By Olivia Petzy-Binning (Restore Your Roar Co-facilitator and unbelievable human being)
Dear Roar family,
Hi! I’m Olivia and I am so pumped to chat with you today. I can still barely believe that Amanda and I re-connected (you can read about our history here) and that Restore Your Roar is happening in 136 days. Four months and 14 days. 525,600 minutes.
Ok so not really the last one because that’s a full year away but you get it.
There are a few things you should know about me: I love swimming in the cold Atlantic Ocean, I have been a vegetarian for 3+ years but I still eat Haribo gummy bears, and I believe we should all just do it now, whatever “it” is.
“Do it now” is truly what’s behind Restore Your Roar. Amanda and I want you to love your body now. We want you to enjoy moving your body now. We want to talk about fears and worries around eating and appearance now. We want to sit on our private patio in the jungle and look at the Pacific Ocean and connect with other women now.
Now is the only time we’ve got. Sometimes the days can feel endless, especially if we’re stuck at a shitty job, or in a crappy relationship, or just plain feeling worn out by the daily grind, but life itself is short. It’s fleeting.
Today is a perfect day to feel amazing. Today is an ideal day to do something big. Today is a great day to walk away. Today is a wonderful day to say “I love you.” Today is the day.
I want to throw a lei around your neck in Hawaii on January 15th because if not now, when? If not you, who?
I want to share a toolkit I put together for you. In the spirit of doing things and feeling good NOW, it’s 21 prompts to get you feeling fab FAST. Each one has a suggested time limit because I know you’re busy and have things to do, but please, I beg of you, don’t let your things get in the way of your life. Dive in and pick one (my personal faves are 1, 10 and 21).
Say yes. Feel good today. Don’t wait. Don’t die hesitating.
See you in Hawaii!
21 Prompts to Feel Fabulous Fast
1 MINUTE – IN & OUT
Close your eyes. (Do it! we’ve only got one minute!) Take 5 really deep breaths. Silently say “All is well” on every inhalation, and “it is done” on every exhalation. THAT’S IT. The power of the breath, y’all.
2 MINUTES – WIDE EYED
How many beautiful things can you notice in your immediate surroundings in two minutes? On your mark, get set, GO!
3 MINUTES – DANCE BREAK
Get up. Yes, now! Put a great tune on (may I suggest THIS or THIS) and dance it out. If you’re feeling down, this is gonna lift you up and if you’re already feeling groovy, this is only gonna take you higher. Endorphins, here you come!
4 MINUTES – TAKE A VACATION
Did you know you can search “virtual vacation” on Youtube and watch videos of beach scenes with relaxing music? Check out of reality for a few minutes and take a beach break while you take deep breaths (and dream of a poolside smoothie!). May I suggest this tour of Kalani, home to Restore Your Roar?!
5 MINUTES – WHO LOVES YA?
I know you know that you are always being supported by a benevolent and loving Universe. but who else could we add to your list of cheerleaders? Write out a list of every single person who is rooting for you. You’re never alone. Life itself is on your side.
6 MINUTES – EXPERT WITNESS
Write a list of all the things at which you are a straight up expert. NOTHING IS TOO SMALL! If you are the only person who can get your nephew to stop crying when he’s tired, then you are an expert! If you know an absurd amount about cheese from a stint as a server in a Swiss restaurant (ahem), you are an expert! If you can throw a football in a sweet spiral, then you are an expert spiral thrower! Don’t be shy!
7 MINUTES – LUCKY DUCK
Buy a few scratch off lottery tickets (say, five of the $1 ones). Hand them out with a penny to the people behind you in line. You can spread so much excitement and happiness for 5 bucks and 5 cents!
8 MINUTES – MAGIC 8 BALL
What do you want your life to look like in one year? Write it out and here’s the kicker: write it out with CERTAINTY. Write it as if you are POSITIVE IT WILL HAPPEN. You can do this for any amount of time in the future. Visualize, intend, and get ready to magnetize.
9 MINUTES – BLISS LIST
Write down 10 things you are grateful for, ten things you are excited for, and five BRAGS. Yes, that’s right: brag about your bad self.
10 MINUTES – FILE A COMPLIMENT
Wanna feel like a Queen? Lavish praise on someone! Receive fabulous service in a store? Grab a manager on the way out and compliment the employee. Are your garbage collectors unfailingly polite and smiling, even while they do their dirty job? Call your town and praise them. Fill out that survey listed on your receipt and leave positive feedback. Write a glowing Yelp review. Please trust me when I say this feels amazing and you will be hooked!
11 MINUTES – IDEAL DAY
What does your PERFECT DAY look like? How does it start? Where do you wake up? Who’s there? What do you do? Where do you go? How does the day wind down? Write out your perfect day and spare NO details — the more specific, the better. We’re visualizing here, people!
12 MINUTES – DREAM DOZEN
What is your dream way of spending your time? What do you never, ever, ever get tired of talking about? Listening to? Thinking about? Reading about? Learning about?
DO IT for twelve minutes.
13 MINUTES – MAIL CALL
I still get excited when I see something that isn’t junk in my mailbox, and that feeling keeps getting rarer thanks to email. Send someone a beautiful note card to let them know you’re thinking of them.
14 MINUTES – HISTORY LESSON
Where were you ten years ago? Five years ago? One year ago? How have you grown? How have you changed? Does your life look different than you thought it would? What miracles have you experienced? What lessons have you learned?
15 MINUTES – INSTRUCTION MANUAL
Often, the silver lining to mistakes we make is the lesson we learn. In the spirit of generosity (and to remind yourself what a smart genius you are), fill in the blanks:
So you screwed up and did _________. Here’s how to fix it: __________________.
16 MINUTES – TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY
You know how we all love hearing the backstories behind the successes of our favorite stars? Like how Jon Hamm was a teacher and Kristen Wiig sold peaches before hitting it big? Write out YOUR True Hollywood Story, and frame everything you’ve thought of a setback or challenge as a PLOT TWIST leading up to your overwhelming success.
17 MINUTES – SECRET ADMIRER
Write a note/email to someone you really respect and admire. Perhaps it’s your mom, maybe it’s Ryan Gosling, or your boss at your day job. Let him/her know that their skills and gifts are recognized and admired. Be specific and prepare for a contact high.
18 MINUTES – ADVICE COLUMN
If you need advice on something that’s holding you back or causing confusion, write it out like you’re writing to Dear Abby. Then, write the answer back to yourself! YOU are the expert on YOU.
19 MINUTES – PICK UP THE PHONE
Remember when we used to use our phones to TALK to people instead of scrolling through your various feeds? Call someone that you know doesn’t use social media etc to stay connected. Savor the thrill of filling him/her in your delicious life, and enjoy the feeling of hearing how your friend is doing/feeling straight from his/her mouth instead of a status update.
20 MINUTES – FLIP IT (this is Amanda’s absolute favorite)
One of my specialties is doing a story flip: when I feel like things are falling apart/crappy, I flip that shit around and write a new story. Here’s an example of one of mine from a particularly disastrous morning:
My old story is that I booked a perfect plane ticket to visit Rich today…except for the fact that I had to leave at 6:30 am for Newark, and I got home from work at midnight. Well, I got up so early that I was ready to go and decided to set my alarm for an extra ten minute snooze. Obviously, that was a terrible idea. The next flight to Savannah is majorly inconvenient for so many reasons, but that’s the flight I’m on, so here is my new story:
I am an amazing independent woman who figured out the best way to deal with a mess at 7:30 am on a Saturday. I made the best decision I could. I am going to fly into Savannah like the hot New York woman I am, wearing a hot outfit for the show and cast party I am attending tonight. My hair and makeup is perfect, I am a brilliant packer so I have one tiny suitcase, and my dress is hot. I will arrive in Savannah, pick up the car I rented at 7:30 this morning, and drive myself to Hilton Head Island because I am smart, savvy and independent, and I am fearless. I will arrive at the theater with ample time, and take my seat in the front row. The first time I see my husband will be when he opens the show wearing a tux and we will share a look of love and apology and humor. The show will be amazing, i will have a cocktail at intermission, and we will reunite in the lobby when it’s over. Then we have two and a half days to enjoy each other’s company. This is actually a romantic and sexy story and I am lucky to be alive and in it.
