Monday, August 31, 2015

the light at the end of the grocery store aisle

i was mopey all weekend. apparently i was being a "mopey mopey babe." last night one of my friends was trying to cheer me up and he dragged me out with him to pick up a pizza. as we were walking toward the pizza shop, it started raining. i almost broke down in tears, being in the mopey mood i was in. he pushed me into the grocery store we were next to, and told me to wait in there for him to get the pizza. as i walked into the store, a sad song was playing, and tears started streaming down my face.

and then, a small panic swept over me: i realized i hadn't brought anything with me--no phone, no money, no keys. i didn't know what pizza store my friend was going to, and now i had been deserted at this grocery store in the middle of a storm. i thought, "i could yelp close pizza stores... oh wait, i don't have my phone. i could go back to the house... oh wait, i don't have my keys."

i walked helplessly in a lap around the store, and then just walked straight back out, sure that i'd never see my friend again.

as i walked outside, my friend walked up and i collapsed in his arms saying i thought i was going to have to spend the night at that grocery store. he laughed a bit maniacally and said that he would never do that to me, though it would've been a brilliant plan--especially considering my level of mopey-ness.

well that whole thing showed me i kind of needed to turn the corner.

what was before the corner? saturday morning i woke up and found that someone i cared about deleted me from their life without any explanation. it was pretty jarring. i'm grown up enough to know that this wasn't my fault, and i reached out via text message to this person and offered compassion, hopefully offering a safe space for this person to respond back to me. they haven't yet. it left me feeling a little small. i was shrinking into myself with fear about the situation.

luckily my friends distracted me most of the weekend.

they are the most lovely friends in the world.

and then this morning i went to yoga. the teacher taught a theme of expansion: of expanding past our physical boundaries. on the mat, i reached my arms wider than i ever had before. i stretched my legs further apart. i cartwheeled my arms bigger, i radiated my heart with more passion and energy than i thought possible.

and i BREATHED. so deeply. so fully.

the feeling that emerged as i did this was overwhelming: i felt myself shattering the shell of fear i had encased myself in over the weekend. i felt myself thinking "i'm bigger than this. i'm bigger than this feeling of fear. i'm bigger than this mopey-self. i'm bigger than all this shit!"

i left the class with a knowing that i'll be ok. a knowing that i turned the corner: i made it out of the grocery store, and i'm making it out of this.

and to the person that evoked all of this: i'm also big enough to handle whatever is going on. that's an offering and a promise.

love, compassion, peace. and expansion. so much expansion. outside and inside.

Friday, August 21, 2015

rose-colored life

i live in new york city, so i've heard a few car horns. ok, i've heard a lot of car horns. this morning i was walking with a friend and he screamed back at a car stuck in traffic "why are you honking? what do you think is going to happen?" i laughed and said that the people honking in the cars were likely very upset about a lot of things, and that they didn't know how to express those emotions in their lives. so? they honk.

"honk" is my new shorthand for "wah wah wah, i don't know how to properly process this!"

we're all guilty of this occasionally, of course.

what's funny about my response to the above story is that i immediately replied with compassion to the people polluting my environment with noise. but when i fail to process something well, i rarely reply with compassion toward myself.

last night a friend told me that they were dealing with some depression/anxiety issues. i replied with compassion. but when i think about my own issues? i reply with the opposite. "why do i feel this way today? what's wrong with me? why can't i feel this way? why can't i act this way?"

mid-blog writing, i paused for dinner. i ran home while listening to a podcast and then over to a friend's to watch a tv show while eating pizza. in those two instances of media mid-writing, i heard two instances referring to the saying "rose-colored glasses." i've never particularly liked that phrase, because i thought that it kind of makes fun of optimists, and i consider myself to be one most of the time.

