Naked and Absolutely F*cking Terrified

Last week I turned 36. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much, except for the fact that I was planning a fabulous brunch with my Portland community. (FYI, I cannot imagine a world where I will ever tire of celebrating my birthday.) Then my friend Maggie texted me with this question: So, you’re turning 36. How does it feel?
The sound of thirty-six, in theory, seems like a war cry announcing the foray into my late 30s. And yet I don’t feel like my late 30s are anything negative. I joke about being like a fine wine—better with age—but truly, growing and learning more each year makes my journey all the more fascinating.
That said, it doesn’t come without bumps and bruises of any typical adventure. There are times I feel like a 14-year old, staring at my locker at my new high school, completely unsure of who to talk to, where to look, and how to get to my next class. I push my glasses further up my nose and lift my head up so I can see where I’m going, but it doesn’t necessarily help me get there any easier.
One of these times was last Monday. It was Labor Day. My boyfriend decided to take me to Rooster Rock, part of which is sectioned off as a nude beach…which was the part he wanted to visit. For me it was the last place I would elect to lay on a beach. I don’t mind nudity, not one bit. I don’t care if you’re flopping down on your towel, swimming the river, or playing naked beach volleyball. I just personally don’t have an attraction to being the one in the nude.
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So here’s what happened. We arrived, put our picnic basket down, and stripped. Well,he did. I put on my bravest face and took everything off except my underwear. I just couldn’t go all the way. We spent the better part of three hours there, making food, dipping in the water (Okay, he did. I was too much of a sissy.), playing games, and lazing in the sun. It wasn’t busy that day, which surprised me, but there were groups on both sides of us and across the river. In the last 20 minutes or so, Nathan decided to get in the water for the final time. I stood up and was looking out at him as he swam in the river when I heard a voice.
“Looking good!!” A man in his fifties was suddenly in front of me with what looked like a benign smile…? Now, I don’t know a lot about nude beaches, but I assume that one does not comment on the physical appearance of another nude(ish) beach-goer. And you certainly don’t stare! Right?
He was so intent on looking at me, in fact, that he tripped on a scrubby bush, and sheepishly said, “I guess I better keep on walking.” I nodded with what I assumed was a shocked look on my face, unsure whether I should give him a lecture or just be relieved that he had kept on going.
Nathan saw all of this go down from the water and was at my side before the man was out of sight. I stood there, naked(ish) and self-conscious, and told him what had happened. He agreed that it was quite rude to say something of that nature on a nude beach.
Completely outside of our conversation, but deep inside my head, I felt a swirl of emotions. I was ashamed to admit to myself what had actually been my first thought: Are you talking to me? Looking good, naked? Really!? This instinctual chant played over and over. It made me feel incredibly sad, and I felt my face flush with red with embarrassment—and a little bit of anger—for thinking this way. Was I still the 14–year-old, affected by society and still unaware that people come in all shapes and sizes? That everyone deserves love and is worthy? That I should love myself most, unconditionally, and abundantly? Why should my knee-jerk reaction be that he misspoke somehow, or, worse yet, was mocking me?
Yes, as an adolescent I had more than my fair share of middle-school torture about my shape, but I’ve done a lot of self-work since then. I also know that unfortunately, it’s an ongoing battle, and that overcoming feelings of shame and imperfection is something I will always need to be aware of. I know I’m not alone. I know each and every one of us has something they are self-conscious about. I find it so comforting to have my friends and family to talk to, and a community of support that is just a click away. I love that as an adult we can own up to our weaknesses, and, though we might still feel them, have the opportunity to seek out ways to understand the human spirit, and in turn, understand ourselves.
Maybe someday I’ll believe it when a stranger tells me I’m looking good…naked.
Or maybe someday I’ll have finally learned that I don’t need to clog my mind with those little judgments I hold within me.

Today

I will honor the silence.
I will do what feels good.
I will not be self critical.
I will love myself.
I will respect my choices.
I will have an attitude of gratitude.
I will be creative.
I will listen to the messages when they come in.
I will learn that I can do these things every day, one day at a time.
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Looking Out For the Littlest Happy Things

For the month of July, I made a concerted effort to live in the present and enjoy each moment. I stopped putting pressure on myself to have it all because I realized that it WILL come. When we cling only to what we know and let overwhelming fear in, it’s because we are trying to hold on too tight to control. I realized I had to stop chasing this controlled ending or I will lose precious time. No one knows what path their journey will take. Some of us want to try to guide it, but only the universe truly knows where it will go.
I did several things to help myself along: I withdrew my profile from the dating site I was on. I practiced gratitude often. I made an effort to unplug more consistently. I ate whole foods. I expressed myself honestly and confidently instead of holding back because I wanted to sugar-coat a statement. I spent productive time alone. I took myself out on dates.

Happy face on a hike

Happy face on a hike


I also decided to be more assertive in the pursuit of my passions. I want to see opportunities more easily when they are offered to me. We tend to have tunnel vision and close ourselves off to creativity when we are in a rut. These are a few ways I can lead myself away from that tendency.

