I know this moment right now does not feel like progress.
Maybe you feel like you’ve lost all the ground you’ve gained. Maybe it seems like the Universe is working against you. Maybe all the actions you’re taking aren’t bringing the results you expect.
I know it’s tempting to think: I’ll never change. This is too hard. I’m too broken.
Dear One, I hear you. I get it. I’ve been there.
And let me tell you the truth…
This is not the end. You are whole now and each moment. YOU ARE IN PROCESS RIGHT NOW.
Think of a seed. There’s so much that has to go on inside and underground before we see anything externally.
Nature shows us beautifully how growth happens. To start, it’s internal, with no apparent outer effects. Then suddenly, A green shoot emerges from the soil. Buds bloom. Fruit grows.
Right now, this moment of struggle and doubt and pain. This is you IN PROCESS.
Trust me. Trust the Universe. Trust yourself.
Your growth is happening at just the right pace. It may not be the pace you want. It may not be the pace your culture idealizes. But it is perfect. And it is happening.
Imagine what happens when we try to interfere with the seed’s natural pace of growth. We know it needs sun and water, so we flood it with constant hydration and turn on a light at night.
We take away the natural cycles of thirst before water, and darkness before light.
Imagine what might happen to the seed. Does the pressure help? Or does it make growth harder?
What if it were possible to honor all parts of your growth cycle? To love on yourself when you’re hibernating. To love on yourself when you’re “failing” and feel despair. To love on yourself when the thing you’ve been working on for so long starts to be.
As long as you hold an intention in your heart, as long as you practice giving yourself compassion, as long as you commit to recommitting each time you you fail, You will change. It is inevitable.
And this moment? When everything feels impossible. And you feel broken. And you question if you will ever do it. THIS IS PART OF THE PROCESS TOO.
You are in process, dear one, in this, and every moment. Trust that.
One simple way to make life better: expect negative experiences.
When we hold onto the expectation that we should be happy, that we should be able to achieve our goals, that we should feel good all the time, the only thing we do is set ourselves up for massive suffering.
(Sidenote: America marketing/consumerism does NOT help with this. We are bombarded by messages that say we should be happy, and if we are not, then we should buy ____________ so we are happy.)
The human experience is a pretty equal mix of positive and negative. Fact.
And thank goddess! If we didn’t ever feel sad or bad, how would we even know how great glad is?!
When something hard happens in our life and we go about resisting, pushing it away, distracting from it, or immediately trying to fix it, we actually make it a more powerful presence. It goes from a complaint to a shriek — Pay attention to me!
I know most of my life, I’ve been conditioned to distract away from the hard things in life. If I could, I took immediate action to fix it, then I used tv, food, alcohol, internet, to numb out remaining hard feelings. It never used to be in my repertoire to just be with what is. To allow the negative feelings to exist and be felt.
What would happen, if we just allowed bad things to be bad things?
If we let them exist without being in a hurry to change them?
If the thoughts we had were not, “why me?” or “there must be something wrong with me”, but instead, “hmm…what learning might be here?”
What if we gave ourselves EXTRA love rather than beating ourselves up for feeling bad when bad things happen?
What if we allowed ourselves to feel negative emotion all the way through, instead of chopping it off with sugar, alcohol, tv, or internet?
The answer is that bad things would be easier to move through.
When we resist, deflect, or defer painful feelings and experiences till later, we simply push a snooze button.
They still get stored in our bodies.
They still require process and allowing to release.
And stored negative emotions in the body create all sorts of havoc. They make us hesitant, suspicious, untrusting, and less able to connect with ourselves and others. They cause disease. They exacerbate addictive behaviors.
Growing/success as a human is not about feeling less bad. It’s about getting better and better at navigating the experience of feeling bad.
When we get better at experiencing the hard half of life, we get better at life.
Goals get achieved (because we don’t fear failure and don’t beat ourselves up when we do fail).
And we get to become the people we are meant to be and do the work we are meant to do, meaning the planetary condition improves.
This is no off/on switch, but rather a process of awareness, deconditioning, and rewiring. Here’s a few tips to get started.
Don’t take bad things personally. (It’s part of the human experience.)
Expect the negative. (instead of “why me?”, it’s “ah, here it is, the other half of my human experience”.)
Use hard times as an opportunity to practice loving yourself extra much. (This decreases suffering every time.)
