Who

Sticks and Stones: do others’ opinions of you effect your own?

“When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself.”

Young man meditating on rock by sea

From our childhood playgrounds to parent-teacher conferences as adults, we’ve all been there. We learn of an opinion or judgment about us that is not only unkind, it’s just plain wrong.

As kids, discovering that negative falsehoods are being said about us can be utterly devastating. None of us want to be the outcast. All we want is to be invited to the party; to feel like we belong. Luckily, we grow into our own skin and learn who we are. Our longing [to fit in] is less about personal validation and more of a barometer for attracting like-minded people.

Being a former cocaine-snorting-nude-dancer-party-girl, I’ve been labeled Hooker, Junkie, Ho, Slut – the list is typical. Even before my nine-year career on the pole, I was on the hurtful end of verbal daggers. The skin disease on my face inspired the high school nick-name Freddy KrugerBy the time I was in my 20’s, I learned to roll with the naysayer vibe (no matter how annoying).

Document1There’s no better way of developing personal endurance than having your self-worth tested by assholes.

So what about now? How do we, as adults handle it when dark clouds of negative people overshadow our light? I’ve recently come face-to-face with this question thanks to a grown woman using valuable cell phone minutes to slander my name.

The immediate questions are obvious: Who’s hearing this bullshit? and Do they believe any of it?

After percolating the situation and realizing the why of it all, I released my questions into the universe. The 20-something in me had a little talk with the middle-aged broad tapping away on these keys today –  and we both agreed upon a course of action. I’m going to do absolutely nothing.

When it comes to negative (not to mention false) gossip about us, we need to remember: the people who know us won’t believe it, and the people who believe it don’t know us. Either way, it’s out of our control. Besides, everybody has a right to their opinion. The question we need to ask is – do we allow others’ opinions or judgments about us to influence how we feel about ourselves? We already know the answer.

Life is fleeting. It’s a beautiful struggle. There are enough land minds to survive without anyone’s assistance. Don’t make space for unnecessary bullshit. If you need a mantra to remember that, feel free to use mine: *What other people think of me is none of my business. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Your thoughts? 

 

 

*Quotes written by Wayne Dyer

Christine Macdonald
Chain

Boredom or Bedlam: Are You An Emotional Cutter?

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

CalmStorm

Calm before the storm

When raised with cracked foundations of chaos, it’s easy for us to understand how as adults we feed off drama. Up is down and right is left. We know better, but it doesn’t stop us from running with the proverbial scissors that cut up personal happiness and responsibility, leaving a trail of regret.

For so many of us, chaos is fuel. It’s our oxygen when the poor choices we make ignite anxiety within the walls of fear. We cannot breathe until the risk of losing our breath is born from our own doing. Anything else is boring.

Although each slice is hidden deep inside our psyche, emotional cutting – hurting ourselves to feel – is just as damaging as the physical act itself.*

“Self-harm is a way of expressing and dealing with deep distress and emotional pain. As counterintuitive as it may sound to those on the outside, hurting yourself makes you feel better – Cutting and Self-Harm (www.helpguide.org)

Life is not a straight line for any of us. For adult children of dysfunction, it’s a barbed wire maze of self-sabotage that draws blood with every turn. And the puncture wounds make us feel alive.

It’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. Even more difficult to rationalize when we’re the ones orchestrating our own pain. It’s cool when our loved ones support us, but we know they don’t really get why we continue to be the architect of our own demise. Neither do we.

So how do we turn off the auto-pilot road to self-destruction? For starters, it’s a good idea to get real. I’m not talking about saying the words people want to hear. This is about digging deep. Shred the years of layered bullshit you’ve been telling yourself and speak from deep inside your truth. It’s not fun; it can actually be scary. But everything boils down to the ugly truth: we cannot make it through the painful maze without actually going through it. Feel the pain. Weep. Wail. Then scream into the air (or a pillow, so your neighbors don’t call the cops). Just get it the fuck out.

Since I can remember I’ve been living some version of the truth, which is a colorful way of saying lie. What began as floating in a sea of self-medication [insert your vice here], quickly morphed into believing the bullshit I was telling myself.

