Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Tag: respect

This coming Wednesday I’m getting a new hip! I know…you’re probably saying, “She’s way too young for hip replacement.” That’s how I feel too. But the x-rays, a limp in my stride and increasing discomfort and fatigue that keep me from living the life I want, tell a different story.

I still love to ride my bike!

I still love to ride my bike!

My hip is dis-eased! It isn’t a happy hip anymore. It complains when I get up from sitting down and when I walk more than a few hundred feet. Sometimes it even grumbles just walking from the car into the house. I have moments of freedom and ease when I think, “Maybe I really don’t need a new hip.” But then I find myself limping again.

The combination of a hip supportive yoga routine along with physical therapy have kept my hip relatively happy over the past 3 years since arthritis was first diagnosed. I worked with my hip to keep it mobile and strong. I applied the principles I teach others. I listened to my hip. I eliminated activities that exacerbated the discomfort and found softer, gentler ways of exercising. I exchanged my road bike and long distance cycling for a more recreational style of riding. Swimming became my go-to cardio. I devoted anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes a day just doing my yoga and PT exercises. But, disease can’t always be cured. Some disease can only be managed and delayed.

Like breast cancer at 30 and my shoulder reconstruction at 50, hip replacement is another teacher on my path of being alive and well. What’s different this time is I’m choosing surgery. I’m choosing to do it sooner than later. I didn’t have that choice with cancer or my dislocated shoulder.

Learning to live with disease is an essential life skill that we don’t learn except through experience. We don’t always get to choose the treatment, but we can make significant choices about many other aspects of how we respond.

What dis-ease are you dealing with today?

  • Mental dis-ease of worry or anxiety about finances, employment, relationships, or other life issues?
  • Chronic emotional struggles with depression, anxiety or other bio-chemically related dis-ease?
  • Spiritual lethargy or existential angst about meaning, purpose, vocation, love?
  • Physical dis-ease of body aches, allergies, headaches, gastro-intestinal disruptions?
  • Stress and tension accumulating in random mental and physical symptoms?

What do you do to manage and work with the dis-ease that doesn’t seem like it may ever be cured? That you may just have to find a way to live with as best as you can?

My life’s work is to help myself and others love and enjoy living in our bodies, just as we are and make life-giving choices as we adjust to the changes and dis-eases that are an expected part of life.

I didn’t want cancer. I didn’t want a dislocated shoulder. I don’t want osteoarthritis in my hip and low-back. But once they became part of my story I made choices to let them become my teachers. All of the wisdom, guidance and compassionate support I offer others grows out of my daily choice to move toward dis-ease of body, mind, heart and spirit with compassion, openness and curiosity.

Will you join us?

Will you join us?

If you’ve got some dis-ease you’re dealing with and want support for your journey, please consider joining me and my companions at Alive and Well Women for our upcoming program: Alive and Well – A Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being.

Some of you participated in previous versions of the Alive and Well program. I’d love to have you re-join me for this revised version. The journey begins with an “in-town” retreat on Friday, March 31 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 1st from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. followed by weekly gatherings on Thursdays from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. during April (6, 13, 20, 27).

Alive and Well is also offering Awaken: Self-Care from the Inside Out on Saturday, March 18th. The day includes experiential teaching and practices designed to help you connect to and work with your body to discover your unique blueprint for self-care.

Both events take place in Pasadena area. I’d love to see you at one or both.

In the meantime, your prayers for a smooth and successful surgery on Wednesday, February 22nd and a solid recovery after would be much appreciated.

 

 

 

I chose not to press charges against the perpetrator when I was raped 30 years ago. I didn’t want to suffer re-victimization in order to prove he was guilty. I didn’t want to put myself on trial, proving my victimization, justifying my choices, verifying my credibility, demonstrating my reliability as a witness to my own experience of rape. I didn’t want to be placed on the witness stand where my integrity and character would become the topics of the trial.

I was at a bar with friends. I met a man. We kissed. He asked for a ride home. We left the bar together. And suddenly, according to some perverse understanding of relationships upon which the criminal justice system operates when it comes to rape, our friendly engagement and public displays of affection had apparently given him permission to insert his penis into my vagina!

Who is on trial?

Who is on trial?

At least, that’s what the investigator from the District Attorney’s office said would happen if the case went to trial. She empathized with me, validated my experience and seemed to covertly agree with my protests of injustice. But she also reinforced the fact that my history of drugs, alcohol and sexual engagements would be used by the criminal’s attorneys to prove his innocence.

