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.

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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.

#bu29days: Day 16: It’s OK to play with your food

aka You said, let go of the Food Rules book. Why would I want to do that?

aka Why do you eat standing up? I thought you’re supposed to eat sitting down?

It’s simple. Sometimes I eat standing up because I’ve been sitting down for a few hours and when I take a break to have something to eat, my body would rather by standing than sitting. 

Gasp!!!!

‘But is says in the book, ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’, that one of the reasons they don’t get fat is because they always eat sitting down. Aren’t you afraid you’re going to get fat?!’

No.

Standing up while eating doesn’t make you fat. It doesn’t even automatically make you eat more.

The reason why French women don’t get fat, in my book anyway, is because they are very present with their food when they are eating.

Get this, you can be present with your food whether or not you’re standing up or sitting down.

I will say this though. When I used to binge, it was often a stand-up binge. It somehow felt more transient, like it would be over faster, and less of a reality… as if it wasn’t really happening because I wasn’t purposefully sitting down. If I was standing in front of the fridge with the door open while eating, or walking back and forth between the kitchen and living room, it was as if I would have more of a chance at stopping.

So, as part of getting out of that cycle, it can be very helpful to make a choice such as, ‘I will only eat sitting down’, if that helps create a new healthy habit.

However, that new healthy habit can just as easily take hold over you and freak you out.

I got a phone call from a woman who was worried she was forming bad food habits because she was tasting food while she was preparing food for her toddler daughter. She had struggled with anorexia, and as part of her recovery, had learned to portion out her food and eat while sitting down.

And here she was 4 years later, grazing and eating while standing!  She was driving herself nuts, throwing her head into a spin, and dove straight back into the grips of the good/bad mentality. Was this binging? Was she relapsing? Was it ok to taste test food while cooking it?

What about eating bits of food while encouraging your toddler to eat and then sitting down for an ‘adult’ meal afterwards? It’s like eating two meals one right after the other! Is that allowed?

We talked this through and she realized, the reason she was tasting the food was because

  1. it looked yummy and she wanted some
  2. she wanted to make sure it tasted nice before feeding it to her family.
  3. she was eating with her child to help facilitate her child’s eating
  4. she still felt hungry so she’d feed herself

Is there anything wrong with that?

In my opinion, no. 

It was helpful for her to get clear on what she actually wanted:

  1. Make sure the food tasted good for her family.
  2. Enjoy the time with her daughter as she was growing into a new stage of life.
  3. Have quality time with her husband.
  4. Enjoy food.

We talked about the idea that some days, that might be eating with her daughter and her husband one right after the other. And other nights, maybe she is hungry early and so has a fuller meal with her daughter, and then enjoys a glass of wine sans food with her husband.

Getting clear on desires and intention helped her to navigate herself out of the spin she was throwing herself into in trying to follow the rules.

Personally, I’d rather play with my food, have the freedom to do what feels right at the time and suits my lifestyle, than be worried about ‘doing it right’ and feeling guilty afterwards when it goes potentially ‘wrong’.

Rules can definitely help, usually for a season. Getting clear on what you want will guide you for a lifetime.

So that is why sometimes you’ll see me eating while standing up.

I have a favourite spot by a south-facing window and my lemon tree. On a sunny day, I can transport myself to the Amalfi Coast when I am standing there. I love preparing a plate of food, and then enjoy it while standing and sunbathing, staring out the window, watching the world go by.

You’ll also see me grazing while I prepare dinner. Bite off the end of the carrot, munch on a celery stick and throw the other half in the soup. It’s fun for me.

My absolute favourite: I LOVE buying an ice cream cone, fresh and homemade ice cream please, and then lazily walk down the street, or along the beach, with it dripping over my hand as I lick the sides and end up with it all over my face. It’s the only way I’ll eat an ice cream cone: while standing up.

In fact, when we were travelling and we’d stop for ice cream, I’d boycott if I wasn’t able to eat it while standing up. Going back in the car and eating it while driving just didn’t do it for me. I’d rather go without.

I suppose you could say this is a food rule: ‘I won’t eat an ice cream cone sitting down.’ and ‘I won’t eat a packaged ice cream bar when I have the choice of freshly made scoops.’

