Everybody, I’d Like You to Meet My Mental Illness


Running between the couches in my therapist’s office is a wooden coffee table with a chess set on top. The pieces on his side are charcoal gray. The pieces on mine are gold. We never touch them during our sessions, but we always play.

He types quick notes while I talk and glances at me over the rim of his glasses with the dissecting look of a person who knows how to wait, and that’s his game: wait, coax away knights and bishops until I’m vulnerable, check me, but let me win. I grab fistfuls of tissues and play a different game entirely: overthink, slide a square back after tentatively sliding one forward, stall, protect. In my game, I am the king. The queen is always the harder one to beat.

Last week, my therapist gave her a name and gave me a new strategy: this is an anxiety disorder and you should probably take medication. One to three orange pills per day and one white pill per day, my physician confirmed. They’re bitter on my tongue and I’m told that winning will still be a slow process this way, but I’ll stand a better chance against the despot wreaking havoc on my body.

With boots on, I am 25 1/2 years old, 5’4″, and 114 pounds. The prongs on my belts have begun the thrilling and terrifying exploration of fresh new holes they’ve never been able to reach. I’ve begun the thrilling and terrifying process of leaving my house on my own after work hours and existing like a normal person again. One day, one morning, one hour, one pill at a time. I have to.

I have a mental illness. Most days, I feel reluctant to call it that because there are others who have it much worse. That doesn’t eliminate the fact that my brain is frequently playing its own game of chess, fixating on single pieces and unforeseeable outcomes as it lazily emits the basic data required for me to function: worry worry worry wake up worry worry worry go to work worry worry worry check emails worry worry take care of your loved ones worry remember to eat worry pay rent worry. This has been my life for almost half a year. Until now, I have not had enough mental room to give words to it, enough distance or practice to tell a person what mental illness and anxiety look like. Here’s one more strategy: I’m going to talk about it in every way I know how.

Anxiety is a small, ink-black worry hovering over your mind that only needs to drip once to be everywhere and in everything. It’s a hurricane that you keep on the inside and let silently devastate you, because letting it out means you immediately become a human evacuation order. Mental illness teaches you many sad things, and one is that there are less storm chasers in the world than there are people who flee.

When it’s especially bad, anxiety is waking up to ballistic missiles, stepping out of bed and into a battlefield where you are the only one fighting. Anxiety is slipping out of your pajamas and kneading the curves of your stomach like clay to make sure it’s still capable of holding anything because you’ve been skipping meals again, or so you can berate yourself one more time for every pound of what if and worry that’s found its way there and stayed.

Anxiety is driving in silence because you’re afraid the songs on the radio will somehow trigger panic. Anxiety is sitting at work with a strained smile and solving other peoples’ problems when you’re dealing with a rising hazard that you can barely contain — shallow breaths, a throbbing heart, lack of energy, nausea. Anxiety is rushing to the bathroom so that no one can see you crying, so you can bend yourself over an open toilet just in case, so that you can fold yourself into a corner like a paper crane and pray to not be so delicate. Anxiety is smiling uncomfortably when a coworker says they need a mental health day, because you know you can’t ask for the same thing and be taken seriously when you desperately need to be. Vomit gets you a day off with sympathy and no questions asked. Mental illness does not.

Anxiety is putting your key in the lock when you get home and opening your front door into a cell that you want to leave, but don’t know if you can. It’s hesitantly pulling back the covers and slipping into bed, knowing you will not be roused by pink sunlight filtering through your eyelids but black panic twisting in your gut. Anxiety is the fear of being awake — or for those of you who handle humor better, anxiety is being dragged to a party you never wanted to go to, spending the whole night wondering how you can both seem really chill and quietly want to never leave your house again, and stressing out because your ride out is nowhere to be seen.

I have a collection of metaphors to describe it when I don’t want to feel completely deprived by it, and a growing list of advice from loved ones and friends I’ve told myself I am never to listen to:

“Maybe you need to make different life choices.”
“Just stop worrying.”
“You don’t need to see anybody. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

You don’t win at chess by running from or minimizing the challenge. You win by playing the game one bloody square at a time. Prayer and faith are my squares, my days at a time, and though I know that many people who struggle with mental illness don’t share the same beliefs I do, I know that there is hope. It is sometimes a wild and fleeting thing, perhaps even a distant thing, but never an impossible one. So I’ll get up and I’ll play. Some days I’ll have it really good, and others I’ll struggle. Some days I won’t know how to move and worry myself sick about what will happen if I do. But I won’t quit. Kings don’t quit.

