Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happiness is a Habit

Just over a week ago, I posed a question in my blog. It was more a question for myself, rather than for you. I figured that at some point, the answer would come.

Because the answer is always there, if only your ears and heart are open enough to hear it.

Anyway… the question:
Why is pain so much more intense than joy?

In that moment, I truly didn’t understand, but I get it now. The answer hit me while I was sitting at my kitchen table at home on Friday, entering some data for work.

It’s because I used to be in a constant state of sadness, depression, pain, and misery. The moments of joy I experienced were just that—moments. They faded quickly, which made me feel even more miserable, even sadder, even more depressed.

It’s when I used to write stuff like this… which is on my original website. Yes. I was “blogging” back in 1998, long before it was ever called blogging:
nobody knows me.
sometimes i really feel that way. i really honestly truly feel alone.
and then there are the times when i feel like everyone can see right through me, right through to the bone. and i wonder if they like what they see...
nobody knows that i secretly want to be the president of the united states.
nobody knows that i have read entries in my first diary that i started keeping when i was nine and i remember how my parents used to fight, and i always thought they were going to get a divorce and so i cried... and those diary entries still make me cry.
nobody knows that my sister always stole any money that i had so she could buy drugs, so to get back at her i stole her lip gloss and tampons. it makes sense in an 8-yr-old way.
nobody knows that sometimes when i see people on the street and observe how they look at me, i secretly wonder if inside their minds they're thinking the same terrible things that owen b. used to call me when i was in fourth grade... things like fatso, hippo, ugly...
nobody knows that even though i am very independent and strong, all i really want is for a man to love me as much as i love him. someday it will happen, but there are short spurts of time when i feel miserably unwanted. and then i kick myself because i know better.
nobody knows that not a single day goes by when i don't have at least one negative thought about myself bouncing around in my mind. it's usually something along the lines of looking fat or not being good enough to deserve something, but still, it's there...
nobody knows that i think so many other negative thoughts but i keep them all inside or i write them in secret places because nobody really wants to look at these ugly pictures i paint...
nobody knows that i value others' opinions about me way too much, that it's an everyday battle for me to have self confidence about anything because i have never had self-esteem, especially not when i was growing up.
nobody knows that i always have music going through my head.
nobody knows...

How sad is that? Can you feel how utterly miserable I was? I feel sad, just reading that… which is one reason why, even though I keep all of my old journals, but I don’t necessarily go back and read them very often. It’s just… depressing as hell.

But that’s the constant state of being in which I used to live. That’s where I was, all the time, and when I felt joy, I often sucked the life out of whatever the source of that joy was, because I knew the joy was temporary—because the source was always exterior. It never came from within. Happiness felt like something I grasped at desperately, like dry sand slipping through my fingers.

These days, it’s completely different. Joy, happiness, openness, authenticity—these are now constants in my life. These are feelings and ways of being that I choose to nurture.

It’s because I live in a state of calm and warm happiness… and yes—I experience moments of joy, just like anyone, but because joy isn’t nearly so elevated from the state of being where I actually live all the time now… it doesn’t feel as intense.

So, because I’m not living in a constant state of depression, pain, and sadness, it feels more intense when I do experience those feelings.

The pain and sadness are insanely intense.

But—they're also temporary.

When I feel the pain, and work through it, and let it be, to the point of completely emptying it out—I can make the choice (like I did last week) to then fill myself up with all the good things I want, like love for myself, and even love for my body, my mind, and my life.

And today, realizing that I have completely 180’d… completely flip-flopped my attitude and outlook on life is hugely powerful and absolutely empowering. Truly! It reminds me of a part of the Pathways training, where there’s discussion about what makes people who are top performers become top performers in their companies.

It has nothing to do with exterior motivators, or incentives, or spousal support, or any other factors you might think.

The only thing differentiating top performers from average or even low performers was… the top performers were happy.

And they found real, profound ways to nurture that happiness.

I get it now… because now I know that no matter what comes my way, even if it’s a total train wreck, I will return to happiness, because that is my choice. Because at the core of who I am, I am actually a happy person. And if I make that choice consistently, every time… then I will continue to be happy.

The power rests in my mind and in my heart. And I’ve always known that—it’s just that when I look back, I was so confused and clueless about how to achieve that happiness in the first place. I knew it was possible—I just didn’t have the tools.

And then I went to Pathways and got some of the basic tools… and I started TAing and got more tools. I did the PrimeSelfPlus (PSP) class and got even more amazing tools.

And now, I am honing my happiness skills, one choice at a time, one day at a time, and it feels like something has finally clicked. It feels like I’ve finally picked up the clue and tucked it beside my heart.

I’m excited, and recharged, and empowered, and—


And happiness is more than a feeling. It’s a state of being—a habit, even, that I am choosing to nurture… one choice at a time. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Adventures in Online Dating - Part 2

If I hide my head, you can't see me.

I’ve definitely slowed down the pace at which I am communicating with people, over email as well as texting and meeting in person. It became such a time-consuming prospect, and work has been absolutely nuts…  I found myself spending a long day at work and then coming home to sit on the computer and attempt to reply to messages that I’d gotten.

Something had to give.

And, in the grand scheme of things, while I am looking to meet someone amazing at some point—I’m not in a rush. I have a feeling it’s going to take a long time to find, and in the mean time, I can only hope to meet some truly interesting, engaging people.

What I’m finding so far, though, is that some people really don’t want to be seen. Some just don’t want to be known… don’t want to be felt… don’t want to be heard.

Growing up, I had a cat named Smudge who would constantly poke his head into a bag, or under a couch cushion, or into the mail slot in the desk by the phone.

His head was hidden, but the rest of his body was quite visible.

We always thought he did this as a way of saying, “If I hide my head, you can’t see me.”

We got lots of laughs from this as a family, but I really think this notion applies to dating, as well.

We humans work so hard to hide certain parts of ourselves, unaware that the rest of us is hanging out, in clear view. We try so hard to keep Pandora's box tightly shut. It takes a lot of effort, doesn't it? And how well does keeping that box closed really work, in the first place? 

