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Do you ever have moments when it seems like nothing you do is good enough, or right? I’m kind of stuck in one of those periods now…it seems like everything is blah and gray, that nothing good is happening, and that nothing will ever change. On one level, I know this isn’t true, but on the emotional side it sure feels that way.

Take teaching my class for example…I started off out the gate slow – I lectured (god forbid), and then made the mistake of lecturing again. If you’d asked me after my second class period about how the class was going, I would have told you, “awful.” Things have improved some – I’m bringing in discussion and we did a movie today along with some lecture on APA format. The hard thing is, I still feel like I’m an imposter and that I completely, totally suck at this. I know it’s been a while since I’ve been teaching, but I honestly don’t ever remember feeling this unsure of myself in the classroom. Still, I’m muddling through. We did “early alert” evaluations for new faculty today – I’m scared spitless about how they’re going to come out, and whether or not I’ll have a job next semester. Am I catastrophizing? Probably – but it’s also where I’m at emotionally here.

My work on the private practice is another area of angst – I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and that I’m trying to ride with one wheel missing – I don’t have an “advertising budget” and I’m working the resources I have as much as I can, but still – nothing is happening and it’s very frustrating. No clients, no group…nothing. I keep wondering if I’m just not meant to succeed…but then I think, “Dang it girl – hard work and keeping this going is what will pay off!” So…I keep on keepin’ on here. I call people, I send out flyers, I leave messages on voicemail, and I keep praying and hoping something will happen. In my dreams, the phone rings and I get a therapist on the other end saying, “Hey, is your group still open? I have three people I’d like to refer to you…” Ok, I admit it probably won’t happen like that. The bottom line is that I have to “do my homework” to make this work…and realize that it WILL take time. Great on the “brain” level, but still hard on the “heart” level – emotionally I feel like I’m a failure again.

And then there’s finances…oh heck…I’m worried if I’m going to be able to pay my bills, given that nothing is happening with the practice and that my teaching job pays very little. It’s a good thing I generally love what I do in the classroom – I’m certainly not doing it for the wonderful paycheck. I think that’s what has been hardest for me with the teaching – I LOVE teaching psychology, and I’m very frustrated that I don’t seem to be communicating that or the material very well. Instead, I feel pressured, anxious, and incompetent. And I’m NOT used to feeling that way in my classroom!

So where do I go from here? I really don’t know. I’m frustrated, feeling down, and more than a little nervous about the student evaluations and upcoming faculty evaluation. I’m scared about what’s not happening with my practice and am wondering if I can make it work. I’m overwhelmed about the finances as a result, and feel like if I think too much about it, my head will explode. I just hope it gets better – that I find my footing again in the classroom, and that something “clicks” with the practice end of things. If not, that I can find work that will help me pay my bills – no small undertaking in this economy. As you can see, I’m great at judging myself – so one of the things I’m trying to do is be gentle with myself and not judge myself so harshly. Chances are, I’m judging myself much harder than anyone else is. So…I try to be nicer to myself and keep on keepin’ on.¬†I keep hoping, praying, and working to see if I can make any of this happen.

Warning: This post has should probably be rated PG-13, with an “L” for language

I read an interesting blog post from one of my favorite blogs here, Kate Harding’s “Shapely Prose”. The subject was sexual harassment, and how we women are trained pretty much from birth to be quiet, ladylike, submissive and “good” – and how those same qualities get turned into blaming the victim when a rape occurs. It got me thinking about how many experiences we have of being assaulted, harassed, and violated.

One of my first memories was going with my dad to the barber shop when I was a very little girl. I remember feeling creeped out by the way the barber would talk to me, and yet I also remember being told to “be nice.” Now that I have a daughter of my own, I cringe every time I hear someone tell a little girl who is clearly uncomfortable to “be nice.” “Being nice” is more about OUR comfort as adults than it is about respecting a child’s right to her/his own feelings. And that’s sad.

My first husband…well, prior to our wedding we had talked about that first night because we were both virgins. I made him promise me he would stop if I asked him to, because I was afraid of the pain. He promised me he would, and guess what? He didn’t. He didn’t to the point of taking me three times that night. I could barely walk the next day, and when I called my mother her response was, “well you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”

I also remember being in the hospital at one point, and having another patient – male – enter my room and try to sexually assault me. I told the staff about it, and they “arranged” a time for me confront him. When he got up and left the room, slamming the door in my face, they simply said, “well he’s brain damaged. We can’t expect more.” Then, I knew I felt violated a second time and didn’t say much – where was it going to get me? Today…well, I would have said, “You sure fucking can! Get me a lawyer, because I want to press charges.” The hospital was lucky I didn’t sue them as well.