Unlike the vast majority of rape victims, the morning following the Friday night incident I called the rape crisis hotline and went to a local hospital for treatment of my injuries (bruising on my legs and arms and tearing of my previously un-penetrated vagina). With the support of a rape crisis counselor who met me at the emergency room, I reported the crime to the police. They interviewed me, took photographs of my bruising and collected physical evidence. At the end of the emergency room ordeal, I accompanied the officers to the site of the crime as well as to the bar where we met.

The police gathered information, identified the criminal and arrested him later that day. He spent the weekend in jail and was released on bail the following Monday.

Unlike Emily Doe who courageously took the stand, suffered the humiliation of her own life and history being put on trial in order to bring about justice, I chose to drop the charges I’d filed. I wasn’t willing to have my life become the target of his defense. I wasn’t willing to be re-victimized by a criminal justice system that continues to make rape victims the guilty ones by allowing our alcohol and drug use or sexual histories to become part of the trail.

Emily’s letter to her attacker reveals much about why, out of  every 100 rapes, only 7 of these crimes lead to arrest and only 3 are referred to prosecutors:

“I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who didn’t even take the time to ask me for my name, who had me naked a handful of minutes after seeing me. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up…”

To add to the injustice of it all, even after being found guilty of three felony charges related to sexual assault, the criminal was sentenced to only 6 months in county jail plus probation. And, assuming he’ll be on his best behavior, he’s likely to serve only 3 months.

I stand with Emily and others in protesting the sentence handed down by the judge who has a history of bias in favor of student athletes. The judge justified his leniency by expressing concern that the standard sexual assault sentence of  6 years in prison would have “a severe impact” on the criminal, a former Stanford University student.

Isn’t severity the message demanded by justice? Doesn’t the serious violation demand a harsh sentence? What is the message being sent to the criminal by letting him off easy? What is the message being sent to other perpetrators? Other potential victims?

“If you’re a young white male and have a potentially bright future ahead of you, material and social resources, we’ll let you off easy and trust that because you come from a place of affluence and privilege, you’ll get the rehabilitation you need and become an upstanding citizen.” 

I wonder if the judge would have given the same sentence had the offender been from the wrong side of the tracks, a struggling community college student working at a gas station or any one other than a former Olympic hopeful who also happens to be a caucasian male?

Brock Turner is an adult deserving of the maximum penalty and time for rehabilitation as a sexual offender, not a slap on the wrist and a few months of jail time to consider the errors of his ways. In the United States the average prison time for rape is 8-9 years in prison. Three to six months is not enough for the needed punishment and rehabilitation–which is ultimately the goal of our criminal justice system, isn’t it?

Last week I received an email from a colleague. She’s learning how much more effective self-acceptance is than self-hatred for motivating positive health behaviors. She told me what I’d said  the last time we met kept coming to mind: “I love myself more as I get older because there’s more of me to love…”
I don’t remember saying it. But God knew I needed to remember!
Most of the time I’m content with aging, grateful for the wisdom and sensibility of growing older and I accept my body just as I am. But last week I looked in the mirror a few times and felt that old familiar sense of shame and dissonance flood my body and mind. My particular body story combined with living in a body-shaming culture, I don’t expect to ever “get over” it. And I’m not sure that’s either realistic or necessary.
My mantra when that old story of “I’m not okay just as I am” shows up: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” And repeat as needed until dissonance vanishes.
 
Sometimes that’s not enough. I need time to work my way there. Not with compulsive exercise or dieting…but with breathing in God’s love, naming the shame, writing in my journal, talking to my husband or a friend.
As Brene Brown has confirmed with her research, shame thrives on silence and secrecy. When we can name it and tell another about it, it loses its power.
Glory be to God in Christ, we don’t need to remain silent about the shame that so easily entangles.
With the season of summer comes more body shame activation opportunities. And each one is an opportunity to breathe in God’s love and let go of shame.
I take a deep inhale and pray, “Lord, have mercy.”  I exhale and pray, “Christ, have mercy.” And will repeat as needed!
Don’t let shame win! When it hits you, take a deep breathe and remember how deeply, fully and unreservedly loved you are by God, just as you are right now.  If that cloud of shame is still hanging around after a while, call a friend and talk about it.
Let’s not let shame have the last word this summer!
May the final word be LOVE.

Today hasn’t gone according to schedule. At only 9:30 this morning it was already “one of those days…”

I’m grateful the wise reminders from Eveyln Underhill and my friend Stephanie that came to me before the day started going sideways.

