Monday, February 3, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On

Day 24: Describe Yourself

[seriously? ugh. i have been sitting on this "assignment" for at least a couple of weeks. it is so difficult for me to even begin that i have to trick myself. this is how i am doing it: i am writing a letter to someone who is going to meet me for the first time and knows nothing about me. here goes...]

Jessica is tall, about 5' 9" and has super-short hair. You will probably notice her when she walks in. Oh, just so you know, she is usually late. Not super late, but 5-10 minute variety late. I know she's been working on it, but, just so you know...

You will probably notice her walk in if you are there waiting for her. Like I said, she is tall and has super short hair, so that makes her stand out. She is probably in workout clothes because she is a PE teacher. She likes to dress up though, so she might have on something else. She has taken to wearing dresses lately because it's easier and they are more flattering to her curvier, fuller than normal figure. She has told me that she feels fine nude, but when she has to "shove her body into jeans" she feels less good about herself, so she is trying to avoid that whole fiasco by wearing dresses whenever possible. Plus they are more feminine and sexy and people react like she is dressed up when it was really very easy to pull a dress over her head.

I think Jessica has a great smile - she gets told that all the time, but she doesn't hear the good stuff as easily as she hears the negative. Her mom was known for having a great smile too, so it's a nice thing to have passed on. Her mom died a few years ago from severe early onset dementia at the age of 61. Jessica and her sister were there when it happened. She has written some really wonderful stuff about it. That said, if you comment on her forgetting stuff she may be sensitive to it. She will laugh it off, but I think it is something that is always in the back of her mind. She is very much like her mother, and that's really a pretty good thing for the most part. Now that her daughter is a teen, she really notices it and, like many women of her age, it takes some adjusting to.

Jessica is super easy to talk to. I can't think of much that shocks her and she is pretty open to hearing about anyone's opinion. She may not agree with you, but she believes everyone is entitled to a well-thought  out argument. There are a few things that will get her going, but I will leave that up to you to discover. Seriously though, she is super open and prefers real, deep conversations over small chit chat. She would rather sit quietly or be alone than have to make small talk.

Speaking of being alone - man, she loves that! I think she needs alone time more than most people. She probably fantasizes about being a hermit or something. Since she thinks too much (she would totally tell you she does, so I am not at all taking behind her back) and she works at an elementary school she craves quiet time after work. She is not much of a morning person, per se, but she gets up early most mornings to meditate.

If she could be anything I think Jessica would be an author. A novelist or memoirist along the lines of Anne Lamott. I think she would be great at that. That she would really be a) good at it and b) at peace with that line of work. If she could be a semi-famous author who "sold-out" a little and optioned a manuscript to be a moderately successful cheesy hollywood movie and could earn enough money to live simply and continue to write and publish she would be happy. She is fully aware, however, that happiness is an inside job, and just because one does or has something does not, ergo, make them happy. So whatever you do, don't preach to her about that! She can be quick tempered, and if you happen to catch her on a day where she is under time pressure and has had no quiet time...yikes. I pity you. You may not forget her harsh words or actions, but it will be water long under the bridge to her with a  quickness. She generally doesn't hold grudges and I think she gets annoyed if you do. She kinda likes to let all that bad air out (yes, that is a hint. don't feed her too much dairy...) Yeah, she's got a juvenile sense of humor and thinks farts are funny. Always hers. Sometimes others. Like her kids'.

She has two children who are the true loves of her life. She is super protective of them, like all moms are, and adores them fiercely. Family is of utmost importance to her and this includes her friends who are like family...and family who are like friends. She has experienced her happiest moments recently when surrounded by both - at thanksgiving and christmas and her daughter's birthday slumber party when she got to relish the moment of being "that house" where everyone ran in and out and ate and laughed and had a good time. She really likes that stuff. She is grateful for her health, the health of her family and her good fortune in meeting a wonderful man to call her sweetie.

Speaking of the health of her family - she may downplay it, but she donated a kidney to her sister last spring. I swear it was like she knew she would be a perfect match and I never once heard her question her decision to undergo such a drastic procedure. She and her sister are pretty close you could say. I'm sure that made the decision easier.

Well, that ought to help you pick her out of a crowd. Just look for the tall, curvy, healthy woman with the bright smile, pretty brown eyes, and quick laugh. That's her.


Sunday, February 2, 2014


This is usually where I quit. Give up. Stop. Make excuses in my head and to others as to why I have stopped blogging. Or writing. Or working out. Or eating better. Or limiting my Facebook or email or eBay or random scrolling time. Or going to yoga. Or meditating every day. Or walking every morning. Or letting go of the shoulds and the maybe ifs and the if onlys and the whens...

This is where I quit.

I have quit a lot of things.