Realize the worst that can happen is a feeling, and that negative emotion won’t harm you. (It’s just a vibration, and if it’s allowed, meaning processed to the end, it is temporary.)
When you forget all this in the moment, remember after the fact. Learn and let it go.
So…don’t expect the worst. But, do expect that life will throw you amazing highs and terrible lows. Your job is to get better at going through it.
Not sure how to start? Do you feel like you’re trapped in old patterns? I can help you. Shoot me a message and let’s chat.
I injured my back two weeks ago exactly. I have a bulging disc in my low back, which is both extremely painful and very prohibitive in movement. I spent most of the first week in bed and the second week hobbling around in a lot of pain and limited mobility.
I’ve journaled and worked with my thoughts on a lot of days, becoming aware of what my default/unintentional thoughts about my injury, and noticing how unhelpful they were. Today was one of the kickers…
“My life is on pause until I heal.”
This thought couldn’t be more debilitating. When I choose that thought, I feel frustrated. Then, I distract and comfort myself, I complain a lot to whomever will listen about all the things I can’t do, and I think about what I’ll do in the future when I’m back to “normal”. All this results in literally my life on pause until I heal. Ugh. No thank you.
The truth is that life is always shifting, always changing. And the human experience is a balance of positive and negative. Fact. The times I resist the inevitable ebb and flow of life, and expect that for some reason I shouldn’t experience the negative, are the times I suffer the most.
To be human is to be happy only part of the time. When the high times aren’t happening, can I choose to accept “what is”? Or do I resist it and believe that things, and I, should be different?
What I’ve learned is that resistance to “what is” only piles negative on top of the negative. It’s actually ok to feel bad. No human out there can avoid it. But, it’s silly to feel bad about feeling bad. It’s choosing an optional layer of yuck on top of the mandatory one.
So, I caught myself (through journaling — my most recommended self-development practice) thinking that super unhelpful thought “My life is on pause until I heal”. I decided that I wanted to try on a different thought that might land me in a different result. And check this out…
“This is a new normal with its own possibilities.”
When I thought that, I felt curious and wrote down a list of things that I can do right now:
I can work on my computer. I can write. I can read. I can walk in nature. I can connect with people and animals. I can coach. I can move (slowly and mindfully). I can take epsom salt baths. I can do inner work. I can do my shamanic practitioner coursework. I can study my coaching course. I can cook. I can clean (slowly and mindfully). I can connect deeply with my body. I can slow down. I can nap. I can practice asking for help when I need it. (daily) =) I can empathize with others who are also in a “new normal”.
After I made the list, I strategically planned my day, and ended up with one of my better days. I owe that result to changing my thought this morning.
A “new normal” takes a lot of energy, especially if it’s a challenging one or one that is outside of our control. The good news is that we get to craft our experience of it through choosing our thoughts about it.
I can choose to be in this shitty new normal as a frustrated, complaining, 39 year old lady in pain, and dump a bunch of optional negative on top of the mandatory negative.
Or, I can choose to accept the “what is” of this shitty new normal, then shift my perspective to what is possible for me right now. It doesn’t mean I’m not in pain, or that I don’t miss “normal life”. It just means I’m choosing to spend my healing time more in what’s possible and less in a miserable, stuck pause.
(Psssst: I have to do this process with myself every. single. day. I wish it was an on/off switch, but rather, it’s a dedicated practice of changing my brain. #worthit )
Real talk — Many days I did my journaling and thought work in the morning and had decently productive, decently content-ish days. AND, I also spent several days in a tailspin consuming ALL THE SUGAR left over from Friendsgiving, watching “The Voice”, and attending back-to-back pity parties. I was pissed, scared, frustrated, impatient, irritable, and I cried. A lot. But this time is different from previous hard times.
This time, I’m choosing to reflect and learn from the days I buffered with food, tv, and self-pity (sometimes with my coach) with as much curiosity and self-compassion as possible. Why? Because I’m committed to refining my inner game, so that next time a back injury or some other shitty new normal comes along, I will take it more in stride, have fewer pity parties, and less optional negative on top of the mandatory negative. Because that’s how we do.
I remember the first time I was really aware of my body. I was in 6th grade and joined the track team. Having participated more in music lessons up to that point in my life, I remember being completely out of my comfort zone as the coach demanded more and more laps of us. I felt so uncoordinated and defeated, my legs burning and my breath wheezing.
