Two Things I Recently Learned Which Made My Life A Little Less Crazy

strainer brush

1.  Use a brush to clean a colander / strainer / sieve, not a sponge. Because the bristles go in the little holes and poke out all the crud! When I think of the dozens of minutes of my life wasted for lack of this knowledge, my heart aches (just a little).

2.  Feeling stressed out doesn’t mean that my life is shit, or I’m a mess, or I’m specially doomed or something. It just means I have action chemicals building up in me and I need to work them out. So lately, instead of doing my normal stress things — eating, watching TV, drinking wine — I’ve been attempting to get up and break a sweat. I am kind of astounded at how well it works.

Could I / should I have learned these things before age forty? Possibly, but at least I know them now.

What about you — picked up any useful tidbits recently? Oh, how I love a good useful tidbit!

Riding the New Year’s Boost

Good morning and happy 2013 and God bless Hillary Clinton!

I came across this video about New Years Resolutions last week after watching its creator’s famous pro-exercise classic 23 ½ hours. It talks about a study that tracked people who made positive changes to their lives, and found that those who started around the New Year were on average ten times more successful than those who started whenever.

Which I found a little bit shocking! There’s no hoarier winter magazine trope than the Hapless New Years Resolver, but science tells that it simply isn’t accurate. Making positive changes is difficult for most people, but apparently, this time of year gives a little shove in the right direction. We only need to take advantage of it.

In the video, Doctor Evans says that it has to do with our culture, and the fact that the New Year is one of the few pockets we have for self-reflection. I think he’s right – I always spend a lot of time in the last week of December figuring out what I want to do and become in the next year. Humans love that feeling of a fresh start.

And after the decadence of the holidays, I get kind of into the idea of focus and living not quite so large for a while. I mean, I love cookies as much as the next person – possibly more, even – but I have reached the top of the Cookie Appreciation Curve and started to slide down the other side. Enough!

cookieappreciationcurve

Right now, I am feeling excited to put my head (and the cookies) down and knock out a season of hard work. To stick to basics and get shit done.

Are you feeling a motivational boost or a draw toward (relative) austerity? What are you working on?

Here’s hoping that you and yours all officially Kill It in 2013.

Be Less Crazy About Bugs On Your (My) Honeymoon

Well, hey! I got married to this lovely guy, and it was so beautiful.

And then we went to Costa Rica, where the jungle tumbles down into the most beautiful stretch of coastline I have ever seen, and where we had adventures everyday. We went on long bike rides, snorkeled for hours, strung our hammocks up on the beach, rode the bus to visit the sloths, practiced our Spanish, drank naturales and cervezas, and sweated our asses off under the hot Caribbean sun.

Even just hanging out at home felt like an adventure, because our house had almost no walls, and is in the middle of the jungle! Monkeys, toucans, and dozens of hummingbirds cruised through every day, and it was a blast to just have a cold drink and sit and watch them.

Manzanillo days — yes. Absolute perfection. But the nights … They were a little on the terrifying side, because there are bugs everywhere, and they are GIANT.

I know this kind of thing doesn’t bother a lot of people, and it’s not like I have a full-on phobia or something, but yeah. Not a big fan of the ginormous insectos, especially not when they are within what I would consider my personal space.

The first few evenings, in fact, were like a mini horror movie. Everywhere I looked, every cupboard I opened, every time I went into the bathroom, I’d see something shocking. Maybe an unearthly grasshopper in the rafters above, or a behemoth moth that was somehow invisible until I grabbed something it was sitting on, or a spider with a legspan as big as my hand dangling from the hook where I was reaching up to hang a saucepan. Eee eee eee!!!

I will admit, my friends — after one grueling morning where I was kept awake all night by mosquitos and ants, then woke up to a 5-inch cricket INSIDE the mosquito net, I took a Xanax. And I kind of wanted to come home.

Which is utterly ridiculous! I know! I’m the luckiest gal ever to have a whole month to be with my beloved in freaking paradise! No, no, insect-induced paranoia was not how I wanted to spend my honeymoon. How silly! Especially when I already know how to Be Less Crazy, right? So I started working on it, chipping away at that buganoia bit by bit. And it helped!

