Girl Talk: Visiting the Bra Genie

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Last Saturday I noticed a store called The Bra Genie over by Whole Foods. I was totally stoked to see it and couldn’t imagine how I’d missed it all of those times I’ve been to Whole Foods. Turns out it just opened last week. My friend Denise texted me and told me I needed to go there. The Bra Genie has been a phenomenal supporter of her girls for years, and I remember her sharing what a difference it made when she actually got professionally fitted for a bra many, many years ago.

Another curly girl!

Another curly girl!

I told my friend Jennifer, and we headed over at lunch today to see what this ‘genie’ was all about. We walked in the cute little shop which had all kinds of bras, swimwear, and foundation garments. Several ladies were at the desk and within a minute we were both whisked away into dressing rooms with our own personal genies. Shelby, my genie, took three measurements and asked me about my wardrobe. I told her that I like to show off my figure since I work so hard at it, and I needed something that was smooth and made me look by best without a lot of bulges and ripples. She left, and I immediately texted Denise to tell her I was there.

Shelby and Me

Shelby and Me

Before I even got an answer, Shelby returned with a cute little bra that had daisies on the straps. She said it was adorable under tank tops. Alas, my girls were a tad bit too large for this creation, and they didn’t have a larger size. It’s too bad, too, because I fell in love with it. But, she went back to work and returned with several more styles to meet my needs. Shelby helped me put on the bra correctly and taught me how to maneuver my age-kissed breasts into the cups in a way where they looked perky and ten years younger. She brought in several price points and styles. I guess every gal has one breast that is larger than the other, and she made sure that we found several bras that supported both girls uniformly.

My wish list items....

My wish list items….

I picked out several that I liked and that fit, and I chose a tank top that has compression and is reversible. I can wear it with a round neck or a v-neck. When I added up the prices, I couldn’t afford them all, but she took the ones I liked over to the computer and added them to my wish list. While I was there, another customer came in and purchased an item from her wish list. She’d already tried it on, and so her genie just found the size and the style and rang her up. Several women came in during the short lunch hour shopping for swimsuits and foundation garments. It was actually a lot of fun. Everyone was laughing and urging their friends to try something more daring than they usually choose. I had a minute to share my Devacurl success story with one of the genies, and she is super excited to call Eric for her DevaCut. It was kind of a fun girls outing.

The Bra Genie also carries something for men, too. These snazzy underwear have a pocket for their package that lifts and wicks moisture for comfort. Who says the girls are the only ones that want to stand out in a crowd? One of the customers said she bought her husband a pair last week, and he loves them. I’m sure he’d be thrilled that his wife was talking about his underwear but I wanted to know! The Bra Genie also carries all kinds of accessories like specialty straps for converting bras under plunging necklines, backless dresses and halter tops. They even had a display of discriminating Lelo vibrators for those times when you’re feeling really pretty and sexy. Why just look good when you can feel sexy, too?

I actually got to meet the top dog genie, Jeanie, and I had to take a pic to text to my friend Denise. Jeanie commented that it is so empowering for a woman when they finally get a foundation garment that makes her look ten years younger and ten pounds lighter. With the right bra, the girls sit high just like they did in younger years. It’s one way we can defy gravity for a small pricetag.The Bra Genie carries over 180 sizes, so this is not a place that discriminates against any size or shape. If you are looking for a solution, you will find it here.

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Jeanie.. the top dog Genie

There is also a Bra Genie in Mandeville. That’s the original location. You can check out their website here, and I found a video that describes the amazing difference a great foundation garment can make. If you are in the Baton Rouge or Mandeville area, you should check it out. Your girls will thank you … and maybe your guy, too. 🙂

 

Beautiful or Average: Which Would You Choose?

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For the past two days, my mind has been spinning. There’s a lot of reasons for it, but the primary instigator is that I became interested in this whole Texas martial law scare and started reading the news. All of a sudden, I’m reading about ISIS threatening that they are already in the US, Louisiana’s budget woes, the extinction of half of all the animals on the planet, and the destructive almond crops. For this anxiety-plagued gal, reading the news is a path to a living hell. I know it. So, I vowed to stop this morning.

I took a moment to pray and ask my God for some wisdom on how I let go of all I heard and read in the last 24 hours. I know that I can only live in my environment, my own body and my individual moment. I can’t fix the world’s problems, but they can sure devastate my world. The answer back to me was the Hummingbird. Hummingbird medicine is about beauty and joy. The hummingbird’s main focus in life is spreading beauty. Its uncanny ability to fly up, down, forward and back is unique. In its tiny cylindrical body, it carries nectar that populates the world with floral beauty. I drew the card reversed from my Medicine Card deck which tells me that for some reason my heart has been closed, and I need to journey into my personal pain to experience joy again. I am sorry that the world is such a mess. I’m sorry that we don’t pay attention to nature’s signs that we’re destroying it with our greed and consumption. I’m sad that I won’t be leaving the world in a better place than how I found it. And I cried.

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When I got to work, I googled Finding Joy. My search led me to a Facebook page called Finding Joy which is a personal blog at http://findingjoy.net/. This blogger is apparently a true Hummingbird on the internet. She looks for positive things and then blogs about them. Maybe I could learn from her and spread a little hummingbird joy this morning, too. I clicked on her category called You Are Enough. The first thing that came up was the video below. Yes, it’s a Dove campaign. I’m a somewhat cynical big business marketing person, but I love the message so much, I think I’m going to act like a Hummingbird and focus on the beauty in the message.

Which Would You Choose?

What would you choose? What would Hummingbird choose? What if we were put on this earth to spread beauty? What if we were put on this earth to make our own choice about who we are? What if God made us in his own image, and he is horrified that we think we are ‘average.’ What if when God made me in my mother’s womb, he said, “Wow… this is going to be beautiful”? Instead, I live my life as if I’m average. What I think that God was telling me this morning is the same thing that I found in this search. Finding Joy is not a hunt for something positive. Finding Joy is merely a change of perspective, and it’s a decision to say I’m going to be, live, do and act Beautiful today. What will you choose? Ultimately, it is our choice … not the world’s.

