Thursday, May 29, 2014

Self-Love, Self-Care, Self-Worth

It is no secret that I have always been a beach junkie; when asked where I find the most happiness, my answer has always been the beach. There is just something so calming for my generally Type A personality, like as long as I am near the ocean, I can truly relax and let go of all things that stress me out or weigh me down.

After my last several vacations have been adventures in Las Vegas, where even though I was vacationing, I was also drinking excessively, gambling, seeing shows, walking in heels, and being generally overstimulated by lights and sounds, a week at the coast was a very welcomed treat. I had no plans, no agenda, nothing to do...just a stack of chick flicks, another stack of new books, my fuzzy slippers, and my best friend.

We were gone 5 days. 5 days is the longest I have been away from my office in almost a year. 5 days is the longest I have had no plans in as long as I can remember. It was 5 days of relaxing, agenda-free, stay-up-late-and-sleep-in bliss. The weather was gorgeous, we ate delicious food, drank tequila, took walks, shopped, watched movies, and read books.

In 5 days, I read 3 books cover to cover. That's a lot of reading, and it was perfection. I read, I sucked up what I was reading, I enjoyed every page, and I stayed up too late to read "just one more chapter," which of course turned into "just another chapter." Until there I was at 2am, out of chapters at the end of the book.

I have learned that there is nothing as vital to my sanity and well being as rest, relaxation, and self care. Self care looks different for everyone. Self care may be a long run or a hike, it may be a movie or a concert, or it could mean an art class or some other artistic expression. For me, self care is being lost in a book. Being able to curl up on the sofa, under a blanket, and get lost in the pages of a really good book, is what grounds me and what makes me feel like I am truly taking care of myself.

Whatever self care and self love look like for you, make sure you take that time and get it done. Take the time to find what it is that truly makes you feel good, and then make the time to do that more often. If you feel best when you're laying on the couch playing video games, do more of that. If you feel amazing when you take long, hot baths, great. Read trashy magazines or go for a long drive. Listen to bad music, loudly. Ride your bike. Go to movies.

Whatever it is that makes you breath deeply, and that lets you feel that overwhelming sense of calm, do more of it. If you don't know what it is, look for it. Everyone - whether you work one job, three jobs, or stay at home raising babies - needs to love and care for themselves in order to be healthy. You have to love yourself first. Make that happen.

5 days at the beach, with good weather, good books, and good people was exactly what I needed to reboot, recharge, and come home with a shiny, happy attitude. And I have forced myself to make time for books on the couch twice a week since I've been home,  because you can't always just take 5 days and leave town. My point is, find what it is that makes you tick, and do it.

Calm the Fuck Down and Be Happy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Don't Get Mind Fucked...You're Better Than That

They (whoever they are) say, hindsight is 20/20. They say that once you've been through something, you look back and see all of the warning signs, all of the big red flags. And in part, I think they're right. Hindsight can certainly be 20/20.

As I sit in bed, watching a movie and doing my homework from therapy - do a Google search of what makes a man abuse a woman - I am feeling some definite 20/20 about the past. 

Characteristics of an Abusive Man:
1. Control
2. Entitlement
3. Selfishness and Self-Centeredness
4. Superiority
5. Possessiveness
6. Confusing Love & Abuse
7. Manipulative
8. Contradictory Statements & Behaviors
9. Externalization of Responsibility
10. Denial, Minimization, and Victim Blaming
11. Serial Battering. 

Literally all 11 of these apply to my past relationship with Lucifer. Fucking prick. 

When he and I were together, I would have glimpses of these traits and think, huh, that's an odd response to my request. I would recognize something as strange - something like how possessive he was over his daughter, not wanting to accept anything her mother thought or said as fact - but it never occurred to me that these were red flags. I just thought he was weird, and that the way he communicated was abnormal. In fact, when he and I decided to go to couples therapy together, it was because we "couldn't communicate effectively."

