Tag Archives: gratitude

Rhythm

27 Oct

Every morning

I watch the dark

recede,

gracefully

moving into light.

I’ll be soaking in the sunrise

for the rest

of my

life.

Every evening

I look up at the

dark night sky,

and watch

ever so gratefully

it sparkle for all of us.

I’ll be counting the stars

for the rest

of my

life.

Every moment

I feel the rhythm,

the breath,

the pulse

seeping through my skin.

It is the heart

that keeps

the life. It is the life

that keeps the heart.

I’ll be dancing.

For the rest 

of my 

life.

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The Women I Waited For

29 Oct

Alone in a city of millions… what a paradox.

Yet, just over a year ago, it’s exactly how I lived. Fresh out of inpatient treatment, I went to live with my aunt in New York City. Physically, I looked better, and everyone exclaimed behind hopeful smiles at how restored I seemed. But I knew the truth. The ED spat,

“Look how you’ve let them stuff you. How dare you actually ENJOY eating when they fed you at Oliver Pyatt? I am not done with you yet… You’re mine again.”

After two days in the metropolis, my insurance terminated my intensive outpatient care and I was left with little treatment support. And my ED went wild in jubilation. It was perfect… no one to monitor, no one to force feed, just me and him… all day long.

In the sea of people, I was stranded on a desert island. The ED made me feel ashamed of my newer, higher weight, so I drew inward, clamming up, losing all evidence that I ever had a social life. It was as though I could not emerge back into the world until the ED had deemed me thin enough again. Unfortunately( or perhaps fortunately), I never reached what my ED considered “acceptable.”

No one understood what I was going through. No one could possibly comprehend the pain, the loneliness, the anxiety, and the bleakness that pervaded the summer. No one else was being eaten up from the inside out, being sucked inwardly into a vacuum, where hope did not exist.

Oh, but they did. They do.

This past weekend was a milestone in my recovery as I ventured once again to New York City. But this time I wasn’t alone. And this time, it was on my terms.

Of course, my ED protested, “You shouldn’t… you’ll have to deal with all those messy memories and not knowing every nutritional fact of every bite you eat there. Think of the apple juice on the plane, how much do those flight attendants really pour? Half a can, 3/4? Oh, and those pretzels and peanuts. You’ll have to decline those. Don’t make me remind you of the restaurants all over New York. What land mines! Really, let’s just stay here in nice, safe, cozy Austin and continue to avoid those pesky things called feelings. Doesn’t that sound just peachy?”

Shut. The. Hell. Up.

While the ED pitched its, fit, I stood unwavering, like a parent riding out the terrible-two tantrums. It was not going to keep me alone. Not this time.

So I got on that airplane. And enjoyed the peanuts and the pretzels, plus NYC’s best pierogis, sushi, and muffins. I had coffee with a new friend, wishing the whole time… if only we had met a year ago. Maybe…..    I stayed up ’til 3 in the morning gossiping and reminiscing with my aunt until my eyelids collapsed, yet my heart wanted more. I saw more in four days than I did the entire summer I lived in NYC- art museums, fashion exhibits, improv shows- or at least savored it more. And I attended a bodyPeace by Piece workshop held by Susan Weiss Berry and Margaux Laskey, where I learned new creative tools to help cultivate a deeper acceptance of what my body looks like and how I feel towards this new weight I exist at.

But perhaps, most importantly, the women I interacted with this weekend made me realize that all along, I’ve never truly been on my own. While there are times where I have felt no one could possibly “get it,” they were there, I just didn’t know it then. Their companionship, their empathy, their compassion made me appreciate how “real” these women were. How rare it was to find them. yet here was a whole group of them assembled. Finally, those unafraid to admit, “Yes, we are struggling, too. We are vulnerable and yearning for understanding. We will not turn you away because we know what it’s like to hurt, but also what it’s like to lean on one another and find strength together.”

