Are you living a life that is most true to who you are? I don't believe that most people are doing so. Animals shed their skin all of the time. Have you ever considered that we should as well? Think about it? Why do we lock ourselves into being one human being, one type of way for eternity? Why can't we or don't we explore all the different avenues that the world offers? Why don't we change jobs midway through life? Take the risk to travel for a year? Write the book that has always been in us, but too worried we wouldn't match up to what's out there? If I listened to all the negative people in my life who question my choices daily I would never have travelled the world, lived in as many places as I have, taken risks beyond what seemed logical in life and work; I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be living my best life. I have been thinking of big changes lately that I know comes with great criticism. But, if I were to let that consume me, am I really being authentic? Consider it today.
I had this conversation recently with my teenagers. I am grateful they choose to talk to me often about their lives. Recently, I noticed a common theme. Some people in their life need more attention than others, some friends seem like their presence can be bigger than makes them comfortable. Their first reaction was to turn away. I explained this sentiment to them in the work I do. We can't nor are they always asking for us to fix all their problems. I believe that most often people just want someone to listen, to sit by their side and recognize their struggle. Nothing more, nothing less. So, the next time you see the person who seems to always need more than you can offer, remember just sitting with them or listening for a moment or two costs you nothing. But it is worth gold to that person needing someone to care.
This week is my 19th Recovery Anniversary. Some years I recognize it, others I treat it like just any other day. This year it caught me off guard with emotions I wasn’t ready for. You likely have heard me say or write often that recovery is a journey not a destination. This is true for most things people are walking through if one is honest with themselves. But for recovery it is truer than one imagines.
What does that mean?
Does it mean I will always be sick with this disease? No.
Does it mean I have slipped? No.
Does it give me permission to use old behaviors? No.
It means I accept that I will always be Anorexic, I just make choices for living today. It means some days are harder than others. It means that the thinking, the emotions, the journey around my illness that I walked for 14 years never goes away. This is both good and difficult. The good are the lessons I continue to take away from the experience; the difficult is the struggle at times for true acceptance of self. There is a difference of opinion on this, for each journey is different. I am finding this is truer for me today than I realized starting out in recovery.
Over this long stretch of time, I constantly marvel at the surrealness of it all. There were more days than not that I didn’t expect to live while battling my illness. I honestly without doubt can tell you that I never imagined to be still walking this earth.
When you are in hell, it never feels like you are going to be able to get out.
When you had wounded every relationship in your life and look around to so very few left, you wonder if it is enough to stay.
When you had lost so much of what you dreamed for in wasted time, you struggle to forgive yourself.
You find yourself having to grieve this part of your journey before you can even attempt to find the gratitude within it. And, yes, I do find gratitude as hard as it is to believe.
This past October I turned 52. It is no monumental number to many, but to me it spoke in ways I wasn’t expecting. The recovery journey is always complex. It is in depth, and it is a path that I never expected to continue to be teaching me daily.
There are many times where I wanted to go back to it. Yes, I wanted to go back. While it sounds insane, it was simpler in ways to stay sick, then to face life.
Living means working at it every single day.
Living means facing the hard lessons every single day.
Living means not running from the hard personal work.
Living means completely giving up the one thing I believe to know me better than I know myself.
Living means turning away from the safety of the easier choice.
Some days I have wanted to choose Anorexia, but it doesn’t do for me what it used to for now I am choosing a behavior. I can’t reason away a poor choice, I know it is not right. I can’t ignore processing my emotions, for I learned to embrace them. I can’t abuse my body and not see or feel it instantly.
I have learned that I can be human. I can have a hard day and want to drown my emotions in food; that is not failure. If anything, that is more normal than I ever have been to accept that act. If I am struggling in my body and want to go workout, that is not a failure. It is an awareness. And in the end the benefits I receive from being in nature bring me back to myself.
Recovery is hard.
Recovery is real.
Recovery is facing the journey every single day and choosing to keep going.
Is it hard every day? No. Are there times I forget it ever existed? No. The difference is today, I choose. It doesn’t get to choose me.