First: deep breaths and reality checks. Yes, there is a croissant-sized grasshopper on the doorjam I want to go through. No, it’s not going to hurt me.

Then: reason. What am I actually afraid of? Am I upset that this grasshopper exists? No. I just don’t want to touch it. Which, OK, I can work with that — either I can flick him away with the fly swatter, or I can go slowly past him.

Finally: distraction. This was especially important at bedtime, because at first I was imagining all the millions upon billions of crazy huge bugs right outside or possibly inside the mosquito net. Which made it a little hard to sleep! So instead, I turned my attention to something equally as compelling but far more positive — snorkeling! As I drifted off, I felt the gently rocking waves and recalled some of the cute fishes I got to see, so neon bright that they must have had lights inside them …

I’m happy to report that by the time our honeymoon was over I was able to blithely walk past giant bugs without even going “Eep!” I still don’t want them to touch me, but it became much much less of a big deal than it was when we first got there.

And I noticed the sanity leaking into other activities, too. Like when we went snorkeling one morning I saw a blue fish almost as big as me, and a huge sting ray, and all kinds of other stuff I could have potentially had mini-wig-outs about. But I kept breathing and the potential wig-out feelings passed and I got to have hours of the most amazing fun watching the sunlight and the fishes and the sea grass all playing in the waves.

It’s always that way when you face down your fears, right? You get to the edge of what’s comfortable and then you keep going and at first you’re like “Whooooaaaaa!” but then, soon enough, the new place is just fine, too.

And then you get to see things you never saw before …

Planning A Wedding, Sanely

Oh no, there goes Tokyo

As some of you might know, I am getting married in two months! And while I have zero ambivalence toward my beloved, I have to admit that I have been very ambivalent about “planning a wedding.”

Because although a wedding can be a lovely outpouring of affection and support for the newlyweds, it can also be a uniquely fraught situation where lots of tricky and deeply-felt things come together — family relationships, gender roles, religion or lack thereof, budgetary concerns, even food allergies. It is a lot to hold in your head, and a lot of different people have strong expectations which they can’t help but project on you.

And there is a fuckload of minutae to deal with. Where will it be? Who will be invited? What kind of food? What kind of flowers? Assigned seats or no? What’s the ceremony going to look like? What kind of music? What kind of favors? Should we have a gift registry and if so what do we register for? What are we going to wear? How can we do this within our budget?

It goes on and on and on, like a fractal, and you can zoom in on infinitely tiny levels of detail if you want to.

And you are supposed to want to! There is this weird pressure — magnified in the internet age — to make your wedding day perfect, to personalize every little detail, to make it special and unique to your particular brand of love.

Which is sort of sweet, I guess, but can also lead to getting obsessed with tiny tiny things in a way that excludes the BIG thing. Which is, at the end of the day, you’re going to be married to this awesome person you love.

All this intimidated me. I feared that, as soon as I started planning our wedding, I would grow both scales and a veil and take down all of the Eastern seaboard in my search for the perfect tablescape. So for more than a year, I put it off.

Luckily, I am hooked up with a guy who is good at taking big problems and breaking them down into smaller ones. “Let’s just think about a place,” he said. Then, once we had a place, we could choose a date, and were able to make other decisions more easily, too.

So, thus far in the planning process, with my beloved’s help, I have successfully avoided most wedding-related crazypantsness (touch wood). Here are a few things that have helped:

* Big stuff, then small stuff.

Don’t start by thinking about napkins or rings or how your invites will be worded because starting with the minute level will definitely make you want to jump off the tallest building in your town.

Instead, start by deciding how you want your wedding to feel in broad strokes. Do you want a big raucous party? Something quieter and more contemplative? We knew we wanted a small wedding where we could get married outside in a beautiful setting, then walk inside and eat. This feeling led us to a venue and date, which then helped guide our further decisions.

* Think about what’s important to you, and focus on that. Let everything else go.

For us, good food is important, as is having a casual-yet-elegant-feeling party where we can all just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. We don’t care at all about fancy place settings or gobs of decorations so we’re sticking to simple options for those.

* Keep it small, or keep it simple. Or both.

