Woman in the Mirror

Every morning I wake up and go to war.

As I wash, I wonder what strategy my enemy is going to use on me today. Will she pounce on me as I prepare myself first thing this morning, or will she slowly poison me every hour throughout the day?

Either way, if she wins, it will darken the entire day. My open wounds will bleed into every encounter, every situation. I’ll find adversaries in friends, ill-wishers in loved ones. Every ray of sunshine will have a cloud, and if there’s no cloud I’ll find one in the far, far distance and stare it into being.

If she wins (and she’s a very worthy opponent–skilled and experienced and trained in the art of uncovering vulnerabilities), she will wreak havoc on every aspect of my life.

She’s won battle after battle. Preying on a thoughtful little girl with big daydreams. Unrelenting, not letting go, not even for a minute. Not ever.

Pinning down a sensitive, searching teenager and breathing hatred into the lungs. Coiling around the heart and sinking in her venomous teeth, poison carousing through the body until choking and sputtering, the white flag was raised.

I give up.

You win.

Take my body and my heart too.

Take my soul.

I’m too weak to fight.  

While the battle is now less bloody, the enemy lingers, more of a silent assassin than a barbarian warrior–a dark spectre at the periphery, brushing her wings ever-so-lightly here and there, so as to let her presence remain a constant. Slowly sucking up joy like an invisible vampire, casting a shadow on the loveliest days.

I’m here, she reminds me. I’m here in case you get too comfortable, too strong. Too loving.

I’m here. You’ve been mine for so long that we’re almost friends, you and I. 

No need to focus your attention on anything else. No need to try to forget me. I’ll always be here for you, your constant companion. Together, we can continue to live a half-life. 

Keep your enemies close …

She’ll continue to win. She’ll continue to keep her stranglehold on me and life will ramble on as before, a little bit darker, a little bit emptier.

Unless.

Unless I rise up and fight back with every ounce of power and strategy she’s used against me.

Unless I decide that I want a full life, a rich life, and I can’t with her so close.

Unless I laugh in her face and see her for what she is she is. Not ignore her or minimize her presence, but fully acknowledge her special assignment on my life and fight back fire with fire.

Not to forget the scars she’s left, the battles she’s won in the past and the post-war ruin. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say, so then my strength must be immeasurable. I can crush serpents beneath my feet, a twenty-first century Eve. I can hold my sword high and ask for Help, and know that I have it.

I can rise from the ashes of a lifetime of destruction and come back as the fierce beauty bent on reclaiming that which was stolen. The diamond dazzling from years of fire.

I can wake every morning with the song of victory on my lips, aware that this is a battle of the flesh, the mind, and the spirit. This is a war greater than just me and her, and good will triumph over evil.

So I’ll be vigilant, mindful, intentional. I’ll fight back with gentleness, love, care. I’ll show my scars to a broken world and my words will be a healing balm on millions of warrior brides blind to their own weapons. I’ll sing a new song of joy–a battle cry to drown out the world’s deafening clatter.

I’ll wake up and not forget my armour.

I’ll lock eyes with my enemy in the mirror and declare that the war’s not over.

It’s only just begun.

 

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel — Genesis 3:15

 

Woman at a Mirror by Theo van Rysselberghe (1907) [photo courtesy of WikiPaintings]

Woman at a Mirror by Theo van Rysselberghe (1907) [photo courtesy of WikiPaintings]

Let Them Eat Cake

[photo courtesy of google image search]

You did NOT just make a comment about my weight! [photo courtesy of google image search]

The scene takes place anywhere women are gathered and there happens to be food.

Woman 1 grabs a chicken wrap and begins eating it.

Woman 2: You’re eating a wrap? I thought you said you’re not working out today! Shame on you! You’re not going to be able to work that off!

Woman 1 [with her mouth full of chicken wrap]: Uhhhh … I was hungry? And … I’m going to the gym four times a week?

Woman 3: Oh, you’re going to the gym now? You want to be a Skinny Minnie?

Woman 1: Uhhhh … not exactly, I just want to be healthy and able to walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath [congratulates herself on not “weighing in” on the undercurrent of body shame present in so many conversations women have with each other]

Woman 4: Yeah, I hear ya. Me too.

Woman 3: What are you talking about, Woman 4? You’re skinny!