  • Two marriages. 
  • A few business ideas (so long, FavorSaver, The Mommy Lane, The Mindful Studio)
  • Several blogs (vinegar and vanilla still hangs on...but Simple Yogini, One Small Thing and like riding a bike...while texting - all dead in the water. or ether. whatev.) 
  • Many, many retail jobs (Palapas, Mixit in JC Penney's, Fleet Feet, the exercise wear place in the Stonestown Mall, the clothing store in the mall in Tucson, the clothing store in the mall in San Mateo) 
  • restaurant jobs: Shadowbrook, Birk's, Los Gatos Cafe, Milano's in Worcester, Massachusetts (after working there I understood and appreciated Denis Leary), The Sturbridge Bistro, the mexican place at the Ventana Resort in Tucson where I was the tequila shooter girl, some other restaurant in Tucson.
  • healthcare jobs - clinic manager at the Santa Cruz Women's Health Center (the worst work experience I have ever had and the beginning of my professional self-doubt), counselor at an abortion clinic in Springfield, MA, office assistant and intake counselor at a family planning clinic also in Springfield. 
  • jobs in the education field - International Professional Programs assistant at UCSC Extension in Santa Clara, high school English teacher, Student Athlete Success graduate intern at the University of Hartford, Intro to Sports Psych instructor at Holyoke Community College, Marketing and Outreach coordinator at DeAnza College (after 9/11 this new mom decided she didn't want to be so far away from her baby).
  • Admin and misc jobs - secretarial jobs through a temp agency - which led to a full-time job with a berry producer and broker, program manager at P3M (an up and coming marketing agency during the bubble. Technically they laid me off - right after I came back from maternity leave), program manager at McDill and SMG (small boutique marketing and PR shops), freelance writer for local papers and small circulation national magazines, press releases, grants, web copy, business plan writing for a variety of small businesses and non-profits. Published poet. Personal Trainer. Coach. Summer sports camp counselor.
  • Many workout plans - my great track comeback 2 years after I was done at SFSU - I trained with the famed Remy Korchemy for a few short weeks. He was busted for giving his athletes performance enhancing drugs many years later. He told me I could easily run under 13 in the hurdles. I had a mini-breakdown and quit training with him. My great master's track comebacks - how many times have I said I was going to drop 10, 20, 30 pounds and take on the other 30 year olds, 40 year olds, 45 year olds...?
  • Bodybuilding. 'Nuff said. 
  • Novelist (I have over 100 pages done of one novel and the first chapter of at least 3 more...) Short story writer. Memoirist. 
I quit shit. I admit it. 

I have good ideas, good intentions and crave success, acknowledgement, accolades. But as soon as the initial adrenaline high of the good idea wears off, I struggle. I am overcome with self-doubt. I have been told that I quit when it becomes tough. When the real work starts. Maybe this is true. 

As far as this blog goes, last week I began to feel like this introspection was just yet another replay of my habitual "hey this is a great idea!" routine. It felt self-indulgent. Like, Really, Jessica, who gives a shit about your stupid body issues? Or that you don't know what your passion in life is or what you should be when you grow up? We have heard this before. It's old. We are tired of hearing it. 

The reality is - I am tired of hearing it. I am tired of thinking too much about my first world problems. Acceptance, surrender, resignation -- what's the difference? It's a fine, fine, line...


Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is it about my belly?

I've been (probably over) thinking about my body dissatisfaction.

So here's the thing: I have to admit that I have thought to myself if only I had a flatter stomach I could live with the rest of my body. Sure I have a big booty, but I can live with that. But if my stomach was flat, and my waist smaller, then I'd be ok.  

When I really spent time thinking about it, I recognized the feeling that maybe my belly fat is protecting me. I have created a protective layer between my vulnerable abdomen - and all that lives there - and the world. This makes sense on a couple of significant levels. 

First, my abdomen was literally cut open nearly a year ago. I had a healthy kidney removed from my body and placed into my sister's body. [See Frankenbelly below:]

And that got me wondering, what is it about my belly?  Why is that the specific focus of my dissatisfaction? What is it that a few extra inches around my hips doesn't do, but a few extra around my mid-section does?

I imagine it takes a while to fully recover from organ donation, perhaps even longer than the doctors would have you believe. I feel recovered, but every once in a while I stretch too much and something pops deep inside - something let's go. Scar tissue? Old habits? False perceptions?  

However, I was wondering if there was more to it, this physical protection of my vulnerable core. I began looking into the symbology of the belly. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, "Angst about the body robs a woman in some large share of her creative life and her attention to other things." This is particularly interesting when you consider that the belly is also the location of the second chakra. Your body is known to have seven chakras - each one is a center of spiritual power within our bodies.

According to the  Chopra Center, the second chakra "is associated with creativity and birth―both literally to a new baby but also metaphorically to new aspects of ourselves, projects and ideas...[W]hen this chakra becomes congested, we may experience a block in our creative powers and a sense of dryness or emptiness."  It is not surprising then, with the amount of change I have recently gone through, that I may be protective of that tender, vulnerable part of myself. 

