Just Eat

It’s Eating disorder Awareness Week… I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. “Just eat”… “I wish I had THAT problem” … Two of the most frustrating, rude, cavalier and insensitive phrases I hear whenever ED’s come up. Eating disorders are serious. Serious like addiction. And it’s not because “we” are selfish, vain or conceited. It’s because we have no self love, self worth and no grace. It’s because we feel out of control in life and take it out on our bodies. Because we feel guilt when we take care of ourselves. Eating disorders are not a joke.

(I rewrote the paragraph above a few times changing the “we” to “they” and the “our” to “their” because I’m struggling with whether or not I want to own my own struggles right now. #VigorousHonesty)

Eating disorders come in many forms, restricting, binging, purging, over exercising… these are the symptoms, the whiskey to the alcoholic, the meth to the addict, the abuser to the abused. If you’ve ever known or loved someone who struggled with addiction, you’ve probably thought, “Why can’t they see what their doing to themselves?”

“Why don’t they just stop?”

“Why doesn’t she leave him?”

“She doesn’t love me enough to quit.”

That’s pretty much the same thoughts you might have when you are close to someone with an eating disorder. It’s frustrating. Maybe a little more frustrating because it’s harder to understand. Harder to relate to. I grew up in a home where addiction was talked about often. My dad is over 30 years sober and has worked in treatment for my entire life. My sister has been in rehab a few times, my mom, too. Addiction, recovery, 12 Steps, meetings, amends…. This is all the norm to me. Addiction, we can handle. We have the tools. But about 12 years ago when I was diagnosed as “Anorexic with purging”, none of us had any idea how to deal. My dad was very proactive, he got me help immediately. A therapist, treatment… What I didn’t have was anyone in my life who understood. In a world where everyone was on the Atkin’s Diet, I didn’t fit in. It was really lonely. For me, going to a 12-Step meeting was not useful. I didn’t use. Not like them. For me, not eating served the same purpose, however, I was not offered the same grace. People rolled their eyes, because their addiction was “worse”. Because “all” I had to do was “just eat”. (I am rolling my eyes as I type this!)

I have forgiven everyone who’s ever belittled my disease because I understand that you DON’T understand. I would like to give a little insight though. So maybe you can have more grace with someone who is walking a road you’ve never walked.

I have a friend, a good friend who also has an eating disorder, and she is the only person besides my therapist who “gets it”. The irony is that she over eats and I under eat. (I’m actually in recovery… see here is where it’s hard to compare addiction and ED’s because when an alcoholic drinks, they’re no longer sober. If I have a bad eating day, I’m not off the wagon necessarily. It’s not THAT simple. Hence ED awareness week.) However, if you sit us both down and talk with us, or, hear us talk with each other, it’s the same words, it’s the same feelings. We just have literally opposite reactions. When I am sad, I lose 15 pounds. When she is sad, she gains 15 pounds. I’m not saying like I feel sad today and magically 15 pounds evaporate. I mean like, when I am going through depression, stress, anxiety, etc. I can’t eat. Like physically, I cannot swallow food. I will chew for ages and just can’t swallow. And I and not necessarily even upset about my body during these times. In fact, if I’m in that place, I am not even thinking about my body. I am too absorbed in my misery. Yes throughout my life I have acted out my ED because I have had a “fat” day (a word I avoid). I have also noticed that my “fat days” directly correlate to my emotions. The scale has not changed, but for some reason today I fucking HATE my body. Nothing looks right, nothing feels right. I want to rip off my skin. I literally want to take scissors to my thighs. I want to vacuum the fat from my belly. These are the images I get when I look in the mirror on a “fat day.” Meanwhile my brain is saying, “You’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not lovable, nobody takes you seriously, you deserve to feel lonely, nobody needs you. You’re too outspoken, you’re too opinionated. You’re not smart enough or pretty enough. You’re just not enough. Oh- except your thighs, those are too much. Jeez, Justine, what’s wrong with you? You’re a shitty anorexic. You ate WAY too much yesterday and LOOK at your ass! You can’t even eat right. You’re so stupid. You need to control yourself. You are an embarrassment.” You see how it’s not actually about my body? My body is the scapegoat. Internally I feel like I can’t fix my uselessness, and all the things wrong with who I am, but, I CAN fix my thighs. So here I am desperately hating myself, and truly needing someone to love me, someone to affirm me. Not my body. ME. and I don’t know how to ask for that. And I sure as hell don’t believe I deserve it. So I am sad. So I can’t eat. And not eating serves a purpose. Not eating ,makes me feel successful subconsciously. Eating literally makes me nauseous, so NOT eating makes me feel better.

Meanwhile my friend who over eats has the SAME thoughts, only her coping skill is to make herself feel better by eating. Because when she is eating it FEELS GOOD. It smells good, and looks good and fills her. It literally fills the emptiness. So she will eat fast food, and thus PROVE to herself, all the things her brain has been chanting. That she isn’t strong enough to lose the weight, that she is worthless, that she’s fat. That she doesn’t “deserve” to be healthy, because if she did deserve it, she could eat like a “normal” person. She “proves” her worthlessness to herself every time she gets on a scale and hasn’t lost any weight. Every time her doctor is disappointed. Every time her nutritionist overwhelms her with lists of food she “can’t” have. It’s overwhelming. And what’s the point anyway, right? She feels like a failure. Maybe she is? Oh, is that a Mc Donald’s? French fries will help. And she’ll try again tomorrow.

I don’t know if my sharing this is helpful. I just thought, in the spirit of the week, maybe I can shine some light on a subject that you just can’t grasp at face value.

I want you all to know that I have been working my recovery, seeing my therapist, and learning to love myself. To change the way I talk to myself. To recognize the red flags and seek help when I start going down the rabbit hole. My recovery really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with food. Food is just the way I show the sickness. As a mom I have been good at maintaining a healthy weight… but masking the real issue. I am in a place where I want recovery, and I understand that just because I am not acting out my ED, does not mean I am cured. I understand that every single day I need to work to make the right choices. Because, magically, when I am doing what is right and healthy for me, I don’t hate myself so much. In fact, I start seeing the good. I have recognized that my decisions directly effect my self worth. And I am worth being happy. I am worth love. I am lovable. And so are you.

