Let’s Cut the Crap with Some Updates & Real Talk…

Hi. *waves awkwardly* Yeah, that seems like a good place to start.

This morning it occurred to me that I’ve been radio silent on here for almost three months. That’s a new record. One I’m not thrilled about…but the break was necessary.

Here’s a thing you should know: I wasn’t being my authentic self in the posts I was writing. It happens. But that doesn’t make it okay. And it’s not the writer—or person—I want to be.

On this blog, I preach about self-discovery, self-care, self-acceptance, self-love. I get on my virtual soapbox and pound the keyboard with messages like, “You’re more than just a body. And don’t let our culture tell you otherwise. Be unique! Be diverse! Be weird! Society could use more free-spirits like you.”

And yeah…that’s cool and stuff. If you believe it. If you live it out. Which I can admit was not the case for me. After all, what benefit is a motivational speech if my own words never transcend the computer screen and saturate my heart?

They mean nothing. They ring hollow. They sound fake.

So it took awhile, but I realized this. I came face-to-face with the denial and deceit. And it just plain sucked. But I couldn’t maintain the facade anymore, so I made a choice. Until I could write the truth, I wasn’t going to write. Zilch. Nada. Period.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what is true…I am not healthy. I don’t have a balanced, sustainable grasp on fitness and nutrition. I restrict food and workout obsessively. During the past few months, I almost fainted three times. I punished a body I was supposed to be caring for, and it collapsed under the abuse. I was reckless and self-absorbed—with no concern for the ramifications.

But I have to tell you: that’s no way to live. It’s exhausting, isolating, confining, disengaging. There’s no spark of interest, excitement or spontaneity. The world has no color. Only shades of black-and-white. I figured this out…and something had to give.

So I’m trying a different approach. One I flirted with in the past but never surrendered to. I’m choosing to accept my human frailties. To affirm they exist. Not use them as justification to hurt myself. To change what needs changing, but extend grace in the process.

I’m doing hard things. Scary things. Painful things.

Last week, I ate a doughnut—my first since around age 12—and went into panic attack mode right afterward. But I survived the trauma. A few nights ago, I cried when faced with a slice of Domino’s pizza—and I’m talking ugly tears. But I ingested it. Every carb-loaded bite, and I’m still here.

This sounds melodramatic. Oh trust me, I’m aware. But it’s the journey I have to walk in this particular season, and if it seems theatrical, crazy or ridiculous…that’s fine with me. The goal is honesty which sometimes feels more like absurdity. But I’m through pretending and performing. Right now, I just want to be human.

Flawed. Broken. Erratic. Unsure.

But not beyond repair.

eating a doughnut

the infamous doughnut, you guys. smiling on the outside, convulsing on the inside. it’s how I do.

That’s Permissible.

permission

If your footprints are crooked like a gypsy soul, a wandering outcast shoved off the linear road

If your true north falters, and the destination obscures until it’s less an arrival, more a wrong turn

That’s permissible.

If your heart won’t contain all the wild inside, the fracas, the clutter, the imperfect divide

If your spirit is grounded, wings clipped in flight, but still dares to hope in the waning moonlight

That’s permissible.

If your pierced liquid eyes unmask a counterfeit smirk, and there’s no other defense to whitewash the dirt

If your tear tracks have withered, but the stains have adhered, a salty reminder, an obstinate smear

That’s permissible.

If your bone wearied legs are slogging through mire, so each tiptoe forward keeps stoking the fire

If your white-knuckled hands grope for an anchor to sustain through life’s eddies, its swells and its breakers

That’s permissible.

If your nights of stargazing, of groaning for impact, seem more like illusions that exist in abstract

If your mornings of stillness, remote from the world, are the last cords of sanity that haven’t unfurled

That’s permissible.

If your senses are stirring and coming alive to the flicker of daybreak, the passion revived

If your love can’t be tarnished, trampled or tamed, and you refuse to view kindness as just a cliche

Hey…

That’s permissible too.

So, listen. Receive. It’s time we all knew

To be real is permissible. And that is our truth.

 

13 Reasons Why this Life Thing Still Matters

13 reasons why

Hi. My name is “Sucker for Netflix.”

