Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fly Fishing as Incidental Therapy

Every year, BJ and I go to a fly fishing expo. This year, I signed up for the "Women's Only" fly fishing class.I am trying to make friends with females, and I figured this class could be a place to start.

The class started with everyone getting their rods put together and rigged up. Several women had never done that themselves before - they always had their husbands do it for them.
One woman started shaking as she put her rod together. She kept apologizing for doing it wrong and taking so long, and then she half-tearfully said, "My husband just gets to impatient when we're going fishing, and I feel anxious just trying to put this together. I hate doing it wrong."

The instructor told her to slow down and relax. Then she asked how many of us had picked out and/or purchased our own rods. I was the only one. Everyone else used their husband's old rods. One woman said she couldn't afford to buy a rod for herself, so she just fished after her husband was done for the day. She enjoyed it, but she couldn't cut into his time. One woman was left handed, but fished right handed, because it wasn't worth getting her own reel or rerigging his reel for "just" her.

The instructor spent a good twenty minutes telling us that women deserve to fish just as much as men. We don't need to depend on men to tie our knots or rig up our rods. We deserve good equipment that is ours, and it's okay to spend money on ourselves.

At that, my heart jumped into my throat.
I bought my own rod. I bought my own gear. But it was HARD. I hated spending that much money on myself. When I go fishing with BJ, I always wait to find out where he wants to go, and then I pick where I want to go. I don't want to get in his way. His fishing experience is more important (in my mind) than mine.

It seems I am not the only woman who thinks that way.

Do men feel the same feelings of anxiety and undeservedness? I have been to many mixed gender classes and club meetings, and NEVER heard anything like that. Is that because men don't talk about it, or because they don't feel it?

The class was helpful, because it improved my casting, and I had a bit of therapy while I was there.
No more feeling undeserving. And next time we go fishing, I'm going to pick where I want to go before BJ (or anybody else that I go with).

AND... I also loved it when a guy started watching the class. I was chatting with one of the other ladies and not practicing like I could have been. The dude made the comment, "Yeah, that's how my wife fishes too. I'm not sure she ever even casts."
With that (rude) prompting, I picked up my line, cast it forty feet into the center of the target. Looked at him. And smirked.
He laughed. Did a half bow in my direction and left.

I can hit the target about fifty percent of the time... but I hit it when it mattered most.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Going Red

In 2008, my personal world was a bit... rocky.
My religious world was full of questions. Concerns. Things that didn't make sense, and things that I was trying to force myself to believe that was damn near killing me.
Then the church I belonged to get very involved in a political campaign. Letters were read over the pulpit. Ward members were asked to call everyone they knew in California. Money was asked for. (Some might say the church demanded money from its members.) There were signs all over the place, even in Utah. I had just joined Facebook. (Well... not just joined it, but just started using it as a way to keep in touch with people.) My newsfeed (or whatever they called it back then), was FULL of YES! on Prop 8 statuses, pictures, quotes, and pleas.

I hated ALL of it. It made me sad, angry, and confused.
It felt wrong to be fighting against the rights of the minority. It felt like the opposite of what we should be doing, but I also "knew" it was the right thing. The conflict in my head was huge.

I had not done any research before that. I had accepted all the things the church leaders had said without question. I figured they were smart, they spoke for God, and I didn't need to know... but that feeling in my gut... THIS IS WRONG! was so loud... I started researching. I started listening. I felt compassion, and I learned things that I'd been taught at church were inaccurate. False. Religious teachings that pretended to be based in science or knowledge but weren't. They were based in old ideas that have since been proven wrong.

Prop 8 passed. I didn't have time or energy to care much about it anymore.
Then it was overturned. I quietly felt glad.

As I've healed, I've had more time to invest in learning, research, and questioning. I've also become stronger and I am much more willing to be ME and talk about MY thoughts and opinions... instead of just going along with the majority. I love myself enough to be honest now. That didn't used to be the case.

Today, my Facebook is FULL of red. Seeing all of that, I feel excited: Excited for the changes in me. I have come a LONG way. Excited for the changes happening in the country around me. Excited and hopeful that as the laws change, hopefully, the understanding and compassion will come too. As it becomes against the law to discriminate, eventually, I hope, there will be less discrimination. Which means less suicide, less bullying, less fear, less shame, and more people able to just live and be happy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"And... Have you figured out that we're a couple?"

Ok. So... I have started this entry several times... Trying to figure out how to tell this story.
Is it funny? Is it poignant? Is it a complete shift in my perspective? Did it make my brain hurt and make me sweat profusely and then laugh at myself that I am so slow to figure all this out? Is it silly and small?

