Learning to Breathe

This story was written by Corinne Birchard. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!


This was supposed to be the year of everything. Senior year of college. I was so excited to start this year as I had big goals and aspirations for the up-coming cross country season. I dedicated my summer solely to training;  I discussed with my mom the idea of not getting a summer job to maximum my time for getting in my hour long endurance runs, my lifting session, my shakeout second run of the day, and my routine of “little things” to promote recovery, including sleep. My parents not only understood that, but encouraged me to hold off on getting a summer job so I could focus my energies on training. So that was my summer.

I was so excited to go back to school and compete in my class cross country season as a Division I runner. And to learn and complete my degree in biology, of course, but I invested so much time in running during my time off from school that I couldn’t wait to taste the delicious fruits of my labor.

Turns out they weren’t so delicious.

While I was focusing my energies on training, I kept putting off the dreading feeling of leaving the home I love so much. This year was different from other years. The early years of college, I would be so excited to go back to school and reconnect with my roommates and teammates, train hard and study hard. Of course, I would miss my family and friends and boyfriend back home, but the college atmosphere was different, almost refreshing. New.

Now, things are different. With one year left of college, I had my future career to look at, deciding where to get my masters of education, spending time with my parents that I enjoy so much, and planning a future with my then-boyfriend, now fiancé. And, life happened back up at school. I grew apart from people whom I was close with at the beginning. That happens, that’s okay. I went through mindset changes that maybe didn’t exactly line up with the mindset of others on my team (some may say I take my sport too seriously, but I’ve always been a serious person. That’s how I perform my best.)

I wish I realized this earlier, but underneath the focus of putting forth my best effort in training, I was masking the dread of going back to an environment in which I knew would be different.

But when I realized it, it hit me like a ton of bricks straight to the chest. I felt like I was suffocating.

The year I was expecting to be the best year ever wasn’t turning out that way. Training was going okay, but I didn’t feel comfortable with where I was at. Between the different training philosophies, eating lifestyles, practice conflicts, and levels of interest in competing and training, I felt like I was isolated and had no one to connect to. I thought that it would pass, maybe it was just everyone was adjusting to being back at school again.

But weeks went on and I never felt more alone surrounded by people. I dreaded going to practice. I ran with others, but being with people felt like I was suffocating. I would break off and run by myself, and that was equally as suffocating. I couldn’t escape it. The pressure would follow me back to my apartment and I felt uncomfortable in what was supposed to be the comfort of my own space. It felt like living in a compacted bubble that was ever pressing down on my chest.

The worst was when that pressure, the suffocating, came crashing down in my first race of the season. I went in with a happy heart and a happy head (I thought) and was looking forward to seeing how I would perform. Mid-way through the 6K race, the pressure came back and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Not exactly the way I wanted my first race as a senior to go. It was embarrassing. My parents drove for eight hours to come watch me run and spend the day with me. I felt like I let them down, and cried in the shower as they waited in my living room to go out to dinner. They had no idea.

In a place in which I was surrounded by positive energy, I encountered negative energy at an unrelenting rate. The pressure, the suffocation would squeeze tears from my eyes on my way to class, or practice, or on my way home. But I couldn’t tell anyone there; I was colloquially known in the athletic department and on my team as the girl who was always smiling, always happy, such a great big smile on my face.

Yes, I’m smiling, but on the inside, I’m crying. I began counting down the days to graduation, not because it would a joyous occasion, but because that meant I could leave this place for good.

I decided to take a weekend away. I needed a change of scenery, a change of people, a change of everything. I couldn’t wait to leave.

And thank God I did. I left my computer at my apartment and my phone’s touch screen wasn’t working too well, so I only used it to get in contact with people on an urgent basis (like, where was my ride from the airport, and yes, I landed safely, because just to type those five or six words took a solid ten minutes. I couldn’t be bothered with that the entire weekend).

With the first breath of fresh air I took in when the flight landed, I felt all the negativity leave my body. I was able to breathe again.

Over the course of that weekend, I got the best sleep I’ve been able to get since I went back to school. I really, truly, genuinely laughed so hard in the pee-your-pants-but-you-don’t-care type of way. I genuinely smiled so much (a real, tooth-grinning smile) that my jaw cramped up.

And, I felt independent. With the suffocation gone, I felt like I could actually do things I wanted to do, instead of veg on the couch post-run thinking of all the things I could be doing but instead wasting my day away. Slowly but surely I felt strength come back to my body in the form of the warm light ability to freely breathe.

I didn’t know how much I needed to get away, but I’m glad I did. I learned so much about myself that weekend. Like I truly enjoy math and maybe I should have majored in math instead, or that I am actually able to strike up a conversation with a person I just met, instead of waiting for her to dictate the conversation.

The best part was that the happiness I felt in the core of my body didn’t leave me when I stepped on the flight back to school. Instead, I think it grew and made me more confident. I reached out to a friend and teammate who I haven’t really spoken to since the beginning of the year due to scheduling conflicts and I told her how I was feeling. It felt so good to actually tell someone, instead of letting the feeling suffocate me. I became more comfortable reaching out for help from different resources, like my coach, my sports psychologist, my journal, and you, who is reading this story. The more I shared how I felt, the more comfortable I felt, because I wasn’t alone.

The more I talked, the more I realized that there were changes I could make myself to help me truly enjoy my last year at school. I happily decided to switch my degree from a BS in biological sciences to a BA, and resign a class I really wasn’t enjoying or benefiting from. I explored places and initiated activities with my friends, either going out on adventures in town or finding a new place to study.

And, most importantly, I felt like I was able to breathe. I was able to breathe without restriction.

What I learned from this experience that it is so important to do what makes you happy. Don’t worry about obtaining perfection. Don’t worry about obtaining the ideal “senior season” because there will be someone that is out of your control that may change that vision in an instant. Instead, be malleable. Be open. Be present. Be you, do what makes you happy in that moment, and breathe freely.

Shopping with God in Rome

It’s not often that I will drop £350 on myself without pre-planning the expense, working it into the budget, rationalizing why I, and the items that I desire, are worth it.

It was a new and rare experience when I found myself freely handing over my credit card without any of these mind games going on. A spontaneous shopping spree on the 2nd day of the True You Italia retreat as we were wandering the streets of Rome.

Technically, we were looking for a place to sit and have a drink and a snack together (when in Rome…). My mission at the time was to get us off the main street and into the quieter alleys that were not so packed with tourists (those darn tourists).

As I paused to invite the others to cross the street, I looked up and saw a dress that caught my eye. It was an orangey mustard colour with a subtle blue flower print, the light material flowing off the mannequin in such a way that stirred something in me to try it on. To see if I would feel as beautiful in it, as the beauty the dress itself created.

Plus the price was right. 39 euros? I can do that.

So I meandered into the shop, browsing the racks, imagining how the gently feminine styles would look on me, keeping an eye on the price tag.

I found a navy pullover for only 19 euro made in a light viscose material, with long sleeves and a long torso, that made me feel comfy and softly sexy at the same time.

That was a definite yes.

Then something made me ask the sales assistant if I could try on the dress in the window… the reason why I had walked into the shop in the first place.

Maybe a different day I would’ve settled for the comfy sexy pullover, but the whole Retreat was about coming Alive… part of that means acknowledging and acting on my desires. And I had a desire to try on that dress.

The young man explained that the one on the mannequin was the last one in the store, he could get another one from a sister store, but would I like to try on the same dress different colour in the meantime?

Sure. Go for it.

And go for it he did.

I put the dress on and it was shapeless. Not what it looked like on the mannequin. A subtle disappointment creeped in… once again my desires don’t look good on me.

