Nourish and Forge Wellness

taking wellness beyond the physical

Tag: change

Coming Home

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.

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Do less. Be more.

Last Friday, I made a decision to do something new. Something risky. Something audacious.

I’ve always loved being outdoors and have backpacked many times in my life. But on that weekend, I decided to go solo for the very first time. After a quick search on the internet and a visit to my local REI, I was ready to go. (Side note: I’d always wanted to do this, but have never quite had the gumption or the courage to go for it.)

In the course of those three days in the wilderness, I felt expansive—stretched beyond my comfort zone and learning how to deal with conflict alone as it arose. I also felt peaceful—my tornado-brain calmed in a way that only nature and solitude will. But that’s not what I want to write about. Here’s a big in-your-face realization that came to me on day three as I was crunch-crunch-crunching my way down a gravelly trail in the Rawah Wilderness.

I need to do less on a regular basis. And you do too.

In the space I gifted myself, here’s what I did NOT do for three whole days.

  • Go on the Internet or social media
  • Work
  • Check off to-do lists
  • Make to-do lists
  • Feel guilty about ignoring my to-do lists
  • Check my phone
  • Talk to anyone (exception: myself, baby deer, massive moose that scared the crap outta me, tiny chipmunk corpse on the trail)
  • Analyze past interactions
  • Plan future interactions
  • Think about my future, my finances, or health insurance
  • Watch tv
  • Worry about anything except what was in the present moment (Is a bear going to attack me? Will my tent blow over? eff-bomb, I’m a little lost…where am I?)
  • Read for self-improvement or learning
  • Listen to podcasts (this was a temptation…but I stayed in the present, listening instead to the creatures and life around me)
  • Listen to music

You know what? This created a whole lot of space that I didn’t even realize I needed. The surprising part was what happened in that space. I began to notice these inner nudgings that I wouldn’t have ever noticed had I filled up that space with noise or distraction or even productive work.

Nudgings is the best way I can describe the stirrings or whispers inside of me that I began to pay attention to. What I found on that last day was that I was so much more in tune with what I wanted to do in every given moment.

That may sound strange. We all know what we want, right?

I don’t think so. The demands and details that fill our daily lives leave very little room for the nudgings that lead us to the simple and ordinary pleasures of our existence. 

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about pleasure and how we deny, deprive, indulge, and overindulge ourselves in the various pleasurable human experiences. Much of this thought is inspired by the incredible Maddie Berky, who writes about pleasure in an engaging and thought-provoking way. (Seriously like brain-crack. Check her out here.)

As I was trekking down the mountain, I realized I had invited awareness around these simple pleasures by simply creating space for them. How? I did less. For just a couple days.

Let me tell you about a few of these moments.

I noticed when I saw a spot on the mountain that begged me to sit and rest—a pair of rocks working together to create nature’s recliner—and watch a blue jay fly back and forth, pecking at pinecones at the tops of nearby trees. As I sat, I felt my shirts clinging to me and decided I wanted to be free of them for a while, to feel the sun warming my skin and the breeze cooling me. I took my shirts off and hung then on tree branches. My feet felt hot, so I took of my shoes and socks and stretched in bare feet, feeling rough rock and sharp twigs under my toes.

I noticed these nudgings towards small pleasures and I followed them. I was rewarded. With each choice, no matter how seemingly insignificant, I felt deep satisfaction. I smiled at the birds. I closed my eyes, becoming fully aware of the sensations on my skin. I relished the spaciousness of that moment.

Do less. Be more present. 

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I rested until I felt the urge to begin walking again. I slowly regarbed and donned my pack, resuming my trek downward. I walked until I found another divine place that was pulling me. This time it was curiosity that led me—a cairn lay by the trail and I wanted to know what it was marking. I was rewarded by a valley exploding with yellow aspens and green pines.

Do less. Be more curious.

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On my last bit of trail before the parking lot, I walked along a mountain stream. It called to me, I could hear it—come, cool off, play! I almost ignored it, my mind rushing ahead to the things I needed to do before the day was done (drive home, laundry, cook dinner for the fam, get some work done). But somehow, the previous two days of slowing down and doing less, prevailed.

I stopped, dropped my pack, unsnapped and stripped out of my long sleeve shirt, rolled up my black pants, and took off my hot, gritty trail shoes and green, wool socks. I stepped down into the river, gasping with utter delight as the icy water touched my skin and the rocks and pebbles at the river’s bottom massaged my aching feet.

