taking responsibility for energy

I first watched this video thinking it was mostly going to be about Jill Botle Taylor’s stroke and something to watch with my mom. But halfway through I was punched in the gut by the overall message:

“There are two kinds of people on the planet: people who bring your energy or people who take your energy away.” – Jill Bolte Taylor

Of course I know this already, but it’s powerful to hear these words from someone in this position of influence (both Taylor and Winfrey). So here are some thoughts on the points they made in the clip. (A longer version can be found on youtube.)

1) Take responsibility for the energy that you bring. What is the tone of your energy? Is it negative? Unsupportive? If so, can you change that? Also, ask yourself: Why is it that way? Why is my energy so toxic to myself and to others? Energy is everything. And if your energy is not good, you’re damaging yourself and others around you.

2) Take responsibility for the energy you allow in your space. You will undoubtedly encounter individuals who are not as thoughtful, reflective, and mindful of their energy. Therefore, the burden falls on you to keep unsupportive energies out of your space. This may involve a more drastic measure (see #3) or it may involve simply telling a person that you are not willing to take on their negative/draining/unsupportive energy. It’s hard to say that to people you love, but it’s critical that it’s said. Rather than being abrasive about it (as I tend to be), you could encourage the person to reflect on their own energy — see #1. Try to encourage a more mindful approach to the energy we bring. Additionally, seek out people who bring positive and supportive energy into your space. I can only speak for myself, but I am inspired and uplifted by positive energy and ambitious, joyful, loving, supportive people. I have a reservoir of positive energy and sometimes it starts to drain. When that happens I seek out those people in my life whom I know can refill that reservoir. (This is not suggesting it’s their responsibility to do so.) The more I’m around these sorts of people the more I’m inspired to make positive change for myself and for the world. I suspect others react similarly to the energies of people. So seek out those people. Just make sure you’re not stealing their good energy and replacing it with your bad energy. See #1.

3) You may have to do a clearing of certain people in your life. Once you realize how powerful your energy and the energy of others is, you’ll need to do the difficult work of clearing people whose energy is not conducive to your overall emotional, mental, and physical health. You are the most important person. That’s not a selfish concept, and anyone who thinks so doesn’t have their priorities straight. If there are people in your life whose energy is not supportive of who you want to be in the world: out they go.

4) You cannot continue to move forward in your life if you’re surrounded by energy that sucks the life force from you. This is sort of an extension on #3, but it’s worth elaborating on. Have a dream that you want to pursue? Do you have a significant other or friend that is reminding you how lofty or ridiculous that dream is? Well, chances are you aren’t going to go after that dream. You’re going to second-guess yourself. You’re going to question your ability to accomplish said dream or goal. You are your own person – yes. But you still need the support and love of others. And you have a right to that kind of energy. You may say to yourself: Well, so-and-so is just a negative or cynical person. They still love me and support me. Do they though? Because if they did, they’d recognize how their energy is destroying your spirit. They’d realize that their negative energy is keeping you stuck and not allowing you to move forward. You cannot carry the weight of someone else’s (negative) energy. When you surround yourself with people who suck the life force from you, your energy is drained and their negative energy is what fills up in its place. You are attempting to walk through wet cement. There’s little to no forward motion. Your mission: get out before it dries. Your life depends on it. 

I’d love to hear your own thoughts on this! And remember: I love you, keep going.

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Where I’m at now

Just recently, I’ve been having dreams about returning to school (as a teacher). I had these for nine years. I didn’t expect them this year since I’m not, in fact, returning to school as a teacher. The dreams are mostly sad and anxious. One of the dreams I was planning units with colleagues, but I was confused as to why I worked there. In another, I was teaching there until I got “caught” and told to leave. And, as my dreams tend to do, they are making me a bit sad and anxious in my waking life.

