Thursday, February 11, 2016

identity of love

one of my best friends recently told that she was sad because she was no longer a girlfriend. when i asked her why that made her so sad (despite her beautiful friend-filled and fulfilling work life), she replied "being a girlfriend is the thing i'm best at."

i remember feeling like that.  i remember going back to relationships that weren't good for me, despite knowing i shouldn't be in them. despite my friends' advice.  despite any evidence to the contrary.

this friend of mine finally escaped a long-term unhealthy and unhappy relationship.  i'm so proud of her. and i know she is happy now and doesn't doubt her new life.  but i also understand her thought pattern... especially in mid-february.  identifying yourself through a romantic relationship is shockingly normal in our society.

it's pervasive: we publish it through "Facebook official" relationships; we call friend's partners by "so and so's boyfriend (or girlfriend)" instead of by name; we often expect women to take their partner's name in marriage...

i don't think any of this is "good" or "bad" necessarily, but it does become problematic when we start to identify ourselves through our relationships.  i've become lost in relationships before: i've lost my identity; i've lost my sense of self.  and that's probably why her statement affected me so strongly: because i could identify that version of myself that felt like that, and how bad it felt.

i'm really stressed at work right now: there are a ton of things we are working on.  yesterday i was looking through three computer's worth of old files, trying to find something i had written earlier to use for a new project at work.  as i searched, i found a document that looked out of place.  i didn't recognize the title, so i opened it.  this is what i found:
Recurring Nightmare

I try to ignore the constant messages I’m left:
A toxic ex who calls nearly every day.

I try not to think about the memories we share:
At restaurants, grocery stores, bars, the gym…
They persist.

The more I try to purge myself of the relationship,
The more its benefits seem to intensify:
I’m haunted by my ex-best friend/new worst enemy.

“Come on, one more time won’t hurt,
One last go, for old time’s sake;
You know you want to.”

I’m beckoned,
Seduced, and then...
Enthralled again.

I fall into the trap.

My friends tell me to let go, move on:
“You’re better than that!”

My unnatural obsession with the relationship
Confuses people
It steps on the toes of—breaks the kneecaps of—
New relationships; nourishing, amazing,
Filling relationships

And leaves me empty.

So I propose the series;
The "How to Escape Culture’s Influence" Encyclopedia, starting with:

How to Break Up with your Eating Disorder.
Written as a reference.
It would be proudly displayed on every therapist’s shelf;
It would be hidden away in every adolescent girl’s room.

It would have to be a series:
How to Break Up with your Eating Disorder,
How to Meet a Rational Attitude about Food,
How to Hook a Healthy Idea of Exercise,
How to Have a Discriminatory Relationship with the Media,
How to Marry your Positive Body Image,
How to Nurture your Long-term Relationship with your Self…

Because I know that even as I awake from the nightmare,
Again,

Another girl is falling for the same lines.

woah.  *chills*

i don't remember exactly when i wrote that, but it was several years ago. finding it yesterday, after i had already started this blog entry, seemed extra-eerie.

even though i don't like the hold bulimia still tries to exert, there's an old familiarity to the thoughts and behaviors associated with it.  especially when i'm super stressed.  feeling like all my brain power is going to academic endeavors?  easy solution: use old habits of eating/exercise/stress avoidance to get through the day.

i've gotten lost in my eating disorder before.  i've gone back to it over and over.  i've ignored friends' advice.  the familiarity, and the implicit identity that seems to go with it, is so tempting.

