Archives for Celebrity Mentors

Animal Mentors

How to Know You Really Love Animals

It says "To Shannon, love Jack Hanna." :-)

Back in May, I got to meet legendary zoo director and animal activist Jack Hanna.

He even signed a cool postcard to me - addressing me by name.

At the time, I was pretty confident we were meeting as equals - two fellow animal lovers who simply choose to cohabitate with different numbers of non-human companions (me, 2; Jack, 200? 350?).

Then...
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Celebrity Mentors

What Would Judy Say?

My mom sometimes likes to check out library books for me to read.

Recently she presented me with a particularly unexpected selection: "What Would Judy Say? A Grown-Up Guide to Living Together with Benefits."

I have watched Judge Judy on TV for years, but I'd never really taken the time to get to know the woman behind the show.

Well, my loss! Judge Judy is UH-mazing!!

She has the coolest website called "What Would Judy Say?" where she tackles issues as diverse as cancer and divorce, child custody and roommates, finding your passion and (obviously) living together outside of wedlock.

Now, to clarify, I am not currently living with anyone outside of wedlock or otherwise - except for, of course, my 14-year old parrot, Pearl, and my 13-month old tortoise, Malti.

But I have in the past, and if I did so again, I would follow Judge Judy's advice to the letter - especially the parts about taking care of what my mentor calls "my own side of the street."

Judy would call this "no joint anything."

I call it planning for my own future....whether or not my significant other will or won't plan for his.

The thing I like the most about Judge Judy is how very, well, grownup, she is about it all.

On the reverse side of her book, she shares an African proverb:

Only a fool tests the depth of the water by jumping in with both feet.

Maybe you are nodding your head right now (I was when I first read it!) But I have done this....I have jumped in with both feet, sometimes even thinking myself brave as I did!

Later I found out testing the water with one foot would have been both wiser and braver....and would have likely required far fewer band-aids.

The truth is, while there is plenty of drama in Judge Judy's television courtroom, little if any of it is coming from her.

And while she can appear brusque or sharp at times, I have always sensed a deep underlying compassion - a kind of "get over it already life is short and if you don't get unstuck now you'll just have to get unstuck later!"

There is something else I didn't know until I read "Living Together with Benefits."

Judge Judy has been divorced twice - and one of those times was to the man she has since remarried (and is still married to), Judge Jerry.

She has definitely had her share of heart aches and heart breaks.

She has five children and 13 grandchildren.

She is not someone who sits on the sidelines, watching and listening to - and often, um, judging - others' choices, and then writing about them.

She has lived what she writes about - which is to say, she is a mentor I can much more readily trust. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Different Mind, A Beautiful Mind

In a recent post, I wrote about how one of my most influential mentors, Dr. John Nash, recently (and very unexpectedly) passed.

He will continue to mentor me posthumously, as will his wife, Alicia, who passed with him.

I first learned about Dr. Nash's life and recovery story through the movie Ron Howard made about his life.

Called "A Beautiful Mind," it was actually the title that drew me in.

I had never before thought of any mind - let alone my mind - as beautiful.

But I loved the idea. That a mind could be beautiful - that MY mind might one day be a beautiful place to visit....or live...was compelling.

At that time in my life (in 2001), my mind often felt more like a disaster zone - on a scale with Haiti or Japan.

It was a terrifying place - unpredictable, chaotic, rebellious and stubborn. It rarely made much sense.

Yet, just a few short years later (in 2004), by invitation I began sharing my recovery story. That is how powerful the "John Nash" effect was on me.

Recently a friend shared a powerful post called "Why the World Needs the Mentally Different" by Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton.

While reading, I felt like her post might have been written by Nash himself, as she describes the addict's existential dilemma - come out of their interior world to re-engage with a daily life that feels neither satisfying nor okay - or stay put.

Melton describes needing a reason or a mission to come out of the protective interior boundaries that addictive thoughts/behaviors can create.

She is right. I needed a reason too.

