Healthy & Whole: Eating Disorders Awareness Week

*I actually started writing this post over a year ago, but never had the courage to publish it. However, since February 22-28 is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and because I have friends and family who have struggled/are struggling with an eating disorder, I wanted to highlight this topic.

I still remember the way her big brown eyes peered up at me and how her sweet voice lacked its usual lilt when she said, “I’m the only one with thick legs.”

What??

My mind wavered between shock to fear and back again. I could not believe those words had come out of my five year old’s mouth.

I attempted to keep my tone light as I asked, “What do you mean?”

“My legs are bigger than theirs (her friends). I’m the only one with thick legs.”

I swallowed hard, took a deep breath and finally found my voice. “They’re like mine. It’s okay. Everyone’s different.”

And with that answer, C returned to whatever she was doing and the moment was gone.

But the memories that moment dug up came flooding back. Memories of a confused and impressionable teenage girl who once placed a bet with a girlfriend on who had bigger thighs. Memories of a girl who stood in front of the bathroom mirror every night to check on the appearance of her collarbone and hip bones as she stood on a scale. The same girl who skimped on lunch during the day and looked forward to running a cross-country lap during P.E. class to burn more calories. The girl who acknowledged the pains of an empty stomach as success, rather than a sign of hunger. A girl who controlled her life bite by bite, pound by pound, and mile by mile.

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If you haven’t guessed it by now, that girl was me.

I never developed a full blown eating disorder, but due to my perfectionistic tendencies, I had some leanings toward anorexia. I remember my black hair turning brown and brittle, likely due to lack of nutrition. Old prom pictures show my collarbone jutting out from the off-the-shoulder neckline of my dresses. Even though my friends and relatives said I needed to eat more, I honestly believed I still needed to lose weight. That was how crazy my thinking was at the time.

I was my own worst enemy, forcing myself to meet impossible standards and never giving myself a pass. All I wanted was to be more – more accepted, more perfect, more beautiful – but in the process of getting there, I had become less – less satisfied, less grounded, less alive.

Things got better in college though; I was then on my own and surrounded by good friends. This was probably the best time of my life where I felt free and in control at the same time, as strange as that may sound. Because the root of an eating disorder is not really about the food, but about the comfort and security it brings in being able to control that part of your life. It is like any other addiction where what you really need is peace from all the other stuff in your life that you don’t want to or don’t know how to deal with.

Getting to that place of peace takes time, guts and love. Time to process through all the baggage weighing down your heart and clouding your perspective. Guts to face the hard things and feel the raw emotions. Love to convince you that you are enough.

What I’ve learned is that once you choose to stop being your own worst judge and choose instead to be your own best friend, that’s when you can start living.

These days, I focus more on health and wholeness and accepting my body for the awesome things that it can do. Even though I miss my pre-mama self, I know my muffin top is my badge of honor for having made two amazing people. When I do struggle with comparing and being content, I remember one of my favorite verses from 1 Samuel 16:7: “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Above all, I make it a priority to never say anything negative about my face or body in front of my kids. I want them to know it’s perfectly normal and beautiful to have a squishy tummy, wrinkled skin, gray hair and, yes, thick legs. 🙂

Here is a compelling song by Colbie Caillat called “Try”. The lyrics ask an important question: “Take your make up off, Let your hair down, Take a breath, Look into the mirror, at yourself, Don’t you like you?”

What struggles have you (or the women in your life) had over feeling beautiful and liking yourself?

Human Beings, Not Doings

I was listening to a sermon the other week when something our pastor said hit me like an overturned bucket of icy water on my head.

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“Why do you say you’re just a mom?”

I raised my eyebrows and my eyes darted quickly to my right and then to my left. Is he talking to me?! I wondered. How does he know?

Yes, how did he know? How did he know that ever since I quit my job and became a stay at home mom 7.5 years ago that I have labeled myself as “Just a mom”? That when people ask me, “So what do you do?”, my immediate reaction is to respond in a hesitant voice, “I, uh, stay at home.”

Why do I (and people in general) feel the need to base our worth on what we do? For moms, why is staying at home with the kids not enough? Maybe because in this world, we have been conditioned to base our value on what we do. We grow up thinking we need to get the best grades, go to the best school, secure the best jobs and make the most money. We do, do, do… until we are no longer human beings, but human doings.

