Why I’m not a #survivor

Ok, I am. I HAVE survived. A lot. Which is my point.

I think I have much to say on this topic, but perhaps social media and the need to get to the point has played into my lazy “how quickly can I get this done” mentality! So, hopefully for you – I will be short, concise and easily understood.

Saying “I am” is a deep statement.  “I am” is about the depths of my soul.  My innateness, my sheer existence and the things that make me specially me. If you are a quick thinker you may already have gone there…. “But don’t your experiences make you who you are?” I’ve heard and thought that “Our experiences shape us” That’s what I want to talk about. **disclaimer:  I’m not done with me, so this particular piece will never really be done. Feel free to comment your thoughts after reading!

Religion, spiritual gurus and philosophers have been tackling the idea of “self” for as long as we’ve been thinking… And even though I think I am a deep thinker, in reality, I prefer to wade.  I like the safety of the shore and the “idea of” the ocean.  But if I go too deep I can feel the strong undertow and have to retreat back to a depth I can feel comfortable in.  All that to say: I don’t think this is gonna be too deep.  😉

Experiences vs Self

I think of my SELF as separate from what happens TO my self.  So if you can hang with me there that would be cool. If I am my self, what happens to that self is a separate thing.  So saying “I am a survivor” as in ‘a person who survives’ is still ok with me – except for the whole death thing. Should my headstone say “She thought she was a survivor. PWND!”  Anyway…What’s not ok?  Marketing (oops, I mean ‘awareness campaigns’).  Glorifying of shitty situations.  Making ‘war heroes’ out of people who have accomplished not dying.  (That is everyone’s goal.  Everyone fails.  Everyone.)

Let’s break it down.  I survived sexual abuse.  I survived domestic abuse. I survived losing a child. I #survived breast cancer.  But what I don’t understand is that that last one earns me the hashtag rights.  The “survivor” in quotes rights.  Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t feel bitterness.  I think we are victims of feeling good about ourselves based on marketing campaigns and a herd-like mentality.  Again, don’t misunderstand.  I think we SHOULD feel good about ourselves.  Our innateness. Our being.  I think it’s a pretty big deal to exist.  The alternative is huge…. right.  I feel GOOD that I exist.  I like the me inside of me.  I like the me I am being.  I find flaws, things I don’t think belong to that me – but mostly, I like me.  I don’t like many of the things that have happened to me.

And so my first question is; Why define myself by what has happened TO me? (side note:  semi-colon??? I mean it’s two complete thoughts, but maybe different punctuation is required here.  Let me know in the comments, I am blogging and don’t have time/inclination to research proper punctuation.) 

“Why define myself by what has happened to me?”  Why identify with, any more than necessary, the role of a victim, for example?  Sure, stuff I have experienced is shitty.  Actually, really traumatic. Some people DON’T survive  – they die as a result of their sufferings – accidentally-ish, we call that manslaughter sometimes, or purposefully- or they are so stuck they kill themselves to escape. There are levels of survivorship too, right?  Some people manage to live through the horrible things that happen to them only to be stained, sometimes for their entire lives…. choosing situations that perpetuate feelings of or actual continued victimization.  They can’t talk about what’s next for them because their minds are stuck in what happened to them.  They can’t feel joy in shitty moments because they are still reeling from past shitty moments.  No.  This isn’t an indictment.  I don’t know why some people are able to move on and others aren’t.  It weighs pretty heavy on my heart.  I was stuck for a VERY long time. I was a #survivor, an #overcomer.  For me, THAT was the problem.

Wearing my experiences like a badge. But that badge is a label.  It’s an I AM.  It defines, or represents at least, the depths of me. Like the bigger, badder shit I went through… the better person I was.  Do you realize how messed up that is?   I am not what has happened to me, it actually has little to DO with my me-ness. This logic in turn takes AWAY from the me-ness of others.  What if you never suffered horribleness?  Does that make it any less amazing that you exist? Is your uniqueness any less unique or beautiful? Where’s YOUR hashtag? How will we #recognize you and easily label you?  How will people know where to give their money so they feel like they’ve “done something”. No. I didn’t just say giving money is a way to feel like you are doing something without actually doing something (but sometimes it is).  I also didn’t say that donating to research, cures, and programs that help people is bad.  Here’s the other thing about that ‘badge of honor’ #survivor… it feels like a competition and I WON!  I won the prize.  Those who died didn’t.  They didn’t “WIN!” The subtle and sometimes overt implication is that they were ‘weaker’ or somehow ‘less than’ or – the opposite, they are worshipped. They are ‘true heroes’.  I call bullshit.  Let’s not just think in 1’s and 0’s… blacks and whites.  And don’t think that just because I am writing this my thoughts are finished, proven and refined.  I, like you, am still figuring out what I think about ALLLLLL this. (life, suffering, joy, existence) I also still don’t have a favorite color.  I know. ugh.

