Category Archives: self esteem

The Road to OZ

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The Road to OZ

It’s been 2.5 years since I last sat down and gave attention to this blog.  Since I gave attention to the writing I love so dearly and the tool in which I most effectively process life’s shifting landscape.   The tool that allows me to bring connection to my circles.

In these 2.5 years, I have been wrestling with purpose, passion, values, self-worth, belief, and a loud inner critic that has invited me to play small.  I bought in to the lies of that critic.  The lies that it doesn’t matter if I write my stories.  It doesn’t matter if I share those stories.  It doesn’t matter if I stop bringing you in to my world.  It doesn’t matter if I live in alignment with my integrity and values system.  It doesn’t matter if I shave off a little edge of my authenticity to help people digest my life’s journey.  I bought in to the lie that in order to stay safe, to survive, I had to shed a part of me that others may not appreciate.  I chose silence.  I chose complacency.  I chose to don the masks.

At the beginning of 2017 (my 40th birthday), I began to tame that nasty inner critic.  I got clear on my values. I stepped back in to alignment.  I started creating visions of all that I wanted to manifest and I threw caution to the wind taking a trust fall straight in to the arms of the loving Universe.  I had Absolute clarity that it was time to quit playing small and it was time to step in to my power.

So it turns out that it DOES matter if I share my stories.  It matters to me.  And when I flow from that place of alignment, that place of listening, my stories stir something in others because we are all connected.  We are all taking this life journey together.  My story is your story or the story of someone you know.   I hope my sharings will inspire, push boundaries, cause you to listen to your universal nudges, step in to alignment with yourself and your 2017-07-13 07.56.57values, take risks, spark imagination, and if nothing else, help you to connect to the world around you.  Sitting here, at my desk in the Costa Rican Rainforest (more on that to come!), letting the words spill out of me, I have this elation.   I’m semi-giddy with excitement.  I’m hopeful the story munchkins will forgive my 2.5 year denial of their existence and visit me often going forward.   I’m fully committed to honoring the words whispered to me in the night, and on my runs, and any time they smack me upside the head singing in their munchkin voices, “This world you are experiencing is just SO magnificent.  Share the wonderment! Follow the yellow brick road.”

This blog will continue to cover a vast array of topics that will include family adventures, travel, living in Costa Rica, nature-inspired learnings, and general sharings of something that lights me up or makes me go hmmmm.  I will continue to spill the thoughts of living a freethinking, open-spirited family life.  I will have a secondary wordpress blog at SoGoodSoPure (coming very soon!) that will cover topics related to my Coaching Business.  There you will find topics geared toward women who are wanting to shed shame, learn vulnerability, find their authentic voice, step in to their unique power, and begin sharing their gifts with the world.  Both blogs will continue to be intimate and sometimes raw in their content.  Not all stories are happy stories but that does not lessen their need to be shared.  Life is messy and in the messy is where we feel most alone. Sharing our stories can be the catalyst of connection and ease our loneliness.  This is what I seek to do.  I fully believe that a life unmasked, a life untidy, is a life worth living. And the more we show up authentically in this big big world the more the world will heal.

That said, it weighed heavily on me as to whether or not I should go through and deleteyellowbrickroad the old posts in this blog as some are controversial, some are angry, and some are misplaced, and some I no longer identify with.  I concluded that those blogs are the bricks that paved my yellow brick road.  The stories, releases, perspectives, and feelings were necessary and are NOT meant to be erased in order to appease an audience of readers.  If you aren’t a fan of the journey I traveled to be where I am today, no problem.  Maybe instead, appreciate that the journey brought you the content you are reading today.  These new sharings of my life experiences/observances are the next yellow bricks in what is certain to be a lifetime of brick laying because I’m not certain one ever reaches OZ.

Journey On, Readers.   Journey On.

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I Choose to LOL (Live Out Loud)

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imagesAbout a month ago, I was in a real slump.  I was feeling inferior to other people (particularly women).  I was feeling insecure and questioning my worth as a human being.  I was feeling ugly and negatively judging my body.  I was feeling self conscious in my old mini-van and it’s lack of cool.   I was resenting my role as a mom.  The boys, they too, had stolen my cool factor.  I was doubting my ability to go back in to the work force and contribute quality work that others would value.  I began to become dissatisfied with the size of my home, the style of my clothes, the color of my hair, the small number in my bank account.  I was comparing, judging, and sitting in the ugliness of the stories my mind was creating and buying. The lies began their sneaky little job of creating this web of madness within me.

