Dear Forever Valentine, Thank You

Because you (I!) deserve a love letter today. Self, you are always by my side!

First, I am proud of you.

I see a woman who has nothing to prove this year. She is wearing overalls because they are what she feels comfortable wearing, and she’s STOKED at the ’90s are back in that style! With it, a pink and white baseball shirt because it’s a little feminine but also practical. Today she is wearing no make-up. Her hair is shorn in a pixie, which makes her feel free– she loves the feeling of the icy wind on her neck. She often goes without a hat, but zips her coat up to the hilt instead.

This year has been about realigning with what you need, and putting that into action. And you are making great strides every day! Even when you think I don’t notice the progress, I do. Even when no one else does, I see.

I believe in and admire you, Amee. I adore that name– your mother chose it with care. It’s not something to be found on pencils, which you used to resent. It’s singular and a little bit exotic–French. There is nothing typical about you. You forge your own way in every aspect of your life– you don’t do things like everyone else.

You are unafraid to sacrifice in the present for something you know will be better in the future. You are committed to what you need even when it’s not fun or popular. You are learning to value your own voice most. You can weather questions and the assumptions of others with increasing grace.

Like all humans, you have walls to protect yourself. Your heart is not impulsive as it once was, although sometimes I know you long for those days. Those were beautiful times of innocence, important to teach you lessons. Of loss, of how to lose yourself in giving. Of appreciating someone even when they don’t understand why you love them. You seek to understand others and comfort them.

You know how to love with abandon, commitment and safety.

You accept that not everyone deserves what you want to give– you are more patient. You demand that people prove to you that they are sincere. Never admonish yourself for that– it’s been learned with fire.

You always rise. You may slow down, you may hold yourself back with caution.

But conserving your energy and valuing what you possess to give others is something wonderful and smart.

Keep doing that.

Everything that you need is on its way to you. It is happening at exactly the right time and speed– just continue to trust in your judgement.

You are more real than many who put up a better facade. When you’re not happy, you don’t pretend. You’re polite and professional when needed, but never insincere. That is something glorious– the ability to know how you’re feeling and not be ashamed of it. That takes tremendous courage– it’s a skill not everyone has yet learned.

That writer heart of yours beats steady. I can always depend on you. We are always together.

Whatever comes your way, you will handle it with aplomb.

I am grateful that you preserve that delightful spark of silly, that propensity for wackiness. I am glad that you see beauty in the most ordinary circumstances.

You are loyal, affectionate, serious.

Thank you for not changing for anyone.

You are my favorite. I love you! You are beautiful and strong.

You are making peace with uncertainty and deciding to be your own hero.

And that is the best Valentine’s gift I could ever give you.

Always,

All the Love You Possess

“She’s a Wildcat:” Week Nine of Self-Defense

I didn’t blog about last week.

But tonight was note-worthy. Small class, again.

I noticed my instructor complimenting me often, after weeks of criticism. I think he sees how hard I work– I’m probably trying harder than anyone in the class. That’s because I need the lessons in this class for my survival the most desperately, being the smallest. Also, I don’t assume I’ll be able to take the class again.

“She’s a wildcat,” he said, as I was about try something we learned with a partner. It was issued like a playful warning. I chuckled a bit.

This week I picked up the moves quick, and used my voice without thinking– loud and effective. In every exercise, I found myself yelling, “NO!” over and over. And he commented on that as well.

Clearly, I’ve earned his respect.

I noticed how calm I was doing these exercises. I used to get frustrated with myself instantly and want to give up. Now I can power through, especially with some help about my technique. Even when I had a neck spasm– I stopped, noticed it, massaged it briefly, and kept going. I was able to complete most of the moves with a calm face, without fear changing my expression. I have less fear, period.

But on one of our exercise scenarios, I started out working with a woman taller than me. We were working in a trio, along with a man I’ve worked with several times the past few weeks. She said she wanted to try it with him, not me, because my being small threw her off.

I thought that was fascinating. Here I am, feeling intimidated about “attacking” a woman bigger than me, almost feeling like I have a handicap because of my small stature.

And she was MORE afraid of me (when I role-played the attacker) because I’m smaller. I thought about how the joke about how elephants are terrified of mice– at least in cartoons. Probably a better example is arachnophobia. How often do most people joke about wanting to burn down a house just after seeing a spider? ONE?

Sure, spiders are poisonous– but only some. Bites can be fatal or at the least annoying. But the main reason people are so freaked is because they are small and move fast. Usually they blend in and you never notice them unless they move. My Dad has always said that “Spiders are a lot more afraid of you than you are of them!” And it’s true.

I suppose I can relate. How many times do spiders encounter grave danger, just going about their business? All they are doing half the time is walking or spinning a web, so they can eat. They are constantly being attacked by predators much bigger– they are pretty low on the food chain! Why do you think they are created to blend in? It’s their main defense against oblivion. But also, spiders are powerful. People know that.

