On Beauty Pt. 2

On Beauty Pt. 2

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this blog should be. Mercury has been in retrograde, which for me is a very powerful time of revisiting and revising ideas and projects, and it this particular project has been swirling around in my mind. Maybe I got caught up in wanting to draw readers in with hooks like numbered lists and expert advice, but that’s not really my style. I’m not an expert on anything, really, just a soul in a body moving through this problematic world, learning what works and doesn’t work for me and my loved ones, hopefully gaining insight that can one day be described as “wisdom.” With that in mind, I thought I would just share some thoughts and feelings I have about beauty and acceptance and being a fucking radical badass woman, which is basically my life goal.

My friend and colleague recently described herself as a “recovering perfectionist.” I love this phrase. It brings to mind addiction and how recovery is actually a lifetime of work and maintenance. I have been talking about this a lot with my friends in terms of chronic anxiety and depression that so many of us deal with, about how depression is a disease which, like diabetes, requires constant attention and care. I am definitely a perfectionist (it goes along with the anxiety and depression, for sure). It’s the “not good enough” thing I’ve mentioned before. It’s the “but my life isn’t bad enough to even feel this way” thing. It’s the whole concept of “enough” and self-worth and living up to standards that are unattainable because they are constructed by society or the poor, fragile ego, to keep us down.

For me, this manifests most obviously as the “not pretty enough” construct. At some point in my life (probably from a very young age–I mean, I had ~75 Barbies!), bought into the unrealistic, oppressive standards of beauty, especially what “men” find “attractive” (using quotes here because I believe that real live men find all kinds of people beautiful, and because I have problems with the word “attractive”). These standards are forced on our culture by an oppressive, restrictive patriarchal system that actually encourages and commodifies our feelings of worthlessness. The system wants us to waste time and energy feeling shitty so that we’ll waste more time and energy and especially money on trying to correct our perceived flaws by primping and exercising and buying diet books and viewing ourselves as projects, not people. Imagine what we women (and men) could accomplish if we accepted ourselves as beautiful, flawed, dynamic creatures and focused our energy and resources on creating a better world, for instance, or upending the status quo!

By buying into this garbage, I have turned myself into a work-in-progress that will never meet accepted American cultural standards of beauty. Most of us won’t. They are unhealthy, unrealistic, and extremely limiting ideals. How much energy have I wasted on feeling ugly and unlovable because I’m bloated or I have a soft and delicate (read: weak) jawline, or I’m breaking out or my jeans are uncomfortably tight? How often do I feel bad about my neck, or get bummed out because I don’t look like all the women on American TV (thin, gorgeous, great damn hair, makeup on even in bed)? How much time have I spent obsessing about my blackheads, imperceptible to anyone but me as I get up really close to the mirror and enter a fugue state wherein I attempt to extract them all with my fingernails (which by the way, not great for either skin or posture)? So. Much. Time.

Another question, then: What could I accomplish if this energy was rerouted into feeling fucking fantastic? Beautiful, powerful, amazing? Helping others? Writing my children’s book? Doing yoga? Think of the possibilities!

Mostly, I’d like to not think about “being pretty” anymore. I’d like to be non-obsessive about my looks. I’d love to stop worrying over whether men find me attractive.

Now, let me unpack my baggage about the word “attractive,” because I have a lot of issues around this word. I am a very verbal person and the meaning of words is important to me. This one totally bums me out. The word “attractive” has become associated (in my mind, at least) with purely visual attraction. It is melded inextricably with the above-stated beauty standards. It brings to mine commodification, an “attractive deal,” a selling-point.  It makes my anxiety bust out full force. Am I attractive? I’m not attractive! No one is attracted to me! Bahhhhhhhh! How can I be more attractive?!?! Well…fuck that.

How about this: I want to be “magnetic.” I want people to be drawn to me because of my spirit, talent, kindness, warmth, personality. If that sounds like a brag, then…I’m okay with that. I think about my incredible coven of women-friends, who are all magical, magnetic humans. I want to be around them all the time because of attributes like those, because they are wise, friendly, positive, gifted, radiant beings. They are all gorgeous to me, and almost none of them fit the typical standard of beauty. I want to be that. I probably am that, since they want to hang out with me, too, but I want to believe that about myself.

