“go”

Henry Rollins meme

The above meme featuring Henry Rollins has been making the rounds lately, and I happen to like it (and Rollins) a lot. So I posted it on facebook.

Reactions ranged from “hell yeah!” to “nope” for a variety of reasons. Valid criticism came in the form of people arguing that down time is also recuperation/recovery time, and as well that people with disabilities or chronic illnesses need to not be going full force all the time as a health issue. Taken at face value, the quote comes across as shaming people who are not 100% busy 110% of the time.

I won’t speak for Rollins, who can defend/explain himself just fuckin’ fine (oh he’s so fine). What I want to do, is expand the meaning of what it means to “go”. My friend CarlaM left a comment that I thought captured what I saw in the meme: “It doesn’t mean you gotta GO GO GO all the time. It means be mindful, be aware, CHOOSE when to be on and when to turn off.”

Which comes back around to defining what “go” means. In our society, over-achievement is a valid  lifestyle choice. People who drive themselves into the ground are revered as “hard workers”, “good employees”, “entrepreneurial role models.” Taking down time is seen as a weakness; using free time to goof off as a folly or worse, irresponsible. “Go go go!” is a motivational cheer for people to get their boots on the ground and get marching.

But I like CarlaM’s take on it, which resonated with me a lot. When I talk about spare time or free time, I mean, really, wasted time. A nap is not wasted time, it can be a necessary part of a stressful day, a method of recharging our batteries. Blearily scrolling through pinterest or tumblr in the wee hours, or checking out using drugs such as alcohol, or focusing all of our energy on solving other people’s problems — that’s wasted time. We can call it resting or having fun but it never is. The difference between recuperation/resting and wasting energy is how you feel afterwards: refreshed? Energized? Clear headed? Positive and motivated? Or exhausted, drained, and angry?

Those nights I spent in a depressed mental haze, staying up trolling the ‘net for distractions until I literally fell asleep in my chair….that wasn’t free time. That wasn’t anything that resembled compassion for myself. That wasn’t me being mindful. That was me disrespecting myself because the act of self-care (going to sleep, getting medical assistance, reaching out to friends for help) felt shameful to me. Yes, I did need to “go” but not to work; I needed to go to a safe place in my life and recover.

“Go”, here, is the sense of doing things purposefully for the sake of your LIFE. It means working hard at your job and/or your passion, and committing to your goals; it also means taking a nap, taking your meds, taking time to spend with friends, taking in a movie or taking a day at the beach. We understand that someone who is ill or injured in the hospital might need 20 hours of sleep a day just to get better, but we don’t apply the same principle to other situations where self-care is critical, such as chronic pain/illness, new parenthood, mental illness, or depression.

You could argue that this is all just semantics — down time or free time or wasting time, whatevs! But I disagree, because you cannot change the concept of productivity if your language is constantly denigrating  aspects of self-care that include rest, recovery, and recharging. Fortunately, our language already supports a broader use of the term:
“Go” to sleep.
“Go” take a vacation.
“Go” out with friends.

Of course our culture is also very judgmental. People gage productivity their their own filter of what success means, and not your version of self-care. That’s why this kind of discussion is important. We need to value self-care as a productive activity, in and of itself. The idea of “don’t waste your life!” isn’t ultimately about the job you have or how many hours you work, but how present you are in it as you live it. Somedays that might mean working furiously on an art project, or working overtime at your job in order to make money or get a promotion, or taking a personal day to spend in bed with hot tea and your blankie.

We don’t have down time or free time, we have LIFE time, and no one gets to judge what is important to us but ourselves. Throwing it away randomly, wasting time doing things that wear you down because you are scared or insecure or feel unworthy, that’s wasted time.

Don’t waste yourself. Go for a break, go to a friend’s house for dinner, go write fanfic, go doodle up a dragon, go take a nap, go write that masterpiece, go practice your music, go meditate, go get help.

All you got is LIFE time. Go.

Culture, convention, conformity

My friend KimM and I were bitching talking about our jobs lately when the subject of “professionalism” came up, mainly in regards to appearance and behavior on-the-job. The topic was expanded on by the revelation that the talented actress Mo’Nique has been overlooked for roles because of a perception that she went outside the conventions of Hollywood.

