Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caroline Myss

I was blessed by a recent O magazine article in which Oprah interviewed a gifted intuitive, Caroline Myss, a teacher, thought leader, and mystic. Here's what she has to say:

"I'm not born to have a personality. I'm here to have a spirit. Each of us is born with a purpose for being alive."

A sacred contract is a "spiritual document that our soul recognizes...You know how we say things like 'I just have to be true to myself?' What does that mean? Great people always say, 'There's something I was meant to do.' That knowingness is what the soul understands. You have fundamental agreements that you simply feel. You can't put your finger on them because they reveal themselves to you within the context of your life through coincidence, synchronicity, and obligations you can't get out of. Together, these things form the whole of your sacred contract."

People are confused about their reason for being here:
"Because they define their life by what they want versus what they have. People get fixated on something and they have to have it, even though that voice inside tells them it's not meant for them. They want their reason for living to be a singular thing, like a career or a relationship, because this makes an individual feel secure in the physical world. We don't fare well in the realm of the invisible--so telling someone that their purpose is multilayered and includes the arduous journey of discovering who they really are is not always the answer they want to hear."

We don't find our purpose. We've always had one. "Have no judgements about your life. No expectations. Give up the need to know what happens tomorrow. Just be fully present and appreciate all that is in your life right now."

"Expectations are usually predicated on the idea that the everyday things that happen to ordinary people shouldn't happen to you. People hold the idea of being ordinary in absolute contempt, so when they face an illness, poverty, or any kind of catastrophe, they say, 'I can't believe this happened to me.' And who did you think it was going to happen to--the woman across the street?"

Rumble Strips

Dear Child,

It seems you've hit a rumble strip. Don't worry, no matter how good a driver you are, we all hit 'em. Often. Sometimes absentmindedly, sometimes intentionally, sometimes large, sometimes small. Rumble strips happen to all of us. They are there to guide us back to center. This isn't a judgement. This is an observation. And one you'll need to accept if you want to move forward.


Stop. Stop everything. Only do what is necessary to survive. Eat. Sleep. Go to the bathroom. Go to work. Not forever. Just for this moment. Surrender.

Now consider what is scaring you, worrying you, burdening you, hurting you. Is there any light in this apparently dreary reality? This isn't a speech about "looking on the bright side". This is a reflection on how this really hard thing is growing you, even in minuscule ways. There is growth and healing in dark moments. If not exclusively in dark moments.

Your attention is what steers your life. It's more pleasant to steer focusing on the good instead of fixating on the rumble strips. But the bumps will happen and when they do:
-give yourself grace
-slow down and simplify
-redirect your attention to a hopeful future

Keep traveling the precarious road of life. I'll be here for you. I'll guide you back home.

With love,

P.S. This letter written with heavy inspiration from Martha Beck's recent column entitled "Off the Beating Path."

Snow Day

"Let's just see what happens" is one of my least favorite things to hear.

It means waiting.
It means handing over control.
It means a lack of production.
It means letting go.
And I hate it.

The way I can't predict it.
The way it leaves me uneasy.
Out of control.

This morning, I woke up at 7am to find out school was cancelled: snow day.

You'd think I'd be thrilled.

But instead, I fought against my every instinct to get out of bed as I normally would and conquer my long list of to-dos. Arguing with myself all the way, I finally went back to sleep. Restless.

I was up again at 9:45am and since then the barrage hasn't ended.
All the things I "should" be doing with a day off.
All the ways I "should" be using these precious hours.
All the reasons I "shouldn't" have wasted time doing that thing.
Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

Jeremy jokes that I help him be productive and he helps me be un-productive.
Which apparently--for this sorry soul--is the hardest thing in the world to do.

This is really a very unimportant thing.
So, I get stressed out over unplanned time on my hands.
No. Freaking. Big. Deal.

But that's Helga talking.
That's the voice of judgement and criticism.
On days like this I feel small and fragile and incapable.
And I write because I hope that someone out there gets this way too.
And feels stronger knowing that their not alone.