Today I value my time, my presence on this journey. I use it to help others, so that the story is not wasted. I know that most people don’t understand me. I know that the life I live is hard for some to embrace without criticism. But I have chosen to keep going. I have chosen to live this life for me. I have chosen to stay on the journey.
I would like to believe that when my time is up, people would reflect on how I fought, not how it fought me.
We have entered into one of the most challenging times of the year. I believe it is divided into many distinct categories. It is important to remember that not everyone is excited by the holiday season. There are those battling the loss of loved ones that make it too painful to celebrate with memories every which way they turn. There are those who have traumatic pasts that don't allow them to sit in the joy all around them for their emotions are painful and numb. There are those who are alone; they don't have the partner, the life dreamed or the perfect picture that this time of years presents.
So, whatever your situation BE LIGHT. When you walk by each and every person this season, take a moment to pause. BE LIGHT. The person who is happiest with the brightest smile and always there for others is likely the one in the most pain. BE LIGHT. If you are going through your day and you haven't seen or heard from a friend or loved one, go check on them, they are not ok. BE LIGHT. If someone is asking for help on the street, don't judge, you don't know their story today. BE LIGHT. If there is a way to offer some of what you have through a church, don't wait, those programs are more life-giving than ever. BE LIGHT. We have an opportunity to live this mentality all year long. But this time of year is more dire and important than any other. The saying is truer today than it ever has been, we don't know anyone's story. So...BE LIGHT.
The art of silence.
What does silence mean to you?
For some the very thought of silence is terrifying. To sit alone with one's self, one's thoughts is beyond imaginable. For others silence is the greatest gift you can offer, taking a break from the loudness of life all around us. Silence can be your evil or it can be your gift.
How will you choose to look at it today?
Many years ago, when my life was about preparing to become a monastic nun, silence was my commitment to listen. I was preparing to spend the rest of my life in this solitude of presence, and there was nothing I wanted more. I still think fondly of this time and await for its return one day. For me, it was the greatest gift I could have ever imagined. There is so much more than we realize in the silence that approaches us each day. There are gifts of thought, stories waiting to be heard within and an awareness to ourselves often forgotten.
Silence can share with you things that no one or nothing else can.
Do you think you can sit in this place for a moment?
Can you dare wonder beyond yourself to consider something different speaking to you?
Here is the thing...I see you.
This time of year is hell for those of us who battle constant anxiety and depression to no fault of our own.
Don't forget to pause.
Remind yourself to breathe.
Have your self-care tools in place before you walk into the difficult spaces and rooms.
And most importantly remember that there is at least one if not many more people in that same room who are feeling the same way.
You've got this!
Words that couldn't be truer as we enter into this holiday week. Here's the thing...family isn't defined by blood.
Family are the people around you who show up.
Family are the people around you who don't give up on you when you choose to be who you are.
Family are the people around you who accept you without explanation.
Family are the people around you who say, 'I love you' without conditions.
Family is the definition you write for yourself.
And if you do choose to be in difficult rooms this season by choice, I don't judge you. I see that you are doing what you feel you need to do that is best for you and your journey. But, do me a favor and remember to love yourself enough...
Just because you are making one choice, doesn't give anyone the right to harm you with words, emotions or actions for the journey you are walking.
Love yourself enough to find your VOICE.
Love yourself enough to believe in your LIGHT.
Love yourself enough to stand in your STORY.
I see you.
I hear you.
I get you.
I will be walking with you in spirit.
Love yourself enough....
Are you living in survival mode?
I believe most people function day to day in survival mode. Life is so full-on countless levels that remembering to breathe is all we can do each day.
These words hit me hard every time I read them, survival mode. I imagine I am not alone. I have lived most of my life in survival mode with brief moments of trusting the present moment. It has been a tiresome balancing act.
Do you know what it is like to live in survival mode?
Survival mode is a short-term mode of thinking that one will choose when their fight or flight response is triggered.