So when I think about me, I think about what drives me.  I sense what drives me by recognizing the types of things I want to accomplish.  I want people to live in joy.  I want to help people around me live meaningful lives.  I want people to be self-actuated. I want people to figure out the good stuff in ways that give meaning to them- and hopefully the rest of us.  I want to point to the good stuff, generate my own good stuff and kind of roll around in it. Then I want to hop to my feet and run to the next good stuff.  Being present during the bad stuff – mine and yours is part of that.  Living through the bad stuff isn’t who I am, it’s a consequence of being alive.  It can be part of my rolling in the good stuff.  Sitting with you, listening to you when you are sad. That is pretty precious.  To experience the honor of being present as the depths of your being is revealed is a huge thing. It reminds me of my smallness in this world and my greatness in that I, too, exist. It can be laying on a table in a big room while the amazing RADIATING MACHINE pushes it’s rays through my skin to kill the nasty cancer that happened to me.   Did I “Kick cancer’s ass”?  Well, I think the doctors and “The Radiators” kicked cancer’s ass.  I didn’t do much but show up. Did I impact the people around me anyway?  Yup. That’s ME.

Am I a #survivor, though? Yes, I lived through it. I am NOT saying you were wrong to be excited for me. I am NOT saying you were wrong to say “Yay, you are now a “survivor”!” because that was you being happy I didn’t die from breast cancer.  (Shit! I’m glad, too!) I am glad that you are using the best words you have to say those things.  Thank you.  But to answer my real question; no, I am no more a “survivor” than anyone else in this world.  You may think I am because my shitty bad stuff looks big and scary to you.  But, guess, what… there is worse. There is stuff I wonder often about how people come out of with their selves in tact.  But when I look you in the eye, I don’t see someone less than, or more than.  I look for a friend, a fellow exister. (That just made me smile SO BIG!) Just THINK what life would look like if we could shake ourselves free from our experiences.  Stop the subtle and overt comparing.  Step away from the pink ribbons and the black flags and the iconery and hashtags and the stuff that feed the money mill for just a bit….

Isnt’ it crazy that a KNOWN fundraiser (I LOVE fundraising!) is talking like this?  A cynical “money mill” statement thrown into the mix?!  Let me clarify a bit…I want my/your money and effort to go the actual things that are important to me or you.  I want you to KNOW that TOO many people are trafficked for sex and slavery (those words don’t need to be separated, do they?). I want you to know that there are ways to detect breast cancer. I want you to help pay for cures and research and people’s overwhelming medical bills during crazy difficult (physically, mentally, emotionally) times.  I don’t do pink ribbons or #hashtags too often because I think they make us just a little complacent.  They DON’T remind us that we are responsible for what we do with the tools we have (our brains, our money) and to have great marketing doesn’t mean you deserve our dollars. It also doesn’t mean you don’t.

It means that WE are sometimes too lazy about intentionality, about thinking and about loving each individual just because they exist.  It’s easy to let marketing campaigns make us feel good and important more than actually BEING GOOD and recognizing our innate importance.



