How to Be Healthy: As Told by Elise
Eat mostly vegetables,
fiber, fiber fiber.
unless it's as part of fruit.
Or you've gone without it for so long
you just can't bear it anymore.
Eat things so tasty it tickles your toes.
Move your body.
Stretch your muscles,
work out the kinks.
Make it sweat
make it hurt.
Make it feel better later.
Above all things,
always be moving.
Explore your mind.
Read, write. Listen to music.
Listen to pop, listen to Liszt.
Listen to it all.
Read it all.
Build towers and towers of books you have
or may someday, read.
"Without new experiences,
something inside us sleeps."
Never sleep, always experience.
Experience the beach, the sea, the mountains,
the plains, the cities, the country.
All countries, as many as you can.
Be outside often.
Experience peoples, places, things.
Do it all and you'll always be
happy, healthy, and independent.
In 8th grade, I discovered the "Fearless" book series. The protagonist was a tall, blonde genius martial arts wizard who couldn't feel fear and ate tacos and donuts all the time Everything I wanted to be. Oh and something about the biological condition which makes her incapable of fear also gives her super strength. Because of course it does.
Being incapable of feeling fear and having superpowers seemed great, but I mostly loved Gaia, the main character, because of her lack of fear in social situations. Unfortunately for her, it was cause by a lifetime of traumatic experiences, but it was what I appreciated in 8th grade. Gaia gave zero fucks. Zero. None whatsoever. Dress nice to get people to like you? Nah. Worry about eating too many donuts because you don't want to gain weight? Don't care. Worry about boys liking you? Only if they play chess.
Gaia was just what I wanted and just what I needed. If you think this has been a lame treatise on fear, so do I. I don't have anything else to say about it though. I'm not a worrier, I'm a determinist The things that will happen, will happen. Some are more likely to happen than others. Worrying about any of them is pointless. You're going to be worrying about it when it happens, so why worry beforehand and be forced to experience even more worry. Primal fear is a standalone. Seeing a shadow, hearing something which spooks you, the fear flashes and then it's gone. These are my experience of fear. Le fin.
What Would I Tell 9 Year Old Me?
Girl, you got this. You so got this. It's insane how much you got this. You have a combination of personality traits and natural abilities that others would kill to get. Life is going to remain just as easy for you as it always has been. Sure, there are bad things down the line I wish you wouldn't have to deal with. But it's a catch-22, if I tell you not to do them, you'll be hell bent on them or finding something even worse. That's just who you are. It will take you a very long time and some pretty significant jolts of reality to make you start listening to anyone else, and I know better than to rush it or redirect it. Which is probably why your parents didn't try to do anything about it either. C'est la vie.
"Oh yeah, I think it's cute when girls 'use tools' and act tough and stuff," the guy standing behind me boasts.
He's heard me talking to a former Girls, Inc. employee about my job as a nuclear chemist. How it requires much more manual labor than I expected, how empowering it is to learn how to use tools with confidence, how much I wish I could share that with younger girls.
Ah yes, cocky, how I know you well. I turn around, quickly flipping through the photos on my phone, finding the picture I want.
"Yeah, I know. I had to move these around all day," flashing a snapshot of the ginormous Carbon Dioxide gas cylinders I'd played with earlier. They're half a foot taller than me and outweigh me, clearly, by at least a hundred pounds. "So fun," I say with enthusiastic sarcasm, "And what do you do?"
He is speechless. For a full moment, silence then, "Um.. I'm a-attorney."
"Oh cool." I turn and continue talking to the girls.
The next morning one of the girls messages me on Facebook and we start talking. At some point. "OMG, I have never seen him at a loss for words before. You've got to come hang out with us."
And so I do. Who wold think that randomly being assigned an extra player from the other team because your shambles "Free Agent" kickball team is too sparse to play could lead to so many great things?
