My Life

If You Don’t Truly Love Yourself…

For many years now, I’ve been a big proponent of body positivity, health at any size, and loving yourself no matter what. I’ve been at the forefront of fat activism with a kind of in-your-face like me or fuck off kind of attitude.

But something happened in the past two years that has, in a way, eroded a lot of my self-work in regards to my relationship with my body. I fell in love for the first time with someone who wholly and irrevocably loves my body, heart, soul, mind. Not in a fetishist sort of way, and also, not in a “well, I love your heart, so I’ll deal with the body” kind of way. I mean my wife unabashedly adores me, loves me, lusts for me, and respects me in a no holds barred, all of me for all of you kind of way.

That’s the best feeling in the world.

And – also…

For some reason, it has really triggered all of the buried self-hatred that I thought I had dealt with so many years ago. I’ve spent so much more time being disgusted by my body over the past two years than I had previously in a decade. And it’s really only within the past few months that I’ve been able to pinpoint why and start working out of it.

For years, I was either single or, more often than not, dating someone who had hangups about my body. There were the blatant fat-shaming ones. There was the one who seemed to be okay with my body, but then would ask friends who were with big women, “How do you deal with this size thing?” There were those who claimed to love me as is but didn’t really ever look at me or reach for me.

And in parsing it out with my wife a few months ago, I realized that I was body positive in defense. I was dealing with not only the messages from the outside world, from the memories of my parents fat-shaming me, from doctors berating me, from people on airplanes shoving me, from strangers in the street calling me names, I was also dealing with it in what was supposed to be my safe space – my relationships.

And so the self-work that started when I quit smoking and skyrocketed when I left my decade-long, toxic relationship was thrown into overdrive. You’re not going to love me so I’m going to love myself harder and show you what a more evolved and better person I am than you. I don’t think anything like that was ever in the front of my mind, but it does make sense. In the same way that I found it so easy to complete P90X, an uber hard 90-day workout program because my partner at the time was so scornful of it. It was what my friend Nikki calls oppositional defiance disorder.

I had friends who loved me as is and that helped. I counseled other women on body image issues and that helped. I could see through the veil of patriarchy that profits on women hating themselves and that helped. And also…

I remember calling my friend SSML one day after an ex told me I couldn’t blame her for having moments of hatred toward my body. After all, she had to live in a society that gave off the message that fat = ugly. Fat = lazy. Fat = gross. Fat = sexless. And if she had to live in that world, how could I blame her for sometimes having those thoughts? SSML, true to form had gone on a rant of epic proportions about it not being my fault that the person hadn’t done the self-work to get past her own misogyny and patriarchal bullshit.

And I hung up the phone feeling righteous and strong. Because, as SSML reminded me, I’m an Amazon and I show up. That’s what I do.

And then I met my wife. And I suddenly knew what a safe space really was. And I realized that all of the times I was filled with uncertainty and indecision about relationships was because I wasn’t in a safe space at all. And then I was and somehow, the feeling of being completely accepted, cherished even, gave me room to unpack the decades of buried hatred and insecurity.

I remember the day I told her my weight. Said the number. And cried and shook and waited for her to freak out. She just hugged me and said, “There’s nothing different than there was before you told me.” She said, “How is this different than me telling you that thing I never told anyone?” Everyone thinks their own shame is so different, so much worse. I remember giving a self-love workshop to close to 100 women once. At the end of it, I said, “Who here now thinks that the people in this group are carrying shame about things that aren’t really shameful?” They all raised their hands. “Now, who here still thinks your own issue is so much more shameful than everyone else’s?” Again with all the hands.

The truth is we all have shame around something. And unpacking it is the only way to get rid of it. Sometimes that unpacking means talking to a therapist. Sometimes it means sharing it with a friend. And sometimes, it’s as simple as saying, “I hate this about myself” and letting someone acknowledge that it’s okay for you to hate that, but to let you know that they don’t.

It has been a learning experience, going back through all that old baggage I thought I’d gotten rid of long ago. My wife has some of her own body image issues and we’ve held each other through them, working them out with grace, acceptance, and unconditional love.

