Hating the Girl in the Picture…

Earlier today I was searching for my choir on Facebook in hopes of finding the poster for our upcoming concert.  Finding the page, I also found a picture of the group that had been uploaded from our recent retreat.

There I was: front and center.  And I was huge.

I stared at the photo for several minutes feeling sick to my stomach.  Feeling disgusting and ugly and awful.

When I see a picture of myself like that I have a visceral reaction of pure disgust.  It is instant and it is uncontrollable and it is awful.  I hate myself in that moment.  No matter what else is right in my life I have an instant feeling of being the most undesirable, unsuccessful person in the world.  I see every failure, every moment of sadness, hanging off my skin in disgusting globs.

I wonder how anyone else can stand to look at me.  I instantly start planning: stop eating, juice fast, try running (again).  DO SOMETHING.

All of this happens in the first 60 seconds or so.  Then I take a deep breath and start to calm down.

  • I remind myself that I spent the winter swimming.
  • I remind myself that my steps count has increased every month for the past 4.
  • I remind myself that I eat out far less than I used to.
  • I remind myself that I am TRYING to live the best life that I can.
  • I remind myself that, for whatever reason, this is HARD for me and I don’t have to hate myself for that.
  • I remind myself that my value doesn’t come from being thin and pretty.  

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Those 60 seconds are an improvement.  It used to be hours, days, that I would feel worthless.  It used to be all that I could think about.

I’ve started following Ashley Graham and several body positive people on Instagram in an attempt to rewire my brain and what it thinks “normal” should look like.  I tried to look at that picture from the retreat and list the things I liked about it.

I’m realizing that this is going to be a life long journey.  I’ve done all the diets I care to, I’ve bought too many clothes that are “going to fit in 10 pounds”.  This part, the rewiring so that I don’t hate myself, seems to be the hardest part.

And if I’m honest?  I don’t want to be this size.  I hate it.  I don’t know that I’ll ever accept it.  I might always have those moments of hating myself.

I’m also not sure that my body will ever look much different than it does now.

It isn’t an easy place to find peace.

Am I the only one struggling here?

 

Millennials: Entitled? Or Simply Screwed?

Sometimes, as a Millennial, I get really resentful.  I get tired of the image of our generation being soft and entitled.  I’m tired of being told that we need to just “get on with it”.  This idea that we were simply given too many participation ribbons as children.

The fact is that the world has changed in the past decade… And Millennials are the fodder.

Tutitions began to rise and we came out  of university with record levels of debt.

Jobs, good and steady jobs, became a thing of the past, replaced by contracts that start and stop, and give very little security.

And, housing, dear God, housing.  In the Lower Mainland one can’t win.  Renting is too much.  Owning is too much.  We buy these little places, our small foothold into the market, and then can’t move up.

We put off marriage, babies, as we attempt to get a grip.

Millennials were sold the same picture as previous generations.  University degree, good job, house, marriage, kids.  Two cars in the driveway and retirement.  We are having to adjust our expectations sharply:  fair enough.

I don’t want a house with a two car garage and a yard.  Frankly, I hate yard work.  The  problem is that what I want (and what I hear my friends asking for) doesn’t exist.  We should be able to find high density family friendly homes.  A three bedroom apartment.  A co-housing community.  A townhouse complex with some grounds space and community gardens.  A home built specifically to use space well.  A day care that isn’t going to take up the lion’s share of our monthly income.  There are parts of the world that do this.

In North America it doesn’t exist.  It will.  For the generation coming after us.

We’re the fodder in between.  We are the transition point.

Many of us are only able to get into this housing market by piggybacking on our parents real estate “wealth”.  Their gains in this insane housing market have become our down payments, our ticket in.

What about those whose parents don’t have the ability to help?  It’s a systemic issue that excludes more and more people from “getting in”.  Hard work is no longer enough.

The argument that one should simply move somewhere less expensive makes me crazy too.  We can’t all pack up and leave.  What will happen to our communities?  Should we leave our aging parents all by themselves?  Youth, and families, create vibrancy.

