Sunday is our ‘spiritual day’ if you will. It is a day for church, but not always in the traditional forms that one thinks of. While, we do have our faith community, I take serious measures to introducing my children to all forms of spiritual practice from a nature hike, exploring art, labyrinth walks, Taize meditation, affirmation and intention projects to church service and traditional meditation groups.
I find when I offer them a variety of resources to guide them in their spiritual curiosity, they are more willing to jump in to where they feel fit for their personality. When we do go to our Church, they are less likely to be defensive or cynical having had these other experiences. I encourage journaling and art, while I celebrate the conversations we have around all this exploration. Mostly, I want them to learn that when they feel they can’t turn to me, or I am not available for some reason, that there is an outlet for them to explore their questioning safely.
This Sunday we went to our favorite bi-monthly meditation group at Bristol Yoga. Some Sundays it involves a nature hike and others like this Sunday, it is in-studio. I must tell you that my heart was full this Sunday at our in-studio experience! It was an hour and a half with the perfect balance of walking us through different techniques and forms of meditation. My nearly 13yr old daughter was blissful, but my more lovable and energy enthusiast Greek 11yr old boy I was more worried about! I was surprised how well he did with just a bit of squirming over an hour and a half! I think his favorite meditation was the mindful eating, as he loves his food!
When we got home, we talked about it a bit and restructured his whole meditation and prayer area in his room opening his yoga mat in front of his altar. We looked more closely at what was bringing him comfort, peace and joy. It was a moment I am very grateful to have had, as he has worked hard to get to this point in his own journey navigating these awkward tween years. Another blessing was their eagerness to do more mindful eating! This is a practice I learned in 2000 in my recovery days and practice and teach on all my retreats. There are so many gifts one can receive, but I love it most when I watch others experience it for the first time. We do our best in our busy meals to do so, but they pointed out we have been more remiss lately. The idea that they brought this to my attention was so validating to the journey I am walking as parent, albeit single mom, when on those tough days you wonder how you are doing.
All this said, this is one experience I am truly grateful today. Meditation comes in so many different types. I say the same for spirituality. You find what works for you and walk with it as you see fit. The more open you are to grow in your own self awareness and spiritual questioning, the more you are going to receive on this amazing journey we call life!
Have you ever had one of those days, moments, or experiences where your mind just has more to say than you can get out fast enough?
The circles of life around us are never ending. One life to the next, experiences are coming forward and breathing life in ways that will touch others without them even knowing it.
It is true, every person is fighting a battle you know nothing about. We walk by each other with so much haste at times that we cannot often hear the silent tears or breathless moments others are struggling with in the exact moment that we may be experiencing joy.
Mind you…have no guilt for your joy. It is that joy, simple smile on your face as you embrace or the skip in your step that the one struggling grabs onto as you walk by. We feed each other’s souls when we least expect it. We nurture another’s heart when they need it most. We are to each other, what we need to be.
Have faith in the greater purpose.
So, consider in your joy the one who knows not the same joy. When you smile, think of the person who has not had a reason to smile in some time. When those overwhelming successes come your way after a journey you have worked hard to receive, wish them on those whom you will never meet that need those same experiences as much as you did today.
It is simple. When we own our stories, we thrive. But, when we share those experiences we become.
Take it to the next level and be amazed at the gifts to be had on the continuing journey tomorrow!
Owning Our Stories
“The most dangerous stories that we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.” -Brene Brown
Owning our stories. What does that mean to you? Consider it for a moment. Do you honor your stories? The pieces of your life have molded who you are today. Do you speak of these stories with respect, the good and the bad?
I know many people who try to live their lives not acknowledging the steps they have walked prior. The problem is that you can see the shell of a person they are for their true and inner depth is missing. While they cannot see it, others can see the ownership of fear or lack of self-worth shining through in all that they are not saying.
Some don’t want to own their stories for they may have to then own the fear, the shame, the wounds that come from those stories. The problem here is that often those feelings are not theirs to own, rather those who inflicted certain stories upon them. It can be incredibly difficult to see that our WHOLENESS comes from the depths of our heart and hurt.
One must be able to see that it is necessary in every way to incorporate the good and the bad with each step we walk today. It allows us to take on each moment more fully than we ever have before. Those difficult stories we may have tried to disown are what will bring us more strength, courage and fight in our future paths that await us!
Do you allow yourself to embrace your flaws?
Can you see your flaws for the GIFT that they are?
(*Want to jump into this topic with courage and knowing? Join our Women’s Beach Retreat! Our most popular retreat we have each year, it sells out fast. I am excited to take on this topic in ways that will challenge you and bring an enlightenment for you to take for the road ahead!)
Friday, January 17th 4:00 PM – Sunday, January 19th 10:00 AM , North Topsail, North Carolina
There are no two journey’s that are identical, no two stories that are alike. We can all be walking side by side down the same road, but our stories will always be unique in nature, circumstance and existence.
I watch the world in all its rawness. It can be a harsh, judgmental and critical world when you find yourself on the other side of another’s opinion. We see it daily in so many different positions.
One of the largest problems our world faces today is poverty, hunger and homelessness. The opinions to how individuals get to this point can be often exaggerated and wildly incorrect. I don’t know one person who finds themselves in this situation stating in their childhood that ‘when I grow up, I want to be homeless.’ It is not often a choice.
We must stop looking to the person on the side of the road and scoff, turn our noses up and then spew misinformation about their journey. The bottom line is that they are human, like you and me. They are humbly asking for help. It may not be the way you or I ask for help, but they are asking nonetheless, and I refuse to judge them for that which takes courage or for where their journey has brought them. They are human for it.
My faith community’s youth group created what are called ‘blessings bags’ recently. In these bags one will find small amounts of food and basic needs such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste and so on. I have given out two such bags as of late and I will tell you they were received with immense gratitude and a smile. This is something you can do without words or judgement. So, do a little internet search and make a few bags to keep in your car. Someone’s life will be changed for the better for it.
When we begin with love, everyone we encounter ends with love.
This week was a momentous time for me! I took my two kids to see YALE University. It wasn’t so much the college as it was that which it meant to me.
