Saturday, December 30, 2023

better places

One of the funny things about being relatively early to the blogosphere (to give you a sense of how early, I started this blog and BrokeAss Gourmet in 2008, and still use words like "blogosphere") is that my blogs serve, to me anyway, as sort of a public record of what was going on with me--food-wise, of course, but also creatively and emotionally, whenever I dare to scroll backward. 

In general, I have avoided doing this, mostly because I find it hard not to cringe when I read my old work, whether it's an old blog post, an actual edited, published book, or one of those obnoxious Facebook "memories"--an emo song lyric, a thinly-veiled yet vague reference to whatever incredibly specific drama I found myself embroiled in and/or caused, or a joke I thought was hysterically funny fifteen years ago, but which absolutely did not stand the test of time. It's so tempting to look away, to shut my laptop, to pretend I never was the person who had those silly thoughts, who wrote that deeply imperfect thing, who thought it was a good idea to share it with the world. 

Lately though, I've found that, as I've aged, branched out to work on other things, settled fully into nearly a decade of marriage, birthed and raised children, etc., some of my memories of those early days have begun to fade together into one big, soft bundle of post-college-early-adulthood mush. Suddenly, I find myself eager to conjure them, in all their clunky, awkward, sad, or embarrassing glory. As my identity coalesces into this newly mid-life, wife/mom, fine-lines-and-wrinkles version of itself, love it though I do, I don't want all the previous ones to end up on the cutting room floor. I don't want to be the same person I was when I was nineteen, or twenty-four, or twenty-nine, but I don't want her to be entirely lost to time, either.

One thing about having kids is that you become increasingly aware that, while many of the people around you might know who you are, fewer and fewer people know who you actually are, and in the process, you start to forget too. You are Mom. You are Mommy. You are so-and-so's mom. Your children find out you have a first name other than what they call you and they think it's absolutely hysterical and maybe a little bit upsetting, which is how it sometimes feels when you remember the time before they existed, when you were someone else.

Another thing about having kids, is that, while your children are absolutely their own unique and wonderful selves, there's no escaping the fact that, probably, they'll inherit at least a few of your own traits. And sometimes, if you're lucky, one of those traits will be something you've never liked about yourself. Something you tried desperately to hide from the world when you were young, or maybe even after you grew up. Maybe even now. But in your own beautiful, perfect, amazing kid, that terrible, awful thing suddenly doesn't seem so terrible or awful. In your child, not only do you accept it as part of who he or she is, you actually love it about them. You see how it fits into the whole picture of who they are--maybe even how it makes them better, and you're grateful for it, because you wouldn't want them to be any other way, and suddenly, you wonder why you were so committed to hating those things in yourself.

For years I've been hearing that, as you get older, you stop giving so many fucks. Like, the morning you turn forty, you're reborn as fearless, headstrong and unconcerned with what anyone thinks about you, but I think that, for me at least, it's a bit more subtle. It's not that you stop caring what anyone thinks, it's that, you officially realize that time is not slowing down, and you might as well learn to like yourself, because what point is there in living any other way? This annoys your inner critic and makes it harder for outer ones to hurt you, which makes it seem like you care less, but actually, it's that you care a lot more. You don't lose the fucks, you just reallocate them to better places.

Monday, October 5, 2020

pandemic pregnancy

I had suspected I might be pregnant for a few days before I got up the nerve to actually take a test. My period was three days late, but we had been trying for awhile, and I knew better than to let myself get excited. Periods could be late for all kinds of reasons, and I was well-aware, thanks to panicked googling and unsolicited advice, that, at thirty-eight, even the most methodic approach to conception (temperature taking, calendaring, peeing on ovulation test strips, etc.) might ultimately prove ineffective. I tried to put it out of my mind until a little more time had passed, but when day three turned into five, and my breasts began to vaguely ache, I decided to go for it. I put my two-year-old down for a nap, peed on yet another stick--this one a Clearblue digital test (this was the kind I used when I learned I was pregnant with my daughter nearly three years earlier, and I had developed a superstition that this brand might somehow be more likely to give me a positive result a second time--a theory which had, at least until this point, turned out to be wrong). I paced around my bathroom for five minutes as the test counted down, held my breath, and checked. Sure enough, the word PREGNANT flashed in all-caps on the test's tiny screen.

