There are no facts, only interpretations.- Neitzsche

Today’s blog is about perception/perspective- whatever you want to call it.

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                 Me, circa 1986.

Here is a photo of me from my days as a dancer. I took dance classes very seriously as a child. Dance classes and singing in church were my gateway drugs into theatre. I would probably still be a dancer had the sole company in Corcoran not left town when I was in middle school. But they did, so I started begrudgingly playing sports instead. I sort of blame my half-assed rhythm on the fact I never had the opportunity to fully hone my skills as a ballerina. While we’re at it, let’s blame my body on that, too. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Back to the photo. This image of me was taken during my first delve into the dance world; I was one of the bunnies in our town’s production of Sleeping Beauty. I loved my teacher and classmates, I loved the music and the pretty clothing. I loved everything about dance class, except for the fact that our bunny costumes had tails, smack dab on our fannies.

For whatever reason, I found this very uncivilized. I suppose I don’t need to mention that I was a sensitive child, but the horror of a cotton ball poof attached to my bum was literally the worst thing that had ever happened to me up until that point in my life. I was horrified. Somewhere in the world, a video exists of me dancing with my other bunny cohorts. The few times we are required to shake our bunny booties to the audience, you see the other dancers obliging, “And shake, two, three, four…” while I flash my back side towards the audience with a speed my physique has never been capable of before or since, then grimace as I count out the remaining beats of the music shaking my bum towards the back of the stage. You see, it didn’t matter if the bunnies in the row behind me saw my horrific tail. They were worse than me; bunny tails AND second row placement? Ugh. Losers.

I remember the day the photo was taken. I, always having the sensibility of someone much older than myself, was mortified to learn there were a pair of junior high boys in the room. Whether these boys were babysitting their younger sisters or related to the photographer I can’t remember. But because they were older (and therefore cooler- a correlation I’ve only recently come to understand does not always equate), I would not, could not, dare not show my damn tail. It was bad enough I was wearing bunny ears. Like a child! And pink, for christsakes. I spent the entire time trying to make sure that, at any given point, my cotton-tailed butt was facing away from the hip young men. I mean, I was in second grade! What sort of mature, classy, sophisticated second grader dresses up like an animal, replete with a tail? How barbaric! I could feel a panic attack coming on (I had no idea what one was then, but I’m nearly certain I had one. Or it’s possible I may be exaggerating a little here for storytelling purposes). In any case, I do remember asking if I could just postpone the picture. “My tummy hurts,” I whined, half telling the truth by that point. But I was informed this was the only day to take the picture, ever, in the history of the world and since I was the sort of kid who tried not to ever disappoint anyone, I stepped out under the lights and tried my best to dictate how the photos were shot. I’ve never before or since been so loose behind a camera. My reasoning was, “I will do anything as long as I do not have to show this tail to those boys.” So I posed and contorted my little body in a million possible ways that made me look like a bunny, but did not show that stupid tail.  I put my hands out like little paws in front of me. See? I’m posing like a bunny. I jumped and hopped in the air. Just like a cartoon bunny! I sat on the floor and brought my knees up to my chin. Exactly like a real bunny! 

It didn’t work, though. The photographer, my mother, my aunt, and my cousin who had just finished taking her shots (the little traitor), all encouraged me to do the same humiliating pose as the rest of my classmates. I tried, unsuccessfully, to protest.

“But everyone is doing it this way,” reasoned the photographer.

“And your little rump is so damn cute!” gushed my aunt.

“Other people are waiting, Haley,” added my mom, with a tone implying it was her final warning.

My face flushed. “FML,” I thought to myself (or would have, had I known what that meant at that age).  I let the photographer take the gdamned picture and then raced to the nearest bathroom to remove my “accessories”.

I HATED the resulting photo for years to come. If you look closely, you can actually see the worry and discomfort in my eyes, the crimson of my embarrassed cheeks, the strain in my tight, forced smile.

Of course, I look back now and think, “I am the cutest fucking thing since an actual baby bunny.” Especially knowing the story behind it.

This past weekend, I joined some of my friends (31 adults, 2 children in strollers and 3 dogs, to be precise) in a 5K for pancreatic cancer research. Our group was the 2nd highest fund-raising team out of the whole race, following only behind the founder’s team. I got to spend an entire day with some of my favorite people and relish in another visit with Jarvis. At this point, every one is sacred because we don’t know how much longer we will have with him.

Upon coming home, I saw some of the pictures taken from the event and immediately my old cantankerous voices came forward to remind me how the whole day was a joke because I am so very very ugly and very very fat. They even got some new zingers in, courtesy of my new haircut. I mourned for a while- not only that these stupid, antagonizing murmurs still exist within me, but that I was giving them the freedom to take away such a special, perfect day.

And then, when I got home from trip, I randomly saw this bunny picture and remembered the parable hidden within it. I thought of my voices, “Oh, just shut the hell up.”

