Some days life is super manageable. Some days it’s a crap shoot filled with seventy two triggers that want nothing more than to throw you off your game. Some days are genuinely peace filled. Some days are a big, chaotic mess. Some days there’s huge, beautiful clear skies. Some days there’s a gloomy array of clouds and rain and the heavens seem heavy.

Recovery is like that. Some days you feel good to go and fully committed to your commitments to change. While other days your vices for coping with life stare at you and breathe down your neck like a psychotic, hungry monkey on your back.

In the throws of it all how do you stand firm in the decision to be good to yourself; to honor yourself; to see yourself as worthy? I don’t know much about ALL the in’s and out’s of recovery….. but, I’ve learned to accept this key fact: it’s a series of choices. One choice made after another followed by another and then repeated again and again. The will to change in any given area is simply fueled by… the will to change.

I have learned recently that there is significant power in honesty and surrender. These are two components that are like cool water to an over heated soul. These are two positions of mind that are the gateways to the strength and drive for the long haul of change. Admitting struggle honestly, coupled with the abandonment of perfection, is actually a position that generates more freedom, not less. Surrendering to your weakness’ seems counterintuitive, but it’s incredibly necessary for the way forward. When you admit, or surrender, to your powerlessness over any given vice in your life it tends to quiet that internal drive to be “more”. It creates a pause effect in your grappling and like a gentle friend it extends to you a sense of acceptance for where you actually are. When you quiet the drive to be “more” you can begin to hear the still, small whisper of your humanity that says, “you are enough, as is, struggles and all”. That voice that tells you “you are ENOUGH, as is” is crucial to empowering any form of lasting change. You have nowhere to go but up once you let yourself fall to the bottom of your truth. So long as you hover just above the truth, pretending to be (or convincing yourself) that you’re more than you really are- you miss the opportunity to be honest with yourself. The voice that tells you you’re already enough is often buried beneath a heavy facade. We don’t intentionally bury that whisper, but in order to turn up it’s volume we have to be real with ourselves. We have to surrender our desire for perfection and accept honestly the reality of the way we cope with life.

Recovery, from anything, isn’t easy. It requires a grind, a trunk load of grit, and the will to change. There’s something holy found nestled inside of honest acceptance. There’s something liberating about surrender to our truth.

Be where you are today. I believe in us and the power to recover.

 

A Letter To My Recovering Self

Dear Me-

I see you. I see you working so hard right now. You are climbing your mountain and I know you are a bit tired. I see your intense will to keep climbing despite the exhaustion. I know, you’re forty years old and you feel like this mountain is all too familiar. You feel like you’ve been on this climb before and you’re a little frustrated that you’re back at it. But, please take note right now that you’ve never actually made it this far. You’re seeing things that you’ve never seen before. You’re digging deeper than you have before. You are beginning to smell freedom in the air.

Take a rest for just a minute and then take in a super deep breath. Freedom smells sweet like the flowers springing up on the side of this mountain. It fills your lungs with a scent that comforts you and the great news is there’s more where that came from. There’s a grove of beauty that goes on for miles and miles just on the other side of this climb. I can’t wait for you to see it, to step foot through it, and to know intimately that you belong there. You’re gonna make it. I promise. Believe in your strength and resolve right now. You are a courageous woman and you are doing an amazing job.

As you sit and rest for a second I want you to repeat after me: I forgive myself. Take a minute, hear it in your head, and then say it out loud. I know it sounds a little silly to you, but this step is pretty important. Abbie, you have beaten yourself up for long enough. The reality is there were things in your life that converged into a tangled mess and you didn’t know how to deal with the weight of it all. Don’t get me wrong, you weren’t ignorant. You just didn’t have all the tools yet. You have a really sensitive heart. This is one of my favorite things about you. At times, you felt a mounting pressure to do right, to be good, to not fail, to consistently show up for others… and so much more. Because of this you have felt heavy and full at times. Full to the brim of expectations that you’ve held over yourself. You are a beautiful listener. You always have been. That, combined with your sensitive heart has meant you’ve also carried the weight of others in addition to the pressure you put on yourself. You found a way to cope with all that emotion through your eating disorder. It availed itself to you as a way to get rid of things and to feel empty. It was a compelling offer. It was an outlet that presented itself to you to offload the weight you were carrying. As damaging as that mechanism was and is you needed a way out of all the heaviness. I don’t blame you. There’s just a better way now.

