KINDNESS


kindnessToday, I simply need to give a shout out to my good friend Claire who has committed herself to spreading kindness in every way possible.  She started a wonderful blog in January, setting her intention for spreading kindness throughout the year.  She’s gaining some traction and I can feel the impact.  I have found myself reflecting on my own actions and behaviors, using her stories and her efforts as a barometer of sorts.  I am inspired by her passion and commitment to create a society of kinder, gentler people.

One of my great pleasures in life comes from helping others as  I am so moved when I can connect with another human being and provide them with something – even if just a nugget – to help them propel themselves forward.  My passion for giving back and supporting causes that resonate with me is part of what brings me joy and satisfaction.  But, kindness is much simpler and far more complicated than that.  Kindness is a core value.  It is a deep-rooted commitment to shifting behavior and focusing on putting good into the world.  It is about the small stuff.  It is about courtesy and consideration.  It is about selflessness.  It is hard to sustain.  Listen, I am a hardcore New Yorker – cynical, snarky, sarcastic and sometimes down right obnoxious.  Most of the people in my life love that about me and, frankly, so do I.  Nonetheless,  my intentions and behavior are all about goodness, kindness, sincerity and integrity.  It is all about balance and sometimes that is not easy to maintain.  But I make the effort every.single.day.  It requires hard work and effort because life is challenging and our daily struggles often disrupt our intentions.

Ultimately, I simply love the concept of paying it forward and this blog post today is intended to do just that.  Yesterday, I wrote a very personal and very honest post about my own struggles with trust and forgiveness.  In response to it, a good friend complimented me and supported me in an extremely kind and generous way which nourished me and propelled me forward.   And that right there is kindness in action as I was inspired to do the same for someone else.  The act of writing and putting your thoughts and feelings out in the world for others to read can be very risky.  People interpret things through their own lenses and they don’t always understand your intended meaning behind the words.  But, I guess, that is often the beauty of writing.  It allows the reader to travel with you but on their own voyage and bring their own perspectives into play.  The connection you can develop through finding commonalities, regardless how remote, can be powerful and extraordinary.  For me, the ability to write and share my history and, often, the pain that has accompanied my journey is an act of kindness for me as I try to share these experiences to reinforce that we are never alone.  There is always someone else on the road with you – sometimes a bit further ahead, sometimes much farther behind.  We are all alike in many ways.  As different as we may look or as varied as our backgrounds might be, we are still a bunch of cells that have formed to create our unique DNA.  There are overlaps in so many ways.

So, today, I hope I can inspire and encourage you to find a way to spread some kindness.  I am going to continue my quest to do so because, in the end, it feels really, really good!

MY DIRTY LITTLE SECRET


secretI have a dirty little secret.

I suffer from depression.

Not the blues.  Not feeling down in the dumps.  Full on depression.  The kind that takes me to a very dark place.  And, apparently, I share this disorder with 14,999,999 other Americans – a vast majority of them women.  I don’t necessarily keep this fact a secret but it is not typically my lead-in when I meet people.  Oddly, I don’t actually think of myself as someone who gets depressed but, as part of my efforts to live authentically, I have had to come to terms with what I refer to as my “dark periods.”  These periods do not pop up that frequently.  In fact, I can go years without having any type of serious depressive episode but, like earthquakes, it is not about the frequency, it is about the magnitude.

I suppose it was my birth right.  My mother suffered from depression most of her life.  She attempted to take her own life on two separate occasions when I was a young child.  Both times she downed an excessive amount of pills (likely aspirin because we didn’t have too many medications in our house) and I remember being in the ER at the hospital wondering what was wrong with her.  Despite the fact that she was often going to therapy, she never seemed to be able to treat her depression and, I suspect, it is because she desperately needed to be medicated.  Her depression was only one one of her many mental ailments.  My father struggled with alcoholism his entire life.  My brother is bipolar and my sister, like me, lives with depression and, likely, other forms of mental illness.  Our family legacy is both biological and environmental.  There is severe mental illness in my mother’s family and my parents, fighting with their own demons, inflicted a significant amount of trauma on my siblings and myself which, according to science, likely created a chemical imbalance and a form of PTSD that we each confront in our own unique ways.

