Progression

According to WordPress, I’ve been at this blogging thing for 3 years now.

But the “I” who started this blog hardly even remotely resembles the “I” who sits behind the keyboard now.

DownWithTheNorm was founded by an 18-year-old girl during the spark of her *formal* feminist awakening. That girl was fiery, angry, confused, and determined to fix the world. Misogyny was her only foe, and she was vigilant and determined to take him down, and took every opportunity to bare her teeth in the face of opposition.

But, as with all sparks, hers was extinguished.

Gradually, she let her inquiring mind guide her as she learned more and more about the world; how it probably works, and how it most likely doesn’t. She developed an air of cynicism, and became understandably tired of fighting the good fight. Others grew tired, bored, annoyed, or a combination of the three of her persistent, yet non-refreshing wordy posts on social media that accomplished nothing but a temporary emotional relief for our young author.

She did her best to keep her mind open, while simultaneously drawing her own independent conclusions. Especially in the context of her religion.

She spent a short duration as a walking contradiction; trying to force her newly acquired world views into a mold that simply would not fit. She wanted to be the change from within, but that resulted in her being pushed out.  She lost friends, but she gained an identity that she felt comfortable in. An authentic lifestyle was drawing nearer and nearer, but exponentially more solitary.

This girl was anxious-so much so that she couldn’t bare to even hold still even for a minute. Sleep was just a five-letter word. She had to be the fastest, the best, the smartest, and the skinniest always. And she was failing miserably at all of it.

But, breaking down turns into breaking through, if you let it.

The girl behind the keyboard is an enhanced version of the girl from 3 years ago.

I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into who I am now, whether that be for the better or not. I’m not the girl with the eating disorder anymore. I’m the girl who maybe spends too much time thinking about food and not enough time about breathing, and probably uses her bathroom scale more often than the average joe. And binges on breakfast cereal once in a blue moon. Oh, and HATES going to the gym.

I’m not the Mormon Feminist Anomaly anymore. I’m simply the feminist woman-person who believes that whether or not there is an afterlife is irrelevant. What really matters is that there are plenty of opportunities for me to develop and enhance as many interpersonal relationships as I possibly can during the time that I am allotted here. I believe that this life isn’t a test at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity to develop oneself to the fullest extent possible, and perhaps find an individualistic sense of happiness while we’re at it; whatever that looks like.

And for all of you looking to slap a label on me (because that’s what people do-no judgment), you can call me an Agnostic. Like I said, I’m not looking to shut out any possibilities completely.

I love tattoos, science, coffee, wine, and angry heathen misogyny-laden rap music. And I let myself love these things, because this is MY human experience. And what I choose to drink, put on my body, or listen to, does NOT make me a bad person, contrary to what I was led to believe growing up with religion

I’m not anxious anymore. Through the process of extensive trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a path that suits me. I got a job that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I have a degree of self-sustainability that I never have had before. I feel liberated and powerful and in control. Rather than planning for my future, I’m actively taking steps toward living it, and I’m doing it calmly, mindfully, and relatively maturely.

As far as interpersonal relationships go, I’ve made strides toward getting out of my own way. I’m still a bit more self-isolating than I’d like to be, but baby steps are the name of the game. I can let loose now, and go out with friends once or twice a week. Hell, sometimes even on a school night! Because, as I mentioned beforehand, in the grand scheme of things, people are what matter. Yeah, going to bed early so I can bring my A game to school and work is important, but so is making time for those I care about. It’s all about balance.

I breathe easy, sleep easy, and am patient and engaged in every moment, which is much more than I could have ever said 3 years ago. I know I’m no sage of wisdom, and that I have much more developing, improvement, and revision to do, but I genuinely like the direction I’m heading.

Documenting my experiences over the past 3 years has been truly enriching for me, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining for you! I genuinely appreciate anyone who has ever and will ever take the time to read anything that I write.

Here’s to 3 more years!

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ubiety

Y’know how when you ask someone how they are doing, you expect them to say, “good, and you?” even if they don’t mean it?

Well, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I can provide that customary answer with genuineness.

How are you?

