Letting the Music Speak for Me Today

“Hold On” by Twin Atlantic
“Mother and Father” by Broods
“Smile” by Mikky Ekko
“Human” by Christina Perri
“Clean” by Taylor Swift

You can listen to some of them on my Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/themagzee/sets/soundtrack-to-my-life-2015, or just look them up on Spotify

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt:
Playlist of the Week

I’m a Bully

I’m not one to speak on this subject, really. I’m my own worst critic and an expert self-bully. I’ve spent years and years perfecting the art of belittling myself. What a shitty thing to be good at.

I caught myself doing something yesterday that I do almost every time I look in the mirror – and decided it had to stop. As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror at work, I ran through a mental list of my physical flaws. It’s a quick and compulsive response to seeing my own reflection. The entire process takes about 20 seconds, which, oddly enough, happens to be the exact amount of time needed to destroy my self-confidence. I walk away feeling something between numbness and hopelessness.

On this occasion, I actually said aloud, “Wow, you look horrible” to myself (before double-checking that I was alone). Here’s what the rest sounded like in my head:

“Yep, those deep, dark circles are still under your eyes – worse than ever. You need to go to bed earlier. Your hair is a mess. Why can’t you get your shit together? This shirt doesn’t suit you. It makes you look pregnant. What were you thinking this morning? Your hips are huge! You need to workout more.”

Now, I will admit that if another person had said that to me, I would be outraged and angry. I would be hurt and immediately remove them from my life. I can’t even imagine saying just one of those things to someone I love, or even a stranger. So, why is it OK for us to say these things to ourselves? Why is it OK for us to objectify ourselves?

These poisonous sentiments have become my mantra. Negative, horrible words I throw at my own disappointed face every day without thinking. No wonder I lack confidence and conviction. No wonder my voice sometimes comes out in little more than a whisper. No wonder my head is full of self-doubt and anxiety. I treat myself as though I have little value, and as if my value is derived from my physical attributes.

The condensed version: I’m a bully.

I wasn’t born with these beliefs about myself. As a young child, you don’t notice the differences; you embrace all people. Hate (even directed at yourself) is learned.

I learned cruelty from other children, growing up as a chubby kid. I learned failure from all of the diet plans I tried. I learned embarrassment from looking like a stuffed sausage when I tried on my skinny friends’ clothes in high school. I learned self-doubt by always watching the confident girls and never really taking the lead. I learned self-criticism from watching other girls in front of the mirror at school, most likely emulating their mothers or what they saw in the movies (see “Mean Girls”). I learned the impossible standard of beauty as it is portrayed in the media as “normal” on TV and in movies and magazines. When I was older, men reassured me through their actions that they agreed that my value was indeed connected to the physical.

My insecurity is the perfect outcome for the media. Their advertisers have the solutions to all the problems I’m eager to fix: weight loss, anti-aging, hiding all my “wobbly bits,” and cleaning my kitchen with little effort. It makes you wonder if it’s all some grand design… Maybe that voice in my head is just some old, male advertising executive.

Did you know that the current media ideal for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population in weight and size (Katie Fox)?

The current media ideal for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population in weight and size (Katie Fox).

All of these pieces blend together to paint a picture of the person I “should” be, but never possibly could be. And, why would I want to, anyway? In our society, the perfect woman is one that has been carefully crafted to be pleasing to a man. To quote one outspoken lady I admire, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

We tell young girls to stand up for themselves, but, then, let them watch us criticize ourselves in the mirror. It’s time to stand up to ourselves, showing nothing but kindness. The voice in your head should be your biggest cheerleader, not your biggest critic.

I realize now that the “perfection” I grew up trying to attain is just some Hollywood magic; it doesn’t exist. I’d rather look at myself as a work-in-progress. There will always be something about myself that I will want to work on and some way that I will want to grow as a person. That’s the way it should be.

Fuck perfection.

You are who you are, not who someone else wants you to be. So, the next time you look in the mirror, see only how beautiful you are.

