Monday, November 28, 2016

promises promises

i love the results a consistent meditation practice brings. but for a while i lost my practice.  as in i think it wandered off while i was shopping, and no amount of PA system calling could place it.

ok clearly it didn't wander off.  but that's what it felt like.  it surely wasn't my fault that i lost it. i had been waking up early to meditate every morning for 6 months straight.  i made an international trip to sydney and continued the practice, despite the irregular hours and erratic schedule while there.  upon arriving back in nyc, though, my sleep was the most disrupted it had ever been, and my meditation practice got lost in the jumble.  for the following 6 months, i meditated irregularly: a couple of times a week, when it was most convenient.

mostly, i beat myself up for not meditating.  mornings that i woke up later than intended were begun with a rush to get brekky and a thought that i'd ruined my meditation plan. i would silently feel bad about this, think about the things i could be accomplishing if i had meditated and had a clear slate to work from, and then grumpily go about getting out the door.

despite knowing how the daily meditation practice helped me, i felt like there was some mental block keeping me from re-engaging with the practice. a couple of weeks ago i attended a coaching call with elena and laurie from the handel group on keeping promises. when laurie asked for examples of promises we were having trouble keeping, i mentioned this lost meditation.

elena and laurie talked about how feeling bad is a diversion.  when it comes to making and keeping promises, engaging in the promised behavior provides you with personal integrity.  if you don’t do the behavior and then feel bad about it, you obscure the fact that you didn’t do the behavior.  so what’s happening is you’re listening to the other voice that provides you with an excuse.

this means that every morning i woke up without meditating and then silently yelled at myself up for not doing so, my mind felt like i had taken care of the problem.  i was actually giving myself more of an excuse to continue NOT meditating.  

you have to quiet that excuse voice by giving yourself a consequence when you don't engage in the promised behavior.  if you don’t do the promised behavior, you have to follow through by doing the consequence. this consequence replaces the voice that gives you an excuse.

although i've worked with the handel method before, i was skeptical that simply setting a consequence would magically find my wandering meditation practice.  but, i set a consequence: if i did not wake up early and meditate for 20 minutes, i would not be allowed to watch internet tv before bed.  (what i like about that consequence is that it is also providing me with a second opportunity for meditation if i miss the morning.)

i set the consequence and instantly i was back on track: my missing practice showed up. and it has been showing up every day for the past 12 days.  i told my mom about this, and she said "you must really like to watch tv at night!" i laughed, because i suppose i do, but that's not actually what happened here.  for example, when my alarm goes off, i don't think "i better get up and meditate so i can watch tv tonight!" i don't think at all, really.  i just do it.

this is an example of personal integrity: of wanting to keep that promise to myself.  of showing myself i CAN keep the promise.  of becoming dependent on myself.

the coolest part of that is that it is SUPER EASY. showing yourself that you can keep these promises to yourself gives you faith in yourself. and that faith keeps multiplying.

go ahead, try it.  maybe you could care less about where your meditation practice is.  but maybe you beat yourself up about delaying email replies, about not flossing, or about choosing a sugary drink over water.  choose one of those little things that has been driving you nuts, make yourself some promises promises... and then keep them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

gratitude for what we attract

monday night i went to yoga and the teacher started talking about "gratitude, since thanksgiving is next week."  WHAT?! --yeah, i audibly yelled that in yoga class.  how the hell did thanksgiving sneak up on us?   (no, no, i know how; please don't bring that up.)  after that class, i began reflecting on my gratitude practice.  i've gone through different stages of keeping gratitude diaries and finding lessons i can be grateful for in each life experience.

the gratitude experience that stuck out in my mind was probably the first time i actively used gratitude in a difficult situation: i was having a break-up conversation with someone i didn't want to break up with--he was the initiator.  instead of reacting when he accused me of things, i silently reminded myself that i was grateful he was even talking to me, and then responded from a calm place.  when he called me a liar, i reminded myself that i was grateful he had overcome his fears about coming over, and responded with grace.

the gratitude i silently washed that conversation with changed the trajectory of that morning and of my future relationship with that individual.  we moved forward as friends, for which i was grateful.

shifting to an attitude of gratitude does have the power to change our experiences.  after contemplating that for the past few days, i incorporated a gratitude shifting practice into the yoga classes i taught this morning.  leaving class, i was feeling grounded and ready to tackle the day.

as part of my grab-my-day-by-the-horns, i texted someone and told them i needed them to do some healing before i could spend more time with them. it was a very hard text to write/conclusion to come to.  mainly because i care about the person, but also because i'm not great at boundaries: i often let other people's needs outweigh my own.  i had to protect myself in this situation, even though i didn't want to.

i felt a pain at letting this person go, even if only temporarily. but i also felt grateful that i had the strength to set that boundary for myself.  coincidentally (or, perhaps, cosmically), i found something moments after sending the text that i had copied for myself months ago from a friend's friend's blog (written by Rosie Rees):
You have attracted this person, relationship and situation into your life to GROW through it. They are mirroring back shadow elements of ourselves that we have not claimed. It is NOT your responsibility or duty to change them. They need to do that themselves.
let me just point out that i think the above statement is always true, which is why i tucked it aside for myself, but you know how some days some things just ring like SUPER TRUE?  (yes, "super true" is definitely a phrase you should be using now.)

i needed to be reminded that it wasn't my responsibility to help this person through all of their difficulties, especially when they weren't asking that of me. but what was most helpful to me was being reminded that i was seeing a reflection of myself in this person: i was watching him cope with his life difficulties by sliding back into alcohol/drug use.  moreover, i observed this as i was testing out not using any type of numbing agents.

he was the first person i went on a sober first date with--just a week into my original 40 day experiment. so as i was learning that i didn't need excessive alcohol in my life, my lessons were even more crystallized by the fact that he was experiencing negative ramifications from his own use.

i hope that he continues to grow and heal, but i know it isn't my job to arrange that.  however, it is up to me to decide how i feel now, after sending that text this morning.  and instead of being sad for losing him, i choose to be grateful for his appearance in my life at this time.