“I went through that door that said average, and I didn’t really feel good about myself … Obviously, I had rated myself average and nobody else.”

“It was my choice, and now I will question myself for the next few weeks… maybe months.”

“I went through the average door. Yeah … I didn’t even hesitate.”

“It was quite triumphant feeling, really. It was like telling the world I’m beautiful.”

What if everybody chose Beautiful? How could it change the world?

The Power of Feminine Force: A Letter to My Friend

tumblr_m6wx6sFvvh1roqkcuo1_500A friend of mine just found out that her breast cancer is back. It’s not life-threatening at this point, but it is life-impacting. She writes long, lovely letters to me, and it’s one of the things I most treasure about our friendship. She doesn’t vicariously watch my life on Facebook, she interacts with me in an old-fashioned, lovely way. It is slow and sometimes infrequent, but I love it when I see her name in my inbox. She is single like me, and her thoughts turn at this time to the loss of her femininity because she may lose a breast this time around along with her hair. It’s an unfortunate reality that men are more attracted to women that have all of their parts. If there’s already a connection, it may not make a difference, but all of us girls know the pain of not being visually acceptable.

Dear Beautiful,

When I first met you – and I don’t know that I even remember how I met you – you struck me as one of the most feminine and lovely women I’d ever met. And, even though we’ve gone through tough times in our friendship and loads of time, I still think that about you.

The first time I went over to your home I was so impressed. It was one of the few homes I’d ever seen that was owned by a woman, and it was feminine and pretty and quaint. Your kitchen was always full of wonderful smells, and you were always generous and gracious with your hospitality. I met you at a time when I needed a role model to be single, and you were a great one. You taught me that even on a single woman’s budget, I could make a home, and I could make one that was truly special.

I have watched as over the years you have dated and been disappointed with love. It’s difficult at our age to put yourself out there and continue to be hopeful but not desperate. I’ve seen you cull out the worst and give it a try with the better apples in the bunch. You always stayed strong and true to yourself. You expressed your anger, and you released your sadness. You’ve never settled for less than you deserve. You always seem to be grounded in the fact that you are a force to be reckoned with. You don’t need a partner by your side to get involved in community, travel to wonderful places or try new hobbies. You are a modern-day Mary Tyler Moore. I know that sometimes that’s a hollow compliment. It was not the life we wanted. It was the life we were given.

I cannot imagine what you are going through with your cancer. You got through this once and now it’s greeting you again with its wretched insistence of tripping you up and stealing your womanhood. I am not going to minimize the impact that the loss of a breast might have on you. You already know how to keep your chin up and survive. I don’t need to tell you that. But, I will tell you that – in my eyes – a breast is only an outward expression of femininity.

For most of my life, I hated pink. I never understood the feminine girls who liked it. I was a tomboy, and I wanted nothing to do with the powerlessness of the powder puff pink that signified girliness. I equated femininity with weakness. I equated it to being second-rate to the male gender and of being soft. Just today I was telling my boss about my relationship with pink. I – standing there in my pink and black dress – told her how I hated it until I went to a Woman Within workshop where the volunteers were doused in pink. I thought I was at a fucking Mary Kay convention, and I wanted to bolt. I wanted to spend my weekend trying to find the power to break loose from a destructive relationship, and I certainly didn’t need to become girl-like. I needed to put my warrior on and leave my weakness behind. It took years before I was able to step into my feminine power and proclaim my proper place in the world. I backed down and came up fighting many a time. But, it was my femininity that drove me to seek out powerful women who were making their own way for support. It was my softness that allowed me to touch the deepest part of myself and mother it with loving kindness until it blossomed like a vibrant pink rose. A couple of years after my workshop, I found myself buying pink clothing. I was compelled to buy a hot pink purse. Pink and black began to feel like power colors. The acceptance of ‘pink’ mirrored the realization that feminine power came from inside my soul. It had nothing to do with whether I was a woman or not.

You knew all of that all along. I don’t know if you will ever have a partner  just as I don’t know if I will. But I know that your life will always be filled with women who long to be in your presence. I know that you touched my life and inspired me to have a full life whether I was in a relationship or not. You inspired me to create beauty in my life regardless of my budget. You inspired me to walk with my head held high, change my name if I wanted to – just because I wanted to – and to be a creative feminine force in the world.

You may end up with a single boob and no hair in the next few months. Here’s hoping you don’t. But if you do, I know that the feminine goddess within you will rise to the occasion, and your femininity will explode through your being. Your body – and your wounds – will be invisible to anyone that is truly attracted to the feminine. Because femininity is not flesh and bone. It is an energy and a force that cannot be denied or contained in an earthly package. Salma Hayek is quoted as saying, “I keep waiting to meet a man who has more balls than I do.” I say it’s hard to find a man with the balls of a woman who has been tested by the fire. We aren’t born that way. We are made. And, you, my friend, are up to the task before you. Just be soft and kind and gentle to yourself during this time. Feel your feelings. Femininity is stoked over a low, gentle flame. You’ve got this. And the rest of us pink ladies will be right here by your side cheering you on.

Love you,

Sharon

Girl Talk: The Cuticle is Critical

Before

Before

So, today was the big day. I’ve been waiting for weeks to get in for my Deva Cut. When I called Eric Kelley, Mr. Baton Rouge Deva Man, I asked if I could get an appointment on a Saturday. The first Saturday available was April 25. OMG!!! My hair was a hornet’s nest. There was no way I could wait a month and a half to come in. So, I decided to burn some annual leave and take off work for the 2 hour hair cut. I’ve been counting the days to get my hair in a more manageable state. I mentioned it in my blog on Sunday, and two of my curly girl friends sent me notes that they get the Deva Cut, and it has made a huge difference in their hair. I was encouraged. Maybe I could tame this mess. I live in fear that a bald eagle is going to mistake my head for its nest.

