Tag Archives: Grief

On the Origins of Things

Today would have been my friend Kelly’s birthday. Would have been, because nine years ago, at only 37 years old, she died. I’ve written quite a bit about her here, including but not limited to:

  • Kelly Jo, in which I shared a short essay I’d written for a CSU publication in her memory, remembering her as a person who was strong, smart, creative, cheerful and compassionate. In the blog post, I said “If you don’t already have a Kelly in your life, it is my greatest wish for you that you will.”
  • Dance Party, in which I showed my “woo-woo” side. “I had told Kelly, when the cancer came back and she started chemo and she asked us to visualize events we’d share in the future, that one thing we’d do, when she felt better, would be to have a dance party. It started as an aspiration, but then I thought, ‘why not?’ and started to plan the music.”
  • The world is never the same after she is there, in which I shared, “I can’t think about how much I’ve changed in the last few years, how much happier and more focused I am, the drive I feel to do good, to save lives besides just my own without thinking about Kelly, without feeling a deep determination that I need to do what Kelly is no longer able to, to reflect all the love and kindness and good she manifested.”
  • Don’t give up, in which I said, “And yet, that’s one good thing that came from losing Kelly, (and Obi, and then Dexter) — I set the intention to heal myself, to be myself, and in that way to start to help make the world better. I vowed to keep my heart open, no matter how bad things got, no matter how hard it might be.”
  • Day of Rest: Remembering Kelly, which I ended by saying, “I am still here in large part because of Kelly. That and a huge dose of survivor’s guilt. I live with the somewhat twisted notion that if a person as amazing as her doesn’t get to be here, I need to earn the right to be here. I have to try harder, be better, not waste my time, stop messing around, ‘suck it up and get tough’ like my high school football couch and social studies teacher used to say. And yet, today as I remember her, on this day of rest, I know that she wouldn’t want me to feel like that. She would tell me ‘it’s okay, cheer up, you’re perfect.’”
  • Three Truths and One Wish, where I wished, “That after loss, we can find something to hold on to, something that keeps us from giving up. At the very moment I wrote the line above about our love going wild, a tiny fat hummingbird hovered outside my window just to the right of my computer screen. That feels like love to me, like both magic and medicine, and for now that’s enough.”

Every time this anniversary comes around, I sink into contemplation, about the meaning of life and more particularly the meaning of my life, and this year that dive is so much deeper. The best word to describe my current state is “confused.” Almost five months have passed since I quit my CSU job after 19 years. At first, I blamed the exhaustion, the stuck I felt on burnout, which isn’t entirely wrong. And yet, as time has passed and the summer turns to fall, I’ve started to suspect that it isn’t just burnout.

I’m confused. I was so sure that I’d take the summer off, like I have for the past nine years, and when fall came, I’d start my new work as a contemplative practice guide. My intention — beyond easing suffering, in myself and in the world — was to specialize in yoga asana, meditation, and writing as practice, and to spend more of my time writing. I wanted to hold space for people cultivating a foundation of a stable mind and embodied compassion. I wanted to serve my community, working towards social justice and liberation for all people.

At first the awfulness that was happening in the world seemed to support my intention, to make it clear that what I was hoping to do was necessary, needed, and therefore “right.” But the more I educate myself about things like racism and climate change and diet culture and misogyny and homophobia and transphobia and xenophobia and white feminism and cultural appropriation and spiritual bypassing and gaslighting and white priveledge and white fragility and capitalism and police brutality and private prisons and ICE and, and, and… I start to feel more like part of the problem then a force of change.

Last week, I did some wild writing with my friends Chloe’ and Mikalina. This is a practice we learned from our teacher Laurie Wagner. We were using On the Origins of Things by Troy Jollimore as our prompt. This is what I wrote:

They say “everything happens for a reason” and Pema Chödrön says that the lessons you need to learn will keep coming back until you finally learn and the first noble truth of Buddhism is life is suffering which simply means life is uncomfortable and you’ll never get exactly what you want. I agree with some of those things some days, but some of the time I refuse to accept it or it doesn’t make any sense. Things happen for no reason, life is chaos, and yes, you never get what you want. I keep trying to go back, travel to some origin that can explain what I’m supposed to be doing, what to feel and think. I want to do the best thing, but the list of possibilities is endless. I think if I can catalog or organize or interpret what has happened to me, fully study and process my experience, I’ll gain some clarity, know what to do. But it’s just like how I think if I just go to bed earlier or take a nap or skip the gym or eat more vegetables, I won’t be so tired all the time, but it’s not a physical tired, it’s tired of trying to make sense of it or hold space for all of it and now that I have all the time in the world what do I do with it when the possibilities are so endless and the list of things I care about is so long I will never stop writing it. Every morning has been cloudy, wet, cold, gray. I picked more tomatoes last night to eat with dinner knowing the cold would soon dip low enough that there’d be no more tomatoes and why is it like that, the fullness of summer lasting so long and late so that we completely skip right past the middle-ness of fall to the edge of winter. Start to finish up, but what exactly am I finishing? What did I even mean to say? That there’s all this space, that things have shifted and I’m not quite sure where I am.

So yes, kind and gentle reader, I’m feeling confused, and maybe a bit discouraged. I’m trying to make sense of things that just don’t make sense. I’m trying to find solid ground even as I know that doesn’t exist. And yet, please know: I’m not giving up. Things are taking longer than I imagined they would. I remind myself this is always the case, that it’s okay to go slow, so slow it might look to someone watching like I’m not moving at all.

#reverb13: Day Four

reverb13Today, one of my prompts for Reverb13 is up. No big surprise, it’s about grief and loss. I wrote,

This past year, we have all experienced so much loss and felt so much grief — in relationships, through sickness and death, from mental illness or abuse, because of finances, even due to the need for healthy change.

It is good to honor those shifts, to fully feel them, so that we can let go of what needs surrendered, and remember what is worthy of our love and gratitude.

What have you lost, what are you grieving?

olderdexterI can’t talk about what I’ve lost in the past year, what I’m grieving without mentioning Dexter. His cancer and eventual death was the most significant event of 2013. I emailed Kat yesterday, (she’s hosting the Reverb13 I wrote this and one other prompt for) and told her, “Almost every day, I’ve been writing about Dexter, as I reflect back on this year, and it’s helping me to honor that experience but also to let go in a way I still haven’t. I’m so grateful for this practice.”

Another big loss this year is my husband’s parents and his aunt moved. For the past five years, they were here, close to us. We’d lived here for almost seven years on our own before that and were fine, but then they came and we had someone else to call when we needed help, a built in dog sitter (one who washed dishes and did laundry when she came over), people to gather with for holidays or just a regular meal any time. We’d come home from work to a container of homemade cinnamon rolls or oatmeal cookies, and there was always someone to help Eric take a load of stuff to the dump or borrow a ladder from. We got used to it, so now being here by ourselves again feels a little lonely.

Another loss is not going to Susan Piver’s Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) at the end of the month. The timing is just off for me this session, and even though I can do a writing and meditation retreat any time for myself at home, and I can drive up to SMC whenever I want, I am really going to miss seeing Susan again. The other grief related to her is the Open Heart Project Practitioner level didn’t end up working out. We aren’t completely disbanded or adrift, things are simply shifting, but we had just completed our 2nd virtual retreat when we got the news and it was sad.

There’s grief about other family stuff, things I don’t write about here, other people’s struggles and secrets that aren’t mine to share, but can’t be ignored, are hard to witness, generate so much suffering. I practice remembering, as Anaïs Nin suggested, “You cannot save people. You can only love them.”

When it was happening, and immediately after, there was a lot of grief around the session I had with a new doctor where she told me I was obese and tried to put me on a diet, told me to do more cardio — all this after I explained I was a dis-ordered eater and was hoping to heal that behavior.

handpocketsbyandrea

this is what obese looks like — when I look at her, all I can see is how hard she tries, all the ways she’s denied herself, how worthy she is of nothing but love (photo by Andrea Scher)

Which leads directly into my answer to the next prompt: 20/20: Hindsight is the one thing we never benefit from in the present.  Is there one moment you wish you could do over? I’m not usually one to wish for do-overs because it seems to imply regret, wanting things to be different, and if that were the case, I wouldn’t be where I am now. For example, from the visit to that doctor came the Self-Compassion Saturday project and the real healing that is happening now, something I had to do for myself. Yes, what she did was awful, but it was the catalyst for something good. Or, I could wish that I’d let Dexter go hiking that day, the one where he stayed home with me and hurt his knee chasing a squirrel in the back yard — and yet, without a hurt knee, he wouldn’t have required physical therapy, and we never would have met Dr. Lindsey Fry and the support staff at Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency Hospital. They gave both Dexter and I such good care in those final months. So, rather than wish for a do-over, I choose to accept what’s happened, to be grateful for what I can, learn what I can.