so just as i challenged my yoga classes this morning, see what you can shift by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. we can be grateful for even the seemingly worst aspects of our lives.  there are several instances in my life that i could point to and say "that really sucked," but flipping that around is actually equally easy, and much more fulfilling.

i am grateful for my husband leaving our home; i was able to grow and heal in ways i would not have been able to without that impetus. i am grateful for my struggle with bulimia; it has taught me more about myself and my relationships than another avoidance mechanism that i could have more easily blended into society's allowances.

i am grateful i have learned to set boundaries for myself; i am grateful i can choose to see gratitude in each moment. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

bye bye judgement, hello love

i worked the elections all day yesterday in harlem. i watched disenfranchised voters who suspected that, when i told them that were in the wrong polling location, it was because of a conspiracy to keep them from voting. (it was actually that two polling districts used to be in one building and one of them had moved 400 feet away.) despite the challenges, harlem voters turned up and voted in droves: my precinct had about seven times the turnout as in the last election. 

it broke my heart to hear their assumptions yesterday, but it really broke my heart walking around harlem today.

this morning i had decided that i was not getting out of bed to teach my two early morning harlem yoga classes. i figured everyone would hibernate through the day, and i knew i had nothing to offer in my teaching. but my conscience got the best of me and i showed up... and students showed up. 

at the end of the first class i taught, a young black woman from north carolina started sobbing, saying that she didn't know how she could live through the next four years.  a couple other women and i encircled her, held her, talked with her, and cried with her.

i didn't know how to respond to voters yesterday who didn't believe me; i didn't know what to teach in yoga this morning; i didn't know how to comfort the crying student this morning. i did what i could in each instance, following heart and offering what internal gifts i could find: feeling our sameness.

in "the universe has your back," gabby talks about separation, and all the ways that we make ourselves separate. sometimes it is easy to feel sameness, like when people commiserate with you about a shared loss. but other times, the separation and judgement feels so great.

i woke up at 134 am this morning to a message from a friend in sydney: "lucky you are a dual citizen!" it read. i knew instantly what the results of the election were.  and in that second, i felt separate.  alone.

i instantly blamed others for the results of the election and thus they became the source of my pain. but the blaming and separation didn't comfort me, and i was left feeling that nothing could.

then i was reminded of one day last week when i was freaking out about not having enough time to run as long as i wanted to. i only had time for a shorter run and i started out feeling angry that i hadn't left enough time to run. but i decided to try to change that: i decided to wish a positive thought to each person i ran by. like "i wish you love; i wish you happiness; i wish you abundance" etc. i ended up having an amazing run and feeling great. ...i felt like each person i passed was on my team.

so today, i remembered that experiment from last week's run.  when i looked at the maps of red vs blue, i wished positive thoughts for the voters who disagree with me.  when i got angry or sad thinking about the results of the election, i thought of the humanness we all share. when i let go of blaming and separating myself from them, my heart softened and i could feel healing.

love.  the more we respond from a place of love, the more we can all heal ourselves and our country. (so i guess the short answer is, no, i'm not moving back to sydney just yet.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

next destiny

tonight i got a text from my husband; it told me that i'm now divorced.  four years after our split, we are finally divorced.

i didn't know how to reply to the text.  i wanted to say something elegant; i wanted to process everything i was feeling; i wanted us to heal our wounds. 

i replied "oh my god."

*****************************************

i did a two day teacher training with elena this weekend.  upon arriving, elena had us draw cards from a deck.  each card had a quote.  mine was:

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
--FRANK OUTLAW


i like the quote; i like thinking that what we practice becomes us. i also like that we can create our destiny; and, that if we read deeper, we can change our destiny.

which is what i've been focusing on for the past 5 weeks. 37 days of no calorie counting, no drinking, no mood altering anything.   each day has gotten easier.  and now i feel better than normal about food and exercise. better than normal because i know what it is like to feel so undeniably obsessed with it. saturday i drank a juice without examining the calorie label.  sunday i'm pretty sure i had four full meals.  monday i ate some yogurt from a larger tub without measuring out a 1/2 cup serving so i'd know the calorie count.  these things all seem like actual miracles to me.

sunday night, at the end of the yoga training, i approached elena in a panic about my 40 days being almost up.  elena looked me in the eyes, grabbed my mala beads that were around my neck, pulled my face nose to nose with hers, and told me that she had an easy solution: she assigned me 40 more days.  i instantly felt relieved and thus knew that she was right in her assignment.

and i started to think about what it really was that i was in recovery from.  yes, the eating disorder; yes, i'm not using other substances right now... but was there a single addiction here? 

i think it's that i was addicted to numbing feelings and avoiding feeling hard emotions. and i do need another 40 days to continue to find my way without returning to any of the number of avoidant crutches i've used.

*****************************************

it's that addiction which i will now openly credit with accelerating the dissolution of my past relationships. 

processing the text tonight was surprisingly hard, despite the fact that the divorce was not at all sudden. friends questioned "is it because it's the end of a chapter?" "is it because you weren't expecting it?" "is it because of the way he told you?"  i kept saying that i didn't know.  lydia facetimed me from sydney, immediately upon receiving my text, and encouraged me to cry it out and try to determine what i was feeling.  when i still couldn't understand it, she prescribed meditation.

i meditated.  i sat.  i followed my breath.  i was present.  all the attempted processing, the breathing, even the meditation didn't identify what felt so hard about that text.  but, i did what i've almost never done: i sat with the hard feelings. instead of allowing myself to shrink inside a constricted breath, i was able to expand my breathing.

i would tell my best friend, who just soberly processed the death of her grandmother so beautifully: i'm proud of you.  I'M SO PROUD OF YOU.

so i breathe a deep breath, an expanded breath, into that pride i try to direct back toward myself. 

and i swear i can feel my next destiny inside that breath.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Halfway to Barbados

I was in the Miami airport, halfway to Barbados, and one of my favorite songs came through my iPhone headphones: “Moments,” by Tove Lo.  Partial lyrics: “I can get a little drunk/I get into all the don’ts/but on good days, I’m charming as fuck.”  Every time I hear those lyrics, I smile.  And I identify.  

