Well here we are – once again, it is nearly time for a brand new year to launch!
I always get so excited when a new year arrives.
It feels like encountering a giant blank chalkboard, complete with the most marvelous array of colored chalk.
The chalkboard is all mine – as is the chalk. Whatever I draw on the chalkboard is what will unfold in the year to come.
(By the way, I actually do this at home – I have a big wall-sized chalkboard and lots of colored chalk, and all year long I continue editing and adding new dreams to my chalk board).
I can thank my ongoing recovery journey for this wonderful way of welcoming a new year.
So of course I blogged about it here.
Then, just a few weeks ago, the post’s author, Amy Morin, reached out to share some exciting news – her new book by the same name will be available on December 23rd!
This made me very happy for a few reasons:
a) She offered to send me a copy so I could share the book here (free books, yay!),
b) amidst the holiday stress, a reminder about how to stay mentally strong was welcome and timely,
c) the book greatly expands on each of the 13 points, explaining through stories and examples exactly how to avoid doing each of the 13 things (and replace them with mentally strong habits instead!)
Amy is a licensed clinical social worker, a researcher, a writer, but most of all she is a human being who has personally experienced how developing mental strength is a choice, and one that can be life-transforming.
A few days ago two things happened.
I finished reading “Tracks” by Robyn Davidson, and I posted my first attempt to make some sense of her beyond-the-sensible and amazing journey.
While the book caused me more than a few sleepless nights, I now feel it was a good kind of sleeplessness – the kind that occurs only with the most profound and unstoppable of wake up calls.
Unlike so very many in our culture today (and even me for a time earlier in my life), Davidson did not wish to be famous. She wasn’t interested in being anyone’s inspiration or role model or icon or heroine.
She was searching for something – something private and personal.
She was searching for some kind of continuity within herself, her path, her past, her future – and at that point in her life, the search seemed to require a dog, camels, and a trek across 1,700 miles of desert.
So be it.
In the Postscript to “Tracks” (written in 2012), Davidson states she can hardly relate to the girl in the book she herself wrote, much less the character in the movie by the same name.
I totally understand.
Looking back now, I hardly recognize the girl who flew alone to India, and then to Israel, in search of ….. something. I admire her sometimes – her courage, her innocence, her hope – but I don’t really know her as “me.”
So why did she do it? Why did Davidson spend nearly two years learning to train camels, raising cash, assembling gear, even giving part of herself away to National Geographic in exchange for a cash sponsorship to buy what she lacked?
I can’t remember how I heard about Robyn Davidson or her extraordinary journey.
I just remember, the moment I heard about it, I was online hunting down her book.
Titled simply “Tracks: a Woman’s Solo Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback,” the story she has to tell is simply mind-bending.
Davidson embarked upon her solo adventure in her mid-20’s.
When I was in my mid-20’s, I, too, was embarking upon a solo adventure. Mine was to India and Israel, hers through the Australian desert.
But I will confess it took me many more years since then to unpack even a portion of the wisdom she unearthed within herself during her 1,700 mile journey.
For the record, it also seems pertinent here to mention I have never once in my life had even the merest inkling of desire to walk across any large, hot, dangerous body of sand accompanied only by camels and a dog.
Clearly, my life is the poorer for it.
During the early stages of her journey, Davidson frequently gave in to bouts of panic, which, to hear her tell it, were largely initiated by intense inner battles between the order/regime/structure she had previously relied on and the freedom to live in the moment that desert life demanded.
As the desert’s ever-changing environment did its work on her and she slowly learned the wisdom of opting for the latter, her panic eased and inner wisdom arose in its place.
That inner wisdom was – is – as timeless and profound as the desert itself (click here for amazing vintage photos from her journey).
Davidson on her love of animals:
I am quite sure Diggity [her canine companion through the desert] was more than dog, or rather other than dog….She combined all the best qualities of dog and human and was a great listener…..The trip, of necessity, had brought me much closer to all the animals, but my relationship with Diggity was something special. There are very few humans with whom I could associate the word …
I used to dread the month of November.
And not just because of all the scary F.O.O.D.