How I Drove My Husband Crazy By Accident

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Compromise.

I can’t begin to explain how often that advice is given. It fits with just about any issue… in a perfect world. But what about when there is no compromise? Because those situations are the real issues. The small things, yeah, we can find middle ground, one of us will back down because, we’re just too tired. Too tired of fighting. I am too tired.

Last year I committed to a year of “no-poo”. Well that’s what I called it, but in reality shampoo was only one of the many changes I made. I stopped using shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, antibacterial hand soaps, body wash, lotion, face wash, acne treatments and sunscreen. I know, now I sound like a dirty hippy. Don’t worry, I’m clean, and not smelly. I started out by making my own hygiene products, and slowly weaned off of many things altogether. Here is what I learned in the last year:

The biggest thing that stands out, to be honest is that I drove my husband bonkers! Seriously. Like I think there was a point where he was ready for one of us to move out. No, not because I smelled bad, but because I didn’t give him the option NOT to jump on my bandwagon. Within a matter of weeks I had thrown out all of the shampoos and soaps in the house. I went DIY crazy and made toothpaste, hand soap,  and shaving cream. He hated it. Not all of it, but most of it. He missed the suds in shampoo, and the wateriness of the body wash. The coconut oil toothpaste was salty, I fixed that, but then it was clogging our sinks. Our showers and sinks were nearly impossible to clean because coconut oil hardens and traps dirt. Still, I stood strong. I felt I was doing my job, I was saving my family from diseases. I still 100% believe in my “cause”… I just may have done it a little differently. I know that I changed everything because I love my family, but I didn’t realize the impact it would have… the negative impact. I had high hopes for the positive! I didn’t expect my husband to be frustrated daily. Missing the simplicity. I didn’t realize it took so much energy for him to try to understand my reasons, and how overwhelming it must be for him. I mean, our first year together I took away all the processed foods, and he started reading food labels. Which annoyed him then, also… now he has to read labels on the hand soap…

I realized that I was insensitive and didn’t truly know my husband. And he didn’t know me. I did not respect him. I didn’t bother to ask him, in my mind I had to save the world. That’s me… I am an activist. I see a problem and have an innate need to fix it. My heart is too big, I inherited this martyr-esque personality from my dad, and seriously I will be uncomfortable and miserable and choose the path of GREAT resistance for the greater good. That’s not my husband. They say opposites attract. Well in this case, it couldn’t be more true. I’ve learned this year that my husband is both a blessing and a lesson. I’ve learned that I am a control freak… and so is he. I’ve learned that compromise is a bitch.

The year mark couldn’t have come soon enough. Not that I wanted to buy regular hand soap, but I was ready to stop fighting. Every day became a fight on some level. Maybe we didn’t actually argue, but he would get frustrated by any number of inconveniences caused by the changes I made. And I took it personally that he hated it. It was those little things that wore on him, and turned into reasons to bicker. He became so frustrated. I felt like he didn’t care about his health, or our kids. It’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s that it was too much. This isn’t what he signed up for. It was all too much. And let’s be honest… Ignorance is bliss. I stripped away his bliss, I dissected it, and magnified the ugly truths, broadcasting them, forcing them to be acknowledged. This was the third time I turned his life upside-down and inside out. The first time it was the food, switching to organic and banning fast food. Next it was parenting, I brought my crunchy attachment parenting ideals into his home, and changed the rules. I took parenting out of his hands, again without compromise (in his eyes). And now I’ve taken away shampoo. In his mind, I’ve been taking. Taking away his comforts, his jobs, his rules, his ideals, his deodorant… In my mind I was enriching, nourishing, helping and teaching. It’s mind blowing how opposite we see the same situation.

It never occurred to me that I might make him feel stupid. I have such strong feelings, often based on extensive research, and because I trust my intuition. It was never my intention to make him feel less than he is. All I ever wanted was to be better for each other, our kids and the planet. I never thought that maybe he was perfectly happy with the way things were. Who do I think I am, that I can just make these decisions without talking with him? I am not his children’s mother, I do that job, he asked me to… And I wanted to. I assumed it meant I could parent the way I saw fit. I didn’t stop to think that because this is a partnership, he should have a say, more than a say… they are his kids. But I thought it was my job, this parenting thing. I have a daughter of my own, and I do my best. I thought his job was to provide, and back me up, while I did all the nitty gritty mom jobs. I didn’t think he wanted to “parent”. He never expressed interest in it, that is until I was doing it full time.

I learned that compromise doesn’t mean admitting defeat. It means I value my marriage. So last week I bought shampoo. I bought antibacterial hand soap, lysol, and toothpaste, too.  (I’ll write a whole blog on what kind and why!) I am picking my battles, and finding ways to keep my household healthy… and also realizing that all of our emotional health is more important than  physical. I would rather be married.

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I plan to write all the amazing things (and all the not so great things) I learned in the last year! What worked, and what didn’t… I know this post makes it should like it it was a disaster, it wasn’t. My hair is happy and my skin is smoother than ever! I had to get the therapeutic part out of the way first 😉

 

 

Maybe we should talk about this? (Open communication in marriage)

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What is proper relationship etiquette? And how do know what is and isn’t OK in a relationship? There are millions of marriage self help books out there, and they seem to have one common theme: Communication.

As individuals we all have different ways we need to be loved, and different preferences when it comes to other humans in our lives. Much like parenting. We know as parents that each child is different and we strive to respond according to our children’s individual strengths and weaknesses. It’s the same with adults. The hard part is that as an adult we expect every other adult to ACT like an adult, and when they don’t, we are MORE frustrated. As adults we are just as stubborn as a willful two year old, but we have a lot more power. We have the ability to change things, and we have that innate need to push others to be what we think they should be, or act the way we think they should act.