Part of this journey is coming to accept the fact that nothing is gonna change by me snapping my fingers or climbing up a hill and then descending into a easy, even, moderately paced solving of my issues. This has been, and always will be, more like a roller coaster ride. I had a bad moment this weekend; I’ve had a few bad moments lately. But they are at much less frequent intervals than before. And I am able to come of out of them so much quicker than I could do a year ago- to a much higher and better state of ‘neutral’.  For that, I am thankful.

I said something in my last therapy appointment about feeling like I am really “in recovery” now. Then, completely involuntarily, I began weeping. “What’s going on?” my therapist asked.

It was the realization that I fully do see myself “in recovery” at this point. I am no longer in the throws of an eating disorder and body dysmorphia and self-hatred and all those other things. I am truly at a place where I believe I am in recovery from it. There are moments that remind me not to get too cocky, but I do see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is brighter and closer than I ever dreamed possible. All this, from only taking half a year to face it, head on. Imagine what all of us could do if we faced all our demons head on?

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Years from now, all I’ll remember is: this was a great day.

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                 Team Jarvis at the finish line.

So you see, my dear friends? Perspective. Perception.  If you don’t like the way you’re seein’ something, change your point of view. There are no facts, only interpretations.

A Change Gonna Come

I haven’t binged, purged, or done that weird thing where I chew my food and spit it out since August 27th. This is not to say that I haven’t over-eaten or made bad food choices, but I haven’t gone too far astray since before Labor Day. I feel this is something to celebrate.

I have also had several conversations with myself where I’ve acknowledged the fact that “conquering” my food and body issues may ultimately mean doing so only in an internal, spiritual way.  My physical body may never change (at least on the outside), and I need to be okay with that.

I was starting to believe I could be.

Then I see one photo of myself and am reminded how much work still lies ahead.

My family went to an awards banquet for my father last night. He was nominated for an Educator of the Year Award.  The nominees were judged 50% on their own speech and 50% on the essay their nominators wrote about them. With these as the voting guidelines, my dad should have easily crushed his competitors. His speech was powerful, fluid, and void of the million cliches all the other speakers used. I think his downfall was that he was too good, though. He doesn’t speak or think like a middle school teacher; he speaks and thinks like a college professor- and not one of the near-retirement, jaded and cynical variety either. Anyway, I think his words might have been a little too sophisticated for the judging panel (the man referenced the Gordian Knot, for christ sakes).  This is not to put down anyone in the room, or belittle what K-12 educators do. My dad has influenced countless lives as a middle school teacher and high school basketball coach. But sometimes it saddens me to see glaring examples of how much he really settled in life. I wonder how much of what he chose to do with his career was because of my sister and I. Without us, would he have felt less tied down to the goals he made in his twenties? Would he have gone off and done even greater things? Or would he have never gone back to school in the first place and still be working a blue-collar job at J.G. Boswell company? Either way, I spent the evening proud of him- proud of the respect he has rightfully earned from his peers and the community, proud of the values he has instilled in my sister and I, and proud that (whether or not this is the life he would have picked for himself) he has done so much with the path he has taken.

My grandparents were in attendance, cute as ever. My sister was there too, and I always feel like a truer version of myself in her presence. With the exception of some awkward dinner conversation with other people at the table and a few really bad speeches, it was a great night. At the end of the event, it was picture time. They were taking several of our family for the local newspaper and school records and things like that, which I dutifully lined up for. Then I asked someone to take a picture of me and my sister with our grandparents; I’ve been on a kick, trying to get as many pictures of my Granny and Poppa as possible while they’re still alive.

When I saw the photo on my iPhone screen, my heart sank. Staring back at me was a gigantic, ugly, insecure, unhappy football linebacker with round cheeks and an ill-fitting ensemble. I immediately began tearing into myself. My sister had to stop me. I’m ashamed to admit she had to stop me several times over the course of the next 12 hours, because even this morning I had to bring up how frustrating it is to have had a breast reduction and still feel like I have humongous, saggy tits that make me look 10 years older than I really am. She tried to help by reassuring me that I didn’t look any different in the picture than I did in real life. This (unintentionally, of course) made me feel worse. I made myself post the image on my Facebook, because I have been wanting a picture of me with my grandparents to use as my cover image. Although I uploaded the picture, I couldn’t go so far as to make it my cover photo. I have gone round and round about deleting the picture all-together for the last fourteen hours, horrified every time I see my face and figure in it, but subdued when I look at the kind and lovely faces of my family. Bottom line is, for whatever strides I have made in food management and talking to the mirror, I still have some major body dysmorphia concerns. I can acknowledge I’ve made enough progress to recognize this solely as dysmorphia and not any true reflection of reality. I know my eyes are playing tricks on me; but I have not quite got to the point where I can figure out how to see beyond that.

