Is the Love You Get Digestible?

It is kind of hard to put this into words. But basically, I have really been struggling lately with my own relationship with love.

Love is a very essential thing to have in life - or at least it feels essential for me to have love in my life.

I realize it is probably not quite so essential as food, water, shelter, safety - in the sense that, without these basics, all the rest can quickly become a highly theoretical exercise anyway.

But once those necessities are solidly in place, what is left to look for in life? Love. And this can - at least for me - prompt some personally uncomfortable questions.

For instance - what is my relationship like with others? What is my relationship like with me? Where does my supply of love come from? Is that supply consistent? Is there any danger of the supply being interrupted or even ceasing altogether?

This is particularly significant because, for those of you who have been following along here for some time, you probably remember I went through a breakup with my longtime partner about five months ago.

The breakup caused a huge interruption in my supply of love. Or perhaps "interruption" is not the right word - it was more like the supply just suddenly ran out.

To clarify, this never made me question whether separating was the right thing to do. On the contrary - it felt like the only loving thing left to try that might safeguard what love we had previously shared together.

Yet it wasn't until after the split when I began to realize to what extent I had let my own efforts to ensure a steady supply of self-love lapse.

This prompted yet another whole set of uncomfortable self-queries...queries that eventually led me to realize the real reason for our split. 


Recalibrating Your Sense of Self After a Breakup

Recently I went thrift shopping with my mom. This is a favorite shared hobby and we always find interesting things.

But since parting ways with my longtime partner back in November, I now come away from nearly every outing with more interesting finds to ponder than just how to pair new vintage finds with my existing wardrobe.

For example, during this last outing, in a sudden aha-moment I realized that over the years I have become accustomed to shopping with an eye towards where I might wear each item with my partner....or, rather, ex-partner.

So now as I shop, it doesn't take much for my mind to get confused about our shopping agenda.

Here is an example.

Let's say I am casually browsing through the racks when all at once I happen across a particularly choice of those ones that is particularly ripe with creative wearable potential. Suddenly on high alert, my mind instantly starts scanning the near calendar horizon seeking for suitable occasions where I might wear this item.

In my still-newly single state, it surprise here...nothing. After all, there are really only so many different outfits one can wear for yet another evening sitting at home on the couch cuddling with your pet tortoise.

Disappointed, my mind returns the data, or lack thereof. It sagely advises me to put the item back on the rack. Of course, by now I have grown attached to it - to the potential, the possibility, the creativity, the hopes and dreams that haven't died quite so easily as the relationship itself. 

Book Mentors

Write to Heal: Learn How with June Alexander of “The Diary Healer”

Shannon here..... I am so happy to share a special guest post from my dear friend and long-time collaborator and colleague Dr. June Alexander!

For those of you who remember MentorCONNECT, you may have met June already either virtually or in person - she was one of our first and most beloved volunteer mentors!

If you are an avid reader, you may know of June through her many wonderful books, which offer valuable insights and practical tools for making progress in eating disorders recovery and life.

And if you are an aspiring writer and haven't yet met June, you will want to - she is an accomplished writing mentor and coach through her Life Stories Mentor program (more news about this PLUS an invitation to connect with June directly at the end of this guest post).
Write to Heal: Making the Hard Work of Eating Disorder Recovery Easier by June Alexander
Recovery from an eating disorder is hard work. The good news is that the skills developed during the recovery process can be very useful in meeting other challenges that arise in the mainstream of everyday life.

The following excerpt from my own personal diary gives you just a glimpse of the power of diary writing!
From my diary: March 16, 2019
I am at JFK Airport, 6pm, to start the long homeward journey from the AED ICED in New York. Have managed to circumvent a hurdle. There was a St Patrick’s Day march in Central Park and many roads were blocked, police/police cars everywhere, and the journey from the hotel on 75thAvenue to the airport took 2.5 hours instead of the usual one hour. The cab driver was apologetic, but the constant braking and accelerating (one car space at a time for more than an hour), left me feeling very nauseous (due to the missing vertebrae/discs in my cervical spine). I inadvertently mentioned this when loading my suitcase on to the conveyor belt — and the staff swung into procedure mode, immediately calling for advice … then they said: “You will not be able to fly today, you need to see a doctor and get a medical clearance. You will have to stay overnight and return tomorrow if you have a certificate to say you are fit to travel.”
Thoughts began to rush into my brain, all panic-driven, all in flight mode. 


Who Are You Without Your Roles?

Approximately four months ago, my longtime love of 15 years and I finally parted ways. It was a good decision - one I still feel is the most loving for all concerned.

(And by "all," I mean me and him of course, but also the handful of intensely long-suffering and devoted family, mentors and friends who have kept the bucket brigade going during the many long and difficult years of our connection....and even now into its dissolution.)

