Lilly Pulitzer and How We Shame Ourselves

So, the internet is freaking out today about Lilly Pulitzer because of this image in a New York Magazine article:


Yeah...those cartoons are pretty terrible. There's just no way around that.


Shortly after the shit hit the fan, Lilly Pulitzer sent an e-mail to the Huffington Post, saying: “These illustrations were the work of one individual and were posted in her personal work area. While we are an employer that does encourage people to decorate their own space, we are a female-dominated company and these images do not reflect our values. We apologize for any harm this may have caused."

Maybe that's true. Or maybe they're just trying to cover their ass. I don't know, I wasn't there. (someone somewhere said these images were on a refrigerator in a common space, which I find hard to believe. The stick pins in the image show that it's a corkboard, which implies workspace) But when I saw those images and related them to someone's personal workspace, it seemed really familiar to me. Because while women will definitely (and horribly) shame each other, that's also how women talk to ourselves. 

That's how I talk to myself.

I absolutely spent 20 minutes this week inspecting the various parts of my body that have gotten bigger and flabbier over the last 4 months (depression and eating your feelings does that). I put on a pair of pants that last year were one size too big. This year they're two sizes too small. I absolutely berated myself for being lazy. I absolutely went out and bought larger shirts because I didn't want to wear anything that clung too closely to a body that I'm kind of ashamed of right now. I absolutely was horribly and cruelly critical to myself as I tried clothes on in the dressing room.

I mean - sometimes I'm on the right track. I remind myself that I'm making healthier choices, getting more exercise, laying off the girl scout cookies and margaritas, and that actually, there's nothing wrong with my body, it's just changed a little bit. But there are definitely days where I will look into the mirror and my first thought is,"you are really gross."

Because we do that to ourselves. We do it all of the time. There's actually a market for different ways that we can shame ourselves...



refrigerator magnet...of a pig. Because if we eat too much, we're just like pigs.

cute. it oinks when you open the refrigerator. because we're pigs.

awesome. another magnet that will shame me if I try to eat anything.


and we've been doing this for decades...



Do a google search for "weight loss" and this is the first page of images. Notice that it's all women. 




So I'm not freaking out about Lilly Pulitzer. Rather, I feel sorry for anyone that would talk to themselves that way, in an effort to be motivated. I feel even more sorry for someone whose personal demons were put on display like that, for the entire internet to freak out about. Because I get it. I get what we're up against as far as what the world expects us to look like, and how easy it is to become part of the mob that's telling us that we're horrible, gross, ugly and not good enough.

And to the girl who drew those pictures...if indeed those pictures were meant to be some sort of motivation (which really is what it looks like to me), I hope that she learns to be nicer to herself . The world is hard enough without us beating up on ourselves. 

Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. 

image available for purchase via this awesome artist.




Sometimes the Dove Dies.

I found my anger the other day. After months of sadness and nothing and hardcore social anxiety, I found my anger.

My therapist had encouraged this moment, telling me that not only was anger ok, but that it was valid and that she wanted me to feel it. I had a right to be angry. And she hoped it would come soon.

And so it did.

I could go into the details, but it's long and messy and boring and ...over.


A former therapist said that when the anger comes, to buy cheap plates at thrift stores and find a place to smash them. And I do. And it feels really good.


I spent the past year fighting battles that I never wanted to be a part of, standing up for what I believed to be true and right, and being honest and transparent every step of the way. I absolutely had moments where I was a not the best version of myself - moments that I was not proud of.  But for the most part, if this was indeed a fight, then I believe I fought with integrity.At the end of the day, I suffered a lot of damage because of it, but I have no doubts about the person that I am, and that the person that I am is good.

Sooooo...when the anger came, it was intense. I was furious. Furious at the way that I had been treated, furious about the lies that had been spread about me and others, furious about my own shortcomings, furious about a false narrative that was being presented as truth, furious about a community that had been completely marginalized...so much fury.

And then strangely...joy. Because I came back to who I am. And along the way, as I cut the toxins out of my life, these amazing people who I have always kind of known, began to shine so much brighter, and I had the opportunity to become a part of their lives. We have had some amazing moments - I have been blessed with these moments, with these amazing people.

As ugly as the past year has been, I don't think I would have changed much about what I did.

The only thing that I am pretty sure that I would do differently is to understand that if I am going to be comfortable with this outspoken, passionate, honest and flawed person that I am, then I need to be ok with the fact that I am going to have enemies. And I am going to have enemies who are going to be less than kind. And I need to learn when to walk away.

~*~

Last week, I was walking to church and I saw a lump in the street. As I got closer, I saw that it was an injured mourning dove. I carefully picked it up and moved it into some bushes. I waved my arms in the air so that its mate would see where it was, and then kept walking. When I got to church, I felt like the sermon and the dove all tied in together and it was like this beautiful symbol of hope...the universe was speaking to me - it sent me this dove as a message of hope! I cried a little, because I have all of these crazy emotions and that's what I do now, and doves! and hope! and universe!