It is strange not returning to the classroom this year. There’s a big part of me that’s relieved. I have seen “memory” posts on Facebook about how anxious I would get about it all. Of course, though, there’s the excitement of a new year, new students, new challenges. I miss my students. I miss the students I’ll never have. I miss the connections with these young kids that I won’t get to make. That was the most powerful experience for me: I got so much joy and pleasure and energy from my students. They were beautiful humans and I wanted nothing more than to be their support system and advocate as they navigated young adulthood. And then I get a bit angry. Because maybe I should have fought harder when my employer asked me to resign. Maybe I should have said: Make me.

But at that time last winter, I was in such a dark hole, and the thought of adding another layer to my struggles just seemed unfathomable. I wanted to fight, but I didn’t have the energy. I knew it was unjust and that later, when I was healthy, I would regret not fighting. Maybe I was little sad no one fought for me. I was too weak to do it for myself, but surely someone would notice and speak up? No such luck. I learned a valuable lesson there: you’ve only got yourself and you can’t expect others to look out for you. It’s fucking cliche as shit, but man, is it true. I left that school and I don’t think anyone batted an eyelash at my departure.

Despite all of this, I’m in a good place now. A much better place (mentally and emotionally) than I was last year at this time. I’ve done some really incredible work on myself, as I’ve written about before. Maybe part of that “good work” was letting go of the job — not fighting the ugly battle that would have had to take place for me to keep it. So I’m feeling really good about myself these days.

I have a job that I genuinely enjoy. No, it’s not incredibly challenging being a cheese slinger, but it does take a level of skill, attention to detail, and sincerity to do it well. I think I possess these. I look forward to going to work. Even when I work my least favorite shift I’m still happy to be going to work. I know I’m going to see people I like and respect and I’m going to do work that is important and meaningful to customers and to a respectable company. I like that I can “leave it” when I’m done (except for my ever-growing desire for expensive cheese) and I like that I’m not burdened by “higher ups” telling me how to do my job when they have no idea how to do it themselves.

Sometimes I see former colleagues while I’m working at Wegmans. Some of them acknowledge me and some of them don’t. I always feel uneasy when they don’t, like they are ashamed on my behalf. Listen guys, I’m not ashamed to be working at Wegmans. I taught high school for nine years, it was an incredible ride, and it’s not what I’m doing right now. Right now I’m working for a great company that treats its employees really well. I’m getting a taste of retail, which I’ve only experienced second-hand from friends. I know in your eyes it’s “beneath you” to do what I’m doing, and maybe it’s embarrassing for you to see me in my cute work uniform refreshing the olive bar. But guess what? I’m really happy. I’m not lying around on the couch surfing the web, eating potato chips, drinking wine, and feeling sorry for myself. Because I could be doing that instead of working. And part of me was doing that when I had what you deem to be a “real” job. I’m better off now. So be happy for me. And say hi.

In addition to loving my job, I’ve got another really great thing going: trail running.

Trail running has changed my life. [This is it’s own blog entry, which I’ve been crafting in  my head. But here are some quick thoughts on the subject.] It’s changed my life in ways I understand and in ways I’m still uncertain about. And I’m just breaking the surface of it, and that is incredibly exciting for me. I’m not running a lot right now, but scheduling runs is something that takes effort. I’m still learning the craft. But when I do get out there in the woods – it’s so incredibly moving for me. I love it and hate it. I keep trying to figure out when this bipolar emotion will subside, but I’m told they’ll always be a part of you that is telling the mountain to fuck off inside your head. I’m no good at it. I’m slow as a freaking turtle. I joke that I’m like an elephant pounding along the trail. I feel that way. I can feel the thickness of my legs when I run. I can feel my midsection jiggle. I don’t get very far before walking. I’ve only recently starting running up the vertical, and again, I don’t get very far. But I’ve never had more fun in my life. I feel so many emotions when I’m out on the trail. I feel powerful and beautiful and unstoppable and weak and degraded and courageous. Mostly though, I’m proud of what my body has done and what it is capable of doing. I’m proud of my heart for getting me here. I’m impressed by my will to do it. Because it’s hard and not easy. I have a history of giving up on things that are hard. I have a history of not committing. And I really believe I’ve committed to this. I thought about it the other day. I said to myself: You’re at the point where there’s no turning back. You either need to give it all up now or you have to seriously commit to it. I told myself I was committed and there was no way I was going back to not running. So here I am. Committed and loving it.

