New post on the collective grief of COVID-19 is on Medium – click here to read it.
This is heavy. Sometimes we need to cry in the grocery store.
I went to a deer skull boil the other week and saw the human condition boiled down in a conversation. Sometimes the things that make us recoil are the things that need us to lean in. Sometimes all we need to know is we are not alone (finish reading here).
Warning; this is longer than my usuals and will steal an eternity of 7 minutes from your life. The audacity!
This is my sports bra (hello sports bra). She has many confusing straps. We did something brave together last week: I wore her and just her (pants too, obvs) to yoga class.
My business coach, Samantha Siffring, challenged me to 30 days of bravery and wearing just a sports bra was one of my challenges. I’ve always wanted to do it, but never felt brave enough. Until last week.
I walked into the class with a shirt on because it felt unconstitutional to drive shirtless to class. I set up my mat, found myself in the mirror, and whipped off that shirt with a sharp inhale. No going back now, honeys, it was already done.
I looked around at the other bodies and a few were just wearing sports bras too. My people, I thought. Is there a secret handshake for this club? At least secret glances for our shared baddassery?
Instinctively, I started to compare. “That one looks so relaxed, that one clearly hasn’t had two kids, and THAT one is just unfair…wait a minute, I don’t have a shirt on…”
The yoga teacher came in and when she set up the tone for the class, I almost snorted out loud.
Vulnerability. Growth. Intentionally getting yourself to places of discomfort and, more importantly, staying in there. Yes, common yoga themes but it was like she was talking to my sports bra and me.
We started our practice and I was so aware of my body. The way it bent and folded, the shadows it cast and didn’t cast. I was too aware. What did I look like to others? Did they wish I kept my shirt on? Should I adjust my pose to make me less creased? My postures suffered. I was wobbly and overthinking. I wanted to put my shirt back on.
It was the exact opposite of what I should do in yoga and at that moment the teacher said this:
“When you are uncomfortable, you are faced with your biggest moments of growth. So what if instead of pushing away the discomfort, you leaned into it to see where it takes you?”
So I did just that. I leaned into the discomfort of being shirtless and dropped my ego. And just like that, I was floating. I wasn’t uncomfortable anymore and it felt wonderful to not have clothing between me and my body. I loved my silhouette. There was no posture I couldn’t slay, there was no way I could fall, there was no one else in the room.
Because yoga, like life, is all about your mind, your thoughts, and your ego.
Yoga teachers often say yoga starts when you want to get out of a pose. The moment you say something is hard, it truly does get hard. But, yoga teaches you to bridge the moment between “this is hard” with the end of that sentence “and I can do it”. It is the bridge between what you think it possible and what really is possible. It’s the moment you want to put your shirt back on but don’t. This is vulnerability and that is bravery.
My yoga teacher that shirtless day asked us to breathe into hard moments and say: “I can. I am able. I am enough.” It sounds so simple but try it. See how it changes the challenge. What if we said that in the middle of hard life moments? How would that change the challenge? How would it explode our lives?
Once you lean into discomfort, you find comfort on the other side. I did that with my torso exposed to the world. I did that with the panic attacks and anxiety I thought would last forever. I’m doing that with pushing the boundaries of my life and with 30 days of bravery. The more I lean in, the less uncomfortable pushing myself is.
So, did I like wearing just a sports bra to yoga? Yes, I loved it. Wearing clothes hid my body and encumbered my movement. I am done with hiding and encumbrances. I am liberated and shirtless. I can. I am able. I am enough. Now I just need to buy more sports bras with fewer strap entanglements.
Bravery comes in all different shapes, sizes, and strap configurations. Just because something is uncomfortable, doesn’t mean you should get away from it. If you think you can’t, you won’t — it’s that simple. You can. You are able. You are enough.
I had a nice little pity party for myself this week. It was charmingly planned out with lots of sighing, exasperated floor sits, and huffing around in front of my husband so he could see how hard I was working. It was just lovely!
He didn’t get the invite so he showed up to this party very confused. Since I never explained what the theme was, he just bumbled around like “What’s going on? Should I get an appetizer together? Wait, we have that manchego!”
The party ended as so many parties of my youth ended: with me crying a little into a bathroom mirror. This time there were two small children calling for me outside the door and a still confused husband trying to usher them away.
Such a lovely party, thank you all for coming!
What happened that day was nothing much at all. I felt stressed, overburdened, and unseen. All I had to do was vocalize those feelings and they would’ve gone away. But I didn’t, I chose to give them space to flourish and magnify. It was intentional, I wanted to feel it.
