It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Work

I woke up this morning with the kind of heartache I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. Bigger than that one hour I had a mini meltdown when I moved. Bigger than packing up my things and saying see-you-soons. No, it was more akin to the type of heartache I used to feel in my teens and twenties, when the person I loved wasn’t the person I was with.


I missed the theatre.

 

Now, let me be clear: I love my life. L-O-V-E my life, all caps. I’m of firm belief that regret is a useless emotion other than its ability to steer us in the best direction when we ask ourselves if it has the possibility of popping up later. Every choice I’ve made is intentional, ever decision has been from the heart. I don’t do easy, after all. I do right.

And hey, I DID theatre! I lived that professional, unionized actor life. I committed my entire college education to it (*okay, not entire, I went to a liberl arts school which required tons of general education classes and became particularly enamoured with sociocultural anthropology but that’s beside the point). I had agents – multiple. I got to act on major television shows and do national commercials and be in both independent and major movies – and just before you call me out on the fact that theatre, not film, was my true love, I did that too. I talked and sang and laughed and cried on stages to audiences of 15 and of 500. I did it. I was there.

I have mega-talented friends in the theatre world, friends on Broadway and friends quite literally touring the world. And when I see their posts on Instagram or Facebook or hear about rehearsals, I often need to do a gut check: I LOVE their life, but do I wish it was mine as well? And the answer pretty much always is: no.

I didn’t veer away from theatre because “the rejection is so tough,” as many people assume when we talk about my Former Life. Nope, not at all. It’s that as I grew older and started to examine the type of life I wanted for myself – and the things that would give me the quality of that life; the things I was willing to sacrifice and the things I was willing to trade in place for the kind of stage career I’d always seen myself having (which, for me, lived on National Tours and in New York City) – well, I started to realize those things were actually my non-negotiables.

A lot of it came about after having controlled myself for so long: I realized I had within me a tendency to control and obsess, and while those things were fantastic when it came to memorizing lines or fleshing out a character, they worked waaaay against me when it came to the rest of my life. The control robbed me of my ME-ness.

I never acted to escape myself, always to explore myself. But the more I explored myself in a controlled environment the more unsafe I felt going there in my life outside a rehearsal room. Not to mention the paralyzing anxiety I’d get during almost all auditions – anxiety that stemmed from nowhere, anxiety that wasn’t tied to being scared (I wasn’t) but being liked. And no matter how much I prepped and no matter how much meditation I did beforehand to center myself and believe, truly believe, that no this was not an audition but a performance opportunity, and no they were not judging me and yes they were hoping I was their answer walking into the room…I would still get the shaking and throat closing and hands and feet going numb.

I tried everything. And 99% of the time, it didn’t work. So you’d think that when I nailed it, I would feel a sense of fulfilment and confidence. But when I did get the part, when the fleeting validation fled, the control would kick in. Very rarely did it feel joyful. I realized that the joy I thought I would feel when I got the thing was not the reality of the thing. What I was after was not what I was getting.

It's not easy, but it's right. Click To Tweet

We are told as kids, as teenagers with big-ass dreams, that there are people who give up and there are people who keep going. We’re told that’s it; that it’s easy to choose a different path but it’s right to stick the course. That those with a calling are supposed to follow it through, no holds barred, through the fire and sleet and make their way to the other side. The people who keep going are the people who reap the rewards, and the people who veer off track get zilch.

What if those aren’t the only two options, though?
And what if… what if… what is supposed to be the right choice is really the easy one, and the choice that to others would seem a cinch is actually the hardest and rightest?

It would have been easy for me to stick with theatre, with the career path I paved for myself. It would have been easy to stay with the familiar loops, goals, dreams, aspirations, patterns with the justification that this was the life I had set out to build for myself. But was it really right? And moreover…was it all really that mutually exclusive, a definitive hard start and stop?

I think back on my time pursuing a career I don’t currently have – really-truly-seriously pursuing it – and I realize it only truly spans a decade. Sure, a decade is a lot….but is it? My life and professionalism started to truly take shape when I started voice lessons at 14, tenaciously pursuing education and opportunities that would support my growth into the woman I wanted to be in the world, then booking my first work at 18, then booking my first union show at 20, then getting an agent and building my resume and doing all things from modeling swimwear to playing a tween to filming a scene with Jessica Biel that left me with bruises on my arms (story for another day, but if you’re curious check out the Deleted Scenes from the movie Valentines Day. yep, #itme) to singing backup vocals on a Miley Cyrus karaoke track to investigating alongside Batman for a film I still to this day get really creepy messages from comic-and-cosplay-obsessed guys about. I did it all. It was a weird, wonderful, wacky experience – until I realized I’d grown into a person very different from the one I thought I was going to be at that point in her life. All in a span of ten measley blip-of-time years.