During the time in between resigning and getting hired at Wegmans, I did some volunteering in my local community. I got to dip my toes into community advocacy, and I really liked it. I want more of it. I started to discover what was important to me: being a part of making a difference and supporting those that are actively doing so. When I was a kid I wanted to “change the world” but as an adult I realize that this really means being a voice for change in my local community. I also started to take care of my physical health: I began making healthy eating choices. I started hiking in the woods and going for walks with friends. And then soon after, I started my trail running journey.

So there’s a lot of good in my life right now. It’s not perfect, but I don’t expect that. I still have a lot to work on. I’m still struggling with certain aspects of my life. But not in the same dark and hopeless way I was before. Now I feel alive and confident and capable of working on difficulties. I’m not scared or intimidated by the challenge.

Thanks to all those in my life who’ve supported me and helped me become a much happier and healthier soul. I love you all.

 

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Forgiveness is…

It is the untying of knots inside your body. Where blood begins to flow freely and your heart beats harder. It is the energy of love returning. It is a weight lifted and a deeper breath taken. It calms the pulse of anger and resentment. Stops it. It is an Autumn breeze across your skin. It’s a smile and a bellowing laugh you remember well. (One from you and one from them.) It is grace. It is self-love. It’s a hug to say hello and a hug to say goodbye. It’s a tight wrap of arms around a body. It’s the feeling of warmth inside from the proclamation of good health and well-being and happiness. It’s the glow from a smile. It is finding peace and letting go. It is remembering the good. It’s all we have to offer. But it is enough.

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[♫ NOW PLAYING ♫] Woodlock

Last night I was listening to Sirens by Pearl Jam on Spotify and then after that another song titled Sirens came on. It was by a band I had never heard of: WoodlockThe song was upbeat and catchy and I loved it! So I listened to more of their stuff. Turns out it’s all fabulous! They have a really fresh sound. Most of the songs are upbeat and the ones that are slower have such a lovely vibe to them. If you like acoustic/folk music or just looking for a change from the garden variety pop, you should definitely check them out.

Here is the music video of their most popular song, Lemons:

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[POEM] lying in wait

lying in wait

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on the trail

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Since March of this year, I’ve been walking outdoors, mostly hiking in the local wooded areas around State College. I got a Fitbit and I made a commitment to myself to get healthy. Depression was overwhelming me. No, not overwhelming. Drowning. I knew if I didn’t do something things were going to get ugly for me. My first walk with the Fitbit I did just over a mile and I couldn’t believe it. It’s not that I wasn’t capable of walking a mile — I consider myself an experienced hiker: from glaciers and fjords in Norway to crumbling sandstone arches in Utah. But it was a mile weighted with heavy, dark clouds of negativity and self-loathing. So when I finished, I couldn’t believe it.

Then I started walking with a friend on his dog walks. I enjoyed the company. It was nice to have a friend to talk with while wrangling dogs off leashes and on leashes. I learned a lot about my friend and a lot about dogs in that time. My love for these four-legged creatures expanded more than I expected it to. I became a dog-aunt: a role I thoroughly enjoy. Those walks came and went, just as phases do in our lives. I used to be bitter about those phases. It used to eat me up inside that you could put your emotional energy into a phase, only to have it leave quickly thereafter. But that’s what life is about. And recently I’ve come to appreciate these phases for what they are/were, and not hold them in a place of resentment. Enjoy the moments while they exist and feel good about having had them at all.

