Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cause I'm beautiful anyway.

So after a little break I am back at it. Here's to more writing my face off.

Day 8- "Things you wish your mother would've told you about body image."

Oh body image. Dear sweet body image. It's been a struggle. I think it is for most, if not all, women. Is there anything anyone can say? Or is it just a thing you have to find within yourself? Confidence....and all that. I don't know. It was never a thing my mom talked to me about. My guess is that it's not even a thing that ever even occurred to her. But what do I wish she would've said to me???

Nothing. I didn't need to hear anything said TO ME. I needed to see it. I needed to be surrounded by confident women who weren't always dieting and complaining about their weight. Ideally, anyway. I mean, that's not what I got, and I'm okay. I was never made to feel less than by anyone in my family. I was never told I was fat. I was never told anything. But I also didn't have in strong, healthy examples of confident body image. It was the 80's. I'm not sure if there were examples of such things. I just know if I ever have a daughter, I won't just tell her...I'll show her. I value words. I love words. I understand the importance of words. But some things just have to be seen.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"Pass the damn ham, please."

BAM. Day seven of writing my face off is here. I am so in love with this whole process. 

Day seven: "What's the most important book you've ever read?"

Daaaaaamn. This question. SO many answers. This huge part of my heart wants to say The Harry Potter series, duh. I was 14 when I picked up The Chamber of Secrets and I was 22 when The Deathly Hallows came out. Those books were my heart and soul for so many years. And they still are in so many ways. I mean, I could go on and on about books. Important books. Books that have changed my life. 16 year old me would want to tell you how important The Bell Jar is. How it changed my life and inspired me to write. I could go on and on listing amazing and important books that I love with all my heart. 

But I have to say the most important book I have ever read is To Kill a Mocking Bird. It is filled with so much wisdom and so many lessons. There is so much worth in that book. “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." Bam. That's it. Those words mean so much, say so much. “They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

Over and over Harper Lee filled the pages with lessons, with observations, with so much meaning. "Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” Her words, her wisdom, and her lessons are important. At the end of the day I have to say To Kill a Mocking Bird is the most important book I have ever read.
“As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.” 

Doctors Scare Me.

I can't believe I'm almost a week into this whole writing my face off thing. It's been such an amazing experience and it's just begun. I'm really excited to see where it leads me from here.

Day 6: "Self care is everything. Tell me about five things you can do this week to prioritize and treat yourself."

Self care is such a strange topic for me. I guess it depends upon my mood as to whether or not I feel I deserve it. Sometimes I'm all for it. Sometimes it doesn't even occur to me. But I'm starting this week of right.

1. I have a fridge full of lean healthy meat, fresh fruits and veggies, yummy cheese, and good nuts. And a freezer full of ice cream. Because it's all about balance, right? Paying attention to what I'm eating is important to me. Filling my body with food that tastes delicious and is full of nutrients is important to me. Fresh fruit is one of my "happy" things. Grapes, pineapple, watermelon, and berries every morning. I eat it alone each morning. No talking. It's my wake up period. I need wake up time or my day starts off too hectic and I'm in a bad mood before it's even begun. It feels like a good start to my day. And yeah, maybe it ends with ice cream. And of course there is butter in between. But this is what makes me feel good. This is what's important to me. So it's what I do. It's how I take care of me.

2. Hot showers. There are few things on earth that make me feel as good as stepping out of a hot shower. Those fifteen minutes clear everything away. Taking the time to actually take a nice, hot shower rather than a quick, "get it done" thing does a lot to revitalize me and make me feel cared for. A nice deep conditioning treatment for my crazy dry hair. Those moments totally matter. Those moments are definitely self care.

3. A nice evening walk. It's not much, but it matters. Just walking as it cools down each evening is a good way for me to clear my head and feel centered. It's not glamorous, hell, it's not even really fun. But it does something. I feel healthier and more at peace with myself. And for me that definitely counts as self care. And I think the dog really appreciates it as well. So there's that.

4. A big fat trip to Sephora. I have some money set aside for some skincare products. I'm a make up girl and I would usualy rather spend extra cash on a bright lipstick or a new eye shadow palette, but this is going for skin care. I cannot wait to get my hands a good face wash and I am dying to try First Aid Beauty's roll on eye cream. Getting older doesn't have to suck, right? It's little things like this that make me feel better about myself.

5. Number five sucks and I'm not looking forward to it. At all. I haven't had health insurance in YEARS. But I do now. THANKS OBAMA. And thus I need to make a doctors appointment. I do not want to. At all. I've been avoiding it for the last couple months. But it needs to happen and it's time. It's obviously a very important step in taking care of myself so here goes...blah. I hate doctors. Let's be honest, I'm damn scared. But I'm going to do it.