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Bless You Internet, Vol. 1


One of my favorite blogs is SEMI-RAD, mostly because it’s freaking funny and filled with lots of tongue-in-cheek outdoors tips, which I love. The blogger, Brendan Leonard, has a series that he updates every Friday called “Friday Inspiration.” In it, he unloads all of the best stuff he’s found on the Internet that week. As we all know, the Internet can often be the armpit of humanity: dark and disgusting. It’s nice to take a break from all of that and see the silver lining. So, to follow in the footsteps of Brendan Leonard and add what I hope will be a little more joy to the world wide web, here is the first in my own series of best stuff found online. Enjoy!

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Lately, I’ve been


eating: lots of tacos. I ate six on Cinco de Mayo that were the size of my face and legitimately thought I was going to die. By the end of the summer, I plan on being the Cache Valley white girl taco expert. Thus far, the restaurant formerly known as El Salvador has hands down the best tacos I’ve ever eaten in my life. La Chispita is an okay choice, though, if it’s Taco Tuesday/Thursday and you’re not that far south. The owners are selfless dears, so I’ll recommend them any day.

drinking: too many Swig drinks to count, or should I say highway robberies in a cup, because at least 1/3 of those drinks are ice. Every visit is a sugar rush followed by the bitter taste of having been ripped off. And yet, I can’t stay away, dangit. Suddenly craving one right now…ugh.

reading: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, the Eat, Pray, Love lady. It’s about the importance of ideas and why we should always pursue creative living. I like it so far. It’s really been helping my block.

listening to: NPR. NPR is the best thing on the radio right now. I never walk away from a segment without learning something new or important. I’m almost to the point of donating money to them, which is a very weird, senior citizen-esque thing to do, but they deserve it for their top notch programming.

Aside from NPR, I’ve fallen in love with the following tunes lately (please forgive the messy formatting):

watching: Kubo and the Two Strings. The animation is stunning and the monkey has become one of my favorite animated characters of all time. I also rewatched the last episodes of Stranger Things because it’s the best thing Netflix ever gave to the world. I started watching Schindler’s List, which I thought was thirty years older than it is and therefore had 50 year old FCC standards. It didn’t. It was a very, very big mistake. I was crying into a pillow and very near throwing my guts up in the first thirty minutes. I also have the overwhelming desire to pummel every Nazi that ever lived into the ground. If someone has an edited version of Schindler’s List that I can borrow, hit me up. But maybe don’t, because it’s legitimately the most horrific film I’ve ever partially watched.

doing: aside from work, hiking. I’ve been running to the mountains a lot lately because I’ve had a lot on my mind. I can’t really explain what happens to me when I’m up there. On a trail, my anxiety disappears and I see myself how I really am, blood and bones and insecurities and dreams and all. I’ve spent lots of time chasing trails lately to find myself.

writing: prose and poetry, for the first time in awhile.

wearing: lots of stripes and florals. Literally all of my b&w striped shirts are dirty right now, and I own about five.

looking forward to: promotion. My current employer offered me a pretty neat events planning/marketing position, and I fought it tooth and nail until I suddenly didn’t. I didn’t want to make that choice, but it doesn’t feel like the wrong choice. I’ll be in Logan for about another year unless something dramatic happens. That’s been hard on me, mostly because post-grad life is lonely in Logan, and I’m aching to see more of the world, but I’m excited about the job and the opportunity it will be.

waiting for: some poetry books I ordered from Amazon. I get inordinately excited about Amazon packages being in the mail. It’s almost a letdown when they finally arrive, haha.

struggling with: being real here, loneliness. I haven’t had a Sunday in several weeks when I have not felt achingly lonely. I’ve downplayed it for awhile now, mostly because I don’t know why it’s happening. All I know is that I’ll be sitting in church sometimes and feel like there’s a bottomless ocean inside of me instead of me, like I’m unreachable to everyone somehow. I guess it’s a combination of watching so many people move on and knowing that eventually, that’s what all people do. They get themselves tangled in your life for an exciting moment, and then they move on without you when you were just getting used to the idea of them staying. It’s the saddest thing about being a person.