I’m fine. 

I can handle it. 

They are the ones with the problem. 

I know what I’m doing. 

I don’t need anyone. 

I’m not lonely. 

Living a lie is exhausting. Yet so many of us do it because we’re afraid of facing the shit that caused us to take comfort in our bullshit in the first place.

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One of my best friends jokes about how we’re so much alike – and should be wrapped in caution tape. And I’m not kidding when I say ‘I’m such a work in progress I should wear orange cones for earrings‘. Humor is nothing if not effective when it comes to getting real.

But get real, we must. Whether it’s telling a friend, teacher, boss, relative or therapist – we need to share our truth.

The healing begins when we stop pretending.

The first person you need to share your dark truth with is the most important person in your world – you. You’re no good to anyone if you’re no good to yourself.  It’s time to stop buying your lies, and start getting real. We are worth it. If you don’t believe this, it’s because believing we have no value is the biggest lie of all. Take back your truth. It all starts with the decision to try.

*I am not an expert in mental health. This blog is a platform to express my own opinions and beliefs based on personal experience. If you or anyone you know is suffering, please reach out to a professional and seek help. You are worth it – even if you don’t feel it right now. 

Christine Macdonald
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Skin Deep: What made me start stripping at 19

“Everybody has scars. It’s just that most people wear them on the inside” – M.W. Stromberg

HF

At Fourteen, I didn’t have any big life dreams other than to fit in with the rest of the 80’s misfits in high school. In a sea of Member’s Only jackets, leg warmers, pastel Izod polo shirts and Z Cavaricci jeans, you’d think it would’ve been easy. But hearing my nick-name, Freddy Kruger because of a skin disease on my face, over and over through the halls punctured my sense of self. With every Kruger calling, internal scar tissue seeped through my bones, weaving its way throughout my teenage years, and even in adulthood. As it turns out, my Pee Chee folder force field and Trapper Keeper sun visor I used while walking to class – not helpful.

My only dream at that time was having Brooke Shields, Cosmopolitan Magazine cover, flawless skin. And even though my face wasn’t magically cured, when I walked on the stripping stage for the first time just five years later – it sure as hell felt like it was.

il_fullxfull.81200872I don’t remember what life was like before having scars on my face. Their presence has been tattooed on my soul, far deeper than what my skin allows. The familiar grimace when greeting my reflection, the slight panic when my eyes lock with a child or walk in a crowded elevator, the slick dinner candle maneuvers; placing them as far from under my chin as possible. It was all autopilot defense in what personal history has taught me. The mirror will always be unfair. Children, in their innocent brutality of truth, will question why something looks different. And shadows, tucked inside my skin, will never, ever be my friend.

It’s hard to believe it all started thirty years ago with a pea-sized bump on my cheek. This wasn’t something I could just pop, either. Much like my love for Chachi Arcola and Shaun Cassidy, this was deep, and it was real. And as if looking like I was shot with a BB gun wasn’t awesome enough, this…thing hurt like mad. It felt like a nasty bruise and every time I smiled or spoke, someone pressed it – hard.

Within days the tiny bump wasn’t so tiny. It filled with blood and was now close to the size of golf ball. It was also no longer alone –  almost overnight, it seemed to have multiplied all over my face. I didn’t see any other kids’ faces in school resembling anything close to mine, so I was truly baffled, not to mention irritated. It was putting a major dent in my plan of becoming a Solid Gold dancer after graduation.

Most every teen on the planet (except, maybe Brooke) gets to live through the lovely coming-of-age meat grinder of adolescence by having acne (not to mention braces, body odor, mood swings, menstrual periods, random hard-ons, and sprouting a wild jungle of pubes), but this was something else. It seems I won some kind of puberty jackpot. I learned (during the first of many doctor visits) that my case was an extreme and rare form of acne called Stage IV Acne Vulgaris (also known as Acne Conglobata, a very serious skin disease complete with nodules and blood-filled cysts).