With that in mind, another thing our pastor said that made me ponder was this: It’s not just the bad we do (that should concern us). It’s also the good we do that we do with the wrong motives.

For me, it’s the hectic scramble to clean the house – even at the expense of ignoring my kids – before guests arrive, so I look like I have it all together.

It’s the effort to say everything’s fine and redirect the conversation to the other person, so I don’t have to share about my struggles.

Lately, it’s the need to tack on a “I do some writing on the side” to the “I stay at home” response, so I can make myself sound more important.

There is nothing wrong with tidying the house, extending a listening ear to a friend or sharing about my writing endeavors. But when the reasons I do these things stem from a place of fear or pride, I fall into the trap of doing and not being.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of being a human doing. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had plenty of experience doing all the right things at all the right times. What I’ve learned is that when you’re constantly doing, there isn’t much room for error… or for enjoyment. You end up kind of like a zombie – alive, but not really living. And if you’ve ever seen a zombie movie, you know those usually don’t end well.

So I’m on a quest to start being – to be okay with who I am, to make mistakes, to let go of my need to appear calm, cool and collected all the time. It’s time to be a human being, not a human doing. I hope you will join me, too. 🙂

Demi Lovato’s song, “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” is a great song for this post.

What do you need to let go of in order to be a human being, not a human doing?

Heartbreaker

Image courtesy of fotographic1980/freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been fortunate enough to not have had my heart seriously broken before (aside from a few minor letdowns before anything really panned out). And I’m grateful to have only broken two hearts in my lifetime, and both incidents were more like hairline fractures than breaks. I’ve seen plenty of heartbreak occur though in the lives of people around me and know how tragic it can feel at the time and also how it affects one’s self-image and confidence in the long run.

I realized recently that while I may no longer be involved in breaking hearts in the romantic sense, I have way too many opportunities to do so in the parental sense. More specifically, I have broken my kids’ hearts when I choose to put my need for control and perfection above their good intentions.

I still remember the day my kids offered to help me mop the floor. (By the way, at our house mopping the floor = walking around with baby wipes under our feet.) The kids were having a great time helping out; they laughed as they “skated” around from room to room. Soon after E had finished mopping he walked over to the kitchen where I was and proceeded to help me wipe the counter … with the same baby wipe he had used to mop the floor. My first reaction was to yell, “STOP, don’t use that, it’s dirty!” in a stern, unforgiving voice. Immediately, his happy face crumbled before my eyes and he said he was done helping, and quickly left the room (to likely escape my impending wrath). I knew then that I had completely overreacted. Instead of appreciating his efforts, I had taken his giving little heart and crushed it with my controlling, ungrateful and negative attitude. Sigh! It was a lesson that I had to learn the hard way, but I learned it well.

Just the other day I had the chance to practice what I learned. In a moment of creativity (and possibly insanity), I set out to paint the downstairs bathroom – a job I thought would be simple enough to complete with two helpful kids. All the YouTube videos I watched made painting look straightforward and fast. What I didn’t understand was that those 5 minute videos didn’t show the other 2-3 hours it takes to do the prep work and the actual painting! (Note to self: next time don’t start a painting project right before lunch time hoping to complete it by lunch time.)

I gotta give the kids credit though – they worked hard and had fun while doing it. And I gotta give myself some credit, too. I kept my mouth shut and my controlling attitude in check the whole time (aside from one reminder to not use too much paint at once). It helped that I turned my head so I couldn’t see the paint trails running down the wall and tried not to listen to the sounds of the paintbrush slapping against the wall (instead of gliding over it in long, smooth strokes). It also helped to remind myself to enjoy the time we could spend doing something together and not worry about trying to make it all perfect. Because in the long run, it matters much, much more that my kids know I love them for who they are and not how perfectly they perform.

After we finished painting, E came up to me and gave me a Tootsie Roll from his prized stash of candy he had earned from school. I took his gesture as a sign that I had done a good job that day – not just at painting, but at parenting, too.

Yay for not being a heartbreaker. 🙂

Here’s the perfect song for this post, Elton John and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”.

What lessons have you learned from being a heartbreaker or having had your heart broken?

The “Good” Girl

“I love you because you are a good person.”