Until I was halfway to Barbados. I was smiling, mouthing along to the lyrics, walking toward my gate, and, upon hearing those lyrics, I thought, “oh, that’s kinda sad.”

And I stopped in my tracks.  I actually stopped walking because I felt so confused. 

I have had a narrative in my head that I’m strong, even though I’m broken; that I’m surviving, even though I’m broken; that I’m functioning, even though I’m broken.

And when I paused to consider what was wrong, halfway through “Moments,” I realized it was a miracle moment: what was wrong was that I didn’t feel broken anymore. 

I smiled.  I smiled so big that I must have looked a little crazy to, well, everyone else in the airport. And I thought to myself, “I’m whole. I’m whole now.”

Feeling whole felt so fulfilling, and so different than anything I could remember, that it felt startling.  It feels scary for me to write: scary because I’m nervous that the feeling of wholeness might be transient.  My literal mind says, “but of course I was always whole; I just forgot.” And so I begin typing, assuring myself it’s safe to commit to digital ink.

The shift could be linked to the 40 days, friends’ life changes, the spontaneous impending vacation, the yoga workshops with Elena over the past two days, the reading and journaling I have been doing with Gabby’s new book The Universe Has Your Back, …or most likely a little bit of all of the above.

One of the lessons Gabby references from A Course in Miracles is that we “create visions of the world we want to see,” meaning that the stories we tell ourselves are powerful. The backstory to who we are, even if it is never written down or spoken aloud, resounds through our minds. 

The truth is, I liked thinking of myself as broken.  I liked the fragility and girlishness about it. I played into it. I felt like it gave me character.

But it was an excuse. The more I challenged the notion that I was broken, even though I wasn’t always doing it consciously, the harder it became to believe.  Until the Miami Miracle Moment, when it became impossible to believe.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

icarus

it's the evening of day 20 of my 40 day challenge.  40 days of no substances and no calorie counting.  20 days in: i've learned a few things.

a la movies   
no substances: i'm fun, and can party just as ridiculously sans alcohol.  i've been out with friends drinking late on weekend evenings, dancing til the wee hours, totally sober.  well, okay, maybe the diet cokes hyped me up a bit. so maybe 99% sober. 

some people haven't been inviting me to things as much, fearful that i wouldn't go or that i wouldn't have fun without being able to drink. but i don't blame them; i would probably suspect the same of most of my friends. luckily i also have a bestie who is doing the challenge with me.  and we look very cute sober at a movie on a saturday night.

first dates, cocktail parties where i don't know anyone, and business dinners are all a little terrifying without any alcohol. however, i've met a few brave dates open to the challenge, and made friends at parties and dinners despite the sobriety.

personally, i've been feeling more confident and happy: realizing i'm fun on my own and that i can make it through these events sober has translated into less fear overall.   the confidence has even bled into other areas of my life.  i've stood up for myself with colleagues that weren't listening to my expertise, and i've expressed my needs to friends and partners more readily. 

it's also made me much more sympathetic to people who have quit drinking.  i've always thought that recovering from bulimia was very hard because food is something that is necessary: you cannot exist in a world where people do not eat.  although i had sympathy for anyone in any type of recovery, i still felt like "but you don't HAVE to be around (insert drug or alcohol here) if you don't want to!"

but i don't know how true that is for alcohol, really.  it's quite pervasive in our social lives.  although i'm quite happy not drinking right now, i also know that it's not forever.  so to my sober peeps: i'm sorry if i minimized your struggle, even if only in my own mind.  also: i'm totes up for sober parties, even after my 40 days are up.

no counting: eating without counting every bite and calculating each calorie is way less stressful.  i never liked counting every chip at the mexican restaurant, or estimating how many tablespoons of ketchup i just squeezed on to my plate. i was doing it to ease the craziness in my brain, but it was actually only contributing to it.  (i know, i know, if you have never dealt with this issue, it sounds like a "DUH" statement.)

i'm more present when i'm eating with friends.  i listen to them talking instead of re-counting the number of calories i have consumed thus far at the meal.  i can reply to them and engage in conversation instead of calculating whether i have enough calories left in my day to have a bite of the dessert they ordered.

it has been hard, a million moments of each day.  i've created a few thought exercises to distract myself when i start to try to count something on my plate when eating alone or start to try to remember all the things i've eaten in a day. (they involve trying to remember very minute details in other areas of my life.) but, in general, it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  not basing my self-value on a number, and whether or not i feel like it is the right number, is freeing. 

i no longer wake up after a day where i decided i had 200 too many calories with a sense of dread: a feeling that i had to make up for being "bad" the day before by eating less or exercising extra, trying to find extra time for working out or brainstorming places to save calories.  or even panicking because i might have a social event in the evening that i knew would involve alcohol--and extra calories. which leads me to the following. 

and the combo of the two: alcohol has calories. i've definitely played the sorority girl game of eating less to drink more.  i've run extra to drink more.  i've chosen which drinks to enjoy based on their calorie count (no different than foods).

not drinking for the past few weeks has taught me how afraid of alcohol calories i really am: on mornings of social functions i used to feel anxiety.  lately i have not.  and, scarily enough, i've realized it's because i don't feel internal pressure to run an extra few miles to prep for the looming alcohol calories. i can workout the normal amount without the fear of "going over" the calorie count i've allotted for my day.

and i've also started to become terrified for the time when the 40 days is up.  not counting calories has been a really big step in my recovery.  what if i'm not able to refrain from calorie counting when i introduce alcohol back into the equation? what if i try to go overboard on running (again)? what if...

yeah.

if it was one of my friends saying things like this to me, i'd give the advice i always do: wasting time worrying about this in advance of the actual situation is not helpful.  and so, i keep up the meditation and the yoga.  i practice.  and i trust that i can keep flying that line between the sea and the sun.



