New Years Got Me Like: Wah, Wah, Wah

New Year, new start, new resolutions and all I keep hearing are noises reminiscent of an adult in a Peanuts comic strip “wah, wah, wah.”

The lady sitting next to me on the subway with blonde tresses and a raspy voice proudly says, “I am going to lose x lbs.” Translation: wah wah wah. Just stop.

A man in my apartment complex asserts, “I am going to quit eating sugar.” Translation: wah wah wah whatever!

A hung-over mama in my spin class says, “I am going to drink less” in-between wheezes as she chugs along on the bike and according to her on way less Vodka on the Rocks. Translation: wah wah wah. How boring.

Or more precisely STFU! Just stop, stop, stop. Please stop. Setting these goals that will never happen! Never. Ever. Happen.

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I am like the revenge-seeking Grinch that stole New Year’s resolutions. I come with my big brown bag tossing people’s New Year’s dreams out the window, and then retreating back to the outskirts of Whoville. Like come on, why do I need a New Year to tell me to be a better person? Plus, I feel like most New Year’s resolutions are about weight and that makes me very angry on another level. My overall frumpiness feels threatened and my inner ninja fights back hard.

 When I think of New Year’s Eve in my early twenties, I picture myself getting all dolled up in a slutty dress with way too much boobage popping out. I’d cover the girls in a cardigan that I would never take off (ironically feeling too slutty…) and high heels that I’d wobble around all night in like an elephant on stilts. Starting the night out walking confidently filled with high expectations, piss and vinegar, and whatever weight goal I set for myself starting tomorrow.

By the end of the night, and only god knows how many drinks, my head would be in the toilet, shoes in hand—barefooting the streets of New York—crying “I want my mommy” like my daughter does. Because dammit, when I don’t feel well I want my mommy. Don’t judge.

 What makes me so bitter? Well let me fill you in where my deep hate stems from.

I personally don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I think you should better yourself every day. I know a very Brady Bunch answer, but it’s true. A part of me doesn’t like them even more because a number provokes it. On January 1st, you are supposed to start whatever your goal is and pursue it hard—weighing it on a figurative scale of your success every day. Like an eating disorder, you are setting yourself up for disaster. This is why I advise you to evolve healthily each and every day of the year.

Every day, try to respect your body, always be true to yourself, don’t waste your time on nonsense, and spend your time with the people who love you the way you are. Most importantly, you will never be everyone’s perfect person, so just be YOU—that unique, vibrant, amazing person I know each of you are. It’s easy to be you everyday, and not fail at it. So just do what comes naturally.

This year, my first New Year’s Eve in my thirties, it will be my hubby and me in bed, watching New Year’s Rockin Eve 2017 or hopefully some Bravo special countdown—I can only hope, this is my plea Andy Cohen! My daughter will be fast asleep in her crib. Again, I can only hope. And it will be absolutely perfect. No expectations except for a kiss from my husband at midnight. And I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year. Just like every other day.

 

 

 

What Turning Thirty Means To Me After Beating Mental Illness

Only a thin white gown covered my body as I shivered ferociously, despite the plush white blanket my mother had brought from home. I couldn’t move, not even to make eye contact with my mother, who, flanked by doctors and nurses, peered over me.

“What happened to me?” I wanted to ask, but I was too confused to form words. I knew one thing for sure—my head hurt. I closed my eyes again to relieve the pain and blurriness. I could hear the piercing wails of the ambulance, so loud yet ever fading as I went in and out of consciousness.

“Danielle, can you hear me?” the EMT asked with such command, it scared me into answering him. But what came out of my mouth was only gibberish, like playing a record backward in slow motion. The one thing in English I could say became my mother’s saving grace as she squeezed my hand in terror: “I don’t want to die.” Her saving grace, because for far too long I had done everything in my power to die.

My abuse of laxatives had been going on for a good ten years, and I was finally paying the price. I swore I could feel my body breaking down the night before, and I was right. I had known something bad was going to happen, and it did. Like I had a crystal ball, I’d predicted it, and I was lucky I’d asked for help and wasn’t alone. Now, what was going to happen to me?

                                                                                             ***

It’s hard to believe this was four years ago when my body broke down and had a seizure. Now I am going to be thirty—the big 3-0. I didn’t believe I was going to make it to twenty-six, I was going to die of anorexia. But, lo and behold– here I am and a shit load has changed. I have learned so many lessons and I am here to tell you what thirty and being in recovery feels like. So listen up:

1). My soul feels so much older than thirty so turning thirty actually seems young to me believe it or not.

