11 Jul 2014

setting up shop in your own skin

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It’s rare that you’ll find a photo of me around these parts, much less one of me wearing an outfit, as that’s not the sort of thing I’m into, however, I was really happy yesterday and I wanted someone to capture that happiness. Two friends paid me the kindest of compliments; they said that I was one of the good ones, while at the same time acknowledging that we rarely compliment one another’s character. We might remark on a piece of fabric a friend wears or the way in which they’ve styled their hair, but do we pause and tell someone that they’re kind? Do we ever sit across from the ones we love and tell them that they’re good people? Or do we take our friendships for granted, tacitly seeing the irony in this because we’re all too often besieged by so many who lack grace, humility, kindness and compassion?

You should know that I debated for hours whether to publish this photo online. I hate being photographed (I once told Marion Ettlinger that she needn’t bother asking me to smile for my author portrait) because it’s easy for me to dissect my every flaw. I guess it’s true that we are cruelest to ourselves, and while I’d like to say that I’m completely at home in my own skin, I’d be lying. I’d be telling a half-truth, because part of me will always (will I, always, I wonder?) look at photos like this one, and think: wow, I was small.

I also have to remind myself that when that photo was taken I was one year sober and white-knuckling it. But sometimes the reality gets crowded out by an image of who we used to be. Funny how time rearranges itself.

I read something today, which put my heart on pause:

You are enough. Without covering your face. Without starving yourself or obsessing over one too many cookies. Without Nair and a never-ending series of disposable razors. Without pinching at muffin tops or squeezing into pants one size too small. Your worth is not found in the un-clumped application of mascara or the bold swoop of eyeliner across a lid pulled taunt. You won’t find it behind the Spanx at Macy’s or on a shelf at Sephora. Instead, it is tucked gently inside of your humanity, waiting to be discovered.

The author was responding to a woman who told her that she’d be prettier if she’d use makeup to cover up her lines. And I think about the a priori justifications we make for ourselves with regard to our state of being–thin is beautiful, painting makeup on ourselves to hide, rather than to pronounce, is beautiful, etc, etc–and I’m exhausted.

I’m exhausted. I’m a 38-year-old achieved woman and I’m exhausted thinking about my body. I’ve published a book, will likely publish another, was a partner in a company, is a successful consultant, but still. I hold a master’s degree, but still. I’m present for the people whom I love, but still. I bake, cook, and share this love with others, but still. Over the past decade, I’ve tried to be self-aware and be a better human being, but still. I’d been sober for seven years, relapsed for two months, and didn’t beat myself up because of it, and haven’t drank in a year, but still. But still the whole of myself, my character, is weighed against the weight of me, and I’m aware of it (no really, I get it), and I’m trying every single day to focus on the intangible weight on one side of the scale versus the physical weight on the other.

I try to focus on the fact that after this photo was taken, I spent time with a woman whom I adore, and another woman who’s going through a tough time professionally, and I made her laugh.

I focus on the happiness that leaves marks all over my skin, gets buried there, climbs its way in.

Posted on July 11, in style

0 Comments

  1. theveganmuffinwoman wrote:

    I think you made the right choice to post this photo. Your happiness shines through and this posting is an affirmation of that happiness that compliments the writing. And your outfit is awesome! Happy Friday!

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  2. petra wrote:

    well said xoxo

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  3. Laurel wrote:

    BRILLIANT—on ALL levels!

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  4. Kel wrote:

    I love everything about this post!!!

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
    • Thanks, Kel!!! That means the world to me 🙂

      On Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 9:45 AM, love.life.eat wrote:

      >

      Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  5. This photo made me click through from feedly to comment. You look beautiful and bright. And I’m thankful for what you shared because I too am exhausted thinking about my body. I cling to the fleeting moments when I realize I wasn’t thinking about my appearance and how free it feels. The notion that I will only be successful when I am all that I already am AND thin is so deeply ingrained in me that it causes a huge conflict with my intellectual self. Basically I feel like a failure for looking the way I do (and my own self-image is much crueler than other’s image of me) and then beat myself up for letting it matter so much. I find myself asking ‘why does it matter so much? We’re all so beautiful. ALL of us.’ but I still don’t include myself in that ‘all’.

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
    • Samantha – You’ve managed to articulate everything I’ve been thinking so beautifully. It’s weird to have this dissonance between what I know logically to be truth and what I see in the mirror. Logically, I know that we are all beautiful, and without oddities and individually and some degree of ugliness, we wouldn’t understand beauty in its depth and complexity, which is way more than what our photoshop culture would suggest.

      I think if we spent more time (and I say this in the collective we) redirecting our energy toward our bodies to creating, loving, being, who knows what we’d be capable of.

      Then again, this is all a journey….

      Thank you for your comment. -f

      Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  6. Great quote
    And we are always cruelest on ourselves
    What is your book’s name? And when was it published?

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  7. Patty wrote:

    Felicia: I’ve thought this so many times when i read your posts, but I don’t think I have ever mentioned this to you: I hope one of your future books is about the themes that you explore often in your blog–the deeply personal essays about selfhood, perception, growth, challenges, the evolution of priorities professoinally and personally, friendship, focusing on what you love, letting go/embracing, etc. What an inspiring book that would be…and we invitations for others to think about these same topics in their own hearts and minds. I always look forward to reading your writing–on your blog and your next book(s).