I say this not to complain, but to state a marker point for where I am in my recovery. Three months without binging or purging is a mile-stone and something I am very proud of- but I have more battles ahead.

And I am up to the fight.

I will try to leave the picture up. I will try to even promote it to my cover photo at some point; to remind myself not only how much I love my grandparents and sister, but that I am more than any one picture- that I am more than any or all of my physical characteristics.

Please, no comments about ‘You’re beautiful, Haley” or anything like that on this post. Though I appreciate the sentiment, that’s not what I am aiming at here, nor does approval from other people necessarily help with the issue. This post wasn’t to incite compliments; I just want to look back in a few months and gage where I was at.

And where I am at is: better than I was five months ago. And that’s great, by my estimations.

Imagine pageant…

I originally came here to post this nice little meme I came across today. I’m thinking of typing it out and putting a copy of the quote on my actual scale:

Cute huh?

When I got to my wordpress dashboard, though, I saw on my site stats that someone had accidentally come across my page after googling “Did Hayley Rey conquer her eating disorder?” I decided to look up this Rey woman. I learned she is the wife of Dr. Robert Rey, a celebrity plastic surgeon from the E! network show, Dr. 90210. There are both fans and haters of the couple out there, as well as people who either love or hate Robert and Hayley as individuals. As with most reality shows, it appears their lives offer many different dramatic plots to follow, one of which is Hayley’s weight loss. At one point, she weighs herself on camera and it shows she is 88 pounds while wearing clothing and shoes. Ray and others wonder ‘how did she get so skinny?” Hayley replies, “Sometimes when I’m busy I just forget to eat.”

Dr. Robert Rey and wife, Hayley.

Whether or not she is anorexic, I do not know. I’ve never met the woman and know nothing of her other than the results a quick internet search yielded. What I find interesting (depressing) though, is how many blogs/sites there are out there either calling her a whore or an idiot for her possible eating disorder, or praising her because of it. I knew there were pro-anorexia sites out there; accidentally coming across one can be a bit nausea-inducing.

Part of me set out to write a big pro-positive body image rant; to declare that these pro-ana sites are disgusting and wrong. That may be true on some level, but the people who run them are probably not the ones to blame. Individuals who believe and indulge in the misconception that “starvation thin” is beautiful, are really no different from me fearing I can’t be beautiful if I weigh over a certain number on the scale. It’s two sides of the same coin; we’re all victims of the same lies and manipulation. Also, the websites and blogs that blame people with eating disorders, or think the fact that they struggle with them makes them stupid or worthless, are downright silly, too. We wouldn’t blame someone for having cancer. Why do we treat mental illness as through it is a lifestyle choice?

I wish I had a great point to make, or was bringing this up for any other reason than t0 just bring it up, but mostly I’m sad. I wish people had more compassion for others. I wish I was better about it myself, quite frankly.

I’ve been trying to keep up the positive body image talk in the mirror every day. It gets harder to stick with in the winter, especially while I’m currently unemployed. I spend most of my days wearing sweats, staring at my computer screen, never leaving my house. Most of my self-talk is along the lines of “You are smart and worthy. You deserve a good job,” rather than anything specifically body-related. As a result, I think I’ve definitely entered into a bit of my annual funk. I am 32 years old, and I still can not figure out what I want to do with my life or where I want to do it at; my saggy, flabby body is a secondary concern. This means I haven’t necessarily been eating as healthy as I normally would try to, but I still haven’t had any major binges since the summer. Still going without gluten, and as of yet, migraine-free.

At least since I’ve been home, I’ve had the opportunity to write a lot. Whether or not I actually enjoy it or am any good at it remains to be seen.

Anyway, I know this post was all over the place, but I felt like checking in. I’ll try not to post again until I have something productive and happy to offer. 🙂

Love and some verses

You know what’s crazy?

The more you start to love yourself, the more you can’t help but love the people who have been there loving you all along.

When I first ceased my party-girl ways, there was a near immediate shift in my relationships with both friends and acquaintances. In the very beginning, the transition was somewhat awkward- i.e. Who am I when I’m not the drunk girl or the stoned girl? What do I do? What do I talk about?-  but then I noticed I actually began to enjoy myself more (and be wholly present) in most conversations. Sure, some people quickly faded away from my life (because all we ever really had in common was mutual bad habits), but the majority of my friendships were subsequently enriched. Partly this was able to happen because, while sober, one has the ability to focus more on what someone else is saying. Also, when not hiding behind an addiction (or other negative coping mechanism), one is able to be a more authentic version of themselves. It’s only natural that inter-personal relationships improve as a result.

I’ve felt like the friendships I’ve forged (and refined) during the last few years have ALREADY been some of the most rewarding of my life. What a treat it is, then, to have them grow in importance and value even more than before, over the course of the last few months. The more I learn to appreciate my own self, the more I can see that affection and appreciation reflected back to me through the eyes of my loved ones. In addition, the more I can return the favor- because the less and less my ego seems to get in my way. There is an old  saying that implies no one will truly love you until you first love yourself. I’m learning very quickly (and delightedly), this isn’t the case with me. I’ve had love and affection surrounding me, in spades, for ages. My only regret is that it took me so long to see it.

