What would Jimmy say?

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That was the question today.  What would Jimmy say if he was able to confront MC Hammer?

That was hard to think about.  When MC Hammer is in the picture, she’s big and she takes over the whole place.  There’s no room for me.  For Ellie (little Lisa) or Allie (adult Lisa) or Zoe or any other part of me.  If I picture it in my head, there’s this HUGE out of control MC and then there’s tiny little something over in the corner cowering away.

But what would happen if Jimmy Carter entered the room?  If there was a confrontation?

I hate confrontation.  I hate the edginess and turmoil it brings. The very idea scared me and I wasn’t sure I would be able to do this because of my concern that it would add even more negativity to an already overwhelming dynamic.

Enter Jimmy.

And none of those things came with him.  With him came peace and calm and peace.  He looked at MC and stood with his hands in his pockets and sighed like a patient father.

MC, none of that is true. Lisa is none of those things and besides — being a girl is isn’t a bad thing anyway.  You don’t even know her and you can’t keep trying to make her be something that she’s not.

Truth.  Calm.  Diffusion.

MC shrank in size and suddenly, there was room for me.

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This one is hard to share

Imagine your inner critic as a monster. Draw or paint that monster.

If I’m completely honest, I’ll tell you that part of why I haven’t been focused on continuing with the art therapy posts is that this one hit really close to home.

This is MC Hammer.  This is who tries to live in my head and tell me who I am.  This is the anger and constant internal dialogue that makes it hard for me to see very many positives about myself.

There are a lot of smaller messages — bad wife, bad mom, tramp — but underneath them all is that I’m female. I mean face it, if I weren’t female, I couldn’t be a bad wife, right?  Or a bad mom.  And if I weren’t female, I could be outgoing and friendly and wear what I wanted to and not be seen as a tramp, or easy, or be told I look like a whore.

Being a girl is somehow the root of the problem in MC Hammer word and she picks up those verbal hammers and pounds away.  Day after day. Week after week.  Year after year.

It wasn’t hard to imagine my inner critic as a monster, because she is just that: a monster.  What was hard was putting it all on paper and seeing it with my external eyes.  What was hard to putting it here for others to see.

What’s hard is to tell you that this is based on a real person and real experiences and real words that were said to me over and over and over and over.

What I learned from those years were that our words matter.  What we say matters.  Our words have the power of life and death and have impact we rarely consider.

Choose wisely.

A Return to Art Therapy

4) Find a beautiful picture in a magazine cut it out and make that the centre of your art journal page.

First of all, I love the spelling of the word centre up there.  British spelling just plain looks better than American spelling does.

So there’s my picture.  I really do love Fall.  I love the crisp in the air and the colors that come through.  I love soups and chili and cornbread and football and snuggling under blankets. I love that it’s cool enough that knitting doesn’t seem cumbersome and that I can wear boots.  I love that y’all rhymes with Fall and since I’m very content with being a southerner, I plan to say this quite a bit.

And my ability to draw stick figures and create a bit of atmosphere with very basic shapes is beginning to grow on me.  Maybe I have a bit of artistic talent.

Happy Fall, Y’all. Good things are happening.

What is strong?

Seriously, what does the word strong mean to you? Is it the student I see standing in the library who recently cut and bleached her hair and added a small pink streak?  Is it the other student who led a discussion in Bible class yesterday and shared that she had over 200 scars on her body from self-harm? Is it the woman who stays in a difficult marriage or the one who chooses to leave one in order to salvage the emotional health of herself and her children? Is a strong parent one who chooses to disassociate with an adult child whose life and activities is different from their own or one who chooses to do what it takes to stay connected?

What is strong?

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This is what strong looks like to me.  Balanced.  Committed.  Looking ahead.  Follow through.

We use the same word to describe our bodies, spirits, and souls, so the conversation can be a little tricky.  I was asked, though, about my definition of strong and two things came to mind: yoga and facing challenges.  I’m not interested in being a marathon runner or in transforming myself into an extreme athlete.  I do, however, want to quit using excuses and face the fears that have kept me from being good to my own body.  My own spirit.

Think about it: what’s strengthening about making excuses for yourself?  How does that help raise your confidence?  It doesn’t. Not in the least.

I’m done making big promises.  I can’t snap my fingers and turn myself into a consistent walker, a yogi, or a daily meditator.  I can, however, call my excuses for what they are and take baby steps to conquering my fear of physically challenging things.

