The trenches between gratitude and guilt

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The last year has been nothing less than the busiest and most exciting of my adulthood. Literally, I grew up. In the last six months, I got engaged, had my fifth knee surgery, bought a brand new “mom car” SUV and a new home with my (now) husband. I changed my last name and my job title. Within two weeks, we got married, went on a short honeymoon and I started a dream job as an Executive Director. Ya, I know…enough for a few years packed into a few months. Luckily, out of all this, I learned that I can survive most all of life’s major stressors without having an emotional breakdown. On the contrary, life has provided an abundant surplus of joy and revealed lessons beyond my young 20-something mindset.

I married another as I divorced myself from the dysfunctional attachment to the distorted image of who I thought I needed to be: physically, professionally, emotionally, and sexually. For the first time since I was 15, I started taking the deeper steps towards nurturing and nourishing my body (and soul) that I had long avoided due to my anxiety-ridden desperation to eradicate pain and rejection. My ego capitalized on the engrained message that high expectations and strict limits would result in beauty and happiness and wealth. Finding my life partner finally gave me the reality check that this revolving story was old and tattered and frankly, a big fat lie.

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I had always envisioned that when I reached my “happy place”, I would be both happy, carefree, and skinny. Well, that’s also a big fat lie I no longer believe — starting with the reality that I am a 5’2″ woman. Embracing my femininity has awoken me to the grace of gentleness. And the 10 lbs. I gained after finally letting go of my addiction to exercise, it still makes me uncomfortable each day as I feel the jiggle here and there or feel the loss of muscle in my legs. But, that 10 lbs. has reinvigorated my spirit to honor my truth and forgive the damage and self-harm I caused. Those 10 lbs. simultaneously freed about 10 lbs. of stress and ridicule from my mind and expanded my potential to be grateful and present with the beauty of life, not my body. Those 10 lbs. of weight now provide the substance and grounding I was longing for all along. The flexibility I had physically since I was 3 now is manifesting mentally as I approach 30.

The ease and comfort that comes with reaching the state of not just talking about “acceptance” but feeling it in my core is humbling beyond description. My reactivity and restraint have sailed into the sunset. I no longer need them to function. I am free from the chains of fear-based self-hatred and manipulation and can focus on my capacity to build community and care for my family. Growing up is way better than I ever imagined. Bring it on 30s! The mortgage and the tough decisions because nothing is more of a struggle than trying to relate to the world in the delusional state that reduces myself to an image.

So there’s the gratitude…and it’s lovely and pleasantly overwhelming and all fuzzy and warm. But then there’s the guilt. The guilt is like your nagging relative that seems to never go away even if you move across the country; reminding you just how things always were, reciting the same stories of the ‘good ol’ days’ at each reunion.

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Similar to how my mind replays the stories of how it always “should be” — the good ol’ days of unmet fantasies. No matter how much progress I make, the voice of dissatisfaction whispers. It’s a strange reality to let go of everything I gripped tightly to and still find the benefits of happiness and infinite gratitude. I’ve discovered expansive peace and security, understanding of life as it is, and ultimate trust in it all. But I feel guilty for breaking the bond with societal norms and working harder, faster. I feel guilty for not doing and being more, for not pleasing everyone, for the mess. I’m split between the gratitude and guilt. I have to teach myself each day to lean toward gratitude — to let go of the jiggle, the excess, the change from rigid to fluid, from firm to soft. I’m figuring out what I need. The marriage, new car, spacious home, and director level job are all what I’ve been striving for in the 15 years during my darkest days. And now the grass is greener, jiggle and all. The most ironic tale that I copyright as my own. I’m in awe, with daily gratitude, a calmer demeanor, occasional guilt and insecurity, with plenty of curiosity amongst hope and trust.

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Clarity versus elusion

Recently, I have been putting in extra effort and time for self-study. For example, making it a goal to write blog posts more often in order to articulate my monkey mind beyond my daily journal. In the depth of my studies, I am expanding my knowledge of my personal power and the energetic qualities I have yet to utilize within. It sparks a curiosity that is empowering and meaningful. It is the kind of connection that I longed to feel year after year. Now I am beginning to desire spontaneous, flirtatious interactions with life rather than rigid, pre-outlined order of events. I am gaining self-acceptance and respect which is such a lovely change from the programmed demeaning messages typically stuck on repeat.

