A Lesson in Receiving

This was originally published by Kendra a few weeks ago and it really is a great lesson in receiving.

I was at my cousin’s wedding this weekend, having fun with my phone’s camera, when I saw one of the bridesmaid’s bouquets lying on the bride and groom table I decided to take a shot. It looked really pretty and the colors caught my eye.

Next thing you know, the wedding photographer came up to me and asked if I wanted some help taking the photo.

I politely declined.

Nah, I’m OK.

What I was really thinking in 0.5 of a second:

Help? Why would I need help taking a photo? I know how to work the camera on my phone.

What, does he think I’m not taking a good enough photo? I am doing this wrong?

I can’t let him help me because I have nothing to give him in return and I don’t want to be in his debt.

Hence the No Thank You.

Seeing right through me, he insisted, and proceeded to help anyway. In less than 30 seconds, he set up his portable lighting, used some focus feature on my phone’s camera that I had no clue existed, and proceed to create this work of art.

And he didn’t even want anything in return. My thanks, gratitude, and the smile on my face was apparently enough.

This whole interaction probably took about 2 minutes tops. Yet it taught me something I’ll carry with me the rest of my life. Aside from having a photo that now popped instead of just looking nice, and learning a new trick with my camera, I had a lesson in receiving.

It dawned up me how closed off I am to freely receiving. It comes relatively easy when I can logically justify it. I’ve done X, so sure, I can receive Y. Or, it’s my birthday, or Christmas and so that’s just what I’m supposed to do… get presents. Or, OK I’ll give in this time, but I’ve got it next time.

But is that really free? If you think about it, I’m still playing by a set of rules that doesn’t really feel good. Pride, worthiness, and guilt comes into the picture, and wining that game doesn’t really feel like a win.

I had to ask myself, what if I just didn’t play that game in the first place?

What if I don’t need to earn it, prove my worth, or be able to reciprocate a gift. What if I could trust, and act from a place within where I believed that I am enough as I am to receive the gifts that are there for the taking. Just because I am.

What if I leaned in to the nuggets of Truth & Love that give me permission to open my arms and my heart to the assistance that is right there in front of me. Willingly, without resistance.

Without worrying about whether or not I #deserve it, or what it means now that I’ve received it. To know that I’m not in anyone’s debt.

That feels free.

To let myself be delighted in. To have my smile become someone else’s joy.

Here’s a Truth for you: You were made to receive. Your existence in and of itself is a testament to this. You didn’t have to do anything to be fed, clothed, or loved. You are, and always were, worthy.

You don’t have to do anymore to deserve what it is you desire. All you have to do is say yes, thank you. Yes universe, higher power, Creator, God, and even Camera Man. Sure, you can help. Yes, I will receive with open arms the gift you have for my life. I will trust you know something I don’t and that you can really make the picture of my life pop. Here’s my camera. I’ll let you do your thing.

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Grandpa’s Garden

What I don’t want you to know about me is that a lot of times I am driving around my neighborhood and most of South Wales, and all the gray pebbledash (aka stucco) houses stained with diesel smut really gets me down.

I want to see color! Vibrancy! Variety! Wooden cladding with beautiful paint jobs. Nicely decorated front porches and whitewashed fences.

I’m not in Kansas anymore though, and unlike OZ, all I can see is gray.

The part that I don’t want you to know about is that I am starting to resent where I live. I feel stifled. And I judge myself harshly for feeling this way.

‘Grow up. Get a life. Stop judging your surroundings. You should be happy with what you have. Stop being so superficial that you let a bit of dirt and gray get you down.’, my inner critic dutifully chides away.

A couple of months ago I was walking towards the Swansea waterfront for a jog on the beach. The neighborhood I was walking through… let’s just say it could use a facelift. Terraced pebble-dash houses with concrete slabs passing for a garden, bleeding into asphalt pavement (aka sidewalk). No grass. No trees. No sign of life.

Except for one.