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

clarity

today i started 40 clear days.  meaning no alcohol or mood changers of any type. i've never tried to go any expanded amount of time without being able to relax with a glass of wine.  i have friends that do "dry july," which i've never consider doing, since that's my birthday month.  i have friends who have done cleanses, which i just never really felt called to do.  and luckily i never get sick, so i'm never forced to go on breaks while on antibiotics.

but last week i decided i wanted to do 40 clear days.  kind of spontaneously actually.  i texted my bff and told her and she immediately signed up. ("signed up" means she said "ok, i'll do it too!") over the course of the next few days before i started, a few other friends committed to their own variations of the theme.

and then, last night, right before i started, i added a challenge: a challenge that is way scarier than going to dinner or bars with my friends and watching them drink; way more horrifying than feeling left out of a social situation; much more terrifying than fomo.  i decided that i'd try to stop counting my calories for the next 40 days.

counting calories is something i've been doing some version of for 25 years.  i don't write everything i eat down anymore, and i don't keep track of each day's input and output now, but i still keep a running tally in my head every day.  i know that my usual breakfast has 450 calories.  i know i usually run 6 miles a day.  i know i usually have -250 going into lunch.  i check my daily mileage tracker regularly to see if i get to count extra calories as "burned."  i try to fit extra activity in where i can and automatically subtract it off my total consumed for the day.  ...the math is constant.

harlem street food, exhibit 1.
and it's also exhausting.  my brain gets quite consumed by this activity.  when i'm bored in a meeting, i recalculate for the day.  when i'm eating, i'm actually calculating calories. i can't concentrate on conversation at the dinner table until i've figured out the calorie count.

so i decided to experiment with letting it go--since i was getting clear.

today: i had my usual breakfast.  so i knew how many calories there were without having to do any work.  i ran an hour, and i knew how many calories i burned, so i didn't have to do the math.  it wasn't working.

so for lunch, i skipped usual options and went rogue.  i went to a cart on the street and bought a falafel pita: something that would've taken me several attempts and re-attempts until i decided which calorie total was closest to the truth.

while i was eating it, my brain actually tried to start adding things up.  SEVERAL TIMES.  so i pulled up an article and focused really hard on reading it while i was eating.  and then went right to the next task and kept yelling at myself: DO NOT THINK ABOUT HOW MANY CALORIES WERE IN THAT WRAP.

very occasionally, cat is calm.
i had a few more meetings.  i prepped for evening teaching.  i went to yoga.  i rushed back to teach and grabbed a snack en route.  i knew there were 250 calories in what i was eating, but i didn't know what to add it to.  i didn't know what my total was for the day. it hurt my brain not to think about it, but i pushed it away as i rushed into the classroom. 

i ate dinner watching tv. i kept quieting my mind.  but writing this is still quite an effort in non-addition.

however, it's 1am and i don't know my daily total.  i don't know if i'm "over" or "under" for the day.  the mental energy to not add, subtract, and re-calculate all day was almost equal to the amount of energy i would have expended doing so. i assume it will be easier tomorrow.

and, if it isn't, i'll just scratch cat behind the ears and think about  how much a glass of wine would help me forget about counting calories.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

creating ease

—> friday afternoon
i walked out of my second movie ever last night.  watching sausage party made me physically sick to my stomach. the rape culture that exists in our society was never so visible.

but spending any of my time writing about that movie is not what i want to do.  i left four friends in the theatre. i texted them and told them that i would be around the corner at a bar.  but i didn’t end up staying there: i sat down at the bar, ordered a glass of wine, started to cry immediately, and then promptly left and took an uber home. 

when i got in the uber, i had a few tears trickling down my face.  the uber driver told me not to be sad; i was too pretty to be sad. 

that command, combined with the implied cartoon rapes i had just watched, crashed down a wall blocking a lot of sadness and anger.  maybe even rage.  i began crying hysterically.  loud sobs were heaving from my body. 

i texted my friends at the movie; i texted a best friend abroad; i texted my gf.  tania called, heard me hysterical, and upon learning i was almost home, immediately followed up with my friends at the movie to ensure they were coming to attend to me. 

(what was the uber driver doing, you ask?  turning up the radio to drown me out.)

before tania even texted them though, my friends from the theater were on their way.  they all crowded into my bedroom, soothing and comforting me.  i was feeling guilty—that they had not gotten to eat dinner, that they hadn’t had a fun night out, that they would regret that they “had” to spend their evening this way.

of course that’s not what any of them were feeling.  and their check-ins later in the evening and the next morning confirmed that.  the gratitude i have for friends that are willing to chuck everything out the window to make their way to my side at a moment’s notice is… well, it's everything.

and this afternoon, here i am escaping to a yoga retreat in upstate new york: leaving the internet behind, leaving most of my every-day support behind, and venturing into soul-space.

space for my journalling, my sketching and doodling, my blogging, my chanting and meditation, and my yoga-ing. no bad movies, no uber drivers, no bad juju. 