It was 14 years ago since I had the great honor of speaking to their college students through my work with Find Your Voice Project. I had been a motivational speaker for many years prior, but at this moment I was one year or so into recovery from my 14-year battle with Anorexia. It had a deeper meaning for me than any other engagement. Specifically, someone was noticing the good I was doing in my work.
The background to how this came about is a worthy story. A young college student had heard about my rather intense story of recovery and speaking. She was determined to have me come talk to the under grads at YALE. At first, I thought it was just too far out of my league, as well the distance having lived in California at the time. But she was not going to give up and I never turned down an inquiry. She pursued me for some time, before I finally decided it was something I needed to follow through on.
One aspect about this particular talk that brought me undue stress and shame in ways, was my awareness that I had not graduated from College. In fact, after years of struggling in school to finally learn of long-time learning disability, I fought the odds and was received into the University of San Francisco after transferring in from College of Marin. Just a short year later, I lost this opportunity in devastating ways having to take a medical leave due to the severity of my eating disorder at the time. To say I was heartbroken would be an understatement of highest proportions. So, when this opportunity was presented to me, it had a deeper meaning, full circle one could say that brought me indescribable JOY. It was a chance for my strength and empowerment to shine through from the evils of this illness.
I flew in mid-day and shuttled into New Haven, CT to the main campus to meet with this young woman. Every moment was extraordinary on this journey. Idle conversation on the plane with my seat mate about what I was about to do, to arriving on the campus itself amidst the glorious buildings. I was whisked off pretty quickly, briefed and honestly didn’t have time to second guess or panic. I faithfully, humbly and albeit a bit terrified would step up to the challenge.
When I arrived in the lecture hall, I was surprised by the numbers, as well as the male to female ratio. I began my talk as I normally would and instantly could see the depth of my story and pain on the faces of these students. The raw nature of my story has an impassable impact that can be great. This isn’t unusual, as the honesty in my story is presented quite clearly. In fact, I will not speak at any venue unless there is an understanding that I am not a psychologist and I make certain those resources are available to those who are present before one word is spoken.
I can often point out in the room instantly those who are struggling with this demon, for their eyes, body language and emotion give them away. It is not rare for one to tear up, it is not rare for one to leave the room in a rush. But, this evening, I had more than one leave the room. It gave me grave concern. At the end of the hour, I took question and answers longer than any other venue I had presented at before, admittedly there was a darkness over the room. My heart was sad, and I needed more closure. In that moment, I forgot I was at YALE, I was more concerned with the reality these students were facing.
My intention was to go back to the hotel before a very early morning flight. But the advisor encouraged me to come back to the living quarters and just relax in a more personable setting. As we began to talk a bit about the evening, students began to show up. Word spread that I had stayed on campus and was talking with others. Soon the numbers were great as these young women crowded into this small dorm room. Their heartbreaking stories were endless, the question for me and my journey became very personal and more intense than that of those in the auditorium. These women were struggling. These women wanted answers to how I was set free. These women wanted what I had. Their words and questions brought purpose to my presence, purpose to my life.
I was completely taken in by their stories of how body image, body acceptance and the lack of body empowerment took over their lives during their education. It reminded me of my time at University and how easy it was to let it consume you. We talked and shared for hours. Before I knew it, morning arrived and the sun was rising. I had a plane to catch. I thanked them for giving me such a gift in sharing their stories and I assured them that they could always reach out, which many did. I promised myself that day, that I would not stop my work.
I owed my recovery to every person who ever stood by my side and believed in me. I refuse to turn down any engagements if asked. I will take phone calls, emails and introductions from parents, teachers, medical professionals and anyone else who wants to hear of my story in order to help.
I haven’t been on the full-time speaking circuit since before I was married and became a mother. I allowed this part of life and this person to devalue my work and story, which led me to stop my work on a full-time basis. I regret losing my voice to another’s opinion. Today, I am taking it back.
It is not an easy task, now as a single mom, to get back out there. Times have changed greatly, but I realize the bottom line has not. I am committed to getting back there to share my story and help others, for I need to give back in gratitude and healing. Don’t be fooled, it terrifies me, but I just can’t be silenced.
I am developing a new talk, as I already have developed quite a few workshops and retreats on this topic. The time has come. My voice is loud. And healing is possible. Stay tuned…
I am excited to announce our Walking in Mindfulness Retreat this August!
Friday August 23rd - Sunday August 25th
Piney Creek, North Carolina
This guided retreat will introduce you to the Art of Mindfulness in ways that will surprise you. We take for granted so much within our day, from a nice meal to the breath we breathe. Through trail walking, solo and guided meditations, yoga sessions, mindful eating, extended periods of silence and contemplation; you will learn to become more aware of your surroundings and find balance on your daily journey. This is the perfect time heading into the busyness of the fall season!
Click on the link and sign up today, spaces fill fast!
I am SO excited to announce our next BOOK GROUP! I have chosen Brene Brown's 'RISING STRONG.'
You can watch this wonderful interview to get a feel for the topics that truly work into all of our lives! I will give folks a few weeks to purchase and get started before I announce meetup dates. If you are interested feel free to PM availability as I make decisions. This is a great discussion book that we can get through as you read too! I try to structure the book choice and meetings in a way that you can come to one or come to all! There is something for everyone! Jump in with us today!
#RisingStrong #BreneBrown #Love #Parent#Lead #Vulnerability #Shame #Reset #Renew #Summer #BookGroup#AnamNostosHouse
(CLICK ON PICTURE FOR EVENT INFO)
The time is coming for my 2020 Pilgrimage across Spain! Come one, come all to an informational night and outdoor movie showing of Martin Sheen's movie THE WAY! You don't even realize that you really want to join me on this amazing pilgrimage hike! Walk with me a few days or a few weeks; come listen, explore or just to enjoy this amazing movie!
Two decades ago as I discerned religious life to be a Catholic Nun, I had the great pleasure of praying the rosary on a regular basis with this amazing holy man at our parish in Santa Monica, CA. This movie was a longtime project and it is a true beauty and gift to inspire any journey! I never dreamed I would be fulfilling the dying wish of a dear friend to walk this journey in her memory decades later. I've led pilgrimages to Israel, to Lourdes, France and now the Camino de Santiago in Spain!
This unique outdoor setting on the River in Damascus is an added benefit! Bring a chair, bring a friend, and bring an open mind!