  • #protip Great marketing can encourage laziness and a ‘sense of doing good’ when there are better good things to do.  There are lists that show how much $$ leaders of nonprofits makes and percentages of dollars that go to admin vs the actual cause.  Admin is important as is good leadership. Just don’t assume it’s good because there is a ‘pink ribbon’ (or other easily recognizable icon) attached to it.
  • Labelling people is constrictive.  What if the cancer comes back?  Do we remove the hashtag?  Oh, sorry… #notasurvivorreally. Or do you get extra hashtags for each “surviving”?  What are the RULES!?!?!? #beyourownlabel
  • We need to free ourselves from the judgement of ‘not enough’ and focus our energy on BEING in the best sense. Victimization is evil, I will not define myself by the moments someone or something else has threatened my being. I am above or maybe even simply OTHER than that.
  • We all die.  Surviving is what we do everyday… until we don’t.  Living in recognition of the level playing field is a beautiful.  There are people smarter, taller, less smart, shorter, more brilliant, stronger, weaker… then I am.  But I think we are all part of the same.  (No. Don’t stay with your abusive spouse… that’s not beautiful.  Let them find their innate worth…and yours – and then maybe we can talk).
  • I’ve spent my life trying to be good and right and follow all the rules and find all the right rules and be the right things to all the people and suffer well and live strong and I’ve been mistaken.  The best is to be.  To BE me. To not mind the rules… I mean if you don’t want me to step on your grass, I will totally try not to.  Not because I agree that your grass is more important that my feet, but because YOU are. Life takes balance. Balancing who you are with who others are.  Sometimes there isn’t healthy balance in those spaces.  Move on.

    Or should I say #moveon 😉


33…that’s the number of years I have lived without you. Well, I’ve kind of always lived without you. That’s what’s so sad.

I think this is my yearly fall post about grief. I keep learning new stuff. Or maybe it’s old stuff I keep relearning. If you don’t remember – and why would you? You have your OWN stuff to think about – October 5th, 1982 Monica Ann Ekblad was born. and died. Sucky, huh?

There are all SORTS of amazing things about that day, the following months and years. One of the amazing things is that I have made it just fine without her. Without holding her, raising her, crying and laughing with her. I mostly don’t even miss it. Because it isn’t happening. There are other things – the rest of my life.

But this ONE WEEK. One week before October 5th. The week that seriously f*ing sneaks up on me. EVERY YEAR. I plan for it; try to keep that day clear. I miss traffic signs. Forget important details and fall behind on projects. But it’s the week BEFORE that I am forever relearning. The smell of fall. I love fall. The brisk October air. The little chill that is easily fixed by a cozy sweatshirt or blanket. Color in your cheeks.

Perhaps this is why it’s always a surprise. How can you so totally love this time of year and still have a little hole in your life. It seems so innocuous. But little holes are black. And black holes suck everything around them in. And what’s left is void. Even when the air is brisk and there’s color in your cheeks.

I just read a really good article on grief and rather than rewrite it, I will just let you read it for yourself.


check yourself before you wreck yourself … and all those you come in contact with

Define yourself.

You are you. Not your job. Not your boss. Not what other people want you to be or think you should be. RISE ABOVE the muddy messy mire. Pull yourself up and out. Live in such a way so as to define who you are. So that others around you have no doubt of what you are about.

If that is money. Using people as possessions so you can be secure in your income and sense of worth. Do it. Be that. Oh, you already are… without even thinking about it. And it’s apparent to those around you who aren’t afraid to think. Who aren’t afraid to recognize the lack of health oozing around you.

But… let’s just say, you don’t want to be that. Let’s say you kind of fell into that. Maybe you forgot to think. Maybe you were taught something that doesn’t fit anymore. Maybe you didn’t learn to trust your own brand of awesome, so you have resorted to bullying, judging and manipulating those dependent on you for their income or worse yet, THEIR sense of worth.

You can change that. Imagine the world opened WIDE. Where resources are plentiful, people are not collateral, but instead prized jewels that we get to watch sparkle for small amounts of time. What if you polished those jewels? Sent them out into the universe shinier and better? What if you didn’t try to hold on so tight? Can you even imagine it?

I have experienced so much small mindedness from so many unhappy people trying to keep others around them ‘just happy enough to stay’ and ‘just scared enough to never leave’.

My hope for you? Step out. Live in your inherent awesomeness. Define your principles. Define how you want to live your life. What you want to be known for. Remembered for. Do THOSE things.

The rest? FTS, my friends. We don’t have enough time to be petty, small-minded owners of people… not if we also want to be happy.

