On July 27, 2014, my treasured colleague and fellow MentorCONNECT board member, Emi Berger, will participate in Ironman Lake Placid.
An Ironman event (in case you, like me, were not aware) is death-defying.
Just for the record – there is noooo WAAAAAY you would ever catch me doing something like this!
My idea of “strenuous exercise” is racing after my baby red-foot tortoise, Malti, as she heads away from our front lawn and out towards the street yet again.
But Emi is an athlete – and a champion one at that.
She is also recovered from an eating disorder, and she is absolutely determined to use her athletic dreams to help others recover as she has done.
So (because you will never have to worry about being asked to support me in an Ironman event) I am inviting you to consider joining me in supporting Emi instead!
Also, all funds raised from her “Ironwoman Dream” event on July 27th go to support MentorCONNECT, the charity I founded in 2009 that provides peer mentoring for recovering people all around the world.
Please help us help others if you are able.
You can read Emi’s “Ironwoman Dream” blog to learn more.
You can donate via her blog or go right to her Indiegogo campaign.
I will be joining you in both activities – from my comfortable couch-side …
Not that you asked, but my mom had me by c-section.
So – without even the courtesy of a minute to prepare – I was literally infant-jacked from my nice, warm, dark, solitary shelter and summarily thrust into the “real world.”
I know you will think I’m crazy (sometimes I can’t help but agree) but I still totally remember that day.
I remember the glaring high beam headlights, the unwarranted whack on my sensitive booty, that awful siren sound (which I now suspect was my own wailing), and one solitary repeating thought:
Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! Who signed me up for THIS?!?
Somehow I made it through that day….the day I still consider to be the most challenging, terrifying, incomprehensible day of my whole life.
I also made it through 5,475 later days (or approximately 15 years) of battling my eating disorder before I started to gain a toehold onto recovery.
And (more recently) I survived the first few days of my young tortoise’s life – but it was touch-and-go there for awhile for this new turtle mama.
I’ve survived breakups and makeups, the dissolution of dreams, friendships, and whole careers, a grueling six months in India (which included both the “hot season” and the “monsoon” season – whew!), an unexpected side trip to Serbia during the Gulf War Crisis (which is why you really want to make sure you get on the right train when you’re traveling)…..
I’ve survived a lot of very bad days.
I’ve also survived a lot of very good days.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve always felt the same about myself.
For many years I felt like two people – the gentle, appreciative nature-lover who would melt at the sight of a fledgling songbird….and the terrifying tormenter within who raged against even a glimpse of her own reflection.
Finally, I had simply had it. I was dying and I knew it – if not yet in body, then most certainly in spirit.
I also knew my only option – if I wanted to survive – was to live the life I’d been given as “me.”
So I started wriggling and wrangling and twisting and turning, trying in every which way to find something to enjoy about being me.
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.
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.
You may not think this statement is true.
I know I didn’t for many, many, MANY years.
This is because, while it is happening, time appears to move ohhhhh sooooo slowly.
This is a problem because, when we are in pain, we want healing NOW.
Like what the &$*! is taking so long?!
I know I personally never felt content to sit back and wait for the healing to happen. No way. It had to happen NOW. NOW was the only time. It was NOW or NEVER.
Yet as I look back now over the decades I struggled to heal from an eating disorder, I see that time itself was perhaps my greatest healer.
Time is simply amazing.
Time doesn’t care about terms like “now” and “never” – it is not at all intimidated by scare tactics, insults, or disbelief. It won’t cut corners and it is impervious to peer pressure.
Even today, having witnessed its power firsthand, I honestly have no idea how time does what it does. But I do know that, whether it is a broken bone or a broken heart, given enough time, both will heal in full.
Time works miracles.
Time can turn the impossible into the possible and the actual.
Time is the cheerleader we often don’t hear screaming itself hoarse from the sidelines of our lives.
My friend and fellow Psych Central blogger Margarita Tartakovsky recently crafted a moving post about aging and our bodies that I can’t stop thinking about.
The reason the post stays on my mind? I am aging – and my body is aging with me.
Of course, my 75 year-old father doesn’t think 43 is “old,” but I point out to him I am getting older each year….and 43 is certainly older than either my body or me have ever been before.
I have also noticed my folks and I now do something we have never done until the last couple of years – we companionably complain about a laundry list of ailments from bad backs to thinning hair to poor eyesight to mid-body weight gain.
But as I continued reading Margarita’s post, I began to wonder yet again – why all the complaining?
Why is there so little acceptance of the aging journey as a process we all go through when the time is right – another phase of life we can share and learn from together, a sign something is actually going right, a chance to ruminate on every treasured bit of progress we’ve made, even proof we are evolving right before our very eyes?
Perhaps because, as Margarita shares (and I paraphrase), we learn from a young age that aging is undesirable, bad, something to fight against with every weapon in our arsenal.
Here, statistics support this. Increasingly younger – and older – folks are opting for all kinds of surgical procedures to stall or stop the aging process…even when those procedures are expensive, painful, have dangerous side effects and/or will need to be repeated frequently.
I will admit I, too, have thought about cosmetically altering the parts of myself I am less fond of. In my less body-satisfied moments, I dream of how I might look different if this or that were sculpted, reshaped, tweaked, enhanced, or even removed.
Today’s society makes it harder than ever before to accept our authentic selves, naturally aging bodies and all, because the option to …
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.