Sometimes I do not love service.
This (not surprisingly) can be inconvenient at times.
Service is a big part of what helped me stay in recovery from my eating disorder, especially during the early days.
Service is also what has helped me maintain that recovery – and grow stronger and stronger – in the many years since those early days.
Currently and for the past several years my primary service work has been through mentoring. I run a mentoring-based nonprofit called MentorCONNECT, where I oversee the organization’s behind-the-scenes (with a lot of awesome fellow helpers), offer my time as a mentor, write and speak about mentoring, lead meetings, and more.
It is time-consuming – sometimes very much so. It can also be stressful and worrisome, especially when new folks join the community and they are really struggling in their recovery. As well, volunteers come and go, members relapse and rebound, money is required to keep certain programs functioning (whether we happen to have those funds or not) – well, you get the picture.
It is also rewarding – to start something new and see it not only survive but grow up and begin to thrive – that part is undeniably nice.
But there have been many days along the way when I wondered what on earth I was thinking when I used to romanticize about being of service to others and how wonderful and fulfilling it would be.
When I was young, I was in love with Luke Skywalker.
I was also sure that, if offered the option, I would not have struggled one bit to choose between Jedi-dom and “the Dark Side.”
Yet, given my own mind’s long and well-documented affinity for negative thinking, perhaps my youthful confidence was a tad premature.
The “dark side” is fueled by anger, regret, pain.
For many years, I, too, was fueled by the same.
I’m in my 40′s now, and am just now learning how to teach my mind to seek – and like – and trust – the light.
It is still all too tempting for us to dive into darkness, depression, despair. But when we can resist, not only do the fears driving them ease, but their dire outcomes fail to materialize!
The truth is, I am discovering that most – perhaps all – of the power I need to change my life for the better resides right within my own mind.
As I think, so I live.
A dear friend and colleague, Emi Berger, recently wrote a blog post about a concept called “The Hero’s Journey.”
Joseph Campbell, the creator of this “monomyth” (the technical term used to describe his creation), has outlined three distinct stages the hero takes.
Of course, each one of the three main stages then has several sub-stages, meaning it isn’t quite so streamlined to get from One to Three as you might assume (and as I might like).
Right now, Emi is tackling her biggest athletic challenge to date – competing in an Ironman event this coming July. She is planning to use her competition to raise money for MentorCONNECT, the nonprofit organization I founded in 2009 for which she is currently a board member.
In her post, Emi describes first feeling called to compete, then resisting, then eventually answering the call (this being stage one – Separation).
In the next stage (Initiation), Emi talks about having to face her many fears full-on as her training progresses – a stage which for her is currently in-progress.
When Emi reaches the third and final stage of Return, she will have conquered each of those fears, whether or not she wins her competition.
As I was reading about Emi’s amazing journey (from the comfort of my couch), it occurred to me that the Hero’s Journey is also a great analogy for recovery.
Right now I am reading “Mind of the Raven” by Bernd Heinrich.
It is great bedtime reading, because instead of attempting to go to sleep while worrying about my bank balance or whether I’ll be single forever, I can go to bed worrying about whether I can finish this 350+ page tome before the library sends the angry check-out police to my door.
Plus, corvids just fascinate me. According to Science Magazine, corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, jays) are capable of mental time travel, social cognition (whatever that is), and tool manufacture. According to fellow corvid enthusiast and author Candace Savage,
Crows, ravens, magpies, and jays are not just feathered machines, rigidly programmed by their genetics. Instead, they are beings that, within the constraints of their molecular inheritance, make complex decisions and show every sign of enjoying a rich awareness.
Cooooool. Plus – I just have to say it – I rather think I already knew that.
PBS’ “Ravens – Discover the Brainpower of the Bird in Black” features studies by Heinrich and others that prove corvids are as smart as canines. Not only that, but Heinrich has observed how his ravens (those he raises and those he studies in the wild) have distinct dining preferences – for instance, these meat-loving avians turn up their beaks at a snack of fresh raw beef liver, but hone right in on scattered potato chips.
I get so many questions from recovering people about how to replace the mean voices inside their heads with something kinder.
For many years I didn’t know how to answer this question. This, of course, was because the voices inside my own head were still quite mean.
Today, the voices in my head have gotten much kinder. Unfortunately, this does not mean I am any closer to answering those who ask me how it is done.
What I can say is – when the shift occurs, you will KNOW it.
Although, truthfully, you might not know it all at once – for me, significant changes like this often “sneak up” on me – like they are afraid I will run them off if they just show up with too little advance warning.
So I will never be one of those people you want to ask, “So what was the exact, precise, on-the-second moment when you knew such-and-so had changed?”
