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A few months ago, I presented my thoughts about the recent tragedy in Arizona. I’d like to bring up two words again just so I am perfectly clear – “my thoughts”. Not yours, not yours either, but my thoughts. If people would like to get their thoughts out there and not trample mine – may I suggest that they set up their own blog.
I think I am entitled to my opinion and I do welcome hearing from people who don’t agree with me on different issues. I don’t live in a bubble where I think we all agree. But I do take issue when I get attacked about how I feel. Big time. I am the messenger of my thoughts. Challenge me on my beliefs but keep your freaking venom to yourself.
I was brought up by parents who believed that people should not die in war, live in fear, be discriminated against, be refused housing or an education, or being denied the right to marry the person they love. What a bunch of hippy freaks, eh? They were both young adults during World War II and I think that may have altered my father’s beliefs. He never served overseas (he used to tell us that my uncle and him chased the Nazis out of New Jersey) but he saw his father die a slow and painful death due to mustard gas that attacked and destroyed his lungs. And I learned to hate violence and man’s inability to live in peace early on because it killed my grandfather years before I was born.
So I was raised and surrounded by people who felt that we as human beings can and should do better. Oh, someone please report my parents to the authorities.
So when a young disturbed man walks in and buys a gun and then kills six innocent people, I can’t help but look around and wonder how much hate fueled his actions. I look around at our country and wonder why a mentally imbalanced person (who was kicked out of college for behavioral problems – and we have seen what disgruntled people can do when they go back and shoot up their job site or schools) can so easily purchase a gun with enough ammunition to reduce a city into a ghost town. And I question why certain politicians need to use a gun as a fashion accessory. I’ve yet to see a handgun compliment a pair of Christian Louboutin’s shoes.
And you know what – I am always going to question it.
I am not going to turn it off because someone told me I can leave the country. I am not going to turn it off because someone said I am hateful and mean. That remark really blew my mind. I was upset about a sweet little girl being slaughtered and I am hateful and mean. Perhaps their hat is cutting off the oxygen to their brain.
I don’t want to give them any more of my time. They are really not that important to me. Believe me. But my beliefs are. Just like theirs must be to them. And agreeing to never agree works just fine with me. But don’t ever think that they can harass me and think I will not call them out on it.
I am the first to admit that I was a bully as a child. This sweet little girl with the curly blond hair, who staged her own Broadway musical productions in her parent’s living room, used to tap dance around with her dark side. At the age of four, I decided that if anyone crossed my path that I would, without warning, bite them. Under the eye.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all the kids in Bayside, New York who spent their summers with a band-aid under their eye. I am truly sorry. I also believe the statute of limitations has run out so don’t go hiring some lawyer. And besides, I am a creativity coach and the literal translation of this means “woman without money.”
Stock in Dial soap plummeted when I outgrew biting unsuspecting kids. But payback was a bitch. I became the one being stalked by two mean girls who were hell bent on making my life miserable in the fourth and fifth grade. And I had to live with it because people assumed it was just a phase they were going through – sacrificing young virgins on the playground?
I even became a pacifist who abhors any form of violence or cruelty on TV, in the movies or between Kathie Lee and Hoda. I wanted to show by example that I moved away my demons and became a productive person who wants to leave her mark on the world. My teeth need not apply.
Thinking I would ease into a bully-free life as an adult, I foolishly entered the job market. The thugs of yesteryear were now wearing suits and cheap shoes. And instead of threatening to tell everyone that I ate butter sandwiches (don’t knock it till you try it) these bullies held my paycheck ransom unless I played victim.
These overgrown bullies seem to have reached a level of authority by impressing the crap out of likeminded bullies or intimidating scaredy cats who were hiding out in a corner office. I spent several years dodging their acerbic barbs and threats because I needed the job. Life in a refrigerator box held no appeal to me. I will also admit that my job performance suffered because I could not thrive under a reign of terror. My colleagues and I were suffering from PTSD from Monday to Friday. And here I thought being a bully was just child’s play.
In my case, blessed Karma raised her perfectly manicured hand and bitch slapped the offenders. They lost their jobs. Sadly, it was not because the company became altruistic. Oh please. The economy took their power away. I would like to thank our country’s recession for lifting the chains off so many of my co-workers. As for me, I now work for myself and I have a time out corner at the ready in case I start to give myself some attitude.