I also started hiking more frequently on my own. I would discover new areas of the local forests that I had never cared to explore before. It didn’t make sense: I am an outdoorsman. Or woman. When my husband and I vacation, we don’t go to the beach, we go hiking and camping. We backcountry canoe in the Canadian wilderness. I am not an urbanite. Give me green and lots of lands to explore. So it was a surprise to me that this was all (mostly) uncharted territory. But depression is a hole that easily sucks you in, creating new and unhealthy ways to escape everyday life, and allows you to forget what you love and enjoy. That’s where I’ve been for over two years.

And now my wooded excursions have taken a new twist: I’ve started running. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me before, in all of my hiking experiences, to pick up the pace a little and run. Well, I guess I do know why: I’ve never considered myself to be a “runner.”I’ve tried to get into road running off and on over the years. I’ve always said: I like the idea of running, just not the actual doing it. When I’m listening to a particularly moving song, I close my eyes and I see myself running. I can feel my heart pounding and the satisfying ache in my calves. But that’s as far as I get. I open my eyes and I look at my body and say, “Ugh. You can’t do that.” But recently I’ve been inspired by a friend’s trail running journey. And I thought: maybe I can do that, too? If I love being in the woods, why torture myself on pavement?

I’m starting small… if you’re measuring distance. But actually, it’s not such a small start for me. It’s monumental. I could never have done it six months ago. Six months ago I didn’t believe I could make it another six months. Sometimes I didn’t want to. Now I have self-worth and self-love. I believe I’m capable of anything – even running up and down mountains. It’s hard to describe the pleasure of trail running. There’s something sacred about sharing that space with nature. Although, “sharing” might not be the word I’m looking for. There’s a feeling of spiritual connection when I’m immersed in nature, and trail running allows me to experience that with a more heightened sensation. I’m placing my trust in nature to guide me along the path, which for me is more metaphorical than anything. In thinking of a way to describe the experience of trail running (and just being in the forest at all) I keep coming back to the word allow. I’m still a bit shocked that nature allows me to experience all that it has to offer and that I get so much pleasure out of it.

On a recent trail run, I thought, I never thought I could have this kind of relationship with running. It’s only the beginning for me, but already I can’t imagine not having it.

 

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me, after a 7-mile trail run in Rothrock State Forest.

 

 

 

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breaking habits

I’m talking about the bad ones, of course.

I recently broke a bad habit. I didn’t just break it, I muthafrackin shattered it with my hardcore knuckle strength. (Yeah, I went there. Listen, I’ve been working out, what did you expect?) You know the kind of habit: It’s that thing that you do constantly that you hate, but can’t seem to stop. Every day, multiple times a day, for no reason other than it’s a habit. Well, maybe there are other reasons. But your fingers or mind or body just goes there, without consent from the rational and logical part of your being.

Unhealthy habits are the pits. I’ve been struggling with many of them my whole life. And this year, they all decided to moshpit on my psyche at once. It’s killer when you’re being suffocated by bad habits and you can’t seem to find the good ones that you had in place. One-by-one I’ve been riding myself of these bad habits. Drinking (check). Junk food (check). Eating poorly (check). Sleeping too much (check). Not exercising (check). Self-Hate (check). And now I can check this one off my list, too.

(As you can see, I’m being vague about my bad habit, because it’s personal and embarrassing.)

Yeah. So I finally broke that habit. After two years (+) I broke this daily habit that I despise more than anything. How did I do it? I still don’t know exactly. Because I’ve tried over the past two years to break it. Repeatedly. With no luck. I’d get a day or two if I was lucky, and then (fcksh&p%ss) I’d fall into the trap. Somehow, this time, it stuck. And breaking this habit has also helped with another bad habit: my social media addiction. I’m still on it too much, but at least now I’m not checking what I was checking. So basically I’m on it a lot less. And I’ve come to realize how emotionally unfulfilling the whole thing is.

