Twenty-Six.

ccccToday’s my 26th birthday. It’s also the day I write my final bar admissions exam. It’s kinda a big day.

A year ago I was working part-time at a rec centre, washing sweaty towels and booking children’s birthday parties. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get a job as a public-sector criminal lawyer — my dream job, and the only law-job I was interested in (sometimes beggars are choosers). I had just spent 3 years in law school hating it and myself, and I was doubtful law would be in my future. I was still figuring out my illness, and how to take care of myself.

Over the year I got stronger. I read a lot about self-care and feminism and how to show up for yourself. I applied and got an interview for my dream job. I prepared for it like an Olympic event. When I found out I got it, I cried and promptly quit my part-time job at the rec centre. I started volunteering at a Women’s Centre and making art in my spare time. I watched a lot of documentaries and a lot of  law & order. I got hooked on yard sales and fell deeper in love. When my job finally started, it exceeded my expectations. The people, the law, the courtroom – I had found my place.

The 180 of the past year didn’t happen in a nice linear way. It was kind of like Snakes and Ladders. Some days I climbed up, other days I slithered down. I’m not sure why I kept playing, but I’m glad I did. Kids parties are the worst.

katie

Self Love Files: Good Company

LOVEI used to think that losing your independence was a symptom of a bad partner. I thought that I would be fine as long as I was with someone who wasn’t controlling, or the jealous type. I believed that my independence hinged on someone else’s behavior; I would only lose myself if someone else wanted me to be lost.

Before my current relationship I was incredibly independent. I went to movies, restaurants, and concerts by myself without a second thought. I traveled alone, ate alone, hiked alone, and shopped alone. But my relationship changed things. I didn’t want to be alone as much. Being with someone else, especially someone who was so amazing, was much better than being alone. Why do something by yourself when you can double the fun with someone else? It seemed only logical: two is greater than one.

Although my relationship correlates with my decreasing independence, it is not causative. While I do know that some people lose their independence because of a controlling or jealous partner, I cannot blame this one on my boyfriend. He is good and loving and kind. He supports me, and encourages me to try things on my own, to be my own person. But if I can’t blame him, what’s going on? What happened to me? Why did I start believing that time by myself wasn’t as valuable as time with him?

Then it hit me. Before, my alone time wasn’t really a choice. I was single, and not really looking, so I didn’t have any options. It was a forced independence. When I entered a relationship, all of a sudden I had a choice, and over and over again I chose someone else. Turns out, choosing independence is hard. Choosing me is tough.

Women are continuously told that confidence and independence are sexy traits. We all know nobody likes a clingy girlfriend. But how can we be expected to be so confident and independent when we live in a society that teaches us to hate our bodies? If we are conditioned to hate ourselves, how can we choose ourselves?

My struggle with my independence is really about self-love. It is about realizing that hanging out with myself is fun, amazing, and worthwhile because I am fun, amazing, and worthwhile. It is about hanging out with myself because I love myself, and not because I know being independent is a turn-on.

I think for me, as well as for anyone else who feels like they are losing their independence, it is important to actively choose you every now and then. To not extend the invite. To go it alone. To be a lone wolf. Independent actions can be a powerful method of self-care, and a recognition of your self-worth. Remember: you are not hanging out by yourself, but with yourself, and you are pretty awesome company.

katie

Self Love Files: Hot Yoga or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Sweat

hotyogaI am the sweatiest person in my hot yoga class. This is a statement I believe to be true, and it embarrasses me to no end. I have always been a heavy perspirer. On hot summer days I melt like a snowman. During job interviews I sweat through my camisole, button up, and blazer. I have organized my closet into shirts that hide sweat, and shirts that don’t. I wouldn’t say my personal condensation rises to the level of a medical condition, but it is a feature of myself with which I must contend.

My wonderful friend Lisa Walters and I committed to doing 30 days of (mostly) hot yoga at our local Moksha Yoga Studio in St. John’s (read about her experiences here). Classes so far have been amazing. Just being in a room for one hour while an instructor reminds you to be kind to your body, to love yourself, to be aware (but not judgmental) of your limitations, is a form of therapy. My only issue with hot yoga is not one I can blame on the studio. It is a problem I have with myself, or more accurately, with my sweat.

I know sweating is part of the goal of hot yoga. It’s done in a room heated to about 38 degress Celsius and it’s meant to make you sweat in order to detoxify the body and help ease you into challenging poses. Despite this fact, during class I can’t help looking around the room and feeling like I’m the only one completely swimming in a pool of my own perspiration.

How bad is it? During practice my hair becomes soaked, my clothes get drenched, and sweat creeps into my eyes, mouth, and ears. I feel like I have a responsibility to warn anyone near me that they have entered a “splash zone,” and will likely get sprayed. I fear the instructor will come over to adjust my pose only to run screaming out of the room when she touches my sweaty, clammy skin.

