Tag Archives: Children

The Turkey and The Stuffing

Yep. It’s a song title. From the lovely Susan Egan‘s Winter Tracks. Because in the US of A, Thanksgiving happens in the winter. Well, almost. It usually snows though. Unless you live in a warmer state. Sometimes it falls on my birthday . . .

Anyhow.

This weekend marks Canadian Thanksgiving. I was going to write a post bitching about holidays, but then I realized I’d already done that last year. Last year, I also wrote what I was thankful for. That list still applies, but it’s a nice time to look back and be thankful for all the things that have changed.

  1. My job. In one week, it will mark a year since I started working at the health food store. At the time, it was just a way to pay the bills and get out of the house a couple of days a week. Little did I know it would lead me to discovering my new career path.
  2. School. New friends, a new career to pursue, and new knowledge. I’ve always liked school, and it kind of feels like coming home. I didn’t realize it, but my brain had been aching for a workout. Intellectual fulfilment is important to me, and now I know it.
  3. Career prospects. After leaving acting, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I remember last summer, hanging out with some lovely friends reading tarot cards (yep, tarot cards), I asked what I should do with my life. They essentially told me that I should let go of rigidity and stop searching for something to fulfil me, that the answer would come from finding myself and figuring out my passion. It did.
  4. A chance to give back.  For those of you who don’t know me personally (because those who do know me have DEFINITELY heard about it by now), I was just honored with the opportunity to join the board of directors for a charity I very much believe in. I’ll be telling you all more about it in an upcoming post.
  5. The tough stuff. This year, I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s been really hard. Part of me wishes I could go back to not knowing. But everything I’ve learned has taught me something, and (hopefully) will be an important tool in making recovery stick this time. “The more you know . . . ” right?
  6. People. It’s been hard learning to let people in, and I’m still not very good at it, but I think it’s worth it . . . I think . . . I hope. But I think people and relationships are what it’s all about, yes? I mean, people can hurt us more than anything else, so doesn’t it make sense that they can heal us more than anything else?

Here’s one of my favorite people. He makes me smile and reminds me why life is good. Ladies and gentlemen, once again, my godson Liam:

He knows how to rock the sandy look, yes?

Happy Thanksgiving to all, regardless of where you call home. What are you thankful for today?

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Body Shaming At Any Size

Hey there.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and even longer since I’ve ranted.

This video has been circulating around the internet lately, and I was incredibly proud and in awe of this brave woman. She is an example of strength and dignity that we all can learn from.

Body shaming is disgusting, and one of the worst forms of bullying out there. Everyone has been a victim of it, I’m sure. Whether it’s for your shape, size, hair, skin, race, whatever, it exists.

I have been the victim of body shaming on more than one occasion. Even when I weighed less than I do now, I had people in my life who would consistently put me down for being “fat”.  Who would point out my every flaw, or just give me “tips” to disguise the parts of my body that were socially unacceptable. It hurts, especially when it comes from those who are closest to you.

There’s one other type of body shaming that I’ve been a victim of that nobody talks about, or maybe it’s just that nobody cares.

Have you ever called anyone a skinny bitch? (I have.)

Skinny girls are torn apart all the time. It seems everyone thinks that because skinny=socially acceptable, “thin-bashing” is okay. Skinny people have it all, right?

Let’s play a brain game. Imagine you overhear the following:

Oh my god, how much weight have you gained? You look disgusting. Seriously. You need to stop eating. I mean it. You look like you’re all steriod-puffy from cancer treatment. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see that you look like one of those obese people you see on the news?

Horrifying, yes? Now imagine this:

Oh my god, how much weight have you lost? You look disgusting. Seriously. Just eat a fucking sandwich. I mean it. You look like a cancer patient after a million rounds of chemo. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see you look like a holocaust survivor?

I’ve heard all of these things from people trying to be “helpful”. I’ve heard it from friends, acquaintances, teachers, strangers . . . nobody seems to think twice when it comes to being underweight as opposed to overweight.

Yes, I was suffering from an eating disorder at the time. But people don’t realize that obesity can be just as much a symptom of an eating disorder as emaciation.  Why is one acceptable to comment on, but not the other?

Remember:

The girl who can eat anything and never gain a pound might be throwing up everything she eats.

The girl with the hot body who seems so disciplined going to the gym might just feel like a hamster trapped on a wheel. She can’t step off the treadmill to save her life.

The emaciated girl who is obviously anorexic may be fighting for her life, and doesn’t need you to remind her of how bad she looks.

