How do you decide what to fight for?

Standard

By now, it has become pretty apparent that there are some hot button issues that have me feeling a whole lot of feelings and coming here to my blog to discharge them. And I have been thinking, in these last few weeks, about the diversity of issues out there, and I have been wondering how it is that people choose those for which they are willing to fight. After all, there is no way you can fight for them all, is there?

28659-Margaret-Mead-Quote-Never-doubt-that-a-small-group-of-thoughtful

So issues of equality are pretty big for me. I believe 100% that what we do with our lives is much more important that what we look like, the color of our skin, our sexual orientation, whether we have tattoos or piercings, whether our hair is brown or black or blonde or magenta. If I meet someone who is so different from me that we seem to have nothing in common and learn that person has a passion similar to one of mine? That’s a person who I want to get to know. If I happen to meet my doppelgänger someday and find that she tortures small animals and has the Confederate flag hanging in her yard? I would probably be momentarily stunned by the fact that we looked so much alike, but then I would be gone. That is not someone with whom I would seek a relationship.

But there is SO MUCH going on in the world right now. How do you choose what to fight for? We have environmental issues, animal rights issues, foreign aid issues, health issues, equality issues. Local charities, national charities, international charities. There is the Girl Scout troop at the church down the street selling their cookies in front of the grocery store, and then there is the American Red Cross, seeking donations via text message for disaster relief. On TV, you hear Sarah McLachlan singing in the background while she tells you about the plight of the dogs, shown in heartbreaking conditions, being helped by your donations to the ASPCA. There are Wounded Warrior Project commercials and Save the Elephant commercials, also with accompanying photos that can’t help but make you stop and think. Need is everywhere.

But here’s where I have had to take a moment and really thing. I do care about all of these things. Some of them I care about very deeply. But I can’t fight for all of them. I am one person, and the money and time I have to donate can only go so far. So I have been asking myself what it is I really want to fight for. And these are some of the organizations which I have chosen to support:

There are other groups that come and go from my list. But right now, this is who I am supporting, either through donations or through fundraising or through giving some time. They all represent causes about which I am passionate. And they are all doing some amazing work on behalf of people who need them.

How about you? What causes do you support? What’s important to you?

Some thoughts. I have them.

Standard

Beyond the occasional misogynist, I have not had to deal with a whole lot of judgment because of who I am. Well, I guess I have perhaps been judged because of body size or my propensity toward wearing out in public a sweatshirt that I purchased in 1994, but I have never felt that there is something about me that might mean I should fear for my life. I never thought of it as white privilege exactly (I just took it for granted, I think.), but I guess that is what it is.

So last week, on Tuesday, Alton Sterling was selling CDs and DVDs outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, and following a confrontation with two police officers, he was shot and killed by the officers. The next day, on Wednesday, Philando Castile was shot in his car by a police officer in suburban Minnesota. And Facebook became filled with people on both sides of the issue of the Black Lives Matter movement.

I have to admit that my first post about these events did not reference BLM. While I did decry the violence against black men by police officers throughout this nation, I chose some different wording and pointed out that ALL lives matter. But in reference to the BLM movement, saying that all lives matter is like saying to someone raising money for breast cancer that they should not differentiate but should be raising money for every other disease as well. All diseases are certainly in need of fundraising efforts, but that specific fundraiser is for breast cancer. Don’t make it about all the other diseases out there. And then Thursday night, during a peaceful protest in Dallas, a sniper who was not part of the protest opened fire and killed five police officers who were there to help keep the peace and intervene if needed. It is certainly a tragedy that these police officers died.

And then the narrative on Facebook changed a little bit. There were the BLM folks. There the ALM folks. And then there were the new Blue Lives Matter folks. And apparently, you had to choose a side.

So yes, all lives matter. And yes, the lives of those police officers matter. But black lives definitely also matter. You don’t have to hate police officers to believe that black lives matter. You can believe in the worth of both. If you support the police, you don’t have to assume that all black people are bad. Caring about black lives and caring about police officers are not mutually exclusive. But this started out as a story about black men being killed by police officers in this country. Unfortunately, it did not stay that way for long.

