Tag Archives: Women’s bodies

Being Female – Michelle Obama’s Speech and Trump’s Words

I couldn’t watch Michelle Obama’s speech. You know, the one that’s all over Facebook and in the news. The one she gave in New Hampshire last week, in which she talked about Trump’s horrible comments about how he relates to women. In which she talks about what it’s like being female in our culture.

You see, I started to watch the video with my husband, but I asked him to stop it. After a few minutes, it struck a nerve. It brought up too many memories of similar circumstances in my own life, of being female and being objectified. It was, honestly, too painful for me to finish watching.

When I was 13, a stranger, a man at least 10 years older than me, led me into a secluded part of a park and forced himself on me. I ran away before anything truly terrible happened, but I was scared and ashamed as if somehow I was responsible for his actions. That was the first time, but sadly not the last time, that a man made unwanted advances at me or that I felt ashamed of what had happened to me.

As an adult, I have been the object of crass comments and lewd stares. Once, while I was running on a Saturday morning, dressed in tights and a t-shirt, a stranger yelled, “Work that pussy!” as I ran by him. Another time, I was called to HR to discuss my job, and the employee questioning me stared at my chest for most of the time I was in his office.

I’m not alone in experiencing this behavior. Every woman, every single woman I’ve spoken to, has a similar story. Or she has many stories. It’s commonplace enough to make you think it’s part of the collective female narrative. This is what to expect if you are a girl or woman. This is a rite of passage for being female. A man is going to try to kiss you or touch you when you haven’t consented to it. A man is going to say something to you that relegates you to body parts for his enjoyment. You will feel shame for being female.

 

After the uproar over Trump’s horrible words, many said, “Let’s get back to the real issues.” Well, I call bullshit on that.

Treating women like objects that can be manhandled and dominated, acting as if women are only breasts and vaginas that exist for a man’s pleasure, these are real issues. This behavior and thinking affects girls and women in the educational system. It affects women in the workforce. It affects women in domestic relationships. It affects our laws and institutional practices. So, I cannot imagine an issue more important or real.

This kind of behavior and thinking is insidious. It whispers under its breath that, “Girls, you aren’t equal, and you don’t control your own bodies.”

 

When females are devalued by words and actions, it impacts all of us – men, women – and our society. It doesn’t just influence how men view women. It influences how women view themselves.

So let’s not brush over what Trump said. He spoke his truth. And, unfortunately, that truth is shared by many others. Those in political power. Those working at our offices. Those praying at our churches. Those strangers you run into on the street.

Well, this is my truth. I am not a pussy. I am not tits. I am not your plaything or your property. I am scientist and an educator and a runner and a writer and a parent and a spouse. I work. I raise kids. I volunteer at the school library. I pay taxes. I vote. This is being female. This is who I am.

I Got the Perimenopause Craziness

I have spent the last week mostly wearing pajamas and in bed. I haven’t been running. I haven’t been meditating. I’ve haven’t been writing. I sure as hell haven’t been Up With Me! No, I’ve been in the throes of a perimenopausal slump.

I got the perimenopause craziness. And it sucks. (I know you feel my pain, women of a certain age.)

Like my life is not challenging enough. Like I don’t have enough to deal with living in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language and don’t have any friends. Like I don’t have enough to deal with working full time, raising a child, and trying to keep my marriage and sanity intact (and doing that just barely, I might add).

Now, I deal with all THAT and with night sweats. I deal with all THAT and volcanic anger followed by sobbing followed by anxiety. I deal with all THAT and the inability to remember anything. [Note to readers with a gentle constitution: this is where you skip down to the next paragraph because it’s about to get all TMI in here.] And, on top of all this hormonally imbalanced behavior, I no longer have a period. I have a hemorrhage instead. I’m fairly certain that I’m passing whole pieces of my uterus, not just its lining, every month.

Damn you, perimenopause craziness!

Yes, I use progesterone cream. Yes, I take Vitamins B and E and fish oil in a who-cares-if-it’s-scientifically-proven-to-work-I’ll-try-anything attempt to stabilize my mood swings. And some months, it’s all fine and good, and I think I’ve passed whatever godforsaken phase I’ve entered. And then it cycles back when I’m least expecting it.

Wait! I thought I already did that blood clot thing [Oops, sorry, readers with a gentle constitution] 2 years ago. Well, here it is again. Time to do yet another load of laundry. Today.

Wait! I thought I was done with the unpredictable and volatile mood swings after last year. Nope, here they are again! Sorry, honey, for screaming at you then breaking down in tears. For no reason whatsoever.

Heavy, heavy sigh.

Peeps, it’s true. I got the perimenopause craziness. Sometimes, I suffer from it (in which case, so does the rest of my family). Sometimes I live with it (yay me!). Sometimes, I don’t even remember that I have it (thank you, Most Merciful Goddess). Regardless, it’s real, and it’s my life, and…

This, too, shall pass. I just have to keep telling myself (and those who live with me) that truth and believing it.

Oh, that it were this easy. Instant cooling that lasts 4 hours. Nope, it ain't that easy.

Oh, that it were this easy. Instant cooling that lasts 4 hours. Nope, it ain’t that easy.