Over the years, I have become skilled at dealing with my depression, from looking for the warning signs and fortifying myself, using exercise and diet as a minimizer, as well as treating it with antidepressants.  One of my challenges, however, is that my depression typically creeps up on me when I have either run out of things to distract my attention from it or when crushing stress becomes too much for me to bear.  Sometimes there are specific incidents that bring it on like negative interactions with people that leave me empty, wasted or diminished.  But, in most cases, I don’t see it coming and once it is upon me, I can’t find a way out of it.

I recently researched symptoms of depression to help me understand it a bit further.  I wanted to determine if what I was experiencing was truly depression or just some low periods.  I compared my feelings to the list:

  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood – check
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex – check
  • restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying – check
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism – check, check
  • sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening – check
  • thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts – check
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions – check

People often think that those of us who suffer from depression are downers who have difficulty functioning in everyday life.  These are just some of the myths that create stigmas and often prevent people from being honest about their own mental illness.  For me, the truth is I function very well and, most often, I am pretty upbeat – typically the life of the party.  And no, I am not bipolar.  I simply am not depressed every single day.  But when I go down, I go down hard.  And once I am down, it is very hard to get back up.

Recently, I went through an extremely dark period.  It felt like it came out of nowhere but, upon reflection and analysis, there were many triggers including work stress, holidays, and some challenging personal relationships.  I realized it was chasing me down and I was running from it like an animal being hunted as prey.  I just didn’t consciously realize I was scurrying from capture until it caught me and pummeled me.  When I saw the face of my demon, I recognized instantly that it had been sneaking up on me for a while.  Unfortunately, once I thought I got rid of the beast, I relaxed a bit and was shocked when it quickly reappeared and lingered  like a stalled-out hurricane.  It blew in, did some destruction and then seemed like it was moving out to sea.  Much to my surprise and severe disappointment, it changed direction and ended up blowing back in, this time much stronger and hanging on for a much longer period of time.  I was absolutely certain I was having a nervous breakdown. The darkness was so severe and so intense that I could not see my way to clarity.  I did not think the clouds would ever pass, that the winds would ever let up or that the rain would stop pouring down.  But, as is always the case with storms, they do pass and the sun shines through the clouds offering the hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Depression is even more complicated in my life because it is magnified by the echoes of the traumas of my childhood – the scars of which layer on top of my depression and validate many of my dark thoughts.  When I sink into worthlessness, my memories of words or experiences that traumatized me as a child, come to the surface and haunt me, giving credence to every distorted feeling I experience during these episodes.  It’s as if I am an alcoholic and, despite my efforts at recovery, there is always an open bar or a  friend standing by with a bottle to prevent me from ever achieving sobriety.  I have enough ammunition to keep me down for decades and, during some of these dark periods, I am rather confident that the sun will never shine again and that all of my worst experiences are my truth and personify who I am and what my life is meant to be.

The scariest part of depression, however, is not the admission of my illness nor is it the actual experience of going through the dark periods.  The scariest piece comes in the aftermath when, with a clear head, you realize just how low you have fallen.  When you realize just how easy it is for your mind to take you to places that seem unfathomable when you are rational and have your senses intact.  You realize that, in a split second, the pain that you are experiencing will take hold and you are captive to its powers and incapable of freeing yourself, left only with futile attempts to defend yourself and preserve some level of sanity so as not to have devastating outcomes.  I recently had a conversation with a close friend who had spent some time with me while I was in the middle of this recent episode and he shared with me his and his wife’s experiences and concerns for me.  It was humbling and, to some extent, overwhelming and humiliating.  He was kind and thoughtful in his comments and shared his fears in a compassionate and loving way.  But, it was in that moment that I realized how far away I go during those periods and how far removed from reality I am.  That is frightening and makes me feel vulnerable in the worst possible way.

Ultimately, my depression does not make me a bad person.  It does not prevent me from engaging in intimate and meaningful relationships.  It does not inhibit my ability to live a productive and successful life.  It does, however, force me to be acutely aware of the triggers and make choices differently than others who might not endure the same struggles.  It is like any other disease.  If I were diabetic, sugar would be my enemy.  If I had a heart condition, cardio would be a danger for me.  My medical ailment, caused by chemical imbalances in my brain (and, possibly, exacerbated by the hormonal disruption caused by the onset of menopause) forces me to think very seriously about how I interact with people, situations I put myself in, and how I deal with stress and anxiety.  I am neither ashamed nor afraid to share my truth but I realize that many will never understand this dimension of my life.  I need not be pitied or treated any differently.  It is just part of my truth.  And, fortunately, severe depression is something that rarely strikes me but, I acknowledge, that even if it happens once every five or ten years, it is real and it is dangerous.