I laughed out loud. Reaching down with cupped hands, I splashed the deliciously cold water repeatedly on my face, my neck, my hair. I scrubbed three days of dirt off my calves and feet and arms. I raised my face to the sun and threw my arms wide, taking this moment in. It was full of joy and pleasure.

Climbing out, I did not want to put those hot, dirty shoes back on…I felt a playful inner nudging that whispered, walk the rest of the way barefoot. And so I did. And it was beautiful.

Do less. Be more joyful.

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I don’t expect to always have the freedom to escape the daily grind for three days alone in the stunning Colorado wilderness.

But, I do expect to carry this lesson forward into my life: do less, be more.

Even if it’s for an hour a week, let’s do less. Let’s turn off our devices, ignore our distractions, and postpone our duties. Let’s create the space to be more.

More present.

More curious.

More joyful.

You might be surprised at how alive you feel.

 

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What I Learned at the Gym about Feedback

I haven’t worked out in 6 weeks.

I’ve been traveling in northern Thailand, repatriating from South Korea to Colorado, working on home improvement projects for my parents, and spending tons of time with family, friends, and my beautiful Colorado mountains.

So, when I walked in to my first CrossFit class four days ago, I was ready to get a good sweat on. The coach and people and facility were all nice. I received feedback and cues from the coach (in detailed English) which was something I had been missing desperately in South Korea. It was a good experience; however, I left feeling a little blue.

Here’s what I was able to pull out from the experience—the coach never told me anything I was doing well; he simply pointed out what I could improve.

Constructive feedback was actually what I’d been craving, but I realized that without the companion of positive feedback, I was a little less open to hearing what he had to say and a little less pumped when I left the gym.

What is interesting to me is that I am a seasoned CrossFitter—I know my knowledge and skill sets are solid. Even with this self-confidence, I still wanted needed a balance of positive and constructive feedback from my new coach.

I can’t imagine how defeated I would’ve felt if it was my first class. 

Let me be clear, this coach was a nice guy and had great suggestions. He was a good coach. However, as coaches and teachers, we tend to fall into a place where we focus only on what needs to be fixed.

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Herein lay that big ol’ slap-in-the-face reminder for me—speak positivity into people’s lives. All the time, ideally, but especially when you’re trying to help someone improve.

This is relevant in communication with loved ones. This is essential when in a teaching or coaching position. This is the core ingredient for people feeling connected and safe with you when they are in a place of discomfort or when they are stretching their limits.

Here are some practical ideas of how to get a great balance of positive and constructive feedback when interacting with others.

  • Prelude each constructive criticism with a specific validation of something done well. (If you forget, you can always add a positive at the end.)
  • Try using the word “and” instead of “but” to connect your affirmation and your constructive feedback. Example: “You have done such a great job practicing your sight words this week, but and if you want to get to the next level, we can work on your spelling words now.”
  • Visualize the person in front of you achieving their goals; verbalize that bright future to them whenever appropriate.
  • Don’t blow smoke up anyone’s behind. The positive affirmation can absolutely be something small and specific, but above all, must be true.
  • Finish each coaching/teaching session with a positive wrap-up statement that validates time, effort, and achievement in an authentic way.

In a world full of “not ____ enough”, we teachers/coaches/humans have the potential to spread light and possibility. As easy as it is to forget amidst the demands and details of “adulting”, it is essential that we shine light and kindness and affirmation into our fellow human’s lives.

Let this be your focus for a day, and notice the difference.

 

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Lessons from My Expat Life: Say Yes

The expat life starts with a yes that feels like leaping into an abyss.

Yes. I will sign that multi-year contract, person I met yesterday. I’m pretty sure I would love to work for you.

Yes. I will sell or give away most of my earthly possessions.

Yes. I will move ALONE to a new country where pretty much everything is unknown and trust that I’ll figure it out.

The first lesson I learned from my expat life: learn to say yes. 

Saying yes is not a comfortable thing. Often, it includes some level of risk and responsibility. However, saying yes is the way we humans break new ground. It’s how we find new capacities within ourselves. It’s how we continue to expand.

My first expat yes was at the Search Associates international teaching job fair in San Francisco, February 2012. After three sleepless days of interviews and research, I signed a two year contract to teach at Korea International School. I had never been to Asia before. It was a breathtaking moment that changed my life forever.

That big ol’ yes was followed by so many more yesses. Some comfy-cozy, others super uncomfortable.

