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.

Look.

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.



Alright.

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

Alright.

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 alone...it 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 illness...in, 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. 

Let's Go to the Beach, Beach

Last Tuesday, I made the choice to leave Vermont for the summer.


And we will back up, and we will talk about how I got to that decision, but here are the answers to the top three questions I've gotten in the last 12 hours:

I leave next weekend. 
I am going to Conneticut and Florida.
I'll be back in September. 

Okay.

Now that we have that out of the way...

Why am I leaving, right?


Because I want to. Because I need to. Because I no longer feel like Burlington is the place for me to be happy, and healthy, and living my best life this summer.

Look, we can talk til we're blue in the face about strategies to cope with depression, and toxic relationships, and liars, and people who just suck but that you can't seem to get away from - but here's the rub - I know what I need.



And what I need is space. And time.

I need the ocean.
I need some new faces.
I need challenges.
I need the room to keep growing.
I need the space to take care of myself.
I need the time to move through some stuff.

And I need to do it an environment that isn't this one.

And we'll say it right now - this is a blessing. This is not something that came together easily. This is not something that just fell into my lap.

This has consequences. This has costs.



But the benefits are far, far, more important, and more valuable.

So. Do you know someone that needs somewhere to stay in Burlington this summer? Hit me up.

Maybe This Time

Ladies (and some gentlemen,) but, ladies it is start of what we have all been waiting for!

The beginning of the crowning of the Miss America Class of 2019!!!!!!!!!

I wanted to do 50+ exclamation points, but I thought that might be weird. 

It is happening! This might be the last weekend of the summer without a crowning! I don't know! Literally! Because I don't check the schedule! 

But here it is. The locals are done. The paperwork is in. The last of the CMNH dollars are being raised, the ads being sold, the stones being sewed (glued?) Probably, glue them, but like, don't trust me on that one. 


As we watch our ever-beloved 2018 class begin to pass on their crowns, and make our brackets for each (lol) state pageant of 2019...there are more than one thousand women, just waiting to see if this is the year that their dream comes true.

There are at least one thousand, four hundred and forty seven girls going for a state title this year. And uh, not to brag, but I did do that math.

1447.

That means they won a local, they prepped a talent, they have the dress of their dreams, and they have put their heart and souls into working for that state crown.

And only 51 of them will walk away with that dream this year.

3.52% of the girls will make it to the Miss America stage.

(Again, accounting for the fact that there are at least another 2000 girls that came out to locals throughout this year and are still dreaming the dream of going to the state level.)


Okay. Wow. Right?

Talk about putting some big things in perspective.

So.

How do you go through building this foundation for your dream? How do you manage to keep the focus when you know that there are so many other women that feel this pull just as strongly as you, right?

Because that has got to be the goal: build the dream, keep the focus.


And it can be so hard to stay in your own lane, run your own race, and be your own person - when you are literally competing for your dream job against other wildly talented, intelligent, gifted, kind, and beautiful women.

Literally, I know. I've been there.

And I know that hearing from someone that made it off the state stage with a crown may not be what you need right now.

Because I can tell you how I did it. How I figured out how to stay in my own lane, and run my own race. And I can tell you how I made the choice to keep coming back to that stage in the name of my dream.

But you know how that story ends for me.



So I think first, we should hear from some people that don't, or didn't, get a state crown....

"I was devastated at first, because I felt like I had so many ideas regarding sponsorship, recruitment efforts, fundraising and ways that I could make a difference with the crown. 

But I look at what I did accomplish with a local crown and I reflected on what I accomplished at the state pageant - swimsuit preliminary winner, a very special humanitarian award, and a boatload of scholarship money and I realized that I didn't actually walk away a loser, I just walked away a winner in a different way.

And now that I've been out of the program for quite some time, I realize there was a different plan for me. 

If I had won, I probably wouldn't be in the job I am in, at a company that I love, and I probably would have planned the wedding of my dreams. 

I think it's all about timing and appreciating the card that you were dealt. And if you don't like said cards, figure out a way to make lemons out of lemonade!"



Guys, this! Looking towards the future after a loss is hard, especially when the future you've been planning for, cannot be your reality.

But being able to consider what you did to get there and how that carried you through your competition, and on to the future that follows is what is going to allow you to move on to those big amazing things that are to come.


"Watching all you worked for slip away is undoubtedly one of the most difficult moments one can go through. It was time and money and energy and sacrifices that seemed to be all worth nothing, and it was a feeling of such worthlessness. 

But only for one second.

Because then I realized I was blessed enough to be privy to my sweet friend realizing her dream. And that was so much cooler than all the crappy feeling I was feeling. 