I would go so far as to say that we work so hard to hide our faults, our deep inner secrets, our hearts, our souls… unaware that the harder we work to hide—the more visible we actually become.

People claim they want to be open and not be judged.

And yet, when they experience my openness and my willingness to listen, and when they find themselves confessing things to me that normally they wouldn’t say, it’s apparently unnerving and downright disarming.

I can’t tell you just how many times I’ve heard these words: “I’ve never told anyone that before.”

Or, “I don’t usually talk about this stuff. Ever.”

Thus, the unnerving, disarming part…

These are the things worth sharing, though. Those secret things are what makes someone worth knowing. It's how intimacy is nurtured.

And that’s what the men I’ve met actually don’t like—to be that exposed, that vulnerable…

That could explain why I’ve experienced the same multiple times now… when I put myself out there, and when I am simply me… it’s just a little more than they’re used to. It throws them for a loop and at first, they aren’t sure what to do with it. And in the end, it’s easier to walk away early on than to risk.

What exactly is the risk, though?

My opinion is that if someone truly sees a person for who he or she really is, that person is in danger of being discovered, judged, and ultimately rejected.

In other words… reject first. Get them before they get you.

(Because then, I won’t be able to see that he’s really not good enough.)

Yes. I do think it boils down to the “not good enough” tape.

When I say that I am open, I mean it. I really am. And I not only hope for that in return, I have come to just “be” in such a way that I am non-verbally asking the person I’m connecting with to be open, as well.

It’s amazing to me just how many folks want no part of that.

I get why. I used to be there myself.

And it's hard to be open. It means you could get hurt, which as you know, I have very recently experienced. (Thus, the other reason why I'm taking a bit of a breather.)

People don’t typically interact that openly on a daily basis. It’s easier to make jokes, tell funny stories, talk about how hot it is (I mean, it’s Texas in July, do you expect anything other than, "It's damn hot!"?), TV shows, the latest sports team debacle, or useless trivia, etc.

It seems that some people live their whole lives in small talk. 

I used to be the same—closed up, sputtering out the headlines of my stories a bunch at a time so that I was just interesting enough to keep people around me, but not threatening, and certainly with absolutely no clue as to what intimacy really is.

These days, however… intimacy is not only something I want—it’s something I am willing to take a risk and be vulnerable for. It’s something I strive to nurture in the close relationships in my life. In other words, for me, intimacy has become a necessity.

Even if it hurts.

I spoke of living the alternative for so long... of being disconnected, out of touch, and even numb. I make different choices now, and while that means I do feel pain on a deeper level, it also means I relish happiness and pure joy when I feel it.

So if I go on a couple of dates with someone, and we never get past the banter, the light talk, the joking around, and the general awkwardness, then chances are, we aren’t ever going to get very far... period.

I suppose that’s all just part of this dating game, isn’t it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Touched By The Divine

“I’m being erased
by Your love,
by Your love,
till nothing remains…”
 - Shanti Webb

Last night, I had a really hard work-out that started with a deeply disturbing sense of emptiness. I hadn’t felt that empty in a very long time.

The good part of that is… I actually didn’t see the emptiness as a bad thing. I saw it as a new beginning. And, over the last year, I have learned how to fill myself up.

And tonight—I am again filled with the Divine.

I got several valuable reminders during Movement Montage tonight.

I am not alone. I am within a rich community of family, friends, mentors, teachers, dancers, artists, cheerleaders, and those who constantly challenge me.

This community—sometimes even unknown to them—urges me on when I most need it.

Even though I’ve been sad and emotional over the last several days, I haven’t given up on living my life.  In fact, I’ve actually done a better job of taking care of myself over the last several days than I had over the last several weeks.

I got up and got to work early, made sure to get enough sleep, I’ve been keeping up with eating well and exercising, and with yoga practice. I’ve started going to regular yoga classes, and I’m upping the ante on my exercise, including adding weights.

I feel sad when I need to feel sad, and I release it in private moments (and then, apparently, talk about it here).

In all the emotional turmoil I’ve felt over the past week, I have remained open. I have remained vulnerable. And I have remained willing.

And although I have been afraid—of sinking into depression, of the sadness taking over, of letting a piece of me fade away…

I allowed the fear to be there, and I pushed through it anyway. Just like the sassy little girl inside of me said would happen…

And tonight, I got a sweet release. I felt my own hand cupping my cheek, jaw, and neck, and yet, in that moment, my hand felt like the hand of God. He told me, again, that I’m not alone. That I have Him, always. That He is in my heart, and I am in His.

And then I danced, with the community of dancers who were present tonight—in that room and everywhere around the world… and I danced with God, and I danced with my sassy little girl inside, and I danced with me.

And then I felt called to go sit and just be with God for a while, so that I could just be still, and be in that moment with Him.

The song that was playing in the background was ethereal and divine… and the last lines were absolutely profound to me, in that moment—and now:
“I’m being erased
by Your love,
by Your love,
till nothing remains…”

God is erasing all of my judgments, all of my ego, all of the negative, awful thoughts I have ever dared to utter about myself. He’s taking it all away, step by step.

And in its place?


“You're my light in the dark
guiding, guiding me home
and Your faith in me is all I need
Your love, it sets me free”
 - Mmm… (by Laura Izibor) 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Adventures in Online Dating - Part 1

How about a little levity in the midst of all of my soul-wrenching stuff? Yeah? Okay.

Let’s talk about this online dating thing.

It’s been interesting so far, that’s for sure.

I’ve met some really interesting people. I’ve met some quasi-crazy people, I’ve met some people who are outside of my comfort zone, and I’ve met some people who seem to have no interest in actually meeting face to face.

I guess emailing back and forth through a website is pretty safe, isn’t it?

But I’ve noticed a few trends, and I thought you might find some amusement if I shared.

