LIVING LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE


the other side

“The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.”  ― Oprah Winfrey

It’s been nearly two months since I started my cleanse. And, almost exactly one month since it ended. I have been living in this newly-designed life for a bit now and it is finally feeling like my new normal. Remarkably, so much has changed since before the cleanse when I set this unofficial line of demarcation. It turned out to be a truly distinct moment in time when life as I knew it became altered. Without question, I’ve shifted, as I have so many times before, moving along my own personal continuum to achieve some level of personal success and satisfaction. We all make the journey through life, seeking fulfillment and pleasure and, for some, it comes in big bursts and for others, like me, it sneaks up on your subtly without you really noticing it until, suddenly, it is there and you can’t avoid recognizing the alteration. If you’re like me, that feeling is like crack – you want more and more, constantly seeking out personal growth and enlightenment. And, the further along the continuum I travel, the deeper the chasm that exists between my life now and my life before.

Now, I’m living life on the other side. My life feels oddly new and different and yet I know I am just a more improved version of the same person I have always been. My cleanse – both the emotional and the physical – allowed me to distance myself from the elements in my life that were no longer working. Gone are the inconsequential relationships that sucked up my time but provided no meaning to my life. Thankfully, I am no longer a slave to Facebook, constantly seeking some type of validation or creating an artificial sense of belonging. In fact, I have had countless experiences over the past few months where people commented to me about the goings-on of acquaintances on Facebook and I have felt an incredible sense of satisfaction that I was no longer in the know. I am not privy to all the status updates and, while I miss seeing some of the photos and have definitely missed way too many birthdays, my peace of mind is far more important and I feel liberated from the monotony of scrolling through posts in order to reinforce to myself how much better everyone else’s life is than mine. The other day, I was texting with a girlfriend and commented that I am missing so much by not being on Facebook and she generously retorted by saying that I am missing nothing. Those who I need to be talking to, I am – case in point my friend with whom I was having a lovely text exchange. I can count on two (maybe even one) hand the number of people I regularly communicate with in contrast to the dozens and dozens I would banter endlessly with or force myself to create relationships with “offline” and I am certain my interactions have taken on a much higher quality now. That means everything to me.

The most important element of how I am living my life is how I look at myself, overall. I’ve recently had to confront my challenges with being happy and accepting contentment. Being an eternal seeker, I am endlessly looking at the ways in which I can better my life and, while I am not naturally a negative person, I do tend to focus, personally, on my weaknesses as a tool in which to measure my requirements for growth. Sure, I am hard on myself and tend to have perfectionist tendencies, but I wholeheartedly appreciate my process for raising my own performance standards. And, most significantly, I do not impose any of my standards on anyone else. This drive for improvement is absolutely an internal process. As a result of this, there is always a sense of incompleteness to my life. Just as I can reach above the bar, I raise it, quickly forcing a new goal and setting a new standard. I recognize that this limits my ability to bask in my success and appreciate my accomplishments so it is something I am working hard to improve upon – without, of course, forcing myself into yet another competition with myself to make advancements without acknowledging my progress.

Just this past week, I received some great news about some financial matters I was dealing with and the outcome was relieving a huge burden off my shoulders. Something that I had been struggling with for nearly two years was coming to a resolution and I was able to exhale a gigantic sigh of relief. The elation from the news – the exact solution I was hoping for – was short-lived. Within a few days, I felt a nagging sense of anxiety growing within me but I could not place the source. This has become uncharacteristic for me because, since the cleanse, I have been very in touch with my feelings and emotions and have not allowed myself to run away from my feelings. The removal of food as a distraction from my stress or anxiety has been enormously beneficial as I am constantly present and working through whatever is causing me difficulty. In fact, in complete contrast, lately I have had an unusual sense of calm about me and have made my peace with a lot of the aspects of my life about which I am typically uneasy. It took me by surprise to feel this sense of deflation and to experience this overwhelming stress. What quickly came to mind is that I was manufacturing my own duress. Like many times before in my life, I was a filling a void and keeping myself in what felt like a safe and familiar bunker. Something needed to replace the worry that had been ever-present in my life for the past several years. In contrast, peace and solitude are unfamiliar to me so it is not all that surprising that I would create something to help me comfortably stay in the familiar state of discomfort. When the reality sunk in about what was happening, I felt defeated. All the hard work I had put in – not just in the past few months – but in last decade, seemed worthless. My bad behaviors were rearing their ugly heads once more.

Alas, fret not. This story has a positive outcome. I took my struggle to the place where it belongs – therapy. I dissected the hell out of it and woke up to a new dawn. Simply being able to understand what was happening was a dramatic improvement (admitting you have a problem is the first step…). There was no running away or hiding out from what I was feeling or experiencing. Instead, I had confronted, head-on, my own foibles. I recognized, regrettably, how I had simply replaced one ailment for another and was now able to dig deeper.

Wearing our skills is the hardest part of personal development. We can intellectually absorb what needs to be done differently and study the new behaviors required to live more happily, authentically and successfully. However, when it comes time to demonstrate what we have learned, many, like me, struggle. It is like performing the dance for which you have learned all the different elements but have not put them all together at once. Within me, there is a deep belief in how I need to operate in order to achieve my own personal satisfaction. Plus, I have all the information and knowledge required to accomplish my tasks. I simply have never truly taken my desire, married it with my knowledge and put the pieces together to execute. And I kind of understand why – I have been afraid to fail. I have internalized some kind of idea or expectation that once I arrived at my destination, I would be good to go. I’d fire on all cylinders and there would be no looking back. But, as I have heard more clearly over the past few weeks, life is not about arriving at a destination, it is about the journey. There is no pass or fail – it is a series of trial and error and, hopefully, learning from errors to have fewer as time goes on. I get that. I can do that.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu

This is what my life looks on this side:

I am living a healthy lifestyle. My eating is not perfect but it is greatly improved from where it was and I feel really comfortable with my choices. I have a different relationship with food and I have a strong sense of willpower to make the right choices. I have not re-introduced sugar or caffeine into my life and wheat is pretty much on the outs as well. Dairy makes a rare appearance and only in the form of the occasional cheese in a salad or a sprinkle of parmesan on a recipe. Plus eggs. I love eggs. I hardboil them and pop those suckers into my mouth for a quick protein fix after the gym. They make me happy. I have learned to enjoy cooking and have found recipes that reinforce that I can eat delicious food while still avoiding those items that cause me difficulty. I survived Easter and the presence of two growing boys who have a nonstop parade of cookies and ice cream with grace and, remarkably, little difficulty. I open my freezer regularly and see those familiar demons – pints of Talenti gelato – and it causes me no dismay. I will eat dessert again, when I choose to. I get to decide when and what. It does not choose me.