I know I still have a ways to go in my recovery. I’m sure I probably have some future hiccups awaiting me, in both my eating and thinking habits. But I gotta say, in these last few weeks I’ve been astounded by the staggering amount of love and gratitude I’ve felt moving both through me and around me. I feel lucky. I feel appreciated. I feel like I am exactly who and what and where I am supposed to be….and I have never felt that all at once, especially for such a sustained amount of time.

It’s pretty fucking cool.

And….

While we’re on the subject of the great “L” word, I should admit that for the first time in about a millennium, I allowed myself to develop a small crush on someone. Granted, it lasted for the total of approximately one whole minute before I realized this person had a significant other (which meant I abruptly put a stop to the afore-mentioned crushing), but it’s nice to feel like I might be ready to start tearing down some of those huge, thick, brick walls I’ve built up around my heart over the years. It’s also nice to note that my “type” has changed drastically for the better, and that instead of wanting something/someone obsessively (which is all romance tends to be when you’re using sex to fill a void), I am now capable of having a mere fleeting attraction. You know…like a normal person.

I’m very happy to learn this about myself, because for quite some time now I’ve all but resigned myself to a life of being perpetually single. It’s good to know I may be open to other options.

I mean eventually, of course.

😉

32 flavors and then some…

For better or for worse, this gluten-free diet is achieving it’s purpose (i.e., making me feel better). My skin and joints are less tender and I find I am less fatigued. I don’t have my scale here to verify, but I am also certain I’ve dropped another few pounds.

Curses!

Actually, all kidding aside, I’ll take it. I am at the point in my life where if feeling better and feeling better about myself  means cutting out warm sourdough bread and buttery pastries and chocolatey cookies and creamy pasta and (sorry, I got distracted there for a moment) ahem…and other delicious, gluten-filled items: I say, bring it on.

Bring. It.

Luckily for me, I am in currently in a town that caters to people with fidgety dietary needs, so the adjustment period has started off as relatively easy. The only really annoying modification is having to make sure to prepare ahead of time for all meals; checking menus on the internet before I plan to go to a restaurant, bringing snacks when I am heading into a long rehearsal. Spending so much time “planning” my meals is probably not an ideal situation for someone as neurotic about food as I am, but I have a hunch that after doing it long enough, it’ll become second nature. I’ve decided to extend my two-week trial run to a full month, to test out this theory around my menstrual migraines. I visited my healer again yesterday and she said the longer you go without gluten, the more health benefits you may notice. She said she was still noticing positive, life-changing effects even a year into her new eating habits. Again, I hesitate to go full throttle, but we’ll see what happens in a month. For those of you who may be considering this move yourself, she also warned that in the beginning, you may go through withdrawl-like symptoms- anything from headaches to digestive to nervous system issues. Knock on wood, I haven’t felt anything but great.

The rolfing is still affecting my body in positive ways as well, though I do take back what I said about it not being either painful or pleasant. In certain moments it can be very, very (I am not overstating here people and I’m going to throw in one more for good measure) very painful. I had to focus on some deep breathing exercises at my last appointment to even get through the session without crying out, “STOP! OH MY GOD, PLEASE STOP PULLING MY LEG OFF OF THE REST OF MY BODY!!”. But, as in life, after a few seconds of incredibly intense pain, she would move on to another part of the tissue that would feel absolutely phenomenal and released because of the previous stretching.

After the first appointment, I felt like I was standing a little taller. After the second one, I feel like my walk is more balanced. My stride has always been someone irregular, due to my left side being shorter than my right. Through whatever method of TORTURE (kidding) she inflicted on me yesterday, I feel like my legs are covering equal amounts of ground and my torso has been elongated because of it. It is a weird, wonderful, and welcome feeling.

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In other news, I am acclimating myself back to the hectic pace of life that is required by this city, and remembering the things that made it so hard to leave the first time around. My friends here are just….beautiful. So many beautiful people, all nestled among an overpopulated mass of assholes, pricks, Negative Nancy’s, douchebags, WAY too many cars and not near enough parking spaces. 

This past weekend, I spent my 32nd birthday doing something for someone else. And I gotta say, without hesitation, it was the best birthday I have on record. Actually, one of the best nights of my life, period.

Jarvis was my religion professor in college. I had him for two classes; Global Studies (sort of a religion/theatre hybrid course) and Modern Christianity. To call him a professor is an understatement. This man changed my life. He was one of the first voices to tell me it was okay to go with my gut; to question everything I learned in school, in church, in life and to toss it all out the window if it didn’t set well with whatever was in my own heart. A Christian pastor, who told me it was okay to question everything I had ever been told about Christianity! It was okay to think for myself! This was a HUGE revelation for someone as fragile and conflicted as I was at that age. I learned more about religion (and myself) in those three semesters then I did in an entire eighteen years of going to The Free Will Baptist Church in Corcoran, CA.