Can we get rid of all the bullies in the workforce? I doubt it. Can we make them card carrying members of Bullies Anonymous? Yes and while we are at it, I say slap their pictures on milk cartons. Let our kids read about their dastardly deeds while chomping down on Captain Crunch. Let’s scare them into nice kids.
And if that doesn’t work, I will personally go into their offices and slap the ipads out of their hands, wipe the smug expressions off their faces and say, “I am your 2 o’clock meeting. I just came from my dentist’s office and my incisors can cut glass. Shall I make myself comfortable?”
I’m sitting in a wide wicker chair, throne-like in the way it ensconces me in a sea of pillows. In the chair next to me is my daughter. She works long hours, the TV/film industry standard. The least I can do is pamper her, a pedicure when I visit. This is her turf, L.A., her salon of choice. They give you a menu here, a cornucopia of temptations tailored to price. I’d be a fool now, wouldn’t I, not to at least go for the dharma add-on, a whopping $4.50 extra for a chakra-charged foot massage. My lotion of choice is citrus-scented, with its promise of creativity. Not that I could go wrong with eucalyptus and rosemary (for centering) or rose oil (love and be loved).
There are some things you just never want to come to an end.
My daughter passes a magazine to me, one of the two issues of Vanity Fair she has brought for us. I watch her riffle through hers, pick up mine, begin reading a poignant piece by Christopher Hitchens on the nature of ‘voice.’ I need to know – right now – if this is something I can retrieve online, bookmark and tweet. I reach for my iPhone, a trusted pet tucked in my purse, at my beck and call. Only something happens on the way to satisfying this very immediate need of mine. I glance across the room at a woman getting what would appear to be the royal treatment. A man sits at her feet, massaging them. A woman sits at her side, massaging an arm. That leaves one arm free, for reading a magazine. And this is what stops me.
Why would I want to do anything but luxuriate in this moment, the foot massage more transcendent by the minute? I put down my magazine (and the iPhone), look over at my daughter immersed in hers, no words, just shared experience between us. The flat-screen TV on the wall is playing the best of Mike Myers, the very best, I should say, he in his Linda Richards I’m-verklempt, talk-amongst-yourselves mode. The sound is turned down, proof positive that some things you don’t have to hear to know what’s being said. I lean back in the cushioned chair, sink into what I do hear, Bob Seger, Against the Wind. The magic fingers of the woman massaging my foot dig deeper. Bob Seger gives way to Toni Braxton putting me in a trance. I may truly never breathe again.
My mother, if she could see me now, would be smiling, her way of reminding me that nurturing takes many forms and the shift from dependence to independence, with its seismic rumblings, is a two-way struggle. A week earlier, driving down a road near my house on the opposite end of the country, I stopped for a deer and the very small fawn following her. The mother made it up the rock wall, no problem. Her fawn stumbled, turned to look at me staring at her from my car. I’ve seen deer, many of them, with and without their young. I’ve seen the young without a parent. I’ve never heard one cry, and my temptation to get out of the car, help her up the rock wall, was tempered only by good sense and the trust that mama deer, only a few paces ahead, would be back the moment I disappeared.
Visit Deborah’s website here . . .
When I was in law school, I had a couple of mock interviews arranged by the career center. Neither was particularly successful. During the second, I was distracted by the interviewer’s amazing view from the Sears Tower. I knew I wasn’t giving the interview my full attention, but yet I was powerless to stop staring out the window. I consoled myself that it wasn’t a real interview.
The view wasn’t my problem during the first mock interview: that interview was conducted in a window-less, closet-sized room in the library. I actually had thought everything was going fairly well until, when the interview portion had concluded and the reviewing portion had begun, the interview set down her papers, crossed her arms, and said, “I’ve never had to tell anyone this, but you smile too much.”
I couldn’t even make sense of that. I was sure that I hadn’t been smiling cheesily or vapidly throughout the interview; I was sure that I hadn’t even been grinning nervously. I had been feeling relaxed, and so I had been smiling. I liked law school, and it was easy for me to smile when I talked about it. Didn’t that reflect positively on me? That I enjoyed what I was doing? Nevertheless, I nodded seriously and wrote smile less in my notes.