—> insert yoga weekend 

we talked a lot this weekend about ganesha—who happens to be one of my favorite deities.  he is generally known as “the remover of obstacles,” but one of our teachers (deb) flipped that a bit and called him “the creator of ease,” which i really liked.  kenny told a story about him (oh, ps, he has the head of an elephant), where ganesha is the one who is under your foot, supporting it, when you lift your foot to take a step.

creating an easeful path, helping you move forward. 

just like my support team.

this is a blog of gratitude (i know, common theme), but also a reminder.  a reminder to 1) use your support teams without question: your friends love you and want to help.  and 2) to reflect that back out to all your closest friends: see what you can offer before they ask.  mirror mirror.

love/gratitude/support xo

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

no.

disclaimer: this is one of the harder posts to share. 

when i teach about sexuality and the importance of enthusiastic consent for sexual activities, we talk about all the things that don't count as consent.  for example: assuming that because someone is ok with naked kissing that they want to have sex.  or assuming that because someone has had sex with you before they want to have sex with you again.  

or wearing someone down and getting a "yes" after 97 "no" replies.  

there's even an activity that is used in some sexuality courses where we give two individuals a role to play:  one is trying to get a "yes" from the other; the other is instructed to only say "no" to the first. what happens is that inevitably the person saying "no" is worn down; it is exhausting to say no so many times.  

i consider myself to have high sexual agency and am intelligent about my actions and reactions.  and yet my protective self-armor was worn down yesterday.

i was left feeling very angry.

i posted on facebook that i had a bad experience. several friends texted, offering support in numerous forms. one friend didn't think i needed support though, and she simply told me: "No matter what you go through you always come out on top, you're not just a fighter, you also inspire. That's why I love you Spring." 

it was nice to have various forms of support, but it was also nice to hear my strengths reflected back to me.  most friends i shared all the details with were very supportive; even creating new plans with me about how best to feel happy and safe.   one friend, however, replied "how could you let him treat you like that?" 

i know that friend cares about me deeply, and was angry at what had happened.  but i did not let him treat me badly.  it is this whole situation: the bad behavior i experienced as well as that response that led me to get over the fear of sharing this and to write this.

i've experienced other similar situations, and i know many of you reading this have as well.  the range of sexual assault is wide, and all too often hidden.  i work in sexuality and sexual health, so i felt somewhat responsible to share this story.

through this post i hope to 1) inspire--maybe you have a story you haven't ever shared or haven't told more than a couple of people, or maybe you want to share this story with others as a form of education; 2) start conversations--talking with peers and young people about consent and how it should look is an ongoing job; and 3) remind people to respond with unequivocal support to anyone who has experienced any form of sexual assault: blaming someone (even with a "how could you let him..." text) lays more burden on that person.

as a friend of mine, i'm asking you to challenge "typical" gender roles of males as aggressors, of females as conquests, as any gender as more powerful than another.  speak up when you hear friends or colleagues reinforcing them: it's up to all of us to make change. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

you can't judge my body

a boy recently dumped me because he didn't like my body (too skinny).  at least, that's the reason i interpreted from the one minute break up conversation. 

why does this reason piss me off more than any other reason i've ever heard in my life?  i'm so glad you asked.  BECAUSE I HAVE SPENT YEARS TRYING TO LEARN HOW TO LOVE MY BODY.  the last thing i need is someone else telling me they don't like something about it.

when i was thinking about this a little more today, i thought "i don't think anyone i've dated or been friends with has ever judged my body."  i mean i have, for sure.  but i had to scan each person in my life until i finally remembered one other:  a guy i was casually hooking up with about 4 years ago, who was 21 and very buff (and on steroids), told me after sex one day "you know, you could stand to do a few squats." 

i responded "i'm 32; this is the best it's gonna get, honey."

and then i proceeded to never again have sex with him.  but i did start doing a lot more squats.

why?  because i was still very intertwined with my bulimia.  i had just run a marathon; i was nearly the skinniest i've ever been.  i was teaching tons of fitness classes; i was well toned.  there was no reason i should have felt bad about my body, but of course i did.  and hearing it confirmed from someone i had just had sex with tore at my ego.

but this one last week--it hurt way more.  in a totally different way.  i have done a FUCK TON of work to love this body just as it is.  not because of its shape.  but because it houses a beautiful and brave soul.

no one gets to judge my body: no one gets to say i'm too fat.  no one gets to say i'm too thin.  no one gets to say i need to do a few more squats.

INCLUDING ME.

re: that one minute call last week: i don't think i'm maddest about the judgment received or the self-judgement inflicted afterwards; it was that i didn't stick up for the years of work i've done.

i respect each person's unique fetishes and attractions.  i respect each person's decision to date who they want. 

but i really respect myself, and my body.  and so, my gift to myself today, on my 8th wedding anniversary (if i still do that type of thing), is to come to my own defense.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

love letter

let me situate you in my life right now:
  • yesterday i went to art therapy and was talking with my therapist about how i was fearful about the idea that other people may not approve of my lifestyle.
  • on the way home from that session, i listened to a podcast and heard this: "i got married largely because i was trying to please my mother... neither one of my marriages seemed to make her particularly happy. so it occurred to me that i didn't need to get married to try to make someone else happy. only person i could make happy was me... so I don't need to get married again."
  • this morning someone i started seeing recently called me and told me that they didn't want to date me anymore.
this afternoon, here i am, feeling fiercely independent and yet very unsettled. i taught yoga right after the upsetting call this morning, and it was hard to teach.  i centered myself for a few minutes before the class and then taught a class on twisting and releasing.  i expected to leave feeling a little more full, but i had a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

the feeling in my stomach was familiar--it was the feeling that used to always trigger binging and purging.  i recognized this and texted a few friends.  texting friends meant that i was less likely to do it: i would have to answer to them later.  i then avoided eating lunch out of the fear that it would lead straight into a binge session.

then, at 4pm, i finally ate something. and didn't binge.  and didn't purge.

i think inherent in risking lots of emotional connections is that i'm sometimes going to feel unsettled about relationships in my life.  but it also means that i have a lot of other people around to talk to when i need extra support.

and so i owe my lovely independence that i love so much to you all.  xo

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

butterfly

i found this old journal today, with entries from march 2006-may 2008.  let me tell you what just happened to occur during this period of my life:
  • i started binging and purging; 
  • i became consumed by bulimia; 
  • i met the person i thought i'd spend my life with
...and subsequently avoided dealing with the eating disorder because many of its symptoms were masked in the early stages of this relationship.

there were other events of course: a few weeks in italy, visiting my sister who was studying abroad;  my own study abroad experience in germany, with many additional trips around europe; the successful defense of my dissertation; and getting engaged.