in the latest freakanomics podcast, they interview dan gilbert (a harvard psychology professor) about some ads he helped prudential with. when he discusses happiness, and people planning for their hopeful futures, he stated the following:
I love the metaphor of rose-colored glasses. That’s the way to view the world. They’re rose-colored, meaning there is a tint. You are seeing a rosier future than we will really experience. But they’re glasses. They’re not opaque, right? They’re not blinders. You actually are seeing the world. And if there’s a train coming, it’s a little bit rose-tinted, but it’s a train.
i really really liked his interpretation of the glasses. it made me feel hopeful.

and then, mid-pizza, i heard another reference to rose-colored glasses on bojack horseman. a character on the show said "when you look at the world through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags." ...and then i felt compassion for that character. it was a potent line, but it didn't dissuade me from wanting to be optimistic about the world. perhaps cautiously optimistic, but still optimistic.

and all of this rose-colored talk reminded me of the compassion i was trying to cultivate toward myself. what if i just slightly altered my perception of myself instead of something more drastic? practicing on others has given me the tools; i just have to reflect the rose-colored tint back inwards.

a rose-colored mirror, if you will.

self-compassion. self-love. hands on heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

lies: little, white, and not-so-little, not-so-white

adi climbs in all kinds of boxes!
my 4-year-old best friend adi got into a cardboard box last time i was visiting with her. she wanted to play jack-in-the-box and then asked me to close her inside the box. as soon as i began to fold down the second two flaps, she squealed, "maybe this isn't a good idea; I can't breathe!" it was kind of cute; it was kind of hilarious.


and that's kind of what i felt like today: a little trapped, a little suffocated, a little scared... and a little like i brought this all on myself... and i just wanted someone to open the box right back up for me.


sometimes i lie to myself. the one i tell myself most often is: "i don't know why i'm feeling like this!!"

i do. i always do. i just sometimes don't want to admit it.

i told my mom about my eating disorder a little over a year ago. i hadn't told my dad yet, but i didn't feel anxious about that. i reasoned that mom was the "hard" one to tell--she is the dietitian and tends to take things personally. last week i told my dad. it was one of the hardest conversations in recent memory. and then i felt very "weird" for a few days. i tried to deny the emotions that were all still bubbling. i tried to pretend i felt the same as always. but i finally called a friend and talked about some of the emotions i was feeling.

i lied to a friend this weekend. in protection, of course, but a lie all the same. the last few days i've been obsessed with exercise. and i made myself throw up--just a tiny bit--last night. today i kept thinking "why on earth is my eating disorder voice screaming at me? why do i feel so crazy?" but i denied the knowing.

i texted a friend in australia a casual question this evening and he immediately said "are you ok?" i was like "yeah, of course." but a few hours later i replied that i wasn't--and how on earth could he tell from that one question?

apparently my behavior admits things before i do. while i was with my husband, i once kissed another man while out of the country. when i came back from the trip, i apparently acted differently... FOR NINE MONTHS. because nine months later he screamed in frustration "what the hell happened on that trip?!"

oh. i'm not a good liar.

i've also felt this behavior admitting something to my world before i'm ready to admit it. but i'm still really fucking good at ignoring it. today, when i was feeling very very guilty about the purges i've been engaging in, i finally faced the source and decided to take action and un-do the lie. i'm about to untie the knot--both the one in my stomach and the one between my friend and i--and i'm scared as fuck. i don't know how he'll respond; i don't know how he'll react. but i'm finally ready.

i read this in a morning email i received the other day:
My friend is really into this man. But last night she got a text from him that he isn't really feeling the spark between them. She was crushed.

I sat with her for a while. We cried and grieved and got angry and felt sad. Toward the end of the night I said, "I know this is so painful right now, but what if rejection is God's protection?"

What if exactly the right thing is happening right now? I know you want HIM, but he is clearly not your man right now. What if he is keeping you available for a love that is moments from surprising you?

When was the last time you felt rejected?

Can you see now that the rejection that once hurt was probably the best thing to have happened? How did it redirect your path?

Like water in a river, when it hits a rock, it doesn't stop. It doesn't complain that the rock is in its way. The water sees the rock as a redirection of its path and simply keeps flowing.