Once I realized that this funk was turning ugly and affecting the way I was viewing the world and treating the people around me, I decided I needed to take a hard look at what had changed to cause such unhappiness.  Adam had been out of town during this period of downward spiraling and I had engaged in a lot of, what I believed to be, harmless fun.  I watched Bachelor in Paradise from beginning to end.  I watched the Kardashians.  I lazily browsed on Pinterest and Etsy while watching music videos.  And I was on social media much more frequently…even adding the FB app to my phone.  Media was actually affecting my view of the world.  My view of self.

And there it was, the answer was that simple. I am sensitive to what I view and can easily fall victim to the solicitous agenda of media. I know that not everybody will be as sensitive as I am to overt sexuality and portrayals of what women should be.  Some of us are more sensitive to violence or consumerism or the top ten lists of how to be perfect in some fashion of life from parenting, religion, or home organization. We are all comparing ourselves to a standard sold to us. We are always “failing” at something according to someone. Even if that someone lives inside an electronic box selling a non-existent one-size-fits-all-perfection-solution.  I bought in to the lies, sold to me by the people inside that box, that my 36-year-old female self was all washed up. If I don’t look like the Kardashians, sell sex like JLo, have the same perky body of the women competing for “love” on Bachelor in Paradise, if I’m not as perfect as all my “friends” on FB, and if I’m not buying or wearing the latest/greatest…well then I’m not worth anything. I’m not attractive. My husband won’t want me for much longer. I need to make changes. Run faster. Workout harder. Get a six pack. Make more money. Eat less. Dress sexier. I’m clearly inadequate. I need to be better. Lie after lie quickly building a foundation of self hatred. I wanted to hide my insecurities from all of you. From my friends, my family, my husband. I wanted to appear stronger and more secure than I was. And so I hid. I had been hiding other areas of my life and just added my insecurities and self hatred to the dark corner of other secrets.  The longer I hid, the more insecure I felt. I was now living a false truth. Another mark against my clearly flawed self.

Lucky for me (and those around me), I was quick to recognize that my thoughts were turning into an ugly infestation and I was able to reflect quietly enough to identify the culprit. That damn media had its grasp again. I immediately turned off the media inputs, reached out to my girlfriends and was open about how I was feeling and I soon found myself worthy again. As I rid my life of the noise shouting at me who I was, who I wasn’t, and who I should be, I found who I really am.   In the silence, I found that I am me. Perfect me. And you are you. Perfect you.

 

One way that I have found my center time and time again is to be vulnerable in sharing. I find great healing in sharing in this blog. I become connected to those around me when I let down my guard and show vulnerability in sharing my struggles. I find that others open up and share too. We build a safe community where we can be real and genuine no matter where we are in our journeys. I recognized in this time of disliking myself that I had stepped away from my purpose of living out loud. I had started to hide for fear of being judged. I had gone inward and become alone. I had lost some of my integrity. I needed a good kick start to getting back to a life of vulnerability and authenticity. I was given that good kick-in-the- ass a few weeks ago when I had the pleasure of attending an event in which Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, wa10174916_10152050667061493_5333993137919276168_ns speaking. In that forum, she spoke about Radical Honesty. Cheryl’s belief was the equivalent of my belief of living out loud. Here was a woman who was baring her life in a truly authentic way and I, along with so many others, connect with this type of vulnerability. I felt the pull and encouragement to come out of hiding and begin sharing again.

 

I’ve started by sharing my deep, dark, scary secrets with my best friend, my husband. He’s held such a safe space for me and encouraged me to share whatever my heart needs to share. With his encouragement, I am ready to restart the practice of Living Out Loud with Radical Honesty. I hope that you all will continue to hold a safe space for my sharing, for the sharing of others, and find your safe spaces for vulnerability too. Start by sharing one secret with someone you find trustworthy. Or even begin by writing down the scariest secret you can think of sharing and burn it or bury it. Just writing it down is one step toward healing and letting it go. Freedom from the lie that secret has sold you.  I think you’ll find the more you share the less scary it becomes. And you’ll start to love you a helluva a lot more. Others will gravitate toward you because your energy will be absolutely pure. And, before you know it, you’ll not only be your own safe place but a safe place for others to practice Radical Honesty.