Enter the balancing act. In a marriage our job is to be one half of a partnership. The hard part is that the other half is not controllable. It sounds simple enough to roll with the punches, but at some point it gets exhausting. Without healthy communication we are being constantly hurt by the one person we love most, and chose to spend our life with. Nobody hurts you worse than a spouse… it’s an utter betrayal. (I’m not saying other things don’t hurt, and I’m not saying your spouse will hurt you more than anyone, I mean, when you are hurt by your spouse it’s THAT much worse. It’s broken trust.) Part of the problem with putting all of your faith in another person, and not knowing how to communicate is that you both have expectations that are impossible to meet because you don’t know how to have that talk.

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My husband and I are the odd ones in our group of friends because we both are good friends with members of the opposite sex, and it’s not necessarily mutual. We have our own friendships. It’s always been that way. My married friends think it’s so strange. Some of them don’t allow their husbands to speak with other women hardly at all, only in group settings. Some of them know each others phone, email and Facebook passwords. Some share their Facebook page! You can see the extremes here?

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Personally I have always found it odd for people to be so enmeshed in their partners lives. But I see that for some of these couples it insures fidelity, and brings them closer. I think it would drive my husband and I bonkers. We both need our space. We have both been in relationships where our significant other took advantage and read through our emails, texts and for me, my journal. We chose to give each other personal space. However, we never discussed boundaries on communication with the opposite sex like certain conversations we feel are not appropriate and talking to a member of the opposite sex during “our” time. I think we both felt if we put restrictions on each other, it was a sign that we don’t trust each other. Which isn’t true. the problem with the way we do it, is, neither of us has a leg to stand on when it comes to one being upset about a friendship because neither of us know what kind it is. In the event that anything happened that “looks” wrong, either of us might jump to conclusions based on assumptions. Just like with children, boundaries protect us.

Communication is more than: “Suzie has softball and 4, Max gets out early today and we are out of milk ” Communication is being open about feelings and the things that matter. making your expectations clear. BONDING.

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I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself

I remember very distinctly, about 9 years ago, standing in a car port in the middle of the night smoking a cigarette watching my best friend drive away. He had just essentially broken up with me. (It’s not what you think, he’s gay, so when I say best friend, I do mean a completely platonic friendship.) As his tail lights vanished around a corner I marveled in the realization that someone who I felt was just as fucked up as me… if not MORE fucked up than me, had actually called me out. He had driven 20 miles to tell me that he was worried for me, and it hurt him to see me self destruct.

I took one last puff, dropped my cigarette on the concrete, stepped on it and walked away. I didn’t think much about the conversation, not one red flag shot out at me, I was so deep in a sick and toxic place I couldn’t see love when it looked me in the eyes. I had to hit rock bottom. I didn’t know it yet, but the next 2 years would be the hardest, scariest and darkest days of my life.

Looking back I wish I had really heard what he said to me, I wish it had sunk in and impacted my decisions, but it didn’t. Over the years I have not forgotten his words, so I suppose they were waiting for me to hear them.

Believe it or not, I did learn something from that moment. You cannot help someone who is not willing to help themselves. There is one thing you can do: LOVE. And sometimes love means letting go, particularly if it hurts you when you watch someone you love circle the drain. My friend let go, but he never left. He just refused to be my savior anymore. No more drunken 2am phone calls to pick me up from who-knows-where. No more holding my hair over the toilet while I cried and apologized, promising this would be the last time. He couldn’t do it anymore.

I have this friend whom I love deeply. She’s one of my oldest friends and closest. For the last few years I have watched her destroy every chance of happiness, and every opportunity for love that has crossed her path. It is like she intentionally chose the worst, least compatible, controlling, and twisted man. And god forbid anyone points it out. If you do, be prepared for her to do something to rub it in your face, like, for instance, she secretly married him. Knowing he has anger issues, knowing he’s abusive, knowing he is a terrible parent, knowing he has no respect for women, having heard him call her two best friends c**ts, experiencing him stalk her and harass her… She married him. She didn’t tell anyone, because when you do something so effing stupid why the hell would you tell anyone? The crazy part is she thought she could keep it hidden. The sad part is I am her best friend and she lied for months. Looking back I’m realizing how many times she lied to me. She knew I didn’t approve so she hid her relationship, her pregnancy, her wedding…

And you know what? I was there through EVERYTHING. I never let go, every time a lie came out I let it roll off my back, I forgave her because that’s what you do when you love someone. But the lying never stopped. Another lie came out today. I thought we were done with this, her divorce is almost final, she has a new life, a boyfriend who loves her so completely, who flipped his entire life upside down to accommodate her, and she sabotaged it. And for the last 3 years, her lies have all revolved around this jackass. At some point you have to see that HE is a problem!!!

Just 7 months ago friend’s of mine bent over backwards to help her get into a safe place, get back on her feet, and take control of her life, this is not the first time someone had to save her… and evidently it’s not the last considering recent developments. I’m tired. I’m hurt. But how do I keep making excuses? I have been excusing her behavior for years.

This part of me feels like I owe her. She stuck around while I was living my life in ways she didn’t approve. She’s been there, she’s been my alibi too many times to count, she’s come to the rescue when I’m in over my head… but the difference is that I am honest with her. If I do something stupid, I own it, in fact, chances are I’m telling her about it before I do it! I don’t hide things from her. Because friends are supposed to be honest with each other. Wether we agree with the other person, or not.

So maybe I’m hurt that she doesn’t feel like she can be honest with me. I know… I’m opinionated. Outspoken. I don’t think before I speak… ever. But I don’t care how stupid you are, if I love you I love you.

And I love her. It’s time for her to help herself. Maybe she doesn’t want to be happy? Maybe she can’t see the big picture, the people she’s hurting, the innocent little girl that is tagging along while her mother is too busy messing up their lives. I don’t know, but… if you’re reading this: I can’t help you until you help yourself.