I’ve been trying to blend in most of my life. I’m finding this is impossible. So instead of working so hard to do something that is sure to fail, I might as well embrace it. I stand out because of my smallness. I’ve got a big voice, though a quiet demeanor. I don’t raise my voice unless necessary– and that’s rarely. And this class is helping me learn to have a command presence as well.

If people want to be intimidated by me, I’m probably safer! So I’m going to stop hiding. I’m going to dress better, walk proud, make more eye contact and stop being meek. I’m not apologizing like I did. I’m doubting myself less and less.

I’m a serious woman, and I like that about me.

I have a feeling this will be good for me in business.

Resting Bitch Face? : Please Don’t Ask Me to Smile

It’s even happened at the dentist.

Waiting, I was reading a book. My dentist arrived to get to work, and felt the need to comment on my facial expression. Apparently I looked intense. Reading books does involve the brain– and emotions, as well.

Was something wrong? He had to know. I looked angry.

I stopped reading and looked up, confused. No, I was fine.

Is it shocking that my facial expression corresponds with my thought process? I can hardly believe this is unusual behavior.

More importantly, why does it seem to bother everyone when I display emotions other than happiness? Strangers, especially?

It happens at the most random moments: very frequently, at work.

I’ll be walking along looking for clients to approach or straightening up my display. And suddenly, I will be asked, “Why do you look so serious?” Or people will comment on my expression. I’ll be told that I look angry, or asked, “What’s wrong?”

Nothing. I’m thinking. How else should I appear? Am I supposed to be levitating constantly on a cloud of happiness, with a pleasant expression– or even better, a totally blank one?

Most often, it’s men doing this. But not always.

One female co-worker will always ask how I’m doing, and it seems no answer satisfies her unless I’m at the very least, delighted. If I say I’m good, her response is always, “Just good?”

My answers have become shorter and shorter because really, what do I owe this woman? Nothing. Why does she always need me to be happy, or something BETTER than good? “Good” is a pretty satisfactory state, at least in my book. We’re not close friends, we don’t hang out. Just say hello and sometimes talk at work.

Apparently I, too, am afflicted by Resting Bitch Face. Notice this term is never applied to men?

Have you ever heard someone joke that a dude who looks serious totally has Resting Bitch Face? Probably not.

But when a woman is anything less than overjoyed, everyone notices. Even total strangers.

“Smile,” they’ll say.

Why? I’m stumped as to why it makes a total stranger uncomfortable if I don’t smile. And why they get annoyed if I don’t oblige.

If I want to share my thoughts with you, I will.

But I don’t want to be told how to feel, or pressured to feel something different.

I *do* smile– when I genuinely feel happy. If not commanded to, I may just smile first at a stranger.

I smile when something wonderful surprises me. When I enjoy a memory, when I’m dreaming about something that could happen– a possibility.

If anything, I’m proud to not be a constant smiler. Because I’m not faking it.

But just because I’m concentrating on a book, a task, or thinking about something– I don’t need to explain or apologize for it.

This street artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, launched a project I really appreciate: “Stop Telling Women to Smile.”┬áPlease click and watch the video explaining what inspired it and showing the women she interviewed, who she then photographed and incorporated into posters she put up in places where they had felt harassed.

I don’t have Resting Bitch Face, and I’m fine, thanks.

I’m just a thinker.

A thinker whose face has changed with age to show the lines where her brow furrows, her forehead wrinkles, the outlines of her smile. I’m proud of a face that is no longer a blank, un-lined canvas, although I did enjoy it in my youth.

You’ll never find me courting Botox, trying to rewind time and freeze those muscles.

These lines make me human. They make me beautiful. They make me a woman who thinks and feels.

Don’t be ashamed of yours!

And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for your facial expressions.

What are your experiences with strangers talking to you or commenting on your apparent mood? Does it bother you or not?

With Spring, Follows Humor and Social Amee!

I’ve gotten too intellectual and serious with this blog lately. All about feelings.

I thought about trying some fiction, but changed my mind. I want to write about what’s happening–out there, not inside my brain.

I’m going to try and infuse more humor.

What I’m really best at is storytelling– about events in my life. In a narrative fashion.

I’ve been a lot less social.

I’ve been re-reading some of my early posts here, and they are so different– so much shorter. They keep my attention better.

So with spring, I’m gonna try something new!

Instead of getting all introspective– I’m going to go out in the world and return with stories. Put those old journalism skills to work!

Hell, maybe I’ll even do quick interviews with people.

This blog is whatever I want it to be. I don’t have to write about myself.

I can write about what I see. People I meet. It’s a perfect excuse to meet people!