Sure, I can admit that. Why fork over $10 per month and never use the subscription, right? I get my money’s worth. And like most Millennials, I have binge-watching down to a science.

My evening workouts rarely occur without a Friends marathon streaming in the background. My hubs and I finished Stranger Things over the course of just one weekend. And my little heart did somersaults when the Gilmore Girls reunion dropped a few months ago.

Yeah…I know. Said almost everyone in my generation ever.

But there’s one Netflix series I can’t bring myself to get behind. And unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past several weeks, I think you can piece together where this diatribe is headed.

Three words.

13 Reasons Why.

The show that launched a thousand controversies—and even more opinions. The latest buzzword trending on social media, dominating water-cooler debates, and sparking Facebook rant after Facebook rant after Facebook rant. 13 Reasons Why has everyone talking. But it’s the people watching who I’m concerned about.

Because I watched it too. The entire season. Binged all 13 episodes in under a week. And that’s a decision I regret.

First, lemme preface that I’m not persuading you to agree. Nor will I condemn you for grabbing the remote and hitting “play.” I’m just adding my voice to an important conversation because people are going to watch—and their reactions could be visceral, painful, irrational, even detrimental.

Bottom line: these triggers are no joke. And they’re igniting aftershocks of despair in a world that struggles to find the hope.

This plot is fiction. The characters exist on-screen. But their episodic drama is the inescapable truth for actual names and faces. Human beings who’s experiences, narratives or traumas are being slashed open and torn apart by “fabricated” events with fatal implications.

It’s not just a show. It’s the current of our culture. It’s reality. But it’s not prompting change. It’s breeding conflict and cynicism.

And pain. So. Much. Pain.

I recognize what the producers were aiming to accomplish, and I maintain their intentions were positive. 13 Reasons Why does cast a fierce, urgent limelight on rampant social issues which often don’t get the emphasis or attention they deserve.

Rumors. Bullying. Self-Harm. Depression. Sexual Assault. Drug Abuse. Suicide. Real adversities with tragic endings. These need to be addressed—but where’s the redemption, the endurance, the courage to survive, the intensity to overcome?

The show’s theme of retribution turns death into a mode for seeking vengeance. For wounding those who caused your wounds in the first place. A corrupted form of justice without the vindication.

Life’s fragility. Death’s finality.

The heart breaks. The spirit crumbles. You oust yourself. It’s over. The end.

But…wait. No. There should be more to a story than just one chapter interrupted mid-sentence. What about the resolution—the conquest, the triumph—on the last page? That’s our motivation to keep reading. Persisting. Living.

Because we all can pinpoint 13 reasons to quit now and peace out from the wreckage of this world. But we have a million reasons to press forward, to confront the mess with a wink and a smirk, to focus on what’s good. 

So I propose a different message. 13 reasons you’re needed on this earth. Whoever you are. Whatever you’ve been through.

1. You’re a unique, multifaceted, extraordinary individual.

2. Your words and actions convey a poignant message.

3. Your influence or significance could never be replaced.

4. You’re creative, imaginative and brimming with talent.

5. Your idiosyncrasies fascinate and attract other people.

6. Your spirit of compassion enriches deep connections. 

7. You’re light and love in a dark, jaded, cruel society.

8. Your resilience today becomes redemption tomorrow.  

9. Your merit isn’t based on size 0 jeans or 100 Instagram likes.

10. You’re here to fulfill a purpose designed for nobody else.

11. Your temporary struggles make you permanently stronger.

12. Your story will empower and encourage other broken hearts. 

13. You’re not a victim who succumbed but a victor who continued.

Life is our platform. Our testimony.

Ours.

And what’s ours is worth fighting for.

13 reasons why 2

To the Girl Who Didn’t Know then What I Do Know Now

Something I never imagined I would write. Here goes nothing…

This is an open letter to myself.

To the 21-year-old me who lost a piece of her spirit four years ago in a suburban hotel room where she didn’t belong.

It’s to all the women who relate, who’ve been there, who prefer not to remember but can never forget.

And to you. This is a letter to you.