 

Regrets

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Regrets. You know that feeling, that knot in your throat, the queasiness in the pit of your stomach, the ache in your heart. You fucked up. I am incredibly familiar with this feeling. I envy the people who say they will never regret anything. OK if you have no regrets, you must be an amazing person, teach me your ways! How can you live your life without doing something you wish you hadn’t? I feel like I have so many, maybe they are not huge life altering events, but there are decisions I have made that to this day haunt me.

I had a dream recently that I was waiting at a table in a restaurant for someone, I didn’t know who, when 3 people from my past walked in. They were shocked to see me, my heart started racing, having no idea how to react. Almost immediately one of them acted happy to see me, I knew she wasn’t, so I said, “It’s OK, you don’t have to bullshit…” Which probably made the situation worse. You know how it is, it’s easier to to be fake in an awkward situation. Especially when you know they way you really want to behave is like a jackass. My dream goes on with me alone at my table, and this small group sits at another, I got up to use the bathroom, and so did the girl who pretended to be happy to see me. Since we were alone, I asked her if she’d read any of my emails. You see, in real life I have written to her multiple times to apologize for the things I said to her, and she never acknowledged the emails. Since my subconscious mind seems to be aching for the opportunity to make things right, I apologized right there.

I woke up with that knot in my throat… that disgusting nauseating feeling. And I can’t fix this one. I want more than anything to tell her that I am so sorry I unleashed on her they way I did, that she didn’t deserve it. That I had been holding in hurt feelings for too long and had been fed a lot of negativity by someone close to us. I felt like a fish out of water, no- like an animal in captivity, with no control, and I lashed out at the easiest target. I’m sorry. No one deserves to be spoken to the way I ripped her apart. And I understand why she won’t accept my apology. I don’t deserve the validation.

This is the understanding I came to late last night. Just because we truly are sorry, and we want to fix something, just because our hearts are in the right place, does not give us the right to be forgiven. Not every mistake can be rectified. Sometimes people need to be bitter, they need someone to be upset with, not everyone is ready to forgive, when we are ready to own up to our mistakes. And that’s OK. Does it fit into my plan? No, I desperately need to deal with this situation. Whether she hates me and bitches me out, or accepts my apology and we never speak again… there are limitless outcomes, but it’s ME that needs this, and in this situation, I have no right to “need” anything. I should have thought of that before I lost my shit.

I should clarify, personally, I know a lot more was going on at this time, I know that I was feeling uncomfortable in my own skin because I was on birth control (from other blogs you know that birth control has had terrible effects on me, one of which is temporary insanity. Hormones are no joke.) which made me irritable and anxious, among other things. I also was going through a custody battle. For the first time in my daughter’s life, there was a possibility that I would have to split custody of my daughter, and I was flipping out. For months I couldn’t eat, in fact the day that I flipped out, I had not eaten anything, and we had made sangria. (Not brilliant.) As you know, I practiced attachment parenting, and the thought of being away from my baby was, and is heart wrenching. I cry every Friday when she goes to her dad’s and I spent all of last weekend in tears because she went to Sea World, and that was the first time she has ever gone far from me. You can imagine the fear in me during this time, and the discomfort, I did not know who I could trust, this girl is friends with my ex, which is not a problem, but it was a conflict of interest, and I did not know how to deal with it. I had never been in a situation like this, and for some dumb reason, when I am uncomfortable, I tend to react strongly, in an effort to find a safe or comfortable place. In this case, I alienated someone I loved dearly.

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I feel the need to explain all of this because it is weighing so heavily on my heart. I now can imagine how my mother feels, I have so much bitterness for my mother, and I love her insanely, but in June 2012, the same month I unleashed on my friend, I (verbally) attacked my mom. I was in Indiana visiting some family, and my mom offered to babysit my then three year old (need I remind you thatI was preparing for a custody battle?) and my mom of all people offered to babysit. My mom was the LAST person I was going to trust with my daughter. Not because I don’t think she had good intentions, but because she walked out on me and my little sister when I was Jo’s age. I did not think any of that through when she offered, I just knew that the answer was “No.” She did not understand why, so I had to figure out why this made me so uncomfortable. Jo doesn’t know my mom. We live in California and my mom had met Jo maybe 3 or 4 times her whole life. I was not about to leave my kid with a stranger, I meant, I wasn’t even comfortable leaving Jo with her own father! My mom insisted that she’s not a stranger, she’s Jo’s grandma, and I became more uncomfortable, I ended up screaming at her that she left me when I was Jo’s age, and I will NEVER abandon my baby, I will NEVER give my baby reason to think I had left her, I can’t trust her with the one person I love more than anything. I yelled at my own mother that she had no business having children, and what was she thinking? If she couldn’t stick around for 2 of us, how irresponsible was she to have more children? Clearly at this point I had lost my mind, a lot of baggage had been triggered, and I did not think before I said these terrible things. I said– screamed these things (and worse) in front of my younger sisters and brothers. You may have imagined that this is another one of those situations where I get that nasty knot in my throat. If I could go back, I would have held my tongue. Actually I would not have gone to Indiana that summer. I knew it was going to be too much for me, but I went anyway, and now I live with regret. I hurt my mom, and my little brother’s and sister’s.

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Luckily, my brother’s, sitter’s and mom all still love me, they were in my wedding about 5 months ago. I guess that’s a perk with family, eventually you’re more likely to be forgiven? Here is the thing, though, my mom has asked over and over for me to talk to her, and I never wanted to talk about all of the passed things, the abandonment, and painful memories. I could never understand why she just stood there and took it while I screamed at her. I get it now, when you fuck up, and you have regret, you stand there and take it when someone calls you on it, no matter how nasty they are, you don’t have a leg to stand on, you have no excused. It’s not your turn to talk. It’s your turn to listen, and let the person you hurt heal. With that, I am resolving to be patient, to understand that I am not owed any type of validation from anyone I have hurt, the ball is in their court, and if they are not ready for my apology, it’s OK, the apology is not about me, even though it would make me feel better, why do I deserve to be forgiven? I should hope that whomever I have hurt is happy now, and if it’s easier to never talk about it, I must respect that. I also need to keep these things in mind before I open my mouth, as to not have more regrets.