It started with a conversation with a friend about, um, hair conditioner. Don’t ask. You don’t want to know. It ended in a come-to-jesus moment of self-awareness. My habits were not only harmful to myself, but to the people I love. This particular one made no sense, served no purpose, and was just dragging out unnecessary emotional turmoil that I didn’t need. (I argued that it did no such thing – that it was simply a habit. My friend didn’t let me get away with spewing such vomit.) I’ve had enough conversations with different friends over the past two years regarding this habit and wanting to stop it. I don’t know why this one stuck. But it did. It was almost like a challenge. I have a need to prove myself to this friend sometimes, so that might have been a contributing factor.

But ultimately, I have to (and want to) prove it to myself. This particular habit wasn’t directly harmful to anyone (maybe me?), but it was just so pointless and stupid. I don’t need to do that thing I was doing. I don’t need to know. Those clicks and finger swipes were just driving me crazy and even though I didn’t “care” about what I saw, it made no sense to even check. Somehow, I managed once and for all to convince myself of that fact. Thankfuckinggod.

It feels good to break a bad habit. I feel emotionally lighter and more in control of my being. I’ve been doing such amazing work on myself lately, this is just another hat tip to myself for a job well done. Bad habits aren’t cool. And I am. So let’s just eradicate them one-by-one. And this one — it was a long time in coming. It feels great to let go.


Here’s a self-reflection challenge: What’s a bad habit that you want to break? Make a list of bad habits and PICK ONE to work on eliminating from your life or daily routine. Don’t try and rid yourself of all of them at the same time. (For instance, my nail biting increased substantially after breaking this habit. I need SOMETHING to do with my hands. And residual anxiety is common.)

Try it for a day — see how it feels. If you made it a day, go for another. If you broke it, instead of beating yourself up, just try again the next day. FORGIVE YOURSELF. You are human. You are flawed. If you allow yourself to be human, the success rate will be that much higher. When you have the urge to do the bad habit, ask yourself what purpose it serves. What satisfaction do you get from it? What are the emotional, mental, or physical consequences of doing that habit? Does it hurt others in addition to being unhealthy for you? If you remind yourself why it’s a “bad” habit, you’re more likely to stick with breaking it. See if you can go a week! I’m on a 12-Day streak and counting! There’s no going back for me now.

Bonus challenge: Try replacing your bad habit with a good, healthy habit. Every time to get to urge to do X, do Healthy Y instead. I didn’t do this exactly, but instead of doing my X habit, I would do something else that was related (social media) but not unhealthy for me. The healthier the replacement habit, the better off you are.



The most important thing
is to believe in yourself and your capacity for self-restraint and to love and forgive yourself for making mistakes and being flawed.

You’re fabulous! You got this! 

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on body image and where i’m at now

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The Bather, 1888. Pierre-Auguste Renoir

“That girl has huge thighs!”

I used to resent my body. I used to say nasty things to it in the mirror, when I ate, when I was in bed, when I had sex, or when I was standing next to someone thinner. When I was twenty I stayed with my friend in a beautiful Victorian manor house in England. In our bedroom was an old-fashioned full-length mirror. After a shower, I caught a glimpse of my thighs in that mirror and sobbed on the floor while my friend was taking her turn in the shower. I have never cried so much self-hate in my life. In that moment, I wanted to die. I couldn’t imagine ever loving the body in the mirror. It was a pivotal moment in my journey of my own body-hate. Ever since I was too little to be worrying about my body I was worrying about my body. I’ve been called fat (implied or passive aggressively) by people who are the dearest to me. People in my life that should be reaffirming my self-love were unintentionally (or maybe intentionally, but I don’t think so) affirming my disgust of my body.