The Besottment Reverb 2013 prompt is “Did you discover a favourite song or musical artist in 2013?” I love music as much as I love books and dogs, so I can’t give just one. These are my three favorite new to me artists I discovered, my three favorite of their songs.

One eskimO, Amazing

Mary Lambert, She Keeps Me Warm

Furns, Power

Something Good

arterylobby1. A Photo Essay: Castle Crags on Rowdy Kitten, a beautiful act of remembering.

2. patterns + running + 10 hours of tv from Jessica Swift, a good reminder about the creative process, about balancing your effort with ease.

3. Obesity epidemic? Try hunger crisis. from Nourishing the Soul, which ends with “if we can recognize what it is we are truly hungry for, we might just be able to satiate ourselves.” Word. If you want more on this, you can always look to Rachel Cole, the Hunger Goddess.

4. On determining your worth from Susan Piver.

5. The Habits Of Supremely Happy People on Huffington Post.

6. your daily rock : cut yourself some slack and your daily rock : we are in this together.

7. Blessedly Imperfect on Painted Path.

arteryexit8. Things to remember on Superhero Life.

9. And I Know It’s Hard on Museful Things by Ken Robert.

10. I’m a F*cking Unicorn. (Or 10 Things to Do When You Get Fired for the First Time.) from Elephant Journal. I feel like I should start reading #6 to myself every morning and see what happens.

11. What, You Don’t Need Me? from Jonathan Fields. We should all aspire to this, no matter what sort of work, parenting, living we do.

12. Stop Juicing: It’s not healthy, it’s not virtuous, and it makes you seem like a jerk on Slate.

13. Good stuff from Seth Godin, The sound of confidence and #BlackFriday = media trap.

14. Program helps low-income elderly and disabled keep their pets on Today@CSU. This seems like a win-win situation, students away from home missing their own dogs or unable to have their own dog while in school and people with dogs who need help caring for them.

15. Things for My Stuff by Jason Good, one of the funniest boy bloggers around.

16. Florida State University AcaBelles – Royals (opb. Lorde).

17. Ward Miles – First Year, a dad films premature son’s miraculous first year. Of course the subject matter pulls at your heart strings, but I’m really sharing this because it’s a beautifully made film.

18. Kid President’s 20 Things We Should Say More Often. Seriously people, Kid President is one of the best things e v e r.

19. Good stuff from Buzzfeed: 38 Best DIY Food Gifts, and 29 Adorably Tiny Versions Of Normal-Sized Things, and 23 Signs You’re A Morning Person, and What It’s Like Being A New TA.

20. Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend, a really great TED Talk.

21. From Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list: Shaved Brussel Sprout Slaw with Pink Grapefruit and a Maple Cider Vinaigrette (recipe), and Winter Recipes – salted caramel candies + kale chips + a sweet potato salad, and The Art of Getting Started Assignments, and Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense, and Our American Revolution.

22. The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel from Danielle LaPorte, in which she says,

You can’t contract your way to freedom.
You can’t punish your way to joy.
You can’t fight your way to inner peace.
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.

Oh, snap.

23. From Rowdy Kitten’s Happy Links list, My Uniform Life (in Five Easy Steps) and Blue Deer Forest Web Hosting and Blogging Services.

24. Everything I know about rest, I learned the hard way from Marianne Elliott.

25. The Necessary Art of Subtraction on Zen Habits.

26. From Positively Present Picks list, Essential Thanksgiving from The New York Times.

27. Good stuff from MindBodyGreen: 10 Signs You’ve Found Your Calling and Yum! Holiday Stuffins That Will Knock Your Socks Off (recipe).

Letterpress from Impress Studio

Letterpress from Impress Studio

28. Kat McNally is hosting Reverb13 (I have two prompts in the series) and has a new website.

29. The New Black Friday with Sherry Richert Belul.

30. The True Meaning of Non-Attachment and How It Sets You Free from Always Well Within.

31. “Boredom is Rage Spread Thin.” Paul Tillich from Jeff Oaks.

32. 64 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief.

Letterpress from Impress Studio

Letterpress from Impress Studio

33. Wisdom from Lao Tzu,

In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is acquired.
In pursuit of wisdom,
every day something is dropped.

