Category Archives: Self Worth

Her Birthday is My Birth Day

Queen for a day, princess for a lifetime

Today is L’s birthday and the anniversary of the happiest day of my life. Realizing that we are now 6 years away from that glorious day makes me wistful and a bit sad. Buffering the dread of the continued demise of her innocence (2nd Miley Cyrus song purchased today) is the joy and pride of her birth.

I worked HARD to bring her into the world in as close to my terms as I could. No pain medication, a midwife instead of a doctor but still at a hospital, my mom there even though she struggled to watch me go through it (I think she asked for my epidural). My best friend video taped it. J was next to me, keeping me positive. After many, many hours and a few quick naps, my beautiful baby came into the world. My efforts drew Rock Star status in the O.B. wing. I glowed with love and pride.

True to kid form, L is celebrating her birthday as loudly as she can. A crown, a pretty dress, the class singing Happy Birthday. It is her day.

In my heart, in my mind, quietly, I celebrate her birthday as my day, too.

If You Weren’t Adding To Body Image Issues, I Might Buy Your Video

I love Gwyneth Paltrow. I admire her, I think she is beautiful, I think she is talented. She seems like a smart, sensible person who likes to have fun. I’m a smart, sensible person who likes to have fun.

I also admire her physique, which we do not share. Ms. Paltrow writes about her trainer, Tracy Anderson, like on this blog post about how she got into shape for the new Iron Man movie. In it, Paltrow links to an Anderson butt and leg work out you can buy. I’ve been to Anderson’s website and tried her 9 minute enticement video. It was pretty good.

But here’s the problem: Anderson used the word “perfect” when talking about the kind of body I can have. That seems wrong. I can’t have the perfect body because I don’t have the same DNA as Gwyneth Paltrow. Or any other other celebrity who has a body I think is amazing. I have my DNA, which is decidedly NOT perfect. I can lose weight but I’ll always have hips and boobs. End of story.

Words like “perfect” are red flags for taking advantage of people’s insecurities to sell weight loss products.

Then there’s the “baby food diet.” Apparently, Anderson is out touting her idea that women can eat baby food all day and then eat an adult meal and lose weight. It probably works. Baby food is low in calories and fat. But is healthy? What do doctors and nutritionists think of this diet? Is Anderson a nutritionist? It sounds crazy to me. Wrong. Again, manipulative. (Thankfully Paltrow admits to eating actual food – what I like about her – and gives some recipes on that blog post.)

Anderson is pretty but not real. She has the “I’m amazing!” look that women in the Victoria Secret catalogues have but she does it on her videos. She is mugging during the work out. That’s weird to me. I want my trainer to be a regular person who doesn’t think she is better than me, just further ahead.

The butt and leg video is interesting – my ass is showing my age more than my wrinkles do. If I give this woman my money, though, it says I approve of her sales message, which I don’t. In fact, I think it perpetuates a myth that is dangerous to women. So, she won’t be getting my money and I’ll have to live without knowing the secret to a smaller, perkier butt  and how to never need squats again.

And I have to admit that the more Ms. Paltrow helps Anderson sell that message without questioning it, it knocks her pedestal down a little.

I’m back even though I wasn’t gone.

Wow. January. My last post was in January. It’s worse than I thought.

I didn’t have much momentum on this thing anyway, but still, I know a few people read what I write and occasionally people say they like it. Still. January?  It is April. Yikes.

Mostly I stopped blogging because there was only one thing on my mind and I couldn’t write about it – J was laid off in February. Yes, it is something worth writing about but my husband is a private person where I am not and he really didn’t want me to share about it. He took it personally, like it was his personal failing that got him laid off.  Such is the burden of the male psyche.

I honored his need and didn’t tell anyone other than family and close friends.  We were terrified, to put it plainly. J had 5 weeks to find new work at his place of work (a big, big company) before his final day. At the 11th hour (meaning, the last hour of his last day of his job), he got hired by a new group. Once again, my husband triumphs. He is the best.