Read more about why Andrea is walking the Camino here:
Sitting on the porch this evening as the sun was going down, we were bringing a very long day to an end. My daughter opened the screen door and asked if she could just talk to me for a bit. I secretly love these moments, for the teenage years are fast approaching and time for mom is not always a need anymore. She began just talking about her day. As I listened to this amazing young woman sitting before me, I marvel at her and wonder when she grew up. I have a hard time putting my emotions into words, by what came out of her mouth in the next few moments.
I preface this by sharing it is safe to say that it has been a rough few months, though clearly that is an understatement. Looking back on the last several years, you would know this truth for our little trio deeply as many do. I am not a perfect mother by any means. In fact, I question myself daily in all that I choose for my children.
I have never believed that life was meant to be an easy road to journey. The lessons, the gifts and the self-discoveries within us are the best part of waking up in the morning. Though, not a day goes by, I don’t wish I could take back some of those struggles my children had to face so young. Their one job should only be, to be a kid.
As a single mom, with very little financial or hands on support from their father for several years, it falls on me to get our needs met. Sadly, my children understood the reality of rent, they could appreciate the luxury of heat in the winter and never did they take for granted the food before them. We always had our needs met, sometimes with a little help from our friends, and we learned valuable lessons along the way.
So, when my daughter begins to tell me that in class this week, they were asked to write an essay on their hero, never did I expect the following sentence to come out of her mouth.
Her hero is me, her mom.
I did my best to hold back my tears as she explained to me why she chose her mom, what she has learned from me on our journey and how she is so grateful for all that I add to her to life. Inside, I kept thinking, ‘But, I messed up so much!’ Yet, this little girl all of twelve, understood how we got to where we are today.
Her face lit up as she told me how she was able to tell her friends that she only needs to search google to find a photo of her mom, since she was a published author. She is so proud of me, faults and all.
So, today, I am going to savor that moment. I am going to remind myself that it is not about perfection, but rather love. When you begin with love and end with love, nothing is ever wrong or not enough.
What Bernadette doesn’t realize is that she is my hero, for the awesome young woman she is turning out to be. I may not always get it right, but I wouldn’t take back one second of being mom for anything in the world.
Thank you, sweet girl, for allowing me to be your mom.
(*Important Note: I have an equally amazing son I feel I need to share, so as to not completely ruin my 'five minute good mom' status in one article! Ha)
Spring is upon us! We are planting seeds to grow our gardens for the season. But, how often do we stop to ask ourselves how we are maintaining our own garden of life? It is time to stop and ask, ‘how am I planting seeds in my daily life?’
Throughout the talks, workshops and retreats that I create and lead, I am encouraging and challenging people to look at their journeys from the outside inward. It can be a powerful experience to be an outsider of your own life looking in from a new perspective. When we take the time to do this, we can take a moment to see what we are not yet achieving on our given path. We then begin the search for the necessary steps to change our path’s direction.
So, how are you planting seeds in your life, today?
Personally, I am many things. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am an author. I am a motivational speaker. I am friend. We all have many roles we live, and in each we must plant seeds to allow our true spirits and selves to bloom into all that we are meant to be in this world.
When I was married, I sacrificed a great deal of my inner self and my dreams, thinking that was what marriage was supposed to be for this other person I was connected to. In the end, that failed miserably for me and my family.
When I became a mother, I thought that my children would always come first. I put all my desires to the side for a later time when they didn’t need me as much. That didn’t work for me or my children, as they sensed a piece of their mama was missing. It didn’t teach them to honor their personal journeys’ and reminded me that I was neglecting my own.
When I was single before children, I walked a journey in which one could hear me saying in my talks that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I will also tell you, I am truly grateful for each and every step, for it made me who I am today.
It hasn’t always been easy, and I could appreciate today and be grateful that it hasn’t. It is in these moments that I learned lessons unique to my path I was walking towards. These lessons taught me how to survive through the challenges; they taught me that the pain shows us the way to joy.
When I ventured into single parenthood, I learned my greatest lessons of all. I learned, I can. I should say, I remembered in the struggle, that I can do anything put in front of me for my children. I knew this in my recovery when I was single, but it left me when I soon became responsible for so many lives around me. I would quickly learn in single parenthood that it was all up to me. If something broke, I needed to find a way to fix it. If a child needed something for school, I found a way to get it. When there were housing and living expenses to be paid out, I worked harder to pay for it.
The one thing that never changed was my passion for life and living. I admit, some days it was silenced by others and responsibilities, but what resides in my soul waiting to bloom are the seeds I originally planted for myself.
Do you know what seeds you are needing to plant?
What first might you need to weed, in order to get started?
I believe in dreams. I believe in passion. I believe in creating our own joy.
Whenever I have been told in my life, that I cannot do something, that is the sure-fire way to get me to go out and accomplish it. I travelled the world early on, I have cared for the sick and dying, I have stood in front of crowds up to 1500 humbly sharing my story in hopes of helping one person who struggles in silence to stay alive. I’ve driven across our beautiful country so many times, visiting towns no one has even heard of discovering voices and stories unheard before I found them. I take from life all that it offers me, planting seeds along the way in order to watch others bloom.
Once again, the time has come where I am ready for a new adventure. I am ready to nurture my soul and feed my passions that I have neglected by putting others before myself. I am planting seeds that will allow my voice to shout, my heart to shine and my message to bloom.
I am planting seeds to continue to walk with others in exploration and healing through my work. Watch what will bloom as the year progresses.
Can you take some time in our life to weed that which is time for you to let go?
What seeds are you needing to plant today?
Will you embrace the beauty of Spring to bring forth all that you are meant to be?
As we begin to bring Eating Disorder Awareness Week to a close, I share my favorite piece of my journey. In all my talks and workshops I challenge people at the end to write a mission plan, a map, if you will, for their journey and how they would like to see themselves.
What would yours say about your body’s journey?
Truly grateful to all who came out to meet me and talk about loving your body! My work is my passion, and the book has always been about spreading love, healing and a voice! Keep spreading the word! I am here for you!
Today, for Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I am sharing a chapter from my book 'Find Your Voice Project: A Journey Towards Healing" Scale wars are an intense part of this intricate illness. It was just one aspect of my journey that tortured me through my Anorexia and allowed for its presence to last as long as it did. PLEASE take a moment to read, share and educate yourself and others on how we can all TAKE BACK THE SCALE!
