Spring Into A New Self-image

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It’s that time of year when I’d rather not look in the mirror. That time of year when my skin is at its palest. And of course, spot one flaw, spot them all. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like. Is that a double chin? What happened to my collarbone? Where did it go? Is my collarbone showing too much? Why is my butt jiggly. And why are my thighs moving that way? Are my elbows too knobby? Is the gap between my thighs wide enough? Or why don’t I have a gap between my thighs? I do all that legwork and nothing happens in my thighs but now I have a bubble butt and potato-shaped calves.

Can you feel the headache coming on? Have you bashed your head into the wall so much that you left a dent and some blood? Are you done mentally carving yourself to pieces like a butcher? So let’s get the collective knife out our backs and figure out a few things.

Who’s to blame?

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It’s not men. They have to fit into tight, low-waist tapered pants that show just a glimpse of ankle, sport perfectly groomed beards, maintain their hair so that it looks like it gets cut every week by a stylist and not a barber, and then their chests. They get to compete with the Hemsworth brothers, the entire cast of SEAL Team, S.W.A.T. and 9-1-1, every fast, strong, agile and drop-dead-gorgeous-super-sexy comic book character from Captain America to Wolverine, AND mutant heroes of the shifter romance genre. So, they don’t have it easy either.

Can we blame the media? Take a moment and look around you. How many twig-like Amazonian women are you seeing right now? If you’re a fashion model or live in L.A., never mind. If you’re a mere mortal woman, note that there aren’t any. However, she is not a mythical creature. She’s been corralled along with every woman of the same body type by capitalism.

Next time you watch TV or Netflix, notice how when an actress turns sideways, her body blends into the scenery. It’s not camouflage. It’s her size. If I don’t focus on her face, she disappears.

It’s scary. At least for me. Because if every woman I see in the media is gorgeous, always made-up, fabulously dressed and laptop thin, I start to think that should be me too. And people, I have never come close to that. And realistically, I never will unless I become extremely sick. It’s just not my body type. Nor is it the body type of most women out there. Why would I even consider that for myself? I wouldn’t except I get bombarded with images of that single body type over and over again.

And this media that’s affecting my state of mind, that’s not just warped unethical capitalism, it’s me and you, right? We repost pics of who we’d like to look like. We spend hours filtering and retouching our selfies. We consume gym memberships, self-help fitness books, try the latest fad diets like we can all be Karlie Kloss or Hailey Baldwin. Yet, in their own eyes, they are as flawed as we are in ours. They are as beautiful to others as we are to others. And they are as unique in the universe as we are unique in the universe.

Change

Ashley Graham in Nevis photographed by Josie Clough.

I’ve posted about Taryn Brumfitt, who is promoting self-accepting throughout her organization Body Image Movement, before. There are also actresses like Victoire Dauxerre who are creating change by exposing impossible realities. Just the title of her memoir says so much: Size Zero: My Life as a Disappearing Model. And we had the beautiful Ashley Graham gracing the cover of 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Self-confidence often lands as the number one most important trait of attractiveness. Let’s focus on building that by adopting a positive self-image. By doing accepting ourselves as we are, we are making our contribution toward a body positive, body inclusive world.

What’s your body challenge? Where do you see change happening? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.

Decluttering For Your Mental Health

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A lot of things impact our mental health, many of which we have zero control over such as the weather, bad drivers and meteorites. But so much, we can control. You know the drill: forgive, perform acts of kindness, smile. Once in a while the world is trying to tell us something. Lately, it’s been telling me, “Declutter your life, declutter you mind, Patricia.” While I don’t think my life is that cluttered, the universe seems to think it is. (I have been known to ignore what I don’t want to deal with.)

It all started at the end of March while having dinner with my girlfriends. One mentioned Marie Kondo. You know her: keep only the stuff that “sparks joy” in you, organize it, keep it organized.  (I might be over simplifying.) My friends were praising her and also feeling guilty about their cluttered homes. While I’d never heard of Marie Kondo and her Konmari method, I was feeling quite smug while I listened to my besties confess how much they needed her to come over to their homes. Because yeah, I’m that person who will wage war on the shoe rack that has more shoes surrounding it than on it, that person who will spend the afternoon cleaning out the bureau because I’m tired of its drawers launching their contents at me when I open them and require two hands to stuff, one hip to shove and a prayer to close them again, and that person who will spend an hour with a shredder because I can’t see the surface of my desk anymore.