  • I will write more consistently (and publish more often). Writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember, and I tend to run away from it when I feel anxiety about the future. I should be doing the opposite! Some of us have natural talent, but practicing our craft is what make us great.
  • I will open my eyes to the creativity that the world gives freely, and use it. We don’t always take advantage of the gifts that are bestowed upon us every single day. We shouldn’t be wasting them.

The first thing I did to kick off the month was take myself out to a movie. ALONE. It was great!
In the first week of July, I gave myself a gift. I bought my plane ticket to New York. I had been hemming and hawing, not wanting to pull the trigger because I hadn’t yet planned everything out perfectly. No longer! The trip will fall into place in the next few months, and I am comfortable with that.
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Over the next few weeks, I did many things for myself. I chose new podcasts to listen to. I attended an overnight event with 100+ people I have never met (and a few that I know very well). I cherished quality friend and family time. I tried new activities, including an amazing class that combined belly dance, yoga, and aromatherapy. It turned out to be quite transformative. I attended a meetup without a wing man to provide comfort, forcing me to talk to strangers on my own merits. As much as I am a people person most of the time, there are moments when I am shy. Walking into a place knowing absolutely no one is one of those. Everyone was friendly of course, and I even left with some future salsa partners. I went camping for five days in Olympic National Park with two friends. Talk about adventure! There were challenging hikes, beautiful sights, and giggles galore over games of Canasta and Yahtzee. I tried new beers at Brewfest on the Portland waterfront. I treated myself to a massage and acupuncture, and it was totally worth it. I allowed myself to emotionally heal over some issues I’d been hiding from. It felt fantastic.
The best things, though, were the small things. I walked around the farmers market and enjoyed fresh fruits right out of the pint. I let the tinkle of a child’s laughter float over me and fill me with joy. I found heart shapes in nature and took pictures. I read books, listened to bands playing in the park, and took a day off work midweek just because I wanted to. What a fabulous month. In August, I intend to take the spirit of the last 31 days and keep the energy going. I have some great ideas but welcome more! Book or podcast suggestions, activity invitations and restaurant recommendations especially appreciated. I hope you are enjoying the summer as much as I am! Drop me a note here and tell me what special treats you are giving yourself during the sunny months.
 

Beautiful Lake Crescent

Beautiful Lake Crescent


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Heart-shaped rock


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Hearts in nature

Who are you? Speak your truth!

“Oh I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you; you have not known what you are. You have slumbered upon yourself all your life. Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time…Whoever you are, claim your own at any hazard! These shows of the east and the west are tame compared to you. These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are immense and interminable as they are.”Walt Whitman
I am a Contradiction
Are we all a contradiction? Is this something that rings true with you as you read this? There are so many times that I fear it makes me less perfect, less like everyone else, but I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Is it, then, what makes us so fascinating and indelibly human?
The truth should set us free. Right?
My Truths
I love the limelight—when I choose to turn on my “light,” my friends call me The Belle of the Ball. Generally I will take any chance to stand out and call attention to myself, sometimes taking it to a narcissistic level. Strangely, though, in my natural state, I am still, quiet, and blend in. Perhaps this is the reason I need that “switch” to turn me into someone else. I’m not sure if I feel that my value goes one way or the other when I am Belle and when I am Becky, but I have always noticed these two distinct sides of me.
There are times I feel lonely, and that is when I start putting myself down for being single. Damn you, society, for putting those thoughts into my mind. Damn you, subconscious, for letting them fester. Single is not a negative thing; it does not mean unlovable. In fact, single means not willing to settle for less than I deserve. So when I am feeling lonely, I should be celebrating my independence and cautious nature in choosing who I will spend my life with. Besides, I am constantly surrounded by loved ones. I know I’m ready for my big romantic love, but perhaps he is not quite ripe yet. Who knows? I can’t let it stop me from living an amazing life.
I am very physically active and live a healthy life, yet I still see myself as the “big girl.” I was uncomfortably overweight for a large part of my life, and it became who I was—how I identified myself. It’s been 10 years since my drastic weight loss, and still I have fears and uncertainty about how people view the physical part of me.
“You think of yourself
as a citizen of the universe.
You think you belong
to this world of dust and matter.
Out of this dust
you have created a personal image,
and have forgotten
about the essence of your true origin.” – Rumi
I dance on stage in front of dozens, exposing my vulnerability and body, and yet I cower in fear at the thought of approaching a handsome, confident man.
I am full of energy and life, yet I am exhausted much of the time. I often do not listen to my body when it says STOP.
And this whole recent breakup…the religion thing…I love the fact that it made me question the truth about my own faith. I’ve been delving more deeply into my Quaker roots, and I find it fascinating to study other people and their experiences, whether or not their beliefs match my own. My faith, though not always front and center in my life, has always been essential to me. I’ve found it helpful to read several books in the past few weeks, including a great one written by a Quaker kid I knew growing up, called The Unlikely Disciple. I followed that up with The Year of Living Biblically. Talk about contradictions.It highlights the ridiculousness of trying to live literally by all of the Bible’s rules. At the same time, it weeds out some very simple but eternally applicable lessons that the Bible deems important. Another useful text is one that my mother sent me at the beginning of my breakup, called A Quaker Book of Wisdom: Life Lessons in Simplicity, Service, and Common Sense. It has reconnected me with some of the testimonies of Quakerism that sometimes get lost in the fray of everyday life.
My truth is that I don’t fit into a pre-made box. My mold isn’t shaped like a puzzle piece; it’s more like a dodecahedron. So where does that leave me? How do I find my people? My calling? What drives me? Do I have to categorize myself in order to find someone that I mesh well with? In some ways, my versatility makes me very easy to get along with. In other ways it alienates me to a point where I don’t know how to define myself. Let’s be honest, sometimes questioning can lead to an amazing breakthrough, but there is always that fear that it will lead to nothing. I suppose all I can do, all any of us can do, is to stay open to the journey and experience it with gratitude and a true lust for life.
Whoever you are, claim your own at any hazard!
What is your truth?