The beautiful thing is I was aware of the absurdity of my pity party as I threw it. It was like a higher me was watching the lower me. I saw my feelings weren’t truly valid and could easily be remedied. I internally laughed at my huffing around. But the lower me held on tight because that lower me wanted to huff so I huffed hard. I wanted to feel like a martyr.
This is exactly how I got to panic attacks last year so when I looked in the mirror I kept asking: “Why are you choosing this AGAIN? This party theme is sooo last year!”
I know why.
Because it was my habit to martyr myself for three years. Habits, even the crappy ones, feel good sometimes. They’re comfortable. They’re like your old nasty ass gym shoes that really need to be tossed but you’re drawn to because the footbeds have molded to you. They cradle you in their gross familiarity. They’re home.
There is so much energy in me since I was introduced to the fragile nature of mental health. The majority of it is for the better, but I still end up crying in the bathroom sometimes. I believe that’s a wonderful thing, though, because it means I feel all the things now. I didn’t feel them before or I felt them way delayed, but now I feel them instantly and wholly. And more importantly, I refuse to hold them in because I know they cause more harm that way.
Because of this new feelingpalooza, my life is filled with more confrontation than I’m used to. I’ve invited all the things to come out and play. Not in secret, not delayed, not hushed like we used to. I embossed the invites and sent them to the whole fucking school.
This week’s pity party was so interesting both because of its familiarity and its unfamiliarity. It was the old me but I was separated from her. I tried not to get involved and that was my mistake. I should’ve escorted the unruly guest to a side room, let her express her feelings, and changed the party theme. Bam. Done.
If you happen to be invited to one of my parties, pity party or confrontation party, please bear with me as I navigate this new skill of feeling and expressing all the things. Sometimes I buck it up and cry in the mirror or cause full family arguments, but it’s all out of love, I promise.
I own my story, all of it. I am grateful for where I am but that means I am also grateful for the road that got me here. My higher self wants to drive now. She’s taking the wheel but only has her learner’s permit so some of the advanced maneuvers like unlearning martyrdom and learning healthy expression may take a while. There will be hills and bumps and scratches, but the destination is clear and that driver is friggin tenacious.
Your mind loves habits but cannot differentiate between the good ones and the bad ones. All it knows is the familiar and breaking them takes a very conscious, very tenacious driver. Setbacks are part of the deal, so please throw out those old nasty gym shoes, you deserve an upgrade.
I went to a club with some girlfriends when I was home for the holidays. Let me include the following facts to pepper the rarity of this occurrence: I’m 40, have 2 small kids, and get amped by a trip to Homegoods for pillow shams. So, yeah, this was rare and according to this photo, I had a lovely time at the Wild Cat:
Sure, going to the Wild Cat was something to write home about, but I’d rather write home about what happened as we left.
We lost one of our friends (the big-haired one on the right – love you!), so another friend, Emily who was also part of my Leche!!! piece, and I decided to search for her. Since there are two doors to get into the Wild Cat, we divided in order to conquer. You KNOW we were ’bout to conquer.
I went to Door #1 and explained the situation to the bouncer, who was shockingly uninterested in my plight.
“It’s a $5 cover, no exceptions,” he said.
I pushed back with a: “Really? Just to run in and look for my friend? It’ll be 5 minutes!”
“Sorry, no exceptions,” and he moved on to the babyface behind me wearing acid-washed jorts with pockets hanging out 4 inches minimum. (To whom I thought, I wore that exact outfit! When I was 13. Ooo, 40-year-old burn).
I walked back to my friends, peeved about my lack of conquer, just in time to watch Emily head to Door #2. I couldn’t hear what she said but it was a short sentence and the other bouncer waved her in. No discussion, no $5 exchange.
“GAWD DAMMMMMMMIT!!!!!” I believe were my exact words.
Of course Emily got in, Emily always gets in the door. She has always wielded her power well. I, on the other hand/at the other door, hear what sounds like a denial, get peeved, but walk away.
But not this new me. This fully woked me does not walk away because sometimes you have to push your way through the door.
I obviously thought immediately about Eleanor Roosevelt (I’ll explain later) and knew this was the Universe challenging the reality of this new me. Challenge accepted, I thought and marched back to Door #1.
I’ve learned that I can’t pretend to be anyone I’m not so I did not pretend to be Emily. My power is different than hers. My doors open differently. I simply channeled myself, the me that is more me than me. Does that make any sense? It does to me and me.
I said: “Here’s my ID, please hold it and I’ll get it when I come out. Thanks!”