I thought about it for the next couple of weeks, making concerted efforts to put a serious expression on my face during class. (Unfortunately, I think my expression of “serious thought” with knitted eyebrows was awfully close to my expression of “now, wait, that doesn’t make sense.”) Then I promptly discarded my interview notes. I wasn’t going to smile less. That was ridiculous. If I’m pleased to meet someone or enjoying the conversation, I’m going to smile, even if I’m in a professional situation.
In fact, I would smile especially if I was in a professional situation. When I began having real interviews for jobs, it was my enthusiasm for bankruptcy law that led an excellent conversation with the interviewer from the firm that eventually hired me. I’m obviously not saying that I got that job just on a smile, but the smile certainly didn’t hurt anything.
Read Katie’s blog (the name of which came about from that mock interview) at Perky to a Fault!
Now I am not going to go into each black hole we have climbed into, every enemy we have given up our souls to, but I want to chew the fat for awhile about the world of body image – the lack of it, the self loathing that surrounds it and I really want to be perfectly honest with you all.
I would like to start of by saying that I am one of the lost souls. I will always live in that land of touching thighs and upper arms being mistaken for wind chimes in a sand storm. And I will always hate myself for falling short when it comes to beauty. Always. To say that my self image has impacted every aspect of my life is a no brainer. In fact, if I find out that my brain is carrying around a little fat, I will start to loathe it and will try to starve it.
I was taught to despise my body early on. My father was critical because I had not lost all the baby fat, so the first man I loved turned against me because of baby fat. I never got past it. I was around six. And they wondered why I didn’t stand up straight. If people couldn’t see my face, they couldn’t identify the cubby girl who walked in front of a speeding train. I daydreamed about leaving the world because I was a fat freak of nature. You told me I was and why would you lie to me?
Then I got a Barbie doll as a gift and realized that I would never have her heat seeking missile-like breasts. And I hated myself even more. So I received more Barbies for my birthday and Christmas. I don’t believe the intent was to scar me, but I believe self-administered electrical shock would have been less painful. At least I could have controlled the pain.
And the plastic bitch was blonde and my mousy dark blonde hair became my crown of thorns.
I came into my teen years and found myself living in the same world as Twiggy, the ultra thin English model. God must have really hated me. The message was loud and clear – If you wanted to be admired, adored and wealthy shrink back into the body of a six year old. I took on the challenge and did acquire a “moderate” starved look. Not good enough. But if you mixed enough booze with pills you could lose the weight and your stomach lining.
But my body decided to reject me like a transplanted hand as I got older. I could actually feel my skin trying to shrink back around my bones, but my fat was holding unto dear life and kept pushing out. It kept winning as my self esteem tanked. Over and over and over.
I am a failure. People only see my fat and are repulsed by it. If I am disgusted about myself, how could I expect others to embrace me? If they did they would feel the back fat. Disgusting.
I have not enjoyed my body at all. Okay, maybe for a total of 10 minutes. I pretended I was someone else. But I sometimes feel like a highly functional woman who is in search of a vein to open because I never measured up.
And I know I am not alone. I am one of the millions of women who can’t accept an extra 15 to 20 pounds on their bodies. Is this not freaking insane? I am embarrassed but I know one thing is for sure – I will never feel any better about myself until the weight comes off.
I will feel accepted. I will feel loved. And most important, I will feel worthy.
So here you go. I finally got honest about myself.
So every story like this needs a silver lining. And here it is:
Take it from someone who will die feeling like I missed my mark in my life. I fell short and for that I apologize to all I have met in my life. You deserved a better “me.”
From this day on, get off your fat asses or highly toned butts and say “ENOUGH.”
I would love to help, but I don’t know the first thing to do about accepting myself.
But you all better reject what society says is beautiful and you must redefine it. I can’t be saved, but you still have a chance to reclaim your life. Do it for every six year old girl who is looking at her baby fat while she has her finger down her throat.
If you don’t, then we women will have gotten exactly what others think we deserve.