So, when you’re ready – stand tall. Stand proud. Stand strong. When you know better, you do better. And you’re seeing that now. I’m really proud of you. Some people don’t even bother to take a long hard look in the mirror of reality. They push things away, stuff them down and carry on meanwhile decaying inside. You are choosing the opposite and I see life springing up inside of you. It’s healing you. It’s freeing you. It’s giving you stamina for the rest of this arduous climb to lasting freedom. Stay the course. Be kind to your heart. See how far you’ve come. You are more than enough. Now carry on, keep climbing, and know that I am here for you.

I believe in you.

 

Be Still and Know

“If we still ourselves long enough within the web of all there is, we will eventually come to know lightness and transformation.” Mark Nepo

We get so caught up in where we are headed that we often miss where we are. We need to take a nod from the caterpillar. We need to still ourselves inside our own reality of what is and let transformation take its course. We cannot rush it. We can not speed up the process. If we do, we emerge weak. The cocoon of our circumstances is where the change happens. It can feel constricting and even lonely, but please, sit inside your story for as long as you need to. Feel the walls of your reality. Acknowledge where you ARE, not just where you want to be. Don’t pretend to be a butterfly when you’re still a caterpillar.

I’ve been on a journey of recovery from a life long battle with an eating disorder. The path to recovery, from anything really, is not for the faint of heart. To overcome something means a ton of surrender is at play. To let go of something in order to take hold of something else is really challenging when that something has served a purpose in your life. There’s fear involved as you face the question, “what will happen when I let this go?” More specifically, “what will I feel when I lay this down?” I don’t think we hold on to habits for far too long because we are stubborn or stupid. I think we hold onto them because we’ve adapted to how we feel with them. We fear what we will feel like without them. We fear what we will face in ourselves when we stand empty handed with our vices at our feet. Surrender feels hollow and empty sometimes. It’s vulnerability at its finest. If I could snap my fingers and wash this thing away I’d do it in a heartbeat. But, that’s not how this battle is going down. It’s a slow and steady grind to unwind the cords that have entangled me.

The caterpillar doesn’t know how or when it will emerge beautifully with wings of color and wonder. It just knows that it needs to spin its web, and wait. Interestingly, the only thing truly required of the caterpillar is an acknowledgement that it’s time to go inside and….. be patient. Change is coming. He just has to do his part and be still inside his cocoon, his reality, his walls. He sits and waits inside his limitations and emerges when the time is just right. Not a moment too soon. He waits until the transformation has taken its course and then he does his part to muster the strength to emerge. The timing of transformation is often a mystery.

Do not rush a healing. Do not emerge from your story because you’re eager to “get over it”. Feel it all the way through. Let the courage emerge to be patient inside your walls. Change is hard. Change is slow. But, be still and know that change will come.

I believe in us.

 

Let The Light In

“I am humbled to admit that the only difference I see on Earth between being strong and weak is the honesty with which we face ourselves, accept ourselves, share ourselves blemishes and all.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

It takes internal courage of heart to not act like we have it all together all the time. Some things in life are easy and happen on autopilot. Loading a dishwasher, the laundry, microwaving something, writing a check. But, there are other things in this life that are just incredibly tough to get through. Facing our baggage, untangling lies, feeling the pain of our circumstances, disappointments, regrets…  It’s beyond okay to admit from time-to-time that life is hard. It hurts. And your heart weighs heavy and there are pieces of you that are scattered about at the moment.

There’s a constant ebb and flow to this life. There’s a journey, a path for each of us to take. No two stories look the same. Ever. Just because the guy next to you waltzed through his trauma seemingly quick doesn’t mean you have to hurry up and get yourself “better”.

I think we are a little afraid to be broken. I think we want to show up strong and whole and to be admired. But, I am learning in a major way these days that you don’t have to be finished in order to be whole. In other words “whole” truly is a combination of strengths and weakness’, not simply one or the other. You don’t have to have all the things sorted out in order to be considered whole and thriving. You just don’t.