Good, and you?

I am good.

I am doing well.

I am doing well, despite the tragically disheartening election (that is as political as I am going to get on this post-no bad vibes here), rapidly decreasing temperatures, and hasty intensification of menstrual symptoms.

I am doing well, without SSRI’s or therapy sessions.

I am doing well, despite the fact that my diet has entirely derailed over the past week or so and I have only been able to make it to the gym once. I’ve tasted chocolate and bread and beer and allowed myself to be filled, where a few weeks ago, I’d eagerly and dedicatedly attempt to purge it all from my body.

I am doing so well that those around me are starting to notice. I’ve gone from enduring my daily obligations to truly experiencing even the most mundane of tasks. I’ve been spending less time maintaining my continual presence on social media or allowing my hair style to dictate my mood.

I’ve been spending less time on the scale and more time in the quality assurance department of my social sphere. I’ve been smiling more, and not for the sake of selfies or snapchat. I’m letting out deep-belly laughs until my abs feel sore. My tunnel vision has broadened, and I’m seeing more and more of the bigger picture, I think.

I’m sleeping longer and deeper, and I’m truly listening when you talk. The air I breathe fills my lungs to capacity and I can feel it energizing my cells before I release it in an exhale. The anxiety cloud still lingers over my shoulder, but it trails behind on a longer leash. I’m nervous and scared and excited, but have shrunken these legitimate emotions to a reasonable and respectable proportion.

I’m doing all that I can now to prepare for later without sacrificing all that right now has to offer me.

I’m no longer allowing external expectations to dictate my personal development, morality, appearance, or cognitions. I have removed the shackles of arbitrary guilt, and traded them for a personalized air of humanitarian passion.

I pride myself in being a life-long student, and I am learning more and more about what the point to this entire living thing could possibly be, and as much as I hate to admit, the clichés are probably right.

It’s about the journey, not the destination. Blah, blah, blah-I’m annoyed already. But in all sincerity, I truly believe that the whole point of experiencing a life worth living is to learn how to be truly happy, and maybe help one or two others find their own brand of happiness while I’m at it.

In order to do this, though, sometimes you have to let go of obstacles that restrict you from doing so. And for myself, that means I have to ease off the gas pedal.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still the overly ambitious, in-over-her-head, millennial perfectionist you all know and love, but my pace has been altered.

One day, I’ll have that perfect bikini body featured on all of my fitness Pins. But today, I will munch on crackers and sip diet soda to alleviate my unsettled stomach, and perhaps go for a jog later.

One day, I’ll be conducting pharmacological research, aiding in medicinal advances that can one day significantly improve the quality of life of another. But today, I am going to leisurely study for the GRE and beg around for research lab experience to add to my Curriculum Vitae.

One day, I will leave my residence and immerse myself in a plethora of other cultures, and allow myself to marvel at all that I see, without regard to what time or day it is. But today, I will take scenic drives up the canyon and gape at my own backyard with true appreciation.

I’ve wasted too great of a portion of the one life I’ve been given being anxious, sad, and suffocated by self-deprecation.

I hope all of you have already come to realize all of this.

Here’s to actualizing personal fulfillment.

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feline

“No Scrubs” by TLC came out 17 years ago, and boys are still hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.

In the past three days, I have noticed an upsurge in the frequency at which this phenomenon has been occurring. Whether I be trotting into my apartment from a night out with friends, into the grocery store to buy ingredients that I will attempt to use later in a meal that will certainly not turn out as planned, or simply embarking on a leisurely stroll, dudes with muscle cars feel the need to “holler” at me.

Rap music blaring, base bumping, and the unmistakable vibrato of a young adult male simultaneously make me jump and look over my shoulder on a too-frequent basis.

I shared my frustration with this cat-calling nonsense on Facebook the other day, as mature twenty-somethings do, and was even more annoyed by the responses I received.

The direct status I posted reads:

“Dear men,

Whenever you’re faced with the decision of whether or not to yell “nice ass” out your car window at a human woman, pick no. Every time.”

Sassy, a bit condescending, and moderately funny. My typical flavor.

And also a direct reaction to an experience I had just previously had, late at night, when I was walking from the sidewalk to my apartment, by myself.

One commenter pleaded, “But what if she has a nice ass?”

Great question, sir! And I thank you for asking. If she does indeed have a nice ass, notice! Glance at it as you drive by. We as humans are sexual beings. You can even fantasize about her ass in your mind if you want to! But for goodness sake, do NOT slow your speed, roll down your window, and shout at her when she is in a solitary state in the caliginous night. You will undoubtedly frighten her and leave residual paranoia until the sun rises the next morning.

Another (male) commenter asked, “Can I yell it at guy?”

This is a toughie. I am obviously not a guy, so I don’t feel qualified to offer a legitimate answer to this question. From my perspective, being shouted at, even if it is a “compliment” can be startling, if unexpected. In fact, I have lived my adult life with a tiny pink bottle of mace in my purse, just waiting to be used in the inevitable situation in which I no longer feel safe. But I don’t think guys typically emerge from their homes with a constant fear instilled in them by their parents that they could be assaulted while innocently walking the streets at any time.

Well, white, cisgender, straight guys, anyway.

In sum, I’d say don’t do it, regardless of the sex of the person you are hypothetically “hollering” at, just to stay on the safe side.

And my favorite comment, also made by a dude: “I would be flattered.”

Flattered, you say? In the exact context in which I experienced it? Late, late at night, as a 110-pound woman with next to no muscle mass, no company, and no mechanism of defense? As you’re walking maybe a few yards’ distance from your car to your residence with the intention of coming home and going to bed without being involuntarily degraded, objectified, and sexualized by a stranger driving by in his vehicle? You would be flattered?

“Nice ass!”

Flattered.

I can assure you, being cat-called summons a whirlwind of emotions within my little body, but “flattered” is certainly not one of them.

What do you guys get out of doing this? Is it to impress your buddies in the passenger seat? Is it because you feel like you’ll get something out of it? Get a rise out of us? Get our number? What? WHAT IS IT?

Sigh.

I have been fuming over this for the past few days, and my therapist has advised me to write out my feelings so that I can stop dwelling on them. I’ve done that, taken my Melatonin supplements, and now my nice ass will drift into a dreamy slumber.

Goodnight,

 

M.

 

 

Solicitude

Guess who’s back. Shady’s back.

Oh, and me.

It’s funny how I  attempt to maintain a blog during the school semester. Turns out, it simply cannot be done.

Today marks the conclusion of my first (and last) summer semester of college. That’s right-I voluntarily signed up to attend a 7:30 AM lecture twice a week at a school located 45 minutes from my apartment.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention I moved out?

I am now the resident of my state’s capital city. I have a “Maddie-sized” basement apartment in a cute, old-fashioned house near downtown. I live all by myself, though I had a beta fish named Brendon Urie for a time, but he died within two weeks. May he rest in peace.

Anyway, turns out moving out is really super duper fun. Nobody gets mad at you for listening to the same Twenty-One Pilots song on loop for three hours. Nobody makes you do the dishes or sweep the floor. Nobody tells you to put pants on. Or to do your laundry. Or to feed yourself.

Nobody except you.

Sometimes my dishes pile up. Sometimes my lightbulb burns out in my bathroom and I shower in the dark for 6 days before doing anything about it. Sometimes a spider emerges from the corner of the room and I spray it with Raid until it ceases to move. Sometimes my fridge is empty so I eat peanut butter for dinner.

C’est la vie.

Initially, moving out had done wonders for my anxiety. I felt like I had much more control over my life. After all, I’m an adult with my own place and everything that happens here within my own place is entirely up to me. Liberating, yet terrifying.

It turns out that you can’t simply abandon your anxious, perfectionistic self. When I moved, she moved with me. As I mentioned before, I was enrolled in summer classes at my university, in addition to beginning a program to become a certified pharmacy technician. As the end of the semester neared, my body decided that we were exhausted, and before I knew it, I was having a panic attack at work.

I was “processing shipment”, a term in the retail world that means taking clothes out of bags, putting sensors on them, and hanging them on hangers. Anyway, as I was doing this, the room gradually began feeling hotter and hotter. I broke out in a sweat, and found it difficult to breathe. I fanned myself, gasped for air, and finally retreated to the break room in the back, doubled over, and hyperventilating.

I sat in a chair, cradling my head in my hands, and tried to force myself to breathe. The air kept getting thinner, and the temperature kept rising, and finally, I ran out of my workplace-tears and mascara streaming down my flushed cheeks-and was on my way to the doctor’s office.

That was rock bottom.

Since then, I’ve taken some serious therapeutic action. As advised by my doctor, I’ve been exercising regularly, getting proper nutrition, and removing stressors from my life. I quit my job (the one that housed my anxiety attack) and moved to a much more flexible, relaxed one. I’m taking the fall semester off at the Uni (a concept that initially gave me much more anxiety than any school semester ever could) and now I basically get to work when I want to and attend Pharmacy Tech school.

Things finally feel manageable. Things feel comfortable. Suspiciously comfortable.

I’ve noticed over the past few days that just when I feel like I’m allowing myself to enjoy life, I am overcome with guilt. My brain buzzes with constant, self-shaming thoughts: “I shouldn’t be this happy, I shouldn’t have this much free time, I shouldn’t sit still or relax.”

And so I don’t.

The best way I can describe chronic anxiety is when your mind races so fast that it forces your body to attempt to keep up with it-an impossible task. From the moment I open my eyes to the time I close them for the night, my entire body is buzzing. That’s the best word for it.

Then you combine that with eating disordered thoughts, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s been seven years since I’ve been weight-restored, and I still can’t eat a soft pretzel (one of my ABSOLUTE favorite foods) without mulling over it for the next three days, not resting nor sleeping until I perceive that I’ve adequately purged the calories from my system by means of vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

I want so badly to let myself be happy, but the truth is, I’m afraid of what that entails.

 

M.

 

 

 

Truant

Among my extensive list of obsessive-compulsive behaviors is that of impeccable punctuality and spotless attendance, whether it be school, the dentist, work, a sushi date, my therapist-the point is, I may be a lot of things, but a no-show is not one of them. This may be due in part to my short-lived exposure to reception work, in which I found extreme irritability in people who were either late for or completely missed their appointments without the courtesy of prior notification.

I am excruciatingly punctual to literally everything, but additionally, I will have woken up at an obscenely early hour that morning to allow time for my thorough daily “get ready to conquer the world” routine. And by obscenely early, I mean like 5:00 AM.

Upon awakening, my little brain goes immediately into hyper drive, and it remains in hyper drive for the duration of my waking hours. I immediately spring out of bed (not once in my almost 21 years of life have I ever hit the snooze button) and prepare coffee, as I couldn’t possibly generate enough energy naturally to remain alert for even a moment. Then, I shower, put on a full face of makeup, curl my hair (which is what keeps my biceps sculpted), and finally put on the outfit, complete with jewelry and accessories, that I’d spent a half an hour the previous night assembling.

Every. Damn. Morning.

I am the first to arrive to my 7:30 AM Research Methods and Design lecture, having consumed the exact same, low-calorie, perfectly balanced breakfast and ANOTHER K-cup of coffee beforehand. At this point, I’ve already been awake for two and a half hours, and require more espresso.

I attend to the rest of my responsibilities throughout the day with the same level of rigor, to the extent that I panic if things don’t go perfectly as planned.

Months and months of maintaining such a rigid lifestyle cause periodic wall-hitting. I hit one of those walls today.

Today is Tuesday, which means that I had an appointment with my therapist after my 7:30 AM lecture, followed by a 3-hour class at my local community college.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs previous, I hit a wall today. After my appointment, my brain flipped a switch from its anxiety-ridden normalcy to a state of zen. I made the impulsive decision to not submit to my rigid, perfect schedule today. I breathed in some of that Serenity Essential Oil stuff that I keep in my backpack as a preventative tool for anxiety attacks, and instead of speeding to make it to my pharmacy tech class on time, I drove home.

That was two hours ago.

Now, I am laying in my bed without pants on, messy hair, and no guilt or anxious, racing heart. I feel pretty damn liberated.

The thing about living with anxiety (and perfectionism)  is that every little mistake, shortcoming, or thing that didn’t go as planned feels damning and the guilt that follows is impossible to escape from.

I get trapped in my own head. I try and fail to keep up with the pace of my eternally racing thoughts. My heart races, my palms sweat, and my breathing turns shallow.

But not today.

Today, I took a personal day from myself.

M.

Ontogeny

Please excuse my extended absence from the blogging world as my time, energy, and soul have been completely consumed by collegiate education and self-discovery over the course of the past quarter-year.

I am a Psychology major, and even though I have no intention of working in this field, I feel that my studies have facilitated a complete shift in the framework of my worldview of humankind, in addition to the pace and style in which I conduct my day-to-day life.

I am a new person.

Okay, perhaps not a NEW person. I am still definitely myself, idiosyncrasies and all. But something clicked within me and created a (hopefully) permanent change in my outlook on life, and how I want to live it.

Perhaps the most impactful thing I learned all semester was a concept coined by Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist. He calls it “existential living.”

Existential living can be summarized by living in the “here and now.” This requires being fully present, both mentally and physically, in every moment and every environment you are placed in, which, as you can imagine, can prove exceptionally difficult to do when you have six upper-division level courses constantly competing for your attention, among other things like, I dunno, men? Facebook? Grey’s Anatomy? Philosophical podcasts?

I am guilty as charged for my preoccupation with the future, which I feel has robbed me of having meaningful experiences in the present. My former self never made time for actual experiences, other people, or simply stopping to smell the roses every now and then. Fortunately, a series of interrelated events and individuals have yanked me back from the future, and I am much more open to experience, flexible, and, dare I say it, relaxed.

I’ve learned a thing or two ever since this lightbulb went off in my little head. Let’s list them off, for organizational purposes.

  1. You don’t have to protect yourself from everyone. My previous self was so concerned about my own endeavors that I put relationships with other people on the back-burner. I had such tunnel vision that I had convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone else until I’d maxed out to my fullest potential. In retrospect, I admit that I was making excuses for my self-induced isolation as a defense mechanism. However, my newfound understanding of the human psyche has convinced me that people aren’t meant to go through any part of life alone. Attempting to do so can make you crazy, but, then again, so can people. It’s all about balance.
  2. More often than not, there is no definite answer. This concept terrifies me to this day, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with it. The reason why I do not intend to work in the field of Psychology is due to the fact that there are so few, if any, definite answers as to why people behave the way they do, and, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like that one bit. I’ve decided to focus my energy on the biological sciences, which are arguably significantly more concrete than theories attempting to account for human behavior. Take Freud, for example. The guy was a total nut case, and any theory I can draft up pertaining to psychological phenomena is just as valid as his were.
  3.  I can’t be good at everything. I suffer from chronic perfectionism. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Poor M, what a curse, to HAVE to be perfect at everything. Cry me a river.” Where’s your empathy, folks? Claiming perfectionism is not intended to draw attention to my accomplishments. It’s a symptom of anxiety, and it has claimed more years of my life than I would like to admit. Anyway, the reason I include this in my “Life Lessons Learned Spring 2016 Greatest Hits” is because, for the first time in my life, I faced the possibility of failing a class. As it turns out, I am no statistician, and I don’t play one on TV. In all honesty, I exhausted my mental resources in the fight for a satisfactory grade in my Statistics course, and no matter how hard I tried, I was incapable of earning an A in this class. My previous self would have been devastated, my self-esteem shattered. I got a B. My current self thanks the heavens that I passed the class, and has severed the tie between my grades and my own perception of self-worth and competence.
  4. There is no rush. I plowed through my undergraduate degree. This December, I’ll be receiving my diploma at the ripe age of 21, just three years after graduating high school. While I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, a part of me wishes that I’d allowed myself to enjoy the journey a little bit more, and perhaps I could have achieved a higher level of authenticity and security in what I want to become. Besides, I have the rest of my life to go to graduate school, and then work until I can retire in the next 50 years or so and live happily ever after with an obscene amount of dogs at my side.
  5. Breathe. This one was probably the most beneficial to my physiological health. I am a frequent panic-attack victim, however, despite this semester being my heaviest course load, I experienced minimal panic-attacks, and my heart thanks me, due to my newfound ability to control my own stress levels. Rather than allow myself to activate full freak-out mode, I am now able to withdraw from the stressful stimulus, recompose myself, align my Chakras, and return to the task at hand as a much more composed and serene individual.

I’m sure that I’ve learned numerous other lessons over the past four months, but for some reason, we as a species are comfortable with the number 5. Besides, I’m sure that you all are tired of hearing my enlightened self express how enlightened I am.

Anyway, I exited this semester more sane than I entered it, which is refreshing, because I only have a week to recuperate before I dive into the summer semester.

I don’t know who I am without academia.

Onward, ever onward.

M.

 

Purposive

Now that everybody’s done sharing their tentative New Year’s Resolutions with their online social circles, I think i’ll finally reveal my plans to make myself a less-shitty person than I was in 2015.

 

Though I love the person I’m developing into since my faith crisis, nose-dive into feminism, and increasingly curious mind, I find myself becoming exponentially more cynical, which is something I hate about myself.

I find myself often looking for reasons to be pissed off, which makes it really, REALLY hard to be the happy, energetic ball of sunshine I once aspired to become, but will never be, due to my chronically sarcastic and brazen personality. Indeed, since I’ve been exposed to a whole new world of liberalism, I seem to have the tendency to search for things that people do that strike me as problematic, and will consequently set me off.

There are specific groups of people that are extremely hard for me to get along with (i.e. meninists, anybody who still subscribes to traditional gender roles).  I totally feel justified in avoiding individuals who fall under this category completely, but I also feel that I am much too hard on people.

For example, my dating life is a literal train wreck. Most of my interactions with men are terminated by me giving them a lengthy, wordy lecture about how sexist it is to not be interested in a girl who can’t cook, or won’t send a racy snap-chat after the first date.

I feel like I’m constantly having to defend my feminist views; nothing flips my bitch-switch faster than when a gentleman i’m dating says anything that could be seen as sexist, even if you have to flip it upside down and squint with your left eye.

So i’m going to work on that. Perhaps instead of ripping his head off every time a suitor says something I don’t agree with, I can calmly present my point of view on the matter, and then change the subject as I squeeze the hell out of the stress ball I just bought.

This resolution’s due date might extend into 2063, but it’s all about progress, people.

Additionally, I am going to get out of my own way when it comes to relationships with other people. This is a very poorly-defined goal, but I have very specific quirks that I use in order to build sky-scraping walls around myself, thus protecting my isolation.

First of all, I have got to make peace with my relationship to food and to my body. I’m talking about my obsession/preoccupation about eating in a manner that will cause me dramatic weight loss, and dutiful, religious, nauseating exercise. When one is as engrossed in the aforementioned activities as I have become, there is little time or energy left to spend on stuff that matters significantly more, and after 6 years of eating-disordered behavior and body dysmorphia, I’m tired, damn it. And ready to invest myself in building some meaningful relationships and kicking ass even harder in school.

This problem is never going to resolve itself, so I’ll have to look back into going to therapy.

I always complain about how pathetic it is that I’ve attended my current university for two years, and haven’t made a single friend, but if I’m being honest with myself, I have never once initiated any kind of effort to make friend at college. So this year is going to be different. I am going to focus on becoming more inviting, friendly, and talkative. I am going to take some risks, start some conversations, hell, even ask out a hot guy from my Stats class (after checking his finger for a ring, obviously. We have lots of super young, married folk where I’m from.)

In addition to all of these resolutions, if I have time to spare, perhaps I’ll attempt to kick my caffeine addiction.

Just kidding, I’m taking 19 credit hours. There is no way in hell I’m decreasing my latte consumption.

So there you have it. An outline of how I am going to go from a shitty person in 2015 to a noticeably less-shitty person by the end of 2016.

Happy New Year!

M.