On womanhood and finding our place

I don’t stand out. I never really did – and when I actually did stand out, I would have prefered to stay in the comforting safety of my usual shadows. It’s quite telling that when I passed on a message to a former teacher through his wife years after I left high-school, he simply told her ‘she was a very reserved student’.

I’ve had trouble finding my place for a long time. My teenage years were mostly spent hiding being oversized men’s shirts while trying to survive school. My early twenties were a – in hindsight – desperate and in the end very futile tentative to fit in, while always feeling on the sidelines somehow. I felt like being a woman was overly complicated. I felt too feminine or not enough. I struggled with makeup (I gave up) and body image and the way I should act or not as a woman.

We receive many contradictory messages about womanhood. We feel trapped between the never ending expectations of a society who still pressures us to act and dress a certain way, and the strict requirements of a certain brand of feminism that makes little sense to many of us.

Where is our place? As human beings? As women? Do we have a different place, a different role? Are we different? What is innate, what is acquired in our behaviours?

I must say, as cliché as it is, that motherhood helped me to find my place. The fact that my body – that I hadn’t always loved like I should have – was able to grow a miniature human being, and then to feed it, was kind of a revelation. Being a woman was suddenly an amazing gift. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier and it helped me realize that I could find my place as a woman, without either denying myself or yielding to others’ expectations, both in my professional and personal life.

I get the impression that we often see womanhood either exclusively through men’s eyes, or through a distorted feminist’s perspective that only views women as victims. We don’t talk about womanhood in a really positive way that often. We talk about women achieving things that are deemed ‘for men’ or about women being oppressed by society (I’m of course not denying that many women are indeed oppressed in many parts of the world, to be clear). We don’t talk about womanhood as a thing to be celebrated, respected, praised. We don’t value ‘feminine’ attributes or qualities, that we associate to being weak, inferior, a bit ridiculous – and I am deeply aware that those attributes are debatable, and that we’re all different, but there’s no denying that men and women are different.

I still don’t stand out. I still prefer shadows. But I feel comfortable and confident enough as a woman. There’s strength, grace, warmth as much as there’s fragility and emotions in womanhood and I wholly embrace it. I don’t envy men anymore – I don’t think it’s any easier to be a man. I hope to show my daughters that there is a way for us to be who we are, and not who others want us to be, whatever ideology they are pushing. I might be the quite stereotypical nurturing kind, but I’m the one drinking beer while my husband sticks to fruit juices, and that’s ok too.

As always, be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time.

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On fake pockets and thrifting

As far as I can remember, I’ve worn second-hand clothes. I used to wear my cousins’ hand-me-downs, and my mom would take me to the second-hand clothes shop around the corner. Once a year, a local association would organize a big event where thousands of clothes would be available, and it was a thrilling experience to go there early with my mother, to wait in line outside until the doors opened, and then discover what we would bring back home with us.

In high-school, I bought oversized men’s shirts and sweaters to wear with my jeans and Doc Martens boots – second-hand clothes were a grunge’s paradise, and the satisfaction of looking different when I felt so different was very soothing for me.
I lost the habit in my twenties, when the urge to conform became too strong and I began to buy clothes from mainstream fashion retailers with my girlfriends, spending money on poorly made clothes that never really fit and were out of fashion a few weeks later. And I’m not even talking of the fake pockets, you guys. Whoever thought all women needed were fake pockets needs to be cursed with painful boils.

I came back to thrifting in my mid-twenties, during my first pregnancy. Buying maternity clothes for just a few months seemed like a waste, so I bought whatever I needed and hadn’t already been lent to me by friends on ebay and at local charity shops. Same with baby clothes.

Today 80% of my wardrobe, and that of my two daughters, is made of second-hand clothes. As I write I’m wearing a summer outfit that’s 100% thrifted:
– a super comfy grey dress thrifted in NYC 3 years ago for $3
– a vintage owl necklace bought on a garage sale for €1
– purple Roxy sunglasses bought on ebay for €3
– leather sandals from ART thrifted for €15 (and worth every cent)

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Awkward pose is awkward – sorry guys I’m no fashion blogger!! Not too shabby though for a thrifted outfit, uh?

