Body Image is a B*tch

The first month of 12 Stepping Through 2017 is nearly over! How did this happen? It feels like only yesterday 2017 was starting fresh.

So here we are. Remembering that we are indeed, powerless, to so many things. Acknowledging our shortcomings against life’s vices, whatever they may be. As January, the month of typically meaningless New Year’s Resolutions rolls to a close, I couldn’t help but choose something I am powerless against that defines the beginning of nearly every year.

I am powerless against body image.

Now yes, if you hold yourself accountable to all of your other “powerless” mantras, it should be easy to reject and overcome a negative body image. It fits almost directly into last week’s powerlessness over judgement: you cannot control the body image that is projected on to you. You cannot control what mass media, social normality, and the fashion industry/atmosphere deem “acceptable”. You can only control yourself. But this time of year…do we lose that control?

I have always struggled with weight, in the eyes of my peers more than my own. As a teen, I loved to cook. It helped me escape from the insanity that was my home life: it was ridged, exact, and methodical. Of course, if you cook a lot, you must eat a lot, and as such it became harder and harder to lose weight, despite being a relatively active person who loved horseback riding and being outside.

Unlike many, I went to college and lost weight. Without a kitchen to help me regulate my stress (and more importantly without an alcoholic I had to mother breathing down my neck) I lost track of my food intake. I ate three square meals a day, rarely snacked, and joined the dance team which required rigorous exercise. I fit into clothes I never had before. I never was exceptionally thin, and never got below a size 6, but I felt proud of myself for my accomplishments.

Now, 10 years later, I’m out of graduate school (let alone undergraduate), living with my boyfriend, drinking occasionally (this will be a post all to itself: drinking as the child of an alcoholic is it’s own monster), and just trying to be happy. I’m a solid 8-10, so not overweight, but not normal for my 5’3 frame either.

Now all of this may sound like I am confident in the way I look, or my weight, or that body images don’t plague me. Negative. I am powerless to the desire to fit some mold that wasn’t made for me. I force myself to the gym. I take extra dance and aerobic exercises. I monitor my water intake and I try to pay attention to the calories I ingest. Does it change anything? Not really. I have been stuck at my solid state for quite some time. I look in the mirror and am not blatantly unhappy with what I see…but I’m not stoked either. I don’t like my thighs. I don’t like my stomach. I hate my natural curves (which are boxy at best). Body image is a perpetual roller coaster of emotions; and I am powerless to get off the ride.

So whose fault is it that I am powerless against body image? Who can I blame for the fact that I can’t look in the mirror and tick off the positives without also harping on the negatives? Is it me? Am I striving for perfection that I can’t obtain? As a perfectionist, the fact that the hours I put into the gym don’t show up in immediate results is maddening. Do I need to accept that some people are just BUILT a certain way? Or is the real culprit the mass media? The fashion moguls? The vanity sizing? Is it really my fault that I’m angry I don’t have a thigh gap when NO one actually has one outside of an airbrushing lab? Should I blame myself when I can’t fit in a size 10 in certain stores, when studies have shown that sizes can actually be three to four times too small (or too big) in order to influence your shopping?

This year, I have taken on a new mantra to fix my body image issues. Yes, body image issues are a forefront of most New Year’s Resolutions, but to live my life by the 12 steps to the fullest, I am taking on a new outlook to my own body image. I cannot fix the stores. I cannot fix the magazines. But I can acknowledge that I cannot out do them, and I can acknowledge that my own standards are unnecessarily off the mark. I’ve begun tracking my calories and my water intake: not to lose weight, but to better balance my portions to include wholesome, healthy foods and to flush my system of unnecessary drinkable sugars. I try to go to the gym 4 times a week for a good, intense strengthening workout…not to push myself unnecessarily on the treadmill. I watch videos by trainers (looking at you blogilates!) who embrace everything I want to see in myself as “physically fit”: smart, motiving, true to one’s own self, and carefree. I treat myself to at least one (usually 2) cheat meals a week, where I can cook to relax and not care how many pounds of pasta I might ingest. I shop to find clothes that FIT well, enhance my straight curves, and highlight my best assets…without noticing the number.

