Archives for posts with tag: tori amos

“When are you gonna love you as much as I do?” – Tori Amos

Who’s worthy of love? If you answered, “everyone,” then congratulations! You move to the head of the class! And for the rest of you, looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us today. I suppose class is in session.

The topic of love is something concerning which I have an abundance of expertise. “Why?” You ask.  Well it just so happens that it’s been an ongoing issue for me. Yes, that’s right, Holl has her hang-ups. Who would have thought? (If you say you would have, then you can take your snarky self elsewhere;))

We’ve talked about the lack of self-worth so many people have and how that thinking can lead us to some pretty undesirable places, but I’m thinking more lately about unconditional love; about people hiding their true selves in an attempt to present the world with a facade. I think it’s probably a significant flaw of human-kind to feel so impelled to create persona’s for the rest of us to see and I understand the reasoning behind this thinking; we’re all afraid of people not liking us for who we really are. It’s fear that drives us to hide our precious selves from those who populate our circle; everyone from co-workers, peers, neighbors and acquaintances to the most valued loved ones in our lives.

It’s so interesting, this silly paradox of emotion. We lock away our secret selves in an attempt to protect ourselves, but what winds up happening, is we only throw tiny shards of ourselves out there for the world; these measly little bits and pieces that do not represent us accurately. It does us a disservice to withhold so much of ourselves out of fear of not measuring up; of somehow having deficiencies that outweigh our amazing-ness. (Yes, it’s been a while since I interjected some Holl-ebonix, but I knew you were all jonesing for a fix…;))

So Miranda*, a friend of mine I’ve had for the last several years, said something to me very recently amid a torrent of self-depreciating tears. It’s not an unfamiliar principle, nor is it something we haven’t already explored, but the fact that it seems so pervasive, only adds to the cogent nature of the statement. She said she didn’t know if anyone knew what she really was–all the mistakes she’d made and all the flaws she bore–if any of them would still love her. Really? I mean, don’t get me wrong I totally get what she’s saying, but I’d like to think the people closest to me have more to them than just some superficial appreciation of me. That they love me for all of me.

Here’s hoping that people won’t define me based on my greatest flaw; that I won’t be remembered for my most significant deficiency or my worst mistake.

Can y0u imagine if your name was forever linked to the fact that one time in the ninth grade you shoplifted? Or if people always associated you with the time you picked on a kid at school? I mean don’t get me wrong; these things are certainly not things to be proud of and actions that are harmful to others are likely to have a lasting impact on both them and you. The point of life is not to achieve some level of flawlessness and to live steeped in self-loathing and regret when that’s not achieved, but rather to grasp each opportunity for progression and affirmation as they present themselves, to reach out to those around us by first loving ourselves. It’s an invaluable lesson and an effective tool in building deeper, more enduring relationships with the people around you as well as healing the internal rifts caused by years of self-neglect and derision.

It’s kind of like when the flight attendant cautions you to not leap to the aid of those around you until you’ve first secured your own breathing mask. Wise words from the friendly skies.

This is, undoubtedly, easier said than done. I’ve been pretty blunt regarding my own inability to ease up on self-criticism. To give you an idea of just how insidious it is, I remember in the first grade attending parent teacher conference with my parents and listening intently as my parents discussed my scholastic progression with my teacher. My parents used a phrase that was then echoed by my teacher. I had never heard it until then, but it has chided me with regularity since:

“Hollie is her own worst enemy.”

Wow, I remember thinking at the ripe-old age of six. That doesn’t sound good.

No, Holl. It doesn’t.

It think it’s difficult not to scrutinize our actions and achievements and to often find ourselves lacking. In a world where a person’s worth is often measured by their resumes and people are constantly garnering respect and admiration by burning themselves at both ends, it can be challenging to remind ourselves that we’re each composed of something greater. That we’re more than our accomplishments and likewise more than our shortcomings.

To remind ourselves that as human beings, we’re good enough–sans resumes.

I think it goes without saying that achievement is crucial in contributing to the world around us and endeavoring to leave this planet better and the people in it improved for having humored us throughout the drama of mortality. Progression and productivity are essential in creating our best selves, however, to obsess about it–to feel inadequate when we don’t measure up to some ridiculous ideal of what makes a good man or woman–is counterproductive. I think it’s putting the cart before the horse.

Perhaps if we just concentrated on building character, then the accomplishments would fall naturally into place. We would find greater effectiveness in our pursuits, because we would be operating with greater intentions; motives of a better quality.

I think that God created each of us like vessels. That our spirits take on many forms. I imagine a table filled with crystal decanters, vases and glasses of varying sizes and shapes. And likewise of varying capacities. If you are represented by a small, eight-ounce juice glass and you fill it until it’s brimming wouldn’t that be a greater success than if you were a large, cavernous vase 14 inches tall with nothing more than several drops resting in its base?