The best name I can give this uneasiness is perfectionist anxiety.
The struggle to let go. And let be.
The tension headache.
The fear that I'll be this way forever.

Monday, January 28, 2013

And Florence Sang

A chilly Friday morning. Up early. Sipping caffeine. Packed bags. Breakfast in-hand.
Get in the car. I'll carry you home.

We snuggled in the Honda. We headed West. We talked. We dreamed. We laughed.
Each mile carried us further into life and still closer to death.
Closer to the reality that life's repetitive cycle
sometimes "catches" us un-surprised, yet, completely unprepared.

So we drove and drove.
And stopped to pee.
And drove.
And ate turkey sandwiches.
And listened to NPR.

My sister and I shared headphones as I drove West at 81mph.
We bobbed our heads to Florence and the Machine.
And giggled at the joy it brought us.

Florence sang:  
"And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around"

We saw the world through sunglasses brimming with hope.
For just a moment...
In spite of death and mourning
And the purpose for which we came
Aware that part of dying means being alive first.

And Florence sang:
"Our love is questioned, such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues drawn
But it's always darkest before the dawn"

And at least for these four minutes and forty-three minutes
life felt good
and safe
and hopeful
and right.

All is well.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Peace, Even Now

I thought about throwing up last night.

The idea came to me upon an upset stomach at a party. Not like a ton of bricks, but not nonchalant either. The concept wasn't shocking nor was it sneaky. It just was. And the notion seemed as familiar as a birthmark yet as upsetting as bad news. I both wanted to throw up and hated myself for wanting to. So, I just existed in an awkward uncomfortable presence, desperate for the feeling to pass. After three hours, the desire hadn't passed, but my interest in taking that same familiar (and awful) road had.

I blame the Golden Globes. And magazines. And Eva Mendes. When Jeremy asked me, "When did it start?" this was the first thing that came to mind. So many beautiful, fancy people in one place. So much to covet. So much to be desired. But it's never that simple. And I can never really blame my situation on anyone else but me.

Finding myself in this tempestuous situation points every finger back at me. It wasn't the Golden Globes or my size -2 co-worker or Jeremy not affirming me or not having clothing that makes me look like J. Lo. The longing to pick myself apart in hopes of finding peace and contentment is an age-old conundrum. As if just a little more self-hatred ever leads to happiness.

The problem isn't comparing myself to beautiful people.
The problem is my longing to compare.
The desire to focus on my own dissatisfaction with myself.
Which usually happens when I'm not being gentle with myself.
When usually happens when I'm overwhelmed, tired, or stressed.
Which perfectly describes the last two weeks.

I don't really want to throw-up.
At this point, that's an easy out to cover a deep problem.
What I really want is peace with myself and my situation.

Yes, work has been stressful.
Yes, my mom broke her pelvis.
Yes, my grandmother passed away.
Yes, my dear friend is moving to another country.
Yes, my health hasn't be great.
Yes, our apartment is a mess.
Yes, my to-do list reaches to the floor.
But, none of these things give me permission to self-harm.
I can be at peace even now.

I can be at peace even now.

In the last year or so, Facebook changed it's format to sift through Messages they think will or will not be relevant to you. Now we have "Inbox" and "Other." I discovered this two weeks ago and found about fifteen unread messages from women thanking me for writing my book and asking me questions about their eating disorders and what recovery looks like.

It was both difficult and encouraging to hear their stories and to be reminded of where I've been and where I am no longer. At times like this, I feel like a fraud. What do I know about recovery? Who do I think I am? But some part of me knows that that's not true. Some part of me--even in moments like this--knows that I'm far beyond where I've been, that healing comes slowly and in waves, and that I can move forward. Whole.

So today, I am going to move my body in gentle ways. I'm going to wear clothes that feel good. I'm going to eat some fiber! I'm going to spend time with nourishing people. I'm going to go and sit with a good cup of tea and an Oprah magazine. I'm going to be kind to myself.

Because ya know what?

