SummerTime

“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday June 30, 2017
Bucharest, Romania

“Why don’t you take off your shirt?”
I shrugged my shoulders and pulled my legs tighter to my chest.
We were in Naples, Italy. Sitting on the soft sandy shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The sun was shining bright and hot. A soft breeze blew just enough to keep everyone from melting on the spot.
I had just bought a bikini. The first one I had bought in years. It was bright green with little bright pink crocheted flowers.
I had bought it the previous week in Sardinia.
I was hitchhiking around the island, sleeping in the crevices of the rocks. Falling asleep to the sea as it gently sloshed onto the sandy-colored rocks around me.  Waking up to the mot glorious display of colors in the sky all around me as the sun rose over the crystal clear waters. I took my morning swim… wading out over 10 meters… watching as the water distorted my feet beneath the surface…  so clear…
The last day on the island, I decided to challenge my biggest fear.
Bikinis
Exposing my body
Exposing my scar
The giant scar
Running deep across my belly.
Just above the belly button.
The only traces left of the life-or-death struggle I barely remember from my early years.
Ending in a liver transplant.
I was born with a faulty liver and my first few years consisted of doctor’s visits, hospital stays and surgeries. In 1988 my medical team had run out of options and after being on the waiting list for far too long I finally got a new liver.
But this was before they got down the technique of stitching people up to leave behind a barely there scar.
This scar I was left with created a crevice deep across my tummy.
Revealing a deep crease in every shirt I wore
Which lead to many years of crippling self-consciousness, plummeting body image and resulted in a life-long battle with coming to terms with my body and loving myself.
I tried to starve the scar away.
I thought that if I lost a bit of weight maybe it wouldn’t show so much. My skin wouldn’t bulge above and below..
I slowly cut out this and that from my diet.
I stopped hanging out with friends
I stopped laughing
I remember my dad asking me at one point, “Is there anything I can do to see you smile again?”
I had no answer
It was always there.
It never went away.
I was never flat.
I thought I looked like an alien. Deformed.
And growing up… my brother… my classmates… all instilled in me a sense of being unattractive… unlovable…
Every shirt.
Every dress
Highlighted my defect
I still cringe when I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror.
A shadow curls over my thoughts as I catch my side view and leaves me in a damp mood the rest of the day
Yet… of all the people that have seen it… taking off my shirt… changing in locker rooms…
Not one person stopped and stared.
No one questioned what that thing was
That indent in my belly
In high school, in Newfoundland, Canada, we had a hot tub in our backyard.
Occasionally I would invite my friends over to relish in the warmth and filling our noses with the oddly comforting smell of chlorine
I always wore tankinis.
One night… one of my friends noticed my scar.
The force of the bubbles rising to the surface must have been enough for him to catch a glimpse.
“What’s that? What happened?” He asked softly.
He edged closer.
I pulled the swimsuit down. An uneasy feeling came over my previous carefree joy
I looked at him… trying to assess his reaction.
But instead of disgust and revulsion, his face was earnest and genuine curiosity.
I stood up
He bent down and gently lifted up the tankini.
“wooahhhh…” His hands softly ran over my belly… the scar…
I wasn’t sure how to react.
The rest of my friends in the hot tub grew silent as they took in the scene unfolding before them.
“It’s beautiful” He whispered.
He bent down and kissed it… barely grazed it with his lips.
“You are a miracle.” He breathed…
I was overcome with wonder… with confusion…
Why was he not grossed out?…..
That was the only time anyone directly addressed it.
Even when I was deep in the throes of want.
My shirt off
His hands softly grazing my skin
Never once did they recoil when they reached the scar.
It wasn’t until I brought it up did anyone acknowledge it.
It was glaringly obvious to me
but to them…..

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Sardinia! 🙂 Just look at that water!!

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Sardinia.. How can you NOT swim in that water….