The one-line messages
I have gotten the same exact message from the same guy three times: “you are BREATHTAKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
What that tells me is that not only did he not bother to read my profile, but that he actually doesn’t really care what I have to say. I am nothing if not prolific on my profile. If you can’t find at least one thing to talk about in your message to me, then why should I bother to respond to your message?

The second part of one-line messages is the guy who sends a message that says something along the lines of:
Interested in casual sex? (I have no words for this…)
Want to come tuck me in? (Um, no. I’m not your mother and if you’re old enough to type that, then you’re old enough to tuck in your damn self.)
Hi there, pretty girl
Hello there beautiful
Hi, how are you?
Hi ;-)
Etc… you get the point … These messages that you’re sending me have zero imagination. Zero. It shows me you aren’t really confident in what you have to offer, and I make no apologies for wanting someone who is stable and who likes himself.

Basically, these one-liner messages get the same response from me.


The chronic profile visitor
This is someone who visits my profile at least once a day—maybe even more often than that. And yet, I get no message from this person. I assume it’s just to troll my photos, but I don’t want to put too much more thought into it, because that does squick me out a bit.

Repetition of profile jargon is… repetitive
A lot of men say these things in their profile:
No drama!
You should love to laugh!
No games!
What woman is going to openly admit to being a drama moth? Most women I know who actually thrive on drama will vehemently deny it. Maybe that’s how a guy actually knows she’s into drama? The second part of that is… if you really have to claim so fervently that you don’t want drama, that’s a red flag to me, indicating that you’ve got a lot of drama in your life, already.

And personally, I really hate to laugh, but I don’t know about other women.

But seriously… I don’t understand this. Why would you even say in your profile that you want someone who loves to laugh? Is there really anyone on this planet who doesn’t enjoy laughing? Maybe what these guys really mean is that they don’t want a stick in the mud, or an uptight Type A personality?

And the best of all… the no games request.


I’m not buying it. What I am finding is that men play games just as much as women do. And while I, like any normal and decent human, do not enjoy engaging in games when it comes to dating… isn’t that what dating really is? An elaborate, dance-like game?

What of the guy who looks you in the eyes and says, “I’d really like to see you again,” and then disappears off the face of the earth?

What of the guy who promises a second date but then goes silent a couple of days before you’re supposed to go out?

What of the guy who never responds to your follow-up to his very enthusiastic email?

Are these not games?

Dating would be a lot easier if we were all just a little bit more honest. But I think the reality is, our egos just can’t handle it. Our egos need to be stroked, we need validation, we need to know that someone else thinks we’re attractive, awesome, and dateable.

And rejection comes in many forms… and often—so I’m finding, it’s in the form of a game.

And since I’m not much of a game player, it turns out that I’m not actually getting many dates.

I’m actually okay with that. I want to draw people to me who have inner light, people who aren’t afraid to share themselves, people who are open and willing to be known, and willing to know me.

And if that means I will kiss lots of frogs in the meantime… I think it means I’ll get really good at spotting the frogs in the first place…

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Always Go With Your Gut

(...even when it hurts... even when that means you get the answer you don't want to hear...)

Always go with your gut.

I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before… your gut, your intuition, your heart—whatever you call it… it doesn’t steer you wrong.

The key is listening, though.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear, with all the noise in our day to day lives. Sometimes, hearing that little voice seems impossible. And even once you hear it—how easy is it to second-guess? How easy is it to ignore that voice within and try to steer your own path? It’s so easy to tune it out, to try to “do the right thing” – even if the right thing isn’t really what you want… and especially if the “right thing” is never what you would do if you were really following your heart.

Right now, I’m in the middle of a bit of a mess where I’m having a hard time having faith. I have no idea what my next step is, and in this moment, I’m not handling it well. And normally I wait until it’s all sorted out before I type up a blog post. But right now… I’m just in a weird place, and I thought that instead of waiting around until I had all the answers figured out… I would put it out there in the raw for once.

So here I am… raw as ever.

On Tuesday in the Movement Montage class, I had a huge feeling of fear crop up. This is a type of fear I hadn’t experienced since becoming emotionally and physically healthy.

I actually ducked out of class for a few minutes to record what I was feeling in the moment. I transcribed it:

I think it’s natural for us to feel fear.
Fear is something that keeps us safe, something that is always there. It’s one of our built-in mechanisms to help keep us alive.
As someone who has done a lot of work and a lot of growth, and a lot of self-improvement stuff, I’ve done a lot of work to overcome feeling fear.
And, so, when that feeling starts to crop up again, I immediately try to suppress it.
And then, inevitably, I try to figure out… what’s making this so real? What’s making this so big? Why am I feeling this? I try to analyze it and dissect it to death.
Sometimes I just need to let the feelings be there.
I felt afraid earlier.
I feel afraid now.
I don’t want to fall for this guy.
Because a part of me is afraid that I can’t handle it.
And so, when I asked the sassy little girl inside of me what she would do in my position—she just kinda reaches out her hand and touches me and says, “It’s ok to be afraid. Just let it be there. The only way to push through it is to let it be there.”
I can handle it.
I can fall in love, if I let myself.
If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen no matter what. And if I try to fight it, that’s only going to make it dysfunctional.
And I want to be functional.
So… my challenge to myself is to allow my fear to be there, because I know that that’s what helps keep me safe and ok.
And I know that no matter what, I will be ok.
And I can just let this be.
I can just let it be there.

And now, I am very sad to report, that possibility has been taken off the table. (See the previous entry, where I mentioned being rejected…)

That isn’t the only “mess” in my life right now, of course. But for whatever reason, it’s the thing that makes me incredibly vulnerable and wide open to random people on the internet, when the other “messes” are actually not so close to my heart.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m willing to talk about this stuff here. I think because many of my close friends are going through something similar, with learning how to be functional and healthy and also… in love. Or at the very least—open to the possibility.

I haven’t bounced back yet. I don’t have the perfect words to say. I don’t even have that much perspective yet. My heart is still very much in pain.