No one tells you how hard it is to make friends as an adult. The crucible of being in your hometown or at school or at work simply forces you to come together with cohorts out of shared boredom. None of these people, even ones I've met through friends of friends, strike me as "random". Through one of these venues, I knew a person who knew a person who introduced me to a person who I wound up being friends with, and that's where my friends come from. A network with degrees of separation eventually combined does not an instance of fate make.
But Biz and Brianne, I met them truly randomly. At a sports league mixer where I subtly insulted one of their friends? Yeah, I'd call that random. I met them when I hadn't made any friends yet. Not people I liked, not people I wanted to spend time around. Specifically, not people I could talk to and meet up with nearly every week. Without them, I don't think I would have been quite so happy in Chattanooga. I don't know if I would have stayed so long. What would I have done without our Ladies' Nights where we could get together and gossip? What would life be without going to silly parties and playing Hide and Go Seek? Who else to brunch with on Sunday when you're setting yourself right? What if my introduction to them hadn't emboldened me to go keep exploring and find all my other Chattanooga good people?
Aside from the tremendous fun, they gave me hope one could make adult friends. It takes persistence and luck, continually throwing yourself into situations where you could meet new people, even though most of the time you won't. Sometimes you get lucky though. Sometimes you get the people that you can fall in-step with so easily. Sometimes it's worth all the hassle.
Not to mention, with Brianne came Marsh and from Marsh came Gardner, and every so often I like to tell him, "Gee, and I would have never even met you, my wondrous boyfriend, if I hadn't dissed some guy at a bar."
That's how I most like to think of death.
When you die, you degrade. Whatever strange assimilation of atoms which momentarily arranged themselves as you disassemble to become their original selves. Perhaps they become new molecules in a new person. Perhaps they become a tree, perhaps a rock. Perhaps they float into the atmosphere and you do go off to be Stardust.
In the span of eternity, no one will remember who you were, no one will remember what you did. But you will have participated in the dance, and isn't that enough?
I don't know much of birth.
I had one, I suppose.
Never done one.
Never much thought about it.
Simone says, "One is not born,
But rather, becomes a woman."
Oh how I know that.
One must learn grace and wisdom.
One must learn experience.
One must learn temperament.
One must learn giving.
One must learn sacrifice.
One must learn patience.
One must learn loving.
One must learn to be all the things I didn't want.
All the things I had no interest in.
All the things I thought were boring.
All the things that, in fact, make the world go round.
What is a woman?
I read her whole 1000 pages on it.
But I still don't know.
Have I been born yet?
What's today'topic?" My boyfriend asks at breakfast.
"A Secret Skill I have," I cock my head and look at him. "Fact: As an megalomaniac, I have no secret skills, and will or have absolutely told you about all of my skills."
Without missing a beat, he replies. "And there's the bad habit to write about."
I missed writing yesterday. I didn't want to, but I did and oh well. Writing for 14 days straight (I started early) has been fun. And fundamentally, I'm all for days of rest as a concept.
I wasn't going to write about being an egotist as my bad habit. I was going to write about this weird thing I do where I bite my cuticles and can't stop and the many ways I have tried to alleviate it over the years, but yeah, comparatively, that's a cop-out. Writing about being an egomaniac is much more flashy.
Words "egotistical" and "megalomaniac" I adopted over time after hearing them or seeing them painted on dastardly characters I liked. (Oh Lestat, what a babe!), but they don't quite fit. Certainly the head of our government this year has redefined what it means to be a megalomaniac, and I am decidedly lacking.
Merriam Webster define egotism as:
1. excessive use of the first person singular personal pronoun:the practice of talking about oneself too much
2. an exaggerated sense of self-importance
Close, but not quite. Not the perfect adjective.
In high school, I discovered Johari and Nohari windows. Straight from them:
"The Johari Window was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness. By describing yourself from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of overlap and difference can be built up."
Johari is the good qualities. See mine here.
Nohari is the bad qualities. See mine here.