Body Image vs Usefulness

It’s good for your mindset to see things out of context every once in a while. Today while driving to work I saw a man running alongside the road. He seemed to be working really hard, lumbering, really. (He could have been a super hero bounding along!) As I got closer I realized that Oops! it’s a woman. A very, very muscular woman. I immediately thought to myself “Wow! She’s a power lifter – or a bodybuilder trying to lean out or…?” And I drove on.

And then it occurred to me how horrible she looked running. And she couldn’t have been out running for enjoyment, because that did NOT look fun…and then I felt guilty for thinking bad things about a stranger who spent so much time building an incredible set of muscles! All I could think about was how bad and out of place she looked running. But here’s the thing, her intention was obviously not to build her body for running. Why was I even judging her on running? Have you ever seen a skinny person in the gym? Long lean muscles, not very bulky… they step up to a big weight and  lift. But it’s anything but elegant. There’s no power or rawness. You’re probably hoping they don’t hurt themselves. But perhaps the person I just described has built themselves a runner’s body. They didn’t build their body to be amazing at lifting heavy things. Why am I judging them on what they built their body for? Well, of course, why am I judging at all is a better question.

But this isn’t about what other people think it’s about what YOU think about YOU and why YOU are working out.

I have clients ask me all the time how do I lose weight between my thighs? How do I lose weight in my tummy? How do I make my butt look bigger? How do I make my butt look smaller? I want to look more like “THIS” (shows picture of someone much taller/younger/shorter/photoshopped… )Etc. etc.

Aside from talking weight training and asking about nutrition or diet, I tell my clients the most important question is “What do you want to use your body for?”  What are you building? Do you want to be able to run and jump and play with your children – your grandchildren? Do you want to be able to work a construction job? Are you planning on competing in any specific sport? Do you have a sport that you love so much you want to condition your body for that? Why are you building your body at all? Then I suggest the most CRAZY notion: …what if you let that dictate what your body looks like?

train fight

What if we moved away from pure aesthetics, random social norms, and over-marketed over-Photoshop models’ bodies and focused on the usefulness of our own body? What if we didn’t judge ourselves based on our thigh gap – or lack there of.  Or in comparison to someone we think is fatter or skinnier… ?

I am not talking about the new “Love your fat self” trend.  Now, don’t get all offended.  YES!  Love yourself! Whether or not you are healthy.  But you don’t need to love what is UNHEALTHY about you in order to love yourself.  You don’t even have to hate it.  You can just decide “I want to change this unhealthy thing about my body.” (or not) simple. factual.  no judgement. But we don’t need a movement telling people it’s ok and beautiful to be unhealthy weight wise.  It’s ok to be you.  Regardless. Please, let’s stop celebrating the ‘curves’.  Start celebrating YOU.

A new friend told me this story today. “I used to belong to a private Facebook group about loving your curves… Or something like that. I thought, ‘Yes I can get into that.’  And so I try to love my curvy size 16 body and then I tried to love my curvy size 18 body. And then I noticed that my size 18 ‘s were getting snug. That’s when I decided that this thinking was not helping me!”

Here’s what I think: it’s absolutely important to love yourself. Your self has a body, so it stands to reason loving your body is a part of loving yourself. I know, rocket science. So why is this so hard?

I think we’re too fixated on providing solutions. Mainly quick, sound-byte type solutions. Who can’t get behind “loving me as I am”?? Seriously, if you can’t you are actually either a bad person or sick or obsessed…just generally unhealthy. You all know what I am talking about. People are afraid to say “fat is unhealthy”. It’s not ‘shaming’ people. It’s science. I will not take the time to list the ways being fat is unhealthy for you. Google it.

Am I ashamed of or think less of people who have excess body fat? Nope. I kinda don’t care. I mean, if I truly believe that YOU have the power to change you in ways that you want…I have less personal investment. I don’t need to involve my ‘action-activating’ emotions in how you choose to live you life. (Aside from being a little sad, but I don’t dwell) I hope, tho….I hope you will ‘get it’ and find your way to a body that is useful to you for a really long time.