These words of affirmation came from E one day out of the blue.  I stopped what I was doing and my eyes widened as I grasped exactly what he had just said.  Then I looked at hubby with a shocked expression and stood there speechless.  Absolutely speechless.  I was touched that E would say such a thing and pay me such a huge compliment because one – he obviously forgot about the last time I lost my temper and two – I secretly pride myself on being “good”.  Being the square person that I am, I am good at being good.  I have never gotten a speeding ticket, I am a stickler for rules and I try to be “nice” to people and do all the “right” things.  When I was younger, a family friend even asked my mom if I had attended some kind of etiquette school because I was so proper!  Haha!  You could say I am the perfect example of a good little Asian girl.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Lately though, I have been a little tired of being “good” all the time.  I told hubby I wished I could be the irresponsible, forgetful, unreliable one sometimes (I admit though the forgetful part has become more true as I age).  I would like to not feel like I have to color within the lines all the time.  I would like to be able to do something without thinking and not worry about the consequences.  But, honestly, I can’t stop being me.  For one thing, it wouldn’t be natural and I’d need to work really hard at letting go, which would defeat the purpose.  And someone’s got to keep the hubby and kids fed and cared for.

This also made me think about whether it’s natural for me to be “good”.  I believe a lot of times I try to do and say the right things because I know I’m supposed to, not always because I want to.  Whether it’s due to a fear of rejection or failure or just plain stubbornness, I am used to my square ways.  But I’ve learned that unless I am motivated by love to be/do good, it’s all a bunch of b.s.  It’s worth more to be known as a loving person than a good person.  So much more.

But how do I make that jump from being just good to being loving?  This is where my faith comes in.  For most of my Christian life, I believed I could be a good little Christian girl by following the rules and doing good things.  I was the perfect candidate to be a follower of Jesus.  What I didn’t understand though was that if I was so good, why did I need God?  God is not touched by good little Christian Asian girls who do good things and stay within the lines.  He is actually more moved by people who may appear “bad” (broken and ugly) on the outside, but are clinging to His goodness and love in order to live life fully on the inside.

When I was studying counseling, one of my assignments was to attend an AA meeting so I could better understand what life is like for someone with an addiction.  I admit that had to be one of the most uncomfortable and out of the box experiences of my life, not because the meeting was strange, but because it was strange for me (the good little Christian Asian girl) to be at a place where you were supposed to admit you didn’t have it all together and you needed help to change.  What a humbling and eye-opening night that was for me!  For the first time, I saw people who were moved by love and humility to be better people and to live better lives.  I also realized how similar I am to those people – in need of recovery from my prideful and unloving ways – but unlike them, I was nowhere as far along in the process as they were.  Because the first step of the 12 steps is to admit you have a problem and I was still happily hiding behind my facade of being a good girl.

I know I am capable of doing good things, but I also often act out of pride, impatience, and a judgmental attitude, which are all the opposite of what is good and what is loving.  I think I have shared before about trying to be more loving as a person, but it’s only because I have come to realize how petty and unforgiving I can be (especially post-kids)!  Sigh!

I honestly still don’t understand why E said I am a good person.  I know I am definitely not a perfect parent!  If anything, he is the one who is good because he is able to see beyond my moodiness and impatience and still find good in me.  And his unconditional love, and that of the rest of my family and God, helps me know it’s okay that I’m not a “good” girl and I don’t need to try so hard to be one.  I just need to know I am loved and to let that love move me to love others.

A big thank you to my friends and family who love me and my dark side.  🙂

Here’s Kelly Clarkson’s song, “Dark Side“, about the not so perfect parts of ourselves.

Who in your life has witnessed your dark side and still loves you in spite of it?

Less Square and More Hip

Jesus is so not square!

This was a revelation of mine recently. You would think that someone who’s been going to church for close to three decades and attended seminary (for a counseling degree, not theology, mind you!) would have a better understanding of who Jesus is. Unfortunately, all those Sunday school stories went in through one ear, straight through my very square mind, and out the other without making much sense to me. I suppose I’m just so accustomed to viewing things through my perspective that it’s hard to think of things in an un-square way.  😛

When it comes to God, the creator of the universe, I have no problems understanding Him. I think we’re kinda on the same page. I mean, I’m pretty sure He is a perfectionist because if He had put the earth even a mile closer or farther away from the sun, it would be uninhabitable. And God is the one who came up with the ten commandments, which means He likes rules, and square people always follow the rules. 🙂

Jesus, on the other hand, is so out of the box! He healed a blind man by putting mud, mixed with His own spit, on his eyes. To be honest, that sounds just a teeny bit messy. He also hung out with people who were shunned by society, and not in a ke-chi kind of way either (translation = be polite even though you don’t mean it), but with genuine acceptance and concern.