Different cultures have different rules of behavior and everyone knows this, even children. The university or corporate culture mandate of professionalism depends a lot on your job, the institution you work for, and even the part of the country you’re in.

Nonetheless there are universals for Westernized American society: for men, ties are more professional than polo shirts; for women, heels of some kind, even low pumps, are more professional than flats (woe betide your feet).

The tricky part, though, are the other conventions, the unspoken but oft-referred to rules of engagement. In academia, you never publicly criticize your mentor, for instance. You don’t write letters to the editor about how awful your graduate program is, either. There was a young lady in my MLIS program who did just that in an online blog — no doubt, there are those reading this now who know exactly who I am talking about, and this was nearly 4 years ago — and became instantly unemployable. Not in any way she could see, but if you listened to the backchatter of different communities online, it was obvious. I’m sure she found a job eventually, but there is no doubt her career took a critical hit before she even got her degree in hand.

But here’s the thing: She wasn’t actually wrong. 

There were faults with the program and many of us were trying to get them addressed…on the back end. Talks with professors and adjuncts and administration were common; the ALA student chapter was a strong mover and shaker back then and was very involved in those discussions. Nothing that student wrote about publicly was in any way a lie. She was right on the money about our program’s faults and had a right to say so in a public venue.  Doing so was against the convention of academia, even if it was not strictly against the rules, and whether she ever became aware of it or not she paid the price. Maybe she knew what she was doing though, and just didn’t care.

Likewise, Mo’Nique is also suffering backlash for doing something she had a right to do. She wanted some control over her appearances during a promotional tour, and when she won the Oscar she used the opportunity to make a political statement. One side of this declares that by breaking these conventions, she crippled her career, not only losing out on great acting opportunities but curtailing what could have become a very powerful, influential position for her in Hollywood. The other side, though, is just as valid, in that she was probably very aware that those moments might be the only time in her life she would get a chance to do anything like that. Oscars are not guaranteed, especially not to black women, so it’s reasonable to assume she decided to “take the hit” in exchange for using that one, golden opportunity to try and create positive change in her world.

What may on the surface look “wrong” or like someone is being “a trouble maker” through the lens of the culture whose rules are being broken might simply be someone living by a different standard of rules altogether.

KimM and I, and so many of my friends, are working in environments we don’t feel at home in — for money or convenience, doesn’t matter, we have to make conscious efforts to “fit in.” I’m not saying that’s wrong (and I happen to like my current job a lot, even when I bitch talk about it), but the point is that if we wanted to climb that culture’s ladder badly enough, we would conform far more than we do. For the sake of succeeding within that culture, my librarian colleague would possibly have never written that blog post; Mo’Nique would have humbly accepted her award and tripped off into a slew of acting jobs. That’s the bottom line.

Instead, we sometimes make “outlier” decisions that colleagues and friends far more enmeshed in their chosen (or, perhaps, default) culture do not understand, or do not approve. The people I know, they aren’t sheeple, so I expect a lot of them accept the conformity consciously in exchange for the chance at a tenured position or a move up to middle-management or an opportunity to get their work funded. In that sense it does come back around to “do what feels right”, because if you cannot function in that particular culture at all it will utterly break you (for instance, in my case that would be law enforcement or emergency services).

But I think that’s my point here: it needs to be a conscious decision, and made for reasons that resonate with your truest self, the calling you have or the work you feel you need to do. Ironically, that often puts us on the outside of the cultures we actually need to participate in to achieve the success we are working towards (for whatever value you ascribe to ‘success’). We’re often pressured to conform under the assumption that we are looking for success as defined by that culture.

We’re not.

If we cannot stand there in confidence of what we are standing for (in my case, a full time career as a commercial fiction writer…eventually…), then we’ll keep getting thrown back down to the ground by the sheer force of cultural disapproval. The desire to belong is very strong, the need for approval almost addictive. We can poo-poo all of that but only to our detriment; recognizing and accounting for how strong those forces can be makes the difference between succeeding in our own, unconventional goals or succumbling to a life that would ultimately ruin us.