Why does my sweat bother me so much? At first I thought it was because it makes me look ugly. Then on second thought, I realized that I don’t really care that much about my sexual appeal during hot yoga class. Sure, I look kind of nasty, but no one there looks like they are about to go out for a night on the town. Hot yoga is not a beauty pageant.

I think the real reason my sweat bothers me is that I view it as a sign of weakness. My inordinate perspiration feels like my body mocking me, loudly announcing to the class, “Hey everyone, look at this Fatty Fatty Fat Pants who can’t even handle some stretches in a hot room!” Each bead is a capitulation, proof of my failure to be in perfect shape. Surely if I were more fit I wouldn’t be sweating so much. My sweat becomes this sticky reminder of my lack of will power, discipline, of my inability to walk away from that delicious Nanaimo bar last week.

Almost immediately after convincing myself that my sweat was proof of individual weakness, I started to wonder. How can I be weak when I hold downward dog with such strength and stability? How can I be weak when my tree pose is balanced, steady? How can I be weak when my breath flows freely during practice? How can I be weak when hot yoga makes me feel so powerful?

I have come to realize that sweat is not my body’s way of mocking me, but thanking me. She is saying, “Hey girl, I appreciate you doing this for me, now let me send you something to help cool you down.” Sweat is a thank you. It is a gift. It’s not chocolate or a vintage dress, but it does keep you from dying of heat, so it’s still pretty good.

Understood in these terms, I start to feel better about my excess perspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I still find sweat kind of gross, I mean, it does make you sticky and a bit smelly, but it is not a sign of defeat. It is evidence of the symbiotic relationship between me and my body, each one giving the other something it needs.

For me, embracing my sweat has been a radical act of self-love. I have come to love myself, love my sweat, and really love hot yoga.

katie

Self Love Files: Your Body Loves You

I, like many others out there, have spent years inspecting and criticizing every inch of my body. My forehead is too big. My skin is too bumpy. My calves are too chunky. I even criticize my body when it is in pain (talk about kicking her when she’s down). I’d have a headache or a cold or sore knees and all I could think about was how defective and weak my body is. How wimpy and pathetic a body I have! I will admit, I have been incredibly cruel to my body. I have been destructive and nasty. I have said things to her I would never say to anyone else in a million years. And throughout it all my body would only say in reply, “I still love you.” You see, you can hate your body all you want, but your body will always love you. No matter how mean you are to her she will still try to clot your cuts, nourish you, and even try to keep you cool on hot days. She will try to get rid of the toxic stuff you don’t need, and she will try her damndest to heal you. Your body wants you to survive. She’s an optimist. Even when you are calling her trash, or treating her terribly, she will try, try, try. My body is my biggest fan. If she was a soccer mom she’d be the one at the game with face painted and a huge poster saying, “You can do it!” If I fail a test or do something I’m not proud of, she’s still there plugging away for me. Our bodies may be the only true source of unconditional love out there. So, maybe, let’s show our bodies some love now and then. Treat her to a nice meal. Take your vitamins. Get a good night’s rest. Or at least stop berating her for a day. Remember: Your body loves you, even when you don’t love her.

katie

Self Love Files: On Being Bad at the Things You Love

This is my little temporary workspace. It’s in our cozy kitchen, close to the coffee pot and the snack cupboard. Mike and I moved our small kitchen table out, and he’s letting me use his drafting table. On it are my paints, pens, pencils, paper, drawing tablet, computer, and a DIY lightbox Mike made for me (isn’t he the best?). I’ve made a pretty nice space for myself, I’ve got all the supplies I need, and I even have a few clever ideas, but there’s one big problem – I’m terrible at art.

Let me rephrase, I feel like I’m terrible at art, or anything even remotely creative. I love making things, creating, but whenever I do I’m incredibly judgemental of what I’ve made. I look at so many amazing artists and think, “My stuff is total crap compared to that!” I haven’t been drawing/painting for long, but I already expect myself to be as good as my favourite artists.

It’s hard to be “bad” at something you love (“bad” being completely subjective). Sure, you know you’ll get the hang of it over time, but the practicing phase sucks. Sometimes I feel like practicing is just an exercise in failure. And after so many failures, I don’t even want to try anymore.

When art started to become a chore to me, something to avoid, I was pretty bummed out. What happened? What changed? I realized I had made the end results more important than the process. I cared more about what I produced rather than my experience producing it. You know that quote about the journey being more important than the destination? I think that applies here.

My new motto? It’s okay to be bad. Being bad is better than avoiding something you love for fear of failure. Eventually you’ll get there. Enjoy it for what it is. Be kind to yourself.

katie