Baby step 1: map a 5K walk in my neighborhood and look for a e-day-a week couch to 5K program.  I do not want to become a runner. I honestly have no desire to do that.  I do, however, want to prove to myself that I will not die if I do something physically challenging.

I’m not exaggerating.  It’s a fear.

But not for long.

To Lisa, Love Zoe

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Dear Lisa,

It’s Ok.  It hasn’t been easy, but I understand.  I was there too when your portions were monitored and I heard it too when your mom said it was a good thing that you were fat because it would keep the boys away since you were so pretty.  I remember too.  We were only six years old then, and six-year-olds don’t really have a choice but to believe that what their parents say is true.

I know it hasn’t been easy.  You and I have both been scrutinized about a lot for a long time.  We were the pretty one but we were the fat one.  Everything we ate was monitored and I, especially, was evaluated from the beginning.  Bodies were suspect; beyond having babies what was a woman’s body really for anyway?  The messages to you about me were so conflicting, it’s no wonder that it was hard to trust me.

Really, Lisa.  It’s Ok.  Life isn’t over and we have time to figure this out.  You have a life full of grace and love now.  We’ve been through a lot to get here, but we finally are.  There are some old hurts that will take time to process, but we are strong and we can do this.  One day at time; one feeling at a time.  We can be the strong woman on the outside that you and I both know we are on the inside.

You are so full of love.  You give love and grace to everyone you know. You already know how to do this.  Speak to me the way you speak to others.  Remind me — remind yourself — that you are beautiful because of who you are.  Remind us both of the strength we’ve already shown.  We had babies together, you and I.  We had to work together to do that because it takes a strong body and a strong spirit to have babies. We can bring that same strength to every day and quiet those voices that criticize and assess.  The scrutiny doesn’t have to continue. The assessment can end.  We can live based in love and grace from this point on.

Love, Zoe

Meet Zoe

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See her? She’s there on the right-hand side of the picture.  Yes, it’s a picture of me, but look closer.

Unlike many pictures of me, this one includes Zoe — my body.  I’ve done a lot of processing lately and decided a few things:

  • My body is not an “it.”  My body is female. I am a woman and my body is female and she is a she.
  • My body is part of me, but she is not all of me.  I am more than my body, therefore my body is its own entity and deserves its own name.
  • My body is Zoe, which means life.
  • I have not been kind to Zoe in a long time and I owe her an apology.  Several apologies, in fact.

Dear Zoe,

Thank you so much for being who you are.  Thank you for being strong and for helping me manage this crazy thing called life.  We’ve been through a lot together.  Childhood with the fingers that got smashed in the car door.  Skinned knees from my days of climbing trees — OH! how I loved climbing trees — and the days when I ran without thinking about falling, but fell and got up and kept running anyway.  Together, we traveled from childhood into puberty and both welcomed and struggled the curves of being female.  We learned we were attractive and didn’t quite know what to do with that information.  We struggled with the idea that we might be pretty.  And we ate.

We ate a lot.  Even in early years, we would wait until people who could criticize us for eating were gone and we ate. Somehow, we needed that.  The small bit of control that it allowed us to have.  In our chaotic days of growing up, we needed that and it was OK.

We experienced life together.  Maturity.  Sex.  Pregnancy.  Loss.  Victory.  Beauty. Strength. All of it.

You have been very, very good to me.

I’m sorry I have not been good to you, Zoe.

I’m sorry that I blamed you when my jeans didn’t fit or the fabric on my shirt showed your curves.

I’m sorry that I didn’t trust you to tell me what and how much you needed to eat.  In earlier years, that often meant ignoring the need to eat.  Letting you be hungry instead of giving you the fuel you needed.  More recently, I’ve tuned out your pleas for me to just stop and wait and not eat quite so much.  I’ve ignored the messages that the food was straining your knees — our knees — and making it harder to do the things we love so very much.

You have been strong and courageous and capable and I’ve returned that by being ashamed of you.

I’m sorry, Zoe.  I’m so, so sorry.

You deserve so much better.  You deserve honor and respect.  You deserve trust.  You deserve the health that comes from setting boundaries.  There are conversations that we can not continue to have if we’re going to have a healthy relationship.  I love you and I love our family and I love the tasks that we have set in front of us in this crazy thing called life.  I want us to be able to work together instead of one always trying to micromanage or avoid the other.

