It’s Almost March.

March has always been a tough month for me and it brings back a lot of really bad memories of being dumped, feeling shunned, feeling inadequate, feeling behind and out of shape and out of love with myself.

Since March is so near, I want to dedicate every day of the month to self-love and self-empowerment. What can I do or say about myself to ignore those bad thoughts and bad memories and do and say things for me that will help me overcome what I feel is such a lack of confidence, confidence that I need in order to get my career started and make things happen in my near and far future.

I am going to write (almost) every day in March about positivity. I don’t want to talk about those mean girls, that asshole ex, or my own anxieties and insecurities anymore. I want to live my life the way I want to live my life and I want to do so while feeling like I like myself enough to appreciate all the good things that I have in my life right now. That’s what March will be, and I am only looking forward to what good can come of a project like this once again.

A Rant About Loving Your Body, and Posting Your Stupid Workouts on Social Media.

There are so many opinions on loving one’s body in the information age. There is the “fit fam” camp who claim they are working out to showcase ‘their best selves'; there are sites and articles and companies trying to influence women and men to love themselves for who they are; there’s the “proud of our curves” camp; there are eating disorder survivors striving to love themselves again and recover from debilitating physical and mental illnesses. The uglier side of all of this is ‘girls in yoga pants’ on Twitter, pro-eating disorder websites, and so on. Women are usually at the forefront of this tug of war; they are objectified and have expectations thrust upon them. Suddenly it becomes frowned upon to not work out; suddenly not frequenting the gym and focusing on your body are taboo and the lack of working out induces guilt and a loss in social standing.

Why?

This isn’t going to be a popular opinion necessarily, but this is genuinely how I feel: I don’t care or believe women who say they’re working out for their ‘best selves’ if they’re continuously posting about it on social media. If you are posting it on social media you are leading a charge that is glorifying your self while inadvertently putting other women down and making them feel badly about their bodies. They are boasting that you have a ‘better’ body than them, you’re less lazy, and you have more will power. You are advertising that you measure your self worth by your thinness. You are perpetuating a problem of young women and girls believing they must be attractive for men, that the only way they will be socially accepted is if they are working out and placing it on importance above all else. And I refuse to participate in this outrageous bullshit.

I am lucky in my life that right now, I am bigger than I have been in quite a few years but I am with the love of my life who makes me feel sexier than I have ever felt. I am fortunate that he isn’t obsessed with the idea of a trophy wife and loves me for other great qualities I bring to the relationship that are more from how thin my body is and how often I frequent the gym after work. He appreciates that I can get drunk with him and eat red meat and dessert when I see him. And he makes me feel beautiful on the inside, and by proxy, on the outside as well. I’m not with someone who wants to make me feel pressure to be ‘perfect’ for him or that he won’t find me attractive if I’m 10lb heavier than I want to be. He tells me I’m beautiful and that he loves me, and I don’t worry about impressing him or feeling fat when I have moments of intimacy with him. I am comfortable with that, and happy, and I don’t need to kill myself for him or anyone else.

If I ever have daughters, the last thing I want is for them to be praised for their ‘beauty’ more than their accomplishments. I don’t want them to feel inadequate to men or their teachers or their peers or their family members because of their looks. I don’t want them to feel like they need to pump iron and be in pain and discomfort to try desperately to work out to impress anyone, to feel good about themselves, and because other people on the internet and in life expect that of them. I want them to remember that they are smart and sweet and loved and cherished and bring love and joy and talents and brains into the world. If/when they are also beautiful on top of all of that, that’s great. But I don’t want to gripe to my kids about being fat. I don’t want to deny them cheesecake on Saturday nights because I’m ‘worried’ other people will judge them based on their weight and appearance. I don’t want to be the kind of mother who is ashamed of her ‘fat’ kids and harps on them for something that should not ever matter.