Do you know what that bouncer said? “OK,” as he grabbed my ID and moved on to the next baby face with a real deal — I kid you not — scrunchie in her hair. (To whom I thought, I also had that outfit…when I was 11. Burn!)
I walked through that door like the Queen of Sheba. I am powerful but it’s in my own way. I am not an Emily, I am a me. Yes, I like pillow shams but I also like opening doors. I refuse to walk away peeved anymore. I am stepping into the arena, which is when I thought about Teddy Roosevelt. Hmm, it appears I’m a fan of the Roosevelts?? I mean, read this quote and try NOT to get off your ass to conquer your life:
Leave it to me to pontificate over the Roosevelts when I’m supposed to be clubbing. Sometimes the arenas are small — like getting into a club for free when you’re not even wearing jorts — and sometimes they’re huge — like going fully after your scariest goal. It’s not the size that matters, just the courage behind the action.
Later that night, I sent a text about an unrelated subject to my friend — the big-haired one (really love you!) who we were looking for and who we found — and it was this:
“The moral of my 2019 story is I don’t take any bullshit without previous consent.”
When I read it the next day, I cringed a little but was in full concurrence. That really is the moral of my 2019 story. And this is where Eleanor comes in:
It’s all about consent. Life isn’t happening TO you unless you let go of the reigns and stay out of the arena. Doors are closed because you let them be closed. The bullshit exists only if I accept it; most of it comes from my own self and that’s the stuff I’m most over. That and acid-washed jorts but hey, I’m 40 so what do I know?
Life is full of Door #1 and Door #2 scenarios. Sometimes the choice is not in the door you choose, but if you dare to open them and in how you approach what you find on the other side. They also forgot to mention that some Roosevelts are my spirit animals.
Seven years ago on Christmas Day, I was stuck in LAX for twelve hours. There were delays, cancellations, and more delays. Before I knew it, I spent the entire day at the airport.
As the hours passed, my mood progressed from bad to pissy. It was so unfair that I had to waste my Christmas day away from my husband and family. The Christmas music was grating to my ears. The carpet was fugly. Everyone was annoying and gawwwwwd, the children were loud. Just leave me alone, people, don’t you know I’m being wrongly held here in this gross airport?
About six hours into the ordeal, I was in a very long line preparing to be rude to a frazzled ticketing agent. The tall man behind me started talking in a way that meant he wanted to engage the people around. I thought, oh hellz no, there is NO way I’m going to talk to him. Doesn’t he know life is unfair and I’m pissy?
But then something switched in me and I turned to face him. I was going to talk to a stranger, you guys. *GASP!*
Along with a few others in line, we chatted about where we were supposed to be. The tall man listened to our woe-is-me’s and when asked where he was supposed to be, he dropped this one on us: he was wrongly incarcerated for 27 years and this was his first Christmas out. He was going to see his son, Nick, and spend Christmas with him for the first time since Nick was 4-years-old. Nick was now 31.
His name was Frank O’Connell and he was sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did not commit in 1984. He fought for decades to be exonerated, and finally after 27 years, 27 Christmas days, he was free.
He told the small group gathered around him that he feels no anger about what happened to him. He forgave everyone involved long ago since he didn’t want to carry that energy. “It was too heavy, there was no need to let it weigh me down,” he said.
Now THAT is a problem, THAT is a delay in plans, THAT is unfair. What was happening to me was nothing. So I was stuck in an airport, was that really a problem? I was free, I was safe, I would be going home, but I was angry. And here was a man who lost 27 years and the chance to raise his son, but he was not angry. He could have been bitter and pissy but he didn’t want to lose the rest of his life to that energy.
Everyone who heard Frank’s story shifted and the entire airport felt our shift. Suddenly the Christmas music was beautiful and uplifting. I saw friendly faces and cute kids running happily around me. The carpet was actually pleasantly retro.
We moved through the slow ticketing line, desperate for Frank’s story and his joyful energy. I was disappointed when it was my turn, but now I was not rude to the frazzled ticketing agent. I was light, I was joyful, I was free from anger.
Frank went to a different gate but I maintained my shift and over the next six hours, an airport family formed. We chatted and laughed, we sat on the retro carpet and shared food, we were perfectly content to spend Christmas Day in the airport with our new family. And when I finally got on my flight home, they gave out free wine. Hallelujah heard on high!!
To Frank, thank you for one of the best Christmas days I’ve ever had. Know that people who heard your story seven years ago remember you and your energy. Know that you single-handily changed a bad day to a fantastic one for those who dared to talk to a stranger. Know that you are a pure example of the power of mental choice.