Growing up with mental illness I took on a lot being the perfectionist, type-A, OCD girl I was. While my middle school, high school and college peers were talking about parties and each other, I was worried about everything from my grades, the state of my family’s happiness, to homeless youth on the street (seriously). I felt like it was my responsibility to make everything in the world perfect. With that superman-like responsibility, I had to mature a lot quicker than most.

To recover from mental illness, you also go through a lot of self-reflection and discovery that makes you feel way beyond your years. This is why turning thirty is a piece of cake. I actually am excited to have a whole decade ahead of me, the first sick-free decade I will ever have.

2). I have perspective from being sick and appreciate things a little more

I appreciate the small things like going out for dinner and being able to eat. I appreciate the fact that I have the strength to carry my daughter in the Baby Bjorn for a couple of hours or at least until my back feels like it is going to give out. I appreciate being able to watch Stranger Things on Netflix and not feeling guilty for being unproductive or not having my own demogorgon in my mind telling me how lazy and fat I am.

3). My possibilities are endless in recovery

It’s amazing what your brain can do when you are in recovery. You have so much more room for creativity when you’re not constantly counting calories. You have more time to have an actual life. Without anorexia, I was able to meet a great guy and now have a beautiful baby girl. He was not my cure-all, by any means, and I am not saying that a ring and a wedding cured my eating disorder or made me well, because it didn’t. What I am saying is that because I was happy and healthy enough, mentally and physically, to let myself be vulnerable, the conditions for true connection were set. Without anorexia, nothing is holding you back. You can do whatever you set your mind to. There is a whole world out there, with endless possibilities.

4). I know who my real friends are

When you go through mental illness you realize who your true friends are and who you have been keeping around as filler. And you know what? Fillings can stick to the cavities in my mouth, thank you very much. I don’t have time for filler-friends of any kind. The number of friends I have dwindled, but the quality has gotten more like that authentic Chanel bag then the fake knock-off on the street.

The facilitator for a webinar I took through the National Eating Disorder Association summed it up perfectly with these words: “Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.”

At thirty, I finally feel deserving of surrounding myself with these kinds of people because I am kind enough to myself to accept them. I don’t have anything to hide from them anymore or push them away now that I am in recovery. I am finally embracing my flaws, so I have to believe that other people will as well, and if they don’t, well . . . fuck ’em.

5). I have learned how to say no to the bullshit.

This person cancelled plans on me for the fifth time with no excuse. That person has me waiting over thirty minutes. I am going to leave. Your priorities change too much to care about the bullshit. I have a baby too, and way too much going on. If you aren’t here for the right reasons, bye Felicia!

6). Me time, is more than okay

This is hard to fit in as a mama of a nine month old, but I deserve it and need it. For the longest time I did everything for everyone else and was people pleasing up the wazoo that I forgot about myself. Now I make sure to have some time at the end of the day to write, watch television, and do whatever I need to unwind.

I don’t abuse my body and push it to the limit. I listen to it and let it guide me. It’s like in the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The controversy stems from whether the relationship between the main characters, a tree and a boy, could be interpreted as positive (i.e., the tree gives the boy selfless love) or as negative (i.e., the boy and the tree have an abusive relationship). I looked at it more on a positive, with the tree being like a mother figure to the boy, content just to make the boy happy. However, if it were multiple people just taking, taking, taking from the tree, the tree would wind up with nothing, and maybe no one would care. The boy appreciated the tree as a stump, but some people wouldn’t.

I almost wound up being a stump because I gave too much of myself and never gave myself anything or took anything in return. You can’t give, give, and give until there is nothing left of you. You have to find a balance. I am learning that. I refuse to be a stump ever again.

7). I finally feel found.

I know who I am. I know my beliefs. I am not wishy-washy on them like I was in my twenties. I used to be insecure and wouldn’t voice my feelings; scared I wouldn’t be accepted or liked-the horror! Now I am not affected by what others think. I don’t need to be liked by everyone as long as I know I am a good person. If they don’t like me, so be it. Yes, I doubt myself at times, but far less than I used to.

8). I am finally comfortable in my body

Gosh, this one seems like it took forever to achieve, but I am finally here and yes at dirty thirty. Wahoo for that! After I had my baby I realized how amazing my body is and what it can do. I mean it created my little girl so it can’t be all that bad. I am more than my body and when it came down to it my anorexia wasn’t even really about my body to begin with.