(Uhhh...yea, because I communicated like a human, and he communicated by throwing me into doors.)

He was one of the most entitled people ever...and everything was always happening "to" him; we were always having pity parties over something someone else did to ruin his day. He was selfish as all hell and incredibly self-centered. It didn't matter what I wanted to do or that I wanted to go out - he had a bad day and was tired and his daughter was annoying and being a brat all morning so they were late getting to school and she made him late for work and his mom was such a bitch and his boss was all over his ass about something that he didn't have time to get done because I was texting him about how I wanted to go out that night and why can't I ever just leave him the hell alone?

Looking back on our relationship, I now recognize the signs of abuse - all 11 of the ones on the list - the way he controlled and manipulated me, the way he isolated me by asserting his superiority and by blaming my friends and family for things. The way he could explain away the fact that we'd been dating for 2 years and yet I had still attended 3 family weddings, dateless. And then of course, the more obvious actual abuse - the hair pulling, the shoving, the screaming in my face - and the denial that he was hurting me because "I didn't fucking hit you, stupid."

When a man abuses a woman, he can deny hitting her if he doesn't actually punch her in the face. Because he's a man. If he's gonna hit something, it'll be a closed fist. Deny, deny, deny. Did he ever hit me? Not in his head, no. Because he never actually made a fist and hit me with it. Never mind the Tupperware dish to the face or the cell phone to the side of the head, or the back of my head to the wall, or my back into the door. Never mind the times I was pinned to the bed by my hair while he screamed at me, or the times he chased me down the hall as I scrambled to lock myself behind the bathroom door, or the times he pulled me back by the arm because he was faster and tore holes in my clothes. Deny, deny, deny. None of that was hitting...when of course, in reality, it was all hitting. Anytime you assert yourself physically, onto someone else, you're hitting. 

There was a day shortly after I moved out, in the couple months that he was calling and texting me, trying to get me to come back (yea right), that I finally gave it to him straight. I texted him that he'd been hitting me for over two years and that basically, he could fuck himself. And he told me that if I was ever being hit by a man, to certainly call the Police. Thanks for the advice, ya clearly need to have your head examined. Or better, beaten to a pulp. 

Hindsight can be 20/20. Sometimes it takes experiencing things firsthand to learn a lesson. It can take years of constant battle to get to the point where you have learned the lesson. It can take a long time to look back, healed and strong, and recognize that you were a victim and that it wasn't your fault. What I am learning, is that by being open and honest about what took place behind the closed doors of my house, I may just be able to give someone else the insight and the knowledge to get out before she has to learn for herself.

My counselor said today, you'd be shocked to know that some of the strongest, bravest, most courageous women out there, are in fact the ones being abused in the privacy of their homes. It happens every day, and it keeps happening and is a huge problem

And she's totally right. I am a strong woman. I'm a tough cookie. And still, it happened to me. I feel like today's blog is a bit of a PSA, but I'll do what it takes to make sure it isn't one of my friends that ends up a victim. Don't make excuses for someone's shitty behavior. If someone is treating you poorly, they will never change; it will never stop. Get out, get out, get out. You are a strong woman, a tough cookie, and a bad ass. Don't let some moronic, selfish little prick turn you into a version of yourself you don't recognize. You're better than that.

Hindsight may be 20/20...but it's even better when someone else's 20/20 vision can teach you a painful lesson before you have to learn it on your own. If I prevent one woman from falling victim to an abusive man, I've succeeded beyond what I even hopes for myself. He doesn't control you isolate you, or blame you because he loves you. He's just mind fucking you. He doesn't call you names and tell you you're ugly to help make you a better person. He's mind fucking you into believing that he is the best you'll ever have, that you don't deserve to be happy, and that you in fact, had it coming. Get out, get out, get out. 