 

So who’s with me? Who’s ready to LIVE OUT LOUD? Journey with me, Friends! Let’s change ourselves, our circles and our communities with a little bit of Radical Honesty!

 

 

 

 

What Christianity Taught Me About Being A Woman

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This post is about what Christianity taught ME about being a woman, life and MY sexuality.  I understand that not all christian women feel this way but this was my journey.

I have never spent so much time questioning what it means to be a woman.  The definition and role of woman has been taught to me in my christian upbringing and just as I did with the belief of JC, son of God, I never questioned it…I just did the “right” thing in the eyes of God and the eyes of my peers and leaders.

Since becoming an atheist I often question whether I believe religion is harmful and worth fighting or if it’s best if we all just agree to disagree.  While I don’t think most forms of christianity are intentionally harmful to young women and adult women alike I do think the patriarchal teachings inherently affect women’s identities with their sexuality, roles, ideas, etc.  My own personal beliefs over the past 30 years have had a definitive role in my marriage, self esteem, and inhibitions and I’ve spent the last year trying to break free of some very damaging leftovers and trying to renegotiate what it means to be a woman.  I don’t believe there is one standard definition…as always there are varying shades of grey with which to define woman. Without remaining in the confines of the religious definition and without conforming to the completely secular and cultural definition I end up creating what I want my personal definition to be and that’s complicated.

Christianity (or my interpretation of christianity) taught me:

My virginity was sacred for my future husband.  It wasn’t about the enjoyment I would get from my first sexual experience.  Rather the focus was not being flawed or dirtied for my husband.  So I had a virginity ring that I wore until my wedding night.  And let me tell you a little about my wedding night…for a year prior to our wedding Mark and I turned off all sexual feelings for each other and withheld from anything other than kissing so we could honor God and our marriage bed would be absolutely pure (although Mark had already lost his virginity…a common double standard).  The purity of the marriage bed mostly relies on the virgin female.  Needless to say the “deed” happened and Mark proclaimed “You are not a virgin anymore!” to which I curled up in a ball on the floor and cried tears of shame and regret.  In fact I had so much shame (even though I did everything “right”) that I canceled breakfast with my family the next morning because I couldn’t look anybody in the eye knowing that they knew I was no longer a virgin.  I wish I could rewind time and celebrate the joy of sex for myself and find enjoyment in the act of having sex for the first time.

Christianity taught me to suppress my sexual urges and curiosity.  Each time I experimented sexually with a boy whether it be kissing or touching I was riddled with guilt and shame.  I felt there was something wrong with me that I desired these feelings.   I had to hide what I was doing and repent frequently.  Suppression taught me to be disingenuine with people.  To hide a part of me.  It affected the first years of my marriage as I had spent so much time fighting my sexual urges and suppressing them that I didn’t know how to turn them back on.  I didn’t know how to enjoy my sexuality without the guilt associated with it.

Christianity taught me that if a man lusted after me I did something to cause his sin.  This was difficult as a young woman who developed large breasts by age 14 and found them hard to always cover up.  I felt guilty and dirty for ever causing a man to lust.  Even though my intentions were not to bring attention to myself.  Today I try to celebrate the beauty of having a large bustline and show them off for my husband but I still find myself mostly trying to cover them up for fear I will cause another man to stumble or another woman to judge me.

Christianity taught me that my body was dirty and sexual topics are all taboo.  Sex Ed was unheard of in my private school and in fact I remember that being a hot topic about public schools.  Parents didn’t like it.  I knew so little about my body and sex going in to marriage that I still didn’t know how I could get pregnant.  I remember being afraid of sitting on a toilet seat that might have sperm on it and I would get pregnant (I don’t know why I ever thought there’d be sperm on a toilet seat but that’s another topic!).  I didn’t know how to use a condom or birth control.  I knew very little about STDs and still know very little about STDs.  I couldn’t tell you what my vagina looked like or the various external parts to it.  I couldn’t tell you how I liked to be touched because masturbation was a sinful act.  I can vividly remember the few times I read a steamy book or saw a porn film on cable t.v. to which I masturbated and I vomited afterward thinking I was such a horrible person.  It’s taken me nearly 15 years but I can finally say that I actually see beauty in masturbation and there is no longer any shame in that word or the act.