We treat clothes as we do disposable tissues. Fashion retailers keep on filling their stores with ‘new’ collections, tempting us to buy more and more clothes that seem cheap and as such, no big deal.

If I say ‘seem cheap’, it’s because there are not really. Today clothes aren’t made to last. Fabrics are flimsy, clothes are sewn sloppily. We do end up spending a lot on clothes that will shrink, be torn, or fray after a few weeks. And their environmental and human cost is huge – I highly recommend Elizabeth L. Cline’s book “Over-dressed” on that subject. Workers are treated as slaves to produce clothes as cheap as possible to satisfy our endless need for fast-fashion. We throw away tons of clothes that end up in landfills, or in some cases, on markets in Africa, where the overabundance of Western second-hand clothes is killing the local fashion industry.

Buying second-hand clothes is not only a responsible thing to do, it’s also fun. It’s amazing to wear things that are different instead of showing up to a party to discover that two other women wear that damn dress from H&M. I often get compliments on my most original finds, because they stand out in a sea of uniformity.
It’s amazing to find beautiful vintage clothes with French seams and fabric of quality. You can even go further by refashioning clothes you buy: teaching myself how to sew (well, I get by) has allowed me to salvage a lot of clothes I would have otherwise donated. It also taught me how to recognize well-made clothes.
(I might write on refashion in the future, but in the meantime you can check out The Refashionista blog here: http://refashionista.net/ – Jillian has one of the most creative minds I’ve ever seen!)

And… I like things that have been given away, discarded, disposed of. Giving them a second life and some much deserved love is highly rewarding, I find.

Next time you need a dress for a party or a new shirt, think of pushing the door of a nearby thrift shop. They’re full of treasures just waiting to be discovered. Even dresses with real pockets.

Be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time!

On writing, excoriation and growth

I let the tip of my fingers run on my skin. My upper arms. My face. My shoulders. My legs.

Not in a loving way. Not in an erotic way. It’s deliberate and focused. A methodic search for imperfections. Little bumps. Little pieces of skin to pick at. I can’t remember how or when it started. Early teens, probably. I couldn’t explain why I do it. It’s not as if I feel better once I’m done, quite on the contrary in fact.

I wasn’t aware that it was a disorder with a name until a few months ago, when I heard a Youtuber talking about it and suddenly there wasn’t enough air in the room because I knew what she was talking about. I knew. She bared her shoulders and I cried, because that was what my shoulders looked like when I was a teenager. I used to swim with a huge tee-shirt on to hide my scars, telling my parents I wanted to protect my skin from the sun.

It sounds horrible. Excoriation disorder. Skin-picking. Dermatillomania. Whatever you call it, it sounds horrible. It is horrible. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m ashamed of it, and I have never, never talked to anyone about it. Not once. I didn’t even know there was anything to talk about. I just thought I was weird, abnormal, freakish. I still do think so, if I’m honest.

I have gotten better. I still slip up when things get too much and I have to excoriate them. Quite literally. I’m lucky that I am covered in moles and freckles, and that my scars look just like freckles. They don’t stand out.

As the years went by, I learned how to bleed on paper instead of bleeding for real. I’ve always read a lot – what a sweet, sweet reprieve it is from that world – but my writing has been inconsistent. I got older and understood better how to let out what was inside of me in a way that was healthier. Sharing is always difficult. But a sheet of paper or a laptop won’t judge whatever you told them. It doesn’t matter if no one ever reads those words. Once they’re out, the excoriation is already done, in a way.

Ernest Hemingway said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” And, well, yes. Writers may write for others – I’ve written fictions that were requests for example – but in the end they bleed themselves out each time they put words on paper.

When I begin to pick at my skin, I know it’s time for me to bleed again. Only most times I’m able to do that using a keyboard now. Others use music. Art. Sports. Find a way to express yourself, no matter how, because what is inside will find its way outside somehow anyway.

Until next time… be well, be thankful, be kind.

On minimalism and old cameras

A few weeks ago an older relative gave me her old TLR. It’s a beautiful thing, in its leather case, that’s been cherished and maintained. I was so happy about it that I posted a picture of it on Twitter, which prompted someone to react by telling me something along the lines of ‘that’s not very minimalistic’.

