Monday, June 23, 2014

What Should Really Be on Your Grocery List.... (No coupons necessary)

When I set out to write this blog my intent was to bring to light issues and situations that I am going through that perhaps other people are experiencing at the same time. Or they are situations that people may encounter one day and they will have my words of sarcastic and hopefully insightful wisdom to guide them through it. I also made a promise that I would be 100% honest because frankly how can someone attempt to inspire others or assist others if they themselves haven't experienced it. So I can assure you with all my heart that I have witnessed, experienced, drudged through, lived through, laughed through and subjected my self to all of the events, thoughts, and situations that I've shared with you. Some have been pretty. Some have been ugly (I'm still trying to understand what was wrong with "No Toppings Guy" and look for him on "Most Wanted" posters). Perhaps I have inspired a few of you to make changes or helped you through a difficult situation with with a laugh. Perhaps I've opened your eyes to something you didn't understand before or even changed your perspective. Or at the end of the day perhaps I've just become that crazy lady with cats and a sarcastic attitude who talks too much. Either way, whatever keeps you coming back to read these posts are why I write them.

To be honest with others you must be honest with yourself. This sounds easy because there are things that are easy to share about me that are completely true: yes, I'm horrified of being made into a skin suit and leave letters/DNA samples/photos before all first/second/sixth dates. Yes, I give 1950's female names to my tumors. Yes, I think frosting solves most problems. And yes, I do believe that a treadmill is an instrument of torture and my personal demise. 

And yes... I'm not perfect. Not because I have the skin of a teenager (God bless you Proactive) or the grace of a drunken sailor. But because I suffer from anxiety. And the reason that I bring this up is perhaps someone reading this does too. Perhaps the experience I'm about to tell will change your point of view and give you support or perhaps it will make you delete the bookmark you have for the page. But I will be honest despite the ramifications that come with it. 

You'd never guess someone as outgoing and vocal as me suffers from anxiety but I do. I have for many years now. And it's not just "will the Yankees win" or "skin suit" anxiety... it's a fear that's inside of me. It's a fear that has forced me to change some of my behaviors and routines. One of these anxieties? Grocery shopping. It's not because I hate to spend money (which I despise doing!!) but because I have this fear that people will look in my cart, see what I am purchasing and think: "She's fat." It's a fear I've battled for a long time... and here's the bombshell: It's a fear that stems from an eating disorder I started experiencing my senior year of high school. Yes kids, I was the plus-sized girl in an eating disorder support group. I would stand up and say, "Hi my name is Kristen. I have a fear of eating food. I'm the biggest girl in this group but I still need help." My behavior is controlled until I'm put into a situation where I'm not in control. Break-ups are one of the most prominent triggers. Those who know me best and know about this "secret" (which is no more) understand that the first thing they need to do, after threatening to kill the guy who broke my heart... is to make sure I eat. 

So you can imagine the heartbreak I had today as I walked the aisles of the grocery store and heard a mother say to her daughter: "We are not buying those. If you eat those you will be fat. And I swear to you I will not have a fat daughter." My eyes filled up with tears because the girl could not have been more than 10 years old. And she was beautiful. Skinned up knees, braces and glasses. She went from having a smile on her face just a couple of aisles over when I first saw her to a look of complete defeat as she held her head down. "A fat daughter"... Who says that? My heart ached for this girl knowing that with the "support" of that kind of mom she was destined to perhaps travel down the same path I traveled. Now please, do not for ONE second, think my Mom had anything to do with the path I went down. My mom is hands down wonderful and has done everything she can to support me even if it meant making sure I had someone watching me eat at the college dining hall that I knew nothing about. (That woman from the Bronx can be so sneaky). I wanted to take that girl's hand and just hug her, tell her she was beautiful, and slap her mom... but I know that would end in my arrest (and I am not made for jail... at all). 

Through years of talking with my "inner-Kristen" who is more stubborn than the Kristen you guys know and love (perhaps?) I have found solace in many realities. I will never be a size zero. I will always have children ask why my legs are so jiggly and my belly so smooshy when they poke it. I will always be told I "have a pretty face" because it's better than saying "I hope you don't lift your arms up in a strong breeze because with those bat wings you're going to take flight." I've learned that I need to go to the grocery store at times when few people will be shopping. I don't own a scale. And it wasn't until I recently that I purchased a full length mirror.

Your anxiety and inner struggles don't go away as you get older. They are always there and you are constantly having to overcome them. But I know that I have a weakness for frosting and baked goods and nothing can stop me from having them because loving myself must be stronger than the fear I have of others judging me and viewing me as "fat."

I don't know that little girl's name. I don't know what the future holds for her. I don't know if she will ever have to sit in one of those support groups or fear grocery shopping. But I pray that she learns to love herself. And I pray that one day, like me, she buys a two-piece bathing suit and says to herself in that full length mirror: "Your legs may be jiggly. Your tummy may be smooshy. But you're fabulous." Loving yourself and having confidence in who you are and what you look like results in a smile. And that's the most beautiful thing you can wear because frankly, it goes with everything... Didn't some kids at an orphanage sing that? 