One neighbor in the 4 or so blocks I walked was doing life on their own terms. They had created an actual garden in their 10’ x 6’ plot of front yard and humongous tulips were in full bloom, all different colors. You could tell it was cared for.

It was so beautiful, and so starkly different from it’s surroundings, that I stopped and took a picture to capture this memory. Imprint the beauty. Make it last.

grandpas garden

A true testimony to the idea that when you shine your light, you impact others.

Two days ago, I was again going for a jog along the beach, and The Beatles decided to come with me. ‘I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together’ started running through my head.

I never could really understand the point of this particular song. The Eggman? The Walrus?

But as I fell into a rhythmic pace over the sands of Swansea Bay, it clicked. I didn’t have to be high on LSD to get the point, at least of this first line.

I am he: I want beauty in my life and so does the person who takes the time to make this garden beautiful.

As you are he: If you want beauty in your life, you’re just like him too.

As you are me: Oh cool, we both crave beauty (and both probably winge when it’s lacking).

And we are all together.

So if we’re really all together, than I’ve got some socks to pull up because ‘he’ is clearly doing his part in creating beauty, and all I’m doing is getting more and more depressed the more I don’t see it.

So two days ago I did something different.

Drug-free but high on endorphins from my run, I went to my car, took out a pen and paper, and wrote this neighbor a note of thanks. ‘Thank you for caring enough to make Swansea beautiful.’

I walked over to the garden (this time, huge purple roses in bloom; took my breath away so much I forgot to take a picture). I was going to leave my note in the mailbox but heard voices on the other side of the door, and sure enough an elderly man opened the door as he was was about to go walk his dog.

I thanked him for creating a beautiful garden.

He had no clue what this Crazy American was on about.

But he proudly told me about the days where he would get up every morning, walk over to the university, tend to the gardens there, and then pick up his grandkids from school.

I still don’t know who the Eggman is. Or the Walrus.

But lesson #1 from the Beatles I now know: People around us can teach us about, and heal, our soul cravings.

I crave beauty. I need it in my life. I know this because when I see someone else create beauty, I am attracted to it.

And now I am challenged to create it. Because I am he. And if this grandpa can conjure up some beauty, then so can I.

Whether it’s by planting flowers, cutting my grass, painting my nails, or writing a note of gratitude…

I get to choose. I get to let the light bouncing off my soul cravings, light up others around me.

Lesson #2 from the Beatles: I am he, and you are he, and you are me, and we are altogether… works not only with beauty, but with all the crap in life too. Our suffering is the same.

As different as we might think we are from those around us who suffer, we are not.

We are in this together. We create beauty together, we suffer together, we heal together.

Perhaps that’s the Eggman. The Walrus. I think I am so different… I mean, heck, I don’t have a bald head or tusks. I’m not a retired grandpa who maintains his horticultural hobbies.

But inside we’re all the same. So when you come across someone who is suffering, remember that their suffering is yours too.

Thursday happened to be the first ever World Eating Disorder Action Day, which makes this Eggman and Walrus concept even more profound. At the crux of an eating disorder you’ve got a massive loss of identity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the person sitting across from me say, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’.

So if that is the suffering of someone with an eating disorder, all the more reason for the rest of us to shine our light so that they’ve got a chance to find themselves through the light they are attracted to. Just like grandpa’s garden reminded me of my soul craving for beauty, and experiencing it healed a part of me.

I have no idea what grandpa saw in me other than that Crazy American, but I would like to think that somehow in helping me heal my suffering, some of his was healed too. Maybe he felt alone, unappreciated, forgotten and someone noticing his soul creation gave him some hope or something. Who knows.

But I do know that sometimes I feel alone, unappreciated, forgotten.

So maybe our suffering is the same. Maybe your suffering is the same. Maybe we can heal it all together.

Blow-ups & Peace-talks

This week in our house, we had our regularly scheduled blow-up about the origins of mankind. These discussions happen on a semi-regular basis but it seems that every 3 months or so the conversation really heats up.

