What a Jasmine Flower Has Taught Me About Trust

By Shannon Cutts
Malti is so small and young she still has her egg tooth - barely visible on the tip of her nose!

Malti is so small and young she still has her egg tooth – barely visible on the tip of her nose!

About a month ago, I acted upon a long-delayed dream.

I became Mommy to a hatchling red-foot tortoise named Malti.

Malti is an Indian girl’s name that means “small fragrant jasmine flower.”

She is very small indeed (3″ from nose to tail tip).

Her fragrance comes in the form of trust.

Even as I type, she is sleeping off her lunch in a mossy corner of her new habitat – totally trusting that her every need will be provided for…..by me.


I, on the other hand, am cramming on YouTube like only a newbie turtle mommy can, ever hopeful of keeping this baby alive for one more day.

We are making a lot of progress, Malti and I, but I have to give her most of the credit. 

Continue reading… »

The Importance of Believing in Good Things

By Shannon Cutts

benchYears 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.

  • How did my unhappiness start?
  • What perpetuates it?
  • Why do I feel so comfortable – if unhappy – in its company?
  • What is unhappiness afraid of?
  • What would life be like without unhappiness as my constant companion?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What is the worst that could happen (if I decided to try for a life with less unhappiness in it?)

Out of this ongoing questioning process, these two key facts have become my most trusted navigators.

  • Unhappiness is afraid of….happiness.
  • I am also afraid there is no such thing as “happiness” (even though somehow, inexplicably, I totally believe unhappiness exists!)

From here, my search for the inner strength to experience happiness has become fueled by a surprisingly simple daily practice. 

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The Trouble with Holding on Too Tightly

By Shannon Cutts

floatingI 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:

  • Does it feel good?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it fit with my personality?
  • Does it work?
  • Are there other ways that might work better?
  • Would I like to try any of those other ways?
  • What would my mentor do differently? (always a key question!)

My answers (thus far) are no, no, no, no, yes, yes, and “see the definition of insanity.” 

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Why We “Click” With Some People and Not With Others

By Shannon Cutts

scissorsI have always been fascinated by this question.

With some of my friends, we can go for years without connecting. Yet, when we do come back together, it feels like no time has passed.

With other friends, however, the process is much less organic. There seem to be inbuilt “requirements” – which I sometimes feel I should be sensing without needing to be told….yet don’t.

With these friendships, perhaps those requirements might include how often we talk to or see one another, what we do or where we go, or how quickly we respond back to one another when one of us has reached out.

Or the requirements could fall more along the lines of willingly aligning (or changing if need be) our beliefs, expressing agreement with one another without question, or knowing exactly what type of support to offer in different situations.

Interestingly – for me at least – in the first type of friendship (the organic kind) all of these requirements are a non-issue. What needs to take place takes place. What doesn’t need to take place doesn’t take place. Each of us is self-reliant and self-sufficient, but mutually appreciative of the chance to enjoy friendship when the time is right.

In the second type of friendship (the non-organic kind) each requirement needs to be spelled out – either because there is no congruent inner “sensing” of the friendship’s natural ebb and flow – or because, with these friendships, there actually is no natural ebb and flow. As a result, the friendship itself feels more manufactured, awkward, effort-full, and much less satisfying.

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How to Tell “Acceptance” and “Settling” Apart

By Shannon Cutts

moneyRecently I was reading an article about contentment.

Contentment – the middle way through life – is one of my favorite words.

I aspire to live a contented life, craving nothing yet renouncing nothing, and feeling happy with what comes into my life unsolicited while remaining unconcerned about the rest.

I really, really love contentment. Unfortunately, by nature I do not seem to possess a contented personality.

One contentment-based issue I have often arm-wrestled over the years (nearly always finding myself on the losing end) is the matter of “settling” versus “accepting.”

For instance, let’s say I am not earning as much money as I want to earn.

Here, I have three main choices for how to approach and work through this situation.

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What Will People Think?

By Shannon Cutts

jdge“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.

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Moving from Happiness to Joy

By Shannon Cutts

steppingstonesLast week, in a post called “The Discomfort of Happiness,” I shared some recent experiences I’ve had around feeling happy.

Then (in what always proves to be a gutsy move in hindsight) I shared the post with my longtime mentor.

Her very first question to me was to ask why I had chosen the word “happiness” instead of “joy.”

It’s not like I hadn’t foreseen that question coming – I was just so delighted to be progressing from “uncomfortable unhappiness” to “uncomfortable happiness” that I hadn’t bothered to wonder much about it.

But once your mentor asks you a question on the very topic you’ve decided you don’t need to contemplate yet, you know the moment has arrived to contemplate it.


Continue reading… »

“You” is the Best Person to Be!

By Shannon Cutts

DandelionOstrichesI have always loved nature.

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. 

Continue reading… »

The Discomfort of Happiness

By Shannon Cutts

marketI won’t lie.

From time to time, I have been known to overanalyze things.

However, after more than a few months of sincere and wondering analysis, I have to say I truly think I’m reading this one right.

You see, lately I’ve been, well, happy.

Someone very dear and important to me has come back into my life, and as we’ve been sharing our day-to-days, those days have been some of the best I’ve had.


And don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about days filled with diamonds and roses. I’m talking about days filled with yard work and grocery shopping.

Imagine the most mundane daily activities you can think of. Then add more. That is exactly the kind of happy day I’ve been enjoying lately in the company of this other person.

So this is great, right? I’m H.A.P.P.Y.

But here is the problem. You see, I’m now starting to think I’ve been so happy that I’ve been….unhappy.

For instance, sometimes when I notice I feel happy, that brings up waves of free-range discomfort – sort of a cross between anxiety, stress, irritation, and indigestion.

At other times, on the heels of noticing my happy-feelings, what follows is almost like depression – a sort of unwelcome slowing down of time, filled with fairly equal parts doom and dread. 

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Learning to See Ourselves as We Are

By Shannon Cutts

cookingOne particularly painful and ongoing part of my recovery process has been learning how to stop living as me in my past.

It has been surprisingly painful, as a matter of fact!

Truthfully, the more attention I have paid to my own relationship with myself, the more I have become aware that I don’t really see myself as I am – right now – today.

Rather, I often unwittingly continue to relate to myself as if I am the me I was yesterday, five years ago, 25 years ago.

Here is an analogy.

When I go to visit my folks, my mom automatically starts cooking for me and doing my laundry. Even when I ask repeatedly what I can do to help out in the kitchen or with the chores, she just keeps cooking and washing.

I suspect this is because she still sees me as a younger me – as the infant she delivered, as the girl she raised, as the young woman she has never quite been able to stop worrying about and caring for.

And this can work for me (she is an excellent cook and has a way with the washer and dryer) – at least for short visits.

But when I personally continue to relate to myself as if I am still five, or 15, or even 35, problems arise.

Continue reading… »


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Recent Comments
  • Shannon Cutts: So interesting! That makes me think perhaps we really are “wired” to judge in a way...
  • Megalodon: I am determinedly single but I have noticed that even then, somewhere in my head, I am evaluating a man...
  • Shannon Cutts: Oh wow, Kathy – how fabulous that you have a nest with a fledgling! The only time I’ve...
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