9). I accept my flaws and even like them believe it or not

Part of my recovery was realizing that no one is perfect, and that is actually the most beautiful and life-changing realization I ever had. The people who have to pretend to be flawless are the ones I now feel sorry for. I want to shake all those people who are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves and scream loudly in their ears so it registers in their brains: “Snap out of it! It’s okay to be imperfect! Your flaws set you apart in a great way. You will be so much more happy once you embrace them!” Because now that’s really how I feel. And it’s true. I am happier now that I have embraced and even love my flaws.

10). I eat what I want and don’t feel bad about it.

I don’t have good or bad foods anymore. I don’t believe in diets and have a really healthy eating lifestyle with moderation for whatever I am in the mood for. If I want a slice of pizza, I am going to have it, dammit! Now that I am eating normally (compared to disordered) I listen to my body’s hunger cues and enjoy what I am eating. It takes time to get to this place of enjoyment with food, for me it was probably a solid three years into recovery, but once you get there it is amazing

I never was actually aware of the concept of mindful eating until I was recovered and realized that I was practicing it all along—while I kept on getting better and better. I was slowly letting myself become more aware of my feelings and why I was restricting or bingeing—turning to food to cope. This way I am never tempted to over eat or under eat again. I listen to my body.

So this year when my family sings the Happy Birthday song and I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, I will be feeling happy, even grateful to be here. I feel like I have a second chance and am so lucky that I have a beautiful family to celebrate with. So thirty bring it on, I am ready for you!

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How Disney Junior Really Does Make Everything Better

Gosh, Disney Junior, as a mother you can be a complete godsend distracting my nine-month old with your colorful animation and catchy as fudge songs. Dinner goes much more seamless without a war of wills– tug of war with the spoon—between my daughter and me. I am convinced her baby rolls are part muscle as she pulls the spoon, with all her baby might, into her mouth getting puree everywhere as I say in slow motion: noooo and she sheepishly giggles.

Or simply Disney Junior can be, The. Worst. Thing. Ever.

 My husband walks in singing “My Friends Tigger And Pooh,” as he is shimmying to our bed. O.M.G. If that’s not hashtag dad life, I don’t know what is. Um, sexy? Actually, then again, kind of. I mean, what’s sexier than a good Dad? Nothing.

 One thing my husband and I can hands down agree on is that Disney Junior is pretty great. Here are just four of the many reason why:

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  1. Lambie is my girl.

Aren’t there days when you wish Doc McStuffins was your Doctor and all you needed was 2 ccs of calming cuddles? Lambie would come in, a lamb chop look-alike, with her white wool mane, big beady black freckles and light pink face and give you a big bear hug, I mean lamb hug.

It can make your day much better even when it’s a bah, bah, bummer.

I look at my daughter and demand 4 ccs of cuddles please, because come on, I want double the cuddles from my little munchkin.

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  1. Everything has a catchy song.

 Even when Stuffie is injured and is going to the hospital in an ambulance, there is a song. And My Friends Tigger and Pooh, the “think think song,” is the magic that Disney promises. When Mickey says Meeska Mooska Mickey Mouse, I catch myself saying it too. Also, “we’re going on a trip, in our favorite rocket ship,” oh Little Einsteins I am always pat, clap, pat, clapping along. I can’t tell you how many times after a long day I am singing one of these catchy tunes.

My husband will walk in from work and I am doing a Risky Business strut a la Tom Cruise of “time for your check up” at the top of my lungs. Totally normal mommy behavior.

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  1. Disney teaches great lessons, but seriously.

Take Doc McStuffins, she is smart and that is more important than what she looks like. In season four, if you have been following, Doc McSmartie is transported to Mcstuffinsville where she is even the Chief resident of the toy hospital. Here, there are great lessons like love comes from the inside out. For example, the king of the broken toys, Stanley, thinks he’s unlovable because he is a lion with bunny ears and hoppy bunny legs. Doc reunites him with his owner and of course, his owner loves him just the same—- bunny legs, fluffy white cottontail and all.

Another lesson that I personally love is that girls can do anything they put their minds to. Take Princesses Sofia and Elena for example. They are complete bad asses and I adore them for that. They are also beautiful in their own way.

Another McStuff Lesson is that Barbie is still the superficial anti-Christ we all know she is. Yes, she is pretty but she compares everything to fashion and accessories. We get it Barbie doll you are terrible, brains are more important than beauty. Thanks, Disney for confirming that.