Questions like: Is there is a God? What about the dinosaurs? Is our spirit really a spirit or just our subconscious mind? Or is that the same thing?

My husband and I come at these questions from polar opposite points of view. I was raised in a culture steeped in conservative Evangelical values, where anything but Christian was the devil. He was raised in an environment where values didn’t stem from religious beliefs and there was no expectation of what faith you affiliated with. If anything there was an assumption there would be no affiliation.

Some pointed differences:

My upbringing told me that I had to marry a Christian. His upbringing could care less what I did on Sunday morning.

My upbringing was laden with fear… of breaking the rules and punishment if you did. In his upbringing, fear was not something that was there to control you.

This week as we hashed out our differences… in upbringings, worldview, trigger points, and communication styles (oh my!)…

I realized that my travels through Thailand were not for naught; ‘Same, Same, but Different’ rings true again.

Yes we are different, but we want the same thing.

Our differences lie in a combination of things.

For starters, the basic mathematical principle of the Mode: We are both the average of the people we spent the most amount of time around growing up.

Then there’s our innate personality type: He is a J on the Myers-Briggs scale; where if it’s not black, white, or a neat row of logical zeroes and ones, his head hurts. Me? I live in a world where fifty shades of grey makes perfect sense to me.

And don’t discount the fact that when he finds out our sun is spinning in spirals around some other planet/object/universe, his calls me in from whatever I’m doing with the excitement of a kid at Christmas in his voice. And I’m left standing there trying to find a way for ‘frankly my dear, I could give a damn.’ to sound like I really care.  And when I can’t stop talking about how life changing the idea that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have!, he nods his head and smiles and then goes back to watching David Attenborough.

Yet we are both asking for the truth. For the capital-T Truth; the indisputable laws of life including physical laws of gravity and e=mc2, and the spiritual laws such as life follows death (hello butterfly).

And being on the journey for capital-T Truth, we have to respect what is true for ourselves and each other in the moment… that where each of us is on our journey is real and true for us, and not something the other person can dispute or take away.

For me, if you are asking for the Truth, you’re good to go. You may not have found it yet, but it will find you. And I’m convinced that it knows enough to find you in the way that works for you. Why would it show up in Greek when you only speak Russian?

And so why would I only be able to find truth in nature shows when I’d rather be reading Brene Brown?

So here’s my encouragement to you today:

It’s likely that somewhere in your life you feel a disconnection, and the blatant differences between you and a loved one are staring you in the face. It might keep you up in the middle of night, make you want to punch a wall, or it’s why you cry yourself to sleep.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that the disconnection is just a figment of your imagination, or that all you have to do is change your thoughts. No, the disconnection and the differences are real. You are two different people.

BUT

The disconnection doesn’t have to stay there forever.

A different lens helps to see where the similarities are. Even if it’s a tiny speck, it is the place to plant a seed.

This is what helped me/us this week and maybe it can help you too. It boils down to two things.

1. Owning your story

2. Finding the common goal

Owning your story:

  • Understand where the differences come from. Eg I am personality type A vs I am personality type B
  • Understand how you think and communicate differently. Eg I need to connect dots and see patterns vs I need the final answer shot straight between the eyes
  • Understand your triggers. Eg I shut down to closed-ended questions vs I blow up when I don’t get a straight answer
  • Remember where you came from. Eg I came from a heavily religious background vs I went to Sunday School because that’s just what you did.
  • Check in with where you are now in your story. What Chapter are you living? Eg I am at a place where I’m unraveling and dissecting everything from my past and deciding what I want to keep and what I want to throw away vs I am building off of a clean slate.

Finding the common goal:

  • Where do we both want to end up? Eg Truth, Peace, Love, etc
  • What do we want for each other? Eg space to grow, curiosity, encouragement

Once you’ve given this some thought (and fyi some of those answers may not show up right away), chances are you can find a way TOGETHER, to fill in the gap from A (where you each are at in your own story) to B (your common goal).