I showed my two amici, Liberty and Becki, and they agreed… something was missing.

The belt! The mannequin was wearing a belt!

‘I’ve got a belt at home’, I said.

The sales assistant, whom we soon learned was named Emanuele, perked up. ‘No, not your belt from home. I will get you a belt. Stay there.’

He brought over a blue leather belt that matched the sprinkle of blue in the dress. He lovingly tied it around my hips and flounced the material around it.

There.

Wait, you need the necklace.

2 minutes later I had my choice of necklaces to try on. I chose the one that felt most me.

Yup, that worked.

Something inside of me was awakening… I started to feel playful. ‘What shoes would I wear with this outfit?’ I asked. ‘Heels?’ I was picturing strappy stiletto Roman-esque adornments for my feet.

‘Ah, No. I will show you. What size are you?’

‘Ok good. Here, put these stockings on your bare feet while you’re waiting.’

Next thing I know, I am standing there with Emanuele down on his knees scrunching the soft leather of a pair of handmade boots around my calves, just so, to give the outfit the exact look and feel he could see for me.

Me? I had no clue boots could scrunch. Left to my own devices I would’ve rigidly kept them knee high. I was not expecting the inviting look, and the internal surrender, that came from the boot scrunch.

Again he eyed up his creation. ‘Something is missing’. He declared. ‘Stay here.’

I stayed and looked in the mirror. Definitely not an outfit I would’ve picked out for myself, but it was working. I liked what I saw.

He returned with a blue jacket that matched my belt, hand crafted from lambskin, as soft as a baby’s bottom.

Trust me, I was not expecting to ever try on a blue leather jacket. It just wasn’t in my view of what works for me.

But to my surprise, this more than worked.

Another look in the mirror and I could barely take in what I saw. It was like I was lifted from the page of a magazine. The outfit popped, and in wearing it, I did too.

Becki and Liberty were oohing and ahing. Turn here. Look that way.

I let myself be seen. Playfully and coyishly posing for them to admire. Hand on hip, knee bent, head tilted.

Something inside of me desired to savour this. Let myself receive the attention, care, and admiration of those around me.

Forget the outfit, this experiment in receiving was a whole new look for me. My norm is to downplay and shy away from compliments, and then crack some joke so as to dumb down the beauty.

I chose differently yesterday. And it felt damn good.

I felt like a woman. Like a divine being. I tried on the ability to receive, without any strings attached; without owing anyone anything or apologizing for my radiance.

I was empowered to own this moment, and so I chose to take that moment home with me. To own it for good; without figuring out where the £350 was coming from, or what would my husband think, or do I really need or deserve this?

It didn’t matter. Because being more of me is priceless. So is owning and living the truth of who I am…  a woman who can delight in herself, and let herself be delighted in by others. A woman who knows she is worthy.

And as I did that, something else changed in me. I let the walls down between me and Emanuele.

Because at first the cynic in me thought, hmmm, he’s a really good sales person. I better keep my eye on the price tag here because he’s up and cross-selling me, all for his gain ie commission. And although he’s doing a very good job, I’ve sussed him out.

But the more I let myself receive, the more the judgement melted away. I stood back and let him do his thing, because he was actually having FUN! Decorating and dressing me was not a job for him.

It was Play. His Art. I was his Creation.

I got curious about him… Tell me Emanuele, why do you do what you do?

I like to put the colours together for people. They would never think green goes with this, or blue goes with that, but then I put it together, and dey lahv it!

His finds joy in seeing others experience joy.

His True You comes alive as he helps others come Alive.

We asked if we could capture this moment on camera, and so Liberty asked him, ‘When do you feel most alive?’

And this is when it became clear our shopping spree was not really a shopping spree, but a Divine experience. A meeting with God.

‘When I pray.’

Here, in a women’s fashion boutique in Rome, was an openly gay Jewish man who admittedly talks to God (and sometimes Jesus…) and who comes most alive when he prays. (If that doesn’t mess with your view of who’s right and wrong when it comes to religions and sexuality, I don’t know what will.)

Not something I was expecting, and not something I can explain.

It brings tears to my eyes and sends me to my knees.

Because Emanuele, God with Us, was giving me more than a new outfit. He was acting out the gift from the Creator who likes to Play. Who likes to make Art. For whom I am It’s Creation.

And for whom You are too.

Dear ones, know that you are delighted in. You are loved. You are a work of art. Let yourself receive this gift.

Surrender to the work of Emanuele. You are already adorned by your creator. Regardless of your race, religion, sexuality, gender, number on the scale, bone structure, percentage body fat, health problems, emotional problems, your failures, your successes, your pains and your joys.

You are You for a reason. Let yourself come Alive.

Awaken to your own playfulness, your own creativity. Be curious about the world around you.

Let the walls of judgement, shame, fear, expectations, and perfection, fall down around you (those same walls that try to separate Christian and Jew and Muslim and gay and straight and married and single and divorced and you name it.)

Let the beauty of your True You shine through.

Please, I beg you.

The world needs your True You. It needs you, and me, to be like Emanuele; shamelessly and vulnerably letting ourselves be seen (even the parts that could easily have us hung on a tree) and sharing our gifts to the world. Lighting up others by just being our quintessential selves.

We all left changed that day. We wanted to take Emanuele home with us. And not because we’d be guaranteed a good-outfit-day 7 days a week. But because being around him touched something in each of us; awakened us to something bigger than us that we can’t explain.

And when we put down our guards enough to connect with what he had to offer, we were changed.

Truth is Emanuele is with us always. That spirit, the delight of something bigger than us that we can’t explain, is always with us. Just look around you. You will see it.

In the wind, in the waves, in a flower, in a child, in a dog sniffing and licking your face. In the laughter and the art of another soul walking this earth with you.

Emanuele, God with us, is With You.

The List

Living ‘List-free’, as told by Liberty Bain!


While away on a girl’s trip a few weeks ago, my phone broke. After the shock of the shattering subsided, I accepted no access to my online world, and experienced one of the best weekends of my life.  On the drive home my sister and two sIL’s commented on how different I’d been during our stay.  As we talked we realized not having my phone played a huge part in being totally free to experience whatever the weekend brought.

And it held a ton of goodies waiting to say yes to:

Reading and sun? check.
Plenty of time to float in restorative salty water? yes.
No time limits, have to’s or should’s? yep.
Oyster shooters? I’ll take another.
Then I got home and encountered my nemesis: The List.  The List decrees what’s important and what needs to be accomplished in a day.  And after being at the beach for several days Everything Item on The List Demanded my Full attention.  There’s only one problem with my to-do list: it doesn’t make me happy or help me stay present at all.  It keeps me active and spinning, co-dependent and Super Busy, but not happy or free.   And I noticed it all because of the broken phone.  Because of all the space created by not having a phone I actually felt how bad and rigid having a list makes me feel.  When I remain tied to that to-do monster and stuck in accomplishing  and performing mode, I stay disconnected from myself, from others and from God.
Having the very recent data about how much I thrived without the tether of my phone, I chose to take it one step further and break my to-do list.  The seed began as a suggestion from my therapist and is blossoming into a a whole new awakened way of life.  No more check lists, grocery lists, any kind of list.
My desire’s to be connected to my own heart throughout the day, and what the day has for me is much more at the surface now.  When I have a thought like “today would be a great day to go pick pears and make a pie…” I don’t immediately try hard to fit it in somewhere on next week’s to-do list.  I just pull over and pick.
Not having a list is also making me way more human.  No more super-woman I can do/remember/be everything. I actually told one of my children, “I really don’t know if I’ll be able to pick up the bread, because my list broke.  But I will try.”  Doesn’t that sound healthy and human?!?! Also – it’s surrender.  If it’s important it will happen, and if not, then it will come around again. Or not.  What is ‘it’anyway? Without a list, I feel like I have more choices and choices equal possibility and possibility equals expansion for life to be something I cannot anticipate, control or explain!
Here’s how it played out in real life on Wednesday night:
I had picked the pears and I was enjoying peeling them, sampling them and singing!  I noticed how juicy each pear was from all the rain we’ve had this year, when I heard my 10 year old calling me from outside.  His voice was distressed as he pointed to the field where we keep the chicken pens.  “Mom, Look! all the chickens are out!!” As I squinted into the almost-setting sun, I saw countless white and brown birds pecking their way through the field. Un-contained chickens are not my specialty, so I called my super farmer brother, Justin.  He said he’d be over in 10 minutes so I whisked thru my pie making, sliding it into the oven just as he fishtailed into the driveway.
I walked quickly out to the field and noticed that he’d thought to bring a helper too: his 2 1/2 year old son, Henry. We figured out that herding the chickens into the lanes created by the line of pens made catching the birds pretty easy.  I love birds in general,  but am a bit squeamish about touching live chickens, so it was a stretch for me.  At first I was just a herder, getting them into position for West and Justin to catch.  But towards the end I got much better at grabbing those quick creatures.  We caught  1 bird, then 2, then 5, 10 (there were well over 200 to catch and re-contain)  as we worked, Henry began calling out from his place in the field.
“Look, Dad! Look, Aunt Liberty! Look, West! The Sun! It’s going away!  No I mean it really look!! Look! Look, Dad! it’s going down! Look! Look! Aunt Liberty!” Every few minutes another reminder to check out the flaming orange, purple and fuscia sky.  Every few minutes calling out his heart’s desire for us to join him in enjoying the beauty we were standing knee deep in.
After we got done with the catching and before we had all the tools to repair the pens, I took a break, sat down and just listened.  I heard West and Henry wrestling in the deep grass. I heard the soft cheeping of all those birds we’d just caught. I heard the symphony of crickets and cicadas and I marveled the last sprays of a stunning sunset. I felt myself really alive and connected to this valuable moment.
Being dialed into my heart, I recognized that without a list I was savoring the entire experience. I was truly present.  Not busy spinning and wondering how I would get everything else done, in fact I wasn’t thinking of ‘everything else’ at all.
The interruption, the great chicken escape had turned out to be an evening I couldn’t quite explain.  The evening ended up full of connection to myself, to West, justin and Henry and the One who created all the beauty around me.  It ended up being more positive data on living without a List, without all the (supposed!) have to’s and should’s.  So many goodies to say yes to!!
West and I walked home at dusk thru tall grass and the oven timer was going off – the pear pie was ready.  And one of my best friends was standing in my kitchen waiting to know where I’d been.  After I explained the chicken adventure, she asked if we could take a walk together. I felt so happy to be free enough to accept her invitation.
Liberty

Finding my calm in the middle of the storm

This story of the week is actually the story of the Year. It started August 2015, or actually June 2015, or actually… how far back do we ever have to go to find the beginning of our story?

It’s a story of learning to Trust. Be Open to what I can’t explain. And learning what Love is. Especially when it hasn’t always felt good..

Here’s how it begins.

On June 1, I experimented with a True You Treasure Hunt and the treasure I found that day looked like this: Don’t expect to take the weather with you when you move climates.

It was June 1st and I was taking a hot bath to keep warm. I’d rather it be jumping in a pool to keep cool on June 1st, but hey ho. Not my ideal weather, but I was trying to let it go. The weather isn’t really something to get upset about now is it?

On July 5th I left my house that morning to go for a walk in the Brecon Beacons and it was wet and gray. By that evening I found myself sitting on my couch facing my husband saying the words, ‘I need space’.

Fyi telling your husband that you need space is scary.

I didn’t need space from him, but I needed space from the gray, from wanting my coaching efforts to pay off, from the never ending saga of setting up a fish farm, from wearing gloves and having the heat on in July.

But still, you never know what they’re going to say.

I am forever grateful that he understood and could lovingly and graciously look at me and say. ‘OK. Why don’t you go to home to NY for a few weeks?’ I’m not sure I would’ve done the same.

When I heard him say that, something clicked though. ‘Home? That’s not the space I need. I want to go to Italy.’

On August 4th I was on a plane to Rome for a 10 day ‘work-away’ stay in Abruzzo. I had no idea what to expect other than sun, heat, blue sky, and that I’d be doing odds and ends at an eco-tourism village in exchange for room and board.

It turns out it was an experience I still can’t explain.

By Sunday August 9th, I was sleeping in the bed of the daughter of the woman who owned the eco-tourism project that I had rocked up to. (If that sounds kinky, it’s not.) We had started talking while chopping tomatoes and sun bathing on the beach, and it turned into one of those moments when the you look at each other and think, ‘Right, I’m not in Kansas anymore. We’ve clearly walked into each other’s life for a reason other than my trimming your olive trees and you giving me a respite from Welsh summer.’ She invited me to stay overnight in her city apartment so we could talk about potential opportunities of working together in the future.

It became clear that I could help support her and her growing business from back in Wales, which would give me the opportunity to establish some roots in Italy and let my dream of living there start to take shape.

I remember giving my husband a call and filling him in on the developments and feeling:

Impregnated.

Now, I have never been pregnant, and I have no idea what real pregnancy feels like. But that was the second time in my life my where my womb space felt like something was growing in it.

Once, the day I opened myself up to spending the rest of my life with my now- husband. Twice, that day when I opened myself up to creating a life in Italy.

A check-in here about what that impregnated feeling felt like: Like being in the eye of a storm.

Complete calm, completeness, and certainty, in a sea of a million questions, unknowns, no plans, and uncertainty.

I was sure, even though I had nothing to be sure about. I was saying ‘Yes’, without a guarantee.

And I was holding on to that pregnant feeling while the questions of, What does this mean? Are you crazy? Where’s the 10 step plan? What about this? What about that?, were vehemently swirling around me.

It just so happened that the week I was in Italy, I was reading Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love.

She planted a seed of truth in my mind and my heart that I held on to: Only Love is real.

I guess that’s what left me feeling calm in the middle of that shit storm… I was opening myself up to Love.

Now here is where it gets really interesting.

I think Love, and I think, Yay! Hugs and kisses and hearts and roses and everything turns out perfect! No stress, no worries, no angst.

Far from it.

For the next 5 months I was tested in every way possible.

I thought this decision to open myself to Love, to say yes to an opportunity that I knew in my gut, my heart, my soul, was the way forward, would be smooth sailing. It would give me financial security, it would give me my dreams on a platter.

What it gave me instead was growth.

For 5 months I wrestled with the question: do I stay or do I go now?

The growing pains of navigating a new working relationship, of not having all expectations met, of putting your foot in your mouth and having to clean it up when your dark side is seen.

For 5 months I felt like I was on a seesaw.

But I felt so sure back in August! Was that false? Did I somehow trick myself? Can I no longer trust my gut and that feeling that feels so good and is so hard to explain?

Because this doesn’t feel good anymore! My body doesn’t feel good and I’ve practicing listening to my body! If that’s the case, I should run!

Except here’s the thing: Your body is not going to feel good when you have jumped aboard the Fear boat.

Your body will always feel good when it is in the middle of Love.

It doesn’t matter if the final decision is to stay or to go. That part is irrelevant. What matters is how you feel when you make that decision.