It reminds me of that stupid phrase  – If you don’t love yourself, you can’t truly love anyone else. You know what? That’s bullshit. It’s just another form of shaming people who feel broken from the society that broke us in the first place.

You absolutely can love and be loved when you aren’t truly in love with yourself. In fact, I’d venture to say we love even deeper.

If there’s something you hate about yourself or something that you feel shame around – find someone to talk to. Sometimes, the simple act of saying it aloud is the first step to throwing it away.

 

 

 

 

My Life

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, I try to post my New Year’s resolutions – to commit to writing the things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. Last year, I think I came close to accomplishing most of what I set out to do.

This year, I resolve to be happy with my body just the way it is. I resolve to avoid dieting, to refuse to press myself into a patriarchal construct of accepted female appearance. This year, I’d like to continue to lovingly nourish my body with mostly plant-based foods, delicious teas, and perhaps a bit too much coffee. I resolve to continue to try new vegan recipes and to continue to delight in my own growth as a cook who can create delightful meals without stress.

This year I want to move my body more, stretch more, spend more time standing up from my desk. I want to dance without worrying what people are thinking about me. I want to touch my toes and stand on one foot and do a few minutes of yoga every day so my back doesn’t hurt after a long day of working.

I want to take Brutus out for more walks so, when the time comes that walks are no longer possible for him, we’ll know we made the most of the time he could enjoy the outdoors on his own four feet.

This year, I want to cherish my partner – I want to make sure she knows that I don’t take for granted how she loves and adores and desires me exactly the way I am. I want to make sure that she feels as special as she makes me feel. This year, I want to remember how hard it has been to spend so much time apart as we deal with immigration, and I want to appreciate how deeply we value the time together.  I resolve to appreciate the natural intimacy between us, and to continue to cultivate it as the years go by.

This year, I want to publish two of the three novels I wrote in 2017. I want to write one or two more. I want to win at least one short story contest. I’d like to submit to five anthologies in 2018.

I resolve to worry less about money while still working on upping my income. I’d like to get a job teaching creative writing. I want to sell more books. I resolve to not let the acquisition of things every become my focus, regardless of changes in income. This year, I promise to continue to give when I can, even when my finances are uncertain.

This year, I want to remember that it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes and that the best way to make friends is to reach out to friends. I want to encourage connections with old friends, and spend time with new. I want to send more paper letters, give away more books, spend more time video chatting with people I love, give hugs more freely.

This year, I resolve to turn over the pages of my calendar at the beginning of the month, rather than looking up at it in December and realizing it is still on May.

Finally, no matter what else happens, I resolve to remember that I deserve this.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

My Life

We can’t work it out – Relationships end and that’s okay.

Capture

 

So many blogs and articles exist telling people how to make relationships last forever. And that’s a good thing. Kind of. We’re taught from a young age that a relationship ending is a failure and keeping a marriage together for a lifetime is a success. Never mind that grandma wasn’t allowed to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor because grandpa didn’t want a working wife or that your best friend lies lonely in his marriage bed every night because his wife won’t touch him or that your mother consistently turned a blind eye to your father’s affairs because the marriage was more important.

It’s time to recognize the truth that some relationships are meant to last a lifetime and some relationships are not. By teaching people that relationships are work, we’re telling them that they need to find a way to keep the relationship together even when it isn’t serving them anymore. I know someone who was in a marriage for over twenty years, despite being controlled, ignored, and abused because she was taught that marriage is forever and if it isn’t, it’s because you’re doing something wrong.

I have spent way too long in nearly all of my relationships, trying to work things out when I didn’t feel cherished or desired or adored. And though I think all relationships have some value in that they help us grow into who we are (or teach us what we definitely don’t want) I think some of my time could have been better spent if I had left when the relationship wasn’t contributing to my well-being instead of spending fruitless time trying to work things out.

