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Sharing around this week

fallpumpkin-insideHere are some things that caught my eye and that I shared on my Twitter or Google Plus or on my Building Family Counseling Facebook page this week:

  • Catie, my co-facilitator for the All Adoption group has decided to create a casual, peer support Central Ohio Adoptee only group! If you or anyone you know might be interested in meeting up monthly, please join the Facebook page to get more info. This is SO SO NEEDED and I’m really thrilled she’s doing it!
  • I loved these pictures from the Humans of New York book review over at Brain Pickings. I don’t think I’d be happy living someplace so crowded but I sure do like knowing that it’s there to visit.
  • My friend Janine’s father died last week and she shared this post of her memories of being a little girl and spending time with him. Janine is a terrific, terrific writer and ought to be in your feed readers.
  • Spilt Milk wrote about having her children nearly removed from her care when she was struggling with a crisis in her mental health. Mentally ill mothers can be good mothers, too.

Finally, please click the last link for a quick pick-me up!


You don’t need an excuse

exercise-insideI don’t know if you’ve seen the picture. I’m not going to post it here because it’s not mine to post but it’s raised a ruckus. The picture is of fitness blogger Maria Kang with her three kids, who are three, two and 8-months. Maria is wearing an abs-bearing crop top and booty shorts and she looks very fit. She’s toned, she has visible abs and across the top she’s written, “What’s your excuse?”

Maria says she’s fought eating disorders and bad genetics and says she is super fit and super healthy and you should be, too, because if she can do it (with her three little kids and her bad genetics), you should be able to do it, too.

Ok. I don’t know Maria and I don’t know much about her story (her site is overloaded so I can’t read up on it) but I don’t need to read it to know that it’s her story and your story is yours. I don’t need to critique her story to know that it won’t cover any of the reasons why you might not look like her (then again, you might, it’s all good — you look however you look and the rest of us will work on minding our own business).

Let me frame it this way.

Let’s imagine a Facebook post of a Super Important biology professor standing behind a desk full of Super Important Papers about Super Important Discoveries. “What’s your excuse?” is across the top because the professor wants to know why you haven’t been making discoveries. Well, you haven’t because you’re not a biology professor, right? You’ve been doing other stuff. In fact, maybe you don’t even like biology. Are you supposed to feel bad about that?

Another one.

Imagine a picture of J. K. Rowling surrounded by piles of money, her bestselling Harry Potter books, and posters of the movie franchise. Across the top is, “What’s your excuse?”

You know what your excuse is already — you’re not J. K. Rowling. She’s not better than you because she’s sold more books (assuming that you’re not John Grisham or Danielle Steel although maybe they haven’t sold more books, I’m not sure about that). She’s J. K. Rowling and that’s her life and this one is yours.

Here’s one more.

Imagine a picture of the Dalai Lama who is looking way more at peace than you ever will. Across the top is, “What’s your excuse?”

Well, that’s ridiculous, isn’t it, because the Dalai Lama would never do something so silly but still wouldn’t you laugh and think, “Ummm, I’m not the Dalai freaking Lama, that’s my excuse!”

Maria is really good at doing whatever it is that she does to look great in a crop top and booty shorts. You might look just as good or you might not. You might spend your time getting really good at other things. Probably some of those things — being a quality friend, listening to your kids, writing amazing letters, making Very Important Scientific Discoveries, etc. — don’t photograph all that well.

That’s not to say that Maria isn’t good at other things, too, just that we privilege a particular kind of body type because we can see it and think we know what it means. We think we can look at someone’s muscle definition and know something about them even though we don’t really know anything.

We really can’t know Maria by looking at that photograph. We don’t know if she uses healthy means to get that body or unhealthy means. We don’t know the state of her inner life or her relationships. We don’t know if she goes to bed peacefully and without a care in the world or if she lies in bed at night staring at the ceiling with a sense of existential dread. We don’t know anything about Maria and conversely she doesn’t know anything about us.

You don’t have to make any excuses for not having three little kids or not having visible abs or not having a fitness blog or even for not having a fitness routine like Maria’s. You don’t have to feel ashamed of not being her anymore than she ought to be ashamed of not being you. Her life has nothing to do with you and neither does yours with her.

Lots of studies show that people treat themselves well when they feel good about themselves. Photos like Maria might inspire enough shame to make people attempt to make changes but those changes — whatever their results — are unlikely to be long-term, healthy and nurturing changes.

Life is a process. Life is a journey. You are allowed to sit on the sidelines once in awhile. You’re allowed to let your exercise routine lapse without feeling defensive. And you’re also allowed to come back to it not for the abs and booty shorts but because you want to move your body again. You’re also allowed to come back for abs and booty shorts, mind you, because it’s your body and you can do what you want with it. But do me a favor and pay attention to yourself and see what really works for you long-term and makes you happy whether that be following Maria Kang or Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga or worn out Stop the Insanity VHS tapes.

