[♫ NOW PLAYING ♫] Woodlock

Last night I was listening to Sirens by Pearl Jam on Spotify and then after that another song titled Sirens came on. It was by a band I had never heard of: WoodlockThe song was upbeat and catchy and I loved it! So I listened to more of their stuff. Turns out it’s all fabulous! They have a really fresh sound. Most of the songs are upbeat and the ones that are slower have such a lovely vibe to them. If you like acoustic/folk music or just looking for a change from the garden variety pop, you should definitely check them out.

Here is the music video of their most popular song, Lemons:

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[POEM] lying in wait

lying in wait

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on the trail

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Since March of this year, I’ve been walking outdoors, mostly hiking in the local wooded areas around State College. I got a Fitbit and I made a commitment to myself to get healthy. Depression was overwhelming me. No, not overwhelming. Drowning. I knew if I didn’t do something things were going to get ugly for me. My first walk with the Fitbit I did just over a mile and I couldn’t believe it. It’s not that I wasn’t capable of walking a mile — I consider myself an experienced hiker: from glaciers and fjords in Norway to crumbling sandstone arches in Utah. But it was a mile weighted with heavy, dark clouds of negativity and self-loathing. So when I finished, I couldn’t believe it.

Then I started walking with a friend on his dog walks. I enjoyed the company. It was nice to have a friend to talk with while wrangling dogs off leashes and on leashes. I learned a lot about my friend and a lot about dogs in that time. My love for these four-legged creatures expanded more than I expected it to. I became a dog-aunt: a role I thoroughly enjoy. Those walks came and went, just as phases do in our lives. I used to be bitter about those phases. It used to eat me up inside that you could put your emotional energy into a phase, only to have it leave quickly thereafter. But that’s what life is about. And recently I’ve come to appreciate these phases for what they are/were, and not hold them in a place of resentment. Enjoy the moments while they exist and feel good about having had them at all.

I also started hiking more frequently on my own. I would discover new areas of the local forests that I had never cared to explore before. It didn’t make sense: I am an outdoorsman. Or woman. When my husband and I vacation, we don’t go to the beach, we go hiking and camping. We backcountry canoe in the Canadian wilderness. I am not an urbanite. Give me green and lots of lands to explore. So it was a surprise to me that this was all (mostly) uncharted territory. But depression is a hole that easily sucks you in, creating new and unhealthy ways to escape everyday life, and allows you to forget what you love and enjoy. That’s where I’ve been for over two years.

And now my wooded excursions have taken a new twist: I’ve started running. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me before, in all of my hiking experiences, to pick up the pace a little and run. Well, I guess I do know why: I’ve never considered myself to be a “runner.”I’ve tried to get into road running off and on over the years. I’ve always said: I like the idea of running, just not the actual doing it. When I’m listening to a particularly moving song, I close my eyes and I see myself running. I can feel my heart pounding and the satisfying ache in my calves. But that’s as far as I get. I open my eyes and I look at my body and say, “Ugh. You can’t do that.” But recently I’ve been inspired by a friend’s trail running journey. And I thought: maybe I can do that, too? If I love being in the woods, why torture myself on pavement?

I’m starting small… if you’re measuring distance. But actually, it’s not such a small start for me. It’s monumental. I could never have done it six months ago. Six months ago I didn’t believe I could make it another six months. Sometimes I didn’t want to. Now I have self-worth and self-love. I believe I’m capable of anything – even running up and down mountains. It’s hard to describe the pleasure of trail running. There’s something sacred about sharing that space with nature. Although, “sharing” might not be the word I’m looking for. There’s a feeling of spiritual connection when I’m immersed in nature, and trail running allows me to experience that with a more heightened sensation. I’m placing my trust in nature to guide me along the path, which for me is more metaphorical than anything. In thinking of a way to describe the experience of trail running (and just being in the forest at all) I keep coming back to the word allow. I’m still a bit shocked that nature allows me to experience all that it has to offer and that I get so much pleasure out of it.

On a recent trail run, I thought, I never thought I could have this kind of relationship with running. It’s only the beginning for me, but already I can’t imagine not having it.

 

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me, after a 7-mile trail run in Rothrock State Forest.

 

 

 

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breaking habits

I’m talking about the bad ones, of course.

I recently broke a bad habit. I didn’t just break it, I muthafrackin shattered it with my hardcore knuckle strength. (Yeah, I went there. Listen, I’ve been working out, what did you expect?) You know the kind of habit: It’s that thing that you do constantly that you hate, but can’t seem to stop. Every day, multiple times a day, for no reason other than it’s a habit. Well, maybe there are other reasons. But your fingers or mind or body just goes there, without consent from the rational and logical part of your being.

Unhealthy habits are the pits. I’ve been struggling with many of them my whole life. And this year, they all decided to moshpit on my psyche at once. It’s killer when you’re being suffocated by bad habits and you can’t seem to find the good ones that you had in place. One-by-one I’ve been riding myself of these bad habits. Drinking (check). Junk food (check). Eating poorly (check). Sleeping too much (check). Not exercising (check). Self-Hate (check). And now I can check this one off my list, too.