Working out has become a regular way of life for me.  Most weeks I am at the gym 4-5 times, if not more. I simply love it. I have found some great new classes, including spinning, that keep me engaged and enthusiastic, and I also enjoy my hour on the elliptical many mornings during the week. It is my time for me and I treasure it. I have learned how to prioritize myself and ensure that I get what I need to feed my soul in the most important ways. And, of course, the results feel wonderful! While I have not lost as much weight as I had hoped to by this point, I am on a steady path of progress. There is no more doing battle with my closet. Everything fits and I get to choose, happily, what to wear each day. What used to be a shaming session in the morning is now a blissful romp through my wardrobe of old favorites. I am re-establishing my relationship with lots of clothes that were tucked in the back of my closet in order for me to avoid remembering how they “used to look.” I feel like a fit person and, even this morning, as I was pumping through my spin class, I kept checking myself out in the mirror, acknowledging that I still have a long way to go. What’s different is now I have a great sense of acceptance for who I am. The reflection that stares back at me is a beautiful one that I am proud to look at. I accept my mission and will do my best to achieve my goals but, even if I stop exactly where I am, as long as I live my life in such a way that makes me feel satisfied with my efforts, I believe I will be ok.

The past is behind me. This was the important lesson I learned in the last week. I have talked so much about wanting to reframe my picture and cut out the elements that no longer fit. I am finally ready to do this authentically and sincerely. I no longer want to look backwards. The past, for me, simply doesn’t resonate any longer. Sure, it informs who I am today but there is less and less to be learned from that and, more importantly, I need to spend my time focusing on who I want to become. I am taking stock in what I have created and there is great pride to be derived from architecting a life all on my own. The survivor moniker doesn’t fit me but I can’t avoid acknowledging that I have managed to get myself to a place – with an awesome amount of hard work – where I am really strong, really confident and really amazing. I am so proud of who I am today and, without question, I am living the life I am supposed to be living. Everything in my life is within my control. There is no longer anyone who can disrupt me in the way my family and others have done so in the past. So, I can leave all that behind me because it served its purpose and I have drawn the last vials of blood left in that body. Now, I am ready to move forward.

My relationships are wonderful. I have always sought to have a large group of friends to compensate for all that was lacking from my family. There has been an insatiable need within me that, no matter how many friends I had around me, was never satisfied. Of course, no one could fill that whole. I had to learn how to do it myself. Now, I am much more content with just a few close friends, a couple of acquaintances and my wee but mighty family. I really need nothing else. Those with whom I want to spend time, I do. I choose how and when I spend my time and I am extremely selective about those with whom I give a part of myself. Partly this is because I don’t have a lot of time or emotion to spare and also because I think it is a gift to give of one’s self. We should all be very discerning about who we let into our lives and how we share pieces of ourselves. I have the most amazing circle of trusted companions, led off by MVP, my best friend. Our relationship has flourished in this new era and I am grateful for all the time and effort he has put in to help chaperone me on this path. Without question, my family is my rock – my husband and kids continually giving me a sense of peace and provide a home base for me. They have shown me that family can be a wonderful thing and I work hard every day to be a better partner and be the best mother I can be to my children, allowing them to realize their potential and their dreams in a loving and nurturing environment.

I am happy. I don’t necessarily feel it every day and I get moody and frustrated but, at the end of it all, I am happy with where I am and what I have accomplished. I am putting out a better version of me into the world and that is undeniably the best feeling ever.

So, now I am signing off for a while. This blog has served me well for many years. It has helped me traverse the jungles of my mind and the valleys of darkness that have scared and challenged me. The purpose was originally to position myself professionally and, as the wind blew me off course, I found a whole new destination of finding myself personally. I am grateful to everyone who has read this and shared their feedback, rooted me on and offered such meaningful and valuable words of encouragement. It is time for a new chapter and I will certainly start anew with a new blog to reflect my life today rather than to focus on yesterday. I am happily walking through this door.

DAY THIRTEEN


value of a moment

When I began my cleanse and committed to blogging about it every day, I had no idea how difficult it would be to not seem redundant and mundane each day. Despite what seems like a roller coaster ride, my life has not changed all that dramatically in the past two weeks and my days are actually quite normal and kinda boring. Trying to connect dots and find meaningful ways to share my experience has been one of the more challenging aspects. I suspect, from the outside, reading each blog post may be just a recitation of what I ate, if I worked out and how much angst I could drive to the surface and neurotically analyze. I often wonder why we share these experiences the way we do and why others decide to voyeuristically join us for the ride. But, alas, we are all here so let’s see how today went….

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Salmon sashimi with sesame oil, ginger and lemongrass
  • Steamed cauliflower
  • Chicken with lemon, olive oil and shallots
  • Sauteed spinach
  • Steamed brussel sprouts
  • Quinoa
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

It feels like the world has opened up to me now that protein is a part of the plan. Lots of wonderful options and delicious flavors tantalizing my taste buds

How I felt:

I felt great today. I woke up before my alarm at 5:30 this morning and I suspect my sleep patterns have shifted. Definitely feeling the difference in my body. There is no debating it at this point.

Physical Activity:

No gym for me today because I had meetings starting at 7:30am.

Today presented some new challenges and, ultimately, some wonderful opportunities to try on my new skills. I had my first lunch in a restaurant today. Being committed to sticking with my plan, I looked online at menus to see which places might have options for me. I am not afraid to ask for special preparation of my meals when I go out but I knew today would present a variety of challenges. Fortunately, a local restaurant had a great option of salmon sashimi that turned out to be incredibly delicious and completely on the plan. I was very pleased with myself because I was laser focused on staying true to my cleanse and did not even think about wandering off course. There was bread on the table throughout the meal and, even though it looked delicious, it never tempted me.

The second challenge came late in the afternoon when I dropped by a friend’s for a happy hour jewelry party. I knew there would be lots of yummy treats along with wine. Having not had a drink in weeks, the wine was the riskiest threat for me. Yet, I went to the party and stood in the dining room as food was passed and everyone was drinking and eating. Again, not once did I even think about the food and I even got some of the other guests excited about doing the cleanse when I shared my experience and told them of my results. The energy that came from sharing my story was so intoxicating that even a bottle of wine could not have made me feel better.

One of the things that I have found noteworthy in the past few weeks is how I have used my blog and my own writing as a support mechanism. Not being on Facebook and feeling somewhat isolated because of the lack of the social interaction that Facebook fabricates for me, I decided to turn to myself as a friend. As I sometimes do, I sought out advice from myself by reading my old blogs and seeing what wisdom was transmitted. I’m fascinated when I read my old writings because it is a living documentary of my evolution. I can typically place myself back in the head space I was in at the time of the writing and sometimes I feel a little embarrassed at how foolish I sound or how trite some of my thought processes are. And, sometimes, I am amazed as the level of insight I possess and how powerfully my own words still resonate with me. I love to archive anything I can for later viewing. As a child, I kept journals. Sometimes they were sheets and sheets of loose leaf paper with my most personal thoughts – my crushes, my hopes and dreams, my disappointments. Sometimes they were cute spiral bound notebooks with pictures of kittens and puppy dogs and the pages were filled with fictional stories that depicted the life I wish I had. Year after year I would fill my notebooks and then go back and read to visit with myself from an earlier time. I found it comforting then and still do today. It’s like the scratch marks you put in the doorway as you measure your children’s height year after year. In order to truly appreciate their growth you need to look at how far they have come.

