License to Love Myself

theworstfilteredMy new driver’s license came in the mail yesterday. The picture is terrible. I can’t stand to even show you the full measure of it, can only bear to post this modified version. I expected it to be bad, but was shocked by just how bad. I wasn’t smiling because I was afraid I’d do that weird blank stare I sometimes do when I smile for a picture, or that I’d do that thing where I squint one eye so much smaller than the other, or that other thing where I tuck in my chin so that it completely disappears. In trying to avoid all those things I just look annoyed. It looks more like a mugshot. They tell you to look down because the light of the camera is so bright they don’t want you looking directly into it, and move your hair away from your face because they are using “facial recognition software” (um, wait, where did I agree to that?!), which made made me do the thing where my chin disappears anyway. One side of my collar is also flipped weird. The capture makes me look heavy and sloppy and mean.

Change, if it is to be long lasting, must occur on the unseen levels first. With understanding, inquiry, openness. ~Geneen Roth

You try to feel good about your body, okay about who you are, accepting and gentle and kind, and then your new driver’s license comes in the mail and the picture they took of you is so bad, and you have to live with it for the next five years, no Retake Day like for school pictures. But I’m not worried. My prediction is that in five years when I get a new license and a new picture, I’ll finally be in my authentic body. I’m not saying that I will necessarily look any different, but rather that my true self will be embodied in a way it just isn’t right now. This body is so tired, swollen with the expectations and judgments and criticisms it’s carried, puffed up by things that don’t belong to it, burdened by all the ways it’s been hurt, holding the weight of all the stuff I haven’t been able to release. This body is not free … yet. And still, I am free to love it, utterly and completely.

I made a list a while back of the 25 reasons I carry extra weight. At some point, I’ll dig it out and share it with you. What I can say for now is a lot of it has to do with protecting myself, having a physical barrier between myself and the world. So some of it is a choice, but some of it isn’t — cultural expectations, social norms, the way my metabolism has been ruined by years of starving myself to meet them, genetics, hormones, an autoimmune disorder, other mysterious imbalances, the food I eat, how I move, my environment, injury. My body and the way it works is a puzzle, a mystery. I’m only now giving myself permission to figure it out for myself, to know and understand what it needs, enjoys, and how to heal it, keep it healthy and happy and strong. It’s been interfered with, bullied, abused for so long. I’m not going to let that happen anymore.

 

Gratitude Friday

image by Eric

Naked Aspens, image by Eric

1. Winter. It is officially here. There is snow on the ground and it is cold, cold, cold. It makes me want to hibernate, and I love how quiet it gets.

2. Migrating geese. When they fly overhead in large groups, they sound like giant honking bumblebees.

3. Warmth. After teaching yoga, cultivating my inner fire, a warm gooey bagel and writing date with the warmest friend. Later tonight, an interview with a warm-hearted teacher who will give my Buddhist name after I make my formal request to take vows.
4. Teaching yoga. I said to Eric as I was leaving this morning to go teach at Om Ananda, “You know what’s weird? I AM a yoga teacher. Isn’t that weird?” He said, “No. It’s kind of cool.”

5. These two, Sweet Sam and Ringo Blue.
fourleggedBonus joy: snow tires, training with Ringo, snuggling with Sam, laughing with Eric, taking a nap, eating good food that I cooked myself, reading, wool socks and warm slippers, the weekend.

Three Truths and One Wish

 

firstsnow20141. Some things are both miserable and wonderful. My walk with my dogs this morning is a good example: 14 degrees, windy and snowing, so quiet. My glasses kept fogging up, I was wet and cold, and because the thermal shirt I wore is silky, it was slippery and kept catching on my coat and riding up over my belly like some nightmare winter crop top. The last trace of autumn lingered under the first blanket of snow, the gold still visible through the white. Other than having to stop and shake off the snow from time to time and wanting to go faster, the dogs acted like it was any other day.

babyblanket2. Some things are old and worn but still precious. My baby blanket is a good example: the flannel is so soft, and it has a satin edge that I wore almost to disappearing rubbing it between my tiny fingers and against my cheek. My brother had one just like it, with a light blue background and white roses and the same white satin trim. His is in much better shape than mine. Our mom made them for us, at least that’s how I remember it, the story I’ve told myself about them — (is that right, Mom?).

meanddressy3. I feel like I am finally returning to myself. Jilly Bean, Jello, Silly Jilly. Striped knee length overalls, pigtails, and bare feet. That little one knew exactly who she was. So precious and goofy and creative and smart and kind. I’ve denied and abandoned her, made her wait, told her to be quiet, broken promises, been such a bully. And yet, she is still right there, ready when I am to begin again, to forgive, to love with her whole heart.