 

[To make clear, I’m not directing this post to people who happily conform to the culture they belong to because they find that fulfilling; the focus of this post is on people like me, who don’t easily conform to anything to begin with (goodness knows I’ve tried) and have personal goals that stand outside of “convention” in regards to professional careers]

 

Artist co-housing concept

I’ve had different conversations with different friends lately about the idea of artist communes, which kind of makes my skin itch because I’m just not that much of a hippy.

Yet I’ve been enamored for decades now with the “new” concept of cohousing*, which back in the 1980s when I first discovered it was a very, very fringe concept in the U.S. Thirty years later and it’s still on the fringe, but not quite as far out on the edges as it used to be. There are a lot of “intentional communities” in this country and more are being developed every day.

So, when I came across this article, “Circular Hakka Houses Create Self-Sustaining Communities”, featuring traditional “fortresses” (tulou) built by the Chinese Hakka people, I thought it would be a great way to combine old and new principles.

The tulou are huge circular buildings with open courtyards in the middle, and are two to four stories tall. The largest tulou could hold up to 80 families, living in groups within the fortress walls.

My idea was that you build something like this as a cohousing community. The first floor would be work/art space, such as dance studios, fine art (paint,drawing) studios, music rooms, computer labs, recording studios, etc. Because this tulou would not actually need to be a fortress, the outer walls could be mostly glass to let in natural light. The second floor would be split between community resources (group kitchen, entertainment room, childcare services, heavy-duty laundromat, gym, etc.) and larger apartments for larger and/or multi-generational families. The top floor would be mostly smaller apartments for individuals or couples. The courtyard could hold a storage shed for things like bikes and scooters, as well as a child/adult playground (if I can’t play on the swings I don’t want to be a part of your revolution!) and lots of green space for picnics, public performances, and general shenanigans. Depending on the environment/location, the roof could even be used as community space, possibly with a pool/hot tub and “bar” areas or more formal performance spaces.

The way this is designed, all the entrances face internally, so there would be a lot of interaction by default as people go about their day.

Even as a writer, I would love to live in a place like that. I would go down to the computer labs to write – maybe corrals could be “rented” for extended time by individuals – and then go sit outside on the commons to have a snack  while the community choir practices for the winter holidays and kids run around in the playground, and then later make my way up to the entertainment room for the community showing of a popular movie or show that devolves into an argument about Italian cinema before retiring to my own private space for the night.

That just…that sounds heavenly to me.

Meantime, the only real “artists cohousing community” I’ve found is the Louisville Artists Cohousing Community in Colorado, which is still in the formative stages (that is, it doesn’t actually exist yet).

That’s just too bad. I think artist cohousing would be a brilliant idea overall.


* The line between co-housing and commune is a bit squiffy, but general usage seems to be:

  1. Communes are usually ideological in basis (religious, mostly, but also political) and more communal in that nearly everything but personal bedrooms are shared spaces. Think of old-fashioned college dorms.
  2. Cohousing arrangements might have ideological underpinnings (ecology/sustainability is a popular one) but are open to a wider variety to members, and usually features small individual abodes (apartments or cabins or small houses) with larger resources being shared along with centralized community spaces (group kitchens, entertainment/hobby areas, playgrounds, etc.).

Death match: body dysmorphia vs. visualization

Body dysmorphia is more than “not seeing reality in the mirror”, in fact, it’s a far more holistic disorder than that. I’m not sure I clinically suffer from it, but the symptoms resonate with my experience:

  • Preoccupation with your physical appearance with extreme self-consciousness
  • Frequent examination of yourself in the mirror, or the opposite, avoidance of mirrors altogether
  • Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Feeling the need to stay housebound
  • Excessive grooming, such as hair plucking or skin picking, or excessive exercise in an unsuccessful effort to improve the flaw
  • Comparison of your appearance with that of others
  • Reluctance to appear in pictures

Yep, that’s me.

But the interesting point is that I am in a constant state of surprise about my body image. There is a part of me that somehow believes I’m not supposed to look as bad as I believe I do.  I compartmentalize the worst of my assumptions and then operate on the principle that “it’s not that bad if I just don’t look.” Conflicting? Yes. Yes, it is.