though i was just completing my phd, the journal reads more like a young adolescent's diary.  the painful extremes i felt in relation to food and to my body were hard to re-read.  there was shame embedded in the writing, and i felt immediately ashamed while reading my own words from ten years before. i cried, without realizing why. later this afternoon it clicked: i was mourning the years i lost, the experiences i lost to bulimia.

in an entry i wrote while in london, i talked about an amazing gym i went to.  in an entry in an airport, i wondered whether the bathroom was crowded and whether there was an empty stall with a sink in it that i could use to throw up.  and though this part wasn't an entry, i was reminded of my stay at a hotel the night before a flight back to the US where they had an all you can eat buffet bar. i went back up the buffet several times until my binge cycle was complete, and then i went up to my room to throw up.  i clogged the toilet throwing up and prayed i wouldn't get charged any additional fees.

during this period of my life, my whole being centered around bulimia (which i affectionately called "mia," as if it were a friend).  i knew there was a disconnect between my mind and body: i wrote about it, i drew about it, and i summarized articles and books about it.  but i also wrote about the need mia was serving in my life.

in the parts of the journal where i wrote about this new relationship with billy and then engagement, it was scary to feel the differential between how i felt about myself and how i felt about him. i mused to myself today that there was no way my relationship with billy stood a chance.  anyone reading this could tell that all of my attention was focused on mia.

reading back through this journal gave me the range of emotions any loss spurns (the loss of experiences over the past several years): i felt denial in the first readings; like "it couldn't have really been like this." i felt anger at myself for taking so long to recover, for somehow ignoring all the things i knew. i felt deep sadness for myself and those that were in my life that weren't receiving my full attention.  moving through the grief was how i spent a majority of my afternoon (while multitasking through my day).

and, on the other side, i felt acceptance for where i am now; happiness for the support i have in my life; gratitude for the ability to change.

June 29, 2016: butterfly
that ability to change though.  yes i still think about food and exercise more than the average person.  yes i still panic about desserts or missing a workout.   yes i still workout on vacation. 

but i am not the same person i was then.

on the first page of the journal i wrote "i'm waiting to become the butterfly; i'm 1/2 way there--"

so much gratitude that i kept evolving.  and for all those on the journey with me.

and so much hope for anyone else going through that shit.  or any shit.  because if i can get from "mia is my closest friend" to butterfly--there's hope for anyone. 

evidence that change is possible.  that miracles happen every day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

24 years (un)strong: cycles

this piece is originally posted on cycledork.com, but re-posted here for blog continuity.

i have struggled with eating disorders for most of my life, though i have only just realized how long.  through writing this piece it became clear to me that i started the practice of ignoring my body when i was 11.  after practicing that for so long, it's no wonder that it can seem normal to me.

i’ve written before about how long it took me to start listening to my body and its signals.  oddly enough being obsessed with my body was directly related to ignoring it.

when i think through the increased severity of the stages of the disordered eating choices i’ve made throughout my life, i can track the inverse relationship to being present in my body.  it may sound evident, but the effects of engaging with an eating disorder affect every part of sense of self.

--age 11: not allowing any fat in my diet
when i was young, my best friend’s mother started counting fat grams.  it was all the rage in the early 90s, and my best friend and i started counting as well; it seemed like a fun game.  i got pretty competitive with myself and tried to keep my fat grams just under the minimum suggested per day.  i stopped eating things i liked.  not because i wanted to lose weight; not because i wasn’t happy with my body.  i loved the game aspect of it: so much so that i didn’t care that i couldn’t eat cake at my friends’ birthday parties. i learned very quickly to ignore wants and cravings… for the sake of the game.  i invented reasons "oh, i just don't like cake; i never have!"

as a result of the extreme fat deprivation in my diet, i had severely dry skin.  my mom tried to get me to eat a spoonful of olive oil each day.  i refused to, but pretended i was by pouring a tiny bit out of the bottle each day. the low percentage of body fat then prevented me from getting my first period until i was a couple months shy of 15.

--age 21: becoming obsessed with exercise
i continued the fat gram counting, and later recording of fat intake and exercise output for years.  i didn’t become obsessed with exercise until i became a fitness instructor in undergrad.  the culture of teaching fitness is that “more is better” and i bought right into it.  i was teaching 8-10 fitness classes a week, and i went to at least another 5 a week for fun/experience/whatever i told myself was a good excuse.

ignoring body signals is pretty necessary when you are doing way too much exercise.  muscles hurt. injuries happen.  and ignoring them is the only way to continue that level of exercise. 

the length of my cycle extended during this time: i was having periods with less frequency and i wasn’t sure if it was normal for me or if something was wrong.

--age 23: restricting calories
i went on a hormonal birth control method at 22 that caused me to gain a lot of weight, despite me not changing my eating or exercise patterns. i panicked.  for the first time in my life i was upset with how my body looked.  but, i felt like i knew what i needed to do: eat less calories.  my eating got very competitive.  i tried to eat the fewest number of calories i could per day: this got down to about 600-800 a day.  and i was still working out 1-3 times a day.  the weight did begin to come off.

however, i was starving all of the time. i learned to ignore the hunger pains, and to hide them from others.  i would bring snacks to my grad school classes as a cover.  it would be one of the only things i would eat that night, but i wanted it to seem “normal” to other people.  i would eat the snack part way through class, trying to keep my stomach from making noises.  but it must have looked suspect as i broke a granola bar up into 6 pieces and slowly ate them over the course of an hour, watching the clock to keep it evenly spaced over the hour.  the reason i realized this was obvious was that one of my professors pulled me aside after class one day and asked me if i was experiencing any eating issues.  i laughed, and told her i had just gone off the birth control i had been on, and that the cause of any weight loss was probably a result of that.

during this time in my life, my periods were pretty irregular.  i often took pregnancy tests, certain it wasn’t a result of my diet.   but i was never so concerned that i thought of changing any of my exercise or dietary behaviors.