34. This Dog Can Stack Anything On His Head. You’ll Die Laughing At What His Owner Has Tried. A dog in a hoodie gets me every time.

35. The Art of Cleanup: Ursus Wehrli Playfully Deconstructs and Reorders the Chaos of Life on Brain Pickings.

36. 7 Reasons to Stop Proving Yourself to Everyone Else from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

P.S. Spirit Road, Take Us Home: 100 Animal Card Readings to Usher in the New Year! a great offering from Rachael Maddox that I forgot to tell you about!

Something Good

0. It’s Margaret Atwood‘s birthday today. She’s one of my favorite authors. Why “0” instead of “1”? I am mentioning it as a way to sneak in that it’s also MY birthday today — Hello, 46! Another birthday, and sharing it with one of my favorites is something good for me.

1. Question #11, Courtney Putnam’s beautiful answer to my questions about grief.

2. Wisdom from Hafiz, “The place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”

3. “A Writer Writes.” Tips for Living an Authentic Life. from Elephant Journal.

4. Good stuff from Be More With Less, One Little Simple Step and Seek out the Joy, (p.s. the “open-hearted Jill” she refers to in this post is ME!). Also from Courtney Carver, but on Medium, Plan to Be Surprised.

5. Good stuff from Seth Godin, Not a gift and Sure, but he’s our bully and Bullying is theft.

6. Wisdom from from David Whyte,

Why is it so difficult to take that first, necessary, close-in, courageous step to reclaiming our happiness in life? Perhaps, because taking that step leads to a kind of radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, often rehearsing the old story, are suddenly out of a job. There occurs in effect, a form of internal corporate downsizing, where the parts of us that do not wish to participate or have nothing now to offer are let go, with all of the accompanying death-like trauma, and where the last fight occurs, a rear guard disbelief that this new, less complicated self, is all that is needed for the new possibilities ahead. It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more complicated, our identities clouded by fear and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.

7. How animal adoption & rescue has transformed my life from Kris Carr. I have been loving following Buddy’s story, and Kris’s post here is further proof that when you rescue a dog, they rescue you right back.

8. Everyone’s Talking About What This Shy Photographer Did. When You See This, You’ll Understand Why on Viral Nova.

9. When fat things happen to good people. On being thin, fat, and your false assumptions. from Drop it and Eat.

10. Your Most Precious Thing. Shaking up your attachments. from Danielle LaPorte.

11. My adventures into healthy cooking from Kelly Rae Roberts. I like the idea of cooking a week’s worth of essentials so that when you are hungry, you can just eat, however I am one of those people who worries about eating something that’s been in the fridge for longer than 2-3 days. I need to ask Kelly Rae how she handles that.

12. morning thoughts on Doorways Traveler.

13. Bodies are NOT a Problem (Despite Some Yoga Pants’ Attempts to Make Us Think Otherwise) from Curvy Yoga. Anna also shared this great quote on Facebook from Sharon Salzberg,

As I go through all kinds of feelings and experiences in my journey through life — delight, surprise, chagrin, dismay — I hold this question as a guiding light: “What do I really need right now to be happy?” What I come to over and over again is that only qualities as vast and deep as love, connection and kindness will really make me happy in any sort of enduring way.

14. 420 Square Feet Apartment Miracle! I don’t plan on going this small, (our house is 1088), but there are some really good ideas in this space.

15. Wisdom from Phillip Moffitt,

It’s possible to transform what has been a hindrance in your life into a teacher of the heart. “Transform” does not mean to fix or make go away whatever trauma and scars you may be carrying from childhood; instead, you slowly develop a new relationship with your difficulty, such that it is no longer a controlling factor in your life. What may seem like an intractable wound may even become a point of inspiration and deep understanding for you.

16. From Your Inner Pilot Light,

Somewhere inside of you lies a healer. Regardless of what’s printed on your business card, you were put on this earth to help others, to love others, to make this world a better place. If you’re not yet sure how you might use your healing superpowers in service to the world, that’s probably a sign. You and I aren’t close enough yet. Will you be my BFF?

17. How To Help Typhoon Haiyan Survivors on Huffington Post and Avoiding despair when disaster hits: aid, advocacy, action. from Marianne Elliott. I always am looking to ease suffering, and in some cases choosing exactly how can feel overwhelming. I was thankful to have this help and thought you might be too.

18. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön, “In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.”

19. Announcing the New Improved Jonathan Fields (Just Add Water)
and Plan B from Jonathan Fields.

20. 11 Little Signs You’re Doing Just Fine from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

21. Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences on Zen Habits.

22. Welcome to Dinovember, on Medium. This is 14 kinds of awesome.

23. Wisdom from Kute Blackson,

It’s when you accept life as it is and as it isn’t that you bring yourself into the flow. When you no longer resist life then you can meet the moment powerfully.

And this,

When you acknowledge your deep intuition, and live in accord with your deepest truth, you become the truly powerful being that you are.

And this brainteaser,

Sometimes what you want is actually not what you REALLY want but what you think you want based on who you think you currently are.

And finally this,

The most powerful prayer is simply to SURRENDER. To give up what you think your goal and vision should look like, to give up your attachments to the form, and to open yourself to the highest good unfolding for all concerned.

24. Daily Rocks: your daily rock : be generous and your daily rock : just be.

25. Wisdom from Marianne Williamson,

The only way to gain power in a world that is moving too fast is to learn to slow down. And the only way to spread one’s influence wide is to learn how to go deep. The world we want for ourselves and our children will not emerge from electronic speed but rather from a spiritual stillness that takes root in our souls. Then, and only then, will we create a world that reflects the heart instead of shattering it.

26. Be Your Own Beloved Mentoring, what looks to be a fabulous offering from Vivienne McMaster.

27. Meet Ippo, The Adorable Zonkey Who is Half Zebra, Half Donkey on Bored Panda. Oh, the cuteness.

28. The Season of Kindness…to Yourself from Brittany Herself. I’m in. Are you?

29. This hilarious parody of Gravity set in IKEA is spot on.

30. Wisdom from Anne Lamott on Facebook.

31. Where the Divine Show Up (It’s not where you’d expect) from Ronna Detrick. I’m not gonna lie, this one is blowing my mind a little bit.

32. Trying to describe your delightful new project — and drawing a blank? Start here. from Alexandra Franzen.

33. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Quinoa and Cranberries, a yummy looking recipe from Thug Kitchen.

34. Two good posts from 3x3x365, 11/13/13 and 11/15/13. Amy McCracken (in the third spot) is both one of my favorite people and one of my favorite writers, and Burg one of my favorite dogs.

35. A beautiful quote from Meade, “To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.”

36. Catch My Fall: The Healing from just Lara, who is anything but “just.”

37. I was so sad to learn DJ Cheb I Sabbah died. He made beautiful music. I bought his first album in 1999 and have loved him ever since, donated money to help pay for his cancer treatment last year, as he was a musician with no health insurance. NPR ran this piece on him after he passed, Remembering Cheb I Sabbah, DJ Who Built A New Musical World.

38. A heartbreaking post from Humans of New York.

39. Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, posting about something I know a lot about — canine therapy and amazement.

40. Just showing up from Christina Rosalie.

41. Dani Shapiro: Self-doubt is a writer’s best friend on Salon.

42. Winter Joy Retreat with Cigdem Kobu. This is the second year Cigdem has put together a program like this, (last year it was Reset. Revive. Restart.), and it’s looking like it’s going to be a yearly holiday tradition for me.

43. Wisdom Notes for a Well-Fed Holiday with Rachel Cole is becoming one of my other yearly traditions.

43. Dog tired! Adorable toddler and his ‘puppy brother’ Theo who nap together every day is stupid cute, (i.e. someone or something that is so attractive it disrupts your ability to intelligently process information while looking at it, something so unbelievably cute it makes you stupid). I am a sucker for black and tan dogs, also for naps with cute boys. Here’s her post about adopting Theo, Wishes Granted: Theo and Beau, and here’s where you can follow her on Instagram for all the cuteness.

44. Good stuff from Chookooloonks: #naphopomo 2013, day 16: redone office (and a giveaway)! (I love getting to see people’s workspaces, and this one is particularly cosy), and #naphopomo 2013, day 18: cutting back, shooting forward.

45. Wisdom from Nadia Bolz-Weber, “But being good has never set me free the way truth has.”

46. This is why I am doing too much: people I adore come up with fun stuff like this, Kickin’ It Old Skool Blog-a-thon.

47. Help Me Attend Earth Activist Training, another one of my cousins trying to do good things.

48. Dog Songs: Mary Oliver on What Dogs Teach Us About the Meaning of Our Human Lives on Brain Pickings. My favorite line from this book is “A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.”