I have a friend whose comments were so true and meaningful, and I want to paraphrase them here. When a white woman is pulled over by a police officer in a traffic stop, her first thought is probably, “Crap. How much is this going to cost?” or, “Great. Points on my license. Again.” Her internal dialogue will NOT be, “I hope this police officer doesn’t shoot me.” She does not fear for her life.

However, we are reaching a point in time where a black man in the same situation might feel that his life’s in danger. I have friends who have to tell their children that they might someday be in a situation where their actions in such a traffic stop might lead to a police officer shooting first and asking questions later.

Last month, the tragic massacre in Orlando at Pulse of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in one of their “safe” places had people who I care an awful lot about feeling that they may have to fear for their lives because they are not cisgendered heterosexuals. And now I have friends who I care an awful lot about feeling that they may have to fear for their lives and the lives of their family members because they are not white. And that is NOT okay!

There is so much hate in this world, and we LOVE to grab on to a cause and get all offended on social media and take a side and argue our side passionately. And then something else happens, and we are on to the next issue, and these hot button issues fade into the background.

But black lives matter. The same can be said about many other groups, but this week is about black lives. And they matter.

As we head into this year’s Presidential election, we can choose to propagate hate against those who are different than we are. There is a candidate who would certainly be willing to help us out with that. But this country is better than that. And next week, when that candidate has made another asinine comment about another group of people, it might seem like last week’s incidents happened a long time ago.

Please don’t forget. We are more alike than we are different. And it’s time that we start demanding that hate not be allowed to be our story.

Introductions

Standard

I am an active participant in group therapy, and because the group I attend is an open group, we have new members join it from time to time. Each time that happens, the facilitator (who also happens to be my therapist) asks us to go around the circle and introduce ourselves. In the beginning, my introduction usually started out like this, “I’m a nurse.” And that is pretty much how I defined myself. There were a lot of things I did NOT particularly like about myself, but at the end of the day, I could present myself as a nurse because it was something to be proud of and something I was doing “right.”

I am still a nurse, and I am unbelievably proud of that title. However, as I have learned more about this new 40-year-old me, I have begun to identify with the following quote:

glorification-of-busy-300x151

I have been very, very busy lately. I work full-time (more than full-time when necessary). I am a grad student. I am in the midst of a practicum for my MSN right now. But it turns out that I am more than just a nurse.

Due to a variety of circumstances, I have had two days off in a row, and it has been pretty glorious. I donated platelets yesterday and had a visit from a friend. I read and worked on school work and lay in my hammock and watched some TV. I relaxed. I caught up on laundry and some housework. Today, I slept until 9:30 AM (!!!), which is the latest I have slept in a LONG while. I spent most of the day at home, with my dog and my cat, which was fitting because it is my dog’s tenth birthday, and I loved spending it with him. I went out to get him a McDonald’s hamburger as a special treat and did some grocery shopping, but otherwise, I stayed here at home. I did more reading. I did more school work. I didn’t watch much TV. I listened to music and colored for a while. I spent more time in my hammock. I drank a beer in the middle of the afternoon.

Last time someone new joined group and I was asked to introduce myself, my words had changed a little bit. “My name is Mary, and I work as a nurse.” It’s a subtle shift, but it’s a shift just the same. I have learned that there are other parts to me, and I am just as happy to share them as I am to share my job title.

Another shift that has happened recently is that my apartment, after four years of being a temporary place to stay while I figured things out, has become my home. I look forward to returning here at the end of the day. I don’t feel a need to escape it by heading to Target or to work or to the grocery store. I don’t mindlessly wander the mall or bring my Nook to Wegman’s or Barnes & Noble to read for hours. I am happy here on my couch, surrounded by things that are important to me, especially now that so much of my “stuff” has been sorted through and either thrown or given away. The things that remain are items that I chose purposely to keep in my home.

Of course, my hope is to be in a position to buy a house sometime soon(ish), and that means I will be starting over again in a new place…hopefully, my last new place. If I am even close to as happy there as I feel sitting here right now, I am a lucky lady. So I am still a nurse…but I am also a lot more than that.