worried: that I’m either never enough or always too much.

missing: puppies, Washington DC, the boy with the longboard who had an obsession with The Black Keys and made me laugh during silent films freshman year of college, the rush of graduating, my grandpa.

hoping: to find some climbing buddies for the summer, to get back to the gym some day…one day…

learning: that abandoning doing the dishes/eating to write is a bad idea, that endurance is the hardest part about life, that there are times you have to go through hard things alone, that the Savior can carry that burden, incomprehensibly.

wanting: to have a family, to be a mom, to buy a dog, but I can’t. Because landlords.

planning: to visit New York City this winter or save up for Rome. To check off some more parks on my National Park Bucket List. There are 59, you know. That’s no pittance of parks.

hoping: that I’ll figure it all out. One day.

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When Human Beings are Nets : Thoughts on Suicide


When you jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, you perhaps expect to slide effortlessly into the water below and quietly cease to exist, like a lit match under the open spout of a kitchen sink. You don’t expect waves to feel like concrete, ocean to chew and then swallow. But it does. Or so that’s what the man being interviewed on NPR says when the reporter asks him how it felt to attempt suicide.

I regretted it the moment I was in freefall, he says. I asked myself, ‘What have I done?’ and prayed, ‘Please, God, save me.’

Since 1937, over 1,700 people have jumped over the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge. Only 25 have survived. Kevin Hines, the man with regret, is one.

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The Art of Publicly Sucking at Stuff


Picture a finger sliding smoothly across the surface of an iced chocolate fudge cake and you’d have a microscopic idea of how I looked on my fourth or fifth time snowboarding; instead of a finger, however, imagine my lifeless body, and instead of an iced cake, imagine ice.

I was barreling down D-Street, an intermediate route at my local ski resort, when I started thinking too hard, caught an edge, and flipped over every vital organ and vertebrae in my body to land straight on my nose in a sheet of hard ice. I then slid 20 feet down the mountain on my face, my arms dragging above me like corpse limbs until I came to a heaping stop right under a lift packed with people who didn’t realize they’d also paid for improv comedy.

If there’s such a thing as an “unfinest hour,” this surely was mine.

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Be the Good in a World Gone Mad

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.

Les Miserables

For the past month, I have started and then stopped writing at least a dozen blog posts. I’ve opened my laptop with every intention of expressing my thoughts, only to leave it disheartened time after time after time. I’ve been silent, unsure of what to say, how to say it, or if it’s even worth saying. I’ve hated the idea of adding one more heated opinion into an already contentious space. I’ve hated the idea of being confronted, of having to confront. I’ve hated the idea of expressing myself as if I know it all, knowing full well that I don’t, that some days, I’m astounded at how little I actually understand. I’ve allowed fear to eat up the one good thing I feel I have to give back to the world: a voice. I’ve been a coward, and my writing’s gone rusty while I try to figure out how to respond.

Orlando and Dallas and, generally, the state of the world, have just about torn me apart. It seems that just as we begin healing, someone has to cause harm again. Cuts are made on top of scars on top of scars on top of scars. Bodies that have just gone cold have had more bodies thrown on top of them. Life, that delicate, beautiful, and vivid thing we all share is at every corner smothered out and pinned behind the glass some madman labels “A Statement.” Humanity is poisoning itself to prove its worth. And, if you’re like me, you’ve watched on from behind your phones or your computers and felt the devastatingly heavy weight of the thought, “What good can ever be done to end this?” like it’s the lid of a coffin closing on top of you.

This week, I’ve learned what it is that we can do.

We can stop being the same thing we were yesterday, the same cowering person who hides instead of running in to help. We can stop ripping apart the weak, the hurt, and the different, stop hosting pointless, heated wars on social media that do nothing for understanding and instead, polarize further. We can take a long, hard look at ourselves and stop doing bad things or cruel things, justifying our own callousness or conceit. We can be the good in a world gone mad, in a world that keeps doing and saying the same old things that just don’t work.

The world thinks forgiveness is a sign of weakness, that it validates bad choices and enslaves us. So forgive. 

The world thinks evolution botched up on humanity and we’re all destined to be animals. See us as something divine. 

The world thinks an eye for an eye is justified. Show mercy. 

The world thinks outrage is the only way to get anything done. Share love.