 

Honey vs. Vinegar

Help Support Suicide Prevention

Depression has been a part of my life for years, but lucky for me, it’s managed for the most part (we all have our bad days). So, when my friend Erin asked me to walk with her to support suicide prevention, there was only one answer – yes. I will be walking 17 miles overnight on June 28-29 in Philadelphia. PLEASE help if you can by following this link: Out of the Darkness Overnight. You can also read Erin’s story there about how she does this to support her sister. Thank you!!!

Update

It’s been waaaay too long since I’ve posted. I miss writing. Life got in the way, as it usually does, and writing fell to the side, which actually made my miserable situation even worse. I went back to work in February after taking a 3-year break because of chronic pain. The pain is still horrible – worse than ever. Working is exhausting and causes me a lot of pain. I thought it would get better the longer I did it, but it is just getting worse. At the end of the day, I get home and all I can do is lie down and try to distract myself from the pain with reading or watching TV/movie. Thinking about it now is actually making it worse, so I’m going to not talk about it and try to get back to some actual writing.

New Adventure #3: Vision Board-ing

Vision Board... of the things I want to attract into my life.

“Vision Board”… of the things I want to attract into my life.

My third new experience was putting together a “vision board” to focus my thoughts (that have been a little all over the place of late) on the things that I really want to accomplish/attract to my life. It didn’t turn out as specific as it probably should. I also got carried away with the eye candy. Ok, in all honesty, it didn’t start out as sophisticated as I would have you believe; it began as a hot guy collage with my girlfriends, a bottle of wine, and pizza.

Some highlights:
♦ Healthy & Happy; Healthy skin; Healthy hair; Live the good life. No sick days. – All of my general wishes for a healthy life, without the focus on the chronic pain. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, so I struggle with skin and hair issues. I’d love to have healthy skin and hair.
♦ Attractive men, specifically Harry Styles – I focused not only on the attractiveness of the men (and these are some very attractive men), but on the qualities in them that I want in my future relationship. I won’t bore you with the details, but Harry Styles in that tux is who I hope to see at the end of the aisle I walk down one day. Please don’t respect me any less. 😀
♦ Jennifer Lawrence – I’m a big admirer of JLaw. I love her style, candor, and the way that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Plus, I think she’s gorgeous, so I included a picture of her in a bathing suit to aspire to.
♦ Fearless; Confident; Independent; Funny; Beauty (inner); Honesty; Passion – These are qualities I’d really like to possess in all aspects of my life. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I would like to be fearless the most.
♦ Welcome to California – All I can say is I better be there before next winter. I cannot survive another Mid-Atlantic winter.
♦ Money, success, happiness and life; Great Job: Find Joy – Who wouldn’t want all these things. I’m not sure what great job that is, but I still want to do something in the humanitarian/non-profit field.
♦ Write the next great memoir – I need some inspiration.
♦ Peaceful, restful sleep; picture of a Tempur Pedic bed – I have trouble sleeping almost every night and I really need a new bed.
♦ Ron Burgundy and Danny McBride – Two brilliantly hilarious men whose humor I’d love to spend my days laughing at… or with.
♦ Mindy Kaling – An intelligent, witty, funny woman who I aspire to.
♦ Take back your freedom – From the anxiety, from the uncertainty, from the people who hold me back… I want to feel free, unhindered and enthusiastic about living.
♦ Live every moment. Laugh every day. Love beyond words. – A great little saying to live by. I’d like to do all these things.
♦ I ♥ myself – Reminder to myself, because we all forget sometimes. Am I right?
♦ Best is still to come… A promise to myself.

This was a good exercise for me. I am in a transitional period, but I have been losing momentum, because I’ve been distracted by other things. I am in a place in my life where I need to focus on myself and this was a reminder of that. I have so much I need to focus on to move forward with my life. Here’s to trying to figure it all out..

P.S. I added a little brevity to it, though. Can anyone find the three (dumb) things I did?

