Embrace

The first time I recall being called fat and ugly I was around five and sat on the arm of the chair by the cooker in my Nan’s kitchen. My sister and I  had recently been bridesmaids at an auntie’s wedding and my great aunt was looking at the photos. She said it was a shame I looked so fat and ugly because my sister looked beautiful. My mum, her sisters, my Nan, my sister, all laughed. They saw it as a joke. I didn’t. Maybe I would have learned to if it was the only time I heard it. It wasn’t.

I was never the pretty one. My sisters were pretty, funny, great to be around; I was “clever”; it was said with disdain.

As an adult, a couple of boyfriends picked up on my insecurities; they would compare me to my sisters; tell me my sisters were far more attractive than me. A childhood full of the feelings of me being fat and ugly further exacerbated by men that claimed to love me.

I hid myself. I wore mostly black. I wore mostly shapeless clothes. I always wore my hair down so my face was hidden. My paranoia was so high that, if anyone looked at me on the street, I assumed they were thinking that I was so fat and ugly that I was scaring small children.

I didn’t hate my body; I was embarrassed by it, ashamed of how it looked. That meant being embarrassed and ashamed of who I was; no matter what I did, it was never enough to make up for how I felt about me; I was never enough.

I got really ill. My lack of confidence was a large part of why. I realised I had three choices: I end my life; I stay miserable; I change my life. I opted for the latter.

That sounds like it was easy; it really wasn’t. It was a struggle. I doubted myself frequently. I lived by “fake it ‘til you make it”. I developed techniques that made me change my perspective on how I saw me and the world around me (I still use those techniques and I share them with the ladies that I do workshops with). I challenged myself to do things that I never would have done before. People believed the me they saw. They complimented me. I learned to accept the compliments. Then I learned to believe them. I started to see me through their eyes, then I started to see myself through my own refreshed ones. For the first time in decades, I liked me; I liked how I looked and I liked who I was. It’s wonderful how life changes when you don’t spend time stressing about the incredible body you live in.

Another woman who had similar realisations was Taryn Brumfitt. Following her beautiful, “unusual” before and after photo, she created a documentary, called “Embrace”, and, from that, she developed the Body Image Movement, of which I am a Global Ambassador. Me!! Someone who wouldn’t look in a mirror for the majority of their life because I felt ashamed is now promoting, fully living!, body positivity!

The film is amazing! If there is a screening near you, please go (here’s the link to all films in the UK: https://uk.demand.film/embrace/ For the screening I am hosting in Southampton: https://tickets.demand.film/event/1486 It’s also available in the USA and Australia).

“Embrace” is emotional, funny, eye-opening, wonderful.  If you have ever had feelings of sadness about your body, if you have ever worried about body image pressures on the children in your life, please watch this film.

So, anyway, me and my body now. I don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. I am grateful every single day for what it allows me to do; living with the chronic conditions I have, knowing how they could all be worse, knowing they will get worse, I am so grateful I can still walk and dance and be silly with it. I love how, even with a genetic skin condition, my skin still holds me all in and most of it feels really soft. I love my curves, my softness, my firmness. My body is incredible and I love it. I have embraced who I am, all of me

Love,

Vie

xx

 

The Art Of Asking (with huge thanks to Amanda Palmer)

I’m not good at asking for help or support. I never have been. Close friends know that I’m very good at avoiding questions about myself because, even when I need support, I feel too scared, too vulnerable, to ask for it. I was brought up in a home where I wasn’t important and I was told I was only of any use when I was supporting others. I never learned how to lean on someone but I make a very good post to hold someone up or have them lean on me.

Although my desire to help stems from believing that was my only purpose, I continue to do it because I truly believe we are all here to make the world a better place, and, if by offering a smile, a hand, an ear, a shoulder, helps someone feel better, why wouldn’t everyone do it?

I have admired, sometimes with envy, those people that can ask for help. I longed to be able to do it but the fear of rejection held me back every time. As far as I have come from my childhood issues, there’s still a little voice that occasionally surfaces, telling me I’m not as important as anyone else; that I’m here to support, not be supported; that I’m the hard working donkey that carries the heavy loads whilst others cuddle the pretty lamb. But, mostly, I admired these people because I thought they were brave.

How brave to risk rejection, to admit vulnerability, to ask for support. I admire these people.

Over the years, I have offered many an ear and a shoulder, and I wouldn’t have it any other way (if you need one, message me). I have also supported lots of people on campaigns. I have never had much money but I know that, sometimes, a few pounds can make all the difference between something happening and something not. I know, from (oh my goodness I am that old!!) decades of fundraising, that the pennies really do add up and that every little bit helps. So, often, I will see a campaign and think, what will I do with this fiver? Will it help me? Or will I not notice spending it? In which case, is it better served elsewhere ( I have lots of inner dialogues. They aren’t always logical to anyone but me 😉 )? Sometimes, I know I need to keep it because I need it for bus fare ( my EB and my hips don’t allow me to walk far) or to buy dinner, or something else. Sometimes, I donate it. I have supported some fabulous campaigns! There are so many to choose from! I have donated to a young woman in America who wanted to make age appropriate bras; to the making of a swing documentary ( swing dance; not the joys of play park ones 😉 ); cat (obviously) related things; and to so many cabaret and performance artists wanting to share their talents to a wider audience; I have so many CDs from artists that I am so pleased I was a very tiny part of making it happen. Do I miss those fivers? Have I noticed them gone? Only when I get a craving for posh chocolate and I can’t afford to buy any 😉 Mostly, though, no. But I do smile every time I see the CDs or get an email about a project. And, how lucky am I that I continue to get joy from participating in such projects!