"You have the CHOICE to create the LIFE you want to LIVE.
The question is will you get past your FEAR to take the first STEP?"
Scared? I understand.
You’re thinking ‘Oh dear God, she wants me to throw away my scale!?’
Take a deep breath and hear me out.
No one knows the scale wars better than I. If I stop to really pause, I remember it as if it were yesterday. I can hear the clinking spring dial of the scale going back and forth as I waited without breath for it to balance out to my destined number, while time effortlessly stood still. I would then slowly glance down at the little window with more emotions than one can hold in a moment, knowing I was measuring every ounce of my worth on its reveal in that bitter second
On my worst day, I lost count on how many times my feet climbed onto the stone-cold piece of metal to weigh myself; shoes on, shoes off, before the shower, after the shower, before the bagel, after the bagel, before the run, after the run…it never ended. No matter what number appeared, what bargain I made with myself for that moment or wished upon number, I couldn’t stop.
I was certain I had control over every little number that appeared in the coveted rectangular black window. And until I succeeded at getting to the ‘right number’ I would not stop. The right number that simply never existed. The daily rise and fall of the numbers were my sheer weakness which I held tighter than anything else around me always. I believed it was all I had left. I truly thought I had control, the eating disorder was my own. A lie I believed daily. We both know the eating disorder thrives on controlling us.
I was misguided in how I gave the scale all my power. I allowed for this insipid piece of steel to freely and thanklessly claim my power and silence my voice daily keeping me recklessly and, so it seemed, safely inside the depths of my hell from sunrise to sunset.
The scale wars never gave me anything more than a constant torturous flow of physical and emotional pain as well psychological torture on an undefined level. A grueling false sense of control that radiated through my weak body at all hours of the night and day was the only gift it offered me.
Can one even call that a gift?
I allowed the numbers to define my entire existence in every imaginable way. I would orchestrate my entire day from beginning to end on a number that was never little enough. I rejoiced if getting the flu for it meant the numbers would drop rapidly as I watched in oblivious anticipation with disregard to any danger I was faced within the illness my body battled. As if I were going for a gold medal, I fought hard to try and control the decrease of the numbers while instantaneously losing the final sense of self-worth left within me when the numbers climbed even an ounce.
I was always thinking ‘just five more pounds’ with my ultimate goal diminishing any sign of femininity I had left or could visualize in my mind’s eye, for that was truly the defining piece for me. I was a woman terrified at the true definition of the word. It would take years to admit this, work through it and come full circle to identify what femininity truly meant for me. But, once I did, it opened doors and windows giving life towards new definitions of self. When, hearing supportive friends speak their truth about my fight over the years and how it affected them, I realized I never really did have control for even one minute as I wanted to believe. The scale controlled me for every second of every day that I allowed it until I finally chose to let go and move forward.
Listen to that again. I chose. It is a choice in the very end. This must come from you.
Until you really understand and admit the role the scale plays in your life and why you are making a choice to eliminate it within your health journey, you will not be able to take this step of choosing.
I would later learn whatever number I landed upon could not reveal the physical and emotional damage that had been done or would follow me until this very day. It is the biggest danger in the numbers you covet that no one talks about. You need to hear that the damage being done within this scale war can be irreparable.
You will be in darkness forever if you handcuff yourself to the numbers on your scale; the road will only be about the eating disorder until you embrace the reality that you can reach that equal destination of health and body love acceptance. And when you do reach health one day, you could possibly have taken away any chance of having a family, you could have caused enough damage that you will live in pain for the rest of your life, while not seeming like a bad thing now you could literally lose your hunger sense, as I have, and must face this reminder for the rest of your life. You must ask yourself… ‘Is it worth it?’
There are endless stories about the struggles of how these insidious numbers tortured me; from the multiple treatment programs and hospital visits that forced me to weigh backwards at every encounter panic ensuing before I even stepped onto the scale to the forthcoming wretched arguments I got into with men and women in white coats who looked at me as if I should be committed. These were not my greatest moments. Today, I shudder with shame remembering my defiance and cruel words over the years to friends and professionals only trying to help me, as they kept my deadly secret number hidden from me with what I believed to be a vengeance at times.
Truth be told, the vengeance was an exhaustion within the fight I gave them to a point, but in the end, it was more out of love and concern than anything else. A love so foreign to me, that I couldn’t even attempt to embrace it until several years later when was I able to step out of the fog that was my eating disorder. It was a treasured gift I never have taken for granted when I finally came around to accepting this understanding. I then returned the gift years down the road when I finally discovered my self-worth was more than a number.
Inevitably over time there were more than a few hospitals who had absolutely no sensitivity or basic understanding of eating disorders. Their insisting on weighing me forward with blatant disregard to the psychological damage it caused despite my fervent explanation, while proceeding to casually comment on the results in my presence sending me into a tailspin of frantic emotions, was insensitivity at its highest level.
Their commenting ‘that’s not too thin’ shattered everything within me that was fighting for emaciation in every second I struggled to breathe. They left me raw to only recognize the constant failure I already believed I was daily. This lack of compassion only left me with an unfair disdain towards the entire medical profession and would simply further my demise and lack of trust in the healing community as well as the process. These individuals fed my eating disorder in ways that led me to my advocacy work for education of eating disorders in the medical field, so that others will not face this same trauma I experienced when attempting recovery.
“Is it true? Can you rely on -hold onto- an image? Beauty is embracing what’s in your Soul.”
Through all my personal scale wars that followed me through the years, my favorite story was a gathering of the most terrifying and humbling extremes. On June 20, 1999, a handful of my CoinciGod group and support system gathered in the Church priory after reading a book to better understand my eating disorder battle in order to help me further find healing.
Take this in for a moment; these friends actually read a book on eating disorders to help unworthy me? Then they took an entire Saturday out of their lives to gather, talk, ask questions and try to understand what this illness was that I battled… to help me. Me? I don’t think I fully took that in during those days, but later it had me sitting in a humility and gratitude at the gift they selflessly offered me in the priory that summer’s day.