By some bona fide miracle, shortly after we split I happened across a series of memoirs by author and teacher Sonia Choquette. She has written three to date - the first chronicles her growing up years, the start of her career and how she met her husband. The second and third describe their difficult breakup after a 30+ year marriage and how Sonia survived it.

I seriously could not have asked for a better mentor, guide and encourager at this particular moment in my life. It has been like having someone to talk to - listen to, really - who is several steps ahead of me and is yet is still working hard to relocate her footing after such a significant life change.

What a blessing (big grateful sigh).

But why am I sharing this? I am early into Sonia's third memoir as I write this, and she has just shared about discovering how strong her identity as "married" still is even though she has been divorced for several months now. She talks about how much trouble she is having figuring out who she is - the image I get is of her poking around inside herself, examining each bit and asking, "Are you me? Are you me? Are you me?"

Or perhaps that is the image I get of me doing the same. 

Love & Feathers & Shells & Me

You Are So Much More Than Your Shell (So Am I!)

Over the past 48 years, I have discovered there are a lot of things in life I am not very good at.

As it turns out, one of them is raising shells....specifically, a hatchling red-footed tortoise named Malti who is now nearly five years old and lives in my casa with me and the rest of our little interspecies flock.

Malti came to me in May 2014. She was - to put it mildly - an impulse purchase.

Fresh off a minor (major) disagreement with my then significant-other, I was supposed to be researching garage apartments on Craig's List. Instead, I typed in "reptiles."

A week later, I somehow found myself in possession of a teensy hatchling tortoise in a small plastic dish and a one-page care sheet. Looking back now, it would be nearly impossible to say which one of us was more scared of the other. We made it through the first night, and then the second, and as I slowly lost the urge to check on her 16 times a night, we both started to relax a little bit.

This, as it turned out, was a big mistake.

Fast forward about a year and we are in the veterinary ER (you can read the whole back story on Malti's blog). I am sobbing on the phone to my folks as I describe the thousands of dollars I don't have that it may take to keep my little one above ground. They give me the green ($) light and Malti is admitted to the intensive care. I drive home and cry myself to sleep.

Bright and early the next morning I get a call from the vet tech - an amazing and life-saving being I adore named Dani who just happens to own a - wait for it - healthy, elderly red-footed tortoise. 

Yoga Mentoring

Learning to Breathe Like You Love Yourself

"Breathe like you love yourself."

I have been hearing my yoga teacher, Adriene, say this for more than a year now.

And because I do Yoga with Adriene nearly every day, this means I've been hearing her say it nearly daily for over a year now.

I will confess, at first when she would say this, I didn't even really hear her. It felt like one of those non-statements - sayings that sound like they are wise but actually don't say anything.

It's not like I really have a Plan B if the whole breathing thing doesn't work out.

Then, as the yoga days passed and I segued from one course to another and then another, slowly I started to notice that I don't actually always breathe. Sometimes I hold my breath. Sometimes, especially if the yoga pose is really hard or scary (for me at least if not for everyone), I just stop breathing for a moment or two.

Then my body notices the breathing has stopped, nudges me, and we resume.

So I started paying more attention to the times when Adriene would prompt me to make sure I was breathing. Often, sure enough, I wasn't breathing and needed to get back at it again.

But still, when she would say "breathe like you love yourself," there was a disconnect. It was like everything after the word "breathe" just dropped into a little dark hole somewhere - like I became temporarily deaf just until she finished saying that part.

Then one day a friend and I were talking about some of the many blessings Adriene's yoga classes have brought into our lives. And she mentioned how, in the class she had just finished, Adriene had added a few more helpful instructions.

Specifically, after saying "breathe like you love yourself," Adriene had added, "even if you don't feel like you love yourself."

Somehow, that did it. It clicked. I stopped being temporarily deaf and actually heard what Adriene had been saying like it was the first time.

In that moment, I realized there are lots of different kinds of breaths and lots of different ways of breathing.  

Animal Mentors

Things I Say to My Pets That I Need to Hear Myself

Pets have always been so essential in my life.

I started begging for a pet bird when I was seven years old. At age eight, a green and white parakeet named Perky arrived and we were instantly inseparable.

Over the decades (nearly five at last count), I have lost count of the number of times I've felt bottomless loneliness at some urban social gathering and have found comfort and communion with the enterprising grackles landing on nearby tables or wandering along strips of grass lining concrete curbs.

When I've traveled and felt lost and homesick, watching a hawk whirling in the sky above or a stately tree standing patiently in place has helped me remember who I am. 

Shannon Cutts

Can You Describe Your Spirit?

When New Year's Eve turned into New Year's Day of this year, I set an intention as usual for the year ahead.