Music: Stubborn Love and Flaws

Once in a while, I find a song that I know must be on the soundtrack to my life (see the page “Soundtrack to My Life” above). The moment the notes hit my ears, I know that it belongs in my story. It’s inspiring and awakens the creative. Sometimes it even touches me in a way that makes me want to be a better person. Other times it echoes what I’m going through back to me in a way that gives me perspective. This is one of those songs…

“It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all.”
These words couldn’t be truer to my story at the moment. I awoke this morning after about 5 hours of sleep in a state of anxiety… seemingly my resting state these days. However, today, as I sat up in bed, I closed my eyes and smiled, relishing the feeling. I let it drive me all day, instead of terrifying and paralyzing me. I’m having trouble sleeping, again. But this time, it’s because I don’t want to miss anything. Even though life’s a real struggle right now, I am appreciating the ride. I feel deep inside me that I need to experience what I am right now; I need to feel these things, despite how much I’d prefer not to.

“When we were young, oh, oh, we did enough”
Sometimes, I feel like I’m missing out on all the stupid-fun I used to have. 22-year-old me would not approve of me staying in on a weekend night, but 28-year-old me doesn’t want to deal with 22-year-olds anymore and doesn’t have the patience to deal with general douche-baggery. I find myself thinking back on old times and smiling, though, gathering old memories like precious stones. I guess, when I was young, I did do enough… 🙂

As a bonus:

It’s an interesting concept: “wearing your flaws upon your sleeve.”

In Honor of the New Year…

Another year you made a promise
Another chance to turn it all around
And do not save this for tomorrow
Embrace the past and you can live for now

And I will give the world to you

Speak louder than the words before you
And give them meaning no one else has found
The role we play is so important
We are the voices of the underground

And I would give the world to you

Say everything you’ve always wanted
Be not afraid of who you really are
Cause in the end we have each other
And that’s at least one thing worth living for

And I would give the world to you

A million suns that shine upon me
A million eyes you are the brightest blue
Lets tear the walls down that divide us
And build a statue strong enough for two

I pass it back to you
And I will wait for you,
Cause I would give the world
And I would give the world
And I would give the world to you

This is the new year
A new beginning
You made a promise
You are the brightest
We are the voices

This is the new year
We are the voices
This is the new year

A new beginning
You made a promise
We are the voices
This is the new year

(Zero to Hero Day 6 – a little late)

 

New Adventure #1: Atlantic City Sunrise

New Adventure: seeing the sunrise somewhere I never have before

Went to Atlantic City to see the first sunrise over the Atlantic of 2014. It was a pretty crazy night… We made it there on New Year’s Eve in record time, because I was driving and we had the last reservation at The Rainforest Cafe. If you know me, you know there was no way I was missing that.

How fast I was going... haha

How fast I was going… haha

We had a quiet (for being in a jungle, I’m assuming) dinner at Rainforest Cafe and drinks at The Caesar Pier restaurants (no cover!). My drink had red licorice at the bottom and I got excited… I’m a sucker for a gimmick.

The Twizzle

The Twizzle

We decided to play some slots at the Caesar’s Casino and experienced some prime people watching, which Mona loved. Then, we tried to find a place to rest until morning, because the room rate was $799. If I have an internal debate over paying $4 for the crappy muffins in your “Italian Cafe,” there’s no way you’re getting $799 out of me.

While getting a late-night snack, Mona and I encountered the funniest, most offense group of guys. I don’t get offended easily, so if I think it was offensive, I think it’s safe to say it was pretty bad. I won’t repeat anything they said, but one of them said something that literally made me do a spit-take all over his friend. Mona was not amused as I was. I found it hilarious for the most part, especially since it was after 3 AM and I had already changed into a sweatshirt, yoga pants, and f’Uggs. And, if you know me, you know those boots make me so hot, temperature-wise that is.

While wandering around at 6 AM, we discovered the awesomeness that is the Bally’s Wild West Casino. It’s a caricature of the Wild West in the cheesiest, most amazing fashion.

