Small Breasts and Crooked Teeth

We all have something that we feel vehemently about or, if you’re anything like me, a multitude of things. But, there is one thing that I have felt the same way about for as long as I can remember:

Love and accept the body you were given - unconditionally. 

Kids don't usually know that there is something "wrong" about their body until someone points it out to them. They happily go about their day not worried about the shape of their body, the contours of their face, or the size of their appendages. 

The real shitty thing is that there is nothing wrong with their body (or their face), it's completely perfect just the way that it is. You know the saying, "humans are perfectly imperfect." It isn't until some arbitrary fucked up societal and cultural standards are called out to them do they then start to feel like something is wrong with them... something different... something inadequate. And if they feel that way, then they better make their counterparts feel just as shitty. And so, the cycle begins. At a very, very young age. 

Biased comparison isn't innate. Babies and toddlers simply take note of differences and process them as neutral differences. "I'm this color, they are that color;" "my nose is shaped this way, their's is shaped that way;" "my hair is this color, their's is that color." They have a genuine curiosity but typically don't associate their observation with something negative until someone else like a parent, sibling, or playmate teaches it to them. They make simple and objective observations without viewing one as desirable and one as less desirable or undesirable. 

When I was about 12-years-old I was at a routine dentist appointment. The dentist started talking to me and my late step-mom about orthodontics and straightening my teeth. We were both a little confused as to why this was brought up and asked why he was giving us information on "fixing my teeth." His answer beat around the bush a bit. I was taken back. And, well, offended. We asked if this was medically necessary or if this was strictly cosmetic. He confirmed it would simply be to straighten my teeth for aesthetics. 

F-that. I was a tough little horse-riding BB Gun shooting cookie infused with The Doors, Metallica, and Alice N' Chains.

I laughed and told him I didn't need or want to have my teeth straight. My step-mom laughed with me and reflecting back, I think she was pretty damn proud. 

Before that visit to the dentist office, I didn't think much of my teeth. I smiled in pictures and laughed without concern of someone looking at my crooked teeth. But after that visit, there was little voice inside me that whispered..."Your teeth don't look like they should. You don't have a pretty smile." I increasingly become self-conscious of my teeth and smile. I compared my teeth to my peers, my siblings, and girls in magazines and on TV. In family photos, you can see me going from a teeth-showing smile to a subtle smirk, or pursed lips (before it was a raving trend), or even no smile at all. Thank God this was before the likes of Facebook and Instagram or even wide-spread internet adoption.

I even rocked my unibrow

I even rocked my unibrow

My siblings and I, me, far right

My siblings and I, me, far right

Of course, I negatively compared myself to others before then (like when I hit puberty and broke out with acne before other kids my age in elementary school resulting in relentless teasing by older boys), but this was certainly a time in my life when I became even more concerned with my looks. And, started to consider whether or not I was pretty enough just the way that I was. 

Thankfully during this time of my life, I didn't only listen to classic rock and metal. While I was questioning my beauty and uniqueness, Jewel was breaking records with her album, Pieces of You and my sister and I had her hits on repeat. 

Jewel's face was all over magazines and VH1, and although most images and clips of her were with her lips closed or slightly parted, there was the rare few that showed her now famed crooked teeth. 

I was affirmed. I wasn't alone in letting my teeth be au naturel. 

Jewel's teeth have been the topic of conversation on more than one occasion in the entertainment industry. In writing this post, I came across this interview were she intimately discusses her stance on her teeth. 

When I first got signed to a recording contract, I saw other girls in my industry getting nose jobs and boob jobs and chin jobs, because they wanted to gain an acceptance they were unwilling to give themselves. Of course I considered having my teeth fixed. But I knew that if I started down that path, it would be a slippery slope—having come from a broken and dysfunctional home life, I was not the picture of high self-esteem. I was, however, the daughter of pioneers. In Alaska, I was raised on a homestead. We lived off the land, which taught me that hard work pays off. It also taught me one of the most important things I have ever learned, something I still try to live by to this day: Hard wood grows slowly. I know, that isn’t a very flashy life motto, but make no mistake, it is profound. If you want something to last, it has to develop over time. An oak may take a long time to grow, but it lives for hundreds of years. Country living taught me that there are no shortcuts or quick fixes for a meaningful life. I had to figure out real solutions to my problems if I wanted them to be permanent. If I wanted to build a healthy new life, it meant learning to love and accept myself, and to be a friend to myself. It meant forgiving my short comings, accepting my flaws, and finding the courage to not make decisions out of insecurity. It meant letting people call me “snaggle tooth” or anything else they wanted, without losing my pride. Happiness and self- acceptance wouldn’t come overnight. They were a process, and if I wanted lasting results, I had to commit to that process—even if it was a public one. I had to define beauty for myself.
— Jewel

Jewel beautifully and profoundly states what I have come to fervently believe for myself.

You cannot fix the way you feel on the inside by changing something on the outside. Learning to love and accept yourself unconditionally is a feat most people will never conquer. 