[At which point Woman 1 leaves, enraged]

CAN WE STOP TALKING LIKE THIS TO EACH OTHER, PLEASE?

All of the body shaming and monitoring what each other eats and how much we exercise REALLY needs to stop.

It’s just not cool, and it’s not appropriate.

There are just SO many things wrong with the above scene, I don’t even know where to start. And the thing is, it seems like your everyday conversation between women when there’s food around and you may think it’s not that bad.

That’s the point. We talk this way to each other and we’re not realizing how stupid and invasive it is.

1.  First of all, if someone is hungry, at some point they’re going to put food in their body. That’s generally how it works.

2.  Secondly, it is absolutely 100% NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS when, how, if, and what someone eats. None whatsoever.

Here’s a question for you. When is it appropriate to make a comment about someone’s eating habits?

a) When they’re overweight and they’re indulging in a second cupcake

b) When they’re thin and indulging in a second cupcake

c) When they’re average-sized and indulging in a second cupcake

d) When they’re getting married soon and indulging in a cupcake*

e) If they exercised that day

f) If they didn’t exercise that day

The correct answer is NONE OF THE ABOVE!

3.  Someone should never, ever have to explain why they’re eating something. Whether they’re eating because they’re hungry, or bored, or just because the food is there, guess whose business it is? Not yours.

4.  People go to the gym for all kinds of reasons. To get fit, to be healthy, to participate in group exercise classes, to be social, to reduce stress, to train, to build up strength, etc. Yes, a lot of people go to the gym to lose weight and yes, that was the reason I gave the people at the gym when they asked why I signed up, but. A far more self-loving, and feasible goal should be health, rather than losing weight, which brings me to my last point.

5.  Skinny does not automatically mean healthy! There are plenty of skinny woman out there who, I’m sure, would not be able to climb up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. Also, are only not-skinny people supposed to want to be healthy? Are thin people not allowed to say they want to get healthy? I don’t get it.

So please. Mind your own business. Stop body shaming, stop monitoring what your friends eat and whether or not they’ve worked out, and let them eat cake. Or chicken wraps. Or whatever.

* based on true event

The Secret

I’m pushing thirty and I’m finally realizing something. And I’m going to use a lot of exclamation points and all-caps because I’m pretty excited about sharing it with you.

This is my body.

This is my face.

This is how I look.

I’m realizing how little looks really matter, and how an obsession with them is just an ANXIETY/DEPRESSION/NEGATIVITY spiral.

photo courtesy of weheartit.com

photo courtesy of weheartit.com

I’ve known this, but it never stopped the evil thoughts from getting into my head, telling me I’m FAT and UGLY, FAT and UGLY, FAT and UGLY.

You know what?

No. Just … no.

I’m getting it now.

If you feel good, you’ll look good. You’ll radiate positivity and joy, which will attract joyful and positive people to you. And you’ll only feel good if you’re happy, and you’re only happy if you have positive thoughts in your head, and the only way you’ll have positive thoughts in your head is if you put them there, and if you tell negativity: “NOPE! Not giving in! Not entertaining those thoughts!”

Because I’m realizing–and, with the wisdom that comes from age–understanding that everything is designed, manufactured, and marketed to prey on FEAR: that you’re too OLD, FAT, UGLY, and POOR. And models are chosen very carefully to perpetuate this idea that if you buy this, do this, consume this, you’ll be YOUNG, THIN, HOT, and RICH. Therefore, happy.

Pure lies, my friends.

Really, if you look at some of the youngest, thinnest, hottest, and richest people out there, they’re absolutely miserable, empty, and constantly trying to fill their void with something that will make them happy and fulfilled.

It’s slowly dawning on me, and it only took 28 years to figure out:

YES, there is SO much more to life than YOUNG/THIN/HOT/RICH.

There’s a whole big wide world out there to taste and see and experience and there are no requirements, no magic cures that will change you because

YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE.

It’s contrary to everything society has ever told you. To look it square in the greedy, empty face and say “NO THANK YOU” is to unlock an indescribable freedom, a happiness they’re trying to sell you but can’t, because you already have it! Inside you! All along!

And you didn’t have to spend a cent!

You can do anything when you’re not obsessed with trying to look younger, thinner, hotter, richer.