Yeah, I dabbled in acting work after the age of 24, but it was almost always at the request of a friend-of-friend who knew me from such-and-such and very rarely did I even enjoy the experience. I kept trying to test myself, trying to see if what I’d had was what I’d been longing for. It wasn’t.

I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but AND. Click To Tweet

Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to convince myself otherwise. That I really should be singing onstage, that I really should be pursuing the magic-of-the-theatre…but that’s not my life now, so I better be happy with what I’ve got.

But here’s the thing…I AM. I am happy. I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but And. And for me I choose to look at how I can accomplish the EXACT things I loved about working in the theatre WITHIN the life I lead and person I am today.

Just because we feel a sense of joy from one thing doesn’t mean we’re immune to feeling the absence of another. Just because we strive for the look of one thing doesn’t mean we can’t wonder if we’re missing out on the feel of the other.

But my recent revelation is: We can always go back. We can always veer the course, because we have PROOF we’ve done it before. We can always do everything from test the waters to fully cannonball-dive in. Will I ever go back to theatre? Who knows. But it’s not unthinkable, I know that. In the here and now, I know I am after a FEELING in my life, I am after the accomplishment of the actualization of my Through Line: using my unique, authentic voice to help and inspire others find their own. What that looks like now might look entirely different 10 years from now. Nothing is ever off the table.

Cheryl Strayed has a wonderful quote that says:

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.”

We can ache for the dream of what we think one life COULD be like, but the reality is that its rarely what we envision it to be verbatim. There is always some caveat. Always something that made it the sister life, not ours.

But I think…I really, truly think…that if we pinpoint what exactly we value most, and go after that, the aspects of the sister life that WERE meant to be ours will come sailing into the port. Which aspects? TBD. We must only stay open. And make the right choices instead of the easy ones.

 

Sometimes I look back at the kid I used to be, and I wonder if she’s gotten everthing she’s wanted. But then I realize how absurd that thought is… Gotten. Happened. Done. To question if she’s ALREADY gotten everything she’s wanted, like it’s been so long.

Of course she hasn’t. Because she’s only just gotten started.

photo: krista ashley

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Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

Body Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

It’s January 12th, 2014. Four years ago almost to the day. I’m sitting at the doctor’s office and I’m terrified to go in.

On a routine visit to a brand-new health practitioner who’s highly recommended by a friend, I find myself sitting in his eggshell-white waiting room filling out my paperwork and trying to keep from fidgeting. The receptionist is as sweet as can be, the vibe calm and friendly, and the multicolored bowl of lollipops sitting on the counter remind me of my childhood – back when I loved going to the doctor and I was self-aware in the best way possible.

The fidgety anxiety is not about a condition, not about a vibe – heck, it’s not even about the needles or the fact I haven’t seen a doctor in way too long. Even though I’m loving how I feel in my own skin, even though I am healthy and happy as can be, the reason my stomach won’t stop flip-flopping is because…for the first time in a very long time, I’m going to have to step on the scale.

~

It’s officially the end of what I like to call Resolution Season: that time of year people start to slowly forget their workouts, loosen their wallets, leave their closets in disarray – the time of year we generally start to “slip up.”

While most people simply assume this is due to lack of interest or motivation, I argue that what sends us spiraling is not the act itself – it’s the idea of what it SHOULD be.

Our ties to the Safe and Solid Endpoint are what really get us. The idea that there is some omnipresent rightest right, some all-powerful magic number, some goal that could be gone in the blink of an eye or glance at a figure…

And so the very second we veer from the path – well, it’s almost like those long-standing family arguments that never end up getting resolved. Both parties have been betrayed by their definitions of what love SHOULD be, what relationships SHOULD be like. God forbid they’re nuanced. God forbid sometimes we just don’t get along. Who even cares about the actual person anymore; we have our own fabricated notions of who they are to keep us up at night.

We wind up tightly and twist into knots, again and again, until one day we don’t even know where the untangling would begin.

I used to be double-knot-tied to my weight and that fluctuation on the scale, a memory that was triggered when I stepped into the doctor’s office that day and started to get upset at the fact that I remembered what it was like to get upset at a number. I used to be diligent about counting my calories, logging my workouts, making sure that I stayed within that self-defined coveted range between too much and not enough.

And then when the counting and logging got too out of hand, I landed on another tactic: avoid your body altogether, because if you don’t focus on it, it cannot betray you.

Thank goodness for that self-awareness I cultivated as a kid, because one day, all of a sudden, I just got…tired. I got TIRED of it ALL. It got exhausting, and I realized that by trying to avoid getting stuck in that place where my body dictated my happiness – by working so hard to cling so tight to the idea of freedom, the definition of what it would look like to love myself – I was holding myself captive and completely missing how happy the body I was in could actually make me feel, right in that very second.