Supermodel Jean Pierre' at Eric Kelley's Studio

Supermodel Jean Pierre’ at Eric Kelley’s Studio

I asked him if it would be worth it to take a “before” picture. “Will it look much different when I leave?” I inquired. He belly-laughed and said, “Oh yes. You won’t believe the difference.” So, we snapped some before shots, and he got started cutting my hair curl-by-curl. He really didn’t cut that much length off except at the very back and sides. And, even then, he only snipped about an inch. But curly hair shrinks up, and an inch becomes two or three. For the rest of my head, he barely snipped the ends. He was done in no time, so I was confused about why this takes two hours. It’s not the cut that takes the time. It’s the styling.

The Cutting

He took me over to sink and washed my hair with DevaCurl’s No-Poo Shampoo. He explained that the difference between curly hair and straight hair is the cuticle. He let me feel my hair and then feel his straight locks. You can actually feel the broken cuticle on my hair. Because the hair curls, the cuticle is broken up.The cuticle lies flat on straight hair keeping moisture inside. Curly hair gets so dry because moisture escapes from the ravaged cuticle. The dry hair is really thirsty, so when it is humid outside, it puffs up trying to get a drink of water from the air. Thus, we have frizz. “The cuticle is critical,” Eric told me, and most of what we were doing today in styling is designed to keep the hair moist so we can ditch the frizz and keep the curl.

The No Poo Shampoo

So, he washes my hair with the shampoo, and I could even feel the silky difference in this product over my typical shampoo. It is very hydrating and doesn’t lather. Then he added the conditioner. “This is where it gets different,” he told me before he demonstrated how I’ll use conditioner. He put about 1 1/3 Tablespoons of One Conditioner in his hand, glazed it over my soaking wet locks and then started running his fingers through each curl making sure each one got totally saturated. He said at first this will take awhile, but once my hair gets hydrated it won’t take too long. Instead of rinsing the conditioner out, he recommends lightly dripping a cupful of water over my head and just doing a very light rinse, leaving a good bit of the product in my hair.

Pulling the conditioner through the hair

Pulling the conditioner through the hair

Then he laid a towel on the floor and told me to sling my extremely wet and soggy head over my knees. He grabbed my hair and scrunched it tightly to squeeze the excess water out onto the towel. When he got most of it squeezed out, he gently scrunched my curls in a microfiber towel for drying. “Never use a terrycloth towel,” he said. “Use microfiber only. Other towels will soak up all of your moisture.” Wow. I’ve only been doing it wrong for 54 years. Who knew? With my head still hanging over my knees, he added some styling creme and volumizing mousse. I laughed. I have never used any kind of ‘volumizing’ product in my life.

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Applying styling products

Then, he asked me to throw my head back into the sink, and he led me over to his station to add some clips to the top of my head for volume. There’s that word again? Volume??? For my hair? I spend most of my time trying to shrink it, put headbands in it or a hat on it. But, he assured me I’d want more volume. Apparently, my combs, brushes and picks are not to be used in the Deva Cut world. He told me to throw them away. I can’t even run my fingers through my curls to lift them. The point of doing all of this is to keep the cuticle flat, so the hair will be shiny, soft and beautifully curly. I told him I was going to hate it flat, but he assured me that in no time I wouldn’t want all of that big hair.

The next stop was an old-fashioned hair dryer. My hair was still pretty wet and full of product. I sat under the dryer reading my homework in the Curly Girl Handbook.  He said my curls were a combination of Corkicelli and Corkscrew Curls.

It will take awhile, but below is the look we are going for with my hair. I can’t imagine my hair ever looking that soft and silky, but he assures me that as I hydrate my curls, my hair will start to look better than it ever has.

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The hardest thing for me to do under that dryer was to keep my hands from running through my curls to fluff them up. The desire was killing me. I could feel my hair flat to my head, and I so wanted to reach up and separate the curls so I could play with them. But he threatened me not to touch them. I behaved. After all, I was paying him a small fortune for this lesson.

FullSizeRender-20After my corkicelli-corkscrew curls were dry, we walked over to the mirror, and I could not believe the difference in my hair. I had never seen my curls look like that. There was absolutely no frizz. Big, bouncy, heavy ringlets decorated my head. My hair looked 3 inches shorter, and I look 6 inches shorter, but I couldn’t believe my eyes. Eric removed the clips and asked me to throw my head over my knees again. He said I would be “allowed” to use my fingers to shake out the curls at my scalp but I could not run them through the curls. It did give me a little lift, but I have to say that when I looked at my hair in the mirror, I wanted my hair to be bigger! I looked like a drowned rat – but a rat with really pretty, curly hair.

After the Drying

I loaded up on the products that I need to use and scheduled an appointment for color. Now that my curls are not so frizzy, my gray hairs are visible. Luckily, I only have to get my hair cut every 3 months, or I’d never be able to afford this. But, I’m going to give it a try. I should take care of my hair. While I was under the dryer, I read several stories of curly girls who finally learned how to live with their hair. I recognized the struggle and desperation that they felt. I covered mine with hats and wigs, straightened it with chemicals and heat and cried over my hair more times than I’d like to remember. My jealousy of girls who had soft silky hair that could be pulled up in a ponytail was vicious. It’s about time I got instructions on how to style what the good Lord gave me. It is the only hair I have, and I guess I have a responsibility to it. Besides, I don’t buy meat or beer, so I’ve got plenty of spare change for a decent haircut and styling products.

SubstandardFullSizeRender-5I got back to the office, and my coworkers were absolutely shocked at the difference in my hair and the lack of frizz. Today was a really humid, messy day. It did frizz a little when I walked Ashok in the rain this evening, but I guess ‘a little’ is a drastic improvement. I’m a little nervous about styling my hair in the morning. I told Eric I’d have to get up at 4 in the morning to do all of that styling, and he said that it will literally take me 5 minutes once I get the hang of it other than the blow-drying with a diffuser. I’ll believe it when I see it. He texted me this evening and said he couldn’t wait until it grows out a little more to see what it looks like. “Me too,” I replied. I’m totally not used to it, but it’s getting rave reviews from others, so I’ll be open I suppose. And maybe one day I’ll be totally in love with my Deva Curls. I’d love to hear your experience if you’ve gotten a Deva Cut.