Of course, even this over-simplifies all Jarvis is to me. He also was President of Kingsmen Shakespeare when I was working for the company. Him and his wife, Susan, were (ARE) there nearly every show, in a picnic box dead front and center. When you aren’t in a show, they invite you to sit with them. He and Susan are two of the biggest cheerleaders of not only the company as a whole, but all of us individual artists as well. I can’t even tell of all the conversations at the Festival and the after-parties that we’ve had where, without even trying, he imparted some major much-needed wisdom on me. As my friend Barry put it, “sometimes it was just a little thing, but in the long run, the little things are the big things.”

Susan and I have grown really close over the years, too, and she has also been one of my biggest supporters in….well, life in general, I guess. I could really gush on and on about both of them, but for brevities sake, I’ll just say they are two of my all-time favorite people. And though I’ve always suspected as much, I learned this past weekend that I am not the only one who feels that way.

You see, Jarvis is sick. Really sick. And I can’t go into too much detail about it without having to stop and cry for a good hour or two, so let’s just leave it at that, as I feel like I’ve been weeping on and off for the past four days straight.

Susan and I, along with a handful of other people, worked to throw him a surprise party- to celebrate his life and let him know how much he is appreciated. I should mention here that Susan’s birthday was also this past weekend, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she numbers this as one of her best ones, too. Not only did we completely and totally surprise Jarvis (with way over 100 people! How is that even possible in this day and age?!), but there also was so. much. love. in that backyard that one could not help but feel it creep into their veins at the party.  I think we were all the best versions of ourselves that night, and I am just humbled and blessed to know so many good, beautiful, gorgeous people and share in the love that was omnipresent at that party.

Of course no evening could go by without my negative voices creeping in, trying to ruin anything good. When I got up to speak about Jarvis, I was already in tears before I started. And as I was speaking off the cuff, I said two (just two!) stupid things that in hindsight, I wish I could have taken back. So, my voices arrived instantly at the front of my brain (before I even stepped away from the microphone) to remind me what a worthless, stupid, selfish, egotistical, bad,ugly person I really, truly am.

I spent a while teetering between embarrassment and all the other emotions I was feeling, before telling myself, “Enough!”  and reminding those terrible voices “This isn’t about YOU!”

I refuse, I REFUSE,  to let my negative voices ruin anymore memories by telling me lies. When it comes down to it, that’s what they are: lies. We are, all of us, imperfect. Why have I demanded such perfection from myself for so long? It’s fucking exhausting. If I demanded the same amount of perfection of my friends and family that I do from myself, I wouldn’t have anyone left in my life! It’s high time I exercise the same amount of forgiveness and patience with myself.

So, first day of age 32, and I already learned a new lesson: namely, not to be so hard on myself when I do something stupid, and to keep in mind that I am pretty damn awesome in a host of other ways.

I really, really am. 

I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year. There is love everywhere, and I’m really starting to take some of it with open, accepting (and completely proportionate!) arms. Which reminds me, have you told someone you love how you feel about them lately? Try it. It feels awesome.

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Here are my most favorite pictures from the party. They are each worth a thousand words, as they say.

I, of the beholder

Ever since I decided to start taking compliments at face value, I’ve been humbled by the sheer volume of times people have stopped to tell me, unsolicited, that I am beautiful, or gorgeous, or striking, or lovely..or whatever else. People have mostly remarked on my winning personality (ha!) but some (like seriously, more than a handful in less than a week!) have specifically remarked on my physical appearance…positively. Has this been happening all along? This many people? This many times? Even if beauty is only in the eye of the beholder, if there are enough people out there who are saying nice things about me, I must not be as hideous a monster as the voices in my head would have me believe. Right? It is only really hitting me now: this has always been the case, hasn’t it?

This has always been the case.

Wow.

I don’t know if the molecules of my skin are actually moving around and shifting. Does a self- kind heart have the ability to morph your physical appearance?  Maybe it is all in my mind. But…I actually do look different, don’t I? When I’ve  looked at myself in the mirror the past few days, there isn’t a scared girl staring back at me through sad, weary eyes. There isn’t a shapeless, pale, masculine, hunched, drained loser. There is a beautiful woman there. A tall, curvaceous woman. With kind eyes, and a bright smile. With…something else, too. What is it? A spark? A fire? A strong, interminable conquering spirit?  All of the above?

Every time I catch my reflection, I have been making myself say something nice- even if (especially if) I don’t feel it. I know it sounds cheesy: looking in the mirror, repeating mantras that sometimes you, yourself, don’t even believe…but oh my gosh…can it be? Is it actually…working? My dad gave me a Christmas card several years ago, and in it he wrote “Life is always beautiful and so are you”. I keep it, nestled in a flap on the visor of my car. The other day, out of nowhere, it fell in my lap, wide-open. Like a sign from the universe. I have been repeating that to myself every time I look in the mirror. Every time I have an ugly or hard moment. Every time.