So when I was in Sardinia, hitchhiking, sleeping on the sand or sandwiched between rocks… after months of being on my own backpacking through Europe…
I observed the people on the beaches I’d visited.
All kinds of bodies.
Women. Men.
Old and young.
Big and little.
Pregnant and stick thin.
They LIVED while on the beach in their bikinis or otherwise skimpy suits.
They did not seem overcome with self-consciousness.
Hiding whatever flaws they thought they might have
They LIVED.
I slowly gained the courage to try it out for myself.
I remembered all of the body image challenges from the various treatment centers I had spent time at
I decided it was time to try it again.
As luck would have it, there was a man with a rack of swimsuits right there on the beach. Selling them as the sea swept over his feet.
I hastily grabbed the neon green bikini that had caught my eye earlier and hurried over to the rocks to change in (somewhat) privacy.
And then I walked down the beach
Cautiously at first
Almost tiptoeing in the sand
My feet glued to my toes.
I took great big freeing breaths as I walked.
Inhaling the fresh sea breeze and exhaling fear.
I slowly got to the point I was able to look around.
No one recoiled in disgust.
No one stopped and stared.
No one pointed in horror.
They were going about their day. Playing with their children. Laughing with their friends. Lounging in the sun…
I walked to the water’s edge.
I let the sea lap my toes and as I walked deeper and deeper I let it cleanse my soul of inner fears.

Beach

It was pretty obvious that I hadn’t worn a bikini in awhile from the glowing white skin of my belly compared to the nice tan elsewhere…
Now here I was on a small crowded beach. The sea water in front of me was clear… so very clear….
And a beautiful shimmering turquoise
All of the bodies around me
Tight, model-like bodies. the ones with the muffin tops. the old men in speedos…
All a dark shade of caramel, toasted by the hot Italian sun
No one gave a second thought to me.
Of how I looked.
They were enjoying the moment.
the warm kiss of the sun
I wanted that
He nudged me with his elbow, “Come onnnnnnn..!!” He urged, “Take it off! Let’s go swim! I’ll take you to a sea cave!”
His hair was stringy and wet. He had already been in the water.
His green eyes glittered. His thick Italian accent gave his tone a soft, excited urgency.
I sighed and slowly stretched out my legs.
I took a breathe
Centered myself.
Mindfulness.
I am me. I am at the seaside in Naples, Italy. How could I NOT swim in the water?
The sun beat down. My hot skin begged for the sea.
I looked around.
No one was paying attention to us.
They were all in their own worlds. Drinking. Laughing. Cuddling. Talking. Swimming.
I slowly pulled my shirt over my head and tossed it to the side.
His face lit up.
Grinning from ear to ear, he leapt to his feet and reached for my hand.
“Come on! Let’s go!”
I glanced around again. No one was paying any attention.
I remembered something I had heard at the eating disorder treatment centers.
“You may think everyone is staring at you. Judging you… but you are not that special.”
You are not that special
I always thought it was a tad negative of a thought.
But at the same time…. It is kinda true…
I am always fearful that people are constantly staring. Judging. Rejecting. Criticizing. But that is not the truth.
I am NOT that special.
People are all doing their own things…
I am not what they think about.., maybe in passing…
But when I think about it..
How many people do I see on a daily basis that make so much of a blip on my radar…
I am just another stranger to them.
I allowed him to help me to my feet and followed him into the water, weaving between the bodies stretched out on the sand.
I looked behind as we reached the water’s edge.
No one’s gaze was on me.
No one was pointing in horror.
No one was recoiling with disgust.
They were all going about their day.
Living their life.
“Come on! Enjoy the moment. You glow with the most beautiful energy when you smile.”
I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly, closed my eyes and let my breathe go slowly… expelling my crippling self-consciousness.
I slowly smiled. Opened my eyes. And entered the water.