I allowed myself to feel more than I have in years, and something that’s incredibly baffling to me is this:
Why is the pain so much more intense than the joy?

I don’t get it.

I really don’t…

I do understand why this man was brought into my life, though, and that has given me some enough perspective that I can at least appear to go on with my normal life.

He came into my life so that I could understand what I want. Not just know it, not just see it… but to actually experience it… to feel it. I think that’s pretty important, because up until this point, I’ve only experienced what I didn’t want.

So, it was just a taste… but it left a lasting impression.

That’s all I’ve got at the moment… but for the moment, it’s carrying me through.

What I am choosing to do from here, though, is to continue to be open. I am continuing to be vulnerable and real, and to show who I really am—in this blog as well as in my everyday life. I will keep listening to my voice within—my heart, my intuition. I will feel my faith again, and I will keep following my gut.

I thought about the alternative. I thought about how much easier it sometimes seems to live life all closed up—and I used to pride myself on being mysterious… and back then, my incongruent actions directly contradicted what my heart really longed for. But I lived in the alternative for so many years that at this point, it doesn’t even feel like a choice that’s on the table, for me to try wearing masks again, or to try being perfect again, or to try fooling everyone around me into thinking I’m a more amazing person than I really am.

The only thing that feels right, authentic, and true, is to continue living just how I am. Vulnerable, open, courageous, brave, and yes—sometimes, even messy.

Logic says that I shouldn't even post this. It's too open, too vulnerable, too... emotional.

I will never again apologize for being emotional. I am emotional.

And, I am also following my gut...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Music is Life: What Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61 Has Taught Me About Being Human

(Wherein I reveal that I am, indeed, a music nerd, and maybe I think too much, and I most definitely feel too much… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

It has been said that life imitates art... and art imitates life.

For me, it's a bit different. For me, it's more that music sometimes helps us make sense of life, when nothing else does.

When I was growing up, I had a cassette tape of Vladimir Horowitz playing Chopin pieces. The second song on side two was the piece I was working on at the time. It’s a famous Nocturne: Op. 9 No. 2. Everyone recognizes it when those first notes echo from the keys.

But getting to the second song on side B meant I had to fast forward through or listen to the first piece: Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61.

The piece is 13 minutes long, so I really didn’t want to listen to it.


In fact, I hated this piece. I loathed it so much that I actually ended up recording the nocturne I needed on a different tape, just so I wouldn’t have to constantly fast-forward through this annoying 13 minute piece that just seemed like it noodled on forever and ever.

But since I occasionally listened to other pieces on that cassette, I would run across those 13 minutes now and again.

And I caught myself, over time, listening to snippets of this monstrosity.

And slowly, I found that maybe I didn’t really hate it.

It really confused me, though.

It started out with a bang… even sounded a bit grandiose in parts, and playful in other parts, with some great melodies—some chord progressions that evoked feelings of sadness and tragedy within me—and a few fun passages here and there, all within the first seven and a half minutes.

The main problem, though, was that aside from the interesting bits, it mostly noodled around and seemed to have no real purpose. It felt those notes and phrases were lost, waiting to be put into some type of order. That was incredibly frustrating, and I realized that’s what drove me mad about the piece.

It just didn’t make any sense.

And then…

Then, I heard the silence for the first time. In that silence, around 7 minutes, 45 seconds* into the piece, Chopin stops to take a breath, so that it’s ever-so-gently pronounced that he’s brilliantly introducing an entirely new melody.

Chopin was a rule breaker, indeed. Between Chopin and Beethoven breaking all the rules of composition back in the day, I’m surprised Classical music remained “Classical” for as long as it did.

This melody captivates me. It takes my breath away, every time.

What moves me even more, though, is how close it is to the end of the piece.

It’s almost as if the first two thirds of the piece is this frustrated build-up so that by the time you hear this melody, nothing in the world sounds more beautiful.

From this point forward, the piece is a brewing, barely-bridled pool of passion that begins to ooze out and then explode across the remaining pages. This piece turns into the most romantic love story for about three minutes… and then the ending is just… berserk.

This piece is strong. It makes a statement. You’re either going to love it, or hate it… or hate it and then love it, like me.

Because the ending of this piece is nothing short of absolute, 100% brilliance. It’s almost impossible to play accurately at the speed you’re supposed to play it, with the amount of conviction it takes to pull it off. You’ve just been playing for nearly 13 minutes, so your hands and arms are tired. But Chopin didn’t care… he had a story to tell (there's a lesson there).

The last two minutes of this piece are gushing with the most unadulterated, pure JOY spilling off the page, across the piano, onto the floor, splashing your face, and every time I hear it, I want to get up from whatever I’m doing and live the life that exists within this music.

It’s just that compelling to me… but maybe because I’ve heard it hundreds of times over the years, and it’s grown on me. I actually sat down and analyzed the entire piece one time, chord by chord, phrase by phrase, because it confused me so much why I feel such a visceral reaction every time I listen to it.

And through all of that analysis, I came to realize something.

This piece represents life.

My life.

I felt so lost for the first part of my life. I felt like I was just noodling around, without any real purpose. I had some amazing moments of intense joy and conversely, deep sorrow. But mostly it was full of noodling seemingly pointlessly from day to day (or note to note).

And then, I woke up… about 7 minutes, 45 seconds in…

And I have been living a life of learning… struggling with how to be in the moment, and be truly open to feeling, even when it hurts… even when it’s hard… even when the pain is so intense I want to claw my eyes out because that would hurt less, and at least then I could point to the tangible cause.

But the moments of joy I have are deeply satisfying and real. The moments of pain are pivotal for me, and my life is richer because of them.

And my ending?

Well… I already know I’m going out with a bang. I already know that the ending of my life is going to be the best…

Don’t ask me how I know… it’s more a feeling I get, I guess, rather than knowledge.

So when I have days like I’ve had today… and weeks like I’ve had this week… when all I want is to hide under the covers until the pain is gone… the pain I feel because my very soul—open and exposed, was gazed upon and then ultimately rejected…

I have to listen to the Polonaise-Fantaisie a few times.