Christianity taught me that tattoos defile the temple (our bodies) and God has asked us to keep our temples pure.  I recall looking down at any person who chose to ink their bodies.  Today I find tattoos sexy and liberating and in fact getting a tattoo on my back was my first stance against my religious beliefs (that or voting for a Obama, a democrat!).  What liberation!

Christianity taught me to judge others.  Girls who “caused” men to lust or slept with guys were all sluts.  I tried to stay far away from them as their sin might be contagious.  Women who worked outside the home and focused on their careers were not following God’s plan for a spiritual wife.  Homosexuals were acting in sin and needed to repent or pray the gay out.  Smokers were addicts in need of God.  Porn watching husbands were guilty of affairs (Matthew 5:28).  Churches that had women as leaders were not really biblical and should not be attended.  People who didn’t tithe were not genuine christians.  Women who had abortions were murderers.  Evolution believers were employed by Satan.  People who practiced yoga were open to demonic forces.  Those who had not been baptized were not able to go to heaven.  Everything was black and white.  Everything!  It was such a high standard to have to maintain and anybody who was failing was up for judgement including myself.

Christianity taught me that a man is the head of the house.  All final decisions are made by the man.  If we are in disagreement he gets the final say.  This left me often feeling I was without a voice.  Resentment.

Christianity taught me that spanking my children was an active and positive form of discipline.  In fact I was a big advocate of Growing Kids Gods Way and now I hate the practices of those teachings.  It robs children of any choice.  It teaches a patriarchal dictatorship and that is no way to parent children.  I spanked often not as a last resort but as an only choice of discipline.  I refuse to spank my  boys now.  There are many effective ways to discipline and the tools given to us by Love and Logic are fabulous for both christian and secular families alike.

Christianity taught me that science was evil.  I went to public junior high school for a whole 4 days.  On day 4 they taught us about the Big Bang Theory.  Day 5 I found myself back in christian school.  I shunned science so much that even in college I missed great opportunities to learn about evolution.  Hell, I have a degree in animal science and I left college with zero knowledge of evolution because I dismissed it as evil.

Christianity taught me that sex was the right and enjoyment of my husband.  It did not teach me that sex is equally as enjoyable for me and that there’s lots of fun variables to sex.  I believed that if a man had an affair it’s because his wife was withholding sex.  It usually boiled down to her fault for getting fat or saying no to sex or to being boring in bed.  But on the flipside experimenting with my husband was always scary and I often wondered what God was thinking.  It was never just me and Mark.  It was always me, Mark and God.  Creepy.  I’m thankful I have lots of years left for fun in the sack with just me and Mark this time around!!!!!

Christianity taught me to be a one issue voter.  If the candidate supported abortion then he’s out.  If the candidate supported gay rights…no way!  But if the candidate says He loves Jesus Christ…he’s clearly meant for the position.

Christianity taught me that my husband was to be my spiritual leader.  He was to lead me in prayer, devotions, and he was responsible for the spirituality of our children.  This was one of the most frightening things to me when Mark announced he was no longer a christian.  I feared not having a spiritual leader in our home and I was used to being shepherded.  I have since learned how empowering it is to rely strictly on myself for my spiritual needs.  It is my responsibility to meditate, to run, to calm my mind and body.  What a relief to not rely on another person for such a deep part of my life.