I was out to dinner with a friend earlier this year. She was working so hard to fight anorexia on her own, and was out for maybe her 2nd meal in public at a restaurant. She had ordered her meal, and on her way back from the bathroom, some drunken jerk yelled, “Go back to the concentration camp!” This absolutely destroyed her, and she could only pick at the meal she had so bravely ordered.

You never know when an ill-timed, even well-intentioned comment can throw a complete wrench in someone’s day. Please just think before you speak. And to the asshole guy from the video who is worrying about the example she is setting for children, just remember that your children are watching you more carefully than they are anyone on tv. Would you really rather raise your children to be assholes than overweight? As far as I can see, the assholes are much more dangerous to society.

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Get Out And Stay Out

Get Out And Stay Out, from the musical 9 to 5

This was my “Get out of my head, ED” song during my recovery. This is not my bootleg, nor do I condone bootlegging, but I thought you should see the whole video. SJB is pretty stellar, and you should see her whole performance. 

Have you ever seen the movie, “Sleeping With The Enemy?” Julia Roberts plays a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. She fakes her own death to escape her husband, but he figures it out and tracks her down. *SPOILER ALERT* She kills him.

But what do you do when the abusive relationship is in your own head? It’s not just the eating disorder voice. That one I can recognize and separate myself from, but there is another voice. It’s been with me from my earliest memories, at 2 or 3, standing, staring in the mirror, telling me I’m fat and ugly, that I hate myself, and tearing chunks out of my thighs. That voice uses my own voice. I don’t know where it begins and I end, or if it is, in fact, me.

I was horrified this week in school learning about the extent of the irreversible damage starvation can do to your body. It made me realize: I wasn’t waging a war with my body, I was waging a war with myself. I don’t want to destroy my body, I’ve been trying to destroy myself, to kill off the part of me that is so unworthy and unlovable. I don’t know what part that is anymore.

But how am I supposed to leave my abusive relationship? If I run, it comes with me. If I hide, it’s right there beside me. I feel like it’s come down to the final showdown. I can’t live my life with this battle in my head anymore, but I feel like if I try to run, it’ll kill me anyhow. It’s “kill or be killed”, but it’s me either way.

It’s like being trapped in a burning building. Do you try to jump out the window and take your chances or give up and let yourself burn? I’ve got to find the courage to jump. I’m scared of what will be waiting for me. I’m afraid of what will happen if I catch up with myself. This is it: the big battle. This is where it started, and where it has to end.

Wish me luck.

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Kids

“You’re so good with her. Do you have kids?”

This question always startles me a bit. Am I old enough to have kids? I always forget. People I went to school with now have 3 and 4 kids, and more than one is on a second marriage. I guess that qualifies me as “old enough”.

“No, I just really like kids. I have the world’s best godson, though.”

“Well, you’ll make a great mother someday.”

This exchange always leaves me feeling . . . something. I’m not sure what. I don’t know if it’s sad, or scared, or guilty, or a combination thereof.

Allow me to ‘splain.

I’ve always loved the wee ones. My favorite toy growing up was a very realistic looking baby doll, and I was always “taking care” of the babies at church . . . no matter if they were mere years younger than me. I also knew pretty early on that I would never have kids of my own.

The World’s Best Godson

Genetics are a funny thing. I have a brother with multiple disabilities, caused by a reaction to his childhood vaccinations. I was never immunized because a predisposition to vaccine reactions is often genetic. Once I understood that (as much as anyone ever could understand that), I started to doubt if motherhood was in the cards for me. Over the years, more and more things cropped up in my own genetic makeup that I didn’t want to pass on: depression, anxiety and, of course, eating disorders.

Beyond genetics, fear kicks in.

I’m afraid of what I’d do to a child. I mean, I know what NOT to do, but I’m afraid I’d be so paranoid of doing something wrong that I’d end up doing everything wrong. I’d be so afraid that my child would end up with an eating disorder that I’d either indulge her into obesity or watch her food intake so closely that she’d end up anorexic in retaliation. Out of fear of stunting her emotionally, I’d end up with an uncontrollable, over-dramatic child. I’d be so afraid of her being hurt by others, she’d be an overprotected mess. I can’t risk it.

I’m not good with the unknown. If I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t ruin a child, I can’t risk having one.

I’m almost relieved that my hormones are out of whack. There is very little chance of me carrying a child past the first month, so the choice is somewhat out of my hands. That makes me feel better.

My own children may not be in the cards, but I am quite happy giving all my love to the “other people’s children” in my life. My godson makes me happier than anything. I was there when he was born (birth is an intense experience!), there for the first Christmas morning he was awake for, and I’ll be there for him as long as he needs me. And I know, if he’s crying and I can’t figure out what to do, he’s got a good mother to take care of him. I’ll settle for being a good fairy godmother.

