The Selfie Experiment: Learning to add myself back into my life.

Not too long ago I read this article on how women in particular shy away from photos, which virtually remove them from the history of their lives and their children’s lives. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. I know as I was growing up, being “vain” was frowned upon and widely discouraged if you were a girl. If you liked your image too much, there was something wrong with you.

In today’s Selfie-obsessed culture, many older folks carry the same kind of belief. Why do you need so many photos of yourself, they might ask. You just want attention, they might say. It’s unhealthy to need that kind of validation from others, they may assert.

Whether you post a photo for yourself or for others, you’re going to get nailed to the wall for it. You’re “narcissistic,” you’re “mental.”

The peanut gallery has plenty to say on the subject of you and what you think about your self-image, and has always, always, always felt the definitive authority on the subject of, well, you.

If you are a bigger girl, in particular, trolls Internet-wide often make posting selfies an exercise in stamina, to see how much body shaming you can withstand if you dare to share a little too much self-love.

There are those “brave” girls who dared to post a glam shot before prom, only to be kicked in the teeth by Internet strangers. There’s only one thing worse than a non-perfect girl posting a selfie, and that’s her audacity to be happy about it. For that they must shamed immediately and put right back in their place… the shadows.

In the end, when we look back over our lives, we see the decades of watching our children grow up with nary a hint that there was a non-perfect mother around to guide them. After we’re gone, it’ll be up to our children to piece together the limited info we leave behind, often already painstakingly edited by us, leaving gaps and holes that our children – who have often been much more merciful to us than we ever could have been – to fight for each memory we left behind to share with their children and grandchildren who follow.

Eventually we’ll be erased entirely, much to the delight of our critics. This is, after all, what we deserve.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently. Being somewhat in the public eye as an author, my image is often meticulously groomed to court a wide audience. There are those folks who won’t read a book by me because I’m *gasp* like the imperfect girls I write about. In fact, I’m worse. I’m heavier. I’m not as attractive. I’m older. There is nothing about my image currently that begs for the attention of a wide crowd. So to protect my image I have to be hidden, out of view, all my selfies policed by those who want me to sell as many books to as many people as possible.

Yeah. About that. I’m kind of over it.

When I started writing I wanted the career of Danielle Steel, who was the top-selling romance writer of the day. I wanted people far and wide to read my work and love it. I tried to write books that I thought might appeal to everyone. It never worked for me. Mainstream wasn’t my lane. They say write what you know, and here’s what I know: I’m not for everyone.

But I know who my audience is: my audience is that group of women who have been told subtly and outright all their lives that they don’t deserve a place in the spotlight. My audience is the group who edits themselves out of their lives because they don’t want to make the people that love them look bad. They’re embarrassed for their kids who show around their family photos, which dare to include a non-perfect mother. They don’t want their husbands to proudly display a photo on his desk at work, lest he be thought less than for having such a non-perfect wife. They’re the ones taking dozens of photos to post on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s always, always, always of their kids, their families, their friends, food or places they get to see, with nary a selfie in sight.

And the reason that is my audience is because that is who I have always been. I’m not a selfie person. For every one I dare to post, there have been a dozen taken and rejected because I didn’t like the way they looked. It’s like I’m that chick on Seinfeld who looked gorgeous in one light and hideous in the other, so I can *only* post the ones where I feel I look attractive enough to be seen, even though they’re all pictures of the same person.

Years back my bestie, who loves me regardless of which light I’m in, asked me to take a selfie at one of Hal’s shows I attended. When I told Hal of this directive, the Selfie King grabbed my phone and spun around so we could take a photo, no fucks given about the angle, the lighting or the Ginger he happened to snap at the time. It was one and done, because there really IS only one Ginger, and he’s always been as OK with that as my bestie has been.

halselfie

The people who truly love you feel that way, even if you don’t. That’s why they tag you on the photos they share on social media. It’s not to embarrass you or make you look bad. They are happy to include you as part of their world.

showselfie

The people who truly like you, respect you, admire you – they don’t care that you’re non-perfect because they figured something out the people who need you to be perfect haven’t: there’s only one kind of perfect any human can accomplish. You’re perfectly you, and that’s the only thing that matters. In the end, we’re all varying degrees of beautiful, part of this glorious, diverse mosaic of individuals that deserve to be recognized for the unique people that we are.

And guess what? The picture simply wouldn’t be the same without you. So you’re fucking perfect as a result.

The truth is editing myself out of my life, including my career, has done nothing but *damage* my image. How can I write books that empower women to feel beautiful and worthy of love if I’m too scared to post a selfie because it means someone I don’t know won’t like me? My own characters would smack me silly for such foolishness. It’s not only okay that I’m non-perfect, it’s okay that I exist just as I am. I have value just as I am. This journey to health and wellness isn’t about finding that value, it’s about *owning* what was already there. If I’m unhealthy it’s because I’ve forgotten that, and won’t take care of myself as a result.

That’s something the shamers don’t get, nor do they even care. Your health is not the point, no matter how much they claim it is.

So I weighed the pros and the cons of becoming more Selfie-proficient as I’ve dipped my toes in the public image pool. Granted, not too many men are going to “like” my photos. The ones who do are generally older, married, friends, family or gay. I am okay with this. As a married woman, I don’t need a lot of guys paying me attention anyway, and I’ve always preferred the safety of guys who actually don’t want to have sex with me.

Women will like my photos more often than not, and since they’re my audience anyway – that’s ideal. Especially if they’re “non-perfect” like me. (Spoiler alert: EVERYone is non-perfect like me, we all just have different ways to hide or display it.)

So I won’t get any attention I don’t want from predatory men, and I’ll hit my target audience for women. Sounds like a couple for the pro column to me.

Some women will recoil every bit as much as a guy when they dare to see my audaciously posted non-perfect selfies, which means I might lose them as a reader. Honestly what I write would never appeal to them anyway, so really… what’s the loss? If you won’t read my book because you think I’m (insert pejorative here,) you really wouldn’t get much out of my books. I don’t swim in the shallows. I navigate deeper water, one that dares to wear the skin of the non-perfect. If you need your writers to be pretty or perfect, or the “fantasy” of living through the characters they write who are, then I’m simply not the writer for you.

I consider this a pro as well. It’s okay that you don’t want to read my books. There are plenty of writers out there who write those kinds of books, you’re going to be okay. There are plenty of readers out there who read my books, so I’ll be okay too. Hat tip and move on.

See, what many don’t seem to understand about me is that I don’t mind a smaller career as long as it is significant. I’m not out to become a millionaire from my books. I’m out to change the message, which is my only real barometer of success. The fact that I’ve sold even one is a miracle according to the industry, and I’ve sold many more than that, remaining solidly in the top 20% of all independently published writers for six years.

That means there’s room for the non-perfect. There’s room for the message. There’s room for me.

I was perfectly content selling enough to live on, and I did that *without* white-washing my image to some lesser non-perfect image a wider audience could find palpable. My first series hit big even though it broke a lot of rules and smacked conventional romance in the face. For those who couldn’t stand the idea of reading about such non-perfect characters, I basically said #byefelicia. This isn’t the book for you, I’ll tell you before you even buy it. I’ll discourage you from spending your money on something we both know you won’t like.  I’m not for everyone. I know this. You need to know this.

And you need to know that I’m perfectly okay with it.

That’s the kind of ovarian fortitude that built my career. When I caved on that, thanks to industry pressure, my burgeoning career flatlined. I don’t think this is a coincidence. You can’t build a career on bold honesty and then hide from the spotlight and expect things to get better.

That’s not how I roll. That’s never how I rolled. And since my instincts have proved the more successful, Ima go back to what I know works for me.

This is why I’ve dared to make this blog public, to explore all my deepest darkest demons on a public stage. THIS is how I built my image. The people who will buy my books, who will love my work, have always, always, always been the group who looked a little deeper, who cared a little more about what a non-perfect like me had to say. They seek me out. They find me… and they stay.

THAT is my audience.

And I’m done lying to them, watering myself down trying to pretend I’m something I’m not. I’m 100% proof. Some can handle it. Some can’t. That’s just the reality of my entire life.

Knowing this, there is really no risk then in throwing myself into the selfie pool, so I’ve not only been posting more selfies on Instagram but I’ve started posting on Snapchat. I get to utilize these social media accounts for my public image every bit as much as every other account I have. It is limited thus far, but I notice the more I post of my image, the more forgiving I am of it. This is just me, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Each selfie I post is a bold declaration that I deserve to be a part of my history, my family and my career.