Day of Rest

softdexterConfession: Even though I don’t talk about it as much as I did, I am still missing Dexter something awful. I was looking through my archive of journals this morning for something specific I wanted to write more about, stumbled across my entry from the day Dexter died, and maybe partly because Sam and Eric were gone on a walk and I was alone and knew no one would hear me or be upset by it, I started sobbing. It seems harder to “get over” this loss because I still wasn’t really over losing Obi or Kelly when “it” happened again. And to be quite honest, since I’m confessing, coming clean, in the past five or six years really awful stuff has happened, much of which I didn’t talk about here, either because it was someone else’s stuff or because the consequences of speaking out were too great. Add that to the fact I’m an introvert and Highly Sensitive Person who is easily overwhelmed and it’s a toxic mess.

Stress, suffering comes from resisting what is happening, when things aren’t going the way we wanted, and no matter how evolved we might be, how able we are to stay with, cope with the hard stuff, no one wants to see those they love suffer, get sick, or die. My delusion that I should be able to help, to fix it, and smashing myself to bits if I can’t, only adds more suffering.

Continuing in the spirit of confession, yesterday I ate an entire bag of Smart Puffs. They are all natural, gluten and trans fat free with no preservatives, and an entire bag is 630 calories, which is less than a Big Mac or a Peanut Buster Parfait, but still it was a deliberate binge. I was tired, frustrated that my energy wasn’t keeping up with everything I wanted to do, so I took a break to watch TV, a really good show from Mike Birbiglia, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. I finished off the tail end of a bag, less than 10 puffs, could have stopped right there, but made the decision to open a new bag. Multiple times I made the decision to keep going, keep eating, and eventually finished the whole bag.

(This video has been helping me to be gentle with myself when I eat something I think I shouldn’t, I remember his sweet little voice listing off everything he’d eaten, groan about how it was too much, and it makes me smile, have a sense of humor about it rather than beating myself up)

Underneath any binge is always the collection of all the other hard stuff I haven’t quite been able to deal with, all the bad stuff that’s happened, the things I’m sad or worried about, what’s been lost, the various times and ways I’ve abandoned or denied myself.

The bottom line, whether you weigh 340 pounds or 150 pounds, is that when you eat when you are not hungry, you are using food as a drug, grappling with boredom or illness or loss or grief or emptiness or loneliness or rejection. Food is only the middleman, the means to the end. Of altering your emotions. Of making yourself numb. Of creating a secondary problem when the original problem becomes too uncomfortable. Of dying slowly rather than coming to terms with your messy, magnificent, and very, very short—even at a hundred years—life. The means to these ends happens to be food, but it could be alcohol, it could be work, it could be sex, it could be cocaine. Surfing the Internet. Talking on the phone.

For a variety of reasons we don’t fully understand (genetics, temperament, environment), those of us who are compulsive eaters choose food. Not because of its taste. Not because of its texture or its color. We want quantity, volume, bulk. We need it—a lot of it—to go unconscious. To wipe out what’s going on. The unconsciousness is what’s important, not the food. ~Geneen Roth, Women Food and God.

whatareyouhungryforI am rereading Geneen Roth’s Women Food and God. You already know, if you’ve been reading, that I am working with a therapist who specializes in dis-ordered eating. I’m also starting a book group with the book Intuitive Eating led by Rachel Cole. I’m making an effort, but in other ways I am surrendering, letting go of effort, letting go of pushing and trying and forcing. I also am back to weighing the most I’ve ever weighed, after losing this same 20 pounds six years ago, having hired a trainer and started yoga and even running and going on yet another diet, starving myself down to what seemed acceptable. Slowly the weight came back — some due to more food less movement, some because of the shame I felt being called obese by someone who was supposed to be helping me, some of it because my body is changing and my metabolism and energy levels just aren’t what they were — but mostly because I wasn’t dealing with the underlying issues.

Brave Belly

When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control. ~Geneen Roth

I don’t want to keep doing this, cycling through restriction and binging, punishment and control followed by rebellion, shame and smashing myself to bits. I’ve lost all sense of what my authentic body might be and I want to discover it, that point at which I am both happy and well, sane and healthy. I want to reach the point where I can stay open to what is happening, show up for what is exactly as I am, to feel the full weight of how sad I am, how much I have lost, allowing how much it’s going to hurt. And the one thing I know for sure — it’s not about the food.

