Friday, May 25, 2012

Be the change .......a work in progress

I apologize in advance for posting this a bit prematurely. I am only hoping it inspries me to complete my rantings. I normally get all fired up about something and then I lose the inspiration and don't complete my thoughts. Here's to hoping a premature post will inspire actual completion, for once!

Be the change

Leotards, tutus and bathing suits

One of my most favorite quotes of all time is “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” said so famously by Mahatma Gandhi. I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more, I only wish I knew exactly how to “be the change.”

I spend so much time feeling like there is something else I am supposed to be doing, something I am passionate about. I spend so much time daydreaming about this “life,” yet I struggle trying to describe it to others. I find myself saying, I wish I could discover my true passion in life. When I am then confronted about what that would look like, I honestly have a hard time explaining it. Let’s face it, I have no idea.

From as early as I can remember I have struggled with confidence and conflict. You may consider both of these challenges to be some type of stunt of growth during my childhood. I am sure some of it came from when I was younger, but I know that being a woman did not help, either.

I still remember the feeling I use to get inside when I knew a dance recital was coming up. Loving to dance so much, truly finding my joy and passion during my dance lessons and on that stage. I felt like I came alive on that stage, felt more like myself than anywhere else. The only problem was that leotard-tutu, costume I had to wear. You know the one, you probably have a picture of yourself in one as a young child. For all you mothers out there, I don’t care what your son or daughter looks like in that costume, you tell them they look beautiful and fantastic. I am not sure my parents telling me this would have done anything to soothe my soul, but the damage that can be done when a girl, especially, realizes they can be criticized for what they look like, can truly be a life-shattering experience.

As an overweight child, who was picked on, there was nothing I dreaded more than doing what I loved in an outfit that made me hate myself so much. How is that even possible. I loved to dance, yet dancing made me hate myself? No child should feel the way I did in those costumes. I was usually one of the bigger ones in my class and I would always compare myself to the other girls, not in regards to talent (how well I danced) but solely on the basis of how I looked in that tutu. Who ever thought that making small children, especially girls, who were already self conscience dance around in leotards and tutus, well, I can guess it was a man, surely not a woman.

Maybe I am addressing the wrong problem, however. How did it become that dancing around in a costume could make me, and I am sure many others, feel badly about themselves. Where did all of this come from? Why was I feeling so bad about myself at 8 and 9 and 10 and heck even 22 years old—even after the costumes were long-gone.

Looking back on many of the activities I did not stick with growing up, many of them were about how that activity that I use to love with such innocent joy, suddenly made me feel bad about myself. The same thing happened with swimming. My mom, forever, would tell me what a fish I was and how much I use to swim. I do not remember why I stopped taking swimming lessons, but I am fairly confident that it had something to do with my having to wear a bathing suit. I can remember from middle school through college, sitting on the beach—which I loved—while truly hating myself. How awful to suddenly have the activities you love the most, make you feel the worst about yourself. For years I would just look around the beach and feel bad about myself, cover myself up, be afraid to swim or go in the water without a t-shirt on. I look back on all of this now, and while I am still no tiny woman, I am truly sad for the childhood I missed out on.

When I should have been swirling around in my tutu and loving the fact that I was dancing on a big stage doing something that I just loved, I found myself dreading people seeing what I looked like. When I should have been riding the waves, playing in the sand and swimming like I fish, I found myself looking at my own body and feeling disgusted, disappointed and not good enough.

Looking down and watching that skin-tight leotard put a huge spotlight on every “imperfection” I saw on myself. Every roll of skin, dimple of thigh and bulge of belly that I was embarrassed to see. For anyone who has not had to wear one of these “magnificent” outfits, let me just tell you, truly emphasizes the worst in all of us. Sure, perhaps if I was rail thin, or even just a bit more thin than I was, this would not have turned into a moment I would write about years later, but obviously that is not the case.

Me in my one piece bathing suit, sporting a pair of shorts or at least a nice long t-shirt, not understanding why I didn’t have the body for a two piece bathing suit, tankini and why doing something I loved made me feel so sad and depressed.

Almost worse than the actual performance on the stage in those “costumes” was the day we had to get measured, in front of everyone, in dance class. How was this supposed to make me feel good. It wasn’t that our teachers every shared numbers outloud, but even I could tell how much of that cloth tape measure was left over when measuring my waist, thighs, breasts, vs. other young girls my age.

Why is it ok for woman to feel this way? Why did I feel this way. What would have happened to me if I was more confident, if I didn’t feel this way about myself.