When I walked home, I again saw a lump in the street. It was the same dove. And it was dead.

Shit.

Because if the universe sent me a message of hope, then it also smashed my hope right in the middle of a neighborhood that I had wrapped my whole life around for years.

But...I still took meaning from it. And I think the meaning I took was even better than the message that I thought I was getting.

Sometimes, you are going to put all of your energy into fighting for something, saving it, loving it, making sure it's ok.

And sometimes, after all of that effort, the dove is going to end up smashed in the street anyway.

I'm still glad I tried to save that dove, because it was the right thing to do. And I would do it again, a thousand times over.

Thank you so much for being here. A friend told me tonight that her favorite people are the people who are messed up. I agree and I don't - I don't think that it's being messed up that makes a great person. I think we're all messed up. But it takes courage to say it, and to try and navigate through it to come out a better person. So here's to all of the people who are not afraid to own their own disasters - I am so incredibly grateful to be able to share this journey with you, and that so many people have been sharing their own journeys with me. It's been, and continues to be, inspiring.




Everything is just fine

I read this story yesterday and was struck by the sentence: "It's OK to not be OK. It's OK to show people you're not OK."

Because ...of course...it's not ok to be not ok...because everything must be just fine. People are uncomfortable when things aren't fine, and if you're not fine, you must be weak, and weakness is definitely not ok.

So everything is fine.



Over the last few months, as I've been trying to process through all of my own emotional turmoil, one thing has really stuck out...

The older we get, the less "not fine" we're supposed to be.

As adults, we're supposed to have it figured out. We're supposed to not let it bother us. We wear these "everything is just fine" costumes and if we take off that costume for even just one moment, we feel like we're somehow failing at being grown ups. We look to other adults for guidance, and all we see are a bunch of other adults dressed up in their "everything is just fine" costumes. And then we see young people who know that such a costume exists, but are just a bit braver about not wearing the same thing as everyone else.

I don't want to dress like this anymore.

Everything is NOT just fine. Some things are good. Some things are not very good. But without a doubt, everything is not fine.

My husband and I had a horrible fight this week. I held onto myself so tightly for support that I woke up today with my arm covered in tiny, self inflicted, fingerprint sized bruises. I woke up ashamed of the mean things I said. I woke up hurt by the mean things he said. We both woke up and tried the same conversation, with a little more honesty, a little more kindness and a little more patience with each other. We're ok.

We're better than ok.

Last night I danced by myself. Great, leaping, jumping, absolutely horrible dancing. It felt really good. It felt fine. It felt like joy.

I miss my joy...it's nice to see her coming back around.

The other night was scary slow at the bar. My anxiety kicked into overdrive and I wondered if people were not coming out because they knew I was working, and maybe they preferred someone else to serve them their drinks? I mentally made next week's grocery list, which was made up of mostly ramen noodles. That's not just fine. That sucks.

I hate irrational concerns and I hate ramen noodles.

Today I hammered words into metal, sewed a thing, used a drill and yelled proudly "Look what I made!"

That was very fine.

I am fine and I am not fine. But I am finding inspiration in the brave people all around me. I am finding a place for myself alongside people who were always there, but I could not see...not with this "everything is just fine" costume obscuring my view.


I am connecting more with people now when I am not fine than I ever did when everything was just fine.

Everything is not fine...and that's ok.

I'm inspired by and finding hope through these people, stories, songs, links etc. this week:



Beautiful, empowering poetry by Rupi Kaur








The community at the church I've been attending and this song by Lifehouse.


“You tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake…You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that.” ~ Warsan Shire

16 quotes by Warsan Shire, shared with me by the amazing Angie from No More Ramen.





I used to go to Thirty-Thirty Coffee Company every week. And then everything fell apart and I was scared to go anywhere. I've been challenging myself to go back again, and each time I do, the familiar feeling of wanting to burst into tears and crawl inside my own skin and hide comes roaring back...but literally EVERYONE who works at Thirty-Thirty is kind, compassionate, caring and just...really nice. And the coffee is amazing.








Silly putty. I try to carry it with me where ever I go and instead of clutching myself for dear life, to the point of injury, I just destroy this little ball of putty.





Mary Lambert and all of her "secrets."





The family and friends of  Madison Holleran for using Madison's story and their loss to bring awareness to the issues surrounding depression. The facebook site set up in her memory is dedicated to suicide prevention and ending the stigma attached to mental illness. 






Kierkegaard's Parable of the Geese

My therapist shared this story with me the other day - she thought it dealt really well with one of the frustrations that I've had in the past as a community activist, and...

...yes. It totally does. And it's worth passing on:




A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it. Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk. One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. 'My fellow travelers on the way of life,' he would say, 'can you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence?

'I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.
The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. 'How poetical,' they thought. 'How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.' Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.
And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher's message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!

I feel like the town I live in is full of people who want to talk about doing things, and have meetings about the great things that could and should be done, and then have meetings about meetings, and then pat each other on the back because they had such a successful meeting.