I cannot say it enough – do not rush a healing. There is space for you to mend. There is time for you to heal. There is room in this world for broken people. There is a seat at the table for the imperfect ones. There is hope for the struggling ones. Do not be okay… if you’re not okay. We will love you as you are. Let that light in today.

I believe in us.

The Mystery of Pain

We will do just about anything to avoid pain. But, pain is a component of life that is simply unavoidable. No mystery there. The mystery lies in the travel time through it all and the resilience its journey produces.

I think of the book I’ve read to my children a thousand times or more “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. There’s a line that reads in repetition every time they come to an impasse: “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it…” We never truly know when we’ll find ourselves on the other side of pain. It’s a thing we must travel all the way through. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts.

To this day, I have not wrapped my head around why God allows so many painful experiences in people’s lives. I’m literally dumbfounded by what certain people have encountered and come out the other side of still standing upright in their spirit. The human resilience is staggering.

But, why? Why does God allow such torrential downpours in our lives? Like my six-year-old says, “Can’t we all just live in candy world”? I don’t have even the slightest answer for “Why”, but I do know this….

The pain I’ve experienced in my life has produced in me a river of empathy and compassion for others. It has wrought in me a hushed, quieted, slowed down surrender to the busy bee cadence of my life. It has provided me with eyes to see more clearly, ears to hear more acutely, and hands that give more readily. It has helped me to feel joy more fully on a deeper level than I knew was available. It has mysteriously let me learn that, in hindsight, we are strong, and able, and capable to weather any storm. It has taught me that I’m NOT better off alone – we need others. And when others show up for us, and lift us, and hold us, and care for us… there is beauty in the exchange. The kind of beauty that defies logic and lasts forever in our memories.

Pain is teacher, a mentor, a wise guide into the finer things of life. It hurts like Hell sometimes, but as Mark Nepo writes, “We must accept we are there and settle enough so we can be carried by the deep. Again and again, the onset of pain makes us clutch and sink. But, life has taught me that how we first open after doubling over is crucial to whether we will heal at all.”

Pain is a mystery. It’s an entirely un-welcomed teacher that crushes us, but strangely does not leave us in pieces. It always, always, always partners with healing and time and those two somehow, some way co-mingle with one another and produces a mending.

One of my favorite scriptures from Psalm 107 reads, “He stilled the storm to a whisper, the waves of the sea were hushed and He carried me to my desired haven.”

Wherever you are today – be carried by the deep. Be lifted by those around you. Be hushed by the knowing that time and healing will mend you.

God will not abandon you. He just won’t. Ever. He will carry you – today – and all the way through to your desired haven.

I believe in us.

 

Under Pressure

Pressure. It mounts on every side from time to time.  Pressure to be something. Pressure to change something. Pressure to grow something. Pressure to nurture something. Pressure to be whole. Pressure to embrace our brokenness. Pressure to dream. Pressure to live out our dreams. Pressure to produce. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to accept our imperfections. Pressure to spin the plates. Pressure to keep the plates spinning. Pressure to effect change in the world. And on and on and on….

Sometimes I just feel pressure on every side and I genuinely want to scream.

Raise your hand if you’ve bought into the pressure cooker phenomenon of the Instant Pot?! I was raised with a mom and grandma that used the pressure cooker of the olden days. The kind that had a little bobber on the top that would wobble back and forth in a furry and make this loud hissing noise. You’d have to seriously know how to use the thing because there was no “indicator light” to tell you when to open it. You had to trust your instinct, memorize how long things needed to cook, and literally learn the sounds it made to know just when to open it up. Otherwise, you’d have a mess on your hands and green beans might explode all over your kitchen. Thanks to modern advancements the pressure cooker of our day, Instant Pot, comes with an electrical panel, a little red pressure valve, and a subtle beeping noise that tells us exactly when to open her up. It’s almost fail proof and it cooks your goods in a third of the time that my grandma’s pressure cooker did. There’s so little thinking involved and you can completely walk away from this machine without a watchful eye because it’s programmed for you. And, if that’s not enough, it’ll simmer itself down and keep a timer for you letting you know how long it’s been waiting for you. It handles the pressure for you and all but tells you “I’m done, your food is good to go, but don’t be rushed, I’m just here waiting for you until you’re ready.” There’s almost no human instinct required in the use of this machine.