So, I share my dirty little secret for the millions of Americans who are afraid to share their truth for fear that they will be stigmatized or ostracized.  I am not afraid because I am fortunate enough to have a small, intimate group of friends and family to whom I can turn for support during my dark periods and who understand my struggles and provide me with the love and nurturing that I need to get through the haze.  I also have an amazing therapist who works with me during dark days and, more importantly, during the bright ones to keep me focused on tackling the demons that bring me down and keep me down.  But, for many, they don’t have such luxuries and cannot be honest with themselves or anyone else because they feel shameful or afraid of the consequences of revealing their truth.  And, for some, like my own mother, they simply are not capable of seeing the truth in themselves and spend their lives living in denial, inflicting pain on those around them.

If you struggle with depression or know someone who does, take a moment to learn more and create a safe environment for yourself and others to live honestly and authentically.

MISSING


“Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown

I am currently working on a very meaningful project – coaching someone to help them uncover their story.  I love this for so many reasons but mainly because I am helping them find their story to authentically and passionately share with others the importance of the work that they are doing.  It is an exciting journey for them because they are being pushed to explore aspects of themselves in ways they may not have before and it is interesting for me because I am challenging myself to be present on their ride and partake in the same activities.  Part of my role is to provide journal prompts each day to encourage them to write.  The prompts are often benign and are intended to simply get them to explore some thoughts and put them down on paper.  I’m not particularly interested in what they write.  I simply want them to write.  But, of course, the mere exploration of thought creates pathways to information and the act of scribing creates further connections and suddenly stories are unfolding right in front of you.

Yesterday, I offered up a prompt to write about someone that you miss, dead or alive.  I put no parameters around this topic because I wanted them to explore on their own who they missed and why and, perhaps, what it meant to miss someone.  Do you miss someone because they are no longer part of your life?  Do you miss someone because they have passed on?  Do you miss someone at that very moment even if you are going to see them the very next day?  The exercise was intended to allow them to journey along all those lines.  As I am trying to parallel the exercises and simultaneously write on the very same topics, I commissioned myself to tackle the same subject…and fell short.  With each journal prompt, I also ask that we write about something that we are grateful for and/or something we are disappointed about from our day and, last night, I got really hung up on the first part.  I focused on my lack of gratitude, which was, conversely, a source of disappointment for myself.

Ironically enough, I am not someone who enjoys journaling because, for me, it sometimes seems forced and I am often harshly critical of what I write.  Because I typically write with the intention of having others read it, I am extremely focused on my choice of words, the deeper messages and having compelling content.  And, of course, that is exactly what journaling is not and exactly why I should spend more time on that activity.  Journaling is most powerful as a tool to allow for a free stream of thought to enable you to find those pathways to your inner voices.  I recognize that it’s nuts that I resist it and, as a result, I am forcing myself to take advantage of this opportunity to embrace the art of journaling if only to have some connection and authenticity with this project.  What comes from it will only be the icing on the cake.

Last night when I set out to write about someone I miss, I struggled.  I could not really come up with anyone that I missed so much that I wanted to write about it.  There are a lot of people that have been a part of my life that I do not have any connection with anymore because of life circumstances.  I do miss some of them and, sometimes I feel badly about the role I played in our disconnection.  I miss what they used to mean to me and I feel sad about the fact that, in many cases, I allowed the person to slip out of my life.  There are also certainly people who are currently a part of my life who I do not see very often and I surely miss them.  In truth, some of the people that I am closest to live at a great distance from me so I am constantly missing them but that has become a regular, ordinary characteristic of my life.  I don’t like to write about it because it frustrates me and also makes me very sad.  So, ultimately, I avoided the topic entirely and I ended up spending my time writing about my own disappointment in myself for not feeling more grateful and for letting myself continually get caught up in malaise rather than focusing on the positive aspects of my life.  The subconscious thoughts about how missing people makes me feel bad surely inspired a whole lot of negativity towards myself and was a perfect platform to display my deep levels of disappointment in myself.

