Mentoring

Seeing the Light in Dark News

A few days ago, I got a pile of news all at once.

Some of the news was awesome.

Some, not so much.

But all jumbled up together, it felt challenging to organize which was which all on my own.

At times like these, I crave conversation with a certain type of person - that rare confidante who can look into the jumble of seemingly conflicting information and reliably pull out the light. What I learned from sharing this last jumble with various confidantes is that this is a rare gift....or perhaps a skill...or both.

In other words, not everyone has it - and those who do have it tend to be rarer than those who don't.

I have also learned that often parents don't have it - at least when it comes to their own spouses, parents, kids, pets, and grandkids.

In other words, just as my worry setting seems permanently stuck on "high" when it comes to Pearl, my parrot, and Malti, my baby tortoise, my own parents exhibit the same for me.

So if I share some good news and some bad news with my folks - for example's sake, let's say it is an unexpected sudden reduction in my freelance income - my mom, as self-appointed SpokesParent for them both, will translate that in her head to mean, "My daughter is going to be a homeless bag lady by tomorrow morning!!"

Then she will begin peppering me with questions and ideas (until, frankly, being homeless and living out of a bag begins sound both peaceful and freeing).

What is particularly ironic is that I DO have this gift for reliably finding the light in the jumble - or, in my case, I have this as a skill which I have consciously and deliberately developed for myself through much prayer, meditation, and daily self-effort.

I have taught myself to take in any news, and then instantly look for the bright spot in that news, no matter how hard it may be to locate.

For instance, let's say I am looking at the aforementioned unexpected reduction in freelance income. Instead of automatically heading towards "OMG - I'm a homeless bag lady!," I will say to myself, "How exciting! I wonder what kind of work I will be doing next! I'll bet it will be something even better than what I was doing until now!"

If - as such news sometimes does - it comes with compliments to myself included - I will read and re-read those compliments and allow them to soak in.

If there are no compliments I will compliment myself (after all, somebody has to do it.) 
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Mentoring

As the Pendulum Swings to the “Binge” Setting

I logged into my Amazon.com account today, and what did I see?

One word: "BINGE."

Each letter was decorated with television characters. First of all, as a Business/Marketing major, I must give kudos to Amazon for what is most likely already a very effective marketing strategy (I say this because before I saw it on Amazon, I saw the same strategy being used on Hulu to advertise their "Hulu Plus" TV streaming service).

But now what I thought (hoped) was going to be a very limited, localized ad campaign is spreading.

We - all of us - are being encouraged to "binge" on a variety of things besides substances and so-called "junk" or "bad" food.

Television, exercise, health foods and supplements (aka "orthorexia"), life hacks, anything is fair game for bingeing these days.

Sadly.

While clearly this doesn't apply in certain situations (heroin abuse, for example), in most cases a big facet of my ongoing recovery work is to replace words like "binge" with a phrase my mom has always used:

Everything in moderation.

Unfortunately for those of us on the moderation bandwagon, moderation doesn't sell.

This is because moderation doesn't have "star appeal."

It isn't glitzy or glamorous or extreme.

It won't make news headlines.

It won't sell anything to anybody (unless perhaps it comes attractively - if deceptively - packaged as "life balance"). 
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Emotions

Steering Clear of Needy Greedy “Love”


At times, I ask the wrong people for advice about the wrong things.

When I do this, I tend to get, well, bad advice.

As my mentor has often reminded me, the key to getting good advice is to ask the right people about the right things.

Here are three examples:

If I need advice about a recovery issue, I want to ask someone who is a few steps ahead of me on the recovery journey and/or has professional expertise in recovery matters.
If I need advice of a romantic nature, I want to ask someone who is now/has been in the past in the kind of healthy romantic partnership I aspire to also be in.
If I need advice about my career, I want to ask someone who has expertise in my line of work or a similar profession.

You probably get the idea right away. But often I still don't.

Recently I ill-advisedly shared news-in-progress about some possible choices my significant other and I were talking over with someone who (frankly) didn't meet the criteria to offer advice in this area.

Yet I got advice anyway....and the advice was along the lines of "but what if you don't get everything you want and need by making this or that choice?" 
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Inspirational

I May Really Be as Old as I Feel


Okay - here's something weird.

Recently I read an article - a series of articles, really - about aging.

Specifically, the series was focused on all the ways, available and emerging, we can stop or even reverse the aging process.

Many articles focused on learning techniques to promote restoration or longevity for our physical body - as such, these read much like a short course for auto enthusiasts striving to better preserving paint or battery life in a favorite antique car.