In her Lent devotional, Evelyn reminded me that Saint Paul did not say that the Spirit of God would bring forth qualities of productivity, organization, effectiveness or success. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. These hallmarks of spiritual maturity may at times manifest in productivity, efficiency, etc., but can’t take primacy over love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The energy of the fruit of the Spirit may fuel my capacity for effectiveness and successful completion of my tasks for the day. But sacrificing peace and patience in order to “get things done” isn’t worth it!

Soul School with Stephanie

Soul School with Stephanie

My friend Stephanie Jenkin’s blog about her journey with infertility in today’s Monk in the World guest post reminds me of what I most value. She writes:

As a monk in the world, I am called to live authentically into who I am at the core. Infertility stripped off the false pretense of perfectionism and control and made me see that Love is bigger.  And I am called to choose Love each day. I am called to strip off the demands, the deadlines, the pressure to perform and conform. I am called to live in to and out of my heart.

My sacred symbols have become the feather and the leaf. Whether I am flying like the feather or falling like the leaf, I am surrendered to God who is greater than I.

I am loved. I am Beloved. That is more than enough. It is in this great Love that I am naked and unashamed.

For the rest of her story, please visit the Abbey of the Arts.

Thanks for taking me to soul school this morning Stephanie. I am loved. I am Beloved. That is enough!

Amen!

Your capacity to remind me of who I am and what is most important is a precious gift. You are a blessing to me and all who know you.

 

As long as any boy or girl’s development of a solid sense of identity is limited by gender stereotypes, then we’ve still got a long way to go as a culture.

Last week was the 42nd anniversary of the passing of Title IX – the 1972 law that prevents sexual discrimination in higher education. In 1972 only 300,00 girls were involved in high school sports. Today that number is over 3 million.

In 1972 I was 10 years old and didn’t yet know how unjust the world was for females. I grew up with an attorney mother, a pretty forward thinking father, and a world where women were doctors and lawyers.  My great aunt Eileen Chambers, whom my mom and I visited each week at her nursing care residence, had been a doctor in her younger years. In addition, several of my mom’s best female friends were attorneys and my pediatrician was also a woman. In my idealized world a woman could be anything but a priest!

As a little girl I didn’t know that it wasn’t culturally acceptable for girls to play sports or dress in “boys” clothes. Unaware of gender stereotypes, I played “boy games” with my brothers and dressed how I wanted unless we were going to church or somewhere special. With two older brothers whom I adored and wanted to emulate, I loved being included in their rough and tumble games and wearing their hand-me-downs!

Then came school years when the gender rules became more clear
. But, I still played kickball with the boys while most of my female classmates played other games…although for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what. I was too busy enjoying myself to even notice what they were doing.

Thankfully, due to Title IX, throughout my school years I had equal access to after-school sports and organized team play. I wasn’t the greatest athlete, but I loved to play basketball, kickball and softball. In 4th grade I could kick the ball farther than most of my male classmates! Later on in junior high and high school I even played volleyball–the least favorite of my team sports. But I played because I loved the activity and the camaraderie of working with others and friendly competition.

The  “Always #LikeAGirl” video reminds me to be grateful I grew up in a gender neutral, supportive home where I was allowed to be me. None of my brothers or boy friends ever accused me of running, throwing or playing like girl. I don’t remember when I first heard that derogatory comment, but I’m pretty sure it was hurled at a boy by another boy on the elementary school playground.

Our task as supportive adults is to empower kids to be themselves, whatever that looks like. Rigid gender stereotypes don’t just harm girls, boys are equally victimized by cultural message about “being a man.”

Last month I posted a blog inspired by India Arie’s song “Just Do You.” Her’s is an important message in a world where binary definitions of gender limit authenticity and emotionally damage kids just trying to figure out who they are in a complex world.

On the tail of my recent post about breaking up with my hairstylist, I read in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly that how we look remains the number one shame trigger for women! She says that “after all of the consciousness-raising and critical awareness, we still feel the most shame about not being thin, young, and beautiful enough.”

Over the  years I’ve heard hundreds of  “I’m not enough” stories from female graduate students, clients and workshop participants. I have my own version of the story. And in spite of over 20 years of consciousness-raising and personal work on these issues, I too have my moments of feeling “not enough.”

Saturday afternoon I had a partial meltdown when I couldn’t get my hair to do what I wanted it to do. I’ve had some bad hair days since going short, but never felt as frustrated as I did Saturday.

What was behind my reactivity? For me it was a feeling of being less than picture perfect. Heading out to several parties with people I don’t already feel a sense of love and belonging with activated the “I’m not enough” messages that Brown’s research indicates we all have and we’re all afraid to talk about.

Where does the expectation that I need to look a certain way come from?