There you have it. I plan to keep writing because there are so many things to say. Like, my daughter is going to be six in May and I really don’t want her to grow up. Like, I’ve quit going to the gym because I don’t know what I am going there for since my body doesn’t even change for the better even when I go 5 days a week. Like, this bullying situation is really freaking me out even though my child is 6 and I don’t know how to contain my anxiety about it, since I am convinced it will happen to my child.

Things like that.

Catwalk vs. Rock Wall

Photo from AP, originally in http://www.dailymail.co.uk

I’ve been thinking a lot about my child’s birthday.  Hard not to, since she has been talking about her 6th birthday since 5 minutes after her 5th birthday. I discovered why that is, why kids are so focused on birthdays: they are a kid’s only source of power.  L says frequently, “I am NOT inviting so-and-so to my birthday!” Sorry, kid, everyone in class gets to come if they want.

Last year, we had a princess party. Friends came and dressed up, got their hair, nails and make-up done. Then, the guests played games and had cake. It was sweet and silly and pretty easy. I was pleased.

Over the summer and into Fall, L was invited to three girl birthdays and all were Princess Parties/Fashion Parties, or a combination. The first one was small – even the boys had knight costumes and, of course, fought with the plastic swords.  Mostly the girls ran around the house playing with toys and trying to get the birthday girl to be with them. It was quite low key.

The next party was similar to Lillian’s own with a twist. The girls dressed up in costumes, got their hair, nail and make-up done, learned a dance and then did a fashion show.  The place was tiny with chairs for the parents facing a small runway. L picked a Snow White dress, and I was relieved she didn’t pick the rockstar mid-driff bearing t-shirt.  Girls who were done being primped stood in a mirror and sang to themselves – they weren’t even playing together! The dance was okay and the fashion show was, well, disturbing. As I watched this display of “confidence” with all the parents cheering and laughing at the adorable kids (and some were really adorable), I had a sinking feeling. I mean, I spend all this time worrying about my child’s self-image while she is drenched in a culture that is set to destroy that self-image. It just seemed…wrong. This is a child’s fantasy? To play out being a model? What are we doing?

The next birthday party my husband attended because I was out of town. Apparently, it was a princess party (girls wore their own costumes) with Cinderella reading as story about manners, and then the girls took a CARRIAGE RIDE WITH A REAL HORSE around the neighborhood.  According to J, the house and the party were quite over the top (pictures show a stage with a movie marquee with the kid’s name on it), which isn’t surprising given the location. It’s a suburb that basically wrote the book on McMansions. At least the party dealt with being a Lady and not a model.

Why are we allowing our children, no, encouraging our children to engage in celebrity culture fantasy play? I have no issue with the general dress-up play, but having a bunch of parents “ooh” and “aah” over glittery eye shadow and an exposed belly is just wrong. What’s next? Fake papparazzi? A fake film premier with fake fans? Fake cocaine in the bathroom stalls?

Even though I told L I won’t discuss her birthday until March (actual birthday end of May), I have been thinking about it. And I’ve decided it is going to be a very athletic birthday. Something where the kids run around and get sweaty. Where they use their bodies in ways that helps their growth. Where they get to laugh and have fun being kids. Thankfully, my child is completely into the idea of having her party at our gym, which could include rock climbing or swimming if we choose.

I’m done pretending that a child’s most special day of the whole year is time to act like a prissy adult. As we know so well, getting to act like a kid is special enough.

Since When Are Strawberries the Enemy?

Forbidden Fruit

Forbidden Fruit

A lot has changed since we last met.  We moved into our new house, a home we finally own. We are done unpacking and are now in the “putting away/hanging pictures” stage. My daughter ended preschool and is on summer vacation. She hasn’t been out of school for this long in over a year, and we have 2.5 more months before Kindergarten. I am both excited to spend time with her as well as looking forward to her weeks of camp.

The latest development, however, is nothing short of a steamroller through my life, through my emotional well-being.  I have Interstitial Cystitis.  Basically, it is a condition where the mucus membrane of the bladder disintegrates, no longer protecting the lining of the bladder from the urine it holds. So, I feel like I have a Urinary Tract Infection all of the time but without the infection.

Here are two links: layperson friendly and technical.

