family

Who Am I?

I. A daughter

I was born to walk the middle ground, the first child of type A and type B
[and what does that make me?]
Constantly stuck between too small and too tall,
Talks too little, reads too much, sings too loud,
Hips too big, mouth too small,
Needs too little, wants too much, dreams too big.
I am a combination of everyone I’ve ever known,
But mostly I am too much like my mother,
And too much like my father,
[and too torn between the two people I am to really know who to be.]

II. A sister

I had bite marks on my back and my arm in a sling
Because that’s what it means to have your thunder stolen
When your parents decide to procreate again.
[I guess it also means feeling important,
Because someone looks up to you so much
That it makes you want to be better than you would be for yourself.]
And I would have laughed if you said someday I’d be proud
To have him for a best friend,
But the first time he asked for my advice
[because he thought I was wise]
I thought maybe the bite marks were worth it.

III. A friend

I learned more about friendship from the people who didn’t stick around
Than from the ones that did,
Because I learned when to hold on
And when to let go.

IV. A scholar

I’ve been taught to question everything.
[“Don’t be so gullible, Gwen,”
I hear as I fall for another stupid joke.
“Don’t believe anything you can’t prove.”]
I go to class and they tell me,
“Think critically, Gwen. Pick it apart. Find the truth.”
But I don’t think there’s just one truth.
I think sometimes the truth is that you don’t have to question everything.
[my professors disagree.]

V. A writer

My fingers bleed a lot because I pick the skin,
My brain bleeds words because, because?
[because it’s the only way I know how to feel.]

VI. A survivor

Once I thought that to be happy,
My bones had to poke out of my skin,
And my worth as a person was dictated by a number
On a scale
[or the label of my jeans.]
But when I stopped chasing perfection,
I found someone wonderful,
[Daughter, sister, friend
Scholar, writer, survivor]
I found me.

 

Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge. I don’t usually write poetry.

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And On The Thirtieth Day…

Well, folks, I did it.

As soon as I hit publish on this post, I will have officially blogged every day of November. And that’s pretty high on my list of things I never thought were possible.

I would like to thank the community at yeah, write! especially my wonderful rowmies Susannah, E., Michelle, and Sam. I was a terrible rowmie caught up in my own little world, but even though I didn’t comment on your posts, I always, always read them, and they were wonderful. I’d also like to thank team Nano Poblano, with a special shoutout to Rarasaur for organizing a fabulous group effort. It was amazing how many Poblanos got freshly pressed this month, and it just goes to show that writing every day really does improve your craft.

Honestly, I’m glad this month is over. Blogging every day was fun, but it may or may not have contributed to a few slight dips in my GPA. Or maybe more than a few. Also, I felt like a lot of the stuff I published this month was of lower quality than I’m used to publishing, which is kind of hard to stomach for a perfectionist. I think I like writing better pieces less often. But you know what? I’m glad I participated in my first NaBloPoMo. And even though it killed me…I might even do it again.

Now, if you all will excuse me, I’m going back to a ridiculous photoshoot with my four-year-old cousin. Because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Thanks for the Memories

This Thanksgiving, I am surrounded by family – doting grandparents, fabulous aunt and uncle, adorable tiny cousins. Sure, I’m sad that I’m not with my parents or my brother this year, but if I had to be stuck anywhere else, I’m glad it’s here.

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Oh, and you know who ISN’T at the Thanksgiving table this year?

My eating disorder.

Feels pretty damn amazing.

Recovery Self-Check: Writing Edition

Today I’m going to share my favorite writing prompt from treatment. It’s supposed to be a way of affirming your recovery process by honoring small victories; marking even the smallest changes as signs that you’re moving forward. I think I did this about once a month while I was there and it changed DRASTICALLY every time. I’m doing this for me, but who knows? Maybe it will inspire someone else, too.

  1. Lately, I’ve been more willing to…
  2. Something I see differently now is…
  3. …had a powerful effect on me.
  4. One of the ways I’m changing is…
  5. It is getting easier for me…
  6. I realize I can choose…
  7. A year from now I…
  8. I am grateful for…

Lately, I’ve been more willing to question my own beliefs. It’s atrociously difficult and feels awful 99% of the time, but the only way I’m ever going to change the way I think is by admitting that maybe some of the core beliefs I hold most dear, well, might be wrong. That’s a really hard thing to accept. But at least I’m letting myself listen to some of the arguments on the other side. Baby steps.