We are not a generation of Martin Luther Kings if our immediate reaction to bad things happening is to create chaos. We are not a generation of giants if we resort to violence and rage instead of love and empathy. We won’t do a single bit of good for anything or anybody if we continue to put ourselves in camps. turn ‘us’ into ‘them,’ and make space for hatred.

I can’t seem to say a single thing that isn’t cliche’ when it comes to tragedy right now. Just be good. Just be optimistic, better, and more empathetic. See brothers and sisters instead of enemies. Speak up and speak out, but speak kindly.

Please share more good. Please. We all need it.

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New Fears

Today I ticked another box on the long list of things that humans can be afraid of.

‘Great white sharks’ was checked when I was eight and watched Jaws for the first time at my aunt’s house, ‘my body’ was checked when I tried on prom dresses in high school and realized how awkwardly they fit over pudge, and ‘love’ was checked and unchecked and checked again when I slipped headlong into another something punctuated with far too many plans and far too many careless goodbyes.

Today, I ticked off a box I didn’t even know was one.

It happened with a phone call, just a simple call from a man in New York City who had received the wrong shipment. Sirens echoed behind him, and in an instant, I stopped hearing his voice, stopped noticing if he even had the accent. Through that palm-shaped receiver I saw streets and cities, the busy rushing of career men and women down the sidewalks, the honks of taxis and the clicking pawls of bicycles lit up beneath Times Square. For a moment, I wanted to be him, that man in some business tucked in some New York nook, attempting to live in a city that knows how to do little else but live and die loudly. I wanted to pick up his newspapers, say hello to his neighbors, and get caught up in the lights that he somehow managed to sleep through at night. I wanted to live his mundane, which seemed far more exciting than my own.

It hit me all at once how afraid I am of living a small life, of waking up every day to a routine I’m ashamed of, of one day looking back and seeing how much potential I let atrophy, how many places I left untouched, not because I had no options, but because I did nothing.

Today I ticked off another box: ‘not doing everything I’ve dreamed of doing.’

That scares me more than I care to say.

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An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Donald Trump,
We need to talk.  
I am one of the Americans whose future will be directly impacted by the policies you enact if elected president. Because I am one of those Americans, and because Americans like me are listening to you and taking you seriously, I feel the need to speak up. We’re having this talk right now because the idea you’re running on, the central message of your campaign, is one that I don’t think you really believe in or understand, and your supporters are buying into the idea that you do.
It needs to stop. 

You say “let’s make America great again” like America is lackluster, like we’re missing something. It’s a common dialogue politicians use, suggesting that America used to be awesome, but someone swept in to ruin it. Thing is, when you say “let’s make America great again,” you don’t offer any real solutions as to how to do that, or what it means to be great. You say “let’s make America great again” again and again. I don’t really understand the kind of America you’re nostalgically look back on and wanting to repeat.
Do you ever think about what actually made America great in the first place?
America is great because of immigrants who left a repressive government and signed their names on a document declaring, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” a document that, upon signing, they risked their lives for. It is great for and because of immigrants who fled the terrors of Nazi Germany, the employment crisis and poverty of Ireland, and the disastrous circumstances of countries with deeply corrupt governments to the one place in the world that would give them a chance.