To everyone else, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy life. If your day doesn’t go exactly as planned, remember we can all be Frank. Your mental outlook is a choice and the most powerful tool you have in life. It holds the key to whether you have pissy day or a life-altering day while stuck in the airport. Friendly faces are always waiting for us to turn around and chat. The music is always waiting for us to listen. A happy life is always waiting for us to start living.
The energy you carry is optional. If it’s too heavy, put it down and pick up something light. And frankly, to be frank, just be Frank and choose to be mentally free.
I went to a deer skull boil the other week. Wait, how do you not know what that is??? We’re a weird mountain folk here in Denver. It’s a party where kids watch a deer skull get boiled down to all its parts (and odors). They get to see the eyeball sockets, touch the jaw bone, and learn words like “severed brain stem”. Then they sample venison hooray! Just in time for Rudolph!
One of the guests brought her cousin who had moved to Denver the day before. She had no friends, no job, no place to live, and no plan. I was curious so I asked why she moved.
The moment she started talking I was uncomfortable by her erratic energy. I could tell there was some mental instability and the more she told her story, the more uncomfortable I became.
Her story was tragic. She left West Virginia where her recently ex-husband had her committed to a mental institution and took her three children away. She moved to Colorado on a whim to get a handle on her life and away from a very negative situation.
As she was telling her story, she became angry. The story went on and so did the dropping of various F-bombs, S-bombs, and A-bombs. It became clear she wasn’t innocent in the whole tragedy, which is when I awkwardly ended the conversation with a: “Was that my kid crying? Gotta go!”
“What a train wreck,” I thought, “I’d rather probe the deer’s cerebral cortex.”
I avoided her for the rest of the party. I watched the other guests avoid her too. She stood awkwardly among the children running by waving deer hide like baby brutes. Everything about her was wild, broken, unstable.
And then I had a thought – yes, she most likely did have a mental health issue, but didn’t I have a tiny understanding with my own mental health experience what that might be like? Didn’t I know that sometimes it’s beyond your control? Didn’t I know that all I wanted was someone to see my struggle and simply say: “That sucks, I’m so sorry this is happening to you.”?
I walked over and said exactly that: “That sucks, I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” Tears welled up in her eyes, she exhaled and for a moment was calm. Granted the next moment she was telling me the story again about the A-hole who was an F-tard, and did S-tastic things, but aaaah, that one moment of calm. It felt so good to give her that, to let her know I saw her.
At the end of the day, here was a person struggling with mental stability who just lost her kids, her husband, and everything that was home to her. And now she was at some weird pagan party with strangers who found carcass boiling to be a celebratory time. That. Sucks.
I know that mental health is not as guaranteed as I once thought, and those suffering truly are suffering. Instead of pushing them away, they need to be acknowledged and not treated like pariahs. Because trust me, they already think they’re broken and it doesn’t help to be told through our recoiling and avoiding that we agree. Sometimes they just need to know that we see they are suffering and that sucks what is happening to them.
We would all benefit from a figurative human empathy boil where we watch the human condition get boiled down to all it’s various parts (and odors). We would see what we’re made of and how we’re the same. We would see that what it all boils down to is the heart that pumps life into us all. It can also pump life into those around us if we let it, my deer dears.
In unrelated closing, it would be cruel of me to write a post about a deer and not include the best thing on the internet (sound on!):
Sometimes the things that make us recoil are the things that need us to lean in. And sometimes things are just a plain ole suck fest and that’s all that’s needed to say. They also forgot to mention that deer skull boils are most definitely celebratory pagan good times!
Dear Girl Who Told Me to Shut Up,
First off, I apologize for ruining the first song of the Ray LaMontagne concert for you by chatting with my friend. Your rage caused you to whip around and snarl “Are you done talking yet? Can you shut up now?” with such malice that my response was an artful, succinct “Wow.” Truly, there was no other response for me to give. It was a wow moment.
After you told me to shut my pie hole, you didn’t give me another glance. But we were henceforth bonded by our now mutual rage. Our connected energies were lightsabers battling in a galaxy far, far away. I was like: “on guard, you Dark Force Sith, to the death.”
See, I let your rage spread to me. It duplicated itself and I now felt the same about you. My anger changed you into a horrible shell of a human with a stupid looking demon face who probably chewed with your mouth open while throwing things at dogs.
I let my anger ruin the next song while I marinated in the wow of it and plotted my Jedi revenge. I stared at you, Shut Up Girl, seething with the hatred you sent and the injustice of what you said. But then I remembered this quote and it immediately snuffed out my rage:
Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
I was allowing anger to ruin a rare night out with friends. And for what purpose? It was so unnecessary. So I let it go and did the opposite. I stared at you again and took out my lightsaber but instead of rage, I sent you compassion, forgiveness, and love. Yup, a big ole sloppy love saber. Your dumb demon face disappeared and I saw your humanity again.