Maybe we’re each just responsible for attaining the full measure of our own individual creations. That’s what I’m inclined to think.

I’ll extend a challenge–yes that’s correct–a challenge. When you get some time, flip open a newspaper and peruse the obituaries. It seems morbid, I know, but stick with me on this. Scan over the entries. Read the words of the loved ones of the deceased. Soak in the memories these people have of their friend/family member. Absorb the impact that life had on those around them. See what good people are really remembered for and the effect that a person’s life has on others.

I read one a couple of years ago that five children had composed regarding their beloved mother. I think of it all the time and I get that familiar sting in my eyes. Why? Because I’m a big baby who cries all the time when I hear something that moves me. The children recounted stories and memories. They listed some of the greatest, most relevant principles they had been blessed to learn from their mom. Then they shared the one thing she had provided that was of greatest relevance to them:

“She showed us the face of God.” they said.


Not, “She made us do our homework. Or, “She made us eat our veggies.” Not that these things aren’t important. I’m a mother and I would feel no small amount of guilt had I neglected to set boundaries and be stern when necessary. But the greatest achievement this woman had was in rearing these exceptional individuals who, in turn, considered her greatest accomplishment to be instilling in them a deep appreciation for spirituality; a belief in something greater.

I’ve said it before: I don’t have all the answers. I am the Universe’s greatest work in progress. But there are things I know that resonate with me; that make supreme sense in an otherwise abstruse world. This principle, the idea that we are each distinctly unique and irreplaceable individuals, is likely the most crucial of them . Understanding this I believe is perhaps one of the great purposes of life; that our mistakes and faults may be facets of our life, but they are not what comprise us. Our humanity is more consequential than that. Our value is immeasurable. And yes, that does include each of you.;)



“Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.


“You’re only popular with anorexia, so I turn myself inside out; in hopes someone will see.” -Tori Amos

There’s a societal problem that has become a virulent disease; a pervasive and detrimental ailment striking much our culture, specifically women. The issue at play here is that of body image. Our self esteems have become so intrinsically linked to, not only our appearances, but more accurately our perceptions of our appearances. I think we all know someone whom we consider to be beautiful who insists that she’s not. It’s funny how two relatively sane people can look at the exact same image and see two contrary things. I myself consider my viewpoint to be the tiebreaker and say so on more than one occasion.

It is estimated that one in four female college students engages in at least one form of unhealthy dieting including fasting, excessive exercising, self-induced vomiting (bulimia) and laxative abuse. As a conscience-driven human, this concerns me; as mother of a young daughter, it terrifies me.

I want to take this opportunity to provide a disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been anorexic. As I have a mortal fear of vomiting (God and I have a recently arrived at agreement that this will never be required of me again. I’ll let you know how that goes), I can also attest to the fact that I have never been bulimic.  However, if we’re being honest–let’s face it, I generally am on this blog–I definitely suffered from a recurring fear of weight gain. Not just a fear, rather a phobia. It becomes less and less severe as I age, but for all of my teen years (damn those teen years) and a decent portion of my twenties it was a haunting specter hovering in the rear portion of my mind, mocking me. “What if you become fat?” it taunted, bastard that it was.

In round after round I battled this ghost that seemed determined to get the better of me. Part of my awesomeness I attribute to being stubborn. While stubbornness has an ugly side known as being pigheaded, it has several other less negative adjectives that fall under its umbrella: driven, resilient and tenacious to name a few. It was these more appealing characteristics I endeavored to affect as I fought an exhausting battle to not give into this insidious little monster of poor self esteem. And then the Universe stepped in.

I was given the opportunity to work as a personal trainer and it was a phenomenally cathartic experience. It kind of reminded me of when Scrooge and the ghost of Christmas present go to visit people completely unseen. They witness the tribulations of people and the dire circumstances of lives to which Scrooge had never been privy. I served as a therapist of sorts to the women I worked with and became a spectator in the growth they each were endeavoring to experience, both physically and emotionally. I heard all about marital problems and issues with children as well as the day-to-day struggles involved in losing weight and creating a healthier existence for themselves. In case it wasn’t obvious, I love people and I’m very observant. I love the stories they tell, especially the inadvertent ones. This experience was like hitting emotional pay dirt.

The reasons for poor self esteem, especially as it pertains to body  image, are actually less clear than they usually appear to be on the surface. They often hearken to a time in a person’s past when they were abused, neglected or mocked. Or perhaps experienced a failure so detrimental as to damage them almost irreparably. Coping can take on the form of self-medicating through food and often times there’s an attitude of “I’m not worth being thin,”  or “I’m just fat and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

It breaks my heart that these are attitudes that some of our brains will accept as gospel; that there is anyone on this planet who believes she’s not worthy of being healthy. That there’s anyone who doesn’t deserve to look in the mirror and like what they see, is a sad and frustrating.