Grey

Standard

Last week, I tackled a whole bunch of topics, and I want to tease one out to go into a little more depth about it. I have a bundle of thoughts and no idea how they will translate into words, but I have never been much of an editor of my blog posts, so why start now? Let’s see where this goes.

So I have been dieting (off and on) for a long time…like greater than 20 years. And within the past three or so years, I have really started considering (and later embracing) the idea that diets, for the most part, don’t work. Statistics say that anywhere from 95-97% of people who lose large amounts of weight are unable to keep it off (read more about this here). There is a reason that diet commercials have that disclaimer at the bottom of the screen, the one that says, “Results not typical.” And over maybe the past two months, I have gotten to the point that I cannot and will not stay on that hamster wheel. I have places I want to go, so it became time to get off.

When I saw my PCP this year, I acknowledged to her that my weight is higher than it was last year. However, I also told her that I was unwilling to try a diet to “fix” that because that would feed the fuel of my eating disorder more than almost anything could. She was agreeable to this…I am fortunate to have a really great doctor and to have learned over time to begin acting as an advocate for myself, although this is still very much a work in progress (Fun fact: I think that a nurse’s most important job is to be an advocate for his or her patients. In the NICU setting, I feel that it is equally important to teach families to be advocates for their babies. I have never been very into the idea, however, of being an advocate for myself).

Anyway, when I was first trying to break away from the diet culture, I found some other things to try (because I love a good program or tool or strategy). I tried mindful eating (which consisted of me sitting at my dining room table and eating in silence while the cat paced back and forth across the table and the dog waited patiently by my chair for any crumbs I might have to offer). I tried intuitive eating (which involved reading a book, being unable to see how I could possibly translate it into my real life, and then realizing it was sort of still a diet). I tried listening to podcasts and searching through Pinterest for empowering quotes and reading “un-dieting” books. And those didn’t work any better than dieting.

And then I turned 40. We have covered that already.

So the big thing I am seeing a lot of on social media lately is this whole body positive, fat acceptance thing. And I felt like, if I was going to eschew diet culture, I was going to have to embrace this whole movement that people like Virgie Tovar and the Militant Baker are doing so well. But I have to be honest. That did not feel any better to me than dieting did.

What I have seen is a lot of black and white. And this has made me feel like I had to choose between either being in a shame spiral and actively planning to lose weight and being assertively pro-body positivity/Health at Every Size. And I just am not. I don’t really want to stand on a big platform and make that my message. I want to embrace instead some shades of grey.

I went into my Facebook account and unfollowed any pages that had to do with these topics and this movement. I had found that what I had first sought out to feel better about myself was actually making me feel a little bit worse, as I would sort of cringe and scroll by those posts and think about how I “should” be paying attention to these messages. I went through my Bloglovin’ account and unfollowed a bunch of blogs that seemed to be encouraging me to do something that I did not want to do and be something I didn’t want to be. I stopped lending my voice to that particular conversation. And without that “noise” on board, I began to think about what this movement meant to me.

And here is what I have decided so far.

I am firmly pro-female, and I would say that I believe in “everyday feminism.” I am not overly political, and I probably will not be found at a lot of protest marches. But I believe in and support my fellow women, whether I want to join them on their journeys or not.

I want people to feel good about themselves. I want to be someone helps people feel good about themselves. I want their self-worth to be about more than what the scale says that day. I want to be known as someone who is there to lift people up and to allow herself to be lifted. I want people see me as someone who is comfortable in her own skin.

I do NOT want to go on a diet. I do NOT want my weight to dictate my day. I do NOT want to change my life to try to fit the ideals of society, as I don’t think that the ideals of society are relevant in my current life. I don’t want to “fit in” to the ideal. I am okay with being outside that space. But I also don’t want to feel like I have to do the opposite. I want to exist somewhere in the middle. The place where body size truly does NOT matter. Where it is not an issue at all, political or otherwise. Where health is still important, but it does not have a number attached to it.