And then maybe your quarterly blow-ups can look more like quarterly peace-talks. Except that, that whole death brings life and fire burns off the old thing still stands true; so maybe the blow-up is just inevitably necessary 🙂

Tears for Fears

I’m a big fan of house music, especially remixes that highlight the hidden beat of a song that otherwise falls into the ‘meh’ category, but now you can’t stop moving to. Back in 2003/2004/maybe 2005, my boyfriend at the time and some friends went to the Miami Winter Music Conference; my first time in the presence of some DJ greats. Aside from an encounter with an overdose (not my own thankfully), I was in my element.

The music, the energy, the weather. I am seriously convinced that God is DJ.

Especially when a remix of Tears for Fears’ “Shout” was played. (I still can’t find which remix it was and it’s driving me nuts, so if anyone remembers the version with special emphasis on the xylophone sound and a kick ass bass, plz let me know!!)

A couple weeks later we were all back in NYC leaving a club where the mix had just come on, and there was like 5 of us singing and dancing in the streets of the Bowery:

‘Shout! Shout! Let it all out!

These are the things I can do without

Come on, I’m talking to you, Come on’

One of my best NYC living memories.

So what’s this got to do with anything?

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been confronted with a lot of tears. Tears of my own, and tears of other women on their True You Journey.

Ten/Fifteen years ago, you wouldn’t catch me dead with tears for fears or any other reason.

Today though, tears are a relatively common occurrence.

My tears, and the tears I’ve been privvy to recently, have been tears for a variety of reasons.

Uncovering the Truth of who we are, experiencing Love in a new way, and being so touched that all we can do is let it all out. Tears for saying goodbye… to old stories we were telling ourselves… the things we finally realized we could do without, but had been holding on to for so long. And yes, even some tears for Fears. The fear and uncertainty of what will be on the other side of letting the old stories go, and letting in the Truth and Love?

What I was reminded of this week is that shedding tears is a good thing. All those years I lived with dry eyes, a good part of me was dead inside.

The more I wake up, the more I cry. (And sing, and dance, in the streets of New York.)

My tears and those of these women were signs that we’re waking up; our True You is coming to the surface.

So have a think for yourself. When was the last time you cried? Shouted?

When was the last time you let it all out?

Got rid of the things you can live without?

C’mon, I’m talking to you! C’mon! 🙂

#BOAW16: What Naked Female Bodies taught me about Beauty

Naked Female Bodies. Probably the most competitive arena in the Western world. So much so it might as well be an Olympic Sport. At least then the standards would be objective and not left up to the eyes of the beholder, forever wondering if this body is ‘good enough’.

Our bodies are either too fat, too thin, too soft, too hard, too round, too flat, too tall, too short. We’ve adopted the Goldilocks syndrome, except we can never find the resting place of, our body, or her body, is ‘just right’.

I am guilty of being Goldilocks. For years I judged every pair of legs, arms, abs, and cheeks (both pairs) that passed me by. And as with all forms of judgement, I was my own worst critic. Displacing my judgement on to her body was easier than accepting my own frailty and flaws.

When I was 18, I was exposed to more naked female flesh than I bargained for. The locker rooms in my university had showers that were reminiscent of Auschwitz. One big, square, stark, concrete room; empty except for shower heads peeking out from the walls. No cubicles, curtains, or any gesture of privacy.

And so after track practice, I’d be butt and breast naked with at least 10 other women as we washed off that day’s sweat and grime.

A perfect opportunity for the dissatisfied Goldilocks in me to take over. Her legs aren’t cut enough. Her bum isn’t round enough. Her thighs aren’t toned enough. Her breasts aren’t firm enough.

I was always comparing each body to some idealistic vision of what a woman’s naked body should look like.

The reality: no one in that room made the cut. Least of all myself. Because none of us had cracked the code of how to surpass the unreachable standard of perfection.