We do the same thing with money, with exercise, with kindness even. Holding ourselves to a standard of perfection – even if it’s a standard we’ve defined by ourselves for ourselves. Isn’t that all resolutions are, really? Attempts to alter the definitions we’ve fallen into in the past? We define our resolutions at the beginning of the year, sometimes merely settling on a endpoint, sometimes going so far as to meticulously plan every step of the way for seemingly less-than-friendly navigation. We hang onto ideas of what things should be, so if and when they start to look different, we automatically associate them with failure.

Different is never failure. It’s just…different. Resolving to eat clean and then “cheating” on veggies with your main men Ben & Jerry one night is not a failure. Snapping at your coworker or best friend or child when you promised to be nicer this year is not a failure. Missing a day or two or even three (gasp!) of the gym, or logging a lackluster workout, or “accidentally” spending more than you should on those shoes (and shirt, and jeans, and trendy ear climber thingies) is not anywhere near a failure.

It’s become our default reaction to say we’ll get back on the wagon…
…but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether?

What if we realized that what truly makes us happy is fluid and constantly in flux?


As you move out of Resolution Season and into the rest of your life in 2018, I encourage you to remind yourself what it is about whatever you are doing that makes you feel fulfilled and happy. If your current definition and strategy is not accomplishing those things, then maybe it’s time to give yourself a break.

There will always be moments of the unexpected. Every thought is information. Every moment is a learning experience. Every decision is a building block. Sometimes we just don’t utilize them as such.

When we stop defining what happiness, success, health, or virtue must LOOK like, we actually allow ourselves room to experience things and figure out what is true to who we are, not who we THINK we should be.

There is no wagon to get back onto – because we never got on in the first place.

We say we’ll get back on the wagon - but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether? Click To Tweet

….oh, and as for the doctor’s office? Cue flashback music…

The nurse practitioner calls me in – a woman close to my age, with beached-blonde hair and an energy that was equivalent to a walking giggle. We chat about her day, where she’s from, bond over our love for cycling classes – and just like that, I’m on that platform.

And I realize, man do I feel fantastic.

I was scared those old definitions and feelings would magically reappear, those ones that told me that trying a stupid new cleanse or stupid new supplement or cutting out a food group for stupid amounts of forever was the road to the weight that was what happy must look like. They didn’t. How could they? I threw away definitions long ago, when I realized that the body and soul I admired most coincided with numbers that fluctuated daily and decisions that didn’t always exist in the rulebook, but sure made me the person I’d always hoped I would become.

The number pops up: far from what my “safe” zone was years and years ago, but right where I know I need and should be in that very moment.

And then, as if to challenge me in a moment of comedic brilliance, a mathematically intended yet emotionally-loaded word pops up next to the number.

Gross.

I smile at the nurse and the irony.

“I think your scale needs to watch its mouth.”

All we can do is laugh. I happily grab a lollipop on my way out.

resolution resolutions

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photo credit: made in chicago museum

The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

MY RELATIONSHIP with journaling was very “friends with benefits” for most of my life: oft ignored but always there when I needed it most. Most of the time, I completely ignored my grandmother’s advice to document momentous occasions, as exemplified by the three-line entry about my 13th birthday in my 1999 journal (the third sentence being “I’ll come back to this later”).

Yet when I go back and read my old journals, as sporadically tended to as they were, I realize I honestly have not changed much throughout my lifetime. The slightly crinkled pages are filled with emotion – poetry, questions, lists and pep talks – heart opening and heartbreaking all at once.

And reviews of musicals. So many reviews of musicals.

As young as preschool, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We learn to identify with a singular profession: a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a lawyer. With all these abstract feelings floating around in our still-developing brains, we are asked to define ourselves based on our hobbies and what sounds right. As we grow into young adults, we’re encouraged to find extracurricular activities that are assumed to match our professional aspirations of choice. We write yearbook messages under the assumption that there will always be next year. We map out our lives in ten-year-plans and envision our friendships as everlasting.

I grew up listening to tape cassettes of Phantom Of The Opera in my car seat. I taught myself how to play the showstopper from Cats on my tiny Casio keyboard in first grade. When I was about twelve years old, I developed a love affair with shows like Rent and Les Miserables, and for the first time in my life I realized I was not like other kids my age. While my peers were attending the latest boy band and girl group concerts, I was marveling at the thespian greats like Colm Wilkinson and Bernadette Peters.

This, I told myself, was not normal.

And so I hid my love for musical theatre in my journals, and later on online message boards (way before it was considered safe or even socially acceptable to develop internet-based friendships [which is kinda funny, as I now have many dear friends and a bone a fide HUSBAND who I met through the interwebs]). 