I want to be healthy. And my body, in spite of its size (some might say), is healthy. And my mind is also feeling pretty healthy these days…so I think I am just going to continue standing here in the grey. And the grey area is pretty wide and has many different shades. Anyone is welcome to join me here.

I’m blogging it…

Standard

This here blog has been languishing out here in cyberspace, first because I didn’t have anything to say, and then because I did not have anything to say that I wanted to be attributable to me. I had some major processing to do, and I know that I do that best in writing, so I started an anonymous blog that I have been turning to when I have felt a need for some writing time. To the best of my knowledge, the only regular readers of that blog are my therapist, when I ask her to read it, and me. But it has served its purpose well.

My needs have changed as far as blogging goes because I am willing to have my words read now by anyone who happens upon them, and I am happy to have them presented as my words. I have some things to say, and I want people to know that I am saying them. Let me give you a little bit of my reasoning for that.

I turned 40 about a month and a half ago. And I was worried about turning 40 because, if I consider myself to be the sum of some labels that I once assigned to myself, I am divorced, childless, in debt, and living in an apartment. I am overweight. I have an eating disorder. I struggle with compulsive shopping, and I have tiptoed over the pack rat line right into some hoarding. I spend a lot of time with my therapist, and I have been given flak in the past for discussing that openly. All these things together made me feel a little bit like I had not done enough for someone who was going to be 40.

And then I woke up on my 40th birthday, and I felt different than I had as a 39 year old, but it was a different that I did not expect. I felt good about being 40. And over the last month and a half, I have felt better and better about being 40. And my view of all those labels…they have been changing too.

I am divorced because I made a decision to put myself first when my marriage was no longer a viable option for me. I remain single, but I am happy to be single. I have tried to convince myself a couple of times that I wanted to start dating, but I don’t. Dating does not currently interest me at all. I don’t have children, but instead of being childless, I consider myself to be child-free. I am in debt, but with the support of some of the important people in my life, I have taken my credit card debt and enrolled it into a debt management plan, and I have paid off over 1/4 of that debt in less than a year. I live in an apartment, but I am hoping to buy a house next year. I am in treatment for binge eating disorder (which accounts for some of the therapy), and although I am overweight, I am also in recovery from my eating disorder, and I don’t know what I weigh, and I am unwilling to use my weight any longer as a way to keep my life small. I worked with a professional organizer to “de-hoard” a bit, and my apartment is much more bright and peaceful without all that “stuff” filling it up (and weighing me down). And I am not ashamed of the fact that I see a therapist. I refuse to buy into the stigma surrounding mental illness that exists in the US today, and I am willingly to speak candidly about what brought me to therapy and what keeps me there.

I have a favorite quote that sums up how I feel about turning 40. Like many of my favorite quotes, this one comes from Brené Brown: “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.” And after some events that happened over the weekend in Orlando, when a mass shooting at a gay nightclub killed 49 innocent people and injured 53, I find myself wanting to stand my sacred ground more than ever.

I spent a lot of time in my 20s at a local gay bar (it was not fancy enough to be a nightclub and has since closed down), and I love many, many, many people who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. What I have seen since Sunday on social media has been difficult to process, and I find myself filled with emotions that have had to be released. I have seen posts that share words of “Christians” who are celebrating the taking of these lives simply because they were gay. I have seen gun enthusiasts refuse to admit that the right to bear arms and the right to buy a semi-automatic weapon are not the same. And I have seen so much pain expressed by these people I love who are reading these words and maybe not having an opportunity to read words on the other side of the issue.

In the wake of this tragedy, I didn’t know what to say. I was so upset and angry to see the reactions I was seeing on my Facebook feed. And I tried to counterbalance them by sharing quotes and thoughts that made it clear that I did not agree with the hate that was being shared. I quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. I changed my cover photo and profile photo to symbols that were to memorialize those lost.

And then a friend showed me that what I was doing was not enough. When a friend is hurting, when a whole community of friends is hurting, quoting a human rights activist and posting a picture of a rainbow is not enough. Offering thoughts and prayers is not enough. Reminding our followers that Christians are taught to hate the sin but love the sinner (which still calls attention to the fact that Christians are supposed to consider members of the LGBTQIA+ to be sinners) is downright offensive.