I am the very definition of an avid reader. I can lose entire days when I have my nose in a book. One of my favorite topics of conversation with my girlfriends is what books we’re reading. It was only natural then when e-book readers were introduced for those same girlfriends to ask when I was going to get one.
How would I decorate my apartment if not with books?
My aesthetic admiration of bookshelves aside, I can’t bring myself to give up real books. I love everything about books: the colors of the covers, the weight of the pages, the way the binding cracks with repeated readings. There’s an entire sensory experience with books that can’t be replicated with an e-book reader.
Physical books also carry remnants of their past readers. I love borrowing books from friends and seeing which pages they’ve dog-eared and which sentences they’ve underlined. There’s delicious fun in opening a book purchased from a used bookstore and discovering a bookmark left behind from its previous owner. Used books make me weak in the knees.
I can see certain instances in which an e-book reader would be beneficial, most notably when reading an excessively thick book. I nearly dislocated my shoulder toting Anna Karenina around with me last fall, and I’m currently reading Infinite Jest which is so heavy that I can really only comfortably read it when it’s flat in front of me. In my opinion, though, those mild discomforts are outweighed by the pleasure I get from turning actual pages.
It might also come in handy if you were traveling extensively, allowing you to carry multiple titles with little weight. If I had done carried an e-book reader, though, on some of my long trips, I would have missed out on discovering new titles through book exchanges in hostels and used bookstores abroad. Sometimes when traveling I will bring along extra books that I have already read just for that purpose. You never know what you’re going to find. I traded a pulpy legal thriller for Special Topics in Calamity Physics in a used bookstore in Chiang Mai, and it turned out to be one of my favorite books I’ve ever read.
I hate to think of all the books I would have missed out on if I kept out of used bookstores, and there’s simply no way to replicate that feeling of discovery on an e-book reader.
It’s an overcast Sunday in May, graduation day at SUNY New Paltz, a slight chill in the air, typical of upstate New York on the cusp of spring and summer. The sky is not so much threatening as it is filled with anticipation. At least it’s not raining.
The keynote speaker does what all keynote speakers do well in reminding the graduates that endings and beginnings are all of a piece. Today is a really, really important day, the beginning of the rest of your life. College was a set-up, at its best the tightrope strung just high enough above the safety net; at its worst the safety net too torn and tattered to even catch an illusion. When you’re twenty-something, anxious to move on after four (or more) years of studying (and partying), all those speeches and awards, the music and the marching, can feel endless. When you’re sixty-something, a guest at the ceremonies, that sneaky suspicion – if I only knew then what I know now – creeps up on you, demanding that you listen with a little more attention.
There is humor in the keynote speech, an allusion or two to pop culture, an appeal to always value the importance of art in our lives, and a kicker phrase –
What would you try if you knew you could not fail?
To my niece, and the friends graduating with her, there’s no time like the future, even in a world threatened by a disregard fueled with greed. You can see the way it registers in their faces: I made it this far, what’s to stop me now?
A man puts his hand to his forehead, a salute as the national anthem is played. In the row in front of me is a family – mother and father, sister of the graduate standing next to her grandmother. Everyone wants a better view, cameras at the ready.
I get up, take a break, walk around. An usher hands me a card. I ask if I need it to get back in. “No,” she says. “It’s for your memory.” I’m so in the moment I assume there’s something on the card that will help me find my way back to my seat, in case I wander too far.
For my memory.
This is the reason I’m here. For someone’s memory, even if not my own. For the bittersweet joy of it all, the shared rite of passage, this one with its ringing reminder that possibility is more a see-saw than an endless sea of hope.
Visit Deborah’s website here . . .
As a young girl, I remember looking out the kitchen window and watching my father sunbath. He’d hold up a piece of aluminum foil under his chin and the sun would bake his fair, freckled face. The only thing that looked a bit out of place was that it was February and my father would be sitting in a foot of snow.
Years later, my very handsome father was having cancerous growths cut away from his nearly perfect face.
As teenagers we would go to beach, pour baby oil all over our hair and bodies and cook. And we would be told that we looked healthy. I rarely got sunburns because I assumed that while I had my father’s surname, I had my mother’s Italian skin.