For me it comes from internalizing destructive images and messages about beauty. I live in a subculture highly indoctrinated in the importance of external appearances. Here in Southern California, if you have enough money (even if you aren’t young or thin) you can pay someone to dress you up, do your hair and makeup, and come out looking stylish and fashionable in a way that passes for beauty. It’s a world where beauty  is often only skin deep. You’re as beautiful as the clothes and accessories you can afford. And, if you can afford those, you can probably pay to get your hair colored regularly, blown out weekly, and have cosmetic surgery to “fix” whatever wrinkles, bulges or sags are detracting from your “beautiful self”.

There’s a whole world of Botox parties, style consultants, and other opportunities to purchase services and products to fix yourself up if you aren’t happy with what you see in the mirror.

Lord, have mercy.

An eating disorder colleague told a story that illustrates how our fixation with image is a byproduct of socialization. Back in the mid-1990’s she’d just returned to the United States after 9 months traveling around the world. Digital cameras had recently become available to the general public and were a novelty in many of the areas she visited. The children were especially intrigued with seeing pictures of themselves.

One day, a group of kids were crowded around her, laughing and delighting in seeing “themselves” for the first time. One boy looked surprised as he viewed the screen. He pointed at it and asked the other kids “Is that me?” The others laughed and pointed back, “That’s you!” It occurred to her that those kids had no idea what they looked like. They didn’t have mirrors and they didn’t have cameras.  Her conclusion: “They don’t have an image of their body. They are their body. They don’t have mirrors and photos that turn them into an object of their own observation. No disembodiment. No body image. Just themselves.” Self-image, at least as it relates to appearance, is largely a product of living in a world of mirrors and photographs.

The desire and instinct to adorn ourselves, beautify, and enhance seems to be instinctual. Using makeup, hairstyles, fashion and accessories and even cosmetic alterations of body parts to match cultural standards of beauty is nothing new. Women have been beautifying ourselves since time began and we see it in cultures across the globe–even those in remote areas where the standards aren’t set by big businesses.

But in our image driven subcultures where mirrors and digital images of ourselves are ubiquitous, that natural desire to beautify gets hijacked by internalized images of beauty offered us by the industries that profit off of our discontent and shame.  We compare the image in the mirror to the one in the magazine and fall short. Then, frustration, disappointment, anger and a host of other feelings surface  in self-protection. The helpful message those feelings want to convey:  stop comparing yourself to others; just be you! But because we’re socialized to feel ashamed about our appearance, we turn our anger against ourselves and add another layer to the “I’m not enough” story.

On Saturday after my meltdown, I decided to just do me. I went back into the bathroom, messed with my hair a bit more, and decided my hair was good enough. I don’t have anyone to impress. I’m just going to do me!

I love India Arie’s latest album which includes “Just Do You” – an inspiring song to help us increase our shame resiliency by making choices that align with our truth. In reviewing the video I saw that even India Arie succumbs to cultural pressure when it comes to making videos. Highly stylized, hipster types populate the piece.  While I have nothing against hipsters, in some way it’s just another expression of the pressure to have a style and align with a particular subculture’s standards for appearance. But that’s for another blog. Enjoy the video.

Normally I spend significant time on my blogs. I edit for brevity (thanks to Dave Rogers who tells me less is more). I eliminate needless details about my personal life that don’t really support the point I want to share with my readers. But today, I mainly want to vent.

Last week I decided that after 2 1/2 years of seeing her every 6-8 weeks I’d had my last appointment with my hairstylist. It’s not so much about her skills, but more about being true to myself.

Our values about beauty are completely different. I’ve known that since my first appointment. But I figured that being “stylish” and concerned about looking just right goes with her territory. I gave her a break and joked about needing to hire her as a style consultant.

Along the way I also learned that she’s a competitive bodybuilder–a world that celebrates many of the values and behaviors that reinforce disordered relationships with food and bodies. But I decided she isn’t my client and what she does in her personal life isn’t my business. And, in the beginning she was very pleasant, gave me great cuts and was conveniently located. Moreover, when I decided to go from long to short hair a few years ago, she’s the one who took me into my new look. For that, I’m very grateful.

But as my time with her progressed, I also began to notice that when preparing for a bodybuilding show, she got especially crabby and didn’t give as good a cut. (Sometimes being a clinician trained to observe patterns in people isn’t such a good thing after all.) I also noticed that she often spoke critically of other clients or even her husband and kids.  My growing sense was that I just didn’t like or enjoy her a person. I put up with her tough, slightly caustic and sometimes negative attitude, ignored my truth and kept going back for my next cut.  All the while complaining to my husband and friends about the bad cuts, values differences and my dislike for her.

