Saturday, August 16, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain.

The death of Robin Williams hit me hard. After I received the news at work, I felt a sinking weight in my chest. Suddenly, I was grateful that my work day was near the end. I went home, and wrote this on Facebook:
I've been trying to understand why the death of Robin Williams has affected me so entirely. I've come to the conclusion that I grew up with this actor on screen. First in Mork and Mindy, then in Peter Pan and Mrs Doubtfire. Dead Poets spoke to me at a time when I was struggling to understand my own direction in life. His comedy spoke to me when I was learning to navigate my "adult" world and all of it's politics. In short, I feel as though I lost a longtime friend whom I had never met, and whose loss I will feel through all of the coming stages of my life. RIP Oh Captain, My Captain.
In the days that have followed, I've heard a lot of people say a lot of things. Some of them comforting, some in disbelief, and some in utter ignorance of the disease that is mental illness. Robin Williams was never secretive about his battles with depression and addiction.

Most people in my life know that I have serious anxiety issues. The thing is, I was officially diagnosed late in life, and now that my brain chemistry is effectively controlled by medications, I can not only enjoy my life, but I can look back and see just how much I was missing previously.

When I was a child, I was a nervous child. I worried constantly about what people thought of me, what my parents thought of me, what might happen if I went outside and did a particular thing, on a particular day. This isn't the type of self-consciousness most everyone tells me they feel. No. I was the girl who would stay in the car while her family went into the restaurant to eat, because I couldn't handle the potential complications that a crowd could bring.

For years, this condition was my fault. My parents even took me to a psychologist to, in their words, figure out "why no one liked me." (Not joking or exaggerating. That's what my mom said.) The psychologist's brilliant solution was to come to class with me and watch my interactions with my classmates to "see what I was doing wrong, and how I could improve my social skills". (Legitimately, that's why my medical records said).

Over and over again, I was told to snap out of it, to be brave, to get over myself, to take a deep breath and move on. I dealt with years of rolled eyes and barely-stifled groans from friends, and angry calls and texts when I couldn't muster the courage to go out and bailed on plans. I heard the whispers of family members who thought that I was selfish, spoiled, snobbish, or an awful daughter because I couldn't just be kind, friendly, and as sociable as they were.

Now, I hear the same thing about Robin Williams. He had so much to live for, so many people who loved him, so much money, such a great house and career... why couldn't he just "snap out of it" and be grateful for what he had? Couldn't he just "get over" his depression?

But that's not the way mental illness works. It's not like a bad mood that will fade shortly. It's not like you can fake-it-to-make-it. It eats at you. It haunts you. It twists your brain and spins your thoughts to the point where you're not yourself. It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to shake it off, sleep it off, or just smile it away.

The complete misunderstanding of mental illness in this country has been brought to public view by the death of a great man whom so many of us held close to our hearts.

If you, or anyone you know, is dealing with mental illness, please know that you're not alone. You aren't in this fight alone. I will understand you without question. Others are fighting alongside you. There are people out there waiting to help and listen.

Friday, August 1, 2014

No-Makeup Month

July turned out to be a No-Makeup month by accident.

I’d heard about other people doing No-Makeup months for a variety of reasons; to improve their skin, to experience the social impacts, or lack therof, to save money, to improve self-confidence etc. Me, I love makeup. Both everyday makeup and fantasy creations. It’s a paint, and skin is a pallet for me, and I’ve never felt particularly addicted or bound to it. I simply enjoy it.

There’s a social hostility between women on the subject of makeup. Some people feel that makeup is a man’s tool to control women. Others feel that it’s a societal tool to ensure conformity to conventional standards of beauty. Some feel liberated when they ‘buck the system’ and go au naturel. Colbie Caillet has a beautiful new song and video about loving yourself without all the makeup and styling.

Like I said, I didn’t wear makeup in July, and it started out as an accident, and then became something I wanted to finish. I’ll caveat this by saying that yes, I did wear lipstick and lipstain because well, I don’t really own any clear ones. Accident, you say? How so? Let me tell you.

The month started off with a heat wave. I don’t wear makeup in a heat wave because frankly, I don’t see the point of spending an hour painting my face to have it all sweat off by lunch. Nope. Then, I took a multi-day camping trip; no makeup, after which I spent a Sunday doing a friend’s makeup. After which, I promptly left my makeup in the car, then in the living room, and it never made it back into my bedroom until the day I needed to pack it to go do another makeup session for another friend.

It was somewhere in the middle of all of that when I realized I hadn’t worn any makeup in a few weeks, and I might as well just carry it through the end of the month.

