My writerly weekend & being open to ‘the shimmer’

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My favorite weekends are my lazy ones, the ones with nothing on the schedule, when two days stretch ahead of me to play with as I like. And this past weekend? It was the epitome of that kind of lazy.

This weekend, I wrote. A lot. I recently finished a manuscript, and I’m in that phase of “I’m trying to throw this out in the world. I have very low expectations, but the process is neat, anyway.”

But now that that’s written and edited and ready for whatever it’s ready for, I wanted to start work on something new. I had four or five project ideas bouncing around, and I couldn’t decide what to write next.

“Google it,” my husband said.

So I Googled, “What writing project should I work on next?” This article was the first result. Step 3, “Kill the wrong ideas,” helped me kill one of my four ideas:

Can you write this story? It’s okay if you’re not quite good enough. It’s good to challenge yourself. But if you’re not even close to good enough, you might want to pick a project of smaller scope.

I can’t write one of my ideas. It’s something I’ve started, but I have so many “COME BACK TO THIS” holes, and when I last picked up the piece, I’d come to yet another “COME BACK TO THIS” hole–but this one left me especially clueless. The other holes, I could fill in after some research or an interview or two. This one … this one required a ridiculously creative and innovative idea that I just can’t fix. I will, at some point, I figure it out. As I continue to write and to grow as a writer, I’ll figure it out. But I’m not there yet.

Then I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk from 2009 that introduces some ideas she further explores in “Big Magic,” and it’s all about listening for what wants to be written. I crossed off another idea and, with Gilbert’s ideas still in my head, I pulled some writing books off my shelves to see what else helped.

I nixed another memoir idea because, frankly, I’m not ready to write it yet. The feelings are too fresh, and it’s hard to do your best writing when emotions are that raw. The illogical takes over.

And then, suddenly, there I was. One idea left. It’s the same idea my husband told me to work on, the same one my friend–that one who has become my writing spirit guide–was like, “OMG WRITE THIS” long before she even knew it was something I’d been thinking about for years.

I’m not much into mystical, magical stuff. But it is really dang amazing to sit back and ask, “I wonder?” and find such a swift and sure answer. And then to find assurances over and over that your decision was the right one.

So I started writing, and I spat out 15,000 words in a weekend. I’m a fast writer–thank you, journalism–but that is obscene. Dani Shapiro calls it a shimmer in “Still Writing,” when you just get in the zone and it just pours out of you, and you better ride the wave because that never happens, but when it does, it’s just glorious.

I’m rereading “Still Writing,” by the way, which I first picked up in February 2015. This time, though, I’m reading it with a pen at my side, underling passages that speak to me, starring or adding small initials or notes next to bits that seem most important. One section I underlined detailed those events in our lives that shock our system. They move the earth for us, and we are never the same. This shock, it’s one of the ideas at the core of my current, new project.

Through Goodreads, I discovered that I’d reviewed “Still Writing” on this blog the first time I read it. (Do you remember what you blogged about two-plus years ago? I sooooo don’t.)

In that review? I discuss the very same passage. And I make reference to the very same instance in my past … and the idea that I need to write about it. So apparently, this idea is more than two years in the making. It might have started back when I was 18. From the post:

One (idea) in particular has woven itself among the folds of my brain and won’t rest until I tackle it: Shapiro writes that there are events in our lives that change us. They move the earth for us, and we are not the same. Write about that terrible shock. I’ve never written about mine. I feel almost silly admitting what it is; I was so young and bright-eyed and naive. I didn’t know any better. But I’m excited to get myself back inside my 18-year-old head and get it down.

God, writing stuff is fun.

An office change for a bit of revitalization

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This week, I switched offices at work. It sounds like a tiny thing, even an annoying thing, but it was wonderful.

I’m someone who thrives on change, who looks forward to new things. Getting a new job is more exciting to me than scary. I don’t hate moving (packing is another story …) One of my biggest worries about “growing up,” about graduating college, was the utter sameness I had to look forward to day in, day out. No longer would my days change every academic year, with new classes in new classrooms, new peers and teachers, new positions on the campus media outlets I always worked for.

Click on image for more.

I’ve been in my job for four years, and I’m not sick of it yet. And yet, the new space did something to kickstart some kind of deep-seeded happiness for me. It’s not the kind of happy I wear in a smile or that comes out as I hop up and down. It’s more an inner joy, some kind of “Things are right” feeling.

Plus, my previous office was not me. I never took the time to really bring my own things for the walls. I didn’t have too many photos. And it was the ugliest color–light tan on three walls, a dark melon on the fourth.

I snapped this right after IT set up my computers. WINDOW.

My new office is half the size of my previous office–which is fine, I don’t require a lot of space–and IT HAS A WINDOW. Which is basically the greatest thing on the planet (it’s the little things …) I immediately brought more things to decorate the office: lamps, so I wouldn’t need to rely on awful overhead lights (honestly, that’s 1/2 the reason I’ve been feeling so good lately, I know it); my degree and some awards I’ve won; a memory board; a framed Donald Duck puzzle my best friend put together for me years ago.

Near my monitors and around my desk, tiny figures greet me: Tyrion Lannister, Gus Fringe, a Donald Duck bobble head, two minions, Snow White, a skull paper weight my brother painted. These toys moved from my last office, too, but they somehow look better here. The rest of the office is more me, so these guys fit a little better, too.

Plus, moving made me throw out more than half my crap. I don’t refer to files very often, and as I packed up my previous space, I recycled three binfuls of paper. This space is much more sparse, and it’s neat. Guys, I am not a tidy person. It’s not not who I am. But this space, it’s tidy. Makes it seem more open, somehow, more calming, if that’s even possible.

Are you someone who thrives on change? Or does it make you nervous? What sorts of things do you do to your work space so it can bring you joy?

 

A return to yoga?

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In early 2015, I tried out yoga for the very first time. Despite a brain fart that almost made me pass out, I got hooked quickly.

My original intent was to use the practice for stress relief, and it worked brilliantly. There is a studio around the corner from where I work and a class that starts 30 minutes after quittin’ time. There was truly no reason to not participate.

Until there was: I kept frickin’ hurting myself.

Now, lest you think I’m one of those crazies who’s an upside-down and backwards face-spinning in a unitard kind of yogi. I’m not. My biggest goal was a relatively passive pose–side plank–so it’s not like I hurt myself trying something crazy; I hurt myself doing something that you do A LOT of in yoga: arching your back.

I have a crazy bum back that I have legit pulled eating a blueberry muffin (seriously), and some of the stretches that felt fine at the time resulted in an inability to get out of bed the next morning. I could NOT turn my head, couldn’t sit up. When this happens, I have to slither out of bed, sliding my legs off the side of the (very tall)  mattress in an effort to stand while my husband attempts to wrap his arms around my torso while I scream like this.

And it takes forever to fully heal. Months. So after doing that twice in four months in yoga … I stopped going for a bit. I figured I needed to fully heal, which I thought might take more than I was allowing, and also: I was scared.

Fast forward to this year. My work has this delightful health and wellness initiative that brought an instructor from my former yoga studio to campus occasionally, and I stopped in to one of the classes.

It. Was. Delightful.

Then I read Glennon Doyle Melton’s “Love Warrior,” and her experience with yoga was such a freeing, positive one. And I remembered how much stress release the practice brought me, and I wondered if picking it back up might not help some fear and worry I’ve been harboring about a current project. AND the studio sent me a free class in April for my birthday. So yeah, I listened.

I popped in yesterday after work, further enticed by the instructor teaching the class, who is particularly gentle, who is particularly focused on proper alignment and breathing.

This, I can handle.

This, I cannot.

After I set up my mat, as I stretched before class, my eyes traveled over the new words on the chalkboard wall. Right in front of me, toward the top, were the words

If you can’t beat fear, just do it scared.

I swear, I felt my worry about my personal project float away.

As class started, I wondered if I would have to relearn all that I’d forgotten over the last two years, but my body remembered more than my mind did. When the instructor had us all go side plank, I could still do it properly, without dropping my top foot to balance. Huh.

The hour passed by in a moment, and I got home feeling giddy.

“Is this that lie people talk about? Getting all happy after they exercise?” I asked my husband when I got home.

“It’s a runner’s high,” he said.

“Stop lying. No one gets happy after running. But this is great.”

I’m going to try my hardest to refrain from too much that bends me backwards more than a few degrees. I’m going to try my hardest to take it easy, to remember that, for me, yoga is about the stress relief. It’s about my mind emptying, about not having to think for myself for an hour and listening to the instructor, about spending my efforts breathing in sync with my movements.

Namaste, baby.

 

Who’s the murderer/murdered in ‘Big Little Lies’???

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Note: I have not read the book “Big Little Lies.” If you have, please don’t comment with any spoilers. No buttheads allowed here at Curious Jac.

Girl, I am HOOKED on “Big Little Lies.” After the first episode, I wasn’t so sure–would I really like a television show all about catty moms and their stupid kids?

Um … YES. As I explained to my husband, motherhood is to “Big Little Lies” as zombies are to “The Walking Dead.” It’s the vehicle through which the story is told, but the whole reason it works is because of well-formed, fascinating, complicated, flawed, beautiful characters and plot development. Motherhood and zombies are the catalyst through which damn incredible stories can be told.

I want to throw my guesses into the “What the hell’s going to happen at the fundraiser?” ring as we prepare for the final epsidoe. As I mentioned in the note above, I have not read the books, so these are purely guesses. If you have also not read the book, feel free to throw down your murderer/murdered thoughts in the comments.

These theories are in no particular order of likelihood. However …

  1. In this list of theories, this is the only thing I feel relatively confident about: The twins are Amabella’s abusers. When she ID’d Ziggy in the first episode as the strangler, he stood right next to the twins. And though Celeste is so damn certain that her sons have never witnessed abuse in their house, I’m not as sure. I think they saw Perry abuse Celeste then decided to try it out on Amabella. Maybe they have a crush on her and think that’s how you say “I love you.”
  2. Sorry, this was just my absolutely favorite scene

    Once this revelation comes to light, I think it would make a Celeste kills Perry or Perry kills Celeste murder pretty easy. It seems like the victim died by being pushed, so it’s entirely possible the murder is an accident. The twins are outed as the bully, the couple gets into a tussle, one shoves the other, and bye bye.

  3. I feel like there’s a 50/50 shot of Ziggy’s dad being a fellow on the show. The obvious choice is Perry is Ziggy’s dad: He’s out of town all the time, we know he likes things rough, he has that same corporate look as Saxton Banks, and he and Jane have never met. And if this comes out, I completely buy that Jane would kill Perry. Or Jane AND Celeste would kill Perry. Or he would gain the upper hand, and Perry would kill Jane, which would be most tragic, as Ziggy is the only kid on the show with only one parent. Plus, they keep showing flashbacks to Jane running in the sand after the rape; is it possible some of those scenes are actually from the night of the fundraiser? After she kills someone?
  4. The less obvious choice? Ed is Ziggy’s dad. A friend brought up this possibility, and I first dismissed it as being totally ridiculous. He regularly calls Madeline his dream girl, and he’s just so passive. But then I thought about his critique of their sex life as being lukewarm. He and Jane have never met. And it would certainly be more surprising than Perry being the father.

    Madeline is my favorite character in the show. She -should- seem catty and unlikable, but she’s somehow so warm and sweet and hilarious and vulnerable. Not sure another actress could have pulled that off. Also, how much do I love the Elle Woods nod in her fabulous pink dress?

  5. Plus, of all my theories, my favorite one is that Ed kills Madeline, or Madeline kills Ed. I first got a creepy feeling about Ed when Abigail’s condoms fell out of her bag, like he knew what was up. Like … maybe they were for him? Has Ed abused Abigail? Is that why she wants to move out? Later in the episode, she comes down the stairs and sees Ed and her mom embracing. She doesn’t look very happy about it. We also see Ed leering at Bonnie during yoga. And if Ed finds out about Madeline’s affair, there would be plenty of fodder for a fight resulting in an accidental death.

I frankly don’t see how all this can get wrapped up in one more episode, but I am ready for a packed hour of goodness.

(And because I’m a 14-year-old when it comes to Buzzfeed quizzes, I’m Jane & I would murder Ed.)

It’s official: I (& you!) can use ‘they’ as singular

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Hi, my name is Jaclyn, and I’m addicted to proper grammar. It started in the third grade, when Mrs. Murphy first introduced me to sentence structure, to subject/verb agreement, to the importance of commas.

Click the pic for more.

Every lesson that went into my head found a permanent home. I have as shitty of a memory as you’re likely to find outside of an Alzheimer’s patient, but dammit, I can explain the reasoning for every punctuation mark in this god-forsaken sentence. And I’ve been able to do that since I was, like, 8. (Shut your hole. Beginning a sentence with a conjunction is fine. We don’t speak Latin anymore. Stop it.)

One of those rules that has set up shop in my brain, one that hasn’t wanted to move, one I haven’t wanted to evict, is assuring singular nouns take singular pronouns:

Bad: “Everyone raised their hands.”
Better: “Everyone raised his or her hand.”
Best: “They raised their hands.”

A year or two ago, I took my first Safe Zone training. (I work at a community college, and by receiving the training, my office is a designated Safe Zone. It tells students “Hey, I’ve taken some LGBTQ awareness workshops. I’m totally NOT a therapist, but if you’re feeling bullied or just need a place to go to feel safe, step right in, my friend.”) One of the topics discussed: people who identify as trans (they were born a female but identify as a male, or vice versa) or non-binary (they don’t identify as a man or a woman, or they ID as both, or something else). (Yes, it’s confusing. I’m comparatively knowledgeable about the topic, but I still had a friend review this and she fixed some things. So don’t feel badly if this sounds unfamiliar.)

The placards outside my office door. Safe Space and Safe Zone are similar workshops.

That makes referring to people in these groups as “he” or “she” tricky at best and incorrect at worst. One way to avoid this, says Safe Zone training, is to use the genderless pronoun “they,” even in the singular sense. For example: “Cory said they were hungry,” where “they” is referencing just Cory, not Cory and their friends.

This was SO DAMN HARD for me to get my mind around. Making sure you’re not being an ass definitely trumps grammar rules, forever and always, but this rule is VERY cemented in my head, and I’ll basically do anything I can to avoid it. Because not only do grade school grammar rules live in my brain, but the AP Style guide is something like my Bible.

I first learned AP Style in high school, when I worked on the high school newspaper. It’s the universally accepted style for professional journalists and covers things like “What U.S. and world cities require a state or country to accompany them?” versus “Which cities are so well-known, you can run with them solo?” (It’s like, I can say “I’m going to Los Angeles” because you know it’s in California, but I can’t say “I’m going to Springfield” because there are 38 spots in the United States I could mean. Five are in Wisconsin alone. WTF, Wisconsin?)

Thanks, Google.

But lo and behold … My Bible is rewriting itself. According to the American Copy Editors Society (yes, this exists; no, I’m not a member; yes, I’m kind of sad about that), AP updated its rules on the singular “they.”

Old entry for their, there, they’re:

Their is a plural possessive pronoun and must agree in number with the antecedent. Wrong: Everyone raised their hands. Right: They raised their hands. See every one, everyone for the pronoun that takes singular verbs and pronouns.

New entry:

In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.

Why does this matter to you? Well, if you’re not a grammar freak and you are cisgendered*, it may very well not matter to you. But if you think the Oxford comma makes for interesting talk over drinks or if you are trans or non-binary, this is pretty huge.

And it makes my grammar-happy heart–which also wants to make sure it’s respectful of all people–light up like a Care Bear belly.

*”Cisgendered” was one of the new-to-me bits of vocab from Safe Zone training. It just means your sex matches with your gender: You’re a female who IDs as a woman or a male who IDs as a man. It’s the opposite of trans.

 

Turning to books to fill the holes in my knowledge

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Mostly, I consider myself pretty well-read. I’ve continually had a book, with a bookmark in it, since I was in the first or second grade. I slowed down a little in high school and college because homework, but let’s be real–I haven’t not been reading a novel since I was like 8.

And yet, I am always, constantly, consistently floored by how poorly read I am. There is so much good stuff, so much important stuff that is missing from my “read” list, in part because it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and when your favorite author has penned “at least 98” books, it’s really easy to read just him.

Thanks, Google.

Long ago, I made a rule that I wasn’t allowed to read more than one Stephen King book in a row, and as a result, I am NOT through my favorite author’s oeuvre. Which is great. I keep all my King books on their own shelf, and I keep my books-to-read on their own shelf. And by “shelf” I mean “separate book cabinet that is overflowing because I have a book-buying problem that I don’t ever want to solve.”

My last four reads

But that’s not to say I fill in the non-King spaces with good, quality literature. I primarily read to be entertained. Now that I’ve taken a stab at writing my own books, I especially appreciate a perfectly drawn phrase, a perfectly worded graph–which tends to point me toward “good” books. But not always: Aside from King, I favor memoirs and, lately, women’s fiction. And it’s easy for my books to be a little … well … white-washed. Lots of characters that resemble me–physically, personally, socioeconomically. Most of what I read was written in this millennium.

There’s something to be said for making a conscience effort to dip into literature that is new, that is unlike me, that doesn’t feel familiar or slip right on like a favorite pair of fuzzy socks: Simply put, it makes us look at things difference, to consider them in a new way.

A few years back, a friend gave me an, as she called it, Clit Lit curriculum, covering  women’s books through the decades starting in the 1950s. I read

  1. The Best of Everything,” by Rona Jaffe (1958)
  2. Valley of the Dolls,” by Jacqueline Susann (1966)
  3. Hollywood Wives,” by Jackie Collins (1983)
    (I apparently missed the ’70s novel? What the heck.)

I was a fascinating look into what was important to women in those years, into how they were treated in the work place and by men.

This year, I’ve been on a race kick, seeking out books about black characters and/or by black authors:

It’s not enough, I know, to submerge myself in mid-century feminism or black literature for a month in a half and say “Look how much I’ve learned!!” It’s not about that. It’s about identifying what’s missing for me–in my education, in my reading list, in my experience–and trying to fix that. These aren’t permanent fixes; reading a couple books isn’t going to make someone any more than a novice in women’s lib or the black experience. But I think it helps.

I often think about that study that came out a few years back that found reading literature can make us more empathetic. (The excerpt below is from Time.)

… (I)ndividuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels.

Oh, sure, it’s not a cure for ignorance, but it gets me to stop and think about something I might not have considered before. That can’t be a bad thing.

I’m currently reading something a little lighter, a palate cleanser, but I’d love to know what you read when you need something meaty. Smart. Something to make you see things differently.

I think I like the choker necklace trend, especially because it was Grandma Clela’s

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I’m wearing a choker today.

I think I like it. I think I’m OK with it. But it’s a trend I never thought I’d get behind.

When they were popular in the ’90s, I was a solid “WTH, those are hideous, stop it.” When they came back this season, my tune had not changed.

But then my friend Jackie rocked one on Instagram, and it looked so beautiful, and I said … MaaaaybeThen she did it again, and I said, OK, fine.

My husband’s grandmother passed away a few months after I met him, and when his grandfather passed away this summer, when it came time to sell their house, a box of his grandmother’s costume jewelry made it to my in-laws’. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, nieces, and I all went through it. I spied a choker, gold, that no one else wanted and thought, Well, even if this fails, it was Grandma Clela’s.

I deigned to wear it today. Seemed to go with the wide neck on my navy dress and pulled back hair. I love wearing vintage jewelry and thinking about the last time it made an appearance. When did Grandma Clela (that name kills me … Clela) last wear it? Did she party? Go out with friends? Did her man take her on a hot date? (I wish my inaugural wearing of it was something more exciting than, “Um, I went to work.”)

Be nice to me, my selfie game sucks ass. I’m mostly OK with that, as I’m not 23, but ugh.

I think I like it. I wondered if it’d get uncomfortable–I’m more of a tiny charm on an 18-inch chain necklace wearer, the kind of necklace that you put on and promptly forget about. But you can’t forget about a choker–it’s too close to the skin. I feel it each time I turn my neck or even when I just sit there. But it doesn’t irritate me. And I feel like it might be making me keep my head up, my neck straight.

I’m pretty open about trying new trends, even if I don’t love them at first (obviously). I figure, if I fail, it’s only a day, who cares? But I might be officially on this train.

Anyone else riding with me? Any other trends you’re on-the-fence about?

(Just for funsies, I hopped on Claires.com to see what chokers they had, because duh, and the entire site is buy one, get one free. I like these two. I also snooped around on Etsy and OMG look at this Harry Potter snitch one. My iries have turned into tiny hearts. Actually, if you’re interested, look around that shop–there are a bunch of amazing styles in there.)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!!!

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I was in second or third grade when the animated “Beauty and the Beast” hit theaters, so I was basically its target audience. I think that makes this nearly 34-year-old the target audience of the live action film that came out Friday, too. (At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.)

I NEVER see movies on opening weekend. I hate the crowds and have no interest in camping out for an hour for decent seats. Neither was an issue this weekend because, well, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. I went with a friend and her son, and we got there so early, the previous movie hadn’t even let out yet. And we’re not talking “It had five minutes left.” It had a good 20 minutes to go.

The movie largely followed the cartoon’s story line, with a few delightful changes. (And yes, that means SPOILER ALERT. If you don’t want to hear about the changes, move on, sweet one.)

  1. The opening scenes. We see the human prince at a ball. Folks in the nearby town hate him but love his parties, so they use him for the excuse to get dressed up and dazzle. After the refuses to help the enchantress-as-beggar, which causes the whole kerfuffle to begin with, we learn that the entire town completely forgets about the prince and the castle–which makes for a particular problem for the castle staff who is married to townspeople.
  2. Maurice! I adore doddering old Maurice in the cartoon, and Kevin Kline actually improves upon him. The townspeople think he’s doddering only because of his later claims of the beast, but before this, he keeps quietly to himself. He is a doting father, but he still grieves his wife; it’s the one story he cannot bring himself to tell Belle.
  3. The beast gets a personality! This was easily my favorite added detail in the live-action film. When he gifts Belle his sexyass library, they actually discuss literature. They carefully flirt, and each realizes that there’s more to the other. During their long winter walks, they’re not just silently eyeballing the other but learning about the other. It really helps with that whole Stockholm thing.
  4. The beast shows Belle an additional trinket gifted by the enchantress to taunt him: a map that will take him wherever he wishes to go. Belle uses it to return to the home of her childhood, where she learns what happened to her mother.
  5. Morons are losing their shit over LeFou and his one-second dance with a man. After all the build up, I was insanely disappointed with how short the scene was. They don’t even show LeFou’s face during the dance, just the fellow he dances with. I got more of a gay vibe during the song “Gaston,” when LeFou sings, “And they’ll tell you whose team they prefer to be on …”
  6. The household object stars are Lumière and Maestro Cadenza. The latter, I hardly remember from the cartoon. Cogsworth is in a bunch of scenes, but he doesn’t have nearly as large a role as he did in the cartoon. Which is too bad. It’s Ian Freaking McKellen, man.

The best lines:

  • “Do you think you can grow a beard?”
  • “Someone turn me back into a clock, please.”
  • “Have you really read all of these books?” “No. Some of them are in Greek.”
  • “What’s your name?” “That’s a hairbrush.”

Anyone else see the flick this weekend? How much did you love it???

I don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day

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I am not a girl who’s too cool to worry about being lame during holidays; I am the master of Christmas. I love Easter bunnies. I decorate the tiny purple tree in my office with hearts every Valentine’s Day.

But come St. Patrick’s Day, you will not find me in any green.

There I am, not bein’ Irish in DC last year. Because I was curious, I looked up FDR’s ancestry, too: He was primarily Dutch and English.

Nevermind that I’m not remotely Irish (just look at me–do I LOOK like I could possibly be Irish?), I know the day isn’t really for Irish people. Instead, it’s that I sometimes still have the personality of an 8-year-old, and you’re not the boss of me.

