Archives for Celebrity Mentors

Celebrity Mentors

What Do You Think of Jennifer Lawrence’s “New Normal?”

A post or two ago, I shared a personal experience about ordering a pastry and eating it with peace and happiness. This was significant because I did this even though the friend I was with at the time (who is much more slight and not curvy like me) wasn't doing the same on account of feeling, well, fat. I mean, I've been in recovery for well over a decade, and this certainly wasn't the first time I've eaten what I wanted in the presence of someone who was having a bad body image day. But it was the first time it felt so - effortless - AND that I noticed how effortless it felt. That was the really cool part. Back in April, actress Jennifer Lawrence came out with a statement about her vision for Hollywood's body future. In an interview with Harpers Bazaar magazine, she said she wants her city and her industry to embrace what she calls "a new normal body type." What she actually, precisely said was this: 
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Celebrity Mentors

Retraining Your Eyes to Accept Your Body

These days, I spend increasingly less of my time focused on what I would call "recovery" matters. In other words, I can go whole days, weeks even, without really thinking about the me that used to struggle SO hard with an eating disorder on a daily basis. But there is one area that continues to require significant daily investments of my time and focus. That area is body acceptance. I certainly wasn't an overnight recovery success myself. By that I mean, I've never gotten to a place where, from that point forward, I simply stopped struggling with my eating issues. Rather, recovery happened gradually, not even day by day but minute by minute, until there were fewer moments of significant struggle with increasing stretches of relative peace in between them. Now I am working on body acceptance in the same way, minute by minute and day by day. Some days are harder than others, but the really tough days are fewer and farther between. One particular tactic is really paying off. I call it "retraining my eyes to accept my body." The way I do this is simple. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Good Reason to Hide Your Face

I've been on stage since I was 10 years old. My family band first put me there, and much later I led a band of my own. In the middle years, I played and sang and acted and even danced in front of groups of strangers, feeling rather more perfectly placed there than anywhere else. This, I discovered later, was because I wasn't really comfortable in my own oh-so-ordinary regular company. I needed the odd safety of the stage to let the best bits of me out unguarded. But then later, being on stage started to feel less familiar....less comforting. Suddenly, gradually, I was no longer bugging my booking agent for more gigs. In fact, I felt relief when one event would end and there was no next event looming. Suddenly, and especially the more comfy I got living inside my own skin, I began noticing how much I enjoyed being out of the spotlight. Over the years, I have received some very genuine and heartfelt letters and emails and personal shares to let me know that my work mattered. But there were also many times when the critiques seemed unusually harsh, and focused on intensely personal aspects of being me - aspects that only the real me or perhaps someone very very close to me could possibly perceive or interpret with any accuracy. For instance, women would come to book signings and later email me with comments about my weight. Some event coordinators would witness the line of eager students waiting to talk one-to-one with me after a speaking event (lines that sometimes took an hour or more to break up) and then send a nastygram telling me they were disappointed in my presentation for one reason or another. At times someone decided they didn't like my book or a blog post I'd written, and they would let me know and then let their entire network know in the most public way possible. It all just got to be a little too much. I started to realize I liked myself and my life better with fewer eyes on me. 
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Celebrity Mentors

All About That Bass on the Dance Floor

A few weeks ago I tagged along for one of my boyfriend's many music gigs. This particular band happens to play mostly cover songs, and their singer is uh-mazing (he can sing anything - really - he's just that good). So I wasn't that surprised when, about halfway through their second set, I heard the familiar strains of one of my favorite songs. And with that, their tall, black, male lead singer launched into Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" (click HERE to read the song lyrics). He killed it. He sang the crap out of the bass, the treble, and all the parts in between. But that wasn't the best part. The best part was how the audience responded.
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Celebrity Mentors

How to Know You are Brave

One of my favorite songs of all time is Sara Bareilles' song "Brave." In the song, she sings "I wanna see you be brave." The first time I ever heard her sing that line, I thought, "Me too." I hadn't ever really thought of myself as brave before, but I liked the idea of "me" as a brave person. And one day, as I listened (for the umpteen jillionth time) to her sing, "Show me how big your brave is," I decided, "Okay, I will!" The song was released in April 2013, and it is now January 2016. I am happy to report I've been brave lots of times since then. But until I recently began reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear," I still wasn't really grasping how unusual "being brave" really is - for me or anyone. In the chapter titled "The Fear You Need and the Fear You Don't Need," Gilbert shares: Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means. 
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Celebrity Mentors

What is Your REAL Job?

I recently started following one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, on Instagram. Turns out I have a lot more in common with this world-famous, life-changing writer than I realized. For instance, we both love coffee. And puppies. And cussing. And love. We are also big fans of creativity, gratitude and kindness for kindness's sake (whether or not we manage to pull it off on any given day). And we like colorful things - like flowers and wine and book covers on intriguing books (that we may or may not have written). But most of all, I think, what we have in common is this: We understand our "real job" is not the one that pays the bills. For example, Gilbert shares a graphic on her Instagram that states: I love. That's just what the f*** I do. So clearly her work as a writer, author, speaker, teacher, shop keeper and all the rest is in service to her real job, which is "to love." SO beautiful. While I am currently hard-put to define my real job so succinctly as Gilbert does, I am working on it. And I know it is not writing, even though I love it the most out of any job I've ever done. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Camera-Crazy Mentoring Monk

I can't remember the very first time I saw a monk, but I also can't remember any time I've seen one that hasn't given me a lot to think about. I mean, that takes courage - to walk about in mainstream society garbed in bright yards of fabric and ropes of brown beads. Somehow, no matter how colorfully diverse humanity gets, that particular form of diversity always grabs my attention. Something in me whispers, "What if.....?" and thinks of the many months I spent living in an ashram in India. So of course I couldn't resist watching "Monk with a Camera." Of course, the fact that this particular monk with a camera also happens to be the grandson of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland just makes his story that much more compelling. But what really makes Nicholas Vreeland stand out is his inability to put. the. camera. down. Monks are supposed to renounce, well, everything....at least from what I've heard. But this particular monk fell in love with photography at age 13, far earlier than he fell in love with the internal life of a renunciant. The documentary describes how Vreeland has struggled with his passion for photography....as well as his passion for women (Buddhist monks, like Catholic priests, take a vow of celibacy). Interestingly, in the latter he has triumphed. But in the former, not so much. 
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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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