Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dance like the whole world is watching

Uniqlo 4th ave credi

All the world’s a stage. Including the Uniqlo store on 5th Ave.

“You need to work on your shyness.”

That’s what a middle-aged gentleman called out to my friend Laura Hames Franklin as she twirled down an aisle of Uniqlo’s 5th Avenue flagship store, playfully interacting with mannequins and brandishing packaged tank tops like pom-poms.

The man was joking, but as I hovered nearby, I took his observation to heart.

I don’t generally think of myself as shy, but when it comes to dancing in public…I’m shy. Which is precisely why I agreed to take part in Laura’s WeDanceDay film shoot. What better way to confront a fear of embarrassment than to intentionally embarrass myself?

Except I don’t actually want to be embarrassed, so I was struggling to muster up the energy that Laura so easily exhibited.

watching Laura

Watching Laura and trying to avoid embarrassment.

My comparing and despairing mind was quick to point out our differences: Laura’s a trained dancer, whereas I’m just a gal who agreed to bust a move on her lunch break. Laura has rhythm, I don’t. Laura has who-cares confidence, and I…

Do! I do have who-cares confidence! I even have a little rhythm. (I definitely do not have dance training.)

Sometimes I worry about what other people think of me. I try to control their perceptions by controlling my appearance. And it’s true that the way I look impacts the way I am perceived. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much I can control, and the thoughts of others are really none of my business. I’m confident in my authenticity, and beyond that, well, who cares?

Our bodies were made to move, and WeDanceDay is a great excuse to boogie down. I wanted to feel free and happy and to have fun; I wanted to show my fellow humans that it’s okay to be openly silly and joyful.

So that’s exactly what I did. As I watched Laura shake loose, I acknowledged my insecurity, gave it a hug, and decided to enjoy my experience. Not just to dance like no one was watching, but as if the whole world could see. Because I’ve got nothing to hide, and when I allow my full spirit to shine, embarrassment is impossible. (Awkwardness? Well, that’s another story.)

dancing anyway

Embracing embarrassment with who-cares confidence!

Temptation, trying, failing, trying

Mini Napoleon by sweetfixNYC

I ate my own Napoleon(s) too fast to photograph. They looked like this though. But with more filling.

Sugar is not my friend.

I know this, I know this, I KNOW THIS, and if I have any doubts whatsoever, I need only touch my tender, itchy skin.

And yet this afternoon I ate a cannoli, half a Napoleon, something that looked like a ball of meringue but was crunchy amaretto instead, two coconut cookies with rasberry jam, and finally, another Napoleon.

I am not writing about this occurrence in order to guilt trip shame myself. I’m just confused, and I want to understand.

Nearly ten months ago I found out that if I stopped eating sugar, dairy, and gluten, my chronically itchy skin would stop causing me pain. At the time I made this discovery, I was in a great deal of discomfort.

eczema evidence

This is what my chest and shoulder looked like.

I’ve had eczema most of my life. When I was a child it was severe, but after I hit adolescence the rash faded to an annoyance. A persistent patch here and there, but nothing I couldn’t easily endure or ignore. And then came last summer. Suddenly, at age twenty-nine, I was overcome with an outbreak that rivaled the eruptions of my childhood.

The itching was relentless, and my scratching as destructive as it was unstoppable. Nighttime was torture. I tried wearing gloves, wearing socks over gloves, wrapping fabric and bandages mummy-style over my hands–anything to keep me from tearing up my skin as I slept. Nothing worked. Each morning I woke to freshly clawed wounds; no matter how short I cut my nails or how hard I tried to confine them, my unconscious hands found a way to do damage.

Then I stopped being able to sleep. Instead, I’d sit up for hours, scratching and worrying, experiencing flashbacks of long, lonely nights and futile frustration. In a way, I was grateful to be reliving my youth. I hadn’t realized how bad things had been, and connecting to the suffering of my younger self allowed me to show up with compassion, to heal distress that had not been acknowledged. It made me want to take action as an adult, to help her/me in a way I couldn’t before.

Having long ago maxed out the (in)effectiveness of steroid creams, I decided to try something different. I visited a friend who is a healer, and I surrendered my inflamed self into her care. Entirely desperate, I was willing to try whatever she suggested.

I immediately changed my diet. No sugar, no dairy, no gluten. No coffee, no chocolate. No chicken, no shrimp. No onions, no garlic, no spices; nothing raw, nothing frozen. I ate eggs, cucumbers, walnuts, apples. Salmon, quinoa, and kale. Hot lemon water in the morning, berries once a day, steamed arugula as much as I could manage.

I got better. The new diet, and my friend’s unique approach to acupuncture, was working. Two weeks into the treatment plan, I slept through the night for the first time. A month after that, my skin had almost completely cleared.

eczema improvement

Six weeks of solid self-care paid off.

And then I started to slip. A bowl of lobster bisque at a wedding. Some gluten-free gingersnaps at Thanksgiving. A few buttermilk bacon pecan pralines at a holiday party. As the new year progressed, I coasted along a gradual slope of occasional indulgence…that turned into a freefall.

Coffee became a daily habit. A couple weeks ago I had a Twix bar for lunch two days in a row, followed by a Friday breakfast of bagels and cream cheese and a Saturday night milk shake with a generous helping of cookies. I had a friend in town, and when we got groceries, I encouraged her to put shortbread biscuits with chocolate medallions in the cart and added ice cream sandwiches. When she asked about my restricted diet, I waved her off.

I knew I was pushing my limits, eating whatever and dismissing the consequences. I figured I’d get back on track eventually, but I was waiting for a sign.

I thought the sign would be jeans that were too tight, or a belly unfit for a bathing suit. And I’m sure those indicators are en route. But what showed up first were welts. All along my torso, my chest, and under my arms. Not quite as bad as last summer, but close enough to remind me where I’ve been. The itching is back too. I woke up scratching the other night.

“Food is either medicine or poison,” my friend told me last fall, and I know that she is right. I’m back to hot lemon water in the mornings, and steering clear of coffee and chocolate and everything else I’m not supposed to have. Last night I baked sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free muffins.

And today I ate a truckload of Italian pastries.

People change at the pace of pain. I’ve heard that before, and it seems to be true for me. Apparently I’m hurting enough to buy better groceries, but not so much that I can pass up free sweets.

I pray for patience and compassion; there is no place for shame. It is too easy to say, “What were you thinking, eating those desserts! You know better—and it’s not like you had one cookie. Have you no self-control? Do you not care that you’re harming your health?”

It is a little harder, but not hard, to say, “Oh hon, oh dear. I feel sad that you did that, but I understand. Sugar is not your friend, but I know how it pretends. I know it was very tough to resist that unexpected temptation. Yes, you lost control, and I know you feel bad. But you are making progress. Next time can be different.”

I ate a lot of sugar this afternoon, but I also passed up pizza at lunchtime, and instead splurged on carrot-celery-apple-ginger-beet juice to go with my arugula and walnuts and eggs. I am making progress. Next time can be different.

It’s already okay

you-are-enough butterfly

I had a whole elaborate blog post planned. I was prepared to tell you all about my latest bout with insecurity, and how I was hoping to overcome it quickly. (I was on a deadline.)

So to start, I tracked down an image that contained the message “you are enough,” and I composed the title of “it’s already okay.” And to my pleasant surprise, I felt like I was finished.

I could take more space and time to detail the specifics of today’s low-grade anxiety. Maybe I even will.

But for now, I am resting in the reassurance of two simple phrases, and in the relief and comfort it gives me to share their truth.