The really sad thing? For literally YEARS after that incident, I would have nightmares of being chased and hunted down, and not being able to yell or scream because I couldn’t open my mouth. Talk about dreams reflecting real life…at this point in my life, I recognize that I was dealing with classic PTSD, generalized anxiety, and depression. It didn’t help that my husband was an emotionally abusive man either, or that I grew up in a verbally and emotionally abusive home. Following years of being verbally and emotionally abused took its toll on me though, and I didn’t even realize that they (both the hospital and the man) shouldn’t have been able to get away with what they did.

Another incident occurred while I was in graduate school. This time I was guest lecturing for my advisor, and was confronted by extremely rude, confrontative, aggressive behavior from a male student. The first time I lectured, he “merely” made sexist comments. My advisor (a woman) “advised me” to let it go, so I did. In graduate school, advisors have a LOT of power over you, so I didn’t feel I could take action. The second time this happened, I was more firm and the student nearly became violent at the end of class. He was calling me a “motherfucking bitch” and “cunt” and other names. When I turned away, he yelled “Don’t you turn away from me, you motherfucking cunt!” Where was my advisor during all this? Trying to placate HIM. It turns out this student had various harassing incidents on the student listserv, and other in-class violations which had gone unreported.

When I told her I was going to report this incident, my advisor wanted me to “collaborate” with her and her teaching assistant so we could “be consistent” in our reports. I went over her head, and felt every right in doing so – she was essentially revictimizing me by trying to put a face-saving spin on the incident. I wasn’t having any of it and went to my teaching supervisor and the department head – both male and both more supportive than my advisor. Now, you have to realize that my advisor was one of the more vocal feminists in the department – I realized after that incident that she was more talk than walk. It was a horribly sad, eye-opening incident.

What ended up happening was the the case was taken to the student ombudsmen, who supported me. The student was expelled. The damage between me and my advisor was irreparable though, and shortly afterward I changed to a different advisor. I found out later that one of my friends had been raped her first year by another graduate student and that our (mutual) advisor had acted very similarly, and actually discouraged her from reporting it. So much for being a feminist, or even supportive. You would think that incidents like these would affect this woman’s career – but no. Tenure is a powerful thing, and this woman is internationally known and acclaimed for her research. So…like many incidents involving women who are in unequal power positions, it got swept under the carpet.

The truly tragic thing about these incidents is that they’re not isolated. They’re COMMON. Nearly every woman and far too many girls have stories like this to report. It is hard for me to even accept that I’ve been assaulted at all, but I consider myself a survivor. I’ve survived a lot of abuse, and yet it’s nothing compared to what some women and girls experience.

In our society, women are still objectified and judged by their attractiveness to a male audience. My appearance and my body size – my attractiveness – are what matters in society, and all of these are open to scrutinization and comment, whether I want it or not. I’m STILL being violated, as are ALL women, whether we want to admit it or not. This is in addition to everything SweetMachine writes about – women are victimized if they dare vary from the ideal of what a woman should look like or be. This kind of thing is still ignored, minimized and laughed at, because we want to believe our society has overcome these kinds of abuse.

And that’s what these incidents are – abuse, pure and simple. Women in this country, and around the world (in even worse situations) are abused on a daily basis. It’s so common, we don’t even think about it at ALL, much less think about it as abuse. As SweetMachine pointed out in her post, we think that the way we’re taught to behave, the way we’re taught not to be provocative is protective and normal. In reality, it’s the beginnings of blaming the victim. Before something even happens, we warn women and girls, “don’t do anything that could be taken wrong.” We SHOULD be warning men instead, “don’t do things that hurt people.” It’s that simple – we’re blaming the potential victims for the inappropriate, hurtful and violating actions of others.

No wonder we’re afraid to report. No wonder we’re afraid to talk. No wonder we keep quiet on the blogs, listservs, websites, emails – we risk being harassed or hurt every time we open our mouths. And now…I’ve had enough. I’m opening my mouth, and not just talking but yelling it to the rafters: “THIS IS WRONG! WE HAVE A RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM ABUSE!”

It’s that simple.

So here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, feeling a lot like there isn’t a whole lot of hope for the future right now. I’m still generally optimistic about my private practice and about teaching, but I’m having a hard time feeling motivated at the moment.