Which, well. That is not untrue. But I feel that minimalism is often misunderstood. We imagine people who have all their possessions in a single suitcase. While I have the greatest admiration for those people, that would be quite unpractical for us. I see minimalism not as a single way of living, but as a broader spectrum.

So what does it mean for us?

1) we got rid of a lot of stuff over the past few years: books, clothes, shoes, bags, CDs, video games, DVDs, toys… Every six months or so, we downsize, so to speak. We never throw anything away unless it’s really beyond repair. We’ve given to friends, donated, sold. I would say our wardrobe is half of what it use to be (and it was never huge to begin with), and we have about a third of our books, CDs and DVDs left.

2) we think about everything we buy. Do we really need it? Oftentime we realize that we do have another object that could fit the bill just as well. Could we maybe borrow it? Loan it? Many objects that we own are in fact only used a couple of times each year, if even that. It makes more sense to loan or borrow such objects when needed than to buy them.

3) we try to find a balance for our children, which is perhaps the most difficult thing. Compared to their friends, they have significantly less toys – and yet still a good amount of pointy things that will stab your feet at night, let me tell you.

I’ve read something once about getting rid of things that don’t bring value to one’s life. I think that is what we are trying to do. And that old camera? It brings value to my life. I have fun using it. I have fun learning how to develop the film with my dad. It has meaning, it has history. Using it means making an older relative smile, sharing my pictures with her while she teaches me how to do better. It means learning how to develop films myself with my father. It’s a slow kind of art that is becoming a rare thing in a world of immediate rewards.

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Minimalism is not necessarily living with only a handful of things stuffed in a backpack. It’s about letting go of the endless pressure of consumption. It’s about letting go of that toxic competition to own more, while never feeling complete or accomplished because owning more stuff will never fulfill our longing for meaning.

Get rid of the things that are empty of meaning and only incites you to buy more. And welcome to your life the things that gives you joy, reinforce relationships, help you hone your skills.

As always, be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time.

On time

“I didn’t have the time”, we say. “I’m too busy to have the time to do this”, we pretend, shaking our heads sadly.

We’re running. Not literally though: while we live mostly sedentarily lives, we spend our days running from one thing to the other, thinking about the next task, the next call, the next stop. We lament that days only have 24 hours. We envy those who enjoy more ‘free time’ than us, while we resent them at the same time. We hurry, in everything we do.

On Sunday morning I cooked for my (extended) family. We were celebrating a birthday. The French way, with a 4-course lunch and red wine, of course. When my children asked me if they could help me with cooking, I considered saying no. After all, I would be done more quickly if I cooked alone. I could send them away to play, in that slightly condescending way grown-ups use and that I always hated as a child.

But what would it bring me to be done more quickly? It’s Sunday. There’s no rush. What would I do with the ‘extra’ time I would have if I cooked alone? Clean up some more? Check my emails or my Twitter notifications?
They helped. We made a mess baking a chocolate cake and a mushroom risotto. It was fun. We finished in time – I didn’t get to clean up my apartment, but no one really cared – and enjoyed a long lunch with my family. In the end the extra time was the time I got to spend with my kids, not the time I would have ‘gained’ by doing it all by myself, in a certainly more efficient, but a bit empty way.

I already talked a bit about minimalism here. In my household, we are kind of aliens compared to our friends and family. My husband and I both have made the choice to work only 4 days a week. It’s made possible by the fact that our lifestyle doesn’t require us to earn always more money. It does require time, though. Time to do things we enjoy. Time to see our children grow up. Time to be, and not to have more stuff. We are used to be seen as oddities, people who make the bizarre choice to earn less money willingly.

I am deeply aware that we are privileged: we live in a country with a good healthcare system paid by our taxes; we earn decent wages even in our modest respective jobs. It’s very much a luxury.
But… when we were childless, we both worked full-time. And we often had the impression that we weren’t earning enough money… now we’re doing much better with less – and two children.

Time is a resource that is much more precious than money. It should be enjoyed, not always filled to the brim with things we feel like we have to do – in opposition to things that we would like to do, if only we had the time.