This morning, as often happens when I am returning from dropping my kids off at school, I took a few minutes for some self-reflection and started thinking about the exercise again (yes, this is how this stuff works.  A simple little prompt can permeate your thinking and just sit with you for days.  It’s pretty awesome).  With a somewhat clear head, the loud and resounding noise was that the person I missed most right now was me.

I’ve gone away.  I have allowed myself to get caught up with the messiness in my life.  I focus on all the things wrong and nothing that is right.  I have become blind to the beauty around me like the rich fall colors and the fragrant aromas of the season that so often make me feel whole and connected.  I feel disappointment in myself in regards to many areas of my life.  I am harshly judging myself and critical of my thinking and endeavors. I am, as the brilliant Brene Brown would say, caught up in a shame spiral.   She says that “shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”  That is a potent message and, when I reflect on my life right now, it truly represents how I feel and why I miss myself.  I miss the person who rises above and feels tremendous gratitude for all the richness and texture that makes up my life.  I miss the strength that I typically exhibit to work through the clutter and chaos and the pride I feel for having muddled through and come out the other end feeling confident and powerful.  I miss waking up every day looking forward to the challenges before me and going to bed at night feeling tired but inspired and excited about what comes next.

I miss me.

The good news, I suppose, is that I can see myself in the distance and know that I am not far away.  And, chances are, it will likely not be too long before I return.  However, in the spirit of honoring this exercise, I will recognize that the person I miss is me and I will pine for myself and encourage myself to find my way back.  I will, like any good friend, extend a hand to help myself back up the hill, shout out directions as I traverse the rocks and catch myself if I slip.  And, until my return, I will keep on missing me and will remember another passage from Brene:

“Shame resilience [is] the ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values, and to come out on the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had going into it.”

She says, “shame derives its power from being unspeakable…language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”  So, I guess this little exercise, this benign journal prompt is exactly what I need to help myself as only I can.

MELANCHOLY


“And, at such a time, for a few of us there will always be a tugging at the heart—knowing a precious moment had gone and we not there. We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours forever—the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on belfry floor, a remembered voice, a loved face. They’ve gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass. ” – J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country

Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted every party to last forever. I was sad when the crowd started thinning or when my mother would send me off to bed while there was still plenty of fun to be had. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that happy times were in limited supply in my home and, when there were bright spots, I clung to them, hoping to prevent their end. Growing up with a glass-half-empty mother, I was conditioned to think about things in a bleak context. When talking about vacations, it was always, “it’ll be over before you know it.” When we discussed my wedding, she boiled it down to “it’s four hours and it will be over in a blink of an eye.” While there is some truth to what she said, it always left me clinging to whatever vestige of joy I could capture from every momentous event in my life.

Despite taking great pains to rid myself of much of this thinking, behavior runs deeper than our conscious minds can control. I have begun to notice in myself that I am anticipating the letdown of every event that I am looking forward to long before it is even close to arriving. It is as if I am gripping myself for some epic letdown that is destined to come rather than anticipating the joy and happy memories that will fill me for days, weeks, months and even years to come. I seem to have a sort of selective amnesia that prevents me from realizing that my life is rich with wonderful moments that quickly replace the ones that have passed. I’m regularly left with a hole that will be seemingly left unfilled forever. I suffer from a sort of melancholy that, while not totally disruptive to my life, forces me to consciously brace myself for the inevitable emotional letdown that comes after every high point in my life. And, while I am not thrilled about the melancholy that ultimately sets in with me, I know it is simply part of what makes me who I am. I like the way Herman Hesse looked at it. He said “suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” Oh how true this is. The melancholy affords me the opportunity to look at events in my life and, while I may find sadness in the aftermath of the joy, I am able to soak in the experiences and try to absorb all of the richness and texture that they provide to my life. I am reflective and introspective by nature and melancholy only deepens the process for me.