Now to be fair, this is coming after a morning in the church nursery with a bunch of rowdy preschoolers and toddlers – it’s like herding wet cats back into the bathtub. I also only got 4 hours of sleep, and those were interrupted by disturbing dreams. So, I’m legitimately tired.

However, some of the exhaustion is emotional too. Starting a private practice takes a lot of work and energy, and starting any business is a slow process. I know I need to be patient AND I want it NOW. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do too well with ambiguity, although I’m trying. (And yes, the old saying about what comes into your life is what you need to work on very much applies here!) So, I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and not getting very far.

I’m also feeling very pressured about getting my class(es) ready for fall – I’ll be teaching at the local community colleges and one class is a brand new prep – I’ve never taught it before. It’s Developmental Psychology, and is cool stuff – but pulling together a brand new course in a little over a month is a LOT of work.

I’ve written on my professional blog about feeling emotionally paralyzed – when I feel overwhelmed, that’s what happens to me. And right now, I feel paralyzed out of my mind. I try to follow my own advice, though, and even though I’m not feeling super-confident at the moment, I’m pretty sure I’ll be feeling better in a few days. The hard thing is right now, when I’m feeling this way, I tend to get down on myself – I tend to think of all the things I’m doing wrong, or think of the “if only’s” and “what might have beens.” I feel like I can’t do anything right, or that I’ll never succeed. This isn’t true, but emotions can be a web that catches you – and sometimes it’s hard to break free. Getting judgmental of anyone – even ourselves – isn’t a helpful thing.

“Tenebrous Ennui” basically means a dark, gloomy sense of a utter weariness and discontent resulting from lack of interest or boredom. In my case, it’s not really lack of interest or boredom, but more withdrawing and avoiding. (So maybe “ennui” isn’t the best term, but the whole thing, “tenebrous ennui” sounds pretty cool.) Anway, feeling overwhelmed and gloomy is the order of the day. I know this isn’t the case, but right now my life feels empty and barren – and I know that it comes from being overwhelmed with TOO much. Life is anything BUT empty and barren.

So where do I go? I ask myself the same thing I ask my clients…”What do YOU think?” My sense is that I need to counteract the sense of fear that underlies the feeling of being overwhelmed. To do that…well, I need to take my own advice and “move” and “do one thing.”

So, for the class…I could work on putting together the schedule. For the private practice…I can finish the application I’ve got for the local community mental health agency I contacted. (Having an interview tomorrow provides some motivation – stressful, but motivation all the same.) I also need to remind myself that my situation isn’t ME – it affects me, but doesn’t define me. I exist outside these stresses, and I can still enjoy things and take care of myself. I don’t have to be judgmental and punishing with myself – in fact, it’s way better if I’m not. This is something that takes a LOT of reminding for me, though!

I have a feeling that once I’m back in the thick of it and don’t have time to ruminate and overanalyze things, I’ll be ok. Meanwhile, I don’t want to marinate in my own gloomy sauce – so I’m going to go DO something. Even if it’s only ONE thing – it’s something.

This is one of my favorite blogs here (“Shapely Prose”, and here are two posts on being different in our world:

“The Fantasy of Being Thin”:
http://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

“The Fantasy of Being White”:
http://kateharding.net/2009/07/08/guest-post-the-fantasy-of-being-white/

Feeling Overwhelmed - Picture copyright 2009 Laura Burlingame-Lee

Feeling Overwhelmed - Picture copyright 2009 Laura Burlingame-Lee

I recently got one of those super-uper-duper, ultra deluxe daily planners so I can organize things for my private practice. While it’s really cool for a lot of things, one of the things I like the best is this little insert card based on the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It asks you to pick something in each of four realms and come up with things that get in the way of you doing it.

This is easy enough and I decided that I would also list what I could do to counter those things. (I’m probably using it wrong, but who cares? I’m using it and it’s helping me, right? ūüôā ) Anyway, I’ve found that a pattern has been developing. For a lot of things, fear is the reason I’m not doing whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing. For example, in the social/emotional realm, I’ve noticed that I really don’t like making “cold calls” (calls to people I’ve never spoken to, trying to promote my business.) Now, to start a business, you really HAVE to make a number of cold calls, right?

So in thinking about what’s getting in way, fear is a big part of it. Specifically, I’m afraid of being rejected, ridiculed or hung up on. Honestly, being ridiculed is probably not going to happen – so that particular fear is a little unrealistic. However, the other two are real risks. So, in my planner, my “Do it:” activity is “Do One Thing.”

