Friday, June 30, 2017

Introverting Hard Core: A Day In the MandCave

Wow! What a Pride month it's been! I don't think I have ever worked this consistently to stay visible, and vulnerable and open.

It was a great month and I really enjoyed my efforts and the difference that I saw them make.

As an introvert, this took my energy and just drained the life right out of it.  So I had to be careful to do consistent self care this month.

Pride hit me hard, especially the day after when I ended up as the covergirl for pride pics for the local news. Not to mention, one of my blog posts got over 600 views this month, and apparently all the Reign employees and fan club now know who I am. I usually just shout  my thoughts into the internet void. I expect close friends to hear  them, but when it goes beyond that, I'm a bit shocked and overwhelmed. I think my default is to expect to be invisible, unheard, and or rejected. Surprisingly, I'm much better at taking that then accepting love, acceptance, and being seen.

Wednesday night was a mid-week reign game, and I poured the very last dregs of my energy and my soul into it, being a flag waver with the Royal Guard, and screaming and dancing my guts  out.
When the sun rose yesterday morning, I was greatful I had taken the night off.

What did I do with this day off? I slept in. I slept until 8:30, woke up, showered, ate breakfast, and fell back asleep until noon. Then I watched unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and related to feeling like a "Mole girl"

Then some annoying arbourist  knocked on my door and I had to throw on some clothes and talk to another human.  Once he was gone I went out and weed wacked  my front yard, which made me feel less white trash. I did laundry and I made some greek food. I packed some more. Not a lot, but the rest of my books and movies.

Then I took an ice bath... is it as helpful if you take it a week after you first should have? I don't know, but I did discover if you sing when you get the coldest it nearly becomes relaxing.  Then I foam  rolled and did some light streching. My body was rested and primed to heal and recover, my house was in order, and I finished the night off with an English toffee pudding, a quick chat with a friend and some headspace meditation.

It wasn't my typical day of recovery, but I managed to mostly stay off social media, avoid anything that was emotionally draining, only talk to one real life human, and do everything necessary to optimize my environment to recharge me. I spend the entire day bunkered down in my house, my MandCave.  And it worked wonders.

I am now ready to face the final day of pride month, a busy and heavy Friday at work, a day of volunteering with the Reign, and taking a whole family through a first game experience, including the fan zone, and a Sunday memorial hike with friends, followed poulsbo's 3rd of July fire works and nickolai's freaking out as long as the fire works continue.

Never underestimate the power of self-care. As one of my mission presidents once said "you can't give anything to anyone else if you are running on an empty bucket. Fill your buckets!"

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's Like New Glasses

I'm thinking a lot this afternoon, about how post Mormonism is like waking up from being in a life long sleep. Like, you've experienced a limited world in your dreams, youve learned some of the basics, and you wake up and you're an adult. You look just like everyone else, but there's this whole world around you, that you haven't ever really truly lived in or experienced. You know the rules, kind of. They are basically similar to what you were taught they were, but there are a whole bunch that were just a lie. And there were valuable things, and true things you learned in this dream place you lived, but it just didnt fully prepare you for all of this. The full burden of decision making is on your shoulders, you can't just defer to some other authority because you see the world differently now, and you remember how you saw it before, and things you didn't see, and you don't want to just follow, you want to discover, and experience  more deeply, more truly what is the real you.

Now there's this whole world before you. It's huge, compared to the narrow version you were always previously allowed to see. You look like an adult, but you feel a bit like a toddler at times, and a teenager at others, and sometimes you feel older than you are, and occasionally you feel your proper age, but mostly you feel a bit behind.  You know who you are, and for the first time you are allowed to be that person, but at the same time you shed  all these pieces of who you believed you had to be, that never fit. It's freeing, but at the same time it's terrifying, because it's overwhelming. Because there's so much newness at once, but you feel like everything shouldn't feel as new as it is.

It's like when you get glasses for the first time, and you step out into the world you know, and if you are anything like me you look at something as simple as a tree, with excitement and a little bit of anger and terror, because a tree doesn't look like you thought it did. It's so much more, and it's so powerful, and beautiful and detailed, and it's overwhelming, and your mad you spent so long not really seeing how beautiful a tree really is, but then you get tired, because it's so much more than you were used to or ever thought existed.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Confidence: A Three Year Pride Journey

Yesterday was my third year attending/participating in Seattle Pridefest. At the close of the day I took some time to reflect on my journey.

In 2015 I was still very much a member of the LDS church. I was very quietly and cautiously out, and still terrified of doing things on my own. My confidence was growing during this time, but was still very new to me, and very small.

My entire first pride event was designed to stay close to the Mormons at Pride, and as much as possible with at least one person I knew.

I started the day heading off to Seattle by myself to go to an affirmation associated breakfast party where I knew absolutely no one. I was so very nervous that morning, but I was determined to go.

It felt like such a major thing going that year. Something I could get in trouble religiously for possibly, but somewhere I had to be. 

As I walked through a still quiet and mostly asleep seattle that morning I felt hyper vigilant, this path I walk nearly daily was some how surprisingly new territory.

I arrived at the door to the appartment where breakfast was being held at the exact same time as another group of people. I was relieved to not have to walk in alone, and eventually these people became my friends, along with many at the party, including a drag queen from the same town/ward in Ohio as one of my mission companions.

Soon I was marching with Mormons Building Bridges and Affirmation. And then I met some Mormon friends at the spaceneedle, and went to an LGBT Mormon picnic.

I made a lot of really important friends that year, and that gave me more courage to keep doing new things. That year Pride felt like one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. And marching with my Mormon clan felt hopeful, peaceful, and like there was a way forward for us in peace. We hugged so many strangers that year, that had been harmed by religion and our presence felt healing for us, and for many of them.

Around that time, I think just a few weeks after, but I'm not really sure the SCOUTUS rulling on same sex marriage came down and everything at church began to intensify and irreconsilibly  change. Soon the policy came out, and I realized that a harmonious balance between these two parts of my life, was not possible.

                          Pride 2016
By the time 2016 came around I was in a very committed relationship with a woman I had started dating July the previous year. Soon we would be engaged. The policy had come out, so at this point, it just didn't feel right to join in marching with any Mormon associated groups. 