I’m not here to please anyone else in my life. I’m here to please myself. I’m not here to post every day about all my stupid workouts, nor should I feel shunned and embarassed and judged for skipping the gym or eating a cookie to up my blood sugar on a Wednesday afternoon. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty for eating a whole bar of chocolate or half a bag of Oreos. I spent a long, long time in my life – almost a decade – being very overweight and hating my body, and now that I’m (mostly) on the other side of that I fluctuate – I’m not always super thin but I’ve done enough to not retreat to being very overweight. I do what I do for me. I don’t need to instagram my running shoes or my plan for my abs. I don’t need to push myself to do something I find painful, unpleasant or uncomfortable just because I feel the need to be competitive with other girls or have everyone on social media marvel at how great my body is. Beauty and appearance come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is beauty, and beauty should not involve bragging, shaming, boasting, and objectifying yourself.

I am done with these fucking games. I’m done with feeling badly about myself because other girls try and make me feel this way. I am done with obsessing over superficial trivialities because the whole internet seems to think that the most important thing to be is thin and hot. Done. Finished. I’m not going to look and allow these things to make me feel badly. I’m going to focus on myself and hope that my journey t loving myself will continue triumphantly and I can finally believe people who LOVE me rather than people who are trying to one-up me, myself included, when they tell me I am beautiful.

An Open Letter to two girls I used to know.

Dear So-and-So and So-and-So:

Should you not be aware, today is Pink Shirt Day, a grass-roots anti-bullying initiative which has swept across Canada and has allowed bullied youths to feel and understand that they are not alone. Had such an initiative existed when I was in junior high and early high school, I’m not sure how comforted I would feel by the initiative but seeing others who care about marginalized tormented kids is a start to the battle against bullying, and say whatever you want about slacktivism and so on and so forth – it is an initiative I truly appreciated. During my teaching practicum, it was of great comfort to me as former bullied kid to see so many kids at my very large practicum high school wearing pink on that day, and the announcements reading out bullying facts every day that week. Great strides are being made to value each and every student, and that means a lot.

The question is, can we ever actually end bullying? I am of the (pessimistic) belief that where there are people, there are opportunities be mean to each other. Human beings cannot not do that. I would know. I’ve been a victim of human unkindness my whole life. Abuse, then bullying, then men, and then… and then the two of you. You can argue all you want or say whatever it is you want to say to justify your actions and claim you aren’t being mean to me, but the reality is, I feel like I am being crushed under an anvil of female cruelty and even when it is isn’t overt, it is there. It is a reminder of everyone who has ever rejected me or made me feel so, so tiny that I wasn’t just looking desperately up to people, but they were barely looking down on me. Nobody can hurt you like people you love. I love/loved both of you. And now I don’t know what to feel because this crushing numbness and lack of closure kill me on the inside and make it very, very difficult to move forward in life. I want to so badly and I don’t want this to undermine all of the good things I have going on, but it is hard, and that is the reality, although I wish so badly that it wasn’t.

To me, the only way to end bullying is through making peace. The question then is, how do we make peace? I tried, a few times and was met with nothing, really. Nothing, or passive aggressive and condescending comments like “I’m sorry you feel that way” and other injurious words and phrases that alleviate blame and induce frustration and don’t solve any problems. I have maintained for so long that I did nothing to deserve this. My crime was being vulnerable and this treatment was my punishment. I changed and grew up and did the best I could to get my life to move forward but in that process, I lost people who meant the world to me at one point, who I was inseparable with, and who I can’t shake. Because ending things like this is a reminder of both people who were mean to me, and memories that are now lost and gone forever.

You know what, though? My mom always used to say when I was little, “it takes two to make a fight.” And she’s right. All one person needs to do is walk away, not respond, unplug, and maintain composure. There are too many wars on words in the world and there are too many people trying to one-up and undermine each other. And looking back and reflectng, no. I did not ‘do’ anything directly to end this or make a concerted effort to make people feel badly. But at the same time, I am not perfect. And actions against me have to come from somewhere.

I confess to changing my life, becoming thin (or at the very least, ‘thinner’ than I was in my late teens and early twenties) and taking full advantage of the sudden attention I was getting from men. Maybe that process changed my value system, at least in the beginning. Maybe I wasn’t as nice as person because I didn’t need to feel as inadequate anymore (on the outside, at least; I always feel inadequate on the inside).

I also confess to being petty; in the moment, making petty and snide comments to combat and validate my own feelings of anger and frustration makes me feel good. Afterwards, it makes me feel childish and silly. I’m almost 30 years old and I can’t ignore or let go things that make me feel rotten on the inside without saying something unkind back. What kind of person am I, to allow myself and others to feel this way?