I was convinced I’d be winning a Tony by age 27, and that the friends of my childhood who were drifting in all different directions would miraculously come back together one day to work through life together. That my first love and I would get married and do the whole picket-fence thing. I was convinced I knew the length of the path.

And then came the growth and expansion of real life. Things became complicated and convoluted: here I was, someone who had defined herself by these external passions and visions for so long, and they no longer felt right. My interests began to broaden and my friend circle began to expand. I developed passions I never knew of and feelings I’d never accessed, and for the first time I realized I was so much more than I’d ever thought I could be.

It begged the question – was nothing up until now valid? The opened doors of the present were liberating but the loyalty to the past was almost paralyzing.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are. Click To Tweet

Moving past the visions and dreams created by our former selves can feel like losing a lover. The first time I thought that acting might not be the sole career through which I wanted to give myself to the world, my eyes stayed red for days from crying. The first time I realized I was unclear as to whether I wanted children or not, I had a breakdown. The first time I found a soulmate-friend outside my comfort zone of shared upbringing, I felt like I was cheating on my entire past. At the time, it felt like a breakup. At the time, it felt like a loss.

How strange, as each thing that triggered a sense of loss or wrongdoing was actually a door opening and showing me to my true self. Although, come to think of it, I’ve realized that most people get stuck in that space of confusing actualization for accusation…so maybe the fact that it felt so wrong wasn’t as abnormal as I thought…

Our visions and goals are always in flux. One is not better or worse than the other, they’re just different. Hanging onto past goals and ideas of what we “should” do can screw us up in the long run and put self actualization on standby. Who we are in one season in our lives is neither the end-all-be-all nor invalid. It’s a fragment, a small yet important page in the story of who we are meant to be.

It can feel scary to move forward beyond your former self, but there’s no reason to mourn.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are.

You are more than that thing your former self aspired towards. You are more than the ideas your ten-year plan expressed, you are more than the connections you made long ago. And yet these are a part of you. Each is a path, an integral part of the roadmap that is your life’s purpose. Who are we to say we know what our journey will look like a decade from now or if we’ll feel the same way we do at this point in time? The important thing is to feel deeply and express authentically during every step of the way.

Had I never wanted to act, I would have never learned to perceive the world around me in such great detail with such empathy. Had I never felt so much passion for something so different than my peers, I would have never known what it is to pour my soul onto a page. Had I never envisioned my life the way I thought it would look by now, I would have never met some of the most influential players in my life’s journey. I am still that same girl who wrote musical theatre reviews in her journal and thought her elementary school buddies would be bridesmaids at her wedding.

And yet here I am, no Tony award in sight, surrounded by friends from all stages of life, connected to my past but fully invested in my present. My bridesmaids represented all stages of my life thus far, not just one. I look toward the future not with a predictive eye but an openness to the expansion I know I will experience. I have not broken up with my past visions, I have let them morph and blossom. I have not buried my former self, I have let her come alive into the now.

We cannot possibly know what our story will look like in ten years – or even two. Our passions might shift, our dreams might change shape. Our circles of friendship might evolve and our opinions of what we want will most certainly move with time.

Yet through each season, each shift, each page turn, there is one thing that’s certain: we will be so much more.

 


WANT Yourself:
Do your current passions and visions match the ones you’ve had throughout your life? Have you ever felt scared to embark on a new path, in fear of abandoning your former self – and if so, how did you learn to embrace the path you’re on? Leave a message in the comments – your story might just be what someone else in our community needs to hear.

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The Table Flip.

The Table Flip.

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

I had an odd experience this morning. It’s the first Sunday in a while I’ve not only been by myself (Jeremy is in San Diego), but I’ve had a few hours TO myself. No meetings till later, no appointments to rush to, no classes to teach. I take my time making myself a coffee carafe for one. I turn on Destiny’s Child radio on our Pandora because I’m here alone and J isn’t about that Beyoncé life and who doesn’t love a little Bug-A-Boo to start their day.

I open Instagram (when will I learn??).

I glimpse a statistic about eating disorders in women.

And I think:

What the FUCK have I been doing the last two months to help the epidemic of negative self-talk that leads to these kinds of numbers??

~

Empaths like me – like US – have this problem. We’re told to take time for ourselves because we spend so much in the shoes of others – but when we see a statistic or snapshot, we go down that constricting rabbit hole of guilt, thinking of all the time we “wasted focusing on ourselves” with regret and guilt. And so we don’t. We don’t take time for ourselves, because we know where THAT leads. Guilt. Remorse. Regret. Stuff we stuff down boils back up, and then there we are, once again caught in the negative self-talk loop we’re so trying to avoid. Because it’s way easier to focus on tearing ourselves down than addressing the real problem.

I sat with this guilt for a second. Sat with the feeling of “WTF Have I Been Doing To Help The World.”