Take the number of people invited to your wedding, and multiply it by how fancy it’s going to be on a scale of 1 to 10. This figure is your projected craziness level. If you want to reduce your craziness, you’ll need to either invite fewer people, or make the day simpler. We invited only fifty people, the wedding and the reception are in the same place, and we’re not having showers, favors, assigned seating, or “Here Comes The Bride.” Small + simple = sane.

* When you start to feel overwhelmed, just stop.

There have been a few times when I’ve started to get manic about the wedding — when I’ve got fifteen browser tabs open and find myself thinking about rings and vows and cake and fascinators and photography all in the same breath. When I notice this happening, I stop. I let the wedding go for now and get stuck into another project. This way I can avoid setting sail on the SS Obsessive Bridezilla.

* DIY if you want, but don’t bite off too much.

I really enjoy being crafty, so I’m doing a few projects for our wedding — paper flowers, hand-printed invitations, custom bridesmaids dresses. But I’m not trying to do much more than that. And the things I’m doing can all be done long before the day itself, so that on the morning of the wedding I can focus on more important things, like my hair.

* Work hard at being less crazy about your body in the lead up.

How much weight can I lose before the wedding? Ugh, why am I thinking so much about that question? Deep breath. Step back. Be less crazy. (This may warrant another post at some point!)

Have you ever been impacted by wedding-related craziness? How did you keep your head together? Enquiring minds (mine!) want to know!

Thanks for this awesome photo, SebastianDooris!

Bossing Up vs. Being A Bitch, or I Guess I Am A Nicki Minaj Fan Now

Have you see this video of Nicki Minaj talking about what it’s like to be a bossed-up female in the record industry and also in the world?

I love it because not only is she hilarious and wearing a rather amazing Who-from-Whoville pink wig — she is also totally right. About all of it. About how take-charge ladies are seen as bitches rather than bosses, about how women not only have to be dope at what they do but also sweet and sexy and compliant, about how whatever a person settles for is what that person will continue to get.

And she’s not only right about “society,” she’s right about me. I can’t help but look at myself and I see how often I fall for and even participate in all of this.

Do you do it too? Do you gloss things over when what’s called for is a come-to-Jesus talk? Do you wuss out when you should be bossing up?

I know why we do it, and it’s not unreasonable. Nicki just explained — the world does not respond at all well to ladies who speak their minds and command respect in a forceful way. Lots of times, it makes more sense to let a sleeping sexist dog lie because we are focused on a bigger goal. Other times, we have a lot to do and we don’t want to rock the boat and it’s easier to just let it go.

But it does make me sad. Because, let’s face it, we settle for pickle juice way too often. And as Nicki says, if you drink it once, you have set it up as an acceptable option for others to present you. Which means you’ll be drinking it forever.

Multiply this by millions of us letting stuff slide, and you can see how sexist BS just keeps on keeping on, down through the generations. How we can even become unwitting participants in handing it down.

Now, I’m not saying we need to put our foot down about every injustice we face during the day. We would have time for nothing else if we did. But maybe we can be a little more witting and a little less willing to play along with the worst of what we encounter. And maybe, the less of this we play along with, the less of it there will be.

Think about it. Where are you settling for pickle juice? Where do you need to boss up? At work? With your family? In the way you find yourself relating to your own body?

What do you want your new standard be? I’m aiming for chocolate milk at least.

Nora Ephron Is Gone But Her Sanity Lives On

Like everyone else, today I’m thinking about the wonderful writer Nora Ephron, who passed away last night. She did many great things, but I think her greatest might be Julie and Julia, which I’m going to go ahead and call one of the best, most feminist mainstream films ever.

I’m watching it right now and, maybe it’s the PMS talking, but I swear every other scene is making me cry:

  • Like when Julie describes the time her mom made Julia’s boeuf bourginon and it felt like everything was going to be okay because Julia was there, like a big good fairy watching over everything.
  • Or when, just after meeting Simka in the ladies’ sitting room, Julia stands up to her full height and declares in her brash-yet-twinkly voice, “I am VERY conventional.”
  • Or when Julia and her sister are looking in the mirror after getting dolled up for a party, and Julia goes, “Pretty good ….. But not great.”
  • Or, you know, basically any scene with Stanley Tucci. Agh so good!!