Something I see differently now is my perfectionism. I used to think that was what made me special – that I was always supposed to be great at everything I did. But I’m really starting to see all the ways it robbed me of my time, my happiness, and my health. I cannot and will not sacrifice anything else for the sake of some lofty, unattainable goal.

My family had, has, and will continue to have a powerful effect on me. I am a seriously lucky girl. I mean, I’m not exactly the world’s easiest child, but my parents have been nothing but loving, generous, and supportive. Plus I won the little brother lottery. I’m pretty sure family can’t get any better than mine.

One of the ways I’m changing is in regard to my relationship with money. I’ve always been a very frugal person, and spending, no matter what for, has always given me huge amounts of anxiety. Slowly, I’m teaching myself that there are things worth investing in; worth spending money on. Like my health and happiness. And I deserve to have those things, even if it means my account balance is a little bit lower.

It is getting easier for me to admit when I can’t do something on my own. Knowing that I need help may not be quite as effective as actually asking for it, but I will never be able to ask if I can’t recognize the times when I need it most. Again, baby steps.

I realize I can choose what matters to me. I’ve spent so much of my life basing my self-worth on other people’s standards, and that’s not fair to me. While there is no way of escaping the flood of expectations placed on me by the media or my professors or anyone else, there is a way to stop myself from drowning in it: by deciding what is really important, and ignoring the rest as best I can. How? Eh…I’ll get back to you on that one.

A year from now I will be strong. There’s no way to know where I’ll be next November – still in school, back at home, somewhere exotic, who knows? – but I am positive that wherever I am, I’ll be hauling ass and taking names. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in the past year, it’s that I am a fighter. And nothing can keep me down long enough to break me. HA!

I am grateful for my life. I am grateful that no matter how many horrible things I’ve done to my body, my heart still beats and my legs still walk and my brain still dreams. Every day is a gift, and I’m grateful for all of them.

10 of the Happiest Moments I’ve Ever Had

10. My car broke down on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, while I was driving two of my best friends to get Thai food. We waited for the tow truck and hiked almost a mile back to camp, where we broke into the snack bar and ate Reese’s pieces on top of the boathouse as we watched the sun set over the lake.

9. I left the senior banquet early with a few friends. Since we were restless and not ready to go home, we parked the car quietly by the side of a pond – and as soon as the coast was clear, we wriggled out of our dresses and dove in, floating in the cool water and feeling the glow of the perfect crescent moon.

8. My cousin Nathan was only a day old, wrapped tightly in blankets and stubbornly refusing to open his eyes. Feeling his tiny body in my arms was the most terrifying, amazing, and beautiful experience I have ever had.

7. The first time I ever took a bow by myself, an orchestral medley echoed in the background, and my eyes brimmed with tears as I saw an entire row of audience members rise to their feet.

6. We laid on the floor of the Jones Great Room, our heads creating a circle of shadow on the dimly lit planks beneath us. In a single moment we all understood how important we were to each other, and our performance the next night was so unified that even the group ended in tears.

5. My best friend and I gallivanted energetically through the woods behind her house, caring little about the nicks and scrapes that covered our skinny adolescent legs. When we returned from our adventure, we stuck Band-Aids all over ourselves and laughed until we couldn’t breathe.

4. I got back to staff house at 7:32 am with a soaked shirt and swollen red fingers. But all I felt was euphoria, because for the first time in my life, I’d finished a 6.2 mile run without stopping.

3. The night I graduated from high school, I opened the time capsule I’d put together with my little fourth grade hands only to discover that I had been convinced at the time that I was going to join the army. I joined my entire extended family in poking fun at my past dreams and giggling like children until our stomachs ached and our faces were stretched with joy.

2. On my birthday, my best friend told me that my recovery inspired her to seek out her own.

1. Every time I write a snippet for this blog, every time I get to put thoughts and ideas into words, I fall in love again. Instead of hating myself, I love something. Over and over again. Forever.

Daily Prompt: Unconventional Love

In my life, I’ve loved a lot of people. I’ve also been lucky enough to be loved by a lot of people.