These are my first steps on the crowded dance floor of life. Yes, I hear you snickering. Yes, I know for some of you this makes me the butt of your joke. For some, it makes me easier to reject because you find me so repellent.

But, since I was never trying to attract you anyway, I can’t care.

My characters, my audience, my family and my friends… and all of those who dare to swim past the shallows…  deserve more of me, not these limited scattered pieces I’ve been encouraged to leave behind by the people who don’t give a shit about me in the first place, who would rather I be erased entirely.

But I ain’t goin’ anywhere.

I’m putting myself back into my life because I deserve to be there.

Screenshot 2017-06-11 13.22.55

Sunday weigh-in: 292 (1.6lbs lost) 58lb muscle (+3lb gain.)

Non-scale victories: Three of four instances where I was going to excuse a binge, I avoided the binge entirely, and maintained walking 20 mins per workday all week despite back pain.

 

 

A lil history, some goal planning, and sweaty-palmed, white-knuckled transparency.

Howdie, folks. Welcome to Day Two.

Except it isn’t Day Two, just like yesterday wasn’t really Day One.

Anyone who has nosed around this blog knows that the whole weight loss journey is one I have run up to and run away from enough times that even *I* roll my eyes when I pledge to start again. It just never feels like it’s going to happen, not for real, and not forever.

The only real success I’ve had transforming my health and my body was in 2003/2004, when my first husband’s sudden death from a massive heart attack scared me straight. I literally felt like I was playing Russian Roulette every single time I took a bite of food. It’s no secret that I was in much worse shape than he was, because I outweighed him probably by about a hundred pounds.

I usually outweigh everyone by about a hundred pounds.

I started that journey at over 330 pounds, which was around the size I was when I got married, which was twenty pounds less than when Steven and I met. By the time Dan died, I was a size-32. I felt enormous.

But, despite the obvious visual cues, I *wasn’t* as bad off as Dan was because his health problems weren’t quite so visible. And despite what people could “see,” those problems ended up killing him at the tender age of 43.

Still, I knew I was on a dangerous path. As the only surviving natural parent to two young boys (then 13 and 11,) I knew I had to get serious. So I did something drastic and terrifying. I decided to blog about it.

This was before the books and before the social media platforms that have cultivated my brand. This was back in the days of AOL, when they had jumped aboard the blogging train, and would feature interesting blogs on their front page to drive traffic to other areas of their site.

See, the thing you have to know about me is that I’m an overachieving teacher’s pet. I knew if I made this journey public, it would drive me to succeed because I would never risk such personal failure on such a public platform. I want to WOW people, remember? I don’t want pity. I want Atta Girls and pats on the back, just like everyone else. So when I committed to it, I committed to it 100%. I knew I had to be fully honest or it wouldn’t work. I had to display facts and figures, publicizing each weigh-in so I was forced to be “real” about half-assing anything.

This was important to me because I have an eating disorder where I binge if things get too intense. It was a coping mechanism I picked up as a child, after the incident when I was four years old. Like I said yesterday, I immediately hid everything so that I could be “normal,” but the trauma was still there. I became my own comforter at four, so the only thing I knew to make myself feel better was to “feed” the hurt. You can see the changes almost immediately. Here’s a photo from the house we lived in when I was abducted:

lubbockgin

Here’s a photo from kindergarten, a year later:

gingerKindergarden

First grade, a year later than that:

ginger1stgrade

And second grade, a year later than that…

ginger2ndgrade

As the years wore on, I had to eat more to feel more comforted. I’d eat at school, then come home and eat whatever my parents had left over from lunch. By the 1980s, when I became a latch-key kid, when I had to prepare my own dinners and feed myself when I was only eleven, I could kill a box of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. I’d stop eating because I ran out, not because I ever felt there was “enough.” To be completely honest with you, I don’t recall ever feeling “full.” When people tell me they’re “stuffed” and can’t eat another bite, I don’t get that. I’ve felt like I couldn’t eat another bite, but if there was still food left, I kept going. It was Clean Plate Syndrome to the Nth degree. Mentally I’ve never felt satiated, because what I was eating for was never physical hunger. It was to numb and emotional void. Food brings pleasure, so I needed that pleasure to make the Not Okay okay. (Later I would add sex and spending and gambling and a host of other vices.) Whatever felt good, I needed to have more. It was the only way to even things out against the staggering mountain of CRAP my life tended to be.

Imagine my delight when I realized in 1985 that I could eat Nutri-System, supplemented with nightly nachos that were off the plan (but helped me feel “fuller”), and still lose 36 pounds in three months. If that program hadn’t sent my mother and me into the poor house at $90 a week, I might have actually got down to a “normal” weight.

These have been the patterns of my life. The more chaotic the circumstances, the more I binge to deal with them. This is why diets never work for me long haul, especially since I already told you yesterday, most of my life has been spent in the Not Okay.

In 2003/2004, I *started* my weight loss journey in the Really Not Okay, right after we lost Dan. He died in September, and I finally got around to doing something about me in November of that year. Things were going along mostly well until February, when I got the emotional rug pulled out from under me again, when Steven was seriously tempted outside the marriage.

This was very tough for me to handle at that time because Steven was one of the few men on the planet I truly believed could love/desire me even as heavy as I was. This was the woman he fell in love with:

RnczwrRxebnA-0kr+85-dbOXuZQZ7+2P00A4W5kGbyKCubhE2gGyMRM4FKwO6xSTsgDW0175

That the woman who tempted him wasn’t overweight really threw a major wrench in my progress, making me feel everything before that was a lie. I was sent into an emotional tailspin. The only reason it didn’t derail me completely was mostly because I was doing a public blog, where I had 100% transparency. When he messed up, the whole world knew it – just like they knew it when I messed up.

I didn’t have four-year-old Ginger feeding me. I had dozens of strangers, sisters on the same path, who could hold me up and keep me focused.

But, all things being the Internet, it was not a journey for the faint-hearted. Doing anything publicly invites criticism. When AOL featured my blog on their main page in February of 2004, ironically just before the whole thing blew up with Steven, I got plenty of complaints and criticisms too, and so did AOL. “Why would you feature her weight-loss blog? She looks like she weighs 300 pounds!”

Again, I had to have an “after” photo to validate the “before” photo. I had to be “okay” or else no one would listen to me.

But I wasn’t okay. Hence why I needed the blog.

You don’t need a weight-loss blog if you’re thin, do you? This was a part of the journey, and ultimately it was successful. This was me at the beginning, in November 2003:

s58us07ZHg6z32+E7x64wij3qHbuR8A00300YRUysXmPPlB3SheyNM8pZ5c7ixAP+ewK0300

And this was me in September of 2004, wearing the same shirt:

sept04hsept04i

This was me when I married Steven, at a size 34:

4

And this was me in 2004, ten sizes smaller:

june04g

What do I know about losing weight? About as much as I know about gaining it. And what I know for certain is that the only thing that has ever worked for me long-term was if I stopped hiding from it.

I write Rubenesque romance because I don’t agree with the narrative you have to be thin and beautiful and perfect to deserve love. I’ve never been “thin”, “beautiful” or “perfect,” and I have found love, been married, the whole nine.

Yet I still hide the numbers because there’s a deep shame that I’m not okay. Even within the books, I write “smaller” larger women because I’m easing people into the novel idea you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Sadly it’s necessary, because I’ve had my share of criticism about the heroines I write and the romances I write not being “realistic.” One recent critique was for a size-16 heroine who was top-heavy and the (female) critic pondered if I was even a woman because my heroine’s measurements were YUUUGGGEEE.

In reality, I’m larger than my heroine – so that was really nice to hear. Not. But that’s part of the cognitive dissonance that makes sizes and measurements and actual numbers on the scale scarier and more negative than what they are. It’s all relative, and each body is different.

At my size hiding the numbers is stupid really, because it’s not like I can hide the reality. You look at me, you know that I’m overweight. The medical diagnosis, morbid obesity, is pretty obvious to any layman who passes me on the street. And believe me, they’re not shy about diagnosing it.

Yet I am still ashamed of the number. I still hide it. I still yearn to be okay.

As we established yesterday, I’m not okay. And that’s going to have to be okay.

So in order to make this work, I gotta get real about it. There’s gotta be some transparency because without transparency there’s no accountability. If I want to meet my lofty, lofty goal, there has to be some accountability.