This is in the lobby of the Bally's Wild West Casino...

This is in the lobby of the Bally’s Wild West Casino…

I didn’t get a wink of sleep, but Ellen managed to get 5 and a half hours in the freezing car, and Mona snoozed for like 30 minutes, before we got chased off by someone who had told us we weren’t supposed to be there.

After what felt like the longest (but also awesome) night ever, we went out to the beach to catch the 7:18 AM sunrise on 1/1/2014 and it was beautiful. I tried to ignore the fact that there was part of dead octopus on the beach and that I was in New Jersey (jk!). I’m glad I got to spend it with two of my besties (though I missed Andrea, who’s livin’ it up in Bolivia right now – so there was no fangirling).

Here's that sunrise, coming up over the clouds

Here’s that sunrise, coming up over the clouds

I wish you all the best 2014 possible!

If you just can’t get enough, you can read more about it on my last post: https://themagzee.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/nj-falls-into-the-atlantic/

Chronic Pain… A Little Insight

Chronic pain is so often misunderstood, as are the people suffering from it. It’s usually not something other people can see, so it’s easy to dismiss. If you see someone with a cast on their leg, you can visually identify their pain (broken leg = “that must have hurt”). However, if you see someone, walking around, driving, sitting with you at dinner, trying to put her pain in the back of her mind so she can lead a normal life, you’re more likely to think “she can’t be in that much pain.”

Today was a bad day for me. The pain reached an 8 or 9 on the “How is your pain on a scale of 1 to 10? 1 being no pain at all, 10 being ‘I need to go to the hospital'” (Yes, I’ve been asked that so many times by pain doctors, I have it memorized). Today, the pain was debilitating, distracting and annoying, with little relief all day. Driving home, I couldn’t sit still, I screamed at no one in particular and even cried because the pain grew so intense. I momentarily considered that driving off a cliff would be preferable to suffering this pain one moment longer. And, no, I’m not suicidal. It’s a feeling that you’d understand if you had chronic pain. The difference is in the fact that you have hope that the pain will be better tomorrow. After reading that, if you know me at all, you’re probably thinking I hide it well. You’re right, I do. I’m pretty sure only one or two people have ever seen me break down (screaming, crying, throwing things, not making any sense). It actually usually happens when I’m alone in the car… I try to hold off long enough to get away from other people.

So, what exactly is wrong with me? I “look OK”  (which, by the way, is the WORST thing you can say to someone with an invisible injury i.e. chronic pain, brain injury, etc.). Well, I was in a car accident five and half years ago that caused many injuries that you can’t see (including a brain injury): 5 herniated and/or ruptured disks in my mid-back and neck, which have developed into accelerated Degenerative Disk Disease, usually causing sharp, nauseating pain, and, at other times, dull, aching pain; myofacial pain across the entire lower (lumbar) and pelvic (upper butt area) region of my back, which is incredibly painful if I sit wrong or if touched (I literally yelled out during a yoga class when the instructor pressed down in this area of my back while attempting to help me deepen my child’s pose); constant chronic muscle spasms, which are stabbing, nauseating and aching, and sometimes make it difficult to breathe (fortunately massage therapy can really help this aspect of the pain; unfortunately, it is too expensive to keep up with); occasional phantom pain from fractured bones in my transverse process (bones that extend out from the spine); a labral tear in the cartilage of my right hip, which, although it’s as healed as it will ever be, still causes pain, sometimes in both hips, because it forces me to walk unevenly; and the beginnings of arthritis in my spine (which is exactly how your grandparents describe it and really is horribly affected by the weather). Oh, did I mention I’m only 28, not 80, which is usually how I feel.