In his memoir by the same name (written by Sylvia Nasar), Nash describes his difficulty with setting aside the extraordinary mental life his schizophrenia could create for him...in favor of a life where he felt ordinary, average, like everybody else.

It was only when his schizophrenia interfered with his ability to perform his beloved calculations to the point where he became non-functional that reality became a more powerful catalyst than continued fantasy.

For me, the most powerful part of the book was when Nash likened his recovery from paranoid schizophrenia to "putting his mind on a diet" - refusing to permit it to indulge in thoughts that had in the past proven to be illogical, unproductive, or simply impossible - no matter how wonderful, exhilarating, or freeing those same thoughts might have felt.

I, too, had to put my mind on a diet to recover from anorexia and bulimia.

I had to put it on another diet to recover from anxiety and panic.

And - full disclosure here - I finally had to medicate it - a different kind of diet - to manage my ongoing tendency towards depression.

In this way, I have my own continuing recovery system - as Dr. Nash did right up until the moment he passed - for ensuring I can find sufficient nourishment, stimulation, support, and meaning through "normal" (aka "non addicting") channels.

But it took some doing to convince me to make the attempt. 
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Celebrity Mentors

John Nash and How He Changed My Life


On Saturday, May 23, 2015, John Nash & his wife, Alicia, were riding through New Jersey in a taxi.

They had just returned from the Abel Prize awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway, where Dr. Nash had accepted his prize from the King of Norway himself.

For those of you who may not know this, I dedicated a whole chapter and several more pages of my first book, "Beating Ana: how to outsmart your eating disorder and take your life back," to Dr. Nash's story.

Even though I consider him one of my longtime mentors, we never met, but he and his wife were instrumental in stabilizing me in recovery nevertheless.

From Dr. Nash, I learned there really is such a thing as "mind over matter" (at least my personal matter, that is), and that it can be life-saving.

In this, he helped me increase my daily practice of "putting my mind on a diet," a regimen he credits with helping him overcome the effects of paranoid schizophrenia.

And reading and watching his story (through Sylvia Nasar's biographical book, "A Beautiful Mind," and then the Ron Howard movie by the same name), forever cemented my commitment to keeping my own counsel - about my chances for a successful recovery AND a successful life.

My whole life is better because John & Alicia Nash refused to listen to anyone who claimed he could never overcome his mental illness. 
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Celebrity Mentors

My New Style Role Models


In my last post, I shared my delight at discovering the modeling industry is experiencing somewhat of a....well...makeover.

In a nutshell, women ages 50-90+ are suddenly everywhere.

I LOVE it.

The more I researched, the more I discovered that there is a backbone, a foundation, to this sudden surge of interest in the over-50 set.

His name is Ari Seth Cohen, and he runs the blog (and now book and now movie) Advanced Style.

Cohen says the inspiration to create Advanced Style came from his closeness with his two grandmothers. He wanted to share their wisdom and beauty with others through photography.

When I popped onto his blog this morning, I was delighted to notice he is now photographing fashionable men of the same age as well.

All I can say to this whole movement is - it's about time. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Sudden Spurt of Senior Style – and Why I Love It


All of a sudden, "women of a certain age" are hot.

This, perhaps more than any other phenomenon I have witnessed in my 44 years to date, showcases that fashion trends are just that.....trends.

They are literally meaningless until the masses (aka us) give them meaning.

If no one pays attention, the trend doesn't catch on, and the fashion industry moves on to something else, hoping for a better response.

Somehow, when 14 year-old British model Twiggy was first introduced to us masses in the 1960's, her look caught on, especially amongst other kids her age, who could see themselves in her somewhat androgynous, boyish appearance.

This ushered in the "age of thin," which has persisted to this day (although recent fashion trends of a different sort are beginning to signal a shift here as well).

But now, all of a sudden (or for at least a year or two back as the fashion industry has been planning for its own future trends) we see Helen Mirren, age 69, as the face of L'Oreal Cosmetics in the U.K.