I saw in that moment how anger is a poison that serves no purpose but to sicken us and ruin our connections. It does not allow us to feel compassion for others. It makes it so we can’t see others as humans also having human experiences. It also takes away our ability to listen — like, really hear the words.
While I can’t eliminate future anger, I can eliminate its longevity and the potency of its poison. I can use it as a reminder to be more compassionate and to connect with whoever/whatever pisses me off. Why do I feel this? Is it serving me? How can I let it go? Does it really chew with its mouth open?
I really did love you for the next hour we spent connected. When you stood up to leave, I saw you were carefully cradling a new poster of Ray LaMontagne and wearing a t-shirt with his face and these lines on it:
I wanted to hug you and say: “That’s what I’m talking ’bout, Shut Up Girl! Aw, you get it.”.
You really wanted to hear his music and my yapping ruined that for you. In the future, though, please consider the humanity of the person you are confronting. Wielding rage only serves to infect others with rage. It does not serve us. I love you, Shut Up Girl, and I hope you found a lovely spot for your new poster.
May the Force be with you,
Anger is not only a poison, it’s also a choice. While it does serve a purpose, sometimes that purpose is just to realize you’re being a little bit of a shit. They also forgot to mention that it’s contagious, so wash your hands and your thoughts.
Something happened to me in February that changed me entirely. And permanently. Or so I hope.
On February 13th I experienced a panic attack. I’ve never had one before, but suddenly I was frozen at my kitchen sink as absolute terror overtook every cell of my body. It lasted 6 days because I had no idea it was.
It was the most shocking, horrible, debilitating experience I’ve ever had. I was convinced it was an awful disease because I couldn’t accept that my mind — not mine — could do this. When I finally accepted it was my mind, I didn’t trust myself and that’s a very unstable place to be. Aftershocks of severe anxiety rocked me for months.
I had never met anxiety until it came to visit that day. I know I’ve never met it because I would’ve remembered. I’m not talking about “I’m a little nervous, let’s go to yoga” anxiety, I’m talking “I’m out of my body with terror, let’s imagine ALL the worst-case scenarios and cry a lot” anxiety. Once I allowed anxiety into my house, it had every intention to stay forever. It’s the worst houseguest ever. It’s black mold in my walls. I had to strip myself down to the studs to rid myself of its sickness.
The panic attacks and anxiety were my mind’s way of waking me up. It was like being woken up from a sound sleep by a fire alarm directly into my ear. I was fully out one moment and fully awake, fists up ready to get medieval the next.
I saw how life just happens for many and I was heading that way. It’s easy to fall asleep on yourself. It’s easy to think you have enough time. I saw in February that I had delayed pursuing my purpose too long and if I didn’t wake up, I would run out of time. I saw my college self being like “You haven’t even tried yet? Ew.”. Sure, my college self was wearing raver pants and platform shoes but dang, girl had some gumption!
My choices were very clear: (1) I could live with severe anxiety and be an empty shell of my former self, or (2) I could fundamentally change my life and be reborn. I decided immediately to fight, to kick out the shitty houseguest and bleach the mold. College me was like “Yo yo, she back!” and I totally felt like wearing raver pants again.
There is no universal prescription to eradicate anxiety which makes it such a lonely experience. For me, my antidote is pretty sweet because I am required to do the things that make me feel alive. So, I do those things. My antidote also requires I recognize that if my mind could create the crappiest thing in all the land like panic attacks, it can also create the opposite. So, I focus there.
Anxiety still tries to take the wheel to steer me to darkness. It’s like it’s alive and like all forms of life, it has an insatiable need to continue living. It feeds off fear and negative energy, so anxiety no likey my fluffy hope and gratitude. Yes, I still have aftershocks and probably always will, but I know how to smother them with sunshine and rainbows. I also know that bad things aren’t always bad and sometimes they’re gifts. February and anxiety were my gifts.
For those who suffer from panic attacks or anxiety, I see you. I didn’t see you before but I see you now. And because of February, I finally saw me. I will always have a scar from this year, but it isn’t ugly and I won’t hide it. I am more than ok, I am awake. I am done with delay and shitty houseguests, but definitely not done with raver pants.
Sometimes you need a wake-up call. While some wake-up calls are soft hands gently nudging you awake, others are violent, rude face slaps that leave you gasping for mercy. If you get one of those, you’re lucky but only if you choose to be.