And this leads us to my ideology around fitness. My goal has always been to help people change their lives (in ways they want). When I’m approached by a client who wants less hips, less thigh gap, less arm fat – my first question is ‘why?’ (YOU have to understand your motivation…even if it changes) My second question is “What do you want to use your body for?” Me? I want to be able to lift a human if they need it, I want to be able to not die from falling off a cliff (Cliffhanger movie) I.e. Lift my own body weight. I want to run with my grandkids and I want to box/kickboxing as long as I can (and that means my sides are going to be thick – no skinny waist for this girl!) But, that’s my answer. So I need to train slow twitch muscles for strength, fast twitch for speed and agility, core for overall strength and balance as well as cardiovascular endurance… Now it doesn’t matter so much what the scale says, what size I am wearing and whether or not I have a thigh gap! I continually look to improve what I have (my body) for the uses I have chosen. (Do I want a skinny waist MORE than I want to box? Do I want a thigh gap more than I want the energy I will lost by brining my body fat to an unhealthy low to shed as much fat as possible?)

Your turn. What do YOU want to use your body for?

Let’s train for that.

Whole30…ish: hashtags and healthy eating

TL;DR version:

  • Hashtags: The good, the irritating.
  • I’m only into details that relate to me…that I understand.
  • I like to make my own rules.
  • It’s ok that you are a rule follower, but…
  • You can make your own rules, too!
  • It’s really a rant you are about to read.

It all started with Hashtags: # online you can use hashtags to sort, find and group posts from ALL OVER the world. …click on a hashtag and you will see a whole BUNCH of posts relating to the same thing. The first time I heard about hashtags was from a snooty marketing professional that scoffed at the fact that SHE was telling me about them.  If this is your first time hearing about this, it’s ok.  Welcome.

If you USE hashtags you may have had the pleasure of all SORTS of people commenting on your post with a sense of “I know about this topic and I have something to share.”  Both enlightening and annoying.

What does all this have to do about whole30? I’ll tell you.

“You can’t out train a crap diet.” I have heard this from power-lifters, bodybuilders and trainers. I’m not a very healthy eater.  I workout a lot, so I kinda away with it….kinda. Two things about this (getting away with it) bother me.  First; accountability.  I really don’t like saying one thing to my clients, but doing another. Second; belly fat.  Adipose fat is the most dangerous type of fat (as opposed to fat thighs, etc..) – it can surround organs and cause damage. It takes me a while to make a change – maybe you, too? So, I started gearing up and looking for a path to take me to a positive dietary change.

I’ve got fitness friends posting about www.whole30.com, how much they love it, you know…  The website tells you what kinds of food to eat, what not to eat and why. In a nutshell (nuts are healthy) I am going to avoid sugars, alcohol, grains and legumes. These foods are thought to encourage inflammation. I downloaded the shopping list, went to the store and jumped in!

5 days in, I felt amazing!  It’s not too hard.  I just go to the fridge, grab an assortment of protein, carbs (veggies) and healthy fats (like avocado) chop things up and eat!  We grill meats on the weekend so we’re set all week!  Genius! Here’s the deal… my life is complicated.  It’s filled with lots of things I love, but seemingly little things can overwhelm me.  Like shopping, food prep and doing things exactly right. So, I try to summarize and simplify.

2 weeks in, I took a couple days “off”.  It’s not really important why, but this is important – it felt horrible.  I mean, while I was stuffing my face with goodies it felt GREAT! But I woke up the next day swollen and achy. My joints hurt, my ankles were huge, my low back (L5 area) felt just awful and for the first time in a long time, my KNEES were killing me! That seemed like proof I was onto something and made it easy to get back on track.

Enter social media and hashtags. I like to share the things that help me live a positive, healthy life – and so I do.  I don’t much mind if you don’t care.  You can unfollow me, it’s ok.  I don’t get too easily offended. I kinda thought I was hot stuff, so I busted out the #whole30.  Yes.  I did!  A smart social media professional will also include an image.  People resonate with images.  Lots of times they don’t even need to READ.  They see, they like, they click. People coming together, fun times.

Enter rule followers. (This is not a derogatory term) You see, the hashtag draws attention.  This is good. But rule followers, things are gonna bother them.  Especially my kind of things, like skimming, getting the jist of things and making exceptions ’cause it’s convenient to my current situation. Understand, I completely realize the value of purism.  Fully embracing the ethos of a thing, the essence of it, not to mention reaping the rewards of said program. If you rewrite the rules without understanding why, you may miss the benefits.  I get it. However, it is my diet, my body, my life, my needs.  So, sometimes I bend the rules.  Like peas.