And now, I will get off my soap box. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sometime, You Get a Pet by Accident

More often than not, you go to the pet store, or to the pound, and you choose an animal to take home with you. You plan ahead, you save your money, and you prepare by purchasing pet food and supplies. Usually, you plan to get a pet. Usually, you get a pet on purpose.
But sometimes, a pet that you didn’t even know you wanted just appears in front of you and chooses you to be its person. Sometimes, you are needed by a homeless or abandoned animal, and you find yourself with an animal that picked you. Sometimes, you get a pet on accident.
That is what happened to me; I got a kitten on accident.
In the fall of 2011, when the leaves were falling and the nights were getting cold, I got home from work to find a small black kitten sitting on my front porch. She appeared to be waiting for me, but she wasn’t mine. She was at the front door, white paws on the threshold, black tail wagging left to right, like a dog waiting to come in from the yard. I didn’t want a cat; I’m allergic to cats. I shooed her off the porch, and as she went traipsing across my yard with leaves crunching under her feet, I went inside and forgot about her.
The next morning, in a rush to get out the door on time for work, I almost stepped on a small black kitten sitting on my front porch. She was still waiting for me, even though she wasn’t mine. She was, once again, at the front door, head tilted, tail wagging. I laughed, but I didn’t feed or pet her. I didn’t want a cat, and I know that stray cats stick around if you dote on them.
When I got home from work that evening, this stubborn kitten was still on my porch. She was waiting patiently, tail gently wagging left to right, whiskers twitching. It was cold. I knew she must be cold, and the nights were only getting colder. Rather than shoo her off into the leaves again, I scooped her up. Nuzzling into my chest, she began to purr, and before I was even able to put down my bags, this little black kitten had crossed her paws over her eyes and dozed off.

Sometimes, you get a pet on accident.
I needed to find her home. She was too clean and groomed to have been away long, and too small to have survived many cold nights on her own. Her people must be missing her. So off I went, sleeping kitten in my arms, knocking on doors up and down the block. Neighbors sympathetically shook their heads, not knowing where she came from. One neighbor said he’d been feeding her and had even put a bed out for her on his porch. “But she eats and runs,” he said with a grin, “she hasn’t slept here once.”
When it started getting dark, I headed home, still holding a sleeping kitten who surely believed by now that she wasn’t sleeping outside tonight. I begrudgingly knocked on one last door, hoping for a miracle; I didn’t want a cat. “Oh, yes, I know where she belongs,” my elderly neighbor told me, “that couple up the way, about 5 blocks that way, they got her for their son about 2 weeks back.” She went on to explain that the parents had gotten their son a kitten, and then the kitten got out fairly quickly; instead of looking for her, they replaced her. “When this kitten came home, they turned her away,” my neighbor told me, shaking her head. Poor baby; they’d just dumped her.
Still, I didn’t want a cat.
I felt better about leaving her outside, knowing that a neighbor was feeding her, but it was pretty chilly. I walked back to his house and set her in the bed he’d left out, hoping she’d realize her good fortune and make a home there with him and his family. She sat on the bed, tail wiggling left to right, eyes wide, as I headed towards my own home. But for the first time since I first saw her, I wasn’t quite so certain about not wanting a cat.
Sometimes, you get a pet on accident.
I decided that if she was back on my porch the next morning, I’d let her inside and look for a home for her. Surely if I posted her photo online, I could find a friend who wanted her; she was adorable and tiny. Headed to bed that night, I hoped she’d stayed on the neighbor’s porch, where she would be cared for, or at least given a meal every day and a fluffy bed on which to rest.
Not only was she there in the morning, tail wagging, paws on the threshold like my house was her house, but she was still there after work, as though she hadn’t moved a muscle for ten hours. “Alright,” I shrugged, “come on in.” I opened the front door and in she pranced, like she’d lived there for years. She did a few laps of the living and dining rooms, sniffed around the kitchen floor, then sauntered to the wall cadet heater in the living room, stretched, yawned, and laid down. Within moments, she was asleep, warm air blowing at her backside. And there she slept. She was there when I drove frantically to the store for pet food and a bowl, nail clippers, and a litter box set up. She was there while I cooked and ate my dinner, and she was there when I headed to bed.
But when I woke up in the morning, she was curled up in a tight ball, sleeping soundly on the floor next to my bed. I had gotten a pet on accident. I’d never wanted a cat, but now I wanted this cat. There she was, asleep on the floor beneath my side of the bed, content and warm. She had picked me.
That morning, I didn’t have to work. Despite my intention to post her picture online and find her a forever home through my social network, I instead found myself in the car, abandoned kitten in my lap, driving to the vet. I had her examined, groomed, and microchipped, and – after a pregnancy scare during her exam – I scheduled to have her spayed a few days later.
I named her Juno, after Ellen Page’s character in the movie, because she was young and adorable like the Juno in the movie, and also because the vet had mistakenly told me she was pregnant. The name made more sense initially, when I thought my new kitten was going to be a teen mother, but it stuck even after the pregnancy news turned out to be a false alarm.
This little black kitten, with her white paws and long whiskers, had picked me; I was her person and she was my pet, and it would seem I had no choice in the matter. I got a pet on accident, after I rescued the tiny black kitten that stood her ground on my front porch until I caved.