Whatever you choose, if it’s surrounded with Love, it is the ‘right’ decision for you.

I didn’t quite get that at the time, but thankfully 5 months ago I knew enough not to jump ship because that didn’t feel good either. And what I found by staying, was learning how to Love more. How to surrender my own expectations of how story would all unfold, and actually walk with what is.

What I got to experience was a miracle on so many different levels.

To be given the gift of watching another person’s journey to Love unfold in front of me as I was on my own. To see a Jew and Christian ‘by birth’ be able to share experiences of the same God. To discuss business challenges in two very different industries and realize that the only difference is the number of zeroes stuck on the end of the number.

To experience that although we looked different on the outside, we are actually the same on the inside.

Which brought me full circle to a place of being open, being able to listen to what’s in front of me.

And so this summer, when I kept putting off my dream of having a True You Retreat in Italy until 2017 (because of fear of not having enough time or people in my life), but then had these words of encouragement said to me 4 weeks ago:  ‘Why don’t you just have it this September. You’re going to be here anyway.’

I could listen to the nudge.

And once again find the calm within the storm of How? And Who? And What do I do now?

And so begins the next cycle of Listening, Trusting, Growing, and Loving. And dare I say Healing and dare I say Living?

I am currently walking through the Growing part… the process of actually walking forward into the uncertainty and the unknown after you choose to Trust. I’ve never held a retreat before. And fyi… there are lots of inner and outer world obstacles to navigate. And even now as I am writing this on August 21st 2016, even with the certainty that 5 of us will be there in September, I still have no idea how it will turn out!

But as I look back over the past 14 months, here’s what I’ve learned and keeps me moving forward.

#1: Don’t poo poo your dissatisfactions and disgruntledness. If you’re not happy, you’re not happy. There’s probably a good reason why. And instead of trying to force the smile and pretend it’s all OK (because the weather, or my problem du jour, is such a silly thing to be upset about, I have it so good), call a spade a spade. If the weather is pissing you off, let it piss you off. You never know where it will lead you.

#2: Always be open, be present to what is right in front of you. I arrived in Italy last year with an inkling of a dream to live there and have retreats there, and imagined it was years down the road. It would require us owning a villa tucked away somewhere. When events began to open up different doors that had the potential to lead me to the same place, part of me wanted to say No, this doesn’t fit my picture. What about, oh yeah, I don’t have the whole picture.

Lesson #3: It’s ok to trust the feeling of complete calm, peace, and serene knowing from deep within. It may only last a moment, (because the minute you take the first step of action all the fear and uncertainty and doubt now has a new spot on the path to try to take over), but trust the moment.

Lesson #4: Choices when you are open, and present, and inviting in Love, will feel good. It doesn’t matter whether the choice is to end something or start something, you will still have the peace and the calm to ground you even if only for a moment. That doesn’t mean that Fear, Doubt, and Distrust goes away forever. And so when you find yourself in that boat, find your way back to Love. Chances are you’ll grow as you find your way there.

What you can learn from your 10 year old

Written by Liberty Bain for The True You Project:

My 10 year old started a new school this week. Last week was spent getting everything in order; buying uniforms, supplies and going to orientation. He loves his school bag from last year but wanted it to be monogrammed.  

Before we headed out on our shopping expedition, he showed me a creative design he’d dreamed up for how he wanted his name sewn onto the bag. His name begins with a W and his design included a lightning bolt.

When we arrived at the monogram lady’s shop, she laid the bag out and asked how big he wanted his name and what color thread he desired. At this point he started questioning her to see if she ever did special designs, etc. That’s when Miss Pat, as we got to know her, invited him to pull up a chair in front of her design computer and look through hundreds of possible lightning bolts. From there they perused different stitches and other options for his bag.

Five minutes turned into ten and ten turned into twenty. I got super itchy on the inside, thinking this was taking too long, and I thought about trying to hurry him up.  

I asked myself a question instead: What is it about this process that is triggering me?

I realized I have a tendency to rush through things that are important because I fear ‘taking too long’ will annoy people and I’ll end up feeling rejected.

Letting that old story go began right there in the shop. I chose to watch him live like he belongs and matters, to simply let him be who he was in the moment. I also got to practice getting comfortable with my discomfort.

After settling on the size and shape of the lighting bolt, he spent a full 5 minutes choosing just the right blue thread.  I almost rushed him here too, but watching his process I bit my tongue (again). His presence and trust astounded me. He never flinched about asking for more blue thread options or a bigger lighting bolt, and he didn’t settle for anything that he didn’t really love. Never once did he consider he wouldn’t be able to get what he really wanted. It clearly had not crossed his radar that he needed to hurry or that this was ‘taking too long.’

Observing my son, vulnerably and wholeheartedly, enjoying his next loving step totally inspired me.  He used a basic process that  included asking lots of questions, taking time, and making his best choice.

So I wondered: where can I apply a ten year old’s trusting principle of continuing to ask for what I want and how I want it?? How quickly can I shuck the lie that I need to curb my desires??

First, I need time and space to dream and practice creativity; to come up with my own lightning bolt designs for life.  

Then I want to trust that everything is conspiring to help me ask for what I want to become reality.

Everything might not turn out exactly how I want – but it won’t be because I held back or talked myself out of it because I didn’t want to annoy anyone or make them uncomfortable.

How about you? Where in your life do you need to ask for more!?

What are your unique designs you want to bring to the surface?
Where could you reframe ‘I can’t because…’ into creativity for how you actually could??  
Where is possibility hiding in plain site in your life??

How incredible would it feel to go for it?? Whatever IT is??

If the answers to all these questions feel like way long shots, reach out to me or Kendra for a nourishing session to connect you to your True You. Email us at trueyou.inspire[at]gmail[dot]com

What trapeze school taught me about Letting Go

Sunday kicked off week 1 of Your True You Journey, an 8 week group program that 6 beautiful women here in Swansea have started together, and we start off with the seemingly hardest, yet sometimes the simplest topic: Letting Go.

Two days later, I was asked by someone else… ‘How do you let go?’

As I’ve been trying to hack into this concept, find the 5 step plan to ‘letting go’, I think back to the time I went to trapeze school for a day in NYC.

We were however many frightening-feet high in the air swinging from a trapeze bar, and guess what? The only way to get down, to get home, was to let go of the bar.

It really was that simple. Open my hands. Detach myself from the bar.

The hard part? I’d be falling an uncomfortable distance to the net below.

I’m sure I held on for a couple swings more than necessary before gathering up the courage to let go and drop.

I survived.

The lesson here: Letting go takes gathering courage to be in an uncomfortable and unknown space, but the act is practically automatic.

When I let go of the bar I didn’t consciously tell my hand to open up, and my fingers to move in an upward direction.

No. In the moment my mind chose to let go, my body followed suite.

Lesson here: Letting go is a moment by moment choice.

Our final acrobatic move on the trapeze that day was one of those hang upside down and swing to the person on the other side moves, where you have to be swinging in perfect harmony in order to lock arms, and then swing together.

That took Trust.

Trust that the experts would launch our swing at the right time. Trust that the other experienced trapeze artist would have a strong enough grip to hold me, and trust that the nets below would catch me.

In that split second moment when I felt the grip of the other, I had to release and relax my legs to let go of the bar, otherwise I’d be pulled back in the other direction.

Lesson Here: I had to trust the bigger picture. And trust that letting go at the right moment would make everything work like clockwork.

I was not masterminding the whole performance, controlling every action of every person. I had to surrender to my part: Stay present, stay connected, feel, listen.

Now, let’s talk about the fall.