What current story of yours do you need to FLIP? Any old beliefs you need to turn on their heads? This is a fun one, and it’s addictive! Write out the junk and then get your flip on!
21 MINUTES – LEAP OF FAITH
Write a letter to the Universe. You can state your intention(s), write what you want to release, questions you have, anything goes. Put it in an envelope. Decorate the envelope so it is super gorgeous. Address the envelope to “The Universe.” Put it in the mail.
See what happens.
Want to meet Olivia in person? We can’t wait to lei you when you step off your plane in Hilo, Hawai’i this January. To reserve your spot, contact Catherine May at Kalani before September 15th to use our extended Roar Rate of $985 (after that, the rate goes up $100). Just email email@example.com and put down a $200 deposit to hold your spot – we don’t need anything else til the day you check in girlfriend! Feel free to check out our itinerary and FAQ’s, but act fast – there are only six spots left! Roar!
So here’s the thing about eating disorder recovery.
It is so freaking hard to write about.
I’ve started out posts multiple times with some tips or some techniques I’ve learned but then I realize that it’s impossible to describe how I’ve implemented them into my life because some of them have only worked once and some of them work always but I ignore them on purpose because I’m kind of messed up in the head like that and I don’t want to lead anyone astray.
But now I’m just kind of like, fuck it.
As long as you know that the information below is only my personal experience, and I’m certainly no doctah, and what you read could also trigger you into a binge or a relapse, then I’ll write it. Read at your discretion and know that I’m not here with any concrete answers, only the things that have worked for moi.
So here goes.
First of all – let me just fill you in on what I’m actually recovering from. I started secretly bingeing at age fifteen. I hit puberty at age fourteen on a family cruise to Alaska where I was too afraid to try tampons and thus spent the entire week staying out of the hot tub. It was fantastic.
At fifteen, I was no longer wearing cute little size three flares and tube tops from Wal-mart. I ballooned to a size nine within minutes it seemed. My dance teacher was less than thrilled with my “pooch pouch” that was forming below my belly button because it meant that two piece costumes at competition were out of the question. While the older girls in class were still able to wear low-cut jazz pants and sports bras to class, I was stuffing myself into leotards and covering them up with jazz pants and then another shirt on top of that. I guess “thick” would be a good word to describe my fifteen-year-old self. Dancing twenty hours a week in front of mirrors made it impossible for me to deny that that my body was changing rapidly.
I was just so sad that this was all happening. I didn’t know what to do about my expanding hips and my soft back fat and my stretch marked thighs, so I ate to forget. My parents would leave me home alone because I was old enough and I would eat all the Ritz crackers with jelly. All the chocolate peanut butter chips – straight from the bag. All the cheese, all the ice cream, all the pickles. Oh my God and the Better Cheddars. We were ALWAYS out of Better Cheddars. Sorry.
Take this story all over the east coast – from Pennsylvania to Virginia (college) to New York City (auditioning) to New Jersey (boyfriend) to Hilton Head (performing job) to Albany to Fort Lauderdale and all the way back to Washington Heights, NYC where everything came crashing down around me, finally, a decade after I first learned how to eat myself into a coma.
I came to find that I was an emotional eater. A compulsive eater. A secret eater. A food addict. And an extremely disordered eating female with depression and anxiety and no way to get help through my measly health insurance.
And through reading and my own tweaks and my own journaling, this is what I’ve learned.
- I have to keep all the food in the house. Fuck this Weight Watchers “keep your environment safe” bullshit. I need to have the Nutella and the ice cream and the cheese and the pesto and the cookies and the pizza and the beer in the house. For ten years I kept it all OUT of the house and spent nearly $40,000 on binges where I’d go and get it anyway, bring it in, eat it all up, and throw the containers in the garbage outside so that in my mind I could say “it was never inside”. For me to feel safe, I need all of it IN my environment. Now when I started doing this, yea, the ice cream disappeared within hours. But a month into it, I kept a carton of cookies ‘n’ cream in the house for an entire two weeks. Six months later, and I kept it in the freezer so long I forgot about it (community housing – it got hidden behind everyone else’s stuff and I totally forgot it was there). A year later, and I can bring multiple flavors into the house and they can be in there anywhere between one day and one month. It depends on my PMS and how hot it is outside, but it no longer scares me to have it in there. I need to know it’s there for my convenience at any time, and all of a sudden, it doesn’t consume my thoughts anymore. Hence why we’ve had two monstrous containers of Nutella from Costco in our pantry for over a month and I’ve only eaten an eighth of one jar. (I was going to show a picture but HELLO triggers – not appropriate today.)
- When I’m hungry, I need to eat NOW. I spent ten years ignoring hunger signals and only eating carbs for breakfast but never dinner and always before 7pm and every three hours and not at all and counting points and when I finally hit that rock bottom, I learned to listen to my body. My beautiful intuitive body that I never gave any credit to. My body tells me when I’m hungry and I listen now. It took me a year to figure out exactly what those signals are – the hunger signals and the full signals and the “i need protein” signals – but it was worth all the listening because I’m not one of those people that wakes up every day at the same time and can eat oatmeal for breakfast for the rest of my life. I need change and I need options and I need to eat when my body is ready – not before or after. Diets never taught me any of these things, and it was only after I stopped dieting that I could really spend time with my own body and learn the way it speaks. And it took me A YEAR y’all. As in, TWELVE MONTHS. As in, A WHILE. It did not, I repeat, IT DID NOT happen overnight.
- Oh my God the triggers. None of this “Healthy is the new skinny” shit on Facebook and no recipes. Nooooo recipes. No Women’s Health, no Glamour, no Cosmo. Twitter is a constant trigger no matter who I unfollow so I just stay off it altogether unless I post. Facebook has a mind of it’s own so I choose to follow Astrology writers and Ram Dass and “I Fucking Love Science” instead of all this Mind Body Green shit. I can’t see lists of things to eat and things not to eat and not be triggered. Know your triggers. Does seeing a list of things to do with chia seeds trigger you? Unfollow. Do ads for beer or weight loss or life coaching trigger you? Unfollow. Unfriend. Unlike. Immediately. Like it or not, social media is a humungous part of our lives. It’s how I’ve reached all of you. Thank God. I fucking love you and would not trade this for the world. But know your triggers – even if it’s me and my page – and cut them out.
- Friendship/Significant Others/Family: Be straight up. Don’t tiptoe. This might not be your style, so perhaps emailing them one of these articles could be helpful as well.*
Table for Three: You, Me and My Eating Disorder (a straight up guide for friends and loved ones)
Tips for Family (from the Renfrew site)
*There are many many many like TOO MANY articles on how to stage an intervention and how to try to get help for a person with an eating disorder but not nearly enough articles on what to do once they are in recovery and are seeking help. Especially for significant others. This is something I am determined to work on and will post as soon as it comes. If you know of one, please post it in the comments below so we can spread it far and wide. Mahalo.