Looking in the mirror and saying "I am beautiful," is fucking hard. Looking in the mirror and saying, "I am beautiful, I love and accept myself," is really fucking hard. Embracing it is really, really fucking hard and takes massive work. Work that is internal and that no one else can do for you or validate. This isn't to say that you are alone in the process, I've received massive support and guidance. I've asked for help in my times of darkness and visceral feelings that I was the ugliest human being on the planet and I was met with empathy; though I was alone the work to pull myself out of despair.

It's hard work that needs to be done over and over throughout our entire life. Through aging, illness, weight changes, injuries, depression, stress, and heartache. It's a practice that takes humility and it's work that I don't believe is ever finished or fixed. Certainly not through cosmetic surgeries, anti-aging bullshit, airbrushing, or “beauty” products. Time and time again, I've thought I fully accepted my body and then wham-bam I have some jiggly skin out of nowhere and my thighs have a couple more spots with cellulite that can be seen from my neighbors house. Some days, I am more accepting and graceful of myself than others.

IMG_0478.JPG

The next big kick to my self-esteem was when I was 19. My college boyfriend and I were laying in his bed one morning and I asked him (oooooh the naivety!), "what would you change about me if you could change something?" Fully expecting him to say "absolutely nothing baby," or something sweet and ironically complimentary like "the way you're so hard on yourself." Yeah, there is no Relationships 101 in college. 

No, what he said ( I still remember nearly 15 years later) was, "I'd have your teeth fixed and get you some bigger boobs." 

My dropped-jaw and complete silence must have signaled to him to backtrack. He then said "you know... if you want to keep modeling." At the time I was doing some modeling but little did he comprehend that the type of fashion modeling that I was doing gave a shit about my small breasts and actually preferred them small and rarely wanted a smile. Thin? Yes (which is one of the reasons I did not pursue a career), but big boobs and tattoos? No. Smile? Not really. Stone cold or seductive smirk, please.

I quickly left his bed and called my sister balling while I drove to go ride my horse to blow off steam and center myself. Riding always reminded me of who I was and what truly mattered in life - similar to how yoga does for me now. 

The paradox was that before that moment, I hadn't really ever thought about my breasts in a negative light before. I have small frame and for the most part, have always been slender. Having small breasts just kind of made sense. In fact, I found them to be sexy. I could go braless and wear plunging neckline shirts and chic dresses that some of my friends couldn't "pull off" without being judged for looking slutty (you can't win). Up until that moment, I felt quite confident with my breasts. They were perky and just... fit. I was never teased for being "flat" so maybe they are a cup bigger than the "pancake"? So, this was a big WTF moment for me. 

You can imagine what that did to my confidence. Despite how much I wanted to not care what other people thought about me, I did. Especially, my then boyfriend. And, despite his comment and pornography addiction, I stayed with him for four more years. 

IMG_0479.JPG

Along with my horse and sister, music came to the rescue once again and this time it was India Arie. Her Grammy winning songs helped to lift me higher and continuously  gave me the message that I needed to accept myself, even if others didn't. 

Her lyrics from  'Video' ran through my head day-in and day-out.

Don't need your silicone I prefer my own
What God gave me is just fine

Yet, I still had that tiny voice inside my head. This time it said, "no one will ever love and accept your body just the way that it is." The abstruse thing being that I really did prefer my own. Not once did I look in the mirror and long for bigger breasts - or straight teeth for that matter. 

Each time after that when a man told me, "I love your body," the thought inside my head was "yeah sure, you love parts of it, but what would you change to make me perfect?" And each time he said "I will love you forever," I told myself "yeah, he'll love me while I still have the elasticity in my skin or until he finds someone 'like me' with bigger boobs...or straighter teeth... or straight hair... or who is taller... or skinnier...or younger." I never believed that anyone could love and embrace all of me and continue to through the changes of time be it aging, illness, injury, pregnancy, and all of the other things that life may throw my way.

I have experienced the heaviness of infidelity, verbal abuse, manipulation, anger, rape, and yet something came up recently that caused me to discover that I had never forgiven that young man all those years ago. An incident that is seemingly very insignificant in comparison and nevertheless, has impacted my life, self-esteem, and relationships for years. Since that discovery, I have forgiven him and feel completely unattached to that moment and his immature sentiments. I had no idea I had been tied to that moment for so long. It has me pondering the notion of forgiveness and do we sometimes tell ourselves that we have forgiven when in actuality, we have only attempted to forget?

It took me many years of internal work to get to a place where I could welcome love into my heart and it's an endless practice of opening. Years of self-help practices, energy work, yoga, solo travel, mediation, living alone, and mindfulness (I'm starting to not like that trendy word but it is valid).

I’ve learned walls are actually the least protective. When you let your walls fall down and stand naked and vulnerable, raw intimacy blankets you. 

BIG crooked smile with the man that loves it

BIG crooked smile with the man that loves it

Now in my thirties, I have a loving and gracious man in my life who embraces me fully and it's still difficult for me to be vulnerable and trust that he will continue to love me unconditionally as the years pass. Trusting your partner is a recipe I'm still learning but what I've found is that it's a concoction of a leap of faith, benefit of the doubt, conscious forgiveness, respect, reminding myself of who he is (rather than grouping him in with men from my past), reminding myself of who we are together, communicating my concerns and insecurities, and giving him the trust that I wish to receive. 