Today, I decided to find solace in another document I have archived. Last year my phone ran out of storage space and I went about the task of deleting apps and photos in order to make room for new content. In the process, I noticed that my text messages were taking up a huge chunk of inventory on my phone. Upon further investigation, I found that I had saved over 19,000 text messages that were exchanged between me and my best friend in the past 2 years. No, I am not a teenager and yes, my friend and I text A LOT. In June, I shared the story about my experience of trying to let go of the text messages in my blog. I knew that I could not just let them go for there had to be some reason why I had saved them for so long. My friend and I were going through a rough patch at the time so I was not able to see clearly enough what the texts represented and why I needed to preserve them. So, I found a compromise for myself and was able to download them into an app and save them into a PDF. An 1800-page PDF! Earlier this week I was thinking about the text messages and felt the need to glimpse back into those days to see if they would reveal anything to me. In the height of the emotional turmoil that resulted from the intensity of my detox, I was seeking out any messages that would help to shed light on my path. And, because my friend has been out of town and out of touch, I thought it might be a nice way to visit with him as I took a walk down memory lane.

On Monday I looked around my office for the thumb drive that stored the PDF. I couldn’t locate it. I thought, perhaps, that I did not actually store it on a thumb drive and, instead, kept it saved on my hard drive. Then I remembered that I had gotten a new desktop computer in my office and had erased the hard drive on my old computer and gave it to my husband. My heart sunk when it seemed apparent that my memories were lost. I thought to text my friend on his vacation and ask him if he had saved the thumb drive I gave him with the text messages (he is less nostalgic than me and generously humored me by taking a copy at my request) but then chose not to bother him with such a minor matter. I would wait for him to return and hope that he still had a copy of the file. This weighed heavy on my mind all week because I felt like I had lost an important piece of my history – a critical component of our story. Like the boxes that my husband and I each have of letter and mementos from our early days of dating and the crates that I have filled with pregnancy tests, ultrasound photos, baby clothes and special memories from each of my children’s early days, this PDF was a marker of the beginning of something important. As each day progressed without me finding the file, I felt heartbroken. It reminded of me of the time I flew to Florida when I was 8 years old and left my photo album on the airplane, never to be recovered. I lost memories that could never be replaced.

Then today, I was on a conference call and was digging through my laptop bag sitting next to me, in search of a pen. I felt something in one of the pockets and dug up a thumb drive tucked deep inside. My heart raced as I pulled it out and shoved the drive into the USB port on my laptop. I could no longer hear what anyone was saying on the phone because all I could hear was my heart beating in my chest as I pulled up the drive and looked to see the contents.

And there it was!

After dinner, when I had some quiet time, I opened up the PDF and decided to read through some of the exchanges. I have done this before and it makes me smile to see the silliness of our chatter. It comforts me to revisit so many important experiences that we shared via text message. As I shared last week in my blog, because of the geographic distance between us, our friendship is heavily centered around texts. It is how we do so much of our communication which is both good and sometimes really not so good. Today, I was warmed once again and found myself smiling as I read through them but I also had a different reaction. This time, I was reading the exchanges a little differently. I was trying to feel the tenor of my comments. Memories flashed through my head as I remembered experiences and had visions of where I was as I typed many of these messages. Even though the correspondence transpired over the past three years, many of the messages seemed like I was reading something from twenty years ago. Despite believing that I was in tune with myself, my dialogue clearly indicated how much I was hiding from the truth about myself. The clarity today was about how much I have changed – and how much the relationship with my friend has evolved. While fun and silly and absolutely adorable, our texts lacked dimension and depth. On the surface, there were revelatory conversations with me acknowledging issues that I struggle with (some that still ring true today like my challenge to ask others for help), yet I was dancing around the deeper matters that were the roots of my difficulties. And, as I was able to recall the experiences that were not captured in the texts but surrounded the discussions, I was able to make out the foundations of behaviors and expectations that were being established. When I fast forward the tape and look at how my friend and I communicate today and the depth and veracity of the conversations, I can really see the complexity and volume that the years have provided. And, I can also see how I got to where I am today as a result of some of the things I said and did all those years ago.

After a short while, I had to stop reading because I felt like I was watching an accident about to occur – like watching a movie and you know exactly when the villain is going to jump out and grab the victim. While I cherish those memories, I also am disturbed to see how much pain I was in and how destructive my behavior was, despite the subtlety of it. I can see, by reading my own words, the patterns of my own behavior that resulted in turmoil for me. Although, at the same time, I am buoyed by the fact that my relationship with my friend is so incredibly strong and powerful that it miraculously withstood my own annihilative tendencies. Back then, my demons were well masked, dressed beautifully, decorated with makeup and jewelry and hiding the sadness and pain that I was not prepared to reveal. I do believe that one of the remarkable aspects of my relationship with my friend is that he helped to create a safe space for me to let my darkness out. And, I know that some of our difficulties resulted from my inability to continue to camouflage my agony. So, once again, those messages take on a new meaning for me and my relentless memorialization proves immeasurably valuable.

I end this day feeling proud on so many levels. I look at my three-years-ago-self and know that I was just beginning to take the first steps on what has become a tiresome journey towards peace. Perhaps what has felt like disruptions during this cleanse process were actually the new realities settling in. I no longer hide from what is uncomfortable and, sometimes, my truth is a bitter pill to swallow. I think this intense self-reflection has actually resulted in a moment of getting adjusted to a new way of being that I hadn’t fully acknowledged. Whatever the case, I feel certain that I have come a long way and, while I clearly still am fighting old battles, I have a much deeper understanding of how to win this war. And that feels really good.

DAY NINE


your road

I have reached the point in the cleanse where I no longer care about eating. Now I eat because I have to. Because I’m so plugged into how my body feels, I’m acutely aware of the plummeting energy levels when I don’t eat. So, I’ve reached that wonderful point where I’m feeding my body food for energy. And, I love that. I was in the grocery store today replenishing some of my vegetables and I wandered around a bit, realizing that there was no place for me to go in the market outside of the produce section. It was a little bit disappointing but much more comforting because all temptation of snacks was off the table. I exited the store without the guilt or angst I sometimes feel when I have snuck in a treat for myself that I really have no business smuggling into the house.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Baby carrots with guacamole
  • Sliced apples
  • Sweet potato with sea salt and pepper
  • Lentil soup
  • 6 dates
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

Today was a good day. I felt energetic all day and was in a fairly upbeat mood, for the most part. I’m managing some big challenges and trying to stay focused on positivity. I did have therapy today, which helped to maintain my sanity. I sensed my therapist’s amusement at the random thoughts flying out of mouth, creating a verbal tennis match as I explained to her the myriad thought processes that I have been partaking in over the last week. This was the first time, outside of my blog, that I have had a chance to expel all that has been in my head and it felt really good to let it out!