The bedsheets were crisp, white and freshly cleaned—a stark irony considering the events that unfolded just 10 minutes later. That sense of instinctive dread, of violation, of wanting to be anywhere else—it was truer than she realized. I wish she had listened. But I would forgive her for staying. Even with the benefit of hindsight, who can guarantee that she’d react different now if given the chance?

So, I wouldn’t blame her. I wouldn’t demand she bear the weight of a consequence or expectation she was never meant to shoulder. I wouldn’t tattoo her scars with ink stains of guilt. I would expose them to light where she isn’t forced to hide the evidence.

I would grip her fragile hands in mine—strengthened from perspective, weathered from experience—until the trembling subsides. I would tilt her chin and urge those hollow, haunted eyes to meet my older gaze. Then I’d communicate our sameness, our solidarity—a message needing no words. I would silently perch beside her as time becomes irrelevant, and minutes fade to hours. However long it takes.

I would reach her in the stillness that’s often trampled in the chaos. We’d reclaim it together. And those emotions coursing through her—shock, anger, disbelief, regret—I’d whisper: Feel them all. There’s closure and cleansing on the other side.

I would remember she is young, impressionable, naive. She is prone to wander from her own best judgment. Her mistakes will cost us dearly. But we are still human, wired to endure. So, I would extend compassion to drown out the shame and connection to soothe the numbness, penetrate the solitude, nudge her onto higher ground.

And when the earth feels safe, secure, stable again, I would utter four words that she doesn’t want to hear, can’t seem to admit, but needs to understand: It’s not your fault. It never was. I hope she would believe me, that she can finally accept the truth. Because this girl—whether dazed, detached and desensitized in a hotel room, or here in this moment reliving the memories, undressing the wounds—she’s not just a survivor.

She is a warrior. We all are.

…I can promise you that.

 

love yourself

10 Lessons Recovery Is Teaching Me.

First, notice the choice of words. That was intentional. There’s a reason I said is teaching instead of has taught. Because recovering from addiction is a process.

It’s gradual, continuous, deliberate, repetitive. It’s step-by-step, moment-to-moment. It’s a daily decision not a final destination. But for those who endure the climb, there’s learning and growing and thriving to experience on the freefall.

Sometimes people question if I regret those stolen years marked by an eating disorder—if this life came with do-overs, would I make different choices or walk another path? The short answer is nope. Which might confuse whoever reads this.

Admitting that I wouldn’t change or erase the toughest circumstance I’ve encountered almost borders on masochistic, right?  Shouldn’t I jump at the chance to rewrite history, gloss over the past and sidestep the heartache? Also nope.

This eating disorder is not a stigma I can pretend doesn’t exist or a label I can never escape. It’s harrowing and frightening and dehumanizing and isolating. But this eating disorder is the story of where I’ve been, where I am, where I’m going. I wouldn’t revise a story like that for the greatest publishing deal on earth.

Choosing recovery hasn’t been straightforward. It goes against my instincts. It’s uncomfortable—painful even. Sometimes I despise recovery. But still I forge ahead. This crossroad leads to affirmation, acceptance, self-awareness. It’s worth the scrapes and scars.

How do I know? Because of all I’m learning…

10-lessons-from-recovery

Yep. It really truly is.

February 26–March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is “time to talk about it.” Don’t give into silence, shame or secrecy—join the conversation. And if you need support, call the NEDA helpline at      1-800-931-2237.

Because I’m Feeling Poetic And Stuff…

…this one’s called

Release My Rambling Soul.


When everything hurts

And this life stops making sense

When the demon flirts

And you’ve grown weak from the pretense.

***

When calling it quits

No longer sounds too extreme

You’re stuck on the fritz

 And finished with rose-colored daydreams.

***

The purpose you crave

Has never seemed to break through

It ebbs like a wave

That fierce passion your heart once knew.

***

Your doubts and distrust

Always demand the last word

And hope turns to dust

Until your perceptions are blurred.

***

But there’s a faint spark

You’ve been repressing too long

Which lights up the dark

And hums the rhythm to a new song.

***

You’ll wander too far

And you’ll question each crossroad

It’s just who you are

A free-spirit aching to explode.

***

Feisty, brazen, tough

That mask you’re scared to remove

But call your own bluff

Because there’s nothing left to prove.