Why am I talking ad nauseam about an Instant Pot? I would just like to say that while we have great advancements in kitchen products that handle pressure in a programmable, fail proof, patiently waiting kind of way… Life is more like the pressure cooker of the olden days. Things can heat up with a fury and ripple through us and the only thing that tells us we’ve made our way through a pressured situation is that internal knowing. That familiarity with the sound of our breathing. Life situations just cannot be hurried. The things we need to get through cannot be cut by a third of the time no matter how bad we want them to. If you hurry a healing you may just explode on someone, somewhere, at some time.

We live in a microwave, Instant Pot world. But, life experiences do not follow that trajectory. No matter how advanced we’ve become, sometimes things just need the ways of the days of old. They need time. They need a watchful eye. They need our attention divided as it may be. They need us to know ourselves so well that we are our own indicator that we’ve made it through to the other side.

This is me, right here, right now just offering permission today to not be okay for a while. Some things just take a while to get through. Again, we cannot rush a healing. We cannot spin everything all the time. We cannot walk away from the pressure and expect things to just magically turn themselves out for us. Sometimes we have to sit in our situation longer than we’d like to and …. wait. Wait for the revelation, the inspiration, the change to come. It’s okay to go at it slow and to feel the pressure for what feels like “too long”.

Bottom Line: You are not an Instant Pot. You are a human being that is absorbing life on every side. And oftentimes we need what feels like a really long time to make it through to the other side. And that is seriously okay. Do not rush a breakthrough.

I believe in us.

 

The Magic of Healing

Sometimes pain lives like a virus in your system. You cannot rush a healing any more than you can rush the run of a virus. It just has to take its course and partner with time to find its resolve.

There are certain things in this life that effect us at different levels. They hold on to our memory banks like an encoded java script that takes some serious technological advance to decipher. I just want to give you permission today from one human to another to still hurt. Just because we are grown adults doesn’t mean that we’ve worked our way through it all by now.

I watch America’s Got Talent with my kids. It’s a thing. Our thing. I used to hate the show because I couldn’t stand to watch half the acts like knives being inserted apparently as deep as a hip socket or someone falling to their death only stopping inches from plunder. It’d ridiculous to me how people even discover talents like these. I mean – who thinks of sticking a knife down their throat and getting shot at with a flaming arrow narrowly missing all vital organs as it hits some teeny tiny baby target? It’s short of crazy.

Where’s my correlation? America has certainly got talent. Act after act people stuff amazing, harrowing events into a three-minute span that’s riddled with magic and illusion as they bear the brunt of what appears to be deeply painful tricks to the naked eye. Pain, healing and overcoming in real life is the exact opposite of what we see on the screen. There is no way to take magic and illusion and cover the events that our life has held. Furthermore, there is rarely a round of applause as we come up standing on the other side. I think humans are incredibly resilient. This show certainly proves that. However, when it comes to real life pain sometimes it runs as deep as our hips and it needs far more than three minutes to recover and find equilibrium.

I sat in therapy yesterday divulging intricate details about the origin and the presence an eating disorder has held in my life. I was left with shock and awe as some of the events of my life bubbled up with tears and a heaviness and straight up pain attached. There were things that I thought I’d dealt with only to find them surface with a fever, evidence of a virus still working its way through my system. I came home last night and cried a hundred more tears because I want to be “over it all” by now, but my heart was telling me otherwise. There is still work to be done. There is still time needed for the virus to run its course and find its healing. Just because I’m the ripe age of forty now doesn’t mean I’ve arrived at a place of wholeness and healing.

All that said, sometimes we have to take inventory of where our heart is at in all reality. Sometimes we have to honor our pain, acknowledge it, let it bubble up with tears and emotions and give it space to work its way out. Just because the things of the past still hurt doesn’t mean you are broken. It means you are alive. Just because you still have tears and anguish doesn’t mean you aren’t every bit amazing from head to toe. It means you are REAL.