I used to say I hadn’t the time to read anymore. But I spent hours weekly watching TV shows (and with them, commercials that make us want more stuff that makes us feel bad about ourselves and yearn for that supposedly ideal, glamorized life that they show us). Sometimes it’s not so much how much time we do have, but how we choose to spend it, or with whom.

When I cook with my children, it takes double the time I would need alone. But it’s also time I spend teaching my children skills, sharing tips that I inherited from my father, eating batter and having a damn good time. What could I do that would be more important than that? Not much, if I stop to think on it.

Days only have 24 hours. No matter how we rush through them, trying to be more productive, more efficient, or not, this will remain true. And no matter how much we plan, how far we do project ourselves in the future, all we truly have is now. We might as well enjoy it, without constant (and often virtual) distractions and pressure to do more. It’s not an easy thing to do. We have to unlearn, to fight against that urge to rush in that fast-paced world, and we will fail sometimes. But nothing truly worth it is ever easy.

Be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time!

On love, children, and the lies we’re told

‘It’s natural’.
‘You’ll love them as soon as you’ll see them, it’s maternal instinct!’

How many times do we hear that? We take for granted that when we will have children, we will automatically love them. It will be like an evidence.

Only, sometimes it doesn’t work that way.
You may have a perfect pregnancy, a terrible-but-could-have-been-worse delivery that thankfully ends with a perfectly healthy baby, and it still doesn’t work.

You look at that miniature human being. You find them very beautiful. Very fragile. You wonder when their mother will come to take care of them, because it can’t be you. You have no idea what to do, and worse, you don’t feel like it’s your baby at all. Still, you take care of that baby. Survival instinct of your species? Guilt? You don’t know. But you do your best.

You cry. A lot. You beg that baby for forgiveness. You told them you tried, so hard, but you can’t. You don’t tell anyone about it, because everyone is ecstatic, everyone tells you how blessed you are, so you nod and smile and hope no one will see what a terrible mother you are. Not even able to love their child.

Eventually, you bond. Slowly, painfully sometimes. Alone. You do though. You bond in your own imperfect way, and one day you’re able to say it to your baby, with tears streaming down your face. I love you. You’re my baby, and I love you.

This is called bonding issues. It can be linked with post-partum depression, or not. I know that now because I heard about it on TV. Two years too late, because, as you certainly have guessed by now, this was my story. How different things would have been if I had known that it was something that could happen? If, instead of thinking I was a monster, I had known what happened and seek help?

It is difficult to explain. When I had my second child, it didn’t happen again. I was instantly in tune with my baby, it felt natural and easy. And I know now why it’s so easy to tell that this is the way things are.

But sometimes it’s more complicated. It’s life. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. We’re not machines, we’re complex mammals whose psyche isn’t fully understood yet. By telling women that they will instantly bond with their child, we’re hurting the ones who will not. We prevent them from seeking help. I am aware that bonding issues concern fathers as well. But generally speaking, we accept that fathers will need a bit of time to get to know their babies, whereas we expect women to have ‘maternal instinct’.

Stop telling women that they will bond with their child instantly. Especially if you are a woman and a mother yourself. Your experience isn’t universal. Listen to young mothers. Support them.
If you’re soon-to-be parents, keep in mind that each birth is different, each child is different, each parent is different. Don’t hide if something feels wrong. Ask for help. Talk. There’s light at the end of that tunnel. Beautiful, warm light. You’ll get to it, even if you need more time than others.

As always, be well, be thankful, be kind.

On running, competition, and letting go

I’m a runner. And I mostly suck at it.

Every time the subject comes up, people ask things like ‘when is your next race?’ and ‘what’s your best time?’. Well… I don’t do races. My times are pathetic. And I can see then, that look that says ‘oh, so you’re not a real runner’.

I run because I like it. It helps me with stress, it’s a time when I’m blessedly alone (yeah, no, sorry, I won’t run with you, I’m a lonely runner), it helps me to stay in shape, and I have fun, mostly running muddy trails. Also focusing on not breaking any limb on rocky or muddy trails prevents me from over-thinking.

In short, I run because I enjoy it, not because I’m particularly good at it. But we live in a very competitive world, where doing something just because you enjoy it is apparently not enough.

We have to wonder why though. Why would things be only worth it if we excelled at them?