--age 25: binging and purging
i went through a break up, most likely the result of me being obsessed with calories and food instead of my life.  after the break up i finally decided to allow myself to eat food.  but i didn’t know how.  i would end up binging and eating so much food because i felt so hungry.  the next day i would then add a few hours of exercise on to my regimen to make up for it.  i was spending all day exercising, doing a little work on my PhD, and then binging.  after a few weeks of this, it became unmanageable.  and one day i ate so much food that my stomach hurt so badly that i couldn’t do anything—not even sit there.  so i made myself throw up.  i didn’t even know how to do it, but the food came up.

i immediately felt addicted to throwing up.  i had just saved three hours of excessive exercise for the next day and i was elated.

my choice to binge and purge involved extreme levels of ignoring my needs.  i had to mentally leave my body during the binge session: eating that quickly and that volume of food is not comfortable.  after a binge session, i never even remembered what tv shows i had watched during it: that’s how far i was from my body during binging. after binging came the purging.  even though i dreaded doing it, i would throw up and throw up until it was all out.  my throat would be raw, my eyes would bulge and look bloodshot, my hand became cracked and dry and would get cuts from my teeth.  i would fall asleep exhausted and wake up dehydrated with a headache.

i began to go to therapy the same week that i started throwing up.  in my head, i had just developed an eating disorder.  but in reality, i had been engaging with disordered eating for 14 years. 

it took me another 8 years to figure out that ignoring my body’s wants and needs was the real problem.  i stopped binging and purging but was still recording things.  i stopped recording things but still insisted on exercise through injuries and exhaustion.  it was a regular yoga practice and, later, the addition of a meditation practice that helped me finally begin to really tune in.

and once i was tuning in, there was a difference: i could notice things about my behavior and reactions and how they were related to things in my body.  i could notice things about my cycle and how they affected my mood and cravings. 

now it’s hard for me to binge and purge: being present during that process is not something i enjoy.  i’m still practicing being present.  i’m still practicing noticing all the signs. and now i can acknowledge that i’ve struggled with being fully alive in my body for a majority of my life. 

but seeing what my body can do, and noticing little changes and signals, is a gift.  one that i don’t take lightly. i’m excited for the possibility of one day experiencing a pregnancy.  for eventually going through menopause.  and for being present to all the little changes that happen along the way.

and to keep trending up, listen to this: i love this song.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

jane fonda and me

i was obsessed with jane fonda when i was little.  my mother used to do her workout video at home, and my sister and i loved getting involved.  especially since it involved costumes: mama let us borrow leg warmers!  shayna and i would do the workout with my mom, and we felt very grown-up.

the movie 9-5 cemented my obsession with jane.  i watched 9-5 so many times when i was young that it became part of who i am: i have been know to force someone i'm dating to watch the movie so that they can understand WHO I AM.

but it wasn't until jane fonda published her memoir that i learned more about her. jane struggled with bulimia a lot of her life, and there is one quote in her memoir that really hit home.  she said that she found herself engaging with her eating disorder when she was being inauthentic in her relationships.  here's a piece of a longer quote from a recent interview she did:
...Eating disorders don’t represent a lust for food. It represents a loss of authentic self. It’s when there’s something about our lives and our relationship to ourselves and others around us that is inauthentic. And we’re trying to fill an emptiness. That’s what I think it’s really about. It’s a spiritual and emotional hole that we’re trying to fill with food...  If girls are in inauthentic relationships, they are more apt to have eating disorders... They need to receive help, of a very specific kind. 
the first time i read the line about being inauthentic in relationships, it immediately resonated with me.  i knew that it was true for me as well.  i use bulimia as a coping mechanism for a number of things: stress, anxiety, and depression are common triggers.  but there's also the old "wanting to avoid a hard conversation" with someone trigger.

until this weekend i think i had only binged and purged once since moving to NYC.  i've been doing well on letting go of disordered eating patterns as well.  but this past saturday i chose to binge and purge.

i beat myself up about it afterward and tried to identify why i chose this coping mechanism over a healthy one.  i scrolled through everything in my life right now and ding-ding-ding found one of the usual suspects: i've been avoiding a hard conversation with a friend and have cancelled spending time with him in an effort to further deflect the talk.  inauthenticity in a relationship.  ah, yes.

i strongly considered not telling anyone, including my best friends and my blogosphere.  but not wanting to admit something is the hallmark of my need to.  and so i discussed it with coral sunday afternoon.  she told me that she would never judge me for anything that i do, and i felt the warm loving comfort of her authenticity.

so, reminder to self: stop being inauthentic! but also get over yourself and shake it off.  like jane fonda would do.


via GIPHY


Saturday, April 23, 2016

centering

i got un-centered and i don't know how it happened. for months i was meditating every day.  i was flossing every day.  i was on top of things and i was "in flow." 

and then i wasn't.

and i couldn't get it back.  something was throwing dust over my glasses; shadowing the path; blocking the metaphysical flow.  i tried taking time off: time off from work, time off from socializing, time off from anything that allowed it. i tried forcing myself back into flow by doing things like making myself a nice dinner.  i tried spending quality time with cat. i tried binging the second season of unbreakable kimmy schmidt.

today i was very angry about how un-centered i felt.  i was on my way to teach yoga to a few of my colleagues at CUNY and was listening to the most recent episode of freakonomics on productivity. in the podcast they were talking about habits and i started thinking about some of these good habits that i had lost recently--ones that i thought i had ingrained.

what keeps me in flow?

i wasn't sure i knew, but i wanted to figure it out. so, i began planning a theme around it.

as i was walking into yoga, one of my colleagues said "i've been feeling so out of it; i haven't done yoga in so long!" "perfect," i replied, "perfect."

so in class we 1) thought about something that felt in flow already, 2) identified what kept that area flowing, 3) focused on the feeling that flow created in our lives, and then 4) choose an area of our lives that felt out of flow that we wanted to use as an intention for the practice. we used the practice to explore how flow felt, how breaking out of constrictions felt, and exploring new flow.