***

Love, honesty, trust

They’ll complicate your whole world

But feel them, you must

So a heart of flesh can unfurl.

***

When the cleansing tears

Mend that brokenness inside

 Just shake off those fears

And spread your rambling soul open wide.

Breaking Vegan: a Relatable Read for Real Life

First things first: gonna start this post with a disclaimer—I’m not vegan. Aside from a vegetarian experiment back in college, I’ve always felt comfortable eating fish, poultry and certain animal by-products.

This is worth mentioning because I know several members of the vegan community have reacted forcefully to the memoir I’m about to discuss. So, for the record, my thoughts on Breaking Vegan are less concerned with this titular label and geared instead toward the author’s portrayal of disordered eating.

Alrighty. We’ve established I don’t follow the diet in question (although my love for fruits, veggies and plant-based proteins is real!), so why have I dedicated an entire post to this book?

Breaking Vegan book cover

Well…because it’s not just about veganism. It’s about being human.

Which sometimes means taking our passions to harmful extremes. Ignoring any smidgeon of logic that might contradict our single-minded intent. Forcing ourselves to believe whatever dogma, justification or outright lie supports our lifestyle choices. Rolling our eyes at those who voice concern. And disregarding our basic need to feel.

But this book is also about redemption. Healing both physical weakness and emotional wounds. Surrendering that insatiable urge for control. Embracing life’s hairpin turns, breakneck speeds and unpredictable thrills. Filling those empty spaces with a mindful center. Swapping out numbness for self-awareness. Affirming—even [gasp!] loving—every little quirk. And choosing balance over reckless abandon.

Basically, this book is about me.

Well…if you wanna get technical, it’s about Jordan Younger (a.k.a. The Balanced Blonde) and her relatably raw transition from orthorexia to personal acceptance.

But yeah, also me. And anyone else who’s lost their identity through the pursuit of perfection. That’s why Breaking Vegan is an important read. Not because Jordan bashes veganism (FYI: she doesn’t), but because she validates our right as individuals to live without labels.

While entrenched in my eating disorder, I used the “wellness” facade to rationalize my irrational behavior. I tossed that buzzword around like a humble brag and considered it my benchmark for success. Yet relentlessly pining after “health” made me unhealthier than I’d ever been. Gotta love irony, right?

Like Jordan points out from her own experience, I couldn’t even contemplate—let alone, begin—the recovery process until those identifiers no longer defined me.

I’ll always gravitate toward “wellness,” but there’s more to life than caloric counts, ingredient lists or sugar grams.

Passion often turns into obsession. I know this firsthand. The challenge, therefore, lies in restoring equilibrium—an elusive concept yet vital component. Sometimes my grasp on this feels superficial, but here’s one takeaway from Jordan’s story: healing can happen. Her message of sustainable, centered and [of course!] balanced health is exactly how I wanna approach this thing we call living.

So…Challenge. Accepted.

And since some messages are most impactful straight from their source, I’ll leave you with an excerpt of my favorite Breaking Vegan quotes:

Word.

5 Reasons to Date a Girl, Who Has Recovered from an Eating Disorder

A few days ago, while absentmindedly scrolling through my Facebook news feed, a certain article caught my attention. One of my female friends had posted it on her wall, along with a comment that said something like “Worst. Thing. Ever.”

The article was titled “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder.” (Warning: if you’re negatively triggered by dysmorphic body image material, I wouldn’t recommend clicking that link).

My initial reaction: Umm…WHAAAAAAT?!  

Nevertheless, persuaded by morbid curiosity, I gave it a read. Then, subsequently wished I hadn’t. Only 1 word can adequately describe my feelings toward the archaic, misogynistic, and downright offensive message perpetuated in this article: Horror.

Just pure and utter horror.

Whoever wrote this (come at me, bro!) is – in my admittedly biased opinion – a heinous human being. I consider myself a tolerant, unflappable individual, but I have ZERO patience for someone, who spouts unfounded and verbally abusive nonsense about such a sobering societal issue as mental illness.