And sometimes, it’s almost as if I beat myself to the punch. Like there are multiple positive voices emerging from underneath the skin of the molting unkind ones.

Voice One: You’re so beautiful, Haley.

Voice Two: Hey! I was gonna say that.

Voice One: Beat you. Gotta speak up quicker next time.

Voice Two: You’re on, buddy.

sigh.

Can this all really be as simple as adjusting what you hear and what you say?

Last weekend, I visited home for a couple days. As much as I was eager to see my friends, family, and awesome (if I do say so myself) apartment, I was equally anxious to get on my scale. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve gone so long without a weigh-in. I got in to Fresno at about one in the morning. First thing I did was head to the bathroom, empty my bladder and step on the scale. I’ve lost four pounds since coming to LA. But really, no surprise there. I’ve been taking better care of myself. I’ve been physically active.

I didn’t let myself step on the scale the rest of the trip.  The weird part is, after I got over that one withdrawal-esque, compulsive “need” to weigh-in, I didn’t really even have a desire to get back on. How is a number of my body mass any reflection of what I have to offer the world? I must remember this when the urge strikes.

These seemingly minor changes are probably invisible to the naked, untrained eye. But I am really beginning to feel them in my body, my soul, my consciousness. It helps, too, that I started seeing a health practitioner who specializes in rolfing. I bet a lot of you haven’t heard of it, so I’ll explain. Rolfing is a holistic bodywork that uses manipulation of the body’s soft tissue to realign and balance the body’s myofascial structure, started originally by a biochemist named Ida Rolf.  The idea is that not only can it directly improve your posture and other general body habits, but it can also bring long-term relief for all-over aches, pains, and tenderness, as well as improve breathing and increase energy.  For those of you who are familiar with the Alexander Technique, it is very similar in approach and theory- only much more hands on. It doesn’t exactly feel good, nor is it necessarily painful, but I do feel like I am standing taller and walking straighter. I know that this, too, must contribute to the positive, evolving reflection I’m seeing in the mirror, because my bad posture has long been a top issue of self-loathing. As far as rolfing goes, I’m not gonna lie; it ain’t cheap. But I decided a while ago, that when it comes to my health and well-being, it’s worth it.

After hearing me list all my health issues, my healer told me that she thinks my symptoms are all tell-tale signs of a gluten allergy. I’ve wondered this before and just sort of hoped it was not the case. When I went to the allergist, they found I was allergic to so many plants,animals, and indoor allergens, they remarked that my food allergies seemed relatively minor in comparison. I think at the time, I just sort of hoped that was my get-out-of-jail-free card. But I think it may be time to at least give my body a few weeks of strict non-gluten eating, just to be sure. I have only a few weeks without my favorite carbs to lose, and everything to gain. Again, when it comes to my health and well-being, it’s worth it to try.

I hesitate, as always, with any dietary restrictions. Not only do I worry about hyper-vigilance, but if I want to keep up my vegetarian lifestyle, adding gluten-free goals to the mix sure isn’t gonna make my life any easier. But as my healer said (she has a gluten allergy herself), “It just got to the point where it was much more important for me to feel good than to eat what I wanted.”

Word.

I am so there.

I know the next couple weeks will probably be hard for me. I’m sort of diving in head first. I asked my friend Kristeina for advice (she deals with a gluten allergy herself), and she said the best way to do it is to just get rid of all the gluten you have in your house and go cold turkey for a few weeks. She said you should feel better by the end of the first two weeks, and (unfortunately) much worse if and when you do cheat. So, I’m just gonna start there. Two weeks. And we’ll see what happens. Of course, I’ll be checking in.

Hope everyone is having a glorious September. It is the best month of the year, you know? 🙂

My friend Gabi posted this on her Facebook page the other day. I love it.

Ch-ch-changes

The other day at rehearsal, the actor playing opposite me said “You have really pretty eyes. It’s helpful, since I have to be enchanted by you, to just look at your eyes. ”

Now, what he probably meant was: “You have really pretty eyes. It’s helpful, since I have to be enchanted by you, to just look at your eyes.”

Of course, what I heard was: “I have to find some reason that my character would be attracted to such a fat, gelatinous blob, so since the rest of you is so hideous, I’m going to focus in on your eyes, which are, at least, vaguely acceptable features.”

Working on changing your body and body image sometimes means you’re also going to have to change a lot of other things about your personality and current behavior. Here is a list of some of things I particularly want to stay aware of during my journey.

1. I need to work on my hearing. My goal for the next few weeks is to try and take everything everyone says at face value, without letting my ‘voices’ apply any sort of their own warped theories to the reality of their words. 