The night before this gathering I fought Xavier on the phone with every bit of my energy threatening to not show up. At that time, I was holding my breath tight within my own self burdened loneliness that consumed me, it was comfortable and familiar. It was safe in my delusional thinking. I was certain I would be in a room filled with undeserving love and support, I would be ‘found out’ and then no one would be left at the end of the battle.
I always felt like the darkness in the room which was me was too great; I couldn’t embrace the Light around me. I couldn’t comprehend that I, too, could be Light.
These moments of doubt left me feeling naked to the bone in my vulnerability. In every passing second I was apprehensive to exposing my raw emotions within the depths of darkness that crowded my soul. I sat more in this ominous fear than anyone could comprehend, a fear I only knew as my best friend who I thought would never betray me. My pain consumed me like a dense mustiness filling up the room leaving no space for anyone else.
Early that Saturday morning I had made it reluctantly through the priory doors, as I fought to convince everyone else around me I was the miracle that wasn’t going to ever happen. ED’s voice in my head was louder than all combined and I didn’t think I could even hear anyone at this point, let alone those who had supported me so unconditionally. My enormous guilt began to mirror my shame, I only wanted an escape route for I was deaf to the words of support for me in that moment as I sat trembling in the stillness of the priory library.
These same friends that gathered had acted as a consistent force of support through meal companions, as well reading one disheartening email check-in after another only ever offering unconditional support and kindness, freely and lovingly through my endless drama. But in the end, ED was scared by the love around the room. The loving unconditional acceptance and wanting to be a new voice for me when I could not hear my own voice was clearly present. We simply talked together, shared concerns, asked for ways of helping and learned together about the devilish ways of eating disorders. It was a gift I didn’t properly understand until years had passed and I could process it in treatment. Even now as I write this tears form, for its magnitude cannot be ignored.
After what seemed like days of being wrung out emotionally and continually questioning why these people continued to stand faithfully by me in healing, we decided to conclude the gathering outside in the parking lot for the most amazing and precedential scale bashing war in existence! I won’t lie, I thought for a moment, ‘Was I truly going to let go? Could I move on from the ‘what ifs? Could I let the numbers go?’ I can’t begin to explain the surreal emotions I felt and what those immediate emotions meant to the voices in my head as I took several enraged swings at the steel torture device with a hammer, then in an uncharacteristic moment crushing it with a car no less! I was experiencing a positive in a negative that I couldn’t fathom before. I literally was crushing down the voices.
There was a goodness in the fear I was experiencing, for the fear came from a risk to change, a risk to choose a different path. Empowerment at its best! The day came to a symmetrical close sitting side by side in the church pews with my peers for mass, instead of hiding from them behind pillars in the far back of the Church, as I normally did. Just for a moment in time I believed I was both deserving and worthy of such friends and goodness. Fr. Xavier’s homily that evening as he preached up high from the pulpit only reminded me, it is such goodness that makes change happen. It is having the courage to try something new in a moment when you thought it was impossible to even attempt such an act. It’s taking the risk to step outside of oneself and see the bigger picture, if only for a moment, then let it guide you to your truer path.
It is choosing to take the risk for your own journey to health.
It was quite some time from that day forward before I gave up weighing myself completely, but that moment of empowerment stuck with me every time I stepped onto a scale, looked in a mirror, measured a body part or battled through a meal questioning another’s love for me. It could not be erased from my memory as hard as I tried when wanting to prove everyone wrong and its meaning could never be ignored. I am more than a scale. I am more than a piece of metal.
I am more than a number.
And from that moment on there was no ‘what if’, there was only a constant flow of destruction of negative self, faltering health and false beliefs I once owned because of an unattainable number. For me the recognition was vocalizing, ‘I am going to fight.’ It was always intensely terrifying to commit, but I couldn’t ignore the blessings that followed when I made that choice and proceeded to follow through with a commitment to healing.
In this destruction of the scale, I felt I was giving up one more piece of control in my eating disorder life. Before, I thought ‘how dare these people tell me how, what, when, or where to eat!’ This only continued to make me livider with the entire process, until I could come to a new truth on my own. I realized, I could always buy a new scale. But what would that do? It would make me feel as if I failed. I would be less in control if I went back to the illness and what it wanted me to believe and embrace in those numbers on a simple piece of metal. I cautiously realized I did have a healthy sense of control within me. For it takes more control and strength to not go buy another scale, than giving in to the insanity and tossing aside the work that has already been done. When I finally came to this way of thinking, it was then I knew that I was healing in that moment. Surprised by this revelation, I knew right then I had begun to take back my voice, the first step before my last treatment program.
Small victories need to be celebrated along the way.
The scale had many meanings for me that were difficult to face all at once. I know this was in part why the process and multiple forms of treatment and length were an issue. It was never one easy answer to process that would lead me to find recovery. I needed time to dissect each piece when I was emotionally ready, so as not to return to the ways ever again as I had in the past.
What I would see through the final rounds of therapy surprised me in ways I could not see before, for the layers ran ever so deep like an onion. While a part of me was not always ready to let go, I realized that this would consistently be the case until I chose 100% to move forward and take on each layer of meaning as it came at me. In time, I healed with the baby steps of each day, for all I had was to focus on the present moment in front of me. When I leapt to health, I missed important parts of the process and only ended up at the beginning when I would crash. As I aged in the eating disorder, lessons started to slowly sink in. I knew I needed to see these steps for what they were in order to understand the insanity that the scale’s meaning carried in my life beforehand. It would be comparing its meaning that day in empowerment to what it was in the years past in dis-ease that would help me stay on a healthy track.
Today, I am stronger and healthier to comprehend my independence free from a number on a scale, an image in a mirror, past words attacking my worth, wounds from those who carried beliefs about me that I would no longer own as my own. It sounds daunting I know.
This day will come with hard work ahead of you, when you are willing to take that first defining step and follow through.
A major revelation of this scale process was recognizing through therapy, that in the illness I had always believed without a doubt knowing my weight meant I had control. When measuring my body, having the last say on my weight, and taking control of every single little aspect of what it all meant to me was clear, I was then led to this false belief that I had control over the end result. In these defiant times, I could care less what anyone thought or believed I ‘should’ weigh or what they thought I looked like when emaciated. I had control, albeit a false sense of control.
It in fact was the furthest from the truth, if not completely opposite. It controlled every ounce of me until the day I decided to never step on the scale again. And even then, at that decision, the embrace took time in itself to heal and come to terms in every aspect of what life would look like from that day on.