And let’s talk about goals for a second. Like I said before, I’m an overachiever. I always push myself. I’m incredibly ambitious and completely self-driven. Bosses normally love me because I go above and beyond. I need little supervision or really little guidance. At my current 9-5, I have no one who looks over my work at the end of the day to make sure goals are being met. But they’re being met, by God. In fact, the goals I set for myself are just a fingertip out of my reach most days, because of how hard I drive myself to succeed. I plan my day without a second to spare, working all the way up to the minute I clock out. I take the standard they give me and push it into overdrive.

For example, the job I do is in medical records. A primary function of that job is taking a paper record and converting it into a digital file so we can file it into our Electronic Medical Records, or EMR. When I took over that position in July of last year, the company standard was to have those files converted and into the system within a week of obtaining them.

I made sure they went up within 24-48 hours. I figured why wait? It takes about fifteen minutes for me to do a file, so why not get each one into the system as soon as we get it? And it doesn’t matter if we have one or twelve to do in a day, I make damned sure that the minute it gets to my desk, it is on the fast track to get into the EMR so everyone who needs the information has access to it, rather than hounding me to fax this or upload that. I’m on top of my job so that they can be on top of their job, which is both time-efficient for the employees and cost-efficient for the company.

As someone who has run her own business before, as well as helped others start-up businesses, that’s just how my brain is trained to look at processes and procedures. I work smarter, not harder, aiming for excellence rather than accepting the status quo.

So now THAT is the standard in my department. And I’m pretty freaking proud of that, really. I took something and made it better. I impressed people. I changed things.

Mama likes.

I like my goals lofty. It’s why I can write a book as fast as I can, or produce a quality screenplay in weeks rather than years. I don’t sit on ANYTHING. I figure out a way to get it done and I get it the fuck done, because I’m OCD to the NTH and I need shit checked off my list.

But being done isn’t the only objective: I push myself with a deeply rooted drive to be excellent.

The weight loss is really no different, even though my lofty goals have, more often than not, derailed my progress more than anything else.

They will tell you that losing 1-2 pounds a week is the best way to ensure that you have long-term sustainable weight-loss. So of course, me being me, I won’t be happy unless it’s 3-5. And those weeks I don’t make it, because I won’t, because no matter what you do sometimes the scale just does NOT move, for whatever reason, or there are gains even when you do everything right, because that’s the painful irony long-term weight loss, fucking bum me out hard-core. If you watch This is Us, you’ve seen this unfortunate dynamic work with one of the main characters, Kate. It’s almost too painful to watch sometimes. The episode where she does everything right and doesn’t lose, and finds out her binge-eating boyfriend loses more, devastated her. And me. Been there. That shit sucks.

And I know, intellectually, it isn’t a formula. Every body is different, and the road to physical excellence isn’t always X+Y=Z. Some weigh-ins come whenever you didn’t get a full night’s sleep, or you’re on your period, or it’s holiday season and no matter how many extra miles you walk on the treadmill, that chocolate and cookie and turkey and pie will derail your progress. There are dreaded plateaus and, unfortunately for me, emotional ups and downs which put me face to face with my ED.

A mathematical formula leaves no room for life, especially a not-okay life that will  punch you around a bit and knock you off your footing. I still have triggers and a real disorder that I battle, sometimes on the daily. There are days that I will fall short, no matter how high I am.

For that reason alone, I’m aiming higher. If I’m working for outstanding, maybe, just maybe, I’ll land in the exceptional anyway. I never want to idle at average. In anything. Ever.

And it’s become increasingly obvious to me that I need to be here, in front of you all, to get where I need to go, when I want to get there. And my reasons for it are not merely cosmetic anymore. Which raises the stakes even more.

Last July I had my first real weight-related health scare. I had just taken over a new position at my 9-5, and it came with certain growing pains that had me anxious and overwhelmed. When you have an anxiety disorder this can feel like hell, and it did for a long, long while. One morning I had a pretty intense anxiety attack at work. They’re not that uncommon for me, though when you’re having them it pretty much makes your brain go haywire. Instead of dismissing it as the same kinds of attacks I’ve had in the past, where everything is okay, it feels like The End. That wretched voice in my head whispers, “What if this IS a heart attack, and not just your anxiety?”

That particular morning I decided that, since I work in a medical environment and I’m around nurses and medical professionals, I’d just have it looked at. So I went into one of the nurse’s offices and explained my symptoms. She took my blood pressure and it was, for the first time ever, off the charts. I’ve only had minor increases in my blood pressure before, tapping out at maybe 130/80. This time it was 150/90.

Needless to say, it tripped me the fuck out. For once, that anxiety attack I was feeling was a legitimate medical alarm. I left early that day, buying a blood pressure monitoring machine before I even reached the house. From that moment on, I was determined to make some changes.

I got rid of Diet Coke, which is one of my bigger addictions, and, at the suggestion of a friend, started intermittent fasting (which we will talk about later.) I started exercising again. I ditched all processed foods and watched my sodium intake. My blood pressure evened out, usually maxing out around 125/80, but on the whole staying under 120/80, enough where I wasn’t monitoring it every day. Within months, I started shedding weight again. Everyone around me was telling me how great I looked.

I lost about twenty pounds over three months. I went from a size 28 to a size 24. I could buy new clothes in smaller sizes that would actually fit.

Then… November happened. We’ll talk about that later as well, because it really is another blog in and of itself. Suffice it to say, four-year-old Ginger started feeding a very emotionally traumatized forty-seven year old Ginger all the comfort foods that made things feel okay when they weren’t okay. Emotional eating/binging came back hard, undoing all of my progress to that point.

I’ve tried to restart it several times but hiding myself from the Not Okay has meant that I haven’t had one iota of accountability to conquer these particular demons.

Hence, the blog.

So THIS is my new starting point, even though technically speaking, it’s not.

I’m going to include all my social media in this new endeavor, although some to a lesser degree than others. I’ll post progress pics on Instagram. I’ll post workout progress on Snapchat. I’ll post all the nitty gritty about weigh-ins, measurements, food and workouts and the like on my Sparkpeople profile as I add them into the plan, which – again – we’ll talk about later.

And here is where I’ll do the emotional workouts for my journey where I’ll just be real about the numbers and how much it terrifies me to do so.

Gonna feel the fear and do it anyway – which is how I do anything successful in my life. And aim high… because even if I shoot for the moon and miss, I’ll land among the stars.

That being said, my goal is get under 200 lbs for my son’s wedding next March. The last time I was under 200 pounds was in 1989.

thingin

That’s nearly 100lbs in ten months, or 10 pounds a month, making eight pounds a month the baseline (2lbs per week). This  would still put me around 210, which is where I spent the majority of my teen years:

ginger1986cropped

Anything less than eight pounds a month will require reexamination and modification. This is a journey, not a formula. I may try a lot of different things just to keep my body from settling into any routines, which seems to be the death knell for my progress.

And that, really, is what I’m aiming for the most. I may not reach Excellence in ten months, but ten months from now I won’t still be linger in the Not Okay.

It’s time to make things okay.

Starting weight:

May 2017 – 296.8

Starting measurements:

49/45/57, Size 26/28 (depending on where you shop – again, a topic for another blog…)

So that’s it. No shame. No fear. No hiding. Just a starting point.

Let’s do this.

 

#OneYear explained.

If you’ve been following my social media, you might have noticed that I have been tagging things with the #oneyear hashtag. Mostly that tag is for me, but I thought I’d give a brief explanation on how I plan to spend 2015.

2014 was, truly, a year of muchness. Everything was thrown into the mix, including incredible highs and devastating lows. But I saw some of my biggest successes in 2014, which made me realize something about myself that I had forgotten.

My capability to be awesome is completely intact.

I don’t say that to be conceited, by the way. I’m just as surprised about it as anyone else. I’ve been downplaying my own personal power since I was a kid in church, warned repeatedly against the sin of pride and vanity. I grew up thinking humility meant denying all the special qualities that made me me, especially the parts that made me, dare I say, great or powerful.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Marianne Williamson.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

No matter how things are going, whether I’m dancing on top of a mountain or pressing my way through the flames, I have any number of amazing qualities to face every challenge and claim every triumph. I don’t think that I ever realized that before, even when I had significant success in my career, in my personal life or realizing my own tremendous, lofty goals.

