My Oma is fucking hilarious. She is this teeny tiny German woman who despite moving to Canada in 1960, still has an accent. She tells us stories about when she moved and she was a young woman living in Toronto, learning to adjust to the culture and just trying to make a wage. She worked a couple jobs when she moved, but the job I hear the most about was her time as a waitress at the El Mocambo.
The El Mocambo is an old live music venue in Toronto, it opened in 1948. My Oma waitressed there when she was younger, and my god does she have stories. Additionally, my Oma was (and still is) a very beautiful woman. More importantly, my Oma knew she was a very beautiful woman. All the waitresses had to wear little black dresses and according to my mom, for the day and age they were pretty scandalous.
I was about 14 or 15 when I started hearing about my Oma’s time as a waitress and she would tell me that she earned a lot of money working there because she was pretty. And then she would turn to my cousins and me and to tell us that we were also pretty girls, and we should know that. We should act like we’re pretty, because it will get us farther.
Being a snot-nosed teenager, I was very unsure about my Oma’s proclamation. First and foremost, my Oma is blind as a bat, so her judgement of appearance is…questionable. But also, what did it mean to “act like a pretty girl”. It kind of felt gross to think about. Act like I’m pretty? Ich verstehe nicht. (cc: I don’t understand). However, hindsight being 20/20, I’ve realised what my Oma tried to (and continues to) tell me: Be a little obsessed with yourself.
I’m not saying be a narcissist, but be a little bit of a narcissist. Fuck, I’m a bit of a narcissist all the time. I want to be a musician, I need to assume that people find me interesting and talented enough to spend money on me, to spend time on me, to invest in me. I post photos of my food on social media. I make the assumption that I am so important, that people want to see what I eat. I have a blog, I assume that my opinions are so important that people will want to read them. Little bit of narcissism.
We’ve talked about it before, but you have to be a little bit into yourself to get through life. You are going to spend the rest of your life with yourself, you may as well enjoy your own company. Be able to watch movies and take photos and eat by yourself. Enjoy yourself enough that alone-time feels valuable.
Moreover, it’s okay to be a little obsessed with the way you look. You don’t need to love your body every second of everyday, that’s an unrealistic standard to set. But love yourself more than you don’t. Every now and then look in the mirror and go “Damn, who’s she?”. 1000% my Oma still looks in the mirror and goes “Wow I look good”, and my Oma is blind.
Be obsessed with your skills. When someone asks you “what is something you’re good at?” tell them. Don’t be the person who sits in the corner of the room and says “nothing”. Be bold about the things you’re good at; I know I’m a good songwriter, a good baker, a good skier. It’s not a bad thing for me to know those things or say those things out loud. Particularly, because those skills are the result of hard work. I’ve been skiing since I was three, my parents put me in lessons and I worked hard to learn to ski. There have been many baking incidents over the years that have resulted in tears (the Christmas cinnamon bun incident of 2015). I work with other people and practise writing songs. I’m proud of those skills so why wouldn’t I admit that?
Now, it’s important not to put others down. Don’t prop yourself up on the backs of others. That’s when confidence becomes arrogance and *vomit*. It’s important to love spending time with yourself, but don’t avoid spending time with other people. Remember to love the way you look, but don’t compare your looks to other peoples’. Know your strengths and be proud of them, but don’t use those skills to belittle other people. If anything, use them to help and teach other people. Be confident, be a little bit self-obsessed. Just don’t be an asshole.
When my Oma says “act like you’re pretty”, she means to be confident. My Oma is an objectively nice looking woman, she’s blind and deaf and has a language barrier, but she was stunning and has aged really well. And there is not a thing in the world wrong with my Oma being confident about her looks, with her taking pride in her appearance. My Oma wants my cousins and I to be confident. To take pride in the things we know to be true. She wants us to enjoy the person we live life as.
Sie möchte, dass wir wissen, dass wir sind „damn treats“.
From me, with love, to you,
Today is a big day. AS OF TODAY, I have worked out every week, at least twice a week, for a full year. This is a major accomplishment for me. I have never, never, gone a full year working out. This is the first time in 22 years that I have had any consistency when it comes to physical activity.
And in coming to be a more physically active person, I’ve learned people love to talk about numbers. Everything is quantitative. How many reps can you do? How many pounds can you lift? How many kilometres can you run? And the answers to all those questions are: what exercise are we doing? I don’t know but probably not a lot, and I can run 10 km. But those aren’t even the most insidious numbers. What’s your BMI? What are your measurements? How much do you weigh? How much weight have you lost? How many calories do you eat? Each of those questions are vicious but thriving in conversations about healthy lifestyle. It is important to note that all of them can be answered with a simple, “None of your business”.