"You're never fully dressed without a smile"... No matter what size you are. A smile is a sign of beauty. It's a symbol of strength. Don't hide behind it. Wear one because when you do you tell those looking at you with eyes that may be ready to judge: "Don't even think about it... I'm fabulous." 

I hope that little girl in the cookie aisle never chooses the path I took. But perhaps the path I took was part of a greater plan to help others who need to be reminded that their beauty isn't measured by a number on a scale. It's measured by how you love... how you treat others... how you treat yourself... how you smile. 

Go look in the mirror and say "I'm Fabulous." Because you are.

(And I'm the middle child so I'm always right.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From Bubble Gum to, well, Bubble Wrap...

It's a tale as old as time. A song as old as rhyme. While it's the greatest Disney movie ever made, I am not referring to Beauty and the Beast. It's the other timeless tale of a girl who fell in love and chased a crazy dream she had. It's the story of a little girl named Kristen, rockin' the 80s get-up at the tender age of just 4 years. She was riding in the car with her Dad when he put in a cassette tape (we're going real old school here guys) and she heard "Amarillo By Morning" for the very first time. In a New York accent she asked "Who is this guy?" In an even thicker New York accent her Dad told her, "George Strait." She innocently asked where this strapping man lived and her Dad replied "Probably Nashville." To which, this adorable and intelligent little brown eyed precious girl said, "That's where I will live one day then."

I hope I didn't throw you off too much with the use of the third person. Because I just want to be clear that those characters I just referenced were indeed my own Dad and the adorable "Little Kristen." It was 14 years later that "Little Kristen" was "Voting Aged Kristen" and took off to Nashville with a box of county music CD's, American Eagle clothes and pictures of her high school friends. The world was huge. The "Welcome to Nashville" sign swept her heart away... she had made it.

Now let's flash forward 11 years, 10 months and 3 days. (That's today). There are no more American Eagle clothes in my closet because if I could fit into them it would be a miracle. The pictures of her high school friends are no longer group shots at prom but at their weddings. And while there are still several CD's in her car the Discman has been replaced (sadly). "Grown-Up Kristen" has a Nashville address, a Nashville license and a Nashville plate on her car.... She made it?

This city is my home. It's where I learned how to be a grown up to the best that I can be (I still see animal shapes in the clouds, eat cereal with my fingers and chase fireflies). I've seen the sun shining bright on her (and burning me) and I've seen her submerged under water. I've seen the sun come up over the Batman Building and I've watched the sun go down over the Cumberland River. I've fallen in love... I've fallen out of love... I've been dumped... Then been dumped twice for good measure... And I'm still waiting on that guy who said "See you on Tuesday" to show up 7 years later. I've made friends that are now family. I learned how to balance a checkbook. How to recite "I'm here for JUST an oil change" over and over when getting my car worked on (I'm so gullible for blinker fluid). I became the person I am today because of everything I have been through while making Nashville my home.

Because of Nashville, I know what giving back and not wanting anything in return means. Because of  Nashville I know that Sonic does exist and they have really fabulous large drinks you can get during Happy Hour. Because of Nashville I know what it's like to shop in Kroger next to a country music singer. Because of Nashville I know what it means to really, really love someone. Because of Nashville I know what it means to really, really miss someone. Because of Nashville I know what it means to want to kill the person who you really, really loved and now really, really miss. Because of Nashville I learned how to be obnoxiously independent and stubborn. Because of Nashville... I know who I am. And more importantly, because of Nashville, I know who I want to be.

That's why I never dreamed that the girl who was voted "Most Likely to Leave" in the senior yearbook because of her obsession with the Volunteer State would ever get the feeling that something was missing. I never knew that the thought would cross my mind one day that perhaps there is something more out there. Perhaps, like I've heard so many times come out of the voice of a guy: "We need to take a break."

No one told me that dreams change. No one told me that we have to be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. There comes a time in every girl's life when she has to take inventory of all that's around her, removing from the equation the friends and familiarity, and decide where she stands.

Well, right now I'm standing. I'm standing tall but winded. A bit exhausted from the journey that got me here to the day that I am writing this. I was so carefree and reckless when I got on that plane at 18. Now as I stare 30 in the eye, I'm more cautious and protected. I don't know at what age life stops being a game like Candy Land and more like Chutes and Ladders. But it does. I didn't get the memo and I didn't circle it in my planner. The fact is that I have a planner that I write diligently in... yet life had other plans. My health had other plans. My heart had other plans. And I never wrote any of them down or circled them in red.