But it also leads to situations like I found myself in recently, sobbing while collapsed on the floor of a hotel bathroom.

I do not have full-length mirrors in my apartment. The few mirrors I have are hung only to view myself from the shoulders up. I can catch a glimpse of myself in the reflections of shop windows and such, and I’m not a fashion diva so I don’t need to verify that my ‘look’ is right. I know what I look like and I hate it. Confirmation bias is real, y’all.

Yet, the flip side is that I can brush that awareness aside most of the time. I do go out with friends occasionally; I do show up for work; I allow photos of myself if not doing so would be rude in a social context. I’d rather stay at home where no one can see me but I also understand that is not a healthy thing to do all the time, so the constant hate-loathing is pragmatically pushed into its box in the corner of my mental landscape. Ironically it’s a small box; it just contains a lot of energy.

In that hotel room, though, was a full-length, floor-to-ceiling wall mirror in the bathroom. In it, I accidentally glimpsed myself in all my naked glory and I was horrified. My body appeared as a grotesquerie. There was no way to shuffle quickly out of view, or focus on my shoes or collar line. There I was, all of me, and it was as terrible as I have imagined.

It’s like knowing you did poorly on a test, but not truly grasping the magnitude of just how badly you failed until you get the grade back. Until you see that grade, you can delude yourself into a zone of “it’s bad but I’m okay”, which falls apart when you are presented with the cold hard brutal fact that your GPA just nose-dived.

I live in that zone; the mirror was the red-letter “F” on my body.

Yet, I’m aware this is a mental problem more than a physical issue. I get that. I’ve known it for years. Wishing things better doesn’t work, though (I’d have won the lottery by now, okay?). Yes, I would also like to be in better physical health, sure. I’ve joined the gym, and do morning yoga/stretching routines, and try to keep my food intake rational. That honestly has very little to do with what is going on in my head.

Interestingly, we live in a time when neuroscience is really starting to make inroads into the hows and whys of our brains. Science is pulling things like “meditate for inner peace” and “visualize for better athletic performance” out of the woo-woo realm by understanding how these ephemeral practices actually do affect our brains. Can we think ourselves to a Tiger Woods swing in golf? No, but Tiger Woods could and did. It’s a matter of learning to train our brain to best effect — figuring out how to manifest our inherent and natural strengths and talents in order to optimize our training.

That’s a mouthful, but what it boils down to is quite literally re-configuring the wiring of our brain connections. We can’t out-think cancer or depression, but if we are in a healthy place we can out-think our bad habits and our self-perceptions. We do create our own reality, at least in the sense that how we feel about our lives and how we approach problems is well within our control.

What I’ve realized is that my since body dysmorphia is an internal status of perception, it might be possible to change how I think about myself and, just as important, how I behave, through a serious commitment to the practice of visualization and positive reinforcement of self-acceptance using affirmations.

The difference between this and wishful thinking is that visualization and positive affirmations are about changing myself internally, whereas wishful thinking is dreaming about external changes. That is, it’s the difference between feeling better and hoping for better.

It’s also the difference between actively working for something and passively accepting what comes along. As many times I’ve I’ve dieted, worked out, or punished myself psychologically, it’s generally been with a sense of fatalism, because hoping for better is based on clinging to the idea of an outcome. It is not about true change, which must be internal, and so the “better” that I hope for never happens.

I mean, chances are good at this point that I’m fat for life. There is absolutely no doubt that 30+ years of yo-yo dieting involving losing and gaining 50+ pounds several times over has significantly damaged my metabolism. I’m pre-menopausal. While I’m generally in good health, I have a bad back and reduced lung capacity due to the whooping cough of 2012. I’d not be surprised that 15+ years of suffering grief, PTSD, and poverty has resulted in adrenal fatigue. I might have issues with my thyroid (doctor’s appt. scheduled in March to find out). This isn’t adolescence where I’m hoping puberty makes things right, this is middle age where I have to deal with the damages I have sustained along the way.

So yeah, wishful thinking? My worst enemy.