After a few weeks, my body adapted, and I was able to begin learning how to work with breathing, pacing, turn over rates, and other tools that were helpful on the track. I began to feel empowered by the connection between my body and brain.
As I near 40, I’m struck by the evolution of movement in my life. How different types of movement came during different chapters. How each fed my growth in such perfect ways.
In middle school and high school, I learned the ropes of my body and social life through sports—swimming, soccer, track and field.
In my mid-twenties, I skied obsessively — counting the hours until I could get my boots in snow again.
After that, came 8 years of deep devotion to CrossFit.
Finally, yoga came stealthily into the picture.
Each chapter gave me exactly what I needed to evolve. I always fought the transition, believing I would never find something as fun as skiing. That I wouldn’t be able to do life without CrossFit. That my body wouldn’t be healthy if I didn’t practice yoga.
Each transition was due to a block that seemed outside of my control. An injury or shift in physical capacity. I saw it as an error. Something that shouldn’t be. Something that was wrong. Looking back now, I see how beautifully these transitions served me.
Skiing was my bliss. When I was surviving my first years of teaching and completing my masters degree, it was the part of my week when I could shed all the heaviness and responsibility — empty my mind and focus on speed, dodging trees and flying off jumps. I laughed and pushed my edges and drank beer. It was the ultimate release during a time of intensity and stress.
When I tore my MCL and was out for a season, I was devastated. What could I possibly find that would make life as worth living as skiing? The answer was CrossFit. By fate (or destiny), I met others who pulled me into the community just as it was forming. I found my people and my adult playground. I learned from incredible teachers how to push my body. How to build strength and control. How to endure discomfort in the moment because it’s the only way we learn what we are capable of.
I learned how to be a competitor. I revisited how to control my breath and work with it instead of letting it control me. I learned my system; I knew when to hold back and when to push the gas. I learned again and again and again how to be in discomfort.
Again, this was the place I went for release. For escape from the grind of teaching and the stress of heartbreak or crisis. I walked through the doors of the gym and felt all the heaviness slide off my shoulders. I could go to bed and sleep soundly, having sweat out my anxiety and stress onto the floor of the gym.
CrossFit helped me know my power. It’s where I proved to myself (again and again) that I could do the impossible. I learned the truth about what the journey of progress and achievement really looks like through my physical practice and mentorship from my coaches.
Then, my dad died. CrossFit was no longer something my grieving body allowed me to do. It was too intense. My body and being needed gentleness and presence to move me through the oceans of emotion. That’s when yoga became my main way of moving.
Yoga taught me how to “be with” what is. There was no where to go — just be on my mat. With my breath. And my thoughts. And my broken heart. And my tears. It taught me how to be strong in stillness and soft in movement.
I learned a new kind of power in my body — the power of being fully present to it and deeply accepting of it. I deepened my breath practice. I learned how to be an observer of myself. To be more neutral and loving. I discovered new ways to heal by not resisting, but instead leaning in.
Yoga taught me how to be still with myself. To leave all the noise and distraction behind on purpose. To learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable in a new way.
Yoga taught me how to fiercely have my own back. To love myself in each and every moment, even whenespecially when I’m a mess. To see the gift of the mess, when I can love myself to the other side of it.
Movement is essential for humans. It’s how we increase mind-body connection. It’s how we tune in to our intuition. It’s how we create space for what’s coming next.
For me, movement is when my best ideas come… It opens channels for creativity to flow — allowing insights to bubble up and universal intelligence to download. So when I don’t feel like moving (cuz it always happens) this is what I tell myself…
Move, dear one…
This is what your body’s made for
It’s when your wisdom gets to be loud.
Honor your health, your mission, your soul
And move in the way that feels delightful today.
I vividly remember tears dropping down my cheeks as I had a conversation with my coach in the summer of 2018. I was feeling something so profoundly painful, and it had taken months to put words to it. Finally, the clarity had come.
“I feel so disconnected,” I said. “I feel like I’m living in this thick fog. I have a hard time connecting to myself. I have a hard time connecting to my intuition or highest self. I know the things that create the fog is also what disconnect me from my loved ones, from nature, and from (for lack of a better word) God.”
“What things create the fog?” she softly prompted. “Do you know?”