Instead of putting out yet another how to work it out article, I’m going to talk about when to cut and run. Remember, you can’t open your life to happiness if you’re spending all of your time trying to mash an unhappy relationship into something that it will never be.

 

When to leave:

 

  1. When you have doubts. Lots of them. I used to argue with myself constantly about whether or not the relationship I was in was right for me. If you are having to cajole yourself into staying in a relationship, it’s time to leave.
  2. You have to process the relationship with your friends. If you are having to talk to your friends regularly to help understand why your relationship is causing you so much grief, it might be time to leave. A good relationship will still have things to work out, but they can be worked out between the partners.
  3.  You don’t feel respected. This is a given. If your partner doesn’t respect your time, boundaries, needs, it is time to go.
  4. You aren’t attracted to your partner or they aren’t attracted to you. Sex is important in a love relationship and if you aren’t attracted to your partner, you are doing them a disservice by not setting them free to find someone who is. (Side note: It’s important to understand that some people are okay with not having a physical relationship and some people stay in long term intimate relationships while having sexual relationships with others and a billion other different aspects of human sexuality but in this particular instance, I am talking about a monogamous relationship in which one partner wants to be sexual and the other doesn’t find them attractive.) That was a mouthful, but it is important to note. It is hard to stay confident and body positive in a love relationship with someone who does not find your body appealing. Conversely, being with someone who craves and desires you is one of the most sexually liberating feelings in the world.
  5.  You don’t feel supported, nurtured, and cherished.
  6.  You don’t feel like supporting, nurturing, and cherishing your partner.
  7.  You lie to your partner. If you find yourself hiding aspects of yourself because your partner will react badly, or because you don’t trust them to love you as you are, it is either time to lay everything on the table, or move on.
  8.  You’re being abused. Don’t settle for abuse. Not once. If someone hits you, kicks you, pinches you in a way that hurts, it is time to leave.
  9. Your partner is mean in fights. All couples have disagreements. But if your partner calls you names when they are angry at you, it’s time to move on.
  10.  You fall in love with someone else. It’s heartbreaking, but sometimes, when you’re in the wrong relationship, you meet the right one. The moment you realize this has happened, unless you are in an open relationship and intend to stay that way, it is time to break up with the other.

Whatever you do, the most important thing to remember is that a break-up doesn’t mean you have failed. We try different things at different times in our lives. We aren’t expected to stay with the same career our entire lives, so why should we be expected to stay with the same relationship. Sometimes it works for us, and sometimes it doesn’t. If you are unhappy in your relationship and you and your partner aren’t both actively working together to change that, maybe it’s time to move on and free up the space for better things to enter your life.

 

My Life

New Year’s Resolutions

This year, I will not make any resolutions that imply I am anything other than perfectly wonderful just the way I am. I will not make any resolutions meant to make me feel bad about myself, nor will I make any sweeping pronouncements about how I want to be thinner, smarter, better, more.

This year, I won’t make any New Year’s resolutions that aren’t expressly intended to make me or my loved ones feel good about themselves.

This year, I resolve to practice self-care. This year, I’d like to treat my body with loving care. I want to spend more time at the farmer’s market and less time at big box stores. I would like to walk more, bike more, eat more vegetables. I would like to spend more time dancing. I want to save the money for a few pedicures. I want to make sure my sex life stays fresh and loving and invigorating. I want to sleep soundly. I resolve to hug my dog daily. I resolve to spend more time playing with my cat.

This year, I want to connect more. I resolve to send more paper letters. I want to reach out to someone who hasn’t heard from me in a long time. I would like to smile at more people. I want to compliment strangers. I want to tell my friends when they are wonderful and let it go when they are not. I want to appreciate the people who love me. I want to continue to be grateful for calling a partner into my life who loves me and shows me in a billion different ways. This year, I want to talk to my mother more often. I’d like to have more women come to my house for talks and coffee and shared breakfasts. I’d like to touch my friends more, hold their hands, hug them, ask them if they are lonely, or if they are living their dreams. I want to help people who need help.