I did join Affirmation/Mormons Building Bridges for their hugging booth at Capitol Hill Pride on Saturday, before the main event Sunday.  It was great to see my friends again, and always great to hug strangers (unless they are sweaty).

Sunday I went with friends and met up with my girlfriend and her daughter. I felt tense and anxious because the Pulse shooting had just happened and whatever sense of safety I had felt, being in Seattle, was shattered. It was hot. We had a 9 year old who handles heat, crowds, and noise probably even worse than I do. We got her some ear plugs and found a spot to watch the parade. I don't think we watched very long. I don't like crowds, noise or watching parades, and the 9 year old felt the same, so we headed off to city center to look at the booths.

It felt amazing to be there with someone. It also felt much safer to be away from the parade route and Christian protesters with megaphones  telling us we were all going to Hell.  In the safety net of the area around the space needle, I relaxed and enjoyed holding my girlfriends hand in public and just being a little family together. That year, I didn't have to do anything alone.  But we did end the day early, because kids get tired and Pride is crowded and noisy.

                               Pride 2017

I am currently very single. I went on a date Saturday night, to a soccer game. The soccer game was great, the date was not. I intentionally left my sunday with no plan what so ever. I would wake up and head to Seattle when I felt like it. I could march, or I could walk with friends. But I have come to be comfortable with Seattle's LGBT community, so I didn't need anyone to hold my hand through it, literally or figuratively.

I have become a person that challenges myself daily, to be authentic, and to do things that scare me. All the dumb things that shouldn't scare me, like dress according to my own style, or meet new people.

I didn't think I would be out of my house until 10 this year. With a game late the night before, I thought I would sleep in and move slow. It was too hot for sleep. I was up by 7, and on my way to Seattle by 9:45. I made a very last minute decision to march instead of sitting in the crowd watching. If you march, your feet get tired, but you get a lot more personal space.

I met a coworker who was also marching, and we found porta potties and my small bi+ community group after getting a hug from Doppler, the Storm (WNBA) mascot.  It was 10 am and it was already hot, so I felt a little bad for the person in the Doppler suit. The humane society had decided it was too hot to have animals on their float.

I took a quick picture with my friend by some Daleks, and then met  my  Bi  marching group. Instantly and seamlessly I was discussing doctor who with one of the men, who claimed to personally know Tom Baker.  Look at me and my bad self, talking to strangers ;) a lot had changed in two years. I wasn't even nervous.

I had a moment to adjust to the completely naked, except the flag she wore as a cape, that was standing next to me. It was still a slight shock to my system, but only for a second. Then it was completely fine and unremarkable.

Soon I was spotted by a guy I had met the night before at the Reign game. He was excited about my jersey, which made me really happy, because I was in a group of non soccer people and no one got what I was wearing. We also had a very bonding conversation about bisexuality, and he had to run off. But that was definitely  a highlight of my day.

The next highlight was after we had been marching for a while, and suddenly a stranger ran out of the crowd toward me and nearly tackled me into a hug. And then I realized it was my best friend and I was very happy.

I made some new friends in my marching group. I told one of them that I had trained for this walk all year, but not intentionally, and that next year I would be adding in shoulder presses, because my shoulders were starting to ache from carrying a heavy sign. It was a bit windy at times, that made it heavier.

I enjoyed all the high fives, and hugs from strangers. It was like some how my brain just turned off the germaphobia, and embraced the spirit of the day. Surprisingly no one was super sweaty  yet, so that helped.

After the parade I wondered around for a bit. On two seperate occasions ladies turned from the opposite direction and ran to talk to me about my awesome Krashyln jersey.

I remarked briefly how I am now completely unphased by the fire and he'll street preacher's, except to feel pained for those they are still heaping pain on. Thank you EMDR therapy.

And then I was exhausted so I walked to the ferry, reflection on the complete lack of fear and anxiety I had felt for the day. I enjoyed the freedom of wondering around on my own, but I missed having a hand to hold.

Mostly, I was just impressed at the person I am becoming. For a brief moment I had a vulnerability hangover, and the negativity in my mind got way out of control, but reflection on my previous years made  me see just how far I had come, and made me determined to keep challenging myself to not stay in my comfort zone.

I have a mild sunburn, dispite all my sunscreen application efforts, but again It was too hot this morning, so dispite slightly sore legs, I didn't even consider sleeping in today.

Wednesday, I'm excited to push yet another comfort zone, as I take  my most fun, loud, not shy friends to a Reign game and pre party, and we sit in the supporters section. It should be a blast.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Body Issue (Part 6): Once An Athlete, Always An Athlete

The crisp, cold smell. The sound of your blades slicing up the ice. The powerful feeling of your legs springing you into the air, your arms, and head turning, and pulling, twisting your body to follow their lead as you rotate through the air.  It's flying. It's flying and it's so freeing and I miss it all the time.

But on this day, I was just sat admiringly in the crowd, cheering on my friend Alec, his skating made me feel everything so deeply, including my longing to make music come alive like that again.

After the show we talked, and I mentioned how I almost didn't come, but I was glad I did. He chastised me a bit, for nearly choosing something else instead.  His words  have stuck with me every day since.

"Once a figure skater, Always a figure skater." It was meant as a reminder of where my loyalties lie. But what it really was, was a spark of hope.  What it told me was, even if you are not currently doing the thing, you still claim the right and privilege to have it be a part of you and your identity.

Because you spent your teen age years, hours on cold sheets of ice before high school in the mornings, and after school in the evening. Because you spent lunch breaks  and Saturdays as an adult you have earned the right to be one of us, even if you currently can't do that, for whatever reason.

You ARE an athlete. And if you let yourself rember, you will remember how it has changed you, what it has taught you. How it made you who you are, at least some part.

Abby Wambach mentioned in her memoir  'Forward' struggling with that feeling of losing her identity as a soccer player, and athlete upon retirement. I think it's something many of us experience. When that physical routine changes, even if it is to another sport, we feel it. And often, I think we feel a little lost.