And, I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed the extra 45 minutes of sleep I was getting every morning. Sleep is amazing. I’m am so sorry for the awful things I said about naptime when I was a kid.

What lessons did I learn?

1)     My skin didn’t really change in any way, which speaks highly of the makeup I’d been using. But I’m pretty cautious about what I put on my skin, and if I start to breakout or get redness or blackheads, I stop right away. I DID, however, notice that I felt drier, which I’m going to chalk up to the fact that in addition to no makeup, I also wasn’t applying my daily primer/moisturizer. I could have made a better choice there.

2)    Interestingly, my social world didn’t notice when I stopped with makeup. Yes, the first couple of days I was asked ‘are you alright? You look a bit pale’, but those comments faded quickly. No one commented that I wasn’t wearing makeup (but then, I do work with a lot of guys), but I did receive a lovely compliment regarding ‘I love your au naturel look today!’ towards the end of the month.

3)    Even my basic makeup routine takes up quite a bit of time in the morning. Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the day. That’s about 5 hours a week doing makeup.

4)    Though I’m comfortable without it, I still prefer wearing makeup.

So what happens now that we’re in August? Well, it’s August 1st, and I don’t have makeup on. Tomorrow, we’ll see. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Food for Thought

Yesterday morning (or actually, a few mornings ago, since I'm woefully late in posting this), I was getting ready for work. Vegas was flopped out on my bed, thwacking his tail optimistically against the sheets, hoping for some morning cuddles before I disappeared from his world for about 9 hours. (Poor pup, I really do feel badly about leaving him for so long). I reached across to grab a hoodie off its hanger, and in the process, my knee knocked a shoebox of photos to the floor.

I mentally cursed, and knelt to pick up the mess when one photo caught my eye.

It was taken about 10 years ago when I lived in Florida. I was in college then (my, how time flies…), and struggling to find a way to still be an actor and singer (my previous life) while being an academic and responsibly earning my degree. (My parentals suggested it was responsible, I had my doubts)

I’d been putting together a small portfolio of pictures to use for promotional purposes on a particular producer’s website. He’s going to remain nameless because he turned out to be a sleazeball, but that’s another blog entry for another day. I was dressed in my favorite black baggy pants, paired with a red tank top I’d strategically tied at my back to expose my stomach. My long, blond hair was in pigtails down my shoulders and I clutched a microphone in my right hand.

“Man,” I thought, “I was silly. And cute! I’d kill for that flat tummy and tiny waist right about now!”

And then I remembered how much I hated how I looked then.

Every morning, I’d go into my bathroom and look down, poking at my “flabby” stomach, and ensuring it hadn’t somehow inched over the edge of my pants since the last I looked. I hated the way the “flab” of my arms flopped around. I hated my skin. I spent more than a passing thought comparing myself to the pretty girls in the tiny bikinis around me, and by comparison, I just couldn’t measure up.

I was so focused on all of the negative, I didn’t see how positively adorable I was.

I do the same thing when I look at photos of myself currently. Instead of looking at the friends that I’m with, or the fun activities I’m participating in, I’m staring at my rolls, curves, creases, etc.

And the thought occurred to me; 10 years from now, I’m probably going to look back on these photos and wish I’d appreciated what I had a bit more, instead of spending so much energy picking myself apart.

How much energy do I waste every day on hating myself, and picking myself apart? How many minutes do I spend analyzing and over-analyzing all of my flaws and mistakes?

Is it really worth what I'm putting into it? Or, in a decade, am I going to look back and regret that I didn't appreciate all of the awesome things going on in my life right this moment? 

Food for thought. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oh my gosh, 2 posts in one day...

This is the video I made at Run or Dye!

Chubby Girl in Hiking Boots

I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm crap at blogging these days. I usually have a great idea of something to talk about at 2 in the morning when I'm trying to sleep, and my brain won't shut down. By the time I wake up (you know how this story goes), the idea is long gone.

So, here goes. The one thing that's been on my mind a lot these days.
I think that it’s impossible to have a blog about training, getting stronger and achieving physical goals without delving into some realities about body perception.

I’m overweight.

This does not make me a bad person. This does not mean that I am less valuable than a thin person, or that I am any less worthy of love and respect than anyone else.

However, weight seems to be one of the last remaining socially-acceptable forms of discrimination. Some is subtle, and the rest is not. In fact, it’s painfully blatant.

In a completely informal and sociologically biased poll of many close friends, I’ve discovered that we have faced many similar challenges in our roads to health.

