The other day, I saw a picture of myself from four years ago. I was in full gym regalia: Tall socks. Spankies. Trendy cross-trainers. I was at my old crossfit box, surrounded by what are now some of my favorite people, gleaming with sweat and smiles after our first workout of that year.
And holy shit was I skinny. And holy shit did my current self–without missing a beat–without hesitation–say, “Self, you should get back to that!”
Here’s the thing: I’ve NEVER had a bad relationship with my body or with food. Never once. Sure, I have an fleeting insecurity or two, but who doesn’t? And despite being genetically blessed to begin with, I’ve never tied “skinny” to a sense of self-worth. In fact, over the last half a decade, I’ve worked really, really hard to not be skinny. I’ve tried olympic weightlifting and crossfit and bodybuilding workouts and, spoiler alert, powerlifting. I’ve flipped tires, and pulled up, and picked up, and pushed up, and arched, and chalked, and dropped heavy squats below parallel LIKE IT’S MY JOB. I’ve conquered depression and anxiety and injuries and adrenals and plenty of shitty self-talk about what more I should be. All in the name of getting really, enormously strong.
True story: one time a family friend stopped me in a parking lot and said, “Wow! You look SO skinny! Great job!”
I was pissed.
There I was, in a parking lot pushing a prowler loaded with weights for sprint times. My lungs were stinging. My legs and my core were on fire. I was dripping sweat in the middle of wintertime.
I was a fledgling gym rat just aching to be strong. “Skinny?” I thought. “She clearly doesn’t see that I’m pushing a grown man’s bodyweight across this blacktop.” In that exact moment, I made a decision for myself: That this messy-haired girl would never be skinny. She would be healthy and bold and fierce and strong. Skinny was an insult.
But the other day, my brain, that has been conditioned by so, so many outside voices, said, “Drop some pounds,” as though skinny was good. Just for a fleeting, half-of-a-quarter-of-a second, I had that thought.
Skinny=not taking up too much space.
The year that picture was taken, I *almost* had washboard abs. Today, I don’t. I do, however, have a first place medal from a powerlifting meet. Badass traps (and lemme tell ya, you can’t diet your way to those beauties). Calloused hands. 30 pounds on my deadlift in six months’ time. New friends. A stellar—and fully healed—relationship with having a barbell on my back. Confidence. Sensuality. Sass. An ass. A collection of adventures I’d never have had, if I’d focused on staying skinny.
I’ve also had setbacks and injuries and obstacles to conquer–experiences that, if I let myself, would play in my head telling me, “You senseless thing, you. You should be more. Do more. Eat less. Train harder. Lift bigger. You should probably run or something. Or. Quit.”
So, you healthy and bold and fierce thing, you. Wash your singlet. Grab your belt. Lace up your Chucks. Listen to your coach. And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to cut weight. You have a meet next month.
Then find your sassiest dress–the one that hugs every, single hard-earned curve. The one that doesn’t cover up your permanent deadlift scars. Then, call up your fella. Plan a date. And when you go, order the steak.
And then get dessert.
Until a couple of months ago, I always. Always. Always. Left my quarter in the cart after my trip to Aldi. A free gift for the next hungry shopper that came by. Hell, a smile for them and a bit of good luck, maybe. Maybe a few seconds of saved time for a tired momma fishing around the bottom of her purse with one hand, holding a fussy toddler with the other. Maybe. Call me an idealist. Call it my feeble payment to the universe. A prayer for good karma.
A couple of months ago, though, I stopped leaving my quarter behind. I’d just loaded up my groceries, and diligently returned my cart to its slot (By the way, pay attention. You can learn a lot about a person by where they leave their cart). As I crossed the lot, I saw a man go to the cart return. I watched–horrified–as he checked each row of carts, took the quarters out of TWO, and then returned to his car! “He just stole my good deed!” I stomped and shouted in my head. “That asshole. He doesn’t need my quarter!”
“Oh, the injustice!” I cried. I quit leaving my quarter after that day.
Wait… Did I just do the very thing that I hate? I did. I judged a man harshly based solely on my own perception. I deemed him undeserving of the gift that I’d left. Well, crap. In that easy, hasty judgement, my heart hardened just a little. I never even stopped to think: maybe he does need $0.50. Maybe it was the only money he could scrounge. Maybe he just needed the universal pick-me-up that found change can bring. I don’t know, but maybe it’s not my place to be judge and jury of the Aldi parking lot. Ive felt my heart close and harden in lots of other seemingly microscopic ways lately.