While that's a nice ingredient list, it's the relationship with myself that allows me to open myself up to my partner, to love him unconditionally, and welcome imperfections with myself, him, and us. I thank my 12 and 19-year-old self for staying true to myself and not giving into cultural and societal ideals and pressures. 

CGL2qV8UUAEk5FM.jpg


I do not believe myself to be better than those who have made permanent changes to their bodies, I too have made changes to my body albeit temporary, such as dying my hair and wearing hot pink lipstick. There is a fine line and I try to understand my motives of any change I make to my body. Who is it for? Why will this make me happier? Is there something going on inside that I am trying to fix on the outside? What example will this set to those who look up to me? And, I do not think less of anyone who chooses to permanently change their body - men or women (because poor body-image does not just effect women), that's their prerogative. Though, I do wish for them the same thing that I wish for myself and that is the ability and willingness to love and accept their body unconditionally and the strength to do the ever-lasting internal work that makes that more attainable. 

With love, 

-AEB

Face Value is Destroying Us

Social media has become our society's arch nemesis. It's the thing most of us love to hate but also refuse to live without. 

We see white picket fences, the kiss after the argument, the corner of the house that's not messy, the angle of the face that meets society's standards of beauty, the filter that smooths out wrinkles and wipes away blemishes, the sucked in bellies, the flexed muscles, and the splurge masking the debt. 

We see the filtered and intellectually (most of us) know that it's there, yet turn a blind eye and are adamant and convinced that what we see is reality. We laugh and joke over the superficial and then turn around judge others or ourselves based on the face value we perceive. The result is spectrum with rage and disdain on one end, and envy and lust on the other. 

inspirational-quotes-self-esteme-issues.jpg

We're conditioned to view flawless as desirable and beautiful yet we, as humans, are inherently flawed.

Even more ironic, is that perfection, flawless, and sameness is often considered boring, stodgy, uptight, and uninteresting. A double-edged sword. 

We choose the media we want to see and get a curated selection within that choice, and as a result, glean a skewed outlook of reality. 

perception_quote.jpg

We see memes, images, videos, and stories conjured up portraying someone or a group of people as someone they may not be based on one characteristic. 

We see slivers of people's lives and personalities and assume we know what their all about. 

Don't assume that I'm anti-hunting because I drive a Subaru. 
Don't assume that I haven't shot a gun because I do yoga.
Don't assume that I don't support our president  because I drink green juice.
Don't assume that I'm Godless because I believe in the healing powers of crystals. 
Don't assume that I'm uneducated because I love country music. 
Don't assume that I had everything handed to me on silver platter because I'm well-traveled.
Don't assume I haven't experienced hardships because I am a white female with blue eyes, and (dyed) blonde hair. 
Don't assume I am against homosexuality because I believe in the right to bear arms.
Don't assume that my boyfriend and I never disagree because I post happy pictures of us. 
Don't assume I'm positive and calm all of the time because I meditate.

These face value assumptions don't just happen in media. They happen walking down the street, driving down the highway, passing through the neighborhood, attending a gathering, shopping at the grocery store, they happen anywhere, and everywhere. They happen in our everyday lives, in and outside of our online lives, and they are destroying our relationships with one another and with ourselves. 

With love, 

-AEB

Dissecting a Secret

My boyfriend and I recently watched "The Circle," arguably Tom Hanks' worst movie. Though not due to his performance (Hanks is always great) or even Emma Watson's - but the movie lacked substance  - IMO. 

While it was neither of our favorite movies, it did help to pass the time on the plane back from vacation, and one line stood out to me that I am still thinking about today: "Secrets are lies." 

Are they? 

In order to have this conversation, we need to get clear on what defines a secret. I'll venture to say that most people know what a lie is, but we will take a look at that word as well.

You see, not everyone looks at a secret the same way (and this in and of itself is a factor in the justification of keeping secrets). 

Keep in mind folks that this my blog. It's my opinion. There will be very little research and a whole lot of emotion. 

Let's take a look at America's most trusted dictionary, Merriam Webster, for a definition of the word

Definition of secret (as an adjective)

  1. a :  kept from knowledge or view
    b :  marked by the habit of discretion   
    c :  working with hidden aims or methods
    d :  not acknowledged
    e :  conducted in secret a secret trial

  2. remote from human frequentation or notice :  secluded

  3. revealed only to the initiated :  esoteric

  4. designed to elude observation or detection

  5. containing information whose unauthorized disclosure could endanger national security 

  6.  kept hidden from others : known to only a few people

  7.  keeping information hidden from others

  8.  hidden from the knowledge of others 

Definition of secret (as a noun)

  1. a :  something kept hidden or unexplained
    b :  something kept from the knowledge of others or shared only confidentially with a few
    c :  a method, formula, or process used in an art or operation and divulged only to those of one's own company or craft
    d secrets plural :  the practices or knowledge making up the shared discipline or culture of an esoteric society

  2. a prayer traditionally said inaudibly by the celebrant just before the preface of the mass

  3. something taken to be a specific or key to a desired end 

  4. a fact or piece of information that is kept hidden from other people

in secret

  1. :  in a private place or manner

The key here is that withholding the information is purposeful. One is deliberately not telling the other person(s) pertinent information. 