I know what you want to know: what is the treatment? Well, no treatments work 100%. Or even 60%.  Medication works only 30% of the time, you have to take it for 4-6 months and it causes hair loss while you take it. There are other therapies but I am not in that much pain. I am annoyed and uncomfortable but I wouldn’t call it “pain,” like someone who is doubled over with an inflamed bladder and has to crawl to the bathroom. Thankfully, I am not like that and it might not get that bad.  It is bad enough, however, that it can’t be ignored.

The recommended way to stop an I.C. attack is through diet. The less acid in my bladder the less it hurts. Check out what I can’t eat (this is abridged for space):

  • Most fruits (except blueberries, pears and melon)
  • tomatoes and onions
  • Anything with vinegar (ie: salad dressings and marinades, condiments)
  • fruit juice, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, any drinks with bubbles
  • meat with nitrates, tofu
  • aged cheese, yogurt (I can eat string cheese, cottage cheese, American)
  • anything spicy
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol

If you followed me around all day, you would see that everything I eat is on this list, except for my beloved sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables.   At this point, I eat a lot of blueberries and am practically drowning in water.  The list might not seem so bad, but when I say it is everything I eat, I am not kidding. We practically live on chicken apple sausage.  My husband cooks with loads of spices. And I can eat a tomato like an apple (and often do…or did).

I am passionate about eating. I love strong flavors like gruyere cheese and meat grilled with spices and herbs. I drink wine, often. Olives! Pickles! Nectarines! Food is a way J and I experience life, especially when we don’t have family in town and rarely have a sitter.  In place of going out to fancy restaurants and dining ourselves into bankruptcy, my husband makes delicious meals accompanied by wine or beer. Every night is date night in our household.

The change in diet has brought on a lot of anxiety and sadness for me, and it isn’t only because of how much I love Jardine’s steak rub.

In college,  a therapist and a dietitian helped me work through compulsive eating. To give myself comfort from the never ending barrage of insults I threw at myself, I ate constantly. Especially at night. Especially peanut butter. (I stopped buying it but ended up eating my roommates’ jars. Yes, JARS.)  Eating was the only way I knew to fill the pit of my stomach that was always in knots from my constant questioning: Why am I so ugly? Why am I so stupid? Why am I so worthless?

Over the years, I have worked through the self-hatred and the eating has subsided. Mostly. I can normally talk myself out of the behavior and walk out of a store with nothing to gulp down by the handfuls. PMS often brings on some kind of crazy eating, but now I share my experience with my husband and I’m done.

However, I also need to feel that all food is accessible to me. I assume this is related to the compulsive eating somehow. Even when I diet for weightloss I can NEVER have a category of food off limits. Limited in intake? I can handle that. Off limits? I’ll eat even more. The feeling of punishment is simply too strong to overcome the “no-carb” diet. If I can’t eat a food that some skinnier, prettier woman can, then it proves what I always knew about me: I am stupid, ugly and worthless. So, I eat lots of healthy food and sometimes not so healthy food.

So I am completely boxed in here. I have no choice in what I can eat. At restaurants, I am one of those annoying people who has to ask what is in everything and ask the waitress to take things off (next time you are at a restaurant and about to order a salad, try taking off the bacon, tomatoes, onion and dressing and see if it is even worth buying anymore). I stare at strawberries in our fridge and want to cry. I miss juice. I miss yogurt. I miss eating what I want when I want.

This blog was never meant to be about anything in particular. I don’t intend for that to change. But having I.C. will definitely be a theme, as well as food and the psychology of eating. Because if there is one thing I am definitely no expert at, it’s how to maintain my sanity while being told what I can and can not eat.

Eat a strawberrty today, and think of me.

What Is

Today is my birthday.

The past 4 months or so have been stressful and I realize now that I have been making them so.  Last summer I was the Campaign Manager for a guy running for U.S. House.  I was busy.  I loved it.  I liked working for Tom, I liked working with volunteers, I liked having a purpose.  He lost and the campaign ended.

Since then, I have been clamoring to keep myself at that level of busy.  I worked on my marketing business, worked on my sales business, began this blog, began my dating book, etc.  In the past couple of months I became Vice President of a new Democratic group in town.  But I wasn’t happy.