I am 32 years old.  I have student loans from 5 years ago that should be paid off in 3 years.  I own my apartment.  I have a good job, a pension, security.  I am very, very lucky.

And yet I lay awake at night wondering how much longer I can put off having a family.  (That biological clock gets most insistent as the years slip away).  I wonder how I can afford a home that is functional for a family.  I am frustrated because, as an older millennial, I know that I am in a much better position than those born after me.

As much as many seem to point the fingers at the generations who’ve come before us… I don’t think that’s healthy.  I think that our position is unfortunate.  I think that our communities as a whole are suffering.  I wish I saw more action to make life here manageable for families.

I have faith that we are moving in a better direction.  I think that we are going to figure this out.

I think this is a post about housing.  About feeling stuck.  About the woman putting her laundry away at 5 am above my head as I stare at the ceiling, praying for those last two hours of sleep.  About yearning for a family (and a place to put them).  About realizing that I need less than I ever thought I did… But knowing that I’m not quite there.

 

https://thetyee.ca/News/2015/06/23/Millennial-Families-Priced-Out/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/millennial-housing-1.3444095

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/hsbc-housing-survey-1.4002458

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/23/uk-and-canada-closing-the-door-on-millennial-home-ownership-hsbc-study.html

 

All the Choir Ladies…

1997 wasn’t a good year for me.  I had too-short hair, glasses.  I was all hormones, and looking back now, I realize a good dose of depression and anxiety.  I couldn’t fit inside my skin.  I think most 12 year old’s understand that feeling.  That feeling of being out of place, uncomfortable, awkward.  1997 isn’t a year I look back on fondly.

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Me, at 12.

But one good  thing happened in 1997.  In 1997 I went to a choir.  A little group rehearsing in an old church in White Rock.  And there I met Sarona.

I think we all have those people if we are lucky.  Those few people who come into our lives and leave a mark. Leave us better than they found us.

Sarona was one of those people for me.

Sarona took us from being kids.  From being geeks, or loners, or losers, or invisible.  She took us and she made us into singers.

She taught us to work hard.  To do what we said we were going to do.  She taught us to stand up in a room full of people and sing our hearts out.

From Sarona I learned a work ethic.

From Sarona I learned how to fit into my  skin better – she always seemed to fit so well into hers.  

Several months ago I got an email that Sarona, my choir director,  was moving away and would no longer be directing the choir that I spent so much time in from about 1997-2003.  This woman who had taught me so so much was having a final concert and they were looking for alumni to sing.  I joined immediately.

And I found myself in a room with women I hadn’t seen since we were girls, teenagers.  Women who had been there at a critical moment in my life.  I found myself in a room with the women I had grown up with.  Women who were some of the first I told when I kissed a boy.  When I… more than kissed a boy.

And so we sang.  We sang for Sarona because we love her.  Each and every one of us talked about how this woman, this one woman, had taken us and given us a place to belong at an age when so few have that and so many need it.  She had given us a safe place.  Those words, “safe place”, came up again and again as we talked about her.

I sat in a coffee shop with two of these women on the afternoon of the concert.  Between us we had 3 marriages, 2 divorces, 6 children.  Our lives had taken us in directions that we could not have predicted.  And the mark that Sarona left hadn’t faded for any of us.  We all recognized the critical impact she had had on our lives.

So I sang.  I got up on a stage and I sang.  And we sang the old songs, songs I hadn’t sung in over a decade.  The songs came back as if there’d been no time.

It was like I was seventeen again.  Standing in my blue velvet dress, matching scrunchy in my hair, a single strand of pearls around my neck.  It was like I was on an adventure.  Like we’d just rushed out of some tour bus onto stage.  I thought about all of those moments and all of those children.  Young women, young men who had been given a safe place.  Who’d gotten to sing.

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Me, (and the blue dress), at 16.

Singing, music, is a powerful thing.  It bridges our differences.  It connects us.  It’s a beauty that is desperately needed in the world right now.

So I sang.