Mango, egg, boiled chicken and PEAS. oh. no.

PEAS happen to be a legume.  They are not approved #whole30. I know because I was told – more than once.  It’s ok.  I like to learn and I don’t mind being corrected. But here’s what I know.

1. My food journey is about retraining my body and my brain to think less about sauces and sweeteners and starches (my weaknesses). Whole30 is the tool.

2. Sometimes you are out of vegetables.  Enter frozen peas.  I will not die from reheated frozen peas – approved or not.

3. There IS no whole30 police force. So it stands to reason, you are not a member of said police force. (winky face)

4. It’s super easy to comment on a post, without reading comments.

5. Social media is about the conversation. Comments are part of the conversation.

6. If you really don’t have time to read comments or you just want to risk entering the conversation without first seeing that your comment is not the first of it’s kind, that’s ok by me.  (I have been known to take that risk!)

7. If you don’t like being corrected in public, don’t share (brag) about stuff on social media!

8. You can make your own rules, or exceptions to the rules when you need.  Know the risks. Be ready for zealous purists, ready to set you straight. You can smile and nod, block them, unfollow them or let them know what you are doing and why. I suppose there are more options…

And 9. (It seems like I know a lot!  Number 9 already!) nope. That was it.

PS. I am STILL loving my whole30-ish eating habits!  It’s so nice to have go-to snacks instead of binging on ritz crackers and port wine cheese spread. Fresh meals, often, have re-excited me about eating and meal prep. Food tastes good, again.  Condiments used to be how I tasted food, now it’s the actual taste of the food itself and how it compliments the other foods around it. Yum! Just eat well, give yourself permission to make ‘mistakes’ and find what works for you…or make the best thing in front of you work for you.

Lighting matches

Some bridges just need to be burned. Most don’t.

It can take a while to figure out how to follow your heart, or as some call it, following your gut. One thing I’ve learned in my quest to stay true to myself, is to not make rash decisions, especially about relationships. And trust me, it’s all about relationships.

I admit, there are some people who are just bad news. We’d like to not only burn their bridges but also their homes. I don’t recommend or condone the latter.

But often, trying to stay true to myself, in the heat of the moment… I just want to burn that bridge. You, too?  Don’t light a match just yet. Just because your insides are telling you “this is wrong, so very wrong!” Doesn’t mean that the entire relationship is not valuable. In all honesty, it might not be valuable. You might need to burn that bridge. But advantage is yours if you, as the saying goes, “let cooler heads prevail.”

Take as much time as you can in your decision-making. Try to think 360° around the situation. Try to imagine what it would feel like if you were the other person. And try to think about the long-term… Because, we all plan on being around long-term. And whatever you decide, get ready to apologize – to yourself for not burning that bridge or the other person for burning it too quickly.

Happy living.

Here’s my shame….

I drove past a lighted sign last night for a church.  It was unlit.  In Spanish. But that didn’t really catch my attention… what did was my attitude.  The Reverend listed was, *gasp*, a woman. I immediately thought less of her.  of HER.  WHAT THE FUCK? I am completely ashamed.

Now you’re surprised.  Not because I swore (if you know me)…but because I thought less of this woman for being a preacher.  It had nothing to do with the denomination…their religious choice.  As I lay in bed, I couldn’t shake the unnerving feeling of disapproval – finally… it hit me.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

Wow. Now I’m mad.  THIS verse has held me and my opinion of women in leadership back all my thinking life. It’s been like one of those worms that bores into it’s victim and eats from the inside out. (Do worms do that? or did I see that in a super gross scary movie?) And not just leadership, but our place in the world, in general. This pervasive slight on women’s value or intelligence is carried to and from church, recited by children and explained to masses of people all over the world. And I have somehow accepted this as normal and good and some how God ordained.  I am not sure how or why I let my thinking self-loving, people trusting brain buy into that but…. I now say, “No.”  I will not believe this anymore.

And so, I wonder about EVERYTHING.  Here’s the thing about data (information)…. if one byte of data is wrong, you have to doubt ALL the data.  It’s like that.

For today, however, I reject this bit of data and begin reframing my mind and heart around a new, better reality.