I admit that I’m not good at confrontation. I admit that I should have brought up my issues I was having with one or both of you a long, long time ago. I opted instead to let everything just sit and stew and fester until it all got out of hand. Words. I must remember to use them, having learned from this mistake. How is anyone supposed to know how I’m feeling if I don’t say anything? And how am I supposed to have a close, trusting relationship with someone if we don’t ever share our feelings? It all seemed so good on the outside. But there was so much hurt on the inside. The whole time.

I will admit too, that sometimes I felt satisfaction of one kind or another from feeling superior to either of you at certain intervals in our friendship. This comes from a long long history of being inadequate and insecure and full of problems that I never sought real help for. I’m sure that nowadays when you talk about me with scathing rage (don’t even deny it, I know you do) you talk about how ‘crazy’ I am and how irrational I am. And you’d be right. But it doesn’t come from erratic nothingness It comes from a world of hurt and doing anything I can, sane or not, to overcome that.

For everything I have just stated here, and everything I didn’t state that the two of you think about, gossip about, bring up in conversation with people I know, and people I don’t, I am sorry. I am so, so, so sorry. I screwed up. Because I am screwed up. But that’s not an excuse for disrespecting everything I loved and everything I built. I feel so foolish and stupid and childish and mean, and these are feelings I never wanted to feel, especially after living through so many people being mean to me in the past, and now. While I don’t think I deserve that based on how I’ve reacted, I don’t think you deserved my reactions either. And if we keep reacting to each other again and again and again, then we will always be hurt, and we will always be unresolved, and we will always be angry at each other. And if down the road in some place at some time, we all happen to be in the same room together again, what I don’t want is for us to still hate and resent each other, when there was a time we told each other everything and would have done anything under the sun to, and for each other. We’re all to blame. None of us can unplug. And I’m going to tell you that now, I am unplugging. I’m done. I am not going to contribute to making people feel badly anymore, nor am I going to react to others making me feel badly in a way that is cruel and unproductive.

I sit here confessing these things to you, and in a public forum as a strong and firm reminder of what bullying, smack-talk, gossip, hurt feelings and festering issues within a group of friends can do to people. How long-lasting the effects of this kind of hurt can be; how much yearning there is to return to a clean slate and erase it all and start over but knowing this is impossible; as a reminder that behind every bully and every victim of bullying, there is a story of pain and deep-seeded unresolved feelings that manifest themselves in ways that are ugly and bring out our worst selves. It is so important that I raise these concerns on Pink Shirt Day because sometimes looking into your grim future is the only way of changing your present. Don’t bully. Don’t react to bullying. Feel and discuss your feelings in safe spaces with people who are safe. Confess ugly feelings and allow yourself to reflect upon why and how they exist. And please, TALK.

Long Distance.

I had a long, emotional day yesterday (on a Monday, of course). I was rear-ended recently and needed to take my car in for an estimate which ate up my whole morning and forced me to stay late at work. Work was mostly uneventful and uninteresting. Work was like the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. It was black and white Kansas. It was Dorothy wishing she could travel to a place somewhere beyond the rainbow (though she succeeds in this pipe dream). It was me clicking my heels and saying, “There’s no place like home” except nothing happened and I was still in Oz. When I left for home, I hit every red light. I was caught behind a convoy of commuters. It took me over two hours to get home and by the time I did, I was hungry and sweaty and stiff. And then he called me.

It’s hard to see the value of ‘home’ before there’s someone to come ‘home’ to. I have tremendous adversity towards my small town. And yet, it is so nice to just sit down and have dinner with my mother when I return. Even in Edmonton, things I’ve done ever year since I moved there – The Fringe Festival, for example – are staples in my life, signifiers of summer, reminders that where I came from might be less glamorous than where I am now, but that where I came from is worthwhile and irreplaceable in many, many ways.