With friends, family, and loved ones, do not be afraid to tell them exactly what you need. My family, well, those who understand anyway (grandparents don’t count – they forget and they don’t understand and they really just want to “fatten” us all up with cookies and how can you get mad at that?), knows to not say a word about my eating choices. When I eat, what I eat, and how I eat it (yes, mom, sometimes I wrap cheese around a pickle like a pregnant woman and put sriracha on it and I don’t even have an answer for why) is off the table for comments. It took them a few years to fully commit to this but this summer with my seven weeks home really helped them understand. Not eating at dinner because I’m not hungry? Sorry mom, that pasta looks delicous, but I might not be ready to eat it til 9pm tonight when you’ve already cleaned up. And I say, that’s okay because of where I’m at on my journey.
When it comes to loved ones, ask and you shall receive, for the most part. My mom was amazing and understanding and never once pushed me this summer when I ate at weird times with weird condiments. My dad is still learning, but he’ll get there and he’s aware and that’s what matters. Talk to your friends and your cousins and your girlfriend and your hubby and be as straight up as possible.
“I need to keep this nine dollar jar of organic pecan butter in the house and I need you to not comment on it’s price, it’s size, or it’s taste. It is my choice right now and it’s part of my recovery and I need you to support me.”
“I need you to pick the place for dinner tonight, and if you say it and I wrinkle up my nose because it doesn’t sound good to me, I need you to not get frustrated. I realize that I am frustrating you but I am not in a place to make decisions because I don’t know what I want and I would really appreciate your patience in this decision making process tonight.”
Okay, whatever it is, there is no harm in asking. And if your friend/boy/mom can’t understand why this is, I ask you to also be patient with them. They may accidentally make a judgemental face that they have no control over when they see you pouring animal crackers on top of a bowl of ice cream and they may accidentally ask you why you need to order pizza AND pasta AND salad AND dessert and the more patient you are with them, the more patient they will get with you. It’s a give give situation here. No one is perfect and this is a touchy subject that needs care and compassion from all sides – including yours.
5. Know your other “vices”. Cigarettes and TV are mine. When I am emotional and want to binge, I don’t reach for the beer so much as I crave a smoke and an SVU marathon. And you know what, I fully accept that laying on the couch on a beautiful beach day and choosing Olivia and Elliot over the sunshine is absolutely part of my healing process and a choice that I make when I don’t have the energy to go live life in the sand today. It’s a distraction, it’s a simple comfort, but you know what? It’s not a jar of Nutella and as long as I’m aware of it, I carry on with my marathon and do my best to forgive myself. The cigarettes – not so much, because I’m a role model for my students and I had such a hard time quitting that buying a pack would just send me into hardcore reverse. But occasionally I’ll bum one and feel satisfied and I do my best not to feel shitty about that too. I’m in recovery from an addictive habit – and most disordered eating is addictive if you really think about it – so knowing what you are using instead of eating/refraining from eating as your new vice is super crucial to your recovery and a healthy life. Forgive yourself for the replacements and give yourself a little credit for being aware and just do your best today. That’s all you, or anyone else, can ask for.
6. Therapy. Finding a therapist isn’t easy. Depending on where you live, you might be lucky enough to have an eating disorder clinic in your area that offers outpatient therapy. If you’re not so lucky, and you live in Hawaii like me and there is absolutely NOTHING pertaining to eating disorders at all (on the Big Island anyway), ask your health care provider for a list of counselors in your community and buck up and give them a call. I called around today, yes literally today before typing this up, and talked to some “therapists” that didn’t even ask my full name or what I was looking to get out of counseling. NEXT PLEASE. Then, when I was about to give up, I called a woman that has a PhD and asked appropriate questions and has already sent me forms to fill out so I can show up and just have a relaxing appointment. Shopping around is clutch – it’s like finding an agent as an actress – they are working for you, not the other way around. Trying them on for size takes time and is a real pain in the ass, but at the end, the payoff is something healthy for YOU. You get to take away the benefits of therapy and apply it towards a happier healthier life.
Holy shit, my arm hurts from typing this so fast. But you know, it’s been calling to be written for months now and I can’t keep putting it off until I find the right pictures or the right title or the right statistics to offer you. Please, for the love of all things healthy, pick up a copy of When Food is Love by Geneen Roth and allow yourself to become aware of your patterns. Or start from the very beginning and find solace in others like you in Feeding The Hungry Heart. I don’t love Geneen so much anymore because she charges you for everything and doesn’t really like to communicate with her fans but you know what the bitch can write and she writes it all and she helped me and I can’t deny that for a second.
Body love is a whole nother topic in this whole recovery thing and I’ll be on it very soon. It’s actually a huge gigantic amazing fabulous component that deserves a post all of its own.
I hope this list helps and I hope you find something here that sheds some light. Share it with someone who needs it. Print it out and put it in an inspiring place. YOU CAN DO THIS. I HAVE FAITH IN YOU. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU REALIZE. YOUR LIFE IS YOURS AND YOURS ALONE. I AM YELLING AND I AM SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I BELIEVE ALL THESE THINGS TO BE TRUE. YOU ARE FUCKING AMAZING AND YOU DESERVE RECOVERY AND THERAPY AND LIGHT AND BREATH AND SANITY AND FEELINGS OF SAFETY AND CONTENT.
AND, last but not least, you know you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and concerns.
All my love and support and congratulations for being open to help and doing what you can to recover –
I have never been proud to be a woman.
I grew up in a family of farmers, cowboys, and lawnmower salesmen. My aunt is a star mechanic. My cousin Amy won more rodeo championships than anyone I know. Girls and boys were never separated in the Trusty activities – we all rode horses, forewheelers, and sleds together. My snowsuit was never purple or pink. My riding boots were brown just like my boy cousins’. I know what sparkplugs are. I mean we were just never told any different.
So I don’t know that I ever cared about being a girl.
I’ve never thought about it really – I just continued to participate in activities without realizing being a girl is bad or good or even all that different. I wasn’t aware that it was a big deal.
Years later, I still have moments where I don’t realize I’m a woman until I’m riding behind my man on the moped and my boobs hit his back at a stop sign before the rest of me does, as ignorant as that sounds, it’s true – sometimes it really does take me by surprise. And of course on my yearly gynecological visit, I have a very ridiculous moment where I realize I am part of the only gender that ever goes to such a doctor and experiences the annual duckbill party. But other than that, in my brief lifespan, I haven’t given much thought to the fact that I’m a woman.
I know that this makes me sooooooo not a feminist.
But does it really?
I’ve lived my whole life thinking that I’m an equal human being.
I pursued dance, which I suppose is often considered a “girl’s thing”, because my mom put me in dance at age
three. My first leotard was royal blue. I had a good memory and I was well-behaved and I continued to progress each year because I had a sensible attention span. I played soccer during this time, which was more of a “boy’s thing” I guess. I hated the running, but loved the oranges at half-time and adored being part of a team. At age nine, we moved to a different dance studio and someone saw potential in me and by age twelve I was competing with dance and no longer playing soccer and I don’t know that I ever did not want to dance, but I
don’t know that at age twelve I was obsessed with it either. It was just what I was doing and I did not hate it and so it all just kept happening.
Again, I was not aware that I was a “dancer”. I just identified as a human being who went to school, rode horses, played with cows on the weekends, and also flap ball-changed in mascara and purple sequins sometimes. Grounds for teasing of course, being a “farmgirl” and a “girly dancer”, but I guess I didn’t realize that teasing wasn’t a normal thing at that age – I thought everyone got teased at school.