(disclaimer: i'm doing fine)

the point is that there is some layer, hiding below the surface, that still likes this eating disorder identity; there is some part of me that still wants to be in this relationship.  i don't think it is a big part. but the sentiment of my friend's candid admission rings true here: "i'm fucking good at this relationship."

you know what is not a good reason for being involved in any type of relationship?
because we are good at it
because it is comfortable
because we identify as part of it

sometimes the extraction is easy.  but often there's layers and layers of it to get through.

but underneath the layers?
self-love
self-identity
self

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

sydney to NYC//turtle

last year at this time was one of the most stressful, scary, sad, and... exciting times in my life.  jan 9th the movers came; jan 10-11th were the going away parties for roxie and i; the 12-14th were finish EVERYthing up days; and jan 15 matt boarded a plane with roxie and i to fly to LA. i took a few days in LA to decompress and see besties there (holla, laurel/LYDIA!). and then, on jan 20th, roxie and i flew to NYC and met anthony's welcoming arms.

two weeks ago my dean at the school of public health asked me if i thought i made the right decision in accepting the job here in NYC.  i didn't really think too much about it when he asked; i just replied with how happy i was working for him, which is true.  but that transition has been hellish at times.  and i definitely didn't take the decision-making process lightly.  one year on, i can hardly believe that i'm here, on the other side of the transition.

the main thing i know is that i definitely have two homes.  i still feel at home in sydney, even though i'm not there.  i feel at home here, and laugh at myself when i think about how scared i was of NYC.  but i don't feel so much like i have one foot on each continent any more.  i feel settled here.  i feel like i know the groove of work, the yoga peeps, how to navigate the commutes (except when i trip and fall on my face), and where to go for the best bagels or brunch.  it's comforting to know i can be at my parents' house after only a few short hours on amtrak; it's heartwarming to know i've already spent time with my new nephew three times since his birth less than 10 months ago.

as someone who has spent her entire childhood moving, i know what it's like to have to pack up.  feeling at home in a certain community or city is something that is less familiar to me.  sydney was the first place i really remember feeling that, and i think it's kind of like letting go of a first love to admit that i feel at home here now.  it took me about six years to fully let go of my first love, and that relationship was less than a year.  so i don't expect to be able to let go of the heartbreak of loving another city just yet.

last night adi asked me why i was so upset about a fight with a friend.  i thought for a moment, and came up with two reasons: i don't like giving up on people; and i've spent my life losing friends--i'm not interested in losing more.  i was kind of shocked when i heard myself say it, but i know it's true.  i've left behind more best friends than most people have in their entire lives.  writing hand-written letters as a child was hard to keep up with.  i would always do it for a few months and then eventually lose contact.  sure, online social networks have helped me reconnect with some, but it's not the same as having a continuous long-term friendship.

i know i'm also lucky; i can visit friends in most states and continents.  but i think this is also why leaving sydney was the hardest.  i had been there so long that i felt at home in the city and in my friendships.  i know that i haven't "lost" sydney, or the friendships there.  but they change. and this girl that was so used to moving away didn't want to have to be used to it anymore.


but after the last 8 years, i'm now used to something else: making my home through non-traditional methods.  my friends and family that i hold in my heart are there most often through Facebook, Instagram, Skype, email, texts, Twitter, FaceTime, Snapchat, Tumblr, WhatsApp, shared photo clouds, etc.

and so i'm home here now.  my virtual home surrounds me and all of my best friends live in my heart; regardless of their physical location.  just call me a turtle: i'm carrying it all with me, it all constantly swirls in and around me, and that is how i feel at home.

so to everyone who keeps asking how i feel here: home, i feel home.  if you're not here physically, i am excited to be in the same place as you soon.  if you are here, thank you for helping make this my home.

Friday, January 1, 2016

eating. sitting. being.

on a day when most of the western world recommits to being healthy by starting exercise programs, i chose the same goal, but by doing the opposite.  today i: ate food, sat still, and took a day off. 

doing that was really hard for me.  i had planned it over the past week: make sure i get in all the running and yoga i wanted to do in advance so i could start my year off with resting my body.  maybe that was cheating; maybe i should've committed to taking a day off no matter what.  cheating or not, it was still hard.

the reason it was hard was because it was breaking my routine--the same reason that starting an on-going exercise program is hard for a majority of people.