Doing one thing makes things a little easier – it makes whatever is getting in the way less threatening. If I have to only make one call, I can do other things that might make rejection easier to deal with. If I can do only one thing, it might be a “baby step” toward making the call – like looking up the phone number or contact person via the web. It might be realizing that I can send an email, and then make the call a follow-up. There are a multitude of “one thing”s I can do.

The same is true for the physical, mental/business, and spiritual realms. Often I get busy with minutiae that distract me and end up enabling the fear or lack of motivaton to do the other tasks. Again – one thing. If it’s physical, I can make sure to take a short walk – it doesn’t have to be my usual 4-5 mile trek. If it’s mental/business – another area where fear rules, because I don’t know much about business – I can read one chapter in a book devoted to running a small business. If it’s spiritual, it can be as simple as noticing the Divine in the world around me. I can see it in my children’s smiles and laughs, the blue sky and green around me (thank you for the rain!), the wonderful friendships I have and am making.

Again, doing ONE thing can help counter the problem. Lack of motivation, fear, lack of intertia – these all get in the way of us living our lives. How many times have you found yourself wishing that you could do something, but feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Of how difficult it is? Or how complicated? Doing one thing – one thing each day – helps you first, break down the task into do-able chunks and second makes it less overwhelming or difficult.

My one thing lately has been MOVE! I’ve written about moving before, and moving to me means moving in all the realms – doing one thing is a form of moving. I’m not completely set up yet, but I’ve also noticed that once I do ONE thing, it’s a lot easier to do more. I usually end up doing more than one thing on my task list, but I only hold myself accountable for doing one. Anything else is a bonus, and it helps.

What seems to be a weed, may be a bouquet of blessings in disguise (image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee)

What seems to be a weed, may be a bouquet of blessings in disguise (image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee)

I recently had a couple of lessons on appearances and judging people by their appearances. I was on the receiving end of an act of verbal violence when someone drove by and yelled, “Fat Rear!” Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident for me – I’ve been “moo’d” (as have many of you, unfortunately), barked at, and been called “a dog.” We live in a society where a person’s worth is initially judged by their appearance – a quick judgment that often dismisses a person before we even know anything about who they are.

Glenna Peterson, a columnist for the Idaho Statesman, wrote that:

Height, weight, shape, hairstyle, dress, age, complexion – all are things we see and catalog when we look at others. When they open their mouths, we note accents, grammar, speech patterns, and make more notes in our mental catalog.

There is an old adage that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” While external clues may give us information about the person, they do not really give us the full picture – and often we make a decision without all the facts. My mother often lamented what she referred to as a “rush to judgment,” noting the times she had written off someone, based on appearance, who on closer acquaintance displayed personal qualities that led to admiration and friendship.

I suspect most of us have had such an experience. While appearance can provide some clues regarding a person, it does not tell us about the “real” person.

She hit the nail on the head in this article. And even though I had so recently been the victim of such judging, I found myself doing the judging a few days later.

After being at my mom’s in Orem for a few days, we left to head to Idaho to visit my husband’s parents. This was a long, tiring drive and by the time we were a few hours away from Boise, we were all cranky and sticky and dirty. The kidlets needed a potty break and we needed gas, so we stopped in this little brush town called Rupert. What initially looked like a travel plaza turned out to be a refurbished hotel that was turned into a gas station/convenience store. The restrooms were outside, and so I took little Becca to use the girls room. We locked the door, and a few minutes later heard a knock – I said, “We’ll be right out.”

When I opened the door, I was faced with a large woman with tattoos, long dyed platinum blonde hair, tight “biker” leathers and T-shirt – if you’ve ever seen the “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” and know his wife, Beth – this lady could have been a much larger, dusty ringer for her. And I – who had so recently been judged myself on the basis of my appearance – fell into the trap.

All the stereotypes of bikers came up. I was immediately concerned for my daughter’s safety even though NOTHING even remotely threatening had occurred. We came out, and I smiled and said, “Sorry we were taking so long, she’s just starting to use the potty.” Here’s the thing, though – even though I didn’t SAY anything offensive, I was caught in the trap just as surely as were the young men who yelled at me.

My daughter – being the little extravert that she is – beamed up a huge grin and said, “Hi!” The woman smiled at me and said “hi” to Becca, and then smiled again and said, “She’s a little doll isn’t she?” She was a nice, friendly person and I’d almost missed the chance to find that out because of MY prejudices and biased thinking. Again, I learned a lesson – one that seem to need to learn over and over again – you can’t judge people by what they look like. Really.