By age thirteen I was auditioning for the school musical because that’s what other dancers at my dance studio were doing and because why wouldn’t I if I totally sang in church from age four to four and a half, said my mom. In no time, I was being fitted for a Hot Box Girl costume. There were approximately 97 hot box girls on stage in Southern Junior High’s production of Guys & Dolls, Jr. Talk about a musical that separates the sexes; it’s right there in the title. However I didn’t really notice the separation and just went along with all the things. I was just another face in the crowd and I just happened to already own tap shoes before auditions and so I was tagged as a tap dancer and thus started the journey that lead me to tap dancing in my underwear fifteen years later for millions to see…I guess.
After my big breakout in Guys & Dolls, Jr., years passed. High school happened, viciously and painstakingly slow. Freshman year of college came.
The cast list went up for The Will Rogers Follies, a tap dance show for showgirls. Knowing my experience – tapping since I was three and performing for like ever, I knew my name would be on the list.
Um. It wasn’t there.
I looked again.
It wasn’t there.
A bunch of non-tapping ladies were certainly typed up, first name and last name in Times New Roman, size 16. But my name just, was not there.
Later I found out that during the feedback session with the director, weight and body type were discussed. Showgirls and tap dancers have certain body types and in musical theatre, we had to learn about this sort of thing so that’s why casting in college would be super specific and “just like the real world.”
Suuuuuuper not aware that I was too big to be cast in the tap dance musical that I had studied, listened to, and prepared for during my first semester. Suuuuuuuper not aware that as a woman, my size mattered – not my talent or my work ethic.
It sort of shaped the next nine years for me. I mean that’s when Weight Watchers became the most significant relationship in my life, and when I started dating really bad, bad, just baaaaad men, but I still wasn’t aware that it was because I was a confused and broken woman with low self-esteem and body issues.
I just thought that I was an outcast with an amazing skill for failing. Which is of course, an oxymoron in itself.
And so I don’t know that I was aware that women could be so strong and speak up and change things. I honestly just wasn’t paying attention.
I was very caught up in my own little world. I was getting by, but I wasn’t proud of who I was. I was fat, a dancer, and a failure. And I don’t even know that I was that embarrassed by these things so much as I just felt that they defined me. Like that’s just who I was now. A fat failed dancer.
When I was younger, I never identified as any of these things. I was just a kid that thought I was a kid who did a lot of different things.
Something changed in my twenties that caused me to believe that I was only what I could describe myself as – a fat failed dancer – nothing more.
And because of my lack of awareness of the world around me, I didn’t know that any of those things could be used to my advantage, or that any of those things were the reason that I was put on this planet.
Until June 17th, 2013.
When I published my first blog post about eating disorders and weight struggles in the showgirl, show business, show-me-what-your-body-looks-like world that I’ve been living in since my freshman year of college, I realized I had unleashed something larger than myself. When my voice went viral via the internet, I realized that the only person who could speak on these issues was a woman who had been there and experienced it.
Specifically, a woman like me.
It took me 26 years to realize that being a woman is a very big deal, and it is only now, in my 27th year on earth, that I realize how proud I am to be different.
Yes. I said proud. Proud to be different. Proud to be a farmgirl and a girly dancer. Proud to be a fucking curvy, sexy, loud, outspoken woman.
Because of this.
There are certain impacts that women can make in this world that would not be as powerful if done by men.
For instance, Roar. A man stripping down to his underwear and peeling off masking taped words of “fat” and “cellulite” on areas of the body that women’s magazines label “flawed” and “troubling”, would not have the same affect on the human race as a woman who actually bares those “flawed” and “troubling” areas doing the same thing.
A man teaching young girls how to hold themselves in dance class and embrace what it’s like to dance as a female, is not the same as a female dancer – who can be a female role model for the young girls for a lifetime – teaching those exact same things.
A letter to a (maybe) daughter from a mother’s point of view is an entirely different letter than what her potential daddy might write. Not in a good way or a bad way, just an insanely different way.
And these things are what I choose to see if we must be labeled as different.
I don’t have time to sit here and focus on why men have it easier in show business. Or why I, a female, got banned on Facebook for sharing The Militant Baker’s Expose project but I’ve had men with their balls as their profile picture try to friend me after Roar went viral with no repercussions.
We could sit here and make lists of the differences and inequalities between men and women and grow old and gray as we run out of paper and continue to list them on our fingers.
Or we could stand up proudly, as women, and own what we can do.
Which is influence the young women, and men, of the next generation.
Which is continue to participate in movements that mean something to us even when they aren’t necessarily well-liked or easy to participate in.
Which is to set a great example for our children and students by keeping the smack talk about our bodies at bay and owning our strength, intuition, and compassion.
And to stand up tall and be proud to be a human being who also has the pleasure of being a woman at the same time, and owning whatever that means to us.
I don’t know that I was ever proud to be a woman until I realized what an incredible opportunity it is.
But hey sister, better late than never, I’m coming to find.
I will continue to use my body and my voice to raise awareness on the issues that matter to me. And that includes every venue possible. From the internet to the dance studio to the jungle in Hawaii where I will change the way women think about their bodies to my home in Pennsylvania when I explain to my grandmother what body love is.
As a woman, I have a body and a gift that could be looked at as objective and outspoken, and in my opinion – that’s the best fucking part. I see that oppression and that misogyny my dearest world, and I challenge you to a duel where you cannot begin to be prepared for the things in my toolbox that will cut you down to size.
Today I proudly say, yea, I’m a woman. And you better watch out if you don’t think that’s a big deal, because when you least suspect it, I will show up for myself, and others, and speak with a voice made up of thousands.
The discovery of my feminine pride has been a huge stepping stone for me, and I wish it for everyone. Everyone.
And I just want to remind all the women out there who have lost their pride, or have struggled with their feminism, or are battling something hard and fierce, that “well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Girlfriend, you are so brave that you might not even know what you are capable of until you try it. But when you’re ready to, I know a hundred women who will be right there with you saying, “let’s do this shit.”
*This article is in no way dismissing feminism, dismissing the impact men have on this world, or dismissing the fact that there are women in all parts of the world struggling with issues that are way more dangerous than being a showgirl in a Broadway musical. I also do not dismiss the fact that show business’s version of “fat” is very different than what the rest of the world sees as “fat”, which I realize is controversial in itself. These are my personal struggles and personal discoveries as a woman in show business and also as an advocate for the body love movement. Everything is relative in this life, and I did not write this piece to minimize women’s issues in any way. May women everywhere benefit from one more woman stepping into her power and owning everything that she is – I am proud to be an empowered woman today and every day and I wish it for everyone.
I know, that in this day and age, guilt takes over when we let the Kardashians take over our Sunday afternoon instead of spending time donating to breast cancer research or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I know that scrolling Perez Hilton instead of reading about Gaza is enough to make me feel like I don’t even deserve another day on this earth. It’s come to the point that anything celebrity related is deemed “pointless” and “trivial” compared to the rest of the world’s problems.
I’m not here to argue that point.
I’m here to say that Robin Williams doesn’t fit into that category.
Robin Williams made art that changed my generation. His humor, his storytelling, and his thousand and one different impressions is what I watched growing up.
He was no celebrity. He was an artist.
He was no Kardashian JWoww Honeybooboo nonsense. The man taught the world lessons.
In Aladdin, we learned to believe in things that seem impossible.
In Jumanji, we learned to finish what we started with dignity, even when it sucks, even if we get dirty, even if it’s been haunting us since childhood.
In Mrs. Doubtfire, we learned that a father’s love is fierce, and humility is of the essence when trying to keep a family together.