Someone I knew who moved to Toronto told me once that home is where you can be with people you love. He loved Edmonton too, when all his friends were still there. But as those friends dwindled, moved on, moved back, moved forward, suddenly the city became an excitement-less wasteland and he moved to where people were, resulting in happiness. I did this too; I moved to this amazingly beautiful, vibrant city. I live a block away from Sunset Beach and whenever I run around Stanley Park I can’t believe a microcosm that beautiful is in my own backyard. I have just started to settle and I have just started to make friends and this past two years has been the realizing of an adult life-wide dream accomplished. It was everything I’d hoped for; adventure and newness and beauty and advancing my education. Everything. But it doesn’t have him anymore. He’s not here and when he’s not here, my heart is also an absentee, a displaced Vancouverite caught between a life it loves and a man it loves.

I miss him. I miss everything about him and I miss when who I loved and the life I loved where perfectly merged together. I miss waking up beside him whenever I wanted and driving him in the mornings and getting coffee together and being among only too few Oilers fans in this place. I miss watching TV and movies with him and his roommates, and board game nights and even being his designated driver. I miss road trips and laughter and dinners out and sitting under a tree by the beach watching the fireworks festival. I miss all these things so much and I had them and now I don’t, and it’s been an adjustment.

Long distance relationships are hard. They’re easy when you have mutual trust and a strong foundation and you don’t run out of things to talk about and you can still cling helplessly to each other’s voices. But it’s still hard. Human touch is a huge part of human connection and once it’s gone, your hands and mouth and body crave that alleviation of aloneness. My soul aches to be held, so much so that I look for ludicrous solutions like impromptu unplanned trips back home to revitalize myself and move away from this metropolis where I have been trapped for nearly two years and scarcely left, save for that lovely trip to Maui last Christmas. ‘Trapped’ is an ugly word. Sometimes it describes life and sometimes it doesn’t. Yesterday and today it does. I love looking out on the water and it reminds me how free I really am and how much I have accomplished since coming to this place. But something I did was meet the person I’m in love with. And now he’s not here.

Even in the couple of months since we have started our long distance relationship, I have learned a lot. I have learned not to take someone’s mere presence for granted, and I have learned that strong connections are not forgotten. do not fade away, and do not burst like a taut balloon. They maintain a calm, lovely flow and stasis that is even even and consistent during the times you are apart. That serenity is not wild lust, it is love. Real love. And I know for certain I have that. I have also learned how missing someone evokes a mixture of fond and pained emotions. Following yesterday’s phone call I was sad, and frustrated, and missed him so much I felt even more grounded and flightless and stuck. But then this morning, recalling a good lengthy talk, I was filled with joy that I have someone in my life who understands me and who I can confide in and share so much with even just over the phone. I have learned that dreams are dreams until they change. And even to make a large move toward accomplishing dreams can lead you to more dreams, more open doors, more experiences that allow you to be open-hearted. Rather than looking at this as the end of the dream, I should look at this sadness, this tear, this conundrum, as the beginning of a new dream. Changes in life bring about new dreams. We move towards fixing what is fixable.

I am empowered by something that has devastated me and forced me to re-evaluate everything I knew. I love that, and I hate that, but it brings me only comfort and hope. And I need both now more than ever.

A Letter to A Past Self.

To the Girl Who Wrote This:

It shames and pains me to read about a girl like you, who is so broken up about a stupid idiotic boy, that she would write such filth about herself as this – desperate, anguished pleas and confessions from a girl who is so beaten down and hates herself so much because of how a man made her feel, that she feels stuck in a dank hole with no way out. And the worst is, you used to be me. And I’m kind of sad but also embarrassed for you.

I’m sad for you because you didn’t have a voice and you allowed yourself to be not just hurt, but internally destroyed by someone outside of your body and soul. I’m sad that you were never able to fully appreciate that it wasn’t you who failed at love that time – it was another person who failed at treating you with dignity, respect and kindness. I’m sad for you because someone who was supposed to be your friend – your best friend – was clearly, evidently and obviously flirting with and hitting on the person who made you feel this way. And how would you or could you ever reconcile your love of your friend, with the hatred for how she and him made you feel when they were together, especially while your wound was still raw and torn open, spilling guts and broken veins and arteries and rotting flesh across the ground? It makes me sad you had to go through this, even though in the end, it taught you how to take back control of your life and fix everything around you piece by piece, right up until you finally got your just-desserts from both of these people who beat you down this far.