So like I said, I just recently realized how different Jesus and I are … and this realization makes me appreciate Him even more than before. I’m so thankful He isn’t square like me and that He’s willing to get his hands dirty, literally and figuratively, cause people (myself included!) are messy. Knowing people and loving them for exactly who they are, even when they don’t love you back, is hard work. And that’s what Jesus did when He came to this earth, died on the cross for us and rose again.

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer/freedigitalphotos.net

I used to like Christmas a lot more than Easter, but they’re equally special to me now. I see that they both represent hope, the hope that there is so much more to this life and the way things are. They also give me hope in my quest to becoming less square and more hip, just like Jesus.

Here’s a happy and hope-filled song about Jesus by Jamie Grace called “Hold Me”.

How do you see Jesus?

Parenting is Unpredictable

I think it’s probably best for people with control issues to not have kids.  Actually, I take that back – maybe it’s a good idea for us because then we would realize there are just some things in life that we can’t control.  

There is nothing predictable about parenthood and it starts right from the get-go.  You can’t control when you’ll conceive and even with all the best estimations, you can’t control when you’ll go into labor.  And there is no way of knowing that you’ll gain 50 lbs during the pregnancy and give birth to a teeny, tiny 5 lb 11 oz baby (to this day, E is still a very picky eater!).  And once the baby arrives, there is no controlling how our minds turn to mush and our bodies start breaking down from sheer exhaustion and exertion.  I understand now why sleep deprivation is used as a torture method, but I think an even better way is to blast a baby’s cries non-stop until you can still hear those cries when you are alone in the shower.  😛

Don’t even get me started about parenting a toddler, especially one who talks in complete sentences at 18 months (C loves to talk so much that sometimes she says she’s talking to herself!).  This is when the notions of maintaining any amount of control start to vanish when this little person with a big attitude wants to have a say about everything – what she wears, what she eats, where she goes, etc.  There is no situation that makes you feel more out of control than waiting in a car for your kid to sit down in the carseat, so you can finally leave the parking lot you’ve been sitting in for half an hour.  Actually, there are plenty of other situations that could compare with this one, but they are too many to list and too frustrating to reminisce about. 😛

However, with all the crazy, uncontrollable parts of parenting comes another side that I had never predicted.  That’s the side that finds so much joy in just watching my kids while they sleep.  And how they make me smile just seeing their delight in the simple things in life, like dandelions.  It’s the part that still finds it unbelievable that they seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and are ours to keep.  🙂

E and C discovering a dandelion

Given everything that is out of our control, it’s a good thing a parent’s love for their child is just as intense as the insanity that comes with being a parent. 

Here’s a fun song, “Smile“, by Uncle Kracker.

What have you discovered to be the most unpredictable part of parenting?

The Queen of Anything

In our family, even though we are not of royal blood, I think it’s safe to say that I have earned my title as Queen … more specifically, the Queen of No’s and Don’ts. I probably say or think “No, don’t …!” a hundred times a day.

Let me give you some examples:
“No, don’t …
hit
put that there
run
throw
pour
kick
touch
yell
call so and so a poo
… etc.!”

Hubby calls me a bubble burster, as in bursting the bubbles of anyone who is trying to have fun. I just like to think I keep things in order. But yes, I do agree that my “no’s and dont’s” do make me a bit of a killjoy (according to urban dictionary, one of the synonyms for killjoy is square!). I guess my sharp corners do cause some bubbles to pop along the way. 😛

The other day I woke up to the sounds of hubby playing with the kids in our room. I heard a high-pitched ssss-shhh as multiple things spilled out of a bag and then the high-pitched voice of our munchkin girl ask, “What is that?” Hubby replied matter-of-factly, “Popcorn.”