At the end of my journey, it was 14 years before I embraced the total truth. My life did not have to be determined by that insignificant number on a piece of metal manufactured by a society which continually tells both men and women alike how the story should play out on their journey. A society with preconceived notions rather than celebrating the individuality of each person born to this earth. My last treatment brought me to embrace such vast truth in we are the only voice and author of our own destiny. Your truth will come out today if you are willing to take the steps within these pages towards healing.
I wanted to share one final way scales have had an impact on my life. During the healing process, I found many ways to take back my life and journey. I went deep within to go to the source and turn around those negatives. One day I decided to connect the scales to affirmations. Affirmations already were a big part of my healing, I remember one therapist in treatment asking me one simple question. ‘What would you want the scale to say to you?’
It was such a strange question in that moment, but one that became empowering. I decided to start this practice of Affirmation Scales as I began to speak in schools and conferences. There was something about taking the time and thought to write the words in vibrant colors onto the scale that gave it much more meaning becoming empowering in ways one may not have envisioned once before.
While Find Your Voice Project© became popular and known for them, you can now see this activity pop up yearly on college campuses, workshops and eating disorder awareness events. I celebrate with gratitude whenever I hear about it! I am not one to need to take credit for something. This journey is about sharing with anyone who struggles how healing finally came into play for me, I do this work in gratitude and gratitude only. So, I took it to the people!
It was International NO DIET Day 2005. I boldly decided to take about 40-50 completed affirmation scales from my previous talks down to the San Francisco Embarcadero Ferry Building center divide, proceeding to spread them out all over the high traffic walking path from the bus stop that crosses over to the Ferry Building terminal! There was no way you could ignore me and my small posse of teenage volunteers, who after hearing me speak in their high school decided to come out to bring awareness to anyone that would listen.
Through the course of a few hours we stopped countless people asking them to sign our scales with affirmations. We challenged them to look outside the box literally in the middle of a city standing on our YAY!Scales, a scale that pays you a compliment rather than a number originally created by Marilyn Wann of Fat!SO?. The responses and facial expressions were priceless as each one had something to say from their first impression. My favorites were the mother and child who hovered over a scale starting a positive conversation around the work I was doing and the real meaning behind a positive body image without the life of a scale.
My heart simply warmed over the older grey haired ladies who stood on our YAY!Scales with giddiness of childhood delight making it all worth it to be out there that day. We stood with huge poster board signs encouraging people to honk against diets, as the yells and support poured in validating our cause. It was a brilliant day that landed us on the local news that evening and inspired a college paper of a student passing by! These defining events continue and are so important to the awareness needed in society today. Our voices must be louder than the media’s, for our voices are what really matters. Listen closely, anyone can put on an event like this. It is very healing and empowering. When you are ready and at this level, go do it! You are just one of the voices that will change the thinking that is out there today.
When all is said, and done this scale war is personal and unique to only you. You are the only one that can process what it means to you, define it and choose another direction than the number.
Will you take a chance?
Will you try to step off?
#FindYourVoiceProject #TakeBackTheScale #LoveYourBody
This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It is about Education & Awareness. My life is said to be a miracle, I wouldn't be alive today without people who refused to give up on me. Sadly, many don't make it out of the hell, dying too young. PLEASE take a moment to watch, remember and send a good thought to their families. Sadly, I know many of them...<3#FindYourVoiceProject #14yrsAnorexic15yrsRecovered#NationalEatingDisordersAwarenessWeek #LoveYourBody #ComeAsYouAre
Today is Monday.
It is not a day filled with magic.
It is not a day that defines you.
It is not a day that will decide your future.
It is not a day that will take away all your past hurts.
It is not a day that will determine what your following year will look like.
Today is Monday.
When you put unrealistic expectations on ANYTHING, you are bound to fail. When you give something or someone else your power, you lose your true self. If you allow your voice to be silenced by negativity based on society’s unrealistic views of a particular day, you are making a choice to be in the exact place you are standing.
Today is Monday.
Today, you can choose to wake up and remember you are loved. Today, you can start your day with a walk in nature or with a good cup of coffee. Today, you can go about your day as if it is any other day, and the outcome will only benefit you.
Today is Monday.
So, just for today, live.
Live with intention.
Live with passion.
Live with faith.
Live with hope.
Live with kindness.
Live with love.
And, remember, today is just another Monday, not different from last Monday.
December marks a monumental moment for me. Today is my 15yr Recovery Anniversary from Anorexia and Body Hatred. I struggled for 14yrs, and this year I surpassed this number in recovery.
The recovery journey is not a perfect one, it doesn't always look as one would expect. There are lessons along the way each day that I hold on to in moments where I doubt.
But, today, I am proud of the journey I walked. I wouldn't take any of it back, for each step gave me blessings that make me who I am today. My book, my motivational speaking and my retreats I lead are my greatest way to share my story and help others along their own path. That is my greatest work and I wouldn't take that back.
I am grateful to countless people who never gave up on me, for they are the reason I am here today. Thank you, once again for your friendship and belief in me. The journey is always beginning. READ MY RECOVERY STORY HERE!
#FindYourVoiceProject#AnamNostosHouse #Recovery #Anorexia #15yearsStrong
Fall, Letting Go & Attraversiamo
Three words that grab hold of my heart this time of year.
I find the beauty of Fall with its intricate offerings in the few months that it bookends inescapable. There truly is something for everyone to take away in reflection on their journey; if so inclined to pause, look and listen. The decision of which path you will walk and embrace as the year winds down to a close is ultimately yours. I have written often of living each day with intention, rather than holding ourselves to such specifics with resolutions in the New Year. But this walk is of a different nature, rather than intention.
As the Fall Equinox approaches each year, I most look forward to reflecting over that which has not served me well in the several months prior. I consciously make a choice to face that which I need to let go and release from my core energy, before I can allow for the dark of winter solstice to claim my soul in all its vulnerability. It is in that vulnerability, where the depth of healing can begin. And, it is in that vulnerability that intentions will slowly be born for the forthcoming Spring.