So I write this in my living room tonight as I stare at just a few of the boxes I've brought home to start packing things up. Because I will be saying "goodbye" to Nashville. Goodbye to the life that I know and I've grown accustomed to. Goodbye to that crazed 18 year old girl running to her college campus that August of 2002. And hello to a new life in August of 2014. My life here has been an endless maze of turns and twists and I've decided to take one of the twists and just see what happens. The path will be paved with plenty of frosting, a lot of tissues, definitely several u-turns on wrong-way roads, and faith. But mostly sugar.

When a doctor looks you in the eye and says that you have a 75% chance of getting sick again... you hold tightly onto that 25% and make the most of it. So with that 25% I'm loading up my car and a trailer and I'm going to try something new. And finally, catch my breath. With my inhaler in my hand and my family on either side of me supporting and guiding me. And in regards to my family, my Dad was wrong.

George Strait doesn't live in Nashville. He lives in Texas. So in true Kristen fashion, it's time to get into the car and turn that steering wheel... west.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Taillights and Twizzlers (Don't ask)

I've been asked a few times why I write this blog. What purpose does it serve to just piece together a string of thoughts filled with sarcasm and wit from a twenty something year old? And I simply answer that I write about my life from my own perspective. Some times people will agree with what I have to say and other times people will shake their head and declare that I probably need therapy. But at the end of the day, when I hit the "publish" button, my simple hope is to touch just one person who may be going through the same thing that I am. Who may be at the same point in their life and they can find some kind of solace in knowing that there is a crazy sugar addict out there who is rowing the same boat and is more than happy to pick up some extra passengers (life vest required... it's all fun and games until someone falls out of the boat obviously). So when my head is filled with thoughts and confusion or happiness and positivity, I sit down at this keyboard and type.

Today just happens to be one of those days (which means it's your lucky day because you get to read all about the my current life status). In exactly one month and three days (who's counting?) I turn 30. I'm one of the last to do so in my close group of friends so I have some older and wiser folks who have already hit the big 3-0 this year to guide me into this new phase of my life. Please do not think for one second that this is going to be an "I'm sooo old" post because as a historian I know what old is. And until I am sitting in a nursing home playing Parcheesi with my roommate who doesn't know my name, I'm not old. The prospect of turning 30 doesn't scare me. What scares me are the changes that come with it and the questions I'm faced to answer as I enter a new decade of my life. 

My twenties were filled with absolutely everything imaginable. You name it, I experienced it. Accidentally moving into the projects and not knowing if the bang I just heard was a muffler or a gun so I hit the ground anyway? Been there and have my Girl Scout badge to prove it. Tornadoes, a thousand year flood, locusts and Nashville's really weak trees falling? Yup. Break-ins and a stalker? Metro police and I are on a first name basis. And we won't even talk about how many trips to the ER I have taken. The hospitals in this area just smile and wheel me back asking about my folks, cats and thesis. 

The advent of my thirties brings about a clean slate perhaps. A tabula rasa if you will (putting 7 years of Latin to good use finally). And as I look to the changes that are coming just days after the clock strikes midnight, I already know my life is entering a new chapter filled with huge changes and unprecedented decisions I will be forced to make. I'm at a crossroads where one road leads to comfort and familiarity and the other leads to the unknown and unnerving change. 

My best friend is moving. And I mean really moving. We will be 1221 miles apart. We will go from being neighbors to being in different time zones and places in our lives. She will be living with her husband and my nephew, a dog named Merle, and finally living her dream as a nurse practitioner. I will no longer be the Joey that walks over for food and company from my Monica and Chandler. Who will feed me? Who will zip up my dress when I'm stuck on the bed unable to move? Who will threaten to kill boys that break-up with me? Who will tell me that the lump on my side is "not an extra rib you grew you moron" and get me to go to a doctor where I find out I have a tumor? Who will be my rock in this crazy town always there to stop me as I lace up my sneakers to run away from a boy? How do I face this new chapter in my life without her? 

I haven't found an answer to that yet. I probably won't find an answer to that even after I wave goodbye to the moving truck, go back inside my apartment, curl up in the fetal position with frosting and watch Breakfast at Tiffany's fifty times. Perhaps the answer isn't something that can be found but something that needs to be simply experienced. We've all said goodbye to loved ones knowing that goodbye is more of a "see you when I see you" situation. That's why God made the Earth round so eventually our paths will cross again. 

But what if watching her red taillights as she drives away are really a green light for me to start a new life too. I've never been good with directions (I still use my hands to make the "L" for left) but perhaps I don't need a map right now. I think if I'm going to turn 30 it means I've learned a lot and know who I am. Perhaps I should just follow wherever that green light leads me. No matter how scary it is to take your foot off the brake... hold onto the steering wheel... and hit the gas. 

Of course wearing the seat belt that holds you grounded and safe. I like to think of that seat belt (in my analogy of course) as my family and friends. And the rear view mirror as the life experiences I can see but I'm moving away from. The decision is mine to make and the road is mine to follow. 

And obviously I'll need snacks for the road.There's no hidden meaning in that reality. I just need Twizzlers to be my drum sticks for the steering wheel.