It is truly amazing what sticks with us over the years and what shapes the person we become, for better or worse. I remember being picked on at a public pool. I really loved swimming, and I think it was right around this time, I realized picking on people for their size, especially while in a bathing suit was possible and something, especially boys, liked doing. I remember walking around the public pool in my bathing suit, so excited to go on the high diving board and jump right in. It was so long ago, I don’t remember every detail, but I do remember getting made fun of one day. I remember getting picked on for my size and what I looked like in my bathing suit. It is like you are walking around, so innocent, just being happy in your own being, and suddenly you realize someone else can have the power, or at least an impact on how you feel about yourself on that given day. Someone took my joy that day and I made it worse by believing them.

Up until that point, my close family could affect my mood, but no one else. If I got in trouble for something, spanked for something, etc. I would feel bad and often cry, as a very sensitive child, I cried often. However, I think I felt a bit protected up until that point—except for my fear of the dark.

That day at the pool, however, I actually made a joke at my own expense. I agreed with the remark and even took it a step further. I think the reason I remember this experience so much is that it is the day that I realized that if I made fun of myself first, picked on myself first, the other person lost the power in the relationship. I was no longer afraid of others picking on me, because I was my own worst enemy, my own bully, really. I think about this now and it makes me angry and it makes me very sad. I clearly found a defense mechanism and a way to cope with my world at that time, however, I don’t think it did anything but hurt me in the end.

There I was, at school, in class, with friends and I was always finding ways to pick on myself, or if nothing else try not to show confidence or excitement about anything. So fearful that others would then see my weakness and strike. How un-inspiring, no wonder I have a hard time expressing my dreams and my passions.

The even more ugly side of my lack of confidence was my complete fear of conflict. Always being willing to take shots at myself in an effort to protect myself, made it nearly impossible for me to ever stick up for myself. I would avoid confrontation and conflict like the plague. I was so afraid of someone being mad at me or not liking me because I was fearful they would then pick on me, that I often operated on auto pilot. Was often detached from most of what I was doing in fear of feeling and getting hurt. While I like to think I have grown a lot and worked on a lot over the years, I have no doubt that there are tons of remnants of my defenses that cast dark shadows over my relationships, joy and the efforts to expand my own soul, even today. I became the stereotypical doormat. Everyone knew that I would never say anything, so I would often carry a lot on the inside. Always trying to keep others happy and find a way to stay in the background in an effort to not get noticed.

As a Leo, I am often reminded that I am suppose to love being the center of attention and that I am suppose to love the spotlight and all things “Leo.” It is interesting, on some occasions, I do feel my Leo tendencies, and I feel like they are there, lurking under the surface and behind all those shadows that continue to lurk and shade after all these years. Then there are other times when I say to myself, I am clearly not a Leo, I have no interest being the center of anything, never mind a spotlight.

I realize the more I sit and debrief with myself, the more there is to think about and consider in regards to how I got where I am today and where exactly I am going, and more importantly where I want to go. After re-reading all of this, I also realize that my stream of consciousness writing is not only not well planned out or organized, but probably also not the most eloquently written. See, there I go again, even in my writings, I find the need to put that out there in an effort to let you the reader know that I realize I am not great at writing, or story telling. Why can’t I just put all of this out there and say to myself, this isn’t for you, this is for me. I hope you can get something out of this, but if nothing else, I am giving myself the opportunity to get a ton of stuff off my own chest and slowly work through many years of being Patty Landry, and hopefully, ultimately, find my passion.

I just have to laugh. I just wrote four pages where the words leotard, tutu and bathing suit were all used more than once. I have to say it again though, because maybe I am focusing on the wrong thing here, how DID it become that dancing around in a costume could make me, and I am sure many others, feel badly about ourselves. Where did all of this come from? Why was I feeling so bad about myself at 8 and 9 and 10 and heck even 22 years old—even after the costumes were long-gone.

Boobs, lips and legs

Let’s face it, I know all I know about who I am suppose to be and what I am suppose to look like from the media. Clearly I am exaggerating this a bit, as I like to think, as far as my being, I do not look to the media for guidance. However, whether it be a T.V. show, commercial or on the cover of a magazine, there is a clear message as to how, as an American Woman, I am supposed to look. I should be bleach blonde or brunette, but regardless of those only two hair color options, I should clearly have wide sparkling eyes, nice luscious lips, and boobs, all along with a tiny waist, trim legs and either a small, or larger butt, depending on the demographic being questioned. I am clearly making huge brush stroke statements here, and I am sure whether you are attracted to men, or women, this is a broad overstatement of what people look for in a life-partner. This is all even more of a reason why you would think we may begin to see a more accurate and realistic representation of both women and men in the media.

I understand sex sells, however I also feel that the sex we are currently “selling” does not set up a realistic expectation of anything. If nothing else, we need to find ways to make people’s confidence and self worth not be affected by what the media shows us each and every day. If it is not possible to strike the root as Lawrence Lessig would say (granted when he says this, he is referring to the importance of getting money out of politics, more about that in a future post) and find a way to address the real issue of the media’s portrayal of women, than we land where we are currently. Where are we currently, you may ask? Needing to find people, programs, ambassadors and spokes people like the Dove Self Esteem Campaign and more specifically Jess Weiner, Gloria Steinman and Jennifer Siebel Newsom that are willing to be our heroes to help us find ourselves again, find our joy and find our voices.