The acting is perfect, the characters are super-compelling, and the writing is funny and sweet and honest. But the most amazing thing about this movie is that, unlike basically all other lady-comedies, it’s about women who have already found love and still long for more in their lives.

Crazy, right? Cause what woman in her right mind could ever want anything more than A HUSBAND?!

I love Julie and Julia (especially the Julia part) because shows us what it looks like when a woman has a great relationship AND ALSO a bigger ambition, a goal that she is willing to toil and suffer for, something new that she desperately wants to bring into reality. Julia’s marriage is wonderful, but it’s not enough to fulfill her. She wants to make her dent in the universe, and she perseveres FOR DECADES to make it happen. Which is so inspiring it actually makes my own ambitious feminist heart OVERFLOW.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that love is frivolous or unimportant or that it’s something we shouldn’t desire. I myself am in a beautiful relationship with a wonderful man that I will be marrying very soon, and I count myself among the luckiest bitches ever in that department.

But you know what I am talking about. The cultural imprint put on us from a very young age is A Romantic Relationship Is By Far The Most Important Thing For Girls. BY FAR. And when we let that imprint direct the course of our lives, it can make us crazy.

Like … maybe we spend lots of time feeling sad that we are single, or we put up with extreme amounts of BS from our men because we don’t want to be alone, or we habitually forget about our friends when we hook up with someone new, or or or … it’s all a variation on a theme that woman is made for man. That loving a man should be our ultimate goal, and after we’re coupled, our movies may as well end.

Obviously, that is bullshit. And I love Julie and Julia for showing that. This film, like all Nora Ephron films really, shows a great respect for love, and it also sanely places it in the context of the rest of an intelligent and ambitious woman’s life.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” That’s what Ephron said in her 1996 commencement address to Wellesley, and her films show what happens when we follow her advice. Thank you for that, Nora.

Be Less Crazy About Other People’s Bodies Or I Will Cut You

dont be a dick

I’m writing this because of a comment I received on the Shopping post from a fellow named Perturbed. (I assume it’s a fellow based on diction and an email address you can’t see.)

I’m concerned by your post and the comments – just because it has become common to be fat in this country does not make it “normal.” If you compare our population with that of the rest of the world, where most people still eat healthfully, you would find that our sizes are aberrant. No, not more than a handful of people are capable of looking like models or actresses. But yes, if your waist is not fitting into any standard sizes, it is pretty safe to say that it “should be” smaller; designers that pander to obesity do not do anyone any favors.

In the comment thread, I went just a tiny bit off, and I felt kind of bad — Perturbed seems more clueless than malicious, and I didn’t explain myself all that well. I think maybe it’s because when someone starts in on whether people should be fat or not, I automatically commence the world’s most elaborate eye roll sequence. It is the boringest thing in the world.

Why is it boring? Because so many boring people talk about it so much! And I don’t want to have to repeat myself in comments for the rest of the life of this blog. So I’m afraid, Perturbed, that I’m going to have to fully and completely answer your comment now, so I can refer future queries to the link and stay focused on more interesting matters. (Folks who don’t want to get wet, move back a couple rows.)

Dude. (May I call you Dude?) You almost sound like I’m saying obesity is awesome and everyone should aspire to it. But that is not what any of this is about. What I am trying to do is help people be as objective and non-neurotic about their bodies as they can, to appreciate them for what they can do, and to stop throwing their energy down the body image black hole. No matter what size or shape they are — this kind of craziness is not confined to fat chicks!

I’m not going to go through all the ways in which your comment read so dickishly.

(Even though you kind of told me I shouldn’t wear clothes until I lose weight? Or something? I’m confused!)

However, because I think it might be fun for everyone, I will take this opportunity to educate you on the word “should.”

“Should” may very well be the most impotent word in the English language, because, although people use the word for all kinds of situations, the only “should” you can enact is one that is directly in your control. Like, inside the confines of your brain or in your house or on your website or something.

For instance, feel free to announce, “My kitchen should be green!” or “I should post on my blog!” and then make your shoulds into reality. Go for it, Dude, and mazel tov!