And yet, I’m embarrassed for you. I’m embarrassed for you not because I lack sympathy for you or because I want to de-validate your feelings, but because you loved two people who didn’t deserve it. And you didn’t JUST love them – you gave them everything. You jumped when they asked you to jump, you gave them amazingly personal and extravagant gifts; you ran to them when they called, longed and hoped for hours of long leisurely time and chats with them, invited them to every important time and moment in your life that was possible, and you gave them your energy. You gave them time and energy that they drained from you. You loved people so unworthy of love, not just from you but really, from anyone. And that’s neither here or there, but I’m embarrassed for you that you let it go on for so long.

I know you know now what love is supposed to feel like and be like, and it’s not an undying obsession, a silly fantasy, desperately seeking someone’s approval and feeling loved in the VERY rare occasion when you receive it, having to beg someone to come hang out with you simply because they like to be begged, a friend who claims to want the very best for you who turns around and sparks such anger, insecurity and sadness in you that it prompts you to write these things about yourself… love is the kind of people who are supportive, relentless, and look at giving and receiving as equal opportunities to love and be loved. Love is the person who never gives up on you, is proud of your successes, challenges you, believes in you, and never lets the other shoe drop. Love is the kind of friend who can make fun of you and then make you feel amazing about yourself in the same sentence. Love is supposed to feel less like a competition and more like a celebration. You had neither in this moment when you wrote this. On one hand, you allowed it to happen by loving scum. On the other hand, you were a 22 year old victim, a sore-hearted, sensitive, shy bleeding heart of a human being who had no voice and no say. Both of these skins were skins you embody and to a certain extent, still do.

And both of them are reasons why I love and care for you. I do love you. I love who you were then for your wistfulness and your ability to write so frankly in a public domain, unsure of who might read it and bravely, not caring. I love you for who you are now, having overcome this, locating your voice, and disallowing these people to treat you this way any longer. I love you. Which I didn’t when I was you. And I’m happy to say that we are the same person, even if we don’t recognize each other. I love you.

Sincerely,

Going Backwards.

I have been blogging for a while now. I don’t have that many readers or followers, but in a certain kind of way knowing my words, experiences, advice, thoughts and editorials are out there gives me that tiny slice of ‘recognition’ and ‘immortality’ that artists tend to seek out. The beauty too of this process for me, has been the ability to connect who I am now with my memories and the ways I have felt in the distant, and near past. It reminds me of things that happened and how or why I felt the way I did in that moment. It’s an ability to look back, and then forward, and then realize, “Oh. This is how I arrived here.”

I have given a lot of thought, time and energy to THE ‘him'; the one who got all my time and attention but never deserved it, and reminded me day in and day out what a stupid girl I was to be so devoted to someone who barely even cared that I was alive. I said of him many times, that I would never stop missing him. Do I miss him still? Nope. Do I even miss memories of him? Nope. It’s been too long. And while I still don’t believe that “time heals all wounds” (some wounds are never truly healed, after all) I think that time allows us perspective, ways of being kind to ourselves, and it allows us to see just how young and just how naive in that youth we truly were before we were finally free and forward-moving. Time has passed, and I have passed too. I don’t care anymore at all what ‘he’ does. I just care that there was a point in my life when I was young enough and impressionable enough to be duped, and still young enough to learn from it before it was too late for me to learn tough lessons about love and letting go. Nowadays, I am able to accept love that I deserve and in that love there is so much I now know and understand that I am missing.

I’m at a juncture in my life where I may end up literally going backwards. I am thinking strongly about it. I am thinking about how it would feel to give up something I’ve dreamed about and worked towards for my last few years in Edmonton; how badly I wanted to do what I ended up doing and how I felt to finally get to a point where I was living the life I wanted. I was proud of myself. I was happy. The sheen is wearing off, and yet – it is beautiful here. It’s come to be a place where I feel I belong. But I also belong in love, and I also belong with a career I would cherish forever, work towards, and never take for granted, should I ever have the opportunity to pursue it. These are things I could do if I indeed ‘went backwards’. And yet, would I not be moving forward in other ways?