As soon as Doctor Vulgaris broke the news to mom and me, my eyes welled up. And with the voice of a guilty teenager begging for mercy, I sat up on the tissue-paper covered table and vowed on back issues of Hi Life  magazines to never eat chocolate, greasy fries, pizza or Chinese food again. But Dr. V just shot me half a smile with I’m sorry dear in his eyes. He explained to us that this horror had nothing to do with diet. This was a blood disease and was hereditary. I was grateful for his honesty, but he could’ve at least broken the news with a Snicker’s bar or deep-fried won tons.

Hereditary.

After assessing mom’s flawless skin and raven-haired, hazel-eyed beauty, the level of disdain I already had for my scar-faced father percolated.  It’s one thing to fall in love with a Pan Am stewardess, bail on your wife and two babies, move to Canada to avoid paying child support – but to give me THIS – thanks, dad – you’re the best.

“I hate him.” I could barely get the words out between hyperventilating through my tears. I had not seen him in years but envisioned my father at the bottom of the elevator shaft in the hospital. I wanted the cables to snap, causing us to plummet eighteen floors right on his selfish, Vulgaris-riddled face. I knew he didn’t do this to me, but something about knowing my dad’s genes were a variable in the equation of my pain induced a type of heartache that didn’t feel human. “I really, really hate him.”

“I know, honey.” The fluorescent lights above her angelic face reflected against her glasses, but I could still see it in her eyes; I knew all too well, the look of worry when it came to disappointment from him.

It didn’t take long before my face was covered with red and purple cysts that oozed blood with the touch of my finger. And they didn’t just leak where I pressed them. It was a maze of gore, connected deep under my skin; an ant farm of Freddy.

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One night propped up on my bathroom counter in boxer shorts and my favorite Blondie t-shirt, I folded my legs and planted myself in front of the mirror, one ass cheek in the sink. I wanted to get a closer look at a particularly massive cyst on my temple next to my left eye. It was so huge and purple, almost black – that a kid in school announced to the class earlier that day that it looked like I got punched in the face (which I didn’t deny, because beaten was better than ugly). I could barely see out of the corner of my eye so I decided to drain it myself.

After lighting a match to the tip of one of mom’s safety pins from her sewing kit (I don’t know why I thought that would make it more sterile), I went to work. I barely pierced my flesh and in a second, I heard a hissing sound,  like air being let out of a balloon and the cyst exploded, splattering blood all over the mirror and walls. It looked like a crime scene. But there was still more blood in the wound. I held my breath, not knowing what would come next and pressed the edges around the cyst gently. Then something freaky happened. The skin under my chin tracing my jaw ripped open and before I knew what was happening, I felt blood dripping on my thigh. It was from a cyst I wasn’t even touching. Fascinated and mortified, I couldn’t call out to my mom or even cry. I spent the next twenty minutes using every bathroom tissue in the box wiping up the evidence.

A couple of days later, more cysts. This time, in addition to my face, they showed up on my neck, chest and back. My throat would ooze blood if I stretched my neck to one side. This time the tears managed to come. I was wearing a Halloween costume that was impossible to take off.

Somewhere between the bathroom crime scene and waking up with bloodstained towels covering my pillowcase every morning, I did something religious for the first time in my life, without feeling like I had to.

God, if this is you, if you really do exist, I know it’s not Christmas or Easter or anything, and I’m nowhere near a church, but if you can hear me, if you’re not too busy with that whole Kingdom of Heaven gig, I’m begging you – please, please – don’t wake me up.

Of course, I a130204111816-high-school-student-hallway-sad-bully-story-toplways woke up, and to my horror – high school.

No matter where I was – in class, the cafeteria, the gym or walking home, those days were tainted with a chant that still haunts me to this day: “Kruuuuger! Kruuuuger!” Sometimes I still hear it; when I give my fear exclusive sabotaging rights over my willingness to take a risk. It’s the serenade of self-doubt when the beads of sweat from belief and worry exhaust themselves from the tug-of-war within the space of my courage. The bellowing melody of cruelty, which wraps me in pain, suffocating my strength when faced with any challenge in my adult life.