I’ve heard that we keep gettings experiences designed to teach us, until we learn the lesson these experiences teach. If that’s the case, I must have a long way to go. I learn each time something like this happens, though – and I’m grateful for the lessons even if they ARE painful on occasion. So, I keep trying – I keep forgiving those who hurt me, and I try to be a better person myself. In a way, I hope I keep learning because it means I’m still growing – and I never want to stop learning or growing.

Glenna Peterson also wrote,

By looking only at the external we may miss opportunities to learn and grow from the interaction with a special person. I look at pictures of famous people who have contributed to mankind: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela. Some of them are not attractive. Others might be discounted because of gender or color of skin. But reading their words or others’ accounts of them leaves me wishing I had known them.

I agree with my sister-in-spirit here – attractiveness, skin color, weight, height, hair color, skin condition – any physical attribute that you can think of simply doesn’t matter and has no bearing on what kind of person someone is. The clothes they wear, the car they drive, the state of their home – it may give you information on how they live their live, but it doesn’t tell what kind of person they are.

I hope that someday I can be as gracious and wise as Ms. Peterson – as well as the people she mentioned in her article. At this point though – I have a long journey ahead and the road is long. And I’d better get started on that path.

Till next time, when we meet again – God/dess be with you and may your days be full of love and acceptance.

Something happened to me tonight, that I’m sure has happened to millions of other large – fat – women worldwide. I was verbally assaulted, on the basis of nothing more than my appearance. I am visiting my mother in Orem, UT and I was unloading our van, when a truck full of teenage boys roared by. As they leered out the window, they took it upon themselves in all their righteous ignorance to yell out, “Fat Rear! Fat Rear! Fat Rear!”

I was shocked. I was hurt in a way that few people can do to me anymore – this was sheer violence, expressed in a verbal way. Now one of my areas of expertise in psychology is peace and violence. Violence is expressed in two ways: direct and indirect. Direct violence is an attack, whether it’s physical, verbal or another form. Structural or indirect violence is the structure in society that allows the direct violence to occur – these are our prejudices, our stereotypes, our discriminatory actions and our “isms”.

Tonight, I was victim of direct violence – a verbal attack that was meant to be cruel and hurt. Even more harmful, though, is the fact that these young men felt justifed in making the attack. Fat prejudice is so ingrained in our world, that we don’t even think twice about denigrating someone who doesn’t fit our idea of conventionally attractive. Women who are fat, who have deformities, who are different-looking from the norm are all considered fair game. This is wrong, in any uncertain terms. Women in general are paid less than men – fat women are paid even less. One study examined hiring biases and pay biases. Men in general earned more and were hired more often than women, but here’s the really interesting part: Fat men were hired less and paid less than thin women, and fat women were paid the least and hired the least often of any of the groups. The students who participated were divided into groups, and each group was given the same resume – the only difference was the picture attached to the document.

Fat women were judged to be less intelligent, less competent – not to mention completely unattractive. Being fat in this society is bad enough – fat prejudice is one of the last “acceptable” biases there is. We are seen as “fat and ugly,” “fat and smelly,” “fat and lazy,” or “fat and stupid.” The point is that no matter how you justify it, no matter how righteous you feel in believing that it’s a matter completely under control and that if “you only exercised more and ate less, you’d be fine”, no matter how “helpful” you think you’re being by mentioning someone’s size – even if commenting on weight loss – you are engaging in fat prejudice. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It is – and imagine what it’s like being on the OTHER side. Think about what it would feel like if someone said to you, “Wow – you’ve gained some weight! You were starting to look like you were starving…remember those concentration camp survivors? I was wondering if you were one.” Insensitive, clueless and prejudiced, isn’t it? Point out what seems to be a good thing – weight loss – often reminds the person of how unattractive s/he used to be perceived.

I’ve had people say to me that I’m making excuses for looking the way I do. Here’s my question back – Even if I am, SO WHAT? What business of anybody else’s is it if I look different from the norm? Ok – some of you are going to say, “Well MY insurance premiums and health care costs are higher because of you” – is that REALLY true? If you say this to me, I’ll first tell you that a) I”m healthy and have the medical records to prove it, b) that I DO eat well and exercise, even if you don’t want to believe it, and c) Mind your own f***ing business. Frankly, there are so many conditions, so many socioeconomic reasons – including the pharmaceutical companies’ greediness, so many people in poverty that being larger than normal is a drop in the health care bucket.