The answer to all of those questions is simply, "yes."

Sometimes BJ gets a text from his daughter that freaks me out.
Apparently, she'd been trying to figure out how to ask this question, but couldn't find the words in person... So she asked in a text, "Why don't you call Jen your girlfriend? She basically is."

We were walking through a museum at the moment. He laughed out loud at the text, so I naturally asked him what was so funny. He showed me the text.

My throat got tight. My head started to spin. My chest felt like it was going to cave in on itself and I'm pretty sure all of the oxygen left the room. Or at least I lost the ability to USE the oxygen in the room.

I talked to BJ. I talked to my mom. I talked to my sister. I talked to several friends trying to explain what I was feeling... and listening to them tell me things like,
"Of course you're a couple, but if you wanna call it something else, that's fine."
"It's okay to be scared, but that doesn't change the way things are."
"Take your time, you both seem comfortable with the process you are in."
"I love you, and the label doesn't matter."
"You're an atypical couple, and you can define it however you want."

This afternoon, my sister, my mom, and I stopped to visit my brother on the way home from a baby shower. Jeff said something that prompted me to tell the story of BJ's daughter's text.

Do you know what Jeff's response was?

"We've been wondering for a while when you guys would figure out that you're a couple."

I laughed. I blushed. I sweated (is that the proper usage of that word?) profusely. I was glad I brought it up, and I also just wanted to go home and take a shower.

And somehow, in the simplicity of that statement, there was a shift in my brain.

When I told BJ what Jeff said... do you know what his response was? He chuckled, and said, "And?"

And, what?!?

"And... Have YOU figured out that we're a couple?"

Why is it that everyone else figured it out before I did? But. Yeah. I think I have.
(Jeff, apparently HE has known it for a while, he was just waiting for me to catch up. Apparently Robyn and I have way more in common than we ever knew. :)

So, my next question is, what do I call him?
Boyfriend sounds lame.
Lover is inaccurate.
Friend is still my favorite label, but it doesn't completely describe the relationship.
Roommate definitely doesn't describe the relationship.
Partner (or even Life Partner) feels accurate, but confuses other people. (I tried it at a party this weekend. I was told I was one of those "crazy feminists" who probably wouldn't take my husband's name if I got married. I told him that when I WAS married, I didn't take his name, and I'm such a crazy feminist that I don't even believe in marriage. The conversation with him ended about then. Maybe I shouldn't base anything on that dude's opinions or reactions.)

So, I am now taking suggestions.
What do I call the man I live with and love? The man I am planning my future life with? My closest friend, roommate, confidant, coworker, and fishing/riding/hiking buddy? How do I describe the relationship without going into the details of how we got here?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Blast from the past: Leaving the "perfect patient" behind

(I have a lot of drafts written, but never posted. I was going through my drafts today, and happened upon this post. Not sure why I didn't post it months ago when I wrote it. Here it is today.)

I don't write much about eating disorders anymore: They're not really a part of my present life.
I recently found a blog written by a therapist who treats eating disorders. She happened to be a pretty important part of my recovery.

Reading her blog took me back, so I decided to share this story:

The first time I ever said "No" to anyone, was about five minutes after a group session. The focus was on me. We were talking about all the things I do to make people like me. I was inpatient, so my list was specific to that setting:

1. Follow all the rules.
2. Smile.
3. Talk to other people about what they are struggling with, and never mentioning my struggles.

She told me to stop it. Stop doing those things.
It made my head hurt.

Stop doing those things? Like... just stop smiling? For how long? Stop following rules? I'm locked up here! If I don't follow rules... won't they kick me out? The staff will hate me if I don't do what they say. The other girls will hate me if I talk about my struggles. People don't want to hear about me... What if I agree with the rules? Do I still have to stop following them? Aren't rules there to protect me? How can I trust ME to know what rules to break? What if I FEEL like smiling? Do I still have to stop? I don't even know when I smile because I feel it... or if I just always smile because I know other people like my smile. I don't like talking about me... I like hearing about others. I WANT to be a good friend to them. Not talking to them about their struggles - that would feel really lonely. And rules. What rules can I break? What if I'm following rules because I don't like the consequences imposed upon me? I don't want to waste the church's money or my time by not taking full advantage of every second of treatment. But, if breaking the rules is her assignment, then I have to break rules to take full advantage of every second of treatment. What does she mean?? What the hell am I supposed to do with all of this conflict in my head?