Internet seems to have taken this phenomenon to the next level. People post their achievements, creations, running times and workouts online all the time, and it seems to create a climate where we can’t stop comparing ourselves, and if we don’t do as well, we’re failing somehow.

I have nothing against people doing races or competing in whatever field they choose to. Quite on the contrary, I’m very impressed by their performances, and some of them have truly inspiring stories that are really worth sharing. But should we all strive to do the same? And if we don’t, or can’t, are our hobbies without interest?

A friend once told me that he started running, but he gave up quickly since he could not get under 30 minutes for a 5k. I asked him if he liked running at all. He answered that he did enjoy it, but there was no use continuing since he wasn’t ‘any good’. I found that really sad.

The problem with measuring ourselves to others constantly is that we are always going to find people that are either naturally gifted, or extremely committed. Once more, there is nothing wrong with either of those things. But it’s not fair to ourselves, nor is it productive, to do so. Striving to do better, to improve, is something good, that we all should seek in every aspect of our lives.

But it doesn’t have to mean that we have to compete against others. It can simply mean that you will try to improve yourself: I’m happy each time I’m able to run longer, or farther. Objectively speaking, my times still suck, and I’m not running a marathon any time soon. Or I’m happy when I’m not sticking my finger under the needle of my sewing machine (don’t ask), regardless of whatever perfect creation someone puts on Instagram.

Letting go of the pressure we put on ourselves by constantly comparing every aspect of our lives, especially things that we enjoy, to others’ lives is no only freeing, it will allow you to reach your goals in better, healthier ways (and if you don’t reach them, it’s ok). It will also prevent you from seeing things others do only in terms of performance and competition, and from projecting that kind of pressure on them as well.

Enjoy what you do, have fun. As always, be well, be thankful, be kind.

On death, aging, and taboo

We’re all going to die. Yes, I’m a lot of fun at parties.

But seriously, we all know it. We are all going to die, one day. Death is part of life, a reality that can’t be denied. Yet we seem to spend a lot of time pretending to ignore it, changing the subject whenever it comes up, and generally treating death as the ultimate taboo.

A few days ago, my children found a dead rodent – don’t ask me what kind of animal it was, I have no idea. The poor thing was lying on the pavement, as if it were sleeping, still all cute and fluffy looking. My youngest, who is 5, asked me if it was actually sleeping, and I told her that it was, sadly, dead.

As my children wondered if it had a heart attack or was mauled by a cat, another mom came with her child. The boy asked the same question as my kid did a few moments before. But the mom hurriedly said ‘no, no, it’s just resting’ and took her son’s hand, dragging him away. I was briefly reminded of the hilarious Monty Python dead parrot sketch, but that is out of topic. My kids looked at me hopefully and I had to tell them again that it was dead.

Why are we lying to our children about this? They understand pretty well what we’re spending our time wanting to forget. My grandmother died a few weeks ago. One of my children told me, very wisely ‘her life was over’. And yes, it was. That’s pretty much all there is to it. I explained to them that we were sad that we wouldn’t be seeing her again, and they understood that also. They were quite curious about the burial – would she wear clothes? Her glasses? Who would choose which pretty dress she would wear? Would she be buried with her husband? – and I answered as honestly as I could to each of their questions. They weren’t traumatized, or upset. They get it: we are babies, we grow up, we grow old, we die. Circle of life.

So why is it that as adults, we’re making such a big deal of it? Hiding it, shushing each other, being so awkward whenever the subject somes around? Not daring to speak of people that are dead? Not talking about it won’t make it go away. It just makes it more difficult to deal with when we lose someone because grieving is made almost impossible by that cultural taboo. And the loved ones we lost don’t deserve to be forgotten because no one dares to talk about them.

Our fear of death is so ingrained that we’re hiding our aging by all means, as if pretending we’re not growing old will make our ultimately unavoidable end less likely. We spend time and money trying to hide our grey hair, our wrinkles and our creaking bones, lying about our age. Shouldn’t we be grateful to age, to get to enjoy life longer, to get to know another generation? Shouldn’t we try to age gracefully and embrace the numbers of our years on this Earth?