This defining mentality can lead one to either attacking or retreating during stressful times rather than finding the positive communication and the ability to embrace the situation at hand.
When we find ourselves resting in survival mode, we can spend more time focusing on the fears that we miss out on the opportunities. Imagine what would happen if we were able to take it in stride. It is easier to point out the struggles, the pain or the conflict that occurred than to take in the lessons that can be learned from those traumas. The lessons often carry arduous work and introspection to heal.
It is a cliché, but the truth lies deep in that there is something to come from every situation that we enter into or experience. I firmly believe that anything and everything happens with reason and lessons for the journey forward.
When we find ourselves resting in survival mode, we turn off a part of human story that chooses to take risks, embraces imagination, goes with the flow and instead fights this reality by staying in a safe zone. In this zone we hold on to regrets, resentment and control.
Can you imagine living in this state most of your hours within a day?
Your mind, body and spirit will suffer so deeply over time that you will suffocate into your pain, rather than breathe into your natural rhythms of life.
When we live in survival mode we can find ourselves comparing our pain to others. We can go down the hole of thinking we are less than someone else for how we to choose to walk through our struggles. Our sense of identity is often defined by others.
We live and die by fear of the unknown from what others think of us to what could be possible for our futures if we were to risk living outside the box that we built ourselves into. If we are not residing solely inside this box then we are spinning in circles of a downward spiral questioning and second guessing our lives at every turn.
We are not living, we are merely surviving
I read recently about a new phenomenon, thrival mode. Thrival mode is exactly what it sounds like. Embracing thriving in your life and on the journey forward. It is visioning intention and what you want for your life. It is finding ways to implement simple changes to guide you out of the darker times that you may face. It is seeing the light and color in your life before the negative can take over.
My challenge for you today is to thrive in one thing. You choose. Whatever trauma, emotion, pain or struggle is holding you, I challenge you to release it and commit to thriving just for today.
Let in the possibility that life could be lived beyond just surviving.
"The pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them." -Rumi
We hear so much about suffering often. It is a complicated topic with many avenues, bumps and hills. How we navigate our way through it is different for each person.
Each person's definition of suffering is different to start. Some had quite serious traumas that aren't as simple as the usual forgiveness and letting go. Others perhaps are walking through physical suffering that can be even more difficult to relate to.
I do believe the pain within the suffering can meet in the middle.
When pain enters our life, it is not for nothing, it is not to be dismissed. It is speaking to you. If you take a moment to listen, healing can come.
It is often hard to be gentle on ourselves. We are caregivers by nature. But when will we care for ourselves? If we wait until the pain overcomes us, it could be too late.
How will you honor your pain today?
How can you listen to your pain in a positive responding manner?
How will you honor coming through your suffering?
We are all guilty of reacting to situations hastily. We get caught up in our emotions, our thought process, and our defensiveness if we are being truly honest. There is a moment where we can pause, we must pause and we can choose to listen and remember what is true at our core. That is in itself our greatest power, for in that space we choose how to walk graciously forward. It is natural to want to be right, we are protecting our ego mostly of fear of being humiliated. The voices in our head defining our worth rather than what we know at our core. I challenge myself to embrace my power to value myself, and therefore responding honestly. I challenge myself to not be defined by others' opinions.
What are you holding today that you need permission to let go? We all hold so much from day to day. We don't often tell others the details of what we are holding.
Maybe we should.
Maybe we should give ourselves permission to share with others in our life what we are holding that we need help to let go. Maybe someone else is holding something equally big, and they needed permission from you.
Maybe someone else is holding something that they too don't know how to let go and is looking to you for support.
Maybe you are needing someone to walk with you in your letting go.
Maybe you need the push to ask for help.
Maybe you need a voice as much as the person next to you.
So, today, pay attention. Look around you. Be a presence for others as much as they are presence to you.