I’d call my good friend and fret over taking on too much but still feeling unfulfilled.  She suggested I get a regular job.  She felt that staying at home with L just wasn’t enough for me and none of my projects were at the point of full operation – they were all start-ups, basically.  “You need to be with other women, create friendships, wear cute clothes, have something to do,” was the basic message.  And in some ways, she is right.  I do thrive in that environment.

I thought about her suggestion and decided it wasn’t for me.  I liked the sound of it but it is more complicated than that.  First, I’d have a boss, something I really don’t want. Second, I’d have to somehow take care of my family while working, something I didn’t want to do. And third, I like being at home and the feeling of freedom I have to do what I want (provided I take care of my family).

“What?” I asked myself.  “Did you just say you like being at home?”  It shouldn’t have been a surprise.  I have always loved the sense of freedom as a freelancer and I like being spontaneous, something an 8-5 job doesn’t offer.   Most importantly to J and I is raising L and being there for her in these early years.  So where does that leave me?  It leaves me with what already is: I am a stay-at-home-mom.  A homemaker.  A housewife.  That is my job.

Wow.  What a relief!  Since I have allowed myself to be what I actually am, I am much happier.  When L goes to school, I work on the two projects most important to me right now and the rest of the time I read, write my blog, clean the house, do laundry, run errands – but no rushing.  I’m not frantic like I was.  I feel peaceful.

I realize now how fortunate I am that I don’t have to work.  That’s right, I said it, in the face of the nation’s almost total economic meltdown.  For the lifestyle that we live, I don’t have to work.  Bills get paid, we can afford some new clothes, we go out to dinner from time to time…life is good.  We are happy.  For a while I felt pressured to bring in money so we could buy a house.  We are now looking at smaller homes using the money we have already saved.

I am grateful that my husband works hard to create the life I get to live.  He has few expectations of me (short of making sure I pick up L at school and managing our budget so we never overdraw on our checking account, he’s good).  With layoffs always looming, I know this might not last so I am enjoying it while I can.  And, perhaps most importantly, I am admitting it: I’m a housewife.

So what have I done so far on my birthday?  Well, I cleaned poop off the bathroom floor, plunged the toilet, got more laundry done, put dishes away, took my daughter to school, and stayed home while the carpet cleaner was here.  I am looking forward to taking L to dance class and then reserving a date for her “Get Doted On” birthday party in May.  I’ll get some writing done on an article and run to the mall for a few errands.

A typical day for me, and now, really, a perfect day.

What Was

If you read this post, you’d know that in honor of my 40th birthday I addressed the things that I dreamed about that I didn’t accomplish.  It was a way to be complete, to let go of old dreams to make room for new.

I had said that I was going to write a list of my accomplishments.  I wrote the list on paper, sitting in my car while waiting for L to finish her piano class.  It felt fine to do it, but I am not going to put it on my blog.  It seems…too…self-indulgent.  Besides, this way when I need some crazy story about my past, I haven’t already used it for a list.

Interestingly, after I wrote the list, I didn’t feel better about myself.  I didn’t feel a surge of confidence or more clarity about what I am supposed to do next.  Funny.  I thought I would.  Especially after looking at the things I hadn’t accomplished.  But I knew all of those already and so many were, frankly, old.  I thought, “If my old high school friends read this, it would sound sad.”

So where does that leave me?  Tonight, I’m not sure.  Been rough with my daughter the past few weeks, I’m struggling to write this unwieldy, overwhelming article where I have to act like a real reporter and confront public officials about unworkable policies (never done that before), and I need to have three different confronting personal conversations, none of which I want to have.  I’m not much in the mood to create big plans or tout my own successes.

Right now, I need a plan to get through this week.  A plan for the rest of my life will have to wait.

What Wasn’t

This post is about completion, not regret.

People have a hard time with the difference.  Talking about what was not to be is heard as an expression of regret: “disappointed over something, especially a missed opportunity.”  But if I don’t speak of my dreams that never happened, then I am also guilty of shoving those dreams under the rug to pretend that I didn’t care about them.  And that wouldn’t be true.  At some point, I spent time trying to accomplish these goals.  And, at some point, I quit.