One day, perhaps I will skate again. But perhaps I will not. Either way Alec  granted me permission on that afternoon to remember I am a figure skater, Always.

Injuries are something athletes have to deal with, it doesn't matter what sport (s) you do. Learning how to handle an injury is perhaps one of the most important things an athlete learns, or doesn't. It took me decades to figure that out.

One of my friends is a runner. A runner in the sense that I am a figure skater. It's not something she currently does, but it's in her soul. We frequently talk about how to come back, being out of shape, fearing injuries.

Fearing injuries old and new is an important obstacle. I run on a treadmill, because I've always had weak easily twisted/sprained ankles.  I'd like to thank my lack of knowledge, combined with the crutch of stiff  skating boots for letting me get away with that. Running on uneven ground terrifies me. One wrong step and I can feel the pain now.

I stopped figure skating because of compressed nerves in my foot. I tried a few things to come back, after all the physical therapy, the metal scraper tool having very painfully broken down scar tissue on my feet enough I can do most anything else. I tried modifying and punching out my boots even.  But the last time I went skating my feet were completely numb of feeling after less than a half hour on the ice.

That's dangerous. Dangerous to me, dangerous to others. If you can t feel your feet, you can't control your skates. And though I may yet try again, someday, for now I am contenting  myself with other sports until conditions are favorable. Stepping off of the ice that day was one of the most discouraging days of my life, and I can not yet take the heartbreak of feeling that again.

It's been a long road for me. It's been nearly five years. First I had the compressed nerve thing. That was hard. For a while I couldn't stand or walk at all. For someone who was all about balancing and sports that killed me. But soon it got a little better and I came back attacking my fitness, and playing some very aggressive floor hockey. Then came the plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. Then a bone bruise on my foot while that persisted.

Eventually I got help from a physical therapist and magic started to happen, and I started to finally learn. You can t just do your sports. The warm ups, the cool downs, the streches, the strengthening, the conditioning, it is all vital. You cannot jump back in, without doing things properly. No mater your age, if you skip that, you will pay for it at some point.

When I came back to figure skating as an adult, I hadn't fully learned these lessons yet. But, I was still a better skater than in my youth because I had more confidence, and a different mindset. No longer a rushed mindset of I need to be competing at this level now, but rather a mind set of I want to compete like this for the rest of my life.

What I hadn't learned yet, was to listen to my body. Frequently I would jump until my legs were giving out and my coach had to tell me to go take a water break and recover. I would have just kept going until someone got hurt if she hadn't done that, because I was so focused my mind had shut out my body.

What I learned from the past five years is to listen. I have learned when to push, when to back off, and when to get water, without someone else needing to tell me.

In many ways, I am more fit now than I have ever been in my life, perhaps thanks to  a very deep love of KT tape, Ice baths (my new frienemy), foam rollers, and physical therapy exercises, which I trade and collect like pokemon.

My YouTube subscriptions have broadened to include physical therapists, telling you what to do differently working in the office, streches and exercises, Dara  Tores and resistance strechin, and British Rowing on how to do dynamic warm ups and cool downs.

My library is full of books that tell me tell me how 40 year olds are competing in Olympic swimming and  gymnastics, 50 year olds swim to Cuba and back. Please give me all your wonderful wisdom and autobiographys. How are 90 year olds running marathons? I want to be them.  I never want to stop doing sports. If I'm gonna live to be 130, then 30 is still a baby. I've got time to do this right. 

And so I run, I row, I kick balls, I curl (on ice and in the gym) and I have hope. Because I am and always will be an athlete, a figure skater. Heck, my figure skater thighs are never gonna leave me, that alone qualifies me. In my youth, my sport built my body a certain way.

As far as athletes go, body issues can run deep and wide. We mold ourselves for sport. Often clothes can be hard to fit that mold. We are both beautiful and odd. We are brave, and we are fearful. We have strength and we have weakness, and it is our job to hide our weakness, to make it look effortless, or unbeatable while we compete.

Sports has always been my fuel, my inspiration. Any time I need to dig deep, to push on, to make changes, it is an athlete that gives me the courage and vision to do so.  Perhaps it is because they are my people, just as much as Mormons are also my people.

Even if it's different sports, we've fought similar battles that only other athletes can understand.  We speak a language, only we can truly understand. We have feelings about a game, that others find childish, they may never understand.  And our insecurities,  what we learn to hide on the field, or the ice, or the track or court, can empower humans to see it's possible to dream, and to accomplish amazing things.

This, for now is my last post on body issues. It's been an emotional topic to write about, but to all my athlete friends out there struggling to see yourselves at this stage in the game, I echo the words of my friend Alec, and hope they give you the same strength and courage that they gave  me ...

Once an athlete, always  an athlete. And don't you dare forget it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's Just A Personal Choice

This is going to be a long post.

Last night I got a message from a friend asking if  I had seen this:

Which I had. Because of previous comments, there was speculation among  the soccer community the second it was announced that us soccer would be wearing rainbow pride jerseys this month in support of Out Sports 'You Can Play' project that one player would have a problem with this.  Hinkles call up to the national team  and her previous comments about the LGBT community became but talk the moment June rosters were released. No one was surprised when she "withdrew for personal reasons" but I think everyone was still sad and disappointed when she chose to not play because of the jerseys, and the cause they support.

What cause is that exactly:
"You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, and only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success."

Us soccer has put out this video...

In it they state the purpose of the pride jerseys "...words matter, the language we use matters, speaking up, and speaking out matter. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-LGBTQ language have no place in our sport... for us it's about respect. Respect for our teammates, respect for our fans, respect for our game no matter if you are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. If you can play, you can play. If you can pass, you can pass. If you can shoot, you can shoot. If you can coach, you can coach. If you can cheer, you can cheer. If you can play, YOU can play."

So. Here's the thing. Until I talked to my friend last night, I didn't realize how much the Hinkle thing bothers me. It wasn't a super important thing on my mind, and it wasn't a surprise. I support people being free to believe and follow their conscience, so if she feels she can't play in a rainbow jersey, because of her religious beliefs I support that choice. Also, because she can play, and play well... If she can play, she can play.