Jessica Lange, age 66, is representing Marc Jacobs. 
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Celebrity Mentors

Candice Bergen on Why Beauty is Terrifying


Bergen's response:

Because it's so vitally important to people, and they treat you very differently from other women. You have to work a little harder to find out who's underneath your face. You have to make people comfortable with you. Of course, I'm grateful beyond words that I had it, but beauty's very often the elephant in the room, and you're the elephant handler.

The interviewer then asked, "Is there any cure?"

Bergen replies:

Getting older helps.

Can I just say how much I loved reading this?! 
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Celebrity Mentors

Stephen Hawking In His Own Words


I haven't seen the new Hawking film, "The Theory of Everything."

But the Stephen Hawking I met in "Hawking," a 2013 film in which Hawking himself narrates the story of his life, is a man I won't soon - or ever - forget.

At one point in the film, long after his body has become virtually useless due to the ravages of ALS disease, Hawking shares:

Because every day could be my last, I have a desire to make the most of each and every minute.

We are all different, but we share the same human spirit. Perhaps it is human nature that we adapt and survive.

This is a man who states he does not believe in any concept of a god or the afterlife.

So to Hawking, this life - one day by one day - is what each of us is given.

Today is the only "known" we have (and as such, the only "proof" we have to rely on that our life is even taking place!)

Hawking has three kids and has been married twice.

He has appeared on the "Simpsons," "The Big Bang Theory," and "Star Trek" (his favorite sci-fi show).

His book, "A Brief History of Time," has been a worldwide bestseller for years.

To review all the awards and honors he has received would be - well - these have been catalogued quite admirably elsewhere.

But what inspires me the most is how clear it is that Hawking does not inhabit his body - rather, he inhabits his mind, his emotions (in the form of passion for living and for connecting people with the science he loves), and his relationships. 
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Celebrity Mentors

Monica Lewinsky, Mentor

My mom recently sent me an article about Monica Lewinsky.

The article, titled "Monica Lewinsky is Back, but this Time it's on Her Terms," sounded intriguing.

So I read it.

And then it broke my heart.

I didn't realize we are only four years apart (she is 40, I am 44). Thinking back to when I was her age, I must admit I did some very regrettable things (and got involved with some very regrettable folks).....but since none of those oopses involved a U.S. president, mostly even I don't remember them now.

Thank goodness.

But Monica Lewinsky can't go an hour without remembering.

A few months ago I posted a blog called "Handling Hate Mail, Hateful Comments, and Hate."

In this post, I shared one comment - just ONE comment - that cut me straight through....which is one of (in comparison with Monica Lewinsky) just a handful of comments I have received over the years in my semi-public profession working with recovering and recovered people.

At one point during her recent TED talk, Lewinsky asks, "Where is the compassion?"

I have often wondered the same.

The haters who post and write and call anonymously are one thing....but today, very few even bother to hide their identity.

That boggles my mind.

Where is our fear of repercussion? Where is our compassion?

Where is our humanity?

We just spew out our hatred and anger and condemnation so freely....and then....what? Go home and hug our kids? Kiss our partners? Vent to our friends about how mean such-and-so is for gossiping about us at the office? Hope for a five-star review on our annual performance review at work?

Do each of us (or most of us, anyway) really have two personas - the kind, nice, hard-working, hopes-to-be-understood-and-respected-and-loved daily one - and that "Other One" - the one with the really white skin who wears the scary dark cape and has retractable front fangs?

I know both live inside of me. 
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Celebrity Mentors

To Love is to Struggle (Thank Goodness!)

This morning in my Facebook travels, I came across this quote from Mr. (Fred) Rogers:

Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.

As my mentor, Lynn, often likes to remind me, the moment I set an intention towards achieving something, what comes up first are all the obstacles in between me and the full manifestation of that intention.

Fun.

Speaking of which, one ongoing intention I've been working towards for the last few years is learning to love unconditionally - myself and others.

So far, I am finding this very, very difficult.

There are several challenges (and here, I also have to mention that these challenges are just the ones I know of thus far!): 
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