Of course, when playing on a trapeze in a set up that is purposefully there for amateurs, and has an insurance policy to cover any and all accidents, there were many, many, many nets below me, ready to gently break my fall.

In life I often think that I am supposed to be my own net.

Trust me. You do not want me to be a net. I will crack and shatter with the impact of any object plummeting toward me with irreversible gravitational force.

Either that or I will swiftly move to the side and that object will fall splat on the ground.

I can not be my own net.

That in and of itself is a letting go moment. I can not be all things to all people, including myself. I can not fix all problems, including my own.

So if I’m not my own net, then who or what is?

Well, in real life trapeze school, the owner put the net there;  the person who created a space for me to play in. They obviously knew I wasn’t going to start swinging and never stop. I’d need to come down at some point.

They foresaw a need and intentionally designed a facility to catch people when they fall.

What is your net for life?

I like to think of mine as the force that created a space for me to play in; the creator of my existence and the world I live in.

I wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something to catch me. I didn’t force, or will, my own existence into being.

Lesson here: I can choose to believe that, if something got me here, something’s going to catch me.

But only if I let go.

Otherwise I will continue to swing back and forth in fear of falling, fear of failing, straining and exerting all of my energy to hold on to something that I think is providing me safety; eg that trapeze bar.

But if I am holding on to that for dear life, I have no life. I am stuck, at some ridiculously high height in the air, not able to do anything but swing back and forth. The view might look good, but it gets old after awhile.

Let go? And and a whole new world opens up.

So you see, there is no 5 step plan; unless Courage, Presence, Choice, Trust and Faith count. Each of those steps are a practice in itself.

Earlier this year I made a picture prayer. A physical representation of the desire I have for my life.

20160318_131848

As you see, it starts with Teach Me…

What I’ve learned is, as you ask to be taught, the lessons present themselves.

Practice courage, presence, choice, trust, and faith in each moment, along with a heavy dose of grace & love, just like that daring young man on the flying trapeze, you’ll fly through the air with the greatest of ease :).

 

 

#bu29days: Day 29: Go be your Quintessential Self

aka What does Positraction have to do with bulimia?

aka Why would I turn myself ON?

Nine years ago my sister and a friend were visiting me in London, and after we watched ‘My Cousin Vinny’, for the umpteenth time, I remember looking at my sister and exclaiming, ‘There is positraction in my life!’

I don’t remember what it was that I was actually referring to, and to be fair I had probably had a glass or two of wine.

But the idea that ‘My Cousin Vinny‘ can explain my life and my story with bulimia is once again proven true.

This blog series started with the idea that we can get stuck in the mud sometimes, and that part of the answer is to go be your quintessential self. Today it ends with Positraction.

If you don’t know what positraction is (don’t worry, I didn’t either at first), picture this scene (bold emphasis mine).

Marisa Tomei’s character has been called to the witness stand and she’s explaining how you can tell which car made the tire tracks that were being used as evidence against the defendants.

Mona Lisa Vito: The car that made these two, equal-length tire marks had positraction. You can’t make those marks without positraction, which was not available on the ’64 Buick Skylark!

Vinny Gambini: And why not? What is positraction?

Mona Lisa Vito: It’s a limited slip differential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The ’64 Skylark had a regular differential, which, anyone who’s been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing.

[the jury members nod, with murmurs of “yes,” “that’s right,” etc]

Vinny Gambini: Is that it?

Mona Lisa Vito: No, there’s more! You see? When the left tire mark goes up on the curb and the right tire mark stays flat and even? Well, the ’64 Skylark had a solid rear axle, so when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge. But that didn’t happen here. The tire mark stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension.

Now, I am not a mechanic and have absolutely zero interest in the inner workings of a car other than knowing they get me from A to B.

But here’s what I can appreciate about her testimony:

Positraction: Provides balance and keeps you from getting stuck in the mud. 

Independent rear suspension: Easily gets you over the bumps.

When it comes to bulimia, there is both mud and bumps, and we need our own version of Positraction with an Independent Rear Suspension to find a way out.

If you think back to that Layer Cake I talked about the other day, about what actually lies beneath the surface of an eating disorder, the muddiest place is in that trifecta of Shame, Fear, and Vulnerability.

What kind of Positraction is needed here so you don’t get stuck in the mud?

  • A sense of worthiness. A deep knowing that ‘I am Enough as I am’, regardless of any perceived lack.
  • A heavy dose of Love. Understanding what love actually is, and making choices that come from a place of Love instead of Fear; Because Love Never Fails.
  • The courage to Let Go. To let go of expectations for our lives, To let go of outcomes having to look a certain way. To let go of needing certainty and control. It’s OK to Let Go and learn to dance comfortably with vulnerability instead.
  • And with all of that, embracing the truth that I’m Free to be Me.

Even out of the mud there are bumps, and so you need an Independent Rear Suspension made up of the following.

  1. Truth Sets Me Free. The Truth of who you are inherently created to be. Accessing your vulnerable truth, whether that’s uncomfortable feelings or confusion about what you believe. And being able to sift through the should’s, have to’, need to’s, goods and bads, that get thrown at us daily, and find the truth instead.
  2. I am not Defined by What my Body Looks Like. Because your heart, mind, and soul is beautiful. And your body is beautifully and wonderfully made even it is doesn’t look like the airbrushed supermodel on the cover of a magazine.
  3. I Choose Me. Because your dreams, wants, and desires matter. Because you need to refuel before you can fully give to others. Which is critical because:
  4. I am Here to Shine. Your gifts, passions, talents, interests, personality, and quirks are uniquely yours. And the world needs them. It needs you to turn your light on and Shine.

Put all that together and you get another layer cake that looks something like this:

Cake (1)

And it tastes good too.

These principles, I call them True You Truths, helped me find a way out from bulimia, and they now help me stay connected to me on a daily basis.

It’s OK to Let Go: Then, I had to let go of fitting into a size 4 pair of jeans. I had to let go of being ‘a runner’. Now, I have to let go of how many people turn up to a workshop I am hosting for the first time, or how many followers there are (or aren’t) on my blog, or how clean or messy my house is, or what my marriage looks like compared to what I think it’s ‘supposed to’ .

I am Enough as I am: Then, I had to accept that even if I was still binging, the fact I had chosen to stop purging was enough. I was enough even though I wasn’t perfect. Today, I remind myself that my heart is enough. That my efforts are enough, even when there are still items on the to-do list. Another form of letting go.

Love Never Fails: Then, I had to face the fear of getting fat. I had to accept myself, and give others the opportunity to accept me even when I gained weight. I had to be kind to myself when I ate more than I wanted to, instead of punishing myself and make up for my ‘sins’. Now, I ask myself what is driving my actions, or the words I am choosing. Is it because I am afraid someone will say No? That I will be rejected and therefore I am trying to get them to say Yes? Or is it because I am genuinely excited for them and the possibilities for their life?

Free to be Me: Then, I had to start doing things that reflected my likes and interests. Buying blue suede shoes, taking Italian lessons, playing soccer again. Even if that didn’t fit the mold I thought I had to fit into. Now, this means creating a life and business my way. Finding places that light me up and meeting people there, even if it might seem somewhat unconventional to meet with an eating disorder client in a Food Emporium. Oh well, that is me.