Having said that, I’m not Miss Perfect And On Top Of Things. Not at all. If I were, I’d post here with more regularity like twice a week. (I’m doing my best so I’m not going to feel bad about it.) My girls did catch my attention when they mentioned the Konmari folding method. Check out this video:

So I checked out the organizing guru on Netflix and transformed my drawers. Tada!

Konmari method

 

Apparently, that wasn’t enough because I found myself reading an article about how to declutter your home in 31 days. And why do that? Because a tidy home is a tidy mind. So I’m not sure that’s entirely true if you take it to the extreme. Then it’s obsessive compulsive disorder. However, knowing that cleaning out the garage, donating clothes you no longer wear or deleting all those unnecessary files and folders on your C: drive means that task is no longer on your to-do list. Peace of mind. Om.

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This was followed by another article about prioritizing the day. The idea behind it was that you can only focus on doing three things really well in one day so make those your priorities for that day. This totally spoke to me because, like most people,  I can have a bunch of different things planned for a day like work on WIP, read for course, workout, check-in with Mom and do laundry and groceries.

Just looking at that list makes me hurt. Here’s what’s really interesting: look at the categories all those items fall under:

  • work on WIP is work
  • read for course is school
  • workout is fitness
  • checkin with Mom is family and friends
  • do laundry and groceries is home

That’s five categories. That’s a lot to have on one’s plate in one day. Each takes time to do. Each will take place in a different location. And if those two things aren’t stressful enough, the constant switch in mindset is enough to give anyone mental whiplash. So maybe I could live longer and healthier if I focus on work, school and family and friends today and work, fitness and home tomorrow, and family and friends, home and fitness on the weekend. Just writing that out feels much nicer than that earlier list.

I’m giving this a try. Today is school, work and family and friends. And tomorrow, I’m going to tackle the 400+ emails in my inbox. So I’m thinking I’ll make it a work, work and work day. Although it would probably be a good idea if I planned work, fitness and work. Taking a fitness break halfway through that inbox sounds like good mental health, don’t you think?

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What kind of clutter accumulates in your life? How do you manage it? Do you have a decluttering routine? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.

Tidy VS Messy In Fiction As In Real Life

In my current WIP Covers, the two main characters have roommates. Janet, who’s emotionally stressed due to drug and alcohol abuse is a bit messy although she’d not so far gone in her addiction to have lost complete control. She still feeds her cat, showers, wears clean clothes. She lives with Diana. If you read Secrets, you know that she created chaos in her bedroom regularly to anger her father after the housekeeper cleaned. Away from her father’s house, Diana’s become the almost perfect roommate. She’s organized, she cooks, and she keeps Janet updated on her whereabouts.

Then there’s the Russell brothers: Danny and Nate. Danny is the older, more responsible one which means that Nate is the wild young brother. Danny keeps on top of the day to day chores meanwhile Nate is more of a social director. Danny starts the grocery list, does laundry weekly and hounds Nate about cleaning. Nate is all about trendy clothes, the hottest places, and the most fun. To Nate, home is the place where his clothes live, and he hangs out when there’s nothing going on.

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If you have family, you share living quarters. In my case, my darling daughter and I are opposites. I’m an organizer by nature. Everything has its place, whether in my mind or my surroundings. When things get too messy, I become agitated. I feel my heart pounding. My throat goes dry. Anxiety hums through my veins. The chaos normally elicits two reactions: flight or freeze. In other words, I either avoid that area of my life/home/workstation or I sit with the chaos and all the physical and mental emotions it affects (not good). The more I think about fixing the mess, the stronger my instincts to run from or sink into the mire. It can take a really long time for my fight instinct to kick in. And then I’m all, “In your face mess! I’m gonna beat you into shape now!”

Wow! I know, right?

My child, on the other hand, can live with messes like a lion in the savannah. It’s all good. Life goes on. She may comment, “We should sort that out.” Or ask, “When will this get organized?” Rarely, does she say “This really needs to be taken care of Mom.” If it comes to that, I know it’s truly out of control. I may not have realized it because my tolerance threshold is low-medium(?) and hers is normal(?). No matter what, she appreciates tidiness. She actually sighs in relief when she notices that something has gone from mess to tidy.

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We were shopping on Sunday when we saw some small plastic baskets on sale. She said, “I could use those.” I didn’t even ask how, I just thought, If the child wants to organize, let her organize.

Well, the mess that was her “beauty” station has now been separated into three lovely baskets.

