When Your Body Feels Like a Costume You Didn’t Choose

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_72323659This month has been a month of interesting contemplations …. specifically, about the costumes we wear and how we relate to ourselves and others when those costumes look different.

For instance, my brother and his wife recently added a new little one to our all-Caucasian family – a sweet, brave, chubby Chinese infant who just set foot on American soil for the first time last month.

In the same month, one of my dearest friends has returned home to Houston to build a counseling practice supporting LGBT kids, teens, and young adults.

And my personal dreams lately have been full of memories of my long journey away from anorexia and bulimia and towards fully recovered life….a journey I consider to be still “in progress.”

So when I happened across a recent article in Time that focused on the plight of transgendered persons in America, it hit me right in the heart.

As I read about how transgender, transvestite, and transsexual individuals have been mis-addressed and mis-labeled through the DSM (the Diagnostic Standards Manual – a worldwide “bible” of sorts for diagnosing and treating mental illness) it reminded me of my own struggles with how eating disorders in the DSM have been repeatedly re-labeled and often mis-labeled, and how that has affected my experience of seeking support, treatment, and recovery over the years.

One line in the Time article especially caught my attention – a comment by women’s and gender studies professor Elizabeth Reis (University of Oregon):

Most people are happy in the gender that they’re raised. They don’t wake up every day questioning if they are male or female.

The article continues with author Katy Steinmetz commenting:

For many trans people, the body they were born in is a suffocating costume they are unable to take off.”

Over the years I have talked with and met so many folks who can relate – but not because they are “trans” in some way that is specific to body parts or gender.

Some of the people I’ve met who feel trapped in a costume they didn’t order and so they want a smaller costume. Others want a larger costume. Some people want a costume that is shaped differently. Still others want a younger or older costume, or a costume that comes with a different story, life, partner, or family attached to it.

In some way, we all feel “different” – oh so very different – inside our “costumes.”

Continue reading… »



What it Feels Like to Be in a Body

By Shannon Cutts
This painting, called "Sciencia," is on display now to honor Lassnig's passing. (Image found on http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/376)

This painting, called “Sciencia,” is on display now to honor Lassnig’s passing. (http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/376)

Right now I only get two magazine subscriptions.

Birds and Blooms was a gift to my avian from his doting grandma (aka my mom).

Time was yet another attempt to use up those expiring airline miles.

While you can probably already guess which one I find easier to read all the way through, Time does have the occasional newsworthy highlight.

For instance, this week’s edition shared the passing of an Austrian painter named Maria Lassnig.

Lassnig was an artist who spent much of her career exploring the felt experience of existing within a body (a style she termed “body awareness.”)

I found this quite intriguing!

In fact, I’ve been pondering Time’s little blurb about her for the last week or so. The question on my mind is this:

What DOES it feel like to be in a body?

Continue reading… »



What I Have in Common with the Dallas Buyers Club

By Shannon Cutts

Recently I finally got to watch “The Dallas Buyers Club,” starring two of my fav actors – Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

First of all (and just for the record), Matthew McConaughey will always be hot.

Not quite as hot as STING, but still quite hot. ;-)

Second of all – oh. my. goodness. what an actor he is!! If I hadn’t seen his name on the credits I would not have recognized him. And what courage it must have taken to alter his appearance so drastically – to literally embody a role of a dying man – and still emerge with his sense of personal self intact.

I was also so impressed with Jennifer Garner – for her acting, of course, and for having the good taste to choose such an important role, but even more (and on a very personal level) for her clear and present ownership of her new post-motherhood curves.

I loved her in “Alias,” when she perfected all those karate moves I can’t even pull off in my dreams (and rocked the abs to match)….but I loved her even more in this recent film, in her softer shape that spoke of body love and acceptance at every point along the ever-changing continuum of shapes and sizes. 

Continue reading… »



Of People and Pedestals (and why the latter makes for uncomfortable seating)

By Shannon Cutts

As of this year, I am in the 3rd year of my 40th decade.