Truth Sets Me Free: Then, I had learn to feel my feelings. Acknowledge that a relationship wasn’t right for me anymore. Acknowledge that my roots weren’t planted anywhere. I also had to realize that ‘fat’ in and of itself is not bad. Accept the truth that my body needs fat in order for my brain to function properly; that eating a piece of chocolate does not mean that it will automatically get taped to my thighs. Now, it still means connecting to my feelings and my most vulnerable truth. And it means that when I see a SHOULD barrelling down the street, I ask myself, what is true for me right now? As in, I *should* go out with a bang on the last day of the #bu29days series. What is true for me right now? I am relishing in the fact that I still have something to say and I want to celebrate that with you with a nice big slice of purple cake! Hehe.

I am not defined by what my body looks like: Then, this meant I could embrace my body as the number on my jeans kept getting bigger and bigger. And that I could bask in what it let me do regardless. ie play soccer, ride a bike, do yoga, swim in the Med in a string bikini. Now, this lets me forget about how much I weigh. If I am getting up on stage to give a talk, or meeting a client, or climbing into bed with my husband, it doesn’t matter if I’ve gone for a run, or exercised, or done yoga that day. I can turn up and focus on who I’m with regardless of what my body looks like.

I am here to Shine. Then, this helped me to realize that I was making my life all about me. It helped me break a habitual cycle where my free time was spent either running, at the gym, food shopping, eating, or thinking about any of those things. It helped me to focus on what I could give to others; tutoring, leading recovery groups. Today, this reminds me that I am here for a purpose. And that I can either bury my talents in the sand or share them with others and spread some light. This especially helps on days when things aren’t going as planned. Another reminder that It’s OK to Let Go.

I Choose Me. Then, this looked like me choosing to stop purging and start praying on those two bathroom floor moments. It looked like buying self-help books, talking with my doctor, seeing a shrink. It also meant choosing those shoes and Free to Be Me activities. Today, this looks similar. Any choice that nourishes me and/or brings me pleasure. Choosing my wants and desires. Listening when I am plugged in. Including writing this #bu29days blog series.

In any given moment, there is the potential for that muddy trifecta to show up, and so part of Choosing Me is making space in my life for tune-ups, otherwise I get stuck in the mud or I hit a bump and get thrown sideways.

Those days are never pretty.

So I make sure I have time to be still and connect to what’s true. I used to cram my schedule with plans. I’d go out every night of the week, and if I didn’t have plans, there’d always be the fallback of working late.

I didn’t want to be alone with myself.

Now, if I don’t spend alone time with myself, everything goes pear-shaped.

The impact isn’t just on me, but it bleeds to those around me too.

Like breeds like. If I bury my head, feelings, truth, light, love, in the sand, those around me are likely too as well.

If I practice the True You Truths, then everyone around me gets a chance at being their Quintessential Self too.

We all can be Free to be Me, without shame or fear of how others react.

Imagine a world where everyone was out there, doing their thing; acting out of love, letting their light shine, instead of dimming it ‘just in case’.

Just in case their brightly shining light wasn’t accepted. The idea that ‘I’d rather be OFF, or dimly lit, and accepted’ than ‘fully turned on and snuffed out’.

How about another 3rd option?: Be fully turned ON, AND turn someone else ON in doing so!

Inspire someone with your light.

You are here to Shine.

Go do it.

Go be your Quintessential Self.


That’s All Folks. Thank you for following along the #bu29days blog series. I hope you got something out of it even if you’ve never been bulimic. And if you have been or are bulimic, I hope it’s helped you wherever you’re at in your journey.

If you’d like to connect about anything you’ve read, email me at kendratanner121[at]gmail[dot]com.

And stay tuned for opportunities to explore the True You Truths further.

Lots of love.

PS If you still haven’t watched ‘My Cousin Vinny‘, what are you waiting for? 🙂

 

#bu29days: Day 27: The ultimate Trust test

aka Why do you walk when you run? I thought real runners don’t walk.

aka How will you feel about your body if and when you put on weight?

One thing I haven’t talked much about is how my relationship with my body has changed. I have gone from trying to turn it into a machine, running every day, freaking out and potentially binging if I didn’t, routinely lifting weights and doing situps and pushups, to a much more intuitive way of working with my body.

I hardly run at all anymore. If I do, I usually walk part way through.

Gasp! This is sacrilege!

Trust me I know. I have definitely had the thought, and admittedly said outloud, ‘real runners don’t walk.’

That was my MO when my identity was that of a ‘runner’. Call what I did a ‘jog’ and you got ‘the look’ from a pair of devil eyes.

Runners RUN. They do not jog. And they most certainly do not walk.

This was my mentality when my self-worth was tied to how far and how fast I ran. Stopping to catch my breath was a sign of weakness. Stopping to smell the roses, not an option.

As I started to slowly lighten up with food, I similarly did about running. By the time I moved to the UK I was less rigid about running. I was playing soccer, going to spin class, and yoga.

While I was mixing it up, running was still my go-to activity for weight management and I suppose, grounding me.

When I moved to London, I quickly learned that ‘running’ and ‘working out’ is a whole different thing compared to NY. The city itself has a different vibe. The energy is different. People aren’t so driven, Type-A, on a mission.

In NYC pretty much every Manhattanite I knew had a gym membership. Its what you did, no question. Like paying City taxes.

In London, if pub memberships were an option, every Londoner would have one.

In NYC, as a runner, you had to be tight and toned; low percentage of body fat, cut muscles, as well as having the latest gear. Running around Central Park was like performing on a catwalk.

In London, people wobble and jiggle when they run. This was literally a foreign concept to me.

The only time I had known anything different was when I met this one woman in NY who carried probably 20lbs more than the average runner. Her legs were stocky and muscular, vs sleek and toned. Her arms had very little definition and her belly had fat rolls.

Yet she kicked my ass in every race we ever entered, including the marathon.

This challenged my whole paradigm. You could be fat AND a runner?

Not that I embraced the idea. Guilty as charged, I was extremely judgemental of other women’s bodies. Finding faults in others helped me feel better about my own body. Not something I’m proud of but true.

I remember walking to work one morning with my boyfriend at the time and asking him if my ass jiggled like HERS did.

Jiggles, wiggles, and wobbly bits did not fit into my idea of ‘acceptable’ for a runner, and for me. I was on a mission to eradicate any evidence of cottage cheese remnants on my body.

I jiggle all the time now. As my hardened attitude towards my body has softened, so has my body.

As my patterns with food changed, I ended up gaining weight. At first due to binging without purging. And I kept some of the weight on as I learned how to eat ‘normally’ again ie have an inclusive diet where everything was permissible. Be able to eat donuts, cheese on pizza, and burgers and fries without fear of gaining weight.

While you might not want to hear that weight gain was a part of the story, the reality is that by the time it happened, I was OK with it.

Letting go of the fear of fat, and letting myself put on weight was an integral part of my recovery and healing. I believe I had to experience the weight gain so I could fully believe the True You Truth of ‘I am not defined by what my body looks like.’

Saying that, for many years I still had this idea that I had to be running or working out consistently. It became less about my weight, and more of a habit, part of my identity that this is ‘what I did’. I would wake up each morning with the thought, ‘I have to go for a run today’, even if I had no intention of actually fitting it into my schedule.

But, like an addiction, the thought was still there, and I still saw myself as a runner. Even when I barely ran 15 miles a week.

8 years ago when I was living in London, and was one of the few Londoners I knew with a gym membership, I was running home from the gym and I had to stop and walk because I was in so much physical pain. My right knee couldn’t take the pounding without sending a lightning bolt charge through my body.

Turns out I had/have loose cartilage in between my knee and femur. The doctor said if I strengthened my quad muscles enough I’d be able to run again, but the immediate prescription was stop running, stop cycling, and do static strengthening exercises, like lie on my back and hold my leg in the air (yawn).