My hunger pangs have diminished significantly and, overall, I feel healthy and fit. It is a nice feeling that I am not ready to let go of anytime soon.

Physical Activity:

I did not get a chance to make it to the gym today because of a very hectic work schedule and commitments with the kids. I gave myself the night off so I could do important tasks like folding the mountain of laundry that has piled up.

This afternoon I wandered into my husband’s office and looked at his computer screen which had Facebook opened. It felt like I was eyeing the forbidden fruit. There was a temptation to sneak on under his profile and see what was happening with my Facebook pals. I tiptoed over to his desk and, just as gingerly, backed away. I did not want to break the seal. I’m really proud of sticking to my commitment to stay off of Facebook during this cleanse. It’s still the biggest craving I have every day, especially when I have downtime and want to just mindlessly escape. Without access to Facebook, I continue to feel incredibly disconnected with what is going on around me. And, frankly, even admitting that makes me really sad because, as I have mentioned before, Facebook has become my main connection point to the world around me. Then again, maybe that is not all that terrible. I like the ability to catch up on what my friends are doing in a succinct manner. While it would be great if I could find time to text or call all the people I would like to, it’s simply not a luxury I can afford these days and scrolling through Facebook allows me to accomplish some of that quickly and easily. The part of this that actually is most disappointing is that my dependence on Facebook is directly correlated to how overworked I am and how little time I have to devote to tending to my personal life and my emotional gardening.

I was talking to my therapist about my Facebook hiatus and she commented that she expected I would return to dozens of friend requests. “Because that is how popular I imagine you are,” she smiled. I laughed because I know a lot of people assume that about me. In fact, I am one of those people who knows A LOT of people. Everyone assumes I know everyone because I travel in lots of different circles. But, in truth, I live on the peripherary of them all. I could not tell you the last party I was invited to or the last time anyone invited me out to dinner. Usually, I run into people and we smile and chat and that’s the extent of our connection. Or we banter on Facebook. Sure, I also have those friends with whom I share a more intimate relationship but those relationships usually exist primarily in the land of text messaging. Lots of text messaging. We should get together. I miss you. How ARE you? All genuine and heartfelt – and beginning and ending on the screen of my phone. I don’t, in reality, have that many friends and I often tend to isolate myself – especially when I am under stress. I wall myself off and keep everything on the inside. For, as extroverted as I am, when it comes to crisis, I tend to lock myself up in a hole and manage it independently.

When my therapist asked me about my experience with the cleanse (she clearly has not read my blog), I shared that being confronted with an array of emotions is good and bad and, really, all I wanted to do is curl up like a little kid and have someone take care of me. “I want my mommy,” I whimpered. Ironic, for many reasons, most importantly because my mom was never the kind of mother who would comfort me in that way. Yet, even though I never experienced that level of contentment with my mother, I know for certain that it is exactly what I need right now. I just need nurturing but, as usual, with the swarms of people I know, I can’t find a single person to help me out. Not because of them – that’s all on me.

I go back to therapy on Day 19. Let’s see if I just walk into her office and curl up in the fetal position. At this rate, it seems inevitable.

DAY SEVEN


geneen roth

One week down!

Hard to believe it was just one week ago that I was sitting at my dining room table chowing down on my final meal of short ribs and mashed potatoes capped off by a delicious fruit tart, before beginning this process. It hardly seems like that could have been just 7 days ago because I feel like I have been on this cleanse for months. And, today, I was really thankful to be where I am. I was out with a friend doing some shopping and I received a very troubling email that would have, otherwise, sent me into a tailspin of eating. My friend and I were standing in the store picking out bed linens and, after I read it, I calmly explained to him what was going on and continued on with my shopping. He was surprised at my reaction and I simply stated that there was nothing I could do to fix the problem at this moment and could not let it disrupt me. I had a purpose at the store and needed to focus on that. My normal reaction to a situation like this would have been to withhold the information from my friend, keep it bottled up inside and then go home and binge. I would have stuffed down my feelings and numbed myself with food. Not today. I calmly finished up my shopping, returned home and worked through my discomfort throughout the day. And I survived.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, mango, pineapple
  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries and blueberries
  • Cauliflower with fresh garlicky tomato sauce (so delicious!)
  • Salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, beets and homemade vinaigrette
  • Quinoa with peppers, onions and mushrooms
  • Fresh pineapple
  • 30 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

I felt really good today. My cold seems to have subsided and I was pretty upbeat and energetic most of the day, even despite my derailment. I woke up what seemed very early and, when I looked at my bedside clock, it read 7:05am. So, I went downstairs and, when I walked into the kitchen, I saw the clock on the microwave reading 6:09am. I was confused until I realized that my bedside clock automatically resets for Daylight Savings Time and, for some reason, it adjusted itself a day early! I was happy to have the extra hour and returned to bed. Today was my last day with the cleanse capsules and I am so happy to be done with them. I did notice, when getting dressed this morning. that my clothes fit just a tad more comfortably. Since I have not been tracking my weight, I have no idea if I actually lost any weight but I definitely feel a bit less bloated.

Physical Activity:

I didn’t get to the gym today but was out for a big chunk of time this afternoon and did a good deal of walking. It was nice to have a break from the gym and will be back there tomorrow. We are also setting up a DVD player in the basement so my son and I can start doing P90X together.

As I was dealing with my crisis today, I had the great line from Airplane playing in my head “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” Of course, every week has its own set of challenges and no matter when I opted to do this cleanse, I would have been confronted with a variety of difficulties. Interestingly, when I decided to embark on this cleanse, I did not go through my typical compulsive analysis process, thinking through all the elements of the experience and how it might impact the rest of my life. Instead, I heard about it from my friend, quickly researched it, ordered the supplies and put the plan in motion. In fact, I only briefly mentioned it to a few close friends and kept the news mostly to myself. This is highly unusual for me. The fact that I chose to include a Facebook hiatus as part of the detox was also a bold and surprising move because I often rely upon the ability to socialize these challenges and use the feedback as momentum to fuel my efforts. Instead, at the most unlikely of times, I chose to make this private. Well, not completely private because I am blogging about it, of course. But blogging offers accountability rather than support. Blogging is more of a one-way communication whereas Facebook provides a dialogue.

This time, I did not convene a support team. I isolated myself and chose to tackle this burden individually. I’m curious about my underlying motives and reasoning because my approach to all of this reflects behavior quite uncharacteristic of me. I gave some thought to this last night and keyed in on some interesting points. Most significant is that my best friend is on a two-week vacation and is pretty much out of contact with me. So, one of my primary support systems – someone who would normally be a daily coach to urge me on –  is not available to me. That did not go unnoticed to me nor did it seem coincidental. Plus, I barely mentioned this to my husband and family before I began. There was a brief comment at dinner one night that I would be embarking on this process the following week. “Buckle up,” was the message. “It’s going to be rough seas around here.” It was more of a storm warning than a call for support.