I’m developing a practice of visualization meditations that focus on being healthy, and teaching my brain that I am safe, strong, and whole. Sometimes it feels silly imagining my “ideal self” and “ideal life” in ways that are realistic as opposed to fantasy. At this point, though, I think it might be the only way I’ll never end up crying on the floor just because of what the mirror shows me.

I have an eating disorder

The title of this post, “I have an eating disorder”, is pretty weird to me. I don’t suffer from bulimia or anorexia, so the general consensus would be that no, I don’t. That has certainly been my own opinion for most of my life. However over the last couple of years as I’ve been lurking in the paleo and LCHF communities, I’ve read about other people’s struggles with eating disorders (EDs) and I’ve realized that there is actually a large bandwidth. And I fall on that bandwidth.

My ED stems from my OCD, something I’ve had under control since my teens, at least so I thought. I don’t spend hours straightening everything on my desk, for instance. I COULD but I don’t. However, the place where that will come out is in regards to eating. Specifically, tracking and measuring my intake, and weighing myself.

My solution is to do neither. I do not count calories, carbs, macros, or portion sizes. This, according to all the food experts, is a mistake. I’m not sure how, since that’s not what humans are designed to do to start with. But it’s something that fat people are supposed to do, because FAT. Not doing it is a huge source of guilt and shame for me; this, despite the fact that I can actually give you a fairly accurate recap of my caloric intake on most days because my mother was obsessed with food and weight tracking. I grew up knowing the nutritional breakdown of most foods. I know my basal caloric needs for my size, I know when I’ve gone over that. (What may surprise you is that I rarely go over, in fact there are many days I eat in deficit. Go figure, right?)

Still, I’m taken to task for it: “How can I ever lose weight without micromanaging my food intake????” Which to me is the wrong question. The question should be, “Why should micromanaging food intake even be necessary?”

This short blog post got me thinking about my inner turmoil regarding food tracking: Why Calorie Counting is an Eating Disorder. It resonated with me. Especially this part: “A weight issue is not caused by a lack of counting calories. No more than constipation is caused by not counting… you know. They’re both caused by something disturbing the body’s natural regulatory systems.”

I do believe that the human body is a fairly efficient biological organism. It’s not perfect, it’s the product of stop-and-go evolution, and individual variables of genetics/illness/disease can play a huge role in a person’s health. Yet, it’s supposed to work efficiently if maintained well. I keep coming back to that.

But to the point: eating disorder. When I DO try and track food intake or even exercise, I become obsessive about it. Some people wear that distinction with pride, and they are given social approval for it, which becomes a bitter cycle. For me, it’s destructive, mentally and emotionally. I obsess, I berate, I castigate, I…fail. I hate on myself, the self-loathing is epic. And painful.

A huge personal goal for 2015 is to be kinder to myself. That means, accepting what is true about myself and moving past those stumbling blocks of guilt, shame, and self flagellation. I’m going to let go of my shame about not counting calories/carbs/macros. I’m going to adapt a way of eating (WOE) what is healthy for me and stop castigating myself for every bite I put in my mouth. I think looking at it from the perspective of having an ED that I am trying to overcome will help, because it makes the issue something tangible rather than simply “a lack of willpower” or what have you.

Eating should not be a chore, it should not be a burden. It’s healthy. Tracking every bite that goes in my mouth is depressing and psychologically destructive to me. Maybe not to you; that’s for each of us to decide. But for me? Yes, it is incredibly hurtful.

I just want to stop hurting.

 

Past is past – bringing in 2015

I wrote the following in my private journal, but I thought it was worth sharing. There is a lot going on in my life that is positive, and despite the fact that 2014 was rocky for a lot of people I know, my year overall was not traumatic. There were good days, there were bad days. But as I thought about moving forward, I penned this:

So what do I want in 2015? Honestly I’ve seen plenty of change over the past 5 years, I’m not jonesing to “change anything!” the way I used to hope for. I’m long past that day when I woke up in bed and realized “I have nothing to live for.” Because I do, now, have so much to live for. Things I’m doing now and things I hope to do int he future. So many book ideas! The podcast with KimM! Moving to New Zealand. It’s almost weird how much I do have to live for now. 