An eating disorder is no joking matter. It’s a life-threatening concern that runs rampant in today’s culture. It does not discriminate across gender, racial, or socioeconomic boundaries. It trashes self-esteem. Destroys relationships. Ravages both mind and body. Causes long-term physical and emotional repercussions. It even has the power to kill.

Nope, not amusing. At all.

However, the dude behind this post sees things differently. From his sexist and – can we all agree?! – skewed POV, men should pursue anorexic and/or bulimic women for the following reasons:

  1. They look sexy.
  2. They won’t cost big bucks on date night.
  3. They’re easily dominated.
  4. They probably come from money.
  5. They’re great in bed.

‘Kay…???

Let me just begin by pointing out that I have personally battled and overcome anorexia, so I can assure you  none of these claims are factual. But, for good measure, I’ll break them down one-by-one.

  1. Sick isn’t sexy. It’s detrimental. Is outward beauty such a deal-breaker that a guy would rather see his girl suffer than gain 5 pounds?
  2. Not all disordered eaters starve themselves completely. But, even if they did, what kind of cheap bastard goes on a date without his wallet?
  3. Au contraire. While this illness does attack confidence levels, I’ve known several ED survivors (myself included), who are feisty little spit-fires. Dominate that!
  4. I was raised middle class. And I met girls in treatment, whose financial backgrounds ran the gamut from gated communities to inner cities. Wealth is NOT a contributing factor.
  5. To quote the author, “It’s a well-known fact that crazy girls are exceptional in the sack. A girl with an eating disorder has just the right cocktail of pent-up insecurity, neuroses, and daddy issues to ensure that your whole building knows every time you’re beating it up.” Yup. Nailed it. But not really.

Here’s another point worth mentioning: in the article’s comment section, some male readers were telling a (rightfully!) incensed female reader, “Chill out. It’s satire.”

Ummm…let’s examine that cavalier dismissal, shall we? As a former theatre major, I’ve read my fair share of satirical literature, from “The Importance of Being Ernest” to “Cloud Nine.” Satire uses “humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues” (source: dictionary.com). In other words, it aims to promote something more than misogyny.

Sorry, folks. Not buying the “it’s satire” argument.

Instead, I’ll offer a counterargument. Call it the “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder” in reverse. Consider, if you will, “5 Reasons to Date a Girl, Who Has Recovered from an Eating Disorder.”

Also known as The Truth:

  1. She has fought hard to achieve confidence and self-respect. 
  2. She recognizes and appreciates the value of inner beauty. 
  3. She exhibits joy and gratitude for life’s simple pleasures.
  4. She does not demand perfection and freely forgives a slip-up.
  5. She knows better than to take loving relationships for granted.

Think about it. This girl is a survivor. She has a positive new lease on life. She voices her opinions and beliefs. She can be counted on for honesty.  She admits to vulnerable moments, but isn’t controlled by them. She laughs at her own idiosyncrasies and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She embraces both strengths and weaknesses. She’s one tough chick and will go the distance for a real man, who treats her like his equal. Basically, this girl is a badass.

She lives with spirit, as though each day is hers alone to carpe diem. 

And loves with fierceness, as though her chosen person deserves happiness just as much as she does.

Breathe In. Breathe Out. It’s a Gift. And It’s Called Life.

Admission #1: As of precisely 1:32 P.M. this afternoon, I committed the very same trite, mainstream, and unoriginal act that just about every other 20-something female in the English-speaking world (and beyond) has been guilty of during these past several months.

I finished reading The Fault In Our Stars. 

And it was perfect.

Admission #2: I still haven’t seen the movie yet, and maybe I won’t, considering how masterful the book itself turned out to be. It’s rare that cinema can top literature, after all.

Admission #3: I didn’t cry while reading the book either, which is slightly disappointing. Especially since all I’d been hearing from this TFIOS  phenomenon’s onset is how Hazel and Augustus’ love story would reduce any mere mortal with a semi-functional soul into a waterfall of big, sloppy tears.

I, however, was dry-eyed. But I do have a semi-functional soul. So, there must be something else wrong with me. TBD.

Admission #4: My rather unfortunate tearlessness is in no way a negative reflection on the novel’s pure and astonishing genius.

Like I said, it was perfect.