When I first moved to San Francisco I got what I called “a sun and wind burn by the bay” and it was beyond painful. I think I had a 3 inch square of skin that was not on fire and I had to try to sit and sleep while balancing on that patch of skin. And I waited for the blisters to abate so I could go to Golden Gate Park and play Frisbee and tempt the sun god once again.
Once I was settled back in New York City, my friends and I developed a ritual where we would mock the people with the real dark, unnatural looking tans. We were fashionable mole people who believed that the pasty, sickly look was healthy. And we were saving our skin but only traveling at night. I wasn’t sure if we were bats or vampires.
Two years ago, I made my way to my dermatologist’s office for my yearly, “I will show you my skin and you will tell me everything is fine” dance. I had this little growth that my seat belt was rubbing against and it was annoying me. My doctor took a little snip and assured me that it looked pretty harmless.
I had what is called squamous cell carcinoma. And it needed to be removed. When I got off the phone with my doctor, I googled skin cancer and according to eHealthMD: Squamous cell carcinoma is more serious because it does spread to vital organs inside the body. Spread occurs in a few cases in every 100. It does so slowly. At first cancer cells tend to spread only as far as the nearest lymph nodes structures, which filter out and trap the cancer cells. If spread has occurred, the affected lymph nodes can be removed before cancer spreads to vital organs.
I was kind of freaked out but hopeful because this cancer moves slowly. And I thanked my seat belt for making me notice what I thought was nothing. That “nothing” could have really messed up my life.
I was in my doctor’s office two days later and as I laid there on the table he asked me how I was. My response was that I had had so many traumatic things thrown my way. I had dodged a few life bullets, had suffered from physical and verbal abuse, had lousy bosses, really bad dates and for those reasons alone I thought I would not be visited by Cancer. How dare it mess with me. I looked up at him and said, “I have cancer. Damn.”
He had to cut deep into my collarbone and got it all. A lovely little scar is the headstone for what was my cancer. RIP because I don’t plan on you winning.
But I feel 100% confident that cancer and I will meet again one day.
I think that is why the universe gave us dermatologists. Don’t assume that odd little growth or that maddening age spot that wasn’t there before is harmless.
Mine was not harmless, but I came out the winner. This time.
My favorite instructor teaches a sixty minute class (which, because I’m not a super-strong yogi, I vastly prefer to the ninety minute classes) at 6 pm on Wednesdays. The small problem here is that, every other day of the week, I work out at 4 pm, and therefore I have my post-workout snack around 5:15 or 5:30. My body is used to having a snack at that time, and so it wants to have a snack before yoga starts.
Last week, I munched on a Luna bar while I waited for class to start and then, because I didn’t see any trash cans in that corner of the gym, tucked the wrapper under my towel when we went into the studio. Fast-forward about thirty-five minutes, and I’m sweating in a three-legged dog while our instructor, this fabulously nutty woman who sometimes breezes into class wearing this huge, outrageous floppy hat, walks around the room. She tapped me on the back and whispered, “Did you eat that before class?” I acknowledged that I had and apologized for bringing the wrapper into the studio.
“It’s okay,” she told me. “That just reminds me I should bring something up with everyone.”
Oh no. That sounded ominous.
We shifted to rest in child’s pose, and she began telling us that we shouldn’t eat for at least two hours before we practice yoga. It wasn’t just that we shouldn’t do it, she told us, it was that it was one of the basic principles of yoga not to do it. I was mortified. I felt only marginally better when she also (gently) reprimanded the students who had brought water bottles into the studio.
I was also slightly indignant. I mean, it was a Luna bar. It wasn’t as though I had eaten a Subway sandwich or something. Regardless, I made a point of not eating before class last night.
This was unquestionably the wrong decision. It was impossible for me to concentrate on my breathing or the poses because I kept thinking about when I would get to go home and have dinner. I bolted out of there when class was over, and I didn’t even make it all the way home. I had to stop at the Duane Reade on my way to the subway so I could buy a cup of grapes.
Consider my lesson learned: one shouldn’t eat before yoga, but one shouldn’t not eat before yoga either. It looks like I’m going to be having a 4 pm snack on Wednesdays from now on.
Originally published on Katie’s blog, Perky to a Fault