Since 2013, I broke through the ranks and became one of the coveted 20% who could make a living as a self-published author. This is a big deal considering 80% of my colleagues make $1000 or less annually. For the last two years, I’ve been an established writer making a better living than I ever made in any other job. I have an small but mighty (dare I say Fierce?) fan base, who have done their part spreading their love for my work to more and more folks, which finally got me “discovered” by a powerhouse of a literary manager. I sold my first book to a publisher AND my manager and I are eying other venues to conquer, like TV and film.

With something as simple as a year or two with my nose to the grindstone, I’m on the very precipice of where I want to be.

Except

My health, though improved greatly by the use of medicinal marijuana, has become a concern. I had a couple of troubling incidences last year that reminded me that I’m not invincible. And maybe I could ignore a shortened lifespan from the safety of my thirties or forties, but the real problem, the practical problem, the one that affects me in the here and now, is that I’m not properly conditioned to keep running the longer, bigger marathons I have planned.

So I decided to approach my health the same way I approached my career. I’m devoting 2015 as the Year of Transformation. Though I’ve repeatedly “failed” to conquer this particular mountain in the past, I sort of had an epiphany a few months ago that I have everything within me to make my physical body as much of a success as the surreal reality of living my dream job.

In one year – November 2014 to November 2015 – I’m going to focus on all the things I can do to make myself stronger and healthier. I’m going to condition myself for a life bigger than what I’m currently living, to prepare myself for things I had only dreamed about in the past. I’m not really worried about losing weight, though I will. This is so much more than fitting into a certain size or seeing some phantom number on a scale. Those things I can’t really control. My body is going to be what it’s going to be, and it is entirely possible I’ll never fit into a size 6, or wear a two-piece to the beach even if I wanted to.

This isn’t about that. I finally realized that it can’t be. Because of my issues from what happened to me when I was four, “losing” my shell around me has terrified me for years. Becoming smaller or more attractive to more people makes me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, and that is the one thing that has blocked every attempt to become what I thought I wanted to be. I’ve been too locked up in my own neurosis to let that happen.

It also outsources all of my power to things I can’t control. This isn’t my first rodeo. I can do all the right things and still not lose the weight the way I planned. There is really no practical way I could give myself a goal of X amount of pounds or X amount of inches lost by a certain date. A significant body transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. I can’t be swayed by a weekly weigh-in that somehow justifies my existence because I’m running as far away from the fat girl as I can.

That fat girl is still me. And she’s still the amazing person who has raised two kickass men, who has turned her dream into a career and who has made a difference in ways large and small. I’ve been waiting for more than 40 years for someone to notice that. It finally dawned on me that person has to be me. I need to love her and take care of her… because it’s onwards and upwards from here.

Therefore my focus is about longevity and strength and overall health. The 2016 Me is waiting for me at the finish line, and she’s depending on me to make her as strong and powerful as she can be. Truth is I don’t know what she looks like yet, but it hardly matters if I did. She’s going to be even greater than the 2014 me, who is still pretty damned cool. And I know I have everything within me to walk each and every step to get to her.

This year is about living life to my fullest potential, which I can’t really do if I don’t make my health a top priority. I have too much to do to check out early, or call for a Time Out because I can’t physically handle the increasing challenges at hand.

At age 45, those are more powerful motivators that something as arbitrary as a number on a scale.

So yes. I’m going to be one of those annoying people who updates on exercise and posts pictures of (healthier) foods. It’s a matter of accountability and it’s part of the year-long process which I may or may not turn into a book/memoir someday. Most of these journal entries are personal/private right now, but I reserve the right to publish one from time to time.

This is the “DURING” part of the Before and After journey. It’s the ugly part, the frustrating part, the hard-working part, complete with all the amazing triumphs and crushing failures that come with doing anything really significant. (Kind of like the last two years were for my career.)

I’m locked in, ready to see where this roller coaster takes me, marking the calendar for one year just to see what I can do with it.

I’m excited for what it will bring.

Let It Go

Anyone who knows me knows that I love animated movies and am a complete Disney/Pixar fangirl. I’ll watch these movies with no child present, except for the one that still lives inside of me. When these stories are done well, they will have a message for every person that watches, not just the wee ones that may have been the intended audience.

In fact, some (like Up and Shrek 4) have storylines better suited to the midlife adults forced to watch scores of animated movies thanks to their growing families.

That being said, I wasn’t in any real hurry to watch Frozen. I heard it was great, but there was nothing in the trailer that made me want to rush to the theater to see it (Olaf notwithstanding.)

I’d catch it when it came to Netflix, that was fine by me.

Then I read that some grandmother in Utah, as well as conservative commentators and religious wingnuts, took issue with the movie and its award-winning song “Let It Go” as some kind of gay propaganda that was a “satanic push to turn kids gay.”

And just like that, “Frozen” shot to the top of my “Must See” list.

You may not know this, but I’ve been trying to turn gay for decades. I’ve done all the right things: I’ve become friends with gay people, I’ve gone to gay clubs and gay-friendly churches, I’ve marched in Pride Parades around a TON of gay people, still… no luck. I grew up on the Golden Girls, I’ve listened to Lady Gaga, loved Ellen DeGeneres and recently binge-watched all five seasons of “Queer as Folk” back to back in a sleep-deprived stupor.

But darned if I’m not still completely and totally straight.

(In fact, watching hours upon hours of hot, naked guys only served to make me straighter.)

What’s more, I told my kids about gay people from the time they were small and even THEY didn’t grow up gay no matter how many gay people they knew personally, or how many events they attended.

It’s like we were born this way or something.

So whenever any well-meaning religious person tells me that this may be the thing that does it, I’m right there with bells on. Let’s make this thing happen, y’all.

Sadly, “Frozen” did not turn me gay, even with watching it a second time with my gay best friend. And the song, “Let It Go,” did not make me want to throw down my heterosexuality like a bad habit, to turn my back on being a good (read: straight) girl and live my life without any religious rules.

Frankly, I’d given those up many years ago. Generally they suck and have little to do with truly spiritual rules, such as love, mercy and grace.

However, the song “Let it Go” DID resonate with me, quite deeply as a matter of fact. I could see the correlation with “coming out of the closet,” but that comes from a place of empathy. You may not know this, but we all have our closets in which we hide.

You don’t have to be gay to hide your true self for the comfort/acceptance of others. Some of us lived our whole lives that way. We were trained at an early age to make ourselves more “marketable,” to overcompensate for our flaws, so that we can be accepted and loved.

This is particularly true for women, whose appeal largely depends on the social acceptance of those around her. Turn on any TV, pick up any magazine and you’ll see how women are targeted to diminish our flaws and hide our imperfections so that we can become more socially acceptable.

Needless to say, I’ve got a steep, uphill climb to reach that elusive standard of female perfection. It’s always been easier, and safer, just to hide.

If you put my pros and my cons down on paper, they mostly walk hand in hand, the yin and the yang to every personality quirk. I’m smart with quick wit, but that came with a heaping helping of social anxiety disorder. No matter how smart/funny I am, I often appear stupid/awkward because I simply do not know what to say. I’m guarded, so I appear shy and fearful. I am deeply passionate, which is much too intense for some people, who misread my intensity as a threat. I am driven and focused, which often comes across as obsessive. I’m intuitive, but impulsive. I truly want to make people happy, but too much of that turns me into a bitter people pleaser. I’m strong but I’m scared, determined to win the fight with the world, but often too vulnerable to take a stand with my own trusted, vetted inner circle.

I started an email to a friend today, to explain the way I’ve always edited myself for his approval, but ended up deleting all four attempts and never sending anything at all. It was just too scary to get that real.

I’ve done a lot of hiding in my life because I couldn’t risk letting the real world know the real me.

And really, isn’t that all the extra weight really is? It’s a closet. I’ve locked myself in my own lonely room, where I hide my powerful nature and live a half-life separated from the people who could love me fully, just because I can’t accept what makes me different.

Which is everything, by the way. There are plenty of contrasting ingredients in the Ginger Voight cocktail, and it is definitely not to everyone’s taste. Instead of finding the rare souls who could appreciate every nuance, I’ve spent decades watering myself down just to make myself palatable to the masses, the majority of whom couldn’t be bothered to give a shit either way.

In the year of Muchness, I’ve got to let that stuff go.

