Archive for January, 2011


Shaving

I have had brief conversations with my boyfriend about the expectation that women shave all (or at least most) of their body hair in order to be considered pretty or sexually attractive.  I was kind of surprised by how deeply that brainwashing had seeped into even his mind.  He prides himself, I believe, on defying convention.  But the fact is that he was inundated with the same standards for male and female beauty that I was growing up, and the only reason I didn’t start shaving as soon as my legs and armpits began to grow hair is that my older sisters both experimented with “hippy” lifestyles in which body hair was accepted as a natural thing.  Most girls don’t even have that opportunity to look at things differently, and in fact if I hadn’t been so determined to make myself “different” from all the other girls at school I might have started shaving anyway.  Even that, I think, sprang from my shyness and introversion, which already made me feel different and out of place.  Around puberty I decided, fuck it, I’ll just take this “different” feeling and put it in my physical appearance so everyone knows, not just me, that I am Not Like Them.  It may have hurt me, socially, because even now I struggle with the feeling that I am I and They are They and I will never truly connect with anyone because I am so different.

That being said, I think leg shaving is ridiculous.  Why do only women shave and not men?  How is it that female fashion and beauty have come to be associated with having no hair except on our heads?  What are we, reptiles? Prepubescent freaks?  No, we are adults, and our bodies grow hair on our legs, our pubis and under our arms.  Why?  Who the hell knows.  I guess it’s just left over from being hairy cavemen.

At the same time I’m probably fighting a losing battle.  Pop culture has infused this ideal of the hairless women so far into our subconscious that convincing anyone (even my outside-the-box boyfriend) that it’s a bunch of rubbish seems impossible.  I even find myself judging hairy women, I find myself judging myself.  I shaved my legs when I got this new job back in May.  It’s an office job and I thought they might have issues with it.  Logically, they shouldn’t, but I think the reaction to hairy legs on women is purely emotional and based on that subconscious conditioning we’ve all gone through all our lives.  The last thing I wanted to do was to be called into my boss’ office and asked to please shave.  I was afraid of being seen as dirty, gross and all those other adjectives we associate with female body hair.

This spring I have resolved to be different.  I haven’t shaved all winter, but because I did shave before, my leg hair looks darker and thicker.  I have almost (note the continued presence of fear) resolved to get my legs waxed early in the season, so the hair that grows back will be naturally fine-tipped, as it was when it first started to grow.

 

*sigh*  It seems like a trite campaign, but I do wish people would just stop and think about it every now and then!

I’ve spent the last few weeks coming to the realization that I have almost completely lost any mindfulness I had acquired since starting to read Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance.  I have not been meditating, have not been aware of my inner feelings or any of the things I believe will most help me in my desire to truly accept and love myself.

I went so far as to take a “mental health” day off from work last Wednesday because I realized I was getting too wound up at work, unable to do anything but fight the stress, frustration and inadequacy I was feeling.  That day was nothing special in and of itself.  I had no great epiphany or internal shift.  But I did outline some things I will do to prevent that kind of day from being necessary in the future.

First, I will exercise.  I burned a DVD of 10-minute pilates-based exercises a while back.  I can certainly spare 10 minutes each morning before breakfast to help strengthen my “core,” and if the rumors are true it should also help my emotional wellbeing.

I will get to work early enough that I can sit in my car and meditate for 10 minutes before starting the work day.

I made a couple signs to put around my desk.  One, on the bottom of my monitor, simply says “PAUSE.” This is in reference to Dr Brach’s technique of pausing in moments of overwhelming or intense feeling and simply allowing myself to feel what is going on in my body and mind rather than trying to push the feelings away.  It’s supposed to help in the long run if you do it regularly.  The next I taped just inside one of my drawers.  It is a reminder that being imperfect is part of existing and not something to beat myself up about.  The last is actually a quotation from Rainer Maria Rilke — it may have been part of a poem, I don’t know — the essence of which is: what if all the things we are deeply afraid of are really just helpless and alone, needing to be embraced & nurtured?  It’s a reminder that those parts of me that I dislike are really just disguising the deep unhappiness and pain I have felt throughout my life, and in order to allow the wounds to heal I will have to face those unpleasant characteristics and embrace them.

So far, so good.

I have also made an appointment with a homeopathic doctor.  I am both extremely skeptical of and very intrigued by the philosophies and methods of homeopathy.  Really the only reason I am trying it is that Mom has received treatment from this woman for a while now and has been very satisfied with the results.  Homeopathy, as I understand it, tries to address all facets of personal health, the mind as well as the body.  And since I have long suspected a link between my physical ailments and my emotional problems, it seems like it might be worth trying.  She confirmed that it was OK to continue taking my antidepressant until I get to a point where the homeopathic treatment has started to make a substantial difference.  We shall see.

Lately I have also become more interested in being more careful in my diet.  Eating smaller portions, cutting back the dairy and sugar I consume, etc.  Moosewood’s Low-Fat Cookbook has a lot of helpful information about nutrition and fat:carbohydrate:total calorie ratios, so I am using that as a jumping-off point, but I intend to gather data on the types of foods I generally eat and what kind of fat/carb/protein/calorie intake I am getting from them.  Due to my GI issues I am also looking to bolster my fiber intake and drink lots more water.  I think part of the reason I have avoided drinking water for so long is that I have to pee a lot more, and I’ve always hated having to go pee when I’m in the middle of something, and if you drink a lot of water, you’re very likely to be in the middle of something the next time you have to pee.  But it’s a small price to pay for getting a little healthier in mind and body.

 

My main concern is that I tend to get on these “kicks” for a while, then the energy surrounding it fades and I eventually stop applying myself to such degrees.  My goal here is to make these changes lifestyle changes and not just “diet”-like things that I will not keep doing.  We shall see.

Not-so-drug-free

So the whole “detox” thing is pretty much a wash.  When the withdrawal symptoms subsided I found myself very quickly overwhelmed by feelings of intense sadness & self-dislike, to a degree that I had not experienced for years.  One night I said some not-so-nice things to BF, then felt super crappy at having been such a jerk, cried a lot (like, hardcore), and I found myself thinking something I have not consciously thought since my last episode (I think) of Major Depression: I hate myself.  As soon as I felt that thought well up I realized I really needed some chemical assistance, so the next day I started back on 37.5mg twice a day.

I still feel like this sadness is just bubbling underneath the surface.  Like going off the meds allowed it to break through a lot of defenses and so, even though I’m taking antidepressants again, things aren’t the same.  I’m not as bright and engaged, just plain not as happy.  On the one hand I’m cursing myself for making the attempt to go drug-free in the first place.  But on the other hand, whatever this is, it’s probably related to stuff I need to deal with one way or another.

The thoughts that accompany and cause this feeling to cycle/spiral downwards are all too familiar.  Wanting to sleep all the time.  Feeling fat, bloated.  Unable to breathe properly, trying to, getting panicky when I can’t.  More easily irritable.  Craving sweets and junk food (which leads back to feeling fat).  Uninterested/unwilling to sit up straight (slouching).

I put my tennis shoes on today, hoping that will help keep me moving around.  At least it should be better than wandering around the house in socks or slippers.

I know that one way to start to break up the cycle is to do something.  There’s plenty of work I could be doing for Si.  I could iron my work clothes.  I could work on this week’s menu.  I hope my leeks haven’t gone bad.  I always get too much produce and end up having to throw things out.  Such a waste.  But that’s kind of off-topic, isn’t it.

Maybe I will try to get some of this stuff for Si done.

I think now is a time when it is important to be aware of my feelings and responses.  I’ll read some more Radical Acceptance and meditate later this afternoon.

I wish we lived somewhere that actually got warm, not just not-cold.  Being cold never helps my motivation.