Here's an interesting piece of history of the origin: In late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin secretus (adjective) ‘separate, set apart,’ from the verb secernere, from se- ‘apart’ + cernere ‘sift.’

When someone keeps a secret, they are setting that information apart from the rest of the information so that the entire truth is not known. 

Before we dissect the definition of secret a bit further, let's take a look at the word lie

Definition of lie (as a verb)

lied; lying

:to say something that is not true in order to deceive someone

Definition of lie (as a noun) 

:something said or done in the hope of deceiving :an untrue statement

Now, let's examine some of the parallels between a secret in a lie:

  • In a secret, one is purposefully withholding information (not saying anything); and in a lie, one is sharing information that is not true (saying* something)
  • In both a secret and a lie, the person** is deceiving someone
  • In both a secret and a lie, the whole truth is deliberately kept form someone
  • In both a secret and lie, the person is betraying the other person

*Saying could also be speaking, writing, doing, etc. 
** For sanities sake I will keep person, someone, individual etc. singular  but it could be more than one person

It likely goes without saying but I will note it anyway, that the person that is kept in the dark by both a secret and a lie are interested parties - the ones that wish to know the truth.  The ones that arguably, should know the truth - the whole truth (yes, I too have the solemn oath running through my head). 

The point of lie is deception. It's to lead someone to believe something other than the truth. Given this, by default a secret is a lie. By keeping a secret, and withholding relevant information, you are leading someone to believe something other than the truth. 

Both are keeping the other person from knowing the truth. 

Ah... But is keeping the truth from someone inherently malevolent?

A few weeks ago, I would have told you that yes, keeping secret or telling a lie is never acceptable. And then...my boyfriend surprised me with an amazing trip that we will be taking to the islands next year. He had this planned and kept this a secret from me for about a month. We even talked about the trip and had decided (or so I thought) that we would pass on this one... save our money for something else and/or a trip in the future. Other people knew about this and they too kept the secret.

I didn't feel betrayed. I wasn't angry or upset in any way by this secret/lie. As you can imagine,  I was elated. I bursted into tears of joy and jumped up and down at work when he shared the news with me in order to make my Monday a little better. 

So what's the difference here? Is this the quintessential "white lie?" 

Alright, we'll take a quick look at the definition of a white lie. 

Definition of white lie

:a lie about a small or unimportant matter that someone tells to avoid hurting another person

Hm.... So it wasn't exactly a white lie as he wasn't trying to avoid hurting me. He was however, keeping the information from me to bring me joy.  

There are two things that jump out of me in this example that makes it an outlier: 

  1. The intent of the secret/lie was to bring joy
  2. It was always intended that the truth would be revealed (temporary) 

Well that's a little messy isn't it?

What are some of the other reasons that people lie?

One that I think about often is the classic "I did it to protect you." 

When we begin to peel the layers off that onion it's nearly impossible to not tear up from the burning of lie within a lie. 

You are not protecting someone by not telling the the truth.

No dear, that is a lie you tell yourself. You are attempting to protect yourself from having to deal with whatever it is you are keeping from them. And, you don't trust them enough to handle the truth (yep, I too have Jack Nicholson's face from A Few Good Men in my head). 

You're lying to yourself thinking that you are protecting them when ultimately you are afraid of what you may have to do/change/say/confront when the truth is known. You don't want to have to change your behavior or uproot a status quo. 

There are few things worse than being kept in the dark about something because someone didn't trust you enough to know the information. Ultimately, the lie itself becomes worse than whatever the lie was about.  

10be9895375b9843327a7a4bfa4ae1dc.jpg

"Why didn't you tell me?" 

"Because you didn't need to know." OR "Because you never asked."

It's not your job to decide if someone needs to know something when they are involved in the situation. If it crosses your mind to tell them then chances are - you should tell them the truth. And when you choose to keep it a secret (lie) then chances are - the truth will come out eventually. 
productmockup.jpeg

You know that sinking feeling when that happens to you? The why didn't they just tell me? The why didn't they trust me enough to be able to handle this? Why didn't they feel safe enough to talk to me?

When you don't trust someone enough to handle the truth you are making a decision on their behalf and belittling their ability to rise above your expectations. 

What if they don't handle the truth? Then you have bigger problems and you should be glad you now have the opportunity to address them. 

Infidelity and family affairs are likely on our minds at this point. I don't think this means we are all cynical humans - I think it's because it's with the people we love the most that a lie hurts the most. 