The news has been full of hate and judgement and inequality lately. The unabashed stripping of human rights. The denial of value of living, breathing human’s lives. The shameless lessening of personhood, based on skin color, or country of origin, or religion, or what kind of parts are in a person’s pants, and whether or not a person loves who society assumes they should love. And worse: some of the loudest voices in our country are emboldening such bad behavior–lauding it, unmasked, as . It’s all so despicable. Oh. The injustice.
To be frank, I’ve had to turn inward. I’ve shied away from most of the most recent happenings in politics. Some deeply personal–though unrelated–situations have, for the moment, filled my plate, and I just haven’t figured out how to rearrange my heart-hurt so that these situations get attention alongside the sweeping social injustices that I believe in fighting for. This is temporary. Just for today, I’m still trying to figure out how to live in world that accepts not just ingrained bias and subtle, unspoken prejudice (we all have it, we all have to work to own it and adjust it), but blatant, screaming, front-page bigotry, racism, violence, and inequality. I haven’t. Figured it out, that is. HOW DO WE LIVE in 2017 like this? HOW IS THIS 2017? How is my world still so full of resentment, of chosen ignorance, and of such malicious venom? And how. Please, tell me how I can use my own privilege to move this whole story toward love and understanding? I haven’t figured it out. But I will.
And in the meantime, I’ll be working to return my heart to softness. To kindness. To vulnerability. To love. And as silly as it sounds, today, for me, it starts with leaving a quarter for the next hungry shopper. It’s not enough, but it’s a start in returning to openness.
Please, in the name of all things good–don’t be the jerk who steals my good deed.
“I’m going to do it,” I declared, first to myself and then to my friends. “I’m finally going to do it. I’m going to find a coach, and I’m going to compete in a powerlifting meet.” I’m going to commit, and train, and eat a massive amount of nourishing food, and lift, and work, and sharpen my saw. I’m going to be a powerlifter–“I’m going to compete. I’m going to see what my body can do.” I’m going to push back my messy hair, and embrace my growing traps, and get to work. I’ve been halfway thinking–mostly daydreaming–about it for years. I’ve always had a good relationship with my body. I have long and slender limbs like my mother. My father’s eyes and lips. I’ve got flexibility from years of dancing, and alignment from dabbling in yoga, and damn, it feels good to pick up heavy stuff.
“Thank God,” the bestie said. “It’s about time.”
“That’s badass,” said another.
Gulp. Blink, blink. Inhale. Exxxxxxxhhhhhale. Lift things.
Cue: a running commentary of outside opinions– “You’ve gotten so skinny. You’re getting beefy. Your ass is so good; don’t lose that ass. Don’t wear those shorts in public; people don’t need to see your ass for christsake. You weigh how much? Why do you do this to yourself? You shouldn’t lift heavy. Women shouldn’t lift so much. Don’t get too bulky. Don’t get too muscular. Don’t get too manly. Keep your curves. You’re going to hurt yourself. You’ll never catch up to her. You’re not built for this. You eat HOW MUCH? You’re going to hurt yourself. Skip the gym today. It’s just a hobby.”
Cue: every story I’ve ever heard about my body. Cue: Gnawing my lip, wondering if I shouldn’t have committed. “I’m going to lose my softness. I’m going to lose my beautiful, deep, sexy, sassy feminity. I’m eating HOW MUCH?! What if my body becomes unrecognizable. What if my mind isn’t strong enough. What if I’m not resilient.”
Oh, you sweet messy-haired thing, do this: Buy some new lipstick. Sit crosslegged on your floor. Meditate. Weep. Put on fancy underpants. Soften. Soften more. Go outside and put your toes in the grass. Bring fresh flowers into the house. And remember: your shape does not define your feminity.
And then, you sweet messy-haired thing, you. Cook a steak, medium rare. Tend to the calluses on your hands. And pick up that barbell. It’s heavy, just like you like a barbell to be. If you need to, grab your own ass, because you’re the only one who needs to approve of its shape and dents and strength and size. Tune the rest of the chatter out.
Chatter from people who care, because they’re intimidated by you doing something diferent.
Chatter from people who care, because they’d rather you stay stagnant.
Chatter from people who care, that don’t want to change themselves, and don’t want you to leave them behind.
And for Pete’s sake, show off your new traps.
Friends. Today has been rough. Yesterday was, too. And despite my best intentions, much of the week was. Rough.
I had a friend ask me today, “What’s been shaking with that blog of yours?” Busted. I’ve been avoiding y’all. I’ve been avoiding this space… the one I’ve created, that’s still so tender and new, to raise my own voice for light, and love, and goodness. Because I’ve been working hard to find my way back to those things. I’ve been in my own head and working to find the fine… dare i use the word… balance, between strength and surrender.
Being as strong as granite and as soft as a kitten.
Diligence and flexibility.
Intention and distraction.
Abundance and pragmatism.
Vulnerability and bleeding out.
I don’t generally buy into the idea of balance, but that’s a topic for another day
It’s been exhausting and unfruitful. So today, instead, I am (finally) choosing to love this space I’m in, for all its warts and bumps and shadows and unrefined bits. And I’m choosing to remember that this space is beautiful, too. I’ll honor that, and I’ll gently fold myself up in things that feel goooooooooooooood. I will:
Take a salt bath (that’s where I’m writing today’s love note).
Eat extra veggies (they raise your vibes, too).
Grab my Rose Quartz (with the reminder, “Love, actually, is all around.”).
Diffusing birch and bergamot and black pepper oils (The alliteration is completely accidental. The energetic benefits are not: feeling firm in roots and support, acceptance of self, and unveiling of ways that are in integrety with my own soul).
Connect with people I love dearly (it takes a villiage).
Create something (this is a good start).
Show up with my very, very best for business and mentoring tonight.
Paint my toes and do a mud mask and take insanely good care of my appearance (ya look good, ya feel good, yes?).
Spend a little extra time speaking gratitude.
Spend a lot of extra time feeling gratitude.
Take a cat nap.
And remember: this life is beautifully, gorgeously, insanely blessed.
How do you choose love? On the good days? On the ones that are just… rough?
I’ve had a question rolling around in my head for days, sweet reader: What does it mean to forgive? What do you think?
I asked friends, “What is forgiveness? At its most genuine, unblaming definition?” One dear pal replied, “Forgiveness is accepting what happened, feeling it, and moving past it. It is not forgetting, but learning and moving forward in life, not dwelling on or being stuck on [something].” So forgiveness is movement.
Another, rather beautifully, wrote me a list of instructions, a field guide for forgiving. He says:
“1. Look me in the eyes and tell me you love me.
2. Tell me the truth of how you feel.
3. Again, tell me you love me.
4. Then, every now and then, skip on the opportunity to bring up my transgressions.”
In essence, he explained, when I prodded him on his answer a bit more, forgiveness choosing compassion, and then honesty over blame or assigning wrongdoing. It seems forgiveness, then, sure doesn’t keep score.
A third answered most simply, “I think we ‘forgive’ actions and ‘accept’ people.” Acceptance–that’s a beautiful thought. I. Accept. You.
I, traditionally, have had a really perverted relationship with forgiveness. I didn’t even realize it, for the longest time. Here’s how it would often go:
1. Someone does a “Shitty Thing” to me.
2. I get upset/hurt/tell a fantastically horrible story to myself about why they would do that Shitty Thing to me. This story usually sounded like:
1. I’m unworthy.
2. I’m unimportant to them.
3. I’m unloved by them. I mean, why else on earth would someone do a Shitty Thing to me?
3. I’d have a good cry. Maybe vent to a trusted friend.
4. I’d declare that person, the one who did the Shitty Thing, forgiven. Absolved of their actions. But, not quite.
5. **Fast Forward**
6. Person does Shitty Thing (same or different) again. And the cycle begins again. And I’d carry the burden left by the shadow of the Shitty Thing, twofold.
Over and over, I was presented with the same Shitty Things. Over and over, I took them deeply personally. Over and over, the Shitty Thing solidified my Shitty Personal Narraive. Over and over, it ultimately led to a story of resentment, the most toxic story I think a person can tell.
Over and over, I would then ask myself, “What can I change so this never happens again?” But that question came from a place of inadequacy. What would make me enough that Shitty Thing Doer wouldn’t ever “wrong” me again? THAT is an exhausting mission, dear friend. Because people, even the best of them, are always going to hurt you. And they’ll usually do it completely unknowingly. Unwittingly. Motivated by their own issues or insecurities or logistical bullshit. Exhausting, too, because I’ve learned the universe will relentlessly serve you the same lesson, until you actually learn it. What lesson are you being served? Over. And. Over.
Is there a right way to forgive? A better way? Maybe, an awakened way? I have to confess, a YouTube video sparked this query. In it, modern day philosopher and vlogger Alexi Panos poses that premise that the idea that “Me forgiving you,” is just another creative way to pass negative judgment. She proposes, “Saying that we forgive somebody isn’t true forgiveness, because we’e still saying ‘I was right, and you were wrong’… We get to realize all events are neutral. Every event. we play a part in cocreating our reality with whatever energy was present. Can we look at the wound that was created, and say, what is in that?” Watch the video here.
