Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Whatever it takes

When I was 14 years old I stood outside the boys’ locker room after a high school basketball game with a team from Australia to ask if anyone knew Daniel Johns from the teen rock band silverchair.

If you know me at all you’ve heard the name. At the time my entire existence was meaningless except for my undying love for a boy I had never met. But I KNEW. We were soul mates. Both of us would be ok if we could just find each other. In fact, the whole world might be ok.

And so I set out to get famous.  

Clearly we could never get married if he didn’t know who I was, and—ahoy!—there was a guitar. (Hindsight is now telling me that becoming a folk singer was not the *quickest* or best way to get famous, but it was somewhat convenient and promising at the time.)

Nothing was going to stop me. I researched exchange programs to try and get placed in his town, I begged my mom for plane tickets to Toronto (from Washington state) because at an in studio performance I was SURE to meet him (and then, of course, Voila!). I talked about him to everyone.

And stood outside the boys’ locker room soliciting total strangers for information.

This was a thing I wanted badly enough to do whatever it took. 

I didn’t care what anyone thought. 


And I wish I felt that way about anything again, ever. 

More often it’s like the Meatloaf song: “I would do anything for ________, but I won’t do that…”

“That” generally referring to being too uncomfortable, risking too much, compromising dignity, facing fears, or, as it’s sometimes blatantly said, going balls to the wall, doing our best, giving our all. 

God forbid we actually give our all to something and fail.

God really forbid we give our all to something and succeed.

I want things. I look ahead to my life and I see a lot. I see things I can’t fathom not happening, loves I can’t fathom not loving, dreams-come-true I can’t fathom not coming true. 

What am I willing to do for them? Am I willing to do that? 

Are you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Rain

I bought a new car yesterday. I traded in my 20 year old beauty Sabine and after they took her away I sat on the couch and sobbed, unable to even go outside and look at the newly manifested beauty I had wanted so much.

I was NOT a person who *could* buy a new car. It's amazing how much I feel the need to really hit that one home to the world at large. It was a completely farfetched idea, and I was just crazy enough to start looking online for Prius C's in baby blue. Just to dream, and maybe get the cosmic ball rolling. I would name her Charlotte. 

Turns out all you have to do to buy a new car is find it and promise the people you'll pay money every month. Turns out I can do that. Turns out from start to finish my impossible notion became reality in under two weeks.

Looking at Charlotte was uncomfortable, driving Charlotte was uncomfortable. I did some errands, sizing her up fiercely in the parking lot each time I returned to her. IS THIS ACTUALLY CHARLOTTE....IS IT REALLY HER....THIS IS NOT MY CAR. Sometimes it was a whisper, sometimes a scream. 

I realized that I was uncomfortable, not because this isn't my car, but because it is.  

Here's to blowing what we *can't* do out of the water. 

Charlotte and I will be just fine. As we headed out for dinner and some music last night it began torrentially raining, wild storms completely out of the blue. For a state that is back to being all but on fire after the terrible flooding this spring it was a miracle and a spectacular blessing.

I had a sudden moment of clarity, and asked Will if he remembered the factory name of my car's color. 

I saw the same realization twinkle in his eyes and he smiled. 

"Summer Rain."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Every Square Inch

I just took a shower, and then put lotion on every inch of my skin.

I assure you I have never before done anything to every inch of my skin, short of sweating many a summer (and spring, and fall) day in Texas.

About 18 times along the way I tried to shortcut the plan.

I don’t really need to go below my knees… arms are fine…..getting the middle of my back is hard, that’s good enough….sheesh…

But every time I made that tiny (and let’s admit it - tiny) extra effort I was delighted to feel like I was rediscovering a new part of my body, that long neglected something-or-other that didn’t command any particular negative attention from the Big Bad Wolf, but is sort of blobbed into the hazy grey of everything-else-except-those-very-few-parts-of-me-I-think-are-pretty-ok.

This whole process took about four minutes, and I’ll go ahead and say it was pretty flippin’ revolutionary for little old me.

And actually “little” and “old” describe with a fair degree of accuracy the range of the physical growth scale I seem to inhabit. 

Little: I’m the baby of the family and no matter how much I grow I never catch up to my big brothers. I rely—confessed with something less shameful than shame, but still some not-so-proud-of-ness—on my little girl charms way too often. It’s a defense at times, a “this is the best chance I have for this person/these people to like me,” and sometimes it can be just plain crushing to my 34 year old self esteem. 