Softening the Hard Edges – Compassion

Core Value #3 Compassion

I’m revisiting my core values. I wrote about community a few weeks ago, and now I’m checking in with my value of compassion.

 

It’s so timely that (in my alphabetical, Virgo way of organizing my values – Awareness, Community…) compassion is up next, because I had this interaction with myself just yesterday and it reinforced how much I (still) need to work on cultivating this value.

Here’s what happened.

Walking out of the grocery, I passed a woman who was about my age (not a spring chicken). She wore a crop top that bared her entire stomach, and she obviously hadn’t been doing 100 crunches a day or starving herself.

My first thought was, ‘Wow, I would never wear that in public.’ And, had I been with a friend at the time, I’m sure I would have actually said those words out loud, rolled my eyes, and laughed.

Two seconds later, I thought, ‘You know what? You go girl, with tummy hanging out. Yay you for accepting your body as it is and just putting it out there….although, I would never do that if that were my stomach.’

Truth be told, my stomach doesn’t look much different, and that’s being generous to myself.

Then, less than a minute later I thought, ‘Wait, what am I thinking? I am part of the problem. I’m the one with the attitude that the only people who should be allowed to bare their midriffs are 20 somethings with 6 pack abs. I’m the one feeding the stereotype that only a certain body type can be exposed in public. I’m tearing down a woman I don’t even know because of a stupid T-shirt?! What is wrong with me?!’

Facepalm. Argh!!!!!!!!

This, my friends, is a perfect example of me not practicing compassion. It’s me being judgmental, critical, and unkind. Oh, I have my work cut out for me.

And what happens when I’m not compassionate? I suffer. Whether it’s not being compassionate with others or not being compassionate with myself, the end result is the same. I end up unhappy, because I create distance and separation.

Compassion

Compassion is an unqualified and all encompassing kindness that diminishes differences. It recognizes the interconnectedness and inherent self-worth of everyone (Namaste, y’all!). So when I’m acting compassionately, I accept people as they are rather than how I want them to be, which is always a recipe for disappointment. I accept people who believe differently than me, look differently than me, and act differently than me. In essence, I stop resisting others, which is tiresome and futile. I stop being ego-centric, forcing people to fit my admittedly small view of the world. And, I start opening up and embracing others. In essence, I soften, rather than sharpen, my hard edges and allow myself to connect to others. When I do this, I am my best self, and what’s better than that?

 

Dr. Emma Seppälä (Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education) made this cool infographic on the Scientific Benefits of Compassion.

The Scientific Benefits of Compassion

Source:http://www.emmaseppala.com/top-10-scientific-benefits-of-compassion-infographic/#.VcHobXgxGgQ

 

Random Things on the Web I Dig Right Now (April 2015)

Have a great day image

Image courtesy of kakisky (morguefile.com)

  1. The Greater Good Science Center 

The Greater Good Science Center (GGSC), part of UC-Berkeley, sponsors research on what I would collectively call positive psychology. It also provides resources from this research – reader friendly articles, videos, free online courses, and original research articles – to the general public. Using the core themes of gratitude, altruism, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, happiness, and mindfulness, the GGSC is a wealth of science-based information on how to live a more meaningful life. Since I am all Up With Me! and a science nerd, I’m totally into this.

I’m not really sure how I first came across the GGSC website, but some time last year I noticed they were offering a free, online Science of Happiness course, and I signed up. I was in a mental space where I needed to be thinking about and improving my well being and working on my emotional resilience. This course helped me stay on course. It was 8 weeks of video lectures, readings, quizzes and tests, and a class forum. In other words, it took time, but it was worth it as I gained some  new insights and tools tools for how to be happy independent of any external condition.

Check it out and see if the GGSC doesn’t offer something for you.

 

  1. University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine and Department of Family Medicine’s Detoxification to Promote Health Program

First, let me say that I have never ever done a cleanse or a detox in my life. I am incredibly wary of “diets” that require you to buy special supplements, eat only 1 thing, or last for longer than my will power (which is to say not long). Besides the fact that I don’t think there are any scientific data to support that detox cleanses actually do anything for the body. Having said all that, I just spent 2 weeks in the States completely overindulging in Mexican food and alcohol. I was feeling tired, bloated, and gross before the trip was over, and I knew I needed some kind of detox when I got back to Germany.

So I poked around on the interwebs and found this 7-day, self-guided detox created and used by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine (read: my idea of a pretty credible source). The diet component of this detox is basically the following: eat vegan and cut out caffeine, alcohol, and added sugar for 7 days. That seems both rational and do-able, especially since I have mostly cut out caffeine because of my perimenopausal madness. The regimen also recommends getting 2 enemas during those 7 days  (oh, hell no!) and using a sauna and/or getting massages (oh, hell yes!).

But, what I really love about this detox is that it addresses the mind as well as the body. In addition to the diet component, the detox encourages exercise, self-reflection, and journaling as part of the cleanse. Even better, the website provides self-reflection writing exercises (55 pages worth) and meditation guides. It’s free therapy and a spa in one. I’m sold.