I am reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking. I’ve not finished it yet but she talks about how she has achieved so many incredible things because she asks for help. She believes in community, both in the real world and online, and she has created wonderful things in part because she has asked her friends and her fans for help. She has made herself vulnerable and open to criticism but sees all that as part of the process because the love and happiness that comes from it all far outweighs the negativity. Not that the nastiness doesn’t hurt her, though. Why people feel the need to be cruel, I don’t know; I believe in the adage that, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. And, as I often say on my Facebook profile, together we are stronger. Anyway, it’s a great book and I am learning from it.

Last weekend I got an incredible opportunity. A few of my friends know of my long held desire to be a Celebrant; I believe we all deserve the ceremonies we have in our life to be respected as important and personal, and I would love to be part of that, to be part of creating something that only you can have because only you have the feelings you have about the situation. Last weekend, I got to be the Mistress of Ceremonies at a friend’s 60th birthday and I lead their unofficial vow renewal. It was incredible! I was so honoured to be part of it; I got to partly realise a dream and, for reasons that aren’t mine to go into, I was part of something so incredibly joyous.

On Monday, I put on Facebook about how it it was such a fabulous ceremony and how I would love to do this for more people. Lots of people said that I should set up a GoFundMe. It had been suggested before but I had dismissed the idea; I felt embarrassed to ask for help; what if no-one wanted to support me; what if people were angry at me for asking for money; what if people rejected me because of it. It felt like a really vulnerable thing to do. I deliberated. I thought of reasons to not do it. Then I thought about why I should. I thought that, maybe, I should be brave. Maybe I should say, this is me, this is my dream, please help me realise it, please support me, please be part of it and celebrate this with me. So I set it up!

Since Monday, just over half of the money has been raised. I’m astounded and so very, very, very grateful. Every time I get a notification, even if it is not related to the campaign, I get anxious, waiting for insults, for cruelty, someone telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this and how despicable I am. I am still feeling very vulnerable about it all. But, so far, only one person has criticised me (I hope that’s the only one that does). Lots of people have chosen to not support me, and that’s very much their choice and I am sure they have very good reasons; some are saying they would like to but they can’t afford to and I really appreciate that (I have included them in all the updates because I appreciate them, too); but so many have donated! So many have said such wonderful things! So many have said that this is the perfect job for me; that my personality is ideal to be a Celebrant. How amazing is that!! I asked and, not only are people donating but they are offering encouraging words too. A few people have even said that, should I receive all the money and get to do the course, they would like me to do ceremonies for them! Wow! That’s fantastic!

To every single person that has donated, I thank you; I am so incredibly grateful. To all the people that have said such supportive words, I thank you; again, I am very grateful. I have cried a lot this week. The vulnerability, the anxiety, is making me sensitive (more so than normal), but I am so overwhelmed by the kindness and consideration people have shown. So overwhelmed. They are happy tears.

I actually asked for help. People are helping. How wonderful is that!

Love,
Vie
Xx

P.S. Just in case you want to follow the campaign or donate, this it the link: https://www.gofundme.com/help-vie-become-a-celebrant

Thank you. xxxx

Journeys in Hopeful Positivity.

New Years Eve.

It’s just a day, right? Another date in the calendar, just a little more significant than any other because it marks the final day of one year and the start of a new one.

It’s the time when we make promises that we won’t be so flawed, that we’ll do and be more or less of this and that. A day when we’re meant to be celebrating, celebrating our lives, the end of a great year, or just surviving it, ready to start a new year filled with excitement and motivation. The pressure to be “having fun” can be immense.

Yet, at the time of writing this, it’s 8.25pm and I’m tucked up in bed, eating chocolate.

I was really upset an hour ago. I had a sudden panic of, “Is this it?”, “Will nothing change?” in response to something that had happened and it felt like the black dog had bounded in, knocking me over, all of his four paws on my chest, and his abundant slobbering came out of my eyes.  I began to worry that this was how my year was going to end; that, instead of celebrating, I was going to be struggling. I came up to bed and cried. Then I gave myself a talking to. Sometimes, the negativity burrows into my core so quickly, that a talking to doesn’t help but, fortunately, today it did.

I told myself that my feelings were justified and I was allowed to feel them. I told myself that, though I was disappointed I wasn’t going out, instead of just sitting and watching tv, I could do something I have been meaning to do for ages, so I picked up my notebook, my reading book, and my puzzle book (that I bought about three years ago and have never used), and brought them to bed with me. I told myself that, though I hadn’t planned on spending the evening alone, I was getting to spend the time with someone I have worked hard at getting to like, love, over this last few years: me. And I told myself how lucky I am; lucky that I have a partner who loves me and who I love, even though we piss each other off sometimes; that I have my beautiful three furry girls; that I have a warm bed to retreat to in a warm house, where I can eat tasty treats; that I have a choice of how to spend my time; that, although we don’t have much money, getting by on one wage, we are wealthy in comparison to many; that, despite my physical and mental health issues, I mostly live a life of interest, vibrancy and fun; that I have faced fears, lived with hope, and live a life very different to the one I imagined, and thought I deserved, in my very unhappy early years.

Today, my talking to worked (sometimes, perspective helps) and I’ve actually had a pleasant evening, reading, writing, chatting to friends, doing puzzles, and eating chocolates.

So, I may not be awake when the bells chime twelve, but I am starting the year as I mean to go on: listening to myself, trusting my feelings, and being honest and true.
Happy New Year.

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