I mean, I still cried. But there was such a feeling of peace and joy. And I may or may not be taking time off. Or may just be celebrating myself and the rest of life. 

But everything I've learned through pageants has given me the skills I need to succeed. I can use a microphone and navigate a room. I can speak to all age groups and motivate crowds. I can ask people for donations and organize events. I can be the leader and the follower. I can interview. I can dress well. 

I am more than my one experience because of the many experiences it took me to get there. Sometimes it still hurts looking back because it brings back feelings of inadequacy, but my life has been so much bigger than that."


You won't want to hear it, and it may even take time to believe it, but life goes on.

Even know, my life doesn't really include the fact that I was Miss Vermont. Sure, it's something that I did. And for one year of my life it was everything that I did. But now? I'm more than a title. I'm more than a job. I'm more than my short time on stage.

And that is true, win or lose.

Because it is what you get from the program, and from the experience, and from the people that matters.

The crown is nice. We know.

But the value isn't in the crown.


"I knew that there had to be a reason. I knew that there had to be something coming for me that year that wasn't a crown. And it turns out - even three years later - that not winning that year was the single best thing that could have happened. I couldn't see it then or for a few weeks afterwards but within a few months I was sure, it was the best thing.

Honestly. I got lost after...I lost. I was sure the judges were wrong, and that it had to be a mistake. I knew I wanted it so much. I knew I wanted to have that job. But I didn't get how they missed that.

And time told me. 

I didn't want to wait to find that next thing or whatever God had put on my path. I just wanted to win. And it took a while to see how clearly important it was for me to not win to get to where I am today." 


I can't say it's going to make sense.

I can't say it's going to feel right.

But I can say what I've heard a hundred times, and what I've said a thousand times more: not now, doesn't mean not ever. If you scroll up you'll see many times in my life I've been on the same stage as multiple Miss States.

As we like to say up north, there are many Miss Vermonts in this room. 



And sometimes it takes five years, or ten, or just one shot. And sometimes you go through this process and you only gain confidence, sisters, knowledge, self-worth, and scholarship dollars.

I know this journey is hard, but that is exactly what makes it so worth it.

Up the Ante: Self-Care that Challenges

It has been a bit since we've talked about self care.

Which is great, because apparently that's polarizing now, and uh, who knew. 

I feel like y'all have a really good idea on where I am at with self-care.

But if you don't, go over here and read about how I truly believe that self-care is a hell of a lot more than paying a lot for coffee and calling it self-care. (Hint: you must actually focus on what/why/how to care for yourself while practicing self-care. Otherwise you're just, you know, buying coffee and hoping that you feel better because of it.)


Anyways. 

I started trying something new in this season...self-care that forces me to be outside of my bubble. And If you'll bear with me just a bit here, we can talk about a bubble first.

When my life is like...this. And it is hard for me to do things like eat, or run, or tell people what's going on - I get very comfortable in my shell. Very.

I wear a lot of the same comfy outfits. I eat the same three or four meals (literally.) If I run, I run the same routes. I make my whole life as routine as possible - because that is easy, and safe, and predictable. And those things don't hurt.

My bubble is simple. It's black and white. It's yes and no. It's do this, get that.

While I definitely like that comfort, it is not really conducive to, well, growth, for one. I've also come to see that it is also, arguably, not great when it comes to actively caring for myself. It allows me to protect myself, yes. But not care.


So!

Acknowledging that self-care can be challenging, and even something that forces you to be uncomfortable, has been really important for me in the last few weeks.

But...what does that look like, right? What does challenging yourself, while caring for yourself look like?

It looks like running on roads I deemed too risky, or too public. 

It looks like forcing myself to go new restaurants, stores, and classes that I've never been to before.

It looks like trying my damndest to work outside of what I can easily cook and eat.

It looks like playing with makeup, when I would rather just crawl into bed.

It looks like talking to new people.

It looks like it should be easy, but it is hard, conscious work.



It is a damn challenge for me to be okay with enjoying that risky running route. It's hard for me to embrace the idea of having fun in a new place, or liking a new restaurant. It isn't easy for me to cook new things, or make new outfits - when standbys are comfortable.

But doing those things is ushering me into a new level of confident, of happy even if, of capable, and strong, and you know - being a well-cared for individual.  Because when you recognize that comfort isn't serving you, that challenge becomes far more important.

And that challenge becomes a new way to care for yourself. What you're doing to care for yourself is important, really, and I don't want to discount that. But whether it is a pedicure, a six mile run through downtown Burlington, or breaking in a new cookbook - it is why you are doing it and how you are using that time and that energy that has the value.