And what freaked me out more (whoops) after I did is this: I’ve spent so much time in the last two months making sure life around me stays firmly attached at the seams, that I’m unraveling in the places that matter most. I think I’m keeping it together because I’m showing everyone else I can juggle and not drop the ball. But underneath, where only I can see, I’m scrambling to hold on.

In my mind, no one needed to see those parts. So somehow, at some point, I convinced myself that they weren’t important. 

Longer post for another day, but big life-stage-transitions feel like a table flip. You know in movies when a character gets angry or overwhelmed and oh look there’s a nice and neat table so OH SHIT they take their anger out on it and FLIP the mothereffer onto its side? Instead of resolving the conflict, they take all the chaos around them and channel it into wrecking something that was perfectly fine and organized in the first place.

My table flip moments have manifested themselves not in chaos, but in the illusion of control. The amount of change in my life right now is overwhelming to me – a GOOD overwhelm, but overwhelm nonetheless – so instead of letting IT overwhelm ME, I have been narrowly focusing in on the stuff others can see and neglecting the stuff that keeps ME feeling grounded and in control.

Surprise surprise, that plan is backfiring. And instead of the THINGS overwhelming me, I’ve now ended up overwhelming myself.


I’m now six days out from my wedding and I find myself regretting the way I’ve handled the last month, which brings up all kinds of pangs of guilt.
I should have journaled every day to document this moment. I should have taken more time off work to fly to LA and help plan. I should have been firmer delegating tasks to others instead of assuming they’d know what to do and avoiding any glimmer of seeming “controlling.” We’re taught in our society that this is (supposed to be) a once-in-a-lifetime kind of day – should I have amped it up more like I see other couples do leading up to THEIR wedding?

If I dig deeper, however, I realize that I THOUGHT things would look different in my life as I approached this transition. I thought I’d be (and feel) super successful, which (to me) means not just making a difference in ways I can see, but that those visible markers of success flow through my days naturally and with ease. I hate to admit it, but up until now a part of what success has always looked like to me has been: you’re on SUCH a roll that logistics take care of themselves.

I am nowhere near that. Moreover, this time in my life requires all. the. logistics. In the last month or so, I havent felt like I can soften my gaze on the Whats and focus on the Whys, because the Whats feel like I’m starting from scratch. New life stage, new career stage, new new new newnew. It’s an exciting feeling when you’re in it. And also terrifying. Really terrifying.

Good news, or so it seems, is that when the exciting-terrifying-ness gets to be too much, you can just tune them out, and do the work. I’ve been tuning them out and doing the work.

But guess what?

Strong feelings like excitement and fear don’t disappear – they just hide and grow. And grow. And grow. Until one day you wake up with a Sunday to yourself, turn on some 1998 Beyoncé, look down at the table you’ve flipped over, and realize the mess you’ve made.

~

When I was 16, I found a quote somewhere that seemed revolutionary to me: If you love something, don’t hide and suffocate it for the sake of holding on. Set it free. Anything meant to be always comes back.

This obviously isn’t original or unique – hello, every self-help book ever written – but at the time it blew my mind. You mean I don’t need to worry about the stuff that’s MEANT to happen? You mean I don’t need to pour myself into every single person, place, and thing 24/7 to ensure it sticks around? You mean I don’t need to worry?

The things I’m worried about in this moment – they’re things I know aren’t going away. My sweet friends. My beloved routine. Our WANT community. The change I AM meant to make in the world. NONE OF THIS IS GOING AWAY. But, but.. I can feel myself holding on and suffocating it all because I’m so scared that if I loosen my grip it’ll all fall away.

Is that fear of loss rational? No. It’s a concrete thought conjured by a vague emotion that’s trying to make sense of transition and life recalibration.

I am EXACTLY where I need to be to feel the way I want to feel. Click To Tweet

So here I am. Practicing what I preach – but not in the pretty and zen way we read about. Doing the hard fucking work of sitting with my thoughts and asking WHY. Why I feel the way I feel – why I REALLY feel the way I feel – and then asking: so what are you going to do about it?

What’s the answer, then? If I am feeling overwhelmed, if I’m feeling angry with myself…but REALLY I am feeling a lack of a softer focus and wider lens, and REALLY I am feeling the confusion and slight panic of life feeling like it’s going faster than I can keep up with…then what am I really going to do about it??

This:

I will be for the most part completely offline for the next two weeks enjoying every bit of our wedding’s before-during-after – and, moreover, every single moment of the first step in our new chapter. It’s a first we’ll never get back, and I want to be fully present.

I am stepping back and taking a break and not pretending otherwise.

I am pressing pause on the subjective deadlines I’m in control of (created by my mind) so I can make the objective ones I’m not in control of (created by LIFE) worth every single second.