Your idea of making America great is to look at it through the lens of someone who has never gone without, who doesn’t understand what it is to go without a home or a place to stay. Your idea of making America great is to build walls, then build them higher.
America is great because of men like journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who exposed government corruption for what it was and did so in the name of freedom and the right to know. They did so because they were protected in doing so by the First Amendment, by the lines asserting that Congress shall not make laws restricting the freedom of the press.
Your idea of making America great is to “open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money…we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never been sued before.” And why? So you can get back at journalists who write “purposely negative and horrible articles.” Who’s to say what that is? You are, I suppose, if you get elected.
America is great because a baptist minister from Atlanta Georgia marched on this nation’s streets, sat in seats he was legally excluded from, and stood at the Lincoln Memorial before the country he and those who followed him helped change to declare, “I have a dream that my…children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Your idea of making America great is to be politically incorrect, which to me just comes across as discriminatory and bullying. Your idea of making America great would forgo character and pretend to be colorblind while speaking such things as “I have a great relationship with the blacks” and “the Mexicans love me.” Why does it have to be the anything? We are all humans!
America is great because here, I am secure in worshiping the God I believe in without censure, when a little over a century ago, my pioneer ancestors fled thousands of miles away from their homes to escape the same government that said of them, “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace.”
Your idea of making America great is to shut down the places of worship of my brothers and sisters of other faiths. You do so from the angle that you’re concerned with American safety, but what good is safety, I ask you, without liberty? Without the freedom to believe and worship as we may?
The truth, Mr. Trump, is that you think people like you are what made America great, when it was the people who bled for, the people who fought for, the people who lost everything they had for, and stood up for this country who made it great. It was the very same people who vowed to protect the rights and liberties that you enjoy and would so casually take away from people who are different from you. America, if it only was great, was great because of democracy, because of a Constitution that gave you and I the right to speak for, believe in, and assemble together for the causes we love. America, if it only was great, was great because it was a place where people of every race, gender, background, religion, and class could come together and build something bigger than themselves in the pursuit of happiness, something that went beyond discrimination and hatred and came as close as it could to peace. 
If America only was great, it’s because we’ve forgotten those things.
Your campaign is one run on bullying, intimidation, intolerance, and harassment. Well, Mr. Trump, you cannot bully, intimidate, or harass America into being great again. You make America great again by standing up for the very liberties that made it great in the first place, for defending to the death the rights of those who would disagree with you, not because you like that they disagree, but simply because that is their right. It’s the right of us all.
I don’t want to live in a country that you’ve made “great” again, Donald Trump, because that is a country that has forgotten how much it owes to the sacrifices of those who loved it. That is a country that would cower in fear, be coerced by flattery, bristle at criticism, and name call instead of live up to the rich history of respect, diversity, and courage you have so completely discarded.
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To the Girls Who Love Showing Off Their Bodies on Social Media

Dear girls,

As someone who follows you on Facebook, sees your pictures on Instagram, and notices the things you pin on the rare occasions that I’m on Pinterest, I can say that I kind of know who you are.

You’re smart and you’re capable. You love baking and cooking and sharing good recipes. You’re young mothers, new wives, struggling college students, happily single, or fighting to get by every day. You read and you sing, you work out and you travel. You like weird music or popular TV shows. You’re rodeo queens, political think tanks, expert hairdressers, champions, outstanding photographers, and you can do things with watercolors that just enchant me. You’re the next J.K. Rowlings, Elizabeth Cady Stantons, and Clara Bartons. You’re my friends and girls I want to be friends with.

You are all of these things, and yet, as someone who follows you, sees you, and notices you, I sometimes get a little discouraged at some of the things you’re posting.

You take lots of selfies and share them. I only mind that a little. I’m very guilty of taking selfies, too. You wear nice clothes and put on nice makeup and have nice hair, and yeah, I sometimes compare, but I don’t hold it against you. What I notice goes beyond that. Some of you have stopped sharing your travel experiences, your adventures, and your life with me and instead share images of your face that fill the whole frame and have captions like: “Spain is just beautiful this time of the year! #lovinit.” You’ve stopped sharing inspirational quote posters that you’ve found on Pinterest, ones that speak to everyone, regardless of size or color, and instead share a picture of your lips and your eyelashes with something like “Live life to the fullest! Dream big!” beneath it. And it’s not a huge deal, but it’s very indicative of a bigger issue I see girls of all backgrounds struggling with right now: the need to be physically admired.

This letter is for all of us, but it’s particularly for the girl who has built a virtual art museum around her anatomy. It’s for the girl who obsesses over the slope of her chest and distance between her hips. It’s for the girl who wants attention, good, bad, or any, who treats her cleavage like it’s a Monet, who treats herself like a philanthropist by taking pictures of her butt in workout pants and telling other women, “If you want it, work for it.” It’s for the girl who publicizes her body parts on Instagram to a crowd of bored, stimulated strangers, all who harmonize together with comments such as:

“You’re perfect”
“Where do you live?”
“That is gorgeous”
“Very beautifuuuuull, my looooovvvee!!”
“Can I marry you I would love you forever”
“The things I would do”

I think we women are both ignoring and creating a serious societal problem, one we’ve gotten away with blaming on other people for a long time, and it’s about time we had some girl talk about what we are doing with our bodies.

