Archives for Relationships

Animal Mentors

The Face of Unconditional Love


It has taken nearly half my life to realize unconditional love is a very achievable experience that I really can have.

I can receive it. I can give it.

However, being me, at first I tried to tackle unconditional love the same way I try to tackle everything new - the hard way.

I tried to give it long before I knew what it felt like to receive it (no experience = no ability).

I also tried to find it with people first (in a word - whoops).

And I tried to find it in big chunks rather than in fleeting moments (which was all I could sustain at first).

Later I learned it is much easier to find unconditional love in nature before seeking it amongst my own kind. 
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Mentoring

My Possible Selves & Their Awakeners

Recently I read about a book called "Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own," by Kate Bolick.

It is probably worth mentioning that, as of today, I have not actually read the book yet. I'm not sure if I will or not.

But the article, written by Time's Elliot Holt, certainly gave me plenty to ponder.

In the article, Holt references a 1986 study cited in the book. The study looked at how our own imagined future - our "possible selves" - influences our present identity.

Study results indicated that, in particular, women tend to become "very focused on their possible selves."

Bolick calls the mentors who have the power to jolt us out of such unproductive ruminations "awakeners."

Personally, I have had several such awakeners in my life - mentors who have challenged me to challenge my own ideas of what I want, who I am, what feels wrong or right, what my life "should" or "shouldn't" look like, and so forth.

Not all of these mentors have been women, although my longtime personal mentor, Lynn, is certainly one of them.

Over the last decade, and the last few years in particular, my entire sense of my possible self has undergone a makeover.

My attitudes and beliefs about spirituality, sex, romance, career, connection, friendship, marriage, and death (just to name a few) have been radically revised.

To be honest, before reading Holt's article in Time, I would have readily attributed this to my ongoing progression through Erikson's 8 Psychosocial Stages.

I really love Erikson's Psychosocial Stages.
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Mentoring

Being Alone Versus Lonely


Ahhhh.....alone time.

I used to simultaneously crave and dread it.

(This was because I was such terrible company to spend time with.)

Today, I just crave it.

Sometimes I crave it so much I struggle when it becomes clear it is time to go be with people again.

As an introvert, I do most of my recharging by being alone, but every so often that balance swings so far to one side that I need to go do a different kind of recharging by being with people.

Often, the signal I get that this is what is needed is depression (yuck).

I start to notice falling self-worth, fearfulness about the future, dread of being lonely (as opposed to being alone - in my life today, these are two very different experiences).

When "alone" turns to "lonely," it is time to step out.

But unless I am in one of those rare cycles, I gain so much from keeping company with myself. 
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Mentoring

My Body, My Self-Worth


It happened again.

Even while I was still happily occupied with consuming my morning carbs, two brunching friends began discussing dieting.

One was on Adkins, the other just beginning some new diet focused on counting (and then subtracting) sugar calories.

Irked, I piped up with a gentle, "I hate diets. No diets!"

One friend (let's call her Ms. Sugar Calories) replied, "This isn't a diet. It is an eating plan."

The other friend (let's call her Ms. Protein) reinforced, "And the cravings really do go away after the first two weeks."

And we wonder why I don't get out much these days.

I mean, with all the pain and struggle in the world today, what IS it about whittling down our thighs (butt, belly, etc.) that has us so riveted?

I have a few friends who are further up in years than I am (I'm in my 40's, and they're in their 60's-70's) and STILL the obsession remains.

I don't want to be 70-something and still contemplating a tummy tuck.

I mean, to be perfectly frank, I don't want to be contemplating a tummy tuck at any age, but by the time I reach age 70, IF I reach age 70, I definitely plan to exempt myself from any further such contemplations.

I also don't want to diet. ever. again. And I don't plan to either.

Unfortunately - if I must admit it - this actually makes me feel left out sometimes.

This is because I don't have anything to add to this still-favorite topic amongst practically everyone I know....and my attempts to shut down the topic typically lead to equally unwelcome side conversations where I am simply left out entirely.

It is like the whole world is still happily sucking down heroin and I'm the sole token abstainer....and I'm also the only one who seems to be aware that the stuff is bad news, toxic, not to be trusted for, well, anything at all.

Worst of all, the part of my mind that is still recovering from my own 3-decade obsession with body shape and size often feels fragile enough to get sucked in, wondering if perhaps I should at least hear my friends out before assuming their shape and size issues don't apply to me.

What if they do?

The other day I tried to be companionable as my mom was talking about her new "healthy eating plan." I told her it sounded interesting and she should send me the link to learn more.

Really, I just wanted to check out this book and its author to be sure there wasn't anything dangerous about what my mom planned to try.

But in the process, somehow I communicated the idea that I was also interested in reducing belly fat and reshaping whatever remains.

It is all so frustrating.

Because it is not as if there isn't - potentially - belly fat to reduce or other areas to reshape. There certainly is that, if I wanted to go there.

And a part of my mind will probably always be interested in - and concerned about - this exact issue....and wanting to go there.

But here's the thing.
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Emotions

The Aftermath of Honesty

Have you ever been so honest with someone it made you feel sick?

Here, I'm not talking about saying something unkind in the heat of a moment, or having a fight, or speaking words you later decide you regret.