I dreaded it because November is the “month of gratitude.”
I so wanted to be grateful – to feel grateful – to feel _genuinely_ grateful (as opposed to “faking it until you make it” grateful).
I wanted to be that kind of good person who could feel totally, deeply grateful for life’s blessings….without simultaneously wishing for so much more than what I had.
For instance – I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to have friends (besides my eating disorder, that is!).
I wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy a festive meal with loved ones free from fear.
I wanted to like what I saw in the mirror.
I wanted to love and be loved – to fall in love – to have romance and peace and joy and fulfillment in my life.
So I would start listing out the things I was grateful for, only to be confronted by this other list of all the things I felt I desperately wanted and needed that would never be mine.
In a word….PAIN.
A colleague recently sent me a YouTube video called “An Epidemic of Beauty Sickness.”
To be honest, my first thought was, “Ugh. Another useless rant about our cultural addiction to thinness.”
But, given that this is the year I decided to embark on a full-scale about-face in how I accept (or don’t) my own body shape and size, I kept her email to watch….later.
“Later” came today.
For the record, I am so glad I saved the link – so glad my colleague thought to send it my way – so grateful to the researcher (Renee Engeln) who braved the disdain of her own colleagues to pursue her research in this area.
I have discovered in Renee a kindred spirit – a no talk, all action, balls-to-the-wall, let’s call it like we see it kinda gal.
In 15 minutes (courtesy of TEDx), Renee outlines the issue, how it harms us, the choices we have, practical steps to make those choices, and the potential (positive) outcome if we do.
Not so long ago, I found myself standing on a warm, sunny, sandy beach in my very favorite place on earth.
My folks and I were passing a pair of binoculars between us.
The focus of our avid interest?
Soft round brown harbor seals.
After struggling through half a mile of soft sand on foot, we burst over the top of the High Head dunes on Cape Cod to discover them by the hundreds, basking on the warm sand and bobbing happily in the surf with just their plump sweet noses upturned towards the sun.
We were riveted.
Suddenly I heard myself exclaim, “I love seals and all their round soft cute rolls of blubbery goodness!”
Did I really just utter the equivalent of “I love blubber?”
Yet there I was, standing on the beach beside them, feeling uncomfortably, well, blubbery, myself.
The older I get, the more perspective I gain about what works for me – and also what doesn’t.
For instance, trying to manage the stressors of life by using eating disordered behaviors doesn’t work.
Drinking caffeine all day to keep my energy level at a consistent “high” doesn’t work.
Ruminating excessively on all possible “worst case scenario” outcomes doesn’t work.
Taking handfuls of over-the-counter mood management supplements doesn’t work.
These are just a few examples.
What works for me is quite simple: medication + meditation.
Specifically in that order.
Meditation without medication offers some benefits, as does medication without meditation.
But together, they have forged an alliance that has given me a quality of life I had no thought possible.
Recently, I happened across a post on marine ecologist and author Carl Safina’s website called “How to Be Important After Graduation (Anytime Really).”
I wish I could remember anything – even a single word – our commencement speaker shared the day I graduated.
If any of the words had been these words, I know I would still remember them.
Carl begins his speech by saying “graduation is always a joyful time.”
It wasn’t joyful for me.
It was scary, and strange, and artificial.
I felt lonely and very much unprepared.
I wasn’t ready for any of it, but it wouldn’t wait any longer. I could hear it in the background stamping its increasingly impatient little foot, telling me I’d better hurry up and get ready….”or else.”
I was in my late 20’s, and well into my struggles with anorexia and bulimia, before I began to perceive a tangible difference between “my body” and “me.”
After so many years of casually speaking about “my body,” “my mind,” “my heart,” “my spirit,” I finally started to wonder just who the “my” was who claimed all of these things.
Who owned “my body?”
Who was in charge of “my mind?”
Who sensed the presence of “my heart?”
Who was it who spoke of “my spirit” with such confidence?
Well, it must be …. “me.”
All at once, I became deeply curious about just who this “me” was who rated a body, a mind, a heart, a spirit all her own.