We all get stuck in this mindset or thought pattern at one time or another. It is hard to escape when you are walking in your own struggles, pain, and challenges. Though that much more important to remind ourselves that we don't know anyone else's journey but our own. What is simple to you could be moving mountains for another. The smile you see on someone's face could be their greatest acting performance ever. Remember this when you approach people this time of year. Walk into humility and kindness. Be a light in someone's path.
This is one of my most favorite Greek words! It is so simple, but we take it for granted often. We have but one life to live. How are you living it? There is room for your passions among the responsibilities of life. You have to make the time and honor the presence of what makes your soul happy. And whatever your work may be whether it is your passion or your day to day, you still have the ability to leave a bit of you within it. You are valuable. What you have to offer others needs to be seen, heard, felt and embraced! Meraki!
Note to self...
Sounds easy enough. If you are anything like me or most people, you have post-it notes all around your desk and house with things to remember or do in the coming days. And I won't rub in the truth that we often can't even read our own writing for the constant barrage of reminders comes at us faster than we can take in.
Where are you in that equation of reminders?
Do you take time to remember yourself?
Sometimes we need to take a moment and write a note ourselves. Life is busy and constant, not always will those around us stop to check in with you on your journey, but the reality is that we still need and want someone to do so.
How about checking in with yourself?
How about owning your journey and valuable time enough to check in with you?
Today, write a note to yourself. Whether you need to remind yourself that you are going to be ok or if you need to remind yourself to pause, rest and take that moment to have a cup of tea; remember to leave notes around that you will find in the busy of your day to day.
Trust me, it is one of my most favorite parts of the day when I find a note I wrote to myself, and it is even more wonderful as I give myself permission to follow through with it.
What will you write?
This is not a new topic. It is a topic that we need to continue coming back to often. Words are powerful. We know this. If you asked anyone around you right now, I could promise that they will tell you a story where someone's poor use of words wounded or changed the course of their life. They could likely tell you how their own use of words in their mind self-sabotaged a positive direction they were heading. Words can be uplifting, but in their worst moments can be damaging. How are you being conscious of what you speak to others, to yourself and to the world? Yes, words can focus us to live the road we choose, or they can get inside our mind and allow us to fall into every single pothole. It isn't always as easy we would hope, but we must continue to challenge any word that comes at us and any word that we present to ourselves. Take back your mind; take back your self-worth and embrace the words that you need to live fully in your life!
When Fear Meets Trust
When I was living at the beach several years ago, every morning I would rise in the dark of dawn to go work out in grateful solitude. I was often amazed that few to no one took advantage of such beauty that sits right there freely waiting for one to experience every single day.
It had become a ritual daily meditation that I thrived on. It was my personal time of reflection and discernment. I would have my ear pods in listening to the angelic voices of dear friends in the Dominican Monastery of Lourdes, France chanting prayers. And with each step I took I was reminded of my second home far from my reality these days as a single mom.
This morning as I had begun my ritual in the early dark hour, I was presented with an incredibly unique contrast of images, thoughts, feelings and in the end dramatic realizations that literally came crashing down around me through the thunderous ocean waves. That morning I was acutely aware of a message being directed towards me. I knew I needed to face it head on and listen as difficult as it would be.
As I started out a fiercely radiant sky with an array of pink and purple hues began to fill the scattering of clouds over the ocean water in front of me as the sun would begin its ascent. I was walking towards something in my heart, I was feeling called to look within and beyond as I found myself in this intimate presence that was presenting different to me than other mornings. Yet, at the same defining moment behind me a vivid contrast was occurring with a shattering lightning storm orchestrated opposite the dawn. I could not hide; I could not turn from it at this point. I could not ignore each harsh bolt that struck the sky piercing my heart with fear that raced through my body as I was alone in this enormous happenstance. That very moment among the morning rising, I was being called to face my fear, I was being called to trust.
Do you recall a moment where you were being called to trust, but your fear was overwhelming?
I tried not to turn my head back at every shrieking and flickering strike, staring forward as the distinct beauty was rising to light the morning sky; the sun painfully pushing to break through the mystical darkened storm clouds with each step I took. I felt this deeply. There were equally beautiful, yet conflicting emotions running deep. I was presented with a challenge to face these feelings head on; I was challenged to embrace a solid foundation of trust by the end of the morning workout. A trust that was rare for me to embrace.
