Sunday, April 26, 2009

Friends

I recently had an eye-opening experience that resulted in a hard lesson in self worth and self esteem. Through it, I have gained insight that I may not have ever learned had I not been presented the opportunity to do so. I have wondered whether I should blog about it, and I hesitate to do so for fear of possibly disclosing the parties involved. But I decided I wanted to share this experience, even for the few who will read this, because I feel that others may benefit from knowing what I went through, and the lesson it took to remember who I am and who I want to be.

As a woman I am no different than the girl next door, the mother in the supermarket, the fashion model or the female CEO of a successful company. I have self-esteem and self worth issues. Every woman is their own worst critic and can undoubtedly find SOMETHING about themselves that they hate or dislike. It's no secret that I struggle with my weight, depression, anxiety, and a myrid of self-esteem issues. Needless to say, I don't feel like I'm any different than anyone else on this earth. I have problems and I deal with them. But sometimes something happens that makes you doubt yourself. Just when you think you have a handle on the unwelcome self-critisims, someone says something to you that erases everything you have worked so hard to achieve.

A few months ago my brother got me hooked on Facebook. I hadn't even heard of Facebook until a long-time friend was looking for me. She found him and gave him specific instructions for me to get my bootie signed up so we could catch up. I did, and the last few months have been a fun journey as I've tried to locate childhood friends, old roommates and reconnect with family. Up until 2 days ago it has been a fairly positive experience.

In the facebook world your "friends" are only acquired through the acceptance of an invitation. You invite someone you know to be your friend, and if they so choose, they can accept or decline your request. Once you are friends with someone you can view their profile of personal information and any pictures they post for viewing. If after you have agreed to be someones FB friend and you don't want to anymore, you can choose to remove them from your list at anytime you wish. Doing this is a personal decision that some FB users don't see as a big deal. But what happens when you are deleted by a person you didn't expect to remove you from their list. It's impossible not to take it personally when you start to wonder why the person X-ed you. "Did I say something to offend?" "Was it just a mistake, and they really meant to cross off a different name, and had inadvertently clicked on my name instead?" These are questions you might ask yourself if this happens to you. "Is it really a big deal? It IS JUST facebook."

I asked myself these exact questions 2 days ago when I learned that I had been de-friended by someone I didn't expect. This was someone that I had a good and positive relationship with and never said or did anything to be hurtful or rude. I wondered to myself if this person had meant to "say" something without saying it by booting me off his/her proverbial FB island. I then concluded that it surely must have been a mistake, and sought out to make sure.

So I sent a friendly message...

Hi,
I noticed today that you have taken me off your FB friends list and I was just curious why. I hope that I didn't say anything to offend you, and if I have, please accept my apology. I would hope that if I had, indeed, said something that offended you, you would tell me. I thought we were actual friends and not just FB friends, and this is why I'm puzzled.
Emily.

This was the response that came later the same day:

Hi Emily,
It makes me feel good to know that you consider us more than just FB friends. I would like to attempt to explain why I took you (along with others) off my "friends" list. Since we have been FB friends, I have noticed you are not the same woman that I remember. I had been so impressed with you the first time I met you. You really were so beautiful and I remember your eyes really seemed to shine. I guess from watching you from the FB point of view, it appears to me as though the light that I had seen shining so brightly in you before, has faded quite a bit. It makes me feel sad. It has been hard for me to see the things that you have been doing and saying on FB. Recently I have been through some very trying times and I have had a strong desire to surround myself with everything that is positive. Anything that's not, I try to distance myself. Sadly, for the moment, that has included some family members as well. This is why I have deleted a few of my "friends". I hope that this doesn't make you angry. I am not trying to judge you (even if it sounds that way). You really can do whatever you choose. I just need to make the choice to do what is best for me emotionally and spiritually. Please remember that you did ask and I am just respectfully answering.

Tears filled my eyes as I read those words. I really couldn't believe what I was reading. I felt like an injustice had occured as I fought back the inclination to believe the judgements that had been placed on me. All the insecurities I have felt about myself throughout the years had surfaced without hesitation and I wondered what was wrong with me. I soon realized that nothing was wrong with me, only with the person whom had a problem with me.