However, it's been one year since the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Following that event last year, a number of Christian preacher's  claimed those deaths were an act of God, so sometimes even if its not physical, religious beliefs are a form of violence against the LGBT community, used without any compassion to kick us when we are down.

In the broader world, gay people are being tortured and murdered in Chechnya every day. In the US, and throughout the world hate crimes against LGBTQ people have been going up, not down. This is why I made a conscience decision last fall to become more visible, not less. As the world got more openly dangerous, I made a decision that I would never hide again. That I would be open, so those that have to hide can know they are not alone, and know who is safe to reach out to when they need help to stay alive. But back to soccer...

The US women's soccer team has a gay coach, and one out gay player, and many not out players. I would say there are some not out players on every sports  team, including the men's team, and not just in soccer, but there is no way to know for sure. Statistically, though, they probably are there.

Hinkles  decision matters, because it's the fundamental battle right now in the world. The right of LGBTQ people just to exist. The rainbow jerseys were only about one message, and that is, that as a soccer player, or coach, everyone with the talent to play at that level will be welcomed and treated with respect. As a fan, everyone is welcome to cheer their team.

It's isn't a jersey saying us soccer and players support anything more than that.

If Hinkle gets called up again and decides to play, I won't oppose her playing. I don't know that I completely understand how her stand won't fracture the cohesion of the team, or extend to her ability to follow the lead of her coach, or team. Personal problems can't be compartmentalized, it will effect the team in some way wether we notice or not.

  What I do see that I have a major problem with this whole thing, is the extremism that religion can bring into people's lives, and into our country and world. A jersey, and  not playing a game may not seem like a big deal. But it has an undercurrent that shows a lack of respect for the basic humanity of others. It's not killing and torturing, but it is these small, and seemingly benign acts that lead up to that violence.

It's a message from  a loving aunt who "congratulates" you on your engagement and then spends the next hour lovingly harassing you and telling you that she hopes you find jesus so you don't go to hell. It's the policy, telling people their love and existance is so wrong, we won't even let your kids get baptized, until they are adults and can and do denounce you.  It's your parents refusing to talk to you the second you mention your fiancee  who happens to be the same sex.

It's all these seemingly harmless things that create cracks and fischers in the relationships we cherish, that slowly erode the humanity of those we love until violence against them is justified, because we no longer see them as humans, we see them as a problem to be solved, gotten rid of, trash to throw out to the curb. A sick horse we are doing a favor to put out of its misery.

This is an indirect form of violence that comes from religion and dehumanizes  and devalues chunks of society, and it does lead to deaths, to murders, to suicides.

I'm not sure, at this point, if I believe in god (s) or not. But if god (s) do exist, that hold power in the universe, and propagate such ideas, and such hate, I believe them to be unworthy of that position, that power, and anyone's "worship"

I don't know that this post really has much of a purpose, other than me just saying how all this makes me feel. But that is how I feel, and I'm greatful for the effort US soccer made  in this gesture this month.

It does matter, and it will save lives. It means a lot to me, and Im glad they took a risk and did something to show their fans, their coaches, their athletes that everyone matters, everyone is human, everyone that is a part of the soccer community is welcome, because what unites us. Love of the game. And that's important for LGBT people who aren't always welcomed to exist openly in sports. And I guess, really, that's all I have to say. Thanks US soccer, what you did there, matters.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Body Issue (Part 5): Age Is Just A Number?

As we were walking to our car, in the parking lot of home depot, my friend turned to me and said "I'm nearly 40 now,... blah blah blah." Yeah. I have no idea what she said after she said she was nearly 40. All I felt was that familiar sudden panic that I'm getting to be too old and doors are going to start slamming shut on me.

I have lots of friends that are in their 40s and still rocking this world on its head, no problem. This friend was different, because we came through the singles ward together and because I always think we are the same age, even though she's actually two years older.

Floods of all the things I'm afraid age will keep me from accomplishing gushed down upon me.
'You'll be old, no one will date you, you'll be stuck alone. Too old to go back to school, too old to become a sports psychologist. You've taken too long, too many detours.' My brain screamed at me.

It's only been about 5 years I've successfully fought off the Ageist demons in my brain, but even yesterday they still managed to worm past my defenses. All I have to do is remember my conversation with one of the head guys at US sports psychology.
"Its not important how old you are when you finish. Of course you can be a sports psychologist. If that is really what you want to do, you will find a way to do it, no matter how long it takes."

Breathe deep. Sigh. Breathe deep again. 35. My life is no where near over. I'm doing this, I can do it. I've got it.

It's all part of that struggle against cultural lenses. Agism runs deep in our society, but every day I see people who defy that. Professional athletes that learn to train differently for the changes in their body, and keep competing well into their 40s, and maybe beyond. Even in women's gymnastics. And that should tell us something there.

I see it in non pro athletes. 90 year olds running marathons. I mostly see it in sports, because I mostly see sports, as my inspiration, my fuel. But it's all around. The age barriers being broken.

Every time this subject comes up I think of my grandma, who played softball into her 40s, and threw toilet paper rolls in her 60s that would put anyone to shame. As I understand  it, she was a great softball player, and didn't need to stop playing, but my grandpa told her she was too old, so she did. I wish he hadn't.

Growing up, I always felt this pressure, and I don't know where the idea came from exactly, because I don't remember my parents letting age limit them, but it was there. This feeling that I had until age 25 to accomplish everything and then it would be too late.

When I turned 25 a year after getting home from my mission, freshly graduated from college unmarried and with no real idea what I wanted to do, I felt like a huge failure.

It was even worse when I turned 30, until I talked to that sports psychologist. Strange though, because I was a far better figure skater, and athlete in my late 20s than in my teens.  And I soon discovered the  30s are the best thing ever. I finally was figuring out who I was. I got smarter about my body. I knew what I loved and didn't love to do work wise. There is no reason for this nonsense to be in my head about age.

"I'm too old, I can't " is I phrase I would love to have stricken  from the English language. I have seen many good examples in my life, parents with children that find ways to explore their dreams while helping their kids explore dreams at the same time. A mom that runs marathons letting her girls run on the treadmill, and run 5 ks  together. A family taking figure skating lessons- together. A family that does plays together, and a dad that does a community play on his own, then helps get all his daughters  through their plays weeks later. My favorite- a 70 year old learning to figure skate, quite stunningly from a Slovakian former Olympian coach. She didn't do jumps, she wore a helmet and knee pads, and she could do everything else.