Could I accept it?
It was extraordinary for me to consider in this fleeting moment how life is truly a constant with this process. We are always identifying our struggles, our fears and trying to unravel our stories with an unknown. That trust that is called to us, is the grace we need in the stumbling steps and lessons that we must walk through. That trust is offering us something bigger than we can usually see in that moment it shows its humble presence.
That morning with each step I pushed harder along the damp sandy shores as the tide faded farther and farther out. I feared listening as we often do, for it meant going within. I quickly continued along the shoreline to see an endless glimmering blanket of stones and shells. These beautiful rarities reminding me of the constant stories on our journey, the diverse emotions, and the humble acceptance each held in its unique design, much like our lives. It was clear this desolate but auspicious morning held something more than the eye could see. I was honoring the gift of pause to take time and listen deep within; question the road I had been walking thus far. These stones reminded me that there was something beautiful in the cracks and broken pains of our stories, there was something beautiful that we need to take away from each wound, joy, sorrow, trauma, or love.
Do you take these moments to question and listen when they come to you within your day? Or do you run in the fear that can easily consume us?
Through these stones, among these shells I began to reflect on the many moments I had walked. I write often about how we all have stories. Do those stories define us? Are the stories meant to travel with us through our entire journey? Are we meant to let some stories go after a period of time? This is all our inner battle’s to finding peace along the way, as our fear meets trust. This morning I took it personally.
Each step, every breath spoke to me defining a direction in becoming aware of the moment. The ocean was speaking, the ocean held my trauma in its vigorous power. I inhaled my pain. I exhaled relief and letting go. My fears were present as I attempted to embrace trust in the gentleness of the waves rushing up to me as they finished their revolution. I was allowing my fear, for I was beginning to allow trust. I was curious what it wanted to show me.
I began to see a new light. I began to ask myself a new question. As I considered the vast beauty and possibility that could come in trusting over my fear, I felt a sense of peace. The sun broke through, the storm passed and I couldn’t help see the message presented to me in that moment.
I think about it often with every life storm that comes my way. If we spent as much time trusting as we do in fear, perhaps our lives would be more peaceful.
What fear is asking you to meet it with trust today?
We talk about this topic often, but it simply is not as easy to follow through in behavior. We as a whole hold on to everything whether it be a criticism, a compliment, a thought, or a reflection. We analyze until we have torn it apart and in fact all likelihood broke the original meaning behind the overall idea. The art of practicing letting go gives us freedom to be, it gives us freedom to embrace the moment before us, but more importantly it gives us freedom for us to walk our own path as we choose. Life is short, precious, and fleeting; why would you want to hold on to others' words or ideas about you, then embrace what your soul is speaking within? Imagine the freedom and life waiting for you!
"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction." -Cynthia Ocelli
One of my biggest pet peeves, if you will, is how the norm has become to turn November into Gratitude Month. Gratitude needs to be and must be every day. In our house, as many of you know, we collect these gratitude's all year long for our November Tree.
The journey we walk as a family talking about the year passed that we had filled with many blessings and trials often brings joy, reflection, light and laughter to our table making this process so enriched. We often come across moments, people, and situations we had forgotten about, and they get to touch our lives yet again in this process. Also, I love to point out that gratitude doesn't have to have to be grand! When it comes to noticing and being aware, the gifts and blessings can be in the littlest of moments or things.
At its core gratitude can come from the most despairing challenges in our lives.
What will you find gratitude for today?
How will you nurture your journey to bring the gift of gratitude alive?
How can you use your gratitude to be a light in others' journeys?
All that is around you is not a given. Consider how big the world is around you and appreciate the smallest of things to live more fully!
Andrea creates, builds, and offers her teachings and hands on life tools based on her journey healing her body image after a 14yr battle and life of trauma. Her vision always is to help others live a full life with the journey they are given.