The Final Do – Before/After

BTW … You can reach Eric Kelley in Baton Rouge at 225.938.1132. He cuts straight hair, too, but he said about 80% of his business is ‘curly’.

Girl Talk: An Unusual Kind of Sexy

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This morning I had my ‘now more normal than not’ crying jag before I left the house for work. I told my friend Michael that I feel like Jane in Broadcast News. Every morning before she had to ‘get to it’ professionally, she’d sit down, look at her watch, bawl her eyes out and then stop just as easily to go about her hard-driving, fast-paced day. She was – and is – one of my favorite movie characters. And, as I explained to Michael, men didn’t like her either. I was dying to find some clips from that movie. Unfortunately, there are not many on the internet. I loved Holly Hunter’s Jane so much back in 1987 when the movie came out. I don’t know if I loved her so much because I was like her, or if I became like her because that’s what I wanted to be. She somehow reminded me of a modern day Scarlett O’Hara with substantially less feminine charm and a lot more integrity.

Broadcast News Trailer

I love the scene where she tells her best friend Aaron – who is not unexpectedly in love with her –  “I’m beginning to repel people that I’m trying to seduce.” I feel exactly like that now and have for some time. She pulls no punches with a good-looking schmuck (William Hurt) who is as talented as an anchorman and showman as he is at evading the truth. Jane, even though she abhors all that he stands for, falls madly in love with him anyway. She’s a girl underneath it all. I remember thinking she was so absurdly adorable in the dress she wore on their date. She didn’t know how to inhabit a girly dress, and she clomped around like a horse in a pasture. I’ve often felt that way myself, and I choose more sophisticated styles because I feel like I look like an imposter in really feminine clothes.

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One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Aaron – her co-worker and friend – finds out that she’s probably in love with Tom. He has a rather large stake in this because he’s in love with her. But, instead of telling her up front, he tells her that “Tom, while he’s a really nice guy, is really …. the devil.” He has a great argument which you can see on the Hulu clip below. I quite enjoyed re-watching it today. I often tell friends they are the devil when they tempt me with something, and I add Aaron’s logic that the devil is not really going to show up with horns and a red suit. I didn’t realize I’d gotten that from this movie until today. Jane’s sharp wit and cutting edge honesty is beautiful here, and Aaron does not flinch at it. He finds her amazingly sexy just the way she is.

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In the blog Feminema, Holly Hunter is described thusly:

One might be tempted to refer to her as “the thinking man’s [fill in blank with name of less talented starlet],” but it’s too easy.  I think Hunter is so distinctive because she has a perverse desire to be dissonant — she doesn’t play her beauty for the thinking man’s benefit (or anyone else’s); she’s wary but not fragile; she’s unexpected but not quirky.  Her characters can suddenly become sharp-edged and mean.  Holly Hunter is eminently watchable — one of the most watchable women of her generation.

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I love her wit and her intelligence, but her Achilles heel is her honesty and her unwillingness to budge on what she thought was right and wrong. A friend of mine just last night emailed me and told me my Achilles heel on those dating websites is my honesty but that I shouldn’t change it to please people I don’t even know. I remember Holly Hunter standing in the airport talking to Tom who had a bikini wrapped around his shoulders and tickets to a tropical paradise. There was no sorrow at all in her resolve that this – HE – was not right for her because he played showman with her beloved credible broadcast news. It was the line she couldn’t cross, and she didn’t waver or apologize even in the light of losing the one guy that she loved. I remember thinking … wow… how did she do that? I also thought it was one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen a woman do.

There are all kinds of articles on the internet about what men find sexy. I suppose sexy is in the eyes of the beholder. It’s hard as a woman to remember that we each have our own sexiness and charm, and not everybody is going to appreciate it. I’m probably a little more like Jane – edgy, intelligent, funny and driven. I’m sure a lot of men don’t find that sexy at all. Maybe I have a limited audience. But, I’d rather limit my audience than limit myself. And I think that’s part of my charm. Thanks, Jane, for giving me a role model.

 

 

Transforming Fear – Hindsight in Advance

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In my struggles with anxiety, I’ve found a few tools that really work for me. Exercise helps keep it at bay. If I’m in the midst of an anxiety-filled time, I meditate or do a Yoga Nidra practice. Cutting back on sugar and caffeine helps, too. Getting connected with others is critical. But, there is one tool that I found particularly helpful in times when chronic anxiety and full-on fear is present. It’s only in really digging in and letting myself imagine the worst happening and writing down my options that I can transform fear into something else entirely.

A friend of mine is facing some major life changes. It’s often better in life when something happens and everything changes immediately. I don’t have time to worry about it. I just have to act. The times that I struggle with most are the ones with impending change — in my anxiety-filled mind, impending doom – that is about to occur. Or even worse, it’s going to be 6 months to a year before it really happens. That projected change can really mess with my sanity. My friend is trying to make decisions and changes on the smaller things in her life to help her feel more in control, and there is comfort in that. In fact, sometimes one small change can make a big difference. But, I urged her to accept that the big major life change that is coming is very scary and very stressful for most people. It’s okay to be filled with anxiety and fear about it. And, making those smaller changes will probably not make the anxiety she feels dissipate. It’s hanging over her head like a noose… waiting to hang her … or give her a step up… and there’s no way to know which it will be.

Things always work out. There is comfort in that. The majority of the time, in hindsight, we are grateful for what happened even if it’s just because we learned. But, that’s hindsight. There is a way to experience some hindsight in advance. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I read a book that suggested that I write down all of my fears when I’m full of anxiety AND write down what I would do should those things happen. The problem with this is that it’s uncomfortable to really imagine the scariest things I fear happening. My first choice is to ignore it.. medicate it … distract myself … or fix something easy like re-arrange my furniture. When I was finishing up graduate school, my ex and I had planned to move cross-country. To make matters worse, our marriage was falling apart in a big way. I told him that I did not want to move and add additional stress, and he told me that he was going. He didn’t care if I went or not. Now, for a normal person that might have been an indicator that this wasn’t a good decision. But, I was a mess. And, I couldn’t make a decision to divorce at that moment. I put it off and decided to go along with his wishes.