You don’t need any excuses for not being someone other than who you are.

Everyone Is (Not) Having More Fun Than You

shutterstock_85606345Normally I wouldn’t send you on over to the GQ site to get life advice but 99u pointed the way to this hilarious and accurate article about those pangs of jealousy we get when we are suddenly confronted with someone’s amazing life on our social media feed.

There have been far too many times when I’ve sat with a crying client in session while she lists the many ways she’s failing as a wife or mother or general human being. How does she know? Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram all tell her so. Her food is not as delicious. Her parties are less fun. Her children don’t nestle down to sleep in bedrooms beautified by child-sized furniture crafted from re-purposed Ikea bookshelves. Her life is just regular or maybe a little more (or a lot more) challenged than just regular at the moment, which makes her especially vulnerable to the idea that she’s somehow screwing up.

Do you know, new friends, how much work it takes to be one of those people who is at the right place at the right time, all the time? An awful lot of exertion—blood, sweat, tears, texts, e-mails, tweets, Facebook lurks, and most of all, fear—goes into making the social arts look effortless. It’s that fear that makes them work so hard.

via The GQ Guide to Getting Over #FOMO

Documenting our life for our social media followers takes a terrible amount of effort. All of that picture taking. All of that posing. All of that squinting to get the right angle or just the right update or exactly the right Vine that says, “My life is fantastic! And picturesque! And even the bad things are ironic or inspiring!”

People are curating their lives to show the very best events embellished with hashtags and gauzy filters. They are creating “unique narrative flow“, which means they’re leaving the less flowy parts on the cutting room floor. Even if we’re not seeking advertisers, we’re seeking some kind of return on our social media investment otherwise why would we post it? Be it attention or approval or the envy of others or even just a good (if heated) political discussion, no one posts to an audience without the audience in mind.

Just like you need to be critical when you look at magazines, you need to be critical when you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed. That doesn’t mean doubting your friends’ most perfect posts and pictures; it means remembering that you’re only seeing part of the story. Some of our friends will share the other parts, too (the deflated cakes, the crying kids, the lawn overflowing with dandelions) and some won’t. But you will know that we all have other parts even if we don’t share them. You can remind yourself that we could probably meticulously cut and paste our lives into amazingness, too, if we wanted to spend our time doing that instead of on other things like jobs or family or cleaning or counseling.

Besides, do you really want to be the mom snapping pictures at the birthday celebration in this commercial? Because personally, I don’t think the shot was worth it.

Nature desktops to improve your mood

lookuptree-insideNone of my offices have a view. My writing office is in our (unfinished) basement and my window is blocked by one of those plastic bubbles you set over window wells. My office at the community mental health clinic is an interior one so it doesn’t have a window. And my private practice office is also on the lower level so the windows look out at a containing wall.

Researchers have found that we work and live better when we have time to commune with nature and that even looking at pictures of trees can lower blood pressure. This is why I take my desktop pictures very very seriously. If it weren’t for the images I download to my computer I’d hardly ever get to gaze out at something pretty during my workday.

Periodically I hide all the open apps on my desktop and stop everything to stare at a mountain stream or a rocky beach. It’s a quick way to remind myself to take a breath and think about the world outside. I imagine the sound of the wind winding its way through the tall grass on a meadow path. I picture myself leaning down to pick the flowers next to that river.

It takes me out of my work day for just long enough to dive back in. When I only have a few minutes between clients it can make a big difference in my focus.

I also change my pictures for the seasons. This year I brought spring to my desktop early since it was taking so long to get here in real life. Oh and if you have a Mac you can set the images to change themselves at regular intervals and mine switch every 30 minutes. I like this because when I’m closing applications I get to be surprised. Which view will be mine this time?

It’s a little thing but I find that it’s those little things that make all the difference most days.

Here are some of my favorite places to go to keep my desktop pretty:

  • National Geographic has a picture a day especially for you to download to your desktop. There are travel pictures here, too, if you need a more far-flung virtual vacation.
  • Hamad Darwis is a photographer who took some of the pictures that come with Windows Vista but most of his gorgeous images didn’t make the cut. He’s kindly made them available to download and install on your own and these are really spectacular (especially if you have a penchant for stunning beach scenery).
  • This is my most-used site for browsing when I’m wanting a desktop picture fix. InterfaceLIFT has a huge collection of images. If you’re a photographer you might especially like this site since the photographers who submit share the camera settings they used to get the pictures.
  • I don’t love the Desktop Nexus interface but there are a lot of pictures here so if you can stand an ugly web site to create more beauty in your life then you might want to check it out.

If you need instructions to install the pictures to your desktop, you can find them here. Note: For best effect make sure you know your monitor size. You don’t want to have to overstretch a small picture on your wide desktop — it’ll distort the image.


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