Right now, I am listening to the Senate democrats finish up their twelfth hour of a filibuster of the Senate, demanding action to act on gun reform legislation to help prevent further tragedies like this one. And as I listen to these words, I know that the 40 year old me is not willing anymore to stay quiet in a way that will lead me to compromise myself and my beliefs in order to fit into any expected mold, whether that is an expectation of someone else or was an expectation of the 39 year old me. And 1100 words into the first post I have written on this blog in over nine months, I want to say this:

We DO need gun reform in this country. We need mental health reform. It is NOT okay that 49 innocent people were gunned down in a place where they should have been safe. Hate is not the answer. I am unwilling to let this be my story. I want my friends who are still or once again fearing for their safety and who are feeling let down by the lack of support they are feeling from the cis-gendered and/or heterosexual community to know that I am mourning along with them, and I am scared for what we are facing in this country. But I am on their side, and I am not willing to stand by and allow this to be the new normal in this country.

I am too important to have to edit my dialogue to make others more comfortable. And they are too important for me to stay silent on this issue.

#ENOUGH

#LoveisLove

Fourteen years later…

Standard

Every year since 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country, I have posted this tribute to Dennis O’Berg, a firefighter with Ladder 105 of the FDNY, as part of Project 2,996. This year, I was in New York at the World Trade Center site, and my mom was there at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, so I also have some new photos (which I will place at the end of this post) to share of other ways that he is being remembered. I never met Dennis, but I think often of his sacrifice and also those who left behind. I am sure that this day still brings them unspeakable pain…and I hope if they ever read these words, it brings them some comfort to know that he is not forgotten.

At 494 Dean Street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn stands the building housing Engine Company 219 and Ladder Company 105. The two companies have shared that building since 1977. Prior to 1977, they were located in separate houses, about ½ mile away from each other. Ladder 105 has its roots in a volunteer company, Ladder 5, from the Greenport section of Brooklyn that was organized in the latter half of the 19th century. After spending time as Ladder 5 of the Brooklyn Fire Department, Ladder 5 of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and Ladder 55 of the FDNY, Ladder 105 was organized on January 1, 1913, as a part of the FDNY.

One member of Ladder 105 who was lost on September 11th after responding to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center site was Dennis O’Berg. Dennis was 28 years old at the time of his death. He was a resident of Babylon, on Long Island, where he lived with his wife of less than one year, Christine. Their first wedding anniversary would have been September 28, 2001.

Dennis didn’t always plan to be a firefighter. He graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a degree in accounting and worked for the Big 4 accountancy firm Ernst & Young after graduation. However, he followed his father’s footsteps as a firefighter, entering the academy because he felt shackled to his accountant position. He graduated from the academy not long before the September 11th attacks and was assigned to Ladder 105. Being a firefighter changed him into a happy and smiling and easygoing person. On September 11th, he had been a firefighter for only seven and a half months.

Dennis’s remains were not found in the wreckage at Ground Zero, and his family held out hope that something would be found so that they could plan his funeral. After only his helmet, his jacket, and one of his boots was found, Dennis’s family held a memorial service for him on June 28, 2002, burying an empty casket. Dennis’s father, Lt. Dennis O’Berg, retired from the FDNY on September 11th to dedicate himself to finding his son. However, when all the wreckage had been cleared, it was not to be so.

Family and friends remember Dennis as someone who was young at heart. He was a fan of Harry Potter, Norman Rockwell, Star Wars, and the New York Rangers. He collected baseball cards and enjoyed all kinds of music. He was a romantic and often gave his wife roses for no particular reason, took her on long drives and picnics on the North Shore, and left her notes telling her that he loved her. She found one of those notes in her bed the evening before September 11th as she was preparing to retire for the night. His dream was to be there as a husband and father for his wife and kids and to raise a family on Long Island. He never got to fulfill that dream. Instead, his life was cut short by the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th.

Dennis P. O’Berg. Forever in the thoughts of his friends and family. And now, forever in my thoughts as well.

To learn more and pay tribute to other heroes lost to us on September 11, 2001, please visit Project 2996.