I want to feel “complete” about the things that never happened and that won’t, now that I am 40.  “Complete” is more of a declaration than a feeling, really.  I say, “I’m complete about that” as a way to close that door without remorse, without sadness.  Being complete comes after the catharsis, after the tears are shed and a deep breath is taken.  It is said in that space between letting go and creating something new.

The following is a list of things I wanted to do but never did and now, given that I am (almost) 40 and a mom and wife, won’t.  It’s okay.  I have other dreams.  I need to let these go so I can make room for more.
  1. Lead Singer in a Rock Band: I love to sing and I crave self-expression.  I admire singers who allow themselves to be real and raw in front of an audience, who are completely themselves.  I envisioned being a version of myself whose only outlet is loud music and a room fully of happy, tipsy people trying to get laid.  (I sang in high school and joined a few bands in college, none of them leading anywhere.)  And, no, Karoake, while fun, isn’t the same thing.

    The song was, "I Touch Myself."  What did you expect?

    The song was, "I Touch Myself." What did you expect?

  2. Be Subject of Interview for Something, Anything, on NPR: I’ve come to realize that my life is simply too normal to be interviewed about anything on NPR.  Not that they only interview people with crazy lives – some are extraordinarily great, some are extraordinarily sad.  Of course I would prefer to be on the great side.  I wish I had invented some cool product or been at the forefront of some scientific breakthrough, or was an expert on something that is deemed important by the U.S. intelligentsia.  Alas, as a SAHM and a wife living in a Texas suburb, I don’t fall into any of those categories.  Sure, I could eventually do something NPR worthy, but I don’t see my current dreams moving in that direction.  NPR fame will have to pass me by this time around.
  3. Excel at an Artistic Expression (Besides Writing): For a while it was photography, then using keys (yes, keys) creatively, then just decorating my home in a fabulous way.  None of them have come true at this point.  The house is still a possibility, but did you notice how much it costs to decorate a room?  Yikes.  Besides, we have to buy a house first.
  4. Hob-Nob with Famous People: Not all famous people, just those who inspire me.  I won’t name names, that would be too embarrassing (as though this dream isn’t embarrassing enough!).
  5. Make a Difference on a Global Scale: When I was in college, I was part of the team that brought Earth Day back to campus.  It was a huge, and successful, effort.  I wanted to do more but there were so many areas to impact: the environment, the Iraq war (#1), women’s issues – I couldn’t pick which one I wanted to change the most.  So, I didn’t pick.  After a 20 year hiatus from organized activism, I am back in the game.  Only now I see my contribution as much more local and on a smaller scale – helping those right here in my community.  Doesn’t have the bluster of “World Leader in Environmental Change” but as I already noted from a previous post, I’m good with that.
  6. Be A Model: When I was in middle school, I had a modeling audition but left my Polaroid photo at home.  My mom was pissed!  (“I took you out of school and got your hair done for nothing?!”) I felt to guilty to ask again after that.  In high school, I got an actual body that simply isn’t model material.  The desire for public approval of my looks is not my proudest desire, nor my strongest – I haven’t had plastic surgery nor do I starve myself to look like a model.  I have been toying with the idea of setting up a photo shoot as though I was one (a friend did it and posted the photos on FB – I was annoyed and jealous) but financially this makes no sense.  I think it is time to let this one go.
  7. Be Rich So I Can Give Away Money: Make no mistake – if I were rich, I’d be sporting some serious jewelry first.  But after the diamonds and the Kelly bag purchase, I wish I could help those in need more than I already do, those close to me and organizations I believe in.  I wish I could afford a new car so I could help my cousin keep her job with GM.  I’d like to pay my parents back for my college education (not that they expect it).  I’d like to help my friends when they are in financial straits (more than a few of them now). I’d like to give significant money to organizations like Planned Parenthood, ACLU and Heifer International.  Money doesn’t solve all problems but it does solve some problems, and many organizations need money to solve problems.  I likely won’t have that kind of cash, though, so my small donations will suffice.  I know they won’t turn them away.

There.  Now you know what a young woman sitting in the UofM Law Library dreamt about while not writing her “Poli Sci 325: Political Philosophy” paper.  Looking at them like this, I see that the ideas behind the dreams are worth keeping (self-expression, creativity, charity); only the vehicles to fulfilling the ideas need to go.  If you feel so compelled, share with me what dreams you have given up to make room for new ones.  I’d love to hear.