I’m putting aside the pressure to make a difference in someone else’s life…and turning back inward to make a difference in my own.

I’m trusting that I am EXACTLY where I need to be to feel the way I want to feel.

And I hope that, when life hands you a table-flip moment, you will step back and do the same.

 

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Think Big. Start Small. Step Now.

Think Big. Start Small. Step Now.

Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Work

I – Think big.

I grew up a sporadic yet impassioned journal writer. Long stretches of months would sometimes go by between entries, yet when they DID happen, the entries would always be pages long – usually smattered with pep-talks, observations, and comprehensive analyses of the world outside and inside of me (surprise, surprise). And although my journals rarely followed any sort of through line or linear story if read cover to cover, my younger self secretly envisioned them being discovered in an archaeological dig years in the future and serving some sort of important purpose. Therefore, I wrote a short bio in the beginning of each and every new book of blank pages.

What can I say? I was a history junkie with an active imagination.

Thinking big has always been in my DNA. My mind has never been able to wrap itself around the seedling of an idea without envisioning the entire oak tree standing tall and proud, providing shade and shelter and maybe even some pretty fall foliage. Even at a young age, my mind couldn’t envision Older Me not creating something bigger than myself and bigger than other usually dreamed. Case in point: my “bio” in my fifth grade journal read that I wanted to be a writer, actress, singer, model, artist, and teacher. I was only nine, but my head couldn’t fathom Older Me being linked to one single career and not using every single part of me to its fullest potential.

 

~

It’s normal to want to accomplish big goals – and normal to want them now. They’re just so damn attractive, and most of us (myself included) are so easily romanced that we think we’ve got this, no problem. Just like in any relationship, when you enter into a new idea, new job, or new circumstance, there’s this beautiful stage of initial excitement that you ride right away.
But after the initial thrill, new excitement always morphs into one of three things: disinterest/disenchantment (in which case the situation falls away as something that was never meant to be), blind ego (in which case you start to take the thing you once revered for granted, as something you’re entitled to or inherently deserve)… or a grand love, a developed and nuanced deep love you want to keep learning from, one that keeps pushing you and challenging you to be the kind of person you’ve always known you were inside.

Going big right from the get-go rushes the process –
which robs you of the reward.

The ride that really takes you somewhere is more like a slow and steady river flow than a gush of water straight from the geyser…

 

Rushing the process robs you of the reward. Click To Tweet

 

II – Start small.

Fun fact: I’ve been teaching fitness classes for a decade.  I’ve taught to one person and I’ve taught to sixty. I’ve had the stereo system die in the middle of my class and lost all of my music (I started rapping. Not my most brilliant idea). I’ve had my bosses audit my classes and have been starstruck when a celeb-to-me walked on in looking to me to lead the way. I’ve, to my horror, slept through my alarm and missed work.

I’ve been reprimanded and I’ve been praised. I’ve been harassed and I’ve been asked for help I could not give. I’ve known everyone in the room and I’ve known no one.

And let me tell you, I am so grateful I didn’t get where I’m at now way too soon. Looking back, everything happened right when it needed to. Starting small and trusting my journey back then, step by step, allowed me to be fully present and soak in each and every lesson – and now enables me to keep my heart open to all the lessons I know are still to come. I am still a beginner. Aren’t we all?

Getting experience is not about a popularity contest, street cred, or gathering up a bunch of LinkedIn referrals. It’s about…well, experience. You won’t know what to do when you fall on your face until you actually do. You won’t know how to manage major transition until you have to.

Experience is less about your resume
and more about your ability to navigate a range of scenarios
with a fine cocktail of confidence, perspective, and humility.

Experience is about navigating a range of scenarios with confidence, perspective + humility Click To Tweet

Sometimes timing catches us off-guard, however – and we’re given huge opportunities out of the blue, when we’re just starting out on our journey. We’re thrust into the spotlight, lights glaring in our eyes, making us squint and struggle to see through spotted vision.

And when that happens, we must actively keep searching for chances to learn. We must seek out a strong foundation, even if the external looks big and grand. Because if not, we run the danger of burnout, overwhelm, or even worse – developing a character-damaging ego. We run the risk of being that person who gets pissed off when she makes a mistake instead of searches for a new opportunity from the rubble.

We run the risk of becoming complacent – and complacency is the place where dreams go to die.

~

III – Step now.

I look back on all my grand ideas and big dreams scribbled down in journals and I’m a little surprised at how spot on they all were. The only thing I had wrong, really, was the timing. There it is, tangible evidence of my intuition and vision hard at work. It was all meant to be. I just thought I was in control of WHEN it was meant to be. How glad I am I kept putting one foot in front of the other, always anticipating the next-best-thing around the corner and not stopping just because that next-best thing didn’t look exactly what I thought it would look like. Or even like a next-best-thing at all. Life is like one big game of Chutes and Ladders: sometimes we climb and sometimes we slide, but we all get to that finish line, because duh, we keep playing the game.