As I was getting ready to move – hunting jobs, finishing up my capstone project, packing – my biggest fear was that we would get to Memphis and get divorced. I tried to ignore it. My anxiety and fear increased. I tried to focus on school. My anxiety and fear increased. Nothing worked until I sat down and followed the instructions in that book. I wrote down that my biggest fear was that I’d move to Memphis, and we’d get divorced. I had all kinds of fears about that. I wouldn’t know anybody. I’d be in a financial bind bigger than I was at the present moment. What if I couldn’t find a job quickly? What if the job I found didn’t pay enough? All of these fears were nowhere near as enormous as the fear of being alone. It was blinding. One day, in a hotel room, while he was at a long meeting, I put pen to paper.

I wrote down my biggest fear – D I V O R C E. I wrote down options that might help my financial situation. I could get two jobs. I could find a roommate. I could move home and mooch off my family. I could go back to school and get my Ph.D. There were so many options that I hadn’t considered. Some of them were not options I could ever see myself doing, but they were options all the same. I thought of what I might do to support myself through the loneliness of being alone. I remembered my meetings and my connections I would probably make there. If I was single, I could more freely move to somewhere where I had friends. I could join a monastery. I wrote… my fears … I wrote .. my options. By the time my husband returned from his meeting, an ironic thing had happened. My fear of divorce had been transformed into a hope that – if it happened – it would be a catalyst for a new, even better life. It was just a tiny seed of hope, but it was hope all the same.

I kept this writing for a very long time. When the anxiety would well up, I’d re-read it. I’d remember my options. Eventually, a scenario started to form that I hadn’t even considered. What if I was happier divorced? What if my financial situation improved after divorcing a person who was admittedly out of control with his spending? What if I had time for more friends and connection when I quit putting all of my effort and energy into bailing out a sinking ship? That is exactly what happened. It happened slowly, and there was plenty of time for fear and anxiety to bounce in and out of my life for several years. But, eventually, the scenario that I never even considered happening became reality. My little list of options helped me bring hindsight into the forefront of my situation.

The thing I love about writing is that it takes my worries out of my mind. It allows me to experience – if I let myself really get into it – the things that I imagine. The power of the imagination is very strong. I can touch things I don’t want to touch in real life. And, once I go there in my mind, my body responds with emotions and thoughts that are identical to what I would experience if it really happened. It lets me feel as if it really is happening. And, I may make different decisions when it really happens than I might imagine if I just stand on the sidelines. Writing about “what if” is a powerful way to transform fear. It doesn’t take it away. It came back and grappled with me often. But, it did give me a path out. All I had to do was read what I had written. The opposite of fear is love. I had loved myself enough to step into my future and write it with just a dash of hope. I think it made all the difference in the outcome.

Mid-Week Share: Letting Go of the Sunshine … and Everything Else

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This morning I picked up my worn out copy of The Language of Letting Go. I was so touched by the reading that I wanted to re-type it verbatim in this blog. But, alas, when I got to my copy of the original book that I have at work, it didn’t have the same reading for today. It must be a different version of the book. I’m pretty ticked about it, too. I can’t “let go” of wanting what I want. I walked out of my meeting this morning, and it’s cold and cloudy. I want some sunshine. I have to let go of that, too.

I think Melody chose that title for these astounding, profound meditation books because the art of letting go is one that none of us really ever “get”. I read somewhere that this life is all about learning how to let go of things. That’s the core lesson we all have to learn. In childhood, we have to learn to let go of being able to meet our own needs and let someone else take care of us. As teenagers, we learn to let go of the fact that we will be loved by our peers for who we are. As adults, we begin the arduous process of letting go of the fact that we are not GOD, and we don’t get everything we want. As we age, we let go of our influence, our faculties, our independence, and, finally, our life itself. It is a practice that never ends …… this letting go business.

I’ve learned that there are two extreme ways to avoid letting go … both described by codependency. There are the individuals who are so squeamish about letting go that they never connect. They’d rather not fully commit to love or let themselves fall into relationship at all so they never feel the pain of letting go. On the other extreme, there are those of us who just refuse to let go of anything …. anything ….until we have no other choice. I fall more into the second camp, but I can see that I’ve been doing a dance for the last couple of years on the other end of the spectrum. I generally won’t let go of a belief … a relationship … a dream … until my cold dead hands are pulled off, and I have no life left in me to resist. As the pendulum swings, I’m now afraid. I don’t do it gracefully, so why go there at all? Ugh …. I hate it … this letting go process.

We often refer to the grieving process when we have a significant loss, but, really, we have to go through the grieving process for every single little loss in our lives. And, there are so many losses that we don’t even acknowledge. We sometimes approach the letting go process by not even acknowledging that a loss has occurred. We inevitably have to deal with the loss. If we numb out or otherwise ignore that we need to let go, we end up carrying that loss around in our guts and have to feed it constantly with food, depression, bitterness and anger or any number of addictions and compulsions. We HAVE to learn to let go. I wish I could do it with more grace.

  • We have to let go of relationships and our dream of the way they should look. We fight to keep them the same, and relationships are living … they change constantly.
  • We have to let go of our dreams in order to accept the life we have.
  • We have to let go of loved ones who die or move on.
  • We have to let go of core beliefs that don’t work for us anymore. Those can go down really hard because we don’t usually even know they are there … tripping us up … tearing us apart.
  • We have to let go of pets that adore us.
  • We have to let go of financial security. Money comes and goes …. it always has and always will. Job security is the same way. There is no such thing. In fact, there is no security of any kind. It’s all a cruel fallacy designed to keep us from facing the fact that we have to let that go.
  • We have to let go of the belief that life will be fair. The good guys don’t always win, and the bad guys sometimes get the girl. And, just because we always have our heart in the right place, it doesn’t mean we’ll get what we want.
  • We have to let go of the belief that we know what we need. We may know what we want but we’re not in charge of that either.
  • We have to let go of the belief that God chooses to be in control of everything. Yes, He has the capability, but He gives us free will, and sh*t happens. He doesn’t always intervene, and, when He does, it may have nothing to do with how good you are.
  • We have to let go of addictions, compulsions and coping mechanisms that keep us stuck.
  • We have to let go of our health … either when we’re young … or when we’re sick …. or when we’re about to die.
  • We have to let go of whether or not our boss, our spouse, our kids, our friends or strangers like us. We also have no control of what they think of us or what they say about us.
  • We have to let go of race entry fees when we’re injured … and the fear that we’ll never be able to run again.
  • We have to let go of the weather, too. Today it is cloudy out, and I so want the sunshine. But, I have to let go of that, too. Maybe the world needs the rain.