Ta-da!

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By the way, today is Bell Let’s Talk. For those who are Bell subscribers, there’s lots you can do. See the full list. For those who have other mobile providers, here are three options.
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  • Twitter: Each time you tweet using #BellLetsTalk or watch their official video, Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives.
  • Facebook: Each time you use the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or watch our official video, Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives.
  • Instagram: Each time you watch the official video on Instagram, Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives.

Are you a tidy or messy person? What’s your tolerance level like? Even messy people have one. I love reading your comments so leave one.

Turning 45

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My birthday is coming up in three weeks. It’s the big 4-5. As we continue to settle into our new life in Montreal, I’ve been taking care of the administrative side of life lately. I feel like things are progressing in a positive manner. While there have been moments since August when I’ve felt overwhelmed, I’ve been relative steady which has me re-evaluating my forties.

Taking Inventory

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I’m not thrilled with my soon-to-be age. Mid-forties. Middle aged. How did that happen? And yet, I’m the best version of me that I’ve ever been. I started to realize how much I’ve grown in my fifth decade. Growth that I had sought out for years but couldn’t attain because I didn’t know how or wasn’t ready for.

I got lucky in 2014. I had an epiphany. I realized that while I could own a home, drive a car, hold a job, have a child and basically present an adult to the world, there was a part of me which was stuck. I ached to be the woman I knew I could be. I hadn’t noticed until then that parts of me were stuck in childhood. I needed to work on those parts so they could grow up and join the rest of me.

Some of the things that plagued me might be familiar to you:

  • Fear of public speaking
  • Being overly sensitive and reacting in extremes like anger or tears
  • Being selfish, cold, stubborn, and unable to empathize
  • Low self-esteem which led to a lot of self-shaming, self-loathing, self-doubt
  • Huge FOMO (fear of missing out) so bad I would avoid sleep

Those are the subject lines. Under those, I could list example after example. When I looked at myself from the outside, I saw a winner. I had a family, friends I could count on, enough money to live and travel, and two careers. As a person, I was smart, funny and capable. Notice the mask. No coincidence that I called my first published story Masks. The face we present to the world is sometimes so different from the truth we live.

From the inside, I was a total mess. I carried so much fear and anger. It had gotten to the point where I felt like those were my two main emotions. This is where I was at age 40 in 2014. I hated it. It was no way to live. How many more years could I keep hardening? I already felt so brittle and ready to break. I had to make some changes and decided to seek out some help.

Journey Vs Destination

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I joined a self-help group. I talked to my doctor. I started therapy. I read books. I spoke to the people around me. Early on, I finally clued in that one of my main beliefs about life was completely wrong. I would never arrive because life is not about getting to the destination. Life is about the journey and how we live it. Up to that point, I had lived it in confinement. I had to release myself from that stifling environment and recognize that I was free. Whether slow or fast, constant growth and development were of the highest importance.

It wasn’t easy facing my fears. After all, they are there for a reason. I had so much proof that they were valid that it was hard to find proof that letting go of them would give me a better life. And who would I be without all the fears and defects? I would be the woman I wanted to be. That was scary too. What if that woman turned out to be someone I didn’t want to be? What if I’d spent my time wishing for the wrong thing?

I wasn’t alone on my journey. I’ve met so many people with the same fears and questions and with different fears and questions, but we were all changing because we had hope.

I still work on myself every day. It’s easier now. I’ve let go of so much baggage that I can more easily unpack an old suitcase because I have the room if you will. I now have the capacity to handle more and change more and even accept what I can’t change. I guess I’ve been building resilience. So my forties have been great. I’ve worked on myself so much and yet, I am so much more energetic than when I stood rooted in my mire of fear and anger.

What have been some of your best years? What made them so good? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.

Reframing My Ultimate Body Image

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A new year. A new start. A new list of goals. For some, a new list of resolutions. For me, most of last year’s goals have carried over to this year:

  • Find a full-time job
  • Buy a house
  • Publish Covers
  • Lose weight?

To Lose Or Not To Lose

That question mark is not a typo. Do I or don’t I want to lose weight? I don’t know. I’ve put on ten pounds per year over the last four years. From what I can tell, I eat the same amount of food as I did five years ago so what the heck is going on? Great question.

I’ve tried cutting back on food. Very little difference. I thought it might be a health condition and got a blood test. Nothing showed up except that my reproductive hormone levels are changing. At my age, not so unusual and it could account for some of the weight gain. I work out at least three times a week. No problem building muscle, but can’t shed a pound. So what’s left?