When we have perspective, we can see that we were being guided by the rejection. But when we are in the middle of it, it just plain hurts.
all types of rejection hurt. whether it is real, perceived, or even anticipated. but, just like ryan says, there's always another way to look at it. and today, with all things, i'm choosing the light. because light is everything.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

armor

sometimes i feel broken.
sometimes i feel like i cover myself in armor.
sometimes i feel like i'm the only one.
sometimes i feel crazy.

and then today happens.

i hear a young man say "everyone's a little broken; we wouldn't be people if we weren't."

--i feel some armor slide away.

i get an email from someone i don't know telling me that she read my blog and mentioned "I had a particularly bad day today and am feeling quite alone, and although there is no purpose to my email other than to tell you that I really admire your courage, typing this out makes me feel a bit more connected to the universe."

--i don't feel so crazy.

the email i received was from a young woman with an eating disorder and talked about how she felt alone, about some of the shame she carries, and about how she didn't feel courageous enough to tell some of the people in her life--specifically those at work.

the email made me feel so many things: empathy, sadness, admiration, gratitude... and kind of like i was a fake. yes, sometimes my blog feels courageous. but sometimes it feels like i get to hide behind it because i'm being so open here. like i have built some armor up through all the baring.

she complimented me on my career status and about how open i was with my eating disorder. it's true that i talk about my struggles and recovery status with people at work i barely know. but there are also things i don't tell them. like when i'm late to a meeting because i had to run a little longer to make my mind feel sane before i was allowed to shower and go to the meeting. or like when i schedule things around a yoga class i feel like i just have to get to or my soul will freak out. these things could be termed "taking care of myself," or they could be termed "selfish," or even, dare i say it, "characteristic of someone with an eating disorder."

there's STUFF. there will probably always be stuff. i've let go of a lot--and i am very proud of that. but there's still the little broken pieces i keep finding under the rug; the little shells of armor stuck to my skin that haven't all chipped away. and finding them can be hard.

in some ways, i don't know where this blog is going. am i trying to build up more armor for later? am i trying desperately to feel as courageous as this lovely reader portrayed me to be? what am i trying to do?

i think it's the shame that really gets to me. i carried so much shame about binging and purging... for so long. i still do. and there is so much stigma around so many mental health issues, and about seeking help for them, that i get angry at that shame. i get angry that it even exists. and when i read this email with the words "embarrassment and shame" included in it, i felt that familiar stinging in my heart.


it's only talking, sharing, and giving a face to a health issue that can de-stigmatize it. my shame disintegrates when i don't give it any power. when i told my mom about bulimia, when i told my co-worker about my bulimia, when i told my yoga class about my bulimia, when i post a blog about bulimia on Facebook, i lose the shame. it disappears with the broken pieces under the rug, it hides under the small pieces of armor still remaining.

i can't fix the world; i can't even fix me. but i also know that i don't need to. i can let go of the armor; i know i'm already whole. and i have hope that the world is ready for that.

and, to every blog reader, but especially L: the world is ready; i believe in you.

Monday, June 22, 2015

fatherly advice

i had an amazing weekend with friends: my housewarming, a birthday for sam, an early birthday outing with anthony... but i also was feeling sad this weekend. sad about a situation not going the way i wanted it to, sad about not being able to see my family this weekend, and sad about texts with lydia who was going through her first father's day after her dad died.

best cure for feeling sad? more best friend time, obviously.

and listening to their advice.

we can receive valuable lessons from many places: parents, siblings, friends, and of course our own intuition. in all cases, we have to be willing to hear it, though.

this post is for lydia: you're never alone.
this post is for adi and martina: thank you.
this post is for all my friends going through rough times (xo erin).
this post is for me. for all of us.

i am notoriously bad at taking advice: for some reason i seem to prefer to learn things the hard way. i buck up against being told what to do. i'll come up with all of the responses for why i shouldn't listen to what someone else tells me. and, after struggling through the situation on my own for a while, i'll finally be ready to hear it.