So there you have it, my five ways I'm going to take care of myself this week.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Because They Save My Life Over and Over.

It's day five of writing my face off and I'm falling more in love with it every day.

Day 5: "Tell me about the five women who've changed your life."

The five women who have changed my life? Okay, here goes.

This might be the hardest question for me to answer. I can tell you the five women who have shaped my life quite easily. My mom, my three older sisters, and my Nana. Those five women are my life. Everything about them is vital to who I am as a person.They have influenced me in every step of my life. They have been there for me since day one and they are why I am who I am. That said, they haven't changed my life. They are my life. They have always been there. They have always been a part of me. I am who I am because of their presence in my life. Their love, compassion, lessons, laughter...everything about them has influenced who I am. I wouldn't be me without them. So in order to correctly answer this question I have to move beyond those five amazing women who have influenced me every step of the way and look for those who've come along and changed me.

1. Jamie Renee. Jamie Renee has been my friend since I was 10 years old. We've grown up together and been through everything together. She is the other half of all my stories. She's been there through first periods, first kisses, first heartbreak, first tattoos, grieve, loss, laughter, heartache....everything. We've worked our way through each new stage of life together. And my God has she changed me. Jamie is not afraid to challenge me. She's not afraid to call me out or tell me what I need to do. Jamie is always willing to push me and teach me and be there for me. She is everything I need in a friend and she has taught me so much and pushed me to strive for more. She has encouraged me through every step. I wouldn't be who I am without her love, patience, guidance, laughter, and understanding. I wouldn't be who I am without her willingness to change me and challenge me. I could never thank her enough. Clearly I won the best friend lottery.

2. Sheena. I met Sheena around the time I turned 19. We met at church. We were youth leaders and led a small group together. She started off as an acquaintance. Someone I saw every Sunday night and exchanged pleasantries with. I liked her bright, funky style and I appreciated her honesty. We both signed up for a mission trip to Japan. We left two girls who'd become friends and came back best friends. She came in like a well, to borrow from Miley Cyrus, a wrecking ball. Quite literally. She knocked me off my feet. She brought out my wild side. She knocked down my walls. She bandaged my broken heart. She was what I needed when I needed it. She came into my life at exactly the right time. And she shook me to my core. She changed everything. And I will never not appreciate her for all she did for me. For everything she showed me. And for all those fun, wild nights. She set me on the journey to finding myself. And she taught me that my words were valuable. That's a priceless gift.

3. Abigail and Juliana. I don't even know what to say here. I'm counting them both as my number three because they came into my life together and turned everything upside down. December of 2004 I was going through a really rough time in my life. Early one morning our phone rang. I rolled over and ignored it. A few moments later I heard my mom calling me..."Auntie Brittany, Auntie Brittany!" My sister had just found out she was pregnant. That spring we learned she was having twins! Two girls. On June 4th, 2005, after over a month in the hospital on constant bed rest, she gave birth to the most perfect people I had ever seen. Abigail Catherine and Juliana Elaine were born three months premature and spent the next several months in the NICU. Today they are perfect, sweet, hilarious, silly, strong, smart, healthy, creative, and loving 9 year-old's. They changed my life. In an instant. I walked into that NICU, scrubbed up, and fell in love. They gave me someone to love. They gave me a reason. They gave me something to hold onto. They were born during one of the darkest periods of my life. They pulled me out of that funk and I fell in love instantly. Those girls mean everything to me. They saved my life.

My Nana, my sister, My mom, and my favorite girls.

4. Ninah Conlyn. My 11th grade English teacher. This woman let me write my heart out every day. She encouraged me to read everything I could get my hands on. She let me come up with my own English curriculum and my thing. I sat in her class and wrote and wrote and wrote and read and read and read. I have always loved books and words, but Ms. Conlyn let me submerge myself in words every single day. She listened to me talk, she read my poems, so suggested things for me to read. She was there for me when I had no one else to talk to. She made me feel accepted and understood. She made me laugh. She changed my life. She gave me a place to feel safe. She saw my loneliness, my anxiety, my depression, and she met me where I was. Her classroom was my safe place for my last two years of high school. She was the best teacher a girl like me ever could have had. She is such a special woman. She was such an amazing influence in my life. I would've been lost without her.

5. Gwen Stefani. This choice feels the silliest. But I can't write this list without including her. 1995. I was 10 years old and Tragic Kingdom was released. I'm from Orange County. I live ten minutes from Gwen Stefani's high school. The younger siblings of members of No Doubt went to my elementary school. We ALL wanted to be Gwen Stefani. I fell in love the first time I heard Just A Girl. How could I not? Without knowing it I was already searching for my anthem. For something. For proof being a girl was okay. And I found it in Gwen. I waited years and years for the next No Doubt album. Finally in April of 2000 Return of Saturn came out. I was 15. I don't know if I have ever loved an album like I love ROS. I was in love. I listened to it over and over. I analyzed every lyric. I dyed my hair pink. I saw them live. I read every article. I collected every magazine. I learned who Sylvia Plath was because Gwen mentioned in an interview that she had been a major inspiration for the album. My relationship with Return of Saturn is true love. I've never held on to anything so passionately for so long. My style, my words, my confidence....Gwen Stefani has been an inspiration for all of it. This list would not be complete if I didn't mention her. "I'm going to the mall for the cookie cutter, the ugly duckling will always suffer. Contaminated standards, I try to fight it. I better get back on my diet."

Friday, August 8, 2014

Leopard print and confidence boosts.

This is day four of writing my face off. I am definitely having a love/hate relationship with today's prompt. But I'm excited to tackle it.

Day 4: "PHOTO POST: Red lipstick, skinny jeans, tall boots...take a photo and tell me about one item you've been afraid to rock....until now."

I'm basically the kind of girl who will try anything when it comes to fashion, style, hair, and make up. Style is pretty much the only area in which I am not afraid to take risks. I rock red lipstick on a regular basis. Skinny jeans and tall boots are wardrobe staples for me. And I'm equally comfortable in sun dresses, pencil skirts, and combat boots. It's all fun to me. I'll try anything once.

Leopard print it another love of mine. I fell in love with it in the sixth grade and I've never looked back. Even now in my late twenties I own leopard print tshirts, cardigans, ballet flats, purses, scarves, and even a leopard print pencil skirt. I have no fear of rocking any of those pieces. And then there is THE DRESS. I don't know what to say about THE DRESS. I saw it in a store well over a year ago and instantly fell in love. I ran to the dressing room with my lovely leopard print high/low dress in hand, tried it on, and instantly deemed it worthy. A year and a half later it's still sitting unworn in my closet. I don't know what it is. Everything about it screams, "BRITTANY", yet I can't bring myself to wear it. I feel like it's unflattering. Maybe it's the raffle trim. Maybe it just makes me feel like I look bigger than I am. Maybe I feel overwhelmed in the bold pattern because I'm so damn short and it's so flowy and big. Most likely it's all of the above. But I'm about to put that all aside.


See...a rather lovely dress. Yet still she sits unworn. 

So I decided to gather up every scrap of confidence I have and rock the hell out of this baby because, why not. So here goes...

So, I did it. And even if I don't think it's the "Oh my god!" most flattering dress I own, I'm really glad I did. Stepping out of my comfort zone and rocking something I didn't think I had the confidence to wear proved to be a really great experience for me. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Here's to ice cream and crop tops.

I'm spending the month of August writing my face off. Thanks to some wonderful and supportive ladies, I'm working on finding my voice. It's pretty awesome. Here goes day three.

Day 3 "If beauty didn't matter I would...."

What would I do if beauty didn't matter? Well, let's start with the fact I would have been a much happier teenager. As I've grown older and matured, ever so slightly, I've found my own beauty. I've grown into my skin and learned to accept myself. It's been a rather long road. I wasn't born this way.

Even through all my issues, through my awkward teen years and my rocky twenties, I've never felt the need to make myself beautiful in the traditional sense. From nose piercings to green hair to pink hair, I've never let my lack of confidence stop me from exploring and expressing myself. Hair, makeup, fashion...these things have always been important to me. I can't say I would stop wearing make up or dyeing my hair if beauty didn't matter. I would still do those things. It's part of who I am. I've always felt the need to express myself through style. And that style has usually been a bit out of the box. I'm the sort of person who likes to find beauty in all sorts of places. I've never felt overly constrained to be beautiful in a typical sense. I played with Barbies as a kid, but I never wanted to look like Barbie. Not feeling the need to be beautiful in a typical sense doesn't mean I've always felt beautiful. Honestly, I think my lack of feeling beautiful made it easier for me to chop my hair off on a whim, or dye it baby blue. I could wear neon yellow eye shadow because, why not? I wasn't beautiful, thus I had nothing to lose. I found freedom in my lack of beauty. Now that I've discovered and accepted my own beauty I am working on finding freedom here as well.

If beauty didn't matter....I'd like to say I wouldn't wear a bra. I really hate those damn things. But I sort of need one. It's less a beauty thing and more a...not being naked thing. I would be embarrassed of...well....having it all hanging out there. If beauty didn't matter I'd eat ALL the ice cream. But there's still the whole pesky health issue to deal with, so I suppose that's not the best choice either. If beauty didn't matter...if I wasn't living in a world of conventional beauty standards and the worship of flat stomachs and all things thin I would buy myself a crop top and rock the hell out of it. That's what I would do if beauty didn't matter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Innocence Lost.

Day two of writing my face off.

Day 2: "The first time you were called fat. When was it, and how did it change your life?"

The first time I was called fat? Well, here's the thing about it. No one said it. It didn't take the word fat for me to hear that I was fat.

 I was an unusually skinny child. I was a skeleton with skin and a massive head. It was kind of hilarious. A couple years ago a family friend who is like a second father to me was telling a story about me as a kid. He said, "and here comes this huge head on this little body. Brittany was all head." That sums up the first twelve years of my life. Then my body started to change.

Let's start with this. I was NOT fat. I was putting on weight because I was about to grow. You know, puberty and all that. I was probably 4'10" and weighed 80 pounds at most. BUT. I wasn't as skinny as my friend. And that's all it took.

So here's the scene. I'm all of twelve years old. It's the middle of summer and my friend who used to live in the neighborhood but had recently moved came to stay for the weekend. She was a few years younger than me. We were going outside to hang out and ride bikes with some neighborhood friends. Two brothers. One was her age, the other a year older than I was. I liked these boys. We had been friends for a few years and spent a lot of time together. Their opinions mattered to my twelve year-old self esteem. She suggested since it was hot we should wear bathing suits. I dug out my new floral two piece and pulled it on. I had a little extra fat around my tummy, but I didn't even think twice about it. I had always been skinny. She dug around in my drawer and chose a purple one piece to borrow. We grabbed our bikes and rode across the street. The older boy came out on their balcony and yelled down to us. I don't remember what he said. I do remember the gap of time between that moment and the moment he and his brother ran out of their garage. Those were my last moments of true confidence.

The boys came out of their garage, grabbed their bikes, and looked at us. And the older one (who I may have had a very slight crush on) said, "You should have let her wear the bikini. She's skinny. It would've looked better," and then laughed. It felt a lot like being slapped in the face. The way he looked at me. The way he said it. So casually. Like it was nothing. When inside I was breaking apart. I didn't cry. I didn't respond. I didn't act hurt. I ignored it and off we went. But it changed everything. It's been something like 17 years and I still remember what it felt like. It felt like being not good enough. It felt like being unwanted. It felt like the beginning of body image issues that would last years. It felt like the loss of my innocence.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Things I Never Want to Relive

I'm going to spend this month writing my face off. So, here goes....

Day 1: "Write a letter to yourself ten years ago. What do you know now that you wish you'd known then?"

Dear Brittany,
It’s August of 2004, you’re nineteen years old, and you are a couple days away from experiencing your first real kiss. I know you think you’re falling in love right now, but you’re not. If I could tell you anything it would be, “run!” but I know very well you won’t listen to that. So I’m just going to start with take care of yourself.
The next few months are going to be very hard for you. Your life is changing rapidly. You’re falling “in love” and falling apart. Your heart is going to break. You are going to be terrified. Eventually you’ll get used to the panic attacks. And then one day you’ll wake up and realize it’s been months since one has happened. They will go away. You can breathe. The pain and fear….it’s all for the best. It’s not going to seem like it, but it will be.
You’re falling for someone who’s out to eat you alive. He’s not a good guy. He’s controlling, manipulative, and emotionally abusive.  He’s going to make you doubt yourself and feel worthless. But you will get through it. And you will find happiness on the other side. While your heart is breaking you are going to meet the greatest guy. He’s going to make you laugh, he’s going to listen to you whine about your heartache, and in a few years he’s going to sweep you off your feet with stories about tampon people. He’s worth it. He’s going to teach you to take chances and show you what it feels like to be beautiful.
I know you don’t believe it, but you are beautiful. You are strong, smart, funny, and pretty. Be confident. Find that confidence and use it. You’re going through such a dark time and the next year or so is going to be dark. It’s going to be hard. It’ll be years before you realize that this first relationship is really just abuse. It’ll be years before you shed the depression and anxiety and find yourself. You are worth finding. You are worth the search. All of this…all the darkness and heartbreak.....the waking up gasping for breath, the loneliness, the tears, and the happy moments with your best friends…it’s all just pieces of the puzzle. Those experiences are what it is going to take to find yourself. So do it. Find you. Find your confidence, your beauty, your happy places. In the end it’s all just one big adventure. Hold on tight, it’s going to be a wild ride. But you’re going to make it to the other side. And you will be a better person for it.

I love you.
-2014 Brittany
PS Stick with Jamie. She’s your real best friend.