You can:

  • paint a picture
  • have dance parties in your car
  • start new blogs
  • write incredible novels
  • accept that your belly pooch is a part of you and may never ever go away, no matter how many stomach crunches you do (yup).
  • volunteer your time
  • donate the money you would’ve spent on all the extra crap
  • cure cancer
  • do a motivational speech
  • eat mangoes naked (what up, SARK?)
  • conduct science experiments
  • blow bubbles with the kids in your life
  • play volleyball or swim at the beach with reckless abandon
  • walk in front of a group of people without worrying how you look
  • fall in love with songs that make your eyes close
  • get to know someone intimately, without fear, without expectation, without self-consciousness
  • speak from your heart
  • solve crimes
  • stand up for what you believe in
  • do all the things that make you a better person–a kinder, gentler, happier, healthier, more passionate and principled and intelligent person, putting your energy into stuff that makes you truly happy.

Have I discovered the true meaning of life?

Maybe not.

But I know what it’s not, and it’s the crap that’s held me captive for far, far too long.

Let’s celebrate, guys.

Let’s raise our glasses to a life of pure freedom.

photo courtesy of google image search

photo courtesy of google image search

Hey there, Hot Stuff!

Why be you when you can be me?

Remember this commercial from the Concerned Children’s Advertisers? I know it’s pretty old, but the message is as important now as it was then.

I have three confessions to make, blogosphere:

  1. I’ve felt very plain lately. Not ugly, which is a whole other issue, but not beautiful either. Just plain. I know, I know, they’re just emotions that don’t have any bearing on the truth, but I’m just being honest with you.
  2. I’m a Facebook lurker. Especially of younger girls. It’s not as creepy as it sounds. I just get curious sometimes about the girls I babysat or taught Sunday School — the ones that maybe, perhaps, looked up to me at some point in their lives — and I want to see how they’ve grown up and how they’re doing. Basically, I’m interested in the teens and young twentysomethings of today and how youth culture has changed since I was there not too long ago.  And yes, it really has changed a lot in only 5-6 years. I’m not just saying that because I’m an old lady.
  3. I can be pretty judgmental.  You already knew that, didn’t you?  Maybe observational, perceptive, and discerning are better words, but if the shoe fits ….

These three confessions have led me to think long and hard about something:

It seems as though — perhaps now more urgently than ever — there is a lie permeating our culture that to be hot, to be sexy, is of the utmost importance. And not hot or sexy according to your own standards, but hot and sexy according to the very thin, narrow (pun intended) dictates of modern society.  To be considered good-looking is more desirable than being intelligent, altruistic, kind, spiritual, or moral. The closer you are to society’s standards of beautiful, the better of a person you are.

What? How does that even make sense?

But we don’t think about it.  It’s just there.

Look at the way these young, impressionable girls represent themselves on Facebook.  Skin-tight dresses, short skirts, Hollywood hair, and the poses … chest out, butt out, stomach sucked in, cameras held at an angle to show off cleavage, precocious smiles, hugging each other in a way they know would drive the boys wild … And these are the Christian girls.  Modesty, what?

Of course, in doesn’t end in the teenage years. I’ve noticed that even — if not especially — in the Christian counterculture, there is an unsettling focus on appearances. Think about the compliments we give each other, the comments we make on our friends’ Facebook pictures. Instead of, “Wow, you’re such a strong woman,” “you’re an inspiration to all of us,” and “you have a sweet, gentle spirit,” it’s stuff like, “Sexy Mama!,” “Hey there, Hot Stuff!” and “you are so freaking gorgeous!”

It’s kind of embarrassing.

What if we focussed on what really matters, our inner selves, rather than putting so much stock in how we look?  This challenge was put forth recently by pastor Bruxy Cavey from The Meeting House in a recent series titled Get Over Yourself: Rebelling Against the Culture of Narcissism. Do yourself a favour and listen to the sermon called Appearance: The Culture of Hot, which you can listen to here.  He challenges us to work harder cultivating an inner beauty rather than an outer beauty, and to compliment each other on stuff that counts. It’s quite a rebellious way of thinking. He also asks: “What if plain is the new hot?

What if we truly rebelled against culture and refused to believe the lie that our looks are what make us? What if we spent more time in the morning making ourselves spiritually and intellectually hot than outwardly hot?  What if we taught the new generation of girls that being beautiful on the outside, in the long run, doesn’t really matter all that much?  That focussing on that stuff is just a way to distract them from being who they were truly meant to be?