For years I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes about what a woman’s beauty is; caught in the harsh cycle of comparison, judgement, shame; resulting in trying to hide my own flaws and compensate, in order to meet aesthetic standards.

Here’s what I know now, that I wish I knew then.

Aesthetic beauty is not uniform.

Aesthetic beauty is not the defining factor of a woman’s beauty.

A vivid memory I have from those locker room days was noticing the variety in breasts, nipples, and pubic structure. In the first 18 years of my life, the only naked female body I was familiar with was my own, and I naively thought that all breasts and vaginas were created equal.

Equal? Yes. Identical? No.

Why this was a shock to me, I’m not too sure. Clearly our eyes, noses, and ears were all different. Why wouldn’t the most intimate parts of our bodies be different too?

While this was news to me, I didn’t understand the symbolism of this fact until more recently. I was too busy looking for similarity, conformity, and sameness, missing the point those naked bodies were trying to tell me.

No one body has a monopoly on beauty. Beauty is variety.

No two bodies have identical features (OK, except for twins), even down to our most intimate parts which are usually hidden from sight.

When we are clothed, we hide our differences. It is in our nakedness, that we see our uniqueness.

And while one body may have individual features that can be labeled attractive, or pleasing to the eye, it is the collective, the combination that is beautiful.

Consider a painting. A canvas that is painted solid purple may be nice to look at, a pretty color. But it isn’t until the blue, green, pink, red and yellow are splashed on and accentuate each other, that you have something beautiful.

And so it is with the beauty of a woman. To think that you or I alone define beauty, destroys its essence. Alone, you and I can be pretty, nice to look at, and yes, carry pieces of beauty.

But, it is in standing naked next to another that is beautiful.

It is in our differences, our variety, the fact that no two of us have the same exact same shape, size or coloring, that we create the beauty.

And while this stands true aesthetically, our beauty extends beyond our physical.

Last week I made a comment in The Nourish Circle, reflecting on the experience of coming together for a group call the day before. I wrote, “The vulnerability and shared wisdom that each of us brings is beautiful.”

Hmmmm…. That has nothing to do with how hard, soft, round, flat, tall or short we are.

It was the sharing from the heart, letting others in on the secret heartaches and joys of our souls that was beautiful. Getting emotionally and spiritually naked with each other.

That was beautiful.

And just as in our physical self, while we each have a similar make up and can relate to much of each other’s stories and experiences, no two of our souls are identical.

We are individual, yet the sharing of our individuality and differences creates connectedness, relatability, and no longer are we alone. Like a single strand of a spider web, each strand serves a purpose, and once connected, you have a work of art.

And just like a spider web, where one strand on it’s own can easily be broken but a web can carry an immense amount of weight, keeping one’s ‘weaknesses’ to oneself will break you, but sharing them generates strength.

The beauty of sharing the intimate corners of our hearts, the parts of ourselves that we usually keep close, covered up and clothed, because showing those parts would be too embarrassing, shameful, or inappropriate, is something that I now crave and seek out.

Although at the time of the naked showers, I allowed myself to be physically seen, I kept my emotional and spiritual self, buttoned up and buried deep. And I too, broke.

I could not see that my differences, my so-called flaws, both physically and emotionally, contributed to a collective beauty. And so I fought to change myself and my body. So much so, it led to an eating disorder.

It is only now, through my healing that I can see what I missed. That our beauty, and strength, comes from our differences, ‘weaknesses’, and surrender.

Ah, the Surrender.

For years I thought that I knew better than my body. That I could mold, sculpt, and whip it into shape. Turn it into a machine.

Except it already was a machine. I just didn’t understand how it works.

Within our naked bodies lives wisdom that lays dormant until ignited.

The key that turns the ignition? Surrender. Not Control, as I naively believed.

Surrender and trust, that the same body that pumps blood, creates a baby, and gives and receives pleasure, without having to micro-manage it’s every move, also knows what we need to emotionally and spiritually survive, create, and freely give and receive.

