Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It was the first week of September, the first week of 5th grade. The summer heat was still forcing its way through the gaps between the warped wooden sills and the bottoms of the heavy, paned glass windows in the second floor classroom. It was after lunch and the sun remained high in the sky, fighting its way through the web of oak leaves that tickled the outside of the glass. The air in the small classroom was thick and unmoving; there was no breeze to carry relief down the rows of restless 5th graders. The weight of the muggy weather and the recent meal must have stifled what little energy my classmates had - beyond the shuffle of little feet on the red and white linoleum floor and the shifting of bodies damp with sweat, there were few sounds competing for attention.

The first thing to break the silence was barely discernable at first. It sounded much like a harmless “hum” coming from the back of the room and yielded no obvious reaction from the class. But each utterance was louder and more pronounced than the one before – and it became clear within a moment or two that the boy in the back was articulating his best farm animal impression. By the time the entire class, teacher included, understood that it was not a hum coming from his barely parted lips, but a “moo” instead, I had long since realized what was happening.

I knew right from the first “mmmmmm” that the boy was in fact mooing and that his taunting was directed at me. The day before, I may not have been so sure. The day before, I wasn’t yet ashamed or painfully aware of my weight. But that morning, we had all enjoyed the privilege of being weighed in front of each other as part of our fall check-up with the school nurse. I was the only student to outweigh our teacher, who stood about 2 feet taller than the average 10 year old, by about 5 pounds. “Mr. Moo” had been one of 5 lucky children in my class to witness that proud accomplishment. Before that day in 5th grade, I have no recollection of thinking there was anything wrong with me - but the soft chuckles that bounced off the cold plaster walls as I stepped off the scale that morning made me think very differently.

I don’t know why the opportunity for taunting hadn’t escalated to a full blown “laughing and pointing” moment until that afternoon. I don’t know why the teacher’s reaction was languorous – or if it only felt like an eternity had passed before she realized what was happening and expelled the little bastard to the hallway. I don’t remember any of the students’ individual reactions to the mooing, or if they could see the poorly contained embarrassment seeping out of the corners of my eyes.

What I do remember about that day, with uncanny clarity, is feeling deeply ashamed of myself for the first time. I remember how a consuming, suffocating awareness of how others saw me poured in through the windows and the door and came down from the ceiling and through the cracks in the walls. It surrounded me and dripped down my back and gathered at the back of my knees. It sat in the pit of my stomach and climbed up my throat and into my mouth and sat on my tongue. I choked on it for a moment and had to remind myself to breathe.

I filled the day’s remaining minutes that crept by like sludge creeping uphill by making promises. I promised myself that I would never again be so unaware of my body, so blind to my corpulence. I promised I would be the first to identify my inadequacies, the first to find any cracks in my armor that could bring a similar vulnerability or exposure. And I promised I would work tirelessly to rid myself of those imperfections before they could be cause of anymore jest.

What foolish promises those were to make. What a futile effort I committed myself too – and all in pursuit of an unattainable goal. It may have taken 15 years, but I eventually learned that no good would ever come of that exhaustive routine of self-improvement. I know now that nothing positive can come from an attempted eradication of imperfections. Flaws are what make us who we are. Shortcomings and weaknesses make us real. Learning to work with them is what makes us strong - not hiding them or ridding ourselves of them. No one is or ever will be perfect in every way. And if accepting that makes me a little bit of a cow in the end, then “moooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy 21st Birthday "A"

A good friend of mine asked a group of women to help her create what I thought was an ingenious birthday gift for her little sister’s 21st birthday. She solicited words of wisdom, funny little pieces of advice and helpful suggestions to form a compilation to present to her sister as she entered into adulthood. This was a few months after I had started writing “potential posts” for my blog, so I of course thought it was a wonderful idea and had more “you should know what’s around the bend” witticisms and pieces of advice than I knew what to do with. I contributed with a few (too many) of my favorites, and thought, “I have to remember to do this for my sister.”

With her 21st birthday only a few days away, I would like to present my darling little sister with a similar compilation of recommendations and survival tips and would love so much to have you join me in doing so. Thank you in advance for helping me welcome her to the roller coaster ride!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Twentysomething… Ironies and Conundrums

I have developed a wonderful set of tools that help me stay balanced, manage stress and cope with difficult experiences.
I still find myself occasionally reacting to stress or unpleasant surprises like a petulant child and/or eating an entire box of cookies. And a pint of ice cream. While crying.

I have learned the value of self-awareness, and I do believe I am becoming a better person for it.
Said self-awareness has also regrettably opened my eyes to the laundry list of things I have left to work on.

I have finally figured out how to achieve true emotional empathy in a relationship.
Unfortunately, I don’t want to marry a woman.

I am successfully balancing my career, relationships, social calendar, fitness routine, family commitments, travel and even a little bit of volunteer work.
I’m exhausted. And I don’t even have children yet.

I have found a wonderful exercise routine that makes me feel strong and energetic, has improved my balance and posture, and has helped me increase muscle tone.
The lower part of my thighs has gotten just toned and compact enough to accentuate saddlebags I didn’t even know I had.