It didn’t take long before cutting class (behind moms back) seemed logical. Why roam the halls dodging bullies when I could hang at home, listen to The Smiths, and get loaded off  Chablis and Fresca?  Besides, compared to Erica Kane, my life somehow didn’t seem as bad.

The next couple of years were a blur of at-home, alcohol induced pity parties nestled between monthly doctor visits (complete with blood tests, cortisone shots, dry ice sticks, Tetracycline and Accutane doses) and even a couple facial surgeries. Accutane was a new pill on the market, still in the testing phase, but Dr. V suggested I give it a try. The side effects were brutal: the skin on my palms, bottom of feet and lips peeled like rice paper, and my scalp was so dry I could “make it snow” like Ally Sheedy’s character Allison in The Breakfast Club, but I didn’t care. My cysts were nearly gone. The only problem was the crater-like scars left it their wake. Over 80 percent of my face looked like melted wax. No longer bloody, but far from Brooke Shields smooth, my skin took me from Freddy Kruger to Moon Face. And still, another year of high school to go.

Before twenty-first century laser beams and magical serums were invented, 1986 for me was spent mostly recovering from the same surgery – twice. This archaic procedure, called Dermabrasion (not to be confused with the micro-Dermabrasions of today) took me under general anesthetic while the skin on my face was sand-blasted with a wire brush. The idea was to smooth out the deep craters as best it could, but I was warned that the results were going to be less than perfect.

Moon Face – Forever?

On the plus side, I discovered Demerol. It’s one thing to shoot back wine all day when I should’ve been conjugating verbs and mastering algebra, but adding pain killers to the mix was a total game-changer.

Then – senior parties, fake IDs and night clubs. Somewhere between the pills and booze, the 80s glam drug cocaine found its way to my wheelhouse. Self-anesthetizing my pain with chemicals became my safety net from suicidal fantasies, which is how I justified walking the graduating line with a half gram of blow tucked inside the cup of my bra.

Many stories behind the velvet rope

Many stories behind the velvet rope

If it wasn’t for my beautiful Barbie Doll friend, Angela convincing me to join her in entering a wet-t shirt contest at nineteen, I never would have stepped foot on the stripper stage. My face was still heavily scarred but I could at least leave the house. Besides, my 1987 Chaka Kahn hair served me well, replacing my Trapper Keeper shield. And with the help of some new drag queen friends from the dance clubs, caked-on theater make-up became my friend.

With my cellulite-free, size four body and natural dance moves, I was a hit on stage. Every dollar bill tip in my garter was validation. For the first time in my life, I felt…pretty. I was finally home.

Freddy and Moon were far from dead, but they were definitely muted with my new-found life of velvet ropes and VIP rooms. Two years flew by and with my 21st birthday on the horizon, I had no idea where my rock-star life would take me, but I was more than ready to find out.

Thoughts?

Christine Macdonald
Always.

Instinct

TrustYourGut

“The spirit finds a way to be born.
Instinct seeks for ways to survive.” – Toba Beta

From the time we are old enough to know better, we find ways to test the rules. What ebbs, we want to flow. Up? Fuck that, gimmie Down.

As kids, it’s liberating; a way to forge independence and carve our path. We long to navigate beyond right and wrong – we adore hovering in the what ifs and why nots – which is what learning is all about.

As we mature into adulthood, lessons carry more weight. We discover fear from what has burned us – about hope from moments that carry us beyond our wildest dreams – to love on how we are loved.

For those of us who were raised with emotional deficits – the broken – the lost – our concept of right and wrong is skewed. We lie, but more importantly, believe the lies we live, tell others and to ourselves. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s all we know.

One of the best (and most horrifying) ways to learn the hard lessons of life is to test our instinct. Somewhere deep inside our soul, we know. That little voice inside us taps our tortured souls, waving its arms “no….no..this will hurt.” We go in anyway.

The problem with not listening to our instinct is that eventually the veil of denial always lifts. Instead of only feeling betrayed by others, there’s an element of self-destruction. The “what the fuck was I thinking” takes over. At this point, we have a choice. We can beat ourselves up the way we learned to as children, or we can thank the voice. That beautiful hum inside your heart. Don’t allow it to say things like “I told you so.”