I wanted to throw up last night.
But I didn't.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Eighteen Days

Dear Child,

Today, it's January 18th. Oh, the things you didn't know on the first day of 2013! Amazing, isn't it? How things happen so quickly. How feelings change. How the world. Just. Keeps. Spinning.

You were sick.
Then healthy.
Doctor's appointment.
Scary news.
Flirting with moving overseas.
Your mom fell on ice and broke her pelvis.
Your grandmother ceased breathing and died.
Your sister celebrated another birthday.
Your dear friend is moving to Nepal.
Celebrating friends.
A co-worker reaches out to you in heart-felt ways.
Another doctor's appointment.
Better news.
That phone call.
That volleyball game.
That realization that your trust was misplaced.

And that's only eighteen days in. You can look at this list and fear the next eighteen days.

Will someone else die?
Will the tests come back positive?
Will she or he abuse your kindness?

Or you can look at this list and move forward with audacious optimism that the good you've encountered thus far will surely multiply and grow exponentially.

Yes, you get to choose how you will react to this world that just keeps spinning.

I know you'll choose well.
I know you'll take deep breaths.
I know you'll hold your head high.
Even if only after your spirit sulks quite low.
The point is that your head will come back up.

Because I know this to be true. Because you, my dear, are a human sparkler. You've got energy and life and good vibes. You bring hope and safety and peace. You will make it through another 18 days (and many more) and you will not know how you did it.

But the point is that you will do it. And I will be proud. Just as I am now.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eight Month Anniversary

Today, my Nana died.

After eighty-some years of life, my Mom's mom, drifted off peacefully to a long sleep. Her death lends me a dreary awareness on this day--our eight month anniversary--that love stories matter and dramatically shape our lives.

Papa went first. Two years ago. And ever since then, Nana has been ready to follow him. She's never been herself since he died. And how could she? They lived and loved for over fifty years and then their love story came to an abrupt halt. I can't imagine how Nana lived the last two years knowing that the love of her life was gone.

I'm pretty sure that I think about death more than the "average" person. The fear of losing the people I love is never far from my mind. Especially lately, with too many funerals. And today, I looked at Jeremy, my love and my greatest friend, and feared, yet again, how I could ever keep living without him. How our love story--like every love story--will eventually come to an end.

And this realization offers two choices: to dread and fear the end or to live and embrace the present. I imagine that not a person on his or her death bed wishes for less time. For more fast-paced, fleeting moments. For time to pass them by.

So today, we laid in bed until 9:26am. And held each other close as the mid-morning sun filtered through the window.

We giggled about things that don't make any sense.

We talked about this day eight months ago that started such a grand adventure.

He made me breakfast.

He held my hand as I told my sister that Nana had passed away.

We did laundry.

We went bowling with dear friends.

We ate leftovers.

We squeezed each other a little tighter knowing that this love story matters.

And for as long as this story lasts, we will live well and love well.
In memory of the many love stories before us.

From My Window

This world is a big place.
Lots of people
and ideas
and places to go
and ways to be seen
and things to cook
and things to eat
and things to enjoy
and explore
and learn about
and discover
and wear
and drive
and play with
and create
and love
and hate
and feel
and be completely and totally overwhelmed by.

My brain navigates the world like
a Rolodex
a filing cabinet
pulling pertinent information
(and there's so much information)
to think
to share
and add to the conversation.

And I get tired and exhausted and worn-out and used up.
But not always.

Some Saturdays are

These types of days remind me
that I'm whole.

That I have ideas to share
and I make damn good pancakes.

That my world won't shrivel up and die
without my controlling every piece of it.

That there is time to dream
and be content and unafraid.

That there is a place for wasting time
for good conversation
for a warm place to sit and think
for snuggling
for drifting
for pondering
for slowing. the heck. down.

Because while the world is big
days like this make it seem smaller
more manageable
more contained
boiled down to the necessities
to the sweetest parts

where from my window I can see
the world outside
that needs not my attention at all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Today, Trenton screamed and cried for 45 minutes. From three o'clock until three forty-five when the bus doors closed, Trenton wanted something that he was not receiving.