I have a wonderful network of inspiring women in my life who have given me strength and guidance when I needed it the most.
I just didn’t expect to still need it so much at the age of 27.

I’m so relieved that I can finally afford to go home for Christmas without going broke, buy myself some nice work clothes, and even occasionally pamper myself.
For a while there, that discretionary income was dedicated to therapy, excessive tailoring bills attributed to stress-induced eating and/or starvation, and managing my hormone- induced acne.

Especially thanks to my wonderful niece and nephew, I feel myself inching closer and closer to being ready for motherhood.
I said inching. After 9 months of torture, it could take HOW LONG to get that thing out?

I’m in the best shape of my life.
After allowing myself to enjoy that achievement for approximately 6 minutes before turning my attention to the burrito that still camps out just below my beltline, I’ve realized that I may always be fat in my own mind.

I am at an age where I can laugh with my parents, enjoy their company and have mature, intelligent conversations with them.
Now I have to accept that they are real people, with faults and problems and weaknesses.

Acknowledging that men and women simply operate on different wavelengths and have dissimilar thought processes has helped me be a more patient, amicable mate.
Sometimes I get so frustrated and angry that the crazy forces its way out of my mouth faster than I can slam it shut.

I have finally realized what a useless waste of energy worrying is.
I’m just worried I’ll never figure out how to stop.

Although I had to learn the importance of finding the best doctors the hard way, I am pleased to have finally found a competent, thorough Dermatologist with an agreeable bedside manner.
She found $20,000 worth of “laser treatment-worthy” spider veins I never knew I had.

My healthy, balanced, protein-rich diet has led to a full, thick head of hair.
Is that cute little peach fuzz on my face moving in the same direction?

I’m becoming wise enough to acknowledge and learn from my own mistakes and missteps.
The only trouble is, I haven’t quite figured out how to keep myself from repeating a lot of them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Expression of Gratitude, Embarrassing Admission, or Inspiring Quote…

The most valuable lesson I have learned in the past 5 years is that your life experience is largely based on perspective. Having the strength to find a silver lining on every cloud might be unrealistic, but I believe that as long as you fight to keep your “rose colored glasses” from caking with mud after each storm, you’re at least moving in the right direction.

Being aware of my blessings, finding humor in humiliation, and drawing comfort from insightful words of wisdom are three activities that have always helped me keep the ups and downs of my rollercoaster ride in perspective. Because I have found tremendous value in the cathartic nature of these exercises, I’ve decided to make them a part of my blog. I hope these expressions of gratitude, embarrassing admissions and inspiring quotes bring as much laughter and comfort to you as they have to me.

Embarassing Admission, November 14, 2009: Last January, I had an unusually large chalazion, (a pea-sized cyst inside an oil gland in my eyelid,) a flare-up of hormone-induced adult acne, was wearing a mouth guard at night to prevent grinding, and was icing my lower back every night to reduce the swelling attributed to my sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Basically, I looked like a pimply 15-year old Cyclops, walked like an 80-year old woman and had a lisp after the sun went down.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Carefree" is a Maxi Pad. Not a Lifestyle Choice.

I used to see this therapist whose presence alone was calming - in an irritating way. He always seemed at ease, peaceful even, despite the chaotic energy I brought into the room, or the frenzy of emotions that sucked the air out of his office every time I was in it. No matter what kind of stories I had to tell, he remained unaffected, his tone monotonous (if he spoke at all,) his face always lacking expression. I was sometimes tempted to throw damp, tattered tissue balls at him to evoke some kind of reaction. I even considered tripping him on his way to his chair, just to see if he ever got pissed off.

After our first session, one of many sessions when 98% of the words uttered were mine, it became obvious to me that he operated on a completely different wavelength than I did. I was the storm and he was the calm. Although he was young, he seemed to have been born wise enough to know which battles were worth fighting and which were not; I had made a habit of going to war with myself at every opportunity. He was the type of person that always went to bed when he was tired; I pushed past exhaustion to get to even the most inconsequential chores on my never-ending to-do list. I doubt he ever woke up at 5 in the morning to squeeze in a workout class before a 12 hour day at the office – he never had enough bags under his eyes to complete a luggage set like I did. And he was certainly no slave to fashion– his Bert-like attire, Ernie-esque hair and floppy Muppet shoes suggested he was not overly concerned with matters of vanity.

We were so obviously polar opposites; I questioned if he could ever understand me well enough to be of much help. On top of our tremendous differences, he seldom offered advice, rarely gave any of the insight you would hope to get in therapy. I often wondered if he was even if in the room with me or if he might have been meditating while I spoke. But I kept going back because he had clearly found what I was after. He was a peaceful person, despite the storms that raged around him, and I was intrigued by that and admired him for it. I hoped if I stuck around long enough, he might show me where to get some of that peace he had found.

Then one afternoon, I suddenly realized I was looking in the wrong place. He looked at me with a combination of confusion and pity behind his round, wire-rimmed glasses and asked, “Why can’t you just be carefree? What are you so afraid of?”

I stood up, slapped that condescending look off his face and walked out of the office.

