Archives for Inspirational

Good News

How to Get to Know the Real YOU


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. 
Continue Reading

Inspirational

Learning to Ride a Bike Again


This sounded like a great plan and I enthusiastically agreed. Yes, a bike would be wonderful, thank you.

In fact, I told her, I've been having what I call "biking dreams" for several years now. In the dreams, I'm riding my old Schwinn, flying around my childhood neighborhood and feeling totally free.

So she hit "add to cart" and the bike was on its way to me.

Then the anxiety kicked in. 
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

How Parrots Can Help People with PTSD


Out in California, something special is taking place.

At a sanctuary called Serenity Park, traumatized parrots and traumatized people are connecting for mutual healing.

What is interesting about this is, well, pretty much everything (of course, as a lifelong parrot lover, I may be just a touch biased here).

The people participants are formerly homeless veterans (both men and women) victimized by the many and varying traumas associated with wartime military service.

The parrot participants have been victimized by a different kind of war - mainly abuse by or loss of their human owners.

On both sides, there are emotional and mobility issues to contend with. But in all cases, it is clear that the interspecies participants' minds are still sharp and eager to heal.

Speaking of minds, there is no doubt in mine that the pioneering work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her now-passed African Grey parrot, Alex, (two of my own most cherished mentors) are responsible for laying the foundation for what is going on at Serenity Park right now.

Thanks to Alex & Dr. Pepperberg, we know that parrots can display emotional and cognitive abilities to rival young humans. We know they feel deeply, form intense social bonds, understand abstract reasoning and have the capacity to develop complex and extensive vocabularies.

This means that, in some capacity, parrots may be even better suited than dogs to participate in animal-assisted therapy as service and support partners.

Perhaps this is what veteran volunteer Lilly Love meant when she told New York Times reporter Charles Siebert,

You can look in their eyes....any of these parrots’ eyes, and I myself see a soul. I see a light in there. And when they look at you, they see right into your soul. Look around. They’re all watching. They notice everything. It’s intense. 
Continue Reading

Good News

How I Know You Have What it Takes To Live Well as “You”


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.  
Continue Reading

Good News

My Journey to Learn How to Hold Success


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.  
Continue Reading

Inspirational

Mentoring for Everyone

This week is an important week for me.

It is an important week for many whose lives have been touched by body hate, fat (or thin) shaming, unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week didn't exist when I first got sick with anorexia in 1980.

But I recovered anyway, and today I am here to celebrate the wealth of supportive tools and resources now available to sufferers, carers, loved ones, professionals and the greater community.

I am also grateful to share that MentorCONNECT, the eating disorders nonprofit mentoring organization I founded in 2009, is one of those many communities.* NEDAW is a great week to celebrate your own successes and those of your mentors (after all, every mentor was once a struggling mentee!)

It is also a great week to acknowledge courage in all its many shapes and forms and sizes.

And I find it to be a particularly fabulous week to dig in and reinvest in moving beyond those oh-so-tempting artificial boundaries and walls we are so prone to set up - the ones that say "oh well you recovered from this and I recovered from that and so we really have nothing in common."

Truthfully, we have everything in common. 
Continue Reading

Inspirational

We are Ego + Spirit (thank goodness)


So I have finally come to the end of Elizabeth Gilbert's wonderful book, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear."

Or (though it typically irks me when others say this) maybe I've come to the beginning.

When I am drawn to a new mentoring influence, I've noticed that one of the siren songs I absolutely cannot resist is the mentor's ability to marry the mundane (the itsy bitsy small stuff) with the profound (the unknowable, unfathomable, beyond all efforts of the mind to reach it).

Gilbert does this stunningly well in "Big Magic." In each story I find bits of both combined in ways that make me feel like we all belong here together, doing what we do, being who we are, struggling with what we struggle with and excelling at what we excel at.

It is a lovely gift - especially so soon into the New Year.

Right near the end of the book, there is a chapter called "Hungry Ghosts." In this chapter, Gilbert addresses the realization that we are more than "just" any one aspect.

For example, we are - or we have - an ego, and we have - or we are - also a soul.

The Hungry Ghost is our ego, which the Buddhists say is, "forever famished, eternally howling with need and greed."

The howling comes in when the ego gets coddled, perhaps over-fed with the food it likes best, which is success, praise, recognition, reward.

We all have it - this ego presence - that bottomless pit that is so deep and vast and empty that no amount of food can fill it.

But we also have a soul. 
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

Help Me Make Amazing Happen (A Service Dog for FuMing Cutts)

You probably noticed the last name - FuMing Cutts - yup, we are related. :-)

FuMing, or we like to call him "Ming" for short, is my youngest nephew. But along with hope, intelligence, strength, courage and the love of his new forever family, Ming brought with him trauma.

He brought remembered grief for his birth mom who abandoned him when he was one day old (likely because she couldn't afford the many surgeries his cleft palate would in time require).

He brought PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from the many months when he basically starved because no one at the orphanage knew how to properly feed a cleft palate baby.

And he brought fear from all those moments before he came into our family when he didn't know if he would belong to anyone, anywhere, ever. 
Continue Reading