Sunday, January 1, 2012

Explain a little bit about who YOU are

I recently agreed to be a part of a panel on sexual abuse/self harm. They asked for two different "bios".

One that quickly glossed over the abuse and my self-harm/eating disorder history. That was hard to write. Seeing it all together in one story made it more... real... "Wow. All those things really happened to ONE person... and that one person was ME." I cried a lot after writing that.

The other was supposed to be, "something simple that explains a little bit about who YOU are"
I wrote one that read like a resume: I have a Bachelor's degree in Sociology, this is where I work, and where I have worked and volunteered in the past, and listed a few things I love like horses, fishing, and reading.

I felt frustrated.
Frustration #1: It was many years ago that I did speaking for eating disorder awareness... (I even got to be interviewed by 20/20 once.) My "recovery" story was all about college, married, active in church, future children, blah, blah, blah... I don't feel "successful" enough as I try to explain "who I am".

And now, I am remembering what life was actually like when I was a speaker.  I was the kind of recovery speaker that I hate! I stood up there and talked about how happy and successful I was, but my life was hell. That probably explains why I hate recovery speakers... I don't trust them to say how it actually is, because I didn't.

If I had been honest it would have gone something like, "I'm in college, taking 22 credits a semester, because I need to stay busy or I'll go crazy.  I'm also trying to get done as quickly as possible, so then maybe I only have to work one job to support my husband, so I can have kids one day. I haven't even thought about if I WANT kids, but I'm going to have them, so I can prove that I am a good person... I hate sex, but he forces himself on me every single night. It really hurts, and I cry, but he gets it done quickly, so it could be worse... He tells me I'm fat and disgusting on a regular basis, but I still eat my dinner, because I know that if I don't, that will make people really upset with me. I will never go back to the eating disorder, but I really hate my body. Sometimes I get "too busy to eat". He likes me better when I do that: Tells me I look really great, and I feel confused. How do I please him by looking like I have an eating disorder without actually having one? I wish I could just give up, but I won't, because I know God needs me to do something big... And although I think about dying every single day, I'm happy. I must be happy, because I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing...  And well.. If you just go to therapy, and eat your dinner, you too can have this life." 

I'm shaking my head at myself.

There's still a part of me that wants to be able to say I am a picture of perfection: Master's degree, married, ten kids, house, hubs with a good job, active in the church, active volunteer in lots of different organizations, and there's probably more I'd love to add to the list... except that is not the life *I* want. If I were to tell my "recovery story" today, it would be so much MORE powerful, because it's real, and I am living MY life... just the way I want it... and isn't that more like "recovery" than anything I have EVER had?!?!? Yes. Yes it is. I tried to live the "picture of perfection" life, and I was miserable.

Frustration #2: I, Jen, am NOT my degree or my job, or even the places I've volunteered. That's not ME... but I live in a world that values degrees and jobs and achievements... (I live in Utah, so having kids is sometimes seen as an achievement; a sign that you are successful at something. Often, it's the only achievement that matters for a woman, but until you have kids, a successful career is an acceptable substitution.) Other people use their accomplishments to describe who they are. Does that mean I have to do that? If I'm not my degree or my job, then how do I write a bio that explains who I am?

Who am I? What is important to me? What do I want you to know about me?
I'm the oldest of five kids, although none of us are "kids" now. I love being a big sister: spending time with my siblings is some of the best spent time in the whole world. I could spend hours telling stories about them: the things they've accomplished, thought, felt, done and shared with me. They are a big part of who I am.

I love learning. I have a degree in Sociology, but my most valuable education has come from the people I have met and the books I have read. I love a good discussion. It's hard for me to do small talk - I'd rather dive in and talk about YOU. I really enjoy writing and I love reading. I spend a lot of time in the blogging world. And books. If you came to my house, the first thing you'd see in the living room is the bookshelf. It's full, and I have three more boxes of books under my bed. I have been shaped by the books I read. Right now I'd say the book that has made the biggest difference in my life is Tao of Equus, partially because it lead me to so many other amazing books. I also love anything by Miguel Ruiz. It's hard for me to pick just one or two books though, so tomorrow I might tell you something completely different.

I am passionate about GLBT and women's rights. It is also important to me to talk about all kinds of abuse. I believe the only way to change is to educate, so I speak up as much as I can.

I love music. I play the piano and the violin. There is something magical about playing in an orchestra. I love how all of the different parts come together to make music.

I love outdoors, nature and animals, especially horses. I've been all over the mountains on horseback. I think the best feeling in the world is to be in the mountains, on the back of a horse, running as fast as he can run. I also enjoy just sitting in the pasture being near horses. Sometimes I feel like I fit better with horses than with people. I also enjoy hiking and fly-fishing (catch and release only). I recently moved to (little town in the mountains). I have horses in the backyard, a wrap-around porch, I work from home, and I'm five minutes to the river.

That's me. What else do you want to know?


  1. I like this. I find that when I enter into conversations with people I do not yet know that the typical things to ask eachother are "what do you do?" The Focus becomes so much on someone's job, but that doesn't make them who they are. So I try to ask better questions and not force ones Identity to be completely attached to their career. Thanks for this reminder. Do you know any good getting to know people questions?

  2. I don't know any really good questions... one formula I use is FORM:
    Family - ask them questions about their family, Occupation - ask them questions about their job, Recreation - ask them about what they like to do for fun,
    Message - ask them about what is most important to them.

    I also think noticing things a person is wearing: jewelry, tattoos, unique articles of clothing, and asking them to tell the story is also helpful.