But if you say that teenagers shouldn’t have sex, or the US shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, or people shouldn’t be fat, you may as well go stick your head in the oven right now, because — guess what! It’s too late! All those things are already happening! AAAH! Why don’t you sit there going “This shouldn’t be happening!” because I bet that would be really helpful!!!

Ironically, this is the same message that I am trying to get across in my book, in an attempt to help people be less crazy: Reality is what it is, and having a cow about it doesn’t change a damn thing. Your body is what it is right now, and so is mine, and so is everyone else’s! And goddammit, we all need clothes!

Why is it just regular old makin’ clothes when the wearer is skinny, but “pandering to the obese” if the wearer is me? I don’t need any designers to do me any favors, I am just looking for businesses to make things I want and take my money (aka capitalism). This is the part of your comment that makes you sound like the biggest jagoff, so I will not linger lest I am tempted to unleash the fury of a thousand hungry hippos in response.

Let me just say this: dwelling on your strong opinions about the way other people live their lives will make you FUCKING CRAZY. I am not even kidding, Perturbed. You should listen to me on this. There is nothing good for you there. Only monsters. Just let it go and focus on yourself.

This is exactly why I decided to write about what’s happening inside each one of our individual heads. Because societal problems aren’t fixed by someone saying “should” and pointing a finger. They’re fixed when people learn new information, change their minds, and come together to think and relate in new ways. And then the old problems are resolved, and new ones arise in their place. That is how change happens. And it is a beautiful thing.

So. I think that if we as individuals can calm down a little bit about the whole thing … if we can turn the volume down on our jerkbrains and gain a little peace and a little capacity for objectivity … if we can learn to be kind and encouraging and persistent instead of harsh and judgey and whiny … then we at least have a chance at figuring out how to be healthy and strong and sane, as people and as a society.

Learning, paying attention, getting saner and saner by the day: THESE are reasonable things to say “should” about — things that take place inside your own heart and mind and body. Things that you’re in charge of. Not my waist, nor anyone’s anything else. Because not only is that disrespectful as hell … it is also totally batshit.

Let it go, P. Let the fat people go out of your brain. Be less crazy.

Be Less Crazy While Shopping

Ah shopping. For those who fall into the narrow band of body proportions that the fashion industry designs for, it’s like the montage in Pretty Woman. You try everything on, and buy a bunch of it, then berate the snooty shopgirls who wouldn’t help you!

For those of us whose proportions fall solidly outside that range, though, the experience is very different. I have found that nothing can trigger an attack of I-am-revoltingness like trying on 20 garments and having none of them fit.

DSCN3880

Like all Target dresses, this one is designed to make me look pregnant

I myself am a pretty serious body proportion outlier — my waist is wider than it “should be” based on the measurements used by mass market retailers. This means that, seriously, 95% of what I try on simply doesn’t work. More than once, an afternoon spent shopping has ended with me bitterly wiping away tears, wondering what I hate more — a fashion industry that doesn’t seem to want to dress me except in stretch pants, or myself.

And I have to say it honestly chaps my ass that, for so many of us, the search for clothes flips into a search for validation as we hunt for garments that tell us our bodies aren’t weird, that we are worth making clothes for, that we are OK. If nothing fits, what does that mean about me and my body? How big of an aberration AM I?

Someday, we will conquer the wasteful, sizist fashion industry and put in its place a flexible and streamlined system of constructing custom clothes for everyone. But in the meantime, you have to wear something, which means that you have to shop. The good news is that shopping-related craziness is brought on by a specific set of circumstances which can be tweaked and hacked and worked around. So here’s how to go shopping and not wish you were dead.

1.  Remember that the clothes are auditioning for you, not the other way around.
Also, clothes are inanimate objects with zero feelings. So don’t be shy about being picky. Heck, be a total dick like Simon Cowell. “This dress is pitchy and has no personality. It’s a NO from me.” These clothes have to earn their way into your life; make them work for it.

2.  If something doesn’t fit, it does not mean anything about you.
The entire fashion industry is built around an incredibly narrow range of body proportions. When things don’t fit, that’s why. It’s not because you’re a weirdly shaped freak. And it doesn’t mean that there are certain people who are destined to be pretty and you are not one of them. It doesn’t mean anything, in fact, except this particular garment is not getting cast in your life. Let it go and move on.