I feel extremely uneasy even mentioning Jess, Gloria and Jennifer in my ramblings, as I cannot claim to be a women’s studies expert by any stretch of the imagination. I cannot claim to be well-versed in the Feminist movement, or even have a great handle on our history and all each of them have done for us. What I do know is that each of them have impacted me in one way or another, being a woman living in the United States in 2012. I suppose I need to become more well-versed and knowledgeable to really be able to preach about how important all their work has been. How far they have taken us to try and shine the much more important light of women’s roles in this world, versus shining a light on the cellulite or the bulge in our bellies.

Knowing that I feel this as a young thirty-something living in New York City, I cannot even imagine how young girls are affected by all of this, today. While I do not remember seeing that one particular person on T.V. that made me feel bad about myself, I do know what I saw in every T.V. show, movie, commercial and in every magazine. I do know what the boys I went to school with talked about and joked about. They talked about the pretty girls and they talked about their bodies and tried to date those girls and then they talked about the overweight girls and made fun of them. So, if nothing else, I learned from early on what a girls and woman got noticed for (the good and the bad)  and I just didn’t fit the mold. It didn’t matter what anyone else said, no matter how nice, I knew how I felt about myself and I carried that feeling around with me everywhere I went.

I know they always say that you have the power to choose how you will react in any situation, but I had taught myself at an early age that it was always best to submit, rollover, pick on myself and self-hate in an effort to avoid the conflict and teasing that may ensue. What an incredibly sad way for anyone to operate.

I really am not trying to sound ridiculous here, I am honestly just trying to figure out how I got where I am and how so many things have affected each and every corner of my being.

So there I was, no longer in dance class, or swimming lessons and focusing on sports and athletics. Surely they would be more accepting to a girl who lacked confidence and feared conflict, right? Ha! While it was better because I no longer needed to parade around in skimpy costumes, that did not mean that discussions of sizes and changing in locker rooms and getting fitted for skirt sizes wouldn’t still make those shadows creep back up on me.

Being able to run, and hit and throw and shoot and score goals didn’t mean anything as far as my self-confidence that came with being "Patty" was concerned. There were things I felt confident doing, but never was I confident being. I was never comfortable in my own skin, I was always wishing I was someone else, had someone else’s hair, eyes, legs, boobs, etc. High School and College are supposed to be the best years of your life and yet, there I was, doing a lot, but not being much.

From my conversations, these experiences are not unique. The idea of truly being present in any one moment was a novel idea for years. I could not imagine just being happy and full of joy in any one moment. I was always looking to the next thing, or dreaming about how my life would be so much better if I lost ten pounds, or just had a boyfriend, or was the prom queen. While I never was the prom queen and eventually lost ten pounds and eventually had a boyfriend, I can say with conviction, that none of these things will make your life better. They may make you a bit more happy, but until you find true happiness with yourself and are able to love yourself, you could lose all the weight you wanted, get a full make-over and heck win the lottery, and still be miserable.

Maybe that is why I have the hardest time with the media’s portrayal of women, or anyone for that matter. They are either trying to sell sex and have the man believe that if he only had that Budweiser woman in his life, everything would be wonderful, or they are trying to prove to us women, that if we only looked like that amazing actress or model life would be grand. In reality, they are just making us all feel so much worse about ourselves, while making a lot of money off of our misery. And even more importantly, just because someone is rich or beautiful, does not mean they are happy. It is sad to know that pretty much everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, socio economic status and gender, has insecurities, flaws and things they wish they could change about themselves. I like to think if we could remember this and see ourselves as human, perhaps we would have more compassion, empathy and most importantly respect for one another, we would be better off. As his holiness the Dalaia Lama said more eloquently than I ever could “"I hope that you at this moment will think of yourself as a human being rather than as an American, Asian, European, African, or member of any particular country. These loyalities are secondary."

Whether it be commercials using sex to sell beer or those late-night infomercials when everything seems like an amazing idea, they are using our own insecurities and imagination to sell their products, in the hopes of our never getting wise to their strategies. Apparently sex, puppies and kids seem to continue to work in commercials, as I would say from my own T.V. watching experience, they are clearly the most widely utilized, however, once again, no marketing expert here.

This all gets even more complicated when you remember and realize that women are not frozen in time as 18 year old beautiful bombshells forever. Eventually women become women. They may fill out more, they may not have the same body they once had, they will get wrinkles, their hair may turn grey, fall out and they may even get stretch marks and cellulite. This does not make them any less beautiful or any less “women,” in my mind it makes them even more-so.