We live in a world that consumes, uses, and sells the Victoria Secret body like its merchandise. I know you’ve seen it — curved hips, narrow waist, full lips, exposed parts. The girl inside it may have an expressive, beautiful face, but the greedy businessmen who sell her body mostly care that we see her from her lips down. She’s on every television, every movie, every magazine, and every book that lines the shelves of low culture. People love her and buy sandwiches, video games, and movie tickets because of her. People pay money to watch her move, as if she’s a prize race horse set to win the Triple Crown.

But people also hate her and write angry letters about her.They tell Carl’s Jr. to please, for the sake of their kids, get rid of her. Hers is the body that has indirectly launched a thousand ships — Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, “big is beautiful,” and “I won’t be no stick figure, silicone Barbie doll, so if that’s what you’re into, then go ‘head and move along” among them. Because of the toll she has taken on our society and self-esteem, we now tell girls that their bodies do not limit nor define them. We tell Hollywood that it is unrealistic to ask square pegs to fit into circular holes. We see right through and shame magazines that use Photoshop on their cover girls. We’re just beginning, as a society, to talk about the damage pornifying women’s bodies does to us all. We are changing the way our culture talks about and views women one step at a time, and so far, it’s been mostly good.

The sad truth, however, is that the objectified woman we’ve been force-fed all these years still clings more tightly to our self-worth than we may think. She’s leaked onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She hides in forums called “Fitness” or “Thinspiration.” She is worshiped by us, emulated by us, and pornified, yes, by us. She doesn’t look tan and fit and good in a bikini all the time, either.

She looks just like us.

Us, the small and lanky and thin and curvy. Us, the overweight and narrow and big-boned and emaciated. She lurks behind us girls who claim to be all about natural beauty and self-celebration but still haven’t mustered the guts to post a selfie that isn’t altered. Us, the women who tell each other that our bodies are no definition of who we are, and yet, plaster our social media with them.

We women are objectifying women as much as, if not more than Hollywood and society. Don’t believe me? Just look at your Instagram.

Many of you have somehow amassed thousands of followers that come to watch as you cut your body into little square-shaped pieces and demand, like a consumed Victor Frankenstein, that your creation be seen. Many of you push the edge, fed by the hunger to have friends and family and love interests tell you three significant words: “You look good.” You are billboardizing yourself with your selfies, turn yourself into a virtual Mona Lisa with a story behind that smile that no one cares anything about because they’re too busy staring at your body. Because you’re doing this, other girls are doing it, and you’re giving the world permission to keep treating us all like we’re only as good as the skin we expose and the bodies we show off.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of wanting to be admired for who I am, but feeling like that’s not even important to us women as a whole anymore. We seem to be driven, not by the need to be heard, but the need to be seen. We claim that we don’t want to be “just another pretty face,” and yet we advertise ourselves as if that’s what we are. We are not the helpless victims in a world attacking women’s bodies, not when we obsess over the body of our athletic neighbor, not when we collect pictures of body parts that we call inspiration, not when we take more pride in how our behinds look in photographs than how we make the world a better place, and not when we justify all of that by saying “it’s my body, and I’ll do what I want with it.” Don’t tell me we are blameless when we don’t care how much we know, how hard we work, or how big we can dream; don’t say that when we put no importance on how kind we are to people who are not kind to us, or how brave we are, and instead put all of our attention into how hot we look in photos.

Dear girls who love showing off your bodies on social media, you are more than your body! For the sake of the rest of us and the future of us, stop acting like you aren’t.

I don’t want to see your pretty face all of the time. I want to see how you’re living your life. I don’t want to see those ripped abs and tight thighs you’re wallpapering your Pinterest account with in the hopes that one day they’ll be yours. I want to see you accept yourself and work for a better version of your own body because you want to feel good. I don’t want to see your butt in yoga pants. I want to see you kicking butt on that test or that trial or that insecurity you struggle with. I don’t want to see you change the angle of your photographs. I want to see you change the world.

You are not something to be consumed by other people. You are a woman, and your beauty is not surface deep. So please. Take that selfie. Don’t let this letter stop you. Please. Celebrate your body. Don’t think I’m asking you not to. Just remember that no selfie can capture your actual self, something that goes far beyond surface beauty and isn’t an it but a who. Celebrate her! Love her! Don’t let anybody else forget that she, not the package she comes in, is worthy of praise.

Dear girls, please stop objectifying us.
Start standing up for us.