What is a conventional love story? Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, boy and girl live happily ever after? That’s certainly the story that 98% of romantic comedies teach us. Either that or one of them dies at the end (although generally those movies are less comedic).

I’ve never had a love story like that. I’ve never had that kind of love at all. Unless “spineless girl pines for boy she’ll never speak to” is a fashionable new branch of romance.

A great deal of my time has been spent wallowing in the woes of my sad, sad love life. I feel as though that’s a pretty normal rom-com “girl” thing to do. I mean, Drew Barrymore did it in Never Been Kissed, and then she got Michael Vartan in the end, which is a spectacular end to an almost comically depressing story. But is that really conventional? No, she was a journalist masquerading as a high school student who ended up falling in love with her teacher – not exactly the most banal of circumstances. Even our “conventional” love stories are still pretty atypical. You want to know why? Because conventional love stories are boring. My parents, for example, met in a textile engineering graduate program, fell in love, and got married. I don’t see anybody making a movie about that. I mean, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t watch it even if they did. It sounds like it would include a lot of science, which I’m not very good at, nor do I particularly enjoy. But that’s not the point. The point is that the love stories we hear about on the news and watch on TV are all unconventional. That’s why they’re so beautiful and fascinating. That’s why people pay attention.

Unconventional love seems exciting. I’ll admit that it would be a pretty incredible story if I were dying of cancer and became romantically involved with my oncologist, or if I fell in love with the subject of my magazine article while trying to scare him away from me (I’m looking at you, Kate Hudson).

But those stories also kind of suck. I mean, for one, I don’t want to get cancer. That seems like a pretty big downer, and I don’t think I could seduce anybody if I were bald because my head is very oddly shaped. But even in Never Been Kissed, Josie had a seriously horrific high school career. I loved high school, and I would not choose to go through that even if I knew I’d get Michael Vartan at the end (although I might seriously consider it for like a second because that man is insanely attractive). Somehow, the situations are always dramatic, scary, or sad, even if they’re downplayed in a sort of comedic way.

So maybe I wouldn’t watch a movie about my parents’ relationship. But I would choose a love like that over a lifetime with Matthew McConaghey’s rock hard abs. Not everything about them is conventional, obviously, because nothing is ever exactly the same in any two relationships. But while my parents have been married for almost 26 years, nobody bothers showing you what happens after the couple makes out for awhile and the credits roll. Give me convention. Give me stability. Give me unconditional, unwavering love. No games, no unrealistically witty banter, no unethical situations. I mean, I guess if it turns out that way, so be it. I like a good story as much as anyone, especially since I would love to write about it. But I don’t care if there isn’t some wacky situation or overdramatic proposal. Just give me real, 24-karat, genuine love. And I’ll be beyond happy with that.

Ma mère, l’enigme

Chaque jour elle est là. Les yeux compatissants, les mots gentils comme une berceuse, elle me réveille gracieusement, lentement. On peut sentir des crêpes sur la cuisinière, préparées par ses mains méticuleuses, prêtes à être mangées par les enfants somnolents. Cela montre vraiment le caractère de ma mère, elle pense toujours à tous les autres, rarement à elle-même.

Elle passe trop de temps dans la cuisine, le centre de sa vie, sa charpente longue courbée en haut de la cuisinière ou ses nombreux calendriers, organisant chaque aspect de son monde. Les murs sont couverts par ses notes, les gribouillages frénétiques, les mots qui décrivent la plupart de sa journée. Il faut être stressé pour être productif, c’est le refrain qui dicte son attitude.

En regardant ma belle mère je me vois moi-même, les yeux bleus orageux, la peau d’ivoire saupoudrée par les taches de rousseur claires comme le sable. Et je vois qu’elle englobe tout ce qui est possible pour moi, tout ce que je peux devenir. Ses journées sont pleines de listes, de recettes, de balades en voiture ; bien sûr je sais qu’il faut faire beaucoup d’effort pour arracher de l’information à mon jeune frère, mais ma mère comprend l’importance d’une loyauté féroce, incomparable, incroyable, stable comme un tambour. Ça, c’est ce que je veux hériter.