Yes, I will move around the world with only two suitcases of stuff. Yes, I will attempt to start learning Korean (a language so difficult, I often teared up during my lessons from sheer frustration). Yes, I will break out of my introvert shell and go out when I’d typically stay in. Yes, I will connect with others, letting down my walls more quickly than I would at home, because I left all my support peeps back in Colorado.

Yes, I will explore (almost) fearlessly. Yes, I will communicate through body language and pointing in public (because I have to). Yes, I will break bend the rules, even when my rule-following, first-child, perfectionist brain wails, “nooooooooooooo, don’t doooo it!”

I will say yes to travel. I will say yes to staycations. I will say yes to getting uncomfortable.

I will say yes to negotiating a deal to coach CrossFit part time to mostly Korean clients in a Korean gym in exchange for a membership, even though it terrifies me. Then, continue to force myself to say yes every time I walked through the doors.

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That’s me, coaching a CrossFit class of mostly Korean men. Annnnd mostly through body language.

I will say yes to learning how to speak up, lead, and be brave. Yes to caring less and less about what others think about me and more and more about if I’m at peace with my actions. Yes to accepting the good and the ugly parts of me that are opened up and splayed out clear as day through the expat experience.

Yes to continue to work on myself, even when I feel like giving up. Yes to knowing that the dark days come and go. Yes to realizing that here, I’ve had my sparkliest highs and my blackest lows. Yes to the conclusion that expat life is fu%&ing hard, but intensely beautiful.

Yes.

Now, I say yes to sharing my personal experiences with others because I believe the more we talk to each other about the hard sh%& in life, the better we get at it and the less alone we feel. Now, I say yes to sharing what works for me, because maybe it will work for you, too.

My expat life has taught me to say yes, when it’s easy and when it feels impossible.

It has taught me that leaping into an abyss is not a bad thing.

In fact, it might be the choice that changes everything.

 

 

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Dear Alcohol, I Need Some Space…

To My (ex)Love,

How do I begin? I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been avoiding you for a few weeks. It’s true, I ignore you in social settings. I haven’t brought you home with me. I haven’t even touched you in days. The air between us has been wrought with tension, unfulfilled longing, unearthed wrongs, and unspoken broken promises. I know you deserve an explanation, and so I will do my best here and now to give it to you.

The time has come. I’m making it official: we are overmartinis

This may come as a shock since less than a month ago we were spending nearly every day together. We were side by side on top of mountains, in rivers and hot springs, at various restaurants and bars. You accompanied me to family gatherings, and you were definitely at my goodbye party before I flew back to Korea. You’ve been with me during the good times and the bad. If I was sad, angry, lonely, bored—you were there to put a bandaid on my discomfort. I understand you might be reeling from the news. So let me explain.

First off, you drain my bank account like a booby-licious gold-digger. Money I need for other things somehow gets spent on you. I’m the sailor and you’re the Siren—I am defenseless against your call. It stops now. I am not your sugar momma, and I refuse to keep spending money on you. Because you make me poor, we are over.

Something you may not realize is that no matter how good you make me feel when you’re around, as soon as you leave, I feel like crap. You take my energy and good moods with you like some sort of a good-vibes-debt-collector. Sure, we have fantastic times, occasionally. But the bottom line is — it’s not worth the price I pay. Because you make me lazy and “bleh”, we are over.

I know it’s common in relationships for habits to shift. You’re comfortable together; you enjoy eating delicious meals and yummy desserts; you watch a few more movies and exercise a bit less. However, your influence on my habits is over the line. Somehow you convince me to skip the gym, to watch a bit more tv, to order a pizza or buy another ice cream. Your presence is laced with salt/fat/sugar cravings. Around you, my self-discipline is depleted. More junk food and less lifting-heavy-stuff makes me bummed out, broken out, and chubbed out. Because you mess up my healthy routines, we are over.

We are over, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss you. I think about you a lot. Sometimes daily. When I’m out with friends, I’m longing to feel you in my hand, to taste you on my lips. If we weren’t broken up, I could almost guarantee you’d be getting drunk texts from me, asking you if you want to come over and “talk”.

But, here’s the thing. As time goes on, I’m thinking of you less and less. I’m realizing that life isn’t as hard without you as it seemed a few weeks ago. I’m sure I’ll still think about you and the good times we had. Even so, I know I’m better off without you, at least for now. Maybe in the future, if I’ve grown a little and you can be less needy, we could try this thing again. Until then, my boozy babe, be well.

Love From,

Tiffany

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