First of all (just for the record) I can’t understand why anyone dreads turning 40.

The 40′s are awesome!!

When I turned 40, I dyed my hair purple. At 41, I added bright blue. In my 42nd year, I launched a blog about my pet parrot. This year, at age 43, I added a mini-tortoise named Malti to our little family.

In addition to these many wonders, I am also finding that, in my 40′s, I no mostly longer desire to be perceived in any particular light by others.

Wow.

In my teens, 20′s, 30′s….heck, basically all the years up til now….I was pretty concerned about being perceived as a “good” person.

As such, I took any leadership opportunities SO seriously that letting someone else down, disappointing another person, or crossing horns (or swords) left me waiting for the handcuffs to arrive and the cell door to swing shut.

In fact, I looked forward to it – I felt that was exactly what I deserved for being less than perfect.

Today I know there is no perfect. Thank goodness.

Which brings me to pedestals and people.

Continue reading… »



The Road to Recovery

By Shannon Cutts
Emi Berger at her "day job," where she is a veterinarian!

Emi Berger at her “day job,” where she is a veterinarian!

On July 27, 2014, my treasured colleague and fellow MentorCONNECT board member, Emi Berger, will participate in Ironman Lake Placid.

An Ironman event (in case you, like me, were not aware) is death-defying.

  • It starts with a 2.4 mile lake swim.
  • This is followed up by a 112 mile bike ride.
  • Last but not least, athletes complete a full marathon – running 26.2 miles.

Just for the record – there is noooo WAAAAAY you would ever catch me doing something like this!

My idea of “strenuous exercise” is racing after my baby red-foot tortoise, Malti, as she heads away from our front lawn and out towards the street yet again.

One of Emi's favorite visualizations.

One of Emi’s favorite visualizations.

But Emi is an athlete – and a champion one at that.

She is also recovered from an eating disorder, and she is absolutely determined to use her athletic dreams to help others recover as she has done.

So (because you will never have to worry about being asked to support me in an Ironman event) I am inviting you to consider joining me in supporting Emi instead!

Emi biking in another Ironman event (she is a true road warrior on a bike).

Emi biking in another Ironman event (she is a true road warrior on a bike).

Also, all funds raised from her “Ironwoman Dream” event on July 27th go to support MentorCONNECT, the charity I founded in 2009 that provides peer mentoring for recovering people all around the world.

Awesome.

Please help us help others if you are able. :-)

You can read Emi’s “Ironwoman Dream” blog to learn more.

You can donate via her blog or go right to her Indiegogo campaign.

I will be joining you in both activities – from my comfortable couch-side seat.

With mucho gratitude,

Shannon



How to Make Your Mind Strong

By Shannon Cutts

dumbellMy mind has not always been my friend.

In fact, until quite recently (within the last couple of years) I often felt my mind hated me.

Listening to the inner stream of meanness, I would sometime fantasize about how peaceful my life might become if I could just take my mind out back and shoot it between the eyeballs.

No more mind…..no more pain.

Interestingly, as I have worked more with my mind over the last couple of years through meditation, contemplation, and study, I am finding ever more confirmation that I am on the right track with my efforts to quiet my mind.

In fact, recently I read an article that lined it out in stark black and white (and I paraphrase):

A mind “crowded with thoughts” is a weak mind. A mind free from thoughts is an “extremely strong” mind.

Continue reading… »



The Comfort (and Confusion) of Prayer

By Shannon Cutts

sunIn the last few months I have at times felt overwhelmed by the number of prayer requests making their way into my life.

Many of these prayer requests have been quite specific, too – for healing, for safe travels, for comfort after breakup or loss, for successful adoption, for a cure…..

It also feels important to mention I’m not just talking about folks I know only through Facebook….I’m talking about people who are so close to me that imagining life without them kind of feels like imagining life without breathing.

In other words….not good.

