Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Easier to Criticize Somebody Else Than to See Yourself

George Harrison, kids. Check it out.
I think it's pretty safe to say that all women hate something about themselves, and that it's usually something irrational. For example: I hate the right side of my face. I don't know what it is, but my nose looks different on that side, and I hate all pictures taken from that angle. My mom gets furious with me when I complain about my nose, because she thinks I have an adorable nose, and that hers is ugly. I, of course, think that she is crazy (on both accounts).
So we all have a thing, or possibly several. But are we seeing ourselves honestly? Have we ever actually seen ourselves, the way other people see us? My guess is, probably not.
I've gained about thirty-five pounds in the six years since high school. There are a lot of things that I hate about my body the way it is now--my stomach in particular, and not being able to fit into the jeans I want. But you know what? There are things I like better about myself now, too: like my face. It's rounder than it was back then, and I think it looks better that way. I think I'm much prettier now than I was in high school, and who knows--maybe that's why I have a hard time losing weight. I don't want my face to go back to the way it was. When I see pictures, I look too skinny to myself.
(For the record, I thought I was fat all through high school. I was technically underweight for my height, but I was squishy and had love handles and a sister who was a size two, and I hated my body like crazy. Being thinner doesn't solve self image problems. You know why? Because your self image shouldn't be based on your physical appearance. But that's a topic for a different post. :) ).

So do something different for a change, and try to see yourself objectively. Look at yourself in the mirror and try to see what others see. Find little things that you like about your appearance, and they'll start to add up--even if it takes a while. Learn to see yourself as you really are, without all the criticism, and what you will find is that you're beautiful. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Magical Miri

Remember those get-to-know-you games we played in elementary school, where everyone had to introduce themselves using an adjective that described them and started with the same letter as their first name? Well, guess what: "M" adjectives suck. My choices were pretty much "magical," "magnificent," and "marvelous," and don't get me wrong, I am all of those things--but as nicknames for a fourth grader go, they are crap.

So I got the short end of the stick in get-to-know-you games. I've also had my name mispronounced just about every way you can think of, for my entire life: Myree, Mira, Murry, Marie, Mary, and so on--I've even heard Mitzi, although that was just once and I suspect the substitute teacher responsible may have been partially blind. (For the record, my name is Miri, pronounced like Miriam without the -um. This method of explaining my name is the only one that has been consistently successful in getting people to hear the difference between Miri and Mary.) But I love my name, and I wouldn't change it for anything. I am named after my Italian grandmother (Miriam) and my Russian great-grandmother Kayla, and that has always been very special to me.

Besides my name, the first thing you should know about me is that I read all the time. It's very nearly the only thing I claim as a hobby, and pretty much all I did until I reached high school--I read at recess, at lunch, standing in line in the cafeteria, in the bathroom, on the bus, in class with my book hidden in my desk. When my parents wanted to punish me they took away my books, because being sent to my room wasn't a punishment at all as long as they were there.

Because I read so much I was really good at tuning out noise so I could read anywhere, which, let me tell you, was a feat to be proud of at my house. This is the second thing you should know about me: I have a big, LOUD family. There are eight people in my immediate family--I'm the oldest of six kids--and no matter where I went as a child there was always someone there. I have between 45 and 50 first cousins on my dad's side (no one seems to know the exact number anymore), sixteen aunts and uncles, and approximately 60 children-of-cousins... what are they, my second cousins? First cousins once removed? I will probably never know. Most of that family lives in Arizona, with branches in other places (like my family in Texas). My mom is from Israel, and I don't actually know how many cousins I have on her side; many of them still live in Israel, and I've never met them. I do have eight that I've met, and I'm going to guess five or six that I haven't. It's important for me to tell you this because family is hugely vital to my existence. I am so used to having tons of family around all the time that it's very difficult for me to be living near only five relatives right now. My siblings and I fought like crazy growing up--we are very close in age, six of us in seven and a half years, and that made for some complicated situations--but I still prefer noise and good-natured chaos to peace and quiet.

The last thing you need to know, for the purposes of this blog, is that what we are undertaking here is very personal to me. I have had intense social anxiety my whole life. There was a miraculous period in college where it mostly went away, for no reason I can fathom: for two years that I lived at Glenwood with Megan and Lindsey and other amazing girls, I was a crazy social butterfly, dated some, and was actually popular--now a fond but incomprehensible memory for me. For the rest of my life, ever since I can remember, I have struggled just to be in the most normal social situations (school, church, and jobs, for example). I have always been incredibly insecure, although my amazing junior year was a huge step forward in that department and I have made great progress since then. I am still working really hard to overcome this stuff, and that is why I jumped when Lindsey pitched the idea of this blog to us. I hope it will be as meaningful to you as it is to me.

Stage a Karaoke Revolution

Last week I was at a birthday party in my apartment. My roommate decided that her dream birthday party for the year involved 20 or 30 people singing karaoke in our tiny apartment in the middle of the building.