no-make-up-resting-day-cat-selfie
at brunch this morning i actually panicked about the day.  i said to PR: "um, can you plan my day for me?  what am i going to do if i don't have to spend the afternoon exercising?" he brainstormed for me, and i went home, rather unconfidently.  once home i panicked again and ended up talking to a long-distance bestie for a few hours. 

the call was an overdue catch-up that lasted until late afternoon.  once it was over i needed another meal, and it was almost dark.  i felt relieved in a way: this meant i wouldn't really need to try to invent more excuses for myself not to run.  and as i got up to feed myself and cat, i thought, "today hasn't been so terrible; in fact, i feel happy."

i don't like making resolutions--i like trying to live healthfully, heartfully, and happily.  if i made resolutions, one might include trying to live more like today.

--enter the point where i considered ending this blog post--

ok.  there's another confession.  there was something else i did in the past few days getting ready to take a day off.  this wasn't an intentional plan.  it was one that got subtly implanted by a friend and that the remnants of my eating disorder fed (ironically) quite rapidly.

i considered not writing about this; not even talking about it.  and that is a sure sign that i needed to post it. 

three nights ago a friend suggested we didn't need a whole dinner; we just needed a light snack.  two nights ago we kind of slipped into that pattern together again.  last night i chose to deepen the groove of the pattern by skipping dinner before going out to a NYE party. 

i told PR i was going to skip dinner, and he fought me, but i rationalized i had had a late brunch and didn't feel hungry. afterward i had a lovely night--i didn't feel anxious about calories, and i didn't feel anxious about the new year's day off.

and then in the middle of the night, at 5am, lying in bed, i thought "oh. my. god.  i skipped dinner three nights in a row.  that is not healthy behavior."

i'm not a meal skipper.  i've never been a meal skipper.  this morning i was horrified to realize how quickly this had felt normal.  i was also horrified to post about this; to have my parents potentially worry about me, to have my loved ones potentially worry about things they say to me over potential ramifications.

but i recognized it.  i stopped the pattern.  i told my closest friends about it for support.  i put it here. 

even deeply-ingrained patterns, eating disordered choices that have circled though my mind for years, can change. i know this.  i live this.  i choose this life. 

so whatever choice you want to make today, and the next day, and the next day, is possible.  it doesn't have to be a resolution.  it doesn't have to even be a promise or a commitment.  it's just a choice each time.  and a little faith in yourself for trusting that inner self to know which choice is the right one.

Monday, December 14, 2015

double presence (and presents)

wednesday morning i received an email with this message:
Don't wait for something good to happen to you. Go out into the world with the intention to lift up the people around you and then see as good happens in return.

Say to yourself this morning "I am a gift, my presence is my offering."

Put a smile on your face and go into the world and give your joy away.

Watch as you get joy back. Watch as the effect you have on others lights you up. No matter where you go, you get to be the loving gift others need. You get to be the reminder of a loving world.
it was beautifully timed, as this whole idea of being present and offering my presence has been ringing through my life over and over this week: i've heard it through pictures, a podcast, emails, from friends, and (of course) in yoga classes.

this blog is about offering presence. which is more than just being present. it's actually like double-presence: there's an extra amount of presence that you have to pull off to be able to reflect your presence and offer it to those in your life.

level-up.

my friend's brother made this.  check him here!
i taught a yoga class wednesday with this theme: we focused on this very idea of offering our presence as a present. we lit ourselves up with bouncy love so that it could be reflected back out into the lives of our loved ones that day. and we practiced re-wiring our thinking to think of ourselves in that way.

and then, as i made my way through the day, i watched as the extra time i spent with a university student lit her up. i saw how when i stopped and smiled and chatted to an older doorman in front of a building downtown, he lit up. i found extra energy to make dinner for my friend that evening and watched him light up in return. i kept giving pieces of myself, and i watched it reflect light right back to me.

so there were successes. there are successes.  but. being so fully present in myself is ongoing work. friday night i was getting ready for a dinner out with friends, and i changed my clothes about seven times--maybe nine--because i felt so uncomfortable in my body; too big.