This year, I want to spend time focusing on my career. I want to finish my fourth novel and start my fifth. I would like to submit at least one more short story this year than last. I want to find ways to market my self-love classes to a wider audience. I would like to network with other writers and teachers. I want to find a job teaching online with a college or university.

This year, I would like to stress less about paying bills. I don’t want to buy more stuff, but I would like to be able to pay the electric bill and my mortgage in the same week. I don’t want to be rich, but I want to be unafraid of where the next groceries are coming from. This year, I want to put some effort into making enough money that I can make decisions about spending, rather than reactions. This year, I’d like to make enough money that I can donate some of it to causes that touch my heart.

This year I want to stay informed about political decisions that can harm myself and my family without letting the news drag me into a depression. I want to act to protect myself and my loved ones without allowing myself to be silenced about that which is important to me.

This year, I want to be myself. I want to do what I want to do. I want to follow the calling of my own soul. This year, I resolve to be proud of myself. I resolve to follow my dreams. I want to love freely and live openly.

This year, I will cherish what I have, rather than pursue what I don’t.

Happy New Year.

 

 

My Life

New Set of Creating Self Love classes…. and a part two!

By popular demand, Continued Self Love is now live. Starting May 5 at 8 PM EST, I will be doing a part two to the online Creating Self Love classes. I’ll also be starting a new set of the original self love classes. Monday, May 4th at 9:00 PM EST and Wed, May 6th at 8:00 PM EST. Email me for more information. Classes are limited to ten each, so register quickly by emailing bethburnett70@yahoo.com

The classes are six week online courses that cover everything from abolishing negative self talk to dealing with toxic people to overcoming self doubt and fear. I charge sixty dollars for a six week class. I give some lectures, show slides, have a few in class assignments and give homework. Homework is not mandatory, but it does help to participate in the class.The class includes a weekly one hour online class and access to the Facebook page for mid week support, encouragement, and positive posts. The students have thrived in this course and it has allowed many of them to start living a more joyful life of self love. I have some students who have learned to conquer anxiety, some who have lessened panic attacks, some who have just used the course as a refresher to living in joy. The women in these classes are inspired to make positive changes in their lives, whether the change is going back to school or learning to stop being so hard on themselves. Come join me for this journey into self confidence and joy.

My Life

Why I Love my Fat Body – And Why You Should, Too.

Whenever I see pictures of fat women (almost exclusively women) posted online, I inevitably see a bunch of comments about how sickening it is to glorify fat because it is so unhealthy. Bodies come in all degrees of health. There are skinny unhealthy people and fat healthy people and everything in between. If you are using the illogical fallacy of fat being unhealthy to fuel your hatred, you might as well go onto a page of people with heart disease and spout off about how ugly their chest scars are. At any rate, if you’re the kind of person who goes to the comments on posts like that just so you can talk about how unhealthy fat people are, please stop reading this post. You are too stupid to grasp any of what I have to say after this.

I’ve spent a lot of years overcoming the sad effects of a society that punishes people for being fat. There are those who think they mean well such as the “you have such a beautiful face” crowd and the well-meaning mother who struggles with her own self-esteem and pushed new diets on me from the age of twelve. There was the time my sister, also a victim of the bias against fat women, told me that I better lose weight before high school because if I wanted to be in the marching band, I was going to have to get changed in front of everyone else in the band. In fourth grade, we had class weigh ins right in front of the whole class and everyone tried to see what mine said. Throughout middle school and high school, other kids oinked or mooed at me on a regular basis. Once, when jogging, a man actually slowed down his pickup truck to yell, “Don’t break the pavement, fatty” as I ran by. I walked home and didn’t run again for many long years. I absorbed every comment, every snide remark, every well-meaning, but still cutting aside.

As an adult, I set about trying to comes to terms with my fat body, even while putting it through the hell of every diet I could find. I ate nothing but grapefruit. I did the cabbage soup diet. Once, I lost sixty pounds and bought clothes in the “normal” stores and still thought I was ridiculously fat. And ugly. I equated fat with ugly back then. I joined a group of women who purported to be about size acceptance but really consisted of a lot of sad women sitting around talking about how much it sucked to be fat.