Loud enough to (probably) annoy my neighbors.

Because there are times when lying on the hardwood floor in a crying heap, then banging on the piano keys just to express some emotion I haven’t felt in entirely too long, and then listening to, of all things, Classical music, as loud as I can stand it (which still isn’t loud enough in this case)… there are times like these when I just need to be reminded that it’s okay to be a living, breathing, human being.

Because there is a greater purpose for all of this, and I’m not yet privy to it, and I may never be… and that’s ok. Most of the time, I don’t mind feeling small… we are all small.

But it’s connecting with people who are like-minded… and it’s sharing and being vulnerable that makes life richer and worth living, but when the unexpected happens and The Real Me ™ is absolutely, unequivocally rejected

Sometimes it helps me to know that someone from centuries ago, named Frederic Chopin, had already felt these feelings, too. He put passion on paper in a way that no other composer ever has, in my opinion. He was someone who felt deeply, someone who lived a life of passion and often great despair. He was a real person. 

And I am, too.

And so are you.

And what does it all matter? I don’t know… but I do know that we can’t do this thing all alone. I do know that if we all continue putting energy into things that just don’t matter… our lives, inevitably, won’t matter.

And even sometimes when we do invest in things that matter, and the result is, at best, confusing, and painful, and defeating… I guess what I’m trying to say is… try to remember that you’re not the first person who’s ever felt that way, and you won’t be the last.

We need each other, to get through these times…

*In the recording I linked to, the silence and new melody occur at approx. 8:28. I would rather have linked to Horowitz, because he plays this piece better than anyone can, but it's split between two videos and that... just doesn't work.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Living in the Now - Letting Go of Worry

I’ve just sat outside sweating over the last hour or so, having amazingly engaging conversation and enjoying the warm breeze that occasionally offered a momentary breath from the incredible intensity of the Texas heat in July.

I’m back inside now.

A sweetness rises from my skin as I breathe in deeply, surveying the intriguing mixture of students, professionals, couples, and regular people making up the population of Starbucks in this moment.

I’m listening to some of my favorite music—Depeche Mode, from the early years (up to Violator, aka the Personal Jesus album), smiling at this music I haven’t listened to consciously in years, remembering when I first fell in love with the Speak & Spell album, on the way to Mendocino, California in a church van, driving up the coastal highway, trying not to get car sick, and just enjoying a moment of my life where I really had nothing to worry about.

Looking around in Starbucks, I wonder what each person is worried about.

“You wear guilt like shackles on your feet,
like a halo in reverse…
I can feel the discomfort in your seat,
and in your head it’s worse.

There’s a pain—a famine in your heart,
an aching to be free.
Can’t you see,
all love’s luxuries are here for you and me?”
– Halo, Depeche Mode
Everyone has worries… burdens… things they feel guilty or shameful about… and I find myself wondering—when do we take on worries? How do we take them on? Is this a habit instilled in us by our parents, by the environment in which we are raised? Is it an inherent part of human character?

One thing’s for sure—once you start worrying, it’s a very easy trend to continue. Except, it doesn’t just continue, does it? One worry builds upon another, until suddenly, we’re worried about every damn thing in the universe—even things we can’t control.

How much energy do you think we waste on worrying?

How much of your life do you waste, worrying?

Why do adults worry so damn much? It’s built into our society, even. If we aren’t worried about something, then somehow, we end up with a guilty conscience. So then, we feel shameful about being guilty of feeling no worry.

So, which is worse—worry or shame?

I’d rather leave off both of those feelings… I think living in the present is the only way to combat these feelings we impose on ourselves—these feelings that are nothing if not incredibly heavy, unhealthy burdens.

Of course, the bigger issue is that we manifest our own lives—the thoughts, learnings, feelings that we have. They all come from within. The relationships we initiate, nurture, and maintain are a direct reflection of who we really are on the inside at the moment.

I really believe that, and I’ve seen it in my own life, over and over—especially in the last year.

The most powerful way I know of to let go of worrying is to live in the moment.

It’s incredibly difficult to do—at least at first… I know I’ve struggled with it over the years. But it’s almost like something finally clicked for me, and now I’m finding it increasingly easier to live in the moment, day to day.

If I concentrate on right now… somehow the future doesn’t seem so overwhelming, frightening, or nebulous.

If I concentrate on right now… I am surrendering (ding!ding!ding!) to the path that I have always been meant to walk. I am becoming more myself in every moment, and becoming the woman I was created to be—except that now, I’m not fighting against it.

Now, I’m learning to just go with it.

And that feels pretty awesome.

If I concentrate on right now… I am helping to create the future that I was going to have in the first place—the only thing that’s changed is my mindset… and isn’t that so much more empowering and wonderful than constantly worrying about the future, or trying to figure it out (aka control it)?

And, like the lyrics from Halo, above, if we are living in love… then guilt and shame fade away. All that replaces it is love… and now.

Nothing is more real than right now. Nothing says love better than living in this moment.

It really is all we have, isn’t it?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Freedom Means... Consciously Nurturing Me

“Let go of the way you thought life would unfold; the holding of plans or dreams or expectations—let it all go. Save the strength to swim with the tide. The choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and a desperate attempt to flee from the energy you long for. Let go, and the waves and crests will carry you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dream or destinations.”  – Danna Faulds

Lately, I’ve been exploring the idea of what makes me feel free. I’ve been making more and more choices that help me feel free, and I am learning what it actually feels like.

Initially, I thought this was the first time in my life that I have actually been free.

That’s not true, of course. I’ve been free many times… and I’ve felt freedom a few times, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to feel it as freedom. I kept looking to others to fill the void inside of me, so it didn’t matter how free I actually was… I continued wrapping myself in chains—tying myself to others in unhealthy ways to feel accepted, validated, and important.

But this is the first time in my life that I have not only had freedom, but that I have felt freedom, and acted accordingly.