As the leaves poetically turn their glorious colors and dance gently to the ground, I am reminded of the process of ‘letting go.’ I believe that we all have pieces of our lives that we want to release at any given time. We are in a season, if you will, where it is more prominent than ever. Fall is giving us the permission to let go of those ills and walk towards the Solstice. Fall is challenging us to be more, to be better. When we embrace the release, we are more open to sit in the darkness of solstice with more ease. As we embrace the darkness, we can begin to trust the light that will break through at the end of the process. We can allow ourselves in our vulnerability to be open to that which will come our way to bloom in the Spring.
Every winter as the soulful darkness creeps up on me; it never fails to hold the inner depths of my emotions that I have failed to express on a level all its own. The brisk cold sinks in to my bones re-awakening my process. This is when I am reminded to not let those darker moments of life define me, rather, heal me. I refuse to run from this darkness as I had in my younger years. I choose to challenge myself to sit with the uncomfortable truths, until I find my balance.
I am challenging you to sit with your own darkness and emotions this approaching Solstice. What story will they reveal? What gift are they going to offer you to bring into the new year?
It is a time to wait with eagerness as we approach the New Year with anticipation for our personal resolve to move towards something new. By walking through this process, we can find gratitude in the darkness that will consume our winter; our deeper story. I honor that it is not an easy path to risk walking. When we value those gifts in any darkness and struggle, they will add to our story in ways that will bring new understanding. This understanding allows for our ‘Spring’ to come in fully.
This beautiful Italian word has held meaning for me the last year more than ever as I put closure to aspects of my life. Its meaning, ‘crossing over,’ fits perfect into the poetic days of Fall, Solstice and the far-off approaching Spring. This process allows for us to cross over and bring life into the forthcoming Spring. Notice, I will stay away from the resolutions of the New Year, for life isn’t about an end-all. The process is ongoing. At times we can feel like our Fall comes in the middle of the year. We must embrace these moments wherever we find ourselves, in order to move forward.
Recently, I wrote a piece on Putting Yourself Back into the Equation. A much easier piece to write than act on. While I keep thinking I clarified the specifics of self-care, something comes to my attention to change my priorities. I have never been one to ignore a dream or my passion, though I am keenly aware that I have many more responsibilities today, than I did in my early twenties. So, as I am forced to notice in searching for one’s sense of self, it can seem that everyone’s lives look so much better than my own. This is my ‘letting go.’ I am needing to sit in the darkness, which is watching others fulfill their aspirations as my responsibilities take hold. My ‘Attraversiamo’ is trusting that my time will come when the passion and inspiration of my ongoing dreams, will come to full fruition. It is not an easy process, but I must own it. If I trust the process, I know I will make it happen in its right time.
The interesting awareness that came to me this Fall which allowed me to ‘cross over’ was recognizing no good can from comparing one’s journey to another’s. When I try to walk a path not meant for me, only negative outcomes come from this experience. It was never my path to own. What this time of reflection in the Equinox has allowed me to accept is that perhaps any one of my visions were put out there to plant the seed in someone who is more available to bring them to fruition. It doesn’t lessen what I have to offer by any means, but it is in truth being offered all the same. My goal was always for these pieces of my vision to come to fruition in the world. Ultimately, I want the lessons learned from my healing journey to help others. I don’t need to be in the equation. As I reflect in these passing learning moments, trusting in the process of ‘letting go’ and crossing over; I have found where my ultimate gifts lie. The challenge for me will be to own my fear and doubt in the process. I know what direction I am meant to walk. I know that my story is valuable. I trust that piece. I will honor the time frame that I do not get to set.
What will you choose to let go of this fall?
How will you sit in your darkness?
Will you take the risk to cross over?
*Locals note I will host a Winter Solstice Bonfire. Stay tuned for details.
Día de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos is a time for people to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The idea is to be respectful to loved ones gone before us, to honor their lives, and acknowledge the fragility of life. Each person builds an altar that has special meaning to their own journey. This year, there is a lot of symbolism on my altar; lives recently lost, lives lost a long time ago that have been on my mind entering towards new parts of my journey, and the ever-present losses that have equally changed the direction of my life. I find myself embracing the lessons these lives and moments have taught me with new awareness. I am choosing to leap towards these lessons with passion that these lives taught me when they were alive on my journey. I am ready to embrace, to accept, and to move towards life in ways I have been holding back.
What are you mourning today? Are you ready to leap towards something new on your journey? Are you listening to the wisdom of the souls who have left us? Take a moment to reflect on loss…
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die.
Why I Won’t Unfriend Trump Supporters
This week has touched on many emotions, not just for me, but most of our country. I was quick to want to unfriend any person who was a Trump supporter. I didn’t want to associate with any person who showed such a lack of understanding and empathy, in my mind, towards sexual assault survivors.
Every day that went by I pounded out my frustrations on my trail workouts, blasting my music as loud as I could through my ear pods. Every time I listened to those words of insanity around the issue that spewed out, what I believed was uninformed and uneducated information on the subject, a part of my soul was wounded all over again.
I wanted to post daily all over any social media outlet that I could find, and I did in some cases. But, then I found myself stepping back, before I was about to say and do something over the top when I saw people from my little town posting support for this excuse for a president. It got even worse when they went to support this narcissist at a rally in the next town over. (Okay, I let my words slip a bit there, but I needed to do so for context.)
Then, I thought to myself, these folks are not bad people. They do their best from what I can see to live a good life. Other than the support of hate, they don’t spew hate, from what I can tell. I believe that deep down I must turn around my emotions for those who support this person, for they are embracing the hate, lies and evil. I can’t meet them on their level. I need to be the bigger person.
You see, I have always said in my life and healing journey, that I would not wish my past on my worst enemy. I believe that today amidst this insanity. Why? I believe that every person needs to walk their own journey. They need to hit their own wall, at their own time. It pains me to think that these people may not hit the wall of understanding before a tragedy hits their loved ones or themselves, which will affect their core, as I have experienced. By, then it may be too late for them to turn their ways and thinking, when they realize they have stood by a person who doesn’t really support them.
But, I do know, that I can’t make anyone get it just with my story. It won’t stop me from using my voice loudly and fiercely. It won’t stop me for continually standing up for our country as it once stood under a better man in years past. It won’t stop me for those whose voice cannot be heard, as they have been turned away by this sorry excuse for a man. It won’t stop me. Ever.
So, no, I won’t unfriend trump supporters, but I will not support their beliefs either.