my dad seemed to always know this about me; he is highly adept at offering soft words to me over and over until i can hear them. just like his gentle replacement of three sets of bicycle training wheels (because i leaned so heavily on the right wheel that it would bend and be rendered useless) until i could learn to ride on my own, i am grateful for that repeated support as i push my way through the world.

but what would it be like to take advice, to learn lessons, to grow... without so much struggle? what would it be like to lean on others just a little more? to ask for things when needed, to listen to what is offered?

i suppose i don't really know. except that when i started to let adi's words sink in yesterday, when i started to let them wash over me a little more, when i started to really be in them instead of fighting them, i felt safe. i felt loved. i felt a little more ready to take on the world.

advice in.

love out.

listening: tuned to on.

Monday, June 8, 2015

gracias

subtitle: "i'm not sorry. and i'm very thankful."

a few days ago i watched this clip: amy schumer's "i'm sorry." if you haven't seen it, or if you don't have 3 minutes to watch it just yet, it pokes fun of women's likelihood to apologize too often. and it's very funny.

i know i say things like "sorry, but would you mind getting me a straw?" or "sorry, but could you repeat that?" in other words, i put the word sorry in front of most requests. i have two friends that apologize so much that i sometimes ask them to rephrase their statements to me without the apology.

watching that clip last week really got me thinking about my words.

two weeks ago i was in honduras with friends. i don't speak any spanish. i know how to say "thank you," and so i said that in response to most questions. luckily i didn't need much spanish in roatan, but my friends kept trying to get me to learn spanish. my reply of "gracias," but with differing intonations (think gracias pronounced in an "excuse me?" sing-song), was pretty comedic... though i'm probably lucky i wasn't there longer than five days. i think my friends would have gotten over the novelty of how funny i was after that.

upon return to the US, standing in line at customs in NY, a five year old girl from roatan (that lives in NJ) was chatting with me. she asked if i had just come from honduras. when i said yes, she asked me to speak to her in spanish to test her skills. i laughed and said, "gracias!" she smiled and replied in spanish. i went on to explain to her how i had been using "gracias" to mean everything. she laughed and said "at least you're polite!"

true. that.

how nice is it to say thank you? how amazing is it to be grateful?

cut to two days ago. saturday i was at a hash camp out with about 99 of my closest (and about-to-be closest) friends. we did a long, hot outdoor run. once we returned, i got in the hot tub to relax. i started to feel a little weird so i got in the pool to cool off. i remember sitting in the pool just kind of looking around at everyone laughing and thinking that something was wrong. so i got up and went back to my tent to lie down. i tried to drink some water and take a nap. a restless hour later, i felt so hot that i tried to get out of the tent. however, i was so dizzy and weak, i couldn't. i flagged down help and got someone to find my friends. within minutes i had three friends taking care of me: one trained in first aid and two assisting. they were cooling me down, trying to get me to sip water, and monitoring my levels of consciousness.

i was keenly aware that my friends were missing all of the fun camp activities: hashlympics, adult slip-n-slide, pool time, volleyball, hay rides... you name it, they were missing it. i kept thinking in my head "i'm so sorry you're missing the fun!" but, being so conscious of the "i'm sorry" epidemic, i managed to suppress my apologies. every time BS wiped my back with cool water for evaporation cooling purposes, i said "thank you." each time PR went to try to find more water or ice, i said "thank you." when AM volunteered to drive us all to the hospital, "thank you."

both BS and AM spent most of their evening getting us to the hospital and providing support. PR spent all night and day at the hospital with me. and when PR and i began to worry about getting back to the campsite to get our stuff together before everyone started to leave, we received a magical text from BS and AM saying they'd pack up all our stuff, reorganize the car situation, and come to pick us up at the hospital later that afternoon. "THANK YOU."

the really funny part about all of this is that while BS was sitting there with me, he actually said to me something like "don't worry about us, or about what else we might be doing right now. just worry about what you need, spring. what do you need from us right now?" and, although i was completely unable to laugh because of my intense pain and weakness, i know i smiled. it was like he had heard my internal struggle of trying not to apologize for my state. my reply? "thank you."