One of my biggest pet peeves (and it's a dangerous one to have as a single, childless woman), is when parents, and non parents put giving kids all the experiences in life above everyone and anyone else. Yes, it's important to give kids learning opportunities, yes we need to take care of and prioritize them. But when we do so with the attitude that no one, including the parent themselves matter then, I believe we are actually hurting our kids and our society.

Kids need to see that life doesn't end when you hit 25 or 30. Kids need to know that they have their whole lives to do and become who they are going to be. There is no time limit on that.  And yes, there are things they may not ever accomplish that they have dreamed to do.

But, I truly believe this is what matters...
"The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. To spread these principles is to build up a strong and more valiant and, above all, more scrupulous and more generous humanity."  -Pierre Dr Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic games.

Even in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s, the important thing in life is to take part.  We don't stop needing heroes of inspiration when we turn 30. We don't stop needing heroes when we become heroes.  We humans all kind of need eachother. We fuel eachother with meaning for life, things to strive for and do. No matter our age, and our limitations we can push ourselves to keep growing, mentally, physically and emotionally. We can keep succeding and accomplishing, overcoming,  and dreaming.  I think if your kids can see you do that, they will have deeper hopes and greater reach in humanity, to change the world. Because they will see you, old foggy, still changing the world. Still mattering. Still discovering and growing. Still inspired.

Stepping off my soap box now. That talk is still as much for me as for anyone. Part of me refuses to believe im not too old already for too much. But I try to not give that piece too much input.  Our culture does that enough. Movies, sports, art. Everything seems to have an age limit, especially if you are a woman. I can't change societies mind about that, until I change my own. So that is where is start.

And so far, it's made a big difference. I just keep getting better, I just keep showing myself I can. And I keep finding inspiration, because as yesterday's non body issue post pointed out... in real life and in fiction, representation matters.

I don't normally do this, but I'm gonna end with two book recommendations for any one struggling with age issues. 1) "Find A Way"  by Diana Nyad.  2) "Age Is Just A Number"  by Dara  Torrres.

Guys. We are going to live to be like 140. So 40 is still pretty young, and 35 is practically a baby. Let's live like that's true, and your whole life and future is in front of you.  If you have health issues to work through and aches and pains, and real limitations, that is a factor, but it's not the end.

I will talk about this more on my Athlete body issue post, but for now, just know patience and persistence, and knowing you have time to get better are important keys. You have time, if you  just start.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I See Gay People

The Body Issue series, for those of you loving it, is not over. I have about 3 or 4 more to write, so we are halfway there. I thought it was a good time today to take a  small, hopefully fun, break.  Mostly because writing the body issues posts always causes a vulnerability hangover, and with my housing situation, my anxiety is currently sky high.

So with no more ado, I present to you:
  I See Gay People.
I have attached (since I'm writing this on my phone, I have no idea where it will show up) a shot from Instagram that someone shared on my women soccer supporters group this morning. It is a legit Instagram interaction between Megan Rapinoe and Sam Mewis, which I verified myself. Don't know when it happened, but it was buried in Sam Mewises photos, so we will say a while ago, as indicated by Ashlyn Harris's hair length and color, and the presence of Hope Solo.

Any way  It's a photo of the US women's soccer team with a caption from Mewis that says "squad is straight (fire emoji)" to which Pinoe replied "Squad is not fully straight Samuel. Not even close (smiley nerd emoji)"

Why do I share this? Half the fuel for this little tangent post has been people in the women's soccer community arguing all week about if these comments about the beloved pride US soccer Pride jersey' s outed her team mates "We have such a huge reach, and a huge portion of our fan base is LGBTQ , or at least very supportive of it. Obviously I'm the only out one, but everyone can probably guess there's more than one."

The annoying debate that followed got me thinking a lot. I don't think she outed anyone. Pinoes not even the first to mention the truth of the oft speculated rumors of many not straight female soccer players. Just read Hope Solo's memoir.  Any way, I don't want to spark this debate again, I think it's the wrong thing to be debating.

And now we come to the Title of this piece. Earlier this week I also read a fun, for pride post on reimmagined movies. Favorite movies queerified. My favorite was The Sixth Sense being about gaydar, and thus "I See Gay People"

Also due to anxiety I spent a good chunk of my evening watching the gay women's YouTube channel and laughing my head off at "Straight Girls Annonomous" a sketch about a support group for queer ladies that keep falling for straight girls.

And then we got into the games clips. One of my favorites, they make up a new game where you take a mix of your favorite celebrities, and you can choose to trade their stated sexualities, to make your ultimate team. Who wouldn't trade Amber Herd for Emma Watson?  Have to chose between Ruby Rose and Meryl Streep? Sorry we ain't trading Ruby.

It's all fun and games, just like all the crazy fan fic I talked about in Body Issue part 4.  Which, the crazy fan fic, and you tube compilation love videos are exactly why people blew up so much over Pinoes comments. "It fans the flames" a lot of people said.

Look. Here's the deal, and I've thought about this a lot. When you don't get to see many people like you represented in the world around you, fictional or real, when it's 2017 and gays in Chechnya are being murdered and tortured, and even in America attacks have been increasing and not decreasing, there is a real danger to being out. There are people of all ages with as much need as ever to see themselves reflected positively in culture.  And where that need is not being met, people will find a way to meet the need. They will create, they will look closely for any signs to give them hope.

And here is my conclusion for the day.  If you look at research, we should probably all default to believing most people are some degree of not straight, or just generally queer  (including variations in gender and gender identity)  But society has a unwritten "Straight and cis until proven otherwise" attitude. 

I've talked a lot with friends about gaydar. I think I have decent gaydar, but after this week I've decided that could be confirmation bias, plus the fact that most women have a degree of sexual fluidity.  As Weezer  once said "Everyone's a little queer"

Conclusion time: rather than worrying about my gaydar being on from now on, I have decided it's time to mentally challenge the social constructs I have grown up under, and I'm just gonna "See Gay people" honestly wishful thinking or not, if I'm honest I do any way. But I will now actively just assume everyone is not completely straight until we have a conversation that says completely otherwise. 