Starting small and growing from there is one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself. If you’re doing it right, whatever “it” is, you will mess up or fall short. A lot. But if you are NOT feeling lost sometimes, if you’re NOT learning something new every day, if you’re NOT slightly doubting yourself on and off, if you’re NOT botching things up or falling flat on your face or screwing up unintentionally as you boldly move forward in spite of all that – and on the flipside, if you think you are above missteps or are too good to grow – then it’s not that important to you and your path anyway.

The best ideas and jobs aren’t sustained on an initial, huge gesture –
they’re sustained on the small steps forward you take now and every single day to grow, learn, and be a way that surpasses the day before.

I will always be a goal setter and a big dreamer. It’s in my nature. And I’ve learned, seeing the big picture and the grand oak tree – knowing where you want the journey to take you – is a strength that’s not to be discounted.

But just as important, if not more, are those small steps you take every single minute to help your ultimate dream materialize. Every single millisecond is a lesson in the making, every single mini-step strings together to lead you down the path you’re meant to forge. As a writer, actress, singer, model, artist, teacher, trainer, chemist, entrepreneur, designer, archaeologist, accountant, chef, creative, best friend, parent, sibling, spouse, leader, mentor, muse. Maybe even all the above.

You just have to make the first move – and then the next first move – and then all the next first ones after that.

Think big.

Start small.

Step now.

Think big. Start small. Step now. Click To Tweet


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The Recovery Myth, Part Four: “What Does Recovery Mean To You?” 7 Warrior Women on Living The New Normal

The Recovery Myth, Part Four: “What Does Recovery Mean To You?” 7 Warrior Women on Living The New Normal

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration The Recovery Myth

I am so proud to bring you THE RECOVERY MYTH: a four-part miniseries by WANT sharing real-life stories, smashing open misconceptions, and shining a light on what recovery from an eating/body-related disorder or addiction REALLY looks like.

I’m talking to experts, healers, and real-life recoverees answering some of the top recurring questions I’ve gotten from you over the last few years. Not just questions about recovery itself, but about the befores, the durings, the afters, and all the in-betweens that can sometimes seem like you imagined them.

To be clear: the point of The Recovery Myth is NOT to prescribe a roadmap or provide a neat-and-tidy picture of what recovery looks like. The point is to dispel myths surrounding recovery and gain multiple perspectives to provide a more inclusive, holistic, and ultimately helpful view of what it looks like to go from the darkness into the light.

In Part Onewe debunked the seven biggest myths and misunderstandings surrounding recovery (read listen here). In Part Two, I talked to actor, host, blogger, and activist Lynn Chen all about navigating recovery in the midst of social media pressures, food intolerances, and a #bodypos world that sends mixed messages (listen here). And in Part Three, I spoke with healer and founder of Breathwork For Recovery Nathaniel V. Dust all about processing trauma, rewiring behavioral patterns, toxic relationships, and alternative forms of therapy you might not ever have known existed (listen here).

Recovery is an opportunity to show up for yourself in a profound, permanent way - @pureleighliving Click To Tweet

For the final installment of The Recovery Myth, I polled a group of healers, experts, activists, and warrior women (all who have experienced an eating disorder) and asked them one simple question:

What does recovery mean to you?

The answers to this question were just as varied as the women who answered it, but every person touched on one common thing: it’s a lot more complex than just a before and after shot.

Here’s what they said:

Recovery isn’t so much about getting back to normal as it is about the process of creating a new normal. No one formula works for everyone, and no one path is linear.

Recovery isn’t always obvious – because the real healing happens in parts of your head and heart that no one can see. Learning to create a new normal in life also means creating a new normal when it comes to how you deal with discomfort. The hardest part of recovery isn’t necessarily when you’re first learning how to stay away from or replace the behaviors you once had: the hardest part of recovery can be when you think you’re on the right path and then get sneak-attacked by something you didn’t realize was a trigger. That’s why it’s called a trigger – you don’t see it coming and it hits. FAST.

The recovery dance can feel like a risky one. Triggers everywhere. And not a lot to trust. But then again, building trust often times feels like the riskiest feeling of all. And just like building trust in a friendship or romance, the biggest risks reap the biggest rewards.

To be “recovered,” by society’s standards, insinuates being saved by something or someone. And let me be clear: YOU NEED TO ASK FOR HELP. Call. Text. Reach out. Book the appointment. Have someone book it for you. Just involve others. Humans are community-driven creatures. We need each other, in our highest highs and lowest lows.