YOU CONTROL YOUR VOICE.

In the face of betrayal, smile with gratitude. You’ve learned about loyalty.

With tears of disappointment, wipe them with kindness. You’ve learned about expectations.

We may not have been raised with the love and kindness we deserved – but don’t ever let this stop you from giving it to yourself.

Instinct always knows. Befriend your voice. Forgive it when you fall. Allow it to lift you. You’ll be surprised how high you will fly.

Thoughts?

Christine Macdonald
Sexy-Girl-at-Bar-Counter-1024x487-1

A Valentine’s for Singles

bar_chicks_anti_valentine_single-459669You’re single. It’s February. Unless you’ve been barricaded in your home, ordering take-out and binge watching Net Flix since the holidays, you’ve been sprayed by now with the pink and red projectile spewage of the ever so annoying romance marketing machine, perpetuated by the myth that unless you’re in love on Valentine’s Day, you don’t exist.

Well, maybe you do exist, but trust me, you don’t really matter.

Whether you’re picking up cough syrup or navigating your grocery cart, there’s no avoiding the piles of love on display in the form of chocolate hearts, cupid dolls and bossy stalker candy. Be yours? Kiss you? Bite me, I’m single.

With my charming disposition and balls out vibe I can’t imagine why some dashing lad hasn’t swept me away from my miserable single life yet, either.

But here’s the thing. I’m not miserable.

Make no mistake. I love love. I’ve been blissfully lost on a cloud of multiple orgasms, pillow talk and naked spoons with the best of ‘em. I’ve strolled on white sand beaches at dusk, our laced fingers swaying with the beat of crashing waves. I’ve been led to an impromptu cheek-to-cheek slow dance, stayed up all night watching black and white movies with a post-coitus makeshift picnic of cheese and crackers on the bed. I’ve exhaled along with my lover, and taken great comfort in allowing our bellies to breathe – simply being human. An imperfect physical reminder that there is something to be said for not pretending we are anyone we think the other wishes us to be.

Even when I’m not in love, I’m a big fan of: “Say, I’m not in love with you, but I do love you and your company is rad, so kick off your shoes, stay a while.”  Life is even lonelier without the company of people you truly connect with on all cylinders (which is rare).

You don’t need to be in love to feel love, laugh your asses off and have deviant adventures bordering on salacious.

On the flip side, when actually being in love, I’ve been cared for in ways I never thought possible. Anyone who has taken care of a sick loved one knows all too well, the depths of murky waters people who truly love one another will dive into. Happily.

Being genuinely in love goes beyond the flesh-colored glasses of hormones and heat. Once our dopamine and oxytocin receptors in our brain level back from fireworks to normalcy, when we are in love, this is where it really shows. There’s nothing we won’t do for our partner. It’s all about support, love, patience, and respect. You are best friends, lovers, teachers, caregivers and most trusted confidant. A union that feels unbreakable.

And then, time.

As the months and years pass and we allow ourselves to grow, sometimes our sweethearts don’t evolve with us. Their paths turn in a different direction. They simply can’t serve our happiness any longer (the term “growing pains” cannot be more appropriate here). This is when we must dive deep into our memory banks and use those precious moments like a patchwork quilt of hope, keeping us from thinking we will never be loveable to anyone else again. A favorite quote comes to mind:

Just because the rose died on the vine, doesn’t mean it lied to you while it was in bloom*

For singles, Valentine’s Day is the welcome mat of I am unlovable. It lies there waiting. Ready for us to wipe our lonely all over its face. But guess what – It doesn’t need to be. We can just as easily be wiping awesome all over this day, leaving a trail of “I’m not settling” billowing in the air. The fragrance, one of pure joy and insight permeates with each wipe of our feet. It’s the kind of pheromones one releases only after making it to the other side of anguish born from heartbreak.

It’s better to be alone than with the wrong person. Even – especially on Valentine’s Day.

Feeling alone while being with the wrong person is like treading water in a crowded pool of strangers who all swim better than you and no one will hand you a life raft. You have to save yourself.