The following is my final communication:

Although I am curious as to what you may be referring to regarding the things I am saying and doing on FB, I won't ask because whatever it may be, doesn't matter. I am not ashamed of anything I may have said or done. It is quite puzzling to me though since I have never directed any of my actions toward you. I respect that you may choose to distance yourself with those who may not be "uplifting" in your eyes, and you're right it is sad.

I wonder why when we met you were so impressed with me. Or could it be that you are drawn to those individuals that you have a religious commonality with? and since we don't agree with respect to that, you feel that a "light' has faded in me. Please know that I am not angry in the slightest even though you feel you haven't judged me, when you have. Again, you are free to be FB friends with whomever you wish, it's just sad to me that you would distance yourself from people that care about you just because you don't agree with their choices or beliefs. It is disconcerting to feel like my actions would have such an emotional effect on you that you would feel like you couldn't be a part of my life, even if for the time being is only through FB.

The lesson I learned that day is one I've been trying to teach my children regarding the difficulties they experience with relationships at school. Every time they come home from school with sadness in their eyes because someone was mean to them, I try to help them see that not everyone is going to like them, no matter how hard they try to be their friend. It's not an easy thing for little kids to understand because the pressure to be liked and fit in is so strong. It breaks my heart when I hug them tight and try to make better what occurs when friends say hurtful things to them. It doesn't always comfort them the way they need it to, because regardless of the positive words I offer, they will undoubtedly experience the same thing again throughout their lives.

So, I had to re-teach myself the same lesson. So, someone doesn't like me, or agree with my lifestyle. I can't change their mind unless I change myself in the process. I don't want to change. I don't have to change. I won't change just to please someone that may never be satisfied with my choices. I can't live my life exactly like someone else because then my choices wouldn't be mine. It's a shame that this communication and insight into someones thoughts and ideas of me can't just roll of my back like water on a duck. It's hurtful knowing that in spite of all my other shortcomings and insecurities, I had to doubt my self worth as a woman, and a person for that matter. And it's sad knowing that I allowed the negative opinion someone has of me to bruise my heart. Well, bruises heal and so will my heart, and maybe one day the individual who so harshly judged my character will see how flawed their perception of me really is. Either way, I'm not going to keep from being myself, or allow this situation to make me feel badly anymore. Life is too short to dwell on experiences or people you can't change.


Post script:
My intention in posting this experience was not to name names or embarass those involved here. I am merely choosing to constructively, and respectfully express my feelings regarding the issue. This is why I have kept the identities private. Although I was hurt and upset with the initial conversation, I am no longer troubled by this experience, and have only used this forum to share how I dealt with this uncomfortable situation.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Buckle Up


As I drove down Mill Road in my rusty, red farm truck, I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed the familiar red and blue flashing lights behind me. In a split second several questions raced through my mind. Am I speeding? A quick look at the speedometer tells me no. Did I stop completely at the stop sign I just went through? Yes. It must be my turn signal. I hadn’t used it because it was broken. That had to be it. I was busted for not using my turn signal. However, to my shock and surprise, the reason, so I thought, was far more aggravating. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt!

I rarely go unbuckled, but for some reason when I slide into the cab of the truck, it doesn't cross my mind to strap in.

The officer acted as if I was the most unsafe motorist he’d ever encountered and I was lucky he couldn’t yank my driver’s license away for good, and toss it into the bottomless pit of non seatbelt wearing violators.

Gee-wiz, it wasn’t like I broke the law or something!

Then I remembered; I had, indeed broken the law. My first reaction led me to think it was a waste of time for this police officer to pull me over, wag his “shame on you” finger and scold me for not being safe. Although I was truly aggravated and embarrassed for being pulled over, I realized that the police officer was right to be so stern with me. It was a serious thing to be unbuckled. Not only could I have caused injury to myself, had I been in an accident, but I could have been killed in the process. This experience has provided me with the opportunity to really think about the seriousness of safety belt use and our current laws regarding them. Ultimately its leading me to firmly believe in the gravity of their use and the importance of having a law in place demanding them to be worn.

I came across some really crazy statistics that were quite alarming to me, and made me think twice about not strapping in. These facts were discovered in a study done in 2004 by James Madison University. The facts that were revealed were so alarming that they may very well change the mind of any individual who is set in their ways and not buckling up.