Is it uncomfortable to think that one day, we won’t be anymore? Sure, it is. We don’t want to. But it’s also reality, and there’s no use in denying it. It should perhaps be a reminder that our time here is limited, and that we have to make it count. Children understand it. We can too. And there’s something great about not fighting time – a losing battle anyway. We’re putting so much pressure on ourselves to look young, to act young, that we forget to enjoy today. And today might be everything we have.

When I die, I want people to listen to the music I loved and to drink Champagne. I want my loved ones to celebrate life, because it goes on, even after us. (I also want to be buried in a pretty dress and red stilettos, because, damn it, if I have to go, I want to go with style!)

Life is precious because it’s not eternal. Not talking about death won’t make that go away.

That’s all for today! Be well, be thankful, be kind. And have fun planning your funeral!!

On virtual clutter

I’ve been working on getting rid of my literal clutter for months. Not that I’m a hoarder or anything like that: I don’t have a lot of stuff by Western standards, I guess – still an obscene amount of things compared to a lot of people of Earth – but yet far more than I need. Thinking about it, donating or selling lots of things that I wasn’t using anymore has really been freeing.

Minimalism is something that has a lot of different meanings, depending on the lifestyles of the people practicing it. A 25 years-old single who travels with their backpack will see it very differently from, let’s say, a couple with three young children. But the spirit stays the same: not putting too much value in what you possess and trying to limit what you actually own to things that are useful to you or enhance your life.

It’s pretty clear for everyone what this means for the actual things you own. And indeed, owning less frees your mind, leaves you with more time for things that really matter, more money in your pockets, and more space in your home.

But what about virtual clutter? Have you already thought about all the accounts you are owning on various social medias, forums and websites? How much time are you spending checking various apps on your smartphone?

I hadn’t really thought about it before last december, to be honest. I suddenly couldn’t find an app on my phone, and it struck me: I had so much stuff in there that I couldn’t find the GPS app I actually needed.

What a ridiculous thought. Did I need those things? I opened my laptop, and began to list the accounts I had: Twitter, Instragram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, 2 forums, 2 websites for old schoolmates, Youtube, and several others whose name I’ve now forgotten – which shows just how little they meant to me. I spent a ridiculous amount of time checking those accounts, reading notifications, refreshing pages of pictures on Instagram that I had no real interest in and getting news about people I had not seen in fifteen years. I guess I’m fortunate I never got a Facebook account on top of it all.

And suddenly the same question as with real clutter popped up: did I really those accounts? Did they bring something to my life? The answer was, unsurprisingly, a resounding no for most of them.

I got rid of most of them that same night. I kept LinkedIn because it’s low maintenance and useful for my work, and Twitter because I actually have made good friends there that bring much to my life.

The amount of emails I receive has consequently decreased, which is a nice side-effect. I now spend much less time getting through all those accounts, and it’s time that I use to play with my kids, to read, to cook, to sew, to knit, to write. I only have one page and a half of apps in my phone now, which means I can easily find the ones I actually use. I definitely spend too much time online still – but it significantly improved.

The thing is, most of these apps and websites are traps. They suck you in, until you can’t help but checking them all the time, because what if something happens while you’re not looking? What if you miss something? But while you’re looking at your screen, real life passes you by, and you’re missing out on real experiences.

And some of these apps are downright toxic. Take Instagram, for example. There are some talented photographers in there, I’ll give you that. But those are unfortunately not the ones who get the most followers. No, those who do are those who take selfies and pictures of their apparent perfect life. Feeling down? Look at that perfectly tanned guy lounging on some exotic beach or at this pretty girl posing with her last designer bag. Those pictures show us lives that seem perfect, glamorous, so far from our daily struggles. But we don’t see the rest of these people’s lives, we don’t see the way their pictures are staged and how much makeup was involved – we only see what they want us to see. It can make you feel depressed, and according to a recent study, it does (see here). And I won’t even talk about the advertisements those ‘free’ apps and websites display.

Virtual clutter is invisible. It doesn’t take up space in your closet, it doesn’t cost you money. You don’t see it, and you don’t think of it. But it is taking as much, if not more, space in your life than actual clutter. It takes up a lot of your time and keeps you endlessly distracted.