Ok, I didn’t do that. But I wanted to. Instead, I looked back at him and said, “Doctor. ‘Carefree’ is a maxi pad to me. It is not a lifestyle choice.”

He laughed hysterically - it was the first genuine, raw expression of emotion I saw in over a year of chasing after this man’s peace. To his laughter I responded, jaw clenched tight, “It’s not funny. Why do you think I’m here? I do want to be more carefree. I want desperately to find some peace. You don’t think I know how futile it is to try to control every variable in my life? How useless it is to worry about things I don’t even have the power to change? But I’m afraid if I loosen my grip…”

He raised his eyebrows and jumped at the opportunity to fill the rare silence created by my pause. “Well? What are you afraid of?”

Now I really wanted to slap him. He didn’t get it and he never would. I gathered my things, threw my ragged ball of tissues in the garbage, (as much as I wanted to throw it at him,) and replied, “You want to know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid I’ll never stop worrying, because I can’t remember a time after the age of 4 when I didn’t worry. I’m afraid of being poor again – I never want to have to pick between paying for groceries, making rent on time or going to the doctors again. I’m afraid of being overweight for the rest of my life and not ever knowing what its like to feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m afraid of being unsuccessful because I can’t bear to let anyone down. I’m afraid to be blinded by love and make foolish decisions that I might regret later in life. I’m afraid I’ll never be emotionally consistent or even-tempered enough to create a stable environment for children. I’m afraid I’m being self-indulgent by even coming to therapy in the first place. I’m afraid of being someone for whom nothing is ever enough. I’m afraid I’ll never learn to leave myself alone. I’m afraid I will never find peace, because I can’t even figure out where to start looking.”

He watched me silently as I moved towards the door. There was now a look of shock where there had been pity before. I thanked him for his services and asked, “You didn’t expect that answer, eh?”

He chuckled and shook his head gently, his cheeks slightly flushed. He appeared to feel bad, as if he had done something wrong. “See you next month? Will you call to schedule an appointment?”

I turned the knob and opened the door to leave. I looked back at him and said, “Doctor? I’m a woman. We take care of everyone else first and then ourselves. We manage careers and households and family affairs simultaneously. We give birth to children and still try to stay young and sexy. On top of all that, we have to deal with 1-2 weeks of feeling incredibly uncomfortable and completely insane every single month for about 35 years. We know everything about maxi-pads and nothing about being carefree.”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Television, magazines, books, our own mothers and grandmothers have always led us to believe that our 20’s are the years to look forward to and the years we will most fondly remember. We grow up with the idea that on our 20th birthdays we will be given a lounge chair next to the fountain of youth, upon which we’ll sip brightly colored cocktails in our spare time, tiny designer bikinis stretched across our impossibly tight bodies, surrounded by our fabulous, beautiful friends. Oh I couldn’t wait to start dancing my way through clubs and bars in ridiculously high red-soled stilettos. It was my time to weave through crowds of gorgeous men at parties where the walls eternally vibrated with laughter and the chords of my favorite songs.

Well, I went to sleep on my 19th birthday with all my fingers and toes crossed and the only things I woke up with were a spare 20 pounds and a penchant for binge drinking. Much like my early teen years, my 20’s have been full of as many breakouts as breakthroughs, as much crying as laughter and many more embarrassed moments than comfortable ones. I have spent much more time asking my girlfriends why no one ever told us about “your second puberty,” than I have sipping cocktails near any kind of fountain. Every other day I find myself discovering a new uncomfortable facet of womanhood and I wonder why they don’t write about any of them in women’s magazines. As I near the end of this confusing, frustrating and very overwhelming decade I realize more and more that our 20’s are nothing but a rollercoaster ride - and I think I would have at least held down my lunch had I known what was coming.

We live in a time when expectations are higher than ever (as are hemlines,) the standards we set for our own happiness are lower (as is our self esteem,) and we’re supposed to pretend that gracefully balancing a career, relationships, children, a tri-athletes fitness regime and a raw-food diet is easy. We’re only ever told about the moments of excitement and anticipation- the parts of the rollercoaster where you feel weightless and on top of the world. Everything we’ve previously turned to for guidance fails to prepare us for those moments on the rollercoaster when you feel inside out and out of control. We find ourselves overwhelmed and exhausted - as if we must have done something wrong or perhaps gotten on the wrong ride at the wrong carnival. We end up at war with ourselves and each other, feeling blind-sided, unarmed and over-exposed. And why wouldn’t we? Nobody wants to ride a rollercoaster blind-folded and naked without so much as a protective harness or padded metal bar!

At the tail end of a decade full of ups and downs, I’ve started to wonder if the motion sickness would have been eased had television and movies been a even a tiny bit realistic, or had the women in my life used a little more candor. After all the roads I’ve traveled alone, all the nights I’ve spent awake wishing someone would tell me what I’m supposed to do next, I can’t help but think that maybe the answers are somewhere in the stories we’ve been too afraid to tell each other for too long. I can’t help but think that if we are more honest with each other about stumbling through the wrongs, we all might start to feel right again.

And so my blog is born…