This year - 2019 - felt very different. For starters, after 15 years of partnership, I was walking into a whole new year as a newly single person.

I was also experiencing for what may actually be the first time ever in my life (at age 48!) what it feels like to have a working thyroid gland.

And my parents were finally resettled in their home after hurricane Harvey's devastation, freeing up some time and energy to finish other long-delayed projects like my mom's and my new recipe book!

So...bittersweet. Which I happen to adore in chocolate but not so much in the rest of life.

This made my intention for 2019 easy to discern: "Look Inside and See Who Is There."

In other words, I already knew 2019 would necessarily be a year of turning within, reconnecting with myself and my life, wobbling forward somehow without any of the interpersonal structure I had grown so accustomed to accommodating, avoiding old pitfalls and potholes in favor of newer, smoother, straighter pathways.

Oddly, I guess I was already so consumed with this very agenda I neglected to post my intention here as I usually do!

But pretty much from January 1 forward, I have been drawn to certain mentors, resources, books, movies, experiences that support this inward-seeking focus.

One such mentor is Sonia Choquette, an author and teacher and intuitive who talks so much about tuning in to what she calls our "vibes." Right now I am reading a book she wrote called "Ask Your Guides" because if anyone could use some guides right now, it surely is me!

I would like to ask my guides lots of things, but first I have to find them. According to Sonia, the first step to finding your spirit guides is to - wait for it - look inside and see who is there.

Right in chapter one, which is the only chapter I have read so far, she asks a very tough question (which I will paraphrase for brevity's sake):

If you had to describe your spirit self, what would you say?  


How I’m Learning to Change My Inner Energy Channel

I have always had a good ear for music. Even if someone is off-tune just the slightest bit, my grumpy inner ear will hear it and start complaining.

I wish I could say the same about my inner energy sensors.

To be fair, for the first three (okay four) decades of my life to date, my sensors were set wrong - instead of tuning in to my own inner energy state, they kept busy scanning the energy of those around me and attempting to re-tune my own to match whatever they found.

But now, late in my fourth decade, I seem to have at last located my own inner energy and have since become increasingly focused on a little game I call "name that emotion."

This is a very hard game. It extends quite a bit beyond the primaries - mad, sad, glad, et al - and into far subtler states.

Here are some examples. I could be sad-mad, or mad-glad. Or sad-glad.

For instance, I could be mad but in a glad direction - maybe I am very angry with someone for letting me down (again) but also glad I've finally noticed and have made a decision to let that connection go.

Or I could be feeling sad but also glad because I have completed a hard task or challenge I didn't really want to do that also really needed to be done. So I'm sad but also feeling glad I was up to it and, if I do say so myself, really rather proud of myself for doing it.

A newer game I am now learning to play is one I call "change the inner  energy channel." Here, I notice what words I use to name and then describe to myself the emotion(s) I am feeling.

For example, just the other day I caught myself telling a friend, "I just feel like my life is so empty now that I don't have a partner." And even in the midst of saying those words to her, I realized the word "empty" felt really, well, empty! It felt sad-mad - discouraged, hopeless, put upon, left out, so angry - and I wasn't liking those feelings one little bit. 


Personal Thoughts on Loneliness

Loneliness isn't my favorite topic or life experience - not by a long shot.

But it does sometimes seem loneliness particularly enjoys my company.

I say this because it visits me regularly.

I can look back over my nearly five decades on this planet and see so many times when loneliness has decided to just spontaneously "drop by" - sometimes staying for hours, days or even weeks before packing up and moving along again.

I can see other times when loneliness made more of a planned visit, so to speak - like, after the demise of a 15-year connection with my longtime love late last year - it wasn't like loneliness called up and made a reservation, but it might as well have. I could see (and hear) it coming for miles away.

Several years ago, I had the great good fortune to work with a gifted life coach for a full year. While initially, I sought her help to navigate through a suffocating and relentless workload, what actually unfolded went far deeper than that. In short, I began to understand more about how "I" operate in this world, what makes the entity I call "me" tick.

For example, I learned that there is a "me" and that I have a rather recognizable persona, pattern, heartbeat, brain wave, whatever you like to call it - in this world that is unique to me. For example, I often go through periods of rather intense connection with others in the world, whether through a deep personal relationship or through an intricate work challenge or for some other reason.

And then equally as often, I will often cycle through that time and into a period of intense solitude, aloneness, or what I've often termed "loneliness."

During these times, while I might struggle against what feels like enforced solitude, even blaming myself for being "too introverted" or "anti-social," when I try to blast myself OUT of the house and back INTO the world again, what I experience is misfire after misfire. No matter what I try, at the end of the day there I am once more, alone on my couch watching Netflix or reading or typing away late into the night all by my lonesome yet again.