So maybe, next time your smartphone beeps to remind you that you have 24 unread notifications, ask yourself ‘do I need this, or is this polluting my life?’. You might be surprised at the answer.

Be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time!

On self-love, denial and fat-acceptance

It’s a curious thing to be able to say ‘I love myself’. For me at least, it is. But I’m 35 and it has taken me a long, very long time to be able to say it, and even longer to mean it.

It can seem a little ridiculous. A little too self-centered. It might be.

But when you’re at peace with yourself, you are able to give so much more to the world and to the people around you. When you treat yourself with respect and compassion, you’re also able to treat others with much more respect and compassion.

A part of loving yourself is loving your body. And that’s what I would like to talk about today.

I have had a hate relationship with my body for a long time. Not a love-hate relationship. For me, it was just the hate. I’ve abused my body in many ways over the years, because it never seemed to fit what I was like inside. We didn’t match, in a way. It was always letting me down, never fitting the idea I had of myself. It felt a bit alien, and I just wanted another one.

I didn’t like any of it. I wanted to be taller. I wanted smaller legs and bigger breasts. I wanted lighter hair and darker skin – because of course I had to inherit my dad’s very dark hair and my mom’s very fair skin that never tans. As a teen I was a bit chubby. Not much. Not enough to be overweight on the BMI scale. Just had pronounced curves at a young age. So I starved myself. I fainted several times. Lost a lot of weight – just shy of being underweight. Still felt like my body wasn’t good enough.

Later, I started to binge. Then I starved myself again. And binged. Around 22, I decided I had enough of that yo-yo thing I was doing. I was going to enjoy life, and fuck those petty beauty standards! Fat acceptance and body positivity weren’t really a thing back then, but I had found a blog of a lady who explained that she stopped dieting and felt awesome with her curves. Seemed like a good idea. So I ate and I drank everything I wanted, without a care. I thought I was doing great. I really wasn’t.

Fast forward 3 years, my doctor tells me, in his kind but no-nonsense tone: ‘I am going to give you something for what you came for, but you will need to deal with your weight issues sooner or later’. It felt like a slap. I exited his office, and saw myself in the big mirror in his hallway. Really saw myself for the first time in years, I think.

I looked terrible. Swollen and ill-looking. I felt terrible. Sluggish, tired, way older than my 25 years. What the hell was I doing to myself? I was eating myself to oblivion when I wasn’t drinking myself to oblivion.

So I changed. Slowly. Lost 30lbs over 5 years, in-between 2 pregnancies. Learned to eat again. For nourishment, for pleasure. Stopped drinking so much. Learned to move my body – discovered that I could, in fact, run, despite my tragic memories of middle and high school running sessions. Learned to appreciate my body, that had been able to carry two babies and then feed them, that could walk and hike and run. A body that wasn’t perfect – I have scars and a few stretch marks, I still can’t tan – or functioning perfectly – my back is not right and I have a shit ton of allergies as well as an annoying but benign chronic condition – but that was mine and that was good enough. That was my only vessel and that I should treat right.

And here I come to fat acceptance. I’m rather on board with body positivity on the whole: no one should feel ashamed of their body, regardless of its flaws – or what we perceive as such. Let’s be kind to ourselves and to others.

But… loving yourself means treating yourself right. And treating yourself right means stopping abusing it. There are plenty of ways we do abuse our bodies. Overeating is one. Of course, if you had asked me a few years ago, I wasn’t overeating. Just as I wasn’t undereating before that.

Denial is a powerful thing. Truth is, my metabolism wasn’t slow. I wasn’t unlucky. I was overeating, and I was eating too much food that wasn’t good for me. I would have told you I was happy and proud of my curves, that I was ‘enjoying life’. I wouldn’t have told you about the chaffing on my thighs in summer, about feeling so tired, about being unable to hike for a full day anymore.

I can tell now, how miserable I was. I can tell because of how good I feel now. Physically and mentally.

The worst lies are those we tell ourselves. And the fat acceptance movement promotes and spreads the same lies, validating them in our minds. It is a dangerous path, that has little to do with love.

Love yourself as you are now. And strive to be better, to do better. Treat yourself right, with respect. You deserve it, and no one else can do it.

That’s all for today. Be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time!