Being a christian woman taught me disdain for the feminist movement.  Feminists, in my opinion, were responsible for the breakdown of families.  They clearly didn’t understand their role in the family and were putting men in positions that challenged their maleness.  They promoted female sexuality, women in the workplaces, equal rights, abortion, the ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ mentality.  All that seemed contrary to biblical teachings.  Now I would call myself a feminist in the making and I’m astonished at how negative my viewpoint of my own gender has been.  That is rapidly changing and I’m becoming empowered as a female.  I’m fortunate to have a very feminist husband by my side 🙂

I was taught that a woman is soft spoken.  The pride of her husband.  Worth more than rubies.  (All over the book of Proverbs).  But only if she was just right.  I have always had a foul mouth and have been direct with my words.  The difference is I now recognize that a foul mouth and stating my opinion do not make me less worthy.  They do not make me less of a wife or less of a woman.  They are not my sinful nature that need praying out.  They are simply me.  So I still swear and I still am often bold with what I share but I no longer feel shame or the need to seek forgiveness for what I once considered flaws.

Christianity taught me to be an elitist.  I don’t know where this came from as Jesus is very intent on teaching us to help the poor but somewhere along the line I, along with the entire republican party, starting living by the motto that God only wants us to help those who help themselves.  I lost sight of the fact that so many people are not able to help themselves.  I looked down on addicts, alcoholics, homeless, teen or single moms.  They made bad choices and that’s between God and them.  I will help those who lost a spouse or are just having a few bad months.  I became the judge and jury.  Not only was I elite in who I was better than but I was elite in the sense that I had the ONE true God and all others were fools or evil.  You don’t get any more elitist than that.  Today I no longer believe in borders or the American, Christian dream.  I no longer think you need to believe like me.  I no longer believe that some of us deserve heaven and some hell.  I think we are all on equal ground.  The rich.  The poor.  The educated and uneducated.  The christian and areligious.

Christianity taught me to view the world in right and wrong.  There was no middle ground.  Either God commanded it or He didn’t.  Premarital sex, drugs (although I’m not sure where the Bible talks about that), gossip, vanity, thought crimes, stealing, homosexuality, science, lusting: all wrong.  Praying, serving, attending church, tithing, proselytizing, taxes, spanking: all right.  It taught me to not think. It taught me to stifle doubt and to remove questioning.  Today I am an absolute skeptic.  I challenge everything and process everything presented to me and determine what makes the most sense.  Not all things are black and white.  In fact very few things are outside of grey.

Christianity taught me to hide my thoughts.  Not only to hide them but to shun them.  I find the female body to be extremely sexy.  In fact I’d say that it is far sexier than the male body.  I have feared any feelings of arousal I’ve ever experienced when viewing a naked woman or a very attractive clothed woman.  I have no desire to ever be with a woman sexually but I can certainly be stimulated by an attractive female.  Admitting that does not make me gay or any other label one would want to slap on me.  It simply means that I can admit that breasts are beautiful.  Ask any gay man and he will still tell you that the female body is gorgeous.  It’s art really.  I’m tired of hiding that reality for fear of judgement.

Above all else christianity taught me fear and shame.  I feared every misstep that I took.  I feared and found shame in my humanity.  I feared that God was shaking His head at that defiant and clearly christian challenged human named Amy.  I feared hell.  I feared failure.  I feared sexuality.  I feared pleasure.  I feared “sin”.  I feared God which ultimately made me a great christian.
Today I’m still breaking free from the christian bondage that formed so much of who I am today.  And with each challenge I give myself I find immense freedom.  Today I may still be a slightly damaged woman.  A woman damaged by the grips of religious indoctrination but tomorrow I trust that a near liberated woman will emerge and will experience the true existence of being female.  What an honor.