I waited for my husband to finish teaching his afternoon distance-learning class on Zoom, caught him in the kitchen and told him the news. Unsurprisingly, he was thrilled--we had been wanting a second child for a long time, and had begun to worry that it might not be as easy as it had been previously. And then, for the first time since I realized my period was late, I took a deep breath and let our new reality sink in: We had done it, and if all went well, God-willing, we were going to become parents for the second time...and we were going to do it in the throes of a worldwide pandemic.

In many ways, being pregnant during a pandemic is much like being pregnant any other time (that is, if you have good, safe shelter, plenty of food, and quality medical care, all of which I am privileged to have, and have never been so grateful for). Just as with my first pregnancy, during the first four months, I was sick from the time I woke up until I went to bed at night ("morning sickness" is a hilarious misnomer). I couldn't keep any food down that wasn't a flavorless carbohydrate, and even the faintest of faraway bad smells could trigger my gag reflex. This phase of pregnancy lends itself well to the stay-at-home lifestyle of a world infected by COVID-19. 

Now well into my second trimester, I've stopped throwing up and have begun spending a bit more time out in the world: walks and hikes, masked grocery store trips, the occasional takeout run. I only recently crossed the threshold from simply looking a little bit wider and rounder in the midsection to having a pronounced and visible baby bump, and have been surprised to find that masks and social distance do not necessarily prevent strangers from asking the usual questions ("do you know what you're having?" "when are you due?" "<insert unprompted, often terrifying story about his/her experience with pregnancy/childbirth>"). There is much kindness: those who offer to let me go ahead of them in line, the cashier at my local grocery store who never forgets to ask how I am feeling. And then, there are the "quarantine-baby" jokes: the implication being that one's pregnancy is the result of having nothing else to do during the pandemic but procreate. Hilarious.

I have also learned a secret that most men were already privy to: if you can find a tree, two open car doors, or even just a secluded corner, have confidence, and are quick, you can pee in nearly any outdoor public space without anyone noticing. Many public bathrooms are now closed (or don't feel COVID-safe enough), but pregnancy makes the need to urinate frequent and urgent, so I have had to adapt. Recently, at a nearly-empty park with my daughter, I explained that mommy needed to go potty very badly and I couldn't wait until we got home, and she watched (and erupted into giggles) as I quickly squatted and did my business behind a bush. "Mommy is a doggy!" she repeated the entire walk home.

It's nice to have a happy thing to focus on as the world both literally and figuratively burns, but I won't deny that I'm terrified about bringing a new human into the world in the state it's currently in. If there is one thing I've learned, it's that there is always something to be anxious about in pregnancy: new test results to anticipate, sonograms to worry about, the potential that birth might not go according to plan (or worse, that it might go completely off the rails). There is so much that is out of my hands, which has forced me to focus on what I can control: I can take my prenatal vitamin, exercise, try to eat well. I can try to get enough rest.

I can also vote. I can fight like hell for my rights and the rights of those more vulnerable than I am. I can give money and time to organizations that are pushing for the kind of change I want to see in the world. I may not be able to single-handedly control the outcome, but I can do everything in my power to try to move the needle. I'll admit, my faith is a little shaky right now, but my resolve has never been stronger.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

An Echad Mi Yodea/Who Knows One for Your Social Distancing Seder

Who knows one? I know one. One is my house, which is now also an office, gym, and school.

Who know two? I know two. Two are my hands, which I now wash constantly for at least twenty seconds.

Who knows three? I know three. Three is the number of days COVID-19 remains on metal and plastic, and also the number of husbands Joe Exotic had in Tiger King.

Who knows four? I know four. Four AM existential grief and panic attacks.

Who knows five? I know five. Five days to ripe sourdough starter!

Who knows six? I know six. Six feet of distance between yourself and others.

Who knows seven? I know seven. Seven days in a week...I think? Maybe? What is time?

Who knows eight? I know eight. Eight people maximum in a Zoom call before everything starts going to shit.

Who knows nine? I know nine. Nine is the total number of toilet paper rolls left in the entire state of California.

Who knows ten? I know ten. "Ten out of ten" is the score Trump gave himself for his shameful mishandling this pandemic.

Who knows eleven? I know eleven. Eleven A.M. cocktails are a thing now.

Who knows twelve? I know twelve. Twelve months minimum until we have a vaccine.