This new process is not easy. In 25 days, I have pissed myself off more times than I can count. BUT I am embracing my body image. I am accepting myself. I am embodying the 12 steps to live a fuller life…and for January, I can’t really ask for more.

-Joanie

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…Why Must We Judge At All?

On this inauguration day, it’s time to talk about the thing people urge you not to talk about but is SO prevalent in today’s society: politics.

I am a log cabin republican. We are real, I promise. We are the republicans who believe in some strong, core, true republican values: strong national defense, limited government, low taxes, and individual liberty. We are typically comprised of hard working, middle class Americans who believe in the value of hard work, free market, and success through determination. Log cabin republicans are different than traditional due to our break from the “moral high ground” typically emphasized in 2017 circles. We believe in the right for a woman to have an abortion (even if, as individuals, we don’t believe in it), the right for gay marriage (again, even if our religious values tell us otherwise), and the need for scientific advancement beyond that outlined in the bible. We allow church and state to remain separate, but equally important domains. Log cabin republicans are the definition of moderate republicans: grounded and entrenched in TRUE republican values, while adjusting our moral compasses to reflect modern day issues.

But today? You can’t say you’re a republican anymore without vile, non-stop, blatant hate.

I understand that people are upset about Donald Trump being sworn in as the 45th president of our great country. I understand that many who didn’t vote for him did so out of a deep fear that they may be discriminated against. But there are two things to remember, which get lost in this sea of judgement: 1) not every republican is a racist/sexist/homophobic and 2) not every republican voted for Trump.

I chose not to vote for Donald or Hilary. As a log cabin republican, I cannot find myself voting for Hilary, both due to her policy stances and some of the outcomes of her biggest tenures in office. I frankly don’t trust her, and couldn’t imagine putting her name down to paper in the voting booth. I also did not vote for Donald Trump. The man ISN’T a republican: he’s just riding on the wings of a need for change. He wasn’t a candidate I could remotely get behind.

I am also not a racist. I understand there is this truth that any white person in today’s society, born ultimately of privilege, is racist, even if they don’t acknowledge it. The debate on racism is not part of this blog; instead I choose to see myself as not meaningfully racist. I understand and acknowledge that my whiteness makes me inherently so, but I do not seek to imbibe that with additional feelings on race.

I am not a sexist; while yes as a republican woman I have a serious problem with being handed things or being paraded or treated a certain way for being a woman, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my gender or the roles that need to be expanded for them. I just don’t believe it has to happen by FORCE.

I am also not a homophobe: my best friend in the whole world is gay, and I support LGBTQ rights. I may never understand them, I may never fully comprehend what it means to be gay or transgender, but I absolutely believe those individuals should have identical rights as anyone else. Why am I not these things? Because I believe whole-heartedly, regardless of political affiliation, that we are all ONE race, ONE unit, and we should be equivalent in the eyes of our governing bodies. It may not ever be an achievable belief widespread, but it is one I fully dedicate myself to.

Being a republican today is hard. I am NOT saying that those people, truly in fear today, are any “less” struggling. Struggling should not be rated on some scale. I am saying it is hard today to wake up and try to live by your convictions and your beliefs and be vilified by so many for being something you’re not. For a world that tweets incessantly about #lovetrumpshate, anyone who is not a democrat can tell you, that love is subject to judgement and scrutiny first, and not everyone is worthy.

Today, I am choosing to see the optimistic side of the inauguration. I am choosing to believe that Donald Trump, or the people around him, will be good, wholesome, REAL people who only strive to truly make America “Great” again (although I’m not sure when it ever stopped being so fan-frickin-awesome, but that’s beside the point). I am choosing to believe that the highest position in the United States brings with it a bit of humility and tolerance. That the age that has come to EVERY president ever also touches him gracefully and opens his eyes. But most importantly, I am hoping today ends the horrible judgement that has flooded mainstream media, facebook, and the halls of my work. I am hoping today everyone accepts that Donald Trump is YOUR president, whether you want him to be or not. By living in a democracy, where people are free to elect who they choose, you did in fact CHOOSE him, even if you did not put his name down on your ballot. The freedom you are granted by this country chose him. Your ability to vocalize your disapproval is granted BY him, and by the office he upholds. Stop taking it for granted. I am hoping today everyone realizes the people that work next to you, who voted for him (or didn’t) are just as much Americans as you are. That the people you loved pre-election day are the same people that you SHOULD love after election day. Republicans are not awful people… “awful” should not be categorized and pre-labeled on a group just because. Be better. Be bigger. Be what you want the world to be.