There’s no denying that I am fiercely independent.  Fiercely.  Probably, much to the dismay of those who love me the most. Get too close and I might push you away. I loathe neediness, particularly in myself. Yet, I am an extrovert by nature and gain energy from socializing. My mood is always lifted after I have endured a respite of interaction and re-immerse myself into the world of my friends. I tend to always look for partners for my adventures – like my shopping trip today. And still, I made this a discreet endeavor. Lately, because of some challenges in my life, I have been feeling unusually needy and vulnerable and I have to wonder if this provided me an opportunity to separate myself and assert my independence. Perhaps I am trying to prove to myself that I am capable of enduring challenges individually and independently. In this case, the absence of the usual suspects rooting me on and having my back, while unfamiliar, is surprisingly not uncomfortable. It, for sure, is odd. It feels unnatural while. conversely, seems appropriate.

My best friend, who often provides me with a meaningful reflection of myself, frequently comments about my unique ability to change when I need to. He appreciates my commitment to solving a problem or improving a situation that demands my attention, strategically and surgically. I am never afraid to embark on a mission for growth. But I usually have a co-pilot or a wingman at my side. This time, it is a solo flight and I don’t think I hate it. I might feel liberated, just a little bit. At a time when I am confronting some issues around my own isolation in the world and my lack of a deeper family support system, this seems like a risky move. I’m not sure what my behavior means or if it means anything at all. It’s just interesting to me because I am always curious about the underlying reasons why I do the things that I do. I am inquisitive about the subtleties of my behavior that often have a deeper implication.

This feels different. Not scary. Not exhilarating. Just different. And noteworthy.

THICKER THAN BLOOD


Friendship

“There is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person, however dear and beloved, but an expansion, an interpretation, of one’s self, the very meaning of one’s soul.” ~Edith Wharton

I am the survivor of a very complicated childhood, devoid of the critical elements necessary for healthy maturation. Because of this, I grew up, harboring lots of vacancies within me. I’ve always sought ways to fill the voids, attempting to make myself whole and bridge my gaps. Some of my methods were not ideal and resulted in poor and destructive behavior. Others were far more productive and occurred courtesy of some deep and meaningful friendships that I managed to develop over the years. Despite what I was lacking, I found it easy to attach myself to others, securing anchors along the pathway of my life that prevented me from drifting too far away. Before marriage and children – which finally enabled me the opportunity to build my own family from the ground up and, hopefully, heal some of the painful wounds that lingered – my friends were my salvation from orphancy. Marriage and the birth of my kids were a positive disruption on my journey and created critical and powerful connection points along with a new foundation from which to build. Unfortunately, I slowly learned that even they could not replace the deep chasm that still lingered because of the absence of those early familial relations. So, I continued to seek out relationships that would serve as a patch, masking over the holes and offering opportunities to plant seeds that might grow into deep roots that might ultimately feel like a real family tree.

When I was 42 years old, well into my expedition and still struggling to make sense of the ever-present voids that lay deeply within me, I received a gift. There was no gift wrap or bow and no card to indicate why it was coming my way. It simply showed up on my proverbial doorstep. The gift was my best friend. Only, I had no idea at the time what lay in store for me. I have written previously about My Gay Best Friend, highlighting the distinctiveness of our special relationship. Yet, no matter how deep I dig to try to evoke my most elemental feelings about this friendship, when I write about it, I tend to focus more clinically on the exceptionality of our connection. It is strangely difficult to convey, in the context of my own personal experience, how powerful this relationship is and how humbled I am by its presence in my life. But, today, I am going to try.

I am not a fan of the term “best friend” when referring to our friendship. It seems immature and feels like it trivializes the intensity and complexity of our relationship. I joke, instead, that he is “my brother from another mother” as this more adequately paints the picture. The way I usually process my feelings towards him and the nature of our relationship is more closely akin to that of a family member. Ultimately, there is not a common construct that applies to us, which makes perfect sense because it reinforces the uniqueness and singularity of our attachment.

But, in fact, he is my best friend. He is a friend above all others – the first rung on my friendship ladder. He is at the top of my pyramid. He is the one I trust above all my other comrades. This does not denigrate my other friendships – several of which are quite intimate and trusting – it just highlights how close we actually are. We have a symbiosis that often exists with twins. We can sense when each other is suffering and have an understanding between us on how to support one another. It is implied. It is implicit. It is fundamental. When we are trying to refer to each other and express the magnitude of our relationship, we pull out the “best friend” moniker to be clear of the relevancy in each other’s life. We are able to categorize our relationship (my need, typically) and ensure that it is tended to with intention and given the respect it deserves. Both of us acknowledge, like Edith Wharton suggests, that our relationship is singular and rare and meant to be adored.

In previous writings, I have referred to my relationship with my best friend as a marriage, of sorts. What makes our association so individual yet complex is that we share many of the deep intimacies that marital partners share but they are funneled through a very different lens. We don’t have the traditional burdens of households, bills, and kids. We don’t have to engage in the complexities of romance and sex that, while incredibly meaningful in a union, also create complications that platonic, loving friendships do not have to withstand. On the other hand, we have to balance the intensity of our bond with the other relationships in our lives, particularly husbands and kids. Because there is emotional intimacy, the boundaries become blurred and, admittedly, my friend does a far better job of managing that than me. At different intervals, we have to realign ourselves and readjust expectations. Plus, we live far apart and, while our work offers us many opportunities to spend time together, we are challenged by the geographical gap that prevents us from the typical interactions that friends share over coffee or drinks. We have to work hard to schedule our personal time and, for me, this causes stress and frustration and I have to continually remind myself that there is simply nothing traditional about our friendship. While I love that, at the same time, I am challenged by it over and over again.

My friend and I met five years ago on a cold February day in New York City. I had just joined a small consulting firm, where he was employed. On this day, I was attending an offsite meeting where I would be introduced to the whole team, flown in from all over the country. As the newbie, I felt nervous and intimidated because this was my first foray into consulting and I had a limited understanding of the business. As is often the case for me, I worried that expectations would be high and that I would not stack up.

When I entered the offices where we were meeting, I fortified myself by putting on my best game face and committed myself to winning them over. I knew I had some tools up my sleeve and planned to do whatever it took to be taken seriously. There was a lounge area outside of the conference room where we were set to meet and, while I waited for us to get started, I set my bags down on a stool at one of the high-top tables and sat down. I waited patiently for my boss to arrive so she could introduce me to the others.  Because we were at a client site, I was not able to identify my new colleagues as the lounge was filled with a mixture of people including the client’s employees. I was not prepared to start walking up to people and introducing myself. On the other hand, my future best friend, had a different strategy. While I don’t recall much before he came over to me, I do remember every detail that followed. Everything about our first interaction, through today’s lens, was authentic and represented our individual characteristics. He spotted me and figured I was the new one on the team. And he did what I have seen him do dozens of time since. He made his way over to me and, with a big bright smile, introduced himself and asked if he could sit down and join me.