Identifying as anything on the LGBTQ+ sandwich is usually a hard fought battle to claim your authentic self in a world still trying to beat you out of existence.  As one of my friends pointed out, we have Pride month because we were told to be ashamed of who we are, and we are proud of the battle we fought against that shame. Every day I don't hide pieces of myself is a victory over that shame. Let's see gay people, and see seeing queer people as a positive thing in a positive light. It's not a horrible shameful thing to not be straight. It's the best thing that ever happened to me. I see you queer people, and I see your beauty and awesomeness. We are awesome.

Happy Pride month. Let's do our thing. Let's play our games, let's ship our ships, and let's see gay people, and Bi people,  trans people, asexuals I see you too!  We're here. We exist. We ain't going away.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Body Issue (part 4): Nature vs. Nurture vs. Me

More and more frequently I wake up, I get dressed, I do my hair, I look in the mirror and I like who I see. I see me, I see who I always wanted to be. I am becoming who I am.

When I was a little girl, my mom frequently tried to get me to wear these little lacy pink outfits. I resisted. I would go to the closet I shared with my brother and I was far more intrigued by his vests and ties, and sporty shirts. That's me. that's always been me, and my mom quickly learned to not fight me on it. I hated back to school shopping every year, because it was hard to find things I liked that fit me. And also because I've always found shopping exhausting, and I get bored really quickly.  But now, I've stopped dressing to please everyone else, and there is a great amount of empowerment that has come with that. As I've said before, sometimes there are negative comments or looks and that can have a bit of an effect on me, but its far smaller than the effect of owning my soft butch style has on making me feel confident and powerful, able to own my own life. I seriously used to get mad when my ex girlfriend called me butch. Today I realized that that is a label I would take for my own. as long as you put "soft" in front of it.

 This is only "gender expression" and is a different thing all together to deal with than my transgender friends have gone through. I will not pretend to speak to their experience, but I did want to share the words of one friend who spoke to me on the subject about life before and after her transition.

"Part of the problem was I didn't like the way I looked, so I kinda just sat by myself and ate. 'Let myself go.' as they say. I had to make some decisions to end the fear. Said hard decisions ended up putting me out of a job, severely in debt, and in danger of homelessness. But I also have my happiness as a result.  I had to learn to take action to change myself and in so doing I kinda realized it's possible to get past a lot of self-doubt (not all, but a lot), by taking action. So after living 23 years without much to be happy about, the only thing that gets me down physically is when bits of before threaten to poke back in."        

But... even though my friend and I have gone through different journeys in life, and had different issues with not liking our looks, and feeling miserable when we  hid ourselves to conform to everyone elses expectations, and in the end we took action and are mostly pretty happy about it.

Her issues had a real effect on her weight, and  my issues did not.  But how we dress and/or present ourselves can have a huge impact on how comfortable we feel in our bodies, and can have a real impact on our mental state.

I want to switch gears a bit now and go back to my child hood, because there are some other things  that had an impact. I was super skinny as a kid. Sometimes, I did get teased for it, sometimes by family. I remember getting called bird legs as a kid, and being told to eat more, while watching others in my family being fat shamed, and others yet crashing through every fad diet out there.  I don't think there was a time in my life I can remember not feeling pressure to look one way or the other, and no one hit perfection, everyone was up for critique. That's not just family, that's friend circles, school, and society in general. But I think the genetics in my family, which tend to run on the heavier side of things on both sides of the family, made that pressure intense for all of us. And I feel like it resulted in some lashing out from one person to the next.

Genetics play a factor in all of this.  Genetics played into my friend being assigned the wrong gender at birth, Genetics has made me a bit paranoid every time my body just decides is going to suddenly gain or lose a lot of weight for no apparent reason at all.  Another friend and I had  a recent discussion about how its a lose-lose situation for everyone going to the doctors... if something is wrong and you go and you are over weight you may hear "You just need to lose weight."  If you are a healthy weight they may say the whole problem is in your head because  "you are healthy."  My friend discussing this with me ran the full gambit, and her problems were dismissed on both ends rather than ever addressed. It didn't matter if she was over weight, under weight or healthy...  that was the problem, not the actual problem.

I talked to another friend who's story I will now share:
"My whole life, I was always so happy with my body image. My parents were fantastic examples in all things, but especially when it came to eating healthy and exercising. One year in high school, I actually gained a bit of weight, but they never said anything negative to me. My mom encouraged me to do a daily walk on the treadmill to help "keep me busy" and in a month I had lost 10 pounds. This all changed when my great grandmother moved in with us. She is AWFUL. One night, I was getting out popcorn seeds to make some popcorn for some vising relatives and she looked at me and said, "you're too fat, you're too fat, you're too fat!" I burst into tears and ran away. I wasn't even getting it for myself (not that that should have mattered). Then, a couple of weeks later, she looked at me and said, "you've really been putting on the weight now, haven't you?" Then, another week after that, I went outside to roller blade and she said, "oh, are you finally trying to lose some of that weight?" I went to college, thrilled to be away from her, starting running with some friends, and fell in love with running. I lost about 15 pounds that Semester, and felt great. I put on some weight again right before my wedding, so I was technically overweight, but didn't feel like I was. When I got pregnant, and didn't even have hardly a bump at 17 weeks, my great grandma saw me and said, "wow, you better not gain any more weight." I furiously told her that I needed to gain weight to be healthy for my baby. When I was pregnant the second time, I ate one plate at Thanksgiving dinner, and then picked up a roll to eat. As soon as I picked up a roll, she said, "you're going to gain a lot of weight!" I glared at her, slammed down my knife and left her sitting all alone. I was irate. Later, she felt the need to say something about my cousin's weight (who was also pregnant). She has honestly given me so many mental issues in regards to weight. There have been times that I have seriously considered bulimia (I have gagged myself quite a few times). I look in the mirror most mornings and criticize every aspect of myself. I step on the scale and groan if it hasn't moved downwards. Lately, I've decided to only focus on training for a half-marathon, and that helps me to not focus on "numbers," but on strength and endurance. Also, my husband often reminds me that if I talked to my best friend the way that I talk to myself, I wouldn't have a friend anymore. I need to talk to myself like I would talk to my best friend."