(As you can see, I’m being vague about my bad habit, because it’s personal and embarrassing.)

Yeah. So I finally broke that habit. After two years (+) I broke this daily habit that I despise more than anything. How did I do it? I still don’t know exactly. Because I’ve tried over the past two years to break it. Repeatedly. With no luck. I’d get a day or two if I was lucky, and then (fcksh&p%ss) I’d fall into the trap. Somehow, this time, it stuck. And breaking this habit has also helped with another bad habit: my social media addiction. I’m still on it too much, but at least now I’m not checking what I was checking. So basically I’m on it a lot less. And I’ve come to realize how emotionally unfulfilling the whole thing is.

It started with a conversation with a friend about, um, hair conditioner. Don’t ask. You don’t want to know. It ended in a come-to-jesus moment of self-awareness. My habits were not only harmful to myself, but to the people I love. This particular one made no sense, served no purpose, and was just dragging out unnecessary emotional turmoil that I didn’t need. (I argued that it did no such thing – that it was simply a habit. My friend didn’t let me get away with spewing such vomit.) I’ve had enough conversations with different friends over the past two years regarding this habit and wanting to stop it. I don’t know why this one stuck. But it did. It was almost like a challenge. I have a need to prove myself to this friend sometimes, so that might have been a contributing factor.

But ultimately, I have to (and want to) prove it to myself. This particular habit wasn’t directly harmful to anyone (maybe me?), but it was just so pointless and stupid. I don’t need to do that thing I was doing. I don’t need to know. Those clicks and finger swipes were just driving me crazy and even though I didn’t “care” about what I saw, it made no sense to even check. Somehow, I managed once and for all to convince myself of that fact. Thankfuckinggod.

It feels good to break a bad habit. I feel emotionally lighter and more in control of my being. I’ve been doing such amazing work on myself lately, this is just another hat tip to myself for a job well done. Bad habits aren’t cool. And I am. So let’s just eradicate them one-by-one. And this one — it was a long time in coming. It feels great to let go.


Here’s a self-reflection challenge: What’s a bad habit that you want to break? Make a list of bad habits and PICK ONE to work on eliminating from your life or daily routine. Don’t try and rid yourself of all of them at the same time. (For instance, my nail biting increased substantially after breaking this habit. I need SOMETHING to do with my hands. And residual anxiety is common.)

Try it for a day — see how it feels. If you made it a day, go for another. If you broke it, instead of beating yourself up, just try again the next day. FORGIVE YOURSELF. You are human. You are flawed. If you allow yourself to be human, the success rate will be that much higher. When you have the urge to do the bad habit, ask yourself what purpose it serves. What satisfaction do you get from it? What are the emotional, mental, or physical consequences of doing that habit? Does it hurt others in addition to being unhealthy for you? If you remind yourself why it’s a “bad” habit, you’re more likely to stick with breaking it. See if you can go a week! I’m on a 12-Day streak and counting! There’s no going back for me now.

Bonus challenge: Try replacing your bad habit with a good, healthy habit. Every time to get to urge to do X, do Healthy Y instead. I didn’t do this exactly, but instead of doing my X habit, I would do something else that was related (social media) but not unhealthy for me. The healthier the replacement habit, the better off you are.



The most important thing
is to believe in yourself and your capacity for self-restraint and to love and forgive yourself for making mistakes and being flawed.

You’re fabulous! You got this! 

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on body image and where i’m at now

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The Bather, 1888. Pierre-Auguste Renoir

“That girl has huge thighs!”

I used to resent my body. I used to say nasty things to it in the mirror, when I ate, when I was in bed, when I had sex, or when I was standing next to someone thinner. When I was twenty I stayed with my friend in a beautiful Victorian manor house in England. In our bedroom was an old-fashioned full-length mirror. After a shower, I caught a glimpse of my thighs in that mirror and sobbed on the floor while my friend was taking her turn in the shower. I have never cried so much self-hate in my life. In that moment, I wanted to die. I couldn’t imagine ever loving the body in the mirror. It was a pivotal moment in my journey of my own body-hate. Ever since I was too little to be worrying about my body I was worrying about my body. I’ve been called fat (implied or passive aggressively) by people who are the dearest to me. People in my life that should be reaffirming my self-love were unintentionally (or maybe intentionally, but I don’t think so) affirming my disgust of my body.

Yes, I had people tell me that I was beautiful, but I knew they were only referring to my face. I did have a long-ago lover tell me I reminded him of a woman in a Renoir painting. And he meant it in the most admiring way, but because I was so deep in body-hate, I cringed when he told that. Who wants to be a Renoir painting when you’ve got Victoria Secret models? (Now I love that compliment. And I regret that I didn’t let him admire me more.) When I was showering under a bucket in the African Umfolozi, I had an a friend’s grandfather tell me I reminded him of a forest nymph/goddess-like creature from a mythology. I know it sounds creepy, and I’m not really explaining the compliment properly. At the time, I brushed it off because he was old. Of course he would get kicks from catching sight of a twenty-year-old showering in the woods, no matter how curvy she was. Now I look back at my 20-year-old self, trudging through the African bush — I was a fucking goddess.