Sticking with a partner because you’re afraid to be alone, or worse, because you think one of you will change to fit your expectations of who you both want the other to be, is far more tragic than actually being solo.

Maybe you’re not attracted to your “plus one” any longer; you’ve outgrown them, or you simply were never in love with them, (and you know they were with you). You’re paralyzed with guilt for fear of breaking their heart, so you stay, cutting their chance of ever finding true love with the one who is right for them. Is there a Hallmark card for selfish coward?

I’ve been that woman in the water in search of her life raft before – and I’ve definitely given myself the proverbial selfish coward card a few times. Whatever our story, when it comes to love not being right for both partners – it’s never easy. Ever. Breakup casualties are everywhere – people who feel like they are mere shells of who they used to be. If we can survive that kind of pain – the very best thing to do is remind ourselves just how loveable we actually are.

We love ourselves enough to know when it’s time to let go.

We know the pain. We do it anyway. Why? Because somewhere past the self-loathing and woe-is-me, I’m gonna be alone the rest of my life bullshit – we know. We deserve to be with the one person who will make us realize why it didn’t work with anyone else.

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Valentine’s Day when you’re single feels like a trap.

So many of us define ourselves by our relationship status. It’s not only sad, it’s dangerous. Our mental health is not designed for withstanding self-sabotage.

How many of us feel “less than”, when we find ourselves single on Valentine’s Day? Why do we feel that if we were just with someone – anyone – the planets would miraculously align, and we’d snap into happy? So what does that mean – if we aren’t in a couple, we don’t get to be happy? It’s a scary maze of self-doubt and loathing that can be totally avoided. And by the way, even married people can fall victim to this trap (they stay for the kids living in misery, which is a whole different topic I wrote about here).

Personally, it’s taken me years to get it. Countless failed attempts of shoving squares into circles. Totally unfair to the person you’re trying to mold into your idea of The One, by the way.

I’ll always be the romantic, the dreamer. No one can reenact The Way We Were and Sex and The City like me. Carrie and K-K-K-Katie are my girls. But now, I’m finally on board with the reality that I’m responsible for my own happiness – and whether or not I’m sitting solo, or in a cozy booth for two this Valentine’s Day – it doesn’t affect my sense of self.

I have nothing personal against V-Day – I actually think it’s sweet (pun intended). But for those of us who are single, we don’t need to feel like shit, which is what usually happens this time of year.

It’s natural to feel left out and personally, I think there’s an untapped marketing goldmine for the flower shop, candy and greeting card companies. Where’s the bouquet that congratulates us for not settling? I want a heart-shaped box of candies with affirmation lettering. You deserve better, Atta girl, You Rock .

Whenever I’ve been single on February 14, I’ve always called it “Victory Day” – makes more sense. I don’t care who you are, when you survive emotional land mines of true love’s demise, you are victorious.

Still feel like shit? Read this list of love lessons – and remember – you’re worth more than what some candy-filled display wants you to believe.

~ ~ ~

  1. If someone wants you, nothing can keep them away. If they don’t, nothing can make them stay.
  2. Stop making excuses for anyone’s behavior.
  3. If you have ANY doubt in your mind about someone’s character, leave ‘em alone.EatngSolo
  4. Allow your intuition (or spirit) to save you from heartache.
  5. Stop trying to change yourself for a relationship that’s not meant to be.
  6. Don’t force an attraction. And remember – sex isn’t love.
  7. Never live your life for anyone.
  8. If you feel like you’re being strung along, you probably are.
  9. There is nothing wrong with dining out alone. It’s sexy, even.
  10. Don’t stay because you think “it will get better.” You’ll be mad at yourself a year later for staying when things are not better.
  11. Actions speak louder than words,
  12. Never let anyone define who you are.
  13. Don’t knock masturbation (it’s sex with someone you love).

Here’s the part where you tell me: what are you doing for V-Day?

 

* Quote source: Izzy Huffstodt (played by Blythe Danner) from the Emmy Award winning series Huff (Showtime 2004-2006).

Christine Macdonald