When your body is aching for a run, go for a run. When it is knackered beyond belief, sit still and rest.

When something inside of you craves a catch up with your best friend that you haven’t spoken to in months, a book that you’ve just heard about, a visit to certain part of the world, a good wail and a cry…

Listen to that craving.

Chances are there is something waiting for you. Something that you are ready to learn, a door or window ready to be opened, a gift.

Your body knows where you need to go and what you need to do before you do.

But it won’t tell you if you can’t see it’s beauty.

When you are judging, controlling, and disconnecting from your body, it goes silent.

Instead, we have to be grateful for how it functions, regardless of it’s shape, size, or shade.

We have to care for it, as we would any machine.

And we have to listen to what we are sensing, feeling, and hearing, even when it doesn’t make 100% sense and we can’t be certain of the outcome.

By learning how to relate to our bodies in this way, we learn how to relate to the world.

When we learn to love and surrender…. That, my friends, is beautiful.

So here’s what I finally realized was staring right at me all those times in the shower:

When our hearts are filled with love and surrender, and we stand naked next to another,  exposing our differences and ‘weaknesses’…

that is the beauty of  a woman.


Thanks to August McLaughlin for inspiring and inviting this post. For more Beauty of a Woman blog posts and a chance to win prizes, visit www.augustmclaughlin.com/beauty-woman-blogfest-v/.

To join a group of open-hearted women sharing their vulnerabile beauty with each other, visit www.thetrueyouproject.com/nourish.

Guts, guts, and more guts

Let’s talk about guts.

As in our real life intestines, that thing we call our intuition or ‘gut instinct’, and having the ‘guts’ to do something.

Let’s start with the middle one first.

I don’t know about you, but my gut instinct is the hardest part of me to connect with. Sometimes I feel like my whole life’s quest is to hear, and listen to, my intuition. It’s the epitome of my ‘true you’, and it’s the first to go when I get off path.

What usually happens is something like this:

I’ll be washing the dishes, folding clothes, or doing some other mundane task like peeing or showering, and I’ll have a brilliant idea, or a feeling about someone or some situation that I just know is the secret sauce. It feels like a massive ‘Aha!’ moment and I’m filled with hope, anticipation, dare I say excitement.

And THEN….

My brain comes up with a million different reasons as to why that idea is stupid, why I am way off about that person or situation, and how basically I am just bat shit crazy.

My M.O. has been to listen to the brain. That highly esteemed and well oiled machine that has nailed the logic and reason exams.

But let’s face it. Our guts know better.

When I look back at decisions I’ve made because of a gut instinct, including moving to the UK, kissing my now-husband for the first time, listing my services on BEAT’s Helpfinder, contacting Urban Zen Yoga Cafe to host workshops in their space, and countless other moments… they’ve all opened up doors and opportunities that I (ie my brain) never would have dreamed of.

In each case I had list of reasons why NOT to make that move. But my gut, my intuition, my spirit, knew better.

My point?

Listen to your gut.

Easier said than done because it takes guts to listen. It takes courage to make a decision that is not backed up by a list of pros and cons that heavily weigh on the pro side.

It takes courage to lean into uncertainty, move into a space where all the answers aren’t figured out yet.

Guts. (And balls.)

But trust me, once you practice listening, even if you have to work up the courage over days or weeks or months, you will see how wise your gut really is. And next time, it will be easier to listen. It will still take courage, but it will be easier. Promise.

The point here?

You need guts to listen to your gut.

And lastly, it helps to take care of your gut. The real one that you can touch.

I am learning this the hard way. After years of messing with it… feeding it and then ‘Oops, nope, sorry, you can’t digest that because it’s time for it to come back up‘, and then turning a blind eye to the idea that perhaps my physical self might need healing as much as my emotional and spiritual self does… I am finally making strides in mending it.

And while I most definitely do not have this down pat yet, I will say this: Caring for your emotional self is easier when your physical self is also cared for.