The situations like: 

  • Finding out your significant other frequents a grocery store across from town so that they can visit with their ex with the intent of seeing if they can get back together
  • Finding out your significant other and your best friend have been romantically talking and spending time together 
  • Finding out well into adulthood that you were adopted
  • Finding out you have half-siblings from a parent's affair 10 years ago

These situations happen. And whether you tell the truth or lie - there is hurt and/or confusion. The difference is when the truth is revealed, a whole lot of hurt and confusion can be spared and a conversation can be had. That doesn't mean you'll be surrounded by rainbows and flowers after the fact, but you will be able to move forward.

The-truth-doesn-t-cost-you-anything-but-a-lie-coul.jpeg

There is an outlier banging at my door. I  was talking about writing this with my sister and brother-in-law a couple of weeks ago and we got on the subject of ... "ok what about ones that really are to protect someones feelings... ?"

The example of a person dying. The person dying asks, "Am I going to die?" You say: "No, you are not going to die." But you know that they are going to die. But you don't want to cause them more pain so you lie. Is this justified? Is this an "OK lie?" One that is helping them? Is this the accepted white lie? 

The natural response is that yes, of course it is OK. You were bringing them peace and comfort. You truly were protecting them. 

I'm going to challenge this a bit. 

What if... you told them the truth to bring them peace and comfort? 

"Yes, you are going to die. And I don't know what is going to happen to you but right here - right now, you are loved by me and so many others. You are not alone." 

I realize that is radical and I'm writing this while sitting on my couch with my coffee and Wille Nelson on and very from from that tragic situation. 

Would I lie in that situation? I'm not sure. But I will tell you that I'm going to ponder it some more. 

I'll leave you with this: 

If there is a lie weighing heavy on your shoulders ask yourself: 

  1. Am I lying to bring joy to the person I'm lying to?
  2. Am I protecting myself but hurting another by not revealing the truth?
  3. Can I trust them enough to handle the truth?
11255659_1575165996098340_1658563440_n.jpg

You're Being Judged

You’re being judged. 

Everyday. 

Judged by yourself. 

And, judged my others. 

Judged by people you know, love, and trust. 

And, judged by strangers. 

We know it. 

We feel it. 

We judge others. 

And, we judge ourselves.

The other day I was fishing, across the lake from me was a man fishing. I realized a woman was in the truck on the side of the road close to him. I would see him catch and fish and then show her and then release the fish. When I heard her say “I thought we were having fish for supper?,” I immediately judged her. I thought: ‘Ugh… lazy…. It’s a beautiful day out, why aren’t you out here fishing? Why are you making him do the work? Why are you being greedy? And, ...at this lake?... Come on lady, this isn't a fishery.’

These judgements stuck with me. Why did I judge her so harshly? 

I know nothing about her. Maybe she underwent surgery recently, or is following her doctor’s orders, or is getting over an illness, or has a disability, and she cannot easily get out of the vehicle? Maybe she wants badly to be by his side fishing and for some reason - is unable to. Maybe they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and they do not have the liberty to purchase clean protein for their dinner. 

I'll offer another story:

When I was living in Philly, I worked from home (which was an apartment) and I would go for walks around my building during the day. I got to know many of the people in my building, staff, and folks that well… just kind of hung around that building (I lived right were South Philly begins). 

There was a man that would often be around the building - nice as can be and we would make small talk and chat from time to time. He would walk with me for a block or two perhaps and then we would part ways. I’d say this man was likely in his late 40s. 

Over time, I learned that he had a disability and many employers would not hire him due to his disability. When he could find work, it did not pay well. I am not sure where he lived exactly, but it wasn’t my building. I learned he had a son and paid for his college - even when he could not feed himself properly. He wanted to eat healthy and would comment on my green juice and he said that he would go down to the Italian Market and buy produce for cheap. 

One day, I was walking and bumped into him and saw that he was crying. I put my arm through his and asked him to walk with me. He told me about some troubles. Something was happening with his house and something also happened with his son and his wallet was now empty. This was not a cry for help but a cry for someone to simply listen. But, I knew that in order for me to sleep that night, I had to try and do something to alleviate some of his pain. I asked him to come with me and I went to the ATM and pulled out some cash. I can’t remember how much it was but I do know that at this time in my life I was living nearly paycheck-to-paycheck. I knew that for the next week or two, I would have to eliminate some luxuries like green juice… coffee out… lunch out for the money that I was about to give him. I was more than OK with this. He started to cry more when I gave him the money. He looked at me in disbelief. He said that it wasn't why he told me those things. I insisted that he take the money. He told me that he wasn’t sure when he would able to pay me back - or if he could. I told him that I did not want him to pay me back and told him to go buy himself some food right away before he did anything else. He had a huge smile on his face and his eyes lit up. 

If I knew nothing about this man - had never seen him before and saw him crying on the side of an apartment building, I would have felt a sadness. But I know I wouldn’t have talked to him about his troubles or helped him in any way. I likely would have been frightened of him and judged him… maybe he is on drugs… or an alcoholic (mind you this was not the case with this man), or maybe he beat his wife and they divorced and she got the house and now he is on the streets. 

Why would those judgements come to my mind? 

