Celebrity Mentors Articles

Jane Goodall Answers a Questionnaire

Monday, September 15th, 2014

shutterstock_30427399I can’t help but find it oh-so interesting that, just a few days after posting my thoughts on the relative value of online quizzes, I encounter another quiz I really want to take.

Although here I feel that perhaps the deck is unfairly stacked against me.

You see, Jane Goodall, one of my heroes and mentors, happens to be the latest in a long line of luminaries to answer this particular quiz.

And Marcel Proust is the quiz’s long-passed yet still celebrated author.

I loved Goodall’s responses. For many of the questions, a simple switch of “parrots” for “chimps” and her answers could be my own.

Not that that means I could resist taking the quiz for myself.

In fact, I have decided I will take the quiz right here…..for reasons including these:

  1. The questions feel very pertinent to recovery, mentoring, relationships, and life – they are questions from which we might all benefit by discovering our own inner answers.
  2. I suspect this is precisely the kind of quiz my mentor would encourage me to take, because it encourages me to tap into my inner wisdom and intuition rather than asking others what they think (or, even worse, comparing my responses with others’ responses).

So….here goes! 

RIP Robin Williams

Thursday, August 14th, 2014
Robin Williams in one of my all-time fav flicks (image courtesy of IMDb)

Robin Williams in one of my all-time fav flicks (image courtesy of IMDb)

Well, shoot.

It is awfully hard to believe he is gone.

I am so very sad!!

In a recent Facebook post about his death, Williams’ friend, writer Anne Lamott, shared how sad she is, and also shared how she has always viewed laughter as “carbonated holiness.”

As a fellow depression sufferer, I too have found much-needed upliftment and release through laughter….and often through laughter at Williams’ antics.

He had that rarest of gifts – the vision to perceive exactly where the fine line lies when addressing serious subjects from a lighthearted perspective.

Two of my favorite Robin Williams movies are “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Good Will Hunting.”

But my current reigning favorite is this six-minute interview clip from 2011.

In the clip, Williams speaks about his work, his life, his kids, his childhood and young adult years, his fame, his addiction, his recovery…..and his fear.

When Your Body Feels Like a Costume You Didn’t Choose

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

shutterstock_72323659This month has been a month of interesting contemplations …. specifically, about the costumes we wear and how we relate to ourselves and others when those costumes look different.

For instance, my brother and his wife recently added a new little one to our all-Caucasian family – a sweet, brave, chubby Chinese infant who just set foot on American soil for the first time last month.

In the same month, one of my dearest friends has returned home to Houston to build a counseling practice supporting LGBT kids, teens, and young adults.

And my personal dreams lately have been full of memories of my long journey away from anorexia and bulimia and towards fully recovered life….a journey I consider to be still “in progress.”

So when I happened across a recent article in Time that focused on the plight of transgendered persons in America, it hit me right in the heart.

As I read about how transgender, transvestite, and transsexual individuals have been mis-addressed and mis-labeled through the DSM (the Diagnostic Standards Manual – a worldwide “bible” of sorts for diagnosing and treating mental illness) it reminded me of my own struggles with how eating disorders in the DSM have been repeatedly re-labeled and often mis-labeled, and how that has affected my experience of seeking support, treatment, and recovery over the years.

One line in the Time article especially caught my attention – a comment by women’s and gender studies professor Elizabeth Reis (University of Oregon):

Most people are happy in the gender that they’re raised. They don’t wake up every day questioning if they are male or female.

The article continues with author Katy Steinmetz commenting:

For many trans people, the body they were born in is a suffocating costume they are unable to take off.”

Over the years I have talked with and met so many folks who can relate – but not because they are “trans” in some way that is specific to body parts or gender.

Some of the people I’ve met who feel trapped in a costume they didn’t order and so they want a smaller costume. Others want a larger costume. Some people want a costume that is shaped differently. Still others want a younger or older costume, or a costume that comes with a different story, life, partner, or family attached to it.

In some way, we all feel “different” – oh so very different – inside our “costumes.”

What it Feels Like to Be in a Body

Monday, July 21st, 2014
This painting, called "Sciencia," is on display now to honor Lassnig's passing. (Image found on http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/376)

This painting, called “Sciencia,” is on display now to honor Lassnig’s passing. (http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/376)

Right now I only get two magazine subscriptions.