One Wish: That we awaken to the light of our true being. May we know we are loved and precious. May we be free.

Something Good

1. Wisdom from Isabel Foxen Duke,

YES, I truly, love and accept my body exactly the way it is — I think it’s cute, I think it’s sexy, and I like the way it looks in my clothes. But that doesn’t mean everyone else thinks so.

The unfortunate reality is that while, I choose not to participate in body-shaming, body manipulating activities (like diets), that doesn’t mean other people aren’t, OR that other people don’t think I should.

No matter how “okay” I am with my body personally, I still have to navigate living in an insanely fat-phobic, thin-privileged, diet-culture world. And that will likely continue to be the case until the day I die (although, God knows I’m doing everything in my power to try and change it).

A big part of doing “body image work” means learning how to handle having different opinions about weight, beauty, and/or “health,” than other people. And that’s something that, unfortunately, doesn’t go away.

At the end of the day, accepting our bodies doesn’t mean that life becomes all rainbows and unicorns — it simply means that instead of making the globally pervasive thin-ideal our problem, we start to see it for what it is: society’s problem.

2. The First 5 Most Frustrating Things About Simplicity (plus solutions) from Be More With Less.

3. Good stuff from Alexandra Franzen: Standard Out of Office Messages Are Boring. Try This Instead, and Good Question, and What are you devoted to creating… in the new year? [a worksheet to help you focus & find the right words].

4. A Better Organizational Strategy: Throw Away Everything That Doesn’t Make You Happy.

5. “On the All of It” – Going Om from Marianne Elliott. (Thanks for sharing, Tina).

6. The tiny cost of failure from Seth Godin.

7. Good stuff from Medium: How to live like a motherfucker, How to Write, Tell a four-word story, What Habits Are Best for Creativity?, and On Kindness.

8. The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit on Zen Habits.

9. Let yourself have days to be a perfectly imperfect human being from Brave Girls Club.

10. I Won’t Let You Down by OKGo.

11. Shared on Positively Present Picks: Weekend Do: Rest and Reset and Amy Poehler’s Radical Niceness.

12. 9 Essential Books That Will Transform Your Writing Forever, shared on Tammy’s Happy Links list.

13. The Here Year: Wellness on A Design So Vast.

14. Where Would You Sleep In This 86-Square-Foot Paris Apartment?

15. Wisdom from Krishna Das, “Love is what we are; we don’t get it from somebody, we can’t give it to anybody, we can’t fall in it or fall out of it. Love is our true Being.” Also from Krishna Das,

As far as I’m concerned the only thing we need to renounce is our self-hatred and judgement of ourselves, and our sense of unworthiness, and our sense that we are not worthy of love. This is where we should start. If we could just work with that place a little bit the whole quality of our lives would change.

16. This Woman Set Up An Instagram To Show The Shocking Truth Of Being A Woman Online on BuzzFeed.

17. Wisdom from Dan Pearce,

Share your weaknesses. Share your hard moments. Share your real side. It’ll either scare away every fake person in your life or it will inspire them to finally let go of that mirage called “perfection,” which will open the doors to the most important relationships you’ll ever be a part of.

18. Addiction recovery takes body as well as spirit, a piece about Jennifer Matesa and her new book, (it’s SO good), The Recovering Body: Physical and Spiritual Fitness for Living Clean and Sober.

19. Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper. How to Not Cheat on Your Creative Life. from Rachael Maddox.

20. Molly Crabapple’s 15 rules for creative success in the Internet age.

21. Truthbomb #659 from Danielle LaPorte, “Take up space.”

22. Comfortable: 50 People 1 Question.

23. Anne Lamott: “We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane” on Salon, in which she says,

Grief is just so scary. Our grief and rage just terrify us. If we finally begin to cry all those suppressed tears, they will surely wash us away like the Mississippi River. That’s what our parents told us. We got sent to our rooms for having huge feelings. In my family, if you cried or got angry, you didn’t get dinner.

We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane. I think it is pretty universal, all this repression leading to violence and fundamentalism and self-loathing and addiction. All I know is that after 10 years of being sober, with huge support to express my pain and anger and shadow, the grief and tears didn’t wash me away. They gave me my life back! They cleansed me, baptized me, hydrated the earth at my feet. They brought me home, to me, to the truth of me.

24. Wisdom from the Journey of Love deck by Alana Fairchild, (shared by Susannah Conway),

There are many teachers on this path, some humble, some wise, some great companions on your life journey and some who will enter in and out of your life quickly, perhaps imparting a helpful word or teaching you a more challenging lesson about trusting and relying upon your own wisdom. The greatest teacher, however, is Life itself. You can trust your own experiences and know that it is the divine spark within you, the life within you, that is the one true teacher who carries you home in reawakened reunion with the Divine.

25. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

The Buddhist master Shantideva set forth a path for training in spiritual warriorship. In his text The Way of the Bodhisattva, he explains how the bodhisattva or spiritual warrior begins the journey by looking honestly at the current state of his or her mind and emotions. The path of saving others from confusion starts with our willingness to accept ourselves without deception.

You would think that a training whose intention was to prepare us to benefit others would focus exclusively on other people’s needs. But the majority of Shantideva’s instructions entail working skillfully with our own blind spots. Until we do this, we are in the dark about how other people feel and what might soothe them.

26. Wisdom from Susan Piver,

Meditation is more than a technology to employ on the path to success or even health. It is a method for communicating with your own brilliance. It is a way to relate with the mystery of your life. Something, everything, is trying to communicate with you. When we use meditation as a means to instruct our reality rather than listen to it, the magic disappears.

27. Because I Love to Make You Laugh and Why I Failed Nutrition Coaching 101 from Sue Ann Gleason. The video at the end is still making me laugh.

28. Why You Have To Destroy Doubt To Create The Life You Want on MindBodyGreen.

29. none of it was a mistake on Effervescence.

30. Wisdom from Jo Pillmore, “We are not here to be perfect. We are here to be whole.”

31. Free Mandala Workshop from Julie Gibbons.

32. Beautiful Things, River Teeth’s weekly column which “features very brief nonfiction that finds beauty in the every day.”

Glimpses, glimmers, meditations, moments, reflections, refractions, interrupted shadows, river shimmers, darkened mirrors, keyholes, kaleidoscopes, earring hoops, slabs of cracked granite, cracks where the light gets in. Beautiful things.

33. Little Hamster Bartenders Serving Tiny Food and Drinks on Bored Panda.

34. What Has Become Clear from Gerri Smalley.

35. Woman Photoshops Herself Into Her Mom’s Childhood Pictures For Touching Photo Series.

36. Note from the Universe, “If you keep asking ‘May I?’ Jill, I’ll keep asking ‘Will you?’ It’s never been up to me.

37. Holiday Hungers from Rachel Cole.

38. Thrive on Chookooloonks.

39. What It’s Like As a Bartender to Watch Your Awkward Tinder Date.

40. Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ Fits Almost TOO Perfectly With Aerobic Dance Video From 1989. Having lived through the Jane Fonda french cut leotard and big bangs era myself, this made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

41. Wisdom from Galway Kinnell, (shared by Lindsey),

To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.

42. Ready as I’ll ever be, from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

43. Where to Begin? Judith Kitchen from Jeff Oaks.

44. The Disease of Being Busy from On Being.

45. After A Death, Should We Get A Dog? Brain Study Signals “Yes.”

46. Navigate Your Life: Anna Guest-Jelley, an interview with Jennifer Louden.

47. Wisdom from Jen Lemen,

i don’t know if this path is for everyone.
i don’t know if it should be.
but if it is for you, i know how incredibly painful it is to pretend otherwise, and how difficult it is to constantly question yourself because you have this pain and this truth pulsing inside you that makes it nearly impossible to blow anything off or to try to be like everyone else.

48. Antonya Nelson’s Ten Writing Rules.

Day of Rest


Pia Jane Bijkerk makes beautiful things. Today she offered this. It captured so perfectly how I’m feeling today, both represented and held it, stilled it, calmed it for a moment. The message she included with her post, along with the soft image and sweet music, was simply this:

Music and photograph by Pia Jane Bijkerk.
Download. Share. Enjoy.
With Love and Gratitude,
Pia x

Thank you, Pia. ♥

Open Love Letter to Mary Lambert

image credit: Laura Fedele

image credit: Laura Fedele

When I first heard Mary Lambert sing, I only knew her as as “that woman with the amazing voice” on the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis single Same Love. I couldn’t get her out of my head, so I searched until I found out who she was, Googling something just like that — “woman singing on Same Love.” It’s much the same way I found Dido, hearing her sing first on Eminem’s track Stan, and not being able to stop hearing her voice, needing to find more of her music, and when I did being completely amazed. One of the very first videos I watched of Mary was her performing She Keeps Me Warm live in the KEXP studio, a Seattle radio station. I was gobsmacked.

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know I’m on a path, in the midst of a life-rehab. It began in earnest the year I made my last New Year’s resolution: to be a better friend to myself. In the context of that effort, I realized I’d been in a long term abusive relationship … with myself. I also realized I was a dis-ordered eater, and that my relationship with my physical body needed some serious help, healing.

