Thursday, January 28, 2016

Does This Blog Post Make Me Look Fat?

My friend Amber is participating in a 365 Grateful Project this year. Each day, she posts a photo to her social media of someone/thing she is grateful for that day and a little blurb about the person/thing. As we hung out one evening, she asked if she could take my photo for that day’s post. I was honored.

When I got home and logged on to Facebook, her post popped up right away. The first thing I thought was Oh God, I look so fat.
Here’s what she wrote: “1/14/16 - Ramona - I am so happy to have this woman as part of my tribe. She is fierce and strong and sensitive and kind. She has taught me so much in the past couple years of friendship.” That’s incredible. You wish someone would write that about you on Social Media, right? It’s wonderful. But before I could let in sink in how kind and true her words were, I sat there berating myself for a fat face, bad haircut and wide body. 

Would I ever say anything like that to one of my friends? Never. I don’t think I’d even talk like that to someone I dislike. So why do I do it to myself?

I could list all the reasons I’ve gained weight since I've retired from roller derby. Some are valid reasons, some are excuses, but I’m not going there. I’m working on accepting that yes, my body is different than it was two years ago. It’s not good or bad, it's different. It simply is. 

The thing is, I know my body is amazing. This body of mine has played roller derby, given and taken hard hits, run races, hiked to mountain peaks, skied down mountain faces. It walks my dogs every day. This body has worked many long hours on tired feet. My body has danced, laughed, cried, taken lovers. This body has hugged some of my favorite people in the whole world. My body has healed from severe illness and injury, miraculously recovered from hangovers and migraines. It displays my beautiful tattoos, houses my soul. 

All of those things are astounding. They require strength, compassion, perseverance. Why is it so difficult to remember that my body is me? It's not a separate entity to be fought against.

Now, I want to go back to Amber’s 365 Grateful post because do you see what I did? I made it about me when it isn’t at all. 

So what's the post about if not its subject? Is it about Amber? Not really. Each post is about love and connection. Most of her photos are of people and in every single one of them, that person has a big smile and is obviously feeling loved.

With each post, Amber is giving love, showing appreciation, putting it out into The Universe without asking for anything in return. Maybe the least I can do is accept that graciously. Instead of disliking my photo, I try to look at it and see what she sees.

There's a gap between perception and reality. Sometimes it's bigger than others. The way I see myself is not the way others view me but what is true?

My sweet friend has inspired me so much with her posts, and I plan to start my own 365 Grateful Project on February 1st!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Live Life, That's What I Do


On Christmas Eve, my family engaged in a particularly competitive game of Taboo. This isn't surprising considering my husband and his four siblings can make anything super competitive. (I’m an only child so I don’t get it, but I do my best!)

It was my nine year old niece’s turn. When the timer was flipped she looked at her first card, thought for a second, then gave a clue: “This is something Ramona does.” Her team members immediately starting shouting out guesses:
                “Roller skating!”
                “Vet tech!”
                “Arrange flowers!”

It turns out the answer was “pen.”

I was on the opposite team so I couldn’t guess. I sat back laughing until my face hurt, watching our family frantically try to remember all the different jobs and hobbies I’ve had!

This funny incident has been on my mind lately because I’ve attended a few functions recently where I’ve gotten the question “What do you do?”

Ever since I left my work in veterinary medicine, I’ve been more aware than ever before of that question and my response. It used to make me self-conscious because I know people are going to judge me based on my answer. Now I usually say something like "I do a lot of things. Are you asking me what my job is?"

As I’ve moved through the past three years trying different jobs, I learned what I don’t want to do more than what I do want to do. As I’ve made my happiness a priority (work related and in regard to relationships and other interests) The Universe has noticed and guided me toward a life that is more focused on what I enjoy instead of what I “should” do. But that’s not easy to sum up in a quick answer to a four word question!

For a decade and a half, I worked as a vet tech and wrote on the side as a hobby. Now, I write for work and volunteer at the local animal shelter. Everything is still there but my priorities have shifted and my quality of life has improved.

I see my current job as a Karmic reward for following my heart and striving to increase my happiness. It’s never been more clear to me how each thing I’ve ever done connects in some way to the next. If I didn’t play roller derby, if I didn’t befriend my teammates, if I didn’t blog and share it on social media, if I wasn’t honest about my journey to pursue a more satisfying line of work, if I didn’t do any one of those things, the connections would not have made it all the way through and I never would have found my job.Or rather, my job wouldn't have found me.