There has been so much talk lately about mommy wars and whether or not you are mommy enough. I read one interesting article that really got to the heart of the matter. Why are we fighting against each other and how to raise our children? Why aren’t we fighting the structure and confines that make it so challenging to raise children, however we wish and think is best for our child. If we want to stay home for more than 6-8 weeks and have the opportunity to do so, while still receiving pay and not feeling like we will lose our job, why isn’t that possible. If we want to have a flexible schedule to ensure we can be around for our children’s early years and then their baseball games as they get older, why can’t we. I personally think there should be more supports put in place to ensure we raise our children as we wish and also help ensure we are able to provide for ourselves and our families, as necessary. Why is it so expensive to put your child in daycare, pre-school, etc. Why am I suppose to feel bad if I don’t breast feed, or don’t stay home, or if I hover too much. And most importantly, why do I continue to discuss topics that I have no expertise or first-hand knowledge in. I do not have any children, but hearing all about mommy wars on Facebook, T.V. and knowing all of my friends who have children do they very best they can for their children, I cannot imagine all of this pressure on top of the pressure of being a woman?

President and CEO

Talking about roles women are expected to have in our society, I look around at large Fortune 500 companies, and our own government and see the total lack of representation. It makes me ask why? I really find it hard to believe that woman don’t have the expertise, passion, intelligent (both intellectual and emotional), determination and overall talent to succeed in any of these arenas, yet, compared to the population at-large, there is a huge misrepresentation of women in these key and powerful roles. Why is this?

Perhaps it is because the proper supports and infrastructure has not been set-up to allow it to be possible. Once women have children, priorities have to shift. This isn’t to say that men don’t participate, or that women are not able to put appropriate focus on work, I am just saying things change, they have to. Perhaps I need to be even more cynical and archaic and heck, even biblical, and say that society, as a whole is set-up in an effort to keep women in their places, in their roles. I often wonder how different it would be if women truly ruled the world, or at least the United States?

When I mention women and politics, I cannot overlook the 2008 presidential election. I also cannot overstate the impact it had on me. I was truly sickened and disappointed to see how women, in general were treated. Not only by the media, and other politicians, but other women.

Hilary Clinton has always been a role model of mine. I find her to be truly amazing, inspiring, strong, intelligent, savvy and just a beautiful women, in general. I hated watching how she was treated. How her outfit and face became the topic of many late-night jokes and evening news segments. How and why what Hilary looked like the focus of anyone’s discussions. I know this happens often in politics, take the other “team’s” eyes off the prize. Cause distraction, get them to have to cover issues off topic and watch them morph, grow and stretch to address these unimportant issues.

It also reminds me of her beautiful daughter, Chelsea and what a childhood she must of had. I was growing up at the same time she was and I cannot imagine what I would have felt like if those kids at the pool, or the audience at my dance recitals were making fun of me nationally, on the talk shows and the evening news. Why did the media decide that a child was going to become their target. Why was it ok to go after Chelsea Clinton? Can you even imagine what that must have been like. I am so glad to see that she appears to be doing quite well for herself. I often wonder what she thinks about her childhood. She is truly one person I would love to get to know and get to speak with. How was she able to come out of the other side of a challenging childhood. How was she able to grow up into the beautiful and confident woman she appears to be today. I guess the key word is “appears,” as I stated earlier, clearly we just never know what someone is thinking and feeling on the inside.

I also have to mention Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman here. While I do not agree with their policies or politics, I do respect them as women. I feel like with each of them, their looks were a main topic of conversation. What they were wearing, how they did their hair and make-up etc. I also feel like their children, and or families, were unfairly targeted and discussed in ways that a man’s children never seem to be. I feel like most often the children are only associated with the mother and appear to be less of an issue when men are running for office.

Did anyone ever think of asking President Obama or President Bush, how their Presidency would affect their children and if they would be able to be a good father, while still serving as President. I feel like this question is always asked of women, the entire “work and life balance” question. Like somehow it is assumed that the women are expected to be affected by their career or choice, but the men are not.

Perhaps if we had government run daycare and Pre-K that was made affordable to all families, women wouldn’t need to be so stressed about those first 5 years of their child’s life. If we honestly want to have a representative government and if women currently make up about 50% of the U.S. population, but make-up only about 17% of Congress and the House of Representatives, there is once again a misrepresentation of thoughts, beliefs, priorities and perspectives.

For awhile, I was under the na├»ve impression that women no longer needed to continue to fight. We had what we needed and were treated “the same.” Going through college, entering the workforce, witnessing the 2008 election and now the most recent “war on women” as far as reproductive health and rights, I realize I was sadly mistaken.

Next up:

Coloring books, spaghetti-o’s and The Goonies

Mindy, body and spirit

Math, science and sneakers

And that's all she wrote....

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