Group ended before I had a chance to vocalize the spiral of confusion. After group, we ate. There was a rule that we weren't allowed to have our watches on during meals and snacks. (I don't know why, so don't ask. It didn't make sense to me then, and it definitely doesn't make sense to me now that I have this much distance from it all.) I forgot and still had it on. One of the staff put her hand out and told me to give her my watch. I sat there for a moment. My face got flushed. My head was spinning. My heart was racing... and then I realized I didn't HAVE to break the rule OR follow the rule.

This was a rule I didn't understand, and I didn't agree with. (I didn't disagree with it - I just didn't agree.) Also, I didn't think anyone could get hurt by breaking THIS rule. If I had to break a rule, it might as well be a small one. I looked at her and said, "No. I don't think so."

I was sweating. According to my peers, I also made myself very small, but I didn't hand her the watch. There were two people at the table who had also been in the group. They smiled and egged me on. Poor staff didn't know what to do... In a group of perfectionists, I doubt she gets told "No" outright very often. I didn't know what to do next... She didn't know what to do... We both just sat there for a minute. Someone tried to explain to her that I was supposed to break rules. I think I eventually handed the watch to her.

In that moment, there was the tiniest spark of something new. I had choices. The best way to take advantage of treatment wasn't to just follow all the rules - it was to find out what I wanted and what was best for ME. The best way to live life might just be the same.

I stopped trying to be perfect. There was a shift in me. I stopped accepting what I was told and started thinking about it. Weighing things out in my own mind. It was the beginning of a whole new Jen.

Five years later, look what that first little spark started... LOOK who I have become since then.
I don't know why THIS picture. It was just a recent picture of me. And I figured I couldn't end a post with "Look who I have become since then," and then NOT post a picture... anyway. Hi!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Let's hear it for Materialism

I used to be so afraid of spending money. Even buying groceries caused me SO MUCH STRESS. This morning a friend asked me what things I have bought that bring me joy. What a strange question... except that I have a lot of things that I have bought or that others have bought for me that bring me GREAT joy. I answered the question for him, and decided I want to share more of that list here...


violin (though officially my parents paid for that), 
fish tacos from Rubio's, 
a new quilt for the bed with matching pillows,
fishing gear (a fly rod, waders, boots, jacket, and flippers),
a saddle that fits my bum and Sunny's back and (for that matter) Sunny, the horse, his hay, his shoes, etc., 
a warm coat, hats, boots - all of the layers that make going out in the cold... less cold feeling,
snowshoes (they make winter a lot more fun),
symphony tickets, play tickets, movie tickets,
a camera (I have two. One that Dann bought me a few years ago, and one that BJ bought me for Christmas. I love them both. The one Dann bought is small and can go with me anywhere. The one BJ bought is really nice and I have taken some awesome pictures with it already.)
an iPhone, 
frames for the pictures on my wall, 
camping gear, 
plane tickets to Germany, LA, Vegas, and those are just the plane trips over the last two years,
gas for the car and hotel stays in Montana, Yellowstone, Arizona, Zion,
and cruise tickets to Alaska (although I haven't even gone on the trip to Alaska yet. Just thinking about going brings me joy.)

I feel lucky to have money, so I can buy things that enhance my experience in this life.

I recognize I am incredibly wealthy, and I like it!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I totally want to be an aunt...

My brother and his wife have been going through a long and painful process.
From the work they did to get ready to be parents.
To trying to have kids and discovering it will never happen naturally.
To getting ready to adopt children.
To being approved by the adoption agency.

To... being parents one day. (This part hasn't happened yet.)

I am very excited for them to be parents. They'll make great ones. Jeff wasn't willing to have children until he had done a lot of work on  himself. I think that's awesome. AND. I totally want to be an aunt. Their kid is going to be raised right by his/her parents, and it will be spoiled rotten by it's aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

I've already got clothes picked out for the little one:

So... their kid needs to come soon... cause I'm super excited...

There's not much I can do to help them, but I can spread some (tiny) bit of awareness by posting on Facebook and on my blog. Here is the links to their profile and their blog.

Jeff's blog
Their adoption profile
Their family blog

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When you say it like that, it sounds like we belong on a sitcom

My family gets together for dinner every Sunday. We don't all make it every Sunday, but everyone is always welcome.

This week, my brother turned to me, and said, "I get a kick out of talking about you to the people at work. I told them yesterday that I was excited for family dinner, because my sister and the man she lives with are coming. And her exhusband and his new girlfriend."

(D's girlfriend hasn't come to dinner yet. She's feeling a little nervous about being grilled by D's brothers... and to be honest, with the way he has grilled THEIR girlfriends, she should be a tiny bit nervous. I look forward to when she does come.)