Was he thirsty?
Hungry? (doubtful)
Was he just tired?
Was he upset with something I did?
Was he in pain?
Was he missing someone he loves?
Was he scared?

I'll never know. And that breaks my heart.

Trenton and I are buds. Well, as much as we can be. He may not know that we're buds, but I know. And sometimes I like to think he knows it too. I'm learning how to read him. How to know what he wants. How to interpret what he's "saying." And I'm proud of that.

Maybe that's why today was so hard. At one point, I had to step away. I had to leave him crying in his tiny, yellow chair so that I could take a deep breath. Because at that moment all I wanted to do was yell, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!" I couldn't help him and it hurt inside.

I left work with a headache. I thought about how hard the day was. About how hard my job is. And then I thought of Trenton: sitting on the bus, his coat hood pulled over his head, barely tall enough to look out the window, heading home.

I don't know what Trenton's home is like. I don't know his parents. Does he have siblings? Does he have his own room? A favorite toy? How does his family respond to him? Does he ever go to the grocery store? What does he think about? I wonder if he can sleep through the night. If he has needs that go unmet because he knows he couldn't communicate them if he tried.

Trenton takes autism with him everywhere. The thought patterns. The random vocal outbursts. The flapping motion of his hands. The lack of eye contact. The confusion.

I only encounter autism at work for a few hours a day. Poor me.

Everyday my kiddos bring their very best. They are operating at 100% on a daily basis, even if their 100% was different yesterday.  This is the best they can do and it's teaching me a lot.

I'm learning that the world is a hard place to have autism.
I'm learning not to talk as often or so loud or gesture so much. Simple is best.
I'm learning that if I give a direction with a smile, the direction often gets followed.
I'm learning to walk at a slower pace.
And to expect to back track.
Or detour.
Or find shoes that we somehow lost along the way.
I'm learning that Trenton only eats corn off the cob.
That he doesn't like it when I sing.
And he loves to be picked up and spun in circles.
I'm learning that Devon observes and imitates almost mechanically.
That he knows his schedule better than I do.
And that he likes things that go "crash".
I'm learning that small victories deserve a tickle.
That there's always another way to see things.
And that one of the greatest feelings in the world is a tiny, trusting hand in mine.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Letter for a New Year

Dear Child,

Good morning. Today is the first day of this New Year. Two-thousand thirteen is a big number. It carries with it grandeur and history and responsibility. Not everyone has lived to see this day. And you have. And you're asking why. I know you're feeling small. I know you're searching for peace. Much feels unsettled. Rest in the knowledge that you are not alone and it's going to be all right.

Two-thousand and twelve brought a lot of changes into your life:
-you graduated from college
-for the first time ever, you are not a student
-you got engaged
-you planned a wedding
-you traveled around the country and shared your story and your book
-you got married
-you honeymooned
-your grandfather died
-you moved to Idaho
-you moved to Nebraska
-you got a job and an apartment
-now all the bills are yours
-you're figuring out marriage and adulthood and life

That's a lot, girl. It's okay to feel overwhelmed. Insecure. Unsure. But I don't think it's crazy to feel optimistic either. It's not outlandish for you to look forward and feel hopeful. Truth be told, the odds are better that the future will be bright. Trust me.

Do you remember being eight? Twelve? Seventeen? I do. The world looked different then: more predictable, less scary. You didn't worry quite as much. You didn't think so hard.  After all, it was a brave, nineteen year-old girl who journeyed around the world in search of meaning and lived to tell about it. That's not small. That's huge. That's bravery. And I know that lately you haven't felt brave. And now--at twenty-five--you're buried in lists and expectations and fears. You're trying to imagine how this ever felt safe or good. But please believe me when I say, that at one time you did. And in time, you will again.

I wish for you boldness.
I wish for you optimism.
I wish for you the strength to say, "I am letting go of what was and moving forward into what is."

I wish for you all the peace and joy this year may bring.

With love,