Day of Rest

Sweet, lionhearted Henry, a beautiful beast of a dog, died yesterday. Only one day before, his mom learned he had an inoperable tumor on his liver and was already very sick, too sick, and she’d have to let him go. I never met Henry, or his mom, but the pictures and stories she’s shared made me love him, and her, anyway.

Every loss like this is folded into my own. I almost can’t separate the sadness of losing my Dexter (or Obi before him) from the loss of every other dog loved and missed by someone, just like me. And certain dogs, for whatever reason and especially if they have cancer, touch that tender raw spot that I carry with me everywhere, always.

That’s what they don’t tell you about a broken heart — it’s not that it gets broken and then fixed, restored to its former state, but rather it gets broken open. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking around in the world not just naked, no clothes on, but with all my skin peeled off, my chest cracked open, utterly vulnerable and wounded, nothing to hide behind, no armor or mask or shield, no protection.

Oddly enough, this is an experience I chose. This is my path. You can armor up and numb out, run away or reject this way of living. It’s entirely possible through all sorts of means to disconnect from reality, to opt out. And yet, two years ago I made a distinct, conscious choice otherwise.

Committing to benefit others is traditionally called the path of the bodhisattva…the path of the spiritual warrior whose weapons are gentleness, clarity of mind, and an open heart. The Tibetan word for warriormeans “the one who cultivates bravery.” As warriors in training, we cultivate the courage and flexibility to live with uncertainty–with the shaky, tender feeling of anxiety, of nothing to hold on to–and to dedicate our lives to making ourselves available to every person, in every situation. ~Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

This is my path, to ease suffering, in myself and the world. There are days like today when I am feeling sad and a little stuck that I wonder if I can really do this, and yet when I give any attention to contemplating the matter, I understand that for me there really is no other way.

Something Good

Bench at Greyrock, but Eric Salahub

Bench at Greyrock, by Eric Salahub

1. The Sunday Rumpus Essay: Grief Magic by Emily Rapp.

2. How To Thrive At Work (Even If You Can’t Stand Your Job) on MindBodyGreen.

3. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, Is Your Gut Instinct Your God Instinct?

4. Celebrating Little Steps on Becoming Minimalist.

5. Always Go to the Funeral, a This I Believe essay on NPR. I learned this the hard way.

6. First Listen: Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight…, Neko Case’s new album on NPR.

Bench at Greyrock, by Eric Salahub

Bench at Greyrock, by Eric Salahub

7. On Recovering the Body, Monday Discipline: Rest and Mindful Friday: You’re Already Awesome.

8. For Apologists, a Confessional Phone Line Is Reborn on The New York Times.

9. Wisdom from Tama J. Kieves on Facebook,

The only thing in your way right now — is an idea. Let go of that one idea or story and the universe can rush in with a thousand new possibilities. Everything is waiting to support you. Let go of what you “think” is in the way and discover the way.

And,

Are you waiting for your one big chance? There is no one big chance. There are a thousand chances every day. In an inspired life, we keep loving, showing up, practicing our promises ourselves. We’re not looking for a ship to come in. We’re sailing daily.

10. The story I cannot edit from Lisa Bonchek Adams.

11. A Love Note to the “Hypersensitive,” “Too Nice,” & “Takers-of-It-Too-Personally” from Randi Buckley.

12. The Blessing Is Next to the Wound, Dani Shapiro on Positively Positive.


13. 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert on Huffington Post. I’m pretty overtly an introvert, but I still liked this list.

14. Wisdom and other good stuff from Elephant Journal: 50 Reasons Why You Are Absolutely Beautiful, and Ashton Kutcher Reveals His Real Name & Inspires in Speech at Teen Choice Awards and Baby, I was Born to Blog (amen, Britt).

15. How Four Years Can (and Should) Transform You: Mark Edmundson’s Essays Ask, “Why Teach?” from The New York Times.

16. When you shouldn’t give up sugar on first ourselves, in which Karly Randolph Pitman says,

But if you feel that your desire for sugar is really a symbol of a deeper desire – a desire to let your deepest essence unfold in the world – don’t cut out the sugar. Instead, listen to your desire. Befriend, allow and listen to your longings for sugar. Sit with them. Let your tears fall and ask yourself: How is my longing for sugar my voice, and what is it trying to say? What I am truly needing?