I was watching people from a corner until they found me and handed me the microphone so I could sing "Cecilia," and it was so interesting to see how different people handled the pressure to get up and make fools out of themselves. While some people were grabbing for the microphone and others just accepted it with good grace, there was one group of girls who stayed very quiet on the couch and simply wouldn't take the microphone for the longest time - and when they finally did they stayed sitting.

I'm usually more of a sit on the couch and balk kind of girl. I don't like to jump up and dance (I hate dancing in front of people, which is part of some greater lack of confidence, I have no doubt). However, after spending the night watching some people jump up to make fools of themselves while others refused to hold a microphone while everyone was singing along anyway, I suddenly realized that the girl dancing her heart out to "Take a Chance on Me" looked less silly than the girls who couldn't be dragged from the corner. I'd always assumed it was the other way around when it was me sitting there protesting.

We don't all have that need for the spotlight. Some of us prefer to stay as far away from the spotlight as possible. But there is something inexplicably lovely about the woman who accepts that she is not a superstar and is still willing to be brave enough to embrace that. Don't make people drag you there. On key or not, dancing or no, sometimes all it takes is a willingness to take a chance - to decide to shine in the spotlight if someone puts you there, even if it's the last place you think you want to be. You may be better suited to that color of light than you ever expected to be.

Sophisticated Lady: Also Answers to Megalicious

I like to put things together in ways that make sense, which is probably why I'm currently getting a Master's degree in Library Science. Also because of this, I like to make playlists, and I do it most frequently when I'm trying to figure something out about the way I feel. I have this ongoing playlist of songs that I feel particularly apply to me in general. A few of the songs are pretty self-explanatory - "Green Eyes" by Coldplay, "Megan" by the Smoking Popes, "Wrapped Up in Books" by Belle and Sebastian, "Brainy" by The National (just go with it). However, since I want you to get a feel for me, I'm also going to share some less obvious lyrics that spoke to me. In some superficial way I feel like people understanding why I picked a specific song for my personal soundtrack will mean they'll know me, but I'm beginning to realize that there is more to people than pop song lyrics. (Yes. Beginning.) In any case, it might at least give you a feel for why I feel strongly about this blog.
  • From "Pretty (Ugly Before)" by Elliott Smith: "Is it destruction that you require to feel like someone wants you - someone that's more for real?"
  • From "Clark Gable" by the Postal Service: "I want to badly to believe that there is truth, that love is real."
  • From "The World You Love" by Jimmy Eat World: "We're only just as happy as everyone else seems to think we are."
  • From "Darlin' Do Not Fear" by Brett Dennen: "Sometimes your path is marked in the sky, sometimes you're forced to fit in between the lines. Sometimes all you can do is say no; darlin' do not fear what you don't really know."
  • From "I Am Ready, I Am" by The Format: "I'm trying to find truth, in words, in rhymes, in notes, in all the things I wish I wrote."
So there's that. You may proceed to draw conclusions now.

Other things that are relevant for you to know about me:

I have four brothers, and I'm crazy about them, but most of what I learned about how to enjoy being a girl (which is at least partially what this whole thing is about, right?) came from my mom (who is amazing and the most loving person I know) and my friends, particularly my college roommates (a couple of whom contribute to this blog). I love and currently miss my parents while I'm several states away from them - which would make me feel like a little kid if they didn't cry about it more than I do. My nieces and nephews are turning into lovely, amusing people, and I like being friends with them.

I love strong female characters in books and movies. Beatrice. Viola. Jane Eyre. Elizabeth Bennett. Princess Leia. Buffy Summers. (Okay, Princess Leia is kind of a joke. Buffy Summers - not so much.) It's all good stuff, even when it's geeky. I'm definitely not afraid of being a nerd or a geek (and yes, I know the difference). I love books and movies in general (Remember? Librarian?) and will surely talk about both more as this blog goes along.

I don't particularly want a huge house when I finally get on top of my life, but I would like to have a walk in closet, and to finally have enough space to store all of my books in one room.

My favorite punctuation marks are parentheses and semicolons. My favorite board game is Trivial Pursuit.

My dad taught me that it was always okay to do what made me happy, even if it wasn't what was popular or cool. That's probably why I'm so cool now. I've always believed that going along with what everyone else is doing only gets you so far, and then suddenly you aren't interesting because you don't know what you like. I know what I like, and for the most part, I know who I am (although you'll probably read several posts here that contradict that). You can't be happy if you're only try to be what other people think you should be. I firmly believe that happiness comes from being the person you want to be.
A final song for the playlist:
  • From "Time Has Told Me" by Nick Drake: "I leave the ways that are making me be what I really don't want to be, leave the ways that are making me love what I really don't want to love."
And that is who I am and why I'm here. Let's do this thing.

