Here We Go (Again)

But why did you stop writing in the first place?

Because I stopped being able to tell you the whole story.

This time last year, I issued myself a gag order when it became clear that I could no longer share the details of what was hurting me, without inevitably hurting someone else. Or, at the very least, upsetting a likely wonderful reality for someone else.

So I stopped talking about the whole thing. And slowly, but certainly surely, I stopped being able to tell all the parts of my story that started from that thread.

I guess that made stopping easier. As large parts of my life, and my life lessons, and the things that were making me me - had to be redacted - the public part of my life had to get smaller and smaller.

Now? What has happened?

Time. Mostly time.

For as horrible, and painful, and soul-building, and heart-changing as that whole season was...I am through it. I have moved into the next year. I have moved into the next phase/step/chapter.

And truly, that's what Florida was for.

I need a hard reset.

Not just powering down and restarting. I needed to shut this thing down, leave it for a day (or three months,) and then try powering back up again. Hell, let's upgrade the software while we're at it.

Glory be, it worked. 

Florida changed my heart, changed my head, changed my life.

And the grateful wave that hit me the moment I drove onto my little island truly truly truly hasn't stopped hitting me since. I don't know that I will ever be able to fully share how wholly I needed that time, and how insanely thankful I am for it.

Now, I'm back. I've been back. And many wonderful, hard, amazing, and growth-inducing things have happened in the last seven months.

I think it's now or never, though. I think I'm ready to start sharing this big ol' mushy heart again. Because here's the thing, sister I've got a lot to say.

Right Now

I keep thinking that I have to explain myself, and my heart right now, and what I'm doing on this break, to you all.

And frankly, I really don't.

I want to sometimes.

But I don't have to. And I have to keep reminding myself that I don't actually owe the internet an explanation. (Moreover, internet, I have written one out - but to be really really honest with you, it's too much. It's too many emotions and details to give it to you in a blog post. It's too complicated.)

That being said, I hope we can kinda just move through the fact that you don't know every detail of what is going on in my life/brain/soul, and keep this boat floating.

8 Things that are Bringing Me Joy Right Now

Right now, I'm taking it easy. Which I'm sure you know.

But I'm also actively trying to put my pieces back in order.

So here are just a few things that make me happy:

1. My girl Peeks

2. Twitter
Odd, I know. But getting back into Twitter is actually bringing me a whole heck of a lot of joy. 

3. Chick. Fil. A. Lemonade

4. Actively not doing my makeup, because I just don't want to

5. Binging "Designated Survivor"

6. The beach
Oh the beach. It's so so so what my heart needed.

7. Piper Kate's new hair cut
She's just so soft now! And she looks so much smaller! 

8. Quality time being the annoying older sister

Back at The Barre

Remember when I was all Pure Barre, all the time?

Kinda feels like a lifetime ago, huh? Yeah.

Listen, as a reminder, I stopped teaching because I was Miss Vermont, I was working a new and wildly demanding job, and at the same time I was trying to maintain a social life and get some sleep. It just wasn't sustainable. And frankly, it was the only thing that was expendable.

Did that mean I had to leave the studio altogether? Of course not! But that felt like the right move.

However, the time to "get back to the barre" is truly now.

I mean, I can be the new girl. I can be the girl that doesn't know the moves any more. I can be the girl that just goes into the studio to workout. The new client prices don't hurt either.

So I went back.

And hell yeah I was nervous. No one wants to be a novice at something they once excelled at. No one wants to be the new girl all over again, of course not.

But it wasn't so bad.

Actually, it was really freakin good.

Because I was not as bad as I thought I was going to be, (and everyone was so nice!) Maybe most importantly, I wasn't as weak as I thought I'd be.

So much of this life right now is testing my strength. It's hard - you know - emotionally, mentally - to be the girl that is starting all over. I have said before that the choice wasn't easy, but it was quick. Well, the "not so easy" side of things is...extending.

To test myself physically, too? I didn't know if it was the right move.

Obviously I know myself well enough to know that when things get hard, sitting still isn't going to help me. I know I need to run, or get to the gym, or maybe, just maybe, get back to the barre.

I'm only here for a month, so, starting slow and small is kinda perfect here.

One month.

One month of trying this again.

And maybe that's just the perfect way to dip my high heels back into this whole thing, right?

Bring Back the Bikini

Okay. Are you still reading posts about the MAO change?

Can we talk about it through the lens of recovery, and how it can still be useful even if women have, and will continue to, struggle with body image?

Yes? Awesome.

So, here's the deal. You know pretty much where I stand on diets, trendy lifestyle changes, bullshit food rules, and in general, disordered behaviors that are mainstream.

Blanket statement: they all suck.

You also know where I stand on pageant prep. I've done it. I've done it ways that "work" and ways that don't. I've done it while being "healthy" and while being unhealthy. By and large, I look at it as training for a specific purpose, with the right resources, and a firm end date, I do actually believe it is possible to train for a pageant/competition/whatthehellever and still remain a normal human with normal habits.