I’m not writing this to complain, but to explain. In my experience, not only is there a lack of understanding, but there is a lack of desire to understand chronic pain. Can you imagine having something that relentlessly holds you back from the things you love to do, that exhausts you quickly, that infuriates you, robs you of your patience, and in my case, your dreams (Peace Corps after college)? And, then, on top of that, you have to take medication for it, which gives you relief, but causes it’s own problems. I’m still trying to figure out what to do instead of going to the Peace Corps after college, and college ended four years ago…

Pain is alienating and makes you feel so alone. Some days, my cat is literally the only thing that can make me smile (he’s an adorable and hilarious chunk of a black cat, if you were wondering). Months ago, I went to a support group for pain, because I wanted to make connections with people who understood. I never went back, because I’m fairly certain suffering from intense chronic pain over the years had driven half of them crazy. I don’t want to end up alone and crazy because of chronic pain, talking about my how my cat makes me smile at a support group when I’m 50.

I’ve learned that there is an odd fine line between complaining and explaining when it comes to traumas. In the past, I have worried so much that people will tire of hearing me talk about it that I didn’t share important pieces of information about what I was going through. It not only made me more depressed, but it cost me some of the most important relationships in my life, just because of misunderstanding and my own insecurities. I honestly still couldn’t tell you where the line is five years later, so I am going to err on the side of over-sharing from now on. Keeping it to myself hasn’t exactly worked out for me. I still worry that people in my life are sick of hearing me complain (which I really try not to do, but I’m sure that it bleeds through), but you know what? I’ve been through a lot in the last five a half years, trying to get rid of the pain, mostly unsuccessfully, some incredibly painfully (i.e. multiple epidurals), so if you think I complain a lot, at least I’m not one of those people who just complains but doesn’t do anything about it.

I am not the same person I was before the accident in so many ways, but the chronic pain seems to hang on me the heaviest. Pain is exhausting. It sucks your the life out of you and leaves nothing left. It affects your mood and your patience level. Personally, I’d never wish the pain I feel on a consistent basis on my worst enemy (you know who you are), but when I see doubt or skepticism in a someone’s eyes, I wish I could touch their arm and transfer it to them for a few seconds, so they would understand that I’m not making it up or exaggerating. I notice the judgement in people’s eyes when I reach for the pain medication from my colorful Coach pill case (my attempt to make it somehow slightly more pleasant). I guess if you’re going to judge me for being on pain medication, you really haven’t tried to understand me and therefore, aren’t really my friend, so I shouldn’t worry about it. However, for your information, I’ve tried going off of pain medications altogether twice. Both were unpleasant experiences and caused the pain to flare to unprecedented levels.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever let anyone into the dark little corner in my life that is chronic pain. It’s always been easier to plaster a smile on my face and keep it hidden. When did I become this person? The person who just drowns in the pain and lets it become an excuse to keep people out, because “no one will understand.” Being honest with myself, I never gave anyone a chance to understand. Chronic pain is a big part of my life, but, regardless of how bad it gets and how much it affects my personality, it isn’t who I am (although it feels like it sometimes). And, maybe I’m correct that no one will ever understand, but that can’t be my reason to give up. It’s a lonely future for anyone who thinks that way… A future of bitterness, cats and crazy support groups. Although, I do love cats.

 

Note: Like I said, today is definitely a bad day for me pain-wise, so, this may not be most well-written post. I’m not even sure that the ideas are organized logically, but I don’t really give a shit today. So, I apologize. I am not always going to go on and on about my chronic pain in this blog, but I do have more to say on the topic and I am completely willing to answer any questions if you ever have any.

New Endeavor

People make it sound so easy, but changing your attitude is more challenging than I ever imagined. I think that changing your perspective is a far easier first step towards changing your attitude, and is exactly what I have been trying to do lately: look at things in a different way.

And, so, my friend, Andrea, and I are starting a new endeavor. We are going to make a list of things that we’ve never done before (yes, like a Bucket List, but it may be something big or something quite small) and start checking them off. I will write about them here, since I’m prone to forgetting.

I strongly believe that the surest way to learn about yourself and to grow as a person is to force yourself outside your comfort zone. When challenged, you reveal your true self. So, that is my aim for this project.