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What a Small Idaho Town & Disney Characters Taught Me About Christmas

When I was a little girl, my parents would pack all of us into our winter coats and then into our family Suburban to drive around town and look at Christmas lights. It became a sort of tradition for us. We’d drive up to the benches with the biggest houses, decked in wreaths and bows and hosting little candles in every window; then we’d wind our way down city streets where the Christmas displays were smaller, but often more outlandish and colorful. To us, every lit up house was something magical.

I remember one house in  particular that was the most magical of all of them. It was a ranch house that sat just north of historical Preston, Idaho. We’d drive for about 45 minutes from our house to get to it, but you could see it well before you got to it. Not only was it covered in Christmas lights that stretched high into the trees surrounding it, but the house was covered in Disney characters.

Stationed on every patch of ground around that house were wooden characters that had been meticulously cut, painted, and propped up to form scenes straight from movies. Simba, Rafiki, Nala, and Scar stood in one corner of the yard, and Belle and the Beast spun around on a mechanized wheel in the other. The Grinch was on the roof of the house, his wooden arm creaking up and down to crack a whip against his poor counterfeit reindeer, while little wooden puppies traveled along a metal conveyor into the clutches of Horace and Jasper in the front yard. Everywhere you looked, there was a different character doing a different thing — Toy Story, Lilo and Stitch, Cinderella, you name it! I’d roll down my window and lean far out of the car as we moved around the circle drive so I could see every single character. It was the most magical thing I’d ever experienced.

As time passed, we went on Christmas light trips less. I grew older and reached that age where Christmas seems less magical and more meaningless, where the noise and the chaos and the gift giving aren’t what they used to be and the wonder of childhood is replaced by the weight of reality. Last year, like some sad, parallel symbolism, the lights and wooden cutouts came down for good at that house in Preston. The expense of having them up every year for 25 years was too much. Even having not visited for years, hearing the news broke my heart a little. Reality, it seemed, had spared very little of the magic from childhood.

This year, Christmas has been extra noisy and chaotic and hard. I’ve been exhausted every day for the past three weeks, as my job requires a lot of customer interaction and problem solving, most of that being really stressful. I’ve ached to feel as excited about Christmas as I used to feel, and it’s been hard. Last night, after a particularly taxing day at work, my good friend Mariel invited me to go to an Institute class in Preston with her. As we drove down center street in Preston, I slowly relaxed and fell a little in love with the way the trees were wrapped in lights.”There’s this whole street with lights strung on both sides. We should walk down it after class,” Mariel said, turning down a back road as she spoke.Curled up in the passenger seat and reminded of all of the trips up here we used to take as a family, I turned to her to tell her about that old house with the Disney characters, how much it had meant. My attention was stolen by a wooden cutout of Shrek and Fiona that stood in somebody’s lawn.Oh, wow. It’s like that house! I thought with a smile, on the brink of pointing it out to Mariel. Before I could, we came to a stop sign at the street just west of that house. What I saw almost brought tears to my eyes.Stretched out for one block on both sides of the road were the Disney characters I had been so enraptured with as a child. They were scattered so that each yard down the street held one or two groups of characters. New ones had been added since I last saw them, like Frozen and The Princess and the Frog characters. They all moved and creaked or stood still beneath a long line of lights that had been wrapped from telephone pole to tree to telephone pole all the way down the block. It was incredible.

After Institute, Mariel and I bought hot cocoa and walked down both sides of the street and I was struck again by the magic of it all. This small street had come together (I don’t know why or how) to keep a tradition alive. They’d offered their lawns and homes, and I’d imagine they’d done so because they loved that house just as much as I did as a child. It had gone from being the tradition of one to the tradition of many, and I was blown away by the care they had taken to make that street just as magical. While we were walking, a car drove slowly down the road and I could hear children giggling from the rolled down windows. It was the most beautiful sound I’ve heard in awhile.

Last night, I felt an overwhelming amount of love for the people on that street. This neighborhood had revived something I thought I’d never see again, something that brought me so much joy. It was an act of service that humbled me and even now causes tears to fill my eyes. As Mariel and I walked down that street and listened to creaking wood and buzzing lights, I felt an overwhelming contentment with the simplicity of it, with what Christmas means, which is, quite simply, Christlike love. Service. Coming together. Being together.

The magic of Christmas is not found in things, it’s found in people and it’s found in service. Thank you, Preston, for reminding me of that so forcefully last night.

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