Old: I’m 34, and that’s, like, almost 40… (Maybe at 40 I’ll finally identify as a woman rather than a girl??) I feel old in that I’m worried about the day I wake up in a body that no longer feels (or looks) like mine and will have missed All the Days of taking advantage of loving the heck out of the one I once had. 

I don’t feel grown up yet, but worry that I’ll suddenly be, well, too grown up. 

Little girl going on little old lady.

Love, love, love…….love, love……..


Real actually love is what I showed myself today. The kind that shows, not tells. 

I can make the effort to put on flattering clothes and make up, poise myself in the mirror in the best angle of light, and breathe a small sigh of relief as I tell the reflection (with at last a shred of conviction and belief!) that she’s beautiful before snapping an obligatory selfie that will probably never be posted. 

But to take four precious minutes out of my day (says the girl who took pleeeeenty of “precious minutes” to do a great many other less than useful things since she woke up) to even acknowledge—let alone praise and do something nice for—every part of my miraculous freaking body (have you given any thought today to just how insanely cool these things are??)

That’s new.

That’s big.

It’s kind of the biggest thing, actually. 

Our intentions, our a-ttentions, are the most powerful tools we have. It’s what aligns us with the good stuff, the stuff we want, and makes the signs and arrows along the way a lot more easily recognized as such.

As much as some part of me has wanted it, my intention hasn’t actually been to be healthy and the best physical version of myself that I can be. How could it be when I’ve been ignoring and avoiding and turning away from the things that would actually make it possible? There’s a deeper intention at work.

And it’s one that’s pretty hard to look at.

Before I wrote this, or knew I would write it, I made myself jot down some of the yucky thoughts that my post shower shower of love brought up:

I’m not allowed to be beautiful

Why do I deserve to love my body when so many others can’t/don’t love their own

People will think I’m trying too hard if I take care of myself

People will think I’m vain if I take care of myself

My beauty makes other people feel bad about themselves

Deep breath……

Yeah, those are hard things for me to look at. 

I’d like to say that it’s been a while since another woman has said to me, “I hate you; you’re so skinny!” 

But it hasn’t. 

I’d also like to say that the last time it did I didn’t respond by saying, “Oh thanks! I hate you, too!”—hopefully said with enough reluctant sarcasm to not be quite so awkward….

But I did, and it was.

You don’t diminish others when you shine. 

And you certainly don’t make them feel better about themselves by putting yourself down. (See ridiculous above example.) 

You deserve to love you. Wait, scratch that. You don’t have to deserve it. 

Just do it.

Four precious minutes at a time.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"I am a person who _____________ ."

I woke up yesterday morning and worked out.

That statement probably doesn’t mean much to anyone but coming from me it means a great deal. 

It was the first time since I was obsessed with this ridiculous (but awesome) Jane Fonda VHS tape as a teenager that I have gotten up in the morning and really moved. And not only did I move but I did deliberate things to build muscles that today are sore enough to make me feel like I was hit by a truck.

I truly want to be healthy. I truly want to feel good. I even like (reasonably) early mornings well enough. My mom and I have both had the goal for as long as I can remember to do a push up. She’s worked real hard at for a while now. I haven’t. 

I don’t actually believe that I’ll ever be able to do a push up.


closer to the truth is that I’m terrified of the body that would be able to do one, because it wouldn’t be mine.

My body has stayed roughly the same since I was in fourth grade. It has grown in weight since then and my knees are not so painfully knobby, but for the average observer there are no real ups and downs. 

I know I’m lucky. If I eat as badly as possible (and as a teenager I pretty much ate as badly as possible—anyone else binge on Jiffy peanut butter, PB Captain Crunch and Aunt Jemima’s on Wonder Bread in the middle of the night? Anyone??) or if I eat like a saint (at least compared to some) my body will look the same. 

People assume that slender people are healthy. People assume that I'm healthy. It’s been a weird thing feeling the need to assure them at times in my life that I really wasn't. Where the heck does that come from??

I'm not unhealthy; I can climb a flight of stairs but might get winded doing so. I could probably run for my life if I had to but am really crossing my fingers that I won't have to. I like healthy food, though many of the things I like best to put in my body (coffee, alcohol and honey greek yogurt to name a few) aren't. 

I started playing a game in the last year or so. It's called "I am a person who __________" and the game is to fill in the blank. The goal is to fill it with things you want, and notice even with small somewhat meaningless things how much resistance there can be to a statement. 

I played it one day by wearing a belt. I never wear belts. I put one on, declared "I am a person who wears belts," laughed out loud and went out into the world to do errands. It was weird, but I rocked it. It felt good. I got home and my mama called. I answered the phone and there was silence for a few seconds. "Shawnee?" she finally asked. She didn't recognize my voice. That's the power of play.  