Of course, being the type-AAA personality that I am, I have eagerly leaped at each and every prayer request, taking my commitment to offer up such prayers as I can manage to compose quite seriously.

I mean, a person can’t just say they will pray and then not do it. That is like lying to God (a lose-lose situation no matter how you slice it).

Plus, it is highly comforting to ask someone I care for who is struggling, “What can I do to help?” and receive specific and detailed instructions.

Yet when it comes to handling prayer requests, this doesn’t always sit well deep down inside.

Continue reading… »



You Have Already Survived the Toughest Day of Your Life (so you can survive this too!)

By Shannon Cutts
Yes you did. I did. WE did.

Yes you did. I did. WE did.

Not that you asked, but my mom had me by c-section.

So – without even the courtesy of a minute to prepare – I was literally infant-jacked from my nice, warm, dark, solitary shelter and summarily thrust into the “real world.”

I know you will think I’m crazy (sometimes I can’t help but agree) but I still totally remember that day.

I remember the glaring high beam headlights, the unwarranted whack on my sensitive booty, that awful siren sound (which I now suspect was my own wailing), and one solitary repeating thought:

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! Who signed me up for THIS?!?

Somehow I made it through that day….the day I still consider to be the most challenging, terrifying, incomprehensible day of my whole life.

I also made it through 5,475 later days (or approximately 15 years) of battling my eating disorder before I started to gain a toehold onto recovery.

And (more recently) I survived the first few days of my young tortoise’s life – but it was touch-and-go there for awhile for this new turtle mama.

I’ve survived breakups and makeups, the dissolution of dreams, friendships, and whole careers, a grueling six months in India (which included both the “hot season” and the “monsoon” season – whew!), an unexpected side trip to Serbia during the Gulf War Crisis (which is why you really want to make sure you get on the right train when you’re traveling)…..

I’ve survived a lot of very bad days.

I’ve also survived a lot of very good days. 

Continue reading… »



Coping with Repetitive Dreams

By Shannon Cutts

dreamNot everyone is a “dreamer.”

However, I am.

What I mean is, I have always had exceptionally vivid dreams. In fact, sometimes the dream-me can pack in several different dreams in a single night.

Often (and increasingly as I get older) I also have repetitive dreams.

While I do realize here that scientists are moving ever closer to understanding the possible biological nature of the human dreamscape, they are not moving quite fast enough for my liking.

So instead of continuing to wait, I have chosen to adopt a different strategy for dealing with my dream life, and especially for dealing with repetitive dreams, and most especially for dealing with repetitive disturbing dreams.

I’ll give you one example of a repetitive disturbing dream I am having frequently right now:

I am back in my anorexic years. My family life is in shambles. My folks and I are at continual loggerheads. I want to die and I also want to live, and I have no idea how to accomplish either. I wake either right before or right after my parents and I have the “argument to end all arguments” and I am leaving the house with nowhere else to go.

That is the dream, in a nutshell. I’ve already had it two nights this week alone. 

Continue reading… »



What a Jasmine Flower Has Taught Me About Trust

By Shannon Cutts
Malti is so small and young she still has her egg tooth - barely visible on the tip of her nose!

Malti is so small and young she still has her egg tooth – barely visible on the tip of her nose!

About a month ago, I acted upon a long-delayed dream.

I became Mommy to a hatchling red-foot tortoise named Malti.

Malti is an Indian girl’s name that means “small fragrant jasmine flower.”

She is very small indeed (3″ from nose to tail tip).

Her fragrance comes in the form of trust.

Even as I type, she is sleeping off her lunch in a mossy corner of her new habitat – totally trusting that her every need will be provided for…..by me.

Eeep!

I, on the other hand, am cramming on YouTube like only a newbie turtle mommy can, ever hopeful of keeping this baby alive for one more day.

We are making a lot of progress, Malti and I, but I have to give her most of the credit. 

Continue reading… »



 
 

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