She wasn’t the problem. I was. If I were true to myself I would have broken up a long time ago.

Last week when she casually mentioned her use of Botox during my appointment and gave me a dissatisfying cut, it was the third strike.

Bad cuts on occasion are one thing. Irritability at times is understandable. But when I heard her voice her preference for Botox over Frownies in the salon conversation about the best way to deal with wrinkles, I realized I’d been compromising my values by continuing to support her business.

She’s not the problem. I am. As is always the case when it comes to relationships that aren’t working for me, I need to look at my side of the street, be completely honest with myself and take responsibility for how I’ve contributed to the problem.

My error: not listening to myself. I need to be true to myself, my values and views about authenticity, beauty, and health, and invest my time and money being with a stylist I respect and enjoy.

Fortunately, I have a number of stylists already on my list.

Now I’m wondering: how do I break up with my stylist?

I googled it and found plenty of advice. The bottom line seems to be that I’m probably more concerned about “how” than she’ll be. Clients come and go. It’s all part of doing business.

The last time I broke up with anyone was 27 years ago when my husband and I were dating. We still playfully argue over who broke up with who when sharing our story. But I remember it being fraught with tears and strong emotions. Thankfully, this break up isn’t hard to do. I just need to listen a bit further and decide what is the most equitable way to say good-bye.

That’s the question that comes to mind as I ponder the current debate on making the “Plan B” morning-after contraceptive available to girls of any age. As Sandy Banks points out in her opinion piece, the “women” in question are 12, 13 and 14 years old. And even younger in some cases!

The key issue at stake in the discussion appears to be the hard won right of women to choose what to do with our reproductive capacities. But does the biological capacity to bear a child make a girl psychologically capable of making “woman” decisions without adult support? I think not.

I went through precocious puberty. I began menstruating  in fourth grade at ten years old–long before other girls even began to think about such matters.  While my body was ready to bear children and make adult decisions, “I” certainly was not!

I understand the potential complications in family where girls so young are having intercourse and in need of a some kind of  “Plan B.”  A girl who doesn’t feel safe asking her parents for support in such matters needs help with far more than her contraceptive options. But this is not the “Plan B” that will provide the real help she needs.

As Sandy, the single mother of two now adult women, points out so clearly: “If parents took more responsibility and paid more attention to their kids, perhaps the debate about the contraceptive Plan B would become unnecessary.”

Amen Sandy.

I’m all for women’s reproductive rights, but girls aren’t women, even if their bodies say otherwise.

A Bad Knee?

One day in yoga class my teacher Mark asked, “Is that your bad knee?”   A knowledgeable and compassionate teacher, Mark knew about my injury and wisely asked before correcting my alignment.

I’m surprised by how often people refer to my injured knee as “bad.”  Why do we so quickly label body parts and symptoms as bad?  “I’ve got a bad tooth…stomach…foot… a bad headache…cold…flu.”

“I don’t have a bad knee” I replied.

I knew that Mark was referring to my injury.  I could have just said “Yes” and let it be.

No Bad Body Parts

But everything in me said, “No.  My body is a good body.  Don’t call my body bad.” I felt like mother sticking up for her child.  “Don’t talk dirt about my knee.  You may be the teacher, but that doesn’t give you permission to talk bad about me!”

Mark corrected himself and said, “Okay.  I mean your challenged knee.”

I said it was and he said, “Okay, then I won’t tell you to straighten it.”

I drew my attention to my leg and mindfully worked the knee a bit straighter, sensing the muscles, ligaments and tendons move into a new position.  It felt good to gently push myself.

I am grateful for Mark’s combination of precision in alignment and gentle correction.  He did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

Speak Up for Yourself

I am also grateful that I love myself enough to not let anyone speak ill of any part of me—including my knee!  Twenty years ago I might not have done that. While I would have challenged someone calling me a bad person, or speaking ill of my loved one, I might not have challenged that same assignment of meaning to my body.

I did for my knee what it couldn’t do for itself—challenge the negative language so commonly used when speaking about physical challenges and symptoms.

Most often it isn’t someone else we need to confront.   We’re our own worst critics when it comes to our bodies.  How often do you judge your body or assign negative labels to your body?

New Ways of Talking About Your Body

It’s difficult to change long-standing behaviors, but practice creates new patterns. The next time you catch yourself speaking badly about your body, see if you can find a kinder way to talk about your aches, pains and problems.  Descriptive language—“I have a sore tooth…a painful headache…an injured knee”—is a more accurate and loving way to talk about yourself.

Be a good mother to yourself–speak lovingly of your body and challenge yourself or anyone else who doesn’t.