When you are doing any kind of emotional or spiritual healing, you usually end up facing some pretty dark places that can wreak havoc on your physical gut, or anywhere else in your body. And when your body is under stress, it’s harder to take intuitive action.

Don’t discount that it’s all connected folks.

Lesson here?

When your real gut is happy, it is easier to find the guts to listen to your gut.

(Go on, read it again 🙂 )

Saying all of that, I want to share a quick story of a woman who has embraced all three.

Meet Shann Jones, who stumbled upon a way to heal your gut after having the guts to listen to her gut. When her husband and son were ill with a variety of things and the doctors were coming up dry, she listened to that voice that said, ‘you can find natural health solutions from the goats on your farm’. She had the courage to listen and try it, and lo and behold, years later you have Chuckling Goat. www.chucklinggoat.co.uk. And then when the powers that be were asking her to stop talking about the miracles that kefir can do for gut health (And not because it doesn’t work. It does work, I’ve tried it.), she again found the guts to get her message out there anyway. Read her full story at www.thefarmerswife.wales.

I love stories like this. They inspire me to keep listening. Keep moving. Keep ‘gutting away’.

In the wise words of Chumbawamba: ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.’

Take care of your gut. Listen to your gut. Find the guts to do both. You will end up exactly where you need to be.

The little engine that could

Earlier this week I shot an impromptu video about a healing journey I’ve been on the past month, trying to heal a candida flare-up on my hands. It’s become clear that the process we go through for physical healing is pretty much the same deal for any kind of emotional or spiritual healing or recovery.

I won’t spill the beans, so check out the video here (it’s short, only 12 min or so).

And if you only have 30 seconds, here’s a tip that didn’t make it in the clip:

Pretend that you are The Little Engine that Could.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….

That line of thinking will get you through any Crash & Burns, Die-Off Symptoms, or Allergic Reactions.

Let me know if you can relate, and what you’ve learned from your own healing/recovery in the comments below!

 

What I don’t want you to know about me

You know the show MythBusters? (OK so I’ve never watched it either, but I’ve heard of it too.) Well, I like playing a game that’s my own version of myth-busting. It has to do with shame-busting. Bust the shame, and you bust the myth about who you are.

The game goes like this:

What I don’t want you to know about me……

And then you fill in the blank with some deep, dark, shaming secret.

And by that I mean, the ‘blank’ makes you want to crawl into a hole and die, or melt into the floor like the Wicked Witch of the East, or you think that if and when others find out about this secret, they will laugh at you, spit on you, or go ‘Eek! I’ve bumped into the thing!’.

The point is to uncover the part of yourself that you ‘just know’ will make everyone run the other way…. including yourself.

And then you win by sharing it. Once it’s not a secret anymore, it loses its power. And you find out that you’re still a worthy human being, with or without the secret.

This game is always a challenge for me. The first time I played, my response was, ‘I don’t have anything I don’t want you to know about me. I’m an open book. Ask me anything, I’ll tell you.’

But the point isn’t for other people to get inquisitive. The point is that for you to get curious and search your soul long and hard enough to uncover some gems that sometimes are hidden even from yourself.

The bombshell for me the first time was this: What I don’t want you to know about me is that I will only fill in the blank with things that I have already come to terms with, and so they no longer feel vulnerable, and no longer really count as shame. What I don’t want you to know about me is that I am so well protected against vulnerability that I don’t even know how to show you my shame.

Wow. I had instinctively found a way to beat the game. Except it meant that I lost out. I missed out on the chance for me to practice shame-busting at it’s finest.

This week I got to play this game again, and while some of my answers were admittedly pre-meditated, I asked myself to go a bit further.

And while this answer didn’t come up for me in the moment, my subconscious was obviously working at it all week.

What I don’t want you to know about me is this:

I want to be ‘somebody’.

I have a prideful ego the size of this room. Possibly, my house. Heck, it’s the size of Wales.

I want to be in the spotlight, take center stage. I want the world’s accolades to flood over me like a silky balm.