IMG_0968 IMG_0910

You are never more hungry than in that moment after you binge.

Standard

I have always been someone who expresses myself well in writing. I am no novelist…I don’t have ideas bubbling up of stories that I need to write, and I don’t have the patience to develop something as involved as that. However, when I feel like my thoughts are kind of stuck inside my head, it’s always through writing that I can work things out. Despite this, I have never identified myself as a writer. It feels like that title gives me too much credit.

And now I am in grad school, and I am doing a LOT of writing. And my writing is getting favorable reviews from my professors. In fact, the director of my nursing school, in my interview for the MSN program there, told me she recalled from my time in the BSN program that I was a good writer. So I guess that I am going to call myself a writer…a good writer. I am going to give myself a little bit of credit!

Anyway, the title of this post is a statement that someone made to me about a week ago. I was discussing maladaptive behaviors with a group of people and talking about how, even if you are actively working to escape from your maladaptive behaviors, there might come a stressful point where the only thing you know how to do is to reach toward that old, familiar, yet maladaptive, behavior and do something that you perhaps hoped you would never again do. That is how my compulsive eating is for me.

If my life is going through a very neutral, sort of flat, not overly stressful time, I can stay away from most compulsive eating behaviors. Unfortunately, there has not been a neutral period in my life in a very long time. Many things in my life have been stressful. My marriage was stressful. My divorce was stressful. Starting over was stressful. My job is stressful. Therapy is stressful. School is stressful. And some things in my life are amazing. Starting over was amazing. My job is amazing. Therapy is amazing. School is amazing. However, there is not a lot of flatness in my life. And that means that I often find myself engaging in those old behaviors.

Someone who knows well the addiction to food that accompanies compulsive eating said, after that discussion and after sharing with me that she understood what I was talking about, “You are never more hungry than in that moment after you binge.” My response was something like ::blink, blink:: staring at her ::blink, blink:: ::thinking to myself, “Oh, my God, she is SO RIGHT.”::

Let me say something about what I have been able to identify about my binge eating patterns…discoveries I have made or have been led to about myself that I think must be common among those of use who struggle with food addiction. There are many moments in my life that I feel like I am lacking something. I am not smart enough. I am not good enough. I am not thin enough. I am not able to express my emotions enough. I am not fit enough. There are also moments in my life when I feel like I am too much, when I find myself thinking, “My God, Mary, STOP TALKING. Stop! Talking! You are over-the-top! You sound like an idiot! Stop now before you really make a fool of yourself!” And that leads to rehashing, over and over again, what I said, what I could have said instead, what I should not have said, what it meant when the person I was talking to sighed or frowned or fake-laughed. Being not enough or being too much causes an intense, visceral discomfort with myself, and the best thing to do would probably be to stay with that discomfort and work through that discomfort and stop overthinking and come out the other side and go on with my life.

However, as I said, my behaviors are maladaptive. So I seek out something that I always think is going to make me feel better. One such thing that I seek out is food. And that first bite? It’s AMAZING. The first bite of ice cream…BLISS! The first potato chip…crunchy, salty goodness! The first square of chocolate…a delight to savor. That first warm bite of bread…comfort right there is my hand. However, the “high” is just a flash, a short moment in time. Each additional bite fails to recapture that initial moment of “relief.” However, I keep eating, keep trying to feel “better.” SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t ever feel better.

And that brings me to that moment after I binge. In that moment, I am hungrier than I ever have been. I am hungry for all the things that were missing that led me to binge in the first place. I am hungry for a feeling of peace, a place to belong, a comfort with myself, a connection to others. I am hungry for the knowledge that I am enough, just as I am right in that moment, and although I might sometimes be a little over-the-top, that doesn’t mean that I am too much.

For now, I can put these words to it. I can write. I can share. I can reach out, in an attempt to make some sort of connection, in the event that someone is reading this and nodding and realizing that she (or he…men have eating disorders as well!) knows exactly what I am talking about. It’s not a feeling I would wish on anyone…but if it’s a feeling that you have experienced, I want you to know that you are not alone.