Archives for Good News
Many many years ago, I had a mentee who made it a daily habit to create what she called her "gratefuls list." It wasn't just her sincerity of intention that tugged at my heartstrings - it was the charming name she chose for her daily meditations on gratitude. So on this day, which many of us celebrate as a national day of thanksgiving, I thought I would share a selection from my own gratefuls list with you here in no particular order. I am grateful for:
About a month and a half ago, I packed up all my stuff....and my parrot's stuff....and my turtles' stuff....and we moved to a new casa halfway across town. It was very hard work - packing and unpacking all those boxes. What made it even harder was that a good portion of everything that came with us had to end up at Goodwill - our new space was literally half the size of the one we left behind. The moment I finished unpacking the indoor stuff that made the cut, it was time to build two outdoor enclosures for my unbelievably patient shelled sidekicks. Malti had been waiting more than two years, and Bruce, my more recent rescue, several months, to return to the natural outdoor lifestyle (and the mounds of mud and dirt) they loved. What I'm getting at with all this is that, while on the outside I was very busy, very focused, oh-so-goal oriented and productive and all that good stuff, on the inside I was a WRECK. I was a mess. A hot, anxious mess. A depressed, mid life crisis-ing mess who was getting very good at freaking out. Recently, when even my mentor stopped responding to my frantic emails, I decided it was time to take myself in hand.
I wasn't born hating my body. In fact, I wasn't born having any particular opinion about my body one way or the other. Unless something hurt or I got sick, I actually tended not to think about my body at all. My body worked when I needed it to, and that was all that mattered. This happy partnership lasted up until the time I hit puberty. All of a sudden, I discovered there was this whole other body world out there, full of opinions and feedback and measurements and shape and size. It was all quite a shock, to be honest. I remember really struggling to wrap my mind around the idea that someone (specifically, my best friend since kindergarten) might not want to hang out with me anymore because of my body shape and size. To me, my body was just a body. To her, my body was something she called "fat," which apparently was also something a body shouldn't be if you wanted to have friends. But I just hadn't ever thought of my body as a size. If my clothes fit, great. If they didn't, I went to my mom, mentioned this, and requested new clothes. So my initial pain at my best friend's rejection wasn't because I was offended on my body's behalf. My initial pain was because I didn't yet get what the issue was. I just couldn't believe "fat" or "not fat" could be a reason for choosing your friends. Today, I look back at that time with awe and wonder. To realize there was actually a time I didn't understand what the word "fat" even meant....
Recently, I have gone through a few periods where I have gotten really down on myself. After having worked so hard for so many years to learn how to give myself the benefit of a doubt, it seriously bummed me out when this unpleasant habit cropped up yet again. In other words, I took it quite personally. I got mad at myself. Really mad. (It goes without saying this didn't help the situation much.) But then I remembered what one of my long-time mentors, author Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr., has to say about taking things personally. In a phrase, he says, "Don't take anything personally." It just didn't occur to me until just now that this includes myself.
Full disclosure - I don't have a lot of money. In fact, if you factor out the contents of a meager IRA left over from an unlikely few years spent working for an oil company, I have very little money at all. (By the way, this is nothing new.) Yet in spite of my ongoing unimpressive net worth, I feel like money and I are starting to become friends for the first time ever. I also suspect the New Year's intention I set for this year to "have faith" has a lot to do with this new unfolding friendship. As I've explored my intention to have faith, faith is slowly beginning to reveal its true self to me through pointing out all the things it isn't. Here are some things I've learned about what faith isn't (at least to me):
When I first developed an eating disorder back in 1981 (35 years ago - wow!), there was no internet. I mean, there probably was an internet somewhere, hidden in some super-secret programmers-only closet. But I sure as heck didn't know about it. So I got much sicker, and then I got much better, without ever once realizing there might be such a thing as a "recovery community" I could participate in to find support. In 2009, finally having achieved full recovery myself, I founded MentorCONNECT, or "MC," the first global nonprofit eating disorders recovery community. MC was my "baby" for sure, but it was also the first recovery community I had ever belonged to. As well, it represented my first exposure to recovery concepts like "triggers" - which were explained to me as "painful or scary experiences that might weaken my desire for recovery and send me running back to the eating disorder behaviors for safe haven". As it was explained to me, triggers were something to avoid at all costs. But I never really did manage to internalize the concept of triggers as dangerous. To me, triggers were GOOD.