Judgement eats at you. It hurts you. It corrodes at every good, decent thing we feel and believe in. Ultimately, as our lesson is for the month of January, judgement is something we are completely powerless to. We cannot change the way people look at us, examine us, define us. We are only able to define ourselves. Examine ourselves. Look into the mirror and really SEE ourselves. Judge your own character…and stop judging others.

-Joanie

Coffee Beans and Me

This next post is going to break from my “norm” here, so to speak. It’s going to be just a little less serious because, let’s face it, on this 18th day of January; we all could use a little light-heartedness.

I am powerless. That is our current mantra.

Today, I am powerless to caffeine.

My story is slightly different than most: I haven’t always loved coffee. Even as a double major in undergraduate, chemistry and forensic science, I didn’t once have a sip of coffee that wasn’t ladled full of sugar, cream, and heaping globs of caramel. I just didn’t need it to get through my day; I was naturally a morning person and had spent the better part of 4 years taking 8 a.m. classes.

Then graduate school happened.

If you’ve never met someone whose decided to pursue a PhD, let me let you in on a secret: it’s hell. Absolute hell. You think you know your stuff and frankly, you haven’t got a clue. I was juggling teaching, my own classes, studying like crazy, research, and the commute into inner-city Philadelphia every day. I was leaving my home in South Jersey at 6 am just to not get back home until 10 or 11, to start over again a day later. To say I was exhausted was an understatement.

So I started buying coffee from the lunch trucks (and yes, what EVERYONE in Philadelphia says is true, the lunch trucks are a way of LIFE). I never exceeded a cup, maybe two, a day…but the powerless-ness started almost immediately.

I am a long-time migraine sufferer, and caffeine has always been one of the few things to stymie them. I usually took it in pill form, or in chocolate…but the coffee in the morning would help as well. I noticed I got them less frequently and when they would come up, I’d run to the truck for my next cup and it would be fine. At least, at first.

At about my 4th year of graduate school coffee-drinking, everything started to change. I decided to start saving money and foregoing my coffee on the weekends. The migraines returned with a vengeance. If I woke up in the morning on a school day and didn’t have a cup within the first, oh hour or so? I was feeling awful by mid-day. The migraines would last longer than ever before and I wouldn’t be able to shake them. I would drink two, three, four cups a day just to get me through, and I started rearranging my time to make SURE I could have a cup every single day. I didn’t quite feel right in the morning if I made it to 10 am without the caffeine surging through my body. I also found myself needing the sugar as well…I would crash by midday if I just tried to have it black. I was a mess.

Let’s face it: I was addicted, and powerless, against caffeine.

Again, caffeine is a light-hearted post. How bad could it really be? Now, nearly a year out of grad school (that’s Dr. Joanie for you!), when I don’t have a migraine (which I now have meds to fight against, thank goodness), I can make it on about half a cup a day. I got a Keurig, so I spend significantly less money on those cups. While my coffee is ALWAYS iced (I HATE hot coffee, although I’ll drink it if I have to), I’ve cut back significantly on the creamer, and don’t even use sugar or caramel. I can function better, but it took a few extra years of work, a good bit of cash, and countless days of feeling kind of like crap.

In other words, I’ve taken a very real physiological addiction and made it manageable.

That’s not to say that for addicts, this is the case. Physiologically or mentally, just merely “managing” an addiction is usually not a cure, and not always healthy. A first step, surely, is the admittance that something is unmanageable, but adjusting it to becoming manageable is typically not the end-all-be-all. But for me, I acknowledged my powerless-ness over caffeine and worked to improve it. I am embracing the 1st step: and nearly every day I get a little bit better. Again, lighthearted, but true for the month of January: admitting your powerless to something is the first step to successfully overcoming it.

