When women and families are able to time and space their children as their resources and personal health allow, children grow up in more stable homes, with food and water more equitably shared among community members. When women are not forced into unwanted pregnancies (for any number of reasons), they are better able to take care of their own and their children’s health, while balancing parenthood with their role in the community, be it working, studying, or creating. When sexual health is a topic of pride and curiosity, and not shame and confusion, generations of youth can better develop into responsible, independent adults. When fewer unwanted children are born, there are less state resources put into caring for them, less mouths to feed, and less energy required of households, decreasing financial and fossil fuel burdens. Likewise, when disease and health disparities are addressed with intergenerational training and community works, those same resources are distributed more efficiently, so that those in need have access to care without draining the system of finances and staff.

It isn’t easy. I would never say that. I would also never say that abortion and going childless are the only solutions to overpopulation, although the objective observer might dare to assume so. Indeed, as an aspiring midwife, isn’t it a little hypocritical of me to call myself an environmentalist and dare to point out overpopulation as a real problem THE problem of our times?

No, it’s not. Because people will never stop having children – if we did, none of these problems would really matter, because we’d all be gone in a hundred years or so. But I DO believe that comprehensive care, including the midwifery model of birth and pregnancy care, as well as the low-intervention/technology methods that come with it, are a boon to healthy family planning, ecological consciousness, and cutting costs. On a more abstract level, I believe that skillful midwifery and natural childbirth encourage families to interact with their bodies and Nature in ways that re-awaken individual appreciation for the world we do have, and inspire lifestyle habits – like organic food consumption (i.e. non-pesticide products), natural and re-usable products (like cloth, non-irritating diapers), and active lifestyles (a walk in your local state park) – that naturally lead to more environmentally sound ways of being. This isn’t to say that every midwife-client relationship results in an organic crunchy momma or a conversion to minimalist lifestyles, but ideally, the health benefits of these activities during pregnancy stick with parents as they raise their children, leading to more globally and ecologically conscious families.*

It’s not a straight shot and I’m still figuring out how to articulate these connections. That is why I am so unbelievably happy to be meeting other like-minded young people in November. Please check out the Summit and it’s organizers and consider attending! Below I have included the essay that became my ticket :)

Young people are passionate advocates when given the guidance and tools to act. Doing HIV/AIDS outreach showed me that teens are extremely dedicated to preserving community health – they share statistics with families, compassionately relate personal stories, and encourage responsible choices among their peers. As a student midwife, I see that young women view their reproductive choices as more than just biological; family planning decisions are reflections of personal values and they realize that their individual lives are an example for others to follow.

 As I get more involved in birth work, I sometimes feel hypocritical. I am aware of our ever-growing problems related to overpopulation, from water and food scarcity to rising CO2 levels and increasingly outrageous disparities in education and health. How can I encourage mothers when I know we might be better off with fewer mouths to feed? Because I know that for every person who chooses not to parent, another chooses to, and they need help preparing for the personal and public responsibilities of raising a family in a sustainable way. As ecologist Sandra Steingraber notes, the mother is the “first environment” – our reproductive setting is the basis for our social and ecological realities.

Teens and young adults are powerful voices in demanding change in our local, federal and international policies – we are the engineers, artists, consumers, teachers, and families of today AND tomorrow. We must demand global reproductive justice as a human right, including the education necessary to go forward with informed choices. Having choices about the number and timing of children allows new parents to maintain their own health, consume and use products wisely, and utilize their stability to raise healthy, community-conscious children, often in fewer numbers.

This generation has unique tools for connection and contribution – it’s easier than ever to share the idea that personal health and global health are interrelated. The more voices and stories there are in the public and virtual realms, the more undeniable their message. Young people today are the most actively engaged global community in history – let’s tap into that power and stand as one for the rights to health, choice, and a thriving environment! Youth who create art, participate in media campaigns, get involved in research, or simply feel empowered to lead by example are the first wave of defense against overpopulation, disease and overconsumption.