I do believe in magic. But I also believe in reality. Where is your heart today? Be gentle with yourself. Your reality is worth honoring and taking a concentrated look at. I also believe that we do deserve a standing ovation as we come up, out, over and through our stories with resilience. I am cheering for you today. Truly. I believe in us.

 

Things That Cut Deep

“Often we find it easier to think our way around things rather than to feel our way through them” – Mark Nepo, The Book Of Awakening

A great set of knives is a girls best friend in the kitchen. Unless that knife becomes your assailant. Recently I cut my finger. I was chopping vegetables while chatting and laughing with a friend and got myself caught off guard. I cut it bad. Bad enough to need stitches. To my surprise the seething pain of the initial cut hurt LESS than the anesthetic the fine doctor injected in order to sew my finger back together. It was not pleasant. But, it was an interesting learning experience….

Sometimes life is a little like that. We apply a numbing mechanism to our deep cuts. We note the injury, but get about the business of anesthetizing the pain with all sorts of things. Enter: Coping mechanisms. In reality, all the while, the numbing is actually a greater pain inflicted than the cut itself and the overall process to heal.

I’ve had some deep cuts in my life. Far greater than the cut on my finger while making a salad. Cuts that have run deep into my soul. Cuts that have hit me at my core and were hard to put a finger on much less wrap a set of tender loving arms around. I know now, as an adult, that I dealt with some of those cuts in a way that only served me greater pain down the road. I’ve battled an eating disorder for almost thirty years now. It hasn’t been easy, or pretty, or uplifting or mending to say the least. I wouldn’t say that the presence of my eating disorder is solely tied to the avoidance of my wounds, but it has definitely been a coping mechanism that made me feel in control of … something. Chiefly the way I felt about myself. I thought that if I could control what others saw then I would somehow feel good about who I was. The work of feeling good about who I was always had more to do with what was happening on the inside than the reflection I projected on the outside. I know that now.

We’ve all had moments where life cut us deeply. Deep enough to need a mending. But, often we avoid the injury and dance around it a bit rather than just making our way through the pain and the process required that leads to the healing. Some of us have significant wounds. Some of us have tucked those away in a corridor of our mind that requires minimal occupancy. Dare I suggest that we visit some of those areas and take the chance to “feel our way through” to a healing? I think that fear rises up in us when we contemplate the necessary steps toward healing. We fear the emotional undertow. We fear that sense of brokenness. We fear needing time. Time we’re not sure is available to us. We fear the unknown. We fear that something is inherently wrong with us when things that occurred decades ago still have pain associated with them.

Pain is a funny thing. It can be like a slow babbling brook or like Niagara Falls depending on the injury. But, it makes no sense to take either flow of water and dam it up. Let it be what it is. Pain is just pain and it indicates that you are human and alive and breathing. Let your mending come. Let the healing have its way. Ask yourself what you need in order to visit that corridor of pain. The anesthesia will always be worse than the cut itself and the mending that awaits you.

I believe in us and the power to heal.

Public Service Announcement

NO ONE HAS IT ALL TOGETHER.

NO ONE.

You are not alone in your striving. You are not alone in your grieving. You are not alone in your pain. You are not alone in your joy. You are not alone in wishing you had at arrived at the age you are without your bag of tricks for coping. You are not alone as you wonder if you’re a good parent. You are not alone as you sometimes hate going to your kids games, but you love showing up for them. You are not alone in your loneliness despite being surrounded by loving friends. You are not alone as you grapple with contentment over your body, your image, your worth. You are not alone in wishing you had followed “that one dream” you had for yourself. You are not alone in your regrets. You are not alone in your victories. You are not alone in your defeats. You are not alone in your failures. You are not alone in your success’. You are not alone in wishing you could change faster, grow stronger, become more. You are not alone as you struggle to surface with true gratitude each day. You are NOT alone as you feel that twinge of depression from time to time. You are not alone as you wonder what you’re actually good at. You are not alone in despising going to the grocery store with a bunch of kids. You are not alone in thinking two hours alone in Target is a mini vacation. You are not alone as you wonder if your kids are “normal” or are they living in emotional crazy town with a home address that’s yours. You are not alone as you make another meal that almost no one eats despite starving children across the globe. You are not alone in absolutely abhorring your children’s math homework. You are not alone in hating the winter’s bitter cold. You are not alone in craving a better, more connected marriage. You are not alone in trying to recover that loving feeling. You are not alone in trying to overcome issues that have plagued you since childhood that “should” be long gone by now. You are not alone in loving your children, but loving their bedtime just as much. You are not alone in trying hard to be MORE than you were yesterday….