At first, I was afraid. I was petrified (ok, stopping the random song lyric now).

(I know. That was bad.)

I wasn’t sure how to make choices that fed my basic need of feeling free. I wasn’t even sure what being free actually meant to me, either.

Freedom can look like lots of things. This being July, and with the recent celebration of Independence Day on the 4th, it’s easy to think about our troops, our country, and what we stand for as a nation.

If I were a minority, it would be easy to define what freedom means in modern society.

If I were in a country where women are enslaved, and I were suddenly brought to America to start over—well, that sort of freedom is obvious, as well.

But what is personal freedom? Does it mean I’m not tied to anyone?

I would say that depends on my attitude. I am bound to my family by blood. I am bound to my friends by chosen bonds forged over time and with deep investments in emotional, intimate, and honest connection.

I am bound to my two kitties, to care for them and love them.

I am bound to other things and people as well, for different reasons. You get the point.

But, can one not also be free while being connected?

This is a hard question. The obvious answer is yes, but defining that quickly gets vague, nebulous, blurry.

In the absence of a clear definition of personal freedom, I realized that I’ve been sabotaging myself when everything seems to be going well.

I mentioned in a previous post that anytime things are going well, I am really waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve moved to the next level now… I am consciously choosing to be in the moment more (and more, and more!) and it’s paying off in spades. I find that I don’t worry nearly as often as I used to, about anything… and that is certainly freeing.

But I got to that next level of awareness and realized that when things are going well, I am actually the one causing things to go awry, with those thoughts of wondering when the next bad thing is going to happen.

It’s the law of attraction, plain and simple.

Now that I have that awareness, of course it’s time to stop sabotaging myself when I’m doing well and reset my attitude by doing good things for myself. I love myself. So, why would I go to so much trouble to mess things up when things are going well?

What I’ve come to realize is that spending time engaging in my latest distraction (at the moment, online dating—in the past it’s been too much TV, too much drinking, too much eating, etc.) is really just what I do to “check out” from reality… from my life. It prevents me from spending time on stuff that really matters to me. It precludes me from deepening my connections—to others as well as to myself and of course, to God. It prohibits me from continuing to grow and evolve.

Whatever my latest check-out mechanism of choice is, it prevents me from creating the life I want, and even worse—it stops me dead in my tracks from meeting my own needs.

As is usually the case, when I stumble on something over and over again, the root cause is usually a tape.

I only recently figured out what tape that comes from: I’m stupid (so I’m going to fuck it up, anyway).

(This tape is the hardest of all to admit. To myself, yes, but to admit it in public is a really big deal.)

I think what it really boils down to is that for me, my tape of I’m stupid really means that I don’t matter. That I’m not good enough.

My greatest fear rears its ugly head, yet again. But this is just another manifestation of it—a new head on the ever-present monster within. I’m stupid is a different version of my greatest fear that doesn’t feel quite as severe, yet it is still causing me problems, causing me to behave in ways that I don’t want to behave and make choices that I intrinsically don’t want to make.

Why on earth do I do this? I have an amazing life, filled with more blessings than I ever dreamed possible. I have no reason to check out from my life… but what I’ve come to realize is, this is a very long-standing habit. A lifelong habit, if you will… and it’s my next big pattern to break.

All these thoughts were spurred on by a simple homework assignment made by a good friend of mine. He asked all of us in a group to list 5 things that we do to nurture ourselves… and if we didn’t have 5… to come up with 5 things that would be nurturing.

I easily came up with four.

  1. Yoga and dancing
  2. Connecting with friends and family in meaningful ways
  3. Writing
  4. Eating well

But I was stumped on the fifth.

And it led me to realize that I’ve been spending entirely too much time doing things that just don’t matter to me.

And, I’ve made a decision about getting to five. I think the fifth thing comes from separating yoga and dance into two. In the beginning of my exercise journey, I exclusively did yoga and dance, one right after the other.

They were once one, because I needed that. Somehow, one made the other seem less intimidating.

I’ve grown since then, so now I’m ready to take it to the next level.

I made the choice to deepen my yoga practice by getting an unlimited class pass at one of the studios where I’ve taken a few classes. And, I have two Groupons to use up for two other yoga studios.

So… yoga… here I come!

And that same studio where I bought the class pass also offers hip-hop classes. Oh yes. I’m definitely checking that out, too!

What occurred to me this past week is that I am consciously making choices that are helping me feel more free, even within the confines of who and what I am currently bound to… even within the confines of society, and paying rent, and obeying laws, and all the other rules and restrictions placed upon humans.

Basically, freedom means I need to just be myself. No matter who I am around, no matter what I am doing. I need the freedom to do whatever it is, in my very own way.

I need the freedom to fall down, so that I gain the experience of standing up and carrying on. I need the freedom to stretch and let go, so that I can know what it feels like to fly.

And doing five things consistently to nurture myself is a pretty damn skippy way to walk the walk of living the life that I am meant to live, being the woman I am meant to be, and of course—paving my path of freedom.

So, I ask you…
  • What do you need?
  • What are 5 things you do (or can do) to nurture yourself so you can meet your needs?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Scale Fiasco

A few months ago, I had a humiliating experience with my bathroom scale.

I bought my new scale in March, when I moved into my apartment. My bathroom has hand-laid yet slightly uneven tiles. You can see, already, where this is going...

I had thought I got it on just the right spot of the floor, but I had noticed that every time I stepped on it, it was incredibly sensitive and I could see the number going up or down by as much as 6 pounds just by me shifting my stance only slightly. That *should* have told me that it wasn't level, but for whatever reason, I ignored it. And then I started to tell myself, "Well, I'm still losing, so I guess I really CAN eat whatever I want!"

Oh, look—a new tape.

I think it got bumped on a Saturday in late May, when I had my combination birthday/housewarming party, because on Sunday the reading was way off. So, I reset it a couple of times and tried to find a level spot a couple of times... and I didn't think much of it.