Birds and Blooms was a gift to my avian from his doting grandma (aka my mom).

Time was yet another attempt to use up those expiring airline miles.

While you can probably already guess which one I find easier to read all the way through, Time does have the occasional newsworthy highlight.

For instance, this week’s edition shared the passing of an Austrian painter named Maria Lassnig.

Lassnig was an artist who spent much of her career exploring the felt experience of existing within a body (a style she termed “body awareness.”)

I found this quite intriguing!

In fact, I’ve been pondering Time’s little blurb about her for the last week or so. The question on my mind is this:

What DOES it feel like to be in a body?

What I Have in Common with the Dallas Buyers Club

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Recently I finally got to watch “The Dallas Buyers Club,” starring two of my fav actors – Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

First of all (and just for the record), Matthew McConaughey will always be hot.

Not quite as hot as STING, but still quite hot. ;-)

Second of all – oh. my. goodness. what an actor he is!! If I hadn’t seen his name on the credits I would not have recognized him. And what courage it must have taken to alter his appearance so drastically – to literally embody a role of a dying man – and still emerge with his sense of personal self intact.

I was also so impressed with Jennifer Garner – for her acting, of course, and for having the good taste to choose such an important role, but even more (and on a very personal level) for her clear and present ownership of her new post-motherhood curves.

I loved her in “Alias,” when she perfected all those karate moves I can’t even pull off in my dreams (and rocked the abs to match)….but I loved her even more in this recent film, in her softer shape that spoke of body love and acceptance at every point along the ever-changing continuum of shapes and sizes. 

Why I Want to Become a Singing Nun

Monday, May 5th, 2014

I am not always (ever) the first to catch on to new trending news.

For example, let’s take the 25 year-old singing Italian nun, Sister Cristina.

Sister Cristina sings the Alicia Keys hit, "No One," on Italy's "The Voice."

Sister Cristina sings the Alicia Keys hit, “No One,” on Italy’s “The Voice.”

I discovered the video on You Tube last week….after about 31 million others had already discovered it (a number that I have since discovered includes every single person I know who has an internet connection, and also some who do not).

But since my life motto is “better late than never” I still sent it out to everyone in my list group – just in case.

It is just that good. And I don’t mean just the singing (which of course is awesome).

But it is her presentation – her life – her authenticity – that continues sinking into all the sore, bruised, broken places in my heart and spirit, bolstering me for daily life yet to come, reminding me that there are no “impossibles” in this life.

There are only “possibles” we haven’t tried yet.

When Mom Hates Her body

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

A friend recently sent me a post called “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat” by author Kasey Edwards.

The post was hard for me to read – painful, too.

This is because I had a similar experience with my own mom growing up.

One night she and my dad were going to a party, and she looked sooooo pretty to me! So I told her, “Mom, you are beautiful!”

Her response was less than reassuring. While I don’t remember the exact words she used, I did get the distinct sense that she disagreed with me – that perhaps I had even somehow embarrassed myself with my lack of correct perception.

In my assertion that I saw my mom as beautiful, I had made myself vulnerable, and received criticism rather than appreciation in return.

It was also jarring to realize that, as her daughter, this meant I was not beautiful either – or at least, I was destined not to be as I grew up into a woman.

As a girl I loved to copy drawings of beautiful faces and clothes line-for-line out of the magazines, relishing my ability to recreate loveliness on paper.

But after that night, my girlish art hobby soon turned from a source of sensory delight into a fretful fantasy that maybe one day, if I just changed enough about myself, I might be the gorgeous woman being drawn instead of the copy artist.

I never did manage to achieve that goal.

Instead, I got sick, and then sicker. And then I grew up and realized that “beauty,” like talent and intelligence and all the rest, is both an inside job and a wholly subjective assessment. I also realized it was a choice I would have to make for myself – whether or not to see “me” as “beautiful.”

Understanding the “Anorexic Brain”

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

forkJust the fact that there is such a phrase in use today – the “anorexic brain” – makes me realize how far medical science has come since I first contracted anorexia as an 11 year-old in 1981.

Those were dark days – no longer was a person who refused food automatically incarcerated in a general psych ward – but neither were they ushered straightaway into treatments tailored to their specific needs.