BeachPic

Mirrors… self-reflecting or self-destructing?
The struggle is suffocating and constant still…
Perhaps by the end of summer I will allow myself to wear a bikini again…
Even though it has been years since I have set foot in a treatment center.
Recovery is lifelong.
The thoughts never go away
I live for the days I am able to drown them out with positivity. sunlight. friends. and inner peace.

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Dark Days

Thursday June 22, 2017
Bucharest, Romania

If I ask you to make a list of things that you love…. how long would it take for you to put your name on it…

Nobody ever tells you that emptiness weighs the most.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be happy with myself.
I worry that since I cannot be happy with me then how in the world will anyone else ever be happy with me.

I cannot pass by a mirror without the reflection tainting the rest of my day… clouding my happiness more and more with each glimpse…

Summer is here.
Beach season.
……

Imagine if we obsessed with the things we loved about ourselves…

I have had people tell me:
Make peace with the mirror and watch your reflection change.
But how
How does one make peace with the mirror?

If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies… Imagine how different our ideas of beauty would be…

Ramblings of loneliness

Sunday, May 4, 2017
Bucharest, Romania

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”— Confucius

Every master was once a disaster.” — David T.S. Wolf

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden

Don’t overthink yourself out of something good! – Akosua Dardaine Edwards

Don’t overthink things. Sometimes you can convince your head not to listen to your heart. Those are the decisions you regret for the rest of your life. –Leah Braemel