I have come to an understanding that the path to self-love is through self-acceptance. I am throwing off the burden of being “attractive” and allowing myself to just BE. How radical is that?! I will not conform! I will just BE. A human person with thoughts and feelings and a body that does wonderful things for me, living in this tough, beautiful world, collecting insights that might one day be called wisdom.

That’s all. <3

Adventures in Austerity: This is Happening!

Spending Fast Guidelines | Whisper & Howl

Not Spending = Saving, right?

This is happening! I embarked on an Adventure in Austerity (not to be confused with a Spending Fast, which is a trademarked phrase created by the brilliant Anna Newell Jones of And Then We Saved)!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to reexamine my spending habits and jump-start my savings. I struggled with the decision to freeze my discretionary spending, because it’s hard. It means spending money only on essentials and exercising a lot of restraint. I realized it would be easier to start if I took a month to prepare by making a list of things I wanted (like new Chelsea boots and a harmonium) and upcoming expenses throughout the year (yoga insurance renewal, contacts). I evaluated the “wants” and chose a few things to purchase, and I planned out the upcoming expenses so I’d remember to budget for them. I think this really helped, and not just because I now have a nice pair of boots that I wear almost every day and a harmonium I play every night. The process of prioritizing and scheduling things out was useful.

Because I’ve been living partially on savings and my (very low interest) credit card for the last 5 months, my bank accounts are basically down to $0. I’m starting from scratch here, but that’s okay. I just got my first paycheck from my new full time job and I am so excited to put a big chunk of it into savings!

It also helped to set goals.

My Savings Goals

  1. Get my Emergency Savings back to $1000. It has pained me to watch this dwindle. I had to dip into it for essentials each month that I was underemployed, and at this point it is down to the minimum account balance requirement: $25. Ouch.
  2. Pay off credit card debt. At the moment, this is at an all-time, scary high of $2100. I didn’t touch the thing in February (another reason my Emergency Savings is gone). In the interest of full disclosure, I might make one final purchase on it before laying it to rest for the next 6 months: $200 plane tickets to Iceland. Which brings me to my next goal…
  3. Save up for birthday trip to Iceland. Yes, my priorities could be better. No, I am not going to reconsider. This, also, is happening.
  4. Build 3-6 months of Emergency Savings. This is 3-6 months of what I would need to live off of if I had absolutely no income. I’m estimating that 3 months would be about $4500.
  5. Build General Savings, or save up for more specific goals (buy a house?! Is that crazy?!).

My PLan

  1. Don’t increase spending just because income has increased. In order to save money, I have to stick only to planned purchases. This means budgeting based on my anticipated needs rather than leaving in extra “just in case” cushioning. Living on less these last few months has helped me to trim some fat from my budget. For instance, I’ve reduced my food budget by nearly half since this time last year. I’ve also cut way back on miscellaneous personal items like toiletries, and I rarely buy clothes or home-goods. Now I have a better idea of what I need to budget for based on my needs, not my desires, and on m
  2. Set saving priorities–and get excited about them! See above for goals.
  3. Set spending priorities. Determine needs v. wants. I use the word “needs” loosely to define things I am not willing to part with, such as sewing club, acupuncture, and Netflix.
  4. Shop with intention. Have a plan! Make lists! Stay on task!
  5. Think before purchasing. Take a moment. Count to 10. Breathe deeply.
  6. Don’t shop when hungry or stressed
  7. Make do and mend, reuse creatively, make things, use what you already have, borrow from friends, and find free things to do!
  8. Think of this as an ADVENTURE!

THIS IS HAPPENING! I started March 1st. I have paid for gas and my sewing classes (needs) but have refrained from buying some fantastic rayon-cotton blend jersey fabric that is on sale and would look gorgeous as a tee shirt dress, but that is categorically not a need. I have plenty of sewing projects lined up to keep me busy for months, and I already own the fabric! It’s the little victories, you guys.

How do you feel about saving? Is it easy or difficult, or have you never considered the fact that you’re 31 and have $40 in your Simple IRA account?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

31st Birthday Resolution

After much consideration for the past few months, my 31st Birthday Resolution presented itself to me in July.

For the 31st year of my life, I am GOING FULL WITCH. 

What does this mean, you might ask?  Let me explain.

Three Fates, painting by Emily Balivet

Three Fates, painting by Emily Balivet

GOING FULL WITCH

This doesn’t mean Halloween witch, or Wiccan witch, or Goth witch (although I fully embrace deep, dark lipstick on a regular basis).  I love those things but this is something…different.