trying to shrink is typical eating-disorder behavior. i can recognize that my beliefs are not based in reason.i can recognize that i'm not seeing what other people are seeing.  i can recognize that i'm sabotaging my own presence.

in that hour, i was pulling away from myself: shrinking is the opposite of fully inhabiting my body. i was pulling away from my friends: i was late in the offering of my presence. this mini struggle felt so uncomfortable to be present within. and it was the polar opposite of double-presence.

extra practice, please.

i have one friend who continually reminds me of the value of his presence. i sometimes find this hilariously amusing. but mostly i'm completely in awe. his presence is on-point.

so my self-challenge and my holiday challenge to you, as things start to whirl around you, is two-fold: 1) be so fully present that you are double present, and 2) offer your presence.

and then, see what happens.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

things i forgot

last night i was in albuqurque at a little gift shop. i spent an hour there looking at gifts and talking to the shop owners about their handiwork. when it was time to pay, they asked me to pay with cash or check. when i said i couldn't, and that i was leaving in the morning, they suggested i send a check to the shop once i landed in new york.

i felt uncomfortable with this, and asked her if i could send money via paypal, venmo, or any other way. the shop owner told me, no, it was fine, just leave with all the gifts and pay her when i got home.

i walked out of the store, i felt so... weird. i was grateful. i was amazed. i couldn't believe the trust. the kindness.

the trust.

the amount of trust she put in me felt unreasonable on one level. but, on the other hand, she had spent an hour talking to me, and understanding things about me. maybe she did know me enough to trust me. maybe i should expect a level of trust like that.

trusting myself has been a long hard road.


sometimes i forget.


and then sometimes things remind me.


a television show with a character that is binging and purging where they actually discuss tips she is using to purge "better."

the podcast i listened to where they talk about pro-eating disorder websites.

these things remind me about my history: i used to visit a pro-ana/mia website every night after binging and purging. i used to look at the "recovery" section and convince myself that the reason i was on the site was to help me with recovery tips. but then i would look at other sections. this site, in fact, is where i learned many "helpful" tips.

those evenings full of self-hate led me to make promises to myself: "i can't check-in to an inpatient clinic now, because i'm still finishing my phd. but as soon as i finish, i'll go."

"i can spend a summer in germany, i probably won't binge and purge there--i won't even really have the opportunity."

but i broke every promise. i broke so many promises to myself that it became weird to trust myself. it became normal to NOT trust myself. so normal, in fact, that when other people trusted me, whether strangers; like in albuqurque; or people i'm dating, i'm alarmed. why would someone trust me so much?

yesterday, when the shop owner trusted me, i felt this glow: maybe she trusts everyone like that, or... maybe i was trustworthy... so trustworthy that she could see it?

this morning i practiced trusting myself. i ate two breakfasts: one before and one after my run. i ran how far i wanted to, instead of how far i felt like i should. i practiced a soft yoga class instead of pushing myself.

clearly it's ongoing. and maybe forgetting some of those old un-trusts with myself is another step.

maybe i should trust myself like other people do.

no.

i will trust myself.

Friday, October 30, 2015

putting the gold in golden

be nice; treat others how you want to be treated. don't say something you wouldn't want to hear yourself. don't TEXT something you wouldn't want to read yourself.

blah blah blah

where's the real gold in the golden rule?

i think it's recognizing how we should be treated; how we deserve to be treated; how we should treat ourselves.

i read this blog today about those messages we say to ourselves every day. my favorite part is where she says that we are never going to criticize ourselves into something. it's true: we know that if we want someone else to do something, we are nice to them; we compliment them and work to motivate them. but if we want to do something for ourselves, we often berate ourselves and minimize any steps we've taken toward our goal.

today a friend messaged me: "I'm in need of one of your blog postings to a) motivate me to make the changes I need to and b) tell me I am good enough the way I am." i was honored to receive that message. but she didn't really need me. she needed herself.