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

I’m in a bit of a funk lately.
Too many things are going on and it is a little overwhelming and hard to keep my head up.
I have been in Romania quite awhile off and on.
I still do not have a grasp on the language
People keep telling me that they know of others who learned it in one month.
That just makes me feel worse
Unable
Stupid
And we go to meet people
And they are courteous
polite
“Hello! Buna! How are you?”
And that is about the extend of the conversation most of the time
I say I can understand some of it.
I say I am trying to learn.
I say “No problem, go ahead and talk in Romanian, I can kinda follow along”
But I can’t
I do for awhile
I get the gist of the conversation
But then my mind focuses on one word or phrase
forgetting what it is
and my mind searches for what it means
and I lose track of the conversation
And I stare at the sky.
at the people walking by
Trying to not look bored
Trying not to look as alone as I feel
Left out
Isolated
I don’t want them to speak entirely in English
That would be an inconvenience for them
I am in their home country
They are speaking their mother tongue
I take lessons
I do the apps
Answer the questions right
And then when it comes to conversation in real life
My mind blanks.
What did they just say?
What am I supposed to say back?
And the visa
I finally turned in the visa this past week
And now I wait one month to see if they accept or reject it
If I have to leave or if I get to stay
If I get rejected should I to hire a lawyer and fight to stay?
After waiting in the lines for hours
With impatient, rude people
standing
forever
talking to the people behind the desk 9 times
My translator talked to the officer for what seemed like an eternity
And when we left the counter
I got a one sentence summary of the 20 minute conversation.
i need another document
another document
each time
waiting in traffic
stressing out my boss
Creating tension at work
i am scared I am too much work
Wishing she never hired me
due to all the headaches of this visa
leaving my classroom and coming back mentally vapid
not able to concentrate on what was going on
going home to cry
And am so exhausted I nearly pass out at 9
because I messed up
I didn’t know the new rules
Count backwards 180 days.
it doesn’t start over.
It was my fault
I could feel the heaviness
Disappointment from others
And I revert back to the days of pasT
When I was truly believed I was a burden
Unwanted, but invited out of obligation
It is my fault I am slow at learning
that’s just how I am
All the people I meet here
Must think I am so boring
i hope they don’t think I’m a bitch
Or stuck up
because I barely talk
I have so much I want to say.
I want to show them me
but they just turn to other friends and share stories
and laugh
in Romaninan
And I am left
Alone
Though sometimes they remember I am there
and translate a story
or respond in English to what someone asked in Romanian
and I jolt back to reality
they are talking to me
my heart soars with happy
I feel like I am pulling away
Regressing
Not putting as much effort as I should at work
the gym seems overwhelming
getting out of bed to go to meet people is difficult
No amount of sleep could cure the tiredness I feel
I love people
I hate inconveniencing people
I hate being a burden
And I noticed that I have been backsliding
Focusing on the negatives when I look in the mirror
As they talk and talk
I notice more and more wrong with me
My white thighs glowing in the sun
flattened out and huge as I sit in the chair
The scars on my arms from days long ago
The bags under my eyes that won’t go away
My hair, frizzy beyond belief
My silhouette makes me cringe
My stomach.
The liver transplant scar
a big indent in my belly
creating a soft roundness above and below
fat
no bikinis for me
I tried
I got down to 86 pounds long ago
I still had a soft round belly
I get more and more disgusted every time I look in the mirror
why did I decide to wear this tonight?
no wonder people don’t want to talk to me
I feel boring
all that time of listening to them talk
and sitting there
feeling awkward
not sure if I should intervene,
“Ce faci!”
“Nu înțeleg”
But I don’t
I don’t want to be a bother
I try to follow
then space out
lost in my head
all the thoughts
monsters don’t live under the bed
They scream inside your head
but not all the time
don’t worry too much
things still make me happy
the soft rain before the downpour
as it gently lands on my skin
a slight tickle from mother earth
laying in the grass with the sun shining on me
warming my body
Bubbles
and many other things
it is easy to spiral and forget
but there are many things that keep me here
But I have been longing more and more for going back
To Portland
To Santa Cruz
where I can understand people
Where I don’t feel detached
But would that be giving up?
Running away?
Should I power through and take 2 lessons a week?
Could I fit in here?
Your vibe attracts your tribe.
I feel part of a tribe sometimes
but then they slowly revert back to Romanian
laughing
talking
reminiscing
and I have no idea what they are talking anymore
because at one point I space out
too much in my own head
I need more things here
I need to change
I need motivation
But do I belong here?
Is this the life I want?
Do I want to go back to what’s comfortable?
Or do I want to step out of my comfort zone and zoom forth
I have always felt a little ostracized
all my life
On the fringes of groups
Along for the ride
A little odd
I’m used to being the me that they know
silly, bright and sunshiny
but I also come off as flighty
as dumb
and I am not
not many people know the real me
all the things I went through
The people I lost
the people that hurt me
the people I hurt
My stories that made me who I am
the good and the bad
No one asks anymore
and then there are some people I connect with on another level
and I adore them
and I feel wanted when I am with them
and I laugh
and feel warm inside
happy
But I can’t remember the last time I laughed
genuine laughter
where your eyes well up with happiness and silliness
I miss that
I need nature
I need a friend
I need the beach
I need to stop thinking that everyone is thinking negatively of me
I hate it
because that’s what teenagers do
I’m 31
I should be over that by now
Strong
Independant
Etc
But no
Because right now I feel deflated
discouraged
empty
lost
alone
But i still have the flame of hope
Deep inside
still burning
waiting for more fuel
for me to believe wholly
that I can do this
that things will get better
I just need to get out of my head
because life is beautiful
I’m living in Romania.
I am in charge of 17 of the most beautiful, sweet little 2-3 year olds
I have a good job that pays quite well
Someone who believes in me
and keeps me going
i have plans to travel in the summer
music festivals
summer is coming
i need to get back to that me
that me that said “yes” to everything
That had no problem talking to strangers
I have people that say I am beautiful
And check up on me
I’ve been here before
i know my mind is just messing with me
i’ve been here before
i can get out
get out of my head
and into my heart
And in these next week Is will start the process
of becoming a butterfly
starting by smiling from my heart
because I am strong
and I am worth it
I just need to work on believing it
mantras on the mirror
mantras by the bedside
little reminder that life is beautiful
of who I am
I will find my way

The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Unknown

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. ― Abraham Lincoln

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca