Temerarious

 

I spent the last weekend bedridden with a horrible flu.

The flu can be detrimental to one’s health in a number of ways- there’s the physical component of the illness, of course, in which the immune system is insufficient for fighting off pathogens, but there’s a physiological component that, in my experience, is far more harmful than any fever, bout of chills, or stuffy nose.

When you’re as sick as I was last weekend, you have no other option but to slow down-your body insists. But your brain is not forcibly stagnated to the extent that your limbs might be. What I’m saying in way more words than are necessary is that I had far too much time for thinking over the past couple of days for my own good.

In a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and focus my racing, unorganized thoughts, I began (and finished) the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I suggest that you set apart the next 13 hours and binge the entire series. If you don’t have the time for that, I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

The story centers around Hannah, a high schooler who takes her own life, but not before explaining her reasons for doing so via 13 audio tape recordings. The topic of each tape is one of her classmates who has contributed to her ultimate decision to commit suicide. Among those reasons are betrayal, rape, objectification, and harassment. Ironically, all things that I have experienced, as well.

This powerful series was profound and resonated deeply with me, and unfortunately, has forced me to face some things that I’ve never truly allowed myself to process. Ever since my body was invaded, it’s felt as though it no longer belongs to me. And sometimes I feel that all I am is a body, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been handled with care-by men since him, or by me. The most practical remedy is to enclose oneself in a pod of isolation-just big enough for one. Because the illusion of control is much more satisfying there.

I’ve been played with, used, ridiculed, and objectified. I am left weak, afraid, and tired.

I’d like to think that I’d never engage in self-harm, but this sudden flooding of relived past experiences has forced me to feel things that I’ve suppressed for far too long, and I’m paying for it now. How does one who’s deceived herself into strength cope with the fact that she’s been wounded the whole time?

I think that the biggest take-away message I got from viewing Thirteen Reasons was that we are reckless. Humans are reckless people with little to no awareness on how significant our actions can be in the grand scheme of things. Our actions have the power to significantly alter another’s perception of self, and the consequences of a poor self-perception can, as in Hannah’s case, be fatal.

Human interaction is a complex phenomenon, and everyone experiences his or her own truth. If you claim that I hurt you, I don’t get to decide that I didn’t. So it’s best to err on the side of safety, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re Ghandi or Mother Teresa, you will inevitably hurt those you interact with, intentionally or not. But we don’t walk around with a gauge pinned to our shirts, notifying those around us how close we are to our breaking points.

It’d be extremely difficult, and frankly boring (not to mention unrealistic) to treat everyone as if they are fragile as fine China, all of the time for the rest of our lives. That’s where I think that a little self-awareness could go a long way. And believe me, my hands are definitely not clean here.

Watching the way Hannah was treated by her classmates in Thirteen Reasons was piercingly painful for me to watch. I could feel her solitude through my computer screen, and it transported me back to my own lonely years as a high school student. (Which was much more difficult in some ways than my desolate college years now.) Each episode’s conclusion catalyzed another stream of tears from my eyes, and I found myself in bouts of severe regret for the way my life has been going so far.

People can cause a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. The only problem is, once you’ve experienced enough harm, you find that it’d be foolish to put yourself out there in pursuit of some good, because that would leave you vulnerable to even more harm.

So, you withdraw further.

And what’s so noble about being fine all the time, anyway? Why does being able to be okay with people treating you like shit make you strong? Resilient, maybe. But I’d argue that strength is found by allowing yourself to feel real pain-to hurt to the extent that it hurts, and to heal in your own time, and your own way.

That’s what I feel like my experience from this weekend is forcing me to do-to allow myself to not be fine anymore. Because the last thing I am is okay. I am weak, wounded and alone. And if I don’t accept that now and deal with it, the next time I get hurt might pull me completely under water, and I’ll drown.

I fully admit that I’ve done more than my fair share of harm to other people. My hands are far from clean. But I’ve gained a heightened awareness of my deeds and their potential for harm or help to my fellow man.

But why are we so reckless with each others’ lives? Should it not be more of a priority to minimize the pain we inflict? Or are we simply just not aware?

M.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortitude

This year was hard for more reasons than the ones mainstream media chose to shine its spotlight on, but you already know that. Anyway, it’s over now and 2017 couldn’t possibly be any worse, which brings me an air of optimism for the upcoming 365 days.

I love the end of the year, because it gives me the opportunity to look back on my previous resolutions (if I remember them) and measure just how badly I failed. AND THEN I get to set new ones for the next year. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

In all seriousness, though, I love the concept of a clean slate. I love setting new goals. It makes me feel motivated and revved up to do some serious, lasting self-renovation.

I couldn’t even tell you what my resolutions were last year, so I obviously didn’t accomplish them, but this is a CLEAN SLATE, remember? If I had to guess, though, I’d say it was your typical “I want to lose 15 pounds” or quit sugar or something fitness related.

I weigh the same weight as I have since I graduated high school, and I most certainly did not quit sugar because sugar is awesome and I like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Cadbury Mini Eggs. A lot.

New year’s resolution #1: Stick to my new year’s resolutions.

All joking aside, 2017 is going to be my year. Because I am in control of me. I’m choosing to focus my energy on lasting changes that will result in me becoming a more balanced, healthy, strong, independent individual.

I esteem myself as an extremely ambitious individual who just so happens to have an anxiety problem. Anxiety victims can tell you just how severely it can hinder your progress in any and every facet of your life. If I am to realize my academic an professional goals, I need to minimize and eliminate as many obstacles as necessary.

So, I have resolved first and foremost to adjust my lifestyle to one that is as anti-anxiety producing as possible. I have already gotten a jump start on this goal by adopting my trusted feline friend. leo

Meet Leo, which is short for Leonardo. He was named after our favorite cinema star and recent Oscar winner, Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s a tuxedo cat, so I often call him Mr. Sir. He has successfully prevented numerous panic attacks, binge/purge episodes, and been a phenomenal dance partner to Katy Perry jams around our quaint, cozy apartment. He is my light and my life, and I love him very much.

So already, I’ve made significant changes that have made my anxiety more manageable. However, my final semester of my undergraduate program is upon us, so I’m expecting a bumpy ride for these next 4 months, but I assure you it’s nothing Leo and I can’t handle together.

In addition to improving myself as an individual, I’d really like to take this year and focus on making a difference in the lives of those around me.

This year, I’ve resolved to do one simple thing per day to build up a fellow woman. Because frankly, being a woman is, in my experience, no walk in the park, and I’m sick and tired of the way in which society has turned us against each other. I’m done being a pawn in the game of female competition.

Women are not my competition, and treating them as such does nothing but hinder our progress toward gender equality. I am officially pledging myself to the pro-woman team. Instead of glaring jealously at a girl’s outfit in passing, I’m going to compliment her shoes, her blouse, or her hair. If she needs a night to vent about her day at work, her relationship with her family/spouse/significant other, I’ll head on over with my good friends Ben and Jerry and one hell of a pep talk. I’m here to help.

Obviously I’ll gladly help people of all genders in any capacity that I can, but I really want to focus on helping my fellow women this year, because I have had many hard experiences in my life and I really could have used some encouragement, a listening ear, or a confidence boost. So this is me returning the favor to those who have assisted me in these ways.

May we all learn to see each other as allies, not enemies.

Happy  New Year’s, loves. I hope that together, we can help each other build ourselves back up from last year, and live happier, healthier, and stronger this year and for the rest to come.

 

M.

Conflicting Conscience

Let me tell you a little story about a not-so-little girl. Legend has it she got not-so-little due to her picky palate and refusal to eat anything but starchy vegetables and Easy Mac. As the years passed, her excess intake of carbohydrates stuck to her in the least-flattering way that fat could stick to a person. You could see nothing but disgust and self-loathing in her eyes-merely a nine-year-old child! You would never catch this girl with more than a half-hearted grin in any photograph.

And the fat jokes, they came. As early as the fourth grade. They stung, oh they stung. But not nearly as badly as her own thoughts in her head. But she fought to suppress them, that is, until she was involuntarily thrust into the firey, unforgiving, pubescent realms of junior high school.  By that time, the voices had won. 

Just like that, from the end of seventh grade to the beginning of the eighth, the girl had dropped from her hearty, 110 pound chubbiness to a gaunt, skeleton-like 72 pounds. She thought that in doing this, she would satisfy the voices in her head, but they had only grown stronger with time. She was ugly, she was worthless, she was disgusting. And she believed it, too. 

Since then, she has crawled out of the hole she’d dug herself into, but her thoughts remain the same. Subconsciously, she still sees the portly fourth grader she’d shed a number of years ago. With every bite of cookie or cake or french fry comes an overwhelming and exhausting feeling of guilt, which results in her self-consciously pinching at herself in the mirror for the next half-hour. 

You guessed it, that girl is me. Living with a distorted body image is a living hell, I assure you. You take every fat joke, every weight-loss “secret” to heart, and you never feel good enough. It sucks. 

But Maddie, you’re a feminist! 

Feminists don’t believe in vanity or in giving in to societal pressures! 

Shut up you guys, i’m only human. 

And yes, I do believe that women are worth way more than their dress size or number on the scale and that “what matters is how you feel on the inside” and all that gushy, feel-good crap. On a conscious level, I really do agree to all of that. And I can counsel other girls till i’m blue in the face on how their size doesn’t matter and that they don’t have to be “beautiful” to be of worth, but I can’t apply a lick of my own words and “beliefs” to my own life. There, I said it. 

It’s a freaking drag. 

So here I am, conflicted as ever. Having the strongest belief in feminism and not owing beauty to anyone, when I am consciously indebted to myself with my vain bodily short-comings. 

Naturally, the blame falls both on the shoulders of the fat, carb-inhaling youngster I used to be, and also our disgusting, skinny-worshiping patriarchal society. 

A sincere thank-you to the both of y’all. 

I’m not sure what the point was for this post, but in the words of Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “Writing brings me solace.”

M. 

Grievances On Usage Of Mobile Devices In Social Settings

This rant comes with a side of hypocracy, which I am taking full accountability for. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am just as addicted to my cell phone as the next self-aborbed pre-adult. Seven times out of eight, you’ll probably catch me with my nose in my phone and my thumbs dancing over the screen. However, just like line dancing, there is a time and a place for cell phone usage. 

The purpose of a mobile device is to serve as a medium for communication between two or more distant people. But due to this strikingly boring process that I won’t go in depth about called “convergence culture,” our phones do much more than send and receive phone calls, as their original functions were meant to be. 

This amplifies our time spent on the cell phone itself. Now we can send a tweet, play scrabble and fruit ninja, and browse the “humor” section on Pinterest, all from the same device. What can’t these things do? 

All of these additions and improvements and apps are great and wonderful, but as I said earlier, there is a time and a place to immerse yourself in the technological world of the iPhone or Android. And that time and place is alone, or in your bed at 11:30 at night when you can’t sleep, or when you’ve spotted a cat stuck in a tree and need to contact the fire department. 

However, that time and place is NOT when you are in attendance at a social event. Social events include, but are not limited to, dinners, parties, get-togethers, dates, the movies, lunch with friends, or even breakfast with friends. 

Exhibit A: The other day, I invited friends over to hang out at my place of residence. I kid you not, at least half of our four-man group was on his/her phone at any given time. Personally, when I am in a situation like this, I prefer to interact verbally with the people I am surrounded with. Unfortunately, not everyone shares the same desire. 

We put a movie in (Warrior, in case you were wondering. Y’know, the one about the Physics teacher who turns out to be a bad-A cage fighter), but I seemed to be the only one watching. The other three in my company were all deeply engaged in games, texting, snapchats, or whatever else. One of these fellows even had his arm around me, but both hands, and 100% of his attention span, firmly fixed on his cell phone. 

If you’re with other people, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to put your phone in your pocket and, oh, I dunno, start a conversation the old-fashioned way. At least for an hour or so. 

I have no problem with the occasional check-in on your phone for updates, texts, or whatever. But do you really have to play games and ignore the real-life people around you? Why can’t we all just be fully present where we are every once in a while? 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I am not spotless or guilt-free in regards to cell-phone use in a social setting. But I also don’t let my attention span become completely consumed by a virtual game when I am with other people. 

It seems as though everyone these days, myself included, have had their social skills damaged by the use of a device that’s supposed to make us even more social. And that’s pretty sad. 

In an awkward situation, rather than strike up a conversation and actually get to know the person we’re with, we yank out the phone and act like we have someone else to be texting, rather than converse with another human. I know you’ve done it, and I most certainly know that I have too. 

Here’s to face-to-face interaction!

M.