Who knows thirteen? I know thirteen. Thirteen professional awards bestowed upon the great Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

out of milk

Six days ago, I stopped breastfeeding.

It was time. My daughter is almost two, and has been eating solids for the last year-and-a-half (cooking with her is one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced). For the last year, nursing has been much more of a comfort than sustenance for her. It's been one of my favorite things about early motherhood. The physical and emotional bond it created between us was unlike anything I had ever experienced. And while I really did want to stop, I am missing it terribly.

When it was time, she and I talked about it. She seemed to get it as much as it's possible for a toddler to do so. I let her choose a couple of special drinks to have instead of breastmilk for times when we would normally nurse. She asked for bubbly water with lemon (so sophisticated) and a strawberry-banana smoothie. I was happy to oblige.

It's been going...okay. Sometimes the excitement over her bubbly water and smoothie is enough to distract her, but sometimes, I can see the processing grief on her face and I know she is struggling to understand why we can't just do the thing we have done as long as she can remember. She's asked for it a few times since we stopped, sometimes in earnest, and sometimes facetiously, the same way she might ask for a cookie right before bedtime--in a way that makes clear that she knows it will never happen and is in on the joke.

I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I worried withholding something she wanted so much might, on some level, change the way she felt about me. It reminded me of my single years when I sometimes felt compelled to sleep with men before I was ready because of a misguided belief that if I gave them what they wanted, they would want me more--or at least be discouraged from rejecting me. But I've been relieved to find that Anna's love is unconditional.

Now the new normal is setting in for all of us. The uncomfortable tingling and mild swelling as my confused breasts made milk that went un-drunk for a few days has subsided now. My doctor told me it might take as long as two weeks for milk production to completely shut down, but as far as I can tell, they seem pretty much done.

It occurred to me last night that this is the first time in nearly three years that my body hasn't been either the home or dairy farm for another person. I'm hoping to get pregnant again soon, so I know this may be a short window, but for the first time in a long time, it's mine again (sure, I have a toddler physically attached to me most of the time, but still). It made me think about all the ways that my body started to feel like public property the moment I started to look visibly pregnant. The unsolicited questions, comments, and advice from strangers, the occasional unwanted hand on my belly, the comments on the rate at which I was "getting my figure back" after she was born. I remembered how sometimes in those very early days, while walking with Anna wrapped in a carrier on my chest or tucked into her stroller, strangers would ask to see her or, a few times, reach forward into her stroller to lift the blanket I had draped over her while she slept to "take a peek" without asking. I remembered how I had thought to myself then that it was as if they didn't realize she was an actual person, and that no person deserves to have their physical space violated so a stranger can look at them while they sleep.

My body is different now than it used to be. It's marked by motherhood: tiny flyaway hairs which seemingly sprouted immediately after I gave birth still jut out from my hairline. A faded linea nigra still marks the lower half of my torso, and my breasts are neither the shape nor size, nor, um, texture they were before. I've lost weight since giving birth--enough so that most of my pre-pregnancy clothes no longer fit, but I never bothered to replace them with anything other than stretchy cotton things I could easily nurse in. My body is mine again, but so much of it has changed that I hardly recognize it as a whole.

As painful as it's been to end our nursing relationship, I'm inspired by the way Anna has handled it. She doesn't keep things inside or hide her feelings--she's a toddler, she doesn't know how to do that. She moves through everything in real time: her ambivalence, her sadness, her joy. I hope to emulate her as we integrate into this new phase. The end of nursing is sad, but snuggles and smoothies are amazing. It's hard to long for something you can't have, but knowing that you're going through it with someone you love helps. And yes, my body has changed, but it will likely only continue to change more as time goes on. If change is the only constant, then perhaps radical acceptance is the only way forward.

Friday, April 19, 2019

To Anna on Her First Birthday

My Sweetest Anna,
One year ago today, at 4:55 in the morning, after nearly forty hours of labor, you came sailing into my life, changing it and me forever.

Now that you're here, it's hard to believe that there was ever a time when you weren't. Being your mother is truly the greatest privilege I have ever had.

It was about a week past your due date when your daddy and I went to the doctor for a check-up, just to make sure everything was okay. As luck would have it, the end of that appointment was when you decided to begin your entry into our world.