(P.S. if you're wondering where the title of this post comes from, the first part comes from a song Ella Fitzgerald sang. The second comes from Lindsey.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lindsey Fantastic

One thing you need to know about me is that I am a big fan of lists, I would marry a list if it were possible. Since it is not, I will just have to settle with creating a list about myself for you to enjoy. Here goes.

1. I am weird. I really am. I like even numbers, I do not like mushrooms and I am wary of balloons (down graded from "afraid of" because I have improved in that department). There are many more things that exemplify my weirdness, but that would make this list far too long.

2. I love art, books, movies, music and television. That sounds vague and non-specific, but there is really no way to specify my favorites from those things because I generally just enjoy being entertained and don't really mind too much what genre, channel or time period that entertainment comes from.

3. I am a single, LDS girl in her mid-twenties and I live with my sister and her family. People generally don't know what to do with me.

4. I am quite addicted to my family. My sister is my best friend. My nephews and niece are some of my most favorite people to be around. My mom is amazing.

5. I don't think I really understand how funny I am. I'm still just trying to figure things out - but I LOVE IT when people laugh at my jokes. I just keep saying stuff and people laugh and that is surprising to me every time. Seriously, EVERY. TIME.

6. I have recently begun a love affair with Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Macadamia ice cream. This is probably the most important piece of information on this list because, if you ever want to become my friend, just show up at my door with a pint of it in your gorgeous hand and I will welcome you into my life with open arms.

7. I have more nick names than any one person should have to handle - and I still get new ones. I don't really know what makes a person susceptible to nick names, but whatever it is I have it.

8. I get crazy silly crushes on random celebrities, but I do an okay job at keeping them kind of under control. It's not like I still plaster pictures of them all over my wall or anything. I just, you know, follow them on Twitter...or not.

9. I am addicted to technology. I cannot live without my computer, my phone or my iPod. And they all have names.

10. I am happy to be where I am right now. This was not always the case, but I am glad that circumstances have changed to make it so.

So there I am, in a nutshell ("Look at me! I'm in a nutshell!"). I've already shared my reasons for creating this blog so I won't repeat myself, but I will say that I am looking forward to finding out why I felt the need to get this up and running. I am anxious to learn new things and figure out ways to make my life more like I want it to be and I am excited to share it all with you.

And Here We Go...

Now that I've explained the inspiration behind this blog, I thought I might explain where we are headed from here.

The truth is, I don't really know how to explain it because I'm not sure where we are headed. I'm kind of just going with what feels right at the moment. The good news is that, at this particular moment, I feel like a good place to start is with introductions. So prepare yourself to learn more about the contributors of this blog than ever before!

I am also going to use this post to shamelessly beg for comments. The entire basis of this blog is to get comments - to talk to each other. We want to know if you tried out a challenge that was made here or if you have read a book we mention. We want to hear about your experiences. If you would rather send in a post and appear as a guest blogger, then that is great too! We want to know what you think - so don't be shy!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On How to be Lovely

One day while driving in my car and listening to music at volumes that will probably cause substantial hearing loss, this song came on my iPod.

I have listened to this song hundreds of times and have watched the movie, Funny Face, several times as well. While I love the song, it never really made any impression on me like it did that day. I thought, "this song is amazing...there should be a blog about this song." I brushed off the feeling telling myself that I didn't need another blog to worry about.

Later that same day, as I was lurking blogs, I read a post about a little girl who came home to tell her mom that she wanted to die because of how she looked. I admit that I started to cry. The most touching part of the story, though, was how this mom reacted. She didn't just tell her daughter that she was beautiful no matter what (what mother doesn't think that about their daughter), she looked her in the eyes, told her she loved her and would do whatever she could to help her feel better. And again, I felt the need to create a blog to address such issues.

I shared that blog post with a friend of mine and as we talked about confidence and self-esteem and being a girl and feeling awkward, I felt even more impressed to start a blog. So I kind of just slipped the idea into the conversation. I shared the song with her and told her how I felt about it and what I wanted to do and she got really excited. Then I told two more friends about it, hoping that they would feel inspired to help me and, because they are so amazing and awesome, they shared my excitement and we got to work.

The thing is, I don't want this to be like our personal blogs and I don't want it to be small. I want it to be more than just for me and my circle of friends. I want it to be big, because that's what it is, a big idea. I want an actual helpful, uplifting and well-written blog that lots of random people will eventually read. I want guest posts about cheerful and thoughtful things. I want comments that go on for actual dialog that someone somewhere will benefit from. Maybe I'm asking too much, but I kind of don't care. It just can't be bad to have a place that will remind us to be who we are no matter what and it can't be bad to work on something that makes you focus on positive and uplifting things.

And so here you have it, On How to be Lovely. I'm sure it will be nowhere near perfect or scientific, because we most definitely do not have all the answers, but it will be fun. A place to feel merry and charming and jolly. A place filled with delightful things to make you smile and feel good about yourself. A guide to becoming lovely.