That being said...

There is a grey area in everything. This swimsuit change, and the reasoning behind it - and the truth that lies in the struggles of getting to that moment on stage, and what happens after - all have grey in them.

So, let's start with the act of removing the Lifestyle & Fitness portion of the competition based on the notion of female empowerment, and not judging contestants "on their outward physical appearance."

Okay, we're just all going to agree that your outward physical appearance is still present and relevant in literally every phase of competition, right?

I don't know about you, but I sure as heck did my hair and makeup just as diligently for interview, OSQ, talent, and evening gown as I did for swim. I understand the notion that in no other part of competition is a judge looking a my body for the sake of judging me on that presentation. Sure.

But let's be clear, the judgment of what those contestants look like is not going away.

And while we are talking about what those contestants look like, I'll have to ask someone to remind me how that has anything to do with being, or not being, empowered?

You know I'm Team #MeToo.

However, you also know I'm Team Share Whatever Story You Want Because Your Validity Doesn't Hinge on Your Willingness to Bear Your Soul.

And on top of that at what point did we decide that female empowerment couldn't mean walking on stage in a swimsuit?

Are we really about to make MAO the banner for, "well, we care about women's brains and what is on the inside, so obviously that means they shouldn't also wear swimsuits on stage?" Because that is not real. Someone tell me that is not real.


This female empowerment/outward appearance argument falls really short in one fell swoop. Because the thing is, they don't need the swimsuit to show how empowered they are, or that they are physically beautiful, but the kicker is that the swimsuit doesn't negate anything that they are, or have accomplished, or wish to do.

The swimsuit doesn't take away from the woman and her brain.


So then there is the argument of how the girl managed to get to that point. The point where she is on stage - in this case, a national stage - in a swimsuit, in what we like to assume is "the best shape of her life."

Okay. This argument has more merit, I'll admit.

But still, we need to look at this logically.

Because not every single girl that goes on stage at a local, state, or national level is going to do so from a place of disordered eating or behaviors. But to have even one girl feel that way is one girl too many.

So is removing the swimsuit the best option?

Or do we need to be asking more of our current titleholders, of our boards, and of our fitness sponsors?

Shouldn't we be looking at having conversations about what health actually looks like instead of asking them to wing it?

I know that there are a lot of things that can go wrong between deciding to compete, and getting that 45 seconds on stage in swimsuit.

But I know that a lot of things can fall into place as well.

I know that girls will tell you they learned to love vegetables, the value of a nutrient, the ability to lift weights, and what it means to be someone who works towards a goal.

Personally? I eat far better than I ever would've without the swift kick in the behind that was signing up for my first round of Miss Vermont. I learned to run. I learned to lift. I learned the kind of macro-nutrients my body wants and needs. I learned what fuel is, and what doesn't work for me.

And yes, totally, along the way I found a lot of dark spots that brought along some unhealthy habits.

But again, do we think that removing swimsuit is going to help that problem?

I don't. I really don't.

There is the grey area.

These women are truly the best of the best. They have worked their butts off to get to the stage (local, state, and national. Let's recognize.) And I do not believe that they are going stop working their butts off because there is no longer a Lifestyle & Fitness portion of the competition. But I do think that, as an organization, we have just been knocked down a couple of pegs.

At the end of the day, Miss America started as a swimsuit competition, yes. But it has evolved to shape the lives of tens of thousands of women by providing a platform that allows them to say, I am smart, I am strong, I am willing to serve, and hell yes, I'll do it in a pair of falsies. 

I will continue to support the amazing women that bravely dream of their day on that Miss America stage. Because, of course I will. But no, I don't think we fixed anything by removing swim.

Money, Fame & Depression


I am not sure I'm totally ready to put this all into words, but I'm going to try.

And if you are thinking, "well if you aren't ready to write about it, then why are you writing about it?" You make a great point.

But I think the answer is that, first of all, now or never. And second of all, if I see one more thing that says, "It just goes to show that money/fame/success/what you see on the outside..." and how these things somehow mean people could otherwise negate their mental illness, I am going to lose my dang mind.

So here's the thing guys. Seriously, listen.

Mental illness is an illness.

And it is not about what you do for a job, or how much money you make, or what state you live in, or what gender you are, or if you are in a happy relationship, or if you are is about your brain. And when you have a mental illness your brain is sick.

Some people have sick kidneys, or livers, or hearts. Some people have sick brains.

Now. I know a lot of people have experienced some brush with mental illness in their lifetime. And I'm absolutely thankful that so many people only know about a fleeting mental debilitation, or know about mental illness because someone they know/love has lived with it.

But what that means is that those people - most people - don't have a super good idea of the permanence of mental, well, a lot of us.

So when someone is really sick, and it's not a passing case of depression or anxiety brought on by the loss of a loved one, the end of a job, or even a broken relationship (all of which are wildly valid reasons for depression or anxiety, but often treatable with some therapy and time, and not lasting more than a few months. And to be clear there are a variety of types of depression and anxiety, but like anything some are more severe than others.) - that person that's really sick, they probably can't look too far outside of their sick brain a lot the time.