Like the true individual you are, you took your time with your arrival. You wiggled and bounced and rattled your little nine-months-in-the-making home inside of me for hours before we actually went to the hospital. When I called her to say it might be time, your Nana drove from Santa Rosa to San Francisco in record-breaking (and highly illegal) time. Your Poppy came down as well and we all sat in the living room of our San Francisco apartment, eating Thai food and singing folk songs while your dad played guitar. Every few minutes, you would clench and push inside of me and I would yell at everyone to stop singing, and squeeze whoever was closest until the contraction passed.

Finally, around 11 PM, we all felt like it was time to go to the hospital. I sat between your Nana and daddy in the backseat of the car as we drove to the hospital and held onto them tightly, squeezing hard with every bump we drove over. 

When we got to the hospital, they checked us into our room and we all got ready to welcome you. The doctors and nurses let us know that the reason you were taking a little longer than they expected to come out was because you were turned to the side. "She's looking out the window," your daddy said. I think of that every night when you sit with him and look out the window of our bedroom before you go to bed.

The nurses brought me a big rubber thing called a "peanut." They had me lay on my side, facing the opposite direction you were facing, and hold the peanut between my knees to encourage you to flip back to the middle. I kept it there for hours while you wiggled and kicked and eventually made your way to where they wanted you. 

Finally, the nurses told me, it was time for you to come. Well, not exactly time, but time to get ready for time. What followed was the most surreal half hour of my life. While the doctors and nurses moved around the room, getting their equipment ready to receive you, your dad and Nana and I got ourselves ready. Daddy will tell you that during this time I was acting pretty weird. I kept insisting that he put on more chapstick because I was worried that his lips were dry, and started worrying about all kinds of unimportant things like whether the bags we brought were organized enough and whether I could have a straw in the plastic yellow hospital pitcher I was drinking out of.

When the nurses finally told me to push, you came out faster than any of us thought was possible, and suddenly there you were, a little purple with a pineapple-shaped head that completely freaked your father out until he was reassured by everyone that it would go back to normal soon, but absolutely perfect in every way, on my chest, looking me right in the eyes. In a millisecond, you cracked open my heart and triggered the release of more love than I knew it was possible to feel.

So much has changed since that early morning on April 19, 2018! It took us a little while to get into a rhythm, but together, your daddy, you, and I all learned how to operate as a family of three. And now you can do so many things! You can crawl, you eat all kinds of delicious foods, like avocado, kale (we know, we know, could we be more of a cliché?), Bamba, brisket, chicken soup, mozzarella, ravioli, and blueberries, just to name a few favorites.

And every day you're learning more and more. Soon, you'll have more words (right now your favorites are, "dada," "mama," "dog-dog," "yes," and "CAT!"). You play peek-a-boo like a champ, wave hello and goodbye, and love to offer other people a bite of whatever you are eating, like the generous lady you are. 

And you are always singing! Whether to your Nanny and Gramps on Facetime, to your daddy and me while he plays the guitar, or to the lucky shoppers who just happen to be in the Whole Foods produce department at the same time as we are, you are never not vocalizing and waving your hands around dramatically to entertain those around you. And it is extremely entertaining.

You are growing up so quickly and I know there is so much more to come this year my sweet girl, but I'm in no hurry for you to turn into a big kid too fast. I promise to give you the best childhood I possibly can. I promise to always meet you where you are and support you as you pursue whatever satisfies your soul and makes your heart sing as loudly and clearly as you do in grocery stores.

Thank you for everything you've brought into my life, Anna Mari. Today there will be a homemade chocolate cake, way too many presents, and a family who loves you more than anything celebrating the special girl you are. Tomorrow, you will be one year and one day old, surely ready to conquer the world. Happy birthday, dear daughter. I love you.

Friday, January 25, 2019

i can hear you now

I'm five years old, just a few weeks into kindergarten at my new elementary school. The school nurse leads me down the shady breezeway between my classroom and the main office so she can test my vision and hearing. Taking a test seems very grown-up and I have recently begun to suspect that I am very smart, so I beam as I tell her which pictures and letters I see on the black and white cards she holds up, and raise my hand when I hear the high-pitched dings in the bulky headphones with vinyl coverings, like the ones my father uses to listen to records at night. I am certain I am impressing the nurse with my intelligence and poise. She smiles back at me, further securing my certainty that I am nailing the test.

A few days later, she comes back to my classroom and takes me once again to the office for another test. This time we're just testing my hearing. She says she wants me to take a special hearing test, one that is a little longer than the one we took before. I oblige, happy to demonstrate my talents once again.