In general "I'm a person who likes change." I love new places, new experiences, new people, new songs, new clothes, new understandings of myself and my world.

But I'm terrified of changes in my body.

My body is the one I've had forever. It's familiar; I know it inside and out (well, not a lot of the inside but some). Even the parts I'm not super stoked on are better than the unknown. If I could suddenly have the body I "wish" I had I doubt I'd be able to enjoy it. Because it's not me

The voice that would be able to say "I am a person who works out (or does yoga, or runs, or even stretches for god's sake!)" has not been willing to speak, not even a whisper.

But I woke up yesterday morning and worked out. 

And guess what? Just like that a 20 year streak was broken. A hard and fast rule in my psyche was demolishedIt wasn't perfect. Certain things were difficult and painful, and my body was subject to many awkward and compromising positions. 


I did it, and that's all it took. One action, one morning in May, and I am now a person who works out.  


That's power, and that's beauty, and really, it's just plain fun.

I bought work out clothes. If I can move tomorrow morning I will most definitely get up and do it again. I'm excited to work with my body and see what happens. 

And if I can change that big one so easily...what else is possible?

Now read out loud and fill in the blank:

"I am a person who ___________...."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Underneath It All

Untouched raw photo by FireMakeupArtistry by Jessi Pagel
...And then I got my hair and make up professionally done and had a really good photographer take pictures of me. Only the second time in my life THAT'S ever happened, the first being when I was eleven years old. I've had a whole 21 years since then to solidify and further complicate the relationship between who I actually am and who my self image thinks I am. I think for most of us there's a world of difference.

I wanted to write about the experience because it really seemed to have an impact on people seeing me like this, and I was somewhat overwhelmed by how many of you expressed a preference for me as I usually look—i.e. without make up, and I was really touched by it. I understand what you mean. Yes, I look really, really “sexy”—in one shot I think I look a lot like Julia Roberts, in another Natalie Portman, but only in the ones I didn't consider necessarily attractive did I look at all like Me.

We love people for their quirks, for the familiarity of the lines on their face, their smiles, the comfort and confidence we feel in who they are. Many of you didn't recognize me at all in this picture, including my own mother. Some face paint, lighting, a lens and some talent and we can be anyone we want to be—which I think can be really good for us, in moderation (like all good things in life).

I think it's important for us to play, to take on roles, to make ourselves the creative canvas sometimes. It reminds me that people only “see” what's on the outside, and guess what? If people see me like I am in this picture they're guaranteed to have a different impression of me than if they saw the “normal” me. That's neither good or bad; is just is. It's a tool, to be used for creativity, for strength, for fun, for growth, as long as it doesn't take you over, as long as you can come back down and remember who you are underneath it all.

A lot of us learned, through some means or another, that wanting and enjoying the spotlight makes us selfish or full of ourselves. I'm not sure what it will take for me to get over this one, but having a really amazing photo shoot done felt like a really healthy and positive step in the right direction. I mean, let's face it: I'm building a career that revolves around being, quite literally, in the spotlight, and the more I can learn to be comfortable and truly enjoy it the better an experience it will be for the people supporting me.

I'll admit, even looking totally not like myself I still felt wholly vulnerable in front of the camera.  I asked Sanjay to please not take any shots of my knees from the side, and looking over the photos find myself cringing at many a wrinkles, hairs, teeth and, yes, my knees. It's exhausting isn't it? The curse that each of us carries to scrutinize every tiny part of our incredibly magical and amazing bodies? There has to come a point of surrender, that I'm still working hard towards. I've learned enough to know that no one—like, NO one—is paying any attention to my knees, unless, of course, they hate theirs too. They'll be looking then, but unless they hate theirs in the very same way I hate mine, they aren't going to see what I see. No. One. Cares.  But me. What's the point?

I'm very familiar with the wide spectrum of feelings I have inhabiting this body, going about my business in the world with it, looking in the mirror at it. A lot of people think I'm really beautiful, and a good person, and I do my best to see myself that way, just as I want the beautiful people in my life to see themselves as I do. I catch glimpses here and there, and I'm grateful to all of you for that, yet there is no one in the world that sees us the way we each do on our darkest days. Perhaps we're not really as terrible as we think we are......? It's a noble idea.

I was relieved when I washed my face at the end of that day to find both that mine was still there—wrinkles, freckles and all—and that I was happy to see it. I know many of you were too.