What I have learned about rescuing an animal that is otherwise homeless or abandoned, is that animals provide unconditional love in any way they know how. Juno is now three years old; she is chubby and has asthma, and a bad hip that keeps her from jumping onto the kitchen counters. She loves to sit in front of the patio door in the sun, but she loves nothing more than to curl up behind my knees, under a blanket. I didn’t set out to bring a cat home, but instead I accepted that this cat was just going to make my home, her forever home. And I may have never wanted a cat, but I certainly love and cherish my cat.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Happening

My blog is growing, and I have a supportive group of readers that now extends outside of my family and best friends. And it's exciting!

This blog was intended to be a place for me to rave about the awesomeness that I witness, as well as to rant about the things that truly make me crazy. I have a following of readers who know me, and know me even better after reading my madness, so I ask you: what should I blog about?

Leave me a comment with your ideas, I'm excited to see what people think I should be ranting and raving about! I'm always fired up about something...let's see where this takes me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I'll Pass on the Participation Trophy, Thanks Though

When I was in high school, I was a cheerleader, and I was also on dance team. I paid an athletic fee. I participated in countless fundraising efforts to pay for costumes, camps, competitions, and what I didn't earn in fundraisers, my parents had to foot the bill for - so we worked hard on fundraising. I went to grueling camps in the dead of summer. I had daily doubles in August, where our coach made us run laps, do duck walks across the football field, and weight train right alongside the football teams. I took tumbling classes, technique classes, and had practice every day. I suffered injuries that I worked through and didn't get to rest from. I performed in parades, on stages, on tracks, in the rain, in the mud, in the cold, outside, inside, early in the morning, and all day long. I literally bled, sweated, and cried.

I was, by definition, an athlete.

And yet, if you were to look in my student handbook, at both La Salle high school where I was a cheerleader, and later at Milwaukie high school where I was on dance team, I was not playing a sport; I was participating in an activity.

Say what??

Did I, or did I not, just warm up side by side with your football players twice my size? Did I, or did I not, pay an athletic fee of 300 and some odd bucks? Did I, or did I not, just win a competition after hours and hours of tireless practice? Yes, I did all of those things. With my team. Of other athletes.

By referring to cheer and dance as activities instead of sports, school administrators are diminishing these athletes. It is insulting to be an athlete referred to as a participant. It is insulting as a female athlete, specifically. Because the truth is, we are not respected on the same level as male athletes. We are seen as, and treated like, less (never mind that the state titles at both schools were won by the dance teams, the cheerleaders, and the girls' volleyball teams...just saying).