When I meet new people, I’m often interested in what they do for work and for fun as well. If I want to know about a job, I come right out and ask “What do you do for work?” but I’ve started looking for more creative ways to learn about someone I’ve just met. “What do you do for fun?” is one of my favorites. I also like “Where did you grow up?” because almost everyone has strong feelings about their birth place. I ask people if they have pets or what their favorite book is, because those are both topics that are important in my life, and I like to connect with people about them.

We all do a lot of things. Work is one of those things but it’s not the only thing. It’s not what defines us. Maybe the line of work you've chosen says something about who you are as a person, but it might not. What you do with this life you've been given speaks for you, not what you do from 9-5.

So the next time you want to ask someone what they do for a living, stop and think about how you want to present that question. Chances are there’s something else you’d rather know about that person. And if you genuinely want to know what that person's job is, just ask!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Good Grief

The news of Alan Rickman's death, announced a mere three days after David Bowie's, sent me reeling for the second time this week. Although I've never met either of these men, my life has been affected by both of them through their careers.

I was raised by music loving parents through the 70's and 80's. I don't recall a time in my life when I didn't know who David Bowie was. I can't pinpoint the first time I saw Labyrinth or heard Let's Dance, I've always known them. From the posts I've seen on Facebook, I know there are scores of us with vivid memories of The Goblin King from our childhoods!

Similarly, there's now a whole generation of people who have grown up with the Harry Potter world and Rickman's embodiment of Severus Snape.

Personally, my favorite of Alan Rickman's film roles is that of Harry in Love Actually. It's one of my favorite movies of all time, despite the fact that I'm not generally a RomCom type of gal. When I was starting out on my own after my divorce, I watched that movie so many times. I connected with each of the characters in some way, as I navigated through cycles of hope and grief. It's a beautiful story that shows all sides of love and loss, whether it be romantic or family or friendship. If you've never seen it, please watch it this weekend. If you've seen it before, watch it again this weekend. I know I will!

I received the news of the passing of both of these great men from Facebook posts. (Whether or not it's a healthy habit to have, I check my Facebook first thing in the morning while I'm still lying in bed.)

For all the negative press social media gets, and Facebook in particular, it cannot be denied that it is a place of unity, a place where we come together in times of crisis, or joy or outrage, to share our opinions and connect with like-minded souls.

I know people who say "So what? Celebrities are people just like the rest of us. No big deal." I both agree and disagree with this line of thinking. Yes, celebrities are people just like us, but they are a big deal and we are all a big deal. Maybe it's not on a global scale or Harry Potter level but we all affect each other every single day.

As I've scrolled through my social media accounts, and read posts from people who knew David Bowie and from fans who never met him, I was struck by these strong connections. Then I saw it again in regard to Alan Rickman. If you haven't already, you need to read this post Daniel Radcliffe wrote about working with Rickman. That's powerful stuff. I'm sure it brought Daniel comfort to be able to share those feelings with his fans.

Social media has changed the world in many ways. Some can be viewed as negative but the frivolous uses of it so often over shadow the positive, loving uses: connection, finding your tribe, sharing your thoughts with the world. Previous generations didn't have the opportunities that we do when it comes to this so I hope we are not wasting them.

Connect with someone you love today. Or better yet, more than one person. Tell your friends you love them. Then tell your favorite singer/actor/writer you love them as well! When we fill The Universe with those loving vibes, there's less room for the negative ones!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Get Ready For Gratitude

Tomorrow is the last day of October. That means a few things: Halloween, candy, Daylight Savings Time ends, and then it's November. 

Your Facebook news feed will first be flooded with photos of your friends and their children (and dogs) in Halloween costumes, and then with a month's worth of status updates about what people are thankful for. 

I enjoy participating each November, posting each day about what I'm grateful for. I've written about this before. More than once. 

Over the summer, I was in a class with a woman who announced that gratitude is over rated. It took every ounce of energy I had to stay seated and not climb up on my soap box to tell that woman about everything she's missing out on!

Fortunately for me, this blog is my personal soap box! Instituting a gratitude practice changed my life. I can't emphasize that enough. Life is difficult. Some days have me in tears. If at the end of these days, I'm not grateful for a glass of wine, my hot tub and a spouse who is present, then what are these things for?