Trust me. I wouldn't say something like this if I didn't really mean it. And when I say "mean it," I'm not talking about a belief - something I say with my mouth and believe in my head. I mean I have experienced it first-hand with my body, mind, heart and spirit all expressing their willingness to go public to corroborate my story. Allow me to share a recent experience: One very early morning last month, my lower back woke me out of a sound sleep with two sharp, stabbing pains. Suddenly, I could barely move my legs. Not too many hours later, I bit down on my breakfast only to feel more stabbing pain issuing up through my jaw and across the right side of my skull. The only word I can think of to adequately describe that entire next week is "excruciating." My chiropractor did what she could for my back. I found an oral surgeon who introduced me to the dubious pleasures of "laughing gas" while she excised the offending root. In this way, most of my month was consumed by alternating bouts of upper and lower body pain, combined with regularly scheduled doses of antibiotics and pain medications and a startlingly high daily "nap count." As the days wore on and began to wear on me, I remembered something a mentor of mine had once shared - "when the body is weak, the spirit becomes really strong." Since I had nothing but time at this point, I decided to investigate her statement more fully. I started by becoming more deliberate about making daily time for meditation (versus snoring) and also taking more care to remember my dreams. As I did so, one "aha moment" after another began to emerge. Some of these aha moments unlocked repetitive dream-series I have been dreaming for years without any clue about what they mean. As this continued, I found myself wondering if physical weakness could be considered a divine gift of empathy, of sincere kindness, of unconditional love, because when we are living our conscious, physical-plane day-to-day lives, we are simply too present in the sheer "realness" of concrete daily life to even hear our spirit if it tries to reach us. Here is a very simple example of this that happens to me quite often:
I have spent years searching for the "real me." Every so often I would catch this fleeting glimpse of someone - a free, funny, warm, spontaneous, creative, loving, laughter-filled being - as she moved through me. I would try to follow her, but she was very quick....so quick she often seemed to be formed out of sheer wishful thinking or my (always) overactive imagination. But I kept searching for her anyway. I kept searching because she was irresistible. She was marvelous. On the days she would spontaneously flit through me, the effect was not unlike finding out the FBI had just caught the real suspect and the handcuffs could finally come off. The jail cell door was opened and I could go home now. I was free.
The first three decades of my life were a pretty rough ride. I just didn't think I had what it takes to do a good job living life as "me." So I kept trying to delegate the responsibility to someone else. For example, when I had a decision to make, I would waffle and wait, stall and stumble, ask others (ad nauseum) for their input, and frequently choose poorly even after all that. I just didn't trust myself. Even worse, I didn't respect myself....or like myself. It is hard to do your best job when you don't like, trust or respect the person you are working for. Today all that has changed. Today I firmly hold the steering wheel of my own life, and I steer with confidence (if not always with impeccable directional sense). What changed? Well, for starters, I began to really grasp - on a much deeper level than just my mind - the unique opportunity that being "me" really is. No one else can do it - and that is because there are no other openings. There is only one "me." Only ONE. But maybe for some of you, that reads like a tired cliche, especially if you feel like you've been in a headlock with yourself for the last day or decade. If so, I get it - truly I do. So here is something else that changed. I realized I am the one with the most to lose - and the most to gain - by learning how to live well as "me." Yes, my parents would care, my mentors and friends would care, my pets would care if I ended up doing such a bad job at living my life I was no longer here at all. They would care. But not as much as I would care.
A few months ago, I finally published my second book. I was super excited.....at first. But once the book began selling well in earnest, I began to feel anxious. At this point I asked myself quite kindly, "What is the matter? Why are you so anxious when you could be enjoying your new book's success?" Very quickly from within I heard these shocking words, "Just wait until the book stops selling and the bottom falls out of all this - then see how cheery you will feel!" In other words, I was clearly having trouble adjusting to my own success. I had somehow become so accustomed to feeling like a failure that even when success came knocking and then let itself in, I refused to recognize or welcome it. I was too afraid of what would happen if it decided not to stay. I was SO afraid, in fact, that I was actively visualizing future failure in the midst of current success! It was at this point I realized that I lacked the strength to hold success.