all of class told me afterward how much better they felt.  and after class i felt centered. almost instantly. weeks of feeling un-centered undone.  i felt at ease. i went about my day and could notice where i had been acting out of habit, where i had been acting without thought, and where i had been on auto-pilot because of this lack of flow.

i texted a few friends about how much better i was feeling, and about how i was still angry about the last few weeks of un-flow.  one friend admitted that he had been worried about me.  i realized then that maybe it had been more severe, or more noticeable, than i thought. 

at 630 i got a last minute request to cover a 730 yoga class in harlem.  the class was right across the street from my office, where i still was, so the answer was an easy yes.  i texted a friend that i'd be there, and he said "i hope it helps continue the re-centering process!"  gone were any thoughts about creating a new theme for the class: i wanted to continue to focus on this idea.

after the evening class, i got even more positive reinforcement about the theme. one girl "vibed with me" so much that she wanted to insta a pic of us.  (ps that is the first time a student has done that, and it kind of made me feel like a rockstar.)

all of the positive reactions to the flow facilitation made me start thinking about how common it is to get stuck--but it isn't the getting stuck that is the problem; it's knowing how to get unstuck and get back in flow. maybe we assume that there are just times when we'll feel like this and sit back into the stuckness. maybe we hope that someone else in flow will come along and dislodge us so that we don't have to do the work ourselves.  (i'm both, and i'm ashamed of the second--i blame it on disney.)

either way, i encourage the work. go. find your flow. find your center.


Monday, April 4, 2016

goals

a friend texted me today: "your body is a huge goal of mine... i really love how amazing you look and how you embrace yourself.  spring cooper = fitness goals!"

she said that immediately after receiving this photo from me.  so i instantly thought "she's only saying that bc i know how to take things at amazing angles that make me look better than i am."

i then had to sit with what she said for a minute and think "she has seen me in a swimsuit; she knows what i really look like."

all week i've been feeling bad about my body: comparing myself to others and judging myself. sometimes are harder than others and sometimes i can't identify why. this week was one of those times.  i heard my head yell eating disordered thoughts at me several times this week and weekend.  some of the times i was able to talk back to it; some of the times i was not. (that doesn't mean i ended up binging and purging; it means i ended up believing what it said too much of the time.)

believing harsh thoughts your head screams at you sucks.  it's hard enough when someone else says something.  but when you tell yourself something, you sometimes forget that you CAN fight it.

but the thing is that you can always rephrase. you just have to remember that you can. thank you rachel for reminding me.

lighting? check.  angle? check.  filter? check.  perfect selfie? check.  perfect body? every body is perfect.  including mine.

Friday, March 18, 2016

quantifying self-worth

i listened to a podcast today about quantified bodies: i.e. how health trackers are turning our lives into a numbers game.  as the podcast started, i almost switched to a different one for my run.  the very idea of listening to a podcast about tracking food and exercise seemed like it could be triggering for me: i've spent the past few years trying to STOP quantifying things in my life.  but, the hook reeled me in, and i listened.

and then i got mad.

i started tracking dietary and exercise habits from a very young age, way before there were tech things to assist the pursuit.  i slowly let go of several of these, though i secretly still keep a daily running calorie total in my phone, just so i know where i am for the day. someone saw me updating it the other night, which i usually try to do when no one is looking, and the shame hit me square in the face. i tried to play it cool, but i was so embarrassed.  

just so i can feel some pride in the face of admitting that, the things i have stopped tracking: 
writing down all food consumed and amounts; 
tracking daily grams of fat, protein, and fiber; 
cataloging exercise/activity i participated in each day on paper and then in an online calorie tracker; detailing written explanations for days taken off;
and i finally threw away the years of notebooks i had kept these things in.

and i'm sure there are more things that i've forgotten i used to track.

when i found out my iphone 6 was tracking all of my mileage, i panicked.  i had purposefully NOT gotten a fitbit when all of my friends did.  i do not have a smart watch.  i stopped using the map my run and runkeeper apps. yes, i still run a lot.  but not being as exact about my mileage means i can't try to be super exact with my calorie balancing.  truth: i now check the mileage in my health app on my iphone several times a day. 

let me get to the point: i think quantifying calories in/calories out is quite problematic.  i'm not talking about using a GPS watch to map a run when training for a race or doing a food diary for a couple of days to become aware of habits.  i'm talking about every day quantification. 

which is why this podcast made me so angry. 

there were people who called in with their stories of becoming obsessed and of letting the fitness trackers dictate their lives.  one man said that he got his 6-pack abs, but was left with no one to show them off to.  one woman talked about sneaking in extra steps around her kitchen in the middle of the night to try to beat her friend's steps for the day.  what the podcast didn't do was address the eating disorders that are developing in this new techy world.  when eating and exercise interfere with thought patterns or social plans or sleep regularly, that is an eating disorder.  

and to normalize these obsessive behaviors, to promote the extreme competition with one's self or one's friends, does everyone a disservice.  to act as if it is normal for us to all discuss each other's activity levels fosters a society that promotes eating disorders. 

i regularly get uncomfortable when people bring up their numbers for the day or week.  internally i begin to scream "lalalalalalalalala" to try to block out the voices.  i'm hearing the voice of my acquaintance, and i'm hearing my inner monologue berating me for not doing enough; telling me i should go out running again. not only is this triggering for people in recovery, but it is teaching this as "normal" to younger generations.  

normalizing disordered eating does not make it non-disordered.

my self-worth is not determined by how many steps i took today.  it is not determined by how many squats i did, how long my yoga practice was, or by how cleanly i ate.  it is not determined by a number on the scale or a fat/muscle ratio. 

yes, it is healthy to exercise.  yes, it is healthy to be aware of what you're eating.  the extremes of quantification and tracking are not.  exercise as many days as you can without sacrificing time with family and friends.  eat food that is good for you that you enjoy that you can partake in with your loved ones. 

but get over the tracking.  it's not healthy.  do things because they feel good and they make you feel good, not because some number isn't the one you think it should be.  numbers don't make happiness.  


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.