I can recall so many times in my life feeling that emptiness that quietly followed really extraordinary experiences. I often sit in the calm that resides in the wake of the storms of excitement that leave me emotionally spent and deeply speculative. I try to fortify myself with the memories, the photos, the inevitable peace that comes from knowing that my life is full. It is colored and contoured by the mix of events, personalities and love that make up my fabric. Unfortunately, it takes a lot out of me to travel that journey from melancholy to satiation. I battle with myself over the process, often faulting myself for not just simply being happy and knowing that, right around the corner, another wonderful experience will appear. On the other hand, I like what singer Shawn Colvin says: “the indefinable space between happy and sad is the most moving and compelling place for an artist to be. If there’s anything I consistently strive for, it’s a melancholy limbo.” So much power comes from the melancholy. As I continue my journey towards vulnerability and open myself up to feeling my feelings and feeling safe with my emotions, melancholy is one that I truly need to embrace and accept rather than force away. I cannot deny who I am or how I process the events of my life and, I suppose my melancholy is simply part of that. It is raw and honest and pure. It is the childlike part of me that never wants the party to end mixed with the adult understanding that tomorrow will bring another. It is the deep connection to the love that comes from those around me and the fear that, all at once, it will disappear and I will never again be whole. It is the connection and energy that surrounds me that I simply never want to let go of.

Today I am melancholy because I have had abundance beyond belief and tomorrow and the next day and next week and next month there will be even more and I will continue to enjoy it all and miss it when it’s gone. Perhaps that cycle will never end and I will learn to accept it is just part of the cycle of life for me. Like sunrise and sunset and the tides moving in and out. Perhaps I will learn to use it powerfully or I will simply go with the ebb and flow and see it as yet another complexity of me.

BREATHE


This morning I had the great pleasure of participating in something that has become a weekly ritual for me – Mindfulness Practice.  I kind of stumbled upon this group through a friend in my town and, admittedly, agreed to go only because I thought there was a business opportunity.  I was not at all thinking that it would have a personal impact for me. And, yes, I have said this before and then the piano fell on my head and I realized how blissfully ignorant I was.

The practice of mindfulness is something that has become more commonplace and mainstream in many aspects of life from mindful listening, mindful eating and now, even, mindful leadership.  In fact, mindful leadership was my particular area of interest when I joined the group because I believed there were some interesting applications of the mindfulness practice to the work I do with developing leaders, particularly women.

Mindfulness, rooted in Buddhist practice, is considered to be an essential step in the pathway to enlightenment.  In layman’s terms, it is about awareness.  It has been adopted in the Western world as a meditative practice and a way to alleviate stress and anxiety.  It has a much higher purpose, in my estimation, allowing us to be more present and intentional in everything we do and providing us with tools to allow us to be productive and joyful.

This morning, in our practice, we focused our attention on authenticity and looking at the masks we wear.  Needless to say, I love this topic.  The moment I realized we were going to be talking about authenticity, I started delighting in all of the beautiful riches that would emerge from the discussion.  The group, today, was comprised of about a dozen women — all of which are in different places in their journey for spiritual enlightenment but all of which have beautiful perspectives and powerful stories.  I surprised myself today because I expected to be spewing out all kinds of brilliant gems because I have spent significant time and mental energy exploring this topic of authenticity.  I failed to remember the power of the practice and was quickly derailed after our first meditation because, despite my great efforts to control my thinking, the release of power that results from a meaningful meditation, allows our minds to wander where they need to at that moment.

Along with the relief that came from being able to relax my mind and body in the meditation came an extraordinary realization that I had, in fact, stopped breathing.  I have just come off a very intense week of work, a busy weekend with family and friends and some unexpected (and surprisingly disruptive) turmoil.  As a result of all that, I had stopped my practice of breathing and being in the moment.  I was trying to control my thoughts, feelings and behaviors in order to, hopefully, impact outcomes.  Silly, silly me.  I realized that I was emotionally disconnecting from what was going on around me in order to regulate myself and control my emotions rather than allowing myself to experience what I was feeling and get comfortable with my feelings.  A-ha!  I wanted to roll back time and change my actions with this new sense of enlightenment about the root of my behaviors.  But, of course, that is not possible.  What was possible was to continue to think about the feelings I was experiencing throughout the past few days and understand how I force myself into a pattern of behavior to “protect” myself from my feelings.  When we discussed the masks that we wear in different aspects of our lives, I recognized the mask I wear with myself to try to pretend that I don’t feel what I feel in order to cope and move forward.  Sometimes it is just too hard to be uncomfortable and it hurts too much to feel pain and sadness.  And, I would argue with myself that, in order to truly find peace, you need to breathe through those moments, embrace what you are feeling, own it, live it, suffer through it and trust that you will come out the other end and be ok.