When it comes to this more active lifestyle I’ve taken on, there is only one number I consider important. The number 4. Over the last year, I have only had 4 panic attacks. I’m actually smiling right now, I know you can’t see it because this is a blog and not a YouTube video or a Tik Tok, but I’m smiling.
I have two different anxiety disorders and a long history of panic attacks. If you’ve never had one before, it feels like your heart is going to explode, your skin is on fire, and your brain is made of lava. Additionally, despite having around 8 years of experience with panic attacks, they don’t get better. They are just as terrifying, unsettling, and uncomfortable every single time. I don’t know the last time I had less than 10 panic attacks in a year.
I’ve had people tell me that I look different, or even better. And those compliments are nice, I do appreciate them because I understand that there is value in appearance. But that cannot compare to the feeling of being happy. I ran into an old friend the other day, and she told me, “It makes me so happy to see that you’re happy”. And she’s right, I am.
There are some important points to note here. Numero uno: I did not get rid of any of my other coping mechanisms. Working out did not replace anything, it is now something I do in addition to music and therapy and talking to friends and creating lists and the 3,000 other ways I have structured my life to manage anxiety. Numero dos: I still have anxiety. She rears her ugly head and makes me feel like a bag of garbage, but those periods are less frequent and more manageable (yay!). Numero tres: I do not know what will happen in a world post-vaccine. I have social anxiety and a lot of my triggers involve large groups of people, which hasn’t really been a problem over the last year. I’m aware that things could change.
Numero cuatro: I did this for me. Working out (especially when you start) can suck. It makes your body hurt and you get sweaty and sore and uncomfortable. It can be defeating and demeaning and frustrating. So, you need to show up for yourself, and accept that some days just suck. There were days this year I ran 10 or 11 kilometres and felt like a goddamn icon. There were also days I ran 3 or 4 kilometres and STRUGGLED. My first run was 2 kilometres, and I walked a good portion of that. But I kept working because showing up for me felt good. It’s better to run 2km than 0km.
I will never be a gym rat that can run 100km and lift a zillion pounds. I will never be super flexible or proficient at any sport. However, I show up for me and I take care of my mental health and that’s more than enough. And I can see that in the number 4. It shows strength and resilience. It tells me that I’m doing something right. That for a full year I loved myself enough to do something that I thought I couldn’t do.
Over the last year, I have spent 183 days in lockdown, gone to 0 bars, eaten in 2 restaurants, gained 1,628 Instagram followers, got started on 1 new social media platform and worked out at least 104 times. But it’s all because of that last one, that I get to be most proud of the number 4.
From me, with love, to you,
In December, my cousin and I went for a walk to celebrate the end of a shitty, shitty year, and celebrate the beginning of a shitty, shitty year. And while walking, we started talking about New Year’s resolutions (it was December).
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I much prefer “themes”, which is a term I stole from my older sister. New Year’s resolutions are usually arbitrary, unrealistic, and lead to disappointment. You cannot predict what is going to happen in a year, which is why I’m sure many of you threw out your 2020 resolutions around March 2020. But themes provide more flexibility, there are no hard and fast rules you set, no deadlines or metrics. It’s just understanding what you want your year to feel like.
So, my cousin and I are walking, and I’m explaining that she should “theme” her year, because she too wasn’t keen on New Year’s resolutions. And almost immediately, she comes up with “setting the bar high”. And she says this:
“I set the bar really high for myself, but I always let people act shitty and get away with it. I would never treat someone like that, so why do I let other people do it to me?” (Or something like that, I don’t remember verbatim, it was December). However, “setting the bar high” is important, not simply as a yearly theme, but as a general framework for your life. You should set a high bar for the people in your life. Your friends, your family, your significant others. The relationships you have should not be one sided, and they should not be your sole responsibility to maintain.
Relationships (here comes the neuroscience) are transactional. And I will use my cousin as an example. My cousin provides me with humour, social support, a good drinking buddy and unconditional love. So, in return I provide her with humour, social support, a good drinking buddy and unconditional love. And these four things are not always equal in distribution, but what I give her and what she gives me, is equal. For example, if she stabs me with a pen and I continue to love her unconditionally, she can expect less social support, because my unconditional love has gone up. Does that make sense?
and receive in relationships is not always the same. For example, you provide your boss with a service and they ensure you get paid. There is still an exchange here. If you perform poorly, your boss will start reprimanding you and making your life more difficult. The “social etiquette” part of your relationship will decrease, because your quality of service (which is your primary value in the relationship) has decreased. Ta da. Neuroscience.