Judging.png

The stories we tell ourselves about other people often have zero basis. They are distorted and toxic. For our close friends and family; we may know some - or a lot about them but we still don’t know what exactly has shaped them or who they will be tomorrow. When it comes to people whom we’ve never met or just met; the raw truth is that we have no idea what they have been through in their life - or what they are going through right now. We don’t know if they have had multiple neck surgeries, or battled cancer, or lost their parent(s) in an accident, or fought in a war and saw their friends die, or that they've been sexually abused, or lost their home in a fire, or a multitude of real life things that we like to think only happens to us or our family or that those types of extraordinary circumstances are only for the movies. Where do we think the ideas for movies come from?  

Why do we tell ourselves negative stories and illusions about others?

Why do we assume the woman sitting alone at a bar is cheating on her husband and not that she is taking a break while traveling and it’s less lonely to sit up at the bar than a table by yourself and she’s having soda water with lemon - not a cocktail - oh, and  she is texting her kids and husband - not the made up man who will be meeting her - and cheating on his wife. 

Why do we assume the couple next to us in a car are having a horrible fight because of their facial expressions and gestures and not talking about a movie that they saw last night? 

Why do we think the older man working as a waiter at a restaurant didn’t go to college? Or, has limited options? Perhaps he was in finance and discovered it really wasn’t for him and is now taking night classes at a Culinary Institute. Perhaps his son fell ill and he dropped everything he was doing to cover for him so that his son didn’t lose his job. Or, perhaps, he is the owner. 

Why do we look at an overweight man and assume that he is lazy, doesn’t work out, and doesn’t eat well rather than considering that perhaps he has a medical condition - or two - mixed with some genes that cause him to predisposed to obesity. Maybe he is extremely active, does workout, and eats well. Maybe he tries. Maybe he tries more than anyone you know to be fit and thin. Maybe he has tried every diet in the book. Maybe he has even had gastric bypass surgery. Maybe not. Maybe… this is simply the way he was born. Maybe… he is happy with his body.

Why do we look at a skinny woman and tell ourselves that she is probably anorexic - or addicted to exercise or drugs and hates her life and family. Or, all of the above. Oh, she is probably a bitch too and has no life other than avoiding food and exercising. Instead of thinking that maybe… maybe she was born with a wicked high metabolism. Perhaps she doesn’t even work out regularly and eats like a french woman. Maybe, she is super self-conscious of the fact that she is not as curvy  as some of her friends. Maybe she is ill. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight because of the judgements that she has received. 

Why don’t we think about the fact that everyone has real world shit going on in their life just like we do? People’s loved ones die. And so, they don’t care when they run to the grocery store in their wear-at-home-only sweatpants and should-be-thrown-away flip flops to pick up a few things because what they really care about is making sure their brother’s will is honored.  

Everyone has drama and trauma. People get into accidents. They fall ill. They lose jobs, relationships, homes, and cars. They have hardships. They have others around them that have hardships - which can in turn become a hardship for them. 

I've never met anyone who was on Cloud 9 all of the time. I chat with my dearest friends and I love hearing about their joys, loves, and excitements but inevitably there are hardships, quarrels, questions, and all of the other life stressors that happen. To all of us. No one escapes stress. Stress does not discriminate. Yes, some may have it seemingly more or worse than others - but it's present. For everyone. Every single day. Most of us experience days where feel amazing, days where we’re on a high, smiling, walking with a bounce in our stride, other days  where we cruise neutral, and others where the day is massively challenging… hard… dark… days where we feel despair. 

And what about those days or moments where we do feel like we are on Cloud 9? Do we really care about what others around us think about what we are doing, saying, or wearing?

When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not thinking about the possibility of judgements. I'll swing at the playground and laugh and run around and not care that I am a grown adult playing like a child. When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not worried about if people are judging me at Whole Foods when my boyfriend and I are acting totally silly. When I'm on Cloud 9, I couldn't care less if my clothes match when I run to the store after a long and glorious day on the lake - kissed by the sun and high on life. 

Yet, I'm certain that in those circumstances - when I'm on Cloud 9, others do judge me. And, I'm certain that I have judged them. 

So, we can't be happy and on Cloud 9 or in despair or anything in between without being judged. 

wellshitatleastyoutried.png

To try and make sense of this dynamic, I can't help but think that protection plays a fundamental role in the incessant need to judge. Judging others to make ourselves feel better about ourself isn't what I'm talking about here. It's a true protection mechanism within us. If something is marked red it likely means stop. If something is steaming -it's likely hot. If there is lightening then static electricity is likely high. If the wind is whipping and there are white caps then we likely won't put the boat out on the water. We've learned to judge situations throughout our entire lives. We judge situations. We make judgement calls. Usually we do this to protect ourselves. To literally keep ourselves safe. 

So, do we judge other people as we do situations? Do we judge other people for our own livelihood? 

Our brains seemed to have missed the fact that people are not situations. One cannot simply look at a person and know who they are and what they are about. We are each made up of approximately 37.2 trillion cells. This, is a commonality amongst a trillion other differences. There is much to learn about each-other. 

So keep your circle small if you must (I do) but may we all know that red does not always mean stop. 

Who Are You? Who Am I?