Monday came around, and the reading was a whopping 15 pounds more than it was Saturday. I reset the damn scale at least 10 times that morning: moved it around, put it on the wood floor, etc. I tried desperately to get it to read what it had been reading before.

But this time, the scale didn’t easily fluctuate by 6 or so pounds just by the way I stood on it. This time, the scale instantly popped up a number and stayed steady as soon as I set foot on it.

And that reading was 15 pounds more than what I had gotten before.

The reality is that when I didn't watch the scale and actually shift my weight in order to manipulate it to a lower number (oh god I hate admitting that)... I was weighing in at around 71 pounds below my starting weight... not the 74-76 I had been telling myself (and of course, telling others).

So, I had not only been thinking that I really could just eat whatever I wanted to eat and not worry about it… but now that the lie was officially dispelled, it meant I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

A few days after all this, I put on a pair of pants and noticed they felt really tight in the waist. They hadn't before. That was the bottom of the barrel for my real reality check. It hit me that I actually did gain some pounds back.

I had to look at why, and how. I realized that I've been stress-eating at work. Quite literally stuffing my face all day long. Oh, look, an 8-hour-a-day excuse to eat unconsciously… and I took full advantage of it.

So after realizing that I've been stress-eating at work, and eating far too much... I decided to scale back and go back to paying really close attention to what I'm eating, how much I'm eating, and how often I'm eating.

Back to square one with Intuitive Eating, in other words.

It sucks. And I was so down about it that I couldn’t write about it here until I came to some realizations about it. But, like everything... this is a learning experience. I've been trying to lie to myself, and I could only do that for so long before calling my own ass out.

So, what I’ve learned from this experience:
  • It’s extremely easy to slip into a comfort zone, and stay there for however long it’s comfortable.
  • Lying to myself makes it easier to stay in that comfort zone. I can make up any number of effective excuses to keep myself down.
  • I used the scale as my crutch. For the first time, I wasn’t using it as an ally to help me keep track of what my body is doing, and how my body is doing. I was trying to manipulate a tiny machine that I had put in place to help me. How is that a mirror to my life? (Ouch.)
  • And, finally… once again driving home the fact that no one is as hard on me as I am.

The reality is that I probably gained about 6 or 8 pounds back from the progress I had reached in March. It felt overwhelming at the time, but really, it was a manageable amount.

So, how about some good news?

Since recovering from the emotional depth of the scale fiasco, I’ve been doing very well, and now—I’m back to where I was before, weight-wise.

Those 6 or 8 (or 10? I don't know at this point) pounds are long gone. Only the lesson remains.

What I didn’t expect, though, is that I came to a whole new appreciation and love for my body. I put myself through emotional torture, but I somehow managed to not turn my frustration and disappointment into hate towards my body. That’s a huge step for me.

I have not lost weight in a smooth, even way. I still have strange places on my body that don’t seem to want to cooperate as well as other parts of my body have. They’re places where I am working to build some muscle tone, but it’s proving to be an uphill battle.

In the meantime, though, I have learned to accept all parts of my body. There’s this part of my mid-section that comes in and cinches… and it accentuates my hips. I am so thankful and excited to have hips! I’d always looked at hippy women with a bit of envy, because I didn’t really have hips until I had lost a significant amount of weight and I had started working out.

And my chest doesn’t seem as small as it did when I was so much heavier, either. It looks more proportionate to the rest of me.

As for the other parts that don’t quite make sense (my tummy, for example, and the very top part of my arms), it’ll get there. I’m working on it. I am, as always, a work in progress.

My attitude now is that my body is the only one I’ll have in this lifetime, and it’s up to me to take care of it in the best way I know how. And while this scale fiasco was something I initially saw as a set-back, what I feel now is that it was truly a valuable lesson that I needed to learn.

So, where do I go from here?

Sure—I would still like to lose more pounds, but at this point, it’s about getting my body to the point where I feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit in public. I’ll probably never have a bikini body, but I also don’t want to put limitations on myself.

The focus is no longer on watching the number on the scale get smaller.

My focus now is much broader. It’s about living my life in a way that works the best for me. And the beauty of feeling that way is that it removes expectations, limitations, and the confines of the chains I had once so securely wrapped myself in.

With each day, I learn more about what it means for me to be free.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime

It has been said that people enter your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Whatever the case, I am learning that it's really all about love.

Right now I’m reading a book called In the Meantime, by Iyanla Vanzant.

In the book, she talks about a woman named Luanne Bellarts, who was born with cerebral palsy. She was a living illustration of love. Over the span of her lifetime, she taught others about the real meaning of love, faith, and trust by writing Bird with a Broken Wing—which is her life story.

She wrote it with her big toe, which was her only working appendage.

What is it about people born with certain “handicaps” seem to have a much firmer grasp on what faith is really about? Why does it work that way?

A Reason
In pondering these questions, my mind immediately flooded back to my time as a teacher for autistic kids. I taught in a special autism school that had build residences in differing neighborhoods near the school, so the kids transitioned from home to school, and back again at the end of the day.

My case student was named Greg.

I’ve never spoken of him in this blog before, but I still think about Greg and some of the other students often.

Special kids like Greg have a way of seeing right through bullshit.