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Started From The Bottom Now We’re Here

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

We were twins. OK maybe not “technically”, but I never knew life without her. I was 15 months old when she was born. Contrary to popular rumor, (that was probably started by a grandma somewhere who had severe empty nest syndrome) breastfeeding IS NOT birth control! She is proof!

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

As children we were attached, if one of us got time out, the other went to sit in time out as well. We were partners in crime, at ages 4 and 5 we conspired to steal and eat our grandmothers chocolate cake while our dad was in the shower… he figured it out, but I don’t think he got any cake. I may have tattled on her when she decided to cut her own hair, little did we know, she actually has a talent as a hair stylist. We played together at recess, and all of our friends were mutual.

Charcoal by ShonRochelle
Charcoal by ShonRochelle

 

We couldn’t have been more different, in fact we still are polar opposites, she is everything I am not, blond, tall, big blue eyes, big butt (If this is being read in a future where anorexia is back “in”, just bear in mind that big butts are all the rage right now), she’s a dancer, a singer AND an artist. She is has a big personality, as a Gemini she is nearly impossible to pin down, she’s always wherever the drama is, and will surprise the shit out of you when she is suddenly completely down to earth, understanding, and will bend over backwards to help you because most of the time she is blunt and tactless… although always truthful… whether you like it or not. (That last part may be a family trait, come to think of it.)

Abstract by ShonRochelle
Abstract by ShonRochelle

 

I am 5 feet (short) tall, I have brown eyes that I call hazel because sometimes they change, and it makes me feel like I have some individual, and defining characteristic that the rest of us brown eyed girls never get complemented on. I have brown hair, no rhythm, and I can draw stick figures, which is the extent of my artistic ability. My only claim to fame is that I am a writer. I am a Pisces. And growing up I was very sweet, quiet, overly emotional, and sensitive. Even though I was the older sister, I relied on her to be the things I wasn’t, SHE stood up for ME, when I was bullied, she came to my rescue when I got hurt or cried, she was basically my big sister. MY whole life I have gotten away with being… a princess, I guess. I managed to always find someone to do what needed to be done, my sister and my friends used to have homework pow wows where we would all do all of my math homework for the week (I was in independent studies, and I am terrible at math, if we wanted to hang out, we as a group would do my homework.) To this day I do not have a drivers license (long story), even in my jobs I have managed to get away with not doing things… or doing things that I shouldn’t. There have been times where I get so frustrated because it always seemed like it was easier for people to do things FOR me, instead of teach me how to do it. I have had to force people to teach me things, or I have become a master at Googling. It’s not that I am not smart, it’s that people seem to LIKE helping me. All of this started with my sister, who probably didn’t want to be the youngest, or maybe she noticed my weakness, and instead of exploiting them, she spent years helping me cover them up.

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

 

What you are not expecting, is that my bombshell little sister was teased mercilessly from 5th grade to 8th grade. She had what you call “baby fat” she didn’t overeat, at least not initially, eventually she did use food as comfort, which only made the situation worse. I don’t even know if she was teased for being “fat”, or if there were other things… but I do know that this was the same age that my sister began to notice that she is not like other girls. While she had typical crushes on boys, she also had crushes on girls. It’s funny, we both had the same feelings, but again, the way things played out couldn’t be more opposite. Her defense mechanism was to be mean. She turned into a bully, a bully that was bullied. I remember people telling me how mean my sister was, and I didn’t get it. She wasn’t mean to me, and she always stood up for me. During that time I was too self absorbed to pay attention to what was going on with my little sister. She was having problems at church and school, and I wasn’t. I was never “popular” but I had a lot of friends, I have the ability to get along with just about anyone. (I think it was more my need to be liked and accepted though, because now, as an adult, I am very particular about my friendships, and I listen to my intuition about people.)

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

I was the squeaky wheel in the family. So while everyone was paying attention to me (I had depression, and an eating disorder) and taking me to therapy, and checking in on me… and grounding me (Ask my friends, I spent at least 2 full years grounded). No one paid attention to her. No one saw that she was sad, lonely and confused. I don’t think she even felt like she could say anything, about anything. I don’t know if she felt it would matter? My Sophomore year, her Freshman year was a turning point, I had switched to a new school (yes, I was the diva of the family who needed to change schools… I did this several times before Independent Studies became the obvious solution) and she started selling drugs, my moms medications, I think. She had already been doing other students homework for cash, for a few years. She must have felt gypped when she did my homework, anyway, from what I remember this was the year that she started using. The previous year we had dabbled in drinking and smoked pot, but it was really experimental, at least for me. It’s a trip to me that she managed to get loaded while we lived in our dad’s house. I mean, he was not only sober, but he worked in rehabs our whole lives! Maybe that’s why my vice became an eating disorder, instead? I have to confess I had no clue what was going on with her at this point. We lived in the same house, but we didn’t really talk. She really must have felt invisible then.

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

It wasn’t until the day she came stumbling home (and by home I mean our mom’s house, we had moved in full time with her at this point) after vanishing for 3 days, and she was a mess. She was obviously loaded, I don’t know what she was using, but it was obvious. She then proceeded to molest my boyfriend at the time. I was horrified, and more horrified, I think because I realized that not only had I not realized she’d been gone so long, no one else had either. This was the first time I called my dad and said that she needed help. This was the first time she went to rehab. Little did I know, she would go 5 more times.

 

Charcoal by ShonRpchelle
Charcoal by ShonRpchelle

I confess that I don’t know her current sobriety date, but I do know it’s been about 4 years, and the last time she went into Treatment it was thanks to a phone call from me to my dad… again. But this time was different than the other times to me, she’s changed. I feel like I have a friend again. The best part is, she is painting again. I mentioned earlier that my sister is an artist, well I feel like it’s an understatement. A lot of people claim artistic ability, her art, is unbelievable. There is something about the way she puts her soul on canvas, actually, she paints the way I write, she completely opens herself up, and puts it out there. There is a vulnerable honesty that I see when I look at her paintings. I am so happy she has found a healthy way to be noticed, and not just to be seen, but to be understood. Something she has needed for years. And as her big sister, I want to publically acknowledge my little sister, her talents, her accomplishments, and her strength.

