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…