"But, that's what you have always done."

"But, you always use to like to do that."

"But, you have always liked that kind of music."

"But, you always eat those kind of cookies."

"But, you have always done [ FILL IN THE BLANK ] "

Have you ever had someone say something along those lines to you? Or, have you ever said them to someone else? 

I would be shocked if you said no to either of those questions. 

We preach that we need to grow and change yet... when it comes down to it, most people are uncomfortable when someone around them grows and changes. Particularly those that are closest to them such a spouse, parent, best friend or sibling. 

Despite the intense (and often obsessive) desire we have to change our ways, get out of our element, out of comfort zone, and live our lives just a little bit... different.. maybe a little bit... better, we are change adverse creatures. And not only that, we are often 'change blockers.' 

I am not a psychologist so bare with me as I run through my thoughts. 

We become accustom to knowing someone in one way that we have a difficult time accepting when they mature, grow, and change. When they take steps to 'better themselves,' or when they simply start to like new things,  take up a different hobbies, drop other hobbies or habits, and explore other ways of living life, we (the other person) has a difficult time accepting that change. 

Some, straight up refuse to accept the change... have you ever gone back to a place where you grew up or spent time as an adolescent and inevitably the people there still believe that you love the things that you loved and participate in the same activities as you did when you were... oh say... about 12 years-old? 

Though perhaps more dispiriting and often more damaging than those moments are the day-to-day moments when someone feels unable or not allowed, or unsafe to change because of the response they receive from the people around them. And not just acquaintances - these are typically the people who are closest to them. That is where the real dagger strikes - this is where the open-space of love and acceptance from a place of truth and respect turns into a closed-space of suffocation and dismissal usually from a place of denial, misunderstanding, or even jealousy. The person trying or seeking change will likely feel boxed in and unworthy, and often, unfortunately, begin to second guess and doubt themselves. 

"Well, I guess I'll just do what I have always done...Stick to status quo," they may think..."this is how I am loved and accepted right now. What would it be like if I were different?" What they (we) are not usually thinking is that when they change ourselves for the better they are embraced even more fully than we were before - yet there is that period of time that is messy... scary... disorienting... and disheartening. Sometimes, we are forced to let go of those that don't fit our new lifestyle or who won't accept our changed ways. 

I'll take diet as a relatively easy and common example of change.  

"So hun, I think I'm going to switch to low-carb diet. I really think I'm going to cut out refined sugar for a while too. And, I don't think I'll drink alcohol for some time either. I just feel I need to clean up my diet a bit. Eat more lean protein, less sugary snacks, and more veggies." 

One would think that the other would be delighted. And surely not for 'Keeping up with Joneses,' but rather because their partner is choosing to honor their body and are making an effort to give themselves a bit of self-love and feel better. They are respecting themselves. 

Yet, this is not always the response that occurs. They think to themselves... "well I do eat cookies. I do eat carbs. I frickin' love white potatoes. And beer. And thick juicy steak!"

They mistakenly think... "given their change, what will I have to change?"  What is not recognized (usually) is that the other person doesn't have to change a damn thing! The other person was simply voicing their proposed change most likely because voicing change/action makes it feel more real. That, and perhaps most importantly,  they are seeking support.

Mind you, these are not always strikingly positive or negative changes... they are simply.. change. 

"I don't really feel I want to crochet any more ... I really think that I may then take up photography. I've been thinking about taking a coarse in it." This coming from someone who has crocheted for over half of their life may come as a shock to the people that are closest to them. 

Instead of support, the other person may think, 'how will this effect me? how will our schedule change... how will I change? How will we change?' Or, 'where is this stemming from? What has happened for them to want suddenly change their ways?' And often, 'is something wrong with them?' 

Photo by Daniel Bowman,  Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Bowman, Unsplash

On that note... 

We (people) become so deeply tied to the things we do that we identify ourselves with that 'thing' rather than being who we are separate from things that we do - who we are becomes the things that we do. 

I am a yogi. 

I am a hiker. 

I am a runner. 

I am a cook. 

I am a writer. 

What happens to a yogi when they for some reason cannot or decide to not do yoga? They decide to start kick-boxing or they injure their back. Who are they without yoga? Or a runner who has ran consistently their entire adult life has to slow their role and switch to walking because their knees cannot handle the force of the runners stride. Who are they if they are not a runner? A writer who cannot write due to a stroke... who are they now? 

Suddenly, there is an identity crisis. 

This happens many times throughout our lives. A scholar of History whose entire career thus far has been studies, enters the workforce as a sales associate at a software company. An owner of a Bed & Breakfast of 30 years, sells their property. A dentist of 40 years, retires. A horse rider of 20 years, decides to stop riding to travel and explore their growing interest in cultural studies.  

The reasons are not always clear. Sometimes, we don't even know the reason(s) for a significant life change. Sometimes, it is simply a want or desire to feed another passion. Or, the former passion no longer 'feeds our soul.' Other times, the reason(s) are more concise. Retirement. Physical conditions. Environmental surroundings such as a skier moving to Florida. 