Female athletics are the underdog in both public and private high schools. We fight for gym time. We practice on the dirty cement floor of the cafeteria while the gyms are reserved for our male counterparts. In order to get an hour of time in the gym, all 30 of us arrived at school at 5:00 in the morning, because that was the only time we ever got to dance in the gym. Because none of the boys were there at that ungodly hour. There was a day at cheer practice my freshman year that I was tossed too high in an all-out stunt practice, and my face hit the beam in the cafeteria...that never would have happened in a gym. But we didn't get to practice in the gym; the gym was for the boys. We didn't get the luxury of practicing in the gym; hell, I learned to do a back handspring in the courtyard, in the rain, in November, in a swampy mud puddle. Female athletes are not prioritized, and by referring to these female-dominated sports as activities, that level of disrespect continues.

I read today that Oregon City high school is eliminating their cheerleading program and allowing their girls to participate solely in "pom-pom squad." What this means to the program is, no competitions, no exhibitions, no stunts, no challenging skills, no tumbling...just cheers. Well guess what else that means - no shot in hell at mastering any important skill to take these young women to the college level. No cheerleader who can't tumble or do stunts is making a cheer squad at OSU or UO; they're just not. No college cares about the way you can hold a pom-pom; they care about the way you tumble, the strength in your stunts, and your dance routine abilities. So now, not only are high school administrators eliminating half the fun, and not only are they pushing their archaic boys-are-better-than-girls mentality, but they are now also eliminating the chance of college scholarships for these female athletes.

Let me put it in perspective: taking the stunting & tumbling out of cheerleading, is the equivalent of taking the tackles out of football. Would you give a college scholarship to a defensive back who hadn't ever tackled an offensive player on the field? Nope.

This is 2014, for crying out loud. When are we going to be offered an equal playing field? How much harder do we have to fight to be respected, by administrators in our schools, by employers, by our peers? I have gotten involved in the "is dance team a real sport" debate tens of times, and to no avail. Because nobody shows any respect to the girls who get up at 5:00 in the morning, who split their practice time in half before and after school, who practice on the track in the winter because there is nowhere else. Because who would offer up an hour of gym time three nights a week to the activity participants, when there are athletes in line ahead of them?

This argument isn't about whether or not cheer and dance are real sports. Because they are real sports. The argument really delves so much further into the sexism that exists so blatantly in the structure of education. But for now, I'll leave you with this: The next time you think that cheerleaders and dancers don't work as hard as football players, go watch a competition. Watch what these girls do. Watch the power and strength in their performance. Watch them smile while they pick up someone else who weighs as much as they do.

And then shut up.

Friday, May 9, 2014

When Your Stomach is in Knots

There is something about sun and warm weather that gives me more confidence to stretch out of my comfort zone. It's like I hibernate all winter long, resting up to go balls to the wall for 3 months of every year. It's easier to hide on the couch in my jammies when it's pouring rain or super cold...but something about driving with the windows down, wearing sunglasses, and putting on flip flips, just gives me the push to try something different.

Prompt: Taking risks

It's easy to look back at something and decide, that's is what it is. I haaaaate that phrase, it is what it is. It seems like such a finite, definitive phrase, with no possibility for change.

It's harder to look back at something and decide, I am still thinking about this a lot, I need to do something about it.

It's even harder, to fucking do it. To look back at something that ended or that was lost, and decide that maybe you need to invest some more of your heart into it, is follow through with that, to take that leap, is really hard. It's scary. But it can be really awesome.

And yet, a wise man once said, without the risk, there is no reward. And that's just so true, of so many aspects in life. Think about it - the things that are the scariest, the ones that require the most risk...aren't they always the most gratifying in the end?

If you don't take some risks, you could miss out on the best things life has to offer. And so, with that, I am taking a risk. It might hurt. It might knock me on my ass. It might leave me with a hurt heart and a lot of tears. But it might not. It might lead me to the best thing ever. It might feel amazing. It might be just right.