2. I need to stop gossiping about/complaining about/ bashing other people when I am feeling insecure. I really should stop doing this in general because, really, what good does it ever do to tear down other people? But I am most likely to engage in this behavior when I am feeling vulnerable or unconfident, so I want to start tracking the roots of when and why I get catty.

3. I need to continually work on my patience. I will not get the self-love (or body) I want overnight. But I will not get it at all if I don’t let time run it’s course.

4. I need to remember that it’s okay to be flawed. The fact that I had two desserts on Saturday doesn’t mean I should punish myself the rest of the following week. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible, gross person. It means I had two desserts on Saturday. Nothing more, nothing less.

5. I need to remember that the glass is always, always, always at least half-full. Always.
That’s all that’s on my mind for today. I might come back and add more to this post as things come to me. What’s on your list?

I’m going to leave you today with this hilarious video of Melissa McCarthy on The Ellen Show, talking about ‘When Spanx go horribly wrong.” I’ve definitely had some Spanx-flashing moments myself, but not quite to her extent. The clip made me (really. literally.) laugh out loud, so I thought some of you would enjoy it as well. What we go through for beauty, right, folks?

Musings

“It took me too long to realize that I don’t take good pictures, cuz I’ve got the kind of beauty that moves…” – ani difranco

I’ve always loved this quote; I force myself to think of it every time I see a picture of me that makes me want to stab my eyes.

I’m thinking of it right now because I saw a picture of me that makes me want to stab my eyes.

I went to my friend Anne’s wedding this past weekend. It was in Seattle during a small stretch of perfect weather. The ceremony was gorgeous. The reception was gorgeous. Anne was gorgeous. Her women of honor were gorgeous. I felt pretty decent myself…until I saw a picture from the event. My collective-of-negative-voices-in-my-head’s initial reaction was “bad posture. rosacea nose. ill-fitting ensemble. messy hair. double chin. fat. fat. fat.”

I’m 99% certain most other people in the world wouldn’t look at the same picture and see all that, but instead of only telling myself, “Haley, you’re insane and you’re the only one who thinks you look like a homeless person,” it’s helpful for me to reason that the camera is simply not advanced enough to capture what’s really there. Maybe because by doing that, I still get to claim the girl in the picture looks bad. Or maybe I just like to quote one of my favorite songwriters. Or maybe both. Anyway, it helps, so I thought I’d share it with you. Anytime you see a bad picture of yourself, just reason it’s because your extreme and extravagant beauty is moving to quickly for that silly ol’ camera to catch.

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Today was my first day back in LA. I did okay. Food-wise I did okay. Body image-wise, not so much. I had on one of my hippie-esque outfits, and while on the way to rehearsal, I decided I didn’t want people to meet me and think “ugh, that girl needs to update her wardrobe to this century,” so on the drive from Fred’s house to the theatre, I stopped in at Marshall’s and bought a shirt that I felt would make my first entrance in front of all these new people be more neutral. Because god forbid they see my personality right off the bat (assuming they even give a flying fart).  What a weirdo I am.

Random impulse shopping has seemed to take the place of my former addictions (though I am too poor for it to ever get too problematic). I did, however, pack an obscenely excessive amount of clothing for this one-month trip, and in my apartment back home, you can’t even tell any clothes are gone. Obviously, the need to have a million items of clothing stems from my need to feel like I have greater odds of finding something to wear that will make me feel comfortable. But the thing is, until I feel comfortable in my own skin, it doesn’t matter how many outfits I have available to choose from- because since I don’t like my body, I really don’t like any of my clothes. Even my stupid, brand-spanking-new neutral shirt.

At the rehearsal, two of the male actors had to lift my friend Barry for one of the more movement-orientated scenes. The director asked him, in front of everyone and very casually, “How much do you weigh?” Barry then responded, in front of everyone with his guesstimated weight. It made me think: how many people take for granted that males are comfortable with that sort of thing? Not that there was any of that in this case…but in general, I think people have different assumptions when it comes to mens bodies versus women’s bodies. Women do make up the vast majority of  people with eating disorders, but there are millions of men in America who suffer from the same thing.  Of course, people have all kinds of assumptions all the way around when it comes to body and appearance. But I bet that men who deal with body image issues and/or eating disorders may even have a stronger stigma/oblivion from outsiders attached. Any of you men out there want to weigh in? (Your thoughts, I mean. Not literally “weigh in”.)

I will say that even Barry, who I would never, ever in a million years think of anything other than slight and fit and perfectly healthy still said something like, “I could probably stand to lose a few pounds,” at the end of the inter-change. Human interaction is so interesting.

I would like one of my upcoming posts to deal with the assumptions people make about weight, body image, appearance and whatnot. Any of you that have written me personally who would be okay with being included in the post, please let me know. I want to post your picture (with a little story about each of you) so people can see how there is absolutely no way to gage what a person is going through on the inside by just looking at their outsides. Basically, you cannot judge a book by it’s cover.