This time, after I slip on the headphones and she switches on the testing machine, I hear a few dings, but they are spaced further and further apart with long stretches of silence. The nurse covers her mouth with a clipboard and reads words to me and asks me to repeat them back to her. I recognize some of them, but a surprising number of them don't sound like real words. I say them anyway and she smiles back at me, but every few words, I see what looks like a tiny frown in the corner of her mouth, almost too quickly for me to see, but I catch it.

A few days later, my mother explains that I have a little bit of a hearing problem. She says I need to always make sure I can understand what my teachers are saying. I promise I will.

As I get older, my hearing problem becomes more and more noticeable to me and everyone else. I mishear things all the time, often to the delight of my friends and classmates. A game of "telephone" is sure to be hilarious if I am somewhere on the chain, attempting to hear whatever silly phrase is whispered to me and inevitably misunderstanding it and repeating something even sillier. It becomes my thing--I'm the Amelia Bedelia of Hidden Valley Elementary School. I somehow manage to do pretty well in school. I sit as close to where the teachers are talking as I can. When I miss something, I ask for it to be repeated. But I also start to notice the annoyed tone in others' voices when they repeat things I miss, especially when I ask them to repeat them more than once. It becomes hard to separate others' frustration about having to repeat themselves from frustration with me, so sometimes I decide it's better not to ask them to say it again. Sometimes I make the decision to just not know.

When I am in tenth grade, my parents drive me an hour south of our town to the UCSF medical center in San Francisco, where I have an MRI to determine what is going on with my ears. It turns out that many of my cochlea, the tiny hair cells inside that help filter sound, are damaged, probably since birth, which explains why I have such a hard time hearing. Despite my protestations, I am fitted for hearing aids.

The experience of wearing the hearing aids is terrible. For a few months, I slip them into my ears in a stall of the school bathroom before class and pull my hair down on either side of my face, but they make everything incredibly loud. Background noises overpower the sounds I actually want to hear. Instead of the lesson my algebra teacher is giving, I hear every scratch of a pencil and ripping notebook paper and gum snapping and breathing of every kid in my quadrant of the classroom. Instead of helping me understand my teachers, my brain feels like it is going to implode in response to all the information being hurled at it. I eventually stop wearing them.

For most of my young adulthood, I am embarrassed by my hearing, but I cope. I ask for words to be repeated. I explain that I have some hearing loss. Once I'm no longer a child among children, the teasing pretty much stops. Still, I am anxious every time I enter into a situation where I might have trouble hearing, which is pretty much everything other than sitting across from one other person in a quiet room. If someone speaks quietly or with a mumble, I am lost. I get good at faking understanding, but not good enough that I am never caught.

When I am thirty-six, I give birth to a little girl. We stay at the hospital for three days. Every fifteen minutes, it seems, a different nurse, doctor, or other hospital worker comes into the room for one reason or another. I struggle to hear many of them, but I am so in love with my new baby that I almost don't care.

As the months go by, I start to worry that my hearing will impact my mothering. I'm terrified that I will accidentally miss her cries, so I use a video monitor, even though we live in a one-bedroom apartment. When she sleeps, I carry it around with me, cranked up at top volume, checking it constantly.

My mother suggests I visit an audiologist, just to find out what is going on. I am annoyed with her for doing so, but I make the appointment anyway. When I go in for my hearing test, which is surprisingly similar to the ones I took as a kid, the audiologist matter-of-factly informs me that I have a severe hearing loss and that I definitely need hearing aids. I explain my hesitation, citing my bad experience in high school.

"That was twenty years ago," she tells me. "The technology has gotten much, much better. Now we have hearing aids that can go entirely into your ears, and help to filter out background noise. But also, if you don't get this taken care of now, you could have some serious cognitive issues down the line -- there is a lot of research that indicates that hearing loss can lead to dementia and a whole host of other problems."

And so, two weeks ago, I was once again fitted with hearing aids. They are tiny, imperceptible. They fit completely into my ear canal and cannot be seen unless you are looking.