When Elsa was on that mountain, shaking free the shackles that had her bound, I was right there with her. To own who you truly are, who you were meant to be, even when that scares others or shakes them out of their comfort zones, is an empowering thing. To burst forth and declare that you are OK with who you are is where transformation finally begins, where you go from being merely acceptable to *significant.*

That was what we were ALL born to be, in our very own, unique ways.

This transformation is destined to happen, whether you want it to or not. If you have contained yourself for the benefit of others, it will rage in you just like the storm Elsa sang about. It hurts to be bound by the limited expectations of others. The confusion, the self-doubt, the loathing… all of those things will wrestle with that beautiful spirit that dares to rise within you and be seen and heard, despite the consequences.

The more you push that beach ball under water, the bigger splash it is going to make when it finally bursts free. It may not look like what others want it to look like, or sound like what others want it to sound like, but it is your song to sing; no one can do it but you.

And so you must.

So I must.

Here’s the kicker, and why it is so scary: we will lose people when we dare to live our honest lives as our truest selves. The people who got comfortable with us in our ill-fitting closets will want to stuff us back in there, to live under their expectations in return for their favor. But like Marianne Williamson said, there is nothing enlightened about dousing our inner light for the comfort of the insecure.

We need to be who we were meant to be, daringly and without apology. We need to own that transformational power and accept our responsibility to the universe itself to be wholly, perfectly ourselves. That is what we were meant for, what we were born for. All those fears of what we’ll lose and all those worries of who will or won’t accept us?

That has never been our problem.

Let’s let it go.

Victims, Survivors or What’s Behind Door #3

Recently I’ve given a lot of thought to the idea of victims vs. survivors. I even started a blog about it because of my strong personal feelings on the subject.

Many of you who have been around the blog a while know what kind of circumstances I’ve survived with varying degrees of success, level 10 being healed and happy and level 1 being blissfully ignorant with my head buried in the sand.

Granted there have been more 1s than 10s, but one thing I reject, wholeheartedly, is the idea of being a victim. A victim is someone that things happen to, which is a very powerless place to be. Someone else did something to me, without my consent, without my permission, and yet somehow *I’m* changed for the worse, made lesser than or damaged? I don’t think so. Things have happened to me, some even dared to define me, but I am not a victim. I’m a proud survivor who has weathered the storm, even if I don’t have a spare inch of flesh left from the brutal whipping it gave me.

And that’s really what it kinda feels when you say, “I survived.” You beat nothing, you won nothing, you simply lived through something that have otherwise killed you. It doesn’t matter how tore up I am on the other side of the crisis… I survived something I didn’t want to go through, or shouldn’t have had to go through, so that indicates some kind of strength.

Or so they tell me. It sure doesn’t feel like strength at the time.

I’ve had people tell me they didn’t know how I got through most of the stuff I’ve gone through. My standard response is, “What choice did I have?” I got up day after day and I went on day after day.

Everyone kind of does that, really. Aside from offing yourself, you’re forced each day to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what title you claim.

But these were my two choices I was presented with, you see. When you are a sexual abuse survivor, especially, the power to claim one’s own status is an important part of the healing process. We can’t change what was done to us, only how we identify ourselves afterwards. When I say I’m a survivor, I’m reclaiming what someone tried to steal from me. It’s one of those bad things that dared to redefine me, but I have always had the power to decide exactly who that might be, so his attempt to destroy me failed.

That’s the power behind the word “survivor,” but it occurs to me that we’re still selling ourselves short. Every day we refuse to allow those things in our past to destroy us, we’re conquering our past and rewriting our future.

We’re not just lucky to make it through the crisis, we’re kicking dirt on it and marching onward.

Personally I think it deserves a bigger word. A better word. A stronger word. The only thing the word “survivor” really does is shift the power back to us. What we do with that power… now THAT is what truly defines us.

That’s what it boils down to, really. We get to choose who we want to be and who we’re going to be.

My problem is that I’ve limited down to two choices with some sad little either/or option, ignoring the obvious all along.

What if being a *survivor* is only a notch above being a victim? What if my life is still at the mercy of my circumstances, and all I can really say I did was hold on tight until the storm finally passed?

If the best we can say at the end of the race is that we lived through it, that really isn’t that empowering of a position. We’re battered, bloody and broken, but we survived.

We didn’t win. We didn’t thrive. We didn’t succeed. We simply made it through.

And yeah, that’s admirable in its own way. Even if you come in dead last in a marathon, at least you finished. The little battles are just as much a victory as the big ones.

I just think we need another identifier. And I’m pretty sure that Matthew McConaughey unwittingly provided one for us.

I can hear you scoff, but bear with me.

When Matthew McConaughey accepted his Oscar for Best Actor last Sunday, he spoke about the three things that he needed daily:

1.) Someone to look up to
2.) Something to look forward to
3.) Someone to chase

It was #3 where a little nugget of actual wisdom lurked, but not necessarily in the way he presented it.

He said that when he was 15, he was asked who his hero was. He finally answered, “Me in ten years.” Ten years later that person asked him if he had become his hero yet and he said, “No, you don’t get it. My hero is me in another ten years.” His future self is the one he’s been chasing, and always will chase, because that person is ten years more evolved than he is right at this moment.

This may seem like an egotistical thing to say, virtually having the balls to thank himself when he won his award, but I’ve given the idea some thought and it really does have actual merit.

The us we’ll be in ten years should be the person we chase. That person will be older and wiser, and hopefully further along in their personal ambitions, making their – and by default ‘our’ – dreams come true.

But I disagree that Future Us is the hero.

Every decision we make now will make that person everything they’re going to be. Your diet today impacts your health tomorrow. Your budgeting today affects your prosperity tomorrow. Your training and growth today affects your career tomorrow. Every thing you do reverberates into the future. That makes us, right now, Future Us’s heroes. We’re the ones putting out the fires and chasing the dreams and putting in the work and the effort, in hopes that we’ll craft ourselves into the people we want to be, regardless of our circumstances.

For example, it was Past Matthew’s decision to take the part that won him the Oscar. It is Present Matthew’s choices in what he will do with this experience in the roles he takes and the projects he gets behind. Future Matthew is nothing more than a silhouette that he is shading in one day at a time and one decision at a time.

Take a second right now and think about what you want for your life in ten years. You may want a better job, a nicer home, a family, advancement in your career, good health or all of the above.

What you do right now, today, will craft that existence for you.

You have that power.

I have that power.

And nothing that has happened to us so far, no matter how awful and tragic it may have been, takes that power away.

We don’t have to choose simply between “victims” or “survivors” anymore.

We get to be *heroes.*

How fucking cool is that??

Imagine what you could do with your life if you would embrace being the hero of it. What would you do? How would you act? What would you change?

That person looking back at us ten years down the line needs us to make our choices accordingly. What we do today, what we tell ourselves today, whether we act out of fear or courage today, will shade that empty silhouette into a person of our own choosing, no matter who that is, no matter what we do. We define him or her with our choices of how we react to the obstacles in our path.

Sometimes those obstacles suck. I, myself, have been staring at a faint light at the end of a tunnel since August of last year. Sometimes it’s been salvation, other times it’s been a locomotive ready to flatten me every single time I struggled to my feet. It seems the closer it gets, the more I feel like I have an Indy boulder behind me, scorpions, snakes and spiders in front of me and ninja assassins swooping in from both sides of the tunnel walls that are closing in.

So far I’ve survived, but barely.

But it stands to reason, considering that’s been my objective. I’ve been taught to withstand the bad times so I might survive to see the good times, and by no surprise that’s what I’ve been doing.

Such low expectations… no wonder I’ve struggled so much.

I need to remind myself that this is my movie and this is my story. Future Ginger is depending on me to buck up and keep fighting for everything she’s going to be. If I am going to be her hero, I better start acting like one.

The first thing I need to do is send a big thank you to Past Ginger for pointing me in this direction. She wasn’t perfect, God knows, but she invariably laid the groundwork for who I’d be today. And I am not ashamed to admit that I like that person. She’s all right.

In fact, she’s more than all right. She’s much stronger and smarter than she’s ever been, and she has the power (and persistence) to create the world of her choosing.

(Just imagine what she can do in 10 years!)

We are heroes on our own personal journey and that’s pretty cool.

So what are you going to do with that newfound power today?

2013: The year of rebirth.