I was devastated at first, what? No more running?

Funnily enough though, my desire to get to the point where I could run again wasn’t strong enough to keep up with those boring exercises. I gave it a go at first, but quickly put them to the side.

I found satisfaction in what my body could do instead. Walking. It was my first foray into ‘slowing down’. Noticing the detail of the world around me that I used to whiz by.

I would cycle to work occasionally, but for 3.5 years, my physically activity pretty much came to a halt.

And I didn’t care.

I wasn’t worried about what I was eating, or how much, or trying to make up for the lack of exercise. I stopped having the false expectation that I would run today.

Another aspect of the healing that came after the bulimia was gone.

And crazily enough, I lost weight.

It was as if my body knew what was best for me, literally bringing me to my knees, to get me to give up trying to control it. And once it took over, it knew exactly what was best for me then too. It found it’s natural set point, with me literally doing nothing.

Leading up to our wedding, I did a 6 week yoga course.

The classes were very slow paced, the focus on settling into one pose at a time vs moving through a series of poses. The whole point was to slow down and be still, an idea I still hadn’t fully embraced, especially if I was paying to go to a class.

I wanted to be paying for exertion, sweat, and a raised heart rate.

But it was exactly what I needed. It set the foundation for me to reconnect to movement with my body. To listen in to what it wants, needs, and craves.

I now choose activities that my whole being is craving.

Sometimes, although rarely, it is a run. Or should I say jog. Because these days it is most definitely a jog 🙂

Sometimes it’s a bike ride, challenging my cardiovascular system and my thighs over the undulating hills where I live.

Often it is a walk outside, filling my lungs with fresh air and my mind with fresh ideas.

And each week, if not day, it will involve some degree of yoga.

What I love about yoga is that I end up connecting to parts of my body that I never knew existed before. I never knew I have little tiny muscles in between my ribs!

I love doing a simple forward bend, and feeling the ripple effect from my hamstrings, to my lower back, to upper back, shoulders, and my neck. 

When I first started doing yoga, I didn’t have an experience of this level of connection. I would do a ‘hamstring stretch’ before or after a run and I wouldn’t notice anything else going on in my body.

My understanding of my body was one of isolation. Everything working separately.

The connections I feel while doing yoga help me to connect to the shell I had been living in for almost 30 years. And whenever I am feeling tight in my body or my soul, you will find me doing one pose or another to feel again.

I’ve also found dance as a liberating form of movement. But for me, dance is less about connecting in and more about expression, and a form of play.

If you asked my 25 year old self to describe my 35 year old body, I would probably tell you that it is ‘out of shape’ right now.

Such a funny expression.

Out of shape? What shape, pray may I ask, am I actually supposed to be in? Square, rectangle or triangle?

How about, I am in the shape of my body. And the shape and fitness of my body is enough for it to do what it needs to do today.

I am happy with my body right now. I like the way it looks, even though it’s less muscle-y than it used to be.

I like the way it works, even though I get out breath quicker than I used to.

I’m also aware that the shape and size of my body is generally seen as attractive by the world’s standards, and so I  often wonder, how will I feel about my body if and when I put on weight again.

My answer is: I don’t know. But I hope that, so long as I still stay connected to my body, that I will still love it.

And I know I will be reminding myself of how my body got me to where I am today.

Of how it knew best about what I needed to let go of control, over the years.  Of how it has adapted to different levels of physical activity since then, and how it seems to intuitively know what kind of movement it needs on any given day, including some days where there is very little movement at all.

The word trust comes to mind:

I can’t say how I’ll feel, but I will continue to trust my body.

Whatever shape or size.


Something to think about: What is your relationship to your body like? What do you want it to be like? How can you let go of some control over it and let it do its thing? What does trusting your body mean?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

#bu29days: Day 25: An adventure of a lifetime

aka So you must blame your mom then, right?

No I don’t.

Your dad then?

No.

I don’t blame anyone.

Including myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I look back at my past and I can easily point fingers.

If mom wasn’t so accommodating, if my dad wasn’t so budgetary. If the church taught more about love than fear, shame, and control. If that kid didn’t spit on me, or that girl didn’t call me ‘the thing’. If my coach had asked me why running was so important to me, if I hadn’t started running, if I hadn’t learned about eating disorders in my Psych class.

So many ifs, ands, or buts.

So many contributing factors that make it all so very complex, as most eating disorder definitions will attest to.

There’s many different ways the story could’ve gone. And perhaps there could’ve been a different middle, with the absence of bulimia.

But the bulimia wasn’t the end of the story. Today isn’t even the end of the story, but the bulimia has gotten me to where I am now.

I like where I am now. And so I am grateful for my experience.

Maybe I’d be here anyway, but with a different story to tell.

I often wonder how much of life we can prevent and avoid, and how much of it we have to go through as part of a necessary process to get us where we need to be. To what extent was I already scarred when I popped out as a pumpkin, calling for inevitable healing?

Sure, it was a crazy ass invitation that brought me through a fire, but on the other side I’m finding the person I was meant to be all along. 

Marianne Williamson talks about Love being the only real thing. Any act or circumstance is either an expression of Love, or a call to Love.

There was not much I was doing out of Love throughout my eating disorder. But it was one hell of an invitation to find Love.

And it worked.

I often think, if I didn’t have such an extreme reaction, I could’ve easily just gone through life on a plateau, numbed out but coping. Things would’ve been ok. I would’ve had the house with the white picket fence, the 2.4 kids by now, maybe a dog.

But if I never learned how to actually Love, what’s the point? It’d be like living in a coma.

Now I am awake. I become more awake each day.

I never know what today is going to bring. Maybe it’s tears of joy after reading a note from a client who has woken up along the same journey. Maybe it’s tears of hurt and frustration after acting out from a place of fear, and having to pick up the pieces.

I have a sticky note hanging on my wall to remind me of something I said to Liberty a year ago, ‘I am willing for today to be something I can’t explain.

I think of my life now as like a treasure hunt. What gold nugget am I going to find today? Sometimes it is sitting there bright and shiny and I can easily pick it up. Sometimes I can kind of see the shine, but it’s muted and needs some time to get dusted off. Sometimes the nugget is covered up in layers of hardened dirt that clearly needs some work to clean it off.

We often just want the shiny nuggets. Guess what though, they only start showing up when you’re willing to clean off the dirty ones as well. In my experience anyway.

One of my clients has summed it up best:

The favourite adventure of my life so far has been learning to love myself through this ‘bulimia journey’.

She’s been cleaning off the mud caked nuggets. And it’s been a bloody ADVENTURE!

How cool is that?

Yes it can feel hard, even impossible at times. Like banging your head against a wall; over, and over, and over.

But it opens up possibilities.

So I don’t see the point in blaming.

Sometimes I really want to; for a moment I think it will give me some sort of satisfaction if I can sit back and say, ‘see I told you so!’

But what good is that? Then that pain and hurt is winning.

I have found it helpful to talk with my parents about things that I’ve struggled with in our family dynamic. It’s been hard to start the conversation and a lot of times I put it off until another day. When we do talk about things, I walk away with more understanding. Less judgement, more love.

I doubt I’ll ever have an opportunity to talk to the kid who spat on me. That’s ok though. I’m not sure I really want to or need to.

I can still choose to forgive. From wherever I am in the world. Let go of holding on to the idea that I was wronged in that situation.

It doesn’t mean that he was right. But I can let go of being the victim.

Sometimes forgiveness is like those gold nuggets. Some are really easy, others take awhile to clean off and get to genuine forgiveness.