OR … if we choose, we don’t have to let go of anything at all. With that choice, your life will basically suck. You will spend your life stuck, hurt, numbed out, angry, bitter and sick. I’ve never seen or heard of one person who never learned to let go of anything who is happy. Mother Theresa let go of the fact that she didn’t feel God for over 30 years of her lifetime and did what she needed to do anyway. Even Jesus had to let go of the way His people behaved … he could only offer relationship … and, if they didn’t take it, He let go of it.

I will leave you with a reading about Letting Go from Melody Beattie’s book The Language of Letting Go. It’s not the one I wanted to give you, but I have to let go of that. It’s the one I have….

Letting Go (December 4th Meditation)

“How much do we need to let go of?” a friend asked me one day.

“I’m not certain,” I replied, “but maybe everything.”

Letting go is a spiritual, emotional, mental and physical process, a sometimes mysterious metaphysical process of releasing to God and the Universe that which we are clinging to so tightly.

We let go of our grasp on people, outcomes, ideas, feelings, wants, needs, desires – everything. We let go of trying to control our progress in recovery. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge and accept what we want and what we want to happen. But it’s equally important to follow through by letting go.

Letting go is the action part of faith. It is a behavior that gives God and the Universe permission to send us what we’re meant to have. Letting go means we acknowledge that hanging on so tightly isn’t helping to solve the problem, change the person, or get the outcome we desire. It isn’t helping us. In fact, we learn that hanging on often blocks us from getting what we want and need.

Who are we to say that things aren’t happening exactly as they need to happen?

There is magic in letting go. Sometimes we get what we want soon after we let go. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes the specific outcome we desire doesn’t happen. Something better does.

Letting go sets us free and connects us to our Sourc.e.

Letting go creates the optimum environment for the best possible outcomes and solutions.

Today, I will relax. I will let go of that which is upsetting me the most. I will trust that by letting go, I have started the wheels in motion for things to work out in the best possible way.

Girl Talk: Crossing the Line

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A friend of mine sent me a link yesterday to an article about Elizabeth’s Varga’s journey out of alcoholism and her willingness to break her anonymity and talk about it. Those of us in recovery have a duty to protect our fellow travelers’ anonymity. It is part of the responsibility that we have in recovery. And, it is not taken lightly. The stigma of addiction is much less now than it used to be, but there is still a significant stigma. The interesting thing is that there doesn’t seem to be much stigma to being a drinking drunk – that’s party time! But, there is a stigma to getting sober. I’ve never understood it. I’ve had people ask me if I was ever afraid that my employer would run across one of my blogs. “Well,” I told them, “yes, I’ve worried about it. But, I’m 53 years old. If they want to fire me because I drank too much in my 20s, then, that’s their loss.” That’s why it is a news story when an accomplished female woman admits to her problem AND the solution. I applaud her, AND I would never have any expectations that anyone else would ever give up their right to anonymity. The world is too cold. It’s a personal decision.

News Article on Elizabeth Vargas’ Interview with Video Clips

Another recovery friend shared this link with me this morning. Diane Sawyer looks at the increase in female alcoholism and how we cross the line before we even know it. They even define the line for those of us who think it keeps moving.

Where’s the Line?

Women’s alcoholism is on the rise. I mean, it’s like a freight train picking up speed going down a mountain. The problem is that we are smaller, and our bodies metabolize alcohol much less effectively than it does men. The same is true of prescription drugs, and prescription drug abuse in women is rising as much – or more – as alcohol abuse. A Huffington Post article states data that says a woman’s body suffers as much damage from alcohol abuse in 4 years as a man’s does in 14. That’s staggering. AND, we become addicted more quickly. Both of these addictive substances are readily available. I know there are efforts to monitor prescription abuse, but I’ve heard too many horror stories where the doctors won’t quit writing them even when they been asked by families to stop. The reality is that the decision to stop using an addictive substance has to come from the addict themselves. We can’t kid ourselves that the supplier has to be responsible. Getting drugs and alcohol is easy peasy. If one source dries up, there are 50 to take its place. We can rail all we want about the system, but the addict is the one that has to be stopped. And, as any family affected by addiction can tell you, it’s a difficult … sometimes impossible…. journey to get an addict to want to stop.

Article on Addiction Increase in Women – Alcohol and Prescription Drugs

I never knew where the line was on drinking. In fact, I drank mostly in my 20s, and there was no research or data available that said there was a line. So many of my friends drank like I did. The line was when you lost your house, your husband, your friends, all your money and your job. That was a pretty clear line. But, today, more addicts than ever are stopping before they get to that “low-bottom” line. Why wait until you lose everything? But, the stigma still exists. It’s hard to do it. And, it’s even harder to want to give up your pacifier in life. Addicts don’t drink because they want to; they drink because they have to. It’s complicated.

I’m not going to provide an answer because there’s no simple one. But, I would like to suggest to anyone that thinks they might have a drinking problem, they probably do. The rule of thumb in Diane Sawyer’s video is 5 oz. of wine…. no more than 2 glasses a day. That 10 oz. is less than a Grande Latte at Starbucks. If you drink 20 oz of wine on occasion … not even every day … you are a binge drinker. 20 oz is the size of a Venti Latte. I was a binge drinker. I didn’t lose much at all except my sanity. But, I kept wondering if I had a drinking problem. People who socially drink don’t ever wonder if they have a drinking problem. That’s why I like that rule of thumb. And, if someone has ever told you that they think you have a problem, that’s a significant indicator. People have a lot of difficulty saying that to loved one, and they wouldn’t say it unless they are feeling a lot of angst about it.