Also, the next post will be about what I have accomplished in my 40 years, a kind of “list of things you don’t know about me.”  Except the list is more for me to take stock and be proud of myself as I move into a new decade.  And you get to marvel at what I have done.

For What I’m Worth

For five years I lead seminars for a company offering personal transformation courses.  The training program for seminar leaders is one of the most rigorous leadership programs in the country.  I probably put 30 hours of volunteer time a week: calling participants, listening to training tapes, coaching calls, in-office training sessions.  My life was about being a seminar leader – everything else was second.

It was a lot of work but my reward was directly changing people’s lives.  I could (and was expected to) help someone go from never speaking to her Mom to calling her mom on the phone and offering an apology.  That ability was the epitome of empowerment: I was empowered to help my seminar participants and they were empowered to make their lives better.

Being a seminar leader offered something else, something I have never been able to replace: when I walked into a room, people listened to me.  Not because I was “all powerful” but because of what I could offer as a seminar leader.  Mostly it wasn’t personal, although I had a lot of friends at the office I volunteered at.  I could be any where in the world and with that particular name badge on, people paid attention to what I had to say.  The organization called this “being known” – an acknowledgment of who someone is and that they make a difference.  Everyone was “known” at this company (meaning, everyone was thought to make a difference) but certainly the more people volunteered, and the more responsible they were to the company, the more they were known in this way.  I loved that feeling of being cared about by so many people and listened to like what I had to say mattered.  That feeling was how I determined my self-worth.  I mattered to others so I mattered to me.

My life is very different now.  I spend most of my time either alone or with my child.  L loves me but she doesn’t relate to me in this way – she isn’t capable of appreciation yet.  J loves me and appreciates me, but he can’t provide that same feeling of self-worth that I got while leading (nor should he).  I’d never go back to that life where others came before me and my family nor am I in sync with the company anymore.  So if I am not making a difference at that same level and that is where I fueled my self-worth, how do I fuel it now?   What can possibly compare to that?

The past 12 months have been a lesson in futility to answer this question.  I have discovered that nothing will compare.  Leading those seminars is a “gold chalice” kind of experience, one that can’t be duplicated and is put up on a pedestal never to be reached again.  I keep trying, though.  I begin projects in the hope that I might replicate that feeling of being known and mattering to others only to be disappointed, depressed and self-depreciating.  I am writing a book that intends to make a difference for people but writing is a lonely art form replete with self-doubt.  Attempts to lead in Democratic circles have been met with either indifference or outright resistance.  I love my blog because I love writing, but the game of increasing views and comments is exhausting.  And Twitter popularity? Oh, goodness, I am trapped like a rat on a sinking ship on that one.

Nothing I am doing now is enough to fill the void as long as actions I do now are compared to an irreplaceable past.  I can’t win even though I’m the referee.

Abraham Lincoln believed that “ideas of a person’s worth are tied to the way others, both contemporaries and future generations, perceive him.” (pg. 100, Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin)  Clearly this philosophy motivated him to be one of our greatest presidents, but for regular people, I don’t agree.  I think this is a trap that leads us to a never ending future of worrying about how our contemporaries view us.  And future generations?  That is more weight on my shoulders than I am willing to bear.   I am beginning to get the feeling that my self-worth is based only on the value that I give it.  I could look through my life and say, “I didn’t win a Nobel Peace Prize, a Pulitzer or an Oscar, so I guess I’m not worth much.”  Or I could say, “I did great things when I was dedicated to making a difference.  Those people’s lives are never the same because of me, so I am worth a lot.”

Rather than look to what I did or didn’t do before to determine my value, I’ve decided to simply say “I am worth a lot” and let the feeling of self-worth motivate me to do great (though perhaps small) things.  I’m starting with volunteering at a local non-profit community support organization that helps people in crisis with paying bills, rent and gas, provides groceries through its food pantry and goods through its resale store.  It isn’t a room of one hundred people hanging on my every word, but I know that when I walk in the door for my volunteer shift, people in that office will be very glad to see me.