The list goes on with Hook, and Patch Adams, and The Birdcage – all movies where we learn that humor heals. All proof that laughter really is the best medicine.
See, Robin Williams was not just a “celebrity”. He was a representation of dozens of different characters in humanity, and more. Besides being a creepy photo developer, and a doctor, and the bicentennial man, he was there to be the lost boy, and the genie, and the scientist that made green Flubber.
FLUBBER YOU GUYS. DID YOU FORGET ABOUT FLUBBER TIL I JUST SAID IT?
See, exactly. Childhood memories, eh? A little chuckle over the flubbski? I bet.
Not just any celebrity can bring about epic feelings of childhood. Robin Williams is one of the few artists in our time that has that gift.
Robin Williams is to be celebrated, as his wife has asked, as his talents demand.
But it’s also okay to mourn our loss.
We, as a people, have lost something really huge. We lost the man who wasn’t afraid of letting us in. We lost the man who brought us along on his journey even though we couldn’t possibly believe someone would be crazy enough to take it in the first place.
And most devastating, we lost another battle with depression.
Robin Williams signifies the real struggles that are taking our friends, our family, our artists away from us. We can no longer ignore the mental health issues that torture even the happiest “seeming” of souls.
So this loss is a wakeup call and perhaps, one final lesson that we can take away from Robin Williams’ brilliant and colorful life.
No matter how inspired or creative one may be, we never know the dark forces that haunt an individual behind closed doors. And it’s not for us to judge – or detect – or prescribe.
There’s only one thing we can learn from this.
We have to love one another.
Compassion is key in the survival of the human race, quite literally. Your difficult boss, your horrible sister, your emotionally unavailable boyfriend – you might not know what’s happening inside their troubled minds. Even on the most horrific day, compassion is key. Compassion is key.
You never know what someone else is going through. So compassion is key.
If we learned anything from the movie Jack, where Robin Williams was treated as an outcast for his aging condition that made him look like an adult even at age 10, we learned that compassion is key. He showed so much love for his fellow classmates that eventually, someone saw past what he looked like, and saw that he was a beautiful loving soul despite his outward appearance.
Compassion is key. Art is essential. Laughter is medicine.
That’s what I learned in my twenty-seven years on this planet with Robin Williams movies. As an actress, I admire his ability to think on his feet, and to step into any character, and to blow my mind with creativity. But as a human – from age five and up – he taught me that compassion is key. Art is essential. And laughter is medicine.
Robin Williams made me laugh so hard that I know he was put on this planet for a reason. He entertained us and moved us and made us feel things we needed to feel. He inspired me, and I’m sure countless others, to want to perform and share myself with the world as he did – authentically and unapologetically.
And so it’s okay to mourn someone who could do all of those things. It’s okay – necessary even – to grieve for the loss of a talented artist who represented so many things you and I might never get to experience. It’s okay. It’s okay to be sad.
And then, as hard as we grieve, we must equally celebrate what Mr. Williams did leave behind. Start the films rolling. Celebrate what we do have on film – those thousand and one impressions he did so fearlessly and consistently.
After all, we can never take films for granted. There is always something new to see. I’m sure we have plenty of new lessons to learn that we’ve forgotten about since Aladdin first graced our living rooms as kids. I think Robin Williams had a lot to say, and I’m willing to bet, that we can spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out all the things he had to share and still not discover everything he had to offer.
And I don’t even know if that’s what he would have wanted, but I do know that artists take great pleasure in having their art outlive them. To have their art influence future generations. To make this world a more beautiful, more compassionate, more alive place. That’s why most of us get caught up in the arts to begin with – because we’ve seen it outlast centuries and we know that it’s timeless.
And you and I both know, that Robin Williams’ art is more than timeless – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
So I loudly declare, that there’s no need to feel guilty for realizing and mourning our loss.
Because as Mr. Williams said in his unforgettable portrayal of Hunter “Patch” Adams:
You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.
I think that Mr. Williams treated us – as a whole, as a people – and we are all better off because of it.
And I ask you, how can anyone feel guilty for mourning the loss of someone that could do that?
May this world continue to be blessed with fearless artists who are inspired by Robin Williams’ comedy, courage, and creativity. May we pour out compassion. May we be aware of mental health and the sickness that comes with it. May we cherish each day and the moments that make life worth living. And may we always be thankful for the one thing the genie, voiced by the late, great, Robin Williams, cherished most.
Freedom. From freedom comes art. And I’d like to think that Robin Williams is now free from whatever demons have been haunting him these past couple years.
But oh, to be free… Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.
Rest In Peace Mr. Robin Williams
and thank you for giving the world the gift of YOU.
My dearest daughter,
I’m writing this to you at age 27, at which point I still don’t know how to change a diaper.
And I have to tell you right away, I live in a world where planes crash unexpectedly, and love doesn’t always win, and I eat pesticides for breakfast. My neighbors fight when they’re drunk and my friends have cancer and twelve-year-old students sell pot out of their lockers at school. I’m sorry darling, but this world is no place for a child.
I’m looking at a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table that your potential daddy bought me three days ago and they’re wilted because I forgot to change the water. The sink is dirty and the recycling bin smells like sour milk and Coca-Cola. My home is no place for a child to grow.
But goodness it would be so gorgeous to meet you. See, I know what your room colors will be, and I know your middle name. I know what font I’ll use on your birth announcement and I know you’ll be loved by more people than you’ll have time to meet. I just don’t know if we should, darling…
Because I don’t know how to change a diaper and planes are crashing down all around us and I just don’t know if I’ll remember to change the water in the flowers and sleep enough and pick you up from soccer practice and that’s so terrifying. I just don’t know if we should meet like this.
I mean, I do know that we would bake chocolate messes together and I would never make you eat soggy cereal.
I certainly know that you will have curly hair, because my mommy and daddy have curly hair, and so did their mommies and daddies, and four generations later, not a one of us knows how to manage it. So of course I will teach you very young how to look in the mirror and love all the tresses that are out of place. I will stop at nothing to make you see a strong little girl with beautiful wild hair instead of a weak little girl with hair made for teasing.
Oh darling, I think I would compliment you every day. Maybe 67 times in a row one morning. Maybe just once before you drift off to sleep.
I think I would let you give me manicures and always let you pick the color. Chartreuse and old lady pink and electric blue. Anything you want.
I think I would put you in tap shoes before you could walk, but then I would fear that you would love it and that you would end up like me.
And you see darling, that’s really why I know we shouldn’t meet. Because I’ve made such a mess. Such a mess that I don’t want you to see or feel or crawl inside. Little girls shouldn’t grow up in their mommy’s messes. I have years of cleaning and sorting and scrubbing to do before my life will ever be good enough for you to walk around inside it.
See darling, I got pushed down the stairs in elementary school by a boy who always made fun of me for liking school. And so that’s when I stopped liking school.
I got teased for my big butt and my big hair from seventh grade on up. That’s when I started hating my body and hiding my hair under tight ponytail holders and scores of bobby pins. How could I possibly allow you into this world if there’s even the smallest chance you would have to endure this too?
I was told I was too chunky to play Kathy in Singin’ In The Rain (which is a movie you and I would watch over and over and over until Gene Kelly would be the only man you’d ever think was good enough for you) and because I had tap shoes on at age three, I always thought I’d be in Singin’ In The Rain. I didn’t know that someone could tell me no just because of what I looked like.
And my beautiful young daughter, that’s why I stopped eating.
I stopped eating so often that I would get really hungry. And when my mommy and daddy weren’t around, I would eat everything I could find to make sure I wasn’t hungry anymore. Hours of candy and toast with jelly and marshmallow fluff. Oreos and peanut butter and cheese on Ritz crackers. Things that I would be scared to bring in the house now. Things that I would be scared to introduce you to.