It took until I was thirty to stop shaming my own body. It took someone else (at first) to say, “You know you’re beautiful, right?” Yes, I said. I’ve got great hair. Nice eyes. A pretty smile. But that person said, “Sure. But, like, your body — is gorgeous.” I won’t go into the details, but that person was more specific about what they found “gorgeous” about my body. This was a time when my self-confidence was at an all-time low. I was suffering from post-partum depression. My “non-fat” status was no longer being reaffirmed by friends and family. Food was my escape and avoidance of all the other issues in my life. Fight with my husband? I’ll bake some bread! Don’t want to have that awkward conversation? Here are some cookies! I avoided eye-contact with strangers. I didn’t believe anyone was looking at me in any sort of way that implied they were attracted to me.

But finally at thirty, the trigger was someone else insisting that my body was beautiful. I mean: insisting. At first, it was all I could do to roll my eyes, but after awhile it started to sink in. I started looking at my body differently. My breasts, my hips, my legs, my belly… I paid attention to the curves and dimples and smooth lines. I would run my hands over my body and feel how soft I was. My shoulders were strong and my upper back was muscular and smooth. Soon I didn’t need that friend telling me how beautiful my body was — I could see it for myself.

My depression has been spastic these past two years. Ebbing and flowing with the creating and demise of friendships. And on top of that, my mom’s stroke in March 2015 turn my life upside down in a way that I only understand now why people use that cliche expression. I mean, you seriously don’t recognize your life as it is. This fall I hit rock bottom — I drank too much. I didn’t care about my personal hygiene (seriously). I avoided any difficult life problems. I was meaner to a certain friend than I should have been. I neglected my family. I essentially lost my job (although that story is a lot more complicated).

At the beginning of 2016, I got my shit together. I started working out a bit. I stopped purchasing wine to have around the house. I stopped going out as much. I continued therapy. I made sure I was taking my meds. In March, I started walking/hiking. I do this just about every day. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends. And in April, I started boot camp 3 days a week. Sometime this year I also finally “let go” of an old friendship. I stopped being angry. I stopped being resentful. I stopped passive-aggressively trying to shame that person publicly. I just let go. It is what it is and it was what it was. I started to be appreciative for what I learned from that experience. And I really am now. And I really have come to peace.

But recently I’ve been relapsing into shaming my body. Part of it is that I’m working out regularly now, but not seeing immediate results. For all the work I put in, I can still pinch and pull at fat. I can see muscle definition, but it’s buried under years of bread. Part of it also is that I have really pretty and fit friends. And they know it. Some of them make comments about other people’s physical appearances.  I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with caring about how you look. It’s just that it makes it hard sometimes to stand next to them and not want to melt into a puddle of self-loathing. Or feel like a cow.

That all being said, I love my body so much more now than I ever have before in my life. I admire it often (even if no one else does). I respect it enough to take care of it. Now that I’ve got a regular exercise routine I want to move into having a healthier diet. I just love food — but in healthy and unhealthy ways. I want to irradicate my unhealthy relationship with food and concentrate on the healthy changes I can make.

I don’t get compliments on my body from anyone else anymore (necessarily). I just love it for me. I spent too much of my life hating and resenting my curves. It’s time for me to embrace the curves and extra bits of fat and not-perfect muscle definition. The more I love my body the more I’ll take care of it, and the stronger and healthier and happier I will become.

Why did it take so long to get here? Better late than never — and I intend to never hate my body again.

 

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[POEM] these memories fade 

  

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[POEM] what the trees know

 

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photo taken during toward the end of a solo hike at Patton Woods / Scotia Range in State College, Pennsylvania. 

Because it’s NaPoWriMo, I’m trying to write a poem a day. This one was written based off of the prompt #3 from This Is Not a Literary Journal.  A text version of the poem is below. 


what the trees know

the distance between their highest points and the
descending steel bird

the moans of lovers taking refuge underneath,
making the last of fall, and the last of each other

which leaves are worth holding on to and which
to let go

how the autumn colors conceal the oncoming chill of winter

the initials of teenage puppy-love,
carved in promises of forever

of pending divorce
of secret love affairs
of shopping lists
of poetic declarations
of a soldier not coming home

the feel of electric volts measured in lightning strikes

the newness of life, growing in a hollowed stump

wood before it’s been chopped, sawed, carved –
smoothed, made into furniture, shipped off to the big box.

my suspicion when you said “we belong together”
when there were so many others
and the competition for attention was too great

and the trees know:

how lately, my heart has finally
let go of the grief
that each step into the woods
calculated by a tiny chip on my wrist
has brought me closer to myself

/ / /

Gina Thompson
6 April 2016
State College PA

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[POEM] a dog walk haiku 

  

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[POEM] tree skin

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