In fact, on some level, I’d known for years. There were a few things on the list, but the big one was alcohol.
In my late twenties in Denver, I was doing improv acting during my free time. After the shows, I’d hit up a bar with the other actors. One of my friends, an older gentleman who literally lit up any room he was in, would always order a Diet Coke while the rest of us imbibed. One night, he told me that he had hit a certain year in his life (I believe it was in his early 40s, where he just knew that his life would be better without alcohol. It was no longer something that brought more good than bad into his life. So, he stopped. He had spent decades sober.
At the time, I marveled at his will power. I wondered how he could be around it all the time and not be tempted. I probably even felt a little sad that he wasn’t part of the “party”. But, more than anything, I looked up to him. He knew his truth, and he was living it. In an environment that was oozing booze, he abstained…and he radiated. He was deeply comfortable with himself, and so genuinely interested in each person he came into contact with. He was a person I wanted to become.
That night, a seed was planted. That seed whispered to me for the next decade. There will come a time when your best life will be a sober one.
I knew that time was coming, but that didn’t stop me from including beer or wine or tequila multiple times a week for years to come.
By the summer I was in tears with my coach, despairing the fog that enveloped me, my relationship with alcohol had gotten more complicated. It held such a strong allure. It was seamlessly interwoven with all celebratory events. And all bad/sad/mad events. And all tedious events. It always signaled “time to connect and enjoy” at social events and “time to unwind” at the end of many days. Reaching for a drink had gone into autopilot.
That summer, I named the primary culprit for my pain. And, yet, I didn’t do anything about it. I wasn’t sure how to go about giving up this part of my life. How to suddenly let go of a substance that had been at almost every hard and beautiful moment of my adult life.
So, I sat with the knowledge. I observed myself and my behaviors. I tried to be kind to myself. And I trusted that even if I didn’t see change externally, I was in process.
In early November, 2018, I was in Austin, Texas for a coaching conference. I was sharing a room with Savanna, a woman I’d come to know and love through our many video chats and phone calls. She was radiant. Brilliant. Deeply empathic. Incredibly health conscious. I was intimidated. And completely affirmed in why I had grown to care so much for her.
She was my right person/right time.
You see, I’d been journaling, contemplating, observing, and meditating/inquiring around my alcohol conundrum. I was still in the pain of disconnection. I had been asking for help. For direction. For a path forward.
Savanna told me her story, explaining why she chose to be alcohol-free (AF). She was so passionate that I couldn’t not listen. Then, she gave me a book that changed my life. [This Naked Mind by Annie Grace] I read it all the way back to Colorado.
And the switch flipped. Effortlessly. I went from desiring a drink almost every day, to truly wanting no drink at all. It was the right resource from the right person at the right time.
Since then, I’ve researched, read, and listened to everything I can get my hands on about alcohol, especially content that addresses the relationship and journey in the “grey zone”, meaning not black or white (alcoholic or not). There’s more content than ever for people who don’t identify as alcoholics, who’ve never hit a rock bottom, but are questioning their relationship with alcohol on some level. This is the content that interests me — ways for me to continue engaging with and learning about the complexities of humans and alcohol.
In the last year, I can count the number of times I’ve had an urge to drink on two hands. I’ve had 3 separate drinks on 3 separate days, very consciously. Each time, I’ve had an inquiry in mind, and investigated if it was “worth it” to me—measuring the temporary high against the next day’s lowered mood/energy/etc. Once it was. It was a strong IPA with a dear friend, on a rooftop patio in the mountains, on her birthday, after a half-day snow shoe. It was sublime. (However, I’m not convinced the experience wouldn’t have been equally sublime without the beer.)
So, where am I now? After 11 AF months, I can’t say my body composition has improved all that much or that it cured my other vices (gummy stuff, potato chips, and reality tv). I can say this is the most aligned, connected, confident, and content I’ve felt in years. I am so grateful for the internal and external forces that came together to make this decision an easy one for me. (I am certain it would’ve become a harder one down the line.)
I am intentionally and happily living a 99% AF life. I still have little sips of things from time to time — curious if it will taste like the magic I remember (it never does). I am not 100% sober at this point. I am conscious and intentional about when, where, with whom, and why I might have a drink. I don’t say I’ll never drink again. I do say that I drink as much and as often as I want.