That’s where being willing to be willing to be willing to be willing to forgive helps 🙂

So for today, think about who or what in your life are you blaming? What if you could drop the blame and see that hurt, or that mess to clean up, as an opportunity to go on an adventure of a lifetime?

You ready?

Or *should* I say ready to be ready? 🙂


Something to think about: Which is easier, blame or forgiveness? Which is better in the long run? Why is it difficult to forgive? What adventure is your life taking you on? What adventure do you want to have?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

 

#bu29days: Day 19: Willing to be willing

aka Was change easy for you?

aka How come the grass is sometimes greener right where I am?

I want to shed a bit more light onto what happens with decisions like, I’m going to stop purging, I’m going to start praying, I’m going to move to another country, quit my job, break-off this relationship, etc.

These were all key decisions in my journey, and while some felt easier than others, there was a common denominator across the board.

And that was the presence of fear.

When I had those two bathroom floor moments 18 months apart, one to stop purging, the other to start praying, fear was there.

Fear of not being able to have kids if I didn’t stop purging, and fear of how my life would turn out if I kept trying to do this on my own. 

In those cases, fear was a good thing. It got me to take action.

 

Fear has also led me to in-action.

When I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years, that was an overdue breakup by a good number of years. But I stayed in that relationship longer than necessary due to fear.

The fear of being single and alone. Would anybody else want me? If not, I’d have to face that voice of shame again. The grass was greener staying with someone who told me he loved me, even though at my core, I knew it wasn’t a relationship I wanted to be in anymore.

I resigned from a company that served me well for 10 years, but for 5-7 years, I had my eye on the door. My eye was there, but I couldn’t muster up the courage to do anything about it.

I had dreams of being a personal trainer, going to grad school, being a teacher, or that yet-to-be-named job that hacks trails in the woods. Within my first weeks of arriving in London I took a couple steps towards these dreams. I attended an info session to become a personal trainer. I had all the materials, all the information, at my fingertips.

I couldn’t do it though.

The financial security was a big factor. As was the question: Would I succeed in a new environment? That was the bigger questions that held me back. 

I didn’t have the belief in myself that I could do it.

It was another 5 years when I finally did resign. By then a lot of healing had taken place and although I still was fearful, and was stepping into a lot of uncertainty, I did it.

In hindsight this is kind of funny in a really twisted way, but it was actually a binge on uncertainty. I got married, left my job, and left for a 9 month backpacking trip around the world with my husband all within 6 weeks of each other.

For 10 years I lay dormant, depriving myself of my dreams, in essence a ‘purge’, and then it was a case of, how extreme can you get?! (A pattern you’ll hear more about next week so stay tuned.)

The fear was still there though. Would it all work out? Was spending our first year of marriage while back-packing really a good thing? Each one in and of itself can create strain, would we last a double whammy? Would we run out of money? Would we know what we want to do with our lives at the end?

It was also coupled with excitement. The excitement of the unknown, and the possibility.

Park that thought there for a minute.

Because the other things that showed up with the Fear, was Shame and Vulnerability, the three amigos; Tom, Dick and Harry. These had brought me to those bathroom floor moments, and they were still there when the decision was made to go down a different road.

And while Fear can be a good thing and get you to take action, shame rarely will, and vulnerability, you gotta dance with it first, approach it with love.

So short answer, no, change is never easy for me. It either takes bathroom floor moments, or staying where I am for longer than necessary. I guess I have a high chronic pain threshold.

I am working on this though. Hoping that it doesn’t take 5 or 10 years longer than it needs to, to create the business(es) I’d love to have, to use my voice on platforms I’d like to share my message from, and to try out new things that I’ve always dreamed of doing… like going cross-country skiing.

I’m waking up to the fact that life is about LIVING. And LIVING can feel vulnerable and scary at times. But it’s worth it.

And so are you.

So here’s what I’ve learned about taking that leap, regardless of whether or not it has to do with an eating disorder.

  1. Change can feel scary.
  2. Change can also be exciting.
  3. Fear and excitement are like cousins, they stem from the same place and they both can lead you to action.
  4. Fear actions are ‘away from’ actions. That’s because the pain of staying where you are has become greater than the pain or fear of making the change. This is what happens in bathroom floor moments.
  5. Excitement actions are ‘towards’ actions. You don’t need bathroom floor moments for this. If you want to draw upon some courage without the break-down, look for the excitement and move towards that. Get curious. Be playful.
  6. A lot of times, the change is scary because we want guaranteed answers that everything will turn out ok on the other side (we’re trying to avoid vulnerability here.) The only thing guaranteed on the other side of change is possibility. Doors and windows exist that you didn’t know were there. The only way to see them though, is to cross over the line.
  7. Possibility shares a home with uncertainty. ‘I’m going to be completely exposed for who I really am if I lose the eating disorder, job, relationship. What will happen then?’ Instead of letting fear join in that question, as in, ‘What will happen then?!’, [zoom in on terrified look on face, and fingers in mouth biting on nails]… ask love to show up. ‘What will happen then?!’ [zoom in on eyes open wide and smile on face like when you first see presents under the tree on Christmas morning.] Oh wow! I don’t know?! What are the endless possibilities? I could write that book I am always reading in my head! I could teach English in a 3rd world country! I could get to know myself and my greatest talents and use them to help others (ding! ding! ding!).
  8. Shame will use this an opportunity to dig its claws deeper, and it will hurt. It will tell you that you don’t have what it takes to make the change. It will tell you you’re not worthy of having what you want. It will tell you that you are too broken, you’ve stayed too long, and that you have no chance of success. I find it helpful to realize that this is only true if we believe that it is true. It only stays alive if we feed it. Give it some air time, recognize the lies for what they are, and then tell shame his time in the driver’s seat is over. Sayonara dude.
  9. It helps to have a partner in crime. Ask someone to be in this transition with you. Someone who’s got your back regardless of the outcome. This is a version of unconditional love.
  10. It helps to remove items that are going to tempt you to stay where you are. I remember one Saturday afternoon I was picking out an outfit to go out in that night and I kept looking longingly at the pair of size 4 jeans that I had long grown out of. I always had in the back of my head, if one day I can just fit in them again… (sigh). They were bringing me down. So I donated them to my 13 year old cousin. Clear out whatever space you need in order to make room for something new. This is called letting go.
  11. Give yourself grace. Perfection does not live on the other side of change. (I know, I wish it did too sometimes.) If anything humility does. Learning how to navigate new lands, like a child learning to walk. You will fall. You will probably fail. But that is not a reflection on who you are, on your self worth. It’s taken me 35 years to realize that failure can be a good thing, and that I am not a failure just because certain outcomes don’t happen has planned. Guess what, outcomes that you couldn’t have dreamed up on your own happen instead. Leave the door open for that.

So wherever you’re at reading this, my hope is you don’t have to go through bathroom floor moments to say, ‘Allright already, I’m willing to change.’

Spare yourself the pain.

I get it though, you might not be ready to say, ‘I’m willing’, just yet.

If that’s the case, start here:

I’m willing to be willing.

or here:

I’m willing to be willing to be willing.

or even here:

I’m willing to be willing to be willing to be willing.

or

however many steps back from willing you are, be willing to take just one step closer to willing. You will get there.

Something to think about: Have you ever noticed that fear and excitement are related? What change for your life have you been putting off? Why? Can you be willing to be willing? Or willing to be willing to be willing? 🙂

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

Nourish your Quintessential Self. The Nourish Circle, a private group for women to support each other’s journeys with food, body and self, is starting soon. Join Liberty Bain and I on Wednesdays from wherever you are. A place to practice being willing and finding the courage to face fears. Join us this February.