At times, we may even devalue ourselves when we don't do the things that we use to do - because of the high value we once placed on them. 

My point, is that when we tie ourselves to what we do with such conviction that it becomes who we are, we risk an identity crisis. 

I am not a yogi.

Currently, I do yoga. 

Embracing who we are without the things that we do and knowing who we are without the things that we do has the ability to bring grounding despite the changes in and around us.

Photo by Morgan McBride,  Unsplash  

Photo by Morgan McBride, Unsplash 

As tree (yes, I am anthropomorphizing) who weathers a storm, and has core that stands unwavering when it's branches are shaking, bending, and even breaking. And endure seasons of change, even changing of colors, and sometimes, stranding bare with no leaves and awaiting the sun of the next season where they will begin to bud and blossom once again. 

Humans are Naturally Insane

Insanity. 

Below is what the definition is not: 

"Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results," loosely quoted by the great theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein. 

Although, I do believe that the notion of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is also a quality that is intrinsic to humans. Just think of children getting into shenanigans, or your habits that you incessantly try to break. Or the goals you continuously attempt to achieve and come to similar roadblocks every single time. 

But what I am referring to is the 'true' definition of insanity. 

Important note: I am not referring to the criminally insane, so for the sake of the sanity of this post let's leave the criminals locked up. 

So let's take a look at some of the definitions of insanity - or rather the root word insane

  • Immoderate; wild
  • Very foolish; absurd
  • Mentally deranged; crazy; of unsound mind
  • Utterly senseless; irrational
  • In a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction
  • (Of an action or policy) extremely foolish; irrational or illogical

(From The Free Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries )

Some synonymous of insane: 

Mad, bananas, bonkers, crazy, ridiculous, irrational, nuts, off your rocker, bizarre, wild, nonsensical, lunatic, unbalanced, loco, silly, batshit crazy (probably my favorite)

What then is is the opposite? Or, the antonyms? 

Sane, rational, logical, normal, sensible

Are we all born rational, sane, and logical? Are we all born... normal? Is this what we are striving for? Is this what we wish to teach our children? To not be but to conform? 

Normal is a learned state of being. Normal is learned way or living. Normal is not... natural

How often are we not afraid to get to know another human, but rather to let them get to know us? Let them in to see the dusty nooks and crannies of our own minds. Revealing to them all of the things about us that make us ... us. And yet, they would not be drawn to us in the first place if we weren't who we are as an individual. If we did not embody our quirkiness. I have seen this time and time again in romantic relationships. People start losing themselves and begin to let go of who they are to blend more into the other person's life and then they begin to bump heads - they begin to question what they ever saw in the person. They have both changed so much and let go of who they really are that they fall out of love or lose attraction for one another. 

The most uneasy I have felt around another person is when I can't pick up on who they are - as if they are not comfortable with who they are - they can't be alone with themselves and they haven't yet relaxed into their-self enough to be content with everything that makes them ... them. 

I can't help but think about some of the most influential people in history - and of course this is just a tiny fraction but I think of people like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Lao Tsu, Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, Babe Ruth, Sigmund Freud,  Leonardo da Vinci, Amadeus Mozart, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, and Gandhi.

No, I did not personally know any of these people (although I do think I knew Janis Joplin in another life but that is another post entirely), but I don't think normal or even sane are words that we would use to describe any of them. 

Brilliant, eccentric, bold, unconventional, extraordinary, profound, provocative. 

 These are some of the words I would use to describe many of our great influencers. 

Jim Morrison, The Lizard King

So perhaps some of us more than others - or more accurately, some of us show it more than others, but I believe that we all have a little madness. That we are all a bit insane. That we are all just a little... batshit crazy. 

Here's to insanity,

Relish in yours, and allow me to relish in mine.  

-AeBailey 

 

Pondering the Notion of Home: What and where is it?

What happens... when a home you once knew doesn't feel like home anymore? 

What is truly meant by 'home is where the heart is?' 

What if you're home isn't where you were born, or where you grew up, or where your immediate family is?

Does your past have an influence on the evolution of where you consider home? Where exactly are ones roots? Where they are born? Where they grew up? What about where their ancestors are from? Perhaps a land that they have yet to see...

What I have learned is that, to me, home is where I feel that I am free. Free to be me. Home is where I go to heal. Home is where I feel peaceful. 

 

Given that, is home then something that is 'housed' by your mind?

When we have made peace with our past - is it then that a home we once knew... may feel like home again?

Is there truly a physical aspect to home? Does what it's physically made up of, brick, log, steel... make a difference? Does geography, mountains.. ocean.. city become a factor to where one feels at home? Or, the elements, rainy, sunny, snowy. Or is it where you're people are? And who are your people? Your family? Friends? Both...? What if you don't feel at home where your family or 'old' friends reside?

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

Or maybe... maybe... we have multiple homes. Emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Maybe it's our spirit. 

 Source: @GirlGoneIntl

Maybe home is not where the heart is but where the spirit feels the most at peace. 

Maybe... we build homes and plant roots wherever and whenever we feel free. 

Where is home to you?

-AeBailey