My internal struggle is mighty and I generate a lot of suffering for myself, but just as powerful as that is the effort it takes to go against cultural norms and expectations. When you decide to stop being at war with your body, to put down the knife you’ve been holding to your own throat, to love yourself exactly as you are — you will find yourself having to live outside, against norms, as an outcast even. We live with a quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) violence against women, so imbedded in every facet of our experience that we’ve gone numb to it, internalized it, become our own bully in order to fit in, be worthy of love and acceptance. It’s a difficult process to untangle yourself from years of such intense judgment and criticism, so many rules and deeply imbedded beliefs.

The culture does not teach girls to own it. From early on, a girl receives messages that her body, her sexuality, her dreams and ambitions, her opinions must be shaped to please other people. If her inner voice threatens to speak out too loudly, or passionately, or take up too much airtime; if it threatens to rock the boat in any way, she learns to switch it off.

If she feels a rise of anger, she learns to disconnect it – good girls don’t get angry – even if it signals that her boundaries have been violated.

Over and over again, she learns to look outside of herself for approval and validation, for the magical authority figure who will give her the A, the prize, the promotion, the compliment, the diamond ring. ~Justine Musk, you are your own damn permission slip

You ultimately have to save yourself. Whether it’s through sheer will or pure desperation, you know something has to shift, and as Mary Lambert writes in her song Sum of Our Parts, “Don’t go looking for some kind of rescue / You are the only one who can save you.”

And yet, you don’t have to be alone. I am here because I found a tribe, wise beings who have walked this path before me, have made maps, lit fires so I could find my way. They have guided me, healed me, kept me company. They are committed to living and telling the truth, they practice the hardest of all things — showing up just as they are and keeping their hearts open.

Mary Lambert is one of those women. I got to see her in concert last week, and it reminded me how important it is that we keep showing up. She does, and it’s beautiful to see. She’s “a shiny ball of glitter and magic” who cries and feels angry and laughs and struggles and makes noise and takes up space and is done apologizing for herself. She told a story of how she was asked to do two songs, one political and one religious, and she had the realization that it wasn’t what she wanted to do, that what she wanted was to sing about love, that she was committed to that message. Her concert wasn’t so much a performance as it was a conversation with someone who adores you, wants the best for you, tells you jokes, sings you battle cries and lullabies — encouraging and comforting you.

There were a few times the force of her voice gave me goosebumps, and other times she made me laugh or cry, (a couple of times I did both at the same time). When she was singing Body Love, which is part spoken poetry and part song, there were lines that caught me off guard. I’d heard it so many times before, but for some reason that night these stood out as if I was listening for the very first time. Then this morning, I pulled a tarot card and almost laughed when I saw the connection to those lines.

concentriccircles

Your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood / It is wisdom / You are a goddamn tree stump with leaves sprouting out / Reborn. ~Mary Lambert, Body Love

What would I say to Mary Lambert if I could talk to her? You are amazing. I adore you. You make me laugh. I want to hang out and bake you cookies. Your voice is so powerful, so tender that sometimes it hurts to listen to it. I had to save myself, but you helped. You talked about how you didn’t become a teacher because you didn’t go to graduate school and earn a teaching degree, but you are a teacher, you have been my teacher. I needed to hear what you have to say, need to hear it again and again, feel so grateful that you are brave enough to say what you have to say, to offer it. Your lyrics, your honesty helped heal me. Because you are willing to go the way your heart is telling you to go, I can go there too, be all the way true to the call of my brilliant heart. Thank you. May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be free.

Gratitude Friday

1. Sunrise. The color of the sky, the fact of light, the promise of the coming day, the dark lines of the trees.

2. Mary Lambert. I went to see her last night at CSU in the company of a dear friend, and she’s magic. I feel an Open Love Letter coming on.

3. Books. I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel right now (I was ten minutes late to the concert last night because I wanted to read “just one more chapter”), and next up is either Orange is the New Black, or Amy Tan’s latest novel The Valley of Amazement.

4. The Daily Bon, “look for something in your day that makes you smile, post your pic to Instagram with the tag #thedailybon.” It’s like getting to do Gratitude Friday once a day, every day for the whole month of November.

5. Practice, specifically the routine and calming nature of it. Each morning, I get up early, meditate for ten minutes, write for at least 30, and then either go on a long walk with my dogs or to a yoga class. It keeps me sane, gives me a peacefulness I wouldn’t have if I woke up and rushed around immediately, got on my computer or started to work first thing.

pbandjBonus joy: the last of the fall color, the Poudre River, warm french toast with real maple syrup, sweetening my half a cup of morning coffee with a bit of hot cocoa powder, the joy that is possible even when you know the whole truth, music, dog sighs, laughing, good friends who make you soup, browsing a bookstore, being crabby and tender but knowing it will pass, how a hot shower or a nap or a simple meal can shift everything.