I’ve been feeling a bit blah recently. Not down. Not sad. Not upset. Just, a bit blah.
Wondering if I was on the edge of depressed, I’ve been cleaning up my diet (no alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar/processed), increasing exercise, and watching less TV. (All things I know will move the needle when the dark edges of melancholy creep in.)
Nothing changed, and it was odd. I’ve never felt this way before. Just, ya know, here. But, not unhappy.
My mentor looked at me today after not seeing me for several weeks and said, “Your energy is really different today, like you’re really exuding so much feminine/yin energy”. And that’s when I realized…I haven’t been living at my stress threshold for a while now. My nervous system feels much more calm than I remember it ever being. Ever.
What if this is the feeling of being relaxed? Not stressing about things all the time? What if I don’t actually need sharp edges and taut nerves to feel alive? What if the roller coaster I’ve been on for much of my adult life is the anomaly and this placid lake top is the norm for my human self? Hmmm.
This is worthy of exploring more.
Whatever the case, I know that this (and all parts of each of our human cycles) is impermanent. Things won’t always feel this way. But I’d love to come to understand and embrace the gift of it. Not buying into what I think I should be experiencing, but instead noticing and getting curious about what I am.
Are you struggling with an experience? Want to navigate through difficult times with more ease and empowerment? Know that you are not alone. Know that being supported by like-minded, heart-centered community can shift the experience. Find those on a similar path and journey together. Get a mentor. Join a group. Connect and find ease in the knowledge that it’s ALL ok.
Fall is upon us. We adorn ourselves with boots and sweaters and gaze at the colors of the leaves on the trees and the ground. We snuggle into warm spaces with loved ones. We prepare for the winter.
While taking a fall hike last week, I noticed the leaves scattered on the ground. I mused how certain leaves get to land on dirt, and over time, are taken apart and absorbed back into the soil, becoming a new part of the cycle, the nutrients that fuel the next season’s growth.
While other leaves fall on man-made concrete. There they lay, with what future? To be ignored until they are eventually blown or swept into a pile, then disposed of. Their contribution to the natural cycle lost.
Nature is so wise.
An insight came to me, as I crunched forward on the trail, that the leaves that fall from the trees, are like my life’s experiences—both delightful and challenging. That in some chapters of my life, these experiences have fallen on fertile soil. They’ve had the freedom to be processed and integrated at a natural pace. That these experiences have become the nutrients from which my next cycle of growth was fueled.
When my dad passed away, I shattered into pieces. I honored my broken place. Nurtured it, allowed it to be. I didn’t try to cover it up with a semblance of “ok-ness”. I was fertile soil. I allowed the natural decomposition and integration of this life experience. And it has birthed such incredible growth in me.
Other times, my experiences have fallen on Tiffany-made concrete. A lifeless barrier between the experiences and all the possible nutrients that wanted to fuel my next cycle of growth. But, at times, it’s been too much for me. I’ve created concrete by denying and distracting away from discomfort. I’ve not had the courage to allow the integration of heartbreak and disappointment, and thus, haven’t been able to benefit from the gifts that were waiting.
I honor both paths. Both are part of my life’s journey and its ongoing cycles. But, with this most recent gift of wilderness wisdom, with this insight in my back pocket, I set the intention to be fertile soil.
To be pliant and receptive to all of life’s experiences.
To create space for the natural, Divine timing, the unraveling, the integration, and the new growth.
To trust that what is will always fuel perfectly what’s next.
To trust that pain is not forever, and neither is joy.
To rest easy in the cycles.
So this season, as I watch the leaves falling, a witness to the cycle, I listen to the Wilderness Wisdom. And I choose to be fertile soil.
When my dad died in February, I lost all sense of home. I was half-orphaned — a gaping, black hole in my life and my being.
Home has been tricky for a while. Long ago, it was my childhood house on a cul-de-sac; the place I did my homework and laundry, where I slept and ate and spent time with family and friends. Then, it was a city—Fort Collins for six years, Denver for seven.
At age 31, I moved overseas and became an expat. Home took on layers; it was not just locations, but people, emotions, experiences. Home was sensory—certain smells, tastes, and sounds. I lived a dual existence—intensely missing one home while working, and yearning for the other while vacationing—never quite feeling settled, but also knowing my life had expanded exponentially. Not always easy or pleasant, but f*%king beautiful.