Admission #5: TFIOS was a sobering read. That rare slice of humble pie, which stares you down silently, unblinkingly, disconcertingly nose-to-nose until you just can’t handle the guilt anymore. Until you’re forced to show some gratitude for your own health, wellbeing, and relative normalcy. 

Because that’s the thing about Life. It could always be worse.

Someone’s reality is shittier than mine. Truth. Undeniable truth.

And so, the only option left is to be grateful my body doesn’t suffer in the same way a chronically ill body would. Grateful that I’ve never reached a 10 on the infamous “pain scale” Hazel frequently references. Grateful that my physical capabilities run the gamut from back flips off a diving board to the “cha-cha slide” at wedding receptions. Grateful that I’m not acutely (and constantly) aware of my own fragility…abnormality…

Mortality. 

Admission #6: I’m rarely grateful for any of those blessings. I have every reason to be. But I’m not.

Instead of legs that have never been replaced by titanium steel (like what Augustus endured), I see flabby thighs that must be punished into lean, sinewy submission. Instead of a chest that inhales and exhales without needing oxygen tubes, I see boobs that just barely fit into the string bikini I bought last weekend. Instead of intestines that digest my meals with painless efficiency, I see a bloated belly that didn’t give 100% during today’s ab work-out.

Failure. All I see is FAILURE.

What would Hazel see though? Physical strength and stamina, like she may never experience. But enveloped in an attitude, undeserving of said strength and stamina.

Admission #7: If Hazel was a real person and that’s indeed what she saw…well, she’d be right.

Here’s the fundamental difference between me and someone, who’s chronically ill: s(he) never chose to get sick.

Whereas I did.

Not consciously, of course. I do believe that my particular disease is complicated and psychological and hard as hell to control. But it’s also curable and avoidable. Throughout my entire ordeal, I retained the freedom to make a full recovery. Whenever I was ready, health awaited.

That’s not the case for Hazel. Or Augustus. Or the countless actual cancer sufferers, survivors, and warriors.

REAL names.

REAL faces.

REAL stories.

REAL heartbreak…

And REAL capital-C courage.

They can’t simply flip the “recovered” switch. But, God, I wish they could.

So, this is the lesson I’ll take away from The Fault In Our Stars (an important read…perhaps the most important read I’ve stumbled upon in years): “Live your best life today.” And take no breath for granted.

the fault in our stars     (image courtesy of pinterest.com)

Why We Shouldn’t Need to Mind the Gap

I’ll admit…

I became preoccupied with obtaining a “thigh gap” before I even knew it had a name. Let alone a hashtag.

All I knew was if my feet were together but my thighs were NOT apart, then that equaled failure. If they so much as grazed against each other during an evening jog, I’d inwardly curse the loose folds of cellulite that had taken up residence there. Granted, this egregious cellulite only existed inside my head, but still…

Why. The. Hell. Must. Those. Stupid. Thighs. Touch?!

Arrrrrgh!

What is this madness?!

Madness indeed. Not only was I fixated on a meaningless centimeter of space between my inner thighs, but now millions of other young women are too. You can’t scroll through an Instagram feed or peruse Tumblr posts without being inundated by this troubling trend. #MindTheGap has recently become just as much an institution as social media itself. Proponents of the elusive “gap” use these sites as sounding boards to either tout their progress or bemoan their inadequacy. Nope. There’s no mistaking it: thigh gap fixation has given us tunnel vision toward our own physical appearances.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply be considered fit and trim overall. Now every last INCH of our bodies demands perfection.

But, let’s be honest, are thigh gaps even all that noticeable? If you didn’t spend a solid 10 minutes positioning your legs at just the right angle to snap a boastful – and perhaps teeny tiny bit…filtered – selfie, would your friends have any idea that you claim membership in the Thigh Gap Club? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Which raises even more questions: Why is this our new benchmark for beauty? Why is a sliver of breathing room separating 1 skin layer from another suddenly the latest status symbol? Why do we measure personal success in such superficial, fleeting terms?

No, really. WHY?!

Do yourself a favor next time you cringe at your own reflection. Rather than gauging the dead air between your legs, consider instead how those same legs move you through each miraculous day of your beautiful life.

Not that’s worth minding.