Unpicked by me but rated extremely highly in the Nohari was "self-satisfied." Let's see about that one:
Self-satisfaction -a usually smug satisfaction with oneself or one's position or achievements.
Ah, yes. That fits the bill. Maybe when I was 18 I suffered from delusions of glory, but thankfully I read enough Ayn Rand to get tired of it and yank myself from the grips of fanatical selfishness. Not bad selfishness. Not a "Mine, mine, mine" Scrooge McDuck selfishness with no regard for helping other people. I could give, I could help. I can self-sacrifice with the best. But certainly a sense of, "I am amazing and wonderful. Hear me roar!"
However, I didn't realize thinking and proclaiming to the world that I was great could tell other people they weren't. When I see Heidi Klum, I don't think "Oh god, I'm so ugly." When I see Elon Musk or Bill Gates, I don't think, "Oh god, I'm such an idiot." When I see anything anyone with traits that are fantastic or desirable, it doesn't bring to mind my deficiencies. For me it brings about a wave of fresh enthusiasm, "Hot damn! How do I get there?" With a healthy balance of knowing I might not get there. I might not ever be that beautiful or rich and famous, but I don't care because I love my life. It was a shock to me to learn that when others see you being successful, it can make them feel bad about their own accomplishments. It's the now well-studied "social media" effect whereby people because sad and jealous upon seeing the apparent happiness of others.
I don't like that effect, I want to reign in the part of being self-satisfied that makes people feel bad. That's why being an egoist remains relegated to "bad habit".
There is, though, a silver lining to knowing you have a big ego. With enough practice and control you can start throwing it around for other people. If I know someone has good ideas but are too timid or quiet to bring them up in meetings with the bullheads, I can throw in for them. (Always, always, always if you bring up an idea that's well received, credit the owner. You get as much respect for good ideas as you do crediting your peers). If someone makes feels awkward and shy, I can make the joke all on me knowing in 10 minutes I won't care while they may have fretted all day. Helping others, as always, is the penance to the sin.
I have to? Okay, if pressed, I'm sorry. I'm sorry seems to be the only thing to say.
Some people hang on thinking maybe if they had only said this or done this, things would be different. Maybe magic words drift in the ether and if only you could snag them and say them, you'd be saved.
But all the words in the world can't take back the bad ones you said.The anger, the hurt, the sheer and utter sadness and disappointment.
Words don't heal wounds -time does.
I have come to find that I am a melodramatic breakup-er, which I confess, is surprising. I'm typically not categorized as a terribly emotional person. But a breakup? Get ready for sad, reckless, angry and downright depressed Elise. I pondered and pondered why this was the case.
The short game is getting through it. The long game is getting better. If you don't get all the bad out in the short game, it'll stay with you for the long one.. The anger, the hurt, the deep seeded primal reactions are your reptile brain being angry. Let it rage; it likes to. If you let is dispel quickly, it haunts you for days or weeks, not months or years. If you don't let it out of your core, it sweeps out into the functioning, thoughtful part of your brain and takes root. I'm not going to pretend I'm okay now only to find out I've been concealing a cancer.
And so I whine and rage and get utterly exhausted of feeling all the feelings until I simply can't feel them anymore. They fade to black in my memory, with the passing of more and more time, taking up less and less grey matter. They remain, but they're buried in mounds and mounds of earth.
More words at the wrong point give them opportunity to return; I'd rather leave them buried. Foreign relics, anthropological wonders to be unearthed and explored after years have passed. Maybe then more words can be had.
Or maybe they can lay there and rot. Disintegrate back into the earth to be born again some other better time and place. Nothing's better than to start afresh.
I feel at peace.
I'm primarily an extrovert. I like being around people to recharge, feed off the energy that comes with loud nights and chaos. And yet, there's another part of me which periodically must enjoy isolation or be starved and irritable.