I’m not talking about morbid obesity, or fetishist obesity – those are problems, and in the case of a lot of involuntary obesity honestly beyond control (and don’t even get me started on voluntary – or fetishist – obesity.) The bottom line – if you’ll forgive the pun – is that we, as a society need to move beyond our prejudices and discrimination. We consider it a hate crime to use certain terms about people of color and people of Jewish descent – as a society, we HAVE accomplished some things.

So, why – WHY, WHY is it acceptable to do the same to large women? This is every bit as much a hate crime, and should be treated as such. And here is where my struggle comes in.

Being the kind of person I am, I realize that these young men at their root are more empty, more lost than I ever will be. THEY are the ones who are hurting – and they express their insecurity, their immaturity, and their emptiness by hurting others. I, at least, have a sense of myself as a warm, caring, intelligent, helpful, and yes, beautiful human being. I hope these young men eventually grow out of their immaturity, and I’m praying that they do. If I have to be honest, there’s a part of me that wishes they would somehow experience the hurt that they’ve inflicted on others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who they’ve hurt. There’s a part of me that wants vengeance, that wants to crack their empty heads together.

But…the part of me that values who *I* am really doesn’t want to do this. That part of me wants to use this experience. That part of me will use it – to help me understand the people who end up seeing me in my office, who I end up working with as colleagues and as students, and who I encounter when I’m not feeling my nicest. I pray that I remember this when *I* feel like being hurtful or cruel, or when I feel angry. I pray I remember it as I move on, and I pray for those young men – and everyone else – who can’t see past our physical bodies to see the wonderful people we are inside.

Do you ever have times when it feels like the world is crashing down, and everybody wants everything – not just now, but yesterday-than-you-very-much? Sigh…it’s been one of those days for me. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels with trying to find work -and setting up a private practice feels like starting to climb Mt. Everest. There’s not just the therapy/psychology stuff to tie up (application for licensure, getting supervision, finding office space…) but also the business aspects, like registering a business in Colorado, figuring out what taxes and how much I’m going to have to pay, finding all the right forms, dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. And the big thing, of course, is the money.

I’m like a lot of you – I have a lot of student loans and a credit card. My credit card, I will take full and total responsibility for – after all I decided to use it and I need to be the one to pay it. It’s that simple. My student loans…well, I wouldn’t have gotten through school without them, and I WANT to pay them off. I’m making payments now – barely – with my job as a nursery supervisor in our church. BUT – the money to start my practice has to come from somewhere, right?

I feel like I can’t apply for a loan – how am I going to say I’m going to pay it, when I’m not even sure I’m going to get clients? How do I advertise my services (groups, couples, individuals, personality disorders, DBT, etc) without spending some money somewhere on promotional materials? It feels like a catch-22, and I feel so discouraged.

If you ever looked at my professional blog, you know I advocate strongly for coping tools. So…I’m practicing what I preach. I’m telling myself that I don’t have to do it all at once, that I can get help if I need it, and somehow it will work out. I’m writing (something that helps me), journaling and soothing myself (hot cup of tea, anyone? I made a MEAN coconut chai…) I’m planning, too – I’ve got a notebook and am keeping track of everything I’ve done, people I’ve contacted, promotional ideas, and initial/start-up expenses.

In all actuality, my start-up costs are going to be pretty low for a new business – about $3000. I COULD finance that on another credit card, but I figure I”m worried enough about making payments on the one I have and on my student loans. I guess that getting a loan isn’t much different, though – I’d be making a monthly payment no matter what, right? So…I think the hardest part is getting over the fear.

And funny I should be facing this yet again…One of my favorite self-help books is called, “Feel the fear and do it anyway” (Susan Jeffers – AWESOME book). The fear is really what’s overwhelming, when I get down to it. Everything else is details, and are things I can take care of…it’s that fear – the fear of failing, of having to declare bankruptcy, of having my credit ruined (my ex-hubby did that for me before and I NEVER want to go through that again) – there are any number of things to be afraid of.

So if I were working with a client, what would I say? Probably pick one baby step, and do it. Just do it, and then deal with the fear. I’d remind myself that I really don’t have to do it all at once, and that baby steps are fine. I’d probably have myself list the tasks and then prioritize them a couple of ways -in order of easiest to accomplish, most pressing, etc. And, me being me, I’d have myself keep a record of what I did, how I felt and what I thought while doing it, and how I felt/thought after it was over. Yeah, folks, I really use this stuff myself, too ūüôā

So…I guess with these things in mind, here I go…wish me well ūüôā

This is also posted on “The Other Side of the Couch,” my more professionally oriented blog.