My best guess is medication. I’ve been taking scripts for the last three years. Since the prescription is not for life, I’m hoping that soon, very very soon, I will no longer need it and that the weight will disappear. But what if it doesn’t?

What If What Now

What if it’s not the meds that caused my weight gain? What if this weight gain is permanent? Worse, what if I keep gaining weight? I’ve been struggling with self-acceptance for a while. After years of being the same weight year after year, I’ve suddenly ballooned. And it seems like this balloon is out of my control. Do you know The Serenity Prayer? It starts like this: “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” After searching everything else, I’ve been looking at exercising my serenity.

Netflix: My Road To Self-acceptance

I was lost until the holidays during which I decided to devote a little time to my Netflix list. I watched a couple of documentaries that opened my eyes. First there was The True Cost, a doc by Andrew Morgan about the impact of fast fashion on society and the environment. I concluded three things:

  1. Buy only what I need
  2. Buy from sustainable brands
  3. My body image is not in the hands of an industry, it is in my hands alone.

The last one struck me because I hadn’t expected that lesson to come from a documentary about the fashion industry.

My stars must have aligned because the next documentary I watched was called Embrace. A few years ago, Taryn Brumfitt decided to stop worrying about her weight and enjoy her life. She also started The Body Image Movement. In the film, she travels the world and meets up with like-minded women.

Like her supporters, I love that Brumfitt isn’t perfect, yet she loves herself and it truly shows. The more I watched the movie, the more I wanted to be her! Or should I say, the more I wanted to be accepting of my body in the same way that she accepted hers. I’m going to sit with Acceptance for a while and see how we can work this out. Because really, the amount of time I’ve wasted worrying about those new pounds, where they’ve landed and how they look, would have been better spent enjoying my life.

What challenges have you faced lately? How did you overcome them or accept them? Or are you still working on it? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment!

Hoarding In Secrets

Secrets - eBookIn Secrets, Ron Pearl, Diana Rainville’s love interest, is a hoarder. In the story, the death of his mother and Diana’s support lead him to clean his basement. That seems miraculous, doesn’t it? Even Hollywood. But it’s not so farfetched. Alcoholics who fall in love often note that they drink less when they start a relationship.  The abuse victim feels strong and powerful. Depressed people are happy. Research shows that falling in love does cause a high due to a change in brain chemistry. Some research suggests the rush is Mother Nature’s way of making sure we bond so that eventually we reproduce. But that feeling of euphoria doesn’t last forever.

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Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what happens to Ron’s hoarding after Ron and Diana have been a couple for a few months? The only thing that can happen. It returns in full force. As much as love can heal all wounds, only self-love can heal them directly. The loving people can help the healing by being supportive, accepting, respectful, open-minded, encouraging, by listening and by empathizing. So how can hoarding become part of Ron’s past?

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In the story, Ron seemed so in control and confident, but he was far from it. His parents fought all the time. He couldn’t stop his father from leaving when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He couldn’t stop his mother’s cancer or her death. He can’t get an education due to the medical bills and his career is chosen for him. He hangs on to garbage like a security blanket. It’s his way of dealing with his emotions. He gets a high from finding things he could use although he doesn’t use them. He collects them in his bedroom and his basement.

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Image courtesy of thephotoholic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When his mother talks about counselling, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s been to counselling and he does clear the basement so he is cognizant of the problem. But denial is a big problem for many hoarders. It is a life threatening disease. The only reason the hoarding hasn’t taken over in the story is because of his mother’s presence. But his room has no space and neither has the basement. If allowed, he will eventually fill the entire house. Eventually becoming unhealthy and unsafe for himself and his neighbors.

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether hoarding comes from collecting trash or buying too much, it’s a ritual which creates excitement. It’s also unusual for hoarders to share with others. And it’s not surprising that Ron didn’t need to think twice about dumpster diving alone when Diana wanted to leave. He just let her go without blinking. It is not an addiction although it can be associated with addiction and other mental health issues, nor is it an obsessive compulsive disorder although it can coexist.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The only cure is to stop and deal with the emotions that are causing the hoarding. To learn more about hoarding, check out these resources:

www.hoarding.ca

https://www.helpforhoarders.co.uk/resources/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20356056

What do you do when you are avoiding emotions? What do you do to accept those emotions? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.