But I will tell you HOW I changed the positive self-talk in my head, and how you can know your own efforts are starting to work.
There is nothing like taking 43 years to figure this out.
But I will be honest – it wasn’t until just this month – and just a few days ago, in fact, that I finally convinced myself to stop worrying so much about whether who I am, how I act, what I prefer, and how I live is the “right” way to be.
Can you relate?
For 43 years, I have logged daily high quality time lecturing myself about how I need to do more of this, less of that, adjust my preferences or habits “or else”…..and yet after all those years of well-meaning and well-composed self-lectures, here I am.
I am still me. I am still the same me. I still act the way I act and think the way I think. I still have certain preferences and other aversions. I still live the way I live, and no amount of lecturing or motivational speeches or dire predictions can sway me from it.
Then it finally occurred to me – mid-way through this second month of my 43rd year – that maybe there is a reason for it.
This week marks the start of the National Eating Disorders Association‘s Annual NEDAwareness Week (Feb 23 – March 1, 2014).
This is a whole wonderful week designated to raise awareness, share education, and generate support for individuals who are affected by eating disorders.
As a person who has recovered from anorexia and bulimia, this is a personally significant week for me.
It is also a week when MentorCONNECT, a NEDA Network partner (MentorCONNECT is the eating disorders nonprofit I founded in 2009), comes together with NEDA to raise awareness and funds for our joint work to ease suffering and spread hope of recovery.
We do this through our “Virtual Walk,” a social media-based effort to get the word out that eating disorders are deadly and isolation kills. With support, with love, with treatment, people DO heal.
This is our 4th year of co-sponsoring the “Virtual Walk” – and we hope you will join in!
Oh, and participating is easy – oh, so easy! And you can participate even if you can’t donate money!
If you are able to make a donation: http://nedawalk.org/virtualwalk2014
You can also share the Virtual Walk link using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other favorite social media apps to invite friends and family to participate.
If you want to share the link with others: http://nedawalk.org/virtualwalk2014
And if you want to share a picture, feel free to grab the one displayed here and just link it to the walk page URL.
The National Eating Disorders Association and MentorCONNECT both benefit from your donations and your sharing – and we both thank you in advance for your support!
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!)
==> CLICK HERE TO READ Jenni’s “Declaration of Independence from ED,” post your commitment in a comment below, and enter to win a …
I live in a neighborhood with lots of growing pains.
Because of this, I now know it takes two full days (if they start early on the morning of the 1st day) to tear a whole house down and cart it away.
Since they are hard at work putting up six new houses on my street alone, I will soon find out approximately how long it takes to build a new house where the old house used to be.
But what I already know is that it makes quite a racket while they are doing it!
There are the ground smoothers. And the concrete pourers. And the wood haulers. And the paint sprayers. And of course the loud (blaring) tunes from somebody’s boom box (apparently this is a required part of every “new home building” process).
While it is happening it is irritating, messy, lengthy, erratic, and seemingly endless.
But when the process finally does conclude, there is a beautiful shiny new HOME where a flimsy condemned shack used to stand.
Life is like this (or at least I think it is – usually I’m too busy complaining during the “growing pains” phases to really bookmark the actual specifics).
We endure the growing pains – somehow – and then, one day and just when we least expect it, voila!
Lovely, new, shining, and oh-so-proud – we behold ourselves.
Just like that, we have triumphed over even the worst of our own growing pains, and boy-oh-boy is it ever worth it!
Today’s Takeaway: What is your typical reaction during “growing pains” periods of your life? Do you complain (like I often do)? Do you make a conscious effort to step back and look at the bigger picture to see a transformation in process? Some other way? What helps you most to endure during the “tearing down” and then the “building process”?
p.s. This post is from January’s “Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery” ezine. To read the full edition click HERE
Home construction image available from Shutterstock.
Becoming mentally strong is not for the mentally weak.
If that isn’t just too incredibly obvious for words.
Yet it wasn’t – still isn’t at times – to me.
See, I am a fairly logical thinker (or at least I like to think I am) so clearly categorizing which mental activities fall into the categories of “strong” and “weak” is not always so easy to do.
For instance, sometimes I might think I am being mentally strong when really I am being mentally obstinate (more a trait of the weak- than the strong-minded).
I might also assume endless rehashing of prior errors keeps me mindful enough to avoid doing those same things again in the future….when the more obvious outcome is that over time I become too afraid and down on myself to do much of anything at all.
This is why I found a recent list published by Forbes to be so very helpful.
Forbes lists out 13 things that mentally strong people avoid.
Since I too would like to be mentally strong, I plan to avoid these things also (and thus annex myself to the strong folks).
Here they are – all 13, in order (thanks Forbes!)