As I mentioned yesterday, I’d rather give myself the full 10 of pleasure and enjoyment, than only meet it halfway and still be craving more. Because the craving isn’t actually for the food, it’s for the experience.

And this is why French women don’t get fat, because when they are eating: they are creating an experience with their food. It gives them Pleasure! It’s less about the food and more about the sensory stimulation throughout the meal.

More of that please!

Which leaves my food rule book empty except for these two questions:

  • What do you want right now?
  • Why do you want it?

As long as my ‘why’ isn’t to mask some emotion; stress, boredom, nerves, vulnerability, frustration, etc, then I’m OK with giving myself what I want.

Sometimes that is a green smoothie for breakfast. Sometimes it’s no breakfast. Sometimes it’s eggs on toast.

Sometimes it’s sitting down with a knife and fork to eat a gorgeous salad for lunch. Sometimes it’s having cheese and crackers by the window.

Sometimes it’s a really nice homemade dinner of roasted veg, steak or lamb, and garlic & rosemary roasted potatoes. Sometimes it’s a more playful meal of homemade crispy squid (deep fried in oil), smoked paprika swede or sweet potato chips, and a Jamie Oliver inspired yogurt dip. Sometimes it’s take out from the curry house, or pizza from the shop.

Sometimes I share a plate of dates and walnuts and dark chocolate with my husband while watching our Amazon Prime show of the week. Or we make popcorn, or ice cream on crumble (I will eat it as an accent :)), or a couple of biscuits from the shop.

And, sacrilege, sometimes my stomach is rumbling at 10:30 or 11pm before I go to bed, and I eat a handful of nuts or dried apricots within 10 minutes of climbing into bed.

As opposed to rules, I suppose you could say I’ve adopted guidelines for the playground. Signposts to reflect my core values, my quintessential self. These include things like:

  • Know what is in the food so that I know what I’m giving my body. I value real food. Which has led me to expand my cooking horizons; making bread, granola bars, and chicken stock from scratch. You’d be surprised at how much cleaner your poo is when you eat natural ingredients.
  • Treat myself. I value variety and nice things. When eating out, I’ll order the meal and dessert that sounds amazing and I probably would botch at home.
  • Listen to any cravings. I value my desires, whether one of the soul or stomach. These don’t have to be intense, all-consuming cravings, but if I feel like having a piece of chocolate in the middle of the day, I’ll listen to it. Why fight it? 
  • Make space for connection. I value connection and beauty. At dinnertime, I’ll clear the table of any work related clutter so I can focus on my husband and our conversation in a beautiful space. When there is a real connection with someone while eating, the food adds to an already great experience.

It boils down to two things: Is this nourishing? Will this give me pleasure?

Recently I noticed that I am still carrying a fear that was showing up with food.

The fear of ‘running out’. Whether this is of running out of an ingredient in the cupboard, or food on the table, or money in the bank, or creative ideas, or energy with clients, this fear was pervasive across the board.

A great example of, how you do anything is how you do everything.

I realized it first with food. I noticed I’ve been skimping on using the full measurement of certain ingredients that were more expensive or harder to find, or that I somehow thought of as ‘special’ or pleasurable. Like raw cacao powder, or coconut oil, or butter, or even just a normal spice if we were getting close to the bottom.

I’d try to hold on to what we had and deprive myself of some of the pleasure the ingredient brought to the recipe. As opposed to believing and trusting that there is more where that came from, and receive it fully.

The idea of a never ending flow of abundance or love is a new one I am still wrapping my head around.

So now a couple new guidelines are:

  • Slow down. I’m learning to value each moment for what it is without worrying about tomorrow. Chew more slowly so that I am enjoying each bite instead of racing to finish in time to have seconds before they run out.
  • Use the full amount. I’m learning to value my worth and the art of receiving. Let myself experience the full amount of flavour and pleasure that the recipe calls for, just because I can and I’m worth it.

What I love about this, is that playtime now extends beyond food.

As part of healing my relationship with food; ditching the good vs bad, the can vs can’t’s, I’ve opened a door to another 3rd option: playfully and lovingly creating what I want.


 

Something to think about: What’s your take on rules? How do they serve you? What are some rules that aren’t serving you anymore? What parallels can you draw between your relationship with food and other areas of your life? What is a desire, intention, or value of yours that you want to start listening to?

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, and get connected to your core values. Join us this February.