This energetic alignment is igniting the gift of clarity, using my intuition more than my brain power. I started to get confident in this new sense of self and fluid flexibility with Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 11.16.13 AMthe world around me. As I got confident, my future desires became outlined. And there I went, immediately back into subconscious “go-mode” to rearrange my life
back into an order of predetermined events so I could produce the future my mind sees. In the heart of creating lists and plotting action steps, I stopped. I stopped
to feel my heart. I knew I had to question my rapid movements. The movements that propel me, yet again, into the same paradigm of authoritative control over my life. The paradigm that would ultimately crush my confident, empowered, soul-searching, curious and provocative shift.

I stopped and I could see the elusion masking clarity. My newfound ‘clarity’ was indeed me attempting to run from the barriers that I most fear breaking down. The work I really need to do. In thinking that I was gaining clarity and needed to act, I was falsifying the truth that I needed to sit in the sticky struggle. It was an elusion that would keep me trapped in functioning in my state where I most want to break the boundaries. So I learned. I learned that by choosing to sit in the struggle accompanied by the clarity of my energetic potential provides the transparency I need. It reveals the root of my deepest fears and real issues that can percolate to the surface of my awareness. Rather than abandoning myself, my closest allies, and the struggle itself, I am choosing to stay and feel. Speak clearly and slow down. Slow down enough to repeat this process until the natural manifestation of life knocks on my heart and whispers what’s next.

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Hiding in the shell of the cocoon

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I’m not trapped. I’m choosing to stay covered…protected from the vast world of opportunity. I am cuddled in the dark, not ready to be exposed to the light, the rays of the sun beaming down inspiration. I do not yet desire to be vibrant and free. Rather, I am grounding in the cave of solitude. You could say I am hiding. It is more like a search for serenity. I am hiding from my potential — tied to the dependence in the roots of safety. I am not ready to spread my wings and fly. I need to develop the skills so I don’t fall on my face. I need the bountiful abundance of compassion to encourage my inner spirit. I need the confidence that manifests from self-love so I can sprout from my shell.0c477b764c7874862f3f33d355efc41b--blue-butterfly-tattoo-butterfly-painting

One day I know I’ll be a butterfly. But not yet. Not until all parts of me hold equal value to the
whole of my being. Right now, when I attempt to add up the sum of my being, I am an unsolvable equation. There are secret variables that must be solved. I’m not sure if I need to multiply by my strengths or divide by my insecurities; breaking me down to a more simple solution. Once the answer is clear, then I will be primed for the adventures to come. But for now, I remain hibernating in my shell of silence, listening to the needs yet to be understood, assembling the courage to recreate my silky casing into solid bravery. I hide in the solace of my shell of self-discovery as I wait for the natural process of evolution to reveal the beauty of growth,

Vacancy sign illuminated…STAY HERE!

There are those times in life where the sh*t hits the fan and we are placed in the midst of a chaotic mess, forced to look at our own sh*t and clean it up. Right now is one of those times for me. I am getting tired of the constant sh*t I keep throwing at the fan. Today, I read this article and was given a little nugget of clarity and encouragement.

“Any vacancy that is a result of any change in your life introduces possibility.”

These simple words allowed me to think deeply about what “change” and “possibility” can really create. To start, the word “any” is not conditional, it’s an open-ended option. Just like the unconditional love we all seek. If we quantify it by certain standards or attempt to strictly define it, we remove the unconditional quality that embraces the nature of human existence which ultimately leads to unhappiness.

When we (more specifically speaking, I) define set expectations and limitations on what change we/I want to manifest, we/I automatically remove the vacancy to become available in the first place. We as humans fall victim to the temptation of control. Our personal “NO VACANCY” sign is lit when we are not at our full capacity.

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In this act of staying “safe” in our conditioned minds, we remove what possibility can truly bring by placing conditions on what change ‘should’ look like based on a very narrow mindset. This relates to how we so frequently place limitations on our love, thinking we ourselves or another human needs to be different in order to be lovable. We pick out the flaws and imperfect details of what we “need” them or us to do in order to be fulfilling. Whether for another person or ourselves, we limit our love like we limit our potential.

This quote is a friendly reminder that ANY sort of change, undefined by labels on the spectrum between “good” and “bad”, will create some sort of vacancy as we drop or add people, responsibilities, habits, passions, goals to our daily lives. This vacancy is the source of our possibility to expand and mold.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 2.33.22 PM In support of this idea of being at peace in the ambiguous vacant space, I have been imprinting this into mantra into my being, not just my head but even more, my heart. “I didn’t come this far, to only come this far.” It is the hint I personally need in order to move beyond being stuck in strategizing how to stay safe. I already have put so much effort to escape, heal, and transform my demons. But that sh*t is not a chocolate covered cake walk.

When our internal vacancy light is on, we are being asked to STAY with ourselves in the present…stay with it all: the emotions, experiences, awareness, and struggle. Rather than searching for a different space to reside. STAY. We must accept that there is never a guarantee that the experience will be luxurious. Sometimes in the environments we most expect comfort and leisure, we discover hardship and disarray.

What I’m finally learning to trust and lean towards is the truth that the places of upmost possibility to become who I want to be result from space inherently created from risk and change. From the courage to STAY and discover the amenities life has to offer. I don’t want to stop on my adventure because I didn’t come this far to only come this far!

The Tunnel to Transformation

After snowstorms of the decade hit Tahoe in the past few weeks, I was gifted with two additional snow days on top of almost a month-long break. With a long four day weekend, I began search for ways to avoid the itch of cabin fever. So I picked up a book that I had sitting with cobwebs on my shelf, “What are you hungry for?” — a spiritual book targeted to women and how we relate to our bodies and food. The author triggered my critical thinking by asking, “What does transforming your relationship with food ultimately matter to you?”

And I realized in this moment, that it is not food that matters…I care less and less each day about the exact nutritional content or calories of what I consume. It is my body that matters to the deepest parts of my soul (not my ego). My ego wants to blame food as the enemy and the problem. But I can’t sit here and say I agree. I believe it is the way I relate to myself that motivates the majority of my choices around food, and really everything, each day.

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When I contemplate the word “transformation”, I envision a tunnel. A small, dark, underground-type tunnel where the end is unknown. A sort of ominous tunnel with a large CAUTION sign mounted at the entrance. And as much as I’d rather turn around and walk the other way to what I know best, I know I must walk in and follow the path to the other side.

That journey is required if I want to transform my relationship with my body. Not only how I see myself in the mirror, but also how I feel in my skin. Recently, I recognized how the messages I create about who I am always have a lining of hate speech on the margins. The content strives to be encouraging and accepting, but the border blocks in the progress with side conversations judging my present experience, the sensations I feel, and the way I see things.

I feel claustrophobic in the tunnel I’ve built. I want to scream because I am so uncomfortable with each step I take. But I am motivated to reach the other side. I keep putting one foot in front of the other because ultimately, transforming my relationship with my body means everything to me. It is a utopia where I move through my days without the constant chatter in my mind about what I did or should do to not mess up. It is a place of intuition and kindness where I can be present, more specifically relaxed in my environment; where there is no resistance by my expectations. Where I don’t put so much pressure on each day, as if I am being watched by the paparazzi.

Reaching the light at the end of the tunnel comes down to one thing: it is the letting go. The letting go of what was, the good and the horrible. As I let go of my baggage, the route through the tunnel speeds up. letting-go-pictures-23I don’t need the weight of unworthiness to move forward. I have cocooned myself for over a decade now, sheltering me from the fears of being unlovable as a young woman. From being labeled as anything less than the all-encompassing exceptional, productive, graceful, adventurous, outgoing, compassionate, giving, and healthy woman. I didn’t want to fail myself as I became an adult. And now I wake up each day with the truth that I have become an adult woman.

Just not the woman I imagined. Not the woman that fills the American Dream. My dream has simplified to a practice. A yoga practice. A daily practice in loving more, forgiving more, and being a partner, advocate, friend, and daughter. But if I’m truly honest, I know that I’m holding on. Holding on to the distant dream of perfection where sadness, failure or boredom never were a burden to bare.

With all of these snow days, Mother Nature granted me the gift of time to sit down, be still, and get authentic with what I need. I need to enter the tunnel. I need to practice letting go like I practice handstands. I am ready to let go of the negativity that prohibits me from discovering optimism. I am ready to let go of the anxiety that fuels the negativity that breeds my expectations. I am ready to let go of the expectations that strengthen my anxiety and judgement on the world around me. I am ready…to let go. I am ready to travel the tunnel of transformation. Because ultimately, transforming my relationship with myself means everything to me. And I deserve it.

Reevaluating the concept of intimacy

Since turning 28 last week, I have been evaluating a laundry list of personal tendencies and fundamental patterns that sway me to the habits that invade my daily existence. Granted, some habits are positive — thank you self care! However, I am looking at those reactionary tendencies to guard and harden myself instead of choosing to spill open with compassion. My intention is to embody the light-hearted image I illustrate in my imagination, however, often, I get distracted by cultural competitive conditioning.

I am lucky enough to have a partner who challenges me to be more “me” each day. When I am single, I get farther from intimacy with others, but even more so, with myself. I am seeing clearly as I look deeper at my mind and actions, that intimacy – the one that breaks boundaries and sings to your soul – is not dependent on how we share time with anyone outside our own being.images

Across the numerous Elephant Journal articles I read each week, there has been a theme about intimacy and connection. Per usual, these articles highlighted the barriers to and benefits of intimacy. But in reading, I was decoding the bigger message and realization: I am not healing from heartbreak from another. I am avoiding being my best “me” because I am still trying to rebuild my internal trust and safety after breaking my own damn heart. Up until this moment, after years of therapy and long-winded, tearful phone calls to my mother, I’ve never fully acknowledged that I completely broke my heart to the core.

Oh, and it gets better! Thanks to prolonged hours on my beloved road bike, I get the time to deconstruct my innermost (brutally) honest mental patterns. My monkey mind monopolizes on this opportunity to create a battlefield of conflicting thoughts; between increasing the adrenaline inspired-confidence boosting mindset and defeating the (over) analyzing mindset of those pieces of criticism that I swear “need to change.” Most rides, I make more sense of my life and come to some sort of pacifying acceptance. But my experience today was quite frankly, a slap in the f*cking face. In the tough love kind of way though. Where I couldn’t help but agree – yep, you’re right monkey mind. You win. Hands up. I surrender.

 

I stay busy to avoid being bored because in that very same adrenaline-inspired monkey mind, being bored = total (worthless) laziness. My ego finds free time ‘unexciting’ and convinces me that I ‘should’ collapse into a bed of failure. So, I do my upmost best to plan for the protection of my insecurities. Can you say: Ouch!

This wKeep-Calm-And-Be-My-Life-Partner-qaz211hole epiphany thing manifested twice in two days — a) intimacy starts with you and we can’t avoid REALLY being with our being, especially when it’s most uncomfortable. So it’s not who we’re with or what we’re doing, but the absolute quality of our mental health that quantifies intimacy and success. That idealized “life partner” that everyone talks about finding, that some people search most of their adult life to attract, is indeed OURSELF! Boom. Take that self-help books.
From this realization, I recognize that the only route to inner peace is unconditionally loving myself as a “life partner” would. Intimately and whole-heartedly. The American Dream has lost its luster. Yes, it’s that painful and raw. But I choose to trust that it is also transformative and uplifting.

Finding the exit from the “caution zone”

“When the things we fear the most happen — and we survive — we finally get to the end of caution. When we finally surrender to loving all of what comes, we can begin to live.”

I read this quote yesterday in Mantra Magazine. One of my favorite magazines out there in the yoga and health world. Thanks to the marvelous Kate Bartolotta, I was rocked to the core of me. I couldn’t even finish reading the quote without crying. There are so many little gems found in each issue of this amazing publication. Like this sweet reminder:

“Life has a way of bringing us the unexpected, breaking us open, and eventually transforming us. It forces us to go deeper within ourselves, to heal, to really challenge the cultural shame and the unrealistic and unnatural standards leveled at women and our femininity.”

This specific issue centered on celebrating our biggest struggles as human and how #yogaheals. I have personally seen how yoga has provided doses of medicine to heal my tainted mind. To help us get into the body and out of the stigmas that hold us back. We are conditioned to accept the negative  The mind that got brainwashed to prioritize idealism over individuality. And to fear what I lived with most: MYSELF. This quote was a blunt testament to an important fact that I was blind to until reading this crafted string of words.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 3.37.29 PM.png

A) DUH! We all know that. Based on our experiences, we learn how resilient we are as human beings. Somehow, we swim ourselves out of the sinkholes that struggle and pain unknowingly creates.

B) More importantly, after living so many years strangled by fear of impossible things, I can see how as I’ve brewed the courage to take risks in my choices, I’ve survived, and not only that…I’ve changed for the better.

Breaking the caution tape to fully living was not really a one-time decision. It’s actually a decision I battle with every day. Some days, I’m in a crime scene of destruction. Others, I feel liberated from the cell of  self-judgement. And I can say that I am grateful to know the feeling of liberation. I hope to keep surviving past the limitations I put on myself that often feel like death. I want to thrive, no matter the fluctuations I experience mentally, physically, emotionally. I desire for the quality of my heart to be the source of my worth, not the measurement of my weight or size of my muscles.

I’m coming to honor that “exiting” does not resemble an escape. Exiting the caution zone is a process of investigating and never closing the case. It is a mystery that evolves into a story worth understanding. I must believe if I want to see — kind of like Santa and Rudolf. I’m only just beginning to see the magic.