I had relationships in my twenties, but I attributed that to people who just fell in love with my personality and put up with the fact that I was fat. In essence, I didn’t love myself, so it didn’t occur to me that someone else could love me just as I was. Of course, because of that, I drew people who didn’t love and embrace me the way that I was. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fast forward to the age of 38 when I, though a positive and loving woman, was not doing well. I was in a long term relationship with someone who did not celebrate me. I was a two pack a day smoker. I was a daydreamer, but not a doer. I had moved to a beautiful Caribbean island and I loved a lot of things about my life there, but I wasn’t treating myself with respect and care.

One day, I decided that had to change. I was tired of hating my body. I was tired of being afraid of what people had to say about me. I was tired about not going to Zumba classes or refusing to go for a swim because of the way certain people looked at me.

It was a slow process. I started by quitting drinking. Then I quit smoking. I started hiking with my soul friend, Aj. We took huge hikes up the sides of gigantic hills that I thought might kill me. I knew it was the best way to keep from going back to smoking. I started meditating. I became a vegetarian. Eventually, I left that dead end relationship and moved back to the states.

And something amazing happened. I grew to love myself. I didn’t just love myself in spite of my fat body. I loved myself AND my fat body. I went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival where I saw women of every shape and size and age and color and ability laughing and loving and dancing and celebrating themselves and me. I fell in love with my own breasts, the weight of them, the way they felt when I lifted them in my hands. I grew to love touching the soft skin of my stomach. I admired the strong and fat curves of my butt. I expressed gratitude for my big thighs that have carried me this far in my wonderful journey. I made love with womyn with the lights on. I refused to be with someone who didn’t love my body the way it was. I set my boundaries and my boundaries involved only being involved with womyn who celebrated and cherished me. And since I’m not a hypocrite, I applied that same rule to myself. I celebrated and cherished myself.

Then something even more amazing happened. I realized I wasn’t just talking about it. I was living it. I celebrated women of all shapes and sizes. I didn’t feel defensive around women with thin bodies or athletic bodies. I didn’t equate skinny with beautiful and I didn’t equate fat with ugly. I started to see through the patriarchal bullshit that insists women be in competition with each other. I started to call out instances of fat shaming, or any kind of shaming of women for their bodies. I stopped watching anything to do with celebrities and I refused to look at fashion magazines and I realized that I have gotten out of the Matrix. That all of those people who think that they have the right to tell women what they should do with their bodies are poisoned in their minds. They’re sick. They are the unhealthy ones. The people who yell “fatty” at a jogger or sneer at a fat person in an exercise class or peer into someone’s cart at the grocery store to see what kind of food they’re buying or purposely go to a page about fat acceptance to leave idiotic comments about fat being gross and unhealthy or lift their eyebrows when they see a woman with hairy legs or write off older women as useless or refuse to see any woman who falls outside of the standard societal expectation of pretty as just that. They are the sick ones. They’re what’s wrong with this society. Those people who feel they somehow have a right to hate someone based on the way they look.They’re hurting our society and they need help.

My journey continued until I was not only loving myself the way I am, but teaching other women how to do the same. Women who have felt too old, too skinny, too muscled, too fat, too wrinkled, too scarred. Women who, like me, have been told that they are not enough the way they are. Women who wore the negative opinions of this sick society.

I learned that I’m beautiful. More importantly, I learned that I am worthy of love and happiness and respect and desire. I learned that I am a woman in every true sense of the word and anyone who can’t understand that isn’t worth my time.

Finally, today was the culmination of all of my self love work. I’ve been telling women of every size and shape that they are beautiful for years. Today when I opened a link to look at the pictures of Leonard Nimoy’s fat nudes and I realized that I thought every single one of them was incredibly fucking beautiful. I felt it down to my very soul. These women were divine and miraculous and beautiful and worthy.I’m not sick anymore. I’m not warped by this sick society. I’ve won. I’m healed. You can be, too.