Yet, the two most important things are still simmering, yet to fruition — my body (fat loss, fitness, dancing!) and commercial success from my writing (books! More books!). That’s where I’m headed in 2015. These massive goals, the huge hurdles I’ve basically come up against my whole life, are poised to be conquered and I am in a place where I know what I need to do in order to make both happen. It’s all within my grasp, and the missing element here is my dedication to the tasks. That, I think, will only come from a belief in myself that self-hatred cannot support. 

So tomorrow – 2015!!!! – I will not drown myself in fanfic. I will continue working out in the mornings, and I will write. I will write in WoHH (so close to the end!) and I will write blog posts (two? Possibly!). I will create a business plan that is realistic but not shy, and I will take steps to implement it. I will work towards finishing the Skeptic’s Inspirational. I will focus on staying in nutritional ketosis, over and above my need to “fit in”/be normal that is only a form a self-flagellation. I will love myself, because that much at least I deserve. I will make myself a priority out of a sense of joy and affection, and not because I feel that “success” is the only way to prove my worth. 

So that’s what I am putting into 2015. Just leaving it here for posterity. <3

Alternative realities, alternative me

I wrote the following on a fb post recently:

…there are aspects of my life I want to change, that I NEED to change for my health and sanity, but are also deeply ingrained as parts of my identity. I have had to let go of so much that I didn’t want to lose, that it is tough to purposefully change what I have left.

It’s the source of a lot of resentment in my life, actually. I don’t want to be fat, but I’m “the fat girl.” I want to be athletic, but I’m “the anti-exercise” girl. I want to dance beautifully, but I’m “the uncoordinated girl.” I want to be healthy, but I’m the “chocolate and beer girl.” I want to give up sugar but if I’m not an ice-cream connoisseur, who am I?

I’ve dwelled on this a lot lately as I’ve looked at the spectacular failure of trying to make fundamental changes in my lifestyle. If the definition of insanity is taken as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then I’m certifiably a lunatic nutso crazy-pants tin-hatter.

Basically, I tend to fail at some things because not because i don’t have willpower (I arguably do), but because those changes, however desirable, go against the grain of my self-perception. Some would say, “well you don’t want it enough” and yeah, I think that’s true, but I don’t think it really hits hard enough at the core of the emotional tsunami that overwhelms me when I attempt to make those changes.

Basically, I want to be a completely different person.

I don’t think that’s something our brains approve of much. Personal growth? Sure! Learning new things? Why not! Turn into a completely different person? WHAT THE HELL NO WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH U

Ironically I gained some perspective on this from a story I read a few weeks ago. In it, a guy from what was an apocalyptic wasteland hit a magical wall on his way to his own death and shifted realities. He’s knocked out of a world where everyone he loves is dead or dying and everything he’s ever lived through is mostly traumatic and terrifying, then wakes up in his own body but in a world where basically nothing bad ever happened to anyone.

Its not an interesting story because “aw he got what he always wanted!” but because he is totally unprepared for that life. He is suddenly not the person people expect him to be. He lets them down and hurts them because he makes decisions and says things that they feel “aren’t really you.” He’s the classic trope, “out of character.” BUT…he doesn’t care. He doesn’t try to adapt and become the version of himself that he replaced. He doesn’t apologize. He doesn’t even consider being anyone else, and in the end, he’s accepted for the person he’s become.

So I wondered. What if, tomorrow, the me who woke up in THIS body was someone who had lived a different life? What if “her” decisions were just different enough that she was living the life I want to live? What if the athletic, health-nut, trained dancer, published writer version of me woke up in THIS body?

Well she’d be horrified, I’m sure. Probably miss a few days of work because she didn’t know she had a job. No doubt she’d feel exhausted and depressed.

But she’d be trained to *think* differently, to respond differently to challenges, and she’d perceive herself as a much different person than I do.

So I wonder. I think about waking up tomorrow as “a different me.” What would I do? How would I act? What choices would I make, and how would I deal with the fallout?

What if, tomorrow, I become a different person?

 

 

My totally secret five year plan!

[a very self-indulgent post about my life choices. tl;dr]

Which is, clearly, not that much of a secret. But it is actually a little bit of a secret, since there are two components of it that I am not revealing just yet.