Now that I am on the other side of my mother's prolonged illness and death at age 61 from severe early onset dementia; the breakdown and eventual end of a long-term, emotionally abusive marriage; the successful life-saving kidney donation to my sister; as well as positive changes - like a new, healthy romantic relationship - is it time to release myself from such real, physical, tangible protection of my vital organs? 

I also read that the second chakra governs one's sense of self-worth. This really resonated with me, since I am clearly struggling with my sense of self and perceived worthiness.  Who am I, really? What good am I entitled to, and how can I manifest good things in my life? What do I really want and do I feel I deserve it? Can I accept the possibility that what I want is within reach? When will I release old beliefs that are holding me back? Can I let them go? 

These are the questions I am contemplating as I move forward with this deep introspection and move toward fierce and radical self-acceptance. I believe that when I am really ready, really feeling safe and secure, the protective layer of adipose tissue will let go, dissolve away. Or maybe it won't and I won't care anymore, because I will know and value who I am, deep down, below the outer shell that covers me, but isn't me, just as the thick paint strokes of a Van Gogh or Monet only serve to add depth, interest, and tangible character to a larger work of art.


Current fabubellyness. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 13 : Define Beautiful

What does the word "beautiful" mean to you? When are you compelled to use the word to describe a person? 

When do I think to myself, "wow, she is beautiful!"?

I have thought that about women who are confident, in a subtle way. I see beauty in a woman who seems comfortable in her skin, a woman who (usually) doesn't wear a ton of make-up. One who has her own sense of style - knows her strengths and plays to them, is smart about what she draws attention to, and what she doesn't. I admire women who make bold fashion choices, who own their sense of self. Confidence. Definitely. Natural, not overdone (though I do think there is a time and place for that and if that's your thing then own it!)

Relaxed. Natural. Healthy. Confident. At peace with themselves. Caring. Open. Joyful. Laughing. 

Here are some images I have come across of women I think are beautiful:

And, for good measure and evidence of possible progress, a time I think I looked beautiful: 

In Beauty, 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 12: Realize That Your Dissatisfaction Is Not About Your Body

Say what?
I've been thinking about this question (as posed by Rosie Molinary in her book, beautiful you, that I am working through/with) for the last 36 hours or so:
 "If we find ourselves consumed with body hatred, dissatisfaction, and preoccupation, our issue is likely not about our bodies at all. It is about something else that has kept us from maintaining perspective about our perceived imperfections." 
Well, Ok....I can get my head around the logic there, the idea, yeah, sure. But where I get hung up is:  what then, is my issue? What is the true root of my dissatisfaction?

Right now I feel like the proverbial horse led to water. I'm there, staring into the mossy tub of cool, refreshing water, I just ain't drinking.  For whatever reason I just can't get my nose down far enough to pierce the mirrored reflection staring back at me. Yeah, Jessica, what is it, really, that you are dissatisfied with? 

I shouldn't be dissatisfied with anything. I have a loving partner (who, it should be noted, loves my body just the way it is - and I believe him), two healthy children, a solid network of super-supportive, wonderful, life-long friends who are like family to me, a close relationship with key family members, a tolerable job, a wonderful, comfortable home, a reliable vehicle.

On the surface I would say I am least satisfied with my work and financial lives - as intertwined as they are. My job is often fulfilling, but perhaps not quite intellectually challenging or varied enough for me. The pay is not enough to support me and my family. It is part-time work.

On the way plus side, my job affords me a fantastic schedule, with tons of "free" time. Which, to me, is worth a lot. More than a lot. In fact, I am not sure I could actually cope with a "regular" full-time, 8-5 kind of job.

I need to work full-time, because I want to be able to support myself and my children without having to rely on others. I want to take care of my financial life so that I can someday retire and also be able to send my kids on school trips and help them with a college education or a life-changing, eye-opening, heart-expanding trip around the world.

I need to be stimulated, intellectually. I want a somewhat flexible job that rewards me financially and challenges me, encourages me to grow, and that offers real, visible room for advancement. I am goal-oriented. I like to receive regular feedback about my performance. I love positive reinforcement.

Hmmm, I sound like an athlete!

Maybe my dissatisfaction has something to do with not feeling accomplished. When I was competing I knew immediately how well I did - my place and time were tangible results. I had a coach who told me what to do, when to do it and if I did it well. And if I did not do it well, what I needed to do to improve next time. And frankly, I usually DID improve. I worked hard. I was dedicated. I enjoyed the challenge and the variety. I enjoyed the travel, meeting new people, going to new places, always having new goals.

I thrived upon the accomplishment, acknowledgement and attention.




We may be on to something here.