Everyone has an outlet for their emotions. Sometimes the feels – both good and bad – reach a tipping point and when they overflow, you’ve got to find a basin to catch them or you’ll drown. For the most part I paint. And, you might find this kind of strange, but I never actually considered myself an artist until I started painting to release some of my emotions. Quite frankly, that’s something I’ve only done recently. So even though I march around painting for an actual living, I didn’t consider myself an artist. That is, until I got angsty and plopped some emotional pigment on a spare piece of paper. Poof! Artist.
But that’s not what this post is about.
The other outlet I’ve always turned to is writing. Admittedly I haven’t written much lately. I spend most days and nights utterly alone and the monologue that sweeps endlessly and silently through my mind could fill pages and pages, but I rarely actually write anything of substance. That’s a true shame, as I’m sure you’ll agree, given that I fully understand the difference between there, they’re and their. (Please, people of social media, give my weak heart a break and bone up on your basic grammar!)
So here I am again, sitting at the computer, writing one of my few blog posts. And this one comes as a means to overflow some of the feels that I can’t unload through painting.
Back on the topic of social media. You know those people who post inspirational workout regimens as a promise to themselves that they’re going to get a “flat stomach in 60 days” or follow a simple “10 minute workout to tone your abs?” Maybe you are one of those people. I understand. You want to commit and what better way to commit to a healthier lifestyle than post your intentions for everyone to see? Now you’ve got some level of accountability. If you don’t stick to that ridiculous diet and absurd training program, you’ve got X number of <insert social media platform> friends/followers to answer to.
Uh, excuse me, Jessica, but you promised us flat abs 3 months ago. WT-actual-F?
No results = failure, amiright?
But let’s backpedal a bit. Why are these unobtainable goals always formatted in a visually appealing ad that promises results that are utterly unrealistic – unless of course, you already happen to be a 6-pack touting sexy beast, in which case… carry on.
Here’s what I’m getting to, and I know you’ve heard it already, but the confidence-shattering suggestion that you (women in particular) should have a flat stomach and curvy figure with relative ease is – repeat after me – complete. And. Total. Bullshit.
I’m not saying this as a chick that has somehow managed to limbo under the social expectations of a female body. I’m saying it as someone who totally empathizes and went through the same bullshit. Except I got the body I (and society) wanted.
Don’t roll your eyes just yet. This isn’t a vanity post.
I spent years – quite literally, years – of my life wishing I could have a flat stomach and toned body. I wished that not just because I thought I would look better, but because I knew having those physical qualities would make me happier, healthier and more confident. Raise your hand if you’re with me here.
Let’s cut to the chase. At 34, I finally got what I wanted. Flat stomach, toned arms and legs. At any point on any given day, even if I’m feeling grossly bloated, I can slip into a bikini and still look like an athletic, healthy chick. And you know the payoff of reaching that almost-unattainable goal? Happiness! Confidence! A complete and total life change! All my dreams come true!
Not a whole lot. Perhaps I’m healthier, but only marginally. I may actually be less confident now than when I started my training. There were all of these expectations I’d stacked in my mind, assuming that somehow my physical fitness and appearance were directly tied to my happiness and fulfillment. And when the two developed separately, that stack toppled.
If you’re wondering what that feels like, do you remember when you were 15 and you assumed that by the time you were 30, you’d have all of your shit together and then you turn 30 and you’re like…… fuck…? Yeah, that’s it.
Insecurities don’t go away. Do you know what I got from 5 months of distance running? My feet would make Sasquatch cry. No, seriously. I have maybe 3 toenails left. Yep. I still think my hair is too thin, my skin is too pale, my shoulders are too dark, my face has too many blackheads, my jaw isn’t strong enough, I’m short, my eyebrows are too light, I hunch, my butt is flat, my skin is starting to wrinkle, I have gray hairs, I get razor burn, I can’t coordinate outfits…
Perfection is a myth and an absolute necessity until the day you die.
A couple days before my 34th birthday around mid-September, I ran 34 miles. When I finished, I leaned against my car and let out one dry sob as the single emotional noise I could muster in such a state of exhaustion. Why? Because I’d never run more than 26.2 miles. That was the furthest I’d run and the exact distance I’d been training for since last May. I did it alone, from start to finish. I was tired and in pain and it took hours. But I finished it.
The absolute high from completing my goal and culminating the hours and months of pavement pounding was phenomenal and floated me along for a bit. But I came back down.
And here is where my post changes from slightly irritated to moderately dark.
You can stop reading now.
And/or, you can check out some cool Instagram accounts that I totally recommend for a solid laugh! Okay, if you don’t follow theawkwardyeti, you need to get on that ASAP AF! If you’re a chick (especially single) in your 20s or 30s, follow Betches NOW! And if you like topical/sarcastic/inappropriate humor, follow thefatjewish!
All of this talk about me reaching my goals (hurray!) and obtaining the almost-ideal figure (huzzah!) is leading to a little shadowy corner where I’ve been hunkered down for months and months…
Earlier this week was World Mental Health Day and now I’m going to poke my nose out of my little gopher hole and let you know (for those of you who are remotely interested) that I’ve been managing/struggling with/battling with a fucking mental axe/trading in my mental axe for a mental Morningstar… depression.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Big fuckin’ whoop, right? Everyone has issues and everyone is dealing with their own shit.
I’m not claiming to be unique or individual in my sadness and I fully appreciate that so many of you are valiantly struggling with the many channels of depression and fatigue that are out there. I just want to come out and state this because – now to come full circle – social media is a lying, cheating bastard that looks super sexy, but is riddled with disease!
Repeat after me, you sexy bitches:
- You CANNOT get flat, toned abs in 60 days unless you start with almost- or completely-toned abs already (Or if you follow some BS regimen that makes you want to literally cut your own head off with a dull butter knife.) Just. Fucking. Stop.
- Delilah, with her impeccably perfect Instagram photos, showing that south-facing wall with a veritable blanket of golden sunset tucking in a meticulously crafted arrangement of “shabby-chic” wall décor and freshly picked mother-fucking orchids can go fuck herself. She doesn’t exist and that life is not real.
- Allison, whose online art business is booming, who spends her days exercising and playing with her puppy and painting in the blooming sunrise of a gorgeous New England morning is fabricated. Allison spends her mornings in darkness. Her days in darkness. Her nights in darkness.
There is a distinct difference between our lives and the lives we want others to see.
What you cannot see is that I am an artist at:
- Dropping color on a colorless slate
- Igniting happiness in a joyless moment
- Shrouding absolute darkness with a veil of careless light
But between the hiccups of laughter and joking, there is always colorlessness, joylessness and darkness.
And I realize that I’m talking (writing?) in circles. But my end point is that, however I present myself in social media outlets and physical social settings, I am the victim of the same demons as anyone else.
World Mental Health Day is about, among other things, awareness. So this is my attempt at awareness. The collateral damage of my decisions while battling depression has been profound and this figurative Morningstar is heavy. It’s easy to drop the defenses and let your emotions overflow, but today I’m putting down the weapon to write about my experiences and I hope there is someone out there who is less burdened by their depression by reading about mine. Loneliness is a dark and vile thing. Knowing you’re not on your own might help you find a little light in the darkness.