The first thing that popped (pun not intended) into my head was, “ON THE CARPET?!” I didn’t dare sit up in bed to take a look at what was going on; I could only imagine tiny uncooked popcorn kernels flying everywhere around the room. (Did I mention that hubby is the “unsquare” one between the two of us?) When I did work up the courage to peek over the covers, I saw the kids shoveling up the kernels and pouring them into their beach buckets. Then hubby made a chute from a long cardboard box and the kids began pouring the popcorn down the chute into the buckets. By the end, there was popcorn all over the carpet as I had predicted.

But we also had two very happy kids playing happily together.

Our corny beach!!

Sigh.

Was having a little mess on the carpet worth it to see the kids, not to mention hubby, having fun?  Um, er, ah … okay, fine, yes. Although if I were to have done it, I would have put a sheet on the floor first and kept the popcorn in a contained area. But then again, I would probably never have done something like that because I would have been too worried about cleaning up (which hubby and the kids did do when they finished playing – whew!).  🙂 And ultimately, I would have missed out on a fun experience with the kids, which is what I will remember and treasure many years from now.

So, it looks like being a queen (of no’s and don’ts) isn’t all that it’s cut out to be. Maybe it’s time I started thinking about trading in my crown and becoming the court jester?  😉

I love this song by Sara Bareilles’, “King of Anything”, which is so perfectly applicable to this post.

Do you have a square or unsquare personality?

P-E-R-F-E-C-T

One of my favorite quotes from a former counseling prof is: 

“Perfectionism leads to hopelessness, but failure leads to hope (cause you can always try again)!”

I have come to the conclusion that perfectionism is not fun.  Trying to make things go a certain way, prevent things from going a certain way, having things happen when I want them to, how I want them to… it all ends up being a bit nerve-wracking!  😛  And I am certainly finding out that perfectionism and parenting do not go hand in hand…AT ALL.  Try making sure your kids’ pasta does not get all over the table or their clothes or preventing them from spilling a whole cup of water or peeing/pooing on themselves or worse, on you!  The list goes on and on.  And all this work for a brief moment of feeling like things are under my control…until the next situation that needs perfecting.  It’s like trying to keep the lid down on a pot of boiling water…all I get is burned and frustrated.  But if I can turn the fire down (ie. change the unreasonable and non-beneficial rules I have in my head), I can enjoy life a lot more and not be so anti-fun.  🙂

Image courtesy of vorakorn/freedigitalphotos.net

So I admit I am a recovering perfection-aholic and this is day one…again…of my sobriety (cause I’m pretty sure I tried unsuccesfully to perfect something yesterday). 😛  I think I’ve realized the solution to perfectionism…it’s unconditional love.  Knowing that God already knows all the good and bad about me that has happened and is yet to come and still loves me – well, the only one making me jump through hoops is myself.  And tangibly seeing God’s love through my hubby and kids (who are great at showing unconditional love) helps me not be so hard on myself.  Which is important in parenting cause I just have to remember that kids are kids and things happen, but it’s all good cause we can always try again (and it’s easy to google different ways of getting stains out of clothes and carpet).  🙂

This reminds me of a verse: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
 
Seems like the one thing that we can try to be perfect in is love, loving ourselves and others, the way God loves us.  So here’s to a new day of being okay at failing so I can try again.  🙂
 
The song for this post is Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T, which in my case would be changed to P-E-R-F-E-C-T!
Are you or someone you know a perfectionist?

Once Upon A Blog

Image courtesy of vorakorn/freedigitalphotos.net

It has been a dream of mine to write a book (about what, I’m not sure), but that goal has yet to be achieved, so I’ve decided to start a blog in the meantime.  And as a self-professed square person…

~firstborn and almost only child (my sister is a decade younger than me)
~stubborn
~perfectionistic
~controlling
~rule-based
~rigid
~insert any other adjective that is the opposite of fun and easygoing (LOL)

…I chose the title of this blog to be “2 square 2 be hip”.  🙂 However I am on a journey, by God’s grace, to smoothing out my edges and becoming a little more well-rounded each day.   I’ll be blogging the ups and downs of this adventure and hoping it will encourage someone in the process.

And being a music lover, I’ve decided to add a song (in the form of a youtube video) to each post which will correspond to the topic I’ll be blogging about.  

Thanks for taking the time to read and share in this journey with me!