And then there is another group of these really excited, energetic, enthusiastic people over here who are like, "ok, so we had the meeting, we know what to do, we can see how great it is to fly - let's fly!"

But the older geese don't want to fly, because how it's always been done, is that we don't fly. But we should talk about flying. And we should schedule a meeting about it.

And while they whither away in yet another meeting, complimenting each other on the size of their wings, the other geese will eventually decide to fly away ...to a new lake...a new barnyard...the sky above...to a place where the other geese aren't afraid to take the risk....so that they can all fly.







Un-tangled

I'm learning lessons...so many lessons.

I'm learning that I really, really want to help people and I'm so good at dispensing advice designed to help...but...

...I never really knew anything.




I used to do what everybody does when they encounter "sad" people. I tried to cheer them up. "Look at the bright side!" "Don't pay attention to mean people!" "Never read the comments on the internet!" "Why do you care what people think?" "People love you!"

I've said those things, and recently people have said the same things to me. I always meant well, and I know that people who are saying these things to me also mean well. But what I'm discovering is that well meaning as those words are, they might not be the best approach.

I mean...I WANT to look at the bright side. I WANT to ignore the mean things that people say. I WANT to not care what people think about me. I tell myself those things every day. And then I kind of spiral a little further into despair because why am I so completely fucked up that I CAN'T see the bright side, that I CAN'T not care what people think, that I CAN'T ignore the mean things that are being said, and I CAN'T direct this energy to the people who genuinely care about me?

I'm supposed to be this strong, outspoken, confident person and over the last few months, I've just crumbled into this scared, anxious, tired, broken and sad weirdo.


                                                             

painting by Jessica McGhee




It's humiliating.


But...I'm getting a little bit better everyday. And I'm learning lots of valuable lessons about myself, and about other people. One is that I really do...or did?...or do?...care about people. And when you care about people, you care about the whole. You care about how they're doing, you care about their friendship, you care that they care about you...and you care if they don't. You can't really love people, but only love the nice parts. Love doesn't work that way. So when the people you love betray you, you feel that pain.

Because you loved them.

So it's ok that I got the wind knocked out of my sails by this experience. I still think it really sucks, and it still hurts, but I am trying not to be ashamed by my reaction. It happened because I loved people. It happened because I thought the best of them, and that's not anything to be embarrassed about.

image found here


I'm also figuring out that childhood trauma that you're totally sure you had made peace with can sneak up on you years later and just kick the living hell out of you. And the triggers aren't always so easy to recognize.

One of the things my mom used to say to me all of the time was "I love you, but I don't like you." Not, "I don't like the way you're acting" or "I don't like your behavior" but "I don't like you."

I don't really know how a little kid is supposed to take hearing that all of the time...but, you know, no big deal...there were worse things to worry about...

I ran away from home for the first time when I was 13. I came back within a few days. With the exception of a few short lived returns, I basically left for good at 14. I did not feel loved in my home, I was not safe in my home, and the right thing for me to do was to leave. I spent the next 4 years homeless.

The thing about being homeless, is it doesn't always look like the movies - homeless kids aren't always living under freeways or sleeping on park benches. In my case, being homeless sometimes meant sleeping outside or in cars, but more often than not, just bouncing from couch to floor to spare bedroom to space in a garage, to whoever would have me.

When your food, shelter and safety are not guaranteed from day to day, you become a people pleaser. You try really hard to make sure that you're perfect. To make sure that everyone likes you. Because if they don't, where will you sleep? Where will you eat? How will you eat? How will you survive?

Fast forward to today. I have a strong sense of right and wrong. I'm open to compromise, but I don't like to compromise my values. So I make enemies. And sometimes people just want to be cruel. And I shouldn't let it bother me...

...except...there are parts of my brain that are apparently all tangled in my past and red lights are flashing and sirens are going off and it's like there's a 13 year old version of myself sitting in a corner of my head freaking out and screaming "you're not safe!"


image found here


Because if people don't like you, where will you sleep? Where will you eat? How will you eat? How will you survive?

And people are telling me that they love me and they care about me, but part of my brain is saying "they love you, but they don't like you..."

And if people don't like you, where will you sleep? Where will you eat? How will you eat? How will you survive?

All of this time I just thought I was ambitious. A perfectionist. A little high strung, maybe, but look at how much work I get done! Look at all of the good things!

...all of these things that I do...to make sure that I'm good enough....so that people will like me...because I have never, ever, truly felt safe...

Oh, brain. You're so much fun.

Not.

So, you know...I'm trying. And I really am getting SO MUCH  better. But sometimes it's just a little more complicated than it looks.

And I'm learning that more than all of these words of wisdom and good intentions and great advice, people just want to be heard.Our feelings are valid and don't always need to be fixed and hopefully time will heal our wounds, but it might take a while. So patience is appreciated.



 If I were to take my own advice from the past and look at the bright side of my own situation, I hope that I remember this. I hope that when I open my heart again, I can be a better person to those I love. I hope I remember to listen.

Thanks for being here with me - I am grateful for your support, patience and encouragement. Truly.