I hope to come away from the Summit with ways to better articulate the connection between family planning and the environment. What I know intuitively is far from easy for most people to acknowledge. Even many health-conscious people are only just starting to grasp how their physical lifestyle is connected to the vitality of our ecosystem, and how that, in turn, affects communities. I want to bring this environmental consciousness to the pregnancy and birthing community, particularly among younger women, so that those who do choose to start new families go into their journey with an awareness of their relation to the People and Planet that make up the global collective.

*EDIT: Upon publishing this I realized I wanted to add something to the earlier paragraph. The lifestyle changes described may be more realistic for women with resources that likely exceed what many populations around the world experience on a day to day basis. Clearly, certain food items and products, and even leisure time, may not be as available to women working multiple jobs, families suffering from epidemics, etc. Certainly, these realms are not where my experience lies, but I do want to note that in many of these “developing countries” scenarios, more technology and intervention is often needed. It is high-risk and ill patients who receive the most benefits from the mastery of obstetric science. Unfortunately, while many American women receive an over-application of tools like drugs and surgery, it is our counterparts in povertized and overpopulated areas that are severely lacking the skills, materials and staff to provide medicine and surgery to those who need it – obstetric medicine can be more than life-saving in this situations; it is community-saving. Nonetheless, my argument above still applies. It is the equal disbursement of this care that needs to be addressed, and not in terms of similar quantities, but in terms of where it is neededResources wasted on largely healthy populations would be much more affective in areas where women and babies are dying in staggering numbers. The World Health Organization reported on fetal and maternal outcomes for areas in South America, Asia and Africa in the last decade, and yet again it was shown that while “developed” nations often receive an over-application of, in this example, Cesarean sections, with questionable reasons for doing so, there are other areas where much more intervention is needed. The playing field is uneven, and lopsided. (There are a number of papers accessible via the link above addressing various outcomes across global regions from 2004-2008).

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I’m so tired.

I woke up this morning with the feeling that micro-nomads had been traversing micro sand-dunes under my eyelids all night. Somewhere in the last four days I went from sleeping too much to sleeping far too little and I haven’t struck my balance just yet.

Why is it so much easier to get out of whack then stay in tune? Whatever happened to inertia? I THOUGHT I HAD THIS UNDER CONTROL!?!?!

Sleep is something I crave often and value deeply. I have always been this way. I am not particularly lazy – I will hike for 9 hours straight or pass you the remote, no big deal. But sometimes I crave sleep so intensely that my mother starts looking up thyroid conditions. It is occasionally more appealing than socializing – not something I like to admit. I’ve always been a bit of a bear in that way – there comes a time in my day, or week, or month, where I just need to friggin’ hibernate with a jar of honey and some DVDs.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize and appreciate that my tiredness isn’t always a sign that I need physical rest so much as an indication that I need to slow down and take care of myself in other ways.

For one, I tend to get excited about Life Goals and whatnot and then plan, analyze, strategize, and re-plan. This is exhausting. Worrying about details that will have no relevance until next summer might be helpful at first; it forces me to do my research and prepare for what’s (potentially) to come. But once I have a basic understanding of what’s ahead, inch-by-inch reviews of every deadline, form, confirmation code and contact  person for when The Moment arrives is obsessive and useless – it could even lead to errors, not to mention crushing disappointment when things don’t turn out the way I expected.

…Not that I get too worked up over these superfluous stresses in an obvious way. In fact, most of the time the background noise in my head doesn’t show up as obvious irritation, surliness or panic. But a general molasses-like pull on my energy is usually a sign that I am working too hard somewhere, even if I am not conscious of it.

Either that, or I am Feeling too hard. There is nothing wrong with Being fully with one’s emotions. However, I could be getting 8 hours of sleep each night, eating fibrous wonder meals, and staying away from the liquor cabinet, but if I am repeatedly trying to ease a perennial conflict with my man, feeling guilty about being angry, or caught up in any other combination of emotional knots we tie ourselves into, my body feels it. Pinched neck, droopy cheeks and sore joints are not symptoms of being 24- they are signs that my emotional health could use a boost, or at least a reprieve, from the goings-on of less-than-conscious life. We lose our Selves sometimes. Stepping back to remember the Big Picture, and forgive myself and others for forgetting what It can be, is a way to rediscover the spark that keeps me progressing, energized, and fully alive.

Sometimes, Waking Up is the only thing that allows me to wake up.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments