I'm more proud of my marriage than I am of my career

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I was driving with a friend the other day and we were talking about marriages and why some of them work and some of them don’t. And I told her my theory, which is that how good we are in relationships gets decided within the first year of our life and then we spend all the remaining years trying to move the needle by tiny percentages.  

Note: this is a very lazy explanation of Childhood Attachment Theory.

But isn’t it the same with money?

I interviewed a financial psychologist last year for an article I was working on, and he told me that every time my husband and I make a decision about money, we aren’t the ones making the decisions, our grandparents and great-grandparents are.

That’s how deeply ingrained money beliefs are through generations.

So if one of my friends is racking up a giant credit card bill or refusing to fly to my baby shower because she doesn’t want to spend the money, how could I make any kind of judgment about that person based on those decisions? If those decisions aren’t hers but are instead preprogrammed inside of her?  

Ok, but then we land at career. 

Wouldn’t that same thing apply to our career success? Which for most of us is the total sum of our achievement on the planet? 

I don’t know about your family, but in my family, we put SO MUCH into career accomplishment. We talk about people “achieving their potential” and “doing something with their lives” and “working hard for their success” as if there’s some moral marker where better people work harder and accomplish more and lesser people work less and accomplish less. That’s insane.  

 I look at everything I have achieved and I can tie each thing back to some implicit belief I picked up in childhood, like:  

  • Be the smartest person in the room and people will love you
  • Have money and you will never have to feel let down by other people
  • Work hard and people will love you
  • When you achieve something, everyone talks about you and it feels like love
  • If you can’t be really beautiful (by conventional standards), be really important (and people will love you)  

So, obviously, when you look at that list, my compulsion to work and succeed in a career-sense has nothing to do with a higher calling, or just being a “natural workaholic” or anything like that.

I'm just a little kid trying to get gold stars.

It’s like that Drake song, “Started from the bottom, now we here.”
 
Mine would be, “Started from middle top area, now I’m here.”
 

I’m guessing if you made your own list, it would look fairly similar (or you’ve never been in therapy in which case you’re like, no, I just love to work and it’s important to succeed, what’s the big deal?!)  

But now let’s put motivation aside for a moment and let’s talk about opportunity and who gets opportunity.   Everything I currently have (financial stability, a college degree, business acumen) was handed to me and made possible for me. So how can it reflect on me as a person?

How can I look at somebody working at Dunkin Donuts (where I worked in college, BTW) and somehow think their life is worth less than mine, or their commitment to success is less than mine.  

It’s like that Drake song, “Started from the bottom, now we here.”  

Mine would be, “Started from middle top area, now I’m here.”  

What would yours be?  

Women don't like hearing other women play down their success.

When I talk about this stuff, I often get told that I’m having imposter syndrome or that women have trouble owning their accomplishments. I get told if I want to be “big” I need to think of myself as “big” and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed by my success.  

But I’m not embarrassed. I’m just being honest. I work hard because of a childhood belief that it will buy me love (it doesn’t). And I’m successful because I was set up for success by parents who were also set up for success. It would have taken more courage and individual thought to NOT be successful when you look at the way I was raised and the opportunities my parents created for me.  

Spend some time on instagram and you’ll see that status is like beauty...with a lot of people bragging about “creating” something they were handed, whether it’s a small white body or six figures in the bank or some big accomplishment in their careers.  

Let's be proud of what we weren't handed.

Here’s what I wasn’t handed: being good at relationships. I’m not good in close relationships. I struggle with intimacy. I’m not a person who was “handed” being good at marriage. And I’ve worked so hard to build my relationship with Andrew and the female friendships in my life. It hasn’t come naturally, I don’t get applause for it, but I get to reap the benefits of it everyday and I am immensely proud of it.  

Sometimes, after a great date with Andrew or a friend, I drive home and I’m just smiling ear to ear because I remember all those miserable dates with other guys, all those inauthentic friendships I didn’t know how to shift. I remember feeling so lost and disconnected and lonely, thinking that intimacy and connection and love and warmth and honesty was out of reach for me.  

Yeah, when it comes to love, I started at the bottom and I’m here. And that’s mine to brag about.

The rest? Not so much.     

A year of yoga without mirrors

The other day,  I showed up to my Tuesday yoga class and it was getting taught by a substitute teacher.  I was the first person to show up and I rolled out my mat in my usual spot (at the far edge of the room by the water jug). 

“I don’t bite!” the substitute teacher sang out, motioning to the spot in front of her in the middle of the room. 

“Oh, it’s fine,” I said. 

Another student showed up and unrolled her mat in front of the teacher. And then another. Pretty soon there was a small huddle of students in the middle of the room and then me, off to the side.

“There’s a spot right here!” The teacher tried again. The other students (who I practice with regularly) smiled to themselves. They’re used to me by now.

“I’m good over here,” I told her.

Because I don’t practice yoga in front of a mirror.

I started attending my studio more than a year ago. That first session, the teacher put her mat at the back of the room, so that in order to face her, we had to have our backs to the mirror. I’d never done yoga without a mirror and I was irritated - how could I check my form if I couldn’t see myself? How could I know if my back was straight or my chest was lifted?

When I decided that I wanted to leave disordered eating and fatphobia behind me, mirrors were a big part of that. If I was making a conscious choice to let go of the belief that how I looked (or anyone looked) mattered, then why did I need to see myself?

But of course, staring at yourself is a hard habit to shake. And the temptation is everywhere: bathrooms, rear view mirrors, reflections on your phone, shop windows...and the yoga studio. I hadn’t realized how much I watched my “form” throughout class until it was taken away.

By the end of class, I was a convert. It was like I had forgotten that I had a body. The feeling of moving felt disassociated from the visual of the movement — I can only describe it like that feeling of floating in water and being weightless.

And so I decided that for a year, from October 2017 to October 2018, I would practice yoga without a mirror. I go to yoga 3-4 times a week and always claim my spot to the side of the room, by the water jug. My teachers are used to it and will sometimes hold my spot for me if I’m running late. The other students graciously move over if the only spot left is in front of the mirror.

I certainly would survive if I had to practice yoga in front of a mirror. It’s happened once or twice that for whatever reason, the only spot was in front of the mirror. And I was fine with it. But I noticed that the mirror started to occupy space in my brain. Instead of becoming completely immersed in the practice, in the breathwork, in the physical sensation...I was watching to see how straight my back was, how firm my thighs look in Warrior II, if my Tree was as perky as everybody else’s.

The other day, I was in a Qoya class and we started talking about many of us in the class had never danced in our lives without being aware of somebody watching. Dancing was synonymous with performing - some kind of stilted mating call that we picked up as teenagers. There are two things happening when we dance: there is a visual aspect (how it looks) and a physical aspect (how it feels). We cannot see ourselves dance so the visual aspect belongs to the audience. And when we place so much importance on that, we minimize the importance of the physical aspect. Who cares how it feels? Don’t dance in a way that feels good, dance in a way that looks good. 

And then that starts to become how you approach so many things in life:

-- the clothes you wear

-- the way you walk...and sit

-- the way you pose for the camera

-- the way you smile

-- how you talk

-- your social media profile

-- your home and possessions

The whole world becomes a mirror, real or imagined.

And then we all are left with a choice -- to keep looking, or to move our yoga mats.

I can't talk about shopping without talking about loneliness

I can't talk about shopping without talking about loneliness

I arrived early to an event tonight, by about an hour. I thought about waiting in the car, I thought about just going to a nearby coffee shop and working. But I was feeling a little down and a little insecure and I didn't want to sit somewhere alone.

 So I did what I always do when I need to cheer myself up or kill a random hour: I went shopping.

Why we make crazy bagels on Thanksgiving

Why we make crazy bagels on Thanksgiving

Last year, my therapist told me that it’s been proven that traditions = happiness. And the more traditions you have, the happier it makes you.

Well, that was shitty news because Andrew and I don’t have any traditions. We don’t have weekly date nights or a neighborhood bar where they know our drink order. We don’t really celebrate anniversaries and holidays are always a chaotic blur of family.

Am I the only normal homeschooler?

Am I the only normal homeschooler?

Last night, I was sitting in front of my fireplace watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and their makeover victim was an 18-year-old homeschooler named Sean. You guys, Sean is a major weirdo. I know that’s mean but there’s no other way to put it. He’s so awkward and he doesn’t have any friends and it’s like you can smell the “outcast” on him.

So I’m sitting there watching this go down and I just start feeling uncomfortable. Because as most of you know, I was homeschooled. And I’ve spent most of my life feeling like everybody can smell the “outcast” on me and overcompensating for it in a lot of sad and semi-pathetic ways.

When you think you are exceptional...at sucking

When you think you are exceptional...at sucking

This story begins and ends with macrame (yes, the weird cotton knotted thing that hangs in bunches).

My best friend is helping me make a macrame hanging for my bedroom. The reason I need a macrame hanging for my bedroom is twofold: #1. I’m endlessly insecure about how not-cool my house is and what’s cooler than macrame, people?! #2. I need something for above my bed and since I’m endlessly terrified of the Big Earthquake coming to Portland, I need something that will land softly on my face as my entire house is sucked up by the earth.