I’m currently on Day 4 of the plan, so I’ll check back in with y’all later and let you know how I fared when it’s all over. Right now, I need to schedule a massage.

Veggies image

Image courtesy of MaxStraeten (morguefile.com)

Inhabiting (and Embracing) the Body I Have

For me it happened sometime in the last few years. I looked in the mirror and thought, ‘When did I start looking like this? Where did these wrinkles come from? And what is up with this back (arm, hip, back, [insert random body part]) fat? What the hell happened to me?’

I can’t speak for men, but I know from many conversations with my girlfriends that becoming a woman of a certain age sucks is a challenge. On the one hand, as you age, you typically become more financially secure. You gain some life wisdom. Yet, while you are achieving this, life marches on, literally across your body – stretch marks, wrinkles, hair in strange places, the belly that simply will not be lost no matter the number of calories you restrict or the number of crunches you do. Who is that stranger looking back at you in the mirror?

A recent scientific study surveyed over 1500 American women over the age of 50 to assess their body image. The data reinforce what we know about how American females feel about their bodies in general – overwhelming dissatisfaction. Only 12% percent of the women in the study reported being satisfied with their body size. Most women in the study declared that maintaining thinness was as an active endeavor in their lives. Not maintaining health. Not maintaining sanity. Maintaining thinness.

We compare ourselves to women in magazines who are Photoshopped to perfection. We compare ourselves with women on TV and film who have makeup artists, good lighting, and probably plastic surgery to highlight their best features or just give them new ones. We compare ourselves with women at our offices, gyms, grocery stores, and neighborhoods. And, for some odd reason, we compare ourselves to ourselves…20 years ago, as if we are going to magically recapture the energy, collagen, and body fat distribution that we used to have.

Now you’re mid to late 40s or older and starting to feel body conscious. Maybe a little low on the self-esteem scale. And just when you think it can’t get much worse, shit perimenopause happens. Night sweats, memory lapses, anxiety attacks, and crazy ass mood swings. The copious volumes of coffee and wine you drink to help you deal with this serve only to intensify the symptoms. Life simply is not fair.

Friends, you know I suffer from depression as it is, but, now, thanks to perimenopause, I have 2-4 days of the month during which a full-blown nervous breakdown is guaranteed. I’m not kidding. For no reason whatsoever, I’ll start screaming at my husband and the next minute I’m sobbing uncontrollably. Thank you, hormones! This is just what I need to make me feel better about myself. Said no woman ever.

Enough already! I’ve had a period every month for over 30 years. I’ve been pregnant a total of 27 months of my life. People, I’ve done my share of hormone flux already. I certainly don’t need more of it at this point in my life. I don’t even want to know what menopause will be like if this is the entry point.

I told my husband that from now on, about 2 days out from my period, he should just leave the house. Leave me for a few days while I lock myself in our bedroom with junk food and 48h of romantic comedies on Netflix. I demand quarantine while I’m experiencing my hormone-induced-temporary-insanity. It’s just better for everyone. Trust me on that.

 

Oy, this gets me so worked up that I need to go to my happy place for a minute.

Calm, blue water. Calm, blue water. Deep breath.

Okay, all better.

 

Let’s get honest now. You know that Tim McGraw song Live Like You Were Dying? If you found out you were dying, would you really care about your tummy rolls or your laugh lines or that new chin hair you’re sporting? Hell no! You would not spend the last year of your life, not the last 3 months, not even 3 weeks, obsessing over how saggy your boobs are or how to get an inner thigh gap.

Newsflash. You are dying. I am dying. We are all dying. That’s the one thing you can count on happening. Do you want to spend the time you have left being critical of yourself? Would you be as critical of your spouse or your child about their bodies as you are with yourself about your own body? This life journey is already difficult enough. Let’s not add anymore to that difficulty.

We are human. We are human with all the flaws that accompany humanness. And our bodies are the road maps of our lives. Our bodies manifest the choices we’ve made and the experiences we’ve had. The journey is never easy, and we don’t always do what’s best (eat more leafy, green vegetables and less refined carbs, get enough sleep, drink more water and less wine, exercise more). I admit that I ate entire pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I admit that I spent many years sitting by a pool with nothing between the ultraviolet waves and me but a liberal application of Crisco. But I also made many good choices. I ran many road races, 5Ks and marathons. I hiked the Grand Canyon with my husband. I danced with my girlfriends. I lived life, bearing 3 children, laughing so hard that my flabs ached, smiling with joy. I made it through my difficult depressive episodes with a few scars, both mental and physical, but here I am. Here I am with my wrinkles, and sags, and spots. I inhabit this body and I embrace it.

Helen Reddy sang, “I am woman. Hear me roar!” Well, here’s my roar.

This is my body, and I choose to wear it proudly. This is my body, and I accept it for what is is. This is my body, and I embrace it. I challenge you to do the same with yours.

MYWRINKLES

MYSTRETCHMARKS

Reference

Runfola CD1, Von Holle A, Peat CM, Gagne DA, Brownley KA, Hofmeier SM, Bulik CM. Characteristics of women with body size satisfaction at midlife: results of the Gender and Body Image (GABI) Study (2013) J Women Aging. 25(4):287-304.