It felt a little strange to hear it all spelled out like that... and it feels kind of wonderful. I couldn't imagine anything more perfect.

I love this. I'm surrounded by love and friendship and family (some chosen, some related). It couldn't have worked out better if I had planned it, and I definitely did NOT plan this.
How could I have planned this?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

He likes me even more than fishing!

He says he likes me even more than eating a good ham sandwich (made with lots of Miracle Whip and Grandma Sycamore bread).
He says he likes me even more than fishing. (And he likes fishing a lot!)

At first he said he likes me just as much as he likes horses. Some people might be offended by that, but I'm not. He likes horses a lot. Horses are pretty amazing.

Then he came back later and said he was just kidding.
He likes me even more than horses.

We've told each other we love each other for years. I have loved him for a long time, but this just enjoying each others' company... enjoying loving him... enjoying this feeling right now... enjoying being silly and giddy...

It's just awesome.

And just so you all know:
I like him even more than I like horses, and I like horses a lot.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Your Favorite Posts of 2012

My brother did a post (on his blog) with a list of his most popular blogs for 2012. It made me jealous. I wanted a list of my most popular blogs from 2012.

So, to satisfy my jealousy, AND for your reading pleasure:

1. A jumble of quotes and wisdoms for the day
Pretty sure this was just because of the images, but maybe because of the quotes too. Who knows? 

2. Heavenly Codependency
Not my favorite post, but it was very raw. I guess that's good...

3. Thoughts on Creativity... and marriage
Pretty sure people ended up here, because they wanted to know if Liz and Felipe were still married. I didn't answer that question, but I did talk about how it's our expectations of marriage that make it hard. Marriage itself isn't hard work, but when we expect marriage to meet all of our needs, it gets hard. I quoted Jeff when he wrote something similar just a few weeks ago.

4. Trying to convince a horse to drag a tree... not as easy as it looks
I don't talk about horses enough. Or maybe people just like to read about when a horse steps on me.

5. Saddled: Defining Recovery
Recovery is about becoming whole. Whole people experience emotions (weird, I know).

6. These two tied:
Love, the church PR dept. (an angry rant)
Angry rants get a lot of attention...

How I came to support marriage equality... again.

7. Living IS the point
This is one of MY favorite posts... It even won an award once... so it surprised me that it was this far down on the list.

8. Relatives say the darndest things
It surprised me that this got as many views as it did... It is kinda funny... but... anyway... It's amazing how much more fun life is when I'm not afraid to just be me.

9. These two tied too:
I miss knowing I could heal the world
Mourning the loss of control I once felt (with fasting) and I also realized how much fasting for religious reasons played into my eating disorder.
Friendship after Divorce
This is a good one. I want more people to read it.

10. What would it look like if you weren't hiding?
I'm glad people saw this one. It was a big turning point in my life. I'm a lot happier and a lot less stressed. (And we're still holding hands whenever we want to. It's awesome!)

And my least viewed post?
My Magnificently Boring Life. It was adequately named, I guess, because who wants to read about my boring life? Except that my boring life was TOTALLY the goal, and it's MAGNIFICENT. 

No More Strangers: Check me out!

There's a guest post on No More Strangers by me!

It's a little nerve wracking. Even though I have a public blog where I write about all sorts of things, it still feels scary to put my story out there more.

But there it is.

Go check it out. Add your comments. (I ALWAYS love comments, but it seems I love them even more and might even need them on a post like that one. I feel really vulnerable, and hearing what people actually think, instead of what I think they think, is really helpful.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

I am wearing purple today.

It's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Combine that with the awareness that it has been five years and a few days since I walked back into CFC, I'm feeling very nostalgic.

Nostalgic makes me not think so clearly... just broken/half thoughts, pictures, and emotions running through my brain.

Through my stay at CFC, I met some of the most AMAZING, brilliant, compassionate, clever, funny, beautiful, fierce, strong, AMAZING women on this planet. Collectively they have been through more shit than any one can imagine. And while they were going through their own shit, they worked hard to help me. Those women saved my life... and then were with me while I created an even better life.

It is wonderful and shocking to me that I don't know a single person who has died from an eating disorder. (At least that I'm aware of.) I know of people... friends of friends that I never had any contact with... but everyone from both of my stays are still alive and kicking and fighting to make this world a better place.

In honor of all of them. Their fight. Their struggle. Their false beliefs. The things that make them all so much alike, and the things that make them all so very unique.

To my beautiful sisters, I love you. I'm proud of you. I feel so lucky to know you, and to have you in my life.