Do NOT get me wrong: I still love me some Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. I get a nice specialty coffee just about twice a month to quell the cravings and again, I have a half cup every day on my ride to work. But caffeine is my frivolous powerless-ness: what is yours?

-Joanie

P.S.: I only have a few more powerless mantras to discuss, and then we’ll be moving on to February’s 2nd step! I hope you join me readers…I won’t lie, every time one of you likes or reads or follows these posts, a part of me gets so RIDICULOUSLY excited. It means someone is actually out there somewhere…I promise I will try to write more on the steps, some more stories about myself (I feel like they are a great way to really explain why I’m doing this, and maybe help anyone out their struggling no what its like), and just keep up!

P.P.S.: A special inauguration day “powerless” blog is coming up….I’m hoping it’s my best one yet!

How I knew my Dad was an Alcoholic…and Bullying

Hello followers! I hope you’re reading and following along. Feel free to input whenever you feel like it!

As promised in some of my parentheses, I want to talk a little bit about my story and how I decided following the 12 steps was right for me. I thought to myself just the other night, “you have to start where it REALLY starts”.

The moment I knew my dad was an alcoholic. It is not the story most people would think, and it actually focuses far more on another terrible, powerless subject than him, but it is here to prove a point.

Back in 2000, when I was in 7th grade, I would say I was a “smart” kid, but by no means a popular one. I had a core group of good friends, I was babysat by a wonderful woman I considered a second mother, and I was heavily involved in dance. I did incredibly well in school, and at the time did not know how to NOT express that. So when my friends would complain about getting 70’s on a spelling test, I’d pipe up about my 95. I hadn’t quite learned how to be tactful and keep it to myself.

One day, in the age where internet was JUST starting to become popular, I saw 4 of my friends huddled around a locker, purposely ignoring me and giggling with a few boys while pointing at me. On the white board? a URL to a website I had never heard of. I brushed it off and went about my day…until my babysitters son pulled me aside to show me the website during library time. It was dedicated to making fun of me: calling me fat, ugly, a nerd. Exposing the childhood crush I had trusted them all with to the world, and reminding me that he would NEVER like me. They posted it in their AIM profiles, brought it up during classes, yelled the URL at me when I walked by. I was mortified…and utterly alone.

When I got to my babysitters house, she hugged me. When I got home, my mother made me my favorite dinner before calling every single one of those girl’s parents and screaming at them. There were people in my corner, sure, but I still felt miserable. That night, I sat under the stream of the shower and wondered if I could actually go into school the next morning. I played with my razor for my legs and wondered if the blades were sharp enough that I could get out of school until something equally embarrassing happened to someone else. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

When I came downstairs that night, my father had just gotten home. It was pretty typical of him back then, although I didn’t know what it meant. He was poorly shaven, his work clothes were frumpled, and he smelled like what I would one day know to be vodka and very little soda. I knew he drank: we got new 30’s of budweiser almost every weekend, and I knew that he constantly argued with my mother about being “sober” on drives home from family parties. But I didn’t know how deep it went. My mother yelled at him immediately; she had been calling him all afternoon. I was a daddy’s girl after all.

He slumped into a chair and asked me what was up. I told him what had happened, what the girls had done, how my life was over. He looked at me then, with glazed over eyes, stood up, and said “Life sucks, glad you learned it now. Tomorrow may be different, or it may suck too.” before walking up the stairs.

I understand now that I experienced probably the very start of cyber bullying, and I understand more than anyone else how kids end up committing suicide to make the hate stop. I also understand that to most kids, those words would have been the worst thing possible to hear. A parent not really helping them. But to me? They were magic. They were a window into the man I kept on a pedestal: he didn’t think the world was full of rainbows, he acknowledge that it COULD be terrible. All I had done all day was CRY. And MOPE. And be coddled into thinking that I was a poor victim who couldn’t do anything but sink back into my shell. I was told tomorrow would be little-orphan-annie sunshiney; instead he had leveled at me and told me it might not immediately get better.