but, even in saying that, i know how she feels. when you aren't happy with something in your life, external motivation feels stronger than the internal voice that is often the opposite of motivating. my internal voice beats me up for not running one day out of the week... but it never compliments me for the other six days. it never tells me what a great job i'm doing at, well, most things in my life.

i have this new cat. cat stevens (cat for short) is a very sweet and loving one-year-old that likes cuddling and is fantastic at not jumping and scratching. when i brought him home on tuesday, i was shaking. i've cared for other people's pets. i've cared for other people's children. but i've never been solely responsible for a living thing. (well, other than plants. and those have all died rather quickly.) i called my sister (who has a six month old new baby) and commiserated. "MY LIFE IS JUST LIKE YOUR LIFE NOW!!!"

...or something like that.

i noticed this new side of me emerging: i was wanting to rush home to check on cat; i was looking forward to nesting and cuddling with him; i wanted all my friends to meet him and bond with him. in other words, i was treating him like gold. like i wanted to be treated. like i wanted to treat myself.

why don't i run home to pamper myself regularly? to spend time with myself? to spend quality time with my friends as a priority?

my advice to my friend that messaged me? look to the things you are grateful for. list them. acknowledge them. move forward from that place of acknowledgment.

i'm grateful for the run i completed today; the friends i get to spend time with tonight; the plane that i'm currently blogging from; and the motivation to treat myself well--the motivation that blooms both internally and externally.

keep moving forward; keep motivating yourself and those you care about, whether or not they're human. (enter halloween zombie/vampire references.)

love.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

dear diary

when i was home last weekend, i found my childhood diary. it was locked, so i then had to find a hammer.

ok, adi had to find a hammer.

once inside, i curiously read through entries written from 7-15 years of age. it was pretty hilarious: i titled each entry (much like a blog post), and numbered all the pages so that i could say "see page 62" for updates on past topics (paper-based keyword search!).

i also went back and re-wrote some of the early entries with better handwriting... and then made a note that i shouldn't have done that, and apologized to my future self for doing so.

i found it very important to record events of note, especially every birthday gift i received and on which days my sister was a brat (titled "shayna the pain-a").

the thing that stuck out the most to me, though, was the amount of change from there to here. case in point, this entry about how i hated the whole state of california because it was in that state that my parents sent me to a sexuality education class:
"I knew I wouldn't like it here as much as I did in MS. I took a sex education. Everyone always seems to be talking about it. I don't feel comfortable. I didn't know hardly anything about it in MS. I liked it there much more. see pg. 41--I was right"
(page 41 was before the move, when i worried about how terrible living in california--and spelling it--would be.) and now? i dare you to try to engage in a conversation with me where i do not mention sexual health. change.

and thank god people can change. we shouldn't go around expecting people to change in the direction we want them to, but the true miracle is that we can and do all change. it happens in our own opinions and attitudes; it happens in our relationships; it happens in our yoga practice. the change goes up, it goes back, it goes around a bit, and then it flips. expecting or guessing at the direction of change: impossible? worthless? a waste of time?

yesterday i received a text from someone that hurt me about six weeks ago. receiving the text was a little unsettling--it kind of came out of nowhere. i had to sort through my feelings by texting with approximately 16 of my closest friends.

what did i figure out? it took a sleepless night to tell me that i was clearly still bothered by this, and while i appreciated the text, i kind of didn't know what to do from there. i'm not the same person i was six weeks ago. and, as evidenced by the apology text, the sender isn't either. change.

i'm not about to launch into some deep analysis of this situation. quite the opposite actually. i am left with this feeling of gratitude: i am grateful that we can change. i'm grateful for my growth; i'm grateful for the growth those around me experience. and i'm pretty amazed at our overall levels of morphability.

but, on the other hand, the other evidence the diary presented was my desire to write, to record, to be precise, and to make sure my reader felt fully informed and could understand the whole story. and THAT is still me. 28 years later: very much the same. and, yet... so. much. change.

ps: sorry i said you were a pain, sister. i love you!