Sometimes you meet someone, and it’s so clear that the two of you, on some level belong together. As lovers, or as friends, or as family, or as something entirely different. You just work, whether you understand one another or you’re in love or you’re partners in crime. You meet these people throughout your life, out of nowhere, under the strangest circumstances, and they help you feel alive. I don’t know if that makes me believe in coincidence, or fate, or sheer blind luck, but it definitely makes me believe in something. – Unknown

When you know someone as well as I know my friend, it is hard to reflect back on when you were strangers. Nowadays, I cannot imagine the absence of our daily text banter. He is imprinted on me in so many aspects of my life that it would feel unnatural to not know him. Yet, of course, that was not always the case. On the day we met, it was as if I received a gentle tap on the shoulder, encouraging me to pay attention and remember the details of everything that followed. In fact, as I write this, I can still see his smiling face when he sat down and opened up his egg sandwich, all neatly wrapped in wax paper. Clearly in my mind’s eye I can see him dig into the sandwich, wiping the corners of his mouth after each bite. It is tattooed on my brain – like so many important moments we have shared.

We launched into a friendly conversation and used our respective skills to interrogate each other, trying to learn as much as we could in a short period of time. I discovered that he had hoped to relocate to New York from the midwest and I excitedly volunteered to help him out when the time came (he never moved, by the way). I have no idea what he learned about me (and knowing my friend, he probably doesn’t remember either as I maintain the role of documentarian in our friendship). Most importantly, what I recall is how he put me at ease and how grateful I felt. Even our superficial connection helped to start the day off well. My friend has a unique gift of knowing what people need when they need it and this, in my opinion, was no exception. My deep belief is that he was brought to me that day – and I was brought to him. There were so many opportunities for the initial meeting to have not occurred. It was New York, after all.  My train could have been late and I would not have arrived early to the meeting. Or, he could have been held up buying his breakfast and he would have showed up without time to stop and eat in the lounge. And, perhaps, we would have missed that essential opportunity to connect.But it wouldn’t have mattered.  We would have found each other. I am sure of this because my most penetrating recollection of that day – something that remains compelling even now – is me continually searching for his eyes throughout the day and the reassurance and kindness that were returned each time I found them. I still search for those eyes now, in the most intense of situations, and the exact same sentiment comes across when I find them.

My friend will tell you that he did not authentically feel the connection with me that day. It was a bit more artificial for him because he was working and ingratiating himself with a new colleague. Knowing him as well as I do all these years later, I suspect this is true. And, I also would submit that something was activated in him that took longer for him to recognize. I have a profound belief in the power of the universe and the force of inertia over which we have very little control. I adhere to the philosophy that the occurrences in our lives are almost always influenced by the signs we read or choose to ignore. In my life, I struggle to pay attention to the signals but I can mark only a handful of instances where I truly followed my gut because I felt an intense gravitational pull. One was when I met my husband. Another was when I met my best friend. Those are not coincidences.

Despite our upbeat initial meeting and the quick bond that followed, our relationship has endured many challenges. Those vacancy signs within me still light up frequently, causing me to feel needy and creating moments of co-dependency. These disruptions force to me to make adjustments, re-balancing my friend’s role in my life. That symbiosis is a double-edged sword. I sometimes lose perspective and need to step back and administer those boundaries. Sometimes he has to force the boundaries on me. I have to proceed with caution, carefully managing my needs and expectations while continuously searching for ways to plug the holes that still leak out from within me. Co-dependency comes easily for us because our lives have become so intertwined, balancing our friendship and our working relationship and our endless desire to support each other. My friend is so skilled at nurturing me and administering first aid and TLC. Plus, as we are all amalgamations of our childhood experiences, I struggle with abandonment issues that rear their ugly head time and again. Because of our geographical distance, my triggers are sometimes activated when we are apart and I have work to address them with my adult brain rather than my juvenile psyche . I work hard to be respectful of his marriage and his personal life while also maintaining my own relationships at home. I force myself to remember that we are friends and only elements of each other’s tapestries. For both of us, it would be easy to get lost inside of our relationship. Personally, I become intoxicated by the rawness and purity of my feelings when I am with him. Like a child, I dance along the edge, indulging myself and allowing my vulnerability to show. And, while my spouse is my regular confidant and my primary source of support, my friend offers a tenderness that so uniquely matches my imagined sense of what I would have received in my childhood had my family been functional. The absence of that with my own family makes this relationship so enticing and so curative. So, I contemplate it. And when I get really close to the edge, fearful that I will slip off into the abyss of dependency, I run from it, looking for ways to diminish its importance from my life. I am textbook. I act out the drama that unfolded in my early life, trying to destroy any possibility of emotional injury. I create complications and challenges that are acutely tied to the past. But, of course, my wonderful friend is not like the family I grew up with. He is part of my new family and he patiently and adeptly works through this aspect of my life with me. What has resulted from these dynamics is one of the most authentic and mature relationships of my life. You see, with my friend, there really is no place to run, no place to hide. No matter how hard I might try to distance myself in fear that I am getting lost in my neediness, he finds me. He has a remarkable ability to pierce those he cares most about and inserts a tracking device that allows him to be intensely aware of your every move and mood. He feels it. Ordinarily, this would make me feel naked and exposed, crowded and suffocated. But, with him, I love it. I rely upon it. It is not foolproof, of course, and sometimes he misses the signals and fails to deliver. And I fail too. And we fight. And we forgive each other. And we move on. We’re best friends, after all. We’re family.

When you encounter close friends who’ve know each other for a long time, you’ll find many who share a common language and a private code that is imperceptible to outsiders. Friends, like long-married couples, tend to blend together, adopting each other’s characteristics. My friend and I are no exception and I appreciate how much we have been role models for each other. Early on, he introduced an expectation of behavior that I was unaccustomed to. Over time, the clarity of his intentions and his approaches to behavior helped me to shift my own style and expectations. I am spoiled by what we have created and I try to apply our dynamic to other relationships.  I’m only minimally successful because (a) I am trying to replicate something that is really authentically his and (b) the ability to operate in this fashion is so unique and is befitting our relationship because we both show up willing to do the work. I am grateful for the impact my friend has had on me and, when I observe others as they interact with us, I am buoyed. Most recognize the intensity and authenticity of our dynamic. Those who are not threatened by it, succumb to the force and fall right into step alongside us. Others that find it discomforting tend to back away and, there too, I am thankful.