I’m sure that I would let you eat whatever you want, when you want to eat it because I would never want you to end up like me. Yes, I’m sure of it. We would eat when you want, what you want, how you want, so that you feel that food is abundant and available and never forbidden. You can eat anything at all and I will never say no. Unless it’s McDonald’s. Or non-organic lettuce. Or Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches.
I think I wouldn’t make dessert too often so you don’t get hooked like I did even though the recipe for chocolate cake from your great-grandmother will blow your mind on every birthday that you have. I think I would teach you how fun it is to walk, to play, to swim, to shoot hoops. I think I will always buy you clothes that will fit you and make you feel comfortable. I think I won’t keep any fashion magazines in the house. I think I will never insult myself in front of you so that you don’t think that it is something women do.
I think I would make a vow to never talk badly about myself in front of you. To never insult my body or my hair or my choices in front of you. But surely I’ll slip one day and you’ll learn that women are supposed to insult themselves and you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life because of my bad decisions.
And while I’m thinking of it, I mean I think that I would always tell you how beautiful you are, but what if one day I forgot? What if that one day was the day the boy at school told you how ugly and fat you are and pushed you down the stairs? And what if I was too busy having a parent teacher conference later that day to remind you again of how wonderfully beautifully gorgeous you are? That’s when I would start to fail.
I would start failing and never stop. Just like I start eating and never stop. I just would never stop failing and how could you ever forgive me for failing you?
See darling, it just isn’t logical for us to meet.
Oh it’s true, I know we would have such fun shopping for mascara when you’re 40 and I finally let you put makeup on those beautiful long eyelashes you inherited from your grandmother. And I know we would tease your daddy about how little hair he has and we would re-decorate your room all leopard print and we would, of course, watch crime shows together right before bed.
But what if we didn’t? What if I was so bad at being your mother that you forgot all about me?
And what if we never got to know each other, and you ate soggy cereal and thought that I didn’t care, and you started to hate what you see in the mirror because I can’t get through to you in time to convince you that you’re perfect?
This is why we can’t meet, darling. Because the world is a terrible place and there will be drugs in the locker next to yours and your science teacher might like kiddy porn and the school lunches are made with terrible preservatives and you might not get the lead in the school play and a football player might break your heart or worse and why would I want to put you through that?
Your twenties will consist of credit card debt and student loans and dead end jobs and terrible men and multiple roach-infested apartments and you’ll push me away even though I want to help you and I won’t know where you are in the middle of the night or if you’re driving drunk or if you’re sleeping in a ditch on the side of the highway. I won’t know and then I can’t keep you safe and that’s my job and so many times in my life I didn’t get a job because of circumstances out of my control and this time I got a job that I really really wanted but it turns out I’m simply not cut out for it because I’m a terrible mother and I don’t know where you are and you’re 28 years old and I can’t protect you and I’ve failed.
I want to tell you darling, that if I’ve learned anything in my 27 years on this earth, it’s that no one else can make you happy unless you’re already happy inside. Isn’t that the funniest thing? I never would have thought it to be true until I got older and started thinking about the first time you and I would meet. See, where ever you are, there you are, yes, and if you’re not happy inside your own sweet body, how can you be happy if the circumstances around you continue to change? You must find the inner peace, the inner strength, the inner love within yourself before you can go around giving away all your peace and love to anybody else. You cannot rely on someone else to complete you, or make you happy, or heal your sadness. And goodness darling, I guess that means I can’t rely on you to complete me, or make me happy, or heal my sadness. That would be quite a job for you in all your tinyness and I’m smart enough to know that it just wouldn’t be fair.
And of course, of course, I know that I could bring you into this world and love the shit out of you, love you and do everything I can to make you happy, but when you leave me at 18, at 28, at 40, I’ll revert right back to my 27-year-old self who wasn’t quite happy inside before you came along. And without you I’ll fail miserably at managing my own life, facing my own fears, loving my own body that once housed you. And I can’t come to you for help because you’ll be raising your own tiny thing, and although I’ll want to give you advice and say, “No! Don’t have her, don’t do it, spend your life alone, tap dancing, avoiding food, figuring out how to be happy”, you’ll hate me for my advice and of course I’ll glue my lips shut and stay in the car while you register for strollers and bouncy chairs.
No, I simply cannot have you, because I know how happy you would make me and I think that I might smother you with compliments and hair barettes. I think that I might brag about my professional manicurist who paints my nails chartreuse and old lady pink and electric blue and I think it would bring me great joy to brag. I think that I would teach you to tap dance in a little studio I’d have your daddy build for you with mirrors and lavender paint. I think that you would make the best mother’s day gifts. I think you would be able to change the world if you wanted to.
And what I wish for you darling, whether we meet or not, is that you find beauty in yourself regardless of what anyone else tells you. What I wish for you, is to follow your heart even when TV and boys and magazines tell you otherwise. What I wish for you, is that when you’re 27, you actually know what you want, and you don’t feel like a nomad with too many ideas that you don’t have the funds to carry out.
Most of all, I wish for you to forgive me for everything I’m probably not going to do. Because if you can forgive me now for all the lunches I forget to pack, or the shoelaces I forget to buy, or the rules I’m going to give you to keep you safe, you’ll have a much happier life and you won’t need as much therapy as I did when I was your age, my love.
Forgive me now for the mistakes I will make, and the things I will say in the heat of the moment, and the things I will never say because I’m too scared to see your eyes well up when I say them. Forgive me for fighting with your father about your sweetheart neck prom dress, your grades, your outfit choices in 7th grade.
I don’t ask for forgiveness for my sake. I can live with or without it. But you can’t.
Forgive me for your sake. Forgive me so that you don’t carry anger on your shoulders like a backpack full of remorse. Forgive me so you don’t find yourself writing a letter like this one day to a daughter you’re too scared to meet. Forgive me so that you can learn from my mistakes.
Oh holy hell, look at me talking to you as though you’re already on your way! That wouldn’t be a good thing because I still haven’t changed the water in the flowers and I still haven’t quite figured out how to stop eating all the chocolate chips.
You know, your potential father always tells me to make my decisions based in love, never fear. Easier said than done, am I right? Yes, you’ll find he’s wise. Unfortunately, he makes so much sense sometimes that it drives me bonkers. But I mean seriously, I’m writing you this letter because I love you, and I’m pretty sure that we shouldn’t meet because I love you so much that I cannot bear to let you experience any pain or heartbreak or disappointment.
Which I suppose your potential father would say is actually a letter based in fear.
Which I suppose means I’ve made a mess in my head again and I won’t have time to sort it out until I get home from work on Friday and finish doing all the dishes I left from the week of stale sandwiches and bowls of sickening ice cream.
I suppose at the bottom of the sink I’ll find a blurry reflection of myself, huddled over the dirty sponge in a mess of fear and sadness that I am choosing not to meet you because I love you too much.
I suppose in my reflection I’ll see a face that would very much look like yours and cheeks that once got pinched by a loving aunt and eyelashes that I inherited from your grandmother.
I suppose I would want you to experience that loving pinch from your aunt and your grandmother in every sense of who she is and I suppose I would want all those people that I talked about to meet you and love you and join me in telling you how fucking amazing you are.
And I suppose that your potential daddy is right. There are a million and one reasons to avoid meeting you, based in fear.
The only reason, and I mean the ONLY reason I would say it’s acceptable for us to even consider meeting, is love.