But no matter how much therapy you go to, treatment you have, or self-help books you read, the only person who can truly save you…is you. Recovery is a choice that comes about with a lot of support, but is spurred into action when you finally say no to your crutches and YES to your capabilities. Recovery is becoming the you YOU know you’re meant to be.

-Katie Horwitch, founder of WANT: Women Against Negative Talk

To me recovery is self-awareness. It’s having the courage to really examine my [body image & food]  thoughts, choices, behaviors and get honest about what the intention behind them is and trying to make the best choice in each moment. For the most part I know what is the most recovered thing to think or do or eat but making that choice again and again each day is where some challenge comes in. I think of  recovery as flexible – it ebbs and flows but more and more each day I lean more towards self-awareness and getting honest about the intentions behind my actions.

Katie Dalebout, host of The Let It Out Podcast

To answer the question of what recovery means to me, it means living my life by a set of principles that were outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, from living with honesty to making amends to trusting in a higher power. I live by those prinicipals in all areas of my life (my food/body, relationships, work, etc) as though my life depended on it – because it does. What I learned when I attended OA was that I have a physical allergy to certain types of food/behaviors and that once I start eating that food or doing that behavior (purging) it is impossible for me to stop. My body and mind are different from other people who do not suffer with the same allergy. I learned that abstaining from those things will give me great freedom. And the only way to abstain and be free is to work a day at a time on what the true problem is: it’s not food, but rather an inability to cope with life.

Food was my solution to my problems and I have since found a new solution: I learned that my illness is never cured but can be arrested on a daily basis if I’m willing to do the work. I have developed a relationship with something outside of myself and I live my life (or try to on a daily basis) to be of service to others. I believe in being honest and looking within myself instead of outside myself at what is wrong with others. I owe my life and everything amazing I have today to the 12 steps. My husband, my family, my job, my changed outlook on life. Through this I have freedom from food obsession, body obsession and can enjoy the deep meaningful things in my life.

-S., WANT reader

Recovery means an internal healing. Recovery is an everyday commitment of introspection, acceptance and a willingness to be vulnerable with the unveiling of your true self.

Recovery is a choice. Recovery is your opportunity to show up for yourself in a profound and permanent way. How you accept yourself, present yourself, and care for yourself is a blessing and a much sweeter blessing when you are confronted with the negative self talk and comfort of falling back into self-sabotaging habits. Every moment you choose your health and your happiness over your past demons you are living your recovery. Take the wins.

-Angela Leigh, wellness + behavioral coach

Recovery is not just the absence of a thought or behavior. It’s putting together a toolbox that will help you get through each and every day without going absolutely bonkers.

-Lynn Chen, actress, blogger + activist

Recovery means freedom. I have the freedom to take chances and risks, experience complete bliss as well as struggle and sadness. The freedom to live life in every moment and in every emotion without the need nor the desire to numb out and resort back to the harmful behaviors my eating disorder once had me trapped in. I am free to bravely live my life in all its glorious beauty and strife  – no hiding in shame and no apologies for my authenticity.
 
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To me, recovery means not having to think about recovery. I got to a point in my recovery when my life was all about recovery — being in it, staying in it, being accountable for it, performing it, etc. I was all about talking about food, posting about nutrition, thinking about my body, reaffirming my body image…it got to the point when I was “so recovered” that my entire identity was recovery.

And so I stopped “recovering” — because I was already recovered. And I went out and tried “discovery” instead. I found interests that brought me outside of the kitchen and the gym and off of social media. I continued to be recovered (not falling back into disordered habits, patterns, mindsets, or behaviors), but I just used all of the extra time I got by not thinking about food or my body to go out and do something fun with my life.

Everyone’s discovery will look different — because no two people have exactly the same interests — which makes it much harder to be prescriptive about than recovery. But you have to go out and try and not be afraid to fail. There’s no wasted time in discovery, even if the thing you try isn’t something you want to do again.

It’s a learning process in which you get to fully come into your own.

– Kaila Prins, body positive wellness coach and founder of Performing Woman

Discovery is a learning process in which you get to fully come into your own - @performingwoman Click To Tweet


WANT YOURSELF:

Now I’d love to hear from you: what does recovery mean to YOU?

Let me know by adding your answer to the mix in the comments – because each of us experience recovery differently, and each of us have a lesson to share. I’ll be featuring some of my favorite answers in the final WANTcast episode of The Recovery Myth.

Can’t wait to hear from you!


Know someone who might need this miniseries? Forward it along and let them know you care.

Know someone who might be able to contribute something unique to the conversation in the next round of this miniseries? I’d LOVE to meet them. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS GONE THROUGH AN ED/ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE (**AND HAVE SUCCESSFULLY RECOVERED), OR ARE AN EXPERT IN THE FIELD, shoot me an email at katie@womenagainstnegativetalk.com and we can get to talking.


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