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From the Heart

It’s been another week, creeping in a petty pace from day to day.

But enough about me. I want to tell you about an inspirational family I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the past several months.

For those of you who are just joining us, I 9-5 (or 10-7, in my case) at a health food store. Not too long ago, spending this much time around food, discussing it, touching it, etc. would have ranked right up there with a root canal on my list of enjoyable activities. Nowadays, I really like it. I get to help people figure out how to navigate the confusing world that is food. It’s interesting seeing how much even “normal” people have hang-ups and just a general lack of knowledge when it comes to food. Together, armed with Google and a few trustworthy websites, we’re figuring it out.

A while back, I had a woman ask me about flax oil. She explained that she has a daughter with autism who will only eat certain foods, so she’s trying to sneak healthier ingredients into the foods the girl trusts. She wanted a healthier oil to make pancakes with, so I steered her away from flax (which is destroyed when heated), and suggested she use coconut or grapeseed oil instead. We sneaked ground flax seeds and spelt flour (as opposed to white) into the batter, as well.  I told her about my brother, who has a developmental disability and many autistic tendencies, and we’ve bonded over that, too.

This woman also has a son who has both aspergers and ADHD. (I know, right? Both kids are under the age of 12. She’s a supermom.) Today she came in very excited to tell me that her son was doing better in school. He’s getting more work done, and even his penmanship is improving. I know she’s trying to avoid medicating him, and go the natural route, so I asked her what inspired the change.  She looked up at me with some very full eyes:

His dad told him, “Whatever you do, do it from your heart.”

This boy, who wants so badly to fit in, who holds doors for every person who enters or exits the store when he visits, who offers to help whenever he can, who has such big dreams for his life, battles against his mind using the power of his heart. Every letter he writes, he fights his demons to make sure his heart is on the page. He wants to be proud of everything he creates, because he views everything he does as a representation of his heart. He knows his hard work is worth it because, “Maybe if I keep doing better I can move into a normal class!”

I don’t have aspergers, but I do know what it’s like to fight against your brain every day. Strangely enough, I’ve been trying to fight my brain with my brain: with logic, and by thinking my way out of things. Maybe it’s time to bring in reinforcements. Maybe my brain can’t fight against  itself, but maybe my heart can help. I don’t know if I can have compassion for myself, but maybe just passion will be enough. Imagine a world where we all lived passionately. Imagine what we could do if we all lived from the heart.


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Roots (And Wings?)

The word “roots” brings so many things to my mind . . .

When I was a kid watching Fraggle Rock, the only way for one of the Fraggles to find his or her (I’m a little foggy on the details) way out of an underground stream is by “Holding the Roots” of the big tree. This principle was later applied to my always-fine hair which tangled beyond measure. If you held the roots while brushing it down lower, it hurt less.

In grade 8 (8th grade, for my American readers), I read Alex Haley’s “Roots” . . . a book which I should probably read again, because I’m sure I missed most of what it was about when I was 13.

My first retail job was at a Canadian clothing store called “Roots” (you might remember them from our Olympic wear in the late 90s/early 00s). I was frequently told by visiting Australians that it was considered a very dirty word over there. Good times.

When I was in treatment in Utah, I took a pretty picture of this tree’s roots during a mindfulness exercise (accessing this picture was a challenge, as my laptop has died. Hence the lack of blogging of late):

Anyhow. Enough digression. Why the roots, you ask? It’s a long-ish explanation. Feel free to grab a snack.

Lately, people have been sending me a lot of links, etc. as inspiration for rantings here. I search out a bunch, too. Looking back over them (well, mentally looking back . . . they’re bookmarked on my dead laptop), and over many things I’ve ranted about, I realize how many of them are body-centric. For example, this article by Ashley Judd. She talks about how the media has reacted to her “puffy face” of late. It’s excellent, and she makes good points. It’s a great lesson for us all about how we look at and judge others.

But the farther I get from food symptoms in my recovery, the more I realize how little eating disorders have to do with the body. Yes, that’s how they manifest, but the root cause is invariably something else. Millions of people diet because they hate their bodies, but not everyone who hates their body develops an eating disorder. Sitting in support groups, weight and food are seldom the topics of conversation. It’s what we focus on, but it’s not what matters.

What matters in the Ashley Judd article is how humans have learned to treat one another. So many try to steal other peoples’ power to build themselves up. By tearing Ashley Judd down, maybe the people writing the articles feel better about how they’ve lived their lives, and maybe how their changing appearance is affecting them. We believe that, in order to win, someone else has to fail.