And having money isn't going to change that. And having an empire isn't going to change that. And being someone that portrays a happy brand isn't going to change that.

Because their brain is sick.

To be clear, that is not a choice, just like heart disease is not a choice. And you can't just make yourself better by focusing on the good, just like you can't just make arthritis better by focusing on healthy joints.

And when your brain is sick, it reacts like any other sick organ, and has symptoms.

Your sick brain will tell you that you are alone. Your sick brain will tell you that you are out of options. Your sick brain will tell you to not eat, lay in bed, stop reaching out - the list literally goes on and on.

And your heart knows that you are not alone, and you are loved, and you do have options - but you're sick, and your brain is the one that's in control here.

So, I'm having a really hard time with, it just goes to show and there's always help because the reality is, when you are that sick - those things don't...translate

At that point what you need is treatment. And I can go on and on about the cost of treatment, and the availability of treatment, but the real trouble is the stigma.

You know, this is pretty personal, but whatever, so is like 85% of the shit I write on here. I'm on an antidepressant. And you know what's fascinating? That it is such a simple, and small part of my life, and my treatment - and yet we act like it's the most freaking taboo thing out there.

Guys, when I started telling people about my tiny lil' pill, so many people quietly were like, oh? yes? we're talking about this? 'cause same. 

And how lame is that?

Shouldn't we be able to talk about what works? And shouldn't we be talking about treatment as easily as we talk about insulin pumps, and medicine that helps cholesterol?

Because it is that valuable.

Because treatment saves lives. Literally.

And if we're sitting around scared to say the words therapy and antidepressant we are hurting people. We are stuffing them back into the box that their brain put them in that says, do nothing, talk to no one, no help is out there.

So I get it.

I get that a death like this is shocking, and unsettling. And that's not wrong.

People with suicidal depression aren't rare, and they aren't shocked. But they are sick. And they do deserve more than our misguided notion that somehow money is supposed to fix depression, and being adored is supposed to ease a broken brain.

Finish Line Feels

This weekend I finished my fourth half marathon in three years.

How is that I real sentence that I can type? I do not know. 

I can't say that three years ago I would have expected to be a distance runner today. I can't even say that I consider myself a distance runner today.

But I've run four half marathons.

And there is something really spectacular that happens when you look at that as a whole, and you look at who I was when the gun went off on my first race, and who I am now that I've crossed another finish line.

I think no matter what length you run, a race brings about a certain level of reflection and...well, feelings.

I have felt just about every feeling under the sun while running. Especially while running 13.1 miles.

I've been elated, pissed, disappointed, hopeful, and totally lost in thought. I've been focused on my own race, and focused on every soul around me. I've wanted to quit - for sure when I broke my dang foot - and I've wanted to keep going.

Running races is not something I was even capable of three plus years ago. And now, I enjoy it.

Actually I totally love it.

But totally loving running didn't come easily, and it is not constant.

Usually it happens pre-race, but typically it also happens during the race, that I entertain the idea of never running again. I often think that I've made the worst decision ever by signing up for yet another race, and that's usually the morning of the race.

But low and behold, whether it's a 3 mile race, or a 13 mile race, that last .1 is unlike anything else.

I mean, I've been on big stages, I've traveled to cool places, I've done some decently amazing things. Still, there is nothing like crossing the finish line.

I would be lying if I said that running came easily to me. Each race I run involves some level of fight. Some level of literally pushing as many limits as I have. Physical, mental, you name it.

All that being said, my most recent half was my best race, literally ever.

I have never felt so capable, so ready, and so good while running.

I was beautifully paced. So much so, guys, that I nearly missed my dad and Doctor Roommate at the 10 mile marker. Because I was so fast. Kid ya not.

I was well-fueled. I was in maybe the best zone I've ever been in.

And I ran happy. I ran strong. I ran knowing that I wanted  to be there.

And I knew by about mile 11 that I was going to PR. 

I knew even if I slowed down dramatically, I had run my best race ever. 

So I grabbed the icee pops, and the oranges, and threw out a couple high fives and finished strong. 

The finish line? Not at all like a finish line that I've crossed before. Because actually, it was a transfer point. 

For those that don't know, to run the Vermont City Marathon as a half, you have to be part of team. There are 2, 3, and 5 person relays. I was on the first half of a 2 person relay team. But because the other half of my team wasn't running, all I had to do was cross that line - no pressure, no transfer, just joy. 

It was...quiet. And the people on the sidelines were not cheering, but anxiously bouncing, waiting to start their race.

And still, I felt so damn proud that I had just run the best race of my life.

And still...I'm taking a break from half marathons. Just for now. Just so I can take some time to not feel any pressure to hit a certain level of mileage each week. Just so I can go back to running a few miles here and there, and feeling satisfied. 

I'll likely still run races, and probably run another half eventually. 

Because really, nothing compares to those finish line feels.