The article that captured my complete attention was called "Get Your Head in the Game: cutting-edge research is showing that your outlook can change how you age-at a cellular level."

Its premise was simple - so simple it sounds like a cliche I was tempted to ignore ("You're only as old as you feel" - well, what if some days I feel five and other days I feel 80? Divided by 2, that places me well within range of my actual age - 44).

So I stayed focused on facts - aka what we already do know is possible when body and mind are linked.

Here is what we know: 
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Celebrity Mentors

John Nash and How He Changed My Life


On Saturday, May 23, 2015, John Nash & his wife, Alicia, were riding through New Jersey in a taxi.

They had just returned from the Abel Prize awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway, where Dr. Nash had accepted his prize from the King of Norway himself.

For those of you who may not know this, I dedicated a whole chapter and several more pages of my first book, "Beating Ana: how to outsmart your eating disorder and take your life back," to Dr. Nash's story.

Even though I consider him one of my longtime mentors, we never met, but he and his wife were instrumental in stabilizing me in recovery nevertheless.

From Dr. Nash, I learned there really is such a thing as "mind over matter" (at least my personal matter, that is), and that it can be life-saving.

In this, he helped me increase my daily practice of "putting my mind on a diet," a regimen he credits with helping him overcome the effects of paranoid schizophrenia.

And reading and watching his story (through Sylvia Nasar's biographical book, "A Beautiful Mind," and then the Ron Howard movie by the same name), forever cemented my commitment to keeping my own counsel - about my chances for a successful recovery AND a successful life.

My whole life is better because John & Alicia Nash refused to listen to anyone who claimed he could never overcome his mental illness. 
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Inspirational

Why I’m Not Quite as Afraid of Death Anymore


This past month or two, I've been posting a fair amount on what appears to be a "mid-life fear-of-death crisis."

While I'm not totally sure what brought this on, I suspect it has something to do with watching my best friend's parents pass last year (both were in their 90's and had been married 65 years).

In witnessing their fears of death, I also uncovered my own.

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I figured out now that I'm afraid of death, rather than waiting to die before I figured it out!

But not knowing how to address this fear - or how to solve it - has still felt like an obstacle....until recently.

After my last post about my fear of death, a sweet Facebook friend commented that I might enjoy a certain book by Annie Kagan called "The Afterlife of Billy Fingers."

When I first read the title, I was quite sure I wouldn't like this book at all - "Billy Fingers" sounded like a ghost's name, and perhaps one with ties to the kind of folks who like to bury their dead in concrete shoes.

However, my desperation for something to do trumped my hesitation, and I ordered a copy that same day.

As of today, I am on my third straight reading. 
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Mentoring Book Reviews

The Specific Scent of Snakes


I have a friend named Laura who is very afraid of snakes.

She has a husband, two kids, and a Masters degree in Forestry and Wildlife Management.

Laura has been bitten by monkeys and rabbits and has faced down a whole room of Congresspeople without quailing.

But she becomes literally paralyzed with fear at the sight....or even the scent....of snakes.

Her full name is Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, and I know about her fear of snakes not because she is my longtime friend, colleague, and mentor, but because I recently read her memoir, titled (wait for it) "The Specific Scent of Snakes."

While reading her memoir, I also learned about her life in rural Virginia, where she and her family lived in a house with (her words) "fallible electricity" and a party phone line, as well as a fairly eclectic assortment of animals including goats, rabbits, chickens, foxes, and, well, snakes.

I learned about her three heart-wrenching miscarriages - each losses that occurred long before she and I met, but which affected me perhaps even more deeply because of this.

I also learned how she began to make and sell her own soap and how, in the course of her healing process post-miscarriages, she came to adopt a baby son.

And I learned how amazingly good she became at denying the undeniable presence of snakes in her country home...until one day  when she finally met one of the household's scalier residents face to face. 
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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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Celebrity Mentors

My New Style Role Models


In my last post, I shared my delight at discovering the modeling industry is experiencing somewhat of a....well...makeover.

In a nutshell, women ages 50-90+ are suddenly everywhere.

I LOVE it.

The more I researched, the more I discovered that there is a backbone, a foundation, to this sudden surge of interest in the over-50 set.

His name is Ari Seth Cohen, and he runs the blog (and now book and now movie) Advanced Style.

Cohen says the inspiration to create Advanced Style came from his closeness with his two grandmothers. He wanted to share their wisdom and beauty with others through photography.

When I popped onto his blog this morning, I was delighted to notice he is now photographing fashionable men of the same age as well.

All I can say to this whole movement is - it's about time. 
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