Make no mistake. If you are an active addict, your life will be shortened because of your disease. The days that you have will have less happiness than you could have if you get help. Forget about the stigma. There are lots of us out here. We are all around you. You just don’t know because most of us are anonymous. We know how to live, and we have fun. Most of all, we live life on life’s terms, and we cope without giving up our health, our lives, our families and our dreams. Girls, if drinking isn’t fun any more, or if you count the days to refill your next pain pill prescription, you have crossed the line. Don’t keep moving it. You are only hurting yourself and the people who love you. It’s going to trip you up, big time. That line is actually not a line… it’s a noose.

Girl Talk: Circling Up

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L to R starting at back: Lisa, Rhonda, Bryan, Lori, Tammy, Donna, Tammie. Me and Sha up front.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is my birthday! I’ll be 53. I went out to dinner with a bevy of old pals from high school, and we talked about being in our 50s. We thought we’d feel a lot older in our 50s… imagining ourselves wrinkled with our walkers, dried up…. you know.. life being over kind of deal. But, we’re not. We feel young. Yeah, we have our aches and pains and our ever-blossoming collection of wrinkles and facial hair, but we don’t feel our lives are over. Lori asked, “Didn’t you expect that we’d be further along by now, though… You know, I thought my house would be paid off …. my kids would be grown and gone? We all laughed at how things have changed, and we just don’t have the clear path that our parents had. But, I’m happy about being 53.

I read a study about happiness awhile back. I can’t tell you what it was because I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but, trust me, it was relevant. It said that overall people are happy in their early 20s and they continue to get more and more unhappy until their late 40s. Most people are at their most miserable at 48 or 49. Then, something happens at 50 that turns the path around, and people get happier and more content until they reach age 75 and health issues start cropping up. I find that very comforting. I know, for me, the year I turned 50 was the start of a major turnaround, and I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I don’t know why, and I don’t care why. I just know I am.

These ladies that I dined with tonight are the girls I colored with in the first grade, chased boys with in the 6th grade, rode around and partied with in high school. Lori taught me to eat pop-tarts with butter on them, and I think about her every time – no matter what city I’m in – I eat a pop-tart. She and I were little girl cheerleaders, and I remember tossing my pom poms down to fight her one day when she made fun of my skinny calves. Tonight, she reminded me of a day that she and I begged Momma to take us to a baseball game in New Roads to see my high school heart-throb play. We got on our knees begging…. nothing’s going to happen, Momma….Please take us. Well, we had an auto accident that day. I had totally forgotten about that, but Lori even remembered potato chips flying all over the place. And our friend Jean Ann who is still recovering from her surgery was with us, too.

Some of them were friends that I wasn’t very close to in high school, but I knew them because we all knew each other. Tammy was the arguably the prettiest girl at our school and exotic with her long silky brown hair. She had a personality that was much more grown up or reserved – I don’t know which – and it made her seem so different than the rest of us silly country gals. I asked them all a question that has been haunting me for decades. “Why – with that new gym that we had – did we never take showers after PE class? In that Louisiana heat with no air conditioning we sweated in PE class and got dressed without taking a shower. Were we morons? They had never thought about it, but I thought about it every time I went to a gym and got dressed for work. I thought of how sweaty we were, and we’d change with the backdrop of dry showers in the locker room. We speculated that maybe we didn’t want to be naked in front of each other or maybe we couldn’t really do our hair and makeup so it just seemed easier to stay like we were. Apparently, it never dawned on ANY of us to take a shower. What were we thinking?

We talked about the boys we grew up with – yes, if you were at Live Oak High between the years of 1975 and 1980 – your ears were burning for a reason. We talked about Angola and how an insider knows that every man in that prison is there because of something to do with a woman. We talked about where we’d been, what we’re doing and where we hope to go. Sha, my best friend from early childhood, talked about how odd it is that we all started out in this one place. Some of us went around in big circles and went far and wide; others went in small circles and didn’t go far. But, whatever we did, at this particular moment we all ended up in the same place with the same gals all over again. It is ironic. I think of Sha all the time, too. When I open a new account, and they ask that question Who was your best childhood friend?, Sha is always my answer. We’ve now exchanged phone numbers again, and she petted my dog before we left. We have spent so many minutes on the phone over the years. She was the first girlfriend that Daddy let me call long distance on a vacation. I hung out for hours on our harvest gold kitchen phone talking about boys with that girl. She was my catcher, and one day I’m going to blog about that connection. We caught up once in the 1990s for a brief period, and she came to my parent’s house that Christmas to see me. It was fun to see her again.

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Sha and Ashok… fast friends

Birthdays make me think of the circle of my life. I love to hear my parents tell the story of my birth. They had gone to an LSU basketball game – University of Tennessee – and Momma went into labor early the next morning. I was the first. Momma’s water broke, and they rushed to the hospital. They pulled up to the Baton Rouge General, and Momma looked up and told Daddy that we needed to go to the Lady of the Lake. That wasn’t the first misjudgment of the night. Michael Jerome, as I was to be named, turned out missing a very important piece of equipment, and Daddy had to come up with a female name while Momma was under anesthesia. He decided on Sharon Kay. Momma says I never liked going to sleep. I wanted to play all night. I was a born communicator. I started talking in full sentences. I had a stint as an only child for only 14 months. The rest, as they say, is history.

When we arrived at the restaurant tonight, our classmate Bryan happened to be there. He was so surprised to see us. He lives in New York and was down for a funeral. The first time I was in a room with all of these faces that I’d known since I was a child, it was a very odd feeling. I felt like a deep memory was being needled, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t really describe it, but it felt like it was old and new at the same time. And, I felt a little torn. I knew them so well, but I didn’t really know them at all. They looked so familiar, but I might not have recognized them in another place. Bryan had that look about him and even commented that it was weird to see us all together. I told him about my experience, and we laughed. I don’t know if anyone else at Don’s could talk over us. We were loud and laughing and couldn’t stop talking for a minute. At one point we set ourselves up for a group photo, but we didn’t have photographer. We stood in the corner in our group until our waitress came back and captured the moment. It was fun, and I feel pretty happy right now in my bungalow in Mid-City. It’s my birthday, dammit. Party on.