What if?

The Top 5 Songs about Low Self-Esteem

photo courtesy of www.ffffound.com

photo courtesy of http://www.ffffound.com

I was taking a walk tonight and listening to “Creep” by Radiohead, one of my all-time favourite tunes to listen to and sing in Rock Band.  I love how the lyrics nakedly describe the alienating sensation of feeling like a creep and not belonging, along with the insistent desire for perfection.  This led me to take a look at my iTunes and consider how many songs are dedicated to being a loser, a loner, a lacklustre wallflower, inspiring a small, simple list.

I tried to stray away from songs about low self-esteem as a result of drug addiction (Alice in Chains, most NIN, Jane’s Addiction, aptly named), eating disorders (Silverchair dominates the “S” section of my iTunes) and anything suicide-related.  Heaven knows there’s so much of that.

Instead, here are (in my opinion) some of the best when it comes to letting your geek flag fly.

5.  “Don’t Let Me Get Me”–Pink

Yeah, yeah.  Pink would never find a place on my sacred iPod, and her breed of pop makes me shudder, but you can’t ignore the genuineness of this tough, scrappy anti-popstar belting it out about not being pretty enough for Hollywood.  Who hasn’t wanted to be somebody else?  Who hasn’t felt like they were their own worst enemy?  Sure, the song may be way overplayed and the pop singer overrated, but the honesty and depth in these lyrics have always struck me.

4.  “I’m a Loser”–Beck

I first heard this song when I was between the ages of 10-12 at Roller Gardens with my best friend Elizabeth.  I probably wore a Scrunchie in my hair and was probably rocking a Northern Getaway sweater.  I was hot shit, man.  This song was playing, because it was popular then.  I remember going home slightly disturbed and telling my mom that there was this song at Roller Gardens about this guy who was a loser and wanted someone to kill him.  Definitely a far cry from DC Talk and Psalty the Singing Psalter Hymnal!

The beat is addictive, the lyrics kind of postmodern and tongue-in-cheek, I’m pretty sure I still don’t know what the song is “about,” I’m still not certain if I like/admire Beck or if I find him arcane and off-putting, but the chorus says it all: “I’m a loser baby / So why don’t you kill me.” 

3.  “I’m a Loser”–The Beatles

What I love about The Beatles is that they’re so prolific and I’m constantly coming across songs I’ve never heard before.  In this cheeky nod to Bob Dylan, the refrain states: “I’m a loser, and I’ve lost someone who’s near to me / I’m a loser and I’m not what I appear to be.”  According to legend, John Lennon said the song was about how he constantly felt like a loser throughout his life.  That’s what I love about John Lennon, the oddball artist who suffered from too much fame: he was never afraid to show his unpolished side, unlike Paul McCartney (recent Heather Mills scandal aside). 

2.  “Creep”–Radiohead

Probably my favourite Radiohead song.  Ever.  This anthem of the ugly and unpopular has been amazing me ever since it was released.  The overlooked intensity of someone not fabulous enough to catch another’s eye is stunning.  The desire to be special, to be noticed, to have a perfect body / perfect soul / control even if it hurts is sung so beautifully with Thom Yorke’s enviable vocals.  It has also produced one of the best covers I’ve ever heard: check out Damien Rice’s acoustic version of “Creep.”  The raw emotion will blow you away and the lyrics will cut even deeper when stripped down to its essentials.

1.  “I Wish”–Skee-lo

I couldn’t resist.  This song tops the list because it’s such an anomaly among other rap and hip-hop artists, in the world of over-inflated egos and “My car is bigger than yours, my ice is more dope than yours, I got more hos than you, I got a mansion, I got better rhymes than you”, etc.  I’ve blogged about the wonders of this song before, so I don’t need to remind you that Skee-lo is so refreshingly honest about being short, driving a hatchback, being picked last when they’re making teams, and sucking at basketball.  Dag, y’all.

* Honourable mention: “Hurt”–NIN, covered by Johnny Cash

The beauty of this song lies in the chorus: “What have I become? […] I will let you down.  I will make you hurt.”  Such a sad and self-assured confession.  I love what someone on YouTube said about this song: Trent Reznor sings it like a man wanting to die.  Johnny Cash sings it like a man who knows he’s going to die soon.

On that happy note, go listen to Skee-lo and get your groove thang on.