3.  Ask the right questions.
Don’t ask, “Do I look cute in this?” That puts the deciding power in someone else’s hands — either an actual person you are asking, or some made-up “cuteness police” in your head. Fuck the (cuteness) police. Instead, ask yourself, “Do I like how I look and feel in this?” That puts the deciding power in your hands, which is right where it should be.

4.  Go with a friend who thinks you are the bee’s knees.
This works a lot like having a friend who loves you take your picture — seeing yourself through someone else’s friendly perspective helps to smooth over all the jaggy stuff you might potentially freak out about.

5.  Don’t go shopping when you’re feeling vulnerable.
Are you hungover? Sad or stressed about something? Have you just been dumped? If you’re feeling iffy anyway, don’t make it worse by actually willingly going into the lion’s den. Save your shopping for a day when you feel steadier on your feet.

6.  When freakouts begin, nip them in the bud.
I talk about this in depth in the book, but here’s the basic process for shutting down a freakout:
– notice you are starting to freak out
– notice what’s happening in your body
– relax and take a breath
– ask yourself objective questions
– be nice to yourself
– distract yourself as needed. (This is why God made cat weightlifting game shows.)

7.  Plan ahead so you don’t have shopping emergencies.
Of course there may be times when you need to settle for the 60% okay garment — like if you need black pants TODAY. But in general, the less of a hurry you can be in, the less pressure you’ll feel, the more fun you’ll have, and the better stuff you’ll find.

8.  Avoid the dressing room entirely by going custom.
Buy custom, or get your purchases altered. This way, you KNOW what you’re getting will fit. I, of course, used to make custom dresses and skirts, and there are lots of other great custom shops out there, too — from Etsy sellers to big companies. In my experience, dresses and skirts are the easiest to fit from a distance; if you want trousers or fitted blouses or alterations, it’s probably best to work with a local tailor.

Do you have shopping-related freakouts when things don’t fit you? How do you deal? Are Auntie Anne’s pretzels involved in your coping mechanism?

Be Less Crazy With Facebook!? Yes, really

This is a guest post from my bestie Jolene, who takes the best pictures!

With its endless potential for ex-boyfrend-stalking, unfriending and just plain time-wasting, it’s hard to believe that anything about Facebook could make a girl LESS crazy. But I’m telling you, I’ve harnessed a way!

In “Be Less Crazy About Your Body,” Megan suggests, among other things, “Body Image Cringe Therapy.” When she subjected herself to Cringe Therapy, she watched video footage of herself again and again until, over time, little truths revealed themselves. She finally started to notice qualities about her body –and more importantly, her personality— that she genuinely liked.

My version was to take my lifelong shutterbug habit to Facebook. See, I love taking photos of my friends and our adventures. I also get tremendous joy from cropping my photos, editing them, printing them, framing them, displaying them, making ecards out of them and clicking lovingly through them when I’m having a bad day. I like reviewing them on their anniversaries. And I like posting Facebook albums, complete with captions, for my lovely friends to enjoy with me.

For me, it’s all about relishing the maximum amount of enjoyment in every moment: anticipating it, living it, and remembering it. My pictures are little celebrations of moments.

And the best side effect was that over time, I quit seeing photos of myself as things to be self-conscious about. I no longer saw my Dad’s bulbous nose square in the middle of my face. I quit seeing my crooked teeth. Instead, I saw a happy smile passing between myself and a pal as we went somewhere completely exciting. I saw the sweet, familiar way my friend touched her head to mine as we mugged for the camera right before we took off on a roller coaster. I saw how pretty all of our faces looked when we gazed in wonder at flowers at the conservatory.

How lucky are we that we get to enjoy such fun times?!

I quickly learned that some of my friends do NOT like when I post their photos on Facebook. This took me by complete surprise, as I never posted anything inappropriate or even unflattering. It broke my heart when I discovered that some of my friends saw my paparazzi habit as an act of malice, when I genuinely thought my friends looked happy and ADORABLE.