Nutrition

One Week of Oil Pulling. (Did I just say oil pulling?)

This is what Wikipedia has to say about coconut oil:

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant torancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling

ImageWell, I guess I’m slow to the game because apparently, everybody I know has been using coconut oil for everything from natural moisturizer to lubricant to wrinkle cream to deep hair conditioning. Well, I’m not going to speak on the lubricant usage, however, I will address the rest of the alleged benefits. I picked up some cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil a couple of months ago on the advice of a friend who suggested it would make a good moisturizer. In those weeks, I have used it on my lips, where it has gotten rid of all of the chapped lip crap of winter. I put it on my nose, thus alleviating that big ugly patch of dry skin that comes from blowing it all of the time. I rub it on my face, neck, and chest at night and have seen an incredible improvement in the quality of my skin, which has gotten softer, smoother, and more radiant. I even slather it on my hair sometimes about twenty minutes before a shower to deep condition and it works beautifully. So, I was already a fan of coconut oil when my sister posted a link about “Oil pulling.”

Apparently, oil pulling involves putting a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and squishing it around for twenty minutes before spitting it out.

NOTE: DO NOT SPIT IT INTO THE SINK. (Says the voice of experience.)

Apparently the health benefits range from curing migraines to regulating blood sugar to whitening teeth to preventing yeast infections. (I think there’s more, but the curing migraines thing is what stopped me in my tracks.)

You know, I hate taking pills and I am a big opponent of big Pharm and I’ll try just about anything I read on the internet that doesn’t involve anal insertion, so I thought, why not? I’ll give it seven days and see what happens.

The first thing to note is that coconut oil isn’t in a particularly oily state… it’s pretty solid. So it Imagefeels a little strange when I first put it in my mouth. It’s almost kind of gummy… but I just started kind of moving around in my mouth and after a minute or so, it started to melt. When it melts, it doesn’t feel slimy, like I expected oil to feel. It feels just kind of thicker water, I guess, and it doesn’t have much of a taste at all.

The first day I made it about thirteen minutes before my mouth got too tired and I had to spit it out. (In the sink…. Again, DO NOT DO THIS!) My sister told me that it will resolidify and clog the drain, so I had to run some boiling water through and hope it all washed down. (It did.) I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary, except that my mouth felt really clean. I brushed as usual with my non-fluoride Tom’s toothpaste and went about my day.

The second day, I noticed that a couple of pimples I had around the side of my mouth from being menstrual were almost completely gone overnight.

Day three, I realized that the small sores that I sometimes have in the back of my mouth because I have a tooth back there that is pointy and rubs against the inside of my gum were all gone. My mouth felt fantastic, very healthy.

Day four, I woke up with one of those headaches that have the potential to turn into a migraine. I usually try to stop these by eating a small breakfast, taking a couple of Tylenol, and drinking a cup of coffee. Of course, if it DOES turn into a migraine, all of that will come back up, so it’s not the best plan in the world. At any rate, on that day, I did my oil pulling and by the end of the fifteen minutes, my headache was gone. It stayed gone for the rest of the day, even at work where the glare of the fluorescent lights on the computer sometimes activates a headache in me.

Today was day seven and I can say that I feel the experiment has been a success. I haven’t had any headaches and my mouth feels healthy and clean. I can’t really say whether or not it is making my teeth whiter, but since that wasn’t one of the things that I cared about in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. My experiment did get my sister doing it, too, and she is very prone to migraines and stomach issues. She is not only oil pulling, but putting a small spoonful in her hot tea every night. She has had no stomach issues or headaches since she started.

As a side note, I sometimes get anxiety, and I have noticed that my fifteen minutes of pulling in the morning is kind of a meditation. I try not to do anything else during this time. I just sit back in my chair, put my feet up, sometimes pet the dog, and swish my oil. It has kind of a zen effect of me.

So, I guess the conclusion of the week is that I will keep going with the oil pulling as long as it still feels good and healthy to me… that is, until someone comes out with a study that shows I’ve been giving myself brain cancer with it or something.