As she tucks them into my ears and switches them on, I hear the clack clack clack of my daughter's hands on her toys, from the blanket at my feet where she is sitting on the floor of the audiologist's office. I am immediately aware that I would not have been able to hear those sounds before. I pick my daughter up and kiss her tummy which makes her giggle, and I feel my eyes well up as I notice that I have never been able to really hear the richness of her laugh before that moment. We play music on the drive home, and I hear notes in songs I've known for years that I didn't know were there before. That evening, my husband and I have a conversation from separate rooms--something I don't think I have ever done with anyone in my life.

There is still a lot left to adjust to. Because I missed so much, my brain has spent years taking in much less information than it is now, and it is still learning what to do with it all. For the first week, I kept thinking my husband was speaking to me sharply. Eventually, I figured out that what was really going on was that, after seven years together, I was actually hearing the sound of his voice for the first time. He had grown accustomed to speaking to me at a higher volume, and now that I didn't require it anymore, it had a different effect.

I still seize up with muscle memory anxiety when I enter a situation that would previously have been challenging for me hearing-wise, but the experience of finally being able to relax, knowing I'm not going to have to pretend to have understood someone while silently churning with shame on the inside is incredibly liberating.

There's another unexpected pleasure I get to enjoy now that I wear hearing aids, one which I never could have predicted: All day long, I wear these incredible devices which correct my hearing loss by magnifying sounds I am not able to naturally hear, and it is truly amazing. But at the end of the day, when I take them out of my ears and place them in their case for safekeeping, the quiet of my unassisted hearing that surrounds me is surprisingly satisfying. All the street noise disappears--I hear only what is very close to me, like closing the door to a very noisy room. In that moment, it's as if my hearing loss, the source of so much trouble and pain over the years, becomes a tiny gift.

Monday, December 31, 2018

you don't have to like me

A couple of years ago, someone I used to be friends with made it clear in a public way that he strongly disliked me. Truthfully, I didn't like him very much either, but I also didn't feel the need to share it explicitly. Because I didn't care to engage with him in what I perceived as a pretty inappropriate forum, I ignored his comments and that was pretty much the end of it.

While it was embarrassing to be the subject of someone's social media diatribe, I was surprised to find that I didn't especially mind that he had so much distaste for me. In fact, I kind of welcomed it. After all, it made sense that someone I wasn't a fan of wasn't a fan of me, and his loudness about it kind of broke the seal on the whole thing.

I have spent most of my life worrying about being liked. From mean girls on the elementary school playground, to cliques I felt rejected from in high school, to every guy who didn't want to date me, every job I didn't get, and every stranger who called me fat or ugly on the internet, I have taken it all as concrete proof that there was something wrong with me. But being lambasted by someone whose opinion didn't matter to me at all helped to highlight just how meaningless it is to be disliked by anyone other than the people I really care about. And once I wrapped my head around the fact that it was okay to not be liked by someone I myself didn't like, I started to think about how it's also okay to not be liked by a lot of other people too. I'm a complicated person with plenty of traits and habits that might not appeal to everyone. I don't like everyone -- why should everyone like me?

Having a kid provides daily reminders of the limits to my likability. My adorable eight-month-old attracts a lot of attention when we're out together, but strangers who try to touch her without asking (or honestly, even those who do ask first--why are you trying to touch a baby you don't know?) are met by a growling, protective mama bear I didn't know I had living inside of me. And those who offer unsolicited advice on how I should dress, carry, feed, or otherwise care for my baby are not responded to warmly. Sometimes my daughter cries in restaurants or on airplanes, and, while I always do my best to be a good member of society and calm her down or take her outside, sometimes it's not possible and those around me have to deal with the screams of an upset baby. The codependent like-junkie side of me wishes I could find some way to simultaneously prioritize my baby's needs and keep myself in the good graces of strangers, but generally, that is impossible, and her needs come first, so everyone else can eff off. And speaking of whom, my darling daughter is regularly displeased with me. Depending on her mood, my attempts to change her, remove her from the bathtub, or pry her tiny fist off of my foolishly chosen dangly earring might be met with shrieks of protest. But it doesn't matter because I am her mother and it is my job.

Getting comfortable with not always being liked is an ongoing practice, and not easy. From the time we are very young, society teaches women that being liked should be a major priority. Likewise, social media encourages us to derive real meaning from likes, retweets, and public compliments. It's hard to break the habit of constantly seeking approval, but I invite you to join me in trying. Because once you stop listening to the static of your anxiety about the opinions of other people, it becomes much easier to hear what's actually going on inside of you.