Self-care isn't just an action.

Self-care is learning to embrace a need within you that asks for more. More time to yourself, more courage, more challenge, more moments of reflection, more chances to grow.

Self-care is listing to why you are asking for more. You aren't craving the time to yourself, the courage, the challenge, the moments of reflection, and the chances to grow because it is trendy to post about self-care on the internet.

Although if you are, maybe reevaluate? 



You are craving it because something is missing.

Maybe, you're like me, and you're lonely as hell and playing it safe so that you can work your way back to being the badass dream slayer that you know yourself to be. 

Maybe, you've been in the same spot too long. Maybe, you've let the unhealthy relationships in your life bog you down. Maybe you've been lying to yourself about what does feel like a challenge.

And maybe, it is just time to look at what caring for yourself, means to you.

Here Is What Is Going On

I think at this point we are all pretty clear on the fact that I share a lot of my life, and my self, on the internet.

Obviously, there are moments in my life that won't ever be on the internet, and a lot those have to do with my heart. Really, protecting my heart.

So when I think about where I'm at right now, and where my heart is at right now, I'm struggling.

Because part of me wants to share it. Part of me wants to talk about feeling so less-than, and inadequate, and unloveable, and scared, and lonely.

And part of me is recognizing that there might be a threshold here that I'm not ready to cross again.


I've shared a lot of my heart already. I think - and I hope - I've done so in a way that says this is my side of the story. Because it is important to me to be aware that not every story is wholly mine, and so it is not wholly mine to share.

But I'm at a point where this burning in my heart is just, so damn painful.

I know that that's vague, and maybe not super helpful in this context.

So I think my point is that I know I'm holding back. I know there's a large part of this story that you all aren't getting right now. And it is causing...a few things.

//

First of all, it is making me feel like I can't say a lot about this pain.

I don't want to be vague and annoying. I want to be clear about what hurts, and why. I know that that is when I'm actually able to connect with y'all. And that is when I am able to keep building these bizarre and magnificent internet friendships.

It is when I am clear about my pain, and my triumphs, and - this phrase doesn't thrill me but - my truth, that I feel like I'm actually doing more than just spilling my guts on the internet.


But it is also making me feel really distant.

I know if I'm not willing to be vague and annoying, and I'm not ready, or able, to be totally clear...then there is a discrepancy between who I am online, and who I am right here in, you know, real life.

I don't want that. I don't want to feel like a whole piece of who I am right now is floating silently in the background of everything I say.

The sad reality is that I already often feel really separated from parts of my life.

Especially in the head space that I'm in these days - connections are already difficult, engaging in my life is already difficult.  I spend the better part of each day forcing myself to work on staying engaged, and staying out of my own head, and not focusing on my own pain.

So ideally that doesn't carryover. Ideally, if I'm feeling like I want to connect with other people, and I like I want to share my life, I don't want to feel like there is a wall there too.


The other thing is that holding back, and this separation between life, and what I'm sharing about my life - it isn't serving me.

And I don't mean to say that my pain should always serve me, because I don't necessarily believe that. And I don't mean to say that I only use my space on the internet to serve me, because I think it's actually the opposite.

But, I am not helping myself - and I am not serving my own sense of healing, or closure, or anything - if I am not allowing all the parts to get the same kind of exposure.

It is like failing to turn a plant, and wondering why the 40% of the plant that is not getting any light isn't thriving.

I'm not giving it light, and I am sure as hell not thriving.


So, I don't know yet how to shed light on this without cracking open the cover on a couple stories that I don't think are ready to be shared.

I don't know how to share those parts of my heart.

I do know that they are soaked in pain, and hurt, and worry, and feeling like it will never be enough.

And I don't know how to tell those stories without sounding like I'm being too dramatic, or throwing someone under the bus, or diminishing the layers of how the stories came together, or devaluing the parts that are truly important, or glorifying the details that are, albeit juicier, but irrelevant.

So, here we are.

There are pieces of me I don't know how to share with you.

And I know that it's keeping a wall up. And I know that it isn't helping me. And I know it's not making it easier to be...where I am. And I don't know if that's going to change, because the reality is, the stories aren't going to.

So thank you, for handling my vagueness. And sticking with me anyways. And supporting me anyways. And reaching out anyways.

And in an effort to be more transparent, here's a lil nugget for you:

I got Bumble last night.

For all of four hours.

And I hated it.

Well, not wholly true. I really loved the BFF function. But I could not handle the horrendous dating side of it, so I deleted my account. Already.