My dad died seven months after I moved back to the U.S. It’s been nine months since then. I’ve moved three times in those 16 months; I’ve had a few jobs; I’ve hesitated to fully commit to a location, a job, a relationship. My life that had been generally stable and rooted become exploratory—home being something from my past, not my present.
Death is a thief. It stole most of what I believed to be true. It took away the illusion that everything would be ok. It snatched my lightness, joy, and energy. And then it left me crumpled on the floor, disoriented and disconnected. When the ground disappears from beneath you—what’s left? Home carried no meaning, no comfort for me for a while. Maybe until now, in my last few days of a couple nomadic months. I’m in Asia again, feeling at home for a moment or two in the embraces of expat family. Flickers of joy and lightness have shimmered in and out of my days, whispering promises for the future. In odd moments, walking to the subway or gazing up at all the tall buildings, I’m feeling something frantic inside me begin to slow and still.
This strange calm started in a beautiful valley in Thailand, where I came together with three teachers and fourteen other students on a five week journey that culminated in a yoga teacher certification. Sure, we did yoga, but beyond that, it was a fiery, spiritual experience filled with discomfort and empowerment, self-doubt and self-discovery. During our three day silent meditation retreat, a seed of knowing sprouted in me — what if home is not a place, not people, not experiences? What if it’s not a journey somewhere, but a journey within?
Home has been increasingly complicated for so many years. But, in this moment, it’s simple: I am my home. My heart is home; my soul is home; my path towards more love, more meaning, more growth is home. When I stop looking to home as a destination, but instead as a turning inward, it feels like truth. No matter where I go, I am home. So, it’s time to settle in, build my life here, cultivate deep self love and acceptance. Not easy or comfortable, but f*%king beautiful.
Before losing my dad, I wouldn’t have arrived here. I couldn’t have—I didn’t have the capacity yet. So cheers, Dad. I love you. Thank you for helping me come home.
I first learned how to numb when my mom became ill and was hospitalized when I was 13.
She went to the hospital and we went into survival mode—part of which involved numbing things to the “not-going-to-consume-me-with-raging-fire-of-the-miserable-unfairness-of-it-all” level.
So, while my mom was in the hospital, my dad, two siblings, and I watched TV. Like a lot of it. Anything to forget and distract and feel better. At least for an hour or two. We ate comfort food. All the comfort food. Ice cream, pizza, tacos, candy. When I wasn’t comfort eating or watching TV with my two siblings and dad, I was escaping into every book I could put my hands on. And let me tell you. Numbing worked.
Fast forward 23 years. A lot of shit has gone down—as it does. I have weathered soul-sucking jobs, heart-crushing breakups, leaving my entire life behind and rebuilding it overseas, my mom’s continued health issues, my dad’s more recent terminal cancer, the list goes on.
It’s both devastating and completely normal. We all weather horrible ordeals that eff up our lives; we all experience wonderful moments that make life worth living. The degree of these experiences varies from person to person, but the existence of them in each life does not.
I haven’t always navigated the hard times in healthy ways. It could be said I’ve become a master of numbing life’s pain. (I probably should make myself a certificate. Haha.) Throughout my teens, twenties, and now my thirties, numbing has been a constant companion in many hard ordeals. TV and food are still old anesthetizing friends, but I’ve added to my speed dial—alcohol, Internet, social media, and when I’m being a bit healthier, 1000 piece puzzles and podcasts (this offers literally hours of zoning out and forgeting about any crappy crap I’m trying to get through). They have always been there to distract me and take away the discomfort—at least for a little while. Numbing works.
Until…it doesn’t. Because at some point all that discomfort and yuck you’ve been avoiding is going to explode all over everywhere. It will demand your attention. It will leave voicemails and comment on your fb wall and show up at work. Because numbing works, but only in small doses and in the short term.
When numbing is your one and only strategy to getting through discomfort and difficulty and devastation, you end up half-living. Numbing the bad feelings also numbs the good ones. It limits your ability to grow, learn, and connect with others. It leaves you feeling empty and alone.
I know this; I’ve lived it.
I’ve also come to learn that strictly cutting out my anesthetizing helpers isn’t realistic for me; there are times I need to check out for a little while. But I now know I must couple a great deal of awareness and mindfulness with any sort of numbing behaviors I take into my life. I have to do this during times of difficulty to be sure I’m not getting sucked into the “I’m-checking-out-for-aweek/month/year-cuz-this-feels-awful” black hole. So, I force myself to notice when my moods and energy and healthy behaviors are decreasing and reevaluate my choices.