And some relationships will always be unbalanced and there is nothing you can do about it. Maybe your neighbour is an asshole and blasts Metallica at 3am. Maybe your co-worker is a really close talker during a pandemic and you have to keep yelling, “Back up Janet!”. Maybe your friend’s boyfriend smells like bologna. In that case, I suggest drinking wine straight out of the bottle whenever you get the chance. However, for the relationships you have control over in your life, make sure you’re not letting people walk all over you.
You’re an icon. You’re a damn treat. Don’t let anyone act like you’re a mouldy zucchini when you’re actually a fresh baked cookie. You treat others with kindness and respect and that is the bar you should be expecting that from other people. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself, just to check in.
Just some things to think about.
You’re a fan-fucking-tastic person. You should know that. Make sure the other people in your life know that too. Set the bar high.
From me, with love, to you,
My mom tells my sisters and I, “A tired brain is like glue, things stick to it”. That’s why sometimes in the middle of the night you think of something and you can’t let it go. It’s why you can’t think clearly when you haven’t had enough sleep. Your brain likes sleep. And unfortunately, most tired brains don’t stick to good things. They aren’t Kris Jenner saying, “You’re doing great sweetie!” from a chair off in the corner. They stick to your mean thoughts, and your unkind thoughts. They stick to all your worries and anxieties and don’t want to let go. A tired brain is like glue.
Unfortunately, my brain is tired a lot. My brain does all the things your brain does to make it tired. It makes to do lists and grocery lists. It remembers anecdotes and passwords. It has conversations and reads social signals (not well) to figure out situations. But my brain also does a couple other things. It spends time trying to make extra serotonin, because it doesn’t really make enough. It spends time engaging in coping mechanisms, I have to get myself to deep breathe probably at least once a day to calm little anxieties. It works to identify when I’m ruminating and then tries to stop.
And when it gets tired, it becomes Gorilla Glue. It sticks to everything and anything. Here’s the thing about my anxiety, it catastrophizes. It creates the worst possible outcome and presents that as the only one. It spins and spins and spins until it makes me dizzy, and I’m so disoriented I can’t distinguish up from down. Years ago, I couldn’t let go of the fictional catastrophes and I would spiral into a panic attack, but now I use coping mechanisms. I go for a run, read a book, watch a Marvel movie, drink some tea, talk through the problem with a friend. But like I said, coping mechanisms can make my brain tired too. Coping mechanisms can be hard work, but they’re worth it.
I get convinced of things that don’t really have basis in reality. Every morning when I go to work, I assume I’m going to get fired that day. My brain thinks everybody hates me. And when I say everybody, I mean everyone except for approximately 10 people, five of which I’m related to. Its stressful thinking that every co-worker, friend and acquaintance I have hates me. It’s very tiring. My brain sticks to the idea that I’m fat and ugly, and tells me horrible things about the way I look and the food I eat. It sticks to the idea that I’m stupid, and that my degree was a lucky stroke in a life where I can never be academically successful. It sticks to the idea that I’ll get in a car accident, get followed home from work, get COVID from a customer, end up alone and practically every other negative thought. A tired brain is like glue.
But most problems have solutions. How do I stop the spinning and the sticking? With facts, when I feel myself starting to latch onto worries, I try to think objectively about a situation. I have a degree so I can’t actually be stupid. I’m an attentive driver so I won’t actually crash. I wear a mask and use hand sanitizer frequently so I won’t actually get COVID. Anxiety likes to play pretend, so I keep at least one foot strongly planted in reality.
Secondly, I use sounding boards. I talk to people I trust about what I’m thinking. I tell my dad that I feel like my life is going nowhere and he says, “Get over yourself, you’re 22 not an old hag”. I tell my cousin that everyone hates me, and she says, “Fuck that, then I hate them too”. I tell my sister I think I’m ugly and she sends me a list of Nicki Minaj pump up songs. I ask for help. That’s an okay coping mechanism to use.
But I also need to learn to wind down my worries on my own. At the end of the day I am my own responsibility, so I need learn to unstick my brain. I ask others for help, but I also need to know when I’m using them as a crutch. I need to take care of myself. I need to get extra sleep or do yoga or take a rest day. I need to recognise what is a “normal worry” and what is an “anxiety worry”. I need to not stress about “normal worries” and simply attend to the “anxiety worries” without letting them rattle me.