“This is how it works. I love the people in my life, and I do for my friends whatever they need me to do for them, again and again, as many times as is necessary. For example, in your case you always forgot who you are and how much you’re loved. So what I do for you as your friend is remind you who you are and tell you how much I love you. And this isn’t any kind of burden for me, because I love who you are very much. Every time I remind you, I get to remember with you, which is my pleasure.” James Lecesne

I’ve been very open with my friend about the part he plays in my life, how much he means to me and the commitment I have to continually improve and build upon our important relationship. I am thankful that he willingly accepts his role and embraces it wholeheartedly. He doesn’t share my turmoil but he respects and honors it, ceaselessly challenging my reference points and offering a new framework and a new definition of family. He has invited me into his paradigm, helping me open doors that seemed forever locked inside me. And I know that is one of the elements of our friendship that he is most proud of and what makes him smile the most. One of his key purposes in life is to help others tap into their potential and discover components of themselves that seemed otherwise unreachable. And I am so grateful to be the beneficiary of his gifts. I know that I get to enjoy facets of his composition that he reserves for only the most special and deserved and I am appreciative of his generosity. Throughout my life, I have been drawn to too many people who resembled my family and failed to offer honesty and authenticity. My friend is a fresh face drawn from sincerity and filled with depth and insightfulness. And, for that and many more reasons, he is my very best friend. Some people surround themselves with friends who make them laugh, some seek out friends who have common interests, some search for soul mates who have their back as they trek through the muck. My best friend is all of those wrapped in one. And, admittedly, I am rather picky about those I let into my life, especially into my tight inner circle. My friend is more than deserving. He respects his place and never takes it for granted.

Every day I am aware of my friend’s impact on my life and the slow dimming of those vacancy lights. Some days, when I am in dark places, I struggle to understand why I was chosen to endure the pain that has been present throughout my life. If part of the purpose was that it would open me up to appreciate the gifts of my friend, then I have found a lovely silver lining. And I am grateful. I sure do love my brother from another mother.

HAPPIEST NEW YEAR


happy new year

I think most people I know are sharing the same sentiment today – “Where did this year go?” How, possibly, could it be the last day of 2014? It is remarkable how quickly the year slips by once we say goodbye to summer. It is like the first half of the year marches along at regular speed and then, the moment the kids return to school and the temperatures begins to drop, the calendar pages turn at a more rapid clip and the days begin to dwindle down. And then it is December 31.

As with most years, I am not making resolutions.  Instead, I am reflecting and learning and continuing to set intentions for my life. This year is noticeably different for me because I am saying goodbye to the year without regrets, without disdain for the burdens that challenged me along the way and without any signs of dismay. I am pleasantly looking back and optimistically looking forward. It is ironic because this year presented many more dramatic challenges than any year prior and I had to confront some of my most perilous demons. And I did this with grace and wisdom. Calmly and wisely. I recognized that, at this point in my life, nothing will really break me and everything is simply another speed bump that will only injure me if I drive too fast. If I slow down and focus on the bump, ensuring that I am careful and measured, I will move over it and continue on my way without damage.

This was the year that my children evolved into fully formed people.  My older son turned 14, towered over me significantly and gave me a sign that, perhaps, we did something right. Our relationship became more three-dimensional and no longer simply focused on me parenting him but shifted to him beginning to teach me about the world he lives in. It is a magical experience to see your child through this new lens and to be able to exist in this new, mature state. While the teenage years can test your resolve and make you sometimes question your decision to become a parent in the first place, it is also a transitional period where you begin to form this adult relationship with your children. While we are not friends, per se, we have a camaraderie and rapport that is unlike any other in my life. I cherish it and am thankful that we have transitioned to this place. It is one of the best gifts this year has brought and has helped me immeasurably. Knowing that my son understands more of the complexities of life forces me to process my own experiences differently and causes me to behave more thoughtfully. As parents, we always know our children are watching but we also recognize that their innocence often blinds them from the more serious matters that we address. As they get older, our children develop a sophistication that forces us to protect them while respecting their maturity and understanding. And, again, my children help me in ways they will never understand and in ways I never imagined. I don’t burden them with my challenges but they quietly and unknowingly make them so much easier to bear.

My younger son also provided me with a perspective that took me by surprise. At 11, he is so unlike my older boy. He has a sensitivity that is deep and penetrating and he empathizes and finds compassion for even the most hopeless souls. While he, too, is maturing rapidly and evolving into a more sophisticated being, he’s still my baby boy and still reveals to me the innocence and neediness for love and comfort that has been a trademark since infancy. He will still cuddle or tackle me with hugs when I return from trips, embracing me with a grip so tight and powerful that I am certain he can hug away all the pain and suffering I have endured in my life. His squeeze is like a panacea for every discomfort and an aloe for my wounds. He is pure healing and teaches me, continually, how to be a better parent and a more loving and evolved human.

This year also marked the 20th anniversary of my marriage. It hardly seems like two decades have evaporated and it is remarkable to me, given my history, that I could manage to maintain a loving relationship for so long. I am always quick to point out that my marriage (like everyone’s, frankly) is flawed and complicated but I have a new respect for the dynamics that make my marriage work and have employed new tools to ensure that I do my best to navigate this relationship intentionally and meaningfully. A switch went off in my head this year, without warning and without provocation, reminding me that, with its imperfections, my marriage is, without question, the most substantial and important relationship in my life and one that provides me with comfort and security in between all the discomfort and insecurity. When the final assessment comes to bear, it is a source of strength and empowerment and my husband and I, together, create a multiplier much greater than we do as individuals.

I continue to learn so much about myself through all the incredible relationships in my life. I have, over the past many years, become much more selective about who I share my life with and how I include others in my life. I have always felt a sense of obligation to provide my friends and loved ones with more of myself than perhaps I should be willing to offer up. My tendency has been to over-deliver and not reserve a portion of myself for me, resulting in an emptiness inside of myself that those on the outside could never fill because I had given up so many parts of me without tending to or nurturing my own needs. Perhaps it was one too many betrayals or disappointments or maybe I have just reached a level of maturity in my life, understanding what my boundaries need to be, but I have arrived at a very comfortable place where I have lowered the expectations on myself and, by association, on others. I still have incredibly powerful relationships that reverberate in my life, providing wisdom, insight, comfort, pleasure, connection, validation, joy and love.  And, I have a clear sense of my needs from my relationships and what I can offer to them. My friends have taught me how to be a better friend. My very best friend has provided a mirror in which I can see myself so differently than I ever did before and his influence has seeped into every aspect of my life, providing me with a deeper level of understanding of myself and a framework to operate more purposefully and reflectively. With the foundation that was established by my family, I have often feared that I would never be capable of dropping my guard or shedding the thin layer of protection that I have wrapped myself in for so many years to ensure that no one could penetrate or violate my vulnerabilities. Through lots of hard work, thoughtfulness and the good fortune of surrounding myself with an incredible set of people, I have managed to emerge from my past and live a life filed with love. I am able to walk through life without my shield and have learned – sometimes in difficult ways – how to trust and who is deemed trustworthy. I have learned to respect my own instincts and believe in what I know to be true. I feel confident and resolved.