“2013 has your name written all over it, Scorpio. Thirteen is the number of the Death archetype in the tarot card attributed to your sign. It’s about the death of the outworn aspects of yourself and your life, while the sunrise of rebirth is always waiting on the horizon. Transformation, metamorphosis, passion and sexuality are all heavily pronounced this year for you. Saturn, the great taskmaster, has taken up long-term residency in your stars until 2015 to give you and your life a complete makeover. Add to this the fact that your ruler, Pluto, is in what is known as a ‘mutual reception’ with Saturn (mutual influence by means of swapping signs) and the force for rebuilding your life from its very foundation is doubled. This is a year for uncovering your greatest resourcefulness, and relinquishing any skeletons from your psychic closet. Death and rebirth become daily themes as you shed layers upon layers of the former you.”

This is my horoscope for the year. Normally I take such things with a grain of salt, but this particular prediction sounds really good to me. This is mostly because I have completely control over making it happen, which was already a big goal for the new year anyway. There is no more sitting idly by and allowing yet another year to pass without seizing every opportunity to make my dreams realities. I have to boldly claim my right to do so.

It occurs to me that I kinda hafta bury the old Ginger in order for that to happen.

Death has always scared me. I mean, I know it scares most people… which is why we all walk around in complete denial that it will ever happen to us. We make plans, we talk about the future, we dream; all with the hope we’ll have time to make it all happen.

Ten years ago I realized that time is not guaranteed to us. My first husband, Dan, died at age 43 of a massive heart attack. It was such a shock to lose such a strong person so quickly and so young. I personally thought he was invincible. He had lived through so much that the ongoing joke was he’d stub his toe and drop over dead.

I just never expected it to happen at age 43. There was still so much he had left to do. He had kids he had to see into adulthood (and grandkids beyond.) He had never made some of his life goals a reality, though he did slay some pretty big demons in preparation of such.

It just shocked the mortality right into me that we are not guaranteed a long life, or the realization of our dreams just because we have them. It’s put me on a bit of a deadline since then. I made a bunch of promises to myself what I wanted to do by the time I was 43 so that – if fate should strike a similar blow to me – I would not die unfulfilled.

That year after his death I made a pretty impressive transformation. I lost over 70 pounds, despite some really big pit falls. But then I got complacent again. I got distracted again. The corpse of who I was still hung on my back, weighing me down, and I fell into the same old bad habits and allowed the years to linger. It took my having some serious health issues that removed the status quo of working at a menial job for me to finally make some serious inroads in my career.

There’s nothing like having no plan B to keep you motivated and innovative. In ways I couldn’t expect back in 2003, I managed to find a way to write full time and still bring in a paycheck WITH the writing.

It’s interesting how that happens. If you simply change your perspective, you can turn the negatives into positives. You can find those little hidden pathways in the giant maze of disappointment and discouragement to lead you right back to where you go in ways you never could have foreseen. Miracles lay in wait all around us, all we have to do is pay attention to the opportunities, rather than the problems.

Watching how that has happened in the past few years especially has been pretty cool. Last year was the coolest of all as my writing finally started to build a small but significant audience.

But 43 still loomed. In the back of my mind it was going to be a benchmark year. If I could live through it, I could bypass the curse that had befallen Dan. And I’d never be able to rest easy until November 21, 2013, when I hit the magical age of 44 alive and kicking.

It took reading that horoscope to realize I’ve been looking at death the wrong way. I have been fighting death (and loss) tooth and nail since 1980, when I lost my dad. I don’t like things being over. I cling to things far beyond their usefulness because nothing is sadder to me than finality. And nothing is more final than death.

Yet the only way I can truly give way into this new life is to die to the old one. That girl may be really and truly gone, but a new, stronger, braver woman is born in her place. I can burn those old fears and traumas to the ground and explode from the ashes as a beautiful, new phoenix.

I never have to be over as long as I can be renewed.

I just have to be willing to lay to rest all that I used to be to become what I want to be. To hear, from any source, that this year can be one of transformation to do that – was life-affirming. Instead of worrying about how things will end, I need to focus on how things will start. I need to take that picture of who I want to be and make her happen. No excuses, we’ve already done the emotional work to figure out why I do what I do. I need to make better choices, and that’s all on me now. No more beating myself up for not being someone else, when who I am is pretty darn cool.

Where I am is pretty darn cool. Where I’m headed, cooler still.

When my family headed into 2012, we were in for a rocky year. We flew into it on a wing and a prayer, and the first few months were tough. There were some devastating lows and too many losses to count. Looking back I see the problem. The old life was shaking free, but we were still trying to navigate the future on past failures. It took some pretty big changes, in attitude and behavior, to set us on the right course. I learned how to set boundaries and accept others for who they were (and who they could never be.) As a result, I lost some so-called friends, but the friendships I kept grew stronger and closer in ways I never thought possible.

We were in flux with finances, but once we got real about money and what we needed to do with it, Steven got promoted and I saw my first significant success as a published writer.

If 2012 was a cocoon year, then 2013 can be nothing more than the transformation. Old habits are dead… old expectations are dead… there is nothing to do but emerge a beautiful butterfly ready to stretch her wings.

It’s really hard to do that with a bum back and that same old dead corpse around my neck in the shape of 100 extra pounds.

For me, this year will shed who I was in many ways. And it’s more than time to lay that part of my life to rest. Instead of dreading death, I’m embracing rebirth.

There’s no more wishing, waiting, hoping or fearing. I’m going to make 2013 my year.

This phoenix is ready to rise.

A New Year, a New Focus

As has been my tradition for many years, I dedicate each new year on my birthday to a central theme that guides my focus to achieve any goals I have. The last year was one of “No Excuses,” where – no matter what I was faced with – I would not let any excuses stand between me and the next step in my career.

As a result, even though the first part of 2012 were a tremendous struggle, I’ve made surprising strides towards where I want to be, both professionally and personally.

I knew six months ago what the next stage to follow had to be. I have to keep moving forward with the assurance my efforts will be met with equal measure. I learned a very important lesson in 2012: the Universe rewards the bold. You have to be willing to step out on faith and accept that you are worth living the life of your dreams in order to make it happen.

I’ve been too skittish for too long. I’ve believed all the negative chatter that I heard from others and worse… repeated to myself.

Those days are gone. They have to be.

The higher you climb, the more fearless you have to be. Otherwise you’re climbing a ten foot ladder while everyone else is scaling Mt. Everest.

The kicker of it is I still feel as skittish as I’ve always felt. I’ve put off this particular goal for a while now because I didn’t “feel” brave yet. I’m taking baby steps, but there are some things I’ve got planned this year that drive me nearly to an anxiety attack. But I read something on Facebook that stuck with me… it only takes a few seconds of discomfort to push through that. Then you discover the world doesn’t end because you fail.

In many ways, that’s where it begins.

Now that I’m starting to see the seeds of success burst through the topsoil after years and years of waiting, there’s a lot more at stake as I step out of my protective, safe and familiar comfort zone.

But I’ve reached the top step of that ladder. There’s nothing else to do but to find a new mountain to climb.

Am I scared? Sure. But I’m also excited. I’m finally starting to see that I can make the life of my dreams a reality. That life has made one step towards me.

It’s my turn to take my first bold step in return.

The Green-Eyed Monster

Though I purged most of what I was thinking/feeling about that anti-fat blogger in the last installment, a thought has been nagging at me. I mean, honestly it’s been nagging at me for quite a while but this last incident really drove it home. Why do girls feel the need to tear each other down? Why, especially, do they want to undermine another girl’s happiness if she finds something she likes even though it has nothing to do with them (such as Rubenesque romances)? Why do the catty, bratty girls basically turn into Happiness Nazis (NO ROMANCE FOR YOU!) whenever someone they deem as beneath them actually finds fulfillment and any sense at all of esteem?

We’ve all had those frenemies who, whenever you have something good happen or make positive steps toward reaching any goal (weight loss, career, romantic,) make sure they make those passive aggressive comments to rip you right back down the ladder to their level again. Instead of pushing you higher, they have to keep you beneath them in some way.

I think it boils down to one simple thing: jealousy.

They want what you got.

I was thinking about this in regards to women like this blogger, who no doubt is thinner and in her mind much more desirable for all the menfolk. According to her, women like me should be lonely because guys just don’t like fatties unless there’s something wrong with them.

But I am not lonely. I have a great husband. I’m not skimming the shallow end of the pool for the pond suckers who live there, nor have I had any need to so so since I was about 18.

I’m truly happy – which bugs the shit out of some people. I was actually told once that I was “too happy.” How is this even possible?