Take a leap of faith. Take some risks. Do what scares you. Let yourself be afraid. Let yourself feel that fear. And then use that feeling to power forward, and trust that things always happen for a reason.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"You've Got to Put Your Behind in Your Past" and Other Wise Words from Disney

I have always tried to maintain that things happen the way that they do, and when they do, and how they do, for a reason. I try not to dwell on things in the past, wishing that they'd been different or that I had made different decisions; overall, I believe that had I chosen a different path in the past, I wouldn't be the person I am now.

But sometimes, something great happens to you, and it happens at the wrong time. And because it happens at the wrong time, you fuck it up, or you lose it, or you mistreat or devalue it. And then later on, you kick yourself in the ass about it. 

Prompt: What was your relationship like 2 years ago?

Two years ago, it was May of 2012. I had been single for 6 months, after a 3 year relationship with someone who severely mistreated me. Despite my relief to be out of that situation, abuse stays with a person for a long time; when you are brainwashed and mind fucked, you don't just heal overnight by leaving someone. It takes time. And help. And support. And love. And usually, a professional. But at the time, I didn't get it. I thought, I had left and I was all good to move forward.

That was, until I met someone new. Someone great. Someone fun. This guy enjoyed my family, was supportive and kind, and made me laugh. And yet, I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was afraid to have an opinion over anything, right down to, where do you want to go for dinner? The only thing we ever argued about was how indecisive I was and how unable to express my feelings I was (which is so unlike me, usually). I was just waiting for the bad, even though it wasn't coming. So I sought the professional help that I desperately needed (and had needed for almost an entire year). But the thing about it is, even when you're working through something, you're not always quite there, and you're not always quite ready.

I often think that what ended my last relationship, was timing. Timing is a bitch. We had great chemistry, but neither of us was ready. Neither of us was fully healed from the previous years of mind fuck to the point where we could fully move forward.

 And so it ended. And I was super sad. I actually still am sometimes sad; I was in love, and I believe that he was probably my "one who got away."

The thing is though, with the one who got away, is that sometimes, they come back. You never know. Things that happened in the past, are in the past for a reason. But that doesn't have to mean that something from the past may not come back into the present. Timing can be a real bitch. But as I am learning, timing can also be great. Things happen for a reason, and all I can do is be positive, be open, be accepting, and take everything in stride as it comes.

And this time, when something or someone becomes my right now, I'll be ready for it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

You Can Always Choose to be Better

This photo is so fitting for what has taken place in my family recently; specifically the fact that 3 members of my former family continue to stalk my blog as a means to fuel their hate fire.  

Perhaps if you were nicer people, I'd have nicer things to say. 

My emotions are valid; like them or not, agree with them or not, they are what they are. I experience things my way, I am affected in my own way, and I express how I feel in my own way. And since it's not by yelling and screaming, and because I use the word feeling, it scares "them."

After spending the past few months talking these relationships out with a therapist, I am incredibly liberated to be the one who can now sit back and say, I don't care. I am no longer sad, no longer hurt or grieving. But the best part? I am also no longer angry. These people are not my family. They haven't been for a long time, but I can only recently say that without being upset. These people are irrelevant, and it is their problem that they have chosen to stay mad about something petty. That is their deal, not mine. I have chosen to take a much healthier route and let that shit go, but I don't control what other people do. I can only control myself.

I know you're reading this. And I know you'll continue to. And you're welcome to do so. But remember one thing: I will never, ever, censor my feelings for you. I don't care what you say about me, what you think or feel about me. I don't care that you use my posts to try and turn my own grandma against me - even though that does, in fact, validate everything I said about your being evil. (Clearly I wasn't wrong to feel what I felt.)

So to those of you who read my blogs on the regular, because you appreciate my words and support my goals, thank you. I appreciate the regular following, the support, the comments, and the growth my blog continues to see...especially when I am writing about things that I am emotional about, like victim shaming or body image, or even when I cannot find the right words for something. I appreciate the support, so much. 

And for those of you who just read this to keep finding things to be mad at me about...I'll do me, and you do you...happy stalking.