In college, I had two professors herd me into a corner to tell me, very delicately, that I needed to lose weight if I wanted to work in professional companies.  Obviously it was well-intended and undoubtedly true advice (especially in Los Angeles)….but the point I want to make in my next post was that it was the wrong thing for them to do.

If you ever think you need to tell someone they need to lose weight, or even gain weight, let me make something very clear for you: you don’t. They already know. 

But what you don’t know, is what they’re going through, or why they eat, or what health problems they have, or what genetic issues they face, and so on and so forth.

After that conversation with my professors, I immediately packed on about ten to fifteen more pounds. Why? Because the whole reason I’ve carried extra weight almost my entire life is that I deal with such ego-blows by binge eating! If I had the tools to love myself and take care of myself, I certainly would have done it many times over. And at that time (senior year of college), I wanted to be a professional stage actor more than anything in the world. You don’t think I would have lost the weight if it was as simple as incorporating more diet and exercise into my life?

So, yeah. Unless you’re a doctor or dealing with someone with a serious health-related concern, my advice to you is: mind your own business. Your “help” might end up making someone feel (or look) worse.

Back to what I was saying before: if any of you want to be involved- or would be okay with being involved-for that future post, please let me know.

Also, if any of you are up for doing a guest post on any related topic, I would love that as well.

The good news, is I am starting to value myself and take care of my body now, in my thirties. I had another (more polite) professor tell me I should go do something else for ten years or so, and come back to acting when I ‘grew up’, because I was better suited, even then, for the older roles. That hurt, too, at the time…but after a few years of flailing about LA aimlessly, it’s essentially what I did. I will say my goals and desires have changed drastically since he and I had that conversation…but I certainly won’t hate it if he was right.

‘gnite everyone. And if you’re in LA, let’s hang out, okay?

Letter to My Body, Part 2.

Dear Body,

Hi. I know we don’t really talk much (unless I’m cursing your very existence). It’s even rarer that I stop to listen to what you have to say to me.  I want you to know that’s all going to change. I’m ready to talk now. I’m willing to listen. There’s really no reason why you should believe me, considering the years of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse I’ve heaped upon you, but I promise…I am changing. I just hope it’s not too late.

There are many people I’ve hurt in my lifetime. Every vicious word I’ve ever spoke, every selfish deed I’ve ever acted- they stick in my brain the way Duncan’s murder re-plays in Lady Macbeth’s. I shudder to think of the people out there who believe I have an ugly spirit- especially the ones with good reason.  Through following 12-step programs and reading countless other self-help books that encourage the same thing, I’ve written dozens of sincere apology letters to those people over the years. Some, I’ve sent off (to various degrees of response). Others sit at the bottom of the dusty bins in my closet…both written and kept more for my own benefit than anyone else’s.

But in all those periods of reflection, I never once thought to ask forgiveness of you. You, who have definitely got the worst of my abuse and are still hanging around. You, who have remained remarkably strong and healthy, in spite of the long lapses of exercise and unending cycles of binging, purging, starving and other bad eating habits I’ve inflicted. You, who have managed to earn compliments from people even in the same breath of receiving a heap of insults from me. You, who have been attractive enough over the years to have countless men and women willing to explore your most intimate caverns. You, who wear your history on your sleeve- literally; from the crepe iron burns on your forearms, to the scars on your breast from the reduction that took so long to become a reality. From the stretch marks across your hips (due to years of losing and gaining and losing and gaining), to all the other scrapes and bruises that recount a life well-lived. You, who wear my tattoos like daily love letters to my sister, my father, and my favorite writer. Do you know my latest one is a reminder for me to be kind to you from here on out? My left forearm now reads “thinking makes it so”. It is taken from a quote in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Now, I can look down when I am going through the hassle of dressing myself in the morning and remember: I can choose to think my arms fat, disgusting, and too unacceptable to be shown in public. Or, I can be full of gratitude I have two arms to write this letter, hug my friends and family, and dress me in the first place.

I’m now exercising on a regular basis. I’m mindfully planning most of my meals. If I can’t bear to wear something that shows my arms or back for a full day, I commit myself to just sporting that outfit for a trip to the store or the bank. I go out and see a play, even when every cell in my brain is telling me I should not go out in public. I know this process may seem slow to you, but please be patient. The steps I’ve taken in recent months may seem inconsequential, but I weigh them in leaps and bounds.

I vow to you that one day I will be able to love and appreciate you wholly, just as you deserve. Step by step, one day at a time, I am getting there. And the thing is, you don’t have to change at all. You can stay exactly as you are and I will do the changing for us both.

Thank you for everything you have done for/given me over the years. I am very lucky to have you. I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to realize it.

Love,

Haley (the conqueror)

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Here are some more body letters from other people.

Are you ready to write your own?

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