I  am grateful my friend decided to share this story with me. I think that we all have a different bag of things to deal with, but they all interplay. The love and support I got from my parents growing up was very helpful to me. at the same time watching others around me struggle and hearing negative comments had a very real impact on how I felt about myself, and the things I liked, and how I looked.  I don't think being called 'Bird Legs" for being skinny had an impact on me into my adult life, because I love my legs and will spend sometimes 20 mins checking them out in my mirror at home. but sometimes other worries do creep in.  When I was skinny and people would yell at me to "eat something" that didn't help either. I was eating a healthy amount of food.  honestly not a lot has changed in my diet from when I was skinny to now,  my body just seriously doesn't seem to have an in between, and  no matter what the scale says, I'm actually over all healthy, even if my BMI disagrees.

 But all these other body issues I have mentioned today, play into a more psychological issue for me, and that is shyness. Ive gained a lot of confidence, I've fought hard to be me, and that isn't all down to external pressure or genes. its something I have always struggled with. Sometimes I just feel like too much of a nerd, too much of a looser to own some small piece of me. Those are the toughest battles of all for me.  On my own, and in places I'm comfortable I can let my awesome shine, but one little thing can knock me straight back to  Jr High or elementary school and all those feelings that I just am not cool enough, I'm not someone worth knowing.  And when that happens its absolutely shocking to me that it has.

When I was in 9th grade, my mom did something amazing for me, to try to help me gain some confidence and make new friends. She challenged me for a month straight to smile and say hi to every single person who's path I crossed. That was a lot for me. It was scary, and hard, and some days I could only do a few hellos and then I was completely depleted.  but by the end of that month I had made a lot of new friends, and it was much easier to do.

 The equivalent of that struggle resurfaced this week, over the dumbest thing. I bought one of the US national soccer team Pride jerseys. I was struggling really hard with what to put on the back, because of this very shyness issue. I had two possibilities of what I really wanted to do. 1- I wanted to put Harris 24  on the back, for Ashlyn Harris, who is now one of my favorite soccer players, fashion inspirations, and general inspiring person person. She also got injured at the last Reign home game, and I was very sad about it. So I wanted to do that to send good get well soon energy into the universe.  But US soccer doesn't have a goalie jersey option, and she is a goalie, and I just didn't like putting a goalie on a regular jersey. it doesn't match and I couldn't do it.  I thought briefly about just doing Ali Kreiger on the back, because she's nice and I like her too. but then she didn't get called up for this last international competition, and people were talking like it was the end or something, and then I was like... great lets continue the curse of people getting injured or retiring, or leaving teams when I get their name on the jersey, no thanks.  Ashlyn's already injured so that's safe, but I will not be responsible for ending Ali Kreigers career.

2- I wanted to put Krashlyn on the back. This would beat the curse problem, because its not a real name. its a mix of real names, but the rules told me they do not apply here, and that's how superstition works.  I loved the Idea as soon as thought of it, for multiple reasons.  Krashlyn is the portmanteau for Ali Krieger  and Ashlyn Harris. SO, it would be like a 2 for 1 deal. Since meeting Ali Krieger last month, I have decided she is even more awesome than I originally thought.  Second- I can think of nothing more queer than all the people shipping these two in fan fic, and in real life. I mean, seriously,  watch the gay women's channel on YouTube, we love our 'Ships.   Thirdly, having recently seen this lovely hilarious video from Krieger's brother, they are clearly playing back with the fans on this... so why not also have some fun with it.  This video also contains an excellent message on body image from Ashlyn. Please watch.

The struggle I have with this decision on this jersey though,  is ridiculous. Like, Thinking about actually pulling the trigger on this one, and putting Krashlyn on a USWNT Pride month jersey caused me to have a massive emotional melt down. So I considered options 3 and 4. 3 - get yet another Megan Rapinoe Jersey. I love Megan, but I don't feel like I need any more jerseys with her name on it. that's just too much.  But I don't really super love any of the other players on the USWNT, so at this point its Krashyln, or its another Pinoe... or I could get yet another Marquardt Jersey with my name on it, and walk around and have stupid people constantly ask me who that is. I really don't like this last option. Sorry for calling people stupid. Its just really annoying to me.  I knew if I did the Krashly thing though, I may get questions or flack for it. I may come off as a crazy fan. I don't want to come off as a crazy fan. I work very hard to not cross that line. I flirt with it at times, I am aware, but I try to not do anything invasive or disrespectful, or just a bit too much. and this. this jersey idea was flirting with that line a lot.  And thus... the melt down.

So I talked to my best friend, and she talked me into just doing it. So I did. I ordered a Krashlyn USWNT pride jersey. and then I spent three days melting down that I had done it. and oh the shame bombs I threw at myself.  "You NERD. You Weirdo. What are you doing. people are going to think you are strange. You can never get that jersey signed because Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger would think you are disrespecting their boundaries.  You can't even wear that in public. You shouldn't have ordered it."  and so on. and then I talked to my friend, and she was like... 'Well why don't you try thinking of positive things people might say about it.'  I did it, because I thought it was clever, funny, and perfectly fit pride month combining with US Soccer. and it is! but I couldn't own that. too much shame. I tried to vulnerable my way out of it, but  I still felt like the most uncool kid to ever exist.

 So then I talked to one of my soccer buddies, and she thought it was the best idea anyone had ever had. She even volunteered to get it signed for me should the opportunity arise and I be too ashamed and in melt down mode to make that happen.

I'm not quite done feeling like a complete dork about this. Perhaps that's why I am sharing it here. To confront it one last time, to stare my shame demons right in the face and say, I'm terrified of you, but I'm not going to back down.'  I may have to have an army of friends around me anytime I wear this jersey in public, but I'm gonna do it, because my mom taught me to do things that scare me, to face my fears, and to find a way to believe  I can have friends, that I am worthy of love. That my ideas are clever and they are worth something. That I can be me, and even if I am a dork, I'm still cool. I know I am awesome when I'm alone. I am one of the funnest people on the planet. I do lip syncs and I dance on my treadmill, and I paint stuff, and I look in the mirror and I see a bad ass hot soft butch Bi girl.