Also, if you ever need an answer to any of life’s questions just call Toodles. That is my personal favorite. Next time my daughter has a dirty diaper-Toodles, Yoo-Hoo Toodles, Where are you Toodles?

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  1. The Hot Dog Song

The. Hot. Dog. Song. Is. Everything. My daughter claps and smiles every time it comes on as I pick her up and we dance around the living room in front of the television. The best part is staring at flapping in the air, Goofy. He even exits the clubhouse with the same flail/flap form. I have never seen anything quite amazing like that in my life. WTF Goofy!
[Leo, Little Einsteins]
(speaking) Now it’s time for… the curtain call!

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So the next time your child’s stuffed animal gets a tear.

“Mom, my teddy bear ripped its plush, it’s bad!” Your child says tears in his/her eyes.

“He lost a lot of stuffing, but I think I can handle it.” You, channeling your inner Doc.

Remember all the work and love that goes into each of those stuffed friends. Also, know that if all else fails in your day, Disney Junior can fix anything.

And in the meantime…

[Leo, Little Einsteins]

(speaking) See you on the next mission!

Oh, yes we will Leo, yes we will….

Contest Entry

Okay, so there is this New FREE contest for writers of Memoir so I thought I’d give it a shot & if you’re interested you should too. Check it out: http://tinyurl.com/j4d3kqz 

Advertising it is part of the rules and I don’t have a twitter so this will have to suffice. Here is my entry or the beginning of my manuscript, because why not? you never know 😉

You can only submit the first 150-300 words so here is the very beginning, not even the whole prologue:

                                                                           Prologue

I walked toward the ornate, gold-framed doors of building number 993 and rang the doorbell. The red brick building with a green-cascaded rooftop was a reminder of the Park Avenue Roaring Twenties’ architecture, which kept alive the vibe of the carefree times when women empowered themselves with music, fashion, culture, independence, and the right to vote.

“Fancy,” I said with a shimmy, channeling my inner flapper girl. I needed all the empowerment I could get on a day like today.

A strong buzz sounded through an intercom, and I opened the door to be greeted by a heavyset woman with jet-black hair and pale skin, sitting at what I assumed to be her desk. Her perfume smelled of French vanilla. I took a whiff, which was a nice contrast to the strong sewage smell that loomed outside. The city really has to get better with its garbage pickup, I thought and as an aside, thanks Bloomberg. One night my mom saw a rat pitter-pattering through a maze of trash bags and then over her feet as she walked along the sidewalk. Ever since then, I sprint like hell at the site of garbage, afraid a rat will come out of hiding and gnaw on my toes.

“Hi, I’m Danielle,” I said to the woman who looked like Rosie O’ Donnell but without the personality. “I have an appointment with Dr. Chang. I really like your perfume by the way,” I added as I twisted my curly brown hair to the side of my face.

She answered mechanically, as if she were a robot on autopilot. “The doctor will be with you shortly. Just have a seat in the waiting room.” Then, to my delight, she offered a slight smile, which reassured me that she was in fact human. Yes, I won her over. Dani, one point, mean no personality Rosie O’ Donnell look-a-like, zero. BOOYAH!

The waiting room was filled with pregnant women boasting baby bumps in all shapes and sizes. I found an open seat next to a small brown wooden table piled with stacks of magazines. I looked around the room, once again observing the women waiting for their appointments. I again eyed their beautiful, bountiful baby bumps and couldn’t help but stare. One dirty-blond woman in particular caught my eye. She was with her doting male partner, their hands tightly clasped, looking so happy.

My eyes then scanned my own body. Pregnant ladies in Dr. Chang’s waiting room, one point, sad-lonely-fucked-up-recovering-anorexic Dani, zero. Zero because I didn’t have a bump or a partner and wasn’t sure if I would ever have either. Tears welled with the word ever in the forefront of my mind. I hoped no one would notice. I grabbed the magazine on top of the stack and pretended to browse it. Great! Parenting. Why doesn’t the world just throw my fear of being infertile in my face? Before I knew it I was crying, tears pouring down my face. Fuck, fuck, fuck, these women are going to think something is wrong with me. Dani, pull your shit together, I thought as I held my head in my hands, the magazine falling to my lap. Come on, Dani, put on that pretend smile you’re so used to flashing.

I wiped my eyes completely dry and picked my head back up, flashing the best ear-to-ear pageant smile I could produce. Gosh, I could give those little girls on Toddlers & Tiaras a run for their money. Fake it till you make it, I thought.

*** To be continued…