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

She came out about 8 years ago, and I think that was one of the proudest moments of my life, I felt like she had finally began to find herself… my heart also broke knowing what a hard road she had in front of her. Some of our family members have completely written her off, she has been shamed, guilted and rebuked for her “choice”. I know, from personal experience that whom you love, is not a choice, yes there are decisions in love, but the heart you are drawn to has nothing to do with gender. I have been bisexual since I can remember, and for whatever reason I never felt like it was wrong. In fact, I felt like denying that part of myself was unnatural. I am happily married and madly in love with my husband, however, it would not have surprised me if my soul mate had been a woman. Even though her path is not easy, I think the one gift I have given my sister is my 100% support. I have fought for equality passionately, because I am fighting not only for what I believe to be “right”, not only for myself, and anyone else who deviates from the norm, I am fighting for my little sister.

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

Feel free to check out her are pages, you can follow her on

Instagram, her name is Shonlieberman

and order her original art here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/darshonna?ref=search_shop_redirect

or order her prints here: http://twenty20.com/shonlieberman

 

Stop! Hating is bad.

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OK let’s be honest, how hard is it to press one for English? Personally, it’s not an inconvenience. As much as automated systems make me want to throw my phone out a window, I have never been frustrated that I have to press a number for the language I speak. I have to press a number for “technical support” and “billing” as well. It’s logical for companies to give a language option. Especially in The United States. This country, as it is today was founded on immigrants. Unless you are American Indian, your ancestors immigrated to the US, at some point. Parts of the US used to be Mexico, even, so explain to me, what’s the problem with people speaking Spanish? I have heard people rant about immigration over and over, and while I see there is a problem, I certainly do not blame immigrants for wanting to come here.  People from all over the world have immigrated here since the Americas were discovered. We even have a plaque at The Statue of Liberty that reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. If that is not inviting immigration, than I don’t know what is!

Next time you bite into a delicious strawberry, why don’t you think of the immigrant that picked it for you. Next time you order a bucket of fried chicken remember the immigrant that has the job Americans don’t want, the immigrant who has the dirty job you don’t want to do. It’s easy for you to eat the dollar cheese burger when you don’t have to get your hands dirty. Did you know that you’re supporting illegal immigrants? Big chicken and beef companies purposely hire illegal immigrants because they can pay them next to nothing, work them to the bone, then call immigration when they are done with them. Produce companies even hire children, and work them until late at night. Orchards are dangerous places for anyone, let alone a child because of the pesticides that are used on the fruits, pesticides that are not supposed to be breathed, but for some reason are “safe” to eat.

“Why is there Black History Month, but not White History Month?” This one baffles me to no end. For starters, RACISM. We need to remember the horrors that happened before us, to put these things into perspective, to give us empathy. Black History Month is not “feel sorry for black people month”. It’s education. We have all been told the importance of learning history, so it does not repeat itself. Slavery was a dark time in American history, a shameful time. A time when we were not all considered equal. Not to mention, initially African Americans were kidnapped, taken from their families and brought to America as slaves, so it wasn’t even their choice to come here. Slavery isn’t the only severe injustice, for decades even our government treated minorities as if they were “less than” white people. Humans are human, and we all deserve respect. It is embarrassing when I look through my Facebook news feed and see hatred, bigotry and ignorance. I think ignorance is the best word to describe the people who feel so entitled to be Americans, but choose to forget that a huge part of American history is the African Americans who served in our military, raised our ancestor’s children and put food on our great grandparents tables. Slaves used to do the tough, dirty jobs that we now use Mexican immigrants for.

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Thanksgiving is this month, who remembers the Native Americans? If ANYONE should feel entitled, I would say the American Indians have first dibs. Yet their populations have dwindled, they are on reservations, they have been through genocide over and over. During World War II American doctors  sterilized Indians/Gypsies  because they didn’t fit into a “normal” mold., therefore they were not allowed to procreate. When brain washing, and hospitalizing didn’t work, they used electro-shock therapy, and lobotomies. But this was their land, and yet, they are a minority.

 

We are privileged to live in a time where humans are becoming more aware, and more accepting of differences. In 2008 we elected a black president. Regardless of your political (or religious) affiliation, this was a huge step toward equality. Just a few months ago the Supreme court overturned Prop 8 and legalized same sex marriage in California. As of right now, 14 states have legalized same sex marriage! There should be no shame in loving someone, and personally I think it’s ridiculous that same sex marriage had to be legalized in the first place. Marriage should be a human right. I know a lot of people feel that marriage is Christian, I hate to break it to you, marriage has been happening LONG before Christianity, and was not always religious. Marriage is a spiritual bond. If marriage is simply a “religious right” then 1. You shouldn’t recognize any marriage that was not ordained in your religion, and 2. atheists shouldn’t be allowed to marry, Oh! and 3. The government shouldn’t have anything to do with marriage, as there is a separation of church and state. I know a lot of heterosexual couples that have abused marriage, and if heterosexual couples can marry and divorce and cheat, then marriage must not be all that sacred. So the best bet is for each of us to focus on our own lives, our own marriages, and create our own sanctity. I for one do not model my marriage after Biblical marriages. From my memory, marriage in The Bible was not always pleasant, it was arranged, it was for the purpose of making babies, men were allowed many wives, a man who raped a woman would have to marry her (how horrific!) women were expected to put out, regardless of them being “in the mood” or not. None of this strikes me as a happy marriage. Not to say marriage is always happy, it takes work, but in the very least marrying the person you love gives you a shot at a happier life because it’s easier to put effort in, forgive and apologize for someone you love.