However.

The fact is that I do, now, have a Five Year Plan and it’s a doozy. It’s inspiring me in a way I have not felt in, oh, about five years.

Five years ago was 2009 — I was 40 and heading into the end of my marriage, the end of the job I had at the time, and the end of an era. In a more positive spin, I was heading into starting graduate school, emerging from a cocoon of grief and poor life choices, starting a second year of really effective therapy, and trying to make better health decisions. To be honest, I did not at that time have a five year plan, I was simply launching myself into the unknown which turned into a fairly comprehensive five year plan totally by accident. I wasn’t in a place to make grand plans, I was simply hell-bent on getting myself to change tracks. And I did.

Ever since I graduated and lucked into the good job I have now at FSU, I’ve been feeling kind of directionless, though. I’ve got an MLIS, a career in assistive technology and disability services, I’ve gained recognition for my grief/mourning blog Patience&Fortitude, I survived whooping cough. But other than “keep going in this general direction” I haven’t felt very motivated about myself.

I’m talking about that feeling of waking up in the morning, looking around, and asking “what am I doing with my life?” and having a ready answer that is inspiring enough to launch you into the day ahead.

I’m in a much, much better place than five years ago, when I woke up and realized I did not have much of anything to live for, nothing that inspired me or gave me purpose. I grasped at straws, and few did not slip through my fingers so here I am. That’s the good news.

But the other side of that is since the year started, I’ve been digging around looking for answers to “Where will you be in five years?” In five years I’ll be 50 years old, which certainly for women is a major milestone outshining the “Big 4-0″ by a long way. Also, my mother was diagnosed with fatal cancer at 50 and died at 52. If you think those “mere numbers” don’t shine bright on my horizon, you aren’t paying attention.

So where am I going with this? Well, those two still-secret components play huge roles in these plans, but there are other aspects that I want to talk about here.

  1. I want to dance. I mean, really *dance*, like someone who you would call “a dancer.” I’d love to be old and gray at the Urban Dance Camp, which I don’t even know if they let people who are my age attend? But the point is, I want to be ready if they do. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child and took tap dancing lessons for a (very) little while. “Consistency” was not a factor in my childhood in a lot of ways, so I never got to keep taking the lessons I loved so much. Right now I’m hampered by the fact that I don’t have transportation to get to classes for adults, which all seem to be held late in the day during the week in places far from where I work or live (ie not on easy bus routes). So I might go the cheesy way and buy DVD lessons or something. I mean, that’s a start, right?
  2. In conjunction with that, I want my health back. I was doing well on paleo up until I contracted whooping cough, which derailed my health in a lot of ways I’m only just now, over two years later, coming to understand. About a year ago I went keto and wrote extensively about how much better that made me feel. I mean really, I felt fantastic! I planned to never break that but I got derailed by thinking I could make “exceptions” for sugar which, no, no I cannot.
  3. I also want to to focus a little more energy on my writing career, both at Patience&Fortitude and also fiction stories I started years ago and abandoned. I may not get far with this goal, but it is important, and so it’s on the list.

Basically, in five years I want to be the person I imagine myself being: dancing, writing, and healthy. I’m NOT that person now.

I’m not in any way going to say these goals will be easy to attain. Especially going back on keto, that will be hard as hell, because I do have a serious problem with food addiction in regards to sugar/starches. (Honestly, I don’t give a flying fuck if you don’t believe me about that, it’s my body, I know it better than you do.)

My birthday is August 15th, and I’ll officially be 45 years old. I’ve got some things to shore up before the Five Year Plan is officially in motion, but I’m laying in preparations.

This is gonna be BIG.

 

 

Fat: Not safe, but safer

It’s probably odd to link #YesAllWomen to body image issues, or maybe not. I’m a bad judge of things like that, but here we are.

Reflecting on the experiences of other women and comparing them to my own, I realized that my self-defenses are legend. I did not even know my habits were that all-encompassing, actually, although I am aware that I “play it safe” in some situations. It’s just instinct, a combination of years of harassment and a lifetime of being told (directly and indirectly) to fear every strange man within 20 feet of me (which, sadly, is advice that has proven justified by any number of jerks). That takes its toll, and only in reading the stories of other women dealing with the same issues have I come to understand the profound impact these beliefs and behaviors have had on my life. It goes much deeper than simply sitting defensively on the bus.