With all the love in my heart, I’m here to say that some of my (truly!!) beautiful friends need some Body Image Cringe Therapy and/or a Facebook Attitude Adjustment. And maybe you do too.

You will need:

1. A willingness to do fun things. 

If you try to tell me that you never do anything fun, well dangit, you have to start! What’s stopping you? You really can make an adventure out of a normal day. Here are some ideas:

Gather a group of friends and go read books and magazines at a book store or library.

Host spa/game/movie/cooking/baking/or drinking nights at your house.

Seek amusement parks, mini golf courses, museums and/or hiking trails and actually visit them.

Take a vacation. Even if it’s just to the closest lake.

Go to shopping, at home or in public, and photograph a fashion shoot with clothes or shoes that you can’t actually afford to buy. (Also, don’t buy them.)

Visit an animal shelter.

Go see a band. Or form a band!

The point is, I haven’t discovered some impossible secret when I tell you that you get to do cool stuff. You can and probably already do totally do cool stuff, duh! D0 more!

2. A friend or relative who thinks you are cute. 

If you don’t have one of these, start looking for better friends. This is important. Volunteer somewhere, take a class, join an online discussion group about your favorite band/animal/author/whatever. Everyone deserves to have supportive, encouraging friends.

3. A camera.

Get your friend you thinks you are cute and ask them to take your picture. It’s amazing how forgiving the camera is when the photographer appreciates you and already sees your inner cuteness.

Some of the pictures will stink, of course, so have them take lots. Move around. Don’t pose awkwardly. Be yourself. Laugh out loud. Capture moments.

I want to note that I’m not talking about those self-conscious, effects-laden webcam portraits that made MySpace so hard to look at. Although, sometimes playing with your webcam can help you learn how to relax in front a camera, which automatically makes you more photogenic.

But when you quit worrying about your face and start capturing moments of your amazing life, you can start to focus less on what you look like and more on what you do!

So go forth. Be great! Then look at yourself being great. Seeing is believing!

On the word “crazy”

I understand that some people may find this word alienating, so I want to take a minute to explain why I chose to use it.

Crazy, and its more clinical-sounding cousin insane, are multi-purpose words in our language. Depending on the context they’re used in, they can mean wildly different things, from mentally unstable (that person is acting crazy) to amazing (the iPod is insanely great) to politically abhorrent (Newt Gingrich / Barack Obama / whoever you disagree with is crazy).

This is a really eloquent description of the destructive power of “crazy” from the Feminists With Disabilities website:

Crazy is a destructive word, used to hurt people with mental disabilities. It’s used to discredit, to marginalize, to make sure that we feel shame for our disability and discourage self-care, to make sure that those of us brave enough to publicly identify as having mental disabilities are continually discredited.

I can see where the different usages that the author describes can be alienating. My intent with the word crazy is not to point to a person with a mental disability or to even to something strange or alien but to processes in our minds that do not serve us. Everyone’s minds. Because simply by virtue of being raised in this culture at this time in human history, we all have thought patterns that are destructive, unnecessary, and, yes, crazy.

When I say “Be Less Crazy About Your Body,” I mean “Learn to analyze and work with your brain so that you can stop thinking the same old destructive thoughts over and over again.” Not such a catchy title … and honestly, I’m not sure that “destructive thought patterns” has the same meaning anyway.

Because when I say crazy, I am talking about a person’s subjective experience of feeling out of control, being swept away in a torrent of negative emotions, and continuing to act in ways that the more rational part of them knows damn well are no good.

Don’t we all have days when we feel happy and calm, and other days when our mind is raging with stuff we don’t want or need to think about? Days when we feel sane vs. days when we don’t?

We can really screw ourselves by acting out our own versions of insanity, whatever they look like. What I want to do is help folks learn to feel more stable on most days AND get through unstable ones without collateral damage.

I’m not describing people as crazy; I’m calling hurtful cognitive and emotional habits crazy. My goal is not to discredit or marginalize folks who struggle with mental illness, nor to refer to actual diagnoses of mental illness in any way; it is to offer helpful tools to anyone who wants to train their brain to be more relaxed and rational. More stable. Less crazy.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear them!