As I get older, I experience what many others before me have which includes a deepening sense of the impermanence of our lives. I recognize that I likely have less time left than I have already spent living this life. I have fewer and fewer opportunities to impact those around me and create the indentation I want to leave on the world. It becomes so much more obvious to me how critical it is to choose wisely and be thoughtful about the life that I continue to create for myself. There is no end to the learning and the need for growth and change, despite how much of my life is behind me. And, my ability to adapt and enlarge my field of vision is directly correlated with my level of happiness and contentment.

So, once again, I will make the transition from one year to the next, resolving not to make resolutions but, instead to make the journey with wisdom and reflection and appreciation for the interconnectivity of all that touch our lives and all of our actions and behaviors. I will continue to be overly grateful, no matter how trite it may seem, because I am confident that gratitude trumps discontent every single time. No clever quotes are necessary to recognize that if I can focus on all that is hopeful and joyful in my life while respecting the challenges and disappointments, I will continue to find gratitude in each and every facet of my being. And I will have the strength and courage to take on any challenge I am presented with. Yes, nothing has the power to break me – only I do.

It will be a happy new year and I wish that to all of those who share this life with me, in any form. There are many who I have never met who provide quiet comfort and compassion and solidarity. There are those who are so ever-present in my life who fill my heart with so much love that I often feel like I don’t have the capacity to contain it. No matter where we intersect, I offer the blessing of good health, happiness and peace in 2015. We all have the opportunity to shine.

CHOSEN


friends as family

 

 

 

It has been many years since I have shared a holiday with the family I grew up with. At this point, probably more than 10 years. And, despite the memories of turbulent encounters, I have often fondly reflected on those rare moments when we sat around a table, connected by our shared DNA, our resilience that allowed us to still break bread and our eagerness to put aside the turmoil that characterized our family.

But those experiences were rare and, more typically, the holidays have been a complicated mixture of disappointment over unrealized expectations combined with a genuine desire to create new traditions and overcome the loss that had so unfortunately become intertwined and associated with the season. So, each year, as the leaves start to turn and fall wistfully to the ground, piling up as a mounting reminder of the changes ahead, I walk with trepidation through the days and weeks that lead up to the holiday season. As I have grown older, I have learned how to check in with myself, adept at identifying any pangs of anxiety or sadness that might overshadow the opportunities to be merry and enjoy what others find to be the most joyous time of the year. I gingerly step through the dropping temperatures, donning my warmer clothes to blanket myself from the potential blizzard of emotions that might disrupt my homeostasis and send me into a free fall that ends the day the Christmas tree is kicked to the curb.

When I am being reflective, I tend to think that I was chosen for this life. I imagine that my ethereal soul, as it floated through the universe, looking for a suitable host, was hand selected for the job of spending eighty or so years in my body, living my life, enduring my personal journey. I sometimes imagine that at the casting call, my soulful being showed strength and a capacity for endurance that outweighed the competition and landed me in the starring role in this life. I believe that I was chosen because I am special. Because I am capable. Because I am wise and bold and robust and I can endure all that comes my way. I am certain that I was the exact right one for the part.

Despite some of the complexities and the disruptions, I know how to navigate this life. Strange as it sounds, it makes complete sense to me. What I find foreign and disorienting is the normalcy that so many around me experience. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time worrying that if I ended up spending my life with someone who came from a stable and healthy family that I would stick out like a sore thumb. There would be no way for me to hide my damage, blend into the wallpaper and cover up my inability to exist in their well-adjusted and peaceful world. My rough edges, cracks and imperfections would be highlighted with bright neon lights showcasing them all. Instead, perhaps by intention or simply divine intervention, I found someone like me. Someone who had been broken down and wanted a chance at a fresh start, an opportunity to fix what went wrong. We thought that together we might prove that two wrongs do, in fact, make a right. Maybe our science experiment would be award-worthy or, rather, we would ultimately combust. So far, so good. Maybe we broke the curse.


As this year’s holiday approached, for the first time in as many years as I could remember, I felt no heaviness. There was no dread, no worry, no anticipatory disappointment. This came as a great surprise because, of all years, this would be one that should be mired in darkness and dismay. After all, this year has been heavy and daunting and overwhelming. Roadblocks and obstacles were strewn along the course, proving my journey difficult and, sometimes, seemingly impassable. I believed, more frequently than not, that this year I would finally break and nothing would be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There would be no glue to repair the complicated mosaic of my life. Yet, to my surprise most of all, I endured and, remarkably, found myself looking at the leaf piles, feeling the wind on my cheeks and wrapping my scarf tightly around my neck, not to protect myself from those familiar elements but to simply to seek comfort in the warmth radiating from inside of me. I bundled myself up, snuggled in the knowledge that I was ok. As I stared down the last weeks of this year, I felt proud that I had walked through yet another pit of fire and came out just a little charred. And maybe, even a little bit stronger than how I entered.

The dread that encompasses me as the summer turns to fall, as Halloween descends, as the turkeys appear in the market, as the Christmas decorations overtake the stores is noticeably absent this year. I am light and airy and feeling as free as that same ethereal being that floated around 47 years ago before it found its way to my small body, giving it life and a heart and a mind. I am peaceful and hopeful of the road ahead knowing that, while our burdens have not been lifted (in fact, they are as great as they have ever been), we are a strong unit, working together and grateful for what we have created. We are sad because we had to say goodbye to a four-legged family member, marking Thanksgiving week as a forever remembrance of our last hugs with our beloved pet. We have large hills to climb and challenges that will test our mettle and we are hopeful and optimistic and choosing to live and let go of everything non-essential. We are leaving behind those that choose not to row with us and are filling our boat with a crew committed to making us stronger and successful.

I am humbled by the people who have chosen – not by my request but by their own desire – to swaddle me and my family in a blanket of love. No, we do not have mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who share our lives with us. We are a small unit of four and we create a magnificent tapestry compiled of strangers who have become friends who have become our family. We can laugh and cry and share our hearts, our joy, our sadness, our most important moments with others who make us feel like we are connected to the universe. Who remind us that we will not float away because we have anchors who keep us tethered. Sometimes I forget they are there because they don’t look like me and didn’t come from the same family tree but then, when the road gets messiest and I am careening towards a ditch, I am suddenly rescued and usually from the most unlikely saviors.

This holiday I am not sad. I am not anxious. I am not overwhelmed at the thought of trying to manufacture an experience for my children that will fill the holes left inside me. No, this holiday, I am filled with abundance. I am joyful and grateful to continue to show my children how the fabric of our lives is created. Sure, for some, it is simple. They have deep-woven blends that keep them warm through the coldest months and the toughest of times. For us, we have designed a quilt that fits us perfectly and gives us just the warmth we need.