So, I wore a dress today for the first time since….well, I don’t remember when. I even wore it to church, which was pretty amazing considering that I’m in the nursery with a bunch of rowdy toddlers. But…I wanted to feel pretty, and I haven’t felt that way in a long, LONG time. It’s hard to feel that way when you look like I do – society doesn’t reward women who don’t fit the ideal. Instead, we (all of us – even I fall prey to it now and then) tell women that they’re flawed, ugly, undesirable, etc. because they’re not 6 feet talll and 110 pounds with looks like Kate Moss or Giselle Bunchen. So, I wore it, and I did feel pretty. Several people told me the dress looked good on me, and that I looked good – I haven’t heard that in a LONG time.

It’s getting to be summer here – at least weather wise, and feeling pretty in a pretty dress while standing in the sunshine and smelling the lilacs was like receiving a little gift from above. And then…back to the real world, when I looked in the mirror.

It’s funny, though, because in Second Life, nearly everyone is drop dead gorgeous. I have to admit that I created my avatar to be that way as well…I could make her look like me in real life, but if I can control appearance and size why would I want to? I talk about self-acceptance, but I’m not happy with the way I look. I’ve been exercising for about a year now, with no substantial weight loss, so I saw my doctor this last week – I am now on what amounts to a starvation diet – 1000 calories per day with one hour of aerobic exercise every day. I am losing weight, but I wonder if I’m losing my sanity along with weight – is it worth the sacrifice? I want to look good, and feel good about myself. I generally have good self-esteem nowadays – until I look in a mirror. I want to be accepted – and yet I still have trouble accepting myself.

What prompted the change was the way people reacted to my avatar in Second LIfe (SL). I will NEVER look like my avatar – no matter how much I work, because there is no way to make a 42-year old woman who has birthed and nursed three babies look like a twenty year old who has never had children and looks like she eats less than Lindsey Lohan. However, I also think there are steps I can take to look and feel better. When I am on SL as my avatar, I feel pretty. I know that it is a virtual mock-up of a fantasy, but my personality reflects the difference. I’m flirty, active and fun…and I feel attractive. In the mundane world of real life, I’m a flabby, tired mother who spends a great deal of time chasing kids, changing diapers, and cleaning up messes – it’s hard to feel attractive when you smell like diapers and have spots of smushed peas and carrots on your clothes and in your hair.

So what’s the point? A friend of mine on SL and I were chatting about how easy it is to get sucked into this virtual world. It’s easy to want to escape real life, because real life is not always fun. It’s messy, dirty and you can’t always hide between an attractive exterior. It’s also more intense. I think in part that’s because it’s overwhelming at first to find yourself in this beautiful “world” where the normal inhibitions of everyday living are absent – in it’s own way, it’s addictive.

And therein lies the trouble…Am I my avatar, or is she me? I think it’s a little bit of both, and people continue to be people, whether in virtual reality or not. He told me of people who have exacted revenge by destroying the virtual property of people that have jilted them, and of others who have been hurt by the actions of people they thought of as friends. Even though it’s “play” for many, for others, the lure of social contact and an end to loneliness seems like a lifeline.¬† When the two collide, people get hurt.

Ironically enough, it seems easier to trust people online¬†-we think we are anonymous when on SL, but in reality, there are probably ways to find out to whom we’re speaking. Psychological research has found that people tend to be more open and¬†less inhibited¬†when they think they are anonymous; this is as true on SL as in any research study. The possibility of real life hurt and damage is very much present, and we (myself included) act as though we have blinders on. We’d like to think that the people we trust with our identities and our secrets are trustworthy, but that’s not always the case.

So, back to the issue at hand – for a long time, I wouldn’t let my online friends see pictures of me, because I¬†was afraid that after seeing what I really look like, they¬†would see the real me instead of the attractive avatar. Dishonest? Probably…but also grounded in real-life experience. There’s nothing like getting to know someone, only to see a look of disgust or shock in their eyes when they see the real you for the first time. I’ve found, through experience, that no matter how great your personality is, some people will always judge you by how you look. And I want to keep feeling pretty.

Okay – I know I’m fat. I weigh 200 pounds, and wear anywhere from a size 16 to a size 20, depending on the item of clothing and whether it’s for my top or bottom. AND, I’m a good, interesting, worthwhile person. I wasn’t always fat, and it’s interesting that I like and respect myself MORE now than I did when I wore a size 7 and weighed 110 pounds. For all of my life until I had children, I was thin – and I hated myself.¬† Physically, I probably looked the best I ever looked, but inside I was a mess. After a disastrous first marriage, I was still relatively thin – 135 pounds, after having one child. My metabolism was never the same after giving birth, and after each child, it’s continued to slow.