When the women’s choir said they were accepting new members I knew that that was the place for me.  I’ve been rehearsing with this group for a few months now.  Sarona’s mark is there even though she is gone.  It’s in some of the old songs people pick up.  It’s in the warm ups and the movement.  I’ve sung with other choirs in the past decade but none that have felt so much like home.

I look back and I see that 12 year old girl with the too-short hair and glasses.  The girl who couldn’t fit inside her skin.  A  girl whose hormones were spilling over.  A girl who was anxious, about everything and nothing.  A girl who felt so so alone, all day, everyday, at school.

I look back on that girl and I wonder who she would have become if she hadn’t found her spot.  If she hadn’t found her safe space to be, to exist.  To be seen and to be loved for who she was.  To be told that it was okay to be a little bit different.

That 12 year old girl has been trained away.  She has found a space and a voice and a way to fit in her skin.

But she’s always going to be under there.  And she’s always going to be grateful for Sarona.  Grateful that she came in and changed her life.

Home Sweet Home?

After 4.5 months of living in the spare bedroom(s) at my parents I have finally returned home.  It was wonderful to be at my parents, a good chance to hang out with them, but it’s nice to be back in my own space.

That being said, there’s a problem.

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Over the summer, only a couple of months before I moved, I got a new upstairs neighbour.  A noisy new upstairs neighbour.

She’s an elephant.  Honestly.  It’s the only explanation.  I can literally feel the couch shake when she walks directly overhead.  She has parties on her deck until late at night.  She gets up for work at 4:30 am and slams dresser drawers, clomping around, until I am wide awake and stressing about my own early morning.  She does this repeated tapping (tap, tap, tap, tap, tap) again and again.  It might be elves making wooden toys for Santa’s shop?

It was making me crazy before I left and now that I’m back it’s making me crazy again.

This sounds like an exaggeration but: it’s ruining the peace of my home.

It makes me feel trapped and panicked.  You have to understand that I don’t process noise the same way most people do.  There is no “ignoring it” for me.  It gets under my skin and causes anxiety.  It makes me feel like I am going to cry, or yell: more likely both.  My heart starts to race as soon as I hear the first footstep when she arrives home and my whole body tenses, waiting for the next noise (and the one after that and the one after that).  Last night it took about 30 minutes for my heart to stop racing after I crawled into bed.  It’s galloping away again now that she’s home.

I feel trapped because I love my home and it’s the best I can do.  I can’t afford more and most likely never will.  I will always live in an apartment.  Or a townhouse.  Somewhere with shared walls and ambient noise.

I always pictured a house with kids running round a backyard. That isn’t a reasonable expectation here.  Fine.  I’ve adjusted the picture in my mind of what it’s supposed to look like.

But I don’t know how to handle the noise.  I don’t know what the solution is.

I don’t know how to get rid of this feeling of being trapped.

Speaking to her directly might be the best first step.  But, frankly, it could go badly and make the situation worse.  (From what I’ve heard I’d expect it to go badly.)

I’m going to look at insulating the ceiling better.  I currently have the sound on my stereo turned to 25… I never used to put it above 15.  I have white noise playing directly next to my head as I sleep.  I turn it up each time I hear anything.

There aren’t choices available to me beyond finding ways to cope.  I can (and probably will) write letters to strata.  They’ll write letters to her.  I doubt that changes will be made.

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(Sample letter I found online…)

I don’t think that the Strata Act has much ability to police unreasonable ambient noise.  I think it’s going to be more and more of an issue as more and more people live in high density housing.  Though maybe I’m just one of the few crazy enough to really be made crazy by it?

I’m spoiled, I know.  I know.  But I can’t handle this.

So, friends, do any of you have an idea?  Anything that has worked if you’ve been faced with this situation?

My Brand of Crazy…

Yesterday A and I were out and about.  It started with a lazy morning (for me: he went grocery shopping and to the gym before I’d even crawled out of bed…).  I drank too much tea, talked to my sister, read a book.  Stayed in my jammies until noon.  Was made a breakfast of bacon, kale fried in bacon (yay, we had veggies!), and pancakes.