I'm talking about a genuine, honest, much-needed (and often long-delayed) sharing of your truth, at a level you never thought yourself capable of.

I'm talking about opening up your mouth and speaking out loud the kind of honest words that make you feel SO vulnerable, SO exposed, you actually look (maybe more than once) to see if you've sucker-punched yourself in the stomach.

I'm talking about the kind of honesty that is exceptionally painful, because to withhold it is to deny yourself, and to share it is to risk losing something (or someone) you very much want to hold on to.

I did this the other day.
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Mentoring

Coping with Comparison Envy


"Comparison envy."

For me at least, this is what happens when I start thinking about how I want my life to be different.

Then I start thinking about people I know (or don't know).

Then I start assuming their lives are working out in ways mine is not.

Then I get jealous of them.

If left unchecked, such ruminations can go on for minutes....days....or my whole life.

I can spend my whole life immersed in comparison envy - jealous of my own imaginings of how much better someone else's life/relationship/body image/income/success is than mine.

It goes without saying that the side effects of comparison envy are equally unpleasant.
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Inspirational

A Makeup-Free Year


The other day I was scheduled to do a media interview.

I hadn't done one of those in awhile, but I still remembered the drill.

RULE #1Wear makeup on camera, or risk appearing to have actually died during the interview.

(Not ideal under any circumstances, but especially not when you are filming a television spot about eating disorders!)

And I was totally prepared to make sure I looked alive and kicking on camera....except for one tiny detail.

I couldn't locate my makeup.

To make matters worse, the day before I had finally taken the plunge and dyed my hair raven black with purple highlights.

Which meant the most likely outcome would unfold as follows:

Pale skin + black hair + harsh TV lighting = on-camera Zombie.

Otherwise, however, all this was pretty cool.

I've pretty much been makeup-free for months now, and I hadn't even noticed!

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure it started last fall when my boyfriend and I were driving down to Galveston (where Houstonians like us go when we want to visit the beach). We were talking about a show we'd seen on dramatic makeovers, plastic surgery, etc.

I shared how I'd seen some of my Facebook friends posting pics of themselves without makeup to celebrate "Makeup-Free Day." He laughed and said, "Makeup-Free DAY? How about Makeup-Free YEAR?!"

I thought that was a pretty cool idea.
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Inspirational

Every Day, I Wake Up and Prepare to Die


A few days ago, I blogged about what I do each morning to wake up and fully prepare to live another 24 hours.

However, there is another facet of my process I didn't share in that post, which is preparing for our own death daily.

I have found much of my light through a daily meditation practice, which includes as much study and service as it does actual meditation.

In one of my study sessions, I read an essay on the topic of preparing for your own death that I've never forgotten.

The story went like this:

A man approached a great king asking for self-knowledge. The day he arrived happened to be the day of the annual kingdom-wide fair, and there were festivities everywhere! Magicians, jugglers, fire walks, jousts - it was nearly too much for the simple country man to take in! In answer to his request, the King replied, "Take this bowl of water and walk through the streets all the way to the end, then turn around and walk back. If even one drop of the water in that bowl spills, I will have my best swordsman cut off your head!" 

The man was floored....terrified....and (being as how it was the King and he couldn't just take back his request and leave) determined not to let one drop of water spill from the bowl. He walked very carefully, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the bowl. He looked nowhere else. Somehow he made it all the way there and back to the King without spilling one drop. Then he asked, "Why did you ask me to do that?" 
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Inspirational

Every Day, I Wake Up and Prepare to Live


For a decade and a half, I struggled mightily every day against an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, and self-hatred.

To this day, I am still not 100% certain what it was that kept me from offing myself, let alone waking up again and again into another day of certain hell.

But whatever it was - is - it is still with me.

It still helps me wake up every morning and prepare to live another day.

My dad and I talk about this a lot - he grew up under challenging circumstances of an entirely different sort, yet he too woke up every morning, the youngest of four in a reliably chaotic household, and set his mind towards the future.

He simply determined that HIS future would be different - and every choice he made in each present day was weighed against his vision of that future.

Today, he is living in the exact future he envisioned in each of those days, beginning oh so many decades ago.

Perhaps that was what kept me going - his example and knowing his story - even though I surely didn't view that as my inspiration at the time (I was far too caught up in my own darkness to see much else back then).

I just knew that, every time I was tempted to think the way my life felt was the worst any life could ever feel, I would read or hear about someone whose life was so much harder, and who was still choosing to make good come from bad.

Gandhi. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King, Jr. My American Indian grandparents. Random biographies and novels I read in the library (I was an avid reader growing up, and still am).

Here, in these stories, I found my heroes and my mentors.
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Emotions

Keeping Others’ Pain from Becoming Personal


I have a handful of loved ones in my life right now who are experiencing longer-term painful circumstances.

In one case, the pain is medical. In one more, financial. In yet another, the pain is less well-defined as she wishes for (but day after day does not act to build) a life that feels like a better "fit" than the one she has now.

And it gets to me.

It all gets to me.

Sometimes their ongoing pain feels very, very personal.

I wake up at night worrying, or praying, or both.

When morning comes, they are right there on my mind.

Following visits and phone calls, I feel like I need to grieve and heal and rekindle hope - as if their pain is my pain.

It is.

Needless to say, this isn't working well for me. 
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