I won’t support hate.
I won’t support someone who degrades and shames women.
I won’t support someone who locks children in cages and breaks up families.
I won’t support someone who doesn’t believe in love for ALL people.
I won’t support someone who doesn’t believe in freedom of choice.
I won’t support someone who spews lies, disgust and violence for his own benefit.
I won’t support someone who doesn’t accept ALL races.
I won’t support someone who doesn’t support me.
I have been reflecting on this topic for quite some time. There are so many ways that I could write about what it means to embrace self-care. I could easily judge a half a dozen different ‘fads’ that are going around and give my un solicited opinion. Or, I could do the single most healthy thing and stay in my own journey as it be. I can only ever speak on the path which I have walked, for that is the one that I have learned from the most.
Each person will define the act of self-care in different ways that mirror their journey. And that is ok. I have found it is quite important not to judge where another person is at on their journey, as it is not ours to own. This didn’t come easy or right away, but after trial and error over decades of living. In fact, I have sincere gratitude for the learning I have done from watching other journeys; I have been able to incorporate ideas, risks and directions into my own steps. This, ultimately, has led to a better existence. Though, I accept that not all the things I will try to incorporate will ultimately benefit me or my specific path, but there is learning in the attempt that allows for wisdom to follow, as I take the next step.
Our only job on our personal journey is to live it as we see fit knowing our inner core. It is our mission to risk, to grow and to live as we learn and journey down our own path towards living a full and rich life that is intended for us. We may reach paths that others do at one point or another, but we will dance through what is meant for our personality and existence.
As a single mom, this has solely meant putting ‘me’ back into the equation. While that may sound simple, I assure you it is not. It is human nature to put anyone in our lives before ourselves. Then, we are surprised when we take a moment to breathe and ask, ‘what about me?’ Sometimes, by that point, it is almost too late to find our way as the bitterness can take hold. This is a personal challenge.
So, I am calling out for you to ‘put yourself back into the equation!’ What does this look like? How will you define self-care? It could be as easy as taking yourself out for a cup of coffee.
I know that I feel better when I am moving my body. I am not a hardcore health nut, but I like my morning power walks as the sun rises to bring me some balance in mind, body and spirit.
How are often do you stop and listen to your body? Are you giving it foods that provide energy, nourishment and overall health? Everything in moderation has always been my motto. When we lean to one extreme or the other, it isn’t going to provide us with overall balance and wellness. While difficult, we must take the challenge to step back, and be aware.
Are you following your passions? And, no, it doesn’t mean to go leave your responsibilities and travel the world. But, can you take this to a smaller level and find something that would equally sustain your soul? I like to call them ‘monastery days.’ I let my family know that I am unavailable for a twenty-four-hour period and I go commune with myself. It could mean writing, nature hikes, café sitting, or reading. It doesn’t have to be extreme to rejuvenate my tired body.
And, I know myself well having lived this long on earth, that I find it is important to filter in the occasional trip that feeds my old travel soul. This enough allows me to no longer just feel like ‘the mom who everyone needs something from,’ and in its essence brings me back to my roots where it all began.
When I take these moments and days to consider my own well-being, I am not only doing what’s best for my health, spirit and soul; but I am being my best self for those around me in my life.
So, just for today, I challenge you to put yourself back into the equation. When you discover what that is for you, let us know! Inspire others for the journey! Be well.
We hear about mindfulness daily. We read about mindfulness daily. We talk with others about mindfulness daily. You can’t get through a day without someone telling you that mindfulness is the new answer to all things.
But, how often do we sincerely practice the art of mindfulness? When our day is nothing but stress between work, family or every day relationships; are we taking a moment to pause, breathe and reflect on that which is mindful? Or, are we just consumed with our stress, that nothing else can alleviate this state of mind for us?
It is not easy to be mindful, whether we already practice the act or are new to it. It is not easy to pause in a stressful situation and commit to a different path of emotions. It is not easy to breathe on most days when we are surrounded by the intensity of our world.
The truth is that there are countless ways that we can be mindful within a day. You don’t need to study under Thich Nhat Hanh to figure this out. You simply need to be open to trying something new and not going down your normal path that you have walked one time too many days.
What we don’t realize it that we fill our days with noise, food, activity, work and whatever is in front of us now, for fear of stopping. When we stop, we have no choice, but to be mindful. When we are mindful, often the things we have been avoiding come to the surface, while we are forced to face them.
Just for today, I challenge to you take a moment to risk being mindful. When you go for that snack during a stressful day; pause, breathe, reflect and move forward without that piece of food. When it is easier to turn on the radio in the car, rather than sit in the quiet; sit in the quiet and embrace that which comes to you. At the end of the day, when you just can’t seem to sit still, and a run is the only thing at your forefront; sit and be mindful.
I am not saying easy. I am saying it is possible, with practice. I am saying that if you give mindfulness a chance, you may just come out on the other side with a little more peace in your day. Mind. Body. Spirit. When you honor the presence, the presence becomes your honor.
This Recovery Story has been on my website for a long time, but for many reasons, I haven't really 'posted' it. It is a truly a small window into my story and I really want people to read the book to get the entire backstory. I decided to share it here today, cautiously, for I have had more people ask me what Anam Nostos House is really about. My recovery story was the beginning, and the end is celebrating every day until I die the gift that I am still breathing, still alive. I fought. That was not always a given. Walk with me...
How often do you take time to explore your personal journey beyond your own self-imposed definitions?
How often do the limitations you quietly put on yourself intersect with the life you are aching to live?
Find Your Voice Project
Celebrating Women in my Tribe
Fall, Letting Go & Attraversiamo
Fall Madly in Love with Yourself
I Am My Daughter’s Hero. Wait, What?
Is it True?
Listening to the Wisdom of Our Bodies
Love your Body (Watch)
Power of Voice
Putting Yourself Back into the Equation
There is a Light in the Darkness (Watch)
A Single Mom's Good Friday
Ecumenism, Unity in Faith
In the Palm of His Hand
Lift Up, Not Down
Living an Authentic Life
Mother Earth's Prayer
Pope Francis’ Joy of Love Wins
Seeing One's Soul
The Beauty of Tears
Repentance, Unworthiness and the Quest for Good
What is your Lamentation?