Yes, I had people tell me that I was beautiful, but I knew they were only referring to my face. I did have a long-ago lover tell me I reminded him of a woman in a Renoir painting. And he meant it in the most admiring way, but because I was so deep in body-hate, I cringed when he told that. Who wants to be a Renoir painting when you’ve got Victoria Secret models? (Now I love that compliment. And I regret that I didn’t let him admire me more.) When I was showering under a bucket in the African Umfolozi, I had an a friend’s grandfather tell me I reminded him of a forest nymph/goddess-like creature from a mythology. I know it sounds creepy, and I’m not really explaining the compliment properly. At the time, I brushed it off because he was old. Of course he would get kicks from catching sight of a twenty-year-old showering in the woods, no matter how curvy she was. Now I look back at my 20-year-old self, trudging through the African bush — I was a fucking goddess.

It took until I was thirty to stop shaming my own body. It took someone else (at first) to say, “You know you’re beautiful, right?” Yes, I said. I’ve got great hair. Nice eyes. A pretty smile. But that person said, “Sure. But, like, your body — is gorgeous.” I won’t go into the details, but that person was more specific about what they found “gorgeous” about my body. This was a time when my self-confidence was at an all-time low. I was suffering from post-partum depression. My “non-fat” status was no longer being reaffirmed by friends and family. Food was my escape and avoidance of all the other issues in my life. Fight with my husband? I’ll bake some bread! Don’t want to have that awkward conversation? Here are some cookies! I avoided eye-contact with strangers. I didn’t believe anyone was looking at me in any sort of way that implied they were attracted to me.

But finally at thirty, the trigger was someone else insisting that my body was beautiful. I mean: insisting. At first, it was all I could do to roll my eyes, but after awhile it started to sink in. I started looking at my body differently. My breasts, my hips, my legs, my belly… I paid attention to the curves and dimples and smooth lines. I would run my hands over my body and feel how soft I was. My shoulders were strong and my upper back was muscular and smooth. Soon I didn’t need that friend telling me how beautiful my body was — I could see it for myself.

My depression has been spastic these past two years. Ebbing and flowing with the creating and demise of friendships. And on top of that, my mom’s stroke in March 2015 turn my life upside down in a way that I only understand now why people use that cliche expression. I mean, you seriously don’t recognize your life as it is. This fall I hit rock bottom — I drank too much. I didn’t care about my personal hygiene (seriously). I avoided any difficult life problems. I was meaner to a certain friend than I should have been. I neglected my family. I essentially lost my job (although that story is a lot more complicated).

At the beginning of 2016, I got my shit together. I started working out a bit. I stopped purchasing wine to have around the house. I stopped going out as much. I continued therapy. I made sure I was taking my meds. In March, I started walking/hiking. I do this just about every day. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends. And in April, I started boot camp 3 days a week. Sometime this year I also finally “let go” of an old friendship. I stopped being angry. I stopped being resentful. I stopped passive-aggressively trying to shame that person publicly. I just let go. It is what it is and it was what it was. I started to be appreciative for what I learned from that experience. And I really am now. And I really have come to peace.

But recently I’ve been relapsing into shaming my body. Part of it is that I’m working out regularly now, but not seeing immediate results. For all the work I put in, I can still pinch and pull at fat. I can see muscle definition, but it’s buried under years of bread. Part of it also is that I have really pretty and fit friends. And they know it. Some of them make comments about other people’s physical appearances.  I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with caring about how you look. It’s just that it makes it hard sometimes to stand next to them and not want to melt into a puddle of self-loathing. Or feel like a cow.

That all being said, I love my body so much more now than I ever have before in my life. I admire it often (even if no one else does). I respect it enough to take care of it. Now that I’ve got a regular exercise routine I want to move into having a healthier diet. I just love food — but in healthy and unhealthy ways. I want to irradicate my unhealthy relationship with food and concentrate on the healthy changes I can make.

I don’t get compliments on my body from anyone else anymore (necessarily). I just love it for me. I spent too much of my life hating and resenting my curves. It’s time for me to embrace the curves and extra bits of fat and not-perfect muscle definition. The more I love my body the more I’ll take care of it, and the stronger and healthier and happier I will become.

Why did it take so long to get here? Better late than never — and I intend to never hate my body again.

 

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[POEM] these memories fade 

  

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