This, of course, was because there were no treatments tailored to the needs of anorexics….or bulimics, for that matter, or persons suffering from binge eating disorder or eating disorders not otherwise specified or any types of eating issues.

But today, thanks in large part to the work of Dr. Walter Kaye at the University of California-San Diego, and Dr. James Locke at Stanford University, we are staring into the face of an exciting (and long awaited) new era.

With the help of brain imaging research, we are beginning to understand what kinds of treatments make the most sense to help people heal from irregular eating patterns. This imaging research shows clear differences in brain activity when the brains of persons who have suffered from eating disorders are compared against the brains of non-eating disorders persons.

Jenni Schaefer Book Giveaway and LIVE Podcast: In Honor of NEDAwareness Week 2014

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

LifeWithoutEd_10thAnniversaryAuthor, speaker, and eating disorders survivor Jenni Schaefer is a longtime friend and collaborator of mine.

She always motivates me to give my very best – and then to give even more.

10 years ago this month, Jenni accomplished a huge personal goal when she published the now-bestselling book Life Without Ed: how one woman declared independence from her eating disorder and you can too.

This month, “Life Without Ed” celebrates its 10th anniversary, and we celebrate Jenni, her recovery, and all she has done for others who are still struggling to recover.

On Wednesday, February 12th, Jenni will speak about her work and her recovery in a FREE MentorCONNECT teleconference.

This event is a part of our plans to raise awareness of eating disorders during NEDAwareness Week 2014.

==> You can RSVP for the free live teleconference (call in) event HERE.

==> If you can’t attend the live event, you can listen to the free podcast (once it is posted) HERE (or in iTunes).

==> You can participate in NEDA & MentorCONNECT’s 4th Annual Virtual Walk for eating disorders awareness by offering a donation or sharing this link with your social media networks (or both)!

You can also enter to win a free book right now, today – it is simple to enter!

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is CLICK HERE TO READ  Jenni’s “DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FROM ED.”

Then post a comment stating your commitment to declare your own independence from your eating disorder.

Two books – both signed anniversary editions of “Life Without Ed” – will be given away and winners will be chosen at random (using a random number generator Jenni suggested- this will be a real first for me!) :-)

Good Luck!

==> CLICK HERE TO READ Jenni’s “Declaration of Independence from ED,” post your commitment in a comment below, and enter to win a …

How to Deal When Someone Rejects Your Love

Monday, January 27th, 2014

oceanWhoo boy.

NOT my favorite topic, this one.

There are just so many issues with it. First of all, definitions. For instance, defining “rejection.” How does one know exactly that what they have received is rejection?

Or defining “love.” What is love, versus need, greed, codependency, etc.?

Then there is reconciliation – as in, reconciling what are often our mixed inner motives for offering our “love” in the first place – aka, what we were hoping/expecting/feeling entitled to receive back in return for our “gift.” Was it really love at all – what we were offering to the other person? Or was it a bargaining chip, a power play, a quid-pro-quo?

If we can sort these preliminary issues out, we might be on our way to really understanding why giving and receiving love feels so death-defyingly frightening…and often so nearly impossible to achieve.

One of my favorite authors, Don Miguel Ruiz, does a great job talking about these issues – me, not quite so much.

But since a sweet reader commented on a previous post and specifically asked me to answer her question (and I would very much like to answer it for myself as well) I will try.

Her question is, “I am still afraid to love other people openly and generously, because I am afraid that love will be rejected, and I will feel like an idiot. How do I overcome that?”

When I first read this question, I thought, “Good question!”

Then I started to think about how often we relate “love” to “romantic love,” kind of forgetting or discounting all the other kinds of love we feel and often demonstrate with more ease and peace. Love for family members, children, pets, community members, those who have fallen on hard times – all of these kinds of love are equally valid and worth exploring and expressing.

I also pondered that previous post – the one that prompted her question – and remembered yet again how Don Miguel Ruiz says that when we reject ourselves, we cannot offer authentic love to others, because we don’t perceive that what we have to offer has any real value.

So, given Ruiz’ wise counsel, and because I am a linear, flow-chart kind of person and I like step-by-step processes very much, it would then seem we might start to solve the problem by proceeding as follows:


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  • Shannon Cutts: Yes Ruth – I too concur with Sheila A. – plus, science is even now uncovering more reasons...
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