(For those of you who think that you have the “cure”¬†– please don’t bother – I have been and am continuing to work with my medical doctor on the best way for me to exercise, eat well, and be healthy. I walk, I watch my portion sizes and type of food, and like everybody, goof up *occasionally*. Please don’t say that I couldn’t be doing these things, because I wouldn’t be fat if I were. It’s simply not true. I’m also on medications that are known – scientifically – to cause weight gain. I try to counteract that effect every way I can.)

The point to this rant? It’s taken me a long time to accept that I am the way I was intended to be. In our society, you can’t go anywhere without seeing, hearing the message that you’re no good if you’re not thin. I still struggle with accepting my myself, but overall, I like myself a lot more as I am, except when I have to shop for clothes. I hear women say sometimes that they’d rather die than be fat…and I feel sorry for them. They truly have NO idea that life isn’t about being thin. Life is about living, loving and being – no matter WHAT you look like.

For those of you who aren’t plus-size, have you ever stopped and really looked at the clothes that are offered to large women? Many of them are flat-out UGLY. And please don’t say that it’s incentive to lose weight – everybody should be able to find stylish, well-made and comfortable clothes at ANY size. When I go shopping, there are times when I feel as if the designers, manufacturers and buyers of stores think, “Well, these are fat clothes, so it doesn’t matter if they look good or not.” I mean, who decided that huge, fluorescent polyester floral prints¬†look good (on ANYBODY)?? Who in their right mind would want to buy¬†clothes that are cut like¬†tents? Just because I’m fat does not mean that I don’t have a figure – I do, and it’s hourglass shaped, thank-you very much. I have beautiful curves that I WANT to show off – just because the way I look doesn’t fit society’s ideal of what a woman should be does not mean that I or any other large person should¬†be delegated to the “crap” section.

Frankly, it is *absolutely* possible to make the same styles and shape of clothes look good in larger sizes. Shopko does it (Please, PLEASE, **PLEASE** come back to Colorado!!) Coldwater Creek does it (and if they’d add some more of their dresses to that line, I would buy them). Talbots Women does it. Kudos to these places that make larger women feel pretty, good, and desired, just as they are.¬†There are a number of places that prove it’s possible. Frankly, I don’t even mind paying a *little* more; I understand that more fabric is required. I’m reasonable. There are also many, many places that offer one stylish line for “regular” sizes and one fugly line for plus-size – I won’t mention names, but those of you who have had to shop for decent plus-size clothes know exactly who I’m talking about.

And forget trying to find a decent bathing suit, or lingerie. Blech! Land’s End has beautiful bathing suits in a large variety of sizes (thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!) Cacique specializes in lingerie for plus-sizes. The rest of you – GET WITH IT!! You don’t really think that all plus-size women are celibate, do you? Hello?? Don’t even get me started on trying to find plus-size maternity clothes – Motherhood Maternity has a few, JC Penney’s has some and that’s pretty much it. And nursing wear is literally nonexistent, except for a few sets of pajamas. Folks, fat women have sex, and fat women have babies – yes, we enjoy life as much as anyone else. Do you know why most large women work out in baggy sweats? Because it’s next to impossible to find good quality, comfortable, workout clothes in our sizes!

To all retailers: PLEASE!! The average size of women in the US is a 14 – do you REALLY want to lose that much business? Yes, most of us would love to be thinner – some of us even die trying. And yet, some of us, believe it or not, work to be healthy and can actually accept ourselves and (GASP!) love ourselves as we are.

We are tired of being told we’re not good enough, that we’re lazy, that we’re ugly, that we stink, and that we’re not worthy. We’re tired of having very little choice in finding nice clothes, bathing suits, and lingerie. We’re tired of hearing “You’d be so pretty if only…” (We’re pretty just as we are, thank-you very much.)¬†We’re tired of being around thin friends who complain about how fat they are…trust me, you’re not fat, and I’m not here to make you feel better about yourself. We’re tired of being forced to justify our very presence in a world that despises and hates us. (How do you think we feel when we hear people say, “I’d rather die than be fat!” Then again, the people saying these things probably don’t care what we feel, because to them, we’re worth less than than the caca they flush away.)

Guess what world? We’re here, we always will be here, and we aren’t going away. And you know what? I like who I am, and I’m learning to “love the skin I’m in.”

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror