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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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.

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.

 

 

Lost in translation between reality and truth

Reality and truth…aren’t they the same? Or are they opposite? My reality is quite contrary to my truth from my heart. It is filled with overwhelming stress, management of others rather than myself and a never-ending sacrifice of my being for the benefit of others. However, the reality of benefiting others somehow unites it with my truth. It is the most authentically disconnected I’ve ever been. What does that mean? Well, I feel imperfect, vulnerable, emotional; yet confident, powerful, and overly optimistic. When people say “day by day”…I finally know what that means. It means everyday, you try your hardest, maybe resulting in your definition of subpar and others, you are left empowered and inspired.

Lately though, I am not on a consistent kick of either…thankfully, not a totally depressed state of confusion nor an enlightened high of strength and validation. I am resting in an active polarity of CHANGE. I am feeling the effects of CHANGE…the confusion and the confidence. The strength and deep vulnerability, the tears and the inner brightness that turns a frown upside down. So do I fight the uncomfortability or do I accept that CHANGE = a blend of reality and truth. And do we ever end up living our truth 100 percent in reality.

Chances are in this world, NO! As people around me break my heart, make my day and confuse me simply because we are human and face indifference, I laugh internally and frown externally. My emotions are so unconsciously in flux, I can’t even control it. Therefore, I am left questioning, “what is truth and what is reality?”

And I guess I’m coming to the that truth is inherently felt and reality is the everchanging flow of external responsibilities, personal desires, work, play, and the inter-workings of relationships, existence and compassion. Do they always collaborate? In my daily life, my imperfection screams NO as the ideal from my mind retaliates with YES! A.k.a. LOST IN TRANSLATION

between the precious goodness of existence and the hardships of surviving this so-called “life” — the one we only get one of and that we should live to the fullest. And in the midst of it all, I wonder…is “living it all” also the extreme surrender to embracing difficulty just as much as extreme joy. Can they be interchanged? I have never worked so hard, yet been so happy because my purpose feels bigger and more important than ever before. So as we step through our lives, how much is the sacrifice worth it? Is it our truth or is it our reality speaking and how do we know which one is more prevalent?

Personally, I believe if we keep trying as hard as we can, keep feeling AND listening to the people and senses around us, neglecting only the negative energy that comes our way and opening to expanding love, we will rest somewhere between truth and reality. The truth is embedded in us and the reality is a daily battle…they are coexisting in each of us. However lost we all feel, we can ‘be found’ at the center of our hearts; the essence of a deep breath and closing of our eyes can save our lives (even if just for a second). I conclude with not being more clear on what reality is and what truth is, rather the fact that they are part of the CHANGE that creates who we are — the path we follow, whether a clear made trail or a field of bushes and flowers. There is still beauty in both…

Namaste!

The hollow pain of suffering — breeding joy in the truest form

After being seriously shaken by stress, fear, joy, vulnerability and the depths of conscious daily existence through struggles and smiles, I could do nothing more than write…and cry a little along the way!

There’s that pain,

That pain when you sob inside and it just sheds one tear,

The deep heart-splitting sensation where the world stops,

Your breath yields to your organs cringing at the seams,

Only coming alive again when you gasp for air and sob as you lungs expand and contract,

Against the waves of existence,

Sadness swarms the mind more than the soul,

A temporary lapse of questioning divinity, peace…truth,

Yet there is that one point when death transforms to birth,

Our tears dry and our heart balloons to life,

And as long as we are standing on Mother Earth,

The cyclical nature of yin and yang will remain,

The hollow depth that we call sadness,

Intertwines with the passionate and joyful abundance of gratitude,

And we are left always being uniquely misunderstood,

Overstretch and undermined,

Where the melody of a song ignites the soul,

The release of eyelids closing to embrace the moment,

Where darkness feels as powerful as light,

Blending the eternal extremes of depression and confidence,

Rectifying that life is about all of it,

A creative process beckoning for enlightenment added with a splash of tragedy,

Keeping it raw and un-utopic,

Far from a fairytale,

Rather a medley of unspoken truths and screams of vulnerability,

There’s that pain,

That feels so real we know we’re alive,

That pain where our core is shaken,

And a new day is a blessing.

As our heart grows stronger,

We adapt,

And continue on our journey,

Slightly overmined and understretched,

Until our being feels enough pain to gain the flexibility to find freedom in the mind,

This is why a smile brightens the soul and we connect,

feeling the rhythms of humanness,

Asking us to feel pain to feel joy,

And back again. This is it!

Dynamic algebraic equation to existence — tenderness + defensiveness

I am less than two months into my “new” (although not so new anymore) chapter of my life. Living in South Lake Tahoe is more than beautiful in its surroundings and more than dynamic in my personal day-to-day. The positive thing about the word “dynamic” is that it includes a wide array of possibility and creative energy. However, the main reason I can only think of the word dynamic is because my life feels complex, complicated, compassionate, complete and totally unpredictable. The last time I checked, Webster’s Dictionary had a slightly different and not so descriptive definition:

Adj: marked by continuous usually productive activity or change

Well, Webster’s has it spot-on when relating to the continual change. The constant flow of new beginnings, relationships, opportunities, struggles, etc. is giving me the sensation that I’m in a tornado. I’m twirling around in a free-flowing dance somewhere between grace and chaos. But when I look hard enough through the dust, I see clear sky! The equation adds up, and the reassuring thing is that I see a great solution. I feel it within me that although I’ve subtracted a few things, I’ve multiplied in courage and now I’m dividing through fears I’ve ran from for years. Right now, each day is so dynamically random (where productive meets unpredictable), and yet I have an inherent feeling that things are evolving into divine goodness.

Due to the crazy emotional rollercoaster of taking on a huge new job, getting injured too frequently to keep up and getting comfortable in a new enviornment, I am stripped of control and left with a split between tender tears of acceptance and defensive lashes of self-identification; those moments of wanting to reassure myself I’m “ok”. In trying to add it all up, this is how I feel:

And with that, I guess dynamic feels pretty great! This is all for me to take on and feel with love…so yes, I have a vulnerable beating heart! And yes, I am definitely extremely sensitive to molding farther into the woman I am becoming, but this equation of existence has a complex, delicate solution that will come to fruition only if I work at it with, tackling as many variables as possible! This is not a 1+1 kind of problem, this is the dynamic unsolvable problem where the answer lies in my heart more than on paper. What’s your equation? Can you give it all you’ve got and be totally affected by things so that you feel love? Don’t worry, it will add up just right!