Listen to this voice. There’s so much wisdom in it.

And then be willing to go out on that limb – trusting what you hear – and live it. Let your deepest self speak, and your essence, unfold.

How many times, how many ways has Rachel Cole tried to tell me this? How many times do I need to hear it, from how many, before I finally get it?

18. Charity:Water is at it again.

17. Of tiny pink dumbbells and fat chicks from Carrie Patrick.

18. Thin Women: I’ve Got Your Back. Could You Get Mine? on Jezebel, in which Lindy West says, “ALL of our energy, collectively, no matter what our size, should be directed at the system that makes us hate ourselves for profit.” Amen.

19. What Happens Here Matters, living on the internet like I live on my block from Brit Hanson.

20. How I revolutionized my relationship to “doing”: Meet The Divine Medicine Woman & The Impeccable Street Sweeper from Danielle LaPorte. I think I need to fire my street sweeper.

21. Wisdom from Seth Godin, “Do you have three minutes?” The conservation of mental bandwidth and 120 seconds (shipping vs. rushing)

22. Wisdom from Marc and Angel Hack Life, 7 Questions You Are Too Scared to Ask and 10 Ways Happy People Prioritize Their To-Do Lists and 9 Things You Will Regret Not Doing Sooner.

23. The Many Flavours of Freedom from Deva Coaching.

24. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

You can cruise through life not letting anything touch you, but if you really want to live fully, if you want to enter into life, enter into genuine relationships with other people, with animals, with the world situation, you’re definitely going to have the experience of feeling provoked, of getting hooked, of shenpa. You’re not just going to feel bliss. The message is that when those feelings emerge, this is not a failure. This is the chance to cultivate maitri, unconditional friendliness toward your perfect and imperfect self.

25. Creating Your Habit Environment on Zen Habits.

26. #Inbound13 and the Culture of Caring from Susan Piver.

27. Architecture Student Bought a School Bus and Turned It Into Cozy Mobile Home from Bored Panda.

28. 10 small things you could do today that just might change your life (or at least your state of mind) from Justine Musk.

29. Monday Blues on SF Girl by Bay.

30. The 30-Day Negativity Cleanse on Live After Tampons. I’m in. What about you?

32. Wisdom from Your Inner Pilot Light,

Not sure whether you’re making the right decision, sunshine? Ask yourself these questions. 1. Does it make you feel free? 2. Is it in line with your vision and mission? 3. Does it feel authentic? 4. Will it help more people than it hurts? 5. Does it make you break into a happy dance? 6. Will it light my fire?


32. 18 Everyday Products You’ve Been Using Wrong on BuzzFeed.

33. Wisdom from Sharon Salzberg, “Generosity is the very first quality of an awakened mind.”

34. Poem shared by Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk.

35. Motherhood: The Big, Fat Fuck You on Scary Mommy. I’m not a mom, but I totally get this.

36. The Days Before Classes Begin by Jeff Oaks.

37. A free video series by SARK. Don’t miss it! on Superhero Life.

38. From Brave Girls Club,

Keep looking for goodness, beauty and truth. It is worth the effort. While life is sometimes dull and gray and even downright miserable in patches, there is always even more beauty and truth than darkness and ugliness. May you find other beautiful souls who are seeking just like you are. If you cannot find what you are seeking today, may you go out and create it. You are more than capable and you will effect more lives that you could ever know . . . especially your own. Keep looking. It is there, and you will find it.

39. From Positively Present Picks list, The Psychology of Color.

40. More on the wisdom of grief, from Amy McCracken on 3x3x365.

41. Bright Flashes, from Danielle Ate the Sandwich, just because.

42. 7 Truths About Being A Yoga Teacher That No One Will Ever Tell You on MindBodyGreen.

43. Brené Brown On Why Courage, Vulnerability And Authenticity Have To Be Practiced on Huffington Post, in which she says, “The people who practice authenticity work their ass off at it.”

44. Modern Love: Picking Up the Scent on the Road to Bliss on The New York Times, in which Tatjana Soli says,

Necessity creates opportunity that can lead to bliss… In my life, dogs have always been a part of that equation, a way to find the small, grounding moments in life — the grass, sunlight and sweet bite of plums — that we commonly call happiness.

45. If I Were a Dog, a beautiful poem by Richard Shelton.