I could feel it in their smiles, in their warm, enveloping hugs, in their joyful dance, their quiet moments of reflection, their beauty. I knew I wasn’t alone any longer in the struggle. Yes, I silently whispered…

“Thank you. You are the ones I was waiting for…”

Limitless Pinterests

28 Aug

As I wrote about in my Creating as a Cure post, I am a deeply creative individual, but repressed my imagination, feelings, and desires for years with my eating disorder. I could almost say I became ashamed of being creative because those around me(aka. high schoolers) scorned the creative types, labeling them as childish, art nerds, and “gay.” On top of that, I excelled at math and science and was very clearly expected to be the rational, logical, even infallible student at those subjects, instead of being encouraged to keep a right-left brain balance. Oh, the woes of the public education system…

But now, in recovery, I’ve rediscovered my love for art and yes, “wasting time” looking for abstract things like peace, love, and beauty. I believe everyone has an artistic mind, whether or not they believe it, and each mind is unique. You can ask scornfully, “Oh, I am no good at drawing, so how the heck can I be artistic?” but really, that just means you aren’t a sketcher. It’s not your passion.

But maybe your a painter, maybe your a play-dough sculptor, maybe you do really fantastic doodles during chemistry class. Maybe you think up magical tales for your child when you tuck them under the warm covers at night, or know how to make the meanest, gooiest chocolate chip cookie of all the moms at pre-school. Maybe you can lip-sing on the subway better than the old man sitting next to you or write your wife the sappiest anniversary cards in the world. Maybe your camera has 10,000 photos on the full memory card, even if half have thumbs in the frames. Maybe you organize the most relaxing girls night, giving pedicures so professional, your girlfriends swear you’re part Asian.(And in case someone comments on this, I think Asian women give THE best mani-pedis. Take it as a compliment- I wouldn’t trust my toes with anyone else.) Maybe you make people laugh more than Seinfeld, or broadcast your life on Youtube.

Even if you don’t know it yet, you have an artist deep down, waiting to burst forth. Find her.

In the world of math and science, answers are always defined. It’s either correct or incorrect, there is no room for variation and there is always the possibility of “error.” Error doesn’t exist in art- there are no wrong answers. For once, everything you do is right. Art is limitless, and through art, I have discovered that I am limitless, too.

So I don’t define myself in artistic terms. There are no bounds on what I can do. I don’t say, “I can’t sculpt because I’m a photographer.” I’m so much more than that. Words are a false parameter on how I see the world through artistic eyes- I just can’t narrate the beauty I see because rediscovering art has allowed me a deeper, more profound view that can’t be described with words. That’s a very abstract thought, so let me give you an example:

When it comes to clothes, I don’t prescribe to one “style.” My outfits don’t say, “bohemian,” or “shabby chic,” or “punk.” Rather, I just have “my style” and I know when I see something that I like it. The design, color, and details all resonate with me on a deeper level than its style “label.” So the total of my closet cannot be described in words. The clothes represent something much deeper in me- what I find beautiful and appealing.

Because I can’t describe the way I see the world in words, I’ll just have to show you. A few weeks back, I discovered a fantastic site called Pinterest, where you can compile photographs of just about anything and arrange them on “boards” similar to how people would make vision boards before the internet. I have several boards and I highly suggest anyone struggling with an eating disorder, or who needs to discover their inner artist, check out Pinterest and consider starting an account. Check out my boards, especially if you need inspiration, are having a bad day, or just want to discover what beauty I see since I’ve escaped the darkness of my ED:

Inspiration: Browse this board when you are feeling shaky in recovery, want to be inspired throughout your entire day, or simply looking to uplift your spirit. I often look through this board when I am feeling ambivalent about recovery and need a boost. It helps to read inspiring quotes and be reminded of how beautiful life is.

Need a Cheering Up?: This board is for those terrible, no good, very bad days. I often turn to this board when nothing seems to be going my way, I’ve spent more time that day holding back tears than breathing, or I’m struggling in recovery. See for yourself, but I guarantee you can’t look through the entire board without smiling.

My Style: Fashion is a part of art that I’m just discovering because with the ED, it was all about numbers. I’d rather wear something ugly and ill-fitting in a size 0 than put on a cute, flattering size four in another brand. Well no more. My style is undefined but these are the inspiration for outfits I’d love to wear.

Art to Do: This is a collection of art I find appealing and makes me want to sit down to create- whether it be painting, drawing, cooking, writing, etc. Everything here is very varied in terms of art “style,” but I’m limitless and these examples of art just drew me in on a deeper level than “oh, that’s pretty.” They really held meaning for me in some way and are things I don’t want to copy, but that inspire me.

Photography Ideas: I love this board because it is the most undefined out of them all. I can’t pinpoint why I like a photo, but there’s just something that makes it beautiful. See for yourself and find your passions, your pinterests.

I will be adding more to my pinterest boards as time goes on, so always check back for more inspiration and of course, smiles, when your rough day needs a little smoothing along the edges.

Life is Beautiful. Pin it.

Normal Change and an Ice Cream Celebration!

29 Jun

I met my little sister for the first time yesterday. She’s seven.

No, my father didn’t cheat on my mom and it wasn’t a huge family secret that I have a little sister. It’s not what you think. I promise; there were no paternity tests and Maury Povich was NOT involved. On the contrary, Alyssa* is the “Little” to our match with the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters. And it’s the only time my eating disorder has no problem with me being the “Big” one.

Our first outing was short, but Alyssa* was all smiles, all the time. Within the first five minutes of meeting her, she said I was “her friend” and she couldn’t wait to do fun activities with me. We decided to go to a drive-in close to her house, to grab some cool drinks and chat about what exciting things we could do on future outings. What struck me while we were ordering was the immediacy of her order; jumping up and down, she exclaimed, “Can I please have a that one?” [pointing to a picture of vanilla ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce]. “Sure!” I responded, but I agonized over the menu for at least two minutes after she had decided, mentally weighing the calories in everything, eventually settling on an unsweetened iced tea. It wasn’t until later that I called myself on it. That was my ED stepping in to decide for me. And I hate that it’s what I consider “normal” now.

When we were kids, we thought about what looked good, would taste good, what we wanted. With an eating disorder, I’ve got so good at memorizing numbers- fat grams, energy contents, carbs, protein, exchanges- and I can add them up in my head quicker than you can spell c-a-l-o-r-i-e-s. It’s all part of the obsession, the control.

In some ways, I wish I was more like Alyssa* again. That “normal” was picking the best-tasting thing on the menu, not deciding based on what would keep my daily count in check. 

After the roller girl wheeled up with our order, I began brainstorming ideas and getting a thumbs up or down for other outings. I thought Alyssa would have tons of requests, but I was wrong. I took for granted as a child how involved my mom kept us kids in the community. During the summers it was normal for us to go somewhere everyday- to the library, the bookstore, the park, storytime, the children’s museum, the free movie screenings, the summer festivals and more. I grew up relatively cultured without even knowing it. I never considered that most children don’t get the “privilege” of interesting and engaging activities, time for learning and interacting outside of their neighborhood. Even though she lives less than fifteen minutes from the heart of Austin, Alyssa* has never:

  • been to a public library
  • seen the inside of the state capitol
  • learned what a “museum” is
  • seen a farmer’s market
  • explored Zilker park(Austin’s biggest park)
  • watched a movie in an actual movie theatre
  • flown a kite
  • swam in Barton Springs
  • kayaked on Town Lake
 That is her “normal.” But I hope to change it. This afternoon, I have spent hours on the internet googling free and fun Austin kids events. Some of them sound so fun, but I would be embarrassed to go to without a little sibling. I might get to take a duck tour, play princesses for a day and have tea at the very classy, historic Driskill hotel, ride the train at the Austin Zoo, craft mini-doorhangers at Michael’s, watch the Austin bats fly out from under the Congress Ave. Bridge, play on the Zilker playground, or blow giant soap bubbles. How fun would that be?
I got the sense yesterday that both of us are going to grow immensely as “sisters.”