You are not alone in any corner. Not one.

We are NOT all in this life together, and yet, we are ALL in this life together. And you, my friend, are not alone.

I believe in us and the power to embrace this life knowing we are all…. ALL just genuinely trying our best to make the most of it. Be comforted today. We see you and what we see from one human to another is an amazing person surrendering to what life brings.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness Defined: the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.

Forgiveness, such an intuitive definition, simple, yet a challenge for so many of us. I believe it’s a practice, a skill to hone, something that evolves within us. It’s not a punch card moment in the least. It’s an action OR process that is often repeated time and time again.

I was thinking today about the wrongs that have occurred towards me in my life and the wrongs that I’ve committed towards myself and others. I immediately felt a dark cloud come over me when I thought of the wrongs I have committed. But, when I thought about the wrongs committed against me I felt a sense of grace and peace, an extension of pardon bubble up within me. At first glance, I was alarmed at this feeling thinking “oh boy, I have work to do. That dark cloud can’t stay”… but, at second glance I felt proud of the feeling that has evolved within me towards others. Nevertheless, this does beg the question: why can I extend an evolved pardon towards others yet hold myself hostage?

If a doctor told me that there was a diet pill that I could take that would result in a twenty pound weight loss by day three I’d be jamming that down my throat in two seconds flat. Forgiveness over ourself and others can have the same effect as the diet pill in many physical, mental and emotional ways, yet we hesitate. I hesitate. I hesitate for many reasons. I suppose hanging on to the wrongs I’ve committed somewhat confirms the poor self-image I have. I know that sounds terrible. But, it’s true in a way. Holding on to the crap I’ve done mirrors the crap I feel about myself. If I chose to let go of the stupid stuff I’ve done I would have to take that poor self image, the crappy mirror, and start speaking kindly to her. I’d have to look at my mangled messes and pour peace all over them until they were drenched and untangled. I’d have to extend a handful of peace that wasn’t earned, but gifted to myself, by myself. I’d have to set myself free. I’d have to do the work of altering completely my internal dialogue and what I choose to be true about my worthiness.

When we choose forgiveness we are taking a once tightly bound, fully constricted blood vessel and serving it with oxygen. We are therefore serving everything that surrounds it with oxygen as well. Forgiveness is the process of recovering wholeness, breathing life into the broken spaces and making way for a healing. It’s a coming to peace. It’s a process of acknowledgement followed by a restoration of our will to be free. Forgiveness towards ourselves and others is the currency for an exchange that makes way for growth and restoration of our worth. Simply put: It’s the bitter pill we swallow that sets us free. It’s the very medicine that releases pounds of anger and hurt and all that stalls our growth and change.

Forgiveness is rarely a one and done. Our memory banks are keen and ever so vivid. They are tied to our emotional make up. We often inadvertently keep a record of wrongs. We need the action or process of forgiveness to restore justice in our hearts. The impact of our experiences is strong and the ONLY thing greater than that impact is the power of forgiveness.

I just want to convince you today to do a little inventory. Search your heart. Where are you held hostage? Are you able to release others, but hold yourself hostage over wrongs done? Or do you suffer from the opposite? Can you forgive yourself, but you’re holding with a vice grip wrongs that have occurred in your life at the hands of another? Either way. There is a coming to peace waiting for you through the process of forgiveness. This blog post is not exhaustive. There are easily a million more words to say on the subject. But, consider this today: where is one area in your heart and life that could stand to have the gift of peace breathed straight into it? Where is one crack in your heart that could use the healing balm of forgiveness gifted to yourself, bu yourself? Consider your freedom and get to work ushering in peace as though your livelihood depends on it.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Victor Frankl