So, we’ll see darling. I’m not saying it’s a yes. I’m saying that it’s a maybe. Don’t argue with me young lady, I said I’ll think about it. I have some cleaning up to do and some soul sorting and some flower water to change and the list goes on but I’m overwhelmed so I’ll stick with my maybe. And until I am in the right mind to make a decision, I ask your forgiveness for what happens between now and that potential meeting.
Because I love you and I already love my chartreuse manicure and your tiny feet and your laugh and it hurts my heart like crazy to think this world is too messy to keep me from ever hearing your laugh but out of fear, I must protect you from it and thus the cycle starts all over again and I’m so confused about what I want and what you might want and what sort of relationship we can even have in such a place where the planes are always crashing down.
But I would love the fucking shit out of you. So I’ll keep thinking on it.
You room colors would be baby turquoise and rich plum and your middle name would be my grandmother’s – Janet.
Holy shit darling, I love you more than you will ever comprehend.
*I wrote this on behalf of the inner monologue that goes on inside my head when I see a baby at the diner, on behalf of all women who don’t know what they want, and on behalf of my girlfriends who voice fears like mine when we stay up late drinking wine and wondering if we’re doing it all wrong. This letter is my voice paired with hundreds of others.
‘Tis the season to be bamboozled.
Everywhere we look right now, there is a headline or a Tweet from every major magazine about what to eat and what not to eat this holiday season.
Lists, and calorie counts, and ideas for vegan muffins, and how many different holiday cocktails will make us fat.
Every day, from Halloween to New Year’s Eve, this is what we see.
And that’s really great and all, but, do we really need the magazines to tell us how many calories are in a margarita?
I mean, c’mon, you and I both know that there is no nutritional value to a margarita.
Margaritas are filled with fun and lime-flavored decisions that normally have consequences.
That’s pretty common (sometimes awesome) knowledge.
Do you know what happens when we read that list of cocktails that we should avoid?
Our brain thinks immediately, “Oh, add that to the list of things I can’t have.”
And it’s just like the old saying goes: “If I tell you not to think about the color red, what color are you going to think about?” “Red.” (Is that an old saying? I mean, people say it a lot, so…)
Basically, by trying to get the masses to NOT focus on food during the holidays, the media and the magazines and even our friends on Facebook have done exactly the opposite.
The holidays are officially about food.
Whether we realize it or not, the media is doing an excellent job of preparing us for the next big boom in WeightWatchers memberships and Paleo-diet book sales.
By putting these cleverly-titled lists of food in our faces every day – whether they are “good food” lists or “bad food” lists – we are constantly reminded to eat and drink.
Whether we are hungry or not.
On top of that, every morning, amongst the political memes and constant flow of engagement and baby pictures on our Facebook newsfeed, our friends’ pictures of last night’s salmon/bok choy/chia seed/coconut oil/alfalfa sprout creation is staring us in the face. I know we’re probably all on different levels with understanding chia seeds, but because I still haven’t grasped the concept of using them and I’m pretty content that I can finally make my own green smoothie and be satisfied with it, pictures and articles about food on Facebook overwhelm me.
It all overwhelms me.
Because we are all still, as a whole, making it about food.
The diet industry has gotta love this.
In between Instagram’ed meals of vegan cornbread and Pinterest recipes for Paleo lasagna, the diet and fitness industry continues to have a leg up on us.
Because the more overwhelmed we get, the more willing we are to try whatever hits us in the face first
And if that’s a new diet, or a new fitness video that costs us a hundred bucks come January 1st when we don’t like what we see on the scale, then the diet and fitness industry scores again.
Because we’ll excitedly try the hundred dollar juice cleanse and the newest dance fitness TRX trampoline kettle bell video for a month, get depressed at our lack of motivation to keep it up, and slump back into our winter blues until spring rolls around, when, naturally, the magazines post the best bikini workouts for 2014.
It’s an endless cycle that is actually extremely well-planned on their part.
And the people who have trouble with food the way bingers, or addicts do, are their biggest supporters.
Because until we become aware that we have a problem with binging – until we finally come to terms with the fact that we are not just weak or we are not just stupid – we keep trying the newest fad.
We keep the diet and fitness industry in business, week after week, month after month, year after year.
So this week, I say we give them a run for their money.
This month, I say we give them the cold shoulder.
Dare I say it – this year, this upcoming year – I say we try to figure out what we should and shouldn’t eat on our OWN.
I mean, do we really need Jillian Michaels to tell us which greek yogurt has the most protein?
Can we just read the labels for ourselves? Do we even like greek yogurt? Are we just eating it because it’s the “in” thing?
And, let me just ask this: Do we really need Self to teach us how to do eight different kinds of push-ups?
What if we just started from the beginning and tried doing five old-fashioned push-ups a day until we work our way up to eight, ten, fifteen, and twenty?
What if we, (here we go), I know you know I’m gonna say it, take BABY STEPS, on our own, without the help of glossy pages and airbrushed models demonstrating for us?
I think we might find that we are smarter and stronger than we’ve been led to believe.
This Christmas, why don’t we make our own lists?
Lists of things we’ve accomplished this year.
Lists of things we’ve accomplished in the past five years.
Lists of things we are grateful for.
Lists of friends who supported us this year when we couldn’t find the light at the end of the tunnel on our own.
Lists of places we’ve traveled, lessons we’ve learned, or books that have changed our lives.
Lists of our proudest moments.
Dare I say it…
…what if we made a list of our OWN highlight reel, instead of scrolling everyone else’s on our social media feeds?
Mind you, I’m not asking you to make a list of goals for the new year. Or a list of new foods you want to try. Or a list of things you still haven’t finished in 2013.
We all have things we didn’t get to this year. We all have things we thought would happen. Maybe life got in the way. Maybe we got distracted. But this isn’t what I’m asking you to focus on.
Let’s focus on stuff that’s happened. Stuff that we did get done.
By making a “gratitude list”, like my friend Christina taught me to do, we might just end up outlining how all our “distractions” led us to accomplishing things that we never even had on our to-do list to begin with.
This blog, and Roar, and my amazing relationship, and teaching dance in Hawaii, are all results of the “distractions” in 2013. I might not have ran the marathon, and I might not have booked a Broadway show, but I also influenced hundreds of thousands of people this year AND I can now get through a movie without holding a spoon and a jar of Nutella in my hands.
My own baby steps have allowed me to take one giant step towards recovery, growing up, and loving who I am.
And I wish the same for you.
In the restaurant world, when someone doesn’t want something in their meal, we let the kitchen know by putting “86” in front of the food. Like, “86 chicken sub tofu”, or “86 whipped cream”.
I say, let’s fucking 86 all of the lists of things that we should and shouldn’t be doing, and let’s sub the lists that really matter:
The gratitude lists. The accomplishment lists. The “shit I got done” lists.
These are the lists that we deserve to be bombarded with every day.
Let your lists be your gift to yourself this year.
I keep mine on my desk and add to it every day.
I’m so grateful for all of you, and the gifts of support, love, and encouragement I’ve received this year.
Have yourselves a merry little Christmas.
Next week’s posting:
It has never been cool to be “alright”.
As we grow up, moving into our twenties, all we hear from our friends a few years older than us is that our “twenties will be a shitshow”, and we “just have to get through it” and then we will be golden.
We are warned of the heartache and the financial woe and the depression before it even arrives. And when it shows up at our front door, we practically welcome it in saying, “Ahhhhh, I’ve been expecting you.”
So we join the masses of anxiety-driven twentysomethings just like us and think to ourselves, “well, at least we have each other.”
Because misery loves company.