Girl Talk: Stepping Into My Power Through Story

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When I first got into recovery, I winced at the first step. We admitted we were powerless… ugh … that word powerless. I hated it, but I knew that I could not stop the addictions that I had. I listened and I accepted my powerlessness, but I always winced at that word. I found a book that was for women who were working the 12 steps. It talked about that first step and how difficult it is for women to accept powerlessness because we are stripped of and denied our power by cultural norms, messages and traditions. And, if you think for a minute that females are not discriminated against anymore, you are in denial. But, this blog is not about that, so I’m going to make it an assumption. The idea that I finally grasped was that if I could identify those things that I did not have power over like my addictions, I could take on the things I do have power over. THAT resonated with me. I moved past it.

I was in a long-term relationship with a narcissist. A narcissist has a personality disorder where they are so totally out of touch with reality that they feel the world does and should revolve around them. Every one in their world is there to feed them attention. So, his brain was wired to believe that he ran the world. It was impossible to be in relationship with him, but I often wished that I had the mindset that I was in charge of the world. He REALLY believed it. It made it easy for him to make decisions and move through life because he didn’t have all of these self image issues and doubts that I had. If reality didn’t suit him, he made it up. And, he was always right. Narcissists also don’t feel empathy or remorse, so he never really felt any remorse about any of it. I don’t want to be a narcissist because there are all kinds of major dysfunctions involved with being one, but I certainly wished I had those personal blinders on…. just for awhile.

Olivia Newton John’s Phenomenal Woman

I had a problem with people-pleasing. Now, I wasn’t the stereotypical doormat. In fact, I was very outspoken. I would say no and do things I wanted to do. But, my people-pleasing took on a quality of diminishing my own personal power. I gave in to what I thought I should be. Working in corporations really sucked me dry. I thought I had to act a certain way, dress a certain way and perform a certain way in order to be successful. I did it until I hated it so bad that I had to leave. I was miserable, and I thought it was my fault… because I couldn’t do what they wanted me to do … I couldn’t do what I should be able to do. I should dress like a man because they have the power to promote me. I should hide my emotions because … well … women are emotional. I should let authority figures run wild in all their power and never, ever tell them they are wrong lest I get on their bad side. I was TOLD to do that, so I’m not imagining it. But, why didn’t I say to myself, “They are a bunch of idiots that are scared of people that are not like them?” Because I was a people-pleaser. I could never re-frame the story in a way where I was the star of my own life. My story was always told by “others” …. usually men … in positions of authority – real OR imagined.

My beliefs about who I should be, what I should wear, how I should talk, what my education should be, who I should love, and basically everything else was based on what someone else or society in general thought…. or what I thought they thought. Until about 7 years ago, I had no idea what I thought or believed. I only knew what I should think or believe. I never even developed my own self. I now know that people are fine with my individuality, but I was so scared to step out and be an individual that I didn’t even try it. I played it safe. And, to take it a step further, I thought that when I struggled to fit a mold that didn’t fit, I was somehow defective.

Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman

A perfect example of my misguided thinking was in my thinking about my body. I always thought I had a big butt … a fat *ss … because people had told me that AND all the models have these nice flat skinny butts. For about 40 something years, I believed it. My ass is fat. I’d hide it under clothing. I’d try to lose it. I’d try to tighten it up. No matter what I did, I’d look behind me, and it was still there… as big as day. I HATED it. My second husband was enamored with it. “You have the perfect butt,” he’d say. “I’d follow that butt anywhere.” It didn’t take long before I re-framed my belief about my butt. It was the same butt!! Nothing had changed but my mind and my view of my rear view.

When our marriage ended, all I could think about was how he was probably on to the next woman, happy as could be. He’d be buying her flowers just like he did me. I knew what his courtship looked like. In my original story, it was over the top, and he was somewhere forgetting about me and loving on HER. I was a distant memory, somebody who made his life miserable (he told me), and fat and old. I’d go on to be alone and destitute because no one would ever find me desirable again. One day when I was in horrible pain thinking about his happy life without me, I thought, “Why don’t I just make up something else?” I didn’t really know what he was thinking anyway. If I could make up a bad story, I could make up a good one just as easily.  So, I changed the story to reflect his sorry ass life without me, him wishing he hadn’t screwed up so badly as to lose me, and his regret at making the decision he did. It worked! My view of the whole thing changed. But, you know what really changed? I stepped into my power. It was always there. It was like plugging into a power outlet.

I was texting Jessica today about feeling really bad about myself and related this big sob story that I was telling myself about an event that is going on in my life. She texted me back and said, “OMG, is that what you’re telling yourself? That’s not what I think at all.” She rebutted, “It’s your life. You’re the author. Write it how you want!” My friend Nancy told me the same thing earlier today. She’s going through a rather painful breakup right now, and she has used this story-shifting technique to help her get through it. She imagines he is miserable without her. She imagines that he wishes he’d never left her, and now he’s with someone who is totally crazy and doesn’t like sex at all.  He’s miserable but he can’t turn it around. She makes up the story so that she’s the winner.  She stepped into her power just by changing the story. What I’m learning is that when other people hold the power in my life – real or imagined, I’m not very happy. If I hold the power, and sometimes it’s just in the stories I tell myself, I am stronger, more confident and happier.

I hear women all the time tell me that they can’t stand up for themselves, they can’t ask for a divorce, they can’t make the time for themselves, yada, yada, yada…..all statements reflecting that they are under the control of someone else’s needs or rules. People-pleasing robs people of their spirit, their passion and their power. I still slip back into people-pleasing at times, but I’m at my best when I’m standing in my power …. with my bodacious butt and my daring writing and my confidence in my abilities to change my world…. and maybe even yours…. for the better. None of it may be true, but who cares? It’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

A Guide to Stepping Into Your Power