(Please note, this is about a journey to HEALTH, not a journey to SKINNY. They are not the same thing.)

The same person who looks in disgust and makes oinking noises at me when I order anything but a salad will also be the person making faces at the sweat flooding off of me when I dare to walk the same trail, (albeit at a much slower pace than them).

The same companies which relegate clothes in my size to the shadowy back of the store, where people my size won’t taint the image of the brand will also refuse to make workout gear in plus sizes…again, so that overweight people are not tarnishing their image.

The fact is, it’s socially acceptable (yet morally repugnant) to look on the overweight person with disdain because they’re “fat”, “lazy”, “dirty”, “smelly” and any number of unkind adjectives. But the same societal views that pigeonholed us into this stereotype also refuse to offer a hand-up to those attempting to make healthier choices.

I’m here to say, you don’t get to have it both ways. 

Also, my body is MY body. It’s my possession. Just because it’s a larger size than others would like doesn’t mean that I’m somehow public property. If I want to order an Oprah doughnut (maple bar with bacon) and chase it with a soda, I will. If I want to be huffing, groaning, and dripping sweat on a trail, I will. No one gets to police me because I’m overweight. No one gets to tell me that it’s not acceptable for me to make my own choices because I’m the chubby girl in hiking boots.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What's new?

Well, hey! It's been awhile since I've updated, so I figured it was time to dust this thing off. Again. (Yes, I know, "again". Shhh.) 

Run or Dye 5K Seattle/Tacoma June 2014

But at least I have a good excuse this time. I've been busy. No, like really REALLY busy. For starters, I have a posh new job at my company's headquarters doing QA for our website. It's a temporary position, but I've been here since May, and my end date keeps getting extended, so I'm optimistic that it may wind up not being so temporary after all.

In any event, I've for certain fallen in love with this job, and if I don't get to stay on here permanently, I may explore other options to keep doing this kind of work. I'm actually excited to get up and come to work every day, which is extra odd because now I have to get up exceedingly early and I have a traffic-filled commute. 40 hours a week, flexible scheduling, an awesome team to work with, and a job that actually puts my many years of web surfing to good use? Yup, I'm one happy camper right now.

I've also been awarded a grant to help fund my goals of running one event a month. (I know, right? Someone actually said 'hey, cool challenge, here's some moolah to help you out!') The above pic is from the Run or Dye 5K, which was my June event. July's event is this weekend, it's The Color Run, and August's event is The Electric Run. September hasn't been decided yet. I'll figure it out when I get there.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Role of Women in SciFi and Fantasy

At Emerald City Comicon, I had the opportunity to attend the Supernatural Fan Panel, where fans of the show discussed trends, issues, and potential futures for the show. A common issue that kept coming up was the inability of the show to maintain a female character. Every major female character, to date, has been either written out or killed off.

In fairness to the writers, female characters have typically not been well received by the fanbase. Hate mail, violent memes, and passionately enraged blogs flood the internet whenever a female character interacts with the leads on the show.

(The exception to this rule is Charlie Bradbury whom, even Misha Collins has suggested, avoids the ire of the fanbase because she is openly lesbian, and therefore not perceived as a threat)

I didn’t stand up and comment during the panel for a variety of reasons, but this is the message I wished I could have conveyed:

I think we, as women, need to stop cutting off our own opportunities.

As much as we like to think that the entertainment industry is all about the characters and storytelling (and a portion of it is), it’s first and foremost a business. Producers, executives and writers are not going to invest the time, energy and funding necessary to create intelligent, well-written female characters, unless they are seeing a return on their investment.

It’s not just Supernatural. This is a problem that is industry-wide.

If, week after week, showrunners receive copious complaints about female characters, the result is going to be 1) those female characters are not going to remain on the show much longer and 2) it’s going to be much harder to convince the show to introduce any other females in the future.

I’m not suggesting that we stop providing feedback regarding our individual fandoms. Opinions are valid, and feedback is important. But, I am suggesting that we, as women, are more careful with the language we are using. Saying that you dislike a character because she is shallow, two-dimensional, and transparent in her intentions is one thing. Pointing out that you feel that a character is an overly sexualized stereotype, or that you disagree with the direction the writers are taking her story is also valid.

Calling a female character a tramp, slut or witch is not empowering, and is self-defeatist. We need to be supporting each other as women, not tearing each other down.

The only way we’re going to see a change in the industry is if we demand it.  We need to be giving the-powers-that-be a reason to develop strong female characters, not sending them scrambling for creative ways to kill off what is perceived as an error in judgment.