I am more surprised than anyone at how dependent I have become on those moments when I can let myself go and just breathe,  allowing my mind to travel wherever it needs to go.  Yesterday, I was driving on the highway, in the car alone, and I noticed how much angst was taking place in my head.  I noticed all the chaos and confusion that was swirling around inside me and I acknowledged that there was little I could do to control it, manage it or even address it.  I needed to focus on the road to be present with my driving but the noise was screaming for attention.  I could not give it the attention and, clearly, this morning, the chaos was ready to resurface.  However, using the practice of breathing, I was able to allow it to have a rational and powerful voice rather than a chaotic, loud, screaming, whiny, shrill, thunderous scream.  Very calmly and quietly I heard that I needed to pay attention to my breath because I was not allowing myself to feel.  Ahhhhh……

There is more to tell on this.  So much more.  More to share on the topic of masks because it is a powerful topic, particularly for women, but we will save that for another day.  For now, a big shout out to my fellow practitioners.  Thanks for letting me facilitate a bit today.  That was fun and meaningful!  Thanks for sharing.  Thanks for being in the moment with me.  Thanks for inspiring me.  And, hopefully, by sharing this and continuing to breathe, I will follow through on my intention to inspire others this week.

BE THE CHANGE


I believe intensely in the power of the small moments of our lives and how they shape and inform how we move forward.  I also believe that nothing happens by accident.  If you pay attention closely enough, you can fit together the pieces of your life and complete the complex jigsaw puzzle picture that is being formed.  It’s kind of funny that my husband and I are often diametrically opposed on this topic. Being an engineer, he believes that randomness is part of our existence and coincidences are just randomness collisions.  And, ironically, I believe he is one of the pieces of my life that most certainly did not happen by accident.

Along with my deep belief in fate, I also believe in the power of intention.  However, this is a relatively new way of thinking for me.  To be intentional, you need to trust that you can follow through with your intention.  You need to believe that you can regulate your life in such a way to live by your intention.  This is no easy task because it forces you to be present, conscious and accountable for your actions and behaviors.  On the other hand, being intentional creates an ease in your life because it provides you with a compass and barometer that immediately indicates if you have gone in the wrong direction or if you have fluctuated away from your focus.

Being intentional has never been a defining characteristic for me.  Because of the chaos in my life – chaos that caused me to be reactive and protective – I have never had the space or latitude to decide what I wanted.  I managed.  I survived.  I tolerated.  I never chose.  The idea of being able to choose the pathway I wanted was luxurious like cashmere and caviar.  I trusted no one – most significantly myself.  And, while I was blessed to have the gift of introspection which allowed me to constantly challenge myself and force myself to explore new ways of thinking and behaving, I failed to notice the magical connections that pulled my personal puzzle together and, ultimately, lived my life with same chaos that was foisted upon me for years and years.

I often talk about the blessings of people in my life and I firmly believe that I have been gifted with individuals who have come into my life to help me find my path, to help me along on my journey and show me the way when I could not do so myself.  Nonetheless, I have struggled to understand how to embrace these guides because my inability to trust would get in the way.  My aversion to vulnerability and fear of admitting that I need the assistance to find my way – or the acknowledgment of the fact that I might simply be lost -has prevented me from extracting the beautiful gifts bestowed upon me.  In recent years, though, I have much more consciously tried to change that.  I have tried to be courageous and test my limits, challenge my fears and consciously and intentionally accept what is being offered.  This is such hard work but the payoff is greater than any lottery bounty.

I want to tell this story in so many ways.  I want to share how this has paid off in work, how it enhances my relationships, how it makes me a better mother.  In reality, the only way I can honestly and authentically share the power of intention is to talk about how it has changed me – in the deepest aspects of my being.

When I have talked about vulnerability, I have shared that the environment I grew up in was one I would compare to a battle zone.  The enemy always had its weapon drawn and was ready to fire the moment they happened upon a vulnerable or open target.  I had to learn how to wear protective armor and shield myself from the oncoming attacks that happened far too frequently.  This was my familiar lifestyle.  A small voice inside me constantly begged for safe harbor.  I searched for someone, anyone who would be protective and would let me drop my guard.  I wanted to simply be.  I did not want to overthink things.  I did not want to be afraid.  I just wanted to be.  I wanted to luxuriate in the mundane.  My need for an ally removed any level of conscious intention and forced me to try so many people on for size – many of which resembled the initial enemies but did a wonderful job of masking their true identity.  I was hurt again and again and the callouses grew harder and thicker.  I trusted only to be betrayed and I never seemed to learn anything because I kept returning to the same enemy over and over.