- One out of every five drivers will be involved in a traffic crash this year.

- Approximately 35,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year. About 50 percent of these people could have been saved if they wore their safety belts.

- In a 30 mph collision, an unbelted 160 lb. person can strike another passenger, crash through a windshield and/or slam into the vehicles interior with a 4,800 lb. force.

- Safety belt use is one of the best defenses against the unpredictable actions of a drunk driver.

- A common cause of death or injury to children in motor vehicles is being crushed by adults who are not wearing safety belts. One out of four serious injuries to passengers is caused by occupants being thrown into each other.


That last one is what did it for me!

- About 80 percent of all injuries to children in car crashes are injuries to the head, causing brain damage, permanent disfigurement, epilepsy or death.

- Of every 100 children who die in motor vehicle crashes, at least 80 would survive if they were properly secured in an approved child safety seat or safety belt.

- An estimated 80 percent of American children are immunized against contagious diseases, but less than 10 percent are properly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle.

No one wants to be told what to do, and many drivers are determined not to wear them for any number of reasons...they are too confining, uncomfortable, inefficient or because they just don't want the intrusion of the government in they're private lives.

It’s easy to think that nothing tragic can happen when the comfort of traveling in an automobile for years without an accident allows you to feel a sense of false security. The truth of the matter is, an accident can occur at a split second and wearing a seatbelt can mean the difference between life and death.

Laws for seatbelt use are in place to save lives, however it’s disturbing to learn that although virtually every state has standard laws that allow enforcement officers to stop and ticket a violator for having a broken tail light or for tossing trash out the window, most states currently do not have standard laws for seat belt use.

All I know is this: the next time I slide into the seat of that beat up pick-up truck, I won’t make the same mistake and ride unbuckled. Never again will a Police Officer pull me over for not being properly restrained. In fact, I should be thanking the officer who stopped me for giving me the opportunity to reflect on the usage of seatbelts. And although my pride was a bit bruised when the officer got after me, and made me feel like a little kid for not doing what I was supposed to, I learned that sometimes it takes a good scolding to understand something important.


Post script
For all of you readers that see that last statement as an invitation to shake your fist at me and give me a piece of their mind, please reconsider your motives as I tend to be very stubborn and rarely take criticism well. :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Road to Emily


For anyone who's ever gained more weight than they care to admit, understands me when I say that it's shocking to look in the mirror and not recognize the image staring back at you. It's a feeling that can only be described as depressing. I've caught myself glaring at the stranger in front of me and cursing at her for letting herself go.

Just today as I leaned into the mirror with my nose almost touching the glass, I was reminded of the Peter Pan movie (with Robin Williams) where the Lost Boys are looking at Peter and they finally realize that the Peter they used to know is really inside the body of the unrecognizable adult before them. They look and stare and analyze him until they finally whisper, "Peter, it IS you!" That's when I found myself whispering out loud, "Emily, are you in there? If you are, I NEED you."

It's painful analyzing the figure that seemed unimaginable just a few short years earlier as I gazed into the same mirror 30, 40, 50 pounds lighter. Even then, the self criticism was excruciating. In my 20's, my tight butt, perky breasts and smooth stretchmark-free skin were taken for granted when the focus of criticism was on pimples, freckles and frizzy hair.

Why can't we just be happy in the skin we're in? It's a constant battle with the skinny girl inside of me...she wants out! She needs to breathe! She needs to be seen! The numbers on the scale don't lie...especially when the thing is flying through the air and out across traffic! The truth of the matter is, I've forgotten what she looks like. I don't remember the thin girl that used to house my body. Where is she? WHERE IS SHE!

Well, I'm on a journey! I am in search of the perky young body that caught the eye of my honey 13 years ago. The road to finding her may take several months, possibly years, but it's a trip that is long overdue. It's a trip that has been on the books for much too long without making reservations. Now's the time! It's all confirmed! The wheels are in motion and there are no refunds. Skinny Emily is out there somewhere all alone and I mean to find her and bring her home where she belongs!

I refuse to look at an unfamiliar image in the mirror EVER AGAIN! I long for the day when I peer into the reflective glass and say to myself, "Hi there, stranger. Where've you been?"