Part of my defense is my body, and as much as I loathe being overweight, it is easier to stand being mocked for that (“hey fatty!” while having eggs thrown at me when I was out walking) than to deal with being molested. When I was thinner (and, admittedly, younger) and at a club, I once had two men I had never met before sandwich me between them and undo my bra while on the dance floor, and that’s just one of dozens of things that happened to me when I was “conventionally attractive” (thin).

I’m not implying that I’m overweight solely for the reason of self-defense; food, health, history and mental health play a part too and I’m not undercutting any of that. Despite all of that, I do have the willpower to drastically change my body, I’ve done it several times in fact, but always at the high price of constant hunger, ill health, and a body that attracts unwanted attention. It physically costs me to lose weight, it is rarely a healthy endeavor, and the payout is nothing more than some nice clothes and a lot of harassment.

I want to be attractive, of course. I mean, who doesn’t? Really? And in our society that means, above all else, being thin. But being attractive (thin) also creates a very unwanted invitation for many men to feel entitled to touch me. Does this happen during times when I’m overweight? Sure, of course, just nowhere near as often. I’m not actually safe being fat, but I am safer, and that obviously counts for more than I realized.

Perhaps just another lesson in “KimBoo Can’t Have it All”, I suppose. *sigh*

Spend it. Right now, right here.

I am in the stupendously unique and enviable position of deciding not to go out to dinner too often in order to save money for travel plans I have later in the year.

That may sound odd, as doing something so basic as “saving my pennies” seems like a very elemental part of financial management. But when you’re poor, it’s not.

When you are living paycheck to paycheck, and those paychecks barely (or flat out don’t) cover your full expenses just to stay alive, then saving money for a trip you can’t afford to take in the first place makes no sense. If you have an extra $40 from working under the table or having a lower utilities bill than you were expecting, you are going to spend it. Usually on prosaic things like stocking up on cold medicine (hoard that shit!) or a set of new underwear, but sometimes you get really crazy and decide to throw caution to the wind and do a 2-4-1 dinner special at Olive Garden.

The logic here is unique to being poor. Most people who have never been truly poor would say, “well save that $40! You do it enough you’ll have money to travel! DUH!!!!”

No, it doesn’t work like that. Because if you save $40 a few times, and have (say) $300 in the bank, then guess what you are going to tap when your kid needs a doctor, or you miss a week of work due to being sick, or the car breaks down?

If you don’t have that $300 in the bank, you’ll find a work around. You’ll borrow or beg to get your kid to the doctor, you’ll stretch pennies to make up for lost work, you’ll take the bus until you can work extra hours to pay for the car. But if you have $300 in the bank, you’re going to spend it – not doing so because of a vague plan to “travel later this year” is not acceptable to anyone.

What most proponents of “save your money!” don’t understand is that the very act of saving money presupposes an existence-level income, which most people in the US today don’t really have, especially if they have kids. It assumes that if the car breaks down, you can afford to fix it without much impact on your day-to-day expenses, and that any special savings you have “for travel later this year” will be immune. It also assumes that calling out sick for any lengthy period of time will not devastate your over-all finances, which for most people getting paid by the hour, it almost certainly will.

None of that is true. The spending habits of the poor are based on a very “right now, right here” mentality because experience shows that planning for the future is both futile and frustrating. It may make sense, to those who have never experienced poverty, to sock away every extra dollar they can find, especially if it comes in a large bundle like a tax return. Those of us who have lived with poverty all too intimately know that it’s more important to spend that money on things like new tires, new shoes, cold medicine and dry goods…while we can.

At this point, in one of the few times in my adult life, I am able to pay all my bills with enough left over to cover things like new shoes, vitamins, good coffee beans, movies (Captain America 2!!!) and eating out with friends more than once-per-paycheck. So, you know, I’m good. I’m doing okay. Which means, if I save $40 here and there, I can actually save it for things I want. Like travel.

I’m pretty excited about that.