so gracias. to BS, AM, PR. thank you times a million. i am grateful for your kindness, your selflessness, and your overwhelmingly beautiful souls. all my super-heart's love to you. ;)

and gracias to all my besties texting and calling and checking on me as well; your support is soothing my migraine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

write it down

writing things down gives them an importance: whether it's in the notes on your phone, a draft in your email, or tweeted/posted/blogged publicly.

i didn't used to believe that simply writing something down gave it power. now i find it hard to believe how much power.

last year i was doing some life coaching with elena and she had us make a list of dreams for the year. i skeptically made a list, including things on the list that i didn't even think were really possible.

among the items that i had been told were impossible or had no reason to expect that would happen: 1) receive ARC funding (check), 2) become an associate professor (check). at the end of the year, when i found that list in my phone, i almost freaked out. i hadn't even applied for the CUNY job when i made that list--i had no reason to believe that i would be able to get to where i am now at that point. sure, i had a hand in those things happening. but writing them down gave them a place in my mind, a sense of priority.

the same thing can happen in reverse. do you know what else i write down every day? how many calories i've eaten and how much i've worked out. this is one of those pieces of an eating disorder that i've termed "ok" for my life. it isn't actively hurting me, so why not?

because i'm giving it power. i don't even ever look back over my past days. it just gives me some sort of comfort knowing i have it in a list.

but it's also embarrassing: when i update the list, i'm terrified that someone will look over my shoulder and see what i'm typing. i envision my friend next to me asking "why are you writing down '45 mins run' in your phone?" my secret answer: "um, because i'm afraid that it doesn't count if i don't write it in this list right this second." hmm. clearly that doesn't make sense.

i've been writing down my exercise and food intake since i was little. my parents paid my sister and i to do so when we were young--it was about making sure we were getting our fruits and vegetables and dairy per day, etc. i don't think this version was bad parenting, but i've been doing variations of this for 22 years now, and sometimes with dangerous levels of obsession. there were points when i weighed food and wrote down exactly how many calories, protein, and fat in each serving of each thing i had that day. i carried a notebook with me everywhere. now i "just" make notes of exercise and a running tally of calories for the day.

some of my closest friends know about this, but i've delayed writing about it because i was afraid of what anyone might say about the initial food diary keeping my parents encouraged. but let me say this in their defense: my sister never even completed hers when she was getting paid for it. me, on the other hand? i chose this behavior as a safety net. i chose to take it into adulthood.

so why am i writing about it now? because i'm tired of it. i'm ready to let go a little more. and i had some motivation yesterday: i received this message via facebook from amy.
Hi spring! Not sure if you'd remember me...but I was also and instructor at Penn state! I graduated in '08. I was also a BBH major! Anyways I recently completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training....amazing!! So I have been reflecting back on all the inspiring teachers I've had along the way and you're one of them!! I always loved your classes at PSU...they offered a little something more than just fitness. And you were also a great female role model to look up to as I was just an ungrad and you were working your PhD! You totally emulated girl power!! I enjoy reading your blogs because it's always on a theme that anyone can resonant with! It just shows that by being a bit vulnerable and opening yourself up you really can connect on a deeper level! Anyways I just wanted to share this with you because as I look forward to a new blog post I realized that you probably don't know how influential you are! So thank you Spring for being such a great teacher!
there are some days when writing things down makes more of a difference than we know. did amy know that message would hit me today? that it would inspire me right back? probably not. but that's what happened. (amy, that was one of the most beautiful messages i've ever received; thank you.) and i'm going to place attention a little more thoughtfully: 1) i'm making a new dreams-for-the-year list, and 2) i'm no longer going to write down my exercise activity. i want the dreams to have power; i don't want the disordered eating behaviors to have power.

when i was unpacking the things that arrived from sydney last week (FINALLY!!!), i found a notebook of exercise notes from 2008. yeah, i still had it; i always saved them. as evidence.

guess where the notebook is now? in the garbage.

i dare you to dream.

and xo amy.