This has come into play during my repatriation to the US. I have had a great deal of time and a great deal of stress on my hands. Recently, I’ve noticed that my TV watching has increased as has my alcohol and shitty fake-food consumption. Not anything drastic, but enough for me to feel thoroughly like C-R-A-P. I know from experience that it’s a slippery slope, so in recent years, I’ve done my best to recognize and face those realities early on.
Here’s what I did: I decided to eliminate one thing. I stopped watching television; I know from experience that it is one of the most needy behaviors—always wanting to be paired up with a boozy bev or a crappy snack. After I stopped, I immediately found a decrease in my other unhealthy cravings. It’s also given me inertia to do other positive things for myself. I’ve spent more time outside, even when I don’t feel like it. I’ve found a gym that I love and go regularly. I’ve meditated. It all started with that one change.
Let me break down what I’ve learned during my serious work in this area for the last seven years or so—first, decide that you want to be more present and be willing to sit in the discomfort, face it, and decide what to do with it. Then—know your triggers, bring awareness and honesty to your behaviors, pick ONE thing you want to eliminate, substitute or shift. Do it and then notice what happens. Reevaluate and revise as needed.
It takes bravery and vulnerability and perseverance to sit in discomfort instead of distract, to face hardships instead of avoid, to have moments all over life’s spectrum, fully feeling both joy and sorrow, instead of staying only in the middle and chopping off the ends with numbing agents. It’s hard work, but worthy work. Let numbing be a tool used sparingly and notice what happens.
Does this resonate with you? Do you have times you’d like to navigate stress or pain better? Are you not fully feeling the joy and the sorrow in your life? If you said yes to any of these, give this idea a shot and let me know how it goes!
My family and friends know how happy the gym makes me. How I talked about CrossFit and my gym for the first two years straight, regardless of if the listening party was interested. How my gym was my self-professed “church”, my rock through some of the stormiest times of my life.
The gym used to be my answer. To everything. Stressed? Gym. Sad? Gym. Feel pudgy and unworthy and unsexy? Gym.
In the midst of expatness (four years in South Korea), I didn’t always have my gym and community that I thrived in. Now, in the midst of repatting (moving back to the U.S. after four years in South Korea), I haven’t yet found a gym and community that I call home. I’ve been forced to reconsider.
And here’s the thing: the gym is notthe answer.
Let’s zoom out. Why do people go to the gym? Health. Stress relief. To get smaller (women), to get bigger (men), to get sexier (everyone).
Again, here’s the thing: the gym is not the answer.
Before we talk about what is the answer, let’s examine the question. What are we seeking in the gym? Truly? What is lying under our desire for that killer workout?
My list looks like this:
mental/emotional stress relief through exercise
challenge and growth (learning new movements, mastering new skills)
physical health and longevity
lose body fat (something I think about far more than I’d like to admit)
balance out poor food/drink choices
be as attractive as possible to attract a romantic partner and be accepted and successful in society
The second half of my list has more to do with self-acceptance and mindfulness work than with the gym and exercise (a whole different blog post). The first half of the list are in fact things I can accomplish at the gym (bolded). And the bottom line is, I feel better about myself and my body AND I function better as a human when I’m going to the gym often.
However, my recent transition has forced upon me an important realization: the gym is not the answer; movement is.
This means that just because I don’t have a gym right now, I don’t have to fall apart. I don’t have to flounder. I simply need to move. Every day.
This also means more freedom—I might go for a long walk one day, and ride horses the next. I might go on a hike with a Meetup group or play around with handstands and backbends in the park. The possibilities are endless.
I’ve also noticed some shifts that have resonated with me when movement (not the gym) is the answer.
For me, the gym is still one of my happy places. When I find that home gym, it will be one of the places I get to challenge myself, be surrounded by like-minded people, relieve stress, and maintain or improve physical health. However, it is not the only place or way these needs can be fulfilled.
Whether I am traveling, settling in to a new country or my home country, insanely busy or with lots of free time, I can honor my body by moving every day. And you can too!
Join me on Instagram and post in what ways you #moveeveryday. The gym is not the answer, but delicious movement is.