When is there a time to admit that your life has led you to a new dream, a new goal, something new to be excited about, so much so that you are somehow able to let go of the old one? In a perfect world, we are able to accept these inherent truths as facts about growing up – that living some boisterous, fabulous, beautiful life in a boisterous, fabulous, beautiful city, isn’t sustainable, nor does it allow me to envision myself as someone who might actually – dare I say it – be ready for something other than the single-girl-in-a-trendy-condo-downtown-in-a-major-city life. What I want will determine where I go. And if I go with what I want, then I’m not truly “going backwards”, am I?

On Love & Valentine’s Day

In the past, I have been bitter (albeit, no extraordinarily so) about couples, fake holidays (Valentine’s Day included) and just ‘love’ and men in general. Is love dead? I believed so, since that fateful day when my heart was broken with a vicious and conniving high five in public in a coffee shop. In that moment, while other people could probably hear the conversation – the fact that it was brought up via Facebook message first, and then taken into a very public place without privacy, and then shuffled away with a high five before the conversation continued as ‘normal’ – and they may have been live Tweeting it (though Tweeting was not around in 2008) and if not, they were texting their friends about it. Maybe they felt sorry for me. For anyone who took pity on me that day, thank you. I don’t normally appreciate pity but my 22-year old self needed that.

But after that day, did I really think there was such a thing as love and commitment? No, I did not. I truly believed people told each other lies about loving one another for some sort of gain, financial or otherwise. I believed that couples were a disgusting waste of time because all they did was sit around and tell each other lies. I believed it was truly impossible for me to be loved, or love someone enough. I believed all of this because it was my life, over and over and over again. And instead of holding onto the hope that it would get better, I gave up. I gave in to what I said about myself and I let go of any fantasies of ‘love’.

In 2012 however, I was enlightened, just a little bit and I gave into something that seemed real at the time. It wasn’t, but it was real enough for me to get back up off the floor and try again. And it was this time for the most part that I called the shots. I decided when to stay and when to go, what I wanted and what I didn’t want, and when I realized this was not my love story, I quit. And set out on a quest to find the story that was (and I owe this person a debt of gratitude for demonstrating to me that reopening your heart was possible, despite how empty things were, in the end).

Not too long after, did find my love story.

What does it mean to be in love? As I’ve maintained in the past, being in love means different things to different people. How each of us uniquely defines what it means to be in love determines who we love, how we love, and how we feel chemistry. It determines too, how we feel when we’re in love, and the ways in which those we love can make us feel. For me, to be in love means giving and doing everything you can to someone to make them happy because making them happy in turn, makes you happy. To be in love for me, also means that you hurt when they hurt, even if that hurt happened in the past before you even knew the person. To know your loved one suffered and that others hurt them induces anger in me. It makes me want to go back in time and shield them and try and alleviate their pain. To me, being in love is finding that common ground – deep common ground, not just liking the same movies and books. It’s having a revelation that in some way, shape or form you have the same viewpoint of the world and how it works. Only in this moment can you realize that you’re able to move forward as a collective.

Are all of these love stories permanent and never-breaking? No, but each one of them reminds us that we’re alive and can feel something we didn’t know we could feel. We open our petals to expose ourselves to the sun. We dry our tears. We realize that hurt, or potential hurt, is worth feeling this kind of shielding, unyielding protection, commitment and strength. Even if and when it ends, there is something that can be said about allowing yourself to be in that position. It can only be positive.

How many ‘great loves’ do we get in our lifetimes? I mean the sort of love that sings, that makes you realize that while you for the most part always felt, and always were ‘full’, there is still a person who fills a void that isn’t even there. How many times do we actually fall? As in, not limerence, not lust, not silly stupid crushes, but real, full, blessed, undying mutual love? So we have an actual moment that we remember forever, like when I was in Seattle in November and heard ‘I love you’ for the first time?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. There aren’t answers to these questions. Love is beyond science and psychology and estimations and facts and figures and logic. In love, we only know what we know; we know what we have; we know that in that moment, there is an inherent truth and something meaningful and something real and true and important. But we don’t know how to describe it or place our finger on what it is. We don’t know how many times we’ll fall on our face. We don’t know when we speak to someone for the first time that we might marry them, or they might break us down until we’re nothing. The point is, it’s worth it to try, and it’s worth it to be open-minded and open-hearted and emotionally present and reflective to feel that, regardless of how we feel about paper hearts and boxes of chocolates and stuffed bears.