My father was an alcoholic. I knew he had a problem, even if “alcohol” wasn’t what I connected it with. He fell into alcohol because he had problems dealing with how much life sucked, and how much tomorrow wasn’t always different from the day before. He dealt with life’s pains with alcohol, but he also knew that those pains wouldn’t just disappear. He KNEW that yes, life sucked. And YES you need to just buck up. And YES, it was better to learn young then learn late.

The next day? I went to school. I held my head up high. I didn’t cry once, and I didn’t let them get to me. Was it easy? No. Day 2 sucked just as much as day  1: my teacher’s saw the website, and most didn’t know how to handle it. Or handled it at all. And yes, the next couple of days sucked. Bullying is a terrible thing. But I went on to be stronger for it, better for it. I grew up quickly that day.

And I learned my dad was an alcoholic. He saw the world through an alcoholic’s not-so-rosy-colored glasses. He saw the real PAIN that exists in life. He LIVED the real pain that exists in life.  I learned that night that my father saw the world a way I didn’t, and the fog of booze made it a little more bearable.

 

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

I’ll preface this by saying: I HATE the way 2016 teens speak. Acronyms and shortened catch phrases drive be bonkers.

But FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is real.

Anyone who tells you they don’t suffer from FOMO is lying to you, or lying to themselves. It is practically an inherit human condition to want to be involved. Blame it on our obsession to stay “connected” (more on that later) or the evolvement of social media into a frenzy of instant gratification, but the fear of missing out on the next best thing or funny picture or trending topic can overwhelm us.

We submit ourselves to FOMO when we go out and buy the hottest/newest item “just to have it”. When I was 14, I just HAD to have a razor scooter. I barely could ride a bike without training wheels and I was much more of a beach bum/poolside girl than one to ride around the streets, but when every other kid on my block had one I just MADE my parents go get me one. That summer, you weren’t cool without a razor.

We allow FOMO to overtake us when we go out on a Saturday night for 5 drinks instead of 1 because everyone else was at the bar and you didn’t want to be that person who “lamely” went home early. I have an OCD tick about full glasses (I swear, my stories will come in time, I promise) and did two double shots of Crown Apple in about 5 minutes at a party because I could NOT be the only person who didn’t take one (the second one…that isn’t FOMO related). I could NOT miss out on the action…so I put myself, stupidly, in the middle of it.

We forget about our principles and allow FOMO to win when we go out with people whose values, whether they be racist, sexist, or downright disgusting, disagree with ours because you don’t want to be the only person in the lunch room sitting alone. In this case of FOMO the fear of missing out on a chance to maybe be included instead leads to the fear of being labeled a bigot…a fear we put aside to fit in.

All these stories have a common thread. Well, two really. One? FOMO, and the fact that we are powerless to it, arises from a desperate need to fit in. We lose ourselves in the hopes of becoming “one” with society, of meshing, of belonging.

Two? FOMO-driven life goals usually end poorly.

That razor scooter? I flipped it the second day I had it, skinned my entire elbow, and never rode it again.

That Crown Apple night? I puked for nearly 24 hours straight…alone.

That lunch table? I started to hate myself for listening to garbage I didn’t believe in…and other people started to hate me too.

For addicts, FOMO is all too real. When my dad would fail at being sober it was never because he didn’t want to, but because he didn’t know how to walk away from the world. How to not be upset with missing out. For children of addicts, FOMO is equally as strong, and maybe just as debilitating. How do you balance the desire to want to be included, to want to NOT miss out, with the pull of 1) being completely submerged already in an atmosphere you hate and 2) having to be a parent to a parent? You don’t. Children of addicts typically either dive head first into the world of alcohol, because it’s the only thing they know and they don’t want to be left out of that first exploratory trek of their friends, or shy away from it so hard that they feel the FOMO constantly as they choose to be mature and sit at home. Either way…FOMO wins.