When I was in Catholic grade school, even though we wore tiny plaid navy uniforms, it was Such A Thing to wear some green on St. Patrick’s Day. But I didn’t know that when I was young; my mother is Italian, and my father is Iranian–forgive me for my ignorance about the tradition.

So on St. Patrick’s Day, all I remember is this little horde of Catholic school girls and boys, coming at me with their thumbs and pointer fingers like pincers.

“She’s not wearing green, pinch her! She’s not wearing green, pinch her!”

In my mind’s eye, I swat them all away like a cloud of gnats, but I’m sure my annoyance was much quieter than that when I was 8.

From that day on, I made a concerted effort to NOT wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Today, as a full-fledged grown up, when I got dressed this morning, I considered putting on my Kelly green sweater, to just go with the flow and get in on the celebration. But my inner 8-year-old won, and I’m instead wearing this melon orange shirt I just got from Old Navy.

Instead, I prefer to celebrate my yearly desire to be Irish with, of course, food. Reservations have already been made to get some corned beef in my belly. I may send it down with some Jameson.

And if anyone in the restaurant tries to pinch me, I will kick them; the bruise will eventually turn green.

See, I’m being helpful.

It’s not ‘selfish’ to put yourself first

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I started going to Weight Watchers meetings last May. It worked beautifully for me, and I not only hit my weight goal, but I maintained it for six weeks and thus had bestowed upon my head a Lifetime Membership. So long as I go to a meeting a month, it’s all free for me, including the delightful tracking app, which is a huge part of the reason I was able to lose the weight.

Another huge part of the reason I was able to lose the weight was my incredible meeting leader. She is a tiny burst of sunshine with a drop of sarcasm and a great big heart. She’s a major proponent of “You do this for YOU,” which is the only way it can work.

She was on vacation during the meeting I attended this month, though, and our sub was a new gal. Very sweet. Very excited. You can tell she was eager and wanted to be helpful.

However, she kept saying something that absolutely grated on me, and she knew it wasn’t the right thing to say, but she never changed her tune.

She lost 60 pounds on Weight Watchers. She has kids and a husband. She’s nearing menopause, and she figured, better to lose the weight NOW and focus on herself NOW than after menopause kicks in, when it’s supposed to be so much harder to lose weight.

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Then she kept using that effing word I hate: That it made her selfish to focus on herself.

“Well, not selfish, that’s not what I mean … ”

“But I decided to be selfish. That’s probably not the right word …”

“It was time for me to be selfish.”

NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

IT IS NOT SELFISH FOR A WOMAN TO MAKE HER HEALTH A PRIORITY.

IT IS NOT SELFISH FOR A WOMAN TO MAKE ANYTHING ABOUT HERSELF A PRIORITY.

It is not “almost the right word.” It is not “close to the right word.” It is not “not exactly what I mean, but close enough.”

People who go to Weight Watchers are often in a vulnerable state. It’s not comfortable to sit around a group of strangers and discuss body image. It can become comfortable, if you get yourself a good group and as your confidence grows. But if you go to Weight Watchers, it’s because you’re unhappy with an aspect about yourself. And to even imply that caring about your physical health is selfish to this group of women? Totally unacceptable.

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Now, most of the people in my group have been together since May 2016, so we are comfortable with one another. But everyone is in a different stage of weight loss: I only had 23 pounds to lose, and I did I hit that goal in November. Another woman is only six pounds away from losing 50; she doesn’t need to lose those six pounds, but she wants to be able to say “Holy shit, I lost 50 pounds.” Some women look drastically different. Some look basically the same. Some look a little different, but they’re so happy about it that they probably experienced the biggest boost in confidence of anyone.

Plus, we’re used to the message from our typical leader: That it’s not about the weight loss. That, yes, that might be the goal, but it’s about eating right and feeling good about it. It’s about becoming healthier so we can enjoy our lives more. She knows how important it is to put ourselves first before we can be any kind of a successful caretaker for anyone else.

It’s a point that’s lost on a lot of people. Like our leader stand-in.