But when you shine with that kind of happiness the first priority for girls in particular is to take you down a few pegs. They do this by undermining what brings you happiness, and then shade you as the one who is flawed… which is exactly what this blogger felt the need to do.

Not all girls do this. Some girls. Unhappy girls. They go after what they think you want most because they want to steal the source of your joy.

Let’s use our nameless blogger as an example. I’d lay odds she’s single. If she has this limited an idea of romance, love and even men I’d even venture to guess she’s never truly been loved by a man. Any woman who has truly been loved knows that when a guy loves you it is unconditional. He doesn’t kick you out of bed for finding an inch of body fat because that doesn’t change how you make him laugh or stand by him when the chips are down.

Now one might argue she meant the initial attraction, that guys don’t generally fall for a fattie but can love them years down the road after they’ve put on a few.

I say nay. If a guy is that superficial at the onset he will always be, to some degree, that big of a douche bag. These are men who do not know how to love and certainly don’t appreciate women for more than just the sum of her parts.

Yet these are the guys this particular chick surrounds herself with. No wonder she’s unhappy.

So what does she do? Tries to sell her unhappiness to all the fat chicks out there who don’t buy the idea they have to be thin and perfect to find love because they actually know men who can appreciate them. I call it the “asshole deflector.” There are men who look me up and down and dismiss me in an instant, so I know immediately what kind of man they are. I am spared the misleading charm they may waste on someone half my size and half my age.

They don’t want me and I in turn know better than to want them. It kinda works out for everyone. Those guys who do stick around are the only ones worth my energy anyway.

Maybe, deep down, she’s jealous of the idea that women like me can find a much better class of guys than she manages to attract.

And you know what?

She should be.

I’ve got a great life. I’m living my dream and I’m sharing that journey with someone who is an incredible person. He makes me laugh and he is unafraid to love only me – and tell the world far and wide it’s me he’s chosen no matter what the world might have to say about it. I’ve got amazing sons who have grown into the same kind of incredible men as their father and their step-father. They don’t collect notches on bedposts, even though they’re young enough and unencumbered enough to play the field. They are secure enough in their identity they don’t have to sleep around with hot girls to validate some shaky self-esteem.

They also are strong enough to respect strong women. They aren’t looking for that quiet little mouse who lets them run roughshod all over them. They want a woman with backbone, who will tell them when they’re being boneheads and never put up with their bullshit. They know that’s the only way to grow.

And they’re not afraid of a challenge.

I’m living my dream of being a published writer, making money by writing those Rubenesque romances that mean so much to me. It’s not just a career to me. It’s a calling to give the other women that our culture discards something written just for them. I’m not satisfied in finding happiness for myself… I want to share happiness with everyone else (especially those the world shuns and punishes for even thinking such things.)

That’s why my tagline on Twitter is: Master of words, gatherer of good, purveyor of happy.

I want to use my gifts to bring other people joy; this is the truest root of my contentment. And I’m sick to damn death of being judged for it by people too scared or limited to find their own joy.

I’m happy, get over it. I’m positive, learn from it. I’m strong enough to stick around, deal with it.

I earned every single thing I have and then some. I’ve had more than my fair share of suffering, going through things that would have killed a lesser woman. I’ve survived chronic pain, poverty, rape, abuse, homelessness, the death of some of the most important people in my life – which included my nine-day-old child. No one was there bandaging my wounds, so no one gets to steal my hard-won joy now that I’ve fought my way back to center again.

Being raised a good Southern Baptist I never quite embraced the idea God wanted me to be happy. I thought my life was meant to suffer and muddle through till I reached the other side. It was pounded into my head to be grateful for the suffering and never boast about the joy. It was vain to exalt one’s self. Worse than that, it was a lightning rod to attract the wrath of a vengeful god who loves nothing better than to knock people back down to size when they get a little big for their britches.

So I became what I thought was meek and humble, which was the most miserable I’ve ever been in my life. I wasn’t meek and humble…  I was needy and insecure, which drives people away in droves. I didn’t toot my own horn, I waited for someone else to do it for me. Instead I exalted everyone around me, tireless and devoted, using my many gifts for the benefit of others.

Which, ironically, drew more jealousy, even when I didn’t have (in my mind) a damn thing to be jealous of. I didn’t understand it at the time but I’m starting to see now that the greatness I was made for (that we all were made for) is something I cannot tone down even in my darkest hour. Because I’m not supposed to.

A long time ago I read this quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The one thing I always have done and always will do is try to build up other people. If I believe in you or what you are doing, I’m going to tell the world about it. As the years have gone by I’ve developed quite a reach in doing so, even though I thought I was a piddly little nothing at the time.

Instead, this innate joy and light within me was shining brightly to the world and propelling me to this place right now where I can finally say: I deserve to be happy. I was created to be great.

If you allow that to take something away from your happiness and your greatness… that is your problem and not mine.

By being happy, by sharing that well of joy and goodness with others around me – particularly others who have a higher profile than I do at this point – I’m shining a vital light to those who may be fearful of being great. Instead of telling us that we have to be the best we can be, the world judges us based on other people. We are not as pretty, smart, thin, rich, talented as Joe Blow so therefore we do not deserve what he has.

But we do. Because we ARE the best at being US. We are the gift, one that is to bring joy and inspiration to other people. And that can only happen when we finally stand up and own how truly special we are.

Doing so is what brings us joy in such a way we can’t help but build others up as well. We’ll no longer feel inferior and jealous, so we won’t want to tear down those people we feel have those things we want.

(And that’s all just perception anyway. You may be jealous of all the good stuff in my life but believe me there are challenges, hard times and struggles there too. Same with anyone else.)

So I guess the bottom line is… if you’re jealous of me, you should be. It’s not that I’m so wonderful and my life is so fabulous, it’s that your life is so lacking you need the misery of someone else to help you feel better about yourself. That’s a really sad place to be, one where you absolutely do not have to stay. Instead of tearing someone else down, build yourself up. Stop looking outward for your happiness and find your joy within. Then and only then will you attract to yourself all those things you want in tangible and permanent ways.

Gather the good. Be a purveyor of happy. Then you can kill that green-eyed monster once and for all.

 

 

 

 

 

I Choose Happy.

I’m a firm believer that in order to be happy you just have to have the right perspective. Happiness is a choice, not an event. If you sit around waiting to be happy you’re in for a long wait, because what you’ve essentially done is given someone or something else the license to your happiness.

No one should hold that but you.

In this world there are going to be people who disappoint you, upset you, let you down or even betray you… but how you choose to feel about them and about life in general is up to you.

Truth is I’ve been exceedingly unhappy in the last few months because I’ve deprived myself things that made me happy. Well, honestly I’ve been miserable for years because I’ve pinned my happiness on the actions of others, then when they fell through (as they are wont to do) then I was unhappier still. So I’ve been a pouty, whiny, bratty mess that has just taken the last few months to mope.

Why I did it is sort of a moot point. Somewhere along the line I decided I needed to punish those who disappointed me. But eventually it dawned on me they’d have to care enough to notice.

And, quite simply, they don’t.

This doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It doesn’t even really mean they’re all that selfish. They’re just doing what makes them happy and that doesn’t always translate into what makes me happy. It’s nothing personal, not really. Someone said once that sometimes when people do things that hurt you they’re not even thinking about you at all. They’re doing what they want to do and your feelings are quite irrelevant. They’re not waiting for our permission to be happy so it’s foolish to withhold our own happiness in some spiteful attempt to get even.

The martyr crap only works when people care about you more than themselves. Very often this is not the case.

And that’s okay.

Certain people and especially certain relationships have their limitations. The problem I’ve had is trying to whittle a square peg to fit into a round hole. What I REALLY needed to do is put that peg where it belonged instead of punishing it – and myself – by tossing it away entirely.

You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, as it were.

So from now on, I choose happy. I’m going to do the things that make me happy and bring me joy and leave all the superfluous drama to the wayside. I accept the limitations of others without it limiting *ME.*

Thanks to my wonderful amazing loving husband giving me some much needed perspective, I feel very much at peace with being true to myself even though I know others may not understand. But as Bill Cosby said, I may not know the secret to happiness but the recipe for unhappiness is trying to make everyone else happy.

I can only do that, really, for myself.

And as of this moment, I give myself permission to do exactly that.

It’s time to get out of the bitter barn and play in the hay.