This is me being totally open to exploring all the earthy, natural, divine, strange, left-handed, taboo, mushy, divine aspects of womanhood.   Another way to name this would be “Exploring the Divine Feminine,” or “Going Full Goddess,” but witch sounds better.  It reminds me of the many ways that women have been persecuted and disempowered throughout history for daring to practice natural medicine, midwifery, and spirituality based on the sacred feminine.

“Witch” also lends that wild and weird quality that is, semantically at least, empowering me to get a little freaky without reservation and without worrying about being judged.  I’m buying crystals, guys.  I’m chanting, burning incense, signing up for Full Moon Goddess teleconferences, reading all kinds of cards, communing with my spirit guides, setting intentions.  I am absolutely wearing dark lipstick, and I might wear a giant flower crown out in public for no reason at all! (What?!  That’s crazy!)

The point is, I’ve been doing these things for a little while and I keep adding practices and researching different ways of being, and I’m just going for it.  I’m allowing myself to do whatever is interesting in the name of sacred womanhood.  There’s not a religious sect I align with (although I am a yogi and leaning towards the tantric and bhakti paths).  I’m not following any gurus.  I’m going to do what I want, learn, and teach.  If you’re interested in what I’m doing, follow along.  I’ll share anything that I stumble on, fascinating and probably also mundane.

Blessed be, y’all.

 

 

Weekend Wanderer

Weekend Wanderer | Whisper & Howl

I start every week with good intentions. I get up on Monday, teach my yoga class, drink a smoothie and head to work. If it’s not too hot, I walk. I wake up Tuesday through Friday to do 5 minutes of pranayama (breath work) and 5 minutes of meditation–a new practice to help me establish the habits that will make up my morning routine--and start the day off with focus and clarity. After work, I walk home to cook a healthy dinner and enjoy the evening by painting, reading, sewing, attending a class, spending time with friends, or vegging in front of the TV (too often, honestly). Around 9 I go upstairs and do 7 minutes of asana, which usually lasts much longer than 7 minutes, perform my evening skin care routine and go to bed, where I do my castor oil pack and read for 45 minutes before I sleep.

I mean, this is ideal. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and eat junk for dinner, plopping down on the couch to pass the evening with Netflix. I think that’s okay. Some nights my asana is just a very long savasana, and some nights I read Tarot cards or meditate and suddenly realize I am staying up way too late. Most mornings, I used to pound the snooze alarm for a long time, although I’m on a mission to change this and have so far been doing pretty well with establishing my morning routine…

Except on weekends. On the weekend, everything slips away and I find myself wandering far away from my path of good intentions. Sometimes it’s because I’m having a wonderful time out with friends and am up way past my bedtime having excellent conversations and drinking too much wine. Other times, I am worn out from the week before or am nursing a cold and choose to sleep late and laze around–and this is totally fine! I’m not rigid. If I were, I wouldn’t be striving so hard to establish some healthy habits. These occasions are totally “allowable,” not wandering so much as being fluid and attuned to the body.

What does bother me, however, is when I stay up until 2 am binge-watching TV. I do this thing where I stay up super late and fall asleep on the couch when my roommate is away. For some reason it feels really indulgent. It also makes me feel like shit. I end up sleeping until 11 or later the next day. I drop my morning routine. My face goes unwashed. I feel like I’ve wasted half the day and I get stressed out thinking of all the things I wanted to do, and how I must now choose. On Sunday evening I have to reset, and on Monday waking up early is more difficult than it should be.

It’s not that I want to impose a structure on my weekends that would make me, you know, super boring. It’s that I want to do more: have more fun, accomplish a mini-goal, be more active, enjoy myself more. When I stay up late and sleep in nearly ’til noon, I can’t do these things. I miss the Farmers Market. It’s too hot to go hiking. I still have chores to do and that interferes with my social time, or I am social and my house remains a mess for the upcoming week. I break out because I’ve neglected my skincare. The list goes on.

What I’d like to do is to maintain a bit of my weekday routine, but to stretch it and be more flexible with it. I used to think I wanted the opportunity to sleep late but now I want the opportunity to enjoy the whole day! As I’m establishing my weekday habits, I need to be mindful of what I want for my time off. How can I live to the max Friday-Sunday? How can I make the most of the time I have? What can I do to become a warrior instead of a wanderer?

What is your ideal weekend like? How do you spend your time currently, and how would you like to change?