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  8. I have been in pursuit of the fitness I left behind years ago and it was actually this kind of thinking that finally allowed it to manifest. I had to quit sulking in and drowning in my failures. Love what I could do and then do it. 🙂

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  9. Alyssa H wrote:

    Love this so much. (And LOVE the photo, too.) And you’re definitely one of the good ones. 🙂

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  10. bushra wrote:

    i love this photograph, it’s like you’re wearing a true smile. i call them that because it’s one of those smiles i have come to recognise in my son’s photographs where i can tell in the moment he is the happiest he has ever been.

    and thank you for sharing that quote. i’ve come to find your tweets and blog posts very reassuring as i try to get to know myself again after going through some serious burnout. keep going 🙂

    Posted on 7.11.14 · Reply to comment
  11. Felicia you look fabulous in this photo! Truly.

    I really loved the comment above, and your response, about how LOGICALLY we know we should be happy with ourselves but we just can’t seem to get there. I can’t. My recent post on where I’m at in my fitness journey didn’t quite hit home on this point, but it’s completely where I am. I used to put so much pressure on myself to exercise and I wasn’t as happy then as I should have been with my body. Now that I’m trying to be happier (and I completely am in other areas) I now find that I’m beating myself up over how I look. I KNOW it doesn’t matter, that I should be completely fine, but it’s such a struggle.

    Posted on 7.12.14 · Reply to comment
  12. Dube wrote:

    Another GREAT post. Such a good point about complimenting people for who they are rather than what they look like, for being a good a person… And a great point about how deceiving pictures can be and how tough it is to be comfortable in our own skin.

    Posted on 7.15.14 · Reply to comment

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  • THIS WEEK. Well, let’s see... I wrote a total of 32K words, accepted an offer to be one of a few operating owners of a funded content start-up (no $ now but I think this will blow up), I had another interview with an agency in Philly and we talked money, balance, neuroscience and I like their vibe. I’m not moving cross country just yet so let’s all take a pause. I finished a good book, started another. Got my mammogram results back—no cancer! I got angry with my health insurance company like the rest of America. Part of me hopes I can get a full-time job so I can enjoy a consistent paycheck for a hot second. Celebrated a month off the sauce (let’s not get telenovela about this). I cleaned my house and burst into tears talking to my bankruptcy attorney because apparently no one cares that you’ve been making on-time payments for over a year and you’re going through a rough patch. It stormed and I loved it and prayed for more rain. It’s sunny now. I have a first line for a new chapter but I can’t write because all I’m thinking about is work and how I’ll make rent. But here it is: “Love in their home had become its own form of violence.”
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I met up with @bhatmon who always makes me smile and if I move back east she’ll be the one true thing I’ll miss. I listened to podcasts, read science articles, and wished that I could get a neuroscience degree but a kind reader pointed me in the direction of MIT’s free classes so I’m jazzed. I emailed a rescue service and filled out an adoption application but no one ever wrote my back so that made me sad.
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  • Love can sometimes create its own form of emotional violence.
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I used to rummage through photos as a means of being cruel to myself. You used to be thin! You used to be slightly fashionable! You used to be disciplined! And as the edges softened, as your wont to do as you get older and let a lot of the hardness within you go, it occurred to me that the things I used to want and love were violent. I was ruthless to my body to get it to a certain shape instead of eating to sustain myself and moving to feel. I went at everything so hard! Then I worked all hours of the day and night until it made me literally sick. My hardness, my love and desire to look and be a certain way, was hurting me.
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Now. I’ve softened in all senses of the word. I’m calmer. I have a different (and healthier) view of my body and what it means to be beautiful, and I have strong boundaries that guard against the people with whom I work and the projects I’ve taken on. I’ve fired abusive clients. I make clear when and how I work. And I put me first. I have a lot of writing to do to make $ to pay rent this month but I rested yesterday because I need it. I didn’t realize how tiring writing could be when you’re doing it for 10-12 hours a day. Sometimes you need rest.
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Now, I look for pictures like this when I’m happy. When I’m laughing as feeling joyful and hopeful. Because I’m trying to be kinder to myself.
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In the midst of me having a two-day long rage blackout over my garbage $600/month healthcare that won’t even cover my MRI, I learned two exciting pieces of news.
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The medium series is a GO, you guys! I’m shaking with excitement because faux-marketer scam artists and their wack courses are a pandemic. They don’t have experience in what they’re selling. They haven’t achieved for others what they’re selling beyond their own channels. And they don’t actually understand what they’re selling. I can’t tell you how many lead magnets and PDFs I’ve downloaded and webinars I barely lived through where people didn’t even understand the basic principles of brand platform development. They got the terminology wrong. They got the process wrong. Data was non-existent. I was APPALLED at the AUDACITY of these dumb chumps. So I decided to create a FREE mini course that takes you through the full brand platform process. I’m publishing one overview (9K words), and 8 follow ups that flesh out the overview. You’ll get information in layman’s terms, complete with exercises and real-world examples. I’ll also be sharing a link when all of this is up where you can view all articles FOR FREE, bypassing the paywall. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. I didn’t realize how hard this would be, creating lessons that were instructive and easy to understand. I’m setting aside time to finish this while I do client work that pays the bills. I am happy medium is paying me, which is pretty awesome.
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This is the first in a series.
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The OTHER news is that I was offered operating ownership (not equity) in a content start-up that I truly believe will blow up like nitro, to quote Biggie. I love the company. I’d be working with hella smart people and my work would be advising on the brand, marketing and editorial. The offer took me by surprise and I was humbled and honored. While there’s no $ up front, the ownership really piques my interest. I can’t give any more details than that, but this is pretty cool.
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Now I will lie down. .
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