So what, then, is forgiveness at my most genuine and unblaming definition?
Forgiveness is empathy.
Forgiveness is choosing release. Of hurt. Of expectation. It is a gentle exhale.
Forgiveness is resolution. With the other. Or sometimes, only within the self.
Forgiveness is not martyrdom to the things and people and aches that hurt you.
Forgiveness is putting those things down. Not carrying them around as badges of displaced honor.
Forgiveness invokes light.
It is a reclaiming of innocence. It is a swipe of geranium oil over the heart and a piece of rose quartz to protect and soothe. It is a whiff of wintergreen to remind you to surrender to the flow, rather than rigidly expecting. It is a mantra to the tune of a Disney song. Let. It. Go.
It is an acknowledgment of the best of intentions, and an acceptance of person, and a deep, deep acknowledgment that imperfect is perfectly beautiful.
Forgiveness is not conditional.
Forgiveness is not ego-driven, but– I’ve learned– it can exasperate one’s ego to no end.
Ghandi said, “Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Forgiveness is strength. I’m perpetually striving to be stronger.
It is not keeping score.
It is teaching better, and growing, and not taking it personally.
Forgiveness is from the heart space.
Maya Angelou says, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.” It is self-love.
It is sometimes full of tears.
Forgiveness is not permission.
Forgiveness is not a call to tolerate assholes (We all have one. Don’t be one.).
Forgiveness, I think, is more an examination of self than an absolution of the other: what is this stirring up within me? Where is it coming from?
Forgiveness is not easy.
Forgiveness is utterly, absolutely necessary.
Forgiveness is love.
I hiked to the top of an Ozark mountain today, in a desperate attempt to find quiet– quiet from the world, quiet from the dings and the buzzes of my phone and its false senses of connection, and mostly, from the whirring of my own mind. As usually happens on a walk in the woods, though, I found more.
I almost didn’t go. I almost didn’t peel myself away from the warmth and safety of the house. Nestled under quilts that hold memories from my childhood– sleepy-eyed, and messy-haired, padding across the floor to pour a drowsy cup of coffee– I almost didn’t go. My ego almost chose to stay.
“It’s too cold,” I said to myself, “your clothes won’t be warm enough. You’ll freeze.”
“No one will know where you’ve gone.”
“You need more rest, silly girl. Your heart and your body are tired. Rest. Settle.”
But I didn’t. Settle, that is. Not this time. I listened, instead, to the faintest yearning of my restless heart. I poured another cup of coffee and pulled on the warm wool socks that an ex had left behind. I giggled to myself at the ghosts of the warmth and comfort past, conjured through a forgotten pair of socks. I set an intention for my trip, and I headed out the door.
I found a trail. Two miles up the side of a mountain, said the brochure. Perfect. I can handle that. Even with still-sleepy eyes and still-messy hair. Even with the heavy feeling of “lost” in the pit of my stomach. Not geographically lost. Lost, othewise. Just a little. Just barely out of focus. Just two degrees off course. Off I went.
Up the hill.
One foot in front of the other.
And then, even though it was an Ozark mountain, I felt like I’d summited Everest–just for a beat. The top was breathtaking. My lungs were stinging, full of biting January air. My cheeks were burning from sunshine and wind. My hair, even messier. And then my heart whispered, “Ahh, yes, silly girl. You finally listened. You are in sanctuary. You are alive. You are love and vibrant life.”
And then my heart roared:
“Sit, silly girl. And rest.
Drop some frankincense on the crown of your head. Elevate.
Have communion with the cold.
Close your eyes. Exhale.
Find the clarity you’ve been begging the universe for.
Weep. Go on.
Wipe your nose, for goodness sake. It’s 17 degrees out here.
Laugh at the levity.
Savor the moment. Savor the homemade jerky you packed as a snack.
Return to warmth. Remember, though, this isn’t about playing it safe.
Put pen to paper.
Open your soul.
Open your soul.
Open your soul and tell your story.
Now, you. Yes, you sweet reader. Reading. Lurking. Wondering. Put your hand over your own heart. And, shhhhh… listen. What is it whispering? What is its roar?
I’m tuning into my own heart. Let’s just see what it has to say. Whatever it is, it’ll happen here. In this space. That I finally breathed to life, breathless, at the top of Mudlick Mountain.
You stay tuned in, love, and I will, too.