Je trouve une liste détaillée, collée sur mon napperon, quand je m’assieds pour prendre le petit déjeuner. Et ma mère est là, un bras faisant sauter une crêpe, l’autre avec un stylo, se parlant à elle-même, n’arrêtant jamais pour penser à sa faim, et elle me servit des crêpes avec un sourire et un amour large comme la mer.

10 Reasons My Brother is the Greatest Person on the Planet

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In case any of you readers are unaware, I have a little brother. Well, he’s not quite so little anymore. In fact, he’s a 6’7″, 18-year-old high school senior, so calling him “little” is probably the inaccuracy of the century. But taking that and the title of this post with a grain of salt, here are ten reasons why it is my completely objective, totally unbiased opinion that he should rule the world.

10.He doesn’t get stressed out. About anything. He might have this insanely important test the next morning, and he’ll just be like, “well, I studied enough and I’m tired, so let me just play video games for a while and then go to bed.” AND THEN HE’LL GET 100% ON THE TEST. In a similar situation, I would probably (and actually, I have done this) stay up until the wee hours of the morning rereading my notes a thousand times and making hundreds of flashcards and then be too stressed to actually fall asleep and sometimes end up making myself sick. And even if I got 100% on the test, I would be in terrible physical and mental shape. My brother? Nope, it’s just a day in the life for him. I mean, he definitely works hard to be the great person he is, he just doesn’t tear himself to shreds while doing it. I respect that.

9. He’s going to college for lighting design because, well, that’s what he loves, and it’s what he’s good at, so he’s going for it. I think it’s really awesome that he knows what he wants and he’s willing to work for it. Most 18-year-old boys have no idea what they want to do with their life when they go to college and they come out with nothing but debt and beer bellies. Okay, maybe that’s a gross generalization, but the point is that my brother is way ahead of the curve here, and it’s going to bring him huge success.

8. Speaking of lighting design, did I mention he is almost completely self-taught? Typical, right, leave a kid alone with a giant confusing lighting board and he’ll come away so good that he gets into every collegiate program he applies to. One of the program directors who interviewed him said his was the best portfolio he saw all year, and I bet all the other kids had teachers. I guess nobody needs to mentor a prodigy.

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7. He has never punched anyone in the face. If EVERY SINGLE PERSON I ever met said the SAME THING to me (“Wow, man, you’re really tall!”) I would be handing out some serious shiners. And he gets even more bonus points for always remaining polite when answering the question, “Do you play basketball?”
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6. More specifically, he has never punched ME in the face. If I were him, I would hate me. I mean, I’m REALLY annoying. I think we were born in the wrong order (isn’t the younger sibling supposed to be the annoying one?), although maybe it’s a maturity thing since I’m pretty sure I never mentally developed past the age of 13. Anyway, I appreciate that I have never been the victim of physical violence at his hands because he could probably break me in half.
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5. He introduced me to Snapchat.
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4. He’s remarkably unselfish for a teenager. I say “for a teenager” because all teenagers have some degree of obnoxious self-interest, and he’s no exception. But in general, he’s not materialistic and he cares about other people. Sure, sometimes it seems like he’s obsessed with his Xbox and his phone, but if you really think about it, the Xbox is his friend group’s communication hub and the phone is his lifeline to his girlfriend, so it’s really the people that he’s attached to, not the technology. Alright, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch. But he really does value the humans he lets into his life. I promise.
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3. He is LOADED. I mean, SERIOUSLY loaded. I know that’s not exactly a personality trait, but I think it’s very impressive that he understands the value of saving money, especially at the age of 18. When I was 18, most of the guys I knew spent all their money on weed. I feel as though he will be very good at budgeting as an adult. Which is good because when I’m broke and starving and homeless, he might be able to spare a couple of dollars for me.
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2. He doesn’t half-ass anything. Whether it’s beating a video game, designing lights for a show, or having a girlfriend, he always gives 110% of himself to whatever he’s doing. His goals and responsibilities and promises really mean something to him, and he doesn’t mess around. That’s seriously one of the best qualities a person can have.
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1. He is my best friend. I know I can always count on him when I’m in a tough spot, and he’s one of the few people in the world that I can always be completely honest with. He has no choice but to pretend to love me for who I am, but he does it so gracefully I almost believe him. 🙂 Not everybody gets so lucky when the cards deal them a brother, and I will be forever grateful that I got such a good one.
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