What I don’t want you to know about me is that I read this and makes me feel physically sick. Like vomit sick. It is an ugly side of me that has always been wrapped in brown paper packaging tied up with string, rubber stamped with words like motivated, high-achiever, and going somewhere.

But if I am honest with myself and you, a lot of that ambition is being driven by pride.

That is a ginormous pill to swallow.

I’ve acknowledged my shame before, but never really knew where it came from.

Perhaps it comes from pride.

When I have pride… and not the kind of pride that google defines as a healthy dose of self-esteem…

…but the kind of pride that is driving, striving, pushing, because it feeds off of achievements in order for it to stay alive. The kind of pride that holds the reigns to my self worth.

…the kind of pride that shouts from the back seat of the car when your dad gets pulled over in podunk upstate NY to tell the police officer that his daughter goes to Cornell, and therefore should be exempt from getting a ticket.

(True Story. In what world does where you go to school put you above the law? In my f-d up prideful world where I was clutching at straws to make me feel special. Roll out the red carpet. Here she comes, the prom-queen has morphed into the pride-queen.)

When I have that kind of pride, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for shame.

  1. It’s clearly ridden with judgement (I am better than you.)
  2. It’s clearly a false sense of security. The reality is never going to meet the expectation, and so the falling short part is an ideal spot for shame to show up.
  3. The recognition of the prideful thoughts, whether conscious or not, feels like crap. Another dose of shame.

I’ve never really thought that I brought my bulimia upon myself. I’ve chalked it up to an accumulation of nature and nurture; a combination of ingredients that when mixed together produced a very sour dough.

Perhaps I did have a part to play though. At least my pride did.

The part of me that was willing to sacrifice love for myself and others in order to get what it wanted. The achievements, the approval, the acceptance.

The pedestal.

Funny how, the feeling that I now have when recognizing my own pride, I call vomit-inducing.

Hmmmm…

My epiphanic ‘what I don’t want you to know about me’ moment this week came as I was flicking through Brene Brown’s instagram account and saw a cartoon drawing that summarizes her career. It starts with this:

‘My TED talk was an accident.’

That stopped me in my tracks.

Brene Brown is someone that I admire and whose work has deeply touched me. And what I don’t want you to know about me, is that when I was preparing for an Ignite talk last year, my pride was trying to studiously craft and engineer a talk that would go just as viral as her TED talks have.

But an accident? No. I wasn’t ready for an accident.

Because an accident happens when you lay down your pride, your ego, your desired outcomes, and you humbly take each step for one reason, and one reason only: because you can’t not do it. Because it’s your calling, your passion. Because it’s in the name of love.

That’s my version of ‘an accident’ anyway.

I can’t ignore that this revelation has come to me right around Easter-time. A holiday while famous for it’s abundance of chocolate, egg hunts, and funny hats, has much deeper roots.

I grew up in a Christian house and culture, and for years have considered myself to be ‘a Christian’ (even though I really don’t like labels), but it’s only been recently that I’ve actually been asking the question, ‘Who is this Jesus dude anyway?’

And then I realized this: Jesus wasn’t famous until he was dead. (And then got back up again.)

His ‘TED talk was an accident’, too.

I highly doubt he sat there one day chillin under the olive groves with his fishing buddies and thought to himself, ‘How can I be the most well-known person in the course of history? Oh, I know. I’ll claim to be God, die on a cross, and then rise from the dead! Yes! That’s gonna do it!’

Yeah, not so much.

In my opinion, he just saw every breath of his as an opportunity for love. He did what he couldn’t not do. He followed the Love. And it led him to his death.

The ultimate act of Love.

And then he got up again; because Love Never Fails.

And so as I think about the Easter story in this way for the first time ever, and think about how my own pride has gotten in the way of my embracing and expressing love, I ask myself, what within me can die this week? What can I lay down? Put to rest? Surrender? Give up?

How can every breath of mine be an act of love?

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? 🙂