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Early afternoon we headed to White Rock.  We were going to a cafe, for a walk.  A lazy day in the sun.

It devolved into a shopping trip.  I needed sunglasses.  And a new outfit.  Poor A.  He was a total trooper.

(Particularly when I decided to change into my new clothing in the car and I was wearing just a t-shirt and thong in the passenger seat.  He maneuvered through traffic as I struggled to pull up, and do up, a pair of tight new blue jeans without jostling the stick shift.)

(… giggles…)

The plan was to go to the beach for a walk in the beautiful sunshine.

Turns out we had different ideas of what that plan would look like.

See, A thought that we would park at the top of White Rock and walk down.

I thought that that sounded like the worst idea in the history of the world and I was wearing a new outfit and did he think that I wanted to get all sweaty and gross and if he saw how out of shape I was he would definitely stop loving me.  And I would really prefer it if he didn’t stop loving me Thank You Very Much.  

The result was that we went to the beach.  In a car.  On the first really beautiful day of the year.

Oh, did I mention that yesterday was a holiday in BC?

30 minutes later we were still crawling along the waterfront, no parking spots in sight, no way out.  A was feeling grumpy.  I was doing the nervous babbling that I do when men get grumpy.

(I should pause here and mention that A’s version of grumpy is almost unrecognizable unless you know him.  He just gets quiet.  He continues to be his usual patient and kind self.  Just quieter with occasional proclamations about all the things he’d rather be doing than driving at that very moment.)

We finally made it off the strip, parked up by my apartment building and wandered the neighbourhood.  We found a new brewery bar that we got pretty excited about and chatted with the owner.  We wandered around until his grumpiness, and my nervousness, had faded.

I explained how anxious I was about having to walk up a giant hill with him.  About the extent to which it filled me with dread.  Even trying to explain I could feel the tears just under the surface, the humiliation and shame about my body.  The panic that that humiliation and shame leads to.

Yesterday I revealed a few things about myself:

  • If I say I hate my outfit when we leave the house in the morning there’s a good chance that I’ll suggest a quick stop at the sales racks…
  • When I know someone is grumpy I get nervous and giggly and rambly – no matter how much I trust that that person is going to remain kind and good.  I’m working on it.  (Pretty sure he’s known this one for a long time actually.)
  • My issues with my body go far beyond just not liking the way that it looks.  I have a dread of the way that it functions.  It’s an issue that is going to take a long time to work through.

I learned a lot about him through this experience too.  But that’s mine to keep.

We went to dinner at a friends, met some new people.  Had interesting conversation with great food and wine.  Stopped on the way home to buy a bag of candy to go with a final beer.

Yesterday was a good day.  A day of learning and a day of laughter and a day of fun.   The type of day that leaves one smiling and hopeful, whatever the struggles you may have.

I hope your family day was as well spent my friends.

 

Shifting Selves…

The first man who loved me: loved the idea of me.

I was the Wife.  A character in the picture of a perfect life.  (That’s what it felt like anyways.)

I was sixteen when I met this man and he was twenty-three.  I had never really drunk alcohol, or gone to parties.  I had only ever kissed one boy.

Suddenly I was in a grown up relationship.

(I wasn’t a grown up).

I’m never sure how much ownership I should take for this relationship.  Because, yes, it did start this way.  But I was a grown up when I married him.  I was a grown up when I stayed with him.

When I look back at the self I was with this man I see a petulant, anxious, spoiled, scared little brat.  I was frozen in time.  I didn’t grow as a person.  I grew into myself, curled up in a ball.  I don’t like the self I was when I was with him.

He wasn’t good for me, and I certainly wasn’t good for him.  The self that I was when I was with him?  I wasn’t good for anyone.

The end of this relationship felt like relief.

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The second man who loved me was a good, kind man.  He knew me well, I think.

We had fun.  We had passion.  We were connected.

When I look back at the self I was with this man I see a woman growing into herself, learning, changing, opening her mind.  She’s still anxious and scared, all the time.  She’s a bit of a pain in the ass.  She’s trying so hard to be enough.