Metamorphosis

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Inhibitions, Fears, and Insecurities:
These three words dominate the makeup of me.  They often override the parts of me that can be very rational and accepting.  They often are silently lurking in areas of my life that I have left unnoticed or that I have become so familiar and comfortable with that I don’t even recognize the truth of what they are.  Today I am sitting down to explore how these negative players have become a large component of who I am.  
My first exercise this morning was to sit in front of a mirror and stare in to my eyes for 3 minutes.  What did I see in those eyes?  What did I recognize and what was unfamiliar?
Next I stood naked in front of that same mirror and stared at my body, my face, every angle.  What did I see?  What parts made me want to hide and what parts could I take pride in?  And why did I feel that any of my being was in need of hiding?
I’ll be honest, staring at myself naked was a hell of a lot easier than staring in to my eyes.  While naked I saw a woman whose body is full of her life story.  I saw these breasts that I hate so much.  I remembered being a teenager with these large breasts that were never as perky as my friends.  I remember wanting to hide them from the moment they developed.  I remember many boys commenting on my breasts and how they wanted to touch them and how dirty that would make me feel.  I believed many of those boys only liked me for the size of my breasts.  But I did allow my breasts some positive thoughts too.  I saw them as the nurturing tool they were to my twin boys when they were born.  I was able to pump enough life-giving milk for two boys out of these breasts and that is beautiful.  I saw them as the sexually satisfying gifts that they are for me and for Mark.
I cringed when I saw my stomach.  Two abdominal surgeries has left my stomach anything but tight.  And a twin pregnancy has riddled it with stretch marks.  But then I stopped slumping and stood up taller and saw one scar and flabby area as so beautiful.  This scar gave doctors an entrance to my abdominal cavity and they were able to save my life through that scar.  It’s not ugly.  It’s gorgeous!  I saw the c-section flab and instead of trying to manipulate it in to something tighter I remembered that scary moment when the twins were born premature and the doctor pulled P through my abdomen and he cried, he was alive!  And next came S.  Tiny but alive.  That scar  and those stretch marks proves that my body has given life to two amazing human beings.  That scar is a representation of my sacrifice and love.  Why cringe about that? I saw the dangling belly ring that makes me feel that my abs are a little sexier.  
I looked at my shoulders and smiled.  At my legs, strong and proof of lots of miles run and squats performed. A scar lining my left knee reminding me of how athletic I am and how much I love a good competition. I turned around and smiled at the tattoo that covers my back.  A sign of independence and liberation.  I saw my ass and grinned…not bad for 34 (sorry not posting a picture of that one ). I looked at my feet.  I have always loved my feet…each toe pretty and another tattoo that means something to me.  I looked at my hands, really looked at them and could see how much I have aged.  They are aging but they are still beautiful.  My left hand adorned by a sign of my commitment to Mark and the marriage that means so much to me.  Wow!  If we could all just take the time to really study our human selves.  We would find that a younger, hotter body just doesn’t have a story yet.  Her story hasn’t been written.  But it will and she will have to stand in front of that mirror and decide if she will accept her story or try to erase it.  I am choosing to accept mine.  My story is beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.  So at times I may be tempted to lift those breasts a little higher or erase those age spots but hopefully when those negative thoughts creep in I’ll just strip down, stand in front of a mirror and admire my beauty.
 
Looking in to my eyes is a whole different ball game.  That was extremely difficult for me to do.  At first I focused on the external features.  They are really pretty.  My lashes are gorgeous (thank you, Lexi!).  My eyes dominate my face.  “Okay, Amy, look deeper.  Look inside those eyes.  What do you see?”
I had to take a few deep breaths. Ground myself.  I saw a woman who is struggling to come to grips with change.  A woman who is afraid of failure.  A woman who thinks she is failing in her marriage, her parenting, her career, her aspirations…who is simply always failing.  I saw a woman who has real deep insecurities.  A woman who is deathly afraid of being abandoned and that insecurity was so evident when I stared in her eyes.  It was hard to see past it.  So I stayed with it.  What do I see when I stare at that fear of abandonment and suddenly I could see my child-self.  A child who felt lost in the divorce and remarriages of her parents.  A child who often felt abandoned, neglected, scared, and who craved affection.  A child who developed huge walls at a very young age and covered her pain with anger.  I saw a woman who was suffering some of those same pains in her current marriage.  A woman who longed to be loved, touched, admired, sought after, and never abandoned.  I saw a woman who is fighting to come out.  A woman who is fighting to find her voice.  A woman who is fighting to undo the damage.  A woman who has strength, tenacity, power but lets those traits become suffocated by her more dominate traits of inhibition, fear, and insecurity.  I began to cry and saw the tears of a woman who is on the verge of a breakthrough.  A woman who will enter the next 30 years as the person she has stifled.  I left those eyes seeing the will and determination that Amy will need to succeed in this battle.  The eyes that tell the story of love, hope, and a desire for the best life possible.  Eyes that will learn to give grace in the journey that is.  
This is my metamorphosis.