Below, I’ve included an exerpt of the biography I wrote on a webpage I created for him back in 2000:
Gregory Dean McKinnon – April 30, 1982-July 10, 2000  
Gregory Dean McKinnon was born on April 30, 1982. He grew up in a small town in New Hampshire called Goffstown amongst a large network of family and friends.
 In his 18 short years Greg managed to touch the lives of so many people. Even with complications such as Cerebral Palsy, mental retardation, and behavior problems, Greg faced challenges with his head held high in the air—often we'd forget he even had disabilities because that kid could make you laugh without saying a word.
 Gregory grew up in a warm and incredible family—Mom, Dad, and 3 brothers (Ben, Chris, and Adam). Members of his family touch the lives of everyone they meet with their unconditional love. They have great respect for each other and those around them, and that showed every day in Greg. Greg made you feel special when you walked in the room—he’d glance up, see you, and instantly start laughing. Often he'd get up and walk over to you to get a hug or touch your arm—anything just to say hello.
 Greg was a very social young man.  He loved to stop and chat with friends in the hallway, and he liked making new friends too.  Even though Greg couldn't speak—he could convey so much with his gestures, his smile, and his contagious laugh.
  Greg really knew how to get what he wanted, using humor and persistence!  He was very good at reading people and figuring them out—and subsequently finding just the right persuasive tactics to get what he wanted (in other words... he had us wrapped around his little finger!).
  Everyone who was at all acquainted with Greg consistently noted his contagious laughter, his warm smile, social nature, and big welcoming brown eyes... but especially his laugh and his intrinsic ability to make other people laugh.  He was more talented than any stand-up comedian at drawing genuine laughter out of someone who likely needed a good guffaw.
  Greg passed away on Sunday evening, July 10, 2000, while he was sleeping at his school's sponsored residence on West Hill Road.  His body is gone, and those who knew his challenges walking believe he can now run and jump in the clouds—but I believe he watches over his loved ones and his soul lives within everyone's life he touched (that's a lot of people).  He's got his place among the stars, and I'm sure it's a front row seat, with an endless supply of Auto Hunter magazines, chocolate bars, hot dogs, and soda.
  We miss him.

(As a side note: it does strike me as strange that I would think about Greg, and talk about him in this blog, on the 11th anniversary of his passing.)

I was technically Greg’s teacher, but he was placed in my life for a reason:

He taught me the true meaning of unconditional love.

Teaching severe special needs children is one of the most difficult jobs out there.  If it's in your blood, you just do it and you're happy doing it.  If it's not in your blood—you find out quickly, you burn out, you leave the field.  I realized at one point that severe special needs was not quite the place I needed to be.  But, until I came to terms with that realization and I started to act on it by seeking another line of work—I did the best I could.  And Greg really helped me "keep it real."  His smile, his laugh, his silly and loving nature really helped me.  Every single day.  Even with the challenges that he presented to staff and family, he knew when I needed a good laugh and he could always make me smile.  Greg had so many gifts and he gave so much love.  That is why it was so hard to lose him.

I did everything I could do to hide back in those days. I wore mens clothes that were too big, I didn’t take care of myself, I wasn’t good with eye contact, and I rarely talked about feelings, or anything real or meaningful.

Greg didn’t care. He could see right through me, from the moment we met. And he really could make me feel special. When I walked into a room he was in, he stood up, started laughing and smiling, and inevitably walked over to give me a hug.

There were times when I confided in him, when no one else was around to listen. I told him when I was having a bad day. A lot of the time, if he was in a bad mood, and I told him that I was feeling sad, or having a hard day… he would actually turn his behavior around and do whatever he could to make me laugh.

That kid loved me. Unconditionally. He was a beautiful, pure illustration of unconditional love. He understood what I needed, and he did the best he could do to help me feel better.

By the same token, he taught me something I never expected: tough love.

He was a difficult kid when it came to shaving his face. He had a lot of very thick hair, so he had to be shaved pretty often. And, of course, it was his caseworker’s job.

Greg would do whatever he could to try and manipulate me so that he could get out of shaving. It never worked, of course, because I knew that if I didn’t get it done one day, I would be stuck with the task the very next day.

I had to stand up to him, but in a loving way—not a cruel or mean way. I had never done that before, with anyone… and he taught me how to do it, without either of us realizing what was going on.

I also learned what it means to give unconditional love. Greg could feel when I wasn’t being genuine, or when I was trying to manipulate him, and he never once fell for it.

That kid knew me better than many of the people I had called friends in my past ever had. At the time, he even knew me better than my own family knew me.

I think about Greg anytime I need to remember what unconditional love should feel like.

And then, I look at myself, and ask myself how I can better love myself unconditionally, because as I now know… love begins with me.

A Season
I spent some time with a man recently who I now realize was in my life for a reason, yes—but during this strange season of my life.

The gift he gave me was tenderness.

And I realized that over the years, I have looked everywhere for tenderness, intimacy, and deep connection. (Everywhere but within, of course.)

What I’ve learned is that when I am seeking something from another person, it is something I am really searching for within me.

And that man reminded me of what tenderness felt like, and sometimes, that’s all we need—a reminder.

I was in a funk most of yesterday, and I didn’t understand why until late last night. All it took was a very simple yet profound phrase in an email I got earlier in the evening, about inner light attracting someone on the same frequency, to make me realize that I’ve been seeking nothing from others, but also nothing from myself.

In other words—in some pretty significant ways, I’ve been coasting.

While I haven’t been looking for others to fill me up, or fill my needs—I also haven’t been looking within. I’ve allowed myself to get so caught up in work and meeting new people that I haven’t slowed down long enough to be still and see what’s really there.

In the past, I was afraid of the stillness, because it often meant I sank into depression.

And while I have embraced my fearlessness in almost all realms, I think some of that fear still lingers in the quiet crevices of my mind and heart…

But the interesting thing is that despite the walls I’ve recently hit with meeting new people, I am standing strong with who I am. It’s nothing against me or my self-worth if someone chooses not to hang out with me, and I am choosing, time and time again, to remain open.

A Lifetime
I am here for me
And while there are certain folks who I know are in my heart for a lifetime—a few very close friends, my family, and God—there’s one person I am only just now starting to really count on... She comes through for me, every time, through thick and thin. She’s been here for me time and time again, even when I didn’t think it possible… even when I didn’t think she was looking.

And she’s here for me now. All I have to do is stop shutting her out in my time of need, which is the time she wants to be here for me the most.

Just like God, all I have to do is let her in... let her be here. 

All I have to do is let my light shine, even when I can't define exactly what that means. Maybe even especially when I can't define exactly what that means.

And she is someone I need, and will continue to need, for the rest of my life.

I am thankful to finally be here, present and in the moment… just for me.

Truly, I am learning to lead with love...

And that love begins with me.