13 Going on 30



All I have to say is...I have one of these living under my roof!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Apples and Oranges



From the day we are born and brought home from the hospital, the way we are treated is directly correlated with our gender. In fact, even when we are still in the womb, our gender plays a specific role in the way others behave around us.

A woman learns she's pregnant for the first time, and with this knowledge, she is filled with the emotions that are inevitable, as any new mom wonders what her life will be like with a new baby. There are many questions that arise during this delicate time, and much preparation is needed to welcome in a new addition. The countdown begins as the weeks and months are tallied up to determine the date that will bring a new life into this world. The family and friends are notified of the wonderful news, the doctor's appointments are scheduled, and now it's only a matter of time before colors can be picked out for the nursery.

From week 15, the image can clearly be seen from an ultrasound that will announce the sex of the child. Every parent experiences a great amount of anticipation as they wait for the final word as to the gender of their baby. From the moment the ultrasound brings the image into view, gender role is attached to the idea of what the baby will, or should, be like. For example, from the moment I learned that I was going to give birth to my first daughter, all I could see was pink. Everywhere I went I saw pink; pink dresses, pink baby-dolls, pink night-gowns, pink shoes, pink socks...pink everything. What I didn't realize was the fact that with my knowledge of the sex of my baby, I was assigning a predetermined gender role to her. I, like many others, have this idea about the way a boy or a girl should act. Girls play with dolls and wear dresses, and boys play with trucks and wear over-alls. Why is this the case? Somewhere along the line, the norm was formed as to how each gender should behave.

When I think about all the stories that my parents told me about my birth, I can't help but wonder if my gender was more important than I thought. I was the third child to be born into my family, however I was the first-born daughter. Back in 1974, ultrasounds weren't available to allow parents to plan ahead and pick out swatches for the baby bed linins. So, when I was born my family was surprised, and a bit relieved, to have a sweet little girl instead of another boy. My dad even cried when he informed his parents that Miss Emily Rose was their newest granddaughter. As I'm sure you can imagine, I received a great amount of attention due to the tiny fact that I was a girl. I'm sure it didn't help matters that I was born on Christmas and was sent home from the hospital in a large, red Christmas Stocking. From that moment on, I was treated like a sweet little girl should be treated (although I'm not too sure how different a boy would be treated. Any newborn child would receive much attention).

The way boys and girls are treated when growing up, definitely is due specifically to their gender. It's most often seen within the walls of a little boy's bedroom the many examples as to what is expected of that child. You may see sports trophies, trucks, trains, and bright colored bins filled with action figures and micro-machines. As you walk into a girls room, the walls would most likely be a pastel pink, yellow or purple with a floral border surrounding the edges, with a netted swing hanging in the corner filled with dollies and stuffed animals, and the heart-shaped toy box in the closet is filled with Barbie's and all their accessories. How rare would it be to hear a boy's room described this way? That in and of itself, should say something about the gender role expectations that we place on our children from the moment they are born.

As the years go by and a child grows up, the expectations never seem to change. There are specific unwritten rules as to how a young man and a young woman are to behave. We as parents, feel that there is a certain criteria for the manner in which a boy is to treat a girl, on a first date, for instance. He is expected to be prompt, courteous, and respectful of the precious daughter he will be in charge of. He is expected to pay for the date, open doors, drive safely, and bring her home sober, happy and ON TIME! Although these expectations may seem overwhelming, it's a fact of life for a young boy seeking the approval of a girls parents. This is just another illustration of how a male's gender role is important to uphold.

Although it may not seem fair or right to place gender expectations on a male or a female, the fact that these predetermined ideas can be changed still remains to be seen. It may do society a world of good if there were no specific expectations placed on individuals as to how they should behave, what toys they can play with, what color they can wear (for babies), what job they can have or even the type of birthday party a child can have. I would love to attend a girl birthday party with a GI-Joe theme, or a boys party with a My-Little-Pony Theme. Unfortunately, these occasions never happen because of the role we expect our children to play.

Maybe there will come a day when we, as a society, can step away from the gender role expectations we so unknowingly place on ourselves, and just expect goodness to be within us instead.