So in our twenties, we find ourselves making friends with the people who are “going through it” just like we are, because they are the only people who “understand what it’s like” to be in a dark place like we are.
But what if we weren’t warned about the shitshow to come? What if we weren’t told to expect failure and heartbreak?
What would happen if we experienced the joy that comes with being single and free in our twenties without knowing that doom was lurking just around the corner?
I mean, honestly, I don’t know the answers. I’m legitimately asking you.
What if we went into our twenties blind and ignorant?
Would we still come out alive?
Most of you who read this are beyond the stage of warning. You’ve already been told what to expect and you are bracing yourself for the storm that awaits as you round each corner of your twenties – just trucking through each year until you reach the golden light at the end of the tunnel – thirty.
I was always told that thirty was it. Thirty was gonna be the change. The sigh of relief.
So I’ve been waiting for that. I’ve been crawling through the trenches of 24, 25, and 26, wiping my Pinot Grigio laced tears out of my eyes hoping to see through the dust that 27, 28, and 29 will bring, knowing that if I just keep crawling, I’ll make it to thirty and everything will be just as it’s supposed to be.
Well. Fuck. That.
I am sick and tired of being told what my life is going to look like. I am sick and tired of having this miserable picture painted for me from the generation ahead. And I am sick and tired of waiting until I am thirty to feel alright with my life.
Yea, the economy sucks. Yea, the job market sucks. Yea, student loans fucking SUCK. But do we really need to be told those things as we grow up? Couldn’t we just as easily find all that out on our own and let it do the damage to our lives that we each allow it to do, instead of having it consume our thoughts immediately after graduation knowing full well that we are “in for a rocky road” in this day and age?
What if, all of us, in our twenties, accepted that where we are right now in life, is alright?
Actually, let’s expand that statement.
What if, all of us, seriously all of us – no matter what age we are, accepted that where we are right now in life, is alright?
What if we didn’t seek out other miserable people to spend our time with?
And what if we started supporting our friends who make baby steps towards happiness and health instead of scorning them for making it out of the trenches before us?
In Hawaii, I’ve learned to use the term Pono. In simple terms, Pono is rightness and balance.
“When you are Pono, you have a feeling of contentment, wherein all is good and all is right. Pono teaches the attitude of positivity. Life itself excites you. Those who are Pono are optimistic and full of hope. All they see in their future is that things can only get better. Keep your life in balance. Do what is right.” – Managing With Aloha by Rosa Say
What if we all found the feeling of Pono in ourselves – the feeling of contentment – even amongst the world’s wars, hate, and crisis?
I think if we found the Pono in ourselves, we would encourage others to do the same. Because I’ll tell you what. When I ask myself if something is Pono – is it right – and I follow my gut, it brings me to a place of balance. I feel rooted in myself, and in my decision. And so nothing can sway me. Not even the negativity of those around me.
And so even though misery loves company, I no longer participate in the party.
Meaning one less person is contributing to the negative world, and taking a stand for the positive one.
And that feels Pono to me.
So this is what I am asking you to consider.
When your friends find something that mean something to them – even if it sounds boring to you – is it Pono for you to razz them about it?
When your best friend decides that after six years of bourbon blackouts and tequila hangovers that he wants to try sobriety for the sake of his health and his sanity, what is Pono? Teasing him, or supporting him? C’mon man, support his ass. Yea, it totally sucks that you lost a drinking buddy. But maybe it gives you an opportunity to look at your own drinking habits and check in with your own body. Maybe you could use a break, too.
When your best friend thinks she’s met the love of her life but you think he’s a total loser, what is Pono? Preaching to her or supporting her? C’mon girlfriend, cut the girl a break and support her anyway. She isn’t going to listen to your advice no matter what you say – you probably know this by now – so just humor her when she tells you the one nice thing he did for her this month. Be with her until she wakes up and smells his bullshit. And take an opportunity to observe why you hate her loser boyfriend so much. Does he remind you of someone you’ve dated who you still haven’t forgave?
See, the thing is, is that there’s always shit of our own that we can focus on working out instead of razzing our friends about their choices. It’s just easier to tease them than to look at our own shit in the mirror.
Here’s the thing.
Life does not have to be about the fear of failure. Life does not have to be about how far we have to go before we can celebrate making it to 30. Life can be about the shit that’s happening right now.
Observing the shit now, feeling the shit now, conquering the shit now, moving on from the shit now.
Just love the shit. All of it. It’s life, baby. This shit is what makes up our lives. It’s here now. So might as well love it.
In a world that teaches us to become better all the time – get a better body, grow better hair, be better in bed – it’s hard to accept that what’s happening right now might just be alright.
But beautiful girl, if you didn’t see that magazine on the street today about the five best Keratin treatments for long hair – would you have even been thinking about your four split ends?
If you didn’t see that book on your friend’s shelf today about the Best Sexual Positions for Businesswomen in a Hurry in 2013 in New York City, would you have even been wondering if your sex life is boring?
Every day, the world throws negativity at us. Telling us we are not good enough right now.
Well I say, wake up and smell the coffee that you’re brewing right now and take a good strong look in the mirror.
Find something that you fucking love about yourself in the mirror and adore it. Now. Right now.
For me, it’s my legs and my waist. I have strong legs with fierce calf muscles and I have a waist that curves in at the right spot. I have learned to love these things over the past four months after my friend Nadia told me to make time in my day for looking at them, accepting them, and believing that they are awesome.
What do you love about yourself? There is absolutely something. Come on. Don’t be shy.
Once you find it, love it. Give it some love every day. Admire it. What does that body part do for you? Do what you need to do for yourself to love the parts of you that you are fine with right now, and do not let any magazine tell you that you need to change it.
Every time you and I do something that’s Pono – that’s right with us – that’s right for us – we change the world. We become one less miserable figure in the scheme of things, even if it’s just for five minutes. And slowly, but surely, we can inspire others to do the same.
“Are you content? You may feel there is much to be done, however a feeling of contentment is possible when you feel the path ahead is one that is right for you, one where you will enjoy the journey. It may be a difficult journey, but because it’s the right one, it’s the best one, and you take it willingly, eagerly. Contentment dishes up feelings of being at peace, of being calm, stress-free, and tranquil. For the moment there is no striving.” – Rosa May, Managing With Aloha
I just want to take this moment and tell you that it’s alright, to be alright.
It’s okay to be content, even if no one around you is content too. It’s okay to feel calm, stress-free, and tranquil, even if everyone around you is going batshit over wrapping presents and baking cookies. It’s okay to like yourself. Hell, dare I say it, it’s okay to love yourself.
You guys. The world around us is always going to tell us to be better.
It’s up to us to find our contentment no matter what the magazines and Twitter feeds tell us.
And it’s really important for us to accept that being Pono, being content, is alright.
This holiday season – take some time out of everyday for yourself. It’s important that you find out what you need – because the more you take care of yourself, the less misery you bring to the party. And maybe, just maybe, once we stop waiting for thirty to come, or perfection to come, or success to come, we’ll realize that being right here, right now, in this moment, is pretty fucking awesome.
And after a while, the misery party, complete with it’s tantalizing cocktails and it’s newest diet-trend-approved hors d’oeurves, won’t even exist anymore.
“Being Pono becomes our best preparedness for the certainty of change. When people are secure in who they are, they do what they do best. They have that positive and optimistic attitude that comes from doing what they love to do in the best way possible. outside forces do not shake them up too badly. They are centered, they are balanced, and so they are resilient and strong.” – Rosa Say, Managing with Aloha
You, my bad ass friends, are resilient and strong.
Find your Pono – your feeling of contentment.
You deserve it. Honest to God, you do.