There is less to say about this relationship because it was good.  It was fun.

He was good for me, he pulled me out of my shell. I don’t think I was as good for him.

The end of this relationship gutted me in a way that I had never been gutted.  It made me stronger.  I got sad, then mad.  Then I let it go.

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I am a pain in the ass, to be honest.  I am anxious.  I fall too hard and too fast.  I am quiet when I should speak up.  I am self conscious.  I will cry after a day of shopping because I feel fat and disgusting.  I text way too often.

I am also warm and kind and sexy and funny.  I am smart.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to mold myself into what men have wanted me to be.  (What I thought they wanted me to be.)

I have been patient when they were uncertain.  When they didn’t call or disappeared for days at a time.  I have stared at the phone and prayed for it to ring.  Wondered how I could be sexier, funnier, smarter.  How I could be enough to make them want to keep me.

(I once had a guy I was seeing tell me he would really want to be with me – if I lost 30 pounds.  And I laughed.  I agreed with him.)

Recently I stopped wanting to do that.  I don’t have the energy anymore.

I didn’t grow much in my twenties.  The worst of me, the self-conscious girl who didn’t like herself, was the part the flourished.  Suddenly, at 29, the world opened up and those voices started to fade.  Almost three years later I can’t recognize who that girl was.  I have dreams sometimes that I wake up and am back there and I can’t breathe.

The self that I am today is nothing like the self that I was with the first, or the second, man who loved me.  I’ve grown, shifted, more than I knew I could.  I’m a better person by far.

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Suddenly I’m in a relationship that feels simple.  A relationship that feels secure.  A relationship where I feel like I’m enough.  There are no guarantees.  There never are.  But it feels good.  I don’t feel like I’m compromising any piece of my self.

The beautiful thing is that I don’t know who I’m going to be in another 5 years.  10.  But I know that I’ll continue to shift, refine.  Grow more into the self that I know I can be.

But… It Isn’t Even My Country…

Anyone else feeling a little bit helpless?

This week has felt surreal.  Everyday I watch the news and see the latest from our neighbours down south and I am shaken.  I am surprised again and again that these things are really happening.  I am terrified for Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and women.  (And those are just a few examples of the communities for whom I am afraid).

I feel ineffectual because it isn’t my country.  It wasn’t my election to lose.

So why do I feel so upset, so impacted?  It’s not my country.  I’m not being threatened.

But I feel dirty.  I feel wrong.

I considered going to the March last Saturday but didn’t because I was getting over the flu, I was cozy, I was reading “I Am Not a Slut” by Leora Tanenbaum and that felt feminist-y enough for the day.  I regret not going.  I feel ashamed for not going.

I’m not going to make that mistake again.

Remember a few months ago when I posted this?  I talked about my own “grabbed her by the p*ssy” moments.  I made this proclamation:

Hilary is going to win.  I have too much faith in humanity to believe otherwise.

 – an idealistic me, two months ago

Hilary didn’t win.  Hilary lost.

And so did the rest of us.

It’s not my country and what the hell can one person do anyways?  I didn’t even show up for the damn March.  Who am I to talk?

I can’t keep quiet. Here’s where I plan to start:

  • I am going to write a letter to my MP and the immigration minister demanding that Canada provide asylum to those displaced by the travel ban.
  • I am going to be vocal in my support of increases to our funding to international groups that provide abortion-related services.  I am going to let my local MP know that this is something I want to see our government acting on.
  • I am going to talk about what is going on.  I am going to be vocal in stating that it is wrong.  That it goes against everything I believe in. I am going to make sure that my elected officials know that I expect them to stand up against this.

So much of what I plan to do relies on my one little vote, my one little voice.

It’s small, perhaps ineffectual.  But…

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I’m carrying around this feeling of dread.  This sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that something has gone very, very wrong.  That things are only going to get worse.

I always say that I am not a political person.  I don’t think I can hide under that rock anymore.

Let me know friends. What can I do?