*How the universe responded… I found THIS on Facebook right after writing this blog. That, my friends, is a brick. I can’t even get into how apt this advice is for me right now:

Things to remember:

Choose to be happy!
Learn what triggers your reactions, then adjust.
Look for ways to appreciate, recognize and encourage those around you.

So today’s lesson, class: You can’t change the people around you, only how you react to them. Find reasons to build people up rather than tear them down. In order to do this: CHOOSE HAPPY.

Honestly you’ll feel happier just in making the decision to be happy. It’s really quite liberating, and much more rewarding than being resentful and bitter. I feel like I’ve tossed a ten ton weight from my shoulders… baggage that was never mine to carry anyway.

Let’s all carry our OWN sunshine from the inside from now on.

I made a mistake.

Whenever a relationship ends there is plenty of blame to go around, mostly flung at us from the other, departing party. Obviously something is wrong with us if they leave (or allow us to leave.) If there was anything worth fighting for the relationship could withstand anything, right?

But alas. The world keeps on turnin.’ Sometimes, many times, that sun still rises even after the coffin slams shut on those relationships that once were so pivotal and nurturing and beneficial. We must pick up the pieces of our shattered expectations and figure out what lessons to take with us as we move on to the next season.

This can take a while, which leaves us plenty of time to meander through those five stages of grief as we mourn the loss. I’ve been stuck in “anger” for a while now, unwilling to forgive even though I know that’s the last piece of the puzzle where I can set former relationships to rest.

Therein lies the rub. I don’t want to set it to rest. I don’t want to let it go and admit to myself it really is gone. I guess in many ways it’s my only way to hold on to something that once meant so much to me, even as it sifts through my fingers just like tiny grains of sand.

In effort to rectify this sad situation, I will do what I’ve always done. Work it out in a blog where I take the biggest hits (because I need the loudest lessons.) This blog has always been a tool of self-reflection, its sole intent is to make me own up to my own behavior and my feelings so that I stop self-destructive habits. How can it work when I feel unable to say what I really need to say?

I’ve held off a long time on doing so because honestly I’m not out to hurt anyone or betray anyone, which in this situation just can’t be helped. I can’t say outright what’s going on to risk betraying those I long believed friends, but I can’t say nothing at all because that’s just not honest. In a blog where I’ve talked about death, rape, affairs and abuse, to stay silent now is a backward step. It just comes down to how I need to take care of me and I gotta come first. No matter how “passive aggressive” this seems I’m tired of changing ME and who I am to make life easier for everyone else, especially those who have made it plain they do not give a shit about me.

So Imma do what I feel I need to do. To move on I need to own up to my own mistakes, to take accountability for my own part to play in the scenario. Though I’ve thrown many a pity party over the subject I am no victim and I refuse to hold onto bitterness and anger by placing all the blame onto others.

Truth is, I made my own share of mistakes that had equal part in taking down this vulnerable house of cards… most importantly not admitting to myself just how vulnerable the whole shebang really was. I saw what I wanted to see, and I have only myself to blame for that.

Mistake #1: I didn’t give myself enough credit.

I can bitch and moan about how others didn’t value me or my contributions but the simple fact is I didn’t give them much reason to. By assuming they were at the cool kids’ table where I, by some weird default, didn’t belong, I gave them the right to look down on me as inferior. They didn’t decide it for themselves, they simply agreed with my assessment. I had every right to take my place at the front of the class, I didn’t need permission to do so. Waiting for such is my error alone.

Mistake #2: I gave my esteem to those who didn’t deserve it.

Riding shotgun to Mistake #1 is this idea that because people are cooler, smarter, more evolved than me they alone can determine when I’m cool enough, smart enough and evolved enough to stand in their company. Again this was up to me alone to decide, which left me waiting for permission that wasn’t theirs to give. This resulted in a bitter impasse. By giving away my esteem others could build me up higher than I was willing to build myself BUT… it also gave them the power to pull it out from under me when they decided to leave. If I continue to allow their dismissal of me to determine my own self-worth then the only one to blame is yours truly.

Mistake #3: I stopped trusting myself.

Even though I have sharp instincts and can read people like a book, I lost sight of that valuable self-defense mechanism because it meant I’d have to face these painful truths way sooner than I had ever dreamed possible… which was, well, ever. No one wants to face that the people they trust are not trustworthy or the feelings they believed real were nothing more than an illusion. Instead I fell right into that Girly Trap of making up excuses for everyone, when really it boils down to the fact some people are assholes and just simply don’t care. They’re going to do what they’re going to do and if it hurts anyone else, too bad so sad. I never wanted to believe I would fall prey to these types of people, I thought I could sniff them out fairly effectively, but again… we see what we want to see.

Mistake #4: I stopped loving for loving’s sake.

This is a pretty big one and another bigtime girly trap that erases that thin line between true affection and dangerous co-dependence. Where I thought I was doing things to be generous and kind what I really did was store up “loyalty points.” These are the things you do in hopes someone else will notice what you do and reward you for it with their loyalty. This is not to say I wouldn’t have done them expecting nothing, truth was I had a long pattern of doing a lot of things expecting nothing in return. But when the efforts became bigger and showier and I wasn’t recognized for the contribution, it hurt. When someone tells you, “Well, did I ever *ask* you to do those things?” it’s a really big kick in the pants. No, I was not asked. Yes, I took it all upon myself. So yes, the disappointment is really all my own. Because…

Mistake #5: I tried to make someone care who simply cannot.

Who of us hasn’t done THIS? And really, when has it ever worked? Even if you try to fill up the gaps with your own delusions eventually reality creeps in and there’s no avoiding the truth. Some people will never care no matter what you do. So the best thing is to stop doing anything at all. Otherwise you just keep perpetuating the same mistakes over and over again. It’s like Journey says… it’s time to leave the carousel.

In saying all this there are a few things I refuse to apologize for because I don’t consider them mistakes. This is me, take me or leave me… and if you’re going to be my friend – for real – then I come with certain “factory” warnings.

#1. I don’t apologize for feeling.

No one gets to police what I feel or how I care about other people. You may think you do, but you don’t. If I decide to care about someone and that means I go “all in” then I’m going “all in.” I don’t need your permission or approval. If you judge me on that, that’s your issue alone. I also get to feel sadness, anger, disappointment and any other feeling that comes from being lied to, kept in the dark or otherwise manipulated for your self-serving purposes. And if you’re acting like a selfish tool, I get to have an opinion on that too.

#2. I don’t apologize for getting involved.

I’m a woman of action. If I care about someone I don’t stay on the sidelines. That’s not my style. You can’t just come to me as a friend with a problem and expect me to do nothing. If I love you I want to help. I will do what needs to be done and I will try to fix what’s broken. That’s just what you do when you care about someone, and I refuse to consider this any kind of “betrayal.” My friendship doesn’t come with an on/off switch for your convenience. To get the whole benefit of being my friend you have to take the whole package. I’m not going to turn some things down to make you more comfortable while you use me.

#3. You don’t get to use me.

My expectations may be mine alone but they come from an unspoken contract that we BOTH have entered by showing equal interest in a social connection. You don’t get to change the fine print halfway through just because it makes you feel “uncomfortable” that I feel or do what you think I shouldn’t. Refer back to #1.

#4. Your limitations don’t define me.

This applies both to the duration of the “friendship” and any behavior afterwards. Think what you want to make your excuses why you couldn’t handle me as a friend, but we parted ways because of your limitations and insecurities, not mine. I never let you down or half-assed the relationship. That was always you. You wanted to be in the driver’s seat while staying half in and half out the car until it got to the point where you could safely bail. But put the blame on me and my “scary expectations” if it makes you feel better. All I really wanted was a tad bit of respect and loyalty which I EARNED. If you expect me to fall apart and go “crazzzzzzzzzzzzzy” you’re in for a long wait. I’m going to stay loyal, even beyond the bonds of friendship, because that’s a strength of MY character. Instead, I’ve chosen to be a lady about it and take the high road even though you won’t speak to me and have basically written me off like every other douchebag I’ve ever known. I may not matter to you but the relationship I thought we had still matters to me. And I refuse to let it go out this way.

And that means… #5: I will forgive you.

This is not because you deserve it or have earned it or, God forbid, asked for it. I do this because I’m so much stronger than you ever knew and so much better than you ever could see. My biggest mistake is that I never let you see that because I was too busy trying to bend over backwards to impress that imaginary guy I wanted you to be.

For that, I’m sorriest of all.