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
 
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
 
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
 
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
 
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
 
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
 
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
 
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou

Mind Over My Hamstrings

The 8k from Hell


For the past year I’ve been running, and the entire time I’ve been telling myself I am running towards something:  towards a PR (personal record), towards a particular goal, towards an athletic achievement, towards a state of body acceptance. I have completely embraced running as a hobby and am proud to say that I have run a 5k, an 8k, a 10k…even a half marathon! I am truly amazed at my progress, and incredibly proud of myself for these accomplishments.
I was thinking about all of this last week when I was debating about committing to a second half marathon. I said I wouldn’t do one again for a while, but a few factors influenced me in the opposite direction.
Then I started pondering the deeper meaning of all of this running I’ve been doing. I climbed into that little cave in my mind where I tend to overanalyze. Man, I can stay in there for hours, feeding on worries and fears, breathing in the murky fog and breathing out light so that when I finally come out, there is a clarity that makes my world look a little different. I must have explored every corner of that cave last week. Following are a few notes that came to me while I was in there.
Quality time with friends. Though I go out often enough, I have a set of friends who I wouldn’t see nearly enough if it wasn’t for running. This is the group of friends who used to drag me into drinking games in our twenties (Ok fine, they didn’t have to pull that hard.). Many of them have decreased their social time, so it is with great pleasure that I get to spend my Saturday mornings sojourning with these people for a few hours.
Running away from confrontation. I admit, I keep myself very busy, so much so that many of my friends/family have commented on it. They ask me how I get my “me time.”  They accuse me of using my social life and hobbies to avoid something deeper that is going on inside me. You know what? Sometimes, in order to avoid staying home and being fully occupied by my worries and fears, I go out.
I run. I hike.
I salsa dance. I belly dance.
I write.  
I need a healthy distraction—what’s so bad about that? True, I over-commit. I had my first “date with Becky” last night, which was the first I’d had in months. But I think there is something my concerned brethren isn’t realizing. There is so much catharsis in these activities. Anyone who has ever been immersed in a dance or a sport so much that they completely free their mind knows what I’m talking about. It happens every time I attend a belly dance class. Does that happen to you?
Society. I feel as though I am running, no, sprinting AWAY from society’s standards at this point in my life. Why is it that when we point our lives in the direction of this supposedly-desired end result, we feel so incredibly awful if the situation doesn’t play out like it’s supposed to? I get so frustrated when I look at my life, impressed with what I have accomplished and the goals that I have set for myself, and then a person, media outlet, or simply my fear turns on a 120-watt light bulb so that I am certain to see what I don’t have:  a husband, children, a high-paying job, a nicer car, lots of material things. And then I feel like crap, and have to start the process of feeling good about myself all over again. What is the point of striving for societal standards anyway? Seriously! I really think that all they do is set us up to reach for ideals that may or may not be what we are destined for, and there is no built-in security net, no automatic back-up system that we can reset to if something should happen.
This morning I received an automated email from a website I am subscribed to. If you haven’t already, you should take a look at Sex, Love, Liberation. It’s focused on sexual liberation, but it’s about so much more than that. I don’t always agree or even enjoy the posts that Ev`Yan sends out, but most of the time, her words touch me in some way. Following is a snippet of today’s email.
This journey of self-discovery that you are on is a hard one. It involves strength, trust, & complete vulnerability — a wicked combination.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have all the answers right now. Don’t be discouraged by the rate of your progress or the slowness of getting to the bottom of your core wounding.
The road to liberation (sexual, spiritual, or otherwise) is not paved in gold. It’s a mess of overgrown foliage, dark, murky caverns, & muddy paths. 
All of that chaos & confusion is necessary for your growth. Even hardships & negativity serve your liberation. Ev`Yan Nasman, http://sexloveliberation.com/
You know what I’m going to say. I cannot hear this message enough. I urge you to read it and realize that while you and I have a ways to go in our journeys, the reality is that we’ve already accomplished several PRAs (Personal Records of Awesomeness) during our existence on this earth, and for that we should be extremely proud. If you feel so led, share in the comments section one PRA that you’ve accomplished. I want you to BRAG and feel incredible about doing it. Thank you in advance for sharing.