Karen Carpenter before (R) and after (L) losing her battle with Anorexia.

We all know the story of Karen Carpenter and her succumbing to the deadly disease of anorexia, but does someone’s suffering ever become cliche?

I have a high self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of my flaws, perhaps more than most. I just don’t care much. I still have this undercurrent of fear regarding weight gain, because I’ve seen some people very close to me succumb to it and acquire serious health issues as well as an abundance of low self worth. But, overall I”m pretty good at accepting Holl as she is. I work hard to make myself better, but there are days when, after the rituals of daily preparation are completed, I’m surprised when I look in the mirror. I’m surprised that I’m not the physically awkward girl from junior high. That I’m not a head taller than the boys sporting a mess of frizzy hair and a bounty of tiny red facial bumps that can only be attributed to the ever-heinous culprit: eczema. Another instance of not being fair to myself; of not giving myself credit. Of refusing to let go of past self-image issues and embrace my strong suits.

It doesn’t matter whether its our weight, our skin, our teeth, our cup size, if we stay mired in a place of insecurity that place eventually will become one of self-loathing and eventually self-abuse.

So maybe when someone compliments us, we should cleave to those things. Adhere to the good things about each of us. Put them in our journals and shoe boxes; create a life’s scrapbook of all of our successes rather than a tally sheet of failures.  Create a better world for ourselves, our mothers, sisters, friends and especially daughters. One woman at a time.



“Accept yourself as you are right now; an imperfect, changing, growing and worthy person.”  -Denis Waitley

“If you love enough, you lie a lot.” -Tori Amos

  • Them: “Does this make me look fat?”
  • You: “Of course not.” Ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound bag.
  • Them: “I love singing. Do you think I have a good voice?”
  • You: “Absolutely.” If I cram enough Kleenex in my ears.
  • Them: “Do you think I’m smart?”
  • You: “Totally.” If by ‘smart,’ you mean… ‘kinda dumb.’

Lies. We all tell them. They’re not lies to hurt people; on the contrary. They’re fabrications created with the express intent of protecting someone’s precious feelings. It’s an inflammatory statement to say that we all lie, because, well, I’m calling everyone liars. But it’s really just me being hopeful; choosing to believe that people still care enough about other peoples’ feelings to provide the occasionally requisite lie.

I was faced with this not too long ago when I was at Walgreen’s and a sweet woman approached me carrying two boxes of hair color.  “Excuse me, ” she said. “Can I ask your opinion?”

“Absolutely!” I replied. And, yes, I did respond with an exclamation point. That was not added for dramatic emphasis in the retelling of this riveting story. I have opinions and I love nothing more than actually being invited to share them. I was loving this lady already.

“Which of these colors do you think matches my natural hair color?” She asked, raising a hand to gesture toward her head–her head of phenomenally fake-looking hair. Her head that sported one of the worst dye jobs in all of Christendom. It strongly resembled the purple hue of a pair slouchy socks I wore with pride in the fourth grade. That’s right: purple. In other words: amethyst, mulberry, plum, heliotrope, violet, eggplant,  puce. All colors I can say with a great deal of certainty are not to be found naturally on any head of hair.

But, if she was intent on lying to me about said hair color, I was not going to fault her for that. If a man can cling with pathetic desperation to a few lingering strands of hair and comb them from one side of his skull to the other in a sad attempt at convincing himself and the world that he’s not actually balding, then who am I do deny this poor woman the opportunity to assure herself and those around her that God had somehow endowed her with a riot of grape-colored hair?

So, without missing a beat, I jumped right onto her crazy train and joined in with the lies. How can I not be merciful to someone with hair the color of  grape Kool Aid? I motioned toward one of the boxes she held–does it really matter which? After all, neither of them were marked, ‘purple.’

“This one.” I assured her. “That one looks just like your real hair.” She beamed up at me. I felt good. It was a happy lie. She was a woman radiant with gratitude.  She seemed impressed with how quickly I had responded; as though I had somehow evidenced the validity of her ‘natural,’ hair color by way of my rapid response.  I guess I rock like that.

Lying serves a purpose. Like so many things in life, it can be used for good or for evil. But sometimes, even when we really want to spare someone the sting that truth provides, telling them a lie is very detrimental. Yes, that can be logged under the heading, ‘obvious,’ but I felt the disclaimer was necessary.

And this is the manner in which I proceed.  I go on assessing every situation as best my human mind and determine whether it’s appropriate to humor people, or whether the glaring light of reality has a place in each particular scenario.

So, like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause and that blessed stork, lies can be very beneficial in helping us maintain some semblance of hope in a world that can be a little dark. So, if I ever ask any of you, “Do you like my blog?” I think you know what the answer should be, even if I beg you not to lie….



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