I admit that I am powerless against FOMO. It plays an intricate part in my life: it drives me to want to be accepted. It steers some of my decisions. I accept that FOMO will always be there. This isn’t a post about defeating FOMO: but just trying to fear it JUST a little less.

-Joanie

Loyalty

I wanted to start early with one of my heaviest of weaknesses, of a feeling (not a tangible item) that I am powerless against. Sometimes the greatest character traits, the things we most aspire to, can hold us back from our own achievements or self-love.

This story starts more than 10 years ago. I had met a boy in high-school who, aside from being totally in love with (young foolish child love, not the real kind as I would learn years later), was also my best friend. The kind of best friend that usually only exists in the movies or in a good book: I could look at him and just KNOW what he was thinking. He would should up to my house late at night without the need for an invitation just to talk. We dreamed together, laughed together, and shared our insecurities together. We even went to prom together, although merely as friends, and promised to stay in touch no matter what in college.

Of course, that is much harder to do than say. Things changed on both sides, as they inevitably do as you get into your 20’s. My father was fading into alcoholism and I didn’t know how to reach out to anyone, so I plunged myself into my studies and boyfriends (more on this another time). He joined the track team and became heavily involved in eco-travel and peace studies, something I couldn’t relate to. Days turned to weeks which turned to months without talking…and neither of us really seemed to mind.

When his girlfriend broke up with him in 2010 and his mom reached out I called immediately, because it was the only thing I knew how to do. I had always been terrible at letting go, or protecting myself from heartbreak, so I dove back in head first. When they got back together, we inevitably stopped talking. When my grandmother died suddenly in 2012 he drove 3 hours to the funeral, and left promptly afterward. Friendship (and loyalty) are funny like that: time may move forward, but the emotions stay grounded in the past. Despite the time between conversations I occasionally felt obligated to pick up the phone, as if my heart (and my head) were permanently stuck in the halls of our high-school. I moved back home soon after…and it was as if we had never let go. We were best friends again and practically inseparable. We spent a whole summer as if the years apart were just a dream.

Our story does not have a happy ending. As they typically warn you about in the movies, we considered acting on that school-age foolish love, and when it never moved forward I never got past it. I spiraled out of control; admittedly my own fault. He made choices I couldn’t agree with and couldn’t not vocalize; he refused to talk with me through our problems as we had as teenagers. We grew apart. We both met significant others that lasted…and the few-and-far-between phone calls grew even farther apart. I tried to rekindle our friendship, to save it when I finally got past the feeling of having my childhood heart crushed…but there was nothing left to save. He had moved on too, and asked me to stop calling.

That was 2 years ago.

I still think about him. Nearly every day.

I am powerless to loyalty and friendship. Our story is not one full with an abundance of happy memories: instead it is full with a smattering of smiles covered in pain, heartbreak, and confusion. Yet, I can’t fully let go. Everything tells me I should. I am only hurting myself by still thinking about him. My other friends tell me I am better off, but am I?

I know in my heart of hearts that if he were to call, or we were to run into each other in the small world that is South Jersey, I know I would not be able to walk away. I know I would find myself in the locker-filled hallways of high-school again. I know I’d jump to his beck-and-call because I don’t know how to turn that part of me off. He is engraved in my life…and I am powerless to my loyalty to him.

He could discard his friendship. He could move forward. Me? I’m stuck.

Don’t get me wrong. Powerless-ness does not mean I am not bitter. I’m angry that he let go. I’m hurt that I still feel a connection for someone who feels so little for me. I’m confounded by the fact that my emotions can run such a gambit. I am powerless to my inability to move forward, but I am bathed in negativity towards the situation.

By admitting that I am powerless to my loyalty, that I am haunted by my inability to close a door, maybe the failed friendship will slowly start to take a back seat to my story. Maybe I won’t remember a missed birthday. Maybe I’ll stop counting the days. Maybe I’ll fold up our story into a little box that can be locked away as happy memories, and let it live where it is supposed to.

Maybe I’ll learn to be loyal only when it makes ME happy.

And maybe I’ll stop always trying to be loved by someone else, and start just loving myself.

-Joanie