While drying my hair this morning, I felt hopeful for the day to come. The sun was bright, birds were singing outside the window and I had just returned from a family vacation in Northern Michigan. The mere seconds I basked in optimism for the day were thwarted by my own negative thinking. I began to wonder: "Why would I love my life? I have a low-paying job that forces me to not only work full-time during the day but also at night, I'm a few pounds overweight, the apartment is messy, I don't have enough money and I haven't figured a damn thing out yet! What is there to love?"
As soon as I caught myself in the downward spiral of negative thinking I re-routed myself back onto the optimism highway. I was feeling inspired, damn it!
Most of what I harbored on above is true, but what is wrong is my viewpoint, my own outlook on life. Yes, I have a low-paying job and have to work multiple gigs to make ends meet but I am teaching, a vocation that feels right to me and I get to do it on a daily basis. I am lucky to teach preschoolers during the day. My younger students teach me how to look at the mundane, the ordinary in awe. They teach me how to laugh loudly and not take myself too seriously. I am fortunate enough to also have the opportunity to coach adults on how to unlock their writing potential. My older students teach me how to stay connected to my art, to never stop looking at the world with curious eyes and to keep writing. When I look at my bank account, it can be overwhelming, depressing and scary at times. There never seems to be enough money for me to get ahead. And, while I do believe I will get to the point, one day, when money isn't such a stress in my life, I know that I have more than many and that I have enough.
In the past year my self-esteem has taken a hit. There wasn't a big event that knocked me down emotionally, but a culmination of time, age and circumstance that shook me a bit. I became pre-occupied with my age, where I should be in life regarding career and family, and my looks became important to me in a way they had never before. I began comparing myself to strangers and becoming defeated when I didn't live up to the "social blueprint" of what beauty was. Now, I've never been one to really follow fashion, I am most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but this new act of comparing myself to others made me feel unattractive and boring. Now, as a feminist and as someone who majored in Women's Studies in college, I was familiar with these pitfalls and the unrealistic notions of beauty society places on women. Intellectually I knew that what I was feeling was normal and that I needed to reject social ques of what beauty was supposed to look like. But, it's really difficult to pull out feminist theory when one is in the throes of self-doubt. It's extremely difficult to rely on theory when a tall, thin woman with long hair and full makeup gets out of an expensive car looking like she just stepped off the catwalk. How could I ever think that I could or should live up to that ideal. And, who's ideal is it?
So, as it stands, I could lose a few pounds and maybe wear less sweatshirts but what I choose to concentrate on now is the inner dialogue I have with myself. While I may not love the extra roll I have around my waist, I know that I am taking the steps to feel better about myself. Steps that society didn't dictate to me but steps that my heart and creative spirit have encouraged in me. After a week of vacation, a week of eating cheese and crackers and drinking a lot of wine, I am stepping back into my health routine and finding happiness in it. I try to eat healthy as often as I can and I have recently begun meditating on a regular basis. These steps help me stay on track both emotionally and healthwise. I will never be a supermodel and that's ok. My goal is to be happy with myself and who I am in this world.
I choose to love my life because it really is wonderful. And, when I look out my window, this is what I see...
I published the above post and then turned to listen to the day's meditation. Before listening to the recording I read the guiding thought for the day and this is what it said:
"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." —Thich Nhat Hanh