i accept

Villa Feraria October 2008 020

I personally don’t know a single person without body issues. Except the hubs. I don’t know if it’s the circle of friends I have, the socioeconomics of my circles, race, ethicity–what. I don’t know. But everyone I know, except my husband, has body issues.

I was once watching a reality show on MTV where a group of very, very large girls went to summer “camp”. “Camp” was of course fat camp, thus the show, and I sat on my couch for a full, riveting hour watching as these girls spent an entire summer losing 16lbs in hopes that their parents would love them a little more when they picked them up. What I started to realize during the show was that these ginormous teens were not entirely different from my friends, the affliction was just different. Amongst them was a smattering of girls breeching (no pun intended) 300lbs, and one or two safely within the 290s, thusly making them the “skinnies” in the group– an aspirational leadership team who had graduated to tankinis, rather than the usual t-shirt over the one piece.

I watched these 293lb “skinnies” give eating advice to each of their friends, tell them about the best way to get a guy to notice them, show them the latest fashions– be the outright envy of their friends. The friends who, to the rest of the world, were no different. From my couch those three lbs made no difference. They were all at fat camp.

My point is that I think we probably gravitate towards people who are like us because–no matter how individual we are– we want to be individuals with other people. In my experience, true individuals are like swamp monsters. There is proof of them, but no one can ever seem to actually capture one. This may be because true individuals get very, very lonely and end up taking their own individual lives. Sad, but not so far fetched. Being an individual requires a unique blend of ego, confidence, lack of self awareness, and emotional vapidity that is hard to attain. I don’t say that to be rude, but because I believe that not caring what people think is a cold and isolating place, and to live in that place means shutting people out. When you love someone, you care what they think. It just happens.

Anyway, to continue my story (which I understand isn’t really even a story)… body issues. I’m not stupid, and I do see that there is a very, very good chance that somehow the cosmos aligned to bring me together with my body doubting brethren. It’s not as if I interviewed my friends, checking to make sure they were self conscious about their bodies, or put an ad on Craigslist for people who have food issues… we just found each other. It was likely a moment; one afternoon in early friendship a dessert menu probably arrived. I looked at the new friend across from me, reading her eyes. Did she have self discipline? Was she going to order dessert? Was she going to ask for water with lemon? Or was she like me? Hoping, praying to an higher power that our companionship would lead to dessert? And with small phrases like “molten chocolate” or “bananas foster” the first step towards understanding was made.

The story doesn’t end there, though. The true test of our fondness would come later. Would I receive a delayed text message bemoaning our decision? Would my new friend go through the motions of feeling guilty about our decision? Like magic, I would. And the next step, the crucial one, was made. Next thing you know I have a whole group of friends with questionable decision-making skills, a propensity for overindulging, and a consciousness for what the human form should look like. Body issues. Yay!

The problem is that as I grow older, I also grow tired of jealousy, competition, and most of all body issues. I do not want to be in competition with anyone, but rather learn from everyone. Take something from their lives and apply it to my own, but only if it works for me. I want to be a woman who relishes the joys and achievements of my friends and does not take them as an opportunity to identify how I have failed. I want to be encouraged and inspired by those acts. I also want to stop doing the naked mirror dance, agonizing over the parts of me that do not conform to some idea I have in my head. One that I am not even sure would make me happy.

I think this means I want… happiness.

So here’s the big question, the one that far greater men and women than myself have dared answer: what the hell is happiness and how do you achieve it?

I don’t have any clue, but here is what I do know: I am going to figure it out. I am going to rid myself of the bad, search desperately for the good, and try really, really hard to see what it is that so many people are so damn… happy…. about.

So here, based on an email from my good friend and gym BFF Nicole, is my beginning. On the road to happiness, these are the things I accept:

I accept that my parents got divorced and there is nothing that can be done about it.

I accept that I am not a morning person.

I accept that most people are morning people.

I accept that there are a lot of really annoying people in this world, but they are not out to get me.

I accept children.

I accept that I miss my dad, but that those choices have been made. I can be hurt, or I can rely on my friend Hailey to always hand me a cocktail and give me a solid hour to cry and say mean things…

I accept that I’m not an individual in the way that so many people are. My tattoo doesn’t make me a hipster, and my hair doesn’t make me a debutante. My apartment doesn’t make me a yuppie, and my shoes don’t make me a prep. I am better than an individual. I’m a chameleon.

I accept that I get sad.

I accept love.

I accept that I’m not a friendly person.

I also accept that the road to happiness may force me to be a touch friendlier, and I’ll do my best.

I accept that my apartment, though not big enough for dinner parties or house guests, is perfect. It’s my home. It’s where I’ll find Stuart and the hubs.

I accept that there are adventures in my future.

I accept that heartache is a journey to someplace I don’t even know exists.

I accept that with enough practice, enlightenment is possible.

I accept that I was not built for a bikini.

I accept other people’s opinions, but do not hold them so close as to allow them to make me question myself.

I accept that this body is not the one in magazines and on TV. But this body can run ten miles. This body is capable of one of the most beautiful Urdhva Dhanurasanas in the Metro Boston area. This body has done the very best that it possibly can.

I accept that happiness isn’t about being happy, but about setting an intention to be happy. Intention is half the battle.

I accept that life does not mean to make things difficult, it just happens.

I accept that humiliation does not exist. Humiliation is simply an inability to laugh about what we have attempted, but not perfected.

I accept that people do not like me.

I accept.

I accept.

I accept.

let them eat cake… for breakfast

When I grew up I was going to eat orange juice concentrate out of the can with a spoon and eat raw cookie dough from the tube.

What amuses me about remembering this chunk of adolescent wisdom is that fifteen years later it basically defines me as a person: if someone didn’t make up all these rules, I’d be making horrifying decisions. Or so I think.

I imagine that there are children out there who don’t think twice about the foods that their parents give them. They don’t fantasize about the day that they are out from under their parents’ thumb and they can finally eat entire pizzas in one sitting, dipping each greasy slice in creamy ranch dressing– the kind you make with the packet. Using mayonnaise. Oh. Yum.

Sure, whiny six year olds refuse to eat green veggies and live exclusively on grilled cheese for a period of their lives, but I’m not talking about my six year old self. I’m referring to my sixteen-year-old self. The one who was elated to get a car on her sweet birthday because it meant she could drive to Taco Bell and eat four or five Gorditas. The one who saw college as an opportunity to eat cake for breakfast.

But here I am, a twenty five year old woman who doesn’t ever eat cake for breakfast, hasn’t had a Gordita since high school, and measures out serving sizes of cookie dough before digging in. Here’s what I didnt consider about growing up:  knowledge.

Somehow, somewhere, I acquired this all-consuming vat (for lack of a better word) of knowledge. I blame Google, social media, my job, marketing, people, The New Yorker, my own constant need to know the answers– all of it– for the fact that I can’t do anything because I know too much about everything.

I heard the snickers. Caroline just called herself a know it all.

But it’s not a grand declaration; it’s a painful confession. I know too much.

I know the calories in berries, cakes, cookies, pastries, my favorite dishes at restaurants. I know random math theorems, how to build lamps out of cookie jars and teacups, the best way to remove wine from carpet, how many push ups you’d have to do to burn off a Pringle. I have knowledge about foreign wars, foreign affairs, local affairs, and sexual affairs. I understand things medical, technical, cynical, and neurological. I know about medications and death rates, dog breeds, marathons, oxygenation, skin care, infomercials, dance moves, deadly rashes, and how to do a handstand. But not for too long. Bad for the circulatory system…

When I was 10 or 11, I was hanging out at my dad’s office. Back in the day, it was not uncommon to find an eclectic mix of famous and notables hanging out in the “Red Room” of my father’s law office. Legend has it that for decades the future of the social, political, and urban landscape of Austin, Texas was determined in that garden-level room. There was a fridge of beer and a couple cans of nuts. I grew up on all you can drink Coca Cola Classic when my mother wasn’t around and picking cashews and almonds out of the mixed nut cans, overhearing conversations about murders, sex scandals, and the occasional joke about a whore and a lawyer.

For years I was a child eating nuts, drinking Coke, and drawing pictures on legal pads, waiting for my dad to crack a cold Coors, look at his watch, and nod to me to gather my things, it was time to go to Jorge’s for enchiladas. Until that night.

That night, as I was pilfering cashews, a law partner– a woman, walked over to me.

“You like the cashews?”

(I’m sure I just nodded or something, but as I write this I wish I would have said something about how I didnt like them, I was just partially retarded and enjoyed spending time digging through an industrial-sized nut can looking for cashews…)

“Well, enjoy them. Before too long every one of those cashews is going to represent a dimple in your once taut thigh.”

To be honest with you, I dont think I knew that how severely fucked up her comment was. Had I of known, I feel certain I would have prebilled her for therapy, or at the very least slapped her for good measure. But I didn’t. I simply told her that for my height, I was actually slightly underweight.

But that was the beginning of the knowledge. It was the first moment that it truthfully occurred to me that there was an underlying reason why people made decisions, and it didn’t have a damn thing to do with want. It had to do with knowledge. More than that, it has to do with this complex brain thing wherein you weigh the knowledge you have against the variable consequences of an action and then– after taking six or seven Aleve– decide that you’ll wake up six minutes earlier to ensure that you can make your own tea so that you have enough caffeine in your system to deal with your coworkers upon entering your office, so that you don’t lose your temper and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, in order to keep everyone happy, so that no one ends up in the bathroom crying, which delays productivity, resulting in low morale that makes your boss cranky and puts everyone in a bad mood.

Seriously. It’s that complicated.

So, children. This is the lesson here: dream of a life where people eat cake for breakfast and wear slutty outfits from Rampage that their mothers wouldnt allow. But heed this warning:

Cake is full of calories that make you fat. Couple that with the sugar that gives you carbohydrate cravings that leads to eating pizza, which gives you acne, that deters boys, which lowers your self esteem, resulting in feelings of low self worth that can only be combated through meaningless sex and you’re already batting zero. Dress that in an outfit that your mother disapproves of and you’re just a fat whore with acne…

… and that’s not worth cake at breakfast.