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My point isn’t that you have to learn Spanish, or change your opinions (although racism is disgusting and you should be ashamed of yourself for hating someone for no other reason than the color of their skin, or the language they speak.) or even “agree” with homosexuality. My point is that we are all humans, and as humans we can simply respect each other. Not everyone has the “luxury” of being born in America, and for those of you with families, you know that you would do just about anything for your family, no mater what. I am also not saying that breaking the law, is OK, it’s not, but I am saying that until we have walked in someone else’s shoes, we have no place to judge. Try a little empathy.

***DISCLAIMER*** This is all my opinion, based on my personal feelings from personal experiences and research. I am very well aware that we are all entitled to our own opinions, as this is MY blog, it’s my space to say my piece. I could have said a lot more on each of these subjects but I chose to highlight a few points.

Labor Of Love

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Sometimes I forget about the beauty in humanity, we are fed negativity, everywhere we look. I can get pulled into that deep dark place, where all I see is the ugliness people are capable of. It can be daunting, wondering, never knowing who to trust. Betrayal is a constant. Keeping my guard up is so exhausting, and there is nothing more comforting than finding true friends.

Last week two of my friends, Aimee and Alexis, took it upon themselves to give me a break. They knew I am emotionally run down, that I have too much on my plate and more responsibility than ever before. I was under the impression that our life would slow down, and the stress ease after the wedding was finally over. Well, it didn’t. We were thrown into the new responsibilities of school and homework (seriously, homework is a 3 hour event, that often involves tears, frustration and tantrums). So they decided to take me out to lunch (sushi, duh). Unfortunately Alexis was having “one of THOSE days”, her baby is teething, and they had no sleep, nap time just wasn’t happening and she has a home business, is a breast feeding mama, and needed to get some work done. Aimee and I were already at the restaurant when we found out that Alexis was not going to be able to make it. So we ordered her a golf pro hand roll, and took it back to the house, poured her (and us) a glass of wine, and Aimee immediately called dibs on the baby, so I was able to sit down with Alexis and help her get some work done. As we sat their chatting, I was blown away by the love and support friends so willingly give to each other. The simplicity, and and really the perfect circle this made, I needed time off from my stresses, my kiddos, and all of the baggage that I have adopted for my loved ones. (I have an inability to look at a friends difficulties and not somehow own some of it. I am empathetic to a fault, and I need to work on it). Aimee is also a fixer, and she had seen my frustrations, (and I think she also missed me, we used to see each other 3+ times a week!) and, let’s be honest, she LOVES BABIES! So Aimee was able to get her cuddly baby fix. Alexis needed a break, and to not feel so overwhelmed by everything she needed to do. It really was the perfect, almost therapeutic situation. And to top it off, I was able to be a part of Alexis’ dream job. I feel like it is something that every woman can relate to, whether you are a mother, pregnant, or simply have friends that may need a little encouragement. I was so inspired as I sat there and really grasped the beauty of her work, and felt compelled to share it.

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This is directly from her website http://www.laboroflovebeads.com/

“My name is Alexis Baxley and I am a new mom and creative jewelry maker located by the beaches in Oxnard, CA. I believe that childbirth is a rite of passage and that each birth is a unique experience for each mother…the path to motherhood is a highly personal journey. As I started to go to more and more friends’ baby showers, I realized that there was something missing. The baby gifts and games were fun but I always left wishing I could leave the mom-to-be with something to remind her of the love and support that her friends and family want to ‘shower’ her with. As much as the parties are about baby gifts, I feel that they should also be about connection and support.

When the time came for my own baby shower, I wanted to have a ‘blessingway’, something special to empower me for my labor. So I went to a few craft stores and put together my own bracelet making kit. It took some doing and quite a lot of measuring and testing to ensure that everyone would have enough beads, any skill level could participate, and each could be done in under 15 minutes or so. This is when it dawned on me that I was meant to produce a ready-made kit for others who want to create an empowering experience for their labor and the birth of their baby!

What better way to show support of a mom’s journey than by coming together to create a personalized gift through beading. When Mom wears her bracelets, she is reminded of those who created them and their loving support.

I had 16 bracelets from 16 different friends that I wore during my labor. After over 40 hours of hard work, I needed all of the strength that I could find. When I was slumped over my couch during contractions thinking “this is so hard! I don’t think I can do it”, I looked down at my wrists and saw my bracelets. That reminder of support that “I can do this” was what I needed to keep going. My baby girl, Harper Reese was born soon after and is to this day the greatest gift I have ever received! We believe in the power of giving back. Ten percent of each purchase is donated to the Bumi Sehat Foundation, a non-profit, village-based organization that runs two by-donation community health centers in Bali and Aceh, Indonesia. ”

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While I sat with these two amazing women, we each made one for ourselves, and as I type I keep glancing at this beautiful bracelet made of blessings. It is MY constant reminder that not only is there good out there, but I have the honor of knowing some of the most beautiful, women, with even more beautiful hearts. Women who make an effort for each other for no other reason than, we may not understand exactly what the others are going through, but we can ease the burden.

Having had a particularly difficult few weeks, I can’t help but think of my loved ones who need such a simple, yet powerful reminder, that they are not alone.

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*All of these photos are directly from www.laboroflovebeads.com*

**Feel free to check out Alexis on facebook https://www.facebook.com/LaborOfLoveBeads

and her amazing website http://www.laboroflovebeads.com/ **

The Fighter

This blog has been my crutch over the last couple months, a place for me to be honest, to work through my shit, a place to vent and give advice, it has been great for business, but most importantly, and surprisingly I have made amazing friends. I did not expect friendships to develop, in fact I was worried I would drive people away. Honesty in large doses has that effect on friendships. I wanted to tell you all about a specific friend, and her family. A woman I would never have met if I had not began blogging, and I would never have been touched so deeply, or inspired so greatly.

