Right now I only get two magazine subscriptions.
Birds and Blooms was a gift to my avian from his doting grandma (aka my mom).
Time was yet another attempt to use up those expiring airline miles.
While you can probably already guess which one I find easier to read all the way through, Time does have the occasional newsworthy highlight.
For instance, this week’s edition shared the passing of an Austrian painter named Maria Lassnig.
Lassnig was an artist who spent much of her career exploring the felt experience of existing within a body (a style she termed “body awareness.”)
I found this quite intriguing!
In fact, I’ve been pondering Time’s little blurb about her for the last week or so. The question on my mind is this:
What DOES it feel like to be in a body?
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 …
My mind has not always been my friend.
In fact, until quite recently (within the last couple of years) I often felt my mind hated me.
Listening to the inner stream of meanness, I would sometime fantasize about how peaceful my life might become if I could just take my mind out back and shoot it between the eyeballs.
No more mind…..no more pain.
Interestingly, as I have worked more with my mind over the last couple of years through meditation, contemplation, and study, I am finding ever more confirmation that I am on the right track with my efforts to quiet my mind.
In fact, recently I read an article that lined it out in stark black and white (and I paraphrase):
A mind “crowded with thoughts” is a weak mind. A mind free from thoughts is an “extremely strong” mind.
Not everyone is a “dreamer.”
However, I am.
What I mean is, I have always had exceptionally vivid dreams. In fact, sometimes the dream-me can pack in several different dreams in a single night.
Often (and increasingly as I get older) I also have repetitive dreams.
While I do realize here that scientists are moving ever closer to understanding the possible biological nature of the human dreamscape, they are not moving quite fast enough for my liking.
So instead of continuing to wait, I have chosen to adopt a different strategy for dealing with my dream life, and especially for dealing with repetitive dreams, and most especially for dealing with repetitive disturbing dreams.
I’ll give you one example of a repetitive disturbing dream I am having frequently right now:
I am back in my anorexic years. My family life is in shambles. My folks and I are at continual loggerheads. I want to die and I also want to live, and I have no idea how to accomplish either. I wake either right before or right after my parents and I have the “argument to end all arguments” and I am leaving the house with nowhere else to go.
That is the dream, in a nutshell. I’ve already had it two nights this week alone.
Years ago one of my mentors told me it takes great strength to be happy.
At the time she said this, I was very intrigued…..and also very unhappy.
I also stayed very unhappy for a great many years afterwards.
But I never forgot her words.
They compelled me to periodically confront the unhappiness within me, like a journalist intent upon exposing the presence and mechanics of a long-running and very successful scam.
I wanted to know everything about my unhappiness.
In this way, questions like these became a standard part of my daily inner dialogue.
Out of this ongoing questioning process, these two key facts have become my most trusted navigators.
From here, my search for the inner strength to experience happiness has become fueled by a surprisingly simple daily practice.
I have a tendency to hold on too tightly.
My particular problem isn’t with things, per se, but rather with situations or outcomes.
From an early (oh so early) age, I was raised to set goals.
Along with goal-setting came the instruction to create a plan to achieve those goals.
So basically, I was supposed to set my goals – preferably as far in advance as possible – and then create a step-by-step plan to achieve those goals.
If I had been sports-minded, this might have been called “keeping my eye on the ball.”
The only trouble was, I was so busy keeping my eye on that. particular. ball. I failed to see any and all warning signs, obstacles, even helpful hints or shortcuts in my path.
And if a better-looking, more suitable ball were to come along, well forget it.
It was that. particular. ball. or no ball at all.
(By now you are probably beginning to perceive the issue.)
Lately a series of circumstances has invited (forced) me to take another look at whether the time-honored personal practice of setting-planning-and-achieving-specific-goals-in-advance is really a way of life I wish to continue.
Questions I’ve been asking myself include these:
My answers (thus far) are no, no, no, no, yes, yes, and “see the definition of insanity.”
“What will people think?”
Suddenly I feel like I am bumping into this issue all over my life.
From the television shows and movies I watch to the magazine articles I read….to family disputes and conversations with friends….
To be honest, some days I wonder if this concern – even more than the drive to earn or the desire to connect – literally runs our world.
People kill, steal, yell, hide, run, lie, choose a profession, choose a mate, choose a home or a car, dress a certain way, adopt particular hobbies, make decisions, and even literally change everything about their lives and themselves in an effort to control what other people think.
One area where this crops up frequently for me personally is with recovery matters. In running MentorCONNECT, the eating disorders mentoring nonprofit I founded in 2009, I still read through hundreds of membership applications each year.
Many applicants cite concerns about privacy and confidentiality – citing as their reason a concern about being judged by family, friends, or peers for having an eating disorder or needing recovery support.
Some applicants even apply under a pseudonym because of this concern – “what will people think?”
Another area where this issue of what people might think crops up is with faith and spirituality. Luckily, in my family, we were raised to be open-minded, respectful towards, and accepting of other faiths and other belief systems.
But not everyone opts for this approach.
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.
The other day I was re-reading an old mentoring lesson.
I like re-reading old lessons because when I do this, often I find they become new lessons again – just as applicable to my life now as they were when I first received them.
One particular passage from that old lesson has really stuck with me – the teacher was talking about how so many people she teaches receive so much, but yet they still continue to say they need so much.
Her point was – is – we can choose whether to feel weak or strong.
If we choose to constantly talk about how much we need and how little we receive, we remain weak.
If we choose to recognize and appreciate what we have received and how each small gift is so beneficial, we begin to become strong from the inside out.
In other words, gratitude literally gives us strength – it makes us strong.
When we choose to make it a daily discipline to notice what we are given, no matter how small or insignificant the gift may seem at the time, our personal awareness suddenly shifts from our lack to our fullness.
One tiny moment of recognition at a time, we can strengthen our awareness that we are getting our needs met. We can prove to ourselves, one small act of awareness at a time, that we are known, we are seen, we are heard, we are helped, we matter, we are a part of.
In the wake of my own personal 15-year battle with anorexia and bulimia, and later with depression and anxiety, I have become particularly partial to any action or discipline I can adopt that makes me feel stronger.
Here are some things I do that help me work towards this goal:
The other day I did it again.
I told someone important to me the truth.
Not the truth according to the ultra-polite, politically-correct Southern gal within.
Not the truth as if I were standing in the other person’s shoes.
Not the truth I thought they could handle hearing.
Nope – I told them my truth. The simple, plain truth. The truth that somehow finally managed to slip by me in its raw, draft form, awkward, uncomfortable, and…..necessary.
Sometimes “it” – whatever it is – just needs to be said as-is.
Sometimes there is no way to sugar-coat, cushion, circumvent, or otherwise sweeten the deal.
Although here I must emphasize that what I told was my truth – as in, My Truth – not the other person’s truth (which of course I couldn’t possibly know) or the truth as I assume it to be given a thorough analysis of objective evidence.
I told my truth. I shared the way it is or was or needs to be or feels FOR ME.
And as I did this, I have also learned some interesting things.
1. The truth – my simple, plain, raw truth – IS actually simple.
“That hurts.” “This can’t happen again.” “I don’t agree.” “I feel sad and here is why.” “I need your help.”
For me personally, this was nothing short of a revelation, because as a writer, I am fond of (and good at) dressing all kinds of things up in all kinds of ways, including the truth.
2. The truth – my truth – feels worse at first, then better later.