I've heard complaints about people who post negative updates all year long but are suddenly thankful every day in November. So what? Good for them! The beauty of Facebook is that it's optional. You don't have to log-on or read someone's status updates or engage with anyone. The "Unfollow" option is the greatest feature ever added, use it! And while we're on the subject, I'd like to remind you: these people are supposedly your friends. If you're not glad to see what your friend is grateful for, then maybe that person isn't truly your friend. (I'm a big advocate of frequent re-evaluation of one's friend list.)

Even if those people annoy you, even if you think it's hokey, even if you think gratitude is over rated, I challenge you to do it anyway. You don't have to post to Facebook. Just sit down once each day in November and write down three things you are thankful for that day. If you can't find three, start with one. 

If you need some more convincing, try this book: The Joy of Appreciative Living, it's one of my favorites. The facts are impossible to ignore: people who list things they are thankful for each day are genuinely happier. 

Make this November about you and your gratitude! Then please tell me about it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Calling All Weirdos

Last winter when I was doing some traveling, I spent some time with a guy I was getting to know. At one point he said "You're so tough. You play roller derby, you have all these tattoos, you're on this adventure and you do scary things. You're so strong. But you cry when you're hungry or tired or cold. I don't get it. What's that about?" I can still recall the sensation of my heart sinking, slow and heavy, like a smooth polished stone, as I realized that this person simply did not get me. 

In this guy's defense, I'll say not everybody gets me. In fact, there are just a few sacred souls who I believe truly do. And while I don't know that anyone gets every thing about me (hell, even I don't) the people who love me sure do try. 

I have a powerful emotional world and I'm not afraid to hide anything. People aren't used to that and sometimes they don't know how to respond. With me, what you see is what you get: tattoos, tears and all. 

Years ago, I had a boss who told me "You're a sensitive one...You're an emotional one...I'm going to teach you to be like me..." For three long soul crushing years, I tried. Eventually, I realized I didn't want to be like my boss. I wanted to by myself. When I finally got up the guts it say so, it didn't go over well. I was told I made other employees uncomfortable, they didn't feel they could talk to me, I was unapproachable. At the time, I was upset. I didn't understand. Years later, I can see quite clearly that I probably was awkward as hell because I was trying to hide my true self inside those office walls. 

When an ex-boyfriend once called me a weirdo, I was taken aback. "Gonzo is a weirdo," he eagerly explained, appealing to my deep rooted adoration of all things Muppet. Yes, he was correct and yes he has an appreciation for the work of Jim Henson, points for him. The boyfriend meant "weirdo" in an endearing way, and I get that. I've filled that role for a guy more than once. What I mean is he loved the idea of me more than he loved the reality of me. I get it. I've been guilty of that as well (the tortured artist, the hardworking cowboy, the sexy fireman. Need I go on?) The truth is the reality of any relationship is different than our idea of what it "should" look like. 
So how do we find a middle ground? The goal is to find someone who appreciates us as a whole. Someone who deals with our quirks and maybe even appreciates them. And someone for whom we feel the same. That can be a lot to ask.

I'd forgotten the Gonzo comment until I was watching the new Muppet show last week. Gonzo appeared on screen in a loud patterned shirt and I was struck with a vivid memory of that conversation with my ex. I got to think about it and you know what? Gonzo is pretty f-ing brave. He's always doing crazy stunts and chasing after that chicken he's in love with. He works hard, he's loyal to his friends. He likes cracking a joke. Sure, the others laugh at him and sometimes he's awkward, but that's what happens when you put yourself out there! I'm not ashamed to be in the same category as Gonzo!
Photo from Wikipedia

Someone else's idea of me isn't real. My idea of me isn't real. The truth lies in my actions, in the energy I put into The Universe. I get grumpy when I'm hungry and cry when I'm over tired. Someone who loves me knows when to say "You need to eat something," and it all works out.

That's what we all desire and deserve, to be received and understood. To be wanted, not simply tolerated. That doesn't mean everyone always likes us or agrees with us. It means they know our truth. It means they understand our intentions. I'm not only talking about romantic endeavors, but any relationship.

We can't expect a romantic partner to be our everything. It's important to find our own tribe, that collection of like minded souls who make us feel less alone in the world. The more you embrace your true self and eliminate people who don't support that, the more room you create for people who do.