I hope that I can challenge my “normal” to include enjoying ice cream after an afternoon in the park or savoring some popcorn during “Cars 2.”

I hope that I will learn to let go of the calories, grams, percents, ingredients, good, bad, safe, NOT SAFE!, carbs, too fat, too fried, saturated fat, not good enough…

I hope that I will have as much fun as Alyssa* and see the world through a child’s eyes again

I hope that Alyssa’s* normal changes and she sees that there is so much more to discover and learn about. She deserves that.

I hope that I make a positive impact on her life and share all the cultural knowledge that my mom gave to me as a child.

I hope I become someone Alyssa* looks up to.

I hope more than anything that Alyssa* never stops smiling when she’s with me and has more fun this summer than any other.

I hope that I don’t let my eating disorder get in the way of having fun this summer.

I won’t let my eating disorder get in the way of having fun this summer.

*name changed for confidentiality

(And just to begin my new resolution of not letting my ED get in the way… here’s a cool ice cream celebration for today:)


Feeding the Feminine Soul

23 Jun

The Setting: Huge, airy windows and sun filtering through purple stained glass. Soft lighting from global, Moroccan lamps. Organic, hardwood floors scattered with plush cushions. Calming flute and woodwind background music. Fresh, pink carnations gazing down from a tall vase. The smell of baby powder mixed with woodsy notes and eucalyptus. 

The People: Women of all ages. Dressed in the most comfortable fabrics- loose, flowing, ahh… cotton dresses, stretchy yoga pants, whispy tees. Bright-faced, rosy, healthy glows, too many smiles to count. Instant friendship.

The Mood: Eager and excited. Strong and determined. Joy. Acceptance. 

Don’t you feel relaxed already??? Last weekend I went to a mini-retreat of sorts led by body-image expert, Elissa Shapiro. Called “Feeding the Feminine Soul,” it shed light on how today’s society impacts the self-perception of ALL women, not just those with eating disorders. It was a blissfully quiet and peaceful afternoon, filled with reflection, group discussions, mindful movement(Nia), and lessons on combatting society’s skewed ideal of what women “should” be.

Here are the most important things I took away from the day:

  • The journaling question, “What if you woke up tomorrow and your body was the cultural norm/ideal? What would you change in your life?” I was shocked by this prompt; I had never stopped to consider who decided that thin was in. Though I pride myself on intellect, I have dumbly chased the “thin ideal” for years without questioning who got to decide that was what is beautiful. I was also shocked by how much relief I felt when I imagined this situation. I have wasted such a large portion of my life trying to be the ideal body type. What would I do with all that extra time I have spent and currently spend on improving, toning, losing, obsessing…? So much would change. So what is preventing me from living like this now? 
  • In an exercise where we had to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” and write down the first seven words that came to mind, here is what I wrote:
  1. an explorer
  2. a learner
  3. compassionate
  4. creative
  5. deserving
  6. a daughter
  7. limitless
             Then, we had to chose which one was the most important definition of
ourselves.Can you guess which one I chose?

             I am limitless.

  • I realized how much gratitude I have for addressing my discomfort with body image NOW, instead of dealing with it for the rest of my life. I am working with my entire outpatient team to get to a place where I can maintain a healthy weight- not too thin, not too heavy- and be comfortable there. I feel relief when I think about this ideal because I won’t have to play on the seesaw anymore- up, down, up, down. It’s so tiring, and I’m glad I get to get off the seesaw sooner rather than later. There were women at this workshop that had dealt with poor body-image and self-esteem for 40, 50, 60 years! I am so grateful I will not have to hate myself for that long. I’m addressing it now, so that I can actually LIVE in the future.
  • And finally, this poem was read aloud because it presents an ideal that is so radically different than our modern culture’s:

Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself:

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.
A woman who listens to her needs and desires.
Who meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates her body’s rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

           – Patricia Lynn Reilly


A woman who doesn't hate some part of herself. Who thinks she is beautiful inside and out. Hmmph... imagine that...
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