But people... I've always been OK on my own. but adding other people to the element, letting them see how awesome I am. That's scary. its terrifying, and I can't believe as a 35 year old I still have to fight it sometimes to the point of tears, and melt downs.  But apparently, I'm not alone. Even as adults we have this mixed bag of our history, and our genes and hormones, and the environment we grew up in and all the good and all the bad.  And some days its a lot to fight off. Some days, you feel like no mater what you do, you're gonna lose.  Those days, my only answer is to risk it. Risk everything. Risk having everyone see what a weird kid I am. That damn round peg that never fits in the square hole.   But if you reach out to the right people, they remind you... you are a round peg. There is nothing wrong with being around peg.  Stop trying to fit in that square hole. Go be a badass in a round hole. Where you belong.

As always, this was super long, and probably more all over the place than any other blog I have written. But LOVE YOURSELVES people, I promise I see you, I see your amazing. LET IT SHINE. and thanks mom, for teaching me to do things that scare me, to take chances on humans, to reach out to them and make them my friends. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Body Issue (part 3): Love, and Sleepless Near Seattle

It's been one week since I last wrote for this blog series. I expected to pop this blogs out at a much faster pace, but much like my song writing, my blogs have to ask me to write them when they are ready to be written. If I force them to my schedule, to my timeline, they are crapy.

Why this blog on body issues involving love has waited a week, until I am struggling on one hour of sleep and really bad allergies, is beyond me. But the blog has asked me to write, so as tired  (and possibly irrational) as I curently am, I am certain of what needs writen and that it cannot wait.

And what must be writen must include that I was up all night, in part due to allergies, and in part due to love. Due to my need to believe in love, to believe in its power, to believe it exists, to believe it is possible to have again in my life. 

Earlier this week a friend texted me :

"I think I'm feeling whatever the stage before feeling lonely would be called. Can you think of a good name for that?"

My response: "Depleted of meaningful human connection"

My answer came quickly, because I was feeling the same. And not in a I need some time with friends way, but in that deep I can trust this person with body and soul way.

I remember that feeling. That feeling of wandering through life feeling alone and broken, unlovable, a monster of some kind. Unrequited love, and crushes on best friends that could never be more seemed my constant companion, until I freed myself to Pursue  love, where it was possible to be loved back.

That was when I met her, and I instantly trusted her with every piece of me, and I didn't regret it, because I knew she could be trusted, and for a moment I felt whole, seeing myself through her eyes. She didn't find the things I hate about my body distasteful or ugly. She saw beauty in me, and I saw it in her.

Ultimately things fell apart though. For many reasons. But a small part of that, I think was that she could never quite see herself and her beauty through my eyes.

Skinny shaming and fat shaming are both things I have experienced in life. Both are horrible, and both cut deep and feed into shame cycles  and focus the mind on how we should be, and away from loving ourselves as we are.

I have always said, when it comes to size the only question that really matters is "am I basically healthy?" Whatever size shape or weight you may be, if the answer is yes, love yourself. If it is no, love yourself and find out what you can do to be healthy, and get some support and patience while you work to get there, because healthy can't be rushed to over night.

As I've gone through life though, I find it's sometimes harder to believe that healthy is all that matters than I would like it to be. 

And even though I believe love has the power to do a great many things, I no longer believe it can overcome all things because  I was half of a pair that I know loved eachother deeply, but had to let go and move on because  physical and mental disturbances in the force forced us apart, and because I loved her so much and I loved me so much, it was more important for us both to be healthy than together.

And skinny shaming for one became inadvertent fat shaming for the other, and I no longer saw my beauty through your eyes, and you couldn't for a moment see yours through mine. And we were broken. But I stepped away whole, and I am glad to not go back to that dark and hopeless place from before I met you, where being loved as my whole self was never even possible. It was possible once, so it can be possible again, I just haven't met the person it's possible with yet.

I talked to a great many friends in preparing this blog series. Married, with boyfriends, with long life histories, full of the ones that body shamed, from a place of fear driving you to unhealthy reactions to obtain a look. And to those helping a loved one recognize unhealthy habits, and hope they change because you love them so and don't want to be robbed of your love.

Our histories, our families, our culture have all played a roll in how we see ourselves, how we see eachother, and when and how often we feel we can be loved truly and deeply, as we are. I will save most of that for another blog.

But as it's is now officially pride month, I will leave you with a quote from an article I read recently:

"There's this idea that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. And what I've always thought isn't that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn't see myself reflected at all. I was like, yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don't exist?” - Junot Diaz

To see ourselfs portrayed in movies, books, tv, and song, to see ourselves in celebrity couples and ordinary people around us, those like us in the ways we have been taught are unlovable, to see people like that, being loved, being reflected before us, can give is hope that we are not broken and unlovable monsters.

To meet that person who sees your beauty, and to alow  yourself to see it through them, even if you are only with them for a moment can change you for a lifetime. The opposite can also be true, even if you have all the self confidence in the world.

One of the greatest gifts of growing up Mormon was the BYU movie Jonny Lingo.  It's great if you've never had an Island of people and your father constant taunting  you with chants of "Mahana, You Ugly!" Day and night, and I don't think Mahana  just needed a man to rescue her. But I think she did need a human to connect with that saw and loved the real her. It wouldn't have lasted long term if only Johnny saw that, and Mahana never came to see it for herself. But, because she met Johny, and she was ready to believe it, she became her true self.

Hopefully, this all makes sense. As I said, I'm going on one hour of sleep. Sneezing and a dry throat may have kept me up all night, but also the need to see a reflection of one of those power couples that I can see a reflection of myself in kept me up, fueling my hope to not give up on love, not yet. Love myself, and keep connecting with humans. Lots of them will just be friends, but someday, I will me another one, that's a little bit more. That just helps me see and be fully me, because they see and fully love me, and I them.