There’s been a picture floating around on Facebook that I like very much:

 

“An anthropologist studying the habits and customs of an African tribe found
himself surrounded by children most days. So he decided to play a little game with them. He managed to get candy from the nearest town and put it all in a decorated basket. at the foot of a tree.
Then he called the children and suggested they play the game. When the anthropologist said “now”, the children had to run to the tree and the first one to get there could have all the candy to him/herself.

So the children all lined up waiting for the signal. When the anthropologist said “now”, all of the children took each other by the hand ran together towards the tree. They all arrived at the same time divided up the candy, sat down and began to happily munch away.

The anthropologist went over to them and asked why they had all run together when any one of them could have had the candy all to themselves.

The children responded: “Ubuntu. How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”

Ubuntu is a philosophy of African tribes that can be summed up as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu gave this explanation in 2008 :

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

 

— with Photo Rights: Susan Fassburg of ConnectingDotz.com.

The root of the problem of our society is, “How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”

Everyone is so focussed on his or her own happiness, that we have all beaten each other down and climbed over carcasses to get to a place of false happiness. We’ve bullied one another, judged each others’ clothes, shoes, etc., excluded people, and abused ourselves and others. If we extend a hand to one another, and all move forward together, imagine what we can accomplish.

It’s not going to solve everything, but I’ve had to realize that there is no magic pill. Take what you can and run with it. The small steps build up and become big steps. Let’s all take each others’ hands and step together.

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Looking at the World

Today, WGT played us an excerpt from the podcast, The Moth. Basically, from what I understand, it’s a gathering where people can stand up and share their stories. It’s a “StorySLAM”. There is a theme, and the story must be true, fall within a time limit, and must be one of 10 chosen out of a hat. The best ones are featured on the website and podcast. They’re definitely worth a listen.

Anyhow, WGT challenged us all to write our stories. More to the point, she challenged us to change how we think about our stories. So often we define ourselves negatively: fuck-ups, wastes of space, failures. It’s a hard thing to change. Some of these ideas have been with us forever, and have become so ingrained in our lives that our stories reflect nothing else. For me, I could have done anything with my life, but threw it all away on illness and a dream. Now I’m 27, still fighting the same demons I’ve had forever, and my 6 years of college added up to a diploma that has no application since I’m not a performer anymore. I’m willing to consider MAYBE challenging these ideas SOMEDAY, but for now, I’m applying the lesson in a more general, external sense.

Today, I got on the subway, wedged myself into a seat, and plugged my iPod into my head, ready to disappear for the 20 minute ride home. Almost immediately, a woman squeezed herself in next to me, parking her stroller dangerously close to my ballet-bruised toes. With an elbow to my ribs, she pulled out her iPad and settled in to ignore her child. Many days, I would let the cloud over my head rain negativity all around me. Instead, I chose to reframe the situation. I focused on this little 4-year-old girl in the stroller.

She was playing with Post-it flags, singing a made up song, oblivious to the world around her. It was fascinating to watch her, so unashamed and free. She dropped a stack of the “stickers” and set out to find them, writhing in her stroller. I saw them tucked in the folds of her coat, so helped her in her search. She immediately grinned at me asking “What’s your name?” I told her, and she told me hers was Jennifer. She then proceeded to ask me what kind of phone I had. I showed her, and she asked after my iPod. (It’s amazing how young the youth of today start in on this stuff.) I let her hold my iPod, and she admired the sticker on it (a van Gogh Starry Night iPod skin – thanks Cameron). She told me she liked my hair, and I told her I liked hers. She told me she had just gotten it cut that day, and got to sit in a car “with keys and everything!” while she got it cut. I told her I’d love to get my hair cut at a place like that, and she informed me that I was too big to fit in the car. She then proclaimed, “You’re going to be my best friend!” Alas, my stop came (sooner than usual, it seemed), and I had to leave my new best friend behind.

I left the subway, holding my head just a little higher than usual, and noticed the most beautiful sunset I’d seen in a long time. Had I stayed in my usual isolated subway world, I would have missed out on all of it. It makes me think that maybe there’s something to this looking at things in a more positive light. I still don’t know if I’m ready to proclaim how fabulous my story is to the world, but it’s good practice, learning how well looking at the rest of the world positively worked out. Give it a try sometime. Find something you normally dread, and try to see it through different eyes. Yes, generally the subway sucks. But sometimes you can find a little nugget of joy in that tin can underground. Mine’s name was Jennifer.

Oh, and here’s that lovely sunset. I was upset that there were power lines obscuring it, but hey, I like having heat and lights and computer access and my TV, so I suppose even they have their place in a positive world.

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