Can you forgive me?  Please be patient with me as I learn to trust and listen.  It’s my heart’s desire to do that, but it will take time for me to learn.  Together, we will find a way to be good partners again.  We did amazing things back when we were having babies, so I know that we can do this too.

Love, Lisa

Things to do 

   
   
Life has been super busy lately. 

Haven’t been to yoga. Haven’t been Art journaling. Haven’t been monitoring my self talk. 

There have been some rough days. I freely admit that. When I stop and listen to myself, it’s hard to realize how critical I am. I would never speak that way to someone I love. 

Tonight, I sat in on a conference call that reminded me of some important things. I’ve been itching for some creativity so I took notes through drawing. 

I hope they can encourage someone else. 

More about the art therapy

It seems that when I updated my phone, many of my pictures went to live in the cloud and my WordPress app can’t find the ones I took of my art therapy projects.  I’ll retake them and continue the posts, though.

Be warned, though.  At least one will not be pretty.  I don’t meant that it won’t be aesthetically pleasing, I mean that there’s nothing pretty in the picture.  There’s a lot of anger.  A lot of hard words.  A lot of bad memories that continue to haunt me.  It’s the day that the prompt was to draw my inner critic and let me tell you: my inner critic is a vicious and persistent one.  Some of her words that I heard in person years ago still stay with me and surface on a regular basis.

They still tint much of what I think and do and hear.

Another interesting technology thing that’s currently part of my life is that for some reason, my computer no longer automatically uploads pictures from my phone when I plug it in to charge.  I’ve always considered myself to be fairly tech savvy, so having both of these issues at once is driving me a bit crazy.

In lieu of an art therapy update, I’ll share a bit of my thought process from earlier today:

It’s Tuesday. I should go to yoga.  That would mean pick D up, drop him off at the house and go straight to yoga then come home and fix supper real fast and then get to work by 7:00. I don’t want to go to yoga.  It’s not that I don’t like yoga – I love yoga and I know that I will feel amazing after it’s done, but I don’t like being rushed and I don’t really want to leave the house again because I’m feeling a bit reclusive this afternoon.  But I should go to yoga.  I paid for it.  I told people I would.  I should. I could do my fat people yoga at home but no I can’t because D will be home after his 30 minute lesson and I don’t really want to do yoga in front of him.  But I want to be fit. I want to . . . what do I want?  I want to be proud of myself.  Which choice would make me feel proud of myself?  You know what?  Going for a walk would make me feel proud of myself.  It would get me outside, but not make me be around people, and it would work my body and help me feel strong.  You know what? That’s what I really want. I want to feel strong and proud.  I don’t care so much about skinny. I want to be strong and proud of my choices.

So I did it. I went for a walk. I felt the sun on my skin and I listened to Alabama Shakes and Brittany told me to Hold On! and I felt strong and I was proud of myself for doing something instead of giving into the headachey reclusive me that just wanted to stay home and curl up and keep watching Criminal Minds.

So what did you do today that made you feel strong?  What did you do today that made you feel proud of yourself?

Art therapy, day 3

  
Pick an object in your house. While looking only at the object put your pen to paper and draw it without picking up your pen. Colour in your crazy art.

Funny how a little thing like a drawing project can teach you about yourself. I believe I’ve already shared that I don’t view myself as artistic. I love beautiful things and have utmost respect for people who can create them, but I’ve always believed my strengths lie elsewhere. 

I chose to draw this chair because I didn’t want to tackle the huge shelf of books across from me. Even with the simplicity of the chair, I didn’t believe I could do it with my eyes closed. 

I was downright giddy when I opened my eyes and saw what I’d done. I did it. I added the coloring later, but I drew something that actually resembles the chair. It challenged what I believe my capabilities to be. Maybe I can communicate this way. Maybe I can create beauty. 

Art therapy, day 2 

Doodle until  you fill an entire page.

My first thought? I don’t know how to do this.  I’m not good at unstructured.  I like a plan — to know what to do.  I chose a favorite color and just started drawing circles until I filled the page.  then I chose another color and went over it again.  Then another, with a variation in color and circle size. I’m not good at knowing when to stop, so I stopped between each color to see if I thought I needed more.  Finally, I could tell it was done so I stopped.

I did it.

Unartistic me did it.

And I like it.