I went to a boarding school of 300 people contained in a two block perimeter. As teenagers, you were't allowed to leave campus unless you had a buddy to sign-out with. You had a roommate so you were rarely alone in your room. People stayed up until all hours studying for classes or crowding the common room to watch Grey's Anatomy. 'People, people, people all the time.
Except for 5am, when the doors officially "opened" from lockdown. I'd set my alarm for 5am so I could creep down, outside into the garden area for an hour or two before anyone woke. For an hour or two, I could sit and enjoy the stillness, the calm before the storm.
Much to the chagrin of my boyfriend, I don't just like being alone. I love it. I crave it. I need it. And yet, not to really be alone. No, I like to have a teammate. Someone I can rely on and to play with most of the time. It's only the few moments I need for real solitude. Like dessert -enjoyed only occasionally. Too often, I'd become overwhelmed. It'd spoil the taste. But a little bit every now and then?Just right.
What do I do in this alone time? Mostly this. I read, I write, I think things. Distill swirling, twirling thoughts into a coherent narrative. I give myself time to fully explore the idea of "What am I to do? Are they the right things? Should I do something different?" Proactive, not reactive. You don't want to plow through your life simply doing what's next because it's there, never contemplating on the when or why or how.
Or the should. What should it be? If you don't take the time to wonder, you'll never know.
They say, "No man is an island entire of itself. I think sometimes you need to be. "
I'm thankful for my body because….
It is strong.
Ha! I got you with the salacious words and pictures didn’t I?
Sorry to disappoint, but moments of feminine appeal aren’t why I'm thankful for my body. I love my body because it is strong. Because it has power and can do things. 15 mile hike battling the brutal grade of the Appalachian Trail? No problem. Dumping half a ton of chemical into a cooling tower 50 pounds a a time? Let's go. I want the blood, sweat and tears.
In middle school and high school, you develop a new interest in your body. Whereas it was perhaps taken for granted before, now it’s doing so many strange and intriguing things, it can’t go without notice. And you’re told by other people what you might think and feel about it. Maybe you’ll worry whether or not it’s attractive to others. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll decide you rank out as not bad, but not the best. Surely you’re never going to care about your hair or makeup or clothes the way other girls do. So since you can’t be the best, screw it. You’ll devote yourself to other efforts like books, brains and soccer.
Why starve yourself to be skinny? Being a jock will help on this quest. If you’re used to extreme physical performance, when the thought of “I wonder if I’m skinny enough” comes up, it can slide right off. It becomes “If I have to run more than six miles everyday to lose weight, ain’t happening. Too much work."
Real pride in your body doesn’t come when a boy twirls his fingers through your curls and says, “You’re so pretty.” It comes when he holds your jersey back after the front line has been released, and whispers, “At least give her a head start before you rip her up.” Or when you insist on shoving your way into the hazing ritual intended for the boys in your grade. Where seniors throw 20 pound boxes of fruit off trucks allowing five feet of fall to teach you the difference between mass and momentum. At the end though your arms are purple from the bruises, you haven’t dropped a box and you’re scooped up, paraded around for a week to show off your wounds.
Don’t worry, I dislike the thesis is based around the appeal of boys, too. Maybe we can’t help but base our feelings of our bodies off the appeal of others. But I like that I can tell you the appreciation is not because you’re a delicate feminine flower. It’s because you’re swole AF. Maybe by telling you it more, it can help you believe it. If not me, certainly J. Law, the queen, praising being fit and strong. Love your body because it is yours and you have so much to do with it.
Alright, alright. While we’re here. I'm also thankful for....
My cleavage. I think it’s perfect. I know perfect is a subjective term for something like this with so many styles and preferences, but I love it. It’s absolutely my favorite part of my body. I like being lush. Ripe with springtime promises, Ostara of the dawn. I know, I know. Stop being so affectual. I can't it. Maybe you're disappointed I'm not leaving on a message of strength, but you also need to appreciate your body in all it's blissful wonder, It's just the tits.