I have been blogging a bit about a fabulous book called “Voyage of the Turtle” by Carl Safina.
At some point, this book has become less about gaining a simple “tortoise education” and more about learning how to simply live life.
In one of my favorite quotes, the author writes (this about watching a single baby sea turtle enter the surf for the first time, encouraged in its first steps by a group of witnessing conservationists):
I wonder if this is the end of something ancient or the start of a future regained. I’m not certain what it is, but I know what it means: it means there truly is hope. Other peoples, other species, even other kinds of sea turtles – in situations as bad, sometimes worse – have recovered. Turtles have taught me this: Do all you can and don’t worry about the odds against you. Wield the miracle of life’s energy, never worrying whether we may fail, concerned only that whether we fail or succeed we do so with all our might. That’s all we need to know to feel certain that all our force of diligent effort is worth our while on Earth. (emphasis added)
And in fact, I told myself this very thing (although not so eloquently) when I first began my mighty struggle to recover from anorexia and bulimia.
The odds seemed powerfully stacked against me – leaning over me like a slobbering muscular bully, in fact.
My “support team” was minimal – one mentor, and me.
I had no money for therapy – inpatient, outpatient, or any other kind.
No one – least of all me – really understood what was wrong with me or how to fix it.
And I wasn’t yet fully convinced that what was wrong was a “something” – that it wasn’t just me, consummate failure at life and all things.
Yet I had nothing but time at that point, and I wanted to try.
I don’t typically pay much attention to daily news.
This is because I know if really big news hits, I will hear about it from someone.
Such is the case with Nature‘s recent discovery.
It would seem our universe is quite a bit more vast than we may have previously assumed it was.
With study results titled, “this is the most detailed map yet of our place in the universe,” I eagerly scanned the results.
Then I wondered – with surprise – why I wasn’t feeling surprised.
Perhaps is it because I have watched and rewatched the movie “Contact” for years (this movie, of course, is a film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel by the same name).
In the film, budding scientist (Jodie Foster) asks her dad if there is other life “out there.”
Her dad wisely responds, “Well if there isn’t, it would be an awful waste of space!”
I guess this has always just made sense to me.
I first became aware that outer differences do not equal inner differences when I was six.
At the time, we attended a local church, and every so often we had special lessons to teach us about different religious practices.
I don’t remember what the lesson was on this particular day. I only remember that the story (parable) our teacher shared from a different religion sounded just like one of “our” stories, only with different costumes and character names.
I went home and told my mom, “Hey, guess what – our teacher told a story from a different religion but it sounded exactly like ours!”
Mom, busy fixing lunch for a hungry family, simply murmured something suitable and went back to building sandwiches.
But I was transfixed.
Thereafter, I have been on a lifelong search for at least one single shared point of connection common to us all….something tangible and powerful enough to make all the surface differences dissolve to reveal our shared humanity.
I know a lot about parrots but very little about tortoises, so lately I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on (which isn’t actually all that much).
My newest read is called “Voyage of the Turtle: in pursuit of the Earth’s last dinosaur,” by Carl Safina.
I will admit I did not expect to find that single point of connection I’ve been searching for these last 37 years in a book about sea turtles, but then all of a sudden there it was.
The other day, a friend said to me, “We are all in recovery from something.”
I deeply resonated with her statement.
For instance, while I no longer struggle to nourish my body appropriately, I am still working hard to reprogram old tapes in my brain that speak to me, saying, “your body should look different.”
This morning I caught myself looking in the mirror as a way to settle this exact type of dilemma.
Did I hate my curves or like them? I couldn’t decide.
In that instant, I realized the solution comes down to one of permission.
I have to decide – I GET to decide.
Do I like my curves? Or do I hate them?
Do I see beauty when I look in the mirror? Or do I see a shape and form that causes me pain?
If, in a flash, I catch myself thinking, “Wow – I look good today!,” do I allow myself to own and enjoy that sentiment?
I 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:
Everywhere, all around us, people are fighting.
They are surviving the un-survivable.
They are choosing to find that one tiny ray of hope in the hopeless.
They are creating a path to make the un-workable work.
They are inspiring others (like me) without even wanting, trying, or meaning to!
You are too.
Every time I sit down to write this monthly e-newsletter, I think of each of you who are receiving it.
I realize there is so much struggle – so many trials – so much pain and challenge in the world.
Recently I read the story of Robin Korth – called “My ‘Naked’ Truth.”
Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure how I came across it.
But once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.
Here is a beautiful woman, vibrant and alive in the decade just one ahead of mine (Robin is 59, I am 44) being told by her 55-year-old boyfriend that she is “too wrinkly” to be desirable in the bedroom.
Lately it feels like everywhere I turn, I am confronted with another story like Robin’s.
And lately, each time I read another one of these stories, I discover another courageous mentor – someone I desire to emulate, to embrace, to thank, to join.
Here I have to share that, in the two decades since my eating disorder battle subsided, I have maintained an uneasy truce with my ever-changing body.
I have agreed not to mention the parts I don’t like, and it has agreed not to flaunt them in my face when I look in the mirror.
But I know they are there. And it knows I don’t like those parts.
After reading Robin’s story in particular – and even though her tale is not unlike many others I have heard in the last several months (years, decades) – something inside me just put her foot down.
It said, “Enough.”
Enough of this.
Enough waffling over whether or not to really “go for it” – for the full experience of genuine body love.
Don’t get me wrong.
I don’t love making mistakes.
But I love mistakes themselves.
Mistakes are great mentors.
I usually hate mistakes when I’ve just made one (especially if other people notice) but then I start learning whatever cool new lesson it has to teach me, and everything shifts.
At that point, I fall a little bit in love with mistakes….all over again.
For the past couple of months, I have been successfully guarding a slip of fortune cookie paper from the sharp and eager beak of my parrot, Pearl.
The fortune reads:
It was when you found out you could make mistakes that you knew you were onto something.
Yet for most of my earlier years, I didn’t realize mistakes were okay….allowed….expected, even.
I didn’t think any of the people around me ever made mistakes.
I didn’t think I was supposed to make mistakes either – not if I was living right.
Yet mistakes kept happening, all the time and in so many ways.
I made mistakes about what I ate (or didn’t eat), what hobbies and classes I pursued, what friends (and boyfriends – don’t get me started on this one) I chose, what I wore, what I said, and what I did.
For a time I thought that I myself was a mistake.
This was the most painful time in my life to date.
The other day I cracked open a fortune cookie.
The fortune read:
Better face danger than be always in fear.
I nodded sagely….totally on board with this philosophy.
But looking at my own life, I can see how, time and time again, I still forget I am brave in the very moment a new danger appears.
For instance, I forget I overcame a deadly eating disorder.
The other day I caught myself saying these words out loud:
Today, I am so much closer than I ever have been before to becoming the person I want to be.
I seriously impressed myself.
Not just for having the guts and the honesty to state my truth, but also for recognizing that this IS the truth, and for being able to look at the past-present picture of me and predict such a positive future for myself.
I was all kinds of proud of myself for that.
But the real truth is, I can still remember a time in my life – many years in fact – when I honestly hated who I was.
I didn’t think I would ever turn out to be anybody worth being.
I looked for ways to help others to justify the space I took up….somehow assuming that if I didn’t “pay rent” on my life, it would be taken away and given to someone much more deserving.
Today I know that the real me – the me I thought I would never be able to be – has been inside me all along.
I wish I had known that earlier.
I wish I had known I would someday be proud to be who I am becoming.
I wish I had known I have had it in me all along.
So I am telling you now, here, just in case you don’t know this yet either.