Worrying is natural, I remind myself that everyday. Worrying about money keeps me from spending every dollar I have. Worrying about my social relationships shows that they are important to me. It’s okay to worry, but it’s also important to know when a worry is out of touch with reality. When to just recognise the worry and let it go. I’m working really hard at just letting the sticky thoughts pass through my brain and move on. It’s not going as well as I could hope, but I’m getting better at it. I just need to stay in reality. I just need to keep calm. I just need to get some sleep. Because a tired brain is like glue.
From me, with love, to you,
I’ve worked in retail for four years, there are parts that I don’t necessarily love, but that’s work . On the other hand, there are parts of my job that I truly enjoy, one of those parts being working in the fitting rooms. Working “fits” is satisfying for a whole host of reasons.
First and foremost, I’m a talkative person, and it means I get to talk to people all day. Not only talk about clothes, but I’ve gotten music, podcast, movie, and recipe recommendations. I’ve had in-depth nerd chats about Marvel movies, psychology, and financial planning. I’ve met people with incredibly interesting jobs. Retail allows you to meet a large variety of people, and working fits means I get to interact with all these people.
Second, I love shopping. I know it’s a cliché that women love shopping, but I do. It’s not even the act of buying clothes but there is a shopping “culture” that I really enjoy. And in helping other people shop I get to live a bit vicariously through others.
Finally, I get to make other people happy. Shopping, specifically jean shopping, can feel very defeating. There is variation in wash, material, style and size, leaving so many variations that the whole process is daunting and exhausting. Additionally, women’s clothes is atrociously inconsistent in sizing, which can be frustrating. I personally have felt defeated by jean shopping and it’s not a nice feeling. However, working in fits, I get to ease the experience for other people, or at least that’s what I try to do. Finding someone their new favourite pair of jeans is satisfying because I know how I feel when that happens for me. No, I’m not curing cancer or building houses or saving puppies, but I get to help give people those little moments and that feels really nice.
And despite loving this aspect of my job, I’ve noticed something over the last couple weeks that I find frustrating, so I’m sharing it with you. Toronto just came out of lockdown round 2 and people are ready to get out and move around a bit more. We were all stagnant for 100 days, and the cabin fever hit us pretty hard. People coming into the store often want to chat and want to engage, because we have all been lacking some social connection. And many of the conversations I have are unique, however, there is a common thread – especially with female customers: “I’ve just gained so much weight during quarantine”.
And if it were just this comment, I wouldn’t really care. It would simply be a factual statement. However, it’s never just this comment. It’s followed by a parade of comments where women comment that they’ve gotten fat, or feel ugly, or are disappointed in themselves, or have been “bad” over the last couple months, and so on and so on. Essentially, the women are constantly dumping on themselves for their bodies changing over the last couple months/the last year.
And I hear so many women say, “I was so bad over quarantine, I ate so much”. Bad? Food is allowed to bring you joy, especially when there is not much else going on. We need to stop associating our food choices with morality, as if you could actually “be bad” by eating something that tastes good. Something that brings you joy. I drink Starbucks hot chocolate more often than not when I’m at work. It’s about 3 zillion calories and has enough sugar to power the energizer bunny. But it makes me smile and I know it makes me just a little bit friendlier at work so I’m not going shame myself for drinking it.
Of course, I want you to take care of yourself. I want you to get 10,000 steps and eat your vegetables and drink enough water during the day, but most importantly I want you to be kind to yourself. I want you to allow yourself to be human, and part of being human involves weight fluctuation, especially in times of change. It’s okay to acknowledge change in your body and have feelings about it. But don’t be hard on yourself over changes that occurred while in lockdown.
Women of all sizes are complaining about how their bodies are inferior, when that is so far from the truth it’s laughable. My sister told me once, “when you hate your body, think of all the things it allows you to do”, and I try to do that. When I grab the wrong size of jeans and feel “fat”, I remind myself that my body ran 10k this fall for the first time in 6 years, it can sing a C#6 and it can walk around for 8 hours a day, 5 days and week and sell jeans like it’s nobody’s business. It can also eat an entire pizza in one sitting, and that’s pretty impressive.
I just want you to be kind to yourself. You’re a lot more than what a scale tells you, and frankly, it’s not worth the energy you put into stressing about it. You’re built for so much more than stressing about weight, you just need to get out of your own way.
From me, with love, to you,
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Here's a place where I'll try to keep you updated on what's going on in my life and with my music to keep you connected.