I began to develop a level of consciousness in my 30s right around the time my first child was born.  Suddenly, as a parent, I knew instinctively that I needed to be intentional about mothering.  I knew that, without this intention, I could not possibly raise my children in a healthy way, offering them love, consistency and order.  WIthout clear intentions I would be replicating a level of chaos that defined my life.  However, I had no idea that I was even thinking any of this.  I did not have a vocabulary to define my behavior and actions.  I had instinct.  I had fate.  I was exercising these new muscles with my children but the rest of my relationships – particularly the one with myself – still suffered because I did not understand that trust and intention was what I required to begin a full transformation from that unarmed child.

There was no magical a-ha moment.  I did not wake up one day and burst from my bed with the answer.  I did not have a grandiose epiphany.  Instead, I worked really, really hard and tested everything around me.  I continued to try people on for size but I developed an acute awareness for what did not feel right and was able to extricate myself from unhealthy relationships much faster.  I took little baby steps towards a reality that included me possibly liking myself enough to invest the time and energy into trusting myself.  I grew older, I went to therapy, I battled through, I got hurt.

Then the universe kicked in and I was ready to listen.

Yes, I have had some extraordinary relationships.  FIrst and foremost is my husband.  For over 20 years we have struggled together, confronting our own scars and committing ourselves to let love prevail.  We are both very complex people with lots of emotional baggage and, often, our relationship has been so hard yet so worthwhile.  And the journey continues.  I have had friends – many of which have come and gone but who have left an imprint on me that I only now can look at and understand the significance.  I have risen from a family that suffered from mental illness, alcoholism and deep dysfunction – and I would not have chosen any other family because they are part of who I am today.  The good, the bad, and the ugly have helped to shape and inform who I am right here and right now.  They have helped me to struggle and forced me to confront my demons.  I could certainly have chosen to not do this but, for me, there never was an option.  I may not have set out to do this with intention but the universe intervened and made sure that I eventually paid attention and found my intention.  Today, I am surrounded by a beautiful tapestry of people I have chosen to be in my life.  Each of them enriches me in a way and I am intentional about my purpose in their lives.  I don’t always know right away what the purpose is but I am always committed to learn.  I still struggle with trust because that little person inside me looking for safe harbor also knows that the waters can be very dangerous and we need to be very careful.  But, for the first time in my life I have found myself in trusting relationships that continually prove themselves to be worthy and authentic.  And I am so moved, emotionally impacted and overwhelmed at how powerful the trust is.  And, when that trust is ever questioned or challenged, it rocks my world.

I am trying to be the change I want to see in the world.  I am trying to be intentional and give out to those around me exactly what I want in return – love, respect and trust.  It defines the me of today and I know, without any shade of doubt that the payoff is there.

I have found myself ending each of my blog posts recently with a thank you and acknowledgment to the people in my life and I will continue this practice because it is the people – always the people – that make the difference.  Without them, I stop learning and loving and growing.  Without them, I have no audience, no support system, no purpose.

The other day, while strolling through Manhattan with a dear friend I was sharing some stories of my early career days and I lamented about some choices I made.  He pointed out to me that, had I made different choices, he and I would never have met.  That thought stopped me in my tracks and I can still smell the air and hear the noises around me when he said it because I knew that would be a terrible eventuality.  Perhaps he was right.  But, given the power of our relationship I suspect the universe would never have allowed that to happen.

WEIGHTY MATTERS


Yesterday morning I had breakfast with a new friend who specializes in coaching people about their relationship with food.  We met recently and we both knew implicitly that we needed to get to know each other better.  I believe in following the universe on these things because people come into your life for very specific reasons.  With Randy, while she may have had her own reasons for wanting to get to know me better, I know that she arrived in my life at exactly the right time.

As I have chronicled here, I have been on a journey of getting healthier and it has not been the easiest road for me to travel.  It has been a lifelong adventure for me and, for the past year, it seemed to have kicked in to high gear rather unexpectedly.  As i shared in an earlier post, I began my journey on a dare when I agreed to take a kickboxing class back in February 2011.  This triggered something in me and my life began to change in so many ways.  The net result is that I have lost nearly 50 lbs, have become leaner and more muscular and have a new level of self-confidence and discipline that never existed before.