Months ago Lynsay friend requested me on Facebook, she had been following my blog and my fan page and wanted advice on losing baby weight. I shared information about the Isagenix Nutritional Cleanse, (She ended up losing 10 pounds, I believe! Maybe more now!) and we got to talking. She told me that I had inspired her, that she felt like we were already friends. We related on breastfeeding, healthy food, working out, and putting our families first, even the loneliness of parenting when most of your friends don’t have kids. It was like meeting my twin! Until she mentioned that her husband was a paraplegic. They had been high school sweethearts, and had two adorable children when Gavin was in a motorcycle accident. My heart immediately broke for Lynsay and her family. I could not understand how she could possibly say that I had inspired her, when she was so strong, she stuck by her husband, she takes care of him and their children, even though there was no hope for Gavin. Not only did Gavin fight for recovery, he fought for their relationship, and miraculously Lynsay got pregnant! They now have three little ones, and as for Gavin”s recovery, please watch this video. I can’t even describe what you are about to watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VY2m-fYjsY

Gavin and Lynsay, you are my inspiration! Here I am totally blessed wit health, and an able bodied supportive partner, and life can be so tough… You have really put life into perspective for me. I hope I can help share your victory by sending your inspiration out to the world.

The God Thing

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For such a small person, I seem to have an overload of “issues”. I am so tired of caring so much! I am in a constant struggle to find the middle ground, but my ego is fighting for black or white. I have always been neutral about religion, it doesn’t sound like it sometimes, but in reality, believe what you want. Who am I to say what is what? No, personally I do not believe in the Christian god, but I have friends and family who do. I love and respect them, and am thankful for their hearts, and convictions. Besides certain literal inconsistencies, my real aversion to Christianity is people. I grew up saturated in hypocrisy. Not everyone involved was as harmful, but for a child to grow up in such a huge group of liars, you can imagine my discomfort with Christians. It was embedded in my brain for my entire childhood, 2 years old to 16 years old, that this “church” was the ONE AND ONLY way to God. A god I had no real concept of. God is a very difficult concept if you think about it. Actually for some, it is a very simple concept… God is a security blanket, a reason for everything. Humans are constantly wondering “Why?” and if the answer is “God.”… there is no further reason to search. For some reason The God Thing never fit right. I know people who are so comforted by the thought of God, but here I am, here I have always been, feeling uncomfortable, confused and alone. I know all of the arguments, I studied The Bible, I went to church, I was even baptized, which is shocking, I’m sure to those of you who know me (I can even walk into a church without bursting into flames!).

So, if my question is “Why?” and the answer is “God.”, then my real question is “HOW?”

I think I know what God is. And the answer is simple, the journey to achieving “God”… not so simple.

God is inner peace.

You might hate that I over simplified the master of the universe, and there is no need to get offended. I’m not saying you’re wrong. In fact, I’m saying you’re right! If you’re thoughts on your god comfort you, if you are able to give your problems to your god, if you are able to “let go and let God”, then your god is inner peace. I know religion tells us there is ONE GOD and ONE WAY and ONE CHURCH, and there are rules and guidelines. In that case, what I’m saying can’t possibly be true, right? OK, well, I want you to know that you are probably right. Which one of you? Which religion? Which god? I don’t know, but someone has to be right, right?

Or we can just say the truth, we don’t know, which is true, and we may never know. But for the sake of my health, I’m going with inner peace. I’ve tried the traditional god, and then I gave up. I gave up on all of it, I spent years being lost, angry and lonely. I’m ready to find Peace now.

For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to yoga. I love breathing through the discomfort, and stretching every muscle. I love that you have to focus on breathing only, (even though I have horrible balance and have to sometimes focus on balancing). I love how quiet and peaceful yoga is. Lately I have found a lot of comfort in yoga, and thanks to beginning to read Eat Pray Love, I have been inspired to learn more about it, which, honestly is what sent me on this mission to find Peace.

The first interesting thing about yoga is that yogis use/used it to help them meditate. When you meditate, you are supposed to sit still and focus on nothing, clear your mind… this is not an easy task, I have tried and failed many times. However if you are sitting for hours in one position your back is bound to get sore, and it’s hard to clear your mind when you are in pain. So, if you practice yoga, you strengthen your muscles, and massage them, you stretch them out, and you feel great. Then you can sit for a few hours in one position and focus on nothing. And by nothing I mean God and by God I mean Peace.

This is where prayer comes in. I have a serious unnatural fear of prayer. I mean I am flat out distrubed by prayer. I feel anxious simply thinking about praying. My heart is racing right now as I type because prayer freaks me out! You’d think I’m writing about spiders! The funny thing is that I believe in the power of prayer. I have read studies and witnessed miraculous recoveries, I believe in prayer, but I cannot bring myself to do it. For a log time my reason was that I don’t believe in god. Obviously I was not about to pray to something that I don’t believe exists. So that should really be the end of my prayer debacle.It’s not… because prayer works. I believe prayer works because people put so much positive energy into the universe, and energy is powerful, even more powerful with solid faith behind it. So many people pray, to so many different things, and everyone seems to think that whoever/whatever they are praying to is “the one” because they all seem to work. This makes me think that everyone is praying to the same “thing”.

But why can’t I pray???

It must be my ego, my shattered ego that can’t stand the thought of being burned by faith again. There was one other time in my life that my ego wouldn’t allow me to do something… My ego would not let me fall in love. For years I would not let go, I would not let my walls be broken, or even cracked. I kept my relationships on the surface. I could not be intimate, or honest. My ego was protecting my heart because we had been shattered to pieces , and the healing process took years. I had been so naive, and I paid the price. I guess The God Thing is similar, I was just as heart broken by my church as I was by a boy. I learned my lesson. I am so glad that I found my fiance, and that I finally did break down my walls with him. But it was scary, and a long process. It was humbling. My ego didn’t like it. So it makes sense that my ego is fighting longer and harder for my faith.

I want to pray to the universe, I want to feel a connection to the world, I want to put my faith out there, and believe in affirmations. I want to let go! To let go of negativity, to stop fighting the world, to stop fighting myself. These things are scary for me, it’s scary to type, it’s scary to say. I know I should ask the universe for inner peace… but I can’t yet. For some reason I’m not there. I’m scared of the answer.

OH PS: We got married in August 2013!

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