But, here’s the strange thing about losing a lot of weight.  After a while, you forget that you were fat to begin with.  That is not to say that I have shed all my extra weight and am now tall and slender as I dream of being.  Instead, it is about perspective.  Even though I have discarded clothing that were 3-4 sizes larger than the ones I am currently wearing, I do not see myself much differently than I did when I was 50 lbs heavier.  It is quite a self-defeating position to be in because, rather than celebrating my success, I still critique myself with my old lens.  I look in the mirror and have to squint when looking at myself to be certain that I can see the differences.  I know there are changes but I simply do not have the perspective to see it.  I look at my body every single day.

When I began my journey in 2011, I was so deeply out of control with my eating and my physical health that I was in one of those places in life where you just do not know how to get started.  I felt like my body was a big pile of dirty laundry laying haphazardly on the floor and I just could not begin to sort through the colors and whites to begin the laundering process.  Ultimately, I did not put any pressure on myself and was as surprised as anyone that this new pastime actually made the difference for me.  It sort of makes sense to me now because of the outlet it provides for me to both release aggression and be competitive without actually having to compete against anyone other than myself.

Today, as I live in my life, I am struggling.  I am challenged to appreciate and celebrate what I have accomplished and, instead, am lamenting that I have not accomplished more.  I never set a goal for myself but, once the transformation began, I became very ambitious about what I could accomplish.  I work out 7-8 times a week, taking kickboxing and karate classes and now running in the mornings.  I try to eat healthy but, in reality, I struggle with that.  I gave up sugar and carbs for 2 months in order to gain some control over my eating and I fear that I placed too much focus on the food and actually sabotaged myself.  I worry every day that I will not be able to sustain this and the success I have had will be temporary, quickly replaced with the return to the “old” me.

During my breakfast with Randy yesterday, I shared a lot of these feelings and concerns and explained how this part of my journey fits into the larger parts of my life.  I have been transforming myself internally and externally.  I have freed myself from toxicity in many parts of my life and consciously chosen to be intentional about how I work, who I spend time with and where I put my energies (such as investing time in myself vis a vis exercise).  I also explained how my fears and anxieties about not being in control of my body is torturing me at this moment in time.  And, with the ease of someone who really knows what they are talking about it, she attempted to release me from my paralyzing thoughts.  She suggested that I am where I am supposed to be.  She indicated that, perhaps I simply need to level off a bit and get used to myself at this new stage rather than be so aggressively looking for the next goal.  I need to accept myself now – exactly where I am today.  Sounds pretty simple, huh?  It was a pretty profound perspective to me.  And I know she is right.

Last weekend, I was at Target during my normal weekly shopping adventure and I decided to buy some ice cream for dessert for the family.  I had not had ice cream in nearly two months and was really in the mood.  “Why not?,” I thought.  “I have to be able to live a life where I can eat ice cream now and again.”  So I bought two pints to share amongst the family and had no second thoughts about it.  Later that evening, my older son and I were preparing to watch a movie and were scooping out our ice cream to snack on.  I pulled out the two pints and began scooping the ice cream into my bowl.  I was scooping and scooping and my son said, “Look, old mommy’s back!”  That stopped me in my tracks.  No it was not old mommy.  It was new mommy who felt liberated enough to eat as much ice cream as she wanted to without fear that there would be no way to stop.  As much as I feared that I would revert to old behaviors and begin to gain the weight back, I knew in that moment that I actually had a new level of control.  Yes, I still binge on candy every now and again but don’t a lot of people do that?  I occasionally overeat when out to dinner or have a little too much dessert.  Isn’t that common even for people who are not struggling with their weight?  

So, when Randy suggested that it was time for me to simply settle in to where I am at this moment, I realized that I was already beginning to do that.  But I was doing it in a way that was unfamiliar and a wee bit scary.  I have much more control over food and what goes in my body and I maintain a very healthy and active lifestyle – something that was remarkably absent from my life a year ago.

My journey continues and I have so much work to do both internally and externally.  Yet, I am trying very hard to celebrate and appreciate me.  I have so many wonderful people in my life who continually remind me of this and fail to get frustrated with me – even when I share my innermost demons.  They understand the challenges I face – perhaps even more than I do.  And, I am grateful that I have a new friend in my life who can give me an additional perspective to help me turn the corner to the next road of my travels.